August 31, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
Cambridge city mural
In an area where watermen and their history have customarily been the prime subject of writerly interest, it was “Chesapeake” author James Michener who noted the architecture of Cambridge’s High Street, referring to its splendors as “one of the most beautiful streets in America”, which is precisely where we begin our exploration.
Richardson Maritime Museum – Photo credit to Cambridge Artist Michael Rosato
Start in the center of town at the Richardson Maritime Museum where a wealth of artifacts and expertly crafted replicas of historic ships are on display. Around the corner is the Ruark Boatworks, which affords a fascinating look at modern-day boat restoration and the building of traditional wooden bay craft.
Along the Choptank River
Follow the cobblestone High Street toward the Choptank River and along the way admire stately 18th and 19th century homes, some meticulously restored, others awaiting a fresh coat of paint and some new shutters to be brought back to their original splendor.
Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast
A stone’s throw from the river is the Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1847 in the Queen Anne style of architecture, the manor boasts six large guest rooms with private baths. Mine was on the second floor with a private porch overlooking a lily pond. The elegant home is furnished in the style of the period. Wicker chairs provide the perfect respite for reading or watching passersby from an expansive front porch. Jim and Marianne Benson and their adorable pooch Max (rescued by the couple while Jim was stationed in Cuba with the Foreign Service), are the gracious innkeepers. They will gladly share their stories (Max is available to play fetch) and describe the history of the former sea captain’s home. www.CambridgeHousebandb.com.
Homes along Cambridge’s High Street
A five-minute stroll towards the river will take you to the picturesque boat docks and self-guided tour of the replica Choptank Lighthouse, a six-sided screwpile lighthouse that contains a small museum focused on the nautical history of the area.
A mess of crabs ready for steaming at JM Clayton Seafood Company & The steam pots
Turning back towards town I dropped in on Joe Clayton, great-great grandson of Captain Johnnie, founder of the JM Clayton Seafood Company where watermen have been bringing their crabs for picking and cleaning for five generations. To arrange a tour of the plant, visit www.JMClayton.com. Behind the old single-story brick building is local artist Michael Rosato’s hyper-realistic mural. Painted on the side of an old caboose it depicts life along the river.
Mural Photo by Cambridge Artist Michael Rosato on JM Clayton Seafood
Continuing along High Street stop in at Christ Episcopal Church and Cemetery, the burial place of four Maryland governors. Though the church was built in 1883, the lovely parish dates back to 1692.
Oyster Pot Pie at The High Spot Gastropub
Cambridge has recently undergone an exciting restaurant renaissance offering both chef-helmed dining as well as casual fare. Try The High Spot Gastropub on Muir Street where Executive Chef Patrick Fanning lures guests with his elegant twist on classic American dishes using locally caught fish and farm-sourced ingredients. Head-over-heels creations are Zinfandel Braised Beef Cheeks & Blue Crab Hash, Conch Chowder with a splash of Gosling’s Rum, and Oyster Pot Pie.
Zinfandel Beef Cheeks & Blue Crab Hash & Pastry Chef Adam Powley of Elliot’s Baking Company shows off his brioche
Back on High Street we pass scores of recently restored historic buildings, one of which houses the Dorchester Center for the Arts. The 17,000 sq. ft. space is home to state-of-the-art classrooms, galleries, artisans’ gift shop and a large performing arts stage. A few days before my arrival Elliott’s Baking Company opened in one of these beautifully restored turn of the century buildings. Owner and longtime resident, Bernie Elliott, hired French Culinary School grad, Aaron Powley, whose repertoire includes traditionally made brioche, croissants, sumptuous French pastries and hearty artisanal breads. Many of the local restaurants feature Powley’s breads and rolls.
Wine tasting at A Few of My Favorite Things
Look around to find trendy boutiques and specialty stores like Squoze, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it grab-and-go spot for freshly made green juices, smoothies, sandwiches and wraps and a well curated selection of health foods. Another can’t-miss is A Few of My Favorite Things, a gourmet gift and wine bar. Here samples of their wines are poured by a sommelier while you nosh on delicious cheeses, spreads and charcuterie. They are one of many spots in town to hear live music at night.
J. T. Merryweather of Reale Revival Brewery
Stop in Reale Revival, known by locals as RAR, where industrial chic dominates the quirky cool décor. The brewery, bar and lounge was started by Dorchester County natives, Chris Brohawn and J. T. Merryweather, who decided to quit their day jobs to make beer – - every armchair beer drinker’s fantasy. Luckily for them their palates matched their enthusiasm and they have been producing exceptional artisanal beers. On a hot day the Mine Layer Saison, an unfiltered summer beer in the Belgian Farm style pairs well with sushi and fish tacos from their extensive small bites menu.
On the road to Hooper’s Island
What’s the must-have meal on the Eastern Shore? Why a mess of steamed blue crabs dredged in Old Bay seasoning and served with local corn on the cob, of course! Try the Ocean Odyssey, a family-friendly spot with an outdoor deck on the Ocean Highway. You’ll also find bison burgers, fish tacos and a large selection of beers on tap. For a touch of French bistro cuisine, you’ll need reservations for the new Bistro Poplar.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
The next day a brilliant summer sun broke through the morning’s haze and after a hearty breakfast at the inn, I headed off for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a breathtaking 25,000 acre waterfowl sanctuary with a new visitor’s center, wildlife exhibits featuring Osprey and Bald Eagle cam monitors, and native wildflower gardens. This spectacular gem lies 12 miles south of Cambridge along Bucktown Road. Drivable roads and boardwalks wind through much of the forests and tidal wetlands affording miles of flat trails for hikers, cyclists and birders.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
A few miles southwest lies the windswept chain of islands known collectively as Hoopers Island, where I visited Barren Island Oysters, an oyster hatchery owned and operated by internationally famed nature photographer Tim Devine. Grown in a pristine cove that offers a desirable salinity, the sustainably raised plump, buttery-tasting triploid oysters are preferred by many area chefs. One of their well-known clients is the BlackSalt restaurant here in the DC area.
Sold to top DC restaurants as the “Ugly Oyster”
Farther down the road is Fishing Creek, a small community dotted with crab houses alongside a warren of wooden docks harboring boats for watermen and sport fishing. Founded in the 1700’s, it’s where Phillip’s Seafood began operations 100 years ago.
Old Salty’s on Fishing Creek & Old Salty’s killer all-crab crab cakes
Have lunch at Old Salty’s, a seafood restaurant in operation for 31 years in a historic schoolhouse with sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay. The crab cakes here are luscious and destination-worthy – barely held together, lightly broiled mounds of creamy white, jumbo lump crabmeat. Rockfish, scallops and other locally caught seafood are another big draw. But before toddling back to civilization complete the journey with a slice of their towering coconut, lemon meringue or chocolate pies.
Towering Key Lime and Coconut Cream pies
Mark your Fall calendar for these upcoming Cambridge events:
September 20th and 21st – The IRONMAN Maryland Triathlon is expected to draw 100’s of racers and their families and will dovetail with the town’s 38th Annual Outdoor “Summer Sendoff” street fair of “Blues, Brews and Barbecue”.
October 10th to 12th – The Cambridge City Art Fair and Outdoor Street Festival at Guild Hall hosts where local and national dealers and gallerists feature current, as well as antique 18th and 19th century, paintings to view and buy. For more information visit www.TourDorchester.org.
August 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
The cast of Sunday in the Park with George. Photo by Christopher Mueller.
It’s been 16 years since Signature Theatre under the direction of Eric Schaeffer, mounted Sunday in the Park with George – Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning musical. Back then it starred my niece Liz Larsen as Dot (Family plug: She is currently on Broadway in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), and her husband Sal Viviano as George. Though they were both nominated for Helen Hayes Awards, it was Liz that came away with the honors for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical” and we all celebrated at a glittering evening at the Kennedy Center.
Fast forward to the latest production under the superb direction of Matthew Gardiner who has cast heavyweight Broadway stars Brynn O’Malley in the role of Dot, and Claybourne Elder as George, to bring to the stage this living, breathing, kaleidoscopic vision of Artist and Pointillist George Seurat’s life.
Based on an imaginative interpretation of the characters in this iconic painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”, the show opens onto the Paris artist’s atelier where a simple chiaroscuro backdrop echoes the 28 sketches Seurat made before completing his enormous masterpiece. Seurat was exploring the new science of color dynamics and attempting to create a new art form, at a time when his peers were deeply immersed in Impressionism. Set in the latter part of the 19th century when women wore corsets and bustles and men never went out without a proper topper, the painting emerges as the vehicle and backdrop for a tableau vivant of fifteen subjects who step out of the painting and come to life, revealing their very human characteristics. Frank Labovitz’s period costumes of soft colors and subdued prints blend seamlessly with the muted colors of the painting.
Brynn O’Malley (Dot) and Claybourne Elder (George) in Sunday in the Park with George. Photo by Christopher Mueller.
As George taps dots onto the canvas, model and paramour, Dot, poses with her parasol held aloft, echoing her prominent role in the painting. She is frustrated by the heat, her constricting attire and his lack of interest. “If I were a Follies girl,” she wistfully sighs. In the song, “Color and Light” we become aware that his obsession, trumps all romance. And in “We Do Not Belong Together” they early on become resigned to abandon their love. “You are complete, I am unfinished,” Dot intuits. He proves she is right in “Finishing the Hat”, in which he sacrifices their time together for his art. Elder must give a tightly wound, highly controlled portrayal of the emotionally disconnected artist, and he does that quite convincingly, while O’Malley counterbalances it with a lithely lyrical Dot.
Daniel Conway’s set design reflects the artist’s struggle to achieve “order, design, composition, tone, form, symmetry and balance”. He enforces that passion by eliminating and adding back silk-screened trees, dogs and a lone monkey according to George’s indecisiveness.
The Boatman, played marvelously by Paul Scanlan, comes to life as a smarmy low life who likes to terrify frolicking children when he is not insulting George. Mitchell Hebert is Jules, a fellow artist and staunch critic of George’s new art. Together with his wife, Yvonne (Valerie Leonard), Mr. (Dan Manning) and Mrs. (Maria Egler) they provide brisk and hilarious diversion.
By Act Two we have left the Victorian era and are transplanted into the present day. George’s great grandson is unveiling a light machine called a “Chromolume”, at a swank Paris gallery, and in “Putting It Together”- “link by link, drink by drink, mink by mink” – he schmoozes well-heeled patrons hoping they’ll underwrite his invention. This is where Lighting Designer Jennifer Schriever really displays her wizardry in a spectacular array of whirling pointillist beams of light and framed pixels of swirling primary colors. Accompanying her grandson is George’s wheelchair-bound mother, also played by O’Malley, who sings the poignant tune, “Children and Art”, a tenderly wrought and exquisitely sung number that will rip your heart out.
A wonderful, wonderful cast.
Through September 21st 2014 at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
August 17, 2014
The first Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop opened in Wilmington, Delaware in 1976. Lois Margolet and her brother Alan started their business in Wilmington’s Little Italy section, but it was turkey that put them on the map. Building their menu around the freshly roasted bird set them apart from the many sandwich shops in the area, and soon they were beating the stuffing out of the competition. Today there are more than 105 company-owned and franchise locations in 14 states across the country. Their unique menus feature subs in three sizes, as well as sandwiches and salads comprised of various meats, cheeses and vegetables. Highlights among their offerings include three types of spicy peppers and vegetarian options with soy-based meat substitutes.
“Bobbie” Sub sandwich
Capriotti’s second location in the Washington Metro area (in addition to the shop at 18th and M Streets, NW in the District) opens on August 25th at 11:00 am at 1500 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. The first 100 patrons in line will receive a free “Bobbie” sandwich, with the first 50 of those also receiving certificates for “Bobbies” for a year. This “Thanksgiving on a Roll” sub sandwich is the most popular item on the menu and consists of slow-roasted turkey, their special recipe cranberry sauce and an herbed dressing (Northerners know it as stuffing), and mayo. This comfort food combo is known as Vice President Joe Biden‘s favorite sandwich, and has earned “Best Of” awards in Las Vegas, San Diego, Delaware, Dallas and other cities around the country.
L to R : Joe Combs, Director of Operations.
Paul Rothenburg, Rosslyn BID. George Vincent, Jr.,the owner.
Jordan Schneider, Director of Catering
George Vincent, Jr. is the 33 year-old local businessman who introduced Capriotti’s to the DC area, and he plans to open a dozen outlets in the next two years. Mr. Vincent is off to a good start and clearly intends to earn our thanks, giving us some of the best and most interesting sandwiches available in the metro area. For more info visit www.capriottis.com.
Photo credit to Cary Pollak
August 5, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
Audience Alert: It became clear to me, when I was the only person howling with laughter, that the musical intro to Spamalot, The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s first show of the 2014-2015 season, that the audience failed to pick up on the musical cues that consist of every cockamamie intro passage in the known world played at the opening of an event. The collection of tally-ho horns, magisterial foofaraws and sweeping orchestrations from famous film scores – had gone entirely unnoticed by the audience. It goes on for a full five minutes. Now that you’re in on it, you too can roar with delight.
Python-heads know this musical backwards and forwards. It features King Arthur, King of the Britons and his Knights of the Round Table, Sir Robin, Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot – all your adorable medieval heroes on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Remember the Lady of the Lake who armed Arthur with the Excalibur sword? She’s there too – in full throttle.
So what’s not to like about Monty Python and his merry band of men?
Filled with quirky dance routines, twenty-five musical numbers, political spoofs, feather-brained high jinks and boundless double entendres, LTA’S production is high-powered hilarity on steroids.
Part of the quest for Arthur and his men, as ordered by the “Knights Who Say Ni” aka “The Keepers of the Secret Word”, is to require them to put on a Broadway Show. Alas, they are “Jew-less”, as in the number, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”, which merrily claims, “If it’s not kosher, there’s no show, sir.” Nonplussed they rally the troops with “Hava Nagila”, and a righteously rendered Cossack dance.
Director Wade Corder has assembled a terrific cast starting with James Hotsko Jr. as Arthur, Patrick McMahon as Sir Lancelot, Dimitri Gann as Sir Robin, Matt Liptak as Arthur’s goofy sidekick Patsy, and Ashlie-Amber Harris as the Lady of the Lake, with cast members handling a number of parts. But it’s Harris I want to scream about. As magical as the dynamics are between the players and as rib-tickling as their antics, it is Harris that is volcanic. Her supernaturally brilliant comic timing, boffo voice and knockout figure are the stuff superstars are made of.
Scatting and soulful in Cher-like gold Lurex, she is electrifying. “The Diva’s Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part)” in which she bemoans being off-stage for too long while our hapless knights gadabout seeking shrubbery (don’t ask) and bolluxing up the handy ruse of a Trojan rabbit (ask if you like), will have you in tears. Harris actually got a huge ovation for this riotous number. It’s no small wonder that after the run of this show the former American Idol contestant is headed straight to Broadway with agents already lined up. See her now before you read about her in Variety. Don’t make me say, “I told you so!”
So whether you drool over sexy chorus girls in red leotards and sequined shrugs, cheerleaders that bare their navels and French Cancan dancers or dancing knights in white satin, male Conga dancers in neon-colored ruffles or peasants in sackcloth, YOU WILL BE DAZZLED.
Grant Kevin Lane designed the costumes – all 200 of them, Grace Machanic did the amazing choreography, Rebecca Sheehy and Helen Bard-Sobola designed the 400+ props, one of DC’s finest Accent Coaches, Carol Strachan, taught the 20–person cast Scottish, English and French accents and the superb 14-piece orchestra is conducted by Paul Nasto.
Through August 23rd 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
Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photography
July 29, 2014
all photo credit to Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Jose Andres’ Evocative America Eats Tavern, Penn Commons Opens, Cuba Libre’s Ceviche Classes, Restaurant Week, Vapiano’s “Dinner and a Movie Deal”, Mount Vernon’s Colonial High Jinks and The National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café
Jose Andres’ Evocative America Eats Tavern
Jose Andres’ newly minted America Eats Tavern in the Ritz-Carlton Tyson’s Corner evokes the casual elegance of Long Island’s tony Hamptons (Sag Harbor springs to mind), transforming the hotel restaurant space. Formerly occupied by French chef, Michel Richard, the charming spot is a breath of fresh air embraced in a rustic chic décor.
Andres, we’ll call him the “The Reigning Ambassador of Spanish Cuisine”, shows off his newly acquired American citizenship by using some of the country’s earliest recipes and traditional foodstuffs to celebrate our national culinary heritage. Gourmet magazine where are you when we need you?
Plumbing the pages of 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century American cookbooks to cull recipes from George Washington Carver for Peanut Soup from 1914 to Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife receipt for Gazpacho from the 1851 Colonial supper table, Andres has unearthed some intriguing renditions of beloved American dishes. As expected he has tweaked them a bit by sidestepping the nitty-gritty of using squirrel, deer or bear, replacing those dicey ingredients with domestically farm-raised proteins from a variety of American purveyors.
Peach Julep at America Eats Tavern
The handcrafted cocktails are superb, and a must have. Ice cubes are made in three sizes - crushed round and square – and tailored to each drink. Be sure to order the Peach Julep, a beautifully balanced, sweet to tart, bourbon to mixer, served in a copper julep cup. It’s a veritable dose of Southern sunshine.
The menu is a primer on American gastronomic diversity – from sea to shining sea. You’ll find a lavish seafood bar with oysters, Maine lobsters and Alaskan king crab; breadbaskets brimming with drop biscuits and coupled with blackberry butter; skillet cornbread and hushpuppies served with trout roe; and the pride of San Francisco – a loaf of sourdough bread. Casting an ever-widening net there are hams from Edwards & Sons in Virginia, Benton’s in Tennessee, La Quercia of Iowa and Olli Salumeria’s Becker Lane Ham. The latter gets a biscuit, red-eye mayo, Amish pickled eggs, and crunchy sour pickles from my favorite local fermenters, No. 1 Sons. Even lowly catsup has not been neglected with an assortment of bumped up fruit catsups from local producer ‘Chups that includes Blueberry, Peach and Plum.
Heirloom Recipe Mac n’ Cheese
Recipe credit from around the nation is given to the historic dishes. Several dishes, like the Steak Tartare American, that became popular in 1950’s America, describe their history, or in this case, mythology. For instance, you may not have known that an early pudding-style rendition of mac n’ cheese was created by a French émigré to America who owned a pasta factory in Philadelphia in the early 1800’s. Here Andres dresses up the creamy vermicelli-based recipe, offering a sumptuous add-on of King crab.
The famed Waldorf Salad of Chef Oscar Tschirky, the Harvard Beet Salad from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook of 1906 and other notables have been credited with their originator. Even dear Irma Rombauer, author of the great American classic, The Joy of Cooking, is celebrated for her refreshing Shrimp and Grapefruit Cocktail.
There is so much to love here, but be sure to save room for the luxurious Triple Chocolate Cake from Martha Washington’s own recipe. Divine to the max.
Executive Chef Nate Haugaman
Pastry Chef, Rick Billings, and Chef de Cuisine, Nate Waugaman, are turning out breakfast (a first for Andres), lunch, dinner and room service should you be so lucky to be putting on the Ritz.
Mark Your Calendars
Celebrating National Rum Day at Cuba Libre
Award-winning chef and business partner, Guillermo Pernot, will host two interactive cooking classes on Tuesday, August 5th and Wednesday, August 6th at 6:30 PM. Pernot is an expert on ceviche, winning a second James Beard Award for his book ¡Ceviche! – Seafood, Salads and Cocktails with a Latino Twist.
Hiramasa Ceviche with Chayote Mirasol Chiles Salad
Guests will learn how to make different kinds of ceviche, and how to pair it with rums from the restaurant’s over 90 premium and flavored varieties from Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua and Tortola. Classes are priced at $59.00 per person, and are limited to 30 guests.
Tahitian Abalone Ceviche by Chef Guillermo Pernot
On August 15th and August 16th, rums are featured at half price during happy hour. Rums are priced between $8 and $34 a glass.
Cuba Libre Beverage Manager Vance Henderson demonstrates the perfect Daiquiri
DC’s Biannual Restaurant Week Kicks Off
And don’t forget the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington hosting of Summer Restaurant Week from August 11th through the 17th, when participating restaurants offer three-course lunches for $20.14 and three-course dinners for $35.14. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample some of Washington, D.C.’s best restaurants at an affordable price. For more info visit http://www.ramw.org/restaurantweek.
Mount Vernon’s Colonial High Jinks
At George Washington’s Mount Vernon a Colonial Market & Fair featuring artisans in colonial attire and a dozen entertainers on two stages re-creating the amusements loved by early Americans.
General Washington will preside over a host of amusements including Mr. Bayly, Conjuring and Entertainments; Signora Bella, Equilibrist; Professor Thompson S. Gunn, Mystic Arts of Asia, the Far East, & India; and a demonstration of an 18th century chocolate-making process using an authentic colonial recipe. Sports-minded guests can batter up to an 18th C cricket game or shop from a collection of works by over forty juried artisans from across the nation who will be on hand to demonstrate their trade and sell their wares.
For a fantastic view of the estate and its river locale, Potomac River sightseeing cruises will be free on a limited basis. Listen to Martha’s advice and get there early.
The Fair takes place Saturday and Sunday September 20th and 21st from 9am till 5pm. For more info visit www.MountVernon.org.
National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café Lightens Up for Summer
The National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café has a new summer menu. Created by Chef Michel Richard of Central Michel Richard and Villard Michel Richard and executed by Chef David Rogers to dovetail with the current Degas/Cassatt exhibit recently profiled here, the menu has now has lighter options including a seasonally inspired frisee salad with hard-boiled eggs, Gruyère cheese, and cherry tomatoes; ravioles de fromage au basilic (cheese ravioli in basil sauce), along with the French classic, bœuf à la bourguignon.
Penn Commons Goes Big and Bold
Chef/Owner Jeff Tunks and partners, Gus Demillo and David Wizenberg have conspired to bring you their newest outpost, Penn Commons. Armed with an enormous bar and bold tavern style cuisine helmed by Executive Chef Alfredo Solis – all the better to accommodate the crowds after the action at the nearby Verizon center or at the many theatres in the neighborhood – the new spot features delish cocktails (thirteen of which are named for the original thirteen colonies) and dozens of beers on tap, at least one from each of the United States. They’re calling it “American sensibility joined with American seasonality”.
Golden Tomato Gazpacho with Crab and Cucumber Relish at Penn Commons
Having sampled some of the dishes last week, they are creative, hearty and delicious and I can say that the crab cakes are already the BEST in town!
Good To Know: If you get there after the show or game, they have a 10pm “Dinner Farm Bell” menu for the bar and lounge area that is casual American food served family style and goes for the ridiculously affordable price of $12.00. Actors and athletes take note!!!
Vapiano’s Terrific Meal Deal for Movie Lovers
A made-to-order dinner at Vapiano plus a ticket to see any movie playing at these neighboring theaters in Bethesda, MD, Reston Town Center, Dulles Town Center, and Ballston, Virginia. The restaurants feature a wide-ranging menu of Italian favorites from antipasti and salads, to pizza and pasta and desserts, like tiramisu and panna cotta. Each guest purchasing the package gets a movie ticket, a fountain soda drink and one of Vapiano’s entrée selections (excluding extra meats and toppings) for $20.00 plus tax. To participate in “Dinner & A Movie”, ask at the host stand when you arrive at the restaurant.
Choose your own ingredient salads at Vapiano