Charleston City Including Backroads and Byways – Test Driving Hyundai’s 2018 Sonata and Elantra

Jordan Wright
October 9, 2017
Photo credit: Jordan Wright

 

Historic Charleston

The beautifully preserved port city of Charleston and its neighboring countryside proved an excellent opportunity to test drive the soon-to-be-released the sporty 2018 Sonata with its minimalist design and 8-speed transmission, and the 2018 Elantra GT.  Two daytime road rallies exploring this area on its cobblestone streets, highways and country lanes were no challenge for these two excellent-performing, mid-priced cars.

2018 Elantra GT

2018 Elantra GT

Both the 2018 Elantra GT and 2018 Sonata presented well through sudden downpours, bumpy roads, last minute turns and quick braking.  Our 90-plus degree day consisted of a four-hour morning drive in the Elantra GT and the same time in the Sonata.  We drove the vehicles past horse farms and golf clubs, across bridges and beside lush gardens with no stops for a refuel.  Plenty of highway and two-lane roads were instrumental in testing its maneuverability, comfort level and braking system.  Both dual clutch and manual are equally fuel-efficient and can be started and have the car’s temperature set by using Google.  Gotta love that in both hot or frigid climates!

Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra GT at the Charleston National Golf Club

Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra GT at the Charleston National Golf Club

For our early morning road rally 18 Elantra GTs started out from the beautiful Belmond Charleston Place, a magnificent property in the tradition of America’s grand hotels.  It was exciting to see them all lined up on the hotel’s cobblestone driveway in all their shiny new colors.

Charleston National Golf Club

Charleston National Golf Club

Our morning drive took us down Meeting Street and across the city then on to Route 526 to Sullivan’s Island and Route 703 on the Isle of Palms.  From there we drove inland to Mt. Pleasant arriving at the Charleston National Golf Course for snacks and cold drinks in their beautiful clubhouse set amid old Live Oaks and swaying Spanish moss.

A different route with different challenges defined our return.  From sizzling hot country roads that billowed clouds of steam from the frequent bursts of rainfall, the car handled it beautifully as we headed back to the hotel for a lunch break.  We had the chance to note the air conditioning and inside defroster were effective to handle such quickly changing weather conditions.  As we drove east on Route 526 beside the Ashley River and across the Cooper River, two rivers that converge at the port of Charleston, we enjoyed the panoramic views of the low country marshes with their acres of sweetgrass that the Gullahs make their intricately woven baskets from.  From there we passed the Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens before making our way back to the hotel for a lunch break.

Low country marshland along the route

Low country marshland along the route

Our afternoon drive in the Sonata took us across the Stono River on Route 700 and down through John’s Island to stopped at The Plantation at Stono Ferry and on to the Links at Stono Ferry Golf Club in Hollywood before heading back to town.  It is a stunning drive, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in touring the area.

Both cars exceeded expectations.  Most especially in what comes standard, though add-ons can raise the final price.  They are zippier, snazzier and more comfortable than earlier models with great attention paid to overall design, mileage and performance.

For fuel economy, you can expect the Elantra to give you a ton of savings at the pump.

FUEL ECONOMY City Highway Combined
2.4L (SE) 25 MPG 36 MPG 29 MPG
2.4L (SEL, Sport & Limited) 25 MPG 35 MPG 28 MPG
2.0T (Sport) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
2.0T (Limited) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
1.6T (Eco) 28 MPG 37 MPG 31 MPG

And as for safety, its braking system tell the story.

BRAKES/TIRES/WHEELS
Front Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 12.0-in. ventilated disc with pressure proportioning valves (2.4L/1.6T)
Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 12.6-in. ventilated disc with pressure proportioning valves (2.0T, Optional on SEL, Limited 2.4L)
Rear Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 11.2-in. solid disc with pressure proportioning valves

You can choose either the 6-speed electronic automatic with torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode on the 2.4L or the 8-speed electronic automatic with torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode on the 2.0T.  And there’s also a turbo model.

Utility without sacrificing driving dynamics is one of the key benefits to hatchbacks, and the 2018 Elantra GT brings an 8 percent increase in cargo capacity versus the prior generation.  It is one of only a few hatchbacks classified by the EPA as a Large Car due to total interior volume eclipsing 120 cubic feet.  In fact, Elantra GT has more cargo volume than other hatchbacks such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla iM. Elantra GT is also a sporty alternative to small CUVs. Elantra GT with the rear seats folded down has more cargo capacity than the Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax and Jeep Renegade.

Even more sophisticated safety features are standard on some Elantra models.  Advanced Driver Assists are available on Elantra GT Sport through Automatic Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist and Smart Cruise Control that features stop/start capability.  A Hyundai-first, Driver Attention Alert, analyzes driver inputs to determine attention level and provide both a visual and audible warning if it determines the driver’s attention level has become too low.  Great for a teen’s first car.

All that utility is wrapped in an evolution of what they call the “Fluidic Sculpture” design language that features Hyundai’s new signature cascading grille, which is flanked by standard LED Daytime Running Lights.  Pretty sexy!  To further enhance the front light signature, available LED headlights are utilized for both the low and high beams.  The side profile is strongly supported by standard 17-inch alloy wheels and 18-inch alloy wheels on the Sport. At the rear, the liftgate features wraparound glass and a rear spoiler.  Available LED tail lights and split dual outlet exhaust further support Elantra GT’s fun-to-drive positioning.

Model Engine Transmission MSRP
Elantra GT 2.0L 4-cylinder 6-speed Manual Transmission $19,350
Elantra GT 2.0L 4-cylinder 6-speed Automatic Transmission w/ SHIFTRONIC® $20,350
Elantra GT Sport 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder 6-speed Manual Transmission $23,250

 

2.4L (SE) 25 MPG 36 MPG 29 MPG
2.4L (SEL, Sport & Limited) 25 MPG 35 MPG 28 MPG
2.0T (Sport) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
2.0T (Limited) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
1.6T (Eco) 28 MPG 37 MPG 31 MPG

The Sonata’s ABS braking system comes in 4-wheel, 4-channel and 4-sensor with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and ESC.

Extensive features on the Sonata include, a standard seven-inch color display audio touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto® integration. Models equipped with Blue Link Telematics get three years of complimentary Connected Care and Remote services; including the ability to activate many of the features using the Amazon Echo and Google Home virtual assistants. The available navigation system is enhanced with a bird’s-eye-view feature and HERE HD real-time traffic flow data. Furthermore, the inconvenience of outdated map software is now a thing of the past as owners now have three years of complimentary Guidance Package services, which include downloads to maintain up-to-date navigation programming.

Keeping on-trend with today’s connected passengers, smartphones can now be charged without a plug using the available wireless charging pad (Qi standard) while a second-row USB charge port provides additional charging flexibility.

The Sonata is equally impressive.  Distinctive new exterior styling transforms Sonata’s visual signature. The dramatic new appearance is highlighted by Hyundai’s bold new “cascading grille” in front and an all-new rear with more prominent branding and relocation of the license plate in the bumper in this category.

Every 2018 Sonata is equipped with Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA).  It’s the only mainstream mid-size car sold with this safety technology as standard equipment. And with its 18.5 gallon tank, the mileage is impressive too.

Pricing throughout the Sonata’s lineup gives consumers a compelling choice.

Model Engine Transmission MSRP
SE 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $22,050
Eco 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 7-Speed EcoShift® Dual Clutch Transmission

with SHIFTRONIC®

$22,650
SEL 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $23,700
Limited 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $27,400
Sport 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $25,200
Sport 2.0T 2.0L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 8-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $27,600
Limited 2.0T 2.0L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 8-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $32,450

Whichever you choose, driving will be an awesome adventure.

Weekend in Charleston

Jordan Wright
October 9, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Historic Charleston

Historic Charleston

Visiting a historic destination naturally brings comparison to our own beloved port of Alexandria, and a few of those thoughts rose idly like bubbles to the surface as I arrived in another beautiful waterfront city.  I was curious to see what had changed since I’d visited two decades earlier, when, during a tour of a stately Southern mansion, a tiny octogenarian docent told our group the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.  It was the South’s right to keep the North out of their business affairs, she quaintly insisted.  Stunned at this declaration, I’m certain my eyes rolled back into my head, but the cat had a firm grip on my tongue and I remained silent amid the small group of visitors.  I still regret I didn’t lean in to challenge her version of history.

The Dock Street Theatre in Charleston’s historic French Quarter

The Dock Street Theatre in Charleston’s historic French Quarter

Since then, things have shifted somewhat.  South Carolina’s governor has removed the confederate flag from the State House, and local African American artists, artisans and chefs are treasured for their unique contributions.  The United Daughters of the Confederacy no longer hold sway in a city whose rich cultural history is driven by some 30,000 college students and a more inclusive vision.  Thankfully, the city’s charm and joie de vivre remains firmly intact.

The lobby at the Belmond Charleston Place

The lobby at the Belmond Charleston Place

The Belmond Charleston Place is a magnificent property in the tradition of America’s grandest hotels.  A recent $30 million renovation, affords it the distinguished cachet of a world-class property.  And with its central location and the city’s ubiquitous pedicabs, sightseeing is a breeze.

Pedicabs are a convenient way to get around

Pedicabs are a convenient way to get around

To up your game, book a suite on the exclusive Club Level.  Complimentary perks include hot buffet breakfasts; a recharge of afternoon tea, sandwiches and pastries; early evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres; nightcaps and sweet treats; and flutes of champagne all the live-long day.  On the main concourse, amid posh shops like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, there are three restaurants to choose from.  Be sure to book in advance for the full-service spa with rooftop pool.

Club Level luxury suite at the Belmond Charleston Place

Club Level luxury suite at the Belmond Charleston Place

Within a five-minute walk is the Charleston City Market on Meeting Street.  Rebuilt from the original after a fire in 1841, this National Historic Landmark houses dozens of indoor stalls and is open from 9:30 till 6pm.

Callie’s Biscuits at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

Callie’s Biscuits at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

Grab a cat’s head-sized buttermilk biscuit with all the fixins’ at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and shop the stalls for Gullah made sweetgrass baskets, benne wafers, sacks of Carolina Rice, local art, and handmade souvenirs.  Refresh at Lowcountry Lemonade where quaffs are made with seasonal muddled fruit.  Mine boasted sweet local peaches.

Horse-drawn wagons take sightseers around the old city

Horse-drawn wagons take sightseers around the old city

Spanning four city blocks the market leads down to East Bay Street and Waterfront Park with its stately Southern mansions.  Take in sweeping views of the harbor from White Point Gardens, a five-and-a-half-acre park that’s home to a protected Night Heron rookery set amid old oaks.  From there you’re a hop, skip and a jump to the Gibbes Museum, a breathtaking Beaux Arts structure that houses an outstanding collection of American art – both old master and contemporary.

The Gibbes Museum’s magnificent Beaux Arts interior

The Gibbes Museum’s magnificent Beaux Arts interior

Of all the mansions and plantations to tour (book through your concierge to tour Magnolia Gardens, Middleton Place, Boone Hall and Drayton Hall), I discovered what must be the most unusual.  The Italianate-influenced Calhoun Mansion and Gardens borders on the bizarre with its eye-popping floor–to-ceiling collection of fine art, rare antiques and silver collection, and Orientalia.

Calhoun Mansion

Calhoun Mansion

The extraordinarily ornate 1876 mansion is currently owned by a Washington, DC lobbyist.  Our docent was respectfully tight-lipped as to whom, but a bit of sleuthing uncovered DC attorney, Howard H. Stahl, who lovingly restored the once-dilapidated 35-room manor house.

(l-r) Black-eyed pea and rice salad ~ Low country shrimp topped succotash at the Belmond

(l-r) Black-eyed pea and rice salad ~ Low country shrimp topped succotash at the Belmond

In a city renowned for great Southern cooking and countless restaurants, where to eat?  You really can’t go wrong with soulful barbeque, low country cooking or the exceptional local seafood.  But I have a fondness for a certain chef and the particularly stylish way he approaches ingredients.  Circa 1886 is situated within the gardens of the Wentworth Mansion.  Chosen by prestigious Southern Living magazine this year to celebrate their 50th anniversary, it boasts an intimate, intrinsically Southern, candlelit setting that enhances fine dining.  Helmed by Executive Chef Marc Collins, whose talent is playing sweet and savory elements against one another, expect to find unique combinations paired with top drawer wines.

Dishes from Executive Chef Marc Collins at Circa 1886

Dishes from Executive Chef Marc Collins at Circa 1886

Our meal began with a trio of delicate crabmeat concoctions, artichoke pudding with sunflower seeds and espelette pepper, a cold soup of turnip greens with a silken peanut cream, followed by gnudi with truffles and loin of antelope with foie gras and blackberry sauce.  For an unforgettable taste of the South opt for Collins’ signature dessert – honeysuckle ice cream.

An artistically designed dessert featuring honeysuckle ice cream at Circa 1886

An artistically designed dessert featuring honeysuckle ice cream at Circa 1886

Weekends are perfect for brunching at the Marion Square Saturday farmer’s market.

Marion Square Saturday’s farmers market

Marion Square Saturday’s farmers market

Plan ahead for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (February 28 – March 4 2018).

Jet Blue flies direct to Charleston from Reagan National Airport.

For a pedicab call Bike Taxi – 843 532.8663.

Visiting Annapolis – Maryland’s Capital Deserves More Than a Daytrip

Jordan Wright
August 15, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Annapolis Harbor

Annapolis Harbor

Although Annapolis is a hop, skip and a jump away, I thought it would be fun to give it more than a cursory visit and include some nightlife, wine life and a bit of water-centric fun.  To that end we booked a few nights at the recently newly redecorated Annapolis Waterfront Hotel.

The newly redecorated rooms at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

The newly redecorated rooms at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

Now part of Marriott International’s prestigious Autograph Collection brand, known for its spectacular portfolio of luxury hotels around the world, the hotel reflects a decidedly contemporary nautical air with stunning rooms overlooking the town’s main harbor.  As the only hotel overlooking the waterfront, its central location allows visitors to walk to shops, restaurants and historical attractions.  Travelers will be pleased to know they still provide all of the benefits of Marriott Rewards program.  Boaters will love that it has its own dockage.

Harbor view from the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

Harbor view from the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

In the past we have enjoyed Sunday brunch at the hotel’s Pusser’s Caribbean Grille with its waterfront dining and lively bar.  Named for the 350-year old West Indian rum brand, their rum-based drinks are delicious and potent.  Be sure to snag a bottle of their newest release called Gunpowder Proof from the onsite Pusser’s Company Store.  You’ll be among the first to try it.  This 109-proof dark rum has only been available stateside for one month.

  • Hot Tip: When booking your accommodations be sure to inquire about the hotel’s special partnership with the Naval Academy.  The “Exactly Like Nothing Else” package, allows overnight guests an opportunity to dine at the Alley Restaurant in the historic wood-paneled Officer’s Club.  Dining in the club is an exclusive privilege normally reserved for Navy families. 

Sightseeing

No visit to Annapolis is complete without a trip to the Naval Academy located in the heart of town.  Our lively guide was Mike Zitzman who regaled us with curious backstories and little known facts on the history of the 338-acre property as well as the program for midshipmen (women are called midshipmen too).  Did you know that during their training each cadet must wear a water-filled fanny pack?  This new regulation was implemented to ensure cadets are not dehydrated while practicing their drills.

Cadets rest between drills at Halsey Field House

Cadets rest between drills at Halsey Field House

On the day we visited the temperature rose to a brutal 98 degrees.  Thankfully we weren’t the ones sporting heavy cotton uniforms and rifles over our shoulders.  Another fascinating factoid: The Navy has more pilots than the Air Force.  (Hint: Pilots, not aircraft.)  And the Army has more boats than the Navy. (Hint: The Navy calls them “ships”.)

The domed ceiling in the Naval Chapel

The domed ceiling in the Naval Chapel

On campus many of the buildings, including the dormitories housing over 4,000 students, are open to the public.  Check out the museum at Preble Hall for paintings, antique model ships and fascinating salvaged artifacts, and the awe-inspiring Main Chapel to see the largest pipe organ in America and marvel at its massive Tiffany stained glass windows.

A Tiffany window in the Naval Chapel

A Tiffany window in the Naval Chapel

Beneath the chapel you’ll view the crypt and marble sarcophagus of Commodore John Paul Jones, the most celebrated Revolutionary War naval hero.  There is also the Levy Center, a place of worship for midshipmen of the Jewish and Muslim faiths.  Book this special guided tour through the hotel or drop in at the Armel-Leftwish Visitor Center.

The marble sarcophagus of John Paul Joned

The marble sarcophagus of John Paul Jones

A 3-mile drive from town is Great Frogs Winery, a 100-year old former tobacco farm with placid views of the rolling countryside.  Located on the Chesapeake Bay, its rustic tasting room is housed in a former tobacco drying barn.

The converted tobacco barn at Great Frogs winery

The converted tobacco barn at Great Frogs winery

Arriving at the height of a summer downpour proved to be a cozy complement to our tasting as we relaxed to the sound of the rain hitting the tin roof.

Let the tasting begin at Great Frogs

Let the tasting begin at Great Frogs

The winery is run by Californians, Nathaniel O’Shea and Andrea O’Shea, who have planted a wide variety of grapes in this sandy Maryland soil.  We especially liked their 2014 Vintner’s White and an exceptional aged port straight from the barrel.

The delicious cheese and charcuterie platter

The delicious cheese and charcuterie platter

It is a fine place to while away an afternoon over delicious locally-sourced cheese and charcuterie.  As the rain subsided and the sun glistened over the vines, we were treated to a double rainbow.  How lucky can you get?

A double rainbow seen from Great Frogs

A double rainbow seen from Great Frogs

Getting out on the water is part of the adventure and there are a number of options to choose from.  If you’re a fan of standup paddleboarding (SUP), the latest form of exercise is yoga sessions on SUPs.  Head over to Capital SUP to see professional paddleboard racer Brian Meyer.  His boathouse is in town on Spa Creek beside his stepfather Barry Levinson’s beautiful grey-shingled home.

Paddleboarders gather for morning yoga on Spa Creek

Paddleboarders gather for morning yoga on Spa Creek

If you prefer a captain at the helm of your ship, go big – as in a 74-foot double masted wooden schooner rigged with four sails.  From the hotel’s docks catch the breeze on The Woodwind and sail the Chesapeake Bay on a two-hour cruise.  Book the special “Wine in the Wind” tour on August 28th.  This French Burgundy tasting with hors d’oeuvres is a three-hour cruise.  If you’re staying at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel where the ship docks, be sure to ask for the special room + sail rate.

The Temptations perform at the Ram's Head

The Temptations perform at the Ram’s Head

When the sun goes down there’s plenty of entertainment nearby.  Plan ahead for the hottest musical acts at the Ram’s Head Tavern (we caught The Temptations in their sold-out show).  Or head to the Infinity Theatre Company.  A 15-minute drive from town, it features New York theatre and children’s shows.  Another option is the award-winning Colonial Players who will feature Martin McDonagh’s dark, Irish comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, beginning September 9th and running through October 1st.   Not to be ignored are the Compass Rose Theatre, Annapolis Opera, Ballet Theatre of Maryland and the Annapolis Shakespeare Company.  For tickets and more info on these venues visit www.InfinityTheatre.com

 Dining

Annapolis has always been tops in seafood restaurants, and frankly, a lot of us come here for the sweet Maryland blue crabs, the famed rockfish and the oysters, many of which are harvested from the world’s largest man-made oyster reef.

Many visitors go for fish and chips at the laidback Galway Bay Irish Pub or seafood-centric Carrol’s Creek Café for fine dining (reserve ahead for a waterside table) and Blackwall Hitch, whose latest outpost is on the harbor in Alexandria, Virginia.  But if you’ve visited before, you may want to explore.

Michelle and Jeremy Hoffman of Preserve restaurant

Michelle and Jeremy Hoffman of Preserve restaurant

Thanks to some insider tips, we made our way to Preserve, a rustic modern outpost for canned, pickled and fermented vegetable dishes from Restaurant Eve alums, Jeremy Hoffman and Michelle Hoffman.  Jeremy informs his cooking from his Pennsylvania Dutch background, elevating homey small plates to a modern sensibility.

The bar at Preserve

The bar at Preserve

Start with a few of his tangy-sweet pickled offerings.  The relish dish features Old Bay Turnips, Bread and Butter Green Tomatoes, BBQ Carrots, Bloody Mary Celery, Soy Ginger Daikon and Beets lavished with dill weed.  I was imagining how nicely they’d pair with wintertime fare when fresh vegetables are out of season and hearty meat dishes can be enhanced with a touch of acidity.

Minced Pork Lettuce Wraps at Preserve

Minced Pork Lettuce Wraps at Preserve

Next set your sights on some tweaked out starters like Kimchi or Minced Pork Lettuce Wraps with peanuts, cilantro and red onion.  The servings are small, so you’ll want to order a few things.

An assortment of "ferments" at Preserve

An assortment of “ferments” at Preserve

The menu lists a number of meat dishes to choose from (the house made liverwurst called to me).  Vegans will delight in discovering the Oyster Mushroom Po’boy.  I savored the Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie with its golden crust.

Jeremy’s Cabbage Alley line of raw, vegan and gluten-free “ferments” – sauerkraut, kimchi and curtido – are available by the jar.

Breakfast at Chick & Ruth's Delly

Breakfast at Chick & Ruth’s Delly

Another unique spot is the iconic Chick & Ruth’s Delly, which is not spelled “deli”, though it certainly is.  This beloved four-generation establishment is the be-all, end-all of Jewish delis.  Unfortunately, many of these wonderful outposts of traditional Jewish cookery have gone out of business, yet this stalwart is still going strong.  Why?  Well, I’d say it’s because they don’t stint on friendliness, food or quality.  The waitresses are cheery, the platters are heroic and the homemade pies are legendary.  With twenty-four flavors to choose from, the pie menu alone is testament to Chick and Ruth’s patriotic commitment to freedom of choice.

The Governor's Table

The Governor’s Table

As a popular hangout for the capital’s lawmakers, politicians’ photos line the walls going back to the 60’s.  There’s even a specially reserved table for the Governor’s Office, be they Republican or Democrat.  Townsfolk will tell you that every newly elected governor has come here and stood beside both locals and out-of-towners to salute the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance on their first day in office.  You too can participate in this unique observance every weekday morning at 8:30am.

Classic Smoked Salmon on an ET bagel

Classic Smoked Salmon on an ET bagel

Though featured on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food for 6-pound milkshakes and a 3-pound “Super-Duper Colossal” cheeseburger, we nonetheless settled for something far less challenging.  After all it was breakfast and, though you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner all day, a cheeseburger in the morning wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.

Owner Ted Levitt inspects the morning's bread. All pastries, breads, bagels, pies and cookies are baked on premises

Owner Ted Levitt inspects the morning’s bread. All pastries, breads, bagels, pies and cookies are baked on premises

My advice?  Go for the Belgian waffles with homemade fruit toppings, the smoked salmon with all the accoutrements served on an epic in-house made bagel, or the Maryland lump crabmeat omelets.

Settle in with Pork Chops, Grits and Scrambled Eggs at Chick & Ruth's

Settle in with Pork Chops, Grits and Scrambled Eggs at Chick & Ruth’s

A particularly ravenous member of our group bit the bullet and happily chowed down on a duet of pork chops with creamy grits and hash brown potatoes.  Savvy travelers will take home at least one of those splendid pies and a dozen bagels.

Heads Up for the Labor Day Sailboat Races 

For sailing enthusiasts, the 2016 Annapolis Labor Day Sailing Regatta is a great opportunity to see sailboat racing in action.  Hosted by the Annapolis Yacht Club, the Eastport Yacht Club and the Gibson Island Squadron, the races will be held on Saturday, September 3rd and Sunday, September 4th.  For more information call Kathy Parks at 443 386-9057 or visit www.AnnapolisYC.com/racing

Photo credit ~ Jordan Wright

MESS HALL PRESENTS BLAZED AND GLAZED ON SUNDAY MAY 15th

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

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

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

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

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

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

Buenos Aires Art in Washington DC by designer Jon Wye

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

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

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

A Haunting Beauty Flourishes Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – Five Days Along the North Atlantic Coast

Jordan Wright
February 29, 2016
Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

County Donegal, a windswept land of mountains and coastal cliffs, meadows and quaint fishing villages is finally getting its due as one of the most beautiful and unspoiled destinations in the world.  Not only does it offer up its mysteries to those interested in probing its rich heritage, but it affords a myriad of activities for those seeking adventure.

Pastoral Scene of the Fanad Peninsula

Pastoral Scene of the Fanad Peninsula

Depending on your interest, in a single day you can take in a night of music in a lively pub, explore ancient ruins, hike a mountain passage or loll about at tea time in the posh drawing room of a turreted castle.

Eventide in Moville

Eventide in Moville

For some it’s a round of golf with sweeping sea views, a feast of mussels and lobsters from the daily catch, or surfing the waves along a Blue Flag beach.  Others are drawn to the music.  Donegal is where New Age songstress Enya launched her career in a pub owned by her musical family the Brennan’s, and a place where on any given night, fiddlers and balladeers still raise the rooftops at local watering holes.  There’s so much to enjoy if you remember that getting there is part of the adventure.

The blue waters of Mulroy Bay

The blue waters of Mulroy Bay

You’ll find the Irish are genuinely keen to meet strangers – like our chance encounter with a pair of octogenarians who giggled like schoolgirls and chatted us up when they heard our American accents, or the shopkeeper who poured generous shots from a bottle of homemade poitín, Ireland’s answer to white lightening.

Wild crocosmia

Wild crocosmia

Traveling along well-paved highways the land spreads out like one great patterned tablecloth – the undulating hills and roadsides ablaze with color.  Mile after mile claims great swaths of purple heather, vivid orange crocosmia and bright yellow gorse bowing to the breeze.  Sheep are ubiquitous dotting the fields under a vast horizon bisected by impossibly blue skies.  Even on a misty day it’s beguiling.

Sheep graze atop the headland on Arranmore Island

Sheep graze atop the headland on Arranmore Island

It’s a mystical land of ancient Druids and conquering Vikings, of ruling dynasties and the chieftain families of the O’Neills and O’Donnells.  From the sea we get tales of Spanish Armada ships wrecked on northernmost shores and from the land mystical histories of burial mounds older than the pyramids of Egypt are revealed.  It is known to travelers as the Wild Atlantic Way.  And it is where our adventure unfolds.

Oh, the things you can do in five days!  It is wondrous.

The Grianan of Aileach

The Grianan of Aileach

From Dublin go north through County Meath and its alluring horse country, and beyond through the counties of Monaghan, Tyrone and Strabane, to make your first stop at the Grianan of Aileach, a stone ringfort built in the Neolithic age and linked to the Tuatha de Danann.  A short walk down the hill beside a small spring, will take you to a small wooden cross that marks St. Patrick’s Well, a spot it is thought that St. Patrick visited in the 5th century.

Connemara ponies beside the bay

Connemara ponies beside the bay

Overnight in Moville at the oceanfront 17th century Redcastle Hotel.  The property features a luxury spa that uses 100% organic seaweed-based Voya beauty products, a 9-hole parkland golf course and an indoor Thalasso pool overlooking the waters of Lough Foyle.  Its in-season menu highlights locally sourced food elegantly prepared.  www.RedcastleHotelDonegal.com

View from the greens at Greencastle Golf Club along Silver Strand Beach

View from the greens at Greencastle Golf Club along Silver Strand Beach

In the morning set off along the windswept northern coastlines across the Inishowen Peninsula between Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly, stopping first in Greencastle.  Here you can visit the local Moville Pottery, play a round of golf at the Greencastle Golf Club on Silver Strand Beach at Sweet Nellie’s Cove (call ahead to pre-arrange) and tour the Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium.  www.InishowenMaritime.com

Brian McDermott's Cooking School

Brian McDermott’s Cooking School

Lunch brought us to the outskirts of the small town of Carrownaffe where well-known BBC-TV chef Brian McDermott, fondly known as the “No Salt Chef”, welcomed us to his cookery school in a charming clapboard cottage surrounded by herb and vegetable gardens.  McDermott triumphs a no-salt diet created as a result of personal health issues.

(L-R) Fish course at the cooking school ~ Berry crumble for the class

(L-R) Fish course at the cooking school ~ Berry crumble for the class

Focusing predominantly on seafood, the chef also offers a “Catch It, Cook It” experience that combines a kayak or canoe fishing trip with a hands-on demonstration on how to prepare your catch.  Don’t be surprised to see playful porpoises, dolphins and whales breaching along the coastline.  The subsequent three-course luncheon is the main attraction. www.TheNoSaltChef.com  www.InishAdventures.com

Fort Dunree

Fort Dunree

Known as “Grey Fort” or “Fort of the Heather”, Fort Dunree is a former coastal defense fortification in nearby Buncrana overlooking the Lough Swilly fjord.  Built by the British in the early 1800’s, it offers a small, yet fascinating, military museum that spans the period from Viking invaders to present day.

The 90 cm carbon arc searchlight

The 90 cm carbon arc searchlight

Of special interest is a large collection of artillery guns and a 205-year old carbon arc searchlight, still in use today.  www.Dunree.pro.ie

Stop in the pretty village of Buncrana where you’ll find plenty of pubs and shops and the restored St. Mary’s Hall Cinema built in 1904.

Potted agapanthus at Rathmullan House

Potted agapanthus at Rathmullan House

Listed in Ireland’s Blue Book of Irish Country House, Historic Hotels and Restaurants is the four-star Rathmullan House, a stunning Georgian manor with bespoke gardens, modern amenities and an exceptional cuisine.

A view of the gardens at Rathmullan House

A view of the gardens at Rathmullan House

Breakfast is a stunner with Irish cheeses, fresh ham, homemade brown bread, flapjacks, bowls of fresh berries and house-made granola.  www.RathmullanHouse.com

A pub in the wee village of Buncrana

A pub in the wee village of Buncrana

Before leaving Rathmullan take a tour of the Kinegar Craft Beer Brewery.  One of the founders of the Wild Atlantic Way Craft Beer Trail which boasts 13 small craft breweries, it is located at the end of a narrow country lane surrounded by fields, farms and horses.  This small but productive popular brewery is the epitome of a family-run operation.  www.KinegarBrewing.ie

(L-R) Off to market ~ The barns outside Kinegar Brewery

(L-R) Off to market ~ The barns outside Kinegar Brewery

Traveling along the Fanad Peninsula to the lighthouse, stop at Ballyhiernan Bay.  Over a mile long, the dune-backed beach is the perfect stroll before lunch.

The dunes leading to Ballyhiernan Bay

The dunes leading to Ballyhiernan Bay

Though Donegal features 11 lighthouses, the one on the Fanad Peninsula is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.  Perched atop the heart-poundingly spectacular cliffs of Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay, the iconic lighthouse has its own heliport.

The Fanad Lighthouse and heliport

The Fanad Lighthouse and heliport

With advance booking you can overnight in the cozy efficiency and awake to the sound of giant waves crashing up against the rocks plus a vista of unimaginable beauty.  www.FanadLighthouse.com

On the way to Churchill and Glenveagh Castle note the Derryveagh Mountains rising in the distance.  You’ll be passing thousands of acres of bogs where turf is still harvested to heat homes.  Set on a high promontory along Lough Veagh, the castle is part of the Glenveagh National Park and the Donegal Garden Trail.

The walled gardens and greenhouses of Glenveagh Castle

The walled gardens and greenhouses of Glenveagh Castle

Once there, take a guided tour of the antique-filled rooms of the Scottish baronial style mansion house, the Victorian walled gardens and the greenhouses.  The former estate and hunting lodge of the heir to the McIlhenny Tabasco fortune, it was constructed in 1869 and visited by American film stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin.

One of the drawing rooms at Glenveagh Castle

One of the drawing rooms at Glenveagh Castle

This 40,000-acre setting, framed by the Dooish and Staghall mountains, has its own herd of red deer who drink from the clear waters of the lough.  You can learn more at the Visitor’s Center about the park’s recent project to reintroduce the Golden Eagle to Ireland.  Take time for a spot of tea and freshly made scones at the café where tiny birds flutter in and out among the tables.   www.GlenveaghNationalPark.ie  www.DonegalGardenTrail.com

On Main Street in the former fishing village of Dunfanaghy is Arnold’s Hotel, a cozy, well-located, family-run hotel with views of the bay.  After check-in head off for dinner at The Singing Pub and Ocras Café in Downings on Sheephaven Bay.

The daily catch served in copper-lidded tureens at the Ocras Cafe

The daily catch served in copper-lidded tureens at the Ocras Cafe

There you’ll find a welcoming peat-burning fireplace, seafood fresh off the boat and lively music by local bands.

(L-R) A typical jam at The Singing Pub ~ The peat burning fireplace at The Singing Pub

(L-R) A typical jam at The Singing Pub ~ The peat burning fireplace at The Singing Pub

Nautical décor includes a lifebuoy from the Titanic.  On the night we visited, bracketed between traditional Irish folk music and American country ballads, we heard a beautiful young lass sing a haunting rendition of Patsy Cline’s “I Can’t Help It”.   www.ArnoldsHotel.com  www.SingingPub.ie

Riders head out to the shoals of Killahoey Strand

Riders head out to the shoals of Killahoey Strand

After a traditional Irish breakfast, walk behind the hotel to find the stables.  Snag a helmet and boots from the tack room and saddle up to take a guided group ride into the shoals of of Killahoey Strand along Dunfanaghy Bay.  www.DunfanaghyStables.com

On the ferry to the island

On the ferry to the island

Heading off to Burtonport the Errigal Mountains loom largely over the bucholic terrain.  At the harbor catch the 15-minute ferry ride to Arranmore Island, a scenic island boasting a population of around 600 residents, which swells to nearly a thousand in summers as visitors come to the traditional Gaeltacht schools to learn the Irish language.

The harbor at Burtonport

The harbor at Burtonport

Aboard the ferry you’ll probably share a bench with adorable Irish-speaking children who make the daily round trip to schools on the mainland.  For daily ferry schedules visit www.ArranmoreFerry.com.

Jimmy the Sheep

Jimmy the Sheep

Once on the island you’re in the town of Leabgarrow.  Head to GrassRoutes to rent electric bicycles to reach the headlands on self-guided tours. www.GrassRoutes.ie.  Keep an eye out for Jimmy, the cutest black-faced sheep on the island.  Scuba and sea angling charters leave daily from the harbor.  And if birding’s on your agenda, tour the neighboring chain of islands by charter boat. www.DiveArranmore.com

Once back on the mainland it’s time for a pint of Guinness or a perfectly made Irish coffee topped with soft whipped cream at Leo’s Tavern in Meenaleck.

Making the perfect Irish coffee at Leo's Tavern

Making the perfect Irish coffee at Leo’s Tavern

Named after Leo Brennan, an accomplished musician and father of the iconic singer Enya, the large pub is lined with her celebrity photos and framed platinum and gold records. www.LeosTavern.com

Harvey's Point Lodge

Harvey’s Point Lodge

For timelessly elegant dining and world-class wines, make reservations far in advance for the ever-popular Harvey’s Point Lodge.  Situated along Lough Eske, the hotel’s restaurant, calls its dining experience, “Cuisine Art” and offers a dinner cabaret on Wednesday nights.

(L-R) Local fish and clams with oranges and roasted beets ~ Irish beef with foie gras and local vegetables at Harvey's Point ~ Meringue atop coconut pie with lime and strawberry sauce

(L-R) Local fish and clams with oranges and roasted beets ~ Irish beef with foie gras and local vegetables at Harvey’s Point ~ Meringue atop coconut pie with lime and strawberry sauce

Should you choose to overnight here, the suites in this award-winning hotel are spacious and luxurious.  www.HarveysPoint.com

Solis Lough Eske Castle

Solis Lough Eske Castle

Solis Lough Eske Castle is framed by the Blue Stack Mountains on one side and the lough on the other.  A five-star property, it is a peerless example of a Tudor-baronial castle.

Tea time at the Solis Locke Eske Castle

Tea time at the Solis Locke Eske Castle

Take time to stroll the 41-acre woodlands and enjoy the spa and indoor pool.  Breakfast is lavish and features fresh fruits, locally smoked salmon and made-to-order omelets. www.SolisHotels.com/lougheskecastle/

(L-R) The manor at Saltville Gardens ~ Guarding the manor at Salthill was this terrifying clutch of tailwaggers

(L-R) The manor at Salthill Gardens ~ Guarding the manor at Salthill was this terrifying clutch of tailwaggers

A half-hour’s drive away outside the village of Mountcharles, lie the perennial-filled gardens of Salthill with its striking seaside views and fields of meadow grasses overlooking Donegal Bay.

A riot of color in the gardens at Saltville

A riot of color in the gardens at Salthill

Wander through mown paths lined with ferns and wildflowers and take in the aroma of 19th century roses that flourish on stone arches in the walled gardens.

A bowl of shells adorns a window ledge inside the potting shed

A bowl of shells adorns a window ledge inside the potting shed

These exceptionally curated gardens with charming potting shed for visitors, are overseen by Elizabeth Temple who resides in the mansion house and can often be found tending to its glories.  www.DonegalGardens.com

(L-R) Eithna's ~ The dining room at Eithna's By the Sea

(L-R) Eithna’s ~ The dining room at Eithna’s By the Sea

Traveling to Mullaghmore in nearby Sligo County is Eithna’s by the Sea run by Eithna O’Sullivan and Prannie Rattigan of Prannie’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen.  Rattigan is a medical doctor by trade and an expert in edible seaweed who lectures at conferences around the world on the benefits of algae, more familiarly known as seaweed.

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A bounty of seaweed ready for the kitchen

Over 600 species of marine algae can be found off Irish shores.  Here they are sustainably harvested along the Atlantic coast where their vitamin and mineral-enriched flavors appear in delicately prepared seafood dishes.

(L-R) (L-R) Crab and seaweed with lemon foam ~ Crab and seaweed with lemon foam ~ Fish and shellfish form a delicious relationship

(L-R) (L-R) Crab and seaweed with lemon foam ~ Crab and seaweed with lemon foam ~ Fish and shellfish form a delicious relationship

Be sure to sample one of her homemade cakes and take home a bottle or two of hand-harvested dried seaweed.  Nori, kombu, sea lettuce, dulse and wakame are available for purchase. www.EithnasRestaurant.com

The Spanish Armada Trail

The Spanish Armada Trail

After lunch tour the Spanish Armada Trail on foot, on horseback or by kayak along the tidal lagoons with Maritime Archaeologist Auriel Robinson of Sea Trails. www.Seatrails.ie

Close by Dublin’s airport in Meath, but a world away from the hustle and bustle, is the opulent, Georgian period Dunboyne Castle, a magnificent property with spa and lovely gardens.  Relax in this former home of the Lord of Dunboyne before your flight home.

Courtesy of Dunboyne Castle Hotel

Courtesy of Dunboyne Castle Hotel

www.DunboyneCastleHotel.com

For direct flights to Dublin from Dulles Airport visit www.AerLingus.com.  For further information on traveling the Wild Atlantic Way, visit www.WildAtlanticway.com.