ImprompTuesDate

After publicly committing to going to Zumba every Tuesday, I skipped.

To be fair, Mr. A had his first whole day off of work in a month, so we decided to do an impromptu date night and check out some new places in DC’s Shaw neighborhood. Apparently, we were actually in the “North End Shaw” area. Everything’s gotta have a new hip name now, it seems!

For dinner, we went to Declaration, a gourmet pizza restaurant with an upcoming Top Chef contestant in the role of Executive Chef.

pizzaria

Photo courtesy of Declaration Restaurant.

This was a beautiful space, with outdoor seating and a great big bar area, but we chose to sit at a little bar where we can look in on the pizza line. We placed a couple drink orders and decided to try their shortib meatball appetizer.

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Mr. A was all about that tiled pizza oven in the background

We ordered (l-r): a Negroni and the Independence Punch.

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Why feature a classic like a Negroni? Well 1) it was under Declaration’s list of “Classic Cocktail with a Twist.” Rather than the usual gin/vermouth/Campari, this was bmade with Boudier’s Saffron Infused Gin, Aperol, and Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Even though Apreol is also an Italian apertif owned by Campari, the bitter orange and lower alcohol content was indeed a nice twist on the original.

And 2) the last time Mr. A ordered a Negroni (coincidentally, at another pizza restaurant) the server gave him a blank stare then proceeded to walk behind the bar, shake up something, and come back with a drink that had a cherry and an umbrella. Most definitely not a Negroni and not great, but too funny to send back.

I, however, went with the on tap Independence Punch made of La Diablada Pisco, Rhubarb liqueur, Oleo Saccharum, and lavender bitters:

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Unfortunately, that grated nutmeg on top was about the only flavor in this, which was really disappointing. You couldn’t taste the rhubarb and could only smell the lavender. I’m not ready to give two thumbs down to this drink though. I couldn’t quite tell if the blandness was due to the recipe itself, or something off with the batch or line, or if it was just waterlogged. I have a feeling it was that last one, that perhaps it is a concentrate on draft, and it gets diluted for serving.

 

After a giant short rib meatball that was a bit dry, but swimming in a delicious tomato sauce with strips of sweet red pepper and globs of melted mozz, we decided we wanted to try one of their delicious sounding deviled eggs, we chose the Reuben Deviled Egg:

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The presentation left a little to be desired.

Thankfully, these came out right away, because we were starving. It had taken so long to place the order for this and our entree. It wasn’t the prettiest presentation (wet napkin courtesy of Mr. A knocking over one egg), but as long as it tastes good, right?

Billed as “Gruyere, 1000 island, corned beef,” everything sounded good. As you can see below, the eggs were sliced in half widthwise, which made it difficult to bite into, without demolishing that tall pile of filling. As a result, they were popped into our mouths whole, which was really just too much for one mouthful. On top of that, they were really cold (so that is why they came out so fast), and with a full mouthful of cold egg, my cold-sensitive molars were killing me. I don’t know if there’s really

In general, we’d suggest that Declaration slice their eggs lengthwise, either shred/dice the corned beef or put it underneath the yolk, and don’t fill the eggs up so much. There was just so much in one bite, I couldn’t even discern the Gruyere or thousand island in there.

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Declaration celebrates the (obvs) Declaration of Independence, featuring 13 pizzas for the 13 colonies, named after signers of the Declaration from each area. For our main course, we ordered North Carolina’s Joseph Hewes pizza:

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We were too hungry to wait and take a photo before diving in.

Braised pork, dijon, smoked mozzarella, smoked mango, and North Carolina BBQ gastrique. This pizza had a lot of potential, but unfortunately fell a bit flat.

First and most importantly, the crust isn’t tasty, which is a shame, because it was baked very well. Unfortunately, it’s just bland. Also, I don’t know how, but the braised pork was dry.  Dry! How does that even happen?! Braising literally means it will sitting in liquid! Plus, it should’ve been shredded. While the flavor of the pork was all there, there were some huge chunks that made it difficult to bite through. Dijon may as well have been left off the description, because we couldn’t taste that anywhere.

On the bright side, the smoked mozzarella was good. I liked the smoked mango, which I felt offered a nice change of texture and a bright, tart flavor in comparison to the BBQ gastrique. I don’t usually go for BBQ on pizzas, but this one was tomato based and because it used vinegar-based North Carolina BBQ sauce, it wasn’t overly sweet.

In addition to the lackluster food, the service was just. not. good. The hosts were nice, but it took ages to place a food order. Granted, it was Tuesday, so there weren’t too many people on staff and it seemed that the lone bartender was left to not only tend the bar, but act as server to the tables in the main dining room.

That said, he brought out our drinks and appetizer, came back to fill our water and then disappeared before we could turn around and say thank you. It again took some time to get our check and we had to flag down a passing hostess for a box to put in the leftover slices.


Not quite ready to go home and not quite satisfied (though quite full), we left Declaration and went next door to Hazel:

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I wish I took a photo of this place, because it just looked really cool. Large, dark bar, with pin lights over top, the dining area separated by a wall feature made of turned table legs and spindles, and a large, yet intimate feeling outdoor space.

I thought it’d make a great second or third date spot: you and your date have decided you like each other enough to see each other again and want somewhere cool, cozy, and spread out enough so you can get to know someone more. Mr. A said 5th or 6th date. This then led to a whole discussion about the “proper” progression of date spots, on which we totally disagreed. Not that it makes a difference anyway, because when we first started dating five years ago, we didn’t follow either of our progressions one bit.

Since we were just getting drinks, we sat at the bar, where we got fantastic service and conversation with the staff behind the bar. Mr. A wanted wine, and after some back and forth discussion with the bartender, chose an old world red (admittedly, I tuned out for a moment, so don’t recall what). I asked the bartender what his favorite/the best of the “Delicate” section (as opposed to “Complex”) on the cocktail list:

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The bar had PERFECT spotlighting for this shot.

He suggested the Loud as a Whisper. Gran Classico, Hat Trick Barrel Rested Gin, Manzanilla Sherry and lemon juice.

Like all gins, Hat Trick has lots of botanicals, but the balance of botanicals is Hat Trick’s claim to fame. The Barrel Rested version takes the original Hat Trick blend and rests it in virgin barrels for six months, resulting in some vanilla and spice notes on top. All in all, paired with the aromatic herbs of Gran Classico, this drink was smooth with just the right amount of bitterness that can be expected with aperitifs.

Strong, but not overpowering, this was a cocktail. This was the drink I’d been wanting when I got my waterlogged punch. I’m glad it lived up to the expectations that they set with the millions of liqueurs behind the bar. I’ll definitely be back here to try something else and the food.


Across from Declaration and Hazel, in the Atlantic Plumbing Building, sits Haikan. Brought to Shaw by the same team behind Daikaya in Gallery Place, Haikan is a bright and laid back restaurant with an open kitchen. Fun, if the complete opposite of Hazel’s dark, cool atmosphere.

I asked Mr. A to order me a drink while I hit the loo. I don’t know if he chose, or let the bartender pick, but this is what I ended up with:

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Tootsie Roll in a Glass

The Gurutsu-Furutsu, featuring Yokaiichi Shochu, honey, and grapefruit soda to round it off. This was light and sweet, a perfect dessert to round off the night. Something about the honey made me think of a Tootsie Roll.

(Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing AT ALL. Mr. A gave me the worst face when I said that. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so, and honey just has such a distinct taste and mouth feel. Also, I love Tootsie Rolls. Actually, what I really love are the Tootsie flavor rolls. Call me crazy, but I was the kid picking out all the vanilla, lemon, cherry, lime, and orange rolls out of the crappy candy mix. I recently saw a bag of ALL VANILLA flavor rolls at Target and have been regretting not buying it ever since.

Like Daikaya, Haikan is a ramen shop, but also features different takes on classic dishes: a Japanese “deviled” egg, tofu poutine, “pea-sar” salad. I can’t wait to come back and try some of these dishes. Thank goodness the weather finally turned. It’s not only sweater and boots season, it’s soup and ramen season, so stay tuned!

 

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