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Part 2 of our innovation series celebrates 10 more movers and shakers shaping the dining and food communities in DC. See what you missed last week.
MJ Gimbar is a really good catch. Black Restaurant Group reeled him in to serve as their fishmonger, but he’s so much more. Having earned his stripes at New York’s Wild Edibles Seafood Market, MJ blogs weekly about sustainable seafood. Wonder why the price of halibut is skyrocketing? MJ’s got you covered. He provides all of Jeff Black’s restaurants, including Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Republic, with fresh and responsibly sourced seafood in addition to stocking the case of exotic ocean treasures at the Blacksalt Fish Market. “We’ve expanded our selection based on our confidence in educating customers; that’s why you’ll see things that you won’t find elsewhere,” he tells us. Examples include barnacles, sea urchin, and bright red prawns called carabineros. Not sure what something is? Scan the product’s QR code, which takes you to this carefully curated page, also by MJ.
The Green Zone
We’re willing to bet your lips have never met a Saz’iraq—a Middle Eastern twist on a classic New Orleans cocktail called a Sazerac. It’s one of many cocktails on the menu at The Green Zone, a roving bar from Chris Hassaan Francke, who is half Iraqi. He’s a World Bank employee by day and mixologist by night, popping up regularly at locations like Black Whiskey and Vendetta. His drinks are made with homemade bitters, syrups and infusions, plus local liquor like Green Hat’s Ginavit. “Exposing guests to the flavors of the Middle East through cocktails is my way of bringing Arab hospitality to DC while giving people a taste of something that’s simultaneously brand new and familiar,” he tells us. Find The Green Zone’s next location by following it on Facebook or Twitter.
The increasingly competitive restaurant scene (and skyrocketing rent) means a lot of pressure to succeed, especially on the hot stretch of 14th Street NW. Slipstream positioned itself for success by thinking outside the box. Married owners Ryan and Miranda Fleming make the most out of their space by operating a buzzy coffee shop by day and a cocktail den serving dinner come evening. Their coffee program alone has gained national attention for its pour-over coffee, specialty drinks and house-made almond cashew milk. The cocktail program is about to catch up because of Slipstream’s recent acquisition of Tom Brown (formerly of Hogo) to tend bar. They’ve also found ways to do a lot with a little in a kitchen lacking a hood, range or grill. A blowtorch is often the weapon of choice—gently kissing pork belly that tops rice bowls.
Sona Creamery & Wine Bar
Restaurants trying their hand at making everything in house is a mega-trend. Chefs are baking their own bread and pickling their own vegetables, while bartenders are concocting their own syrups and bitters. At Sona Creamy, the in-house obsession has been cheese production. As DC’s first restaurant with an on-site creamery, the married duo of Conan & Genevieve O'Sullivan, whom we snapped, are currently making small-batch goat cheese. As soon as they receive a final certification from the government, they will start making cheese to age in their custom-built aging caves. Conan and Genevieve did all of the heavy lifting in terms of setting precedents and getting permits, should other creameries seek to open in the District.
They say it takes a village to raise a baby. Well, sometimes it takes a Paul Ruppert to raise a village. DC real estate has been in Paul’s family since 1889, and while his food and beverage reign has come to an end on 7th St NW, another is well underway in Petworth. Upshur Street is home to three places from Paul (Petworth Citizen, Crane & Turtle and Upshur Street Books), with a fourth on the way. “I’ve always loved Petworth; it’s a stable neighborhood with history,” he tells us. Paul’s strategy is to match buildings with concepts. “I looked at the physical structure, prominent corner and open windows,” he says of 4201 Georgia Ave NW. “It called out to me as a diner.” Slim’s Diner is scheduled to open in July. As a part of the preparations, Paul took the innovative approach of asking area residents to weigh in on what they want from a neighborhood diner via online survey. Pictured: Paul, Molly, Raymond, Mark and Christina Ruppert.
Cava Grill is the fast-casual spawn of the more formal Cava Mezze restaurant that launched in Rockville, MD. Three good friends with Greek upbringings— Ike Grigoropoulos, Ted Xenohristos and Dimitri Moshovitis—maxed out their credit cards in 2006, built the tables and chairs with their own hands, and made it work. Fast-forward to 2015 to find 11 Cava Grill’s open or with coming-soon status. They may use assembly-line ordering like Chipotle, but they’ve injected quick-eats cuisine with culinary techniques and premium proteins like lamb, slowly braised with garlic turmeric, cayenne and coriander. Even their jalapeno-infused “crazy feta,” is made from cheese imported from Greece. Cava Grill also features products from local artisans like Gordy’s Pickle Jar and Whisked!
Curating a standout wine list with interesting finds like orange wine wasn’t enough for The Red Hen Sommelier Sebastian Zutant. So, he teamed up with Virginia Wine Works’ Ben Jordan to create a wine the restaurant could call its very own. The rosé style wine is au naturel in style, meaning it's low on sulfur, without additives, unfined and unfiltered. The first batch of Sebastian’s wine, dubbed “Dalia,” was bottled on Jan. 29 and it debuted on the wine list on March 3. Get a glance at the label; it was designed by one of the restaurant’s servers. Up next for Sebastian is the production of a rosé cider.
Thanks to this Edgewood food incubator that opened inside a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in October 2014, 20 food artisans or “members” have access to professional kitchens. By producing out of Mess Hall, edible entrepreneurs gain the resources and relationships necessary to help them succeed in placing their products in area grocery stores, at events and more. Take MISFIT Juicery. They’re addressing “produce prejudice,” or the phenomenon that many consumers won’t buy weirdly shaped or otherwise ugly fruit. They source not-so-cute fruit and turn it into juice. Another Mess Hall member, Fruitcycle, similarly sources ugly fruit to produce apple chips, which are available at Glen’s Garden Market, Little Red Fox and Each Peach Market, to name a few.
“What the heck, let’s try it,” is the most innovative attitude to have behind the bar. Urbana Beverage Director Ray Daly embodies this sentiment by breaking new ground in his increasingly popular amaro program. In addition to offering guests an amaro menu 30 lines deep and teaching amaro classes, Ray is barrel-aging house-made amaro made from unique ingredients like lentils. His lentil amaro gained complexity via an arsenal of tinctures (concentrated alcohol infusions) made from smoked apple, chamomile and cardamom, to name a few. We chatted with him about what’s next. “I’m tinkering with fruit, vegetable and flowers for spring, like sour cherry, honeysuckle and lilac,” he tells us. Expect him to continue pushing beverage boundaries.
If you frequent Clyde’s, Ted’s Bulletin, Taylor Gourmet or just about any grocery store in the region, chances are you’ve sunk your teeth into something from Logan Sausage. The Alexandria, VA, family business has been making sausage since 1987, when Clifford Logan Jr. left his job as the VP of Giant Food in Landover, MD. “We’re doing a lot more business than when we started, but we’re doing it the same way,” says Clifford Jr.’s son Kevin Logan (pictured), who handles restaurant sales. “We make 120lb small batches the old world way, using whole muscle meat,” Kevin tells us. He takes the innovative approach of meeting with chefs and restaurants to discuss their needs, including developing a new recipe if necessary. Logan Sausage produces close to 70 kinds of sausage, many of which are variations of chorizo.