Drink Washington's Whiskey at Mount Vernon Distillery
George Washington Distillery and Gristmill at Mount Vernon combines old-school whiskey-making with more modern measures.
April 16, 2012
George Washington—first US president, government leader, war commander…whiskey maker? While Washington may have seemed too preoccupied with official orders of state, he actually owned and operated a whiskey distillery, George Washington Distillery and Gristmill at Mount Vernon, that’s still in existence today.
Washington’s foray into liquor wasn’t a bootleg operation, either. Since his plantation already produced and milled the corn and rye necessary for the distillation process, his Scottish farm manager James Anderson suggested he start brewing in 1797. By 1799, 11,000 gallons of whiskey were made. At the time, it was the largest distillery in the nation and one of the most successful enterprises at Mount Vernon.
After Washington’s death that same year, the distillery wasn't kept up and eventually burned down in 1814. It would be almost 200 years before whiskey making occurred on that site again. Although archaeological surveys took place in the 1930s and the gristmill and miller’s house were reconstructed at that time, distilling whiskey didn't take place until the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) took interest and provided the funds that would recreate the distillery and gristmill. It was opened to the public in 2007.
A few revamps are in place at today’s George Washington Distillery. Documents show that Washington made and sold rye whiskey, but the modern formula is 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% barley. Whiskey production has also been taken one step further, now offering aged whiskey in addition to the unaged type. Apple and peach brandies are also in the process of aging. And in honor of Anderson’s part in the spirit’s story and his Scottish heritage, a group of Scottish distillers are partnering with the distillery to produce a very exclusive batch of malt whiskey that will be aged for three years before it's bottled.
The site is open for tours from April to October, seven days a week. Visitors are able to view the gristmill where the grains are ground, learn about the production of the whiskey, and see the aged barrels where it’s stored, in a tour led by people dressed in period costumes.
Spirits are available for purchase in the gift shop—the un-aged rye whiskey is strong, with a bit of sweetness from the corn, while the four-years-aged product picks up a distinct vanilla taste (along with caramel and butterscotch) from its time spent in lightly charred American oak barrels. A two-years-aged whiskey is also available.
Other draws to this experience include a movie on the history of whiskey in the distillery and an exhibit on distilling’s beginnings in general. Visitors should also stop by Hoecakes & Hospitality, Mount Vernon’s food exhibit, to enjoy the same food that Washington probably paired his self-made whiskey with. 5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Alexandria, 703-339-7200
A Lesson in Port Wines
Still one of the choice handcrafted cordials in the world, port wine makes a reverent return to the scene of fine DC drinking.
February 27, 2012
Charlotte pedestal, Crate & Barrel ($40).
Oenology Cognac glass, Baccarat ($130 each).
Harcourt wine decanter, Baccarat ($1,150).
In the world of wine, there is nothing quite like port. Made from exotic-sounding grapes native to Portugal (Tinto Cão or Touriga Nacional, anyone?), the District’s fine drinking scene is witnessing a revival in the spirit’s popularity. “The American palate is evolving and turning to the Old World, hence port’s resurgence. The culture of wine is deepening,” says Sebastian Zutant. A wine director at Proof (775 G St. NW, 202-737-7663), Zutant delivers just that—proof that DC is acquiring a taste for the fortified wine. “I consider port to be the gateway to after-dinner drinks: It’s a good jumping-off point for experimentation with other digestifs and dessert wines.”
|Vinum port stemware, Riedel ($50 for set of two). Bloomingdale’s, 5300 Western Ave., Chevy Chase, 240-744-3700|
But while unique, port also comes in a variety of styles to suit almost every palate. Currently hitting Washington shelves are vintage ports from the lauded 2009 harvest, a sunny, idyllic growing season in Portugal’s Douro Valley that produced powerhouse wines built to last.
Taylor Fladgate’s Vintage Port (Schneiders of Capitol Hill, 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE, 202-543- 9300), which retails at around $100, is a perennial leader of the pack, and the 2009 is no exception. A dense, plummy wine with aromas and flavors that smack of raspberry, it is rated 95 points by Robert Parker and may outlive us all. Taylor has also released its luxe Taylor Vargellas Vinha Velha port (MacArthur Beverages, 4877 MacArthur Blvd., 202-338-1433). Priced at about $225 for the 2007 vintage, it is made from the oldest vines in Taylor Fladgate’s renowned Quinta de Vargellas, deep within the Douro. It is also one of the rarest wines in the world: The 2009 is only its sixth release and, due to mega-low yields, only three bottle cases were shipped. Fortunately for Washington aficionados, MacArthur Beverages is one of a handful of retailers in the nation to carry this prestigious wine. Rarer still is what may be the oldest “new” wine ever offered—a port labeled simply Scion that will set you back at least $3,000 to $4,000. How old is it? Harvested in 1855 and idling in the same oak casks since, Scion has no official term to describe it. It is labeled— simply, and quite appropriately—very old port. But this heirloom, coming from two recently discovered casks that had been passed through generations of a distinguished Douro family, is no relic. It is a pristine, living tawny port, complex and sublime—and rather indescribable.
“Port is one of those classic wines that makes an occasion and is always worth the little extra you might spend,” says Washington-based distributor Robert Perti, of Monsieur Touton Selections.
But one need not spend a little, or even a lot, extra for a quality port. Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny port (Arrowine, 4508 Lee Hwy., Arlington, 703-525-0990)—a blend of wines that have averaged 20 years in the barrel—is a delicious choice as an aperitif, to pair with a simple dessert, or even as dessert itself. (Here’s an insider tip: Pour a little over vanilla ice cream.) Generally regarded as the best 20-year tawny, the bottle usually costs around $65.
And for a completely different twist, think pink—as in Croft’s Pink Port. Whether on its own, with tonic over ice, or even as the base of a good sangria, Croft Pink (Sherry’s Wine & Spirits, 2627 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-234-9200) is a refreshing change from the ordinary. Proving that while port can be right at home in front of the fireplace or with a cigar, there’s always a good port for any storm.
Photography by William Brinson; drink styling by Ed Gabriels for Halley Resources
Be Mine: Valentine’s Dinners in DC
We find the top five restaurants with the most delicious delicacies and romantic atmospheres for your big night.
February 07, 2012
Michel’s Chocolate Heart for Two
1. Station 4: A three-course menu with optional wine pairing provides ample opportunity to sample several of Chef Orlando Amaro’s most popular culinary creations. From the Sweet Pea and Mint Soup to the Seared Moscovy Duck Breast through to a perfect trio of chocolate truffles, dozens of dish combinations are possible. 1101 4th St. SW, 202-488-0987
2. Rasika: From decadent décor to sultry atmosphere, true romance is found at DC’s most lavish Indian eatery. Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam offers a four-course menu of Indian delicacies to choose from, including optional wine pairings. 633 D St. NW, 202-637-1222
3. Michel by Michel Richard: Featuring delicacies such as the Yellowtail Carpaccio and the Filet Mignon, a four-course dinner at this French establishment is certain to please the most sophisticated palates. The experience is bolstered by the restaurant’s glowing ambiance. 1700 Tyson’s Boulevard, McLean, 703-744-3999
4. Equinox: With the choice of a three-or-five-course meal, each with optional wine pairing, Chef Todd Gray truly offers a personal experience for you and your loved one. From the Braised Duck Gnocchi with Caramelized Sunchokes to a Warm Amadei Chocolate dessert, each bite is sure to be succulent. 818 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-331-8118
5. Firefly: The ultimate Valentine’s Day experience stretches through five courses of upscale American comfort food at this Dupont Circle fixture. Beginning with an amuse of Stuffed Medjool Dates, choices are abundant through the next four courses, culminating in a selection of desserts that are just decadent enough to match the special occasion. 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW, 202-861-1310
PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIEL SWARTZ/REVAMP.COM
Nutritionist Heather Bauer dishes on carbs, cravings and the Capital's eating habits.
January 31, 2012
|Bread is the Devil|
Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, has been the go-to gal for thousands of people who want to lose weight safely. Her book, Bread is the Devil (St. Martin’s Press 2012), written with co-author Kathy Matthews, is out now.
CAPITOL FILE: Bread is so the devil! Tell us about how you came up with this concept.
HEATHER BAUER: I had many clients who came to see me and while they were successful in losing weight, they would walk back in and say they gained back a few pounds. Food is always in your face, whether it’s dining out frequently, night eating or being an emotional eater, so it prompts us to eat. “Bread is the f***ing devil!” and that’s what prompted this book. It’s never the turkey—it’s the pasta or the bread basket, the cookies, the pretzels… something in that category that makes it so addictive.
CF: What are some tips for avoiding these cravings?
HB: The late night shuffle is something so many people struggle with. Night eaters should push back their dinner time. Eat dinner closer to 8 PM. Be more strategic with your afternoon snack. Try a fiber cracker with cheese. Within 30 minutes of dinner, eat an orange or grapefruit because it takes time to peel and eat each slice.
CF: How would you define Washington’s eating habits?
HB: DC is very similar to New York in terms of the fast-paced, busy, work environment. People in DC feel strong about health and wellness. There’s still a popular dining out and social culture so they face the same challenges that New Yorkers face. It’s all about being strategic.
CF: How can the busy workers get away from always eating at their desk?
HB: Your desk is a mindless place, you’re focused on work instead of eating and for that people tend to eat mindlessly so you need to get away from your desk. When you’re stepping out for lunch, you’re interacting with people and talking. It’s a healthy thing to do. My best suggestion would be to “brown bag it” and take your lunch somewhere.
Nibbles and Bits
What's on our radar? Whatever it is, it should be on yours.
December 20, 2011
The Best of Spain
Eating well Spanish style
Spot European bigwigs and cuisine connoisseurs galore at Taberna del Alabardero. The venerable dining spot has been delighting customers for 21 years with authentic Spanish cuisine. All of Madrid-born chef Javier Romero’s food is can’t-miss; try grilled duck foie gras with caramelized goat cheese, slow-cooked rockfish over wild mushroom and truffle infusion or pork cheek on a bed of perfectly seasoned spinach. A ringing endorsement? First Lady Michelle Obama had a private dinner with friends at Taberna’s sister outpost during her much-talkedabout summer vacation and raved it was “one of the best meals that we have had during our visit to Spain.” We’re thrilled we can get our fix so close to home. 1776 I St. NW
One Fish, Two Fish
An Italian eatery goes traditional
Longing for a traditional Italian holiday meal experience? Potenza serves up authentic dishes for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a ritual of gastronomic goodness customarily prepared in southern Italy on Christmas Eve. At Potenza the feast will include seven of executive chef Bryan Moscatello’s favorite dishes, including salmon mignonette over Mediterranean couscous, artichoke tart with house-made stracciatella and tomato coulis, and a delectable chocolate-glazed pandoro for dessert. Get it while it lasts—the dinner is offered December 23–25 only. 15th and H Streets NW
New Restaurant: District Commons
A new eatery unveils a spectacular setting in the West End.
December 13, 2011
If the floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Washington Circle are not enough to lure you to District Commons, perhaps chef-owner Jeff Tunks’s menu will do the trick. Described as a “21st-century take on the traditional American tavern,” District Commons highlights Tunks’s way with classic cuisine, albeit with mouthwatering and innovative twists. Brickpressed chicken provides a little uniqueness to the old standard; roasted duck is served with a kicked-up sorghum-chili glaze; the District Commons Burger actually consists of barbecue braised Pineland Farms short ribs with a sweet slaw—all part of Tunks’s cleverly conceived interpretations of standard fare. He has even included a “pig board,” with a revolving lineup of the chef’s favorite domestic hams, many from local purveyors.
Another stunner is the seasonal flatbread, baked daily in the kitchen’s hearth oven and topped with items like lamb sausage and roasted eggplant, Tennessee country prosciutto, or smoked bacon and Vidalia onions. For a fun, latenight dinner, we suggest the get-it-while-it-lasts staff meal (a steal at $12): A dinner bell rings at 10 PM, and the “family” meal is served. Each night has a different special—Monday night it is Nana Sue’s meatloaf; Thursday is TenPenh Night, featuring dishes from the much-beloved but shuttered Foggy Bottom eatery—but it is the camaraderie and convivial atmosphere that has fans returning again and again. More than anything, this overall style and vibe has earned District Commons the distinction as the city’s new must-try. Plush seating, luxe décor touches, cozy lounge banquettes, a stainless steel raw bar, and an open view to the bustling kitchen, where, as is the way with chef Tunks, the real magic happens—there is nothing common about any of it. 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-587-8277
Alain Ducasse Votes for Vegetables
Adour caters to herbivores thanks to Alain Ducasse’s new obsession.
August 22, 2011
A slow-cooked egg over poached asparagus
|Strawberry composition with marmalade and mint ice cream|
Alain Ducasse isn’t like other chefs. Many like to talk about pork, bacon or any iteration of swine. Ducasse likes to talk about vegetables. Sexy, verdant vegetables.
Yes, the master French chef has a thing for fresh produce. It’s a passion he has pursued in the kitchens of his global restaurant empire—spanning from Monaco to Tokyo to Washington, DC—for decades. That is why at Ducasse’s elegant DC eatery, Adour, tucked inside the St. Regis, you can dine very well without consuming an ounce of pork, beef or even fish. Earlier this year, Adour executive chef Julien Jouhannaud debuted a strictly vegetarian tasting menu, celebrating the best of the season’s produce in five courses.
The new menu is part of a larger meat-free trend that is changing the way chefs think. Vegetarians, once relegated to afterthought status with plates of veg du jour, are fi nally earning the respect of fi ne-dining restaurants. Across DC, haute temples like CityZen, 2941 and Komi are looking to the garden for inspiration and catering to patrons who eschew meat. “I am passionate about utilizing locally sourced products and ingredients, and I am always searching for the freshest available,” says Jouhannaud. “I particularly love evolving the menu each season and giving our guests a reason to come back.”
Adour’s new vegetarian tasting menu includes dishes such as tender poached asparagus framing a soft, slow-cooked egg, and plump morels nestled on top of creamy risotto made from carnaroli rice. Talented pastry chef Fabrice Bendano crafts sweet endings, like roasted pineapple with caramelized puff pastry, rice pudding and rum coconut ice cream. The fi ve-course veg feast is priced at $65—and don’t miss the chance to pair the meat-free meal with wunderkind sommelier Brent Kroll’s wine pairings.
Another testament to Ducasse’s vegetable passion: his signature Cookpot dish, available as an appetizer. The custom-designed porcelain vessel, which uses vegetables’ own moisture to enhance the cooking, is on the menu at every one of the celebrated chef’s restaurants. What goes into it depends on the season and the place. 923 16th St. NW, 202-509-8000
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG POWERS
New Spot: Serendipity 3
The Manhattan-trademark is now also in DC.
May 16, 2011
Washington can now get its sugar fix at the newest outpost of Manhattan’s venerable Upper East Side sweetery, Serendipity 3, in the Georgetown space once occupied by Nathans. Though it features a full menu, desserts are the main courses here, with items like the signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. If you’re in an extravagant mood, savor every last mouthful of the Golden Opulence Sundae—priced at a mere $1,000. 3150 M St. NW, 202-333-5193; serendipity3dc.com
Graffiato by Mike Isabella
Top Chef Isabella opens up a new venue.
May 02, 2011
Penn Quarter welcomes Graffiato, from Top Chef fan fave Mike Isabella. With a huge wood-fired oven and a charcuterie “bar,” the space is designed for mixing and mingling—and cooking, of course. It’s an invitation for guests to enjoy cuisine in a cozy, Italian-style atmosphere. You can find the only fresh-stretched, made-to-order mozzarella in DC here, and if that isn’t reason enough to stop in, Graffiato offers a late-hours menu of tasty bites for night owls. 707 Sixth St. NW; graffiatodc.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL BONFIGLI
Bobby's Burger Palace
The Iron Chef's outpost reaches DC.
April 18, 2011
Gourmet burgers and crispy beer-battered onion rings are the backbone of Bobby Flay’s Washington outpost of Bobby’s Burger Palace. It’s the latest of the “Iron Chef”’s burgeoning “quick bites” burger empire, whose focus is enhancing burgers with Americana-inspired flavors— for example, as with the Miami Burger (pressed with ham, with Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo) or the LA Burger (with avocado relish, watercress, cheddar and tomato). Bonus: You can “crunchify”—stack high with potato chips—any burger on the menu. 2121 K St. NW; bobbysburgerpalace.com
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.