MESS HALL PRESENTS BLAZED AND GLAZED ON SUNDAY MAY 15th

Jordan Wright
April 29, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

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Spliff, doobie, joint.  You can’t smoke em here, but it’s assumed you’ll come high as a kite to this first time munchies extravaganza where pot aficionados in the DMV will be schooled in the fine art of cooking with weed.  Organizers, Al Goldberg, owner of Mess Hall, and Nevin Martell, author of Freakshow Without a Tent, hope their trippy food fest will lure the stoner elite.

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Snacks rule when you’re feeling a buzz and who better to amp up the gourmet goods than Tarver King, molecular gastronomist and Executive Chef of the much-lauded The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia.  King will prepare “cannabutter” during one of the three marijuana cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen.  Other demos will teach fans how to make THC tincture for the ultimate munchies.

When I caught up with King by phone earlier this week, he was excited to be participating.  “It’s great to get in on the ground floor with an event like this,” he told me, “We’re all over it!  Back in high school we used to eat it on the 4/20, rather than smoking it,” he recalled using the universal euphemism for the annual consumption of cannabis.  King admits to scarfing down tacos from Taco Bell after the toke fest.  To get the high the teens were seeking, “we threw a bunch of weed in.”  But he’s evolved since then. “The nerd in me wondered if it would work better in fats.”  To that end he’s played around with a potent version of “cannabutter” which he’ll demo in one of the classes.  He claims this technique “draws out the THC and makes it ten times stronger”.  In actuality he admits he doesn’t smoke it often.  “I can get paranoid,” he says, relating an incident when the act of eating popcorn sounded so loud he thought he was disturbing his wife’s TV watching.

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It was perfect timing for Mathew Ramsay of PornBurger whose eponymously named cookbook just launched.  Ramsay, whose burgers Martell calls, “gloriously gluteus burgers that you want to have sex with”, will be on hand to sign his new book PornBurger: Hot Buns and Juicy Beefcakes (Ecco 2016).  He’ll also demonstrate how to make a weed-laced burger.

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

After the three-class session, guests can chill out in the beer hall/food court where vintage cartoons mix with the sounds of stoner soul and where Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Fry Brothers, Sloppy Mothers Barbecue and Westray’s Finest Ice Cream are available for purchase.  Be sure to indulge in deluxe flavors from this locally-made ice cream.  Owner Westray Paul promises to bring a few exotic specialties from his “Adventurous” line of cold treats, including Coffee & Doughnuts, Burnt Sugar, and Honey Buttermilk Strawberry.  The hall also features marijuana-related paraphernalia, graphics-adorned gear from designer Jon Wye, and hip logo tees from Kelly Towles.

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The Deets – Tickets are $42.00 for General Admission and include an Astro Doughnut sandwich (a savory rosemary doughnut sandwich with pimento chicken salad and Gordy’s pickled jalapenos) and a beer.  The $75.00 VIP pass gives you front row seating plus an exclusive Kelly Towles t-shirt and a swag bag from DC area restaurants.  Entry times are at 11 A.M., 12:30 P.M., 2 P.M, 3:30PM and 5PM.  For tickets and more info visit https://t.co/zJu179jVG3

Mess Hall
703 Edgewood St., Northeast
Washington, DC 20017

Blue Star Families Neighbors Organization Benefits from Top Area Chefs’ Partnership

Jordan Wright
April 18, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts 

Chefs with their military chef partners

Chefs with their military chef partners

Chefs from some of our area’s leading restaurants participated in a fundraiser last week for Blue Star Families, pairing up with military chef counterparts to prepare some scrumptious nibbles and sips.  With a view of the White House across Lafayette Park as backdrop, guests were treated to an array of fabulous food.  The splashy red carpet event was filled to capacity with the extraordinary Americans who donate their time to support military families.  Guests recorded the moment in selfie photo booths, using patriotic-colored bead necklaces to place around the necks of the chefs whose dishes they liked most.

Just to give you a little background on this amazing organization, there are over 50 chapters around the world serving military families and providing assistance through education, empowerment and employment programs in civilian communities.  Chapters partner with the general public and other services to address the challenges of military life and reach over 1.5 million military families every year.  Can I get a hooray?

Hosted by Co-Chairs Sheila Casey and General George Casey, prominent members of the organization along with high-level military and politicians and their families, gathered in the grand reception room of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce for the celebration.  The evening’s emcee, author, TV and radio host and speaker, Mary Matalin, joined in the tastings before the ceremony began.

Chef Robert Wiedmaier with military chef Jennifer Medeiros

Chef Robert Wiedmaier with military chef Jennifer Medeiros

Partnering with and representing the Air Force was TSGT Jennifer Medeiros who created a dish with Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s restaurant.   Wiedmaier’s father was a “Full Bird” Colonel in the U. S. Air Force.  Together they served up Chicken and Pheasant Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Tomato Red Wine Sauce.

Cathal Armstrong (left) with military chef partner Marine Sargent Joseph Hale

Cathal Armstrong (left) with military chef partner Marine Sargent Joseph Hale

Representing the Marine Corps was Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, named a “Champion of Change” by the White House, who partnered with Marine Sgt. Joseph Hale to prepare Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad reflecting his recent attention to Asian cuisine.

Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad

Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad

From the Coast Guard, FSC Derek Johnson was paired up with Nicolas Stephanelli of Masseria to prepare Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar, and divinely decadent combination.  Stephanelli, whose brother-in-law is a retired Ranger, noted that he enjoyed “seeing something outside our culinary community.”

Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar

Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar

Representing the Navy was Derrick Davenport who paired up with David Guas of Bayou Bakery.  When asked where he worked, Davenport hinted he didn’t have far to walk from his current employment, but couldn’t say more.  Hmmmm.   Could it be the White House?  Davenport, who cooked on a submarine for six years before transitioning to the Executive Dining Room of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the 2015 American Culinary Federation USA Chef of the Year and as Team Captain for the U. S. Army Culinary Arts Team will compete at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany this year.

Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison

Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison

The dynamic duo made a dish of Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison to reflect Guas’ New Orleans’ roots.

Todd Gray puts the finishing touches on his dish

Todd Gray puts the finishing touches on his dish

Showing off his skills as a representative of the Army was SSG Marc Susa who along with Todd Gray of Equinox restaurant conjured up Rigatoni with Cannellini Beans, a Smoked Mushroom Bolognese, and topped it off with fermented black radish.

Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab and Asparagus

Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab and Asparagus

In the Guard + Reserve category were MSG Vilaykone Saynorath, Army, and Chris Morris of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab whose dish precisely represented the restaurant’s luxury ingredients of Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab with a soupcon of bearnaise sauce.

Macchu Picchu Roll

Macchu Picchu Roll

There was even a category for Military Brat that paired Chris Clime of PassionFish with CS1 Frida Karani, Navy.  Together they presented Frida’s Freedom Macchu Picchu Roll made with flounder, kampachi, chipotle and lime.

“Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family” killer cocktails crafted by "Mixtress"

“Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family” killer cocktails crafted by “Mixtress”

Gina Chersevani, of Buffalo & Bergen and Suburbia, who calls herself a “Mixtress”, crafted killer cocktails for the special occasion, titling them “Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family”.  To echo that sentiment and cap off the evening’s award ceremony, Sister Sledge sang her chart-topper, “We Are Family” to the assembled guests.

Awards were presented for Civil Leadership to Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Richard Burr; as well as Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.  Dr. Peter Long, PhD, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, received The Connie Milstein Philanthropic Award and Joy Goulette accepted The Blue Star Neighbor Award.

For more information about the organization visit www.BlueStarFam.org

Photo credit ~ Jordan Wright

New Tokyo Japanese Restaurant ~ Gaithersburg, MD

Guest contributor ~ Samantha Lee

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New Tokyo is an authentic Japanese restaurant in the Potomac Valley shopping center.  Despite its less than prominent location, the restaurant manages to attract devoted customers seeking unique Japanese cuisine.  Among the wide variety of unique small plate offerings, I particularly enjoyed Roasted Nigiri, Takoyaki, Fried Japanese Tofu, Octopus in Honey Vinegar, Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura.

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The restaurant is owned by Chef Eizi “Jackie” Nakazima, who studied at the Culinary Institute of Tokyo Busashi School.  Nakazima, an award winning chef, has over 28 years of culinary experience.  In 2004, he opened his restaurant specializing in kaiseki (multi-course meals).  He also serves sashimi, sushi, grilled fish, teriyaki marinated grilled meats, sukiyaki, ramen and many more delicious dishes.

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The restaurant is small and homey and can accommodate 45 diners.  It reminded me of a small café in Japan, but with nicer décor.  I was particularly intrigued by the faux crustaceans – lobsters, crabs, crayfish, and fugu – dangling from the ceiling and hanging from the walls.   There is also a vast array of unique Japanese artifacts – Daruma dolls, shoji screens, paper lanterns, and framed artwork.

I believe New Tokyo is the only restaurant in the area that prepares nigiri in the Aburi style, in which the top side of the fish is partially grilled or seared, while the bottom side of the fish is partially raw.  After the seared fish is placed on the oval shaped cooked rice, it is drizzled with a sweet mayonnaise, making each bite of the Roasted Nigiri both sweet and savory.  My favorite part about this dish was the strong char-grilled flavor.  Among the Roasted Nigiri, I’d recommend the Scallop, Salmon, or Fatty Tuna.

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Miso Soup

Takoyaki is a small dish consisting of three fried wheat balls, filled with diced octopus and tempura scraps, topped with bonita flakes, and drizzled with a special mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce tasting like sweet, thick Worcestershire.  I liked the crispy outside and soft inside.

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The Fried Japanese Tofu comes in 5 pieces, each tempura-battered and deep fried, then topped with bonita flakes. The dish is served in a sweet dashi broth – one made from boiled hot water, kelp, and preserved fermented skipjack tuna.  The tofu is silky and smooth inside.

Among the Makis on the menu, I favored the Lava Roll with spicy sauces on the side. It comes to the table in ten rolls consisting of a raw seafood medley of scallop, smoked salmon, shrimp, crabmeat, white tuna, and avocado rolled in dried seaweed then sticky rice and sesame seeds. The rolls are baked or deep fried and drizzled with mayonnaise, spicy mayonnaise and Rooster sauce. My favorite experience about the Lava Roll is that it is served warm and deliciously crunchy.

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As compared to other local Japanese restaurants in Montgomery County, MD, I’ve found that the sashimi/sushi at New Tokyo are very fresh. The sashimi entree is served with lemon, wasabi and pickled ginger on an ice boat, which adds a delightful visual effect.

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The ramen at New Tokyo is absolutely delicious too. It consists of freshly made wheat noodles, imitation crabmeat, scallion, miso-marinated sliced pork, and fried wheat gluten in salty miso, fish or pork broth.  It is served with shrimp and vegetable tempura that includes two shrimp, sweet potato, zucchini and kabocha squash served with tempura sauce, a nice blend of dashi stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.  I liked the ramen because it was cooked perfectly – not salty or heavy.

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The Grilled Striped Bass is one of the featured items on the menu and is a whole striped bass with head and tail intact, marinated with seasoning, coated with flour, grilled over high heat.  It is served over lettuce with a lemon wedge and seasoned sticky rice topped with sesame seeds. The rice was a nice complement to the fish which was fresh, crispy and not greasy.

Beverages include assorted Japanese beer, Ramune (Japanese carbonated beverage), sake and freshly brewed hot green tea that tastes like roasted rice tea (Genmaicha).  The green tea is served in a cup made of earthenware with Japanese characters engraved on it; the hot or cold sake is served in sake cups with sushi patterns.

To finish off a meal at New Tokyo, you can order rice pudding or green tea ice cream. Overall, New Tokyo Restaurant offers a great variety of delicious Japanese food at a reasonable cost.  The atmosphere is relaxing and comfortable.  Drop by for an authentic Japanese meal when you are in the area.  12115 Darnestown Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878 www.newtokyorestaurant.com  

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee

Raaga Restaurant for Northern Indian Cuisine

Raaga Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia
Guest contributor ~ Samantha Lee

Raaga Restaurant, whose name means “sweet melody”, is an authentic Indian restaurant serving Northern Indian cuisine in Falls Church, Virginia. Its Chef/Owner, Paddy Rawal, who also owns Om Fine Indian Restaurant in Rockville, MD, once cooked in Bombay, India and more recently the Bombay Club in DC.

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The restaurant’s décor feels like an exotic temple – yellow walls, white columns, an Indian Buddha, musical instruments, wooden elephant statues, Aladdin’s lamps and paintings of Indian musicians that grace the walls of this cozy outpost.  The menu has moderately priced items – breads, meat and seafood, as well as vegetarian offerings.  Dinner entrées typically range between $14 – $22.  And each dish is colorful, rich, and intricately flavored.

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Try a Mango lassi, a refreshing blend of yogurt, water, sugar and mango pulp.  It is thick, rich, smooth and creamy – a cross between a fruit smoothie and a milkshake – a perfect complement to spicy dishes.

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Rather than sharing appetizers, I’d recommend an assortment of breads.  The plain naan, onion kulcha, and garlic naan are made freshly here and are served piping hot from the tandoori oven.  I liked the herbaceous aroma, combination of flavors, and taste of this bubbly dough.  It is served with raita, a yogurt cucumber dipping sauce made with mint and cilantro that also goes well with the Chicken Tikka Masala.

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Also known as butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish at Raaga.  It consists of charbroiled chunks of tender chicken prepared in a sauce of tomato paste, yogurt, butter, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and garam masala.  Garam masala can be made in as many ways as there are cooks, but typically consists of a blend of various spices – black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, black and green cardamom pods, bay leaf, cumin, and fenugreek.  It is known to warm the body, mind, and soul of the diner.  Ask for a spicier version if you like.  Many Indian restaurants now ask you to choose your preferred heat from an index of one through five.

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Shrimp Masala is made with butterflied shrimp prepared in a sauce of coconut milk, seafood stock, curry powder, garlic, stewed tomatoes and sugar.  The coconut milk is what renders the sauce thicker and sweeter.

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Each entrée is served with spiced basmati rice topped with green peas.

Raaga Restaurant was named the “Best Indian restaurant in the DMV” the Washington Post.  So if you happen to be in the Bailey’s Crossroads area, be sure to drop in and give it a try.

Raaga Restaurant is located at 5872 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.  For reservations and information visit www.raagarestaurant.com

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee

Peach Brandy Debuts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery

Jordan Wright
November 25, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Peach Brandy launch - Photo credit DISCUS

Peach Brandy launch – Photo credit DISCUS

Eight hundred eagerly-anticipated bottles of George Washington’s limited edition Peach Brandy Eau de Vie (translation: “water of life”) went onto the shelves of the Mount Vernon Estate gift shop just in time for Christmas.  Produced at the restored distillery this huge undertaking dwarfed Washington’s eight gallons in sales recorded back in 1798, reflecting a more than two-century price increase from $1.00 a gallon to a considerably adjusted $150.00 per 375ml bottle.

It’s an elegant pour, meant to be sipped, and one Washington didn’t expect to be chug-a-lugged.  Not exactly a teetotaler himself, he wrote a letter to an employee, whom he both chastised and cautioned for drinking excessively.

When it first opened in 1798, the distillery was run by a canny Scotsman, James Anderson, and his son John.  James had convinced Washington to produce whiskey later introducing the eau de vie, which are made today according to the early recipes.  Producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in its heyday, it became the largest distillery in America, providing two distinct grades of whiskey, which became available throughout the country, including in Alexandria’s many taverns.

Thanks to the efforts of archaeologists who discovered the foundations in 1997 and working off a grant from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the distillery was restored in March of 2007 after being destroyed by fire in 1814.  Following ten years of research and construction, the distillery now produces one hundred gallons of rye whiskey in small batches twice a year.  Brandy is made every other year.

Both are made the old-fashioned way using 18th century distilling techniques.  Workers hand-cut up to 51 cords of wood per month to stoke the direct wood fires beneath the still, and giant wooden paddles are used to stir the mash, which then is transferred to a series of hogsheads.  “Manning the paddles is like steering a cement canoe down the river,” says Mount Vernon’s Master Distiller Steven Bashore.

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To achieve 300 gallons of whiskey, 8,000 pounds of rye, corn and malted barley from grains are sourced from Virginia farms.  Locally grown Virginia peaches become the base for the Peach Brandy Eau de Vie that George and Martha served at the mansion.  Ledger entries from 1798 show sales of eight gallons to the public. But by 1799 with production in full swing, the First Couple were graciously serving 60 gallons of the precious peach elixir to their many guests.

Adding the grains to the make the mash - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Adding the grains to the make the mash – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To recreate this “new” product two of America’s leading brandy distillers were brought in, Ted Huber of Starlight Distillery in Indiana who procured five 55-gallon drums of very fine peach juice, and Thomas McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling in New York.  Both men assisted Bashore in the production and bottling of the historic brandy, which has been described as having tasting notes of candied peaches and peach cobbler with a hint of cinnamon and which I can personally attest to.

Dedicated in 2007 by Britain’s Prince Andrew, the reconstructed distillery featuring the distilling process “from seed to still” is open to the public 365 days of the year.  Located at 5513 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309, the distillery is three miles south of Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.  For hours of operation go to www.MountVernon.org

To get you in the holiday spirit, or spirits as the case may be, here is a recipe for Martha Washington’s Rum Punch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Washington’s Rum Punch

Makes 6 -10 servings

  • 3 oz. of White Rum
  • 3 oz. of Dark Rum
  • 3 oz. of Orange Curaçao
 [or Peach Brandy Eau de Vie]
  • 4 oz. of Simple Syrup
 [equal parts sugar to water, warmed till sugar is dissolved]
  • 4 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 4 oz. of Fresh Orange Juice
  • 3 Lemons quartered
  • 1 Orange quartered
  • ½ Tsp. Grated nutmeg
  • 3 Cinnamon sticks (broken)
  • 6 Cloves
  • 12 oz. Boiling water

In a container, mash the orange, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add the syrup, lemon, and orange juices.  Pour the boiling water over the mixture in the container and let cool for a few minutes.

When cool, add the White Rum, Dark Rum, and Orange Curaçao [You may substitute for Peach Brandy].  Strain well into a pitcher or punch bowl (to remove all of the spice marinade) and serve over ice in goblets and decorate with wheels of lemon and orange.

Dust with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and enjoy a sip of American history.