The Rapp for Jan. 8

Washingtonian: Just being ‘honest’

Courtesy photo.
Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell’s eat-in kitchen at The Inn.

Washingtonian restaurant critic Todd Kliman posted a response this week on the magazine’s blog (washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites) to Inn at Little Washington chef Patrick O’Connell’s statement last week in this space implying the magazine was seeking attention rather than being ethical when it dropped The Inn from its No. 1 spot over the last two years to No. 22 on its annual top-100 “Very Best Restaurants” list.

“Unethical?” Kliman wrote. “I really don’t understand what chef O’Connell is trying to say there. The word I would use is: honest.”

Kliman also delved briefly into the magazine’s process for reviewing and rating restaurants in general, and The Inn in particular, saying that “in our considered estimation, the Inn is not the restaurant it was a year ago. . . . It happens. Eight years ago, the Inn came in at No. 11 in our survey.

After pointing out that “no restaurant, not even the great ones, are perfect all the time,” Kliman says: “Chef O’Connell sounds stunned by the ranking. Well, we were stunned by our meals.”

Comments on the blog Wednesday proceeded to alternately rip into Washingtonian or The Inn.

Pazmino plus two on the writing life

Chester Gap author Pete Pazmino says he’s happily editing the novel he just finished writing (a work he began while studying for his master’s degree in fiction at Johns Hopkins a decade ago), so you’ll probably be catching him in a good mood if you stop by the Rappahannock Library tomorrow evening.

At 8 p.m. Friday (Jan. 9), the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community’s (RAAC) Second Friday at the Library series hosts Pazmino and fellow local authors Sheila Lamb and Penny Pennington for a talk about writing — where ideas come from, how to get started, keep at it, win an audience and more. The discussion of storytelling is moderated by lecture-series caretaker Edward Dolnick, who’s also good with words, being yet another of Rappahannock’s published authors.

In that decade since he gave up high school teaching in Fauquier County after 17 years, the 42-year-old Pazmino has been telecommuting from his mountain home to his day job with a medical consulting firm, and spending evenings writing the novel and a number of prize-winning short stories. He’s also been lucky, he says, to have won two month-long residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) in Amherst. The last was in December, a beneficial stay paid for by one of RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Fund arts grants — and the one during which, Pazmino says, he finished writing the novel.

If he has any advice for would-be writers, Pazmino says, “I would probably say that the entire secret, really, is writing a little bit each day. Even if you only write 50 words, that’s 50 more than you had the day before. And If you write 50 words a day for a month, you’ll have a chapter, and the next month you’ll have the second chapter. . . .

“I think the biggest problem writers have is they set impossible goals for themselves,” says Pazmino. “So if you don’t write 5,000 words each day, you start thinking you’ve failed. I don’t even set goals for myself. I just try to write every day.”

Sheila Lamb teaches at Rappahannock County High School and, somehow, has also completed the first two novels in a historical trilogy. Penny Pennington, who lives in Warrenton, has written an acclaimed novel called “It Gives a Lovely Light.”

The talk is free. All are welcome. For more information, call 301-246-0022.

Free Clinic, $10 raffle ticket

Maybe you’ve heard: A number of Rappahannock Free Clinic volunteers and supporters, led by Jean Lillard and Brion Patterson, are running a raffle to support the Free Clinic, made possible by local businesses. First place prize is a dinner for two donated by The Inn at Little Washington, second an overnight stay donated by the Flint Hill Public House and Country Inn.

Brion Patterson sells a Free Clinic raffle ticket to Takesha Hardaway in front of Quicke Mart last month.Cecile Scott
Brion Patterson sells a Free Clinic raffle ticket to Takesha Hardaway in front of Quicke Mart last month.

The raffle proceeds will help the clinic continue assisting Rappahannock residents who need medical attention but lack financial resources. Anne Lavigne is the volunteer coordinator for the free clinic, supervising 14 volunteers. Volunteers greet and register the clients, and ensure that clients are able to see a health-care provider or physician as well as receive medications or prescriptions they require.

Lillard recalls how the clinic started in 2000. “Philip Strange talked to me about the need for a free medical clinic in Rappahannock like the one in Warrenton,” she says. “He wanted me to bring it before the Fauquier Hospital Board since I was a member of the board. I did and the board suggested we come up with a plan to present to them. Since Philip and I both knew we needed help, I contacted Jennifer Matthews, R.N. Boy did we hit the jackpot! Jennifer wrote a complete plan with all the requirements that were needed. We attended the next month’s hospital board meeting, I introduced Jennifer, and the rest is history. We became a branch of the Fauquier Free Clinic.”

Tickets are still available at the Public House, Horse N Hound, Hackley’s Store, Mayhugh’s Store, Coterie Shop, Knit Wit Yarn Shop, Rappahannock Real Estate Resources and offices of the county administrator and commissioner of the revenue. They’re $10 (or three for $25), but hurry up: The drawing is next Wednesday (Jan. 14) at The Inn. For more information, call Brion Patterson at 540-987-8933.

Anonymous grant, celebrity waiters

From left: Roger Welch, Mike Biniek, Geneva Welch and Harold Beebout cowboy’d up last January (the Old West being the theme of last year’s Celebrity Waiter Dinner).Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
From left: Roger Welch, Mike Biniek, Geneva Welch and Harold Beebout cowboy’d up last January (the Old West being the theme of last year’s Celebrity Waiter Dinner).

Once again the Benevolent Fund has been challenged with an anonymous matching-funds grant. For several years most of the funds matched against anonymous grants have come from the Celebrity Waiters’ Dinner held in late January each year.

This year the dinner is 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Washington Schoolhouse. Dinners will be served by “celebrities” in the Rappahannock community who, in addition to serving food, provide additional drinks, appetizers and entertainment for their tables (or for the whole room) in hopes of generating “tips.” All the servers use great imagination to raise these funds above the cost of admission (which is $60).

The theme of this year’s dinner theme is a luau. There will be a Hawaiian-style meal with two meats, three sides and dessert. (Vegetarian dinners are available; please request in advance.) Decorations around the schoolhouse, and much of the dress, will include Hawaiian elements as well.

The Benevolent Fund’s mission is to care for the “needy” beyond that which is available from existing public sources. Payments are made directly to the suppliers of goods and services; no cash is given to individuals. Recipients of assistance are asked (though not as a condition of payment) to help others in ways consistent with their means and situation (e.g., make home visits, call and check on neighbors, bake goods). In the case of younger people, they might be paid to do tasks for older people in need (e.g., chop wood). Also, recipients are urged to contact other sources of help like Social Services and the Rappahannock Food Pantry.

The fund’s average grant is about $275 and most grants pay for housing, electricity or heating. Some go for such items as transportation or medical needs. Repeat grants are limited but the executive committee does try to follow through with those who continue in need with an assessment of their situation. Grants are limited to members of the Rappahannock community.

The executive committee consists of the clergy of Trinity Episcopal Church, Washington Baptist Church and Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church; Sharon Pyne of the Rappahannock County Social Services; and Amissville resident Todd Endo. In addition, there is a small ad hoc support group that has assisted with the annual dinners. Trinity Episcopal Church (a tax-exempt organization) serves as the fiscal agent for the fund. All monies given to the Benevolent Fund above the value of any benefits received (including the cost of the dinner) are tax deductible. There are almost no administrative costs associated with the fund.

If you have not been invited to the dinner by one of the waiters but would like to attend, please email me at bsmah@stoneledge.net. We will be keeping a list of those who would like to attend and will place them at tables that have not been completely filled by a waiter. We will fill all the seats in  first-come, first-served order. If we can’t seat you this year, we can put you at the top of the list for next year’s dinner. (Or you can volunteer to be a waiter.)

For any who would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, a check made payable to the Rappahannock Benevolent Fund can be sent c/o Trinity Church, PO Box 299, Washington, VA 22747.

— Bette Mahoney

Free income tax help

Free income tax preparation will be available this year at St. James Episcopal Church, 73 Culpeper St., Warrenton. Trained volunteers will provide assistance to eligible taxpayers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Residents with incomes of $53,000 or less can call People Inc. at 571-445-3020 to schedule an appointment. Appointments are available from 10 to 4 Saturdays from Jan. 31 through April 11.

Volunteers at the VITA site complete training according to IRS guidelines to help residents claim all tax credits for which they’re eligible. Additionally, the tax return can be completed and submitted electronically allowing for faster processing. Residents need to bring all necessary tax documents to the tax appointment, including photo ID for taxpayer and spouse; Social Security/ITIN cards and birth dates for taxpayer, spouse, children or other dependents; wage, earning and interest statements for 2014; unemployment form 1099-G; records of tuition or student loan payments and student loan interest; and daycare expenses paid with the provider’s name and federal ID. It is often helpful for the taxpayer to have a copy of the prior year’s return.

Individuals wanting to receive their refunds quickly and securely should request direct deposit of their federal refund. This requires presenting a savings deposit slip and/or check book to the preparer. The routing and account numbers are copied from these documents and they are returned to the taxpayer.

People Inc. reports that last tax season, 210 residents were assisted at the Warrenton VITA site to file their federal income tax returns and claim $262,974 in refunds; the estimated savings in professional tax preparation fees was $42,000 for these taxpayers.

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