Wow, You Need Booze!


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Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!!

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Saturday night before kids

…………… and after kids

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We’ve been meaning to taste Bryan Voltaggio’s cooking for years now. Even before his turn on Top Chef, we were hearing rave reviews about the techniques and the ingredients on display at VOLT in Frederick, Maryland.  But it’s just far enough from DC that we didn’t want to take on a tasting menu and then have to drive home after an evening of food and drink.

Although VOLT still holds a place on our “must visit” list, it has become much easier for Washingtonians to have a Voltaggio experience.  His new restaurant, Range, is Metro accessible (Friendship Heights station on the Red Line) and serving up brunch, lunch and dinner throughout the week.

Earlier this week, Tom Sietsema published his three-star review of Range based on four impressive dinner visits.  That kind of scrutiny can be tough on a restaurant, but we put them to a different kind of stress test: a Saturday brunch with a toddler in tow.  Would their reputation for service and attention show through mid-day Saturday?

Find out after the jump. (more…)

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The first time we sat down with our friends the Bacon Terrorist and Boozy Betty to rate pumpkin beers, they were still something of a novelty to us.  We gathered 13, largely the most widely available brands, and we had no trouble crowning Southern Tier’s Pumking the winner.  What a difference three years make…

Since then, it’s become much easier to locate all kinds of small-batch labels around the area.  And it seems like almost every brewer out there has jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon.  Out in Seattle last weekend, Elysian Brewing Company hosted their “Great Pumpkin Beer Festival,” where they sampled 60 pumpkin beers – including 13 different offerings of their own!

We knew it was time to sit down and revisit our ratings.  Would Pumking reign uncontested?  Or would one of the new crop rise to claim the throne?

To find out, we gathered as many different pumpkin beers as we could over the span of a month.  Many of our finds came from Total Wine & More in Alexandria (where almost every beer they sell is available in singles as well as six-packs) and Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, though a few others were collected here and there along the way.  We also found a second pair of willing tasters, our friends KentuckyFrench and the Yankee Sipper.

A rundown of all the competitors with tasting notes after the jump. (more…)

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If you’ve ever left one of the Eat Good Food Group’s Alexandria restaurants wishing you could replicate what you just ate at home, consider yourself one step closer.  Tomorrow at 6 PM, Society Fair opens its doors to the public, offering many of the ingredients used at Restaurant Eve, the Majestic, Eamonn’s, PX and Virtue Feed & Grain.  Get ready to raid Chef Cathal Armstrong’s pantries.

We had an opportunity to take a look around as Rob Shinn and his team were getting ready for this week’s opening, and we were like kids in a candy store as we moved from butcher’s counter to coffee station to bakery racks.  Goods we’d only read about before (being unable to find them at local grocers) were all around us.  Where’s Julie Andrews to sing about “favorite things” when you need her?

Lots of pictures and your plan of attack after the jump. (more…)

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If you’re like us, right about now you’re torn between your good intentions to eat better (more whole foods, less processed junk) and a craving for big flavors.  Starting at 11 AM this morning, it will become just a little bit easier to find that balance in Clarendon.  Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, a burritos-and-fajitas restaurant that originated in Miami, opens for business today.

On the surface, Lime may seem like another quick-service Mexican restaurant – Baja Fresh, Chipotle – but we stopped in to take a look around, and what we found surprised us.  Lime is much closer to a fast-casual sit-down restaurant, as evidenced by their focus on service (and their adult beverage menu).  They’re planning to offer speedy lunch options for office-workers on the go as well as a more relaxed sit-down experience for those who prefer to savor their meals.

We walked in on Lime during service training, and they were kind enough to give their cooks an impromptu test run as well so we could see a few of their more popular dishes as they’ll be served.  Check them out after the jump along with some photos of the inviting decor and the amenities that Lime is most proud of. (more…)

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Neighborhood and community.

Since July of 1997, Evening Star Cafe has been an integral part of both for the residents of Del Ray.  It has been the site of first dates, proposals and countless other milestones in their lives.  So you can understand the level of interest caused by the restaurant’s recent remodel, and the pressure on the Neighborhood Restaurant Group to get it right.

The wait ends tonight at 5:30, when new chef Jim Jeffords and his team throw open the doors to welcome the neighborhood back for the first time.  Although there are plenty of changes to ooh and aah over, the regulars will be pleased to see that it’s still the same old Evening Star at heart.  And the fact that they can now make reservations throughout the evening via OpenTable will likely be a welcome addition, as well.

We stopped by yesterday for a quick look around and a chat with the staff.  Details, including some work-in-progress photos and a few new menu items to whet your appetite, after the jump. (more…)

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Toward the end of his stint at Vidalia, Chef RJ Cooper had jumped into the world of the multi-course “experience” tasting menu with both feet.  His “24″ menu got some great coverage from Tim Carman when he was still at the Washington City Paper, and when news came that his first solo concept would be Rogue 24, a restaurant built around the tasting menu, the buzz started building almost immediately.

We’re just a day away from opening now, and those who’ve had a chance to experience dishes firsthand – either in soft opening service over the weekend or at Cooper’s pop-up test run in New York City – have been raving.  We may not have been so lucky as to try the food yet, but we did get to stop by last Friday as Cooper was putting his team through their paces on a couple of dishes.  We got to see the open kitchen in the center of the room alive with activity, and we can only imagine how much more energy there will be when all the seats are filled, too.

Of course we took some pictures, and we also took the time to chat up sommelier Matthew Carroll about the challenges of creating appropriate pairings for a 24-course tasting menu while we were there.

Photos, conversation and “olive paper” after the jump. (more…)

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