About a year ago, Elizabeth and I were in San Diego for a wedding.  We flew out on Friday for a Saturday ceremony, and we gave ourselves the luxury of two additional days.  On one of those days, we drove about an hour north of San Diego to the Temecula Valley, a wine-producing region that is coming into its own in terms of quality, reputation and approach.  We spent a beautiful day tasting our way along a stretch of road that boasts more than a dozen wineries in close proximity to one another.

At some point in the course of our tastings, we saw an ad for something called the Temecula Olive Oil Company.  Intrigued by the prospect of artisanally produced olive oil, we resolved to check it out at the end of our tasting tour.  So we drove back along Rancho California Road and crossed Route 15 (our way back to San Diego), at which point we found ourselves on a picturesque street in Old Town Temecula.  There, among shops like The Country Porch, Olde Town Mercantile and the House of Jerky, we arrived at the Temecula Olive Oil Company.

What we found there – and why we’re writing about it on a DC-based food blog – after the jump. (more…)

Charlie Vergos RendezvousFor the second year in a row, I’ve been fortunate enough to combine my position as a fundraiser with my love of all things barbecue in an event that celebrates the different ‘cue traditions of Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, South Carolina, East Tennessee and North Carolina.  I know – sometimes it’s tough to be me.

But for those who haven’t noticed, finding good barbecue of ANY kind in Washington, let alone all six of these styles, is easier said than done.  Thankfully, I had no shortage of help in identifying the “best” barbecue joints across the country.  Shocker – ask a Congressional office for a recommendation, and you can rest assured that they won’t hesitate to tell you that three (or more) restaurants from their district are all “the best you’ll ever taste!”  So I found myself with quite a few choices to start out.

Jack Stack BarbecueThankfully, I was able to narrow the field rather quickly in some cases…there are very few authentic barbecue establishments that have any kind of protocol for shipping to DC.  But there are some places that couple tradition and taste with marketing and shipping savvy.  Top marks in the field go to Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous (from Memphis), who package your order with sauce, spice rub, placemats, paper servers’ hats and their addictive barbecue-spiced popcorn; and Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (from Kansas City).  Jack Stack’s meat ships in branded styrofoam containers and provides comprehensive instructions for how to reheat anything you may have ordered on almost any type of heat source.  What put them over the top for me, though, was a Customer Service department that went above and beyond the call of duty in handling a few hiccups with my order.  This may have been the best customer service experience I’ve had in quite a long time, and that carries a lot of weight in my book.

When all was said and done, I was able to feature barbecue from nine establishments across the country this year.  A run-down of the contenders and what we served after the jump.