Georgetown Icon, Dixie Liquor Rises Again

Closed since July 1, Dixie Liquor, founded in 1934, reopened April 20 — same place, same times, same property owners, different business owners. The...

Cheers to 85 Years: Martin’s Tavern

By Gary Tischler and Robert Devaney Change is everywhere, even in Georgetown, with its brick sidewalks, college and church spires, old mansions and row houses...

Cocktail of the Month: Peru Meets Bolivia

Anyone who follows my column knows about my love affair with pisco, which started when I lived in Peru. Little did I know then that pisco has a Bolivian partner-in-crime called singani. Peru and its landlocked neighbor, Bolivia, share many things, including the Incas, the Andes, alpacas and altitude. When it was part of the Spanish empire, the area that became Bolivia was known as Alto (Upper) Perú. Many folks regard Bolivia’s national liquor, singani, as a variation of Peru’s pisco, but there are distinct differences. While it’s true that both are technically brandies forged from grapes, singani differs from pisco because it is made from one specific varietal: white Muscat of Alexandria grapes. Singani hails from the Bolivian Andes and can only be produced within its appellation or specified landmark boundaries. According to, distillation began in the 1500s when settlers began producing wine. The affluent residents of Potosí, a silver-mining town that was one of the richest cities in the world in its day, began to ask for a stronger drink with which to celebrate. In the community of Singani, a distilled spirit was produced for the wealthy. “Singani” has been in production ever since. I got a chance to sample singani last autumn when I was traveling through Bolivia. In La Paz, I met up with one of my dearest Peruvian friends, Miguel Luis Roque, a musician who had been staying and playing in Bolivia for several months. During his time traipsing throughout the country often referred to as “the Tibet of the Americas,” Miguel had developed an appreciation for its native spirit. Singani has a smooth taste and a hint of sweetness similar to pisco. However, Miguel wanted me to appreciate the subtleties of my newly discovered elixir. He insisted on doing a side-by-side comparison between singani and a bottle of pisco I had brought from Peru. When weighed against one another, I found singani to be a bit drier, with a slightly spicier flavor. After sampling each straight up, we mixed them both in a traditional Bolivian cocktail called the chuflay. Technically a highball, a chuflay consists of singani mixed with lemon soda (or sometimes ginger ale). It’s usually served in a collins glass, garnished with lime. This cocktail was a breeze to make. In the corner stores, we found a super-tart carbonated lemonade drink sold in liter bottles. This beverage was an excellent complement for the tangy flavor of the grapes, and the tender spiciness of the singani gave it a bit of a zesty aftertaste. It was as refreshing as breathing La Paz’s 12,000-foot mountain air. I later learned that singani is free of methanol, which accounts for its smoothness. It also contains no congeners, which can contribute to hangovers. I appreciated this fact when I got up four hours after our tasting session to go mountain biking on Bolivia’s notorious highway of death. For a long time, the only way for Americans to enjoy singani in their home country was to bring it back in their suitcases after a trip to Bolivia. However, according to, Ace Beverage in Washington is the first place where singani formally went on sale in the U.S. Movie buffs will be interested to know that Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has begun producing his own brand of singani (Singani 63) that can be purchased online. The traditional toast when drinking singani is “La vida es buena” (“Life is good”). I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment on the joyous day when I spent the night reminiscing, not only with close amigo Miguel but with my Lima-based travel partner (and Miguel’s former music collaborator) Lowell Haise Contreras. Cheers! The Chuflay 1.5 ounces singani 4 ounces lemon soda or lemonade Add singani to a collins glass, then add lemon soda. Garnish with lemon or lime.

Matt Haley: a Restaurateur Extraordinary Beyond Food

When Matt Haley, the white-bearded Delaware restaurateur, died Aug. 19 of injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident in India, he was doing something that was almost typical for the kind of person he had become. It might have been extraordinary for almost anybody else. Haley was traveling in India as part of a six-week journey through the northwestern part of the country and Nepal to continue one of many of his humanitarian efforts, planning to deliver stoves to villages in Nepal. He was traveling with several other riders and international motorcycle expert Guarav Jani, when his cycle collided with a truck. He died of his injuries, while being taken by a medical jet to New Delhi. The news of Haley’s passing shocked the restaurant world in the region and just about anybody that knew Haley and his story, which was one of redemption and giving back to the community from the get-go. Haley went from being a man with a prison record and addiction problems to one of the most successful restaurant owners in the area and was considered a culinary ambassador and philanthropist. With 25 operations in four states, he traveled as a speaker preaching the gospel of giving back. As a result of his many efforts and a successful business which became Matt Haley Companies, he was given the 2014 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award. An article by Delaware Online quoted him as saying, “I’m a member of the most compassionate, caring industry in the world. There’s no other industry that would have been there for me. Everybody shut their doors on me when I got of prison 20 years ago." Haley was a part of numerous charitable organizations, including La Esperanza, the Georgetown, Del., community service agency, that helps Spanish-speaking immigrant workers. Haley's restaurants in Rehoboth and all over the region employed approximately 1,000 people during the summer, grossing around $50 million in revenue. He was a well known figure in the Washington, D.C., restaurant and culinary community. The National Restaurant Association of Washington, D.C., recognized him this year for his humanitarian efforts.

COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Dirty Bananas From Saint Lucia

The first thing I notice when I meet Big Ted is not his size. It’s his smile. It’s a friendly, welcoming type of grin; similar to the ones proudly displayed by most of the locals I meet in Saint Lucia. Ted Barnard, or “Big Ted” as he is called, is the bar manager at the Coconut Bay beach resort, which is tucked away on the southern tip of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. The vacation spot, which boasts multiple bars spread out over its mile-long stretch of beachfront property, is known for its lengthy drink choices. Between the swim-up bar, the lobby bar, the nightclub, sports bar, restaurants and the tiki bar beside the well-shaded adult pool, I lose count of the different cocktails by my first evening. Each bartender seems to have his or her favorite potions. Everything from the self-named “Terry in a Cup” to Kay’s “I Like” and Hami’s killer “Negroni,” I ask Ted to mix me the most popular tipple at the resort. He whips up a “Dirty Banana,” a delicious smoothie-like concoction forged from fresh bananas, coconut cream, rum, coffee liqueur with an optional squirt of chocolate syrup. Because it is forged from fresh bananas, this cocktail sips more like a milkshake. Its thick texture gives it a dessert-like quality. But don’t be fooled, the dirty banana packs quite a punch thanks to three ounces of liquor. Later, I am informed that Ted has an extra-special version of the drink known as a “Filthy Banana.” When I ask him to elaborate on its contents, he slyly tells me it’s made with even more rum. Ted likes the dirty banana because it showcases the island’s local ingredients, St. Lucian rum, bananas, coconut and Ti Tasse, a rum- based coffee liqueur that is also produced in St. Lucia. Like most Caribbean nations, Saint Lucia takes great pride in its native rums. The flagship spirit, Chairmen’s Reserve, is blended rum concocted from a combination of continuous distilled and double-distilled rums. The result is a full-bodied spirit with just enough sweetness and a little bit of bite. The spiced version of Chairmen’s Reserve contains local spices and fruits including cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, all spice, lemon and orange. It is also rumored to include Richeria Grandis – known locally as “Bois Bande” – a bark renowned in the Caribbean as a potent aphrodisiac. While I specifically requested Chairmen’s rum in my drinks, Ted usually blends his dirty bananas with a light locally-produced overproof rum. Hence the potency of this drink. A few too many, will have you floating off your barstool. Unfortunately, many of Saint Lucia’s spirits can be difficult to find in the states. If you’d like to replicate the dirty banana at home, I would recommend using either Wray and Nephew overproof rum -- or if you like a fuller flavored spirit, Flor De Cana seven-year-old rum. For the coffee liqueur, you may substitute Kamora. The smooth frozen tropical coconut-banana flavor is a fine anecdote for Washington’s recent scorching Caribbean-like weather. ? THE DIRTY BANANA 1 banana, sliced 1-ounce milk 1-ounce coconut cream 1.5-ounce coffee liqueur 1.5-ounce overproof light rum Squirt of chocolate syrup Add ingredients to blender with ice. Blend until well mixed. Garnish with a pineapple wedge. [gallery ids="100878,127477" nav="thumbs"]

Cocktail of the Month: The Coquito

In Poland, bison grass vodka is most commonly served with apple juice in a cocktail called the Tatanka. If the name of this drink rings a bell, you can thank Kevin Costner.

Cook on a Whim: Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins

The olive oil adds a hint of sophistication, but these are still the friendly, comforting, delicious little morsels we all know and love, sure to put a smile on anyone’s face no matter what.

New Restaurant From Peacock Cafe Opens on P St.

The modern Persian restaurant near Dupont Circle is named after 1978, the year the Farivar brothers came to the United States from Iran.

Cocktail of the Month: The Aperol Spritz

Not since the days of “Sex and the City” and the “cosmo” has there been a must-have cocktail for outings with your BFFs.

Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola Mare

As a beach-loving kid growing up near the Adriatic Sea in the Le Marche region of central Italy, Fabio Trabocchi liked to stick his head under the water, taste the brine and spy the sea creatures in their natural habitat of rocks, sand and swaying seaweeds. That's one source of his inspiration at Fiola Mare, the superstar chef's new Italian seafood restaurant on Georgetown's waterfront at Washington Harbour. For the 40-year-old Trabocchi, an all-natural approach is best. "It's always been my dream to cook seafood for all the creative opportunity, for the lightness,” says Trabocchi, “and it's also healthier." On a tour of Fiola Mare, which he opened in late February with his Spanish-born wife and business partner, Maria, Trabocchi continues: "When this opportunity came up, with the view of the water from all the large windows and the park right outside the door, it made sense that here you can experience eating by the sea as we do in Italy." With market reports in hand and trusted fishmongers on speed dial, the critically acclaimed chef has created an ever-changing menu, reflecting his passion for the finest sustainable seafood available worldwide. The Trabocchis like to stay busy. In 2011, the couple opened in Penn Quarter the elegant Fiola, with a menu inspired by modern Italian cuisine. Last year, near Mount Vernon Square, they welcomed diners to the more casual Casa Luca, named for their 10-year-old son, who has taken an early interest in cooking. Restaurant two is, in the chef’s words, "my family-driven Italian with dishes my father cooked.” (For our region, Fabio Trabocchi will always be hailed as the cutting-edge executive chef of Maestro at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, where he cooked for six years in the early 2000s.) Fiola Mare is their most ambitious venture. At 7,500 square feet, with an additional 1,800 square feet of outdoor terraces, the contemporary 140-seat main dining room feels like a sleek salon on a mega-yacht. Soothing, subtle earth tones and curving banquettes create zones of intimacy in front of an open kitchen. Regular customers have laid claim to "their tables" on the Veranda, a glass-enclosed waterside dining room with a breezy nautical decor and sweeping views along the Potomac. For private dining, there is a 12-seat chef's table and three other airy spaces, including one with its own bar and waterfront entrance. But any table is the perfect spot for "Under the Sea," one of the chef’s favorite presentations. Each component dazzles the taste buds. "You see the quinoa at the bottom? That's the sand and the maitake mushrooms are moving seaweed," says Trabocchi, who easily mixes playfulness with an intense drive for perfection. "Like when I snorkel, under my sea there are Scottish langoustines, red spot king prawns from Australia and sea urchins from waters off Catalina Island [California]. Then I add black truffle and foie gras, as there's a lot of surf and turf where I come from. Together, the brightness is spectacular." At the "Market Counter," diners choose seasonal whole fish, which chefs then grill to order and servers debone tableside. Not to be missed is brodetto, the classic Adriatic fish stew, as well as crudo (raw fish selections), marinated and preserved fish, risotto entrees and seafood-based pasta, the latter available in half-portions. Flagship Fiola fans will find on the menu Trabocchi’s signature ginger-laced lobster ravioli and rich baba al rhum with pear and vanilla cream. Adding to the vision, the gorgeous hand-molded, sea-inspired iridescent tableware is by Alison Evans Ceramics of Yarmouth, Me. "The idea is a palacio in Venice, spacious yet cozy. Even if you are alone, there are lots of different ambiances," says Maria Trabocchi, who delights in her front-of-the-house work, greeting and seating. "For me, I enjoy tremendously making customers’ memories." Fiola Mare Washington Harbour, 3050 K St., NW 202-628-0065 []( Georgetowner dining columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine and a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section. [gallery ids="101667,144706,144695,144703,144691,144681,144676,144672,144686,144699" nav="thumbs"]