Month: January 2014

Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

Warning: Graphic Words and Images

Graphic novels have taken off in the world of publishing, as the line between books and cartoons with their heroes and their anti-heroes has begun disappearing in popular culture. They are no longer just comic books: they have something more obvious to say. Of course, not all of them are profound, any more than books are. Some books are now put together from popular blog posts as well, complete with pictures or drawings.  The blog too is bleeding into the novel or autobiography. Perhaps the most famous example of a classic graphic novel taken seriously is the series Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus: A Survivor’s Tale 2: And Here My Troubles Began, drawn and written by Art Speigelman. Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for Maus, a graphic novel that coolly delineated his own story and that of his father and mother, who were survivals of the Holocaust. It received some criticism when Spiegelman drew all the Jewish characters in his family as mice, while the Poles were pigs and the Nazis were spiky-whiskered cats in uniforms and jackboots.  Some felt it was too cozy a depiction of the Holocaust. I completely disagree, in that I think it made the Holocaust an approachable subject for an audience that might never have picked up a graphic novel before. The novel is by no means sentimental, however. It downplayed none of the ferocity the Nazis inflicted on Spiegelman’s family, although he occasionally displays black humor to leaven the situation. Maus and Maus II are now taught in some high schools.  One can sometimes get closer to understanding horror if it is depicted in a subtle fashion or with small details, without numbing and overwhelming readers by slamming horrific images and stories in their faces. Art Spiegelman did this brilliantly, even revealing his…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Brunch at the Grille

Now that we are into winter, we thought that we would take a different approach to our dining out column and write about a nice cozy brunch.  The Grille at the Morrison House has long been a favorite destination for local Alexandrians and now Chef Brian McPherson has introduced a Duck Press Brunch.  We went on a snowy Sunday morning in December and actually had a hard time trying to leave because of the warmth and ambiance the Grille provides. Back in the late 1970’s, Bob Morrison wanted to build a modern but period looking hotel and restaurant that would fit in with the architecture of Alexandria.  He accomplished that and more.  Today the property is owned and operated by Kimpton Hotels, and they continue to make it better. The Grille itself is what I would call masculine, with dark red leather chairs, dark wood tables and a comfortable bar that is not too big.  Ceiling to hip-level windows allow for a vertical view outside which was perfect on this particular snowy day.  There is also a grand piano and pianist that provide welcome music during the brunch. As I mentioned earlier, the centerpiece of this brunch is a French duck press.  As roasted duck breast is served during the brunch, the remnants of the duck are placed in a brass press from Matfer Bourgeat. Pressure is then applied by screwing down the top of the press to extract additional juices, which are then flambéed to create an especially rich and flavorful sauce.  I would have to say that they are dead on. The duck breast was tender and bursting with flavor.  Originally developed in Paris in the 19th century, the complex dish is considered a delicacy. There is a system to executing this brunch effectively.  When you are first…

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Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

January 2014 Pets of the Month

Jimmy John Aaarrrooooooooo! Hello! My name is Jimmy John and I hope you’re looking for a tried and true hound because that’s what I am! I love to play outside, and I especially love to sniff! I love using my nose, so I would a home where I could go for long walks every day to use my spectacular sense of smell! I would also prefer a home with older kids because I’m not so great at sharing my food; you can ask a staff member for more information about that! So if you’re looking for a good old-fashioned hound dog, come see me today! Arroooo! Freckles Well hello there! I’m Freckles. Pleased to meet ya! I’m here at the AWLA looking for my forever home. You see I was found wandering the streets before a kind stranger brought me into the shelter so I could find a home of my own. I’m trying to be patient but I just get so excited every time I think about my future home! Imagine all the fun toys there will be…and the loving people that will shower me with attention. I just can’t wait! Could you be my new family? Come by and pay me a visit and see for yourself just how sweet I am. King Street Cats Adoption Calendar for January, 2014 For details please see our Website: Or contact us via email at:   King Street Cats 25 Dove Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 Every Saturday and Sunday from 1.30pm-4.30pm   Pro Feed Bradlee Shopping Center, 3690 King St, Alexandria, VA 22302 Every Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-4pm   Petco Unleashed 1101 S Joyce St, Arlington, VA 22202 Saturday, 4 January and Saturday, 18 January and Sunday, 19 January from 1pm-4pm   Dogma 2772 S Arlington Mill Dr,…

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Notes from the Publisher

Publisher Notes – January 2014

Well, another milestone met.  With this issue we start our 27th year of publishing the Old Town Crier, and like that little log building on the cover…we have weathered the storm.  It hasn’t been easy, but it sure has been fun!  Starting with no investment money and no business plan, we still made it work, and I think that was because of all of our friends who continued to encourage us, even when others tried to deny us. We have been lucky to have had inspired writers who have taken pen to paper each month, month in and month out, and produced articles worth reading.  Our covers, thanks to a lot of local photographers, have always been beautiful.  And clearly we could not have accomplished this, or survived over the past 26 years, if it were not for our advertisers and you, our readers, both to whom we are indebted. The years ahead are going to be exciting times. With our new web/blog version and Facebook page, we have truly entered the digital age, while maintaining the warmth and feel of a regional publication.  The best of all worlds I would say. The lay of the land is going to change over the next few years.  With the new MGM Casino Resort slated to open in 2016 across the Potomac River from Old Town, we can expect to see more visitors each year.  By that time Alexandria should be well on its’ way to implementing a new waterfront plan.  Check out the rendering of the new casino in the National Harbor section at the back of this publication. My deepest thanks to all of you who, over the years, have made the Old Town Crier something to be proud of…Thanks. Note: Don’t forget Restaurant Week January 17 to 26.  Check…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Welcome 2014!

By the time most of you are reading this issue, New Years Eve will have passed and you are probably in the middle of taking down the last of the season’s decorations! This is a bittersweet time of the year for many of us. We are sad that the holidays are over but happy that the hullabaloo that comes with them has died down. It’s a good time to take a break and get settled in for the winter for some of us and for others it’s the time to embark on new adventures. Either way, there is something in the Harbor to satisfy both. For those looking to take a break, it may be a good time to check out the Harbor’s premier spa, Relache! (see add on accompanying page) Relache is located in the Gaylord Hotel and Resort and was named one of “America’s Top 100 Spas” by Spas of America. Their focus is your health, wellness and relaxation. There are 12 very luxurious treatment rooms including one for couples overlooking the river. They offer massages, facials, and body, hand and foot therapies along with a host of the latest treatments. Also available is a co-ed river view relaxation room, saunas and steam rooms. All changing areas have private lockers, showers and personal amenities. This is a place to be no matter your gender. The Harbor is growing in leaps and bounds. The Tanger Outlet’s made their debut on Black Friday in November and appear to have been a very popular place for holiday shoppers. I must admit that I have yet to make my trek to the mall for a couple of reasons – I’m not a big “shopper” just for the sake of shopping in the first place and every time I drove by the parking…

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Behind the Bar, Wining & Dining

Rico Beetle

O’Connell’s Restaurant & Pub 112 King Street Old Town Alexandria 703-739-1124 How did you get started in the bar tending business? Shortly after I got out of the Navy I took a job working service bar at a very large restaurant. Here is where I pretty much learned to make all the drinks according to recipe specifics. After a bit I was moved to main bar. Here is where I cultivated my customer service skills. What is your bartender pet peeve? My pet peeve at the bar is rude, mean people. You can be picky or demanding, but if you are rude to me or the others around you then you can …leave. Do you have a funny pick up line you’ve heard that you can share with us? Best pickup lines are always just someone being sincere in asking ” Hi, how are you “? I think the days of ” what’s your sign “? are over. What have patrons done to try to get a free drink from you? Free drinks are a ” thank you ” from your bartender. They are earned through faithful patronage, good behavior and favorable gratuity. Can you tell us a funny story? There is a bar in Los Angeles, down the street from my cousins house. Anyway, whenever I go out there to visit we always stop in, and it’s always the same..a dingy, hole in the wall with a small karaoke stage and 3 passed out old men at the end of the bar. When it comes time for a Carlos P. to sing his song, one of the old men wakes up, stumbles to the stage and belts out the most perfect rendition of ” Me and Misses Jones “!  When he’s done, he can barely make it back…

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Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

Gallery Beat January 2014

For the last two months I have been writing about art fairs, from the perspective of art galleries and from the perspective of artists. I have discussed predatory galleries and dealers as well as unethical artists. Art fairs are very expensive. As I’ve noted before, many galleries risk everything to come to Miami, and I suspect that many are financially destroyed at the end of the week. And yet, many do well and return year after year. Between my years with the Fraser Gallery and now with AAAP, we’ve been returning to Miami for many years now. Other DMV and regional galleries that keep coming back are my good buds at Connersmith, Hamiltonian, and Virginia’s Mayer Fine Arts. They consistently take the financial risk and venture to Miami (and in some cases all over the US and Europe). Some newer participants are Morton Fine Arts and Adah Rose; both galleries did their first art fairs a year or two ago and both are enthusiastically now doing art fairs all over. Others have tried a year or two, crashed and burn and never return to the party. Is there a formula to this? What the magic that makes this work for some and not for others? I know of at least two galleries in the Mid Atlantic who have “financial backers” who absorb most or some of the financial risk involved in doing an art fair. Since these sort of galleries are very limited (who wouldn’t love to have a financial backer?), they are the “outlayers” in the formula for clicking the right button in the art fair game. Some non-profits have the economic stability to play consistently in the art fair game; and to make it easier for them, many art fairs have special, lower pricing for non-profits. So they are…

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Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Eric Nelson, Chocolatier

Artfully Chocolate 2003A Mount Vernon Avenue 703-635-7917 and 506 John Carlyle Street 703-575-8686 What brought you to the business of chocolate? My interest in chocolate took off in 2006 when I was looking to open my own business where I could show and sell my artwork.  I opened Artfully Chocolate in 2006 when I was nearly 50 years old as a way to combine my passions of fine chocolate and art.  I figured that they would both attract a similar type of customer.  For all of my adult life prior to that I was an executive in the telecommunications industry. Who has been your greatest inspiration? My biggest inspiration was my mother who lived life to the very fullest and who was always looking for ways to use every bit of God-given talent she had.  She inspired me to always look forward, to live bravely and to embrace change as a natural rhythm of life.  As a French Jew who grew up in France during World War II, she had a very difficult childhood and was never able to finish her high school education.  Eventually after raising children, she rose well beyond her background and received a bachelors degree and masters degree in her 40s and 50s.  She embodied the word “inspiration.” What chocolate concoction of yours has received the most attention? The part of the menu that has had the strongest reaction has been the Diva hot chocolate.  We came up with a dozen different flavor combinations for hot chocolate and named them after movie starlets from the 40s and 50s.  They have been amazingly well received.  Based on these drinks, Travel and Leisure Magazine has named us among the top places in the U.S. for hot chocolate–two years in a row.  Just this fall, Fodor Travel Company…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Exploring VA Wines

So do we start talking about New Year’s resolutions now? The start of a new year is certainly a time for goal evaluation and setting… for me, 2014 is a year for farming. We are currently working to plant out more of the land at the Fabbioli estate. We are planting four more acres of grapes, more hops, more veggies and more berries. This past year a lot of wineries, including us, were looking to purchase grapes that just were not available. The solution for the long term is that we use local land to grow what we need. Of course this means that we need to train more people to farm. The organization that I started this past year, Piedmont Epicurean and Agricultural Center, (PEAC) is set up to help develop new farmers and farming enterprises. The demand for local farm products continues to grow. The people in our region already seek out locally grown products, and are willing to pay a little more to support the local economy. In conjunction with PEAC, I have begun looking into the project that Mike Rowe (of “Dirty Jobs” TV series fame) is spearheading with his Mike Rowe Works Foundation. He has recognized a gap in skills and work ethic here in America today, where young folks are unwilling to get their hands dirty on skilled jobs. This dovetails right in with our needs here in Western Loudoun, where we need to grow more smart and dirty farmers. All of this fits together in a way where we are working hard, feeding ourselves, making a living and creating economically sustainable jobs that support our families and our community. Now if I can pull each of these pieces together through hard work, leadership, good communication and collaboration, I think I will have achieved…

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Business Profile

The (Happiest) Hour

I always appreciate meeting the local business owners and operators around the Alexandria area, but I must admit that some interviews and visits are mixing business with pleasure.  In preparation for the New Year, I was fortunate enough to meet with Victoria Vergason.  Victoria is the proud owner of The Hour, the very welcoming vintage glassware, barware, and cocktailware shop located right in the heart of Old Town at 1015 King Street.  Being the destination spot that is just a few months shy of its five-year anniversary, I imagine that many readers are well aware of this local business.  Nonetheless, if you enjoy your occasional (or frequent, no judgment) cocktail, you will want to read on.  From one-of-a-kind antique glassware, to the low-down on the best bars, restaurants, and cocktail recipes in town – The Hour can help make your parties memorable in 2014 and beyond. With a Master’s in Business Administration in International Project Finance, Victoria has the know-how to run a successful business.  She has turned her hobby and love for antiquing during graduate school into a career as she continues to build her industry.  I had the opportunity to learn about Victoria’s many projects and ventures, as well as the story behind her choice to call the store, The Hour.  She and her dedicated team have managed to build the only true brick and mortar vintage glassware shop in the country, deserving of a meaningful and memorable name.  The Hour was chosen in honor of Bernard DeVoto’s book, which is a commentary on how and why we drink, and most importantly, how to do so properly.  Much like Victoria and her store, DeVoto educates his readers and sheds light on the simple joys of the cocktail hour. With a clever name to support her growing success in…

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