Special to DC Metro Theaters Arts
Secret Chopsticks Brings Classic Chinese to Rosslyn – Pennsylvania 6 Challenges DC’s Established Steak and Seafood Houses – Let’s Do BBQ! Texas Jack’s Style – Austrian Embassy Focuses on Art and Photography with a Side of Schnitzel
A dinner consisting of a parade of eleven courses is all in a day’s work, isn’t it? It was for me at Executive Chef/Partner Robin Li’s new Chinese restaurant, Secret Chopsticks in the luxurious Turnberry Tower in Rosslyn. Li, along with Dim Sum Chef, Tonia Wang, are sticking to the classics, preparing regional Mainland Chinese cuisine, rare in the DMV.
The dining room at Secret Chopsticks
Li’s early training came from a stint in the US Navy who sent him to the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park to hone his skills. After his hitch was up, he returned to the school to graduate and then back to China where he opened an American-style steakhouse. Thankfully he turned his sights back to the States and Chinese cuisine.
There are so many dishes to triumph here. On a recent visit the menu listed a variety of dishes sans description, though I’m told that will soon be corrected to better inform diners. Dumplings sheer as silk stockings and consommés as delicate as French haute cuisine are artistically presented and often garnished with a single goji berry. Most dishes come lightly poached, with few fried offerings. Those that are, like crispy tofu skin, are light as a feather.
(L-R) Tofu Blossom Soup — Beef Potstickers — A delicately prepared Steamed Chilean Sea Bass
From the Tofu Blossom soup, which looks like a chrysanthemum in full bloom, dishes were nicely timed – – not rushed. Though the menu offers a la carte or dim sum, you can opt for an 11-course tasting menu to experience dishes that highlight the best of Mainland China and showcase some unusual ingredients not commonly seen in our area’s Chinese restaurants. A delicacy called “fengo” uses a bok choy cousin called yu choy, a tender green incorporated into a superb dumpling and Li’s rendition of crystal shrimp dumplings, the hallmark of all great Chinese chefs, is spot on.
(L-R) Dongpo Pork Belly — Durian Pastry with durian ice cream
An intriguing array of craft cocktails, surprisingly more in keeping with the hipper watering holes in town, rise to the level of excellence. Though they change from time to time, we found the cocktails to be beautifully balanced and original. Try the ‘Bao Bao Green Tea Mojito’ (my personal favorite) or ‘Turn Down Service, For What?’, a play on rapper Lil Jon’s hit song. And winter’s wrath may be tamed by a drink aptly named, ‘Happy Toddy’. Whatever you choose, be sure to cap it off with Durian Pastry with Durian Ice Cream. Notwithstanding all the horror stories you have heard about durian’s overpowering taste and aroma, Li tames the fruit into a delicious and refreshing confection. www.SecretChopsticks.com
Pennsylvania 6 – A New Downtown Hotspot Challenges the Old Guard
The bar at Pennsylvania 6
Pennsylvania 6 is presenting some serious competition to downtown steak-and-seafood establishments, and it starts with a gorgeous interior that is spacious without being cavernous. Anchored by large oak columns, the large Carrera marble bar gleams with stainless steel accents. Tinted mirrors are inscribed with the cocktail and seafood specials of the day. The afternoon I was there the I Street afternoon sun spilled onto the rustic wood floors lighting up a hammered metal bucket filled with juicy citrus fruits. And since atmosphere sets the tone for the direction the menu will take, comfortable seating at properly-lit linen covered tables allowed us to be able to see our food without sacrificing ambiance. Beyond the bar white subway tiles surround an Oyster Bar where crustaceans are nestled in their icy beds. Maine lobsters and oysters from both coasts awaiting their star turn. It’s everything you would hope for from a restaurant keen to dispel any whiff of newness.
(L-R) A cozy setting — The elegant private dining room
On the walls a well-curated collection of old photos, magazine covers, antique prints, original oil paintings, and equestrian art add to the clubby atmosphere. Off to one side tweed-covered sofas by a fireside beckon guests to linger awhile.
Executive Chef Mark Plessis
This is the sort of place to celebrate a promotion, mark anniversaries and birthdays, and impress clients. It is upscale dining with a twist, overseen by Executive Chef Mark Plessis and Culinary Director Brian Cook. And though the prime steaks and grand seafood towers are lavish, the approach is new and stylish. Foie Gras Mousse gets an apple cider gelee, Kona Kampachi Crudo gets gooseberries, and steaks get a choice of sauces from peppadew chimichurri and bordelaise to gorgonzola butter. Sides are excellent too, especially the Duck Fat Fries.
(L-R) Kona Kampachi Crudo with gooseberries — Tuna Crudo
As for desserts, it’s well nigh impossible to choose only one, so order a few and you be the judge – the Spiced Apple Cake and assortment of Mini Crème Brulees are divine.
A trio of Creme Brûlées
I don’t always mention service in my reviews since if they know who I am, it may not reflect what other diners experience – and if they do not, it can be just as good, or just as bad as if they did know. But in this case, the staff at Pennsylvania 6 is a breath of fresh air – well-trained, knowledgeable and crisp about their duties, striking the right balance between amenably responsive and respectfully unintrusive. What a joy, since good food and a pretty place only go so far. www.Pennsylvania6DC.com
Texas Jack’s Serves Up Killer BBQ from Former Brooklyn-Based Chef
What does a kid who learned about barbecue in Brooklyn know from Texas barbecue, you might ask? A lot, as it turns out! In 2004 Executive Chef Matt Lang began his career in Manhattan at the much-lauded Pearl Oyster Bar, while still attending the French Culinary Institute. Three years later he was running the kitchen at Fette Sau, a newly launched barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn where he created a menu inspired by every American region that offers barbecue.
Chef Matt Lang wrangles a juicy brisket
Fette Sau was voted the number one barbecue restaurant in New York by Zagat, holding that position for each year Lang ran the kitchen. In 2007 Fette Sau was lauded with a glowing review from The New York Times. Later Lang competed on the Food Network barbecue show, Best in Smoke, competing against barbecue mega-giants like Famous Dave, Chris Lilley, and Brad Orrison, among others. Lucky for us, he landed in the DMV.
At Texas Jack’s Barbecue, housed in the former Whitey’s in Clarendon, there is a whole lot of cheffin’ goin’ on. And Lang has taken the don’t-mess-with-Texas motto and upped the ante by circling the mains with some healthful sides that really rock.
The bar scene at Texas Jack’s
Did I love this place? To bits! First off Lang sources high quality meats – strictly upper cut short ribs from Allen Brothers in Chicago; pork from the Duroc heritage breed from Missouri; Habanero sausage from Mitch Berliner and Stanley Feder’s locally based MeatCrafters; and sustainably-raised organic chickens from Freebird in Pennsylvania. Local farmers fill in the produce blanks as much as seasonally possible. This is not your average barbecue joint. Expect these high end ingredients to express a far better product. But there are some things that just don’t need changing, like the fluffy-soft traditional Martin’s Dutch Potato Bread the pulled pork sandwiches are served on.
(L-R) Ribs, habanero sausage and sides — Pulled pork sandwiches
Owner Steve Roberts knows cowboy vittles from his roots in Montana and wanted to bring the real deal to Arlington. A Greek, whose background is in food service, Roberts already has five successful Cleveland restaurants under his belt. He’s kept the original scuffed-up concrete floors and opened up a few arched windows that had been hidden behind brick walls that once separated the two buildings. Now there’s a clear view to the expansive bar from the main dining room. And he’s added some cool touches of his own. Chairs and tables are custom crafted from reclaimed wood and food is served up on blue-and-white enamelware. Styrofoam is out and only blue-striped cloth napkins are used. This isn’t Cousin Bubba’s roadhouse.
But let’s get to the menu. As mentioned the meats are top notch, especially the melt-in-your-mouth brisket. But so are the sides. They’re outrageously delicious. Wrap your palate around a few of these, if you will. I’m especially partial to the Kale Salad and a side with corn.
(L-R) Pulled pork nachos — Mountains of kale, sides and a platter of brisket
Smashed Cucumber Salad with yogurt, rice wine vinegar and jalapeño; Warm Potato Salad, fried potatoes with a warm bacon vinaigrette; Esquites, grilled corn off cob with mayo, Mexican cheese, cilantro and jalapeño; Fried Chick Pea Salad with chorizo, epazote and lime juice; Fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon juice and parmesan; Not So Spicy Coleslaw with jalapeño, cilantro, red onion and cotija cheese, as well as Macaroni & Cheese. No Masa Sope Style Smashed Fried Potatoes with beans, pulled pork and cheese; Nachos with beans, pulled pork, white queso, crema, salsa verde and salsa roja; Chilaquiles, a smothered version of nachos; Kale Caesar Salad with croutons and parmesan; Burger, a classic double with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and piquin chile mayo; No Meat Burger with wheat berry, shiitake, porcini and chickpea; Pork Sandwich with not so spicy coleslaw and sriracha pickles; Brisket Sandwich with a fried egg, queso blanco and poblano; and Smoked Tofu Tacos.
As for dessert, it appears to be a work in progress. High hopes for the locally made pies touted by the waiter, were quickly dashed when I encountered leaden pie crusts and scant fillings that had more in common with a jar of jam. Skip dessert for now.
Along with lunch and dinner service, there is Sunday brunch (brisket hash rang my bell) and takeout. Free parking in the evenings in the lot next door. www.TXJacks.com
Art and Pastries with Love from Vienna
Two weeks ago the Austrian Cultural Forum, an organization that organizes and supports a variety of cultural events (concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, theatre, lectures, panel discussions, symposia) here in Washington, presented a program dedicated to their latest art installation. In the light-filled atrium of the embassy, press and guests gathered to hear remarks by the newly installed Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner, visiting dignitary Dr. Danielle Spera, Director of the Jewish Museum Vienna, Andreas Pawlitschek, Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum Washington and Helena Hartlauer, head of Media Relations representing the city of Vienna.
Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner. – Photo credit: (c) Vienna Tourist Board
A guided tour of the highlights of the exhibit included works by the noted photographer Erich Lessing, curated by his daughter Hannah Lessing. Erich Lessing fled Vienna for Palestine in 1939 and returned to Vienna in 1945 to become one of the most important Austrian and international photographers, as well as a photojournalist for the Associated Press in 1947, a full member of Magnum Photos Paris and the official chronicler of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against Soviet occupation.
Known for his candid pictures of major political moments of his day, Lessing was best known for his documentation of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty. The picture now serves as the iconic symbol of the rebirth of Austria as a sovereign state after World War II. His famous portrait subjects included the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. From the 1960s on he turned his focus to the arts, notably serving as on-set photographer for The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews, which celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2015.
The eclectic selection includes landscapes in Israel of quasi-biblical dimensions, images of post-war beauty queens, the documentation of daily life in post-war Vienna, and sensitive impressions of Jewish customs and ceremonies.
One of the exhibits of most interest to the guests was by Philadelphia-born Andrew Mezvinsky. A GOOD DAY, his compelling multimedia installation, is based on Primo Levi’s account of survival in Auschwitz, and titled THE JEWISH MUSEUM VIENNA ON INTERNATIONAL COURT. A young Jewish-American artist who, five years ago, chose the city of Vienna to be the center of his life and creative work, Mezvinsky’s work contemplates a single day in Auschwitz in 1944. Inspired by the Jewish-Italian Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s autobiography If This Is a Man, Mezvinsky depicts Levi’s traumatic experiences in the concentration camp, including a chapter titled “A Good Day”, which describes a day at the end of winter when the first rays of sun heralded a relief from the cold.
Mezvinsky creates series of drawings, reminiscent of fairy tales, or even the figures of Commedia dell’Arte, which he brings to life in animation. What initially appear as idyllic scenes reveal themselves to be poisoned – arising to depict one of the darkest moments in the history of Europe as the Third Reich expanded. Mezvinsky approaches the agony of Auschwitz from various perspectives; addressing the yearning for normalcy in the savage reality of an extermination camp, and reflecting on the basic conditions for human survival. His interacting multimedia exhibition, consisting of an animation film and a series of drawings, also with an interactive component, symbolizes liberation and an interminable will to survive.
For further study, read an interview with Danielle Spera at: www.austria.org/a-conversation-with-danielle-spera
ABOUT THE AUSTRIAN CULTURAL FORUM WASHINGTON
Visit www.acfdc.org for more information.
Wiener schnitzel at the Austrian Embassy luncheon
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
December 26, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Destination Del Ray for Cozy New Italian Spot – Bethesda Offers Theatre-goers and Cast Members Two Great Dining Options with Silver and Urban Heights – National Geographic Live! Presents “The Science of Delicious” – Zengo Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary with New Menu
Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap
Alexandria locals have been eagerly anticipating the opening of Lena’s, the splashy new Neapolitan-style restaurant recently opened in the Del Ray neighborhood. All eyes have been trained on its build out, with area reports cheering the addition of large outdoor gas heaters, pretty landscaping and blazing fire pit for extended season dining. Situated near the Braddock Metro Station this spiffy spot is already abuzz with biz. A recent visit revealed its successful formula – reasonably priced chef-driven Italian dishes, handmade pasta, and a 4,800-pound wood-fired pizza oven in a large, yet smartly cozy, space. Featuring high ceilings and large windows facing the street, the main dining space and bar still manages to be cozy, even though it can easily accommodate 100 guests. For seasonal dining add another 68 to the spacious patio garden fronting the corner of Braddock Road and Mount Vernon Avenue.
Proud of their Italian heritage, the Yates, a well-known Alexandria family who are behind this effort, have named the restaurant after their late grandmother, Lena, a talented home cook whose ancestors hailed from Avellino and immigrated to our shores at the beginning of the 20th century. Early photographs of the matriarch and the De Gruttola and Forte families line the brick walls, bringing an air of intimacy to the space.
Chef Mauro Mollino of Lena’s with one of his Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas
On board as Executive Chef is Mauro Molino, a 22-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry. Molino is an energetic ball of fire with an infectious smile and an eagerness to inform customers of the nuances of this southern Italian cuisine. Molino, who spent the early part of his culinary career in Torino and later at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Ohio, is a veteran of Washington’s better known restaurants including Rustico Restaurant & Bar, The Hamilton, T.J Stones and Lia’s under Chef/Owner Geoff Tracy.
(L to R) Vegetable antipasto – Kale and Gorgonzola salad with poached pears – Bunt – a Piedmontese chocolate terrine
But it’s Lena’s time-tested recipes that prove the greatest tribute to her family’s Campania heritage – a legacy that is revealed in the restaurant’s menu – from gourmet pizzas, polenta fries, an impressive charcuterie board, sweet and spicy mussels, five types of paninis, and an array of fresh salads. Kale Salad with gorgonzola, poached pears, toasted almonds and buttermilk dressing is my favorite, as is a vegetable antipasto (who knew wood-grilled mushrooms were so irresistible?), grilled calamari and meltingly tender, fist-sized meatballs. Basic tomato “gravy”, as the cooked sauce is called, uses the sweet, lemony type of Roma tomatoes sourced exclusively from Lena’s region of San Marzano.
Desserts are totally unnecessary, but all in the name of research, don’t you know. Try the luscious Piedmontese chocolate terrine, called Bunt, and a Nutella pizza topped with white and dark chocolate chips and extra hazelnuts.
For more information visit www.lenaswoodfire.com
Rooftop Party in Urban Heights
A roof with a view at Urban Heights
That Robert Wiedmaier likes to party like a rock star, is no surprise to fans of Villain & Saint where the chef/owner of the popular rhythm-and-blues venue can hang with his like-minded music lovers and fellow biker mates. Lately he’s taken the party to the rooftop of Urban Heights, his other Bethesda hot spot, where a lively scene plays out under a pavilion-tented bar whose moniker is ‘The Lotus Lounge’. Heated for winter comfort, it offers a bird’s eye view of downtown Bethesda. The new restaurant features delectable Philippine-Southeast Asian influenced cuisine.
Urban Heights partiers
To celebrate the al fresco opening a whole baby pig was roasted in the roof’s open pit. Partiers enjoyed tasty nibbles – Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll, Braised Pork Belly, Bulgogi Steak Sliders, Lumpia – prepared by UH’s Chef Cliff Wharton (formerly of the late Ten Penh).
Island-influenced craft cocktails fired up the festivities while local musician Phil Kominski entertained the crowd with his fierce vocals and hot guitar licks.
Local musician Phil Kominski on the rooftop Lotus Lounge at Urban Heights
Silver – Upscale Brasserie Opens in Bethesda
It’s been a few years since we profiled Ype Von Hengst and his 180-degree lurch from the American style gut-busting dishes of his chain of Silver Diners to the lightened, seasonal, farm-to-table dishes he instituted at all his restaurants. Along with partner Robert Giaimo, the duo has since revolutionized what we think of as diner food to reflect a forward-thinking sensibility more in line with today’s calorie-conscious clientele. In addition to tweaking all aspects of American classic dishes – reducing the amount of salt and sugar and using healthier fats – they present a wealth of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
The bar at Silver
Introducing Silver, a stunning French-inspired, Art Deco-designed restaurant with its black-and-white tiled floors, large banquettes, wood and stainless walls and columns reminiscent of New York’s Chrysler Building.
Tuna tartare with lime cilantro peanut dressing and crispy wontons – Wild caught scallops with feta and lemon garlic sauce
Breakfast here starts at 7am and extends till midnight with an all-day brunch to cover the in-between times. The flexitarian menu depends on local farms and suppliers – names familiar to those that shop at farmers’ markets and specialty gourmet stores. The passionate conceptualists are proud of their relationships with Firefly Farms for goat cheese, Parker Farms for produce and Richardson Farms for kale – all based in Maryland. Oysters come from the Chesapeake Bay, Black Angus steaks from nearby ranches. In Pennsylvania eggs come from Amish farmers at Martin’s Eggs, organic chicken from Bell & Evans Farms, blue cheese from Buck’s County and mushrooms from Basciani Farms. Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, maker of Surryano ham, a dry-cured, hickory-smoked, heritage breed pork that mimics prosciutto, provides the ham.
(L to R) 72 hour short rib with horseradish demi glace, cholula onions, garlic spinach, butternut squash and cauliflower parsnip mash – Chia banana pudding
It’s well nigh impossible to relate even a fraction of the dishes listed on the five distinct menus. I will, however, make mention of the fact that all sodas, fresh-pressed juices and cocktails are made from scratch, teas are organic, and coffee is fair trade certified. www.EatatSilver.com
NatGeo Live! Series Taps into “The Science of Delicious”
At National Geographic
Do your brain or your taste buds interpret what you’re eating? Maybe it’s your DNA. This and other nerdy questions were explained and debated at a lively dinner last month at the organization’s dining space on 17th Street where guests sipped heavenly cocktails paired with hors d’oeuvres – ‘Walking on Water’, a mix of pear and basil tea with Calvados brandy, Walnut bitters and pear eau de vie; and the ‘Dorian Grey’ jasmine mate tea with Irish whiskey, peach eau de vie, salty foam banana cream and mace dust. Todd James, Senior Photo Editor at National Geographic Magazine, moderated the presentation along with Dr. Julie Mennella, Biopsychologist at the Monnell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia where she conducts research on taste, smell and chemosensory irritation.
Together they guided us on a virtual tour to explain recent scientific developments in the biological mechanics of how we taste, why we taste things differently from one another, and how some scientists are trying to make insect larvae taste palatable. Hilarious photos of babies responding to new flavors accompanied some of the photographs. Dr. Mennella explained, “The foods you are eating when pregnant are probably what you are going to feed your child.”
Particularly intriguing was our virtual visit to NOMA, in Denmark. Known as “The World’s Finest Restaurant”, Chef/Owner Rene Redzepi has taken the foraging of Nordic plant life into the realm of haute cuisine. N. B. This should not be confused with your grandma’s dandelion salad. NOMA has three kitchens. The first is what they call the ‘Science Bunker’ where experiments are conducted to determine food’s reaction to an array of scientific applications. Then there’s a development kitchen for conceptualization, and future implementation if all goes well. Lastly, there’s the restaurant kitchen where food is prepared by highly regimented cooks for elegantly plated service in the dining room.
Cocktail progression menu
Another fascinating virtual visit was to British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant to experience a fish course aptly named “Song of the Sea” which is served alongside a large Nautilus shell housing ear buds for listening to the sea.
Our two presenters were joined by Pam Caragol, Executive Producer of “EAT: The Story of Food” for National Geographic Studios/National Geographic Channel; Chef Myo Htun, Co-owner and Chef of Chaplin’s Restaurant, and Micah Wilder and his partner and brother Ari Wilder, Restaurateur and Co-owner of Chaplin’s who catered the event with an Asian inspired menu.
NatGeo Senior Photo Editor, Todd James, describes the “Science Bunker” at NOMA in Denmark
The carefully orchestrated dinner celebrated the Society’s December magazine’s feature story written by David Owen. The story is part of NatGeo’s Future of Food initiative, a special five-year project that seems to show how what we eat makes us who we are.
Zengo Maps Out an Asian Adventure
Zengo Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff
World-renowned chef, Richard Sandoval, is celebrating his Latin-Asian restaurant Zengo’s 10th anniversary in Penn Quarter by rolling out a new menu based on his recent culinary exploration of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Thailand. Along with Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff, they have seized on unique and delicious combinations of Asian-Latin flavors to dazzle the intrepid diner with bold, flavor-forward creations. Forewarned: Menu items marked with the Chinese character for new, are available now till the end of January and only available at dinner service after 5pm.
I lost track of how many plates were set in front of us, but there were easily over a dozen. Especially memorable from the Sushi & Crudo Bar was the Thai seafood ceviche and grouper ceviche with uni, leche de tigre, cilantro and sea beans, that crunchy, lemony seaweed that I adore. All of Sandoval’s restaurants make one version or another of ceviche and they are all outstanding.
Pork and foie gras shumai dumplings
The appetizer and dim sum portion of the menu lists 16 different selections from bulgogi ribeye tacos and pork and foie gras shumai dumplings to Thai chicken empanadas and duck confit-daikon tacos. Slow-cooked pork ribs with roast garlic chipotle glaze and spicy cucumber pickle are sweet and sticky, exactly as it should be.
(L to R) Thai seafood ceviche – Slow cooked pork ribs – Grouper ceviche with sea beans
For a main dish, especially fun for a group, you may want to try the tempura whole fish. Ask what the chef is preparing as it changes daily.
One section of the menu features exclusively wok-cooked dishes inclouding short rib udon noodle with XO, Thai basil and long bean in a drunken noodle broth; bibimbap with pork belly, soft egg, gochujang, pickled vegetables and sticky rice; as well as chili crab “Hong Kong” noodle accompanied by crispy noodles with sugar snap peas, asparagus, egg and spicy curry. An unusual entry is the chili crab “Hong Kong” noodle that adds Maryland blue crab as well as the hard-to-find roe. www.richardsandoval.com/zengodc.
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
December 10, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
We have been awfully damn nice this year, and we feel we ought to treat ourselves to some comforting foods and a bit of fine dining. I’m sure you’d agree. After all, as your self-appointed elves spreading good cheer – and entertainment! – we need to remind ourselves that it is the season of joy. The following festive spots with their fabulous menus, provide us with charming respites for friends and family to make merry. We hope you’ll join us before you make your appointed rounds.
Warmest holiday greetings from your friends at Whisk and Quill.
P.S. We could use some bubbly and Mrs. Claus’s Bourbon Balls recipe. Hay is around back.
Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt
Scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and strawberry preserves and an assortment of heavenly sweets from Pastry Chef David Collier
For those that prefer serving Christmas dinner at home, Blue Duck Tavern has a terrific plan for dining at home for the holidays. It features a traditional Christmas ham, along with freshly baked breads, four traditional sides and two seasonal pies. This classic American feast is for six to eight guests, and is priced at $350 (tax not included).
For getting the party started a charcuterie and cheese board is priced at $95 (tax not included). This special offering includes a selection of domestic farmstead cheeses and charcuterie items, along with homemade mustard, seasonal preserves, spiced nuts, and crispy Lavash crackers. Plated by Park Hyatt Washington’s Cheese Specialist, Sophie Slesinger, it comes on a handcrafted wooden platter. Christmas dinner will be available for pick-up at the Pastry Pantry on December 24th from 1pm to 5 pm, or on December 25th from 11am. to 2pm. Orders must be placed by December 17th at 5pm. To place an order, call 202 419.6775 or visit https://www.giftrocker.com/BlueDuckTavernChristmas and specify the date and time of pick-up.
Blue Duck also provides a perfect spot for tea. Why? Because in addition to scrumptious savories and jams from Executive Chef Franck Loquet and Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy – and Pastry Chef David Collier’s to-die-for sweets – the restaurant has their very own tea specialist, Christian Eck, who doubles as the restaurant’s sommelier. Certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Eck knows not only wines but high quality teas and stands at the ready to share his vast knowledge.
Lobster BLT at Blue Duck Tavern
Last week we enjoyed a lavish savory selection of Lobster BLT on brioche, Oysters on the half shell with celery relish, Chicken Salad wrapped in a cabbage leaf and devilled eggs. On the sweet side were a rainbow of tender macarons; Chocolate Caramel Tart topped with sea salt; Berry Tart; decadently rich Financier Cake; Cranberry Raisin scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd; and fabulous Nutella Eclairs.
For our tasting, Eck cheerfully poured from glass teapots with warming trivets as we sampled Gyohuro, a Japanese green tea and one of the most exclusive teas on the market, followed by a cave-aged, vintage Pu-Erh tea harvested from the ancient trees of Yunan, China. Naturally fermented this 16-year old tea is renowned for its health benefits. And lastly we tried the lightest tea, Mallorcan Melon, a delicate tisane grown in a micro-climate of cold days and warm nights.
“The Tea Table”, as it is called, it is served Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. At 1201 24th St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.
Dining Room at 701
Last month’s dinner at 701, in its recently renovated digs, convinced me that newly installed Executive Chef Ben Lambert is up to the challenge of dazzling diners with a mouth-watering three-course feast for Christmas Day revelers. Guests can order from the á la carte menu, as per usual, but who wouldn’t want to try these seasonal specialties? Choose from such starters as Chestnut Soup with duck confit and foie gras powder; Beets with green apple, pecans and pomegranate vinaigrette; Crab Beignets with frisée and a carrot romesco sauce; and Beef Carpaccio with broccoli, fried baguette, and cured egg yolk vinaigrette. Main courses prove equally as inspired – Suckling Pig with potato polenta, plum jam and piperade; Monkfish with salsify, oyster emulsion and lemon thyme; Cauliflower Shawarma with hummus, tomato jam and lavosh, or the unusually named, Green Circle Chicken with parsnip purée, Brussels sprouts and chermoula.
This over-the-top dinner concludes with a choice of Crème Brûlée with pumpkin ganache and gingerbread ice cream; Butterscotch Pudding with apple confit, biscotti and pomegranates; PB&J, slice of peanut butter cheese cake with concord grape ice cream, or Chocolate Crémeux with passion fruit ganache, cocoa meringue and vanilla ice cream. Live jazz throughout the evening. At 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For reservations call 202 393.0701 or visit www.701restaurant.com.
Central Michel Richard
Buche de Noel
A deliciously craveable collection of all your French Christmas favorites are at this contemporary American bistro with a French influence – snowmen meringues, Bûche de Noel, winter black truffles from France and other specialties for holiday celebrations. Be sure to try one of Wine Director Brian Zipin’s wonderful winter cocktails – Winter Sangria made with Domaine Dupable Beaujolais, St Germain elderflower, brandy, grapefruit juice, fresh apples and oranges and freshly grated nutmeg; Spiced Maple Manhattan, a balance of Eagle Rare 10-year old bourbon, Lucano Amaro, Dolin Sweet vermouth, spiced maple syrup and Peychaud’s Bitters served over block ice with brandied cherries; or the suggestive Blood, Rye & Sand made with Sonoma County Rye, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Cherry Herring and blood orange juice, with orange peel. Pére Noël would approve! The sophisticatedly casual cuisine by Richard, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” award, offers distinctive menus for holiday office lunch parties and family gatherings, as well as pre-fixe dining before or after the theatre. Open on Christmas Eve for lunch and dinner, closed on Christmas Day, and re-opening for dinner December 26th. At 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004. For reservations and information call 202 626.0015 or visit www.CentralMichelRichard.com
Chef Jake Addeo
At Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca Executive Chef Jake Addeo has a traditional Feast of Seven Fishes five-course tasting menu planned. Available from 5pm – 9:30pm on Christmas Eve the dinner will feature fish and pasta. Highlights include Nantucket Bay Scallops Crudo with pomegranate seeds, mint, caramelized lime and olio verde; Raviolo with Maine lobster, burrata, cherry tomatoes and tarragon butter; Spaghetti Neri, squid ink spaghetti with razor clam, guanciale, pickled chili peppers and ‘aglio e olio’, as well as Gamberoni, grilled giant prawn, roasted puntarella, preserved lemon and wild sea urchin butter. To cap it off there is Torta, a warm molasses cake, with crystalized ginger and candied pecans, served with brown butter gelato. At 1100 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20005. Valet parking is available for $8. For reservations call 202 216.9550 or visit www.bibianadc.com.
L’Hommage Bistro Français
L’Hommage Bistro Francais
New to the bustling Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, L’Hommage Bistro Français, offers diners a four-course tasting menu on Christmas Eve from 5pm to 10pm. This quintessentially French spot is reminiscent of the iconic Parisian brasserie, La Coupole, and is cheaper than a flight on Air France. Classic French dishes prepared by Executive Chef Josh Laban Perkins incorporate traditional cooking techniques while paying tribute to the true flavors of French cuisine. The special menu begins with a Plat de Tartine that includes torchon de foie gras served on brioche; fig-cured duck served on raisin walnut baguette and duck rillettes, served on palladin bread. It is followed by a Warm Poached Pear Salad with smoked lardon, Roquefort société, candied Basque walnuts and Dijon vinaigrette. The main course is Canard Roti et Confit, a chestnut honey roasted duck breast with confit leg, roasted chestnuts and cherries. A selection of petite pastries prepared by Pastry Chef Bouchaib ‘BiBi’ Benahmida concludes this Francophile’s dream. At 450 K Street, NW, 20001. For reservations, and information about hosting a private party, call 202 791.0916 or visit http://lhommagedc.com.
Chef Nick Stefanelli
For the first time, Nick Stefanelli will bring Italian tradition to Masseria on Christmas Eve and share his innovative take on the culinary customs with Feast of the Seven Fishes at Masseria on Thursday, December 24th when he opens the doors to guests for a one-night-only Italian holiday feast. The set-menu includes dishes such as: Linguine al Farouk, a fanciful curried pasta dish with saffron, ginger, and mixed seafood (lobster, calamari, clams, and mussels); Poached Cod with tomatoes, onions, and potatoes; and Fritto Misto of fried prawns, calamari, cauliflower, oysters, and lemon. The sweet finish will offer Delizia al Limone, a limoncello sponge cake with lemon Bavarian cream. In the season of giving, Nick will send every guest home with a festive home made panettone. At 1340 4th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002. For reservations call Masseria at 202 608.1330. www.Masseria-DC.com
Acadiana Interior – Photo credit: Scott Suchman
Acadiana prepares a special “Christmas Eve with a Cajun Taste” dinner on December 24th. The four-course feast will feature seasonal favorites such as Fried Turkey, Rack of Lamb as well as the best coastal cuisine of New Orleans. In true Louisiana fashion, the dinner will begin with a Lagniappe of Seafood Gumbo, then guests will have an array of appetizers from which to choose such as Lobster Étouffée, Classic Turtle Soup, or Duck Jambalaya. Entree selections range from New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp, to the “Grillades & Grits”. Dessert choices include Spiced Pumpkin Crème Brûlée, Cinnamon-Raisin Bread Pudding or Pecan Tart. Guests also have a choice of a la carte sides. For reservations and more information call 202 408.8848 or visit www.AcadianaRestaurant.com
Chef de Cuisine Andrew Kerne
If you’re doing your shopping at the Westfield Montgomery Mall, you may want to take a break at the Met Bethesda where Chef de Cuisine Andrew Kerne is offering two festive specials in addition to the á la carte menu. Known for its martinis on tap, this fast casual spot plans Salt Crusted Red Snapper with herb-scented roasted baby potatoes and broccolini as well as a holiday cocktail of Limoncello Pomegranate Prosecco. Only on December 11th-12th and 18th-19th during lunch and dinner service. At 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, MD, 20817. For reservations or additional information, call 301 767.1900 or visit www.metbethesdamd.com.
Executive Chef Samuel Kim – Photo Credit:1789 Restaurant
No place in town says Georgetown tony chic than the historic Federal period townhouse at 1789. Decked out with wreaths, antique toys and garlands for the Christmas holidays, it is the penultimate spot for an old-fashioned holiday experience with contemporary cuisine. Executive Chef Samuel Kim has a special menu planned in addition to a seasonal á la carte menu for Christmas Eve. Swoon-worthy dishes include Foie Gras Torchon with orange marmalade, brioche, Medjool dates, pickled celery and hazelnuts; Coddled Egg with lobster, oyster mushrooms, fennel and uni foam; Bucatini with Nantucket Bay scallops, Meyer lemons, fried capers and parsley; Rack of Lamb with eggplant caviar, Picholine olives, chickpea panisse, roasted tomatoes and parsley oil; Roast Prime Rib with pearl onion confit, glazed haricot verts, salt-baked new potatoes, horseradish cream and au jus; as well as Maine Lobster with root vegetable hash, rainbow Swiss chard and truffle butter sauce. The Washington Men’s Camerata will be caroling in the restaurant nightly between 7pm and 9 pm from December 13th through Christmas Eve. At 1226 36th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007. For reservations, call 202 965.1789 or visit www.1789Restaurant.com.
On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC will be open for dinner only offering its full menu, à la carte, with the addition of a few specials by Executive Chef Joe Palma to include appetizers such as the Lobster Bisque with Warm Lobster Celeriac Salad and lobster roe emulsion (tack on an extra charge for Perigord truffles); and the Heirloom Rye Gnocchi with Braised Lamb Leg in red wine. Special entrée selections include Seared Dorade ‘Veta la Palma’ with bouillabaisse, chorizo powder and braised fennel; or the 22-ounce Porterhouse Steak with maître d’ butter and whipped Gruyère potato; available both nights. The team of sommeliers, lead by Head Sommelier Julian Mayor, will provide wine recommendations from its astonishingly diverse selection of 500 wines. At 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007. For reservations and information call Bourbon Steak at 202 944.2026 or visit www.BourbonSteakDC.com
Holiday Spiced Pecans — Creole Cringle Cake
David Guas penultimate Louisiana-style restaurant has your holiday all wrapped up to go. With Creole Cringle Cakes (orders must be placed 48-hours prior to pick-up). This year he stocks his larder, also known as the “Candy Corner” with Southern sweets, treats and holiday candies. These yummy stocking stuffers are tied up in ribbon and available for purchase daily starting Wednesday, December 10th. Try the Candied Creole Pecans; a Trinity of Pralines in traditional, chocolate, chicory coffee; Heavenly Hash Fudge with pecans and marshmallows; or decadent Peppermint Bark made with 70% bittersweet Valrhona chocolate. A holiday catering menu should thrill any host or hostess looking for party bites, sides and pies. At Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia 1515 North Courthouse Road, Arlington, VA 22201. www.BayouBakeryDC.com
On Christmas Eve, Marcel’s, Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s haute French Belgian flagship restaurant in Washington, DC, will be open serving its regular tasting menu and featuring signature dishes from Boudin Blanc with celeryroot puree, chanterelle mushrooms, foie gras poultry jus and truffle; and Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with pickled ginger, tobiko and ponzu gel. At 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20037. For reservations call 202 296.1166 or visit www.MarcelsDC.com
December 3, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
Reviewer’s Pick – Avant Bard’s Theatre on the Edge brings us Holiday Memories, the tender and evocative semi-autobiographical tale drawn from two beloved short stories by Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory” and “A Thanksgiving Visitor”. Having seen this at press night Monday past, I can attest to its indelibly affecting charm.
(From left:) Séamus Miller (Buddy), Christopher Henley (Truman) – DJ Corey Photography
Directed by Tom Prewitt and staged by Russell Vandenbroucke the show stars Christopher Henley as Truman, Séamus Miller as Buddy (Truman as a lad), Charlotte Akin as Miss Sook, with Liz Dutton and Devon Ross fulfilling several ancillary roles.
(The cast of Holiday Memories, from left:) Charlotte Akin (Miss Sook), Devon Ross (Man), Christopher Henley (Truman), Liz Dutton (Woman), Séamus Miller (Buddy) – DJ Corey Photography
The play is set in Depression-Era Alabama where young Truman, who is coming to terms with his homosexuality, lives with his adored aunt, Miss Sook, a forthright spinster who administers life’s lessons with a gentle hand. Henley provides the richly textured narration delivering a riveting performance that is nothing short of brilliant reminding this reviewer of Sam Waterston both in spirit and in appearance. Akin too, seizes her character with a ferocity and nuance that is beautifully developed, while Miller lends an endearing pathos to the fragile boy who struggles to find his identity. Through December 20th at Theatre on the Run at 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets call 703 418- 4108 or visit Avant Barde Theatre
Heather Norcross as Ghost of Christmas Present with Lawrence O. Grey Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge – Photos by Doug Olmsted
The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a lavish, family friendly, Victorian paean to the age-old tale of Scrooge’s redemption. Kudos to the adorable Tiny Tim and a cheery nod to the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Through December 20th at 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. For tickets call 703 683-0496 or visit The Little Theatre of Alexandria
(L-R) Michael Sharp, Peter Boyer and Tracey Stephens at MetroStage – Photo credit Chris Banks
MetroStage ratchets up Dickens’ tale with a distinctly hilarious, seat-of-your-pants spoof full of dancing and singing to your favorite Broadway tunes. The inimitable Howard Breitbart serves as musical director in Broadway Christmas Carol. Through December 27th at 1201 Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets call 703 548-9044 or visit MetroStage
Nova Y. Payton at Signature Theatre – photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre brings Christmas cheer with Dreamgirls star Nova Y. Payton backed by a rockin’ chorus and raising the rafters with holiday tunes like This Christmas, Holiday Rock, Santa Baby, and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Through December 24th at 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets call 703 820-9771 or visit Signature
Washington National Opera: Holiday Family Opera: Hansel and Gretel – Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center has a host of holiday happenings including the NSO Pops conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and featuring the von Trapps, of the famed Sound of Music family, with Broadway’s Stephanie J. Bloch performing Christmas classics and new holiday tunes. The Washington National Opera offers a family-friendly Hansel and Gretel complete with cackling witch, enchanted fairies, dancing animals and a massive gingerbread oven. For the high brow, Handel’s Messiah sing-along is on December 23rd. Check listings for these limited performances at Kennedy Center or call 202 467- 4200.
The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic presents Two Concertos and a Celebration. Handel’s popular Messiah performed by the NOVA Community Chorus and backed by the splendid symphony who add 20th and 21st century music to the afternoon program. Check the schedule for performance times and locations. For tickets call 703 799- 8229 or visit The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic
October 6, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
The Hay Adams Teleports a Transylvanian Experience for the Ultimate in Halloween Luxury and A Kids Cultural Extravaganza Comes to Town
Hay Adams Hotel – Washington, DC
Swap your crypt for the ultimate in All Hallows Eve luxury with a night or two at the Hay Adams, which transforms itself, and its staff, for the spook fest. This year “The Transylvania Suite” awaits those who like their haunting to be in the posh category. Designer Barbara Hamilton of the Ociana Group will fiendishly decorate the swank suite, complete with all the trappings of a gentrified haunted house.
Those brave enough to take the plunge will be treated to a spirited welcome amenity from Pastry Chef Josh Short, tricked out with blood-curdling cocktails and delivered to the Halloween lair where a frighteningly outfitted butler will escort you to the skull-adorned suite. There you’ll find a gift collection of old and new horror film DVDs, along with more eye-popping surprises.
A three-course dinner paired with wines and a spidery-inspired dessert served in the suite’s dining room, awaits. Before retiring to your canopy bed embellished with cobwebs, a diabolically concocted turn-down surprise will be on your embroidered custom-designed Italian linen pillows. The following morning awake to a lavish breakfast in bed highlighted by a spicy “Bloody Scary” to complete the morning feast.
This luxurious suite overlooks Lafayette Park and the White House, setting the stage for a wickedly decadent evening. For those addicted to this spooky holiday, The Hay-Adams Halloween package affords a unique chance to enjoy the legendary elegance of this historic hotel while experiencing a number of creative twists all evening. This Halloween experience is priced at $2,995 per night (excluding tax and gratuity). The suite is available Friday, October 30th and Saturday, the 31st. For reservations and more information call 202 638.6600 or visit their website at www.hayadams.com.
Kids Euro Festival Comes to Metro DC
KEF Production Art
Over two dozen embassies will be participating in the Kids Euro Festival in the DC Metro area between October 24th and November 8th. And more than 125 events are free! All these family-friendly European-themed cultural events feature professional performance artists at school performances and in partner venues, film screenings, and library activities, as well as artist workshops, performances for hospitalized children. There will be a full day of activities for children with special needs, and professional development opportunities for teachers. This unique collaboration between the European Union and the United States hopes to transform the capital region into an action-packed cultural adventure for young people, their families, and their teachers.
Calling it “A Trip to Europe Without a Passport” this exciting festival, now in its 8th year, is the largest children’s performing arts festival of its kind in America. Designed for children ages two through twelve and their families, Kids Euro Festival unites the 28 embassies of the European Union (EU) and more than 20 local and national cultural institutions.
“The festival continues to offer children and their families a unique opportunity to experience some of Europe’s best performers right here in Washington, D.C.,” said David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States. “As a joint cultural diplomacy initiative of the European Union embassies in the nation’s capital, it is also a wonderful celebration of European cultural diversity. It is my hope that every child and parent that participates in this Festival will have a lasting fond memory of their European cultural experience.”
Susan Carmel Lehrman, the Vice-President of the European-American Cultural Foundation (E-ACF), said, “Culture is a powerful force for bringing together people, families, and nations. As the organizer of Kids Euro Festival, the E-ACF knows that the arts are more than just entertainment — they are a way to share cultures, create understanding, and unite people from around the world.”
Expect to see theater, puppets, music, magic, dance, films, stories, and more to stimulate creative imaginations and invite artistic exploration.
Participating in Kids Euro Festival are the Embassies of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Partners and venues include the American Film Institute; Alliance Française DC; Capital Fringe; Children’s Inn at NIH; DC Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative; DC Public Library System; District of Columbia Public Schools; Dupont Festival; GALA Hispanic Theatre; Harmony Hall/Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital; Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens; Imagination Stage; KEEN Greater DC; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; KID Museum at Davis Library; Library of Congress; Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center; National Gallery of Art; Prince George’s County Center for Visual and Performing Arts; Shakespeare Theatre Company; Sitar Arts Center; Strathmore; and Washington Performing Arts.
Kids Euro Festival is made possible by the generous support of Susan Carmel Lehrman, TV5 USA, Dr. Gregory A. and JaLynn Prince/Madison House Autism Foundation, Holiday Inn Georgetown, and Washington Parent Magazine, and the assistance of the European-American Cultural Foundation (E-ACF) in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.
While all of the performances are free, some require reservations, which can be made at the Kids Euro Festival website: www.kidseurofestival.org.