Barracks Row Fall Festival

Location: Capitol Hill

Summary: An event that combined the charms of a small town festival with the culinary expectations of a large city

Capitol Hill’s 8th St SE, otherwise known as Barracks Row, is rich with history dating back from the founding of the Capitol city, home to longest manned post of the Marine Corps in the U.S. and an ever changing ethnic makeup of residents whom have each left their own mark on the area. Like many other DC neighborhoods, the area has gone through a significant amount of change and redevelopment in the last few years. Restaurants have opened up and local business have taken over vacant buildings. Barrack Row’s Fall Festival is an opportunity for the neighborhood to not only showcase this growth, but attract plenty of newcomers to the area. The Festival succeeds in featuring the best the area has to offer and the best characteristics of Washington itself.

Although many vendors and restaurants set up shop along 8th St, we were able to easily pick out our favorites. Sapore’s wide selection of olive oils and balsamics were divine for any foodie, the garlic-infused olive oil the best that we sampled. Lavagna takes pride in offering new Italian dishes using only the best local ingredients and meats; their 50/50 burger, a mix of beef and sausage, was by far of of the best pieces of food offered during the entire event. Playing on the attendees hunger and the area’s namesake, chefs from all branches of the United States armed forces, including the White House, competed for the trophy as Top Chef in the US Military during the 9th Annual Military Culinary Competition. The large list of prepared dishes was impressive and made us envious of the judges presiding over the competition.

As we strolled down the street and took in everything the festival had to offer, we reflected that the presentation that Barracks Row put forth could very well have been the same of any small town or rural community. Minus the ferris wheel and a stand selling chocolate covered bacon, the country fair atmosphere mirrored perfectly with what Washington D.C. was meant to be: a Capitol city that had all of the virtues of a small town. Barracks Row’s Fall Festival not only delighted us with its sights, sounds, and tastes (especially tastes), but also showed us that parts of the the city could still exhibit the charm of a small town community.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As with our previous coverage of a festival, we decided to let our pictures more or less speak for themselves. Let us know your feedback and if some additional narration around these pics would be worthwhile.

H Street Festival

Location: H Street NE

Summary: With plenty of music and food from locals, the H Street Festival is a fantastic collection of all things DC.

The H Street NE neighborhood has transformed dramatically over the past ten years of development and its annual H Street Festival has come to become one of the cooler neighborhood events in DC, giving the growing number of new business a chance to attract new customers and showcase the transition of the area.

On September 11, thousands poured onto six blocks of H St to enjoy both the sights and sounds offered by the annual festival. Four stages were staggered along the festival, offering continuous live music and events. Besides the local restaurants opening their doors and offering up specials on food & drinks, plenty of other local DC restaurants and cooks occupied tents and grilled up an large variety of items to enjoy (our favorite by far was the BackYard BBQ tent’s pulled pork sandwich). Taylor Gourmet offered a hoagie eating contest and Dangerously Delicious Pies put on the equally challenging pie eating contest. Plenty of satellite bars dotted the street, but Smith Commons’s drink specials and and Biergarten Haus’s festive selections were some of the better choices available. Atlas Performing Arts Center put on the best shows of the day, featuring performers from their own organization, but also hosting other local talents.

Below is a slideshow of the pictures that we snapped. The H Street festival did a great job of showcasing the nieghborhood scene and, from the tesitmonies we heard from newbie attendees, have made  believers out of many newcomers to the strip of restaurants and businesses. If you somehow missed out on this event, mark it on your calendar for next year. Better yet, haul your ass to H Street NE and grab a drink/bite at one of the many great establishments in the area.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a quick note, we struggled with how to complete this post for a while. Usually, Hungry in DC likes to give an ample amount of context, description, and narration to the events that we attend to paint a broader picture of the experience. We ultimately decided that the pictures of the event spoke for themselves and there was little reason to add additional context. As a reader, let us know your thoughts on whether this is best approach or whether some captions with explanations would be welcomed. Thanks!

Taste of Belgium Festival

When we first think of Belgium, beer and mussels are the first things to come to mind. In days of our youth, we toured the country from Brussels to Brugge, tasting the local cuisines and indulging in more than a few exquisite pints. Years later, DC’s Belgian Restaurant Week has brought us back with their Taste of Belgium festival. While the only beers being offered are the most known three in the United States, the mussels and frites prepared by local Belgan restaurants reminded us of days gone by and just how spectacular the culinary offerings of DC are.

Despite the rain, hundreds of people flocked to Navy Yard’s Yards Park, the first annual Taste of Belgium festival. The beers on display were Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe, possibly the most well known Belgian beers in the US of A. While you would be hard pressed to find any bar in DC worth its salt that didn’t have at least two of these beers in stock, our festival guide gave us some additional insight as to the best pairing for each beer. Stella was best with seafood and spicier dishes, Hoegaarden shining most clear when brought to the table with a pot of mussels, and Leffe an excellent match for barbecue or dark, rich gravy dishes. While each beer drinker will rightly have their own opinion on which brand they prefer, Leffe has always been the one that reach for when given the option. However, it was hard to pass up a pint of Stella Artois when we’re offered a lesson and our own attempt at their marketed pouring ceremony.

The most interesting feature of the festival was the mussels throwdown, a competition of five chefs from five local restaurants around DC known for their Belgian cuisine and prowess: Chef Martin Castillo of Belga Café, Chef Paul Stearman of Brasserie Beck, Chef Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila, Chef Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s, and Chef Geert Piferoen of Locolat. Each had their recipes for the competition and incorporated one of the three Beglian beers available for the public to drink at the event. Our favorite of the five was easily the work of Chef Martin Castillo of Café Belga. While his Stella’s Truffle Mussels did feature truffle oil and chopped truffles, the real ingredients that we enjoyed with the mussels were the leeks and the finely chopped chorizo, the spice and savory flavors elevating the mussels in a broth that was far from the usual faire. We’ve been to Café Belga before and always enjoyed ourselves, but after tasting those mussels we made a promise to make another trip soon. Another essential food on display to pair with our mussels were the frites, served with a drizzle of malt garlic aioli and mayonnaise mix. We struggled to keep ourselves from ordering more than one.

As the festival winded down, the winner of the mussel throwdown was announced as (surprise, surprise) Belga Café. Presenting the award (a giant Stella Artois glass?) by Belgium’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Jan Matthysen, as if ordaining the competition as a true expression of international relationship between Belgium and the United States. Although only the three most advertised Belgian beers were featured, Ambassador Matthysen had reason to be proud of the food on display and the efforts of each participating restaurant’s chef. The Taste of Belgium festival was more than enough reason to brave DC’s torrent weather and gave us plenty to look forward to for next year.

As an added treat, click here to download each restaurant’s featured mussels recipe and preparation instructions (minus Chef Paul Stearman of Brasserie Beck whose recipe changed at the last minute to a red curry based broth).