Bookalokal Home Bartending Class

This year has been the year of appreciating a good craft cocktail. The lady got me a bar set for my birthday and we purchased and have been working on stock a bar cart. Simply putting together the pieces does not guarantee that tasty drinks will result, however. My first few tries for drinks with more than 3 ingredients were… well, not the best. I eventually got the hang of it, and successfully made a decent mojito (the secret was a decent muddler), but I knew I could use some help. Most bartending classes in this city are really f’in expensive. I’ve looked into them, I’ve thought about it… but I never did anything about it.

But then, I learned about Bookalokal from this post on DC Minute. I have really been into rum lately, so Tiki drinks have been my jam this summer. But I poked around a bit more and saw that Marshall also offered a home bartending class. Sold! I suggested some dates, we went back and forth through the Bookalokal concierge, and settled on a date about a month away. We paid up our $50 per person (which also covered a set of basic bar tools that you get to keep), and we were on our way to learning how to make delicious beverages.

 

I mostly took the class to learn exactly how to use the tools that I already owned. I know there’s a reason for stirring vs. shaking, a method for shaking, even a way to keep the Boston Shaker (that’s the type of shaker with two tumblers, rather than the one the the lid) sealed while you’re shaking. I was correct, there is a method, and Marshall taught it to us! I’ve also had trouble with muddling in the past (I know, ridiculous huh?) Well, it turns out that the flavor sacks in mint are on the outside of the leaf, so it doesn’t need to be muddled to pieces. Brilliant. We learned all about the tools that he was giving us, as well as other tools that might be useful. Strainers, muddlers, jiggers, stirring spoons, juicers, citrus tools, ice shavers, ice bags, etc.

With basic mixing and shaking skills came an awesome dose of cocktail history. Like the fact that the name “cocktail” was actually the name of a drink that included spirit, sugar, bitters, and water. What does that make you think of? An Old Fashioned! Well, the name Old Fashioned came from a time when cocktails were evolving, but in order to get an actual cocktail at a bar, it would have to be ordered as a “cocktail, the old fashioned way” Hence, Old Fashioned.

Once we had the lay of the land, the drink-making began! We started with a shaken drink, the Classic Daiquiri. None of that frozen mix business. Just rum, simple syrup, and lime juice in 3-2-1 ratios. Measure the ingredients into your shaker, starting with the least expensive, fill the shaker with ice, shake vigorously for a slow 10-count, and then strain into your glass (double-strain if you’d like as there are  tiny ice crystals in the drink if you don’t. I didn’t. I love ice), and enjoy. I had never actually had this beverage, but it was friggin’ fantastic. And so easy! I’ll definitely be making that one at home.

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Next up was the classic Martini, as it’s meant to be made, with gin and vermouth. I’ll admit, I’ve always been sort of afraid of vermouth, just because I’ve never liked the martini and had never bothered to try it on its own. Well, vermouth is actually very tasty! But it’s like wine, and it goes bad very quickly. So, if a bar doesn’t know what they’re doing- there’s a chance their vermouth is bad. I’m glad I’ve never bought a bottle of it. I didn’t know that and we probably never would have used it in time.

So, for the martini, we started with a 1-1 ratio of (I used sweet) vermouth to gin. Fill the mixing container with ice, and stir for a 20-count, strain, and garnish with lemon peel. I’m not usually one for drinking beverages so strong, but it was actually really excellent. I wish I had used more like 2/3rds vermouth and 1/3rd gin, but I still enjoyed my drink!

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For the third and final drink, Marshall showed off for us. He made us whatever we requested! Well, I originally wanted a Suffering Bastard, but he didn’t have any ginger beer. So, I just asked him to make me any Tiki drink of his choosing. He chose a classic Mai Tai for me. And it was incredible and it made me wish I had orgeat syrup at home so I could make my own.

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The lady requested an Old Fashioned. He changed it up a little bit by adding coffee bitters. It was also delicious and really made me want to increase our bitter selection.

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Speaking of bitters, he had an incredible collection of his own. It’s too bad they’re so pricey!

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The class was so fun, educational, and just a little bit different than the other sort of stuff we usually get into on weekends. I only wish our apt wasn’t so tiny so I could host a pizza-making class or something! So, I’m thinking the Tiki class next? Maybe Whiskey 101? How about Intro to Bitters?? I can’t decide!

 

 

 

 

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Vermilion (Old Town)

It seems fitting that my 100th post is both a Restaurant Week review and also a Neighborhood Restaurant Group spot. I can’t believe I’ve written that many posts! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Annnd, on to the post.

In an effort to get the best bang for our buck for Restaurant Week (RW), we decided that our parameter was that it had to be a place that we wouldn’t usually go because it was so expensive otherwise. After combing through participating restaurants, we landed on Vermilion in Old Town. The Obamas have been there, it’s a Neighborhood Restaurant Group spot, and the RW menu looked like a good value. Sold!

Our first impression of the space was that it was pretty excellent. We were early (because of course we were) but they seated us anyway. We were seated upstairs. I appreciated that so we got a little tour of both floors.

We started with beverages. The lady had the Final Ward (rye, chartreuse, maraschino & lemon) and I had the Plum Fizz (green hat gin, aperol, roasted plum & rosemary).

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Both drinks were excellent. I’m starting to finally develop a taste for whiskey, so I very much enjoyed her drink. I mean, I liked mine too! You can’t go wrong with Green Hat or stone fruit. Those are two of my favorite things.

 

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As an added, very nice touch- they brought out canapés with tomato, bacon, and micro greens. The tomato was perfectly ripe and it was a delightful couple of bites. That’s how you know you’re at a fancy place…

I started with the Chilled Corn Soup and she had the Sweet Gem Salad. My soup was presented beautifully. The bowl came empty with the corn and lime crema, and they poured the soup into the bowl at the table. Also a nice touch.

 

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The soup was great! I really enjoyed the lime crema a lot. I think I need to try my hand at making some chilled soups before the summer is over.

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Her salad was absolutely incredible for how simple it was. I mean I guess you can’t go wrong with goat cheese and avocado. I want to go back and order that again.

My salmon was cooked perfectly and I really loved the sauce on the side. I think it was a tomato/butter sauce. Um, brilliant. The roasted veggies/potatoes under the fish were tasty little morsels. The skin on the fish was nice and crispy, but I peeled it off and enjoyed without. It wasn’t really my jam.

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Her sirloin was great. She ordered it medium well, and it probably would have been better just medium/med rare, but it was still good. The kale was excellent and I enjoyed the barrel-aged soy sauce on the side.

 

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For dessert, the lady and I just split the two options and I went with the Fritters and she had the PBJ Terrine.

My fritters could have stood to be hotter. They tasted like maybe they sat for about 30 mins before they made it onto my plate. I suppose that’s to be expected during restaurant week. They still tasted great! I just wish they had been hot and ultra fresh. The selling point on this dessert was the key lime curd anyway. The cream cheese ice cream also tasty. I couldn’t really tell it was cream-cheese-flavored though.

 

The PBJ Terrine was REALLY rich and creamy and very yummy. The sorbet cut the sweetness perfectly. And the brittle on top was fantastic. I loved it.

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Overall, I’m extremely pleased that we chose Vermilion as our Restaurant Week spot. It’s definitely somewhere I’d go back and pay full price for a special occasion. NRG, you haven’t let me down yet!

  • Favorite thing I had: I think my very favorite thing was the sauce on on my plate for my fish.
  • Favorite thing she had: The gem salad. I can agree, it was fantastic!
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I want to go back for brunch. And the prices on lunch look pretty affordable too.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Well, it’s expensive. There’s no two ways about that. It’s definitely a special occasion spot. However, the bar was pretty crowded during happy hour, so we might have to check those specials out and see what all the buzz was about.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Killer ESP is just a block or two away.  You can get after dinner coffee. Or sorbetto or pie if you didn’t already have dessert.

Lots of Pets and Friends Weekend Round Up

Whew, do I feel like I didn’t sit still this weekend. Or since Wednesday, really. We’ve done tons of awesome things and have seen tons of friends, so I have no complaints. I’m ready for my Labor Day 5-day weekend now though… And I realized at the end of the weekend that I had taken pics of myself with more than one of my friends’ pets. This is my life.

Wednesday we did Vermilon for Restaurant Week. It was fantastic. That post will be up this week. Thursday we went over to SIL and BIL’s place in Falls Church and visited with Aunt, Uncle, and cousins in from out of town. SIL and BIL live in a basically new building with an awesome courtyard/patio area, badass grills, and a gas fireplace. I’ve decided to move in with them now.

Friday night, we grabbed a quick dinner at District Taco. Always delightful. I absolutely cannot wait until they open their Old Town location. I’m pretty sure I’ll just live there.

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After dinner, we headed to our first Bookalokal class, Home Bartending Basics w/ Marshall.

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It was fantastic. We learned a lot about mixing, stirring, and bartending history.  He also hooked us up with all the bar tools we need to get started. We already had most of them, and the lady and I got duplicates, sooo we are flush with bar tools. Anyone need bar tools? No, really. That post will also be up this week.

Saturday started with a little bit of dog-sitting and dog-selfie-ing. LOOK AT THIS CUTIE. This is Jack. Also, feel free to ignore my bed head. I had a lot of fun hanging out with this guy. His parents are lucky I didn’t commit some dognap.

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After that overdose of cute, I took a leisurely walk into Old Town to Killer ESP with my trainer/neighbor for tea and catch up time. The weather was perfect for the 2.5 mile walk. And I managed to resist eating pie while I was there.

When I got back, the lady and I swung by Pork Barrel BBQ  for some lunch and then spent about an hour sitting down hanging out with the cats. It was the only sitting I really did all of Saturday.

After that brief break, it was time for a cookout at a college friend’s house in celebration of another college friend being in from out of town. We stuck around there for a couple of hours catching up with other various alumnae. I really love that DC is the type of place where a bunch of my college friends have settled, and that the ones who didn’t, end up here for various events and visits on the regular.

We didn’t get to see the cookout through until the end, because we had plans with another college friend who was in from out of town! She and her lady had come up to visit with some of her lady’s friends and catch a Washington Spirit game. We went to a Spirit game last year and totally meant to get to more of them this season. We didn’t succeed but I still highly recommend the games. They’re affordable, the stadium is small, so there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the beer is super cheap. They do play up in Germantown, MD, but the drive is worth it.

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Sunday was a little bit less hectic. We started with a brunch at The Arsenal at Bluejacket w/ some of our favorite brunching partners, one of my Roanoke friends and her bf. Again, the Arsenal didn’t disappoint. I had the French Toast w/ peaches, creme fraiche, and bacon. It may have been the best french toast I’ve ever had. The beers I tried were good, but I wish they had had some sort of summery fruity beer.

Sunday evening, we had plans to visit with yet another college friend, her partner, and their new dog, Pickle! They brought Pickle home the day after we brought Teddy home. So, I basically fell in love with him via Instagram the week before we met him.

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Pickle wasn’t quite as good at the selfie as Jack. But these photos are hilarious.

This weekend really had us wondering why we decided on a 2nd cat rather than a dog. Whatever, we ordered some pizza from Lost Dog Cafe, had it delivered (Side note: Lost Dog is ALSO opening up an Old Town/Del Ray location. I love that my faves are coming to me. I can’t wait to be able to have Lost Dog delivered), and spent the evening drinking wine and hanging out with our friends and the pup. It was a perfect way to end our very busy, but very fun weekend.

Vaso’s Kitchen (North Old Town)

We discovered Vaso’s Kitchen very shortly after we moved to Alexandria 4 years ago. It’s only about 5 blocks from our apartment.   Like I mentioned in Monday’s post, Vaso’s reminds me so much of the restaurant that I worked at in college. It seemed sort of meant to be that this place was so close to our home.

When we decided to stay close to home on Friday, I wanted to find somewhere that we hadn’t been to in a while. Vaso’s was perfect. It’s probably been a year or so since our last visit. I’m not sure why we stayed away so long!

Upon first glance, you might think that you’re about to walk into a BBQ restaurant.  It’s located in the historic Dixie Pig building. I assume that the word “historic” means that they can’t tear down the sign, but I haven’t actually heard the story. I mean, why would you want to? It is attention grabbing! I’m pretty sure my first thought when we moved to the ‘hood was “Oh hey look, BBQ!” and then were just pleasantly surprised when it was actually Greek.

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But instead, you’re getting delightful Greek food! It was just a tad too warm to sit out on their patio, so we took a seat at a booth inside. We were there embarrassingly early, but it just meant we had our choice of seats!

We decide to skip starters, alcoholic bevs, etc and just went straight for the dinner. I had the Greek Platter w/ Gyro. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually ordered anything else there because why would I when this is so perfect? Gyro, tzatziki, pita, and feta (plus fries and tomatoes as a bonus). The gyro is obviously sliced from a spit and the tzatziki is great. When I’m having cravings for Greek food, this always hits the spot.

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The lady had the less Greek, but still tasty Chicken Parmesan. She wasn’t feeling well last week, so this was some perfect comfort food. The chicken was nice and juicy and the marinara sauce was great.

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Always delicious, friendly service, and cute space. Definitely worth a try if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

  • Favorite thing I had: The gyro, pita, and tzatziki were all tied in first place.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I still have yet to try their pizza, which is ridiculous. I need to get on that.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Next time I’m craving Greek and want to stay walking distance from home!
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Buzz and Rustico are just around the corner. We’ve stopped at Buzz after dinner many a time to get some pie, or Rustico if we just want a beer.

A Thing To Do in DC- Kayaking

The Potomac River, for all of the years I’ve worked in Georgetown, has been a nice escape from the windowless office life. I’ve worked in Georgetown for almost 6 years, but until a couple of weeks ago, I had never actually been on any sort of man-powered boat on the Potomac. I even once visited Jack’s Boathouse (Now Key Bridge Boathouse) for a company party that the lady’s company had when she also worked in the neighborhood, but we just ate burgers. There was no hitting the water.

Well, during a particularly hellish week of work post-vacation, I finally escaped the pavement, hopped into a kayak, and paddled my way to some relaxation in nature. Well, my first visit was a no-go. It was a windy day after a storm and the water was white capping. They would have let us take out kayaks (not paddle boards or canoes), but I hadn’t actually been in a kayak since sometime in high school so I figured that wasn’t the best way to reintroduce myself to the sport. So, I tried again later in the week and had more success.

It’s surprisingly easy! You just walk up, fill out a form that says you understand the rules, the dangers, give them the phone number of someone they can call if somehow you manage to get into trouble, they scan your ID, and send you down to the life jackets. You choose the one that smells least terrible, secure it, and head down to the dock. They ask you to grab a paddle, choose a kayak for you, and hold it while they instruct you how to get in. That’s it!

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And I found that even though it’s been a decade or more since I’ve done it, it didn’t take long to fall back into the rhythm. I paddled up a mostly calm river and felt myself relax as I became one with nature. Or something like that.

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I went again last week with a couple of co-workers. I thought about trying the paddle board, but neither of them were down, and I didn’t think I could keep up with them on the board while they were in kayaks. Another time! I’ve been discussing paddle boarding with other friends for a while. Gotta make that happen before the end of the season! Luckily for me, it’s really easy to get to any of the Boat House locations. The other 2 are Nats Stadium and National Harbor. Hmmm, sounds like an awesome idea for my staycation in just a couple of weeks!

 

Lake Anna + New Kitty Weekend Round Up

This weekend we escaped down to Lake Anna, VA for a 24 hour mini-vacation. The lady’s brother-in-law’s family has a house right on the lake and they invited us to join them this weekend. After having met BIL’s family during the wedding, I was looking forward to getting to spend some less-hectic time with them.

Friday night, we had some tentative plans to go out and about, but instead decided to stay (VERY) close to home and visit an old favorite, Vaso’s Kitchen. It’s a Greek restaurant that reminds me so much of the one that I worked at in college. And it’s only like 5 blocks from our apartment. That post will be up later this week.

We drove down to the lake early on Saturday morning. We had hoped to beat some of the traffic on 95, but were not so lucky. A trip that should have taken 1.5 hours took just over 2. Not too bad, I suppose.

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We met the lady’s sisters there and spent the morning on the dock  sunning ourselves, swimming, playing with the dogs, and waiting for everyone else to arrive.

The family trickled in slowly. Once most everyone was there, we all piled into the boat and went tubing! The kind where your tube is being pulled by the boat, rather than the leisurely drift. It was my first time doing any sort of boat-powered water sport. I was sort of nervous, but it ended up being a lot of fun! I didn’t drown and got minimal water up my nose! Success. I was (and still am) a little sore. Really gotta work on my shoulders and core a little bit!

 

After boat fun, we were treated to an awesome dinner by the in-law parents and spent the evening relaxing in the house. I meant to get back down to the dock after dark to catch a glimpse of the stars, but never made it. We were all in bed by like 9:30.

The next morning, I took my coffee down to the dock and enjoyed a few minutes of the absolute silence of nature in the morning. The water was calm and everything was fresh and dewy. Those few minutes were what made it feel most like vacation.

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I wandered back up to the house and thoroughly enjoyed a pancake breakfast provided again by in-law parents. Once everyone was awake, we again piled into the boat, this time for the wakeboarding/water skiing. I wasn’t feeling brave enough for that just yet. Although, after watching several people not die or be maimed, I think I’ll be willing to give it a shot next time. It was nice to get to hang out and ride around the lake on the boat.

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Once we got back to the house, we packed up our things and headed back toward home. I would have liked to stay to spend a little but more time with the family, but we had a new cat to finally bring home from the shelter! So we raced home, got everything set up, said hello to the current cat, and giddily drove down to the shelter. We had quite the time getting our new guy into the carrier and I have the scratches to prove it. But! We did and finally got him home. Now we’re just going through the arduous and patience-requiring process of acclimating everyone to a two-cat household. Let’s just hope it goes smoothly and everyone is eventually happy with the new situation.

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No one felt like cooking and we didn’t think it wise to leave the apt for too long to go out to eat on Sunday, so we just picked up sushi from Momo for dinner. Always a delicious idea.

So now, back to the grindstone! A super busy week ahead! Dinner at Vermilion for Restaurant Week, visiting with some family who will be in from out of in town, attending our first Bookalokal event:  Home Bartending Basics , and a weekend chocked full of events. It’s going to be awesome, but I’m already ready for a nap!

Slate Wine Bar (Glover Park)

Best boy friend, P, sent me a link to a deal for $40 prix fixe brunch with bottomless drinks for 2 at Slate Wine Bar recently. Knowing that the lady had Slate on the to-try list, we snatched up the deal. Since they serve brunch on Saturday and Sundays, we were able to fit in a visit the weekend that we left for vacation.

We were the first customers of the day and so we had our choice of tables. The service was very attentive and we had drinks quickly. Luckily, they were willing to let me split between bloody marys and mimosas for my bottomless drink option so I started with a bloody. I watched them pour it and there was A LOT of vodka in that drink. No complaints!

We had the choice between 3 starters, 5 entrees, and 2 desserts. For starters I ordered the donut holes and the lady ordered the caesar salad.

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The donuts were AMAZING. Light and flaky and puffy. And well, the salad was a salad.

For entrees, I had the chicken and waffles and the lady had the eggs benedict.

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The entrees weren’t anything particularly special. Solidly good, but not best-I’ve-ever-had territory. BUT, at this point, we were feeling our bottomless drinks so we were shoveling it in.

We split the dessert options and I had the tres leches while the lady had the brownie.

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I realized right after I ordered that I basically has 3 courses of dessert, so by the time dessert rolled around, I was pretty done with sweet stuff. However, both the desserts were excellent. Overall, it was good, and a pretty decent bottomless brunch deal. Just nothing special.

  • Favorite thing I had: It was all pretty decent. I think those donuts holes were the winner.
  • Favorite thing she had: The potatoes or the brownie.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: If I were going to go back for another prix fixe brunch, I’d probably order the omelette.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Ehhh, I’ll go back if someone else has the deal or someone plans something there. The dinner prices are a tad on the pricey side.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Well, if you want to keep day-drinking, there’s Arcuri, Bourbon, etc.