I am on the NoVA Elite Squad this year, which means that I get invited to awesome events! Back in July (I'm so far behind on posting, lol) - I was invited to a tasting event at the (then) new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Arlington. We got to hear about the menu and try several dishes and drinks. It's a really great way to get an impression of a restaurant without having to visit several times in order to try a lot. That's our fearless leader, Gretchen, in the photo there (check out her blog here).
I thought the location was really cute, on a corner near Ballston with a nice patio. The decor was warm and inviting, and the staff handled the madness of the event quite well. We got to try several drinks, starting with the happy hour special of sparkling sangria. I actually did not like that drink, though many others did, because it tasted more like a vodka and soda than a sangria. After that, I ordered the Violet Beauregarde (props for the cute name) with vodka, St. Germaine, blueberry puree, fresh mint, fresh lemon, and sparkling wine. I LOVED that one. I also loved the non-alcoholic blueberry spritzer that they passed around, but not the rosemary lemonade (too bitter).
As for food, we tried the Goat Cheese Grits Poppers with Jalapeno Apple Salsa (4:00, my favorite); Fried Green Tomatoes with Grits (1:00, also really liked); Country Ham Wontons with Shaved Brussels Sprouts (10:00, very good); Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese with Apples and Figs (not pictured, pretty good); Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pesto (6:00, disappointed with this one); Pimento Cheese Dip (too spicy for me); Mac and Cheese with Cajun Shrimp (also too spicy for me).
My takeaway was that this is Southern food, get the fried stuff and the cheesy stuff and the grits - if you try to go healthy, you will be disappointed. Everything we tried was from the small plates menu, so I would like to return to try an entree. Or better yet, bunch - I hear the brunch is fantastic.
My thanks to Yelp and Tupelo Honey Cafe for their generosity! You can read more about the event here.
You may be interested in: Yelp Progressive Brunch at Springfield Town Center
Last month, I wrote about a competition that I was invited to attend as a media person, and the breakfast meet and greet that went with it. Well, the finale event of the competition was 3 weeks ago, and it was wonderful! I apologize for the delay in writing about it, but 2 days after the event I flew to Texas to keep my mother company while she recovered from surgery, and I just got back! So let's talk about this thing!
As I mentioned before, Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market to give culinary entrepreneurs a jump start. The winner of the competition would take over the Ris stall in Union Market for 6 months.
I had never been to Union Market before this, so I got there early in order to wander around. This place is so cool! They were having a farmers market outside, with live music, and inside is a series of stalls with all kinds of food. What a foodie dream!
I really wish that I lived closer to this market, because it is really cool. I hope that you DC dwellers are appreciating this!
The Launch Pad event took place in Dock5 - the event space at Union Market. It really is a big industrial loading dock that you can set up any way that you like for your event.
This week, July 12-19, is Restaurant Week at the newly renovated Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA. You can check out the menus for the 5 participating restaurants here. As a member of the NoVA Yelp Elite Squad, I was invited to try out the restaurants ahead of time. We had such a fun time and ate SO MUCH FOOD, it was insane. Check out what we were served below, and make sure to stop by Springfield Town Center this week for great deals on yummy food!
Our first stop was Yard House, an American restaurant with a huge menu including a big vegetarian section, and tons of beers on tap.
They served us an Ahi tuna salad, mac and cheese, and a Moscow Mule. The tuna was really well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but I didn't care for the greens. The mac and cheese was AWESOME - the pasta was the perfect texture and it was loaded with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and truffle oil. So good - I definitely recommend it. The Moscow mule was light and refreshing, and really lovely on a hot day.
Next up was Chuy's - OMG CHUY'S!!! Words cannot express my excitement. You see, I am from Texas and this Austin based chain is my jam. The fact that it has migrated with me to VA is just the best. The manager here was super on point and spent a lot of time talking about how they make everything fresh in house. And yes, that is a giant strawberry margarita and pina colada swirl you see there.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast in order to meet the finalists of the Launch Pad Culinary Entrepreneur Competition. Before I tell you about that breakfast, I need to explain what it was for, and that may get a little convoluted - so stick with me! Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market.
Union Market is a revitalized indoor market area and collection of restaurants near Gallaudet University in DC. It opened in September 2012 and has about 40 shops. There are plans to add multiple levels and expand it greatly to include retail, restaurants, hotel, entertainment, and incubator space for new food concepts, as well as wholesale space.
Mess Hall is the aforementioned incubator space for new food concepts, which opened in October 2014. Their mission is to "support up-and-coming food entrepreneurs by providing commercial kitchens, combined with institutional knowledge and extraordinary opportunities."
Ris is a restaurant in DC that also has a satellite location in Union Market, it is owned/operated by chef Ris Lacoste.
Are you still with me? Great!
Back to Launch Pad - it is a competition for food entrepreneurs to launch a concept in a quick service space in Union Market. The winner of the Grand Prize will receive (according to the Launch Pad website):
- 6 – 12 month opportunity to launch a dream concept using a built out space in a prime location at Union Market
- Free Mess Hall membership
- Full Service Restaurant Pop-up opportunity at Mess Hall’s event space
- Mentorship from Ris Lacoste
- Consultation on lease negotiations with master DC restaurateurs the Hilton Brothers
- Business plan vetting and design services from EDENS
- A luncheon organized with successful restaurant investors
- And a growing list of unique prizes and opportunities courtesy of our event Sponsors.
- PLUS – All finalists will have their knives sharpened by DC Sharp.
Pretty great, right?! This is the second year for the competition, and last year the winner was Mason Dixie Biscuit Company.
You know what else is great? The list of judges and advisers for the finalists:
Al Goldberg – Founder, Mess Hall
David Hall – Investor, Revolution
Ris Lacoste – Chef / Owner, RIS
Drew Nieporent – Restaurateur, Myriad Restaurant Group
Patrick O’Connell – Chef / Owner, The Inn at Little Washington
Aaron Silverman – Chef / Owner, Rose’s Luxury
Audience Vote – Each member of the live audience will receive a single vote. The Audience Vote will count as 5% of the overall vote.
Richie Brandenburg – Directory of Culinary Strategy, EDENS
Terrell Danley – Chef, DC Central Kitchen
Eric and Ian Hilton– Restaurateurs
Kathy Hollinger– President and CEO, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington
Eric Kessler – Founder / Managing Director, Arabella Advisors
Mike Lenard – Owner, Takorean, Former Head of the Food Truck Association
Winston Lord – Co-Founder, Venga
Spike Mendelsohn – Good Stuff Eatery, DC Food Policy Council Chair
Nick Stefanelli– Chef / Owner, Masseria
Now, let's talk about the finalists and the meet-and-greet breakfast event at Ris restaurant! There were lots of bloggers and media people there, but plenty of opportunity to speak with the finalists individually.