Young and Hungry

Dacha Beer Garden Launches Brunch This Weekend, Indoor Cafe Coming Soon

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Dacha Beer Garden has come a long way from the days when guests used porta-potties and brought Chinese food from the carryout next door. When it reopened this season, the Shaw spot had real restrooms and real food. And beginning this weekend, Dacha will also offer a prix-fixe brunch.

Every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the beer garden will serve dishes like Belgian waffles with fruit, house-smoked salmon, and a spread of sausages. Poland-born chef Michal Matejczuk is also serving a bagel sandwich stacked with a sunny-side up egg, bacon, fried green tomato, and pimento cheese on one side; and a lentil-barley pancake, caramelized onions, and beer cheese spread on the other. All the dishes come with butter scrambled eggs, home fries, and jalapeño mac and cheese for a total of $32. Brunch-goers can upgrade their meal to include bottomless mimosas for $10. The beer garden will serve beer cocktails and mead mimosas in addition to its usual brews.

Dacha will also be opening a cafe and market on the first floor of the building it took over next door, formerly China Express. Co-owner Dmitri Chekaldin says it's expected to open by the end of June. The cafe will serve coffee, pastries, and sandwiches as well as sell groceries like milk, bread, and local produce. The owners plan to convert the building's upper two floors into a bar and restaurant over the next couple years.

Photo by Jessica Sidman

Dine n Dash With Chef José Andrés Returns June 9

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Join Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen for a culinary experience on June 9. 12 restaurants, 5 food trucks, one night. There will be entertainment and an after-party to accompany a night of craft cocktails and specialty plates.

At Dine n Dash, you choose your starting restaurant, then you will dine and dash to all restaurants and food trucks from 6-9pm. All guests are invited to a special after-party with José Andrés and the band City of the Sun. VIP guests will enjoy Pedicab support, VIP areas at various restaurants, and additional seating and cocktails and desserts at the after-party.

All proceeds benefit José Andrés’ non-profit, World Central Kitchen. WCK finds smart solutions to hunger and poverty in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Zambia and more. José Andrés and his team are training the next generation of cooks in Haiti, building clean stoves and work spaces, educating cooks and students about food safety and sanitation, all while empowering communities and strengthening economies.

Grab your tickets at dinendash.info and enjoy top DC food and cocktails. We’ll see you there!

Last Night’s Leftovers: Matchbox Expansion

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Matchbox seeks $11 million for 48 locations by 2020. [Post]

The new Washington Nationals wine has nothing to do with Washington. [Washingtonian]

Nine restaurants where you can find soup dumplings [Eater]

More of the best barbecue in the D.C. area [DCist]

Hop, Cask and Barrel liquor store coming to Wisconsin Avenue NW. [PoPville]

A guide to Negronis [BYT]

Photo by Jessica Sidman

Between the Sweets: Four Takes on the Ice Cream Sandwich

The Good Humor ice cream sandwich is a classic, but it has a number of gourmet rivals around D.C. Whether it’s pop-tarts, muffin tops, or doughnuts, there seems to be no limit to desserts stuffed with ice cream. What will be next: the biscuitwich or the sconewich?

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Try Turmeric and Hibiscus Drinking Vinegars at Maketto

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If you've been noticing vinegar showing up in cocktails around town, there's a good chance its thanks to Lindera Farms Vinegar producer Daniel Liberson. The cook-turned-fermentation geek forages for ingredients like mulberries, violets, and spicebush in Virginia and transforms them into vinegars that are used at some of the top restaurants and bars in D.C. and New York. He's also the subject of this week's Y&H column.

But Liberson isn't the only one making unique vinegars used in cocktails. The team at chef Erik Bruner Yang's Maketto and Honeycomb in Union Market has been experimenting with flavors like beet, hibiscus, maple, turmeric, sumac, peppermint, rosemary, and onion. (That last one is used in bloody marys and vesper martinis.) Maketto serves its vinegars in cocktails for $10, with palm sugar and soda water for $5, and on their own for $2. They're also bottled up and sold at Honeycomb.  Read more Try Turmeric and Hibiscus Drinking Vinegars at Maketto

Brew In Town: Adroit Theory Legion

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Where in Town: Adroit Theory Brewing Company, 404 Browning Court, Unit C, Purcellville, Va.

Price: $12/375 mL

Form Is Function

Husband-and-wife duo Mark and Nina Osborne founded Adroit Theory Brewing in early 2014 with the motto “Consume life. Drink art.” The brewery presents as much information about each beer’s concept, name, and thoughtfully designed packaging as its ingredients and flavors. Head brewer Greg Skotzko crafts three or four small batches a week and made more than 150 distinct brews in Adroit’s first year. Most are high-alcohol, experimental styles with intricate recipes—like a Thai noodle soup beer with Sriracha, lemongrass, and ginger—and many are aged in wine, whiskey, or spirit barrels. Read more Brew In Town: Adroit Theory Legion

The ’Wiching Hour: Songbyrd Record Cafe’s The Kraftwerk

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Where: Songbyrd Record Cafe, 2477 18th St. NW

Price: $10, including one side

Bread: Sourdough toast

Stuffings: Chicken schnitzel, Brie and Gournay cheeses, rotkraut, raspberry sauce

Thickness: 3 inches

Pros: Many of the sandwiches at Songbyrd are named after different musical artists, and the Kraftwerk pays tribute to both the German electronic band and a traditional German sandwich. The schnitzel, which could taste too bready on a sandwich, adds just enough salty crispness without feeling heavy or dull, while the tangy red cabbage kraut contrasts the rich, oozing cheese. Read more The ’Wiching Hour: Songbyrd Record Cafe’s The Kraftwerk

Last Night’s Leftovers: Kids in Breweries Edition

3_stars-1_345x345Lots of people are bringing their kids to breweries. [Express]

Six myths about tipping in restaurants [Washingtonian]

Where to go for karaoke [Eater]

Pinstripes eyes two more D.C.-area sites. [WBJ]

Shanghai Tokyo Cafe coming to Columbia Heights this summer. [PoPville]

District Beans delivers locally roasted coffee to your door. [Post]

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

 

Meet the Guy Who’s Bringing a Vinegar Revolution to D.C.

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Daniel Liberson wades ankle-deep through a pathway of clovers looking for edible flora—the weirder, the better. The 220-acre nature reserve around him in Delaplane, Va., looks like a Grant Wood landscape with perfect blue skies, rolling hills cut by a stream, grasses that bend like waves in the wind, and butterflies fluttering.

In a wooded area, Liberson kneels down to pick some white violets, then he spots some ground ivy and hands me a few of their little green leaves to taste.

“It’s going to be pretty potent, I’m warning you about that now,” he says. “It’s got this basil kind of minty flavor to it, very herbaceous. It gets very bitter very quickly, so you’re going to want to eventually spit it out. But that first burst of flavor…”

Liberson passes by the giant leaves of mayapple plants—“they will super kill you”—and heads over to a spicebush, which really looks more like a tree. He uses his thumb to scrape back the skin of the branch, revealing the aromatic green flesh underneath.

“For me, it always smells like a combination of lemons and cayenne and allspice and birch,” he says. Later in summer, he’ll pick the spicebush’s little bright red berries, which also have a woody-lemon flavor.

Liberson will use all of these lesser known ingredients to produce his Lindera Farms Vinegar in a red barn nearby. The vinegars will then make their way into some of the very best restaurants and bars in the country: Minibar and Zaytinya in D.C., Per Se and Gramercy Tavern in New York, and McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston, S.C.

While vinegar production is as ancient as wine, Liberson is aiming to take it in a direction that no one has before. For the most part, other producers in the western world are making grape- or apple-based vinegars. Flavored vinegars often begin with a finished vinegar that’s then infused and sweetened. Liberson doesn’t do infusions. Rather, he ferments fruits, flowers, and other plants into alcohols, and then converts that into vinegar.

Every ingredient Liberson uses comes from Virginia. If he doesn’t forage it himself on the Bolling Branch nature reserve his parents restored from cattle farmland beginning in 2006, he gets it from small organic farms nearby. Since launching his business full-time in September, the 28-year-old is quickly building a name for himself in culinary circles for esoteric and complex vinegar flavors like mulberry, elderflower, wild chamomile, milkweed, black locust, bee balm, and matsutake mushroom. As far as Liberson is aware, many of these vinegar flavors have never been bottled and sold—or even made—before. Read more Meet the Guy Who’s Bringing a Vinegar Revolution to D.C.

New Food Delivery Services Aims to End “Sad Desk Lunch”

Sarah Van Dell has been that office worker who's stuck at her desk with a sad lunch. As a senior director working on health care issues at the Advisory Board Company for more than three years, she says she became addicted to work and rarely got a proper lunch break.

“You kind of give yourself these deadlines like, ‘I’m not going to leave my desk until I get this done,' and that’s how I was," she says. Her office became a revolving door for colleagues on her large team. "I never found a great way to eat. I put on 20 pounds since working there, and it was because I just did not pay attention to what I was eating."

Van Dell is now looking to cure "sad desk lunch" with Cozy Feast, a delivery service launching this fall that will cater to office workers. The idea was born out of a conversation with friends over drinks about how they want good homemade food but don't want to cook it.

Initially, Van Dell had the idea to create an eating club of sorts where her neighbors would share their leftovers. She went door-to-door in her 200-unit apartment building near U Street NW and found around 55 people who were interested in participating. "But really when it came down to it, they just wanted to eat someone's food," Van Dell says. Hardly anybody wanted to cook. "It was a total failure."

Instead, Van Dell took inspiration from the dabbawalas who deliver hot lunches to workers in India, which she'd studied during business school. She decided to do something similar, delivering homecooked meals to office workers in vacuum-insulated lunchboxes or tiffins, which wouldn't feel as much like takeout.

Cozy Feast plans to test a limited number of office buildings to start this summer. The idea is that offices will have bins to put their used tiffins in, and Cozy Feast will collect them after lunch and wash them. Van Dell says the tentative plan is that people would have up until 10:45 a.m. to order their meals, which will be prepared out of food incubator Mess Hall.

Chef David Shewmaker, the opening chef at Meridian Pint, will prepare the menu. Cozy Feast will offer three options: a chef's seasonal meal, a vegetarian/vegan meal, or comfort food. Van Dell aims to price the offerings around $9 to $12.

Cozy Feast recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $41,200. The money will determine how fast the service can scale up.

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