Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ June 30, 2017

Jordan Wright
June 2017
All Photo Credit: Jordan Wright

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

Barbecue, Y’all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

Ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese and pickles

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

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson's Pitmaster Barbecue

Chocolate Pie at Myron Mixson’s Pitmaster Barbecue

Good Food Mercantile at Union Market Features Fine Food Crafters 

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

Dona Chai chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai – chai tea concentrate

Dona Chai, Brooklyn, NY – Chai tea concentrate.

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

Sophia Maroon of Dress It Up Dressing

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

Kombucha and Fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

Kombucha and fermented veggies from Hex Ferments

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

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters' Skinny Salamis

Mitch Berliner shows his new line of MeatCrafters’ Skinny Salamis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

Oliver Farm Benne Oil

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

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

Renato Vicario of Vicario Wine and Spirits

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

Update Leesburg

A beautiful charcuterie board at The Wine Kitchen

A beautiful charcuterie board

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

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons at The Wine Kitchen

Cream of Parsnip Soup with lardons

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

Visit Colorado 

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

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

Rocky Mountain Underground ~ Photos courtesy Breckenridge Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red’s Table Is a Fun Bike/Hike Away 

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

Red's Table in Reston

Red’s Table in Reston

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

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

Fried calamari at Red's Table

Fried calamari at Red’s Table

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

Jumbo crab cakes at Red's Table

Jumbo crab cakes at Red’s Table

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

House made biscuits at Red's Table

House made biscuits at Red’s Table

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

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

Tredici Enoteca Wows Dupont Circle 

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

The green velvet sofa beckons at Tredici Enoteca

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

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

The lively bar at Tredici Enoteca

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

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

Double lamb lollipops at Tredici Enoteca

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

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

Broccoli and avocado salad at Tredici Enoteca

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

Smoke infused cocktail at Tredici Enoteca

“The Tredici Dutch” smoke infused cocktail

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

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

Fresh from the raw bar at Tredici Enoteca

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

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

Chocolate mousse cake at Tredici Enoteca

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

Steamed cockles on squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

Steamed cockles atop squid ink pasta at Tredici Enoteca

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

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

One of the salons at Twin Oaks

One of several drawing rooms at Twin Oaks

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador's residence

Dinner celebration at the Taiwan ambassador’s residence

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

Shaoxing Chicken

Shaoxing Chicken

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

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

Chef Liu shows his carved vegetable flower to great applause

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

Watermelon chrysanthemum

Chef Liu’s carved watermelon chrysanthemum

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

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

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib gives opening remarks

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

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

Guests enjoy the entertainment at the Afghan Embassy

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

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

Afghani delights of kebab, bolani and pilaf

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

Afghani instruments

Afghani instruments

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

Get updates for Alliance for New Music-Theatre .

A Day in the Chamomile Fields ~ Finding Gratitude and Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, pick longer.”

The soft drizzle became heavier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we only been out here a half hour?

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

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

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

Author Liz Reitzig at Glencolton Farms among the chamomile

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to Liz’ websites:

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

Nourishing Liberty – http://nourishingliberty.com

Classic Cher ~ The Theater at MGM National Harbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

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

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

Key for Two ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
March 1, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ December 2016

Jordan Wright
December 2016
Photo credit – Jordan Wright

Virginia Distillery Debuts Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky – Ambar Opens in Clarendon – Hazel fuses Asian with Italian – Smoked and Stacked for Your Reubens – Buttercream, The New Kid on the Block – ICE! Returns to National Harbor 

Virginia Distillery Company Showcases New Whisky Flavor

We get excited about a lot of things around here, but the Virginia Distillery Company’s Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky has us leaping out of our comfy chairs.  The production facilities with factoid-rich whisky museum are located in beautiful Nelson County where this past September. whiskandquill.com/nelson-county.

If you like your whiskey smooth with a sweet finish, this small batch release is the one for you…and me too.  You’ll want to use it for cocktails and especially for after dinner sipping.  Toffee, dried fruit and dark cocoa notes linger on the palate, affording dyed-in-the-wool whisky lovers an excuse to drink it neat or perhaps, with a splash of branch water.

Cocktails from VDC

Cocktails

In addition, VDC adds a limited edition Cider Barrel Matured Virginia Highland Malt to their ‘Commonwealth Collection’.  Finished in casks from Potter’s Craft Cider in Free Union, Virginia (I’d like to know the back story of the town’s name), it has distinct overtones of apple.

Gareth Moore of the Virginia Distillery Company at the Homestead Restaurant

Gareth Moore of the Virginia Distillery Company

At a recent gathering at Homestead restaurant in Petworth hosted by VDC’s owners Gareth Moore, son of the late founder Dr. George C. Moore, and his charming wife, Maggie, we had the pleasure of a tasting paired with Executive Chef Marty Anklam’s upscale comfort food.

A few nibbles from Executive Chef Marty Anklam of the Homestead

A few nibbles from Executive Chef Marty Anklam

VDC partners with Gearhart’s Chocolates for their signature truffles.  Chocolatier extraordinaire, Tim Gearhart, was on hand to demonstrate his technique for making VDC’s whisky-infused truffles.

Tim Gearhart hand rolls the whiskey truffles

Tim Gearhart hand rolls the whiskey truffles

This is how it would go in our house – bite of truffle, sip of port whisky, repeat till satisfied.

Ambar Opens Outpost in Clarendon 

I look forward to dining at Ambar any chance I can.  Its Balkan dishes are soothing soul food that speak of a complex diaspora of Turkish, Greek, Mediterranean, Austrian (an early conquerer) and Slavic influences.  In the past it’s meant a trip up to Capitol Hill and the small two-story Barracks Row restaurant Serbian owner Ivan Iricanin opened in 2013.  Fast forward and Iricanin has branched out into this hipster hood, staffing both kitchen and front of the house with his fellow compatriots, including General Manager Jovan Prvulovic.  After two return trips to this latest outpost, I can see it’s a huge hit.

In house made charcuterie platter

In house made charcuterie platter

Here are the dishes that speak of slow-cooking – sarmales (yummy cabbage rolls stuffed with meat in a tomato sauce), smoky grilled meats, home baked breads like somun and lovely spreads like ajvar made with red peppers, garlic and eggplant, the traditional hummus, a smoked trout spread, or the soothing urnebes made with feta, sour cream, lots of garlic, and paprika, and which translates amusingly to “chaotic spread”.

Hail the sausage, house made and wood-grilled.  This version is delicious as are all the meats including the house made charcuterie selection.

Ambar at dinner service is always mobbed

Ambar at dinner service is always mobbed

Recently Ambar launched both brunch and lunch.  The lunch features soups, salads, sandwiches, and an assortment of meat pies.  Freshly pressed juices include ‘Appleberry Lush’, apple, carrot and strawberry; ‘Beets & Treats’, beet, apple, carrot, orange and lemon, and ‘Green Cheer’, cucumber, spinach, lemon, apple and orange.

Brussels sprouts with lemon, garlic yogurt and bacon at Ambar

Brussels sprouts with lemon, garlic yogurt and bacon

Some of the highly creative salads are the Roasted Squash Salad with mixed greens, crispy bacon, roasted pepper, roasted squash and pomegranate dressing; Ambar Salad with mixed greens, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli and poppy seed dressing.  Their Creamy Mushroom Soup with crispy leeks, forest mushrooms and cream is the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day.

From the ‘Sandwiches & Pies’ side of the menu choose from Cheese & Spinach Pie with crispy phyllo, cucumber yogurt and ajvar emulsion; Wild Boar Burger with arugula and pesto sauce; Fried Catfish with organic slaw and tartar sauce; Zucchini Burger with roasted sunflower seeds, tartar sauce, ajvar spread and smoked gouda; Grilled Shrimp with lettuce, tomato, pepper aioli and crispy prosciutto, and the Fried Chicken, almond and walnut crusted chicken with red onion and apple wasabi.

An assortment of Balkan sweets at Amba

An assortment of Balkan sweets

But there are plenty of other tummy-warming dishes to try.  Consider Stuffed Sour Cabbage with pork belly, jasmine rice, mashed potato and yogurt; Baked Beans & Sausage with paprika and house-made pork sausage; Slow Cooked Stuffed Pepper with house ground beef & pork, served with dill cream, and the Lamb Stew with sweet cabbage and horseradish, served with cornbread.  Some dishes from the ‘Rotisserie and Chefs Specials’ are the Mix Meat Platter with pork neck, sausage, kebab, chicken, Balkan fries and urnebes spread are available.

Cocktails at Ambar

Cocktails

Pair your meal with a handcrafted non-alcoholic cocktail like Rosemary Lemonade, Peach Ice Tea, Berry Hibiscus Soda, as well as Ginger Green Tea Soda.  Or go for it with ‘Session Cocktails’ like the ‘Orangeena’, vodka, lemon juice, orange puree and soda; ‘Cosmo Flip’, vodka, muddled grapes, mint syrup, lime juice and cranberry juice, or the classic ‘Mojito’, rum, mint and lime.

Ambar, 2901 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, Virginia, 22201.

Hazel – The Talk of the Town 

The outdoor lounge at Hazel

The outdoor lounge

Hazel has had as much buzz as a beehive these days, and I’m not sure why.  I came wanting to fall in love with it, but my heart was crushed like a bug.  Though it is a stunning space both inside and out and includes an impressive wine list and tasty craft cocktails by Greg Engbert, I still can’t puzzle out the draw.  Trendy plateware from Cloud Terre, a staple in rustic-design destinations, aren’t enough to lure me in.  Been there.  Seen that.  After all the chatter I’m looking for the wow factor, but apparently I didn’t get the message.

Fire Panda sauce // Gnocchi Bokki a Pork kimchi ragu with sesame seeds and smoked pecorino

Fire Panda sauce // Gnocchi Bokki a Pork kimchi ragu with sesame seeds and smoked pecorino

Many of the dishes have an Asian-Italian influence which I found to be curious and ultimately unsatisfying.  Noted chef Rob Rubba of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, has come up with some unusual combinations like gnocchi with kimchee and barbecued carrots with buttermilk which I found to be palate-confusing.

Asian-Italian fusion octopus // Asian-Italian fusion

Asian-Italian fusion octopus // Asian-Italian fusion

A few forkfuls in I wondered exactly what I was eating and why.  And sadly, desserts by one of the city’s best pastry chefs, Naomi Gallego, formerly of Blue Duck Tavern, were uninspired and didn’t show off her wonderful baking skills.  On a positive note, I did come to love Fire Panda – a house made hot sauce that makes sriracha taste like ketchup.  If you go, be sure to take home a bottle or two.

Hazel, 808 V Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

Head to Smoked and Stacked for Your Next Reuben 

Smoked and Stacked's hot pastrami sign

Smoked and Stacked’s hot pastrami sign

Craving a Reuben sandwich?  This newly minted spot is where the bread is baked fresh and the meats are cured overnight.  But plan on taking it to go or eating briskly.  It isn’t built for comfort, there are only few tables and a smattering of stools, and heretically, no Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda – nor any type of throwback sodas, only a soda dispensing machine.

Smoked and Stacked's hot pastrami sign

Smoked and Stacked’s hot pastrami sign

There’s a limited menu on the blackboard and you’ll want to order ‘The Messy’.  Unlike the original Reuben made with thick slices of corned beef (New York’s crown jewel of Jewish delis, Katz’s, classic springs to mind), this version uses pastrami instead, keeping the traditional sauerkraut and Swiss cheese served on rye and properly sautéed in butter on a flat top grill.  Here the dressing is called Thousand Island dressing.  In New York we call it called Russian dressing.

Top Chef finalist, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, thinks of her place as a go-to for breakfast sandwiches served on ‘milk bread’ and a neighborhood destination for pastrami lovers.

Close by the Walter Washington Convention Center between M and N Streets, it’s at 1239 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

The Adorable Buttercream Bake Shop 

Buttercream Bake Shop

Buttercream Bake Shop

You want it.  Now!  Scrumptious baked goods, cute and yummy cupcakes, flaky biscuits and buttery croissants, pies, soaring three-layer cakes, cookies with big chunks of chocolate and cake truffles dotted with rainbow sprinkles.  It’s all here and it’s all delicious.

Lemon Merengue Bars at Buttercream Bake Shop

Lemon Meringue Bars at Buttercream Bake Shop

Across the street from Smoked and Stacked, the Buttercream Bake Shop is where you’ll find Espresso Ho Hos and Pistachio Macarons for the sophisticated kid-at-heart and Lemon Bars sporting swirls of soft meringue.  Each day something different fills the refrigerated cases or sits atop pretty cake stands.

Sky high Coconut Cake at Buttercream

Sky high Coconut Cake at Buttercream

I took a seat with my coffee and coconut cake and watched as mothers with fancy baby carriages flooded through the doors, some with children in tow (a perfect excuse to visit, but not entirely necessary) and some with other mothers in what looked to be an after-the-playground reward session.

Espresso Ho-Hos at Buttercream

Espresso Ho-Hos at Buttercream

Pastry Chef, Tiffany MacIsaac and partner, Alexandra Mudry, have taken a visit to the corner bake shop and elevated it to new heights in this charming spot.  The women also run a successful catering business for parties, as well as bespoke wedding cakes.

Buttercream Bake Shop, 1250 9th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001   

ICE! Returns to National Harbor 

ICE! at National Harbor

ICE! at National Harbor

The Christmas tree inside the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center is new.  This year the tree in the Atrium has a patriotic flair lit up in red, white and blue, though the one beside the harbor remains more traditional.

Patriotic Christmas tree in the Atrium of the Gaylord

Patriotic Christmas tree in the Atrium of the Gaylord

The Potomac Express train ride still fills the air with choo-choo sounds and the dancing fountains’ light show still delights children with its leaping flumes while grownups can enjoy cocktails at the Old Hickory bar overlooking the nightly indoor “snowfalls”.

The Potomac Express in the Atrium at the Gaylord

The Potomac Express in the Atrium at the Gaylord

You’ll see a new crop of characters ringing in the season this year and get a chance to eat with Lucy, Charlie Brown and the gang for Food & Fun Peanuts-themed breakfasts.  Be sure to make reservations for these fun character dining events.

Santa with Rudolph carved from ice

Santa with Rudolph carved from ice

We’ve come to see ICE! the show that’s lured families like a siren to its frozen statuary.  This year’s theme is “Christmas Around the World” and each icy diorama reflects the flags and cultures of many lands.  Over two million pounds of ice were carved to create this year’s fantastic experience, including the thrilling! and chilling! two-story ice slide.

The merry-go-round in the Christmas Village

The merry-go-round in the Christmas Village

Be sure to check out the latest offerings – a full-size merry-go-round, Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunts, an expanded gift shop, photos with Santa and cookies and milk with Mrs. Claus, and a Build-A-Bear workshop – all in the new Christmas Village.

A traditional tree lines the harbor with the Capital Wheel in the distance

A traditional tree lines the harbor with the Capital Wheel in the distance

Through January 1st at 165 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745. For tickets, hours and special overnight packages visit www.ChristmasonthePotomac.com.