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Photo: Daniel Lempres

Leading The Way With Glass In Hand

DC’s wine scene continues to expand and innovate, with new restaurants and bars pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. Gone are the days of stuffy wine lists. As consumers become more educated and adventurous, wine programs must evolve to keep up with hot trends, new regions and unique varietals.

The wine industry has long been male-dominated, but that too is rapidly changing. More women rise to the top and thrive within all areas of the wine industry – from winemakers to business owners to sommeliers at the hottest dining destinations. We sat down to chat with a few of the amazing women driving the District’s wine scene.

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Durazo Photography

Stacey Khoury-Diaz
Owner, Dio Wine Bar

Originally from Sonoma County, Stacey Khoury-Diaz fell in love with the natural wines movement she’d experienced across the country and abroad. She opened Dio Wine Bar in the H Street Corridor in September 2017 to fill the natural wines gap she felt was missing in DC.

On Tap: Your menu indicates wines that are made by female winemakers. Do you find there are any notable differences between wines made by women and wines made by men?
Stacey Khoury-Diaz:
When I opened Dio, I wanted to highlight other women in the industry, so about 20 percent of our list is made up of wines that are from woman-owned wineries or wineries with a woman winemaker. I tend to see a lot more elevated wines made by women.

OT: What advice would you pass along to women beginning their career in the wine industry?
SKD:
Men can walk in and simply say, “This wine is awesome.” But a woman has to be more prepared with facts and statistics to prove her knowledge base. This applies on many levels in business. We have more obstacles and have to work harder to prove ourselves.

OT: What’s your go-to wine at the moment?
SKD:
I can’t stop drinking a winter rose by Daniel Ramos from Spain. It’s 100 percent garnacha and a very deep, fragrant rosé. It tastes like roses, vanilla and baking spices. It’s beautiful!

OT: What sets Dio apart from other local wine bars?
SKD:
We really highlight the fact that we’re a natural wine bar, meaning the wines are all organic or biodynamic with little added. I’m socially and environmentally driven, so natural wines fit how I live my life. We’re eclectic as far as countries represented and have a lot of fun bringing in wines that aren’t available elsewhere.

Dio Wine Bar: 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Niki Lang
Partner and Sommelier, Maxwell Park

Niki Lang has years of experience in the wine and hospitality industries, and most recently embarked on a venture with business partners Brent Kroll and Daniel Runnerstrom. Shaw’s Maxwell Park opened in June 2017 and continues to garner praise and accolades from locals.

On Tap: What wine can you not get enough of lately?
Niki Lang:
I’ve been nerding out over Northern Piedmont recently. My favorite is La Kiuva, a Picotendro [local name for the Nebbiolo grape] from Valle d’Aosta [in Italy]. It’s a lighter, more delicate style but still very interesting and complex.

OT: How did you find your way to the wine industry?
NL:
I grew up with my grandmother and wine was part of everyday life for her, so I was always exposed. When I took the first course from the Court of Master Sommeliers, it opened up a whole new world. I went into wine sales for a few years, worked at other fine dining restaurants in DC, and even worked at a distillery to learn mixology and the distillation process to broaden my knowledge of the beverage world.

OT: What’s the collaborative process like with your business partners?
NL:
Brent, Daniel and I have different backgrounds, so we bounce ideas off each other constantly. We have 50 wines by the glass that change monthly. March’s theme is “The Upside Down” – Southern Hemisphere wines. It’s collaborative and fun, and we try to keep it clever.

OT: How do you think the DC wine industry has evolved throughout your career?
NL:
DC feels like it’s been exploding with fine dining restaurants. I’ve seen a trend toward value-driven, approachable wine lists that focus on obscure varietals. At Maxwell Park, we work with almost 50 different distributors because we change our list so often and we want unique, experimental wines that are popular among consumers.

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

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Vanessa Cominsky
Sommelier, St. Anselm

With its namesake location in Brooklyn, St. Anselm expanded to the District last fall and was an instant success in the up-and-coming Northeast area near Union Market. Vanessa Cominsky was part of the opening team and currently oversees a wine program of more than 700 options.

On Tap: What’s your top priority as a sommelier?
Vanessa Cominsky:
Our goal is to challenge perceptions and take people on an adventure. There’s truly something for everyone, from classics to more funky picks. This area is also so vibrant and people are excited to come in and explore, which helps me as a sommelier.

OT: What’s in your glass today?
VC:
My honest answer is a double shot of espresso. Blue Bottle saves my soul. I’m also into Sicilian and Southern Italian wines right now like Azienda Agricola COS, one of the original wines from Sicily that’s imported in the States.

OT: What challenges do you face as a female wine professional?
VC:
I’m almost numb to the “Oh, you’re the sommelier?” looks at this point. I hope eventually I won’t have to list my accomplishments to justify that I’m qualified to do my job. Until we don’t have to do that, we’ll have a lot of work to do within the industry.

OT: What makes St. Anselm relevant in DC’s ever-changing foodie scene?
VC:
We have Joe Carroll [the restauranteur behind St. Anselm] in New York, and he always gives input on what’s coming. I also eat out a lot and listen to people. Writing off trends seen on social media and Instagram would also be a big mistake. It’s a big part of how we connect with [customers] in regards to food and wine.

St. Anselm: 1250 5th St. NE, DC; www.stanselmdc.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Darlin Kulla
Beverage Director and Sommelier, KNEAD Hospitality + Design

After returning to DC for an internship in climate change, Darlin Kulla quickly realized office life wasn’t her path. She soon began working with various fine wine programs throughout the District, and now she’s gearing up to sit the advanced exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers this fall while leading the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.

On Tap: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your career?
Darlin Kulla:
I wish I’d know that it’s okay to ask for help, advice or mentorship. It’s easy to forget we’re not in this alone. There are so many people in DC that are driven and talented; it’s a great community and very supportive.

OT: Tell us a bit about the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.
DK:
Succotash is Southern American food, so think bold, structured wines that can stand up to the food. Southern food is not shy! Mi Vida’s menu is more varied in terms of styles, even though it’s a smaller list. We went heavier in Spanish and Iberian wines. There are some fun Portuguese wines and also a Mexican Chardonnay by the glass.

OT: Wine perhaps isn’t the first pairing people think of with Mexican cuisine. How do you help guests select wines to pair with more complex dishes from the menu?
DK:
We have descriptors for all the wines printed on the list so the consumer is able to get a snapshot of the wine before they order, which is helpful with more eclectic wines. People are becoming more adventurous and what they’ll try continues to exceed expectations.

OT: What wine is currently on your short list?
DK:
I drink a lot of Beaujolais – that tends to be my go-to.

Learn more about KNEAD at www.kneadhd.com. Two new spots, Gatsby in Capitol Riverfront and The Grill at The Wharf, will join the restaurant group’s existing locations later this year.

Mi Vida: 98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com
Succotash: 915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com

Photo: Greg Powers

New and Notable: Olivia, Vim and Victor, Urbano 116 and More

Olivia
Open: January 10
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has performed yet another extreme restaurant makeover. This time, Olivia replaced American brasserie Nopa Kitchen + Bar. Executive Chef Matt Kuhn is still running the kitchen, but his cooking is now influenced by flavors from Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Greece. The new restaurant takes its name from the Latin for olive tree, evoking Mediterranean imagery like round glass wine vessels hanging from the ceiling draped in fishing net, a whitewashed brick wall and a panel of wooden slats dotted with flower pots. The menu features spreads like tzatziki labne and roasted carrot hummus, as well as various small plates including creamy chickpea ravioli, classic dolmades, octopus carpaccio and chicken bastille – a savory Moroccan phyllo pastry. If you’re really hungry, consider a large plate like the Portuguese seafood stew or braised short rib tagine. The showstopper on the dessert menu is a grand hazelnut profiterole crowned with gold leaf. 800 F St. NW, DC; www.oliviawdc.com

Vim & Victor
Open: January 10
Location: Springfield
Lowdown: Since becoming a father, celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s career has moved away from television, fine dining and fast casual concepts and into the wellness space. His latest concept at the St. James (a 450,000-square-foot sports and wellness complex) is a natural fit for the longtime hockey player. He’s distinguished Vim & Victor as a disruptor when it comes to food in the fitness scene, as it encompasses a grab-and-go counter, a full-service restaurant and a bar. Overseeing the dining option at this facility was a tall order to fill because it needed to provide something for everyone who might find themselves working out, watching their kid’s soccer game, getting a treatment at the spa, taking a dance class, training for an elite event or playing in an adult basketball league. The guiding philosophy for his menu is healthy, hearty and hydrating. That means you’ll find a seared salmon filet, an ancient grain salad and smoothie bowls alongside cauliflower nachos, a lobster salad toast, and a burger topped with American cheese and special sauce. The drinks range from wellness lattes and teas to smoothies and cold-pressed juices, plus cocktails, wine and beer. The counter menu offers breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the morning as well as personal pizzas and Beyond Meat sandwiches during the day. The St. James: 6805 Industrial Rd. Springfield, VA; www.vimandvictor.com

Urbano 116
Open: January 21
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Alexandria is now home to an authentic taste of Mexico City thanks to the arrival of Chef Alam Méndez Florían. The owners of Mason Social, Augie’s Mussel House and Catch on the Avenue crossed paths with Méndez Florían while on a research and development trip in Mexico City for their newest restaurant Urbano 116. Méndez Florían has been recognized by both national and international media for his restaurant, Pasillo de Humo, and he has cooked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Noma Mexico and Arzak in Spain. Here in the U.S., Méndez Florían is using imported ingredients like heirloom Oaxacan corn, which is nixtamalized, ground and turned into supple and flavorful tortillas. His menu borrows family recipes for complex sauces that take days to create, like black mole on grilled Cornish hen and pipián sauce on butternut squash. You’ll also find various tacos, zippy ceviches, saucy enchiladas, bar-friendly starters like grilled tlayuda and plantain molotes, and of course, fresh fried churros to be dipped in sauces like chocolate and guava cinnamon. Drinks heavily skew toward agave spirits and syrups, including Mexican spins on classic cocktails (think Mezcamule and Old Oaxacan). The space feels like an ode to luchadores, with murals and masks displayed prominently. 116 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.urbano116.com

Coconut Club
Open: January 25
Location: Union Market
Lowdown: If there’s one thing celebrity chef Adam Greenberg hopes you experience at Coconut Club, it’s fun. He may be an undefeated Food Network competitor with two decades of industry experience, but that’s not why he thinks his new restaurant and bar is worth visiting. He’s trying to recreate a simple kind of bliss: the way he felt drinking a frozen cocktail in a pool in Hawaii on vacation with his wife. The food and drink menus are playful but unfussy, with coastal small plates and island cocktails laid out on colorful patterns that mimic the bright and leafy mural on the wall. Dishes let the high-quality ingredients like fresh fish flown in from Hawaii overnight or local pasture-raised pork speak for themselves with simple but creative preparations. You’ll want to try the crowd favorites, which so far include the ora king salmon poke and the spam fried rice. Pair that with a frozen Mahalo at You Later cocktail or the Waking Up From a Disco Nap cocktail for two and you’ll instantly feel like you’re relaxing on a tropical beach. Instagrammers are welcome here, as evidenced by the social media handles and emojis accenting the menus, the whimsical serving ware (coconuts, plastic pineapples, sparkly disco balls) and the decals on the bathroom mirrors. Greenberg calls the concept “authentically me” and equates it to welcoming guests into his own home. Above all else, the chef wants anyone who walks into Coconut Club to find an escape and feel free to be themselves. 540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com

NOTABLE

New Flavors at Hazel
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: After debuting global, Asian-leaning small plates to much acclaim, Hazel has changed its culinary compass to point towards the Mediterranean. Chef Robert Curtis took over the kitchen last summer and introduced his new direction this winter. Curtis worked internationally at Noma, as well as locally at Bourbon Steak and Restaurant Eve, before joining Neighborhood Restaurant Group to helm Hazel. The new menu he developed is inspired by a trip to Turkey to visit his fiancé. Each meal should begin with laffa flatbread topped with condiments like whipped tahini, smoked catfish and muhammara. The dishes, all intended for sharing, are laid out in four categories: Greens & Beans, Grains of Various Names, Animal Kingdom and Feast. Vegetables like roasted carrots, crispy potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts take center stage, complemented by Middle Eastern flavors ranging from harissa oil to za’atar. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

Selva Pop-Up at El Techo
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: The trendy rooftop above Rito Loco has once again debuted a tropical pop-up to elicit vacation vibes and this time, they’re taking you to the rainforest. Selva is inspired by the Amazon with woven lanterns made from repurposed fishing baskets, a Mayan calendar wall mural and naturally, plenty of vegetation. The space has been upgraded with additional insulation to keep in the heat and make you feel like you’re in a balmy jungle. The food and drink match the mood with tacos, spicy chicken soup, breakfast nachos, hot cocktails and shareable spiked Jarritos served in skulls. A portion of the proceeds from Selva will be donated to the Amazon Conservation Team and other global organizations to protect rainforests worldwide. 606 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.ritoloco.com/el-techo

Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Women’s Issue Edition

DC has risen in the ranks as one of the most exciting bar scenes in the country as of late. At the helm of many of the buzziest bars in the city are women leading award-winning teams to craft the best and brightest cocktail programs. Whether they’re mainstays, newcomers or home to a specific spirit, each one is worth taking note of – not just because of the world-class drinks, but for the noteworthy ladies at the helm, too.


Megan Barnes (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Megan Barnes

Beverage Director + Partner, Espita Mezcaleria

Notice mezcal popping up across the city over the past few years? You probably have Espita Mezcaleria’s Megan Barnes to thank for that. The Shaw spot’s menu highlights the spicy and smoky spirit’s best qualities, converting even the most stubborn drinkers into passionate connoisseurs who keep diaries around their favorite varieties.

“I loved it from first sip,” Barnes says of the spirit.

She got her start at Columbia Room working under Drink Company’s Derek Brown, who introduced her to mezcal.

“After work, I would walk down to Oyamel because at the time, that was the only place you could get mezcal. Now, I go down to Mexico about three times a year, and that’s also opened the door for me to learn about different ranges, styles, techniques and flavors. And meeting the families who are producing the mezcal – it’s really kind of a romance.”

Although Barnes’ time at Espita so far has been a well-awarded one, including a RAMMY last year for best bar program, she credits the bar team behind her and the city’s supportive cocktail scene for her continued successes.

“The DC bar scene is probably the best in the entire country. We’re so tight-knit and we’re always rooting each other on, especially the women in the city. We love each other so much.”

Espita Margarita (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Margarita
Tequila
Lime
Ligit Triple
“Nogave” syrup

Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

 


Alex Bookless (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alexandra Bookless

Beverage Director, Eaton Workshop

Eaton Workshop’s ambitious pursuit of creating a social justice-minded hub for travelers and locals alike is a perfect match for seasoned beverage director Alexandra Bookless.

“We’ve got four concepts including the cafe [and] the coworking space, and we do events as well, so there’s a lot going on,” she says of the bars she oversees within the multi-use downtown space, which sees about a 50/50 split between natives and visitors.

Bookless and her team develop detailed menus for Allegory, American Son, Kintsugi, Wild Days and a soon-to-open bar within their coworking space. Not only do they make it seem effortless, but Bookless has helped usher in a new wave of luxury hotels as spots for community and craft cocktails.

“People really support our ideas and allow us to have a strong creative voice, which is really on theme for Eaton Workshop in general – just supporting art in all forms. It’s kind of a holistic approach to supporting creative outlets here.”

Allegory drink (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

2666 from Allegory
Pechuga mezcal 
Reposado tequila
Sherry 
Creme de cacao
Mole bitters
Chocolate-covered fig made in-house 

Eaton Workshop: 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.eatonworkshop.com

 


Alejandra Martin 2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alejandra Martin

Bartender + Manager, Gaslight Tavern

Alejandra Martin credits her family with her love of the food and beverage industry. Her parents owned a Mexican restaurant in California, and she says the restaurant world has always been in her blood. A bartender of 11 years, she joined the team at Shaw’s Gaslight Tavern when it opened last January.

“It’s been great to have been here from the beginning,” she says of the Art Deco-inspired bar. “We base our cocktails on the setting, so a lot are classic cocktails or spins on them. We stick to that time period but still get creative with them.”

Martin’s creativity shines in drinks she creates outside of the pantheon of classics, too. She crafted a current special called the Mezcalito, an homage to her love of the spirit. She keeps the retro feel with a float and an ornate glass.

“I like it because it’s a little different and it’s layered, with a fernet float on top. It’s cute and flavorful – a complex yet simple cocktail.”

The warm and inviting space is filled with – as the name would suggest – fireplaces, and its location sees locals stopping in to be guided into the arena of old-school drinks by Martin.

Mezcalito (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Mezcalito
Mezcal
Agave syrup
Pinch of salt
Fernet float
Dehydrated lime
Fresh-squeezed lemon

Gaslight Tavern: 2012-2014 9th St. NW, DC; www.gaslight-dc.com

 


Columbia Room (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Suzy Critchlow

Head Bartender, Columbia Room

Suzy Critchlow has risen to the top of the industry thanks to her curiosity, creativity and initiative. Despite reverence for the history of the craft, change is part of the ethos of Columbia Room. Critchlow and her team are constantly reimagining and refining their menu at the award-winning Blagden Alley spot, pushing the boundaries of classic cocktails. Their current menu Distortion is no exception.

“We’re distorting ingredients, flavors, visuals and sound,” she says. “Another menu I really loved was one called Women Rule. It was all inspired by female chefs, mixologists and bartenders. Pretty much as soon as we release a menu, we hit the ground running designing a new one.”

And although there’s no shortage of innovation in her current role, she says DC’s fast-paced drink scene keeps her on her toes and always challenges her to be even better.

“There are new places opening all the time, [which] challenges you to make sure that you’re still keeping your standards very high because there are so many people out there who are so talented and have a lot to bring to the table. It gets better [in DC] every day.”

Columbia Room_drink (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

The Prose Punch
Gin
Fino
Pear
Roses
Whey
White vermouth

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

 


Erin Adams (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Erin Adams

General Manager, AC Hotel National Harbor

On Tap: Tell us a bit about the offerings at AC Lounge within the hotel.
Erin Adams: AC Lounge is our bar area where guests can enjoy local craft beers, expertly made signature cocktails such as locally inspired gin and tonics, specialty wines sourced from around the world including Spanish Albarino and Rioja, and a curated selection of tapas-style small bites.

OT: Any mainstays or customer favorites on the drink menu?
EA:
To kick the evening off, we offer a nightly ritual of passing the porrón – a tradition started because of our Spanish roots. The porrón is a traditional glass wine pitcher filled with wine and tipped directly into mouths as a conclusion to the work day and kickoff to the evening.

OT: Why should local drink enthusiasts visit the lounge?
EA: AC Lounge is unique from other National Harbor bars as we highlight our Spanish roots and culture in the experience. Our bar shelves resemble National Harbor’s picturesque sunsets, and the space offers floor-to-ceiling window views of the destination as well as an outdoor terrace that can be enjoyed year-round.

AC Hotel cocktail (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels

Cherry Blossom Sour
Sloop Betty Vodka
St. Germain
Simple syrup
Cherry brandy
Oloroso sherry
Lemon juice

AC Hotel National Harbor: 156 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD: www.marriott.com/hotels

Daniel Lempres contributed to this article.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Chrystalle Ball

Leading Ladies of DC’s Beer Scene: Deep Roots Gain New Ground

The world of craft beer is dramatically different than it was even a few years ago. Quality beer is more readily available than ever and thanks to social media, it’s easy to keep up with new beers and breweries. Here in DC, women have a prominent place in the beer scene.

Chrystalle Ball is the founder of DC Metro Girls Pint Out, the local chapter of a national craft beer organization for women to enjoy happy hours, tastings and other events that build community around a love of beer. She joined the Arizona chapter originally, but after moving to the DMV, she found there were no chapters here. She got to work, and DMV Girls Pint Out had its first event in 2013.

“There is a stereotype that women don’t drink beer,” Ball says. “People come to our events for the first time and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were so many women that drink beer in this area.’ There are, you just have to look.”

Ball says that over the past five-plus years of involvement in the DC beer community, a lot more women are beginning to actually work in beer. She notes Lake Anne Brew House in Reston, Virginia, which is women-owned and has many women brewers, and says that DC also has plenty of women industry veterans like Kristi Mathews Griner of Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling, Virginia.

“Women are popping up all over the area in brewing roles, and it needs to keep happening,” she says, noting that the Pink Boots Society, which helps women advance their careers in the beer industry, is an important resource. “Women are pigeonholed toward wine, but women love beer – and women were the first brewers of beer.”

Sara Bondioli, president of the DC Homebrewers Club, says that the long tradition of women brewers also helped inspire her to try it herself.

“I was reading a book that had a section on the history of brewing, and for most of history, women were the main brewers,” Bondioli says. “It’s only more recently that it’s been seen as a male profession. It hadn’t occurred to me that homebrewing was even an option until then, but I did a lot of baking from scratch and I thought I would try making beer from scratch.”

Fast forward to about seven years later, and she’s now running the club and helping other women get into homebrewing, too. Women club members started the Homebrewing Outreach and Participation Sisterhood (HOPS), which has women-focused brew days, happy hours and speaking events. Bondioli says that through homebrewing, women and men alike have freedom to create funky combinations while enhancing their appreciation of the brewing process.

“I’ve had some really creative beers through the homebrew. Someone made a pickleback beer, but they did it in a very restrained way that worked out really well. Especially with the club, you get to see what other people create and it gives you ides of things to try as well.”

Her signature beer? A strawberry rhubarb saison. This creative spirit is everywhere in the beer world, from the beers themselves to their labels. Chelsea Bailey, who runs the @21stamendmentgirl beer Instagram account and works in DC Brau’s tasting room, says she originally started the account to highlight the beauty of beer design.

“Honestly, I started drinking craft beer because I love the labels,” she says. “I challenged myself to drink a whole bottle of whatever I chose [to feature], I developed a palate and it grew into this whole other world.”

Bailey landed her job at DC Brau thanks in part to her social media presence, and it’s given her “a chance to meet other people who are like-minded and passionate.”

“There are people who have heard about my Instagram account, and I’m excited to go in and talk about beer with them.”

All three women say that there’s a number of things happening in the DC beer world to look forward to this spring. This month, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar is exclusively pouring ciders, wines, beers and cocktails from female-owned and operated businesses. On the homebrewing front, the DC Homebrewers Club is now accepting entries for its annual homebrewing competition, the Cherry Blossom Challenge. And DMV Girls Pint Out will soon host its fifth annual Girl Scout Cookie and beer pairing event; check website for updates.

“If someone wants to get into beer and has experienced that whole beer snobbery thing, I would love for them to come to our events and just try things,” Ball says.

That’s the main theme that seems to unite area breweries and beer enthusiasts: condescension and pretentiousness are out, and inclusiveness and community are in.

“Overall, the DC beer scene is supportive of having women involved, active and part of the group,” Bondioli says. “Most of the places out here seem to understand that they don’t have to market beer to women differently. They can just make a good beer and women and men will drink it – and everyone out here can appreciate that.” Bailey echoes that sentiment.

“Beer isn’t a man’s drink. It’s everybody’s drink.”

Follow Bailey on Instagram @21stamendmentgirl and learn more about DMV Girls Pint Out at www.girlspintout.org or on Twitter @dmvgirlspintout. Check out the DC Homebrewers Club at www.dchomebrewers.com, the club’s Cherry Blossom Challenge at www.dchbcompetition.com and the Pink Boots Society at www.pinkbootssociety.org. More on the breweries and cideries below.

ANXO Cidery & Pinxtos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
Beltway Brewing Company: 22620 Davis Dr. Ste 110, Sterling, VA; www.beltwaybrewco.com
DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC;www.dcbrau.com
Lake Anne Brew House: 4310, 11424 Washington Plaza W.Reston, VA; www.lakeannbrewhouse.com

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

Photos: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Call Your Mother Deli’s Daniela Moreira and Andrew Dana

There’s a calmness to Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, a laidback vibe that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a young couple running two businesses daily. The pair are the driving force behind Petworth’s Timber Pizza Company and the newly opened Call Your Mother Deli in Park View, adding to DC’s growing community of local foodie spots with a mom-and-pop, neighborhood feel. Their “Jew-ish” deli has garnered much buzz since its October opening with lines out the door every weekend, yet another new business putting Park View on the map. We sat down with Dana (founder) and Moreira (head chef and partner) to pick their brains about how they put their own spin on a Jewish deli, why their bagel shop is at the top of every local foodie’s brunch list, and what supporting the local community means to them.

On Tap: Why does Park View feel like the right fit for your second business together? How do you think the area is changing?
Andrew Dana:
I grew up in Mount Pleasant, so I’m very familiar with the neighborhoods. For a long time, I’ve said that DC has been great at opening big, fancy restaurants and hip, new restaurants. But what it’s not good at is the neighborhood staples that have been around for generations because it’s such a transient city. We were really attracted to [Park View] because there’s not a lot of other noise going on. It’s really residential. People are putting down roots. The funny thing about this building is we looked at it before we opened Timber and then we found this really cute, perfect spot up in Petworth. Then we started turning the wheels on this bagel idea and this was coming back on the market, so it seemed like it was a sign from the bagel gods that they wanted us to open [our deli here].

OT: I heard you had lines down the block and couldn’t keep up with the crowds the first week you opened, so you closed for a little bit to rework your menu. Were you surprised at the spot’s overwhelming success right out of the gate?
AD:
We truly thought this was going to be like a neighborhood bagel shop and we’d have to do a lot of wholesale and catering to make it work. The kitchen’s not really set up for there to be a 100-person line, and that’s exactly what happened the first weekend. We had to shut down for a couple of days and make the menu a little bit more manageable. We had to keep up with the demand. We had to trim the fat and just go with the best of the best.

OT: How’s the buzz been since then?
AD:
Every weekend, we’ve had a line out the door down to the alley. Now, we’re really proud of the menu. It’s much tighter and more concise.

OT: DC’s seeing a resurgence of mom-and-pop foodie spots in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and they’re wildly popular. Why do you think that is? Why does it feel important to be part of that scene?
AD:
I’m from here so what I want above all is just for DC to be awesome. I went to grad school in New York and lived in Brooklyn, and [when] you walk around there’s pizza shops that have been around for 50 years. I want my hometown to have that same vibe, so that is what it is at its core. And the food, Dani and I just do what we like. We like the staples: pizza, bagels. And if creating stuff we really like resonates with people and helps the neighborhood out, that’s awesome. There’s not some sort of bigger master plan. It’s make food that we really, really like in neighborhoods we like and be here for the people.

OT: Did you hesitate at all with the “Jew-ish” theme? How did you decide to walk the line between the authenticity of a traditional Jewish deli and putting your own spin on it?
Daniela Moreira
: I’m not even Jewish. I was like, “I don’t know anything about Jewish traditions or anything.” So I was scared.
AD: I like “Jew-ish” because I’m half Jewish. I [don’t] think that binds us to traditions. If somebody says, “Why don’t you have chopped liver or pumpernickel?” We’re like, “Oh, it’s ‘Jew-ish.”’ And I think Dani is selling herself short. I think what Dani likes the most is the creativity and reading a ton and doing trial and error, which she got to do. She didn’t have all of these preconceived notions of what a bagel had to be. She’s from Argentina. They don’t have bagels. It was fun watching her start from scratch and learn what a bagel was supposed to be. We probably went through 100 recipes – that’s no exaggeration. She became a scholar of the bagel.

OT: I read that you did lots of research, including some trips to NYC. Was iconic Jewish deli Barney Greengrass on the list?
AD:
We went to New York. We did go to Barney Greengrass, which was awesome. We ate so many bagels, it was ridiculous.

OT: You also brought in bagels from other cities, right? What motivated those choices and what areas did you draw inspiration from?
AD:
We had bagels flown in from Montreal. We actually went to South Florida because that’s where all the older Jews retire – Boca [Raton], Delray. We were sort of taking it all in. Actually, how we finalized our [bagel] recipe is every weekend, we would do a blind taste test [versus] New York bagels that we would ship in. We didn’t stop until we were consistently beating that taste test.

OT: What staples of a Jewish deli were important to you to maintain?
AD:
The Rihanna-Flex is sort of like your classic salmon bagel, which we actually didn’t have the first week. The first week we were open, we had a classic pastrami with mustard on rye bread that we were making. It was just so crazy, it was too much, so we said, “Alright, let’s do a pastrami brisket cheesesteak” [The Greenberg]. There’s nothing totally classic on there – all twists.

OT: What personal twists did you each take? Dani, can you walk us through some of the Argentinian influences?
DM:
Well, we opened with a soup. It was a South American vegetable soup. But again, we had to change the menu to make it easier for the kitchen to execute so we took it out for now. We have black and white cookies – alfajores – filled with dulce de leche. That’s super traditional.
AD: It’s one big ass cookie.
DM: There’s no bagels in Argentina, not at all.
AD: But we have a za’atar bagel, which obviously isn’t Argentinian, but that’s also not classic. And I think we arrived there because when Dani is thinking about bagel toppings, it’s not classic, classic, classic. She’s like, “I like za’atar. I like bagels. Let’s make za’atar bagels.”

OT: What has been the most popular bagel on the menu?
AD:
At the farmers market, people do love the za’atar bagels. They [usually] sell out. And in the shop, our bacon, egg and cheese or pastrami, egg and cheese with spicy honey [The Shyne].

OT: What’s your personal favorite, or the one you’re proudest of?
AD:
I love the Craig D. We made a nectarine cream cheese with fresh nectarines that we got from the farmers market. [It’s] sliced nectarines, jalapeno, bacon and potato chips, so it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy. And now that nectarines are out of season, we use apples, so [it’s made with] apple cream cheese and sliced apples.
DM: The Amar’e. The Amar’e is a za’atar bagel with candied salmon cream cheese and then a salad of pea shoots, cucumbers and crispy shallots. It sounds healthy. It makes you feel better when you eat it [laughs].

OT: You’ve got pizza and bagels checked off the list, so what’s next? Do you have a dream spot you’d like to open, either as a team or individually?
AD:
I mean, we’re animals and we eat nachos all the time. I don’t know if that’s a full-scale concept or not. Woodfired nachos would be a real thing too. That’s going to be a ways off. [Running two businesses] is taking a lot of energy and focus. We’re hunkering down here for a little while.

OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not working? Do you hang mostly in Park View and Petworth?
AD:
We live in Petworth. We like exercising, travel, eating of course. We go out to eat all the time. We work out a good amount. Travel – she just got back from Costa Rica [and] I just got back from New Zealand. We’re trying to pick up squash this year. She wants to take lessons.
DM: Yeah. It’s fun.
AD: I’ll start taking lessons when she can compete with me.
DM: We’re not really fun.
AD: Yeah, we’re not that fun.
DM: We just go to sleep, eat, and that’s it [laughs].

OT: What cocktail bars and restaurants are on your radar right now?
AD:
I love Indigo, the Indian restaurant in NoMa, [and] Don Juan’s in Mount Pleasant.
DM:
I love Amsterdam Falafel[shop].
AD: She’s a French fry fanatic. It’s pretty scary, actually.
DM:
Bars? No. We don’t really drink that much. I only drink once a year when I go back home and that’s enough for the whole year [laughs], so I don’t really go out to bars here.
AD: We were at Players Club yesterday, love Players Club. My two great loves in life are basketball and food, and they have pop-a-shot basketball, so I played like 25 times yesterday [and] ate some Shake Shack. Life is good.

To learn more about Call Your Mother Deli’s menu, check out www.callyourmotherdeli.com.

Call Your Mother Deli: 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.callyourmotherdeli.com

[FIRST PAGE HEADER IMAGE] Photos - Trent Johnson

 

Photo: Travis Vaughn Photography

What’s On Tap: The Berliner

While you were away on vacation or bundled up in your homes over the holidays, you may have missed the opening of Georgetown’s newest beer hall The Berliner. The 4,200-square-foot establishment was inspired by modern Berlin, Germany, offering comfort food, a spacious venue and, of course, delicious brews. To get an inside look at the selection process for beers and better understand the vibe of DC’s newest German-themed beer spot, On Tap spoke with operating partner Mike O’Brien, who also serves as The Berliner’s chef and beverage director.

On Tap: What did you find alluring about The Berliner?
Mike O’Brien:
I wanted to get away from the high cost of living [in the San Francisco Bay Area]. I first became involved with The Berliner in June 2018. I’ve been making sausage for 10 years, and a lot of those are German-style because it’s such an integral part of the culture and cuisine. As far as German beer, I really have a passion for it.

OT: You feature a myriad of German-style beers. How did you settle on the final list?
MO:
I wanted to include smaller producers that I knew about and had tried. The list was constantly changing, but some of the smaller German beers were directly imported. I’m very happy with the Kulmbacher’s EKU Pils – those are exemplary German pilsners.

OT: How often will you change up the beer menu?
MO:
Ideally, the menu changes pretty much daily. They’re small changes, but I’m not going to have dedicated lines. It’ll change organically, and I’ll start to bring in larger German producers like Hofbräu. The local beers will rotate. We reprint our menu maybe once a week, but we expect changes to pick up in the summer. The one I’m most excited about is just solid lagers. For a place concentrating on German styles, [solid lagers are] great for us. And [lagers are great] for me personally, because those are the kinds of beers I like to drink.

OT: How do you think the décor adds to the modern, industrial vibe of The Berliner?
MO:
We wanted to have more of a modern German feel. My business partners have a lot of family in and around Berlin and are in the know as far as the trends there. We wanted to be different. We didn’t want it to feel like a typical German bar. We wanted it to feel like something special. The space isn’t dark. It has high ceilings, [is] airy and the wood is a lighter shade.

OT: What sets the two dining areas apart from one another? 
MO: They definitely have different, unique feels to them because the downstairs color is white and natural light comes through, while the upstairs is darker green and the ceiling is dark. It provides a different feel. Once the weather clears up, then it’ll be emphasized even more.

OT: How important is it to you that the food menu complements the beers you offer?
MO:
One of the great things about beer is there’s so many varieties and it lends itself to food really well. We have 24 taps and you can vary the flavor profiles enough that something will pair up. I’ve kept the food menu pretty tight, which lends [itself] to pairing.

The Berliner: 3401 Water St. NW, DC; 202-621-7000; www.theberlinerdc.com


Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

MONDAY, JANUARY 28

Bend & Brew at Mad Fox
Do you love yoga? Do you love beer? Regardless of your answers, why not combine the two? In this 60-minute introductory class, the group will flow while sipping on flights of delicious Mad Fox brews made in the very same building. The best news? Happy hour goes until 7 p.m., so you’ll have time to hang out and grab a pint of your favorite beer. 5-6 p.m. Tickets $25, bring your own mat. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30

Cidermaking Workshop
Join Capitol Cider House Cidermaker Jared Fackrell for a 90-minute, hands-on, interactive workshop and learn how to make cider from the comfort of your own home. Not only will guests enjoy a sampler flight of Mid-Atlantic ciders during the workshop, they’ll also receive a cidermaking starter kit. 7:30-9 p.m. Tickets $39. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Après Ski at The Sovereign: Colorado Beers & Spirits
Join The Sovereign as they feature some of their favorite beer and spirits producers from the Rocky Mountains. On this night, they will showcase wonderful wares from Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Casey Brewing and Blending, Breckenridge Distillery, and Leopold Bros. Whether you are a lover of beer, cocktails or both, this event is for you. 4-10 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7

Fair Winds Beer and Dessert Pairing
Throw away your resolutions and come join Fair Winds for the ultimate beer and dessert pairing. No one does it better than Out of the Bubble Bakery in Springfield, Virginia, with goods baked 100 percent nut- and dairy-free. This event sold out last year, so don’t hesitate to capitalize on the amazing desserts. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $30. Fair Winds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9

DC Homebrewers: February JamBEERee Meeting
The DC Homebrewers Association’s February meeting will once again be a joint meeting with other area homebrew clubs. The association will be debuting the latest SMaSH beer experiment at this meeting, plus there’s an IPA competition and a food pairing competition sponsored by various clubs. You’re also welcome to bring other food to share and, of course, bring homebrew to share. 1-5 p.m. DC Brau Lodge: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14

Valentine’s Beer Dinner
True Respite Brewing Company and Say Cheese! are bringing you a Valentine’s Beer Dinner for craft beer and grilled cheese lovers alike. The dinner will include four pairings and a bag of chips to use as a palate cleanser. Each pairing will consist of an 8-oz. beer and one-quarter of a specialty sandwich from Say Cheese! There are four options to choose from. 6-8 p.m. Tickets $28-$53. True Respite Brewing Company: 7301 Calhoun Pl. Suite 600, Rockville, MD;
www.truerespite.com

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15

Love Thy Beer Winter Warmer Showcase
Join the Brewers Association of Maryland at Love Thy Beer, the signature event of FeBREWary: Maryland Craft Beer Lovers Month. This must-attend event for the craft beer enthusiast features exclusive beer releases you won’t find at your local craft beer store and a selection of specialty beers brewed specifically for FeBREWary. Brewers are being challenged to come up with their own individual “Cupid’s Curse” brew for you to taste and vote on your favorite. 6-10 p.m. Tickets $50-$75. Silver Spring Civic Building: 1 Veterans Pl. Silver Spring, MD; www.visitmaryland.org/article/febrewary-maryland

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16

Cupcake and Beer Pairing
For the love of friends, family and that someone special, head to Tucked Away Brewing. Indulge in some delicious cupcakes from The Lemonade Bakery while enjoying a flight of beer, perfectly paired to complement one another. The bakery will also be onsite selling other tasty treats. 1-4 p.m. Tickets $16-$20. Tucked Away Brewing: 8420 Kao Cir. Manassas, VA; www.tuckedawaybrew.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21

Southwest Neighborhood Happy Hour
Join the tap room at Union Stage for a neighborhood happy hour featuring 16 taps of local and national craft beers, handcrafted pizzas, and an extensive liquor list. Happy hour specials include $1 off select drafts and $10 for a pint and half pizza. Event starts at 5 p.m. Free to attend. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23

Battle of the Barrels
Passing from hand to hand, liquid to liquid, season to season, the complexities of barrel aging can be endless. Want to see who does it best? Dive into a battle of the barrel with 3 Stars Brewing, Charm City Meadworks, Don Ciccio & Figli, Oliver Brewing Co., One Eight Distilling and Supreme Core Cider where you’ll taste a collection of barrel-aged beer, mead, cider and amaro, each finished in a District Made Straight Rye Whiskey barrel. 1-6 p.m. Tickets $25. One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com

Winter Fest
Celebrate winter at part four of Pizzeria Paradiso’s Four Seasons Beer Festival at its Georgetown location. This festival will feature seasonal drafts, beer slushies, snow cones, popcorn, and games including skee-ball, pinball, darts and more. 1-5 p.m. Tickets $15. Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown: 3238 M St. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24

9th Annual Barleywine Festival
Don’t miss the largest barleywine festival in the Mid-Atlantic. Mad Fox will showcase more than 30 barleywines from around the region and across the county, with multiple sessions on Saturday and a single session on Sunday. 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Free to attend. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25

The Paradiso Blackboard: Pizza and Beer Class
Learn about the intricacies of matching the right beer with your food or the right food with your beer, then try your hand at creating the perfect pairing. 6-7:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Pizzeria Paradiso Spring Valley: 4850 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.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

Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar with The Peoples Drug’s Jon Schott

Jon Schott is a rare breed of professional, the kind of person whose brain is never really turned off. From coming up with some of his best cocktail ideas while walking his pups in the woods to making every orgeat and tincture on his expansive drink menu from scratch, he brings a level of enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to his work that seems unparalleled. The best part? He’s completely unpretentious about the art and consumption of craft cocktails. His creations are jotted down A Beautiful Mind-style in an old-school notebook that he’s happy to share with cocktail nerds, and he loves nothing more than to answer questions from customers about some of the more layered or complex concoctions on his menu.

Enter The Peoples Drug, the retro-inspired, neighborhood cocktail bar and food spot where Schott wears many hats as both beverage director and general manager. The Old Town, Alexandria locale modeled after the nostalgic local drugstore chain of the same name has steadily picked up buzz since opening last summer, with rotating seasonal and classic cocktail menus from Schott and a brand-new food menu launched earlier this month. We caught up with the man behind the well-crafted drinks about the labor of love that goes into each new creation and the casual, community vibe of his bar, among other cocktail-related things.

On Tap: You’ve got a lot of cleverly named cocktails on your winter menu like the Schrute Farms Margarita with spiced beet agave and Pistachio Mustachio with pistachio orgeat, to name a few. What’s your creative process for naming them?
Jon Schott:
I like people to step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, and I think a great way to do that is to have a clever or comforting name. We get their guard down a little bit and then get a new drink in their hand, and now they’re trying new things. And who knows if that sparks this whole new journey of them trying new drinks and stepping outside of their comfort zone, which is the fun thing about food and drink – there’s infinite possibilities.

OT: As someone who grew up here and has worked in the bar industry for nearly two decades, how do you think NoVA’s cocktail scene has shifted in recent years?
JS:
Everything seems to have shifted toward [being] more casual, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or atmosphere. Just because you want a good drink doesn’t mean you have to make plans to do it. That’s what we were hoping for here, where you’d see everyone come in – whether you’re dressed up and on your way to a date or running errands and still in your sweatpants. We’re always open to the public. We never do reservations. You just walk in.

OT: Why do you think Old Town is the right location for Peoples?
JS:
People in Old Town know good food and they know good drinks. They’re a really tight, really cool community. We’re a nightcap or before-you-go-out, happy hour [spot] because we’re casual. Come in here, let your hair down, relax and [enjoy] the good vibes.

OT: Walk me through the classic versus seasonal menus, and how you came up with the concepts.
JS:
I like balancing a list with classics. If you know cocktails, you can look at the classics and see we know what we’re doing. It lets people know you can get good classics here and we’re following script.

OT: What about going off script for the seasonal menu? What inspires those selections?
JS:
It’s really important for guests to have a well-crafted and constructed cocktail, because it’s built with love. Time and energy goes into these, totally. We juice citrus every morning. Everything you see on the menu – like an orgeat or tincture or fusion or syrup – I made it myself. If it’s a syrup or an orgeat, I’ve made it within the last [few] days. Like the dehydrated fruit, I do that in my house and bring it in. That’s why I love the seasonals. These are all things that we have made [where] I started with a thought for a drink and as a team, we knocked it down into a really fun, well-balanced and creative drink. Enjoy yourself and don’t be pretentious about the cocktails.

OT: Does the classic menu stay the same or is it dynamic?
JS:
I change it every season because there’s certain classic cocktails that I think fit certain seasons. This season, they’re big because it’s winter. There’s a lot of Manhattan- and martini-style drinks, and spirit-forward ones. I also do barrel-aged [cocktails] where I age the cocktail in an oak barrel for 32 days and then bottle and serve it. I spy on people when they have a sip of their drink to see their first reaction. That will [tell me] the most honest feeling they have about the drink.

OT: What seems to be the customer favorite right now?
JS:
The most popular one is the Schrute Farms Margarita. People relate to the name of it and the color of it is super bright.

OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of the spring menu?
JS:
There’s one drink I dedicated to my mom. She told me, “If you’re going to succeed in this industry, you need to appreciate gin, and that’s when you’ll get all the real drinkers.” And she was right. So [this cocktail] plays with gin, tea and fresh things like orchids, lavender and roses. I’d love to introduce cucumber bubbles. It’s a way of stacking up bubbles. I can layer them on top of the drink. You know what I’m really excited for? [My] team to submit original ideas [they’re] working on. I love to open the menu up to the whole staff. It has to be a team effort.

OT: What about funky ingredients? What flavor profiles are you intrigued by at the moment?
JS:
I love playing with orgeats, so any syrup with any type of nut in it. I’m looking forward to playing with cedar and gin and sage [on the spring menu]. Those things together remind me of walking in the woods. And then maybe sneaking an amaro in there.

OT: Any food options you recommend pairing with cocktails?
JS:
We have a lot more sharable snacks [on our new menu], like finger foods. I think the truffle fries go well with any cocktail. A little bit of salt also helps all the flavors pop. Our sandwiches are really tasty too.


[HEADER] Photos - Trent Johnson

Wasabi Martini
Tito’s Vodka infused with wasabi
Snow pea and sea salt tincture
Domaine de Canton


Learn more about Schott’s classic and seasonal cocktails and the spot’s revamped food menu at www.thepeoplesdrug.com.

The Peoples Drug: 103 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA; 571-257-8851 www.thepeoplesdrug.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