The Gibson Lab at Marvin: Whiskey Tasting & Mixology

Location: U Street

Summary: With an event focusing on American versus Scottish whiskies, everyone wins

Thanks to an invite from Gilt City DC, we were able to attend a whiskey and mixology event hosted in the upstairs of Marvin on U Street. Though usually this kind of event takes place in The Gibson, the next door speak easy-style bar of the same owner, the popularity for the event outgrew what that location could hold. Although most of the drinks and whiskies offered at the event were one’s we’ve had before, the presentation and interaction at the event easily proved why Gilt City DC was seeing such a tremendous swelling of eager and thirsty participants.

Our first drink of the night, Dik Punch, was explained to us by the GM of The Gibson, Frank Jones. A mix of George Dickel whiskey, homemade cranberry syrup, lime juice, allspice, and a splash of tonic, we made a note to get the recipe of the punch for our own recreation. Lucky enough for our readers, you can find the recipes of all of the mixed drinks we enjoyed at the bottom of this post.

Our true whiskey ringleader of the night was Ewan Morgan, Whiskey Ambassador for Diageo North America and a man whose knowledge of the “water of life” goes as far back as to being the son of whiskey distiller in Scotland. While all of the different varieties of whiskey were from the same parent company, Ewan assured us that each had its own character and that we were some of the lucky few to try one of their newest creations, the George Dickel Rye.

Anyone’s preferred whiskey (if you like it) of those featured at the event will largely depend upon one’s own taste. Some American bourbons tend to be sweeter and have a more vanilla-ish accent in the liquor, thanks to virgin oak barrels used in the maturing process. The ryes have a much louder personality and, because of their naturally bold flavor, aren’t aged as long as their counterparts. Another important fact to consider is that bourbon can be made anywhere, as long as it follows some crucial guidelines, like the high percentage of corn in the preliminary grain mash. While we have enjoyed Bulleit before, we had never heard of George Dickel prior to this event, but were thrilled to learn of it and did like the new rye version.

After we finished our tastings of bourbon, we were served our 2nd mixed drink, a classic Manhattan made with Bulleit rye. Frank explained simply that if you aren’t using a rye, it isn’t a Manhattan. The other usual ingredients are a small amount of dolin rouge and a few dashes of agostra bitters. With a mixture of bitter and sweet, this  is a classic bourbon cocktail that one can order at almost any bar, but few have prepared it as well as The Gibson’s Frank Jones.

Setting this up as an American versus Scottish whiskey comparison from his introduction, Ewan then presented us tastings of three different scotches and explaining the difference between the two different whiskey types. One of the main differences in scotch is the flavor of peat, tightly compacted and aged earth that gives the whiskey its unique taste. Because of the different distilleries across Scotland, different companies naturally use different peats, allowing for a wide selection of flavors and degrees in the use of the ingredient. As an example, the 14 year old Clynelish we tasted had little peat incorporated into the whiskey and the 10 year old Talisker that had significantly more, giving it a much more distinguishable taste (apparently a teaspoon on oysters will “blow your mind”).

Finally (as if we hadn’t had enough already), we were served our final mixed drink of the night, a Rob Roy Manhattan. Although similar to our previous Manhattan in nearly every way, this incarnation used scotch instead of rye, a crucial difference that we were glad to be made aware of so we could avoid making the mistake of ordering it. Although Talikser was our favorite whiskey of the night, the scotch mixture  made our table’s collective faces squint in horror. “Just order it neat”, we noted.

If you have the chance to attend either another event hosted at the Gibson Lab or given by Ewan Morgan, be sure to take advantage of it. Besides the great location and  the exceptional whiskey we were offered, Ewan was a tremendously engaging presenter and perfectly catered to an audience that slowly became  significantly intoxicated. We are eager to come back to the Gibson and Marvin in the future to see what else they may have in store for DC in 2013.

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Click here to find out more information on this event, possible admission to the next installment, and info on other Gilt City DC events.

Below are the recipes for the mixed drinks that we were served:

Rob Roy
2 oz clynleish
1 oz dolin rouge
2 dashes agostura bitters
Stir. Strain in cocktail glass
2 oz Bulliet bourbon
1 oz dolin rouge
2 dashes angostura bitters
Stir. Strain in cocktail glass
Dik punch
3 bottles George Dickel
16 oz cranberry syrup
16 oz lime juice
8 oz allspice dram
32 oz tonic
(Will serve 50-60 people)

Pound the Hill

Location: Capitol Hill

Price: $$

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: A fantastic coffee house that still has ways to go as a restaurant

Pound the HillAlthough we had heard great things about Capitol Hill’s Pound the Hill for breakfast and coffee, our interest to visit for dinner was peaked with a Living Social coupon. Little did we know, at night the coffee house turned into a modern American restaurant. The casual, but intimate atmosphere of the cafe leant itself easily into a fantastic evening dining ambiance. However, it turned out that the restaurant’s kitchen was not able to make the transition as easily. While everything we ordered sounded great on paper, what we were served didn’t match up to our expectations.

Our first small plate was the Duck-fat Tater Tots, garlic parmesan potato tots, served with liquid horseradish and a house-madeDuck-Fat Tater Tots BBQ sauce. Despite the menu’s inflated description, these tater tots taste no different than any other that we’ve Hummus Platterordered before. Only the addition of the light sprinkle of garlic and parmesan made the tots stand out. The horseradish and BBQ dipping sauces were the real treat of the dish, the homemade BBQ sauce making the dish worth ordering again. Our second small dish was the Hummus platter, creamy chickpeas, Greek feta, Nicoise olives, and served with toasted pita. Much like the first, this plate was nothing out of the ordinary, featuring an average hummus dip and a Shrimp Platefew pitas cut into slices. Our final appetizer was the Shrimp Plate, butter-sautéed shrimp, roasted garlic olive tapenade, and basil served with truffle-oiled crostini. Following the pattern of the previous small dishes, the shrimp were unremarkable and the flavors from the add-ins did little to boost the shell fish’s character.

Our first entrée was the Farmhouse Pasta, orecchiette pasta with house-made sausage, braised kale, cubed roasted Farmhouse Pastabutternut squash, and a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. With better-than-your-average boxed pasta and slightly spicy homemade sausage, the beef broth sauce was the real star of the dish, highlighting the savory yet spicy ground sausage and the choice of shell shaped pasta. Although we are fans of butternut squash, it didn’t combine well with the other flavors in the bowl and turned into an odd addition. The cheese and braised kale were nice additions that elevated the pasta’s profile.

For our second choice, we selected the Slow-Roasted Short Rib, beef short rib sitting on top of herb garlic beef Slow-roasted Short Ribjus, red potato and saffron puree, and roasted rainbow carrots. The meat itself fell apart easily and seemed to be cooked perfectly, but the weak flavor from the roast and sloppy concoction that was billed as red potato and saffron puree took away from the dish. Where usually a rim of fat on the cut highlights the expert quality of a beef rib, it only added to the bodiless texture of the beef and brought no additional flavor to the table. Although some of the execution on the dish may need some tinkering, we doubt it would have solved the very “average” flavors we tasted.

Warm Autumn Spice DoughnutsDespite our meal’s shortcomings, we knew that Pound the Hill is best known as a coffee house so we decided to order coffee and dessert. This turned out to be the best decision we had made the entire meal. We ordered the Warm Autumn Spice Doughnuts, small balls of fried dough with a cinnamon-ginger caramel dipping sauce. Missing the typical hole in the middle of the fried dough, these doughnuts were possibly some of the best that we have had in Nutella Lattedc. The caramel sauce was more of a drizzle on the donuts, but still worked perfectly with the fried dough. We also ordered a Nutella Latte, a specialty of Pound the Hill that tasted like terrifically composed hazelnut mocha, not too sweet and not overbearing.

Despite a great atmosphere and an impressive dessert, the core of our meal never came together and left us yearning for the dishes we had read about on the menu. Everything we ordered sounded fantastic, yet the execution wasn’t there. Instead, it was a blur of mediocrity. Most of these faults are simple fixes and, with some fine tuning, Pound the Hill could be a great destination for an evening meal on Capitol Hill. Until then, we will stick to the dessert and coffee.

Pound the Hill on Urbanspoon

Snallygaster Beer Jamboree

Location: Navy Yard

Summary: One of the best, if not THE best, beer events that we have been to in DC

Named for a monstrous, fabled dragon-like beast that was told to have terrorized the area eras past, Snallygaster’s unprecedented festival of beer was brought to you by DC’s legendary Birch & Barley, ChurchKey, Rustico and the much anticipated Bluejacket brewery. Over 150 beers set up for tastings on the great venue of Southeast DC’s Yard’s Park, the list of brews was mind-boggling and demanded the attention of any Washingtonian that called himself/herself a lover of beer. It’s safe to say that the Snallygaster Beer Jamboree was one of the best, if not the best, beer events that we have been to in DC. Not this year; EVER.

It is easy to think that with over 150 beers being featured, the managers of this event could have cut some corners and still done a decent job of showcasing the many beers on their list. Instead, the people behind Snallygaster went above and beyond, matching each beer brand and variety being offer with its respective tap handle. Our photo gallery below is testament enough to the thought and care that went into this fantastic beer jamboree.

With as many exotic and foreign brews that were offered, the brews that edged out as our favorites were not what we expected when we walked into Yards Park. With many names we couldn’t pronounce and from European towns we could only imagine, plenty members of the staff and volunteer that manned the taps claimed that they keg they offered was the only one available in the U.S. or that even a tasting size of the beer was worth the hefty price of 7 tickets (7 dollars). Our favorite beer that demanded such treatment was Meine Hopfen-Weisse: Zymatore (yeah, we know), a beer aged in pinot noir barrels and had the full force of German’s sour and hoppy variety of beers. We have made a mental note to visit Germany as soon as possible.

Yet, our other two favorites that we tasted at the festival came from the good ol’ US of A. DC Brau’s (DC) collaboration with Epic Brewing Company (UT) gave us Fermentation without Representation, an imperial spiced porter that could simply be described as the chocolate of beers. The rich, bold flavor brought us back for a second full pour as we made our way around the many beers tents set up. We are determined to find this again in DC. Our third favorite was High & Mighty Brewing Company’s (MA) Beer of the Gods, a delicious kölsch full of citrus hops and a crisp finish.

However, Snallygaster was not only about the beer. Much of the proceeds, from the $5 entry fee to a share of the beer profits, went to Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area. Most notable is their Mobile Market that distributes fresh, affordable food to under-served DC-area neighborhoods. The event also featured plenty of food, including the future-brewery of Bluejacket serving up a whole rotisserie roasted turkey leg and a Heavenly Meatball Hero from Rustico. Live music also played on the river’s new boardwalk and set a perfect scene for the event, even pushing us to wonder if a manufactured Loch Ness-like float would drift down the Anacostia River before the sun set.

Unfortunately, beyond a guy dressed up in a cloth-Godzilla suit, the beast of legend did not greet us at Yard’s Park. What we did experience was simply one of the best events we’ve attended this year in DC. Check out our photo gallery below for a look at the many beers that we tasted and the exquisite array of taps on display.

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For an idea of what you may have missed out on, you can download a map of the Snallygaster Beer Jamboree and a detailed list of all of the beers that were offered by clicking here.

The Taste of DC

Location: Penn Quarter

Summary: If you were in DC this past weekend, there was little excuse not to have made this massive festival of music, beer, and oh so delicious food

If you knew nothing else about Taste of DC, the fact that this festival occupied five blocks of Pennsylvania Ave NW for three days was enough of a reason to shlep your way to Penn Quarter this past Columbus Day weekend. If you somehow missed out, and judging by the massive turnout you were in the minority, be sure to mark this event on your calendar for next year. We arrived early to avoid the lines, but still had to swim through crowds of hungry Washingtonians. Yet, the large amount of live music, plentiful beer selection, and quality food made it well worth sacrificing some elbow

While there were over 70 local eateries with their own tents and serving up various items, it was easy enough for us to pick out our favorites. Wicked Waffle’s Hoisin Duck Waffle Sandwich stood out immediately, but the simpler Grilled Tillamook Cheddar, Tomato, and Bacon was equally appetizing. Cedar’s BBQ Wild Boar sliders were a joy to behold along side a sample of their Sweet Pumpkin Mousse. Co Co Sala’s Rose Raspberry Panna Cotta Parfait and Artichoke Tart also rang out as clear winners among the ocean of culinary delights. If you haven’t been to any of these restaurants, we suggest you make the trip soon.

Although there was plenty to eat, the festival also had plenty of options for those looking for a good drink. Beyond the usual Bud Light and Stella options, Goose Island and Starr Hill were some of the better options available, Brunehaut’s gluten-free beer being one of the more regrettable tastings we purchased. Luckily, the prices for both samples and full cups of beer were a consistent and fair price. Something that did seem out of place at The Taste of DC was the lack of any beers from DC-based breweries.

One of the highlights of the day was the amateur version of the infamous Ben’s Chili Bowl Eating Competition, a challenge even sanctioned by the revered Major League Eating organization. Ten contestants stepped on stage, but only one could won the $350 cash prize. Afterward the hard-to-watch and grueling test, we asked the winner how he felt and he noted that it was a “hollow victory”, promptly exiting the stage with his trophy, check, and severely upset stomach. Also at the event was eating-contest legend Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, sixth-straight champion of Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest. When asked why he came to Taste of DC, he said that he knew he could win professional-round of the challenge, having set a world record at last year’s contest by eating two gallons of chili in six minutes, and that the people who attended these events had “a higher appreciation for eating contests and food itself.” As it turns out, Joey was dethroned the next day by fellow competitor Tim “Eater X” Janus, who set a new world record for eating over two gallons under six minutes.

Below is a slideshow of our photos from the event. There were plenty of tents, food, and beer so be prepared to scroll through a long list of pictures. If you have any questions about the food or pics, feel free to leave a comment on this post.

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Barracks Row Fall Festival

Location: Capitol Hill

Summary: An event that combined the charms of a small town festival with the culinary expectations of a large city

Capitol Hill’s 8th St SE, otherwise known as Barracks Row, is rich with history dating back from the founding of the Capitol city, home to longest manned post of the Marine Corps in the U.S. and an ever changing ethnic makeup of residents whom have each left their own mark on the area. Like many other DC neighborhoods, the area has gone through a significant amount of change and redevelopment in the last few years. Restaurants have opened up and local business have taken over vacant buildings. Barrack Row’s Fall Festival is an opportunity for the neighborhood to not only showcase this growth, but attract plenty of newcomers to the area. The Festival succeeds in featuring the best the area has to offer and the best characteristics of Washington itself.

Although many vendors and restaurants set up shop along 8th St, we were able to easily pick out our favorites. Sapore’s wide selection of olive oils and balsamics were divine for any foodie, the garlic-infused olive oil the best that we sampled. Lavagna takes pride in offering new Italian dishes using only the best local ingredients and meats; their 50/50 burger, a mix of beef and sausage, was by far of of the best pieces of food offered during the entire event. Playing on the attendees hunger and the area’s namesake, chefs from all branches of the United States armed forces, including the White House, competed for the trophy as Top Chef in the US Military during the 9th Annual Military Culinary Competition. The large list of prepared dishes was impressive and made us envious of the judges presiding over the competition.

As we strolled down the street and took in everything the festival had to offer, we reflected that the presentation that Barracks Row put forth could very well have been the same of any small town or rural community. Minus the ferris wheel and a stand selling chocolate covered bacon, the country fair atmosphere mirrored perfectly with what Washington D.C. was meant to be: a Capitol city that had all of the virtues of a small town. Barracks Row’s Fall Festival not only delighted us with its sights, sounds, and tastes (especially tastes), but also showed us that parts of the the city could still exhibit the charm of a small town community.

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As with our previous coverage of a festival, we decided to let our pictures more or less speak for themselves. Let us know your feedback and if some additional narration around these pics would be worthwhile.

H Street Festival

Location: H Street NE

Summary: With plenty of music and food from locals, the H Street Festival is a fantastic collection of all things DC.

The H Street NE neighborhood has transformed dramatically over the past ten years of development and its annual H Street Festival has come to become one of the cooler neighborhood events in DC, giving the growing number of new business a chance to attract new customers and showcase the transition of the area.

On September 11, thousands poured onto six blocks of H St to enjoy both the sights and sounds offered by the annual festival. Four stages were staggered along the festival, offering continuous live music and events. Besides the local restaurants opening their doors and offering up specials on food & drinks, plenty of other local DC restaurants and cooks occupied tents and grilled up an large variety of items to enjoy (our favorite by far was the BackYard BBQ tent’s pulled pork sandwich). Taylor Gourmet offered a hoagie eating contest and Dangerously Delicious Pies put on the equally challenging pie eating contest. Plenty of satellite bars dotted the street, but Smith Commons’s drink specials and and Biergarten Haus’s festive selections were some of the better choices available. Atlas Performing Arts Center put on the best shows of the day, featuring performers from their own organization, but also hosting other local talents.

Below is a slideshow of the pictures that we snapped. The H Street festival did a great job of showcasing the nieghborhood scene and, from the tesitmonies we heard from newbie attendees, have made  believers out of many newcomers to the strip of restaurants and businesses. If you somehow missed out on this event, mark it on your calendar for next year. Better yet, haul your ass to H Street NE and grab a drink/bite at one of the many great establishments in the area.

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As a quick note, we struggled with how to complete this post for a while. Usually, Hungry in DC likes to give an ample amount of context, description, and narration to the events that we attend to paint a broader picture of the experience. We ultimately decided that the pictures of the event spoke for themselves and there was little reason to add additional context. As a reader, let us know your thoughts on whether this is best approach or whether some captions with explanations would be welcomed. Thanks!

Duffy’s Irish Pub

** “Need a Drink” Monday Special **

Location: U Street

Summary: With plenty of great drink specials and superb wings, the last person Duffy’s is trying to impress is you

Tucked away from the more popular area of the U Street strip, Duffy’s Irish Pub is an unassuming and uncommoningly common bar that gives you exactly what you need when you come into a bar: great drink specials and a decent menu without the hype or the pretentious atmosphere of many other bars in DC. This is not the place you bring someone to be impressed. This is the place you bring someone to have a good time with buddies.

The beer menu isn’t the most expansive in the area, but a library of brands isn’t why you walked in the door of Duffy’s. The available beers range from the lightest of light to local DC favorites, each usually with a special attached to it on one night or another. The food menu is what you would expect from most booze-focused establishments with a few notable exceptions, like the magnificent wings (the chesapeake rub and hot sauce combo is recommended) or the occasionally available Irish burrito. Although you may be tempted to try Duffy’s Monster Burger, a 1/2 lb. burger with bacon, grilled onions and two grilled cheeses serving as a bun, we suggest you save yourself the trouble, the combination of four slices of bread giving you a doughier mouthful than anyone would want in a sandwich.

While we have tried to list below all of the many different specials Duffy’s offers, your best bet is to show up on Tuesday (1/2 price wings) or any gameday. The great thing about this place is not the menu or even the specials. The reason we’ll be coming back is that once you walk through the door you might as well be in your best buddy’s garage, the casual atmosphere and take-it-for-what-it-is attitude refreshing in a city full of bars that bend over backwards to convince you on how to best enjoy yourself.

What’s the deal?

Weekly Specials

  • Tuesday – 1/2 price wings
  • Wednesday – Trivia Night
  • Thursday – 1/2 price fried pickles
  • Sunday – $2 tall boys after 10pm

Mon – Fri, 4pm – 7pm

  • House Wines by the Glass $3
  • $3 Tall Boys PBR | Schlitz | High Life
  • $3 16oz Draft Miller Lite
  • $4 16oz Draft Sam and Sam Seasonal
  • $3 Bottles of Miller Lite | Budweiser
  • $10 Pitchers Miller Lite and PBR
  • $5 Jim Beam and coke
  • $5 16oz Hurricanes
  • $4 Rail Drinks
  • 1/2 Price Chicken or Veggie Quesadillas

All Night

  • $10 Pitchers of Miller Lite and PBR
  • $16 Buckets of PBR and Schlitz Tall Boys (5)
  • $3 Natty Boh
  • $20 Pitchers of Sam Seasonal or Boston Lager
  • $20 Pitchers of Chocolate City Copper or ESB

NFL Specials every Sunday, Monday and Thursday During Games

  • $18 Heineken Pitchers
  • $18 Blue Moon Pitchers
  • $10 Miller Lite Pitchers
  • $16 Buckets (5) of 16oz aluminum bottles of Miller lite or Coors Light

College football Specials All Day Saturday

  • $18 Heineken Pitchers
  • $18 Blue Moon Pitchers
  • $10 Miller Lite Pitchers

Duffy's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon