Photos of Kristi Green by Jeff Martin
Kristi Green the relatively new Beverage Manager of Osteria Morini DC has been mixing some of our favorite Fall cocktails in town and doing so with such unabashed joy that we just really wanted to know: when she drinks (and eats) off duty, where does she go? Below, a full week of speakeasies, great beer, perfect little restaurants and yes, Wu Tang Wednesdays too. Read up (and drink up)
Day 1: Sunday, 10/12
I embarked on my journey for drinking research and glory on a drizzly Sunday evening during which my fiance and pups were away–so, I decided to treat myself. I shot a quick text to Angelina at Crane & Turtle to see if there would be a seat at the counter–upon her reply, an Uber whisked me away from the Navy Yard and my Sunday at Morini; and off to Petworth.
The soft glow of Crane & Turtle was visible as soon as we turned the corner of Upshur Street. I entered the beautifully decorated space just before 7:30 and was happy to see the familiar faces of my former coworkers–and equally happy to see (and hear) that Chef Makoto had finally taken a day off; the first since they’d opened.
The whole ride up to Petworth I’d been thinking about Sakura Emaki, the rose sake that we chose for the investor tastings–and subsequently, the beverage menu. I ordered it the moment I sat down and attempted to not guzzle the five ounce portion. Paired with the most beautiful Tuna Tataki and, later, Cranberry Bean soup–the Sakura Emaki was worth the long wait. After sake, I moved on to another gem of Crane & Turtle’s beverage menu: Secateurs Chenin Blanc from Swartland, South Africa. The Monkfish I received as my entree was so good I momentarily forgot to drink my wine–but was elated when I remembered and felt as though a touch of gulping was allowed. This surprising South African white is round and viscous with shocking complexity: kiwi, pear and even almond and white pepper grace the palate and bouquet of this Chenin.
Being too full for dessert and knowing that C&T likely needed my seat for other guests, I opted to stroll across the street to Petworth Citizen and drink dessert. Revisiting Petworth Citizen is like the bittersweet feeling of seeing an ex-boyfriend happy with his new lady–the bar was busy and buzzing. I found a seat next to Jade from The Passenger and greeted Froggy, who was behind the bar. A few staff members and a former regular or two stopped me to say hello and, miraculously, when I turned around there were shots of Old Overholt awaiting Jade and I. We cheered and shot and thanked the wizard behind the stick. I perused the new cocktail menu but I knew what I was there for: The Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese (albeit Scotch-Style) Whisky. The Yamazaki is caramelly with warm tones of vanilla and baking spice–not unlike a Highland Single Malt. I allowed myself to get lost in the whisky and the din of the comfy bar and then, suddenly, I recalled: Sunday is Homeland night.
Another Uber car shuttled me back to home near H St NE where I had a bottle of Goldeneye Pinot Noir (a production of the much-lauded Duckhorn Vineyards) awaiting me alongside of leftovers from the previous night’s battilardo board. I switched on Homeland and hunkered down on the couch–the Pinot was beautiful: intensely perfumed with a palate reminiscent of strawberry cream savers (seriously: the ripe berry and oak-born vanilla notes were nuts–pun intended). I slowly worked through Claire Danes’ angst and my board of cured and cheesy goodies: Speck, Sopressata, Spuma de Mortadella, Gorgonzola Dolce and Rocchetta. Unsurprisingly, whiskeyed, wined and full of deliciousness–I sought sleep.
Day 2: Monday, 10/13
Opening Morini after the previous night’s “research,” was less than fun. Several vitamins, a Vitamin Water, and a handful of espressos later I was rocking my way through lunch service. Jen Jackson from DC Brau dropped by to taste with Chef Matt and I–we’ve got a crazy carboloaded plan for a pasta and beer dinner so, again: Research! We tasted the entire portfolio: El Hefe Speaks, The Tradition, The Citizen, The Public, The Corruption, Penn Quarter Porter, and (my favorite) On The Wings of Armageddon.
I wrapped the afternoon with another shot of espresso to revive me after my liquid lunch–thankfully, dinner service was calm and I made my escape in the early evening hours.
Feeling inspired by our DC Brau tasting but in need of a beer-pairing crash course: I strolled through the still-drizzy gray of The Navy Yard and over to Bluejacket Brewery. I took a seat at the bar next to a couple who were tasting their way through the entire selection of Bluejacket’s house-made brews (of which there are…20?). As I am primarily a drinker of wine and whiskey, when I drink beer—it’s got to be something interesting. I elected three tastes: Gander Gose, Forbidden Planet Dry-Hopped Kolsch, and The New Black Session Black IPA.
After a quick scan of the menu I knew that my next course was going to be cheese (it’s true, I have a cheese obsession) so I ordered the Simple Salad with my first three mini-beers. Unsurprisingly, the crisp and tart Gander Gose was a great pairing with greens. The Forbidden Planet was lovely–and Kolsch is near and dear to my heart. My first legally purchased beer was a Kolsch at Brewer’s Alley in downtown Frederick, Maryland. This dry hop on the Forbidden Planet provides a great bitter bite to balance out the rounder tones of classic Kolsch.
In recent years, Black IPA has become one of my favorite styles–officially, I don’t love IPAs; I do, however, LOVE dark beers. I find that the dark beer flavors and the hop flavors provide a balance that both styles lack on their own. Many of these that I’ve enjoyed, however, have been quite high ABV–The session style of The New Black was a great iteration of the Black IPA.
I’d been chatting up the bartender since I took my seat and he was very familiar with the beer so I gave him an assignment: I chose three cheeses and asked him to pair three beers (you know, since this was pairing research). With Humboldt Fog, a vegetable-ash laiden goat’s milk cheese, he paired Full Bloom–a cask ale brewed with strawberries. As strawberries and goat cheese are a classic pairing, this was utterly delicious. The cask ale was bright, and in no way sugary or sweet, with great acid to cut through the fluffy goat cheese. Cheese number two was a Spanish selection that’s been a favorite of mine since my days working at Vinoteca Wine Bar: Garrotxa. This sheep’s milk cheese is middle firm and nutty: like manchego but less chalky. For this, Greg chose Bitterschoen: a Rheinischen bitter style ale. This beer almost hit the same high note as Weyerbacher Riserva does for me–it was perfectly sour and sharp.
I completed my cheese board with Ossau-Iraty, a French cow’s milk cheese that Greg expertly paired with Mexican Radio, a spiced-sweet stout. The stout was an excellent choice that made my rich French fromage feel like dessert—Ryan, a slightly vesty-er barman, approached our pairing discussion, and poured me a taste of Vignette, their Sour Cherry Blonde Ale–which shocked my palate back to apertif-land. I tabbed out, took another gulp or two of the stout and headed home.
I entered the comfort of our apartment, greeted by Grant and the pups. We popped open a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo–Capostrano 2012, nothing fancy but still delicious–and watched Carol Burnett on Andy Cohen and laughed our asses off until bedtime.
Day 3: Tuesday, 10/14
I spent my day off doing all of the boring things that I never have time to do: cleaning my bathroom, doing the laundry–and, of course, recovering from my last two days of “research.” When the fiance got home, we were off to our favorite neighborhood spot–Impala Cantina on H Street NE. That night there was a special on Corralejo Tequila Blanco so we both jumped feet first down the tequila rabbit hole. I went classic–Margarita: rocks, salt. Grant is entirely comfortable with a somewhat girly drink in hand so he, unabashedly, ordered a frozen mango margarita with Corralejo.
I’m not afraid to admit that Impala is actually the only place in the city that I’ll order a Mojito–they make them fantastically, with fresh juice (and equally fresh mint–not the purpling, vintage variety utilized by too many) and Brugal rum–and they’re cheap (by DC standards) at $8. Also, few enough people that work there (until now, presumably) are aware that I’m a barman myself so I feel slightly less guilty making someone muddle.
We inhaled our dinner (as always): Queso Fundido with Poblanos, a Pork Belly Taco and Enchiladas–I chose Carne Asada, he chose Barbacoa–both with Salsa Verde and a heap of Chihuahua cheese that would peak the palate of any one who claims to be a connoisseur of Mexican fare. We each had another cocktail and we made a very spirited stroll home. We opted to finish the previous night’s bottle of Montepulciano while we watched Below Deck–a guilty pleasure for both of us. We ended the night over Dickel Rye and that night’s episode of Sons of Anarchy; the Dickel was a great pairing with our dessert: Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Day 4: Wednesday, 10/15
Spent the day working on tasting notes for the new cocktails at Morini–and occasionally allowing the doggies to distract me for a while. Also spent a decent chunk of time figuring out what to wear to Wu-Tang Wednesday at The Satellite Room for my friend Katie’s 30th birthday celebration that evening.
Grant got home late afternoon and we ran to the grocery store for dinner supplies. Knowing that night’s goings out would be heavy on the spirits and ales–we chose hearty fare and I elected a lightly oaked Washington State Chardonnay.
I dressed in my fabulous vintage dress and crazy cropped denim jacket and headed to V St NW–to the Satellite Room. I found Katie and crew hanging outside the door to Satellite Room. We sipped some, shall we say, needlessly fancy and questionably transported Scotch thanks to one of our number and entered Satellite Room of the the Jack Rose fellows bought a round of PBR tall boys for the group, birthday girl included. Another pass of the scotch. I opened a tab and settled on Starr Hill The Love–I’ve always been a fan of a hefeweizen; and I can drink gobs of it.
Several Loves later, just before the start of the Wu, of Wu-Tang Wednesday, we switched sides of the bar to be near the DJ booth. The eight of us piled around/into a booth, which the hostesses clearly loved, and several ordered Wu Tang themed cocktails. The signature, The Wu Tang, is a mind bending concoction of Gin, Triple Sec, and Tang served on the rocks. I sampled Katie’s but opted to stay with beer….and the occasional pass of the scotch. I closed out and rolled back to Northeast…just as my liver began to pickle.
Day 5: Thursday, 10/16
Today I elected to take it easy on the booze–naturally, it turned out to be a heinously stressful work day but I steered clear of the sauce nonetheless. It was a great wine night in dinner service, though, and I got to taste some of the more exciting things on our list at Morini that I hadn’t had yet: Massolino Barolo 2008, Castello di Neive Barbaresco Santo Stefano 2008, and a single vineyard wine from Mt Etna: Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Guardiola 2011.
Day 6: Friday, 10/17
I decided early in the morning that today, in the name of research, I would finally go to Harold Black–the speakeasy above Eastern Market’s Acqua Al 2. Since I’d allowed my body to take a daylong hiatus from the world of spirit, I was ready to tackle a cocktail bar. And psyched. It’s rare in life that anything turns out to be the way you pictured it before seeing it firsthand–it is rarer when it turns out to be better than you imagined before seeing it firsthand. The latter was the case with Harold Black.
I walked in the front door of Acqua Al 2 where three ladies sat sipping bubbly–I said, “Pardon me, I’m looking to get up to Harold Black–” one of them jumped immediately out of her seat and showed me to a stairway, “Go up the stairs and knock on the wall to the left.” Puzzled, I proceeded up the stairs. It was lowly lit, the walls were lined in what looked like corkboard, and it smelled of pine–just a head of me I saw printed on the wall: KNOCK FOR SERVICE. I knocked a simple “one-two-three,” and waited–I could hear music inside, and the din of conversation, but no answer. I knocked again–this time in the classic “shave and a haircut” rhythm and my call was answered.
A young, bearded man slid open the wall, revealing the bar–like something out of a dream I’ve had after falling asleep while watching “Chicago”–he smiled, questioningly. “Just me,” I said–he showed me to the bar and I chose the corner seat. Surrounded by candles on glass shelves, and cleverly placed era-appropriate bric a brac, I scanned the bar. Behind the bar itself I found an impressive collection of spirits: including several that I’ve only seen behind bars I’ve been responsible for stocking.
The perimeter of the small room was made up of half-moon shaped booths bound in blue-gray velvet with brass buttons, dim lanterns, and so many candles (seriously–it must take an hour to light them all), and a well-curated playlist made this decidedly unpretentious space the speakeasy I wanted Harold Black to be. As a side note, I’m crazy about cool bathrooms–check out the lous at Harold Black: complete with those awesome box and pull chain toilets and embarassingly selfie-worthy.
I combed the menu: a lovely collection of smartly named cocktails, and well chosen wine and beer–and not needlessly expensive, as many other “speakeasies” tend to be. I elected the BSD: a concoction of amari and fresh lemon; shaken, double strained (as it should be), and served in a beautiful (and chilled!) coupe. Moments later the conversation between the two bartenders caught my ear and I made some witty response that only others in the industry would appreciate. The two engaged me briefly and then we were interrupted by the request of a guest, something I’m naturally unbothered by–the next time I looked up from my cocktail, I found a shot of Redemption Rye being passed my way. We cheered and shot and resumed our delightful and oddly comfortable conversation. The only question that was left unanswered was the meaning of the name of my cocktail: The BSD.
Our discussion went long and took many bends–somehow it became last call and I requested a check but I’d been poured a hearty draught of Collier & McKeel Tennessee Whiskey and I was in no rush. Somehow, midway through a discussion about music, we realized I was the only non-staff person in the bar and we elected to ditch the bar’s “well curated” playlist and put on Led Zeppelin. A call from my fiance just after 2am shocked me back to reality and again I returned home to H St.
Day 7, Saturday 10/18
I headed in to work around 2pm–again a great wine night at Morini. Lots of Barolo, Brunello, and Barbaresco—and lots of me making my coworkers nuts with my rave reviews of Harold Black. The night was smooth but, after serving 330 guests that evening, my liver and I decided we’d take a night in. I brought home yet another board of cured and cheesy delights and a bottle of our Pieropan Soave Classico 2013–paired these with some Top Chef reruns and counted my drinks diary week complete.