Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

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What do YOU want to see?

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Cocktails, Helpful Hints, Polls, Recipes, Restaurant Reviews, Upcoming Events, Wine Facts, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wineries and Vineyards

There are a lot of wine blogs out there, and I want to make sure I’m giving you more of what YOU want to read about! Let me know what you want to see more of on the Bon Vivant Blog and feel free to sound off in the comments section!


Photo Credit: Boxhill Photography

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Hanks on the Hill: More than Just Oyster Shooters!

Posted in: Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, Cocktails, Restaurant Reviews, Tried and Trues

One place this wino never orders vino

“Your seat’s open, be back in a few,” I’m greeted at the door. Indeed, my favorite spot at the long white expanse of marble seems to be the only one free on a recent crowded weeknight.



Currently off menu, my favorite boozy slushie can turn around even the toughest day. A variation of the Jameson based cocktail will be making an appearance at the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Dinner.

I usually don’t get a menu, but hear the blender firing up my favorite frozen cocktail before I’ve even had a chance to consider my order. These days, I always ask for a menu. They’ve broken me of my comfortable habit, but in the most interesting of ways.

The bartenders at Hanks on the Hill have taken on a daunting task: create a new cocktail menu every week of 2014.

Not many bars have the talent or patience to take on this project. When I asked Bar Manager, Mike Saccone, where the idea originated he answered, “After hours drinking… where all great ideas come about!”

“That’s where the concept for Suburbia came from, too!”

There are equal parts work and whimsy inspiring the two mixologists behind the concept. Their opposite personalities seem to create an effortless working relationship; Jason Strich is the unflappably calm yin to Mike’s cheeky and spirited yang.

Many of the cocktail names have quite risqué names. It’s clear these guys not only take their craft seriously, they have fun with it. Each week’s theme draws on a mixture of current events, pop culture, wit and whimsy.

Cocktails can be as innoucously named as “Pretty in Pink”- a nod to the recent birth of DC mixologist and Hank’s partner, Gina Chersevani’s baby girl during “Gina’s Having a Baby” week- to “I Don’t See Nothing Wrong With a Little Bump and Grind” from “That’s my Slow Jam” week.

An enigmatic “Italian Gentleman” shows up periodically on the menus, always with a new development to the fictional character’s plot, associates and mythology.  Last week’s iteration was not only delicious, but rewarded returning patrons with a new twist.  By the end of the year’s cocktail experiment said gentleman is sure to have built up a Bond level aura of mystique and intrigue. Shaken, not stirred.

    Last week's "Italian Gentleman, a Jewish Con Man, an over-eager FBI agent and the Corruption of Camden, New Jersey"- a refreshing and slightly tart mix of Ketel One Vodka, Galliano, Roasted Lemon Parsley Soda and Aperol.

The “Italian Gentleman, a Jewish Con Man, an over-eager FBI agent and the Corruption of Camden, New Jersey”- A refreshing and slightly tart mix of Ketel One Vodka, Galliano, Roasted Lemon Parsley Soda and Aperol.

Menu themes coming soon: “It was all a dream”, “College Spring Break”, “March Madness”, and more!

A lot of the cocktails have salacious names that are quick to make one blush. This is a direct nod to the cheeky sense of humor the mixologists throw into the otherwise daunting professional challenge. “It is hard to get people to order the cocktails by name sometimes. They’ll say, “The whiskey one…”

“We reply, ‘I don’t know which one that is…’ we’ve started forcing people to order them by name.”


“We don’t take ourselves very seriously here. These are serious cocktails, but we’re having fun with it.” -Mike

For these two cocktail aficionados, I thought the concept of drinking only one cocktail for the rest of their lives would be a hard question to answer.

Mike’s answer was quick, “Sailor Jerry and Pineapple. That’s my dirty little secret.”
Jason wavered slightly, “Well, honestly I like straight tequila…or a Margarita. But Gin and Tonic- that would have to be it.”
Mike chimes in with a grin, “We’re simple folks.”
“What gin?” I ask Jason, knowing there would be an answer. “…depends on the tonic.”

Maybe not so simple, after all!

These picks and more will show up on the “What’s your Favorite Drink Menu” the week of March 27.

Although the concept is exciting, it can leave drinkers who fall in love with a new libation out of luck the next time they stop in. To date, the most popular cocktails have been “I Know what Boys Like”, “Drunk in Love” and the “Alabama Slammer”.

For those missing their favorite new creation, fear not- each quarter will feature the most popular picks, and the end of the year will feature a menu of the top nine cocktails. The most popular will be the new Hank’s Classic Cocktail.

Not just for show: The mixologists incorporate salts, spices, herbs and barks into their weekly cocktails.

Not just for show: The mixologists incorporate salts, spices, herbs and barks into their weekly cocktails.  Juices, extractions and syrups are all made in house with incredible attention to detail.

After seeing what goes into prepping these cocktails, I can honestly say that $12 is a bargain. Although the names and themes might be cheeky, the cocktails are top notch, featuring freshly squeezed juices, house made sodas, simple syrups, and endlessly creative combinations that will break you out of any cocktail rut.


Mike prepping “caviar” for a Champagne and caviar inspired cocktail on the “And the Award Goes to…” Menu

“We take [this project] seriously but we make it work. Nothing’s off limits.”

DC is undergoing something of a cocktail revolution. When I asked whether this was due to more sophisticated drinkers or more sophisticated drinks, the answer was a thoughtful “both”, followed up by a crooked grin and the inevitable quip, “Jason and myself.”

In reality, they are quick to give credit to nationally acclaimed mixologists Todd Thrasher, Gina Chersevani, Derek Brown. “They started it.”

Check out this week’s menu.  They debut each Thursday:

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Have you tried any of their weekly cocktail concoctions?  Which have been your favorites?







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Casa Luca

Posted in: Restaurant Reviews, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wineries and Vineyards

Fabio Trabocchi Does it Again!

Casa LucaWe recently tried out one of DC’s hottest new restaurants with some of our favorite foodie friends.  With one of DC’s most esteemed Italian chefs behind Casa Luca (named after Trabocchi’s son), we were confident that the meal would not disappoint.

I eschewed my usual glass of bubbly to start the meal, and instead tried the Solstizio cocktail- a mix of Cynar, blood orange, lemon and honey. It was proof that stepping outside my bubbly bubble can pay off!

We started our gluttonous journey with antipasti for the table- a generous portion of meats, cheeses, and other accoutrements. The table then shared an order of the Fusilli e Caccio e Pepe and Smoked Potato Gnocchi with Duck Ragu.  Both were outstanding, but if I had to order just one, it would be the Fusilli- perfect in its simplicity and creamy from the fresh burrata.

The Monkfish Milanese is quickly becoming known as the restaurant’s signature- with good reason. Crispy, yet delicate, this is one dish you should not leave without trying!

Although we could’ve left pleasantly full after these generous courses, the gentlemen insisted on ordering the (very large!) Grigliata Mista de Carne. Although it was delicious, we were perhaps too stuffed to properly enjoy the grilled meats.

We started our wine journey with one of my very favorite producers- Castello di Nieve.  At $75, the Nebbiolo Barbaresco wasn’t cheap, but this small production, family-owned winery consistently over delivers for the price, and the wine paired beautifully with the first two courses.

The beverage director, Nick Calio, has created a thoughtful wine list, dominated by Italian selections.  I was delighted to see a section of wines available by the bottle for only $28! This 12 bottle “menu within a menu” consists of 6 red and 6 white wines that offer outstanding quality at an extremely accessible price point.  The selection rotates depending on seasonal availability, and is intended to encourage guests to try something new at an approachable price point.

In honor of the recent passing of Antonio Mastroberadino, we selected the Aglianico from this menu and toasted the legendary Italian winemaker over superb food with great friends- as I can only imagine he would have liked.

photo(69)We ended the meal with house made Limoncello- completely stuffed but happy, and sure to return!

What new restaurants have you tried and loved lately?

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The Lady Chablis

Posted in: Helpful Hints, Restaurant Reviews, Wine Facts, Wine Pairing, Wine vocabulary, Wineries and Vineyards

IMG_4198Forget everything you thought you knew…

When it comes to Chablis in America, there are a lot of misconceptions.  Some think of their Grandmothers clutching crystal goblets.  Others, jug wine on the bottom rack in grocery stores.

Perhaps most fittingly, I think of the illustrious character from Savannah. If you’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or seen one of the Lady Chablis’ famous shows, you know how very misleading preconcieved notions can be!

I recently attended a winemaker luncheon at the always delicious Proof DC that illustrated incredible nuance among the wines. Over a 3 course lunch, we tasted La Piereleé Chablis 2011, Chablis Premier Cru Fouchaume 2010, Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon 2010, Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2009, and Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2011.


In typical tasting fashion, each diner had a different favorite.  Indeed, even my own favorites changed according to what I was eating- or if I was just sipping.

La grande dame of the afternoon was the Blanchot Grand Cru 2011, from one of only 7 Grand Cru designated vineyards in the region.  It was exceptionally well balanced with firm acidity and outstanding minerality, exhibiting graceful citrus characteristics on the palette.

It was particularly incredible to note the vast differences in each wine when you consider how tiny the 3 appellations are in scope. The topography varies wildly, but is spread over less than 10,000 acres, giving these Chardonnays from Northern Burgandy extremely specific characteristics.

The cooler climate gives these wines a distinctive flavor- higher in acidity and less pronounced fruit notes than most Chardonnays. Perhaps most notably, Chablis exhibits minerality and flinty notes from the soil in which it’s grown.  Argilo-Calcaire is a composition of limestone, clay, and tiny fossilized oyster shells, pictured below.


If you have any lingering doubts over Terroir‘s influence over a wine, one sip of Chardonnay from Chablis clears it up quickly!

The price point on even the Grand Cru is attainable, making these elegant and food friendly wines within reach for your next dinner party. I particularly like pairing Chablis with seafood, as Proof did, although they are quite versatile wines and have the potential to pair beautifully with many dishes.

To purchase the wines listed above, visit Calvert Woodley, Pearson’s Wine and Spirits, Weygandt Wines, Ace Beverage, McAuthor’s, or Arrowine. You really can’t go wrong with any of them!

Pictured with Françoise Roure, a 13th Generation winemaker.

Pictured with Jean François Bordet, a 13th Generation winemaker.

So the next time you see a jug of Chablis on the grocery store shelves… walk on by! But DO give this outstanding wine a try.  It just may surprise you!

For more information on this tiny but mighty wine region, visit


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Rose’s Luxury

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Restaurant Reviews, Wine Pairing

What a Welcome Newcomer!


I was delighted to try Aaron Silverman’s new restaurant Rose’s Luxury last week. This is one new restaurant that’s worth the hype!


Diners enjoying a front row view of the open kitchen action!

Everything from the design, to service, and especially the food, are all top notch- without an ounce of pretension.  Diners can get a front row view of the action in the kitchen at one of the bar seats, although I loved our cozy table under the lights.  The staff is friendly and informed; a welcome departure from surly greeters and uninformed servers.

As a party of four, we were delighted by each new course as it arrived, and got a chance to sample a good portion of the menu.  Not one plate left the table with anything remaining, and both pescatarians and meat-lovers alike left satiated.

Even the controversial popcorn soup had its champions; although I enjoyed the novelty and craftsmanship, it was a touch too rich for more than a spoonful or two for me.  Some of my dining companions heartily disagreed!

Stand out dishes were the pork sausage, habanero and lychee salad (trust me, just get it!), the crispy octopus, fried eggplant, and vietnamese pâté.  And the bread.  It’s worth suspending any low carb diet for an entire loaf of the house made complimentary potato bread and whipped butter.

One thing that can be complicated about ordering wine at a small plates restaurant is the sheer volume of flavors you’re pairing with.  I like to pick a wine that “plays well with others”, and one that is generally fairly high in acidity. I start light and increase the body to match the progression of small plates.

We started with individual cocktails; I ordered the sparkling chenin blanc, which was delightful, aromatic and crisp.

Our table then moved on to the Höpler Grüner Veltliner for the salad and seafood small plates.  Hard for a table of Grüner lovers to turn down, the Höpler was perfect on the palette- restrained and acidic, with a good dose of minerality and pear fruit.

For the heartier courses I selected a medium bodied Spanish blend of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Tempranillo called Remelluri 2008. The Garnacha and Mazuelo kept things smooth, while the Tempranillo spiced things up with lively red fruit, peppery notes, and a hint of smokiness.  It was served at the proper temperature, slightly below room temperature, which I always appreciate.  We all liked this wine so much we ordered a second bottle!

For dessert, we enjoyed the Eden Ice Cider served in elegant dessert glasses- a sweet cider made from apples picked after the first frost, much like Ice Wine. I would love to see an expansion of the dessert drinks. A tawny port or sherry selection would round out the beverage menu nicely.


I can’t wait to go back and am so glad to experience a small plates restaurant that really works!

Have you been to Rose’s Luxury yet?  What are some of your favorite new restaurants around town?


I went back to Rose’s Luxury this week and was pleased to see an expanded beverage program, especially on the dessert list.  I was particularly impressed by the Ben Rye- not a Rye whiskey at all, but a sweet, viscous wine from Sicily made from indigenous grapes. I’ll be ordering this one again!

Chef Silverman’s White Truffle Pasta- a seasonal special- was aromatic and delicious. A generous portion of the aromatic delicacy was shaved over simply prepared pasta letting the truffles take center stage.  Bravo!

We can’t wait to snag a seat at the bar facing the kitchen next time to see the kitchen staff in their element!




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