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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Why, why haven't I seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington before now?

This is a great American movie. A true classic. The kind that makes me proud to be an American, and proud to be a Washingtonian to boot. Seeing DC through Jimmy Stewart's starry eyes reminds me yet again how fortunate I am to live here every day, in this seat of history and power.

You may be familiar with the plot. A Senator from a southern state dies and the Governor must appoint his replacement to serve out the final two months of the term. And even though Mr. Jefferson Smith has no political experience, well by gum, the Governor appoints the well-loved Boy Scout leader to take the job. Senator Smith arrives in Washington awed by those who came before him. He wanders off and visits the monuments, the archives, Mt. Vernon, Arlington Cemetery with that Jimmy Stewart look of awe and reverence. Of course, all of the Washington establishment thinks he's nuts -- he's going to Mt. Vernon? they smirk -- but in the end, he's the one who embodies true American democracy. One passionate man leading his fellow men for the good of the country.

The drama unfolds when Senator Smith writes up a handy little bill establishing a national boys' camp along the banks of a river that, whoops, is the same spot his fellow Senator is trying to put up a dam after quietly buying up all the land around the river so that he'll make a huge profit. The stakes are set: idealism vs. greed, one honest man vs. a corrupt political machine. Mr. Smith's good name is dragged through the mud and just when he is about to throw in the towel, he visits Mr. Lincoln up at his memorial and then returns to the Senate floor to fight the good fight.

In Frank Capra's and Jimmy Stewart's hands, this isn't a cliched or silly movie, it is an engaging and inspiring movie that pulls you in from its very beginning and won't leave you alone until you are just as in love with the American Dream as Mr. Smith is. Oh sure, it is a bit dated. In 1939, there were only 96 Senators, men wore hats, and that wise cracking secretary's problems will all be solved once she can just settle down and marry. But when I pass the Capitol Dome on my way in to work this morning, I will think twice about all the good ideas and hope that it stands for. And as I read the headlines today, I will hope that there is just a bit of Mr. Smith somewhere in Congress.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thing 92: Hank's, Revisited

We all know that I'm a fan of raw bar. And so I could not resist going back to Hank's two days later to feast upon the 12 seafood dishes of Christmas:

Hank 12 seafood dishes of Christmas
Sing it with me now:

On every day of December, my true love fed to me:

12 Atlantic oysters
11 peel and eat shrimp
10 fried oysters
8 steamed mussels
7 fried clams
6 Pacific oysters
5 clams
4 BBQ'ed oysters
3 scallops
2 shrimp cocktail
and a bowl of ceviche
The 12 seafood dishes of Christmas is available at Hank's through December for $75.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thing 92: Hank's Oyster Bar

Did I have a meal last night at Hank's! Oh, my. I had eaten there once before, a long time ago, but after last night I'm not sure why I don't eat there every day. Everything was delicious!

From the small bowl of goldfish crackers we were offered as we looked over the menu, to the small nuggets of dark German chocolate given to us at the end of the meal, everything we ate at Hank's was wonderful. The menu is divided into four parts -- appetizers, small plates, large plates and sides. From this, you can piece together a meal that will satisfy exactly what you want and how hungry you are.

We started with an appetizer of Old Bay peel 'n eat shrimp, which were sweet and meaty, sprinkled liberally with Old Bay seasoning and served with a great cocktail sauce made spicy with horseradish. Then, seduced by all the side dishes that looked so good I couldn't pick one, or even two, I ordered a small plate of crab cake with sides of macaroni and cheese, caramelized onion bread pudding, and collards. The crab cake was lightly fried with an awesome aioli, the bread pudding was silky and savory, the collards made sweet and sour by a healthy dose of cider vinegar and sauteed shallots. Oh, and that macaroni and cheese, with pungent Gruyere, toasted breadcrumbs and a small dice of smokey ham scattered throughout. Oh, how I would like to eat that every day, all day, for the rest of my life!

The Boyfriend had the lobster roll, full of sweet lobster, lightly dressed and served in a toasted, buttered brioche bun with thin, crispy fries.

Hank's doesn't have a dessert menu, which is just as well because I would have ordered dessert even though I don't know where it would have fit in my mac and crab cake filled stomach. Instead, we got just a small bowl with a bit of high quality dark chocolate, just enough to whet that after dinner sweet tooth.

Hank's is a neighborhood joint, a classy and higher quality answer to the mediocre restaurants along 17th Street. I'm not sure why it took me this long to sit down at its long banquette and enjoy some shrimp, but rest assured, I will be back shortly. And for those of you in Ye Olde Towne, they just opened a second location there, too. Lucky us!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thing 91: The National Christmas Tree

The National Christmas TreeI have a pretty intense NaBloPoMo hangover. After 30 days, I feel like I never want to blog again, which is a shame because I took a really awesome tour of the West Wing last weekend and I have pictures of me in the press briefing room and everything. But there is only one thing that could pull me out of my funk, and it is the National Christmas Tree.

The National Christmas Tree
I love the National Tree!! Located on the Ellipse, behind the White House, it is one of my favorite things about Christmas time in the District. Sure there is the great big tree, but what people usually don't realize is that each U.S. state and territory has it's own little tree surrounding the big one. They are all decorated by some charitable organization from that state in a way that is symbolic of that state. Plus there is a giant yule log fire pit and Christmas carols and lots of electric trains.
The National Christmas Tree
If you are not yet in the holiday spirit, throw on your mittens and head down to the Ellipse. And when you get too darn cold, you can head over to the Willard for a sugar plum toddy!

The National Christmast Tree