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Posted by / Monday, October 17th, 2011

This Saturday I ventured out to Rustico‘s Oktobeerfest in Alexandria. Offering over 50 different beer drafts all day, Rustico was teaming up with neighbors Buzz Bakery and Planet Wine to raise funds for their non-profit partner Arcadia.

I think it’s safe to say they earned a great amount of money this weekend.

I arrived at around 3 p.m. and after waiting in a short line received five free tickets, as promised, for showing a picture of myself standing in front of the Braddock Road Metro (they were, however, all out of the other option of a free glass Oktobeerfest beer mug and only offered the ceramic ones for purchase for $10, which I was mildly disappointed by).

Upon entering the festival area, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The space was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with beer-thirsty people; and though it was otherwise an absolutely perfect warm and sunny fall day, I began to sweat and feel like I was a cooking grain of rice jam packed among 500 others in a boiling pot. (It was at this point that my boyfriend and I agreed we’d rather have been told the festival was at capacity instead of them letting us inside.) But we’d just paid $40 in tickets and wanted some good, cold beer, dang it.

I risked punching my fellow Oktobeerfesters in the side and was able to pull my arm through the crowd and up in the air to get this picture.

With our eye immediately on the Hoptober beer labeled on a sign that I could peek a glance at between bobbing heads of people in the crowd, we went over and stood in the area of the crowd that we guessed was the line. After about 10 minutes, we watched the beer-pouring employee tear down the Hoptober sign and barely read his lips form the words “all gone.”

Since we couldn’t actually move anywhere else, it seemed like we were standing in another line to get beer from any of the other kegs (of the supposed 50+ beers on tap) and when inquiring what kind of beer it was, the woman behind me (who, with whom I shared so much skin, could have been mistaken as my siamese twin) whined “I don’t even care anymore.”  When we finally got to the front of the ‘line,’ we didn’t know what kind of beer was in the keg in front of us, but the man in the Oktobeerfest t-shirt informed us that the “sour, very sour” beer would be “9 tickets each.”

Maybe I’m just missing an affinity to sour beer, but oh man, was it sour.

One of the serving tables. Sadly, they were all out of turkey legs by 3:15.

The high note of the afternoon was the short line for the mustard braised pork shoulder sandwich with red cabbage and apples. We got lucky and snagged a corner of one of the few small standing-height tables to pause for a minute with the food.

Mustard braised pork shoulder sandwich with red cabbage and apples, and our sour beer.

Hungry for more, we went towards the brat dog tent where we saw people coming from holding amazing looking dogs piled with bacon braised sauerkraut. We had been waiting in a mess of a line for about 20 minutes when the server shouted out to the hungry crowd that everyone on the left side (our side of the mob) had to be ordering the BBQ pulled pork sliders and everyone on the right side was for the brat dogs. It was then that we gave up and pushed our way through the crowd toward the exit.

On the bright side, all of the staff members were very pleasant and helpful despite the mayhem. The ticket booth bought back our unused tickets (we donated five to Arcadia) and the hostess inside Rustico, where we went to see how long a table for two in the restaurant would be (an hour, we were told, because the kitchen was backed up), was very friendly and apologetic to us.

Perhaps the good weather simply brought way more visitors than expected; perhaps we got there too late in the day. If I go back next year, I would like to see more available beer with shorter lines and about one-third of the crowd. Regardless, it was a busy day for a good cause and I’m hopeful in saying that the event must have been a success for at least some people in the crowd.

-Julia Harbo


Fall Harvest Wine Dinner at BRABO

Posted by / Monday, October 17th, 2011

Photo by: Len DePas

Robert Wiedmaier Hosts Five-Course Fall Harvest Dinner with selected French wine pairings

BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier is hosting a five-course wine dinner prepared by Executive Chef Robert Wiedmaier and Chef de Cuisine Chris Watson this Thursday, October 20, featuring seasonal dishes inspired by the fall harvest, paired with French wines selected by sommelier David Kurka.  Chefs Wiedmaier and Watson and sommelier David Kurka will lead a conversation about each course, as well as the pairings throughout the evening.

The cost for the dinner is $125 per person, excluding tax and gratuity and reservations are required so call now!

The Menu:

Amuse Bouche
Baton of Crispy Sweetbreads, Meaux Mustard Dipping Sauce
*paired with Champagne, Roederer, Brut, Collection, NV

1st Course
Ravioli of Petit Gris and Foie Gras, Parsley-Lemon Essence
*paired with Pinot Gris, Chateau D’Orschwihr, ‘Zinnkoepfle,’ Alsace, 2008

2nd Course
Roasted Diver Scallop, Sea Urchin Butter with Tobiko
*paired with Chenin Blanc, Pascal Janvier, ‘Cuvée du Silex,’ Jasnières, Loire Valley, France, 2010

3rd Course
Squab with Wild Mushroom Roulade, Cabernet and Roasted Shallot Reduction
*paired with Grenache Blend, Domaine du Pourra, Cotes du Rhone Village, ‘Séguret,’ 2006

4th Course
Veal Medallions with Salsify, Madeira and Green Peppercorn Reduction
*paired with Merlot Blend, Château Beauregard, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2001

PlumTart, Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream
*paired with Sauternes,La Fleur d’Or, Bordeaux, France, 2006

Photo by: Len DePas

Critically acclaimed and award-winning Chef Robert Wiedmaier is transforming Alexandria’s dining scene with his new Old Town trifecta. Adjacent to the boutique Lorien Hotel & Spa, the elegant BRABO Restaurant, casual and lively BRABO Tasting Room and The Butcher’s Block, A Market by RW, are each distinctive reflections of Wiedmaier’s passion and award-winning talents. These spaces, created by renowned New York-designer Vicente Wolf, are as engaging as Chef Wiedmaier’s signature cuisine.

The entire team is committed to making BRABO the best dining experience in Old Town Alexandria. Gluten-free options are available for guests with food allergies, as well as vegan and vegetarian fare.

Thursday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. - Space is limited. For more information or to make reservations call 703.894.3440 or visit or

BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier: 1600 King Street, Alexandria

– Jennie Whistler


How Do You Like Them Apples?

Posted by / Friday, October 14th, 2011

Image: Raffalo/Shutterstock

No, really…that isn’t a disparaging phrase, it’s an honest question.

You can bite them, slice them, peel them, cook them, coat them in caramel, dip them in peanut butter…oh, yes, the list is endless.

My personal favorite way to eat an apple is plain, fresh and raw—there’s nothing better than first crunchy bite through the tough and bitter skin, making way to the sweet, juicy, slightly yellow inside. Some people eat the entire apple raw, core and seeds included (I know, but you’ll grow an apple tree in your belly!).

I’m not that extreme of an apple purist, but I do love apples, and all the things you can do with them. And what better time to enjoy apples than in the fall? That’s why I’m putting together a blog chain that will glorify the apple and all the things you can do with them, with one apple recipe per week.




The sun is shining (hopefully), the sky is blue, the air is getting crisp but not too cold, grocery stores are more stocked with apples than they’ve ever been, and all the local farmers markets and orchards are up and running. So go out there and get yourself some apples…how do you like them apples?!

This week’s recipe:

Benjamin likes them apples.

I decided to put my words to practice and went apple picking this past weekend. I went with my sister and 16-month old nephew and got some deliciously fresh and crisp Fuji apples. Trying to think of what to do with a bag of 15+ apples, we decided to make something traditionally fally (and yummy) and went with apple crisp.

Traditional Apple Crisp

From SparkRecipes

5-6 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Mix the apples and cinnamon and place in a 9-inch greased baking dish. For the topping, mix together the remaining ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the apples are soft and the topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Northern Virginia Apple Orchards (in alphabetical order):

Crooked Run Orchard (37883 East Main St., Purcellville; 540-338-6642)
Hartland Orchard (3064 Hartland Lane, Markham; 540-364-2316)
High Places Orchards (121 Winesap Lane, Flint Hill; 540-635-5537)
Hill High Farms (933 Barley Lane, Winchester; 540-667-7377)
Hollin Farms (11324 Pearlstone Lane, Delaplane; 540-592-3574)
Great Country Farms (18780 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; 20135)
Graves Mountain (Graves Mountain Lodge, Route 670, Syria; 540-923-4231)
Mackintosh Fruit Farm (1608 Russell Road, Berryville; 540-955-2161)
Marker-Miller Orchards Farm (3035 Cedar Creek Grade, Winchester; 540-662-1980)
Nichols Farm (1832 Chapel Road, Middletown; 540-869-1258)
Richard’s Fruit Market (6410 Middle Road, Middletown; 540-869-1455)
Rinker Orchards (1156 Marlboro Road, Stephens City; 540-869-1499)
Stribling Orchard (11587 Poverty Hollow Lane, Markham; 540-364-3040)
Virginia Farm Market (1881 North Frederick Pike, Winchester; 540-665-8000)

-Julia Harbo



Posted by / Friday, October 14th, 2011

Image: Kzenon/Shutterstock

Guten tag once again! Your friendly weekend guide to all the best Oktoberfest celebrations is here!

You don’t want to miss out:

Oktoberfest at Döner Bistro
October 13-16. Döner Bistro is proud to host the fourth annual Oktoberfest Celebration in Leesburg under the big Fest Tent! Döner Bistro, 202 Harrison Street, Leesburg; (703)779.7880; Free

Rustico’s Oktobeerfest Celebration
October 15, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. The raucous Alexandria block party is set to outdo seasons past this year, with live music, a wine and bubbly garden, family-friendly activities, German inspired food, and of course, beer! Rustico, 827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria; (703)224.5051;  Free admission, beer tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance

Visit our calendar for more events going on this weekend in your area!

– Jennie Whistler


Historic Bourbon Producer A. Smith Bowman Now Offering Distillery Tours

Posted by / Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Image: Alexandr Vlassyuk/Shutterstock

For those of you who don’t know, the historic A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg goes way back. Abram Smith Bowman started distilling bourbon back in the years before Prohibition and, after the repeal of Prohibition in 1927, moved to Virginia with his family to continue his bourbon distillation on what was then called Sunset Hills Farm in Fairfax County.

The distillery is now in Fredericksburg and continues to produce a variety of Bourbon whiskeys, rum, vodka and gin.

Their newest offering: distillery tours.

Open to the public, the tours will last one hour and will teach participants about distillation, barreling and bottling of bourbon. The tours will allow participants to see the museum, still house, barrel warehouse, and barrel dump and fill room, as well as sample the bourbon and other products.

Tours will run at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday-Friday or by appointment.

“We are very excited to expand our role in Virginia tourism,” Master Distiller Truman Cox of the historic family-run distillery says.

For more information, visit the distillery website at

A. Smith Bowman is located at One Bowman Drive in Fredericksburg (540-373-4555).

-Julia Harbo


October is Virginia Wine Month

Posted by / Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Did you know that October is Virginia wine month? That means that if you’re looking for something different to do this weekend, look no further because the Virginia Wine Academy’s got you covered!


This Friday (and every Friday in October) they’re offering wine cruises along the Potomac where you can kick back, relax and enjoy some amazing local Virginia wines!

For $55 get 15 tastes (or combine your tastes for full glasses) of some of the best wines this state has to offer. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, there will be a wide array of snack to choose from.

Each cruise is 90 minutes and offers some of the best views of the DC skyline.

Virginia Wine Cruises on the Potomac are offered every Friday in October and depart from the SW Waterfront at 700 street.

Cruise Times:

6:30 – 8:00 PM – Boats board 15 minutes in advance and leave on time.

8:30 – 10:00 PM – Boats board 15 minutes in advance and leave on time.

NOTE: You will be scheduled on the cruise you sign up for and we will not be able accommodate late or early arrivals due to capacity of the boats. These cruises are expected to sell out.

Go here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Founded in 1999, The Washington Wine Academy is the premier wine education center in the Washington DC area and educates more than 1,000 wine enthusiasts a month.

Washington Wine Academy Education Center
1201 South Eads Street, Suite 400

– Jennie Whistler


Experimenting in the Kitchen: Homemade Granola

Posted by / Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Yesterday I felt like trying something new– homemade granola.

I’m a big cereal person and got into granola about five years ago. When I was in college I would fill up a heaping bowl of “Low-fat granola” every morning in the dining hall and eat my heart out; then I learned just how much, despite the label, unhealthy fat and sugar was actually in there.

I started looking for healthier granolas in the grocery store, and there are a lot out there, but they can add up to a lot of money spent quickly. Recently my friend told me how she started making her own granola and how much easier and more fun it is than buying it in the store. Plus, it’s much cheaper and you can’t beat the sweet, cinnamon-scented smell of fresh granola baking in the oven.

The essentials to homemade granola are quite simple. All you need are dry oats (I like to keep a big canister of Quaker Oats in my cabinet at all times), oil and sugar, or any other liquid/sweetener replacements, and whatever else you want to throw in there. I’ve seen recipes that use mixtures of canola oil and brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey and water. Typical throw-ins are any kind of dried fruit, chopped nuts, wheat germ or flax seed (if you want a healthy boost), shredded coconut, even chocolate and/or peanut butter; it’s really up to you– that’s the best part about making your own granola!

The batch I made used honey and water instead of oil, raisins and dried pineapple, fresh apples (that I picked this weekend!), chopped walnuts and almonds, and cinnamon.

Honey, Apple, Nut and Cinnamon Granola

3 cups oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts and almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
1/2 cup chopped fresh Fuji apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup water

On a deep baking sheet, pour out the oats and the rest of your dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon or your hands. In a separate bowl, whisk together your water and honey, then pour over the oat mixture on the baking sheet. Mix together and spread out evenly. Bake for 20-30 minutes on 300 degrees, stirring occasionally. Granola is done when it looks toasted brown and feels crunchy enough for your liking.

I enjoyed mine warm out of the oven in a bowl with almond milk. It would also be good over Greek yogurt or, heck, even plain! Store in an air-tight container to enjoy for weeks!

-Julia Harbo


Get Ready for Dine Out For Farms™ Week

Posted by / Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

“Thanks to American Farmland Trust, more of our important working lands are being protected and more families are able to stay in farming!” — Sandy and Rossie Fisher, Brookview Farm, Manakin-Sabot, Virginia 

American Farmland Trust’s Dine Out for Farms™ is a national, week-long event that brings together restaurants and consumers to support a sustainable future for America’s farms. For one week in October, participating restaurants across the country educate diners about the importance of farms and raise funds to save the land that sustains us. Dine Out for Farms™ is a nationwide celebration of delicious food and the farmers and land needed to grow it!

This year, restaurants in 22 states and the District of Columbia are participating by contributing a percentage of sales during the Dine Out for Farms™ week or by making a straight donation to help save farms. Diners can show their support for America’s farms and ranches by patronizing local restaurants that are participating in American Farmland Trust’s second annual Dine Out for Farms™ week from October 16-22.

“We are thrilled that such a broad range of eateries—from high-end restaurants to frozen yogurt shops—are participating in this year’s Dine Out for Farms™,” said American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl.  “By patronizing any one of them during Dine Out for Farms™ week, you can show that you care about protectingAmerica’s farmland—and the delicious locally grown food that it provides.”

Every year more and more farmers are faced with an unfavorable economic outlook which is making it extremely difficult for them to continue. Added to that is a shrinking number of new farmers, combined with uncertain market conditions and development of farmland- all of which adds up to one big problem.

“Dine Out for Farms™ encourages diners to think about where their food comes from,” Scholl added.  “The United States has been losing nearly one million acres of farmland each year, and the most threatened land is near cities where the majority of our dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables are grown.  To reverse the trend, we need restaurants, diners, and everyone who enjoys eating locally grown food to get involved.”

American Farmland Trust has a vision of U.S.towns and cities surrounded by healthy, thriving farmland which can sustain fresh food and make it a reality for everyone. And that’s an idea that everyone can get behind!

View a complete list of restaurants participating in Dine Out for Farms™ week.

American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.

AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC.

For more information, visit

– Jennie Whistler


Coffee Buzz

Posted by / Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Image: Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Humans have been enjoying coffee since back in the 13th century, but a recent study from Harvard now shows that caffeine and coffee have yet more health benefits!

Aside from giving you energy and producing more dopamine (chemicals associated with the sense of pleasure) in your brain, caffeinated coffee is now shown to reduce the risk of depression in women. The study followed over 50,000 women without depression over the course of 10 years (1996-2006).

Compared to women consuming one or less cup of caffeinated coffee per week, the risk of depression for women who consumed two to three cups per day was 85%, and those who consumed four or more per day, 80%.

And though the study was done strictly on women, men, you can still enjoy the other benefits of coffee.

Though caffeine can be consumed in many ways aside from coffee– tea, soda, chocolate, energy drinks– more than 80 percent of caffeine is consumed through coffee drinking. For a list of the amounts of caffeine in different forms of intake, take a look at this article.

So don’t feel so bad when it’s a multiple-cup-of-coffee kind of day (like the Tuesday after a long holiday weekend)– reap the benefits and enjoy that extra cup of coffee!

For a list of some local coffee joints, visit this page.

Keep that coffee buzz going strong!

-Julia Harbo 


Everything’s Better With Bacon!

Posted by / Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Restaurant 3 in Clarendon

Restaurant 3 in Clarendon is getting geared up to host their 3rd annual “Week Of Bacon” with Bacon Happy Hours, Bacon Tasting Menu, Bacon Curing Classes and Bacon Patio Parties.

Now that’s a lot of bacon.

The smoky, salty goodness that is bacon takes center stage in this week-long event at 3 from October 13-22, 2011.  This week is sure to sizzle!

The Week of Bacon kicks off with a Patio Pig Roast this Thursday, October 13, featuring $5 pulled pork sandwiches and American craft beer specials.

Bacon enthusiasts everywhere can pick from a week’s worth of festivities spotlighting 3′s house-cured bacon. 3 will offer a Bacon Curing Class on Sunday, October 16 at 3pm, where Chef Brian Robinson will demonstrate his own special curing methods, share curing rub recipes and provide participants with tastes from his cellar. The class is free but space is limited.

Throughout the week, diners can also swing by Chef Robinson’s “Bacon Stand” where they can try a complimentary taste of 3′s house-cured Bacon-to-Go and pick up a pound (or six) to take home.

Bacon, bacon and yes- more bacon, cured in-house!

Throughout the Week of Bacon, Restaurant 3 will offer a Bacon Tasting Dinner on the patio and special Bacon Brunch featuring dishes such as the Graceland Waffle- a bacon studded waffle topped with caramelized bananas and a bacon-peanut sauce.

Oh my.

Each day for the duration of the festival the restaurant will offer a daily Bacon Happy Hour, where guests can feast on bacon bites such as the new bacon cheese dip over bacon dusted chips or the loved “bacon-on-a-stick” and wash it all down with $3 craft beer draft specials.

Executive Chef Brian Robinson cures all his own bacon in-house and is a firm believer in the foodie philosophy that, “everything tastes better with bacon,” a philosophy that he looks forward to sharing with his guests through his specially created Bacon Tasting Menu being offered for the duration of the Week of Bacon. Priced at $30 per person, you can view the full menu here.

3 Bar and Grill - 2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington

For more information or reservations please call (703)524.4440 or visit

– Jennie Whistler


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