• 23Nov

    Amazing Chicken EnchiladasForget the age-old aphorism you learned during childhood “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, maybe don’t forget it…let’s just adapt it. You should judge a cookbook by its cover.

    I anxiously awaited the arrival of The Best of Bridge Cookbook. The publishers marketed it as a cookbook to “evoke all the goodness of home cooking” which will make you “feel good.” They said it would “inspire me.” Ready to be “inspired” by the 250 recipes, I ripped open the package the day it arrived at my apartment complex. The cover shocked me: egg noodles, something resembling chicken in an indiscernible sauce, and frozen vegetables.  That’s one way to market a cookbook, I thought to myself…but what do I know? I’m not a publishing company.

    Ignoring the bizarre cover photo I started flipping through the pages. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” rang in my ears. As an English teacher, I preach this saying in class. I instruct my students to be open-minded and give things a chance. I was rooting for this cookbook- I really was! Some recipes intrigued me- I began earmarking recipes to try.

    Just Peachy PorkFor any Canadians or cooking fans of the metric system, recipes are already adapted for different units of measure making this cookbook a breeze to use for cooks in any country. Best of Bridge does do a nice job categorizing the recipes easily. The book is separated into chapters by course or by protein. Additionally, another mode of categorization does happen. Recipe titles have a note underneath them when they’re “slow cooker“ or “fast-and-easy.” So, the cookbook is user friendly. There are some good qualities! But, I digress…

    I came across some strange sayings. It was as though the book is being narrated by some strange, close-minded, sexist kook. I could hear them prattling (these are direct quotes from the cookbook I remind you): “Sign on a divorce lawyer’s wall: satisfaction guaranteed or your honey back,” Why do husbands often talk in their sleep? It’s the only chance they get,” and “Never trust an atom. They make up everything.”  Mind you, these can all be found below recipes. They aren’t even all related to cooking. What is going on here?

    Ignoring the bizarre phrases, I decided to conquer 3 recipes: “Amazing Chicken Enchiladas” because I love Mexican food,  “Just Peachy Pork” because it isn’t something I would normally want to cook and it seemed interesting, and “Creamy Peanut Noodles” because the peanut sauce seemed simple yet delicious.

    The enchiladas were yummy the day they were made; however, when I went back for leftovers a day later, as I was cooking for one, the tortillas were soggy because of the sour cream and cream cheese laden filling. They did not store well. I should not have made the pork dish. Typically I love mixing pork with fruits- however, this recipe was way too sweet and the inclusion of canned peaches was odd and off putting. Very sugary. Too saucy. Gross.

    The “Creamy Peanut Noodles” did not disappoint. It was delicious and I ate the leftovers for days. The sauce was simple yet satisfying- and slightly under seasoned since I followed the directions exactly. I will use this recipe for years to come making adjustments to salt (adding it) and spice (adding more sriracha).

    I poured over all 250 recipes to find another 3 to get excited about and to try but I couldn’t. Overall, the recipes were not “soul-satisfying” nor did they seem “delicious” as the publishers describe. They were bland (rarely listing anything like “season to taste”) and somewhat trite.  Yes, some comfort foods are simple but….dozens of pages dedicated to sandwiches? Do people need that? Frozen foods as staples?  The only reason I wanted to get “back in the kitchen” was to discard this cookbook and look up some interesting recipes on Pinterest, Hatchery, or on the back of a Trader Joe’s baking ingredient box.

    I should have trusted my gut as soon as I saw the frozen vegetables on top of store-bought noodles pictured on the cover. I am better than that. You, dear reader, are better than that. Comfort food isn’t frozen vegetables. Comfort food is a properly seasoned meal that takes you to a specific place in time- to your grandmother’s house during winter, to a chic Asian restaurant, to a divey yet delicious Mexican taqueria- not to the frozen food aisle. If you wouldn’t eat what’s pictured on the cover, then you probably won’t enjoy eating the recipes inside. Lesson learned.

    -Guest Blogger, AXR (Alexa)

  • 21Nov

    Taberna Del Alabadero hosted their annual Madrid Night of Flamenco with world renowned Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas de Madrid. The evening included a three-course Flamenco- inspired menu and two mesmerizing performances. Every guest who experienced the beautiful dancing and enticing meal from a Madrid Night of Flamenco added ‘Visit Spain, learn dance Flamenco’ to their bucket list.

    Never ordinary, Madrid Night of Flamenco was not your Mom and Pop’s dinner and show. The Flamenco- inspired menu came from Chef Javier Romero, who previously rolled out his well-received Fall Menu in October. Romero’s prix fixe menu for the evening included four tapas, a main dish, a dessert, and of course red wine. I sat in La Granga that gives a lovely view of the main restaurant and above a peek into the wine cellar. To keep my bowl of assorted olives and fresh bread company, I ordered my favorite red, Lopez de Haro Rioja- it was the beginning of another great meal.

    The four appetizers were brought out together, filling any empty space on the table. I started with Gambas Al Ajillo – 3 pieces of grilled shrimp swimming in pool of delicious extra virgin olive oil accompanied by fried garlic cloves and seasoned with cayenne pepper. The shrimp was cooked to tender perfection and had a soft, juicy center with only a subtle hint of cayenne pepper.

    Next, the Croquestas de Boletus sobre Cremoso de Manzana. Worth abandoning a self-proclaimed allergy, the lightly fried Boletus Mushroom croquettes came in a set of three atop a sweet, creamy apple sauce. Still warm, the combination of crispy bread crumbs and mushrooms melt with every bite. Though fried, the croquettes lacked the grease and regret that often come with eating 3 croquettes in one sitting because the length and temperature of being fried are lower than typical.

    Taking a sip of wine, I had two appetizers lefts but decided to go light with the Jamon Serrano y Queso Manchego – Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese AKA ham of the mountains and damn good cheese! Drizzled with olive oil and pepper or by itself the Jamon Serrano y Queso Manchego is the envy of every charcuterie and cheese plate.

    Saving the best for last was the highly anticipated Epsuma de Patata, Pimenton de la Vera y Pulpo Gallego – Potato foam with Grilled Octopus and Paprika. EpiPen in hand (did I mention I may have an allergy to seafood?) I took my first of many bites. There are dishes that are so good you return to a restaurant. There are dishes that are delicious you highly recommend a restaurant. Then there are dishes that are made with such authenticity and passion that they ruin the dish at any other restaurant. I will say it here and now, the octopus at Taberna del Alabardero is the best octopus in the city. The dish is simple, but not understated. The potato foam is a balance of generous olive oil and paprika and is served to the degree of Castilian freshness that they could have just been pulled out of the ocean!

    A dress size bigger and full of appetizers, I was ready for the Flamenco show, Flamenco Frequencies, performed by Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas de Madrid. The dancers, Karen Lugo and Ricardo Moro companied two musicians and two vocalists in the middle of La Granga room. There is a unique quality in when a location such as a restaurant can fully immerse you in an outside culture. The setting was modest but exploded with the same charisma and enthusiasm it would have if performed at the Kennedy Center. The performers, all from Spain, have travelled to DC for the past 10 years to perform at the Gala Theatre. With them they bring different styles of Flamenco dancing including Arabic, Modern and traditional styles, director Begona Fernandez explains, “The customers need to see the true, real Flamenco, and that’s what we bring.” Performing at the Gala Theatre is always an honor but coming to Taberna del Alabadero is always on the itinerary because of the familiarity to home and the praise for how the food represents their culture so well. “Taberna del Alabadero is the best place for Spanish in DC.” Fernandez stated this with no hesitation – no argument there!

    Captivated by the performance, I nearly didn’t notice my main entrée in front of me.  The main course, the cante if you will, the Ribeye de Ternera, Ajos tiernos y Setas cremosos con toque de soja y Patata Hueca de Chimichurri – Veal Rib-Eye with tender garlic cloves, wild mushrooms, soy sauce and chimichurri potatoes. The set up was so artistic I was unsure of whether to put it on a mantel or in my stomach. Cooked to a gentleman’s medium rare, the veal ribeye was a phenomenal foundation for the entrée. What enriched the ribeye was the garlic soy sauce blended with wild mushrooms – again my self-proclaimed allergy was ignored. The true surprise about the dish was the chimichurri sauce which made the average, boring potato come alive with flavor.

    The night was coming to end and as the Flamenco performers took their final bows, dessert was served.  The final course was Coulant de Azahar con helado de Frutos rojos – orange blossom coulant with red berry ice cream. It was subtle way to end the meal, a light and simple finale. Contrasting most regretful desserts that leave you fatigued and with a plan to fast, this dessert was rejuvenating. The ice cream was lighter than others and left an addictive bittersweet aftertaste on the palette.

    With dinner eaten and the show over, it was time for my least favorite part of any meal – the goodbye. Before I could leave I was treated to one last experience. Jose, my favorite person at Taberna del Alabardero (next to Romero) came to me said, “In Spain, we must finish with something…” Jose returned with a bottle of Pancharan (Patxaran) and a glass, poured me a shot, and salud! The Pacharan is a cordial that is often enjoyed before the running of bulls in Spain and it is rumored that the drink makes men run faster and care less. Made with berries, the sweet liquor is often served chilled – try at your own enticement.

    A truly perfect evening. As always thank you for the wonderful staff of Taberna del Alabardero, Javier Romero, and to the performers of Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas de Madrid for a Madrid Night of Flamenco!


    Taberna Del Alabardero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  • 21Nov

    A nibble, a shop, a nosh, a chat: all in an afternoon’s work at last week’s Emporiyum at Dock 5 of Union Market. Dozens of vendors set up wares, foodstuffs, and crafts – whether craft beer, sweets, or greeting cards. It was a veritable foodie haven, touching on all the latest local and national food trends. If it wasn’t there, it’s not hot right now.

    Requisite Sides for the Pastrami from DGSTop takeaways? Kombucha won the popularity contest, sold at several spots; surely no one went home won’t a good dose of probiotic. Granola came in a close second, the earthy crunchy sweet stuff making into everyone’s hands. Long lines abounded, including for Bruner Yang’s uber-popular ramen from Maketto, which was paired with Gordy’s spicy and briny Bloodys, bringing people into the far reaches of the outdoor space. Meanwhile, a DJ spun high-energy tunes on the other end to keep shoppers energized as they tasted Sir Kensington’s low-cal ketchup, Bullfrog’s unbeatable bagels, and flavorful, pumped-up coffee brewed with macha from startup Javazen. The DC area is apparently also almost overflowing with new brewpubs and distilleries, which made for a slightly tipsy shopping experience. The pastrami, smooth as butter, from DGS, helped sop it up.

    Finally, there were a few vendors there making sure we did good while picking up holiday treats. Beyond all the local, organic, fair-trade options, there were places like Fruitcycle, which uses produce that would otherwise go to waste, and also empowers women by providing jobs to those who are homeless or were recently incarcerated. Plus, the kale chips, tossed in cayenne and garlic, truly kicked it out of the park – or Market.

    Guest Blogger, Evan (ESC)

  • 20Nov

    Cuba Libre logoThe December 2nd Happy hour will be from 6-8pm at Cuba Libre, which now has a new chef and updated menu.

    Check the Facebook event here for more details and to RSVP.

    John Shields, the owner and Exec Chef of Gertrude’s restaurant in Baltimore will be speaking. He will give away a signed copy of his newly re-released book, Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields, 25th anniversary edition. He has a PBS TV Show (and book) called Coastal Cooking and is a specialist in local seafood. I wrote about him here recently.



    john shields


  • 20Nov

    Aroma held their first Media Night last Tuesday, providing a VIP tasting of selected new winter menu items and I was honored to be a part of it. Executive Chef Madan Lal, and his culinary team prepared the night’s delights just how he always does any other night, with fresh, local ingredients, mixing Western food (spoiler alert: salmon and lobster) with sultry Indian spices.

    There are new winter menu items (including dessert!) ready to be served at Aroma, an Indian restaurant located in Shirlington (Arlington), Virginia. Of the many new winter menu samplings, my favorite ‘must try’ items include:

    Apple Puff Pastry

    1) Chicken Corn Soup: Made from scratch, this thick chicken stock soup was bursting with fresh corn, chicken bits, and topped with hints of nutmeg.

    2) Masala Lobster: Generous pieces of lobster marinated overnight in yogurt and garam masala. The butter does not overpower the flesh of the lobster and sprinklings of cilantro offer a nice herbal counterbalance. I’ve experienced overcooked lobster plenty of times, and I’m relieved to say Aroma’s version does not fall under this category.

    3) Apple Puff Pastry: My absolute favorite dessert of the night; A baked apple pastry meticulously shaped into a rose, laced with apricot jelly and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. It wasn’t too sweet and left me wanting another…and another…

    Hats off to pastry Chef Ravi Verma for his delectable creations at Aroma.

    The other new winter menu items include:

    • Polenta Fries: Spiced and baked cornmeal fries with fresh chopped jalapeno peppers
    • Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup: Mulligatawny (vegetable soup with Indian spices) that translates into “pepper water”
    • Tava Meen: Pan seared tilapia in a citrus beurre blanc sauce, served with a quinoa salad
    • Khatta Meetha Baingan: Eggplant marinated in red wine, seared on a grill, layered with potatoes, topped off with coconut milk sauce and Indian spices
    • Kandhari Lamb Chops: Marinated overnight with fresh herbs
    • Salmon Puff Pastry: Lime-seasoned salmon baked with Indian spices into a puff pastry with spinach, served with mashed potatoes
    • Chicken Banjara Kabob and Lemon Chicken Kabob
    • Shahi Paneer: Homemade curd cheese served with green peas, onions, tomatoes, yogurt, and of course, Indian spices
    • Roasted Cauliflower- Steamed cauliflower that is sautéed with tomatoes, potatoes, and, you guess it—Indian spices
    • Dal Makhani: Lentils cooked with spices in a special iron wok
    • Fresh Fry Okra- Fresh cut okra that is sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and a variety of Indian spices
    • Chocolate Mousse: Served in a creative tulip-shaped flower
    • Bread Pudding: Served in a chocolate cup, garnished with a strawberry
    • Blueberry Panna Cotta: Cooked cream with sugar, rum, vanilla, and layered with blueberries

    So, next time you’re craving Indian food in the Arlington/Shirlington area, make sure to swing by Aroma and check out their updated menu. And if the weather permits, you can bring your furry companion and sit in their dog-friendly outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant.

    -EHY (Elina)

    Aroma Indian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Editor’s Note: They have a location in Lorton, VA as well.

  • 16Nov

    Giving back tastes perhaps even better than a fresh scallop crudo, earthy liver pate, or oyster foam. Altruism and volunteerism were as much on the menu as the endless bites and libations at Capital Food Fight, DC Central Kitchen’s most important event, held annually at the Ronald Reagan Building downtown.

    The organization brought in more than a cool half-million dollars for use in its programming, which includes preparing and delivering meals across the area, as well as providing empowering culinary training. Not a bad haul for one night.


    Chefs Carla Hall and Jose Andres make great auctioneers.

    The evening started in the low-key VIP lounge, as a sort of cocktail hour. Master mixologists poured unique, creative drinks – but a highlight came from Don Ciccio & Figli, DC’s only producer of Italian-style liqueurs. It recently started producing aperitifs like the barrel-aged Amaro Delle Sirene (also available in a special edition), a just-bitter-enough, deeply herbal drink perfect to begin the evening. While all the cocktails were tasty, one was actually on fire: the Smoky Old Fashioned, from the revamped restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton. Expertly wielding a blowtorch as well as he did a cocktail shaker, the bartender fired each glass over a wooden board before pouring the drink. Hot.

    Enough libations for a while. Over on the main stage, the ebullient voices of locally based, nationally renowned Chefs José Andrés and Carla Hall led the actual “fight” portion of the evening. Amy Brandwein of Centrolina came out on top, dishing out winning items using the surprise ingredients that reflected all the latest in food trends: “imperfect” butternut squash that would have otherwise been tossed, and an entire pig, nose to tail. No food left behind!


    Adam Bernbach pours punch.

    Volunteerism really did take center stage at the High Stakes Cakes competition, where the winning contestant, Erin Schwartz of Stacked, put together a towering confectionery ode to giving back to the community.

    Back to those veggies: Keany Produce, which supplied the winning infamous stageworthy produce, partnered with The Hamilton to show off what we can do with an ugly-but-delicious bounty. A deer-bitten squash stood proud over the result: a crostini of goat cheese and bacon, topped generously with a beautiful rainbow of slaw from said formerly ugly veggies. More than 75 other restaurants participated, serving everything from cranberry-stuffed turkey meatballs (holler, Thanksgiving!) to beef tartare sliders (haute middle American cuisine, if there ever was to be such a thing).

    And finally, smoky to start, smoky to finish. “Smoke,” of sorts, poured from the machines at Nitro’s Creamery, which served handcrafted ice cream cooled by liquid nitrogen. Doing well is surely sweet.

    Guest Blogger, Evan (ESC)

  • 12Nov

    Monday evening I had the pleasure of attending Chile’s Chef Competition at the National Restaurant Association Headquarters. Chefs had fresh and beautiful Chilean ingredients to choose from for their dishes. The three salmon dishes and the mussels really made an impression on me — Chilean seafood is exquisite.

    We also got to try some great cocktails and some of Chile’s exceptional wines. I never turn down a Chilean event because I always want to sample more Chilean wines.

    I know, you are all about knowing who won. The winners were:
    Judge’s Choice
    Hank’s Oyster Bar: cocktails
    Food Del Campo: food


    People’s Choice
    Food: Cafe du Parc
    Cocktail: Bar Pilar


    Editor’s Note: You can click twice on the above images to make them larger.

  • 04Nov

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge is worth getting to know.

    She’s a bright, charming, generous foodie who plates damned sexy food.  It’s tempting to shorten this bio and let her work speak for itself, because it’s that good.   “Go forth, fellow foodies, and admire her gorgeous creations on Instagram or on Facebook, or her cookbook-worthy recipes at foodienada.com.  Peace out, we’re done here.”

    But if you enjoy her work as much as I do, you might be curious about her personality, journey, or inspirations.  I had the privilege of spending over an hour with her on the phone and came away smiling, thinking, “Gosh, I’d like to be friends with her.  It’s like we’ve always known each other.”  She’s engaging, genuine, down to earth, and fun.  When she’s not at home making culinary magic, she’s at work as a communication and marketing analyst.  Her education wasn’t in the culinary arts, though.  It was in biology and chemistry in undergrad, and then French literature for her master’s.

    I wondered how her degrees influenced her food blog.  Perhaps her writing is better because of the French lit, but I get the feeling it’s her personal qualities that have had the biggest impact.  She was born in Achrafieh, Lebanon and grew up during the civil war there.  She wanted to help by becoming a soldier or a doctor, so it’s no surprise that when we fast-forward to when she started instagraming her beautiful food and her followers asked a couple times a week, “how did you make this?!”, that underlying caring quality expressed itself again: she wanted to help, so she volunteered her recipes.

    She’s a giver.  I love givers.

    Shrimp Salad

    Shrimp Salad

    We should thank Nadine’s parents for raising this giving, wonderful daughter, but can we credit them with inspiring her to cook, too?  I think so.  When her mother was bedridden, eight-year-old Nadine would make her dad salad, potatoes, and steak in a pan.  Seeing his reactions made her want to learn how to be a good housewife/cook who could take care of her family.  She would continue to take instruction and learn from mom.

    At twelve years old, her family immigrated to Virginia, then moved to San Diego, and finally settled in the great state of Texas.  Nadine’s favorite part of the state is Dallas because it’s full of national and international transplants.  There’s enough diversity and academia there to keep it interesting.  Did her cuisine yearn to be Texan too?  After reflecting, she says no; her mom and her Lebanese upbringing were the biggest influences, along with trips to Europe and France in particular, where she refined her palate.  California’s style of cooking—using tons of fresh produce—was also crucial.

    Being a huge fan of Alton Brown and Jacques Pépin, I had to ask Nadine who her favorite celebrity chefs were.  It turns out we both love Mr. Pépin.  Also on her list are Mario Batali, Michael Symon who’s very talented, Ina Garten who never went to culinary school, and Joël Robuchon, who’s an amazing French chef.  When asked “why Joël?”, Nadine’s reply: “I would love to eat at one of his restaurants.  His mashed potato is equal parts butter and potato; you just want to swim in it!”  Her favorite kind of cooking show is one where they’re cooking something complex or difficult, not just peeling carrots.  I apologize to all the expert carrot peelers for our lack of appreciation of your skills.  There’s irony here, because—and I’m blushing/giggling/shaking-my-head as I admit this—I actually enjoy peeling carrots quickly and perfectly, with minimal waste.

    At this point, we’re beginning to understand Nadine, the person: what she values; what she likes.  What about the story behind the blog?  How did she go from posting photos on Instagram to having an elegant presentation of the underlying recipes?  At first, with around 15 followers, it wasn’t hard to share recipes.  As the number grew (today at over 2000), more people asked for them and retyping became difficult.  It was also hard to share when she’d never really measured the ingredients.  The natural next step was: be deliberate about documenting the recipe (and measuring!) and centralize the result in a blog.  But she didn’t stop there.




    Roasted Potatoes


    Cheese Tarts

    She did extensive research about blogs and about photography.  Hints like, “take photos in natural sunlight,” and details about blog layout and how to best convey her passion.  And that’s what it became: a passion.  In her words, “sharing something I love with someone else, whether I know them or not.”  But it’s still more than that.  Eventually, when she has hundreds of recipes, she’d like to leave it to her daughter as a keepsake.  May the d’awwing commence.  She reminded me of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture which is similarly inspiring.

    After hearing about all this cooking and blogging, my thoughts went to the only place they could go: who eats all that gorgeous food?

    Most of the posts are made for brunches of about 10-12 people.  A small number are for occasional things like Father’s Day or her husband’s birthday and about a third are done on the weekends, when she cooks for her family and has time for the extra effort of measuring.

    She has a few go-to ingredients, starting with the simplest (yet one of the hardest to measure, because it gets added gradually): salt. She uses extra virgin olive oil for pretty much everything (even Tex-Mex!), lemon juice/zest, fresh herbs as often as possible, and organic tomato paste, which is one of the few things she’ll buy jarred.  Her absolute favorite ingredient to use on potatoes or French fries is Piment d’Espelette.  It’s like a sweet pepper, but a little spicy.  Mostly delicate.  I can’t wait to try it.

    Flank SteakOne of her favorite things to make is flank steak.  I’m drooling at her photo even though I’ve never tasted her cooking because her plating is so exceptional.  She can’t possibly cook all these amazing things for every meal though, right?  So I asked her what she cooks most often, day-to-day.  “It’s a lot more Lebanese food than anything else.  More Mediterranean.  Tabbouleh maybe 3-4 times a week, hummus a few times a week, salads for dinner, lots of stews.”  On the weekends is when she goes all out.  And this is a working mom, remember.  Respect.

    I had to put my admiration aside to ask what she’s planning for the future.  In the short term, she wants to learn more about how to make the blog look better.  She’s not ashamed of the work she’s done—she did it all herself—but, for example, she wishes she’d taken photos in better lighting.  She might want to learn more about the technical details of blogging, including HTML/CSS, how to market it, and this whole “trendy social media thing” (my words, not hers).  Longer term, she dreams of going to a farmer’s market, making something, inviting friends or strangers over for taste testing, then writing cookbooks.  Maybe full time.  Maybe sneak off to culinary school too.  How cool would that be?!  I kind of want to ask Gordon Ramsay for help.  Let’s make an episode with Nadine for one of his shows and dedicate it to plating.  Best food porn wins.

    I feel fortunate to have met Nadine.  She invited me to dine with her someday, and I look forward to that day gleefully (flank steak, I’m looking at you).  My only regret about this interview is that I didn’t ask her husband for any juicy tidbits that she “forgot” to mention.  Like maybe a secret love of eating plain mayonnaise out of the jar at 3AM while watching Married With Children reruns.  There’s still time.  I’ll call him as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading about Nadine as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

    —Mark Feghali (MFF)

  • 03Nov

    This season’s escape from DC’s bustling city streets and impending polar vortex is Taberna del Alabardero. The scenic beauty of the restaurant’s red walls transports you to Spain’s beautiful and welcoming old world. Staff greets you like family with smiles and boisterous compliments about the food they’ll be serving. Taberna del Alabardero takes as much pride in their culture as they do in each plate that is served to every one of their guests. 

    To compliment the seasons, Executive Chef Javier Romero updates his menu every four months, which he largely credits to his great team and the freshness of produce shipped with love from Spain. I questioned whether I blacked out in Farragut West and ended up in Madrid. I didn’t. In the Aranjuez room, a room set for royalty, Javier Romero previewed favorite dishes from his Fall Menu – 11 courses with four appetizers, six entrees, and a dessert. All with influence from Spain with dashes of local flavors. Three bottles of Spanish wine – Sparkling, White and Red – complimented the meal and Javier’s anecdotes in-between servings.

    Javier and I

    “Pop another one!” Javier said to begin a damn good meal.

    The first glass was a  of Cava Biutiful Cave Brut Nature; the Sparkling wine from Ador, Spain was paired with fresh seafood appetizers. First was the Carpaccio de Bacalao Ahumado con Salmon Marinado (Cod Carpaccio with Marinated wild Salmon topped with Spanish pickles, olive oil, and capers),  Vieras a la Parrilla – grilled scallops over an Iberian puchero (bone broth made with ham, pork belly, cuttlefish reduction) and Gallina Noodle Soup – crunchy hen noodle soup with vegetables, topped with a poached quail egg. 

    The Tartar de Atun was a crowd pleaser. Finding yellow fin tuna tartare is simple, but finding it this fresh and sitting upon a Spanish Ajoblanco – a perfectly balanced almond garlic and Pistachio sauce – is what made the dish a personal favorite of the evening. The sauce had a thickness that didn’t overshadow the simplicity of yellow fin tuna like many so commonly do with fish dishes.

    “Pop another one!” Javier said displaying the meal’s next wine – a Rueda 2013 Melior Verdejo imported all the way from the community of Castile and León.

    The entrees were next and included Spanish favorites with some new world twists; Javier explained, “I am an ‘ambassador’ of Spain.” The first entree, Rape a la Parrilla con Cangrejo Cremoso grilled monkfish over marinated broad beans and a dash of Old Bay (thanks, Maryland!) was the most popular dish of the night. Monkfish reminds us that it’s not always about looks, but personality and taste. This was a dish to be shared with loved ones, and a personal favorite of Javier’s. The next fish entrees was Mamitako Tataki, a yellowfin tuna tataki over traditional Basque county fish stew with potatoes and bell peppers. 

    “Pop another one!” For the third and final wine of the evening was the Ca Hacienda Lopez de Haro 2012 Rioja Tempranillo. A wine so good, I would maybe trade my first born for a case.

    Editor’s Note: The preceding statement in no way implies an offer of any sort. :)

    The wine was poured and pans of Paella de Langosta Paella of Maine Lobster, mussels and calamari, and  Paella Vegetariana Vegetarian Paella with seasonal mushrooms spanned the length of the table. Javier joked the Paella dishes were not made from left over scraps in the kitchen contrary to its cultural origin. We were also treated to Mollejas De Ternera  veal sweetbreads with chanterelle mushrooms, fava beans, potato gnocchi and Conchinillo Confitado – suckling pig confit slow cooked for 12 hour and served with smothered potatoes, royal trumpet mushrooms and creamy peach gravy.

    The last and final course was dessert, Coulant de Azahar con helado de Frutos rojos– orange blossom coulant (molten cake) with red berry ice cream. The light dessert was a perfect closing to a filling meal. Javier looked around at his guests and said, “Remember this.” You do not go to Taberna del Alabardero for a meal, but for an experience. 

    The fall menu runs through the end of the year; click here for the full menu.

    Taberna del Alabardero welcomes you to its upcoming events. Each event will feature a special menu offering:

    Sunday, November 15 – Madrid Night of Flamenco with Casa Patas featuring award-winning choreographer Karen Lugo
    Thursday, November 19 – Wine Tasting DinnerThursday, November 26- Thanksgiving Day (prix fixe menu) 


    Taberna Del Alabardero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  • 24Oct

    Organizers Basking in the Glorious Oktoberfest Sun: Olivier le Ru (Brand Marketing Manager of Urban Adventures Companies – the parent company of Capitol City Brewing Co.), Kristi Griner (Brewmaster for Capitol City – she creates the recipes and oversees all the brewing at both the Arlington and Downtown locations), Matt Benkert (Food & Beverage director of Urban Adventures Companies), David Von Storch (founder and CEO of Urban Adventures Companies)

    Oh, Joaquin…your infamously anti-climatic status as a “hurricane” was admittedly cute while it was threatening our commutes, but you crossed the line when you were to blame for postponing Capital City Brewing Company’s 16th Annual Oktoberfest a week. In Ze Deutschland, there is no greater offense than a lack of punctuality, so God help the entity responsible for making Germans late to their own event. Thanks to Capital City Brewing Company, the greater DC area was able to partake in their annual Oktoberfest in sunshine almost as golden as the brews. Sip on that Joaquin…..


    The Chalice of the day: providing the progeny of local DMV brewers. Yummy.

    I began the day with a minor aneurysm, where to begin? The vendors stretched down Campbell street and the assault of smells beckoning in all directions was enough to conflict the most focused of individuals. So many proud brewers standing by their products, so many beers to be tasted and only so much sober time. If I learned anything from growing up in Germany, it is that mothers always know best. So I was directed first to Three Notch’d Brewing Company’s tent by a hero of a woman sporting an occupied baby bjorn, a husband in one arm and a beer in the other. I was assured of her status as an idol amongst women when her suggestion was validated by one sip of their Pale Ale, lovingly termed “The Ghost.” Whilst sipping on this lightly hoppy brew, Taylor from Three Notch’d explained their barrel aging program lead by head brewer Dave Warwick. In collaboration with local coffee distributors and the Breckenridge Distillery in Colorado, Dave’s most recent creation is a testament to his ability to craft perfectly balanced, aged beers.  While I wasn’t able to sample the rumored, coffee and oatmeal stout that is barrel aged to perfection, you can bet your first born I will soon enough.

    Keeping true to all things German, Patrick Mullane, Co-Founder of Hellbender Brewing Company, gave me some scientific and technical background to the brewing process behind one of DC’s newest brewing companies. Uniquely, they have the only mash filter in the east coast, making their use of a highly protected Belgium style system unique not only for the area, but for the coast as well. Sporting a filter straight from Belgium, the guys at Hellbender are capable of producing their brews using 30% less water, 20% less grain and 15% less power. Their status as DC’s fourth brewing company, at a whopping 11 months old, makes them an up and coming entity in the city, especially those more conscious purveyors. They pride themselves on their efficiency, and I can verify that the beer was that much sweeter knowing that it was mindfully crafted.  When asking Patrick about the catalyst to starting Hellbender, he explained that he and the head brewer Ben, a microbiologist by trade, recognized a gaping void in the DC beer market. Brewing was only allowed four short years ago and companies like DC Brau have bravely led the way, but Ben and Patrick at Hellbender have picked up the mantle and combining a mutual love for fine beer and backgrounds in science and business, they are aiming to bring a “DC made beer, to the people of DC.”


    The perfect man is one who continually fills your glass with beer.

    Maybe it was Derrick’s soft ginger beard, being over two hours into beer tasting, or the beautiful sun and the throngs of happy Oktoberfest-ers, but Old Ox Brewing Company was my personal favorite of the day. Somewhere between the Bourbon Barrel Black Ox Rye Porter and Derrick, the brand ambassador, there were nuances and innuendos flying left and right. The dark brew with hints of coffee and chocolate was beautifully balanced with the sweet oaken flavor of the six months it spent nestled in Old Ox’s twelve barrel casks. Bourbon was there, but no one had to say it or to quote
    Derrick, “Bourbon is on the party bus, but not driving it.” Sipping my favorite beer of the day, Derrick explained the incestuous nature of small brewing companies and how that works to cultivate some outrageous and unheard of beers. Old Ox prides themselves on their bizarre flavors and the environment they have cultivated to help people like me get their kooky ideas in a tap. They are a think tank for brewing, and work with other companies, but also offer natives the unique opportunity to contribute to what they call the “Beers I Would Like To Try (BIWLTT)” list. If the idea catches the eye of the owners at Old Ox, your brew could find itself in one of their taps. With such beers such as Kristin’s Temper (Jalepeno IPA named after one of the owner’s wives), the Ox-cercist (Halloween-ready Pumpkin porter sporting sweet potato more than pumpkin and hints of nutmeg) and their Whole Foods-endorsed Raspberry Basil Saison, I believe the banter between Derrick and I was only half as entertaining as the beers being made at Old Ox.IMG_4949

    Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company offered up two brews: the Schwartz Bier, a pale ale wheat beer with banana and the Trail Angel Weiss. The Schwartz Bier, besides paying homage in my mind to one of my favorite American Generals, boosted a dark color slightly surprising for a wheat beer and subtle notes of banana that were evasive enough to go unidentifiable until the secret ingredient was revealed a couple of sips in. It was smooth until the last drop and had no bitter notes on the end. Enjoyable for beer drinkers and newbies alike.

    At Caboose Brewing Company, the first sip of the day belonged to their “Zoo Berliner Weiss,” a German style sour wheat ale. I was concerned that someone had switched my beer with a shandy. The 3.4% ABV makes it a perfect drink for summer days when beer disappears faster than water on asphalt. The light and tart front is reminiscent of acidic citrus fruits and makes it slightly deceiving as an ale, but the clean finish made it a perfect palate cleanser to move on to my favorite offering from Caboose. The “Cross Roads Lager” is a Vienna style lager with a rich dark caramel color with an equally complex aroma and flavor.  It was ever so sweet, especially when compared to its earlier counterpart, with a crisp finish rare for such a rich brew.  I would never have pegged it, but according to Caboose, this beer smells of bread and Werther’s originals…carb lovers rejoice. Speaking with Ian Gildea, a brewer at Caboose, I learned they are one of the only breweries in the country that has stacked serving tanks, making the keg an unnecessary aspect of getting their beer to their taps. Ian’s favorite beer offering at Caboose is the “KC Jones Rye Pale Ale” that features Zythos hops, creating a piney ale with spicy notes which is perfect for pairing with the bratwurst and pretzels of the day.



    From Capital City Brewing Company: Al Chadsey, Bo Elliot, Travis Reynolds, Leon Harris, Julia Christie-Robin, Kristi Griner

    Other notable brews of the day were: Mad Fox Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Saison, lovingly called “Stingy Jack’s,” that was a perfect kick starter to the beautiful fall day. Made from over 250 pounds of heirloom Cinderella pumpkins from Homestead Farms in Maryland, the pumpkin flavor was able to shine through without the overbearing taste of hops. I felt right at home drinking their Hitzig Frau Oktoberfest which has a delicate balance between malty taste and hoppy acidity, keeping the bready quality at bay. Brewed with imported malts and hops, it encapsulated the spirit of the day perfect.

    The beauty of Oktoberfest is that beer is the most unifying social phenomena known to man and it was wonderfully evident at Capital City’s rendition. Every brewing company offered different takes on a core concept and united seemingly unrelated people on a shining Sunday afternoon, a projection of the fact that try as we may….we’re still Americans. Thank you, oh Motherland, Deutschland. But thank God for the American twist on this tradition that combined the malty flavors reminding me of home with kicks and twists that were undeniably local.

    From Capital City Brewing Company: Travis Reynolds, Leon Harris, Julia Christie-Robin, Bo Elliot








    -CER (Celia)

    Editors Note: We recently attended (and wrote about) a Three Notch’d beer dinner.

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