By Christianna Sargent
May 3, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times
Does the word Condrieu [Cohn-dree-uh] ring a bell—the original home to Viognier, which is now Virginia’s signature grape? Condrieu is a French grape growing region that rests in southeastern France along the Rhône River and exclusively produces Viognier. The name itself is derived from the French phrase coin de ruisseau, which translates to “corner of the brook.” Despite the fact that most people are unfamiliar with Condrieu, the wines are worth seeking out and are memorable in their own right. Condrieu represents a full-bodied, exotic style of wine appropriate for spring, summer, and fall seasons that weaves a fascinating story about a grape that is for all practical purposes the anti-Chardonnay.
Condrieu is one of the great white wine regions of France and it stands as the benchmark for Viognier crafted wine, analogous to what Napa Valley is to Cabernet Sauvignon. But Condrieu is little known to the wine-drinking world at large, even though Viognier itself has become popular to grow right here in Virginia and even Australia, Chile and California. What reasoning lies behind this grape obscurity, when the general public tends to demand full-bodied, full-throttle, rich wines that explode with fruit and flavor? The answer lies in simple economics and the fact that Viognier can easily be a lackluster grape if not managed properly and crafted masterfully. Condrieu is pricey, with only a small quantity produced for the entire globe.
Viognier was once almost extinct in the 1960s, but grew in popularity as people’s palates leaned more to the adventuresome side. Virginia wineries jumped on the Viognier train over two decades ago when Horton Vineyards first released their version in 1992. Today, the grape itself is the Commonwealth’s darling grape and tourists hoard from afar to drink some of the best put forth by Horton, Barboursville, Chester Gap, Michael Shaps, Jefferson, Chyrsalis, Veritas, and Pearmund Cellars to name some of the best. Almost half (approximately 40%) of Virginia vineyards grow the Viognier grape. However, this darling vine is not the greatest of love affairs. The grape itself is persnickety and difficult to master. The trick with Viognier is that optimal ripeness must be reached; thereby requiring longer hang-time on the vine. Longer hang-time in Virginia equates to hurricane season, and to worsen matters the grape naturally has low acidity levels and characteristically high alcohol potential. So, if the rains come, like they so often do in September and October, the winemaker risks producing a diluted, flat, high alcohol, vegetal wine. Ouch. Not so appealing.
Grape maturity and ripeness remains key to the balance equation, and obtaining it is like riding a tricycle on a tight-rope wire. Condrieu masters this mythical balance from its top producers like Vernay, Guigal, and Chateau Grillet. But the Gods smiled on Condrieu with hot summers, less rain, perfect geography with steep slopes situated along the river facing due east, and strong winds that keep the grapes dry and free of rot. When Viognier sings, she makes rich, powerful, floral and perfumed juice boasting exotic aromas of peach, apricot, honey, violets, and white flowers. The secret is maintaining lower alcohol levels around 12.5 -13% versus today’s fad of 14.5-15% alcohol wines that warm the belly and burn the throat on the way down.
Truly I tell you that Condrieu, and even Viognier produced elsewhere around the world, is a discovery to please your taste buds, and you can do it right here in Falls Church/Arlington. Explore the Old World versus New World factors at 2941 restaurant where Sommelier Jonathan Schuyler designates an entire section of his wine list to Condrieu and Viognier. For just the domestic juice, visit Eventide in Clarendon, or walk down the street in either direction or you can also taste Viognier at Lyon Hall and Northside Social Wine Bar. For an exquisite food pairing from appetizers to entrees, Tracy O’Grady satiates the palate with her choice selections of Viognier from California, like Darioush in Napa. Last but not least, Tallula trots the globe with their Viognier selections from France, to down under in the land of Oz, back to California, with a final pit stop in Virginia.
While hunting for your next Viognier taste, remember the wine pairs extremely well with scallops, lobster, crab, shrimp, roasted chicken, creamy sauces, Caribbean fare, Indian curries, and exotic spices like cinnamon and cardamom found in Moroccan dishes for example. For simplicity, pair Viognier with cashew nuts or triple-cream cheeses, like Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam. The richness of Viognier also bodes well with Gouda and Gruyere cheese. All in the entire Viognier grape should be more celebrated, as it is a versatile food pair and an excellent alternative to chardonnay.
Special to the Falls Church Times
Creative Cauldron’s founder, Laura Connors Hull, says their final production of the season is “fixing to blow the roof off the cauldron!” Directed by Helen Hayes Award winning actor, Stephen Gregory Smith, Thunder Knocking on the Door is “a musical fable that is filled with humor and heart, and just the right touch of supernatural high jinx” according to Hull.
When writer Keith Glover first penned Thunder in 1999, he knew he had a hit on his hands. Steeped in the devil-at-the crossroads blues mythology of the Mississippi Delta and featuring music and lyrics by three-time Grammy Award winner Keb’ Mo’ and his collaborator Anderson Edwards, this show has played to critical raves and sold out houses in theaters around the country. Stephen Gregory Smith fell in love with the show when it premiered at Arena Stage in 1999.
Smith is guiding a powerhouse cast of singers including Shayla Simmons, featured in last year’s Creative Cauldron hit original production of “Women of the Blues.” Shayla most recently appeared as Deena Jones in Signature Theatre’s Helen Hayes Award winning production of Dreamgirls. She is joined by Iyona Blake, RaMond Thomas, Malcolm Lee and Michael Mainwaring, each a vocal dynamo in their own right.
Performances are at 8 pm, Thursday through Sunday, through May 26. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors/students. Ticket specials include the “Juke Joint” — up close seating for 4 people and a bottle of wine for $100 and the “Sunday Night Bargain Blues” – buy one adult ticket and get the second one for half price for any Sunday performance. Online purchase only and limited to 20 per show.
Purchase tickets in advance at www.creativecauldron.org Creative Cauldron is located at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Avenue in the Pearson Square building.
By Ra Chan
April 26, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times
Peking Gourmet Inn has to be hands down my favorite place for Peking duck. And for the price, it’s a great meal for 2! I just love the entire experience, from the bustling ambiance of the dining room, to the waiters busily carrying platters of intoxicating aromas to different tables. And while you peruse through the menu, don’t forget to check out all the portraits of famous diners that may have sat in your exact seat!
So what exactly is Peking duck? It originated in the city of Beijing, China during the imperial era and is now thought to be one of China’s signature foods. It’s a type of roast duck that is known especially for its skin, which has to be kept thin, crispy and dark brown in color. And the presentation of the duck is also important, there seems to be an exact art from to the way it’s prepared.
And for those who have never been to Peking Gourmet Inn, it does get pretty packed during peak dinner hours, so make reservations whenever you can.
When I’m at Peking Gourmet, I don’t even bother looking at the menu anymore; I normally order an appetizer and then a duck to share. There are a few other dishes that are super delicious — Peking style lamb chops (New Zealand lamb chops cooked in a concoction of spices) and Jae Yon shrimp (huge jumbo shrimp battered and fried). Both are great dishes to give you more varied flavors and both compliment the duck as well.
The Peking duck comes out whole and is carved perfectly table side by an expert carver. They use some super sharp knife and manage to slice pieces of the extremely crispy skin and cut away all the fat so all you’re left with are crispy skin and delicate duck meat. The carver proceeds with this process until the entire duck is carved and you’re left with about 2 plates of delicious meat and skin!
Along with the duck, there is a spread of handmade pancakes, hoisin sauce, strips of sliced green onions and sliced green chili peppers in soy sauce. You can also ask for sliced cucumbers, which I do recommend.
There is a little bit of a technique to eating this. The wait staff are more than happy to help you prepare your first duck and show you the technique. So don’t be afraid to ask. But you pretty much just prepare it like a burrito — place a pancake on your plate, spread some hoisin sauce, add in a few slices of the crispy skin and the meat, add veggies if you want some and if you want to kick it up a notch, add some chili peppers. Then roll it up and enjoy!
Peking Gourmet Inn
6029 Leesburg Pike
Baileys Crossroads, VA 22041
On an unsuspecting street corner along the northern fringe of Alexandria, locals escape as mental travelers to provincial France and experience all the facets of fine-dining in a casual atmosphere without the exorbitant price tags. Bastille meets my criteria for restaurant essentials, not only for the talents represented by two award-winning chefs, Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, but for the genius behind their incitement to refresh the interior and hire a sommelier from the ranks of DC’s Old Guard. Bastille is what I look for when I file a restaurant way as a true favorite:
- Knowledgeable wait staff who orchestrate service without you even realizing it. They intercede on your behalf in a gracious, un-interruptive fashion and never gab unless you have engaged them.
- Food that’s balanced and well-portioned featured in a menu that offers light fare as well as entree selections of ample protein, fish, and vegetarian options. It’s even better if the restaurant is earth conscious and sources locally. Finally, an artisanal cheese list with compelling selections is a must.
- Comprehensive wine list that offers wine selections bridging all predominant styles, not necessarily region. The list doesn’t have to be long; it just has to complement the food menu entirely, meaning each dish on the menu has a wine to pair with it in concordance or in contrast.
- Price. Value is essential and fair pricing is truly appreciated.
How often does this town dish up amazing wine service that is masterfully and consistently paired with inspirational culinary feats for an affordable price? To my standards, Bastille boasts all the ingredients to cook up a fabulous restaurant where you can easily slip in as a regular. Now, Bastille offers a new component to its secret mix, a James Beard award-winning beverage director, Mark Slater, formerly of Citronelle in Georgetown.
Resident sommelier, Mark Slater, amplifies the thunder of husband and wife chef team with thirty plus years under his belt—an advantage that young sommeliers just can’t top regardless of how many corks they’ve popped. Mark offers yarn-spinning stories with depths of knowledge that capture the corners of your soul and leave your palate salivating. On my very first trip to Bastille, I was seriously pleased with my experience and the food journey.
I eased onto a stool at the bar during Alexandria’s restaurant week, which immediately dampened my spirits, as I don’t tend to like the frenzy surrounding this turbulent week for most restaurants. But, my hopes were catapulted when my first dish was placed before me:
Three charcuterie selections neatly aligned: pork rillette, house-made bresaola seasoned with marjoram and oregano and a goose liver pâté topped with Concord grape aspic. The first course could have sufficed as a full meal for me on a casual Monday, but it was Saturday and I anticipated the splurge. Slater made a point to ask me what my wine preferences were. I essentially replied, “I trust your judgment.” He was right on, too, with a not-so-usual pair when he presented a Côtes de Provence rosé that shimmered salmon-colored hues in the glass. Most people would raise an eye-brow when pink wine sloshes in their glass next to robust charcuterie; but, the pair couldn’t have been more spot-on to my taste buds coated in fatty decadence and then bedazzled by a caressing strawberry-tinged savory aperitif. Next up, cassoulet and pan-roasted duck breast with white bean stew, slow-baked with pork belly and duck sausage. The crispy slab of bacon was out of this world due to texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, but what really sent me soaring was the combination of duck, cassoulet and a serious Bordeaux red known as the “bad boy” in French slang. Slater poured Mauvais Garçon, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc all sourced from the right bank. The value speaks volumes of Slater’s talents to source true gems for less, as the pedigree on this regular Bordeaux AOC couldn’t be higher coming from the notorious garagiste, Jean-Luc Thunevin, who is considered by most to be the black sheep of the region.
Ending in sweetness, I enjoyed Valrohna pot de crème with orange compote and candied cranberries paired with Maydie ruby port. But, I dared to forge on and order a cheese board offering three artisanal selections of blue, triple-crème and a semi-hard paired with a white burgundy. Wow! I was in bliss, and thankfully not the driver. I departed Bastille in high spirits, cloaked in warmth from a heart-warming meal paired with the best ingredients, friendly staff, bistro-style dining, and delicious wine. Bastille, you’re an exception in a sea of mediocrity and over-priced indulgences. I’ll be back and ready to sample more of your expertise.
Editor’s Note: I would like to offer my congratulations to Will Artley, Executive Chef Pizzeria Orso, who recently visited Bastille for a special dinner to propose to his beloved. “It was a complete experience from perfectly seasoned food to well polished comfortable service…. It’s a gem for sure!” says Will. Kathleen Nixon
1201 N. Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
By Claire McConnell
February 15, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times
Hurricane Katrina occurred about a month into my second year at culinary school. Not only was it devastating to the all the people that lived in New Orleans, but also equally as devastating to all the restaurants that would be affected over the coming months. In an initiative to raise money for the city of New Orleans, my school held a mock Mardi Gras in the town of Montpelier. The students were urged to cook their Creole and Cajun favorites, with the incentive of major bragging rights if our dish was the best. My mom use to make this Jambalaya for us growing up and although some have told me it is not traditional, it still tastes awesome. My dish was up against 3 other students, one of which was raised in the ‘Big Easy’. I knew my competition was tough and that wining wasn’t going to be easy… pun intended. Long story-short my dish won and helped prove that you don’t have to be from NOLA to cook a great Jambalaya.
Three of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The pesticide-free, ecorganic potatoes and onions are from Potomac Vegetable Farm. The farm has two locations: in Vienna, Va., and Purceville, Va. www.potomacvegetablefarms.com. And the Texas Red Hot Beef Frankfurters are from Stachowski Brand Charcuterie in Arlington, Va. www.stachowskibrand.com.
2 ounces butter (1/2 stick) — $0.35
1 medium onion – small dice — $0.43
3 garlic cloves – minced — $0.10
1 cup long-grain white rice (such as basmati or jasmine) — $0.45
¾- pound sausage, such as Texas Red Hot Beef Frankfurters – cut into 1/2 inch, half moons — $5.00
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes — $0.75
2 ¼- cup chicken stock — $1.00
½- cup dry white wine — $0.49
½- cup roasted red peppers (canned) – cut into 1 inch, thin strips — $0.99
½- tsp. turmeric — $0.02
Pinch cayenne pepper — $0.01
1/2- pound wild, raw, large 18-20 count shrimp (peeled, deveined and sliced in half down the middle) — $5.49
½-cup cilantro – chopped — $0.20
Total cost = $15.28
Melt butter in the pan and add onions and garlic. Cook onions and garlic over medium heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Make sure the onions and garlic don’t cook too high, the butter will brown and the garlic will burn, so no higher than medium heat.
Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter. Cook for about 1 minute to toast the rice. Add sausage and potatoes, stir. Add chicken stock, white wine, red peppers, turmeric and cayenne. Stir. Bring mixture to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, cover and simmer on med-low for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes add the raw shrimp to the top of the mixture (DON’T STIR!) Cook for an additional 5 minutes until shrimp have steamed and turned pink. Let mixture sit with the heat off for additional 5 minutes before serving. Stir in chopped cilantro right before serving. Enjoy!
By CLAIRE MCCONNELL
February 8, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times
When my husband and I were in culinary school in Vermont in 2004, we met a man at the downtown farmers market in Montpelier who ran a small t-shirt business out of his basement. His only t-shirt slogan at the time was Eat More Kale! He has since expanded his business to include many other food and environmental slogans. My husband and I, being supporters of small businesses, bought a t-shirt and a bumper sticker from him, never anticipating the number of questions that the bumper sticker would elicit.
The most common question we hear is, “Do you really eat more kale?” And my response is always, “Yes, we do eat more kale or at least a fair amount.” And here are all the reasons why you should too.
Kale is one of the hardiest members of the cabbage family and has long been a popular winter vegetable because of its ability to withstand the cold. The ease for which it grows makes it an extremely popular vegetable for farmers to plant. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and fiber. And although it only has half the protein per serving than that of an egg, it only contains 1/8th of the fat and calories. But the best reason to eat more kale is that it is inexpensive. At only 62 cents a bunch, no other vegetable in the world has as much nutritional bang for the buck. With varieties like curly kale, Red Russian Kale and Lacianato or sometimes-called Dino kale, kale is an exciting vegetable that can be added to any meal.
Serves 4 people
Two of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The curly kale is from Sunnyside Farm and Orchard, in Charlestown, W.V., http://sunnysidefarmandorchard.com/. And the ricotta is from Blue Ridge Dairy in Sterling, Va., www.brdairy.com.
Equipment: 1 medium mixing bowl, 1 large stockpot and 1 9 X 13 baking dish.
1-pound box of large shells — $2.19
1 large bunch of curly kale — $1.00
1 garlic clove – finely minced — $0.04
1 egg yolk — $0.39
16 ounces ricotta — $5.00
1-8 ounce block of mozzarella – cut into ½ inch cubes — $2.69
salt and pepper to taste
1-28 ounce can plum tomatoes (no salt added) — $1.49
1 garlic clove -finely minced — $0.04
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil — $0.10
¼ teaspoon chili flake — $0.02
1 teaspoon salt
Pecorino cheese to garnish — $0.25
Total cost of the dish = $13.21
Start by bringing a large stockpot of water to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, season the water liberally and cook off the shells per the directions on the box. Do not overcook the shells, as they are being cooked again in the oven. Drain the shells and lay them out on a sheet pan to cool. Clean the stockpot for the next step.
Next wash the kale and chop it into 1-inch pieces, making sure to avoid the fibrous stem. Add the kale, ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in the stockpot with a lid to steam. Cook the kale on medium heat until all the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cooked kale to a large bowl and allow the kale to cool in the fridge before adding the other ingredients. Once cooled add the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, minced garlic and salt and pepper. The mix should be well seasoned.
For the sauce crush the plum tomatoes with your hands and drain the tomatoes over a strainer. Add the garlic, olive oil, chili flake and salt and set aside.
Once the shells have cooled stuff them with the kale and cheese mixture and set them seam side down in a baking dish. Cover the shells with the tomato mixture and bake in a 350-degree oven until sauce and cheese is bubbly, about 25 minutes.
Two of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The curly kale is from Sunnyside Farm and Orchard, in Charlestown, W.V., http://sunnysidefarmandorchard.com/. And the hormone-free, rosemary-lamb sausages are from Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Va., http://smithmeadows.com/.
Equipment: 1 medium bowl, 1 large stockpot
1 bag of soup bean mix — $0.99
(Bob’s Red Mill and Trader Joe’s make a nice blend of dried beans for a reasonable price.)
1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil — $0.10
1 large onion – small dice — $0.39
3 garlic cloves – finely minced — $0.11
1 – 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (no salt added) — $0.89
32 ounces of chicken stock — $1.49
(Homemade is preferred, but store bought will work as well.)
2 cups water –$0.00
1 large bunch of curly kale – chopped into 1 inch pieces — $1.00
Rosemary-Lamb sausages — $8.00
(Any of your favorite sausages will work)
Salt and chili flake to taste
Total cost of the dish = $12.97
Empty the dried beans into a bowl and cover with water. Make sure you sort through the beans to look for small pebbles and imperfect beans. Soak the beans overnight in the fridge. The next day, drain the soaked beans and set aside.
In a large stockpot sauté the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, water, drained beans and kale and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until beans are tender. About 1 hour, depending on how soft the beans are after they have been soaked. Do not add salt in the previous step. Adding salt when cooking beans hinders their cooking and causes the beans to remain hard.
Once the beans are tender and the kale is cooked add a fair amount of salt and sliced raw sausage in the soup. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until the sausages are cooked thoroughly. Add chili flake to entire soup or each portion as desired. Serve with large chucks of crusty bread.
(Editor’s Note: If you are interested in printing out this recipe or any of the articles, just click the icon below on the far left hand side, for a printer friendly version of this article.)
BY CHRISTIANNA SARGENT
February 1, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times
Oh where, oh where have all the wine dinners gone? Long time passing, but the economy has shifted the trends on how we explore and sample wine these days. For those of you who love to seek out a great wine dinner at a fabulous restaurant, or just your neighborhood joint, you might notice a trend of slim pickings. Blame it on the economy. Most restaurants may be reluctant to forge ahead with costly, time-consuming endeavors, such as the proverbial wine dinner. So, what alternatives are left to food and wine hounds looking for a bargain and the services offered at exclusive wine dinners? Educational wine classes (usually accompanied with food).
Even though a wine dinner is the perfect venue for a restaurant to strut its stuff with cool food art, inspired wine and food pairings, and perhaps a chance to meet the celebrity wine maker, trendy “small-batch” wine tastings are sprouting up in its place. More casual settings with less emphasis on “dinero” allow retail shops and restaurants more elbow room to showcase 4-8 wines in a more fast-paced setting. When you nix elaborate food courses upwards of five or more, fine cutlery, white table cloths, massive amounts of glassware, and heavy wait staff, you can become more creative with the idea “less is more.”
What to look for around town:
Red, White and Bleu in Falls Church launches SAVE-HOUR Monday, February 4th. This play on words for savor is all about informed wine tastings led by an official sommelier and captivating themes that vary each month. The tastings only cost $10, and the best part is the $10 is applied to your wine purchase that evening. Featured foods sold in the shop add highlights to the tastings while also adding the food pairing factor.
Arlington Cinema Draft House may not be reinventing the wheel for 2013, but you can’t beat this deal of $1 wine tastings presented by the Washington Wine Academy while you enjoy a movie and some chilled out pub food. Some people buy up to 10 tickets and still walk out remembering the flick.
Arrowines in Arlington offers top-notch classes and wine tastings that are always sponsored by experts. Here’s your chance to meet the winemaker, the dude (or gal) that actually sourced the wine, or the nerdy wine salesman that can lay on the facts till you snore. Trick is you need to sign up for their newsletter and inquire of their private tastings, which are all FREE!
Northside Social is the place for eclectic food, chef-taught classes, pig roasts, open mic nights with wine tastings, and a whole lot of funkified flavorful events. Usually $35 or less, this is a steal for those wine dinner seekers out there. A broad, diversified wine list makes this such a cozy hide out, and you can feast your eyes on locally sourced art.
Twisted Vines on Columbia Pike is still a well kept secret. Finally, someone thought to throw in an open area kids’ playground while Moms and Dads can partake of Happy Hour. Once a month, stroller mania takes over at Twisted Vines and parents can take a break from 10am-3pm for FREE while enjoying happy hour wine specials. And better yet, this joint offers private wine classes with a Certified Wine Educator and unique themes. Prices vary based on wine themes, but usually run less than $35. Call to inquire.
Screwtop Wine Bar and sister wine shop, Grateful Red, also add to the Clarendon wine scene with chocolate & wine pairings this Valentine’s and more educational wine classes usually under $50 a pop. Wendy Buckler has a knack for whipping up wine grandeur in tiny spaces with stunning cheese selections.
Hope this trot around town helps diversify your wine tasting palettes. For even more specialty listings, you should also check out David and Nycci Nellis’ The List Are You On It for event details or Capital Cooking with Lauren DeSantis. They always have the scoop on the latest food and wine gossip of the DC metro area.
Wine & Spirits Education Trust
Association of Italian Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar
By CITY OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
January 14, 2013
The City of Falls Church Police Department seeks information in a larceny that occurred in the 6000 block of Wilson Blvd. At approximately 3:28 p.m. on Friday, January 4, an unknown male entered a store unnoticed and removed $2,324 cash from a locked drawer behind a counter. He appeared to leave in a black Ford Fusion.
The suspect is described a black male. Photos appear below. Read more