Dining and wining highlights from Washington, DC
I had quite a few excellent meals while I was in Washington, DC. The food scene in DC has come a long way in recent years.
We started off the weekend with a nice brunch at Béarnaise Restaurant, near Eastern Market. I ordered one of my French café favorites – croque madame.
Eggs are notoriously hard to pair with wines but one of the best contenders is champagne. The unctuous texture of the eggs (as well as the richness from the creamy béchamel sauce) have a tendency to persist in the palate and can easily become overwhelming. The bubbles and the high acidity in the champagne are perfect to cleanse the palate in between bites and lightening up the meal. If I’m at brunch, I always love a glass of champagne!
My champagne was served in a coupe.
While a coupe is fine for sweeter champagnes, when you’re drinking a brut, a taller glass is better. You don’t necessary need a flute, a white wine glass does the job. Because the coupe has a very large rim, it exposes more of the champagne to air, allowing it to lose its carbonation. Alternatively, tall glasses have smaller rims so they keep the champagne fresh and effervescent. Flat brut champagne is definitely no bueno. Yet, you still want wideness at the bottom of the bowl. This design gives the wine space to enhance its flavors while the small rim keeps the champagne bubbly, giving you the perfect sip! This particular coupe is still tapered at the top so it wasn’t too bad. But in my opinion, the best way to use coupes these days is for serving cocktails. Next time I’m in Paris, I will definitely invest in some vintage coupes and start making some cocktails.
Blue Jacket Brewery
Next stop was Blue Jacket Brewery near the Navy Yard, which brews variety of beers. You can order regular glasses/pints or tasters. I ordered 5 tasters: Bama Breeze, Sling Shot, Lux, 52 Pickup, James E. Bourbon Barrel-Aged High Society. Plus I tasted my friend’s Mexican Radio (on the far right).
We also ordered a few dishes to share: fried chickpeas, local oysters served with apples, and the cheese platter served with a variety of mustards.
I ordered the oysters because I just wanted to eat some, not because I thought anything about doing a pairing. But I gotta say that the oysters were a really good match with the Bama Breeze – a light and fruity beer brewed with pineapple, coconut, and brett.
We had a very nice dinner at Ripple, which features local, sustainable, and organic ingredients – my kind of restaurant!
I started the meal with burrata served with acorn squash, cranberry and ginger.
Next up was the stuffed bone marrow served with bacon chimichurri, and apple butter. I absolutely love bone marrow! It is so flavorful and it just melts in your mouth. I really need to learn to make this at home.
I had a sparkling wine from the Loire valley to go with the bone marrow: François Chidaine brut that is made with the chenin blanc grape. A sparkling wine is a great pairing to balance and lighten up the rich, buttery flavors of bone marrow.
This wine also paired really nicely with the burrata dish.
For the main course, I had the roasted Amish chicken, served with sunchoke à la greque, spinach, and winter radish.
I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I’m in the US. So I chose and American wine to go with this dish. I opted for a pinot noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon: a 2013 Grochau Commuter Cuvée. This pinot was light and refined enough to match the flavors of the chicken. It was a great pairing!
We also cooked dinner at home one night. My friends opened up a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley for the occasion. It was made by Rutherford Grove Winery.
As with any aged wine, the color is on the rusty orange side.
Very few wines can age for decades without beginning to decline and eventually die. At 16 years old, this Cabernet was a bit past its prime but still good. A quick and dirty test to gauge the aging potential of a wine is to sip it and see how long the finish is. The longer the finish, the longer the aging potential will be.
Once you’ve decided to age a wine, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep the bottle in a cool place (13°C/55°F is ideal).
- Keep it sideways so the cork doesn’t dry out.
- Keep the wine away from sources of vibrations (such as the subway).
- Keep it away from the sun.
Aged reds go superbly with hearty meals like stews and braised meats. In older wines, the tannins become dry, which are best quenched with rich sauces. Younger wines are characterized by fresh tannins, which call for grilled meats (preferably rare) to tame them.
Even though a Cabernet is a robust wine, its time in the bottle toned it down quite a bit. It was much lighter and smoother than a young Cabernet. For that reason, I wanted to choose a meat that is tender yet not too strong in taste. Beef short ribs! The short ribs braised to the point of falling off the bone will go perfectly with the aged Cabernet. So we cooked and we cooked. It took hours! After all of this, when the food was ready, I was a bit too tipsy to take a decent picture (we passed the time by having quite a few pre-dinner drinks). But take my word that it was beautiful and delicious 😉 And it went perfectly with the wine.