Washington, DC New Menu Report: Week of 02/16/15

Sample Balkan spirits, attend a winemaker dinner, and ring in the Year of the Goat

Sunday, February 22 is National Margarita Day and El Chucho is celebrating.

701 Restaurant
Washington, D.C. doesn’t often get to host Napa Valley winemakers, but on February 27 at 7 p.m. 701 Restaurant, and their guests, will be joined by Sean McBride, the acclaimed winemaker and owner of Crosby Roamann Winery in Napa Valley. He and his wife, Juliana, started their winery in 2010, and from the outset they were dedicated to producing “honest, handmade wines.” The enticing, four-course tasting menu will be prepared by executive chef Benjamin Lambert  and includes stellar wines chosen by Sean McBride such as the 2013 Rosé de Saignée Napa Valley; the 2012 Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, Napa Valley; 2011 Chardonnay Carneros, Napa Valley; or the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder Napa Valley. The dinner is $90 per person, not including tax and gratuity. To make reservations call (202) 393-0701.

Touted for being D.C.’s first Balkan restaurant, Ambar is hosting a Rakia Tasting Challenge beginning Monday, February 16. This spirit is usually distilled to 80 proof or higher and is made with fermented fruit. It goes by various names and is considered the national drink in Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and other countries in the Balkan region. Ambar’s Rakia menu includes classic versions of the beverage made with plums, apricots, cherry, pear, and honey. Over the course of six months, guests will have the opportunity to complete a Rakia Tasting Card. In addition, fans will receive a $50 gift card by participating in Ambar’s social media contest. Diners must submit a minimum of five photos via Facebook and Instagram documenting five separate Rakia-related experiences at Ambar in addition to meeting the criteria for the Rakia Tasting Challenge.  

Blue Duck Tavern
It seems winter is not yet ready to loosen its grip on D.C. yet, so this is the perfect time to sample Blue Duck Tavern’s new winter menu. Executive chef Ryan LaRoche, and Blue Duck Tavern’s chef de cuisine, Brad Deboy, have created eclectic, tempting menus for lunch and dinner complemented by pastry chef Naomi Gallego’s seasonal desserts. This menu offers a bit of something for everyone, whether you prefer earthy, braised rabbit tagliatelle; cured Carolina mountain trout; oysters on the half shell; or wood-oven fired wagyu beef. Seasonal vegetables and sides are showcased, too, like roasted wild mushrooms soubise from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; sweet local carrots; and braised collards. Guests can also enjoy Blue Duck Tavern’s offering of a “Market Dessert” that rotates every few days, or order crowd favorites such as their signature apple pie, sugar cookies, and homemade ice cream and sorbet.

El Chucho
Tiny as it may be, this place has made a big mark on the city. This Sunday, February 22 is National Margarita Day and El Chucho is celebrating by opening at 10 a.m. and serving their sinful margaritas all day long, and in addition to draft margaritas (El Codo for $4.50), frozen margaritas are only $5.50, and El Chucho will be discounting Casa Herradura tequila, their house tequila. Be sure to order the pasilla rellena de pansa made with pork belly filled pasilla chili (find it on the Bocadillo menu), try the steak asada tacos, and sample a traditional torta.

The goat, or “Yang,” is the eighth sign of the Chinese Zodiac calendar, which consists of 12 animal signs. It is the said to be the most serene and calm of all the animal signs. In Eastern philosophy, those born in the Year of the Goat are believed to be gentle, creative, and thoughtful. Other character traits include strong senses of kindheartedness and justice.

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, Zengo is debuting three special dinner menus guests may order between February 19 and February 22. Chef de cuisine Jason Streiff has created menus that represent longevity, happiness, wealth, and luck for the New Year. The waygu beef gyoza, prepared with pork, shrimp, serrano ham, and a black vinegar sauce, is believed to bring good luck and is complemented by crispy fried vegetable spring rolls made with shiitake mushrooms, won bok, carrots, and bean sprouts, which are believed to represent wealth. In Chinese culinary culture, long noodles are served to ensure longevity, and this wish is found in the shrimp with lo mein prepared with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, scallions, and cilantro.


Summer Whitford is the D.C. City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal and the DC Wine Examiner. You can follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva.