DC’s Emporiyum at Union Market’s Dock 5

This past weekend, foodie mecca The Emporiyum returned to Union Market’s Dock 5, and there were plenty of delicious dishes and drinks to try!

Having attended the event in Baltimore a few years ago, my husband and I were excited to see the many food and beverage vendors and the Dock 5 layout. The space was a combo of indoor and outdoor vendors, with a large tent set up outside Dock 5.

First things first: a drink was in order. One Eight Distilling was happy to oblige. They had a short cocktail menu featuring their gins. I tried the Figetta Bout It, made with District Made Barrel-Rested Gin and a bunch of fall flavors.

Next on the agenda: fresh biscuits from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. We visited this classic southern biscuit bakery in the Charleston City Market while on vacation this summer and wanted to enjoy their delicious biscuits again. I got a biscuit with cinnamon sugar butter and my husband got his with spicy pimento cheese.

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Next we wanted to try the Instagram-worthy Chick’nCone, but when we realized the line that snaked through the venue was not moving, we gave up and decided to explore the other vendors. I’m so glad we did, because we tried samples of Hiatus Cheesecake’s delectable cheesecakes and were instant fans. Their Corn and Berries cheesecake was so good, with a cornmeal base, dense creamy cheesecake and fresh berry topping.

We got to try so many delicious foods and drinks, from Old Fashioned’s made with Buffalo Bergen mixers and Wild Turkey Longbranch bourbon to Indian dishes, Ketel One’s new line of botanical flavored vodkas, all-natural energy drinks, Chincoteague Island-made beer and butters, mustards and honeys made with truffles.

The event was a great chance to check out some really interesting Mid-Atlantic specialty food vendors, and to bring home some delicious treats, like Call Your Mother Deli‘s bagels and The Dough Jar‘s edible cookie dough. We had a great time exploring the market and trying all the different products.

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Highlights from a weekend trip to New York City

New York City is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s like an onion with so many layers of history to peel. Every time I visit, I discover something new.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I got to take a weekend trip to NYC for a concert at Irving Plaza. We stayed at our favorite “secret” hotel, the Comfort Inn Lower East Side. This inexpensive hotel on the edge of Chinatown has a parking garage at the back of the block that you can reserve via the BestParking app and get great weekend rates. There’s free wifi and a free continental breakfast, and it’s easy to get in and out of Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge.

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We found a tiny seafood bar just down the street from the venue in the East Village, Bait & Hook, that had delicious fried oysters. We grabbed a couple of picklebacks and some Guinness before we headed back to the hotel.

We spent Saturday exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, particularly the Egyptian and European art wings.

While heading back to the subway, we found a cute brewpub in Hell’s Kitchen for lunch. NY Beer Company had paninis, burgers and other sandwiches, pizza and a huge selection of beers, including a bunch of local New York options.

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My last (and favorite) discovery was the most charming little bar right down the street from our hotel. Les Enfants de Boheme is a French bar and restaurant with a full cocktail menu, cheese and charcuterie boards, mussels and various entrees. The Saturday night we visited, NYC was hit by a snowstorm, so we hung out at the bar, soaked up the atmosphere and watched the snow fall. It was New York magical.

My Favorite Old-Fashioned

Some classic cocktail enthusiasts may not know this, but the Old Fashioned was originally created as a gin cocktail. In 1862, renowned bartender Jerry Thomas published his “Bartenders’ Guide.” In it, he described the Old Fashioned Holland Gin cocktail as containing sugar, water, ice, Angostura bitters, a small piece of lemon peel and a jigger of Holland gin. A few years later in 1880, Louisville bartender James E. Pepper made his version of the drink, exchanging the gin for bourbon. The rest was history.

Bartenders around the world have created their own versions of this classic drink, substituting various types of liquors and garnishes, but the bones of the Old Fashioned remain the same: sugar or syrup, water, ice, bitters, citrus and liquor.

Here’s how I make my favorite:  Rub a slice of orange peel around the rim of a highball glass, then drop it in the glass. Add 1/2 oz. of Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar simple syrup and a splash of water. Muddle and mix. Add a large ice cube. Add 1 1/2 to 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey. Drop in a Filthy Foods Red or Black Cherry and a barspoon of cherry juice and stir. Voila!

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Louisville Weekend Road Trip

With the kids at their grandparents’ house last weekend, my husband and I decided to take a road trip to Louisville, Kentucky to taste some bourbon and take in a baseball game (and a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum).

A 7 1/2-hour drive from Richmond, Louisville lies on the Kentucky river, which separates Kentucky from Indiana. Though you can follow I-64 all the way there, it isn’t quite a straight shot as the interstate winds through the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. For bourbon lovers, you could make an easy stop at the Smooth Ambler distillery in Maxwelton, WV on the way there or back.

The Louisville area is home to many distilleries, from small, craft distillers like Willett, Town Branch and new distiller, Jeptha Creed to huge worldwide brands like Wild Turkey and Jim Beam. One tip to note: the distilleries in this region of Kentucky can be pretty spread out. If you’re pre-reserving tours, be sure to budget enough time into your schedule for the drives between sites.

On this trip, we visited Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort on our way to Louisville. About an hour outside Louisville, the distillery is situated on the banks of the Kentucky river on the site of an ancient “buffalo trace,” a trampled-down region that resulted from the mass migration of millions of buffalo centuries ago. Buffalo Trace produces some of the most sought-after bourbons in the world, including Pappy Van Winkle, Elmer T. Lee, E.H. Taylor and Blanton’s.

The tour features a visit into one of the aging warehouses, and an educational video on the history and distilling process of Buffalo Trace, then culminates with a trip to the small building housing the bottling line. On the day of our visit, Blanton’s was making its way through the bottling line.

The post-tour tasting offered samples of Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare bourbons, Wheatley Vodka, White Dog Corn Whiskey and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream, plus Dr. Mcgillicuddy’s root beer for those who were under 21. Off the tasting room, a locked vault housed some of the rarest past releases, including Pappy Van Winkle 25 Year bourbon and decades-old Weller and Old Taylor bottles.

Later that evening, after checking into our super-convenient, downtown Louisville hotel (the Hampton Inn – Louisville Downtown, which is within walking distance to most major downtown sites and also has a free local shuttle), we ventured back out into the countryside to visit Jeptha Creed Distillery, a relatively new local distillery that makes flavored moonshines and vodkas, as well as a very limited-release bourbon.  On Friday nights, the distillery puts on “Jammin’ at Jeptha,” a concert series featuring local bands.  One or more food trucks sell meals and snacks, and the distillery serves up craft cocktails. Local brews are also available, such as Country Boy Brewing beers.

Day one of our Louisville trip was full of fun and bourbon. We were excited for more on Saturday!

Making fake-ass Dole Whips with Monkey Rum

So my husband and I are, to put it mildly, OBSESSED with California. To the point that we’re thinking about taking a family trip to Disneyland next year and watching tons of YouTube videos about Disneyland and Southern California. One of the items that seems pretty consistently well-loved about Disneyland is the Dole Whip, a unique concoction sold at the park that draws on Disney’s partnership with the Dole fruit company to offer park guests a delicious, creamy, frozen treat full of real pineapple and pineapple juice.

The praises of the Dole Whip are sung far and wide on ye olde YouTube, from copycat recipes and hacks to keep from waiting in line for your treat to spicing up the fruit flavor with Tajin spice powder and even grown-up versions including alcohol. It is to one of these recipes I turned when I wanted to make my own fake-ass Dole Whips at home and add some Monkey Rum we picked up in Wildwood, New Jersey at The Race of Gentlemen a few weeks ago.

I threw all the ingredients in the blender, added some Monkey Toasted Coconut Rum and poured everything in a gallon freezer bag. After a few hours chilling in the freezer, I poured our fake-ass Dole Whips into some glasses and popped in some straws. Our drinks were yummy, with plenty of sweet and tangy real pineapple, plenty of creaminess and a kick of rum. And there you have it: frozen deliciousness while daydreaming about our Disneyland trip!

Cocktail Classics – The Aperol Spritz

The Aperol spritz is a classic European aperitif that you’ll find in traveling through France and Italy, especially in the summer dining al fresco or streetside in one of many outdoor cafes. When my husband and I visited Paris last fall, the Aperol spritz was on every drink menu, and we drank them all over the city. Whether we were on the Seine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or sitting in a cafe on a rainy, chilly night on the Rue Montorgueil, this slightly sweet, slightly bitter, bubbly drink was delicious and comforting.

What is Aperol, and what makes it unique? This Italian liqueur is one of a number of European liqueurs that are herbal and bitter, providing a complement to sweet or sparkling European wines. Aperol is made from bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, cinchona and a variety of other ingredients.

In Europe, aperitifs became popular in the 19th century and were consumed before a meal as a way to stimulate the appetite. The classic Aperol spritz consists of three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol and a splash of club soda. Fresh orange slices, ice and a straw are added to a large wine glass to serve up this refreshing drink. I was missing them last night, so I had to whip up some Aperol spritz’s at home.

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What’s your favorite European cocktail?

Here’s a photo from L’Esplanade St. Eustache, the cafe off Rue Montorgueil where we had dinner and Aperol spritz’s in Paris.

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Mid-Atlantic Fall Foodie Events

Fall is prime time for foodie events, and there are plenty to choose from in the mid-Atlantic region. These are some of the best:

Fire, Flour and Fork (Richmond, VA) – Nov. 17-20.  Since its inaugural year in 2014, this Richmond food extravaganza has evolved into a premier food showcase. This unique event offers an insider view of the food scene in the Capital City, from themed brunches, lunches and dinners to a full slate of classes, tours of regional food areas like the Rappahannock River with Merroir and culinary history events, like an Edna Lewis Sunday Supper.

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Heritage Harvest Festival (Charlottesville, VA) – Sept. 9-11. Set at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Heritage Harvest encompasses the world of gardening, farming, homesteading and food history. Beginning with an old-fashioned seed swap, this event offers a tomato, pepper and melon tasting, classes and tours based around Thomas Jefferson’s garden, talks by culinary historians and gardeners and much more. With luminary talent like Michael Twitty, Peter J. Hatch, Libby H. O’Connell and Joel Salatin on tap, this event promises to provide a wide range of voices on our founding father and his food.

Smithsonian Food History Weekend (Washington, DC) – Oct. 27-29. Each year, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History presents a weekend of culinary history events. This year’s plans include an opening gala, “Dine Out for Smithsonian Food History” featuring Julia Child inspired dishes at local restaurants, a day of roundtable discussions, a food history festival and an evening devoted to the history of brewing in America.

Beast Feast (Beaverdam, VA) – Sept. 25. Put on at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown by Richmond area butchers and food producers, this year’s Beast Feast celebrates Belmont Butchery’s 10th anniversary. This event features various meats cooked over an open fire, as well as local chef-made dishes, beers, wines and cocktails, all from local producers and bars.

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Cocktail Classes at Barmini (Washington, DC) – Bites, drinks and education on how to make some of the creative cocktails at the renowned Minibar by Jose Andres. Wednesdays at 5:30 pm on Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 21.

Uncorked Wine Festival (Washington, DC) – Sept. 24, 5-9 pm. Featuring over 50 regional wineries, local food trucks, live music and more, this new wine festival promises a good time. Held at the DC Armory in partnership with several local wine stores, Uncorked will also have a fun photo booth and wines from many countries around the world.

Underground Kitchen dining events (East Coast) – Throughout the coming months, Underground Kitchen offers a number of private dining events with well-known chefs. Whether you’re in Virginia (Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville or NoVA) or in another state (Raleigh, Asheville, Columbia or Baltimore), you’ll find interesting and engaging culinary events throughout the fall. From an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed meal to The Culinary Mosaic and even a single ingredient meal focused on saffron, there are plenty of fun events to enjoy.

Ironbound Wine and Food Expo (Newark, NJ) – Oct. 7-8. The inaugural Ironbound food expo centers around Spain’s tapas tradition, showcasing food and wine from the region. Carnival dancers, a cigar and porto lounge and a food expo round out the events for this exciting weekend.

I’m planning on hitting up a few of these. What about you?