Friday, May 4, 2007

Happy Hour and Casa Oaxaca

I am often interested in the events put on by the French Wine Society, and have been to a few, but last night's happy hour was the first of its kind that I have seen and I hope they decide to do them more often. The casual format and inexpensive price make such events approachable for more folks, and there are a multitude of venues to choose from for this sort of get together. Happy hour was at Leftbank in Adams Morgan and it cost $5 to get in for non-members (free for members), and for this wine tastings were free and glasses were $3. Quite a deal in my opinion. We started with a Fondreche Rose which was dry and really a perfect first drink of the evening. It warms your mouth up for more. I tried all of the whites - a La Hitaire "Hors Saison" which is a blend of 85 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 15 percent Semillon, a Rene Mure Pinot Blanc and a Calande Chardonnay which is fermented 70 percent in tank and 30 percent in oak, of which 1/3 are new barrels. The Hors Saison was nice and crisp but not overly dry or acidic. The Rene Mure was actually my second favorite wine of the evening. It was absolutely well-balanced and light and very refreshing. I am not much of a Chardonnay fan and this one didn't really do it for me. Next was a Domaine de Gournier Merlot which was ok but a little too tannic for my palate. Finally I finished up with a Mas de Guiot blend of 40 percent Grenache and 60 percent Syrah, and this was really fantastic. Very approachable and fruity and an absolutely gorgeous shade of purplish burgundy as well. All of the wines were from Robert Kacher selections, a sure bet for nice vino. The crowd was quite amiable and friendly, and there were lots of fluent French speakers as well as folks like me who are conversant when it comes to "food French" but otherwise not fluent at all.

After the happy hour I stopped by a new place down 18th Street in Adams Morgan, Casa Oaxaca. I love Oaxacan cuisine because unlike traditional Tex/Mex it is relatively light and uses moles and interesting spices to enhance flavor rather than a ton of cheese and other greasy items. The venue has an upstairs dining level as well as a downstairs level with a long bar and a few tables as well. The lighting is dim and the colors of earthen yellows and browns on the walls and in the furniture permeate the atmosphere. There are several large, leafy plants that enhance the casual and festive vibe of the place. I wasn't too hungry so I had a glass of Cabernet (they only have Cabernet and Merlot right now as far as red wine goes) and their Ensalata with chicken. The salad was fresh with a variety of greens and nicely sauteed chicken, sliced tomatoes, cucumber wedges, an interesting variety of Mexican root vegetable of some kind and a light and citrusy vinaigrette. I also enjoyed the sliced jicama sprinkled with what tastes like a combination of smoked paprika and cinnamon and served with a slice of lime that greets you when you sit down at a table. The restaurant offers 10 or so varieties of tequila and has numerous mixed drink options. There are several varieties of Oaxacan tacos, some with meats such as pork and beef as well as a vegetarian option, and most tempting probably is Chicken Tres Moles which is chicken breast grilled and served with a trio of mole sauces. I can't wait to go back and try it.

French Wine Society

Casa Oaxaca
2106 18th Street in NW DC

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