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July 2009

DC Restaurant Week Summer/August 2009

Restaurant Week The wait is over.  After what seemed like a longer delay than usual, DC Restaurant Week finally announced the dates and participants for their summer installment on Monday.  This time around, we'll be celebrating Restaurant Week from Monday, August 24th through Sunday, August 30th. 

Even in these tough economic times, the list seems to have grown again, even longer than it was for February's winter version.  We count almost 180 participating restaurants, and it's impressive to see that there are some newer restaurants that are already participating (Columbia Firehouse in Old Town won't even be open a month when Restaurant Week comes along).

For those of you new to the D.C. Metro area who are unfamiliar with what DC Restaurant Week is, here's a brief summary. DC Restaurant Week occurs twice a year during the slow restaurant season in the winter (usually January, though this year it was pushed back because of the Presidential inauguration) and the late summer (usually August). During this time, participating restaurants will offer three-course lunches for $20.09 and/or three-course dinners for $35.09. Some restaurants will offer their full menu while others will have a special Restaurant Week menu.

Choosing restaurants to visit can be a difficult decision - where are you going to get the most bang for your buck? 

Certainly there are some restaurants that do Restaurant Week very well and there are others that just plain disappoint. I strongly encourage people to do a search for past DC Restaurant Week posts on this web site (and others, though DC Foodies has been doing this longer than most others) where people have written comments about their experiences at different restaurants when deciding on where to dine. Here are some brief pointers to use when choosing restaurants:

  1. Avoid "special" menus unless you know exactly what the restaurant is offering and it actually sounds interesting to you. Restaurants offering most - or ideally all - of their normal menu are the restaurants to go to, as these are the best deals.
  2. Confirm with the restaurant when making a reservation that they are in fact participating in D.C. Restaurant Week.
  3. When choosing a restaurant, consider whether or not they always have a deal similar to the Restaurant Week offer. For instance, Cafe Atlantico always has a pre-theater prix-fixe menu.  Make sure a $35.09 three-course menu represents real value with respect to the restaurant's usual prices. 
  4. Some restaurants (as you can see in our previous menu lists below) participate in D.C. Restaurant Week for extended periods - sometimes as long as the entire month!  You might want to consider booking reservations at those restaurants outside the main Restaurant Week period. For most participating restaurants, D.C. Restaurant Weeks are the busiest times of the year, so they are likely to be crowded.

To simplify the process for people every six months, the D.C. Foodies writers compile a list of Restaurant Week menus for all of the participating restaurants...we'll be doing it again this time around, though most restaurants don't advertise (or even set) their menus until the week or so before.

For a comprehensive map of the roughly 180 restaurants taking part this time around, check out my post at Capital Spice yesterday.  It might help you find some participants in some of your favorite parts of town (or in places you've been meaning to explore).

Take a look back at some of our previous posts while we start collecting menus from the participating restaurants.  This year we'll be posting updates every few days as we get closer, so keep checking in to see if your restaurants have revealed their plans!

Past Restaurant Weeks:

Winter 2009 Menus
Summer 2008 Menus

January 2008 Menus
August 2007 Menus

January 2007 Menus
August 2006 Menus
January 2006 Menus
August 2005 Menus
January 2005 Menus

If you have any additional questions about Restaurant Week or participating restaurants, don't hesitate to ask in the comments section below or email us at your convenience.

Enjoy!


Succulent smoked pork butt: 24 hours of ease

Image034 I barbecued last weekend. I didn't grill. I didn't satay. I stuck nine and a half pounds of pork butt in a smoker for 23 hours.

I barbecued.

And let me tell you, there are few endeavors easier and more satisfying than taking the time to slow cook a large piece of meat. Every phase of the process -- from the preparation to the cooking -- is simple. But because we live in a world of instant gratification, the idea that you'd spend a full day and night cooking one thing is unfathomable to many people. Of course, that's why it's so damn impressive.

I will admit that once you start barbecuing, you're committed to barbecuing. Sure, you can crack a couple beers and zone out in front of the TV for a while, but you're not going anywhere. At least you shouldn't.

Barbecuing is a pretty laid-back endeavor, but you should stick around while it's going on. After all, you do have a fire smoldering in your backyard. This style of cooking is great for special occasions (again, investing that much time in a single meal is impressive) and weekends you know you'll be hanging around the house.

Image021 In my case, my brother and niece were in town. So the day before they flew home to Florida, I hosted a barbecue in my backyard. A few friends, a few cold beers (more on that below) and several pounds of succulent pork, pulled from the smoker a few hours before the first folks arrived.

As has been well documented in any number of cookbooks and Food Network specials, there's a whole culture surrounding barbecue. It's regional, technical and at times competitive. Again, barbecuing a piece of meat is easy. The difficulty is in the details.

Barbecuing can be as easy as buying a $12 pork butt (which comes from the shoulder) and a bottle of commercial barbecue sauce at the grocery store. Slow cook the pork for 20 to 24 hours at around 225 degrees and sauce the smoky meat when you're done. It can also be as difficult as making your own rub and sauce, sourcing your Berkshire pork from a particular farm or butcher, using injections, mop sauces and fussing over the wood and whether it's wet or dry, pine or maple.

All that extra work will produce pork that tastes better than the shoulder that was smoked naked and slathered with Stubb's. But that difference might be important to you. It sure is to me.

I tend to fall somewhere between lazy and obsessive. I make my own sauce, use Steven Raichlen's Memphis rub recipe, inject my pork with apple cider and keep a pan of water and apple juice underneath the shoulder to keep the exterior of the meat as moist as possible during the long cook time. That might sound like a lot, but it really isn't. The hardest part of smoking is getting up in the middle of the night to stoke the coals and add a little more wood (which you should do every three to five hours).

In the end, I have an unctuous pile of moist meat that I slather in homemade barbecue sauce and slap on two pieces of bread (no coleslaw, please.). It's a hell of a meal that requires little more than time and wood.

Image057 Because I was hosting a summertime barbecue, I had to go with a summertime beer. In this case, I played favorites: Great Divide's Titan IPA. There are few IPAs on the market better crafted than this bold, rich, hoppy IPA from Colorado. At 6.8 percent ABV, it's a bit bigger than some IPAs, but it's well balanced and delicious. Some could argue that Titan is too rich, too bitter for an out-doors event in July, that a wheat beer or pilsner would be a better fit. All that may be true. However, Titan is delicious any time of year, and the smoked pork butt covered in a spicy barbecue sauce has a lot of big flavors that Great Divide's IPA stands right up to. I understand that this is the season of lagers and limes, but I can't support fruiting the beer. No sir, I need a Titan.

Smoked pork butt
(serves many)

Photo 1 8 to 12 lb. pork butt (make sure to factor in the weight of the bone)
1 1/2 cups of rub (As I said, I like Steven Raichlen's barbecue rub. But don't be afraid to play with the ingredients if it's not to your tastes. You want more brown sugar? Add more brown sugar. Want more salt? Add more.)
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 gallon apple juice
3 cups of barbecue sauce (I make my own, but feel free to use your favorite commercial brand.)
Enough aluminum foil to wrap the pork butt
Wood, lots of wood (Depending on your smoker, you either need a mixture of logs, wood chunks and chips, or charcoal, wood chunks and chips. If you have a barrel style grill and smoker, you'll need several logs, and about 2 bags of large wood chunks and 3 bags of wood chips available at any hardware store. If you have a smaller bullet smoker, go with a bag of charcoal, 3 bags of large wood chunks and 3 bags of wood chips.)

The night before you get started, add the rub to the pork butt, cover and return to the fridge. The next day, pull the pork out of the fridge and inject it with as much apple cider as you can (probably a cup of cider or so). When you're done, leave the pork on the kitchen counter and get started on lighting the smoker.

With my old bullet, I liked to begin with charcoal and then add the wood chunks. This gets the wood burning really well. When the fire dies down and the wood coals are hot, fill the liquid tray 3/4 full with a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider, put the top grate back in place, stick the pork in the smoker skin side up and close the lid. Every 3 hours or so when you check your fire, add a few charcoal briquettes and another handful of wood chips. This will envelop the pork butt in smoke for a good 10 minutes, which is ideal. Remember, you want the meat to be seasoned with the smoke, not taste like a Marlboro.

Image001 If you're using the larger smoker, get your wood started. Once it's burned down a bit and you've started a respectable bed of coals, place a pan underneath where you'll be placing the pork (the far side of the smoker from the fire), fill the pan with the 50/50 mixture of water and apple juice, and place the pork on the grate above. Once the pork is on and the lid is closed, toss a handful of wood chips on the fire and walk away.

Whenever you check the fire (and make sure the temperature remains around 225 to 250), check to see how much liquid is still in the pan. If it's low, add a bit more. Repeat every few hours.

If you're smoker runs a little hot, 20 hours may be sufficient. The pork is probably cooked in a few hours, but it takes much more time to reach fall-apart tender. If you end up hovering around 225 or less, shoot for 23 to 24 hours. In either case, for the final two hours, wrap the pork butt in aluminum foil. This will give the meat a last minute steam that'll make it a little more succulent.

Once the pork is done, remove it from the smoker and let it rest covered in foil for at least 30 minutes. After that, open it, pull it and eat it.


Weekly Blog Roundup

Chicago hot dog Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week...Despite the recent abrupt departure of Frank Morales from Rustico, the chef, known now for beer cuisine remarked about the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, "they are truly, truly a wonderful group" to Gut Check this week.  Morales will now go on to be part-owner and executive chef at Birch & Barely as planned. "Whatever I do next is going to define, for me, what my legacy is in D.C.,” Morales said to Young and Hungry.

DC is largely a region filled with transplants. Those transplants who are foodies, be they permanent or interlopers, are bound to bitch, moan and complain that they can't find a good (insert your hometown food here) anywhere. Well, Chicago natives, we may have a winner for you. Best Bites Blog reported on an unlikey authentic Chicago hot dog stand in Ashburn. The place is called Windy City Red Hots, and it's located in the parking lot of a nursery. The owner, Miranda, who moved to Northern Virginia in 1998, says the idea was born of homesickness." She also serves up roast beef sandwiches and Polish kielbasa.

Please do not return tray tables to their upright and locked positions for the anticipated opening of The Passenger, one of a duo of bars set to open north of Chinatown this winter, according to Metrocurean. Brothers Tom and Derek Brown are behind this new project. Expect to help concoct your libation and enjoy unusual varietals.

As Lee Trevino said, you can't own a good golf game, you can only borrow it for awhile. Seemingly, so goes Burgundy wine. According to The Humble Gourmand, with the Chevalier Pere et Fils Lacoix, "The first thing you notice is the breathtaking bouquet: Asian spices, leather, sweet young tobacco leaves and lush dark cherries. It broadcasts Burgundy." At $30 a bottle (and recommended to be bought in high-order quantities), that sounds like an ace to me.

Finally, when Pete Bakes, people listen-especially if he's baking Bacon Wrapped Strawberries. Got bourbon? Try making The Garden Apartment's Blackberry and Peach Bourbon Pie. It's the perfect time of year.


Second Annual Rickey Month: Celebrating DC's Piece of Cocktail History

Picture 1 About 120 years ago, on a sweltering DC summer's day, a lobbyist named Colonel Joe Rickey walked into Shoomaker's, a popular local watering hole. Being parched and overheated (pre-AC, our fair city was the pit-stain capitol of the east coast), Rickey asked his friend, bartender George Williamson, to whip up something cool and refreshing. The two, collaborating over several auspicious minutes, combined the juice of half a lime, soda water, and sweet, sweet Bourbon, into what would become the era's greatest cocktail sensation, the Rickey. Not only is this the first good thing to ever come from a lobbyist, it is also a point of pride for DC bartenders and bartendresses. To honor the cocktail and its local beginnings, the DC Craft Bartenders Guild started Rickey Month, a 31 day celebration of all things boozy and refreshing.

After the enourmous success of last year's inaugural festivities, the Guild has made it an annual, with even more local bars participating. All month, DC's best mixologists have been slaving over their... umm, mixology labs, concocting innovative homages to the popular beverage in both the Gin and Bourbon varieties. On August 3rd, a collection of local cocktail luminaries will gather at Bourbon in Adams Morgan, and a winner will be announced.

The great part about Rickey Month is that you, too, can be a part of it! A special People's Choice prize will also be awarded to the drinksman who garners the most votes here. This year there are 15 entries in the competition, whom I have enumerated below:

Gina Chersevani of PS7s
Owen Thomson of Bourbon
Chantal Tseng of Tabard Inn
Dan Searing of Room 11/Warehouse Cafe
Tiffany Short of the Gibson
Clinton Terry of PX
Jon Arroyo of Founding Farmers
Sebastian Zutant of Proof
Andrew Shapiro of Inox
Rico Wisner of Poste Brasserie
Jill Zimorski of Café Atlantico and minibar
Diego Zeballos of Jaleo
David Fritzler of Tryst
Rachel Sergi of Zaytinya
Jason Stritch of Rasika

As of today, I am sorry to say I have only had a chance to try one of this year's entries: Gina's Knee High by the 4th of July at PS7s. Based on Woodford Reserve, this cocktail incorporates the traditional lime and soda, along with house made corn water (yes, you heard me), and a secret blend of herbs and spices. As advertised, the cocktail was indeed refreshing, with the whiskey taking a back seat to the sweet corn, and green, herbaceous characteristics. Very nice, and indeed, appropriate to the spirit of the event.


Hopefully, I will get to try a few more before the judging, and will update this post accordingly, so stay tuned. If you out there have tried any of the contestants' beverages and have something to say, please do chime in in the comments section. Oh, and if you are free the evening of Monday, August 3rd from 6:30 to 10:30, go by Bourbon for the main event -- the $10 entrance fee buys you a classic Gin or Bourbon Rickey, and cash bars planted around the restaurant will let you sample all the nouveau interpretations. I will be there, and in the interest of fairness, will make a point of trying each and every one. If you see me on my back in the bathroom, please do flip me on my side, lest I pull a Hendrix...

UPDATE:

Gunslinger Managed to sneak by Tabard Inn yesterday to sample Chantal Tseng's "Gunslinger Rickey." The Gunslinger is made with Woodford Reserve, San Pellegrino Chinotto Soda, lime, and smoked Mezcal cherries. This one definitely shows its Bourbon base, couching it in the delightful, slightly sweet/spicy character of Chinotto. The coolest part of this drink -- and I assume the origin of the name -- is the three Mezcal soaked, kitchen smoked cherries that serve as a garnish. Even while sipping the cocktail, the cherries exert a strong, flinty aroma, reminiscent of smoked meat and spent firecrackers; don't leave them in the glass when you are done, as they are also delicious.


Foodie To-Do List: Top Chef Masters, Montgomery County Farm Tour, Bethesda Chevy Chase Restaurant Week

TodoAs 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:

Watch Art & Soul's Art Smith Compete on Tonight's Episode of "Top Chef Masters" at Art & Soul:

What:
With five of six winners' slots filled, Top Chef Masters is heading into the home stretch with tonight's episode.  Here in DC, we've got a chance to watch one of our adopted celebrity chefs compete: Art Smith, whose Art & Soul is in the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill.  To celebrate his participation, the restaurant will feature complimentary signature appetizers and will air the episode at 10 PM.

When:
Tonight (Wednesday, July 22)
Happy Hour from 8 to 11, Top Chef Masters airs at 10 PM

Where:
Art & Soul in the Liaison
415 New Jersey Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Why:
Check out ArtBar and enjoy some classic Art Smith dishes while watching to see if the chef can bring home the big check for his charity, Common Threads.  As far as we know, this is the only formal Top Chef Masters watch party in DC.

Cost: 
Hors d'oeuvres are complimentary, just pay for your drinks (and be sure to try one or two of their cocktails while you're there!).  If you're hungry, you can also enjoy a Top Chef-inspired three course tasting menu for $39, with a portion of the proceeds going toward Common Threads.


Montgomery County Farm Tour & Harvest Sale
:

What: 
For 20 years now, Montgomery County has put together an annual event celebrating the farms and producers within the county.  Their brochure promises music, demonstrations and activities in addition to the sale of fresh produce and flowers at various farms.

When: 
Saturday and Sunday, July 25th and 26th, 10 AM to 4 PM

Where: 
More than a dozen farms throughout Montgomery County - check the website for participants

Why: 
We've got a surprising number of farms within a short drive of Washington, and this is a great opportunity to get to know many of the local producers who show up week after week at our neighborhood farmers' markets.  It's a great weekend excursion for all ages.

Cost:
The tour is free, all you need to do is pay for your purchases in support of these local enterprises.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Summer Restaurant Week:

What:
You know the drill by now.  Thirty-one restaurants in the area will be offering two course lunches and three course dinners at special fixed prices next week.

When:
Monday, July 27th through Sunday, August 2nd. 

Where:
30 participating restaurants in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area (and the Old Angler's Inn in Potomac).  Most are concentrated along Wisconsin, Woodmont, Bethesda and Cornell Avenues.

Why: 
Restaurant Week remains the best way to introduce yourself to new restaurants that you've been meaning to try but haven't gotten around to.  The best places use it as a chance to show off; the worst consider it a burden and it shows in their offerings.  Make sure to ask about their menu before you commit - since it's such a concentrated area, it's easy to move on to the next restaurant if your first choice looks disappointing.

Cost:
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Restaurant Week is a little more complicated than DC Restaurant Week.  Participating restaurants offer their menus at either $12 or $15 for lunch and $25-$30 per person for dinner.  Check the listings to figure out when your top choices are participating and what they're charging, and then make your reservations. 

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


Weekly Blog Roundup

Beets Heard around the DC Foodies blogosphere this week... Jamie Stachowski has split from Meatcrafters, according to Young & Hungry.  Although the charcuterie partnership has officially ceased, you can still enjoy Stachowski's work at restaurants around the region, including Napoleon in Adams Morgan, and Willow, in Arlington.

What was DC's loss is now Virginia's gain. Metrocurean reports that Orlando Hitzig (of the former Mark and Orlando's in Dupont Circle) will be Executive Chef at Columbia Firehouse in Old Town, Alexandria. The new Neighborhood Restaurant Group eatery will be opening in the former Bookbinders spot and will feature a classic chop house on the second floor, with a more casual American eatery on the first floor. Hormone-free meats will be sourced from the local Red Apron Butchery.

Glorious reviews are pouring in for local food writer, cookbook author and blogger Monica Bhide, of A Life of Spice on her recently-released, new cookbook "Modern Spice". Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi penned, "BEST.BOOK.EVER!".  Wow. I can attest to Monica's recipes after enjoying a crab feast and book signing at Spice Xing in Rockville, Maryland where the gentle author worked closely with the chef-owner Sudhir Seth to prepare a tremendous meal, including one of the best crab cakes (page 84) I've ever had the pleasure of eating.

This week, The District Domestic featured chef, Olivier Perrett of Ici Urban Bistro. The farmers market devotee adores his mandoline for uniformly cutting summer vegetables, and when at home, loves to cook roasted lamb shoulder with pasta. You can check out Perrett's recipe here on TDD's website.

Finally, end your week on a high note with the Scofflaw's Den's, Thai-Spiced Oval Vodka.  This creative infusion was conjured up when the SD entered a contest sponsored by the vodka maker.  And he won!  This coconut and lemongrass libation would pair nicely with Bhide's spicy crab cakes. To finish your meal, visit a local farmers market to pick up blueberries and make Adventures in Shaw's Market Week Blueberry Pie.


Sah'tea: Dogfish's New Take on an Old Brew

Sah'tea1 The Finnish have some crazy stuff in their culinary cache. Like, have you ever heard of Viili? It is a type of native yogurt made in the traditional fashion, which forms a fungal layer on the surface, and is purported to have a ropy texture and goopy consistency (check out a demonstration here). Traditional Finnish candies include Salmiakki, which is flavored with ammonium chloride, and Terva Leijona, a wood-tar based taste treat. Pettuleipa, a traditional Finnish bread consumed in rough times, is made with rye flour and pine phloem, making it a precursor to contemporary "light" breads (yeah, those gots sawdust in 'em).

Maybe its the climate, or the weeks and weeks of perpetual dark and light, or the incredibly light population density; whatever the cause, those nutty Fins sure eat some weird crap! Traditional Finnish beverages are also odd — though I like the idea of the Long Drink, which for all intents and purposes is just Fresca and Gin! One such beverage is Sahti, a 600 year old style of beer, very uncommon outside its native land. The beer is typically made with a rye mash, which is heated by the addition of white-hot stones, which cause caramelized sugar to form, lending the brew its distinctive flavor. The mash is then fermented with bread yeast, and flavored with juniper and other spices. The result is a rather strong, dark beer, with, as you might expect, quite a potent bouquet.

Always keen to try their hand at a new beer, the folks at Dogfish Head have just released the Sah'tea (about $12.99 / 750 ml), a beer made in traditional Sahti style. Like its Finnish forebears, the Sah'tea's mash is heated with rocks and flavored with juniper. Rest assured, Dogfish did not grab the Fleischmann's, but instead fermented it with a German weizen yeast, then gussied it up with some chai tea for flavor (get it now? Sah'TEA! Har!).


Sah'tea2 Dogfish Head Sah'tea
Sahti Style Ale
6.00% Abv

Appearance: The beer pours a hazy golden-yellow with orange highlights. Short white head.

Aroma: Christmas beer style aromas of ginger, cinnamon, orange peal, and pine. Strong notes of mushy banana.

Flavor: Lots of banana on the front, along with more cinnamon and cloves. Almost salty on the attack, and then mildly sweet and citrusy on the midpalate. Finish is lengthy and spicy, mostly tasting of cinnamon, with the banana (now rotting) continuing on for several seconds.


Having never had another Sahti, I can't really say how Dogfish's stands up — that said, it certainly is memorable. In a lot of ways, I think their choice of a German yeast really dominates the beer, and wonder what it would have been like if they had gone super-traditional, using the kitchen stuff. While the flavors are not my cup of tea (har again!), and I think it could have stood some hopping, this beer fits nicely in the esoteric Dogfish portfolio. If you are a fan of winter brews, but yearn for one that is light enough for the summer, pick this one up at Schneiders, Whole Foods, or at any number of other local vendors.


Foodie To-Do List: Urbana's Birthday Party, Crepe-Making for Kids, and a Labor Day Chance to Dine Out on the Farm

TodoAs 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:

Celebrate Urbana's Third Birthday with a $3 Happy Hour and Birthday Cupcakes:

What:
It's hard to believe that Urbana has only been on the DC scene for three years, but next Monday is their official birthday.  Join them to celebrate all week with $3 appetizers, half-pizzas and beverage specials in the lounge and at the bar.  They'll also be offering a special $30 three-course menu that ends with a complimentary glass of Prosecco or a birthday cupcake complete with candle.

When:
The week of Monday, July 20th
Happy Hour from 4 to 7 PM daily and from 10 PM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday
3 course dinner special from 5 PM to 7 PM daily

Where:
Urbana
2121 P Street, NW
Washington, DC

Why:
A lot has changed on the DC dining scene since Urbana opened three years ago.  Help them celebrate their longevity with cupcakes, prosecco and $3 pizzas next time you're in Dupont Circle!

Cost: 
Happy Hour specials are $3.  The $30 three-course menu is $30 (appropriately enough) plus tax and tip.


Crepe-Making for Kids at Fontaine Caffe in Old Town
:

What: 
Three hour-long classes will teach kids between 6 and 10 the fine art of making French crepes in a friendly, hands-on environment.  Held on Tuesdays from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, they're a fun way to introduce children to a tasty treat.

When: 
Tuesdays - July 28th, August 4th, August 11th - from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Where: 
Fontaine Caffe & Creperie
119 S. Royal Street
Alexandria, VA

Why: 
School is still a few precious weeks away.  Indulge your child's inner chef with these three classes that will help them learn the fundamentals of this basic French favorite.  They'll even get their own aprons and chefs' hats as souvenirs of the experience.

Cost:
$129 per child for the full three-week course.  Call (703) 535-8151 for more information and to make your reservation.

Labor Day at Ayrshire Farm with Chef Bryan Moscatello for Outstanding in the Field:

What:
Outstanding in the Field is a nationally-organized effort to get diners back to the farm...literally.  They host dinners prepared by prominent local chefs at long communal tables at farms across the country.  This year, they've got three dates scheduled at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, VA.  The first two have sold out already, but you can still join Chef Bryan Moscatello of Zola and Potenza for an early dinner on Labor Day.

When:
Monday, September 7th, 3 PM

Where:
Ayrshire Farm
Upperville, VA

Why: 
"Outstanding in the Field events feature a leisurely tour of the hosting farm followed by a five course, farm-style dinner at our long table set in a scenic spot. Dinner is accompanied by a wine paired with each course. Diners are joined at the table by the farmer, food producers, a winemaker and other local artisans associated with the meal."  What better way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer with a splurge?  If you're still kicking yourself for missing the various Solstice dinners, this is your chance to make up for it.

Cost:
$189 per person inclusive of wine, tax and gratuity.  Tickets are almost sold out, so visit the website soon to make your reservations and pay online.

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


D.C. Beer Bars: Birreria Paradiso - The first and the best

18 Here in the D.C. area, we are blessed with an abundance of bars. Well, maybe not blessed, but we sure do have a lot of them.

In the sense of four walls and booze, all bars are basically the same. But there's more to a watering hole than elixir and shelter, much more.

In this new series, we're looking at a very special category of bars - beer bars - and telling you of the very best in our area. Stealing the rating system Top Gear magazine uses to rate vehicles (it really is a great magazine), I'll be rating beer bars on a 20 point scale. I'll consider the beer, particularly the tap selection, the bar's atmosphere, bartenders and other elements, such as the presence of a beer engine, all of which make up a great beer bar.

I'm getting ahead of myself. If you think about it, you know what a beer bar is, sort of. I came across the term on the Beer Mapping Project's fantastic Web site. Beer geeks from around the world plug their favorite beer bars into the site's maps so that other beer geeks can track them down. Whenever I travel, I consult the Web site to find the breweries, beer stores and beer bars in the cities I'm visiting. It's a fantastic resource that if you're not using, you should.

Anyway, a beer bar is obviously a bar that serves beer. But a beer bar is an establishment that specializes in beer, that pays particular attention to the beer it serves. It may do other things, such as the beer bar in our inaugural profile, but there is a distinct emphasis on beer.

If you agree with my selections and ratings, great. If you don't, let me know. And if you know of a beer bar I should check out, let me know that, too.

The first beer bar in this series is the best beer bar in the D.C. area: Birreria Paradiso. Tucked into the basement of the Georgetown pizzeria, Pizzeria Paradiso, the Birreria is a destination for area beer lovers. The basement and sunnier ground-floor bar feature a regular rotation of American craft beers and imports.

And that's just the 16 taps.

I've visited the Birreria quite a few times, and on several occasions I've been surprised by what was on draft and what was hidden away. During last year's election, I came across Avery's limited release Ale To The Chief on draft in the first floor bar, complete with a hand-painted Obama tap head. There was the evening my wife and I were chatting with bar manager Greg Jasgur about how hard it is to find North Carolina beers in the D.C. area. He spun around and produced a bottle of Gaelic Ale from Asheville's Highland Brewery.

That's Asheville, North Carolina.

7 Local beer geeks will know the story of Greg flying to Chicago only to drive back with a moving truck full of Three Floyds. And during a recent visit, Greg (pictured) had Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale on the beer engine (a magical machine, if ever there was one).

Between the regular rotation of drafts and the 200 or so bottles, 25 percent of which are rotated regularly, Greg runs a quality beer bar. Does it hurt that he doesn't stock any beers from the big three American imports (Anheuser-Busch, Coors and Miller)? No, it doesn't hurt at all. Sorry Bud lovers, but anyone willing to eschew the bounty and revenue that comes with keeping the big three on hand is taking a chance to do something right.

And while owner Ruth Gresser gives Greg the reigns on stocking beers, Greg is willing to turn some of the decision making over to his customers. Got an idea for a beer that the Birreria doesn't offer? Let Greg know, he might just have it the next time you come in.

16 So, will the best beer bar in D.C. score a perfect 20? I'm afraid not. As much as I like the Birreria, it is a pizzeria first and a bar second. You could argue that that means there is always great food available to go with your Double Dead Guy. That's true, but that also means that you're sharing the bar with the Johnson family who brought the kids for pizza. As wonderful as I'm sure the Johnsons are, they take me out of the moment. When I'm in a bar, I want to be in a bar, not a family restaurant.

Despite the fact that Pizzeria Paradiso caters to diners and beer lovers equally, I have come across the occasional server and bartender who didn't know much about the beer. Fortunately, the beer menu does a decent job describing the styles and characteristics of the beers, but to be great, all the bartenders should be well versed in the beers on draft and familiar with the bottles on hand. The servers should at least be familiar with what's available.

Finally, and this is a minor quibble, but there could be a better focus on local beers. One of the things I appreciate about the bars in the Triangle area of North Carolina is the fact that it's not uncommon to find local beers on tap, often two or three. Locals drink local beer, so local bars kept them on draft. I understand that D.C. is a city of transients, but that's no reason a few of the quality beer bars, like the Birreria, can't dedicate a few draft lines to the likes of Hook & Ladder and Flying Dog.

Still, Birreria Paradiso is a damn fine beer bar. If you haven't wandered downstairs to pay Greg a visit, you're missing out. He's running a fine establishment with consistently the best selection of quality craft beers and imports you're going to find in the area.

Score: 17 of 20 (beer selection: 7 of 8, atmosphere: 4 of 5, bartenders: 4 of 5, other elements: 2 of 2)