October 8, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Art
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
For many years Ferran Adria’s now shuttered elBulli held the title of “The Best Restaurant in the World”. Since then the fiercely sought after accolade has gone to his former student Rene Redzepi, Chef/Owner of Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Four years ago Redzepi’s publisher Phaidon sent me a copy of his coffee table size cookbook. “Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine”, which at the time I included in my “Best Cookbooks of 2010”. The book continued my interest in the science and artistry of elegantly prepared wild foods. In 2002 I’d read French chef and forager extraordinaire Michel Bras’s book “Essential Cuisine” and saw how a Michelin-starred chef could elevate wild local plants, locally caught seafood and humanely raised animals to their highest culinary purpose while at the same time employing a flower-strewn, naturalistic style.
A grazer since childhood, I munch on violets, honeysuckle and the early blossoms of the redbud tree. And if I’m lucky enough to find them I still chomp on wild ramps, dandelion leaves and the tender watercress that pops up along small streams and culverts in the spring. I consider it homeopathic and secretly believe it’s what keeps me from seasonal allergies.
Tarver King is a chef who answers the call of the wild too. When we first met he was cooking at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia where he wedded molecular gastronomic techniques to simple, local ingredients and spent many hours putting up jars of glistening cantaloupe jelly, pickled vegetables and berry jams from ingredients he picked from the bounty of a small garden behind the inn.
Chef Tarver King
After gaining experience in such legendary kitchens as The French Laundry, Le Bec Fin, The Inn at Little Washington and the Woodlands Inn & Resort in South Carolina. King now has found is roost in the kitchen at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm where he is the architect of the menu. Using the bounty from owner Beverly Morton Billand’s vegetable and herb gardens, wildcrafting “weeds” and morels from the nearby woods and sourcing from the 40-acre farm where Billand raises chickens, ducks and beef cattle, he has a myriad of options at his command, including fish from the sustainable catches of local East Coast fishermen.
King’s commitment to local, seasonal and organic, as well as his compelling artistry has not gone unnoticed by the industry. He was named “Grand Chef” of the year by Relais and Chateau, received the RAMMY award as “Chef of the Year” 2013 and this year earned the coveted title of “Best Chef – Mid-Atlantic” from the James Beard Foundation.
Reflecting his keen attention to land, sea and farm, the menu is divided into “Found”, heavier on seafood, “Grown”, some meat but largely paleo, and “Raised”, which leans more towards meat protein. Each affords the diner with amuses bouche, noted as “snacks”, and a five-course progression menu of the chef’s design.
Snacks before dinner – Gougeres – Beet Cream
Some of the menu’s descriptors – smoked kraut, cicely gastrique, lambs quarters, sorrel soda, chicory root custard and hyssop ice cream – reveal the adventure.
Seared Wahoo with ramp chimichurri
King, who spends three days a week cooking and the rest experimenting, started us off with delicate gougeres and a beet cream toast, followed by Scallop Mi-cuit, a semi-cooked scallop enhanced by creamed corn, chanterelle puree, and lambs quarters, a wild edible. Crispy Shrimp is sauced with cicely gastrique, ratatouille puree, fennel fronds and mustard cream – each element contributing to the nuanced whole of the dish. My dinner partner who opted for “Raised” was busy devouring the Pork Fried Chicken with whey and mustard butter, smoked kraut and pole beans, which preceded Beef Cheek with whipped grits, grilled beets, horseradish and nasturtium leaves. A happy carnivore, indeed.
Beef Cheeks with whipped grits and nasturtium leaves
The dining room is an enormous brick-paved, all-glass greenhouse (sans plants). A separate white-tented space for outdoor dining features a view of the river and Harpers Ferry Bridge beyond and is decorated with nosegays and candles. Very romantic.
Chicory root custard with cocoa nib crumble, puffed rice and whipped fromage blanc
Courses came swiftly delivered by attentive and gentile wait staff, who re-described each dish as it was set forth. We finished a spectacular evening of gastronomic delights and surprises with a lovely Silver Needle Jasmine white tea from local purveyor Shab Row Tea Emporium in nearby Frederick, Maryland.
Reservations, of course. www.PatowmackFarm.com
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
August 17, 2014
The first Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop opened in Wilmington, Delaware in 1976. Lois Margolet and her brother Alan started their business in Wilmington’s Little Italy section, but it was turkey that put them on the map. Building their menu around the freshly roasted bird set them apart from the many sandwich shops in the area, and soon they were beating the stuffing out of the competition. Today there are more than 105 company-owned and franchise locations in 14 states across the country. Their unique menus feature subs in three sizes, as well as sandwiches and salads comprised of various meats, cheeses and vegetables. Highlights among their offerings include three types of spicy peppers and vegetarian options with soy-based meat substitutes.
“Bobbie” Sub sandwich
Capriotti’s second location in the Washington Metro area (in addition to the shop at 18th and M Streets, NW in the District) opens on August 25th at 11:00 am at 1500 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. The first 100 patrons in line will receive a free “Bobbie” sandwich, with the first 50 of those also receiving certificates for “Bobbies” for a year. This “Thanksgiving on a Roll” sub sandwich is the most popular item on the menu and consists of slow-roasted turkey, their special recipe cranberry sauce and an herbed dressing (Northerners know it as stuffing), and mayo. This comfort food combo is known as Vice President Joe Biden‘s favorite sandwich, and has earned “Best Of” awards in Las Vegas, San Diego, Delaware, Dallas and other cities around the country.
L to R : Joe Combs, Director of Operations.
Paul Rothenburg, Rosslyn BID. George Vincent, Jr.,the owner.
Jordan Schneider, Director of Catering
George Vincent, Jr. is the 33 year-old local businessman who introduced Capriotti’s to the DC area, and he plans to open a dozen outlets in the next two years. Mr. Vincent is off to a good start and clearly intends to earn our thanks, giving us some of the best and most interesting sandwiches available in the metro area. For more info visit www.capriottis.com.
Photo credit to Cary Pollak
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.
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
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