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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yes, We Have No Lamb Today (Kumo Asian Bistro)

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA — I just had lunch at an elegant little place at the intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Beulah Road called Kumo Asian Bistro. The service was good, quick, and polite, and my waitress had the improbable but delightful name Mango; my food was hot and delicious; and even the restrooms had upscale little touches like basin sinks. So, it bears mentioning that I was disappointed not at what I found, only at what I didn't find, and that I have nothing but good things to say about Kumo.

What I did not find was the little Chinese place that I ate lunch at off-and-on for 18 years. It was not elegant and, if it had a name at all, did not have one that was particularly interesting or relevant. You ordered your food at a counter and then either picked it up or had it brought to your formica table. The bathroom was always kind of grungy, and you often had to compete with the kitchen crew to even get into it. The waitstaff was perpetually exhausted and always bordering on surly.

After a point, however, the waitstaff, particularly the woman the front counter, recognized me every time I came in — even if it hadn't been for a long time — and even made a point of chatting with me. They even started automatically giving me chopsticks and stopped giving me grief over asking for extra napkins. And, perhaps more relevant than any of that, they served one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten: Kung Pao Lamb. I have never found this delicacy anywhere else and, for the last several years I ate at the place, never ordered anything else, because I knew I would just be disappointed. Even their Mongolian Lamb could not compare to the mass of greasy lamb slices, broccoli, and bamboo shoots in Kung Pao sauce, which I would further enhance with chili-infused oil from a little container on the table. Hot tea and cold water were available in two huge urns and you could have as much of either as you wanted for the price of getting up and serving yourself.

The clientele was special, too, and I was cognizant of being one among a number of distinct regulars. One of my favorites was a guy who looked exactly like Dick Cheney, except that he had a long ponytail and was typically attired in a tropical shirt and straw hat; it could actually have been Dick Cheney in a rudimentary costume, and I always liked to imagine it was his non-evil twin. The other co-diner I remember was a horrible looking little Asian guy, about four feet tall and with a face like a toad; I think he even might have had one leg shorter than the other. But he was always surrounded by three or four hot Asian chicks and smiling from ear-to-ear (as befits a hideous guy lucky enough to be accompanied by a bevy of hotties). I always imagined he was their pimp and a colorful player in the seedy Franconia underworld but actually think that they worked at the post office down the street.

Sadly, I found none of that today. But, you can't eat nostalgia, and if you find yourself between the Springfield Mall and Kingstowne Plaza you probably won't do better than Kumo. But you won't find Kung Pao Lamb there.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Colonial Beach Blues Festival 2013

For the last two years I have regretted not being able to make it out to the Colonial Beach Blues Festival and was excited to be able to attend in its third great year! This terrific event takes place on the banks of the Potomac River in historic Colonial Beach, about an hour south of Washington, D.C., at the High Tides bar and restaurant and the Black Pearl Tiki Bar(205 Taylor Street, Colonial Beach, VA 22443; (804) 224-8433), and was held this year Friday-Sunday, June 21-23. And it was not just a great time, it was a great cause, as all proceeds from the event went to benefit the Organization for Autism Research.

The Colonial Beach Blues Festival was organized by my close friends Dominick and Charlene Salemi, proprietors of hip book and memorabilia store Populuxe Fredericksburg, and I was glad to have finally been able to avail myself of their generous offer to come check out their big event of the year. They had some fantastic acts lined up for this year, and fans of the Blues or even just live music in general were not disappointed. There were also numerous vendors selling everything from food to hip clothing and jewelry.

MC for the festival was everyone's favorite Jay Jenc of Jumpin' Jupiter (who rumor has it once killed a man, possibly in Memphis or Kansas City, in true Blues fashion!). He is shown here with festival organizer Charlene Salemi.

Friday's lineup featured three great acts, the Andy Poxon Band, Moonshine Society, and Anthony "Swamp Dog" Clark (shown in that order, below). All of them had a lot of energy and their own unique styles and put on a great show for the crowd.

Saturday was even bigger and a full seven bands took the stage for the hundreds of Blues fans that started showing up and claiming tables from well before the first group came on sometime after noon. The lineup kicked off with the entertaining Big Money Band and continued with Retro Deluxe, Clarence "The Blues Man" Turner, Jumpin' Jupiter, the Night Kings (with their fans from the Karb Kings can club in the foreground), Cathy Ponton King, and former heavy metal shredder Bobby Messano, who was accompanied by special guest Deanna Bogart on saxophone. People in the audience also enjoyed illusions by magician Vick (shown below in Steampunk/Goth top hat while chatting with festival organizer Dominick Salemi).

Sunday stayed strong with five great music combos, including Blues Flash (not shown), Piedmont Blues Plus accompanied by Fiddlin' "Big Al" Chidester (who drove 2,500 from Moscow, Idaho, to play at the Colonial Beach Blues Festival), Scott Ramminger & his CrawStickers (accompanied by Andy Poxon), Michael Tash & Bad Influence, and the ever-popular Nighthawks, which brought a crowd of their own fans.

Sponsors for this year's great event included NSWC Federal Credit Union, Community Bank of Tri-County, Tides Inn & Tides Inn Market, Karb Kings Va Car Club, High Tides on the Potomac, Populuxe, Brutarian Music & Magazine, and the Colonial Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Nearly a thousand people turned out during the course of the three-day event and it would be fair to say that fun was had by all. Shown here in order are one of the Nighthawk's cutest fans; their self-proclaimed oldest fans; a couple of chicks who came down for the Blues festival; a couple more chicks who came down for it; Toby and Paul, two of the tireless volunteers who helped out throughout the weekend; and people dancing on the sand to one of the bands on Friday night.

For more information about the Colonial Beach Blues Festival and how you can attend or participate in it in 2014, contact the Colonial Beach Blues Society via phone at (804) 214-0312 or (804) 214-0883, or via email at