BY Kathleen Nixon
March 29, 2013
Falls Church Times Staff
Easter is second biggest chocolate selling time behind Christmas. But why do we crave those little chocolate eggs and bunnies at this time of year? The shapes of our chocolate delicacies revert back to the time of the Pagans. Eggs represented fertility and spring was celebrated in the Pagan belief as the festival of Eastre, which is the goddess of springtime. This goddess would make her earthly presence known each year in the form of a rabbit.
Why chocolate? As you may have heard in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I banned hot cross buns because of her belief that the cross was a symbol of Catholicism. However, she did allow the pastry to be consumed during Easter and it was a big hit. The bakers throughout Europe were thrilled and very successful at selling pastries that the chocolate makers jumped at the chance to capitalize on the popularity.
It is not only the symbols that are a spring tradition; it is the bright and fanciful colors. These symbolize that it is time to shake off the dark grey clouds and coast of winter, and look to eye catching colors of spring. So when I was invited in by a sign saying “Chocoholics enter here” a few weeks ago, it wasn’t the prospect of chocolate that captivated me it was the bright colors.
Artisan Confections, now in Mosaic, features fanciful chocolates with dazzling colors. You won’t find bunnies and eggs here, but neatly decorated chocolate squares. “Tiny works of art from your local micro-chocolatier” is how they put it. These freshly made masterpieces feature Valrhona chocolate from the south of France. Each work of art is then created adding in unique ingredients such as teas, mint, spices or liquors. The colors will entice, the flavor explosion will saturate your being.
When looking at the wide descriptions of flavors you run from comfort food standby such as Peanut Butter and Jelly, or Salted Caramel with sea salt, but it is the more exotic that will cause you to ponder the selection – Port Wine Fig, Earl Grey Tea or the Arnold Palmer with dark chocolate, lemon and black tea. My favorites? It’s hard to choose. I like the spice of the Ancho Chile or Madagascar Pepper, but the Lavender flower caramel was also too yummy to pass up.
The other spring tradition for me was always watching the Wizard of Oz. Spring break, Easter Sunday and Dorothy Gale that is when I knew spring was here. While it has been a long time since Toto danced across my television screen, I did thoroughly enjoy the new film Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D. There have been many 3D movies out for some time, but this film finally showcases how 3D can truly enhance a story.
Mosaic District Fairfax – in the same building as Target
2910 District Avenue Fairfax, VA 22031
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm
March is the cruelest month. This week we had snow, then 70 degree weather and then snow forecasted again for Monday. The Falls Church Farmers Market has been plagued with bad weather several Saturdays in a row according to Howard Herman, Farmers Market Manager. Usually this time of year, we hear from the farmers that they want to bring in early summer goods, but not this year.
What do you find now that is fresh? Kale is coming back and the tender greens are perfect for salads. Last fall, one of the Little City’s favorite chefs Andrew Dixon of Madfox Brewing Company did a kale salad with butternut squash bacon for a Falls Church Farmers Market Chef Demonstration. Fortunately we have a special video of Andrew making the salad for the crowd at the market. The demonstration series will start up in April and shortly thereafter we can welcome back many of the familiar and new farmers’ market vendors.
March is when we start putting things in the ground such as potatoes and peas. Around our house we call it March Madness, not the basketball brackets but the bareness in the garden that drives you crazy that you think you need to put more plants in the yard to fill up all the bare spots. Take heart your garden will fill out in a month or two.
And while you may think warmer weather will never get here, have heart as there will be tomatoes soon! Spring Valley Farm and Orchards just posted on their Facebook page that tomatoes are showing up on the vines in their greenhouses. Other vendors have tomatoes started in their greenhouse as well. And why do we always use tomatoes as the temperature gauge for fresh food rather than look at what is seasonal and local?
As we settled into our sitting area a few winter weekends ago, my husband said “this really is a little gem” referring to our cabin at Savage River Lodge. After just under three hours away from the City of Falls Church and after a lovely stop for lunch in Frederick at Family Meal, our drive dipped down into a canyon, across a meadow stream and then up Savage River Mountain.
In the winter, if you do not have four or all wheel drive, you either have to call to be picked up or don’t bother coming. The road is plowed but still needs extra traction to get up to the main lodge and even some cars (Audis) still don’t make it. If you try to chance it and get stuck, it is a $250 charge to get pulled out. This seclusion is worth it because at the end of the road is a luxurious and sumptuous get away for you and possibly your favorite furry friend.
Once at the main lodge, you feel like you have returned to your family’s mountain retreat. Rough hewn walls, comfy chairs and a huge fireplace welcome you to your retreat. This lodge has seen many of my family celebrations – birthday, anniversaries, holidays and the all important get a way.
Savage River Lodge is set on 45 acres surrounded by 750 acres of the Savage River State Forest in western Maryland. You are very far removed from traffic congestion, hub-bub of urban life and most importantly TV or electronics of any kind. The lodge was started by Jan and Mike Russell after forming Nature of Business, a management development program founded on the principle that nature can teach us personally and organizationally how to succeed.
After purchasing the land in 1990, the long road was started. Literally as the road and bridge to the main lodge was not finished until 1998 with the lodge and cabins completed in 2001. Each of the 18 cabins is a serene get away with a loft for sleeping, a cozy sitting room with gas burning stove and a porch. All the cabins are similar in layout but offer different views of the forest, which is right outside your door. You can step out of your cabin and be on one of the many hiking or cross country skiing trails. The favorite and easiest trail being the Bodhi’s Green trail which circumvents the main property and allows secluded views of the forest and its valley’s to and from the main lodge or just to take a walk.
In following Jan and Mike’s environmental vision, many “green” enhancements have been made along the way to support their business venture. Biodiesel was first used in 2008 utilizing the restaurant’s cooking oil to power all of the equipment on the property and in 2010 350 solar panels were installed on the hillside behind the Main Lodge. Mike has done all this himself and provides many tidbits to interested parties. These conversations have been helpful to my family as Virginia and the City of Falls Church seems to be void of any green energy practitioners.
The lodge has a restaurant that may serve most of your meals. You do receive a lovely morning basket with muffins, juice and the daily lodge newsletter. The lodge restaurant serves breakfast/brunch/lunch on the weekends from 9am to 2pm and dinner all evenings. You can go off property for your meals, but you really won’t want to. A leisurely walk through the forest to the lodge where a sumptuous meal awaits is what getaways are all about.
During the warmer weather the restaurant offers a lovely porch with a commanding view of the meadow and surrounding forests. Hummingbird feeders and flower filled planters frame the view. In the winter, the dining room just beyond the bar is warm and cozy. The lodge works with several area farms for their ingredients including a new partnership with Firefly Farms for their goat cheese.
The new chef Tylor Dinteman has significantly expanded the menu including several vegetarian options including Grilled Trumpet Mushrooms served over black Beluga lentils and Heirloom Bean Cassoulet served with mushrooms and root vegetables. The rest of the menu has also been expanded to include several new dishes for brunch and dinner.
For breakfast I was enthralled with “The Hunter” omelet with caramelized mushrooms, melted leeks, smoked Gouda and wilted arugula. Omelets sometimes are too big and too wet for me, but this omelet was so perfect that I had it both mornings. The caramelized mushrooms and melted leeks supported the smoked Gouda, so the overall taste was warm and inviting with just enough bite from the arugula. Maple glazed bacon – maple from trees on property – was thick and crunchy.
For dinner the Lodge Meatloaf is a favorite with its unique bland of wild meats, pork and beef with fresh herbs, spice and local maple syrup that is wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon, finished with cabernet mushroom demi glace. The new menu includes several new items such as a Lamb Cassoulet a lamb loin with braised lamb, Brie Stuffed Chicken Breast and a duo of Pork which includes a pork ragu tossed with fresh pasta served with a roasted pork tenderloin.
One of the new additions is a partnership with Firefly Farms and you can see this at its best with either a private tasting at the farm or for dessert by choosing the cheese plate. I am partial to cheese after dinner rather than dessert so I was thrilled to see this addition to the menu and impressed by the selection of cheeses presented.
For your dining pleasure there is an extensive wine list which has been noted by both the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast as being exceptional. I tend to agree.
In addition to the secluded and lovely location and the wonderful food, the Savage River Lodge is a very the dog friendly environment. The current lodge canine hosts are Koko and Karma who just celebrated their third birthday – 21 in people years – and they were able to enjoy their first micro brew. Besides seclusion, luxurious hospitality and environmental responsibility, canine comfort is important to the team at Savage River Lodge. In your cabin there are supplies that all dog parents need – towels, bowls and bags. If you need any treats, they are freshly baked on the premises. If you would like to treat your pup to a gourmet meal, there is a menu to select from. And in your morning breakfast, you will find a sumptuous doggie treat for your pup along with your muffins and juice. Dogs are allowed everywhere on the property except in the Main Lodge and only need to be on leash in and around the cabins. There are plenty of puppy stations throughout the main property equipped with bags and trash receptacles. Ill behaved puppies and their families are noted and not invited back.
Savage River Lodge is located off of Interstate 68 just outside of Frostburg Maryland. The cabins are all the similar with differences being in size of the bed and view. They range from $225-$245. There is a pet fee of $30 per night. There is a two night minimum on the weekends, and a three night minimum on holiday weekends. The lodge notes that it is an adult centered retreat and does not have activities or sitting arrangements for children as well as a very limited children’s menu in the restaurant.
Savage River Lodge
1600 Mt. Aetna Road
Frostburg, MD 21532
Every now and then you need a refresher on basic cooking techniques; no matter how many reruns of Julia Child you watch, we all need a reminder of some of the basics. With so many diets, fads and trends that have clouded the landscape it is difficult to remember – do we use oil, butter or nothing? What is wet versus dry cooking? And not only how will this taste but how will it be good for me?
We recently attended a cooking class titled “Basic Meat Cookery Methods” which included Pan Searing, Braising, and Poaching. The class was part of a series of cooking classes taught at the Fields Of Athenry farm, outside of Middleburg which also raises beef, lamb, duck, turkey, chicken and goose while sourcing pork from a local Mennonite farmer.
The class setting is intriguing as it is part of a farm kitchen and many of the ingredients for the class could be purchased in the farm store. The farm, class and chef follow the Weston Price Foundation philosophies which believe that healthy lives are only possible if we eat nutrient dense foods and animal fats prepared in traditional manner from ingredients that are raised sustainably, organically and responsibly.
The class is taught by Chef Wes Rosati, formerly the Executive Chef at Landsowne Resort and now formally part of the Fields of Athenry farm. Chef Wes has been a long supporter of sustainably raised foods, so he fits in perfectly with the farm which adheres to sustainable farming practices.
For our class, the menu was set: Steak au Poivre, Braised Lamb Osso Bucco with Red Wine Integral Jus, and Poached Salmon with Winter Vegetables all which we were able to see prepared and then enjoy lunch. It was a sunny cold winter afternoon, but the class kitchen was warm and toasty and while observing the class we enjoyed local cheeses complemented with local wines.
The basics of the class centered on understanding that there are two different types of cooking for meat and fish: wet and dry. Depending on what end result you were looking for, you chose the appropriate method. Chef Wes first built a vegetable broth that would be used to poach salmon. Poaching is a wet method that requires first building a broth, which he did utilizing seasonal vegetables that could poach, create a sauce and maybe later use as a nice soup base.
Onions were first sauteed in lard, but coconut oil or ghee could be used. Chef Wes shared that certain sautéing ingredients are easier for the body to digest, thus he uses lard, ghee or coconut oil. Then adding spices, primarily turmeric, which is especially beneficial in a diet, he then deglazed with some wine. After this he added in lemon, garlic and his other vegetables – kale, carrots, turnips, celery and covered them with water and simmered. He shared that when using herbs distinguishing between hard and soft herbs that will stand up to cooking; using the hard herbs – thyme, rosemary, first and then following with the softer herbs such as oregano, parsley or chives.
After cooking for 15 minutes the broth is ready to use to poach the salmon. The salmon is first prepared with sea salt – again a more easily digestible form and better for the overall diet – and pepper and set at room temperature. The poaching took about 10 minutes, 5 minutes each side and then was served with some of the vegetables in the broth. The vibrant colors and delicious taste brighten up the winter afternoon. What was even for sublime, was that my husband was able to recreate the entire dish a few nights later using salmon from the farmers market.
The next dishes – steak au poivre and chicken – featured the dry method but using a spice rub or just plain salt and pepper, and high heat to seal in the juices. The preferred cuts for this method were Sirloin, or Delmonico as well as just a plain chicken breast. The key in this method is to use a high heat and patience – just a few minutes. This allows the ‘sealing” of the meat which happens as the meat pulls away from the pan. The final dish involved braising which is a long slow cooking process again in a broth, a heartier one than poaching, and a cut of meat that is fattier. The slow cooking allows the fat in the meat to render down creating a melt in your mouth texture.
The next class available is on March 9th which will feature how to prepare proteins with an accompanying pan sauce, a basic Sauce Bolognese and vegetable cookery. The demonstrated dishes will be: Pork Tenderloin Medallions with an Apricot and Red Onion Compote, Beef and Lamb Bolognese, Roasted Cauliflower, Sautéed Garlicky Kale.
The team at Fields of Athenry is developing a spring schedule of classes, so check their website for updates on upcoming classes. The Fields of Athenry will also be providing the “pop up wellness café” at the March 10th Grow Your Health conference occurring at the Woodson High School in Fairfax. The Wellness Festival will be featuring a food documentary called “In ORGANIC We Trust” as well as gardening classes and local foods panel discussions.
Participants will learn to make rich organic compost from yard trimmings and leaves at this beginners composting workshop on Saturday, April 20. The free program will include a composting demonstration, making compost tea, proper food waste composting, and vermicomposting (composting with worms). Participants will take home a free portable yard waste compost bin.
The event will be held at the Cherry Hill Picnic Shelter (312 Park Ave., Falls Church) and run from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. To register, call Sandy Tarpinian (703-536-7186) or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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