Scandinavian Midsummer: Feast the Night Away

July 26, 2011

Diet Simple (June 2011, LifeLine Press)

Swedish cuisine is the ultimate “nouvelle” cuisine. It is simple, fresh, and is naturally local and seasonal. It’s elegant, yet down-to-earth, which is also a perfect description of the Swedish people, and even Swedish design.

I’ve had a life-long love affair with Sweden, its culture, cuisine and people. I’m so grateful that finally the world has caught on that my beloved Sweden is a recognized culinary destination.

The daughter of a Swedish mother and an American father, I’ve been visiting Sweden since I was a little girl. During my regular visits, I soaked in every possible aspect of Swedish food and cooking. I took many fishing trips in the North Sea on my Uncle Olle’s small motor boat. I received early lessons on cleaning, smoking, grilling, pickling – and any other method one could name – of preparing fresh fish.

I was raised in the Swedish culinary tradition. I’ve picked wild blueberries, strawberries and mushrooms in the Swedish archipelago, then watched as my grandmother (Mormor) and Aunt Ingrid prepared treats with the bounty. Growing up, I and my mother dined regularly on crepes with lingonberries and cream – one of my favorite dinners (though now I use yogurt instead of cream! Naturligtvis!). I’ve delighted in all the unique foods my family introduced me to: the grainy rye breads, the special cheeses and yogurts, the smoked reindeer meat, the delicate, sweet, and tiny Swedish shrimps, caviar, crayfish, and of course, meatballs and lingonberry sauce!

If you are not a Swede or Scandinavian, you may not know that this is the most special time of year. For weeks on end the sun never sets in Sweden’s summertime. It’s daylight round-the-clock.

Every ear, during one of those “white nights” – the Friday nearest the 24th of June – the nation turns out to feast until morning. After long winter months of what seems like never-ending darkness, sun-starved Swedes join the rest of Scandinavia in celebrating the summer solstice – the year’s longest day.

Swedes call the celebration Midsummer Eve. It is more than just a holiday, however. Midsummer Eve, often lasting through Saturday – and sometimes the whole weekend – is the national excuse for the biggest parties of the year. The revelry is non-stop.

Beginning Friday morning, families gather to set the scene. Every spare piece of furniture is moved outdoors, setting up a festival atmosphere. Large wooden crosses are turned into maypoles decorated with flowers, ribbons and leafy branches.

The maypoles are raised, and hours of dancing, singing and community wide camaraderie get under way. By late afternoon the revelry has served its purpose. Gnawing hunger has prepared the celebrants for the main event: the feast, Sweden’s famed smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord is a Swedish invention and is literally a table of open-faced sandwiches. Though its origin was a simple array of hors d’oeuvres, smorgasbords today are exhaustive buffet-style spreads, the Swedish version being the best known.

There are appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts. The dishes signal summer’s first harvests: freshly clipped dill, tender root vegetables, fish and other seafoods, and strawberries grown in the country.

There are cured ingredients, as well. Pink rolls of cured salmon are wrapped around dill sprigs, with yellow mustard sauces and peppercorns alongside. There is marinated herring and coarse salt, as well as dill and other pickles. Dairy products also are important, including eggs, cheese and cream.

The traditional drink is aquavit, Swedish vodka spiced with anise and caraway. It is served in tiny schnapps glasses. The Midsummer toast, which loses something in translation, usually amounts to a unanimous gulp followed by a chant of “rah, rah, rah, rah.”

Actually, preparation of Midsummer food usually begins a couple of days before. Local fishermen stack their just-caught salmon in rickety wheelbarrows, roll them into town and go door to door displaying their wares for inspection by anxious cooks.

The fish are carefully examined in solemn transaction, the cook – usually my Grandmother – signaling the final selection with an abrupt, “This will do!” The fisherman nods, satisfied, and carries the fish to the kitchen where it lands on the table with a thud. The smell of the sea enters the house with the day’s catch. The best knife has been sharpened for this moment: the start of Midsummer Eve cooking.

SWEDISH RECIPES
Aquavit and Marcus Samuelsson’s Gravlax Club Sandwich
(excerpted from Diet Simple (June 2011, LifeLine Press)

This sandwich is such a popular item in Aquavit’s café that it is never off the menu. It combines the velvety textures of guacamole and gravlax, with the crispy nature of iceberg lettuce and great chewiness of whole grain bread. If you want to make this sandwich and don¹t happen to have any gravlax on hand, you can substitute smoked salmon with equal success.

I’ve used this recipe at parties. Just cut the sandwiches into smaller appetizer size sandwiches, into quarters, and place a tooth pick through all layers for easy grabbing. It’s always a hit.

Makes 5 sandwiches.

2 avocados
Juice from 2 limes
1/2 medium size red onion, finely chopped
1 medium-size ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
8 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 thin slices of whole grain wheat or rye bread
5 thin slices of Gravlax
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

1. Mash the avocado with a fork and add the limejuice. Add the chopped onion, tomato, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro and toss everything to mix well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

2. Toast the bread slices lightly and let them cool.

3. Place a slice of gravlax on a slice of bread. Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the avocado mixture over the gravlax and sprinkle with shredded iceberg lettuce. Cover with a second slice of bread. Repeat with the remaining bread slices and gravlax.

1 Gravlax Club Sandwich: Calories; 300, Total Fat ; 15g, Saturated Fat; 2g, Cholesterol; 5mg, Sodium; 740mg, Total Carbohydrate; 38g, Dietary Fiber; 15g, Omega 3 Fatty Acids; 0.82 g, Protein; 11g

Gravlax
2-1/2 pounds fresh salmon
4 Tbsp Sugar
5 Tbsp Coarse Salt
1 Tbsp White Peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 Bunch Fresh Dill
Lemon and additional dill for garnish
Mix sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
With half of the dill, cover the bottom of a shallow baking pan just slightly larger than the fish. Pour two-thirds of the sugar, salt and pepper mixture evenly over the dill and place salmon on top, skin side up.

Cover the salmon with the remaining mixture and remaining dill. Cover pan with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for two days (at least 24 hours).

To serve, scrape off the marinade, slice fish thinly and roll. Garnish with lemon pieces and dill. Serve with mustard sauce on the side. Serves 8 to 12.

Mustard Sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Dill
3 Tbsp Gulden’s Mustard
1 Tbsp Sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
All ingredients should be at room temperature. Place mustard in a small bowl, add sugar. Blend in the oil slowly. Add the dill and mix thoroughly.

SIDEBAR:
Nordic Food Days June 19 to 26, 2011
The embassies of the Nordic countries are bringing five of the world’s best chefs from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Among the events: Nordic Jazz and Cuisine on the rooftop of the house of Sweden in Georgetown on June 19, and June 21 to 26: Nordic Restaurant Days at select DC restaurants. For more information, go to: NordicInnovation.org/NordicFoodDaysDC

I will see you there!

By Katherine Tallmadge, author Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations (LifeLine Press, June 2011), designs personalized nutrition and wellness programs for individuals and companies. www.KatherineTallmadge.com

[gallery ids="100023,100024,100025,100026" nav="thumbs"]

The Apple of Charlottesville’s Eye


In 1998, a great barn was built in Keswick, VA on the Castle Hill estate, just a stone’s throw from Charlottesville and Monticello. Located on a 600-acre plot of rolling, endless hills, the barn was designed to accommodate cattle auctions for the surrounding ranchers. Like much of Keswick, the land is undeveloped and still entrenched in the natural beauty of Virginia, with a prominent view of the Southwest Mountains.
When architect and landscape designer John Rhett saw the abandoned barn in 2008, with it’s 8,000 square feet of open space and 25-foot ceilings, he had other plans for it.

He became involved with the current owner of the property fixing up the house and beautifying the grounds, but it was clear that there was much more to be done, especially to the barn. When Rhett was approached about putting a vineyard on the property and converting the barn to a winery, his answer was a bit more interesting than a simple yes or no. “I prefer trees to vines,” he said. “I said, why don’t we think of planting an orchard and starting a cidery.” And so the Barn at Castle Cider, a cidery and the area’s newest event space, came to be.

The barn has been completely transformed since Rhett, now General Manager, began renovations. At one end of the barn is a beautiful fieldstone fireplace with white oak paneling, where ranchers used to mingle before the auction. “That’s our tasting room,” says Rhett, who is building a limestone bar and small kitchen into the area. The tasting room is designed fittingly for cocktail parties, rehearsal dinners and other small gatherings. The library, located directly above the tasting room, has its own working fireplace and an upper porch with a breathtaking view of the outlying meadow and mountain range.

“The other end of the barn is where they used to wash down the cattle,” says Rhett. “We’re going to convert that room to our tank room for the cider.”

In the center of the barn, with the cavernous open space, Rhett is building a stage and a loft. The loft connects to the library by a catwalk, and each end of the loft has wide doors that open to views of the estate.
Rhett then designed terraced lawns by the barn, which sit above a stream and small lake. It is almost too easy to envision a wedding ceremony by the water, with the great white barn in the background, surrounded by mountains and apple trees.

Beyond its rustic beauty, the Castle Hill estate holds historical significance to the area, and Rhett did not want it lost to the public. “There’s a lot of history here,” he says. “This place was built in 1764.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Castle Hill was originally the home of Colonel Thomas Walker, Thomas Jefferson’s guardian and mentor.

The land’s local historical significance, and a mission to build the community through the making and partaking of cider, was much of Rhett’s inspiration for designing the barn as a public and private event space.
The rich history of Castle Hill bleeds into the apple orchard Rhett planted in the fall of 2009. Made up of 600 trees with 28 different types of apples, its most prized variety is a largely forgotten breed named the Albemarle Pippin. “It’s an apple that became a favorite of Queen Victoria’s,” says Rhett. “She was given a basket of them, and she liked them so much that she removed the tariff from the apple just so it was cheaper to import them.”

The Albemarle Pippin got here by the hands of George Washington himself. Originally from New York, Washington gave a cutting to Colonel Walker (the very same Colonel Walker from before), who planted it in Albemarle County. “We’re bringing it all back to Castle Hill by planting them here,” says Rhett.

The apple varieties will all be fermented individually to retain their unique flavors, and then blended to create different hard ciders. Rhett has gone back to the origins of cider production with his fermentation process. He has brought in amphoras from the Caucasus Mountains in the country of Georgia, called kvevri. They are lined with beeswax and buried in the cool earth, wherein the cider is poured and the fermentation works it’s magic.

“The cider never touches modern material to impart any flavors,” says Rhett, who dislikes the metallic taste he finds in wine fermented in steel tanks. “There’s no one really in the world making cider this way anymore.”

The kvevri are buried alongside the barn, protected by a large overhang. Fifty feet away, the very same cider will soon be served at the bar in the tasting room. “You walk into the barn and you smell apples,” says Rhett. “It’s really nice.”

The Barn at Castle Hill is a warm and stunning host for any affair, a space that begs to be filled with life. Its high walls echo with the expectations of history experienced, and history waiting to be made. The barn has been hosting fundraisers and events, and they have their first wedding booked for June. I imagine this place will be filling up fast. The next time you visit Charlottesville, stop by the big white barn, have a glass of cider and see for yourself.

For more information, visit Castle Hill Cider online. [gallery ids="102508,120188,120177,120183" nav="thumbs"]

Talbot County: A Sailor’s Paradise


From George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River in 1776, to the Kennedys’ iconic yachting excursions that captured in celluloid the idealism and spirit of the late 1950s and early 60s, Washington D.C. has scattered bits of its history on the water. The Potomac and Anacostia Rivers wind through our neighborhoods, their beauty and power never failing to refresh the senses. If ever you’re feeling blue, take a walk along the Mt. Vernon trail up by Roosevelt Island beside the Potomac River, watch the birds take flight, breathe the air, wrap yourself in the billowing silence and tell me if you don’t feel at least a little better.

And in the Delmarva area, there is one place agreed upon by sailors and seafarers as the best of waterfront escape. Talbot County, Maryland is the only area with the charm, history and abundant seaside culture to suit everyone from weathered, Kennedyian sailors to eager day-trippers. The towns of St. Michaels, Oxford and Tilghman Island offer events and recreations throughout the summer—charter boats and guided sailing tours, as well as antique boat and seafood festivals and even cardboard boat racing—all devoted to the wonder of life at sea.

St. Michaels

St. Michaels is a historic town that dates back to the middle of the 1600s, having served as a trading post for tobacco farmers and trappers. Throughout the 1800s and into the 20th century, the town’s economy was focused largely around shipbuilding and seafood processing from the Chesapeake Bay. Now they are well known for great restaurants, community and access to the waters of the Chesapeake.

The 24th annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival is returning to St. Michaels, June 17 – 19, at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Taking place on Father’s Day weekend, this is the largest event of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region, featuring more than 100 antique and classic boats, building demonstrations, maritime artists and craftsmen, craft vendors, classic used boats and motors and even a nautical flea market. A selection of regional and grilled foods, beer and music will be provided throughout the festival.

This year’s featured attraction is boating legend Garfield “Gar” Wood’s (1880–1971) award-winning Miss America IX, a 30’ Mahogany hydroplane racer that was the first boat to ever achieve 100 mph. The event also showcases a variety of antique and classic wooden and fiberglass boats.

National and regional artists and artisans including painters, sculptors, photographers, wildlife carvers, jewelers and furniture and model makers will be on hand with boat-related wares. Boat builders, boat restorers, boat kits, boat products and boating safety resources will also be available throughout the event. The Museum’s ten exhibit buildings and working boat yard will also be open throughout the festival. For more information visit ChesapeakeBayACBS.org or CBMM.org.

Dockside Express Cruises and Tours are specialists in group charters. They offer eco-tours of the surrounding wildlife, as well as a number of themed cruises, like crab feast cruises, wine tasting cruises, champagne sunset cruises, ghost tours and even Parrot-head cruises for all the Jimmy Buffet fans out there. You can book weddings and larger events aboard their ship, the Express Royale. For more information visit DocksideExpress.com.

On June 4th, St. Michaels will be celebrating the Eastern Shore’s strawberry harvest with over 40 artists displaying crafts of all kinds, and of course droves of strawberries, at the 22nd Annual Strawberry Festival and Craft Show. Hosted at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (304 Talbot Street, St. Michaels) from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. No admission fee. For more information call the church office at (410) 745-2534.

Oxford

Another historic town, one of the oldest in the country, Oxford was a trading post for British imports. The town took a turn for the worse after the Revolutionary War and didn’t bounce back until railroad systems came in the late 1800s after the Civil War. The Chesapeake Bay oyster industry took off then, with canning and packaging methods greatly improved and the business boom brought prosperity to the town. Soon thereafter, boaters were the first to recognize Oxford for its tourism potential and seaside luxuries.

An annual summertime tradition in Oxford is its cardboard boat races on the Tred Avon River, where participants build their oftentimes flimsy, rickety boats from cardboard and race for the finish. This June 25 will mark The 23rd Annual Oxford Cardboard Boat Races, benefiting Special Olympics of Maryland, taking place on the Oxford Strand. This year’s race will be the Battle of the Brave, featuring local fire companies, law enforcement, Coast Guard and volunteer organizations. There are also a number of other races, including the Corporate Challenge among local merchants and area businesses, the Little Mates Race (ages 5-12) and the Funny Race, featuring those boats with more character than buoyancy.

Added to this year’s event are two new categories: the IronMates, which will be a longer race to test one’s strength and endurance; and the new Teen Challenge race for ages 13 – 19. For more information on the event, building and entering your own boat visit CardboardBoatRace.org.

The Oxford-Bellevue Ferry is a great way to see the surrounding area. America’s oldest privately owned ferry established 1683, crosses the Tred Avon River between Oxford and Bellevue, Maryland. It’s a quick trip, 7 to 10 minutes, 20 round trip, but a lot of fun and St. Michaels is a pleasant seven mile bike ride or drive from the Bellevue landing. The ferry can carry cars and motorcycles. For more information visit OxfordFerry.com

Captains Dan and Elizabeth Cole run a coastal excursion charter company out of Oxford, combining their love for the water and hospitality. Their experience and personality is just the ticket for a weekend on the water.

They learned the ropes early aboard Tall Ships plying the waters of New England and the Great Lakes. From there, they landed in the yacht industry traveling extensively on a wide variety of sail and motor yachts. For the past three years, they have hosted and entertained discerning charter guests on mega-yachts worldwide. Creative and inventive, Elizabeth has her bachelors in Education and Art, while Dan studied sports management with a passion for American History and everything nautical. Guests aboard their charter can choose from a wide variety of activities including art lessons, fishing, kayaking, skeet, archery, water sports, sightseeing and boat skills. Pets are also welcome aboard their ship. Whether you desire to tour down to the Florida Keys or explore the historic ports of the Eastern seaboard, their enthusiasm and attention to every detail will ensure you will have a memorable adventure. For more information call (954) 347-1885.

Tilghman Island

Known as the pearl of the Chesapeake Bay, Tilghman Island is separated by the mainland by Knapps Narrow, but is easily accessible by drawbridge. Tilghman Island is a true working watermen’s village with excellent fishing and fresh seafood. It’s also home to the last commercial sailing fleet in North America, the skipjacks, which are on display at its Dogwood Harbor. There are a number of great Inns and Bed and Breakfasts on the island, and its just minutes from the surrounding towns of Oxford and St. Michaels.

The Summer Seafood Festival on June 25 is worth packing your vehicles, be it motorcar or motorboat, and speeding over to enjoy live music, dancing, crab racing and of course more fresh seafood than you can handle.

The Chesapeake Lighthouse Tours are a unique look at Chesapeake’s lighthouse heritage, which has assisted the passage of boats for centuries. Captain Mike Richards, who guides the tours, has over 35 years experience on the Chesapeake Bay and shares stories of these historic lighthouses and their surrounding areas. Half and full day tours leave from the Bay Hundred Restaurant at Knapps Narrows Marina, through October. For more information visit ChesapeakeLights.com.

The Tilghman Island Marina is a popular destination spot with transient boaters and boating clubs and groups all throughout the bay, who also offer boat rentals and various charters. The picturesque marina overlooks the Chesapeake Bay and Nature Area. Offering a quaint ambiance in a park-like setting that caters to boating groups and guests, it’s a great place to enjoy a Chesapeake Bay sunset from the comfort and privacy of your own boat. You can also jet ski, sail, bicycle, fish and take waterway tours. Walk, ride or dinghy to all Island attractions, Inns and restaurants. For more information visit TilghmanMarina.com.
[gallery ids="102514,102515" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy’s Love


Dear Stacy:

I am the stay-at-home-mom of a great little 12-week-old boy. Not going back to work has been quite an adjustment, but my husband and I always agreed that I would leave my job until our kids go off to kindergarten. I have missed my colleagues and spending time on big projects, but I know that the “project” I’m currently managing is about as big as it gets.

It’s my dear husband who doesn’t seem to get it. Nearly every day, he comes home from work and asks, “So, what did you accomplish today?” Now that I am at home with our son, my husband suddenly expects me to become a domestic goddess. He wants me to make dinner every night, cancelled our maid service, and even thinks I should mow the lawn. None of this was consistently part of my responsibility before the baby came. We hired out for the jobs we didn’t like doing (housework, lawn care), and split the rest (cooking, shopping) between us. Today, his list of to-dos is so long he can’t keep up with it all, and the truth is, I don’t want to keep up with all of that. I thought we chose this new lifestyle so I could be a parent, I didn’t think I was signing on to be a servant. How do I explain myself without sounding like a whiny brat?

— Overworked on O

Dear Overworked,

Hmm, part of me wants you to just follow this script: “What did I accomplish today? I kept your son alive.”

While that’s probably not the most productive response, it felt pretty good to type.

It sounds to me like both you and Husband are still adjusting to becoming parents! Now that Baby is on the scene, you may need a reminder or clarification conversation about your household game plan. Have you had a conversation about your own expectations during this stay-at-home time? Does he know how you feel? Does he know how it sounds to you when he asks what you’ve “accomplished”?

When you say you don’t want to come across like a “whiny brat,” it suggests that some part of you is feeling bad about not taking on all the household duties. That sounds like the modern Superwoman complex gone awry. Presumably you and Husband made the joint decision to have a child and the joint decision to parent with you at home. A calm, honest conversation about your own feelings and expectations is the only way to ensure that he actually hears what you’re thinking.

And who knows, you might learn that he isn’t feeling so great about not being on-site with your son. Men have their own Superman complexes — is he allowed to name his feelings about the situation? Perhaps his questions are only masking his own disappointment about the way things are going. Again, an honest conversation is the only way to find out.

Meanwhile, I’d also recommend that you to seek out old friends who are newly minted stay-at-home-moms (or meet some new ones) to find a support circle during this transition time. You haven’t chosen the “easy” route here, and just because you’re already walking it doesn’t mean you don’t need some encouragement from others on the same road.

Dear Stacy:

I have been married for 11 years to the love of my life. We have two children together, a nine-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl. My husband is everything I have always wanted. We have always been very compatible and I feel so lucky to have him as my partner.

Lately though, I have started working closely with a male colleague, I will call him “Bob.” We’re on a big project, which has included some travel together. The more time I spend with Bob, the easier and more fun it becomes. On the last trip, when we went to dinner I felt like we were “on a date.” I felt a lot of attraction for him, and I think he felt the same for me. We didn’t talk about it, and neither of us did anything to make a move.

My question is whether I should tell my husband. We have always been completely honest with each other, and I would want him to tell me if he felt as much attraction for a woman as I feel for Bob. But I asked my best friend and she thought I was crazy to potentially damage my marriage when I have no intention of acting on the feelings. I don’t know what to do — should I keep it a secret? Bob and I will be working closely together for at least another six months.

— Attracted in Arlington

Dear Arlington,

Let’s run through the scenarios. What exactly would telling him do? I agree with Best Friend that it is likely to damage your relationship with Husband, but what other purpose would it serve? Do you want to tell him so that you are semi-publicly shamed into not acting on the feelings? Or perhaps a part of you wants Husband to lose it, giving you permission to seek solace in Bob’s open arms? Or maybe you come from a tradition where lusting in your heart is such a burden, you just want to confess to someone? If that’s the latter’s the case, my advice is simple: find someone else to talk to. If you’re still unsure of the purpose, let’s turn the conversation away from Husband and back to you.

What is this really about? You make such a strong case for your great marriage, I wonder if you are allowed to admit that things might not be as wonderful as they “should be.” Yes, marriage is about partnership, family, and unconditional love — but those things don’t always add up to something sexy and intriguing day after day. Do you need more romance, excitement, spontaneity? That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and the good news is you can get it at home, with a little work and creativity.

When we’ve been with our partner as long as you have, we sometimes forget that we have to use actual words to convey what’s going on in our brains. The two of you may have honed your connection over the last 11 years so much that he’s a mind-reader when it comes to co-parenting or picking out your favorite ice cream at the store. Still, he might need a little more guidance on this one, since family routines are notorious for soothing even the best of us into relational apathy. You don’t have to own up to the attraction to get what you want, you may just have to make surprise vacation plans, or just flirt with him a little more in public. Give it a shot before setting off a bomb in your happy home.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of D.C. in Georgetown. Her Web site is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to stacy@georgetowner.com.

Dining Out — Without the Bulge


I love going out to restaurants. The whole ambiance is delightful. I enjoy the solicitude of the staff, watching the people and simply taking a quiet hour or two to relax and enjoy good food. There are times when I go out and choose healthfully, and there are other times I enjoy a good splurge and overindulge — either choice is perfectly normal.

For me, eating out is a special occasion. For millions of Americans, however, it’s a way of life. I know more than a few people who eat out all three meals five, six, even seven days a week. That’s when restaurant food can present appreciable health problems.

Let’s face it: one reason the dishes we get in restaurants are so delicious is that they’re swimming in richness, and chefs choose their ingredients and cooking methods for their effects on the palate, not for their health properties or low-calorie contents. An occasional splurge won’t do any lasting damage. But indulging — or, to be frank, overindulging — on a regular basis will add some serious weight to your frame if you aren’t careful.

If you eat out frequently, I recommend some basics. Before you go, or even decide on a restaurant, look at the restaurant’s Web site and menu so you know what to expect, and make a note of some of the courses you think would be tasty yet healthy. This way, you’re not so tempted by the sights and smells of the fattening foods you’ll inevitably be surrounded by once you get there.

Second, if you have read about the restaurant and chef, then you may have some idea of how heavy-handed the chef is with butter or other fattening ingredients, or whether the restaurant serves a sole diner a portion that could feed four. But if the place is new to you then look around for clues. Take a walk to the restrooms and look at the food on other diners’ plates. How big are the servings? Are the meats, veggies, pastas swimming in sauce? What do you smell? Don’t be afraid to ask the wait staff for help. Finally, it is okay to ask for a take-home bag if the serving size is too much.

Set some priorities. Suppose, for example, you’ve booked four meals out this week. You certainly won’t lose weight, and you may even gain weight, if you eat with abandon each time. What you can do, however, is decide in advance that one of those nights is going to be your “splurge night.” Order anything you want. Enjoy every bite. Savor each and every one of those special calories. On the other three nights, order more carefully. You’ll still enjoy the experience of dining out, but you won’t take in more calories than your poor body can handle. In my book, “Diet Simple,” I call this strategy “The 25 Percent Blowout.”

Some diet plans and nutrition fanatics forbid, or at least discourage, eating at restaurants and enjoying yourself with abandon at all. I disagree. My approach is designed to help you enjoy your meals — enjoy life, for that matter — and feel satisfied while maintaining a healthy weight. Eating out with friends or family is a wonderful experience. No eating plan has a chance to last if it’s not enjoyable. What I do advise is eating (and ordering) smart. By all means, enjoy your meals away from home — but take a few simple steps to keep the calories under control.

To give you some perspective, the average woman should eat about 1,800 to 2000 calories daily to maintain her weight (1,500 to 1,800 to lose weight). The average man, about 2,200 to 2400 (1,800 to 2,100 to lose weight). But a person’s calorie needs can vary widely depending on his/her height, weight, age and degree of fitness and activity level.

I find people feel best and avoid blood sugar and appetite highs and lows with their accompanying cravings when they eat 1/3 of their day’s calories in the morning, 1/3 mid-day and no more than 1/3 of their days’ calories in the evenings. So, for the gals, that means your meals should be no more than about 500 to 600 calories, but if you prefer to have more food at dinner — my recommendation would be 800 at the most for a dinner out. For the guys, meals should be no more than 750 calories — or 900 max for dinner out. These rules aren’t carved in stone, but they’ll give you some context when I give you recommendations or you go to a restaurant’s Web site to view the calorie content of some of their offerings.

As an example, the beauty of traditional Italian cooking is its simplicity: Italians have a no-fuss approach to cooking so their extraordinary ingredients shine. A little olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe an herb or two, and voila — a light, healthy masterpiece! But for this magic to happen, the freshness of the basic ingredients is vital. Italians (in Italy) have access to the most delicious produce, nuts, grains, olive oil, pasta, cheese and seafood in the world, often because they still get it from their own backyards, the neighborhood farm or the fisherman nearby. This freshness and high quality is why simplicity works — no complex cooking styles or sauces are necessary, which keeps calories down and health up, especially because serving sizes traditionally are small.

But this is where real Italian cooking and most American Italian restaurants part ways. Most Americans expect a lot of food on the plate for their money. We call it “value.” But when restaurants are expected to serve such huge amounts of food for low prices, the quality of the ingredients suffer, chefs resort to fattier methods of cooking and gooier sauces are used to compensate. This is one reason why Americans who regularly eat in restaurants are fatter, according to research. In fact, one study found if a person ate in a restaurant 12 times or more per month, they were eating 20 percent more calories. That can pack on the pounds very quickly!

This is not to say it’s impossible to eat healthy in a restaurant. You just have to go in with your eyes wide open. Of course, in any restaurant the no-brainer healthy selection is a salad-like appetizer, a simple seafood preparation such as grilled fish and fruit for dessert.

But when in Rome, we want to do what the Romans do. Eat pasta. Drink wine. Linger over several courses of beautiful food.

You don’t need to be disappointed — just alert and careful. Italians do interesting things with vegetables and seafood (try mussels and clams cooked in broth, or raw bar style). The beef or seafood carpaccios are excellent light and tasty choices. And always check the side-dishes and appetizers. Small servings of pastas that involve vegetables and light sauces are perfect alternatives. Of course, if we ate more Italian-sized portions and preparations, we’d be fine.

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., a nutrition expert for over 20 years, will customize an easy and enjoyable nutrition, weight loss, athletic or medical nutrition therapy program for you, your family or your company. She is the author of “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations” and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Visit www.katherinetallmadge.com or call 202-833-0353.

Soothing Summer Sensations


Grocery store items aren’t the only summer goodies that can be compared in Georgetown, so this week we brought you a whole new perspective on pricing. After experiencing the heat wave with triple-digit weather last week, we realized items to protect and moisturize your skin might be good to explore. Plus, let’s be honest, these sorts of items smell great!

So this issue for “Is the Price Right?” we looked into summer skin goodies at Lush, Sephora, Blue Mercury and CVS.

CVS faired the best this time as the cheapest place to buy your summer products. Yet we’re not sure if we would say CVS is the highest quality, especially when compared to Lush, Blue Mercury and Sephora.

For a lotion that sooths sunburn, CVS charges $6.49 for an 8-ounce bottle of their name brand item. Lush’s 8.8 ounces of Dream Cream Lotion, which soothes the skin and contains chamomile and lavender, is $24.95. Blue Mercury has Kiehls lotion with aloe vera at $19.50 for 8.4 ounces, and Sephora has a 7-ounce bottle of Lavanila Laboratories lotion for $15.

To keep your skin moisturized and safe from UV rays, we checked each store for SPF lotion. CVS had Olay Complete All-Day Moisturizer with SPF 15 at $9.99 for 6 ounces when it is normally $13.19. Sephora was the most expensive at 2 ounces of Baby Block SPF 40 for $20. Blue Mercury was the second cheapest for their 8.4 ounces of Kiehls for $22. An 8.4-ounce of Ultra Light SPF 30 at Lush was $49.95. Lush’s lotion is designed to protect your skin from sun, wind or cold and can even be mixed in with your foundation.

After a long day of walking around the city, everyone could use some ocean salt scrub to soften their feet. Blue Mercury has a 12-ounce container of Bliss Hot Salt Scrub for $36 and Sephora has the same brand as Blue Mercury at 14.1 ounces for $36. Lush has an 8.8 ounces of Ocean Salt, containing lime and coconut for $34.95. At CVS you can’t get a salt scrub, but a 6-ounce Neutrogena Sugar Scrub is $12.29.

Then for a special treat, we chose one summer item from each store. Lush has Glorious Mud Body Mask squares for $5.95, while Sephora has a sun safety kit, which contains 12 sun protection products, two single-use UW monitor bracelets and a travel bag for $25. Blue Mercury has a Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit for $45 and CVS has two for $3 Bioluxe Hair Products.

Check out our next issue for another new spin on “Is the Price Right?”

Lush:
Lotion – 8.8 ounces for $24.95
SPF Lotion – 8.4 ounces for $49.95
Ocean Salt – 8.8 ounces for $34.95
Special Summer Item – $20

SSephora:
Lotion – 7 ounces for $15
SPF Lotion – 2 ounces for $20
Ocean Salt – 14.1 ounces for $36
Special Summer Item – $25

Blue Mercury:
Lotion – 8.4 ounces for $19.50
SPF Lotion – 8.4 ounces for $22
Ocean Salt – 12 ounces for $36
Special Summer Item – $45

CVS:
Lotion – 8 ounces for $6.49
SPF Lotion – 6 ounces for $9.99
Ocean Salt – 6 ounces for $12.29
Special Summer Item – 2 for $3

[gallery ids="99170,103055,103051,103024,103047,103043,103029,103034,103039" nav="thumbs"]

Paws in the Plains


The Plains, the sleepy, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it country town visitors must wend through to get to Middleburg from I-66, jumped the gun last weekend on celebrating the proverbial “dog days” of August.

Not that Adam, Annie, and a few dozen other shelter dogs were complaining. The July 24 “Dog Day in The Plains,” despite the oppressive heat and humidity, gave the Middleburg Human Foundation in Marshall, VA a chance to strut a number of its furry residents before the public. In all, the event lured in around 60 locals and out-of-towners with the prospect of ice cream, a raffle, a dog-themed puppet show for the kids (“The Barker of Seville”) and, of course, a chance to meet a few doe-eyed, lovable pooches in need of a good home.

Not bad for a town with just one main road, which was practically melting that day. “As hot as it’s been, people have really come out and supported us,” said Linda Neel, who thought up the event as a fundraiser for the shelter. Her husband Tom, with whom she owns the art and design gallery Live an Artful Life, was more blunt.

“Pretty good for a billion degrees,” he joked. Not surprisingly, ice cream sold fast and shade was a valuable commodity.

In all, the three-hour event managed to raise an estimated $1400 for the rescue organization (the official total is still being counted), which relies on help from over 100 volunteers on its four-acre farm to manage its community of rescued pets and livestock, which includes everything from dogs and horses to more unusual critters, including donkeys and chickens.

Perhaps more importantly, the gathering provided a venue for the shelter to show off photos and profiles of the animals under its care, and arrange live, in-the-flesh meetings with dog lovers who turned out that day (naturally, there’s no better way to get a pet adopted than to set up an aww-mom-can-we-keep-him scenario). Foundation President Hilleary Bogley was happy with the day’s results, saying that in a time of diminished financial contributions by the public, extra visibility always helps.

“I hope it turns out to be an annual event,” she said. Her canine companions seemed to make an impression, too. A two-year-old puppy, Annie, was on her way to being adopted by that afternoon, pending a little paperwork — Bogley, the court-appointed humane investigator for Fauquier County, is known for her thorough background checks to ensure adoptees are headed for a responsible and loving family. The shelter also passed out fliers urging fans to vote in a contest that would make it a prominent feature in the upcoming mutt flick “Smitty” with Mira Sorvino. (Voters can visit www.middleburghumane.org and click on the red banner.)

Dog day, indeed.
[gallery ids="99177,103194,103197" nav="thumbs"]

Between the Sheets


It seems like the longer my wife and I are together, the less we make love. I always wanted more sex than she did and that felt bad. But in the last year, my erections aren’t what they used to be, and now she’s the one who wants to make love more and I’m not so sure I can. Is it too late for us?
— Ray, 57

It can be very frustrating when you first realize that “old faithful” (your penis) can’t deliver like it used to. So what are you going to do, just give up on the party now that your wife is finally in the mood?

Many people say that as they have aged, they have evolved new ways of being sexual. Instead of the super-stud, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sex of their youth, they have experimented with different permutations, positions and possibilities. For most people, the process can become slower, richer, fuller and better than ever. But the learning curve requires us to be more vulnerable and exposed, and that can be scary. Up to this point, most of us were too busy making our lives in the present to think about how to live them in the future. The word “intimacy” may not even have been in our life lexicon. Who had time or inclination? Performance-oriented intercourse, culminating in a predictable orgasm and a quick trip to the bathroom, does not always involve deep intimacy. Talking secrets together, cuddling, touching, caressing, connecting, kissing and allowing yourself to deeply melt into someone else who at the same time is melting into you, is a different experience — a deeper level of intimacy that you can have for the rest of your life, even as your body and health change.

Getting from wherever you are to wherever you want to go will take some effort. But we don’t think it’s drudgery, do you? It’s both an inner exploration and an external execution that involves other people. There’s even opportunity to become more “holistic” and learn about the sexual arts from the East, such as Indian kundalini. In the last decade or so, the ancient Indian art of tantric sex has been quietly slipping into American bedrooms. Rather than the usual foreplay-intercourse-climax, tantric sex teaches lovers how to extend the peak of sexual ecstasy — sometimes for hours — so that both women and men can experience several orgasms in a single sexual encounter.

Dr. Dorree Lynn is a Georgetown-based psychologist and life coach committed to helping people have better relationships fulfilling sex lives. She has appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, CNN, PBS and other major programming. She is the author of “Sex for Grownups,” available from Amazon.

Murphy’s Love


Dear Stacy:

I have a problem, and I’m just going to say it straight up. I’m a 25-year-old Hill staffer with a master’s degree and a wide circle of friends – and I’m a virgin. I dated guys in high school and college, but never got close to having sex with any of them. It’s not a religious thing – I just haven’t had the opportunity. I can blame my parents for handing me a healthy fear of getting pregnant in high school, but I assumed that my college and post-grad experiences would include long-term boyfriends and the intimacy that comes with those kinds of relationships. I never had the chance to just “get it over with” and now each time I meet someone new, I worry about having to eventually tell him I’m a virgin. It’s so embarrassing; I never even talk about it with my girlfriends – all of whom seem to be having wild sex with short- and long-term boyfriends. All of the sudden, engagement rings are starting to pop up on the hands of friends and coworkers – I’m running out of time. What is wrong with me? I feel like I missed my chance to find The One.
— Sexually Frustrated in Foggy Bottom

Dear Foggy Bottom:

Deep breath. Your letter carries a lot of anxiety – which can only hint at the large burden you are carrying around because of this. I’m hopeful you felt some amount of relief in writing. Often, just naming a feeling can diffuse some of its power. So you’re a virgin. I promise you’re not the last unicorn in DC. But let’s talk about why this seems so overwhelming.

Our society is sex-obsessed, so you cannot be blamed for thinking about yourself in comparison to the billboards, TV shows, and public displays of affection by teens on the Metro. But when you start equating virgin-status with marriage potential, we have to think about your emotional maturity. Let’s talk about why none of your relationships has progressed to the level of intimacy that would lead to having sex or getting married.

What exactly are you looking for? Do you want to find a soul mate to bring home to mom and dad, or are you actually more interested in your career and spending time with your friends right now? That’s ok, you know. It may not feel like it all the time, but at 25 you really are not on the cusp of Old Maidhood. Are we dating simply to clear this rite of passage, or for something deeper, during which losing your virginity will only be a side effect? Being clear about your intentions is the first step in getting what you want.

Next, where are you looking? If you think you have to hang out at the bar, waiting to give it up to the first guy to buy you a drink, I’d imagine that there is a part of you so violently opposed to that scenario, that it’s keeping you from connecting with anyone, anywhere. So let’s take your virginity off the table. You are a catch – a career-focused, highly-educated femme with a lot of friends around you – start acting like it. Do your girlfriends know you’re looking to meet someone? Are you trying online dating? Is there someone you’d like to ask out, but the virginity question takes you so far down the mental rabbit hole, that you’re avoiding it altogether? There’s no reward without some risk. He’s not going to find you if you’re hiding in your cubicle.

I get it, believe me, the pressure about “women of a certain age” and the dating/marriage/baby trifecta is a common theme in my counseling office. But if you are viewing your virginity (or cup size, or height, or accent) as a defect, then you give it the power to keep you out of relationship. With the right person, your level of experience will be an asset. Give him the opportunity to surprise you.

Dear Stacy:

My three daughters are grown up and out on their own. I still live with my wife in the house they grew up in, and so we still have some of their personal items here at home. I like having these things to remember the good times we had when they were younger. It’s not like I’ve created a shrine to my girls, I’m just talking about a few trophies, awards, photographs, and the odd report card. I keep these things in a spare room, and my daughters each have said these mementos are not important to them, and that they do not wish to have them in their own homes. My wife, on the other hand, thinks that since the girls do not want these keepsakes, we should throw them away. She has started calling me a “hoarder,” after watching some cable TV show, and has threatened to purge the house when I’m not here.

Her words make me mad and embarrassed. I’m also worried that she will act on her threats, and I don’t know what to do.
— Wanting More Time in Washington

Dear Wanting,

Your letter gives me the opportunity for a brief public service announcement. Hoarding is a trendy topic these days – the mass media would have us believe that every third household has its own hoarder. But most in the mental health community agree that this condition falls somewhere between the larger categories of impulse-control disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders, both fairly uncommon diagnoses. People suffering from these types of disorders may be unable to resist the drive to do something harmful to themselves or others, and may believe that if they do not act on the compulsion, something even worse will happen. Pyromania, kleptomania and compulsive gambling are impulse-control disorders. While there is no official diagnosis for hoarding as of yet, most agree that it includes the compulsive need to acquire and store largely unnecessary items.
What I’m getting at is that hoarding much more complicated than holding onto a few mementos in the spare room.

Parenting is a life-altering experience. It’s not uncommon for moms and dads to hold onto things that remind them of those times. If it’s indeed what you say it is – just a few items in the spare room – I’d be curious about why this bothers your wife so much.

I wonder if this is part of the regular division of labor in your relationship? Do you take on the emotional and she holds the practical? Consider approaching her about this (in a non-threatening way) so you can learn about her motivations, and perhaps explain your own in terms she can understand. We are hard-wired to react to confrontation with defensiveness – that’s what our brains believe will keep us alive when under attack. If you address the issue in a gentle, fact-finding manner, you may be surprised by what you hear from her side. Perhaps she’d like to use the space for another purpose. Maybe she wishes you held onto souvenirs from your honeymoon in the same way. You may need to make a deal that you get to keep the items, even though she doesn’t understand. But you never know unless you ask, and make room for the answer.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to stacy@georgetowner.com.

Man’s Best Friend, Through the Ages


If you asked most people what Middleburg, VA has that can’t be found anywhere in the U.S., you’d probably hear something sounding a little like a travel brochure.

Something like: a thriving equestrian culture just an hour outside the city, a chummy community of tavern owners, vintners, billionaires, and shopkeeps, a tradition of rustic living held onto as tightly as horse reins.

What you probably won’t hear about is the nearby, near-priceless cache of books in the National Sporting Library and Museum’s basement.

But you should. The library’s trove of rare books and art, everything from first editions of Hemingway and Walton’s “Compleat Angler” to the paintings of sporting artist Alfred Munnings to Paul Mellon’s collection of antique weathervanes, gives you that surreal, ghostly feeling you get around something beyond your age and time. Embrace it. The 56-year-old library’s holdings are the envy of scholars across the Old and New Worlds, and in the esoteric worlds of classical sportsmanship — that is, angling, foxhunting and the rest — the collection there reigns supreme. And just in time for summer’s proverbial dog days comes the library’s newest exhibit, “Lives of Dogs in Literature, Art and Ephemera,” a one-room shrine to man and, more importantly, man’s best friend.

“We decided to focus this on the complex relationship between humans and dogs and show, over 400 years, some of the examples of how people related to their animals,” said Mickey Gustafson, the library’s communications director and curator of the exhibit. The inspiration came from a lecture at a library symposium last fall by gallerist William Secord, whose book on the dog’s historical role in art caused such a stir it prompted staffers to dive into the archives looking for more artifacts to make into an exhibit. They soon found their cup running over.

“It was culling, narrowing down,” Gustafson says. “We had over 75 [dog] collars, for example, and you’ve seen how many books we have. Within the books, choosing what page to have open, and finding relationships between all these things … That’s fun. To me, it was like creating an installation, like an artist, almost.”

Actually, it would be hard to deny any claim to artistry or history, especially since the exhibit — and museum — are practically alive with it.

Founded by sporting enthusiasts George Ohrstrom and Alexander Mackay-Smith in 1954, the collection that started with 7,000 assorted volumes has grown to 17,000 meticulously categorized titles, some dating back to the 16th century. The library is open to the public, who may freely browse most stacks, but may not check out items.

The main floor, appointed in wood boiserie, is stocked with books on everything from bullfighting to fly fishing, but it’s the rare book room on the bottom level, temperature controlled and sealed behind glass, that should get the bibliophile’s juices flowing (tours are available by appointment Tuesday through Friday).

“This is really unique material, and a lot of this has never seen the light of day. There’s lots of that kind of stuff here that people just aren’t aware of,” said the library’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Stoutamyer, born and raised a sportsman in West Virginia before entering the rare book business.

Besides a healthy collection of first editions throughout, the rare book section houses the library’s oldest volume (on dueling, dating to the 1520s), along with an original manuscript penned by a young Theodore Roosevelt, in which he wrote about Long Island fox hunting for the now-defunct Century Illustrated magazine. “The thing that’s really cool about it,” said Stoutamyer, “is if you look there’s very few corrections, really. He pretty much knew what he was going to say when he sat down to write it.”

Not bad for a budding president. Elsewhere, readers can find an original set of John Audubon’s “Birds of America,” the riding tutorials of Vladimir Littauer — who brought to America the idea that riders ought to lean forward on horseback — and a beautiful collection of fore-edge paintings, jargon for watercolors painted over the edges of a book’s pages.

Inside “Lives of Dogs,” entrants are greeted by a bronze bust of a foxhound, its expression etched somewhere between curiosity, drive and affection. It forms the center case in a square room, surrounded by other boxes of glass tucked against the walls. Within each sits an antique dog collar or two, some picked for their craftsmanship, others for quirks. One collar, built for hunting, sports a row of sharpened metal teeth to protect the hound during a scrape with pugnacious wildlife. Another, daintily built of sterling, bears the Tiffany’s stamp and, not surprisingly, a Gramercy Park address.

Throughout the cases are books of sketches and paintings and scenes of the hunt, the infectious excitement and pandemonium enough to move even 21st-century eyes. One engraving by the Belgian Johannes Stradanus, for instance, shows a royal hunt reaching crescendo: the lord holds his spear aloft, his hounds nipping at the stag’s heel. In his “Booke on Hunting” Englishman George Turbervile extols the culture of the hunt, well over a decade before Shakespeare even lifted a pen.

And on the walls you have the paintings, including Oudry’s “Poodle Flushing a Heron,” displaying the flourish that made him a favorite of Louis XV. “The king of France became really fascinated by [Oudry],” says Gustafson. “He would invite him to the palace and have him paint portraits of his dogs while the king watched and talked to him. He was immensely successful. In the development of European art, there’s this sense of eventually becoming interested in depicting things realistically and then also with a lot of drama and decoration. Things are not as easily defined as we often think.”

You could say that again. In the painting, a poodle has cornered a large heron, reared up in a fashion starkly frightening and primal, a kind of rage at wit’s end. On the adjacent wall hang a few (gentler) landscape works by John Emms — pastoral, faintly sentimental and, of course, crowded with dogs.

As a whole, the exhibit serves to remind us of the animal that touches and shapes our lives, sometimes as much as people do. Since it opened in late May, it has proven a hit, not least among dog lovers. “I think it’s really a rich environment, and we’ve had a lot of people who come to see it, and they seem to spend quite a bit of time here,” says Gustafson. “A woman was here the night we opened and she really knew dogs and [pointing to a painting] instantly said, ‘That’s a French dog, a French beagle.’ … Some other people came in and talked about the collars. Different things were appealing to different people.”

“Lives of Dogs” is on display until Dec. 11 at the National Sporting Library, 102 The Plains Road, Middleburg, VA. Admission is free.

This article appeared, in condensed form, in the Aug. 11 issue of The Georgetowner.
[gallery ids="99186,103274,103300,103296,103292,103279,103288,103284" nav="thumbs"]