Dining Notes

Michael Warner at DCanter at 545 8th Street SE. Photo: Andrew Lightman

Wine about it

DCanter, Barracks Row’s eagerly awaited wine boutique, quietly opened July 18 at 545 Eighth St. SE. And it’s a beauty. Operated by Capitol Hill residents Michael and Michele Warner, DCanter showcases small production vintages and well-known favorites, as well as wines from less known places like Greece, Spain, Portugal (including an unusual rose vinho verde), South Africa and—New Mexico. Another surprise was a Virginia Pinotage made by a South African winemaker. The Warners were “bitten by the wine bug” in college; Michelle studied in Tuscany, while Michael traveled to Germany. Craft beers—many local—encompass Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, Port City Brewing (Alexandria), and DC Brau. 

The shop’s stone flooring resembles wood, and wine decanter-light fixtures frame the entrance. Of course the walls and door frame are painted purple. The adjoining tasting/classroom, showcases “bottled art,” meaning high end wines. A sparking purple chandelier—designed to evoke grape clusters-- dominates the space, along with a faux granite bar. You’ll find DCanter, formerly Backstage Theatrical Supply Store, which has moved to Virginia. DCanter hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 6 on Sunday. Closed Monday. Call 202-817-3803 or www.dcanterwines.com.

Paris on the Avenue

The debut of Bearnaise, Spike and (sister) Micheline Mendelsohn’s latest enterprise located at 315 Pennsylvania Ave. SE--was supposed to be a dry run. But it turned wet, very wet. The mid-summer downpour did not dampen the spirits of journalists and other foodies who sampled executive chef Brad Pace’s simple but elegant bistro fare.

The Parisian décor was created by Kim Haxton and Pappas Design Studio. Photographic collages depict French icons Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg. Since the kitchen was not fully up and running, Pace’s menu was abbreviated. We began with vichyssoise, the wonderfully retro cold potato/leek soup, and a lightly dressed house salad. Our entrée was steak “maison,” a flatiron cut with pommes frites and spicy Bearnaise and Bordelaise dips.

Sides: tartiflette (gratineed potatoes laced with bacon and Reblochen cheese); Brussels sprouts; roasted portabello mushrooms and roasted bone marrow. Tarragon reigns here; the pungent herb flavors the signature Béarnaise sauce which appears in several dishes.

We shared a decadent white and dark chocolate mousse. For opening night, only red and white very good French house wines were poured. Now, diners may choose from a comprehensive wine list and trendy cocktails. 

Bearnaise is a “steak-frites” bistro which emphasizes beef. But we would welcome roast chicken and perhaps a fish? Located at 315 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Bearnaise is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 pm. Closed Sunday. For reservations, call 202-450-4800. 

If you know sushi…

Capitol Hill welcomes Sushi Capitol, 325 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Crafted by Master Sushi Chef Minoru Ogawa, the lineup includes California and dragon rolls, unagi, yellow tail tuna, combo lunches with good miso soup—plus Japanese” Kinki tuna and Tsubu shellfish. The smartly appointed space (formerly Acacia Gourmet) has about 8 tables, plus seating at the glossy black bar, where Ogawa works his magic. Sushi Capitol is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., an alcohol license is in the works. Call 202 627-0325 or www.sushicapitol.com.

Market watch

At Indigo, the popular outdoor Indian food stand at Eastern Market (North Carolina SE), tantalizing aromas waft every Saturday, as patrons queue up for chicken tikka tucked in whole wheat roti with cilantro sauce, spicy fish-and-rice, veggie options. Now, lucky for NoMa Indian food fans, Indigo is expanding. Look for its offshoot at 243 K St. NE. 

More market watch

At the Fresh Tuesdays market outside Eastern Market, we discovered something different: Merguez goat sausage. Selling at $13 per pound, the frozen links are available at the Peachy Family Dairy stand. The farm also churns out delicious goat cheeses and goat milk gelato. Hours are Tuesdays from 3 to 7 p.m., plus Saturdays from 8 to 5.  

Just ducky

En route to a pre-theater lunch at Station 4 restaurant, Peter and I cut through the Southwest Duck Pond at Sixth and I streets SW. The tranquil oasis is located across from our Waterside fitness club and the Arena Stage, where we often attend performances. Next to the pond, packed with swimming waterfowl, we discovered The Little Farm Stand, which operates Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Seasonal produce—such as cherries, squash and tomatoes--is farm-to-table, grown by Lori O’Rea of Middleburg. Look for the little stand weekly until Thanksgiving. For more information visit www.southwestduckpond.com.

Update

The rehab of the Boilermaker Shops, the historic Navy Yard building at 300 Tingey Street, SE. is progressing. The ground floor will house retail, including restaurants. Look for Bluejacket Restaurant and Brewery, created by Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Beer barrels have already been delivered, a good sign. Also on the drawing boards (or beyond) are Buzz Bakery, Willie's Brew and Que, and Nando's Peri-Peri flame grilled chicken.

Ben’s Chili Bowl on H

For more than a year, fans have been anticipating Ben’s Chili Bowl’s expansion to the Atlas District. Looks like it will happen early next year. Proprietors Nizam and Kamal Ali, sons of the late founder Ben Ali, have secured construction permits to begin renovating the two-story building. Ben’s offshoot will seat 191 with a total occupancy of 272. Downstairs, customers will enjoy Ben’s famous half smokes and chili-drenched fries.  Upstairs, said co-owner Nizam, will be a Ben’s Next Door concept, dispensing healthy American options, drinks, plus a rooftop bar. There’s also a Ben’s outpost at Nationals Park. 

Sona Creamery and Wine Bar

Sona Creamery and Wine Bar is coming to 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (at Seventh), displacing Sprint and MotoPhoto, which is moving (we don’t know where). Operated by Conan and Genevieve O’Sullivan, the creamery/wine bar is set to open around November. Stay tuned. 

Fresh from the farm 

Union Market, the dressy reincarnation of the old Florida market in Northeast, has unveiled FRESHFARM at Union Market, a producer-only farmers market.  Every Sunday until October 27, more than 10 local farmers and other artisanal producers sell fresh produce and other goods. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You’ll find it outside Union Market at 1309 Fifth St. NE (at Neal Place). FRESHFARM operates 11 producers-only markets throughout the Washington area.


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