We knew it was coming. A challenge involving George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Sure, we could have guessed in light of the proximity to Washington, DC and the fact that it’s George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. But DCist had actual confirmation of this particular challenge while it was happening, and it looks like the Post’s Express Night Out had an inside source who was on hand for the taping.
Unfortunately the Quickfire Challenge and the guest judges this week didn’t give us a lot to work with in terms of Washington-specific details. Cheftestants were tasked with making pies as a cross-promotional opportunity for the upcoming Top Chef: Just Desserts. The guest judge for the Quickfire was New York pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, and he was replaced for the Elimination Challenge by New York chef (and former Top Chef Masters contestant) Jonathan Waxman. Oh well.
We’re going to go ahead and assume that you don’t need us to give you the insider’s scoop on what Mount Vernon is all about. Instead, we’re going to clue you in to George Washington’s other claim to fame, point you toward some well-made pies in DC and reveal some of the places where those interns actually work (hint: It’s not Capitol Hill).
Check it out after the jump.
George Washington: Master Distiller
In an odd coincidence of timing, today is the first day in almost 200 years that the public can buy whiskey distilled using George Washington’s recipe. The first batch goes on sale at noon today on the site of the president’s still. For $85 you can get your own 375 mL bottle, but you’d better move fast as the inaugural batch is expected to sell out by the end of the day.
What’s that? You didn’t know that the father of our country was also an accomplished distiller? An ongoing archaeological and documentary research effort has led to the excavation and renovation of George Washington’s gristmill and distillery a few miles from Mount Vernon’s grounds. It turns out Washington’s whiskey was a big hit, doing a brisk business in nearby Alexandria and earning a significant profit for the former president from 1797 until his death in 1799.
Visitors to Mount Vernon can take a side trip to check out the distillery and see the process that was used back in the 18th century.
Okay, so the cheftestants demonstrated exactly why we need a Top Chef: Just Desserts with their generally poor showing in the Quickfire. But if you’re in DC and you’re looking for a pie you might actually want to eat, you need to check out Dangerously Delicious Pies on H Street, NE.
This is the second outpost of rocker Rodney Henry’s Baltimore shop and it turns out quiches, sweet and savory pies all day (and almost all night) long. We’ve warned our readers about the addictive properties of the Baltimore Bomb, but their coconut chess pie is tasty, too, offering equal parts sweet and tart. The steak and chili pie has a great bite to it and they’ve even got a tomato, sausage and fennel pie that would have impressed the Top Chef judges more than a certain cheftestant’s sliders.
The DC location opens at 8 AM every morning, closing at 10 on Sundays, midnight Mondays through Thursdays, and 330 AM on Fridays and Saturdays for the last-call crowd.
About Those Interns…
As the inside source who spilled the beans to the Express rightly points out, those Capitol Hill interns you saw on TV weren’t 100% authentic. The logistics behind gathering 150 interns from various Congressional and committee offices and shepherding them to Mount Vernon would have been staggeringly difficult as there’s no central intern-coordinating body on Capitol Hill. And that’s not even considering the relative lack of transportation options to get people to Mount Vernon from Washington!
But not all Washington interns work on Capitol Hill. In fact, just about every organization in Washington employs interns throughout the year. Nonprofits, political parties, trade associations – you name it, they’ve got unpaid staff working their butts off for college credit or a solid addition to their resumes. It’s a fact of DC life, and the annual summer migration of interns into the city (and to the various bars around town at night) is hard to miss.
So where did these particular party-goers come from? A tweet and Facebook posting from someone with Dreams For Kids on April 9th excitedly announced that their team would be participating in a Top Chef tasting event. Another tweet from earlier that week invited any interns interested in appearing on Top Chef to reach out for more information. And several sources cited the Center for American Progress – a progressive think tank headed up by John Podesta – as participating in this challenge as well. It seems like the guest list was far more representative of the Washington intern scene than if it had just been made up of Capitol Hill staffers.
Your suggestions in action this week:
Four of you – Cheryl DeCarlo, ieatdc, Kenlyn McGrew, and John Vittori – suggested challenges set at Mount Vernon, and ieatdc gets credit for being the first and the only one to suggest an outdoor cooking challenge.
Not surprisingly, no one suggested anything to do with pies, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Johnny Iuzzini or Jonathan Waxman.