Will is the Director of Cocktails & Experience at Pen + Knife. His home bar is referred to as Barbie’s Dream House. Stocked with some of the usual top-shelf suspects and a vast supply of more obscure liquors procured on mule runs to Washington, DC, he is ready and willing to make you any drink no matter the time of day. A sucker for vermouth labels, he’s coming to grips with the fact that fancying himself a collector of indie booze merely translates as being a slightly sophisticated alcoholic. So be it.
One of his earliest food memories is his old man casually tossing crumpled McDonald’s wrappers out the window of his 1977 Pontiac Firebird during their weekend custody visits. Later, there were glorious Sunday sauce suppers with his Sicilian grandmother that - through a shroud of secondhand smoke - stirred something he couldn’t comprehend then. Beyond that, the family dining memories are a fog. If he stretches to reach back far enough, he can get his hands on one: a messy kitchen at home was a criminal act regularly policed by his mother, which left him looking over his shoulder, skittish in any kitchen. Growing up, food was fuel and not much more.
An unintentional but successful crash course of adult life in DC drove food to the foreground. For their first dinner-in date, his girlfriend (now wife) made tofu breaded in nutritional yeast, or some shit, and spicy soy mustard sauce with a side of sauteed baby spinach and blistered cherry tomatoes. It was basically vegan McNuggets, but he’d never even seen tofu. Something changed. It feels shameful to say a tofu dish broke his shackles to culinary mediocrity but that’s how it went. He and his wife, Rachel, spent subsequent years hosting rowdy dinner parties, establishing ‘regular’ status at some of the best restaurants in town and perching at too many bars, filling their minds and bellies with monumental food and experiences, all while maintaining a fervent disdain for the term foodie. They would soon be adopted by a family of wonderful industry pros along the way - artisans, chefs, cocktail artists, food writers, somms. Suddenly, thanks to this lovely network, they were unofficially granted access to the industry’s back door through which they absorbed a certain amount of wisdom and learned the nuances of a food town that was aggressively evolving. They had a backstage pass to the revolution that tattooed DC onto the global culinary map.
Life was good. Then, after 18 years, when it started to feel like an autobahn hamster wheel, they pulled stakes and bounced the family a couple of hours away to Charlottesville where he developed an immediate crush on the local food scene and decided to try his hand at food writing. So, here goes nothing.