Monthly Archives: February 2017

Alien:  Covenant — Prologue

“The official prologue to Alien: Covenant introduces the crew of the mission as they gather for a final meal before entering cryosleep.” That’s the official description of this almost five-minute teaser for the new addition to the Alien franchise. “Set aboard the Covenant, a colonization ship on its way to a remote planet to form a new human settlement, the main crew (all couples) and their android, Walter, enjoy their final meal together before cryosleep.”

The key word here is “teaser”. The video has quite a bit of clever fun with audience expectations.

Ridley Scott directed. No sign of Sigourney Weaver, but there’s always hope that her character will make a cameo appearance via video/holograph/whatever.

The film is scheduled for a 19 May 2017 release.

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Vermilion — Lunch on 23 February 2017

The 2017 Winter Alexandria Restaurant Week runs through the weekend, but, for me, it ended Thursday with lunch in Old Town at Vermilion.

With temperatures once again in the mid 70s, it felt more like late April than February. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain. I certainly don’t regret cancelling my usual February escape to the mellow pleasures of New Orleans; this year, I was able to enjoy both New Orleans winter weather and New Orleans quality restaurants without even leaving home. I think I’ll have a Klondike Bar, and spend some time quietly contemplating what a clever animal I am.

Anyhow, Vermilion. Always excellent, always on The Washingtonian’s “100 Best Restaurants” list and The Washington Post’s annual critic’s favourite update.

It didn’t disappoint.

Cornmeal Crusted Oysters

Oysters

A great starter. Those are cornmeal crusted oysters on a citrus slaw. The swirl in the foreground is peppered Yuzu aioli. At first I thought the herb was an unfamiliar form of dill but it was fennel.

Pan Roasted Salmon

Salmon

Loved the pan roasted salmon, particularly the crusty skin. The white bean stew with chorizo was an interesting contrast.  “Pistou” is the French cousin of the Italian “pesto”, minus the pine nuts. Despite the iridescent colour, it didn’t add a lot of flavour to the dish.

Dessert

Dessert

Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake, What else needs to be said?

“The Panda Has Landed”

From the Smithsonian’s National Zoo:

“Bao Bao, one of her keepers, Marty Dearie, and Dr. Katharine Hope landed at China’s Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport around 6:59 p.m. CST after a 16-hour direct flight aboard the “FedEx Panda Express,” a custom-decaled 777F aircraft. Bao Bao ate, drank and slept normally during the smooth flight.”


The National Zoo posted this look back at the Bao Bao years.

Bastille — Lunch on 21 February 2017

We’re near the end now. I’ve saved some of the best for last.

I’ve been going to Bastille for close to 10 ten years now, starting in the days when it was in another part of Alexandria. When it moved to its current location, I followed.

Beignets de crevettes

Beignets de crevettes

“Beignets de crevettes” are also known as “Shrimp fritters”. I wasn’t sure what to do with the thin lime slice on top of each beignet, so I just moved each one to the plate and pressed it under my fork until it yielded a bit of lime juice, which I then mixed into the guacamole. and I have no idea why I’m babbling on about such a meaningless detail, except that it’s late at night and I’m not at my peak right now.

Gambas and Quinoa Salad

Gambas and Quinoa Salad

Yes, I followed a shrimp starter with a shrimp main. This was good stuff:  Grilled shrimp with a warm quinoa salad using a  preserved lemon vinaigrette, tomato, piquillo, fennel, scallions, and pine nuts.

Profiteroles

Profiteroles

As usual at Bastille, dessert was a killer. These profiterole pastries were filled with housemade espresso ice cream and topped with a chocolate— Valrhona, of course—fudge sauce.

If Bastille were in my neighborhood, I’d probably eat there once a week.

Frank Bango — “Candy Bar Killer”

Frank Bango’s 1999 Fugitive Girls has been my wake-up CD for the last week. With vocals and music by Bango, and lyrics by Richy Vesecky, this is one of those timeless power pop gems that stays forever fresh. After all these years, I still discover something new every time I listen to it.

“There was a yellow bottle
dropping white pills into pink lemonade…”

“Now they call her the Candy Bar Killer
for the wrapper she left by his side
‘It’s such fun to be beautiful and young,’
she cried.”


You can download the entire album, legally and at no cost, from the Free Music Archive.

Warehouse Bar & Grill — Lunch on 17 February 2017

With the start of Alexandria Restaurant Week, we’re finally in the home stretch of this year’s winter dining marathon.

I’ve come to think of this as one of my big annual projects. Starting in late December, I spend a huge amount of time planning: reading reviews, researching menus and locations, balancing places I’ve never tried with proven favourites, searching for something interesting and new. From mid-January through sometime in February, my days are largely built around Lunch. After that, I turn my focus to planning what I still think of as Spring Break. (This year, I’ll be spending Spring Break in Venice. The one in Italy, not the one in California.)

Then in August, the cycle begins again.

I’ve always agreed with the idea that “living well is the best revenge”, and in a way, I’m now getting revenge for all those tuna-salad-on-Wonderbread lunches I used to make in younger, hungrier days.

Okay, back to Alexandria.

This was my first visit to the Warehouse Bar & Grill, which is two blocks from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria.

Soup

Soup

The menu said that She-Crab soup was the restaurant’s specialty, and it lived up to the description.

Tilapia

Tilapia

My main was Horseradish-Crusted Tilapia, with lump crab meat and a champagne leek sauce. It came with smashed potatoes and fresh asparagus.

One of the frequent criticisms of Restaurant Week is that some restaurateurs feature less expensive ingredients in their selections. Salmon, for instance, is unavoidable—it shows up on almost every menu.

Tilapia is another example. But this plate, with the lump crab meat and the champagne leek sauce, tasted anything but cheap. Excellent main.

Service here was also exemplary.


You may have noticed the absence of a picture of my dessert. The reason is a little embarrassing. I had strawberries and cream, and it looked so tempting that I was half way through it before I realized I’d forgotten to take a picture.

Last Chance to See Bao Bao

Remember Logan’s Run, the 1970s dystopian science fiction movie? When characters in the film turned 30, they were made to ride the Carousel for a ritual “renewal”.  And after that, they were never seen again.

Something similar happens to pandas at the National Zoo.

Through an oversight on the part of the authors of the Constitution, pandas born at the Zoo do not automatically gain US citizenship, despite being born on American soil. Fixing this should be a priority in any immigration reform legislation.

In addition to paying a million dollars a year to “rent” adult pandas from China, the Zoo is charged an extra one-time “baby tax” of between $400,000 and $600,000 for any panda born at the Zoo.

And sometime between the baby’s third and fourth birthday, it’s sent to China.

Bao Bao, the Zoo’s female giant panda cub, was born on 23 August 2013. This will be her last weekend in Washington. She’ll be shipped to China by FedEx on 21 February 2017.

The Zoo has posted a Schedule of Events for these last few days, including the times when Bao Bao will be given her daily treats, which will be viewable on the live Panda Cams.

On 21 February 2017 departure date, the Zoo will be closed to the public from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can watch Bao Bao’s exit on the National Zoo’s Facebook page, which will show her 10 a.m. departure from the Zoo and her 1:30 p.m. departure from Dulles Airport. All times EST.

(All photos from the National Zoo)