Derek Brown whips up Mockingbird Hill in Shaw

(Courtesy Derek Brown) (Courtesy Derek Brown)

Smitten by trips to southern Spain in recent years, Derek Brown, one of the region’s top drinks authorities, is planning to replicate some of his experiences with a new bar here at home. Mockingbird Hill, expected to open in May at 1843 Seventh St. NW. in Shaw, will have a narrow but intriguing focus: lots of sherries and abundant hams, or “nibbling rather than dining,” Brown says, distinguishing his Spanish vision from that of Washington’s popular tapas restaurants, Estadio and Jaleo.

Mockingbird Hill is mentioned in a song by the Clash, “Spanish Bombs.” Informed by “punk rock aesthetic,” Brown’s 1,110-square-foot watering hole near the Howard Theater will have room for 40 grazers. A cook has yet to be named. Although the menu won’t go much beyond what’s being billed -- plus olives and a few small bites -- Brown intends to add “a kitchen professional” to his team.

“I’m a long-time lover of sherry,” says Brown, who hosted a dinner featuring the fortified wine, produced from grapes from Andalusia, when he worked at Komi in Dupont Circle. Mockingbird Hill will pour more than 50 varieties.

While the hams will include Serrano and Iberico from Spain, Brown and his co-owner in the project, former Madrid resident Angie Salame, plan to serve meat from local purveyors, too. In preparation for work behind his next counter, Brown has spent a year learning to carve pork. Done well, slicing meat from a pig is not unlike playing the violin, says Brown. Masters slice down and back and forth in swift, graceful moves.  “I’m still learning.”

Mockingbird Hill is the third bar from Brown, a member of the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. Together with his brother Tom, he operates the Passenger and the serene, Japanese-inspired Columbia Room within it.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.



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Alex Baldinger · February 4, 2013