Posts Tagged ‘whiskey dinners’
A Dinner to Remember..
Leaving Georgetown on a Friday night I was stuck on M Street for 40 minutes to cover about 7 blocks. The Weekend traffic made what should have been around an hour and 15 minute trip more than 2 hours, but the resulting dinner was truly worth it!
I (although I say “we” quite a bit – once you’re at a Whisky Dinner, you become a we!) attended a Cocktail Dinner at the Catoctin Creek Distillery, featuring the Wandering Chef – an entertaining and delicious affair and my first time visiting the new Catoctin Creek Distillery in the heart of Purcellville.
We enjoyed a private tour of the new space from owners, Scott and Becky Harris. Becky guided us through the process of making whisky, and Scott described for us the wonderful history of their “new” building, which is nearly 100 years old.
Dinner was a five course affair prepared by Chefs Wes Rosati and Maria Aros of The Wandering Chef. Chefs Rosati and Aros are formerly of Lansdowne Resort, and have combined talents to provide exquisite dining for our new venue!
Oh, and did I say cocktails? Yes, Katie Morrison was on hand to expertly craft cocktails paired with our dinner! As always, I forgot to get the cocktail recipes (shame!!), but the “Catoctinog” was a great starter for me – essentially a Whiskey egg nog, but more creamy nog than egg – cream and whiskey are made to be together!
Here is the Menu (all sourced from local producers and use of seasonal ingredients):
Braised Green Lentils with Local Lamb Sausage, Roasted Carrot Puree,
Honey and Chili Marinated Rack of Lamb
Mint and Lime Gremolatta – I think the Rack of Lamb stole the show – with whisky, you need meat (fat is good too) and the tender lamb on the bone was decadent..it also was delish with the lentils fatted up carrot puree (lamb sausage to boot!)
Paired with CCDC’s “The Wry Gingerman”
Dark Chocolate “Pots de Crème”,
Cranberry-Mint Compote and Freshly Whipped Cream
Catoctin Creek Distillery is located at 120 West Main Street, Purcellville, Virginia and the new location is WAY better than the old warehouse!
For reference, the event was held on Friday, December 13, 2013 – yes, Friday the 13th – Boo!
I attended a great craft experience – Meet the Distillers at Ris Restaurant in our Nation’s Capital on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 – a chance to meet and identify with 4 of America’s most innovative craft distillers.
Here are the Distillers: Barry Young who, together with his partner C. Prentiss Orr at Boyd & Blair, distills what is arguably the world’s greatest potato vodka in Glenshaw, PA, John Little, co-founder of Smooth Ambler Spirits in rural Greenbrier Valley, WV and Clay Smith, distillery manager at Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green, KY.
I had a chance to taste 9 spirits and various cocktails produced by Dan Searing who is actually the Rep for American Still Life Spirits who promotes the most diverse American portfolio of craft distilled spirits.
Each speaker had time to open up and discuss their respective perspective and products.
Boyd & Blair (Pennsylvania):
I had met Barry Young from Boyd & Blair a few years ago at a crafts spirits tasting in NYC when the whole movement was early, but building steam. His specialty is producing potato distilled vodka using exclusively Pennsylvania potatoes. Pennsylvania farmers were only receiving about 8 cents per pound for their potatoes which didn’t make much sense as an agricultural incentive. Boyd & Blair took this low-priced resource and turned it into a vodka that has won many rewards. We also tried the Vodka 151 Proof but it was in a cocktail made by Dan Searing. Interesting note: Boyd & Blair only throws out the heads and tails of distillation and only uses the “sweet spot” heart of distillation in their products..
Smooth Ambler (West Virginia):
The next up was John Little of Smooth Ambler – he was quite a character and spoke a mile a minute with his exuberance and excitement! First up we tried the Greenbrier Gin which had a nice citrusy refreshing taste that enlivened my palate! Smooth Ambler is relatively new to the distillation process, so brown spirits have to be purchased. John took us through the process of choosing the right barrels of pre-aged Bourbons and how he chose their specific products (which in a roundabout way came from the US, was orderd and planned to be sold in Australia, but due to market conditions there, remained in U.S. stocks). Being a Rye fan, I really loved their Old Scout Rye (7-year old) and also enjoyed their Old Scout Bourbon (10-year old). John brought up the point or concept about whiskey and aging: does whiskey get better with age? He joked that some people are born “beautiful Adonis”, but most people feel we get better with age! He also brought up that Smooth Ambler doesn’t cold filter their products – fatty acids, which some people might consider gross, actually add interesting flavor and aromatics, and cold-filtering takes this away – Cheers to that!
Clay Smith of Corsair Whiskey was the 3rd Presenter and showcased 4 spirits: Corsair Barrel-Aged Gin, Spiced Rum, Old Punk Whiskey and Corsair Triple Smoke Whiskey. The most unique product was their Triple Smoke: their malted barley is smoked with Cherrywood, Beechwood and Peat giving it some Scotch/peat overtones but also some American wood smoke aromatics. This kind of creativity is what makes American craft spirits so much fun – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
P.S. – Below is some cut and paste from the Arrowine email – if you’re truly interested in learning more, read on!
What are craft spirits and why we love them…
The days where distilled spirits were peddled by a handful of gigantic multi-national corporations have come to an end. In less than a decade the number of craft, or micro-distilleries, has mushroomed from a mere 50 to over 300 operational distilleries across the U.S. Craft spirits are the product of an independently owned distillery with maximum annual sales of 52,500 cases where the product is physically distilled and bottled on site.
Craft distillers focus on quality rather than quantity (often producing less in a year than multi-national brand distilleries bottle in one hour) and strive to educate consumers rather than supply them with cheap alcohol. Unlike the large spirits conglomerates that use continuous distillation to produce large volumes of the same product over and over, craft distillers employ pot stills that they often design themselves and distill in small batches using their senses to make cuts to achieve the desired results.
Most use locally sourced grains and fruits and trace their recipes, especially for whiskey, back to the days long before prohibition when America was a land of small distillers. Much like the craft beer movement that started in the late 1990s, micro-distilleries are making excellent products that pay homage to the authenticity and cultural heritage of their communities.
What we will be tasting…
We will taste a selection of Vodka, Gin and Whiskey (Bourbon & Rye), first in their pure spirit form, and then in a cocktail application that will showcase the wide range of flavors that these spirits can be expressed in.
About Barry Young and Boyd & Blair…
Barry Young and partner C. Prentiss Orr didn’t set out to make the world’s best vodka. They set out to make a really great vodka distilled only from local produce. They started with the best Pennsylvania potatoes and a hand hammered copper pot still and added passion for perfecting a recipe that includes only the ‘hearts’ of the spirit, not the extraneous stuff you’ll find in mass-produced, continuous-still vodka. They named their vodka after two family patriarchs, James Boyd Rafferty and Dr. William Blair.
The vodka is triple distilled by batch in the 1,200 liter pot still without the use of any automated controls, and the heads, hearts and tails are cut by taste alone. The result is an exceptionally smooth tasting potato vodka with a slight natural sweetness and viscosity that is unmatched by any other vodka. Every bottle is filled, corked and dipped in wax by hand, and personally signed by Still Master Barry Young.
About John Little and Smooth Ambler Spirits…
In 2009, John Little and TAG Galyean founded Smooth Ambler to produce fine artisan spirits by combining patient Appalachian know-how with the finest of American ingredients. Located in the rural Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia, Smooth Ambler uses state-of-the-art distillery equipment in conjunction with natural resources of the region: high-valley mountain air, natural waters, ideal temperature variations and friendly folks. These elements combined with a hands-on, grain-to-glass distilling, cutting and filtering process create a truly remarkable drink best enjoyed one slow sip at a time. It is a fact that Smooth Ambler Spirits are now produced at the highest and purest level possible anywhere in the world.
About Clay Smith and Corsair…
Friends Darek Bell, a dedicated home-brewer, and Andrew Webber, a self-described underground urban moonshiner, founded Corsair in 2007 and today, no other craft distillery in the U.S. better epitomizes the creative element of the craft spirit movement. From Quinoa Whiskey, Spiced Rum, Vanilla Bean Vodka, to Gin, Absinth, Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, the celebrated Triple Smoke Whiskey and over a dozen of seasonal and experimental spirits, the guys at Corsair don’t shy away from anything. And over 40 medals at international spirit competitions are a testament to the consistently high quality of Corsair’s innovative spirits, and it has been named 2013 Craft Distillery of the Year by Whisky Magazine.
Corsair operates out of two distilleries, one in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the other in Nashville, Tennessee. Our guest presenter Clay Smith is master distiller and distillery manager at the Bowling Green facility, where he oversees the production of Corsair’s various whiskeys and gins as well as the extensive renovation of the distillery’s new space.
About the tasting location…
Restaurant RIS is located in Washington DC, at 2275 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, right around the corner from Arrowine & Spirits, our new shop in DC. Restaurant RIS is open late each night. We expect the event to conclude by 9pm and should you wish to stay at Ris and have a late dinner, they would be happy to serve you. For more about this excellent restaurant, please see their website.
Arlington, VA and our new DC location
The Tequila Journey Begins..
I hadn’t been to Top Chef Mike Isabella’s newest restaurant – Bandolero at 3241 M St., NW in Georgetown, so I decided to try it out at a special 5-Course Espolon Tequila Dinner offered by CityEatsDC “Exclusive Eats”. The Thursday, November 8th, 2012 pairing dinner was a chance for me to attend my 2nd Tequila Dinner ever – the first one had been in Aspen, CO many years ago as part of the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. This time, all I had to do was make the Reservation and walk about 5 blocks from my townhouse which is also in Georgetown!
Actually, this event was more of a Cocktail Pairing Dinner because all of the Tequila was served in 5 separate cocktails that were paired with the meal. Tasting events like these are no longer unique and unusual – in fact, I guesstimate that DC has at least 20 dinners every week with pairings of craft beer, wine, whisky or other spirits. What they all tend to do is have a quality speaker – and Phil Piper of Skyy Spirits/Gruppo Campari which owns the Tequilas (Espolon and Cabo Wabo) spoke and also introduced the Master Distiller of Espolon, Cirilo Hernandez who spoke about the differences of Espolon’s Silver, Reposado and Anejo. Cirilo was a really charming guy and very authentic – his English was pretty good, but his spirit and passion (over-used, but true this time!) really set the tone for the event – it felt very much like this Master Distiller enjoys making his product and taking pride in ownership. I hope the Campari people bring him to more tasting events – he really had an energy to him that just plain seemed “Real”..
As sort of a side note to this event – I sat next to Tom Brown who with his brother Derek Brown own The Passenger/Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. which is a haven for serious Cocktail aficionado’s. Tom told me that they are planning to open a Tiki Lounge concept nearby – still a bit hush,hush, but he confirmed that the lease had been signed..more details soon. Derek wasn’t at the event because he as in China doing some kind of drink promotion – which tells you how much the cocktail culture has become part of the international scene – food and drinks are hot – I guess everyone has to eat and drink!
The 5-Course Tequila Dinner Menu:
OK, it’s just a bunch of photos from past TasteDC events, but it kind of shows you where TasteDC comes from – it’s my imagination of how people really would like to eat and drink..a bit of a dream world, but food is so much more than nourishment..Just Enjoy!
Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”
I spent over 15 years organizing and attending wine dinners at TasteDC – it is definitely my favorite part of being in a unique business! Weird as it may seem, a “wine dinner” is conceptually as confusing as a wine tasting to most people – it’s a very foreign concept to many Americans – literally! A wine dinner is in essence a multi-course dinner served with several different wines – this is the simple explanation. A GOOD/GREAT wine dinner is when the various elements come together in a wonderful symphony of an event: wine, food, timing, pairing, educational component (this usually means a speaker), and impeccable service. It sounds very snooty, but that’s primarily because it’s based on the fine dining traditions of the Old World – particularly France and Italy. So what IS a wine dinner?
“A Wine Dinner Is a Meal Divided by Courses”
Most wine dinners include a menu of dishes served in three or more courses. For example, when you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant, the menu is often broken down into Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts. A Wine Dinner is a smart way for a restaurant to showcase both great wine and delicious dishes that showcase their chef’s talents. And yes, there is a formula: according to the traditional European format for a dinner (actually, any serious meal!) is begin with the lightest dishes, move on to richer dishes and finish with dessert – and yes, often there is a cheese course before dessert. A very simple multi-course dinner (with or without wine, but in the European tradition, food is pretty much always served with wine) would begin with some hors d’oeuvres, a seafood or pasta dish, a light meat dish (chicken or pork), a rich meat dish (beef or lamb) and dessert. Each course would be served with a different wine in a wine dinner and possibly even more than one wine per course. This would be called a 4-course dinner because hors d’oeuvres are usually not considered a dish, so don’t count in the number.
“Each Dish Should Be Paired with the Appropriate Wines”
I’ve been to wine dinners where there is only one wine paired with each dish, and that can be very satisfying! But I’ve also been to wine dinners where there are two, three, even four wines paired per dish (that’s a single dish!) and those can be very fun – albeit confusing at times. I want to touch upon the concept of pairing: pairing wine and food means there’s a synergy of flavor that is 1 + 1 is GREATER than 2. There are some classic examples of pairings: Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese, Pinot Noir and salmon, and Cabernet Sauvignon and steak, etc. that work but I’ve had pairings that stretch the limits. The original old school formula for pairings was “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” but this is extremely outdated – creative chefs today don’t serve simply prepared dishes that are formulaic, they often prefer to add unique flavors and cooking techniques to their dishes that can be difficult to pair. To keep it simple (I wrote a whole chapter on pairing in “I Drink on the Job” entitled “A Meal Without Wine is Breakfast”). Just like with food, most wine dinners begin with lighter-style wines (like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) and move to heavier-bodied wines later in the meal – this makes sense – you wouldn’t want a Big Cab with your shrimp dish/course at the beginning of the meal, that would be way too heavy early in the meal (and a poor pairing!). Also, later in the meal, your palate needs richer and bolder flavors or you won’t notice a dish, so big wines and red meat (or dishes that are braised/slow cooked to increase the rich flavors of a meal) make sense.
A quick note on pairing/wine dinners – most have a theme like “Italian Wines” or “California Boutique Wines” that create the expectation of a special celebration of a wine region or theme. This is important because a wine dinner is a “showcase” event – a chance for a wine maker to show his/her best efforts in the vineyard or a display of a chef’s talents to create gourmet offerings. The point is that usually either the wine or the food is the main center of the wine dinner, one almost always overshadows the other. For example, I attended a wine dinner a few years ago with MacArthur/Addy Bassin’s Liquor where there were over 20 boutique California wines served – yes, the food was excellent at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. (I think it was 7-Courses, but I forget!), but every wine was introduced before each course by either the wine maker or a representative who intimately knew the wines – educational and exhilarating!
“A Speaker Needs to Introduce the Wines at the Wine Dinner”
Not particularly profound, but someone needs to talk about the wines at a wine dinner and the more knowledgeable, the better. Normally, the wine maker or a representative from the wine community talks about the wines with each dish. Some speaker’s introduce the wines before each course, but this can be detrimental: it can add too much time to a dinner and it can get tedious for attendees! Most people don’t want to sit for more than three hours or so at a wine dinner (including breaks – hey, with all that wine, you may need to visit the bathroom!) so the length of an event is important. I always suggest that the wine professional speaker introduce their wines at the event, maybe speak once in the middle of the meal and then at the end of the meal. Most people at these events would rather talk privately to the speaker, so walking around and “schmoozing” with dinner attendees is a smart move.
Things I haven’t covered in this wine dinner discussion include the importance of speedy service, event duration, popular themes for wine dinners, and the myriad of service issues with this type of event. Staffing is VERY important – experience really makes a difference. One of the most impressive wine dinners I ever went to with the wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. was because of one factor: the Sommelier Caterina Abbruzzetti decanted every one!
Of course, there aren’t only wine dinners: In 14 years at TasteDC, I’ve attended craft beer dinners, whiskey dinners, Tequila Dinners, Cocktail Dinners, Rum Dinners and innumerable conceptual “dinners”, often unique and unusual, but one thing they all had in common – the dishes and the beverage were paired in some way..Hope this all whets your appetite – Cheers!
Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”
This is Part 2 of organizing a wine tasting (Part 1 Here) – I get the phone call “we want to organize a wine tasting for a <birthday/celebration/housewarming/shower/corporate event/bachelorette party> can you help?” My first question…DO YOU HAVE A VENUE? Reply – total silence, I can literally hear crickets churping..then the mumbling and nervous reply “well, uhhh, no, uhhh (thinking to themselves “you mean I have to think of everything??”) and then often something like “somewhere in DC, Virginia or Maryland”..and now I’m at a loss of words..
Unless your people can teleport wine into their faces, you MUST FIND A VENUE! OK, but how? Couple thoughts..the most obvious venue is the place you work or hangout, maybe someone’s home. Before you make the phone call to a Professional Event Planner (that’s what wine speakers/professionals become from necessity – we have no choice!), ask a friend/co-worker if they know a nice place to hold a wine tasting. Most likely, a short brain-storming session will begin and potential spaces will be considered – someone’s new home, a great meeting place the group already frequents, a winery, etc..DO THIS BEFORE YOU MAKE THE CALL..OK, I have a confession..
Over HALF the phone calls I receive requesting a wine tasting are VENUE SEEKERS, ie. they could care less about a wine tasting, they just want to squeeze my brain for all the venues I know and just work directly with them..But that’s another Subject!
Back to your needs..hotels and restaurants should be your last choice – why? Because they charge many fees that raise the cost quickly and significantly: room/rental fees, food minimums, corkage fees for wine (a little more on this below..), plus taxes and surcharges on top of all that. Many restaurants and hotels don’t allow an outside vendor to bring wine into their facility – of course – they can sell their own wine to you for a 250-400% markup (this is a common cost multiplier – a $6 store bought wine being sold in a hotel for $21.50 to $30 a bottle ++)
Since cost is a major factor to over 90% of the people that call requesting a wine tasting, think cost first – a free venue is the best. What free venues are available to most people? A home comes to mind first, so contact friends who have a nice place, or who for whatever reason (Ego!) want to show-off their abode. What about an apartment complex – many have community rooms that are empty most of the time, and if you know someone who’s a tenant in the complex, that helps a bunch! Some other potential “free” or low-cost venues include office spaces, office building atriums, art galleries, and non-profit spaces. A note about art galleries and other public venue – they may have quite a few restrictions..well, that’s another article, Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler – Check out my book NOW Available on Kindle or Soft-Cover – I Drink on the Job
I’ve organized or promoted over 1,000 wine tastings and wine classes in the Washington, D.C. area since 1997 through my organization TasteDC.com. A few times a week I get a phone call at headquarters (a room in my Georgetown townhouse with 2 computers, a color printer and a Fax..but it IS Ground Zero for DC wine tastings!) asking me to organize a wine tasting or class for a group of say maybe 15 people. What’s funny/unfortunate/amazing is that the call is almost always the same – THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WINE TASTING IS OR WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR!
A wine tasting is an event from the TasteDC perspective – it has a beginning time, an ending time and a theme to fill the middle of the tasting. Say for example, a wine tasting of wine styles: rent a room, supply it with glassware (maybe a little food – cheese, crackers and bread would be nice!), a selection of wines with say three different “styles” (could be anything, but normally it might be light-bodied, medium-bodied and heavy-bodied wines) and put them at their own tables with volunteers pouring the wine..or people could pour their own wine – then we suggest you put out an information tasting sheet on each wine..
- Do you have a Date?
- Do you have a Venue?
- Do you have a wine “theme”?
There are literally thousands of ways to organize a wine tasting! I do want to make note – if you use the term “wine class” that most likely means a seated event with a speaker. Does a wine tasting necessarily need a speaker? No – the simple answer is sometimes (most of the time!) a speaker ads an unnecessary expense to a tasting – speakers charge for their services and the fees range significantly (I start at about $500 per event, but I have other ways to increase my profitability – hey, don’t attendees want a copy of my book “I Drink on the Job” ?
I’m going to write more about what to look for in a wine tasting – both for a private group and for a fun public form of entertainment – keep checking back – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler