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 1, 2014
Photo credit Jordan Wright
Special to the Alexandria Times
2015 Hyundai Genesis at Salamander Resort & Spa
An hour’s drive to the tony village of Middleburg doesn’t seem far at all when the end game is a posh five-star resort. An overnight stay was planned to coincide with a test drive in Hyundai’s recently launched 2015 Genesis. It seemed an appropriately prestigious match for the latest in luxury properties from founder, Sheila C. Johnson.
For our one-night getaway we chose Salamander Resort & Spa, a spectacularly posh destination in the heart of wine country where horses, spa treatments and gourmet dining were on our “to do” list.
The restored Aldie Mill
Just past Gilbert’s Corners where Route 50 and Route 15 meet, you’ll come into the quaint town of Aldie. If you have an hour or so be sure to stop in at the Aldie Mill Historic Park to tour the four-story grain mill where President James Monroe had his grain ground when he lived at Oak Hill. Flanked by the merchant mill, storehouse and granary, the early 19th century mill is powered by tandem water wheels that still use the original French burr stones. It is quite a sight to behold.
Arriving at the luxury resort midday, we checked in at the concierge desk where guests are offered a complimentary glass of the day’s featured Virginia wine. Very civilized. Strolling around we began to notice the elegance of the hotel and its equestrian themed touches – room numbers decorated with stirrups, horse-and-rider silhouettes emblazoned on porch rails, lamps adorned with horseshoes, and grand reception rooms decorated in the style of many of the manor houses in hunt country. Even the bellmen sport riding breeches here. It’s all quite tasteful and understated. But once you’re on a mission to find these elements you can spy them everywhere, even in the Main reception room, said to have been designed after Dr. Johnson’s private living room.
Sushi in the Gold Cup Wine Bar
We took a simple lunch of sushi with a glass of Virginia wine in the Gold Cup Wine Bar, that takes its name from the area’s august biannual steeplechase race of which Salamander is a major sponsor. Then it was off to a Gluten-Free Cooking Class given by Chef de Cuisine, Chris Edwards. Held in the state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, the classes are part of an ongoing culinary teaching program, popular with both guests and locals, and overseen by the resort’s Culinary Director, famed DC Chef, Todd Gray.
Chef de Cuisine Chris Edwards teaching the Gluten-Free cooking class
As we learned the science of baking with grains as diverse as buckwheat, sorghum, quinoa and millet, and turning them into popovers and pizza dough, we sipped complimentary champagne and nibbled on Pastry Chef Jason Reaves’ herb-infused version of ice cream sandwiches – - Blackberry Basil, bracketed by almond cookies, and Mint Chocolate, homemade spearmint ice cream swathed in chocolate cookies and dipped in bittersweet curls. Learning can be so stressful.
Herb infused ice cream sandwiches
Next on the agenda was the Mindfulness Trail Ride, a leisurely amble across some of the resort’s 340 acres. Down at the stables, however, we discovered that the previous day’s gullywasher had rendered the trail too slippery, even for our sure-footed steeds. Thankfully all was not lost when at Equestrian Director Sheryl Jordan’s suggestion, we substituted a woodsy ride for a riding lesson with one of the instructors, and after a carriage ride into the village with our coachman, James.
A carriage ride through the storied village of Middleburg
Dinner was in Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. Named after Pamela Harriman, the socialite and former Ambassador to France who owned the original estate, it is the more formal of the two restaurants and a stunning showcase for the skills of Executive Chef Sean McKee. Especially lovely were dishes enhanced by herbs and produce from the property’s two-acre kitchen garden. Mozzarella Caprese salad was really a ball of creamy burrata nestled beside grape tomatoes, olives and fresh basil and came with a tableside drizzle of aged balsamic. Lobster Seviche, served in a glass-lidded box, was strewn with microgreens and cilantro clipped fresh from the kitchen garden.
Lobster Seviche – Mozzarella Caprese Salad – Spring Collection vegetarian entree
Entrées are listed separately from “Cuts” which include beef, lamb and pork from neighboring farms. A choice of seven different gourmet sauces includes escargot in garlic butter, chimichurri and foie gras butter. A vegetarian entrée we found especially delightful was “Spring Collection” – a colorful array of seasonal veggies served with a cylinder of pan-seared polenta. After dinner enjoy a stroll into the field for s’mores at one of the firepits, or catch a game of pool in the wood-paneled game room.
Ribeye steak at Harrimans
Regrettably we passed up sunrise yoga on horseback. It sounded terrific in the brochure, but a dawn-breaking class was not part of our agenda, even if it does involve horses and getting your inner spirit in balance. Instead we languished in the room (all have private patios overlooking the rolling countryside) with a full-on breakfast and freshly made green smoothies, before heading downstairs to the spa where I had booked a rejuvenating Vitamin C facial. The sumptuous treatment involved a face massage with reparative serum, and while that was being absorbed into the skin, a relaxing foot massage. Facials are just one of the dozens of restorative treatments and massages available in the holistically-inspired full-service luxury spa.
The heated infinity pool, one of three
Afterwards a dip in the heated infinity pool, a jungle rain shower, replete with lightening and thunder, and a power nap on mosaic-tiled warming beds, prepared us for our departure.
Mosaic tiled warming beds in the spa
Though the hotel was abuzz with guests due to the Upperville Horse Show (Salamander is also a major sponsor of this oldest horse show in America), we managed to secure a late departure. It wasn’t easy to leave the comfort and luxe, but we toddled off along winding country lanes for a planned tour of RdV Vineyards, where Bordeaux grapes planted on a granite hillside mimic the terroir of the Bordeaux region. Inspired by the unconventional owner’s vision – he lives in an Air Stream trailer on the property – they are producing some of the most revered wines to emerge from Virginia.
RdV vineyards overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains
It is a quiet and modern place, built primarily underground in German Bauhaus style. You won’t see buses filled with tourists, pets, kids or BBQ grills. This is an exclusive and serious experience befitting wines of the highest caliber. You’ll need to reserve in advance, but the informative tour includes a tasting of their premium wines, an experience you won’t soon forget. We left laden with a few bottles, if only to keep the memories alive…
Traveling back on Route 50 in Upperville we decided to while away a few hours at the horse show, where the country’s top riders and their million dollar mounts are put through their paces. We even spied former New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter, Georgina, soaring over some daunting jumps while keeping an ear to owners’ and competitors’ running commentary.
Taking the jumps at the Upperville Horse Show
Building up a ferocious appetite from mentally riding our imaginary horses, we fueled up at Hunter’s Head Tavern in the village. Built in 1750, the restored Colonial log house serves superb British pub fare sourcing meat and eggs from the owner’s nearby Ayrshire farm. Here you’ll find bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, and a terrific shepherd’s pie.
At Hunter’s Head Tavern with the charming patio in the background
I swooned over the liver and onions, a dish as scarce as hen’s teeth these days. Before heading home we raised a pint to one of the tavern’s reputed ghosts.
Liver and Onions sourced from the owner’s Ayrshire Farm certified humanely raised beef
For information and reservations at Salamander Resort & Spa or to learn about their new Tree Top Canopy zipline tours visit www.SalamanderResort.com. For a tour and tasting at RdV in Delaplane, VA, go to www.RdVVineyards.com.
June 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
The Black Horse Inn in Warrenton
Less than an hour’s drive from Alexandria lies the small burg of Warrenton where tree-lined streets reveal a pedigree that goes back centuries. Its stately architecture reflected in a Classical Revival courthouse, 18th and 19th century mansions, and the Old Jail Museum, an 1808 brick-and-stone structure filled with intriguing arcana and an alleged ghost. The area is known as a refuge for old line Virginia families raising thoroughbreds and children in understated elegance. Unlike avid history buffs exploring Fauquier County for traces of the Civil War and its battlefields, we were in search of good food, good wine, and a luxurious country inn.
Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Winery
Our first stop was Pearmund Cellars, a mile or so off Route 29. Awarded Virginia Wine Lover magazine’s “Best of Readers’ Choice Award for Best Winery” in 2014, the winery credits its success with stunning viogniers, petit verdots, chardonnays and a superb Ameritage (a Bordeaux blend that took gold at the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year).
The tasting room is low-key, wood-paneled and cozy – nothing elaborate with the exception of the wines, which are stellar. Chris Pearmund, a legend among Virginia’s winemakers, was waiting for us. Gracious and knowledgeable, he brought out bottle after bottle, including older wines from his private cellar, which he then generously offered to a small group, who were beyond ecstatic to sample from such precious vintages.
Every summer Pearmund leads wine tours to a different European country. This year, he’ll take a group on a ten-day trip along the Danube. In 2015 he will conduct a tour along the Rhone River in France. Trip info is on the winery’s website www.PearmundCellars.com
We took lunch at the Red Truck Bakery & Market across from the courthouse. Housed in a former filling station it is instantly recognizable by the cherry red ‘54 Ford truck parked out front. Owner Brian Noyes bought it from fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and christened the store after it. The small shop with the rustic décor is where Noyes turns out notoriously decadent granola and mouth-watering baked goods. Try the Double Chocolate Moonshine Cake made with corn whiskey from the next county.
Curried Chicken Salad sandwich at Red Truck Bakery
Sitting at a communal farm table we gobbled up tomato peach gazpacho, homemade meatloaf and curried chicken salad sandwiches followed by first-of-the-season strawberry rhubarb pie. Noyes sources all his fruits from nearby farms. We left with cranberry orange muffins as big as your fist, whole wheat bread studded with nuts and fruit and bags of the addictive granola. www.RedTruckBakery.com
Along Main Street you’ll find tons of shops. Check out Be Boutique for clothing, handbags and accessories, The Town Duck for gifts and upscale home accessories, and G. Whillikers for old time toys and children’s books. Drop in at Jimmie’s Market for a proper cuppa in the Madison Tea Room while browsing vintage tchotchkes and furnishings from its former life as a 1950’s barbershop. You might like to pick up a bauble or two from Carter & Spence, a particularly fine jeweler featuring high-end designer pieces. And if a horse enthusiast is on your list, you’ll need to stop in at Horse Country Saddlery, where riding gear and tweed jackets share space with fashionable hats suitable for Gold Cup.
The foyer at the Black Horse Inn
The rain was coming down in sheets as we headed to the Black Horse Inn, our sanctuary for the night. Minutes from the center of town, the inn is a stunning 19th century colonial with spacious receiving rooms furnished in elegant period antiques and hunt country décor. Innkeeper Lynn Pirozzoli graciously welcomes guests with an open bar along with cheeses and fresh berries. Since you’re in Virginia Hunt Country, Lynn will arrange for guests to ride in any one of ten local hunts. Guests can bring their own horses or rent made horses from her stables. The estate also offers a novice cross-country course on the property.
Bouillabaisse at The Bridge
Dinner at The Bridge Restaurant and Wine Company, where tables are surrounded by an impressive collection of floor-to-ceiling bottles of wine, was outstanding. The charming two-story restaurant is known for innovative and locally-sourced cuisine, exemplified by a rich rendition of a Marseille-inspired bouillabaisse and giant lump crab cakes over fennel slaw. Locals cherish Monday’s all-you-can-eat mussel nights, gooey Irish cheddar grits, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and plates of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. On Thursdays sample the free tastings of Virginia wines in the stone cellar. www.TheBridgeWarrenton.com.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes at The Bridge
On our way back to the inn the skies opened up (so much for a refreshing spring rain) and we returned to the inn where we stayed in the honeymoon suite, amusingly called “Great Expectations”. All nine of the inn’s well-appointed guest rooms have private baths, fine linens and fireplaces. There’s even a separate cottage, the “Hunt Box Suite”, with its own kitchen, Jacuzzi and wet bar. We nodded off to the mesmerizing sounds of torrential rains pinging from the roof of our very own screen porch.
Breakfast at the Black Horse Inn
Morning brought clear skies and sun glistening off fiery pink azaleas, dappling the gazebo and streaming through venerable oaks. After a hearty breakfast augmented by specially requested green smoothies, we toured the inn’s spectacular event space, “The Gilded Fox”. Situated beyond the house in a pretty vale the stately building is framed by boxwood gardens and a garden terrace. www.BlackHorseInn.com
Back in town we stopped for lunch with Shelley Ross, the owner of the Natural Marketplace. A Certified Nutritional Consultant, member of the American Association of Holistic Practitioners and certified in raw food nutrition, when we met she had just returned from a transformational journey to a healing center in Phuket, Thailand.
Reuben sandwiches at the Natural Marketplace
The store can only claim 2,600 square feet of a Colonial house, yet it is filled to the rafters with a comprehensive selection of organic and nutritious foods, cookbooks on healthy eating, and natural supplements. Recently they beat out thousands of stores to win the “The National Retail Award of Excellence”, especially singled out for their sense of mission.
Sitting on the front porch we ate grilled Reuben sammies on sprouted multi-grain bread and sipped on Lemon Cayenne KeVita probiotic drinks, while locals streamed in for fruit smoothies, organic veggie juices and monster stuffed sandwiches – all made to order. The store and small take-out restaurant is a health food lover’s fantasy realized. For information about the marketplace’s holistic therapies and other wellness services, visit www.NaturalMarketplace.com.
Winemaker Sudha Patil of Narmada Winery
On the way home we popped into Narmada Winery in Amissville. Situated on 51 acres of rolling countryside, owners Pandit Patil and his wife, Sudha, brought a slice of India to Amissville, Virginia when they bought their property in 1998, planting acres of vines as a hedge against the boredom of retirement. The tasting room is quite pretty with sage-colored walls adorned with curry-colored Indian scrollwork and the winery’s peacock symbol. Gorgeous handmade ceramic tiles by local artisan Libet Henze of Far Ridge Ceramics frame a large fireplace. A nice variety of Indian foods are offered.
The winery opened in 2009 and almost immediately won the Riverside Wine Competition Chairman’s Award for “1st in Class” for their Cabernet Franc Reserve. Soon after their viognier garnered a Gold Medal in California. While they currently use 75% of their grapes from the property, they soon will up that to 95% estate grown grapes.
We were looking for reds and Sudha brought out her best for us to taste – a 2010 Tannat, a rich, plummy wine – very fruit forward; a 2009 Cab Franc Reserve with echoes of mulberries; and their 2009 Allure, a port-style wine perfect for after dinner cheeses. www.NarmadaWinery.com.
Photo credit Jordan Wright
May issue 2014
Special to Washingtonian Magazine
Hop aboard Amtrak from DC’s Union Station to the newly hip, historic town of Culpeper, Virginia, where the train lets you off at a visitors’ center in a restored 1904 train station. Across the street, a giant “Love” sculpture made from old film reels hints at your mission: Thursday through Saturday nights, plus Saturday afternoons, the Packard Campus Theater at Mount Pony (19053
Mount Pony Rd.; 202-707-9994)—the Library of Congress’s state-of-the-art auditorium—shows free classic films and foreign documentaries, while Sunday matinees ($6) are in downtown’s newly restored State Theatre (305 S. Main St.; 540-829-0292).
When not watching movies, you can browse East Davis Street’s shops, such as Harriet’s General (172 E. Davis St.; 540-317-5995) for American-made wares, the Culpeper Cheese Company (129 E. Davis St.; 540-827-4757) with 100-plus varieties, and My Secret Stash (162 E. Davis St.; 540-825-4694), where throwback candies share real estate with vintage jewelry and furniture.
Book ahead for a Mediterranean inspired dinner at Foti’s Restaurant (219 E. Davis St.; 540-829-8400). Stay at the Euro-elegant Thyme Inn (thymeinfo.com; from $125), with downy duvets and fireplaces. — JORDAN WRIGHT
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.