Several years ago, Jill and I were on one of several trips to New York with our Dallas Symphony Chorus buddies to sing at Carnegie Hall. (I just had to throw that in there, sorry.) This particular time, I talked about 15 of the group into going on a ‘foodie’ walking tour of Greenwich Village. It was fabulous! So when I saw that Alexandria had a similar tour, I knew we had to go.
First of all, Alexandria is beautiful. Folks have been living here since well before the U.S. of A. was as much as a twinkle in Sam Adam’s eye; as early as 8000 B.C. according to archeologists. “Old Town” is the 3rd oldest historic district in the nation. You have to love a place whose Web site announces, “Dogs are optional but always welcome.” Alas, we’re dog-free on this trip.
The Old Town Alexandria Food Tour combines historic landmarks, art, and good food, all in one fell swoop. We visit Gadsby’s Tavern, where George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all lived for a spell. (George Washington slept here!) Another stop is the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The, er, “factory” part goes with “torpedo,” it’s not a reflection of the kind of art produced and sold there. It’s three floors worth of open studios where you can watch artists at work and buy the art they produce.
Then there’s the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop Museum, which went under in 1933. When they did, they just locked their doors, leaving everything in place. Over 8,000 objects, including pill rollers, mortars and pestles, drug mills, and hand-blown medicine bottles with gold-leaf labels, were left in place. Back in its heyday, their customer list read like a Who’s Who in Colonial Washington: Martha Washington, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee all patronized this fine establishment. We also toured a . . .
What’s that? Oh, the FOOD! You mean the baby back ribs, fried oysters, fish & chips, tapas, Thai dumplings, truffles . . . that food? Oh yes, there was plenty of that, too. The way it works is your group and your guide walk a little, learn a little, go into a restaurant to sit and eat a little (or not so little), then repeat. And keep repeating, for about three and a half hours. Mmm-hmm. Did I mention the Jelly Cake? No? Well, then…“Old Town’s Famous 125-year-old Jelly Cake” was as good as advertised. Actually, better—from that title one might assume the cake itself was 125 years old, which would undoubtedly be a little on the dry side. The recipe is apparently an old Alexandrian specialty, beloved by many and specially requested for none other than Queen Elizabeth (II) herself (though at the time she was only Princess Elizabeth) on one occasion. It consists of thin layers of buttery pound cake slathered with red currant jelly, dusted with powdered sugar. I couldn’t worm the recipe out of them, but I think I can probably recreate it at home. I’ll let you know how that works out.
So in a nutshell, we walked, we ate, we walked, we ate, and then we walked and ate some more. I’d like to think the walking cancelled out the eating…I’d like to think that…