The French have a love-hate relationship with Beaujolais Nouveau because, well, let’s face it, it’s not really good. Also, it gives you a very bad hangover if you drink too much of it. And drinking too much of it is very easy since it has very little depth and goes down a little too quickly.
I’ve learned that the hard way over many Beaujolais release parties at Bistrot du Coin on Connecticut Avenue. But it’s still fun to celebrate. I mean, it is after all the first French wine to be released for each vintage year.
Part of the fun is the regulation. In a very successful example of Gallic lobbying (yes, the French lobby, too… but only for really important things, like wine) by a group of winemakers in the 50’s, you can only uncork a bottle of this vin primeur on the third Thursday of November. Or at the stroke of midnight on that Wednesday.
The Beaujolais Region
So every year, at this time, drinkers’ attention turns to the otherwise little-known wine producing region of Beaujolais and to its most celebrated wine. And really, it’s a pity, because there’s so much more to Beaujolais than Nouveau. Beaujolais is gamay country, a grape known for its soft and fruity wines, with less acidity than those of its neighbors. You may have heard of those: Rhone and Burgundy.
Living in the shadow of these famous wine regions was probably hard for little Beaujolais, but vintners Louis Jadot and Georges Duboeuf did a lot to increase its notoriety outside of France using Beaujolais Nouveau, pimping out Beaujolais Day and promoting the wine as the perfectly-timed pairing to Americans’ Thanksgiving dinners. But they didn’t do Beaujolais any justice, giving the gamay-based wine the reputation of being cheap, simple and light bodied. Kind of like a one night stand you regret the next day.
For those looking for a gamay wine they can commit to, there are several cru appellations like Brouilly, Fleurie or Moulin-a-vent, that make very well respected wines. Unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, which is meant to be drank within a few months of its release, these vintages can develop with age and become more pinot-like when they do. The downside is that you have to drop more money on them. Like a lot more…
I dropped by Cork and Fork earlier this week to chat about Beaujolais with owner Dominique. Other than the fact that he asked me if I was Canadian (has my French gotten this bad? le sigh) we had a lovely conversation about “quality” Beaujolais. The barely fermented fruity stuff sold in the millions of bottles by Georges Duboeuf is mass produced and made from grapes of dubious quality.
Look for a Small Producer Bottle
If you want to indulge in the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations, look for a small producer bottle (i.e. not Georges Duboeuf or Louis Jadot) and make sure the label says that it is “mis en bouteille au chateau” or “mis en bouteille a la propriete.” You should really look for that label on every bottle of wine that you purchase though.
Even better, go for a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau instead. Beaujolais Villages in general, is the kind of wine you can take out for at least a few dates… it’s the intermediate between the cru and the nouveau. And this year, Cork and Fork is selling two different Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau: Domaine Descroix Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau and Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau.
Confession: I was drinking one of those as I wrote this post, which means I totally broke some kind of French wine law and can now feel like a wine rebel! And you know what? It was better than a bottle of Duboeuf, so if you want to drink Beaujolais on Turkey Day, it’s a great option and it will only set you back a few extra dollars. If you want to completely change your opinion of Beaujolais wines, however, go and have Dominique pick out a bottle of cru for you. These are truly the best of Beaujolais wines and are well worth exploring having a long term relationship with.
Not all holidays call for champagne. Birthdays and New Year’s Eve: definitely pop open a bottle of bubbly. President’s Day, SuperBowl Sunday – Miller Light, the champagne of Beers, can probably do the trick. But if there’s one holiday you should definitely raise a glass to, it’s Champagne Day. And wouldn’t you know, it’s coming up this Friday…
Champagne Day isn’t actually a real holiday. It’s an annual social media event that should have you bubbling with excitement. And it’s a great excuse to drink champagne! And I said champagne… don’t even look at that bottle of cava or prosecco!
Champagne, of course, can come from one place and one place only: Champagne, France. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to take a road trip through the Champagne region and visit some of the most famous champagne houses as well as small, local producers. That’s easy to do if you’re in Paris and I actually highly recommend it as a day trip if you have the time.
Reims is barely an hour away by train, and you can drive from Paris to Epernay in just over two hours. If you’re in DC, well, it’s a little bit of a longer trip but why not use Champagne Day as an excuse to bring the champagne region to you?
Marcel’s in Georgetown boasts the largest Champagne collection in the metropolitan area and the restaurant is toasting the holiday by offering a $135, five-course dinner paired with hard to find Champagnes (and one Virginia sparkling wine for some reason). If the lavish menu of lobster, duck confit and blanc de blancs is too much for you (and/or your wallet) you can also indulge in a $55 Champagne flight at the bar that includes Laurent Perrier Brut de Blancs, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs or a Grand Cru Rosé.
Proof, another DC restaurant with a notable wine list, is also commemorating Champagne Day by adding several by the glass champagne options to its bar and dining room menu that night like a $40/ glass 2004 vintage Louis Roederer Cristal (rated 97-point by wine advocates) or a $14/ glass 2002 Gimonnet Special Club.
Of course, Champagne Day is first and foremost a social media holiday so, if you do indulge in either of these options on October 26th, don’t forget to tweet or instagram or both your experience using the hashtag #ChampagneDay. You can also follow @ChampagneBureau on Twitter to get information on Champagne.
And of course, you can certainly indulge in your own Champagne celebration by popping a bottle at home or hosting a tasting at your house. Most of the wine shops in the area have a number of great, affordable options (I always recommend Nicolas Feuillate which retails just under $30 at Whole Foods.) Cheers!
If you attended the inaugural party launch for Cafe Saint-Ex’s Pass the Peas on Wednesday (the Pass the Peas series is a soul food and music event that takes place on the second Wednesday of each month), you may have noticed a new sight across the street. Over the past two days, French photograffeur “JR” and a team of volunteers from New York and DC took over the façade of an empty building at 1401 T Street NW.
The result? A new black-and-white civil rights-themed mural based on a picture of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 by photographer Ernest Withers.
It’s a rare treat to have JR, a photographer, street artist and activist (or photograffeur, from the mix of the French words for photographer and graffiti) here in the District. Outside of his (and my!) hometown of Paris, he typically works in more “tense” areas, like the slums of Kibera, Kenya, the favellas of Rio de Janeiro or the wall separating the Palestinian territories from Israel.
In fact, JR has only worked twice before in the United States, in New York (he’s keeping an eye on the Williamsburg bridge and the high line) and in Los Angeles. We can thank Lauren Gentile of Contemporary Wing (1412 14th Street NW) for helping bring JR to our town and our little part of the city. Gentile, who had previously been instrumental in bringing Shepard Fairey to our area, pursued the Frenchie after watching and being inspired by his TED Talk online (JR won a TED prize last year). And we’re sure glad she did!
I’m not sure how long the mural will stay up for, but I personally love it.
What do you think?
They say you can tell a lot about a voter by his or her choice of beer during election time. If you catch someone drinking a Coors Light or Sam Adams at a bar, that person is more likely to be a Republican. But if you see someone ordering a Heineken, then you have more reason to assume he or she is going to vote for president Obama on November 6.
Beyond beer, bars and restaurants around town are making sure their patrons can eat and drink their political leanings by adding “partisan” items to their menus. Whether it’s the good old fashioned first lady cookies bake-off at the Occidental Grill or the Democrat and Republican dozens decorated with election-themed donkeys, elephants and 2012 fondant available at Georgetown Cupcake, you can certainly vote with your stomach this election season.
As we get closer and closer to voting day and the election seems to drag on, a couple of area bars and restaurants have found clever ways to keep us entertained about our choices. The Front Page, for one, must have read the article about the beer preferences and chosen Sam Adams as a Romney surrogate on its tap menu (yes, it helps that Sam Adams is from Romney’s state of Massachusetts.) Order a Sam Adams or a Goose Island beer (which is from Chicago) and you get an “I Voted” sticker.
If you’re like me and don’t get to vote on November 6, getting an “I Voted” sticker sounds kind of exciting… even if it says “I Voted at the Front Page.” The bar even keeps a tally on its Facebook page and twitter feed. At Lincoln, it’s a cocktail face-off between the Elephant (rhubarb-infused whiskey, homemade strawberry liquor, lime juice and bitters) or the Democratic Donkey (blackberry-infused gin, ginger syrup, lime juice and soda) and right now it looks like the crowd is pretty partisan.
Meanwhile, Topaz Bar is bringing back the top two contenders from its earlier primary cocktail friendly competition for round two. The two winning cocktails were the Obama Home Sweet Home (a twist on DC’s home cocktail, the rickey, and a nod to the fact that Obama currently calls DC home and hopes to keep it that way) and the Romney Float.
Clearly, these were based on actual voter preferences expressed at the polls and not patrons or the non-alcoholic float would have never made the cut. Luckily, there is no contest (yet) involving wine… though in 2008, John McCain’s Arizona did win the Wall Street Journal’s Pour More Years blind tasting face-off.
There is one, however, involving cheese at the Park Hyatt Lounge, though they were smart not to select them based on the candidates’ home states. I mean, Massachusetts cheese anyone? I know Paul Ryan said his “veins bleed with cheese,” but I roll my French eyes even at Wisconsin cheese… Instead, they went with a selection of blue and red cheeses, including Ewe’s Blue and Barick Obama from Vermont and the Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery and a Lincoln Log goat cheese. Of course, the scores are being tallied here too!
So far before election day, it seems, Obama is leading all of these foodie polls. Except one. Apparently, the folks who get their coffee at 7-Eleven, where you can grab a blue or red to go cup, have a slight preference for Romney. Who doesn’t drink coffee at all…
Let us know, what are you drinking for the election?
Bon Appétiiit! Julia Child would have turned 100 on August 15, 2012. Eight years after her death, she remains one of America’s most famous “French chefs.” She loved France, she loved French food… but for some reason, the French never really warmed up to her.
Even worse, many had probably never heard of her until the film Julie and Julia was released. Neither her best-selling cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” nor her biography, “My Life in France,” have been translated for Gallic audiences… even I didn’t really know who she was until a friend of mine loaned me her copy of Julie Powell’s book (that one, by the way, is available in French under the title “Sexe, Blog et Boeuf Bourguignon”).
Nonetheless, now that I live in the United States, I appreciate how great an ambassador Julia Child was for French cuisine and I am thrilled to see that so many restaurants around the country are honoring her with a special Julia Child Restaurant Week from August 7 to 15.
The Food: Where to Celebrate
In Washington, DC, where Julia lived briefly, there are four restaurants participating in her centennial celebration:
- At Central (1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW), Chef Michel Richard is re-creating a dish he once prepared for Julia Child: chicken “Julia” with ratatouille ($24).
- Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) is adding a whole roasted tarragon chicken accompanied by asparagus, braised carrots, mushrooms in Madeira sauce and potatoes dauphinoises to its regular menu on August 15th ($85 for two).
- Chef Ris Lacoste, who prepared Child’s 90th birthday dinner back in 2002, is offering a number of her favorite dishes throughout the month at RIS (2275 L Street NW), available either à la carte or as part of a prix fixe menu.
- Here in Borderstan, Chef David Fritsche at Café Dupont (1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW) is presenting a special three-course Julia Child 100th Birthday Menu from August 7 to 15. The $50 menu includes wine pairing and fabulous dishes like a peach tarte tartin or duck à l’orange. They’re also bringing in New York Times best-selling author Bob Spitz from 6 to 8 pm on August 15. The “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” author (and the only writer granted the permission to pen a definitive biography of Julia Child) will answer questions and sign copies of his book.
Earlier on August 15, Spitz will be spending some time at the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian museum is bringing back Julia Child’s beloved Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen for a limited time (through September 3). The kitchen was used as the set of her three television shows and still contains hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings arranged exactly as they were when Child donated the kitchen to the museum in 2001. In addition to Spitz, who will be signing his book at 2:30 pm, there will be festivities throughout the day and Alex Prud’homme, who co-wrote “My Life in France” with Child, will also be there signing copies of the book (11 am to 1 pm).
As for me, well, I’m still learning about this tall lady who did so much to introduce my country’s food to American audiences. And the best way to do that is by watching old episodes of “The French Chef.” PBS is broadcasting original episodes of the show, some of which have not aired since the 1960’s. And since they’re encouraging viewers to cook alongside of the episodes and to share their creations by posting pictures to PBS Food on Twitter, you might see how well I (and others) fare at re-creating classic Julia Child dishes by following the hashtag #CookForjulia.
Author’s Note: At Borderstan.com you’ll always get food news from writers who actually eat in our neighborhood. They know where to find the newest rooftop bars, the brunch with unlimited Mimosas, and the best vegetarian options in the city. That’s why we’re giving you a chance to get to know the writers who bring you the best eats Borderstan has to offer. So, grab your fork and take a seat at our table.
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Laetitia Brock is a food writer for Borderstan.
What’s the best restaurant in DC? Why?
Brock: I love Brasserie Beck, it has something for everyone. If you want a bustling after work scene, you can just head to the bar for a beer or two. If you want a casual meal, sit at the front of the restaurant and order a croque monsieur or the mussels. In the mood for a chill afternoon and good food? Relax on the terrace with a refreshing glass of rose and a plateau de fruits de mer.
They have an impressive beer list and sommelier Ramon Narvaez has selected a great wine menu as well. Any restaurant that can be all these things, and be all these things successfully, will always be at the top of my list.
Describe your food writing style — what kind of story are you looking to tell?
Brock: I try to keep it light and simple (and French, just like me).
Which food writers inspire you?
Brock: I love learning more about American food but I get very nostalgic for French pastries. I have a mad sweet tooth, and some of my favorite food bloggers write about pastries are:
Adam Wayda is an American who spends a lot of time in Paris and has an unhealthy knowledge of the Parisian pastry scene. He takes gorgeous pictures of the most beautiful sweets in the city and is almost as obsessed with Pierre Herme as I am. A lot of people day dream of quitting everything and starting a new life in Paris. Pastry chef David Lebovitz actually did it and now blogs his “sweet” life from Bastille. In addition to original recipes (like candied bacon ice cream) he also shares quirky stories about cooking in a small apartment kitchen and dealing with the French. 2012 winner of Food and Wine’s People’s Best New Pastry Chef award, Christopher Ford is also an amazing photographer and, locally, I love The Hungry Muse.
What is your version of comfort food?
Brock: Call me French if you must, but wine, baguette (so hard to find a good one in DC!), cheese and Nutella. I’m also a firm believer that bechamel makes everything better — I put bechamel in my lasagnas, croque Monsieur, crepes.
Cooking tool you can’t live without?
Brock: Cork screw. Not sure it really qualifies as a cooking tool, but I keep mine in a kitchen drawer and until I develop some mad skills with my shoe like my fellow countrymen, I can’t live without it.
If you’re like me and you enjoy the odd (or not so odd) bottle of wine at the end of a long workday, you probably end up with a lot of corks. And I hope you’re like me and you drop your empty bottles of Bordeaux and Malbec in the recycling bin. But did you know you can also recycle the corks?
Cork comes from trees and while it cannot actually be reused as a wine cork (something about bacterial concerns…), it can be recycled into lots of useful products from floors to shoes. It can also be used in lots of DIY projects. Here are a few fun ones I found on Pinterest:
Cabinet Door Knobs
Do you really love wine? Let your house show that! Use champagne or wine cork stoppers as cabinet knobs. Photo: Tria Giovan, Article: Jennifer Kopf. From Southern Living, pinned by Erika Lena
Wine Cork Journaling
I think personally I will settle for something a little less ambitious…like keeping corks as mementos. Write down when you had that bottle of wine or have the person you enjoyed it with sign it for prosperity. These would actually make a cute alternative to a guest book for a wedding too. – From Belle Maison, pinned by Joanna Linn Staley
If you’re not feeling crafty, however, there’s another option for you: let ReCORK recycle your bottle stoppers for you! The natural wine cork recycling program has a drop off location at Topaz Hotel at 1733 N Street NW.