The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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48  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 CAP TOL U nless your palate skews toward overly-sweet cinnamon rolls, the mall food court isn't exactly considered a bastion of creative cuisine. But when the offerings hail from celebrity chef Mike Isabella and his bar star Taha Ismail, that's reason enough to hop in the car and head for the 'burbs. Last December, I joined hundreds of well-dressed guests at a preview party for Isabella's ambitious 41,000-square-foot dining complex Isabella Eatery in northern Virginia's Tysons Galleria. Amid the sounds of a live band and DJ, I tasted a greatest-hits sampling of bites and beverages from eight fast-casual and full-service concepts: pintxos and rosé sangria at the Moroccan-Spanish fusion eatery Arroz, chipotle chicken tacos and a black salt–rimmed Margarita at Pepita, and chilled oysters and Champagne at Requin. Whether you adore or abhor Valentine's Day, Iron Gate Spirits Director Nick Farrell and Executive Chef Anthony Chittum had everyone covered in February. The fine dining establishment conceptualized an Edgar Allen Poe– inspired Tunnel of Love menu that categorized dishes and drinks into Full Hearts or Heartbreaks: The Galentine's Day tray for two paired flutes of bub- bly with Rodham Rye Manhattans and amaro truffles, while a deconstructed Negroni with locally-produced Green Hat Gin and Capitoline Vermouth was served with a jello heart made with Don Ciccio & Figli Luna Amaro. Even a pesky bomb cyclone couldn't keep hardy Washingtonians from sipping al fresco this winter. After sampling Chef Rob Rubba's dishes at Hazel in Shaw, I retired to the winter bar on the back patio to stay cozy by the fire under a fuzzy faux fur blanket. The On a Cleanse cocktail topped Civic Vodka, cucumber, ginger, and lemon essence with sparkling unfiltered saké, while Bunny Slopes blended coconut eggnog with Sherry and C&R Despacchino in a coconut flake–rimmed glass. I had to end the evening with a flute of the delicate Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux Rosé from Hazel's new Champagne Chalet menu: After all, it's never too cold for bubbles. Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits, and lifestyle writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics. The Bunny Slopes cocktail at Hazel blends coconut eggnog with sherry and C&R Despacchino in a coconut flake- rimmed glass. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT GROUP PHOTO: GREG POWERS The Tunnel of Love menu at Iron Gate featured the Galentine's Day tray for two with flutes of bubbly, rye Manhattans, and amaro truffles. Isabella Eatery, a new 41,000-square-foot dining complex inside the Tysons Galleria in northern Virginia, houses eight food concepts and a cocktail bar. New Season, New Tastes THERE'S NO SHORTAGE OF TOAST-WORTHY DRINKS AND HOT NEW SPOTS IN THE D.C. AREA by Kelly Magyarics, DWS

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