#FamiliesBelongTogether March

#FamiliesBelongTogether March

Join us March 30 for #FamiliesBelongTogether March

We will open in the Grotto Bar with our bar menu ’til 5 and regular menu thereafter. It will be happy hour ’til 7 pm and burrata & meatballs are half~price all night!

We will be donating $1 per beer for every local beer sold that night! In addition, you can donate to KIND or the ACLU and we will leverage your donation as follows:

Donate $50 and get a gift certificate for $10 good thru Thursday, September 6th {except August 13 thru 19 which is something or another week in DC. Donate $100 and we bonus you with a $25 gift certificate. We will need your email address and we will be putting you on our semi infamous email list. You can always unsubscribe, but it keeps Dean busy and off the streets so consider it more public service.

Donate to Kind

Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day Weekend BBQ

Saturday, May 26 thru May 28

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of grilling season.  So we will pull out our grill and grill up some specials for the weekend.  As always, our menu is subject to change if I decide that something else would be more fun to cook!  But in any case, we will have a tasty selection featuring our local meats, sustainable seafood & our hyper-local produce from the local farmer’s markets.  We will have Happy Hour all weekend long!

Saturday, May 26

Grilling from 5 pm til 8 pm
Half Price Burrata & Meatball in the Grotto Bar
Wine Madness & Free Corkage

Sunday, May 27

Brunch Noon ’til 4
Grilling from 5 pm til 8 pm $10 Mussel Pots
Wine Madness & Free Corkage

Monday, May 28

Bar Opens at 2 pm
Grilled items from 2 pm ’til 8 pm
selected antipasti, panini, grilled items available 2 ’til 5, regular menu after 5.
Dining Room opens at 5 pm with our regular menu
Wine Madness & Free Corkage

The Memorial Day Weekend BBQ Menu

seafood skewer ~ rosemary skewers with shrimp, scallop, fish, calamari, w/citrus pesto

steak ~ american waygu ‘mishima reserve’ steak, spice marinated, grilled medium rare

grilled veggies ~ a skewer of the best from the farmer’s market

grilled veggie pasta ~ we use our summer heirloom~tomato essence, anchovy, and grilled veggies to make a thick sauce for our house-made pasta

Side dishes: grilled warm potato salad w/vinegar, parsley & herbs ~ grilled coleslaw w/grilled citrus & dried fruit

For the Kids: all natural hotdogs & grilled cheese sandwiches

Wacky Bubbles

Flight of three of our ‘Wacky Bubbles plus a trio of bites to accompany for $25
May 26, 27 & 28  ~~  June 3

As the old song says, everything old is new again!  Wacky Bubbles are the something new/old!  Bubbly wine started out as a cloudy murky brew.  There was no way to remove the yeast that created the bubbles from the bottle without losing most of the fizz.  Then Veuve Cliquot came along {or as the more skeptical think, it was cellar master Antoine de Müller.} The development of riddling allowed removing the yeast and sediments from the wine, making possible clear bubblies.  In the 30’s the cuvee close or autoclave allowed for bulk secondary fermentation.  Now the bubbles could be fermented into the wine and then the yeast sediments removed in the bottling process.  Today, there are wineries that put the yeast~making the bubbles into glass beads for super easy removal.

One question: has this race for clarity removed something in addition to the yeast sediments from the wine?  In what I refer to the Wacky Bubbles movement {col fondo in Prosecco or Pet~Nat in the natural wine movement} the answer is clearly: YES!

And the result is a move back to sparklers hazy to positively cloudy with yeast sediments.  Wacky Bubbles! And, of course, the Grotto loves these Wacky Bubbles.

We offer a selection of prosecco col fondo which is Prosecco that is not disgorged; bottled with yeast sediments in the bottle.  We have examples from Ca Dei Zago and Casa Costa Piane which are hazy with sediments.  Then there is Costadilla, which starts with one hazy cuvee and moves to positively muddy in their other cuvee.

We have a new world pair from California.  A malvasia by Birchino and riesling from J Brix, both with a natural secondary fermentation in the bottle.

One feature all these Wacky Bubbles wines have is that they are bone dry.  That is because the secondary fermentation in the bottle use up all available sugar, and the fact they are un~disgorged means no sweetener can be added! On the other hand, keeping the wines on the yeast makes for intense aromas on the nose.

I would be willing to bet that there are few wine lists anywhere with so many of these cloudy Wacky Bubbles wine!  And on the next two Sundays, we will have flights of these wines available for your tasting pleasure!

Wacky Bubble Flights

We will have 3 wines open each of May 27 and June 3.  Enjoy a flute of each for $25.00, served along with a trio of bites designed to show off the wines!  Just drop by and enjoy.

Sunday, May 26, 27 & 28

Casa Coste Piane ‘frizzante naturalmente’ {glera}
dry, fermentation in the bottle, slight yeasty funk, hazy

Costadila {prosecco, glera, bianchietta, verdizo} colli trevigiani ‘15
falling somewhere between an orange wine & the funkiest of prosecco, this is for the adventurous drinker.  loudy, full of sediment, fermented w.natural yeasts & a secondary fermentation powered by dried grapes {passito} a true food wine w/loads of funky flavors in refreshing, yeasty/smoky styles!
they make 2 cuvees names for the elevation of the vineyard!  This week, we will open ‘cru 450slm’ from a high elevation vineyard with funky aromas and a light yeast haze

J. Brix  Riesling ‘pet-nat’
cloudy, bone dry, crisp riesling apple flavors

Sunday, June 3

Birichino ‘pétulant naturel’ {malavasia bianca} monterey ‘16
door lo-fi winemaking consisting of natural yeast fermentation until dry, then the addition of additional juice to set off secondary fermentation resulting in a crackling, hazy wine w/natural yeast: superb w/pasta, light meats: bone dry yet very fruity

Ca dei Zago col fondo {glera, verdiso, perera, bianchetta} ‘16
dry, crisp natural secondary fermentation in the bottle, w/slight yeast haze: best w/pork, charcuterie, seafood~ bone dry prosecco

Costadila {prosecco, glera, bianchietta, verdizo} colli trevigiani ‘15
falling somewhere between a orange wine & the funkiest of prosecco, this is for the adventurous drinker: cloudy, full of sediment, fermented w.natural yeasts & a secondary fermentation powered by dried grapes {passito} a true food wine w/loads of funky flavors in refreshing, yeasty/smoky styles!
they make 2 cuvees names for the elevation of the vineyard!
‘cru 330 slm’ lower elevation, cloudy, funkier

Republic Restoratives

The local distillery scene in DC is pretty amazing.  One of our favorites is Republic Restoratives located in Ivy City.  They make a series of spirits that are very tasty indeed!

Republic Restoratives in the Grotto Bar

Thursday, March 22 thru Sunday, March 25

Enjoy three cocktails custom tailored to your preferences featuring 3 of their spirits.  Andrew has whipped up some special additions to our bar ingredients to help make your cocktails more delicious: Blood Orange Infused Civic Vodka, Cinnamon Syrup, “Locally Foraged “ Pine Cone & Needle Syrup & tinctures, Herbal Bitters, Citrus Bitters

Civic Vodka
lobstered deviled eggs {our usual vadouvan deviled egg mix, lobster chunks, lobster & herb aioli}

Rodham Rye
pork belly & asian pear on fried polenta

Apple Brandy
roasted apple & blu 61

3 cocktails ~ 3 courses ~ $39 in the Grotto Bar only

Republic Restoratives will be here joining the fun

Saturday March 24!


Hellbender Tap Takeover

You know we love our local, small producers.  You can’t get much more local and small in the beer business than Hellbender!  We love their brews and always have at least one tap devoted to them!  So, starting Thursday, July 27, we will be offering 4 delicious beers from Hellbender in the Grotto bar and dining room.  A full glass is $6 {only $4 at Happy Hour} and a 5 oz taster is $3!  A flight of all four tasters is $10.

In addition, I am cooking up a special small bite to go with each brew.  And the cheese on two of the bites is from the P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Prince Georges County, MD.  This is a farm where the brewery sends its spent grain after brewing to be fed to the hogs and cows on the farm.  They use some of the milk to make incredible English style raw milk cheese which we are serving with the beer! The bites are $3 each or $9 for all 4.   {veggie options available for all bites}


Traditional German-style ale – light and crisp with a spicy finish from American-grown noble hops.
4.7% ABV, 25 IBU
Bite: steak & cloth bound cheddar cheese crostino


Malted oats and wheat make up the majority of the malt bill, creating a light-colored American pale ale with a biscuity malt flavor and clean, crisp finish. Massive late hop additions and dry hopping with Idaho 7, Ekuanot, Aurora, Centennial & Mosaic deliver intense tropical fruit and citrus flavors and aroma.
5.8% ABV.  This is their last seasonal release and is no longer available from the brewery!  They have held back a keg just for this event.
Bite:  Polenta squares w/stilton style Prince George’s Blue


Orange-hued IPA with strong, earthy resin and bright citrus notes from Nugget, Centennial, Citra and Equinox hops; finishes citrusy and dry.
6.5% ABV, 62 IBU
Bite: Spicy Ceviche


A collaboration with the historic St. Feuillien Brewery in Le Roeulx, Belgium, Days Gone By is a traditional Belgian tripel brewed with a distinctly American hopping. Bright golden in color with a light coriander spiciness, it finishes with bold citrus and tropical flavors and aroma from Citra, Amarillo, Idaho 7 & Azacca hops.
8.5% ABV, 42 IBU.  This is their current limited seasonal release.
Bite:  House sausage in spicy tomato sauce w/sharp provolone & calabrese hot pepper

World Lambrusco Week

World Lambrusco Week is June 16-22

The 2017 7th World Lambrusco Day Festa is June 21

Wednesday, June 21, you can come and drink up to 10 different Lambrusco and Dean will give you stories and tall tales about Lambrusco in the Grotto Bar from 5 ’til 8pm.  We will have loads of snacks to go with.  The cost of the casual tasting & class is $35 plus tax & gratuity.

Tickets and more details” World Lambrusco Day

Red Bubbles:

Celebrate The Rebirth Of Real Lambrusco

Why is there a Lambrusco Week?  If you ask that question, then you need to learn about Lambrusco: Real Lambrusco!

What Is Lambrusco?

It is not a region, a city, a style or sweet fizzy swill:
It’s an ancient family of grapes used to make fizzy dry reds!
No other wine has been so bastardized as Lambrusco!
Forget riunite, cella & the rest {7% alcohol & 10% sugar!}

Real Lambrusco is made in the Emilia, surrounding Modena.  It comes from any of the family of Lambrusco grapes such as Grasparossa, Sorbara & Mariani, Salamino, + other grapes like lancellotta ~~ Real Lambrusco is dry to off-dry, 11% alcohol; tart & lively with a sugar level of less than 1.5% Due to Lambrusco’s natural high acid content, it is great food wine and can seem very dry indeed. Lambrusco is a refreshing sparkling red: perfect w/rich antipasti & pasta; & the best wine for cheese & cured meats

The rebirth of Lambrusco came about fairly recently when wines like Ermite Medice Concerto and Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium were recognized by the Italian wine press with Tre Bicchiere from Gambero Rosso and other publications.  But the reality is that real Lambrusco had not gone anywhere!  It’s just that industrial Lambrusco {Riunite, Cella etc} dominated the market and, unfortunately still do.  But we at the Grotto and at Dino before have always believed in the real deal.

Our Favorite Lambrusco Producers

Camillo Donati
Cantina di Volta
Carra di Casiatico
Ermite Medice
Fattoria Moretto
Vignetti Saetti

International Lambrusco Days

June 16 Thru June 22

First off, here are the social media links!

Sorbara, Marani & CO
: 6/16-22/2017

A week of Lambrusco & Dining at the Grotto!  We will start off with a $25 Lambrusco flight consisting of 5 Lambrusco with 5 bites to accompany.  The pours will be smaller and the bites just that, so this is the equivalent of a normal wine flight and an antipasto for $25.  Or you can get a full Lambrusco menu with the flight for $49.  The menu may change nightly depending on availability.  But right now, here is what we are thinking of:

5 bites

Potato & crispy Tuscan bacon {pork belly}
Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella
House Cured Duck Breast
Crostini Caprese
Wild Boar Rillettes

The full menu will continue with…..

Cannelloni Duo
spinach & ricotta cannelloni
one covered w/wild boar ragu
one covered w/duck bolognese ragu

Wagyu Steak
charred ramp pesto w/walnuts
grilled broccoli

Duo of Pecorino

The Lambrusco will change daily as we want to show off all out range of wines.  We will be sure to have a Sobrara {the lightest color Lambrusco} to a Grasparossa di Castelvetro z{the darkest and fullest of the Lambrusco Family.  You don’t need to buy tickets and you don’t even have to reserve!  But if you do reserve, please let us know you are coming for the Lambrusco Flight or Menu.

Perhaps The Worst Wine Writting I Have Ever Read and my Reply

One Mr. David Brenner, writting on Italy Chronicles which subtittles its blog “The Italy You Don’t Know” certainly lived up to the Italy {wines thereof} I don’t know.  And I do question what Mr Brenner knows.  So first, please read his article before I rip it to shreds.

Wines To Avoid – The Worst Italy Can Offer

And now my response:

{edited to correct an error identifying the cuvee of Chiarli involved}

Congratulations! One of the worst articles on wine ever written. Where to start?

Corked wines. Caused by TCA , not spores A chemical sometimes found on cork, but that can be found in nature from many sources. Here is the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cork_taint. Certainly saying it came from spores may be correct in a modicum of cases, but it is not the leading cause. Wineries may be infected with TCA and it may be introduced thru the cork. Please, the next time you write about something elementary that you have no knowledge of, at least hit the good old wiki if not google.

Corks: “what posh sommeliers are checking for when they sniff the cork after taking it out of the bottle.” If posh sommeliers are sniffing for corkiness on the cork, they need to learn something. A cork’s smell has little relationship with the smell of the wine. And why smell the cork when the wine is in a nice container, easy to pour out, called a bottle. Yes, good sommeliers {who are not always posh} actually check the wine. In my 30,000 bottles of wine I have sampled or opened as a retail wine salesman, a wholesale wine sales man, a regional wine buyer for a gourmet foods company and in my 20 years as a restaurateur, I have smelled corks that are disgusting where the wine was perfectly sound and corks that were perfectly innocuous where the bottle was filled with bilgewater {corked, aldehydic, volatile acidity, maderized, bacterial spoilage of all sorts, mercaptans and more}. One should look at the cork as an indication of storage and no more. And old corks tend to look bad no matter what. Frankly, this article smells worse than any cork I have ever smelled, and et the content leaves an even fouler taste in the mouth.

Your example of one bottle of corked Chianti. Really? Blaming the winery for one freaking bottle when it is an industry wide problem? Should I now avoid all Chianti Classico by Terri di Mastri? Should I now avoid all wines by Terri di Mastri? Should I now avoid all Chianti Calssico?

No! I should avoid the one bottle of Terre di Mastri we know to be corked because you opened it. What is the point of naming a winery because particular bottle wine was corked? I have a friend who has a problem with their Fiat Arbath.. Should we avoid all Fiats?

Next we come to your critique of Est! Est!! Est!!! where you also slam Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. As with any area, there are good wineries and bad. Are you really saying don’t drink this particular trio of DOCG’s in light of the rampant bad wine that should be counted as crimes against nature committed in other wine growing regions?

Est! Est!! Est!!! can be a pleasant thing to go with a light seafood pasta and antipasti on a hot day. And guess what: that’s how it is used in Rome. Are there innocuous bottles of Est^^3? Of course. But there are far more innocuous to down right scary bottles of Chianti or Primitivo. And not to mention the legion of horrid merlots grown everywhere because, well merlot.

San Gim is a tourist town and there are tourist trap restaurants, stores and, yes, wines. But there are fabulous wines being made. San Quirico, Pietrafitta, Le Rote, Teruzzi e Perthod, and more are all fine producers of very good wines indeed. Following your recommendation would deprive these worthy producers the opportunity of showing off their wines which offer a lot of value in most cases. And open minded drinkers of a lot of fun wine at a good price. If you think Vernaccia di San Gim {which here in the states usually retails for $10 to 15} is among the “worst Italy has to offer”, I have to hold your opinion as some of the worst Italy has to offer.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio: here you are simply wrong and slanderously so. Terradora di Paolo, De Angeles and the venerable old name Mastrobernandino are all making outstanding wines under this DOC. Where you came up with the notion that this is “among the worst Italy has to offer” mystifies me. Are you just pulling it out the lower end of your alimentary canal? I pity anyone who reads this article and follows the advice herein.

Your 4th example is Lambrusco, with Chiarli Vecchia Modena shown and described. You may have had a bad bottle. But you do know that it’s sibling wine, the Premium, wins Tre Biccherri year after year after year. Now usually I am not a big fan of scores and competitions, but here is a winery that has been recognized by Italian wine professionals as an outstanding achievement and you call the regular Vecchio Modena “was by some distance the worst; most unpleasant; most downright awful bottle of wine I’ve ever drunk anywhere.”

I have served all sorts of different bottlings of Chiarli in my restaurant for years, and have never had anyone so describe it. Every top restaurant in Modena carries Chiarli. Perhaps it is not you your liking, but the worst Italy has to offer?

Eremete Medici, Venturini, ohhhhh, I give up. You clearly show no evidence of knowing good Lambrusco.

Thanks for letting us know how wrong we are!

And now let us come to the biggest joke of all…. A 1 euro wine is bad? I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!


Summer Tomato Sauce

Summer Tomato Essence

Seconds from the Dupont market… over 50# per tray

Cut ripe juicy tomatoes in quarters. Put in large, non reactive sauce pan {enameled cast iron or stainless steel} Bring to a boil and reduce heat and let simmer until the tomatoes completely fall apart. Put tomatoes thru a food mill to remove skin and seeds. Be sure to work the mill well until the skins are fairly dry.

You can freeze the essence and use it as in ingredient in soups or stews. You can also make some into sauce using the following outline. You can vary the herbs, but if you want to flavor the sauce with basil, do it when you have thawed the sauce and are ready to serve it. Rosemary, marjoram or thyme all are nice for the herb, or use a mix. We freeze only the essence and make the sauce when thawing out so we can tailor the sauce for its final use.

Summer Tomato Sauce

Photo by Adam Parr & Charles Borst

To make the summer tomato essence into a tomato sauce, saute in olive oil over high heat red chili flakes {Aleppo pepper is my favorite} in olive oil for a second and add chopped garlic and oregano and cook until just aromatic. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add tomato sauce and cook until it is almost as thick as you want for your final sauce. The sauce will reduce further when you reheat it from the freezer. Season with salt & pepper, leaving it under salted so you can add salty ingredients like capers or anchovies wen you have thawed out the sauce.

For 1 quart of the essence, I use
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Aleppo
1 Tbsp Garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Oregano
1/2 to 1 tsp coarse black pepper
pinch of salt

Oniony Tomato Wine Sauce.

Photo by Adam Parrr & Charles Borst

For a nice variation, sautee 2 cups onions cut into half moon rings in olive oil until completely soft a alightly sweet. Don’t allow it to burn. Add 1 to 2 cups of red or white wine, or one cup dry vermouth. Reduce it and allow to thicked until the sauce is not too runny. Then complete the sauce as above, adding in 1/4 cup parsley at the end. Makes a great tomato sauce for fish and shellfish.


Brunello di Montalcino

My favorite place in the world is Montalcino and my favorite wine is Brunello.  Sohere is a very short primer on Montalcino

The Wines Of Montalcino

The grape of Montalcino is a clone of Sangiovese that has been grown there for over 140 years, known as the Brunello clone.  It has given its name to the most famous wine from Montalcino: Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello is earthy, spicy, and yet has a black or red fruit component (depending on the elevation and location of the vineyards in the zone.)  It isn’t a big, flashy  red, like so many wines today.  It is a more mysterious experience, taking some time to unfold in the glass. But it’s silly to try and describe the wine; you just have to taste them. And this weekend is the perfect time to do so.  We have acquired some older Montalcino wines and are offering some fabulous flights.  because these wines are so limited and rare, we are going to pre sell the flights.  The only way you can be sure to get the wine is to purchase them thru the links here.  The specials on the food menu, you can just order and we will have a current vintage Montalcino flight you can just purchase. But the special wines are just that: Special.

What Is Brunello Di Montalcino?

Brunello has two meanings.  In addition to being a clone of Sangiovese, “Brunello” is also the most famous wine of Montalcino.  To be called Brunello, it must only be produced from 100% Brunello clone Sangiovese from vineyards rated for Brunello production.  The wine must spend at least 2 years in oak; but the Brunellos we love get the traditional 3 years.  But this is aging in large oak or neutral barrels,so the wines acquire complexity and texture rather than oak flavors.  In top years, some wineries make a selection of their most concentrated wines and give them an extra year of aging before bottling and these are riservas.

What Is Rosso Di Montalcino

Rosso di Montalcino are the wines that don’t make the cut for the wineries’ Brunello or come from vineyards that only meet the quality standards of the Rosso DOCG.  In any case, the limits on production of Brunello require that at least 20% of the harvest MUST be made into rosso; and great wineries use far more Brunello than that in their rosso blends.  So Rosso is the great bargain of Montalcino.


This bottle of Rosso di Montalcino Le Macioche 2004 is a super example of rosso.  Yet when it cameout it was far less expensive then dozens of California Cabs or Bordeaux; you could easily bought 3 bottles of hte Rosso for the costof one bottle of middle of the road cabernet or Bordeaux.   Now, with 7 or so years in the bottle, it is smooth, spicy and yet very robust.  It offers sd much or more drinking pleasure than those cabe, goes better with food and still has years of drinkability ahead of it.  It will go great with our teres major steak.