|Fino Cesar Florido|
It was 91-degrees and steamy outside, but inside Mockingbird Hill it was pleasantly cool. I was drinking pale golden sherry and sampling thinly-sliced ham.
“What does the sherry taste like?” the Frenchman asked. He was drinking a draft beer. “Is it sweet or dry?”
“Pretty dry,” I said. “But there’s some sweetness to it, too.” It was a Fino Cesar Florido, and it seemed unfair to box it in either way. It tastes like sherry, I wanted to say. It had a touch of citrus and pear and a firm undercarriage from fortifying spirits.
“I can tell you one thing,” I said finally. “It goes great with ham.”
Helping the good folks of Washington, D.C. discover the beauty of that combination is the singular mission of Mockingbird Hill, the South’s first ham-and-sherry bar. It’s the handiwork of Derek Brown, who shook his way to cocktail acclaim at the Passenger and the Columbia Room, and of Chantal Tseng, who ran the bar at D.C.’s noted Tabard Inn for close to a decade. They happen to be married to each other.
As if to forever smash sherry’s frumpy image as an old ladies’ tipple, Mockingbird Hill has a brash wood-and-stainless steel decor. The long metal bar top gleams in the orange sunlight angling in from the big front windows. Patrons perch on three-legged wood-capped stools. Mission of Burma and the Clash wham out from the sound system.
|More than Ham: Sardines, Too!|
I paid my tab and stepped out into the steamy D.C. night. My former bar-mate was leaning against a sidewalk planter, having a smoke and arguing in French on his cell phone. I waved as I passed, but he didn’t look up.