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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.

“When Jaleo first opened, we had a regular, an older gentleman with white hair, who would come in on Sundays, eat at the bar and talk about world affairs with me. I had no idea who he was, but I enjoyed our conversations,” Andrés shared with the Washington Post in a personal essay about being a Washingtonian. “I later learned he was Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan! Only in Washington would a legendary Senator spend his Sundays talking to a cook about politics.”

The New York Democrat so impressed the bound-for-culinary-stardom Spaniard that he’s been immortalized on Andrés’ menus ever since.

The signature dish — featured at every Jaleo and subsequently exported to Andrés’ Los Angeles outpost, the Bazaar — is pork and beans for educated palates. At the heart of each portion lies a thick, grilled pork sausage — produced to Andrés’ specifications by local artisan sausage-maker Stanley Feder — surrounded by sauteed white beans. The gourmet link bears striking grill marks and flavorful juices dribble out from the flame-licked casing when pierced. The accompanying beans fall into two equally delicious camps: The majority remain creamy and light from slow cooking, while the underlying few sport a crunch-inducing scorch.

3. The Southern Senator — Cedar (822 E St. NW)

Bartenders know how to keep regulars happy.

That’s why when Cedar standby Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — “Cedar is near Sen. Corker’s apartment, so he goes fairly often,” a Corker aide confirmed — returned last year from a trip home to Chattanooga with fond memories of a spicy cocktail etched into his brain, Cedar bar manager Matt Perkins pounced on the challenge of concocting a reasonable facsimile.

“All we really had to go on was bourbon and ginger,” Perkins said of the nebulous marching orders, noting, “[Corker] was normally a wine drinker.”

Perkins set about to striking just the right balance, burning through about a half-dozen iterations before finally settling on the version recently added to the regular menu. (It had previously been a “by request only” offering.)

The resulting beverage is surprisingly bare-bones: a simple syrup made of pureed and boiled ginger root married with seasonal honey (faithfully supplied by relatives in West Virginia; Perkins admitted to favoring the wildflower variety best), Makers Mark and fresh lemon juice.

There is nothing particularly Southern about ginger-based drinks. But we definitely appreciated the exotic bite relayed by the famous root, as well as the mellowing flavor of the local honey. “I’ve got a couple guys who come in and enjoy them,” Perkins said of the drink’s cult status.

4. Capitol Hill sandwich — Whole Foods Fair Lakes (4501 Market Commons Drive, Fairfax, Va.)

The Austin, Texas-based organic grocery chain is no stranger to political controversy. Its co-founder and CEO, John Mackey, has, at various times, come under fire for his views on union labor, global warming and President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

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