Though the design in Fire & Sage’s dining room exudes modern elegance, the eatery’s kitchen relies on a decidedly more Old-World device: a wood-fired brick oven. Serving as the kitchen’s cornerstone, the oven bakes signature flatbread pizzas whose flavors range from the classic pairing of mozzarella and basil to an eclectic mélange of sopressa, pepperoni, chorizo, and goat cheese. These upscale twists on finger food represent Executive Chef Stephen Malfatti’s entire menu of refined American classics such as crab-cake sliders on potato rolls, sage-marinated organic chicken over sweet-potato risotto, and sea scallops topped with wild-mushroom ragout. As a starter, the gooey artichoke dip was described as “so generous with lump crab, we imagine it comes from the recipe files of Daddy Warbucks,” by the Washington Post. Regional microbrews join domestic and international beers on the drink menu, which also boasts eight signature cocktails ranging from a tiramisu martini to a cucumber-based concoction with Skinnygirl vodka. Inside the Washington Marriott at Metro Center, diners sit at high-top tables in the bar area or in plush, lime-green booths with giraffe-print accents in the dining room. The colorful booths and chairs play elegantly against the golden-hued wood of the walls and floors, all of which are illuminated by oversize hanging lamps.
Central Liquors, one of Washington DC's oldest and most established liquor suppliers, employs a staff with encyclopedic knowledge of the shop's multitude of wines and spirits. Seventy-one types of single-malt scotch tumble into glasses and sport peaty or mild flavors that have been aged for years in oak-lined casks or oak-lined halls of a private school. Liqueurs and cordials sweeten cocktails and clear spirits such as vodka and gin provide the basis for many a martini.
The shop's selection of champagne and sparkling wines can fit any budget or occasion, from New Year's Eve festivities to the bathtub christening of a new toy boat. Wednesday through Saturday, Central Liquors hosts in-store wine-tastings, sharing multiple bottles from their international inventory. The staff can also advise party throwers by helping brainstorm appropriate libations their event and recommending an appropriate number of bottles based on the number of guests.
Evocative aromas ascend from swirling chalices at Veritas Wine Bar, a brick-walled lounge where sommeliers pair more than 70 wines by the glass with a menu of cheese and charcuterie plates. Grape-infused elixirs gush from a temperature-controlled tap system, ensuring uniform sips unmarred by sudden climate shifts or clumsy fire breathers. Reds and whites from Italy, South Africa, and New Zealand slosh into individual glasses or join forces to create flights. Globetrotting artisanal cheeses fall under four categories—blue, cow, goat, and sheep—and deliciously mingle with charcuterie selections. Sippers can scrawl an appetizing epilogue across the evening’s feast by noshing on chocolate morsels laced with slow-cooked caramel or pistachio butter, which silence petulant sweet teeth without preemptively donning a bedtime retainer.
Skilled mixologists serve up complex drinks at Wisdom, a dark yet charming cocktail parlor where heavy draperies and ornate lights hang along exposed brick walls. Their drink menu runs the gamut from wine and imported beer to a vast selection of authentic absinthe. Bartenders also mix up non-alcoholic "mocktails," with flavor profiles that are as interesting as their alcoholic counterparts. Events such as trivia night pit martinis against memories, and yappy hours let dogs lounge on the patio and play poker while owners sip libations. Wisdom also dishes up tasty tidbits such as chocolate beer waffles doused in maple syrup or bacon waffles covered in bourbon and caramel apples.
Organic. Fair trade. Sustainable. Microroasted. Plenty of adjectives describe the coffee at Pound The Hill, but the staff is most concerned about one in particular: delicious. They partner their carefully curated brews with breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Breakfast sandwiches—such as the Italian Elvis, smothered with Nutella, bananas, and honey—segue into lunchtime ones piled with veggies, feta cheese, pesto chicken salad, and pulled-pork barbecue. At dinnertime, chefs switch sandwich bread for small plates and entrees, such as organic chicken breast stuffed with blue crab. The restaurant also hosts daily happy hours, which happens to be what clowns call each credit they need to graduate from clown college. During this time, guests sip wine and beer while noshing on discounted appetizers.
Stepping into Calvert Woodley Wines and Spirits can be a bit discombobulating. Even though this is one of the Metro area’s top liquor stores, the smell of fresh coffee beans and the sight of a lengthy deli counter are the first things your senses encounter. But take a wider view and you’ll quickly enter a world of wine, where the huge selection includes bottles from around the world in all price ranges. If you need a navigator, just ask a knowledgeable staff member. The store also has a nice assortment of craft beers, and is fully stocked with liquor. For the best deals, check out the discount bin near the back of the store for bargains on wine and spirits. And don’t forget about that deli counter. It’s packed with all sorts of gourmet goodies, including meat, cheeses and caviar.