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Nibbles and Sips Around Town – June 25, 2015

Jordan Wright
June 25, 2015 

America Eats Tavern Holds Inaugural Virginia Festival, Bloomsday Celebration, Blue Duck Tavern Rhapsodizes About Ice Cream, Mitsitam Gets a New Chef and We Get His Wild Rice Bars Recipe 

As expected tons of events are crammed into the month of June. Why? There seems to be a totally unfounded impression that we are all darting off to faraway lands. We wish! Here’s where we went (Chapter One) and here’s one that’s happening right now. 

America Eats Tavern Celebrates Virginia 

There’s still time to catch José Andrés Virginia Festival at America Eats Tavern at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. It’s an event designed to spend time with family and friends. There will be entertainment, interactive events and Virginia-themed specials throughout the week. Participating regional wineries, Barren Ridge, RdV, Barboursville, Trump Winery and Early Mountain Vineyards are featured, and cocktails have been created using spirits from local distillery Catoctin Creek.

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa

We tasted some of the delicious offerings, many plumbed from Virginia’s historical recipe archives. Here are some of the Virginia specialties from Head Chef Nate Waugaman. Enjoy them from the prix fixe menu or a la carte. 

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly - Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals - Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals – Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade

Edwards Surryano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Cheese Straws – Norfolk Crab and Ham Saute – Broiled blue crab with Virginia ham and lemon butter air – Fried Chesapeake Oysters with rhubarb rémoulade and cucumber and pickled rhubarb salad – Virginia Peanut Soup garnished with celery and blackberries – Shrimp & Grits, Byrd Mill Company grits made with Meadow Creek Dairy Reserve cheddar and served with pearl onion petals and ham hock – Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw – Lemon Chess Pie – Martha Washington’s recipe Chocolate Cake (Do not leave the building without some!)

Martha Washington's Chocolate Cake

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Cake

And be sure to try the famous Sally Lunn bread. The recipe is sourced from “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” 1879. Then you can say you had some of George Washington’s favorite breakfast bread.

The festival runs till the end of June.

Bloomsday Celebrated in Washington, DC

 

Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday

Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday

Bloomsday, the annual Irish celebration of all things James Joyce, was ushered in in grand style on June 16th. The posh affair commenced with a musical recital of tunes related to both writers, a new ‘play for voices’, and readings which took place at the tony Cosmos Club. Afterwards guests walked a few short blocks to a garden party at the residence of Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency, Anne Anderson.

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club

Fortuitously it was also the 150th anniversary of the birth of that “other” great Irish writer, W. B. Yates. The proximity of the two events inspired the Embassy to combine these important events into one magical evening. Noted guests Congressman Richie Neal of Massachusetts, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Teri Cross Davis from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes read poetry by Yeats and excerpts from “Ulysses”.

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Resid

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Resid

Joe Hassett, attorney and author of Two Stars, saw his mini-play narrated by Scena Theatre Co-founder, Robert McNamara and performed by local actors, and guests thrilled to Irish music of the period performed by John Feeley, Fran O’Rourke, Mitch Fanning, Jesse Winch, Terry Winch and Zan McLeod.

Afterwards Ambassador Anderson graciously invited everyone to the residence for cocktails and traditional Irish fare in the garden.

Blue Duck Tavern Prepares for National Ice Cream Month 

Rain came down sideways in torrents at an ice cream social at the Blue Duck Tavern where we test tasted (Oh please! Somebody has to do it.) snow cones, ice cream sundaes and mini ice cream treats dreamed up by Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego. We had gathered on the terrace in the late afternoon when all hell broke loose – weather-wise that is. Thankfully a small army of chefs and managers marshaled the troops to bring us, and the precious, sweet cargo, indoors where we picked up where we’d left off.

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones

As you may be aware snow cones are popular with our Hawaiian-born President and the entire Obama family. A popular street treat, the frozen concoctions are made with an untold variety of syrups and shaved ice and often include a dose of sweetened condensed milk.

We won’t guess at what additives are in those day-glo colored flavors typical to sidewalk vendors, but here they are prepared au naturel from an assortment of syrups made in house – Strawberries and Cream, Apple Pie and Cream, Root Beer Float, Ginger Raspberry Rhubarb, Peach Toasted Almond, Piña Colada and more.

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month - Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern - Sweet mini treats

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month – Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern – Sweet mini treats

The blissfully scrumptious sundae is assembled with a base of cornmeal shortcake, balsamic strawberries, orange ice cream and orange-flavored whipped cream.

Mini offerings were just as seductive – Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream Sandwich, Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie, Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Bars, Cantaloupe Lavender Push Ups (Was this a sign to head off to the gym?) and more. We only wish we could have brought some home in a doggie bag. Sigh… 

Mitsitam Gets a New Chef 

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe

This year the National Museum of the American Indian hired, Jerome Grant, as Executive Chef of the highly regarded Mitsitam Café where Grant had once worked as Sous Chef under former Executive Chef Richard Hetzler. At a private luncheon at the Museum, Chef Grant showcased some of his latest dishes.

The Oklahoma native won’t change the restaurant’s indigenous cuisine – – there will still be dishes from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica and the Great Plains – – but he has definitely put his own spin on the regional menu.

From the Northern Woodlands we sampled Chilled Golden Beet Soup with Wild Ginger, Puffed Wild Rice and Cherry Granola and a beautiful Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops and Popcorn. Also from the region was Smoked Rhubarb Turkey and Duck Fat Potato Hash with local Mushrooms.

From the Northwest Coast came plates of Wood-Fired Spot Prawns with white asparagus and pink peppercorn sorrel butter.

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast - Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast – Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands

And from Mesoamerica we adored a salsa of green tomato, yellow corn and pipicha and his rendition of guacamole. What better companions?

The changes will dovetail nicely with a major new exhibition, “The Great Inka Road”, scheduled to open at NMAI on June 26th, the same time as the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival kicks off.

The bilingual exhibition explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures; as well as technologies that made building the road possible; the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world; and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.

The press release describes the Inka Road as “an intricate network that spans 24,000 miles across six countries and stands as one of the monumental engineering achievements in world history.”

This amazing exhibit features images, maps, models and 140 objects, including a ceramic Chavín stirrup spout bottle (the oldest item in the exhibition, ca. 800–100 B.C.), impressive gold ornaments, necklaces made from shells from the Lambayeque region, stone carvings, silver and gold figurines, and various textiles made from camelid hair and cotton.

For more information on the exhibit as well as upcoming activities, visit www.NMAI.si.edu.

We thank Chef Grant for this terrific recipe you can make at home.

Wild Grain Bars
 – Courtesy of Chef Jerome Grant

  • 
Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup raw, hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup golden flaxseed
  • 3 cups raw wild rice (not a blend), separated
  • 1/2 cup dried red quinoa
  • 1/2-cup coconut milk
  • 1/2-cup mild honey
  • 3/4-cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups tart dried cherries
Wild Grain Bars

Wild Grain Bars

  1. In sauce pan over medium-high heat add two inches of canola oil. When the oil is at 410 ° Fahrenheit, add one cup of raw wild rice. Cover. The rice will expand and double in size. Skim the popped rice and transfer to a paper-towel-lined sheet pan. Add more rice to the oil and continue popping the rice until all the rice has been popped, then reserve.
  2. Place sauté pan on medium heat with two teaspoons of canola oil. Once oil becomes hot, add quinoa and lightly shake the pan. Quinoa will pop rapidly just like popcorn. Once quinoa has fully popped, remove from heat and transfer to paper-towel-lined sheet pan, and reserve.
  3. Combine the puffed wild rice, quinoa, seeds and dried fruit in a bowl and mix together.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the sugar mix to a boil and reduce until soft-ball stage is reached (237° F). Pour the sugar mixture over the seeds and grains and mix thoroughly. Press the bars into a greased pan and let cool for about two hours before cutting.
  5. The recipe makes one 13” x 9” sheet pan, about 15-18 servings.

    Photo credit – Jordan Wright

The Book of Mormon – At the Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
June 19, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

THE BOOK OF MORMON National Tour Company Photo credit Joan Marcus

THE BOOK OF MORMON National Tour Company Photo credit Joan Marcus

Hell fire and damnation figure neatly in the wacky and wonderful The Book of Mormon. With book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, creators of the four-time Emmy Award-winning animated series South Park, you’ll luxuriate in all the irreverence you can handle. And then some. Winner of nine Tony Awards, the blowout show is legendary for its comedic take on Mormonism and its 21 unforgettably zany songs.

The story focuses on the bicycle-riding, young men with their skinny black ties and crisp white shirts who are eager to convert and skilled at proselytizing. Two-by-two they comb the earth seeking out sin and sinners and spreading The Word.

Elder Price and Elder Cunningham are two of the innocents. Recently sprung from the church’s Missionary Training Center, they are partnered up for their mission to Uganda where they’ll rendezvous with other eager young evangelists.   Two more disparate comrades are hard to conceive. Price (David Strand) is handsome and self-centered, brimming with untested confidence. Ready to take on the world he is miffed to be conjoined with Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand), a portly nerd with no sense of self-worth who clings to Price like a limpet mine to a submarine.

uganda

Monica L. Patton, David Larsen, Cody Jamison Strand Photo credit Joan Marcus

Hoping to prove they’ll be worthy in the afterlife, the two unlikely apostles set off on a journey that is so convoluted, so riotous and so ungodly that your hair risks catching fire. At a send off staged by their parents, replete with a dancing witch doctor who references The Lion King, the hapless lads are told, “You get out there and you baptize those Africans!”

Instead the boys realize converting the whole human race is not as easy as they had been led to believe. They discover the natives have their own brand of mythology, and it’s not any more far-fetched than Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s story of the never-seen-by-a-living-soul golden plates he personally excavated in upstate New York. These descriptive, Mormon-themed side skits are re-enacted hilariously by Smith (Christopher Shyer) and the Angel Moroni (Daxton Bloomquist) in dream sequences designed to compare the origins of the Latter Day Saints to the natives’ beliefs. But which of these tales are more fanciful?

Warlords and AIDS are on the minds of the Ugandans who have a middle-finger-raised musical response to God in the number “Hasa Diga Eebowai”. David Aron Damane plays the one-eyed General and bloodthirsty warlord who threatens to circumcise all the girls in the village by the end of the week.

Denèe Benton, Cody Jamison Strand Photo credit Joan Marcus

7 Denèe Benton, Cody Jamison Strand Photo credit Joan Marcus

There’s a sweet love story between the beautiful Nabulungi (Candace Quarrels) and Cunningham, the most unlikely suitor, who woos her with dreams of paradise. In the beautifully sung number, “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (a heavily accented pronunciation of Salt Lake City) she places her hopes in his hands.

But this isn’t The Sound of Music, though it takes a village. And Nabulungi’s convincing of her tribe, isn’t based on truth – – Cunningham has convoluted the church’s teachings to suit his ignorance of its contents. “I actually never read it,” he confesses. (If you’re wondering how the Mormon hierarchy reacted to the comedic blasphemy, the quote is, “You’ve seen the play. Now read the book.”) But Cunningham is determined to convert the girl and croons “Man Up”, describing Jesus’ bravery as “growing a pair”.

Credit to Directors Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker; Scott Pask for the scenic design; Ann Roth for costumes, Brian MacDevitt for lighting and the 12-piece kick-ass orchestra directed by Adam Laird and David Truskinoff. Many of the talented performers from the first Broadway production are in this touring company making it just as bawdy and blasphemous as the original.

Highly recommended. But you already knew that if you’ve tried to snag a ticket.

Through August 16th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

 

 

Nibbles and Sips Goes to the Country

Jordan Wright
June 22, 2015 

A Dreamy Summer Pop-Up Supper, Strawberries Rule at Delaplane’s Annual Festival, Fueling Up at The French Hound, Healthful Eats at Brassicas, Patrick O’Connell Launches Latest Book at Willowsford 

Ryan (left) and Shelly Ross gather with guests

Ryan (left) and Shelly Ross gather with guests

Ryan Ross, daughter of Shelly Ross, owner of The Natural Marketplace, is already a successful chef and entrepreneur from Washington State. For a recent al fresco dinner in the charming garden of her mother’s home in Warrenton, Virginia, Ryan created a fairyland of delights tempting guests with house-crafted aperitifs – Bengal Spice, a mixture of peach and plum teas with bourbon, and Coconut Chai a non-alcoholic summer cooler. Cocktail nibbles, adorned with tiny flowers or aromatic herbs, were equally a alluring.

Deconstructed Deviled Eggs - Fleur de Chèvre covered in edible flowers - Beetroot Crostini with flowers and microgreens

Deconstructed Deviled Eggs – Fleur de Chèvre covered in edible flowers – Beetroot Crostini with flowers and microgreens

Deconstructed deviled eggs sported nasturtium aioli, purple chive flowers and dill. Beetroot crostini incorporated chickpeas topped with micro greens and bright yellow mustard flowers. Dates were stuffed with blue cheese, topped with redbud flowers, poppy seeds and drizzles of aged honey, and small rounds of Fleur de Chevre goat cheese were covered in yellow and purple violets and flecked with pink salt.

Minted Pea Soup - Dates stuffed with blue cheese and decorated with Redbud flowers

Minted Pea Soup – Dates stuffed with blue cheese and decorated with Redbud flowers

A minted pea soup with crème fraiche and bacon shards preceded a tender-crusted cauliflower tart made with gruyére from Goat Hill Farms. Then platters piled high with chimichurri-sauced grilled beef and Satsumi oranges topped with marigold butter, roasted vegetables and cucumber and radish salad were presented.

Grilled beef chimichurri with Satsumi oranges and summer vegetables - Rose and Rhubarb Torte

Grilled beef chimichurri with Satsumi oranges and summer vegetables – Rose and Rhubarb Torte

Wine flowed freely as chatter grew friendlier and I had the chance to speak with my seatmate, John Burns, urbane owner of Goat Hill Farm, in Little Washington, VA. Burns’ farm supplied the flowers and many of the early summer vegetables for the delicious dinner including fruits used in desserts. Finally Rose and Rhubarb Torte served with strawberries and buttermilk and a flourless chocolate cake titled ‘Fallen Earth’ appeared the latter served with a syrup made of whiskey, blackberries and violet cassis.

Ryan, who has inherited her mother’s beauty, cool demeanor and love of food, also shares her dedication to healthy eating and locally sourced food. She divides her time and talents bicoastly creating dinner parties in such unique locations as a butcher shop in Brooklyn, a blueberry farm, old barns, an empty swimming pool and even a tattoo parlor – though most events are held in private homes.

She calls her business Supper Corps and it has taken her far and wide. Follow her adventures and upcoming dinner events (she’ll be back in our area in Fall) on Instagram at En.Root or on Facebook by liking Supper Corps. You can contact her by email to create your own special event. And though west coast based, she often flies back to our area, which she considers her home.

Delaplane Strawberry Festival 

The "Head Strawberries"

The “Head Strawberries”

For the past twenty-some years I’ve wanted to go to the festival that local resident Willard Scott started with his wife, Mary. Willard was, and is, an American national treasure who created the festival as a fundraiser for the Delaplane Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s efforts on behalf of area non-profits. While still keeping to its homespun roots, it has since grown into an annual event that celebrates the arrival of strawberry season.

A serving of Strawberry Shortcake one of the many delights of the festival

A serving of Strawberry Shortcake one of the many delights of the festival

The entire production depends on the efforts of church ladies known as the “Head Strawberries” (if there are men involved in food preparation please write me for a correction) who start preparing months in advance.

The spirited children's Corn Hole toss gets underway

The spirited Corn Hole Tournament toss gets underway

More akin to a large church picnic, the two-day event now attracts over 10,000 guests with old-fashioned children’s games like ring toss, tug-of-war, cake walk, 3-legged races and sack hops – – and tons of luscious strawberries. Factoid: Over 6,000 pints of strawberries are used in the making of sundaes, shakes, cakes and jams, with many flats sold for home canning.

George Esparza and his Wahoo Medicine Show

George Esparza and his Wahoo Medicine Show

Docents dressed in Civil War garb roam the grounds and a snake oil salesman (George Esparza) with his Wahoo Medicine Show & Phydeaux’s Flying Flea Circus captivates families. A top-hatted gent (Jerry Brown) with guitar, squeeze box and a trained monkey named Django had kids utterly mesmerized.

Jerry Brown and Django encourage participation - Re-enactors Gerald Drake with his wife, Donna pose against one of the log houses - Bob Broadwater as a Two-Star Civil War General takes a break

Jerry Brown and Django encourage participation – Re-enactors Gerald Drake with his wife, Donna pose against one of the log houses – Bob Broadwater as a Two-Star Civil War General takes a break

Dogs perform tricks, ponies give rides, and crafters display hundreds of their wares, all while Old-time music rings out from the stage beside historic Mt. Bleak House which is open to visitors.

The Cobbler Mountain Grass band tunes up on the porch of Mt. Bleak House

The Cobbler Mountain Grass band tunes up on the porch of Mt. Bleak House

The festival is always on Memorial Day weekend and always at the beautiful Sky Meadows State Park. See you there next year! For more events at the park visit http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/sky-meadows.shtml#general_information

The French Hound in Middleburg, VA 

Co-Owner Cricket MacDonald guests at The French Hound

Co-Owner Cricket MacDonald guests at The French Hound

A last minute decision to dine at The French Hound on a Saturday night on Memorial Day weekend was rash, I’ll admit. With no reservations and coming in off a hike on a steamy afternoon with disheveled hair and feet in flip flops our chances might have been slim. We’d managed a quick change in the Hill School parking lot (one hopes there are no security cameras) where we ran into a fellow hiker seconds later who said he was just getting over a heart attack and was glad he’d missed us en déshabillé.

The bar at sundown at The French Hound in Middleburg

The bar at sundown at The French Hound in Middleburg

The entrance to the restaurant is through a walled garden, which on this night was filled with diners. A hostess, who later introduced herself as one of the owners, politely escorted us to the only seats not taken – – at the wood-topped bar. Late day sunlight streamed through weathered windowpanes casting the cozy room in a honeyed glow. It was that easy time of day, when all accomplishments are totted up and concerns are laid to rest before the sun sets. Thankfully the barkeep promised we’d have the full menu to choose from.

Nine years ago owners John and Cricket MacDonald discovered the old house, which had already gone through a few restaurant reincarnations, and along with French-trained Chef John-Gustin Birkett they opened the French-inspired bistro. They have been a success from the start.

Birkett’s menu reflects a distinctly French flair that leans towards Mediterranean and Moroccan. With a décor that evokes Provence, it’s definitely a relaxed ambiance that appeals to the fine dining crowd as well as the casual diner.

Pot au Feu - Moroccan Lamb Tagine prepared tableside  - Vanilla and Grand Marnier Pot de Creme at The French Hound

Pot au Feu – Moroccan Lamb Tagine prepared tableside – Vanilla and Grand Marnier Pot de Creme at The French Hound

Here you’ll find escargots, mussels steamed with Pernod, house made terrines and other typical Gallic fare – – steak frites, pan-seared halibut and herb-roasted chicken. Wines are predominantly French or California with a brief nod to a Spanish albarino and a rioja and a few nicely curated selections from local Virginia wineries.

At 101 South Madison Street, Middleburg, VA 20117. For reservations call 540 687-3018.

Brassicas Market and Cafe 

Brassicas on opening day

Brassicas on opening day

The banner read “Grand Opening” and it didn’t a minute to check my rearview mirror, apply the brakes and slide into a parking spot. When I’m not on a tight schedule I allow myself regular whimsical indulgences, which is how I found myself in the old clapboard farmhouse – – a former vintage clothing and antique shop in the center of Aldie. I say “center”, but that offhanded descriptor defies logic in a town with neither traffic lights nor stop signs.

Owner Gary Hall takes customers' orders

Owner Gary Hall takes customers’ orders

Gary Hall is the Proprietor, Head Gardener and Executive Chef of Brassicas, a stylishly rustic, slip of a spot devoted to feeding its customers simple, healthful, seasonal fare. Perfectly positioned on John Mosby Highway (aka Route 50), it is sandwiched neatly between the Aldie United Methodist Church and the quaint Little Apple Pastry Shop.

The early garden behind Brassicas

The early garden behind Brassicas

What makes this little place so appealing is not just the tasty and creative offerings but where they are sourced – – primarily Hall’s backyard where a thriving quarter-acre garden provides the freshest herbs and vegetables used in the soups and sandwiches.

The garden was started two summers ago and is now going strong thanks to a few autumns of laying down compost, green sand, woodchips and chicken manure. The manure comes from Hall’s brood of forty chickens, mostly Rhode Island Reds with a few Rhode Island Sex-Links thrown onto the mix. “The Sex-Links are very prolific egg layers,” said Hall who rises at 6 a.m. to tend to the chickens and garden. The menu changes daily, not weekly, allowing him the freedom to use what’s freshest. “We want to be as natural and as transparent about our food as possible,” he explains.

To nurture his evolving garden, he has discovered some unique sources. Woodchips are free, courtesy of the county. Compost is provided by DC Water who offers bio-solids, free to area farmers. Chickens gobble up the restaurant’s food waste producing soil-enriching manure and keeping garbage to a minimum. And lastly, bugs are eaten by the free-ranging flock which, each day, produce up to thirty eggs used in the restaurant’s mayonnaise and egg salad. Now if that isn’t the circle of life!

“In summer the town’s water supply is low,” Hall told me. “Irrigation and washing cars is forbidden. On weekends the Aldie Mill dams up the headrace of the Little River for their milling demonstrations and we have permission from the town to pump water out. I got my hands on some 250 gallon plastic IVC totes that had been used for olive oil. They’re great for collecting water and bringing it to the garden.”

Ricotta Salata with chive flowers drizzled with sage flower honey

Ricotta Salata with chive flowers drizzled with sage flower honey

Brassicas light fare menu is influenced by the backyard garden’s bounty, and right now the garden’s bountiful crop of green beans, squash, tomatoes and peppers are the headliner ingredients on the chalkboard.

Serving breakfast and lunch this summer, he is still trying to decide if he will stay open throughout the winter when the garden is put to bed.  But apart from the menu items you’ll find plenty of locally made foods perfect for a picnic lunch – – honey from Singer’s Glen; breads from Lyon’s Bakery; cookies from Pollystyle; cheeses from Firefly Farms, Allegheny Mountain, George’s Mill Farm and Mountain View Farm; and organic chocolate bars from Equal Exchange Chocolates.

Patrick O’Connell Hosts Latest Book Lunch at Willowsford 

Guests enjoy the delicious food and drink at Willowsford

Guests enjoy the delicious food and drink at Willowsford

A tony gathering at Willowsford gave Patrick O’Connell the backdrop for a book signing last night. The nattily dressed proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington has finally spilled the beans with co-writer Derry Moore about the décor in a 256-page cocktail table-sized book entitled, The Inn at Little Washington: A Magnificent Obsession (Rizzoli 2015).

Now you too can replicate the singerie and madly chi-chi Brit style guests travel cross country to swoon over. British interior designer, Joyce Conwy Evans, collaborated with O’Connell to create the over-the-top elegance that put the Inn on everyone’s bucket list. “Joyce was with us for the whole ride,” the ever-gracious O’Connell told me.

Patrick O'Connell with Bonnie Moore - Culinary Director Bonnie Moore cooks up the Mac n' Cheese

Patrick O’Connell with Bonnie Moore – Culinary Director Bonnie Moore cooks up the Mac n’ Cheese

From a lowly garage to a to a five-star hotel and restaurant, the Inn’s transformation is expressed in gorgeous photographs by Derry Moore and Gordon Beall and watercolor renderings by Evans. Even Martha Stewart was a contributor.

Rappahannock Oysters with Cucumber Sorbet - Mini crab cakes and cornflowers - Mustard Crusted Salmon and Dill

Rappahannock Oysters with Cucumber Sorbet – Mini crab cakes and cornflowers – Mustard Crusted Salmon and Dill

Willowsford’s Chef and Culinary Director Bonnie Moore, who once cooked under O’Connell at the Inn, prepared some of his signature nibbles – – Rappahannock oysters with cucumber sorbet; mustard crusted salmon with mustard dill sauce; mushroom, asparagus and prosciutto pizza; and crab cakes with chipotle aioli. As expected, truffle popcorn, a staple at the Inn, was served in red-and-white striped boxes and a decadent version of mac n’ cheese was presented in tiny cast iron skillets.

Mini Mac n' Cheese share space with bound copies of Le Monde and L'Univers - Floral arrangements were by Mayflowers

Mini Mac n’ Cheese share space with bound copies of Le Monde and L’Univers – Floral arrangements were by Mayflowers

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

Tartuffe – Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
June 9, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

“Epic Bromance Upends Noted Family” might be the modern-day header for the tale of Tartuffe and Orgon, the paterfamilias of a 17th century, bourgeois family. Or it might read, “Priest and His Slimy Sidekicks Fake Poverty to Con Pernelle Clan – Maid Claims Teen Daughter Was Used as Barter”. I can’t resist one more. “Phony Preacher Tricks Prominent Businessman Who Nearly Loses His Entire Estate”.

Suzanne Warmanen (Dorine), Lenne Klingaman (Mariane), Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire), Gregory Linington (Cleante,) and ensemble members Stephanie Schmalzle, and Maria Leigh in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Molière’s Tartuffe, adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Suzanne Warmanen (Dorine), Lenne Klingaman (Mariane), Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire), Gregory Linington (Cleante,) and ensemble members Stephanie Schmalzle, and Maria Leigh. Photo by Scott Suchman.

In Molière’s timeless story of piety and politics the con artist, Tartuffe (aka “The Hypocrite”), brings down one of the town’s most prominent families with his fire and brimstone brand of religious fervor. As slick as a whistle, the devious flimflammer insinuates himself into the home and gullible heart of Orgon (Luverne Seifert), despite protestations from his household who see right through the hustle. “He has made me a new man without friendships or emotion,” Orgon boasts to his family, dismissing their pleadings and offering up his betrothed daughter, Mariane (Lenne Klingaman) as sacrificial lamb.

In the second year of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Comedie Française repertory series, Director Dominique Serrand has brought us a supremely elegant production of the play, one that is guaranteed to make your hair curl and your funny bone twitch.  Serrano is also the Co-Scenic Designer with Tom Buderwitz, and the two have created a divinely muted set for the comic drama using as inspiration the symmetrical Palladian architecture of Paris’s Hôtel des Invalides, and the exterior design of the Église Saint-Gervais to evoke an aura of piety.

Lighting Director Marcus Dilliard uses the one-day timeline of the play by moving the lighting across the stage from east to west, coloring the set with the pale, cool light of day with rays of light pouring in through tall windows, and culminating in the honeyed amber tones of sunset. It is very effective and lends a compelling air of urgency to the family’s dire circumstances.

Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire) and Steven Epp (Tartuffe) in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Molière’s ‘Tartuffe,’ adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire) and Steven Epp (Tartuffe). Photo by Scott Suchman.

Steven Epp plays the convincingly, deceitful Tartuffe. With his tight-as-a-drum body and spare priestly garments, he looks like an Anderson Cooper version of a Calvin Klein model recently sprung from a torture chamber. Epp’s riveting portrayal of the holier-than-thou, priest-without-a-conscience is enhanced by his ability to quickly morph from insinuating charmer, who proves his devotion through self-flagellations and submissive prostrations, to backstabbing villain. Seifert, as the duped husband and father Orgon, in thrall to the machinations of Tartuffe, gives a commanding performance infused with bluster and swagger.

Luverne Seifert (Orgon) and Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire) in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Molière’s Tartuffe, adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Luverne Seifert (Orgon) and Sofia Jean Gomez (Elmire). Photo by Scott Suchman.

But amidst all the guile and terror inflicted on the family by Tartuffe, let us not forget what a card and social commentator Molière is. The circumstances he devises are as dark as the comedy is light – – and Suzanne Warmanen as Dorine, the wise and sassy servant, renders it brilliantly. When accused of defaming God by using a handkerchief as a bookmark between the pages of Elmire’s bible, Dorine replies, “If a handkerchief can insult God, God needs more confidence!” Oh yes! She has his sanctimonious number straight out of heaven’s gate.

Elmire (Sofia Jean Gomez), the clever wife of Orgon, has her own way of handling the impostor. In one sexually charged scene designed to prove to her husband that Tartuffe is nothing more than a fraud, she calculates an elaborate seduction to which Orgon is witness. Gomez is electrifying bringing both fire and ice to the character of Elmire.

Not to be ignored are Tartuffe’s henchmen led by Laurent (Nathan Keepers). The duo lends a deliciously evil air to the entire proceedings, lurking around corners and perching above the action, all the better to eavesdrop or threaten.

Sonya Berlovitz informs the costuming with a freshly, spare modernity by eliminating the distractions of heavily ornate brocades and embellishments and creating clothing that takes on meaning and symbolism, at the same time reflecting hilarity (as in Valere’s floral pajamas), solemnity (Orgon’s newly adopted priestly raiments and the plain, grey garments of Tartuffe) and social import (Elmire’s lavish blue gown and billowy red silk robe). The result lends more power to the story and drama to the players.

Highly recommended.

Through July 5th 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.

Dirty Blonde – The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
June 8, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

Alexandria Guyker (Jo)  & Daniel Doeuk - Photos by Matt Liptak

Alexandria Guyker (Jo) & Daniel Doeuk – Photos by Matt Liptak

It took more than fluff and fizz to create an icon like Mae West.  An iconoclast in the art of sex appeal (even the term was taboo when she started performing on the vaudeville circuit in 1911), West was the naughtiest of the naughty girls, a role she cherished and perfected throughout her lengthy career.

Jennifer Lyman directs Claudia Shear’s Tony-nominated story about an impressionable young fan, Charlie (Daniel J. Calderon), who becomes deeply affected by his meetings with the seductive actress.  She teases and woos him and they develop an ongoing, though unconsummated, affinity for each other.  As an adult he meets and is attracted to, Jo (Alexandra Guyker), another adoring Mae West fan, but his obsession with the movie star affects his ability to have more than a superficial relationship.

Alexandria Guyker (Jo) - Photos by Matt Liptak

Alexandria Guyker (Jo) – Photos by Matt Liptak

Janette Moman plays the voluptuous siren, breathing new life into the legend that drove Hollywood’s glamour machine for decades.  Moman’s voice and movements mimic the star’s singular appeal, and her ability to portray her vulnerability, as well as her sexuality, contributes to a convincing performance.

Janette Moman (Mae West) & Chris Gillespie   - Photos by Matt Liptak

Janette Moman (Mae West) & Chris Gillespie – Photos by Matt Liptak

Two consummate actors, Chris Gillespie and Daniel Doeuk, play all the other males that weave in and out of Mae’s life – – her husband, Frank Wallace, co-stars, assorted agents, beaus, dance partners and a judge and court clerk.  Set primarily in New York and Los Angeles from 1911 to 1984, the show features seven of West’s greatest musical numbers including “I’m No Angel”, “Oh My, How We Posé”, “A Guy What Takes His Time” from She Done Him Wrong, and “Dirty Blonde” from her Vegas act in the late 1990’s.

West broke every convention of the day with her racy behavior and scandalous stunts, and the show is as informative of her history as it is entertaining, often weaving her famous quotes into the dialogue.  “Are you shakin’ my hand or takin’ my pulse,” she asks a potential backer.  Later we learn she borrowed femininity advice from her fellow performers, a close-knit group of drag queens. She also appropriated the “Shimmy She Wobble” from Black acts of the day.

Daniel J. Calderon (Charlie) - Photos by Matt Liptak

Daniel J. Calderon (Charlie) – Photos by Matt Liptak

Mae’s story runs alongside the tale of Charlie and Jo, their tender friendship and mutual admiration of Mae, and his inability to free himself of his fixation with Mae long enough to let real love into his life.  “She never really let herself learn to love anyone but herself,” Charlie tells Jo.  Calderon captures Charlie’s transformation from awkward youth to awkward adulthood, and Guyker proves to be the perfectly cast matchup.  Complex emotional themes weave in and out of the jokes and the cast rises to the challenge.  Plus the production has a lot to recommend.

Costumes by Beverley Benda, Wardrobe by Jean Coyle, and fabulous hair and wigs by Rebecca Harris capture the decades of glamorous gowns, platinum blonde bouffant styles, and mountains of feathered accessories.  David Dender on piano and David Burrelli on bass bring the story and songs to life.

As far as the staging goes, I found it distracting to watch props handed off to the actors as they delivered their lines, and furnishings being shuffled on and off stage by clearly, visible stagehands.  Something you might expect in a black box production, but here, unnecessary.

Through June 27th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com