Category Archives: La Cuisine

Spring Break: Going Local

By Katie Garcia
Originally posted on La Cuisine’s blog and reposted with permission.

Lisa and KatieLast year my best friend, Lisa and I decided to succumb to the traditional ways of spring break and traveled to the Dominican Republic. This year we decided to go in a different path. We decided to visit local shops and restaurants here in Old Town Alexandria. With so many different choices, who could resist. It started on a Friday night. We came to Old Town and went to Rock-It Grill, a karaoke bar. It’s not the best looking bar on King St, but it was a lot of fun and there was a fun atmosphere inside. Definitely not for those who don’t like any chaos, but it’s your typical bar but of course, with singing. On top of visiting Old town during our break, we had one golden rule: No shopping at any chain stores. It wasn’t easy to follow and we did have a couple slip-ups (7-11 and CVS) but it really made the week interesting.

BugsyWe started off by having lunch at Bugsy’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar We had originally planned to eat at MoMo’s a Japanese restaurant with Amazing Sushi, on Queen St. But they were closed for another hour and our grumbling stomachs could not last that long. Now, the Cuisinettes are long-time customers of Bugsy’s. Who can resist thick, cheesy pizza and yummy chocolate cake. Lisa and I had the Margherita Pizza: tomatoes, basil, garlic and mozzarella cheese. I love their specialty pizza’s and this one has become my new favorite. Fully stuffed, we walked the town for a bit, admiring attractive window displays. King Street is full of different shops but the side streets have much to offer as well. On Union St, there is The Christmas Attic, with beautiful Christmas ornaments and household decorations. We passed The Sugar Cube on North Lee St, which is candy heaven. Although we were not able to go inside because of limited time, it’s on my list of stores to visit. Before we left, we walked up to Grape and Bean, to have a delicious cup of organic coffee. I am in love with this small but cozy restaurant and now Lisa is too. They have delicious salads and sandwiches but my favorite is their flatbread with crescenza cheese, prosciutto and truffle oil. They also have a friendly staff and a nice atmosphere. We were definitely coming back to Grape and Bean., or G n’ B, as I like to call it.

Lisa and Katie celebrating St. Patrick's DayOur break happened to fall the week of St. Patrick’s Day and of course we were excited to be in Old Town for any festivities. We did not go to any Irish Pubs. We just aren’t into being in an overcrowded pub, feeling like packed sardines. So instead, we first went back to Grape and Bean to try some of the beers they carry. I’m not a fan of ales, but I actually did enjoy them and had seconds! The staff helped us find a place to go, and we headed up King St, to The Light Horse. They were not overpacked, but did have a crowd and we had to wait a bit to get upstairs to their dance room. The bartender downstairs was very friendly and let us try a bit of the beers before ordering, just in case we didn’t like the taste. After a very short wait, we were able to go upstairs, where they have pool tables, tables to sit and a dance floor and DJ. The place had a nice vibe to it and we made friends quick. Overall, it was a fun night and I was more than happy for choosing Old Town as my destination choice. The following night, I was in Old Town once again. This time for a dinner date with my sister at Grape and Bean. As I said before, it’s an obsession to go there. After dinner, we walked around King St. It was a great end to a wonderful week.

Thinking about the fun we had, Lisa and I have made Old Town our new place to go. D.C has a lot of variety and more to choose from, but Old Town has a feeling of comfort. The atmosphere is friendly and we felt safe walking up and down King St. There are so many different restaurants and shops that we are still planning to visit them, one visit at a time. -Katie

Working up to Alexandria's Boutique Warehouse Sale

By Laura, special to the OTBD

With New Year’s resolutions and all, I’ve been upping the exercise regimen.  Now with February 5th fast approaching, I realized I needed some specialized assistance.  So I turned to Alexandria’s own Adrien Cotton of Fitness on the Run for some tips.

First, you ask, what’s February 5th?  It is, of course, Alexandria’s annual Boutique Warehouse Sale, held at GW Masonic Temple, from 9AM-4PM.  And, if you love to shop, love deals (more about this in a bit), this is the event for you.  As you can imagine, this is a very popular event so I need to be ready which brings me back to Adrien.

I told Adrien of my upcoming extreme shopping event and, after stifling the laughter, this is what she advised: “Start with some jogging in place (me: which is good because I plan on being there EARLY!). Then do some walking lunges. Do some neck loosening exercises and finally stretch your arms by doing a few dozen push ups. Then you’ll be good to go! Stretch afterwards!” 

So fellow shoppers beware, I am ready for the Boutique Sale and I have my eyes on the prize(s).  Here’s a sneak peak of a few of the goodies:

Tory Burch BootsTory Burch boots from The Shoe Hive
I’ve been lusting after boots like these for awhile now.  Originally $150, now only $30.  Now you’re seeing the wisdom of my pre-sale workout.  Plus The Shoe Hive has lot more Tory Burch and other styles for up to 80% off.  (No, that wasn’t a typo.)

An Ren coats from Gossypia
Olian Black Sweater Maternity DressI have it on good word that these flirty coats (and others) will be offered at significant discount, which means HUGE savings!

Olian Maternity Sweater Dress from Apple Seed
Okay, I’m not pregnant, but if I were, I’d be all over this one (only $76, down from $128) and the other fall and winter maternity and nursing clothes from Ripe, Maternal America, Japanese Weekend and more at 75% off.  Instead, I’m going to concentrate on Apple Seed’s winter baby items (coats and matching booties, diaper bags, blankets, and gifts) discounted up to 75% off.    Lots of friends with new babies.
Gold & silver intaglioGold & Silver from Mystique Jewelers
Just in time for Valentine’s Day.  “Honey, I know what you’re getting me!”  Gorgeous 18k gold and fine sterling silver intaglio with roman antiquity scene enhancer designed in Italy.  Mystique is selling the intaglio at 40% off the retail price of  $450.00.  Or maybe the 14k yellow gold and black pearl necklace from Lawrence Miller & Co. for $150.  Or maybe both!  :)

Foldable BasketFolding Basket from La Cuisine
Perfect for shopping at the Old Town Farmers’ Market, on Saturdays. Regularly $39, La Cuisine is offering the baskets for $15!

CC Couture Jeweled CoatClothing from Perwinkle
Periwinkle will be offering everything for 75% off.  Out of my way!  I have my eyes on this CC Couture Jeweled Coat. It is available in white and black.  Hmmm… decisions, decisions!

So you see I have my work cut up for me.  And there are so many more stores participating including:   DivaHysteriaRed Barn Mercantile, Stanton Gallery, TreatAndrea D’AmbrosiaQueen Bee Designs, Top It OffFinian’s Moon Interiors and Fornash. 

Anyway, back to my workout.  See you there!

Which Pot to Brew?

This week, I wandered into La Cuisine. It was initially a rather sheepish visit, mind you, as I am deeply intimidated by fancy cooking utensils. When I arrived, I poked my head through the door and saw that the salesperson was occupied with another customer. Here was my chance to sneak in without attracting attention.

As followers of this blog probably know, La Cuisine is a small and wonderful shop, full of assorted kitchen treasures and cooking must-haves. On my visits to the store, I am always mesmerized by the array of copper-bottomed pots and pans on the wall behind the counter. They suggest a gleaming promised land of culinary masterpieces that I could create only if I owned the right equipment or if I were ever to follow recipes diligently.

While I love to cook when I get the chance, my weapons of choice are generally no frills: a large Cephalon skillet with a lid and a stainless steel spatula. I inherited a small cast iron pan from my grandfather, who trained as a cook in Paris in the 1920s. Yet, I’ve never had a clue what to do with the pan.

While admiring pots, pans, and goodies of all sorts in La Cuisine, I fell in love with a 12-cup Bialetti stove-top coffee maker. Despite being wooed by baking supplies (one day I will make the perfect gluten-free, dairy-free cupcake) and a delectable selection of olive oils, I disciplined myself to stick with the coffee maker. This, at least, was something with which I felt comfortable in approaching the counter

As I waited for the salesperson to wrap the coffee maker, I once again couldn’t take my eyes off the gorgeous copper pots. So, boldly, I finally asked the salesperson to explain the advantages of cooking with copper pots. Then, the questions kept coming: Is it worth investing in a full set of copper pots and pans? What are the advantages of copper pots in comparison with stainless steel and cast iron? Is it safe to use my grandfather’s cast iron pan?

The salesperson immediately told me of her experiences with her much-prized copper pot. She praised the even cooking and sheer delight of cooking in her copper pot, and even explained the variances between tin-plated and non-plated copper pans. She also helpfully told me that their website explains how to season cast iron pans so that I can learn how to prepare mine for cooking.

This experience at La Cuisine emphasized to me the advantages of local boutiques. I cannot imagine getting this level of tailored advice and one-on-one attention anywhere else. While larger national stores may carry fuller lines of pots and cooking supplies, these stores do not bring the expertise, never mind the range of specialized products, of a store like La Cuisine.

On Saturday, I will cycle to Old Town to stock up on fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. Then, I’ll see what magical creations I can cook up in my newly-seasoned old cast iron pan.

The Perfect Shopping Saturday

I have lived in the DC area for nearly seven years. Yet, even though I am admittedly a shopaholic, it is a rare weekend that I ever venture outside of Old Town Alexandria. Why should I? A quick jaunt through the Old Town Boutique District always meets my shopping needs.

When you can find a dress straight from this season’s runway at a boutique like Treat or Hysteria and a pair of handmade leather heels from an exclusive Italian designer at Shoe Hive, the argument for getting in my car to drive 20 minutes on the beltway to a shopping mall or to head to Georgetown to fight for parking suddenly loses credulity.

I am not lazy. As the owner of a new small business, I work crazy hours and am glued to my Blackberry and laptop. My weekends are much coveted free time to hang out with my husband and relax.

For me, there’s nothing better on a Saturday morning than rolling out of bed, hopping on my Dutch-style bicycle, and heading to Old Town for the Farmer’s Market followed by an afternoon of shopping in the hidden gems of the city’s boutiques.

So, over the past two Saturdays, I formulated a mini quest to chart out the perfect shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. I had intended to do this in one day. Yet, I was faced with the difficulty of this venture by its sheer magnitude because there are 28 shops in the Old Town Boutique District.

I love the idea of shopping local, both to support the city’s economy and to explore the unknown within the familiar. I’m always amazed at the selection of unique design, impeccable craftsmanship, and sheer variety available with the shops that comprise the Old Town Boutique District.

Combining data from my two samples, here is my personal ideal shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. Since I am a fashion addict, this list is exclusively clothing and accessory-related, and covers only a small fraction of the other shops in this group. There is no purchase necessary on my Saturday agenda, as most of the fun (and hence angst for my husband) is in wandering around to discover things.

  • Begin with a leisurely coffee at Grape and Bean.
  • Get a designer consignment fix at either Mint Condition or Diva.
  • Browse finds from this season’s sample sales at Treat.
  • Wander up King St to stock up on makeup and beauty products at Bellacara, then check out lingerie and sleepwear at Bloomer’s (secret: it’s also the best place in the DC area to find Spanx).
  • Walk down to Arts Afire or Fibre Space to admire their handcrafted goods.
  • Heading back down King St, saunter down St Asaph St to look in window of Fitness on the Run in order to contemplate whether or not to trade in gym membership for a private studio.
  • While pondering fitness goals, go to Red Barn Mercantile to browse their quirky and unique home furnishings.
  • Favoring the fitness value of walking via window shopping, walk five blocks to S. Fairfax St. to check out selection of designer clothes at Hysteria.
  • Walk a quarter of a block south into a cute little brick courtyard to admire (and inevitably try on) shoes from familiar and little known designers at Shoe Hive.
  • Finally, drag tired feet a few more blocks north and then east to buy a much-deserved piece of dark chocolate or other sweet treat from The Sugar Cube.

My next quest? To tackle La Cuisine and their myriad of cooking resources.

La Cuisine Is Cookin' at 40 Years Old

Nancy in the kitchen

Nancy at La Cuisine. Credit: Washington Post (7.7.2010)

By Joe Egerton, owner of Arts Afire and resident of Alexandria

Shopping in Old Town Alexandria has hidden advantages as well as unexpected value. A great example — La Cuisine, the Cook’s Resource offers so very much more than its cookware. This venerable emporium provides the shopper with 40 years of unmatched experience. The owner and staff literally try every item offered for sale. That’s phenomenal in this day and age. If it doesn’t meet their strict criteria, it never finds its way to their shelves. The store owner Nancy Pollard is Old Town’s equivalent of Julia Child.  This woman loves what cooking is all about.  Just talk to her and let he explain the store’s offerings.  Backed up by time-tested recipes along with tips on how to achieve the best rendition of a dish, such as when to and when not to add herbs.

If you did not see the article “At 40, La Cuisine is the area’s oldest independent kitchen store“ in The Washington Post Food Section, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, read it here.   It’s a wonderful read and chock full of wonderful advice and tips (again, those 40 years of experience) and what you really need in the way of cooking utensils.   The article also stated the very special olive oils La Cuisine offers. Varieties  not  found elsewhere.  So, being a foodie myself, I had to stop by the store on Wednesday, not only to congratulate Nancy on the great article about her store, but to buy a bottle of her olive oil.  Then, I stopped at the Butcher’s Block on upper King Street for a baguette and some cheese.  Went home and had a real French lunch (with a bottle of good red wine).  Oh, boy the olive oil and bread were great. It’s definitely worth the price. As the article pointed out, some people feel La Cuisine is pricy. But, if you know real quality and realize what you’re buying….you’re buying only once, because the store has tested everything and knows their merchandise to be long lasting and therefore in the long run not at all expensive. 

Then, it occurred to me….. really what a special place Old Town Alexandria is for shoppers. So many of our boutiques offer the same type of service and knowledge of their products.  This is a value you can’t find when dealing with chain stores or finds in the malls.  You get no history, no actual experience with the product and sometimes not even a smile from the sales people. Viva independently-owned stores, and viva Old Town quality shopping.