Nibbles and Sips Around Town: ‘America Eats Tavern Holds Inaugural Virginia Festival, Bloomsday Celebration, Blue Duck Tavern Rhapsodizes About Ice Cream, Mitsitam Gets a New Chef, and We Get His Wild Rice Bars Recipe’

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As expected tons of events are crammed into the month of June. Why? There seems to be a totally unfounded impression that we are all darting off to faraway lands. We wish! Here’s where we went (Chapter One) and here’s one that’s happening right now. 

America Eats Tavern Celebrates Virginia 

There’s still time to catch José Andrés Virginia Festival at America Eats Tavern at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. It’s an event designed to spend time with family and friends. There will be entertainment, interactive events and Virginia-themed specials throughout the week. Participating regional wineries, Barren Ridge, RdV,Barboursville, Trump Winery and Early Mountain Vineyards are featured, and cocktails have been created using spirits from local distillery Catoctin Creek.

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa.

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa.

We tasted some of the delicious offerings, many plumbed from Virginia’s historical recipe archives. Here are some of the Virginia specialties from Head Chef Nate Waugaman. Enjoy them from the prix fixe menu or a la carte. 

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals – Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade.

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals – Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade.

Edwards Surryano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Cheese Straws – Norfolk Crab and Ham Saute – Broiled blue crab with Virginia ham and lemon butter air – Fried Chesapeake Oysters with rhubarb rémoulade and cucumber and pickled rhubarb salad – Virginia Peanut Soup garnished with celery and blackberries – Shrimp & Grits, Byrd Mill Company grits made with Meadow Creek Dairy Reserve cheddar and served with pearl onion petals and ham hock – Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw – Lemon Chess Pie – Martha Washington’s recipe Chocolate Cake (Do not leave the building without some!)

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Cake.

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Cake.

And be sure to try the famous Sally Lunn bread. The recipe is sourced from “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” 1879. Then you can say you had some of George Washington’s favorite breakfast bread.

The festival runs till the end of June.

Bloomsday Celebrated in Washington, DC

Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday.

Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday.

Bloomsday, the annual Irish celebration of all things James Joyce, was ushered in in grand style on June 16th. The posh affair commenced with a musical recital of tunes related to both writers, a new ‘play for voices’, and readings which took place at the tony Cosmos Club. Afterwards guests walked a few short blocks to a garden party at the residence of Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency, Anne Anderson.

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club.

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club.

Fortuitously it was also the 150th anniversary of the birth of that “other” great Irish writer, W. B. Yates. The proximity of the two events inspired the Embassy to combine these important events into one magical evening. Noted guests Congressman Richie Neal of Massachusetts, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Teri Cross Davis from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes read poetry by Yeats and excerpts from “Ulysses”.

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Residence.

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Residence.

 

Joe Hassett, attorney and author of Two Stars, saw his mini-play narrated by Scena Theatre Co-founder, Robert McNamara and performed by local actors, and guests thrilled to Irish music of the period performed by John Feeley, Fran O’Rourke, Mitch Fanning, Jesse Winch, Terry Winch, and Zan McLeod.

Afterwards Ambassador Anderson graciously invited everyone to the residence for cocktails and traditional Irish fare in the garden.

Blue Duck Tavern Prepares for National Ice Cream Month 

Rain came down sideways in torrents at an ice cream social at the Blue Duck Tavern where we test tasted (Oh please! Somebody has to do it.) snow cones, ice cream sundaes and mini ice cream treats dreamed up by Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego. We had gathered on the terrace in the late afternoon when all hell broke loose – weather-wise that is. Thankfully a small army of chefs and managers marshaled the troops to bring us, and the precious, sweet cargo, indoors where we picked up where we’d left off.

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones.

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones.

As you may be aware snow cones are popular with our Hawaiian-born President and the entire Obama family. A popular street treat, the frozen concoctions are made with an untold variety of syrups and shaved ice and often include a dose of sweetened condensed milk.

We won’t guess at what additives are in those day-glo colored flavors typical to sidewalk vendors, but here they are prepared au naturel from an assortment of syrups made in house – Strawberries and Cream, Apple Pie and Cream, Root Beer Float, Ginger Raspberry Rhubarb, Peach Toasted Almond, Piña Colada, and more.

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month – Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern – Sweet mini treats.

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month – Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern – Sweet mini treats.

The blissfully scrumptious sundae is assembled with a base of cornmeal shortcake, balsamic strawberries, orange ice cream and orange-flavored whipped cream.

Mini offerings were just as seductive – Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream Sandwich, Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie, Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Bars, Cantaloupe Lavender Push Ups (Was this a sign to head off to the gym?) and more. We only wish we could have brought some home in a doggie bag. Sigh… 

Mitsitam Gets a New Chef 

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe.

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe.

This year the National Museum of the American Indian hired, Jerome Grant, as Executive Chef of the highly regarded Mitsitam Café where Grant had once worked as Sous Chef under former Executive Chef Richard Hetzler. At a private luncheon at the Museum, Chef Grant showcased some of his latest dishes.

The Oklahoma native won’t change the restaurant’s indigenous cuisine – – there will still be dishes from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica and the Great Plains – – but he has definitely put his own spin on the regional menu.

From the Northern Woodlands we sampled Chilled Golden Beet Soup with Wild Ginger, Puffed Wild Rice and Cherry Granola and a beautiful Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops and Popcorn. Also from the region was Smoked Rhubarb Turkey and Duck Fat Potato Hash with local Mushrooms.

From the Northwest Coast came plates of Wood-Fired Spot Prawns with white asparagus and pink peppercorn sorrel butter.

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast – Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands.

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast – Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands.

And from Mesoamerica we adored a salsa of green tomato, yellow corn and pipicha and his rendition of guacamole. What better companions?

The changes will dovetail nicely with a major new exhibition, “The Great Inka Road”, scheduled to open at NMAI on June 26th, the same time as the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival kicks off.

The bilingual exhibition explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures; as well as technologies that made building the road possible; the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world; and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.

The press release describes the Inka Road as “an intricate network that spans 24,000 miles across six countries and stands as one of the monumental engineering achievements in world history.”

This amazing exhibit features images, maps, models and 140 objects, including a ceramic Chavín stirrup spout bottle (the oldest item in the exhibition, ca. 800–100 B.C.), impressive gold ornaments, necklaces made from shells from the Lambayeque region, stone carvings, silver and gold figurines, and various textiles made from camelid hair and cotton.

For more information on the exhibit as well as upcoming activities, visit www.NMAI.si.edu.

We thank Chef Grant for this terrific recipe you can make at home.

Wild Grain Bars
 – Courtesy of Chef Jerome Grant

  • 
Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup raw, hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup golden flaxseed
  • 3 cups raw wild rice (not a blend), separated
  • 1/2 cup dried red quinoa
  • 1/2-cup coconut milk
  • 1/2-cup mild honey
  • 3/4-cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups tart dried cherries
Wild Grain Bars.

Wild Grain Bars.

  1. In sauce pan over medium-high heat add two inches of canola oil. When the oil is at 410° Fahrenheit, add one cup of raw wild rice. Cover. The rice will expand and double in size. Skim the popped rice and transfer to a paper-towel-lined sheet pan. Add more rice to the oil and continue popping the rice until all the rice has been popped, then reserve.
  2. Place sauté pan on medium heat with two teaspoons of canola oil. Once oil becomes hot, add quinoa and lightly shake the pan. Quinoa will pop rapidly just like popcorn. Once quinoa has fully popped, remove from heat and transfer to paper-towel-lined sheet pan, and reserve.
  3. Combine the puffed wild rice, quinoa, seeds and dried fruit in a bowl and mix together.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the sugar mix to a boil and reduce until soft-ball stage is reached (237° F). Pour the sugar mixture over the seeds and grains and mix thoroughly. Press the bars into a greased pan and let cool for about two hours before cutting.
  5. The recipe makes one 13” x 9” sheet pan, about 15-18 servings.

All photos credited to Jordan Wright.

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