Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year. And it’s not just because tomorrow is one of the few days where my ill-advised ability to overeat is celebrated. Although it is cliché, Thanksgiving in my household has always been about bringing everyone (and I mean everyone… my family’s meal is usually 25-plus) together, even that drunken aunt or two that falls asleep at the table.
Last year, I coerced some diners to try beer pairings as part of the meal. And this year, I decided to coerce all of you to try it out as well.
If you haven’t noticed, Thanksgiving dinner is begging to be paired with beer. The fall flavors and textures, the tangy sides, sweet desserts, and everything in between are all perfect for the flavors of fall beers.
So today, in the spirit of sharing, here are two of my go-to dishes and two awesome beers that will pair perfectly with them. These are adaptations of recipes I love and I am sure you have seen some version of them before.
So, Happy Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to pickup the Pepto-Bismol on the way to your in-laws/relatives/friends/own house where you will share dinner with your six cats.
Everyone has some version of Sprouts with Bacon. I think this one works well, getting a nice umami flavor from the miso paste.
- Dice a whole medium yellow onion. Clean your sprouts and split them in half (make sure to take off the hard knobs on the end of them). Throw the sprouts, the onion, some olive oil, and some miso paste diluted with a few drops of warm water into a bowl and toss to coat.
- Meanwhile, cook a few pieces of thick slab bacon in a cast-iron pan until slightly crispy, but still soft. Keep most of the drippings in the pan and reserve the bacon for later.
- Throw the onion and sprouts in the hot pan with a splash of olive oil (if needed) over medium heat. Make sure the sprouts are face down at first, so that they get a nice crisp to them (this is crucial). After the sprouts look bright green (maybe 6-10 minutes), toss them around and throw back in the bacon (chop it up first).
- Take the mixture off the heat, toss in a little shriracha sauce and some sesame seeds, and serve.
Pairs with: Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. A Japanese ale with malt sweet notes and sake like flavor, this beer will help to bring out the umami flavor from the miso and goes great with smoky vegetables.
Spicy Sausage and Crispy Sweet Cornbread were made for each other. This stuffing (or dressing for you southerners) pairs Andouille and cornbread with vegetables and fresh herbs.
- First things first: Make a cornbread. I like doing mine in a 10-inch cast-iron pan, but feel free to use your own recipe or buy a box of Jiffy. Let the cornbread sit overnight and dry up a little bit.
- Grab 4-5 links of fresh Andouille sausage (you can use any type, but the spice from Andouille is great). Remove the casing and quickly cook the Andouille in a hot pan, smashing it into pieces as you go. Meanwhile, roughly chop the following: onions, celery, and red bell pepper. The amount you use depends on how you like your dressing, but a few cups of each should do.
- After about 5 minutes, take the sausage out of the pan, leaving the drippings, and add the veggie mixture to the pan. Cook this for about 10 minutes or until very soft. Mix the veggies with the sausage in a bowl, and add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, sage, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Set this aside (can be done a day ahead).
- Take your cornbread and cut or rip it into 1-inch pieces. Toss that in a large bowl with the sausage and veggie mixture. In a separate bowl, quickly whisk 1.5 cups of chicken broth with an egg or two. Fold that into the cornbread mixture (do this gently, so you don’t break up all the cornbread pieces). Add some more broth until the mixture does not look dry (around 3/4 – 1.5 cups more).
- Put the mixture into a buttered dish (I use a 13x9x2 pyrex), cover with tinfoil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Take the tinfoil off and continue baking until the top is crisp and dark. Make sure the mixture does not dry out too much and if it looks like it is, add more broth.
Pairs with: For the stuffing (and your turkey), you want something that is sweeter and can handle the intense, rich flavors. Belgian abbey ales would pair nice. I suggest trying the Stateside saison from the awesome, gypsy-brewed Stillwater Artisanal Ales.
With the holidays quickly approaching, Borderstanis (Borderstanites? Borderstaners? anyway…) are sure to be busy hosting friends and family, preparing large dinners and of course, drinking.
I’m typically a beer drinker, but there is just something about the holidays that calls for a good bottle of wine. It can be shared around the table, pairs well with the heavy, rustic meals of fall and makes for a nice time staying in on a cold winter night (after all, no one gets romantic with a bottle of IPA or a Jack and Coke).
That’s why I’ve put together a list of my six go-to wine shops in the Borderstan area. Not only do we have an awesome selection of wine stores in our area, but they all have much more than just great wine, including sandwiches, bar bites and even some wine tasting/cooking classes. I am by no means a wine expert, so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to list out specific bottles below (although I’ve been told that you can get bang for your buck trying out wines from lesser known regions and more obscure vineyards). Rather, I suggest you go into one these spots and spark up a conversation with the staff, letting them choose the perfect bottle for you.
The top six you should be visiting this holiday season are:
- De Vinos – Located in between Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle, De Vinos is known for its awesome beer selection, but don’t miss out on the store’s array of wines from across the globe. Separated by country, De Vinos has wines of every type, and a staff that is knowledgeable enough to help you with any questions. Be sure to check out its two for $20 deals on specially selected wines.
- AM Wine Shoppe – First and foremost, I need to mention the amazing sandwiches this place has. They are incredible (perhaps because it’s owned by the same people as neighborhood favorite, Cashion’s Eat Place). Next time you go, grab an AdMorghese (get it?). It’s like a hopped-up Italian. AM’s wine selection consists of old world wines (mostly European) that often fall within the $10 to $20 range. For those of you looking to impress your guests, AM hosts wine tastings, cooking classes and a monthly wine subscription club. Find out more about the schedule on its site.
- Cork Market – Cork Market is the marketplace storefront for the popular Cork Wine Bar in Logan Circle. Cork’s wine selection includes all of the bottles that are sold across the street at its popular restaurant, but also expands on that list to include some new-world varieties. Cork Market’s non-wine selection is also a hidden gem, with sandwiches, charcuterie, cheeses, and Stumptown coffee. Make sure to try their award-winning fried chicken (seriously, Bon Appetit called it one of the top 10 fried chicken’s in the country) and check out the website for information on wine tastings and classes.
- Batch 13 – New to the neighborhood Batch 13 is another spot that is as rich in abbey ales as it is in big, pleasing red wines. Batch 13 is a two-floor wine, beer and spirits emporium on 14th Street in Logan Circle. With plans for a rooftop bar, expect great tastings and events form this spot in the future.
- Dupont Market – My local go-to for everything and anything that I need, including a quick bottle of wine, a sandwich or a pint of ice cream (we all have those nights). Dupont Market has a good selection of reasonably priced wines. But most importantly, they have the Humberto. On my all-star team of sandwiches, the Humberto is the wiry, old veteran who may not have the brains or the brawn of the others, but always comes through in the clutch.
- Cork and Fork – At 1522 14th Street NW, Cork and Fork has an impressive offering of wines, organized by region. Dominque offered us a few obscure finds and was full of information and descriptions for each, a far cry from the usual intimidating wine connoisseur. Cork and Fork is getting ready to offer free tastings and wine classes.
Anyone who has spent time in the Borderstan area knows that if you want to get good Chinese food, Great Wall Szechuan House on 14th Street NW is the place to go. And if you have a hankering for some spice in your life, the ma la menu items are a surefire source of happiness.
The owners of Great Wall, Mae Kuang and Yuan Chen, recently renovated the space, giving it a modern update that replaces the former hole-in-the-wall feel the restaurant has long been known as. Their recent renovations replaced the black-and-white floor tiles and drywall with exposed brick walls and floor tiles that resemble stones.
The normal Chinese food options (Kung Pao Chicken and other Americanized dishes) are better than most places in the area. But, you don’t go to Great Wall for just their normal items (unless you are me and cannot get takeout without ordering Crab Rangoon). You go for the heat. You go for the numbing, searing pain of ma la sauce chock full of Chinese peppercorns.
Ma La dishes are famous for their combination of high heat (think: chili peppers) with numbing heat (think: tingly peppercorns) that make your mouth tingle, burn, and crave more.
Favorite Ma La Dishes
The Ma La menu contains many winning dishes. My top three favorite dishes are presented as a F%ck, Chuck, and Marry:
- F%ck: Ma La Twice Cooked Pork. Like eating spicy, slow-cooked bacon in a delicious goopy sauce. It’s dirty, raunchy and ready to rock your world.
- Chuck: Ma Po Tofu. Don’t get me wrong, the dish is absolutely delicious (and one of my favorites). But it is also everyone’s favorite and one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Don’t be a poser.
- Marry: Ma La Kung Pao chicken. Believe me. I’ve ordered this dish probably at least 50 times. It is a keeper and can become your new life partner.
Great Wall Szechuan House: The Details
- Where Am I Going: 1527 14th Street NW (just south of Q Street)
- When Am I Going: Open Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm, and Friday until 10:30 pm. Open Saturday and Sunday at noon. Delivery available for orders over $15.00.
- Paycheck Pain: Not much. Entrees are around $8 to $11 and come with rice and fortune cookies.
- Say What?: The new space provides eat-in choices for diners in a relaxed atmosphere.
- What You’ll Be Eating: Spicy as hell Szechuan-style Chinese food.
By now, you probably know a lot about Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. It’s got some of the freshest oysters around (Hank’s, we still love you too), it dishes damn-near authentic southern creole food, and it houses one of the coolest bars to drink at in the 14th Street area (its sister bar, Blackjack).
So, I won’t try to convince you to go to Pearl Dive by telling you the food is delicious. I won’t try to convince you that the single best hangover dish in DC is a C.E.B.L.T po’boy (Fried catfish, a runny fried egg, crispy Benton’s bacon, lettuce, and tomato, all on toasted bread).
Instead, I present my two tailored meal plans at Pearl Dive: one for those with a sensitive stomach, who may not be able to handle a bowl of gumbo and fried oysters without spending the rest of the night on the bathroom floor, and one for the diner on a budget (I’m talking to you, hill staffers).
Meal A: The Non Gut-Busting, Non Fart-Inducing, Weak Stomach Meal
- Drink: Fleur 75. Light, fruity, spritzy, and overall a delightful start to a meal. Unlike beer, this won’t leave you bloated and gassy (your significant other will thank you).
- Appetizer: Local butter lettuce salad. The theme here is non-fried and light fare. Apples, blue cheese, and pecans are a perfect pairing.
- Entrée: Wood grilled bass. The Blacks (owners of Pearl Dive, Black’s, Addie’s, Black Market, and Black Salt) know how to do seafood right. You can’t go wrong with a grilled piece of fish from any of their restaurants.
- Dessert: Florida key lime pie. This is a must-have. You will go home satisfied (and feeling fine).
Meal B: The Broke as a Joke, But Still Trying to Eat Out All the Time Meal
Note: Pearl Dive isn’t actually all that expensive. In fact, it’s quite affordable. But let’s just say you got too drunk at the bar, spent $100 on a girl who promptly left with her girlfriends, and then did some retail therapy. I’d go with the following.
- Drink: Microbew. I suggest Abita Amber Ale for an authentic New Orleans experience. It also pairs really well with greasy, fried foods.
- Appetizer: Cornmeal-crusted Chesapeake oysters. Only $9 for five oysters full of Andouille sausage and sweet potato hash. Food coma set to commence in t-minus.
- Entrée: Oyster po’boy. Where y’at? This is the best dish on the menu (IMHO) and the cheapest entrée (only $13). Those two things rarely combine at most restaurants.
- Dessert: Are you kidding? If you happen to have room for dessert after all of that, get the Brazos River Bottom pecan pie for two. A La Mode, of course.
Insider Tip: Pearl Dive doesn’t officially accept reservations. However, if you identify yourself as a “Logan Circle resident” exceptions are known to be made.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: The Details
Where Am I Going: 1612 14th Street NW (Between Q and Corcoran)
When Am I Going: Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 5 to 11 pm; Brunch: Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm. Lunch: Friday and Saturday only, noon to 3 pm. Happy Hour drink and food specials offered Monday to Friday, 4 to 7 pm.
Paycheck Pain: Appetizers around $8 to $11. Sandwiches priced at about $13. Main entrees cost $19 to $25.
Say What?: The restaurant is small and tables are fairly close together. Expect a wait and very loud atmosphere. Outdoor bar or upstairs at Blackjack are good spots to wait for your table (they will text you when your table is ready).
What You’ll Be Eating: Seafood-centric southern creole food (think New Orleans).