The Sunday before Smoke’s Tim Byres began his Rogue Sessions, he wanted to try out the new grill he’d be using all week. So, he threw a BYOM – Bring Your Own Meat – party in Blagden Alley outside the restaurant. The concept was simple: anyone could stop by with some steak, chicken, shrimp, baby back pork, ribs, whatever, and the Dallas-based chef would throw it on the burners. The BBQ was a success – a few dozen people showed up with an impressive selection of carne, Byres gave impromptu cooking demos while people contentedly demolished whatever he made. And the stainless steel grill from Grillworks was smoke-stained and battle-hardened by the end.
But how would this rustic, Texas-sized cuisine translate into the refined and restrained Rogue 24 format? And how would Byres’ dishes stand alongside Cooper’s creations?
I’m still wondering about this as I walk down the brick-lined alley for my second week hanging out at Rogue 24 for Rogue Sessions. As I approach the entrance, I catch a whiff of smoke from the wood-fired grill. It’s bucolic and beckoning, a warm reminder of the campfire cooking my father and I used to do on childhood fishing trips. It’s not what you expect at a limited edition tasting menu dinner, but I immediately feel at home.
Secondhand smoke isn’t so bad when it’s delivered by your waiter. Experimental chefs and mixologists all over the District are infusing meals and cocktails with pleasing vapors that transport patrons beyond the dining room. “Smoke makes you feel like you’re outside,” says Bibiana’s executive chef, Nicholas Stefanelli. “It always reminds me of cooking on the grill.” Whether reminiscent of the great outdoors or not, these smoky creations are a breath of fresh air.
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Once a month, this palace of pork hosts a bacon-centric brunch to showcase six to 10 homemade bacons, ($6 each, $14 for a flight of three, above), each made from a different pig. Chef Daniel Singhofen first rubs the hog bellies with a mixture of brown sugar, kosher salt, water and curing mix, and cold-smokes them with a combination of applewood and cherrywood for 12 hours. After taking them out and chilling them, he seals them in bags of lard before sous vide cooking them for another half day. “That’s how we achieve that melt-in-your-mouth texture,” Singhofen says. Finally, the bacon is sliced and fried to order.