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Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham // Photo: Courtesy of the Rosen Group

Brewing Diversity: Supporting DC’s Black Beer Culture

One way to celebrate Black History Month is with beer. Whether you consider yourself a conscious consumer or not, this vital celebration is also an opportunity to support small businesses. You don’t even have to spend money to follow those raising the bar for black beer culture – you can simply follow them on social media, and answer calls for inclusion.

Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham wears many hats. She’s an academic, a homebrewer and most recently, the first-ever Brewers Association diversity ambassador. She is also the chair of the Communications Studies department at Randolph College in Lynchburg. While she holds many titles, in the beer world, she’s known as “J,” “‘Dr. J” or simply “Doc.”

“I am absolutely an advocate of visibility,” she says. “Shining a light on people who don’t have light shined on them very often is inherently valuable.”

Mike Potter, founder of online magazine Black Brew Culture, estimates that there are 50 black-owned breweries across the nation. Jackson-Beckham agrees with this number, which seems staggeringly low when compared with a Brewers Association’s statistic indicating more than 7,000 craft breweries in the U.S.

She recognizes positive trends and sees craft brewing in general “as a kind of center of small business and entrepreneurship.”

“When we look at trends of brewery locations and where they’re going, there’s opportunity for people of color and black people in particular,” Jackson-Beckham continues.

Port City Brewing Company’s brewer Leon Harris delivers excellence in beer production. Every time you enjoy one of the Alexandria-based brewery’s drafts, there’s a chance he had his hands in the creation of that batch.

Harris got his start as assistant brewer at District ChopHouse downtown and Shirlington’s now-shuttered Capital City Brewing Company before opening – and literally building – Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge. He was cutting concrete and installing fermenters that held 465 gallons of liquid, and jokes that his blood, sweat and tears were in the place. Next, he became brewer at Caboose Brewing Company’s flagship location in Vienna before joining the Port City production team.

“I would love to see more black people in the [beer] industry,” he says. “I think it’s a thriving industry. It’s a welcoming and accepting industry in every sense of the word.”

He’d also love to see “more black-owned businesses that cater to the community, cater to veterans like myself or cater to trying to better those around them.”

Service Bar in Shaw is another black-owned establishment improving beer culture in the DC area. A few months ago, the cocktail bar partnered with Capitol Riverfront brewery Bluejacket to create Hurricane Alley – a sour ale with passion fruit and sweet cherries. The brew mimics the flavor of fruity cocktails like the Hurricane but is imminently more drinkable at 4 percent alcohol by volume.

DC Brau Assistant Manager Myesha Cheatham’s beer journey began by chance.

“I fell into the beer world by accident,” she says. “I used to be a teacher, but I got a homebrewing kit and thought, ‘Oh, I should work in a brewery!’”

Like all good educators, she progressed via communication and critical thinking.

“I’m lucky that at DC Brau, I have people who are willing to share knowledge. Just not being afraid to ask questions has been very helpful.”

Cheatham has worked at high-volume places like MGM National Harbor, the Willard InterContinental’s Round Robin Bar and the Café Du Parc, and at some of them, she’s had to do her own beer training.

“I brought some awesome beer-related ideas to [the table], like ‘This is how we change a keg’ and ‘This is what to do with an old keg’ and ‘We need to plug our lines every night to make sure we don’t have fruit flies in the beer.’”

The knowledge she’s gained as a protector of black beer culture has enabled her to be a positive force in driving it locally. She offers up examples of people to follow online.

“Social media is taking off and they’re a lot of people on Twitter, as well as bloggers like Ale Sharpton, Beer Kutlure and Afro.Beer.Chick, who are bringing black beer culture to the mainstream.”

Follow Cheatham’s recommendations on Twitter @alesharpton, @beerkulture and @afrobeerchick. Check out Potter’s magazine at www.blackbrewculture.com and follow Jackson-Beckham on Twitter @jnikolbeckham.

Learn more about these breweries and bars below.

DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com
Port City: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com
Service Bar: 926-928 U St. NW, DC; www.servicebardc.com

Photo: Ned Dishman, NBA Photos

DC Enjoys A New Kind Of Go-Go

After years of planning and construction, people in the DMV can finally travel to into the city to see live go-go. And I don’t mean go-go music, the genre founded by DC legend Chuck Brown. I mean Capital City Go-Go basketball.

With a home court at the brand-new Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast, the NBA G-League’s Capital City Go-Go kicked off their first season in the District last November. Owned and operated by Monumental Sports, the city’s newest professional basketball team serves as a developmental team for prospects who need to improve before jumping to an NBA roster.

“It’s good basketball, a lot of talent and a lot of highlights,” rookie guard Chris Chiozza says. “The people we have on this roster are incredible. We have NBA guys, some people that should be in the NBA, people trying to get into the NBA and people that are trying to get called up. We’re a fun team to watch.”

The NBA G-League is the official minor league of the NBA, providing players out of college like Chiozza, foreign prospects from overseas or even high school grads forgoing college the opportunity to test themselves at a higher level of competition. There are currently 27 teams, and the games can be seen on ESPN, NBA TV and local networks.

For years, the Wizards sent players they were interested in to neighboring teams, but now they’ve finally established their own developmental program. However, the team is far from just a little brother to the Wizards, as the quality of play is nothing to undermine. In its inaugural season, the team is off to a successful start at 15-11, good for second place in the Southeast division.

“It’s been pretty good,” head coach Jarrell Christian says. “Nobody really knew what to expect coming in, but I think obviously we’ve won some games. Once you develop a team and the players as individuals, the wins will follow. I think our guys have done a really good job at becoming better players and better men on and off the court.”

While every pro sports team views winning as the ultimate goal, being in the minor leagues involves adjusting this mindset as individuals on the roster are constantly working on their own skills in the hopes of getting a contract with an NBA team. Several players have been on both DC teams since October including Jordan McRae, Devin Robinson and the team’s top pick from last year’s draft, Troy Brown Jr.

“I looked at a recent boxscore for the Wizards, and there were four or five guys who had played for the Go-Go this season,” Christian says. “That’s the whole reason why we’re here. The fact that we’ve been able to get those guys playing minutes before playing in an NBA game is why we exist. I’m excited about it, and we have a talented team.”

While a majority of rosters will include a number of younger players, veterans who refuse to give up on the dream of the major leagues round out the rest of the spots. Former University of Maryland guard Pe’Shon Howard is no stranger to playing in the G-League after suiting up for the Sacramento Kings’ developmental team last season.

“This [first year] has gone really well,” Howard says. “For a team that’s pretty big, with the staff and players we have, it’s really well put together for a first year. We have an identity and the coaches have us playing confidently.”

As a veteran, Howard understands the importance of balancing the team’s success with his own skill development. Scouts, coaches and fans are always drawn to teams that win, which in theory will help players get to that next level.

“For me, the main thing is competing and winning,” Howard says. “I think for me and this organization, we all know that winning is the easiest way to [personal] success. It makes it a lot easier to develop and adjust, because it’s not always about me. I always want to be on a team that wins.”

With talented players, innovative coaches and a beautiful new arena, the Go-Go have largely shunned any growing pains by establishing themselves as a tough out for other teams. Don’t miss out on the remainder of the season, as the team marches toward the G-League playoffs, because these are high-level players making music on the court.

“I think a big part of us being an expansion team is being innovative,” Christian says. “We have to continue to see what works best as a staff and for our players.”

For more information on the Capital City Go-Go or for tickets to future games, visit https://capitalcity.gleague.nba.com.


Long Island Nets v Capital City Go-Go

The Entertainment and Sports Arena Breathes New Life Into City

After more than a year of construction starting in summer 2017, the Entertainment and Sports Arena opened last September in Southeast DC. The multiuse facility, designed to host everything from concerts to e-sports competitions, is the practice facility for the Wizards, Mystics and Capital City Go-Go – and the home court for the latter two teams. On Tap spoke with Events DC President Gregory O’Dell about the $65 million, 4,200-seat arena’s local impact and future programming.

On Tap: What has the response from the local community been like so far?
Gregory O’Dell:
The response has been overwhelmingly fantastic. One of the things we wanted to do was put people to work. We had more than $10 million in construction contracts in [Ward 8], and more than 50 percent of the staff in the building are from Ward 7 and Ward 8. We thought this would be a great catalyst [for Congress Heights] and will drive foot traffic there. It’ll be the start of a wider and broader project.

OT: Now that it’s been operating for a few months, has the arena met expectations?
GO:
It has. We’re seeing the diversity in the programming that we wanted. People are coming from across the city and it gives people access to Congress Heights, which will bode well for the future and the community.

OT: How has the relationship with the Wizards, Capital City Go-Go and Mystics bolstered the arena’s programming?
GO:
I’ll give lots of credit to Mayor [Muriel Bowser] and [Monumental CEO] Ted Leonsis. The Wizards enjoy the training facility, [as well as] the fans of the Go-Go and Mystics. They’ve all been supportive of us and we enjoy having them there.

OT: Have there been any unforeseen setbacks?
GO:
Everything has gone smoothly. In fairness to the city, they’ve done an incredible job with the infrastructure job of the campus. There are growing pains for everyone when there’s construction, and we’ll have to make adjustments with the growth, but it’s nothing to complain about and we’re pleased.

For more information about the arena and news about future programming, visit www.esaontherise.com.

The Entertainment and Sports Arena: 1100 Oak Dr. SE, DC; 202-249-3000; www.esaontherise.com

Photo: Julia Lofstrand

Pie Shop Returns to Rock ‘N’ Roll Roots

You may recognize Dangerously Delicious Pies from their aptly named operation spanning pie sales in food trucks, coffee shops, and their brick-and-mortar H Street outpost. While the pies themselves are now fully part of the fabric of the DC fast-casual scene, the shop expanded into something else last summer: a full-fledged music venue, affectionately named the Pie Shop. On the surface, this might seem like an odd pairing, but co-owner Sandra Basanti says the dual-purpose digs were always part of the master plan.

“The pie and rock ‘n’ roll thing isn’t a schtick,” Basanti says. “A lot of musicians do work here, and it is ingrained in the business. Last year, we opened the bar and music venue on the second floor, which used to be my apartment. It’s kind of come full circle.”

Although Dangerously Delicious Pies as the DC area knows it has been in its current form for a decade, the pies and the music have been important parts of the owners’ lives for much longer.

“The whole concept came about from the Glenmont Popes, the band my husband [co-owner Stephen McKeever] and [founder] Rodney Henry are in,” Basanti continues. “They’ve been touring for many years, and Rodney grew up baking pies in Indiana. He would spend summers with his grandmother there, and so a lot of our recipes are her recipes. He had it in him – he was just raised on pie.”

The trio opened the shop in 2009 – Basanti manned front of house, her husband ran the kitchen and Henry lent his passion for pies to the shop. She fondly refers to McKeever and Henry as the “brains and the brawn” behind the operation; they’d often sell pie at merch tables or trade the treats for a couch to crash on while on tour with their band.

“One day, [Henry] thought if rock ‘n’ roll isn’t paying the bills, which we know it doesn’t for a lot of musicians, then maybe pie will pay for rock ‘n’ roll,” she explains. “And it has – the Glenmont Popes are still going strong.”

In fact, Basanti and the band had just returned from playing shows in Ireland the day before we chatted about the group’s new ventures. And it was pies that brought them back to the apartment-turned-bar and venue that now boasts live music alongside top-notch food and a refreshingly unpretentious beer and drink menu.

While opening the venue was always part of the pie and rock ‘n’ roll business plan, Basanti and company took their time to open it. As musicians who’ve been part of the local scene for many years, the trio wanted to get things right and fill a void in the realm of DC live music.

“There’s a lot of these big, beautiful clubs opening up, which is amazing, but they mostly cater to touring bands and acts that have kind of already made it,” Basanti says as she describes the ethos that drives Pie Shop. “To offer a room that is also beautiful and has excellent acoustics – and to treat the smaller bands who are on the up and up with the same respect as a super famous band – is our goal. I didn’t want to be a basement, taped-together place where bands could just play. I wanted it to be a room that gives these artists justice. We put a lot of time, effort and thought into how it’s laid out.”

Dennis Manuel is Pie Shop’s sound engineer, with help from Melina Afzal. Manuel even helped design the venue, and hand-selected the space’s equipment. The stage boasts a full backline of equipment, and prides itself on the high-quality sound it can provide smaller local bands and touring acts.

The spot also accommodates comedy shows, literary workshops and burlesque shows, among other eclectic events supporting the local creative community. Basanti started out booking Pie Shop shows on her own but is now assisted by Jon Weiss of Union Stage and Babe City Records; the two consistently collaborate on what bands are the best fit for the team’s vision for the venue.

“We want to offer that smaller room for bands who are on their way up – to have that space to build a following, especially with local bands, which has been a lot of our focus,” she says. “It took us a while because we didn’t have the money, and we wanted to do it right. We try to treat all the artists with lots of respect and offer them top-notch hospitality.”

All of that and a dazzling array of delectable pies is sure to satisfy the appetite of local music lovers and foodies alike for years to come. Follow Pie Shop on social media @dangerouspiesdc to learn about upcoming shows.

Pie Shop Bar: 1339 H St. NE, DC; 202-398-7437; www.dangerouspiesdc.com

Photo: Ryan Pfluger

Sharon Van Etten Talks TV, Her New Record and Focusing on the Positive

Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten is many things. The recording artist has scored movies, acted in Netflix hit The OA, returned to school to pursue a psychology degree and navigated motherhood. Her accomplishments are dizzying and her talent is seemingly unending, but the musician is incredibly grounded and open about her creative process and personal life. On her fifth studio album, Van Etten put down the guitar and took to a Jupiter-4 synthesizer to compose 10 stunning songs about falling in love and forgiving yourself. The cover of her record Remind Me Tomorrow – yes, like the software notification update that’s universally postponed on computers and phones across the world – features two children in a sea of toys and play clothes.

The children belong to Van Etten’s friend and collaborator, director Katherine Dieckmann, who showed her the image after she expressed her worries around raising a child and being an artist. Dieckmann presented the photo with a laugh and the sincere encouragement of “You’ll figure it out.”

It’s clear that she not only figured it out but also entered a new era in her personal and professional life that’s responsible for the creation of her best work yet. Van Etten describes the photo as beautiful and liberating – an apt description for the feeling that anchors Remind Me Tomorrow.

On Tap: Your music is making a mark on current TV shows. “Serpents” is featured on The Walking Dead, your The OA character Rachel shares her pipes with viewers and you perform at the famous Roadhouse in Twin Peaks: The Return. How did these opportunities present themselves?
Sharon Van Etten:
“Serpents” connected with the zombie crew. It wasn’t something that I had planned or asked for. Someone made the connection and it was an honor, because that show is pretty epic. As far as The OA, I found out the casting director was in the audience when I was touring for Nick Cave in 2013 and I got asked to audition in 2016. They were looking for a singer because that’s a big part of the role of Rachel. In so many ways, that’s her superpower. In the few acting roles I’ve had, they were looking for a version of myself, which is comforting. For Twin Peaks, it was a similar thing. I think [director] David Lynch’s son [Riley Lynch] is a fan, and he turns his dad on to a lot of music and is also a musician himself. I also have a friend whose role is music and film crossover work who also said a kind word to David. There’s also a stroke of luck somewhere in there.

OT: How did you land on “Tarifa” for the Twin Peaks scene?
SVE:
It was a request! It was like, “Well, David wants ‘Tarifa’ so David gets ‘Tarifa!’” [laughs] It was kind of a no-brainer.

OT: It seems like so many people really connected with The OA and are really excited for the new season. Why do you think that is?
SVE:
I think real people in a sci-fi context is just something people connect with. The cinematography is so visceral, and all the characters have such a different emotive feel that it’s hard to just connect to one character. There’s a lot of care put into that show at every level. I’ve never been part of a production that large and everybody cares so much about all the fine details. It’s fun to watch them unfold.

OT: When did you start working on Remind Me Tomorrow?
SVE:
During the writing of this record, which spanned from 2015 to 2017, I was asked to score a film for Katherine Dieckmann called Strange Weather. A reference she gave me for the film was Ry Cooder’s score for Paris, Texas. It’s really beautiful and ambient – very Southwestern, dreamy guitar, introspective playing. It’s a style that I had to try very hard to give an homage to, but I don’t know how to play that naturally. In moments where I was feeling writers’ block, I put down the guitar and gravitated toward the keys [and] synthesizer that my space mate Michael Cera had called a Jupiter-4. I ended up writing a handful of songs on it.

OT: So in the midst of that, how did the record itself take shape?
SVE:
I did it without realizing I was writing for a record, which is really liberating – just to play and sing and not care about what it was for. It was more of a vibe that I was creating. The goal of that was just to cleanse my palate so I could return to the guitar and finish Catherine’s score. So by the time my son was about six months old, I got the itch to be more creative and write again. I opened this folder of demos and realized I had like 40. My partner encouraged me to make another record, but it was not my intention.

OT: How did you narrow it down from 40 demos to the 10 songs that make up Remind Me Tomorrow?
SVE:
When I started whittling down the songs after hearing everyone’s favorites, I wanted to pick the ones that also felt positive. I also wanted to pick the ones that were left of center. When I met with [producer] John Congleton, I had three folders: Folder A was all the songs I felt like needed to be on the record, Folder B was backups, and Folder C was wild cards that were either going to be great or terrible. He picked some from each.

OT: Which of the Folder C wild cards made the cut?
SVE:
That would be “Hands.” I wasn’t sure if it made sense. You don’t know until you go into the studio and let the sonic palette unfold. It ended up really standing out on the record to me.

OT: You said you wanted to pick songs that sounded positive. Why is that?
SVE:
When I was touring my last record, I was really proud of my songs and the production. But playing those songs over the years was also heartbreaking in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I was going in a dark place to perform those songs. I feel this responsibility to be a positive influence and a role model. I want to share a positive message and my positive experiences. I want to feel good, to sing love songs not about mourning something that didn’t survive but about something that is just born. I think that will help me endure the next couple years of touring as I perform these songs every night, just infused with a bit more love than regret.

Sharon Van Etten performs at the 9:30 Club with Nilüfer Yanya on Wednesday, February 6. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are $30. For more on Van Etten, visit www.sharonvanetten.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs

StarChefs Honors Rising Stars in DC’s Culinary World

Amidst the sticky heat in June of this year, a buzz was rising from restaurants around the District. StarChefs, a platform and publication for restaurant industry professionals, was searching for “the future of American cuisine” through their Rising Stars initiative – including a stop in the nation’s capital to review the talent.

In preparation for StarChefs’ visit, prominent chefs around the city poured over their menus, determining what to put on display. One of those chefs was Drew Adams of Bourbon Steak, whose approach was simple: “Let’s have fun with it.”

Adams will be honored during the Rising Stars Awards ceremony and tasting gala at Union Market next Tuesday, December 11. Himitsu’s Kevin Tien and Kith and Kin’s Kwame Onwuachi are among the 24 local chefs accepting awards. Rising Stars is a prominent mention in the world of chefs that helps to launch and strengthen careers, highlighting those with “strong, compelling culinary philosophies and are committed to fostering a culinary community by sharing their knowledge with fellow professionals.”

Those who are familiar with Adams’ work know of his extensive experience in fine dining, as well as his love for whimsy. This was captured perfectly on a plate when he presented a scallop-on-scallop crudo dish with scallop cream made from abductor muscles and scraps. The dish was topped with chive oil, caviar and a squid ink tuile for a touch of salinity. A little-known fact about Adams is his love of foraging.

“I’m obsessed with it,” he says. “It’s nice to get out of the city and outside. I started off with ramps about five or six years ago, and then just went down the rabbit hole.”

For StarChefs, Adams plated up a tartine of chargrilled sourdough with ricotta, asparagus, peas, fiddlehead ferns, Edwards ham and pickled green tomatoes – a dish that rotates seasonally on Bourbon Steak’s menu. No prominent culinary philosophy is complete without a nod to nostalgia. For Adams, it’s a simple dish that does the trick.

“My family were not cooks,” he laughs. “My grandmother would marinate steak with Wish-Bone dressing and then throw it in the broiler and, somehow, I loved that fatty steak with the acid coming through.”

Adams elevates this fond childhood memory by marinating pork with balsamic and local maple syrup, and then caramelizing it on the grill. The pork is topped with pickled mustard seeds and charred mustard greens, and served with white balsamic and beet puree.

“The fine dining part is great, but when you have a wholesome meal with a nicely composed entrée, it makes you smile. And that’s awesome for me.”

Adams saved the best for last and, luckily for Rising Star Award attendees, his olive-fed wagyu beef is on Tuesday’s menu.

“We made and clarified miso with barley and dashi,” Adams says. “We put the seared olive-fed wagyu on top of a bed of raw mushrooms with a little chive oil on top and covered them in honey truffles.”

The truffles have a sweet yet Szechuan-like taste, making your mouth tingle. The broth will be poured tableside.

“It’s over the top,” Adams admits, chuckling.

Tickets to Tuesday’s event are available here. Awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m., gala from 7-9:30 p.m. Learn more about StarChefs’ Rising Star initiative here.

Dock5 at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Photo: Kate Warren

The Times and Travels of Odetta Hartman

Odetta Hartman describes herself as a vessel for stories, songs and sounds.

“Sometimes it feels like lightning striking, and other times, I’ll be really intentional about the poetry of it,” she tells us of her writing and recording process. “Without getting too witchy about it, I think that music is a really spiritual thing for me. I’m a superstitious person, and a fully formed song will sometimes come out of me and I’m just like, ‘Where did that come from?’”

Whether it’s some sort of musical witchcraft or simply fate, music has been embedded into the fabric of Hartman’s life for as long as she can remember. She recalls her New York City upbringing surrounded by music on the streets and exposure to avant-garde performances at her parents’ encouragement.

Hartman trained as a classical violinist and honed her self-described “nerd focus” on traditional folk music, writing a college thesis on ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s travels with author Zora Neale Hurston. Now she crafts a masterful blend of American folk and country with modern sensibilities, weaving many of her music-related memories into her songs.

When given the opportunity to move to DC, she embraced the change of scenery as a way to envelop herself in another city’s musical framework.

“I fell in love with DC really intensely, and I wasn’t expecting that,” she says. “It was an immediate crash landing into this really vibrant community. I understand that’s not most people’s experience with uprooting yourself to a new city.”

Similarly, the community embraced Hartman. She found herself collaborating with countless DC artists – Babeo Baggins and The Rob Stokes Band among them – and used the tightknit aspects of the city’s creatives to add another facet to the many things in her life she has to draw inspiration from. Jack Inslee, founder of Full Service Radio in AdMo’s LINE Hotel, provided creative direction on and produced both of her albums.

“Everyone is super supportive and really reached out and welcomed me. I know as an outsider New Yorker, I could have been just whatever, but I felt so immediately absorbed into the team. There’s a fluidity and openness that I really appreciate. In a place like New York, it’s a little more difficult to have the freedom and the space to do that, so I found it really refreshing.”

Even though her move to DC and work with the community here has been intentional, part of Hartman’s success is owed to her ability to embrace the unknown and accidental in both her creative process and music.

“A lot of it is just mistakes in the studio,” she explains, specifically of a moment on her sophomore record Old Rockhounds Never Die. “My favorite part of the record is on a song called ‘Widows Peak’ when an orchestra of strings comes in. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Jack accidentally triggered all the tracks. You can have an idea, but you have to be open to weird things happening.”

This year has seen Hartman hard at work, on tour for Old Rockhounds Never Die with bands like Let’s Eat Grandma and The Ballroom Thieves. Although she’s been exceptionally busy on the road, there’s a sense of complete joy in her voice as she explains how even a grueling schedule can give way to inspiration each night.

“Going to different markets and meeting different people is interesting [to me]. You get such a beautiful depiction of this slice of life in each town, talking to people and learning about the personality of different places.”

She pauses for a moment and ends with this.

“I don’t know if you can hear me smiling.”

Hartman plays Rock & Roll Hotel with The Ballroom Thieves on Thursday, December 6. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 7 p.m. Visit www.odettahartman.com to learn more about the artist.

Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; 202-388-7625; www.rockandrollhotelldc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Behind the Bar: Left Door, Destination Wedding and Prequel

Don’t let the cold keep you inside this winter. With a whole host of festive drinks throughout the District, there are plenty of reasons to bundle up, venture out, and indulge in the sweet, the spicy and the seasonal this winter. We rounded up three of our favorite winter-ready drinks to add to your list of spots to enjoy over your holiday break.


 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left Door
Mick Perrigo, Owner

On Tap: What are your winter-centric drinks for this year?
Mick Perrigo: What I’m making now is the Cocoa Nog Fizz, and we do this drink every year. It’s a refreshing but fattening eggnog drink. We’re doing it a little differently this year than in the past. Last year, we did it just with Irish whiskey and brandy.

OT: What other items on your menu tend to do well during the holidays?
MP: We’re going to have a bubbly drink called Krampus Got A Brand New Bag with tequila, lime, agave, allspice dram, angostura bitters and a sparkling rose.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
MP: I’d say it’s probably the Where the Buffalo Roam. It was a drink I had been working on for a while. It’s delicious, dry and altogether a refreshing cocktail.

OT: What sets Left Door apart from other bars in the area?
MP: We stay true to exactly what we said we would do when we opened up: we focus on hospitality and on the cocktails. I don’t feel like we’ve strayed from that, and I think that’s the reason people keep coming back here.

 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Cocoa Nog Fizz
Catoctin Creek rye
Brandy
Sherry
Egg white
Heavy cream
Vanilla
Cane
Cocoa powder
Nutmeg
House-made cinnamon tincture

Left Door: 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Destination Wedding
Lukas B. Smith, Owner

On Tap: What winter drinks are you featuring this year? 
Lukas B. Smith: We like to keep our menu rolling, so guests can expect to see a lot of seasonality. Our first drink of fall is the Tee & T. It features Teeling Irish whiskey and a spiced pineapple tonic from a new recipe of mine. The tonic is made with molasses, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and ginger to ride along with pineapple husk, lemon stock and cinchona. The spices and molasses bring around autumnal feels but the tonic stays bright and poppy.

OT: Can you tell me more about the menu and concept in general?
LBS: Our goal was to make a bar that had good, balanced drinks, fair pricing and extremely fast and friendly service. We run draft cocktails with both CO2 and N2, and a frozen machine to keep things moving. As far as concept goes, I feel that weddings are the best examples of get-togethers. People are at weddings not so much to dine, drink or dance but to have an all around good time, all the while celebrating togetherness, family, friendship, traditions and new beginnings. They’re great.

OT: What sets Destination Wedding apart from other DC bars?
LBS: Over 90 percent of what we serve is made by Redbeard at Union Kitchen, meaning we’re more than 90 percent waste-free. We use dehydrated garnishes, clarify juices for enhanced stability, and repurpose the hulls from citrus and pineapple juicing to make our syrups and, occasionally, our bittering agents.

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Tee & T
Teeling Irish whiskey
Spiced pineapple tonic
Pineapple husk
Lemon stock
Cinchona

Destination Wedding: 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.fb.com/destinationweddingdc


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Prequel
Rob McGill, Beverage Director
Rob Long, Head Bartender

On Tap: Tell us a bit more about the Left-handed Golf Clubs, your pick for a great seasonal drink.
Rob Long: I first infused plums and nutmeg with brandy about two years ago, and added the allspice dram to get more seasonal winter notes. It worked but it wasn’t quite right. Then Rob was messing around with the pear and red wine syrup, which added a depth and body. The pear, which we poach in the syrup, is delicious. It’s an old fashioned style drink, it’s pretty spirit-forward and not too sweet.

OT: What other drinks from your expansive cocktail menu would you say are holiday flavor-forward?
Rob McGill: We change things up pretty much weekly, especially if we have a new spirit coming in. We have been doing the Meowzabub which has a great spice to it, and people seem to really enjoy spicier drinks.

OT: If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be and why?
RL: I’m really proud of the Warm & Fuzzy. It uses cachaca, which is an underused spirit, and a little bit of citrus, cinnamon syrup and Benedictine for an herbal note. It’s on the sweeter side but it screams Christmas – it’s like if cinnamon gave you a hug.
RM: I’m torn between the Freeman Morgan and the Oh Bother. The Oh Bother was changed up for the fall so it wasn’t as floral and we added rosemary, but it’s really straightforward and definitely a bestselling drink that we get great feedback on.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left-handed Golf Clubs
Plum & nutmeg-infused Maison Rouge VSOP
Red wine & spiced pear syrup
Allspice dram
Cherry bark vanilla bitters

Prequel: 919 19th St. NW, DC; www.prequelrestaurant.com

Photo: Violetta Markelou // Wardrobe: Paul Stuart at CityCenterDC

A Day in the Life: CityCenterDC’s Timothy R. Lowery

Since breaking ground in 2011, CityCenterDC has maintained its 10-acre space as a hub of luxury retail, dining and living in its downtown location. Beyond its commercial use, the space has become a sight of interactive public art and activations that draw thousands of visitors to the spot each season. CityCenterDC’s holiday lights strung over Palmer Alley, designed by Swatchroom’s Maggie O’Neill, quickly became an iconic – and Instagrammable – view of DC during the holiday season. To get a better look at one of DC’s favorite holiday hangs, we spoke to Timothy R. Lowery, a director with the global commercial real estate firm Hines and general manager of the CityCenterDC project.

On Tap: How did CityCenterDC’s holiday display and tree come to be?
Timothy R. Lowery:
In November 2014, we debuted the tree and had a tree lighting. We didn’t know if we’d have 10 people or a million people. The first year, we had a thousand people and it was a wonderful evening. The second year, we had around 3,000 attendees. Last year, it was 6,000 people and this year, we [already] have 40,000 people interested in our Facebook event for the tree lighting. What that shows you is this appetite to be part of something.

OT: Aside from growth in attendance, how have the holiday displays evolved?
TRL:
Fast forward through the years, and we’ve added components like Maggie O’Neill’s Dream Closet, which is 400 ornaments over Palmer Alley. It’s amazing because the inspiration is the retail iconography of the clothing hanger made by different geometric patterns. This will be our third time having that installation up. It was always our intent to create traditions. This is a huge amount of land to build a project on. The thing I’ve been saying from day one is that we want to give traditions to the community. That’s the overarching theme for the holidays. We’re so grateful for the traction it’s received in the community.


Work Must-Haves
Morning Earl Grey tea
My planner with my daily schedule
An organized environment
My Montblanc pen
My eyeglasses


OT: How did art and installations become such a huge part of CityCenterDC’s identity?
TRL:
The art installations happened very organically. In 2015, we participated in the [National] Cherry Blossom Festival after one staff member suggested we order pink lanterns and have our engineers put them up as our nod to the cherry blossoms. We had 400 pink lanterns of different shades and sizes [strung] along the alley. Social media went crazy. We realized after thousands and thousands of posts on social media that there was an appetite for public art. That’s not incongruent with the planning of CityCenterDC; we always planned on having art. We have art installations in the park and the plaza from time to time but the alley was such an interesting phenomenon. It’s exciting but a bit daunting because you always feel like you have to one-up yourself. I think we’ll stay with four seasons. Anything more than that could be too much.

OT: Outside of seasonal programming, what other art is housed in CityCenterDC?
TRL:
Two years ago, we did the Fancy Animals Carnival featuring an artist from Taiwan. This year, we did The Loop, which evolved because a friend of mine posted a picture of the same thing from New York. I texted her and asked what it was and our team reached out to the artists and installed it here. There’s really this appetite for unique experiences. As a society, we’ve moved away from pure product consumption. People are looking for experiences. They still have products involved, but they’re going to go somewhere they can get an experience in addition to a product. We have tapped into that at CityCenterDC.


Can’t Live Without
Family and loved ones
iPhone
My watch
Postmates
CityCenterDC


OT: Tell us a bit more about your role at CityCenterDC.
TRL:
I’ve been here since the beginning as a part of the project before we ever even finished construction. I remain at the helm of day-to-day operations at the center. On any given day, there’s some artistic component happening. At the end of the day, there needs to be a cohesiveness to our brand, and I’m the one that makes sure it all comes together.

OT: What is the best part of your job?
TRL:
This really is the truth and not just because we’re talking about the holidays: every year, I get up and welcome everyone to the tree lighting. And as I stand there and look out over thousands of people who have come and respond to what we’re doing, that’s one of the greatest thrills I’ve had. Even from an architectural standpoint, if you build this thing and no one responds to it, of what use is it? When you see people coming and enjoying whatever it is you’re offering, that’s the biggest thrill. If it weren’t for those people finding comfort here and finding whatever it is they’re looking for at the moment, then this would all be in vain.

Follow CityCenterDC on social media @citycenterdc and learn more about holiday installations and events at www.citycenterdc.com.

CityCenterDC: 10th & 8th Streets in NW, DC; 202-289-9000; www.citycenterdc.com

Photo: The Bruery

Hoppy Holidays: A Beer Lover’s Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of giving, at least that’s what you’re supposed to do. But you know what you’re not supposed to do? Give crappy gifts. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s the thought that counts,” to mask their disappointment after getting a tacky tie or coffee mug.

It’s always a safe bet to put a little extra thought into your gifts, and to really know your audience. If you’re shopping for a beer lover this holiday season, we have you covered. From local options to items you can have delivered to your doorstep in time for an exchange, the beer-themed gift ideas below will have you looking like a thoughtful giver, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Beer Memberships

“The Bruery’s societies (our beer clubs) are the heart of our business,” says Ethen Adams, The Bruery Store’s area manager. “We love to experiment with flavors and aromas in our beers, and push brewing to new levels.”

Instead of giving someone a six-pack you picked out, why not let the brewers do it? With a beer membership from The Bruery, new experimental beers will be sent several times a year, giving your favorite beer fan an excuse to try variations outside of their comfort zone.

“While many of us have tried and trusted brands, I dare say that a true beer lover is always on the lookout for the next beer that will wow them,” Adams says. “We’re taking this beer journey alongside our members and as such, we try to treat them like a part of the family.”

The Union Market-based shop is also offering a 10 percent discount on their last quarterly installment of the 2018  Preservation Society, bringing the total to $70. Readers of On Tap can sign up online at The Bruery’s website with the discount code OnTapPS18. Each quarterly package comes with three bottles, including a barrel-aged strong ale, a sour ale and a limited experimental beer.

Other memberships on our radar include the DC Brewers’ Guild membership and the international Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. Learn more about the latter at www.beermonthclub.com.

The Bruery Store at Union Market: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com

Beer Gear

This one might seem obvious, but let us preface that not all merch is the same. A few breweries in the area are extremely meticulous, setting an extremely high standard for others to keep up with.

“There’s a deep connection between a community and its local breweries, and we’re forever grateful for the passion that people feel for our business,” says Chris Van Orden, Port City Brewery’s manager of marketing and beer strategy.  “We spend a ton of effort making the best beer possible for them, so we want to make sure everything else we offer all meets the high standard.”

Merch is a regular discussion topic at the brewery’s weekly meetings, where the team always tries to plan two seasons in advance. While a ton of places only offer shirts and hats, Port City sells socks, hoodies, dog collars and other unique items.

“We’ve found a few designs with a broad appeal that we keep in stock, but we’re constantly looking for new items that set us apart,” Van Orden says. “So there’s always something new on offer: lapel pins, bike jerseys, socks. We’re delighted each and every time a person decides that they enjoy Port City enough to wear our name on their back or carry our logo on their growler.”

With a strong brand backed by great beer, Port City gear will allow you to represent a local spot with strong ties to the community.

Other spots we recommend for merch include DC Brau and ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar.

Port City Brewing: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Walking Tours

There are a number of breweries to tour in the DMV, but for a next-level experience, organize a walk through the famed Heurich House Museum for the beer head in your life.

The Dupont Circle mansion was built in the 1890s by German immigrant and local brewer Christian Heurich. His family lived there until 1956, and the house still includes all original interiors and a number of family collections.

Though the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. location was torn down in 1962, the museum features a rotating exhibition of more than 1,000 items including bottles, cans, signs and other branded objects from the old DC brewery. The collection is on loan from local collector Jack Blush, but the museum is currently fundraising to acquire and display it permanently.

Patrons can tour the museum for free (donations are welcome), but you can also treat your beer-crazy friends and family to an hour-long brewmaster tour that concludes with a beer tasting. Groups of 10 to 20 can enjoy the tours for $30-$40. For specifics, email [email protected]

Other places to tour include the Flying Dog “Beer Geek” iteration in Frederick, Maryland or Brookland’s Right Proper Brewing Company.

Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

Beer-Focused Dinners

“Wait a second, Trent. Didn’t you say that played-out gifts weren’t what we were talking about here?” Yes, but you have to stick with me on this one as there’s a method to the beer-crazed madness here.
DC has welcomed a litany of terrific eateries over the past few years, and some of them include some particulary intriguing beer menus.

Chief among them is Tiger Fork, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Blagden Alley featuring numerous Asian beers on the menu.
Think of this as tackling two problems at once: you want to get a gift for a brew head, but you also want to eat delicious Asian food.

Another restaurant with an eclectic selection is Capitol Riverfront’s The Salt Line, whose beer selection pulls from all over the country. Not to mention, they have a delectable menu with dishes that pair fantastically with just about every brew you can think to order.

So yes, we’ll admit dinner isn’t super high on the creative side, but you can’t forget to eat when you’re drinking a well-crafted beverage.

We also highly recommend the buzzworthy Bad Saint in Columbia Heights and Himitsu in Petworth for their eclectic beer and food selections.

The Salt Line: 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com
Tiger Fork: 922 N St. NW, DC; www.tigerforkdc.com

Ask The Expert

We asked Theresa McCulla, historian for the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a few beer-themed gift recommendations.

“Be a better enthusiast through books,” McCulla advises. “The past few years have seen a bumper crop of books about beer: brewing manuals, books about important historical events like Prohibition and the craft beer revolution, and brewers’ memoirs.”

Beyond books, McCulla recommends some of the things we’ve already talked about including places that can pair food with beer, eclectic merchandise and tours. One suggestion involves helping to make the brewer happy.

“Bottles are classic, [and] cans and crowlers are handy, but brewers prefer when you drink their beer out of the proper glassware. Research the correct glassware for your favorite kinds of beer and make sure you have them on hand when happy hour rolls around.”

Lastly, McCulla says to look up anything philanthropic your favorite brewery may be involved with that you can contribute to.

For more information about the American Brewing History Initiative, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.

Photo: Laura Metzler

Sugar Rush: DC Pastry Chefs Chat Holiday Sweets

With the recent openings of bakeries and the growing profiles of local pastry chefs, DC’s bakery game is on the rise – literally. Spinning sugar into showpieces, whipping meringue into mini mountain peaks and constructing cakes into literal works of art, DC dessert masterminds are showing how their craft is a vital part of the food scene in the nation’s capital.

So what’s the buzz behind DC’s sugar rush? It’s no secret that in recent years, the food scene in the District has exploded. In 2016, Bon Appetit named it the Restaurant City of the Year, and in the same year, Michelin awarded DC with its first-ever guidebook. What does that mean for pastry chefs and the bakery niche?

“It’s definitely an exciting time for food in general in DC, and it’s nice to see that pastries have kind of caught on to the wave of openings and young chefs becoming owners of businesses,” notes Buttercream Bakeshop’s owner and pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. “There’s a lot of great places to get pastries now.”

For pastry chefs who double as business owners, part of the draw to open their own storefronts is the opportunity to create on a whim. MacIsaac’s menu of treats includes addictive cinnascones, savory breakfast bombs and custom cake orders dreamed up in her Shaw bakery.

“That was one of the reasons why I wanted to open a bakery,” she continues. “I wanted to be able to cook whatever I wanted – when I wanted – and put it out on the shelf.”

For Foreign National Pastry Director Pichet Ong – the culinary talent behind LINE Hotel eateries Brothers and Sisters and Spoken English, as well as H Street’s Maketto and a handful of other local spots – the environment in DC has encouraged a new wave of chefs and restaurant openings.

“I think it’s just part of the growth of the restaurant industry here,” says Ong, who is known for signature desserts highlighting fruit, Asian flavors and herbs, and savory ingredients. “DC is unique in that way, in that it has always boasted a huge pool of local talent – and from that, they each have their own unique experience.”

Beyond the burgeoning culinary environment in the DC area, Schlow Restaurant Group’s Alex Levin says it’s about chefs evolving and elevating their game. From managing the pastry program at Osteria Morini to his current position as executive pastry chef for all Schlow Restaurant Group’s eateries, he’s created new businesses within those concepts such as his popular pop-up bakeries.

“[I] have this amazing platform to be creative and make desserts, but also be a business mind about it and think about how we can create new experiences within our concepts so that we’re constantly challenging ourselves,” Levin says. “I can have the best of both worlds, where suddenly being a pastry chef is a real benefit for a company to have. I believe that’s what a lot of other people are doing too. They’re showing their value in ways that go far beyond what they do on the menu.”

With so much talent on the rise, it would be easy to assume competition is stiff. But amongst DC chefs, it seems to be all about community over competition. MacIsaac notes that just in Shaw alone, there’s a number of bakeries and restaurants with pastry offerings beyond Buttercream Bakeshop.

“Right around the corner is Seylou [Bakery], and then across the street is Unconventional Diner,” she says. “It just really goes to show there’s lots of people that want good pastries in this city and there’s plenty of business to go around. I think we all rise together, so I think it’s good that there’s more things opening.”

With the holidays right around the corner, bakeries and pastry kitchens have shifted gears toward seasonal treats. Expect fun DIY cake kits from MacIsaac’s shop outfitted with all the decorating accoutrements including piping bag, piping tip, buttercream, sprinkles and paper toppers.

“They’re little four-inch cakes, so it’s enough for one or two people to eat. We’re kind of reinventing the whole ‘leave a cookie for Santa.’ We’re thinking people might want to leave a cake for Santa.”

The kits also double as a gift for holiday soirées.

“It’s a fun thing for people to get for parties because it can be an activity, the dessert and the gift – all rolled up into one,” MacIsaac says of her kits.

Buttercream Bakeshop patrons can enjoy holiday cookie lattes with “cookie butter spread, molasses and all of the spice.” Essentially, they’re gingerbread cookies in latte form.

Although Ong didn’t grow up with traditional American holiday flavors and ingredients, he’ll be putting his spin on winter favorites over at the LINE including a salted caramel apple pie with a smoky flavor and a persimmon dessert featuring jasmine tea for Spoken English.

Schlow Restaurant Group’s eateries will also highlight seasonal desserts. Indulge in the triple chocolate s’mores budino or the apple tart with almond frangipane at Alta Strada. Levin is also running a December pop-up, located at Casolare Ristorante + Bar in Glover Park and Alta Strada’s DC and Mosaic locations, where guests can order winter treats like a classic linzer cookie filled with raspberry jam. Levin will be hosting his second annual People’s Hanukkah Party at Casolare on December 6 where he’ll be slinging sufganiyot – the traditional donuts typically only found during Hanukkah – as well as latkes and other savory bites.

After the holiday season is over and DC denizens transition into the new year, what can be expected from the bakery scene? Ong predicts an even greater rise for pastry chefs.

“I think for sure there’s going to be more openings of restaurants in DC,” he says. “We’re going to hopefully see more pastry chefs coming to the scene. There’s a lot of really great pastry chefs already in DC, but you’re going to see more of them coming into prominence.”

Learn more about the delectable items offered at the spots below. 

Alta Strada: 2911 District Ave. #150, Fairfax, VA; www.altastradarestaurant.com
Brothers and Sisters: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.brothersandsistersdc.com
Buttercream Bakeshop: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.buttercreamdc.com
Casolare Ristorante + Bar: 2505 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.casolare.com
Osteria Morini: 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.osteriamorini.com
Spoken English: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.thelinehotel.com/dc