Monday, November 30, 2015

Unique Christmas tree lights up downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

While every town center around seems to have a Christmas tree, the one in downtown Silver Spring brings its own unique brand of holiday decor. It celebrates the role that food plays during the holidays.

Look closely, and you'll notice those aren't ordinary ornaments decorating the tree. First of all, the ornaments are inside the tree, not hanging on the outer limbs like usual. Artists Karl Unnasch and Jon Taylor say that is to represent "a full pantry."

Snowflakes and stars are made from silver utensils, classic takeout containers become lanterns, and bowls, platters and cups become holiday designs.

You can make a donation to Manna Food Center at the tree, and find out more about deals at local downtown Silver Spring restaurants and businesses, in a celebration they're calling Foodie Festivus.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bar Louie coming to Wheaton Plaza

Westfield is continuing to reposition Wheaton Plaza in the local retail market, now bringing Bar Louie on board. Along with a recent signing of Tilted Kilt as a bar tenant, the retail center appears to be aiming for a younger audience seeking nightlife.

Bar Louie will be on Level 2 of the mall, in a 7846 SF space. There is an existing Bar Louie location in Montgomery County, at Rockville Town Square. Westfield has a Bar Louie at its Countryside mall in Florida.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

T.J. Maxx opens at Ellsworth Place (Photos)

T.J. Maxx is now open at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring, just in time for Black Friday. One interesting addition for families shopping, is a children's play area that's been set up outside the store.
Children's play area
outside the store

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gusto Italian Grill opens in Silver Spring (Photos)

Gusto Italian Grill has opened its second area location, at 8512 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. Their first restaurant opened recently in downtown Bethesda.

Unlike the Bethesda location, this Gusto's outdoor patio has a roof over it, allowing more flexible use of the space when the weather isn't so great.

Absolut Smackdown tonight at All Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring

The public, and a set of judges, will each decide tonight who in the DMV mixes the best Absolut cocktail, at All Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring. Your $15 ticket will get you samples of not only each cocktail entry, but also small plates from All Set.

Tickets are available online. Final ticket proceeds will be donated to local charities.

All Set Restaurant and Bar
8630 Fenton Street

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Postcards from old El Salvador in Silver Spring on December 9

A treasure trove of postcards from El Salvador during the period from 1900-1950 will be the topic of a lecture on Wednesday, December 9, from 6-9 PM, at the Silver Spring Civic Center. Author Stephen Grant will share scenes of people, buildings, ports, public squares and other existing and lost landmarks of the country's war-torn past.

The event will be followed by a Winter Potluck Dinner. RSVP by email to attend the evening free, and let them know what dish you'll be bringing to the potluck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Takoma Park pays tribute to Bruce Williams as new Mayor, Council are sworn in

Takoma Park residents - and even some neighbors from Montgomery County and across the District line - crowded into last night's Mayor and Council meeting to pay tribute to retiring Mayor Bruce Williams. A fixture in City elected office since the early 1990s, Williams received several awards, a proclamation from the new Mayor and Council, and many an emotional speech from speaker after speaker.

City Manager Suzanne Ludlow declared the evening "the end of an era for Takoma Park." Williams, who was first elected as the Ward 3 councilmember in 1993, was the first openly-gay elected official in the region including Maryland, the District and Virginia.

If it was the end of one era, last night was the beginning of another for new Mayor Kate Stewart and two new councilmembers, Peter Kovar (Ward 1) and Rizzy Qureshi (Ward 3). Qureshi, a first-generation American citizen, described his swearing-in as a "surreal moment" he and his family could not have imagined.

His colleague, Fred Schultz (Ward 6), welcomed the new blood on the Council. "It's also not a bad idea to keep some old guys around, just in case," the longtime councilmember added to laughter.

Stewart named Ward 4 Councilmember Terry Seamens as Mayor Pro Tempore.

The new Mayor herself opened her remarks by thanking the many "strong women" in her life, including her mother, sister, mother-in-law, and Rep. Ellen Story of Massachusetts. "I'm very fortunate to be elected Mayor at this time in history," she said. "We have a lot of work to do."

That work, she said, would include continuing to make the City welcoming to a diverse community, increasing energy efficiency, and providing affordable housing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meth lab in Kemp Mill?

Firefighters responded to a home in the 600 block of Winona Court in Kemp Mill last night. A HazMat team was among the responders, as the issue was related to chemicals. Via radio, a firefighter reported back to the dispatcher that he had determined the matter required the involvement of "law enforcement."

Police responded to the scene, and found chemicals "similar to those associated with [a] possible drug lab," according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

No injuries were reported, and police have not yet released further details on the case as of this writing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forever 21 Red, Foot Locker officially on-board at Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring (Photos)

Forever 21 Red and Foot Locker had reached initial agreement with Petrie-Richardson Ventures to join the retailers at the development firm's Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. On Wednesday, they made it official, signing long-term leases with the mall.

Another highly-anticipated tenant, Dave & Buster's, has also signed a long-term lease.

Red, a new concept for Forever 21, sells the styles the brand is known for carrying at a lower price than its regular stores. It will occupy a 13,508 SF space in the mall, which is currently undergoing a complete renovation.

Forever 21 Red is expected to open in mid-2016. New casual restaurant tenant Not Your Average Joe's is expected to open in the spring of 2016.

“Our long-term goal for Ellsworth Place has always been to reinvigorate the retail offerings in downtown Silver Spring with more modern, trendy options that are in line with the rapidly changing demographic of the surrounding area,” Terry Richardson, president and COO of PRV, said yesterday. “With Dave and Buster’s and Forever 21 Red officially coming to our newly renovated Ellsworth Place upon its completion mid-2016, as well as the signing of Foot Locker and restaurants MOD Pizza and Not Your Average Joe’s, we are full speed ahead on creating an almost unrecognizable retail center.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Copper Canyon Grill invites Silver Spring home for the holidays (Photos)

I was invited to a preview of the Home for the Holidays holiday menu at Copper Canyon Grill last evening. You can order this as a take-out meal for four with 2 days advance notice. It doesn't matter which holidays you are celebrating, either, as the deal will be available through January 1, 2016.
Anthony Peake, Executive Chef
and Director of Culinary Education
at Copper Canyon Grill, talks
about the recipes he created for
the holiday menu
The menu offers many traditional favorites, from rotisserie turkey to mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and - of course - stuffing. There's also the occasional modern dish - like bacon mac & cheese. Last night, I had the pumpkin cheesecake, which is a seasonal dessert. On the take-out menu, the dessert choices are Key Lime Pie and Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Sauce.

The take-out meal is available from all Copper Canyon Grill locations, including Rio/Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, and downtown Silver Spring. In addition, if you're seeking a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, the Silver Spring Copper Canyon Grill will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

I started off the meal with a glass of a 2013 Iris Vineyards Pinot Gris from Oregon. It's pretty good, with a citrus flavor, and a score of 91 from Wine Enthusiast. You might want to give the Albino Rocca Chardonnay Langhe from Italy a try, though, because the description sounds like it is perfectly paired to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Let's start with the turkey. I'm more of a dark meat person when it comes to turkey, and especially, chicken. But the white meat was very tender on this rotisserie turkey, with a nicely-crisp skin. If you're like me, you may have had some tough white meat turkey in restaurants. That won't happen here.
For me, stuffing is the main event of the Thanksgiving dinner. You won't be disappointed with this cornbread stuffing from Chef Anthony Peake's own grandmother's recipe. It includes my one must-have ingredient for stuffing - sage.

The mashed potatoes have a traditional flavor, and it's a rich one enhanced with sour cream. There was a good balance of sweet and tart in the cranberry sauce, and you'll definitely want some extra gravy.
Green beans
Sweet glazed carrots

A nice seasoning on
the green beans
For a vegetable choice, I would go with the Sweet Glazed Carrots. I was searching for every last one hiding on the plate. The green beans would certainly fit the bill, though, if that is your personal preference. I just thought the carrots had a little something extra.
The bacon Mac & Cheese was super-rich with 3 cheeses, and finely-chopped raw onion added an extra zing of flavor throughout.

There were several fresh breads on hand from sister restaurant Stanford Grill's in-house bakery in Rockville. It seemed like the biggest hit at the table was the cornbread.

For the big finish, a huge slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake appeared. It was topped with whipped cream and a rich chocolate ganache. A fantastic finish to a delicious early Thanksgiving dinner. Why have just one a year, after all?