Category Archives: Food Events

American Spirits Bartender Competition

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the American Spirits Bartender Competition, hosted by the National Constitution Center and the Hotel Monaco. The event was, in part, to celebrate the National Constitution Center’s exhibit, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of the Prohibition, which perfectly portrays the dynamic history, trends, and sprit of the Roaring 20s.


The competition took place at the Hotel Monaco’s Stratus Rooftop Lounge, a posh yet cozy venue with terrific views of the city.


The competition featured bartenders from XIX, 10 Arts, Square 1682, and the Stratus Lounge, all showcasing a different Prohibition-themed cocktail.  Nate Churchill of XIX (pictured above) won the competition with his Orange Blossom cocktail, featuring Bluecoat gin, fresh lemon and orange juice, honey, and bitters, served up in a mason jar.


Chauncey Scates, of Square 1682, offered the Powder Room Punch, which mixed Bluecoat gin, cointreau, Jasmine Tea, lemon, grenadine, and dashes of Peychauds and Angostura bitters on the rocks.  The cocktail was very earthy and fruity, with a pretty coral color.

Bess Gulliver (pictured at top) represented the Stratus Lounge with the Jazz Baby, made with Bluecoat gin, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao, and Averna Amaro, garnished with a flamed orange peel.  The drink reminded me of an Old Fashioned, but with gin instead of whisky.


Stephen Diaz of 10 Arts served my personal favorite cocktail of the evening.  Featuring Bluecoat gin, St. Germaine, fresh raspberry syrup, and a splash of Dry Brut champagne, the drink tasted like an effervescent raspberry sorbet.  The St. Germaine, an elderflower liquor, added a lovely floral finish.


The competition was certainly a success.  Thanks to the National Constitution Center for inviting me.  And be sure to check out their exhibit, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of the Prohibition, where you can learn all about the history and culture of the Prohibition era and channel your inner flapper!  The exhibit runs through April 28, and admission is free on Sundays.

Win Tickets to the Third Annual Cheesesteak Challenge!

Calling all Philly cheesesteak fanatics!  This Sunday, from 2-5pm, City Eats and Hotel Palomar will host the Third Annual Cheesesteak Challenge: High Steaks! Block Party at the Hotel’s restaurant, Square 1682.  Chef Guillermo Tellez, along with 12 of the city’s top chefs, will present their own renditions of Philly’s iconic sandwich.  Radio host Matt Cord and cheesesteak legend Tony Luke will judge the challenge and crown the cheesesteak champion.  Attendees will have a chance to sample each chef’s version, as well as local beers from Victory Brewing.  Live entertainment will also be provided by Technical V.

Tickets are on sale for $17, with proceeds going to Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit organization that aims to expand life and economic options for Philadelphia public school students through career-focused programming.

But thanks to City Eats, The Unpaid Gourmet has free tickets to give away to 3 lucky readers!  To win a free ticket, be one of the first 3 readers to leave a comment, telling me your favorite spot for cheesesteaks in Philly. Each winner will receive 2 tickets to Sunday’s challenge and will be notified by email.  Good luck!

Philadelphia Mobile Food Association Rolls Out

It’s not often that The Unpaid Gourmet has a breaking news story, but I am happy to report one today.  The Philadelphia Mobile Food Association (PMFA) officially launched on Tuesday, hosting their first general meeting at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  With over 100 people in attendance, the meeting was quite a success and offered a glimpse into the opportunities and challenges facing Philly food truck owners.  Prior to the meeting, food trucks Lil Dan’s, Smoke Truck, Sweet Box, HubBub Coffee, and Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream congregated outside the school and sold gourmet fare to curious students and passersby (pictured above).

Though food trucks and carts have been ubiquitous in Philadelphia for decades, they have surged in popularity over the past couple years nationwide.  But today’s food trucks aren’t your typical roach coaches or street meat.  Today’s food trucks are sleek and new, retrofitted with modern kitchen equipment and painted with flashy designs.  They offer high-end, gourmet fare ranging from Korean tacos to wood fire oven pizzas to cupcakes.   And they broadcast their locations via Twitter and Facebook, so diners can easily find out where the trucks will be.

Operating a food truck, however, is not always easy.  Food trucks have faced opposition in some cities from brick and mortar restauranteurs, who claim they are unfairly taking away customers.  Zoning restrictions and scarce parking also limit where food trucks can go.  But often the most difficult part is navigating outdated municipal regulations for everything from permits to health inspections to how far away you can park from the curb.  PMFA was created to address these issues by bringing together the collective resources, expertise, and voices of local Philly food truck owners.

At Tuesday’s inaugural meeting, PMFA founders Andrew Gerson and Daniel Pennachietti explained the organization’s goals and benefits of membership.  Its goals include creating new market opportunities for food trucks in Philadelphia, advocating against unfair legislation and zoning restrictions, and providing business advice and mentorship to developing food trucks.  They also discussed developing alternative eating spaces throughout the city, where several food trucks can congregate, and hosting events like a Philadelphia food truck week.  Membership benefits include access to PMFA events, business advice, and participation in advocacy efforts.  (Click here to view a recording of the meeting.)

Having only recently incorporated as a nonprofit, PMFA is still in the nascent planning and recruitment stages.  But it seems like the organization is on the right track, especially given their representation by Penn Law’s Entrepreneurship Clinic (full disclosure: I am a student at Penn Law) and support from The Food Trust.  Similar food truck organizations have formed in other cities as well (like LA, NYC, and DC), so it’s about time Philly started its own.  The inaugural meeting was well-organized and well-attended, as was the food truck gathering prior to the meeting.  Let’s hope these mobile events are just the beginning of good things to come from the PMFA.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have many things to be thankful for this year: a loving family, supportive friends old and new, life changing opportunities, and of course, fabulous meals.  Thank you all for sharing this year’s adventures with me.

I’ll be signing off for a few weeks as I prepare for first year law school exams (one of the “life changing opportunities” I’m trying to be thankful for…).

Happy Turkey Day, and here’s to what I hope will be a day of feasting and family!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Vote for Molly Pisula in the Sears Chef Challenge!

Today is the last day to vote in the Sears Chef Challenge, and Bethesda-based chef Molly Pisula is looking to take the cake. The proceeds from Molly’s win would go to the Capital Area Food Bank, one of the largest food banks in the DC area. Molly already has the support of DC food bloggers including Mary over at Girl Meets Food, and it would be great if she had yours too. Vote over at the Sears Chef Challenge today–voting ends at midnight tonight!

Here is a letter from Molly explaining more about the contest:

Hi Mackie,

I’m a personal chef based in Bethesda–started my business four years ago when my first daughter was born. Now mom of two (Piper, almost 4, and Ruby, 20 months) trying to balance life as a stay-at-home-mom with building a business.

Got the great opportunity to compete in the Sears Chef Challenge–spent a month demoing cool recipes at Sears stores in the area, which were then videotaped and posted online on the Sears website.

A couple of weeks ago, the voting started to determine which chef from D.C. (there are 3 of us) will move on to the next round–the semi-finals at Sears HQ in Chicago. That would be an amazing experience for me of course, but what’s even cooler is that Sears is giving $5,000 to the food charity of the winner’s choice ($20,000 if you win the entire thing). Mine is the Capital Area Food Bank–I’ve been volunteering in their Operation Frontline program for almost a year now and have been so impressed with them. They do so much for the D.C. area, and I would love to be able to support them with a donation.

Voting ends today, and the votes have been going dramatically up and down every day. Any chance to get a shout out on your blog? You can vote once a day per email address here until midnight tonight.

I would love to support the Food Bank with a win!




Weekend Round-Up

This edition of Weekend Round-Up is dedicated to Bastille Day! Here’s a couple events celebrating La Fête Nationale:


France v. USA Sample Day: Biagio Fine Chocolates gets into the spirit of Bastille Day with a face-off between French-made chocolates and American-made chocolates. On Saturday from 3-6 p.m., attendees can sample a variety of delectable chocolates and vote for their favorite. French and American wines and beer will also be provided by DeVinos Wine. And best of all, the event is complimentary–no RSVP required. Come and see which chocolate reigns supreme! Click here for more details.

French Restaurant Week: Check out which DC French restaurants will be offering special menus and deals for the holiday, courtesy of Girl Meets Food.  From July 9-15.

And in other news….today is Chick-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day! Dress up like a cow and head to your nearest Chick-fil-A for a free meal. Normally I’d say embarassing gimmicks liks these aren’t worth it, but I am seriously considering it for that tasty chicken sandwich and crispy waffle fries. Click here for more info.

And on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (sorry for the disorderliness of this post), Wagshal’s Market hosts its annual D.C. Grill Master Series with Ramon Martinez, executive chef of Jaleo. Martinez will demonstrate how to prepare Spanish Iberico de Bellota pork–made from pigs fed on a diet of black acorns. Attendees will receive $5 Wagshal’s Market purchase, free sampling of entrees, complimentary bottled water and recipes, and a Q&A with the chef. Call (202) 363-0884 to reserve a space with a minimum $10 donation via credit card. All donations will go to the Lions Camp Merrick to fund camp scholarships for diabetic children.

Happy weekend and stay cool!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Weekend Round-Up: Fourth of July Edition

This being my first Fourth of July in our nation’s capital, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the festivities and festivals planned for this weekend! Fortunately, some of my favorite bloggers and websites sifted through all of the info and distilled it into thorough, easy-to-read guides that are much better than anything I could come up with. Here they are:

Washingtonian: Perhaps the most detailed guide I came across, the Washingtonian includes a round-up of local restaurants that will be open and celebrating on the 4th, fun events around DC, where to watch fireworks in the suburbs, and more. Click here to read.

Going Out Gurus: Features a nifty map of where all the events are taking place, July 4 nightlife from the incredible Fritz Hahn, a Mall survival guide that’s essential for newbies like myself, and free events throughout the weekend. Click here to see it all.

Girl Meets Food: A short but sweet dining guide for those looking to eat out on the 4th. One entry that caught my eye was Equinox, which will host an outdoor barbecue on its patio from 4-9 p.m. Click here to see more.

And don’t forget, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is happening on the Mall today though Monday. The event, which draws about 1 million visitors annually, features cooking demonstrations and plenty of ethnic concession stands. The culinary themes this year are Mexico and Asia Pacific, so expect lots of fabulous flavors. Click here to read a more detailed description of the festival from the Washington Post’s resident food writer, Jane Black.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Eat lots and stay cool!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons