At Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong’s elegant Old Town dining room Restaurant Eve, the menu draws from a diverse set of influences: there’s Meshelle’s Filipino heritage, plus chef Cathal’s classical French training and the homespun Irish staples he grew up on. The wine list, overseen by sommelier Nikki Gulick, features several standout local gems as well as an impressive selection of Old World white wines (Burgundy, Alsace, and the Loire Valley). Here’s our advice for finding just the right glass or bottle.
If you’re getting the tempura soft-shell crabs with red curry: The 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis ($15 a glass) greets your tongue with flavors of Meyer lemon, yellow peach, and baking spices. A crisp finish accentuates the crab. If a few people at the table are ordering soft shells, consider grabbing a bottle ($60) of 2013 Michael Shaps ‘Honah Lee Vineyard’ Petite Manseng. Produced in Charlottesville, the dry white offers up lush notes of red delicious apple, ripe pear, and a little tropical-fruit sweetness.
If you’re trying the quail with fava bean purée, cornmeal pancakes, and chanterelles: Game birds just seem to flock to Rhone reds, so the 2011 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Villages ($11 a glass) works nicely. The masterful, full-bodied blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre has a spice-laced black- and red-fruit core and a touch of black licorice. The 2012 Château De Saint Cosme Rhone Blend ($96 a bottle) from Gigondas—which has excellent depth and an appealing finish with lingering spiciness—is a fantastic pick to share with the table.
If you’re getting the veal sweetbreads with braised yellow roma beans and veal jus: A French dish made in Virginia calls for a wine made by a Virginian in France, like the 2009 Maison Michael Shaps Pinot Noir ($19 a glass). It is full of cinnamon and orange peel on the nose and red cherry and red plum in the mouth. If you’re looking for a bottle, consider the 2011 Cristom ‘Sommers Reserve’ Pinot Noir ($78) from the Willamette Valley. I think Steve Doerner is one of the most thoughtful winemakers in Oregon, and he crafts a Pinot Noir that is both intense and charming, with notes of raspberry, mocha, and cola.
If you’re ordering the panang curry with soft tofu and pork belly: This dish presents a bit of a challenge. Since it’s very spicy, it could use the cooling elements of an off-dry white, but also the spicier attributes associated with a red. I turned to Nikki Gulick for some advice. “Alsace!” she said. “Spicy Thai dishes and Alsatian whites need each other. Oh, the stories I could tell of saving a meal by convincing a guest to switch from their oak-bomb to an off-dry white.” I like the 2010 Domaine Paul Blanck Auxerrois ($16 a glass), a wine that complements food like an off-dry Riesling, but also has the body of a Chardonnay. If you’re going to splurge on this course, do it with the 2012 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht ‘Clos Windsbuhl’ Gewürztraminer ($170 a bottle), which also hails from Alsace. This is a wine that I collect, and I was thrilled to see it on the list. It captures the essence of ripe tropical fruits (think pineapple, guava, and lychee) and is enhanced by a touch of cloves and honeysuckle on the finish.
And if you’re looking for that one bottle to make everyone at the table happy: The 2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Tinto ($120 a bottle) from Spain is Gulick’s pick: “This is one of my favorite wines ever. So complex, almost floral. It’s a very flexible wine for food, so if the husband is getting arctic char and you’re having steak, it’s a perfect compromise.”
Many of my friends look forward to this particular week in August as a time when their children head back to school and some form of order and structure returns to the household. But for me, it means only one thing: Restaurant Week.
The promotion runs through Sunday—although many places are extending it—and features three-course lunches for $22 and three-course dinners for $35. As a bonus, some restaurants are also featuring discount wine pairings. A few noteworthy offerings:
Glover Park’s Slate Wine Bar is featuring thoughtful pairings ($20 for three half-glass pours), including the Quinta Encontro is a red blend from chef Danny Lledó’s native Portugal that complements the duck-breast egg rolls.
G by Mike Isabella, which is extending RW through August 30th, offers two options alongside its Italian-American fare: a $29 flight of three wines and a premium selection for $39.
At Equinox, you can supplement Todd Grey's menu—which has a few vegan alternatives—with a $22 pairing.
Vidalia—which is known for especially generous Restaurant Week menus— is pouring some exceptional whites (Famille Perrin Viognier Blend Côtes du Rhône) and reds (Roblar Cabernet) for $10.50 a glass.
Free is my favorite four-letter word, and restaurateur Ashok Bajaj is pouring a complimentary glass of red or white at several of his places, including Ardeo+Bardeo, Bibiana, the Oval Room, Nopa Kitchen + Bar, and 701. Wines will differ depending on location.
Rasika, with locations in Penn Quarter and West End, is one of the top Indian restaurants in the country, with cooking that emphasizes complex spicing over searing heat. To go with it, Sam Haltiwanger—wine director at the newly renovated Penn Quarter location—has assembled a wine list with a wide variety of thoughtful selections (an Argentine sparkling brut rosé made from Malbec at $12 a glass; a rare 2006 Reisling from Nikolaihof-Wachau, an Austrian estate that is the oldest biodynamic winery in the world). Need help pairing your next meal there? Here’s what I’d recommend.
If you’re getting palak chaat: And who isn’t? The crispy spinach—dusted with chickpea flour, flash-fried, and then lightly dressed with a mix of yogurt and tamarind/date chutney—is the kitchen’s most popular dish. Try the 2013 St. Cosme “Little James Basket Press” White ($11 a glass; $44 a bottle), a gem from the Rhone Valley. The blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Sec, and Viognier is fresh and aromatic, with lovely flavors of peach, lemon, and tangerine that balance the sweetness of the chutney yet cut through the yogurt.
If you’re having the chicken biryani: My favorite dish on the menu is this chicken baked in a casserole with aromatic spices and basmati rice, topped with a puff pastry, and served with a side of cooling raita. It calls for a big white that can both stand up to the spices and complement the chicken. The 2012 Sine Qua Non “In the Abstract” is a rare find on restaurant wine lists. The blend of white Rhone grapes (including Viognier and Roussanne) and Chardonnay from the cult wine producer Manfred Krankl is worth the splurge. It is a viscous wine, with cascading flavors of ripe apricot, white nectarine, grilled peaches, and baked apples—powerful and elegant at the same time. One caveat—at $295 a bottle, it ain’t cheap.
If you’re ordering tandoori salmon: The fish is coated with Kashmiri chilies, cinnamon, and black pepper, and then baked in a traditional tandoor. Given the smoky heat of the dish, I’d go for the 2010 Westrey Oracle Vineyard Pinot Noir ($58 a bottle) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which has aromas of cherry cola, black plums, and baking spices. Hints of cinnamon on the finish add an exclamation point to both the wine and the salmon, while smooth tannins cut through the rich texture.
If you’re playing it safe with chicken tikka masala: I don’t mean to seem obvious here, but an off-dry Riesling, like the 2012 Mercer from Yakima Valley, Washington ($56 a bottle) is a great match. The lush juiciness of the honeysuckle, lychee, and tangerine flavors plays off of the spices, and the bright acidity is the perfect foil for the rich, creamy sauce. A slight effervescence adds a refreshing touch.
If you’re sharing a bunch of things: There are some cool picks for both white and red wine lovers to share here. I think the 2013 Luigi Tacchino Gavi di Gavi ($50 a bottle) is a versatile, well-balanced white that was born to pair with a variety of things—it’d be great with mild seafood, like the black cod with dill, and with chicken dishes. Red wine aficionados should spring for the multi-faceted 2012 Chateau Raspail ($95 a bottle) from the Gigondas region of the Rhône Valley. Made from a blend of Grenache and Syrah, this cousin of Chateauneuf du Pape offers up a flamboyant bouquet of red and blue fruits mixed with crushed rock and floral undertones. It’d pair deliciously with many of the cheese-based dishes and vegetarian selections.
Historian turned distiller Steve Bashore leads a small team that uses historically correct methods, wooden buckets, and copper-pot stills to eke out two batches of whiskey on average a year. It’s worth a visit just to take in the aroma of wood smoke and sweet rye, but the gift shop does carry bottles that sell out quickly after each release.
Scott and Becky Harris strategically situated their distillery in Purcellville in the heart of Virginia wine country, and even staunch wine lovers admit their Roundstone Rye’s warming spice and mellow sweetness are as comforting as a buxom Bordeaux. Skeptical? Try their Virginia Brandy, made from local grapes and aged in real Bordeaux barrels.
This year-old St. Michaels outfit churns out spot-on corn andrye whiskeys as well as white rum, but distiller Ben Lyon’s staple is dark rum, a blend of molasses and sugar cane distilled in particularly small pots to heighten the caramelized goodness, then aged in barrels.
Edgardo Zuniga—a former sous chef at Old Ebbitt Grill, Founding Farmers, and Clyde’s—is the first to tell you he’s learning as he goes. But only a few months into full-bore production in Rockville, Zuniga already hits all the right notes in his Seneca Bay Rum. He recently completed what he believes is Maryland’s first-ever batch of bourbon.
Inside an unassuming cinder-block building near Union Market is a state-of-the art, sculptural copper still imported from Germany that produces Green Hat, a gin distantly related to the standard juniper-laden London Dry. Herbal flavors are emphasized for a unique and, frankly, better G&T experience.
Set to open in the new year, One Eight ’s tasting room on Okie Street, off Northeast DC’s New York Avenue, will feature its gin and rye whiskey but will also bring DC’s first vodka since Prohibition, made from local grain. One Eight’s proximity to New Columbia and Atlas Brew Works will make the Ivy City neighborhood a boozehound’s paradise.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
The newest member of the District's growing local drinking scene makes its debut on Saturday. One Eight Distiling, DC's second production distillery since Prohibition, opens its doors in Ivy City just off New York Avenue, Northeast. Founders Sandy Wood, Alex Laufer, and Jared Earley invite spirits fans in for free tours of the 7,500-square-foot production space and samples of the first two products: District Made Vodka and Rock Creek Whiskey. Here's what to know before you go.
The vodka isn't tasteless.
Bar buffs are known to turn up their noses at vodka, the supposedly characterless, flavorless drink. The One Eight team hopes to change that perception with their version.
"There's a notion that vodka should have no flavor and that it's easy to make," says Wood, who worked at distilleries in the US and Scotland before opening in DC. "Neither are true unless you're an industrial producer."
The team uses a rye base—instead of more common potato or wheat—to lend a depth of flavor to the spirit, which also imparts a touch of sweetness. In addition to mixing cocktails like a Moscow mule, Wood says it's tasty sipped neat.
Local means more than just a District address.
Another reason for picking rye as the mash base for both the vodka and whiskey is that it's a local crop with a history in the mid-Atlantic. The grain was the top choice for pre-Prohibition distilleries, and is partially sourced for One Eight from Maryland's Eastern Shore; more comes from North Carolina. The name also nods to DC. Among other things Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution called for the establishment of a district as the nation's capital.
You can try One Eight's brown liquor in two-plus years.
Currently the distillery bottles its unaged, "white" whiskey, which is less sweet than a corn-based version, with touches of spice. More whiskey is aging in new, charred American oak barrels (a legal requirement for producing American bourbon). Smaller 25-gallon barrels may be released as soon as a year and a half from now, but larger 52-gallon versions won't be ready for at least two, with plans to hold some barrels eight years and beyond.
Gin is on the way.
Green Hat won't be the only District gin producer in the neighborhood in a few weeks once One Eight's Ivy City Gin is released. The team is still toying with the formula, but plans for a less herbaceous, drier type of gin. Variations for the future could include a Genever-style (more juniper-flavored), and a barrel-aged line.
Tours are free, and food truck eats are available.
The distillery will be open for free tours and tastings (21+ only) on Saturday from 1 to 4, starting this week. Admission is first come, first served, and groups will be kept fairly small to allow for questions. Once production is up and running, the team plans to collaborate with local restaurants, bars, and liquor stores—but for now you can buy bottles of the vodka ($36) and white whiskey ($34) on premises. A lineup of food trucks has been scheduled to provide food, starting with Red Hook Lobster Pound this Saturday. Still, don't plan to booze up on location; District law limits to three spirit samples per person, per day.
One Eight Distilling. 1135 Okie St., NE; 202-636-6638. Open to the public Saturdays from 1 to 4; large groups of 30 or more by appointment.
We’ve seen far more restaurant openings than closings of late, but sadly a neighborhood favorite is on the outs. A.M. Wine Shoppe, the Adams Morgan market from Cashion’s Eat Place owner Justin Abad and chef John Manolatos, is set to close its doors on Monday, October 7. Abad says the team was unable to reach an agreement on the lease’s renewal terms with their landlord, and decided to shutter the operation after three-plus years of selling wine, charcuterie, and deli sandwiches.
On the positive side, Abad and Manolatos are turning their attention toward opening a new concept. Much is still in the works, including a location, which Abad hopes to find in Adams Morgan or possibly Shaw. The ideal: a full-service neighborhood restaurant that’s more casual than Cashion’s but still focused on quality, seasonal ingredients.
“It’ll be the kind of place John or I would want to go and relax on a Tuesday night,” says Abad.
In the meantime, stop by the wine shop before it’s gone for good. Steep discounts are planned for all remaining items during the last week of business.
If you’re doing it right, buying a bottle of wine for someone is a highly personal gesture. You have to know what your giftee likes—Chardonnay, sparkling wine, dry South African varietals, etc.—and offer something that will fit their tastes while also presenting the chance to try something new. For the wine-drinking mother, a well-chosen bottle is a no-brainer gift. Mom feels special, then buzzed; siblings—petals falling from the sad little bouquets clutched in their fists—shrink in the certain knowledge of your new status as favorite kid forever. (Okay maybe not forever, but certainly through Sunday.)
Great news: This moment of M-Day glory can be achieved by even the most novice of wine purchasers, thanks to this mère-minded list of white and rosé options selected by wine experts around town. The best part? They’re all under $25—less than it costs to order a dozen daffodils to Mom’s door.
Some people think about what beer and wines to pair with their food every day. Others think about it, like, once a year—on Valentine’s Day, for instance. Whichever side you fall on, this list should help you find something to drink alongside that extravagant home-cooked feast.
We dreamed up eight Valentine’s Day menus—all of which, given a little preparation and patience, are totally doable at home. Then we challenged Greg Engert and Brent Kroll—the lead beer and wine experts at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Birch & Barley, Evening Star Cafe, Vermilion, and more)—to come up with suitable pairings for each. They went above and beyond with some inspired choices to ensure your February 14 dinner really stands out. Call the fine wine and beer store near you to find out if they stock the selections below—then get cooking.
You’re cooking: A classic beef bourguignon.
Greg suggests: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Brasserie Franches-Montagnes, Switzerland
This annually released ale is composed of strong, soured red ales aged in countless wine and spirit barrels, then masterfully blended. What results is a vinous brew, one that dovetails with the red wine braising liquid. The acidity of Bon-Chien—which digs into the stew—is balanced by toasty, oaky sweetness that mellows the tang of the garlic and herbs while complementing the rich flavors of the braised beef.
Brent suggests: 2003 Chateau Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
With a dish like this, it’s easy to lean toward Rhone or Bordeaux varietals. This wine is a blend of both that has bottle age, earth, very ripe fruit, and spice. Although the dish originates from Burgundy, it’s a little strong for most Pinot Noirs. The Musar is tailor-made for the weight and secondary notes of mushrooms, onions, and garlic usually found in the dish.
You’re cooking: Filet mignon with mashed potatoes and braised greens.
Greg suggests: Ayinger Celebrator, Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer, Germany
As filet mignon is a lean cut with restrained flavor intensity, I like a brew that is potent yet composed, bold without being big. Doppelbocks, like Celebrator, offer just the right amount of dark bread, toffee, and candied fruit to simultaneously sauce the dish and echo the caramelized (i.e., seared) exterior of the steak.
Washington’s bartenders are getting a lot of national magazine love of late, confirming what we already know: The District drinking scene is pretty great and just keeps getting better.
GQ just published a big beer-filled issue that lists ChurchKey and Birch & Barley as one of its 12 Bars for Beer Lovers, alongside Bailey’s Taproom in Portland and Brooklyn’s Spuytin Duyvil. (Unfortunately we didn’t make it into the 5 Best Beer Cities in America category—damn you, Philly.)
Rogue 24 cheftender Bryan Tetorakis is named Mixologist of the Month by the tony folks at Wine Enthusiast for his molecular spins on classic drinks. We’ve been fans of Tetorakis’s work for awhile, from smoked highballs at an outdoor concert to a spin on an Aviation cocktail with a cherry sphere at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser. Meanwhile, Rogue 24 chef R.J. Cooper is making a few Internet waves of his own: He’s set to appear in a six-episode Web show called Chefs of Anarchy, beginning this Thursday.
What Washington bars do you think should be getting more attention, national or otherwise? Leave us your suggestions in the comments section.
Attention, shoppers: It’s time for happy hour. Thrillist brought word* this morning that several area Whole Foods have recently launched bars, including locations in Arlington, Alexandria, and Tenleytown, with a P Street pub on the way in October. (Sorry, Marylanders, you still can’t buy alcohol in the grocery store, let alone drink it.)
Fueling your market run are local draft beers, wines by the glass, and organic coffee and espresso drinks. Each store has a slightly different layout, but you can grab a stool at all three bars for a boozy shopping break, take your beverage into the more spacious cafe seating areas to pair with your meal, or carry drinks around the store while you browse. To that end, shopping cart cup holders are in the works.