“When I opened Pom Pom, it truly was the restaurant of my dreams,” says Carlie Steiner, who launched the boutique operation last August in the same Petworth locale as her previous outing, the nationally acclaimed Himitsu.
With Pom Pom, the Steiner, a member of the LGBTQ community, rooted more avowedly than ever before for her queer home team. She conceived of the restaurant as “an elevated dining experience [especially] for queer people” and also as “a safe space for queer people and for trans people, and a safe space for women and people of color.” Ultimately, though, Pom Pom became “really a melting pot of gender and sexuality in a way that most restaurants don’t perfectly achieve.”
Unfortunately, Steiner doesn’t really see a future for Pom Pom in the emerging new world order of physical and social distancing. “Even if I wanted, in my deepest of hearts, to reopen it,” she says, “Pom Pom wouldn’t work in the space that it’s in. Our dining room is 400 square feet. I don’t have an opportunity to think about ‘what do I want’ because the numbers are telling me what I can’t do. I’ve thought about every possibility.”
Instead, within days of Pom Pom’s closure due to COVID-19, Steiner immediately seized on a new delivery and to-go venture that allows a core team — a queer-led group with Pom Pom’s chef Amanda Moll and sommelier Casey Rath of Pineapples and Pearls — to continue “to cook for people in a way, and to serve and teach them about wine and cocktails.”
Seco Wine, whose name derives from the Spanish word for dry that is also used in Bolivia for raising a toast, reflects the varied experiences of Steiner. The 28-year-old native of Virginia Beach has previously lived in Bolivia and got her start in D.C. at the esteemed cocktail lab Barmini by José Andrés. That two-year stint informs the cocktail kits that Seco offers, providing recipes and “everything you need to make fresh cocktails at home” — complete with whole lemons and limes. “We decided against juicing the limes for you [because] they’re just never going to be as good unless you’re juicing fresh that day. It makes the world of difference.”
When it comes to its namesake alcohol, Steiner explains that Seco Wine “is different than wine clubs and it’s different than buying wine in a store. It’s a very experiential wine-buying process.” Seco features greater diversity and more female-produced wines, presented in a livelier and more lighthearted approach, rather than mere groupings by origin or varietal. For example, there’s “Horoscope Moods,” a pack of three wines selected to complement one’s particular astrological sign that makes a “really good birthday gift,” and a “Baby Makin'” collection that “comes with lube and chocolate and three amazing bottles of wine” — including a rosé from Send Nudes, a California winemaker who actually encourages drinkers to show pink in the revealing way suggested by its name.
“It’s just really fun,” Steiner says. “What we’re going for is just trying to create a little bit of a fucking positive moment in these days.”
Seco Wine offers grocery items as well as food and drink packages, all available for free delivery as well as pickup from 828 Upshur St. NW. Use the code “Metro” for $15 off all purchases. Call 202-321-4751 or visit www.secowine.com.
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