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Northside Social Opens in Clarendon Today.

Northside Social, Photo by Stacey Viera

Clarendon residents have seen various coffee houses, like Murky Coffee and before that, Common Grounds come and go at 3211 Wilson Blvd., but some are hoping  that the newest coffee house will be here to stay. Liberty Tavern co-owner Stephen Fedorchak and Rammy 2010 nominee,  Executive Chef, Liam LaCivita are ready to finally unveil their latest project, Northside Social, a bakery/coffee-house/wine bar/cafe/lounge with a “soft opening” today, Monday April 5. 

Northside Social

Northside Social is situated in a 3,774 square foot historic double-decker house, previously home to everything from a fire station to the Clarendon Citizens Hall.  Painted bright red to draw attention, perhaps this detail wasn’t needed, as the buzz about the new Clarendon neighborhood spot has been all over the social media sites for weeks. People have already been tweeting and posting photos on Facebook. Stacey Viera of Best Light Communications, LLC, was among the first to photograph the new coffee house and urging others to visit, “If you go to Northside Social this week, get the chocolate/oatmeal cookie. It is Amazing! There’s a gooey burst of chocolate in each bite. YUM!”

Last month I had an opportunity to meet with Alison Christ, formerly  Sommelier of Willow in Arlington, who will serve as Northside Social’s Sommelier and General Manager and Kim Ash, who is leading their Public Relations efforts to discuss the up and coming Northside social and Lyon Hall, former home of Dan Kain trophies, being completely redone to open a “casual neighborhood brasserie.” 

In addition to a wine program developed by Christ, ex-Murky Coffee General Manager, Marianne Tolosa, will serve as the Director of Coffee and will be have the pleasure to operate their $15,000 imported Italian espresso machine, a “La Marzocco,”  which will brew only the best Organic coffee with Organic milk from Trickling Springs Creamery, a small town creamery located in historic Chambersburg, PA.

Breakfast Sandwich

In addition to coffee, Northside Social will have something for everyone: communal tables, a large counter, sofas for lounging, board games for fun, and live music.  The menu, developed by Executive Chef, Liam LaCivita  will include breakfast goods, lunch and other lite-fare, and will include: Polyface Farm egg sandwiches (see photo above), home-made granola and yogurt, oatmeal,  bacon, sausage, and chicken liver rillettes.  Baker, G. David King, will provide over a half dozen fresh house-made breads daily —  and that perfect scone or biscotti, to go along with your fresh coffee.   

Northside Social’s new pastry Chef, Rob Valencia, from NYC will be busy making delicious pastries, pies, cookies, and seasonal treats such as Passion fruit Pound cake, and home-made fresh Apple Pie, just like Grandma used to make. 

Liberty Tavern executive chef Liam LaCivita will oversee both the Northside and Lyon Hill kitchens. Lyon Hall, slated to open with a month or so, will serve more as a local bistro with a full beer program, with nearly two dozen craft beers, 20 draft lines and offer Eastern European cuisine, including: Alsatian tarts, hanger steak and frites, skate schnitzel, roast chicken and a Bohemian sausage platter (stocked with homemade jagdwurst, bratwurst and kielbasa). The three-story establishment will also feature an open kitchen, an 18-seat marble bar, spacious outdoor patio, semi-private dining in the “Trophy Room” and reclaimed New York City subway light fixtures throughout. 

Northside Social opens today! Check it out!

 Northside Social – 3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, late-night dining, Thursday through Saturday. 

Lyon Hall – 3100 Washington Blvd., Arlington. Open for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday.

Is Beer the new wine?

By Evan Halperin, Guest to Dining in DC

When you dine at an upscale restaurant for a meal with a prix-fixe menu, usually there is an accompanying wine pairing. What many people probably do not expect to see are beer pairings. I mean come on, how do you expect them to match my egg noodle pappardelle with boar ragout with a Miller light? The simple answer is: you don’t.

Beer dinners are becoming more and more popular and are sprouting up across the region, giving patrons the ability to experience delicately prepared dishes along side with a craft beer that explores new flavors including coffee, chocolate, raspberry, and many others. The Tuscarora Mill Restaurant in Leesburg, VA recently held a beer dinner featuring Bell’s Brewery. A friend of mine, Jeff Webster attended this dinner and had this to say: “Chef Patrick did a great job of transforming each dish into a meal that not only satisfies the palate, but allows the diner to experience uncommon, yet satisfying beer-food pairings.” Small microbreweries are clearly taking their hand at crafting beers with specific flavors that are made to balance and counterbalance cuisine in new and exciting ways.

Northside Social, Photo by Lisa Shapiro

The Tuscosara Mill is not the only restaurant looking to break into the beer pairing landscape. Alison Crist, General Manager and Sommelier of a new restaurant in Northern Virginia called Northside Social, will be looking to provide customers with beer dinners, like the recently hosted event at the Liberty Tavern. The dinner paired Belgian beers with an exquisite six course meal, from Executive Chef, Liam LaCivita.

Are Beer dinners are the new wine pairings? These thoughts are being echoed even more loudly by Greg Engert, Beer Director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, whose expertise helps manage a beer selection at ChurchKey in Washington, DC. ChurchKey offers over 300 bottles and more than 50 taps, including remarkable 5 cask ales.  Mr. Engert was recently on the Kogo Nnamdi show, discussing the American beer market. Mr. Engert sees the craft beer as having “revolutionized the idea of beer…” creating “an almost new category of adult beverages.” Even during this recent recession, beer consumption was pointed to as one industry that was not suffering. To Engert, “craft beer offers amazing, delicious complexity for affordable prices…” versus “more expensive alternatives of wine and spirits.”

I think that is important to understand that as craft beer has exploded on to the dining scene, high-end restaurants are scrambling to create pairings with beer like they had previously done with wine. Engert believes that as consumer demand for craft beers has increased, restaurants “are seizing upon the opportunities.” A key to this new business decision is the fact that beer is cheaper than wine and champagne, making it all the more intriguing to diners.

Personally, I think that the beer dinner trend phenomenon is not something that will go away. I can remember back to college when my friends and I would stop by Shangy’s, a huge beer distributor in Emmaus Pennsylvania, and search for new interesting beers to try. We didn’t just pick up a case of Natty Light and call it a night. Getting advice from the staff, or going on instinct, it was exciting to pick out a new beer from somewhere halfway across the country, or world, and dig in. Since then, I have enjoyed trying new beers, learning what styles I enjoy and more recently pairing beers with food, something that even my old college self wouldn’t have done.

As far as I am concerned, I hope more high-end restaurants offer beer dinners. I’m waiting on the day that I can go to Jose Andreas’ Minibar and pair cheese-steak puff pastry with a full flavor chicory stout. I suppose I need to go to Minibar first, but that’s another story. Beer dinners will not being going the way of the dodo bird as the popularity of craft beers continues to rise.

As craft beer taps replace macrobrew taps at bars and are installed at high-end restaurants, more people will jump on the craft beer bandwagon which in turn will have them expecting high-end restaurants to offer beer that can match the complexity of the cuisine. Handcrafted beers will continue to be on the rise and restaurants will need to keep up. This is not a phenomenon that is going away any time soon, so make your beer dinner reservations today!

For the beer lovers out there, here are some upcoming beer dinners to mark on your calendar:

  • March 10, 2010 – Beer vs. Wine dinner at BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier, Alexandria, VA
  • March 17, 2010 – Magnolia At the Mill, Purcellville, VA
  • March 22, 2010 Stoudts Brewery at Pizza Paradiso, Washington, DC
  • April 7, 2010 – Smuttynose and Bear Republic at Tusocrora Mill, Leesburg, VA
  • May 12, 2010 – Beers of Belgium at Tusocrora Mill, Leesburg, VA
  • June 9, 2010 – Lagunitas and BBQ at Tusocrora Mill, Leesburg, VA
  • Unknown Date – Beer and Wine dinners at Northside Social, Arlington, VA