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Nibbles and Sips Around Town – December 23, 2017

Jordan Wright
December 21, 2017
Photo credit Jordan Wright
 

Dining at the Hay-Adams for a Christmas Steeped in Luxury and Tradition ~ Mike Isabella Opens His Biggest Project Yet ~ Crimson DC Whiskey Bar, Diner and Holiday Pop-Up ~ The Maple Guild’s Maple Pecan Sandies

The Hay-Adams Proves Irresistible 

Though I think and write about restaurants all the time, my mind can sometimes go completely blank when asked, “Where should we eat?”  My response goes something like this, “Ethnic, inexpensive, romantic, large group, trendiest restaurant, intimate, posh, close by, Metro accessible, craft cocktails, pre-theatre dinner specials?”  That usually ends the conversation with a thud.  People want one answer.  But with so many distinctly diverse options for cuisine and atmosphere, that’s the only way to narrow it down.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked where he and his wife should take their distinguished guests for Sunday brunch.  The globetrotting trio were flying in from London and he wanted to impress in an elegant spot where they could relax and enjoy easy conversation.  Brunch in the DC Metro area often means unlimited bloody marys or mimosas at a fixed price in a noisy, packed restaurant more suitable for large groups of friends or family.  And that’s fine if that’s your jam.  But for this group of sophisticated diners, that would most emphatically not do.

Holiday decor in the lobby ~ Tiny creatures adorn the decorations - all created by the hotel staff

Holiday decor in the lobby ~ Tiny creatures adorn the decorations - all created by the hotel staff

Given my friend’s specific parameters, I told him to book his party at The Lafayette at the Hay-Adams.  Recently chosen by Conde Nast Traveler for a 2018 "Gold List" Award, it checked all his boxes and more.  I knew the food and service to be superb and the hotel was gorgeously decorated for the holidays.

Verdict: They loved it!

Here are a few photos I took from the current holiday dinner menu.

Pan seared halibut filet with maitake mushrooms and wild rice pilaf ~ Octopus Za’atar with favs beans, merguez sausage, black garlic tahini and basil pistou

Pan seared halibut filet with maitake mushrooms and wild rice pilaf ~ Octopus Za’atar with favs beans, merguez sausage, black garlic tahini and basil pistou

 

Seared diver scallops with celery root purée, Brussels sprouts and saffron cream ~ Spiced Pear Strudel by Hay-Adams Pastry Chef Josh Short

Seared diver scallops with celery root purée, Brussels sprouts and saffron cream ~ Spiced Pear Strudel by Hay-Adams Pastry Chef Josh Short

For those who have never enjoyed the charms of The Lafayette, nor the ultimate insiders’ bar below stairs at Off the Record, I highly recommend you go.  But don’t let it get around.  It’s our little secret.  

Isabella Eatery Opens in Tysons Galleria

Malachite green doors beckon diners to relax beside a fireplace at Isabella Eatery

Malachite green doors beckon diners to relax beside a fireplace at Isabella Eatery

Former Top Chef Mike Isabella has come a long way from his early days at Zaytinya.  His explosive empire just got even bigger with the opening of his 41,000-square foot emporium, eponymously named Isabella EateryGraffiato, Arroz, Retro Creamery, Non-Fiction Coffee, Octagon Bar, Pepita, Kapnos Marketa, Requin and Yona all take their places on either side of a catwalk the second level of this exclusive shopping mall.

The bar at Pepita at Isabella Eatery ~ The chandelier and portrait gallery dining space at Isabella Eatery

The bar at Pepita at Isabella Eatery ~ The chandelier and portrait gallery dining space

Sit at one of the counters or pull up a seat up to a long wooden table, there are plenty of spaces for a crowd to chow down on any one of dozens of offerings from these varied cuisines.

View of Graffiato and Retro Creamery ~ The central lounge

View of Graffiato and Retro Creamery ~ The central lounge

Designed by Jason Maringola of the DC design firm Streetsense, it is a massive project.  One of the multiple dining spaces is shaped like a rotunda and features wood floors and walls.  Outfitted with a custom designed 25-foot wide $250,000 LED chandelier, it has gallery style art hung clear up to the rafters.  Each dining space is stylishly reflective of the type of food and drink served – tacos and margaritas at Pepita; pizza at Graffiato; sangrias, pintxos and tapas at the soon-to-open Arroz; oysters, lobster rolls, crab cakes and champagne at Requin; poke bowls, sushi and sake at Yona; tzatziki, hummus, spit-roasted meats and beers from DC’s 3 Stars Brewing Company at Kapnos Marketa.  And much, much more, including a small bakery at Non-Fiction Coffee.  Lastly, the Retro Creamery, which is done up in the style of a 1950’s ice cream parlor with banana splits, gelati, sundaes, shakes and floats.

Oysters, lobster rolls and Veuve Clicquot champagne at Requin ~ A group of friends enjoys the opening night at Isabella Eatery

Oysters, lobster rolls and Veuve Clicquot champagne at Requin ~ A group of friends enjoys the opening night at Isabella Eatery

There’s something for every taste.  An oyster and champagne bar caters to the luxe crowd, while takeout sandwiches and coffee drinks are for those on the go.  A spacious modernistic lounge with crackling fireplace becomes the perfect setting to gather over craft cocktails, caviar and steaks from the deluxe Octagon Bar.

Enter through the mall or up a separate escalator accessible from the parking lot on International Drive.

Crimson DC Whiskey Bar Opens in the New Pod Hotel 

Preparing specialty cocktails at Crimson DC ~ A perfect Manhattan at Crimson DC’s Whiskey Bar

Preparing specialty cocktails at Crimson DC ~ A perfect Manhattan at Crimson DC’s Whiskey Bar

 

The hunting lodge lounge at Crimson DC Whiskey Bar

The hunting lodge lounge

Okay, it’s officially a trend – speakeasies, Prohibition-era cocktails, whiskey, bourbon and house made moonshine.  But what if I told you can find all this in one spot.  In Chinatown.  With a view of the city.  It’s Ian and Eric Hilton’s a three-in-one destination. The whiskey bar is a vast room broken up into smaller areas for lounging or gathering at the U-shaped bar.  I’m not sure how many it seats at the bar.  Best guess more than 50.  Located below stairs in the stylish new Pod Hotel this spot has a Southern style party-all-night atmosphere.  Retro wood booths on one side and sofas and a hunting lodge-themed lounge on another.

The check in desk at The Pod Hotel

The check in desk at The Pod Hotel

The menu trends towards casual bar food – chicken liver parfait, Brunswick stew, a ham board with Virginia’s Olli Salumeria prosciutto, hushpuppies and Chesapeake oysters – fried and served in a po’ boy – or raw.

Nighttime view of the Chinatown Arch from the rooftop bar at Crimson DC

Nighttime view of the Chinatown Arch from the rooftop bar at Crimson DC

Take the elevator to the rooftop, where a cozy holiday pop-up bar is the perfect spot away from the madding crowd.  Overlooking the Chinatown Arch with a 360-degree view of the city, it has both indoor and outdoor seating.  Pop in for spiced lattes and gingerbread cookies.

The rooftop holiday pop-up bar at Crimson DC

The rooftop holiday pop-up bar at Crimson DC

A brightly lit, mid-century modern diner, bar and coffee bar is on the street level and open from 7am till midnight most days.  Top picks: gumbo, biscuits, shrimp and grits, and caramel cake a la mode. And if you’ve never had it before, try the corn pone!

The Maple Guild Beats Out the Competition 

What’s going on top of your Christmas morning breakfast stack – the perfect pancake topper from Vermont, naturally.  This Vermont-based maple syrup company is the best there is.  How do I know?  Because The Maple Guild’s Original Grade A Maple Syrup has won the coveted “Best of East” Award at the Natural Products Association’s Expo East, beating out 1500+ other exhibitors for the prize. Yes! 1500 other products of all kinds to win the top prize.

The Maple Guild Selection

This prestigious award, chosen by all press and influencers at the Expo, is the top honor bestowed upon exhibitors at the trade show. The Best of East is the third award The Maple Guild has won at Expos East and West in the past calendar year. 

But it’s not just their syrups – Salted Caramel, Bourbon Barrel, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean (Salted Caramel is off the chain!) – you’ll want to try their maple syrup-sweetened fruity teas and maple cream – that luscious spread that you schmear onto your morning toast.  Another product is tapt., a fruit-infused tree water with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that was the winner of the “Hydration Award” by Runner’s World.  Plus, they make a fruit-infused green or black tea sweetened with their maple syrup.  And DC distillery Jos. A. Magnus & Co. is using some of the different flavored syrups in their Cocktail of the Month.

The Maple Guild is essentially the Willy Wonka of the maple syrup industry, dreaming up creative and innovative ways to consume maple. The heart and soul of the company’s products shows through in their organic steam-crafted syrups tapped from their 25,000-acre farm in Island Pond, Vermont.  Metro DC area residents can find The Maple Guild’s products on OnLine and in-stores at Wegmans, ROOTS Market, GLUT, and MOMs Market. 

Maple Pecan Sandies (recipe by Captain Cookie)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup The Maple Guild original maple syrup
  • 1 cup oil (corn, canola, or vegetable oil all work fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 375*
  • In a bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Stir in the powdered sugar, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla until well mixed.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low, scraping the sides of the bowl until everything is uniformly mixed in (don't over-mix)! Stir in the two cups of chopped pecans.
  • Optional: Cover dough and chill for one hour before baking - this will make the sticky dough easier to handle.
  • Scoop by tablespoons and bake at 375* for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are puffed with golden edges.

Finishing Touches

  • Place one scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream between each cookie.
  • For the true maple lovers, drizzle maple syrup on top of the ice cream before placing second cookie on top.
  • Dig in!

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