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The Beltway Beat: May 2013
A fresh look at what's new in the Washington metropolitan area


The Bench at Washingtonian Center: Sometimes the Sidelines Are Exactly Where You Want to Be

By Pam Schipper

Naming a restaurant must be one of the most daunting tasks imaginable. The name needs to be attractive, easily remembered, descriptive and yet versatile. Do you ever wonder how a restaurant got its name and why? Some like Not Your Average Joe’s or Thyme Square seem pretty self-explanatory. But The Bench, a lakeside restaurant and lounge recently opened this April at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center, begs the question.

For non-sports people, this is a bit like calling a restaurant The Chair. Sports fans, however, will liken it to The Dugout, and they’ll get part of The Bench’s appeal. Flat-screen TVs flicker above numerous conversational groupings, making this a sports-friendly and media-rich environment.
But there’s much more to the name.

Located on the quieter side of the lake at Washingtonian Center and a bit above the active walking paths that encircle the lake, The Bench is a bit on the sidelines. It’s where you go to take a breather. Relax on the outdoor patio or retreat into the restaurant that resembles nothing so much as a Great Room with its open floor plan, islands of conversational groupings and welcoming bar.

Some of these groupings include benches. Great, cushy and contemporary, they face each other over a modern slab of a table. A TV encloses one side, set off by artful ovals of petrified wood (a nod, perhaps, to traditional bench material). Despite the sophistication perfect for business travelers, you can see families gravitating here much like they would to the butcher block table and benches in their own kitchens. 

And did you know that in Yiddish, to bench or “bentsch” means to bless? It’s from the Latin benedicere.

Fitting, since not only is The Bench graced by its lakeside location but it’s blessed by a menu that goes way beyond standard hotel fare. Executive Chef Aaron Tootill opened the Fire & Sage restaurant at Washington Marriott at Metro Center in D.C., a popular restaurant that just happens to be in a hotel. Tootill says that years ago hotels thought travelers wanted tried-and-true choices, dishes that wouldn’t surprise. Nowadays, Marriott knows that “customers want creativity.”

Tootill has delivered. Creating a menu from the ground up must be the second most daunting task in opening a restaurant.

“Ideas are easy to come up with,” he says, “but it’s hard to narrow it down.”

He and his team, including corporate chefs at Marriott, spent three months tweaking and tasting, evaluating flavors and presentation while also keeping in mind the execution of each dish. Could staff prepare and serve each menu item with consistent and excellent quality?

Quality is very important to Tootill, who draws heavily on regional ingredients. A Maryland native who grew up in Frederick, Tootill sources from farms that he’s passionate about—Eberly Farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1855 Beef in Souderton, Pennsylvania, Chapel’s Creamery in Easton, Maryland; FireFly Farms Creamery & Market in Accident, Maryland; and Cherry Glen Farm in Boyds, Maryland. Tootill is also a craft beer enthusiast and home brewer, and he works Frederick’s Flying Dog Pale Ale into his Battered Fish n’ Chips. Flying Dog and Gaithersburg’s Dog Fish are both available on draft, too.

Beyond being healthy with regional ingredients, the food is real. You can order Bench Fries, Angus Burger, Short Ribs and Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes for a hearty meal. Vegans can order the Mushroom Ravioli, and vegetarians are covered with the Chickpea Burger. All seafood is fresh. You can choose from Blue Hill Bay Mussels, Grilled Scallops from the Georgia banks and Scottish Salmon.

A not-to-miss item is the Parmesan & Chile Kale Chips. This is kale that crunches like a chip, spicy and flavorful but not too salty. Tootill says that the kale chips, which are baked and not fried, have been a runaway success, especially with the business travelers who are looking for snacks to share while they network with colleagues and laptops.

Tootill is also working from the roof down. He has started a roof garden above the Marriott’s ballroom to contribute to the restaurant’s fresh ingredients.

“We’ve started small, but we’ll grow it,” Tootill says, noting that the garden’s first plantings include basil, thyme, eggplant, watermelon, tomatoes, zucchini and squash.

In baseball parlance, the bench is where you wait for your turn to play. But in the language of local cuisine, The Bench at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center is at the center of the game, poised to hit a home run this summer.

Look for two 65-inch weatherproof TVs to debut on the patio soon. You’ll be able to bask in sports, sun, the breeze off the lake and good food. Man’s best friend is even welcome on the patio. He’s sure to give it two paws up.

The Bench: 9751 Washingtonian Blvd. Gaithersburg, MD; (301) 590-0044;

*Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Gaithersburg Marriott



By Vanessa Mallory Kotz

In the recently (well, ongoing) refurbished Autograph Playhouse on West 25th Street, the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS) players are practicing how to move a body and determining the best way to stab someone so that the audience at the back of the house is just as horrified as the ticket holders in the first row. They are rehearsing for Murdercastle, a rock opera about the nation’s first known serial killer, H. H. Holmes, who selected many of his victims during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and lured them to his deadly hotel where they met a variety of terrible ends.

Made famous by Erik Larson’s nonfiction classic Devil in the White City, the story of Dr. Holmes’ unusual talent for murder has fascinated and repelled people for more than a century. Known for their over-the-top fantasy productions, the BROS company is actually toning this one down a notch.

“We are not aiming for a glamorization of violence,” says writer Jared Margulies. “The story [that this is based on] is beyond belief. I’m consistently amazed at what was going on at that time.”

While Holmes had a long, convoluted criminal career, Margulies focuses on a few key protagonists and the atrocities that took place in Holmes’ so-called “murder castle,” an elaborate structure he built within walking distance of the World’s Fair that housed his pharmacy on the ground floor and boasted up to a hundred rentable rooms upstairs: mostly windowless, some secret and all creepy. The evil doctor even installed a special chute to transport bodies from the upper floors to the basement where he often transformed them into skeletons and sold them to medical students. If you know the story already, be prepared for surprises. Fictional elements, including a love story, are woven into the tale of true crime and so are, Margulies promises, some “exciting reveals.”

“We wanted to create that element of magic that was taking place at the time of the World’s Fair,” says Margulies.

Although unlike most BROS productions, there are “no dragons, no Vikings and no guitar battles,” the music will certainly not disappoint. Forget the TV talent shows and watch these young people sing and play their hearts out with gusto and variety--the musical score ranges from death metal to orchestral strings.

For the last two years, when he isn’t working on his Ph.D., Margulies has immersed himself in writing and working as artistic director of the play with co-creator John DeCampos. Sporting a plush Holmesian mustache and a bowler hat with his faded denim jacket and sneakers, it’s clear that he’s all in. In fact, most of the male cast and crew have grown old-timey facial hair to support and help promote the show.

“The complexity of the overall production was a challenge,” says Margulies. With glowing ball gowns, a crane-operated set and a cast of 40, he isn’t kidding. “It’s been an intense show to work on, but I’m excited.”

He isn’t the only one. Sarah Gorman, who plays Mrs. Pitezel, says, “The quality of BROS is always impeccable.”

In addition to singing and acting, Gorman also helps the choreography and movement director, Lily Susskind, design the action, which can get pretty tricky in such a physical performance.

“It’s certainly fascinating that it’s true.” Indeed.

Murdercastle opens May 10 at the Autograph Playhouse at 9 W 25th St. Baltimore, MD. Tickets are $17. Visit the website to puchase tickets. Parental discretion is advised.

*Photo Credit: Courtesy of BROS

Around the World in 31 Days: How to Get Your Free Passport

By Pam Schipper

Have you ever wanted to travel the globe, only to realize that you’re short on time or money? That probably describes most of us who just hope that we have the stamina and resources to finally see the world when we retire. But it would be a shame to wait until then. Kids are naturally curious, and wouldn’t it be great to introduce yours to other cultures? Apparently, they need the supplemental education, too. According to The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010 administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), less than one-third of U.S. students achieve at or above the proficient level in geography.

Still, world travel is a tall order when you’re struggling to stay one step ahead of daily tasks. How can you explore the world on the fly and under budget? Turns out, you don’t even have to leave D.C.

For the entire month of May, Cultural Tourism DC has organized the sixth annual Passport DC. More than 70 embassies open their doors and hearts, welcoming you with their cuisine, arts and traditions. Signature events include two embassy tours and a street festival.

On May 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., you can visit more than 40 embassies representing six continents at the Around the World Embassy Tour. You’re invited to sample food, listen to music, learn traditional dance and maybe even complete a craft. The larger embassies on International Drive will have smaller wait times than those on Embassy Row. Complimentary shuttle bus service beginning and ending at Dupont Circle and looping between Massachusetts Avenue and P Street NW makes seeing numerous countries possible. Remember to bring your photo ID. For security reasons, many embassies will ask for this.

A special feature of this event is the celebration of the International Year of the Quinoa, a staple providing food security to many nations and the star of gluten-free diets here. Tour the embassies of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela to learn about this healthy grain. You can find more information here.

Return to D.C on May 11, and you’ll find Shortcut to Europe: EU Embassy Open House, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Explore the Delegation of the European Union to the United States and the embassies of 27 EU member states plus incoming member state Croatia. At the EU’s headquarters, you can learn how EU delegation and member countries work together. Activities include a quiz with prizes, a photo booth, custom luggage tags, a Kids’ Corner and more. Then visit each embassy for a celebration of the EU’s distinct cultures.

The Embassy of Slovakia offers a folk music performance with traditional costumes, a folk art exhibit and food. The Embassy of the Netherlands opens its doors for the first time ever, sharing modern Dutch art, Dutch treats like poffertjes, stroopwafels, kaas and drop, and introducing kids to what life is like in Holland with a special movie.

Have you ever wondered about the tiny, storied country of Luxembourg? You can learn about Luxembourg’s traditional porcelain industry with a tablescape and interact with videos that highlight its diverse culture at the Embassy of Luxembourg. The Embassy of Hungary has something for everyone—from Hungarian breed dogs to cuisine from the embassy’s award-winning chef, fun Hungarian animation movies for kids and information on the emerging high-tech startup economy in Budapest.

That’s just a sampling of activities to get you excited for your European Tour, also supported by complimentary shuttle bus service along the embassy routes. For a full listing of embassies and events, visit

Then on May 18, you’ll find a different sort of cultural event. The National Asian Heritage Festival, or Fiesta Asia, is a street festival focusing on Asian art and culture. From 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 3rd Street and 6th Street comes alive with dance, music, martial arts, Asian food, a cultural parade and even a fortune cookie writing contest. For a schedule of events, visit

These three signature events are free thanks to sponsorship from Lockheed Martin, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Booz Allen Hamilton, National Endowment for the Arts, Coca Cola, Daimler, Destination DC, Etihad Airways, 3M, Microsoft, Turkish Airlines and Churchill Hotel. You’ll find many more exhibits, special events, performances and lectures scheduled throughout the month of May, some for a fee, at

Happy travels!

*Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pivot Point Communications

The Multimedia Works of Angela Markeen Naglieri

By Vanessa Mallory Kotz

The uneven rise of a shoulder, the sharp crook of an elbow, a slight frown: these are the shapes that fascinate Angela Markeen Naglieri. The Virginia-based artist’s drawings, painting and mixed media works capture a brief moment in time. She starts from photographs, snapshots, sculptures or sketches of other works in museums.

“I look at an image quickly to get a gesture, an expression,” she says.

Once she has an idea, Markeen Naglieri mines her visual memory to add to or subtract from the inspiration image. Ultimately, she creates something entirely new.

“I enjoy the playful and therapeutic process, letting it reveal itself. I’m usually happier with the finished piece.”

Using, ink, acrylic, wire and digital media, she creates several pieces at once and knows, from instinct, when a work is finished.

Markeen Naglieri uses multiple, bold lines to pare down the human form and indicate movement. She is not trying to create perfection, instead she wants the viewer to ask, “Is this beautiful or is it awkward? Is it male or female?” As an elementary school art teacher, she takes queues from her incredibly diverse group of students in Arlington.

“They have a lot of respect for each other, sharing their ideas and culture. I have learned a lot from them.”

She travels as often as she can. She has visited Mexico, the West Indies, Puerto Rico and Europe, including a period of study in Tuscany.

“I have a lot of photos of people in Italy,” she says.

Her sources range from tourists lounging in a piazza to the most famous works of art in classical and Renaissance history. By sketching all of these works in her own hand repetitively, candid pictures become equal to a Michelangelo sculpture—as all are part of her visual and artistic vocabulary.

Markeen Naglieri fondly recalls her college years at Iowa State University.

“I had a great professor in graduate school who had us create something we were really proud of and then destroy it,” she says.

She found this idea incredibly freeing, and that lesson is still with her. She is still inspired by the ephemeral. 

One of her biggest influences studied at her alma mater thirty years ago. Ana Mendietta, a Cuban-born artist whose temporary works of art of the 1970s and 80s—made with leaves, fire, mud and even her own nude form in the landscape—were captured on 16mm film and in photographs but are otherwise long gone. Markeen Naglieri creates the same sense of the temporary. Even though her works of art could live forever if properly preserved, the gestures they represent are fleeting.

Currently, she is in the process of a new series of works that will be on view in her space at Little City Studios and Gallery at City of Falls Church boutique Stifel & Capra.

To see a portfolio of Angela Markeen Naglieri’s work, visit

*Photo Credit: Courtesy of Angela Markeen Naglieri
Running of the Chihuahuas 
Saturday, May 4, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with food, music, beer...and Chihuahua races! All Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes are welcome to compete so bring your pup or watch the races, enjoy treats from local food trucks and quench your thirst with Corona Light and Pacifico beers. All breeds can be entered in the best dressed and best trick contests.
Location: Kastles Stadium, 800 Water St. SW, Washington, DC
Cost: Free to watch
Paradise Springs Winery Mother's Day Brunch
Sunday, May 12, 12:00-2:00 p.m.
Celebrate with your mom on Paradise Springs Winery's back patio with a mimosa or glass of wine and a full spread including made-to-order omelets, bacon, sausage, golden breakfast potatoes, fresh assorted fruit, pastries, salmon filo and orzo pasta with tomatoes. Reservations are required.
Location: Paradise Springs Winery, 13219 Yates Ford Rd. Clifton, VA
Information: (703) 830-9463;
Cost: $49 per person (plus tax)
Opera in the Outfield: Show Boat
Saturday, May 18, 7:00 p.m.
Celebrate the fifth year of free live opera broadcasts at the ballpark with Washington National Opera's new production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat, featuring a cast of 100 singers, dancers and actors. Broadway's original masterpiece follows a troupe of riverboat performers on the Cotton Blossom.
Location: Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC
Information: (202) 675-6287;
Cost: Free; $10 for parking at Nationals Park
Sunset Celebration at Mount Vernon
Saturday, May 25, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Don't miss this rare opportunity to visit Mount Vernon after the daytime crowds have departed. Visitors can take evening tours of the mansion, relax on the lawn overlooking the Potomac River and enjoy wine and desserts available for purchase, stroll the lantern-lit grounds and delight in 18th-century music, dancing, games and wagon rides.
Location: Historic Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy. Mount Vernon, VA (Also runs on Sunday, May 26 from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.)
Information: (703) 780-2000;
Cost: $18 for adults; $12 for children ages 6-11; Free for ages five and under
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for The Beltway Beat, please contact Editor-in-Chief Monica Boland at If you would like your own newsletter, please e-mail Monica or visit
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