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Urban Winery: Taste, Learn, Create

7 Apr

Rachel and I have lived in Silver Spring for about three years now and arguably one of our favorite spots since we moved to the neighborhood is Urban Winery.  It’s the first-ever urban winery in the Washington metropolitan area and is also the closest from our nation’s capital.

Urban Winery

Founded by Georgia and Damon Callis, Urban Winery doesn’t actually have a vineyard but that allows them the freedom to produce wine with grapes sourced from all over the country. The opposite can be said about everything else found at Urban Winery – from to the meats to the local craft beers to even the wood Damon used to build the furniture is all sourced from Maryland. We highly recommend the Silver Spring White and the Winemaker’s Helpers, the latter named after the couple’s children.

Georgia and Damon Callis

Owners and founders Georgia and Damon Callis

The mantra of Urban Winery is “Taste, Learn, Create”.

Taste: The tasting room offers wine lovers an extensive list of wines that are produced in-house, in the state of Maryland, as well as national and international bottles.

Charcuterie Charcuterie Greek dolmades

Greek meatballsAtlantic smoked salmonSmall plates

Furthermore, they recently introduced a full mezze menu that also includes charcuterie and some delicious desserts (be sure to order the s’mores skillet!). And while one typically associates fondue with The Melting Pot, Urban Winery one-ups the chain with its own chocolate and cheese fondue offerings that will have you leaving Silver Spring very, very full.

Dessert fondue

Learn:  Urban Winery offers several classes in its barrel room as well as guided tours of their winery operations.  They host about two classes per month that include a trio of wine samples as well as small bite pairings.

Urban Winery

Create: Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Urban Winery is that you can create your own private labeled case of wine! Divided into two sessions, aspiring winemakers will be able to bring home 24 to 30 bottles once the winemaking is complete. Whether it’s for a birthday party or a corporate function, Urban Winery gives guests the ability to bring home their own pinot or malbec, complete with customized labels!

Winemaking

The Urban Winery is the epitome of a locally owned business that not only produces some terrific wine but is also a warm and inviting space that is serving up some delicious food to boot. Considering how many times we’ve been based on past dates and happy hours, we can’t recommend it enough.

Urban Winery promo

Oh, and be sure to use the hashtag #TasteLearnCreate on your next visit – you’ll get 10% off your bill!

The Urban Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First Look: Jack Rose Dining Saloon

3 Jun

While word is out that Jack Rose will officially open its roof deck this weekend, we were lucky enough to check out this gorgeous space last Saturday night.

We had heard a lot of buzz about this new DC behemoth, and couldn’t wait to see if it lived up to the hype. Unfortunately the main bar area wasn’t open when we visited, and won’t be until June 14th according to Eater. No matter, we walked right upstairs and were very impressed by what we saw.

Rooftop Terrace

The bar itself actually consists of five separate bars, include a main floor, a roof deck with a main bar, a side deck bar, a beer basement, and an executive tasting room. Phew! Color us impressed the minute we walked in.

Although the main room was still under construction, we peeked in from the window and couldn’t get over how long the bar itself was, 52 feet to be exact. There will be 20 taps alone there, along with rare casks and imports in the den downstairs, with shared taps upstairs in addition to cans. Essentially a beer lover’s heaven.

Main Bar - Under Construction

View of the main bar, still under construction

But this place is really catering to those who love Scotch: there will be over 1,000 types of Scotch and bourbon, not to mention an extensive cocktail list, mainly for the tiki-type bar outside. Yep, this place is paradise for drink lovers of all kinds, they don’t discriminate!

Right away we were impressed with the layout of the open-air terrace. While you can see the Washington Monument off into the distance from the top of Jack Rose, the decor made you feel like you were somewhere in New York or LA and not blocks away from the rambunctiousness of 18th Street.

Rooftop Bar and Pit BBQ

There’s a long bar against the wall, but plenty of space for standing around and some tables as well. A nice touch is the pit barbecue area, where you can order sandwiches and other dishes. Brett ordered the pit beef on Ciabatta bread while I ordered the grilled vegetable sandwich.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

Both were served with a type of purple slaw on the side. I really liked my sandwich, which came with goat cheese, grilled eggplant, red peppers, and spinach. The veggies held up well against the crunch of the bread, and the creamy cheese went well with the char of the grilled veggies. Brett enjoyed his sandwich as well, but his only complaint was that the drippings from the beef made the bread a little too soggy resulting in a little messiness.

We also each ordered a Bell’s Oberon, perfect for an early summer night. I was tempted to try some of the cocktails listed, but thought I would save them for another time. After we ate, we walked around the outdoor area to check out the side bar, which wasn’t yet open, and the inside room, where there was a party already going on.

Memorial Day BBQ MenuPit Beef BBQ SandwichOpen-air terrace

We can already envision this place being packed on the weekends, and lamented the place wasn’t fully open in time for Brett’s birthday, since it would have been perfect.

Obviously we don’t have a complete picture of Jack Rose since it wasn’t officially open or ready yet, but all we can say is that DC is in for a treat and we can’t wait to make a return visit.

Burgers and Beers at Bourbon

12 Apr

Kentucky Breakfast StoutAfter an arduous search throughout many of the District’s bars and beer stores, I was tipped that Bourbon had Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout in stock. We set off for the Glover Park establishment to finally fulfill my personal quest of this sought-after brew.

Rachel and I have been to Bourbon several times, both in Glover Park as well as its Adams Morgan location (where they offer a solid brunch), but we have never had dinner at either of their restaurants. We decided to make an evening out of it. I mean, if we’re going all this way just to try a beer, we might as well enjoy it over a meal, right?

We made our way upstairs, but alas, all the tables were occupied at the time. Bourbon is like ChurchKey where diners seat themselves whenever a table opens up as there is no host service. No matter as I immediately went to the bar and ordered my very first bottle of KBS. While priced at a steep $9, it was worth every drop.

While the bartender just served me the bottle, I asked for a pint glass to pour it in as I wanted to enjoy the variety of aromas captured inside in addition to observing how thick and jet-black this beer actually was. Aged in oak bourbon barrels for over a year, the bourbon flavor wasn’t as overpowering as I thought it would be. Add in the hints of chocolate and coffee and I can see what all the hype is about, and I’m not even a huge fan of stouts. Even Rachel enjoyed it, and she hates bourbon!

Blackened tuna steak sandwich

Just as we ordered our drinks, Rachel was able to secure a table in the back. As for the food, I ordered a blackened tuna steak sandwich. Topped with avocado, baby spinach, and dill aioli, it was a generous portion of fish. It wasn’t anything special, but for a place that emphasizes spirits over entrees, as well as the $11 price tag, I wasn’t complaining. The side of house made sweet potato chips helped matters as well.

Rachel ordered the bison burger, something she never had before, and had always been hesitant to try ever since she saw buffalo roaming in Yellowstone on a trip years ago. However, she decided to get past that and took her first-ever bite of bison, and it was delicious. She heard bison is leaner than regular burgers, and was surprised by the thickness as well as the juiciness of the sandwich. It was topped with Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms and, while messy, hit the spot. The burger came with a side of bourbon BBQ baked beans that were so good that her only complaint was the size of the small ramekin they were served in.

After our waiter read off a list of desserts, we simply could not refuse and had to order the homemade Chipwich. It turned out to be a worthwhile decision. Filled with rich vanilla ice cream and sandwiched between two warm chocolate chip cookies, we asked our friend Brian to help finish it off as were all but full from its deliciousness.

Chipwich

The great thing about Bourbon is its extensive beer selection as we had two more of our friends who lived nearby join us for some drinks. It’s a great neighborhood bar that’s right off of Wisconsin Avenue should you be looking for some quality micro brews as well as some solid bar fare. I’m already looking forward to another Chipwich myself.

Bourbon on Urbanspoon

March Madness at Redline Gastrolounge

28 Mar

‘Tis the season for games, games, and more games. My friends and I decided to meet up for dinner and drinks last week, and what better place to watch some March Madness games than at the new Redline Gastrolounge right across from the Verizon Center. My friends Alicia and Matthew got there early and we were able to secure a table after waiting a bit at the bar.

Sadly, we did not get one of the coveted booths with table top beer taps. We were staring at the nearby tables in jealousy, as the idea of having the ability to pour as much beer as you wanted without having to wait for a server was very appealing, but also dangerous. We couldn’t tell if you had the option of switching the taps as we would have preferred Dogfish over Bud Light, but it was definitely a cool idea.

Pita Tuna Sandwich

With our drafts glasses in hand, we ordered our food and took took in the sensory overload of games and TVs all around us. I decided to get the pita tuna sandwich, with grilled Ahi tuna, toasted sesame seeds, avocado, and cucumber sauce. I asked if they had anything other than tater tots or fries, and the vegetable option turned out to be what looked like a bowl of fajita veggies.

The sandwich itself was huge, and although it was somewhat messy, it had a great combination of rare tuna with the spicy sauce and creamy avocado. The pita was more sandwich-like than a pita pocket, so it fell apart quite a bit, but it wasn’t too heavy or overpowering. The vegetables were okay for what they were, but I should have just stuck with the tots.

Pizza with pesto sauce, cheese, and tomatoes

Alicia got a make-your-own pizza with pesto sauce, cheese, and tomatoes, and while I didn’t try any, it looked like a respectable size for a personal pizza. Matthew ordered the pulled pork sandwich and I don’t think he had any complaints, although it looked quite small compared to my giant pita that took up almost the whole plate.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about Redline given the mixed reviews. However, considering we visited during one of the busiest sports watching periods of the year, our food arrived promptly and it was a fun, if not incredibly loud, atmosphere for checking out games with friends. Just don’t expect to hear too much of each other’s conversations!

Redline is located at 707 G St. NW in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Redline Gastropub on Urbanspoon

American Tap Room at Reston Town Center

31 Jan

After watching our friend referee Herndon High School’s basketball game, we grabbed some dinner at American Tap Room in nearby Reston. While Rachel has been to their Bethesda location for lunch before, this was my first-ever foray into the ATR brand.

We already had a reservation, so despite the busy Friday night crowd, we had no problems securing a table.

Crab Cakes

One of the gimmicks American Tap Room incorporates is electronically illuminated menus.

Now, these might be a great idea in theory, but when the house lights are already dim, my retinas were basically screaming in pain. Sure, I may sound like an 80 year old who was three hours late to the early bird special, but seriously, these menus were BRIGHT.

Maryland Crab SoupGiven the name of the restaurant, the drink list at American Tap Room did not disappoint. Their draft selection leaves a little to be desired, but as for bottles, I was impressed. And while they were out of Abita Amber, they at least had my beloved Turbodog in stock. Non-Montgomery County prices were a plus, too.

As for the food, well, it was underwhelming to say the least.

I wasn’t too hungry, so I opted for a turkey burger. Judging by the menu’s description, it sounded a lot more appetizing on paper than it did on the plate. Then again, I don’t typically order turkey burgers to begin with, but there was nothing listed that really stood out to me, so turkey burger it was.

It turned out to be very bland and tasted like it was cooked on a griddle instead of a grill given that I felt like I was chewing on some congealed fat and grease with each bite. I mean, we’ve cooked Trader Joe’s chili-lime chicken burgers at home that were much better than this.

American Tap Room's Illuminated MenuRachel ordered the single crab cake dinner and was a little surprised when her dish arrived with two crab cakes sitting on the plate. Now, she’s not one to complain about more crab cakes, but she certainly didn’t want to pay for two when she had only ordered one.

When she told the waiter the error, he acted like she had asked for two and wasn’t very apologetic. He didn’t bother bringing a new dish with just one, and said that he would just take the difference off the bill. That was fine (can’t beat a bonus crab cake, I suppose) but she should have received what she asked for, and there would not have been a problem in the first place.

Rachel and I came to the conclusion that this would be a great place for happy hour and to get some drinks with some friends, but that would be the extent of our visit. The food was very average, and if anything, I would just order some appetizers next time around.

American Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Another Wonderful Evening at ChurchKey

5 Jan

Over the last year or so, ChurchKey has quickly become our favorite go-to bar in DC. Not only do we love the extensive and creative beer selection, but the bar fare cannot be beat. We already wrote about its sister establishment, Birch & Barley, so this review focuses on the upstairs and ever popular (and crowded) bar.

North Carolina pulled pork BBQ flatbreadWe decided to meet my good friend from high school and her husband at the Logan Circle establishment since they have never been before, and in our opinion, everyone must come to ChurchKey at least once.

We arrived a little after 7 on a Thursday night, so needless to say, it was difficult finding a table at first. We didn’t mind since we had no place to be the next day, so we were able to find a spot near one corner of the bar to get drinks and chat while eyeing tables.

It wasn’t too difficult to order drinks, just a little more pressure when trying to decide from the long list of options when you have to order quickly. I quickly found my drink of choice with the Edmund Fitzgerald from the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

After awhile, I glanced over to one of the tables to see what I thought was a man paying for his check, but no such luck. As I was walking away, I saw the table next to them and sensed that they were leaving. I quickly asked if we could take the table, and less than a minute later, we had our spot!

One of the many reasons it is so hard to find a table at ChurchKey is, once you do score one, you’re unlikely to leave it anytime soon.

Birch & Barley bread plate

Once we were settled, we started making our food selections. We decided to share a few plates since everything looked great. Our friends hadn’t been before, so everything looked good to them, and while we have had the food here several times, there was nothing we wouldn’t try again.

To start, we ordered the disco fries, Arancini, the Birch & Barley bread plate, and, of course, the tots. Yes, it was a lot of fried slash potato things, but admit it, ChurchKey does fried food very well.

Disco fries, Arancini, and totsEverything was, as it has been in the past, delicious. Our only complaint was that the cheese found atop the disco fries was more in chunks rather than fully melted, but that might be because we got the sausage gravy (which was delectable) on the side.

The risotto balls were the perfect balance of creamy and crunchy, and went well with the acorn squash sauce. The bread plate is one of the reasons alone to go for dinner at Birch & Barley since you receive a complimentary version for twice the size. And the tots, well, good as always.

After some digesting, and more beers, naturally, we went for round two and got the North Carolina pulled pork BBQ flatbread as well as the grilled cheese with tomato soup dip. The flatbread was a nice combination with the meat and barbecue sauce with a tangy slaw. The meat was a little dry but the overall flavors went well together.

Grilled CheeseThe grilled cheese, on the other hand, was a little strange. Instead of the bread being grilled, it was instead made with a very dry ciabata bread with a cheese that didn’t quite mesh. It tasted better when dipped in the soup, but the “soup” was served in a very small ramekin, and was barely enough for half the sandwich. It was the only real miss of the night, but five out of six isn’t bad.

Suffice to say, it was yet another successful night at ChurchKey. We would have ordered dessert but, alas, we were stuffed. It’s too bad since I know how good the desserts at ChurchKey/Birch & Barley are. Ah well, there’s always next time.

Any chance we can get an outpost in Bethesda? I know…wishful thinking.

Churchkey on Urbanspoon