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Posts by Warren Rojas
May 9, 2014
Bummed about missing out on the barley- and hops-fueled bacchanal taking over the National Building Museum this weekend?
So is Brewery Ommegang.
Rather than fret about all the fun they won’t be having at the annual SAVOR beer blowout, the powers that be behind the New York-based craft brewery have decided to host their own beer-drenched shindig at Hierarchy (1841 Columbia Road NW).
A suggested $10 donation, which benefits DC Central Kitchen, gets one in the door and entitles guests to a custom tasting glass and commemorative gift.
Organizers insist the “Black Sheep” event, which is scheduled to roll from Saturday night right into Sunday (8 p.m. to 1 a.m.), is meant to complement, not supplant, the Brewers Association-led festivities taking place across town.
The splintering was apparently predicated by a SAVOR ban on having too many interrelated breweries — Ommegang’s pals from Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Company got the nod this year — under the same roof during the weekend drinkathon.
“Rather than go out like a lamb we are going to have a bit of fun and create what should be a fantastic experience of beer, food, art, music with a good cause to boot — and the event is open to all: SAVOR attendees, local DC food-and-beer lovers and anyone else who wants to join us,” Bill Wetmore, Ommegang’s director of marketing suggested in a release.
Meanwhile, Haute Saison Catering owner Jan Van Haute and Ommegang executive chef Evan Brown are scheduled to whip up special lamb dishes to be paired with the crew’s homespun brews. And members of DC’s Fans of Lamb should be on hand to share cooking secrets and cherished lamb recipes.
Worried about being too smashed to trek from SAVOR to Adams Morgan? Team Ommegang plans to run shuttle buses from there to them every half hour beginning at 10 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m.) to ensure beer lovers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
December 20, 2013
David E. Bonior cast his last vote in the House of Representatives more than a decade ago.
But the Michigan Democrat remains a player in Washington thanks to a family-run catalog of neighborhood restaurants that’s poised to widen with the debut of Aqua 301.
The new Mexican-themed restaurant (301 Water St. SE), which is taking up residence in the bustling Yards Park complex, will open to the public for dinner on Dec. 21.
Much like its predecessor, Zest American Bistro (735 Eighth St. SE), Aqua is the brainchild of Bonior (primarily an investor), and his stepson and his stepson’s wife, Stephen and Amanda Briggs, who serve as co-owners and managers of the burgeoning dining portfolio.
The trio tapped Antonio Burrell, a seasoned toque who’s spent years filling local bellies with daring south of the border specialties during stints at El Centro D.F. and Masa 14, to craft a cost-conscious but creatively inspired menu.
After doing a bit of soul searching, Burrell said he decided it was high time to flaunt the flavor combinations that continue to gnaw away at him.
“It was a chance to … explore some of the dishes that I didn’t get a chance to do before and reprise some of the better dishes that I liked,” he said of a carte composed of modified greatest hits and experimental constructs.
Yes, he’s paying tribute to the pork belly al pastor (both in tacos and as a standalone entrée) he previously shared at Masa 14. Yes, he’ll be dishing out the multi-pepper powered chichilo mole short ribs (expect less cinnamon and less clove in this 2.0 version) he fell in love with at El Centro.
But he’s most excited about items such as an updated street salad tossing together fruits (watermelon, green mango), vegetables (chayote, jicama) and spicy stuff (red onion, hot peppers) in an agave-lime dressing, and a mushroom-covered fried masa dish he always felt others went a little overboard on.
“Our huarache here is going to be like a thin crust pizza,” he said of the split from the status quo. “Now that I have anyone telling me that I can’t, I’m going to.”
Burrell is also smitten with grilled oysters he’ll be doctoring with chorizo, chile butter and Parmesan breadcrumbs. And he’s looking forward to perhaps sneakily broadening patrons’ palates by exposing them to a host of carefully cultivated ingredients.
“Most people don’t know what epazote is,” he said, citing the leafy green he uses to tweak a red snapper dish. “So it’s a very different flavor than most people have had.”
And Burrell’s got big plans for the future, including adding lunch into the mix (on Dec. 28) and rolling out brunch (think: pumpkin pancakes, chilaquiles and migas) on Jan. 1.
Another possibility: a twist on queso fundido, wherein the crumbled chorizo and sautéed peppers are blasted with molten cheese foam.
“We’ll keep it in a canister, hot, and then we shoot and it so it makes a big espuma. And then we’ll flame mescal on it and serve it like that,” Burrell said of his dream appetizer.
He’s also got a few other showstoppers up his sleeve.
“I want to put the pig head tacos on there. But I can’t — yet,” he said.
Sticking Close to Home
Bonior, who said he moved into Capitol Hill Tower in 2006, marveled at how much the area has blossomed in recent years.
“It just pops at night. It’s quite specular, actually, down here with the water and the lights and the landscaping and the park,” he said of the waterfront location he and his partners secured for their second hospitality project. “So we’re very hopeful.”
Although he noted that had attended cooking school while stationed at Fort Lee in Virginia (“I know how a kitchen works,” he quipped) during his Air Force days, Bonior is quite comfortable leaving the day-to-day operations of the business to Team Briggs. An Aqua 301 spokeswoman confirmed that, prior to becoming restaurateurs themselves, Stephen was a general manager at M&S Grill, while Amanda climbed the ladder at Café Deluxe and Tortilla Coast.
All of which leaves Bonior, who handles investments for EnTrust Capital as part of his day job, in charge of relationship building.
“I try to bring people in,” he said of his role within their close-knit dining network.
To wit, Bonior said he bumped into Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., on Dec. 17 and invited her over to Aqua. Per Bonior, his former colleague promised to pop by with her husband in the near future.
Back when his first restaurant popped onto the scene, Bonior walked the halls of Congress to get the word out. “I want door-to-door in every office on the House side,” he said of his one-man lobbying effort.
Bonior doesn’t expect to make the rounds this time around.
“I had my time. It was a wonderful gift and opportunity,” he said of the quarter-century he spent in Congress. In fact, he said the last time he visited was to pay his respects to former Speaker Thomas S. Foley.
Meanwhile, don’t expect to see Bonior lending his name to just any food outlet coming down the pike.
“I’m a firm believer in one at a time. If there’s an opportunity down the line and it’s all in the stars, you might look at it and go for it,” he suggested. “We want to do what we do and do it well.”
Aqua 301: 301 Water St. SE; 202-484-0301; aqua301.com
Average entrée: $13 to $20 ($$). Open for dinner daily.
November 27, 2013
Come fall, cult bourbon enthusiasts across America give thanks to the handful of establishments fortuitous enough to slide a few bottles of Pappy Van Winkle onto their shelves by proceeding to gleefully drink those places dry.
Having scored his annual allotment of old Rip Van Winkle Distillery’s prized product line, Bob Materazzi, owner of Shelly’s Back Room (1331 F St. NW), is not only looking forward to the bourbon purge, he finally gets what all the fuss is about. Full story
July 16, 2013
Mussels haven Granville Moore’s is courting the competitive eating set, throwing down the gauntlet for those who believe they can slurp down 24 ounces of beer-spiked grub in record time.
The debut Mussel Eating Contest is scheduled to take place from 9:30 p.m. till whenever the first of the 12 official competitors wipes the floor with the other contestants. Contenders can sign up via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or attempt to show up at the bar (1238 H St. NE) before 9 p.m. Wednesday and declare their intention to mass consume.
The winner — that’d be the first person to wolf down a full pound of mussels steamed in Brewery Ommegang’s Belgian-style suds, maul four ounces of French baguette AND drain the corresponding bowl of all the boozy broth — will receive a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant as well as a 750 milliliter bottle of Ommegang’s 15th anniversary brew.
There’s nothing like scarfing down near-boiling seafood as the mercury pushes 100 degrees …
May 30, 2013
Legendary jam band moe. is in town tonight to rock a place the group knows so well, it’s been immortalized in one of their very personal songs.
“It’s definitely one of our favorite venues to play,” founding member Al Schnier said of the band’s affinity for the 9:30 Club — the group even recorded its live double album “L” there — touting the “great sight lines” and “terrific energy” as welcome amenities for road-weary performers.
The image of that safe haven was almost shattered a few years back on the night their buddy Kyle got blindsided by a reckless driver as fans emptied out onto Ninth Street Northwest after a show. Luckily, Kyle survived the scrape and moe. got another festival favorite out of the unexpected drama.