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The King and I – A Royal Hit ~ The Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
July 22, 2017 

The Cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

The Cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Under the expert direction of Barlett Sher we allow ourselves to be transported to the magic and majesty of the Kingdom of Siam.  It’s 1862 and the King (as played by Jose Llana) is fearful of France taking over his kingdom as learns they have done in Cambodia.  To prove his British-ruled country is worldly wise, he employs Anna Leonowens (Laura Michelle Kelly) a charming British schoolteacher to educate his extended family.  Recently widowed and accompanied by her young son, Louis (Graham Montgomery), the story begins with Anna and Louis arriving into Bangkok harbor.  It’s a breathtaking opening scene featuring an enormous wooden ship against the background of a fiery sunset and a scene of Siamese villagers going about their daily tasks in silhouette – figures toting baskets hung on poles and sporting coolie hats.  The menacing King’s guards arrive to terrify the locals into submission.  Cue the kowtowing – an issue we will see addressed by Anna and Prince Chulalonghorn (Kavin Panmeechao) later in the story.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Anna is soon greeted by Kralahome (Brian Rivera) the king’s aide, an intimidating figure who tells her the King’s instructions demand they live in the palace rather than a separate house.  “The King doesn’t always remember what he promises,” the King smugly pronounces upon their meeting.  This is the plot device that sets Anna and the King at sixes and nines as Anna strives to get her footing in a household filled with the King’s many children and favorite wives, most especially Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla) and the beautiful, star-crossed Tuptim (Manna Nichols).  But it’s Anna’s sense of propriety, anti-slavery stance and insistence on female equality that especially trips her up with the King.  “I believe women are just as important as men,” she asserts.  The most hilarious moments derive from their contretemps.

Meanwhile the King in his “puzzlement”, as he refers to his indecision, compares his predicaments with that of Western world leaders.  “What would Lincoln do? What would Queen Victoria do?” he asks Anna whose advice he begrudgingly seeks as their love for each other grows deeper.

Manna Nichols and Kavin Parmeechao. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Manna Nichols and Kavin Parmeechao. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

This outstanding musical provides a rich tapestry of emotional connection and unrequited love framed by sumptuous costumes ranging from Anna’s Victorian hoop-skirted silk dresses to lavishly encrusted golden chada hats and jewel-toned silks by designer Catherine Zuber.  Choreography that includes Thai dancing and intricate ballet, as well as Anna and the King’s waltz is by Christopher Gatelli and Greg Zane and faithfully based on Jerome Robbins’ original dance sequences.  The sets by Michael Yeargan, plus a mega-sized golden Buddha, are designed to blow your socks off.  And they do.  One of the most spectacular scenes is Tuptim’s play set to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s historic story “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, here called “The Small House of Uncle Thomas”.  It is a rich tale performed in traditional Thai ballet and elaborate costume and written by the lovelorn maiden to bring awareness to the country’s treatment of women as slaves.

Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana. Photo credit Matthew Murphy

There are so many powerful voices and goose-bump solos it’s hard to know who to single out.  Naturally Kelly as Anna, Almedilla as Lady Thiang, Nichols as Tuptim, and Llana as the King of Siam, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera as the King is fond of saying.  Of course, you’ll revel in the sweeping score with classic songs like “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Getting to Know You”, “Something Wonderful” and “Shall We Dance” as the most memorable.  And the royal children are so endearing, we awaited their entrances at every turn.

Brought here by the wildly successful national touring company, Ambassador Theatre Group, this production is top drawer.  My plus one and I reveled in memories of the first Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway blockbuster starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr and weren’t disappointed by this faithful reprise for a New York minute.

Highly recommended for the whole family.

Through August 20th in the Opera House at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Cabaret ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
July 17, 2017

Jon Peterson as the Emcee and the 2017 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Jon Peterson as the Emcee. Photo by Joan Marcus.

New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, now celebrating its fiftieth year, has brought a sensational version of Cabaret to Kennedy Center in a production that gives Kander and Ebb’s original Broadway show a run for its money.  In this eye-popping staging, directed by award-winning Director BT McNicholl, a chorus line of dancers that double as musicians give us legs, legs, legs thanks to the top-notch choreography based on the original by Rob Marshall and recreated by Cynthia Onrubia.  High kicks, undulating spines, towering lifts and pseudo copulations performed by bare-chested men and ladies in lingerie is the order of the day.  How we love slumming it at the Kit Kat Club.  Beats the news from Capitol Hill.

(l-r) Joey Khoury as Bobby, Jon Peterson as the Emcee and Chelsey Clark as Lulu. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, Jon Peterson, of Broadway Cabaret fame, reprises the role of Emcee.  As the enigmatic, gender-bending character, Peterson pulls it off with aplomb and a black leather trench coat, managing to affect a character of sadistic amorality and razor-sharp charm in an atmosphere so sexually charged a single match could set the whole theatre ablaze.  He even pulls a few audience members onstage.  Dancing with a male audience member, he tells him he looks a little Spanish.  When the man balks, he asks him, “How would you like a little German in you?”  Bada-boom!

Leigh Ann Larkin as Sally Bowles. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Leigh Ann Larkin as Sally Bowles. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sally Bowles is played by Leigh Ann Larkin, a mere slip of a girl, blonde (wasn’t expecting that), blue-eyed and as bubbly as a bottle of French champagne.  Her Sally is frothier, all pink and feathered, than others we’ve seen in the role.  She definitely has her own interpretation of the hard-on-her-luck dancer.  And she’s feistier, more independent.  Madly in love with Cliff Bradshaw, a Midwestern English teacher who has chosen a rather inopportune place and time, during the rise of the Nazi regime, to write a novel.  Benjamin Eakeley, who reprises his role from the Studio 54 revival of Cabaret when he played opposite Michelle Williams, is masterful (and swoon-worthy) as Cliff – – managing to be both subtle and forceful in his interpretation of the lovesick innocent abroad.

Scott Robertson as Herr Schultz and Mary Gordon Murray as Fraulein Schneider. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Scott Robertson as Herr Schultz and Mary Gordon Murray as Fraulein Schneider. Photo by Joan Marcus.

But it’s grim times for the couple and their friends, landlady Fraulein Schneider (the fabulous Mary Gordon Murray), Ernst the smuggler and Nazi sympathizer (Patrick Vaill), Fraulein Kost (Alison Ewing) and Herr Schultz (Scott Robertson) the fruit seller and gentleman who seeks the affections of Fraulein Schneider.  Much to their dismay jackboots and turncoats keep encroaching on their merry life.  For Sally, it’s her last chance for a world outside the cruel reality of a seedy nightclub in a rapidly changing political climate.  “One must keep mobile,” she gaily tells Cliff before launching into a goosebump-worthy version of the ballad “Maybe This Time”.

Sarah Bishop as Helga, Leigh Ann Larkin as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sarah Bishop as Helga, Leigh Ann Larkin as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie. Photo by Joan Marcus.

So impressive is the lighting design by Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari, you’ll think you’re in Vegas, if Vegas were transported to Germany in the 30’s.  Cue the descending pineapple lights for the duet “It Couldn’t Please Me More”.

Look for all your favorite numbers – “The Money Song”, “Perfectly Marvelous”, “Cabaret” and “Willkommen” to thrill as expected, with orchestrations by Michael Gibson.  Costumes by six-time Tony Award award-winning designer, William Ivey Long run the gamut from sexy lingerie, beaded flapper dresses and 1930’s hausfrau frocks, to the sinister red armbands of the Third Reich.

Fierce, fabulous and highly recommended.  This is the gold standard for Cabaret!

Through August 6th at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Ed Gero Returns in His Triumphant Role in The Originalist ~ Arena Stage

Jordan Wright
July 13, 2017 

Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in The Originalist, which runs July 7-July 30, 2017 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Welcome back Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia!  A lot has happened since Ed Gero inhabited your body.  Donald Trump became our president (I think you would have been delighted) and the whole Roe v. Wade thing continues to be a hot button issue which might tickle you as a strict constitutionalist.

As you may recall Gero brilliantly portrayed you in a tour de force performance in The Originalist in 2015 shortly before you left this earth in 2016.  Was that the nail in the coffin?  On a lighter note you’ll be pleased to know your legacy has carried on much as you had hoped, with your alma mater Harvard University establishing a professorship in your name.  Unfortunately, George Mason University, who got a cool $30 million to rename its law school after you, chose the initialization ASSol for Antonin Scalia School of Law, which became the “butt” of many jokes.  As of this writing your place in history is secure, and you can stop spinning in your grave in that it has been more appealingly amended to read ASLS.  –  – Yours truly, J. Wright

Having reviewed Arena’s initial production in the Spring of 2015, I can say that this one is snappier, more irreverent, if that’s possible, and just as timely as my first viewing when Playwright John Strand was Arena’s Resident Playwright.  Its unprecedented success inspired Director Molly Smith’s “Power Plays” initiative in which the theatre commissions 25 new plays or musicals focusing on American political history.  These will reflect Presidential Voices, Women’s Voices, African-American Voices, Musical Theatre Voices and Insider Voices.

 (L to R) Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Jade Wheeler as Cat in The Originalist, which runs July 7-July 30, 2017 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

(L to R) Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Jade Wheeler as Cat. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

In this refresh the role of Cat (Jade Wheeler), Scalia’s liberal law clerk intern, has been purposely expanded.  She is given a lot more lines – and latitude.  And Wheeler takes it on with brio, charm, feistiness and terrific comic timing.  The broadening of her role goes towards leveling the playing field between Cat the progressive liberal vs. Scalia the combative, law-and-order conservative and adds measurably to the sharp-as-knives verbal sparring.  “Law is carved in stone,” and “Emotion is whatever you had for breakfast,” warns Scalia.  References to Facebook, Politico and recent past Presidents keep it updated.

Accompanied by interstices of grandiose operatic arias (the Sicilian-born Scalia was a known opera buff as well as gun rights advocate), he delivers arguments and pronouncements like bullets on a battlefield, but so does, Cat, an equally cerebral Harvard Law grad determined to change his mind.   “I dissent!” is his most oft repeated line from the man who once had acting aspirations.  He later confesses, “The court is my theatre.  I am not an ideologue.  I am an originalist!”

(L to R) Jade Wheeler as Cat and Brett Mack as Brad in The Originalist, which runs July 7-July 30, 2017 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

(L to R) Jade Wheeler as Cat and Brett Mack as Brad. Photo by Gary W. Sweetman, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

In explaining his reason for hiring her he reveals, “Every now and then I like to have a liberal around.  It reminds of how right I am.”  Cat, who views the court as a “fantasy palace”, is determined to upend his intransigence.  She seeks his heart, while he wants her soul.  “You’re stuck alone in your bunker.  Your constitution is just a shield you hide behind,” she mocks, defining his brand of government a “monsterocracy”.

Strand uses the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as the centerpiece for the characters’ arguments pitting Scalia’s strict interpretation of the law as it was written centuries ago against Cat’s humanistic philosophy.  Yet notwithstanding their legal and psychological parrying, there develops a firm respect, moreover an admiration, for one another’s unflinching will and unwavering opinions.  It’s irresistible to anyone interested in the workings of the law, SCOTUS or the evolution of the Court’s decisions.

Setting the tone and highlighting the majesty and gravity of the Court and its private chambers, Lighting Designer Colin K. Bills gives us two massive crystal chandeliers in order to appropriately frame the pronouncements from Scalia’s Kingly Court of Conservatism.  Set Designer Mischa Kachman adds floor-to-ceiling red velvet drapes trimmed with golden tassels: lest you forget the import of where you are.

Highly recommended.

Through August 6th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, DC 20024.  For tickets and information call 202 488-3300 or visit www.ArenaStage.org.

 

 

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ June 30, 2017

Jordan Wright
June 2017
All Photo Credit: Jordan Wright

It’s been a whirlwind of restaurant openings, cookbook launches (more on those in a separate post), and embassy parties throughout the spring.  If you’ve been missing our updates, it’s because we’re catching our collective breaths.

Barbecue, Y’all

Myron Mixson (right) with Head Pitmaster and co-owner John Bennet on "Whole Hog" night

Myron Mixson (right) with Head Pitmaster and co-owner John Bennet on “Whole Hog” night

Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque opened in Old Town Alexandria and we got there on whole hog night.  Mixon, whose BBQ competitions take him to far-flung American cities, heads to Old Town once a month to host his special “pig out” events (Check the restaurant’s website for the next one).

We saw a number of large groups who evidently make it a party night with friends and family.  And now we know why!  The four-time World “Memphis in May” BBQ champ has won over 220 Grand Championships and is the two-time New York Times best-selling author of “Smokin’ with Myron Mixson: Recipes Made Simple” and “Myron Mixson’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat”.  The congenial Mixson knows how to put his customers in hog heaven. Mixson describes his water-smoked barbecue, prepared in a smoker of his own design, as a combination of flavors and sides from North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and South Carolina.  Don’t try to pin him down to one region. He won’t have it.

Mixson has an assortment of sauces.  What BBQ joint doesn’t?  But, good as they are, they were completely unnecessary.  The flavor was locked deep inside the meat.

Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans with peaches and cupcake cornbread with orange maple butter

Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans with peaches, and cupcake cornbread with orange maple butter

Cooking in his father’s BBQ carry out joint since he was nine years old, he has been raising the stakes on other competitors for years.  Last year Mixson won another. perhaps more serious, contest when he was sworn in as mayor of his hometown of Unadilla, GA.

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

Faves:  Pimento cheese, the ribs, the ribs, the ribs, cupcake cornbread (a large crusty muffin served with killer orange maple butter), potato salad, pulled pork stuffed deviled eggs, house made fresh pickles, and chocolate pie.

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson's Pitmaster Barbecue

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson’s Pitmaster Barbecue

Good Food Mercantile at Union Market Features Fine Food Crafters 

With a host of mostly local products to taste at this terrific event we wandered the aisles looking for new and game-changing products.  To our delight we found some super-original, award-winning, artisanal products at this pop-up event at Union Market’s Dock Five.

Dona Chai chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai – chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai, Brooklyn, NY – Chai tea concentrate.

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

Dress it Up Dressing, Chevy Chase, MD – Salad dressings with a pedigree – loved the “Champagne Vinaigrette” and “Blackberry Vinaigrette”.

Kombucha and Fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

Kombucha and fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

Hex Ferments, Baltimore, MD – Try the “Miso Kimchee” and “Sea Kraut” made with sea veggies.  They also make three flavors of tasty kombucha in gift-worthy bottles.  Loved the Carrot Juniper and Ginger.

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters' Skinny Salamis

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters’ Skinny Salamis

MeatCrafters, Hyattsville, MD – “Skinny Salamis” – made from Duroc pork.  Took them to a party and watched them disappear.  In several varieties – Black Angus Beef, Truffle (pork), Street Cart Sharma (lamb), Merguez (lamb), Spicy Chorizo (pork) and Casbah (pork), they’d be amazing with beer cheese or a hot cheese dip.

Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters, Portland, OR – Simply crazy about the “Spicy Thai Peanut Butter “– perfect for Sesame Peanut Noodles – and the “Espresso Nib Peanut Butter” – fold into soft ice cream or use in S’mores.

The team from Red Rooster Coffee Roaster with owner Haden Polseno-Hensley (center), Master Roaster Tony Greatorex (left) and Sales Mgr. Jolie Greatorex (right)

The team from Red Rooster Coffee Roaster with owner Haden Polseno-Hensley (center), Master Roaster Tony Greatorex (left) and Sales Mgr. Jolie Greatorex (right)

Red Rooster Coffee Roaster– From the hippest town in Virginia – Floyd.  Small batch roasted, the organic and fair trade certified green beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, Columbia, and Costa Rica and roasted in Floyd by this family-owned business.

Regalis Foods, NY, NY – A gourmet line of truffles, caviar and Carabinero prawns – from Ian “Truffle Boy” Purkayastha.

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

Oliver Farm, Pitts, GA – Cold pressed, award-winning, Southern artisan oils in flavors like pecan, benne, green peanut, sunflower, and pumpkin.  They also mill the hard-to-find pecan flour and benne flour.

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

Vicario Wine and Spirits, Greenville, SC – Wines, liqueurs and olive oil from Renato Vicario and Janette Wesley’s vineyard in Italy.

Update Leesburg

A beautiful charcuterie board at The Wine Kitchen

A beautiful charcuterie board

In Leesburg, Virginia we found two spots of note – The Wine Kitchen, located in the historic district, where Chef Tim Rowley prepares farm-to-table modern cuisine with a superb wine program in a casual atmosphere,

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons at The Wine Kitchen

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons

and The Conche, a chocolate-themed restaurant housing a 300-square foot chocolate laboratory.  The Conche is the newest venture from owner and celebrity chef Santosh Tiptur of DC’s Coco Sala.

Visit Colorado 

The spring, summer and fall are the times I prefer visiting Colorado.  I’m not a skier.  Enough said.  In the spring the wildflowers are magnificent, carpeting the hills and fields in all their glory.  The summer is when the Arts are abloom with concerts and festivals throughout the state.  Rodeo, anyone? And autumn begins the high season for skiers and leaf peepers.

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

The state divides itself up into nine regions – from the Plains in the Northeastern part of the state due west to the Northern Front Range to the Denver and Fort Collins area, then down through the Rockies where Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs lie.  From there go south to Paonia and the Grand Valley AVA of Grand Junction.  Cortez is situated in the southwest corner adjacent to New Mexico.  Two federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA) are in West Elks in Paonia and Grand Valley near Grand Junction where many of the state’s finest food products come from these areas.

Recently the good folks from Visit Colorado held a press reception at The Kennedy Center to show off some of their crafted beverages to include indie beers, wines, sodas and ciders.

Mom’s Baking Co introduce some tradition Czech Recipes and other modern European flavors ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Mom’s Baking Co introduce some tradition Czech Recipes and other modern European flavors ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

They also had an array of specialty foods and brought Café Aion Chef/Owner Dakota Soifer, one of Boulder’s leading chefs, to prepare dishes from these products.

A bountiful display of Colorado's best cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates ~ Photo credit Colorado Tourism

A bountiful display of Colorado’s best cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Cheeses and lamb were front and center, as you’d have expected.  Faves: James Ranch’s “Belford”, a butterscotch inflected cheese, and Avalanche Creamery’s handmade goat cheeses “Cabra Blanca”, a Tomme style cheese and “Finocchiona” with fennel and black pepper overtones. Tequila truffles courtesy of Telluride Truffle.

Breckenridge French-inspired bistro Belle V. with family recipes from southern France. Small plates and a casual atmosphere let diners taste a variety of dishes ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Breckenridge French-inspired bistro Belle V. with family recipes from southern France ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

The evening culminated with a rousing concert in the Opera House given by the Boulder Philharmonic.

Red’s Table Is a Fun Bike/Hike Away 

Named after their grandfather “Red”, the brothers Ryan, Patrick and Matthew Tracy are thrilled to come “home” to the area they were raised to open Red’s Table.  Located in the South Lakes Village Center in Reston overlooking beautiful Lake Thoreau, this lively neighborhood spot features a large patio overlooking both the lake and the bike/walk trail.

Red's Table in Reston

Red’s Table in Reston

Recent hire Executive Chef Kevin Ettenson returns to the area after working at hotels to head up the full-service restaurant.

Last week Ettenson switched to a summer menu adding some lighter dishes – burrata salad, watermelon salad, catfish with creole sauce over pasta, shrimp seviche, and fried green tomatoes.  Pastry Chef Chris Works adds a new dessert called “Sundae Brunch”.  It’s made with pieces of banana French toast chopped into squares, then fried and served with homemade butter pecan ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Fried calamari at Red's Table

Fried calamari at Red’s Table

The eclectic menu aims to please both the casual diner and the more discriminating palate with dishes that range from burgers, crab cakes and house made charcuterie to risotto style spring vegetable farro and steaks with beef from Virginia farms.  The bar boasts excellent craft cocktails as well as a wide-ranging wine and beer program featuring over a dozen local beers.  Right about now I’d go for the sangria chockfull of fresh fruits.

Jumbo crab cakes at Red's Table

Jumbo crab cakes at Red’s Table

Brunch is serious here. Faves: Hangtown Frittata, Fried Oysters with Stone Ground Grits, Sausage Biscuit Sliders and a wealth of fresh seafood from the raw bar.  The espresso blend coffee is from Monument Coffee Roasters in Manassas and it’s exceptional.

House made biscuits at Red's Table

House made biscuits at Red’s Table

All breads and desserts, including an assortment of gelati and sorbets, are made in-house under Work’s direction.

If you plan to walk or bike after dining, enjoy either the Reston Red Trail (2.1 miles) around Lake Thoreau or the Turquoise Trail (4.74 miles) on Lake Audubon.  If you’re on Metro get the Silver Line to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro exit onto Sunrise Valley Drive on the south side of the Metro.  There is an off road path with a cross over to the back patio of the restaurant.  It’s only one mile away from the South Lakes Village Center.

Tredici Enoteca Wows Dupont Circle 

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

Sleek and chic, Tredici Enoteca has been a posh destination since it transformed in January. Located in Dupont Circle’s four-star St. Gregory Hotel it is a sophisticated multi-level space that reveals a bespoke library for lounging, a central fireplace with white marble surround under high coffered ceilings and space age chandeliers.  A curving dark walnut stairway guides you to the topmost level overlooking the kitchen.

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

Antique mirrors and prints from a private collection adorn the walls, and a green velvet sofa coupled with black leather chairs at the entrance to the subway-tiled bar beckons you to sit a spell.  It is one of the prettiest places in town.  Skylights and a view to the street brighten up the brass-accented bar where you’ll want to try the smoked whisky cocktail.

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

The menu leans towards Mediterranean coastal fare with plenty of small plates if you just want to graze.

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

Executive Chef Carlos Aparicio, who came down from Philadelphia where he helmed restaurants for Marc Vetri and Stephen Starr, has brought his style and experience to the eclectic cuisine.

Smoke infused cocktail at Tredici Enoteca

“The Tredici Dutch” smoke infused cocktail

Faves: Mixologist Israel Nocelo’s “The Tredici Dutch” – smoked infused rye whisky, Carpano Antica vermouth with house bitters and Luxardo cherry.

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

Seafood samplers, mushroom toast, an unusual salad of broccoli and avocado with a sesame dressing, lasagna with lamb ragu, gnocchi, charred double lamb chops, squid ink tonarelli featuring cockles,

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

and a decadently delicious chocolate mousse cake draped in ganache.  Menu items may change by season.

Steamed cockles on squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

Steamed cockles atop squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

Taiwan Ambassador Flies in Top Chef for Exquisite Eight-Course Dinner 

One of the most beautiful residences in the Cleveland Park district is the 26-room Georgian Revival mansion “Twin Oaks” where the Taiwanese ambassador entertains.  Situated on 18-plus acres high atop a hill behind the National Cathedral, the home, built in 1888, originally served as the summer residence of Gardiner Greens Hubbard, the founder of the National Geographic Society.  For nearly eight decades it has served as a host property welcoming many U. S. presidents and countless international guests through its doors.

One of the salons at Twin Oaks

One of several drawing rooms at Twin Oaks

Many priceless antiques including imperial rosewood carved furniture with dragon motifs once belonging to the Empress Dowager, as well as a magnificent painting from the Ch’ing period that graces the elegant blue accented drawing rooms.

Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao toast "80 Years of Elegance" with guests Donna Christenson and Cary Pollak

Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao toast “80 Years of Elegance” with guests Donna Christenson and Cary Pollak

This spring evening ROC Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao hosted a remarkable evening to celebrate “80 Years of Elegance”.  It called for a very special chef and the Ambassador had flown in Chef Yi-Jia Liu(劉宜嘉) long reputed for his exceptional culinary skills, in particular his Zhejiang cuisine expertise, for which he has won numerous prestigious culinary awards. His signature dish “Shaoxing Chicken” is one of the highest rated dishes in Taiwan.

In promoting Taiwanese culture, Liu has showcased his cooking in the United States by invitation of the Overseas Community Affairs Council. Currently Liu is the Executive Chef of the Howard Plaza Hotel’s Yangtse River Restaurant in Taipei.

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador's residence

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador’s residence

Gold embossed napkins depicting “Twin Oaks” graced the lace covered, candlelit tables along with bouquets of roses and hydrangeas.

Shaoxing Chicken

Shaoxing Chicken

Chef Liu’s unique dishes had names such as “Welcoming Flowers of Salmon, Cuttlefish, Chicken and Beef Tendon”, “King Crab Soup with the Flavor of an Ancient Royal Dynasty”, “Taste of Lobster in the Atmosphere of Twin Oaks”, “Rice with Sakura Shrimp and Faint Aroma of Winter” and “Delight of Yin (Sesame Mochi) and Yang (Pork Dumpling)”.

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

For the guests’ entertainment tenor Jason Ma, Deputy Director of the Congressional Liaison Division, sang the theme song “Nella Fantasia” from the movie, The Mission.

Watermelon chrysanthemum

Chef Liu’s carved watermelon chrysanthemum

It was a magical night filled with delectable dishes, hand-selected wines, scintillating conversation and a few shots of the very potent Taiwanese fermented sorghum liqueur!

Afghan Embassy Highlights Theatre, Poetry and Music with Food and Festivities

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

H. E. Ambassador and Mrs. Mohib hosted a sumptuous dinner to announce their participation in “Women of Troy/Voices of Afghanistan”, a cross-cultural collaboration set in the world’s longest contemporary field of war.

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

Over a dozen performers will participate in the January 2018 event with many of the women coming from Afghanistan. The special project will be produced by the Alliance for New Music-Theatre led by Susan Galbraith, the creator, co-writer and director, with poet and writer, Yalda Baktash. Alliance for New Music – Theatre is the “Theatre in Residence” at Dupont Underground, DC’s new subterranean arts and culture center under Dupont Circle.

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

The dinner introduced us to bolani (pronounced bo-lah-nee), a delicious stuffed flatbread filled with herbs, green onions and potatoes along with many other Afghan delicacies.

Afghani instruments

Afghani instruments

Milad Yousofi, a composer and Rubab (a lute-like instrument) player who works in Afghan folk, World Jazz and Fusion music, gave a concert with accompanied by a hand drummer. We particularly admired the craftsmanship of gorgeous carpets and Afghan jewelry that Zamani House of Heritage had on display.

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A Day in the Chamomile Fields ~ Finding Gratitude and Meaning

Visiting a working farm, I gained a new perspective on my family’s favorite winter drink–chamomile tea.

There they were–little dots of yellow and white in the garden. Like an out of focus picture, I couldn’t see each flower, or even each plant–just a blur of the blossoms in the garden patch. That’s okay. I already know what chamomile is. I’ve seen it growing wild, I’ve had it in tea, used it in herb sachets, potpourri, and other fun things.

My children and I are at Glencolton Farms in Canada with Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout for the week and determined to do everything we can to be useful, to be a part of this working farm—connected to the food we depend on.

I asked what I could do to help. “Go pick the chamomile,” was the response. The flowers were ready, and we were expecting rain.

“This will be fun,” I thought cheerfully striding out to the garden, children behind me, as the bit of morning drizzle picked up. I was confident we would fill up the large bowls quickly and move on to the next piece of farm work that needed doing.

After 2 minutes of picking the tiny flowers–flowers only, no stems–I felt that soreness in my lower back that comes from stooping over–that feeling of tightness and numbness after a long hour of doing dishes or bending down to help a baby walk or a toddler ride a bike. I looked at the few scattered flowers on the bottom of the bowl. “That’s it?” I thought. “I should have more to show than this.”

The repetitive action and the ache led my mind to wander. It took me to the blistering cotton fields where slaves spent hours every day stooping to pick the same thing over and over endlessly in the hot southern sun. A few more flowers landed in my bowl. My kiddos whined a bit. They were tired. “Can we be done now?”

I thought about the neatly wrapped tea bags we buy packed in uniform boxes so we can enjoy a hot cup of tea on winter days. Chamomile, the kids always ask for. I had never thought too much about it and now I was curious and wanted to satisfy my curiosity.

“No, pick longer.”

The soft drizzle became heavier.

“You will appreciate the tea more if you know what goes into it,” I told them, knowing that it was, at least, a self-reflective statement.

I thought about farm families who came before us, how if they wanted tea in the wintertime, they had to pick it when it was ready. There is no waiting until you feel like it. You either pick when the flowers are ready or you don’t have chamomile that year. And that led me to apply that to everything. If you didn’t harvest in those few days when something was ready, you didn’t get it that year.

We proceeded picking the tiny flowers, fingers pinching them off where the flower met the stem, dropping them softly in bowls that now had a couple of layers of flowers.

I thought about the cotton mill and any other machinery that alleviates the burden of large-scale, repetitive farm work. It is one thing to harvest enough for a family, even for a year, but it is a whole different system to harvest enough for a village, a city, or beyond. I could understand the relief these inventions brought to all whose bodies ached and suffered from the relentless bending and picking. I watch as farm communities embrace new technology–robotics, drones, apps–to lighten the work.

“Would I choose the technology…” I thought, “if this was my job?”

The gardens at Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout's Glencolton Farms

The gardens at Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout’s Glencolton Farms

There is a connection, a meditative quality to the work—even with all the aches and pains. There is a built-in respect for the human element involved in a small-scale, connected food system.

I knew I would not choose the technology in this instance, however, I now better understand the attraction to technological advancements.

The rain came down a little stronger, the ache in my back more pronounced. The back of my shirt, soaked through, gave me a little chill in the cool Canadian air.

Even with the children around, picking is still solitary work. In a way, hypnotizing me to the moment, to the unspoken (perhaps innate?) challenge of it. How many could I pick? How fast could I go? Could I get all that was needed before I injured myself? Sometimes, I picked as many as I could into my hand and then dropped them all in the bowl. Other times, I would pick each one, using my fingernails to snip it right off the stem, dropping each one to nestle next to its white and gold companions.

My mind went on ahead of me–surrounded by the flowering plants, I saw opportunities everywhere. I would spin in a circle, picking from as many different plants as I could reach in my arm’s arc. Then slow down and focus back on one plant.

Have we only been out here a half hour?

I thought about the pain of migrant farm workers–how bent and broken many of their bodies are from the repetitive work–berries, tomatoes, cucumbers. I got angry with the unthinking shoppers who pluck full plastic containers from the grocery store shelves as though they are grown that way. I felt myself indignant by the inherent wastefulness of that system and the disrespect for the humans involved in it. We don’t throw away or abuse what we truly appreciate.

That was what it was about–that was why we were there right now. Despite the rain and the whines, I realized that we were doing this because I wanted to give my children the gift of appreciation–appreciating what goes into even a small cup of tea. In the process, I had given that gift to myself. Out in the field in the rain, watching the bowl slowly gain a few more flowers, a few more, feeling the ache in my back and noticing my mind wonder, it was I who gained a new appreciation for something I had taken completely for granted–something that I plucked, neatly boxed, off the grocery store shelves. Food is never just food. It has a story, it has a history. It has life. It gives life or it takes life. I knew that, but, like the chamomile patch, sometimes it is far away and out of focus.

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

Later, job done, and the rain pounding on the roof, I offered my oldest a cup of tea. “Yes,” she said. “What kind?” I asked her. “Chamomile,” she responded. Of course that’s what she wanted.

I pulled out a full jar of dried chamomile from last year’s harvest and for the first time, the fuzzy blur of chamomile from the garden was in sharp focus–the tiny dried buds, yellow flowers ringed by faded white petals, lingering bits of stem that didn’t get quite pinched off, even the bits of dust. I opened the lid to the sweet, musty greeting of chamomile tea. Now, I knew, I would savor every sip of chamomile tea with a depth I never had before. I would think of the love and work that went into growing, picking and drying the delightful flowers. I would appreciate.

As I sipped my mug of chamomile tea, I looked back out to the garden where I saw, in perfect focus, a beautiful patch of chamomile.

*****

Liz Reitzig has spent nearly a decade working on the politics of food access in support of small farmers and those who wish to obtain food directly from them. She believes that everyone has the right to peacefully access the foods of their choice from the producer of their choice.

In 2007 Liz founded Grassfed On The Hill, a local GMO-free food buying club that serves the greater Washington DC metro area. Liz still owns and operates her club which serves Washingtonians with GMO-free meats and raw dairy from local farms.

In 2011 Farm Food Freedom was created. As the co-founder and spokesperson, her work on several key cases along with her proactive approach to policy and activism has helped keep farmers out of jail while shaping national and state level food and farming policies.

In 2013, Liz launched her website, NourishingLiberty.com, to chronicle news and events in the food freedom movement and to cover examples of farmers who are blazing new trails.

In 2016 she founded the Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) which is a watch dog for farm-to-consumer procurement of real foods. In early 2017 Liz and RFCC were instrumental in helping an Pennsylvania Amish farmer get released from contempt of court charges and, most recently, she helped spearhead the filing of a citizen petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that if accepted, would eliminate an important layer of FDA regulatory enforcement against raw milk farmers—the agency’s ban on interstate transportation or sale of raw milk. Farmers would be exempt from enforcement of this regulation if they provide warning labels and a recipe for pasteurization on raw milk products.

Liz is an event speaker, has appeared as a raw milk spokesperson on several national radio and television shows, has been subject matter in national newspapers and has been featured in the documentary Farmageddon. Her most recent appearance, a few weeks ago, was as a guest with Dr. Ron Paul on his Liberty Report show.

Most importantly, Liz is a Mother of five children raising the next generation on GMO free foods and healthy portion of food awareness.

Links to Liz’ websites:

Real Food Consumer Coalition – https://realfoodcc.com

Nourishing Liberty – http://nourishingliberty.com