Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Road to Life, Liberty and Tacos: Gov't Taco does D.C.

by Paige Johannessen

"Welcome to Bite and Booze", they said. After exactly two weeks in my new position with Bite and Booze I was in a minivan heading to our nation’s capital for a Gov’t Taco pop up. 1,200 miles, 5 people, and 18 hours each way in the car. Ok, so I guess this is orientation.

We left late Saturday afternoon to head to our first destination, Auburn, AL. The home of the other Tigers. Tucked away in this college town is a restaurant the group has been gushing about relentlessly since they found out we were taking this trip. Apparently on the way back from cooking at the James Beard House in New York the team stopped at Acre for what turned out to be one of their favorite meals of the trip (you can read more about that here).

So, my expectations were set very high for our first night on the road... It did not disappoint.
Chef David Bancroft spoiled us with an "off the menu" experience that was truly once in a lifetime. The dinner started with a bottle of Rosé and Murder Point oysters to clean the palate. Fresh, light, and the perfect warmup for the dishes to come.

And boy, did those plates come: aged beef tartare, crab claw toast, Brussells sprouts off the stalk, foie gras basted ribs, aged prime rib with fried okra and peanut butter icebox pie.

Most, if not all, of the produce displayed and prepared for the dishes were grown on Acre’s property or in Bancroft's own yard. Acre exemplifies “farm-to-table” and chef displayed his vision and creativity proudly to us throughout the night. I left that Saturday night full and happy. The bar was officially set for the rest of the trip.

Sunday, we were back on the road to head to our next destination, Shady Valley, Tennessee. En route we decided to take a break in ATL to check out Ponce City Market. With the opening of Gov’t Taco in White Star Market we have been anxious to check out any and all markets/food halls when given the chance. While walking through the market we decided to continue our Gov’t Taco research and stopped for lunch at Minero, a casual Mexican eatery created by renowned southern chef, Sean Brock. 

Torta of the Day at Minero: jamon, chihuahua cheese, queso fresco, hot sauce, salsa verde and a fried egg
Torta of the Day at Minero: jamon, chihuahua cheese, queso fresco, hot sauce, salsa verde and a fried egg

We tried their trio of salsas, ordered every single one of their tacos and one glorious torta. It was the perfect opportunity to stretch our legs, eat our fill and check out a really cool spot in the Atlanta area.

After a beautiful and relaxing night in Shady Valley, including spaghetti courtesy of Chef Aimee Tortorich and Therese Schneider, we were hitting the road again. But first, Jay insisted that we stop at the local Raceway Restaurant for a home style breakfast.

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Is there really anything better than biscuits, pancakes, eggs and bacon in the morning? I think not. Our bellies were full and ready for the last leg of the trip and our final destination!

After settling in at the Airbnb in Washington D.C., our new home for the next week, a few of the team members headed out to a local watering hole to meet Chef Alex McCoy (Jay’s co-contestant on Food Network Star and owner of Alfie’s) for local beers and a spot to watch the LSU baseball game (side note: great season Tigers!).

Once the game was over and our hearty breakfast had worn off, Alex recommended some late night Korean fare. We ended up at Tosokchon in Virginia for a truly authentic experience. Korean beer mixed with shots of soju, a rice wine liquor served in bowls, pork, kimchi, soup, dumplings, and these are just a few of the dishes that were shared at the table.

View of our table at Tosokchon

We drank, we ate, we drank some more. It was one hell of an introduction to D.C.!

Tuesday was spent working and wandering the city but our evening started with rooftop drinks in China town followed by a first for me, Ethiopian cuisine at Ethiopic. Ethiopian wine, a vegetable sampler and meat sampler were presented to us on a bed of injera, a large spongy sourdough flat bread.

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We ate with our hands, using pieces of injera to pick up our bites! It was simple, delicious and something I will miss not having access to in Baton Rouge. Maybe one day...

After Ethiopic we ended the night with a round of oysters, lobster rolls and oyster shooters (my favorite!) at The Salt Line. Located right outside the Washington National’s baseball stadium this restaurant has a true oyster bar feel with a killer food and cocktail menu that I hope to check out more next time I am in the city.

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Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were dedicated to the Gov’t Taco pop up. The team took over Alfie’s to debut the full menu for the first time, and let me tell you, Louisiana came to town! We had a line around the block both nights and had a blast visiting with D.C. Tigers, Baton Rouge transplants and lovers of Alfie’s, Jay, Alex and all things tacos!

THANK YOU to everyone in the capital city who came out to try Gov’t Taco and for all of the wonderful feedback. We hope you all had as much fun as we did.

The final goodbye before hitting the road was one last stop at Alfie’s Saturday early afternoon to enjoy Alex’s pop up “Crabs and Crushes.”

The perfect cure after two long days of of working hard, and celebrating harder, came in the form of fried chicken, his mom’s potato salad, green chile burgers with fries and boiled crabs.

Just when I thought I couldn’t fit one more bite...there was sticky toffee pudding. STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING! Only my favorite dessert on the face of this Earth.

The Bite and Booze/Gov't Taco Team at Acre enjoying a fresh Brussels sprout stalk, torch roasted at the table by Chef David Bancroft.  

With orientation behind me and my jeans fitting slightly tighter, I am glad to be a part of the crazy adventure that is Bite and Booze.

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