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Nibbles and Sips

Jordan Wright
December 2, 2009

Food Network's Chef Guy Fieri at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show - photo credit Jordan Wright

Food Network's Chef Guy Fieri at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show - photo credit Jordan Wright

I never expected to like Guy Fieri. His edgy, peroxided, spiky-haired style insults my delicate sensibilities. Yet here I was at the recent Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show doubled over, tears pouring down my cheeks and flat out yukking it up with the rest of his die-hard fans. I went because my grandson loves his crazy hip food-as-vaudeville revue and how he jazzes up his Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, by peppering descriptions with, “That’s how I roll!” and “That’s money!” when he tastes something he really really likes, which happens on every episode.

My grandson couldn’t be there but I wanted to let him know how cool I could be and take some photos for him. So avoiding the cheek-to-jowl crush on the floor of the exhibit space, I ducked in to see the Food Network stars.

Fieri is not intimidated by a live audience or the glitches that can misfire a smooth cooking demo. (Poor Giada De Laurentis’s stage set was a disaster, with ingredients and equipment that had gone missing. She nearly broke down with embarrassment and frustration. Who wouldn’t?)

After a bout of flinging cheese into the audience, “It’s always a party when you chuck Havarti!” he quipped, an audience member said she’d like to sing to him. He jumped on the offer and invited anyone else to come up to the mike while he prepared pork al fuego. One woman said, “I want to sing for you but all I can think of is if you want my body and you think I’m sexy”. She sang…well sort of howled…the totally inappropriate Rod Stewart hit, but Fieri just cracked up and the place went wild. You had to be there. I’m a fan of his now. The show. Not so much.

The Gaylord National’s new Christmas tradition is a show called ICE! They held a press reception for the event’s opening that was an extravaganza worthy of P. T. Barnum himself. It featured a sixty-foot candy-like glass Christmas tree, indoor “snowfall”, outdoor fireworks display, Northern Lights show, 60-foot dancing water fountain, 75-voice choir and a life-size PEEP! Not a partridge in sight, but over the Xmas holidays these and other events are being held around the resort and spa…Peppermint Patti manicures, anyone?

Ice penguins from ICE at the Gaylord National Resort - photo credit Jordan Wright

Ice penguins from ICE at the Gaylord National Resort - photo credit Jordan Wright

ICE itself is a glistening technological wonder with massive three-dimensional ice sculptures, some over two stories, created by 40 international artisans. The huge tented pavilion is kept at 7 degrees! But don’t worry they provide snow parkas a la Maid of the Mist in Niagra Falls. The kids will love it. I found it gaudy, glorious and astounding. There’s something for everyone.

Have I mentioned that local chef Jose Andres has been name “Chef of the Year” by GQ? No surprise to this writer who has been championing his cuisine for a year in Whisk and Quill. Stories on his book launch for “Made in Spain – Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen” that he co-authored with MSNBC’s erudite and adorable Richard Wolffe in November 2008 and my interview with him as featured chef at the National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café in July for its Spanish armor exhibit, are still archived on the site. This past October I wrote of his “Eat, Drink, Dream” joint venture launch party with Ridgewell’s after he was tapped by Harvard to speak with Ferran Adria and in a Nibbles and Sips item I related his exclusive introduction to the US of the heavenly Iberico de Bellota pork which he prepared for us at his home in Maryland.

With the holidays upon us here’s a hot tip for the Washington area hostess. Conklyn’s Florist, an Alexandria company that has been around for over 70 years and who specializes in Dutch and other European flowers and orchids, has a new location open to the public to purchase their blooms for the same prices as the trade. One of the nation’s largest wholesalers, out of 32,000 florists they have always been in the top ten!

In pots you will find the not-Christmas-without pointsettias of all sizes, amaryllis and paper whites starting to bloom, as well as cut tulips, kangaroo paws, gerberas, sprays of cymbidiums, just like in our favorite four-star hotels, and hundreds of other to-die-for blooms for decorating our homes or as house gifts. Their new address is 4406 Wheeler Avenue in Alexandria. It’s just off Duke Street on the north side of town. Call 703 299-9000 for their special to-the-public hours. Tell owner David Hicks I sent you and don’t say I didn’t share…

Gerbera daisies at Conklyn's wholesale outlet - photo credit Jordan Wright

Gerbera daisies at Conklyn's wholesale outlet - photo credit Jordan Wright

Little secret: Newly named White House florist, Laura Dowling of Alexandria’s Interieurs et Fleurs, has been sourcing them for ages. To make your own fabulous floral arrangements a la 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out her website below for divine inspiration.

The tony Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond which I wrote about for the Georgetowner in October has been chosen by Esquire Magazine as one of the country’s “Best New Restaurants of 2009”. Noted food critic John Mariani recognized Chef Walter Bundy’s superlative cuisine and his determination to use locally-sourced provisions.

From my friends in Middleburg – A sweet tale of a hapless pony.

A better life - photo credit Jordan Wright

A better life - photo credit Jordan Wright

Molly is a pony rescued by Kaye and Glenn Harris of Middleburg. After surviving Hurricane Katrina she met her match with a vicious pit bull whose damage caused the amputation of one of her legs and a subsequent prosthesis. A children’s book has been written about her journey and the story has traveled around the world. You can meet Molly and author, Pam Kaster, at Books and Crannies Book Store on Washington Street in Middleburg after the Christmas parade this Saturday, December 5th. This beautiful parade with hunters on horseback in full regalia starts at 11am. Molly will be signing books.

Chef Spike Mendelsohn and Alyssa at the St. Regis bar - photo credit Jordan Wright

Chef Spike Mendelsohn and Alyssa at the St. Regis bar - photo credit Jordan Wright

And finally… Projected to open in late February “Spike” Mendelsohn and his Sunnyside Restaurant Group’s newest endeavor “We, The Pizza”, will offer New York style pizza and ten other more gourmet topped pies. Imagine potato and pancetta and creamed spinach pies. Spike will bring in the old soda fountain concept using homemade fruit purees for his seltzer-finished sodas, natural syrups for his egg creams (I hope he’ll use New York’s gold standard Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup for all of us purists.) and made from scratch gelatos with ingredients sourced from local Virginia farms.

Spike knows pizza from living in NY as well as his travels throughout Italy and Spain. He told me, “We wanted to put our twist on America’s favorite food.” He also plans on doing flavored jalapeno and truffled “knots” which are becoming increasingly trendy.

The sleek and retro-style restaurant will be next door to Michelle Obama’s favorite hamburger haven…Spike’s wildly successful, Good Stuff Eatery. “It’s been a great ride to be in DC and to be well respected in the Hill area where we’ve made so many friends. And we’re very proud to be opening our second restaurant in a year and a half.”

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