The Best Things About #WestEndWednesdays

Westend Bistro Veal

There’s a new bar crawl in town and it has NOTHING to do with souvenir cups, beads, costumes or hooking up with strangers. Rather, you’ll drink exquisite wine paired with food from four standout restaurants in the West End. It goes by the hashtag #WestEndWednesdays and hopes to serve as the solution to a very specific problem: The dramatic explosion of 14th Street, Shaw and H Street coupled with the consistency of old standbys like Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle. These factors have bumped the West End section of our city outside the top five neighborhood dining destinations, and for no good reason.

#WestendWednesdays is a four-stop progressive dinner. April’s follows the path of hors d’oeuvres at Marcel’s followed by an appetizer at Ris, main course at Westend Bistro and dessert at Blue Duck Tavern. Each month the order rotates. Sorry for those who live and die by Blue Duck Tavern’s apple pie.

Ris

Standouts on the April menu include roasted veal loin with foie gras ravioli from Westend Bistro and a Portuguese seafood stew from Ris. If these sound appetizing, it’s a shame. April is sold out, and most #WestEndWednesday dishes are off-menu. But based on the expert preparation and creative wine pairings, May is promising too.

Tickets for May go on sale April 2nd at 10:00am and cost $100 before tax and gratuity. In order to retain an air of exclusivity, #WestEndWednesdays are capped at 12 diners. You’ll eat together at a communal table, so brush up on your schmoozing skills. Tickets for May will be available here: https://www.giftrocker.com/secure/events/?c=westendwednesdays&b=Y&q=gt1586

Proof: Duck Confit with Scallion Hush Puppies

Proof Duck Confit

Proof is so much more than the place foodies eat before a Caps game. It’s a dining destination all on its own. The wine and food programs seem to compete for the role of the lead dancer. Is Proof a wine bar with food or a gastronomical, food-focused delight that has a solid wine list? Whichever you decide to be true, don’t order a beer here. It just wouldn’t be fair. We recommend an Oregon pinot from our favorite winemaker Patricia Green.

Back to the food from Haidar Karoum. The Best Thing on the Menu: Warm Duck Confit with Scallion Hush Puppies, Pickled Beech Mushrooms and Tomatillo Salsa Verde is rich, bright and light at the same time. The tart tomatillo salsa cuts the confit – you know duck cooked in duck fat. What could be better?

We’ve also never met a hush puppy we didn’t like. Some of our favorites are at Garden District and Lincoln. Proof’s hushies are a little on the lighter side, with very little grease and some tangy onion flavor.

Proof

There’s another dish on the menu that made a real impression. Let’s say you’re Santa Claus fueling up for a trip around the world. Or, Rob Ryan. Or Rex Ryan pre-weight loss surgery. Order the Cassoulet of Duck Confit, Crispy Pork Belly & House Made Duck Sausage. The meatiest, manliest entree we’ve ever seen with a calorie count that is likely higher than the entire contents of a Cold Stone Creamery. Order it anyway.

Duck confit not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Ripple: Cru Beaujolais Dinner

Ripple

Have you tried wine from all ten Beaujolais appellations? How about trying them all in one night? Oh, and by the way that night is a Monday. This Monday funday wine safari, called a Cru Beaujolais Dinner, was held at Cleveland Park’s Ripple. Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and her team joined forces with Best Thing on the Menu’s favorite wine shop, Weygandt Wines, which also calls Cleveland Park home. The two were a perfect pairing from the start.

Wines from Saint Amour, Juliénas, and Chénas started the night, paired with farm fresh beets, red onion and orange salad; broccoli raab, tomatoes and chili; and a mini charcuterie platter. All dishes were served family style at this intimate gathering of 40 Ripple and Weygandt Wines loyalists.

Ripple Cru Beaujolais Dinner

Chef Meek-Bradley put together an earth-driven dinner to match the earthy wine. In an interview with Best Thing on the Menu, she shared her inspiration for cooking. “I believe that my biggest inspiration is the farmers and people that I work with,” she said.  “Being from California, I was raised to believe that food is something to be shared with people and nurturing. Also that you should cook seasonally and locally. I try to follow these rules when writing our menu,” she continued.

photo

After savoring the first course, we moved on to Cote de Brouilly, Brouilly and Régnié, which boldly accompanied the chef’s scallop served with Andouille sausage, sweet corn and uni. The chef took a different approach to the class scallop and bacon combination by going with smoky, spicy sausage instead. And, who doesn’t love a little dollop of uni now and again.

The main course of Berkshire pork shoulder, farro risotto, mushrooms, crispy kale and braised swiss chard was served with the Morgon, Moulin à Vent and Fleurie.

Ripple

Dessert was vanilla bean-ginger panna cotta, which received a pour of the last remaining “cru,” Chiroubles. We no longer trust folks who say you can’t drink red wine with dessert. The pairing was magical.

There you have it, all ten crus were consumed before the check came. But what do we mean exactly? Beaujolais generally refers to the powerhouse wine region of southern Burgundy. There are ten small villages (aka “crus”) that comprise the upper echelon of the area. Experts say that each one has a unique terroir that is imparted during the wine making process. The goal of the dinner was to taste, appreciate and differentiate between the ten different terroirs of neighboring villages. An even playing field was created because all of the wines (except one) were from the same vintage. The grape you ask? It’s gamay.

The food and the wine both impressed, so we will surely return to Ripple to dine off of Chef Meek-Bradley’s menu. The Chef recommends her Carrot Cavatelli with Lobster. “People seem to love the combination and say the dish is rich, yet light at the same time,” she said.

Now that we’ve taken Ripple special events for a test drive, we happily recommend their upcoming Farm Dinner Benefitting the American Cancer Society on September 4th. Learn more here.  Before dinner, be sure to check out Weygandt Wines across the street. Tim O’Rourke and his team are always pouring samples over a great map of France and will enthusiastically educate you on what you’re drinking.

Been to Ripple? Share your favorite dishes in the comments section.