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Cathy Barrow // Photo: courtesy of Story District

Breaking Bread: Food Industry Vets And Celebrity Chefs Open Up To DC Audiences

Food tells stories about our lives: recipes handed down through generations with no exact measurements, a dish that was learned while traveling abroad or even a recipe discovered when you had to get creative with what little there was in the pantry – and it turned out delicious. Food tells stories about our families, our cultural heritage, our travels and so much more.

When searching for recipes online, you’d be hard-pressed to find a recipe that isn’t accompanied by a story of some kind. Even for cooks as challenged in the kitchen as I am, my favorite dishes all have their own stories – like the Egyptian macaroni béchamel that my mother refuses to write down exact directions for or the scrambled eggs with corned beef that makes up my father’s entire recipe repertoire (to be eaten straight from the pan with pita bread, no discussion).

The stories that surround the food we make can be touching, funny, nostalgic, painful or, likely in a lot of cases, some combination of all four. So, imagine the stories that professional chefs and those who work in the food industry can tell. Local arts organization and storytelling series Story District is hosting Breaking Bread to do just that: tell their stories. On December 17, celebrity chefs and insiders from the food and hospitality industry in the DC area will gather at Sixth & I downtown to share their stories onstage.

Their stories are as diverse and varied as the foods they cook. Celebrity chef and TV personality Carla Hall will tell a story about her time as a competitor on Top Chef. Washington Post food writer Cathy Barrow will tell the audience about a 60s dinner party scene, à la Mad Men. Chef Ashish Alfred, owner of three Bethesda restaurants (Duck Duck Goose, George’s Chophouse and The Loft at 4935), will tell his harrowing tale about overcoming addiction while choosing to remain in an industry that can be grueling.

Although their careers and experiences might seem intimidating to those who can barely boil water, the stories they’ll tell are about much more than just food.

“Any time I share my story, I hope people take away that if you want a different life, the only thing standing in your way is you,” Alfred told On Tap.

Alfred knew exactly what story he wanted to tell. But for Hall, who can be seen cooking – and acting – on TV and who used to model, narrowing it down to one story was more difficult.

“It’s like therapy when you’re going through [the process], because it’s so much and they are pulling these stories out of you, which is so incredible,” Hall said.

She ultimately decided on a story about her time on Top Chef because it’s a story of a struggle.

“People assume from the outside that success looks one way and I think in telling my story, it will show a different side of myself. People are so used to me being shown [in this] very happy [way], which is true. But this is a story [where] I am actually sharing a struggle.”

Although being in the competitive limelight of a show like Top Chef might seem natural for someone as used to celebrity attention as Hall, she had to get used to judgment – not only from the judges on the show but from the millions who were watching it, too.

“It’s emotionally hard. You feel emotionally exposed [and] vulnerable because you’re making your food and then you’re being judged. You’re being judged publicly by millions of people who can’t actually eat the food.”

When it was time for Barrow to pick a story, she thought she knew exactly what she wanted to tell: how she became a food writer. But she said the story, told on many a book tour, felt stale. Instead, she decided on something a little more glamorous.

“My story is about how the dinner party scene in the 60s and Andy Warhol and my dreams of stardom all came together.”

Barrow’s story will touch on the family history genre of food stories, describing a time when people – including Barrow’s mother – hosted or attended dinner parties every weekend. The 60s was the decade that most informed Barrow’s cooking experience.

“I have been cooking since I was a very young child, and I had really expanded expectations. I wasn’t just going to make chocolate chip cookies. I was going to make a madeleine, you know? The dinner party was what informed all of that for me. There was a whole ritual to it – the fine china, the linen, the crystal – and how shiny everything was. It was very fancy.”

And non-chefs have a lot to learn from those in the industry.

“I think there’s always something to learn from people in the food industry because that’s what we work with,” Barrow said. “There’s a lot more to us. These stories are stories of redemption and expansion and unlikely opportunity, and I think that that resonates in all aspects of life and every kind of work.”

These stories remind us of the fact that chefs are normal people. The food industry can be a difficult place to work on every level, even if you’re not in the spotlight.

“We are real people with real problems who are laying ourselves bare every time we serve a plate and invite you into our restaurants,” Alfred said.

Despite the diversity of their stories, everyone had a similar answer when about what makes DC’s food scene special: the people who work in it.

“There is a great community [in DC] where it doesn’t necessarily feel competitive,” Hall said. “It feels like we’re all in this together.”

Catch Hall, Alfred, Barrow and four other DC food industry vets speak at Sixth & I for Breaking Bread: Stories by Celebrity Chefs and Industry Insiders on Tuesday, December 17. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $30-$35. Learn more at www.storydistrict.org.

Sixth & I: 600 I St. NW, DC; 202-408-3100; www.sixthandi.org

Brookland pint flight // Photos: Chelsea Bailey

Drinking In A Winter Wonderland: The Local Lowdown On Seasonal Beers From On Tap’s Resident Beer Nerds

Two of our favorite local beer enthusiasts joined forces to find five spots around the DMV with diverse tap lists and rotating seasonal pours. Anna Jacoby and Chelsea Bailey found more than just winter warmers on their beer-focused adventure – they found beer menus that satisfied each other’s varying taste profile preferences.

“I like my winter beers like my soul: cold and dark,” Bailey says.

She tends to favor stouts, porters, black lagers and black IPAs. While winter isn’t her favorite beer season, Jacoby loves porters.

“I like stouts, too, but steer clear of winter brews that are too aggressive with spices. I don’t like it when my beer tastes like liquid allspice.”

If there’s one thing they can agree on, it’s that each beer has a time and a place. Whether it’s in front of a firepit or casually drinking with friends at the pub, there is a moment for every kind of beer. Read on to find out what happens when two strangers with a common love of craft beer, but very different taste buds, come together to try seasonal brews at some of the best beer spots in the area.

Brookland Pint

BROOKLAND PINT

716 Monroe St. NE, DC; www.brooklandpint.com

Brookland Pint, along with sister spots Smoke & Barrel and Meridian Pint, is known for its superior tap list curated by legendary beverage director Jace Gonnerman. At this Monroe Street locale, we created our own winter beer flight simply because #InJaceWeTrust. Our flight consisted of every dark beer that was on their list at the time of our visit.

DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter

Chelsea: I love how it has a malt profile but also chocolate notes. It’s super sessionable.

Anna: There are malty chocolate flavors but they’re not overpowering, so it’s not rich or like a milkshake.

Chelsea: Also, the mouthfeel is a lot lighter than what you get with a stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Perennial Artisan Ales Fantastic Voyage Stout

Anna: Wow. That’s complex. It’s thick and the opposite of the Penn Quarter porter and has some coffee notes. Tell me your secrets. What’s in it?

Chelsea: Coconut! It has a lot of chocolate notes and coconut.

Anna: It’s funny that it’s a seasonal winter beer style, but it has that tropical kick at the end.

Chelsea: It’s a well-executed stout. The mouthfeel is phenomenal: very smooth, thick, slightly sweet, but not overly sweet. I could have a whole pint of this.

Chelsea: A // Anna: A

Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout

Chelsea: Now I know I’m going to like this.

Anna: That smells familiar. What is that smell?

Chelsea: College.

Anna takes sip: Well, that’s different.

Chelsea: Good different or bad different?

Anna: It’s a lot. I appreciate the complexity of it. But I couldn’t like, sit and drink it casually.

Chelsea: It’s the perfect beer to have while sitting by a fire with blankets.

Anna: It’s an experience – a time-and-place kind of beer.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Quarry House Tavern

QUARRY HOUSE TAVERN

8401 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.fb.com/quarryhouse

Not even a fire, broken water main, or the resulting three-year hiatus could keep people from flocking to this Silver Spring classic. Resurrected in May 2018, Quarry House Tavern is an unpretentious, quintessential basement dive bar with grungy charm. Its list of over 200-plus beers or “beericulum vitae,” as general manager and drink curator Ellen Cox calls it, is extensive and wide-ranging. Cox is a human beer encyclopedia, so we knew we were in good hands. She is more than happy to nerd out with her customers when it comes to trying craft beer. One of the first winter pours we tried was an inaugural holiday bière de garde ale, which Cox explained is a French style of brewing that results in champagne-like carbonation. She tried it for the first time with us. Upon tasting, all-around enthusiasm ensued.

Two Roads Holiday Ale Bière de Garde

Ellen, whispering excitedly: See? Look at the tiny bubbles in this!

Anna: It does look like champagne. I probably wouldn’t have known it was a beer.

Ellen: Oh, that’s nice. It’s very clean for a holiday beer. That’s great!

Anna: I always worry about holiday ones because I feel like they’re going to overdo it.

Chelsea: I feel like people try to fill holiday beers with like, every single clove and allspice they have.

Ellen: Alright. I love this beer – the little bit of tartness, kind of almost like a cranberry in the back. And the bubbles are light on your tongue.

Chelsea: They’re like, “Hello!” It’s a little treat. It’s a very happy beer.

Anna: Nice surprise, this one.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Southern Tier 2XMAS Spiced Double Ale

Anna: It smells festive, gingery.

Chelsea: It smells minty to me. That’s nice. It doesn’t taste like an 8 percent [ABV] beer. That’s dangerous!

Anna: I’m getting a little pepper at the very end.

Ellen: It’s like a white pepper almost.

Chelsea: This would pair really well with soft cheeses, I feel like. Some prosciutto or salami. Grapes.

Ellen: Grapes and some heavy-duty local honey.

Chelsea: Now I know what I’m doing for dinner tonight.

Anna: If a beer inspires you to plan an entire meal around it…

Chelsea: That tells you the beer has made an impression.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Left Hand Chai Milk Stout Nitro

Anna: I’m getting a little bit of a sweet potato vibe.

Ellen: So good over ice cream.

Anna: Oh my god, that’s genius. It’s a milk stout?

Ellen: Yeah. Beer floats! You pick the porter, we provide the ice cream. It’s on our menu.

Chelsea: That’s what Left Hand does really, really well is a milk stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Jackpot

JACKPOT

726 7th St. NW, DC; www.jackpotdc.com

Jackpot has a beer-meets-speakeasy vibe. As you climb down the stairs to this basement bar in Chinatown across the street from Capital One Arena, you are not quite sure what to expect. Upon walking in, you are instantly greeted with the scent of warm, fresh popcorn. We reviewed the tap list here and were impressed with their winter offerings. They do not offer flights, but being the intrepid reporters that we are, we didn’t let that stop us. We ordered five pints, and while it was hard to choose, these were our top three.

Red Bear Brewing Polar Bear Wheat Pale Ale

Chelsea: I really like this. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Is it going to taste like a wheat or like a pale ale? But it tastes like both. I’m still a little confused.

Anna: This is subtly reminiscent of an amber ale.

Chelsea: This might be one of my new favorite winter beers. Good job, Red Bear.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Alewerks Coffeehouse Stout

Anna: I want to put that on ice cream. I really do. When I drink it, I think of vanilla ice cream.

Chelsea: This to me is an example of a well-executed beer. Robust and full of coffee notes, but well-balanced.

Anna: This one keeps flirting with me. I keep wanting to try it and see what new flavors I’m going to get from it.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Clown Shoes Hammer of the Lion

Anna: Do you like it?

Chelsea: I like it! The flavor changes from when you take your initial sip. This is 11 percent [ABV] so I was expecting to be bashed in the face with booze. This one is deceptive.

Anna: It looks like it is going to taste a lot more aggressive than it is.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Westover Market

WESTOVER MARKET AND BEER GARDEN

5863 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.westovermarketbeergarden.com

Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington is a whimsical, multifunctional establishment with a little bit of everything: all-in-one deli, beer garden, butcher shop, bar, bottle shop, bodega, grocery store, gift shop and even art gallery with wall-to-wall, booze-themed murals. Commenting on the bar alone would be a disservice to readers who have never been here. Westover’s multipurpose market is just as notable as its tap list. A wide range of craft beers line the walls and even wind up a few of the aisles. Each time we thought we had reached the end of the market’s beer selection, it just kept going. Back at the bar, we tried one winter cider and two beers.

Supreme Core Cider Ginger Beard Man

Chelsea: Going into it, my expectation was sweet. But that’s my general expectation of a cider.

Anna: Agreed. It smells like Martinelli’s apple juice but tastes nothing like it.

Chelsea: It smells the way an apple pie would smell, and then you take a sip of it. It’s very dry, very ginger. As someone who is not the biggest ginger fan, I think that this is all that I would be able to drink of it.

Anna: This is yum. I love the ginger. It’s not what I expected because I’m not the biggest cider fan. I was worried because it smells like it’s going to be so sweet.

Chelsea: C // Anna: A

Rocket Frog Brewing Company Best Buddy Milk Stout

Anna: That’s super smooth.

Chelsea: I love milk stouts, so this will always be what I gravitate toward. It’s coffee-forward but not overwhelmingly so, and lightly sweet but very balanced.

Anna: That’s really tasty. Sometimes, I can’t drink a stout and not think about putting it on ice cream. So, I want to put that on ice cream.

Chelsea: This has been a consistent thing with you.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+ alone, A with dessert

Three Notch’d Brewing Company Oats McGoat’s Oatmeal Stout

Anna: This smells like a solid, straightforward oatmeal stout.

Chelsea: It’s toasty and roasty without it being overly coffee. It’s malty and very lightly sweet, but not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is super light.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Galaxy Hut

GALAXY HUT

2711 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.galaxyhut.com

This staple craft beer bar has so many different beers on tap that sometimes guests get overwhelmed, but the bar staff are happy to guide even the most inexperienced craft beer drinkers toward the right beer for their tastes. They want people to be able to come in, have a good time and enjoy what they are drinking. It’s what makes the Clarendon spot an overall great neighborhood bar. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Galaxy Hut’s Patrick Fish as we sampled their winter offerings.

Anderson Valley Nitro Cerveza Crema

Anna: I don’t smell anything notable with this one, but I like the taste.

Chelsea: It’s sessionable. I’m not getting a lot of flavor, but it’s something I would certainly sip on. I would consider this a casual beer to have during the winter that is not a dark beer.

Chelsea: C // Anna: C

Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS

Anna: This is sweet.

Chelsea: I agree. It is sweet. What I like about it, though, is that it doesn’t punch you in the face with the bourbon, which has been my hesitation with barrel-aged beers these days.

Anna: Personally, I don’t think I could drink a lot of it. It is just a little too sweet for me.

Chelsea: The mouthfeel is a lot lighter than I was expecting. I’ve gotten used to a heavier mouthfeel with heavier beers. It also doesn’t taste like ginger, which makes me happy.

Chelsea: A // Anna: C

Ardent Imperial Milk Stout

Patrick: This one’s got that kind of nice sweet-but-not-syrupy, without being overpowering.

Anna: That is a level of sweet that I can tolerate.

Patrick: That is probably my favorite dark beer that we have right now.

Chelsea: This is really good. I would have multiple pints of it. It actually reminds me of Port City’s porter. It has a lot of the same roasty notes: slightly coffee on the back of the tongue, but not overwhelmingly so. This is a milk stout, right? It’s not super lactose-y.

Anna: I wouldn’t say that I would put this one on ice cream.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

The Imperial Gin and Tonic // Photo: Rey Lopez

Behind The Bar With The Imperial’s Andy Bixby

Since its long-awaited opening in November, The Imperial in Adams Morgan has quickly become a destination for cocktail enthusiasts buzzing about the funky ingredients and collection of rare bottles and vintages. Bridging together multiple historic buildings, the highly anticipated three-level concept from Jack Rose owners Bill Thomas and Stephen King has become a multi-floor playground of sorts for beverage director Andy Bixby.

He’s able to let loose in the basement of The Imperial, where neighboring Jack Rose’s cocktail bar Dram & Grain has relocated to provide an outlet for offbeat and unconventional cocktails. The first floor focuses on a cocktail menu that pairs well with the raw bar, seafood and Mid-Atlantic menu offerings.

From building on and elevating base ingredients to presenting innovative cocktails with a new perspective, Bixby is constantly challenging his team to think about the next ingredient, the next recipe and the next concoction. We caught up with him to find out what first-time guests and repeat customers can look forward to at The Imperial this winter.

Andy Bixby // Photo: courtesy of Julep PR

On Tap: It’s been a long road to opening The Imperial. What are you most excited to share with guests now that you’re officially up and running?
Andy Bixby: I think it’s the full space. [Co-owner] Steve [King] has done a ton of work making sure the design is great. [Chef] Russell [Jones] has done an incredible job making sure the food is good. My hope is that I can help to complement and build upon that with cocktails I think are meant to be consumed with food. I’m excited for people to come out and try things that wouldn’t necessarily be the first thing they’d order, [and] to have people’s eyes opened up to new corners of the beverage world.

OT: The food menu is taking more of a role than at sister restaurant and bar Jack Rose. How does the beverage program play into the menu?
AB: I was very excited to take on this program as a sister program to Jack Rose because this allows me to flesh out more of my creativity. It’s always been about the food on this first floor. The beverages were always meant to help elevate and bolster that food program. The Cham-boo! is one of our cocktails featured on the main floor because it is the perfect pairing with the majority of our food. In essence, [it’s] a classic cocktail called the Bamboo. We’re taking that concept, force carbonating the whole thing and turning it into an emulation of how you drink champagne. But [it’s] actually just an elevated form of this cocktail.


The Imperial Gin and Tonic
Bombay Sapphire
House dehydrated grapefruit tonic
Clarified lemon & grapefruit
Juniper salt
Saline & CO2
Garnished with fresh grapefruit, thyme, tarragon & juniper berries


OT: A lot of the focus surrounding The Imperial’s opening has been centered on the rare bottles, vintages and unconventional cocktail ingredients. Talk to me more about the varied selection.
AB: [Bill Thomas] spent the last two years really scouring to curate vintage spirits. The oldest thing we have is a bottle-and-a-half of cognac bottled in 1854. We have turn-of-the-1900s madeira, ports and sherries. We also have 1960s Galliano Amaretto. As far as the real fun ingredients, that’s where the basement comes in. Right now, we have three base ingredients on the menu: a citrus amaro, a tamaro (three different amari blended together and sous-vide with tamari, shoyu, miso, mirin, lemongrass, ginger, sesame seeds [and] dehydrated lime), and an anisette. We can constantly rotate the menu while we keep [those] ingredients and start making new ingredients. The goal is that we can still always produce these drinks, or at least very close facsimiles of them, by the time people start to fall in love with them and want to keep coming back.

OT: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with lines out the door before the bar is even open. What do you think is behind this buzz and what does that say about the cocktail culture in DC?
AB: The cocktail culture in the city has changed drastically. I’ve been bartending now for almost 11 years and I’ve noticed a significant change in how people are going out and wanting to imbibe. Guests want to be educated [and] learn more. I’ve always focused on bartender-to-guest interaction because I want to make sure that if you have questions, you can have that outlet – somebody that can talk you through with confidence and understanding of what’s going on in the beverage. I think that’s [been] a huge change over the last couple of years.

OT: If you had to select one drink from the menu that you’d recommend to guests, which would you go with?
AB: I think the Cham-boo! is an incredible cocktail that helps bridge [the gap between] people that love cocktails but also those that don’t necessarily want to think about cocktails as much. Our Imperial Gin and Tonic [is] our cornerstone drink to what I want the program to be. It is a Spanish-style gin and tonic served with Bombay Sapphire, our house dehydrated grapefruit tonic and a little bit of juniper salt. The tonic itself has clarified lemon and grapefruit. [It’s] fully carbonated [and] we serve it in a large balloon glass with a grapefruit wheel, thyme and tarragon bunched together [with] juniper berries. I think it’s an aesthetically beautiful cocktail. It’s simple in concept, but we are giving you a gin and tonic that is wildly different from any gin and tonic you’ve had before.

The Imperial: 2001 18th St. NW, DC; http://imperialdc.com

Photo: courtesy of Bourbon Steak

10 Cozy Spots Where To Imbibe, Nosh And Warm Up This Winter

With winter creeping up on the calendar, motivation can wane to get out of the house and into the cold. But rather than stay stuck inside, aim for a meal with a side of warmth and comfort. Be it beside a fire, curled up with a blanket, or just enjoying an indulgent plate of fondue or curry, here are 10 bars and restaurants where you can be sure to stay cozy this season.

Bourbon Steak

As long as it’s cold outside, the patio at Bourbon Steak in Georgetown will welcome guests with three premium champagne-themed bubbles. Each enclosed dome has its own theme: one dedicated to Dom Perignon, one to Krug and one to Ruinart. While each bubble has suggested pairings, the restaurant’s entire menu is available throughout the patio, including drinks. “You can sit in there and have a full dining experience,” says general manager David Van Meerbeke. “We see it as an extension of our restaurant.” Reservations are highly suggested, and each bubble has a reservation fee along with a food and beverage minimum. They’ll be available through the end of winter. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak/

Brasserie Liberte

French classics get a fresh look at Georgetown’s newest brasserie – a casual location for lunch, dinner and brunch. Expect French onion soup, beef or vegan mushroom bourguignon, steak or mussels with fries, and more. The cocktail list is extensive, as is the selection of French wines. And its spacious booths – including one modeled off a Fabergé egg – are great for lingering over some pastries and coffee. 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; www.libertedc.com

Butter Chicken Company

Fight the midday blues with a hearty lunch at this Indian newcomer near Foggy Bottom and the White House. Owner Asad Sheikh, who also owns two Bombay Street Food locations in the District, keeps this fast-casual kitchen simple. “Our classic Indian dishes like butter chicken, chicken tikka masala and saag paneer are hearty, and the spice level brings on the heat and warms you up,” he says. Meals come as combo platters, generously sized with a choice of entree (a vegetarian option is available), rice, two sides and naan. The restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closes once the day’s food is out. 818 18th St. NW, DC; www.usabutterchicken.com

Conrad Hotel

Along New York Avenue, the luxury Conrad Hotel is bringing the charm of a French ski lodge to downtown DC. Director of food and beverage Troy Knapp says guests can defrost with a rooftop après-ski experience that includes blankets, fire pits, thermoses full of spiked beverages and hearty snacks designed to evoke the alps. Drinks include shareable hot buttered rum and “haute” toddies along with wines by the glass, beers and other wintery cocktails. For food, graze on a European meat and cheese board or indulge with a rich croque madame sandwich with duck confit. S’mores offer a sweet ending to any evening. Groups of four to 12 looking for something extra can opt for the Conrad’s fireside vintage port experience, served with Stilton-style cheese. “We’ve secured a few bottles of Fonseca port from the 85 vintage and we’re presenting it with a traditional glass breaking method, which is really quite impressive,” Knapp says. 950 New York Ave. NW, DC; www.conradhotels3.hilton.com

Dram & Grain

After a 15-month closure, one of DC’s best cocktail bars got new life this November when it opened in its new Adams Morgan home. Located beneath The Imperial, Dram & Grain offers reservations for seated tastings as well as an à la carte menu and space for walk-ins. Drinks include unique creations and classics mixed with house-made ingredients like baked citrus amaro, black peppercorn tonic and nigiri jasmine rice syrup. A separate fireplace room seats 24 and is available for private events.
2001 18th St. NW, DC; www.dramandgrain.com

Hazel

Shaw has no shortage of food and drink options. But few things cut through the chill better than the heaters, fire pits and blankets on the Hazel patio. Inside, grab a local craft beer and a meal of Turkish-inspired food from chef Robert Curtis. A good starting point is to order up a few dips and spreads – sweet potato hummus, red pepper and walnut muhammara, for example – served with a side of pita-style “laffa” bread. The rest of the menu is structured from appetizers to medium and large-sized entrees of swordfish or lamb neck, all meant to be shared. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

LAnnexe

Take a break from holiday shopping and stop in for a cocktail and a bite at this European-inspired M Street bar. Drinks are crafted from behind the zinc bar using craft spirits and house-infusions. “We want our space to be as welcoming as we are, like guests to our home,” says owner Fady Saba. “So, being at the bar is like when you gather in a friend’s kitchen, move about, have a bite, a sip, a chat.” Drink recipes range from melon-infused vodka to a turmeric root rum. Savory dishes include small plates like corn hummus with subtle heat, skewers of scallops and pork belly, and spreads of cheese and charcuterie. It’s the mushroom toast, however, that Saba says has become a customer favorite. “The combination of pecorino cheese with pine nut jam and sage blends perfectly with the mushrooms, but the melt-in-your-mouth brown butter powder sprinkled over it is the real secret to its popularity,” he says, recommending a pairing with the bar’s twist on an old fashioned. In addition to the bar, the dining room offers space for more conversation with friends, as does the low-lit “library” in the rear. 2917 M St. NW, DC; www.lannexe-bar.com

Officina

Carb load with fresh pastas and other Italian favorites at this Wharf neighborhood restaurant and market. Have a meal in the dining room, grab some food and ingredients to cook at home, or bundle up with a blanket, fireside seat and river views on the rooftop terrazza, open year-round. 1120 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.officinadc.com

Stable

Swiss culture and cuisine come together at this cozy H Street eatery. Ward off winter’s cold, dark days with a bubbling vessel of traditional cheese fondue mixed with garlic and black pepper or schnapps. Equally warming are the chicken wings, raclette toast, and hearty venison loin served with spaetzli, braised red cabbage and chestnuts. For drinks, knock back a European beer or go for the strong Immune Booster cocktail, made with bourbon, rose hip, lemon juice and raspberry. 1324 H St. NE, DC; www.stabledc.com

Tabard Inn

The Tabard Inn is the oldest continuing running hotel in DC, catering to locals and guests alike. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights bring live jazz to its fireplace lounge – an ideal setting during the winter months. Dinner dishes run the gamut from duck leg confit and heritage pork chops to gochujang cioppino. 1739 N St. NW, DC; www.tabardinn.com

Dio // Photo: Durazo Photography

Unexpected Bubbly: Your Cheat Sheet To Unique Sparkling Wines In The District

Nothing says “celebration” quite like opening a bottle of bubbles, and there’s no better time to celebrate than the holidays. It’s easy to default to champagne as the bubbly of choice, but with the variety of excellent sparkling wine made the world over now, it’s time to try something a little different. These destinations showcase some of the city’s best wine lists with an impressive breadth of wines across many regions, styles and price points. While they are great wine spots overall, we specifically asked about some out-of-the-box sparkling wines to enjoy this holiday season so read on for your local cheat sheet of unexpected bubbly.

City Bubbles at City Winery

City Winery Beverage Director Magdala Francillon recommends the City Bubbles this holiday season. The grapes are brought from the largest vineyard in the Penedès region of Spain: the home of cava. The City Bubbles cava is aged for 12 months and “has fine champagne-like bubbles with notes of zesty citrus and brioche.” Magdala recommends this for the holiday season because it is outstanding quality at a tremendous value ($11 by the glass, $55 by the bottle).

She suggests pairing this wine with Mediterranean-inspired dishes at the Ivy City restaurant. Her recommendations include Chef Brandon Ingenito’s mussels with garlic, shallots, pancetta, cream and grilled ciabatta or his smoked pork belly served with braised collards, spiced apples and honey mustard glaze.

1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com/washingtondc

Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral & Old Westminster Pét-Nat at Dio Wine Bar

This H Street spot focuses on natural wines made from organic or biodynamically farmed grapes with no added yeast or other additives. Owner Stacey Khoury-Diaz has two recommendations: one local and the other domestic.

“Since we work with natural wines at Dio, some of my favorite bubbles are pét-nats (short for pétillant naturel),” she says. “The short story on this type of wine is that it’s all naturally occurring bubbles. In more technical language, that means primary fermentation starts and finishes in the bottle and the wine is often not disgorged, leaving the final product cloudy.”

When you are drinking a pét-nat, you are drinking something unpolished and unadorned – and that’s the beauty of it.

“We have many wines made in this style, but some of my favorites are the pét-nats from Old Westminster Winery in Maryland. They make these types of bubbles from grapes like syrah, muscat, pinot gris and more.”

And yes, you can try all of them at Dio. According to Khoury-Diaz, the flavor profiles have quite a range depending on the grape, but the muscat is floral, fresh and “absolutely chuggable.” Another bubbly recommendation is the Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral from Vermont.

“It’s actually a cider made from wild foraged apples, but the producers consider themselves winemakers so we do, too. The Fluxion is bright, funky and earthy.”

Diaz says that both the Fable Farm and Old Westminster have cutting acidity, which pair well with fatty dishes: everything from fried foods to salty and savory charcuterie.

904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille at Plume

Inside the historic Jefferson Hotel downtown, Plume has a spectacular selection list with tons of wines emphasizing Spain, France, California and plenty of local Virginia favorites. Thomas Jefferson was truly a wine connoisseur, and the wine list at Plume pays homage to his passion. There are over 50 vintages available, a variety of half bottles and helpful suggestions of “hidden gems,” which highlight rare wines of quality and distinction. Plume Manager Sean Mulligan is a fan of pét-nat styles for the holidays.

“Pét-nat, or méthode ancestrale, is a method of sparkling wine production used all over the world and is quintessential for a holiday pour,” he says. “At Plume, we have the following listed on our dessert wine list by the glass for patrons to taste and enjoy: Patrick Bottex, Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille.”

Mulligan’s pick goes for $12 a glass – a steal at this Michelin-starred restaurant.

1200 16th St. NW, DC; www.plumedc.com

Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut at The Eastern

Midcentury-inspired The Eastern in Capitol Hill has a wine list of over 40 wines by the glass and bottle with a menu helpfully organized to find something new based on the style of wine you typically like. General manager Robert Morin recommends the Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut if you like champagne, for $13 a glass and $48 a bottle.

“This sparkling white wine from Germany is just banging,” Morin says. “Made in the champagne style from pinot noir, pinot blanc and Riesling, there’s that German, cold-weather acidity that cuts through all of the heavy holiday meals but with a creamy finish from the bottle age and 24-month lees aging.”

360 7th St. SE, DC; www.easternwinebar.com

Sella & Mosca Brut at Maxwell Park

Shaw’s Maxwell Park has an extensive and serious wine program, with many selections that change monthly and over 500 selections by the bottle. For a current sparkler, sommelier Niki Lang recommends the 2018 Sella & Mosca Brut from the Sardinia region of Italy for $12 by the glass and $48 by the bottle. Made with the Torbato grape, which is exclusive to Sardinia, Sella & Mosca revived this once-rare white wine grape producing both still and sparkling wines.

“Facing near extinction, Sella & Mosca decided to cultivate Torbato,” Lang says. “Grown on the Northwest corner of Sardinia in Alghero, these limestone-rich soils add complex minerality and its proximity to the sea intensify this with sea spray and savory aromas. Sea spray, acacia and fresh honeysuckle bring you in, followed by brioche and almond. Finally, the fruit appears with fresh quince, green apple skin, star fruit and apricot. Next time you see this, drop the prosecco and proceed with no caution.”

1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwellparkdc.com

Cuvée José at Jaleo

Is there anything José Andrés cannot do? The Cuvée José, created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the chef’s Penn Quarter mainstay Jaleo, was a collaborative effort between ThinkFoodGroup Wine Director Andy Myers, Pepe Raventós of Raventós i Blanc, ThinkFoodGroup Sommelier Jordi Paronella and Andrés himself.

“The wine represents a traditional approach to Spanish winemaking with a clearly modern touch,” Myers says. “We have found the wine to brilliantly complement the cuisine at all of our ThinkFoodGroup concepts.”

The exclusive bubbly is made in the region of Conca del Riu Anoia in Spain and has a delicate, creamy and toasty character with notes of green apple. Find it at all local Jaleo locations as well as Zaytinya and China Chilcano, and be sure to ask about food pairings for these bubbles.

480 7th St. NW, DC; www.jaleo.com

Amity Commerce Frosted Carrot Garden // Photo: courtesy of Amity Commerce

New And Notable: Amity & Commerce, Brasserie Liberté, Nina May And The Renegade

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Amity & Commerce
Open: November 1
Location: Southwest Waterfront
Lowdown: Just across the bridge from the Jefferson Memorial, the Mandarin Oriental’s new restaurant pays homage to the country’s first Ambassador to France and the only Minister Plenipotentiary for Negotiating Treaties of Amity and Commerce. It’s named after the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and France, and invites diners to break bread in the name of friendship and business. The menu follows suit, with bistro fare influenced by both French and American culinary traditions. Chef de Cuisine Justin Houghtaling struck a balance between the two, crafting dishes like duck liver parfait, caramelized shallot and onion soup, and steak frites along with cocktail shrimp, pan-roasted Amish chicken and a burger. There’s also a selection of chops from the grill, as well as elaborate rotating plats du jour such as braised veal cheeks and marrow jus with ricotta agnolotti, sherry-braised salsify and salsify chips. Executive Pastry Chef Claus Olsen prepares artful and intricate desserts masquerading as fruits and vegetables. The high-ceiling dining room has an open kitchen and a long, wood-topped bar. In the warmer months, the outdoor patio offers additional seating. 1330 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.mandarinoriental.com/washington/national-mall/luxury-hotel

Brasserie Liberté
Open: November 16
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: For his latest restaurant project, restaurateur Hakan Ilhan is bringing back classic. Liberté embodies the French brasserie with traditional fare in a chic yet warm setting. Formerly the den-like Morton’s The Steakhouse, the space has been completely transformed with higher ceilings, modern architectural touches, and vibrant colors, patterns and textures. One booth in the back is sure to be the most requested table in the house: it’s in an ornate alcove reminiscent of a Fabergé egg. Executive Chef Jaryd Hearn – a young Alinea alum – has built a menu that delivers everything you might crave at a brasserie, starting with a hearty French onion soup or buttery escargot followed by duck confit, boeuf Bourguignon (as well as a vegan mushroom option) and steak frites. The superbly seasoned crispy frites are the product of 77 attempts at perfecting the dish. Desserts also hit all the expected notes, with profiteroles, opera cake, Paris-Brest and crème brulée. Much of the wine list is from France, and the cocktail program also goes back to basics with variations of archetypal drinks like the Old Fashioned and French 75. Bartender Zachary Faden is serving two of his creations that won top honors at Tales of the Cocktail, including the world’s best martini. 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; www.libertedc.com

Nina May
Open: November 1
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: Co-owners chef Colin McClimans and general manager Danilo Simic want you to feel like family at Nina May. They named the farm-to-table restaurant after each of their daughters and the space is old-fashioned and homey, with whitewashed clapboard siding on the interior walls and wooden bench seating like you might find on a boardwalk. The menu is intended for family-style dining, offering large and small shared plates. These dishes, which rotate often based on seasonal availability, are made with ingredients sourced within 150 miles of the city. You can order à la carte or opt for the “Chef’s Choice,” allowing the kitchen to select a variety of dishes for you to enjoy. Early fan favorites include sautéed green beans with cardoons, heirloom carrot and brown butter cavatelli, lemon and thyme roasted Pennsylvania chicken, and a playful pasta dish called green eggs and ham. The cocktail menu is organized by flavor profile, from rich and powerful to bright and crisp. In addition to brunch and dinner service, the first floor will open as a casual counter-service café in the mornings starting in mid-December serving pastries, coffee, light breakfast and lunch. 1337 11th St. NW, DC; www.ninamaydc.com

The Renegade
Open: October 24
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: No matter the time of day, you can stop by The Renegade. It starts early as a coffee shop, and then the kitchen opens for lunch and dinner. In the evenings, there’s live music (no cover) and the bar stays open until 2 a.m., with a late-night menu available on the weekends. Chef and owner Patrick Crump describes it as an amoeba, ready to adapt for any use. In designing the 5,500-square-foot space, he wanted to ensure that it would serve all of these purposes. There’s high-top seating throughout to encourage mingling; the walls and drink rails are lined with outlets for the remote working crowd; and the large stage is centrally located for optimal viewing. In addition to his culinary resume, which includes a stint at the Inn at Little Washington and a long tenure at Clarendon Ballroom, Crump is also quite handy. He welded the bar himself and personally handled many of the equipment repairs when renovating the kitchen. The menu reflects Crump’s personal preferences, which involves food that comes from the world’s equatorial regions. Within the categories of “goops and scoops,” “grips and stix” and bowls, there are dishes with punchy flavors and wide-ranging influences like spicy red curried collard greens, cinnamon and black pepper lamb lollipops over green rice, and shawarma-spiced chicken in a pita. 3100 Clarendon Blvd. Clarendon, VA; www.renegadeva.com

NOTABLE

The Buena Vida Fiesta Experience
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: Buena Vida owner Ivan Iricanin is known for the epic unlimited experience that started at his popular Balkan spots, and both locations of his Mexican concept have now followed suit. Priced at $35 per person for dinner and $34 for brunch, the fiesta at Buena Vida Clarendon includes all-you-can-eat small plates from the extensive menu redesigned by newly appointed Alexis Samayoa. As the corporate chef for the group’s Latin concepts, Samayoa brings experience from Spanish and Mexican restaurants in New York as well as Espita Mezcaleria in Shaw, where he served as the opening executive chef. Highlights from Samayoa’s new unlimited menu include chicken empanadas, confit mushrooms in guajillo salsa and hanger steak marinated in chili ash. The brunch menu also includes six house cocktails priced at 25 cents each. 2900 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.buenavidaclarendon.com

Menu Expansion at Bandoola Bowl
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: This Southeast Asian salad shop from the owners of Mandalay in Silver Spring has officially expanded into the world of carbs. The menu previously offered exclusively salads, featuring the flavors of Burma, Vietnam and Thailand. Now, you can order warm bowls with brown rice or Taiwanese wheat noodles. The protein options for warm bowls include roasted pork, grilled chicken, lightly fried tofu and steamed shrimp. The bowls also come with various fresh veggies and other crunchy ingredients, like shredded cabbage, onions, tomato, red bell pepper, cilantro, crispy garlic and fried shallots. They’re priced at $13-$14 per bowl. 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bandoolabowl.com

Boeuf Bourguignon // Photo: Scott Suchman

Brassiere Liberté Brings French Staples To Georgetown

Georgetown’s dining scene has been a touch sleepy over the past few years. Up-and-coming neighborhoods in the District have overshadowed once-thriving, traditional food hubs like Georgetown as of late. As the city rapidly changes, restaurateurs looking to open new restaurants turn toward emerging neighborhoods like Shaw, H Street or The Wharf, to name a few. DC restaurateur Hakan Ilhan, however, has faith in Georgetown as a food destination and invested heavily in his latest endeavor on historic Prospect street: Brasserie Liberté.

Ilhan enlisted design firm Swatchroom to completely transform the former Morton’s The Steakhouse space from a dark, outdated cave-like enclosure, to a chic and inviting French-style brasserie. The multi-million dollar renovation includes a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar display, light blue tiling, and soft, warm shades of navy, pumpkin and crimson. A show-stopping domed booth in the private dining area features a delicate hand-painted floral pattern above red velvet upholstered seating. 

The interior is as cohesive as its dinner menu. Highlights include three different kinds of tarte flambees, French onion soup, crispy leg of duck confit, scallop almandine, and of course, the ultimate cold-weather comfort food: boeuf bourguignon. 

“I said to my chefs if we’re going to do this, there are four things you absolutely have to get right: steak tartare, french fries, escargot and boeuf bourguignon,” Ilhan says. “These are [French dishes] everyone knows.” 

In other words: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The french fries, for one, are ideally crispy from end-to-end. And the boeuf bourguignon is one Julia Child would have been proud of. The tender meat succumbs to a fork with ease, falling apart just as it should. If you’re a herbivore, however, vegetarians can take part in this classic French dish by opting for the vegan and gluten-free mushroom bourguignon. 

The man behind the food is 25-year-old Jaryd Hearn, who is currently the youngest executive chef in the city. Hearn previously spent two years cooking at Alinea, Chicago’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars. 

In addition to French staples, Hearn creates vegetarian-friendly salads, moules frites, roasted carrot grain bowl with chickpea puree and seared salmon. 

If you have the stomach real estate after your main meal, save that room for something off of their diverse dessert menu. Options include opera cake, profiteroles and an apple tartlet that comes with homemade brie ice cream so silky you wish you could buy it by the pint.

Based on its first few weeks, Ilhan’s Brassiere Liberte has the potential to level the playing field between DC’s neighborhood eats, making Georgetown a refreshed contender in the city’s comprehensive foodscape.

Brasserie Liberté is open from 11 a.m. – 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. – 2 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 1 a.m. on Sunday.

For more information about Brasserie Liberte, visit www.libertedc.com.

Brasserie Liberte: 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; 202-878-8404; www.libertedc.com

Graphic: No Kings Collective

Healthy Living, Inc. Partners with Chef Kwame Onwuachi + No Kings Collective for Annual Fundraiser

Come for the food and good cause, stay for the art and music. We’re talking about nutrition and food consciousness-focused nonprofit Healthy Living, Inc.’s fundraiser this Thursday at No Kings Collective‘s new gallery and event space in Northeast DC. 

For years, the nonprofit’s Mark Weinberger looked for ways to collaborate with No Kings’ cofounders Peter Chang and Brandon Hill. Fresh on the heels of the artists’ newly opened space Good Fast Cheap DC, they decided to team up and totally transform the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser experience – including select dishes curated by James Beard Award-winning Kwame Onwuachi, executive chef at The Wharf’s Kith/Kin. 

“This is the first annual fundraiser in which we have been so fortunate to enact partnerships with highly reputable forces in the DC Metro area pertaining specifically to arts [and] culture and event production,” says Weinberger, the nonprofit’s youth program manager and assistant executive director. “We’re also very much excited for our youth and family constituents to interact with Chef Kwame and experience his food, as we do our best to expose them to notable chefs who are seeking to make an impact in a national conversation regarding natural food and culture.” 

While past fundraisers featured guest speakers such as Top Chef contestants Eric Adjepong and Joy Crump, this fundraiser is a full-on sensory experience including big culinary names like Lechon Belly, Cielo Rojo, Stellina Pizzeria, Green Plate Catering and more in addition to Kith/Kin.

“First off, the food is going to be great,” Chang says. “You have an all-star chef lineup. We have a great beverage program with cocktails and other bites. The exhibit from Hen House [DC] will still be up, and a portion of their proceeds will be going toward Healthy Living, Inc. as well.” 

The event was a natural fit for the No Kings’ new 6,000-square-foot event space. Good Fast Cheap is currently housing “Tiny Show 2” by the aforementioned art collective Hen House, featuring works produced by more than 100 female, trans and non-binary artists. Works will be available for purchase during the fundraiser, which Chang hopes can serve as a launching pad for future nonprofit programming.

“If you can help at a younger age, that’s where all the foundations are laid,” Chang says. “If kids can’t eat properly or if they’re buying junk food, it paves the way for disease early on. I believe in [Healthy Living’s] mission because [Weinberger] gets kids to keep their bodies healthy. That helps in school and in them pursuing any arts. For us, it’s important for that foundation to be there. We want to be able to open the space up to nonprofits to program stuff without feeling the burden to rent a space.” 

Weinberger adds that aside from all the delicious food and wine, the most rewarding and impactful aspect of this event is having “the chance to provide an enjoyable night out to the youth and families who benefit from our programs and services.”

But the most important part of the evening, he adds, will be to continue the nonprofit’s mission of providing education and healthy cooking outreach programs. 

“Every year, we bring a good amount of students, parents, participants of all ages to our annual fundraiser. They enjoy the food, the music, the art and the relaxing atmosphere. This event is very much intended to honor their support and presence, as we are partners just as much with the youth and their families.” 

Don’t miss Healthy Living, Inc.’s annual fundraiser this Thursday, November 21 from 7 p.m. – midnight. General admission tickets are $65, which include food, open bar and the opportunity to participate in a charity art auction curated by Hen House DC and No Kings Collective. Click here to purchase tickets.

Good Fast Cheap DC: 524 Rhode Island Ave. NE, DC; www.nokingscollective.com

Photo: courtesy of Mintwood Place

Mintwood Place Elevates Happy Hour Menu

Three talented chefs – all who have made the rounds in DC’s fine dining scene – have helmed the kitchen as chef de cuisine at Mintwood Place since it was first opened by owner and RAMMY winner Cedric Maupillierin in 2012. Two years ago that title was taken over by Le Diplomate alum Matthew Cockrell, and this year he decided it was finally time to revamp the Adams Morgan brasserie’s happy hour menu.

“The happy hour menu before was just sad,” Cockrell says of the restaurant’s previous bar and lounge offerings. “It was literally just discounted portions of our regular menu.”

The menu, which will change throughout the course of the year, has since been updated with several modern French-inspired dishes that can’t be found on Mintwood’s regular dining menu. On the cocktail and sweets end, bar manager Matthew Wilcox and pastry chef Stephanie Milne have created new additions in line with each other’s respective expertise as well.   

The first iteration of the new menu at Mintwood Place is appropriately seasonal with a few inventive surprises. Wilcox concocted three new cocktails, two of which taste like autumn in a glass. There’s what he calls The Cayuga, a mix of rye whiskey, riesling, spiced cider, grenadine and tarragon; and Anjou Can Tell Everybody, a classy concoction of cognac, Anjou pear, lemon, lime and Peychaud bitters. For those who appreciate when a beverage includes a little snack for an all-encompassing flavor experience, the latter comes with a pear slice affixed to the rim of the glass. 

“My idea was to make a pear Sidecar,” said Wilcox of his fall-inspired interpretation of a traditional Sidecar, which is typically made with orange liqueur. 

Where the first two libations act as an ode to fall flavors, Wilcox turned to a sour cherry aperol for the third cocktail, All Over the Map. Sour cherry liqueur and pineapple juice are mixed with chamomile bitters and soda to create a light and refreshing cocktail. Here, Wilcox proves that just because it’s fall, that doesn’t mean you have to conform to the season’s staple flavors and spices. 

Chef Cockrell took the same philosophy to heart when thinking up new bar fare to add to the happy hour menu. A standout item includes a nod to DC’s own mumbo sauce, which is incorporated into incredibly tender smoked duck wings that come with a light and tangy take on coleslaw. The scent of this dish wafts from across the room when it makes its way from the restaurant’s open kitchen to your table.

Then there’s the comfort food: gooey skillet mac and cheese and crisp corn fritters paired with a chervil remoulade dip. It’s admittedly difficult to go wrong with food options that are covered either in warm and melt-y cheese or fried. 

Carnivore lovers will enjoy the chef’s charcuterie board which includes wild boar salami, pate, port wine onions and chicken liver mousse (a staff favorite). An artfully plated, warm and mouth-watering lamb merguez with chickpeas, cucumbers and beet hummus is equally satisfying.

These dishes, among the other selections from Mintwood’s new bar and lounge happy hour menu, are all shareable and less than $10. 

There are plans to add other seasonal dishes to the happy hour menu including moule frites with tomato and garlic broth with pancetta, fennel and crème fraiche, house-made duck and pork rillettes with pickled onions and rustic bread, and house-made Italian meatballs with tomato-basil sauce. 

Mintwood Place intends to include vegetable sides such as Chef Cockrell’s signature ratatouille with lemon quinoa and shaved turnips and parsnips. Pear onion tartlets will also be available along with autumn soups like split pea with Tasso ham, wild mushroom with crispy wild rice, and butternut squash with spiced pepitas. Mountain pies (also known as “Campfire Sandwiches”) will return by popular demand with apple, fontina and tarragon, Dijon and ham, gouda, caramelized onion, and frisée flavors.

The aforementioned happy hour specials at Mintwood Place are available Tuesday through Friday, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Saturday, from 5:30-7 p.m. and Sunday, from 5:30-9 p.m. Draft beer is available for $5, as well as select red, rosé, white and sparkling wines for $6, a featured cocktail of the day for $8 along with the new selection of bar snacks, priced from $5 to $10 each. Dishes rotate monthly and are available exclusively in the 31-seat bar and lounge.

For more information about Mintwood Place, visit www.mintwoodplace.com.

Mintwood Place: 1813 Columbia Rd. NW, DC; 202-234-6732; www.mintwoodplace.com

Evoken // Photo: Melissa Suarez-Skinner

Atlas Brew Works: DC’s Long-Needed Metal Venue

DC is home to some of the best concert venues in the country, hosting musicians from a variety of genres who play to crowds big and small. Even still, the city’s metal community has often struggled to find a locale that regularly books metal shows – that is, until a few years ago when Ivy City’s Atlas Brew Works expanded beyond beer to support the genre.

“There was no venue where you could just go hang out, have a beer and listen to metal,” explains Will Cook, brewer emeritus and director of heavy metal operations at Atlas, which opened its doors in 2013.

Hasan Ali, who books shows for Atlas and runs Ripping Headache Promotions, agrees with Cook.

“People would either have to go to Baltimore or Richmond to see a [metal] band,” he says.

But soon after Ali began booking for the brewery, “Atlas became recognizable as a legit venue [and] DC [became] a notable spot for metal on the East Coast.”

It all began in 2016 when Atlas – which has several metalheads on staff – agreed to host the holiday party for local blog DC Heavy Metal. When the event proved successful, the brewery began hosting more and more metal shows until eventually, it became a permanent fixture on the scene.

Since then, Ali says Atlas has hosted more than 100 shows with people coming from as far as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and even L.A. to catch the bands. But this isn’t to say that the Atlas team ever expected to host this many shows when they started.

The brewery had no stage or music equipment to speak of, according to Cook, so artists brought in their own PA systems and light fixtures. But when the shows kept coming, Cook and his team bought the supplies necessary to become a more viable music venue.

Now, the stage is set up in the beer production area and taken down post-show so brewing operations can resume the next day. While balancing operations as both a music venue and a brewery has proven challenging at times, the Atlas team agrees that it’s helped give the brewery an edge – and brought people to their space who might not have stopped by otherwise.

“The fact that we have live music here definitely adds a lot to the atmosphere of the brewery and gives us some amount of identity that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Blake Peterson, tap room general manager and singer/guitarist for extreme metal band Lyceum. “It’s something that sets us apart from other breweries in the area.”

It’s also fun to have the chance to hang around the brewery after work and catch a show, adds head brewer Dan Vilarrubi. Plus, Cook says they’ve had the opportunity to meet some of their favorite bands.

The team agrees that putting on shows has been a great experience for Atlas, but just as rewarding is the feedback they get from the bands who come through.

“I’ve heard when other venues host metal shows, attendance will be poor,” Ali says. “Or I’ll hear bands say the staff isn’t really pleasant or accommodating. And they’ll tell me, ‘I really wish you did the show and we played at Atlas instead.’”

Cook has also heard stories of bands who’ve had bad experiences at other DC venues.

“We didn’t want that here at Atlas,” he says. “We wanted to be as friendly to bands as possible.”

That includes not taking a cut of the ticket sales or taking money from the band in any way. Musicians are also offered beer and food on the house.

And the brewery’s noteworthy reputation isn’t just recognized in the States. Bands from across the world have looked to play at Atlas, including Conan from the U.K., Pseudogod from Russia and Sinmara from Iceland, to name a few. Notable DC bands like Genocide Pact and Ilsa and Richmond’s Inter Arma round out the brewery’s sterling reputation in the world of metal.

“Pretty much every band is so stoked to play here, and they love the beer – including bands from other countries,” Peterson says. “I never knew how special this place was until I heard bands from outside the country say this is the coolest venue they’ve ever seen.”

Some of the bands who’ve played Atlas have even had beer brewed specifically for their show. Ali mentions they had Batch 666 on tap for Chicago-based instrumental doom band Bongripper. Other beers, like Temple of Void and Evoken, have been named after some of the team’s favorite bands. When it comes to their individual go-to brews during metal shows, Peterson goes for NSFW, Cook enjoys Silent Neighbor or Ponzi, Ali likes Ponzi, and Vilarrubi drinks Batch 666.

As for the future of Atlas as a music venue, the team just hopes to keep improving the quality of shows and continue booking great bands to play the brewery.

“It’s kind of selfish because we get to have all these bands play at our brewery and we get to meet them,” Cook says. “I’m talking about the underground bands that you just love and want to meet. It’s cool to hang out with them, but also to hear they really enjoyed their time playing here.”

Catch metal shows at Atlas on November 2, 7, 14, 22, 23 and 29. For the full lineup and more info, visit www.atlasbrewworks.com. Follow Atlas on social media @atlasbrewworks.

Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; 202-832-0420; www.atlasbrewworks.com