Photos By Sarah Gerrity, Words By Logan Hollers
José Andrés epitomizes fun. His restaurants are fun. His food is fun. His personality is (really, really) fun. He rides those water jet-pack things. He dances on trees. He gets buck when Paul Pierce nails potential game-winners for the Dubs. He just won a Rammy for Best Restaurateur in DC. And his events? Goddamn, his events are fun.
Tuesday night marked the annual Dine-N-Dash: A Culinary Tour of Penn Quarter. Andrés again served as chairman of the event, imbuing it with his unique brand of culinary showmanship and a strong sense of camaraderie amongst the participating restaurants and attendees. Even better, 100% of the event’s proceeds benefit World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian organization that focuses on solutions to hunger and poverty.
The concept’s pretty simple: a group of twelve Penn Quarter restaurants shut down for the night and come up with specialty dishes and craft cocktails. Guests wander, eat, drink, chat with the staff, take some pictures, and move on – easy! Live music at a few stops was a welcome surprise, including a rocking country band at the Partisan, and two women playing authentic Japanese kotos at SEI (had to look that instrument up on Wikipedia – so uncultured).
As is typical whenever Andrés is involved, everyone brought their A-game for the event – multiple food stations, passed small bites, and a steady flow of cocktails at each spot ensured that no one had two empty hands for long.
Ed Witt and his crew at The Partisan won the night for me – sommelier Brent Kroll (who just returned from a wine tour / tasting trip in Greece AND WON A RAMMY for best Wine Program) started everyone off with a super dark sparkling lambrusco that immediately found its way to the top of my summer drinking list. Bright and crisp without being cloying, the wine was a perfect foil for the salty housemade mortadella and the straight-up incredible nine-month sirloin ham.
A pork doner kebab “taco” (Think of a rustic country pate in lavash. But, like, way better than that.) and a “Stronger Than Me” cocktail with gin, homemade grapefruit shrub, Mirto, and lime, set the tone for a great night.
Some of the other top bites and sips of the night: spit-roasted lamb shoulder lettuce wraps from Zaytinya (which remains the most beautiful dining room in D.C.);Oyamel’s asado de bodas taco, stuffed with a ridiculous stewed pork and topped with pickled onions, and a small serving stand with … mezcal sno cones (be still, my heart); the made-to-order dumplings, fried rice, and ceviche (one of the best spoonfuls of the night) at China Chilcano; the vegetable paella at Jaleo (obviously); tuna tartare and Negronis in Poste’s backyard patio; the “On My Mind” cocktail with bourbon, curacao, ginger, and spices at (the surprisingly swank) OYA; the carved pork with dirty rice, Miami bouillabaisse with mussels, clams, and fish in a chile-lobster broth, and salsa band / overall awesome party atmosphere at Cuba Libre; and every wood-grilled meat off the enormous outdoor grill manned by Victor Albisu (another 2015 Rammy Winner) at Del Campo.
Once guests were sufficiently drunk and full, they migrated over to the Carnegie Library for a baller afterparty that featured one of the coolest floors I’ve seen in D.C. – seriously, if you can, get over to the building’s L’Enfant Map Room, which has an illuminated floor inlaid with a aerial map of D.C.
When I could peel my eyes off that awesome floor (drunk brain + drunk eyes led to me trying to find my house for like twenty minutes), Mockingbird Hill, 2 Birds 1 Stone, and El Camino were slanging on-point punches and cocktails, there were tables piled high with desserts and snacks, a live jazz band, and gift bags with jugs of olive oil (nice!) and kitchen aprons (lame!).
Downstairs was just as fun, with both Dogfish Head beers and more music flowing steady. Hell, I even tried some cold pour-over(?) coffee at Madcap’s coffee bar / science lab. No luck though: still disgusting (no offense, Madcap – I’m sure yours was actually great for normal people who like coffee).
And threading together the entire night, José Andrés. Schmoozing and chatting through every restaurant; selflessly posing for every.single.requested.selfie; and, most of all, best of all, booming laughter and backslapping everyone he met, D.C.’s favorite adopted son was the perfect encapsulation of the event itself. Andrés’ passion for food, philanthropy, and fun (sense a theme here?) yet again made for an outstandingly good time.