Wining & Dining

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel

By Timothy Long Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel In the world of alcohol, the charred oak barrel is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It gives us many gifts. The first, and most important, gift of the charred oak barrel, bourbon. You must have new charred oak barrels to produce bourbon. This part of the production process is part of our heritage. Those barrels give bourbon its distinctive flavor. Bourbon is American, as much as Mom (or at least mine), baseball, and apple pie! But I’ll get back to that. Let’s get to the bottom of the charred oak barrel first. No one knows who charred the first barrel. Legends and rumors abound as to its origins. It makes for fun conversation. The Elijah Craig website claims that their founder, Reverend Elijah Craig, became the first distiller to age his whiskey in newly charred oak barrels in 1789. According to the Angels Envy website, cognac distillers in France would store their spirits is charred oak barrels as far back as the 15th century. They also cite that charring barrels may be a by-product of barrel making, or coopering: “The barrel-maker would toast the interior of a stave in order to make it more pliable and able to be bent inward. Over time, distillers might have noticed that a heavier level of char imparted better flavors in their spirit, and the process could have been a gradual evolution that spread slowly over time. It’s reasonable to assume that this practice could easily have made its way to Kentucky amongst the waves of Scotch and Irish immigrants. It’s even possible that Kentucky distillers began to char their barrels like the Cognac producers in France to appeal to the French settlers in New Orleans, where the whiskey was often shipped.” Another reason stated…

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Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

Jewish Penicillin aka Homemade Chicken Soup and Matzo Balls

By Judy Eichner w/Lani Gering Jewish Penicillin aka Homemade Chicken Soup and Matzo Balls              The OTC published this recipe 11 years ago and I ran across it looking for some old photos. I thought that it would be a good to reprint since we are going into “Cold and Flu” season and the lingering of the Covid variants still plagues us. Judy has since passed away and we are happy to remember her in this space. See her recipe below: Whether or not the claim that homemade chicken soup is a cure-all, also known as Jewish penicillin, its use is widespread in many cultures around the world.  Doctors have differing opinions, but most of the parent’s I know swear it’s so.  Try making the soup using the following recipe and see if it makes you feel better the next time you have a cold or an upper respiratory infection. The Chicken Soup 1 whole chicken, or 3 chicken breasts (6 pieces) 4 large celery ribs 4-6 large carrots 2 large onions Salt and pepper to taste Put all the ingredients in a large soup pot.  Use enough water to just about cover the ingredients.  Bring to a rolling boil and then lower the flame to medium and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the vegetables and put in a food processor or blender.  Process until the mixture is thick and the vegetable pieces are not distinguishable from one another.  Remove the chicken from the pot and cut into bite sized pieces.  Add the veggies and the chicken to the pot and slowly cook covered for about 1 to 1 ½ hours.  If it looks like a good part of the liquid has evaporated, add a container of clear chicken broth, preferably organic.  Serve with either matzo…

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Small Batch Wines Pushing Virginia’s Creativity Boundaries

By Matthew Fitzsimmons Small Batch Wines Pushing Virginia’s Creativity Boundaries Virginia is ranked #7 in the nation in terms of number of wineries, with over 300 in the state. While this is an impressive figure, it actually undercounts the number of brands available to wine lovers. For those willing to try something more experimental, try one of the state’s small batch wines. Defining a ‘small batch’ wine can be difficult, especially in a state where few wineries make more than 3,000 cases a year. Many of these operations are colloquially referred to as ‘side hustles’, although that encompasses only part of this trend. However, as a ballpark definition, I’d broadly define ‘small batch’ as smaller brands whose wines are designed to be stylistically ‘different’ in some way. Being different is something of a hallmark in the Virginia wine scene. As a young wine region, many vintners are still experimenting to find the styles and grapes that work best. While they usually draw more inspiration from the Old World than California, the reality is that only by experimenting will they move the industry forward. These small batch wines are the wine industry’s proverbial front line. It’s a broad category for sure. Some are made in tiny lots by owners who lack a production facility or tasting room so they make & market their wines wherever they can. Others are crafted by winemakers at established locations who use a private label to play with different techniques or use fruit from a different terroir. Established wineries are tapping into this trend as well, including Horton Vineyards’ “Gears and Lace” series and Gabriele Rausse Winery’s “Vino dal Bosco” lineup. Both feature wines that are labeled & marketed separately, usually featuring different blends or production methods. In discussing her Pinotage rosé and Tannat sparkling, Caitlin…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

A Time to Learn a Bit More

By Doug Fabbioli A Time to Learn a Bit More It’s easy to think that once the grapes are off the vine and the wine is in the barrels, the work is done. As I have touched on in the past, we have many jobs and priorities after the harvest. One that is easy to forget but critical to the success of the operation is gaining knowledge for personal or professional growth. Each level of our organization needs to look at what we can do to improve, and find whatever training, research, or seminars that are available to help us learn and grow. I am always looking for ways to learn more about improving wine quality. This can be through different techniques, products, or equipment that can help with the challenges in the winemaking process. Or it can be through making a job more consistent so the wine is less vulnerable to spoilage situations. Working with the Winemakers Research Exchange has helped me to address challenges I have had and I have gained knowledge from the experiments that others have already tried. This organization has been a great help to me in growing my wine knowledge and quality and in helping me avoid problems. For my production team some of this down time is spent in language classes. We have had a teacher from Loudoun Literacy come to the farm for weekly English classes for several years now. Our teacher has the program and support that helps to provide our team with the language skills they need both for their work here and for the support of their family and kids. Having the words and the ability to communicate with your child’s teacher or with a health care professional is an important life skill that is just as valuable to…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Sisters Thai – A North Old Town Gem!

By the Gastronomes Sisters Thai – A North Old Town Gem! If any of you are followers of the local “Alexandria Dining-Curbside, Inside & More” Facebook page you know that Sisters Thai is a popular recommendation for outstanding Thai cuisine in the area. It has lived up to its reputation every time we have dined with them. Full disclosure here – since the closing of Po Siam on Mount Vernon Avenue years ago, I haven’t found one Thai place that has lived up to its standards but Sisters is very, very close. Located in the North Alexandria section of our fair city, Sisters joins Oak Steakhouse, Woo Boi Chicken, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, and Hinata Sushi Bar & Grill in the 500 Block of Montgomery Street. The block is bordered on the other three sides by North St. Asaph, First Street and North Pitt and is home to The Gables Luxury Apartments, West Elm Home Furnishings, Row House Old Town and several other retailers and services including the best – in our humble opinion – ABC Store in the Old Town area. The décor in this eatery is very interesting and even a bit eclectic. I’ve never really understood the relevance of the theater marquis that is above the bar and a couple of the “murals” to Thailand but it is a very pleasant space. Also in the space is a separate dessert and coffee bar “room” designated as Magnolia’s. We have yet to sample any of the goods in this section of the restaurant but have put it on the list for a future visit. We don’t feel the need to reiterate what is in store for you on their extensive menu since you have it at your fingertips with your electronic communication devices, laptops and PC’s. The offerings…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights

By Timothy Long Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights “Wassailing? What the hell is wassailing?” Was the reply my 15-year-old self gave to his friends when they said we were going wassailing. “Caroling” they said. “You mean door to door?” “Yes” No way! I was too cool for that! Not happening! Then the girls showed up to join us. Suddenly my attitude changed, and I’ve been wassailing ever since. The word “wassailing” has evolved for over 1000 years. It is derived from Old Nordic and Old English words that meant “be in good health”. A British tradition, it originally referred to a drink made of mulled ale or cider, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. According to WhyChristmas.com: “One legend about how Wassailing was created says that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words ‘waes hael’. Over the centuries, a great deal of ceremony developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl was carried into the room with great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink was sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage was served.” Wassailing was traditionally celebrated on New Year’s Eve, or Twelfth Night. But as time moved on, rich people began to drink wassail during the twelve days of Christmas. Starting in the 1600s it was common to take a bowl of wassail from door to door while caroling. Over time, wassailing became known as caroling. The drink’s heyday is in the past. But it is still not forgotten. Lost Boy Cider in Alexandria will be hosting a Wassail event on January 7th‘ complete with the traditional drink and wassail songs. They are also releasing a 12-pack of their monthly explorer series ciders representing the 12 Days of Christmas….

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Let's Eat, Wining & Dining

Christmas Yule Log

By Charles Oppman Christmas Yule Log We’ve all seen the famous French Christmas Yule log―the bûche de Noël. A bûche is made by slathering butter cream on a sheet of pliable sheet cake called roulade, rolling it into a cylinder and decorating it with butter cream to resemble a small log. Making a bûche requires a bit of work, but it’s not beyond the skills of serious home bakers. Your family and guests will be impressed. They make great gifts too. Serves: 8 Time: 2 hours Roulade (Jelly roll cake) Ingredients 4 egg yolks, from large eggs 1/3 cup white granulated sugar 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 4 fresh egg whites, from large eggs Instructions Grease a standard jelly roll pan (about 11 x 7 inches) and line it with parchment paper or waxed paper. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. These tasks must be done prior making the roulade. Whip the yolks and sugar on medium speed until the mixture turns pale yellow and ribbons form. This can be expedited by warming the bowl intermittently over hot water or a low flame on top of the range. Once ribbons have formed, incrementally fold the flour into the yolks and sugar mixture with a curved rubber spatula. Folding is best accomplished by turning the bowl whilst you fold in the flour in stages. This provides uniform distribution of the flour. If you have only one mixer, remove this mixture to another bowl then wash and dry the machine bowl for whipping the whites. In a very clean and dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff and peaks form. Whipping should be done on medium speed as this will result in firmer, more stable meringue. High speed will result in a meringue that…

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Celebrates Its 3rd Shenandoah Cup

By Matt Fitzsimmons Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Celebrates Its 3rd Shenandoah Cup On November 12th Bluestone Vineyard hosted the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail’s 3rd Shenandoah Cup Gala, celebrating wine made in Shenandoah Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). Wines from this year’s competition earned a total of eleven gold, 37 silver, and 14 bronze medals. The location was fortuitous, since Bluestone earned the Cup with their 2017 Houndstooth Bordeaux-style blend. Not only is the Shenandoah Valley Virginia’s oldest AVA, it’s also a place of untapped potential. In discussing Virginia’s best vineyard sites, Virginia wine expert Jay Youmans of the Capital Wine School recently stated, “Honestly, where I think a lot of fantastic vineyards are is out in the Shenandoah Valley.” This potential is based on the Shenandoah Valley’s unique terroir. High ridgelines protect the valley from heavy rainfall, making it one of the driest areas in the state. Limestone soils give wines grown here a rich minerality. Cooler temperatures allow grapes to retain their acidity. It’s a trifecta practically designed for making award-winning wine. The list of awards earned by wines in the wine trail backs this up. While the trail’s 21 wineries comprise less than 10% of the wineries in the state, they are well represented in the state’s major wine competitions. In the past decade, 11 wines from the trail were selected for the annual Virginia Governor’s Case, with the 2009 Clio from Muse winning the Virginia Governor’s Cup in 2015. Wine writer Frank Morgan assembled a panel of experts to judge this year’s competition, including wine consultant and author Richard Leahy. In discussing the wines he sampled, Richard enthused, “I was really enjoying the very lively acidity and fresh vibrant fruit that appeared the flights today in the Shenandoah Cup and I think it’s a really good indication…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

The Shift of the Seasons

By Doug Fabbioli The Shift of the Seasons Farmers know the change of the seasons more than most people. It’s not just the fewer hours of daylight and the cooler temperatures, it’s how the daily job focus and planning changes from absorbing sunshine to dealing with the “hibernation” season. No, we certainly do not hibernate around here, but the seasonal shift in our work efforts keeps the job interesting and challenging. One seasonal change for me is getting out in the public more in these few weeks than during the rest of the year. This is the busiest time of the year for wine sales, so I need to get my face out there to build the brand and get folks excited about our wines. And I’ll admit, this is invigorating to me as well. When I am in the tasting room and customers enjoy our wine, I know I have the “home field advantage.” Folks come to us for Fabbioli wine, and many already know what they are getting. But out in a shop or at a public pouring, I know this is frequently the first time people have tasted our wines. When they come back for more, or ask for a wine recommended by a previous taster, I know they have found a taste they will remember pleasantly, and I hope they will find their way out to our tasting room. Another area in which we shift for the season is maintenance. It’s not really sexy, but very critical to our success. As most farmers do, we do as much of the work ourselves as possible. We have specialists we depend on for mechanical issues, heating systems and the like, but we take cleaning, repairs, and build-outs as far as we can ourselves. I have hired too many…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Experience Upper King Street!

By the Gastronomes Experience Upper King Street! With the Christmas and Holiday shopping season upon us, we thought we would take a different approach to Dining Out. As we all know, there are many very fine restaurants and shops in Old Town Alexandria, so we thought we would recommend a few spots to grab a bite to eat as well as long standing go-to shops for just about anything. When I talk about upper King Street I am referring to west of Washington Street. Here you will find unique shops as well as eateries for a quick lunch during your shopping break or a nice dinner afterward. Our first restaurant is our friends at Mackie’s Bar and Grill. This restaurant is properly named. Out front is a neighborhood bar that is frequented by industry folks. The friendly vibe is a result of that Cheers axiom…Everybody knows your name! To new customers it may seem a bit rowdy, but in fact, it is everyone having a good time. The bar food is very good ranging from my favorite, pot stickers, to onion soup to great steak dinners. Their burger is rated number one in Alexandria. Between the dining room and bar area they have 8 tv’s showing different sporting events on each one. The place is also a Green Bay Packers retreat so when the Packers play it is pretty crowded. A recent addition, and a very cool one, is a projector that projects sporting events on their large plate glass front window. The perfect spot to watch a football game al fresco and order a game day special. You will feel like you are in the box seats at the stadium. Time to breakout the heaters! The dining room in the back is a different story – consisting mostly of…

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