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April 2009

"Wasting Time" at Blenheim Winery

Blenhieminside1 Remember Dave Matthews? Oh, sure ya do: mid-nineties? All over the freakin' radio with such angsty hits as "Don't Drink the Water" and "Crash into Me?" Remember "Satellite," and that high school dance when you were slow-dancing to that song, and your hands were so hella sweaty that it soaked through that girl's dress, and then she freaked and called you a "scrub," and everyone just laughed and laughed? Remember? Don't you?!

 In any case, shove that memory back into the ol' subconscious (who's a failure now! I write a blog, dammit!). On a recent trip to Charlottesville, we learned from a local that 'Dave' — a Charlottesville native — was Blenheimbarrelsin town that weekend, which put me in mind of Blenheim Vineyards, an area vineyard founded by the rocker in 2000. Thanks to its owner's fame, Blenheim is perhaps the most well-known winery in northern central Virginia, which makes it all the more odd that it was also one of the few wineries in the area without a tasting room. However, a quick glance at the new 2009 Virginia Winery Guide (an invaluable tourism tool, available at any VA winery or over the web) showed that Blenheim has opened up to the public as of this February. Just a brief drive up the road from where we were staying, we decided to brave the crowds of DMB fans to give the place a gander.

DMBROX  Okay, so there were no crowds, but there was definitely at least one major fan there (see picture at right. Tee hee). Nope, no crowds as we circled the big white barn and approached the triangular, lodge-style winery building below, but there was a contracted bouncer — big dude, in sunglasses, with a fancy ID badge, company windbreaker, the whole deal. He checked our IDs, stamped our hands (yeah, that's right), and allowed us entry.

The building — designed by Mr. Matthews himself for minimum environmental impact, and made with reclaimed lumber — is very impressive. Bare wood beams hold up a high, peaked ceiling, whose numerous windows let in tons of natural light. Three tasting stations are set up around a central walkway with a glass floor, allowing a view of the barrel room below. We walked up to cashier, paid our $5 each, and sat down at a large table close to the rear window.

Tastingroom1  Blenheim offers a generous nine wines for your fee, along with one of the sturdier tasting glasses I've used, which is yours to keep. The wines fall into two classes: those made from from the Viognier, Chardonnay, Petite Verdot, and Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon grown on premise, and those purchased from local farmers, with origins printed clearly on the bottle. For the current vintage, Blenheim has gone all screw cap, a further step toward protecting the environment.

I don't want to go into detail on every wine; suffice it to say that they were all excellent, and most very reasonably priced. The highlights for me include the 2008 Viognier, which has a lovely dry finish and a unique smokey quality, and the  2008 Rose, which is full of red berry flavor and has ample acidity. Of the reds, the 2005 Meritage is an undeniable steal for $10, and would make a fantastic summer patio wine thanks to its light tannins and juicy finish. The only wine that failed to Blenheimbtl impress was the 2005 Blenheim Farm Cabernet Franc; while good, and definitely age-worthy, there is no way this wine lives up to the $40 asking price. Though, according to our host, every wine on the list is available for $5 a glass, making the Cab Franc a bargain if you are a fan of dark, dusty, heavy expressions of the grape.

Blenheim is conveniently located about 11 miles south of Charlottesville city center, and very close to other great wineries, including Kluge and Jefferson Vineyards. The wines are very good, and commonly available, so if you can't make it down, definitely pick up a bottle next time you see it. If, however, you think DMB ROX, a visit to Blenheim is a must, as it is rumored that Dave sometimes shows up for the odd impromptu jam session!

Blenheim Vineyards
31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, VA
(434) 293-5366
Food: Light fare (chips, soda, etc).
Wine Availability: Common in Virginia, occasionally seen in DC


Foodie To-Do List: Farm-to-Kitchen, Hill's Kitchen and Miriam's Kitchen

Todo As part of an ongoing effort to alert you, the readers of DC Foodies, to all of the really cool food-related events, classes and opportunities throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, we give you this week's edition of the Foodie To-Do List.

Each Wednesday, we give you a heads-up on a few of the upcoming events that we think look particularly interesting.  This week, we've got:

Chef Terri Cutrino's Farmers' Market Dinner at Cafe Atlantico:

What:
With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of farmers' markets all over the area.  One of the area's best (according to the Washington City Paper) is the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market, which just happens to occur on the same block as Cafe Atlantico.  Chef Terri Cutrino takes advantage of the bounty outside her front door with a special dinner highlighting products from vendors including Endless Summer Harvest, Cibola Farms, The Farm at Sunnyside, Chapel's Country Creamery, Everona Dairy, Springfield Lamb and the Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farm.  The dinner also marks the introduction of a new "Farmers' Market" dinner menu every Friday night from now through the fall.

When:
Thursday, April 30th

Where:
Cafe Atlantico
405 8th Street, NW
Washington, DC

Why:
Fresh, local produce makes a difference, and in the hands of a chef like Cutrino it can really shine.  Her "grilled cheese" demonstration at the market last week was a huge hit, and you can count on similar success with Wild Mushroom Soup, Grilled Lamb Chops and some of the other items on this special menu.

Cost:
$65 per person, not including beverage, tax or tip.  Wine pairings are also available.  Reservations are required.  Call (202) 393-0812 to reserve, and check out their website for a glimpse at the menu.

Basic Knife Skills Class at Hill's Kitchen:

What:
Eastern Market's hottest cooking and entertaining supplier recently expanded their offerings to include cooking classes and demonstrations in their upstairs kitchen facilities.  This low-cost class is a great introduction to their programs and a hands-on opportunity to sharpen your skills.  You'll even get to work with some high-quality MAC knives in the process.

When:
Saturday, May 2nd, 12 noon

Where:
Hill's Kitchen
713 D Street, SE
Washington, DC

Why:
Sure, you cut a dashing figure in the kitchen.  But do you know which cut is which?  This class will walk you through and have you practice on vegetables so you can be sure you make the cut.  And the "delicious bites" promised at the end of the class don't hurt, either!

Cost:
$35 per person
For more information or to reserve, call (202) 543-1997 during business hours or email events@hillskitchen.com.  For details on the whole cooking and demonstrations program, check out their website.

100 Bowls of Compassion - A Gala to Benefit Miriam's Kitchen:

What:
Local service organization Miriam's Kitchen operates programs providing breakfast, casework, activities and transitional housing to address the causes and consequences of homelessness.  Their annual gala provides the single greatest source of funding for their programs, raising more than $300,000 in one night last year.  With plans to introduce a regular evening program - including dinner - in 2010, support is needed more than ever.

When:
Thursday, May 14th, 6-9:30 PM

Where:
National Building Museum
401 F Street, NW
Washington, DC

Why
Food prepared by Miriam's volunteers including highlights from each of the past seven years' menus.  Auction items including travel destinations and a pair of tickets to see Rachel Ray live.  Live music and an open bar.  But - most importantly - an opportunity to support a really good cause at a really great event.

Cost:
$250 per person

Email Ashlely Lawson at ashley@miriamskitchen.org or call her at (202) 452-8926 x 4# to purchase tickets.  For more information (or to buy tickets online), check out the event listing on their website.

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If you would like your even posted here, please email help@dcfoodies.com with the event info.


Spring Menu: Grilled Scallops with Egg

Scallop16 Oh, thank God spring is here.

I'm over the cold weather. I'm over having to schlep around a coat. I'm over my pasty white legs. (On the other hand, the NFL draft got me ready for fall. Go figure.)

With the change in temperatures comes a change in eating habits. The heavy comfort foods of winter are replaced with lighter fair. And in this case, that means seafood.

I eat seafood all year long, but I definitely peak in the warmer months. Maybe it's from growing up in Florida, maybe it's the humidity and the desire for something less dense, but I associate seafood with warm weather. I don't crave grouper in February any more than I crave braised lamb shank in August. So when temperatures finally climbed about 70 degrees, I hustled out the door like Pavlov's dog and bought a few of the fattest scallops I could find. (I'm not suggesting Pavlov's dog liked scallops, though there's nothing wrong with the mutt if he did.)

I don't know where the idea for the poached egg came from, but the thought of grilled scallops mingling with the warm yellow yolk sounded pretty good. Besides, the egg is symbolic of spring, right?

Now it's all well and good that a menu like this is on the lighter side, particularly if you pair it with a frise salad of tomatoes and vinaigrette, but I don't care about your paunch or your swimsuit. Grilled scallops and poached eggs make an excellent duo.

Abita7 I will, however, continue to beat the springtime metaphor to talk about the beers I paired with the meal. The Louisiana brewery Abita released a couple of new high-alcohol beers this year, Abbey Ale and Andygator. Abbey Ale is an amber-colored Belgian-style dubbel that clocks in at 8% ABV. The Andygator is an 8% helles doppelbock. Both come in 22 oz. bombers, also a first for the brewery. Although the Andygator is a decent run at the traditional German lager, Abita did a far better job on the Abbey Ale, which, incidentally, worked with the sweetness of the scallops and richness of the poached egg yolk.

Beer, scallops and sunshine, what a great time of year.

Grilled scallops with egg
(Makes two servings)

4 large sea scallops
2 large eggs
2 cups water
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Edible flowers, optional

Prepare an ice bath and begin boiling two cups of salted water and a tablespoon of vinegar on the stove. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and gently drop in the eggs, being careful not to break the yolk. Poach the eggs for two minutes, gently remove and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan of hot water on the stove.

Scallop9 Remove the scallops from the refrigerator and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Light your gas grill or prepare your charcoal. When the grill is ready, oil the grates and place the scallops directly over the hottest spot. Grill the scallops uncovered for about three minutes or until a brown crust begins to form. Flip the scallops and cook for another two minutes. Close the lid and cook for another minute. Remove the scallops and set aside.

If the water on the stove is still hot, transfer the eggs from the ice bath to the pan. Otherwise, bring the water back up to a simmer. Warm the eggs back up for about a minute. Any longer and you'll begin to cook the eggs and harden the yolks. When the eggs are warm, plate them along side the scallops. For a touch of color (or if you're taking pictures for a foodie Web site), garnish the dish with a few edible flowers.


Weekly Blog Roundup

Bay boat Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...I'll be starting the Weekly Blog Roundup; with a roundup. Local blogger, Foodie Tots, initiated "Blog for the Bay" on Earth Day, April 22nd. In hopes of increasing awareness about the "Chesapeake Bay Foodshed", she asked local food bloggers to write about their memories of the Bay, and issues that pertain to it. Through the internet, Facebook and Twitter, word spread, and Foodie Tots managed to roundup Arugula Files, Capital Spice, The Green Phone Booth, Capital Cooking Show, Metrocurean, Plight of the Pumpernickel, DCist, Endless Simmer, Internet Food Association and Etsy Inspiration. Congratulations to Foodies Tots.  I hope this is the first of what could be a powerful annual event.

Speculation, confirmation and equivocation best sums up the longstanding rumor that Michel Richard will be taking over the darkened Maestro space in the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. This week, Young and Hungry  reported that investment packets were sent out, seeking over $2 million to develop "Michel Richard" at the Ritz, fueling conjecture about Citronelle's closing.

Following up on this report, the Washington Post's, Tom Sietsema,  contacted Chef Richard who initially denied his intention to take over Maestro, then capitulated with "maybe" when told of Young and Hungry's report. For now, the chef shared that Citronelle will "down-grade" in light of the tough economic times.

Weighing in for the Old Dominion is Warren Rojas, food critic for Northern Virginia Magazine. In his weekly Thursday chat, Rojas fielded a question about the McLean restaurant, should Richard be at the helm. "I suspect Richard would imbue any Virginia spin-off with its own distinctive character and dining attractions. In fact, I'm going to go on record as saying Michel Richard the restaurant might just blow Citronelle out of the water."

This week, DC area foodies (and beyond) were excited to learn that local blogger, writer and author Monica Bhide (A Life of Spice) released her new cookbook, Modern Spice. The book, filled with contemporary and creative recipes, is interspersed with Bhide's reflections on her childhood and family memories. Here is a link to Bhide's piece in this week's WaPo Wednesday Food section. In it, you'll find the "how-to's" of making an entertaining and delicious Indian-themed party.

For your food and drink consideration on this upcoming summer-like weekend, check out The Arugula File's Baked Fries with a Chipotle Dipping Sauce Dishtrict's Ham Biscuits with Sunchoke Relish, and The Bitten Word's Old Fashioned.
 


Foodie To-Do List: Moms-to-Be, Embassies, Mixology

Todo As part of an ongoing effort to alert you, the readers of DC Foodies, to all of the really cool food-related events, classes and opportunities throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, we give you this week's edition of the Foodie To-Do List.

Each Wednesday, we give you a heads-up on a few of the upcoming events that we think look particularly interesting.  This week, we've got:

"Preggatinis" Book Signing Party at Firefly:

What:
Between Mother Earth's Day and Mother's Day, join Liquid Muse Natalie Bovis-Nelsen for an afternoon of mocktails and light hors d'ouevres as she signs copies of her new book "Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-to-Be."

When:
Saturday, April 25th, 12-2 PM

Where:
Firefly at the Hotel Madera
1310 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Why:
Just because you're not drinking alcohol doesn't mean you can't enjoy a fun and creative drink.  Like local favorite Gina Chersevani at PS7's, Bovis-Nelsen has come up with some great options for the designated driver - whether you're expecting or just abstaining.

Cost:
Free, but reservations are required.  Call (202) 466-1306 or email rsvp_dc@kimptonhotels.com.

Embassy Open Houses at Passport DC 2009:

What:
More than thirty embassies representing countries from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America open their doors and show off aspects of their national culture.  Expect movies, demonstrations, arts and music.  Many of the embassies will also offer some of their countries' foods and beverages as well.  NOTE: You'll notice that there aren't any EU countries participating; they're doing their own version the following weekend.

When:
Saturday, May 2nd, 10 AM - 4 PM

Where:
Embassies throughout Washington - See maps on website for locations
(Many are clustered on Massachusetts Ave., NW near Dupont Circle and International Drive near Van Ness/UDC).

Why:
Think of it as Epcot Center without the themed rides and the high ticket prices.  You can go around the world in six hours, enjoying food from Australia, Uzbek dried fruit and rum from Trinidad and Tobago all in one afternoon.

Cost:
Free to attend.  Plan to take the metro and walk from embassy to embassy or be prepared to spend a good portion of your afternoon looking for parking
.

For more information, check out Passport DC's website for the event.

Celebrate World Cocktail Week with the Museum of the American Cocktail at Proof:

What:
The word "cocktail" first appeared in print more than 200 years ago, on May 13th, 1806.  World Cocktail Week is an annual celebration of two centuries' worth of creative libations, and Proof is once again hosting a cocktail party and dinner to join in the fun and benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail.  Guests will enjoy a cocktail hour featuring passed hors d'oeuvres and five cocktails created especially for the event before sitting down a five-course dinner that will include five additional cocktail pairings.

When:
Monday, May 11th, 7 PM - ???

Where:
Proof
775 G Street, NW
Washington, DC
Email Karen Chan at Proof (karen@proofdc.com) for reservations

Why:
Where else can you enjoy the handiwork of:

  • Adam Bernbach of Bar Pilar
  • Derek Brown of The Gibson
  • Tom Brown of Cork
  • Gina Chersevani of PS 7’s
  • Justin Guthrie of Blue Ridge
  • Owen Thompson of Bourbon
  • Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve
  • Chantal Tseng of Tabard Inn
  • Rico Wisnor of Poste
  • Jill Zimorski of Café Atlantico
  • Sebastian Zutant of Proof

all under one roof while benefiting the Museum of the American Cocktail, a non-profit dedicated to education about and preservation of the American cocktail tradition?

Cost:
$145 per person

For more information, check out the event listing at Proof's website.

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If you would like your even posted here, please email help@dcfoodies.com with the event info.


Eat, Drink, Copenhagen

Image031 It was a clay pot with carrots planted inside.

A tiny pot, in fact, with four tiny carrots. But upon further review - unearthing the carrots - it was much more. It was a trick for the eyes and a treat for the diners.

The "dirt" was roasted hazelnuts and reduced beer. Below it was a soft green yogurt sauce the baby carrots (they were real) were to be dipped in. A deceivingly clever dish and a good analogy for the city I was enjoying it in - Copenhagen.

A first glance, Copenhagen is like so many old European cities. Unless you're into old buildings, Carlsberg beer or Hans Christian Anderson, it's easy to overlook. Dig a bit deeper, though, and you'll find the paradox that defines Copenhagen: an old world city transfixed by modernity.

The old grabs your attention first: Rosenborg Castle, the royal gardens, City Hall, Tivoli Gardens, Amalienborg Palace. But the modern is an attention starved child. Behind Christiansborg Palace is Copenhagen's "Black Diamond" Royal Library, all angles and black glass. Across the harbor is the new glass and steel opera house. Dansk Design and Bang & Olufsen are ever present in storefronts up and down the city's worn streets. Copenhagen is a old port city interlaced with trains decked out with wi-fi.

Lunch spots, like Ida Davidsen, will serve you the traditional smørrebrød open faced sandwiches. Walk across the street afterward to Gorm for the buttery, sweet filo pastry, rosenbrod (seriously, do this). Or make reservations at Noma, the Minibar of Denmark's capital, and experience the creations of another Ferran Adria student, René Redzepi.

Image231 Walk into most any bar in Copenhagen and you'll have a Carlsberg, the hometown beer. The brewery and its products have been a staple for 150 years. However, not every bar pours Carlsberg. A select few are ignoring the mammoth brewery and joining the craft beer movement.

Like the clay pot, Copenhagen is worth digging into.

Eating Copenhagen

If you want to eat like the Danes then you need to eat a smørrebrød. Tradition has it that you eat these sandwiches in threes: one fish, one meat, one cheese. At Ida Davidsen, a lunch only spot in the old city, that's easy to do. Davidsen, the restaurant's chef and name sake, still works the counter in chef's jacket and hat and will walk you through the dozens of smørrebrøds she's concocted over the years. Once you place your order, take a seat and enjoy your meal there, with an aquavit and lager starter, or have it boxed to leave with you. The sandwiches are delicate, creative (caviar and crawfish tails; liver pâté, bacon and cowberry jam; pungent cheese and radishes) and delicious. Three sandwiches make a hearty meal, but they're well worth it.

Now, not all smørrebrøds are alike. A different restaurant on a different day produced smørrebrøds twice the size of the sandwiches I encountered at Ida Davidson. So it pays to ask about proportions before ordering three sandwiches at once.

Something else to consider is the pølsevogn, or sausage wagon. Like our beloved dirty-water hot dog vendors, the pølsevogns are everywhere selling sausages cheap. If you close your eyes and forget you're in Denmark, the sausages, or røde pølsers, taste pretty much like a hot dog. But in a city where a beer will cost you $10 and an open-faced sandwich $20, the $5 røde pølser makes a pretty good lunch. Order one French style and enjoy the bread tube the sausage comes in.

Image302 When in Denmark, you have to have a danish, right? Nah. But you do have to try some of the pastries. These people know how to bake a sweet treat. Whether it's the aforementioned rosenbrod, a wenerbrod staenger (a type of coffee cake), or napoleonshatte (marzipan-filled cookie dipped in chocolate), the sugary baked goods delight. Hell, try the danish too.

At the other end of the spectrum is Noma, a thoroughly modern restaurant headed by chef Redzepi, who worked at El Bulli and The French Laundry before returning to Demark to open his own restaurant. Redzepi's menu is a reflection of his resume. A few of the dishes on the seven course tasting menu showed off the tricks he picked up in Spain, including a snowman made of meringue, carrot sorbet and a berry cream, smoked quail eggs and, of course, the potted carrots. However, Redzepi's dishes aren't all trickery. Like his other former boss, Thomas Keller, Redzepi's dishes also celebrate local ingredients and products.

Image356 If there's a middle ground between Noma and Ida, it's Søren K, an upscale restaurant inside the Black Diamond. Named for Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the restaurant is a study in warmth and elegance. The restaurant's exterior wall is floor-to-ceiling glass, offering one of the best canal-side views in the city. During the day, students and boats bustle by. In the evening, city lights flicker through the glass. For all of it's modern design, the restaurant's menu leans traditional with a decidedly French influence. Dinner began with fresh oysters and a bracingly cold dram of aquavit. I also had a creamy bowl of sweet lobster bisque, while my wife saved herself for an entree of pork loin and roasted hazelnuts. I opted for lamb brazed in what the waiter could only describe as "a very old traditional beer." The meal was excellent, but the view was spectacular.

Image116 Of course you could skip the restaurant scene entirely and picnic in one of the city's many parks and gardens. Small groceries dot the city and there are a few butchers, cheese shops and produce vendors that can easily fill a picnic basket or backpack with house-smoked sausages, pâtés, and other porky, beefy delicious things. If you're a fan of stinky cheeses, skip the blue and give gamle ole a try. It's just as Danish, but way more funky. The man at the cheese shop, Osten ved Kultorvet, said Danes have an expression for the cheese: "If you eat the cheese, smell your fingers before you go to the bathroom."

Umm, good.

Drinking Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the St. Louis of Denmark. The only thing more common in Copenhagen bars than Carlsberg beers is Danish drinkers. This isn't a bad thing. The mega brewer produces a pretty good selection of beers, including its flagship pilsner, and the brewery tour is worth your time. On the other hand, why fly half-way around the world for a beer you can buy down the street? What's the point in that?

Image235 Hey, is that Flying Dog on draft?! Hot shit, I'll take one of those!

Yeah, yeah, I'm a hypocrite. Still, I was excited to see one of our local beers on draft in the Scandinavian kingdom. Den Tatoverede Enke, the bar pouring Flying Dog, was one of a handful of joints I planned to visit while in town. After doing some homework on one of my favorite Web sites, beermapping.com, I tracked down a few bars that might give me a first-hand look at Denmark's craft beer scene.

Though tiny compared to the craft beer movement here, the bar owners and beer enthusiasts in Copenhagen who have eschewed Carlsberg for its smaller Danish competitors, Belgian ales and other European and American micros are every bit as committed to supporting craft beer as we are. And with more limited availability, the Danes have to work a little harder to wet their beaks in craft brews.

Den Tatoverede Enke was the first stop I made. The bar and restaurant is just off the King's Square and Nyhavn, the city's bustling bar and restaurant strip. Hidden from the street behind a few small shops and the Wall Street bar, Den Tatoverede Enke is worth the hunt. The pub was opened in 2001 by a jocular New Zealander, Jeremy Popa, and his Swedish wife at the urging of his father in law. Although the economy has taken a toll on Popa's business, he maintains a regular rotation of a dozen regional and American drafts that keep his regulars coming back. The day I showed up, the U.S. offering was Flying Dog's Snake Dog IPA. When that runs out, Great Divide will replace it. The beer theme continues upstairs in the restaurant, both as an ingredient in most dishes and as a pairing with the food.

Image126 Bryggerier and the Apollo Brewery are different. Located along a busy street at the front gates of Tivoli  Gardens, the glass-enclosed brewpub has the polished look of a chain restaurant. And given the amusement park rides just on the other side of Tivoli's gates, I can be forgiven for thinking I stumbled into the Disney Village. That said, the house beers -- a bock and hibiscus blond ale -- were decent. Combine the beers with the warm service and a decent lunch of herring, cheese and roast beef (the Holy Trinity of Danish cuisine) and maybe I should keep my Disney observations to myself.

A tip from Popa led me to my third pub, Charlie's Bar. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I'm a sucker for British bitters. Well, Charlie's is a traditional British pub a couple twists and turns off the main pedestrian mall, Østergade, with more than a few bitters on tap, six of which are hooked up to beer engines. Add in the fact that the bar had free wi-fi and I was a very happy man.

Last on my list was Ørsted Ølbar. Situated near one of Copenhagen University's many campuses, the bar draws a mixed crowd of students, business folks and locals. Of the four bars I visited, Ørsted Ølbar easily Image333 had the largest selection of craft beers on draft and on hand. Soren, the bartender on duty, was happy to chat about the lengths the bar goes though to track down American beers (Great Divide's Yeti was on draft) and show off Danish micros, including Mikkeller's Drikkeriget (a double IPA) and Festival IPA, a curiously flavorful beer that didn't taste much like an IPA. (That may be due to the rice, kinin and peach Amager Bryghus adds to its beer.) If the economy was hurting Den Tatoverede Enke, you wouldn't know it at Ørsted Ølbar. When I walked in, Soren was alone at the bar as Depeche Mode played quietly in the background. Within 20 minutes the 4 o'clock Friday crowd was released from their offices and the place jammed with cheery suits eager for a few pints. A quiet bar no more.

Seeing Copenhagen

Image262 There are way too many travel guides to bother much with this (For what it's worth, I like Rick Steves). If I were to recommend anything, I would tell you to see the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, a 30 minute train trip outside Copenhagen. A quick stroll north through town will bring you to the harbor, museum and the capital of Viking era Denmark. The museum is dedicated to five Viking ships discovered a half century ago in the waters off shore. The boats were dredged from the sea floor and meticulously reconstructed over the course of 25 years. Sure there's a bunch to see in Copenhagen, but how can you go to Denmark and not visit the Vikings?

Noma
Strandgade 93
1401 Copenhagen
www.noma.dk

Ida Davidsen
Store Kongensgade 70
1264 Copenhagen
www.idadavidsen.dk

Søren K
Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1
1221 Copenhagen
www.soerenk.dk

Osten ved Kultorvet (cheese shop)
Rosenborggade 2
1130 Copenhagen
www.kultorvet.dk

Slagteren ved Kultorvet (butcher)
Frederiksborggade 4
1360 Copenhagen
www.kultorvet.dk

Den Tatoverede Enke
Gothersgade 8 C
1123 Copenhagen
www.dentatoveredeenke.dk

Bryggerier and the Apollo Brewery
Vesterbrogade 3
1620 Copenhagen
www.a-h-b.dk

Charlie's Bar
Pilestræde 33
1112 Copenhagen

Ørsted Ølbar
Nørre Farimagsgade 13
1364 Copenhagen
www.oerstedoelbar.dk

Viking Ship Museum
Vindeboder 12
4000 Roskilde
www.vikingshipmuseum.com


Weekly Blog Roundup

Dupont-lamb-collage-500 Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...From obits to nasty bits; here we go! Closing are Bebo (shocked!, shocked!), Farrah Olivia (moving to Crystal City and DC), and Mark and Orlando's in Dupont. This raises the question; are you patronizing restaurants more to help support them in this economy? I am trying to do my part. Although farmers markets and cooking at home are more my thing, and aside from my weekly Chinese/Thai take-out, I'm trying to make an effort to patronize some of my favorite places.  I'm also trying new restaurants with a particular emphasis on independents, or "mom and pops".

This week, Counter Intelligence spoke with Chef Mike Isabella, of Zatinya. If you were lucky enough to have attended the Dupont farmers market last Sunday, you may have sampled Zatinya's spit-roasted lamb. For Greek Easter, Chef Isabella will be preparing two whole lambs a day, through April 26th. CI noted, "But the crowd pleaser is the mini gyro. Drizzled with olive oil, the open faced sandwich is leg meat from a spit-roasted lamb, served with tzatziki, pickled onion, mint and chives." 

I sampled the lamb last Sunday (seen above), and can tell you that it was tender and succulent, finished with a pinch of chunky salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Go for lunch, go for dinner, or just get a sandwich to eat at your desk if you can. Just go! (why can't I get the Simpson's out my head right now?)

Most folks lucky enough to score tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll go to roll eggs. Foodies like Foodie Tots go to see what's cooking, and what's growing. She reported that Sam Kass, assistant chef and gardener, proudly shared freshly-plucked rosemary with inquiring families, while Jose Andres extoled the virtues of fresh tomatoes while making gazpacho.

"Sadly perhaps, I have come to expect to be gouged for alcohol. I do NOT expect to be gouged for soft drinks or coffee." wrote "Washington, D.C." this week, in a thoughtful missive to Tom Sietsema during his weekly Wednesday WaPo chat. Agreed, WDC. To wit; Sauce on the Side is reporting that throughout the month of April, Taberna del Alabardero is offering over 100 wines at retail cost. You can enjoy the 2004 Maria Casanova Rose for $50 (usually $90), or the 1998 Torres Reserva Real for $195 (usually $350). For more on tasting notes, and sommelier Gustavo Iniesta, check out SOTS's full report.

Dish-trict reports that Post Brasserie will be re-opening their courtyard, "The Garden", on Earth Day, April 22nd. Benefiting FreshFarm markets, a $5 admission fee will allow you to sample regional wines, cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, and a host of treats from The Garden's small plates menu.

Finally, Tim Carmen (Young and Hungry Blog) gave readers an inside look at his afternoon with celeb chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain. You probably caught the No Reservations D.C. episode, where Bourdain toured eateries in the Eden Center with Carmen, and also wasted precious minutes talking spy crap over mediocre food and brew in G'town. Well, those minutes could have been spent boasting about our region's true Irish Chipper - Eammon's in Alexandria. Carmen linked to the lost Eammon's segment which was not shown in the U.S. (but was shown overseas...why??).  The segment shows Bourdain swilling a fish-topped Guinness and consuming bites of all good things fried, along with Chef and co-owner Cathal Armstrong. If anything, the segment is worthy, not because I drool at the thought of Eammon's cod and chips, and my God, I didn't even realize they serve "chipwiches" loaded with real butter, but because Armstrong deftly described Ireland's liquid gold as "angels pissin' on your tongue".


Gambling on a Chinese Wine; or, Pai Gow for the Palate.

Dragon1 I am a big fan of underdog wines. Oh sure, it's great to pick out a good California Cabernet, or a French Burgundy, but those are a dime a dozen, and by most accounts, 'good.' Granted, they aren't all superstars, and some are gonna be pretty boring — but by and large, thanks to decades, and sometimes centuries of practice and investment, winemakers in these places can consistently turn out a drinkable product. Now where, may I ask you, is the fun in that? True, you can go get your bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir and be pretty sure it is good, but will you have the same satisfaction as the man who gambles on a Virginia Cabernet Franc and gets a winner? Variety is the spice, friends, and nothing is more variable than wines from your 'lesser' appellations. Bearing this in mind, you can understand my thrill when, on my recent visit to upstate New York, I came across Dragon's Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay, a bottle of real, honest to Mao Chinese Wine! I'd been looking for one of these for ages, and snapped it up, throwing down my $12.99 with a grin.

Dragon's Hollow — clearly named and marketed for an English speaking audience — is made in the foothills of the He Lan Mountain in north-central China. Once a vast expanse of desert, the area now hosts a 6,000 hectare vineyard, thanks to heavy investment from the importer, Broadbent Selections, which owns 50% of the venture. Planted with familiar French varietals such as Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Dragon's Hollow is one of the larger examples of the new 'Chateau-style' wineries popping up all over China. Though the Chinese wine industry is huge (seventh largest in the world, by some estimates), with a winemaking tradition dating back to the seventh century AD, it is largely constituted of state-run mega vineyards, producing bulk wine for a huge population just awakening to wine's pleasures.

Coin1 An estimated 90% of China's wine needs are fulfilled domestically, so one almost never sees a bottle on American shelves (seriously, I'd been looking for ages). Oh, and as an added bonus, the wine comes packaged with this neat, Chinese looking coin thingy (made from real metal!), which pretty much sealed the deal. I managed to fight my curiosity for a couple of weeks, but finally opened the bottle last night.

The Dragon Hollow Chardonnay 2006 is light gold-yellow in color. The nose is rather complicated, giving off notes of green apple skins, pear, tropical fruits, and white cake. On the palate, the wine is less promising. The attack is dominated by an odd, limey, chemical sweetness that strikes the very front of the tongue. The sweetness loses out to more bitter, acidic qualities on the mid-palate, becoming extremely acidic on the finish, to the point of eclipsing any flavors that might be tasted. While the nose is pretty pleasant, the wine is extremely unbalanced on the palate, and though it would almost certainly come off less-so with food, there are any number of similarly priced wines that will bring more to the table.

It is pretty clear to me that this wine has been acidified to too great a degree, and perhaps adulterated in other ways, to boot. Therein lies the major problem with your lesser known appellations: in addition to lacking the prestige of your better known vineyards, these areas also lack the standards, often allowing for much higher crop yields and much more manipulation than we've come to expect.

If you like what you've read, or are just curious, I'm sorry to say that Dragon's Hollow appears to only be available in New York and California — Broadbent is a big importer, though, so expect to see it here in the relatively near future. Though I am not impressed with this particular bottle, I am still curious to taste more Chinese wines in the future, and am keen to know if any of you out there have tried any others. And looking on the bright side, the Dragon's Hollow wasn't a total loss, as that little coin-dealie is gonna look awesome hanging from my rear-view mirror.


Foodie To-Do List: Raising Food and Raising Glasses

Todo As part of an ongoing effort to alert you, the readers of DC Foodies, to all of the really cool food-related events, classes and opportunities throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, we give you this week's edition of the Foodie To-Do List.

Each Wednesday, we give you a heads-up on a few of the upcoming events that we think look particularly interesting.  This week, we've got:

Southern Foodways Alliance's Potlikker Film Fest:

What:
Spend an evening learning about the Southern Foodways Alliance and their members through a series of short documentaries and a sampling of Southern cuisine prepared by local DC chefs.  Start out with a shot of potlikker (the liquid left over after slow-cooking greens) and some cornbread courtesy of Mark Furstenberg.

When:
Saturday, April 18th, 6-9 PM

Where:
Johnny's Half Shell
400 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC

Why:
Where else can you watch short films about Sweet Potato Pie, Hot Chicken, and urban farming while listening to jazz and enjoying snacks prepared by top chefs like Ann Cashion, Jeff Buben, and Gillian Clark?  Consider this your gateway to the SFA.

Cost:
$40 per person

For more information, check out the SFA's website.

Ambassador Week at Belga Cafe <<UPDATED INFO PER BELGA>>:

What:
To celebrate Chef Bart Vandaele's being named as one of four international brand ambassadors by Anheuser-Busch and their InBev counterparts, Belga Cafe welcomes guests for a week of prix fixe dining, "Drink Your Beer, Steal Your Glass" and other promotions involving Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe.

When:
Monday, April 13th - Sunday, April 19th
"Perfect Pour" Demonstrations on the Patio - Friday, April 17th

Where:
Belga Cafe
514 8th Street, SE
Washington, DC
(202) 544-0100

Why:
There's something fun about the unique glassware used for serving Hoegaarden, Stella Artois and Leffe.  Admit it - you've thought about walking out with one before (maybe you've even snuck one!).  Here's your chance to get one on the up-and-up.

Cost:
$45 for a prix fixe four-course meal with recommended pairings of Stella Artois ($7), Leffe Blond ($6.95), Leffe Brune ($6.95) and Hoegaarden ($6.50) - the glasses are yours to keep.

$2 per beer on the patio for the "Perfect Pour" demonstrations Friday evening.

For more information, check out Belga Cafe's website.

Mysterious Absinthe Cocktails and Tasting at Chi Cha Lounge:

What:
TasteDC introduces you to the Green Fairy through a tasting of at least seven different absinthes now available as led by Brian Robinson of the Wormwood Society.  Along the way you'll learn about the history of absinthe and its use in classic cocktails and enjoy a selection of empanadas and international cheeses.

When:
Thursday, May 14th, 7-9 PM

Where:
Chi Cha Lounge
1624 U Street, NW
Washington, DC
Call 202-654-7010 for reservations

Why:
Now that absinthe is no longer verboten in the US, you owe it to yourself to get to know this classic spirit that shows up in everything from traditional Sazeracs to modern creations at spots like PX and The Gibson.

Cost:
$50 per person

For more information, check out the event listing at TasteDC's website.


Weekly Blog Roundup

Chef v Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week..."this city could really use another steakhouse", Metrocurean sardonically penned this week. She was alluding to the new restaurant, J&G Steakhouse, set to open later this year in the new W Hotel.  This will be the second J&G Steakhouse by star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Michael Landrum, owner of Rays the Steaks (and the Ray's group of restaurants) responded on Don Rockwell, "In my opinion, even more disturbing (sad, really) than the proliferation of steakhouses is the continued fixation and slavish, unquestioning adulation in the local media on absentee chefs who sell-out their names in what basically amounts to a licensing scheme that funnels profits out of the local economy. Haven't they grown tired of being duped yet, just hoping for Eric Ripert to send a pout in their direction? Or worse, aren't they tired of serving as the agents of said duping?"

As J&G Steakhouse comes to fruition, just next door, a local institution is closing. The elaborate Willard Room at the Willard Hotel is closing, and will be used for private events only. If you have made a Mother's Day reservation there, you had better start typing "Open Table".

Adding to the list of shuttering restaurants is Le Paradou, with Chef Yannick Cam. During a phone interview with  Washington City Paper's Tim Carmen, Cam blamed exorbitant rent which was not negotiable. Cam stated that he will be looking for another place, possibly in McLean, VA.

If winning DC's Most Crushable Chef contest is any indication, Chef Teddy Folkman should have the competition sewn up on the next season of The Next Food Network Star. The master of mussels at Granville Moore's will be turning up the heat, and the charm. Stay tuned starting June 7th.

Congratulations to local food blogger Mango & Tomato for becoming the DC Cooking Examiner. M&T is excited to be able to share her "recipes, inspirations and cooking advice with a wider audience."

This Spring, local farmers markets are ramping up with, well, ramps! Dishtrict Plates reported that the odorous Appalachian weeds are fetching $4.50 for a small bunch at the Dupont Farmers Market, and $20 a pound at Alexandria's The Butchers Block(Brabo). You can read a hilarious account of growing up in W. Virginia, and recommendations for sage ways to use ramps.