September 2008


As Bourbon Heritage Month draws to a close, I’ve been thinking back to a great trip that we took in December of 2006.  In Louisville for a good friend’s wedding, we were lucky enough to get set up with a private tour of the Maker’s Mark Distillery in nearby Loretto, Kentucky.  Although this is a great memory for me in part because it represents Elizabeth’s awakening to just how good bourbon can be, the tour itself was truly unforgettable.

There were a dozen of us in all, visiting Louisville for a good friend’s wedding, and we couldn’t very well leave Kentucky without a trip to a bourbon distillery!  I made a call to a friend who works with Maker’s Mark here in Washington, and he offered to set us up with a tour.  I accepted his offer, thinking that it would amount to little more than the usual guided tour of the grounds and a few of the more picturesque buildings.

As it turns out, they rolled out the red carpet for us and we got to see operations at Maker’s Mark up close and personal.  Join us for the tour and some more great photos (all of them taken by another friend, Sean Redmond) after the jump.

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The school of thought is DC picks up on the trends about two years behind other cities but once we do we go full throttle. Designer cupcakes are no exception. While others may claim the cupcake hasThe players officially jumped the shark, the recent openings of Hello, Cupcake in DuPont and Lavender Moon in Old Town indicate DC residents (or at least small business owners) feel differently.

Here at Capital Spice HQ, we have the dreaded combination of a serious sweet tooth and an allergy to doing anything halfway. We invited some like-minded friends over and had our first ever Capital Spice Cupcake Showdown. Five judges, 6 bakeries, 24 cupcakes: One sugar-addled Sunday afternoon. 

Get the jittery scoop after the jump!

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Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

<<EDIT #2:  Not sure exactly what’s going on, but the listing is still active at www.costar.com as of 11 AM today (9/30).  To find it yourself, click on the link above and do a search for properties in ZIP code 20037.>>

<<EDIT:  As you can see from today’s (9/27) comments below, the owner has withdrawn Brickskeller from the market.  Thanks to John Nemeyer with Randall Hagner for the update.>>

You’ve been there – several rounds into an evening of “Around the World” at DC’s most famous beer bar – when someone in the group has a brilliant idea.  “We could totally do this,” is usually how it starts, before listing all the reasons that you and your friends are ideally suited to run a place just like the Brickskeller.

Well here’s your chance.

Though you won’t see a “For Sale” sign out front or a listing for an open house this Sunday, the Brickskeller is officially on the market.  Randall Hagner Ltd. Showcase lists 1523 22nd Street – the “Brickskeller Dining House and Inn” – as being available immediately for the low, low price of only $12.5 million (down from $15 million a week ago).  The best way to find it from the home page is to do a search for properties in ZIP Code 20037.  The entire five-floor building is for sale, including 40-plus guest rooms on four floors and the two-floor restaurant/bar.  The alcohol license will convey to the new owners, but you won’t be able to keep the memorabilia or even the Brickskeller name – the current owners will be holding onto those.

I can’t speak from personal experience, having never drunk enough downstairs to necessitate an overnight stay, but the general consensus is that the rooming house-style Inn has seen better days.  Guest rooms share common bathrooms in the hallways and are accessed via stairs or a hand-operated elevator.

Though the new owner will have to build a name for the new place from scratch, it’s hard to believe that the Brickskeller’s cache won’t carry over and help them start strong.  Assuming the place remains a beer bar (and why would you mess with success?), they would do well to focus on delivering what they promise; these days, the Brickskeller’s reputation isn’t entirely positive on that front.  As the manager of another popular bar joked, the $12 million dollar price tag is “about a million for every beer they have in stock.”

Check out the flyer, a .pdf found on the sale listing page, for more details.  And if you’re already drunk when you read this, do yourself a favor and sleep on it before making an offer right away.

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn, but here at Capital Spice we’ve been celebrating the season for more than a week already.  For us, the true harbinger of fall can’t be found on a calendar – we watch the shelves of our local grocery stores for it.  And once it arrives, we do our best to get our fill before it disappears for another year.

That magical fall-mark?  Pumpkin beer.  If you’ve never tasted one, try to call up memories of pumpkin pie with its thick, sweet taste and its rich, spicy aroma.  Now take that memory and pour it into a 12 oz. beer bottle, and you’ve got this delicious fall beverage.  Think of it as drinking seasonally – Barbara Kingsolver would be proud!

Recommendations and details after the jump.

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I can’t think of a single event more suitable for libations than time with family the holidays. Every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. At my mom’s house it’s a cross-stitched tablecloth with the signatures of everyone who has ever dined at her Thanksgiving table and (she threatens) an arrow from their signature to cranberry and gravy stains they left behind. At Mike’s house, it’s a competitive eating marathon with three (THREE!) courses of traditional Italian food (antipasto, soup, ravioli) before the turkey comes out of the oven.

As a city of young professional transients, DC is pretty much a ghost town on the big holidays. We show up at family’s doorsteps with travel tales of woe, hunger pains and – if we’re polite – a few bottles of wine to go with the meal. Pairing wine with dinners that others are cooking can be a daunting task. Luckily, DC’s very own Uncorked is here to help and helps you do a little good in the process. More details after the jump! (more…)

Co Co Sala, the new chocolate infusion restaurant in Penn Quarter, is not for the curmudgeonly. It’s loud. The menu may confuse. There is an emphasis of style over comfort in the seating and restroom design. But if you can get past these things, you could be in a for a fun treat.

Co Co Sala’s menu is heavily focused on adding unique chocolate elements to dishes, but you have an opportnity to satisfy more than just a sweet tooth. The menu items are set up tapas-style, including multiple options of mac & cheese, crabcakes, sliders (the darling of DC menus these days), and salads.  Of course, there is a wide dessert selection as well.
Details on our experience after the jump! (more…)

“It’s a walk-off.”

When the Who Cooked It Better? gauntlet was thrown down after Endless Simmer’s Spice Master contest, I couldn’t help but smile. As anyone who knows me can tell you, most of my kitchen improvisations involve cumin, paprika, chili powder, or a combination of the three. Working three of the spices from the Tunisian fun-pack wouldn’t be the problem – editing would. I needed to find a dish that highlighted the spices without going overboard.  I wanted to avoid doing a typical lamb-and-cous cous arrangement, so I figured I’d try to work with some kind of fish or shellfish.

In the end, I turned to John Ash’s “From the Earth to the Table,” a cookbook we picked up after seeing it in a winery in Temecula, California. We’ve found some real winners in this book before, and Elizabeth reminded me that one of them is a delicious tomato-curry soup served with riso (a rice-like pasta, similar to orzo only smaller and easier to overcook).  The soup base already had me using one of the required spices, so it seemed like a great place to start.

Full disclosure – I’m not really a recipe person. I like to use them more as inspirations than blueprints, adding ingredients that make sense (or that I happen to have on hand). In this case, however, I tried to stay relatively close to the original recipe and then supplement or replace with the Tunisian spices we had to work with.

Recipe after the jump.

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As more and more of us embrace the locavore movement and seek to support restaurants who wear their local colors on their sleeves, the North Dakota Farmers Union (the folks who brought us Agraria) and Executive Chef Graham Duncan are going a step beyond.  Sure, they’re focused on bringing in the best locally-sourced ingredients…but they’re also quick to point out their LEED gold certification, an impressive Green credential currently unmatched in DC.  

<<EDIT: Founding Farmers “has been designed to meet USGBC LEED Gold design criteria /standards, but final commissioning and certification has not yet occurred.”  Thanks for the clarification, Jennifer!>>

Founding Farmers, which will open to the public for dinner tomorrow, promises “true food and drink” to customers in the form of seasonal fresh produce, sustainable seafood (sourced from Philadelphia-based purveyor Samuels & Sons), and cocktails prepared from house-made mixers and ingredients by a team of “bar-chefs.”  They are the first DC restaurant LEED-certified by the US Green Building Council and named as a Certified Green Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association

We had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek at the fruits of the Farmers’ labors last night in their final night of soft service.  Though the restaurant does not officially open until tomorrow, they have been running several nights of mock service to help work out some of the remaining kinks so they can start out firing on all cylinders.  First impressions and some more photos after the jump.

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Have you been eating and drinking well this summer?  With the delicious produce at local farmers’ markets, exciting new offerings from favorite local chefs and DC’s frozen yogurt boom, it’s been hard not to.  What better time to think about ways to help organizations that fight hunger?

If Lifetime’s camera crew isn’t following you and your Mafia around this month, there’s a good chance you could be doing more in the way of charity.  Fortunately, it’s even easier to help than usual.

As we head into the harvest season, there are several opportunities to support local and national charities dedicated to combating hunger that require little effort beyond skipping a meal or choosing a participating restaurant.  You know you’re going to eat out anyway – why not pass some of your dining dollars on to a worthy cause?

Details on the Capital Area Food Bank’s “Skip Lunch, Feed a Bunch,” Share Our Strength’s “Great American Dine Out,” and the DC Central Kitchen’s “Eating Well/Doing Good” program after the jump.

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Grabbing a pulled pork sandwich at Old Glory is a rite of passage for DC visitors and new residents alike. The two-story BBQ joint may not be the most authentic in DC, but it keeps Georgetown from getting too snobby. Throbbing with American flags, good ol’ boy classic rock and a down home greeting (watch out for that stamp from your server – it could claim a finger), Old Glory could have just as easily doubled as Fred Thompson’s short-lived campaign headquarters.

As a Kansas City native and BBQ geek, I have mixed feelings about Old Glory. It’s a lively restaurant that’s always a safe bet for happy hours and groups, especially if you can snag a seat on their outdoor patio. But that “KC style” bbq sauce? So off target and abominable it should be considered a hate crime.

One thing that I will not dispute is Old Glory’s dedication to bourbon. In case you didn’t hear, September is National Bourbon Month and we’re all about celebrating. If you and bourbon are already buddies or if you’re still waiting for someone to make a formal introduction, Old Glory is the place. Learn about the Old Glory Bourbon Club after the jump! (more…)

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