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Toby’s Ice Cream found viral success in summer 2021 with limited-time cicada sundaes (courtesy Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream/Facebook)

Hold your cicada sundaes, Vienna. Despite the rumors that have been flying around town, Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream has not opened its new shop yet — at least not officially.

As reported yesterday (Thursday) by Patch, the Arlington-based ice cream eatery hopes to officially open its location in the Cedar Park Shopping Center (280 Cedar Lane SE) this May, with no exact date determined yet.

If you pass by at the right time, however, you might get a scoop, as some visitors discovered this past weekend (April 23-24).

“We hope to open with regular hours about mid-May,” Toby’s co-owner Toby Bantug told FFXnow. “Right now we are soft opening on the weekends, and during the weekdays we’re making ice cream, working out the menu and procedures and training staff, in addition to running the Arlington shop.”

Read more…

Valentine’s Day is, unsurprisingly, a busy time for Suzanne Nader and Dalia Hidayat, the two women behind local chocolatier Craving for Chocolate.

A visit to the pair’s new Dunn Loring studio (2108-A Gallows Road) on Monday (Feb. 7) found them filling and packaging dozens of boxes with sweets for corporate orders tied to the romantic holiday.

The demand for chocolate doesn’t end with Feb. 14, though. For this boutique retailer, it spans every occasion from Christmas — the most hectic time of year — and Ramadan to anniversaries and graduations, according to Hidayat.

“Somebody’s celebrating something every day, so it’s such an amazing business to be in,” she said.

Distinguished by its use of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, such as rosewater and mastic, Craving for Chocolate has seen an explosion in sales since the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to pivot from pop-ups to e-commerce.

Nader, a McLean resident and Lebanese immigrant, founded the chocolatier in 2015 out of a desire to address what she saw as a lack of variety in the market. It started small, primarily serving family and friends, but the client base grew through word-of-mouth.

That’s how Hidayat got involved. Introduced to Craving for Chocolate after receiving one of its boxes as a gift, she was impressed not just by the chocolate, which is made at a factory in Lebanon, but also by the acrylic container it came in, which was hand-carved by refugee artisans.

She called for a refill and was surprised to learn that Nader was working from home.

“I have a 30-year background in sales and marketing, so it’s second nature to me to refer and think of ideas,” Hidayat recalled. “I worked at the Ritz, and I knew that they had space to do a pop-up for her, so I just connected her as a friend.”

Over the next two years, that pop-up at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons led to a partnership with Nordstrom and appearances at Tysons Galleria, along with various local markets.

With the business growing, the women were contemplating a transition to a full mall store or a brick-and-mortar site when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Pivoting instead to Nader’s basement, they built up the company’s website to support more online sales and put renewed emphasis on their use of custom-made gift boxes, trays, and other crafted items for packaging the chocolate.

“We sell chocolate, but we also always focus on what can be a nice gift,” Nader said. “What can go with it, like the tray? The tea? What can also add to this gift?”

While Craving for Chocolate has expanded its reach, now shipping nationwide, they were committed to staying in the Tysons area when looking for a permanent workshop, with the business outgrowing Nader’s home.

They considered finding another location in McLean, but the Gallows Road office seemed more accessible from the Tysons core, Nader says. It’s also about halfway between her house and where Hidayat lives in Vienna.

Craving for Chocolate moved in at the beginning of January, and both Nader and Hidayat say the new space has been “amazing” so far. The studio is open by appointment only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays.

“We like focusing on our clients and giving them that elevated service and one-on-one attention, and if you have more than two people here, it gets tough to do that,” Hidayat said. “They want to know what’s in the chocolates. They just want to spend time. That’s what we’ve noticed with our clients.”

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Morning Notes

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree — The Town of Vienna will provide curbside collections of Christmas trees to all customers through Jan. 31. Fairfax County collections will be from Jan. 3-14. All lights, decorations, and stands should be removed prior to pickup. [Patch]

Virginia Time Capsule Possibly Found — “Workers removing chunks of granite that had once supported this city’s Robert E. Lee monument finally found what appears to be an elusive 1887 time capsule shortly before noon on Monday…This is the second time a capsule was discovered under the monument; a small lead box opened last week contained mementos of several men who designed the memorial.” [The Washington Post]

Churchill Student Makes Food Network Debut — The Food Network kicked off the 10th season of its reality show Kids Baking Champion yesterday (Monday). Among the 13 young contestants competing to win $25,000 is Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grade student Finley Sheers, who started making cupcakes as a hobby during the pandemic. [Inside NoVA]

Vienna Rotary Club Hosts Unhoused Youth for Holidays — “Our youth had a fun-filled event hosted by Vienna Rotary Club to celebrate the holidays. They created pillows, decorated wooden arts and crafts, made jewelry, decorated cookies, took pictures at the photo booth and with Santa, and ate a lot of pizza and snacks!” [Second Story/Twitter]

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Student volunteers drop off donated food at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (courtesy Teens for Food Banks)

A few teenagers can’t solve world hunger on their own, but some McLean High School students are doing their part to at least make a difference on a local level.

Steven Guo and Rehan Marshall started organizing food drives in June 2020 after seeing news reports about the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn pushing more people to seek food assistance.

“Not enough donations were going to food banks, so many food banks around the nation were running dangerously low on supplies,” said Guo, who was a sophomore at the time. “We saw this and didn’t want it to happen locally.”

Over the past 18 months, the two students’ effort has grown into the nonprofit Teens for Food Banks, which now boasts about 50 members and remains entirely student-run.

The organization has collected 7,793 pounds of food with 17 food drives held every month since June 6, 2020. The most recent campaign concluded last weekend and brought in 328 pounds, according to Guo.

With past events ranging from McLean and Falls Church to Centreville and Arlington County, Teen for Food Banks operates differently from a traditional food drive, where people bring donations to a designated site.

Instead, the nonprofit follows a model similar to Food for Neighbors’ Red Bag Program. First, volunteers distribute flyers throughout a chosen neighborhood. Then, they return the following week to pick up the food and drop it off at a food bank.

So far, the food drives have benefited Share of McLean, which runs a food pantry out of McLean Baptist Church, and the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), which serves Arlington County.

“The TeensforFoodBanks group is a wonderful group of teenagers,” AFAC Associate Director of Communications Jeremiah Huston said by email. “We are always amazed to see teenagers take it upon themselves to do great things in our community. They are very self sufficient and self motivated.”

Teens for Food Banks has given AFAC about 2,000 pounds of food, according to Huston.

Guo says organizing the food drives involved “a lot of trial and error,” with navigating COVID-19 safety protocols as the top challenge. Initially, the entire process was contact-free: students picked up food without ever meeting the donors and only saw their fellow volunteers at drop-off time.

However, for Guo, the logistical demands of Teens for Food Banks have been outweighed by an “outpouring” of community support and his neighbors’ generosity. For the last food drive, one family contributed two boxes of food that he estimates weighed 60 to 80 pounds.

“These acts of kindness, especially during COVID, during a very rough year for everyone, it was very inspiring,” Guo said. “I’m also just glad to know I was able to have an impact on the community.”

Now, he hopes to empower other students to get involved in their community. Read More

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Morning Notes

Warmer Winter Expected — “According to the National Weather Service (NWS), we will see above normal temps this winter w/ an equal chance of above, near, or below normal precipitation. We urge you to be prepared for #WinterWeater to keep you and your family safe!” [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]

Pandemic Prompts Change at Fairfax County Meals on Wheels — “Roycraft said that he, along with about 480 volunteers, used to deliver meals to elderly people in Fairfax County about three times a week. When the pandemic struck, this changed…But then, even as pandemic restrictions eased up, the county decided not to return to a volunteer-based delivery system.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Student Bakes Way onto Food Network — “What started as a pandemic hobby has evolved into a small business for Finley, who estimates she has completed 20 orders to date, including cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Her skill caught the attention of the Food Network, which offered her the chance to compete in its Kids Baking Championship, premiering Dec. 27.” [WTOP]

Why Johnny Depp Sued Amber Heard in Fairfax County — “Despite the subtle language, the tenuous connection to Virginia, and the previous loss in court on a stronger claim, Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County — and has won four motions to dismiss in three years. On October 13, 2021, a Fairfax County judge ruled that because the processors and ink cartridges that delivered the words to the public were located in Virginia, Depp could sue Heard for libel in the state.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Local Church Collects Food Donations With Drive-Thru Nativity — For a second year in a row, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McLean will hold a drive-thru Nativity event next week that will double as a food drive to support the nonprofit SHARE of McLean. Last year’s event drew over 1,000 cars and brought in enough donations to last the food bank two months. [Patch]

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MetroWest residents no longer need to cross I-66 or Route 29 to grab a bite to eat.

With developers’ plans for retail south of the Vienna Metro station still pending, the first dining options in the mixed-use community come from a more unusual source: The Providence, a 154-unit assisted living and memory care facility that opened in March at 9490 Sprague Avenue.

While the facility’s casual dining-focused Wolf Trap Bistro & Lounge is currently only open to members, The Providence recently launched a fine-dining takeout program for the general public that it hopes to eventually turn into a full-fledged restaurant called Great Falls.

Available between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, the menu features salads, pizza, and sandwiches as well as more high-end entrées like beef filet, shrimp and mushroom marsala, and salmon with chimichurri rojo sauce.

“Creating this all-day menu was an option for us to not only give our members here…more restaurant-like type of food options, but also to incorporate in the restaurant project and have that be available to the public as well,” The Providence Dining Services Director Sabrine Marques told Tysons Reporter.

Previously the general manager of the now-closed PassionFish in Bethesda, Marques developed the Great Falls concept with Executive Director Annamarie Mariani-Huehn at the behest of Silverstone Senior Living and Watermark Retirement Communities, which respectively own and operate The Providence.

Juggling a publicly accessible restaurant with a private assisted living facility has brought a variety of challenges, from meeting state guidelines for both uses to developing a menu that’s affordable to The Providence members and fits their dietary requirements.

The team had hoped to open Great Falls by the end of this year, but that timeline proved impossible due to the additional complications introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the supply chain and staffing issues that have upended retail and service industries across the country.

“I’d rather not do something that is not going to be the way we envisioned and wait until we’re actually ready to do that,” Marques said. “I mean, we want a fine dining experience for people that will be coming here the same way that we’re trying to provide that to our members who live here.”

Given that it serves an older population, bringing heightened COVID-19 risks, The Providence decided to initially limit food service to its residents and those living in The Atrium at MetroWest, which has condominiums for adults aged 55 and older.

When no issues arose, the facility rolled out the Great Falls menu to the public on Oct. 11 as the first phase of its project to establish a full restaurant.

Takeout orders for food and coffee can be placed by phone at 571-396-0500. Orders are made available via curbside pickup within 30-45 minutes, according to The Providence.

While slow at first, Marques says business has started to pick up, including from one neighbor who has already ordered takeout on three different occasions. She hopes the program will find a customer base not just in MetroWest, but also in the wider Fairfax and Vienna area.

“It’s definitely an exciting and challenging project that we have put in place,” she said. “We will continue to work towards [the restaurant], and we are hopeful that we can get that project up and running by next year.”

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The new McLean location for grocery chain Lidl will be accompanied by regional favorite pizza and beer chains when it opens sometime next year.

Construction on Lidl, which is replacing the Safeway at 1330 Chain Bridge Road, is now underway, with plans to open next spring.

As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, Reston-based Thompson Hospitality is subleasing some of the space in Lidl to add D.C.-area chains Matchbox — a series of pizzerias spread predominately through Northern Virginia — and Big Buns, a burger eatery with locations in Reston, Ballston, and Shirlington.

According to an email from Connie Collins, senior vice president of the Thompson Retail Food Group, Matchbox and Big Buns are scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2022:

We believe the Mclean customer is quite adept at recognizing quality providing us with the exciting opportunity to deliver best-in-class product and service [by our flagship Matchbox and Big Buns brands] aligned with the needs of a discerning and deserving consumer. Our breadth of menu offerings provided a rounded environment to dine at various times of day and experiences to a wide variety of diners from children to retirees and everyone in between.

Both restaurants will take up a 6,200 square-foot space and will have their own seating areas. Matchbox will also have a patio space, like the pizzeria’s Mosaic District location.

Big Buns confirmed to Tysons Reporter in July that it is adding a location in the Town of Vienna, taking over the site in Danor Plaza previously occupied by Elevation Burger.

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Morning Notes

Controversy Hits Tysons Korean Cooking Contest — Half of the judges for the 2021 K-Food Cook-Off have quit after a statement introducing one of them drew social media criticism for suggesting that the D.C. area has a lack of Korean restaurants. The competition, which will be held on Sept. 26 at the Tysons Hyatt Regency, has also come under fire for only having one judge of Korean heritage on its original panel. [Washington City Paper]

Police Investigate Possible Murder in Falls Church — Fairfax County police found the remains of 78-year-old Truman Nguyen in a shallow grave behind his house near Bailey’s Crossroads yesterday after a family member reported him missing on Monday (Sept. 6). His son was arrested and has been charged with murder, which would make it the county’s 18th homicide this year, triple the number that had been reported at this time in 2020. [The Washington Post]

Family of 9/11 Victim Shares Memories of Tragic Day — Now a student pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University, Fairfax County resident An Nguyen was just 4 when his father was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, where both of his parents worked. His mother, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a child, was not at the Pentagon when the plane hit. [NBC4]

Tysons Business Group Hosts Statewide Candidates Forum — “The Multicultural Chamber Alliance (MCCA), a powerful collaborative initiative of the Asian American Chamber, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, invites the press and general public to attend the Annual Candidates Forum. The Candidates Forum will take place Thursday, September 9, 2021, from 10 am-12 pm, at the University of North America (12750 Fair Lakes Circle) in Fairfax, Virginia.” [MCCA]

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Among a crowd of pizza crafters applying fixtures with eyedroppers or a brush, chef Andy Brown did what he did best: make the same kind of pizza he’d make if he were any given Friday at the shop.

That’s how Andy’s Pizza, a small regional chain with a location in Tysons Galleria, took home the first-place prize in the traditional pizza category of the International Pizza Challenge last month.

“The whole point of the traditional category is: what do you do really great at 7 p.m. on a Friday?” said Emily Brown, Andy’s cousin and co-owner of Andy’s Pizza. “Maybe it was a risky move, but we just did what we put out on Friday. No paint brushes, no eye-droppers.”

Originally introduced in 2007, the International Pizza Challenge is the largest pizza-making competition in the U.S. It unfolded this year from Aug. 17-19 as part of the 37th annual International Pizza Expo.

Part of the rules for the traditional category is to use no more than two toppings, but as Emily explained, traditional doesn’t necessarily mean simple. There’s a specific process behind the scenes that goes into making the pizza.

“We do a 72-hour minimum cold fermented crust,” Emily said. “For our sauce, we have a beautiful red sauce with a pinch of salt, and we use the best cheese money can buy — mozzarella from Grande Cheese. Our crust is blistered, and we use a special technique to keep it chewy and soft while being crisp on the bottom.”

Emily suspects it was the blistered crust that helped Andy’s Pizza stand out from the competition.

“A lot of people do that ferment, and a lot of people use that cheese, so it’s really the blister,” Emily said.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria just started serving its first vegan pies. Emily says they were previously unimpressed with the quality of artificial cheeses, but they found the right one with Vertage in Ivy City in D.C.

Emily also helped spearhead the pizzeria’s beer menu, which has started to see a gradual comeback after lunch and happy-hour crowds took a hit with office workers staying home during the pandemic.

“Tonight, people came out from D.C. and were like ‘how did you get this beer?'” Emily said. “Our bread and butter was office, and they were gone and started to trickle back…You still don’t get that automatic 50-person-on-a-Tuesday Capital One happy hour yet, so you have to work really hard not to let that program slip. If you do something hard enough, people will notice.”

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The Mo:Mo House storefront

After three years of business, Mo:Mo House has announced it will close on Saturday, August 28.

Located at 131-A Maple Avenue West, the family-run Nepalese restaurant opened in 2018 and is owned by Chef Shambhu Basnet and Shanta Basnet. Together, they created and shared dishes from their homeland, including the eponymous momo dumplings.

Tysons Reporter was unable to get in contact with Mo:Mo House before press time, but their Facebook post announcing the closure read:

With heavy hearts, we want to inform you that Mo:Mo House will permanently close its doors on 28 August, 2021.

We want to thank you, our amazing customers, for your unwavering support over the years, through thick and thin. We feel very fortunate for having known you, your family and friends. We’ve made many great friends, had a lot of fun times, and shared many life stories. We will always be grateful for having been a part of your lives.

Again, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! Thank you for your support and patronage.

Please take care and stay safe!
— The Mo:Mo House Family

Mo:Mo House has become a beloved family-friendly restaurant in Vienna, which is apparent in the comments on its Facebook post.

One Vienna resident wrote, “Your restaurant is our number one family favorite and we will really miss you. Thanks so much for the beautiful memories you have offered to our family. Best wishes to your wonderful family.”

The restaurant was recognized for its customer service by the inaugural #ViennaUnited Virtual Business Awards that the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office organized last year to encourage residents to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mo:Mo House acknowledged the outpouring of goodwill that followed its closure announcement.

“Thank you, everyone!” the restaurant wrote on Facebook. “It has been so overwhelming to see all these comments and to think about all of the moments spent with you all. We’ve gotten to know each and every one of you so closely over these past few years. If nothing else, we are taking a lot of fun memories with us that will last a lifetime. Hope to stay in touch with you!”

Mo:Mo House is open for take-out from 4-8 p.m. until Aug. 28. Orders can be made by calling 571-459-2614.

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