November 27, 2012
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts, Broadway Stars, and localKicks
Thanks to Visit Rappahannock County Virginia – Office of Tourism
‘Grey Thursday’. Who dreamt this one up? It’s so not right, on so many levels, and affords us little time to catch up with family, trim the tree together or settle in for a bit of football. Turkey sandwiches anyone? ‘Black Friday’ – a miserably stressful experience at best. Enough said. Now we have “Cyber Monday’ and we are urged to buy online. Let’s just say it’s a cheerless marketing ploy devoid of Santa and his adorable elves. Is this what Christmas has become, just a way to buy gifts more efficiently? If the meaning of Christmas is checking off items online, or battling frantic buyers in a department store for the last cashmere sweater, then surely the spirit of the holidays will pass us by. So count me out. I want the old-fashioned Christmas back – that glorious time of year when we greet our neighbors and find a store where we can meet the owner or the talk to the artist. So bundle up and sally forth with good cheer into the chill air. Have a mug of hot spiced cider, or something a bit more fortified. Tis the best season of the year!
Rappahannock Pasture – Cluneford Sheep – Roadside Cider Shop – Photo credit Jordan Wright
I like to inch up on Christmas slowly, smell chestnuts roasting, bake cookies, make tiny marzipan pigs, put up fruit chutneys and fill tureens with homemade pimento cheese. As for shopping I prefer to patronize a local business. Last weekend we decided to take our list with us to Rappahannock County, Virginia and add to it an elegant country manor, a few wineries, galleries, specialty boutiques and a few sips of damn good whiskey.
Rappahannock Historical Society – Antique Printing Press – Shops in Washington, VA – Photo Credit Jordan Wright
The Friday after Thanksgiving, as department stores and parking lots were filling up with crazed shoppers, we headed west – a quick hour and a half drive from Washington, DC. Soon silhouettes of the Blue Ridge Mountains traced the horizon and we were motoring down country lanes past meadows dotted with Black Angus cattle drinking from placid ponds and on through valleys where horses grazed idly. Weathered red barns and hulking silos chockfull of fodder towered over fallow fields strewn with cylinders of winter hay. Our first stop was a mom-and-pop cider stand to pick up local sorghum and apple butter. Rappahannock County was once one of the nation’s largest apple producers and its rich history of agriculture is still thriving.
We begin in Flint Hill. The tiny town’s quirky not-to-be-missed 24 Crows boasts an art gallery, gift shop and lunch spot. It’s a friendly place where neighbors linger over a glass of wine and where you can get your hands on an extendable bug zapper or choose from a selection of fine wines, gourmet goodies and hand woven socks. The turquoise and yellow clapboard house also bears an array of gifties like dainty fabric handbags, handmade jewelry and wool scarves. Brightly colored fur trapper’s hats with pull-down flaps float down from the ceiling and handcrafted sock animals await the children on your list. We loved the original greeting cards and hand carved larch wood cutting boards. For the nautically inclined on your list take note of Sperryville artist Mark Malik’s classic one-of-a-kind 1950’s runabout models reminiscent of Henry Fonda’s speedboat in On Golden Pond.
Classic Runabout Model by local artist Mark Malik – Shopping and dining at the counter at 24 Crows – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Lunch changes daily according to owner/chefs Heidi and Vinnie’s caprices. From the ingredient-driven lunch menu we chose a Wagyu Beef Burger with Applewood smoked bacon and Maytag blue cheese on a challah bun, and the Curried Chicken Salad with apricots and toasted almonds on organic whole grain bread. End on a sweet note with Heidi’s Handmade Ice Cream. The challenge was in deciding on one of the intriguing flavors like Apricot, Drunk Pumpkin made with Meyers Rum, and Curious George Banana and Peanuts. We opted for a cone of Copper Fox Whiskey Sticky Toffee Ice Cream and didn’t regret a lick of it! Shades of things to come… 24 Crows is open Wednesday through Sunday 11:30 till 2:30pm for lunch only.
Across Zachary Taylor Highway (Route 522) is the Horse N Hound for the pet lover and equestrian on your list. The rustic cottage offers everything you need for riding and rough outdoor wear. A pair of Blundstone paddock boots or a jaunty oilskin equestrian cap would satisfy the sportiest on your list – horse owner or not. For the family dog there’s natural pet food and treats or a new collar and leash engraved in a thrice.
A few miles further will put you in Washington. The Inn at Little Washington is the cornerstone of the town and has been a destination spot since 20th Century pioneer chef Patrick O’Connell turned a run-down garage in an off-the-the-grid town into a mecca for international gourmands and the landed gentry. O’Connell has since bought up much of the village, turning Pre-Revolutionary homes into bespoke shops and posh accommodations. If you’re lucky enough to secure a reservation to dine there or stay in one of their romantic suites, you will be in for an extravagant bucket list experience. Executive Chef Scott Lyons gave me a tour of the gleaming kitchens and a dinner guest-only box of mignardises nestled in a replica box of the inn.
The Inn at Little Washington – Executive Chef Scott Lyons – Chefs prep for dinner service – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Housed in a 1740 restored tavern are The Shops at The Inn at Little Washington. Here you can buy souvenirs of the inn including cookies, preserves, and pies sold in a handmade Shaker box or, for the cook that has everything, one of their signature Dalmatian-spotted aprons. Irresistible Susan Carson and Company handbags; soaps and perfumes from the venerable 18th Century French house of Rancé; chic home accessories; fine art or a cocktail table-worthy cookbook from a fine collection in will beckon the discerning shopper. Mystique Jewelers has a small nook with a case of designer baubles. A pair of gold fleur-de-lis earrings caught my eye, as did some pretty silk negligees from Kumi Koocoon and lingerie from Veréna.
r.h. Ballard Shop – Washington shops – Floral display at the Inn – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Stonyman Gourmet Farmer is a unique and beautifully restored 18th Century mercantile, one of the oldest in the Mid-Atlantic region. It boasts a series of enchanting outdoor gardens offering a relaxing respite to enjoy lunch or a plate of farmstead cheeses, pastries and fresh baked breads.
Scour Antiques at Middle Street for vintage pieces and collectibles including clocks, toys and porcelain or seek out French tablecloths, rugs and fine art at r.h. Ballard.
A Currier & Ives Christmas
This Sunday, December 2nd, the historic town will be all aglow with its annual Christmas in “Little” Washington Festival & Holiday Parade. Festivities begin 10am with an Artisans Market featuring over 30 local artists and crafters, along with specialty food and wine vendors. The Market will be at both the Washington Town Hall and the RAAC Community Theatre until 4pm.
The Washington Baptist Church on Gay Street will be the site of the “Hanging of the Greens” services at 10am. A rare Christmas stamp collection will be on display from 12:30 until 7pm.
Grand Marshal “George Washington” returns to the first town he surveyed as a young man of 19. Accompanied by other famous Virginia patriots from “The Committee for the Republic,” he leads the Holiday Parade along Main and Gay Streets. The parade begins at 1:00pm and showcases antique cars, homemade floats, a cavalcade of animals and marching bands, and, of course, Santa Claus himself.
At 2pm Stonyman Town Square hosts Santa Claus, who will have a gift for each child who stops by. Also on the Square, the Gold Top County Ramblers will play and sing country and Christmas favorites and visitors can stay warm by the bonfire. Also at 2pm you can experience “living history” as the Virginia Patriots re-enact events from Valley Forge. And for the piece de resistance magician Steve Kish performs at 2:30pm at The Theatre at Little Washington. All events are free and held whatever the weather.
Time for check in and we drive a few short miles to Huntly. A long stacked stone wall signals the entry to Glen Gordon Manor. Don’t look for a sign. The Bed & Breakfast is so understated you won’t see one. Situated below the sight line from the road and beyond a slight rise in the terrain, its discreet profile signals a private country estate. Winter in Virginia’s Piedmont arrives earlier here than in the city and as we come down the long drive we see the neatly stacked cords of wood, covered swimming pool and blanketed horses along with the source of our breakfast, breeds of chickens chosen for the color of their eggshells, skittering around in the backyard.
Glen Gordon Manor in Huntly, Virginia – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Originally built in 1833 as a Wells Fargo stagecoach stop, the Gordon family later converted the house to a hunting lodge frequented by the Prince of Wales and his wife, Baltimorean socialite Wallis Simpson, and their tony pals. Since then the manor has been lovingly reconfigured from residence to inn without losing any of its aristocratic identity. You enter under an arbor, where we saw the twitching tail of an elusive cat named Oreo, into a large center hall. We are greeted by owner Dayn Smith with a glass of wine and an invitation to relax beside the fire in the grand Hunt Room.
Dayn Smith and his wife, Nancy, are the manor’s proprietors. Full of genuine warmth, they look like they just popped out of the pages of Town and Country. Their nephew Trent, who is equally as charming, helps with cooking, serving and seeing to guests’ needs. Dayn comes to innkeeping through his years as an award-winning executive chef and owner/entrepreneur of several high-profile restaurants in Puerto Rico – his wife from her years as a nurse tending to VIP clientele in an exclusive New York plastic surgeon’s practice. Their gracious manner is reflected in the elegant details of the manor and the sumptuous cuisine. We immediately sense we are in the lap of luxury and we curl up like kittens beside the roaring fireplace.
The inn’s rooms are tastefully adorned with good art, great books, antiques and sumptuous linens, but the piece de resistance is the food. Though open only a short time, the area is already abuzz with talk of Dayn’s refined French cuisine and his delectable sauces. On off nights they host a members-only “Supper Club” that has diners eagerly rebooking as soon as a new evening’s festivities is proposed.
The Windsor Suite at Glencroft Cottage at Glen Gordon Manor – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Our quarters are a few hundred feet down the driveway in the recently redesigned Glencroft Cottage Windsor Suite. The suite is tastefully appointed with a lavish bathroom and large tub situated beside a picture window looking out over the mountains, meadows and stables. We dress for dinner. And when we arrive at seven, the dining room is already lively.
Since the menu is chef’s choice the only decision we need to make is if we would like our five-course dinner paired with wines from the manor’s wine cellar. Dayn is partial to French wines, which suits us just fine.
We begin with a Willm Alsatian Blanc de Noir Crémant made from 100% pinot noir grapes. It is accompanied by an amuse bouche in the form of Aleppo-crusted quail with tiny potatoes fried in sumptuous duck fat. We are swooning already. The palate teaser is followed by cream of parsnip soup with chive spuma topped with crispy parsnip chips and paired with another Willm Alsatian wine – a Pinot Blanc Reserve.
A seasonally correct roasted pumpkin salad arrives constructed of local garden greens, jamón Ibérico, Manchego cheese and toasted pepitas dressed in a balsamic reduction. We continue with our fish course – steelhead trout nestled in a tangle of carrots, leeks and fennel and dotted with a dill beurre blanc and complemented by a glass of Bandol, a rosé from Mas de la Rouvière. If I were at home I would have thrown up my hands and called for my uncle, but who would turn down sheer rounds of veal cheek ravioli with truffle and wild mushroom ragout and delicate Brussel sprout leaves served with a Côtes du Rhône, Les Champauvins from Alain Jaume et Fils. And who in their right mind would resist apple gallette with caramel ice cream and caramel Anglaise and apple butter heightened by a Dow’s 10 year-old tawny port? It was an extraordinarily creative and outstandingly sublime meal, prepared with a light yet skilled hand and reflective of the superb ingredients and the chef’s mastery of sophisticated culinary techniques. We resume our contented feline positions after dinner, lingering by the fire and visiting with other equally impressed dinner guests.
Organic Chicken Egg Layers – Four course breakfast – Five course dinner paired with wines – Photo credit Jordan Wright
The following morning a four-course breakfast awaits us in the sunny dining room – fresh orange juice, seven-grain oatmeal with milk spuma, Greek yogurt with raspberries and blueberries and wild rice pancakes topped with an orange yolked poached egg, Hollandaise and asparagus. Thank you little chickens. We are tempted to linger but unfurl ourselves and embark on our mission, armed with gift lists to complete.
Glen Gordon Manor, 1482 Zachary Taylor Highway, Huntly, VA 22640. www.glengordonmanor.com
Though Rappahannock Cellars winery is just around the corner we drive a few miles to the town of Sperryville, which lies beside the curvaceous South Fork of the Thornton River. We head for The Shops at the Schoolhouse where we find Coterie, which is defined by a group of artisans and designers housed in a series of rooms. Look for beautiful handmade leather belts, bags, jackets, medieval-style leather corselettes and dreamy full-length naturally dyed linen dresses perfect for wearing with cowboy boots. In the garden room we find unusual new and vintage outdoor ornaments. The whimsical hand made woolen figures, owls and elves, are particularly enchanting. Pick up a few boxes of Cocoa Bella hot chocolate blend for a perfect hostess gift.
River District Art Shops in Coterie – Cocoa Bella – Monkey Business – Artisans Market – Photo credit Jordan Wright
Wandering around I found a few well-priced antique paisley throws, garden artifacts and collectibles in Monkey Business and I meet Rebecca Abecassis proprietor of the Knit Wit Yarn Shop. Rebecca carries an astonishing array of fine yarns and knitting supplies along with fair trade teas, jewelry, handknit hats, gloves and scarves.
Across the way is the River District Arts, an artist collaborative laid out in a series of spaces similar to Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory. Explore the open studios to find original art, photography, pottery and crafts. In the Artisans Market two exhibition galleries showcase regional artists and one-of-a-kind Virginia crafts. You’ll come upon Café Indigo for yummy soups, sandwiches and light fare. Pumpkin cupcakes were the flavor of the day, but the choices vary daily. After the holiday parade in Washington on Sunday, December 2nd they are planning an artist reception featuring the Small Works show. Sip a glass of mulled cider and meet the artists.
River District Arts – Cafe Indigo – Knit Wit Yarn Shop at Sperryville – Photo credit Jordan Wright
In the heart of the historic village is Rudy’s Pizza side by side with Thornton River Grille and the Corner Store. Warning: Do not leave town without having pizza at Rudy’s. It is the gold standard in Italian pies and once you have had it you will be forever comparing other versions to it. Repeat: Have this pizza. You will thank me.
Author Ted Pellagatta signing books at the Corner Store – Rudy’s Pizza in Sperryville – Photo credit Jordan Wright
We perused the aisles of the Corner Store discovering freshly made Hatfield pork sausage, Russian black bread, cheeses and local yogurt – picnic provisions for another day – when I ran into WJLA meteorologist and local resident, Bob Ryan, who had dropped by to say hello to his pal, local photographer Ted Pellegatta, at the counter signing his book – Virginia’s Blue Ridge – A Pictorial Journey.
Founder Copper Fox Distillery Rick Wasmund – Bottle Labeler and Wax Cap Sealer – Photo credit Jordan Wright
But we are focused on gifts today so we trot down the road a piece to the Copper Fox Distillery for a few bottles of Wasmund’s Applewood Aged Single Malt Whiskey and their Copper Fox Rye Whiskey. Rick Wasmund is an old friend who lives above the distillery with his beautiful new wife and baby daughter. He showed us around the property and proudly told us his small-batch whiskies are now being exported to England and Scotland. Now that should tell you something about the caliber of his product. If you have a few minutes take the complimentary tour where you’ll taste the both the raw and toasted barley and learn about the process of making whiskey. It’s highly informative and the fumes are intoxicating.
Tucker Rogers musician son of Margaret Rogers owner of Central Coffee Roasters – Photo credit Jordan Wright
A mile or so further down Route 211 is the cozy Central Coffee Roasters. Margaret Rogers is the engaging and well-traveled owner who along with her musician son, Tucker, roast the coffee on site, greet visitors and hold tastings.
As you head back to DC, drive along Route 522 (which becomes 211) and on to Amissville. There are no little shops to browse but some wonderful tasting rooms where you can pick up a few bottles of wine and wine accoutrements. Wasn’t that on your list too? Stop in at Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly, Narmada Winery and Gray Ghost Vineyards & Winery in Amissville.
Back to the city we go after a thrilling weekend in the country filled with real memories of the holiday spirit and a car laden with treasures. Move over Santa this sleigh is full!
Special to www.dcmetrotheaterarts.com, www.broadwaystars.com, and www.localkicks.com
The Federalist – A Peaceful Retreat in the Heart of Downtown
What an eclectic array of events in just the past few weeks! Here are some highlights. We cozy into a leather banquette for a quiet, civilized and very elegant dinner at The Federalist in The Madison hotel where Chef de Cuisine Harper McClure put us in the right frame of mind for our madcap road trip. Soups start us off – cauliflower bisque and an aromatic she-crab soup with nubbins of lump crabmeat. My partner went for the Shenandoah lamb loin with celery root purée while McClure kindly indulged me with a special vegetarian plate of Alsatian braised arrowhead cabbage, sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, glazed cippolini onions, Carolina Gold rice and corn drop biscuits, while I try to pack in a week’s worth of veggies.
Upscale and Downscale on the Road
In the morning we’re off to Atlantic City, New York City, and Long Island too for a quick trip down memory lane. No, we were not the advance team for Hurricane Sandy! But it has felt somewhat eerie this week as we view disaster photos from the very roads we traveled and places where we stayed, trying to keep in contact with our New York friends who have lost power. But for now we are blissfully ignorant of the devastating forces lurking a mere fortnight away.
Latino fisherman casts his net into the Atlantic off the coast of Margate, NJ – Photo by Jordan Wright
After a sun-drenched ride we disembarked at the glam resort Revel. Its blue glass windows shimmer forty-eight stories skyward upping the wow factor in Atlantic City. The resort has five restaurants from some of the region’s top chefs, but we were headed for Robert Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar and Michel Richard’s Central Michel Richard both of who have their original outposts here in DC. The plan is to visit each one over the following two evenings.
But first a few words about the hotel. It is a breathtaking $2.4 billion curvilinear building designed by Architechtonica – the über modernistic design firm whose Brickell Avenue high-rise offices were featured in “Miami Vice” , setting the tone for that show’s hipster vibe. No glitzy faux-Venetian Vegas-inspired schlock here. This luxury property was decorated in the trendy retro mid-century modern style. I expected to see the Dino and Sammy and the rest of the original rat pack from the “Oceans 11” in their slender-cut suits.
Our first night was spent at Mussel Bar, a Flemish gastro-pub where we found an edgy macho vibe, where Wiedmaier’s Harley Davidson is slung atop the room-length bar and chandeliers are cobbled together from rope and old bottles. Skull graffiti is carved in some of the tables. Skulls are very stylish this year and not on account of Halloween. Try the house private label Belgian beer, Antigoon, a crisp light ale that sports a graphic of a giant with severed hand. No cause for alarm. Brabo, the name of one of Wiedmaier’s Alexandria restos, is a much-revered hero from Belgian mythology.
Expect braised meats and root vegetables served en casserole at this time of year; fresh local oysters, clams, lobsters and mussels, of course; as well as house-made charcuterie and addictive pommes frites. It’s Belgian meets American regional.
Central Michel Richard is its polar opposite. A brightly lit curvaceous blonde wood nest with an open kitchen, chef’s table and dining bar, it features casual French cuisine. Deviled eggs topped with freshly pickled sardines, a chopped salad with mustard vinaigrette, and a beef filet-derived steak tartare were more than satisfying, especially after a cone filled with Richard’s signature gougeres- melt in your mouth cheese bites perfect for snacking with a martini – or “martillery” as we fondly call them at home.
Lunch took us to White House Subs for an Italian cold cut special made with fresh Italian bread. The 65 year-old temple to naugahyde and formica is a must visit. The walls are lined with celebrity habitués from the 50’s on up – a tribute to its great subs and loyal following. We settled for half a sub each for $6 bucks a pop.
White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City – Photo by Jordan Wright
On to New York City to Wall Street and the Battery. We pass the new World Trade Center construction in the pouring rain and walk along one of the rare cobblestone streets left in Manhattan. Our destination was brunch at the 250 year-old Fraunces Tavern. An inn cum history museum, it is one of the most fascinating locales in the city, adjacent to the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center, and one I had somehow overlooked in all my years in the city. This pre-revolutionary spot is where George Washington gave his inaugural address and later his farewell address to his officers of the Continental Congress. During the Revolution it was the site of the first U.S. Treasury and the Departments of Foreign Affairs and War. A meeting place for the Sons of the American Revolution it is Manhattan’s oldest surviving building and part of the American Whiskey Trail.
The Bar at Fraunces Tavern – Photo by Jordan Wright
Our fixed price brunch allotted us two Bloody Marys, one entree and a dessert. George and Martha, had they partaken, would have approved. I had the creamy smoked haddock chowder and the Irish Breakfast with sausage, blood pudding, bacon, eggs and baked beans, while my partner opted for the tavern’s buttery-crusted turkey pot pie and goat cheese, pear and cranberry salad. After downing two bloodies I forgot to photo the desserts – homemade pie with homemade ice cream.
Later that evening we repaired to the Lower East Side to a Keith McNally spot called Schiller’s Liquor Bar – all white subway-tiled walls with antique fittings and signage from the turn of the 20th C. After seeing the photos from Hurricane Sandy with the neighborhood underwater, I hope the place is still up and running as it was pouring cats and dogs that night and we had to leap over puddles on tiny sidewalks.
The scene at Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side – photo by Jordan Wright
The place was crowded, cold and damp and all about the cocktail. We kept our coats on. Tables were a few feet from the constantly opening door. I vaguely recall a too-sweet bourbon sour, which the bartender crankily corrected. Dinner was forgettable pasta, quickly downed while being stink-eyed by a hostess eager to turn the tables. No dessert. We fled like thieves in the night.
Avant Le Deluge – Dodging an Impending Hurricane Sandy
Morning brought breakfast at a friend’s home on Long Island – real New York Everything bagels, scrambled eggs and baked ham too – before taking off on a tour of the island and my old homestead. It looked exactly the same as we drove up the long circular driveway and begged entry. A surprised and kindly eighty year-old couple were entirely amenable to our visit. Turns out they are the same family that bought the home from my parents and have raised 14 children in a house where we two kids once cavorted like puppies throughout the home’s ten bedrooms.
Visiting my childhood home on Long Island – Photo by Roy Wright
Around the corner we stop in at The Chowder Bar. Sixty-six years in the same spot, the clapboard cottage perches unceremoniously beside the Maple Avenue Dock,a dozen or so yards from the old ferry boats to Fire Island. They still serve the best clam chowder on the island for a few bucks and warmed the cockles of our hearts on a blustery day.
The Chowder House voted the best chowder on Long Island – Photo by Jordan Wright
In the evening we took dinner with friends in Massapequa, a small mid-island town that boasts numerous Italian restaurants both high- and low-end. We drive along Broadway, the main drag, past mom-and-pop storefronts with traditional pasta makers, pizza joints, bakers, butchers and delis – all Old Country Italiano. At Fra Amici Pizzeria & Ristorante it’s pasta night and the special three-course dinner is $11.95. Caesar salads crisscrossed with olive oil-drenched anchovies, hearty minestrone soup crammed with zucchini and kale, and baskets of just-baked Italian bread cover the small table. Shortly huge bowls of steaming pasta piled high with meatballs the size of baseballs arrive. The tender orbs of veal and beef in homemade “gravy” as they call marinara sauce in these parts, melt in our mouths.
From a list of over fifteen types of pasta dishes I choose linguini alla vongole. I have eaten this dish all over seaside Italia and anywhere in the United States near a bay or ocean. I’ve had it prepared in the shell with Cherrystones, Little Necks or canned clams. I know my alla vongole like a fish knows its scales. I look down at my plate. There beforeme is a sure half-pound of rough chopped whole fresh clams, whole cloves of tender garlic sautéed in butter and parsley and pasta enough for four. I am thinking Jonah and the Whale. I am thinking I am the big fish and this is my odyssey and as such I need to act my part. Como incredibile!
We all took a deep breath, dove in to our respective pasta and truth be told made room for dessert though I cannot imagine how – cannoli and Italian cheesecake followed by mugs of frothy cappuccino. I am still dreaming of it. Readers, for the love of Mike, please let me know if there is anything in our area with “my-Nonna’s-in-the-kitchen” real-deal Italian dishes like this.
Cookie Monsters at Peace
Fueling us along during our time in the car were the heavenly New York City Black + Blanco cookies. We tried all four exotic flavors of the buttery Moroccan-inspired ‘sandcastles’, as they call them. The mad delicious sweets are gluten-free – though Lord knows not calorie-free. Made with rye flour and virgin coconut oil they are entirely vegan. No eggs, no dairy. Choose from Maple Dusted Cardamom, Vanilla Black Sesame, Marzipan or Deep Chocolate Infrared infused with smoked paprika. After each box we were still unable to pick a clear winner. We’ll keep trying till we can.
Chinese Master Hu Comes to the Mandarin Oriental DC
Shaolin Kung Fu Master
Mandarin Oriental, Sanya
Back in town an exclusive booking at the Asian-inspired The Spa at Mandarin Oriental with Shaolin Kung Fu Master Hu awaited us. Master Hu is from Henan Province and is a Master of Qi Gong and Medical Qi Gong as well as massage and meditation which are his specialties. Master Hu has been on a multi-city tour, teaching students in both the martial and the cultural arts of China, and he was only in Washington for a few days before traveling on to the Mandarin Oriental in Chicago.
Our private class was an 80-minute Shaolin Zen Tea Ceremony that addressed health and a holistic diet regime. The result is to stimulate the senses and bring the student back to nature through the serving of tea as a means to meditate together. It seeks to harmonize the mind and body through a spiritual experience conducive to finding your inner self.
After watching Master Hu’s intricate ceremony of making, steeping and serving several white and green teas – one being the smoky lapsang souchong from the Fujian Province of China – he told me his name means ‘tiger’. I asked him what ‘foo’ means. “It means happy,” he translated. “Oh well, my dog’s name is Foo Foo,” I offered. “Means very, very happy!” he giggled nearly falling off his chair. His charm is contagious. We sipped and grinned right along with him.
Later we floated off to lunch at the hotel’s Sou’Wester and sat at a table overlooking the harbor while watching the yachts bobbing on the Potomac along Maine Avenue. Feeling blissed out and in a nether realm of consciousness, I dreamily ordered the Pan-Seared Red Drum, a local fish served atop jambalaya and Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice, finishing with the entirely-over-the-top Early Autumn Sundae of port-roasted figs, candied walnuts and clover honey ice cream. We drifted like autumn leaves back to our car and workaday reality, while thoughts of a chestnut sorbet not chosen were luring me back before the season’s end.
Partying with Phoenix – An Insider’s Report
A day of food and fun hosted by friends from the Phoenix CVB was on the agenda earlier this month and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. A chance to have a private luncheon prepared by Mitsitam’s Executive Chef, Richard Hetzler at the National Museum for the American Indian (NMAI)that I knew would prove to be indelible.
The pond in autumn at NMIA – photo by Jordan Wright
Our small group settled into a private dining room off the Main Cafeteria at tables swathed in bronze silks. Host Greg Stanton, the Mayor of Phoenix, had been summoned to the White House that morning, following the previous night’s third Presidential debate, and he was running a tad late. Trays of totopos, appeared with guacamole and peppery spreads with baked vegetable chips. I toyed with a cool prickly pear agua fresca.
Stanton arrived around then apologizing for his late arrival. He’s a good-looking, energetic man-on-a-mission eager to dispel the bad press Arizona has gotten of late. He’d heard one of us had googled up the piece about his experiment to live on a week’s worth of food stamps. I raised my hand. I had been impressed by his sensitivity and drive even before our meeting. He said we probably wouldn’t want to hear about his trip to the White House. My hand shot up again and said, “Yes, please, Mr. Mayor, we would.” “Well,” he recounted, “everyone’s chests were pretty puffed up after the previous evening’s success.” And you could almost feel as though you’d been there too.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton
Lunch began with curls of cedar wrapped around seared salmon belly – the most buttery part of the fish – the poached red roe scattered like confetti over the top, the skin-on filet leaning against butternut squash bread pudding. (Note: Hetzler achieves a crisp skin by first removing, pressing and quick searing it on a flattop grill and then reassembling the whole.)
Later a chestnut-stuffed goose terrine, sweet potato corn pone and wilted Brussels sprout leaves finished the coterie of appetizers smoothly paired with an Argentine Viognier. Buffalo filet came glazed with fig must and clusters of plump shrimp sparkled with aji peppers and yellow yucca causa, a distinctive Peruvian dish derived from the Incans.
Hetzler showed off all the season’s glories with cauliflower-mashed potatoes made with buttermilk and horseradish, and a squash and Barlett pear gratin served in a pretty casserole. We were a feather’s-breadth from heaven sipping a Chilean pinot noir when dessert was presented in the form of an aromatic acorn squash tart perfumed with sage and huckleberry honey plus a don’t-shoot-the-messenger apple crumble. Take note budding chefs! This is how one of our city’s finest chefs celebrates fall’s bounty using indigenous and sustainable foods.
A few hours later a cocktail reception was held at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). This dramatic ultra-modern winged structure, which took three years to complete, is the newest addition to Constitution Avenue. It features a glorious undulating glass roof called the Ansary Peace Dove. On this night they would throw open the doors for an event that was not a peace-related program or conference and guests were head over heels to see it from the inside.
Copper casseroles filled with lavish dishes were set up around the sun-drenched room. What I remember most is the posole, chicken braised in mole sauce, seafood tamales and crab cakes with pumpkin seed aioli, though there were countless other delights in the cavernous space. After thoughtful remarks by the returning Mayor Stanton, Suwaimaa five-time world champion Hoop Dancer accompanied by a native drummer, performed for the riveted guests.
Five-time World Champion Hoop Dancer Suwaima and Drummer – photo Jordan Wright
I Love to Eat – James Beard Comes to DC
This is the last weekend for the short run of Round House Theatre’s fabulous I Love to Eat, the one-man show on the life and times of iconic chef James Beard. In 1946 before Julia Child, Guy Fieri and the Food Network, there was Beard, America’s first TV chef. His NBC show was “Elsie’s Kitchen Tips”, named after the show’s sponsor Elsie the Cow, whose messages drop down to the stage á la Groucho Marx’s secret word delivering duck.
Nick Olcott photo by ClintonBPhotography. James Beard kitchen photo © Krishna Dayanidhi, courtesy of The James Beard Foundation.
Actor and successful DC-based director, Nick Olcott, channels Beard in all his catty, charming, culinarily knowledgeable glory. To prepare for the role Olcott prepared dishes from Beard’s many cookbooks and blogged about it – his knife skills on the set confirm his year long rehearsal for the role. The set is Beard’s kitchen. A world map signifying his world travels is hung alongside dozens of gleaming copper pans. Stainless steel worktables frame the stage and retro Princess phones are at every corner.
The gourmand enters grandly through a refrigerator in pomegranate-hued Chinese silk pajamas, frost clouds billowing behind. He takes a call from an admirer in Kansas concerned about her dish. “Gird your apron a little tighter,” he advises. “It’s not Easter – no need to bring it back from the dead!” The dialogue is familiar and intimate and we feel we’re a fly on the wall of his life where in his vernacular nonsense is “twaddle” and approval is “really tops” “You can get away with anything if you are amusing!” he admits. Wise words from a sage cook.
At Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD through November 4th. For tickets and information call 240 644-1100 or visit www.RoundHouseTheatre.org.
Special to Washingtonian Magazine – April issue
If you think the Philly food scene is all cheesesteaks, snapper soup and Italian water ice – you’ve missed the gastronomic explosion in Love City, although if cheesesteak is your thing Barclay Prime will satisfy for $100 a pop under crystal chandeliers. (www.barclayprime.com) Here are some ways to celebrate the city’s gastronomic delights.
Where to stay
Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez at the Four Seasons Hotel rooftop garden - Photo credit Jordan Wright
Check in at the Four Seasons Hotel, whose executive chef plucks herbs and veggies from their rooftop garden. (www.fourseasons.com/Philadelphia) The luxurious Old World style property is centrally located at Logan Square.
The Hotel Palomar near Rittenhouse Square is modernist chic. Leopard bathrobes and complimentary nightly wine receptions are replete with truffled popcorn. (www.hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com)
Dining and Drinks
The restaurant scene once dominated by Iron Chef Jose Garces known for Amado and Distrito, and the prodigious over-achiever Stephen Starr (of his 20 restos, five opened this year), has upstarts nipping at their heels.
Current scene-stealers are Fish, Fork, La Croix, Bibou, the revamped Oyster House, Meme, White Dog Café and Vetri, though George Perrier’s Le Bec Fin still reigns as the bastion of French haute cuisine.
JG Domestic in the Cira Centre - Photo credit Jordan Wright
Garces channels The French Laundry at JG Domestic in the Cira Centre for American farm-sourced dining. The menu changes seasonally, but look for Wagyu carpaccio and lobster cappuccino, the Griggstown Farms roast chicken is a standout, plus the yummy bourbon caramel beignets. (www.jgdomestic.com)
Zahav is a modern Israeli-inspired gem. Try the persimmon salad, oxtail soup with fenugreek, Brussel sprouts with whipped feta or a perfect lamb kebab dotted with pistachios. Save room for the hazelnut and date rugelach. (www.zahavrestaurant.com)
Chef, author and television personality, Walter Staib, whose three-time Emmy-winning PBS program “A Taste of History” has been nominated for a James Beard Award this year, is the owner of the elegant City Tavern. Opened in 1773, the original tavern was host to George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, but you can dine there on Staib’s 18th century style gourmet cuisine today. (www.citytavern.com)
On Washington Square the new Talula’s Garden is an enchantingly rustic spot known for their spectacular cheese menu. Try salmon with roasted sunchokes and pancetta or lobster pie with lobster anisette sauce. (www.talulasgarden.com)
In the heart of the theatre district the Walnut Street Supper Club appeals to the Mad Men crowd with a super-glam retro nightclub featuring live entertainment from “I-passed-the-audition!” singing servers. Dishes lean toward Italian specialties and steaks and goes from rack of lamb to lobster ravioli. (www.walnutstreetsupperclub.com)
Around the corner the hot bar scene is El Vez with its dazzling Vegas vibe bar mounted with an illuminated motorcycle. Slip into a plush banquette for a cold Pacifico or blood orange margarita. A ‘50’s draw-draped photo booth for guests documents the visit. (www.elvezrestaurant.com)
Across the street and named number one by National Geographic on their list of the “Top Ten Places in the World to Get Ice Cream”, is Capogiro Gelato Artisans. Try their Cioccolato Scuro, Bananas Foster or Philly Cheesecake flavors. (www.capogirogelato.com)
The Mint Julep at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company - Photo credit Jordan Wright
Cocktails are the main attraction at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. a one-time Prohibition era speakeasy with upscale ingredients and herbal infusions. Indulge in a ‘Blonde Redhead’ or ‘Drums in the Deep’. (www.thefranklinbar.com)
For the best taps in town sample the suds at Hawthorne’s Beer Boutique or tour the tasting rooms at the Yards or the Philadelphia Brewing Company where the beers are crafted on site.
Beck's Cajun Cafe in the Redding Terminal Market - Photo credit Jordan Wright
Right in the heart of Philadelphia is the Redding Terminal Market the oldest farmers market in the US. Built in 1893 it’s a bustling bazaar chock-a-block with farm-sourced delicacies from Pennsylvania Dutch cakes and pies to pickles and spices. Chill out with a dozen briny bivalves at Pearl’s Oyster Bar or chow down on Cajun jambalaya, Southern BBQ, French crepes or Italian hoagies at over 15 dining counters.
Greensgrow Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
While Headhouse Farmers’ Market and Greensgrow Farm grow and sell on site, The Food Trust, with its network of 35 farmers markets around the city, promotes local farmers and budding entrepreneurs.
Over on Baltimore Avenue in what’s know as the University District grab a coffee or Maplehofe Dairy hot chocolate and bagels at the Milk and Honey Market and hit the nearby Clark Park Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings to satisfy your inner locavore. If the weather permits, you can picnic in the adjoining park.
Current Art Scene
Don’t miss the newly relocated The Barnes Foundation, scheduled to open on Logan Square May 19th. www.BarnesFoundation.org
Or tour the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Van Gogh Up Close” exhibit –an exclusive in the US that runs till May 6th. (www.philamuseum.org)
Food Truckers Heat Up the Night
Night Market Philly - photo credit www.nightmarketphilly.org
As the weather warms up Night Market Philly kicks off the season with monthly food truck parties. Twitter followers get regular updates. Standout food truckers are Garces’ Guapo’s Tacos, Pitruco for wood-fired pizzas, Mini Trini featuring Trinidadian flavors, Viva Las Vegans for custom veggie burgers, Tyson Bees for Asian fusion, and Bui’s for Vietnamese.
Dessert lovers like Little Baby’s Ice Cream flavors like Cardamom Caramel or Earl Grey’s Sriracha; Sugar Philly for Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cake; or go for French Macarons; and Nutella cupcakes from the Buttercream truck. Former Roots drummer and Philly native, QuestLove, is rumored to be launching a soul food truck featuring Origami Wrapped Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Sunday Brunch and Italian Market
Linger for Sunday brunch at Daniel Stern’s R2L with sweeping bird’s eye views of the city from the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place on Rittenhouse Square. (www.R2Lrestaurant.com)
The Dandelion Pub is Stephen Starr’s ode to a traditional Irish pub. Sundays feature roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. www.thedandelionpub.com
On the way home stop at Philadelphia’s 100-year old Ninth Street Italian Market. Grab cheeses from Di Bruno’s and Claudios, hand rolled pasta and sauces from Talluto’s and sausages from Fiorella Bros., and specialty game meats and pates from D’Angelo Bros. Open from 8 till 2 on Sundays. (www.phillyitalianmarket.com)
September 18 & 20, 2011
Indian Country Today Media Network
When the urge to nourish the body as well as the spirit comes to us, we should be ready to receive the signal. Our active lives need periods of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation to stay in balance. When traveling through Indian Country there are plenty of soul-soothing places to choose from, but it’s especially rewarding when a first class spa is found within a deluxe resort.
For the thrill-seeker the casino offers a glittering nightlife and sheer exhilaration – cranking up the endorphins and getting the adrenaline flowing. Gamblers fine-tuned to the bright lights and all-night action feel their pulse quickened over a roulette wheel, gaming table or bank of slots, yet the call for periods of tranquility that appeal to our inner selves, still resonates.
So whether the heat comes off a lucky streak or an aromatic steam bath, you can satisfy both cravings at one of these four casino resorts designed to combine both excitement and healing under one big roof.
Spa Treatment Room at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino - photo credit Mohegan Sun Resort and Casion
Mohegan Sun – Connecticut
Situated on 240 acres along the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun is one of the largest casinos in the world. A member of the prestigious Preferred Hotels Group, that defines its members as an elite group of independently owned properties, the 32-story hotel was established by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut and is a mere 15 minutes from the scenic waterfront of historic Mystic Country.
The resort’s beauty salon and full-service Spa at Elemis debuted in 2003, occupying the entire third floor in the hotel’s Sky section. Here guests enjoy signature ancient healing therapies with authentic Mohegan themes. The Ceremony of the Sacred Sun is a lime and ginger salt glow treatment coupled with a self-tanning treatment that gives an all-over glow to the skin and finishes with a soothing well-being massage.
In the Ceremony of the Strawberry Moon couples enjoy a massage lesson and Exotic Jasmine Flower Bath while being pampered with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. In addition two spacious couples’ suites, Father Sky and Mother Earth, are equipped with massage tables, Jacuzzi slipper bath, sensory dry float bed and shower.
Among the seven different facial treatments and eight types of massage rituals, The Trail of Life Ritual offers an Elemis facial with eye zone treatment and collagen or sulphur compress, jasmine flower bath, pedicure, manicure, frangipani hair and scalp ritual and styling, along with a choice of either reflexology or full body massage.
Separate facilities for men and women, house a private steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and relaxation room. The Great Desert Retreat and Great Fresh Water Retreat are among 26 private treatment rooms named for the moons that mark the Tribe’s seasonal changes. An indoor pool and fitness center allow guests to enjoy the spa in all seasons.
For spa reservations outside the hotel call 860 862-4520 or visit www.elemisspa.com.
Couples Treatment Room at Wo' Po'in Spa at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino - photo credit Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino
Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino – New Mexico
At the Pueblo of the Pojoaque Reservation surrounded dramatically by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, you will discover the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino with its exquisite Wo’ Po’ in Spa. A mere 15 miles from Santa Fe’s historic plaza and set in the Rio Grande Valley, this splendid resort is also an art-centric destination. Throughout the water-themed property and in the spa itself are original works by well-known Pueblo artists and weavers. A stunning bronze warrior by iconic artist and sculptor, George Rivera, the tribe’s governor, greets you as you arrive at the porte-cochère.
The full-service spa and beauty salon is a serene escape designed to revitalize and renew the body, mind and spirit within 16,000 square feet of sublime sanctuary. The bright colors and geometric motifs of Native American blankets used in the spa punctuate the soft desert-hued interiors. Featuring thirteen private treatment rooms and a dedicated couples room, the spa employs its signature fragrances and skin care line both of which use indigenous flora. Treatments here are geared to reflect indigenous healing elements of the Pueblo heritage and Pojoaque philosophy that consider the experience a journey, or “poeh” meaning pathway, through past, present and future.
In the Red Earth Cocoon Wrap toxins are cleansed from the system with the application of red mud. Afterwards a native essence lotion, scented with copal, cedar, lavender and citrus essential oils is applied to hydrate the skin.
The Pueblo people believe that stones from the earth carry the spirit of their ancestors, and the spa’s Flowing Spirit Hot Stone Massage, popular with the resort’s golfers and hikers, follows that ancient tradition with the use of warm desert stones combined with native plant oils for balance and purification. Reflecting the same attention to sourcing local products, their Flowing River Pedicure employs a seasonal blend of indigenous salts before applying white clay and essential oils with a warm stone massage.
In the Sacred Earth Cocoon Wrap, a massage is followed by a warm mud application infused with birch, vetiver and juniper oils and culminates in a complete body hydration procedure. Here, wraps such as the Aloe Vera Body Wrap, can be followed by a Vichy shower for the ultimate in bliss. Afterwards don a plush terry robe and relax on a lounge among the water-spouting columns beside the indoor pool.
New for fall, the Turbinado Pomegranate Sugar Scrub ends with a luxurious shea butter goat’s milk hydration massage.
For spa reservations outside the hotel call 505 819-2140 or visit www.buffalothunderresort.com.
Grand Harmony Spa at the Grand Casino Hinckley - photo credit Grand Casino Hinckley
Grand Harmony Spa – Minnesota
Located amid the farms and fields of eastern central Minnesota, named “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, the Grand Casino Hinckley is one of two resort hotel properties owned by the Band of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Indians. Within the resort’s 8,243 square feet lies the Grand Harmony Spa – a paean to healing waters.
Opened in 2007 the spa’s woodland theme replete with waterfalls invites guests to partake of a myriad of treatments and rituals designed to soothe and stimulate the senses with Asian reflexology, Swedish massage, hot stone applications, and aromatherapy steam rooms. Energy-increasing lemongrass or skin-hydrating milk and honey spa baths are complemented by an initial dry brush exfoliation.
Try the Age-Defying Pumpkin Body Masque amped up with antioxidants like cinnamon, clove and caffeine for cellulite reduction, or the Ultimate Body Butter Drench scented with lavender and pine. There is an extensive menu of services including seven different botanically-based facial treatments, five bath rituals and eight separate body rituals using the spa’s premier Hungarian Éminence line of products made with organic fruits like persimmon and cantaloupe. For facial contouring the spa uses the Zirhafirm line for redefining skin firmness and elasticity with the use of wild jujube and maral root.
Indulge in the refreshing Blueberry Bliss Slimming Body Wrap or Detoxifying Chocolate Wrap. Couples are invited to share the experience with a dedicated couples sanctuary called the Serenity Suite. There’s even a Late Night Remedy that includes the chocolate wrap, neck and back massage and express facial followed by a special “hangover” vitamin cocktail.
The spa uses the organic Jane Iredale line of mineral make-up and skin care. A separate beauty salon is on the resort’s property.
For spa reservations outside the hotel call 320 384-4836 or visit www.grandharmonyspa.com.
The T Spa - photo credit Tulalip Resort and Casino
Tulalip Resort and Casino – Washington
Insiders already know the AAA Four Diamond Tulalip Resort and Casino in Seattle, WA through its exceptional dining and stellar wine program. Surrounded by the waters of the Puget Sound and the Cascade mountain range, the resort is a stunning contemporary hotel incorporating native Salish artwork and The T Spa for men and women. The 14,000 sq. ft. spa blends woodland and ocean themes using natural product lines such as the organic Aroma Floria; Phiten, a Japanese line; Skinceuticals; Thalgo, a marine botanical line; and the hand-crafted organic and bio-dynamically grown Mi’kmaq Collection, created in the ancient traditions of the Miqmaq elders of the Pacific Northwest.
The T Spa brings nature indoors by the use of river rocks, dark walnut and birch, the symbol of renewal. The design theme of this full-service spa is carried throughout the elegant space with cedar saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms, and grotto showers. Sixteen treatment rooms, some outfitted with Italian porcelain jetted Jacuzzis, include three couples suites. The VIP suite features a fireplace and blankets woven with the Tulalip tribal symbol of the blackfish that grace the massage tables.
Its Lava Shells Massage, popular with golfers, uses cut and polished tiger clam shells encasing a sachet that when heated bursts through spontaneous combustion releasing herbal essences specifically selected to induce a muscle-relaxing warmth. Sweetgrass oil, hand made for the spa by the Nova Scotian Mi’kmaw tribe, is used in one of the nine massage treatments. Crushed lavender flowers and juniper berries combine with marine salt crystals in the Deep Tissue Bolus Massage. Employing an age management approach in one of 13 facials offered, birch bud extract is applied to increase skin energy. Another technique employs champagne grapes mixed with an aromatic rose essence.
For spa reservations outside the hotel call 360 716-6350 or visit www.tulalipresort.com
August 3, 2011
Special to The Washington Examiner
Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez at the Four Seasons Hotel rooftop garden - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
The very upscale Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia has hopped on the green bandwagon by building over a dozen raised bed planters on their rooftop garden overlooking Logan Circle. Spilling over with cute mini-veggies, glorious flowers used in the hotel’s luxe arrangements, and lush with menu-driven herbs like chocolate mint and lemon thyme, the garden-with-a-view uses other green initiatives like beehives and naturally fertilized soil from hotel compost to coddle their plants.
Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez need only zip up to the 8th floor to pluck fresh ingredients for his exquisite cuisine. The hotel has even enlisted their chief engineer to design a wastewater-recycling program. Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, One Logan Sq.; 215 405-2815; www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia
Beck’s Cajun bar at the Redding Terminal - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
The restored Reading Terminal Market, originally built in 1893 is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmer’s market and a great stop to grab lunch and stock up on everything from Lancaster County Amish pickles and jams, crusty breads and pastries, or crab cakes and smoked meat sandwiches from family-run vendors. Try the spicy gumbo at Beck’s or squeeze in at the counter at Pearl’s Oyster Bar for a dozen of the briny mollusks and a cup of Philly’s favorite snapper soup. On the same aisle, the Fair Food Farmstand carries cheeses, herbs, grass-fed meats and organic veggies from more than 90 sustainable small-scale farms. 12th and Arch Sts.
Kingfisher Dairy Farm whole raw milk - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
In the West Philly neighborhood, Annie Baum-Stein’s groove-in-the-hood Milk and Honey Market carries Kingfisher Farms raw milk. Savor a frosty glass of the forbidden liquid here, since you can’t buy it in the DC area where it’s still illegal. Another local producer Claudio’s provides creamy ricotta, mozzarella and Italian charcuterie, and Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op brings in fresh fruits and veggies weekly. Made to order sandwiches like the spicy Thai tofu or the Italian caprese panini go down nicely with a Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer. 4425 Baltimore Ave.
Across the street, Roost, a popular chicken place also owned by Baum-Stein, cooks up roasted or fried birds from Grigg’s Town Farm. 4529 Springfield Ave.
From there it’s a pleasant stroll to The Clark Park Market run by The Food Trust. Open Thursdays from 3-7p.m. and Saturdays from 10-2p.m. Home baked peanut butter or chocolate whoopee pies share space with glistening berries and heirloom vegetables. On Thursdays the Guapos Tacos food truck sells duck, pork or vegetarian tacos topped with guacamole and cotija cheese for a leisurely lunch in the park. 43rd St. and Baltimore Ave.
DINING ON LOCAL
The communal dining table at Fork - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
The nightly communal table at cookbook author Ellin Yin’s Fork in the bustling Old City, is where chef Terence Feury’s New American bistro cooking might feature the daily catch. Feury, named Philadelphia’s “Best Chef 2010” prepared us a whole wild striped bass with local vegetables. Serious anglers can take his guided fishing trips once a month to catch their own and learn how to prepare it. 305 Market St.
MidAtlantic Restaurant and Tap Room, in the University City area is where this hip destination resto serves its reinvented local dishes in a rustic slash modern decor. Chef Daniel Stern, former top toque at Le Bec-Fin, shows off the Pennsylvania Dutch influence with in-house made charcuterie served with exceptional raw cow’s milk cheeses from Chester County’s Birchrun Hills Farm. Order the Welsh rarebit fondue, perfect for dunking Stern’s version of the Philly hot pretzel, or the crab scrapple with pepper jelly and horseradish emulsion. A rich malted milk chocolate mousse cake is the capper. 3711 Market St.
The Mint Julep at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
The stylishly dark and intimate Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company doesn’t make loans in this former speakeasy, but it does make exquisite classic cocktails using a Kold-Draft icemaker for perfectly square cubes. Go for the ‘Serious Misgivings’ Punch – by the cup or bowl – suitable for sharing with fellow connoisseurs; or the ‘Blonde Redhead’ made with cognac, raspberry syrup rosewater and champagne. Mint juleps appear in a proper silver julep cup, and a concoction called ‘Queen Bitch’, uses Guyanese rum tricked up with Cocchi Americano, Genever gin, blanc vermouth and absinthe. 112 So. 18th St.
JG Domestic - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
Tucked into the atrium of the Cira Centre building is the raw wood farmhouse decor of Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant JG Domestic. The design translates into a distinctive juxtaposition to the ultra-contemporary Cesar Pelli-designed skyscraper. The authentic Americana style, replete with trees and a wall of herbs and greenery, is a harbinger of farm-to-fork cuisine. Think of it as the East Coast’s version of the French Laundry. Begin with Iowa popcorn or hickory smoked Georgia pecans. Continue with cocktails like the Zephyr, made with gin, cucumber, orange cordial. The dinner menu features a section called “Tonight” with “Whole Animal” defining a dish crafted by using a farm raised animal in its entirety such as roast suckling Pennsylvania lamb, roasted leg and shoulder, crispy confit ribs and braised belly; or the indelibly memorable roast chicken. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner is adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. 2929 Arch St.
Volunteers from PHS with Tai Chi class - Photo credit Jordan Wright
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has rescued a scraggy lot at 20th and Market Streets in Center City converting it into a temporary paradise of raised-bed gardens featuring educational workshops for inner city kids. Situated beside Blue Cross Blue Shield’s headquarters the animal topiaries recycled from their famed annual Philadelphia Flower Show put this garden in a special category and reflect a kid-friendly design dynamic. Tai Chi classes and nighttime film screenings share space with arugula and heirloom tomatoes. The program donates veggies to local restaurants to create signature dishes. Proceeds from the sales of these dishes go to City Harvest, to distribute to the city’s food cupboards.
Marathon Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
It takes more than guts to plant a garden in a sketchy down-at-the-heels neighborhood, it takes drive and sweat equity. This spring Patrick Dunn, formerly of the Emerald Street Urban Farm Project, commandeered the space in the Brewerytown neighborhood to raise crops and keep bees for Marathon’s multiple restaurants. A pop-up weekend farmers market caters to the locals. You can keep track of their efforts at www.marathonfarm.com; 27th and Master Sts.
Greensgrow Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
In the Kensington section of Philadelphia the laidback vibe at Greensgrow Farm is courtesy of senior citizen and visionary, Mary Seton Corboy. Founder of the Neighborhood Urban Agriculture Coalition, the pixieish former DC resident, along with a battalion of volunteers, found a vacant lot, like the proverbial phoenix emerging from the ashes, created a California-hip organic gardens plus CSA, nursery and educational workshop. The engaging former political scientist turned farmer, is usually found on site dispensing savvy gardening tips to urban gardeners. 2501 East Cumberland St.; www.greensgrow.org.
Philadelphia Brewing Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
At the Philadelphia Brewing Company, housed in the 19th C former Weisbrod & Hess Brewery company, enjoy a tour and taste of their Philly-named beers, like Walt Wit, an unfiltered Belgian White-style ale; Harvest from the Hood; and Kensinger, a smooth golden ale. Named one of the nation’s top five sustainable breweries because they grow their own hops, some from an on-site courtyard garden where you’ll also spot a pedal-powered ‘spaceship’, last year’s entry in the Kinetic Sculpture Derby at the annual East Kensington Arts Fest parade. 2423-2439 Amber St.
STROKING YOUR ECO
Terrain at Styer’s cafe - Photo Credit Jordan Wright
A few miles out of town in Glen Mills, the high end emporium Terrain at Styer’s is a must visit. The stunning store and garden center, brimming with natural spa products, garden furnishings and hand-carved kitchenware, also houses an adorable café. Dine on local seasonal delights such as Kennett Square mushroom skillet with fried egg, or cold minty pea soup in a rustic greenhouse dripping with baskets of fuschia and stag horn ferns. 914 Baltimore Pike; www.styers.shopterrain.com
Via Amtrak from Union Station to the Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is less than 2 hours and around $50.00 each way. By car it’s a straight shot on I-95 to the Center City exit.