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Founding Vintners: Jefferson, Monroe, and Vino

Posted by / Thursday, August 4th, 2011

(Image: Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock)

Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were two wine-loving Founding Fathers. Both were students of viticulture, having read extensively on the subject, and both attempted to establish their own vineyards in Albermarle County. Jefferson even went so far as to call wine a “necessary of life”  (along with hair powder, salad oil, salt, and books).

Fredericksburg’s James Monroe Museum will be hosting a program on Friday, August 19, on Jefferson, Monroe, and the vine. James Gabler, author of the book Passion: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson, is the featured speaker.

And of course no wine education event is complete without a tasting. Kybecca Wine Bar & Shop is providing Virginia wines for the sampling.

Admission is $15; for Friends of the Museum, $10. Call, or email to register.

James Monroe Museum & Memorial Library
908 Charles Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22401  
(540) 654-1123

-Johnisha M. Levi


International Beer Day!

Posted by / Thursday, August 4th, 2011

(Image: Zhukov Oleg/Shutterstock)

Tomorrow is International Beer Day! For those who don’t know what this holiday is, it is a day where people from all over the world celebrate their appreciation for bars and breweries by drinking beer. According to their website, the I.B.D. purpose is:

1) To gather with friends and enjoy the deliciousness that is beer.
2) To celebrate the dedicated men and women who brew and serve our beer.
3) To bring the world together under the united banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations and cultures together on this one remarkable day.

Now that we know what the holiday is about, here are the steps to celebrate it (taken from the website):

1. Drink Good Beer with Good Friends
Need an excuse to meet up and socialize? This is it!

2. Find Your Nearest IBD Celebration
The only nearby bar found participating in the I.B.D. celebration is Broadlands Sports Bar & Grill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t just celebrate at home with friends. However, if you are a Northern Virginia bar owner and want to add your bar to the list, you can sign up here.

3. Give the Gift of Beer
Sharing is caring!

4. Enjoy Beers From Other Cultures
I’m a big fan of light beers, so I really enjoy Sapporo (Japan) or Amstel Light (Netherlands).

5. Thank Your Brewer, Thank Your Bartender
This is a given.

Don’t forget to support local Virginian breweries!
Blue Mountain Brewery
Capitol City Brewing Company
Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Dogfish Head Alehouse
Legend Brewery
Mad Fox Brewing Company
Old Dominion Brewing Company
Port City Brewing
Queen City Brewing
Rock Bottom Brewery
Shenandoah Brewing
Starr Hill Brewery
Wild Wolf Brewing Company

- Mai Nguyen


Ireland’s Four Courts Rolls Out New Post-Fire Menu, New Chef

Posted by / Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011


(Image: Ireland's Four Courts)

Back in April, a “small kitchen fire” wrecked the kitchen of Arlington watering hole Ireland’s Four Court, forcing them to close down a portion of the restaurant and pare its menu down to a few cold items.

But, according to Arlington Now, as of today, August 3, the restaurant has made its repairs, hired a new chef and rolled out an expanded menu.

General manager Dave Cahill told ArlNow that the fire prompted him to modernize the pub, putting down new wood and tile floors, changing the wood paneling, installing a new bar, building a deck and other bells and whistles.

The restaurants new chef, Joel Lucas, worked at McCormick & Schmick’s and Chef Geoff’s before being brought over to Four Courts. The updated menu will retain the same Irish flavored foods folks like to drink to like the beef and Guinness stew, and Sheppard’s pie, but including new items that aim to highlight Ireland’s oft-overlooked seafood, like cedar planked Atlantic salmon and day boat scallops. Considering that it’s 2011 and it seems mandatory these days, the produce is all locally sourced from Virginia.

The full menu is on Four Courts’ website.

- Kris King


Freeze Jag: Friendly’s

Posted by / Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

August is historically the steamiest, stickiest, sweatiest month of the year–brilliant move, Founding Fathers, building the nation’s capital on a swamp–in these parts. We’ve tracked down 31 frozen treats (one a day for the rest of this month) to provide you with some temporary, and often insanely delicious, relief.

The place: Friendly’s – Multiple NoVA locations;

The prescription: Forbidden Fudge Brownie sundae. Friendly’s started out as a homespun ice cream shop some 76 years ago. And they’ve built a brand based on bigger/higher/bolder desserts ever since. “You’re gonna get a Jim Dandy? That’s bigger than you are!” a folksy waitress joked with one wide-eyed youngster who had resolutely set his sights on their signature, five scoop-topped banana split (his personal Everest). I was equally determined but far less ambitious, settling instead on the three-scoop uber chocolate carnival that is the Forbidden Fudge Brownie sundae. Had it just been brownie pieces and chocolate ice cream, I might make been able to manage. But it was, in the end, simply too much for this naive soul. The long-stemmed sundae glass was top-to-bottom chocolate, loosing islands of warm, fudgy brownie, crunchy chocolate jimmies, viscous hot fudge sauce and bits of gourmet chocolate into a rapidly expanding sea (warm brownie speeds along the melting process) of milk chocolate ice cream.

Still, it was all worth it just to see the classic, thick-walled glassware crowned with a tuft of whipped cream and a shiny red, maraschino cherry floating on top.

More of a create-your-own-adventure type? Friendly’s sells their homemade hard pack flavors by the scoop, along with soft serve, shakes, malts, traditional floats, fribbles (shake with soft serve), Friend-z (blended soft serve), splits and a slew of specialty sundaes (ranging from two scoops to the epic 12-scoop “crowd pleaser”)



Keep tabs on the month long Freeze Jag trek here.


Crop Rapport: Sinplicity

Posted by / Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011


Andy, salesman of Sin(plicity) (Image: Johnisha M. Levi/Northern Virginia Magazine)

So this is how the other half lives, I thought as I drove up for the first time to the City of Falls Church Farmers Market.

It is a Rolls Royce of a farmers market. (In fact, it is on Park Avenue). Its vendors wrap around corners. A couple of times. The market’s website estimates that “more than 40″ vendors attend the market in the summer months, but I would put the number closer to 50. Or more. Here, in addition to the usual market suspects, you will find wine for sale and tasting, baked dog treats, pickles, and made-to-order crepes.

And there was music. Rapturous, beautiful music. A classical violinist playing the likes of Massenet’s Thaïs Meditation.

As if that weren’t enough, this is a farmers market that also features a Chef Series. I was kicking myself that I arrived just as this week’s demonstration, by Rustico Chef Steve Mannino, was wrapping up. The series was created to educate the public about the use of locally grown seasonal foods in supporting both the local economy and the environment.

My disappointment over missing the Chef series didn’t last long. As I wandered the aisles overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices before me, the answer was clear. I needed something cool, refreshing and sweet. I needed Sinplicity.


(Image: Johnisha M. Levi/Northern Virginia Magazine)

Sinplicity is the love child of Sinnerman Chef Leland Atkinson, who started experimenting with ice cream recipes in an old school soft-serve yogurt machine. He had to add booze to get the right consistency. And he’s been spiking the ‘cream ever since.

Sinplicity salesman Andy was offering five flavors of ice cream (including Cappuccino Crunch and Strawberry Shortcake); four flavors of sorbet (Magical Mojito, Blackberry Cabernet, Lemon Ginger, and Mango), as well as whoopie pies (Oatmeal Cream with Amaretto!, Margarita with Tequila lime curd, and Black Forest with Cherries), red chili pecans, and bottles of port and vanilla glaze (to dress your sundaes right).

(Image: Johnisha M. Levi/Northern Virginia Magazine)

Sinplicity’s ice cream is wildly popular with both the very young (Andy, who also has a 9 to 5 during the week, particularly likes this weekend gig because he gets to “feed [kids] all the sugar and send them on their way”) and their parents (who I’m sure prefer the boozier flavors). People eagerly plunked down their $7 for the burgundy pint-sized containers (resembling Chinese food cartons without the metal handles) of their favorites.

Andy had already sold out of the Salty Caramel (along with the famed Chocolate Fleur de Sel cookies). The Cappuccino Crunch has its celebrity following. Andy told a customer that Tony Kornheiser had mentioned it on his radio show, explaining, “If he name drops us, we’ll name drop him.”

But the real stars for me today were the sorbets. Because it was so hot, a dairy-less option seemed like just the right treat to cool down. And this was one of the rare times when I didn’t feel as if sorbet was treated as an afterthought. As my moderate lactose intolerance has (regrettably) reared its head in later years, I appreciate standout sorbets like the Magical Mojito and the Blackberry Cabernet.

Yes, you’ve probably encountered many mojito-flavored desserts on menus these days, but the Magical Mojito brought me back to my first taste of the Cuban cocktail. The sorbet–the palest hue of sea foam green–sings with spearmint. The acidity (in the form of lime juice) is in equibalance with the sugar. Too many sorbets are one-note–sugary–and taste like melted down popsicles. Not the case with Sinplicity’s.

Flavors rotate according to what is seasonal and available. I was tantalized just hearing the words “watermelon prosecco” and “shiro plum sake,” and am hoping for these sorbets to make an appearance at either the market or in the Sinplicity truck soon.

Look for the Sinplicity Ice Cream Truck (some have nicknamed it the Sinmobile) in your neighborhood or catch Sinplicity at the Falls Church and Reston Farmers Markets. You can also finds its ice cream and sorbets in area Balducci’s and Whole Foods. For more ways to beat the heat, check out this month’s 31-day Freeze Jag.

(Image: Johnisha M. Levi/Northern Virginia Magazine)


-Johnisha M. Levi

Northern Virginia’s Farmers Markets and Hours

Annandale Farmers Market • 6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale – Thu, 8-noon
Arlington Farmers Market • N. 14th St. & N. Courthouse Road, Arlington – Sat, 8-noon
Ashburn Farmers Market • 44036 Pipeline Plaza, Ashburn – Sat, 8-noon
Ballston Farmers Market • N. Stuart St. & N. Ninth St. – Thu, 3-7 p.m.
Brambleton Farmers Market • 22875 Brambleton Plaza, Ashburn – Sun, 9-1 p.m.
Burke Farmers Market • 5671 Roberts Parkway, Burke – Sat, 8-noon
Cascades Farmers Market • 21060 Whitfield Place, Sterling – Sun, 9-1 p.m.
Clarendon Farmers Market• 3100 Wilson Blvd., Arlington – Wed, 3-7 p.m.
Columbia Pike Farmers Market • S. Walter Reed Drive & Columbia Pike – Sun, 9-1 p.m.
Community Farmers Market • West & Main Streets (Sat), North St. & Old Lee Highway (Sun), Fairfax – Sat: 8-1 p.m.; Sun: 10-2 p.m.
Crystal City Farmers Market • Crystal Square Arcade between S. 18th and 20th Streets – Tue, 3-7 p.m.
Culpeper Farmers Market • E. Davis & Commerce Streets – Sat, 7:30-noon
Dale City Farmers Market • Dale Blvd. & Minnieville Road, Dale City – Sun, 8-1 p.m.
Del Ray Farmers’ Market • E. Oxford & Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria – Sat, 8-noon
Fairfax Farmers Market • 3720 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax – Tue, 8-noon
Falls Church Farmers Market • 300 Park Ave., Falls Church – Sat, 8-noon
Fredericksburg Farmers Market• George and Prince Edward Streets, Fredericksburg – Mon-Sat, 7-6 p.m.; Sun, 12:30-4 p.m.
Frying Pan Farmers Market • 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon – Wed, 8-12:30 p.m.
Great Falls Farmers Market • 750 Walker Road, Great Falls – Sat, 9-1 p.m.
Haymarket Farmers Market • 1500 Washington St., Haymarket – Sat, 8-2 p.m.
Herndon Farmers Market • Lynn and Station Streets, Herndon – Thu, 8-noon
Kingstowne Farmers Market • Kingstowne Center & Kingstowne Blvd., Franconia – Fri, 4-7 p.m.
Leesburg Farmers Market • 20 Catoctin Circle S.E., Leesburg – Sat, 8-noon
Lorton Farmers Market • 8990 Lorton Station Blvd., Lorton – Sun, 9-1 p.m.
McLean Farmers Market • 1659 Chain Bridge Road, McLean – Fri, 8-noon
Middleburg Farmers Market • 300 W. Washington St., Middleburg – Sat, 8-noon
Mount Vernon Farmers Market • 2501 Sherwood Hall Lane, Alexandria – Tue, 8-noon
Nokesville Farmers Market • 13005 Fitzwater Drive, Nokesville – Sat, 8-noon
Oakton Farmers Market • 3200 Jermantown Road, Oakton – Wed, 8-noon
Old Town Alexandria Farmers Market • 301 King St., Alexandria – Sat, 5:30-11 a.m.
Old Town Manassas Farmers Market • 9201 Center St., Manassas – Thu, 7-1 p.m.; Sat, 7:30-2:30 p.m.
Nokesville Farmers Market • 13005 Fitzwater Drive, Nokesville – Sat, 8-noon
Purcellville Farmers Market• 751 E. Main St., Purcellville – Sat, 8-noon
Reston Farmers Market • 11400 Washington Plaza W., Reston – Sat, 8-noon
Smart Markets – Centreville • 5875 Trinity Parkway, Centreville – Fri, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Smart Markets – Fairfax Corner • Grand Commons Ave., Fairfax – Tue, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Smart Markets
Gainesville • 13297 Gateway Center Drive, Gainesville – Sun, 10:30-1:30 p.m.
Smart Markets – Herndon • 460 Elden St., Herndon – Thu, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Smart Markets – Oakton • 2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton – Sat, 10-2 p.m.
Smart Markets – Reston • 11890 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston – Wed, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Upper King Street Farmers Market • 1806 King St., Alexandria – Wed, 3-7 p.m.
Vienna Farmers Market • 131 Church St. N.E., Vienna – Sat, 8-noon
Wakefield Farmers Market • 8100 Braddock Road, Annandale – Wed, 2-6 p.m.
Warrenton Farmers Market • Branch Drive and Warrenton Village Center (Wed), S. Fifth & Lee Streets (Sat) – Wed, 7-1 p.m.; Sat, 7-noon
West End Farmers Market • 4800 Brenman Park Drive, Alexandria – Sun, 9-1 p.m.

Or click here for our full list of local farmers markets


National Watermelon Day!

Posted by / Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

(Image: Francesco83/Shutterstock)

Today is the middle of the work week, boo. But just in case you needed something to celebrate to make your day better, today is also National Watermelon Day! So what better way to celebrate than to learn some fun facts about watermelon?

- Watermelon is a good source for vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
- The melon is made up of 92% of water, which means eating it will keep you super hydrated for these hot days.

How to Choose a Watermelon
- Make sure that is shiny and as symmetrical as can be.
- Avoid watermelons that have bruises or dents.
- On one part of the watermelon should be a patch of yellow or white.  This is the spot where the watermelon sat on the ground while it ripened in the sun. Yellow is riper than white, but white is better than no patch at all.
- Pick it up to see how heavy it is. The heavier it is in comparison to its size, the better.

Now I’m not very good with cooking so here are some interesting recipes I found:
Something to Drink: Watermelon Lemonade
Something Savory: Watermelon Havarti Stacks with Dilled Ranch and Grilled Chicken
Something Sweet: Watermelon Cake

- Mai Nguyen


Freeze Jag: ACKC Cocoa Bar

Posted by / Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

August is historically the steamiest, stickiest, sweatiest month of the year–brilliant move, Founding Fathers, building the nation’s capital on a swamp–in these parts. We’ve tracked down 31 frozen treats (one a day for the rest of this month) to provide you with some temporary, and often insanely delicious, relief.

The place: ACKC Cocoa Bar – 2003A Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-635-7917;

The prescription: Grace Kelly shake. ACKC co-founder Eric Nelson says they’ve conjured up over a dozen signature “Diva” drink creations–homespun indulgences that can be customized as iced coffees, hot chocolates, milk shakes or frozen desserts–ranging from the fiery “Lucy” (chipotle, cinnamon and chocolate) to the exotic “Lena” (featuring paprika and nutmeg). Nelson remains partial to the “Rita” (integrating chocolate, clove, orange and caramel) but we were smitten by Grace, a sumptuous, slow sipper blending together Gifford’s 72 percent chocolate chunk ice cream, dulcet caramel sauce, stunning flashes of sea salt and fluffy whipped cream. We were able to suction up the most of the ice cream through the straw, but a treasure trove of sunken dark chocolate bits awaits those willing to sweep up with a spoon.

Those looking to embellish their frosty treats even further can avail themselves of ACKC’s free toppings bar, a dessert detailing station crowded with complimentary confections, including: chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, m&m’s, peanuts, walnuts, reese’s pieces, chocolate and rainbow jimmies, chocolate chips, toasted coconut, crushed oreos–”Can’t keep them in the store,” Nelson said of the local favorite–and mini marshmallows. Meanwhile, Nelson mapped out plans to bottle the distinctive Divas in the coming months. “The sauces will be sold in jars and can be used over ice cream or turned into hot chocolate when added to milk and heated,” he said, estimating that the pre-fab flavorings could be on the ACKC and Artfully Gifts & Chocolate shelves by early fall.



Keep tabs on the month long Freeze Jag trek here.


Bye Bye Blackberry

Posted by / Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

(Image: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock)

I don’t know what it is about them, but blackberries make me reminisce. Maybe it is because I have seen them at their worst (in the form of Manischewitz “blackberry wine,” a shockingly saccharine substance of an appropriate color but with a Robitussin consistency) and the best (when my father would eat them one by one on summer days, unadulterated, savoring each plump, inky berry).

Blackberries are ripe for picking right now, but supplies at local farms won’t last long. Spotsylvania County’s Miller Farms Market, for instance, is reaching the end of its blackberry bonanza, but still has some left. Call (540) 972-2680 first before leaving to take your pick. Miller charges $2.55 per pound for these black beauties.

This weekend (August 6), you can also celebrate the glory of blackberries at Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery’s Blackberry Harvest Festival in Nellysford, Virginia. (Live a little, get out of NoVa and take a trip into Central VA!) Along with live music, wine (Hill Top makes a semi-dry blackberry wine), and mead, Rick’s BBQ will also provide a Pig Pick’N lunch for purchase. The festival runs from 9 to 5 p.m. and costs $10 per person.

Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery
2800 Berry Hill Road
Nellysford, VA 22958
(434) 361-1266

Looking for blackberry wine? Here are a few other VA wineries that make what I’m sure are more nuanced versions than the Man, oh, Manischewitz, What a Wine:

Horton Vineyard’s blackberry wine (blended with petit verdot; the only one I have tried of these wines. I recommend if you are looking for a nice sweet dessert wine that is not too cloying)
Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery’s Rapidan River Blackberry
Bluemont Vineyard’s Blackberry wine (a dryer dessert wine)

And what is a good alternative to making cobblers, crisps, and blackberry sorbet with your blackberry booty? What about using some of your pick-u berries to make blackberry curd. It is simple to make (as long as you watch the temperature), it keeps for a while, and you can use the curd not only on your English muffin or favorite toast, but to fill lemon sponge cake layers (then coat with white chocolate ganache), or as filling for tiny tarts. Blackberries generally pair well with citrus like lemon, orange, and lime, so let these flavor combinations be your guide.

Blackberry Curd
2 pints of fresh berries
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces
pinch of salt

1. Puree the berries and strain out the seeds, reserving the juice.

2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Combine with the blackberry juice, and the salt and butter. You can either add everything to a saucepan, constantly stirring the mixture and scraping the sides with a silicone spatula (and removing it from the heat every so often so that the eggs do not scramble–you don’t want to see the mixture steam or boil). Look for the mixture to thicken and coat the back of the spatula.  Alternatively, if you are afraid you might accidentally scramble the eggs, I would set a bowl on top of a steaming pot of water to act as a double boiler. Follow the same instructions regarding stirring and cooking consistency.

3. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Enjoy!

-Johnisha M. Levi


How-to: Guacamole

Posted by / Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Do you constantly find yourself getting guacamole at Chipotle or Qdoba? At first, to me it seemed worth it to have that extra glob of green in my burrito bowl. After a while, it started to seem like a hefty price to pay for just one spoonful of guacamole so I set out to try to make it myself. Here’s the recipe that I used:

One small red onion, or ¼ of a normal-sized red onion
Two ripe avocados
½ lime

Step One – Finely mince up the red onion and put it into a bowl.

Step Two – Scoop the two avocados out of their skin and put it into the bowl. Throw the seed away. Mash up the avocado and mix it with the red onion.

Step Three – Squeeze in half of a lime. Then chop up some cilantro and add it into the bowl. Add salt to taste. Mix everything together.

And you’re finished!  The guacamole turned out pretty addictive and good, considering this was my first time ever making it. It is a mild recipe but feel free to add chili peppers or jalapenos if you want something with more heat. If you don’t plan to eat all of it immediately, cover it up with plastic wrap as tightly as possible before storing in the fridge to reduce browning.

I’m not sure if I would go as far as bringing this to Chipotle to add it to my burrito bowl, but it will definitely come in handy whenever I take my burrito bowls home or want to satisfy a quick guacamole craving.

- Mai Nguyen


Sales of Farmed Virginia Oyster On The Up

Posted by / Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

(Image: Shutterstock/areashot)

Oysters are kind of a thing right now. First I saw them getting served up to a healthy sized crowd in the blazing heat of Brooklyn’s Smorgasborg, and now they’re popping up at fancy new D.C. eateries like Lincoln and Blackbyrd Warehouse.

All of this even though it’s August, and if my grandfather has any say in the matter, by God it’s too hot for oysters, s’wrong with you?

Regardless of what grandpa had to say, sales of farmed Virginia oysters jumped up 34% in 2010, according to a report from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Between 2009 and 2010, sales of Bay oysters went up from 12.6 million to 16.9 million, and the Daily News’ Deadrise blog reports, watermen suspect an even bigger jump in sales this year.

There are a few factors contributing to the increase in oyster sales, and their current status as the hip bivalve of choice isn’t one of them. The first is the tough nature of the farmed Chesapeake Bay oyster, which are fast growing, disease resistant and protected from predators (except us). Lingering damage from the BP oil spill has also contributed to the increase in sales, as Gulf oyster reefs have still yet to fully recover from the damage wrought on them last year.

I also suspect that that episode of Mad Men where Roger Sterling eats two dozen oysters and then throws up has something to do with it, but that’s just a hunch.

- Kris King


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