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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quick Bites: The Passenger, Part Deux

For this week’s review, we’re going with a new shorter format, especially for Part Deux pieces which just update places we’ve reviewed before. This trip takes a whole group of us back to The Passenger.

On this Labor Day trip, we order off the daily specials board, and receive a refreshing cucumber and gin-based drink with a dash of simple syrup, and a heavier tequila cocktail, which is the clear winner in my book. But the story remains the food, a surprisingly well-curated and executed list given the drink focus of the bar. A gooey crousset of truffled mac-and-cheese delights with its crusty texture and sharp flavors. And though late in the season, a soft shell crab BLT is generous and light, with the piquant aioli spread providing decent kick. Forget bar food: these bites and sips are quality anywhere.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Date Ideas: LivingSocial Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival/DC Green Festival

Need a last minute Date Idea heading into the weekend? Here are two things happening this Saturday and Sunday that we're heading to ourselves. Coverage and recaps will be up next week.

LivingSocial Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival (Sept. 29 and 30)

The second annual version, LivingSocial's Craft Beer & Food Truck Fest brings together 50+ craft breweries along with 10 of DC's best food trucks. The event will feature performances from The Dan Band, the musical group known for appearances in films such as “Old School” and “Hangover”, and local artists for a weekend of celebration unique to Washington, DC. Interactive art installations and fun activities throughout the day will transform this event into a beer festival with a day-time party vibe. Attendance will get you a 5 oz sampling stein, and food trucks will be selling their delectables throughout the duration of the event. Attendees are also encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item; a portion of all proceeds will benefit Move For Hunger, our charitable partner that will have representatives onsite collecting donations to be delivered to local food banks. Move for Hunger is a nationwide organization that helps people who are moving donate their nonperishable food to those in need.

Half Street Fairgrounds - 1299 Half Street SE
Saturday, September 29 and Sunday September 30 - 12 pm – 5 pm (11am VIP option)
$59/person from 9/25 until event runs
$69/person VIP from 9/25 until event runs

FEATURED BREWERIES:
Yuengling/ Duvel/ Ommegang/ Crown Imports/ Abita/ Latis Imports/ Sierra Nevada/ Saranac/ Shiner/ Magic Hat/ Flying Dog/ Sam Adams/ Angry Orchard/ House of Shandy/ Singha/ Leinenkugels/ Peroni/Pilsner/ Pabst/ Dogfish Head/ Boulevard/ New Belgium/ Diageo/ Harpoon/ Warsteiner/ Breckenridge/ Six Point/ Long Trail/ Otter Creek/ Peak Organic/ Port City/ Lagunitas/ Duck-Rabbit/ Jack's Cider/ Weinhenstephaner/ Evolution/ Avery/ Oskar Blues/ DuClaw/ Lost Rhino/ Devil's Backbone/ Starr Hill/ Widmer Brothers/ Coastal Brewery/ Shock Top/ Ommissions/ Goose Island/ Landshark

FEATURED FOOD TRUCKS:
STIX/ Amorini Panini/ Goode’s/ Mobile Kitchen/ Rolls on Rolls/ Grids Waffles/ Bayou Bros/ Chupacabra/ DC Empanadas

***

Washington DC Green Festival

Green Festival, the nation’s largest and longest-running green consumer event, will host leaders in the social justice and environmental community including authors, leaders and educators; a dedicated kids’ area for learning about easy and fun ways to incorporate green at a young age; and most importantly for us: an organic beer and wine garden, and a Good Food Stage featuring delicious vegetarian cuisine.

Also at Green Fest is a marketplace of more than 300 eco-friendly businesses, featuring the latest and greatest in sustainable products and services. Hands-on workshops and sessions will be available on topics such as investing in the local community, greening your homes and how to identify products made with consideration of the earth and its people. Key note speakers include: Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Elizabeth Kucinich, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Amy Goodman, John Perkins, Greg Palast, Laura Flanders, Benjamin Todd Jealous, and Medea Benjamin.

Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Hall B: 801 Mount Vernon Place
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2012: 10 am – 7 pm
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2012: 11 am – 6 pm
$10 for a one day pass and $20 for a full weekend pass when purchased online at www.greenfestivals.org, or $15 and $25 at the door. Discounted admission at the door for seniors (over 65) and students with student ID. Free admission for anyone who rides a bike to the event and parks with the bike valet, youth under eighteen, union members, volunteers and Green America and Global Exchange members.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stuff My Mom Cooks, Pt. 6

One more addition to the Stuff My Mom Cooks playbook:

Cauliflower au gratin

 Poached shrimp

Cherries and figs and boursin and leek popovers in phyllo dough

 Salmon and asparagus puff pastries

 Flank steak on mango salad

Duck and red cabbage summer rolls

Thursday, September 20, 2012

St. Arnold's

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Cleveland Park

The Setup


Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I had scheduled a get together with Official Friend of DCWD Juli and her boyfriend Ian. With last-minute plans threatening to derail our plans, we instead relocated to the quick and convenient St. Arnold’s in Cleveland Park.

The Vibe

Due mostly to its architecture, St. Arnold’s feels more like a biergarten than a restaurant; it’s essentially a covered patio space on the sidewalk adjacent to Dino. At that, the walls are almost entirely glass paned like a greenhouse, letting in the summer sun on this visit. Seating is in two rows: a long extended row of high-top bar tables that acts almost like communal seating; and a short row of half-booth twos in combination that lead into the long bar. The décor and set-up reflect the central tenet that St. Arnold’s is a mussels bar, nothing more and nothing less. It’s clean but no-nonsense, with a festive outdoor atmosphere.

The Food


While the menu does include a relatively extensive list of Belgian food, all of us were there for the mussels. Ever the neighborhood veterans, Juli and Ian opted for the Mussels St. Arnold’s: with a sauce made of house beer, caramelized shallots, garlic, thyme, and duck fat. In an effort not to have the whole table order the same thing, Texas and I passed, but it was a regrettable decision; picking the restaurant’s namesake dish is probably the best move you could make, and the inclusion of duck fat and beer made for a unique (and more importantly delicious) combination that I’ve yet to see among other Belgian mussels spots.

For our part, I ordered the Italian style mussels (Italian sausage, peppers, onions, tomatoes), while Texas got the Thai curry mussels with basil. My thought process for ordering was “if I can’t get the duck fat, let’s at least maximize the meat.” What I ended up with was essentially like eating a Nats sausage simultaneously with my mussels. So, it wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t bad either. It just felt a little odd, and a lot gluttonous. Still, the flavors were on for what they were, so there’s no faulting the kitchen. For her part, Texas’s curry was much more conventional and a lot tastier, with a good degree of heat and piquant flavor with each bit. Most importantly for all, the bread basket was refilled often and the fries were solid.

The Verdict


Perfectly decent mussels.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Frat House
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: Still one of the four people that hasn't seen The Dark Knight Rises? The Uptown Theater is still showing it in its large single screen.

St. Arnold's on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Look: Union Market

This weekend, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I bring you a First Look at the newly opened Union Market in NoMa. We'll let the pictures do most of the talking but some quick words and thoughts:

 - The Union Market revitalization is based on bringing back the 60s version: a generally open layout with slotted stalls for all the vendors. The outer ring will be dedicated store-like shops like metrocurean's Amanda McClements's homewares shop Salt and Sundry or Red Apron Butchery; while the middle spaces are smaller rings of stalls made up of butcher's block tables and stainless steel counters. What this leads to is a pretty bustling environment where from any one vantage point, you can always see most of the market; and an overall bright space with sunlight flooding in through the numerous windows and reflecting off white brick-style tiling on the walls and soaked up by the concrete floors. Seating is aplenty: rows of tables along the walkways and a nice line of two-tops outside. It's all really beautiful.

 - There's quite a diversity of vendors: on this trip, established DC names like Lyon Bakery or Co Co Sala or Peregrine Espresso, and as-of-yet unoccupied slots for TaKorean and Curbside Cupcakes, but also some smaller outfits: Puree juice bar and Righteous Cheese, among others. The most notable variation is the Rappahannock Oyster Company, which houses an entire oyster bar front and center. It's by far the liveliest spot in the whole market on this trip.

 - Despite the grand opening, the space is only half-full for the time being; significantly, many of the outer row of shops are still obscured by construction walls, and the entire seafood space on the east wall remains empty. It's also unclear how permanent these vendors are; some seem to be there as a long-term arrangement, while others seem to be there on a rotational basis. On this trip, Gina Chersevani's soda shop was occupied by a team led by R.J. Cooper from Rogue 24.

Anyway, on to the pictures:




 






Thursday, September 6, 2012

Smoke and Barrel

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Adams Morgan

The Setup


Official Friend of DCWD Jeremy has been singing the praises of $5 Taco Tuesday night at Smoke and Barrel for some time now. So, when Official Friend of DCWD Swizzle and I were looking for a place to meet on a Tuesday night halfway between her house in Woodley Park and mine on U Street, Smoke and Barrel came to mind quickly. As this was a working dinner, we were in need of a semi-quiet place to converse and opted for the main level dining room as opposed to the louder basement bar, Bottom of the Barrel.

The Vibe

While the basement bar feels more like a sports bar, the main level dining room is a bit more polished, though it still maintains a relaxed and casual atmosphere. In the front of the space there are large bay windows with two- and four-tops, then a wall of half-booths that lead back to the main level bar and six-seat high-tops.

The beer list is extensive and Smoke and Barrel has a decent number of draft beers. Our waitress that evening was very knowledgeable, quick to point out a couple of substitutions, and happy to provide suggestions based on our general preferences.

The Food

Like I said, the real draw for us was their Tuesday night special: three tacos and a side for only $5. I mean.... three tacos... and a side... for only $5. Yes, please! Smoke and Barrel does have a strict no substitutions rule on this deal and you have to order three of the same taco. They offer brisket, pork, chicken, veggie chili, or smoked tofu tacos and you can have them traditional (with lettuce, tomato, and cheese) or BBQ style (with coleslaw, pickles, BBQ sauce, and cheese). Wanting a chance to try multiple tacos, Swizzle was kind enough to go veggie with me for the evening and we opted for the tofu and veggie chili offerings (BBQ style of course). Swizzle was a Smoke and Barrel Taco Tuesday veteran and strongly advised me to join her in going with a side of the jalapeno cheddar grits (spoiler alert: I did not regret it).

I will sing the praises of the veggie chili tacos to anyone willing to listen. To be fair, the smoked tofu was pretty darn good in its own right, but the veggie chili taco was by far the clear winner. And I just keep coming back to the fact that its only $5. Sure, the BBQ sauce was a little sweet for my taste, and I've had chili with a little more depth of flavor, but combined with the coleslaw and pickles, it creates a solid dish. The jalapeno cheddar grits also made for great side and were super creamy. The jalapeno didn't pack nearly as much punch as I expected, but the flavor was there and the grits were well cooked. 

The Verdict


I think you would be hard pressed to find a better deal in the city. The tacos and grits are solid, the beer selection wide, and the service exceedingly hospitable.

Food Rating: *** 1/2 
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks to Frat House
Vibe:
Chatty to Energetic
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: Head over to Columbia Station for some live jazz.

Smoke and Barrel on Urbanspoon