A few Sundays ago I brunched in Del Ray at the sold-out Carpenter’s Cookoff. It was the 10th anniversary of the annual neighborhood food event—which raises money for Carpenter’s Shelter, a homeless shelter in Alexandria—but it was my first time attending.
The cookoff was held at the Birchmere, an old but charming music venue hidden off Mount Vernon Avenue. As soon as I arrived I was checked in by friendly volunteers in aprons. I grabbed a mimosa at the bar, perused the silent auction lots, and settled into a chair to watch the live recording of Foodie & the Beast.
Three girlfriends joined me there, each arriving one by one, and once Nycci and David Nellis were done interviewing the participating chefs for the radio show, the Alpha Dog Blues Band took the stage with their guitars and harmonicas. It was the perfect soundtrack to all the food we were about to eat.
And eat we did. The place had tables and tables of food on display from restaurants across the D.C. area. Brabo, Jackson 20, Rustico, Southside 815, and many more were giving away signature dishes in an attempt to win one of four awards: Best Starter, Best Main Course, Best Dessert, and Peoples’ Choice.
Of the 10 different types of barbecue we tried, the drunken pot roast (cooked in Yuengling!) served with mac n’ cheese from Southside 815 was the best. We also liked the sausage sliders from TJ Stone’s and the ribs from Overwood. Some other dishes that really stood out were the Dragon Creek oyster shooters with green Bloody Mary juice from The Light Horse, and the salmon with spinach from Geranio.
For dessert, Ben & Jerry’s was shilling its new Greek frozen yogurt, but we also snagged colorful cupcakes from Bittersweet and lots of sweets from Bread & Chocolate, including vanilla napoleons. The winner of the Peoples’ Choice Award? The Majestic.
Thanks to this great event, Carpenter’s is able to provide shelter, guidance, education, and advocacy for the homeless.