Tuesday, February 22, 2011


A. now lives in Mount Pleasant, but she left her heart in Bloomingdale, a leafy neighborhood near Howard University. Though the weather was not cooperating, I wanted to check out my friend's haunt, Big Bear Cafe, which is also lauded for its amazing lattes.

The cafe, on the corner of R and 1st street, NW, is the quintessential neighborhood coffee shop, complete with dancing-by-the-counter regulars, artwork on every available wall, staff that remembers your usual, and people deep in conversation nursing counter culture coffee or, thanks to a recently acquired license, a selection of funky beers. It takes a confident kitchen to have a single dinner option - Big Bear does sandwiches until 5 PM, but it's 8 PM closing time calls for a minimal dinner menu.

I got there a bit past 5.30 to find A. there, hard at work. Though the tables run small, there were plenty of people there with laptops. In the spirit of a true coffeehouse, the dim light and ambient music creates an atmosphere that lends itself more to chatting and people watching through its tall windows than anything else. A. had lured me there with the offer of chili and organic beer - two things that hit the spot on a frigid winter evening.

The chili - $8, including extra corn bread, is a lovely example of the possibilities of vegetarian food. Beans floating in soupy mix of spice (Chipotle) and acid (vinegar, and hints of lime), topped with a bit of sharp cheese and some cilantro. The corn bread is delicious, and I crumbled mine on the bowl for some extra texture. A. chose the porter and I had the Framboise, a Belgian raspberry beer that is refreshing and so aromatic it gave the chili a run for its money. At $9 it is the second most expensive on the menu, but the bottle is bigger than the $5 options. The chili was delicious but the size of the portion does not make for a hearty dinner.

While this is a coffeehouse that is very much embedded into its neighborhood, the quality of ingredients and the friendly service make it well worth the visit. For us interlopers, Big Bear Cafe is very easy to get to on the G2 bus, and on Sunday they are the anchor for the Bloomingdale Farmer's Market.

Big Bear Cafe on Urbanspoon
Big Bear Cafe
1700 1st St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back to Life

Monterrey, my hometown, is the capital of a landlocked state in Northeastern Mexico. And yet, whenever I make it back for work or play, I eat seafood almost every day.

Not really a ceviche, Vuelve a La Vida (Back to Life) is the sophisticated older sister of the shrimp cocktail. Topped with slivers of fresh avocado, this seafood cocktail is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat. There's nothing in DC quite like it, but my mission is to successfully replicate it before summer.

Recipe from Big Oven.Another good one, also in English And a third
Remember, cocktail sauce is a must!

Oh, and if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, try Chef Alfredo Villanueva's valentine to regional Cuisine, San Luisito, Costa Nueva and El Muelle de Al Lado for Pacific seafood, and La Catarina for a contemporary spin on amazing Mexican food. And if you are looking for a Burger Sherpa in the city, check out my friend JJ Garza-Onofre's fantastic blog.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celebrate February 5th--National Pisco Day!

Need a reason to venture out in the cold and rain and sleet? Looking for a February holiday unspoiled by Hallmark or memories of your ex?

Head out tonight, February 5 (or really, any cold winter's evening), to celebrate and warm up with an array of signature cocktails showcasing Pisco--Peru's national spirit--created by a dozen to DC's top mixologists. Most famously found in the foamy, potent, Pisco Sour; diverse, creative Pisco cocktails will be highlighted this weekend--and at several locations throughout the month of February. All around town, competitors will be highlighting a plethora of creative Pisco concoctions all created for Macchu Picchu Pisco's “100th Anniversary of the Encounter of Machu Picchu with Western World” Pisco competition, as judged by Peruvian Ambassador Luis Valdivieso and a panel of both Peruvian and local cocktail professionals.

Try overall winner Jason of Rasika's “Chicho Morado” (featuring Peruvian purple chicho liquor and a crunchy Quinoa topper) or one of our our personal favorites--Jordan of our U Street favorite Policy’s bacon-infused “Bacon and Eggs;” Clinton from Old Town Restaurant Eve’s dual chile-spiked “Tusan;” and Dean of new Midtown-hotspot Dirty Martini’s Pisco-Coca liquor fusion “Picchu Chasqui.” (We are big Agwa de Bolivia fans, here at DC Gastronome).

Also delicious and a fabulous deal—Ceiba’s Alex unveiled his dangerously tasty “Pisco Morado” which will be featured at five dollar Pisco happy hours every Wednesday. And, we’ll definitely be hitting Blue Duck Tavern for the brunch-ready, foamy basil-passion fruit Park Pisco and Mio for a pomegranate Pisco Sour Rojo to wash down one of their Friday night lechon feasts.

The rundown: try Pisco for the first time, or get to know it in a whole new way at:

Chef Geoff’s; yerba mate-infused Gaucho Pisco; created by Elli Benchimol
Majestic Café (Presentation Winner); South Asian fusion Punjabi Sour; created by Michael Saccone
Rasika (Overall Winner); Chicho Morado; created by Jason Strich
Mio; pomegranate delight Pisco Sour Rojo; created by Sarah Stafford
Dirty Martini; coca-herbal-citrusy Picchu Chasqui; created by Dean Feddaoui
Ceiba; chicho-chile-sour cherry Pisco Morado; created by Alex Batista
Restaurant Eve (Relevance Winner) (Old Town Alexandria); Meyer lemon-agave-chile infused Tusan; created by Clinton Terry
Blue Duck Tavern; basil-passion fruit infused Park Pisco; created by Robert-Rex Wallen
Imperio Inca (Taste Winner) (Norfolk, VA); a sweet potato infused Imperio Sour we will definitely be stopping in for on our next trip South; created by Carlos Espinoza
Woody’s Rum Bar (Baltimore, MD); basil-orange-agave Macchu Bingham; created by Bill Irvin
Policy; brunch-in-a-glass bacon washed Macchu Pisco, maple syrup, cayenne Bacon and Eggs; created by Jordan Davidowitz
Founding Farmers; grapefruit, chipotle, agave Inspiracion; created by Josh Tugjnyam

No matter where you choose to get your Pisco fix, we can guarantee you'll go home comfortably toasty, no matter the weather.