When Southern Efficiency officially opens on Saturday, it’ll be the third bar on the 1800 block of Seventh Street, Northwest for Derek Brown. Like the sherry-themed Mockingbird Hill and oyster-cocktail den Eat the Rich, the new spot is small with a keen focus. In this case, Brown and his team have turned their eye towards the South.
“Sherry appeals to my intellect,” says Brown. “The cocktails and oysters at Eat the Rich appeal to my gullet. But whiskey speaks to my heart.”
Country tunes drawl from the sound system, old tractor seats top the stools, and curved wooden ceiling beams give the impression of drinking inside a bourbon barrel. Chef Julien Shapiro looked to circa-1950s Southern eateries for menu inspiration (see a sample below), and you’ll find more unusual dishes than the ubiquitous fried chicken or shrimp and grits. The sample drink list of 30-odd American whiskeys, bourbons, and Scotches also contains rarer finds, but bartender J.P. Fetherston has a taste for the often under-appreciated classics like Wild Turkey and Evan Williams. Strong drinkers can sample flights, while house-made sodas and cider are on offer as mixers. You might try switchel—Brown describes the gingery non-alcoholic brew as 19th century Gatorade—which Fetherston spikes with blackstrap. His house-smoked cola and white whiskey cocktail on-tap is also well worth a try for those skeptical of the un-aged stuff. Regardless of drink preference, northern charm is nowhere to be seen.
Southern Efficiency. 1841 Seventh St., NW. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 12:30; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 1:30; Sunday 5 to 11:30.
The Peruvian Brothers food truck became the first mobile vendor in DC to start accepting the digital currency Bitcoin last week. Is this the beginning of a new trend?
Bitcoin, a decentralized digital monetary system created in 2009, allows people to transfer funds through the internet directly to another person without having to go through any sort of bank.
“I think it’s a very unique and new way of payment, especially for small business,” says Giuseppe Lanzone, who runs Peruvian Brothers with his brother Mario.
Most food trucks, however, had never even heard of Bitcoin. And those who had didn’t see their own truck accepting the currency. “Maybe if a few more trucks start doing it, others with follow the pack,” says Andrew Chatelain, an employee at the Big Cheese truck.
Stellina Malt, another food truck employee, thinks it is a good investment for the future. “It’s a landmark decision and a good move forward to accepting the new millennium. Among food trucks, however, I think we’re still pretty much a cash business. I don’t see it being a trend,” Malt says.
Giuseppe believes the transaction method will become more popular. However, since they activated the service last Monday they’ve only had three customers use Bitcoin to purchase from their menu of Peruvian sandwiches, empanadas, and desserts.
“It’s a very simple process once you’ve done it a couple times. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is and some people might be scared of it at first,” Giuseppe says.
So how does it work? Giuseppe uses the website BitPay on his smartphone that creates a QR code—essentially a type of barcode, like those scanned at the grocery score—specific to the truck’s BitPay account. Customers use their Bitcoin wallet app to scan the QR code with their smartphone to allow the transaction to go through. For every exchange, BitPay creates a unique code that, according a press release, “reflects the real time exchange rate for the amount of Bitcoin the truck is requesting in exchange for food.”
The Lanzones’ decision to become Bitcoin pioneers in the street food scene came after a conversation with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (aka the “Winklevii” twins famously portrayed in The Social Network), who are major investors in Bitcoin. The twins, who met Giuseppe when they trained together for the US Olympics Rowing team, convinced him that Bitcoin would be an extra medium for accepting money and would only be an advantage for their business.
“It was not a surprise that the Peruvian Brothers quickly understood the benefits of Bitcoin, and were willing to adopt and support this new technology to create the best customer experience possible,” says Cameron.
Justin Laughter, a regular customer at the Lanzone’s truck, says he has some friends who use Bitcoin. He says he never really considered joining the service until he found something like the South American street fare that he would be able to purchase.
The debate on digital currency and its legitimacy continues outside of mobile vendors in DC. Whether it dies down because of its susceptibility to fraud, or picks up as the future of transactions, only time will tell. But for now, if you’ve left your credit cards and cash at home, Bitcoin can be just another way to purchase your favorite pan con chicharrón.
One of the more famous quotes ascribed to John F. Kennedy—“Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm”—didn’t commend the District’s political climate. But when it comes to eating and drinking, “Southern efficiency” isn’t a negative reference. In the literal sense it’s the name of the newest Shaw bar from Derek Brown and Rappahannock Oyster Co.’s Travis Croxton, who also recently opened the oyster-cocktail den Eat the Rich next door to sherry-heavy Mockingbird Hill. More figuratively, the pullquote name means a down home vibe for Brown’s third venture in the burgeoning neighborhood.
Once the spot at 1841 Seventh Street, Northwest soft-opens on Friday, you’ll be able to sip over 30 Southern whiskies, jarred and on-tap cocktails (think a mix of smoked cola and white whiskey), house-made apple-celery soda, and brews from below the Mason-Dixon line. Columbia Room vet J.P. Fetherston helms the bar, while Eat the Rich’s Julien Shapiro dishes up plates inspired by Southern diners and lunch counters like deviled eggs, fried catfish, and peanut soup.
According to a release from the restaurant, you’ll be able to get a sneak-peek of the concept during a “Southern Whiskey 101” class, held on Wednesday and Thursday evening. Each of two nightly sessions will cover the history and production of one of the South’s greatest exports, as well as tastings of “classic and unusual whiskies” from Kentucky to the Carolinas.
Southern Efficiency. 1841 Seventh St., NW. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 12:30; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 1:30; Sunday 5 to 11:30.
If you were dining at Ashok Bajaj’s popular Penn Quarter spot last night, you may have caught a familiar face in the crowd. A source confirms that actor Richard Gere attended a dinner at Rasika for the International Campaign for Tibet; Gere is the chairman for the nonprofit advocacy group.
The famed actor is known for his vegetarian-leaning tendencies, though he’s stated in past interviews that his diet isn’t entirely meatless. The table sampled a variety of chef Vikram Sunderam’s greatest hits, including palak chat (crispy spinach with yoghurt and date chutney), tandoori lamb chops, black cod, rice-based chicken biryani, and lentils. Chances are he knew the proper forks to use.
The historic Iron Gate Restaurant, recently re-opened in Dupont Circle, begins lunch service today. The interior is particularly fit for a snow day with plenty of dark wood, glowing chandeliers, and a brick-walled fireplace in the main dining room.
Unlike dinner, where a set menu is offered, lunch is entirely a la carte. The lineup of Mediterranean-inspired dishes from chef Tony Chittum includes the likes of squash soup with pumpkin seeds and amaretti cookies, rotisserie chicken and sausage cannelloni, and braised stuffed squid over saffron gnocchi. You’ll also find a variety of sandwiches, like a burger topped with burrata and a gyro stuffed with a rotating selection of wood-roasted meats, feta, and fries. The full menu is available here. On a day like today, a glass of Greek wine or warming ouzo should do the trick.
Regular lunch service will run Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 to 2:30.
When it comes to gelato, being freshly made isn’t necessarily a requirement—unlike, say, bread. It’s frozen regardless, right? But once you’ve tasted the cold stuff right out of the spinner—especially in flavors such as pomegranate, salted caramel, and local Honeycrisp apple—opinions change.
“It’s so much better than what you get at the shop, which is still good,” says Robb Duncan, co-owner of Dolcezza. “We taste it multiple times a day and say, ‘If only people could eat this.’”
Now people can. Duncan and wife/business partner Violeta have moved Dolcezza’s home base from a Georgetown shoebox to a 4,000-square-foot factory, tasting room, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters lab tucked behind Union Market. The facility will serve the four Dolcezza shops, as well as the restaurants and retailers who carry the line. The business will open to the public this Saturday between 2 and 6 for complimentary samples of gelato and coffee. Come March, the space will officially open, meaning guests can drop by for behind-the-scenes tours and perch in the 20-person bar to sip espressos and taste whatever cold sweets Duncan and his team are making from a variety of locally grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs.
The reason newly spun gelato excels over the packaged version has to do with temperature and texture. Tasting food at extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, tends to mask the flavor. The samples of Valrhona chocolate, ginger-cardamom-pistachio, and Honeycrisp apple are more robustly flavored as well as airier pre-deep freeze. (We could have eaten multiple scoops of the creamy pomegranate gelato made minutes earlier during our visit.) Once the operation is fully open in the spring, guests will be able to order bowls for $5.25, along with a variety of Stumptown pour-over coffees, specialty blends, and espresso drinks mixed with the same Perrydell Farm Dairy milk from Pennsylvania used to make the gelato.
Dolcezza factory. 500 Penn St., NE.
In a situation that’s more lease revival than lease renewal, Georgetown’s venerable La Chaumière restaurant announced it will serve its loyal patrons their beloved cassoulet, quenelles, and calf’s liver for another ten years. The co-owner of the French restaurant, Martin Lumet, said he’s not kidding about the cassoulet. “If one day I am out of cassoulet, I get phone calls, e-mails,” he says. “They want to know, ‘How could you be out of cassoulet?’”
La Chaumière was opened in 1976 by Gerard Pain, who sold it to Lumet and chef Patrick Orange in 2006. They renewed the lease in 2011, but then had to deal with tax issues that arose between the building’s owner and the city. The restaurant’s fate was in doubt. Now, Lumet says, the landlord has resolved the issues with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, and it’s all clear for the next decade.
In the list of Georgetown restaurants, La Chaumière is the quiet power spot, the hangout of the cave dwellers and old guard. It’s one of the last of the white-tablecloth bistros, where provenance is more important than flash. On any given night, sitting at one of the choice tables near the fireplace might be Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, lawyers Brendan Sullivan, Bob Bennett, or Tommy Boggs, architect Hugh Jacobsen, or Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. One famous night, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones walked in and settled in a banquette in the back.
Now that Lumet is assured of his lease for another ten years, we wondered whether he plans any changes. Lumet is adamant: No. He says his customers know what they like. “It’s true. My clientele doesn’t like change. I’ve received very severe warnings from them. I guess we won’t be serving sushi anytime soon.”
So there’s a Sriracha packet going for $10,000 on eBay. And no, it has never touched a celebrity hand. [Grub Street] —Anna Spiegel
Apparently there’s a Mystery Tipper—or tippers—giving away great gobs of money to waiters and waitresses across the country. Like, $3,000-a-pop gobs of money. And signing the bill—this is the creepy part, at least to me—“tips for Jesus.” There’s even a Twitter handle. Are we to believe that in an age of doctored photographs and crass and cynical Photoshopped stunts there is some do-gooding Claus out there, and that this is not just some desperate straining after virality? [Eater National] —Todd Kliman
More receipts: Some restaurants are now using them to guilt diners into eating better. Note to Fox: it’s not “eating healthier,” it’s “eating more healthfully” [Fox News] —TK
If you steal $26K of arguably the best bourbon made, don’t sell it. The joyous lifetime of drinking it is worth more than that. [The Wire] —Chris Campbell
Shameless plug: In time for holiday shopping, the excellent, award-winning blog the Gray Report has put together a list of books about wine—not a year’s best, since most of these books were published over the past decade, and not a compendium to help readers learn more about wine. Just “great, fun to read” books. Anyway, The Wild Vine is one of them. Thank you, Gray Report. I’m honored to be included. [The Gray Report] —TK
The culinary world lost a great member this week. Judy Rodgers of San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe passed at 57 after fighting cancer. The LA Times pays tribute to the influential chef. [LA Times] —AS
Eater National also takes a look at her beloved cookbook, and gathers reflections from fellow chefs and writers. [Eater National] —AS
Behold: amazing shadow art made of trash (and sometimes foodstuffs). [This Is Marvelous] —CC
Food or art? Jeff Gordinier takes a look at masterful plating (plus a slideshow for your afternoon entertainment). [New York Times] —AS
Millennials have even more backup to their whining: Research shows their terrible eating habits start before they’re born. [NYT] —CC
One thing that never ceases to blow my mind is the struggle for those on food stamps to eat a legitimate meal. It reminds me to not get hung up about the 75th restaurant to open on 14th Street. [Burlington Free Press] —CC
Missed your usual set of lunch trucks surrounding Franklin Square on Monday? It’s likely due to the District’s new food truck regulations regarding mobile roadway-vending (MRV) locations, which became active on December 1. Under the new rules, food trucks must enter a lottery system each month and are randomly assigned spots at eight vending locations. While many food truck operators feel optimistic about the changes, others say it could negatively impact business.
The designated areas—Farragut Square, Franklin Square, Union Station, State Department, L’Enfant Plaza, Navy Yard, Metro Center, and George Washington University—are DC’s hotspots for food truck traffic. Trucks have been assigned a different location for each day.
Doug Povich, chairman of the Food Truck Association and co-owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound trucks, says he and others in the association believe the MRV zones are good for the city.
“There were definitely issues on the streets as a result of too many trucks in the most popular areas causing problems with respect to parking and congestion, and something had to be done,” he says. “We think this solution, if implemented properly, should work pretty well.”
Other owners, including TaKorean’s Mike Lenard, are concerned about the implementation of these regulations.
“I think it takes a lot of government management in order to pull this off and that’s the part that I’m suspect about,” says Lenard, who founded the Food Truck Association. “There will need to be proper enforcement.”
Approximately 200 food trucks are licensed in DC, 107 of which have been allocated spots. There are a total of 95 parking spaces available per day; some food trucks were randomly given spots for four days a week, while others received five. Food trucks that missed the deadline for December will not be able to park at or within 200 feet of prime areas like Farragut Square, and are subject to a $1,000 fine if they do.
Since the lottery is held on a monthly basis, truck owners have the chance to apply toward the end of this month to secure a spot in February. Until then, unauthorized vendors will have to find places to park outside the MRV areas.
“It’s going to affect us very badly,” says Pervais Hamza, the operator of Halal Grill, who missed the deadline. “We don’t know what we are going to do until January. A lot of other trucks are giving up.”
Cirque Cuisine shut down last week, citing the new regulations as the main reason. Co-owners Sean Swartz and Jessica Shields applied for the lottery, but after getting the results, they decided it wasn’t worth it.
“We have spent three years cultivating our fan base at certain locations,” says Swartz. “Now we were being placed in areas we have never been or don’t like.”
Burgorilla is another food truck that has been operating on a business model built around a geographic schedule.
“We come to Farragut on Monday and have been coming for a year and a half. Most of my customers are regulars,” says Robert Estep, owner of Burgorilla and What the Pho?
Estep says what he loses in business may be balanced by savings on parking tickets. The new system allows food trucks that won the lottery to park in their locations for up to four hours—roughly the length of a regular lunch service. Owners pay $125 for the month if they accept their parking assignments, and don’t have to worry about meters.
“In between all my vehicles, I probably receive $1,000 worth of tickets a month,” Estep says.
Time will determine how the new rules will impact the food truck industry as a whole. Stay tuned for more developments.
Come December, you can get a taste of Menu at Table—and no, we don’t mean Table’s menu. Chef Frederik De Pue—who’s fond of naming restaurants after the inanimate objects within—is set to debut his next venture, called Menu, in January. Guests can get a sneak preview during a three-day pop-up at his Shaw bistro December 9 through 11.
The upcoming market/wine bar/restaurant will be housed in the same lofty Penn Quarter space where De Pue briefly operated Azur. The ground floor will operate as a specialized grocery and coffee bar, while the upper levels provide more of a sit-down experience with a wine bar and restaurant. Dishes from the latter will be previewed at Table in a three-course $45 menu, including desserts from newly hired pastry chef Jason Gehring (formerly the fried-dough master at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken). Will Menu boast an in-house bakery (called Oven) for European-style beignets? We can only hope so.