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Meal Ticket: Saluting Congress, Pleasing Taste Buds

Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call
Whole Foods Fair Lakes in Fairfax, Va., offers the Capitol Hill sandwich, a union of grilled onions, seeded semolina bread, shaved roast beef and horseradish mayo. It’s so good that you wouldn’t mind sitting through Interstate 66 rush-hour traffic for a bite.

Spend a significant amount of time watching C-SPAN and you’ll soon discover that lawmakers aren’t shy about cementing their legacies, brazenly slapping their names on dusty back roads, desolate post offices or byway-connecting bridges.

Then there are those rare occasions when admirers show some initiative and pay homage to those solons that have personally inspired them.

Here is just a sampling of hospitality industry tributes to revered Congressional figures, both past and present, that we’ve encountered around town.

1. Southern-style mint julep — Round Robin & Scotch Bar at the Willard InterContinental (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)

“Where I’m standing, we’re going back to Jefferson’s time,” veteran Round Robin bartender Jim Hewes said of the politically sacred ground he routinely inhabits. “People walk in here and they want to touch history, they want to touch Washington.”

While the hotel and bar have played host to U.S. presidents since the 1850s, the Round Robin’s claim to fame flows from a different fount of power: Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser.

Hewes hailed the Kentuckian, who spent the better part of five decades in the House and Senate, for championing sour mash whiskey during his first term in Congress; that’s when Clay approached the venerable hotel about whipping up a certain bourbon-based beverage.

“He brought the legacy of the Southern-style mint julep,” Hewes said.

According to Hewes, the term julep means “sweetened water” in Arabic. And there are plenty of historical derivations forged from any number of alcoholic agents (wine, rum, cognac). But Clay’s version, Hewes insisted, remains the pinnacle of potent potables.

“It’s a fitting showcase for the purely American invention,” he said of the libation.

Hewes estimated that he makes “thousands” of from-scratch mint juleps a year, each one constructed per Clay’s original instructions.

Each glass incorporates mountains of crushed ice, long pours of Makers Mark bourbon, freshly muddled mint leaves, granulated sugar and zesty lemon peel. The drink is like every polished politician: staggeringly strong, intermittently sweet and eventually dizzying.

2. Butifarra casera con mongetes “Daniel Patrick Moynihan” — Jaleo (480 Seventh St. NW)

Talk about your almost-too-good-to-be-true anecdotes. When he was still starting out, renowned chef and restaurateur José Andrés would spend his weekends shooting the breeze with a highly opinionated patron.

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