James Beard Dinner Benefits Local Restaurants
Wine & Spirits
Window Into Wine
Caroline Jackson • May 31, 2011
Whether it’s local wine, craft beer or fine cuisine, these bourgeoning industries are always benefited by producers and consumers developing a broader understanding of the product. In other words: Education. East Coast residents have come a long way in aiding the growth of these industries through knowledge and general interest, and yet there are still many common misconceptions about wine and how it is made and marketed that hamper the progress of East Coast wine promotion. To understand more about what’s in the bottle, what better place to start than what’s on the bottle.
We all know what it’s like to walk into a wine store and feel a little overwhelmed by the choices. Maybe your original goal was to try something new, but then the eight-syllable hyphenated French classifications and various ranches of Napa start to blur together, and you end up just grabbing your regular go-to Cab. As you may already know, there are two main styles of wine labeling, largely considered Old World vs. New World. European wines will rarely tell you the grape varietal of the wine, so it is up to you to become familiar with which regions (Bordeaux, Rioja, Piemonte, etc.) produce what kind of wine, and furthermore which sub-regions and specific producers or “Chateaus” you prefer. It is then up to the buyer to become familiar with what kind of wine is made in which region to know what each bottle contains, although a few French and several Spanish and Italian producers are moving toward a more modern style. New World wines (anything not from the original Western European regions) will generally state the grape or the name of the blend right on the front label, and may often provide additional varietal information or tasting notes on the back.
Another common source of label confusion is the designation of “Estate” wines. In general, if a wine is labeled “Estate,” that usually means that the grapes used are grown in vineyards owned by the winery within a certain distance from the production site. It gets tricky, however, because the bottle may not say “Estate” for this to be the case. Many smaller production wineries exclusively use their own estate-grown fruit, but may not advertise as such on their labels. I always recommend visiting a winery’s website to find out more about where they are getting their grapes.
Many larger production wineries may have several acres of their own estate vineyards and then source the rest of their grapes from neighboring growers, and then will often produce a separate smaller batch solely from estate grapes that may go into a special reserve bottling. However, non-estate wine does not always mean it is lower quality. There are many excellent winemaking operations that carefully choose only the best vineyards to source from and have developed close simbiotic relationships with specific growers. Just as some of the best vineyard owners don’t make wine at all, some great wineries don’t own any vines and still manage to produce world-class wine.
If a winery is not diligent in its involvement with a source vineyard during the growing season, they may end up with some unpleasant surprises come harvest time that will negatively affect the quality of their wine. However, there are many highly respected winemakers that have long-running relationships with the vineyards they source from and are well versed in the importance of communication between winery and growers. Many of the most prestigious wineries in the country buy grapes from several different vineyards, all with premier growing sites and acclaimed viticulturalists. When it comes time for production, wineries often keep grapes from specific vineyards separate through the fermentation and aging process. Then, when it’s time to blend, each barrel is tasted and assessed; here, the winemaker may set aside a few barrels that are most expressive of a specific vineyard’s terroir to be bottled as a “single vineyard” release.
For example, Oregon is famous for it’s Pinot Noir and cool climate white wines that come from the Willamette Valley. Then the greater Willamette wine region is separated into more specialized AVA designations that group together topographical areas with comparable climate and soil composition. Beyond that, there are many specific vineyards that are renowned for the caliber of their particular site. If a wine is made from grapes that came from several places throughout the valley, the bottle will then only be a general “Willamette Valley” designation; others some may specify, for example, the Dundee Hills AVA and may showcase characterstics of its particular soil type, or even further, state the exact name of the Vineyard that it came from (i.e. Temperance Hill, Palmer Creek, Stoller, Bryan Creek, etc.).
This somewhat parallels the traditional European system of classification, where a Pinot Noir from France may not only tell you it is a Bourgogne, but also from the Côte de Nuits region, and furthermore from the Grand Crus vineyards of Romanée-Conti. In France (and paralleled throughout Europe), the Appellation d’origine contrôlée laws decided long ago which wines deserve the most prestigious title of Grand Crus, which may be called Premier Crus, which may only use the “village” name, and which are merely to be considered generic Bourgogne. The New World regions are young enough that this kind of quality distinction is not so set in stone, and therefore it is up to you to read, taste, and decide which wines stand out in the ever-growing pack.
Caroline Jackson now works for Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She has a degree in English and a background in East Coast wine sales and winemaking. Visit her blog, Sips and Sounds, which pairs daily music selections with a wine or craft beer.
Washington Harbour Restaurants Reopen
Bridget Belfield • May 26, 2011
The businesses and restaurants of Washington Harbour are slowly returning to normal after being engulfed in 10-12 feet of flooded waters over a month ago. Tony & Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill have opened their outdoor bar and seating patio with a limited menu including grilled fish, shrimp, burgers & hot dogs. Owner of both businesses, Tony Cibel, hopes to re-open the indoor dining areas within the new few months. Sequoia, having less water damage than their neighbors, was able to re-open their full restaurant. Cabana and Farmers & Fishers remain closed until further notice. Despite the slow, yet steady recovery, all restaurants are determined to regain their loyal cliental and urge everyone to come out and show their support. [gallery ids="99755,99756,99757,99758" nav="thumbs"]
Cocktail of the Week
Georgetowner • May 17, 2011
While most drinkers are familiar with beer, wine and spirits, sake, a rice-based alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin, has an aura of mystery about it. Pronounced Sah-KAY, many view it as an exotic and foreign elixir. Known as “The Drink of the Gods,” sake is the national spirit of Japan and has been consumed for over 4,000 years.
Sake is often referred to as rice wine. However, it is made through a brewing process similar to the way beer is made.
Many people are first exposed to sake in a sushi bar or Japanese restaurant, and never try it elsewhere. The most common sake served is Futsu-Shu, which would be equivalent of table wine.
But like wine, sake comes in a variety of premium categories. These types are distinguished by the degree to which the rice has been polished and the added percentage of brewer’s alcohol or the absence of such additives. More and more of these sake styles are breaking into the US market. According to Imbibe magazine in 2007, for the first time ever the dollar figure for sales of premium sake in the US exceeded that of generic Futsu-Shu.
As the popularity of sake increases, it has begun to appear on cocktail menus as bartenders and mixologist discover its versatility.
Market Watch magazine reports in April 2011 that bartenders are combining sake with distilled spirits in cocktails as a way of enhancing their flavor profiles. Todd Richman, corporate mixologist for Sidney Frank Importing Co., which markets the Gekkeikan portfolio, sees sake cocktails as an emerging category.
“It has a lot of finesse,” he says. Richman believes that sakes fit well with the handcrafted cocktail movement, which touts fresh-squeezed juices and house-made ingredients.
A spattering of Washington restaurants serve sake cocktails. A popular item at Zentan is the Spicy Thai Martini made with Nigori unfiltered sake, chili infused Russian Standard vodka, St. Germaine and a splash of cranberry. At Poste Brasserie, the Plum Blossom is a cherry-infused sake cocktail finished with plum soda.
Another popular trend is using sake in place of the base spirit in familiar cocktails. For example, in a Saketini, the classic martini is given a new twist when sake is substituted for vermouth and mixed with gin. A sake screwdriver and Zipang mimosa combine sake and sparkling sake respectively with orange juice.
These reinvented cocktails are popping up on menus not just at Asians spots, but steakhouses, tapas bars and conventional restaurants as well. According to Market Watch, Ruby Tuesday is one of Gekkeikan’s largest customers due the chain’s use of Gekkeikan sake in their sangrias.
One of my favorite sake libations is an updated version of the Sex and the City favorite, the Cosmopolitan. The Sake Cosmo replaces limejuice with sake. I like the way the acidity of sake blends with the tart flavor of cranberry. The orange sweetness is highlighted with a touch of earthiness. It’s just enough difference to give this fading favorite a breath of new life.
1 oz Vodka
1 oz sake
1 oz orange liqueur
1 oz cranberry
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a martini glass.
Different styles of sake may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street in Georgetown)
The Laurel Park
Miss Dixie • May 5, 2011
As we slug through one of the hottest summers in memory, Washingtonians have been seeking creative ways to have fun and cool down.
A clever and inventive antidote can be found at Art and Soul on Capital Hill, where the latest rage is their uplifting and invigorating Sno-Cone cocktails. Your childhood favorite is back, but with a decidedly adult twist.
Art and Soul, a welcoming lounge located in the Liaison Hotel, offers a menu of four icy cocktails designed by general manager Jay Poblador. These treats feature crushed ice layered with seasonal fruits and vegetables, mixed with liquor and served in cone-shaped glasses. The resulting tipples are light, stimulating and absolutely refreshing.
Jay, who recently moved to DC from New York, is experiencing his first Capital summer. “I didn’t realize it was so hot and humid here,” he said. “I designed these cocktails to be refreshing and appeal to your childlike primal urges.”
Bartender Heejin Shubbuck mixed up four frosty selections – the Laurel Park, the Rehoboth, the Savannah and the Washington Bite.
Perhaps the most visually appealing is the Laurel Park, which arrives looking like a beautiful rainbow of ice and fruit including the pinkish hue of strawberries and cool green cucumbers. The layers are doused with gin and Saint Germaine elderflower liqueur before being topped off with rose sparkling wine.
Jay designed the Laurel Park to showcase a wide range of flavors including fruitiness, sweetness and bitterness. “All around it’s a nice flavor profile,” he said. “The flavor of St Germaine is so nuanced, and gin provides a perfect pairing .”
As I sipped my cocktail and the ice melted I noted how the flavor changed and evolved. When I reached the bottom of my glass, I enjoyed spearing the now frozen (and alcohol infused) fruits.
The Rehoboth Sno-Cone proved to be equally as complex. This treat is built from pineapple soaked with cachaca, a Brazilian sugar cane rum. It’s garnished with fresh spearmint for a rejuvenating effect. Jay rims the glass with a smoked sea salt rim, which enhances the subtle smoky flavor of the cachaca.
The Savannah, forged from fresh peaches, is the sweetest of the bunch. It starts with a full and luscious flavor, but finishes light and spicy thanks to vodka infused with African black nectar tea. “The tea imparts a bit of bitterness and nice tannins on the back of your tongue,” Jay says.
The final frozen concoction highlights the exotic flavor of Yuzu, a Japanese juice that tastes like a concentrated mixture of lemon, lime and orange. It imparts a tart flavor with no lingering aftertaste. It is rimmed with a cinnamon, sugar and cayenne for a sweet and spicy essence.
These delightful coolers are a seasonal offering at Art and Soul, so hurry before the temperature drops. Sno-Cone cocktails are half price during happy hour- Monday –Thursday, 4-7 pm.
The Laurel Park
1.5 oz Hendricks Gin
.5 oz St Germaine
.25 oz Simple Syrup
Splash Sparkling Brut Rose
1 oz diced Strawberries
1 oz diced cucumbers
Shaved or Crushed Ice
Assemble a martini glass with layers of ice, cucumber, and strawberries, placing layers of ice in between the fruit for color contrast. Shake Gin, St Germaine and Simple Syrup. Pour over ice and fruit. Top off with sparkling rose.
Ingredients to make the Laurel Park may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Readers may sample this cocktail at Art and Soul at 415 New Jersey Ave.
Cocktail of the Week
Georgetowner • May 4, 2011
As Cinco de Mayo rolls around, many will celebrate the holiday by hoisting margaritas. However, these two traditions, the party and the cocktail, may actually be more American than Mexican.
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the fifth of May) commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the French-Mexican War. According to National Geographic, the anniversary of the victory is celebrated only sporadically in Mexico, mainly in the southern town of Puebla and in a few larger cities. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and ancestry, similar to the way that St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest celebrate the Irish and German heritage.
While the margarita is the #1 requested tequila cocktail in the U.S, the paloma is more popular in Mexico. Spanish for “dove,” the paloma is a refreshing highball made with tequila and grapefruit soda. According to Brown-Forman, which markets the El Jimador and Herradura tequila brands, 100,000 palomas are consumed each hour in Mexico.
While colas dominate the soft drink market in the United States, tropical fruit-flavored sodas are popular in Mexico. These preferred refreshments are believed to have evolved from agua fresca, or fruit waters, sold by street vendors throughout Latin America.
Mexican soft drinks differ from domestic sodas in two main ways. They are sweetened with natural sugar instead of corn syrup, which gives them a brighter flavor. They also tend to taste more like juice than the highly carbonated drinks favored in the U.S.
Squirt is a well-known brand of grapefruit soda in the States, however it has more of a lemon-lime flavor than the Squirt sold in Mexico. Jarritos, a popular Mexican soft drink brand, is available in many unique flavors, including Toronja or grapefruit. It can be found in Latin American markets.
Knowing these differences, one could make a paloma with Squirt or Jarritos, but for deliciously brisk version, I recommend using freshly squeezed grapefruit and lime juices topped with soda for a bit of fizz.
Just like a margarita, the paloma may be served with or without salt on the rim. The salt adds an additional layer of flavor: sweet, sour, and salty, with just a pinch of bitterness.
The paloma can be found at a few Washington Mexican restaurants including Oyamel and Rosa Mexicana. Chief mixologist Jon Arroyo at Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom offers a different take, with an added kick most don’t have.
Arroyo uses house-made chipotle syrup to add seasoning and the drink is topped off with a mescal floater to give it an extra agave punch. These smoky elements provide one more level of complexity.
“I’m a big supporter of spice mixed with fruits,” Arroyo says. “I like the balance.” Arroyo’s cocktail starts out crisp and refreshing, then it hits you with spicy smack.
Founding Farmers is a perfect place to try the paloma on Cinco De Mayo if you want to avoid the rush at area Mexican restaurants. Or if you prefer to dine-in, try this easy-make paloma at home.
1/2 oz fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
3 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz tequila
1/2 oz agave nectar (or simple syrup)
Rim a Collins glass with salt. Mix first four ingredients and pour over ice into glass. Top with club soda or grapefruit soda.
Dixie Liquor in Georgetown will host a tequila tasting on May 5, from 5-8 pm.
Cocktail of the Week
Georgetowner • March 8, 2011
As St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, many folks will take part in activities they believe are inherently Irish such as watching parades, wearing green and hitting the pubs. But in actuality, these traditions stem from the U.S. rather than the Emerald Isle.
According to National Geographic, colonial New York City hosted the first official St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762, when Irish immigrants in the British colonial army marched down city streets. In contrast, Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is a little more than 75 years old.
In the States, it’s customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But in Ireland, the color was long considered to be unlucky, says Bridget Haggerty, author of “The Traditional Irish Wedding” and the Irish Culture and Customs website.
And perhaps most surprising is that pubs in Ireland were closed by law on St. Patrick’s Day, a national religious holiday, as recently as the 1970s.
While many great brews, including Guinness, Murphy’s, Caffrey’s and Smithwicks hail from Ireland, the black and tan, a beer cocktail layered with a stout and ale, actually originated in England. Because it is made with Guinness, the black and tan is often considered an Irish elixir. However, the style is believed to have originated in Britain with drinkers ordering a mix of dark stout and draught bitter.
According to Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock, The black and tan – properly, a blend of Guinness Draught and Bass ale – dates from 19th century England. A few American brewers, including Yuengling, currently make bottled versions of the black and tan, yet they lack the visual appeal of a freshly poured pint.
But if you find yourself in a pub in Ireland, it’s best not to order a black and tan. Black and tans are the nickname given to the British paramilitary force formed to suppress the Irish Independence movement in 1920 and 1921. The name comes from the mixture of police uniforms and khaki that they wore.
If you wish to imbibe a Black and Tan in the states this holiday, go ahead, but make it an all-Irish combination by substituting Smithwick’s Irish Ale in place of the British-made Bass. Or try a half and half, a more highly contrasting version of the drink made by substituting Harp lager for ale.
The secret to making a perfectly layered pint is to pour the beer slowly using a spoon. Specially made black and tan spoons are available, but a regular kitchen spoon will also do the job. The spoon will keep the Guinness from mixing with the ale, allowing it to layer on top. You must use Guinness Draught, which comes with a nitrogen widget, otherwise the stout will not float properly.
All-Irish Black and Tan
1/2 pint(s) Guinness Draught
1/2 pint(s) Smithwicks Ale
From a chilled bottle, fill a clean pint glass just over halfway with Smithwick’s Ale. Open a chilled can of Guinness Draught. The head will rise. Prepare to pour. Place spoon face down on the rim of the glass and slowly pour your newly opened Guinness over it. Fill just short of the rim.
Cocktail of the Week
Georgetowner • February 22, 2011
Foggy Bottom’s Founding Farmers, along with its sister restaurant Farmers and Fishers, are already known as among the hottest spots in DC for handcrafted cocktails. The restaurants, both renowned for their farm-fresh produce, fine spirits, and homemade mixers and juices, sport an evolving drink menu designed by chief mixologist Chef Jon Arroyo.
New for spring at Founding Farmers is Arroyo’s customizable menu of juleps and cobblers. While most imbibers are familiar with juleps due to the popularity of mint juleps, the cobbler cocktail may be an unfamiliar concept for many casual drinkers.
The word cobbler conjures up visions of pastry dishes soaked with baked ripened fruits. Webster’s dictionary sports two edible definitions for cobbler.
1. A deep-dish fruit dessert with a thick top crust.
2. A tall sweetened iced drink of wine or liquor with fruit.
The original cobbler cocktail, according to Arroyo, was made with sherry. It was one of the most popular libations during the last half of the nineteenth century. Because cobblers were made with fresh fruit and sugar they were among the first cocktails to be shaken.
Early cobblers were very sweet and fancy cocktails. They were garnished beautifully with fresh berries. It became known as a ladies’ tipple, but in Arroyo’s opinion it is definitely not a ladies’ drink.
Perhaps the most exciting element of Founding Farmer’s new menu is the concept that the drinks will be customized for each customer—male or female—based on their spirits preference.
On the blistery Tuesday that I sat down with Arroyo, he asked me what type of liquor I was in the mood for. Feeling a bit chilled, I requested a bourbon drink. Off to work he went, preparing me a personalized cocktail.
All of the cobblers at Founding Farmers will start with some basic ingredients: muddled lemon, lime, orange, along with bitters and sugar. The remaining ingredients will take the direction of the spirit requested.
For the base spirit, Arroyo chose Knob Creek Bourbon. “There’s dryness to the Knob Creek which balances out the fruit,” Arroyo said. “I like it because it’s a big bourbon with a lot of spice. You’re going to know you’re drinking it.”
Arroyo’s first augmentation to my cocktail was the Angostura brand of bitters, but the flavor of bitters used in each cobbler will depend on the type of liquor. Next he added homemade ginger syrup, because he likes the spice that ginger adds to bourbon. In the spirit of tradition, he plopped in a bit of red wine Malbec, in lieu of sherry. But for me, the most curiously wonderful addition was the touch of absinthe
The finished cocktail was a taste explosion on my tongue. It had a robust fruit-forward flavor up front while the boldness of the bourbon warmed my mouth with an earthy goodness. While I was a bit hesitant about the Absinthe, it turned out to be a key ingredient. Its herbaceous quality tied the variety of fruity and spicy elements together in a delightful symphony.
While the drink was served in a pretty metal julep glass and garnished daintily with fresh berries and mint leaves, I agreed with Arroyo that it was decidedly not a ladies only drink. Its complexity and freshness provided many layers of flavor that any discerning drinker would enjoy. And yes, I could definitely taste the bourbon.
Arroyo’s spring cocktail menu debuted in February, and he assured me that all the bartenders at Founding Farmers will be well trained in making the customizable cocktails. “Depending on the spirit you choose,” he said “The bartender will choose the direction for the cocktail.”
Latte di Chocolate di Basil
Georgetowner • February 9, 2011
The Italian language has a beautiful ring with lyrical words that dance with alliteration. When “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert decided to study Italian during the course of her divorce, she described “every word as a singing sparrow, a magic trick, a truffle.” According to Gilbert, “Speaking these words made me feel sexy and happy.”
So it’s no surprise that many of Italy’s contributions to the seductive realm of cocktails boast monikers that roll off the tongue like romantic prose … Prosecco, Bellini, Campari, and Negroni.
The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) recently celebrated Italy’s contribution to the cocktail world with an event at the Occidental Grill.
Phil Greene,MOTAC founding member, kicked off the event by discussing the history behind the Bellini, a refreshing mix of peach and sparkling wine made famous at Harry’s bar in Venice and the Negroni, which is named after Count Camillo Negroni. World-renowned PS-7 bar chef Gina Chersevani, an Italian-American, continued the theme by sharing her family recipe for Limoncello and the Trieste Spritz. Attendees also learned about various brands of Italian liqueurs including Campari, Aperol, Fernet Branca and Luxardo.
The evening was capped off with Gina’s chocolate ice cream cocktail featuring Averna Amaro.
Amaro, meaning “bitter” in Italian, is an herbal liqueur, usually enjoyed after dinner. Amaro is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus peels in alcohol, mixing them with sugar syrup, and allowing it to age in casks or bottles.
Averna is an Amaro produced on the island of Sicily, which is named after its inventor, Salvatore Averna, who developed his recipe in 1868. According to Gina, whose mom is from Sicily, this traditional liqueur is often served alone or with coffee.
Gina invented her Averna cocktail to pair with a chocolate basil cake at PS-7. She was trying to think of something to tie the two ingredients (chocolate and basil) together when it dawned on her to use Averna. “It has a certain herbaceous quality to it,” she says, “and rich overtones of nuts”
While Averna Amaro has been made in Italy for over 140 years, Gina said it disappeared from the US temporarily. Only in the last two or three years did it begin importing back into the US.
Gina told a delightful story about a family gathering at her aunt’s home, where the lady of the house presented Gina’s father with a bottle of Averna that they drank with coffee.
Gina told her father that the Avema makes a great chocolate milkshake, to which he replied, ”You know you mom doesn’t allow me to have milkshakes.”
But later that evening, alone at Gina’s house, her father coyly asked her to make him one of her Averno ice cream drinks. Her father loved the combination, and to this day he still enjoys his forbidden milkshake tipple in private.
Gina describes the recipe as “foolproof” and recommends using a good quality chocolate ice cream. This luscious cocktail would work well as either a drink or as a stand-alone dessert.
Latte di Chocolate di Basil
1.5 oz Averna Amaro
4 oz. whole milk
1 scoop chocolate ice cream
3 fresh basil leaves
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Serve in a glass and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.
Averna Amaro may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. For more information on cocktail seminars visit MuseumOfTheAmericanCocktail.org.