Hyattsville’s Sangfroid Distilling to Open This Fall

Sangfroid Distilling will have a soft opening sometime this fall, depending on how some of its first fruit harvests go.

The Hyattsville distillery at 5130 Baltimore Ave. plans to have Dutch-style gin and pear brandy at its grand opening, adding apple brandy around the holidays and whiskey later in the year, according to co-owner Nate Groenendyk.

Rye whiskey typically takes a year to age, but he said they may find ways to speed that up.

“We’re experimenting with a variety of barrel sizes and finishes,” Groenendyk told the Hyattsville Wire. “For some whiskeys, more time in the barrel can overshadow some of the character of the grains that we want to highlight.”

The distillery is buying local, bringing in used bourbon barrels from Republic Restoratives in D.C. to ferment cider and age brandies, working with farmers and maltsters in Maryland and Pennsylvania, using furniture from Community Forklift for the tasting room and hiring Hyattsville architect Michael Romero to design their interior.

They’re also looking for other ways to collaborate, either by having Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. or Franklins reuse their barrels to age beer or experimenting with barrels used by Maryland Meadworks. Groenendyk even sees a possible collaboration with Vigilante Coffee, noting that a traditional way for French farmers to start their day is with a little unaged apple brandy in their coffee.

Sangfroid has run into some minor issues with its location — “Though it’s an awesome space, it’s an old building that has old building problems,” Groenendyk says — but overall the co-owners are happy with their decision to locate here.

“Hyattsville has a ton going for it — a vibrant creative community, a growing and very walkable downtown, access to all kinds of transportation, and a very supportive and easy to work with local government,” he said.

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Brentwood Apartment Complex Breaks Ground

Another high-end apartment complex has broken ground in Brentwood.

Slated to open in 2019, Artisan 4100 will feature 84 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail and cater to performing artists in much the same way that its sister complex across the street, Studio 3807, highlights the visual arts.

The Hyattsville Wire caught up with caught up with Peter Siegel, CEO of Landex Development, to learn more about the project.

He said the two complexes are designed to be complementary, with Artisan 4100 having a more traditional look.

“Our intention was not to replicate the look of Studio 3807,” he said. “We wanted to maintain the diverse look and feel of the community and avoid the sterile look of over development.”

Artisan 4100 will have many of the same amenities: free wifi, an outdoor courtyard with grills and fire pits, entertainment areas and a fitness center, electric vehicle charging stations, an LEED Gold certification for energy conservation, ZipCar and Capital Bikeshare stations and a permanent collection of original art from local artists.

It will also have guest suites that residents can use for visiting family and friends, which will be available to residents of Studio 3807 as well.

Further, Artisan 4100 will also have artist studios designed to accommodate a five-piece band available for rent.

“Studio 3807 and Artisan 4100 will balance each other, not compete,” Siegel said. “Studio 3807 will be a hub of art activity – art shows at Portico Studios & Gallery, the excitement of the culinary arts at Savor at Studio 3807, and the artists’ talks at Studio 3807 — where artists can create and hone their craft. Artisan 4100 will be an active but more reflective participant in the Gateway Arts District.”

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Why Route 1 Needs Its Own Futsal Field

futsal field

Photo courtesy of Ikhlasul Amal

In most of the rest of the world, if you don’t have a field to play soccer, you play futsal. But here along the Route 1 corridor there aren’t any futsal fields, at least not yet.

Derived from the Spanish fútbol de salón, futsal is to soccer what half-court pickup games are to basketball, a faster, looser and more creative version of an already immensely popular sport. It’s especially popular in crowded urban areas where a full-sized soccer field is impractical, played everywhere from building rooftops to tennis courts.

There’s already a futsal league at the Capitol Sportsplex in Glenn Dale, just north in Prince George’s County, a youth program at D.C. Stoddert Soccer, a co-ed league at ZogSports in D.C. and a municipal league in Takoma Park. 

But if you want to play futsal along the Route 1 corridor, your only option is the Reckord Armory on the University of Maryland campus, which is intended for students and faculty.

Even as local communities have seen an influx of immigrants from Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, our parks have not yet caught up with the types of sports popular in their home countries.

That’s not because of the cost. Building an official futsal court costs about $25,000 — roughly 10 percent of the price of a regular soccer field. And it’s not because of the size. Futsal courts are roughly comparable to a typical tennis court — one company even specializes in converting them. And it’s not because of a lack of demand. A report from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission already identified futsal as an “emerging sport” that would need new park space in Prince George’s County.

Several communities around the country have started adding futsal fields in underutilized land near Hispanic communities. The Route 1 corridor should consider doing the same.

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Two Route 1 Eateries Join D.C. Restaurant Week

Two restaurants along the Route 1 corridor — Momo Yakitori in Woodridge and Kapnos Taverna in College Park — are participating in the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week this year.

During the annual event, held Aug. 13-19, participating restaurants offer a special prix fixe menu for $22 for brunch and lunch and $35 for dinner.

At Momo Yakitori, you could try a dinner consisting of chilled sesame cucumber appetizer, seven skewers of yakitori and a chocolate toasted marshmallow, for example. (It only has a dinner menu listed for Restaurant Week.)

At Kapnos, meantime, you could try a four-course dinner with stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, spit-roasted lamb and baklava for that price, as an example. (It also offers lunch and brunch menus, all of which they’ve extended for Restaurant Week through Aug. 26.)

Since New York City launched the first one in 1992 as a way to attract delegates attending that year’s Democratic national convention, Restaurant Week has been lauded as a way to drum up business in a slow time of year, a fun challenge for chefs crafting the menus and an opportunity to bring in new customers.

Other places along the Route 1 corridor could also look at participating in DC Restaurant Week including, Burton’s Grill and Bar, Old Maryland Grill, Busboys and Poets and the new College Park Grill, among others.

One thing that is clear is that in years past there would not have been many restaurants along the Route 1 corridor that would have even been able to join DC Restaurant Week.

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Why Bladensburg’s Battle Reenactment is Unique

Photo courtesy of

American towns as far afield as Brooksville, Fla., and Yale, Okla., have annual Civil War reenactments. The Revolutionary War gets recreated yearly in Lexington and Concord, Burlington, N.C. and Vincennes, Ind.

But if you want to relive the War of 1812, one of the best reenactments happens in Riverdale Park.

From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 11, the Riversdale House Museum at 4811 Riverdale Road will host the annual Battle of Bladensburg Encampment, commemorating “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms,” a defeat that allowed British troops to advance on Washington, where they burned the White House.

The event includes reenactments from Ships CompanyAisquith’s Sharp Shooters, the Frederick County Militia and Barney’s Flotilla as well as hands-on demonstrations, children’s activities and tours of the historic mansion. (The event is free, but tours are $3 and snacks are available for purchase.)

This year, the museum will also unveil the restoration of a cannon brought to Maryland in 1634 by the colonists who founded St. Mary’s City, the first colonial settlement.

For most Americans, the War of 1812 is best remembered for inspiring the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the burning of Washington by British troops (although even that is shaky).

That may be because it’s not associated with a more dynamic president, it was fought for obscure reasons as part of a complicated series of European conflicts, it led to no real changes (the war is often cited as an example of one ending “status quo ante bellum”) and because it was not the U.S. military’s finest hour (our greatest victory came after the war had technically ended).

But battle reenactments can be a fun way to literally make history come alive, and the Battle of Bladensburg is a good way to do that for the early days of American democracy.

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Cambria Hotel Opens This Week in College Park

Cambria Hotel College Park Maryland

The new Cambria Hotel in College Park opened this week, adding to the revamped offerings for travelers along the Route 1 corridor.

Designed to be a more budget-conscious alternative to the $180 million Hotel at the University of Maryland down the street, the 150-room hotel at 8321 Baltimore Ave. still offers some nicer amenities that should impress your out-of-town guests.

For starters, the first floor is home to the College Park Grill, a high-end bar and grill featuring live jazz seven days a week and handcrafted cocktails.

A new fitness studio, Orangetheory Fitness, which will be open to the public, will join it later this fall. And it’s not your standard gym.

Orangetheory Fitness Studio is a fast-growing boutique fitness franchise that focuses on high-intensity interval training which uses insights from behavioral psychology to keep people motivated.

Attendees of its group-training sessions aren’t told ahead of time what the day’s workout will be like, adding an element of surprise that keeps things interesting. They wear heart rate monitors which display how they’re doing on huge screens, adding a competitive element. And their progress is tracked by a point system that allows them to easily compare how they’re improving at each session.

The new hotel, grill and fitness studio all bring some interesting new options to Route 1 corridor.

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What Will Happen to Bladensburg’s Peace Cross?

Bladensburg Peace Cross World War I memorial Maryland controversial

In the middle of the busy intersection at Bladensburg Road and Baltimore Avenue stands the Bladensburg Peace Cross, which was erected in 1925 and honors residents of Prince George’s County who died in World War I. It is now at the center of a controversial debate.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either a historic monument, an unconstitutional mingling of church and state, or both. The American Humanist Association, a secular humanist group, has fought a years-long legal battle to have it removed or altered, finally succeeding in March, when a federal court refused to reconsider a lower court ruling that the cross was a violation of the First Amendment ban on a government establishment of religion.

“Nothing in the First Amendment empowers the judiciary to conclude that the freestanding Latin cross has been divested of this predominantly sectarian meaning,” wrote Judge James A. Wynn Jr., speaking for a court divided 8-6.

In a dissent in American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote that it did not make sense to “roil needlessly the dead with the controversies of the living.”

“This memorial and this cross have stood for almost one full century,” he wrote. “Life and change flow by the small park in the form of impatient cars and trucks. That is disturbance enough.”

The cross was constructed by a group of mothers to honor their sons and others from Prince George’s County who had died in World War I, modeled after the foreign memorials such as the poem “In Flanders Fields.” (The poem also sparked the practice of wearing poppies on Memorial Day in honor of the dead.)

Eight Maryland state senators are now asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on the case, in hopes that it will spare the cross. The stakes are high: One of the dissenting judges argued that the ruling, if left to stand, could be used to go after other religiously influenced monuments, including those in Arlington National Cemetery, and that has been a central concern of religious groups which support the cross.

They join a group of 109 members of Congress, including Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who have signed a similar petition to the nation’s highest court. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Attorney General Brian Frosh would also like to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

If their petition fails to sway the Supreme Court to take the case, it will fall to a lower court to decide the memorial’s fate.

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Hyattsville Choir Releases Second Album

Lux choir Hyattsville

Photo courtesy of Lux.

A semi-professional Hyattsville chamber choir has released its second album.

Founded by a group of DeMatha Catholic High students in 2016 and led by college senior Robby Napoli, Lux (pronounced like Luke’s) performs standard classical composers like Claudio Monteverdi and Anton Bruckner.

But in keeping with their youth, they also dip heavily into more contemporary composers such as Ola GjeiloArvo Pärt and Eric Whitacre. They’ve even done a choral version of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” as adapted by Whitacre.

Lux avoids the heavy hand that can weigh down chamber choir performances, opting for a more ethereal sound that is both more contemporary and more accessible.

On its website, the choir, which still practices at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Hyattsville, notes that “lux” means “light” in Latin, which shows their lighter approach towards classical music, and also that “it sounds cool.”

“The main idea is that the stuffiness and self-seriousness so often associated with classical music today are unnecessary and ought to be thrown out,” the choir writes. “Classical music has more than enough heaviness. Time to add a little light.”

The new album, “Now Ye Heavenly Powers!”, available on a CD or as a download, was selected as a choral album of the week by Minnesota Public Radio’s classical station.

To hear their version of “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, click here.

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D.C.’s Taqueria Habanero Coming to College Park

A popular taqueria from Washington’s 14th Street corridor is slated to open in College Park this fall.

The owners of Taqueria Habanero told the Hyattsville Wire they plan to open their new location in the next few months, depending on inspections and final approvals from the county and state.

The taqueria made a name for itself in D.C.’s increasingly crowded taco scene by keeping the menu limited and focusing on house-made ingredients such as corn tortillas made on site daily.

The restaurant is run by Mirna and Dio Montero, natives of Puebla, a state in Mexico, who worked for noted D.C. chef José Andrés before they opened the taqueria in 2014. They told the Hyattsville Wire that while there are a lot of “good Mexican options” for lunch and dinner in D.C., there was still a market opportunity along the Route 1 corridor.

“We have yet to encounter a spot that serves really good, authentic Mexican food in the Hyattsville-College Park area,” Montero said.

The couples’ three daughters, who are in college or recently graduated, also pushed them to pick a site in College Park and have given advice on what students look for in a restaurant, including offering takeout and partnering with delivery services.

Slated to open in the Campus Village Shoppes across from the Varsity student housing, the College Park taqueria will differ a little from the D.C. location. Montero said it will have a more modern vibe inside, more types of tacos and other entrees and a weekend brunch menu. It will also offer flour tortillas as an option and they plan to apply for a liquor license to serve margaritas.

The restaurant, which will seat around 60, will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, closing at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Brentwood’s Iconic Statue of Abraham Lincoln

A iconic statue of Abraham Lincoln by one of the most famous sculptors to portray him sits in a cemetery in Brentwood just off of Route 1.

The 13-foot bronze sculpture is by Andrew O’Connor, who made the famous statue of Lincoln as the president-elect in 1861 on the grounds of the Illinois state capitol. That statue is famous for showing a younger Lincoln heading to Washington after being elected.

Notably, it depicts him without a beard, although he had actually started to grow one at the time he left Illinois — a rare inaccuracy from a sculptor who intensively studied life casts of Lincoln’s face, photographs and other material, but one that may be chalked up to the poetic license of showing him as a fresh-faced newcomer.

But where the Springfield statue shows a young Lincoln leaving his home behind, the Brentwood statue shows a Lincoln who has aged more than those four years in office would indicate, years in which he led a country plunged into Civil War and tragically lost his 11-year-old son to typhoid fever.

O’Connor studied under the famous sculptor Daniel Chester French, whose statue at the Lincoln Memorial reflects a sober resolve befitting a 170-ton marble monument. But the Springfield and Brentwood statues better show the human side of Lincoln. The Brentwood statue had an interesting path to its present location.

It was first commissioned in 1930 by a group in Rhode Island that planned to put it in the statehouse in Providence. It was cast at Gorham Manufacturing, one of the nation’s leading sculpture foundries, but then languished for 17 years because the Rhode Island Lincoln Memorial Commission didn’t have the money to pay for it. It was finally purchased in 1947 by the Fort Lincoln Cemetery, which gets its name from one of the seven temporary earthworks forts in the D.C. area during the Civil War. (Fort Totten, which you may know from the Green Line, was another.)

Lincoln himself once visited the area where the cemetery now is, meeting with troops to discuss strategy under a majestic oak tree. (The tree, believed to be nearly 500 years old, was struck by lightning in 1991, but a new oak was planted on the same location.) Though the Brentwood statue deserves to be better known, it feels somehow appropriate that this tired, gaunt version of Lincoln should end up in a place where he once walked that is now visited by people seeking the quiet solace of remembering the dead.

The statue on the National Mall may be the heroic memorial a country needs to sustain its own mythology, but the Brentwood statue reminds us that Abraham Lincoln was just a man and it is up to us, the living, to finish the work he so nobly advanced.

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