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Plus Jaleo's paella festival and Taste of Bethesda. By Anna Spiegel
Jaleo's paella festival returns with a sangría-fueled kickoff party. Photograph by Alfredo Flores.

Cheffy fun: Graffiato's monthly Industry Takeover Night goes down on Monday at 10, with the $10 admission for free food and drinks benefiting Fit to Fight by MIC. Behind the food this month are Aaron Deal of Roanoke's the River and Rail, local chef Tim Ma, and more.

Paella Fest: One of José Andrés's most popular festivals—the 12th annual Paella Festival—launches at all Jaleo locations on Monday. Fans can head to a kickoff party at the Bethesda branch from 6 to 9, where $25 includes samples of the rice dish, sangría, and a specialty cocktail. A variety of paellas, including those made with lobster or Ibérico pork ribs, are available for lunch and dinner through October 19.

Belgian beer dinner: Bastille hosts an eclectic Belgian beer dinner on Tuesday at 6:30, with dishes such as grilled cheese with duck rilletes and brined pork chops with red-eye gravy and sweet-potato souffle. The four-course meal, each paired with a different brew, is $69 (or $49 sans beer).

Poe-tent cocktails: Les Dames D'Escoffier honor Edgar Allan Poe with a spirited event on Tuesday, the Craft Spirit of Poe, held at the the Loft in Penn Quarter. Barkeeps from the Gibson, Room 11, and more mix up cocktails inspired by the author, while literary scholars are on hand to discuss the works. Tickets are $40 for tastings and hors d'oeuvres, or $50 for that and two full cocktails, and benefit Les Dames.

Wined and truffled: Chef Fabio Trabocchi hosts Cesare Benvenuto, proprietor of the Piemonte's lauded Pio Cesare winery, at Fiola on Wednesday for a dinner inspired by the region's cuisine and white Alba truffles. A reception begins at 7, followed by a luxurious seven-course meal. Reservations are $200.

Hang with the Braus: Get your fill of local beer during a DC Brau dinner at Dino's Grotto on Wednesday. The four-course meal is paired with four different brews; dessert combines gelato and Penn Quarter Porter. Reservations are $47, all-inclusive, with seatings at 6, 8:15, and 8:45.

James Beard in VA: The Old Dominion boasts a number of rising culinary stars, a number of whom gather at Trummer's on Main on Thursday for a special James Beard dinner. Six top toques who recently cooked at New York's James Beard house will replicate the six-course meal, including host Austin Fausett, Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Rappahannock's Dylan Fultineer, and more. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 7:30. Tickets ($175) benefit the James Beard Foundation.

Rise to the occasion: Top female chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers join together at the Carnegie Library for the Chefs Take a Stand gala on Thursday, benefiting the National Network to End Domestic Violence. The Chew's Carla Hall emcees the evening, which begins at 7, and features Alba Osteria's Amy Brandwein, Elli Benchimol of Range, Ris Lacoste, Nora Pouillon, and many more.

Maker's night: Get boozy at Boss Shepherd's on Thursday when chef Jeremy Waybright pairs dishes like seared duck breast with kale and pork jus with cocktails such as mint Juleps, Manhattans, and straight sips of Maker's Mark. Reservations for the three-course meal are $59 per person.

Charm City brews: The sixth annual Baltimore Beer Week begins on Friday, and the lineup of events is worth nominating a designated driver and heading north. A few of the many include the Battle of the Beltway on Friday, where Heavy Seas and DC Brau go beer-for-beer, and the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival on Saturday.

Taste of DC: One of the biggest culinary events of the week is Taste of DC, which goes down on Saturday and Sunday along Pennsylvania Avenue. Those looking to graze can opt for general admission tickets ($10 or $30 with drinks included), which allow access to more than 40 restaurants, food trucks, and vendors offering bites between $1 and $3. For a more extended taste, there are two VIP events hosted by the Cochon 555 organizers. First up is Punch Kings & Pigs on Saturday at 2, which pairs a cocktail competition between 12 notable mixologists, a pig roast, and bottomless drinks ($55). Then on Sunday, head to a big-name barbecue from 4 to 7, with unlimited drinks and food from some of Washington's top toques (starting at $100). Anyone who prefers to watch others eat can head to Ben's Chili Bowl's World Chili-Eating Championship on Saturday.

Taste of Bethesda: More than 50 eateries participate in this annual neighborhood party on Saturday from 11 to 4, which includes live entertainment on five stages. The lineup is bigger than ever for the 25th anniversary, and includes newcomers like Tyber Bierhaus plus longstanding eateries such as Mussel Bar. Admission is free, and packages of four tickets go for $5.

Pre-Columbus Day din: No work on Columbus Day? Then indulge in a five-course autumn wine dinner at Al Dente on Sunday, starting at 6. Chef Roberto Donna pairs Italian and American varietals with dishes such as three-meat ravioli with butter and sage, and slow-roasted veal breast with hazelnut sauce. Reservations are $75.

For more restaurant news and recommendations, follow Best Bites on Twitter at @bestbitesblog.

Posted at 11:56 AM/ET, 10/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the Source's comedy/dumpling brunch. By Anna Spiegel
Dare to try an octopus Bloody Mary at Del Campo's new brunch? Photograph courtesy of Del Campo.

Free apps: The Diner reopens Monday after a brief closure to remodel the 13-year-old space. Head there between 4 and 7 for a look at the digs and a taste of the new cocktails and food. Free appetizers will be served. 

Bar chefs: The final installment of Chefs Behind Bars happens on Monday at the Gryphon from 6 to 8:30. The competition benefiting No Kid Hungry pits eight chefs against one another in a challenge to whip up the tastiest cocktail. Tickets are $40, and include sips of all eight drinks. 

Boozy dinner: Devil's Backbone Brewery and Catoctin Creek Distillery are behind a beer-and-whiskey dinner at Graffiato on Monday from 7 to 10, which features a menu of Italian small plates. Tickets are $97.50, all-inclusive. 

Drink Mediterranean: Wine director James Horn uses the Coravin system to pour rare vinos at G on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8, showcasing Italian and Greek varietals alongside shareable antipasti platters. Tickets are $65. 

No silverware allowed: The F**k Forks fundraiser makes a splashy return on Thursday at 6 with a fleet of big-name chefs, bartenders, and deejays. Industree's benefit for F**k Cancer is the first event held in Brookland's food incubator, Mess Hall, so you can take in all the finger foods and booze while admiring the new space. Tickets are $80 for general admission, $130 for VIP. 

Farm fundraiser: Jackson 20 hosts Soil & Soul on Friday, a seasonal food-fest benefiting the Old Town Alexandria farmer's market SNAP Dollar Matching Program. Local restaurants such as Brabo and Society Fair serve bites, while the cash bar includes Virginia wines, brews, and farm-inspired cocktails. Several market vendors will also participate. Tickets are $35, or $40 at the entrance. 

Gourd season: The Black Squirrel celebrates autumn with the Smashing Pumpkin Fest on Friday at 5. Pumpkin beers flow from 15 tap lines, and a variety of dishes star the orange gourd, including soup and mac and cheese. There's even a pumpkin ice cream float. Admission is free. 

Oktoberfest bash: One of the area's biggest Oktoberfest celebrations goes down on Saturday from noon to 7, courtesy of Capitol City Brewing Company. A projected crowd of 10,000 samples beers from 65 mid-Atlantic breweries at the Village of Shirlington location, served alongside Germanic eats like brats and soft pretzels. Admission is $30 for drinkers, which includes a glass and ten drink tickets (kids and designated drivers enter free). 

Laugh your dumplings off: One of the best weekend events goes down at the Source on Saturday from 11 to 1, where nationally acclaimed comedians Tig Notaro and Jena Friedman join chef Scott Drewno for a hands-on dumpling class followed by a family-style brunch. The afternoon session is part of Brightest Young Things' Bentzen Ball comedy fest, which is worth checking out even when there aren't edibles involved. Tickets for the brunch ($75) benefit the George Washington Mobile Mammography Unit. 

Play at the table: The newly opened Shake Shack Tysons starts a table tennis league on Saturday at 3. Admission is free and open to the public, but only 16 slots are available for the tournament. Gratis Shack wristbands and shades are given to all, as well as food and drink specials throughout the day. 

Bloody battle: Del Campo launches a new brunch menu this weekend--which includes an all-you-can-eat option for $45--and throws a Bloody Mary throwdown on Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 to mark the occasion. Tickets are $45 and include the meal, and samples of Bloodys from Graffiato, Mandu, and more. That crazy octopus concoction pictured above is available for the brave.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 01:13 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus Washingtonian's Truck It! and so many Oktoberfests. By Anna Spiegel
Try a bottomless caviar bar at Mari Vanna this week. Photograph courtesy of Mari Vanna.

Goat-themed Oktoberfest: Bock means goat in German, so it's fitting that the Fainting Goat starts its Bocktoberfest celebrations on Monday (through October 5). Stop by the pub for $5 German pints and bottles, large-format Ayinger Weizen Bock beers for $8, grilled goat sausages, and more.

Dinner aquatic: Fish fans can head to the National Aquarium in Baltimore on Tuesday for a unique dining experience: a cooking demo and three-course sustainable seafood dinner prepared by Wit & Wisdom chef Zack Mills. Guests can come early to check out the exhibits, including the newest featuring Blacktip Reef sharks. Tickets are $79 for members, $99 for nonmembers.  

Paella party: José Andrés celebrates ten years of Jaleo Crystal City with a bash on Wednesday from 5 to 9. The $35 tickets (partial proceeds benefit World Central Kitchen) include free-flowing wine, Spanish tapas, sherry tastings, jamón-carving stations, flamenco dancers, and the signature rice dish. 

Old-school eats: Black Market Bistro also celebrates its tenth birthday on Wednesday, and serves dishes circa 2004 to commemorate the opening year. Items on the three-course menu include tomato-lemongrass soup, pan-seared trout with almond butter, and chocolate fudge cake ($55; à-la-carte ordering is also available). Guests on both Wednesday and Thursday will leave with goodie bags.

Unlimited caviar: Bottomless roe can be yours at Mari Vanna, which launches a caviar bar on Thursday at 5. The $29 indulgence includes unlimited servings of red caviar, stuffed and plain blini, Russian salads, and a complimentary vodka shot. Black caviar is sold separately, for $10 off. 

Food truck fiesta: Washingtonian's food team tested 100-plus food trucks to put together our guide to the Top 25, many of which will be at our Truck It! festival on Saturday from noon to 2 near Logan Circle. Advance tickets ($20, or $25 at the door) get you five tastes from vendors such as Meggrolls and DC Ballers. 

Japanese-Peruvian cooking class: Del Campo hosts an East-meets-West cooking course on Saturday from noon to 3 with chef Victor Albisu and visiting toque Jonah Kim (formerly of Pabu). The duo will demonstrate how to prepare ceviches, sushi, anticuchos, and robatayaki before treating guests to a full lunch and beverage pairings. Reservations are $98, all-inclusive. 

Mad Fox-toberfest: The biggest Oktoberfest celebration this week comes courtesy of Mad Fox Brewing, which sets up a beer garden on Market Square on Saturday from noon to 6. Guests can pick from 60 local brews and grilled fare, plus games such as cornhole, a moon bounce, and more. 

Fall food festival: The Barracks Row Fall Festival goes down on Saturday from 7 to 5, with a variety of culinary activities. A military chef's cookoff starts at 7 for the early risers, while the Matchbox Food Group runs a beer garden from noon to 6 with brews and Oktoberfest-themed eats from Ted's Bulletin, Cava Mezze, Belga Cafe, and more. Admission is free; individual beer garden food/drink tickets are $6 each or five for $25. 

French cooking class: Malmaison chef Gérard Pangaud, who earned two Michelin stars at his Boulogne, France, restaurant, leads a cooking class at the Hill Center on Saturday. Starting at 11 guests are lead through a hands-on course that includes dishes such as Moroccan-spiced duck breast with caramelized apples and local pear-almond tart. Tickets are $85. 

Amaro 101: Amaro is everywhere these days, and if you want to learn more about the Italian liqueur, Urbana is the place to be on Saturday from 3 to 4. Head bartender Lee Carrell leads guests through the various types, how they can be used in cocktails, and what to know about popular brands. Reservations are $35 and include tastes, recipe cards, and a take-home gift. E-mail to reserve, or call the restaurant. 

Even more Oktoberfest: Cady's Alley in Georgetown throws its Oktoberfest celebration this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5. Stop by for Germanic eats from Kafe Leopold, a soft-pretzel cart, Alpine music, and Bavarian brews in a two-story beer hall. Admission is free, and lederhosen are encouraged. 

Drinks with dogs: Republic in Takoma Park cohosts a "yappy hour" on Sunday from 3 to 5 with neighborhood businesses Big Bad Wood and Pup Strut. The regular happy hour menu with plenty of drink and food specials is available, along with $5 Salty Dog cocktails and free treats for pups. Look for similar deals at dog-friendly happy hours on the last Sunday of each month. 

For more food news and recommendations, follow Best Bites on Twitter at @bestbitesblog.

Posted at 02:10 PM/ET, 09/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the Festicle and a beery Dachshund dash. By Anna Spiegel
Dachs-lobster! The annual Dachshund Dash happens Saturday, with many brats, brews, and pups. Photograph courtesy of On Tap Magazine.

Industry night:  Brabo chef Harper McClure launches an “old-school industry night” on Monday in the Alexandria restaurant’s tasting room. Starting at 10, the chef becomes a deejay and spins house music from the past decade, and the bar serves $5 punches and glasses of wine, $3 beers, and $10 pots of mussels. The series will continue on the third Monday of every month.

TrummerFest: Trummer’s on Main starts Oktoberfest celebrations on Tuesday (through October 30), thanks to its Austrian owner. A no-reservations, pop-up tavern will run Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9, with a menu of dishes such as braised beef stew with cheese spaetzle, house-made beer sausage, and apple cake.

Harvest dinner: Equinox launches a series of seasonal dinners on Thursday. Guests gather at 7 for a reception on the patio with grilled oysters and sausages, followed by a family-style dinner with beer pairings and dishes like she-crab chowder and roast chicken with corn fritters. The event is $45 per person.

Barrrr party: Heavy Seas Alehouse in Arlington embraces Talk Like a Pirate Day on Friday with specials and deals starting at 11. Guests can score pirate-themed swag, eat pirate-inspired foods (apparently the scourge of the high seas favored turkey legs), and help Heavy Seas break a Guiness Book of World Records award for the largest number of casks tapped at the same time. A number of bars around the country will be tapping Loose Cannon IPA, a new cask ale, at 6 sharp.

Wiener world: The third annual Dachshund Dash goes down on Saturday from 1 to 4 at the Ronald Reagan Building, and wieners of both the dog and sausage varieties abound. The costumed-pup race will be shown on a jumbo screen, while two-legged participants can drink Oktoberfest beers, eat sausages, listen to live music, and more. Partial proceeds benefit the Washington Humane Society.

H Street Festival: One of the most rockin’ neighborhood parties happens on Saturday as the H Street Festival returns to the Atlas District. Entertainment comes in the form of live music, dancing, and both pie- and burrito-eating competitions, while you’ll find plenty of street eats from stands set up by local restaurants as well as specials inside.

Chee-heese: This isn’t your average cubed-cheese reception. Marvin hosts a Grilled Cheese Social on Saturday from 1 to 8. Stop by for specialty cocktails, tunes from DJ Jerome Baker, and, of course, sandwiches such as the Pit with mac and cheese and pulled barbecue chicken, or classic griddled cheddar, Swiss, and Jack. Admission is free.

Swanky roast: The Park Hyatt Master of Food & Wine event for fall is an appropriately swanky affair on Saturday at 6. Guests gather on Blue Duck Tavern’s outdoor patio for roast pig and whole fish, braised meats, seasonal salads, Boxwood wines, and local craft brews. Tickets are $165 per person, all-inclusive.

The Festicle: It’s here. Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s testacular event rolls into town on Sunday from 11 to 9 at the Bullpen. In the mix: a Top Chef-style lamb testicle cookoff, carnivalesque eats, live music, and more. Tickets are $15 to $25.

A musical evening: The FreshFarm Markets offer the big-ticket event of the week: a Sunday evening that combines a concert with famed composer Philip Glass and acclaimed violinist Tim Fain, and a small dinner after with the duo after at Proof (vegetarian, to honor Glass). Tickets are $500, or $125 for the concert only.

Seasonal rockstars: An all-star lineup of local chefs, including Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde and Ian Boden of the award-winning Shack in Staunton, Virginia, join host toque RJ Cooper at Gypsy Soul on Sunday for the From Farm to Fork dinner. The meal—and seasonally inspired cocktails—begins at 6, with proceeds from ticket sales ($200 per person) benefiting the nonprofit Future Harvest CASA. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 04:23 PM/ET, 09/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus an Italian-style pig roast. By Anna Spiegel
Graze among 35-plus eateries and watch a giant cupcake-eating competition at Taste of Georgetown. Photograph via Taste of Georgetown.

Drink more bourbon: September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and Jack Rose is celebrating with a series of distillery highlights and specials on Thursday nights (through September 25). Stop into the second-floor “balcony room” from 6 to 11 this week for sips from Heaven Hill Distillers, a menu of whiskey-infused eats, and dram specials. Admission is free, and open to the public.

Patriotic partying: The National Museum of American History commemorates the Star Spangled Banner’s 200th year with a gala in the museum on Friday. Food Network host Simon Majumdar emcees the fete, which includes cocktail lessons and sips from a host of big-name bartenders, historical drinking lessons from author David Wondrich, live music, and more. Tickets start at $200.

Tiki Friday: Del Campo recently launched a series of Friday rooftop soirees called ‘Del Campo at Dusk,’ each with a different theme. Head up to the Penn Quarter eatery’s scenic top floor from 6 to 9 for a tiki party this week, boasting island-inspired cocktails and menu of roast suckling pig, dumplings, and Spam musubi (yes, Spam sushi is a thing) from host chef Victor Albisu and guests Jonah Kim and Scott Drewno. Tickets are $65 per person.

The best of Georgetown: One of DC’s biggest neighborhood festivals, Taste of Georgetown goes down on Saturday from noon to 5. Over 35 eateries including 1789, Bourbon Steak, and the upcoming Chez Billy Sud offer $5 bites, and guests can get their fill of wine and beer in tasting pavilions. Also among the foodie festivities: a Baked & Wired giant cupcake-eating competition, a chef showdown, and more. Tasting tickets start at $5, and can be purchased in packages for $20.

Giant beer-fest: One of the biggest beer festivals of the year, Snallygaster, goes down on Saturday at the Yards. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Bluejacket, ChurchKey, etc.) is behind the event among others, so you can expect an impressive lineup of 250-plus brews plus eats from various food trucks, Red Apron, Rappahannock Oysters, and more. Advance ticket packages (available through September 12) vary, from $30 general admission with 25 food and drink tickets, to $50 VIP. Day-of admission is $10, with all proceeds benefiting Arcadia.

Chesapeake-palooza: Grapeseed celebrates the bounty of the Bay with Chessiefest, a seafood festival on Saturday from noon to 3. A $30 ticket gets you local and sustainable wild blue catfish, smoked bluefish, clams, and all-you-can-eat oysters, plus sides like slaw and hushpuppies. Evolution brews are an additional $5, with $1 from every sale going towards the Oyster Recovery Project.

Historical cooking: Explore the culinary side of early American Jews during a cooking class at the Hill Center on Sunday lead by pastry chef-historian Amanda Moniz. Participants in the $40 session from 11 to 1:30 will learn about traditional Jewish-American cookery and recipes, recreating dishes such as cold fried fish, caper sauce, and almond pudding.

Italian pig roast: Osteria Morini recreatates Maialata, a pork-filled festival held in the mountain towns of Northern Italy, on Sunday from noon to 4. Guests can opt for all-you-can-eat-and-drink ($75) or unlimited food ($50), with dishes such as whole roasted suckling pig, meatballs, cheese and charcuterie boards, salads, and gelato sandwiches, washed down with DC Brau brews and whiskey cocktails. Kids 12 and under are $25, with registration for all available online. 

AdMo Day: Make it a weekend of neighborhood fests by checking out Adams Morgan Day on Sunday from noon to 7. One of the oldest city festivals features live music, a dance plaza, kid’s fair, and plenty of eats from local restaurants.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 09/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Dining in white with 1,500 guests on the banks of the Anacostia. By Carol Ross Joynt
Guests at Washington's first Dîner en Blanc toast with sparklers at the "secret" location of Yards Park on the Anacostia River. Photography by Carol Ross Joynt.

After the hard-to-get tickets, the secrecy, the demanding preparation, and, especially, the schlepping (oh, the schlepping) the Dîner en Blanc foodie-flash mob was basically a very nice dinner party—for approximately 1,500 people. 

All of the guests, uniformly dressed in the required head-to-toe white, appeared to have a lively and memorable time as they cheerfully unpacked tables, chairs, glasses, flatware, plates, linens, flowers—and in some instances, candelabra—on the banks of the Anacostia River. After setting it all up, they sat down to enjoy a dinner they either provisioned themselves, or bought from the host organization. “It’s a traveling circus, if you will,” said cohost Bryer Davis.

Guests were required to bring tables, linens, china, utensils, and food for the event.

The dinner, which was effectively the first big soiree of Washington's fall party season, may have been a "circus," but it was one graced with a beautiful evening, and a friendly mood that would likely impress cynics who snarked about the cultish concept. No one was complaining about the rule book, which demanded the location, Yards Park, be kept secret until an hour before the event started. Or the rigid dress code. Or the hauling of one’s own “picnic” gear by Metro, in cars, on buses, by foot. The only gripe we heard was a woman who wished it hadn’t been scheduled for the same evening as the NFL season opener. Another said, “I paid to be part of the event, but also to see who else would pay to bring their own table, and chairs, and food to a dinner.” 

The breeze off the Anacostia didn't deter  the event's key rituals:  the waving of napkins, and the lighting of hundreds of sparklers at dusk. They've been part of the tradition since the diner was started 25 years ago in Paris by François Pasquier. He wanted to have a big al fresco meal with a couple dozen friends in a cool location—then the Bois de Boulogne—and asked his pals to come dressed in white so they could see each other in the dark. Voilà! It has grown substantially, to cities all over the world and to guest lists in the thousands. Thursday evening’s dinner was the first in Washington.

One of the rituals of the Dîner En Blanc: the waving of the white napkins.

We attended as a guest of the Dîner en Blanc organizers (tickets were $35 per person), but still participated in the requirement of bringing our own set-up and food; it was also possible to rent tables and chairs, and order picnic baskets and wine. Our meal was made easier thanks to Chap Gage of Susan Gage Caterers, who actually built a table to meet the strict guidelines (27 inches square), loaned us white chairs, and whipped up a picnic dinner of paella, tomato and mozzarella salad with figs, and chocolate tarts. We sat embedded among the other guests. On our right were Jamie Nolan, a public relations contractor with the federal government and her husband, Detective Brian Hallahan of the Metropolitan Police Department.  On our left were Noe Woods of Reston, and Antwanet Shaban of Manassas, having a girls night out. Both women work for business consultant companies that service the federal government. All four were unable to get tickets when they first went on sale—they sold out in 90 minutes, according to Davis—but got them when they came off the wait list.

Woods and Shaban brought silver and crystal candleholders, but paid extra for the food and wine provided by Dîner en Blanc. We wondered if they were foodies. Woods was quick to respond. “I don’t know if we’re foodies,” she said. “But we love food.”

If guests preordered the event's picnic boxes, they received offerings from Gourmet by the Bay.
Dîner en Blanc date night: MPD Detective Brian Hallahan with his wife, Jamie Nolan.
Guests were asked to bring picnics and look "stylish." With this couple, done and done.
Besides the food, Dîner en Blanc is an evening of outfits.

Posted at 11:38 AM/ET, 09/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Spike Mendelsohn's new company holds its first event: a "celebrity chef testicle cookoff." By Anna Spiegel

Though the Festicle sounds like something sex-ed teachers warn about, don’t worry—it’s actually a culinary festival. Featuring a testicle cook-off. 

Spike Mendelsohn launches the Festicle this fall. Photograph by Chris Flynn.

The food and music fest at the Half Street Fairgrounds on September 21 will be the first event of its kind from Spike Mendelsohn’s new company, Spike’d Events. Jokes aside, it sounds pretty cool, provided you're okay with the idea of Rocky Mountain oysters. Chef Tim “Balls to the Water & Wall” Ma and Erik “Dumplings” Bruner-Yang join the festivities, facing off against Mendelsohn in a Top Chef-style testicular throwdown. 

If odd bits aren’t your thing, look for a menu that riffs on carnival food such as sushi popcorn and chicken and waffles on a stick, and a preview of Bruner-Yang's upcoming Maketto. Entertainment comes in the form of aerial artists, contortionists, micro wrestling, and live music from bands like Black Masala and White Ford Bronco. 

Tickets are $20 to $25 for the event, which runs from 1 to 9. We predict you'll have a ball. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 12:30 PM/ET, 09/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus DC Oyster Fest at Union Market. By Anna Spiegel
Head to Union Market for Rappahannock's oyster-filled bash. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Free wine: Ease your way into the short week at Le Grenier, which hosts a complimentary French wine tasting on Tuesday from 6 to 8. Varietals include Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne, Famille Perrin Grenache, and more.

Rare Scotch tasting: If you’re never tried a $230 bottle of Chieftain’s Dailuaine 30-year-old Speyside Scotch, you can do so on Thursday (for much less than the bottle price). Sherry’s Wine leads a rare single-malt whisky tasting at New Heights from 7 to 8:30, featuring six varieties alongside Scotch-friendly canapés. The session can be followed by a special three-course dinner in the restaurant. Tickets are $45 and available by calling Sherry’s at 202-234-9200.

Pop-up of the week: Anju, Mandu’s monthly late-night pop-up, returns on Friday with guest chef Tim Ma (Water & Wall/Maple Ave Restaurant). As before, stop by the K Street location between 10 PM and 1 AM for a special menu of small plates, noodles, entrees, and more (between $6 and $15), plus plenty of soju.

Bivalve bash: Love oysters? Then the DC Oyster Fest is your kind of party. Rappahannock Oyster Bar takes over Dock 5 at Union Market on Saturday from noon to 5, with plenty of fresh-shucked bivalves, local beers and spirits, dishes from the likes of Red Apron, and live bluegrass music. For the brave: oyster eating and shucking contests. Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for kids.

Food truck festival: We’ve been eating at a lot of food trucks lately, evidenced by our street eats guide in the current issue. The best place to sample a variety of mobile vendors: the Curbside Cookoff on Saturday. The festival, hosted by the DMV Food Truck Association, runs from 11 to 7 and features dishes from 20-plus trucks, local brews, a cooking competition, and awards like “best new food truck,” “best five buck bite,” and more. Tickets are $5, with edibles and drinks priced separately (children 12 and under get in for free).

Porks and brews: Indulge dual cravings at the Beer and Bacon Fest on Saturday at Woodbridge's Potomac Town Center. The all-you-can-taste event includes 75 beers and wines, porky eats from ten restaurants including Smoke & Barrel and Rustico, and two tons of bacon. Tickets are $69 for VIP access (noon to 6), which includes unlimited food and drinks; $39 for beer-only tasting; free for kids under 12 (note the disclaimer: "this event is not designed for children").

Happy beery birthday: Atlas Brew Works celebrates its one year anniversary on Saturday with—you guessed it—lots of beer. Head to the brewery in Northeast, DC between 1 and 5 for the festivities, which involve live music, food truck fare, and Atlas brews. Tickets are $10, partially benefit the Washington Humane Society, and include your first beer.

Harvest dinner: It still feels like summer, but chef Will Morris of Vermillion is teaming up with Arcadia Farm and several local toques for a collaborative fall harvest dinner on Sunday from 3 to 7. Each chef is tasked with reinventing classic barbecue dishes for the four-course, family-style meal, made with items grown and raised on the farm. Tickets are $175 (and you’ll understand why looking at this all-star lineup).

Sushi 101: Learn to roll your own sushi at Masa 14’s first Sunday Sushi School from 6 to 9. The monthly series is lead by Kaz Sushi Bistro owner (and Masa partner) Kaz Okochi and will focus on making crunchy shrimp and spicy tuna hand rolls and inside-out rolls with salmon and tuna. After the session, participants can enjoy their course material in the dining room. Reservations are $15, and $21 with an optional sake pairing. 

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 09/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus Bethesda's annual pie baking contest. By Anna Spiegel
Roofers Union hosts a tasting of Catoctin Creek whiskey this week. Photograph by Flickr user Thomas Cizauskas.

Unlimited paella and sangria: Jaleo Bethesda launches a new Monday promotion this week: bottomless paella plus salad and flan for $25. Diners can also add unlimited sangria for $15. 

Flight club: Wine at Bourbon Steak beats basement boxing anytime. House sommelier Julian Mayor competes with Neighborhood Restaurant Group wine director Brent Kroll to see who can choose the best pairings for a five-course tasting menu, starting at 6. Reservations are $100 per person. 

Dogs and drinks: Head to the Loews Madison Hotel with your four-legged friend for a "yappy hour" on Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30. Treats and drinks for dogs and humans alike will be available, as well as items from local pet businesses such as Wylie Wagg and Barkley Square. Partial process go to City Dogs Rescue. Admission is free, but online RSVPs are encouraged. 

Fly like a dog: The Daily Dish teams up with Flying Dog for a dinner on Tuesday at 6:30, where a five-course menu is served with five different brews ($65 per person). Reservations are required, and include giveaways like work by artist Jim Ritter and Washington Nationals tickets. 

Women and whiskey: Join your favorite brown liquor-loving ladies at Roofers Union on Thursday for a Catoctin Creek whiskey tasting. Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley pairs small plates with three of the local distillery's whiskeys, and Booze for Babes author Kayleigh Kulp will discuss the spirits alongside Catoctin co-owner Becky Harris. Tickets are $45 and include a copy of the book. 

Have an "epicurience": Here's some food-loving fun for your Labor Day weekend. Epicurience Virginia, a food and wine festival cohosted by Saveur magazine, runs Friday through Sunday at Morven Park in Leesburg. The lineup of events includes local wine, beer, cheese, and cider tastings, chef demos, cookbook signings, and more. Tickets start at $85 for general admission, $125 for VIP. 

Sweet tasting: RareSweets, the sugar shop set to open in CityCenterDC this fall, holds a pre-opening affogato tasting at La Colombe on Friday from 1 to 4. Drop by for the Italian specialty, which combines the shop's espresso with scoops of RareSweets's ice creams in milk chocolate, vanilla bean, dark caramel, and other flavors ($3 each). 

Pie contest: The fifth annual Bake Bethesda Pie Contest goes down at 9 on Sunday morning at the Bethesda Central Farm Market. Kids, adults, and local culinary students can enter in their respective categories by Wednesday for a chance to compete. A panel of judges will choose the winner, and pie sampling begins shortly after (with a recommended donation to the Manna Food Center). 

Posted at 12:58 PM/ET, 08/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus a Top Chef Duels viewing party with Mike Isabella. By Anna Spiegel
Vinoteca goes to the dogs on Sunday with a pup-filled party on the back patio. Photograph via Facebook.

DC Beer Week: The beeriest seven days in Washington are upon us: DC Beer Week 2014. Each day is stacked with multiple tastings, parties, seminars and more, from a DC Brau-sponsored crab feast at the Quarterdeck on Monday to Old Ebitt’s “Brewhaha” suds-fest on Friday, and tons more. Prices, locations, and times vary, so make sure to spend a few minutes checking out the full lineup.

More Restaurant Week: Missed Summer Restaurant Week the first time around? Fear not. We have a roundup of eateries offering extensions throughout the month of August, from fine dining spots like Fiola to neighborhood haunts like Mintwood Place, Graffiato, and many more. Alexandria Restaurant Week also runs through Sunday, so look for options at your favorite Virginia spots: $35 dinners for two, or three-course set menus of the same price.

Doggie dining: Join the EatWell DC restaurants, including Commissary, the Pig, and more, for the third annual Dining Out With Dogs on Monday. Each eatery will donate 15 percent of its proceeds to City Dogs Rescue from 5 to close, and will serve a special vodka-based cocktail whose sales will entirely benefit the rescue operation. Happy hour runs until 7 at each location, plus special late-night discounts from 10 to 11. Kids also eat free from the children’s menu until 6:30.

Top Chef rules: Catch Bravo’s new series, Top Chef Duels, with one of the local stars at Kapnos on Wednesday night. Chef Mike Isabella will watch alongside fans as he faces off onscreen with his former fellow Top Chef competitor Antonia Lofaso in an Italian-style cooking duel. Join him at Kapnos for a viewing party plus happy hour in both the restaurant’s bar and neighboring G Sandwich.

Rock-solid cooking: Chef Rock Harper guest-cooks at Taberna Del Alabardero on Thursday alongside his host, Javier Romero, during a Spanish-American fusion wine tasting and dinner. A portion of the ticket sales ($99 per person) will benefit DC Central Kitchen.

Doggie wall of fame: The upcoming Fairfax location of the Austin restaurant Chuy’s hosts a photo shoot/fundraiser on Saturday from noon to 3 at Uptown Pet Bistro & Boutique. Dog lovers and their four-legged companions can be photographed for the restaurant’s “La Chihuahua Bar” community dog wall, and receive a free future Chuy’s appetizer with $5 donations to Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.

Pig roast: Get your fill of swine at Society Fair’s Southern-style pig roast on Saturday. Reservations ($29) start at 5:30 and run until 8:30 for a feast of roast pork, watermelon salad, succotash, and more.

Rare sherry: Eager to try what specialists call the “unicorn” of the sherry world? Head to Mockingbird Hill on Saturday at 3 for a tasting and class featuring Palo Cortado sherries, considered some of the best in the world. Tickets are $45 online.

More and more dogs: If you didn’t get a chance to dine out for the pups at City Dog Rescue earlier this week, check out Vinoteca on Sunday for the Dogs and ’Tails fundraiser (through August 31). The promotion starts with a party on the back plaza, where they’ll have a bocce tournament, dog adoption section, food and drink specials, and more from 4 to 8. Make a $10 donation to CDR and get happy hour pricing all night; for the rest of the week, buy any house-made grilled dog or “dog days of summer” cocktail to benefit the rescue organization.

Share food: The Alexandria Food Swap returns on Sunday, hosted at Friendship Firehouse from 2 to 3:30. Participants bring homemade, foraged, homegrown, and other self-procured edibles to exchange. Online tickets are $5.

Posted at 04:28 PM/ET, 08/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()