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Monday, July 21, 2008

Thing 119: Food Matters

Last weekend, the Boyfriend and I really classed things up by going to a wine tasting at Food Matters. Much like in the movie Sideways, we swirled and sniffed and sipped and declared some wines to be "fruity and bold" and others to be "crisp, light, with hints of citrus and petrol." This is much fancier than our usual Sunday night of laundry and Family Guy, so let me explain.

My coworker knows the owners of this establishment, or else I can't imagine it would have ended up on my radar. Owned by Tom and Christy Przystawik, two chefs who met and married while working in Jose Andres' kitchens, they were looking for a way out of the hectic life of professional kitchens and wanted a bit more freedom to pursue what they loved to do. Food Matters is the product of that love. It's a neighborhood stop, with a sit down menu, take out and prepared foods, a bar, and classes and tasting events. Its customers, several of whom we met at our tasting, seem very loyal to the place, and Food Matters is a true neighborhood meeting place.

It caught my eye when my coworker, on their mailing list, mentioned across the cubicle wall one day "Oh! my friend Christy is doing a wine tasting for Alsatian wines!" My dad is from Alsace, and all his family still lives in that region. I spent summers and Christmases there growing up, and have very very fond memories of the foods and culture. Even though my mom didn't grow up in Alsace, she learned all the best dishes from my dad's mother, and so even when I wasn't in France with my family the smells and tastes of a good choucroute garni, fleishneke, or tarte aux pommes were deeply woven into my childhood.

Alsace is the region of France along the German border, in the North East of the country. Rolling green hills dotted with castles, small villages with broad houses with the signature black wood cross hatch pattern and stork nests on chimneys all make up this beloved province. The food is heavily influenced by its German neighbor; there is pork in everything and they make really good white wines, especially Rieslings and Gewurztraminers.

Those are what we tasted at Food Matters. For $20, we got small tastes of five wines and Alsatian-style snacks.

Tucked in at the front of the store is a room with a long communal table which holds about two dozen people. Each place was set with four wine glasses, each on a place mat that had room to take tasting notes at the foot of each glass. Plates of canapes graced the center of the table. We took our places around the table, and introduced ourselves to the people sitting next to and across from us. Many of them had been there for the prologue to this tasting -- the Alsatian red tasting from couple month previous -- and seemed to have gone to many other such events too. They all knew Christy, and most knew each other.

Christy was our emcee for the evening, pouring the different wines, giving us her interpretations of them, and then encouraging discussion and debate. We tried two Rieslings, one regular and one grand cru, and then debated whether we thought the extra expense was worth it (I thought yes, Boyfriend like the regular one better. Table was pretty split overall). And Christy reassured us that yes, Riesling is supposed to smell like motor oil, if you can believe it. We also tried an Auxerrois, a Muscat and a Gewurztraminer (which was much drier than its German counterpoint).

The snacks were delicious too (although Mom, your onion tart was better!). There were little toasts with blue cheese spread, pork sausages, a ham, cheese and pickle salad and the onion tart that, while good, pales in comparison to my family's version. Christy was even kind enough to mention which snacks paired particularly well with which wines.

Tasting attendees also had the option to purchase the wines we tasted at a slight discount to their normal price point. I ended up buying two bottles, one of which I'm bringing next time my German upstairs neighbors make tarte flambee.

The drawback to this really enjoyable evening? Food Matters is in the middle of nowhere (ok, so West Alexandria is, you know, populated. But for someone without a car, it might as well be on Venus). We took the metro to King Street, and then #8 Dash Bus out near Landmark. So it's not impossible to get there, it just involves some planning and a crossword puzzle to pass the time. Luckily, on our way back, the really nice people sitting next to us offered us a ride to the metro at Van Dorn, which we gladly accepted.

They're doing a tequila dinner next month, and Food Matters has tastings and events all year long. I recommend getting on their mailing list, and next time something catches your eye, make the trip out there. We had a very enjoyable evening, and I think you will too.

In the throes of Capital Fringe and Screen on the Green. Have you been yet?

I must have France on the brain. Join me over at the Cork and Knife, where I continue the theme.


Anonymous said...

Link to their registration page:

Because it was a pretty awesome trip.


CMP said...

thanks for the shout out. would love to give you a ride out of town next time.-c