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Nibbles and Sips Around Town – May 18, 2015

Jordan Wright
May 18, 2015 

Robert Wiedmaier Opens Villain & Saint (You wish you had this bar in your neighborhood!); Lupo Verde Springs to Life with New Seasonal Menu; AC Hotel Brings Euro Vibe to National Harbor; Mastro’s Steakhouse Stakes Its Claim on 13th Street; Blue Duck Tavern Reveals Its Roots 

Villain & Saint 

Have you ever dreamt of a bar with lava lamps and tintype portraits of deceased rock stars gracing the walls? How about nightly live bands fired by a killer AV system? You’re almost there. Add to that a crop of fiercely talented (and greatly tattooed) bartenders plus food designed by one of the city’s finest chefs. Ready?

At Villain & Saint well-known restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier along with Frank Shull, Chef Brian McBride and Joe Lively have created a hipster Valhalla by channeling the glory days of Haight-Ashbury. Adjacent to the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market and smack dab in the heart of Bethesda, it’s the perfect place for Wiedmaier to hang with biker pals David Guas, chef/owner of Bayou Bakery and author of the new book Grill Nation; and R.J. Cooper of Rogue 24 and Gypsy Soul. Expect bands to kick it in the best Blues, Rock, Indie Jazz and Heavy Metal tradition. At last month’s opening Wiedmaier had booked his favorite local band The Lloyd Dobler Effect and a soul singer named Katrina.

The Lloyd Dobler Effect  / Soul singer, Katrina, at Villain & Saint

The Lloyd Dobler Effect / Soul singer, Katrina, at Villain & Saint

Chef Tom Meyer helms the kitchen, which offers healthful choices on the ‘Saint’ side of the menu and heartier fare on the ‘Villain’ side. We tried the Farmhouse Deviled Eggs and a bowl of Clams with Sherry Vinegar listed under ‘Hand and Bar Food’; Zucchini Pancakes with smoked salmon, grilled Granny Smith apples and chive crème fraiche; and the Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes, which were deemed saint-worthy. But just to prove we weren’t being too all-fired reverential, we washed it down with a ‘Fillmore East’ cocktail of Altos Tequila, Honey-Ginger, Grapefruit and Club Soda and ‘Bye-Bye Miss American Pie’ made with Fireball, Calvados and lemon.

Deviled Eggs /  Clams with Sherry Vinegar

Deviled Eggs / Clams with Sherry Vinegar

There’s no way to cover the extensive cocktail, wine and beer menu to do it justice, but I took note of some of the more unusual selections like Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine from Tennessee, Tito’s Vodka from Texas, and Big Swell IPA from Maui Brewing. This place has hip, hot and happening written all over it.

For nightly music schedules visit www.VillainandSaint.com

Lupo Verde Redux 

The upstairs bar at Lupo Verde

The upstairs bar at Lupo Verde

You’ve already heard me rave about Lupo Verde. I’ll go any chance I get. In fact I wish I lived around the corner. It’s cozy (brick walls, high ceilings and high brownstone windows). The food is great and the service attentive. There’s always an insider crowd and lots of friendly chatter. On a recent visit I tried out their new spring menu. Do I need an excuse?

Squid Ink Scialatielli / Roasted Pork Short Ribs with polenta cream and apricots

Squid Ink Scialatielli / Roasted Pork Short Ribs with polenta cream and apricots

The menu is crammed with classics executed with a modern twist. There are so many delicioso dishes listed, I struggled to decide. Gratefully our waiter guided us, because everything on the menu was calling out to me.

Usually we go back to a favorite restaurant with a certain dish in mind. We crave it. Our food memory says, “I want that thing, and only that thing, again!” We race out the door pursuing it like Jason after the Golden Fleece. For me, Lupo Verde is one of those places. Though here my quest is for the next craveable thing.

Beef Carpaccio / Seared Scallops in artichoke cream with fried baby artichokes

Beef Carpaccio / Seared Scallops in artichoke cream with fried baby artichokes

One of those must-haves is Chef Domenico Apollaro’s sheer-as-a-windowpane Beef Carpaccio with Arugula Pesto. Like a Siren, it sings to me.

But a new dish this spring captured my heart and palate. Capesante Scottate – – a little antipasto with plancha-seared scallops, a lemony artichoke cream and delicately fried artichokes. Here baby artichokes, rarely seen in our markets, are so tender they are fried whole.

An assortment of salumi at Lupo Verde

An assortment of salumi at Lupo Verde

A dish I love on the ‘Primi’ section of the menu is the Scialatielli al Nero – – squid ink infused pasta with ‘nduja salame and garlicky prawns. For my carnivorous-leaning plus one, there was the delectable Costine di Maiale – – fork-tender roasted pork short ribs with polenta cream and apricots. Sumptuous!

Forewarning: If you start out with a small selection of salumi and formaggio with berries, handmade breadsticks and addictive walnut bread, which we most assuredly did, you can barely squeeze in a dessert. But if you come with the thought of indulging in salumi and cheeses you cannot go wrong. There are over 100 different varieties of cheeses and charcuterie items to choose from.  Ricotta and mozzarella are made in-house while the rest are from local farmers or imported from Italy.  There are also several house-cured meats including pancetta, lardo, testa, paté and porchetta.

www.LupoVerdeDC.com

New AC Hotel in National Harbor 

AC Lounge

AC Lounge

Last week National Harbor’s new AC Hotel held a preview party to introduce local press to their new property. The AC is a Marriott life-style hotel brand geared towards millenials who will appreciate the contemporary styling, scads of modern technology and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Capital Wheel at National Harbor

Capital Wheel at National Harbor

Entering from Waterfront Street we took the ground floor elevator up one flight to find an expansive lobby with a bar, lounge and concierge station. Although it was a warm evening, a double-sided fireplace in the center of the large room begged to be cozied up to. Beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor terrace lay a fantastic view of the Potomac River and the giant Capital Wheel.

Blue Loogan captures the scene

Blue Logan captures the scene

Leather ottomans, cocktail tables and lounges dot the room, and a courtyard off the lobby has more lounges and fire pits for chilly evenings. New York artist, Blue Logan, captured the scene and the hordes of guests with a mural to be hung in the lobby.

Reflecting the European style, the event was catered by Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s DC restaurant, Casa Luca. ‘Tea-Tinis’ were by Capital Teas and wine cocktails were by Vino Teano. A ‘Moonshine Bar’, presented by Belle Isle Craft Spirits, was out in the courtyard along with beers by DC Brau. The bar features some nice local craft beers, on-tap wines, handcrafted cocktails and tapas.

Cream of Artichoke Soup by Casa Luca / Seafood Paella from Casa Luca at the AC Hotel

Cream of Artichoke Soup by Casa Luca / Seafood Paella from Casa Luca at the AC Hotel

Though there is not a restaurant on-site in this 192-room hotel, the kitchen serves a European-influenced daily breakfast including sweet and savory tarts, freshly baked croissants and a selection of artisan-cured meats and cheeses to nibble on. Be sure to check out the Library, fitness center, 3,700-square-feet of meeting space. In a nod to the river’s proximity and its many boats at dock, modern nautical accents are found throughout the hotel.

Here’s a recipe for one of the handcrafted cocktails from AC Lounge.

Cherry Blossom Sour

Cherry Blossom Sour

Cherry Blossom Sour

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces                                           Sloop Betty Vodka (handcrafted in Maryland)
  • ¼ ounce                                              St. Germain
  • ¼ ounce                                              Simple Syrup
  • ¼ ounce                                              Cherry Brandy
  • ¼ ounce                                              Oloroso Sherry
  • 1 ounce                                                 Lemon Juice
  • 1                                                             Mint sprig to garnish
  • Glass                                                     Rim with vanilla sugar

Method

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake 10-20 times. Double strain into a vanilla sugar rimmed cocktail glass and garnish with mint sprig.

To Make Vanilla Sugar

Split one vanilla bean in half, remove seeds and whisk in a bowl with ½ cup of sugar.

www.Marriott.com

Mastro’s Dazzles in Penn Quarter 

If you thought Mastro Steakhouse only serves steak, you can put that idea to rest. At their opening party blowout, meat was almost an afterthought. A massive iced seafood display, spilling over with giant tiger shrimp, Alaskan King crab legs and Blue Point oysters was the size of a 73’ Cadillac Fleetwood.

Everything is done up to the nines in this 14,000 foot space. The entry features a custom-designed glass chandelier 8-foot in diameter. A bar is covered in Italian marble and black granite with walls sheathed in cork overlaid with a golden finish. Dark stained floors inlaid with marble spell glamor and an elaborate metal staircase leads to a lower level with leather banquettes and wood-topped tables. The sophisticated space plans live entertainment at the upstairs bar seven nights a week.

The seafood display at Mastro's preview party

The seafood display at Mastro’s preview party

The glamorous restaurant is renowned for indulgent, signature dishes such as a two-foot-tall seafood tower, lobster mashed potatoes, and Warm Butter Cake. On this night we sampled a little of everything, especially at the champagne bar dedicated to Veuve Cliquot and Moet Chandon.

To celebrate the 13th outpost of the Mastro’s chain a step and repeat wall let partygoers capture the memory.

Menu and Chef Changes at Blue Duck Tavern 

The arrival of Executive Chef Ryan LaRoche to head up The Blue Duck Tavern kitchen has brought about some eagerly anticipated changes. All for the better. LaRoche, who has been trumpeted by Esquire as one of their “Top Five Chefs to Watch”, has his sights set on proving exactly that.

Chef Brad Deboy serving up slow roasted porcetta

Chef Brad Deboy serving up slow roasted porcetta

He is joined by Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy, formerly of the beloved Vidalia; and Pastry Chef, Naomi Gallego, formerly of the three-star Le Diplomate, who has soared to prominence as “Pastry Chef of the Year” and 2008 James Beard Foundation nominee for “Outstanding Pastry Chef”.

Chocolate Cheesecake Bars by Naomi Gallego

Chocolate Cheesecake Bars by Naomi Gallego

The evening’s reception was held on the terrace, where herbs and lettuces share space with river birch trees, and a gentle fountain screens out street noise.

Rabbit Mousse with gooseberry compote and peanut brittle  - Blue Duck Tavern's canning efforts

Rabbit Mousse with gooseberry compote and peanut brittle – Blue Duck Tavern’s canning efforts

Separate stations were arranged for the individual chefs to show off their impressive creations and tasty hors d’oeuvres were passed along with ‘District Snap’, a cocktail made with Mt. Gay rum, snap pea juice, mint, lime brown sugar and soda; and a lush libation called ‘Mellomaro’, made with George Dickel White Whiskey, Aperol, orange, mint and sparkling wine.

Ryan LaRoche's Spring Pea Salad with farm cheese, lavender honey, preserved lemon and spiced peanuts

Ryan LaRoche’s Spring Pea Salad with farm cheese, lavender honey, preserved lemon and spiced peanuts

Here’s how Chef LaRoche likes to prepare spring peas.

Garden to Table Peas with Mint 

Ingredients

  • 1 oz unsalted butter
  • 4 oz picked fresh peas
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • pinch of chopped mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a sauté pan, melt the butter until it starts to bubble. Add in the peas and sauté until they become soft (one minute). Drizzle lemon juice and add mint to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

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