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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

March 21, 2014

Calendar: Roll Call Book Club, D.C. Mayoral Debate and the Mind

Spring has officially arrived!  If only it really felt like it.  Anyway, here are some Hill happenings to get you through what we hope are the last coldish days of the season.

Double Down With Roll Call

The Roll Call Book Club continues at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave. NE) Wednesday with Mark Halperin, co-author of “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 presidential election. Co-hosted by our pals at Hooks Books, drop by at 6 p.m. to enjoy a lively discussion, wine, cheese and a free copy of the best-seller (on a first-come, first-served basis). Full story

January 3, 2014

Calendar: Gen X Writers, Bands Represent!

As official Washington begins to trickle back to work in this new year, the city’s cultural institutions are getting back into the swing of things, too.

American Letters From Abroad

Politics and Prose bookstore is hosting a couple of American literature’s heaviest hitters on back-to-back days: Chang-rae Lee and Gary Shteyngart. Lee, a Korean-American, and Shteyngart, a Russian-American, present vivid and weird representations of the American experience. Both were born abroad (in Seoul and Leningrad, respectively) and are tied closely to their respective immigrant communities. They are also thoroughly American, having come to the United States at young ages and having succeeded in a profession among the most difficult to break into: writing novels. And, as they are both 40-something and firmly in Generation X, there’s a bit of desperation, humor and sadness in their writing. Perfect for the times.

Lee, the author of such books as “Aloft,” will read from his latest novel, “On Such a Full Sea,” on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. Shteyngart, the author of “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” and the more recent “Super Sad True Love Story,” will read from his forthcoming memoir, “Little Failure,” on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. Both events are free at the Politics and Prose flagship at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Hill Center’s Packed Schedule

Hill Center here on Capitol Hill has a dense set of upcoming events. On Jan. 7, the cultural center at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE will partner with ITVS Community Cinema to present a free screening of “Las Marthas,” a documentary about the monthlong (!) annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas. The Society of Martha Washington’s coming-out ceremonies are quite a sight to see, and provide a look at American culture that will be news indeed for many. The film starts at 7 p.m.

The National Symphony Orchestra fills up the calendar later in the week, with its NSO in Your Neighborhood program. On Jan. 9, the NSO will present a chamber performance featuring flautist Aaron Goldman, clarinetist Eugene Mondie and bassoonist Sue Heineman, starting at 7:30 p.m. and going until 9:30 p.m. On Jan. 10, the NSO brings in its “Jazz Night Club,” featuring several musicians including violinists Glenn Donnellan, Terri Lee and Jan Chong, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Both events are free, but those interested are encouraged to register at Hill Center’s website.

Cracker, Camper Check In

If you don’t get your fill of Gen X signifiers from Lee and Shteyngart, you’re in luck: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven are playing the 9:30 Club on Jan. 11. Cracker, which initially grew out of the disbanding of Camper, headlines. Perhaps to show how all of us Gen Xers roll these days, it’s an early, 6 p.m. show at 815 V St. NW. Twenty-five bucks to get in.

December 18, 2013

AFI’s Salute to the Political Peter O’Toole

The late Peter O’Toole was most widely known for his star turn in “Lawrence of Arabia,” a masterful interpretation of British officer T.E. Lawrence’s Middle East adventures during World War I. But O’Toole excelled in another political role, that of England’s King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter,” and the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater is showing it next week. If you think there’s dysfunction and division in Washington, watch and learn the snakepit that was the English court that Henry presided over in the 12th century. No one could deliver weary but vicious lines with a sly smile like O’Toole.

It wasn’t the first time O’Toole had played Henry — he also starred with his pal Richard Burton in 1964’s “Becket.” The 1968 “Lion,” though, is a political and family drama that has Henry sparring — just in time for Christmas! — with his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) over the future of the country’s leadership. Henry wants to install his youngest son John, played by Nigel Terry, when the time is right. Eleanor prefers the elder Richard the Lionheart, played by Anthony Hopkins years before anyone knew who Hannibal Lecter was. The middle child, Geoffrey, played by John Castle, has plans of his own. And France’s King Philip II has something to say about it all, too.

Showing on Monday at 4:25 p.m. and Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. at the Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md.

By Jason Dick Posted at 1:53 p.m.

July 25, 2013

Soak Up Sun and Sounds at Sky Bar

After a week of disgusting temperatures, the weather is finally nice and it’s safe to leave the office for a rooftop happy hour.

Art Soiree Sunset Rooftop Series at the Beacon Hotel’s Sky Bar (1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW) begins at 5 p.m., with happy hour running until 7 p.m.

Besides an excuse to drink in the Capitol’s skyline — and some tasty martinis — Art Soiree is five months of ultimate music experiences. A line-up of more than 20 bands will perform every Thursday until late October, with local bands of various genres from jazz to pop to rock.

Up tonight is an album release party for: IhsAn Bilal‘s TEAL album.

Classically trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, IhsAn Bilal has a good balance of class and sass.

Need another reason to enjoy the amazing weather today?

The event is free but you should RSVP here.

Keep it stylish. Dress code is fashionable/cocktail attire.

July 22, 2013

E.T., Phone the National Mall for Screen on the Green

Roll Call After Dark public service announcement: Screen on the Green returns for its 2013 run on the National Mall tonight, with “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” kicking off the season.

Screen on the Green offers a unique D.C. experience. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Screen on the Green offers a unique D.C. experience. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Get there early with your blankie and beverages. Space on the Mall fills up fast. Showtime (starting with vintage cartoons and the iconic HBO dance music) starts at sundown.

July 1, 2013

A Welcome Trend: The Bloody Mary Bar

This is a trend Roll Call After Dark (or Roll Call Morning After) can get behind: food and drink establishments setting up make-your-own Bloody Mary bars for the weekend brunchers among us.

It's like salad, but with alcohol! (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)

It’s like salad, but with alcohol! (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)

As brother blog Heard on the Hill reported, Tortilla Coast’s mothership on Capitol Hill is the latest to take the tomato juice/Clamato (we don’t judge personal mixer preferences) plunge. Other devotees around Capitol Hill include the Argonaut at 1433 H St. NE.

May 23, 2013

You Can Leave Your Green Hat on …

Two Roll Call After Dark faves, Boundary Road bistro and Green Hat Gin, team up Thursday evening for a gin-centered cocktail hour starting at 5 p.m.

Last month, New Columbia Distillers, the makers of Green Hat, unveiled its spring/summer 2013 line of gin, which is heavy on floral and citrus flavors and highlights. Thursday night’s happy hour promises the unveiling of a cherry blossom cocktail and other speciality drinks. No cover, drinks are $10 a pop. 414 H St. NE.

Michael Lowe, co-owner and distiller of New Columbia Distillers, shows of the still for "Green Hat" distilled gin. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

Michael Lowe, co-owner and distiller of New Columbia Distillers, shows off the still for Green Hat distilled gin. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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