Day: July 1, 2015

Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Chef’s Special – Executive Chef Ricardo Planas

By: Chester Simpson Executive Chef Ricardo Planas Union Street Public House 121 South Union Street Old Town Alexandria 703-518-1785   Originally from the DC area, Chef Ricardo Planas brings over 20 years of experience to Union Street. Formally trained at the French Culinary Institute, Planas has worked at some of the finest restaurants and pubs in New York City, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, including Tavern on the Green, Red Sage, Jean-Louis Restaurant at the Watergate Hotel and Café du Parc at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.  Chef Ricardo has been able to make a strong impact on each of the restaurants he’s served through his vast knowledge of the world’s cuisine and his passion for incorporating fresh herbs to elevate the foods’ flavors. When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career? I’ve cooked since I was a kid. I watched Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan on weekend mornings. As for career choices, I’ve always said, I didn’t choose this life. It chose me. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. I started out in the butcher shop of an ethnic grocery store then dishwasher and on up. I’ve also been a server and bartender and a front of the house manager. Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career? Certainly, Chef Jean-Louis Palladin was an enormous influence on me even though I doubt he would’ve known that before he passed. He was such an extraordinarily talented cook first and foremost and he was nearly solely responsible for so many ingredients that we now take for granted being available in the US. He was cooking “farm-to-table” in 1979! Nobody knew what spring mix or mesclun lettuce was. But he went and found farmers to produce it for him. Foie…

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History, History Column

History July 2015

If Ferdinand Magellan’s 1519 voyage marks the advent of globalization, then former President Jimmy Carter—the alleged father of alternative fuels— appreciates not only his pluck but also the environmental benefit of the windblown sail.  Carter was the first U.S. President to openly criticize America’s dependence on foreign oil.  True to his cause, in April 2014 he urged President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. James Earl Carter, age 90, is a 1947 Naval Academy graduate who speaks with a southern twang; a Baptist and former Georgia Governor.   He narrowly defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential race.   The Watergate scandal still loomed and Carter argued the moral imperative. “One distinguishing characteristic of really civilized men is foresight; we have to, as a nation, exercise foresight for this nation in the future; and if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!” President Theodore Roosevelt said in 1908. On January 26, 1977 President Carter requested Congress to pass emergency energy legislation. “Nothing more clearly illustrates the serious consequences of our long delay in creating a comprehensive national energy policy than does this legislation,” Carter explained. “Our [energy] program will emphasize conservation,” Carter said on February 2, 1977.  “The amount of energy being wasted which could be saved is greater than the total energy that we are importing from foreign countries.” “We must face the fact that the energy shortage is permanent,” Carter concluded, “and emphasize research on solar energy and other renewable energy sources; as well as maintain strict safeguards on necessary atomic energy production.”  In 1971 the U.S. had 22 commercial nuclear power plants in full operation.  “Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people,” Carter continued on April 18, 1977.  “This difficult effort will be…

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Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

Pets of the Month – July 2015

Banjo (A063684): Howdy, y’all! We’d like to tell you a little bit about our great friend named Banjo. Banjo is a neutered male Beagle, estimated to be about four years old. Usually you’ll see him with a wagging tail and a toy hanging out of his mouth because he LOVES to play! Banjo promises that if you welcome him into your home, he’ll fill your life with happiness and your house with the music of his squeaker toys. If you’re looking for a dog sweeter than southern tea who will make every day feel like a holiday, come adopt Banjo today! “Thanks to a generous sponsor, Banjo’s adoption fees have been paid!”   McGonagall (A063949): Have you met McGonagall? McGonagall is a spayed female Domestic Shorthair, estimated to be about three years old. She, along with seven other cats, has quite a unique story to tell. They were discovered by a Good Samaritan who heard meows coming from an abandoned U-Haul, and then were brought to the shelter by one of our Animal Services Officers. Since then, all of the cats have made dramatic transformations! McGonagall sometimes needs a moment to warm up to strangers, but she is a lovely cat who is wise beyond her years! Come take a chance on her and find out how magical she is!

Notes from the Publisher

Publisher’s Notes July 2015

You may have noticed that we have the Grand Canyon on our July cover. You might be thinking to yourself, “What does this have to do with Virginia or anywhere else in our distribution area?” Actually there are a lot of east coast references that we discovered as we made or our way west on our road trip. We decided to combine a high school reunion, visiting friends and visiting places I had never seen before and take a road trip. We visited Lexington, Kentucky where Secretariat became famous, but did you know that the great race horse was foaled in Virginia. The fabled Route 50 begins in Ocean City, Maryland and stretches west to Sacramento, California. While the Interstate system is the peoples’ choice for auto travel, Route 50 still meanders through small towns and big cities. This is the route for those with time on their hands. Taking this two week drive opened my eyes to parts of this country that I have never seen. As I write this I am sitting in a farm house in Wyoming where I watched team roping practice yesterday. Went to the Corner Bar last night where the locals meet and I can still buy a $3.00 Gin & Tonic. I have seen the Grand Canyon and gotten my Kicks on Route 66. I have left 120 sweltering degree temperatures in Grand Junction, Colorado, driven to the top of Grand Mesa where the temps dropped to 72. It is a great country out there. Sketch out a route, make a plan, and take a trip. Visit new places, visit old friends and make new ones. Don’t forget to check out all of the other attention worthy columns in this issue. The likes of Jimmy Deaton’s garden progress in the Urban Garden column,…

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Business Profile

Kilwins – “Sweet in every Sense since 1947”

I must walk down King Street, especially the lower 6 blocks, 10-15 times a week and lately it seems like there are new stores opening up every other day! On a recent trek, I stumbled upon the newly opened Kilwins candy and ice cream store that opened in the old P&C Fine Art space at 212 King. What a nice addition to our main drag! I must have been living under a rock since I moved to this area in 1992 but I had no idea that “Kilwins” is a pretty big deal in these parts. I do like ice cream and my fair share of caramels and dark chocolate but it isn’t something I actively seek out – that has changed, however, since I found this place! For those of you who are like me, here is a little background information on this Michigan-based concept that I found on their website: “Since 1947 Kilwins has been a celebrated part of Americana having earned a reputation for providing high quality products and excellent service. Our heritage was built on the simple premise of creating our products from the finest ingredients and providing customers with great service. Today we continue the tradition by uniquely combining high quality products with a warm friendly customer experience that is supported through a successful community of caring owner operators. We continue to offer the finest quality, traditional down-home confections and ice cream that are kitchen made fresh from premium ingredients and original recipes. Our values are simple; Treat others as you want to be treated, Do your best, and Have fun! These values translate directly to a culture of people who are driven to provide an exceptional confectionery experience. Coupled with our high quality products, in-store craftsmanship, and genuinely friendly staff we create an atmosphere…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Art Blooms: Fabulous Floral Fantasies

Weekend Exhibit Featuring more than 25 Floral Designers Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Solomons is excited to announce the Art Blooms: Fabulous Floral Fantasies exhibit that will be open for just two days, July 18th and 19th from 10am to 5pm each day. Art Blooms is a weekend exhibit held in the Dennis Murray Arts Building, featuring the work of more than 25 floral designers from across the region. Each floral designer is assigned a work of art currently in the Main and Mezzanine Galleries and is invited to create a floral arrangement inspired by that work of art. The designers are asked to draw inspiration from two exhibits this year. The first exhibit,  Cosmos: Imagining the Universe, captures how artists render the work of scientists, authors, explorers, astronomers, cartoonists, Trekkies, LARPers, astrologers, and philosophers. This exhibit embraces not only what science has revealed about space, but what humans have imagined about the cosmos. The second exhibit, Heroes & Villains: Exploring Archetypes Through Art, celebrates the complexities and nuances of heroes and villains that populate history, literature, popular culture, folklore, mythology, psychology, and other realms of human experience and expression. The resulting floral arrangement beautiful, and provocative and not to be missed. This year marks the fifth year for Art Blooms, the exhibit co-hosted by the Calvert Garden Club and Ann’s Circle of Annmarie Garden. Don’t miss the Free Floral Design Demonstration on Saturday 10:30am – Noon. Admission to the exhibit is FREE. About Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, Annmarie Garden is located in scenic Solomons, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay. The sculpture garden features a walking path that meanders through the forest past permanent and loaned sculpture, including more than 35 works of art on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art….

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Westward Ho to the Grand Canyon

This month’s Road Trip is a bit longer than most we have written about over the past 27 years. Even though this trip will cover over 3,000 miles, they are miles we have all traveled before either in car or by watching TV shows. These were shows from my generation…Route 66 is one. Grab a cup of coffee and come along with us as we travel across country. Our first stop was Lexington Kentucky – a little under 600 miles away. We had the good fortune to stay with our friends Clayton and Ashley Embly and their 8 year old daughter Savannah. These folks are important because they live and work in the heart of the thoroughbred community in Lexington. Blue grass country, bourbon and the home of the greatest thoroughbreds in the world. On our first day there Clayton and Savannah treated us to breakfast at the Track Kitchen at Keeneland.   Eating breakfast with jockeys, trainers and owners of race horses was a special treat. After breakfast we went to check out the morning workouts. In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Keeneland was ranked #1 of the top ten tracks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. He spring meet contains several preps for the Kentucky Derby, the most notable of which is the Blue Grass Stakes. The fall meet features several Breeder’s Cup preps. Most of the racing scenes of the 2003 movie Seabiscuit were shot at Keeneland, because its appearance has changed relatively little in the last several decades. Folks in Virginia can get a taste of the thrill of Thoroughbreds by attending one of the many hunts, steeple chase races or point…

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Vengeance is Mine

CIVIL DISCOURSE, JULY 1865 The Union officially executed only two Confederates as war criminals, though there were probably over 1000 military tribunals for other crimes. These two were Henry Wirz, commandant of Andersonville prison, and Champ Ferguson, a partisan and very possibly the meanest Scotch-Irish SOB ever. Wirz was Swiss, coming to America after the failed European revolutions in 1848. A university man, he opened up a medical practice and was a successful doctor when he entered the Confederate army as a private in 1861. He was wounded in the Seven Days battles in 1862, losing the use of his right arm, but promoted captain for his valor. Reliable and intelligent, he advanced to become a general’s aide and was later entrusted with Confederate dispatches to Confederate envoys in Europe. Upon his return, Wirz was assigned to a prison in Richmond, where his talents as an administrator were recognized. In April of 1864, Captain Wirz was assigned to the newly-opened Andersonville POW camp in Georgia. Andersonville was awful – makeshift tents, men sleeping on the ground, short rations, no firewood or cooking utensils, lice, scurvy and other diseases, bad water full of human waste, and ultimately predatory gangs testing Darwinian Theory. Andersonville received about 45,000 POWs, of which about 13,000 perished – about the same as its Yankee counterpart at Point Lookout, actually. For which Dr. Wirz receives unfair condemnation. Wirz did not choose the site or the water supply. If the prisoners were on short rations, so were the guards, all of which had something to do with Sherman “making Georgia howl” in 1864. Wirz was neither a dummy nor a sadist. Recognizing that feeding and caring for the Yankee POWs was beyond his resources, in July of 1864 Wirz released five prisoners with a petition signed by thousands…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Foti’s Restaurant-A Culinary Delight in Culpeper

For this months restaurant showcase we decided to return to Culpeper, Virginia and visit a small town with big restaurants. By big, I don’t mean size, but rather taste, and one of the best is Foti’s Restaurant. The husband and wife team of Frank and Sue Maragos, who met when he was a sous chef and she worked the front of the house at the Inn at Little Washington, opened Foti’s in 2005 and have been enjoying success ever since. When they opened in 2005, the restaurant was located in the 100 block of East Davis Street in Culpeper. It was a beautiful venue that shouted elegance. For the special occasion dinner, this was perfect, but for more frequent and casual dining, there were other options. This has all changed. Foti’s moved one block to 110 East Davis Street. The new location is more open, more casual and has a reasonable size bar for that occasional drink. Other changes were added as well. Although they retained their favorite dishes on the new menu, they also added new, lighter fare dishes for the lunch crowd. Included in the new offerings are a homemade Soup of the Day, Foti’s B.A.L.T: bacon, avocado, lettuce, mayonnaise and sliced tomato in a four tortilla wrap, meatball sandwich, Foti’s Gyro, Foti’s Burger and a roasted beet sandwich. Their Starters and Salads include Crispy Fried Buffalo Frog Legs, Garlic sautéed Snails, Prosciutto wrapped Duck Confit, Corn Crusted Oysters, Shrimp Lollipops and a Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad. The favorite Foti’s that were brought over from the old menu include for starters, Cedar Plank Roasted Brie, Vanilla Roasted Maine Lobster, Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Tower, Warm Kale and Butternut Squash Sauté. The main courses are Surf and Turf a la Greque and Pan Seared Duck Breast. To…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Exploring VA Wines – July 2015

When I graduated college in 1986, Syracuse University’s Operations Management program did not offer a structured career path leading me to wine production and eventually to entrepreneurism. With the loving support of my partner (and eventually, wife) I took big risks and blazed my own trail. College gave me the knowledge with which to work, and more importantly, established a building base to continue learning throughout my career. I learned the pride of physical accomplishment, teamwork and patience. I also learned important lessons in how the industry worked that I continue to utilize years later in my own business. All of this process took time and hard work. There were many days where I wished I could have moved up faster, made more money, got higher recognition or actually use my degree in my career. The reality is that my degree was helping me every day; I just could not see it at the time. Earning my degree helped my brain think in a certain way, gaining additional knowledge that was not always taught by a teacher or a lesson plan. Putting the time in as I did gave me the understanding, experience and viewpoint that has made everything else since then a success. I am not writing this to brag, but to help identify and manage the expectations of the young folks out there looking to find their trail. I believe that much of our society gives our young people expectations that work can have shortcuts to success. I spent many hours playing Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo system trying to accomplish certain levels, but one day I was taught the shortcuts and my learning process changed a bit. I see many kids these days who are always looking for the shortcuts. The reality is that when 30…

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