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Friday, August 31, 2007

Introducing...The DC365 Store!

Greetings from the West Coast! Things are actually temperate and...mild here, and I don't totally know what to do with myself without that August humidity to complain about.

So, all this eating out and drinking out and buying cheese for the blog starts to add up. I'm not complaining, because those are some of my favorite pass times with or without a blog. It's just that maybe there is an easy way to earn a bit more cheese and vodka money...

I've but together a little shop of all things DC-related. There you'll find fiction, non-fiction, local music, maps, guide books, movies and TV shows all about this district I call home. It's great for the tourist as well as the local. And there's also some fun stuff on there that I just really like that maybe you will too. Remember my ice cream maker? Well, now's your chance to buy one too!


So I hope you'll check it out, and maybe even buy something. I make a small commission, but it's small enough that I don't want anyone to feel pressured. Then again, it's not the most terrible thing in the world if I pressure you into buying a case of Route 11 potato chips, is it?

If there's anything DC-related that I have not put on there (for instance, I realized I have a terrible deficit of knowledge of local musicians and fiction set in DC) then please let me know and I will be sure to add those missing items to the store.

Thanks for your support! I'll be posting again next week, and maybe an entry or two from a guest blogger or two. Have a wonderful long weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thing 60: Central

First, an anecdote from my past.

When I was eight years old, my dad and I took a road trip to LA. He had to go for work, and I was allowed the exquisite pleasure of two days off of school and a visit to Disneyland! You might think that Disneyland dominates this memory, but really what I remember most was that I was allowed to stay up late and watch Dances With Wolves, and that my dad took me to a restaurant called Citrus. So much for the happiest place on earth.

I don’t remember a lick of what I ate at Citrus, but I distinctly remember what I wore: a navy blue jumper with an orange-red long sleeved shirt and black patent leather mary janes. I remember that there was an orange tree in the restaurant, and I remember that my dad, ever the smooth talker, got us back into the kitchen to meet and congratulate the chef. Somewhere in the bottom of a drawer is a picture of me at eight, standing on a kitchen counter with the chef of Citrus – Michel Richard.

So you see, Michel and I, we go way back.

Sometime towards the end of my college career, I became aware that Chef Michel Richard and I were once again in close proximity. But back in the GW days, it was all turkey deli sandwiches, Chik-Fil-A waffle fries and late night grilled cheese. The little I knew of Citronelle would have to wait.

Once I stuck around in this city, making my own paychecks and taking a good hard look at what the city had to offer, I became more familiar with the name Citronelle, reading over and over that it was one of the best restaurants in DC, and probably in the nation. But alas, when dinner for two costs $400 minimum, well, Michel and I did not have a chance to reunite.

And then -- oh glorious trend of upscale chefs opening casual bistros for the commoners – Michel Richard opened Central. This was a more casual bistro setting, with more realistic prices for a worker with a white collar like mine, from the same genius that brought the world this salade nicoise and a dessert that looks just like a sunny side up breakfast (I couldn't find any pictures on the web, but then how did I see it in the first place? My googling skillz are not up to speed).

And who better to go with than Este? Because with her it is a business lunch, and fully expensable. AND she has infinite patience when I photograph my plates. AND she makes the very best joyful noises when confronted with a plate of gorgeous and delicious food.

So there we were, in the yellow and burgundy, silver-edged and shiny-kitchened dining room. Having decided spur of the moment to lunch together, we could only snag a reservation for a later lunch at 1:30. This time I traded in my black patent leather mary janes from when I was eight with a pair magenta patent leather heels, although the restaurant is overall fairly casual. The dining room itself is beautiful and open – all lemon yellow banquettes, giant burgundy and cream lantern lights, light wood, silver fixtures and mirrors. It’s noisy at its peak, with the power lunching set working hard and doing deals. In the back there is a large open kitchen, where you can see the cooks at work behind a high wooden counter and lit by large silver lights.

And the food? To put it simply – it is the best bistro meal I’ve eaten. In my life.

To start, I ordered the duck rillettes faux gras terrine. It came served perfectly composed on a rustic wooden board with two thick slices of toast, a small round of duck rilletes with a smooth layer of duck fat, a small bowl of cornichons and pickled pearl onions, and a larger bowl of the most perfect pate ever made. The pate was as creamy as a cream cheese, smooth as butter, light as whipped cream, rich with fois gras and light with chicken livers (a faux gras, I found out, is a mixture of 60% chicken liver pate and 40% fois gras). I think I wouldn’t mind taking a bath in it, or at the very least eating it for my lunch every day.

Central: duck rilletes and faux gras terrine
Este was served a dozen gorgeously green asparagus, lined up like toy soldiers in a neat little row. She poured on the mustard vinaigrette, took a bite, and emitted a grateful moan – something we were to do frequently in the next hour.

Central: asparagus vinaigrette
For our entrees, I ordered a bistro classic -- a salad of curly yellow frisee, bacon lardons, and a poached egg. (Este and I apparently fall into patterns. She likes to start with asparagus, I like salads with poached eggs.) The salad was light, salty from the bacon, with a crunch of croutons and a sweet vinaigrette made creamy from the poached egg yolk.

Central: frisee, lardons & poached egg salad

Este ordered the duo of baby sandwiches, one prosciutto, one salami. Hers arrived on the same rustic board as my appetizer, with two tiny baguette sandwiches, just as cute as can be, and a bowl of greens with that same mustard vinaigrette that made her moan with the asparagus. The meats were definitely cured in-house, or so she reported to me because I did not get a chance to sample hers. To be fair, she did not sample mine either. We are greedy like that.

Central: duo of baby sandwiches, prosciutto and salami
Our service throughout the meal was very attentive and nice. My only complaint -- they cleared empty plates before everyone was done eating, which surprises me at a place where so much thought obviously went into every detail. They also brought our entrees before I was done with my appetizer, but I was also eating that pate very slowly, enjoying every airy bite, so I probably threw off the kitchen's timing. And when the desserts arrived, our waiter was amused by our shrieks of delight. But if you were confronted with a banana split that looked like this:

Central: banana split
you might lose your cool and shriek as well.

Yes, that is a banana split, like none you've ever had. It came in a ceramic TV dinner-type of tray, with separate compartments for each delicious component. A decadent dark chocolate ice cream, refreshing strawberry sorbet, and lightly sweet caramel ice cream, all fresh and house made. In the larger compartment, bananas covered in whipped cream, with house made vanilla, caramel, and hot fudge sauces, sprinkled with fruits and nuts.It nearly even outdid my "kit kat bar," a signature dish of Chef Richards, in which he re-imagines the classic candy bar in haute cuisine style. I received a long, thin rectangle of a dense chocolate mousse cake, with a layer of crunchy hazelnut wafer running through the middle, dusted in cocoa and surrounded by hazelnut sauce. Unlike Este, I practically licked my plate clean.

Central: 'kit kat' bar
Central is not all that expensive (as Este pointed out, at $14, her baby sandwiches were not all that more expensive than her daily sandwich from Cosi, but infinitely better in quality), and not all that fancy. At its heart, these are classic American diner and French bistro dishes, melded together and influencing each other. These are simple foods, rendered complex by their meticulous preparation and composition, with every detail of taste and presentation attended too.

I had to wait nearly 17 years, but Michel, I'm glad I was able to see you again.

And I'm off! I'll be bebopping around the West Coast for the next two weeks. But keep checking in -- I've got a few tricks up my sleeve yet for things to post about, plus the Boyfriend may do a stint as guest blogger, provided he spends his week of unemployment doing fun DC things rather than play video games on the couch...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thing 59: Chief Ike's Mambo Room

Chief Ike's Mambo Room is all things to all people.

You want to sweat out the week dancing furiously to some of the best hip hop hits of the last 20 years? Check.

You want to hear local bands that aren't famous yet? Or soulful singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars? Check.

You want a quiet place to play pool with the scent of patchouli and the soundtrack to Shaft playing in the background? Check.

How about an outdoor patio where you can enjoy the summer breeze and drink giant margaritas?

Check, check, check.

The main room to Chief Ike's is a testament to its eccentricity. The walls have large murals of "day of the dead" skeletons dancing, and General Ike Eisenhower lounging along with Paul Gauguin's Tahitian women and Sigmund Freud. There is a small stage and a checkered dance floor and a towering DJ booth. Neon signs and strange things are tacked to the wall. There's a juke box that I've only ever seen used as a coat rest. They have PBR on tap. And one of the bartenders has (had? she wasn't there last night) the greatest mullet I've ever seen. It is a strange place, but I have to say, I've never had a bad time there.

I am a firm believer that Friday and Saturday nights, Ike's is the very best dance club in the city, provided you like hip hop (old and new) and sweating. Just don't try to dance on the banquettes in the back. Apparently, there are rules.

Last night found me at Chief Ike's to hear my friend Lee's band, which is great! (And yes, I'm biased because I know Lee, but seriously, The Frustrations are great. They got the Boyfriend dancing, which speaks volumes to their talent). They were there to celebrate the release of their new CD (which I can hook you up with, if you leave a comment), and they got the crowd engaged and dancing immediately. They have a ska-rock thing going that is easy to dance to and fun to watch. My friends are rock stars!

Before they played though, there were openers, one of whom I must direct your attention too. Eva Castillo is wonderful!!

The band between Eva Castillo and The Frustrations was not great, so the Boyfriend, Jodi and I explored the upstairs Cosmo Lounge. I've been to Ike's many a time, and didn't know this part existed. It's much more quiet and peaceful, less sweaty, with a really cool bartender with giant blond dread locks who burns incense and pours a mighty stiff vodka and ginger ale. Behind the bar is a stained glass window of a Buddha, and a bunch of lefty radical and random political stickers and paraphernalia. A sticker that says "Girls kick ass." A tinted picture of JFK and Jackie O. I small flyer saying "Kick them out, vote 2006" with a blue donkey kicking an elephant. A picture of Frank Zappa. A picture of Johnny Ramone.

There was a pool table at one end of the room, and a TV and DVD player at the other. A very chill space overall. We stayed up there long enough to cool off and have a drink, before dancing the night away to the Frustrations.

This post is dedicated to Sam of Leisure, who was too busy being at leisure to make it out last night.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Perfect 3 Day Weekend

I have been thinking a lot about mini-breaks. Maybe because Labor Day is coming up. Or because I just came back from a romantic mini-break of my own. Or maybe it's the anything-but-mini two week break I'm gearing up to take next week when I manifest destiny and spend a bit of time on the West Coast. At any rate, I have mini-breaks on the brain.

Are you visiting DC for a long weekend? Maybe you're just thinking of doing so, but don't know what to do in that brief time? Do you live in DC and have stopped seeing the great opportunities that surround you every day? Take a couple days off, and live like a tourist. See the sights!

Below is my idea of a perfect 3 day weekend. If you are visiting for Labor Day, this schedule can be very easily adapted by doing the Friday stuff on Monday. Just be sure you call ahead and make sure everything is open. And a very happy mini-break to you!

DC365's Perfect 3 Day Weekend


Assuming you're driving into town Friday morning, or maybe you live here and you're working a half day, let's start with lunch at Ceiba. Enjoy a mojito, some empanadas and those glorious mussels to really get you in the holiday spirit. Then head down the street the National Museum of Women in the Arts for some culture. Stroll through the galleries for a few hours, and then hit the Cowgirl Creamery for a late afternoon snack at the cheese counter. That evening, take the metro over to Trusty's for a couple drinks and some light dinner. If the Nats are playing that night, it's a great place to watch the game. If they're not, you'll still have a great time playing the free board games.


Saturday morning head over to Eastern Market for a leisurely breakfast at murky coffee. Don't forget to bring your book. After you've had your caffeine, head down to 14th Street for an afternoon at the galleries. That evening for dinner, don't miss Kaz Sushi Bistro (get the scallop ceviche, if it's featured on the menu). Enjoy a Saturday night singing karaoke at the Peyote Cafe in Adams Morgan, and if you get the munchies late-night, be sure to walk across the street for some M'Dawg haute dogs (and yes, vegetarians, they offer soy dog). If you are a man who loves men, or maybe just a person who loves cowboy hats, I'd recommend doing your karaoke at Remington's instead of Peyote.


Start your Sunday morning by having breakfast and a nice stroll around the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market. In the afternoon, head down to the National Gallery and check out the Matisse Cut Outs (and be sure you stop for some gelato in the basement of the gallery for your afternoon snack!). For dinner that evening, head over to Cleveland Park for some delicious pizza at 2Amys, and then finish up your evening on a more low key note by taking in a movie at the Uptown.

For more ideas on things to do by activity or neighborhood, don't forget the DC365 City Guide, which is updated regularly as I do new things. Have fun!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thing 58: Screen on the Green

Oh sweaty humidity! Oh warm red boxed wine! Oh bad movies, great friends, five kinds of cookies and cute puppies! Oh HBO dance!

It's only just ended, but I miss Screen on the Green already.

I've already written that this activity is my favorite thing to do in DC in the summer, and now with another season under my belt, I stand behind that statement more than ever.

Rather than write a summary of the last five Mondays, which would be rather tedious for me to write and for you to read, I will simply give you some suggestions for making your own SotG experience the best that it can be next summer (only 47 weeks away! But who's counting?).

  1. Do the HBO dance. What is it? How do I do it? When do I do it? Why does everyone do it all at once like that? Well, I still don't know the mystery of its origin, but for those of you curious about technique, I have made this instructional video:

    See? Easy enough! Once you've gotten the hang of it, this is what it looks like in practice:

  2. Invest in one of these chairs that support your back when you lean into it. I haven't yet, but I sure wish I had, every year.

  3. Get there early for a good spot, especially if it's a really good movie, like Casablanca. The people who arrived later for Casablanca had to sit about three blocks away from the screen. The movie will actually start around 9pm, when it gets dark enough to see the movie projected on the screen.

  4. The crowds for Casablanca
  5. Bring your dog! If your dog is relatively small and well-behaved, he or she is a welcome addition to the party.

  6. Our mascot

  7. Fried chicken makes an excellent picnic food.

  8. Fried Chicken!!

  9. Maybe don't bring your dog and fried chicken at the same time, unless you want to see a very sad looking dog.

  10. This sad puppy wants his Popeye's

  11. Bring enough box wine that it doesn't matter when the movie turns out to be about a carnivorous carrot from another planet that drinks blood.

  12. Boxes of wine.

  13. Wear light, comfortable clothes. We lucked out somehow and it was downright chilly for one of the movies, but for the most part it is very very hot and very very humid. I favor dresses or shorts and I pity those poor saps who wear jeans. Also, bring lots of water. Man cannot stay hydrated with box wine alone.

  14. Bring your bug spray! I practically bathe in the stuff, and I still get a bite or two by the end of the evening, so be warned.

  15. Enjoy the view. Other cities show outdoor movies, but we're the only one with a view of the Capitol and the Washington Monument as our backdrop.
Screen on the Green Capitol
Sunset over Washington Monument

Side note: In addition to the DC365 City Guide, keep an eye out for some more new features and changes coming to the site! Exciting changes are afoot!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thing 57: Kaz Sushi Bistro

Dear Sushi Taro,

I'm sorry, but we need to break up. I have found a new sushi love that is more innovative, delicious, and attentive to my needs. I know that you are around the corner from my house, but convenience isn't going to win you this one. You are very very good at what you do...but just not good enough.

See you around the neighborhood,

* * *

I am completely in love with Kaz Sushi Bistro. It courted me at restaurant week, and I am head over heels addicted now. I will be back, again and again. Oh Kaz, how I love you and your unique flavor combinations, innovative use of tapioca in a range of forms and beautiful presentations!

A dear friend from college (in fact, my first friend from college, whom I met at orientation), was in town for one night only, from Atlanta en route to Boston, with one day of meetings in DC in between. Geoff is vegetarian (but still eats seafood), so I wanted to take him out for restaurant week but I needed to be sure it was a place that would have a good range of vegetarian and seafood options. After a lot of hemming and hawing, list making and research (thank you, DC Sara), I got us reservations at Kaz Sushi Bistro. I was a little nervous at how a sushi restaurant would handle the restaurant week structure (three courses for $30), but I figured if nothing looked good, we would order a la carte from the regular menu. Either way, I was going to have a nice dinner with an old friend.

I needn't have worried. Kaz, my new love, handled the three course structure perfectly. The restaurant week menu consisted of one of the check-off sheets usually used to order sushi, but you were instructed to choose one from a list of eight small plates/appetizers (which tended to be more cooked or meat options), three from a list of nigiri sushi (the rice overlayed with fish pieces that are ordered in pairs), two from the list of maki rolls and one from a choice of two desserts. And the choices! Such innovative, interesting pairings! Tuna with toasted almonds? Asparagus and roasted red peppers? Flounder with shiso? Yes, please.

To drink, I ordered a sake "tasting". They have two versions, each with three different sakes (and only $8 or $9). What was great was that when it arrived, the three shots were served on a little laminated card that told you what each shot was and its predominant characteristic. This was tremendously helpful in understanding the differences between a "light" sake and one aged in a cedar barrel (and there is a big difference there, the cedar barrel one tasting almost like whiskey). Now I know that I like unfiltered sake the most.

Sake tasting at Kaz Sushi Bistro
Our appetizers arrived. I had ordered a scallop ceviche. Just look at how beautiful this is:

Scallop ceviche.  I long for you.The pink balls on top are tapioca. The shellfish was so tender and flavorful, soaked in a traditional latin ceviche of citrus, red onion and cilantro, but enhanced with salty bits of seaweed. The marinade was so sour and delicious that I was tempted to drink it out of the scallop shell when I was done. (Um, ok, by tempted, I mean I did. Geoff is not easily embarrassed. In fact, after tasting some of mine, he said he would drink it if I did not). Geoff had spicy broiled mussels, that came in a rich red curry sauce, warm and fragrant. The wooing had begun.

Next came out this gorgeous plate:

Kaz Sushi Bistro.  I am in love.
I ordered an asparagus and red pepper roll, the bitter crunch of the blanched asparagus a nice pairing with the sweet red softness of the pepper. Then a salmon skin roll, fatty and smoky, with a crunch from some carrots and that surprising, pungent and clean aftertaste from the shiso leaf.

That beautiful dark pink nigiri on the left is tuna, under which is nestled slivers of crunchy toasted almond. Why has no one thought to pair those two things before? So simple, and yet the bitter smokey crunch of the almonds and the sweet salty softness of the fish...oh my. The center two pieces of nigiri are flounder, the red sauce dotting them is made from Japanese pickled plums, and the faint green you see below is a mix of wasabi and shiso. The softness of the fish, the sweetness of the plum and its favored pairing, shiso, and then at the end, the sinus-pain-inducing wasabi. Amazing. And finally, fatty and sweet eel, done perfectly.

Geoff had some real winners too, from what I snuck off his plate. A roll with crunchy tempura'ed eel. Tuna nigiri with black olive tapenade. Two pieces of nigiri with roasted Japanese eggplant, shrivelled and purplish-black ("what is THAT?" Geoff asked me before remembering he had ordered eggplant. Indeed, if it were fish, it would be extremely disconcerting). I have never in my life liked eggplant, but I could eat that eggplant sushi every day. Which is really saying a lot.

And finally dessert. Only two choices on the restaurant week menu -- espresso tapioca with vanilla ice cream, and lychee panna cotta with mango sorbet. Geoff ordered the former and I ordered the latter. They were both beautifully presented in martini glasses.

Lychee Panna Cotta with Mango Sorbet
Geoff's tapioca was a bit strange, the coffee flavor so strong and the texture of the tapioca so light, they seemed a bit mismatched. I was happier with my lychee panna cotta, which was light and creamy, with large pieces of lychee fruit, and a tangy sour mango sorbet slowly melting into it. Sigh...

Espresso TapiocaThe atmosphere and service were very nice, they just fall secondary to the food. I would eat that food in a shack, served by ogres. (Of course, the restaurant itself is softly lit, with inlaid bamboo colored lights in nooks, upholstered benches lining the walls and round, white table clothed tables in the center of the room. The sushi bar is at the back, where you can sit and watch these masters at work. And our service was nothing but gracious and helpful, if a bit slow). The normal, non-restaurant week prices are perfectly reasonable for a sushi place ($4-$7 for rolls, sushi pieces and other small plates).

Oh Kaz, you have have romanced me and it has worked. I am putty in your hands. I want to see you every day, and I will be back just as soon as I can. Till then, I miss you. All my love.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thing 12: Georgia Brown's, Revisited

I think everyone gets really excited for restaurant week, and then is hit with a number of disappointments, from bad service to small portions to soggy tarts.

So I would like to add a quick note here that Georgia Brown's really does restaurant week right. My hat is off to you, Georgia!

First of all, the food is quite good, and the portions are tremendous. I ordered blue-cheese- stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, which were really delicious in their salty sweet richness. As far as bacon-wrapped dates go, these were rivaled only by those at Jaleo, and Jaleo deep fries theirs, so they have an unfair advantage. I was served with eight dates wrapped in bacon. Eight. I ate three. Like I said, huge restaurant week portions.

For my entree, I ordered the classic fried chicken. It was a tremendous plate of food, two huge chicken breasts fried to golden, crispy brown with a smoky brown gravy, a scoop of mashed potatoes and a heap of collards slow-cooked with bacon. It was all delicious. I especially attacked the collards, and I needed the waiter to box the second piece of chicken and a good bit of the potatoes for my lunch the next day.

Finally, for dessert there were two options: an orange-infused chocolate mousse and a strawberry shortcake. On the waiter's recommendation, I went for the chocolate mousse. The mousse itself was delightful, rich and creamy, dense and with an edge of orange. It came served in an orange-honey sauce which I wasn't fond of, but no matter. I just pushed the sauce over and dug into the thick chocolate sphere. Again, I could only finish half of it with all the delicious food from the two previous courses sitting happily in my belly.

Our service was prompt, attentive and polite. Our waiter was happy to answer questions, make recommendations and was not the least bit put out that we were ordering from the restaurant week menu. Our meal took about an hour and half, a nice relaxed pace but not slow at any point, and certainly not rushed.

I think restaurants that do a good job of restaurant week, both food and service, should be recognized and patronized both during and after the promotion, so head over! For $30, you actually get two meals out of it -- dinner and the next day's lunch -- and an enjoyable meal in a lively atmosphere.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thing 56: 15 ria

Many things came together yesterday that allowed me to eat a three course lunch at 15 ria on a Wednesday.

1. The Cap Lounge (and thus, my office space) was on fire, and so I was working from my home.
2. It's restaurant week, and three course lunches are only $20 at participating restaurants.
3. It was H-O-T, and 15 ria is actually nearest restaurant to my front door. 50 feet, tops.

I had never been to 15 ria, mostly because it is normally a bit too pricey to justify eating there often, and also it's in a Doubletree Hotel, which is strangely off-putting. Prejudiced? Yeah. But when the Boyfriend and I go out in the neighborhood, we generally frequent Stoney's for price, atmosphere, convenience, and super grilled cheese.

But what the heck! I can spare $20 on a place to try it out, right? So I headed over around 1:30 when I knew it wouldn't be too busy, and requested a table for one.

15 ria.  Prom, is that you?The dining room is trying very hard to not look like the dining room of a Double Tree Hotel. It ends up looking a little bit like the high school prom instead, but it's definitely an improvement over, say, Corduroy. There is a lot of two-toned satin draped over most walls, creating an iridescent bronze and purple effect, with small framed mirrors lined horizontally across each wall. The chairs are hotel chairs -- nave blue with a funny polka dot pattern -- but they are deep and comfortable. The dining room is fairly small and not too noisy. I could easily eavesdrop on my neighbors, so I don't recommend this restaurant if you are divulging state secrets.

The service was incredibly gracious. You hear a lot of horror stories from restaurant week, of cranky, mean waiters being overworked and significantly under tipped with the prix fixe price point, but my waiter was nothing but kind, attentive and very good natured. Although I was eating by myself, he never made me feel bad about, and was eager to make sure my experience was a good one. Maybe too eager -- he asked me if I'd like a drink or a glass of wine even before I'd been given a menu!

Unfortunately, I did not think the food lived up to the high level set by the service. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was great. It was very run of the mill cooking, nothing that I would necessarily crave or go back for. I started with the cold cantaloupe and mint soup.

Minted cantaloupe soup
It was delicious, as a dessert. Unfortunately, it was my appetizer. It was really sweet, with no salty, sour or spicy accents to counter balance it. It was really just cantaloupe pureed with mint, and it would have been delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center. As it was, it greatly improved with a nice shake from the salt and pepper shakers, desperately in need of balance from the heat and the salty. Imagine the possibilities with a drizzle of chili oil, a squeeze of lime, or some cubes of feta or a grilled halloumi cheese.

My second course was a blackened ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, baby bok choy and a soy ginger sauce. I'm not entirely sure where it fits into the overall theme of this "contemporary American cuisine" restaurant, but it was definitely the best of my three courses. The tuna had a delicious, salty crust and was topped with some sea vegetables, the baby bok choy was not overcooked and still had a bit of crunch to it, and the wasabi mashed potatoes were powerful enough to hurt my sinuses! (To me, that is a complement. If you are sensitive to heat, you would not enjoy these, but to me they were my favorite thing from the entire meal. They made my eyes water a bit!).

Ahi Tuna with some wasabi mashed potatoes that will make you cry.  In a good way.
Finally, for dessert, I ordered the fruit tart. If you know me at all, you know I take pastry very seriously, and this was a hugely disappointing course for me. I'm pretty sure this tart came from Whole Foods or some other commercial bakery. There was nothing local or seasonal about the fruit (kiwi, pineapple and, sigh, canned mandarin orange?) and the crust was soggy, as though it had travelled quite a distance. As an avowed sweet tooth and dessert snob, this tart made me sad. Actually, it made me miss the cantaloupe soup, which would have been a lovely, refreshing end to my meal.

Fruit tart.  Sigh...
I lingered over my soggy tart, eagerly reading my book and slowly sipping the glass of pinot grigio I'd ordered (three courses and wine? How very Euro of me!). When the bill came, it was for less that $30, which I can certainly appreciate. But would I go back and eat at full price? Doubtful. Maybe to enjoy those mashed potatoes and the very nice waiter.

And then it was back across the back alley 50 feet to my apartment, sweating the whole way. And to think, there was a time when I was looking forward to summer in DC.

So that is my first restaurant week experience so far. I'm headed to Georgia Brown's tonight and then Sushi Ko on Friday. Enjoy your restaurant week, and stay cool!

Note: New! The DC365 City Guide! Available here and also linked to on the right side of the page. Hopefully, this will be a quick and easy way for you to reference things you've read about, and find them by activity or neighborhood.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thing 55: Capital Fringe

I have been thinking and thinking, for over a week now, on how to blog about fringe.

Part of the problem is that this year I didn't like the only show I saw and in a roundabout way I am connected to the producers, so I feel I need to tread lightly.

Then again, saying glowing things about something I didn't like much is a really bad way to lose the trust of those half a dozen of you who read this blog regularly. (Oh, I'm being modest. There are at least of dozen of you out there. Hi, Mom!).

So, here we go: regardless of how good or bad the show you get to see is, the Capital Fringe Festival makes DC a better place to live and visit.

Haven't fringed yet? Well, sadly, because it took me so darn long to mull this entry over, this year's festival has come and gone. You will need to wait until the Capital Fringe Festival 2008 to dive in and experience it for yourself. And it's worth doing, even when the show(s) you see isn't very good, or the theater isn't actually a theater but a church with no air conditioning, or it is a one man show starring a man with no business starring in a one man show. Live theater makes makes this city better. Supporting local theater companies, actors, dancers, puppeteers, singers, directors and artists is an important part of living in a vibrant urban area. Nurturing a fledgling arts festival, only in its second year and with the promise of so many more years of silliness and beauty and spectacular successes and failures is such a worthy way to spend an evening and $20.

Capital Fringe is modelled after the mother of all fringe festivals, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I have never been, but I do know someone who worked it one year, and it is basically a literal and figurative orgy of arts. For three weeks every August, all manner and types of alternative theater set up shop in every crevice of Edinburgh. According to wikipedia, there were 261 venues last year and over one million tickets sold.

Well, Edinburgh has had 60 years to get to its level of madness. Capital Fringe just wrapped up its second year and already can boast 120 arts groups putting on more than 500 performances in 30 venues over 11 days. 19,000 tickets sold! For a town whose main hobbies include politics and bureaucracies, we do pretty good.

So next year, take a chance. Buy a festival pass and see as much theater as you can, or just close your eyes and point to one show and see what happens.