The Cocktail Vinegar
Salad isn’t the only thing that can be dressed up with vinegar. Shrubs—drinking vinegars made with fruits and herbs—are all the rage as part of DC’s growing low-ABV cocktail trend, in which drinkers favor sips that pack a flavor punch instead of a boozy one. (With shrubs, you can even nix the alcohol altogether.) We’re especially fond of the sweet/savory flavor of Shrub District’s Strawberry Dill, brewed with Maryland berries. Try it mixed with vodka, club soda, and a citrus twist. $10 at shrubdistrict.com and local specialty stores.
Za’atar is having a moment—we’ve tried the Middle Eastern spice mix sprinkled on bagels, pizza, and more—but few, if any, American brands are as vibrant and nuanced as the one made in DC by the Dubbaneh family. Credit sesame seeds and wild thyme sourced from a farmer’s co-op in patriarch Issa Dubbaneh’s native Palestine; citrusy sumac from wife Muna’s home in Jordan; and their two Rockville-born sons, entrepreneurs Johnny and Danny, who blend and package it all here.
When the brothers launched the company in 2016, first as a farmers-market operation selling za’atar and man’oushe flatbreads, it was a small act of rebellion. Their father, who owned several Chicken Basket takeouts in Maryland, always told the boys when they were growing up: “Go to college, get a real job—restaurants are ugly businesses,” recalls Johnny. They did, but then, Johnny says, “we found ourselves wanting a way to connect to our Arab culture, as a lot of immigrants do. Our parents weren’t thrilled, but then they saw how everyone loved it. Even now, they’re amazed at the reception it gets.” $9.99 at Amazon or Whole Foods.
The Double Indulgences
Thanks to local collaborations, these chocolate bars satisfy multiple cravings:
The DC-Made (Really) Whiskey
It’s a well-known secret in local distilling: Most “DC-made” whiskey isn’t, in fact, made in the District. Young distilleries, not only in Washington but across the US, often source their brown liquor from “factory distilleries” in places such as Indiana to jump-start the aging process, then go from there—blending, flavoring, and barrel-aging on-site.
The exception: District Made Bourbon, the first grain-to-glass whiskey in DC since Prohibition. (Made possible because, as the city’s first modern whiskey maker, One Eight is ahead of other distilleries age-wise.) Concocted with a mix of four grains and heritage Maryland corn, it’s a smooth taste of what, given time, may become a real made-in-DC whiskey scene. $50 at oneeightdistilling.com and select liquor stores.
Vinegar maker Daniel Liberson gets the question a lot: Do you make balsamic? “I have to explain that Trebbiano grapes don’t do well in Virginia and that there’s a place called Italy that got a head start,” says Liberson, who grows, sources, forages, and ferments every-thing on or near his farm in Delaplane, Virginia. Instead, he offers applejack vinegar—a rich, lightly sweet, complex brew that’s akin to aged balsamic in flavor and viscosity. In fact, we like it even better. It has a fruity intensity and sweet smokiness that’s as delicious in a pan sauce for a holiday roast as it is drizzled on ice cream. $30 at linderafarms.com.
The Greeting Card—for a Good Cause
Reed Sandridge was at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local nonprofit, when he spotted the work of a homeless painter. “If you survive being homeless,” he says, “you tend to be pretty creative.” The experience sparked Second Story Cards. Sandridge works with 20 or so homeless men and women, matching them with designers to create cards that can be both touching (“Love is love is love”) and humorous (“Sorry your boss is an asshole”). The card creators receive 15 percent of sales—plus a mini-bio on the back—while an additional 10 percent is donated to a charity of their choice. The cards are $5 at secondstorycards.com and at Shop Made in DC, Busboys and Poets, and Politics and Prose, among others.
Graphic designer Suann Song’s spiral-bound notebooks sport stylish details such as brass binding, chambray covers, and heavyweight paper. Since the line’s debut—after a 2015 Kickstarter campaign—business has flourished: An Ivy City production facility churns out some 7,000 notebooks a month, and Appointed has added writing tools, storage boxes, and more.
Have you ever worn a favorite lipstick down to its nub, only to discover that the shade has been discontinued? Don’t fret: Aleah Rae, founder of Lipp Beauty, helps customers develop—or recreate—the perfect shade of lipstick. The custom, cruelty-free lipsticks—made of simple ingredients such as shea butter, vitamin E, and beeswax—start at $30 and take about a week to produce.
The Dog Collar
Leather worker Jon Wye operates out of a studio in DC Brau Brewery in Northeast, producing belts, guitar straps, wallets, T-shirts, and other accessories. Many pieces have pop-culture-infused prints and cartoonish patterns, such as a belt featuring dinosaurs making and eating toast. Pet options include polyester leashes covered in sunflowers and leather collars stamped with banana-chomping chimps. For human patrons, the selection is literally endless: Wye offers custom-printing options for his guitar straps and belts. $20 and up at jonwye.com.
The right candle can create a mood, which is why Cadence Candle Co. offers a playlist, accessible via QR code, with each of its products. A blend of sea salt, lily of the valley, and jasmine takes its cue from the soulful meandering of rhythm and blues, while a peppy vanilla/floral concoction might be best experienced while dancing to the day’s pop hits. Be prepared to put that playlist on repeat: A nine-ounce pour of these coconut-and-soy-wax candles burns for a groovy 40 hours. From $15 at cadencecandleco.com.
Sarah McLaughlin couldn’t find what she was looking for: a set of chic cocktail picks. After scouring the internet, says the jewelry maker, “it finally dawned on me that I should just make them myself. I was a bartender for 15 years, so it made a lot of sense.” Brass bottle openers followed shortly after. McLaughlin’s aesthetic fuses angles and arcs for a feel both organic and geometric. Keep an eye out for her wares behind bars, such as Dio Wine on H Street.
The Home Goods
A side table that can easily be taken apart to pack flat. A console table that functions as a wine rack with slings of soft, cream-colored leather. A geometric trivet cast in concrete. Wilo Studios brings together unexpected materials to create luxe basics with a modern twist and moderate price. That sensibility stems from founder Brooke Loewen’s experience in commercial interior design, which led her to launch Wilo Studio last May. Something else the designer has a knack for? Connecting with local craftspeople to source her materials. An upcoming line of soft goods will include textiles naturally dyed in Shaw and sewn in Brentwood.
The Kids’ Toys
Sarah Potter began crocheting Hooked and Loopy’s cotton animals in response to all the plastic toys photograph by making their way into then seven-year-old daughter Maddie’s playroom. “I wanted her to see toys as one of a kind, special, durable,” she says. Her first creations were a dog named Roger who wore a striped sweater and a T. rex named Reggie. “My daughter invented many stories that revolved around the mismatched pair,” she says. As Maddie aged, Potter added a collection of “sheroes” such as a knotty Princess Leia, bespectacled RBG, and Frida Kahlo (yes, she has a knitted unibrow, and it’s adorable).
The pastoral-chic Instagram feed of White Hearth Pottery is dotted with time-lapse videos and shots of simply staged pottery—a plate alone on a rustic wooden table, a moody row of identical pitchers. It’s a dreamy world that Talia Olmstead has built from the ground up: She’s been creating clay tableware since high school, launching White Hearth when she was just 18. While the throwing process is mesmerizing, the resulting wares are even more so: luminous plates, cups, vases, and bowls in glaze styles including “cherry blossom” and “raven rocks.”
Stitch & Rivet leather studio is small—just five people in Brookland. Yet they handle corporate orders for hundreds of custom-branded leather goods. On top of that, Stitch & Rivet sells bags, wallets, and other accessories directly online and through local stores, including best-sellers such as the Day Bag, a standout for its mixed composition of water-resistant waxed canvas and leather. Founder Katie Stack worked for years as a costume maker before pivoting to Stitch & Rivet full-time in 2013.
This past October, models walked a runway in Los Angeles wearing dresses made of hefty layers of peach and lavender tulle. Hosted by the indie fashion magazine Sanctuary, the showcase of up-and-coming designers was headlined by Dur Doux, a DC label helmed by mother/daughter duo Cynthia and Najla Burt. Najla launched the brand after graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2014. Layered, whimsical creations have become a signature: In September, her ruffled, one-shoulder “little orange dress” made a cameo in Adam Lambert’s “Superpower” music video.
Product photographs courtesy of companies.
This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Washingtonian.