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The Deli Man

Jordan Wright
March 25, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

Ziggy Gruber with Zellagabetsky Paula Murphy

Ziggy Gruber with Zellagabetsky Paula Murphy

Glorious six-inch high pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, matzoh balls floating airily in a rich chicken stock the color of fresh hay, chopped chicken liver blended with onions and hard-cooked egg served in baseball-size orbs, smoked whitefish and Nova sliced so thin you can see right through a single silken slice to see your bubbeleh across the table.  Fat red cherry blintzes.

Erik Greenberg Anjou and Fyvush Finkel

Erik Greenberg Anjou and Fyvush Finkel

In the The Deli Man, the third and last of Director Erik Greenberg Anjou’s trilogy about Jewish culture, we are given a seat at the tables of some of North America’s greatest delicatessens where third and fourth generation deli men, whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers brought their treasured recipes across the Atlantic to Canada and the U. S., still keep the beloved traditions alive.  And where men without money, or a country to go back to, came by the droves to the Lower East Side of Manhattan determined to open a restaurant with the food their families held dear.

Director Erik Greenberg Anjou and crew

Director Erik Greenberg Anjou  and crew with Jerry Stiller

Many of these delis, Reuben’s, Lindy’s, the Stage Deli, Katz’s, Nate n’ Al’s and Carnegie Deli, served the vaudevillians that worked in the nearby theater district.  Comedians like Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Eddie Cantor, and my late father, Georgie Price, had sandwiches named after them and you could find a deli on every street corner in New York.  A few of these iconic delis are still around.  Hundreds more around the country closed their doors due to the changing American cultural and culinary landscape.

Ziggy Gruber at serving counter

Ziggy Gruber at serving counter

The Deli Man is a loving documentary portrait of the hardworking men, and women, who have kept their delis alive despite the rising costs of meat and fish, and the never-ending hours.  The film is informed by the backstory of David “Ziggy” Gruber, owner of the Houston, Texas-based Kenny & Ziggy’s Delicatessen.  Ziggy, an overachiever with a big heart, explains his devotion to his Hungarian roots and the dishes that he loves so well, “When I cook I feel my ancestors around me.”

Appearances by Larry King and Jerry Stiller brighten this Jewish culinary love story. Stiller explains its importance in daily life, “The deli was something you deserved after working your ass off.”

Larry King

Larry King

The Deli Man opens on Friday, March 27th at AMC Mazza Gallerie and AMC Shirlington. Rated PG-13.

Highly recommended if there is a deli within ten minutes walking or driving distance – – otherwise you will drool like a bulldog and your Yiddishe Mama will kvetsh.

Man of La Mancha – Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
March 24, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

 Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of
Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Set Designer Allen Moyer’s two-story iron grid with drop down catwalk provides the stark background for Director Alan Paul’s revival of Man of La Mancha now playing at the glamorous Sidney Harman Hall.  Set in a bleak Spanish prison during the time of the Inquisition, the beloved musical is loosely based on Cervantes 17th century neo-biography, “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” – – a man known for tilting at windmills and spinning a tale or two which is precisely what he must do to stay alive in this den of iniquity where the prisoners become the masters of the Inquisition.

While awaiting their sentences, Quixote’s fellow prisoners charge him with being an idealist and bad poet in their own mock trial.  In order to spare his life and keep his only manuscript of a play he has written, he cuts a deal with them.  He will present his defense in the form of a charade using them as the characters in an epic adventure of knights, wizards, warlocks and maidens.  And in the way of that great Arabian storyteller, Scheherazade, who saved her own life with 1001 tales, he devises a play in which he is an old man on an indefinable quest and his motley cellmates fulfill the other roles.  In doing so he empowers the lowly to dream beyond their dismal lives and achieve a modicum of dignity.  Ever the optimist Quixote insists, “Too much sanity may be madness.”

 Amber Iman as Aldonza and Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Amber Iman as Aldonza and Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote
Photo by Scott Suchman.

His slightly daft but ever-faithful squire, Sancho Panza (Nehjal Joshi), is a veritable font of proverbs. Quixote (Alan Warlow) soon engages them all in his life-affirming chimera as the hapless sidekick with his charmingly goofy brand of loyalty provides much of the show’s comic relief.

Through his narrative he casts the rough-hewn Aldonza (played by the lovely and dulcet-voiced Amber Iman) as his fair maiden, “A knight without a lady is like a body without a soul”, and he insists on calling her Dulcinea, a name he invents to lend a softer side to her low birth.

Iman, Warlow, Joshi, Martin Sola as The Padre and Robert Mammana as The Duke and Dr. Carrasco are all spectacular with Iman and Warlow bringing down the house with their solos.  Add to that a beautiful partnership between Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel who skillfully evokes the paintings of Goya and other Spanish masters of the period; Costume Designer, Ann Hould-Ward, who plays on that dynamic; and Choreographer, Marcos Santana, who amps up the scenes with slapstick, sword fights and bench dancing (yes!) into every scene that has motion.

 Sidney DuPont (Paco), Joey Elrose (Juan), James Hayden Rodriguez (Jose), Ceasar F. Barajas (Pedro), JP Moraga (Tenorio), Nathan Lucrezio (Anselmo), and Robert Mammana (The Duke) in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Sidney DuPont (Paco), Joey Elrose (Juan), James Hayden Rodriguez (Jose), Ceasar F. Barajas (Pedro), JP Moraga (Tenorio), Nathan Lucrezio (Anselmo), and Robert Mammana (The Duke)
 Photo by Scott Suchman.

Many will thrill to Composer Mitch Leigh’s and Lyricist Joe Darion’s sweeping orchestration and twenty memorable songs.  “To Dream the Impossible Dream”, “Dulcinea”, “I, Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha” and “I’m Only Thinking of Him”, iconic numbers from this classic musical that are brought to life by an 11-member orchestra under the deft direction of George Fulginiti-Shakar.

This is a must-see production of a must-see musical.

Through April 26th at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall at 610 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information contact the box office at 202 547-1122 or visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall Visit Mount Vernon

Jordan Wright
March 18, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate

Wide-eyed tourists were gobsmacked to shake hands with and get hugs from His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, as the couple toured George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate last Wednesday.  In town for four days the Prince was eager to return to the historic home he had visited in 1970 when he was accompanied by his sister, Princess Anne, and the daughters of then-President Richard Nixon, Julie and Tricia.  For Charles and Camilla it was their third visit to the area since they toured as newlyweds in 2005.

The royals have always shown a fondness for Mount Vernon, despite rocky relations with the monarchy in Washington’s day.  Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward VII inaugurated the first royal family visit in 1860 and many of his descendants followed.  In 1991 Charles’ mother and father, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip arrived.  Fifteen years later his brother, Prince Andrew, presided over a ceremony marking the beginning of the restoration of George Washington’s Distillery.  It seems they delight in the historic destination as much the swarm of tourists and scrum of official photographers who braved the chilly afternoon for an epic photo op or hoped-for ‘selfies’.

The Prince of Wales talks with Governor McAuliffe (at far right) and Carol Cardou (left of the Governor) - Camilla is seen on the left of the column with Mount Vernon's President Curt Viebranz

The Prince of Wales talks with Governor McAuliffe (at far right) and Carol Cardou (left of the Governor) – Camilla is seen on the left of the column with Mount Vernon’s President Curt Viebranz

After signing the register and touring the mansion’s bespoke rooms, the couple emerged onto the porch along with an august group that included Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe; Mount Vernon’s President, Curt Viebranz; Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Barbara Lucas; and Senior Vice President for Historic Preservation & Collections, Carol Cardou.  Fashionistas take note – – the Prince sported bright blue casual trousers with a dark navy overcoat and patterned blue silk tie while the Duchess looked elegant in a slate gray coat with Greek key embroidery by Bruce Oldfield, one of her favorite designers.

While Camilla stayed behind admiring the artworks, Charles headed down along the river to view the wharf his mother had dedicated so many years before.  Much has been written about the Prince’s passion for organic gardening, conservation and sustainable farming and fishing and Viebranz was eager to show him where Washington once netted over a million pounds of shad each year and walk him around the walled organic gardens so much like the Prince’s own gardens at High Grove.

Heritage breed baby lambs with mother

Heritage breed baby lambs with mother

Greeting school children along the way, Charles took note of the newborn lambs and later stopped for a quiet moment to lay a wreath at the tomb of the American general who led the army that defeated his kinsmen.  Apparently all is forgiven.

The entourage, who were joined by Director of Trades, Steve Bashore, then strode briskly up the hill.  The Prince paused briefly to greet the heritage breed Austrian oxen with a gentle pat on the head before entering the sixteen-sided Pioneer Barn where he watched ponies tread the wheat.

Prince Charles with Steve Bashore (center) and Curt Viebranz (left)

Prince Charles with Steve Bashore (center) and Curt Viebranz (left)

All smiles, local resident, Kitty Morgan, a British ex-pat who had allowed her two boys to play hooky for the historic moment, was thrilled to glimpse the Prince who graciously shook hands with her children.  When was asked how her countrymen felt about Americans since the Revolutionary War, she was quick to say, “Oh, we love the Americans!”

Just as excited was Dean Norton, Mount Vernon’s Director of Horticulture, whose crew was busy painting the roses red (to borrow a phrase) in advance of the royal visit.  Noting that Washington pored over English gardening books of the period and looked to the English for guidance as to how to farm the land, Norton remarked, “The Prince’s cause is a noble one in which we share a common thread.”

 In the thick of the collegial scrum

In the thick of the collegial scrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Brings LEGENDS to DC and Lunch on the “Pie Car”

By Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
March 21, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

We can all recite the famous intro from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, “Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages.”  It’s the opening line from the ringmaster – – the signal you are about to be entertained, something the legendary Ringling Bros. has fine-tuned for over a century.  Prior to opening night of a four-day run at DC’s Verizon Center, I joined a group of journalists invited to dine in the fabled “Pie Car”.  On Thursday afternoon a small shuttle bus whisked us off to a far-flung corner of the District where we were amazed to arrive at a lengthy one-mile long, 60-car train.  The locomotive-driven stream of boxcars houses the circus’s animals, handlers, cast and crew as they travel by rail around the country.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus Train.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train.

Once on board Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson ushered us into one of the many dining cars.  Iverson, a commanding fellow who was dressed in one of his dazzling costumes of sequined tails and top hat, is the first African-American ringmaster and at twenty-two, the youngest ringmaster in Ringling Brothers’ history.  At a towering 6’ 5”, he must surely be one of the tallest.  An award-winning tenor and student of voice in college, Iverson had hoped to become an opera singer.  But when the role was offered, Iverson gladly gave up Pagliacci, to be the singing and speaking voice of ringmaster.  In addition, he proved to be a gracious host.

Ringmaster John flanked by Brazilian circus dancers Deborath Aranjo and Carol Grego

Ringmaster John flanked by Brazilian circus dancers Deborath Aranjo and Carol Grego

Our lunch was billed as a culinary journey with dishes from a few of the more than fifty countries represented by the cast and crew of the troupe’s current show, LEGENDS.  The menu featured Japanese spaghetti and meatballs, Brazilian cheesy bread and Chilaquiles con chorizo (a dish of deep fried tortilla wedges, salsa verde, onions and chorizo sausage, topped with a fried egg).  While this may not be the Greatest Chow on Earth from a gourmand’s perspective, the food is hearty fare geared to please the carb-craving performers.

Lunch aboard the Pie Car

Lunch aboard the Pie Car

Chef Matt Loory, who became Pie Car manager two years ago at a mere twenty-two years of age, produces nearly 1,000 meals each week for 48 weeks a year.  I asked Loory why it’s called the Pie Car.  It seems there are three competing stories about the origin of the name.  One is that coffee and pie were all that was served on circus trains in the early days.  Another holds that meat pies were commonly served to the roustabouts employed by the circus.  But the tale most popular with the diners is that Pie Car is an acronym standing for, “privileged individuals and employees.”  Everyone agrees, however, that it is a catchy name no matter how you slice it.

Elephant on stan

Elephant on pedestal

Attending the show the same night after meeting some of the performers in the Pie Car, was like watching friends step into the limelight from backstage.  While we took our seats, skillful clowns (grads from the Ringling Bros. Clown College) did rope jumping tricks and slapstick while families watched from the floor of the arena for a one-on-one experience.  Then Ringmaster John appeared, no longer relaxing and chatting with a few journalists, but now the riveting centerpiece of a spectacular display of swirling lights, bright colors and breathtaking acts.

Elephants walking in line

Elephants walking in line

Soon a line of elephants entered the ring lumbering along tail to trunk.  These graceful giants have fascinated audiences ever since Ringling introduced Jumbo, “The World’s Largest Elephant,” in the 1880’s.  (Recently Ringling Bros. announced plans to phase out their elephant performers and keep them at their 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.)

Motorcycles in steel globe

Motorcycles in steel globe

One of the first acts of the evening was a troupe of Asian bicyclists performing gymnastics while on top of the bikes – and each other!  Next came the amazing Torres siblings who ride motorcycles at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour in a now iconic 16-foot steel globe.  If they ever slow down long enough to look like anything but a blur, you can see that there are eight of them racing in circles at once.

Dogs on hind legs

Dogs on hind legs

Tumblers who vault through 10-foot high hoops, trapeze artists who defy gravity, and sidesplitting clowns are among the many attractions.  Magnificent horses, roaring lions and tigers, and adorable dogs of all sizes round out the evening.  We even saw a pair of kangaroos leaping over high jumps.

Lions and tigers

Lions and tigers

Any one of these acts alone would be worth the ticket.  Put together they provide an entertainment experience that truly is “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Masters of the horse

Masters of the horse – Photo credit Jordan Wright

The circus will be in the area for five weeks with the following schedule:

Washington, DC, Verizon Center:
March 20, 2015 – March 22, 2015

Baltimore, MD, Royal Farms Arena
March 25, 2015 – April 05, 2015

Fairfax, VA, Patriot Center
April 08, 2015 – April 19, 2015

For further information or to buy tickets, visit www.ringling.com.

Photo credit Cary Pollak (unless noted otherwise)

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – March 17, 2015

Jordan Wright
March 17, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
 

Goût de/Good France! Chooses DC Chef Franck Loquet for Grand Gastronomic Dinner 

The pretty new lobby at the Sofitel

The pretty new lobby at the Sofitel

This Thursday, March 19th 1300 chefs from around the world will express their love of French cuisine by creating a specially designed one-time dining event.

Organized by noted French chef, Alain Ducasse, and the Ministry of Finance Affairs and International Development, the ‘French dinner’ will be held at iCi Urban Bistro in the beautifully renovated Art Deco era Sofitel Hotel, Washington, DC and presided over by the French General Consul Olivier Serot-Almeras.

iCi Urban Bistro Executive Chef Franck Loquet

iCi Urban Bistro Executive Chef Franck Loquet

Parisian-born Franck Loquet who presides over the kitchen of iCi Urban Bistro and who had once been an instructor at Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse, was chosen from thousands of chefs.  He is the only chef in DC to be awarded this notable honor.

The parameters for the lavish seven-course menu were well defined.  First, dinner must start with an aperitif.  It should then continue with a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, and French cheese – – culminating with a chocolate dessert.  Adding to these strict guidelines, the entire meal must be served with French wines and digestifs.  The judges felt that the cuisine should be accessible to all – – from casual bistros to high-end restaurants.

For a true reflection of each region the committee required the meal to be based on seasonal and local products.  Something we heartily endorse!  Another rule of the competition was that the dinner be prepared with lower levels of fat, sugar, salt and protein, making it a fantastic challenge for any chef.

Here’s the menu Chef Loquet designed, and I sampled!  All in the name of research, dear readers.

A basket of gougeres and assorted in house baked breads

A basket of gougeres and assorted in house baked breads

Apéritif – gougères served with Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne 

Branzino Tartare

Branzino Tartare

First – Branzino Tartare – with Vanilla, ginger and grapefruit pearls and radish salad 

Woodland Mushroom Tart

Woodland Mushroom Tart

Second – Woodland Mushroom Tart – topped with truffled goat cheese mousse 

Atlantic Salmon 'Mi-Cuit'

Atlantic Salmon ‘Mi-Cuit’

Third – Atlantic Salmon “Mi-Cuit” – with English pea purée, baby Spring vegetable fricassee and leek coulis 

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin

Fourth – Herb Crusted Lamb Loin – with sweet onion mousseline, grilled scallions, pickled pearl onions and olive jus 

Fifth – French cheeses with accouterments 

Cremeux Aux Trois Chocolats

Cremeux Aux Trois Chocolats

Dessert – Cremeux Aux Trois Chocolats – served with Le Cèdre Malbec 2011 

iCi Urban Bistro is located one block from the White House at 806 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.  For reservations to this once-in-a-lifetime French culinary extravaganza visit www.goodfrance.eventbrite.com.

Photo credit: Jordan Wright