One of our more spirited soirees is almost here: On the Rocks, an extensive cocktail party going down at Union Market on December 3. Tickets for the whiskey- and fine spirits-focused event can be purchased at the discounted early-bird price of $45 until Wednesday.
During the party, guests can mingle while sipping an array of whiskeys, high-end tequilas, gins, vodka, and Scotches. Snacks and live music round out the fun.
Passes are still available after the discounts run out, but the cost goes up to $65. Grab your tickets soon, and don't forget to check out scenes from last year's blowout.
Hanging with a bunch of friends for Thanksgiving dinner can be a blast. But just because crazy Aunt Alice is out of the picture doesn't make things easy. Like any big dinner party, there are plenty of dos and don'ts for hosts and guests alike. Here are the ten most important for a successful—and worry-free—Friendsgiving.
1. Accept and seek help
I promise you’ll regret saying “just yourself” when guests ask what to bring. The best Friendsgiving plan of attack is potluck-style, where the host makes the turkey—no one wants to schlep an 18-pound bird—and everyone brings a side dish, dessert, or booze.
Say you and/or your friends can do little more than microwave ramen. Turkey is like the Mount Everest of roasting—except much, much drier. Skip the headache and get a whole restaurant-prepared feast to go—here's our 2014 Turkey Day takeout guide—or supplement your centerpiece with sides and desserts. Even a spread of appetizers and snacks are a great place to outsource, as everyone can nibble happily away while tending to the main meal.
2. Inquire about allergies/dietary restrictions
No, don’t make a separate tofurkey for the one vegetarian. Sadly, though, if you want to be a good host, you’ll need to ask guests about allergies or restrictions upon invitation. Even if the whole meal doesn’t cater to their needs—and it shouldn’t—you can be mindful of omitting bacon/cheese/wheat in one or two dishes, and can always ask that they bring supplemental items.
3. Buy bulk booze
Yes, Thanksgiving can be a feel-good, homey meal. But it’s also an expensive one to prepare, especially if you're not going potluck-style. One place to save: alcohol. Unless you're asking each guest to b.y.o.—never a bad idea if they're not contributing food—opt for a case of wine. A dozen bottles may sound excessive, but it's often cheaper than grabbing a few from Whole Foods. Georgetown's "social" Safeway, for example, has great deals on cases for members (and the sign-up is free).
4. Borrow dishes
So. Many. Dishes. A full Thanksgiving spread requires a catering company's worth of pots, pans, and serving vessels. Don’t feel bad asking guests to bring gravy boats, platters, wine glasses, etc., or borrowing your friend’s cookware for advance prep.
5. Remember ice
Barbecues and copious amount of ice go hand-in-hand, but Thanksgiving? Trust me, get lots of ice. Someone will want to chill beer, another person wants ice water, a third brought pumpkin ice cream for dessert (lame) and there’s no space in the freezer. And for that matter, remember water glasses. Friendsgiving can’t be fueled on whiskey and wine alone.
1. Follow directions
Hosts, especially foodie hosts, tend to have menus in mind—and your grandma’s potatoes may sadly not be part of the plan. Ask what you can provide, as well as some more detailed questions. Is the meal traditional or follow another kind of cuisine? Does he/she need any vegetarian/gluten-free additions to the lineup? Once you’ve received marching orders, don’t go rogue (unless it’s the direction below).
2. But always ignore one
“Just yourself.” No, never bring just yourself, even if the host is a kitchen wiz with a stocked bar. An extra bottle of booze or wine never hurts, or opt for a flower bouquet or hostess gift if they seem truly set on alcohol. Another great addition to Friendsgiving: board games. Did someone say post-pie Jenga?
3. Be respectful about allergies/dietary restrictions
Sorry, Paleos, normal folks don’t want to prepare a Thanksgiving free of dairy, refined sugar, and most carbs, a.k.a. 99 percent of what makes Turkey Day wonderful. If you can take a break from dieting, or pick around certain items, try to stay mum about culinary quibbles. On the flip side, a conscientious host will be horrified that you never mentioned vegetarianism and can’t eat a single dish he/she cooked. Best to speak up early in strict cases—yes, even if they don’t ask—and offer to bring something.
4. Clean before pie
A mammoth pile of dishes isn’t daunting if everyone pitches in, so pour yet another glass of wine and tackle the first round of pans before slicing the pie. That way there’s more stomach room for dessert, and you can slip into a guilt-free food coma at the end.
5. Start traditions
Friendsgiving doesn’t have to be a haphazard "orphan" gathering. If you have a blast, offer to host a similar gathering the next year. If your stuffing was the talk of the party, send everyone a copy of the recipe. Friends can be family, too.
Just in time for frigid weather comes Denson Liquor Bar, a cozy, subterranean watering hole from the Ghibellina and Acqua Al 2 team. Mindful Restaurant Group co-owners Ari and Stacy Gejdenson debut the Art Deco-style space in Penn Quarter on Wednesday, bringing classic cocktails and late-night noshing to 600 F Street, Northwest. Here’s what to know before you drop in—or under.
The inspiration: A hotel bar in the 1920s. The Art Deco style runs throughout, from bronze inlay tables and black-and-white tiling to pull-chain toilets in the bathrooms.
The cocktails: Classic. While the barmen get riff-ier at sister watering hole Harold Black, here you’ll find a more straightforward list with a Negroni, Sazerac, Aviation, and Hemingway daiquiri. For those who like their spirits stiffer, the bar pours one- and two-ounce servings of fine whiskeys and Scotches.
The best seat in the house: A corner booth to the right of the door. Not that you have too much choice in the 49 person-capacity bar, lined with deep leather booths. Still, if you want to gaze over the scene while also discreetly sipping drinks with a date, this is the place.
The fun fact: Booths are divided by chicken-wire glass from the historic Hecht Warehouse. The panes are not only a cool memento of DC's past, but also a nod to its future. Gejdenson's next project involves bringing three concepts to the restored building, which is being transformed into the mixed-use Hecht Warehouse District development. While plans aren’t fully set, at least one project will be a sit-down restaurant, the first of its kind in Ivy City.
The “hotel” food: Better than real hotel food, which doesn’t have the best reputation. The small menu follows the bar's theme, serving an eclectic mix that a traveler might enjoy. Guests can snack on bar nuts or cheese and charcuterie platters, or take comfort in warm dishes like a Cubano panini or curried-chicken pot pie.
The late-night noshes: Still to be set, but you’ll likely find that spicy pot pie. The full menu runs until 11:30 most evenings, with a few eats served until last call.
Denson Liquor Bar. 600 F St., NW. Open Monday through Thursday 5 to 2, Friday and Saturday 5 to 3. Closed Sunday.
Big news for Arlingtonians: chef Jonah Kim, recently of the shuttered Pabu at the Four Seasons Baltimore, will open Yona, a noodle bar at 4000 Wilson Boulevard. Restaurateur Mike Isabella is a partner in the project, but will not oversee the menu.
The Ballston eatery is set to be a full-service restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. The Korean-born, Japanese-trained Kim plans to serve traditional tonkotsu (pork-based) ramen, as well as several riffs on the noodle soup. Evenings will bring small plates—think steamed duck buns, crispy Brussels sprouts, and Korean double-fried chicken with a spicy bourbon glaze. Lunch will be geared more toward the business crowd, with quick eats like donburi rice bowls. Taha Ismail, the beverage director for Isabella’s restaurant group, Mike Isabella Concepts, is behind the sake, beers, and cocktails.
Yona is slated for spring 2015, and will mark yet another expansion for MIC. Isabella is slated to open two eateries next door: Kapnos Taverna in December, and Pepita next year. Could Wilson Boulevard become the new 14th Street? Possibly, if Isabella has anything to do with it.
News of chefs on the move: Lindsay Autry, a finalist on the Texas-set Top Chef season nine, will take over at Firefly. A representative for the restaurant says current toque Todd Wiss is headed outside Washington to work at sister Kimpton Hotel properties.
Autry comes to the Dupont Circle stalwart from Florida, where she held executive chef positions at the Sundy House and the Omphoy Ocean Restort. She’s often described her cooking style as a blend of Mediterranean and Southern flavors, stemming from her hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina. She made it to the second-to-last episode on her Top Chef season, losing to Sarah Grueneberg and Paul Qui, the Austin chef (and occasional DC popper-upper) who went on to win the title.
Look for new items coming from Autry in the coming weeks.
It's getting truly cold outside, but instead of ruing winter, we're dreaming about all the belly-warming, rib-sticking, downright delicious dishes frigid temperatures bring. Here are some of our favorites.
Soup and roast chicken at Baby Wale
1124 Ninth St., NW
Chef/owner Tom Power has long been Washington's "soup whisperer," turning out stellar snapper bisque and creamy Parmesan-cauliflower at Corduroy. The same quality can be found at its more casual sibling, where you can linger at the bar over a steaming bowl while waiting for one of the city's best roast chickens for two (which requires 45 minutes). Too long? The rib eye with shallot jus and fries is also fantastic.
Portuguese seafood stew at Ris
2275 L St., NW
Whether we're dropping in for a simple grilled cheese and tomato soup or a fancier dinner, Ris is a go-to for comfort fare. Try a bowl of seafood stew, rich with clams, mussels, shrimp, octopus, and spicy linguiça sausage, served with grilled bread for mopping up all the delicious tomato broth.
Floating market noodle soup at Nava Thai
11301 Fern St., Wheaton
Like clockwork, cold weather brings on cravings for this mouth-searing soup. Ask for the complex broth at full heat to achieve a comfortable sweat, though milder palates can still savor the spicy-sour brew and its abundance of chewy rice noodles, meatballs, herbs, and crunchy pork skin.
Fireside gyro at the Iron Gate
1734 N St., NW
Gyros by the fire may not be a traditional pairing, but hey, a pile of wood-roasted pork, yogurt, fries, and tangy feta atop fresh pita bests cocoa any day. While the gyro du jour is only offered at lunch in the cozy dining room, the hearth burns bright throughout the afternoon.
Lamb chili at G by Mike Isabella
2201 14th St., NW
One of the best chilis in the city, hands down. Smoky bits of spit-roasted lamb are folded into the ground meat, simmered with beer and plenty of spice. A topping of harissa yogurt and kicky Sriracha peas (think zestier wasabi peas) drives the dish home. Here's a home-cook-friendly recipe for taking a stab.
Delivery ramen from Toki Underground
1234 H St., NE/your home
Sure, Toki is an obvious choice on a bone-chilling day. So obvious that you may be left waiting in the cold for one of the few coveted stools. Thankfully, the ramen shop teamed up with newish delivery service Caviar, and so far the results have been good. Obviously the noodle soups are best on premises, but we're willing to take a slight dip in quality for the comfort of the couch.
Dhaniawala korma (cilantro-chili curry) at Angeethi
645 Elden St., Herndon
Though this filling dish doesn't bring the heat level of certain Indian curries, the mix of slow-cooked chicken, green chilies, and abundant cilantro is plenty warming. Order a side of fresh naan for dipping.
Cassoulet at Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Rd., NW
Chef Cedric Maupillier's menu is filled with robust dishes, especially the meaty side. The king: cassoulet, a mix of house-made sausages, pork, white beans, and a crisp crumb topping. Warm up further by ordering the flaming baked Alaska for dessert.
Sisig at 7107 Bistro
513 23rd St., Arlington
Few plates look as warm as they taste. This traditional Filipino dish is an exception, arriving at the table in a sizzling skillet. Pig ears get a lengthy soak in a soy marinade to tenderize, and are mixed with seared belly, onions, and chilies, as well as a bright squeeze of calamansi juice.
Cacio e pepe pasta at Lupo Verde
1401 T St., NW
This pasta made with butter, cheese, salt, and pepper is so simple that it's almost a shame to order out. Almost. We changed our minds when trying the kitchen's irresistibly rich version with house-made tonnarelli noodles.
Braised pork belly rice bowls at Daikaya
705 Sixth St., NW
It's tough to pass up steaming bowls of ramen downstairs, but the second-floor izakaya is a wonderfully cozy place to hole up with a rice bowl at lunch. The menu offers a number of varieties, including a standout braised pork belly with spicy kimchi and a fried egg. Another great option for hearty bowls: Donburi in Adams Morgan, which serves an excellent pork katsudon, though you're not guaranteed a seat in the 14-stool shoebox. Luckily, the place does swift takeout business.
Finally, lobster-on-a-stick has arrived. Lobster ME, the Las Vegas-based seafood spot and creator of the "lobsicle," opens its first East Coast location in Westfield Montgomery Mall on Friday. The new eatery is part of a multimillion-dollar revamp for the shopping center, which recently added the upscale ArcLight Cinemas and a "dining terrace"—a.k.a. fancy food court.
While lobby-pops are a big attraction, the menu (sample) boasts crustaceans folded into mac and cheese cheese or tacos, chilled atop salad, and tucked into a global variety of rolls. There's also a "not lobster" section with the likes of hot dogs or fish and chips. Then again, when you're in the presence of a deep-fried lobster-pop, there should be no other option.
The eatery opens on Friday, November 21, and will serve from 11 to 9 Monday through Saturday, and 11 to 6 on Sunday.
Supper club returns: Chez Le Commis is back on Monday, popping up at Le Bon Cafe on Capitol Hill. Reservations have already been booked for the first session, but at 8:30 the doors open for a first come, first served four-course meal ($60, $90 with wine pairings). Don't feel like waiting? Try cassoulet to go starting at 6:30 ($20 for a two-person serving).
Week of booze: RAMW launches its second annual Cocktail Week on Monday. More than 55 Washington restaurants participate, preparing specialty cocktails paired with bites (price varies) through Sunday. Check out the full list of eateries and what they're serving on the event page.
Cookbook party: Award-winning chef Sean Brock of Charleston restaurants Husk and McCrady's heads to America Eats Tavern on Tuesday for a dinner surrounding the release of his new cookbook, Heritage. The meal ($60 per person) begins at 6:30 and includes dishes prepared from recipes in the book—guests take home a copy—as well as Trump Winery wines.
The three Fs: Those would be "funky," "foraged," and "fermented," the theme of a nearly weeklong dinner series at Boundary Road beginning on Tuesday. The kitchen offers a mushroom, cheese, and beer pairing ($30)—such as grilled lobster mushrooms, cabra la mancha cheese, and a five-ounce brew—starting at 5:30 nightly. No reservations required.
Get in the spirit: Wisdom barman/owner Erik Holzherr hosts a discussion and book signing on Tuesday at 7 with author Matt Teacher to mark the release of Teacher's new work, The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival. Learn more about the spirit while sipping a specialty flight put together by the duo.
Welcome, Deschutes: ChurchKey welcomes Oregon's Deschutes Brewery to Washington on Tuesday by offering six of its drafts, including chef José Andrés's collaborative Zarabanda beer. Stop in for the brews starting at 6, which can be paired with cheeses and desserts all evening.
Duck dinner: Chef Dean Gold hosts a quack-tastic meal on Wednesday at Dino's Grotto, where guests get a ten-tasting duck dinner with duck rillettes and pastrami, duck-schmaltz matzo soup, duck Bolognese, and more. Various seatings from 6 to 9:45 are either $79 or $89, all-inclusive, plus optional beverage pairings.
Winemakers on site: The team behind Sonoma's Idle Cellars visits Republic for a five-course pairing dinner on Wednesday at 7 ($80 per person). Each dish, such as hamachi crudo or braised short ribs with roasted mushrooms, is paired with a different glass of vino.
Beaujolais est arrivé: Washington welcomes the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau this week. Two great dining options for celebrating the annual release of the French wine on Thursday: Central and Mintwood Place. The latter offers $10 glasses and $40 bottles alongside belly-warming boeuf bourguignon made with the vin, priced at a happy hour discount all night. Over at Central, guests can sip two kinds of Beaujolais as well as pick from a list of discounted Burgundies. The kitchen offers an à-la-carte pairing menu, with dishes such as crispy pork belly with braised green lentils and crepes Suzette. The promotion runs through Saturday. Feel more like a party? Head to Malmaison at 9, which throws a vintage-style soiree with French music, dancing, and an open Beajolais bar.
An evening chez Prune: Gabrielle Hamilton, chef/owner of New York's famed Prune and author of Blood, Bones, and Butter, spends an evening with guests at Buck's Fishing and Camping on Thursday. The meal, cohosted by Politics & Prose, is held in conjunction with her new cookbook, Prune. Chef Amy Brandwein prepares recipes from the book. Tickets start at $150, and include a copy of the book.
Sweet conversation: Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan appears at Sixth & I on Thursday at 6 to discuss her new work, Baking Chez Moi, and sign copies. Tickets are $15, or get two free passes with the $40 purchase of the book.
Free food: Delaware-based sandwich chain Capriotti's celebrates the one-year anniversary of its inaugural Washington location on Friday with a lunch giveaway at the M Street spot. The first 50 people in line at 11 receive a free Bobbie (Thanksgiving-style turkey). And yes, you may see Joe Biden.
Winter beer fest: The DC Craft Beer Festival arrives at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday, with 75 breweries offering tastes of more than 150 local and national brews. Tickets can be purchased for two sessions—2 to 4:30 or 7 to 9:30—and range from $49 to $110 for VIP experiences.
The leftovers: Far less troubling than the Guilty Remnant, but still problematic: Thanksgiving leftovers. Blue Duck Tavern is here to help with a class on Saturday that teaches guests how to turn day-old dishes into a feast of turkey dumpling soup, pumpkin pie milkshakes, and more. Tickets are $65, which includes tastes of several holiday dishes.
Tons of truffles: Sample the luxurious mushrooms at a fairly affordable price during Seasonal Pantry's Dine and Dash on Sunday. Chef Dan O'Brien prepares house-made fettucine with butter sauce and white truffles for $35, plus an optional glass of wine for $5. Seating is limited to 12 at a time between noon and 9, so call early for reservations.