April 19, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
As a former BBC comedy writer, award-winning playwright and graduate of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, Bathsheba Doran can turn a phrase as merrily as she can turn the screw – so it’s no surprise that her tightly crafted dramedy gifts an audience with two plus hours of solid laughs. Director Stella Powell-Jones, a veteran of numerous, stellar Off-Broadway productions, knows precisely where and how to take us on this bumpy ride, affectionately described in the playbill as a “love story”.
Shayna Blass (Charlotte) and Xavier Scott Evans (Jonny) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
In The Mystery of Love and Sex Doran offers up four angst-riddled characters for comedic dissection. Charlotte and Jonny are recent college grads on the cusp of nowhere. That they are besties since childhood is revealed, but what they struggle with is if a lifelong friendship translates to marriage. Lucinda (Emily Townley) and Howard (Jeff Still), Charlotte’s parents, hope so, and though their own marriage is on the rocks they have buckets of encouragement for the young couple who share everything but a bed.
Jeff Still (Howard), Xavier Scott Evans (Jonny), Emily Townley (Lucinda) and Shayna Blass (Charlotte) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
Jones takes us on a journey led by stereotypes, a liberal New York Jewish intellectual writer father, Howard, and his genteel southern Christian wife, Lucinda, fondly called ‘Lulabelle’. As mundane as that seems on the surface, it provides the anchor to a story that takes us far beneath what may be superficially assumed.
Jonny (Xavier Scott Evans), an English Lit major, and Charlotte (Shayna Blass) are not your average young couple beaming with the promise of the future and following a predictable path to parenthood. They have issues. Tons, as we soon see. Those involve, but are not limited to, race, sexuality, religion and jealousy. Hot topics and even hotter wellsprings for situational comedy. And in this age of torturous self-examination and serial introspection, they are in no way assured a shared future.
Xavier Scott Evans (Jonny) and Shayna Blass (Charlotte) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
In their exploration of an honest relationship, the pair alternately mock and comfort each other, seeking a scapegoat for their insecurities. There’s a moment when Charlotte strips naked and offers herself up to the virginal Jonny. “We are in love, Jonny. We should get married,” she implores. But Jonny has secrets, and Charlotte is still trying to puzzle out her own. Confessing his newly discovered sexuality to Charlotte, Jonny reveals his dilemma. “It’s like ear wax. It’s in so deep you don’t know it’s there, but it makes everything fuzzy.”
Emily Townley (Lucinda) and Shayna Blass (Charlotte) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
It could prove maudlin, but assuredly it is not, especially as other people’s neuroses are a sure passage to the funny bone, and dysfunctional families have become comedic fodder for tweaking millennials.
Xavier Scott Evans (Jonny) and Shayna Blass (Charlotte) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
When Howard tries to keep them together despite their differences he explains to Jonny, “Life is weird. Look at a fish.” Lucinda has her own issues. In trying to combat the stress of her family and quit smoking at the same time, she she snaps her fingers and blows into the air – an oft-repeated response delivered in delicious deadpan by Townley. There are scads of scathing one-liners and enough personality quirks to sentence the lot of them to a lifetime on a psychiatrist’s couch. But those are the funny bits, skillfully delivered by a fantastically confident, gleefully quirky, utterly lovable cast.
Emily Townley (Lucinda) and Xavier Scott Evans (Jonny) in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Photo by Margot Schulman.
Highly recommended with a caveat. Wear loose clothing, lest you burst your buttons.
Through May 8th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.
April 18, 2016
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Chefs with their military chef partners
Chefs from some of our area’s leading restaurants participated in a fundraiser last week for Blue Star Families, pairing up with military chef counterparts to prepare some scrumptious nibbles and sips. With a view of the White House across Lafayette Park as backdrop, guests were treated to an array of fabulous food. The splashy red carpet event was filled to capacity with the extraordinary Americans who donate their time to support military families. Guests recorded the moment in selfie photo booths, using patriotic-colored bead necklaces to place around the necks of the chefs whose dishes they liked most.
Just to give you a little background on this amazing organization, there are over 50 chapters around the world serving military families and providing assistance through education, empowerment and employment programs in civilian communities. Chapters partner with the general public and other services to address the challenges of military life and reach over 1.5 million military families every year. Can I get a hooray?
Hosted by Co-Chairs Sheila Casey and General George Casey, prominent members of the organization along with high-level military and politicians and their families, gathered in the grand reception room of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce for the celebration. The evening’s emcee, author, TV and radio host and speaker, Mary Matalin, joined in the tastings before the ceremony began.
Chef Robert Wiedmaier with military chef Jennifer Medeiros
Partnering with and representing the Air Force was TSGT Jennifer Medeiros who created a dish with Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s restaurant. Wiedmaier’s father was a “Full Bird” Colonel in the U. S. Air Force. Together they served up Chicken and Pheasant Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Tomato Red Wine Sauce.
Cathal Armstrong (left) with military chef partner Marine Sargent Joseph Hale
Representing the Marine Corps was Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, named a “Champion of Change” by the White House, who partnered with Marine Sgt. Joseph Hale to prepare Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad reflecting his recent attention to Asian cuisine.
Northern Thai Flank Steak Salad
From the Coast Guard, FSC Derek Johnson was paired up with Nicolas Stephanelli of Masseria to prepare Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar, and divinely decadent combination. Stephanelli, whose brother-in-law is a retired Ranger, noted that he enjoyed “seeing something outside our culinary community.”
Burrata with Rappahannock Oysters and Caviar
Representing the Navy was Derrick Davenport who paired up with David Guas of Bayou Bakery. When asked where he worked, Davenport hinted he didn’t have far to walk from his current employment, but couldn’t say more. Hmmmm. Could it be the White House? Davenport, who cooked on a submarine for six years before transitioning to the Executive Dining Room of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the 2015 American Culinary Federation USA Chef of the Year and as Team Captain for the U. S. Army Culinary Arts Team will compete at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany this year.
Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison
The dynamic duo made a dish of Gulf Stream Shrimp Maison to reflect Guas’ New Orleans’ roots.
Todd Gray puts the finishing touches on his dish
Showing off his skills as a representative of the Army was SSG Marc Susa who along with Todd Gray of Equinox restaurant conjured up Rigatoni with Cannellini Beans, a Smoked Mushroom Bolognese, and topped it off with fermented black radish.
Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab and Asparagus
In the Guard + Reserve category were MSG Vilaykone Saynorath, Army, and Chris Morris of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab whose dish precisely represented the restaurant’s luxury ingredients of Beef Filet with Alaskan King Crab with a soupcon of bearnaise sauce.
Macchu Picchu Roll
There was even a category for Military Brat that paired Chris Clime of PassionFish with CS1 Frida Karani, Navy. Together they presented Frida’s Freedom Macchu Picchu Roll made with flounder, kampachi, chipotle and lime.
“Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family” killer cocktails crafted by “Mixtress”
Gina Chersevani, of Buffalo & Bergen and Suburbia, who calls herself a “Mixtress”, crafted killer cocktails for the special occasion, titling them “Love Thy Neighbor” and “We Are Family”. To echo that sentiment and cap off the evening’s award ceremony, Sister Sledge sang her chart-topper, “We Are Family” to the assembled guests.
Awards were presented for Civil Leadership to Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Richard Burr; as well as Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. Dr. Peter Long, PhD, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, received The Connie Milstein Philanthropic Award and Joy Goulette accepted The Blue Star Neighbor Award.
For more information about the organization visit www.BlueStarFam.org
Photo credit ~ Jordan Wright
SPRINGTIME ON THE TERRACE AT BLUE DUCK TAVERN
April 16, 2016
By Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
Celebrating the bounty of Spring at the Blue Duck Tavern
Some sure signs of spring in the Washington, DC area are the cherry blossoms, opening day at Nationals Park, and the opening of the charming terrace at the Park Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern. Last week’s media preview of their newest seasonal menu featured salads, entrees, cheeses, desserts and cocktails – many of which celebrated the strawberry.
Two of the newest dishes planned for Spring will be Rack of Lamb and Strawberry Salad. Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy will offer a unique combination of ripe and pickled unripe strawberries with thinly sliced raw almonds, radishes, granola, mint and his own house made farmer’s cheese with a drizzle of balsamic strawberry vinaigrette.
Executive Chef Franck Loquet prepares rack of lamb
And Executive Chef Franck Loquet, formerly Executive Chef with the Sofitel in DC, will sear rack of lamb from Elysian Fields Farm in Pennsylvania pairing it with a lemon yogurt sauce and miniscule spring vegetables. The French-born Loquet spent three years working for legendary chef Alain Ducasse, and his elegant style of cuisine is reflected in his delicate handling, and expert choice, of the finest ingredients.
Seared Lamb with Baby Spring Vegetables
Cheese Specialist Sophie Slesinger showed us an impressive array of domestically produced seasonal cheeses from the pasteurized milk of goats, sheep and cows and offered them with Strawberry Rhubarb Mostarda. Among these was the tangy Sandy Creek Cheese from the Goat Lady Dairy in Climax, North Carolina, featuring a distinctive vein of vegetable ash. If you’d prefer raw milk produced cheese, you may be tempted by one made from the raw milk of cows and ewes. Patmos Peak is a mild, semi-hard cheese produced by the Bonnie View Farm in Albany, Vermont. It is a lovely option for those who believe that both flavor and nutrients are sacrificed during the pasteurization process.
Cheese Specialist Sophie Slesinger displays her wares
Meanwhile trays of tasty tidbits were offered by servers swirling around the pretty patio. The Strawberry Gazpacho is particularly refreshing. And one of the most delectable is the goat milk ricotta gnudi (which means “nude” in Italian). These luscious ricotta “pasta” are graced with a rich sauce, enhanced with roasted garlic, radishes and shitake mushrooms. Another warm weather option is the Maine scallop crudo with buttermilk panna cotta, cucumber and American smoked trout roe with squash blossoms. A lovely combination.
Maine Scallop Crudo with Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Two gin-based refreshers will be on the Spring/Summer cocktail menu – the “Strawberry Gin” with rhubarb, espelette and tonic, and “The Lady Bird” made with rosemary, pineapple, verjus and house made grenadine. A third is “The Oak Park” featuring rum blended with kiwi and lime.
Newly hired Pastry Chef David Collier, a James Beard Award semifinalist for National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2009, brings his talents from the famed Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas. His Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcake with strawberry sorbet proved picture perfect for dining al fresco.
Chicharone with Spring Pea Hummus and Minted Strawberry Gazpacho
A peek at the new menu revealed more seasonal delicacies. Look for soft shell crabs, English peas, morels, asparagus and King trumpet mushrooms to make an appearance.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcakes
Make reservations now for next week’s Masters of Food & Wine “Garden in a Glass” on April 23rd when Bartender Alex Gordon and Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy will teach guests how to make four distinctive cocktails using herbs from the terrace garden while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres. For reservations and information visit www.Hyatt.com or call 202 419.6755
Photo credit: Cary Pollak and Jordan Wright
April 11, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
(L to R) Jack Willis as President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Bowman Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo by Stan Barouh.
Robert Schenkkan’s exhilarating play, All the Way, allows us to step into the very large Texas boots of our 36th President. Set between November of 1963 and November of 1964, it is set in the time of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s sudden and untimely ascension to the presidency and his efforts toward passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
(L to R) Adrienne Nelson as Muriel Humphrey, Richard Clodfelter as Hubert Humphrey, Jack Willis as President Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Scherer as Walter Jenkins and Susan Rome as Lady Bird Johnson. Photo by Stan Barouh.
All the pivotal players of the period are represented and the cast adopts many roles in filling in for the lesser characters. Jack Willis offers up a formidable LBJ, strident, bullying, oftimes terrifying yet indelibly effective, larger-than-life president at the peak of his powers. Then there’s Lady Bird (Susan Rome), Walter Jenkins (John Scherer), George Wallace (Cameron Folmar) and his wife Lurleen Wallace (Adrienne Nelson), Richard Clodfelter as Hubert Humphrey, Richmond Hoxie as the slithery, red-baiting J. Edgar Hoover and Stephen F. Schmidt as his henchman Cartha DeLoach, David Bishins as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Tom Wiggin as Stanley Levison, the white civil rights activist.
(L to R) JaBen Early as Stokely Carmichael, David Emerson Tony as Roy Wilkins, Desmond Bing as Bob Moses, Craig Wallace as Ralph Abernathy and Bowman Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr.. Photo by Stan Barouh.
Pitted against the lawmakers, influence peddlers and power brokers were those black Americans who had been lobbying tirelessly for voting rights and anti-discrimination laws. Maintaining peace between the activists, the protesters and church representatives were Martin Luther King, Jr. (Bowman Wright), NAACP leader Roy Wilkins (David Emerson Toney) and Ralph Abernathy (Craig Wallace) who kept the younger, more outspoken SNCC student activists, led by Stokely Carmichael (Jaben Early) and Bob Moses (Desmond Bing), from squandering an opportunity to change the course of history. Shannon Dorsey becomes an integral part of this flawless cast as Coretta Scott King.
(L to R) Bowman Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Shannon Dorsey as Coretta Scott King. Photo by Stan Barouh.
There are so many knock-out performances to chronicle, but most memorable are LBJ, MLK, Lady Bird and Wallace, whose stump speech echoes a few of today’s presidential candidates and will throw chills up your spine.
(L to R) Stephen F. Schmidt, David Emerson Tony, Richard Clodfelter and Lawrence Redmond. Photo by Stan Barouh.
Under Kyle Donnelly’s superb direction this groundbreaking production emerges as a riveting tale of back door dealings, arm-twisting, personal threats and bullying, ameliorated by a hefty dose of schmoozing, drinking and ego-stroking in the Oval Office. LBJ made it his business to find everyone’s Achilles’ heel and capitalize on it, even brutalize it if he needed to. As to succeeding at passing the Civil Rights Act, he declares, “I’m gonna out-Roosevelt, Roosevelt!” The story presents Johnson warts and all – from Southern charm and foul language to his innate political savvy.
(L to R) Richmond Hoxie as J. Edgar Hoover and Stephen F. Schmidt as Cartha “Deke” DeLoach. Photo by Stan Barouh.
No interaction between the characters is stagnant with Set Designer Kate Edmunds’ rotating presidential seal depicting the Oval Office. Players step on and off, circulating, converging and dispersing. It is hugely effective lending an intense and immediate energy. Less effective are the multiple TV screens above the stage, so compelling is the action on stage.
Jack Willis as President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the cast. Photo by Stan Barouh.
When at last the bill sees passage after all Johnson’s wrangling, he admits, “There’s no gracious losers. There’s no sore losers – just the walking dead.” There’s a whiff of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, a memorable speech by civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, and a dramatic turn in recalling the tragedy of the three murdered students, killed while trying to register black voters registered in Mississippi.
Highly recommended. (N. B. There is a wealth of salty language, inappropriate for children.)
Through May 8th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, DC 20024. For tickets and information call 202 488-3300 or visit www.ArenaStage.org.
Guest contributor ~ Samantha Lee
New Tokyo is an authentic Japanese restaurant in the Potomac Valley shopping center. Despite its less than prominent location, the restaurant manages to attract devoted customers seeking unique Japanese cuisine. Among the wide variety of unique small plate offerings, I particularly enjoyed Roasted Nigiri, Takoyaki, Fried Japanese Tofu, Octopus in Honey Vinegar, Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura.
The restaurant is owned by Chef Eizi “Jackie” Nakazima, who studied at the Culinary Institute of Tokyo Busashi School. Nakazima, an award winning chef, has over 28 years of culinary experience. In 2004, he opened his restaurant specializing in kaiseki (multi-course meals). He also serves sashimi, sushi, grilled fish, teriyaki marinated grilled meats, sukiyaki, ramen and many more delicious dishes.
The restaurant is small and homey and can accommodate 45 diners. It reminded me of a small café in Japan, but with nicer décor. I was particularly intrigued by the faux crustaceans – lobsters, crabs, crayfish, and fugu – dangling from the ceiling and hanging from the walls. There is also a vast array of unique Japanese artifacts – Daruma dolls, shoji screens, paper lanterns, and framed artwork.
I believe New Tokyo is the only restaurant in the area that prepares nigiri in the Aburi style, in which the top side of the fish is partially grilled or seared, while the bottom side of the fish is partially raw. After the seared fish is placed on the oval shaped cooked rice, it is drizzled with a sweet mayonnaise, making each bite of the Roasted Nigiri both sweet and savory. My favorite part about this dish was the strong char-grilled flavor. Among the Roasted Nigiri, I’d recommend the Scallop, Salmon, or Fatty Tuna.
Takoyaki is a small dish consisting of three fried wheat balls, filled with diced octopus and tempura scraps, topped with bonita flakes, and drizzled with a special mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce tasting like sweet, thick Worcestershire. I liked the crispy outside and soft inside.
The Fried Japanese Tofu comes in 5 pieces, each tempura-battered and deep fried, then topped with bonita flakes. The dish is served in a sweet dashi broth – one made from boiled hot water, kelp, and preserved fermented skipjack tuna. The tofu is silky and smooth inside.
Among the Makis on the menu, I favored the Lava Roll with spicy sauces on the side. It comes to the table in ten rolls consisting of a raw seafood medley of scallop, smoked salmon, shrimp, crabmeat, white tuna, and avocado rolled in dried seaweed then sticky rice and sesame seeds. The rolls are baked or deep fried and drizzled with mayonnaise, spicy mayonnaise and Rooster sauce. My favorite experience about the Lava Roll is that it is served warm and deliciously crunchy.
As compared to other local Japanese restaurants in Montgomery County, MD, I’ve found that the sashimi/sushi at New Tokyo are very fresh. The sashimi entree is served with lemon, wasabi and pickled ginger on an ice boat, which adds a delightful visual effect.
The ramen at New Tokyo is absolutely delicious too. It consists of freshly made wheat noodles, imitation crabmeat, scallion, miso-marinated sliced pork, and fried wheat gluten in salty miso, fish or pork broth. It is served with shrimp and vegetable tempura that includes two shrimp, sweet potato, zucchini and kabocha squash served with tempura sauce, a nice blend of dashi stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. I liked the ramen because it was cooked perfectly – not salty or heavy.
The Grilled Striped Bass is one of the featured items on the menu and is a whole striped bass with head and tail intact, marinated with seasoning, coated with flour, grilled over high heat. It is served over lettuce with a lemon wedge and seasoned sticky rice topped with sesame seeds. The rice was a nice complement to the fish which was fresh, crispy and not greasy.
Beverages include assorted Japanese beer, Ramune (Japanese carbonated beverage), sake and freshly brewed hot green tea that tastes like roasted rice tea (Genmaicha). The green tea is served in a cup made of earthenware with Japanese characters engraved on it; the hot or cold sake is served in sake cups with sushi patterns.
To finish off a meal at New Tokyo, you can order rice pudding or green tea ice cream. Overall, New Tokyo Restaurant offers a great variety of delicious Japanese food at a reasonable cost. The atmosphere is relaxing and comfortable. Drop by for an authentic Japanese meal when you are in the area. 12115 Darnestown Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878 www.newtokyorestaurant.com
Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee