Day: April 1, 2023

Business Profile

John Crouch Tobacconist – Another Old Town Icon

By Bob Tagert When I started the Old Town Crier in January of 1988, John Crouch Tobacconist was an established business in the 100 block of King Street. Over the years, as Old Town grew, the need for more space became more urgent. In the early 90’s the shop moved to their current location at 215 King Street. On February 1, 2022, the team of Tom Readmond, Dennis Polio and John Pann took over ownership of the iconic Old Town landmark and it remains the oldest continuous operating smoke shop in Alexandria. Recently the trio rolled up their shirt sleeves and gave the interior and humidor a complete makeover. Although the layout is much the same, the organization of the whole store has improved and their product is better displayed. In addition to updating the interior, they have also changed the logo, pictured here, and will soon implement it on all future marketing endeavors. The humidor has new lighting so the selection of cigars are more easily observed, making your selection easier.  Pann continues to seek out new lines of cigars that his customers may be looking for or that he might recommend. With over 200 brands and 10,000 cigars, the current selection is pretty good to begin with. If you really don’t know which cigar might suit you best, ask John, Tom or Dennis for a recommendation.  I let John pick out some each month so I can try something new, however, I also ask for my favorites as well. The service and knowledge of the folks at John Crouch is unmatched. With the first phase of changes made, the trio of owners will continue to improve elsewhere. They have recently started offering offsite cigar themed events where they supply the cigars and help educate attendees. “Let us know…

Continue Reading

Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

This Caribbean Island Has a Cool New Hotel

By Alexander Brittell In case you haven’t been following, the historic downtown of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas is in the midst of a renaissance. There is a new energy here, new life in these centuries-old streets and a dramatic waterfront transformation project undertaken by the USVI Department of Public Works. And now, perhaps most importantly, there’s a very cool new hotel. For the first time in more than two decades, St. Thomas as a new hotel — and, crucially, it’s in the heart of historic Charlotte Amalie. It’s called the Pink Palm, and it’s a hip, retro-chic hotel that’s the sister hotel to the American Beech hotel in Long Island, NY. The 27-room hotel, which began welcoming guests last month, is a significant boost to downtown Charlotte Amalie, with a bright, colorful, fun aesthetic that’s a new kind of hotel for the island. “We also have two hotels on the North Fork of Long Island, American Beech and Aqua Beach, and as that area is pretty seasonal to summer and fall, I was looking to open another hotel that was seasonal to winter and spring. I first saw the listing for the property online. There were a couple of other places I was considering, but as soon as I came down to St. Thomas and saw [it], I fell in love,” says Brent Pelton, owner and CEO of the Pink Palm. “We’re the first fully new hotel on the island in over twenty years. We’ve been working to create strong relationships with the local businesses, galleries and restaurants, as well as organizations like the St. Thomas Historical Trust, and overall there is an air of excitement about what’s happening in Charlotte Amalie.” It’s the history that really makes it unique, Pelton says. The hotel is set at what was once Smith’s Fancy, a…

Continue Reading

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

Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses

By Julie Reardon Let’s admit it, we all love to peek through the closed doors and through the windows and walled gardens of others, especially the wealthy. There’s a bit of voyeurism in all of us, and online pictures and videos just aren’t the same as immersing ourselves in these private gardens rarely open to the general public. Even if you’re not a gardener, Historic Garden Week in Virginia April 15 – 22 this year, offers a rare chance to visit some of the area’s loveliest estates during a time when they’re all dressed up in spring colors. Historic Garden Week is a statewide event, and the only statewide event of its kind in the country; this is the 90th year it’s been held. It’s sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia and its local chapters. During this special week in April, 250 of the most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks statewide will be open during “America’s Largest Open House.” This 8-day event provides visitors a unique opportunity to see unforgettable gardens at the peak of Virginia’s springtime color, as well as beautiful houses and historic sites sparkling with over 2,000 flower arrangements created by Garden Club of Virginia members. In the hunt country of the northern Blue Ridge, take in some or all of the homes open on several different tours scheduled for April 15 – 22. Beginning on Saturday April 15th homes in Warren County near Front Royal will be open for the tour, the same day as Alexandria’s homes are open. Skip to Wednesday the 19th and visit the open houses of the Warrenton garden club in and around that town in Fauquier County. On Thursday and Friday April 20-21 homes in the Middleburg area open their doors and gardens for you, and on Saturday the…

Continue Reading

Financial Focus, Pets, Places, & Things

How to Manage Cash vs. Borrowing When Interest Rates Rise

By Carl Trevison and Stephen Bearce We all use credit in our daily lives, whether it’s to help optimize cash flow, create tax efficiencies, or make purchases. A rising-interest-rate environment could be a good time to take a closer look at liquidity strategies and other forms of borrowing. Using cash versus borrowing It could make sense to pay cash instead of borrowing in some instances. Let’s say you have a fair amount of cash and are not planning to invest it in the market. That could be a good solution for buying a car or a house, paying for a child’s education, or expanding a business. Amid higher interest rates, paying cash could be a better option than securing a long-term loan to buy a costly item. “Increased rates may also impact purchasing power for bigger-ticket items (such as homes, boats, and airplanes) traditionally financed over longer periods,” says Brian Singsank, senior lead wealth custom lending specialist, Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management. “It’s important to evaluate your balance sheet and wealth plan to make sure they are aligned to help meet upcoming liquidity needs.” Also, if you have an existing variable-rate loan, such as an adjustable-rate mortgage or line of credit, that rate could go up, resulting in higher interest costs. “If it’s still a long-term funding need, when interest rates are rising could be the time to evaluate,” Singsank says. Whatever you decide, timing can be critical. Your investment planners can help you decide on what is best for your current situation. Discuss credit and liquidity needs with your advisors “Be proactive when interest rates change,” says Singsank. “Consider reviewing your wealth plan and related credit and liquidity needs with your banker, advisor, your CPA, and even an estate-planning specialist.” Singsank recommends starting those conversations by sharing your…

Continue Reading

Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

The Flower Garden in Mid Spring

Plants should be putting on lots of new growth now, so if you have any perennials to lift and divide, or new ones to plant, do so as early in April as possible to allow them the maximum time to settle in. Start feeding established perennials now with a general fertilizer. Taking Cuttings in April Continue to take cuttings of fuchsias, geraniums, dahlias and chrysanthemums during April, for a late summer flowering display. As the weather improves in late April, begin hardening off those cuttings that were taken last month and have formed roots. Use a cold frame or find a sunny, sheltered spot outdoors. Leave the plants there during the day, but bring them in at night, when temperatures drop. Pinch out the growing point when rooted cuttings are about 6 inches high. This encourages the young plant to produce side shoots, which in turn will produce more flowers, rather than expending all its energy in producing a single, tall stem. Sowing Annuals Outside in April Hardy annuals are the main flowers to be sown in April. Choose a windless day as fine seeds can easily be blown all over the place. Most hardy annuals can be sown where they are to flower. Ideally they can be used to fill up gaps in developing shrub borders or to add color to mixed borders. If space permits, you can also sow them in drifts and groups of different flowers. If you are planning a large annual border, it should first be marked out, and then the seeds sown in lines or broadcast in a pre-arranged location for each variety. Sowing Herbaceous Perennials Outside Seeds of herbaceous perennial plants may also be sown in April, either direct into the ground or into pots or trays, instead of sowing the seeds in…

Continue Reading

From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

By Michaela Watkins The 2023 Spring Shows Are Coming Bay Bridge Boat Show – April 14th-16th Spring Sailboat Show – April 28th-30th The Annapolis Boat Shows, producer of in-water sail and powerboat shows for over 50 years, launched a new website and updated their brand in February. With a focus on their continued growth and enhancing the boat show experience, the new website features a streamlined design that offers easy navigation, a user-friendly interface, and a mobile experience that convey the unique experiences visitors from around the world have come to expect when attending the shows. “Our old website was terrific – when we launched it. It’s great to have retired it in favor of this new site. It loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and is a great resource for planning a visit to our shows.” said Mary Ewenson. “With the supply chain issues easing up, we’re expecting a big increase in the number of boats at all four of our shows as well as many new exhibitors. The new website is launching at the perfect time.” The launch came just two months prior to the spring shows: Bay Bridge Boat Show (April 14-16) and Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show (April 28-30). Set at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at the Bay Bridge Marina, the Bay Bridge Boat Show will feature a large selection of new and brokerage powerboats, as well as the latest in equipment, accessories, and apparel. Favorites such as PropTalk’s Demo Dock and Boat U.S. Foundation “On-Water Training” will return, and new features for 2023 are slated to be announced in the coming weeks. Closing out the month of April is the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show, which features new and brokerage boats including catamarans, monohulls, family cruisers, daysailers, and inflatables. Guests may meet with boating…

Continue Reading

Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

It’s Back To the Blue Ridge…

By Bob Tagert With sunny skies and temperatures forecast into the mid 70’s, we decided it was a good time to return to the Blue Ridge Mountains and what lies between. For those of you who read this column every month, you already know that we return to this area often and it is always an adventure. This time we decided to take a few days, so we made our reservations at 29 Main in Sperryville and followed the sun. Unlike our previous trips, I will not begin this article by complaining about Route 66. They have finally completed the widening and addition of express lanes and this trip is a breeze. Granted, this wasn’t rush hour, but the traffic flowed at or above the speed limit with no problems whatsoever. I remember when there was no Route 66 and the only road out this way was Route 55, which exists today and is a nice road to drive if you are not in a hurry. Our first stop was Barrel Oak Winery which is right off of Route 66 in Delaplane.  A longtime favorite and great advertiser of ours, the winery was sold about eight months ago and the new owners have put some resources into the main building as well as the rest of the property. The tasting room has new lighting and a fresh look. Their brewery is still producing enhancing the experience for everyone. On cold days, Barrel Oak has the absolute best stone fire place in the state. We ordered a bottle of their Vidal Blanc, a hearty grape that did not go through malolactic fermentation which made for a bright, clean wine. It helped us segway into the laid back, country mood after our slot-car run on Route 66. Leaving Barrel Oak we picked…

Continue Reading

Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Egypt, Brazil and the Stadium

By the Gastronomes Stepping outside of the “traditional” Dining Out format, we thought we would give you all a teaser about some of the newest eateries in our midst. In fact, all three of these establishments opened within days of each other in the last week of March. In full disclosure, we didn’t dine at any of them so we aren’t going to comment on the food from that perspective. We were on a mission to see what each of these new places were all about and did have a cocktail and talked with patrons, bartenders, servers and managers at each place. Elaine’s 208 Queen Street Old Town Alexandria 571-970-0517 I was immediately drawn to Elaine’s since that is my legal first name. Right out of the gate, I know it will be a great addition to Old Town’s dining scene. Many of you may recognize the address since it was home to Bilbo Baggins for many years. Let me tell you, the build out transformed the former dark (and not exactly clean) motif into a beautiful contemporary space. Elaine’s is named after the owner’s grandmother. Her husband told us that when she was twelve years old in Cairo, Egypt, she promised her grandmother that one day she would own a restaurant and name it after her. She is looking forward to sharing her family recipes with everyone. The menu boasts modern Mediterranean cuisine based on food found in Alexandria, Egypt. We were told that their unique style is best described as Middle Eastern with French, Greek, and Italian influences. The food we saw served while on our visit looked amazing and neither of us knows that much about middle eastern cuisine in general, let alone Egyptian. We are so looking forward to having a meal there soon. My drink…

Continue Reading

Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

What are Hot Cross Buns?

By Sally McKenney A nursery rhyme, of course! And the first song we usually learn on the recorder. But what are the hot cross buns we eat? Hot cross buns are rich with history dating back to the 12th century. They’re yeasted sweet buns filled with spices and various fruits such as currants, raisins, and/or candied citrus. They’re decorated with a white cross representing the crucifix, either marked right into the dough or etched on top with icing. Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter food, typically eaten on Good Friday. Learn how to make our rendition of hot cross buns using this deliciously spiced yeast dough. Brown sugar, raisins or currants, butter, and vanilla add exceptional flavor and each dense bun is marked with a traditional cross. Orange icing is a tasty finishing touch to this Easter recipe! We’ve been making these for years and I would love to share our family’s version here today. Ingredients 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast (1 standard packet) 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 5 pieces 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1 teaspoon salt 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (see note) 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 3 and 1/2 cups (438g) all-purpose flour or bread flour (spoon & leveled) 1 cup (140g) raisins or currants Flour Cross 1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose flour or bread flour 6–8 Tablespoons (90-120ml) water Orange Icing 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar 3 Tablespoons (45ml) fresh or bottled orange juice (or use milk and a splash of vanilla extract for plain icing) Instructions Prepare the dough: Whisk the milk, yeast, and granulated sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover and allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy on top. *If you do not own a mixer, you can do this in a large mixing bowl and in the next…

Continue Reading

Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

It’s Time for Spring Wine

By Doug Fabbioli As the weather gets warmer the flowers start to pop, our springtime gatherings come up on the calendar, and our flavor preferences change to lighter foods and drinks. I’ve made my mark as a hearty red wine maker, but those are not really thought of as springtime wines. So let’s take a look at what locally grown wines might work for this time of year. In the spring I feel an off-dry style of wine best fits the season and the cuisine. One of our better growing white grapes in Virginia and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic is Vidal Blanc. The fruit characters always remind me of Juicy Fruit gum—in a good way. This can be used as a base in a blend like our Something White, or as a varietal wine. A dry, steel-fermented Chardonnay is another wine that could fit the bill. The barrel-fermented, buttery style has been the bane of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd for years, but the lighter, crisper Chablis style of Chardonnay expresses the fruit and acid much better. A newer grape variety to our region is Albariño. Crisp, steel-fermented, with bright fruit notes, this wine is made from a Spanish grape that grows quite well here. There is a legendary origin story that tells of bud wood, the material needed to propagate new plants, being transported from Spain in a carry-on bag under the description of “wood for smoking meats.” I can’t attest to this story or to which infamous Loudoun winery was involved but I know it wasn’t mine. Another variety that popped up here around the same time is Petit Manseng. This variety is a little more viscous and intense than Albariño, but could easily be a springtime wine. Intense in fruit character with an underlying sweetness…

Continue Reading

View More