A Shirlington restaurant owner brought her Hawaiian-influenced cooking to one of the Food Network’s most recognized shows.
Mikala Brennan, owner of Hula Girl Bar and Grill, competed on season 32 of “Chopped,” the competitive cooking show where four contestants are handed a basket of mystery of ingredients with which to cook across three rounds.
A panel of expert judges tries the creations and after each round one contestant is eliminated — “chopped” — from the competition.
Brennan’s episode, entitled “Raw Deal,” was the 400th in the show’s history. She competed against Steven Londono and Timothy Walker, both from New York City, and eventual winner Marie Yniguez, from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Brennan was eliminated after the second round and did not reach the final course, and said that while she enjoyed the experience, being chopped was still emotional.
The corridor chopped contestants exit through “is a hall of shame when you walk down that thing,” she said. “I was definitely trying not to pop a tear, because it’s really upsetting.”
Brennan’s episode was filmed in the network’s New York studio in August, one month after the show’s production staff descended on her Campbell Avenue eatery to film and gather background information. Brennan and her staff signed non-disclosure agreements promising not to share the news, then had to wait until the Food Network announced an air date.
The episode premiered on February 28, and will be re-run at various times throughout the network’s schedule.
In the first round, Brennan and her fellow competitors had to make an appetizer using sushi burgers, fresh wasabi, longan berries and pork floss as main ingredients, with the help of the show’s well-stocked pantry and fridge.
Then the entrée round called for the use of buffalo top sirloin steaks, porcini mushrooms, aji dulce and sea buckthorn juice.
In the dessert round, held after Brennan was eliminated, the final two chefs used polenta cake, bechamel sauce, plums and pink Himalayan sea salt.
Such ingredients required some creative thinking to prevent the episode’s judges Chris Santos, Amanda Freitag and Maneet Chauhan from eliminating her.
“It’s one of those things where you almost go into a surreal mode,” Brennan said. “You start flipping through every single recipe you’ve ever done or come across, and you’re trying to figure out what you can do. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t have a plan that quickly.”
Brennan has some experience with the Food Network, having previously competed on the show “Rewrapped” which aired in 2014 and asks chefs to recreate classic snack foods before making a new dish using that same snack food as the main ingredient.
But she said the experience of cooking in the “Chopped” kitchen, surrounded by cameras and being asked questions by host Ted Allen while planning and executing a meal against the clock, is a whole different ball game.
“It’s a very weird experience, because as a chef you’re just trying to figure out what you’re cooking, and then you’re also jumping over cables to get the things in the pantry, then you’re trying to get around camera people and other people you’re competing against,” Brennan said. “Then there’s Ted Allen over there asking questions. It’s a high-stress situation, but that’s the whole point of it.”
Media personality Sarah Fraser has been on the D.C. radio and TV airwaves for a decade. What you might not know about her is that she is a Virginia Square resident and is active locally here in Arlington.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Sarah about her podcast and new media ventures, about the business of broadcasting, and about Arlington restaurants from Oz to Crystal City Restaurant.
Vornado Scraps Development Proposals — Ahead of the closing of its merger with JBG, Vornado has indefinitely put on hold a number of development proposals, including: all but one building of its proposed RiverHouse development in Pentagon City; a revamp of the shops at 1750 Crystal Drive that was to include a new 12-screen multiplex; and a pair of retail pavilions at 2101 and 2201 Crystal Drive. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington a ‘Best City’ to Go Car-Free — According to a new list in Forbes, Arlington County is one of the top 25 U.S. cities for one to live without a car. Arlington was also one of nine places whose walkable neighborhoods were profiled in the magazine. [Forbes]
Video of Apartment Fire — The weekend fire at the Serrano apartments on Columbia Pike was caught on video. The dramatic video shows firefighters arriving and starting to douse the flames with water. [Statter 911]
‘Taming of the Shrew’ Review — A review of Synetic Theater’s new production of Taming of the Shrew says the physical theater performance “speaks colorful volumes” despite the lack of dialogue. [Broadway World]
Leadership Change at Community Foundation — Arlington Community Foundation Executive Director Wanda Pierce is stepping down next month after eight years of leading the local nonprofit.
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
The second season of the Real Housewives of Potomac is promising all sorts of drama, including a storyline about Oz restaurant in Clarendon.
The restaurant, which opened in 2015, is apparently not living up to the expectations of co-owner Michael Darby, according to a teaser video released by Bravo.
“The restaurant, it’s not doing well as I’ve hoped,” Darby says to his wife and fellow co-owner, Ashley Darby. “We need to sort it out.”
(ARLnow.com happened upon the filming of the scene, which took place on June 22, 2016.)
Despite moderately positive reviews, Oz — which serves Australian cuisine — has appeared to struggle to fill its large dining area most days of the week.
The second season of “RHOP” premieres April 2.
The controversy over a sign posted by teachers at Yorktown High School has taken an even bigger national stage.
Yorktown senior John Piper was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show on Fox News last night, discussing why the seemingly innocuous sign was actually “political propaganda.”
Piper says he and his parents talked to to school administrators, the Arlington School Board and local radio station WMAL about why the signs are “obviously” political, especially given the current political climate. But after being told the signs would be coming down, Piper says administrators “changed their minds” and the signs remained.
Tipsters tell ARLnow.com that those inquiring about the decision to keep the signs were sent a letter to the School Board from a Yorktown physics teacher objecting to the removal (posted below, after the jump).
Carlson called the signs “the sneakiest type of propaganda… propaganda passing itself off as obvious observations.” He asked Piper if anyone at the school thinks that science “is not real.”
“No,” Piper replied, adding that he and fellow members of the Yorktown Republican club also believe in diversity despite implications to the contrary given their opposition to the signs.
A similar sign about conservative values — like the Second Amendment right to bear arms — would not be allowed at Yorktown, Piper guessed.
“There’s a serious double standard here,” Piper said. “Conservative values would not be accepted on the walls of the school, especially in the way they’re doing them. They would see through that easily.”
This is not the only sign controversy brewing at Yorktown. A Black Lives Matter banner at the school was removed late last week, according to a tipster. High school principals, we’re told, have been meeting “to set policy for putting signs up in the future.”
Update at 5:50 p.m. — On Tuesday afternoon, Yorktown principal Dr. Ray Pasi sent a letter to students and families regarding the sign issue.
The letter from the teacher regarding the “Patriots Know” signs, after the jump.
High Water Bills Prompt Questions — A number of Arlington residents say their quarterly water bills for the summer and fall spiked to inconceivably high levels, in some cases in excess of $2,000. The county government, however, says no systemic billing issues have been found and blames the high bills on hot and dry weather combined with homeowners irrigating their yards. [InsideNova]
News Photog Saved By Arlington Medic — WUSA9 photographer Dion Wiggins suffered a massive heart attack while shooting video of traffic along I-395 last month. It was an Arlington County paramedic, Chris Abrahams, who together with firefighter Jason Griffith revived Wiggins from cardiac arrest, stabilized him and transported him to George Washington University Hospital. Wiggins is now back at home and on the road to recovery. [WUSA9]
ACPD: Don’t DUI After the Super Bowl — Super Bowl Sunday is two days away and the Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to designate a driver for the big game. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for DUI, with a third of all U.S. traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. [Arlington County]
D.C. Metro Work This Weekend — Major scheduled track work will close six downtown D.C. Metro stations along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines this weekend. The Blue and Orange lines will be split in two and the Silver line will end at Ballston. “Customers traveling between Virginia and DC are encouraged to use the Yellow Line, if possible,” Metro says. [WMATA]
Kudos for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association Commission (ACA), whose standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities in the United States.” [Arlington County]
WHS Swimmers in Regionals — “With three Wakefield swimmers heading off to regionals — the most in recent history — the Wakefield community is overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement in anticipation of a splashing victory.” [Wakefield Chieftain]
Obit: Mel Labat — Long-time Arlington tennis coach Mel Labat passed away last week. A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday). A scholarship fund has been established, with the proceeds going to the Arlington Youth Tennis Program. [YMCA, Legacy]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Changes for Former Department Store? — The future of the former Kann’s department store on Fairfax Drive, which later became a law school and then became part of George Mason University, is being discussed by GMU and county officials. An earlier plan to raze the aging building and construct a new one fell through. [InsideNova]
Mentors Honored at County Board — A pair of “Connect with Kids Champions” were honored for their mentorship work with Arlington youth at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. [Arlington County]
Va. Joining Immigration Lawsuit — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday that Virginia plans to join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. “You’ve made Virginia proud today,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) in response to the announcement. [Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]
House Hunters Home for Sale — A townhouse in Nauck that was previously featured on the HGTV show “House Hunters” is back on the market. The home at 2553 Kenmore Court, in the Shirlington Crescent community, is listed at $824,900. The couple featured on the show, TV news producers Allison and David Gracey, bought the home in 2010 for $672,781, records show. [Zillow]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Art Thief Arrested in Arlington — Convicted art thief Marcus Sanford Paton was arrested outside the new Pentagon City Starbucks on Fern Street Sunday. He’s accused of driving a stolen car from Miami to D.C. to try to seek a presidential pardon. [Daily Mail]
Wreath-Laying Ceremony at ANC — President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery around 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, kicking off the inaugural weekend. Afterwards, they will make an appearance at a “Make America Great Again” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. As a result of the inaugural activities, Memorial Bridge was closed at 4 a.m. this morning and will not reopen to vehicular traffic until after the inauguration. [Presidential Inaugural Committee, Newsweek]
Another Win for Arlington Jeopardy Player — Arlington resident John Avila has now emerged as the Jeopardy champion three nights in a row. He will try to make it four in a row tonight. [Sun Chronicle]
Walking Causing Escalator Problems? — The frequent escalator breakdowns in the Metrorail system are well known, but what causes it? It might be uneven wear caused by people standing on the right and walking up the escalators on the left, experts say. [Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle]
Arlington Sending Officers to Inauguration — Updated at 10:55 a.m. — The Arlington County Police Department is assigning “more than a hundred” officers to help with inauguration security on Friday. Like other local departments, ACPD will sending some of its officers to D.C. to assist the Metropolitan Police Department. Others will be assigned to Metro stations or areas where large crowds are expected. [WJLA]
Local Inauguration Day Event — A number of local nonprofits, from the Arlington Food Assistance Center to activist groups like Moms Demand Action, will be participating in an “alternative” Inauguration Day event at the Barcroft Community House. The event encourages attendees to “explore how you can get involved in their important causes” and “post your thoughts about how we, as citizens of Arlington, can work to further our common good as we face new tests to our society and democracy after Inauguration Day.” [ARLnow, Facebook]
Senators Hope New Administration Will Fund Bridge Repairs — Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have written a letter to two of president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, asking them to “do all in your power to see that the rehabilitation of Memorial Bridge is fully funded.” The senators note that the weight limit imposed on the bridge has forced some changes to inauguration plans. [Scribd]
Arlington Jeopardy Contestant Keeps Winning — Arlington resident John Avila, 30, again bested his fellow contestants on last night’s episode of Jeopardy, his second appearance on the show. Avila, an attorney, will face a high school physics teacher from Indiana and a writer from Brooklyn on tonight’s episode. [Sun Chronicle]
Small Dog Owners Want Separate Area of Dog Park — A group of owners of small dogs have proposed a separate small dog zone at the Fort Ethan Allen Park community canine area. There are currently two other dog parks in Arlington with separate small dog areas. [InsideNova]
Remembering Preston King — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark recounts the life and times of Preston King, for whom the Westover Post Office is named. King was killed while bailing out of his plane in the midst of a reconnaissance mission during World War II. [Falls Church News-Press]
What does it take to win at “Jeopardy?” You ought to ask Blair Moorhead.
Last year, Moorhead, a social worker who lives in Arlington, appeared as a contestant on the hit game show twice. The episodes aired Monday and Tuesday this week.
“I was so nervous,” Moorhead recalled. “I was shaking throughout the taping.”
Despite her nervousness, Moorhead still managed to do well. In her first appearance, she came out on top and racked up more than $17,000 to her name.
“It was awesome. I was completely shocked,” she said of her win. “I did not expect it at all.”
Moorhead added that she studied up on topics like geography and the periodic table of elements to prepare for her appearance. She also bought an almanac and even read up on famous monarch lineages.
Despite all that studying, Moorhead said her strongest subject was pop culture.
“They had a category that was all about songs written about people,” she said. “I was like, oh yeah, this one’s mine.”
But Moorhead’s winning streak was short-lived. A fellow competitor bested her during the final Jeopardy round of her second appearance, she said. Still the loss wasn’t all bad. After the taping, host Alex Trebek approached Moorhead and personally reassured her.
“He was like, don’t beat yourself up,” she said. “I was in shock, so I was not sure I was able to thank him properly.”
Plus, in the end, Moorhead managed to walk away with over $19,000 in prize money — though the check hasn’t yet arrived, she added.
“I’m just going to go nuts at Costco,” Moorhead joked. In reality, the “Jeopardy” champ said she plans to use her winnings to help pay down some student debt, travel and donate to her favorite charities.
One of the hardest parts about appearing on Jeopardy, she said, was keeping her win a secret for months. Though her episodes aired this week, the tapings originally occurred in September.
“Sometimes I would say, I’m still at work, so I didn’t earn enough to retire on,” she said. “I would say you’ll have watch when it comes out.”
Additionally, to anyone thinking of trying out for the quiz show, Moorhead has this to say: do it.
“Anybody who’s thinking about auditioning, go take the online test,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”
That episode is scheduled to air on WJLA (ABC 7) Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Earlier School Closing Decisions — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says the school system will try to make school closing decisions earlier this year, preferably the night before a snow or ice event. [InsideNova]
Arlington Company Gets $1 Billion Investment — Rosslyn-based satellite internet company OneWeb has received a $1 billion investment from SoftBank. The Japanese company said it’s the “first step” in its $50 billion commitment to President-elect Donald Trump to create jobs in the U.S. [Reuters]
Fmr. Arlington Resident John Glenn Dies — John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95. In an article first published in 2012, the Arlington Public Library blog recounted the five years that Glenn and his family lived on N. Harrison Street in Arlington. [Arlington Public Library]
Soon: Central Place Apartments, Restaurants — Residents are expected to start moving into the new Central Place apartment tower in Rosslyn at some point during the first three months of 2017. Restaurants coming to the ground floor of the building include Sweetgreen, Little Beet, Nando’s Peri-peri and McDonald’s, while Cava Grill and Compass Coffee has signed leases for the Central Place office tower. [Washington Business Journal]
Fort Myer Getting Drone Detector — Officials from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said at a recent Arlington civic association meeting that the base is working to procure a drone detection system. The base commander said he’s worried about “miniaturized tools of terror, specifically drones carrying home-made bombs.” [Pentagram]
Video: Ovi Delivering Pizzas in Arlington — Okay, it’s just a commercial and didn’t really happen. But a new 30-second TV spot from Papa John’s imagines Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin delivering pizzas in Arlington in 2001 as he pursues a childhood dream to become “the best pizza delivery boy in the world.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
Local Startup Scores Big Military Contract — Clarendon-based cybersecurity firm Endgame has won a $18.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. It’s believed to be “one of the largest endpoint protection software purchases in the Air Force’s history.” [Fedscoop]
Startups Recognized By County — Arlington County recognized four of the county’s fastest-growing companies this week as part of its second-annual “Fast Four” competition. The honorees were the Nicecream Factory ice cream shop in Arlington, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics, Clarendon consulting firm Enterprise Knowledge and Ballston-based software company Convoke. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A Washington-Lee High School graduate is one of the main characters on the new Fox television series Star.
O’Grady graduated from W-L in 2013 but has been performing and modeling professionally since the age of 4,
Up until now O’Grady’s most prominent TV appearance was a guest role on the ABC show Trophy Wife. She has also been active in the local theater scene, performing at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, Synetic Theater and Encore Stage & Studio, as well as D.C. venues like the Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theatre and even the White House.
“I was always encouraged to pursue my dreams because I’ve worked all my life to achieve them,” O’Grady said in an interview published on the Encore Stage & Studio website.
She gave the following advice to aspiring young actors: “Never EVER give up. No matter how discouraged you get and how many times you get rejected. Work hard, train hard, and know your stuff. If you are always working on improving yourself, you will get better. You will become the versatile actor you want to be. The roles will come with time.”
The Dec. 14 premiere of Star is billed as a “special early preview.” The series will air in its regular timeslot on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
Arlington Independent Media, the local public access cable channel and media education center, is asking its members to support a new cable franchise agreement the county has reportedly reached with Comcast.
The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. (Verizon’s FiOS service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington.)
Arlington County has been negotiating a franchise agreement renewal with Comcast since 2013, when its last long-term agreement expired. The County Board has continuously, temporarily extended the agreement until negotiations could conclude.
The specifics of the new agreement, which reportedly runs through Dec. 2021 and is expected to be considered by the County Board next month, were not immediately available. However, in an email to its members, AIM said the agreement would continue to fund the organization, with some notable changes.
Under the agreement, AIM would be upgraded to an HD channel on Comcast’s cable service. Meanwhile, the organization would “continue to receive approximately 1% of Comcast’s gross revenue as operating support,” according to the email, with the county contributing another 1% from its 5% communications tax in addition to an annual capital grant.
AIM’s current facilities in the Comcast building in Clarendon, however, would cease to be rent-free starting Jan. 1, 2018. That “presents AIM with a significant challenge and we will have to quickly figure out a way to remain viable under these conditions,” wrote AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.
Overall, LeValley wrote, the agreement is “very positive for AIM and we are grateful to the County for negotiating its terms on our behalf.” The only change the organization is seeking is a provision requiring that Comcast list its programming on its on-screen guide.
It is “imperative that our full program schedule be included in Comcast’s digital program guide,” wrote LaValley. “Unfortunately, the draft agreement fails to make this requirement. We believe that inclusion of our program schedule would significantly improve our ability to attract and keep audiences for the many fine programs that you all work so hard to create for our community.”
The full email has been published on the AIM website.
Arlington Featured on MTP — Arlington County was featured in a Meet the Press segment on Sunday, comparing the level of support for Hillary Clinton here to support for Donald Trump in a rural Ohio county. The show interviewed residents in the Clarendon area. [NBC News]
Surge in Registration, Absentee Voting — Officials are anticipating about 43,000 absentee ballots in Arlington this year, up 50 percent compared to the last presidential election in 2012. Throughout the region and the state, absentee voting is on the rise, which is generally good news for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a surge in last-minute voter registrations yesterday and a statewide software slowdown has the county advising that it could take several days to process all of the applications. [Washington Post, WTOP, WTOP]
Vehicle Decal Design Contest Starts — The Treasurer’s Office Decal Design Competition is back for another year. Local high school students will compete to design the next Arlington County vehicle decal, which will appear on some 160,000 vehicles in the county. The submission deadline is Nov. 28. [Arlington County]
Pike Recycling Center May Move — Next month the Arlington County Board is expected to consider whether to relocate the recycling facility at the corner of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive to the Arlington Trades Center in Shirlington. County officials want to lower the level of illegal dumping that’s currently taking place. [InsideNova]
Historic Designation for Ballston Cemetery? — On Wednesday night Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will discuss the merits of a proposed local historic district designation for the Ball cemetery in Ballston. The cemetery is currently slated to be relocated to make way for the redevelopment of a church. [Preservation Arlington]
Last Day at Fuego Cocina — Fuego Cocina y Tequileria in Clarendon served its final meals and margaritas Sunday. “We’re turning the light off now. Farewell,” the restaurant said via Twitter. [Twitter, Twitter]