May 6, 2015
Scanning the course
Whisk and Quill was delighted to accept an invitation to attend the 90th running of the Virginia Gold Cup last weekend in The Plains, Virginia, as a judge for their prestigious tailgate competition – – a hard-fought and entirely subjectively-judged contest pitting talented and sophisticated entrants against those of the same stylish stripe. The competition for this blue ribbon event was sponsored by the Silver Diner ( See my previous article on Silver Diner ), who kindly sent one of their chefs, Chris Hiller, to join us in our efforts.
For the first time in 25 years, I abandoned my own well-heeled guests for three-and-a-half hours to swan around the rolling hillside lapping up bourbon cocktails, swooning over caramel cake and taste-testing an exotic Indian biryani. I swear on the memory of my beloved Brazilian horse, Beija-Flor, it felt like I ran the length and breadth of the entire steeplechase course…though gratefully it was devoid of any water or brush jumps, and more to the point, I did not have to wear a saddle.
The main parameters were that the offerings be homemade, and that the entire tailgate set-up should reflect a theme. Unfortunately some of the unnamed entrants had chosen to scoff at the memo. Our four judges were astounded to see Costco cookies and sandwiches, still in their plastic tubs, side-by-side with veggies and dip from the local Safeway. May the saints preserve us! And may the best horse win.
The Bee People
For the most part these concepts were highly original. Some were delightfully equine-themed. The “Bee Calm and Carry On” group had little bees on everything – – from cupcakes to a honeyed bee skep cake. The hostess was eager to point out that all offerings included at least some honey, including the Honey Punch and the whiskey bourbon shooters. Yes, whiskey and bourbon combined – – a delicious, if not incendiary, alternative to cough medicine. The ladies were attired in yellow and black, some striped, and host Eddie Batten was gotten up in a tan beekeeper’s suit complete with antique fogger.
Shanti Williams greets guests
“A Trip Around the World” welcomed us with ‘passports’ – – a printed menu of the afternoon’s delights. Cutouts of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Statue of Liberty adorned the table and we found Greek, Indian, French and German influenced dishes prepared by local private chef, Shanti Williams of Ruther Glen, Virginia whose Duck Confit Sliders with Cranberry Jam and Fennel & Celery Root Slaw were an especially big hit.
Sylvia Sosa’s Pink & Green theme
Sylvia Sosa chose “Pink & Green” as her theme and carried it out to the nth degree with horsey cut-out sandwiches sporting pink saddles tied with bakery twine and cupcakes decorated with horseheads and horseshoes. It certainly was one of the prettiest tables we visited.
Tiffany’s goes country
Jen Dominick brought Tiffany’s from city to country with an Audrey Hepburn cutout gracing a 20-foot table. Guests clad in classic Tiffany-colored turquoise and white apparel drank from silver mint julep cups (plastic, but very chic nonetheless). Her bespoke parting gifts for guests were tiny chocolates in precious blue boxes with white satin ribbons. It was all very posh, don’t you know.
Karen Gilbert and guests
Two competitors stole the show. Hostess Karen Gilbert of “Crystal Horseshoes” who served the most amazingly tender short ribs, “fully loaded” potato salad and super divine sandwich on a roll with her Hot Brown Sliders; and Jackie Deschamps who rocked a “50 Shades” theme.
50 Shades Pink & Black theme
Jackie’s choice of a fabulous shocking pink-and-black color theme coupled with sumptuous food – – poached salmon with hollandaise, shrimp kabobs, and an assortment of delicious homemade cakes – – matched the charming hospitality and elegant demeanor she and her guests showered upon us. It may be true that we were influenced by such niceties as offering up a welcoming chair, personally serving us separate plates for entrees and desserts, and bringing round a refreshing drink, if only for the three minutes we allowed for our “I-hate-to-eat-and-run” visits.
Caramel cake from 50 Shades
Racing around over hill and dale, like horses navigating jumps on a steeplechase course, we managed to visit all twelve competitors. We tasted and sipped, chatted up strangers and debated the merits of the competitors; coming up with the premise that, when every last little thing was taken into account, it was all about homemade fare, a soupçon of creativity and old-fashioned, heartfelt Southern hospitality. We are in Virginia after all.
One of the award-winning hats in front of the Steward’s Stand
In the end it was a photo finish, with “50 Shades” leading by a nose, followed by “Crystal Horseshoes”, who had driven 100 miles round trip to find their tabletop white horse, and “A Trip Around the World”, coming away with a very respectable third.
Thanks go out to each and every competitor. See you in the fall when we’ll do it all over again on October 24th.
Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders
Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders – from The Seasoned Mom
1 package of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (split)
¼ cup of mayonnaise
12 slices of deli turkey
12 pieces of cooked bacon
6 slices of Gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup canned pimientos (diced)
½ cup butter (cubed)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Spread mayonnaise on the roll bottoms. Layer with turkey, bacon, a few bits of pimiento and both cheeses. Replace tops. Arrange sandwiches in one layer in a greased 9-inch-square baking pan. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring for one to two minutes, until tender. Whisk in brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Continue whisking until sugar is dissolved. Pour butter sauce over sandwiches.
Cover with foil and refrigerate for several hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake covered for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until nicely browned.
Honey Punch – adapted from the Food Network
Dissolve ½ cup honey in ½ cup boiling water. Let cool, then pour into a pitcher. Add the juice of 2 lemons, 2 cups of apricot or peach nectar, and 1 cup of vodka, gin, bourbon or whiskey. Chill. Before serving add a bottle of chilled sparkling apple cider (Try the all-natural ‘Alpenglow’, made in Virginia from Shenandoah Valley apples.) and float lemon slices in the pitcher.
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
By Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
In January Crave American Kitchen and Sushi Bar, a Minnesota-based chain, opened its newest outpost in the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The restaurant is living up to the ambitious expectations set for it by its Twin Cities parent company, Kaskaid, Inc. Kaskaid has created four restaurant concepts since its inception in 2007 and Crave may be its most successful, with four branches in Minnesota and a total of ten nation-wide so far, popping up in locations from the Las Vegas area to Austin, to Coral Gables and more.
At a recent dinner featuring some of the newest additions to their seasonal menu, the able staff proved that American and Japanese cuisines can fit together as comfortably as cherry trees at the tidal basin in Washington. Each course seemed like a natural precursor to the next.
The evening started out with a few specialty cocktails. The ‘Crave’ is a blend of Stolichnaya ‘Razberi’, Chambord, pineapple and Domaine Chandon Brut. If you are going to name a cocktail after your restaurant, you may as well pour my favorite California sparkling wine in case the Russian vodka and the fine raspberry liqueur don’t make enough of an impression. The ‘Angry Dragon’, a happy combination of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, lychee, cranberry and citrus zest, was another option. In addition to these Crave creations, Bar Manager Jordan Harrington is in the process of concocting specials just for the Bethesda branch, such as a Sweet and Spicy Mojito and an Egg White and Blueberry Fizz.
Crave General Manager Michelle Went has a firm grip on the Angry Dragon
Our cocktails were followed by an exquisitely crafted sushi platter, that I pondered whether to devour or leave as an undisturbed work of art. Among the choices presented were the ‘Rainbow Roll’, the sushi chef’s version of a California roll, topped with four different types of fish, and the ‘Bamboo Bite’ which had tempura shrimp wrapped in sushi rice, crowned with overlapping slices of avocado, and decorated with a thin cross section of jalapeno. Adorning the platter were pieces of pickled ginger placed together like rose petals and wasabi molded into the shape of a leaf. Hand-sliced cucumber and apple slices were shaped into fans.
‘The Caterpillar’, sporting a fuzzy top made of bits of fried batter soaked with cranberry and beet juices, features spicy tuna, roe, cucumber, mango, avocado and sweet ‘Unagi’ sauce made with soy sauce, sugar and sake. Its whimsical appearance did not detract from its fresh and complex flavor.
Even after this delightful introduction, the main courses easily held my interest. Seared scallops with curry, caviar, arugula and papaya gastrique, showcased large scallops sliced horizontally. Grilled Mahi Mahi came served on a bed of red rice, with red pepper curry sauce, and banana fig butter. Medallions of certified Angus beef (which amounts to less than 8% of all beef produced in the U.S.) were accompanied by potato purée, pencil-thin grilled asparagus and a smooth demi glace. Each course was expertly paired with a wine chosen from the glass enclosed wine room.
Medallions of Angus beef
Executive Chef Joel Hassanali, a Trinidadian, explained that the chef at each Crave restaurant can create 25% of what goes on to the menu. Look for dishes that will reflect the chef’s Caribbean origins and his experiences growing up in the restaurant owned by his parents.
Executive Chef Joel Hassanali
Small tastes of a number of desserts were brought to the table – – fluffy coconut cake, enhanced by an infusion of coconut syrup and fresh coconut, and small parfaits presented in a decorative serving piece that held them up like horses on a merry-go-round.
Coconut cake and parfait-like dessert choices
These delicious bites included French Silk Chocolate Mousse, Tiramisu, Lemon Meringue and Salty Caramel Mousse. Everything is made in-house, down to the artistically decorated dark and white chocolate candy pieces atop some desserts that looked as though they popped out of a Godiva box.
I opted for the lemon meringue, a newcomer to the regular menu, and a particular favorite of the chef’s. I thought I noticed shreds of toasted coconut in my first spoonful, but soon realized my taste buds were not confirming what my mouth was feeling. Thin shreds of lemon zest were punching up the tartness to balance out the sweetness. Digging deeper into the glass cup, I discovered another surprise – – cheesecake filling.
Negotiating with the other guests for a taste of their desserts, was not an option. Clearly my dinner partners had fallen in love at first bite. Seems as though I’ll have to return for more taste testing. As if I needed an excuse…
Photo credit: Cary Pollak
April 15, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Did you know the French drink more rosé than white wine? Quelle surprise! At a private tasting at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen + Bar at City Center DC earlier this month I learned a great deal about the blush-colored wine the French adore and we find intriguing. On this sunny spring day our education was to be accompanied by a delectable four-course luncheon, designed to pair with the eleven wines we would taste. Swirl, sniff, swish, and spit was decidedly not the plan, not when DBGB Executive Chef, Ed Scarpone and Pastry Chef, Celia Lewis, were about to spoil us rotten with a menu to dovetail these selections.
Scarpone showed how rosé pairs well with flavors other than French dishes, in this case showcasing the more robust of these wines with the exotic influences of Asia and Morocco. And Lewis demonstrated how the sweetness of cassis-hued rosés marry well with chocolates and sugar-dusted madeleines.
Maryland crab with coconut and champagne mango – Grilled chicken with couscous and spicy yoghurt – Grilled kale with sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, pickled water chestnut and buttermilk dressing
For starters, heave mightily to the dustbin all memories of Lancers or Mateus – – once the only rosés available on our wine-starved Eastern shores. These fizzy blush wines from Portugal tasting like soda pop. How ever did we survive such an ignoble introduction to rosé? Those were dark days indeed. Today our wine shops are filled with a veritable panoply of French rosés revealing finesse, charm and sophistication…and they are becoming madly popular. Consumption of these little gems has doubled in the last twenty years.
A basket of warm Madeleines – Petit fours – macarons, marshmallows and gold leaf truffles
In Provence four sub-AOCs, or terroir appellations, have been recognized, and more are expected to be added. You can trace these regions (where rosé accounts for 88% of all wine production), from the mountains of Aix-en-Provence in southwestern France then south to the ports of Marseilles and Toulon, and down along the Mediterranean coast to the Riviera turning up along the eastern coastline to the millionaire’s playground of Cannes and St. Tropez.
Because the climate is drier in the mountains and more humid by the coast, there are distinctive variables in the wines that define their unique profiles. Limestone and limestone-clay soils impart a notable minerality, and the fierce seasonal winds of Le Mistral offer further dimension. Notwithstanding the climate, terroir and wide-ranging elevations of this vast region, there is also the crafting of the wine’s personality expressed by each winemaker who can draw from more than a dozen varieties of grapes used to make it. Nearly all of them are estate-grown.
Founded in 1999 the Center for Rosé Research in Vidauban has created its “Provence Rosé Color Scale” to better define its varying shades. This color reference chart depicts the diversity of liquid color gradations that categorize rosés under the official names of Red Currant, Peach, Grapefruit, Melon, Mango and Tangerine. It helps to express the shades that range from pale pink to peach to ruby hued.
I will not go further into the complexities of taste of the different rosés, nor how they are made. That discussion is for the serious oenophiles or future winemakers out there who already know far more than I. This is meant as an inspirational primer – – an introduction to its delights. I will go so far as to say I chose a favorite amongst all the offerings – – the Chateau Saint Maur Cru Classe L’Excellance Rosé. It is a prestigious wine, refined and delicate, with overtones of melon and rose petals conjuring up visions of heaping bowls of bouillabaisse or platters of fruits de mer. I’m already dreaming of fields of lavender and thyme, the truffles of Périgord, and a mess of langoustines. You should too.
For more detailed information visit www.CentreduRosé.fr
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
March 18, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
Wide-eyed tourists were gobsmacked to shake hands with and get hugs from His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, as the couple toured George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate last Wednesday. In town for four days the Prince was eager to return to the historic home he had visited in 1970 when he was accompanied by his sister, Princess Anne, and the daughters of then-President Richard Nixon, Julie and Tricia. For Charles and Camilla it was their third visit to the area since they toured as newlyweds in 2005.
The royals have always shown a fondness for Mount Vernon, despite rocky relations with the monarchy in Washington’s day. Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward VII inaugurated the first royal family visit in 1860 and many of his descendants followed. In 1991 Charles’ mother and father, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip arrived. Fifteen years later his brother, Prince Andrew, presided over a ceremony marking the beginning of the restoration of George Washington’s Distillery. It seems they delight in the historic destination as much the swarm of tourists and scrum of official photographers who braved the chilly afternoon for an epic photo op or hoped-for ‘selfies’.
The Prince of Wales talks with Governor McAuliffe (at far right) and Carol Cardou (left of the Governor) – Camilla is seen on the left of the column with Mount Vernon’s President Curt Viebranz
After signing the register and touring the mansion’s bespoke rooms, the couple emerged onto the porch along with an august group that included Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe; Mount Vernon’s President, Curt Viebranz; Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Barbara Lucas; and Senior Vice President for Historic Preservation & Collections, Carol Cardou. Fashionistas take note – – the Prince sported bright blue casual trousers with a dark navy overcoat and patterned blue silk tie while the Duchess looked elegant in a slate gray coat with Greek key embroidery by Bruce Oldfield, one of her favorite designers.
While Camilla stayed behind admiring the artworks, Charles headed down along the river to view the wharf his mother had dedicated so many years before. Much has been written about the Prince’s passion for organic gardening, conservation and sustainable farming and fishing and Viebranz was eager to show him where Washington once netted over a million pounds of shad each year and walk him around the walled organic gardens so much like the Prince’s own gardens at High Grove.
Heritage breed baby lambs with mother
Greeting school children along the way, Charles took note of the newborn lambs and later stopped for a quiet moment to lay a wreath at the tomb of the American general who led the army that defeated his kinsmen. Apparently all is forgiven.
The entourage, who were joined by Director of Trades, Steve Bashore, then strode briskly up the hill. The Prince paused briefly to greet the heritage breed Austrian oxen with a gentle pat on the head before entering the sixteen-sided Pioneer Barn where he watched ponies tread the wheat.
Prince Charles with Steve Bashore (center) and Curt Viebranz (left)
All smiles, local resident, Kitty Morgan, a British ex-pat who had allowed her two boys to play hooky for the historic moment, was thrilled to glimpse the Prince who graciously shook hands with her children. When was asked how her countrymen felt about Americans since the Revolutionary War, she was quick to say, “Oh, we love the Americans!”
Just as excited was Dean Norton, Mount Vernon’s Director of Horticulture, whose crew was busy painting the roses red (to borrow a phrase) in advance of the royal visit. Noting that Washington pored over English gardening books of the period and looked to the English for guidance as to how to farm the land, Norton remarked, “The Prince’s cause is a noble one in which we share a common thread.”
In the thick of the collegial scrum
Photo credit – Jordan Wright