Fusion is a far too abrasive term for Michael Biddick. When the IT entrepreneur, sommelier, and barista set out to open a sustainable restaurant in Northern Virginia, he wanted it to be a hub for all of the passions that have driven decades of travel and research.
So at Blend 111, which opened in Vienna about two weeks ago, Biddick oversees an operation that sells organic or biodynamic wines from Spain and France, coffee beans from Western Hemisphere countries such as Guatemala and Honduras, and a bevy of brunch and dinner dishes that toggle between Venezuelan, French, and Spanish styles of cooking.
“What we’re trying to say is that it’s not a fusion restaurant,” Biddick says. “We’re saying that you can have multiple cultures, and different foods can all come together on one planet.”
After a search for chefs yielded six finalists, including one from Australia, Biddick brought on Abby McManigle as a partner in Blend 111. McManigle, who got her start in the San Francisco area and spent time in Alice Waters’s legendary Chez Panisse, had since moved to Oregon’s wine country, where she served as an executive chef at a biodynamic winery.
The chef sold Biddick with her commitment to local sourcing, and she’s already reached out to a local farmer to secure yellow beets for a veggie escabeche that incorporates fennel, olives, raisins, a carrot-cashew puree, and olive oil crackers.
Biddick says an early best-seller is a plate of panisse frites, chickpea fries served with a charred tomatillo green goddess sauce.
Although much of the menu is labeled as vegetarian and vegan friendly — see the seeded toasted corn cake served with jalapeno-almond cream, Venezuelan avocado salsa, and spring vegetable ragout — meatier options are sprinkled throughout.
Rohan farms duck breast is paired with a plantain tamale, and grilled hanger steak comes with charred onion and celery root puree. Queso fresco arepas can be upgraded with Virginia ham. Virginia peanut ice cream gets served for dessert.
Blend dinner menu by on Scribd
There’s a grass-fed beef burger with caramelized onion-bacon confit and roasted garlic mojo aioli on the brunch menu. There’s also an off-menu, Venezuelan plantain doughnut called a mandoca that sells out quickly.
While McManigle directs the kitchen, Biddick spearheads the wine and coffee programs. He plunked a roaster right next to the kitchen and plans to fire it up once every two or three days while he creates his own blends for espresso drinks and pour-overs.
Biddick has categorized the wine list to direct people to different flavor they can identify so he can introduce them to grape varietals they might not know. So a section titled “Crazy about Chardonnay” is above “Crisp and Refined Whites,” which includes an organic, unfiltered wine made from three types of Spanish grapes: Macabeu, Xarello, and Parellada.
“Most of the wines are not in restaurants currently,” says Biddick, who published a book called 43 Wine Regions last year. “We’re really developing a really unique list. We have maybe only 25 different types of wine on our list right now, but I think by the end of the summer we’ll be more like 60 or 75.”
Blend 111 wine by on Scribd
Judy Elahi, the beverage director and assistant general manager, is behind a cocktail list that matches the Latin style found on much of the menu. An early favorite is the Picantarita, made from fresh watermelon juice, blanco tequila, lime, ancho chile liquor, and de-seeded, muddled jalapeno.
Biddick is doing his best to bill the restaurant as a place that acknowledges its own contradictions. Blend 111 advertises itself as being wholly enlightened, using 100 percent renewable energy, targeting purveyors based within 200 miles of the building, and advertising a fair wage, paid time off, and health insurance for its workers.
But it’s also flying in wine and coffee to serve Biddick’s whims, so he says the business is investing in carbon offset programs to shrink its ecological footprint. He’s also hired a sustainability and community coordinator, Bhairevi Aiyer, to oversee composting, waste management, and monthly charitable initiatives.
Blend 111 is open Wednesday through Sunday at 111 Church Street NW Suite 101 in Vienna, Virginia. Coffee is served from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner runs from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The bar stays open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.