Wine Wednesday: Introducing Truvée by the McBride Sisters

It’s not unusual to refer to wine making as a family affair, but Andrea and Robin McBride are far from your typical winemakers. Their newly launched wine label, Truvée, is a nod to how the sisters, in fact half-sisters, found (get it, trouvée… truvée…) each other despite growing up continents apart. “We found each other, now we want people to find a wine that matters to them,” Andréa shared at a luncheon I recently attended to introduce Truvée to Washington, D.C. In addition to sampling great food (the luncheon was hosted at BToo afterall) and tasting good wine, I also got to hear firsthand the amazing story of how these long-lost sisters met and got to where they are today.

Robin and Andrea McBride Introducing their wines Truvee at a luncheon at BToo

Robin and Andrea McBride Introducing their wines Truvee at a luncheon at BToo

See, Andréa grew up in the Marlborough area of New Zealand. Robin in Monterey California. They shared a father, but didn’t know of each other’s existence until after he passed away. Today I’m sure they sure social media would have made it a lot easier for them to find other. But this was 1999, and it was all snail mail and phone calls that eventually helped reunite them. Over the years, they developed a deep and lasting friendship and discovered that, in addition to striking good looks and curly hair, they also shared a mutual interest in the wine business and a desire to explore opportunities in that area. Together, they launched Eco.love Wines, a  wine company focused on exporting and distributing New Zealand wines that use sustainable practices throughout the production process. Eco.love Wines was Andrea’s baby and their newly launched venture, Truvée, takes them closer to Robin’s turf in California’s Central Coast. Currently, Truvée produces two wines: a Chardonnay and a Red Blend, with grapes for both sourced from vineyards in the Central Coast of California.

Truvee wine

Not only is their personal story amazing, but Andrea and Robin McBride are also the first African American sisters to run their own wine company. AND their wine is almost as good as the personal story behind it! Yes, their story is compelling, but it wouldn’t mean that much is they couldn’t back it up with some solid grape juice. While their white is still not going to convert me into a Chardonnay drinker (I did enjoy it in a spritzer though), I thought their red blend, a combination of grenache and syrah, had a silky texture, some surprising notes and a perfect price point at a $15.99 suggested retail price. Backed by Diageo Chateau & Estates, I can only hope that Truvée lovely bottles (full disclosure, my living room is the same blue as the label on their Chardonnay so I’m a little bit biased….) are going to pop up in wine shops all over the D.C. area* pretty soon… and when they do, pick up a bottle (or two) and give the McBride sisters’ wine a try!

* you can currently find Truvée wines at Harris Teeter, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors and Chinatown Liquor among others, as well as bars and restaurants like B Too, The Graham Georgetown, Cities and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Sip Into Spring with RAMW’s Spring Wine Fling

DC Spring Wine Fling 2015I don’t really need a reason to drink wine on a regular weeknight, but if you do, here’s one for you: it’s Spring Wine Fling!!! During this week-long (March 23-29, 2015) celebration of wine programs across the Washington, D.C. region, participating bars and restaurants are offering special flights, tastings and/or parings of seasonal wines. Last night, I sat down at Boss Sheperd’s, in part because I had never been and I figured it was a good excuse, to check out their spring wine fling offering. For $15, you can order a flight of three wines, sparkling, white, red or a mix from either category. I opted for the mix, though if you go, I recommend the sparkling wine flight that includes my favourite American bubbly, Gruet, Prosecco and Veuve Clicquot.

 

Spring wine fling flight at Boss Sheperd's

 

Outside of Boss Sheperd’s here is a list of notable bars and restaurants participating in Spring Wine Fling:

  • Occidental Grill & Seafood ~ It’s all about the most spring-friendly wine at the historical Pennsylvania avenue restaurant with $18 flights of specially selected rosé from different wine regions around the globe.
  • Ici Urban Bistro ~ Le Bar at the Sofitel Hotel and its restaurant ici gives you three flight options: a $31 Sparkling celebration that’s a Laurent Perrier champagne flight, a $31 American whites flight and a $28 Red Bodies flights.
  • Pizza Vinoteca ~ My new favourite Ballston spot rocks 36 wine by the glass daily, all for under $10, so it’s not surprising that it’s offering a great Spring Wine Fling deal! Through March 29, guests can chose 4-pour flights from any of the restaurant’s wine categories (sparkling, gold, amber etc.) for $14. Not to sound like a broken record, but i’m going to recommend the sparkling flight on this one: prosecco, nebbiolo brut rose, sparkling pinot noir and lambrusco. YES PLEASE! Bonus, for $15 you can get a brussels sprout pizza + a glass of gruner Veltliner or merlot-tannat. YES PLEASE times two!
  • Pinea ~ The new-ish restaurant at the W Hotel boasts a brand new mural by Gaia and here’s an excuse if you need one to go check it out: two 4-pour flights, one red and one white showcasing uncommon Southern European varietals.
  • Smith & Wollensky and i Ricchi ~ both restaurants are showcasing wines made by women. At Smith & Wollensky, the $20 flight feature wines by notable women winemakers, including a 2012 Bordeaux Lafite Reserve. At i Ricchi, it’s a $12 flight featuring 3 wines, from 3 regions and 3 (Italian) women.

You can find a complete list of participating bars and restaurants on RAMW’s website.

Cheers to Spring!

Ici Urban Bistro Joins Thousands of Restaurants Across the World to Celebrate Goût de France

Gout de France

This Thursday, March 19, some 1,300 chefs will cook up special dinners at restaurants and embassies in 150 countries across all five continents for a worldwide celebration of French cuisine and gastronomy. Under the patronage of France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius and famed Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, “Goût de France / Good France” was inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners), in which one menu was served to as many guests as possible worldwide in one day.  This time, however, the chefs have some creative freedom to come up with their own menus, though they must adhere to a strict traditional degustation format and serve, in this order, a French apéritif, a cold starter, a hot starter, a fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, a French cheese (or cheeseboard), a chocolate dessert, French wine and digestif. The menus will also be priced at the restaurant’s discretion, but participating establishments are encouraged to donate 5% of proceeds to local organizations.

In the District, there’s only one restaurant participating: the Sofitel Hotel’s own Ici Urban Bistro. Executive Chef Franck Loquet has crafted a wonderful menu for the occasion.

Gout de France menu at Ici Urban Bistro

The special March 19th dinner will be presided by Olivier Serot-Almeras, French General Consul, and is priced at $150 (you can purchase tickets here). 5% of the proceeds from this dinner will be donated to the local NGO Petits Frères des Pauvres (American Fund of the Little Brothers of the Poor.)

Last Friday, I got to taste some of the dishes that will be served (as well the delightful champagne) and diners are in for a treat! Check out the mouth-watering pictures below. You can also check out Gout de France’s website to view a complete listing of all the restaurants participating throughout the world. Since there are diners in 150 restaurants, there’s bound to be one near you! In New York? Ladurée is one of the restaurants participating (check out the menu here)!! Just saying…

Fine Woodland Mushroom Tart at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de FranceBranzino Tartare at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de France
Atlantic Salmon Mit Cuit

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin

Cremeux aux Trois Chocolats for Ici Urban Bistro's Gout de France diner

DC’s Crumbs and Whiskers off to a Great Start

Crumbs and Whiskers

Crumbs and Whiskers’ founder Kanchan Singh kicks off the cat cafe’s kickstarter campaign


I’ve been making the cat café rounds lately. Last November, I visited both Café des Chats locations in Paris. More recently, I swung by Meow Parlour in New York City, and enjoyed a Hello Kitty themed macaron while hanging out with a bunch of adoptable cats. So, obviously, while I have my own BFF (Best Furry Friend) already, I’m thrilled that there’s a plan to bring a cat café concept to the D.C. area. And apparently, I’m not the only one. Last Sunday, some 50 people showed up at Penn Social for the launch of Crumbs & Whiskers’ kickstarter campaign. A campaign which, by the way, reached its goal within 24 hours and has already surpassed its stretch goal (update: it’s currently at $25,000… meaning, hello CAT WHEEL!). Not bad for a concept that still hasn’t actually signed a lease (though is rumoured to be looking at space in Georgetown… womp womp!)

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers' Kickstarter Launch Party

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers’ Kickstarter Launch Party

Crumbs and Whiskers‘ founder Kanchan Singh is a bubbly 24 year girl who just quit her consulting job to focus full time on this new venture. I had a blast at the event, though I realize I need better crazy cat-lady clothes 😉 It was great meeting her and her brother as well as her group of supportive friends. It’ll be interesting to see where Crumbs and Whiskers ends up, and what concept it ultimately becomes since D.C. regulations probably prevent it from being a traditional cat café… the launch party and success of the kickstarter campaign shows that there’s definitely a receptive audience (myself included) in Washington…

Gaia Mural & Art Intervention at the W Hotel

We had a blast Friday night celebrating the unveiling of a new indoor mural by street artist Gaia at Pinea, the new(ish) restaurant that replaced J&G Steakhouse at the luxury hotel W Washington D.C. To go along Chef Barry Koslow’s southern Mediterranean menu, the mural was inspired by a sculpture of Cesar Augustus and also features birds, a leitmotiv in Gaia’s work.

parts of the gaia muralPinea DC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Artist Gaia discusses his art intervention and mural for Pinea at the W hotel in DC

Street Artist Gaia discusses his art intervention and mural for Pinea at the W hotel in DC

 

I personally love the mural and thinks it not only livens up Pinea’s dining room but also really works with what I expect a restaurant at a W Hotel to look like. Wondering where you may have seen Gaia’s works before? The 27 years old Baltimore-based street artist has a couple of murals throughout the city. He was one of 3 street artists featured in Forbes Magazine recently as one of 30 under 30 in the Arts and Style category (the other two were Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Portugal-based Vhils.)

Rooster Mural at Smith Commons on H Street, Washington DC, 2012. Picture courtesy of Gaia.

Rooster Mural at Smith Commons on H St, Washington DC, 2012. Picture courtesy of Gaia.

Three Stages of 1817 Benning Rd, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Three Stages of 1817 Benning Rd, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Fishing, 8th St SE, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Overfishing, 8th St SE, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Pinea, the new restaurant at the W Hotel, you now have a great excuse to! Or you can just swing by the dining on your way to Root Cellar, the hotel’s new whiskey bar which is directly underneath the dining room.

G’Eclair to Bring Trendy French Pastry to Adams Morgan

In 2009, I met my mom, aunt, grandmother and cousins in Djerba, Tunisia for a relaxing Mediterranean family vacation (you can read more about that trip here). I had to leave before everyone else because well, I’m the only one who lives in a country that doesn’t have 6-weeks of paid vacation days a year (grrr USA!) but did meet up with my dad in Paris for a quick 24 hours before flying back to D.C. My dad and I both have a mad sweet tooth and truly appreciate fine desserts, so these 24 hours turned into quite the pâtisseries marathon. And it was good timing: Éclair Week was in full swing at Fauchon, leading me to rediscover a forgotten childhood favourite.

eclair, fauchon

Fast forward to today. Saying that éclairs are the new macarons is about as over-said as saying that macarons are the new cupcakes. And yet, that’s pretty much exactly what I just said 😉 Éclairs are quite trendy right now, and they’ve never looked or tasted better! Some éclairs truly look like tiny pieces of art (see the stunning éclair Joconde below.)

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Fauchon's Mona Lisa éclair

One of the chef pâtissier to credit for the éclair’s relaunch from simple pastry a high-end dessert is Christophe Adam, who spent 15 years at Fauchon. Adam, who now has his own shop(s) called l’Éclair de Génie, and Guillaume Simonnet, of L’Atelier de l’Éclair, have Parisians lined up outside their stores to try their latest creations and flavours… They’re looking to spread the éclair gospel to the United States, with Adam slated to open a shop in SoHo this summer this year.  There’s already quite a few spot to get decent éclairs in New York: Kayser‘s are really good as are the ones at Michel Richard’s Pomme Palais, Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud, Dominique Ansel Bakery and La Maison du Chocolat. Pastry chef Jennifer Yee also offers a selection of éclairs at Lafayette Grand Café and Bakery (try it for brunch! Their bread comes straight from Poilâne!!). In Washington, well, it’s a bit more difficult to find good éclairs right now. Like a lot more difficult. So I have high hopes for G’Eclair (pronounced Gee-Clair not JAY-Clair), an éclair boutique that popped up on valentine’s day and will open soon inside frozen yogurt shop Spoon in Adams Morgan. The team behind G’Eclair is also behind Donburi, a Japanese restaurant focused on rice-bowls. Its owner James Jang and his business partner Grace Owens-Stively are getting into the éclair business and eventually plan to open their own small brick-and-mortar éclair shop.

G'Eclair in Washington, DC
GEclair

Over the weekend, Grace and James handed out free éclair samples. I braved the snow Saturday to try them out and wasn’t disappointed by the green-tea white chocolate mini-éclair and the miso-caramel one. There’s still a little bit of work to be done on the presentation I think. The pastries need to be finer and longer to look more refined, and the designs have room for more artistry too. But the flavours were spot on so I’m definitely hopeful and think I might have more reasons to visit Adam Morgan in the near future…

Sweet! There’s a New Menu at The Grill Room

Chef Frank Ruta, picture courtesy of Capella DC

Chef Ruta, photo courtesy of Capella DC

Wednesday night, I headed off to the Capella Hotel in Georgetown to celebrate its new chef Frank Ruta, and the new menu he designed for its restaurant The Grill Room. I must confess, I never ate at Palena, the Cleveland Park establishment Chef Ruta headed before it closed last year. I also never attended one of his famed Bread Feast supper club dinner at Mark Furstenberg’s Bread Furst . And yet, I have an awesome memory of Chef Ruta, one that doesn’t involve his food directly. Instead, it involves a panel on which he sat at the National Archives a few years back. A panel of former White House chefs. The soft spoken Chef Ruta sat between former White House Executive Chef Pierre Chambrin and (very outspoken) former White House Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, the lone American sandwiched by two French chefs, with their heavy accents, talking about what goes on in one of America’s most famous kitchen. C-SPAN has a recording of the conversation if you want to watch it, hearing the two Frenchies talk about cooking Thanksgiving meals is quite entertaining!

Like he was on the panel, Chef Ruta was also rather discreet at the party thrown in his honor, letting his food do most of the talking for him. The pumpkin and squash soup made me want to skip spring and summer and head straight into fall while the sampling of the new charcuterie plate and oysters made me long to try the whole thing, perhaps during a spring-time lunch at one of the restaurant’s tables overlooking the C&O Canal.

Charcuterie plate at The Grill Room, at the Capella DC Hotel

Photo courtesy of Capella DC

Oysters at The Grill Room at Capella DC

Photo courtesy of Capella DC

What I was really excited to try at Wednesday’s celebration were the new desserts from pastry chef Aggie Chin. If I never had dinner at Palena, I did buy macarons from their market (and I have Nevin Martell to thank for that recommendation!) They were very good. So I was excited to try her latest creations for The Grill Room and Rye Bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to try items from the new dessert menu. I guess that’s how they tease us to come back… It was alright though, we were treated to an elegant buffet of bite sized treats, the highlights of which was a perfect canelé.

Picture perfect caneles at Capella DC

There was also some stunning chocolate macarons dipped in dark cocoa, though sadly, I couldn’t eat those 😦

Stunning Chocolate macarons at Capella DC

Chef Aggie Chin credits food blogs like Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini for inspiring her to get into the kitchen instead of the courtroom after she studied law at UVA. She’s crafted an ambitious menu for The Grill Room, one she says “reflects the bustling diverse metropolis of D.C.” Many of the dishes mix seasonal vegetables or fruits with spices. The “Root for It” for example pairs parsnip cake, ginger ice cream and a squash and brown sugar mousse. The “Just Say Ah” mixes green apple and fennel sorbet with gingered apple, golden raisins and coconut curry meringues. Again, it’s really unfortunate that none of these desserts were available to sample at the party introducing the two chefs, but I guess that just made me want to come back and try them even more, especially if some desserts are going to be available at The Rye Bar and paired with cocktails!

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Chinese Food & a (French) Movie On Erev Christmas

It happened in St. TropezAre Chinese diner and a movie part of your Christmas traditions? If the answer is yes (or oui) and you want to add a little something French to your Erev Christmas, look no further than the Washington DC Jewish Community Center on 16th street. They will be screening It Happened in Saint-Tropez, a French comedy of manners featuring the stunning (and now age appropriate Bond girl) Monica Bellucci. The screening will be preceded by some traditional Chinese food starting at 6:30PM.

Speaking of “traditional Jewish Christmas food,” the night before (12/23) you can also swing by DGS Delicatessen, which will be hosting its second  “Jewish Christmas” Chinese  banquet, with guest chefs Erik Bruner Yang of Toki Underground and Tim Ma of Water & Wall. The menu (hello Kung Pao pastrami!) looks SO fun!

Postcard from France: Visiting the Louvre-Lens

Lens, a small town in northern France, boasts a football stadium with a capacity larger than its population, but doesn’t have a movie theater.  A former mining strong hold, its main touristic and cultural attractions used to be world war I cemeteries and Europe’s tallest slag heaps (known by their formal French name of base et terrils jumeaux du 11/19.) That all changed in 2012. That year, one of the world’s most famous museums, the Louvre, opened an outpost in Lens, attracting some 900,000 visitors its first year of operation. While that’s barely anything compared to the 8 million visitors that go through the Parisian museum each year, that’s still very impressive.

Lens is easily accessible from Belgium, the Netherlands and England. It’s also just an hour away from Paris by train, so during my last visit home, we hopped on the TGV to check it out. We rented a car to do a little more sight-seeing beyond the museum but you can also easily do without. Free shuttles bring visitors directly from the art deco train station to the Louvre-Lens and back. Starting in January, the shuttle will also stop boulevard Basly, the main commercial street in the city lined with a few art-deco reconstructed houses, on its way back from the museum.

Gare de Lens

Gare de Lens

Downtown Lens

Downtown Lens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s get back to the main attraction: Louvre-Lens. The sleek, minimalist building, designed by Japanese architect firm Sanaa (they also designed the New Museum in New York City,) is a steel and glass structure on a 20 hectare wasteland that was originally used as a coal mine before the ’60s. On a clear day, visitors can spot the giant through the museum’s  floor to ceiling glass windows.

Can you spot the twin giant slag heaps at Loos-en-Gohelle?

Can you spot the twin giant slag heaps at Loos-en-Gohelle through the windows?

The Louvre-Lens creators have said they want the museum to be a Louvre in its own right, and not just an annex of the Parisian Museum. That being said, the Louvre-Lens doesn’t have its own collection and relies instead on long-term loans from the mother-ship. Since the Louvre has some 460,000 works of art in its collection but only has space to display 35,000 of them, this is actually a mutually beneficial relationship. The first 250 pieces that were loaned to Louvre-Lens have been curated in a rather novel way to give visitors a brand new perspective on some pretty classic art pieces and artifacts. While other museums, the Louvre-Paris included, typically separate artworks by style or era (Egyptian pieces together, renaissance painting separately,) the art at Louvre-Lens is displayed in chronological order in one long, light-filled gallery called the Galerie du Temps (time gallery.)

The "permanent" collection at Louvre-Lens is housed in the Galerie du temps

The “permanent” collection at Louvre-Lens is housed in the Galerie du Temps

We spent two hours going through the collection like we would have reading through an art book, starting with Egyptian antiquities (statues, sarcophagus, etc.,) a statue of Alexander the great, roman mosaics, greek vases and a celestial globe from Iran going all the way to a portrait of Louis XIV, a statue of Napoleon, a virgin and child by Botticelli and yes, a Goya and a Rembrandt too… While we were there, the museum was busy preparing for the opening of a new temporary exhibit, “Des animaux et des pharaons,” focusing on Egypt’s fascination with animals. Every year, the museum will offer 2 different temporary exhibits while changing up some of the pieces in the “permanent” collection, giving residents of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region plenty of reasons to keep going back to their new local attraction.

Chez Cathy, across from the Louvre-Lens

Chez Cathy, across from the Louvre-Lens

Le Centre Historique Minier Lewarde

Le Centre Historique Minier Lewarde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether the museum will provide a long-term economic boost to the depressed town remains to be seen but it certainly cannot hurt. I was glad to visit. While we were in the area, we had some traditional northern-France food at nearby Chez Cathy (the museum also offers its own more elegant restaurant, l’Atelier de Marc Meurin,) visited the excellent Centre Historique Minier Lewarde before grabbing dinner at Aux Vieux de la Vieille, a traditional estraminet in Lille.There’s plenty more we could have done if we had opted to do an overnight trip instead of the day one, like visiting the historical town center in Arras or even going as far as Roubaix to visit Le Musee de La Piscine de Roubaix, a former art-deco swimming pool turned, you may have guessed it, museum. And I might have an opportunity to in the next few years, actually. In 2016, Lens will be one of the host cities for the Euro Cup, which will be held in France between June 10 and July 19, 2016 and which I am totally planning on attending! Its Stade Bollaert-Delelis, which previously hosted some world cup matches back in 1998, will see 3 group-stages matches and one round of 16 match (so if you’re planning on seeing a match there, maybe double down and see the museum too!). Before that, though, the Louvre will further spread its collection, going outside of France this time with the opening of the Louvre-Abu Dhabi scheduled for December 2015.

A Taste of Olney’s Taste Gastropub

Discovering new restaurants and meeting new people who appreciate food as much as a do as two of the main reasons I keep blogging. Last week, I headed to Olney, Maryland for a private tasting at Taste Gastropub, an unassuming restaurant in a strip mall some 18 miles outside of my comfort zone, I mean, outside of downtown DC 😉 I’m definitely glad I ventured out. Lunch with my bestie Cecile, fellow DC Spotter Aparna, Lisa of #PushPlayEat, Jessica of The Dining Traveler, Carlis of Spicy Candy DC (who helped coordinate the event) and Lori of Been There Eaten That was delightful.  The wine selection, expertly chosen by chef and sommelier Danny Lledo didn’t hurt either!

Private lunch at Taste Gastropub in Olney, MD

Photo credit: Cameron Habashian

Let’s chat about the restaurant first. Owner Vic Seested is almost your typical DC-story: financial advisor (it can’t always be a lawyer I guess….) turned restaurateur… except there’s more to it. Seested grew up in Olney and he purchased Taste Gastropub as a hub for local charity work. The restaurant hosts a number of fundraisers throughout the year and makes numerous donations to local charity. I think we can all agree that’s really awesome, but wjhat’s even better is that he hired a very talented chef and sommelier, Danny Lledo. As a son of a chef, Lledo was literally born into food. And it shows. Check out some of the gorgeous food we were treated to during our private lunch, all enhanced by a perfect wine pairing.

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I wouldn’t have been able to make it to Taste Gastropub if transportation hadn’t been provided by Reston Limousine… but if you happen to be in the Olney area and are looking for a good meal, you should definitely check out chef Lledo’s creative cuisine. As for me, I’m probably not going to make it back there any time soon unfortunately, but the trip reminded me of how much I love Slate Wine Bar, which is managed by Danny (and owned by his wife Elizabeth.)

Taste Gastropub is located at 3418 Olney Latonsville Road in Olney, MD 20832