23rd Annual Chocolates, Galore, and More

I know this event is out in Loudon County which is a bit inaccessible for some of our readers, but for those of you that live in Northern Virginia, this is probably something you should check out. 

If you are unfamiliar with the event, the proceeds go to benefit the YMCA Loudon County Building Bridges Program which is a local scholarship and financial assistance program. In total, the program provides nearly $2 million in the form of camps, counciling, social services, and health and wellness programs to children, families, and seniors in need.

Mike Isabella This years event has plenty of reasons to go. But most of all if you are a fan of Top Chef, Mike Isabella, formerly of DC's Zaytinya (and soon to open his own local place), is going to be one of the judges of the Dessert and Hors d’oeuvre Competition, in which restaurants from Northern Virginia compete and showcase their best of show. But of course, the best thing of all is that you get to taste every dessert and hors d’oeuvre and judge your favorites of the evening.

While all the eating is going on, you can participate in silent auctions, dance to music and drink champaigne which is all includes in the price of admission. What better way to work off all the food you just ate?! 

Tickets are $70 for reserved seats and $60 for general admission ($70 at the door). The event is on February 18th from 7 to 11 PM, at the West Belmont Place at the National Conference Center. For the full details of the event, you can visit the events web site here.

The Grateful Harvest: A F@#%ING Cranberry Ale Worth Drinking.

Cranberry Ale! Cranberry, NUT CRUNCH F@#%ING ALE! Let me tell ya something folks, Cranberries and beer do not go together! One’s for bladder infections, one’s for getting DRUNK!

Thus spake then coke-fueled comedian, present-day animated saber-toothed tiger Dennis Leary way back in the early nineties. Funny rant, and there was once a point when I agreed. Don't remember the bit? Check it out below (suffice it to say, this is pretty damned NSFW, so put on some headphones).


The world of beer has changed a lot in the past 20 years. I wonder if the calmer, more well-heeled Leary of today feels the same about microbrews as he did in his psycho days. Well, the man did make a good point: Sam Adams Cranberry Ale sucks. This beer was also my introduction to fruit beers, and I did not take another turn at it for a many a year. Honestly, I don't know why they keep making that crap; I guess someone must buy it. In any case, another Boston brewery has recently taken up the cranberry for brewing inspiration, and pulled it off with style and grace.

TurkeyBeer1 Harpoon's Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale is a new addition to the venerable old brewery's stable of lagers and ales, and the first whose proceeds go directly to Harpoon Helps, the philanthropic wing of said brewery. For each six pack sold, Harpoon donates one dollar to a food charity local to the point of sale. According to the brewery, Harpoon Helps has already raised more than $230,000 for local charities this year, and has donated more than 16,000 pints to charitable events.

Charity is all well and good, but if the beer is no good, they aren't likely to sell a bunch. Fortunately, Harpoon did a damned fine job with this one. The beer pours a pretty russet brown, with slightly red highlights, and a short lived, off-white head. The nose is a rich amalgam of roasted nuts, dark red fruit and earth, along with a hint of malted grain. On the attack this beer is both sweet and tart, and flavored of sweet malt and dried leaves. The beer is slightly creamy on the mid-palate, where the cranberry flavor kicks in, leading into a dry, malty, bitter fruit accented finish.

  TurkeyBeer2 Where the Sam Adams Cranberry Ale is an over the top fruit bomb, Harpoon's Grateful Harvest is a highly drinkable, subtly flavored brown ale which anyone might enjoy. It's seasonally appropriate, charitable, and delicious; what's not to love? I picked up a six-pack at the Whole Foods in Arlington for $8.99, which I find to be a bargain. Unfortunately, I have not found a single other store that carries it in DC -- even the P Street Whole Foods doesn't have it, which really surprised me. I will keep my eyes open and update this post with more locations as I find them. In the meantime, the beer is available through December, according to Harpoon's website, and easily ordered from the local distributor, so encourage your favorite local shop to get you a case for your Thanksgiving shenanigans.


Celebrate Food & Friends' 20th Anniversary at the Chef's Best Dinner & Auction,


For 20 years now, Food & Friends has supported thousands of our neighbors living with cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses, providing them with groceries, hot meals and nutritional counseling. Through the diligent work of some 6,500 staff and volunteers, Food & Friends prepares and delivers over 3,000 nutritious meals a days, disseminating them to 2,800 clients in DC and surrounding counties. To celebrate their good works and raise money to keep them up, on Monday, June 14th, ING will present Food & Friends' 20th Anniversary Chef's Best Dinner & Auction at the Washington Hilton Ballroom.

Guests will enjoy delicious appetizers and small plates prepared by some of the region's brightest culinary stars, including Jamie Leeds of Hank's Oyster Bar and Commonwealth, Ris Lacoste of Ris, PS7's Peter Smith, Dean Gold of Dino, Eventide's Miles Vaden, Anthony Chittum of Vermilion, and dozens more. Take a peek here for a full list of the charitable chefs whose food you will sample.

Amidst the mingling and snacking, attendees will have opportunity to bid on an array of items at the silent & live auctions. There are some really cool prizes up for grabs, including a private cooking class with The Inn at Little Washington's Patrick O’Connell, a week's stay at the Ritz-Carlton in County Wicklow, Ireland, a $1,700 puppy(!), and, be still my heart, an opportunity to view the taping of NPR's The Politics Hour, and meet it's host, Kojo Nnamdi!

Tickets to the 20th Anniversary of Chef's Best Dinner & Auction are $250 apiece. If you roll with a big crowd, consider becoming a table host, where you and nine friends can dine in style for $2,250. If you are feeling particularly generous, F&F is still accepting sponsors, who will receive access to a special reception before the main event. The ticket is tax-deductible, and 100% of proceeds go towards funding Food & Friends, a four-star charity on Charity Navigator, with a 20 year history of bringing relief and comfort to DC area residents in need. However you plan to give or attend, you can get your tickets here.

Doors open for the main silent auction and tasting event at 6:30 PM, with bidding for live auction lots starting around 8:15. Dress code is business casual, though if you want to get dolled up, I'm sure you won't be alone. Go on! Treat yourself to some world-class cuisine, and wrack up some points in the karma column while your at it.

Dining Out For Life 2010

DiningOutForLifeWEBlogo Times are hard, and as such, I have been eating out a lot less, as I am sure a lot of you have, as well. Eating in is all well and good, but every once in awhile, it's nice to have someone else take care of the prep, cooking, and cleanup, isn't it? But when the bucks aren't rolling in like they used to, how do you justify such a frivolous expenditure? Looking for an excuse? Thanks to Food & Friends' 14th Annual 'Dining Out for Life,' you may indulge with a guilt free conscience, assured in the fact that your lapse in willpower is helpin' out some folks whose times are a good deal harder than your own.

For 20 years, Food & Friends has supported thousands of our neighbors living with cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses, providing them with groceries, hot meals and nutritional counseling. Through the diligent work of some 6,500 staff and volunteers, Food & Friends prepares and delivers over 3,000 meals a days, disseminating them to 2,600 clients in DC and surrounding counties.

Food & Friends is the only group in our area providing these kind of services at no cost to their clients. As you might expect, this sort of thing doesn't come cheap -- and that's where you come in. Dining Out For Life is one of F&F's most popular fundraisers, and participating is a cinch! Simply dine out at one of the 150+ participating restaurants on Thursday, March 11th, and a percentage of your bill will be donated to the cause, anywhere between 25% and 110%! Just make sure you tell the host you are their for Food & Friends, and they'll take care of the rest.

A full list of participating restaurants is available here, a small selection of which are accepting reservations here on OpenTable. Take a look, find your favorites, note their contributions, and book your table now, as spaces are filling up fast!

Eliza and I did some volunteer work with Food & Friends this past Thanksgiving, and I can honestly say you are not likely to meet a more open and warm-hearted group of people, doing more honorable work. Please, treat yourself this Thursday, and help them keep the goodwill going.

Feeding a need this holiday season

The holiday season can bring out the best and worst in us.

We reunite with family ... and remember why we moved away. We scour the stores to buy just-the-right gifts ... to assuage some deep-seeded guilt and rack up debt we didn't need more of. We eat, drink and get merry ... only to wind up fat and hung over in the new year.

Fortunately, there's still one holiday tradition that remains relatively unscathed: charity (admittedly, all the solicitations for donations get old quick). For all the giving and receiving that goes on, few acts mean as much or feel as fulfilling as giving of yourself to someone truly in need.

My wife and I have donated to charities over the years, but it wasn't until the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina that I honestly believed our donations carried any weight. After watching a city and a region I know well ravaged by that storm, I realized that anything we could do to help would help. Every year since, we've given to charities along the Gulf Coast and in the city of New Orleans.

Every little bit, they say.

Now, that's not to say we don't have worthy causes here in the D.C. area. The Web site Charity Navigator is a great resource not only for finding local charities, but information about them. Unfortunately, you can't trust every organization that calls itself a charity. Organizations that should not get your money can range from poorly run nonprofits to complete scams. Make sure you know where your money is going.

Also, keep in mind that churches and other places of worship do a huge amount of charitable work during the holiday season.

This being D.C. Foodies, I've compiled a list of charities that operate in the D.C. area dedicated to helping feed the hungry during the holiday season and beyond. I've also included a list of homeless shelters, because let's face it; given the homeless population in the D.C. area, the shelters can use all the help they can get.

DC Central Kitchen: As DC Central Kitchen points out on it's mission statement, it's not a soup kitchen. The local charity not only feeds the homeless, but also gives homeless men and women the job training necessary to work their way out of their situation.

Capital Area Food Bank: Like the DC Central Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank provides those in need with more than a meal. But because hunger is a growing problem in our community, the Capital Area Food Bank is expanding to meet the need. Information about the 'Til No One is Hungry campaign is available on the food bank's Web site.

Manna Food Center: This Montgomery County food bank has been combating hunger through the distribution of food, education and advocacy for more than a quarter century.

So Others Might Eat: So Others Might Eat does it all. The charity feeds, clothes, rehabilitates and provides a litany of other critical service for our local homeless community, while helping them find a way out of poverty. 

Food & Friends: Sure, we already covered Food & Friends' Slice of Life campaign, but this charity has a lot more projects that could use a lot more volunteers and donations.

Share Our Strength: Share Our Strength is one of the largest and most high profile hunger relief charities in the country. Images of Guy Fieri shilling for the nonprofit aside, Share Our Strength is a worthwhile charity that helps people in our community.

Meals on Wheels: I used to work at a newspaper in North Carolina. Every holiday season the paper would run listings of donations for people in need. Each listing was no longer than a classified ad, and the ones from senior citizens seeking nothing more than a warm meal and someone to talk to on Christmas killed me. Every one of them. Meals on Wheels has been providing meals and comfort to senior citizens for 70 years. 


The following is a list of shelters in the D.C. area. All of them could use a few volunteers.

Central Union Mission: (202) 745-7118
1350 R Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20009

Gospel Rescue Ministries Of Washington DC: (202) 842-1731
810 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC

Luther Place Night Shelter (202) 939-2076
N Street Village, 1333 N Street NW Washington, DC 20005

Sasha Bruce House (202) 547-7777
741 8th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

And on a lighter note, next week, The Passenger will begin holding charity happy hours every Monday. The Brown brothers (Tom and Derek) will offer $5 wines, beer and a punch of the day, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to a different charity or cause.

Now if you're not into drinking (which means we can't hang), but are into burgers (Ok, maybe we can), you can head to any of the three BGR The Burger Joints and feed yourself and someone else. BGR is partnering with DC Central Kitchen for the ONE for ONE campaign. Throughout the month of December, for every burger BGR sells it will donate a burger to the DC Central Kitchen. You eat. Someone else gets to eat. Everyone's happy.

Last Minute Turkey Wines, and a Way to Perk Up Our Troops.

Thanksgiving is quite easily my favorite holiday. Sure, Christmas is great, but it's expensive these days; Halloween hasn't been anything worth getting excited about since I was like 10; Easter has kinda lost its charm since this lapsed Catholic has realized all the various ways in which he is damned. Thanksgiving, though, is perfect -- all the gluttony and overindulgence, without the crassness, and costumes, and guilt about going to hell and junk. But with all the prep work that comes with preparing for family, it's understandable for one to forget a detail or two. For those of you who left wine till the last minute this year, I've got a couple of quirky all-American crowd-pleasers that pair well with practically any meal.

DAVIDHILL David Hill Farm House White -- Non Vintage, Purchased at MacArthur Beverage for $13.99

David Hill is a small, 140 acre farm winery based out of Willamette Valley, Oregon. This humble field blend -- a mixture of Semillon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Sylvaner -- pours a pretty, pale straw yellow. This wine gives up plenty of muscat grape, pear and golden delicious apple on the nose, along with tropical undertones. The attack is slightly sweet and a bit minty, leading on to more grape and some zesty lime, and ending with a pleasant dry finish. This combination of sweetness and high acidity is unusual in a wine of this price, and makes this one a winner with everything from appetizers to dessert.

EDMUNDS Edmunds St. John "That Old Black Magic" -- 2006, Purchased at Ace Beverage for $19.99

The Berkeley-based Edmunds St. John is one of the few domestic producers to specialize in Rhone varietals, and they make some really novel, food friendly wines. This blend of Grenache and Syrah offers lots of complicated autumnal scents on the nose, featuring overripe apple, curry spice, and dark berry fruit. Chewy tannin and dark plummy fruit lead into a medium-bodied, bold, velvety mid-palate, and a lengthy, fruit and curry flavored finish. This spicy treat would match well with any of your traditional Thanksgiving foods, and according to the label, is "Cellared and Bottled by Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine," making it an all but a perfect pickup.

STARBUCKS But of course, Thanksgiving is about more than just gluttony -- we Americans have plenty to be thankful for, and owe a lot to the people that protect us. If you find yourself in the Georgetown neighborhood in the next few weeks, take a swing by the Starbucks at 3122 M St., and pick up a coffee for our troops. Apparently, the US Army's 1st Cavalry Division is short on coffee, and one thoughtful Starbucks manager has decided to do something about it. When you pay for your latte, you can also pay for a few packets of Via -- Starbucks' new coffee concentrate -- which they will ship to our troops stationed in Baghdad. The thought of going through a day without caffeine makes me slightly sick; I can't even imagine doing so under the constant physical and mental stress inherent in combat. Though a cup of coffee might seem insignificant, to someone so far from home, undergoing such deprivation and hardship, even the smallest comfort can make a huge difference.

Food & Friends' Slice of Life: Eat some Pie... for Charity!

SLICE So, honestly, can someone name me something better than pie? Okay, there is Thanksgiving dinner, that's pretty good... and made even better when topped off with pie. So what's best of all, then? How about Thanksgiving, pie, and the feeling of knowing that your dessert helped feed some people in need?

For 20 years, Food & Friends has supported thousands of our neighbors living with cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses, providing them with groceries, hot meals and nutritional counseling. Through the diligent work of some 6,500 staff and volunteers, Food & Friends prepares and delivers over 3,000 meals a days, disseminating them to 2,600 clients in DC and surrounding counties.

Of course, even with the most dedicated staff in the world, delivering a million meals a year doesn't come cheap. That's where you come in. Enter Slice of Life, F & F's annual city-wide bake sale. For the third year running, Slice of Life offers a selection of delicious handmade pies, delivered to a number of convenient neighborhood locations, available for pickup on Tuesday, November 24th. Every pie you buy pays for a full day's meals for one of F & F's clients; buy a pie for one of said clients, and you will be automatically entered in a drawing for two free round-trip airline tickets. The 10" pies come in five great flavors:

Picture Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving would not be complete without this traditional favorite. The creamy pumpkin filling, in a delectable crust, has the perfect mix of spices and great pumpkin flavor. You'll certainly want to more than one for your family and friends. $25

Harvest Apple Crumb Pie

Perfectly flaky with just the right amount of sweetness, you'll enjoy this classic pie filled with a bushel of apples, spices and topped with sweet crumbles. Whether you serve your pie alone or a la mode, it's a must have. $25

Oh So Sweet Potato Pie

For many, Thanksgiving means Sweet Potato Pie. This southern specialty, filled with creamy bright orange sweet potatoes, cinnamon and nutmeg is sure to warm the hearts of your holiday guests. $25

Southern Pecan Pie
Embrace true hospitality by sharing this Southern treat with your holiday guests. Ya'll will love this delicious buttery crust, loads of pecans and sweet gooey filling. $35 

Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake
A chocolate lover's delight! Your guests will go crazy over this rich, creamy cheesecake topped with a decadent dark chocolate ganache. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser. $35

Pies are available for purchase here at Food & Friends' website, where you can also register to volunteer on pickup day.

We all know store-bought crust doesn't taste right, and that you just don't have time to make it yourself from scratch! Complete the meal, and do some folks a solid, by visiting that website by Thursday, November 19th — I promise, your dessert will taste all the sweeter for the effort.

UPDATE: Lisa Shapiro of Dining in DC has pulled together a team of local food bloggers to help move some pies. Help team "Food Bloggers for a Cause" meet their fundraising goal by buying your pies here!

June 2007 Charity

In May, we had a really good month in ad sales thanks to a 3 month ad that was purchased by the Farm and Food Policy Project, and we raised close to $350 for House of Ruth. This month (June), we're going to donate the ad sales to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation to help the Eastern Market merchants get back in business. For those of you that don't know, the merchants that used to occupy the South Hall at Eastern Market, are still operating and trying to do business in various areas in Capitol Hill. For information on where you can find them, look to for how, where, and when the merchants are operating.

Taste of the Nation Reminder

Only 5 days left to purchase tickets for the Taste of the Nation event on April 9th. If you don't buy tickets here's what you'll be missing in the "Tiki Lounge". What's in the "Tiki Lounge" you may ask? Well I'll tell you.

  1. Grass skirts (come on, you know you want one...)
  2. Innovative sushi from the lively Penn Quarter hot spot Oya.
  3. Cocktail creations of award winning bar savant Todd Thrasher from Restaurant Eve and PX.
  4. Brian Zippin from Central, my new favorite place to eat in downtown DC. Have you had the Manhattan there? Amazing!

Since I'm going to be there as well, its not in my best interest to tell you about this, although, I'm doing so out of the kindness of my heart, because I really think all of you should go. Tickets for the general admission including the Tiki Lounge are $110. If that's a little over your budget, then general admission is $75. It's for a good cause, and if you're like me, you'll spend that much on a night out at a restaurant easily, so why not have that money go for a good cause?!

Hope to see you there. Buy tickets here while you still can!

Dining Out for Life

Don't forget that this Thursday March 8th is the Food and Friends' Dining Out for Life event where 150 area restaurants donate percentages of their earnings for the evening to Food and Friends. Some restaurants are even donating 100% of their earnings the evening. To see the full list of restaurants that are participating, go to the event web site.

Food & Friends is an organization that prepares, packages and delivers meals and groceries to more than 1,200 people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses throughout Washington, DC, 7 counties of Maryland and 7 counties and 6 independent cities in Virginia. Since 1988, Food & Friends has provided food and companionship to our clients, their loved ones and caregivers. To learn more about Food and Friends, check out their web site.