Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

Yakima

(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

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Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

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For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

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Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

El Chalan, DC

I quite enjoy Peruvian cuisine — they have great cocktails and seafood! Was headed to the Kennedy Center one night and found a place sort of near it to check out for that cuisine — El Chalan. It’s in the basement/lower level of a building and is fairly small, so it’s nice and comfortable.

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They had a good amount of options on the menu, which made it tough to decide. But, the first order of business was a pisco sour. So refreshing!

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For dinner, I ended up going with 2 smaller options —

Palta Con Palmito/ Slices of avocado and hearts of palm

Ceviche Mixto/ Fish,shrimp,and squid marinated in mixture of lemon juice and seasoning

My friend went for some stew —

Cabrito Norteno/ Goat stew cooked in beer, vinegar, onion, and spices, served w/ rice and beans

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The ceviche was delicious, I love when I can find it with squid. And the nice basic salad balanced it well.  My friend said the stew was just as it should be and good & hearty. I tried a bite as I’d never had goat. It was fine, nothing overly exciting me for, but glad I was able to try it. So, great food, would check this place out again.

Proof

There is a nice wine-oriented restaurant in DC, Proof. Had been there a few times and opted to check it out again after going to the theater to see Nutcracker for the first time.

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Started at the bar because my friends and I arrived before our reservation. We all enjoy wine, so we were inquiring quite a bit about several of the wines they offered. The bartenders didn’t particularly want to help us more than where the wines were from and the varietals. For a wine restaurant, it was surprising. We had to order it on a whim and hope it was good. It was fine, but nothing I’ll order again, or remember. I didn’t even remember to take a picture…

We sat down at the table and it was extremely dark. The picture above is a flashlight you can use to read the menu. It’s both a flashlight and magnifying glass. The print is very small on the menu. I have really good vision and was having problems. The waiter said that is the tone/ambiance they want to set — darkness, it’s a better mood.

Once we were able to read some of the menu, our not-so-helpful waiter (in addition to the start with the bartenders) came and explained some of the specials. We also let him know about dietary restrictions. My friend is allergic to shellfish and nuts, as well as being lactose intolerant like me.

We decided to get some side dishes as appetizers and went with:

-Brussels Sprouts, Kimchee Mayo & Vietnamese Dressing
-Fried Cauliflower with Lemon, Tahini, Garlic & Mint (didn’t get a picture since because of the nearly non-existent lighting, it was tough to get decent shots)

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After spending awhile looking over the entire menu we were finally able to choose what we wanted.

I opted for the Scallops a la Michel Richard: crispy brussels sprouts, apples, confit leeks, basil & vincotto. I asked if there was dairy in this and the waiter gasped and asked how could there not be and why would I make an alteration? I wasn’t sure and just needed it because of being lactose intolerant. He was flabbergasted that I didn’t know who Michel Richard was. Sorry. So, he said would check with the kitchen but didn’t think it would be possible to alter such a well known chef’s original recipe. Long story short, he said they would make and exception for me.

My friends ordered the Pekin Duck: käsespätzle, red cabbage, duck confit, horseradish, green apple, concord grape sauce. They made sure there was no dairy in there for her, and she was safe because there was also no fish on there, or no crazy fish ingredient in any of the sauces.

The other friend ordered the Sautéed Potato Gnocchi: butternut squash, cauliflower, beech mushroom, apple brown butter.

While we were waiting for the food, we asked for the sommelier. He came over and was a bit more helpful and gave some interesting comments about the restaurant and how it’s changed. He’d only been there a few months and once we started talking to him more he got much friendlier. The nicest service we had all night.  He did suggest another wine after taking into account our likes in wine.

The food was good. Overpriced, but at least decent in taste. The evening at least ended well when our waiter was kind enough to confirm my friend’s initial thoughts — Cal Ripken was sitting at the table behind us. My friends, who are huge baseball fans, got up after dinner to ask for his autograph to give to their grandma for Christmas. She’s a long time Orioles fan. Can’t go wrong with that.

Le Chat Noir

Have been in DC for many years and finally made it to Le Chat Noir.  I used to even live only about mile from it. It’s a French restaurant located between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown in NW.

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Went on a Saturday night.  Had reservations but it wasn’t too busy, the service was pretty slow, though. The menu has a good amount of selection, but of course I had to do some good picking because of being lactose intolerant.

Opted for a bottle of rose, for kicks, Le P’tit Rose. It was good, a bit sweet, a fun wine to try.

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While deciding on dinner, with the wine we enjoyed addictive bread.

Then, for the first course of dinner, I opted for a salad and my friend went for the Crèpe fourrée. Crèpe stuffed with crabmeat, bay scallops, mushrooms, Chablis cream sauce.  Apparently that was pretty darn good.

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Main course was a Bijoux de boeuf au poivre. Grilled beef tenderloin, grilled asparagus, gratin dauphinois, green peppercorn sauce (the asparagus is on the side).  It was perfectly cooked and melted in the mouth.

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I opted for the Saint Jacques à la Bretonne. Sea scallops, truffle risotto, cremini mushrooms, white wine béchamel & gruyere cheese gratin.  They made some nice substitutions on the dairy and grilled the scallops, put it on a bed of lentil ‘crust’ with a side of pickled veggies.  All very nice.

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Very happy I finally checked this place out!

Los Tios Grill, Del Ray

Hot weather equals cool food.  Checked out Los Tios Grill in Del Ray/Alexandria, VA (just outside of DC) recently.

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The first thought of cool when walking into a Mexican restaurant is a margarita.  There were a few of us at dinner so we figured why not get a pitcher.  This is probably the first place I’ve been to that doesn’t have pitchers of margaritas.  Ok.  Decided to get the large one, and large it was.  The picture doesn’t quite do the size justice.

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Of course had to order some guac.  It was very nicely presented as it is served in the avocado. Good taste, too.

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Now, when looking over the menu I was pretty disappointed.  It was hot out, so I wanted something cool.  And a staple of mine at Mexican restaurants is ceviche. It’s not on their menu.  I was trying to figure out what else to get.  Very fortunately the waiter came over and told us the specials.  One of them was ceviche.  The night was saved!  It was a combo of shrimp and whitefish.  It tasted a bit like the shrimp had been cooked a bit, which some restaurants tend to do for safety reasons.  Still nice to get the ceviche.

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All the others at the table ordered Tacos los Tios, which are beef or chicken tacos, served with rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guac and sour cream.

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Overall, good meal. The restaurant is pretty big, so easy enough to get a table.  Will check it out again, too, when it’s less sweltering hot and can sit outside.

 

DC Brau

Finally made it to a pretty well known local DC brewery, DC Brau.

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I knew it was somewhere in NE DC, but wasn’t sure where.  Finally as I was getting there I figured out it’s in one of the developing areas, right off 50, near the relatively new Costco.

Went on a Sunday, a bit after they opened so it was pretty quite.  Opted for a sampler so that I could try several of their brews.  Ended up with the first six on the list.  Of course there is a quite a bit of power to most of them.

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Info on the beer, straight from the DC Brau’s site:

Brau Pils was our newest summer seasonal alongside El Hefe Speaks, NOW YEAR-ROUND.

EL HEFE SPEAKS! is a traditionally brewed German-style Hefe. It is fermented around 65°F and hopped with German Tettnang hops. 11 IBUs and 5.3% ABV make this one extremely drinkable.

The Citizen is one of the original flagships brewed here at DC Brau and draws inspiration from the stronger ales made famous over the centuries by the Trappist and Abbey brewers of Belgium. Although the label denotes “Pale ale” this is mainly a reference to the color of the beer and not the bitterness of the beer as is commonly associated with American Pale Ales.

The Public™ Pale Ale is brewed in the classic American Pale Ale style. Assertive bitterness backed by C-60 and Vienna malts which lend notes of rich, yet semi-dry caramel. Then followed up with a nice white grapefruit and citrus aroma that begs for a follow up sip.

The Corruption™ IPA is DC Brau’s take on a Pacific Northwest IPA. Brewed with Pale 2 row, C-10, Honey and Victory malts. Exclusively hopped with 40 lbs of Columbus hops per brew to ring in at 80 IBU. “The Corruption” comes in at 6.5% ABV. This beer straddle’s the line between IPA and Imperial IPA and has a supportive malty backbone with an assertive hop presence that smacks your mouth with a dank, resinous bitterness followed by pleasant aroma’s of pine sap and burnt spruce.

The Hefe was great with the Citizen being another great one.  The Imperial IPA was a bit strong.  Overall, a great time and the staff was awesome to talk to.

The final one is a cask beer that changes all the time.  Very strong…

The Hefe and Citizen were probably my favorite.  Overall great time at the brewery, chatting with the staff and enjoying some local, cold beer.

 

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Denizens Brewing Co

Finally got around to checking out Denizen’s Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, MD recently.  They are just outside of Washington, DC and have been around for a couple years as the craft brewing industry continues to grow.

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They have both the indoor portion of the brewery/restaurant and a huge outdoor area, which is great on gorgeous night.

My friend and I each ordered different beer flights, but got a bit confused because they might have gotten turned around when handed to us, and given us a wrong tasting card, so not quite sure what I ended up enjoying.  But, they were all pretty good; lots of variety, from IPA, pils, ales and more.

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Enjoyed some good food, too. Outside they have a smaller menu.  I ended getting the grain burger; a grain blend, root veggies, aoili, kale slaw with some manchego.  It came highly recommended and dang, that was good!

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Totally worth visiting, especially with great weather.  And the outdoor patio is dog friendly if you have a 4-legged friend.

First taste of Ethiopian

My friend finally talked me into trying Ethiopian food recently.  I was told I would not have to worry because there is no dairy in this stuff.  So I checked it out.  We went to Addis Adaba in Silver Spring, MD, just outside of Washington, DC (sorry they don’t have a website).

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I had heard that with this cuisine you get to use the hands (only) so this was going to be pretty interesting.  I let my friend order because he’d been many times.  So the decision was Beyaynetu, a vegetarian platter combo of Meiser Wat, Yatekilt Wat, Kik Alicha, Tikil Gomen and Gomen.

The definition of these:

Meiser Wat: Spicy lentil stew with berbere and garlic
Yatekilt Wat: Green beans, carrots, potatoes, jalapenos with Ethiopian spices and herbs
Kik Alicha: Yellow split peas with garlic, peppers and onions
Tikil Gomen: Fresh cabbage with onions and carrots
Gomen: Collard greens cooked with onions and jalapenos

And this is all served with injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread, aka your fork.  After a quick google search, I have found that this is:

Injera (Amharic: ənǧära እንጀራ [ɨndʒəra]; sometimes transliterated as enjera; or “taita” Tigrinya: ጣይታ) is an East African sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

It was a super cool sponge texture, indeed, as darn tasty.

So dinner came out and pretty interesting.  Very colorful and quite good!  I am very glad my friend got me to go.  Will definitely have to enjoy this food again and explore other Ethiopian restaurants, as well.

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7 Locks Brewing

Microbreweries are growing and growing.  One of the latest is in Rockville, MD (just outside of DC), 7 Locks Brewing.

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They have a nice spread of beer on tap, which can of course always change.

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When I checked it out, my friend and I split of flight of 6 (4 oz each), which is only $8.  We also did this because they were sponsoring a 5K that we had to run not to long after we were going to enjoy the brew.  All were nice to try, not all were my (personal) favorites.

The brewery is great because they have lots of events, from runs to concerts to yoga, and more, all including beer.  Can’t go wrong with that.