Brunch is a Serious Work of Art at the National Gallery

Bottomless and Buffet-Style, The Garden Café Wins on the Weekend

Charcuterie and cheese at the National Gallery of Art Garden Cafe brunch. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

Charcuterie and cheese at the National Gallery of Art Garden Cafe brunch. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

By AJ Dronkers, EdibleDC

Weekend brunch is serious sport in Washington, D.C. Most restaurants, including those that feature our top local chefs, offer insane brunch specials to include the ubiquitous bottomless brunch. While you were fighting for a reservation on 14th street, the National Gallery of Art just launched what might be the best bottomless brunch experience, category: Buffet Edition.

No surprises here. Team EdibleDC loves brunch and has sampled our way through a fair share of DC's brunch options. As a rule of thumb, buffet-style anything is oft avoided, but we recently made an exception to try the new brunch at the Garden Café inside the National Gallery of Art. Surrounded by awe-inspiring art as you walk through the marbled gallery, we snagged a table next to a fountain centered with a female statue that in my imagination is saying, “Oh yasssss.” What the Garden Café might lack in a party vibe, it more than makes up for in ambiance and people watching.

The Garden Cafe at the National Gallery of Art West Building. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

The Garden Cafe at the National Gallery of Art West Building. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

Buffet brunch at the Garden Cafe. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

Buffet brunch at the Garden Cafe. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

For $30, you get an all-access ticket to the brunch buffet which includes traditional items like buttermilk pancakes, baked frittata, pork sausage and seasonal fruit. We opted to start with a heaping tray of imported charcuterie and cheese because, well, shouldn't everything in life start with cheese and champagne? Our group quickly decided to add on the $10 bottomless feature.

As we sipped on our second mimosa, we discovered roasted butternut squash, baby kale, and a Greek couscous salad. A pleasant addition, as we people watched gallery goers. 

Just as I began to realize how tipsy I’ll be for Game of Thrones, our waitress reminded us to try the roasted free range chicken and the short ribs. Seriously, cancel all your plans and get yourself to the National Gallery for brunch available now through September. You’ll thank us later.

The National Gallery of Art. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

The National Gallery of Art. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

Full menu available here.    

National Gallery of Art

West Building 

6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565


AJ Dronkers is the Associate Publisher and Digital Editor for EdibleDC Magazine. When he's not eating and drinking he's usually making up for it at spin. @aj_dc

Tiki Tsunami

DC rides the wave of island inspired cocktails

By Tim Ebner, Photographs by Rey Lopez

The rising tide of tiki-themed bars is washing ashore in Washington, DC, and bartenders are using local and seasonal ingredients, as well as far-away places, for tiki inspiration.

Say “tiki” to bartender Sarah Rosner, and she’ll immediately start talking about her tropical paradise: Hawaii. As a kid she grew up on the Big Island with passionfruit and mango trees in her backyard.

“We would run around the jungle and eat fresh mangos for lunch,” she says. “Those local and fresh ingredients continue to influence me, which is why I’m making tiki. It’s my love for island life.”

For a slice of Hawaii in DC, head to Radiator, where Rosner mixes inventive tiki cocktails amid poolside loungers, rooftop views and somewhat-tacky offbeat-tropical decor. The vibe here is definitively summer. And if that, combined with summer heat, doesn’t get you thinking South Pacific, the “Eddie Would Go” should do the trick.

It’s Rosner’s favorite tiki drink on the menu and reminds her of home. The drink’s name is in tribute to Hawaiian surf legend Eddie Aikau, and it contains a unique Hawaiian spirit—Okolehao, made from fermented ti root and sugar cane. The spirit is commonly known as Hawaiian moonshine and packs a punch when sipped straight.

Her “Eddie Would Go” adds to the booziness with green Chartreuse and a refreshing mix of grapefruit juice, cinnamon and local honey. To make the cocktail more local, Rosner recommends substituting a blend of Cotton & Reed white and dry spiced rum in place of Okolehao, which is hard to find outside Honolulu.

Part of the allure for tiki is that, for better or worse, you probably don’t know what you’re drinking—and you probably don’t care, says bartender Owen Thomson, co-founder of the tiki-themed bar Archipelago on U Street. There’s a lot of mysticism and mystery to the method of making tiki drinks, Thomson says. And many patrons, he says, are simply happy to drink from a flaming bowl of rum punch served in a cored out pineapple.

Luckily there are tiki purists, like Thomson, who have studied up on historic recipes. He can easily rattle off bars, like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s, that opened in the 1930s and served carefully guarded cocktails from unmarked liquor bottles. More recently, he says bars like Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago have come to set the standard for popular drinks like the Mai Tai, the Daiquiri and the Painkiller.

“Really, there are no rules because tiki is something that’s constantly evolving and changing,” Thomson says. “As more bars open—especially here in DC—the experimentation continues, and the notion of a tiki cocktail gets bigger.”

That’s good news for the at-home bartender looking to make tiki drinks at home. Thomson says there are two essential ingredients to a good tiki bar: a collection of quality rums and fresh fruit juices. Of course, the tiki mug, spices, bitters and garnishes matter too. At Archipelago, the Banana Daiquiri not only has fresh-ripened bananas in the drink, but also a banana dolphin that watches as you drink.

Garnishes can also serve a purpose. At barmini, bartenders Miguel Lancha and Al Thompson use fresh sprigs of rosemary to help heighten the senses. “Each time you take a sip, you also smell the freshness of the herb,” Thompson says.
Breathe deep as you down this fruit-filled punch, inspired by the far-off flavors of Peru. The cocktail—Mohan Travels to Peru and Gets a Haircut—is named for the drink’s mohawk shape and Peruvian ingredients.

To make this cocktail, grab a classic tiki glass and add aged Demerera Rum, Peruvian Pisco and a popular Peruvian juice—Chicha Morada—made from purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar. While some might question whether a Peruvian-inspired drink can truly be tropical or tiki, Thomson says tiki has no real or defined boundaries.

“That’s part of the beauty,” Thomson says. “Tiki is a drink that’s from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.”


Drink: The Eddie Would Go

Ingredient Trending: Activated Charcoals Fire Up District Menus

By Arielle Weg

Charcoal grills are a perfect way to cook up succulent steaks and juicy burgers, but would you ever consider adding the black powdery stuff to your food? With a slew of health benefits and a wicked color, more eateries around the District are getting behind this food trend and sprinkling activated charcoal powder over their dishes and drinks.

The Japanese-inspired restaurant Himitsu serves up The Black Out cocktail, balancing sweet, spice, sour and herbaceous agave-based booziness, says Carlie Steiner, owner and beverage director at Himitsu. The cocktail shakes up tequila, jalapeño, honey, pineapple and activated charcoal, strained over ice into a coupe glass. (Note: The Black Out just rotated off the cocktail list, but ask for it and you’ll get a chance to try it!)

The Black Out cocktail at Himitsu.

The Black Out cocktail at Himitsu.

“The thought of curating a black cocktail and expecting harsh, dark flavors but then tasting that cocktail and recognizing the light, refreshing flavors and aromas was just fun and it gave our guests a bit more of an interactive experience,” says Steiner.

And she’s absolutely right. The cocktail uses only an eighth of one charcoal capsule, so it’s more for the fun element than flavor.

JRINK products spring 2017-114-Edit (1).jpg

JRINK Juice also mixes up a charcoal treat. Their Black Magic juice incorporates activated charcoal, aloe vera, grape, apple and lemon juices into a grape-flavored lemonade. JRINK recommends this dark drink to relieve indigestion, increase energy and purify your insides after a day of eating or drinking not so well. Black Magic uses charcoal so fine that it is virtually tasteless in the drink but, according to the JRINK website, it contributes detoxifying properties like aiding in digestion, getting you over a hangover, lowering your cholesterol, soothing bile flow problems and trapping chemicals.

Can’t get enough of charcoal juice? Downtown DC juice bar Fruitive hopped on the charcoal wagon with their charcoal limeade. It’s made with lime, pineapple, activated charcoal, water and ginger. The bold beverage is described as citrusy and spicy and is also supposed to be great for cleansing. You can also pick up a charcoal lemonade at Greenheart Juice shop (made with lemon, coconut nectar, activated charcoal and bentonite clay) or stop by South Block Juice Co. for a Rehab Juice (coconut water, coconut meat, Madagascar vanilla and activated charcoal) or an Activate Juice (apple, aloe, lemon and activated charcoal) to help cure your hangover and prevent toxins from being absorbed.

Charcoal is more than just an addition to sippable concoctions. Try Bidwell’s charcoal pizza dough, described as a natural purifier with the ability to aid in digestion, or Capitol Kettle Corn’s acai and charcoal powder popcorn. What better way to celebrate the season of barbecues and beers than with fun charcoal-inspired sips and snacks?

A Spin in the Countryside

Bike paths offer pleasant cruising, tempting stops

Words and photos by David Amini

In and around DC, we are lucky to have bike trails that are easily accessible—a great motivator to get out and get fit while making the most of our city. Make a day of a bicycle ride in DC or the outskirts and you may end up feeling you’ve had a miniature vacation. Two favorites are the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) and the Rock Creek Trail. Both are long and winding with varied scenery and have hidden treasures.


Illustration by Cherry Blossom Creative. 

Illustration by Cherry Blossom Creative

Cyclists looking to make a day of a great bike ride with food and drink will love the W&OD, a 45-mile trail that stretches from Shirlington to Purcellville, Virginia. The trail gets its name from the railroad that operated from 1859 to 1968 on this route, originally built to transport coal and Appalachian riches to Alexandria, but later used as a passenger railway.

For riders from the DMV, the trail is easily picked up in Shirlington at the end of the Four Mile Run trail. Riders can also park at different stops along the trail where trail parking is offered by the regional park. Metro access is available along the Orange line at East Falls Church and Dunn Loring and along the Silver line at Wiehle-Reston. The trail “out and back” totals 90 miles. Most choose to ride just a portion of the way, starting either at the beginning in Shirlington, or at any point along the way. No matter where you start, great food and drink await.

The DMV offers great trails for cyclists.

The DMV offers great trails for cyclists.

Part of what makes the W&OD so special is how the surrounding communities have embraced it. Starting in Falls Church, at mile marker 6.5, cyclists have easy access to Mad Fox Brewing Company. Two blocks off the W&OD, Mad Fox Brew Pub offers a full menu of local beers. For riders starting in Shirlington looking to do a shorter ride, Mad Fox is an easily achievable destination. Just west of mile marker 12, in Vienna, is Caboose Brewing Company. Caboose takes full advantage of the W&OD: You’ll see Caboose’s large and inviting patio from the trail. Caboose serves fresh brewed, floral and earthy beers alongside locally sourced farm-to-table dishes. The food and drink coupled with the view of the trail make for a must stop.

Old Ox Brewery 

Old Ox Brewery 

The stretch from Vienna to Herndon is about seven miles and passes through Reston. Bikers rejoice: Several fabulous establishments back right up to the trail. In Herndon, stop for a beverage at the Green Lizard Coffee Bar. Just beyond mile marker 19.5, the family-owned Green Lizard serves freshly roasted coffee, and to cyclists there is nothing as refreshing as a fresh iced coffee. Beer here too. Taps often feature local beers, but Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is always on tap. Half a mile off the same mile marker (19) is Aslin Brewing Co. in Herndon, a great stop for folks who enjoy big-bodied, fruity beers. Continuing down the trail, cyclists will pass through Sterling and into Ashburn, where they will find Old Ox Brewery just off the trail. Old Ox is a family-run brewery just after mile marker 25, which offers a large variety of beers and a big porch overlooking the trail. On nice days, the large garage doors of the brewery open up to the trail, and guests can enjoy the view and breeze of the W&OD. Try the Hardway Summer Lager, a light golden lager perfect as a thirst quencher on a warm day. Also in Ashburn, at mile marker 27.5, is one of the most popular places to eat: Carolina Brothers BBQ. There aren’t many things that can work up an appetite like a long ride, and with the smell of barbecue starting a quarter mile before Carolina Brothers, you can’t help but stop. From here it’s about five miles to Leesburg, where many cyclists choose to stop for a great bite or drink.           

Carolina Brothers BBQ

Carolina Brothers BBQ

The W&OD trail runs directly through downtown Leesburg. Located at mile marker 34, Fire Works Pizza is a fantastic option for food and drinks and is located 1/5 mile from the trail. Three-time winner of Loudoun County’s best pizza title, Fire Works offers wood-fired pizza with local ingredients and has over 100 beers as well as an extensive wine list, including many local ones. The Smokey Blue pizza, featuring Gorgonzola, wood-roasted onions and local bacon is a house favorite. Fire Works has an outdoor patio overlooking downtown Leesburg and with its fresh-fired pizza and extensive local beverage list, this joint serves as a turnaround point for many.

Within the Tuscarora Mill complex, check out Crooked Run Brewing. Crooked Run is a brewpub that offers small-batch, fresh-brewed beer with attention to detail and creative takes on well-known styles. Brewers recommend the Carrera Torcida for cyclists, a crisp and refreshing Mexican lager. Have a beer on their patio, and you will be surrounded by elderberry, sour cherry and hops all grown for use in their beers. Worth mentioning is the opening of the first Delirium Café in the United States, also in downtown Leesburg, scheduled for May 15. And if you have energy to ride out to Purcellville’s quaint downtown, the farthest point, you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery on the way to Catoctin Creek Distillery, La Petite LouLou Creperie, BBQ, ice cream and more—all a short distance from the end of the trail. What makes the W&OD trail so special is that it has something for everyone. Riders can choose the length of their ride, and at any point be within minutes of a great place to eat and drink. It’s all about exploring and discovery—have fun.

Rock Creek Park in DC offers an equally wonderful trail and is a fantastic option for folks looking to make the most of nature within the city. Unlike the W&OD, which offers just one path, Rock Creek Park is much larger and offers options. The best of Rock Creek is accessible on weekends and holidays, when Beach Drive is closed to vehicles during the day. Cyclists can start at Beach Drive and Broad Branch for another “out and back,” which continues north 19.5 miles, one way. Riders can access the trail from Cleveland Park or Van Ness stops on the Red line. Those who follow the trail to the head of the creek at Lake Needwood will need to do a little route finding, much of which is outlined on the website

Food and beverage options are sparse on this trail, but nature’s lush surroundings are abundant and you may find yourself in awe of how just how beautiful a park Rock Creek is. For much of the trail, cyclists have the option of biking either on paved road or on the parallel bike path. Getting to Lake Needwood is a treat and re-energizes a cyclist amid a long ride. However, remember to hydrate the proper amount and eat the right food before you leave on this (or any) long ride. Focus on replenishing electrolytes and carbohydrates as key factors, in addition to hydration. Most experienced cyclists recommend breakfast around two hours before your ride, giving enough time to get digestion under way. Oatmeal, or a two- or three-egg omelet is a great way to start the day; fruits and vegetables are good choices too.

Pack lunch or snacks for Rock Creek Trail

Pack lunch or snacks for Rock Creek Trail

During the ride, bring snacks that provide electrolytes in addition to hydration and carbohydrates for energy. A banana is a healthy choice for a workout, as is an energy bar. Think about bringing trail mix or a local granola; it’s also fun to make your own. Before, during and after your ride, hydrate. Do not forget to drink water—500ml to a liter per hour is a good pace.

Both of these trails offer riders the freedom to pick and choose a distance, a destination and a place to unwind. You’ll see that most riders on either trail are usually smiling as they ride by. We’ll bet that after you embark on your ride, you’ll understand why.

Chef Jerome Grant Cooks with Passion at Sweet Home Café

Chef Jerome Grant

Chef Jerome Grant

By Erin Williams, Photographs by David Santori

Before Chef Jerome Grant was named as head of the kitchen of one of the world’s premier history museums, before said kitchen was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, before he was rubbing elbows with Questlove and Carla Hall and spending his weekends doing food demonstrations on the “Today” show, he was just a regular kid growing up in Fort Washington, MD.

An Air Force brat who spent his childhood moving from place to place with his mother and father, he found a sense of stability working in the kitchen alongside his mom. “My mother was always in food service, whether it was fast food or dining services for the military,” he says. “I was always around her and I enjoyed being around food.”

When he started Occidental High School in 1996, his parents decided he was old enough to earn his own spending money. His mom gave him his first job, working at The Sports Page, a bar and grill on the campus of Andrews Air Force Base. Before he knew it, he found the community he didn’t know he had been missing.

“I enjoyed making pizzas, I enjoyed flipping burgers. I liked hanging with the older guys, hearing their stories. I was able to get extra wisdom from these guys,” he remembers. When the time came for college decisions, Grant, who had been spending his school days as a science and technology student, decided to veer off that path and go to culinary school at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh.

He wanted to be a pastry chef, but his father intervened and forced him to do the entire education sequence, including studying restaurant and hospitality management—“which turned out to be one of the best things that my father made me do,” he remembers. He balanced classes and working part time, spending his nights working with his roommate as a fish butcher for Wholey’s, one of the oldest seafood and meats purveyors in Pittsburgh.

 “I took pride in coming in and butchering 100 pounds of salmon a night and tuna for the guys who picked it up for their sushi bars. I enjoyed being able to walk around Pittsburgh knowing that more than likely I touched a lot of people’s fish in the meantime,” he says of the experience. Once he graduated, he began working for a corporate catering company, where he met chef Jake Sgueo. They became friends, and when Jake left to become food and beverage director for his father-in-law’s beach resort in St. Croix, “he was always joking, ‘When I get down there, if you want to come and work with me I’ll try and set something up,’” Grant remembers. “And then literally a week later he called me and said ‘You ready to move to St. Croix?’”

As easy as the decision should have been for a young, unburdened 20-year-old kid, Grant found himself waffling. “The furthest I’d ever been from my parents was Pittsburgh, and that was a $30 bus ride back home. To move 1,666 miles to St. Croix was scary to me. It wasn’t a bus trip, it wasn’t a car ride—you gotta fly home.”

But he did it, initially agreeing to only stay for six months to help get things started. He was only making $7.50 an hour and worked seven days a week. “But mind you, I lived in a villa that was on the beach. I literally would wake up in the morning, walk to work. I had that resort life, which was really awesome, and at the same time I was able to understand myself as a growing adult and how things worked,” he says.

He ended up in a salaried position as full-time chef for two years, learning everything from how to run a kitchen to how ordering food affected costs. “I enjoyed it—I truly enjoyed it. I learned a lot of lessons there. I understood the blood, sweat and tears side of it. You have to put in more than you’ll ever get out—and be OK with it.”

After two more years on the island working as the head chef and partner for Mix Lounge, Grant ended up returning home to DC and was hired to help open Urbana at the Hotel Palomar in 2006. Working with the Kimpton hotel group provided the kind of teachable moments that gave Grant the confidence to move on a few years later, this time to the restaurant and lounge space known as IndeBleu in Chinatown, working under chef Michael Hartzer. He ended up being laid off a few year later, after the owners decided to shift IndeBleu into more of a nightclub.

Rather than jump quickly into his next opportunity, Grant decided to take a step back, re-evaluate and be a stay-at-home dad to his son, a toddler at the time. “It was amazing— we’d watch ‘Blue’s Clues’ together every morning, I’d feed him his breakfast, feed him his lunch. It was great,” he says.

“With everything I’d gone through in the past few years I needed that time to recharge and relax because I truly didn’t know where to go from there.” He mulled his options while picking up opportunities at FedEx Forum during the football season, and made his full-time re-entry as the executive sous chef at Rosa Mexicano’s National Harbor location.

“I walked in and thought ‘Aw, man, it’s career suicide—I might as well work for Applebee’s,” he says of his initial impression working for the high-end chain. But after studying the original recipes and the massive prep team, his mind-set changed. “It really opened my eyes: You could serve mass amounts of people and still have great-quality food.” But the 14-hour days and not having time to see his son led Grant to seek work that would allow more balance.

Luckily, he didn’t have to search long. While browsing Craigslist for opportunities, he came across a somewhat vague sous chef listing that promised, simply, a good quality of life. Grant answered and was asked to meet at the National Museum of the American Indian.

“I walked into the museum’s cafeteria and thought ‘Great, salad bars, pizza stations, mashed potatoes ... I just thought it was the wrong thing for me,” he says of his initial impression of the Mitsitam Native Foods Café. But after sitting down for an interview with Head Chef Richard Hetzler, his impression changed.

“The museum was about showing native cultures that most people don’t know too much about, and Mitsitam used food as a way to reinforce that education,” he says of the original recipes he and his team created for the café menu. “We focused on cooking techniques, the seasonality of the ingredients and the regional food differences between native people—it had so much academic study behind it. And being at the museum—it gave me a great quality of life, and I was actually cooking. We were truly cooking.”

He and his team received a RAMMY award (presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, RAMW) for Best New Restaurant in 2012. His work did not go unnoticed, and led to his promotion as the chef-manager at Smithsonian Castle.

“Me being the chef-manager, I had to do everything: controlling the money, the whole nine yards. I had to learn very fast,” he says of running the public café as well as staff café. “I was able to really learn all the facets of how a business truly runs.” In 2014, Hetzler left and Grant was asked to return to the Mitsitam Café as the executive chef.

“But I didn’t want to go—because I wanted to be here.”

“Here,” of course, being the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum hadn’t even broken ground yet, but Grant was clear about his next steps.

“I would talk to my boss and say ‘That’s where I want to be. For me, it’s a part of my story, I grew up down the street. I want to be at the new, biggest and brightest thing on the Mall. I want to showcase my culture,” he says. “I’d never done ‘our’ food. I’d worked at French restaurants, Italian restaurants, island-style restaurants. So for me it was very important to come back here and do this—and it completed my story.”

His boss’s advice? “Take the American Indian Museum to the next level. Start building up yourself as a chef in the city and help innovate that museum to the best that you can, and I guarantee you’ll be the guy that’s in there.”

He took that advice and began elevating the food experience, crafting signature seasonal menus based on the style of preservation that American Indians would have utilized. “It wasn’t about taking all these different items that nobody’s ever heard of and just forcing it on [visitors], it’s actually about introducing it to them in a very comfortable way. We want you to come in to our tables, have the food, and talk about it—talk about the history behind it and how this coincides with your experience of the museum. And we ended up doing that very successfully.” The media took note, and Grant’s name was seen in every publication from Bon Appetit to Southwest Airlines Magazine.

And now Grant is “home” at Sweet Home Café. The space is paneled with photos from the 20th century, from sit-ins at lunch counters to author James Baldwin dining with singer-activist Nina Simone. Families of all ages come through the food line, which offers selections from around the country: from New Orleans and the rest of the South, the North and the West. The menu has everything from catfish po’ boys to fried chicken to rainbow trout, red velvet cake and sweet potato pie. As social media posts have shown with photos of pleased faces and empty plates, the long lines are worth the wait.

Grant can’t wait to continue innovating in the kitchen. His team will continue to seasonally change the menus as well as conduct more research into African American foodways and work with cooks across the country.

“A lot of people associate African American food with soul food. African American food is American food. Whether we were slaves cooking for owners, or whether we were indentured servants in various homes and taking care of families, we were the ones cooking these meals. We were always here. To me we were so resilient as a people it was, like, ‘This is ours.’”

For the chef himself, he just wants to continue to make his family proud.

“My dad, my mother and my girlfriend are my biggest fans. My dad brags about me—which is scary,” Grant says. “It’s great for what it’s done for my family, and for me those are the most important things—that my family is extremely happy with who I’ve become. To be able to pay them back with doing something for our culture and also representing our family well, that’s all that matters. And being here—it’s the icing on the cake.”

“I don’t know my end result, but I know that I’m home here. This is the highlight of my life.”

What legacy do you want to leave at Sweet Home Café?

That we showcased African American food as “American food.” Each taste is rich in history.


Writer Erin Williams did a quick Q&A with Chef Grant.

The food you most look forward to eating in summer?

Crabs and oysters. My family and I are big on summer gatherings

What is your favorite summer ingredient to cook with?

Eastern Shore Corn, it’s super sweet.

Your favorite comfort food?

Ramen, the love I have for it is eternal.

Your best breakfast ever?

Huevos rancheros!! ALL-TIME FAVE!

What’s your favorite music to cook by? has just some of the songs I enjoy the most.

Your son’s favorite things to eat with his dad?

Sugar Shack doughnuts, pepperoni pizza, grilled corn.

What legacy do you want to leave at Sweet Home Café?

That we showcased African American food as “American food.” Each taste is rich in history. This is the food that took care of communities, it impacted lives but, more importantly, it fed your souls.

From our Summer 2017 issue.

Weekend Road Trip: 7 Fresh Reasons to Visit The Homestead This Summer

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia's storied resort.

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia's storied resort.

By Tim Ebner, EdibleDC

For decades, The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, has been a mountainside resort where Washingtonians have gone to unwind for the weekend. This storied lodging is where many past presidents have stayed and played, as well as countless golfers, hikers, and spa enthusiasts, including American's original hot springs lover, Thomas Jefferson.

But now it promises to draw food lovers who want to relax and fuel up. In the last year or so, thanks to some chef shuffles and restaurant changes, The Homestead has upped its food program. Whether it’s fresh market produce, sourced from the Appalachian and Shenandoah regions, southern-inspired French cuisine, Virginia beer and wine, or a visit to The Homestead’s very own beehive, you’ll want to take time to see what all the buzz is about. Here are a few places to eat, drink, and stay while you’re visiting.

Chef Severin Nunn checks the beehives at The Homestead. (photo credit: Tim Ebner)

Chef Severin Nunn checks the beehives at The Homestead. (photo credit: Tim Ebner)

1. New Chef, Menu, and Gardens at The Homestead: The Homestead resort is focusing on local and sustainable food this summer, thanks to some new chefs, menus, and new gardens and a beehive. For dinner, put on your finest jacket because the setting is formal inside this majestic and soaring Main Dining Room. The menu features locally-sourced seafood, like Virginia oysters Rockefeller, crab salad, and Chesapeake rockfish, as well as farm-fresh favorites, like a morels and farm egg dish served on a bed of country grits. Virginia native Severin Nunn is the new and young talent—just 32 years old—behind several menu changes at The Homestead. He started last fall and brought with him a new and exciting culinary team. Prior to this, Nunn worked at the two-starred Michelin restaurant Guy Savoy, and he served stints working for Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse in New York and Las Vegas. Ultimately, it was his fondness for the Chesapeake region (he’s from Williamsburg) that brought him back to Virginia.

He’s one of the youngest executive chefs at The Homestead. Several of Nunn’s changes are focused around new gardens that are in the process of being developed. There’s the chef’s garden, featuring a selection of micro-greens, as well as an herb and spice garden, which produces garnishes for food and drinks served at the resort. But, Nunn says he’s most excited for the local honey coming from The Homestead's recently installed beehive.

2. Snack Local at Milk House Market: Just down the road from The Homestead sits your best bet for groceries and snacks, including coffee, wine, beer, deli sandwiches, and other assorted snacks, many of which are sourced from Virginia. And if it’s lunchtime, Milk House Market is your best bet. The deli counter serves sandwiches like The Yard Bird, a curried chicken salad sandwich, and The Old Dairy, a pimento cheese sandwich topped with fresh cucumbers and greens. It’s also one of the few place in town with farm-fresh groceries including local cheese and meats.

The dining room at SNEAD'S 1912 Steak. (photo credit: Tim Ebner)

The dining room at SNEAD'S 1912 Steak. (photo credit: Tim Ebner)

3. Southern-Influenced French Cuisine at Les Cochons d'Or: Chef Kyle Krieger and Sommelier Crystal Krieger are a husband-wife team running a French country restaurant adjacent to The Homestead (located on the Southside Village’s Main Street). Their love for food shows through in each dish-to-wine pairing—be sure to ask Crystal for direction of wine and cocktails as the menu changes seasonally. While the name, Les Cochons d'Or (aka The Golden Pigs), may imply French-haute cuisine, the menu is simply local and southern-inspired food. Stand out dishes include the braised veal sweetbreads, served on a bed of polenta with chive flowers, Virginia mountain trout, crusted in almond and served with a parsnips puree, and braised and grilled lamb shoulder. Almost every dish is cooked on a wood-fired grill, which adds a layer of smoky flavor.

4. New & Improved Snead's: This year Sam Snead’s Tavern got a facelift and menu change. It’s now an upscale steakhouse and bar called Snead’s 1912 Steak. At the helm, is Chef Mattie McGhee, who was previously with Bryan Voltaggio’s Range. One of the best dishes on the menu is the full-rack-of-ribs, which McGhee smokes out back.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Hot Springs without overhearing the name Sam Snead. This famous PGA golfer was also one of the top golfers in the world for almost four decades. Snead spent a significant portion of his life at The Homestead. And this steakhouse and bar pays tribute to his career, including a display near the front door featuring all of his hole-in-one balls. If you’re at the bar, keep an eye out for Sam Snead Jr., who is a known-regular and also more than willing to tell you a story or two about his dad’s legacy.

The Inn at Gristmill Square, Warm Springs, VA.

The Inn at Gristmill Square, Warm Springs, VA.

5. Hidden Watering Hole: Just up the road in Warm Springs, sits the Inn at Gristmill Square. It’s home to one of the town’s best restaurants, Waterwheel Restaurant, but don’t miss out on the much smaller and hidden bar, Simon Kenton Pub. It’s a four-seat pub, located in what used to be the Mill’s main office. The menu features a selection of beers and wines, many of which hail from Virginia. And get there early. The bar has a no-reservations policy, making it hard to snag a seat, but you shouldn’t have any trouble if you time your visit when the bar opens at 5 p.m.

6. Presidential Cocktails at Homestead’s Lobby Bar: Sorry Camp David, Mar-a-Lago, and Martha’s Vineyard, the real place where presidents drink and unwind, at least in the history books, was at The Homestead’s Lobby Bar. Behind the bar are several portraits of the twenty-two presidents who have visited The Homestead, including Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Richard Nixon. This is also the place to order up a traditional Manhattan. The bar serves four different varieties—with Bulleit rye, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s 46, or Crown Royal Black.

A cabin at Natural Retreats. (photo credit: Natural Retreats)

A cabin at Natural Retreats. (photo credit: Natural Retreats)

7. Cabin Comforts: Of course, not everyone wants to stay at The Homestead, and you’ll likely save a few bucks if you opt for a more moderately priced, off-resort option, including one of the many B&Bs or home rentals. The newest and best option for your stay is Natural Retreats, which rents rustic log cabins and homes, located just a few minutes south of The Homestead resort, in the Homestead Preserve. Cabins are serviced by Milk House Market for dine-in and delivery food service. And most rentals come with cooking amenities, including gas-range grills, gourmet kitchens, and outdoor fire pits, making it the perfect stay for an at-home cook.

Regardless of where you decide to stay, The Homestead and surrounding Hot Springs and Warm Springs region, have many new and exciting reasons to relax and refuel for a weekend away from Washington, D.C.

Tim Ebner is a Washington, DC food writer and Edible DC contributor and won the 2015 Edible Communities Reader's Choice Award for Best Feature. Learn more: