July 17, 2014
Summer’s bounty from Tree and Leaf Farm
Beckoning the supermarket-weary shopper are our local farmers markets and closest to me are the markets in Del Ray, Old Town Alexandria, Crystal City and Mount Vernon – four markets who have had my business for many years. Recently I discovered the Falls Church Farmers Market, a producer-only market that is twice the size of the markets I have near home.
Kale Salad from Oh Mercy!
Here you can find Mercy Duncan-Bloomgarden’s “Oh Mercy!” line of Ghanaian-inspired sauces, salads and condiments. Her kale, Fuji apple and goat cheese salad, green salsa and fiery hot sauces reveal a distinctly African dynamic.
This two-street rambling market is chock-a-block with fresh local products. Herbs and flowers both cut and abloom in pots, sit alongside tents filled with dozens of varieties of farm fresh vegetables. I found honey, juicy white and yellow peaches (I even spied watermelon with bright yellow flesh), turnips, beans, peas, heirloom tomatoes, green leafy veggies and tubers, all straight from local farms. Handcrafted sausages, sustainably raised beef, lamb, rabbit and free-range chickens’ eggs could be found here alongside crusty Euro-style breads and scrumptious baked goods – to wit – pies to die for.
Nutella Crepes from Kate’s Crepes – The Mushroom Man
What I didn’t expect to find were wines, doughnuts deep-fried on site, smoked salmon, made-to-order Nutella crepes, spun wool from a sheep farm, six varieties of gourmet mushrooms, home baked doggie treats, Turkish pastries, savory pastries, cheeses, fresh fish and soft shell crabs. Just don’t expect to find what doesn’t grow, isn’t made or isn’t raised in the Mid Atlantic region.
Deep fried doughnuts
What surprised me most was meeting Bonnie Driggers who teaches Botanical Art in the town’s library. Editor of the new “Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic”, a stunning and informative book illustrated with beautiful botanical paintings by local artists interpreting the flora common to our area, she was there to field questions and sign copies of the book.
Christophe and Michelle Poteaux of Bastille Restaurant – Tasting the Zucchini Soup
The Saturday I visited noted Chefs Michelle and Christophe Poteaux of Bastille restaurant in Alexandria were in the monthly “Chef Series” tent preparing and serving a delicious rendition of their Cold Zucchini Soup.
Caitlin Dysart/ Award-winning (Pastry Chef of the Year/ RAMMYS 2014) Pastry Chef/ 2941 Restaurant
Tomorrow morning at 9am RAMW Award-winning Pastry Chef, Caitlin Dysart from 2941 Restaurant, will prepare and serve Butterscotch Budino with Stone Fruit and Thyme. Dysart will source fruit and herbs from the market.
The Falls Church Farmers Market is located in the City Hall Parking Lot at 300 Park Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. It is open every Saturday year round from 9am till noon. www.fallschurchva.gov/547/Farmers-Market
July 12, 2014
Photo credit Jordan Wright
At East Lynn Farm in Round Hill
The minute you turn onto Snickersville Turnpike from the John Mosby Highway, the stress of the city begins to fall away like husk off corn. It’s the route I chose to drive to East Lynn Farm in Round Hill, Virginia for a field to plate dinner. In my book driving through a green leafy tunnel, pierced through by the afternoon sun’s golden rays, is a far better introduction to the charms of the countryside than the countless traffic lights, strip malls and gas stations along Route 7. But curving around country lanes and gazing out onto wide swaths of open farmland, allows the spirit to ease mindfully into a more peaceful dimension.
As I pulled into the driveway I noticed a few other guests had already arrived. One of the chefs greeted me from the front porch and steered me to a path behind the historic farmhouse where a long linen-covered table beckoned beneath tall pines. Edging the perimeter of the bucolic scene, farm baskets overflowed with yellow squash. And torches, raised up on bamboo poles, ringed the newly mown grass. On the patio guests introduced themselves and sipped wine in the softening light. Very quickly a shared sense of adventure and camaraderie took hold of the strangers.
Before dinner service farm owner Georgia Ravitz led the twenty or so of us on a brief tour. Surrounded by hayfields dotted with weathered red barns, we strolled down the neat rows of the four-acre vegetable and flower gardens, stopping along the way to nibble on vining peas and spearmint while imagining them in our supper-to-be. On the north end of the gardens pasture-raised chickens foraged on ground insects and a small pond edged in willows afforded ducks and frogs a calm respite from the day’s heat.
Thank you, chicks
Inside the farmhouse’s state-of-the-art kitchen, three passionate chefs and their capable crew were abuzz with activity. Terence Tomlin, Mackenzie Kitburi and Kiril Stavrev had set the stage for their six-course dinner and all hands were on deck.
Kitburi and Tomlin had met at Range, Bryan Voltaggio’s American Modern restaurant in Friendship Heights. Coincidentally they had started their jobs there on the same day and, as Kitburi describes their friendship, “It took Terry awhile to warm up to me, but we’ve been clicking ever since.” Eventually Kitburi told his new friend about an idea he’d been hatching. He wanted to start a company that would stage elegant pop-up dinners in supper clubs and existing restaurants. “I told him about my plans and my vision and he got on board right away,” Kitburi explained. Stavrev, who brought along Marriott and Ritz-Carlton experience, came into the brotherly mix soon after. “He’s a great cook who complements us. We’re definitely on the same wave-length,” Kitburi says.
The company they formed, Capital Taste, is not a caterer per se. As Kitburi sees it, “My vision is to switch up the dining experience with unique menus and themes. I prefer a tasting style menu so people can experience a number of different tastes during one sitting. We want people to come to us for the food. We don’t plan to bring food to people.”
Summer Squash Mousse
This evening’s pop-up was the young chefs’ first in a summer series of five farm dinners and it began with a beautiful amuse bouche of watermelon, fennel and mint, followed by zucchini mousse with herbs, and then, a sheer tomato consommé expressed by the fruit and liquid from heirloom tomatoes and crowned by a single squash blossom.
Tomato Consommé with Squash Blossom
Potato rösti topped with a sunny hen egg (Thank you, little chicks!), became a foil for truffle hollandaise. And after segueing the wine pairings from whites to reds, a duo of rack of lamb and lamb sausage with chimichurri and eggplant purée was introduced.
Sunny Hen Egg on Potato Rosti with Truffle Hollandaise
As the light grew dim, candles and torches provided the table’s sole source of illumination, and our fourth course arrived. Slices of the farm’s Angus strip loin steak got the benefit of charred baby Japanese eggplant plus two sauces – a delicate soubise hinting of onions and a glistening summer truffle sauce.
Lamb Rack and Lamb Sausage
The lively conversation and breathless compliments paused only when someone remarked on the moon. A zillion stars sparkled in the Western sky as fireflies performed their staccato dance across the darkened horizon, and the final dish was presented. On a magical night where every course had delivered the promise of pasture and garden, the chefs had given the final nod to the harvest with Tomlin’s specialty, vegetable ice cream – one of red beet, the other using white asparagus. Impossible concepts that proved transcendent before melting into a lasting memory.
Duo of Red Beet and White Asparagus Ice Creams
To dine in such a way is a wonderment. To partake of nature’s bounty expressed in sublime artistry, is truly divine.
The next dinner at East Lynn Farm will be on Sunday evening, July 20th. To book your reservations go to info@CapitalTaste.com. To learn more about the Inn at East Lynn or the farm’s CSA program go to www.EastLynnFarm.com.
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
July 6, 2014
Napkin dispenser inspires diners to spread the word
It seems like branches of Protein Bar are sprouting up all over the Washington, DC area, not to mention other parts of the country. The fourth and latest local edition of the fast food eatery opened two weeks ago at 925 17th Street, NW near K Street, joining thirteen other outlets in their home town of Chicago and three in Colorado.
As an opening day promotion the first 100 customers received $100 gift certificates – an offer that attracted a lot of media attention and some eager customers. Notwithstanding the generous incentives, athletes and health conscious diners have already found the food to be creative and delicious, while simultaneously living up to the eatery’s motto, “We do healthy … healthier.”
Organic quinoa blend
There is a method to ordering here – building a meal by creating it yourself. Start off by choosing the base protein for the “Protein Bar-ritos” – either all-natural chicken or organic tofu. Or try the “Quinoa Bowls”. Using a blend of red quinoa, golden quinoa, white millet, amaranth (a grain biologically similar to quinoa) and crunchy flax seeds, this base features the ancient, high protein, naturally gluten-free grain first cultivated in the Peruvian Andes. Then add toppings like Black Bean, Spinach and Pesto, Buffalo, Chili (there are chicken or veggie versions) or Healthy Parm, made with chicken, house-made marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Super 6 Salad Mix
“Signature Salads” use a house blend of raw veggies for maximum nutritional value. The “Super 6 Salad Mix” is a combination of romaine, spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots and purple cabbage, and is served with your choice of several house made dressings. More complex salads appear on the menu with geographically inspired names like Southwest, Memphis, Buffalo and Baja.
Samples of the filling for the Buffalo Protein Bar-rito
At a recent sampling of the menu’s offerings, guests enjoyed several different items including the “Buffalo Protein Bar-rito” made with chicken, quinoa blend, blue cheese, house-made Buffalo sauce and the crunchy good salad mix. The bold flavors work well together and the Buffalo sauce gives it a spicy kick. The “Superfood Vegan Signature Salad” features tasty marinated tofu. Here it is paired with kale, pepitas, chickpeas and creamy chia seed dressing.
Abbas Lochina preparing a “Hi-5” juice drink
“Signature Drinks” and “Raw Juices” are naturally sweet. No refined sugar is used. Instead sweetness is achieved with agave syrup or ripe fresh fruits like pineapple used in the leafy green drink, “Hi-5”. Along with extracted juices are the smoothies. The “Blue Line” Signature Drink, a blend of vanilla protein, blueberries, banana and choice of milk, 2%, skim, almond or soy, is as high in flavor as it is low in fat.
The Protein Bar’s concern with the nutritional value of food is evidenced by the information printed below each menu item, listing the number of calories and the grams of fat, carbs, fiber and protein. Their commitment to providing flavorful menu selections is just as serious. Protein Bar defines its mission as “to change the way people eat on the go.” Next time you are on the go, give them a chance to change your mind about what fast food can and should be.
Select locations serve breakfast till 10:30am on weekdays and 12:30pm on weekends. To find a location near you visit www.theproteinbar.com.
Photo credit Cary Pollak
April 10, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
Photo credit to City of Alexandria staff
The British are coming! The British are coming! It’s been 200 years since the British Royal Navy invaded the Port of Alexandria, but this time they’ll be here by invitation.
As event organizer and resident, Peter Pennington explains, “The festival really commemorates two things. The 1814 war, which was vital to the founding of the U. S as one country, and secondly the fact that enemies can become the firmest of friends!”
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World premiered in 2003 and received 10 nominations for Academy Awards, including best picture. It was directed and co-written by celebrated Australian director Peter Weir, famous for movies The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society. The movie was drawn from the 20-volume series of seafaring novels by Patrick OBrian, following the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey [Russell Crowe] and his close friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin [Paul Bettany]. – Photo credit to 20th Century Fox, Miramax Films and Universal Studios
To kick off Alexandria’s Bicentennial Commemoration of the War of 1812 organizers are holding a “Film Gala” in the newly restored Old Town Theater. The fundraiser, which will donate part of its proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project as well as the British equivalent Help for Heroes, will begin with a cocktail reception to be followed by a screening of the Oscar-winning naval classic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
starring Russell Crowe. A pre-screening discussion about the shooting of the film will include a talk by Kyle Dalton, who worked on the replica HMS Surprise, the 18th
Century Royal Navy frigate used in the movie. Special guest USMC Sergeant Brendan O’Toole, the 2007 T. C. Williams High School grad who recently ran 3,600 miles across the country to raise funds for the Wounded Warriors, will speak about the charity. On display will be some of the costumes from the film along with naval artifacts of the period that have been provided by local Alexandria museums.
Alexandria resident Brendan O’Toole carries a U.S. flag during his run through West Texas in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier – Photo by Tim Dwyer
Now you might think after torching our Nation’s Capitol and burning down the Executive Mansion in 1814, then several days later storming Alexandria’s harbor and occupying our city, that we wouldn’t be particularly pleased to roll out the red carpet and hoist up the Union Jack for the British Royal Navy. But indeed we will. We have a good deal to be grateful for, not least of all that their soldiers didn’t burn down our city. That most of our historic buildings are still intact is due to a capitulation pact made between the invading British troops and Alexandria’s Common Council who reluctantly granted the marauders free rein to clean out the city’s storehouses of spirits, tobacco, armaments and tasty comestibles, taking with them twenty-one ships from our fair harbor.
Edward Stabler sold to a variety of city and country residents – from Martha Washington to Robert E. Lee, the local doctor to the local farmer. The typical products Stabler sold included medicine, farm and garden equipment, surgical instruments, dental equipment, soap, perfume, Buffalo and Bedford mineral water, cigars, window glass, paint and varnish, artists’ supplies, combs and brushes. Much of the medicine he sold was created on-site, using plant and herb materials. – Photo Credit: Ben Fink
Apothecary owner Edward Stabler, whose pharmacy still stands, described the surprise incursion like this, “Their conduct was respectful and decorous; and instead of that exultation and triumph which expands the heart of a soldier when he encounters and overcomes a force like his own, these [men] were evidently dejected and adverse to what they were doing.”
But they are not entirely off the hook. Ever since last December when an invitational challenge from Mayor Bill Euille was tendered to the British Royal Navy, the city has been planning a myriad of activities. Representatives of the British Defence staff, led by Royal Marine Major-General Buster Howes, CB OBE, will participate in the sporting events.
Throughout the spring and summer there will be lectures sponsored by the Alexandria Historical Society, boat tours on the Potomac, and living history events culminating with a large outdoor festival on the final weekend in August when both a cricket match and a yacht race under sail up the Potomac River will take place. The race will feature the captains of the British team competing against the Old Dominion Boat Club who will represent the city.
Some events are ticketed. To purchase tickets to the Film Gala visit https://shop.alexandriava.gov/ For information on all other events go to www.visitalexandriava.com/1812.
February 20, 2014
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Earlier this month DC’s “Sugar and Champagne Affair” welcomed hundreds of guests who raised cane to benefit the Washington Humane Society. The much-anticipated event held in the Ronald Reagan Building draws both owners and their precious pets to a canine-themed gala. And it’s all for a good cause. Now that’s something to celebrate!
The glamorous fundraiser is the creation of Ellen Kassoff Gray. She and her top toque husband, Todd Gray, who is the Executive Chef at the venerable Equinox restaurant, Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran Gallery, and the kitchen at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA were co-hosts of the event.
Thirteen years ago Ellen correctly surmised that the local restaurant community and particularly many of the area’s talented pastry chefs would be happy to help her promote the cause of animal welfare, an issue she is passionate about. Ellen again served as Host Committee Chairwoman bringing along her two handsome German Shepherds to meet and greet guests and canine celebs, while Todd could be seen preparing and serving tastings of some of his specialties.
All types of pooches from tiny-as-a-teacup Chihuahuas to massive Marmaduke-sized dogs accompanied their owners to the festivities – many elaborately dressed up or sporting festively colored fur for the occasion. Doris Pasternak was accompanied by her rescue Poodle, Chilly, who has his own blog chillydogblog.com. And Dixie Eng and Julia Jacobus brought their Goldendoodles who regale their fans at GroovyGoldendoodles.com.
Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin’s #8 jersey
Smaller canine cuties included Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, who showed up wearing a replica of Washington Capitals’ hockey star’s Alex Ovechkin’s jersey. Kimberly Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix Todd, who has come a long way from being rescued after an oil spill, wore a mini-tuxedo.
Kimberley Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear
Almost eighty area chefs and wineries created a memorable feast. There were oysters and sushi along with other savory preparations, but the biggest draw of the evening was the sweet treats baked by some of our area’s most talented pastry chefs – from Taberna del Alabardero and their pretty pink and white confections with tufts of freshly made cotton candy, to Baklava Couture’s individual pastries with cinnamon walnut or pistachio fillings.
Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort
In keeping with the evening’s theme, the Olde Towne Pet Resort placed doggie treats in bowls as well as champagne flutes. Some of these morsels looked so good two-legged guests were hard-pressed to keep their paws off. And while Poste Moderne Brasserie offered homemade biscuits for pets, their owners could indulge in a version of s’mores with chocolate marshmallow confections on graham cracker crusts.
Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.
Guests eagerly awaited the highlight of the evening – a cake competition featuring the amazing artistry of our local pastry chefs. The spectacular winning entry was a cake made to look like a champagne bottle beside a pug licking its chops. Created by Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves and Amy Tucker, the stunning confection was made with hand-painted and sculpted devil’s food cake and fondant that looked way too good to eat. Another whimsical creation was a velvety green sofa with a naughty dog trying to hide himself under a cushion. Pastry Chef Lauren Petri of The Hamilton who designed the clever cake, added a particularly humorous and challenging touch of a partially unraveled roll of toilet paper at the foot of the couch.
The Washington Humane Society relies on fundraisers such as the “Sugar and Champagne Affair” to continue their work protecting the animals of our region. Last year WHS Field Officers responded to over 17,000 calls to help animals in need. Plan to join in the fun next year, and bring your precious pup for a howlin’ good time.
Photo credits: Cary Pollak