August is typically a quiet month in Washington and those of us left sweating it out in the city are sorely in need of distraction. Because it can also be a slow season for local restaurants, they’ve gifted us with Summer Restaurant Week and D.C. Beer Week (Aug. 20-27), aimed at getting us out and about to eat, drink and be merry.
About 250 area eateries are participating in Summer Restaurant Week (Aug. 14-20), offering special prix fixe menus — $22 for lunch or brunch and $35 for dinner. As an added bonus, you can feel good about your meal, because many of the participating restaurants are donating a portion of the proceeds to the Capital Area Food Bank to provide much needed funds to nearly 500 food assistance partner agencies that serve food-insecure residents in the region.
Here are just a few of the restaurants well worth checking out, and reservations are strongly suggested:
Arroz (901 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.): The latest offering in chef Mike Isabella’s empire, Arroz concentrates on Moroccan and Spanish flavors; you’ll find a salad dressing made with guindilla peppers from the Basque region, crispy pig tail garnishes, and desserts accented by Moroccan mint tea ice cream and cookies flavored with ras el hanout, a North African spice blend. Because the menu is pricey — and some of the portions on the smaller side — Restaurant Week is a good time to check out Arroz, although vegetarians may have a tough time eating off the set menu.
DBGB (931 H St., N.W.): OK, so maybe dessert is not supposed to be the reason you go out to brunch, but DBGB’s decadent chocolate caramel sundae, a luscious confection of chocolate cake, chocolate chantilly, fudge, caramel and chocolate ice creams, then topped with darling little pearls of caramel is too good to pass up. And maybe that’s after having the brioche French toast, but only because it’s accompanied by roasted Blue Velvet apricots — a lovely little hybrid of a plum and an apricot that is richly sweet with only the barest hint of tang. Start with the arugula salad if you’re feeling guilty.
La Puerta Verde (2001 Fenwick St., N.E.): Located in the newly renovated Hecht Building in Ivy City, you’ll find authentic, yet updated, Latin American flavors coming from the kitchen of chef Carlos Camacho, from a classic corn tamal served with a creamy poblano sauce to braised pork cooked in the Michoacán style from the state along Mexico’s Pacific coast. The fresh fruit cocktail of papaya, pineapple, and melon comes spiked with tajÍn, a chili-laced salt. Be sure to spring for the white sangria, lush with peaches and mango and laced with brandy.
Once you’ve eaten your fill during Summer Restaurant Week, it’s time to drink up during D.C. Beer Week (Aug. 20-27), an eight-day celebration of D.C.’s local craft brewing scene, which has truly exploded over the past decade, making the region a beer lover’s destination. There are dozens of events, featuring everything from beer and hot dog pairings to ice cream beer floats.
Here’s a quick sampling of some of the week’s highlights featuring tasty beers from mostly local and a few farther-flung breweries;:
Learn the ins and outs of home brewing from local homebrewers at Brookland Pint (716 Monroe St., N.E.) on Sunday, Aug. 20. From noon-4 p.m., members of the D.C. Homebrewers Club will be brewing a batch of beer on the patio at Brookland Pint and answer your questions about how to get started brewing beer at home, from what equipment you’ll need to recipes and troubleshooting. Just show up, no tickets needed.
If you’ve always wondered about lager that has an odd buttery undertone reminiscent of popcorn oil or a stout with a distinct metallic aftertaste, then you might want to head to 3 Stars Brewing Company (64 Chillum Place, N.W.; 3starsbrewing.com) for an educational offering, the Off Flavor Tasting Class, on Monday, Aug. 21, from 6-8 p.m. You’ll learn how to detect off-flavors, what causes them, and then, luckily, get to finish the evening with a perfectly-balanced brew. Go online for tickets.
After the decadent brunch you enjoyed during restaurant week, head back to DBGB (931 H St., N.W.) to check out Booze Brews (danielboulud.com) on Tuesday, Aug. 22, where your $30 ticket will entitle you to sample several beer cocktails and snacks; featured breweries will be Ommegang, Port City, Founders, Right Proper and Devils Backbone, with creative recipes coming from bartenders at DBGB, the Salt Line, Iron Gate, the Inn at Little Washington and Le Diplomate.
Get your groove on at Right Proper Brewing Company’s Brookland location (920 Girard St., N.E.) on Sunday, Aug. 27 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at their Record Fair. Browse the stacks of vinyl from Songbyrd Café and other purveyors while enjoying a fresh Right Proper brew. DJ Tim Lake will spin tunes while you tie dye your very own Right Proper T-shirt; no tickets required.
Kristen Hartke is a D.C.-based food and beverage writer; follow her culinary adventures on Instagram, @kristenhartke.