Dining Out: Big Nosh Festival

I didn’t exactly know what to make of the Big Nosh when we signed up last week. For $36 a ticket, the first annual charity event let participants try out 25 restaurants in the Midtown/Downtown area between noon and five last Sunday.

We didn’t think we’d make it for the whole thing. But we actually lasted five and a half hours and hit 23 of the 25 spots—and the two we missed are places we’d both been before. Organizationally, the Big Nosh was really a series of small noshes without a unifying theme—restaurants put out whatever dishes or appetizers they thought were appropriate—but we did get a chance to try out a whole bunch of new food, figure out some new places we’d like to try, and grab a few coupons.

We met our team leader, Catherine Enfield, at Three Fires Lounge in the new Residence Inn across from the Capitol. We were kind of wondering about the team concept, and if we were going to have to eat everything for points. It turned out, the team concept was really a way to help people get to know each other.

There were about a dozen other people on Team Dining Galore; it featured at least two active food bloggers, including Enfield, who writes a blog called Munchie Musings. She gave us a quick run-down on how things work—basically, your badge gets you into any participating restaurant or café, you get a little cup for drinks, and you can stick with the team or not. We stuck around long enough for me to win a $15 gift certificate to Three Fires in a raffle. Then we were off.

The first stop was one of the best. Sapporo Grill (1118 16th St.) is a new sushi spot near a whole bunch of other existing sushi spots. But we’ll probably check it out again. They put out some sushi rolls, which were good, but the highlight was a salad with hunks of deeply flavored steak—one of the best dishes we had all day.

Next stop was Bistro 33 (1020 16th). The mushroom risotto here was disappointing. But, as noted in our review last spring, Bistro 33 has great desserts—particularly when it comes to chocolate, which they laid out in force. Next, we headed up to Sofia (815 11th St.) and had some of their excellent bread pudding, which they said is becoming their trademark.

After a couple more stops, we found we were in kind of a faster mode than our group (maybe because neither of us really drinks—most places we stopped seemed to be happy to fill your little plastic cup with some signature booze). We found a lot of places were offering soup, appropriate for fall, and each one was quite good. This included tortilla soup at Torero’s (2326 J St.), cauliflower soup at L Wine Lounge (1801 L St.), and something really good but I confess I forgot what at Sweetwater (1901 S St.), a new restaurant in that cursed corner location across 19th St. from Safeway.

We also checked out all three yogurt stops on the list: Mochi (1530 16th), Yogurtagogo (1801 L St.), and Cultivate Frozen Yogurt (1800 19th St.). The last was our favorite, though this might be because they let us fill our little cups all the way with whatever we wanted. They also advertise the live cultures and health benefits of their product, and the guy working that day was super nice. Also, hats off to the pumpkin and dulce de leche gelato at Butch n’ Nellie’s Coffee Co. (1827 I St.)—which they offered to mix with Guinness for us, though we declined.

Other highlights included streak and onion sandwiches at Buckhorn Grill (1801 L St.), pizza at Hot Italian (1627 16th St.), and baked goods and coffee at Old Soul (1716 L St.). Our day finished at the new Temple Coffee location, down 2829 S St., where we stopped for a late afternoon hour of digesting and reading the Sunday paper. That is, until a couple of our old teammates showed up, prompting a new round of conversation about food.

(Disclosure: The Capitol Weekly was a media sponsor of the event, and our tickets were comped.)

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