Tysons, VA

Blend 111 has evolved since it first arrived on Church Street in Vienna two years ago.

With the Latin fusion restaurant approaching its second anniversary on Saturday (May 8), owner Michael Biddick reflected on the work that went into establishing Blend 111 and refining its menu and style to make it what it is today.

A 20-year resident of Vienna, Biddick started the restaurant in 2019 after selling a successful cybersecurity company that he founded.

He had long been interested in wine but began to seriously learn about it while going through the Court of Masters Sommeliers training. Along the way, he also developed an interest in coffee.

“Through a lot of the traveling I did I had the opportunity to eat at a lot of different restaurants around the world,” Biddick said. “So, I thought it would be great to bring a different type of restaurant to Northern Virginia that focused a lot on international cuisine and [felt like] more of an urban and international city-like restaurant.”

Biddick is now the head sommelier at Blend 111 and a certified French Wine Scholar. He published the book “43 Wine Regions” in 2018 and has contributed to Somm Journal, Food and Travel, and Go World Travel magazines.

To commemorate its two-year anniversary, Biddick says the restaurant is bringing back a few of its more popular drinks, including a very popular spicy margarita, and Executive Chef Andrés-Julian Zuluaga will prepare some surprise dishes that will pop up on the menu come Saturday.

There will also be a special three-course all-day brunch menu for Mother’s Day on Sunday (May 9).

Blend 111 was built in an old furniture and card shop, right down the road from the Town of Vienna’s Town Hall. The name comes from their mission to seamlessly blend food, wine, and coffee from different Latin cultures, along with their address, 111 Church Street.

Although there is currently only one location, Biddick says they are actively looking for other locations to expand in the DMV area.

When designing Blend 111, Biddick made a conscious effort to buy as much local produce as possible and avoid the waste issues that typically plague restaurants.

“One of the things I wanted to do was to have a really minimal waste impact and as little environmental waste as possible,” Biddick said.

Blend 111 has developed relationships with local farms and now specifies what crops need to be grown for main courses, salads, and sides. In addition to supporting local providers, Biddick says cultivating these relationships helps the restaurant develop new flavors.

Blend 111 has a goal to produce only one bag of trash per day. Other leftover items are either recycled or composted through an organization called Compost Crew.

They also are conscious about using organic wine and coffee, and they try to offset anything brought in from outside the D.C. area by investing in renewable energy sources.

“You never reach a finish line with sustainability,” Biddick said. “It’s just something you always have to continually work at and try to improve upon.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit 10 months after it opened, Blend 111 briefly shut down before working to adapt to the new environment.

Putting his information technology background to use, Biddick designed a platform to facilitate carryout and delivery services without having to go through a third party. This helped keep the existing core staff employed and engaged and opened the door for more people to come on board, even as many other restaurants were letting people go.

“I really looked at it as an investment opportunity,” Biddick said. “We found that we were able to make it through the last year, and then, I think once things started to reopen slowly, we then saw business come back significantly.”

Blend 111 brought on a new culinary team in May 2020 that consisted of a new executive chef, a sous chef, and a pastry chef. Biddick says the new team “was able to take the menu up several notches above what we had at opening.”

Blend 111 also benefitted from relaxed zoning rules that enabled the restaurant to convert its parking lot into an outdoor patio space.

“Dealing with a pandemic is really challenging,” Biddick said. “A lot of it comes down to…the individual circumstances that you’re in, but I just try to look at how you can make the best of it and I think we just leveraged everything we could to pull out of that period.”

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It is farmers market season, and Fairfax County has a plethora of options for anyone looking to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables.

The county operates 10 markets under the Fairfax County Park Authority, but there are also many privately-owned markets, many of which are open year-round.

The county-run markets, however, are strictly seasonal. While they closed for a period of time last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, four of them eventually re-opened.

This weekend, the first of those markets will put out its produce for the 2021 season:

  • Burke: VRE parking lot (5671 Roberts Parkway), Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon, starting April 1
  • McCutcheon/Mount Vernon: Sherwood Regional Library (2501 Sherwood Hall Lane), Wednesdays 8 a.m. to noon, starting April 21
  • Old Town Herndon (700 Lynn St.): Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., starting April 22
  • Reston: Lake Anne Village Center (1609-A Washington Plaza), Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 1
  • Oak Marr RECenter (3200 Jermantown Rd.): Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 5
  • Wakefield Park (8100 Braddock Rd.): Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m., starting May 5
  • Annandale: Mason District Park (6621 Columbia Pike), Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 6
  • McLean: Lewinsville Park (1659 Chain Bridge Road), Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 7
  • Kingstowne Towne Center (5870 Kingstowne Towne Center): Fridays from 3-7 p.m., starting May 7

The county-run markets all run through at least late October, with several continuing into December.

What makes these markets unique is that they’re strictly producer-only, meaning vendors can only sell what they’ve raised, grown, or made on their own farms. All farmers and producers also come from within a 125-mile radius of Fairfax County.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the county has enacted strict safety protocols.

Visitors can browse markets in “pods” of up to four people, but only one customer can approach a stall at a time. Vendor sampling has been prohibited, and people are being asked not to “linger.” Online sales are strongly encouraged.

If 10 markets aren’t enough, there are plenty of privately-run farmers markets around the county.

FRESHFARM runs about 30 markets across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, including five in Fairfax County:

  • Oakton: Unity of Fairfax Church (2854 Hunter Mill Rd.), year-round on Saturdays from 9 a.m to 1 p.m.
  • Mosaic: The Mosaic District (2910 District Ave.), Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., started April 4
  • Reston: St. John Neumann Catholic Church (11900 Lawyers Rd.), Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m., started April 7
  • Springfield: Springfield Town Center (6699 Spring Mall Dr.), Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting May 1
  • The Boro: 8301 Greensboro Dr., Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., starting May 6

The NOVA Central Farm market in Vienna is also on Sundays and open year-round, though hours shifted slightly on April 1.

The Reston Farm Garden Market is also open year-round and daily on Baron Cameron Avenue. Its two “neighborhood markets” will open this month:

  • Springfield: Cardinal Forest Plaza (8316 Old Keene Mill Rd.), open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting April 15
  • Herndon: Fox Mill Center (2551 John Milton Dr.), open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting April 20

If you want to cross county lines, there is also a number of farmers markets in Arlington.

Be it sweet strawberries, appetizing apples, lucious lettuce that you may desire, there are plenty of options in Fairfax County for community members to get their fill of fresh food and support local farmers.

Photo via Jakub Kapusnak/Unsplash

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Town of Vienna residents might soon be able to drop their compost off in the town instead of having to drive up to 10 miles to the nearest Fairfax County facility.

However, the town is still searching for a location and a vendor to pick up the compost, according to Christine Horner, a water quality engineer for Vienna who is spearheading the project.

The idea of a stand-alone composting drop-off site has been long mulled-over.

The Vienna Town Council approved funding for such a program on May 13, 2019 as part of the 2020 fiscal year budget, Horner says. Since then, the town has been looking for a place to set up a compost site.

“The project is in motion,” she said. “We are actively searching for an appropriate location.”

Once a location is set, Vienna will be ready “to get the facility installed and contract with a vendor for pick-up services,” Horner said.

Finding a location is top-of-mind for Councilmember Nisha Patel, who is campaigning to get reelected for a second term this May.

“We don’t have an area that is free of residents to compost,” Patel told Tysons Reporter. “It’s something we need to look out and see where we can encourage more composting.”

While Vienna staff look for an appropriate location in town, Patel encourages residents to use Fairfax County’s composting drop-off at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) in Fairfax and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton. Those locations are open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

“These programs provide a similar service but are separate initiatives,” Horner said in an email. “The Fairfax Composting Drop Off location is currently available for Vienna residents.”

The county sites accept a wide range of goods for composting, including food — meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruits and grains — along with flowers, uncoated paper bags, towels and plates, compostable flatware, flowers, coffee grounds and tea bags. Scraps and paper goods can be collected in kitchen pails, secured in compostable bags, and tossed into the green bins.

Image via Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

Marshall High School Principal Addresses Racial Slur Allegations — In a letter sent to families yesterday (March 17), Principal Augie Frattali acknowledged reports that Marshall students spat and shouted racial slurs during a football game against Wakefield High School on March 5. The full letter, provided to Tysons Reporter by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.

Dear Marshall Community,

As many of you are aware, there are serious allegations that have been made involving some students within our the Marshall HS Community regarding an incident at a recent football game. These have been shared widely on social media and are very hurtful to all individuals involved.

Please know that we have taken this situation very seriously and are in direct contact with Fairfax County Public School’s Region 2 office and the Office of Equity and Employee Relations.

We have done an intensive investigation into this situation and appropriate actions were taken against individuals by the Virginia High School League from both schools.  I also worked collaboratively with the Wakefield HS principal to ensure that there will be an opportunity for the students to join together to discuss their actions and develop a plan moving forward.

Thank you for all you do to support the Marshall High School.

Tysons Partnership Warns Against Delaying Metro Silver Line Phase 2 — Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner argues in a letter to the Metro board that opening the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is necessary for the “fulfillment of the promise not only of Tysons, but of the entire Silver Line corridor.” The nonprofit says budget constraints should not delay the project’s completion. [Tysons Partnership]

Merrifield Church to Host Free Drive-by Food Distribution Event — “Free boxes of food will be available at First Baptist Church Merrifield (FBCM) on Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 AM until all are distributed. All members and surrounding community are invited to partake of the distribution.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]

Northern Virginia Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 674 new cases in Northern Virginia on Thursday, the most since Feb. 13.  The region’s seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, had fallen as low as 318.4 on Saturday, but now stands at 407 cases per day.” [Inside NoVA]

Falls Church Healthcare Startup Raises $10 Million — “CMT Solutions, a leader in patient access services for laboratory diagnostics, announced a close on $10.0MM of Series A fundraising…CMT is using these funds to further develop our technology solution, with a new product launch, that will greatly help the healthcare community with diagnostic testing.” [CMT Solutions]

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (Mar. 1)

  • Unruly Theatre Project Auditions (Online) — 7-9 p.m. — (the) Unruly Theatre Project, a professional teen improv company run by The Alden, is holding its first-ever winter auditions for new company members. The pool of eligibility has been expanded this year to include kids in eighth through 11th grade. Open auditions will be held today and on Wednesday (Mar. 3) with callbacks scheduled to take place on Thursday (Mar. 4). Register for an audition date through the McLean Community Center.

Tuesday (Mar. 2)

Thursday (Mar. 4)

  • Bruce Holsinger: The Gifted School (Online) — 7 p.m. — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church is hosting a Zoom discussion with author Bruce Holsinger about his novel “The Gifted School,” which NPR named as one of its best books of 2019. Email Pete Sullivan at [email protected] for a link to the chat.
  • Islam: The Religion and Spiritual Traditions (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — In the first part of its “Great Discussions” series about religions, Fairfax County Public Library will hold a discussion with academic and former McLean Islamic Center board member Osama Eisa, who will provide an overview of Islam. Register in advance to receive an invitation to the event.

Friday (Mar. 5)

  • Meet the Mayor — 9-10:30 a.m. at Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry St. SE) — Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert will hold her monthly office hours. She’s available for a simple “hello” or for questions and concerns. Check back on the Town of Vienna website and Mayor Colbert’s Facebook for the time and place of this meet-up.
  • Jammin Java Show: Christian Lopez — 6 p.m. & 9 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. E) — Jammin Java is hosting folk rock/Americana musician Christian Lopez and his band. Lopez is releasing a new album titled “The Other Side” this spring. The concert will be held inside, but with very strict social distance guidelines. Tickets are $25, and there is a two-item purchase minimum per table.
  • Passport to the World: Jake Blount (Online) — 7:30 p.m. — Creative Cauldron’s 2021 “Passport to the World” series continues this week with a performance by banjoist, fiddler, and singer Jake Blount, who is part of the folk duo Tui. He will be followed on Saturday (Mar. 6) by singer Susan Derry, who will perform with pianist Howard Breitbart. All shows start live-streaming at 7:30 p.m. and cost $15. The recorded concerts are available to rent afterwards.

Sunday (Mar. 7)

  • The Fast and the Flavorful — 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Rd.) — Tysons Corner has teamed up with the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and Capital Auto Club for a car show accompanied by a food tasting. Located in Garage E, the car show has free admission, while tickets for the food tastings will cost $1 each. The Tysons Chamber of Commerce, which will be selling the tickets by La Sandia, says the event will feature 15 to 20 restaurants.
  • Capital Harmonia’s 6th Annual Women’s Choral Festival (Online) — 4 p.m. — The Capital Harmonia women’s choral group is hosting its sixth annual Women’s Choral Festival. The festival honors Women’s History Month, which begins Mar. 1, and features work exclusively by women composers. There will also be interviews with two female composers and a conversation with House of Ruth Director of Development Elizabeth Kiker. The event is free and can be watched on Youtube or Facebook Live.

Image via City of Falls Church

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Falls Church High School (FCHS) wants to set up a permanent food pantry to help students who might otherwise go hungry, but to ensure a steady, reliable supply of food, it needs the community’s help.

It is the latest school in Fairfax County to partner with the nonprofit Food for Neighbors, which collects groceries donated by community members through its Red Bag Program to feed middle and high school students.

Falls Church High School will participate in its first Red Bag collection day on Mar. 6, when volunteers will drive by donors’ houses to pick up bags of groceries. With more than 100 families at the school relying on food assistance, the FCHS PTSA is making a final push to recruit donors.

Food for Neighbors Falls Church Area Manager Paula Prettyman says that, as of yesterday afternoon, 91 new donors have signed up for the Red Bag Program since FCHS joined just a few weeks ago. She hopes to get 100 new donors in the Falls Church area before the deadline for the Mar. 6 event arrives at midnight today (Wednesday).

“We don’t know yet how much food that is going to be for the Falls Church pantry, but it will be significant,” Prettyman said.

Falls Church High School first established a food pantry back in 2017 after receiving a grant and starting a partnership with the nonprofit Britepaths, according to Gina North, who serves as a special projects officer for the FCHS PTSA.

However, organizers had to suspend the pantry’s operations when schools closed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, since students were no longer around to stop by and pick up food.

With the pandemic contributing to increased food insecurity around the county, the FCHS PTSA reached out to Prettyman for guidance to restart their food pantry. Prettyman also serves as vice president of the Luther Jackson Middle School PTA, which has been working with Food for Neighbors to help stock its own pantry since 2018.

Partnering with Food for Neighbors allows Falls Church High School to not only relaunch its pantry, but to expand it by appealing to the community outside of school parents and taking some of the burden of collecting and distributing food off of school staff.

“This has another organization that kind of specializes in this helping us, and it’s wider reaching,” North said. “There’s people in my neighborhood who have signed up that don’t have kids in Falls Church anymore. It’s just another way to give back to the community.”

For the Mar. 6th collection, Food for Neighbors will accept all shelf-stable food with family-sized items encouraged. People can also help by donating $30 to $75 for virtual red bags, which provide enough food to feed eight students for a weekend.

While she doesn’t know by how much, North says the number of Falls Church High School students who need food assistance has definitely gone up during the pandemic, with some students working during the day on top of attending school to support their families.

Having adequate, reliable access to food is critical for students’ academic success as well as their general physical and mental well-being, North says, citing her past experience as an elementary school special education teacher.

“I’ve seen firsthand when I have kids who I know didn’t eat breakfast or didn’t eat dinner the night before, they can’t focus on what I’m trying to teach them,” North said. “I used to keep snacks in my desk just for those occasions, because they need their basic needs met in order to take advantage of the education that’s being provided.”

Photo courtesy Paula Prettyman

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed county efforts to expand food scrap drop-offs to more farmers markets and evaluate a possible curbside collection pilot program.

Such collection opportunities would mark a step toward the county’s ambitious goal of making schools and government operations zero waste by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2040.

The board asked the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services last summer to research and report options for bringing an internal compost pilot — an employee-led food scrap recycling program called the Fairfax Employees for Environmental Excellence — to the public.

Fairfax County Director of Engineering and Environment Compliance Eric Forbes told the board during its environmental committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday) that DPWES has “a number of pilot programs” and the county “has been discussing working toward organics diversion for quite a while.”

Food scraps, which can be composted and converted into nutrient-dense soil, make up 30% of what gets thrown away in the county. Diverting this potential resource represents “the next rung on the ladder for our community,” Forbes said.

The county unveiled composting drop-off sites at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station in November. He said these sites have rescued about 4,500 pounds of food scraps so far. People can also bring food scraps to farmers’ markets or hire one of four vendors in the county that offer curbside organics collection services.

In the near future, the county is looking to expand collection opportunities at farmers’ markets run by the Fairfax County Park Authority, FRESHFARM, and Central Farm Markets. These three organizations have expressed interested in working with the county, according to Forbes.

The county is also mulling over a curbside collection program, which would let residents mingle food scraps and yard waste in their green bins. Through an inter-county agreement, the food scraps could be taken to a facility in Prince William County.

“I like the idea of regional players taking the responsibility,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I appreciate Prince William stepping up to build their own food scrap recycling.”

Still, Braddock District Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw told Forbes the county should “aggressively” promote backyard composting. He said doing so is especially important if the county finds that a curbside collection program would increase emissions.

“I want to make sure we do that analysis before moving forward with expansion of curbside,” he said.

Likewise, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said he appreciates the pilot programs and partnerships, but there needs to be more communication with the “average Joe homeowner.”

Forbes said his staff is looking to purchase electric vehicles for trash collection. As for educational opportunities, he said the county publishes lots of educational material and presents ways to eliminate food waste at homeowners’ association meetings.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik encouraged the county to look for year-round and seasonal farmers’ markets near apartment buildings.

“I want to make sure we are looking at equity through this issue,” she said. “Families will be happy to participate as long as we look at some of the barriers that exist.”

Photo via Seth Cottle on Unsplash

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Girl Scouts troops will start selling cookies in-person at dozens of locations in Fairfax County on Friday (Feb. 5).

For those looking to stay home, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital is also offering online cookie sales, which will be delivered through the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital chapter. Online sales began on Monday (Feb. 1).

Here are the locations and schedules, according to the Girl Scouts’ cookie finder:

Falls Church 

  • Conte’s Bike Shop (1118 W. Broad Street): weekends through Feb. 27
  • Lazy Mike’s Deli (7049 Leesburg Pike): Feb. 6-7
  • Kids First Swim Schools (1104B W. Broad Street): Feb. 7 and Feb. 14
  • Doodlehopper 4 Kids Toy Store (234 W. Broad Street): Feb. 12-13 and March 5-7
  • State Theatre (220 N. Washington Street): Feb. 12 and 13
  • Clare & Don’s Beach Shack (130 N Washington Street): Feb. 20
  • Jason’s Deli (7505 Leesburg Pike): weekends through March 6
  • H Mart (8103 Lee Hwy): this Saturday and Saturday, March 6

McLean

  • Child’s Play Toys (1382 Chain Bridge Road): This Friday, followed by Saturdays through March 6
  • CVS (1452 Chain Bridge Road: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 7

Vienna

  • Marshalls (8353 Leesburg Pike): Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 7
  • Dollar Tree (264 Cedar Lane, SE): Feb. 5-7, Feb. 13-14, Feb. 19
  • Bards Alley (110 Church St. NW): Feb. 6 and 20
  • Lacrosse Unlimited of Vienna (209 Maple Avenue E): weekends through March 7
  • Petco (225a Maple Avenue E): weekends through March 7
  • Vienna Rexall Drug Center (150 Maple Ave, West): weekends through March 6

All cookie sales end March 14.

“This year we had a decrease [in in-person booths], but of course, Girl Scouts have found a way,” Tygerian Burke, the marketing and communications manager for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, said.

Buying cookies online works like this:

  • Customers can type their zip code into the cookie finder and find local troops selling cookies virtually. Each time the page loads, it will feature a different virtual booth.
  • When customers click the link corresponding to the troop of their choice, the link will take them to a page with a description of what the sales will go toward and directions for buying the cookies.
  • The cookies can be shipped to the customer’s house or to someone else as a donation.

The Girl Scouts are also delivering cookies via GrubHub, a promotion that started in the D.C. area last Thursday (Jan. 28), Burke said. Drivers can deliver cookies to homes within a 25-minute radius of where a scout or troop is located, which in D.C. traffic, will mean varying distances, she noted.

She advised checking social media for Facebook Live promotions of GrubHub deliveries throughout the month-and-a-half of sales.

Burke said some troops within the council are setting up drive-through locations as well as signs with QR codes linking to their personalized virtual booth pages.

Girl Scouts are selling Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils, Do-si-dos and Tagalongs — as well as a new cookie called Lemon-Ups — for $5 a box. Two specialty cookies, S’mores and Toffee-tastics, go for $6 a box.

Image via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital

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The Japanese barbecue restaurant Gyu Shige is finally ready to make its American debut at the Mosaic District (2980 District Ave.) in Merrifield after a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Owner Edward Wong says the restaurant will open its reservation system tomorrow (Wednesday) so people can book tables ahead of a soft opening planned for the weekend of Valentine’s Day. Doors will technically open earlier in the week, but customers for the first couple of days will be limited to family and friends.

Gyu Shige has a strong presence in Japan, but this is the chain’s first venture into the U.S.

Wong was introduced to Gyu Shige — one of several brands operated by the company Food’s Style — in Japan about two years ago, and he says he has “great confidence” that it will prove just as popular on this side of the Pacific Ocean, particularly with a setting like the Mosaic District as its launching pad.

“Mosaic District definitely has [a] combination of all different people, from young kids to older people,” Wong said. “…I believe the Japanese barbeque experience is not just for any group, so it will be a great place to attract all kinds of people.”

While Fairfax County diners are no strangers to sushi restaurants and noodle shops like fellow Mosaic tenant Jinya Ramen Bar, they might be less familiar with Japanese barbecue, or yakiniku, which literally translates to “grilled meat.” Before Gyu Shige’s arrival, the closest venue specializing in this kind of cuisine was Gyu-kaku in Arlington.

Like Korean barbecue, yakiniku is cooked at the diners’ table, but it tends to come in smaller portions to encourage patrons to try a variety of dishes, and there is a greater emphasis on the quality of the meat cuts served, Wong says.

Among the options on the menu for Gyu Shige customers will be A-5 grade wagyu beef imported from Japan.

“The taste is definitely different from Korean barbeque, and we want people to take the time to enjoy the whole process,” Wong said. “…We also offer the service to cook for them if they want to, but we mostly let them cook for themselves. Let them experience it. Let them have fun with it.”

In addition to yakiniku, Gyu Shige will have a variety of appetizers and sushi, which will be prepared by a former Sushi Seki chef. The restaurant’s head chef also comes from New York City, where he previously worked for EN Brassiere.

The appetizers and sushi will be available for takeout, but the barbecue can only be served in-person and indoors, another potential challenge presented by COVID-19. Wong says the pandemic led to a three-month halt to construction. Even after work resumed, progress was slowed since fewer people could be on the site, resulting in an overall delay of about a year.

Initially, Gyu Shige customers will need to reserve tables in advance, and the restaurant will only be open during dinner hours, which will run from 4-10 p.m. The menu will also be exclusively a la carte, though set meals will be added in the future.

“When people order the set menu, they tend not to order other stuff. So, right now, we’re going to put the meat into a combo menu,” Wong said. “That way, people can experience most of the meat, but at the same time, they can get to choose their own appetizer, their own other items and try it out.”

In addition to Gyu Shige, local diners can look forward to the opening of Urban Hot Pot right next door. Tysons Reporter first reported that the Chinese restaurant was coming to the Mosaic District in September 2019.

After being delayed by the pandemic, Urban Hot Pot is now on track to open in May, according to Wong, president and CEO of IVEA International Restaurant Group, which is guiding the marketing for both restaurants.

Photo courtesy Gyu Shige/Facebook

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Fairfax County is changing up its Stuff the Bus food drive this winter to support increased demand for food while accommodating challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically held twice a year, Stuff the Bus will kick off its 10th year of existence with buses parked at select locations throughout the county from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

During the two-day food drive, community members can stop by the buses to donate nonperishable food that will help restock local food pantries, which have reported an uptick in the need for food and drops in volunteer rates during the pandemic.

To prevent the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus, donors should wear a mask or other face covering when at a Stuff the Bus site, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is directing people to place their donations directly inside the buses through their rear doors, rather than approaching the front door or the bus drivers.

Fairfax County is also encouraging people to make online monetary donations to the participating nonprofits in lieu of donating food in person.

According to the county, virtual donations give food pantries more flexibility, allowing them to purchase in bulk, stock up on fresh food, and obtain “culturally appropriate foods, which better meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.” It is also less labor-intensive.

“Nonprofits often rely on the work of volunteers to sort and shelve donations,” NCS says. “The COVID-19 virus has greatly impacted volunteers’ ability to serve, especially older adults or those with pre-existing conditions.”

Fastran buses will be located at the following sites in the Tysons area for the upcoming Stuff the Bus food drives:

  • McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
  • Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East)
  • Providence District Supervisor’s Office (3001 Vaden Drive)
  • James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road)

Donations at the McLean Government Center will benefit LINK, which provides emergency food to people in the Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn communities. The Patrick Henry Library drive will support Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Jan. 30 and Cornerstones on Feb. 6.

The two Providence District locations — the supervisor’s office and James Lee Community Center — will support the Annandale Christian Community for Action on Jan. 30 and the Falls Church Community Service Council on Feb. 6.

A list of the most frequently requested food items can be found on the Stuff the Bus website.

Based on unemployment and poverty data, the Capital Area Food Bank estimates in its October 2020 Hunger Report that there has been a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity in the D.C. region since the pandemic began.

Image via Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services

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