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Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ September 23rd 2018

Jordan Wright
September 23, 2018
Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Paella Nights at the Fairmont ~ Muze Restaurant Earns High Marks ~ Eagerly Awaited Eaton Hotel Opens ~ Atlantic Magazine’s Upcoming Three-day Festival ~ Mount Vernon Launches Aged Whiskey and Hemp Demonstrations

Paella Nights at the Fairmont Hotel

Paella by Chef Jordi Gallardo in the gardens

Blink and You’ll Miss It:  The Fairmont Hotel has been serving up delicioso paella nights in its stunning gardens on Wednesdays throughout the month of September.  The last one is tonight, Wednesday September 26th

Serrano ham on Paella night ~ Tortillas de Patatas ~ Anchovies

Spanish-born Executive Chef Jordi Gallardo oversees a fantastic menu of gazpacho, pan con tomate, manchego cheese, serrano ham freshly cut from the bone, tortillas de patatas, a selection of Spanish olives, fresh anchovies and caramel flan.  Cozy fire pits and comfy outdoor sofas present a luxe venue for Chef Gallardo’s live paella station. 

Using a family recipe from his hometown of Barcelona, he prepares authentic paella featuring shrimp, chicken and mussels.  At $10.00 per person you’d be a fool to miss it. The hotel is also offering specially priced glasses and bottles of Spanish Cava and red and white Spanish wines along with Mahou Cinco Estrellas Beer at $5.00 each and Er Boqueron Gastro Ale at $7.00 each.

Flamenco guitarist Ricardo Marlow

Accompanying the festival is renowned Flamenco Guitarist Ricardo Marlow who has played with musicians of other genres, namely Charlie Byrd, Frank Vignola, Canut and Andre Reyes of the Gipsy Kings, The Washington Ballet, Kivanç Oner, Duende Camaron and many others. 

No reservations necessary. Just go!  The Fairmont Hotel is located at 2401 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.  www.Fairmont.com

Muze’s East West Kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental

The Mandarin Oriental’s grand entrance

Off the top of my head I can name a scant few restaurants in DC where service meets food meets elegant ambiance.  Throw in a waterfront view and I’m all yours.  For a milestone birthday, I chose Muze in the Mandarin Oriental in hopes of a hushed dining spot with tables well-spaced apart, gracious service and fine dining with a view.  We were not disappointed.  Just entering the grandiose massive-columned lobby, dripping in marble with bespoke gardens beyond, foretells a luxury dining experience.  I hadn’t dined there since Executive Chef Eric Ziebold left the restaurant in 2014 when it was CityZen.  It stayed shuttered for a time after his departure and now a redesign and new chef have reinvigorated its stellar reputation.

Muze Dining Room ~ View of the Wharf Harbor 

We kicked off the celebration with a bottle of Moët toasting merrily while reveling in a glorious sunset over the Potomac River.  If you like a view, this second story, bird’s-eye panorama is breathtaking.

Angus Beef Tataki 

Executive Chef, Stefan Kauth was on holiday and our Labor Day meal was prepared by Sous Chef Justin Houghtaling who sent out a refreshing amuse bouche shooter of lemongrass, honeydew, coconut and mint to tease and awaken the palate.  With so many appealing starters and salads to choose from we could hardly decide and opted for four for the three of us – Tatsoi & Arugula Salad with pea shoots and pickled lotus root, Angus Beef Tataki with two sauces, Ahi Poke with bits of pineapple and house made shrimp chips, and Crab, Corn & Coconut Soup.  Once we’d ordered three waiters sprang into action orchestrating our courses, answering questions and promptly refilling our wineglasses throughout the evening.  It doesn’t get any more attentive than this.

Tatsoi Salad with lotus root ~ Amuse bouche ~ Crab & Corn Chowder

Each dish was beautifully refined reflecting a unique Asian-inspired personality coupled with French technique.  However, we all agreed that the soup stole our hearts.  Enhanced by red pepper crème fraiche, grilled corn niblets, pickled fresno pepper and Thai basil, it achieved a sublimely restrained balance that wowed us.  Woe betide to my poor husband who had to tolerate a duet of spoons reaching across the table for yet another taste.

Ahi poke with shrimp chips~ Lobster Pappardelle ~ Corn crusted Black Grouper

Because our entrée choices ranged from Wagyu beef to corn crusted black grouper to lobster pappardelle, a 2015 Willamette Valley pinot noir from Lemelson Vineyards was selected. During our meal Chef Houghtaling came to the table to gauge our response and garner oohs and aahs.  As for dessert, nothing could prepare us for the exquisite and delicious sweet finales whose brief menu descriptions inadequately revealed the sum of their parts.

Berry Cheesecake with strawberry sponge, raspberry and strawberry marmalade, strawberry emulsion and lemon-scented mascarpone

All this and perfect service too.  After some prodding, we discovered our extraordinarily knowledgeable waiter, Nicanor, ‘Nic’,
had been in the employ of chefs as legendary as Yannick Cam and Jean Louis Palladin, and in more recent years, Fabio Trabocchi at Fiola.  He had also spent 25 years at the Ritz-Carlton seeing to the needs of sophisticated diners.  Ask for Nic when you make your reservation
and tell him I sent you.

Muze is located at 1330 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20024. For reservations visit www.MandarinOriental.com or call 202.787.6148

Eagerly Awaited Eaton Workshop Hotel Opens

Eaton Workshop Hotel

Eaton Workshop Hotel wants innovators, artists, and social and creative incubators to work, stay and lounge at their hip new hotel, Kintsugi café, rooftop bar and lounge,
and upcoming restaurant.  Did I mention the secret bar?  More on that later. 

Kintsugi Cafe at Eaton

Executive Chef Tim Ma led a tour of the exciting new space that will cater to hip travelers and trendy residents.  Designed by Parts & Labor as a platform for creatives and progressive millennials, the hotel will feature Ma’s restaurant American Son due to open September 28th.  Though Italian food was the original concept the giant wood-fired pizza oven will now be used for roasting vegetables for his Korean-inspired cuisine.  Nights on the rooftop will feature a DJ after dark and guests are expected to linger in the hotel’s many workspaces and library.

Executive Chef Tim Ma takes a break on the rooftop patio at Eaton

As the driving force behind the hotel’s food and beverage program, Ma’s influence can be felt in all aspects including the recently open wellness-influenced Kintsugi café featuring craft coffee from Red Rooster Coffee of Floyd, Virginia, mushroom coffee, wellness teas from strong>Neakita, juices from Misfit Juicery and pastries, including gluten-free and vegan options from Pastry Chef David Collier.

The Alice in Wonderland mural in Allegory’s secret bar

If you’re in the know, you’ll find the secret Allegory cocktail bar hidden beyond a series of ordinary-looking doors on the main level towards the back of the hotel.  This stunning, romantically-lit bar features a large mural of Alice in Wonderland as seen by Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans in post-Jim Crow America.

The rooftop bar and lounge at Eaton

Eaton Hotel is located at 1201 K Street, NW, Washington, DC. For information and reservations visit www.EatonWorkshop.com.

The Atlantic Festival Partners with The Aspen Institute

October’s three-day festival will present some of today’s most influential thinkers and leaders in technology, politics, business and the arts.  Why do we care?  Well, for one thing, José Andrés is one of the speakers. And don’t we want to hear what former Secretary of State John Kerry, Audie Cornish Host of NPR’s “All things Considered”, Actor and Playwright, Harvey Fierstein, and dozens more from varying fields of expertise have to say about our future and the current state of the nation?  We do!  It promises to be the most comprehensive gathering of CEOs, politicians from both sides of the aisle, techies, award-winning reporters and intellectuals – all in one spot.  Actually it’s a few spots including Sidney Harman Hall, the National Portrait Gallery, Hotel Monaco, Gallup Institute and others, but all close together in Penn Quarter. October 2-4, 2018.  For tickets and information go to www.TheAtlanticFestival.com.  See you there!

Mount Vernon Releases Limited Edition Aged Rye Whiskey

Mount Vernon Releases Four-Year Aged Whiskey

George Washington was America’s foremost whiskey distillers.  Along with his wife, Martha, the founding father was no stranger to imbibing and entertaining his guests with an array of wine and spirits.  As gracious hosts the dynamic duo made sure that guests at Mount Vernon were well fed – and well oiled. To celebrate Virginia Spirits Month, Mount Vernon is releasing a mere 200 bottles of George Washington’s Straight Rye Premium Whiskey, distilled at Mount Vernon from Washington’s original recipe. Unlike earlier offerings from the reconstructed distillery, this spirit was aged for four years in charred oak barrels. George Washington’s Straight Rye Premium Whiskey is now available in 375ml bottles for purchase at the Shops at Mount Vernon and at George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill site. These will sell out quickly – most likely to collectors.

Preparation of Rye Whiskey at Mount Vernon's Distillery & Gristmill

It’s intriguing to peek at Washington’s distillery ledgers from 1798 and 1799, to note that this whiskey consisted of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley.  Considered its finest whiskey release to date, it shows a fruity aroma with hints of oak from the barrels and a palate-pleasant taste of apples, apricots and baking spices.  As with other releases, traditional 18th-century methods were in the production.  Additionally, all the grain in the reconstructed water-powered gristmill was fermented in wooden mash tubs and distilled in copper pot stills heated by wood fires. If you visit, and I urge you to, you will see the historic process in real time.

If you miss out on this special whiskey, several other spirits produced at Mount Vernon’s distillery are available this month, including George Washington’s Rye Whiskey – now designated the ‘State Spirit of Virginia’ – Peach Eau de Vie, and Apple Brandy.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the planting of the first crop of hemp on the property in centuries.

Industrial hemp seed ~ Planting at Pioneer Farm Site

And, no, it’s not for smoking.  This is industrial hemp.   Planted on their four-acre Pioneer Farm Site under the 2015 Industrial Hemp Law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly.  Hemp was used at Mount Vernon for rope, thread for sewing sacks, canvas, and for repairing the seine nets used at the fisheries. An interesting historical factoid: Washington’s diaries and farm reports indicate that hemp was cultivated at all of his five farms. In February 1794, Washington wrote to his farm manager, William Pearce, “…I am very glad to hear that the Gardener has saved so much of the St. Foin seed, and that of the India Hemp…Let the ground be well prepared and the Seed (St. Foin) be sown in April. The Hemp may be sown anywhere.” Mount Vernon plans to use the plant for interpretive fiber-making demonstrations.

George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill

George Washington’s Mount Vernon is located at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121.  The Distillery & Gristmill is located at 5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309.  For information call 703.780.2000 or visit www.MountVernon.org.

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