Chances are you’re well aware of Beaujolais Nouveau’s reputation as the Hallmark Holiday of the wine world. It’s an immature French red whose best quality is its ability to motivate wine snobs and more serious drinkers alike to put aside their prejudices for one night and enjoy it. That alone makes it worth celebrating.
Here in Washington, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to do just that. Last year, we put together a list of Beaujolais Nouveau parties in the area and found ourselves wondering why Brasserie Les Halles hadn’t announced any plans. A week later, we learned they were officially closed.
While Les Halles’ annual Beaujolais celebration will be sorely missed again this year, I’m pleased to report that several of the other reliable sources will be partying as usual when the clock strikes twelve and the wine starts flowing. In most cases, the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely dinner and guarantee a seat at the local celebrations has passed…the early birds have already snapped up the escargots. But we’ve got a few options for those of you who are just looking for a party:
BYT Presents a Breathless Beaujolais Party @ 1905: We really can’t do this one any greater justice than to reprint their writeup in its entirety.
“November 18th (Wednesday)
starts at 9pm
countdown and uncorking AND FREE WINE at midnight
wine, drink specials, french music (by DJ Jason Bond Pratt), merriment
come get Beaujolaid with us.
NO RSVPS THIS TIME. JUST COME.”
That’s right. Ten bucks. No RSVPs. They’re also offering a $50 prix fixe menu at a 7PM seating that will guarantee you admission to what should be an amazing party.
1905 9th Street, NW
Bistrot du Coin: This one is the Beaujolais Nouveau party you’ve always heard about – with good reason. The restaurant’s dinner seatings are always fully booked weeks in advance, but as midnight approaches they pile up all the tables and chairs to make room for more guests. If the weather stays nice, do yourself a favor and get there nice and early to camp out – you may just make it in when they start letting people in. Inside, expect to be packed in with all of the other revelers. When midnight arrives, bottles start opening as fast as the servers are able and they’re passed around to a grateful crowd. It’s like Times Square on New Year’s Eve only smaller, darker and quite a bit warmer…definitely worth doing at least once while you’re in DC.
Bistrot du Coin
1738 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Two ways to celebrate on Thursday evening after the jump. (more…)
I have two confessions: 1) Any place with a champagne and Bloody Mary bar is going to win my favor. 2) Mon Ami Gabi is a chain. We try not to write about chains here (with the exception of local franchises) but here I have made an exception. Consider yourself warned.
Mon Ami Gabi is a faux French bistro that does an excellent job of making itself feel authentic. Or at least as authentic as a French destination can feel in the middle of downtown Bethesda. The tiny floor tiles are black and white, the menu chalkboard is prominent, and the food options are heavy on the steaks, frites and frisees.
One major difference? The portion sizes in this particular bistro, unlike its kissing cousins across the pond, are generous. Before ordering, the friendly (another key difference) server plops two long baguettes in bags down on the table with a tablet of butter - soft butter, so clutch - for munching. This bread was perfect. Warm and soft in the center and with the slightest crunchy crust on the outside. Give me these and a bottle of wine and I’ll be set for hours.
The portion generosity continues to the meal. Hanger steaks live up to their name, with glistening corners nearly dangling off the side of their plates and piled with crispy frites. During a recent visit, my friend The Rocket Scientist (for realsies, it’s what she does) ordered an onion soup au gratin (read: French onion soup) and received a white cauldron of the delicious broth, topped off with an abundant serving of gruyere cheese. Many diners might order this as an appetizer and they would soon find themselves leaving soup behind or still slurping as their companions tucked into hot entrees.
Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch is one of my favorite features. For those of us who don’t live in Bethesda, it’s a great excuse to spend time in a fun neighborhood with the luxury of weekend laziness. Plus – and this is big for me – Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch menu is a combination of brunch items such as crepes and waffles and their full lunch menu. I’m not a big egg person which means brunch menu often translates to “Hmm… pancakes or waffles?” On my most recent visit, I opted for the smoked salmon crepe served with a small salad. The crepe was buckwheat, making it heartier than expected but also standing up to the light sauce and delicate flavor of the salmon. It was both satisfying and light; the perfect late brunch meal.
Admittedly, Bethesda is not an easy drive from the Hill so I don’t know how often we’ll find ourselves dining there. But considering the abundance of restaurants we can just as easily find in DC proper (Jaleo? Raku? I’m looking at you) it’s nice to know dependable, friendly Mon Ami Gabi is there.
Mon Ami Gabi
7239 Woodmont Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814