Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ November 2017

Jordan Wright
November 2017
Photos by Jordan Wright
 

Wines of Lugana ~ Fiola Mare on Georgetown Waterfront ~ Sunday in Saigon – Upscale Vietnamese in Alexandria ~ Honeygrow Provides Healthy Choices in Pentagon City ~ Pokéworks at The Block in Annandale ~ Duck Donuts Comes to Northern Virginia ~ Red’s Table Wine Spanish Wine Dinner and Upcoming Whiskey Dinner

 Wines of Lugana, Italy 

Six of the Lugana wines that range from soft and fruity to lemony and herbaceous

Six of the Lugana wines that range from soft and fruity to lemony and herbaceous

A luncheon and wine primer hosted by the Consorzio Tutela at Café Milano proved to be the perfect setting for learning about the wines of Lugana DOC.  This wine-growing designation in the province of Brescia, is situated in the southern part of the beautiful Lake Garda in Northern Italy, 150 miles east of Venice and 150 miles west of Milan, and southwest of the Dolomite Mountains.  The volcanic soil of clay and sand is rich in mineral salts, and the lake, which was formed from a volcanic eruption 10,000 years ago, supplies 30% of its fresh water to all of Italy.  This area also has the advantage of being warm enough to have olive trees with a Mediterranean climate. Perfect for the grapes too.

A map of the region

A map of the region

As a travel destination, the Lake Garda region is hugely popular with tourists and many of the wineries have their own restaurants, bars and lodging.  Cyclists can ride around the circumference of this picturesque lake taking in water views and visiting wineries along the way.

The Lugana wines pairing menu at Café Milano

The Lugana wines pairing menu at Café Milano

Currently the largest market for this thick-skinned grape is surprisingly Monaco. Following that their largest audience of consumers is Germany.  And though the winemakers have seen a ten percent increase in production per year for the past ten years, there were only 15,120,133 bottles of these extraordinarily expressive produced in 2016.

Due to the fact that there are only 4,628 acres in vine, it is the most expensive white wine in Italy.   Genetically the Turbiana grape is distantly related to Trebbiano di Soave and is a distant cousin to Verdicchio, but don’t let that distinction define its profile.  After tasting a dozen wines from the region, made exclusively with this single grape, I can say that it has stunning versatility, as well as affordability.

Arugula salad starts the pairings

Arugula salad starts the pairings

There are a number of expressions of this grape and they are all very individual.  They range from soft and floral, fruity to crisp, lemony and herbaceous and even sweet as in the late harvest wines.  And most of the wine is made un-oaked.

Ca Maiol from Lugana - a delicious sparkler

Ca Maiol from Lugana – a delicious sparkler

The basic Lugana is fruity and dry and is rarely exported; ‘Superiore’ requires one year of aging to mature; Reserva is aged for 24 months – six months in bottle; the late harvest Vendemmia Tardiva is only made by three wineries; and the very lovely Spumante is in limited production.  That said, it is finding its way into some of the finer restaurants in our area. 

Fiola Mare at Georgetown Harbor 

One of the most recommended restaurants in Metro DC is Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola Mare.  Along with his wife, Maria the dynamic duo has launched five of the most successful concept restaurants in town.  Here the thrust is seafood – freshly caught, sustainably raised and served with an elegant Italian flourish.  It is everything you’d dream of in a posh seafood restaurant in coastal Italy.

An assortment of crudi and prosecco cocktails at Fiola Mare overlooking the waterfront in Georgetown

An assortment of crudi and prosecco cocktails at Fiola Mare overlooking the waterfront in Georgetown

Situated alongside the Potomac River on the Georgetown Waterfront boardwalk, its sea blue awnings beckon diners to this nautical themed restaurant.  Inside bistro chairs are fitted out with white piped, navy blue cushions, just what you’d expect to see on a luxury private yacht.  Windows open out to take in the view of Kennedy Center, and a nearby park is the perfect spot for an after-dinner stroll.

The sleek bar at Fiola Mare

The sleek bar

It’s a lively place, not conducive to easy table talk, but the large, narrow dining room sporting cream colored banquettes is arranged to see and be seen.  Even the bar, stocked to the ceiling with aperitivos like Cynar and Campari, has a clear view to the main dining room.  A smaller room with coffered ceiling, paintings of sailboats, and a marble-topped bar looks to be perfect for private parties.

Seafood Ancona at Fiola Mare

Seafood Ancona

Dinner began with a pair of ‘Bellagio’ cocktails and a quartet of raw tuna, caviar, sea urchin and foie gras mousse.  It merely whet our appetite for more.  Our server suggested we order the ‘Ancona’ – – Madagascar shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, bay scallops, king crab, langoustines and more tuna tartare.  Who could say no?

Fabio Trabocchi’s famous lobster ravioli

Fabio Trabocchi’s famous lobster ravioli

One of Trabochi’s best known dishes, is his Lobster Ravioli.  There is a reason for this.  The pasta, nestled in a delicate sauce, is as sheer as a silk stocking and what lobster the ravioli doesn’t accommodate within, is added to the final dish.  It is deluxe…and it is legendary.  We followed that with pan-seared fish, whose heritage I cannot now recall, but it was served on soft polenta with baby zucchini.  I’m fairly certain that was the only vegetable I made contact with all night.

The ‘Marchesi’ chocolate and pistachio dessert at Fiola Mare

The ‘Marchesi’ chocolate and pistachio dessert

Allowing for a dessert to share, Pastry Chef Christian Capo created an exquisite terrine of dark chocolate with pistachio gelee and pistachio mousse that I am still dreaming of.

Fiola Mare – 3050 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.  For reservations call 202.628.0065 or visit www.FiolaMareDC.com

Sunday in Saigon 

The name alone is enticing, conjuring up exotic images of the day of the week best known for relaxing.  But it’s not just the name that lures me to the regional Vietnamese dishes in this hip, welcoming atmosphere.  It’s as much that as the owner’s attention to detail.

Chrysanthemum tea at Sunday in Saigon

Chrysanthemum tea at Sunday in Saigon

French rattan bistro chairs and wide umbrellas welcome outdoor diners while a cozy, carpeted nook for hanging out in wing-backed chairs offers a plush respite while waiting for your table.  There’s even a tech-savvy card-operated wine automat for sampling a rotating selection of wines in ounce increments.  Help yourself.  Even the décor shows a personal touch with Asian antiques, moth orchids and a feature wall of brightly colored sheet music and album covers from the 1960’s through the 70’s.  These almost Pop Art covers from the owner’s private collection derive from controversial love songs that came out during the Vietnam war and were outlawed by the Communists until 1975.

Owner, My Kieu Huyhn, of Café Banh Mi, a tiny spot on Cameron Street in Old Town, opened this more elegant, spacious spot in June in the former Teaism beside the Old Town Trader Joe’s.  “Mimi”, as she’s called, aims to showcase a modern Vietnamese aesthetic using higher end ingredients in traditional dishes.

The cozy lounge at Sunday in Saigon

The cozy lounge

Here you’ll find unusual offerings like Pho Bo Wagyu – Wagyu Beef Pho in Oxtail Broth; Com Tay Cam Chay – incorporating seitan, lotus seed pumpkin and rice prepared in a traditional clay pot; Canh Chua – a Viet bouillabaisse with prawns, salmon, pineapple and tamarind.  For a refreshing and filling salad try the Tom Hum Xa Lach – lobster salad with avocado, mango, and hearts of palm with a delicate passion fruit vinaigrette, or go with a version of the Saigon seafood pancake, here called a ‘Vietnamese crepe’, that’s loaded with shrimp and veggies.  Options for sides include coconut rice, brown rice or black rice.

Exceptional service.

682 North St. Asaph St., Alexandria, VA 22314.  For more information visit www.SundayinSaigon.com or call 703 549-7777.

Honeygrow 

honeygrow’s monthly list of local farms where ingredients are sourced.

honeygrow’s monthly list of local farms where ingredients are sourced.

Hmmm, I thought.  Honeygrow is an odd name for a restaurant.  Then I learned it’s a contraction of ‘Honestly Grown’.  And that defines the concept to a tee.  It checks all the boxes for eco-friendly – like sustainably grown ingredients (many organic), recyclable flatware and bowls, and locally sourced ingredients.  That’s all well and good, you say, but how does it taste?  Well, here you’re the chef, customizing your order from a dizzying assortment of ingredients to create a bowl of healthy deliciousness.  Just the way you like it.  A wall-mounted chalkboard lists local farms cueing the diner to their place of origin.

At the Pentagon City location (another outpost is in DC’s Chinatown), a few feet away from the Crystal City Ritz Carleton, it’s past lunch hour and a line has already formed for takeout orders.  Though there is a section for dining-in, it appears most of the patrons have walked over from nearby offices to pick up their pre-orders.  Security badges are ubiquitous in this area, and it’s fairly easy to discern government employees from mall shoppers – office dress and military uniforms vs. comfy casual.

honeygrow in Pentagon City

honeygrow in Pentagon City

Initially, it’s a bit daunting with many options to choose from, but the menu guides the diner with a few basic ‘bowls’ featuring both cooked and raw options.  From there you’ll tailor the finished bowl choosing from a raft of different dressings and toppings.  Dishes are primarily designed around Asian and Mediterranean themes with a guide to gluten-free, vegetarian and/or calorie count – if you’re watching your waistline.  Proteins range from poached chicken and hard cooked eggs to bacon, turkey, spiced tofu or beef, nuts (walnuts or cashews), cheeses and legumes.  There’s even a regional stir-fry or a create-your-own option.  And all meats are all natural, antibiotic and hormone-free.  High five, up top!

Culinary director, Chef David Katz, previously of Philadelphia’s award-winning Mémé and Creekstone Farms, carefully considers each ingredient offered, from sustainably raised meats to sauces and dressings prepared from scratch daily. Produce is always fresh (honeygrow eschews freezers).

Freshly bottled juices and salad your way at honeygrow

Freshly bottled juices and salad your way

As for drinks the best choice is to go with the cold-pressed, sugar-free juices in to-go bottles. “Better Off Red” is beet-based with watermelon and raspberry; “Green Is Good” features apple, spinach and cucumber; and “Orange You Thirsty” blends oranges, carrots, ginger and lemon.  They are all delicious and, of course super-healthful.  We tried all three and each was refreshing with well-balanced flavors.

A stir fry bowl from honeygrow

A stir fry bowl

Expect the same health-conscious dessert approach from this Philadelphia-based export.  Opt for a base of fresh fruits topped with local honey – wildflower, buckwheat or clover – and top it with fresh cinnamon whipped cream or local yogurt, coconut, granola, ginger snaps or dark chocolate chips and you’re good to go.

Clearly, a popular neighborhood spot, especially for those who embrace a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle.

Opening its newest location in Rockville on December 8th at the Montrose Shopping Center, honeygrow will offer its first 100 guests complimentary meals (choice of one stir-fry or salad, as well as a fountain drink,) on opening day.  Additionally, the Rockville Pike location will feature artwork by local photographer Ian Jared Bell.  1100 South Hayes St., Arlington, VA 22202.  To check out other locations visit  www.honeygrow.com

Pokéworks at The Block 

I’ve been to The Block six times.  But I always go to Pokéworks.  I’ve even got my little buy-twelve-get-one-free card to prove it.  I haven’t written about them before because I wanted to keep it secret, but it’s too late for that.  This spot is jumping day or night.  Located in Annandale in a forgettable strip shopping center that features a K-Mart, a Korean bakery and a nail salon, it was a former Wendy’s, or so I’ve heard.  You’d never know it.  It’s since been redesigned into a stylishly industrial-hip open floor plan resembling a mini-food hall.   You’ll find three other counters – Balo Kitchen – Asian comfort food, Roots – Thai street food, and SnoCream, a Taiwanese shaved-ice shop with uniquely flavored ice creams.

The Block in Annandale

The Block in Annandale

A bar with TV screens runs the length of the space, but at lunch time no one sits there.  Communal tables allow for easy conversation amongst strangers and I’ve chatted up a table of middle-aged Chinese-American ladies, a Vietnamese-American gaggle of girls and a mother with teenage daughter who was off to LA for an acting gig who showed me photos of one of The Block’s nighttime themed parties and her sparkly, pink unicorn costume.

Poké bowl at Pokéworks

Poké bowl at Pokéworks

From humble roots as a popular DC food truck, Pokéworks offers bowl or seaweed wrapped burrito options.  First choose from a base of kale noodles, brown rice or sushi rice, then select from two or three proteins (price increases only a dollar) – raw ahi tuna, raw salmon, raw albacore tuna, cooked shrimp, raw scallops, organic tofu or cooked chicken.

Different choices of protein and toppings at Pokéworks

Different choices of protein and toppings

Mix-ins are too numerous to mention here, but I am regularly drawn to edamame and diced mango.  Eight different dressings are offered, but I like the ponzu or umami shoyu.  Then toppings are applied.  Avocado and wasabi tobiko are a bit extra, but the other eight are standard options.  Lastly ‘Your Crunch’ is applied.  Choose from roasted macadamia nuts, garlic crisps, lotus chips, shredded nori and more.  As many as you like.  Enjoy.  Just keep this cool spot on the down low.

Be sure to check out their new monthly night market starting this Saturday and Sunday November 24th and 25th from noon till 10pm.  www.dmvnightmarket.com

The Block 4221 John Marr Drive, Annandale, VA 22003

Duck Donuts Arrives in Alexandria, VA 

Teens await opening of Duck Donuts

Teens await opening of Duck Donuts

Russ DiGilio, founder and owner of Duck Donuts has rapidly expanded his Outer Banks shop into a franchise operation.  Now with 12 locations in Virginia and Maryland, this unique donut concept allows guests to choose their own donut, base, icing and toppings – all made to order and served hot on the spot.  Coatings go outside the norm with flavors like maple, peanut butter, strawberry, blueberry and lemon to underscore toppings – sprinkles, coconut, bacon and Oreo.  Drizzles include hot fudge, blackberry, raspberry and salted caramel.

An assortment of Duck Donuts served hot!

An assortment of Duck Donuts served hot!

Excited teens from a nearby school peered through the windows, but were a day early for the grand opening.  Nonetheless, six-franchisee owner Alvin Barnuevo graciously brought out a tray of donuts to the students.  Kudos, Alvin.  You just made a whole new crop of friends.  Duck Donuts 3610 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302.  For other locations or to place orders in advance, visit www.DuckDonuts.com/locations

Red’s Table Pairs Spanish Cuisine with Wines 

Spanish wines at Red’s Table dinner event

Spanish wines at Red’s Table dinner event

Red’s Table’s executive chef is nothing if not versatile.  Definitely worth the drive out to Reston for a guided wine pairing dinner served outdoors on their spacious deck overlooking Lake Thoreau.

Confit of rabbit, romesco sauce and white beans at Red’s Table

Confit of rabbit, romesco sauce and white beans

The six-course dinner, complemented an ambitious dinner by Executive Chef Kevin Ettenson.  Because it was such an extensive showing of wine pairings I am listing them so that you can recognize some of your favorites – Cava Brut, Bodegas Murviedro Corolilla, Valencia, NV, Hondarribi Zuri, Bodegas K5, Pilota, D.O. Getariako Txakolina, Basque, 2016, Albarino, Adega dos Eidos, Eidos De Padrinan, Rias Baixas, 2016, Garnacha Blend, Casa Gran del Siurana, GR-174, DOC, Priorat, 2014, and Tempranillo, Dominio Basconcillos, Vigna Magna Seis Meses, Estate, Ribera del Duero, 2015. 

Hangar steak with salt bath roasted potatoes and roasted piquillo peppers at Red’s Table

Hangar steak with salt bath roasted potatoes and roasted piquillo peppers

These sumptuous wines were served with jamon Iberico y membrillo crostini; tomate tartare; gambas al ajillo; conejo con Romesco; lomo de buey con patatas y piquillos; and a dessert of petits fours.  Tell me you can find a better deal for $85.00 per person.

Roasted tomato confit with shallot aioli at Red’s Table

Roasted tomato confit with shallot aioli

To catch one of these special pairing dinners, make a reservation now for the upcoming Whiskey Dinner on Saturday, December 9th.  For $85.00pp the evening’s offerings will feature both domestic and imported whiskeys over a four-course dinner. Five whiskeys from the U.S. and Scotland will be served to include – Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Oban, Glenmorangie Nectar D’or, and Glenmorangie Signet.   Here’s the plan.

Welcome Cocktail
Smokey Pete featuring Bulleit Rye Whiskey
paired with
Fried Chicken Biscuit with house pickles

 First Course
Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year – Fig Smash
paired with
Bourbon French Toast with house smoked hickory syrup

Second Course
Ardbeg Corryvreckan, shaken with orange & chamomile syrup
paired with
Seared Scallops with orange crème fraîche, crispy capers

Third Course
Oban with large sugar cube soaked in bitters
paired with
Roasted Pheasant with wild mushroom ragu and black mission fig marmalade

Fourth Course
Glenmorangie Nectar D’or, chilled and poured over a grilled pear slice
paired with
Lemon-Infused Almond Cake with honeycomb candy, dates, and lightened lemon curd

Optional Fifth Course
(for an additional $25.00)
Glenmorangie Signet, served neat
paired with
Dark Chocolate Ganache with toasted cinnamon rolled in crushed espresso beans 

Red’s Table is at 11150 South Lakes Drive, Reston, Virginia 20191. For reservations call 571.375.7755 or visit redstableva.com.

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.