Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ August 8, 2017

Jordan Wright
August 8, 2017
Photo credit: J. Wright

Sofitel Launches Summer Menu – Baba Bar:  A Sexy Speakeasy Sans Password – Japanese Embassy Hosts Travel Writers – Peter Chang Opens Rockville Outpost – Silver Debuts Summer Menu – Hank’s Oyster Bar Proves Great Pairing for Nederburg Wines

 Let’s Play the French Way at Sofitel 

The lobby at the Sofitel

The lobby at the Sofitel

One of the most enjoyable ways to while away the hours is at the Sofitel Hotel DC where luxury is part of the brand.  Whether on the patio (large fans provide a breeze), in the intimate, modern-chic iCi Urban Bistro with its wraparound street-facing windows, or in the plush, loungy Le Bar, the hotel is a calming retreat, and a mere stone’s throw from the ongoing chaos of the White House.

(l-r) Salmon tartare with pickled Amish vegetables ~ Grilled octopus

(l-r) Salmon tartare with pickled Amish vegetables ~ Grilled octopus

Executive Chef Gyo Santa for prepares everything with great care and delicacy using the freshest ingredients with a perfectionist’s eye to alluring presentation.  Santa’s Asian-influenced spin on modern French cuisine is unlike anything being prepared in the city.  And we love it!

(l-r) Classic Bouillabaisse avec rouille ~ Classic Bouillabaisse avec rouille

(l-r) Classic Bouillabaisse avec rouille ~ Classic Bouillabaisse avec rouille

This summer he imagines the dreamy lavender fields of Provence and the fruits de mer of the Côte D’Azur to conjure up flavors to pair exquisitely with rosés from Aix-en-Provence.  A bouillabaisse with rouille, a whole grilled branzino a la Provencal with sauce vierge or roasted moulard duck breast with sliced Brussels sprout, rainbow carrots and poached pear in a sweet wine glaze – each dish could sing “Le Marseillaise”!

Rosé is perfect with the summer menu at iCi Urban Bistro

Rosé is perfect with the summer menu

Summer-inspired cocktails are decidedly South of France – “Tango St. Tropez”, “Cannes Cachet” and “Carte Blanche”.  Of particular note is the luscious sounding, “St. Maxime Side” made with Absolut Elyx, lime juice, in-house made strawberry syrup and fresh basil.

Heavenly chocolate bombe at iCi Urban Bistro

Heavenly chocolate bombe

Pastry Chef Samantha Meissel is killing it with her Chocolate Almond Bomb made with gluten free almond sponge cake, amaretto syrup, dark chocolate mousse, honey almonds, and chocolate Chantilly.  Other scrumptious desserts include, a fantastic salty caramel ice cream and refreshing summer sorbets, plus Tropical Pavlova with meringue cookie, Chantilly, mango and strawberry, tropical sorbet, and mango gel; the Bourbon Vanilla Crème Brûlée with citrus Madeleines; and the Valhrona Caramelia Sundae with chocolate sauce, and Chantilly.

And if you’re coming in later in the day, the hotel has refreshed their delightful Le Goûter program.  It’s a French concept, used to break up the afternoon, and consists of light, small bites desserts.  This delightful interpretation incorporates a mini Napoleon, a macaron, two small fresh fruit tarts, a mini vanilla brulee, and a Valhrona dark chocolate panna cotta.  It is served between 2:00pm and 5:00pm every day with coffee, tea, or champagne.

 Le Gouter

Le Gouter

Sofitel Hotel DC, 806 15th Street, Washington, DC 20005 – 202 703.8800 www.Sofitel.com

Baba Bar – Clarendon 

Baba Bar's intimate lounge

Baba Bar’s intimate lounge

Down a dark stairway and into the candlelight, Baba Bar is the super, sexy, small plates speakeasy where you don’t need a password to get in.  Brought to you by the Ambar folks, who are right next door, this is a cozy hangout with banquettes and comfy armchairs, small tables and phenomenal cocktails where you can tuck into flavor-forward Balkan nibbles that, dare I say it, are healthy with lots of vegan and vegetarian options to go along with steak, salmon and seared scallops.  You can even find the famed “Forest Gnocchi” here.

Baba Bar "Forest Gnocchi" dessert

“Forest Gnocchi” dessert

Cocktails are listed under “Light & Refreshing”, “Strong & Boozy” and “Spicy & Smoky” to suit your mood.  The spirits range from cachaça to rum, pisco to barrel-aged bourbon.  Mezcal makes an appearance as does slivovitz and the Balkan firewater, rakia, of which they have more than half a dozen flavors.

Cocktails

Fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables, many from Amish farms, are used in the preparation of these cocktails, or “mocktails” if you prefer.  It is one of the most excitingly diverse bar programs around.  Of course, you would know this if you had visited Ambar’s two other outposts, the one on Capitol Hill, or the other next door.

That this hip spot serves brunch from 8am till 3pm blows my mind.  Coffee is from the fantastic Philadelphia-based La Colombe.  It doesn’t get any better.  Good Morning, “La Colombe Martini”!  I’m serious. Order one.

(l-r) Wild mushroom toast with kajmak ~ Beet salad

Little known secret – the kajmak, a type of butter used in the “Wild Forest Mushrooms” on toast and also the “Scallop Trio”, adds pulverized nori, bacon and parmesan cheese to this addictive spread.  It is to die for!

(l-r) Salmon tartare ~ Seared scallops

Baba, 2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201 – 703 312.7978  www.baba.bar

Silver 

Ype Von Hengst, Executive Chef at Silver

Ype Von Hengst, Executive Chef

Chef and Nutrition Guru Ype Von Hengst and Bob Giaimo have forged a powerful partnership with their Silver Diner restaurants. Last year we wrote about their latest venture, Silver, a stylish Art Deco-inspired restaurant in Bethesda that is a hugely popular neighborhood destination.  The night we visited was “Meet the Chef” night and Ype was there in full-on gracious mode – charming guests and overseeing details.  The monthly program was instituted this summer to introduce patrons to the congenial chef and it’s caught on – chiefly because of the Dutchman’s engaging personality.

Silver aims high.  Hoping to be everything to everyone it boasts a menu jam packed full of nutritionally-dense ingredients, many sourced from local farms, elevated diner fare and upscale casual dishes.  (Read more here – http://whiskandquill.com/nibbles-and-sips-around-town-december-26-2015)

(l-r) Goat cheese bruschetta ~ Avocado toast

(l-r) Goat cheese bruschetta ~ Avocado toast

On the night we visited the energetic Chef Ype, who has clearly discovered the fountain of youth, was dropping by each table with greetings for all the patrons.  He made a few suggestions which we were glad to follow – the menu is enormous! – and we tried his recommendations beginning with the excellent Goat Cheese Bruschetta and Avocado Toast.  Now I know they are ubiquitous these days, but these are exceptional.  The bruschetta is made with a pine nut pesto, tomato, sunflower seeds and balsamic drizzle.  See how many healthy ingredients are involved in this simple offering!  Ditto for the avocado toast which incorporates queso fresco, thinly sliced radishes, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and basil oil with the smashed avocado that is then served on slices of fresh country bread.

(l-r) Creekstone Farms steak frites ~ Pan-seared ocean scallops

(l-r) Creekstone Farms steak frites ~ Pan-seared ocean scallops

Did we stop there?  No, because my dinner partner had a hankering for a fine steak, while I had my eye on pan-seared ocean scallops with lemon garlic sauce.  All the dishes listed on the menu are annotated with their respective calorie, fat, cholesterol, carb, fiber and protein counts.  You know what you’re getting even if the dish you choose might compromise what limits you set for yourself.

But we weren’t there to enumerate our caloric consumption, so we dug into dessert with abandon.  (Warning: Desserts do not come with calorie counts.  You’re on your own here, though “Hand-Spun Shakes” can be ordered low-fat.)  These are of the super yummy, over-the-top variety.  Both the “Campfire Sundae” and the “Pistachio Mousse + Chocolate Brownie” plus fresh raspberries were satisfyingly delicious.

(l-r) Pistachio mousse ~ Campfire sundae

(l-r) Pistachio mousse ~ Campfire sundae

Check out “Pups on the Patio” every Thursday from 4pm till 7pm.

Silver, 7150 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20815 – 301 652.9780  www.EatSilver.com

Nederburg Wines at Hank’s Oyster Bar Prove a Winning Combination 

Thanks to Nederburg and their we had a chance to revisit Hank’s where they paired their South African wines with some immaculately fresh seafood dishes and a heaven-can-wait lemon merengue pie.

(l-r) Assortment of local oysters ~ Fried scallops and calamari and shrimp seviche

(l-r) Assortment of local oysters ~ Fried scallops and calamari and shrimp seviche

Hosted by Andrea Freeborough, the Cellar Master of Nederburg, we heard the story of Nederburg and got a primer on the latest vintages.  Established in 1791 the historic winery is on the Western Cape province of South Africa where they use a progressive and pioneering approach to winegrowing and winemaking that has earned them a wealth of respect worldwide.

We loved how nicely their wines from the new ultra-premium “Heritage Heroes” line sidled up to the seafood dishes as we tasted vintages from Nederburg’s latest vintages which includes The Brew Master, named for Johann Graue, a brew master in his native Germany who bought Nederburg in 1937 and adapted his experience to pioneer viticulture and winemaking in South Africa; The Young Airhawk that pays tribute to Johann Graue’s son, Arnold; and The Anchorman named for Nederburg’s founder, Philippus Wolvaart, who bought the farm in 1791 and planted Chenin Blanc, amongst other varietals such as the Winemaster’s Reserve Chenin Blanc.  These vintages dovetail seamlessly into the summer season.

Key lime pie

Key lime pie

Hank’s Capitol Hill, 633 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003 – 202 733.1971 www.HanksOysterBar.com and for Nederburg winess visit www.TerlatoWines.com

Japanese Embassy Offers Culture and Cuisine to Travel Writers

The display from the Japanese National Tourism Organization

The display from the Japanese National Tourism Organization

 The Japanese Embassy and the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) along with JAL and purveyors of fine food and spirits presented a dazzling array of authentic musicians, sushi chefs and other traditional Japanese cuisine to excite travel writers and travel agents.

Kyoto musician

Kyoto musician

Held at the magnificent Ambassador’s residence on Nebraska Avenue, the seminar and reception was to celebrate the International Pow Wow (IPW), one of the country’s largest events to promote travel.  The focus was on Tohuku, and featured some of their regional sakes.  Tohuku is an area hard hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and which is now welcoming tourists to their charming

(l-r) Waterfalls in the Japanese tea gardens ~ The formal gardens at the Japanese Ambassadors's residence

(l-r) Waterfalls in the Japanese tea gardens ~ The formal gardens at the Japanese Ambassadors’s residence

The event host was Kelley Ferro, an award-wining travel journalist and filmmaker who visited Tohoku and created videos of her experience.  Watch here – Tohoku.

Representatives from Shiki-Shima, Japan’s new ultra-luxurious, high speed sleeper train that travels from Tokyo to off-the-beaten track places like Tohuku, greeted visitors.  H. E. Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae gave opening remarks before turning over the microphone to Keith Kirkham, Incoming Minister for Commercial Affairs for the embassy.

(l-r) Buffet supper features Japanese delicacies ~ Sakes from Tohoku

(l-r) Buffet supper features Japanese delicacies ~ Sakes from Tohoku

A toast was made, “Kanpai” followed by Kelley Ferro and a lavish dinner reception before Ryoichi Matsuyama, President of JNTO, gave closing remarks.

Peter Chang Opens Q in Rockville

A soft opening at Q

A soft opening at Q

Peter Chang’s empire keeps growing.  This is his seventh restaurant and all are located within Maryland and Virginia – all the better for Chang and his partner Jen Lee to check on their cooks and keep the standards up to snuff.

Peter Chang (right) cuts up with his Chef de Cuisine at Q

Peter Chang (right) cuts up with his Chef de Cuisine at Q

Their latest venture Q by Peter Chang is in a tony section of Rockville and boasts a glitzy outpost tailor made to showcase Chang’s fine Szechuan cuisine.  A large sunken slate patio, with spaciously arranged tables, dresses up the street side.  Inside it is ultra-modern with geometrically-shaped chandeliers and a concrete floor befitting Chang’s contemporary approach.  Walls are paneled with carved dark woodwork and angular wood tables run alongside the green leather banquettes.

The sunken patio at Q

The sunken patio at Q

If you’ve ever dined in Chang’s other locations you’ll know that he doesn’t hold back on the heat.  Seasonings can be fiery hot.  Tiny Szechuan red chiles take center stage in many dishes, but ask and your server will point you to milder fare.

Chicken with chiles at Q

Chicken with chiles

I’ve learned that when the salt factor rises, it ameliorates the ferocity of the spiciness somewhat, as does the addition of some sweetener to the accompanying sauce.  But don’t be surprised, even if you think you know Szechuan cuisine, if you’ll have to recalibrate your palate to adjust to these authentic dishes.  And be sure to check out the dim sum platter. Served only at lunch, it consists of nine samplings rotated seasonally.

(l-r) Pan-fried scallion and scallop dim sum – Scallop dim sum

Faves:  Pan-fried shrimp dumplings, scallion bubble pancakes, pork with chiles, roast duck pancakes, cumin lamb chops, “big buns”, pan-fried scallop or shrimp buns.

(l-r) Cumin lamb chops – Peking duck

Q by Peter Chang, 4500 East West Highway, Rockville, MD 20814 – 240 800.3722  www.qbypeterchang.com

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ June 30, 2017

Jordan Wright
June 2017
All Photo Credit: Jordan Wright

It’s been a whirlwind of restaurant openings, cookbook launches (more on those in a separate post), and embassy parties throughout the spring.  If you’ve been missing our updates, it’s because we’re catching our collective breaths.

Barbecue, Y’all

Myron Mixson (right) with Head Pitmaster and co-owner John Bennet on "Whole Hog" night

Myron Mixson (right) with Head Pitmaster and co-owner John Bennet on “Whole Hog” night

Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque opened in Old Town Alexandria and we got there on whole hog night.  Mixon, whose BBQ competitions take him to far-flung American cities, heads to Old Town once a month to host his special “pig out” events (Check the restaurant’s website for the next one).

We saw a number of large groups who evidently make it a party night with friends and family.  And now we know why!  The four-time World “Memphis in May” BBQ champ has won over 220 Grand Championships and is the two-time New York Times best-selling author of “Smokin’ with Myron Mixson: Recipes Made Simple” and “Myron Mixson’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat”.  The congenial Mixson knows how to put his customers in hog heaven. Mixson describes his water-smoked barbecue, prepared in a smoker of his own design, as a combination of flavors and sides from North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and South Carolina.  Don’t try to pin him down to one region. He won’t have it.

Mixson has an assortment of sauces.  What BBQ joint doesn’t?  But, good as they are, they were completely unnecessary.  The flavor was locked deep inside the meat.

Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans with peaches and cupcake cornbread with orange maple butter

Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans with peaches, and cupcake cornbread with orange maple butter

Cooking in his father’s BBQ carry out joint since he was nine years old, he has been raising the stakes on other competitors for years.  Last year Mixson won another. perhaps more serious, contest when he was sworn in as mayor of his hometown of Unadilla, GA.

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

Faves:  Pimento cheese, the ribs, the ribs, the ribs, cupcake cornbread (a large crusty muffin served with killer orange maple butter), potato salad, pulled pork stuffed deviled eggs, house made fresh pickles, and chocolate pie.

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson's Pitmaster Barbecue

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson’s Pitmaster Barbecue

Good Food Mercantile at Union Market Features Fine Food Crafters 

With a host of mostly local products to taste at this terrific event we wandered the aisles looking for new and game-changing products.  To our delight we found some super-original, award-winning, artisanal products at this pop-up event at Union Market’s Dock Five.

Dona Chai chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai – chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai, Brooklyn, NY – Chai tea concentrate.

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

Dress it Up Dressing, Chevy Chase, MD – Salad dressings with a pedigree – loved the “Champagne Vinaigrette” and “Blackberry Vinaigrette”.

Kombucha and Fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

Kombucha and fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

Hex Ferments, Baltimore, MD – Try the “Miso Kimchee” and “Sea Kraut” made with sea veggies.  They also make three flavors of tasty kombucha in gift-worthy bottles.  Loved the Carrot Juniper and Ginger.

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters' Skinny Salamis

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters’ Skinny Salamis

MeatCrafters, Hyattsville, MD – “Skinny Salamis” – made from Duroc pork.  Took them to a party and watched them disappear.  In several varieties – Black Angus Beef, Truffle (pork), Street Cart Sharma (lamb), Merguez (lamb), Spicy Chorizo (pork) and Casbah (pork), they’d be amazing with beer cheese or a hot cheese dip.

Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters, Portland, OR – Simply crazy about the “Spicy Thai Peanut Butter “– perfect for Sesame Peanut Noodles – and the “Espresso Nib Peanut Butter” – fold into soft ice cream or use in S’mores.

The team from Red Rooster Coffee Roaster with owner Haden Polseno-Hensley (center), Master Roaster Tony Greatorex (left) and Sales Mgr. Jolie Greatorex (right)

The team from Red Rooster Coffee Roaster with owner Haden Polseno-Hensley (center), Master Roaster Tony Greatorex (left) and Sales Mgr. Jolie Greatorex (right)

Red Rooster Coffee Roaster– From the hippest town in Virginia – Floyd.  Small batch roasted, the organic and fair trade certified green beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, Columbia, and Costa Rica and roasted in Floyd by this family-owned business.

Regalis Foods, NY, NY – A gourmet line of truffles, caviar and Carabinero prawns – from Ian “Truffle Boy” Purkayastha.

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

Oliver Farm, Pitts, GA – Cold pressed, award-winning, Southern artisan oils in flavors like pecan, benne, green peanut, sunflower, and pumpkin.  They also mill the hard-to-find pecan flour and benne flour.

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

Vicario Wine and Spirits, Greenville, SC – Wines, liqueurs and olive oil from Renato Vicario and Janette Wesley’s vineyard in Italy.

Update Leesburg

A beautiful charcuterie board at The Wine Kitchen

A beautiful charcuterie board

In Leesburg, Virginia we found two spots of note – The Wine Kitchen, located in the historic district, where Chef Tim Rowley prepares farm-to-table modern cuisine with a superb wine program in a casual atmosphere,

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons at The Wine Kitchen

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons

and The Conche, a chocolate-themed restaurant housing a 300-square foot chocolate laboratory.  The Conche is the newest venture from owner and celebrity chef Santosh Tiptur of DC’s Coco Sala.

Visit Colorado 

The spring, summer and fall are the times I prefer visiting Colorado.  I’m not a skier.  Enough said.  In the spring the wildflowers are magnificent, carpeting the hills and fields in all their glory.  The summer is when the Arts are abloom with concerts and festivals throughout the state.  Rodeo, anyone? And autumn begins the high season for skiers and leaf peepers.

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

The state divides itself up into nine regions – from the Plains in the Northeastern part of the state due west to the Northern Front Range to the Denver and Fort Collins area, then down through the Rockies where Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs lie.  From there go south to Paonia and the Grand Valley AVA of Grand Junction.  Cortez is situated in the southwest corner adjacent to New Mexico.  Two federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA) are in West Elks in Paonia and Grand Valley near Grand Junction where many of the state’s finest food products come from these areas.

Recently the good folks from Visit Colorado held a press reception at The Kennedy Center to show off some of their crafted beverages to include indie beers, wines, sodas and ciders.

Mom’s Baking Co introduce some tradition Czech Recipes and other modern European flavors ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Mom’s Baking Co introduce some tradition Czech Recipes and other modern European flavors ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

They also had an array of specialty foods and brought Café Aion Chef/Owner Dakota Soifer, one of Boulder’s leading chefs, to prepare dishes from these products.

A bountiful display of Colorado's best cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates ~ Photo credit Colorado Tourism

A bountiful display of Colorado’s best cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Cheeses and lamb were front and center, as you’d have expected.  Faves: James Ranch’s “Belford”, a butterscotch inflected cheese, and Avalanche Creamery’s handmade goat cheeses “Cabra Blanca”, a Tomme style cheese and “Finocchiona” with fennel and black pepper overtones. Tequila truffles courtesy of Telluride Truffle.

Breckenridge French-inspired bistro Belle V. with family recipes from southern France. Small plates and a casual atmosphere let diners taste a variety of dishes ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Breckenridge French-inspired bistro Belle V. with family recipes from southern France ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

The evening culminated with a rousing concert in the Opera House given by the Boulder Philharmonic.

Red’s Table Is a Fun Bike/Hike Away 

Named after their grandfather “Red”, the brothers Ryan, Patrick and Matthew Tracy are thrilled to come “home” to the area they were raised to open Red’s Table.  Located in the South Lakes Village Center in Reston overlooking beautiful Lake Thoreau, this lively neighborhood spot features a large patio overlooking both the lake and the bike/walk trail.

Red's Table in Reston

Red’s Table in Reston

Recent hire Executive Chef Kevin Ettenson returns to the area after working at hotels to head up the full-service restaurant.

Last week Ettenson switched to a summer menu adding some lighter dishes – burrata salad, watermelon salad, catfish with creole sauce over pasta, shrimp seviche, and fried green tomatoes.  Pastry Chef Chris Works adds a new dessert called “Sundae Brunch”.  It’s made with pieces of banana French toast chopped into squares, then fried and served with homemade butter pecan ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Fried calamari at Red's Table

Fried calamari at Red’s Table

The eclectic menu aims to please both the casual diner and the more discriminating palate with dishes that range from burgers, crab cakes and house made charcuterie to risotto style spring vegetable farro and steaks with beef from Virginia farms.  The bar boasts excellent craft cocktails as well as a wide-ranging wine and beer program featuring over a dozen local beers.  Right about now I’d go for the sangria chockfull of fresh fruits.

Jumbo crab cakes at Red's Table

Jumbo crab cakes at Red’s Table

Brunch is serious here. Faves: Hangtown Frittata, Fried Oysters with Stone Ground Grits, Sausage Biscuit Sliders and a wealth of fresh seafood from the raw bar.  The espresso blend coffee is from Monument Coffee Roasters in Manassas and it’s exceptional.

House made biscuits at Red's Table

House made biscuits at Red’s Table

All breads and desserts, including an assortment of gelati and sorbets, are made in-house under Work’s direction.

If you plan to walk or bike after dining, enjoy either the Reston Red Trail (2.1 miles) around Lake Thoreau or the Turquoise Trail (4.74 miles) on Lake Audubon.  If you’re on Metro get the Silver Line to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro exit onto Sunrise Valley Drive on the south side of the Metro.  There is an off road path with a cross over to the back patio of the restaurant.  It’s only one mile away from the South Lakes Village Center.

Tredici Enoteca Wows Dupont Circle 

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

Sleek and chic, Tredici Enoteca has been a posh destination since it transformed in January. Located in Dupont Circle’s four-star St. Gregory Hotel it is a sophisticated multi-level space that reveals a bespoke library for lounging, a central fireplace with white marble surround under high coffered ceilings and space age chandeliers.  A curving dark walnut stairway guides you to the topmost level overlooking the kitchen.

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

Antique mirrors and prints from a private collection adorn the walls, and a green velvet sofa coupled with black leather chairs at the entrance to the subway-tiled bar beckons you to sit a spell.  It is one of the prettiest places in town.  Skylights and a view to the street brighten up the brass-accented bar where you’ll want to try the smoked whisky cocktail.

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

The menu leans towards Mediterranean coastal fare with plenty of small plates if you just want to graze.

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

Executive Chef Carlos Aparicio, who came down from Philadelphia where he helmed restaurants for Marc Vetri and Stephen Starr, has brought his style and experience to the eclectic cuisine.

Smoke infused cocktail at Tredici Enoteca

“The Tredici Dutch” smoke infused cocktail

Faves: Mixologist Israel Nocelo’s “The Tredici Dutch” – smoked infused rye whisky, Carpano Antica vermouth with house bitters and Luxardo cherry.

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

Seafood samplers, mushroom toast, an unusual salad of broccoli and avocado with a sesame dressing, lasagna with lamb ragu, gnocchi, charred double lamb chops, squid ink tonarelli featuring cockles,

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

and a decadently delicious chocolate mousse cake draped in ganache.  Menu items may change by season.

Steamed cockles on squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

Steamed cockles atop squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

Taiwan Ambassador Flies in Top Chef for Exquisite Eight-Course Dinner 

One of the most beautiful residences in the Cleveland Park district is the 26-room Georgian Revival mansion “Twin Oaks” where the Taiwanese ambassador entertains.  Situated on 18-plus acres high atop a hill behind the National Cathedral, the home, built in 1888, originally served as the summer residence of Gardiner Greens Hubbard, the founder of the National Geographic Society.  For nearly eight decades it has served as a host property welcoming many U. S. presidents and countless international guests through its doors.

One of the salons at Twin Oaks

One of several drawing rooms at Twin Oaks

Many priceless antiques including imperial rosewood carved furniture with dragon motifs once belonging to the Empress Dowager, as well as a magnificent painting from the Ch’ing period that graces the elegant blue accented drawing rooms.

Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao toast "80 Years of Elegance" with guests Donna Christenson and Cary Pollak

Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao toast “80 Years of Elegance” with guests Donna Christenson and Cary Pollak

This spring evening ROC Ambassador and Mrs. Stanley Kao hosted a remarkable evening to celebrate “80 Years of Elegance”.  It called for a very special chef and the Ambassador had flown in Chef Yi-Jia Liu(劉宜嘉) long reputed for his exceptional culinary skills, in particular his Zhejiang cuisine expertise, for which he has won numerous prestigious culinary awards. His signature dish “Shaoxing Chicken” is one of the highest rated dishes in Taiwan.

In promoting Taiwanese culture, Liu has showcased his cooking in the United States by invitation of the Overseas Community Affairs Council. Currently Liu is the Executive Chef of the Howard Plaza Hotel’s Yangtse River Restaurant in Taipei.

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador's residence

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador’s residence

Gold embossed napkins depicting “Twin Oaks” graced the lace covered, candlelit tables along with bouquets of roses and hydrangeas.

Shaoxing Chicken

Shaoxing Chicken

Chef Liu’s unique dishes had names such as “Welcoming Flowers of Salmon, Cuttlefish, Chicken and Beef Tendon”, “King Crab Soup with the Flavor of an Ancient Royal Dynasty”, “Taste of Lobster in the Atmosphere of Twin Oaks”, “Rice with Sakura Shrimp and Faint Aroma of Winter” and “Delight of Yin (Sesame Mochi) and Yang (Pork Dumpling)”.

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

For the guests’ entertainment tenor Jason Ma, Deputy Director of the Congressional Liaison Division, sang the theme song “Nella Fantasia” from the movie, The Mission.

Watermelon chrysanthemum

Chef Liu’s carved watermelon chrysanthemum

It was a magical night filled with delectable dishes, hand-selected wines, scintillating conversation and a few shots of the very potent Taiwanese fermented sorghum liqueur!

Afghan Embassy Highlights Theatre, Poetry and Music with Food and Festivities

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

H. E. Ambassador and Mrs. Mohib hosted a sumptuous dinner to announce their participation in “Women of Troy/Voices of Afghanistan”, a cross-cultural collaboration set in the world’s longest contemporary field of war.

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

Over a dozen performers will participate in the January 2018 event with many of the women coming from Afghanistan. The special project will be produced by the Alliance for New Music-Theatre led by Susan Galbraith, the creator, co-writer and director, with poet and writer, Yalda Baktash. Alliance for New Music – Theatre is the “Theatre in Residence” at Dupont Underground, DC’s new subterranean arts and culture center under Dupont Circle.

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

The dinner introduced us to bolani (pronounced bo-lah-nee), a delicious stuffed flatbread filled with herbs, green onions and potatoes along with many other Afghan delicacies.

Afghani instruments

Afghani instruments

Milad Yousofi, a composer and Rubab (a lute-like instrument) player who works in Afghan folk, World Jazz and Fusion music, gave a concert with accompanied by a hand drummer. We particularly admired the craftsmanship of gorgeous carpets and Afghan jewelry that Zamani House of Heritage had on display.

Get updates for Alliance for New Music-Theatre .

A Day in the Chamomile Fields ~ Finding Gratitude and Meaning

Visiting a working farm, I gained a new perspective on my family’s favorite winter drink–chamomile tea.

There they were–little dots of yellow and white in the garden. Like an out of focus picture, I couldn’t see each flower, or even each plant–just a blur of the blossoms in the garden patch. That’s okay. I already know what chamomile is. I’ve seen it growing wild, I’ve had it in tea, used it in herb sachets, potpourri, and other fun things.

My children and I are at Glencolton Farms in Canada with Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout for the week and determined to do everything we can to be useful, to be a part of this working farm—connected to the food we depend on.

I asked what I could do to help. “Go pick the chamomile,” was the response. The flowers were ready, and we were expecting rain.

“This will be fun,” I thought cheerfully striding out to the garden, children behind me, as the bit of morning drizzle picked up. I was confident we would fill up the large bowls quickly and move on to the next piece of farm work that needed doing.

After 2 minutes of picking the tiny flowers–flowers only, no stems–I felt that soreness in my lower back that comes from stooping over–that feeling of tightness and numbness after a long hour of doing dishes or bending down to help a baby walk or a toddler ride a bike. I looked at the few scattered flowers on the bottom of the bowl. “That’s it?” I thought. “I should have more to show than this.”

The repetitive action and the ache led my mind to wander. It took me to the blistering cotton fields where slaves spent hours every day stooping to pick the same thing over and over endlessly in the hot southern sun. A few more flowers landed in my bowl. My kiddos whined a bit. They were tired. “Can we be done now?”

I thought about the neatly wrapped tea bags we buy packed in uniform boxes so we can enjoy a hot cup of tea on winter days. Chamomile, the kids always ask for. I had never thought too much about it and now I was curious and wanted to satisfy my curiosity.

“No, pick longer.”

The soft drizzle became heavier.

“You will appreciate the tea more if you know what goes into it,” I told them, knowing that it was, at least, a self-reflective statement.

I thought about farm families who came before us, how if they wanted tea in the wintertime, they had to pick it when it was ready. There is no waiting until you feel like it. You either pick when the flowers are ready or you don’t have chamomile that year. And that led me to apply that to everything. If you didn’t harvest in those few days when something was ready, you didn’t get it that year.

We proceeded picking the tiny flowers, fingers pinching them off where the flower met the stem, dropping them softly in bowls that now had a couple of layers of flowers.

I thought about the cotton mill and any other machinery that alleviates the burden of large-scale, repetitive farm work. It is one thing to harvest enough for a family, even for a year, but it is a whole different system to harvest enough for a village, a city, or beyond. I could understand the relief these inventions brought to all whose bodies ached and suffered from the relentless bending and picking. I watch as farm communities embrace new technology–robotics, drones, apps–to lighten the work.

“Would I choose the technology…” I thought, “if this was my job?”

The gardens at Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout's Glencolton Farms

The gardens at Michael Schmidt and Elisa VanderHout’s Glencolton Farms

There is a connection, a meditative quality to the work—even with all the aches and pains. There is a built-in respect for the human element involved in a small-scale, connected food system.

I knew I would not choose the technology in this instance, however, I now better understand the attraction to technological advancements.

The rain came down a little stronger, the ache in my back more pronounced. The back of my shirt, soaked through, gave me a little chill in the cool Canadian air.

Even with the children around, picking is still solitary work. In a way, hypnotizing me to the moment, to the unspoken (perhaps innate?) challenge of it. How many could I pick? How fast could I go? Could I get all that was needed before I injured myself? Sometimes, I picked as many as I could into my hand and then dropped them all in the bowl. Other times, I would pick each one, using my fingernails to snip it right off the stem, dropping each one to nestle next to its white and gold companions.

My mind went on ahead of me–surrounded by the flowering plants, I saw opportunities everywhere. I would spin in a circle, picking from as many different plants as I could reach in my arm’s arc. Then slow down and focus back on one plant.

Have we only been out here a half hour?

I thought about the pain of migrant farm workers–how bent and broken many of their bodies are from the repetitive work–berries, tomatoes, cucumbers. I got angry with the unthinking shoppers who pluck full plastic containers from the grocery store shelves as though they are grown that way. I felt myself indignant by the inherent wastefulness of that system and the disrespect for the humans involved in it. We don’t throw away or abuse what we truly appreciate.

That was what it was about–that was why we were there right now. Despite the rain and the whines, I realized that we were doing this because I wanted to give my children the gift of appreciation–appreciating what goes into even a small cup of tea. In the process, I had given that gift to myself. Out in the field in the rain, watching the bowl slowly gain a few more flowers, a few more, feeling the ache in my back and noticing my mind wonder, it was I who gained a new appreciation for something I had taken completely for granted–something that I plucked, neatly boxed, off the grocery store shelves. Food is never just food. It has a story, it has a history. It has life. It gives life or it takes life. I knew that, but, like the chamomile patch, sometimes it is far away and out of focus.

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

Later, job done, and the rain pounding on the roof, I offered my oldest a cup of tea. “Yes,” she said. “What kind?” I asked her. “Chamomile,” she responded. Of course that’s what she wanted.

I pulled out a full jar of dried chamomile from last year’s harvest and for the first time, the fuzzy blur of chamomile from the garden was in sharp focus–the tiny dried buds, yellow flowers ringed by faded white petals, lingering bits of stem that didn’t get quite pinched off, even the bits of dust. I opened the lid to the sweet, musty greeting of chamomile tea. Now, I knew, I would savor every sip of chamomile tea with a depth I never had before. I would think of the love and work that went into growing, picking and drying the delightful flowers. I would appreciate.

As I sipped my mug of chamomile tea, I looked back out to the garden where I saw, in perfect focus, a beautiful patch of chamomile.

*****

Liz Reitzig has spent nearly a decade working on the politics of food access in support of small farmers and those who wish to obtain food directly from them. She believes that everyone has the right to peacefully access the foods of their choice from the producer of their choice.

In 2007 Liz founded Grassfed On The Hill, a local GMO-free food buying club that serves the greater Washington DC metro area. Liz still owns and operates her club which serves Washingtonians with GMO-free meats and raw dairy from local farms.

In 2011 Farm Food Freedom was created. As the co-founder and spokesperson, her work on several key cases along with her proactive approach to policy and activism has helped keep farmers out of jail while shaping national and state level food and farming policies.

In 2013, Liz launched her website, NourishingLiberty.com, to chronicle news and events in the food freedom movement and to cover examples of farmers who are blazing new trails.

In 2016 she founded the Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) which is a watch dog for farm-to-consumer procurement of real foods. In early 2017 Liz and RFCC were instrumental in helping an Pennsylvania Amish farmer get released from contempt of court charges and, most recently, she helped spearhead the filing of a citizen petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that if accepted, would eliminate an important layer of FDA regulatory enforcement against raw milk farmers—the agency’s ban on interstate transportation or sale of raw milk. Farmers would be exempt from enforcement of this regulation if they provide warning labels and a recipe for pasteurization on raw milk products.

Liz is an event speaker, has appeared as a raw milk spokesperson on several national radio and television shows, has been subject matter in national newspapers and has been featured in the documentary Farmageddon. Her most recent appearance, a few weeks ago, was as a guest with Dr. Ron Paul on his Liberty Report show.

Most importantly, Liz is a Mother of five children raising the next generation on GMO free foods and healthy portion of food awareness.

Links to Liz’ websites:

Real Food Consumer Coalition – https://realfoodcc.com

Nourishing Liberty – http://nourishingliberty.com

Classic Cher ~ The Theater at MGM National Harbor

Jordan Wright
March 21, 2017
Special to DC Metro Theatre Arts

Accompanied by a phalanx of golden shield-carrying gladiators, The Goddess of Pop strode onstage last night in a massive afro and shimmering turquoise and silver ensemble that exposed one singular, very buff, perfectly rounded butt cheek.  Seventy is the new twenty, if it’s Cher we’re talking about.  Glamorous, fit and fierce, she seized the night with style and purpose, opening to deafening cheers with, “This Is a Woman’s World”.

A two-tiered Moroccan palace with central dome served as backdrop for a myriad of cultural themes as Cher took her fans through an intimate tour of her life before during and after the Sonny Bono years in her latest show, CLASSIC CHER.  Projected above the stage were vintage videos of her childhood interspersed with film clips from her movies and bits from her three CBS variety shows – The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Cher and the short-lived The Sonny & Cher Show.  For fans of the raven-haired beauty this was solid gold.  (Sony’s Get.TV runs the shows on Monday nights)

Just as riveting were snapshots of the clothes she wore – the bejeweled Bob Mackie gowns, the Op Art Mary Quant miniskirts and white go-go boots of the mid-60’s, the tie-dyed shirts and bell-bottoms of the psychedelic era – that brought back memories of Cher’s major influence on the pop fashion scene.  There was no mistaking that this show was as much about her spectacular wardrobe as her Grammy-winning pop songs, as she took us through the history of the music, costumes and wigs from the mid 1960’s and throughout the history of her meteoric career.

As the pop diva regaled fans with personal stories about her life and times both on stage and off, she sang duets with Sonny on video of some of their most fondly remembered songs – “The Beat Goes On”, the 1965 hit “All I Really Want to Do” and “I Got You Babe”, the closing number in the pair’s first show and a song she’s been reluctant to sing in the past, fearful she’d break down in tears.

Surrounded by nine dancers, some doubling as acrobats perched high above the stage, Cher made as many as ten costume changes to dovetail with her greatest hits.  There were grass-skirted African dancers, a burlesque scene from a Berlin cabaret, Cher in hot pink veils a la Scheherazade, a life-size faux elephant that emerged for the circus-themed “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”, and of course, the full-feathered Indian headdress that she wore for the 1973 song, “Half-Breed” which was only her second US solo number.

Between snippets of songs, laser lights, Pop Art graphics and video footage, the Oscar-winning actress told of her musical influences – Tito Puente, Hank Williams and ultimately Elvis who above all inspired her to take risks.  And isn’t that what this show is all about.  Cher, backed by five musicians, proving that the beat does indeed still go on.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Cher performed on March 20, 2017, at The Theater at MGM Grand National Harbor – 101 MGM National Ave, in Oxon Hill, MD.

Remaining performances are on March 23, 25, and 26, 2017, and she returns on August 31, 2017 and on September 2, 3, 7, 9, and 10, 2017. For tickets and information visit their website.

Key for Two ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
March 1, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

 Charlene Sloan as Harriet, Peter Harrold as Gordon, and Dana Gattuso as Anne - Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

Charlene Sloan as Harriet, Peter Harrold as Gordon, and Dana Gattuso as Anne – Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

What’s more fun than a British farce by LTA?  It’s the theater’s stock-in-trade and each season they get more masterful at this vehicle.  Written by John Chapman (no relation to our current City Councilman) and Dave Freeman, it is a hoot in the grand tradition of delightfully naughty drawing room comedies.  Freeman began his writing career on The Benny Hill Show and Carry On TV series, later writing for Peter Sellers and other notable British comedians.  Chapman was best known for a slew of British sketch comedies in the 70’s and 80’s.  The writers collaborated on Key for Two, winning “Comedy of the Year” in London’s Society of West End Theatre Awards for their efforts.

Dana Gattuso (Anne), Elizabeth Replogle (Magda) and Charlene Sloan (Harriet) - Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

Dana Gattuso (Anne), Elizabeth Replogle (Magda) and Charlene Sloan (Harriet) – Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

In Key for Two, Harriet (Charlene Sloan) is mistress to two married men, successful adman Gordon (Peter Harrold) and ship owner Alec (Cal Whitehurst).  They each are unaware of the other, as well as the existence of Harriet’s estranged spouse.  In order to keep the charade alive, the pretty polygamist cleverly concocts a balancing act to entertain them on alternate days.  The fun begins when Gordon twists his ankle, leaving him bedridden in her Brighton flat.  To add to the confusion, her best friend Anne (Dana Gattuso), smarting from a recent separation, arrives unexpected.  Anne’s husband Richard (Justin Latus), a taxidermist, soon shows up drunk as a skunk and still carrying a torch for Harriet.  The two women quickly join forces creating hilarious excuse after excuse to explain away the untenable situation.  “It’s been a very busy year for kept women,” Harriet complains to Anne as the two conspirators attempt to keep the men from bumping into each other.

Cal Whitehurst (Alex) and Charlene Sloan (Harriet) - Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

Cal Whitehurst (Alex) and Charlene Sloan (Harriet) – Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

There’s a lot of leaping in and out of bed as Harriet pretends to be married to Anne’s fictional husband the women dub “Bob the Murderer” in order to keep Gordon at sixes and nines.  But it’s Anne who has to go the extra mile pretending to be married to Gordon in order to preserve Harriet’s charade.  It begins to unravel when Anne, now pretending to be a caregiver at Harriet’s “nursing home”, claims that Alec has “polygamist palsy” and believes he is married to Harriet.  Are you still with me?  If you can keep that much in mind the rest is a snap…that is until Gordon and Alec’s wives, Magda (Elizabeth Replogle) and Mildred (Liz LeBoo) turn up and all hell breaks loose.  Richard’s brief love affair with Magda’s fox stole is classic.

Liz LeBoo (Mildred), Charlene Sloan (Harriet), Dana Gattuso (Anne) and Cal Whitehurst (Alex) - Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

Liz LeBoo (Mildred), Charlene Sloan (Harriet), Dana Gattuso (Anne) and Cal Whitehurst (Alex) – Photos by Keith Waters for Kx Photograhy

Director Eleanore Tapscott (Caught in the Net, Noises Off and I’m Not Rappaport at LTA) corrals a talented cast and puts them to work tickling our collective funny bones with snappy repartee, double entendres, puns and malapropisms.  And to our delight, they never stop.

If you like silly British slapstick comedy, this is the one to see!

Through March 18th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com