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Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs
Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs

StarChefs Honors Rising Stars in DC’s Culinary World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Kate Warren
Photo: Kate Warren

The Times and Travels of Odetta Hartman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pauses for a moment and ends with this.

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

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

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

Photo: Courtesy of Manmade Media
Photo: Courtesy of Manmade Media

DeVotchKa Dives Into New Era

It has been seven years since indie-folk rockers DeVotchKa released a new album. While a break like that is hardly unusual in the music industry, the seven-year hiatus seemed lengthy for a band that was putting out new albums – including film soundtracks – every one to two years for a decade.

Even more surprisingly, the Denver-based quartet went quiet following their major arena tour in 2012 that saw them at the peak of their popularity. Frontman Nick Urata admits that despite DeVotchKa’s accomplishments like producing the wildly popular Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, he wasn’t enjoying the band’s success as much as one might expect.

But his feelings of disconnect were not for nothing. Spurred on by feelings of detachment from his music and audience, DeVotchKa traded the big arenas for smaller, more intimate venues. It was at these smaller shows that he saw the connection the crowd had with the lyrics. This would drive Urata to take time with the band’s next album – developing the lyrics, revisiting them and letting the words drive the music.

Released in August, This Night Falls Forever marks the return of DeVotchKa – a band whose sound is bigger and whose lyrics prove more authentic than ever, but with all the signature characteristics their fans know them for. Ahead of the band’s stop at U Street Music Hall on December 12, we caught up with Urata to reminisce about the past and look ahead to what’s in store for DeVotchKa.

On Tap: How do you feel about coming up on your first album SuperMelodrama’s 20th anniversary, and playing with bandmates Tom Hagerman, Jeanie Schroder and Shawn King for two decades?
Nick Urata:
Wow, well you know, pretty scary when you put it in that frame [laughs]. We released that album in the year 2000 and man, it’s been quite a journey. For us, it seems like just yesterday. But I’m actually really proud that we’ve held it together this long.

OT: Not a lot of people can say that.
NU:
No. If you’d ask me back then, I would have laughed in your face [laughs].

OT: Do you feel like the chemistry between the four of you is the same after all these years, or do you feel like you all have changed?
NU:
I think we have grown up together. And the chemistry is even better right now because we’ve been through a lot together, and so now we’re just like a family. And you know, in your family you can have massive disagreements and still get together and have dinner.

OT: What drew you and the band to the folksy, Eastern European-inspired and sometimes dark sound you all have and what keeps you going back to it?
NU:
I was always fascinated with it. I wanted to create the kind of music that I wasn’t hearing and I was able to find the same people that wanted to help me with that. We’ve always been drawn to that sort of palette – that gypsy, folk sound that we have. And in those early days of traveling around playing hostile environments, we found that really broke down barriers and connected with people.

OT: You grew up listening to that kind of music, right?
NU:
Yeah. I think that was a big part of it, too. There was a lot of sentimentality to that music, and when I was trying to write my own stuff, I was just kind of searching for who I was and that was the kind of stuff that was deeply ingrained in my bones.

OT: I would imagine a lot of people could relate to that. For example, I’m Italian and I also grew up listening to that kind of music. Frank Sinatra was always playing in my grandparents’ house.
NU:
I’m glad you said that because I think that was a part of it, too. I can relate [with] one story. We got booked at this bar in one of the subway stations in New York. But when we got there, the staff was very angry, the patrons were angry and the bar manager was acting like he was going to kill us [laughs]. But when we started playing and brought out our accordions, that same big, tough, scary guy came up with tears in his eyes and said that his grandfather played the accordion. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

OT: Your 2012 tour saw the band playing big arena shows and at the peak of popularity, but you were having a bit of an identity crisis. Could you elaborate on where you were in your life at that point?
NU:
I don’t want to sound too negative, but the main problem was I had lost my connection with [the music]. We got to the end of that album tour and release and unfortunately, I sort of hit a low point and had this emptiness. In the end, it was good because it forced me to rebuild and the rebuilding process was the album [This Night Falls Forever] that we just released.

OT: Why the switch to playing more intimate venues?
NU:
We came up that way [in smaller venues], and I just think there’s a purity to it. I was losing the connection with the crowd and it wasn’t feeling as natural as when we’re in a smaller place where everybody has a good seat and everybody’s part of the show.

OT: How have all of your professional experiences over the last couple of years influenced your new album?
NU:
The experiences made me want to go back to really focusing on the lyrics and letting the lyrics guide the song. The lyrics really drive where the music goes. That was one of the reasons why it took so long [to make the new album], because the lyrics take a long time to develop. Because of all our experiences with writing and arranging for orchestras and producing soundtracks, we were able to have a big, epic sound as well.

OT: Where did the album name, This Night Falls Forever, come from and what does it mean?
NU:
A lot of the songs and subject matter deal with the fact that your entire trajectory romantically, or even your destiny, can change in one night. You never see it coming, you’re never prepared for it and I just wanted to capture that feeling that this night is going to be with you forever.

OT: Moving on to your upcoming tour, how do you handle having so many instruments onstage?
NU:
It can get a little overwhelming and sometimes it doesn’t work. We end up having to each haul a lot of suitcases around [laughs]. But going back to our origin, it was one of the reasons we all connected so much because we have a love for picking up new or underrated instruments and bringing them into the fold and making them do things that maybe they weren’t meant for. So bringing them onstage is definitely a part of that.

OT: It’s been a few years since you’ve done a tour. What are you most looking forward to and what should people coming to your shows expect?
NU:
I think we’ve done a good job of performing the new songs live, which was a challenge because they are large and epic on the record. We’re doing a nice mix of our past albums with our new songs and new instruments, and we have a few new guest players. It’s going to be a good time.

OT: Any final thoughts?
NU:
Man, I think I’ve added a lot! No, I just wanted to add how excited we are to get back to DC. We didn’t mean to take so long to put out a new album, but these things take time. We hope it will be the beginning of a stretch of new albums and a new period of creativity.

Catch DeVotchKa at U Street Music Hall on Wednesday, December 12. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Learn more about DeVotchKa at www.devotchka.net.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith
Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Behind the Bar: Left Door, Destination Wedding and Prequel

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


 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left Door
Mick Perrigo, Owner

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

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

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

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

 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

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

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


Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Destination Wedding
Lukas B. Smith, Owner

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

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

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

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

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

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


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Prequel
Rob McGill, Beverage Director
Rob Long, Head Bartender

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

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

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

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

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

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

Photo: Courtesy of Neal Brennan
Photo: Courtesy of Neal Brennan

Do-It-All Neal Brennan Comes to 9:30 Club

My first question for Neal Brennan has almost nothing to do with him, and he’s used to it.

“Oh, let me guess, is it about Dave [Chappelle]?” he playfully asks.

He then fields my query centered around another famous comedian, Bo Burnham, who went on to direct indie flick and likely award winner Eighth Grade after working with Brennan and Chris Rock on the latter’s 2018 Netflix special Tamborine.

“I would say Bo is confident, but I don’t want to make him sound arrogant,” Brennan says. “He’s a know-it-all, and I am too, so it takes one to know one. He has opinions on everything, and that’s what you have to have to be a director. The thing about comedians is we have to do a bunch of jobs. We’re directing [and] writing ourselves, so I’m never surprised when a comedian can do stuff.”

It makes sense that Brennan’s expectation for a comedian mirrors his own do-it-all nature. The NYU film school dropout has done everything from write for tween 90s television shows like Kenan & Kel and All That to directing 2009’s The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Perhaps most famously, he co-created and cowrote Chappelle’s Show, one of the most successful sketch comedy shows ever to air.

“When I was doing NYU, I went to the club at night and worked the door,” Brennan says. “The film kids were the biggest bunch of jerk-offs you would meet in your life. At the club, it was unknown Louis C.K., unknown Dave Chappelle, unknown Sarah Silverman – and that was every night pretty much. I liked those people better and I stayed there.”

In between his foray into onscreen productions, Brennan’s commitment to standup comedy has remained consistent. Despite all his film and television credits, the stage is where his career started – and it’s seemingly what he’s most focused on at the moment. Brennan and his Here We Go tour will stop at the 9:30 Club in early December.

“Standup is really popular, as well it should be,” he says. “The only people being honest are standup [comedians] and the upside is, there’s a lot of eyeballs on them.”

Brennan’s 2017 Netflix special 3 Mics allowed him to intertwine a more dramatic angle onstage for the first time. The format included three segments: punchy one-liners, traditional standup, and a discussion about depression and his relationship with his father.

“While I haven’t done anything strictly dramatic, I bring drama to standup – the place where no one wants it,” he jokes.

On tour now with a new narrative, Brennan declares he’s out of sad stories. With straight standup as his current focal point, he’s found comfort in getting back to writing jokes.

“It’s very premise-based. I’ll sit down and write it out as longform as I can, with as many beats as possible. A lot of times, the thing you think is the joke isn’t.”

With a man who has done so much at such a young age, it’s hard not to ask about the things he hasn’t done yet.

“Why not venture into dramatic filmmaking? Why don’t you have some kind of podcast like other comedians?”

He’s thought about doing those too, he says. For a dramatic film, he needs an idea. For the podcast, he’s working on something with fellow comedian Michelle Wolf.

“No format, just us talking,” Brennan says of his forthcoming podcast. “[Comedians] are very entertaining. We have to do these things, so we’re already opinionated and funny and talkative.”

Catch Brennan at 9:30 Club on Saturday, December 8. Doors are at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at www.930.com. Learn more about the comedian at www.nealbrennan.com.

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

Photo: Cooper Sheehan
Photo: Cooper Sheehan

A Tasteful Trend: Dessert Wines on the Rise

From sweet madeira to dry sherry, dessert wines are making a comeback.

Compared to their regular red and white wine cousins, dessert wines are often sweeter and have higher alcohol content, which has turned some wine connoisseurs off in the past according to beverage directors from local spots ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar, Maxwell Park and Flight Wine Bar.

In recent years, however, wine experts have noticed a piqued interest in dessert wines. Flight Wine Bar Owner Swati Bose says the trend in dessert wines is traced back to a greater enthusiasm in all wine in general.

“I think part of the reason people are interested in dessert wine is we have a growing interest in wine and people are more interested in exploring it and [are] less afraid,” Bose says. “As people learn more about wine, [dessert wine] is another part of wine they’re learning about. The whole culture of wine is becoming part of our day-to-day lives.”

Last year, Bose added flights of madeira and sherry to the menu at her Chinatown wine bar after she noticed her customers were more interested in learning about the varietals.

Mollie Bensen, general manager and beverage director at ANXO in Truxton Circle, believes sweet wines “made with skill and care can be truly transcendent” and can even change people’s opinions on dessert wines. Although ANXO – DC’s first cidery – is best-known for their namesake libation, they also have an extensive wine and cocktail selection, which is Bensen’s main focus.

“I think wines with sweetness, much like wines that have been oaked, have gotten such a bad rap over the past few years that many people have eschewed them entirely,” Bensen says. “The issue was never the sweetness or the oak, but rather that each were used to cover flaws in the wine.”

One category of high-quality dessert wine is madeira. According to Maxwell Park Beverage Director Brent Kroll, madeira is “indestructible” and highly versatile. Because of its longevity, spending the extra cash on a quality bottle of madeira is worth the investment. Although it is classified as a dessert wine, madeira is also a great aperitif before a meal.

“The palate is stimulated by acid and sugar, not just acid, so [madeira is] great to really get your palate excited,” Kroll says. “I think for dessert it’s one of those forgotten gems.”

Bose suggests pairing madeira with savory foods like cheeses, nuts and olives instead of traditional sweet desserts.

“People think of madeira as a dessert wine and they have it with dessert, but in truth, it’s so complex and delicious that it can be paired with anything,” she says.

Like Flight Wine Bar, Kroll also sees an increased interest in both madeira and sherry at his Shaw wine bar. He attributes madeira’s rise in popularity to its indestructibility.

“[Madeira] has a ton of acid and you can get drier styles,” he says. “This is a shift from the wines of the 70s and 80s when people gravitated toward wines with dinner that had more sugar like off-dry chardonnays.”

As the holiday season approaches and you’re wondering what kind of wine to serve, follow these tips from Bose, Bensen and Kroll to blow your dinner guests away.

Mollie Bensen, ANXO

“One helpful trick for pairing dessert wines is to match the color of the drink to the color of the dessert. Light-colored wines like sauternes go well with custards and vanilla-based dishes, spicier and fruitier desserts match well with a high-acid oloroso sherry, and chocolate and caramel pair excellently with port.”

“Another way to serve dessert wines is to use them in cocktails. At ANXO, we have a variation of a negroni using mezcal, campari and ice cider. We substituted Heirloom Blend from Eden [ice cider] in place of sweet vermouth, so we needed an equally high-intensity spirit to match it. Smoky mezcal was the perfect complement. I also like to use dry sherries in a gin martini, especially manzanilla with its slight salinity.”

“It’s important to remember that a dessert wine is exactly that – wine, and needs to be treated as such. With the exception of madeira, I’d recommend keeping dessert wines in the fridge for optimal longevity.”

Restaurant & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC
Cidery & Tasting Room:
711 Kennedy St. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

Swati Bose, Flight Wine Bar

“Go for two different types of dessert wines: one a drier style and one a sweeter style because not everyone around the dessert table is going to like the same type of dessert wine, and that tends to be what normally scares people off of dessert wine. I think having two options that pair with the same food would be a nice idea. If you wanted to go for madeira, you could have something like sercial, which is a dry madeira, and something sweet like colheita, and pair them with the same dish.”

“The other option would be to do an off-dry riesling with a really nice acid structure, so it holds up really well. And you can go with a sweeter muscat so it gives people two options to try something.”

“One of my favorites [to pair with sercial and colheita] is blue cheese. But I understand not everybody likes blue cheese, so I would go with a crumbly, nutty cheese. If you don’t have a nut allergy, you could also go with a dessert with a hazelnut or anything with dark chocolate.”

“For the riesling and muscat, the riesling works with Asian flavors and spice flavors. The muscat would go well with a carrot cake, the riesling would go well with that too. Pumpkin pie has nice spice notes to it and that would balance the wines really well.”

777 6th St. NW, DC; www.flightdc.com

Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park

“I think doing something like a port and a blue cheese might be cool. Even with sweet sherry that can last longer, I think it’s good to look for half bottles of sherry and port. Or if you find madeira, it’s super versatile and can be paired with rich meats and savory courses. It’s indestructible so you could have a glass a year for the next six holidays. I think having a couple ounces at the end of a meal is the way to go. It’s also a safer bet for venturing into [dessert wines].”

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

Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization
Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization

What’s On Tap: December 2018

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, DECEMBER 3

Profs & Pints: Nightmares Before Christmas
Profs and Pints presents: “Nightmares Before Christmas,” a discussion of Krampus and other dark holiday lore, with William Egginton, professor of humanities and director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The star of the talk will be Krampus, the hairy, horned, demon who accompanies Saint Nicholas in visiting homes in Germany, Austria and other Central European nations every December 6. 6-9 p.m. $12-$15. The Bier Baron Tavern: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.bierbarondc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5

Lost Rhino Beer Release
This First Wednesday release is the last of 2018 and Lost Rhino is ending on a high note with Pynk Skyes at Night – Sour Blonde Hybiscus. The brewery will also have two holiday events throughout the day including Christmas tree decorating and cookie decorating. Guests will be able to use their creativity to help dress both. Lost Rhino Brewing Co: 21730 Red Rum Dr. #142, Ashburn, VA; www.lostrhino.com

Holiday Beer Tasting
Join Mad Fox Brewing for a festive holiday sit-down beer tasting where you can meet the brewers and brewery/brewpub owners from across the region and taste their wonderful winter selections. Cost is $55 per person with the evening hosted by Bob Tupper. Each brewer/owner will discuss their beer and answer any questions that you have. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to meet and talk to key individuals in the brewing industry. 7-10:30 p.m. $55. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 West Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6

Rocket Frog Beer Showcase
Join Rocket Frog and DCBeer.com at Meridian Pint for the release of Snark Infested Waters, a schwarzbier and the first beer the local beer news and events website has collaborated on its nearly 10-year history. Sterling, Virginia’s Rocket Frog opened in May and has already, impressively, picked up a Great American Beer Festival Medal. Meridian Pint, the Columbia Heights restaurant and bar notable for discovering and promoting up-and-coming DC area breweries, will also showcase eight other beers from Rocket Frog. 5-9 p.m. Free to attend. Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; www.meridianpint.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7

Barrel-Aged Flight Night
Join this winter at Denizens Brewing Co. as they begin a series of special tastings of their barrel-aged beers. Each night they’ll feature special flights of beer from their reserves to showcase the flavor profiles and complexities that barrel-aging can offer. A member of the brewing team will be on hand to answer questions and lead discussion about these rare offerings. Flights are priced individually and there is no ticket or cover charge for this event. 6-9 p.m. Free to attend. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8

Ugly Sweater Party
It’s fun being tacky…jump into your Mom’s jumper and come dance your holiday stress off. Marshalls and TJ Maxx gift cards awarded for top three ugliest outfits. Holiday onesies also welcome at the year-round climate controlled beer garden.  7 p.m. – 2 a.m. Free to attend. Wunder Garten: 1101 First St. NE, DC; www.wundergartendc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9

7th Annual Holiday Party
For the 7th year in a row, 3 Stars Brewing is hosting their massive Holiday Extravaganza at the brewery. As always, they will have a ton of rare and limited releases on draft, specialty can offerings, guest taps and a few surprises. Also joining the festivities will be food trucks, DJs, live performances, face painting, photo booth, games and more. 1-6 p.m. Tickets $10. 3 Stars Brewing Company: 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC; www.3starsbrewing.com

Santa Comes to Atlas Brew Works
Santa is heading down from the North Pole and stopping in the Atlas Tap Room. Whether naughty or nice, bring the family (including well-behaved dogs) for a fun day of pictures on Santa’s lap and delicious solar powered craft beer of course. Pictures are gratis (please bring your own camera) but Santa is accepting donations to go towards his fundraising efforts for the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free to attend. Atlas Brew Works: 2502 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13

Cellar Series: Maker’s Mark Barrel Aged Tidings
Join as Port City Brewing rolls out their second barrel aged collaboration with their good friends over at Rebellion in DC. Last time they used Rebellion’s barrel for a delicious hopped up Double Wit, and this time around they used the barrel from Rebellion’s Maker’s Mark Private Select and aged their winter seasonal, Tidings Ale. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. Rebellion DC: 1836 18th St. NW, DC; www.portcitybrewing.com

Rustico Ballston Toys for Tots
Rustico Ballston will host the 3rd Annual Toys for Tots Holiday Party, featuring the United States Marine Corp. Since no party is complete without food and drink, you can expect no less than 20 hard-to-find winter ales on draft, alongside a special holiday-themed menu from the kitchen. For the third straight year, this event will serve as an official Toys for Tots charity drive. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. Rustico Ballston: 4075 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.rusticorestaurant.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15

DC’s 8th Annual Snow Day Bar Crawl
As the days get colder and the nights get longer, we all could use a day off. Wouldn’t it be nice to re-live the feeling of getting a surprise day off from school due to that lovely wintry mix? This event is giving you an adult snow day. Whether or not there’s actual snow, there will be drinks, festive music and a fun crowd to help you just let it go. Tickets get you a color-changing snow day cup, a souvenir koozie, drink specials and more. 3-10 p.m. Tickets $30-$40. Registration at Blackfinn Ameripub: 1620 I St. NW, DC; www.snowdaybarcrawl.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Night of 1,000 Santas
This is DC’s largest SANTACON party. Calling all Santas, Ms. Clauses, perverted elves, grinches and naughty-listed adults. Santa’s favorite beer garden becomes a hedonistic holiday-themed adult costume dance party at this second annual holiday event. Whether you are naughty or nice, this is the event where it is certainly nice to be naughty, as you get a chance to throw brews back with several different Santas. 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. Free to attend. Wunder Garten: 1101 First St. NE, DC; www.wundergartendc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Wetten Winter Beer Dinner
Enjoy a four-course beer dinner with Wetten Beer pairings. The beers are sourced by local guru Dean Myers and rarely found in the US or not yet released, this beer dinner is the perfect holiday date night or group get-together. 7-10 p.m. $60. Granville Moore: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 17

Painting & Pints: Winter Birch
Join in the Fairwinds taproom for the monthly paint night. Sessions run approximately 90 minutes and the tickets include your first pint. Painting begins at 6 p.m., so be sure to arrive early to grab a great seat and great beer. 6-7:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Fairwinds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21

The Longest Night of the Year
This winter solstice, Port City isn’t going to think about the shortest day of the year. Rather, they’ll celebrate the longest night of the year at headquarters with the return of three beers, live music and extended hours. Join for the return of Rauch Märzen, Long Black Veil and Barrel-Aged Porter for your winter solstice. 12-11 p.m. Free to attend. Port City Brewery: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27

Blackwall Hitch Devils Backbone Beer Dinner
Enjoy Devils Backbone craft beers paired with Blackwall Hitch coastal cuisine. Event to be charged at the restaurant. Call to reserve a spot today. 7-10 p.m. Must register. Blackwall Hitch: 5 Cameron St. Alexandria, VA; www.blackwallhitch.com

An Inspector Calls

Stage and Screen: December 2018

THROUGH DECEMBER 23

A Civil War Christmas
During the most divisive (literally) time in America, there were still holidays and reasons for general hopefulness. In A Civil War Christmas, the play casts a wide net from battlefields in Northern Virginia all the way to the Capitol Building in DC, featuring stories from a number of intertwining lives demonstrating how glee can exist during a tough and embattled time. This play features numerous songs great for a winter date or your visiting family. Various dates and times. $15-$39. 1st Stage Tysons: 1524 Spring Hill Rd. Tysons, VA; www.1ststagetysons.org

An Inspector Calls
When an inspector knocks on your door seemingly at random asking about a murder, it’s probably going to leave you somewhat shook. For the Birlings, a British family enjoying a festive evening, this surprise guest begins digging up connections with the crime and finds cracks in their seemingly perfect lives. This thriller pleas for a just society and works to pull down the facade on people who aren’t as innocent as they seem. Various dates and times. $44-$102. Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Indecent
Art and censorship do not belong together. When art is restricted, it ceases to be art and is at best incomplete, at worst propaganda. In the 1920s Sholem Asch’s Yiddish drama God of Vengeance broke free from previous restrictions and offered an evocative story of immigration, anti-Semitism and other taboo themes. Arena Stage’s Indecent offer a behind the scenes style story about the Broadway breakthrough, and the people who risked their careers to perform in the show. Various times and dates. $66-$82. Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

MONDAY, DECEMBER 3 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

The Second City’s She the People
The famed Second City sketch comedy troupe is back with this all-female cast providing two hours of laughter. Celebrating the group’s tenth anniversary of their first visit to Woolly Mammoth, this performance is entirely produced, designed, curated and performed by women, and necessarily puts patriarchal norms on blast. Whether the subject is government, homelife or what’s happening in the world, these women will give their opinions and make you laugh while doing it. Various dates and times. Tickets start at $50. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4 – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22

Motown: The Reprise
If you’ve ever wanted to feel transported to the 70s, this might be your best opportunity outside of an actual mechanic time machine, and those don’t exist. Instead you’ll hear hits by Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and others in a celebration of one of the most influential and prolific moments in music history. Providing the sounds is Signature Theatre’s Motown: Hitsville U.S.A. cabaret, and this new flavor of Motown sound will be unlike any other. Various dates and times. $38. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

My Father’s Dragon
Based on the book by Ruth Stiles Gannett, this story follows an adventurous young boy, and his cat companion, who undertake a journey to rescue a baby dragon from a place called Wild Island. While there, he’ll be forced to think quickly and imaginatively to reach his goals. With Game of Thrones off the air until April of next year, you’ll have to rely on other sources for your dragon-themed fiction, and this wordless play might be enough to satiate you until we return to Westeros. Various dates and times. $20. Synetic Theater: 1800 S Bell St. Arlington, VA; www.synetictheater.org

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9

Ballet West: The Nutcracker
Ever since 1963, Ballet West has performed The Nutcracker. The company from Utah is set to revisit the classic tale with reimagined designs, stunning production and, of course, breathtaking choreography. Before you take a holiday vacation, make sure to stop by the Kennedy Center to see some of the nation’s best dancers perform this enchanting story, alongside Tchaikovsky’s unreal score. 7:30 p.m. on all days, with additional 1:30 p.m. performances on Saturday and Sunday. $59-$215. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

Kings
Written by Alexandria native Sarah Burgess, Studio’s latest political comedy finds newly elected representative Sydney Millsap riding a blue wave into DC, armed with idealism and a true sense of duty. Once there, she crosses paths with Kate, a lobbyist, who quickly dismisses her as a one-term rookie. Through laughs about money and power, this refreshing take on democracy in the U.S. depicts how relationships between lobbyists and representatives play out behind closed doors. Various dates and times. $20-$45. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

Photo: The Bruery
Photo: The Bruery

Hoppy Holidays: A Beer Lover’s Gift Guide

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

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

Beer Memberships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer-Focused Dinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask The Expert

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

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

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

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

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

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

the helio sequence

Music Picks: December 2018

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4

The Helio Sequence
This Portland, Oregon duo hits the road to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their album Keep Your Eyes Ahead, which is (in my humble opinion) the best breakup album of all time. And while I can find no solid evidence it’s actually a breakup album (that’s the beauty of music, it’s whatever you need it to be!) it’s definitely worth the critical reevaluations it’s been receiving, whether or not listeners are brokenhearted. In fact, I had no idea the band was only a duo until today; their sounds are so lush and large I’d have insisted it was the work of a six piece band. If that’s not a testament to lasting talent I’m not sure what is. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5

Justus Proffit & Jay Som
Musicians and friends Justus Proffit and Jay Som make music inspired by the likes of Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes and other purveyors of sensitive and sensible guitar-driven music. Both accomplished artists in their own right, they’ve joined forces to bestow the gift of their EP Nothing’s Changed upon the world. And in the spirit of holiday giving and fierce friendship, they’ll take the stage at DC9 together. Doors 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6

JD McPherson
JD McPherson is ready to get you in the rock and roll holiday spirit that will have you dancing through the Christmas season and, let’s be honest, probably beyond. McPherson released Socks, his first Christmas album, this year and it’s full of eleven original holiday tunes. As someone who’s officially sick of traditional carols already, Christmas came early for me (and everyone else who’s ready for some originality in their seasonal playlist. Doors at 7:30. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

Kimbra
Electro-pop artist Kimbra’s live shows are usually colorful and electric, but she’s adding a new dimension to her artistry with this “intimate, reimagined evening” at Sixth & I. This comes on the heels of her EP Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined released earlier this year, and will hopefully also include reworked or stripped down versions of her experimental but honest to goodness pop. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; www.sixthandi.org

Roosevelt
French singer, songwriter, DJ and producer Roosevelt (real name Marius Lauber) has been making waves with his danceable indie pop since 2013. Now back on the scene with the recently released album Young Romance – to which prolific producer Chris Coady lent his chops – Lauber will bring warmth to event the chilliest December night with what’s sure to be a high energy dance party. 18-plus. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8

Cloud Nothings
The last time I saw Ohio post-punk outfit Cloud Nothings, their rainy festival set concluded with security guards attempting to rush the band offstage in the midst of lighting strike while frontman Dylan Baldi attempted to hang from an amp. Oh, and there was a mud-filled mosh pit. While I can’t guarantee the same things will transpire at Union Stage this month, I can guarantee Cloud Nothings will show you a good time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9

DRAMA
DRAMA return to DC after a recent stop at the 9:30 Club supporting French pop singer Jain for their very own headlining show. The purveyors of a perfect blend of soul, R&B and good old-fashioned pop self released their impressive Gallows EP in 2016, followed by a handful of singles this year, and have been busy touring behind their self-described “happy-sad music” ever since. They’re definitely ones to keep on your radar, so don’t miss seeing the duo at the intimate DC9 space. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10

Jingle Ball
The most stacked lineup in pop returns to DC this year with Top 40’s biggest hitmakers new and old. This year sees Shawn Mendes, The Chainsmokers, G-Eazy, Meghan Trainor, Bebe Rexha and more bringing both their hits and holiday cheer to Capital One arena. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $40-plus. Capital One Arena: 601 F St NW, DC; www.hot995.iheart.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14

Curls
I mourn the breakup of the band Girls, helmed by California based singer-songwriter Christopher Owens, on a more or less daily basis. Lucky for me (and for anyone who’s a fan of 60s influenced psych pop) Owens has been hard at work with solo albums and now a full band, Curls. Here, Owens has enlisted the wildly talented lineup of Cody Rhodes and Luke Baće to complete this trio. While a fully formed and very different band on their own, Curls has the same surf rock sensibilities and introspective songwriting that’s been a hallmark of Owen’s career so far. DC’s own Baby Bry Bry & Friends open, marking their first live performance in nearly two years. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $13. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

The Japanese House
Amber Bain has yet to release a full length album under her musical moniker The Japanese House, but she’s still garnered legions of fans and songs with over 20 million plays on Spotify since the release of her first EP in 2015. As Bain gears up to release her first full length album, she’ll visit DC with the music of her spectacular EPs and hopefully some new tracks this winter. If you’re a fan of the dreamy vibes of bands like Cocteau Twins, Imogen Heap and Mazzy Star, this is a can’t-miss show. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15

Darlingside
If you’re looking for a show that screams winter vibes, this is it. The indie folk quartet Darlingside bring their warm and wonderful harmonies to the halls of Sixth & I just in time for the holidays. Fresh off the release of their critically acclaimed album Extralife, which is described as “an experimental ode to the apocalypse,” they’ll bring songs new and old out for what’s sure to be a toe tapping, guitar picking good time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $22. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; www.sixthandi.org

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Cat Power
There is a fantastic profile on Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, written by the eloquent and iconic music journalist Jessica Hopper, that ran in The Cut earlier this year. It deals with Marshall’s prolific 25-year career, motherhood, rejection from her longtime label and finding camaraderie in other – namely female – musicians. It’s an enlightening deep dive into the enigmatic world of the artist that has me counting down the days til Marshall graces the 9:30 Club’s hallowed halls with her phenomenal new record Wanderer in tow. Read up and grab your tickets to see this living legend as soon as you can. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $40. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Ryley Walker
Ryley Walker makes impressive, intricate psych rock that draws from a pantheon of differing genres but somehow ends up incredibly cohesive. In an ever interesting turn, he covered Dave Matthews Band’s late 90s bootleg album The Lillywhite Sessions from front to back. Part reimaging and part paying his dues to one of his most well loved bands, Walker is nothing if not a breath of fresh air in the music world. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $12. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19

Hammered Hulls
This band features some of DC’s best musicians all in one place: Alec MacKaye, Mary Timony, Mark Cisernos and Chris Wilson. With so much unfettered talent in one place, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend your Wednesday night than watching the five piece band tear up the Black Cat’s backstage. If you missed their amazing set at the Black Cat’s 25th Anniversary show, the universe is granting you a Christmas miracle in the form of a do-over. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20

Hiss Golden Messenger
I saw Hiss Golden Messenger open for Bon Iver back in 2017, and when Justin Vernon thanked the band for opening he quipped, “I feel like I was listening to his music when I was in the womb or something.” An odd but apt description, the work of Michael Taylor is warm, comforting and does have the feel of something you may have heard in a past life. Sure to remedy the cold winter nights we’ll have late December, he’ll stop at the 9:30 Club in support of last month’s release Virgo Fool. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21

Snail Mail
Maryland’s Lindsey Jordan (a.k.a. Snail Mail) has been making waves since her 2016 EP released on DC’s Sister Polygon Records, and many (myself included) eagerly awaited the debut of her full length album, Lush, which arrived this past summer. Hands down one of the best releases of the year, Jordan will be rounding out a year of touring and critical acclaim just a hop, skip and jump away from her hometown at the 9:30 Club. Celebrate with her and end your 2018 right at this show, where she’ll be joined by Empath and Instupendo. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28

The Roots
The legendary Philadelphia outfit will pick you right out of your post holiday slump, guaranteed. They’ve been named one of Rolling Stone’s Greatest Live Bands, so that’s not an understatement. And although they haven’t released new music in four years, they’re sure to pull the classics from their massive catalogue of hits. Bring your family in town to the party or use this as an excuse to take a break and dance away. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $69.50. The Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31

White Ford Bronco
90s babies and 90s music enthusiasts rejoice. The District’s all 90s band returns to the 9:30 Club for New Year’s Eve. While December 31 is typically all about toasting to new beginnings, there’s no harm in looking a little further back and dancing into the new year to the best 90s hits spanning all genres. Round out your throwback with a champagne toast at midnight. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets $55. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com