It’s official: The 2014 Beer Madness champ is a proud product of Virginia. Devils Backbone Vienna Lager rose to the top of our 32-beer field, taking out Victory Brewing’s Swing Session Saison in the final leg of the competition. Beer columnist (and Beer Madness panelist) Greg Kitsock wraps it up here.

Even if you’re not a beer fan, you have to admire District resident Gene Bonventre, who is poised to enter his 10,000th brew review on Not many people on this Earth can match that record; read Tammy Tuck’s story to find out how he did it.

Also in Food this week, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin pays homage to Neopol Savory Smokery, a family-run business that recently expanded into the District; and Pati Jinich talks to Guadalupe Rivera Marin , daughter of Diego Rivera and stepdaughter of Frida Kahlo, about culinary life in Kahlo’s famous blue house.

Greg Kitsock, Gene Bonventre and Jim Shahin will all be on hand today for our Free Range chat, so tune in at noon, and bring questions! Even though we have an hour to field them, sometimes we can’t make it through the entire stack. That’s where I come in. If your question doesn’t get answered, maybe it’ll show up here next week. Speaking of which, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:

I’ve managed to amass a somewhat large collection of cocktail bitters (well, like 12 to 15 bottles, which seems like a lot to me). Besides cocktails, do they have other culinary uses? I thought about mixing some in with salad dressing, but I wonder if they could work in other dishes, even desserts.

A great question! Who doesn’t have one or more of those little bottles sitting around, probably 95 percent full and opened just a few times a year?

My own personal use of bitters is confined to drinks, so to answer this question I figured I was going to have to dig in and do a lot of research. Not so. The folks at Angostura, makers of probably the best-known bitters, have devoted a chunk of their Web site to appetizer, entree and dessert recipes using their product. A few examples: fondue, chowder, hamburger, grilled seafood, rice pudding, muffins, custard and sponge cake. From there, you can probably extrapolate and think of many others.

The Web site explains that “Angostura aromatic bitters is not bitter when added to food and drink, but has the ability to marry flavours. It works by enhancing the flavour of ingredients in food and drink preparations thereby bringing out the best in them without masking their true flavour.”

Angostura makes two types of bitters: aromatic and orange. For wider possibilities, Fee Brothers offers more than a dozen flavors, including black walnut, cherry, cranberry, mint, peach and rhubarb. It’s easy to see how the fruit flavors, in particular, could complement a fruit dessert or a vinaigrette.

So — glad you asked! I’ll be starting my own bitters experiments this weekend.


Watermelon Berry Sorbet