Nibbles And Sips Around Town: Brunch Before the Matinee: City Tap House, The Partisan, Malmaison, Jaleo Brunch, Peach Brandy at Mount Vernon

Brunch Before the Matinee

Crystal City Jaleo.

Crystal City Jaleo.

On an unseasonably warm Sunday we tried out the new brunch menu at Jaleo. We chose the Crystal City location on the same block as Synetic Theater. Chef Ramón Martínez, Jaleo’s Executive Chef, has put together an appealing selection of both classic Spanish dishes and some newer creations with some incorporating Andres’ new line of Spanish foods that we wrote about last December.

Sweet-soaked Spanish Toast with Carmelized Bananas and rum whipped cream at Jaleo.

Sweet-soaked Spanish Toast with Carmelized Bananas and rum whipped cream at Jaleo.

I hadn’t been in the restaurant in the daytime before (Does that tell you something about my life?) and it was gorgeous. Sun streamed in through the two-story windows overlooking Crystal Drive, and all seemed right with the world.

Just writing about these fabulous dishes is causing me to delicately drool on my well-worn keyboard. Here’s what we loved.

Two types of Pan de Cristal – with smoked salmon or Spanish sardines.

Two types of Pan de Cristal – with smoked salmon or Spanish sardines.

Pan de Cristal on crispbread served two ways-fresh tomato and Spanish sardines in olive oil and smoked salmon with minced hard-cooked egg, goat cheese and capers. Huevos Estrellados-organic fried eggs and fried potatoes. You can add on jamón ibérico or creamy sea urchin if you like. The sea urchin won out.

Huevos Estrellados with Sea Urchin.

Huevos Estrellados with Sea Urchin.

Huevos a la ‘Angel Muro,’ eggs with toasted bread ‘Angel Muro style’ with piquillo confit and acorn-fed ham-the Spanish version of what we fondly call Toad-in-the-Hole. And Huevos a la Cubana, sautéed rice served with tomato, fried egg, and Ibérico pork belly.

Jaleo’s Spinach, Pine Nut and Raisin Salad.

Jaleo’s Spinach, Pine Nut and Raisin Salad.

All in the name of research, of course. But do you think we stopped there? Try the churros for dessert. They’re served with a frothy cup of hot chocolate for dunking.

Huevos a la Angel Muro

Huevos a la Angel Muro

Also at all three Jaleo locations till April 13th are these special dishes created just for the Cherry Blossom Festival-Panceta Confitada con Salsa de Cereza, pork belly confit with cherry sauce; Queso Murcia al Vino Tinto con Mermelada de Cereza y Pan Tostado, ‘the drunken goat’ with Murcia cheese, cherry marmalade with toasted bread; and the Sopa de Frutas Rojas con Helado de Queso, a wild red berry soup with Idiazábal cheese ice cream.

Malmaison – Georgetown’s Hip Hideaway

Brunch at Malmaison.

Brunch at Malmaison.

When restaurateur and nightlife entrepreneur Omar Popal took the plunge and opened Malmaison last year he brought a cool Euro vibe to a part of Georgetown that had been sorely neglected for decades. In an old warehouse on a stretch of K Street tucked under the Whitehurst Freeway, Popal has created a stylish outpost–what is on weekdays a yoga retreat and juice bar + breakfast and lunch spot is by night a spot for hip urbanites to dine and dance to electronica.

The Pastry Basket at Malmaison.

The Pastry Basket at Malmaison.

The space has a Philippe Starck design feel with contemporary mauve sofas, high ceilings, and jet-black chairs and tables that overlook Georgetown harbor. In the evening a separate event space turns it into a party fueled by state-of-the-art sound equipment that draws hipsters to nightly dance parties, cultural activities and fashion shows. Popal strives to cater to all his guests with a coffee bar, juice bar and breakfast, lunch and dinner service, and now Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Omelette with red potatoes at Malmaison.

Omelette with red potatoes at Malmaison.

On earlier visits I had sampled their most delectable French pastries-especially the macarons, tortes and tarts-and I knew just where to start. You’ll want to break the fast with a basket of homemade pastries-a flaky, buttery almond croissant, a hefty slice of dense cinnamon swirl bread, blueberry muffin and a tender roll floated in on a cloud, or so it seemed. A jaunty wakeup call of a cocktail called “Suma Deez”, made with coconut-infused vodka and champagne and rimmed with cocoa powder and coconut flakes was as close as I would get to luxuriating on a tropical isle this winter.

The menu is divided up into salads, crepes, delights, eggs, and chef’s specials – and most selections are well priced, unless you are all in on lump crab cakes or a salad of Maine lobster. Pricey, but not beyond what’s expected for a menu styled like a five-star hotel’s breakfast offerings.

Lump crab cakes at Malmaison.

Lump crab cakes at Malmaison.

There are plenty of choices for the granola, green juice and yogurt crowd.  Try the Arugula and Wheat Berry Salad with cranberries, feta and fresh mint, or the Greek yogurt with granola, almonds, walnuts and dried fruits topped with seasonal fruit and honey-then pair it with Popeye’s Punch, a juice drink of celery, apples, spinach, cantaloupe and lime.  Later jog along the waterfront or rent a kayak at the nearby Thompson’s Boathouse. For the I-worked-my-tail-off-this-week-and-I-earned-it types or the Sunday crossword solvers like myself, there are more divinely decadent offerings. Piperade (the Basque egg dish made with onions, peppers and tomatoes), smoked salmon, steak frites (the frites fried in duck fat and served with Bearnaise), eggs Benedict, quiche, brioche French toast or sweet crepes to name a few.

Merci, Chef Gerard Pangaud for a lovely brunch!

The Partisan and Red Apron Butcher Open in Former Union Hardware Store 

At The Partisan.

At The Partisan.

In-house made charcuterie has become all the rage. Classes on how to cure meat, break down a side of pig, or how to make your own sausage have got everyone’s attention and/or participation. Add to that the burgeoning market for innovative craft beers, artisanal cocktails and intriguing new wines, and you’ve got The Partisan. Think about it-putting these all together in one place and driven by the talents of Red Apron Chef and Butcher Nathan Anda, Executive Chef Ed Witt, Wine Director Brent Kroll, Beer Director Greg Engert, and Cocktail Guru Jeff Faille, is so exciting.

Brett Kroll, Wine Director at The Partisan.

Brett Kroll, Wine Director at The Partisan.

Anda’s Red Apron Butcher is no stranger to shoppers at the Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter farmers markets where he sold his sustainably raised and humanely treated meats and meat products for years. Others have found him in bricks-and-mortar locations at Union Market in DC and Mosaic in Merrifield.

A trio of condiments.

A trio of condiments.

Let’s start with the food at this new D Street location. To begin the charcuterie menu is organized by flavor profile (bright, herbal + floral, spicy hot, smoky, spiced, rich + smooth, earthy), a dinner menu organized by animal (fish, chicken, pig, cow), and then size (small, medium, large). There are vegetarian starters, so your non-meat-eating friend can still join you, as long as they don’t mind a pig’s head on your plate.

hole braised pig’s head.

hole braised pig’s head.

The main menu eschews traditional order-by-course offerings and gets broken up by source or animal (beef, poultry, pork, and fish). Each section has dishes in a range of portion sizes that encourage sampling and exploration. There’s Bolognese, with house made pasta, guanciale and heart ragout, and lard-toasted breadcrumbs; Braised Spanish Octopus with tomato, oregano, and fingerling potatoes; 120-Day Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio and Corned Beef Belly with braised cabbage, grated pumpernickel, and pickled mustard seeds, that can be ordered in small or medium and complemented with salads, slaws, or vegetable sides.

Some items are designed to share, such as the Roasted Pig Head served with salsa verde, pickled peppers, and arugula and pig ear salad; the Rotissi-Fried Chicken, deep fried and served with honey hot sauce; and the Bollito Misto, a stew of cotechino, smoked heart, belly, pickled tongue, pork bone marrow and tenderloin with Calabrian aioli.

Chocolate and Pistachio Crepes.

Chocolate and Pistachio Crepes.

Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac has dreamt up nostalgic favorites like Snicker’s Terrine with peanut butter cheesecake, peanut caramel and chocolate glaze; Lemon Meringue Pie, a Meyer lemon eclair, with torched Swiss meringue and graham cracker crumbles and Fried Apple Pie, a hand pie made with bacon, caramel, graham crumble, candied pecans and vanilla bean ice cream. Her fave is the Fernet Ice Cream Float with ginger beer, lime zest, Fernet Branca ice cream and ginger molasses cookies.  Ours were the Red Velvet and Campari macarons.

The Partisans Red Velvet and gold-striped Campari Macarons.

The Partisans Red Velvet and gold-striped Campari Macarons.

On the beverage side The Partisan taps the talents of Kroll, Faile and Engert. Kroll has personally selected over 400 wines to balance the encyclopedic range of meats. Twenty-five are on draft and eight wines are preserved through the Napa Technology preservation system allowing for the presentation of rare, mature wines to be served by the glass and half-glass.

Engert has compiled an impressive beer program featuring seventeen drafts and over fifty bottles or cans that highlight his signature flavor profiles. Though comprehensive, The Partisan’s beer program will focus on Sour ales (seven draft sours and seventeen bottles) and Saisons, two craft categories particularly suited to the menu. The rest of the list features some unique and rare farmhouse ales, traditional lambics, and the highly coveted hoppy brews.

The bar also benefits from the talents of Faile, one of our area’s finest spirits specialists. To complement the menu, he has created a menu of ten cocktails – – Sailin’ On, made with Overholt Rye, Cocchi Vermouth, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Chili Infused Averna and Chocolate Bitters; Cool Confusion with Plymouth Gin, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Kina L’Avion D’Or; and Banned in DC with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Carpano Antica, Crème de Cacao, and Hellfire Bitters. Specialty spirits offered on draft include Willett Pot Still Bourbon, Michters Rye, Amaro Nonino, and Bittermen’s Bäska Snaps Malort.

Don’t bring a calorie counter when you go.

Cozy City Tap House 

There is something so intrinsically cozy and familiar at City Tap House. The four-month old gastropub situated close by downtown theatres, City Center, Walter Washington Convention Center and Verizon Center will make you believe it’s been sitting on this well-traveled corner of Mount Vernon Square forever. The friendly spot is designed as a laidback pub with wood plank walls, copper fixtures, candlelit tables and flat screen TVs on every wall. Industrial-style lamps float above a large bar that overlooks the dining area and an open kitchen helps define the casual atmosphere.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare at City Tap House.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare at City Tap House.

The food too, is prepared in a straightforward rustic style, referred to on the website as “Elevated American Regional”. But there’s nothing casual about the beer program here. This is where it gets, as we used to say, dead dog serious. Over sixty craft beers and cask ales are sourced both locally, DC Brau’s The Citizen and the soon-to-be-tapped Victory DirtWolf from Pennsylvania for example, and include dozens from around the world. Unfiltered and unpasteurized beers are offered by using a system of rotating casks, and draft beers are available in an ever-changing rotation.

Try a flight of four beers at City Tap House.

Try a flight of four beers at City Tap House.

Here you’ll find Belgians, Bitters, Browns, and Barleywines sharing space with Pale Ales, Lagers, Pilsners, Bocks and Wheats, as well as a nice selection of Porters and Stouts. It’s a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with hundreds of local and international brews, and who is, but if you’re willing to experiment you’ll come away knowing a few more to keep in your repertoire. It’s all very easy for the novice, or the curious, with flights of beers you think you’d like to sample. Thankfully both the menu descriptions as well as the servers are highly knowledgeable about all the beers they offer and will ask about your preferences and gently guide your selections. Certainly our server, Jordan, helped us make a few good choices that paired nicely with dinner.

Seared Sea Scallops with curried cauliflower.

Seared Sea Scallops with curried cauliflower.

This homey pub aims to cover all the bases with a wide array of dishes from locally sourced burgers to pizzas (the Tartuffo has roasted mushrooms, Taleggio cheese, guanciale, fried egg and black truffle, oh my!), mussels three ways and Foie Gras French toast, poached lobster rolls, Korean Short Rib Tacos and juicy ribeye steaks.

But if all you came in for were a few beers, they’ve got snacks covered too. Try the Bacon Popcorn & Candied Peanuts, or Skillet Fried Shishito Peppers.

Sweet Corn & Crab Hushpuppies.

Sweet Corn & Crab Hushpuppies.

We launched our dinner with a couple of appetizers, Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, which could have used a bit more acid, and the Sweet Corn & Crab Hushpuppies. The hushpuppies, served with honey thyme butter and citrus remoulade were a novel combination I was unfamiliar with, but nonetheless a marriage made in heaven. We were tempted by Lamb Neck Gravy with herbed ricotta and a dish called Blue Crab Mac N’ Cheese that melts lump crabmeat into Fontina cheese. But we’ll just have to wait to wrap our mouths around that mouth-watering indulgence.

We opted to try Green Kale Salad, which it seems everyone and their mother is preparing these days. This version, however, was outstanding and had sweet roasted figs, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, shaved Grana Padano cheese and maple-pecan vinaigrette. Our waiter told us they use baby kale, which explained the mild flavor and tender greens.

We soldiered on to Lobster Roll with duck fat fries, a must try that brought back memories of Maine, and Seared Scallops nestled atop curried cauliflower, leaves of Brussel sprouts, sautéed apples and crisped up pancetta with a piquillo pepper coulis and herb persillade. Perfection on a plate!

A trio of Dolcezza gelati.

A trio of Dolcezza gelati.

Could we go on? We did. Coaxed into dessert we surrendered to a trio of Dolcezza gelati and a scrumptious Apple Cherry Cobbler that showed personality with a topping with brown butter streusel and salted caramel gelato.

A trio of Dolcezza gelati.

A trio of Dolcezza gelati.

There are so many unusual and appealing dishes to try that we stalwart dining soldiers will certainly return to fight, or partake, another day.

George Washington’s Peach Brandy Debuts This Month

Mount Vernon Distillery – Peach Brandy.

Mount Vernon Distillery – Peach Brandy.

More than 200 years after George Washington’s Distillery stopped producing brandy, his distillery at Mount Vernon has created 400 bottles of George Washington’s Peach Brandy. Created at the reconstructed site, the inaugural batch will be available for sale at George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill April 1. Each precious 375ml bottle will retail for $150.00.

To create this historic product, seven leading craft distillers from across the United States gathered at the historic distillery on October 6, 2010.  Working under their direction, Mount Vernon produced this brandy based on traditional 18th-century methods, that is without any recipes or instruction manuals to guide them. The product was double-distilled in copper pot stills heated by wood fires, and was aged for two years in toasted oak barrels.

These companies helped in the process-Templeton Rye Spirits of Iowa, Philadelphia Distilling of Pennsylvania, A. Smith Bowman Distillery and Catoctin Creek Distilling Company of Virginia, Huber Starlight Distillery of Indiana, and Finger Lakes Distilling Company and Hillrock Distillery, both of New York.

Washington oversaw the production of only 60 gallons of the popular spirit each year, compared to the 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey that he bottled and sold during the same time period. Most of his brandy never made it to market. Instead, he poured it for the many guests that flocked to his Mount Vernon estate.

For further information about the purchase of this very limited product visit MountVernon.org/PeachBrandy.

An Elegant Seasonal Dinner at Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate is Offered in May

Next month Mount Vernon invites guests to a seasonal table with a dash of history during a new culinary event, Farm to Table. On Friday, May 9, from 6:30 till 10 pm, the evening will commence with a reception in Washington’s upper garden and greenhouse and feature specialty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. After the reception, guests will learn how food was grown, stored, and prepared for the Washington family through a private tour of Mount Vernon’s lower garden and Mansion. After the tour a spectacular four-course dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn will feature some of the products cultivated and produced on the estate.

The four-course menu sounds divine and begins with an amuse bouche of Cod Brandade Fritters with Horseradish Mousseline. It proceeds with a first course of Fried Asparagus Salad, with Gorgonzola Cheese, Pancetta, Heirloom Lettuce, and Balsamic Vinaigrette, a second of Seared Maryland Wild Rockfish in Fennel Saffron Broth with Garden Leeks and Baby New Potatoes, a meat course of Beef Tenderloin Wellington topped with Béarnaise Sauce and ends with Rhubarb, Strawberry & Lemon Curd Tart. Wine pairings are included with the dinner. For more information visit www.MountVernon.org.

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

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