Wining & Dining

Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Via Roma!

By the Gastronomes When we went to the summer drink menu unveiling at the Capital Wheel in National Harbor last month we ran into the former General Manager of Bond 45, Biagio Cepollaro. Over the years we had developed a nice relationship with Biagio and it was nice to catch up and talk about his own restaurant in Camp Springs, Maryland…Via Roma. After a brief conversation we decided that Via Roma was a good candidate for Dining Out. We were not disappointed. Via Roma opened on February 15th during a winter storm and the beginnings of worldwide Covid-19 epidemic in 2021. Biagio may laugh about it now, but what a beginning. The restaurant is part of a building complex and sits at the front as you drive into the complex. The restaurant is very open by way of one whole wall being glass with the middle section behind the bar opens up to the patio. If it were not for the depiction of the Italian buildings on the wall, I would have thought I was in a California style restaurant by all of the blonde wood including tables and chairs, however, with the Italian buildings on one wall, the open kitchen at the back of the dining area and the glass wall behind the bar, did indeed give the vibe of sitting in the piazza in Rome. We have many “pizza” restaurants in the area, but few Pinsa Romana, in fact Via Roma is the first and only certified Pinseria in the region. Biagio and his business partner Antonio Rusciano aka Topolino follow the original Pinsa Romana recipe respecting the traditional Pinsa making method making them #192 of the Orginale Pinsa Romaan Association in the world. The definition of Pinsa comes from the Latin word “Pinsere” which in Italian language…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Pilsner or Lager, What’s The Diff?

By Timothy Long Summertime is upon us. It’s time to enjoy picnics, baseball, beaches, cookouts, and swimming pools. But most importantly, it’s a time to indulge in lagers and pilsners. Those wonderful golden refreshing brews that become so popular when the weather warms. Summer is when these lighter crisper beers come into their season. Nothing is better on a hot sunny afternoon while you’re scarfing down a hot dog at Nats Park. But which one should you choose? Aren’t lagers and pilsners the same thing? No, my friends. They are not. But they are similar. So, do you know the difference between a lager and a pilsner? No? Well then, little buckeroo, you need to pull up a barstool and have a seat. And let Uncle Tim tell you a classic tale. A tale worthy of any story book. The tale of the lager and the pilsner. A long time ago in a faraway land known as Bavaria, a revolution in brewing was occurring. A new yeast had just been discovered. A yeast that behaved very differently than any known before it. This yeast fermented at the bottom of the brew instead of the top, and at colder temperatures over a longer period. Bavarian monks began making a new beer with this odd yeast. They would store or “lager” their new brews in ice caves in the Bavarian Alps over the summer. When these casks were opened in the fall, a lighter, cleaner, crisper beer emerged. As the centuries passed, the process evolved. As the website beerexpert.co.uk explains it: “The word lager comes from the German lagern (“to store”), and it is in Bavaria that the drink finds its origins. In the early nineteenth century Bavarian brewers began experimenting with brewing techniques that involved storing their beers in cold beer…

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Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

Just Like Dynamite Shrimp…Only Different

By Chef Glenn Morel There’s something irresistible about Dynamite Shrimp. A perfect balance of crispy exterior and succulent interior, it hits that salty-sweet-spicy trifecta that triggers the pleasure receptors in our brains. When done right, Dynamite Shrimp is as visually appealing as it is delicious. Versatile too: Served as an appetizer or the main course, it can be tailored to the season or occasion. On this occasion, I chose to make dynamite shrimp the same…but different. Chef Glenn’s Dynamite “Lobster” on Forbidden Black Rice I prefer spiny lobster (longusta) over the sweeter Maine lobster. Forbidden black Rice was once reserved only for the wealthy and powerful to ensure their health and long life. No one else was allowed to eat it. Here is my variation of the popular Dynamite Recipe. Ingredients: – 10 to 15 small lobster tails, cut into ¼ inch thick medallions – Salt and pepper – 2 eggs – 1 cup of corn flour Dynamite sauce ingredients:  -1 cup of mayo -1 tablespoon of hot sauce -2 teaspoon of paprika or chili powder -2 tablespoon of honey -3 tablespoons of tomato ketchup -2 teaspoon of minced garlic -2 teaspoon of sesame oil -2 tablespoon of rice vinegar -2 cups of Forbidden black rice cooked per recipe on box or bag Directions: Season the lobster medallions with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix the egg, corn flour, salt, and pepper. Add the lobster medallions and mix well until evenly coated. Add a few teaspoons of water if the batter is too dry. Heat oil in a large skillet or pan to medium-high heat. To check if the oil is ready, you can dip a wooden spoon into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Fry a few pieces of lobster at a time for 2-3…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

The Art of the Winemaker

By Doug Fabbioli How artistic does a winemaker need to be in order to be successful? Making quality wines involves a lot of science, both in the vineyards to grow flavorful and healthy grapes and in the cellar to successfully navigate fermentations, stabilities, and bacterial threats. But wine covers such a wide spectrum of styles, price points, consumer preferences, and purposes. Yes, if it is made of fermented grape juice, it is technically a wine. And when you break down a wine by chemical composition you have water, alcohol, and natural acids that make up more than 99 percent, and “other” at less than one percent. Most wines fit these breakdowns, meaning the true difference between a box wine selling for $4.99 a liter and a wine that is hundreds of dollars per bottle falls within that less than one percent! That is where the artist works, within the less than one percent. I have often referred to myself as a productionist. I am always looking to keep my team working on something productive, to make quality products and deliver them at a fair price point. I don’t necessarily acknowledge the artistry that it takes to create the products like I should. Starting on the farm, the grower makes a commitment to dance with Mother Nature in order to deliver the best crop possible. Sometimes that means training the vines to do what they need to do. Sometimes it means reading the weather so as to protect your crop from a pending frost. The artistry of a farmer comes in sensing the challenges and adjusting the plan accordingly. When we bring those grapes to the winery for processing there are steps and procedures to turn those flavorful berries of sweet nectar into the wine that we want them to become….

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Loudoun’s “Pride in the Vines” Wine Trail

By Matt Fitzsimmons Starting June 1st, fifteen participating Loudoun County wineries are celebrating Pride Month with a special month-long wine trail. Passport holders for “Pride in the Vines” who obtain ten different stamps will be eligible to win a prize drawing which includes private wine tastings, bottles of wine, gear, tickets to events, and tours of the vineyards and wineries. Pride Month has its roots in the Stonewall riots, which started on June 28, 1969. Coincidentally, Pride in the Vines celebrates a movement that was galvanized at a drinking establishment. Located in New York’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn was one of the few local bars that catered to an openly gay clientele despite state laws which made it risky for them to show affection in public. The Stonewall was run by the Mafia, who saw gay bars as a good business opportunity. Police raids against such establishments were common but corrupt officers would typically tip the managers off in advance, allowing business to continue with limited interruptions. This time was different. Not only was the raid unannounced (possibly due to the police not getting sufficient kickbacks), the patrol wagon responsible for picking up arrested patrons took longer than usual to respond. The gathering crowd became increasingly agitated as they watched the police manhandle those they detained, including those arrested for violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute. The final trigger was a scuffle between a lesbian woman who was roughly escorted to the awaiting wagon. She fought back, calling on the crowd for support. The resulting riots (Stonewall veterans prefer the term ‘uprising’) continued for several days. It was a turning point in the gay rights movement, leading to the formation of several new LGBT advocacy groups. The first gay pride parades were held on the 1st anniversary of the…

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

An Introduction to Virginia’s Nebbiolo

By Matthew Fitzsimmons Few grapes are as synonymous with the region they come from as nebbiolo. Indigenous to the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, it’s the source of two of the world’s most famous (and expensive) wines; Barolo and Barbaresco. Powerfully tannic yet possessing delicate aromas and expressive fruit, wine critic Madeline Puckette famously quipped drinking nebbiolo was like “Getting kicked in the face by a ballerina”. Nebbiolo’s relationship with the mountainous Piedmont isn’t coincidental; even the name is a reference to its home. Many believe the word Nebbiolo comes from the Latin Nebula, which means ‘fog’ or ‘mist’. This fog inundates the region during harvest, helping regulate the temperature of the grapes. Such conditions contribute to nebbiolo’s reputation as a finicky, terroir-driven wine. Early budding yet late ripening, few places outside Piedmont are thought to have the near-goldilocks conditions to allow nebbiolo to mature to full ripeness. Its requirement for an especially long growing season gives many Virginia winegrowers pause when considering it for their vineyard, given the state’s erratic weather. So it’s somewhat surprising that nebbiolo is nevertheless gaining traction in Virginia. According to the 2021 Virginia Grape Report, 47 acres of nebbiolo are now grown in the state. While that’s nowhere near the acreage of Cabernet Franc or Chardonnay, neither is it an outlier found in only a handful of locations. A growing number of winegrowers seem to think nebbiolo is worth the investment. But why? Luca Paschina: The OG (Original Grower) of Virginia’s Nebbiolo Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards is probably the person most responsible for the grape’s introduction into Virginia. His love of nebbiolo is understandable. Not only is Luca a native of Piedmont, nebbiolo is the first wine he’s ever made. When asked to compare how the different growing conditions of Virginia and Piedmont impacts…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

“All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas.”

By Timothy Long Did you know that? I didn’t. A trip to Cabo, Mexico last winter ended up not just being fun, but educational. Back in January, I wrote about finding a wonderful craft brewery in Cabo. I approached tasting the beer with much trepidation. But as I wrote in the article, “A Funny Thing Happened While in Cabo”, I was pleasantly surprised.  The beer was wonderful, and the trip to the brewery a fantastic experience.  I admonished myself for not being more open minded. Another tasting experience in Cabo was equally enjoyable, a tequila tasting. We participated in one at a bar at our resort. I approached this adventure with much enthusiasm. We were in Mexico. Why not learn more about tequila! Being a bourbon drinker, tequila has never been one of my first choices when it comes to cocktail hour. And to be honest, an experience with it in college caused me to not be able to drink, or even smell, it for years. That all changed over time. I’m wiser and have a much more refined palate now. God only knows what kind of rot gut tequila we college boys were drinking that night. My wife, brother-in-law, and I were seated at a circular outside bar that had a great view of the Gulf of California. Beautiful boats and birds were everywhere. People were water skiing and parasailing. In the distance, I noticed a spout of water shooting up by a cluster of boats. They were whale watching. Two humpback whales were within a few yards of their boats. I love whales. And you see plenty of them while in Cabo. I was so mesmerized that I almost missed the beginning of the bartender’s tequila lesson. He did a great job of explaining how tequila was produced….

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Cheers to the Ladies!

By Doug Fabbioli We all have a mother…and while we are celebrating them on Mother’s Day, I thought I would muse a bit about the mothers and women in my life who have contributed in some way to help this wine business happen for us. First, I have to give credit to my own mother. She was never a drinker but she was certainly a foodie with a hypersensitive sense of taste and smell. I guess she’s where I get my palate. She referred to my first winery job in California as “working in the basement”—her expectations for me were a bit loftier. “No Mom, it’s a wine cellar.” As the years went by and we started our own venture here in Virginia, she clearly saw what we had achieved and the recognition we had received from the region. In the end, Mom was proud of her youngest. Certainly the mother of my children, my business partner, wife, and love of my life gets the most credit. She committed to working a steady day job so that I was able to break into and grow in the wine industry. We certainly encountered many challenges on our continuing journey (with four decades behind us now), but the one I remember the most was my abrupt transition to self-employment. In the spring of 2001 we were gearing up to plant our own vineyard on our property down the road from where I worked and we lived. I was terminated out of the blue and was left with no job, no home, and a large order of vines arriving that I needed to get in the ground and maintain. My immediate reaction was to cancel the vine order until our lives were on more stable ground. My wife’s words to me were “Don’t…

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Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

A Rite of Spring – Pasta Primavera

By Charles Oppman Now that spring is in full swing we’re likely to see the seasonal springtime dish pasta primavera on Italian restaurant menus across America. It just makes sense―the word primavera means “spring” in Italian. But what is pasta primavera exactly, and what’s its culinary history? Let’s begin with the heart of the dish, the pasta. Long before they invented the mechanical clock, gunpowder and paper, the Chinese invented noodles, which would come to be called pasta, “dough” in Italian. Although the origin of pasta evokes much speculation, many historians credit the 13th century explorer, Marco Polo, with bringing pasta to Italy from China. During his 17 years in China the Venetian merchant probably dined with the likes of Kublai Khan, Polo must have sampled a variety of Asian pastas, which were generally made with rice flour or millet. The Chinese began using wheat for noodles about 3000 BC. The medieval Chinese didn’t eat dry strands of pasta like we do today. Instead they cooked fresh pasta. Pasta primavera is an Italian-American dish―created in New York City in the 1970s―consisting of pasta and fresh vegetables. There is no one recipe for this dish. It may contain almost any kind of vegetable, but cooks tend to stick to firm, crisp vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, peas, onions and green, red or yellow bell peppers, with tomatoes. Pasta primavera is usually highlighted by light flavors, aromatic herbs and bright colors. A seasonal addition would be fresh asparagus, which is inexpensive and plentiful during the spring season. Chicken, sausage or seafood may be added, but the star of the dish is always the vegetables. A Classic primavera sauce is based on a soffritto (the Italian version of a French mirepoix) of garlic and olive oil, and finished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese….

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

IL Porto Restaurant – Celebrating 50 Years!

By the Gastronomes Last month one of Old Town’s oldest and most Iconic restaurants celebrated its Golden anniversary. In this day and age when restaurants seem to come and go, it is amazing when you hear of one that has remained true to itself for 50 years. Il Porto is a restaurant that shows off the unique architecture of this town. Unlike newer and remodeled restaurants, Il Porto shows glimpses of the past history of the building. The building has been a brothel, butcher shop, artist’s studio, speak easy and even a “repair” shop as a cover for a Nazi radio network. If the walls could only talk. In 1973, Mr. “Ray” Giovannoni opened IL Porto. Shortly after, he opened the Fish Market at the other end of the 100 block and began his journey on becoming an icon in the local restaurant community. Today, current owners Akbar and Wali Zadran have kept Il Porto in the spotlight and the restaurant has maintained its charm and reputation for good food. As we were dining on this unusually warm April evening, Akbar walked over to talk with us. I had first met Akbar and Wali when they took the restaurant over many years ago. As it is in Old Town, it is always good to see old friends. We reminisced about the old days and spoke of former Ragtime piano player Johnny Maddox and all of the entertainment that abounded in the 100 block of King back then. Over the years IL Porto Restaurant has developed a reputation of fresh food daily. The pasta is made from scratch every day. Their menu is too extensive to talk about here so I would recommend that you check out it out online and choose accordingly. With the aforementioned “fresh pasta”, I can assure…

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