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Cookology opens second cooking school, expands with incubator program, pop-up space and professional certificates

Westlake Legal Group kids-cooking Cookology opens second cooking school, expands with incubator program, pop-up space and professional certificates Things to Do Sterling kids Food News Food dulles Cookology cooking school cooking children's cooking classes ballston quarter
Photo courtesy of Cookology Culinary School

In 2009, the DC region was still on the cusp of being one of America’s great food cities, and, for the nation as a whole, turning utterly food crazed.

That was the year Maria Kopsidas opened Cookology, a recreational cooking school in Dulles. In the decade since Instagram let unicorn food fly around the world, and farmers markets opened in seemingly every neighborhood, would a new generation of food-obsessed parents raise better eaters?

“No,” Kopsidas says. She says it without hesitation. Kopsidas has watched thousands of 5-year-olds chop with spoons. She’s watched eyes pop open as 8-year-olds pick up a 7-inch chef’s knife for the first time.

“I think kids have always had the incredible curiosity of cooking,” Kopsidas says, who grew up in a Greek family of cooks and would batter and fry strips of eggplant on her own by age 8. It’s about that age, she says, when kids become less picky, (as they don’t have as many taste buds). She sees their minds working, she hears their questions: Why does batter become thick thanks to the beating of a hand-mixer? Why is vanilla extract brown but vanilla frosting is white?

Maybe it’s not Top Chef, MasterChef Junior and The Great British Bake Off that’s turned the next generation into automatic foodies. Maybe valuing food and the act of cooking is something of an innate urge, one that just needs to be coaxed and encouraged out.

Kopsidas is doubling-down on her efforts: This spring she opened another location of Cookology, 6,000 square feet above the redeveloped Ballston Quarter.

The range of classes—baking workshops, culinary boot camps, paleo-themed dinners, date nights, kid sushi—are similar to the original location’s offerings, but there’s more in store for Arlington, and not just the mixology classes (Dulles is beer and wine only).

Besides picking up new teaching talent—including longtime local chef Ed Hardy (Bacon N Ed’s food truck, Bistro Vivant); Christina Yanez, formerly of the Michelin-starred Masseria in DC; and Keshaun Winston, a DC local and a caterer to the elite of DC, including President Barack Obama and Mayor Marion Barry—Kopsidas is developing a professional-level certification program, an incubator program (for bakers, food truck owners and culinary entrepreneurs, who can also tap into business consulting from Kopisdas, a communications and marketing professional) and a pop-up space.

With kitchens built like real-life restaurants, she hopes to lure out-of-town chefs to try out the DC market and cook in front of new audiences, like, she says, how the James Beard House in New York City features top talent from around the country. Beard, of course, is more than a name synonymous with restaurant awards, he also taught cooking classes, wrote cookbooks and “became the focal point of the entire American food world.” 

“People are hungry, no pun intended,” says Kopisdas. “People are looking for that hot, new thing that’s happening.” // Cookology: 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Sterling

Want more food content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni

Westlake Legal Group agni Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Lunchtime offers an all-you-can-eat thali of soups, curries, rice and more that rotates every day. It’s a great entry point into the blazing flavors of South Indian cuisine. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

The close-your-eyes-and-order trick won’t work at Agni Restaurant and Bar.

There is no chicken tikka masala, no dal makhani, no saag paneer.

This is a restaurant dedicated to the more fiery cuisine of South India, from the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra. Not offering butter chicken is a risk, of course—there’s nary a Chinese restaurant without General Tso—and especially risky for a debut restaurant from two IT professionals with zero experience in the notoriously difficult hospitality industry.

Husband and wife Niranjan Sathindran and Sri Ganesan took on an extra layer of scrutiny when they agreed to let a Washington Business Journal reporter chronicle their journey, from the first steps of signing a lease (then signing a second lease, and wiggling out of the first one in a stretch of Sterling not zoned for restaurants), to the messes of paperwork and licenses to menu development, to a R&D trip to India, tasting and chatting with chefs and scouting for equipment to ship back to the U.S., to finding and training back-of-house and front-of-house staff, to selling out of food with lines of customers to, well, everything else.

Ganesan likens this first year to earning three MBAs, with “lots of bumps, lots of learning.” She’s also writing a book about the family’s trials in their new line of work. “If there is a bowl of curry that comes to the table [there are] a number of processes it has to go through,” she says, least of which happens at the stove.

Westlake Legal Group soup Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Vegetable kuruma (Photo by Rey Lopez)

A bowl of kuruma curry is not as simple as cashews and cream, a dish sporting chunks of softened vegetables that somehow is light but also luxe. The bowl of curry is a complicated amalgamation of business know-how and cooking talent, and everything in between.

But what matters is what’s on the plate. And the feeling of being there, in this minimalist restaurant with pops of black and white and orange and the kind face and flowing hair of Ganesan, who greets and chats with every table, offering a gratis mini mug of rasam. “It’s a comfort food,” says Ganesan, of the few sips of the tomato-based soup balancing black pepper, cilantro, coriander, red chilies and enough salt to wake up the mouth to get ready for the spices to come in the next round of food.

At lunch it’s easy to decide: the thali, a sample platter—with free refills, but no to-go boxes—of curries and lentils and vegetables balancing salt, sugar, spice and sour. It’s one of the most beautiful displays of a kitchen’s talent, all in one order. It’s the little touches too, a smear of a pickled chutney that is deep and savory and fresh and kicky and one could only hope is the new Sriracha.

Westlake Legal Group bread Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Reminiscent of a crispy crepe, dosas here stretch from one end of the table to the other, reaching more than a foot long. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Dinner is harder, too many choices of too many items that sound fascinating and deliver on that promise: pepper cauliflower is gorgeous, still tender after a dunk in the fryer—and punching with heat. Mutton pepper fry is rich, savory goat meat, spicy on the brink of overpowering, but still beautiful and nuanced, a magnetic pull for more.

Snap back to reality as a foot-and-a-half-long dosa arrives, spiraled onto itself, spreading from one end of the table to another. It’s crackly, papery, a little fermented-funky, with curried potatoes huddled inside. Chicken 65, which comes as an appetizer or flooded with rice and dotted with nuggets of crispy chicken, is simple, but still alluring and a good choice for those afraid of high heat levels. Bad Boy, a cocktail sweetened with jaggery (unrefined sugar used in Asian cuisines) can quench any flames.

Ganesan credits the abundant usage of fresh curry leaves to why everything pops. It’s like salt in a way, how well seasoned food tastes more like itself. Curry leaves “accentuate everything” she says, “It’s a boost.”

Not everything is a recipient of that boost: fried plantains are fairly bland, especially compared to the rest of the spread, and was, on two visits, the only dish that fell flat.

Westlake Legal Group chicken-wrapped-in-newspaper Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Chicken 65 (Photo by Rey Lopez)

This month marks a year for Agni. The couple is still trying to figure it all out. “What I envisioned is very different from reality,” says Ganesan. “I came from a software background where the rewards are always simultaneous. For the restaurant industry, the rewards are taking a while to realize.” Unless you’re the customer. And then it’s as quick as it takes to bring a taste of curry to your mouth.

Scene: It’s no secret the best meals in NoVA are in strip malls, but it’s hard to stand out in a sprawling complex overshadowed by longtime favorites. This bright, intimate spot—find pillows to cozy up for dinner on the floor—is a gem in this maze.

Don’t Miss: vegetarian lunchtime thali; pepper cauliflower; mutton pepper fry

46005 Regal Plaza, Suite 140, Sterling; Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday; Small plates: $7-$13; Large plates: $11-$15

This post originally appeared in our June 2019 issue. Want more food content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni

Westlake Legal Group agni Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Lunchtime offers an all-you-can-eat thali of soups, curries, rice and more that rotates every day. It’s a great entry point into the blazing flavors of South Indian cuisine. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

The close-your-eyes-and-order trick won’t work at Agni Restaurant and Bar.

There is no chicken tikka masala, no dal makhani, no saag paneer.

This is a restaurant dedicated to the more fiery cuisine of South India, from the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra. Not offering butter chicken is a risk, of course—there’s nary a Chinese restaurant without General Tso—and especially risky for a debut restaurant from two IT professionals with zero experience in the notoriously difficult hospitality industry.

Husband and wife Niranjan Sathindran and Sri Ganesan took on an extra layer of scrutiny when they agreed to let a Washington Business Journal reporter chronicle their journey, from the first steps of signing a lease (then signing a second lease, and wiggling out of the first one in a stretch of Sterling not zoned for restaurants), to the messes of paperwork and licenses to menu development, to a R&D trip to India, tasting and chatting with chefs and scouting for equipment to ship back to the U.S., to finding and training back-of-house and front-of-house staff, to selling out of food with lines of customers to, well, everything else.

Ganesan likens this first year to earning three MBAs, with “lots of bumps, lots of learning.” She’s also writing a book about the family’s trials in their new line of work. “If there is a bowl of curry that comes to the table [there are] a number of processes it has to go through,” she says, least of which happens at the stove.

Westlake Legal Group soup Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Vegetable kuruma (Photo by Rey Lopez)

A bowl of kuruma curry is not as simple as cashews and cream, a dish sporting chunks of softened vegetables that somehow is light but also luxe. The bowl of curry is a complicated amalgamation of business know-how and cooking talent, and everything in between.

But what matters is what’s on the plate. And the feeling of being there, in this minimalist restaurant with pops of black and white and orange and the kind face and flowing hair of Ganesan, who greets and chats with every table, offering a gratis mini mug of rasam. “It’s a comfort food,” says Ganesan, of the few sips of the tomato-based soup balancing black pepper, cilantro, coriander, red chilies and enough salt to wake up the mouth to get ready for the spices to come in the next round of food.

At lunch it’s easy to decide: the thali, a sample platter—with free refills, but no to-go boxes—of curries and lentils and vegetables balancing salt, sugar, spice and sour. It’s one of the most beautiful displays of a kitchen’s talent, all in one order. It’s the little touches too, a smear of a pickled chutney that is deep and savory and fresh and kicky and one could only hope is the new Sriracha.

Westlake Legal Group bread Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Reminiscent of a crispy crepe, dosas here stretch from one end of the table to the other, reaching more than a foot long. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Dinner is harder, too many choices of too many items that sound fascinating and deliver on that promise: pepper cauliflower is gorgeous, still tender after a dunk in the fryer—and punching with heat. Mutton pepper fry is rich, savory goat meat, spicy on the brink of overpowering, but still beautiful and nuanced, a magnetic pull for more.

Snap back to reality as a foot-and-a-half-long dosa arrives, spiraled onto itself, spreading from one end of the table to another. It’s crackly, papery, a little fermented-funky, with curried potatoes huddled inside. Chicken 65, which comes as an appetizer or flooded with rice and dotted with nuggets of crispy chicken, is simple, but still alluring and a good choice for those afraid of high heat levels. Bad Boy, a cocktail sweetened with jaggery (unrefined sugar used in Asian cuisines) can quench any flames.

Ganesan credits the abundant usage of fresh curry leaves to why everything pops. It’s like salt in a way, how well seasoned food tastes more like itself. Curry leaves “accentuate everything” she says, “It’s a boost.”

Not everything is a recipient of that boost: fried plantains are fairly bland, especially compared to the rest of the spread, and was, on two visits, the only dish that fell flat.

Westlake Legal Group chicken-wrapped-in-newspaper Discover the fiery cuisine of South India at Agni Sterling restaurants Indian Food Food News Food Features Food agni restaurant and bar
Chicken 65 (Photo by Rey Lopez)

This month marks a year for Agni. The couple is still trying to figure it all out. “What I envisioned is very different from reality,” says Ganesan. “I came from a software background where the rewards are always simultaneous. For the restaurant industry, the rewards are taking a while to realize.” Unless you’re the customer. And then it’s as quick as it takes to bring a taste of curry to your mouth.

Scene: It’s no secret the best meals in NoVA are in strip malls, but it’s hard to stand out in a sprawling complex overshadowed by longtime favorites. This bright, intimate spot—find pillows to cozy up for dinner on the floor—is a gem in this maze.

Don’t Miss: vegetarian lunchtime thali; pepper cauliflower; mutton pepper fry

46005 Regal Plaza, Suite 140, Sterling; Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday; Small plates: $7-$13; Large plates: $11-$15

This post originally appeared in our June 2019 issue. Want more food content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Meows Corner Cat Café and Lounge set to open in Sterling this summer

Westlake Legal Group cats Meows Corner Cat Café and Lounge set to open in Sterling this summer Things to Do Sterling pets loudoun county cats Cat Cafes
Photo by Raul Varzar

Calling all cat lovers: Loudoun County is finally getting its own cat café—a themed café where adoptable cats and kittens roam around, and guests can watch and play with them.

Meows Corner Cat Café and Lounge will open its doors in Sterling’s Cascades Overlook Town Center in June, featuring coffee and tea, books and, obviously, cats. The café will also sell cat-themed products and baked goods, as well as offer free WiFi to guests.

Cats at Meows Corner will come from 4Paws Rescue, a Fairfax-based cat rescue nonprofit. All of the cats will be available for adoption.

Here’s how it works: patrons come to the café or book their time in advance to lounge with the cats for 30 minutes ($10), 60 minutes ($18) or for a full workday (six hours for $40). Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended as there is limited space. Meows Corner will also offer a 10% discount for groups of four or more.

An opening date has not yet been announced. To find out more information, visit meowscorner.com. // 21435 Epicerie Plaza, Suite 115, Sterling; $10-$40

Love pets? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com