Home Plate

Pig roasts, Mother's Day tea and homemade gin.

House Spirits

It was the summer of 2012, and Jack Hubbard and Joe Maiellano were having a few G&Ts in Maiellano’s Crystal City condo when the talk turned to opening their own distillery. “Usually, it’s a drunken idea that never goes anywhere,” Hubbard says.

Building a brick-and-mortar operation seemed out of the question for the 20-somethings, both of whom work as nonprofit fundraisers. That’s when they had their “lightbulb moment.”

“Maybe we couldn’t produce the final product,” says Maiellano. “But we could provide all the tools in a kit so people can make a flavorful gin at home.”

In short order, and with a startup investment of $10,000, the pair established a business plan, perfected a reci-pe, then sourced packaging materials, flask-style bottles, funnels, strainers and—most importantly—the juniper berries, herbs and spices necessary for a smooth gin. (One key ingredient, a bottle of vodka, is not provided in the kit.)

By early November, “The Homemade Gin Kit” was born. “Right in this apartment, with boxes up to the ceiling, we put together 250 kits and launched a website,” says Maiellano. “We figured if we could sell them by Father’s Day, in six months, we’d make a profit and be a success.”

That milestone came sooner than anticipated. First came bloggers hunting for holiday gifts, followed by a write-up in The New York Times. By New Year’s Day of 2013, they had shipped their product to 2,500 aspiring home mixologists. “We were at the perfect storm with all the craft cocktail places and people making their own tinctures and tonics,” says Maiellano, whose wife, Sarah, now handles social media and marketing for the venture. (Hubbard’s wife, Molly, does the accounting.) To date, they have sold more than 17,000 kits ($49.95 each).

For the sake of research, I followed the directions on the kit and brewed a pleasing, tawny-colored spirit. The process is simple: Put the herbs in a 750 ml bottle of vodka, give it a few shakes, and then wait 36 hours.

Both the kit and the resulting private-label bathtub gin make cool gifts.

The Homemade Gin Kit is available at: Covet, 5140 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-247-9797, www.covetarlington.com; and at www.homemadegin.com

Pig Out

If going whole hog is your idea of the perfect party, you’ll be happy to know that Green Pig Bistro owner and chef Scot Harlan has taken his devotion to the “head-to-tail” movement on the road. Last summer, the restaurant began catering weddings, company picnics and backyard barbecues, offering a rotisserie-cooked pig, lamb or goat as the main course.

Flavor-wise, the chef offers three styles: Asian, Latin, or the most popular, a traditional American preparation with a paprika/cumin/brown sugar rub. The “Roast” package includes a choice of sides, such as the chef’s popular stewed black beans and mac ’n’ cheese, as well as potato rolls, coleslaw and accompanying sauces. All ingredients are sustainably produced and, whenever possible, locally sourced.

Prices vary according to size, the type of meat and the level of service requested. Customers now have the option of picking up their feast at the restaurant, thereby avoiding added transportation and staffing costs. A pig roast to-go, for a minimum of 10 people, is $45 per person. Reserve two weeks in advance.

Green Pig Bistro, 1025 North Fillmore St., Arlington, 703-888-1920, greenpigbistro.com


Tea Time

Afternoon tea can be a soothing luxury. Sip a fine, loose-leaf brew from china cups, while nibbling on cute sandwiches and mini-pastries and it’s easy to picture yourself as part of the PBS drama Downton Abbey.

Hotels, in particular, tend to maintain this English tradition. “It’s a nice way for a reunion between friends and family,” says Vincent Feraud, wine director of the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner and manager of the hotel’s Entyse Wine Bar & Lounge, which offers a variety of tea services. “We get so many bridal showers and older ladies with their granddaughters,” he says, noting that Mother’s Day is another popular occasion for this pampered ritual.

Taking tea can also be a learning experience—at least when the hostess is Rebecca Czarniecki. She holds children’s tea parties, combined with manners classes, in a 1,200-square-foot Falls Church City warehouse decorated with a mix of vintage and shabby-chic furnishings. “Tea is the perfect time to sprinkle in etiquette lessons,” says Czarniecki, who launched her business, Tea with Mrs. B, in 2007 and whose clients include the children of Saudi royals living in Northern Virginia. “With the tiny tea sweets as eye candy, we work on how to start a conversation and getting rid of filler words,” she says.

Here are some local establishments that serve afternoon tea. All require advance reservations.

Cherry Hill Historic House & Farm

Hold your own private tea for 12 to 20 guests ($30 per person) in the restored dining room of this mid-19th century farmhouse, owned by the City of Falls Church and maintained by the Friends of Cherry Hill Foundation. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. “Seasonal Teas,” open to the public, are held on holidays throughout the year (reserve one month in advance). The European-style sweets and sandwiches are made by local caterer Natalia’s Elegant Creations.

Cherry Hill Historic House & Farm, 312 Park Ave., Falls Church, 703-248-5171, cherryhillfallschurch.org

House of Steep

More contemporary than Old World, this modern teahouse stocks more than 40 kinds of tea and serves nibbles such as wasabi dumplings, edamame pods, chamomile tea scones and more ($22 per person).

Monday-Thursday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. House of Steep, 3800 Lee Highway, Arlington, 703-567-1589, www.houseofsteep.com

The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City

Fyve Restaurant Lounge has teas ranging from a Teddy Bear children’s tea ($16 per person), to Tea Royal ($42 per person) with traditional sandwiches, scones, pastries and sparkling wine. Saturday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-4:30 p.m. The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, 1250 South Hayes St., Arlington, 703-412-2762, www.ritzcarlton.com

The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner

The hotel’s elegant Entyse Wine Bar & Lounge offers a choice of tea services. The most requested is the Royal Tea ($56 per person), a two-course experience with tiered trays of savory sandwiches, followed by a dessert course of cookies, tarts, scones, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, plus a glass of sparkling rosé wine. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options. For children 12 and under, there’s a Peter Rabbit Tea ($34 per child) with options such as PB&J, turkey-and-cheese sandwiches, chocolate-dipped strawberries, fruit tarts and hot chocolate. Thursday-Sunday, noon-4 p.m. The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, 703-506-4300, www.ritzcarlton.com

StarNut Gourmet

Owners Joe and Denise Shehadeh offer a tea service that’s heavy on sweets ($29 for adults; $15 for children 12 and under) in both “The Gallery” room of their McLean café and on the terrace, which overlooks a park and fountain. The fine pastries are made by Patisserie Poupon in Georgetown. Monday, Thursday and Sunday, 2-5 p.m. StarNut Gourmet, 1445 Laughlin Ave., McLean, 703-749-9090, www.starnutgourmet.com

Tea with Mrs. B

Rebecca Czarniecki’s business hosts private children’s tea parties. A typical weekend event for eight children ($365) includes dress-up and makeup, a craft and an etiquette lesson. The tea service, using vintage china for sandwiches and sweets, is an additional $64. Tea with Mrs. B, 136 West Jefferson St., Falls Church, 202-448-2930, www.teawithmrsb.com

Categories: Food & Drink