Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 18, 2015

Posts by Warren Rojas

13 Posts

April 16, 2015

Versatile Toques Aim to Tantalize Seafood Fans

Profish has reeled in a who’s who of award-winning local chefs for its fourth annual “Charity Off the Hook” event, a gourmet dine-around designed to net much needed funds for food- and education-related charitable organizations.

This year’s tasting bonanza is scheduled to take place on April 22 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place (3000 K St. NW). Tickets for the all-inclusive event are $125 per person; as a courtesy, the organizers have offered readers a discount for the dinner. Entering “ROLLCALL” in the promo code spot will shave $25 off the price of admission. (Roll Call has no business relationship with the event.)

According to Profish Director of Sustainability John Rorapaugh, the evening is all about sensational nosh, good fun and supporting the patchwork of charities that strive to assist those most in need across the region. Full story

March 5, 2015

Rolling With the DC Brew Crew

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

“By the end of the day, we’ll all be drinking buddies,” DC Brew Tour Guide Max Moline pledged as he pulled away from the curb and began inundating those of us who’d signed on for a mid-day swing through the various beer-making operations that have bubbled up across the area with trivia about barley- and hops-related beverages.

Moline’s curious career was made possible by visionary Chad Brodsky, the founder and CEO of a budding tourism experience that caters to folks who never balk at a chance to bend the elbow.

“D.C. has incredible breweries and we love to showcase them in different ways,” the entrepreneur said. Brodsky began shuttling beer fans around Burlington, Vt., in 2008, and later expanded to Boston. He set up shop in the nation’s capital last fall.

At the heart of each five-plus hour pleasure cruise is beer — a dozen (or so) tastings, to be exact — plus a custom designed meal pairing conducted at a participating location. Full story

February 25, 2015

Touring Tastemaker Wants D.C. in His Regular Rotation

While dazzling patrons with mind-blowingly fresh ingredients is certainly part of his master plan, dining impresario Michael Stember is currently most obsessed with making his traveling food show self-sustainable.

The world-class athlete (a record-setting track and field star, Stember represented the United States at multiple Pan American Games and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney) hasn’t given up running around since founding Upstream Foods. If anything, he’s more on the move than ever. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:52 p.m.
Drink, Eat

February 12, 2015

Sonoma, Beuchert’s Team Up to Trick Out Stanton & Greene

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The brains behind Sonoma are hard at work on their next venture. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Artisan spirits and historic accents make up the foundation of the collaborative hospitality project slowly taking shape behind the soon-to-be reopened doors at 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

Stanton & Greene, the three-story, 180-seat restaurant expected to replace the Pour House/Top of the Hill construct that shuttered last April, is an experiment in upscale boozing. The powers that be behind Sonoma and Beuchert’s Saloon — which is formally reviewed in Roll Call’s inaugural dining guide — have joined forces to carve out something different for the neighborhood: a serious drinking spot.

“We’re trying to be to cocktails what Sonoma is to wine,” partner August Paro told CQ Roll Call. That objective does not, however, include setting the bar so high “that you can’t just roll into happy hour and get a great drink.” Full story

January 22, 2015

Chilling Out Is What It’s All About at the Dolcezza Factory

The little, local gelato maker that could has come a long way from solely dishing scoops of handmade refreshment to college kids and thrusting samples in the faces of those perusing different stalls at the farmers market. The decade-long trek to the top of the frozen dessert heap in D.C. has culminated in the development of the bright, welcoming Dolcezza Factory at 550 Penn St. NE that took up residence in the shadow of next-gen shopping hub Union Market last winter.

The multipurpose compound — there’s an active gelato-making operation, limited retail space and a full-service tasting room all tucked under one roof — officially opened in December 2013, with the coffee/gelato bar following suit a few months later. The somewhat out-of-the-way space remains fairly busy, yet never tips over into uncomfortably crowded territory.

When the weather’s nice, folks routinely camp outside on the rusty metal chairs, watching the world zoom by along Sixth Street Northeast while they savor steaming cups of brew forged from freshly ground Indonesian coffee beans. Circle the neatly arranged display table a snack showcase crowded with assorted Kinderhook staples, including triple ginger cookies, orange-tarragon candied almonds, black pepper shortbread, baked cheese crackers and boozy brown butter blondies long enough, and you are likely to be joined, as I was, by a pair of first-time visitors who couldn’t help but gush about their latest find at Union Market. (“They’ve got pork butts!” one just about squealed after wandering across a Toki Underground-run outpost.)

Settle in at the spacious bar and you just might bear witness to random testaments to the generosity of the human spirits. “I brewed too much. You can enjoy this here or top off your drink,” one accommodating barista surprised a customer who appeared ready to shuffle out the door by sliding over an extra shot of piping hot Ethiopian roast.

It’s been my experience that most folks tend to find their way to this industrial park-packed slice of D.C. for a frozen pick-me-up. They’ve certainly come to the right place. Co-founder Robb Duncan estimates the factory cranks out some 400 gallons of gelato and sorbetto per day. Some of those efforts are funneled into the prepackaged pints that beckon (think: salted caramel, Thai coconut milk and Valrhona dark chocolate for gelatos; crookneck pumpkin, pineapple mint and pomegranate sorbettos, plus rotating single-serving push-pops) from the stand-alone freezer case. The rest flow over to the bins watched over by the baristas.

“All of these come out of those machines right there,” one attendant explains, nodding toward the industrial mixers opposite the service counter as she ushers a glistening ball of exotic fun right under my nose. “They’re super soft. But they’re also as fresh as it gets.” Featured flavors are served solo or can be built into custom flights (four mini servings at $8).

Indonesian vanilla bean is elegantly spicy. The timeless classic weaves together creamy bliss with a hint of piquancy. Salted caramel is an absolute stunner. The top seller (per Duncan) plays for keeps, adding an almost pudding-like mouth feel, very dense and exceptionally rich, to the warmed sugar that lends the highly prized phenomenon its name. The cleverly composed candy apple coppeta is the frozen analog to apple pie; honey-spiked sorbetto is coupled with oaty granola (extra crunchy) and then doused with syrupy dulce de leche topping. A black sesame-based production was an eyebrow raiser. The ashen-colored cooler spreads toasted nuttiness across the palate. (Not necessarily my bag, but certainly interesting.) Virginia peanut butter is surprisingly light yet potent.

Duncan said the company currently sources the freshly roasted, ground and salted source material from two purveyors in rural Virginia. The homemade peanut butter is then folded into the gelato, resulting in pale bulbs of perfectly nutty deliciousness. In the future, Duncan hopes to conquer another legume-based fantasy.

“I am still dreaming of doing a Thai peanut butter,” he said, laying out plans to cram freshly ground nuts, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, lime juice, Thai coconut milk and Thai chilies into the same crystalized spoonful.

Dolcezza Factory: 550 Penn St. NE; 202- 333- 4646. Average entree: under $12 ($). Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Read more about the Capitol Hill dining scene in our “Nom, Nom, Nom-nibus” e-book, available for download at

January 14, 2015

Resolve to Feast the Rest of January

Those ribs aren't going to eat themselves! (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Those ribs aren’t going to eat themselves! (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

We’re now a few weeks into the New Year. So we’ll go ahead and assume any nonsensical diet plans or ill-conceived commitments to calorie counting have been wisely tossed aside.

If not, prepare to have your mettle tested by a three-pronged attack from myriad tastemakers.

Winter Restaurant Week

The opening salvo in the full-fledged assault on our collective well-being is Winter Restaurant Week. The biannual promotion (the next round’s in August) is slated to run from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25 and provides prix fixe dining options at venues spread across the D.C.-Metro area. Full story

December 31, 2014

Brunch Your Way Into 2015

Amateur night is over. Now it’s time to get down to business.

Hung over or not, the new year waits for no one. So you might as well greet 2015 head on — and with a full, rounded belly. Fuel your recovery at the following locations:

Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:53 p.m.
Drink, Eat

December 9, 2014

‘Mayor For Life’ Explores the Folklore of Marion Barry

D.C. historian and author John Muller is resurrecting — for one night only — the colloquially inspired show centered around the late Mayor Marion Barry as a final tip of the hat to the political icon.

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The revived “Mayor For Life: The Untold Story” is scheduled to be performed twice on Dec. 15 (6:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) at the Anascostia Playhouse at 2020 Shannon Place SE. The shows, which Muller expects should accommodate between 100 and 140 patrons per seating, are pay-what-you-can and first-come, first-served. Full story

May 9, 2014

Brewery Ommegang Cooks Up SAVOR Counteroffensive

Bummed about missing out on the barley- and hops-fueled bacchanal taking over the National Building Museum this weekend?

Eddie Arrossi/Brewers Association

Eddie Arrossi/Brewers Association

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

Zest Vets Go Modern Mexican at Aqua 301

David E. Bonior cast his last vote in the House of Representatives more than a decade ago.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

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.

Fired Up

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.

(Courtesy Fredde Lieberman)

(Courtesy Fredde Lieberman)

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;
Average entrée: $13 to $20 ($$). Open for dinner daily.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 5:21 p.m.

November 27, 2013

Shelly’s Raring to Pour Pappy Van Winkle

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.

(Courtesy Redman Communications)

(Courtesy Redman Communications)

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

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:13 p.m.
Be Merry, Drink

July 16, 2013

Granville Moore’s Preps Moules Eating Contest

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.

(Courtesy Elizabeth Parker Photographie)

(Courtesy Elizabeth Parker Photographie)

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 ( 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

Mixing Things Up With moe.

(Alexandra Valenti)

(Courtesy Alexandra Valenti)

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.

Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 1:09 p.m.

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