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.
The Long Island Iced Tea may bring back (hazy) memories of college, but there’s no reason this booze bomb should be relegated to sophomore year. Just ask Jack Rose Dining Saloon cocktail guru and documented LIT aficionado Rachel Sergi.
“I absolutely love them,” says Sergi, whose friend and fellow bartending superstar Gina Chersevani is also a fan. “I love iced tea to begin with, and me and Gina work hard on making cocktails all the time. But every once in a while, we want something that just tastes easy. It’s either a Long Island done properly or nothing.”
Sergi’s advice on being certain that a given bar is an LIT-safe space? “Ask if they have sour mix on the gun.” If the answer is yes, you should probably steer clear. Better yet, whip up your own version at home with Sergi’s recipe, which doesn’t stray too far from the common potent mix of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, a sour element, and Coca-Cola. Instead of bottled sour mix, Sergi uses fresh lemon juice and citrusy Bols Blue Curaçao, and swaps out the Coke float for an easy-to-make cola syrup. The best news for your end-of-summer bash: You can brew a big batch in advance (keeping the syrup on the side) and mix to order or let guests pour their own. It should go without saying, this is one powerful concoction—consume accordingly.
Punched up with flavor combinations such as purple basil and pink peppercorn, bartender Nicole Hassoun’s custom tonics have earned the Gin Joint—the twinkly little boîte below the New Heights restaurant in Woodley Park—a following among gin-and-tonic lovers. So much so that she even teaches a popular class on making tonic (the weekly lessons are sold out through September, but check the website in a few weeks for an updated schedule).
By Jessica Voelker
A trip to the Museum of American History is always an edifying experience, but all the learnin’ goes down a lot easier when you’ve got a strong drink in your hand. Last Wednesday, guests of the museum had the very cool opportunity to sip cocktails made by some of the city’s best bartenders at an event called Raise a Glass to the Silver Screen, part of the Mingle at the Museum series and a collaboration with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) in New Orleans.
The Tabard Inn’s Chantal Tseng and Tim Burt served up gin drinks inspired by The Thin Man, while Passenger ’tenders mixed and poured at the Casablanca table. Local cocktail scribe Philip Greene, a MOTAC cofounder, served as emcee, taking guests through a montage of cocktail cameos in films like The Idle Class, Animal House, and Dead Reckoning.
Check out the slideshow for a close-up look at the boozy event, and visit MOTAC’s website to find out about future opportunities to learn while you drink.
Eat Local: Join Think Local First for a week of farm-to-table menus and events celebrating Washington’s regional bounty. Tonight’s gathering is at Ris, a happy hour and salon dinner celebrating women who lead the local food movement. The full lineup is available on the website; it includes garden tours, cocktails, seminars, and street parties.
Restaurant-Hop in Maryland: Bethesda/Chevy Chase Restaurant Week runs Monday through Sunday. Participating restaurants like Food Wine & Co., Jaleo, and Assaggi offer two- or three-course lunches ($13 and $16, respectively) and $33 dinners.
By Anna Spiegel
Bastille Day is this Saturday, and whether you prefer to drink old-world wines, indulge in buttery delicacies, or dash across the street in a French maid costume, there’s a celebration out there for you.
Party at the Embassy: The International Club cohosts a grande fête at the French Embassy beginning at 7 PM on Friday, probably the swankiest affair held in honor of Bastille Day. Don svelte cocktail or “festive ’20s” attire and get ready for dinner, dancing, an open bar, and a silent auction (tickets are $100 and available online).
Run in Your French Maid Outfit: It wouldn’t be Bastille Day—or Adams Morgan, for that matter—without scantily clad party people running across the street. L’Enfant Café makes it official, closing down Vernon Street for its 6 PM “running of the maids” as well as a blowout party with a beer garden, a food truck pavilion, sandwiches from A.M. Wine Shoppe, deejays, can-can dancers, and a masquerade street ball. Bring $5 for the entrance fee, or buy tickets online. 3 to 11 PM.
Or Fast-Walk With Bread: Paul Bakery and Café in Penn Quarter carb-loads a baton relay during its second annual Baguette Relay Race. Six-person teams (adults race at 10:30 AM, children at 11) walk briskly around the US Navy Memorial; the winner receives a $25 gift certificate to Paul.
The scorching temperatures are bad enough—not to mention fierce storms causing the lights (and A/C) to fail for hundreds of thousands of people. The power companies may be dragging their feet, but fortunately the bars and restaurant have your back. Here are six deals popping up today to help you beat the heat, from cheap drinks to summery dishes.
Half-Price Iced Tea and Lattes at Bayou Bakery
Until the power is back in Arlington, chef-owner David Guas is filling 20-ounce glasses with half-price pours of hibiscus-ginger iced tea and basil-mint lattes. Factor in ample seating and free wi-fi, and you may have just found your new office.
Unlimited Refills at Dino
Forget super-size sodas—the Dino crew are pouring limitless glasses of non-alcoholic house-made drinks while the weather stays unreasonably hot, such as grapefruit fizzes, ginger ale, and local blackberry or strawberry limeade. They’re also waving the $3 fee for their purified still and sparkling water.
Frozen Rooftop Cocktails at Donovan House
As if you needed another incentive to sip poolside drinks on this swank Kimpton Hotel rooftop, the bartenders are mixing up $5 frozen Hurricanes and Dark and Stormy cocktails. Get yours during happy hour this week, 5 to 7 PM (except for the Fourth of July).
Peaches ’n’ Rosé at Fiola
Head to the bar for a light special during lunch and dinner this week: balsamic-drizzled peach salad with basil and toasted hazelnuts alongside a cold glass of Chateau La Tour Petale de Rose, which is typically only sold by the bottle. The duo is $28 per person.
Drink Special at Johnny’s Half-Shell
Global warming brings something positive for once with the special Climate Change cocktail, offered all week for $5. The icy combination of grapefruit-infused vodka and a splash of cranberry is only available on the covered courtyard terrace, where you’ll appreciate its meaning even more.
Margaritas for $2 at Tackle Box
When the mercury rises, dispel dreams of moving to Alaska with $2 margaritas at Tackle Box in Georgetown. Owner Jonathan Umbel is offering the deal any time the temperature hits above 90 degrees, which pretty much means until September.