Washington Capitals defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson discuss food, friendship, and the future of DC's favorite hockey team over dinner at Bourbon Steak.
Best friends Karl Alzner and John Carlson unwind on the patio at Bourbon Steak before dinner.
Washington Capitals John Carlson, 24, and Karl Alzner, 26, haven’t missed a game in four years. A leading blue line duo, they’re such a pair, in fact—they room together on the road, and even their wives and dads are friends—they have earned the nickname Carlzner. At the start of this season, the Capitals’ 40th, speculation soared that the duo might split up after the team acquired two new defenders, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. But despite a break—at least on the ice—Carlson and Alzner couldn’t be more excited for what the season has in store. When I meet up with the pair at Bourbon Steak, they’re looking ever so dapper, sipping Scotch on the patio by a fire.
You guys could have picked anywhere in the city for this dinner. Why Bourbon Steak?
Karl Alzner: I’ve never been—first-timer. John Carlson: The first time I came here was for brunch—we stayed here after my wedding—and I’ve been here one or two other times for dinner. It’s a great location with good food, and I wanted to come back.
John, you just got married in September, and Karl, you’re having a baby girl in December. Congratulations!
JC: Thank you! KA: Thank you! I’m so excited. Can’t wait. December 17. We play only four home games that month, so I’m a little nervous that I’m going to have to fly back from wherever we are. And we have this streak… we haven’t missed many games.
You haven’t missed any, right, in four years?
KA: Yeah, so I’m a little bit nervous about the timing. If [having a baby] is what does it, it’s going to be funny. JC: He’s always jabbing me about sitting one out just in case.
The steakhouse boasts one of the best single-malt Scotch lists in the city.
Tell me about the first time you met.
KA: [Laughs] It’s not quite like the first time you meet your girlfriend or eventual wife. JC: We were kind of thrown together. Our first summer camp. KA: We’d go to Cold Stone Creamery quite a bit. JC: We built a pretty good friendship eating. KA: I know his Cold Stone order. It’s “All Lovin’ No Oven” [cake batter ice cream and chocolate cookie dough with whipped cream and fudge]. JC: Best one there is.
A server walks by with the complimentary trio of duck fat fries.
KA: That’s what we need right there. That’s what we order on the road all the time. I love French fries. Sometimes, depending on the meal we’ll have, it does not fit at all, or the menu is set, but all of a sudden comes a plate of French fries.
A sommelier comes by to determine the bottle for the evening
KA: This is the best dinner I’ve ever had. It’s like a rookie dinner. JC: Those are the best.
Bourbon Steak’s Chesapeake chowder with poached oysters, crab, and smoked potato confit.
What’s a rookie dinner?
KA: The rookies treat the whole team to a meal and a night out. My rookie dinner? I still have the receipt; it’s that long [indicates length with hands]. One of the things on there: Brazilian lobster tails. Nine of them for $900. JC: It does seem like a lot, but the next year, you’ll get to enjoy it. KA: When you think about it, it’s a big waste of money, but it’s tradition. Some guys get away with it much lighter than others. JC: We order a nice meal, nice drinks, enjoy the finer things that we would never otherwise—except on a super special occasion.
Waiter brings over the fries and explains the different seasonings and sauces.
JC: The ultimate taste test. I think this one is mine, right here—the Creole seasoning. KA: All the sauces are really good.
John orders the eight-ounce rib eye, medium rare. karl orders the bone-in new York strip, medium. The two decide to start with the tuna tartare and Chesapeake chowder soup, and to share the Brussels sprouts and truffle macaroni and cheese.
Bigeye Tuna Rossini with pommes dauphinoise and summer truffle.
Do you have to keep a special diet when you’re in season?
JC: You picked a great time to ask that. KA: There are some guys who are super strict, and some guys who don’t care at all. We fall in between. When we need to, we eat clean, but at the same time, we enjoy ourselves. I think that’s what you need for durability—you need to be able to bounce off guys and not have straight muscle. [Points to the black truffle butter rolls.] Those are unbelievable. JC: Buttery.
They are served a 2001 Château olivier bordeaux.
How’s the wine?
JC: Awesome. KA: [Takes a picture of the bottle with his phone] We have this app, Vivino—you snap a pic of your wine and the app shares it with others you follow. We’ve been so into it since last year. It gives you a breakdown of the wine, too.
This is the 40th anniversary for the Caps, and there have been so many changes for this season.
JC: Forty years is cool for the organization, but I think the new changes mean a lot more to the players, just to see what’s next for us. We’ve always had good teams, always been talented, but we never really succeeded the way we should have. Always left behind. Now I think everyone feels really good about the direction we’re heading in. KA: I’m excited about it, seeing it all happen, seeing it all come together.