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written by: Svetlana Legetic, photos by: Jeff Martin (+Shauna Alexander for POSTE and Julian Vu for Seasonal Pantry)

FOOD IN THE WINTER! So much to look forward to and so little time. Instead of pretending that we can do some sort of a crazy comprehensive list of anything (I tried to do some sort of a opening/closing list but then I gave up-just read our “weekly food news” for that), we figured we’d round up some people who we REALLY trust and ask them for advice we think may make your eating and drinking winter a little better around these parts.

  • PERFECT MULLED WINE RECIPE- by Jamie MacBain, head bartender @ Bourbon Steak

Now, we’d trust Jamie MacBain with any cocktail any time, but after we swung by Bourbon Steak for a little holiday imbibing tips lesson (read more on that here) it was obvious to us that his mulled was HAD TO be our winter punch. It can only do the body good – after all in the olden days, mulled wines was called Hipocris after the Greek physician, Hippocrates because drinking wine was considered a healthier and safer choice to drinking water at the time. So there, no use resisting it. Recipe below:

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Ingredients:
1 bottle red wine (Zinfandel or Pinot Noir)
1/2C Apple Brandy (Lairds or Clear Creek)
3 cinnamon sticks
4-5 pods star anise
small palmful cloves
4 cardamom pods
3 Szechuan peppercorns or regular black peppercorns
4T honey (adjust to taste)
3 orange twists (from the peel of two oranges)

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How to:

In a large saucepan, toast all the spices over medium low heat. Add wine, apple brandy, orange peel twists and let simmer gently for 30 mins. Do not let it boil. Serve in a glass without straining out spices.

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Notes: If making this ahead of time and storing it overnight, strain out the spices and citrus. You can store the mulled wine in the fridge and heat gently on a stovetop when ready to drink.

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Alternatively, you can also put all the ingredients in a crockpot and mull it overnight on the low setting.
Use a vegetable peeler to make the orange twists.

(BONUS: Interested in more wintry drink recipes from Jamie? Click here for the Poinsetta, the Eggnogg and a breezy, appley punch)

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Sure everyone loves a bird during the holidays, but we knew we could trust Scott Drewno (perennial BYT favorite) over @ The Source to come up with a different take on the holiday dinner that will still feel as festive as anything you associate with the season. Enter the Peking Duck prix-fixe menu available only December 22-24th. Mainly, we’ll Jeff’s AMAZING food porn photos do the talking, but we the basic info you may need below:

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Crucial Details:
Dates available: Dec 22-24 in the main dining room
Price: $49 per person, excluding tax and gratuity
Dishes: Roasted duck, noodles, duck bao buns, fried rice, seasonal side and signature 15-layer carrot cake
Reservations: Required and can be made at 202-637-6100.

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  • Best New Menu to Check Out if You’re NOT Quite Sure What You (OR your date) are in the mood for: POSTE BRASSERIE

We’ve always been fans of POSTE Brasserie (inside Hotel Monaco) as a date spot. A great bar, a great courtyard, a great location, great (read: low) noise levels and good food. But then in October, Dennis Marron stepped in as head chef and the food in the place just exploded. In a good way. The menu, while now truly embracing the brasserie approach to eating, expanded two-fold it seems: hors d’oeuvres include everything from fried head sliders to oysters to bordelais and truffle fries, pâtés range from perfectly creamy chicken liver musses to wonderful pork rillettes, and then there’s house-made cured meats, hearty soups and stews, traditional entrees, a mussel menu, a every-part-of-the-pig selection and raw bar offerings of oysters, clams and seafood plateaus. We DARE YOU to talk out unhappy. Even more so-if the person you’re with can’t find something on the menu that makes their heart go pitter patter, we think it should be a dealbreaker. I mean, just look at these photos:

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  • Baby, it is NOT cold outside-covered rooftops to enjoy this Winter

DC is a big fan of outdoor drinking and eating. BIG. So during these

  • EL CENTRO DF (see photos below)- continues their happy hour reign on 14th street with a newly covered rooftop, nicely heat lamped and featuring a delicious menu of small plates like their Chinchilo Negro (smoked brisket/winter vegetables/pickled chiles/black chile broth) and those $4 margaritas

also for your consideration:

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  • a winter treat: NANCY BITES – recipe by Buzz Bakery‘s Tiffany MacIsaac

The first time we took a bite out of the Luther, one of the more seminal SILFs we’ve ever written about, we knew Tiffany MacIsaac was a girl after our own heart. Then-she won a Rammy last year as the pastry chef  to be in awe of, and so when we went looking for an easy, make-at-home, extremely delicious winter treat, we knew not to look any further than her. Tiffany currently oversees desserts at all Neighborhood Restaurant Group locations (which include Churchkey and Birch & Barley, Buzz Bakery, the newly re-opened Evening Star, Tallula and more) and she swears this bar recipe below is as easy to make as it is delicious. Go on-try it:

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3/4 c. rolled oats,
1 c. pecan granola (can substitute other granola)
3/4 c. sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. pepitas
3/4 c. almonds sliced almonds
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add in 10.5 ounces of sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine. Scoop the mixture in to a mini muffin pan that has been sprayed with pan spray or lined with paper liners. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes until just slightly golden on edges. Allow to cool fully before serving.

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  • NEW DC FOOD HEROS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR: Dan O’Brien and Ali Bagheri of  Seasonal Pantry

Do you remember that time when Spike Mendelsohn called DC a second tier city for food? Some of us vehemently defended DC as a top culinary capitol, while others like myself quietly agreed with Spike’s presumptuous yet more than slightly true choice of words. The fact of the matter is that when it comes down to it, DC in no way compares to NYC, Chicago, L.A., New Orleans, SF or even Philadelphia in terms of quality of food. It’s a damned shame considering how much amazing produce, meat and seafood we pull from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and even DC itself believe it or not. So we’re not at the top. So what? How do we get to the top? I get the feeling that Dan O’Brien and Ali Bagheri have an idea; and they’re calling it the Seasonal Pantry. Read our story on their supper club, their recipes and the way they’re going to save your culinary soul here.

Every time we eat at Oyamel we just want to stand up and clap a little. That’s how much we love it. But small plates and delicious cocktails aside, Jose Andres’ Chinatown location also serves what is probably one of the best hot chocolates we’ve laid our lips on. We ddin’t really think they’d give us the recipe but they did. You’re welcome.

(serves 4)
Chocolate mix – makes about 4 cups of the chocolate mix.
1 pound Mexican Chocolate (Ibarra brand chocolate for example)
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp ground Mexican (canela stick) cinnamon
Grind the chocolate to a powder in a food processor.
Combine the ground Mexican chocolate with all other ingredients.

Runners up in the hot and chocolatey category:

  • The Melting Pot’sDisaronno Meltdown: Silky white chocolate swirled with Disaronno Originale Amaretto and flambéed tableside (and if you’re in an especially indulgent mood, add that to their Chocolate Wildberry Crunch Fondue, which is their take on the timeless American classic PB&J – made with milk chocolate, crunchy peanut butter with a puree of blackberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • Pitango – so rich
  • AC KC – so spicy

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  • Clyde’s restaurant group just opened a new restaurant/music venue/bar that seats up to 1000 people and is open 24/7/365. Yes you read that correctly. We have the full scoop/photos/excitement building facts for you right here.

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HOLIDAY BEERS- Greg Engert of Church Key/ Birch & Barley

If you’ve ever been to NRG’s beer and food emporium on 14th street (and at this point, who hasn’t?) you know that Greg Engert not only knows beer, he KNOWS beer (don’t trust us, read his beer diary here). So, for every BYT beer lover out there, we asked him to select his perfect six pack of seasonal beers (with food pairings, since this is the business he’s in) and he graciously obliged (and which he has kindly packaged for your holiday purchasing needs as the gift packs over @ Planet Wine, in case you don’t want to buy 36 beers in order to try 6). Enjoy.

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1. 4 CALLING BIRDS 2011
The Bruery – Placentia, California – 11%
FLAVOR: This is the fourth in the 12 Days of Christmas series of very limited Holiday releases from that beacon of Belgian brewing in Southern California, The Bruery. This year’s singular style is strong and dark, with a well-integrated array of spicing; nutmeg, allspice, star anise and sweet orange peel transform the flavor. What results is a robust cold-weather ale showing chestnut malt notes layered with a gingerbread-esque cookie quality, all wrapped around vanilla and figs.

PAIRING: This is an obvious choice with sweeter desserts, complimenting all meal-ending treats. Whether complimenting dark fruit or cake-driven desserts, or adding complimentary complexity to chocolate or any number of pie preparations (Pecan and Pumpkin come immediately to mind) 4 Calling Birds will festively follow any and all Holiday feasts.

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2. NISSEFAR 2011
Haandbryggeriet – Drammen, Eastern Region, Norway – 7%
FLAVOR: This malt bomb of a brew is brewed in small quantities just for the Holidays. Nissefar, or Father Christmas, is a rich and chewy ale, as intense as it is complex. The gents of Haandbryggeriet stuff an outrageous—and astonishingly varied—amount of malted barley, guaranteeing a full bodied elixir demonstrating the essence of balance; bready sweet flavors dusted in brown sugar and drizzled in caramel pitch perfectly against a backdrop of mild coffee and cocoa.

PAIRING: Nissefar is a fitting companion to all manner of grilled or roasted meats, as such a pairing capitalizes on the inherent affinities between a slightly charred, caramelized exterior of roast beef, as well as any cut of steak, and the toasted or roasted grains.

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3. SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER: BOURBON BARREL-AGED 2011 (Brewed in 2010)
Port Brewing/ Lost Abbey – San Marcos, California – 10%
FLAVOR: Since 2008, Port Brewing has not only brewed and released Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout on it’s own, but also a scarcer companion version matured for 9 months in freshly-drained oak Bourbon barrels. The pitch black base brew proffers a mouthful of dark chocolate drenched in espresso while the barrel sends forth flavors of coconut, vanilla, burnt caramel and a hint of leafy tobacco. The finish finds an exquisite dovetailing of roasted bitterness and the drying power of tannin.

PAIRING: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Santa’s Little Helper is an unparalleled nightcap. Pour at cellar temperature into an oversized snifter and sip this spirituous stout, allowing the waves of nuanced intensity to wash over the palate. Put your feet up in front of a crackling fire, and—for good measure—light an expensive cigar you’ve been saving all year.

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4. CANASTER 2010
Kleinbrouwerij De Glazen Toren – Erpe-Mere, Province of East Flanders, Belgium – 9.5% ABV
FLAVOR:Designed as a sort of Belgian-take on the classic Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy, this tiny-craft brewery has discovered how to perfectly harmonize the two brewing traditions. The Scotch Ale’s traditional tendencies abound: nutty, slightly caramelized and toffee-esque smoothness followed by an almost earthy, bittersweet note that is imminently warming. The Belgian yeast ferments for a touch of spice and tantalizing notes of dried fruit, most notably raisin.

PAIRING: The earthy quality assure that Canaster can marry beautifully with game birds as a sort of rustic partnership plays between the two. Add in the ale’s dark fruity character and sweeter notes and the brew will serve to further sauce your holiday duck, pheasant or squab. Bonus points for a bounty of root vegetables on the side.

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5. PAGE 24 BIÈRE DE NOËL 2011
Brasserie Saint-Germain – Aix-Noulette, Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region, France – 6.9%
FLAVOR: From the fertile grain growing and, thus, beer brewing region of northern France comes a wonderful Holiday steeped in the Bière de Garde tradition. This “beer to keep” has been matured by Brasserie Saint-Germain for a restrained mélange of fruit in the nose: think orange, a touch of red apple and even hints of plum and grape. French malts drive the smooth biscuity body with expressive toasted tastes, while the finish suggests a touch of toffee in tandem with spicy, herbal French hops.

PAIRING: A knockout for Holiday food pairing, this ale finds felicity with countless preparations. Bold enough to handle intense flavors, the brew shows enough restraint to accompany milder flavors. Definitely a stunner with your Holiday turkey, not to mention in congress with all of the fixings: doughy, herbal, and slightly fruity flavors beg for stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and sweet corn.

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6. AMAGER JULEBRYG 2008
Amager Bryghus – Kastrup, Capital Region, Denmark – 7.5%
FLAVOR: This Danish Craft Brewery’s digs have a storied history…at one time a fallout shelter, then a depository for Danish language Bibles, the building is now the source of some of the finest artisanal, hand-crafted brews coming out of Scandinavia. Each year they craft a new seasonally-inspired beer, and for 2008 they went to work on a Dubbel, a Belgian Dark Ale style most notably produced by Monk’s. Three years of bottle-aging have tempered all of the elements into gorgeous balance and yielded new complexities of Port-like nuttiness and prunes. This joins a lush profile of Belgian yeast-driven cherry fruit, a grain-based spice cake quality, and even some blueberry derived from the gentle addition of New Zealand Pacific Gem hops.

PAIRING: This Julebryg can stand in for a fine Port after dinner, enjoyed on its own or with a slice of fruit-based pie. But its dynamic spectrum of aromas and tasted makes it appropriate to sauce intensely flavored lamb dishes as well. Red-hued and robust, Julebryg 2008’s juicy, darkly fruited character is as at home dressing the meat as it is mimicking the lamb’s mouth-watering interior

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COMMENTS, AS ALWAYS, WELCOME.

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