This was entirely unintuitive to me. During a tasting of three different Ethiopian Yirgacheffe brews at Washington DC’s Mockingbird Hill, a fantastic sherry and coffee bar from Derek Brown and company, I was given a plate of olives to go with the coffee. I looked at Cory Andreen, the Mockingbird Hill coffee master and winner of the 2012 World Cup Tasters Championship, quizzically, thinking, “huh?” He assured me that all would be well with the world and to try the olives immediately after sipping the coffees. I was blown away by the combination, which paired seamlessly with all three coffees and especially with the wonderfully cheesy funkiness of the one naturally sun-dried coffee, the Wonago from London, England’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters. The other two Yirgacheffes, delicious with great depths of flavor in their own rights had been washed and lacked the tell-tale funkiness of the Wonago. As with the coffee procured from London, these expressed Mockingbird Hill’s efforts at securing top roasts from around the world. The first was the Hunkute from Oslo, Norway’s Tim Wendelboe and the second was the Chelba from Portland, Oregon’s Heart Coffee Roasters. The entire brewing and tasting process was a total pleasure and the added epiphany of the olive/coffee pairing catapulted the tasting to a special level worth sharing here.
Coffee is taken seriously here. Given that it is both a coffee house and a bar, it doesn’t surprise me that the staff approaches the making of coffee with a serious bartending sensibility, such as the mixing glasses used to receive the pour-over, the barspoon to make sure the pour is uniformly distributed and wine glasses for the actual tasting.
I decided to test the coffee and bar hybrid and asked Andreen to make me a coffee based cocktail. His newly developed combination of freshly brewed Wonago coffee, Spanish Brandy, Pedro Ximenez and Bitter Lemon Tonic with a twist of lemon peel was a winner with good coffee depth, just enough sweetness and a brace of alcohol from the Brandy and the sherry.
What is somewhat surprising about Mockingbird Hill, though, is that it excels at more than one facet of its operations. It is an outstanding coffee house by day, but with noted barmaster Derek Brown behind it, it is also a superb Sherry bar with a wide assortment of excellent Spanish sherries, the breadth of which is rarely found outside of Spain. Sherry represents a class of wines, that in my book, doesn’t get near the respect and love that it deserves. I would love to spend a considerably greater amount of time here to explore both their sherries on their own s well as in cocktails.
Sherries are not meant to be drunk in a vacuum. They are one of the world’s great food wines, While the selection at Mockingbird Hill is not huge, the quality of the tapas-style food is high. Deviled eggs have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late and I haven’t had any more creatively or deliciously prepared than those at Mockingbird Hill, which came with diced Serrano ham, piquillo peppers and green olive relish, nicely evoking the flavors of Spain.
Catalan-style toasted bread with garlic, olive oil and smeared tomato, a family favorite, had a generous layer of jamon pile on top. Alternatives to the ham included no topping, boquerones or Manchego cheese.
I also ordered the American ham sampler. While not quite yet on a par with Spanish Jamones Ibéricos, they were quite good and a reasonable value.
A photo posted by John Sconzo (@docsconz) on
Pickled garlic was another revelation with bright, clean flavors and a nice, crisp bite. Once I realized how wonderful they were, I greedily devoured the small plate that had been gifted to me.
Mockingbird Hill is another place that I would love to have near where I live. That not the case, I expect to pay at least one visit for coffee, sherry or more whenever I’m in DC. Click here for the full Flick’r Photoset.