The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2013

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WHAT'S NEW Oh, Sherry! A TASTE OF JEREZ IN WASHINGTON, D.C. Derek Brown and wife Chantal Tseng opened Mockingbird Hill in D.C. by Kelly A. Magyarics / photo by Greg Powers W hen visiting Spain, Derek Brown and wife Chantal Tseng fell in love with the people, surroundings, history and culture they encountered in Jerez. "There's simply nothing like eating fresh seafood with a crisp Manzanilla on the beaches of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, or watching the care and attention that small, family-run bodegas put into their fino," muses Brown. He believes sherry has created a spectacular community in the region, with residents who preserve traditions without remaining stagnant; the ubiquitous solera system, after all, continually blends the old and the new. For their latest venture, the pair launched Mockingbird Hill in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood to introduce Washingtonians to their much-treasured beverage. (Punk rock fans, Brown and Tseng named the bar for a lyric by the Clash.) The 46-seat bar boasts more than 50 sherries categorized according to style, which guests can sip and savor along with small nibbles like olives, Manchego cheese with honey, anchovies and several varieties of Spanish (and American) ham. "I love sherry's detailed descriptors—oyster shells, chamomile, sea air, almonds—but most importantly, I love how they interact with other elements to enhance the food." Since sherry is a wine category that tends to be misunderstand or stereotyped, staff education is key. All bartenders undergo an intensive initial training and a test, followed by monthly sherry meetings and daily tastings and instructions on carving ham and using a venencia, the small container attached to a rod that's used in Andalusia to extract wine from a barrel. Brown's favorite current offerings include the El Maestro Sierra Oloroso 15 Year Old, dark and rich with coffee, walnut and caramel notes, and the Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Pasada, which he describes as possessing aromas and flavors of sea spray, apricot and poached pears, and a nutty finish. "We don't chase trends, do market research or ask people what they'd like to see," notes Brown apologetically. "We fall in love, and share what we love with others." 58  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2013 TP0913_034-62.indd 58 8/22/13 9:21 PM

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