Day: February 28, 2019

Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright Miriam R. Kramer Do you have a middle–schooler who loves hiking and rock-climbing but doesn’t like to read? Or a grandchild interested in nature, science, geography, technology, and the environment? Or a son or daughter who loves videogames and puzzles? Trudi Trueit’s Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret is fast-paced adventure to hook them all. The first in a mystery series, it intends to entertain children while inspiring them to explore, collaborate with each other, and take responsibility for conserving the world around them. It succeeds. This work is published by National Geographic Kids Books under a new imprint called Under the Stars. The Nebula Secret is an exciting mystery that incorporates some familiar themes in children’s literature. Cruz Coronado is a kind, intelligent twelve-year-old from Hawaii who loves surfing and solving puzzles. He has just been accepted to the Explorer Academy, an elite school that only accepts 23 students per year. Although his scientist mother passed away mysteriously while working in a research lab there, his dad reluctantly lets him enroll. Luckily for Cruz, his Aunt Marisol, who works as an anthropology teacher, can look out for him. Cruz flies to Washington, DC to attend the prestigious school. There he finds an international band of equally precocious friends who already have some expertise in science, exploration, photography, and advanced technologies. A world-renowned faculty of Ph.D.s and explorers will teach them to become well-rounded scientists, journalists, and adventurers ready to seek truth, preserve the planet, and improve human existence. The Academy’s motto? “To discover. To innovate. To protect.” If these lofty goals make this story sound too earnest or heavy for elementary or middle school kids, don’t be alarmed. Explorer Academy is like Hogwarts for talented teens interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. As in…

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Dining Out, Restaurant Guide, Wining & Dining

River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar

By the Gastronomes River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar In October of 2013 Bill Ross and his wife Caroline Bruder Ross opened their dream…River Bend Bistro in the Hollin Hall shopping center. An accomplished chef, Caroline had always wanted her own place. In 2013 they made it happen and today have a very popular and successful restaurant catering to the locals as well as some of their longtime friends from Old Town. Conveniently located between Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria, River Bend has become a go-to place along Fort Hunt Road. The restaurant features wines from around the world and their seasonal menu relies on locally sourced products. I might mention here that the wine selection is one of the most rounded out and complete in the area. There are offerings in each area that run the gamut and are sure to please any palate. Another bonus is that the wines are very reasonably priced, which is a testament of Caroline’s years of managing a local wine store years ago. The restaurant is casually comfortable with tables along the far wall, four tops throughout the dining room leading up to a very comfortable L-shaped bar. The staff is well trained and very friendly. We try to make it up there at last twice a month for lunch so we can visit Kathy Coombs behind the bar. We thought that March would be a good time to write about River Bend because on March 19th Caroline will introduce her spring menu. You can go early in the month and then again later in the month to see what changed. The quality of the offerings are top drawer and the portions are a perfect size to allow room for an appetizer or one of their enticing desserts. Appetizers or “Snacks” range…

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Behind the Bar, Wining & Dining

Behind the Bar: Kyle McFarland

Kyle McFarland Irish Whisper 177 Fleet Street National Harbor 301-909-8859           Kyle pulls a perfect “Half and Half” – Harp on the bottom and Guinness on the top How did you get started in the bartending business? I started in the restaurant business almost 13 years ago as a simple door guy. Once I graduated from college in 2009, there weren’t many jobs available due to the housing market issue with the exception of restaurants. There always seems to be work in the hospitality business. Over the next 10 years I worked my way up from a server to a bartender and the rest is history. What is your biggest bartender’s pet peeve? My major pet peeve is when a bar is extremely busy and it’s your turn to order drinks and #1 you don’t know what you want or #2 you can’t remember what you are buying for all your friends. “Uhh”… the worst answer to give a bartender when it’s busy. What is the cleverest thing a customer has done to entice you to give them a free drink? In years past, I was pretty good at drinking Irish car bombs and it got to the point where people would try to race me. I would always get “I can beat you, you’re not that fast” comments from customers. So…I would make them a deal….”If you can beat me, I will buy them, but if I win it’s on your tab”. I think that I’m about 90% when it comes to winning. What is/are the best/worst pickup line(s) you have overheard at the bar? “Are you my appendix? I don’t know what you do or how you work but I feel like I should take you out.” To my shock she kept talking…

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Personality Profile

Billy Reilly, The Fastest Bartender…Winning (and Working) at Life

By Lori Welch Brown Billy Reilly, The Fastest Bartender…Winning (and Working) at Life I thought I had a strong work ethic, but this month’s Personality Profile, Billy Reilly, is making me rethink my game.  After an hour phone call, I felt like I had been bowled over by the world’s fastest bartender (which by the way, he has held that title) not to mention most gregarious Irishman in the DMV.  As a self-proclaimed Army brat, Billy lived in 22 different states (as well as one foreign country) before his dad settled the family in Virginia back in 1969.  After college, like many new grads, he started bartending and realized he was not only good at it, he was GREAT at it.  I won’t say what year, but let’s just say he was a bartender before mixology was a thing.  His first gig was at Kilroy’s in Springfield (he thanks the Thomas family for his start there).  He went on to work at many of the area’s hottest establishments.  For those of you looking for a throwback moment—think Lulus, Samantha’s, Champions, and Ha’Penny Lion.  He had his foot in both the DC & VA markets and fondly remembers DC in its ‘wild west’ days.  For Billy, bartending was his sanctuary, his safe space.  “When I got behind the bar, I had to leave all my crap at the door.  I became everything to everybody—psychologist, entertainer, friend, etc.—it was about them, not me.”  One of Billy’s working credos was to work until they no longer had to introduce themselves—reminiscent of that famous Bostonian bar, Cheers, a place where everyone knows your name and they’re always glad you came. A game changer happened for Billy in 1992 when he flew out to Vegas to join 900 other bartenders in a worldwide bartending competition…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

“Rogues, Vagabonds, the Idle and Dissolute” and the Luck of the Irish

“Rogues, Vagabonds, the Idle and Dissolute” and the Luck of the Irish By Jeff McCord As we anticipate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, it’s fun to think about the role of the Irish in the Virgin Islands and Virginia.  Sons and daughters of Eire have been pioneers, planters, pirates, entertainers and much more throughout the Western Hemisphere. It all started in 1603, when English King James 1 declared the people of Ireland dispossessed by invading English armies and occupiers to be “rogues, vagabonds, idle and dissolute.”  That made them eligible for deportation as indentured servants to West Indian sugar plantations, which needed cheap labor. Those not deported often became sailors or joined the British military out of desperation. A sailor named Francis Magnel was the first Irish man known to visit both the Virgin Islands and Virginia.  He served in the band of explorers and colonizers that landed on the then uninhabited island of St. Thomas in the spring of 1607 before continuing northward to found Jamestown in Virginia.  Less than 100 years later, ten percent of the sugar plantations that would be established on St. Thomas were owned by Irish men and, by the mid 1750s, most of the plantations on the larger, more easily farmed island of St. Croix were owned by the English and Irish, according to the historian William W. Boyer who chronicled “America’s Virgin Islands.” Two strong-willed Irish women made their mark in the Caribbean.  One was the pirate Anne Bonny and the other the famed actress Maureen O’Hara.  Bonny, born in County Cork about 1698, travelled with her parents to Charleston, SC as a child and grew to become a “fierce and courageous” teenager who spent a lot of time with sailors in saloons, says pirate story teller Captain Charles Johnson (a likely…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

The C Word

By Lori Welch Brown The C Word I joined a new club recently—it’s not incredibly exclusive, the initiation is daunting, and you will be happy to pay your dues and look for the nearest exit.  I wasn’t in a hurry to join the ranks of The Colonoscopy Club, and now I understand why.  Holy Toledo, Batman!  I thought about changing the name of his column from Open Space to Cleansed (and CLOSED) Space. Colonoscopy—yet another ‘c’ word that we have come to dread.  Granted, it wasn’t THAT bad, but I really wish they would come up with a medical procedure that we actually enjoy.  Is it too much to ask that they throw some research dollars at inventing a test that makes us feel like we are lying on a beach somewhere vs. someone looking up our newly excavated private parts? And how is it even possible that someone invented a tiny personal computer that we can hold with one hand and order a couch and dinner simultaneously, and yet they can’t invent a prep liquid that doesn’t taste like Drano?  And, while we are at it, can someone please work on injecting a little fashion influence into the medical industry?  If you weren’t depressed, you will be when you put that hospital gown on and look in the mirror.  Let’s start with the color—can I get some fuchsia or maybe a nice tangerine? Ever since I joined the 50 Club a couple of years ago, I’ve noticed that my membership options have left a little something to be desired.  I’m actually looking forward to joining AARP just for the cool tote bag—which I definitely did not get when I joined the Colonoscopy Club, the Hip Replacement Club or the Cardiac Bypass Club.  And—hey—if being in the Colonoscopy Club gets…

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

15 VIP Experiences in Virginia Wine Country

By Nancy Bauer 15 VIP Experiences in Virginia Wine Country Frequent winery travelers are asking more from Virginia. With cupboards full of logo’d wine glasses at home and hundreds of hours of experience logged at tasting bars, serious winos have begun looking beyond the bar for more personal experiences. They want to trade stories with the winemaker, and taste from the barrel. They want a little extra space and some peace and quiet to enjoy the peace and quiet. They want to be a VIP. And wineries are noticing. Here are a handful of the types of elevated experiences wineries are offering, ranging from a reserved table and private pourer at Bluemont Vineyards to a small-group seminar at Linden Vineyards with Jim Law, Virginia’s pre-eminent grower. Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville Library 1821 Tastings Through the last three decades, the winery has taken care to reserve leading wines from exemplary vintages. Reserve wines are now offered in Barboursville’s lovely private Library 1821.  Signature wines  Octagon and Paxxito are always available, along with older distinguished vintages of more limited supply. Bottle purchases available. Starting at $25/person; Friday – Monday; no reservation needed. Bluemont Vineyard, Bluemont Specialty Experiences Five different specialty experiences are offered for groups, including private vineyard and production area tour and tasting ($30/person); pick-your-own fruit at Great Country Farms across the street, followed by sangria-making ($30/person); guided blind-tasting of six wines ($30/person); private, guided seated tasting ($22); and table service, which includes a reserved table and dedicated server ($12/person). By reservation. Chateau O’Brien, Markham Library Cellar Wine Tasting Bi-annual event to taste and purchase past vintages, including Irish cheeses, baguettes and local chocolates. $50, with reservation. Also available by request, on weekends. DuCard Vineyards, Etlan Gourmet Food and Wine Program Small group, upscale wine and food pairing led by Chef Kris…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events

38th Annual Parade will be the Largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the D.C. Region in 2019

38th Annual Parade will be the Largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the D.C. Region in 2019 WHAT: 38th Annual Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Fun Dog Show Visitors and residents are invited to don their green and line King Street in Old Town Alexandria to kick off the region’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the 38th Annual Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade, presented by the Ballyshaners – a nonprofit organization that aims to promote and preserve Irish heritage. More than 2,000 participants will march in the parade, including dog rescue groups, pipe and drum bands, the Notre Dame Alumni Band, historical re-enactors, Shriners and Kena cars, and Irish dancers. Parade-goers come early for the Fun Dog Show on Market Square, which benefits the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. More than 30 costumed dogs will compete in a range of categories, including Best Human/Canine Look-Alike, Most Talented and Most St. Paddy’s Spirit. The dogs will then kick off the parade at 12:30 p.m.   WHEN: Saturday, March 2nd TIME: Parade starts at 12:30 p.m. and ends at 2 p.m.; the Fun Dog Show is from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. WHERE: Parade starts at King and Alfred Streets and ends at Lee and Cameron Streets; the Fun Dog Show is on Market Square in front of City Hall at 301 King Street, Alexandria, VA WEBSITE: