Photos By Armando Gallardo, Words By Julie Espinosa
Roofers Union hosted a sold out “Green Hat Gin Dinner” with cocktail pairings featuring a range of the New Columbia Distillers gins and original dishes, living up to their reputation of one of the best new bars in DC.
To kick off the evening, Michael Lowe, co-owner of the New Columbia Distillers explained the story behind the Green Hat namesake, which is as local as their headquarters in Ivy City. The moniker dates back to the legendary George Cassidy, who was a bootlegger to congress during the prohibition era. (“Green Hat” was Cassidy’s byline when he later wrote for the Washington Post.) This irreverent nod to contradictions could also apply to the venue itself, which juxtaposes swank digs and delicious dishes with the grittiness suggested by the restaurant’s name and the vintage roofers’ overalls that line the north wall of the second floor dining room.
Compliments to the chef, Meek-Bradley, who did an incredible job balancing the delicate flavors and locally sourced ingredients throughout the four course dinner. From hand-cut spaghetti with local goat raised from Virginia to a hamachi fish that was dried out overnight and brushed with gin and tonic, the menu displayed an impressive attention to detail. The pairings were pretty creative, too, and the use of gin cocktails enabled much wider possibilities than a simple wine pairing would have allowed. For example, the main dish, a succulent slice of duck breast with celery root and apple salad, was paired with a drink that included the spring/summer Green Hat gin (complete with the signature DC cherry blossoms) and a taste of celery. The result was a sweet and sour mix with a crisp celery aftertaste that was a bit unusual by itself, but made a perfect finish when following the duck breast.
The most remarkable culinary touch was Meek-Bradley’s pairing for the “navy strength” gin, which included an Indian spice blend called “gun powder.” Her reason for incorporating the spice involves a bit of a history lesson. As Lowe explained, “Navy strength” is a term originating from the British Royal Navy in the 18th century and it refers to liquor of around 110 proof. The way that sailors would “prove” the strength of a cask would be to pour it out, mix it with gunpowder and light it on fire. If the alcohol stayed lit, it was proven to be navy strength and not watered down. As this makes for a pretty hot drink, the Green Hat navy strength gin has been mixed with florals and ginger to take the edge off some of the heat. Luckily Chef Meek-Bradley decided to included the spice blend gunpowder in her spaghetti with goat cheese and goat meat instead of rubbing actual gunpowder onto the meat, which she said that she actually did consider before learning it would result in a toxic dish.
The evening concluded with a delicate lemon meringue pie and a cocktail with Green Hat’s winter gin, which has a touch of rye in it and has been aged three months in apple brandy barrels, making it a more hearty, sipping gin. Although Roofers Union regulars are undoubtedly mourning the loss of pastry chef Vanessa Ochoterena earlier this year, Meek-Bradley’s lemon meringue pie was pretty scrumptious, and will make a great addition to the menu.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, you simply must taste Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s creations at Roofers Union. The folks responsible for the James Beard Award were spot-on when they named her semifinalist for rising star chef of the year. I think we’re lucky to have her here in DC — drop by and let your taste buds decide for you.