Craft Beer, Craft Chocolate Come Together for Happy Hour

By Hope Nelson, Edible DC contributor Look for the pineapple to welcome you into Port City’s tasting room.

Let’s be clear: Any afternoon is vastly improved by beer or chocolate.  But pair a craft beer with artisan chocolate and you’ve got a party indeed.  So it was no wonder that by 5 p.m. earlier in April, the tasting room at Alexandria’s Port City Brewing was already alive and well, reveling in an across-the-river visit by Undone Chocolate.

Undone Chocolate’s product line goes well beyond bars.

On its face, chocolate seems to pair more nicely with wine than with a frosty pint.  But take a closer look at the complexities of Port City’s beer lineup – and Undone Chocolate’s treat selection – and a new viewpoint emerges.  A Bolivian chocolate with the Essential Pale Ale? Sure!  Almond and Himalayan Pink Salt with a Colossal III Heller Bock? Why not?

“Try letting one of the chocolates melt in your mouth before you have a taste of the beer,” another patron tells me as I eye the aforementioned almond-and-Colossal pairing.  “You can really absorb the flavors then.”

He’s right – a penny-sized portion of chocolate melted down in no time, and when washed away by the beer, the complexities of both food and beverage sang out in a joyous symphony.

And that’s the point, says Undone Chocolate’s Adam Kavalier.

“We were welcomed by Port City. … When we come into a brewery, just the appreciation for ingredients, for flavor, for food, and for this natural pairing of our foods together,” Kavalier says.  “The complexities and the intricacies of different origins, versus different ingredients and styles of beer, (are) tremendous.  And they complement each other so well that there’s sort of a natural knack (and) we just really hit it off with brewers.”

Undone Chocolate’s bars pair very nicely with craft beer.

And while Port City’s beers ferment away in their casks just outside the tasting room, Undone Chocolate has also brought its operation under one roof, with a home base in the District.

“We do all the roasting, the grinding, the tempering, aging, molding, wrapping of our chocolate bars,” Kavalier says. “So to go from a cocoa bean to a chocolate bar takes nine steps.  So by doing all those steps we’re able to control the flavor development to make very consistent and high-quality products.”

But back to the pairings. Undone’s inclusion bars – which feature the likes of almonds, pink salt, and spices – met their match with Port City’s Colossal line, including the newly released Colossal V, but they weren’t the only games in town.

The Almond and Himalayan Pink Salt chocolate paired very nicely with the Colossal III.

“The Porter’s really chocolaty and rich, so it really stands up well with the Oko (Dominican), which is our darker chocolate,” Kavalier said.  And the lighter, more buttery Nicaraguan chocolate made a lovely date with the Tartan, an ale bringing with it a hint of roast caramel.

“It’s so fun to partner with other businesses and do pairings and events like this because it raises people’s awareness of what chocolate is,” Kavalier says.  “Chocolate is such a new frontier of food development.  I mean, we’ve been around for a year and a half, and the craft chocolate industry is five or ten – at the most – years old, so it’s nice to join with more established food communities.”

HopeNelsonPicHope Nelson is a tofu-loving food writer who's happiest in the kitchen (or watching college football). She lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Lucky Abigail. Check out her food blog at or email her any time at

Last Minute Shop Local Guide for Foodies

by EdibleDC Team Season'sGreetings!-1

We're on the hunt for last minute gifts--aren't you? Team Edible has made a list of our some of our favorites. You can't go wrong with #buylocal!

Secolari Olive Oil

SecolariWith shops in DC and Bethesda, as well as Columbia and Towson, the oils and vinegars here are some of the best quality you will find. And addictive! Delicious flavors like basil and rosemary oils and grapefruit basalmic; any home cook would be thrilled with these delightfully packaged gift sets. Check out their truffle salt too!

Local Artisan Cheeses


Cheese--a perfect hostess gift. Don't know what to bring to your next holiday gathering? How about a spread of local artisan cheeses? Here is a list of some of our favorites you can pick up at Stonyman Gourmet Farmer:

  • Appalachian - Meadowcreek (Galax, VA)
  • Bay Blue - Chapel's Country Creamery (Easton, MD)
  • Catoctin - George's Mill Farm (Lovettesville, VA)
  • Cheddar, Cave Aged - Hawk's Hill Creamery (Street, MD)
  • Chesapeake Cheddar - P.A. Bowen Farmstand Cheese (Brandywine, MD)
  • Esmontonian - Caromont Farm (Esmont, VA)
  • Grayson - Meadowcreeek (Galax, VA)
  • Monacacy  Gold - Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co. (Boyds, MD)
  • Rainey's Dream - Chapel's Country Creamery (Easton, MD)
  • Tomae - Shepherds Manor Creamery (New Windsor, MD)
  • Goat Cheese - Firefly Farms Creamery (Deep Creek, MD)

Local Booze

Who doesn't love a nice bottle in their stocking and especially when it comes with an endearing local story? Greenhill Winery & Vineyards has a ton of great local varietals including a blanc de blancs (sparkling wine) perfect for the holiday season.


The Virginia Distillery Company is producing some excellent scotch style malt whiskey that would be a great addition to any bar. And it's brand new--so add in the cool factor there too!


American Plant

Great gift ideas come from nature and American Plant has everything you need. Not to mention their Tinge Boutique. This is a true one-stop-shop for stocking stuffers and gift exchange presents ranging from jewelry, tabletop decor, throws and other small furniture items. And of course gorgeous plants.


Best Bees

Give the gift of local honey or better yet all-inclusive beekeeping services and support our pollinators. Best Bees fully takes care of everything and it's a great gift for a family for the kids to learn or as part of your corporate responsibility initiative utilizing the office rooftop. How great is this gift?


Trickling Springs Creamery


Again, on  your way to a party? Trickling Springs' local shop at Union Market is full of ideas for treats. Their incredible line up of local, fresh, eggnog, chocolate milk and holiday-inspired ice cream flavors will make holiday visitors and party goers swoon.

Michele's Granola

This has become our new addiction - we throw a heaping spoonful to our yogurt for a hearty breakfast. They've launched a holiday sampler pack that offers flavors like pumpkin spice and cranberry pecan. Also, you can pick up bags at Trickling Springs in Union Market and at Whole Foods too.


Spice & Tea Exchange

The perfect gift for that avid cook who is always hunting down those rare spices. They have awesome ideas--stores in Alexandria on King Street and downtown Annapolis.


Balducci's Food Lover's Market

Get all your holiday meal shopping down with Balducci's and send locally curated gift baskets to your friends and family. They have an excellent selection of local VA wines!


Casey Health Institute

Give the gift of health with Casey Health Institute's "Wellness Baskets" filled with healthy treats, wellness tips, lotions, and equipment for yoga, meditation, back care, nutrition, fitness and more...


Bethesda Women's Farm Market

Operates through the winter and has incredible vendors and crafts like these gorgeous wreathes -- started in 1932 by farmers' wives selling preserves, baked goods, and produce. You can also find Stoneyman Cheese there as well!


EdibleDC Magazine Subscription

EdibleDC Magazine is a local small women owned business with a mission to promote eating locally and seasonally -- we publish quarterly on sustainable paper with soy ink. Give the gift of growing our local foodshed and sharing delightful stories about farmers, chefs, artisans with friends and family.


Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

Cookbooks are such a good gift for foodies, and always many new ones out for gifting. Here our some of our favorites that you can quickly pick up at Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Dupont Circle or buy online or at other shops in the DMV:

  • The Virginia Table - celebrates the artisans who make Virginia great ranging from cider and wine to chefs
  • Seasons to Taste - local chef Jonathan Bardzik shares his favorites
  • Soup for Syria - soup recipes from international chefs, the proceeds of the book support the Syrian refugee crisis
  • NOPI - is the newest iteration of best selling cookbooks from Yottam Ottolenghi, we just love all of them
  • The Southerner's Cookbook-from Garden & Gun, fun, authentic recipes that speak to many parts of our region

Charitable Gift Ideas

There are so many great charities, here are just a few!


Would you drink a beer that's 200 years-old? Bluejacket’s Greg Engert and Beer Historian Michael Stein set out to make some of D.C.’s first beers

By Tim Ebner, special to Edible DC Okay, so it turns out that a 200 year-old beer doesn’t taste so skunk after all. Not that you should ever try a beer that’s been aged for two centuries. But if we’re talking historic beers — replica ales brewed in a similar fashion as they first were made centuries ago — then turn to Greg Engert and Michael Stein for a sip.


Engert is the beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (which runs Bluejacket brewery and other beer bars like Churchkey) and Stein is a local beer historian and homebrewer.

The duo share a passion for both history and brewing, and recently collaborated on a few beers made at Washington, D.C.’s first brewery.

Maybe you were one of the lucky few to taste these historic beers at a special tasting held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

During the event, Engert and Stein explained how they were able to recreate the beers, which would have been brewed around the time the District was burning to the ground during the War of 1812.

The Washington Brewery (which according to the history books is D.C.’s oldest brewery) began making beer in 1805 by the Washington Navy Yard. It’s nearly the same spot where Bluejacket is located today, and also where Engert and Stein brewed their reproduction ales.

Really, Engert calls his beers an homage to the original since there was no recipe to guide their process. Not having the recipe was part of the creative challenge, he says.

“It seemed at first problematic that we were without actual recipes, but this ended up being somewhat freeing, and more suitable in some ways,” Engert says. “All historically inspired beers are just that: inspired. We are still brewing on modern equipment, with modern ingredients.”

Instead of a recipe, Engert and Stein relied on newspaper clippings found by a local historian and D.C. beer authority, Garrett Peck. Peck is the author of Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. and wrote a research paper that helped to inspire Engert and Stein.

One of the ads referenced the types of beer for sale at the Washington Brewery: table beer, strong ale, X ale and porter. And, a second ad, which is really a notice for the brewery’s sale in 1813, documents the supplies and tools that would have gone into beer making.

Old Beer

Using this historical information, Engert and Stein made beers in a style and profile similar to what early Washingtonians would have drank. These aren’t your specialty and craft beers produced today. You might order a DC Brau Corruption (IPA) or 3 Stars Pandemic Porter, but back then historic beers were lower in alcohol volume and tasted a whole lot funkier.

Engert describes the X Ale as a burly, old school English barleywine. And, since brewing techniques were less than perfect in those days, it would have been easy to sour a beer from naturally-occurring bacteria or yeast strains.

What’s funny is that if you close your eyes and sip Stein and Engert’s historic take on a porter, it actually tastes like many of the newer sour beers found on tap at breweries and brewpubs today. Maybe this is history repeated, but Stein says there are definite lessons to be learned from looking back on D.C.’s brewing past.

“This project was a great starting point for inspiration,” he says. “We got to our porter by doing a bunch of experimentation. It took eight separate times to figure out that blend, but basically we put a modern touch on an original.”

Tim Ebner is a contributing writer for Edible. In the January edition of Edible DC, he profiles Washington, D.C.’s local homebrewing scene. For more food and drink tips, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ebnert

The Buzz on Local Food Artisans: Union Kitchen Vendor Showcase Connects Stories, Products, and Markets

By Rhea Yablon Kennedy, special to Edible DC UKBrick

On January 9, Union Kitchen opened its doors for its first showcase of the year. More than 100 guests nibbled, sipped, and whiffed samples from 37 businesses that rent production space in the Northeast DC facility.

Among the industrial stainless steel counters and vault-like refrigerator doors, the business owners shared personal stories and original flavors.


Bonnie and April Wardlaw of Popcorn Queens represent one of the startups that the shared space has nurtured. For years, Bonnie (the mom of this mother-daughter team) made caramel popcorn at home to give as gifts, brushing off April’s encouragement to sell it. Then April added the popcorn to a catering menu she cooked up, and received a request for more of the confection.

"When I got the order, I felt like I had the evidence that we should go into business,” says April. So Popcorn Queens was born, and word of mouth got around. The business officially launched in September 2013. The two now churn out batch after batch of nine flavor options in Union Kitchen.

“It’s been unbelievable,” says Bonnie.


Not far from the popcorn royalty, a recent college graduate handed out velvety spoonfuls of gluten-free, vegan Slender Seven Cookie Dough, along with the tale of how it started with a business class project, then an online cookbook, and now this product. Next to her, a former embassy chef served up homemade rye crackers with Nordic spreads from the high-end menu of Chef Mikko Catering.

UKChef Mikko

More novel samples and stories awaited upstairs in the bakery area, a room that smells so pungently of Undone Chocolate’s operation, you half expect to see an oompa loompa march by. There, Undone’s Adam and Kristen Kavalier served a tea made from the shells of cocoa beans. But that chocolate-scented tea is just a fraction of their background. Adam, who holds a PhD in plant science, spent years developing their main product: bean-to-bar chocolate that packs more antioxidants per serving than red wine.


Charlie Berkinshaw of Element [Shrub] passed samples of drinks using his tangy-sweet infused vinegars. Shrubs are an old-fashioned concept that recently found its way into mixologists’ arsenals. The path for Berkinshaw involved 400 pounds of urban crab apples and a pregnant woman’s quest for a nuanced virgin cocktail. Element Shrub will be one of the featured vendors at Edible DC’s upcoming Drinks Invitational on February 19th.

But Union Kitchen tastings are more than a romp through genesis stories and tasty products, says Distribution Manager Chris Wren. The events make key connections with retail stores.

“They break down the barriers to entry for our members,” Wren explains, “because a market is much more willing (and generally very excited) to come in when they can see a number of potential products at once.”

That exposure clears the way to store shelves, a path usually strewn with paperwork and cold calls.

The kitchen environment, complete with those industrial counters and walk-in refrigerators, also plays a role.

The space shows “there is a program with the infrastructure and the technical logistics to assist in coordinating the production, fulfillment, and deliveries of products,” Wren says.

Glen’s Garden Market, Yes! Organic Market, Dawson’s, Whole Foods, and numerous other stores already carry Union Kitchen products. There's little doubt that shoppers will see more "Made in Union Kitchen" labels in 2015.

Rhea Yablon Kennedy teaches English at Gallaudet University and eats good food wherever she can find it. She has written for The Washington Post, Elevation DC, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Grist, as well as Edible DC's predecessor, Edible Chesapeake.