They say people won’t care about what you know until they know how much you care. If true, even a brief chat with the women who’ve founded Redeye Menus – a roving pop-up of Spanish sherry and Asian food pairings – could leave you drooling and checking the expiration date on your passport. The beauty of the latest endeavor from industry veterans Chantal Tseng (Mockingbird Hill,) Holly Barzyk (The Tabard Inn, The Industree Group, Masseria) and Carlie Steiner (Stir Bartending Co.) is they’re aggressively eager to scratch an itch you never knew you had with local collaborations of sherry and Asian cuisine with some of D.C.’s most sought after chefs and anticipated restaurants. Throughout the course of demystifying sherry and explaining the Redeye concept, the women interrupt each other, finish each other’s sentences, and excitedly drop f-bombs with a passion clearly in line with the work they’ve put in to make every event special. Sherry pairing dinner at still flaming hot Crane and Turtle? Check. Hors d’oeuvres and small bites from 14th street stalwart Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar washed down with two sherry punches? Yes. Erik Bruner-Yang and James Wozniuk creating new, intense Taiwanese and Cambodian dishes in the Maketto kitchen tonight with three signature sherry cocktails and an all night happy hour? Done. Globally, they’ve already garnered the attention and support of Spain’s venerable Lustau and Valdespino sherry bodegas. The former will have a representative on hand this Friday night for maybe the most bonkers event yet: the recreation of a traditional Asian night market in the Dolcezza factory space with multiple food vendors and all you can drink sherry and cocktails. We dug in last Sunday to discuss their genesis, their complementary roles, and what they have in store for International Sherry Week starting with today’s In Fish Sauce We Trust dinner and all night happy hour at Maketto.
Brightest Young Things: Talk about the genesis of Redeye Menus for people who may not have been following your events over the past 5 months.
Chantal: Redeye Menus is a triumvirate of awesome ladies from DC who’re inspired by a super passion for sherry and Asian food. I was working at Mockingbird Hill doing these monthly sherry dinners and Holly had come to a few of them. Obviously she was very excited because she started bringing me food.
Holly: Asian food! One night, Chantal said, “Oh I really think Asian food and sherry go really well” and I looked at her. “Hell yes, we need to do this, we have to do this.” At that point I was working for Dolcezza Gelato by Union Market, which had the Maketto pop-up. I was eating there probably three times a week. I was also working at Daikaya so I was just really into Asian food. I would bring food to Chantal from Maketto whether it was Bánh mi, whether it was pho. I would bring onigiri from Daikaya, some ramen. We just geeked out over that stuff.
Chantal: We’d go, “Alright! What’s the best sherry that works with this?” We were scheming and I brought up a dinner many times as one of the next projects for Mockingbird Hill.
Holly: We needed to bring in a chef at that point, but the time wasn’t working.
Chantal: The timing kept falling apart.
Holly/Chantal [in unison]: It just didn’t happen!
Chantal: Life happened. [Everyone laughs] I went and traveled and when I came back we got back in touch. I had been in Spain for five weeks drinking a lot of sherry, having fun, writing, and meeting lots of people. While there, one social media account I was following, Hanging Ditch in Manchester, UK, was a reminder to me. They were doing this amazing sushi pairing dinner and posting all these dishes, the exact sherries they were pairing. It was just mouth watering. Immediately I wrote an email to a bunch of friends, like, “Guys!” [Points at Carlie and Holly]
Carlie: Everybody responded to the email a little bit but then I remember sending an email: “Let’s just do this. Now.” Then we immediately started. [Laughs]
Holly: [Laughing] Yea! Let’s just do it now! But how were we gonna start this? We needed to find a chef, we needed to find a space, and for anybody doing events in DC they know it can be difficult to find time and space. We asked Crane and Turtle and it started there.
Chantal: When we were deciding on who was going to be our first chef, I said why don’t I ask Paul (Ruppert) at Crane and Turtle. He said “Sure,” we said, Great!” and that’s how it started.
BYT: When was that?
Chantal: The first dinner we did was the end of July at Crane and Turtle and then Sushi Taro in August.
BYT: So every Redeye event is sherry and Asian food – that’s the concept, always.
Carlie: Well technically it’s sherry, Asian food, and cocktails. Generally, sherry cocktails.
Holly: Carlie and Stir Bartending Company do all of our cocktails. And it’s not always a white linen table experience. We adapt to the restaurant.
Carlie: We always have the welcome cocktail and the exit cocktail, so far.
Chantal: A roving, sherry supper club slash pop-up.
Holly: We wanna keep in tune with the restaurant’s demographic and their place in the community. We’re really flexible in that regard. But they’re flexible too. For instance Bar Pilar, they don’t usually do buffet style but we took over the entire space and their executive chef Jesse Miller made food…
Carlie: [Whispers]So good… so good. [Laughs]
Holly: Jesse Made food for the attendees, we had a tasting station and passed hors d’oeuvres around the entire night.
Carlie: The cocktail program was very different for us there than it’s ever been before. Generally, we do the welcome and the exit cocktail but for this one we actually had an entire hour where you could come in and receive two different punches.
BYT: How do the collaborations and responses from the chefs work? They just say, “Hey, go behind the bar, do whatever the hell you need to do?”
Everyone: Some of them do! [Laughing]
Holly: Every situation is different.
Carlie: But they’re always very excited!
Holly: Maketto, for instance, one of the sherry week dinners coming up – they’re always busy. But we’ve taken over their entire, newly renovated back kitchen and their upstairs space for the sherry week event and I’m so excited about it.
BYT: I have no idea – what is sherry week?
Chantal: International Sherry Week is Monday, November 2nd through the 8th. All over the world, you can post an event and register it on sherry.org. It’s just a matter of putting it on their calendar, describing what it is, and anyone can see, “Oh, they’re doing a sherry event there.” It’s a free for all with much of the info spreading across social media. “Hey everyone! Sherry and this! Sherry and that” It could be me sitting at home drinking sherry and watching TV. It could be an amazing class, a sherry pairing dinner, sherry with flamenco dancing. Or Asian food and sherry – our concept of course
BYT: So the Maketto event sounds awesome but no one reading is really gonna be able to go – there’s only one ticket left.
Holly: We do have a happy hour there too! It’s free, non-ticketed, and we’re going to make the drinks as inexpensive as possible. It’s something Erik really wanted to do. He wants events to be accessible and for everybody to be able to enjoy them. In DC, everything is pretty expensive, so it’s his way of giving back some to the community. The dinner is a small, twenty-person dinner in the back by the kitchen. Erik and James are pulling out all the stops, doing really interesting food from Taiwan and Cambodia. Things that may draw a little bit from the menu but dishes they’ve never done before so it’s unique in that regard. Upstairs in the all-night happy hour Carlie will be doing cocktails and they’ll have small bites: bao, fried ramen bites.
BYT: People are gonna lose their damn minds over that food as usual. So, Carlie, the cocktails you designed for this one?
Carlie: I’ll be making all the cocktails. [Whispers] Somebody else will help me right? [Laughs] We’re doing sherry and soda, so, I’ll take a fino sherry and infuse it with some lemongrass and add kefira lime and ginger soda. I’m really playing off of the flavors that Maketto generally uses.
Chantal: Welllllll, It’ll be a manzanilla sherry.
Carlie [Long pause]: It’ll be a manzanilla, and that’s quite alright! [Everyone laughs]
Chantal: They’re very similar, practically the same but the manzanilla tends to be a little bit lighter, a little more floral.
Carlie: It has little more salinity too which will be awesome. We’re gonna have a boozy cocktail called the tuxedo. It’s not mine – it’s a classic. It’s gin and fino sherry with orange bitters. And I’m doing a sherry-modified eggnog. I’m so excited about that one!
BYT: At the end of the week you’re transforming the Dolcezza factory into an Asian night market, something I’ve only seen on a Bourdain show.
Holly: It’s gonna be ticketed but for $40 it’s all you can drink sherry.
Carlie and Chantel: And cocktails!
Holly: And cocktaaaaiiiiils. [Laughs] A sherry shochu drink.
BYT: A what?
Holly: Sherry shochu cocktail from Bar Otsukare. Shochu is a Japanese white liquor – like a vodka, usually made from rice, barley, sweet potato, corn. Eddie Kim and Jesse Selvagn from Bar Otsukare are handling this. Carlie, of course, will be doing drinks also and they look beautiful.
Carlie: I’m doing three different bottled cocktails.
BYT: You’ll make them and bring them pre bottled?
Carlie: I’m gonna make them the day of and they’re gonna be in a bottle and I’m going to give people a bottle. [Laughs]
BYT: Ah! Individual, personal bottles.
Carlie: Yea! Individual bottles. To clarify, $40 covers all you can drink. Bottled cocktails, Bar Otsukare drinks, and the sherries.
Chantal: This concept of a night market is a huge deal for Asian, or southeast Asian cultures where you go out late night and you get your bites and walk around. You don’t really have in other cultures – it’s very Asian. Well perhaps there’s some in other world area, sorry, but markets make you think of daytime so often. Doing it at night is totally Asian.
BYT: I’m by no means an expert but where I’ve been in central and south America the markets have been in the day.
Holly: The Asian night markets start in the morning or twelve o’ clock and go until whatever time of night, all night. In Korea, I would go to a night market, order a bottle of shochu, and just drink it and walk around and eat. The shochu was what – 3 dollars? It was great. The food was always inexpensive and really fun and delicious. We have food from Compass Rose who is doing a Korean area with Korean bbq and lettuce wraps. Buredo, the new sushi burrito place that everybody’s like “holy shit, it’s fucking awesome I’m gonna to pee myself,” they’re doing sushi burritos.
Carlie: Oh, I pee myself all the time over it. I love it. [Laughing]
Holly: Copycat will be doing skewers and we’re happy to have Chao Ku which is Paul Pelt’s new Chinese place going into Shaw.
Chantal: He’s doing Dan Dan noodles. They’re gonna be spicy with a peanut side.
Holly: You mix it in. It’s fucking good.
Chantal: He’s very proud of this dish. I’ve worked with him for years and he’s just a soul man who makes the best food but he’s not someone who talks too much. Even if people didn’t know who he was specifically, people knew when he was making the best gumbo on the planet at the Tabard Inn. He’s an understated guy.
BYT: Sounds like a big get for you guys.
Holly: For sure, and he’s going to give a nice preview of Chao Ku for people.
Chantal: And the Dolcezza factory space, you know, is great.
Holly: Beautiful! Dolcezza’s doing a sherry gelato pop.
BYT: My god.
Chantal: There will be an outdoor space and we have Dirty South Deli doing Asian Bao style sandwiches.
Chantal: There are two different sherries from two amazing bodegas, Lustau and Valdespino. Lustau is probably the most recognized in DC because it’s been highly exported to the US. The first sherry I ever had was a Lustau brand and a lot of bartenders know sherry because of Lustau. They have a ridiculous line, the most amazing number of sherries – around 30 to 40. They’re both helping us out.
Holly: A representative from Lustau, Lucas Payá will be attending. He was the wine director for Think Food Group.
Chantal: He and I just came back from Spain where we took our sherry educators course and became official educators. That was a pretty fun week, not gonna lie.
BYT: Yea, I bet. Have you guys learned a lot about sherry from her?
Chantal: I try! [Laughs]
Carlie: I’ve learned everything I’ve ever known about sherry from her!
Holly: Yes! Yes. She’s taught me to appreciate everything about it. It could be in a conversation, it could be on her Instagram and I’m like, “Oh, I’m gonna try that!” We always know we can come to her and ask her what to pair a sherry with or what she thinks about a sherry.
BYT: Now that you’ve done a few of these dinners under your belt and have a formula for success, without being formulaic – what’s next?
Holly: I would like to partner with other cities. But, in DC in the new year we have a whole lineup of people that I’ve wanted to work with for years that will be amazing.
BYT: Have people come to you requesting partnerships?
BYT: That’s a sign.
Holly: The next event after will be at The Source.
BYT: With Scott Drewno? Oh, fuck. He’s great.
Holly: It’s gonna be a dim sum cocktail party on December the 5th but we might change it because it’s the night of Repeal Day Ball. He’s an amazing chef, a big, fucking white lumberjack guy doing really intricate Asian food – I love it!
Chantal: He’s a chef that crosses over. This back of the house chef who makes great food and at the front of the house is so hospitable. The most amazing guy, easy to talk to, and when he sees you he’s just “I’m so glad you’re here!” With his demeanor he could be an amazing bartender but, oh wait, you’re an amazing chef. Don’t worry about it, you do your thing. [Everyone laughs]