Day: October 1, 2018

Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Masters of Cuisine: Chef Oscar Ordonez

Masters of Cuisine Chef Oscar Ordonez LaTasca 607 King Street Old Town Alexandria 703-299-9810 Chef Oscar presents the popular Spanish Gambas al Ajillo – Fresh prawns, fresh garlic, olive oil, dried Guindilla peppers & fresh parsley. Chef Oscar began his education in Honduras, assisting the Instituto Nacional de Formacion Profesional in his home town. His curiosity brought him to the United States where he started his culinary career like so many others, as a dishwasher. After years working as a dishwasher he was promoted to line cook by Chef Josu Zubikarai. Oscar worked under Chef Josu’s wing and in 2013 Chef Josu, La Tasca’s corporate chef, helped Oscar join the Carlos Rosario culinary academy in Washington DC. Oscar spent days studying at the culinary academy and evenings working at La Tasca DC. After two years he graduated and was promoted to Executive Chef at La Tasca DC. Oscar made the move to La Tasca Alexandria in late 2016. Oscar continues his education as a chef, just this year he enrolled at L’academie de Cuisine. What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary field? I have been cooking since I can remember. I was always helping in my family restaurant, knowing that someday I wanted to become a chef. Since a very young age, I felt the call to the culinary arts and have never stopped learning and studying. The main reason I came to the United States, was the opportunity to pursue my passion. Who or what has made the biggest influence on you during your career? My mother and grandmother were my first influences in cooking, they taught me how to work with flavors and the importance of the basics. As I grew, my own passion for cooking and desire to learn more, I found Gaston Acurio to…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Old House Cosmopolitan Grill – A Taste of Germany In Old Town!

By the Gastronomes Old House Cosmopolitan Grill – A Taste of Germany In Old Town! When we started the Old Town Crier in 1988 our first office was in the 100 block of North Henry Street. On the east corner of North Henry and Cameron Street a small restaurant opened called Pasta Peasant that was one of our regular “hang outs”. There have been a few other restaurants in that location over the years and today the new incarnation is the Old House Cosmopolitan Grill. Chef and owner Ivica Svalina has done an excellent job of creating a very welcoming eatery. The warm and cozy atmosphere in the dining room, the open kitchen, and the comfortable bar on the lower level are very welcoming. There is also a second floor that opens up to more dining, a nice room for meetings and a nice patio deck above the bar for alfresco dining or just enjoying happy hour. Chef Ivica, or Ivan as he likes to be called, has owned the successful Cosmopolitan Grill at 7770 Richmond Highway for 15 years and decided to extend his reach to Old Town three months ago. The price was right so he purchased the building and began the makeover. The dining room is a combination of dark brown ceiling with a rustic burgundy exposed brick wall, dark tables and chairs with a tan colored bench seat that runs the length of the wall. The bar area is in the back of the building so as not to disturb those who appreciate dining in a quiet atmosphere. It is small but it is fully stocked and there is a large high definition television for your watching pleasure. This is the only TV in the building and we like that. We were informed that they serve…

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Beauty & Health, Featured Post, Fitness

Keeping up the Motivation

By Nicole Flannigan Keeping up the Motivation Now that summer is in full swing and the days are getting hotter and longer it’s easier to find excuses not to exercise. For some people it’s an everyday battle just to get up and get to the gym, although I’m sure most of us find that once we walk through the door of the club it’s not all that bad. By the time the workout is done, you feel like a different person than the one that rolled out of bed just over an hour ago. Weather it’s working out before the sun comes up or taking a 20 minute power walk to break up the busy work day, here a few easy ways to keep up the good work this summer. 1. Workout Early In the Morning – If you get up and go early you will increase your chances of getting in a good workout. At the beginning of the day, we have the least amount of excuses for skipping a workout. If getting up early enough is the problem, try limiting your snooze to five minutes. This way, you won’t fall back into a deep sleep. Once you get into a routine of getting up and out early it will get easier. Not to mention you will get to work feeling more focused and energized. 2. Lift Before You Run – Instead of sitting on a cardio machine and sweating your calories away try doing a quick toning routine pre-cardio. Strength training is something that demands a little bit more attention and skill than running on an elliptical so it works best to do these exercises first. 3. Finish Strong and Increase Your Metabolism – After your toning routine, jump on the treadmill for a high intensity cardio workout…

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Arts & Entertainment, Featured Post, High Notes

“Broken” by lovelytheband

By Ron Powers “Broken” by lovelytheband   What a lovely band – “lovelytheband” consists of vocalist Mitchy Collins, guitarist Jordan Greenwald and drummer Sam Price. After meeting in a nightclub in West Hollywood in 2016, they formed lovelytheband, an Indie Rock band, and soon after had their hit single “Broken” released in April 2017. With the catchy chorus and relatable lyrics, it came as no surprise that “Broken” not only made the Billboard Hot 100 at #48, but also on the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart at #1 while setting the record for longest-running track on alternative radio. Not bad for a band formed just a year prior. While this song targets a large percentage of alternative genre fans, it also pushes the envelope into mainstream pop with comparisons to “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People, “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities and “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. “Broken” is a song about finding somebody with issues the same as you might have. With it’s happy beat and melancholy lyrics and a chorus containing verses like “I like that you’re broken / Broken like me / Maybe that makes me a fool” followed by “I like that you’re lonely / Lonely like me / I could be lonely with you”, you can’t help but connect to the song and relish in the hope of new love found with somebody who is “damaged” the same as you. Appropriately, on the meaning behind the song, vocalist Collins said, “We all have our demons we fight every day. It’s about finding someone whose problems complement yours. Perfectly imperfect. Everybody is a little broken inside, trying to find their band aid.” He also explained the song by saying, “This song is about finding someone who is…

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Notes from the Publisher

Publisher’s Notes

By Bob Tagert As I write this we are bracing for the last rain storm of September. I am sure that we are all tired of the rain, but none more so than our Virginia winery friends. As they are getting ready to celebrate Virginia Wine Month, the wineries are hopeful that October will bring some relief from the weather. They have been devastated by rain thru all of 2018. Doug Fabbioli discusses the effects it has had this year in his Exploring VA Wine column in this issue. I encourage you to read about what too much rain can do to the grapes. The rain has not only damaged some of the fruit but has kept attendance down and in some cases, floods have closed wineries numerous times. As Philip Strother of Philip Carter Winery stated, “This season will certainly put a number of wineries out of business. Thankfully, we have built up an inventory over the past 10 years which will enable us to continue forward without any problems.” He went on to say, “We are down close to 10% this year in gross sales, when we should be growing. I just lost my entire crop, which is another $60,000 in grapes. We could use some love now.” Road Trip this month is about heading to the mountains and visiting some of these wineries. The air will hopefully be cooler and crisper and that makes for clear skies to better see the foliage and view the mountains. Taking it south, in the Caribbean Connection we have a great interview with the owner of the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the BVI’s and their new rums – Soggy Dollar Old Dark and Soggy Dollar Island Spiced. The Dollar is owned and operated by a DMV local….

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Rules of Civility

The Rules of Civility Miriam R. Kramer As we enter fall, I decided to snuggle with my sleepy pug and a lyrical story of young New Yorkers set in a moneyed, elite world at the end of the Great Depression. Amor Towles, also known for his celebrated A Gentleman in Moscow, has constructed an alternately down-at-heels and dazzling comedy of manners in The Rules of Civility. Set primarily in 1937-38, both those who have come to make their fortunes and entitled heirs treat New York City as their playground. New York typist Katey Kontent works to support herself, discovering Manhattan with her roommates from various walks of life. Katey, a second-generation immigrant from Brighton Beach, lives in a Depression-era boardinghouse with her friend, Eve Ross, a lovely, independent Midwesterner who has come to New York with limited funds. Her cool, urbane voice guides the novel, describing the people and places that cross her path. She navigates all levels of society with intelligence and wit, able to throw out bons mots and chameleon her way through a crowd. When the youthful pair of Katey and Eve head out to a melancholy jazz club on New Year’s Eve, 1937, their gleaming futures seem so far off as to be nonexistent. Then they meet Tinker Grey, a beautifully dressed young banker, seemingly the heir to family wealth, privilege, and a stellar education. In this chance encounter, Katey, Eve, and Tinker find themselves in a mutually enchanted triangle. Young New Yorkers in wildly different circumstances, they set off into the New Year ready to experience each others’ worlds with no knowledge of the changes their meeting will make to their relationships and mutual fortunes. As a future editor and Towles’s narrator, Katey is an avid and omnivorous reader. She imbibes everything from modern poetry…

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Featured Post, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Everyone’s favorite park is waiting for your fall visit

Everyone’s favorite park is waiting for your fall visit By Julie Reardon Every fall, we try to share scenic drives people can enjoy within an hour or so from Alexandria where you can see peak fall colors and perhaps an interesting stop or winery to visit along the way. With more wineries and local markets opening every year, it can be a challenge to pick the right one. And if you live in Northern Virginia, you’ve probably been told every fall to avoid the Skyline Drive, the road that goes through the Shenandoah National Park, when the foliage is at peak color, because it’s so crowded. The Shenandoah National Park is the beloved favorite and most heavily used of all our local National Parks, and Skyline Drive may have more cars than usual on the weekends closest to peak predictions, but on a weekday you’d be surprised how little traffic there is.  Skyline Drive certainly has to rank up there as the prettiest road in the entire mid Atlantic, if not the East Coast. If you’ve never driven it, I can think of no good reason not to take a spin down it this fall. On a trip to a friend’s farm in the middle of Shenandoah Valley, I took a leisurely route including about 75 miles encompassing most of the 103-mile Skyline Drive. I hadn’t been on it since I was a child and wanted to see if the views were as big as I remembered and if it was worth the price of admission.  It was, and the mountains while not as big as childhood memory, were every bit as breathtaking. I think I appreciate the mystique and beauty of Shenandoah National Park even more.   It was one of those crisp, low humidity days where you could…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events, Events

October Alexandria Events

FESTIVALS 5th – 7th Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission: Friday, October 5: $42; Saturday, October 6: $48; Sunday, October 7: $38 George Washington’s Mount Vernon 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy. 703-780-2000 Celebrate the history of wine in Virginia with exclusive evening tours of the Mansion and cellar, appearances by George and Martha Washington, and a live blues band. Bring a blanket, relax on the east lawn overlooking the scenic Potomac River, and sample wines made in Virginia. During tours of the Mansion, visit the cellar where Washington stored his wine and learn about the successes and failures of our Founding Father’s endeavors with wine. 6th 23rd Annual Art on the Avenue 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: Free Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301 Art on the Avenue is a multicultural arts festival celebrating our community’s diversity through the arts in the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. This festival is held on the first Saturday in October, rain or shine. People are greeted by more than 300 artists (jewelers to silversmith and beaders, woodworkers, pottery makers, soap crafters, glass makers, unique painters, sculptures, and fabric artists), musicians (Irish, folk, rock n’ roll, country and more), and food vendors (hot dogs, BBQ, Indian, crab cakes, chocolate bananas dipped on a stick, and homemade cider donuts). Activities for children include stuff-your-own scarecrow, paint-a-pumpkin, lotus flower design and weave screen art to name a few. 12th – 14th Portside in Old Town Festival Old Town Alexandria Waterfront 1 King Street Free admission; $ for food and drink    In celebration of Old Town Alexandria’s new waterfront experience with the opening of a greatly expanded new park area at the foot of King Street and launch of the Portside in Old Town waterfront programming series, the Portside in Old Town Festival kicks off the fun with activities along the Potomac River. Festival-goers will enjoy free tours of the tall ship…

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Featured Post, History Column, Personality Profile

Howard Rogers – Maritime Artist and Renaissance Man

By Bob Tagert Howard Rogers – Maritime Artist and Renaissance Man Twenty-one years ago, the bridge over Spa Creek that connects Annapolis to Eastport, Maryland was closed for needed repairs. The bridge is the main connection between Annapolis and Eastport and having it closed insured that an economic loss was certain. A group of sailors and such all got together and decided to secede from Annapolis and the Maritime Republic of Eastport was born. (Google it for more information about the MRE). It was about this time that we first met Howard Rogers and learned of his colorful Raven Maritime Studio in Eastport. Progress claimed his studio years ago and Howard moved his residence and studio to 278 Hillsmere Drive just outside of Eastport but not far enough that he can’t ride is bike to his favorite mid-week happy hour at Davis Pub in Eastport. Recently we caught up with Howard at his weekend retreat, Ebb Tide Tavern, a short distance from his new digs…and yes, he came by bicycle. There are some people that you meet in life that are actually larger than life, and Howard, standing at 5’3 ½’’ and weighing 118 pounds, is larger than life. Howard is from Kent, a small town south of London. He had learned the trade of ship joiner, but work was hard to find so he decided to migrate to the USA. “It is a good trade, but nobody wanted me, so I developed an overwhelming desire to get the hell out of England,” he tells me. He arrived in the waterfront town of Urbana, Virginia and found work at a local boatyard. “I put my trade to use and started building boats,” he says. In 1971 Howard returned to England and got married at the ripe old age of 26….

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Business Profile

Random Harvest Home Furnishings

By Lani Gering Random Harvest Home Furnishings “Instant gratification takes too long” – Carrie Fisher Beth Aberg and Random Harvest have been in Old Town Alexandria almost as long as the Old Town Crier has been being published. We are talking almost 30 years. It is quite a feat for a retail business to be so successful for so many years in this day and age – especially in Old Town. Perhaps Aberg and her staff have created the right combination of quality inventory, talented designers and stellar customer service. While the Old Town location is her anchor, she also has Random Harvest in two other locations – Georgetown and Bethesda. When asked what brought her to Old Town those many years ago, she told me it was a classic case of following a spouse who had a promotion. They were living in New York City and had a store in Manhattan’s Upper West Side before they made the move.  When looking for possible locations for space in the area, Old Town Alexandria captured her attention. She tells me that she was looking for an urban space that also had an authentic “feel”. The mix of residential and commercial in Old Town was just what she was looking for and the rest is history. Let’s talk about the store. The inventory in the store is unique and ever evolving. This is a perfect case of “Quality vs Quantity”. The furnishings and accessories are pretty much one of a kind. Random Harvest does handle some limited edition pieces but that is as close as they get to carrying commercial lines. They pride themselves on using small vendors that handle a variety of pieces. The pricing at the store is such that there are pieces and accessories in every price range. The…

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