An American in Paris ~ A New Musical

Kennedy Center
Jordan Wright
December 15, 2017 

An American in Paris in USA - Photo credit Matthew Murphy

An American in Paris in USA – Photo credit by Matthew Murphy

Ballet buffs and George and Ira Gershwin enthusiasts will adore Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s film-to-stage homage of An American in Paris.  Wheeldon successfully recaptures the mid-century modernist style of dance that Kelly created for the eponymous 1951 classic.  The movie garnered six top Academy Awards and gave Kelly his one and only Oscar.  In this multiple Tony Award-winning interpretation, Craig Lucas has freshened up both the story and the dialogue to appeal to millennials, mad for anything Parisian.

Allison Walsh and McGee Maddox ~ Photo by Matthew Murphy

Set in post-war Paris it is a story of three men enamored with the captivating, Lise (Allison Walsh), an aspiring ballerina whose backstory touches on France’s Nazi occupation.  Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox), an American GI and amateur painter who, like many other soldiers, stayed behind in the City of Light, soon bonds with budding composer and jazz pianist, Adam Hoch (Matthew Scott), an American Jew who survived the war and stayed on with the intention of writing a ballet about it.  Adam makes a few francs mentoring Henri Baurel (Ben Michael), a well-to-do society gent keen on a career as a song-and-dance man in America.  All three pals are unaware that the others are in love with Lise.

Ben Michael, McGee Maddox and Matthew Scott – Photo by Matthew Murphy

There are disparate, sometimes awkward elements in the stage version that can sometimes feel as though it was produced by an ad hoc committee.  The debonair insouciance we remember fondly of Kelly goes missing, yet the salient parts – the wonderful dancing, Bob Crowley’s seamless Parisian set designs, as well as his 1940’s costumes, are superb.  Milo Davenport (Kirsten Scott), Jerry’s American sugar momma and arts patron, wows in an emerald green gown reminiscent of the period.

Kristen Scott and Matthew Scott – Photo by Matthew Murphy

If you love arabesques, multi-revolution pirouettes, dancing en pointe, lofty lifts and leaps, you will fall hard for Maddox and Walsh, who seem cloud-like and gravity-defiant.  After a slew of hip rolls and high kicks in a nightclub can-can, comes Jerry and Lise’s 18-minute pas de deux finale that will cause you to dismiss any less than stellar moments.  Crowley again delivers with Mondrian color-block leotards echoing the abstract minimalist movement of the period.

A twenty-person dance ensemble delights as feather-bedecked Follies girls (Henri’s show biz fantasy tapdanced in tails and high hats), in Grecian tableaus at a salon reception given by Henri’s staid maman, Madame Baurel (Teri Hansen), and in the many jazz ballet numbers.

And harder you may fall for David Andrew Rogers’ soaring orchestra backing songs like “I Got Rhythm”, “S Wonderful”, “The Man I Love”, “Shall We Dance”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and twelve other somewhat lesser known Gershwin tunes that dovetail neatly into the plot.

Through January 7, 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit website.

Richmond for the Holidays

Jordan Wright
December 5, 2017
Photo credit Jordan Wright

The holidays are a time for making memories with loved ones.  Agreed?  But if thoughts of capturing your seasonally-imbued memories feature a well-worn sofa and boxed wine, then read no further.  This adventure requires you trot out your childlike sense of wonderment.

In a city that has emerged as a world class destination with cutting-edge cuisine, art exhibitions often seen nowhere else in America and a five-star luxury hotel, Richmond provides everything a couple or family could ever dream of.  Okay, no skiing.  And that’s what the holidays are all about isn’t it?  Making wishes come true.

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

I admit, I get a thrill of anticipation each time I check into The Jefferson Hotel – a turn of the 20th century American classic in the tradition of the country’s grandest hotels.  The more familiar I am with its pleasures the more I feel the need to revisit, if only to assure myself that all is well with the world.

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

On this trip, I planned to experience the recent room renovations.  The improvements at this 2017 recipient of the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Award are not mere window dressing, they are both elegant and technologically clever with television screens built invisibly into the vanity mirrors.

New marble bathrooms at The Jefferson Hotel – Courtesy photo

Marble, marble and more marble abounds on bathroom countertops, soaking tubs, and the spacious walk-in showers.

Grand Premier Room – Courtesy photo

Luxuriate on poufy comforters and down pillows adorning beautifully tailored designer bedding.  Recently the hotel’s 262 guest rooms were rebuilt into 181 spacious new rooms, including 15 suites with entry foyers and spacious dressing areas.  Our suite had a kitchen with marble countertop plus a large mahogany dining table and spacious living area with a view of the city.


Jefferson Suite Living Room – Courtesy photo

Perfect for inviting guests in for cocktails before dinner, or entertaining six for dinner in your private suite.  And though room service is 24-hours a day, you’ll want to get out and about.

 Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree ~ Photo credit - "The Jefferson Hotel".

Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree – Courtesy Photo

But first we stare in wonder at the Christmas decorations.  Hundreds of poinsettias, yards of garland and ribbon, thousands of twinkling lights and dozens of toy soldiers adorn the Palm Court Lobby and the surrounding areas.  A gingerbread display made from hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, royal icing and candies dazzles even the grownups.  At midday, musical ensembles play familiar carols in the Rotunda and the festive ambiance is utterly magical.

Courtesy photo

Pro tip: If you’re planning on being here on a Sunday, book ahead for the lavish ‘Champagne Brunch’, and do not miss the spoonbread.  The hotel’s signature breakfast concoction with deep Southern roots, is as light and fluffy as a cloud.  Ask for the recipe.  No, beg!  I did.

Oh, and be sure to swing by Blooms at The Jefferson, the flower and gift shop on the lower level.  I always find great hostess gifts and, of course, petits bibelots pour moi.

The hotel is currently offering a Holidays at The Jefferson Package for those wishing to celebrate the season with an overnight stay.  It includes a newly constructed Grand Premier Room, complimentary valet parking, and rates from $275 per room, per night.

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

There is so much to do in town that after dropping off our luggage with the bellman, we head for lunch at the iconic Sally Bell’s Kitchen, a luncheonette directly across from the Science Museum of Virginia where you can tour special holiday exhibits including Ralphie’s, A Christmas Story, and “Fruitcake Science”.

At Sally Bell’s find throwback lunch fare like pimento cheese, corned beef spread, Smithfield ham on a roll, tomato aspic (this must be a Southern thing) and more, plus thirteen different flavors of cupcakes (caramel!) and five different kinds of pies (lemon chess!) with which you can fortify yourself for the day ahead.

Black History Museum of Virginia is housed in the former Leigh Street Armory

Cross the street to visit the Science Museum or opt for the Black History Museum and Cultural Center featuring art exhibitions and artifacts commemorating the accomplishments of African Americans in Virginia.

Black History Museum of Virginia

Black History Museum of Virginia

Recently relocated to a beautifully renovated location (at the Leigh Street Armory), it is an interactive and modern museum.  For hours of operation visit website.

A must see is the Lewis Ginter Gardens spectacular Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights from 5 till 10pm.   This annual holiday tradition glows with more than half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, a fire pit with s’mores and hot chocolate, nightly family activities and more.  For tickets and information visit website.

A restaurant I’d been hearing a lot about is L’Opossum, where chef and proprietor David Shannon has been creating masterfully complex dishes in an eclectically decorated, nondescript corner spot on China Street.  I promise you’ve never seen anything like it with its Flintstones throw pillows and 50’s satellite chandeliers in a cozy, candlelit, appealingly garish room that feels like Gay Paree meets your granddad’s rec room. But don’t cast a gimlet eye on the quirky décor or the 1940’s illustration of a chic pirate on the menu – Shannon has a curatorial eye for mid-century modern – this is serious cuisine and it’s the essence of the new Richmond.

Charred and chilled Chinese five-spice slices of venison – Chasing Dragons Above the Clouds of Yuzu with Lotus Chips (Left) – Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Fernet-Branca soaked Apricots, Butternut Squash Puree, Cherry-brandied Apples and Brown Butter Toasted Pecans (Right)

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fab craft cocktails made with top shelf liquor and house made ingredients.  Expect the unexpected.  The ‘Hooty Hoo’ is a White Russian served with Yoo-Hoo, Black Lava salt and Xocolatl bitters.  The ‘Honey Badger’ is a blend of Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine, muddled jalapeno and orange, Ginjo Sake and St. Germain.  Go on with your bad self.  Have one of each.

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee - Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee – Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Shannon, who was a semi-finalist for ‘Best Chef Mid-Atlantic’ by the James Beard Foundation, likes luxe ingredients – caviar, foie gras, brandied figs, absinthe mists, escargots and flambéd desserts.

La Petit Mort au Chocolat en Flambe avec une compote de la cerises noir (Left) – The Rainbow Spoonicorn – “A mythical saffron and citrus confection with hand churned blackberryice cream. “A defiant lack of inhibitions and sprinkles” (Right)

Expect a dining experience that would wow even the most sophisticated palate.  Reservations are a must in this tiny, romantic spot.

Citizen restaurant

Citizen restaurant

On day two we rose early and headed downtown for breakfast at the industrial-cute, Citizen.  Laser-focused on the Southern thing, we order bowls of stone ground Byrd Mill grits topped with swirls of melted butter, sour dough toast with pear butter, Benton’s bacon, lentils with feta (too healthy?) and steaming hot cappuccinos.

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

This lively spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu that trends hip, healthy and international.

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art, one of the nation’s premier museums, is currently featuring ‘The Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China’.  The exhibition showcases ten majestic terracotta figures, including a cavalry horse and 130 works that tell the story of China’s birth.

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

You’ll also see arms and armor, horse and chariot fittings, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry, and ceramics from the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex.  If that isn’t thrilling enough, there’s the reinstallation of the museum’s breathtaking Fabergé Collection.  For timed tickets to The Terracotta Army exhibit visit website.

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

You can linger at lunch at Amuse or the more casual café, or head over to Scott’s Addition to The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, a nifty, rustic place that features local artists and farm-to-table.  It’s a friendly, low-key hangout with wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling retractable windows and, naturally, a farmhouse vibe.  The daily selection of gourmet sandwiches and salads, smoothies, espresso drinks, fresh pressed juices and fair-trade teas are listed on the chalkboard menu.  Browse the antique wooden cupboards for local foodstuffs to take home.

Scott’s Addition is the trendy neighborhood for millennials, with its reconverted warehouse loft apartments, hipster eateries, coffee brewers, and craft beer breweries like The Veil Brewing Company, Strangeways Brewing, Isley Brewing Company, Väsen Brewing Company, Ardent Craft Ales and more.  It’s the holy grail for brewhounds and those who like their aging done with apples.  Blue Bee Cider has moved to the hood and is now firmly ensconced in a 19th century reconverted stables.

Blue Bee Ciders

Blue Bee Ciders

While in the neighborhood, scour Class and Trash for cool retro collectibles, farmhouse tables, architectural elements and garden ornaments.

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Left)

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Right)

Stop by for a tour and tasting at Buskey Hard Cider.  You’ll probably meet Founder/Owner, William Correll, whose usually on site to explain the aging process – some ciders in steel barrels, some in old whiskey barrels from the Virginia Distillery Company.

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Nearby is The Veil Brewing Company. When we arrived, just before the 4pm opening, there was a line around the block.  We were so shocked we thought they must have been having an early bird bargain sale.  No such luck.

This über popular brewery has a comfy lounge area and a very efficient pick up area for take away and growler refill.  You’ve probably heard of their ‘Double Espresso Hornswaggler’, an espresso chocolate milk stout that shouts “school’s out!”.

Back at the hotel we took a relaxing dip in the indoor pool before dressing for dinner at Lemaire.  There’s no way to prepare you for Lemaire, except to describe it as the height of destination dining.  The hotel’s lavish dining room fairly sparkles with grandeur.  The capacious room is resplendent with crystal chandeliers, heavy silk draperies and exquisitely carved period architecture.

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Place yourself in the expert hands of sommelier Shawn O’Keefe who will gently guide you toward the perfect pairings for Executive Chef Patrick Willis’ seasonal haute cuisine.

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Whether your preference leans toward seafood or meat, vegetarian fare or poultry, everything is sumptuously prepared and exquisitely plated.  Desserts are as pretty as they are delectable and you’ll want to linger over a postprandial port or brandy till the cows come home.

Slow Braised Spring Lamb Shank with Mascarpone Cheese Grits, Baby Carrots, English Peas and Trumpet Mushrooms and Port Jus ~ Meyer Lemon Tart with Toasted Meringue and Raspberries

After a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee at the hotel’s bistro, TJ’s, shopping was on our minds and there are plenty of specialty clothing boutiques in Carytown.  Bygones, the vintage clothing store for men and women, comes to mind.  But my personal favorite is Helen Campbell’s La Petite Boutique on MacArthur Avenue.

La Petite Boutique

La Petite Boutique

Helen has an eye for distinctive and feminine statement clothing in luxe fabrics, often with embroidery or intricate pleating.  She also carries fabulous hats and accessories to complete a stunning ensemble you’ll see nowhere else.

Books, Books, Books and Recipes

Jordan Wright
November 2017

 King Solomon’s Table ~ The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen ~ Rasika – Flavors of India ~ Virginia Barbecue ~ The Potlikker Papers ~ Appalachian Appetite ~ The Faerie Handbook ~ Moonshine ~ Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen

 If there’s a theme to this year’s crop of food and spirits books, it’s ethnically-driven, historic and authentic – with a dollop of fantasy.  Like travelogues, they offer an authentic glimpse into the past.

KING SOLOMON’S TABLEA Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, Joan Nathan (Alfred A. Knopf 2018).  This weighty and thoroughly comprehensive cookbook is Nathan’s most exciting to date.  Edited by the late, much lauded Judith Jones with forward by Alice Waters, this compendium of forgotten recipes represents the many interpretations of the cuisine of the Jewish diaspora.  As both historian and cook, Nathan, known as the grand dame of Jewish cookery, is relentless in her research.  Through her extensive world travels into home kitchens and restaurants, she pries loose well-guarded, family recipes – many formulated with locally available ingredients.  Her contextual and personal fore-stories to each recipe provide the kind of reading real cooks relish.

Green Chile Relleno Latkes

yield: 12 latkes
12 whole green chiles, such as Anaheim, Poblano, or Hatch
12 ounces (340 grams) white cheddar or Jack cheese, sliced width wise into 12 short pieces
2 pounds (1.11 kilos) russet or baking potatoes (about 3 large), peeled
1 medium onion, peeled
2 large eggs
Bd to V cup (30 to 55 grams)
panko or regular breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable or grape-seed oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the whole chiles on the baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes to an hour, flipping every 20 minutes, until the chiles are blackened all over. Let cool and then remove the stems and skin from each chili, leaving them as intact as possible. Then cut a slit almost the full length of each chili and carefully pull out the seeds. Put a piece of cheese inside each chili.
2. While the chiles are roasting, make the latkes, keeping the potatoes in cold water until ready to grate them.
3. Starting with the onions, alternately grate some of the onions in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or on the large holes of a large box grater and some of the potatoes on the smallest. (Doing it in this order will keep the
potato mixture from blackening.) When you have finished, put the potato and onion mixture into a clean dish towel and squeeze out the water into a medium bowl, allowing the potato starch to settle at the bottom. Carefully pour off the water, but leave the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
4. Once the liquid has been drained, put the potato mixture back in the bowl with the potato starch that has accumulated in the bottom. Add the egg, the breadcrumbs or matzo meal, and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
5. Heat an inch of oil in a frying pan. Drop about 2 heaping tablespoons of mixture for each latke into the skillet and fry for a few minutes, turning

THE SIOUX CHEF’S INDIGENOUS KITCHENSean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press 2017).  Famed Oglala Dakota chef, Sean Sherman, brings his years of experience foraging game, fish and wild ingredients for authentic Native American fare to his first cookbook.  I have been vicariously following Sherman’s nationwide nose-to-tail dinners on Facebook throughout the year, especially a six-course dinner at the James Beard House.

Maple–Juniper Roast Pheasant
Čhaŋháŋpi Tiktíča na Ȟaŋté úŋ Šiyóša Čheúŋpapi
Serves 4 to 6

When I was growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, we stocked our freezers with pheasant and grouse. We’d see them darting across the dirt roads into the dry brush. They were as common as the red-winged blackbirds perched on the fence posts.

Overnight dry brining seasons and helps this especially lean bird to become tender and succulent. The technique also works with grouse and guinea hens.

2 small pheasants
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon crushed juniper
¼ cup Rendered Duck Fat, page 105, or sunflower oil
1 cup fresh cranberries
½ cup Corn or Turkey Stock, page 170, or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons maple vinegar
2 griddled apple halves for garnish (optional)

The day before, rinse the pheasants and pat dry with paper towels. To dry-brine, generously season with the salt, maple sugar, sumac, and juniper. Place on a roasting pan or deep plate in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place the pheasants breast side up in a medium roasting pan. Rub a generous amount of the duck fat under the skin of the birds and over the outside of the skin. Put half the cranberries into the cavity of the pheasants and spread the rest in the pan. Pour the stock and vinegar into the roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and baste the pheasants with the pan juices. Continue roasting until the skin is crisp, the juices run clear, and a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 155°F, about 30 to 45 more minutes. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before carving.

Carve and drizzle with the pan juices before serving with the griddled apples.

Substitute 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon maple syrup for the maple vinegar.
For the griddled apples, slice the apples in half horizontally, brush with a little sunflower or walnut oil, and griddle cut side down in a hot skillet or frying pan until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Rendered Duck Fat

Carefully remove all the skin and fat from the duck breasts, cutting close to, but not touching, the meat. Once the fat and skin are removed, cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the skin, with its fat, into a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Set the pan over low heat and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin has crisped and its fat has changed to liquid, about 45 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the crisped skin (cracklings) and drain them in a bowl lined with paper towels. Allow the liquid fat to cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a bowl or a clean glass jar.

Corn Stock

Save the corncobs after you’ve enjoyed boiled or roasted corn on the cob or you’ve cut the kernels for use in a recipe. Put the corncobs into a pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and partially cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the stock tastes “corny,” about 1 hour. Discard the cobs. Store the stock in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Fish, Game, Meat Stock

We make stock with just about everything in the larder, including vegetables (except greens) and bones (even smoked fish bones). Essential seasonings:


Juniper and cedar are aggressive flavors, so add seasoning with a light touch. You can always add more later on. Then add enough water to cover the ingredients completely and set over a low flame until the stock is flavorful. Cooking time will vary depending on the amount of liquid and the ingredients, but most stocks require cooking at least 2 to 3 hours.

Wild Rice Cakes
Psíŋ Aǧúyapi Sáka na Hoǧáŋwičhašašni Ašótkaziyapi nakúŋ Waȟpé Skúya Yužápi
Makes about 4 to 6 cakes

These are our go-to cakes for breakfast, as a snack, and as the base for a well-seasoned bison braise or duck. They’re especially good topped with smoked fish and our bright lemony Sorrel Sauce, page 64. Make them tiny for an appetizer or big for dessert slathered in maple-berry sauce.

The recipe for these couldn’t be simpler. It’s just overcooked wild rice, pureed into a thick dough. We like to stir in a little cooked wild rice for texture. Once shaped, these will keep several days in the refrigerator, so feel free to make them ahead. Leftovers may be re-crisped in a low oven until warmed through.

2 cups cooked wild rice, page 81
About 3 cups water
Pinch salt
Generous pinch maple sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons sunflower oil or more as needed

Put 1½ cups cooked wild rice and water into a saucepan, reserving ½ cup. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the rice is very soft and the water has evaporated. Drain. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the rice into a sticky dough. Place the dough into a medium bowl and work in the salt, sugar, and the remaining cooked rice.

Scoop out a scant ¼ cup dough for each patty and shape to rounds about ½ inch thick. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and brown the patties about 5 to 8 minutes per side until lightly browned. Transfer the patties to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Wagmú na Tȟaspáŋ Waháŋpi nakúŋ Watȟókeča T’áǧa Yužápi
Serves 4 to 6

This rich, flavorful soup has a creamy texture without cream. We use the small, tart crab apples that grow in backyards and along the borders of farm fields.

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 wild onion, chopped, or ¼ cup chopped shallot
2 pounds winter squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tart apple, cored and chopped
1 cup cider
3 cups Corn Stock, page 170, or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup or more to taste
Salt to taste
Sumac to taste
Cranberry Sauce, page 108, or chopped fresh cranberries for garnish

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion, squash, and apple until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider and stock, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. With an immersion blender or working in batches with a blender, puree the soup and return to the pot to warm. Season to taste with maple syrup, salt, and sumac. Serve with a dollop of Cranberry Sauce.

Recognition for his decades-long efforts as chef and educator has been given by National Public Radio, Guardian UK, Saveur and the New York Times.  Sherman has just started a non-profit, (or North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems).  In an email from last week, Sherman shared his exciting news. “We are actively fundraising, searching for an Executive Director, and looking for the building that will be an Indigenous Food Hub and the heart of the non-profit.

The building will house an indigenous restaurant under the non-profit that will be open to the public and used as a live training center to teach restaurant skills.  The building will also have an education and research component called, The Indigenous Food Lab, which will offer classes and training on all parts of the indigenous food system curriculum we’ve been working on.  We are expecting to find a building this year and begin building out as soon as possible.”  In addition, he will open an indigenous focused restaurant in the new Waterworks Project in downtown Minneapolis along the river by the historic Stone Arch Bridge, the site of many spiritual and historic places for the Dakota people.

RASIKA – FLAVORS OF INDIA Ashok Bajaj/Vikram Sunderam/David Hagedorn (Ecco 2017).  The combination of mega-restaurateur Bajoj, James Beard Award-winning chef Sunderam and food writer and author David Hagedorn affords a back-of-the-house peek into a restaurant that has become a sensation.  The book has tons of gorgeous photos and recipes for vegetarians (and vegans too) including one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Palak Chaat.  The book methodically leads the reader into explanations and descriptions of exotic Indian spices, followed by a section of cocktails and ‘mocktails’ and a myriad of recipes, many from the restaurant’s signature dishes.  A former chef and recipe writer for the Washington Post, co-author Hagedorn writes in a clear and detailed style to make these delicious recipes easy to accomplish.

Makes about 6 cups

This popcorn, which we offer with drinks in Rasika’s cocktail lounge, is a take on the indian snack chiwda, a sweet and savory mix often made with fried poha (puffed rice), dried fruit, nuts, spices, and herbs. There are many ways to make it and people add whatever they like—maybe corn flakes, coconut chips, chana dal. It’s a mainstay during Diwali, much like you’d have Chex Mix during the American holiday season.

If you don’t want to use the microwave popcorn, make it the old-fashioned way, following directions on the package of kerneles to make 6 cups of popcorn.

One 3.2 ounce back microwave popcorn
(Movie theater butter flavor or plain and salted), popped according to package directions)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh Thai green Chili
10 (1 ½ inch) fresh curry leaves (more if smaller), whole or cut crosswise into thin strips.
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon asafetida
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Place the popcorn in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds and let them crackle. Stir in the green chili, curry leaves, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, and asafetida. Pour the mixture over the popcorn. Add the sugar and salt and stir or toss to coat evenly. (Keep tossing as you eat it to distribute the spice.)

Chicken Green Masala
Serves 4

This is a riff on a Goan dish called chicken cafreal, which was brought to Western India by the Portuguese from their African colonies. (Cafreal is a Portuguese word meaning “in the African way.”) In the traditional recipe, chicken, whole or cut into bone-in pieces, is marinated in spicy green masala paste and then roasted. We decided to use the same ingredients and flavors, but to cut the chicken into bite- size, boneless pieces. This makes a much cleaner presentation and provides plenty of sauce for rice and bread. Despite its spiciness, or maybe because of it, Chicken Green Masala is one of the most popular dishes at Rasika.

Cooking the chicken uncovered rather than covered after the cilantro puree is added helps maintain its brightness.
For optimal flavor, make this dish many hours in advance, preferably the day before, and reheat it, although the sauce’s color will become darker.

Cilantro Puree
4 cups coarsely chopped cilantro, including stems
1 cup packed mint leaves
10 medium fresh Thai green chilies, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water

1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2-inch cinnamon stick, curshed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breast and/or thigh), cut into 1-inch cubes
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup sunweetened coconut milk
Cucumber Raita (page 269), for serving

Plain Basmati Rice (page 217) and Naan (page 247), for serving

  1. MAKE THE CILANTRO PUREE: In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, green chilies, garlic, turmeric, lemon juice, and water and blend on high speed to make a smooth puree. Run the blender for several minutes; the finer and smoother the puree, the better.
  2. MAKE THE CHICKEN: In a spice grinder, grind the cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon stick into a powder.
  3. In a heavy- bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium- high heat until it shimmers. Sauté the onion, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, turmeric, and salt. Cover the pot and parcook the chicken for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro puree, coconut milk, and cardamom/clove/cinnamon powder and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve with cucumber raita, rice, and naan.

VIRGINIA BARBECUE – A HISTORYJoseph R. Haynes (American Palate 2016).  A member of the Patawomeck Indian tribe of Virginia, Haines is the consummate researcher you wish you had time to be.  Combing through dusty archives and pouring over old recipe books, he proves that barbecue originated in Virginia with Native Americans.  The book is rich with historic detail including old illustrations, archival photographs and posters advertising barbecue suppers.  A must for backyard grillers looking for Virginia bragging rights.

Wesley Jones, born enslaved in 1840, was a South Carolina barbecue cook. In 1937, at the age of ninety-seven, he shared his old southern barbecuing technique and recipe:

Night befo’ dem barbecues, I used to stay up all night a-cooking and basting de meats wid barbecue sass [sauce]. It made of vinegar, black and red pepper, salt, butter, a little sage, coriander, basil, onion, and garlic. Some folks drop a little sugar in it. On a long pronged stick I wraps a soft rag or cotton fer a swap, and all de night long I swabe dat meat ’till it drip into de fire. Dem drippings change de smoke into seasoned fumes dat smoke de meat. We turn de meat over and swab it dat way all night long ’till it ooze seasoning and bake all through.


THE POTLIKKER PAPERS – A FOOD HISTORY OF THE MODERN SOUTHJohn T. Edge (Penguin Press 2017).  It’s not a simple matter to tie up the history and culture of food in the South, but Edge keeps us riveted throughout.  As director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and James Beard Award-winner, Edge understands the politics and prose of Southern cooking. “‘Potlikker’ was an early euphemism for the polyglot of racial politics that is the South,” he explains.  He gives props to the early pioneers of modern Southern cooking and tells tales from Fanny Hamer to Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harland Sanders and Paul Prudhomme.   A regular contributor to Garden & Gun magazine and winner of the James Beard Foundation’s M. F. K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, Edge proves that Southern cooking is what makes America great!


APPALACHIAN APPETITE – RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF AMERICA Susi Gott Séguret (Hatherleigh Press 2016).  Séguret’s French culinary school education informs her love for the wild and foraged ingredients from the hills of Appalachia and Madison County.  In this heartwarming love story of all things Appalachian, she shares recipes from well-known Southern chefs and old-time song lyrics from her deep love of the region she calls home.

Tiller’s Molassie Cake
Katie Hoffman, Historian 

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon powdered ginger

For the Sorghum Mixture
1 cup “molassie” (sweet sorghum syrup)
½ cup melted butter (the original recipe calls for Crisco)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°F and grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the sorghum mixture and stir. Then, at the last minute, stir in 1 cup boiling water. The batter will be very thin. Pour it into the greased and floured cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes. Use a cake tester to determine doneness. Do not overbake. (Or if you do, make the butterscotch sauce and no one will ever know!)

For the Butterscotch Sauce 

1½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup evaporated milk 

Bring sugar, syrup, and butter to a boil, then let cool. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. Pour evenly over the top of the warm cake. Much of the sauce will sink in, but you will get a beautiful shiny glaze over the top.

THE FAERIE HANDBOOK – AN ENCHANTING COMPENDIUM OF LITERATURE, LORE, ART, RECIPES AND PROJECTS – (from the Editors of Faerie Magazine 2017). Faerie lore is not something that was on my radar until this lovely book landed on my desk. Written by editor-in-chief Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine, one of Barnes & Noble’s top-selling lifestyle magazines. Who knew? They have a readership of 28,000. This lovely lavender linen-wrapped book traces the history of fairies from literature to pop culture. Featuring a well-curated array of vintage and contemporary fine art and photography, fashion pieces, essays, do-it-yourself projects and holiday recipes.

MOONSHINE – A GLOBAL HISTORYKevin Kosar (The Edible Series, Reaktion Books, UK 2017).  A Washington, DC alcohol policy wonk, Kosar counts this as his second book on the topic of spirits.  His first foray into writing about his favorite topic was Whiskey.  Illustrated with photographs of early American backwoods stills, caricatures of moonshiners and illegal booze busts, Kosar proves that moonshine is a global phenomenon begun by ancient civilizations. Here we learn of the rum runners, gangsters, mountaineer moonshiners and Prohibitionists who peppered the industry when it was illegal and untaxable.  A fun read with cocktail recipes for the uninitiated, Kosar writes, “Many recipes were developed in the U. S. during Prohibition to mask the taste of poorly made moonshine.”  Thankfully we’ve come a long way from those days.

MIDDLE-EARTH: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREENBuilding the World of the Lord of the Rings and The HobbitDaniel Falconer (Harper Collins 2017).  For the fantasy-minded, this massive 512-page book is an ode to the original set of “friendly folk”, Peter Jackson’s crack, creative team and art directors, who conceptualized the impossible bringing J. R. R. Tolkien’s magical trilogies to the big screen.  It’s the consummate compendium for those eager to glimpse behind the scenes and learn the secrets behind the cinematic making of Middle Earth – its innovative visual and special effects that lead to its garnering 17 Academy Awards.  Insider glimpses into set decoration, costume design, locations and character development, include hundreds of photos and concept illustrations from the closed set.  Ring Trilogy geeks will learn how sets were built brick by brick and digitally pixel by pixel, including how multiple shooting units functioned.


Holiday Happenings

Jordan Wright
December 1, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Synetic Theater ~ MetroStage ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria ~ ICE! at National Harbor ~ Christmas at Mount Vernon ~ Signature Theatre ~ Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia 

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Hansel and Gretel at Synetic Theater During the bustle of holiday crowds, Gretel tries to keep her brother, Hansel, out of trouble while their babysitter leaves Gretel to fend for them both. As Hansel embarks on his own wonder-filled exploration of his everyday surroundings, he and his sister fall into a magical realm that takes them far away from home. In this wordless production, the well-beloved Grimm fairy tale embraces the fantastical through the eyes of those who see the world through a different lens.  Directed and choreographed by Elena Velasco and Tori Bertocci.  Through December 23rd at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets visit

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull & Bush at MetroStageOriginally staged in the Old Vat Room at Arena Stage writer, director, and actor Catherine Flye will be transferring her 9-person troupe to a circa 1912 replica of the famed Hampstead, England pub to jolly up your holidays with food, 35 songs, jokes, dance, a sing-along and an abbreviated reenactment of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  With Christmas crackers, British beers and sausage rolls for purchase, the classic British music hall entertainment runs through December 24th at 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets visit

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

A Christmas Carol at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – In a fresh interpretation by director Eleanor Tapscott, enjoy a return of the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable Victorian humbug, travels with diaphanous ghostly guides (beautifully choreographed by Ukranian Victoria Blum) through Christmas past, present, and future to find the true meaning of the holidays.  Complete with special effects, Victorian carols and Tiny Tim. Through December 16th at 600 Wolfe Street.  For tickets call 703.683.0496 or visit

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer atICE!” at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center – A 9-degree winter wonderland carved from over two million pounds of ice, a Christmas Village, merry-go-round, Glacier Glide ice skating rink, “JOY” – an eye-popping, Broadway-style holiday musical show, nightly snowfalls and dancing fountains at this first-class holiday destination.  Additional events are a Mistletoe Mixology class, Build-A Bear Workshop, photos with Santa, Cookies with Mrs. Claus and so much more. Through January 1st at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.  For tickets and event times visit

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Christmas at Mount Vernon Tour George and Martha Washington’s mansion by candlelight and make merry with 18th century dancing, fireside refreshments and caroling.  Meet Aladdin the Camel, watch holiday fireworks on December 15th and 16th, hear period music, experience a military encampment and more.  For tickets and event times visit

Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre – Starring jazz singer Ines Nassara, David Rowen (Signature’s Diner) and Katie Mariko Murray (Signature’s West Side Story) singing classic holiday songs.  Through December 16th at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets visit

The Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia in collaboration with the Office of the Arts presents a “Friday Evening Chamber Concert Series”.  The next concert “A Brass Christmas” is scheduled for Friday, December 15th at the Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron St.  For online tickets visit  Tickets are also available at the door.

The Real Americans ~ Mosaic Theater Company of DC Atlas Performing Arts Center

Jordan Wright
November 27, 2017 

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

If you saw Vicuña and the American Experience (through December 3rd at Mosaic) and you’re still itching to understand Trump voters, then journey with award-winning impressionist and playwright Dan Hoyle throughout America’s Heartland where Hoyle met some of these mindless flag-wavers.  Adopting the accents and gestures from mall rats and military vets to hipsters, techies and Christian fundamentalist right wingers, Hoyle is the man of a thousand voices.  In his search for folksy wisdom under the woodpile of America, this talented physical comic dons their personas in a one-man whirlwind of impressions.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

That Hoyle actually undertook his courageous, 100-day voyage in a van with the idealism of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, as opposed to say, hipster Jack Kerouac, is what sets it apart from your typical wise guy comedian.  He conceived his plan with a deep need to make sense of the direction of our nation’s political landscape.  His sincerity is palpable and raw.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Traveling through bayous and hollers and Midwestern farms to urban outposts, Hoyle comes across redneck pride, thick with ignorance and anger.  He interviews wacky conspiracy theorists and tries to make sense of Ramon, the street-wise Dominican.  These “real Americans” are also ordinary Americans whose isolationism circumscribes their views.  Logic, reason and science are frighteningly absent in their approach to politics and their choice of candidates.  Hoyle suggests the formation of an “anti-ignorance task force” requiring citizens to read at least three books per year.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

He actualizes his experiences through on-the-road phoners and meetups with his liberal, latte-drinking New York City peers who have an equally zero-tolerant, isolated view of the world beyond city limits.  Directed by and developed with Charlie Varon and performed in black box format, it was first produced in 2015.  Since then Doyle has updated the piece to reflect our post-presidential election malaise, touching on the opioid addiction crisis and the effects of Trump world.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Funny and poignant.  Recommended.

Through December 22nd, 2017 in Lab II at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets, info on post show discussions, special rates and discounts visit or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.