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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Year, 100 Things

Three hundred and sixty five days ago, this little guy was born. Yes, DC365 is celebrating its first birthday today. In that time, I've pushed myself to see new parts of the city, visit museum exhibitions I might have been too lazy to see otherwise, took walking tours, read books about my city and ate at all kinds of fabulous and not-so-fabulous restaurants.

100 Things down, and 265 to go (!). I hope you will all continue to check in, read up, leave comments and explore the city with me.

What better place to celebrate my 100th Thing than Napoleon, where I found myself on Friday night. Napoleon is a little French bistro and lounge in Adams Morgan where they have a veritable cornucopia of champagne cocktails?! If you like champagne, champagne cocktails or just a fancy night on the town, head to Napoleon. Wear your heels (I was woefully underdressed), enjoy the DJ playing that loungy-pop music that I've never heard outside of venues like this one, and sip away at one of the many champagne cocktails on offer.

One year ago: the mission statement, Wonderland trivia, and Cowgirl Creamery.

You can also join me over at the Cork & Knife. This week: Battle Leek!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thing 99: Vapiano

I need to write about Vapiano ASAP, while it is still a unique-to-DC thing to do. At the moment, aside from going to various cities in Germany, or perhaps Stockholm, the DC metro area is the only place to enjoy this trendy, cafeteria-style lounge, where the food is Italian and the cooks are Aryan imports from Germany. According to Tommy, our blond and blue-eyed pasta cooker, over the next five years the corporation plans to open over 100 locations across the country.

But for right now, this is a fun, unique and uniquely DC thing to do!

The place is part food court, part drinks lounge, part German beer garden, part herb garden, and part dormitory cafeteria. I must admit, at first I was skeptical. Generally, when a restaurant tries to do so much, it does most of it poorly. But we chose it because we were meeting a large group of people coming and going, and in that case it is an ideal set up -- each person is handed an individual gift card when entering -- as you order at the various stations throughout the restaurant, your food and drink gets charged to your own card. At the end of the evening, you settle your tab at the cashier. No waiters, no split or separate checks, if you're still hungry you keep eating, if you're not hungry you have a cocktail and don't worry about it. For a crowd, it is ideal.

It turns out the scene isn't bad, either. The main decoration of the place, aside from red lamps and cushions, are small potted herbs. Truthfully, I kind of love it. It is chic, unique, attractive, and functional! Pots of thyme, rosemary and basil as your centerpiece trumps a boring old salt and pepper shaker set. They're accompanied by decorative bottles of dark golden olive oil, lamplight shining through them. If you're not pleased with your pizza or your pasta you can liven it up yourself with some freshly picked thyme or basil.

The food is made ready to order in front of you, to your specifications, at different stations -- one for salad, one for pasta, one for pizza -- like a college student center's cafeteria. The food is better than at my college dorm, but it also tastes like it's from an upscale cafeteria -- my pasta comes undercooked and with a sweet, industrial orange sauce. One of my friend's fares better with a prosciutto, fig and honey pizza. Prosciutto and fig are the German/Italian's answer to the Hawaiian pizza, and it works really nicely.

There's one on M Street (dangerously close to Camelot, as it turns out), and one out at Dulles, and one set to open in Chinatown. And soon enough, one in a city near you. But for now, enjoy a martini and a slice of pizza in this sleek and stylish cafeteria.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thing 98: See the Constitution!

Thing 98: See the Constitution! Or, um, not.

Don't see the Constitution
Let me explain. I had a friend in town this weekend. He is an old and dear friend, who I've known since the ninth grade. He has now made this perfectly silly choice to go to law school. In an attempt to support this newfound interest in the law, I suggested that while he was in town -- and in between the late nights filled with booze and dancing -- we pay a visit to the Constitution. And while we were at the National Archives, we'd get to see the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and this exhibit of political cartoons I'd seen advertised in the Metro.

Oh, but the Magna Carter was not on display, and neither was the Constitution! The powers that be are making improvements to the case, and so the documents have been holed up somewhere below ground, waiting until they can have an audience once more.

The trip wasn't a complete waste. Frankly, at this point the Constitution is so very faded and worn there isn't much to see, and the really good stuff is in the Bill of Rights anyway, right? In the main rotunda there are lots of other interesting documents, and the masses usually focus on the Constitution, so JFK's speech, the draft of the Articles of Confederation and the original Marbury v. Madison must be grateful to be getting some attention for once.

The special exhibit of political cartooning was really wonderful, too. It is a retrospective of the work of Clifford Berryman, pioneer of the political cartoon, cartoonist for the Washington Post and then the Washington Evening Star from 1898 through 1948. Berryman is the guy who drew that cartoon of the cute, cuddly teddy bear, creating an icon and a symbol of Teddy Roosevelt that stuck with him through his political career.

The cartoons are beautiful, elegant and still very relevant. I particularly liked the one of the Republican candidate, Calvin Coolidge, alone and unencumbered on the putting green as the Democratic candidates for president whacked each other in the Bitter Contest Bunker.

Bitter contest bunker
I also liked the cartoon of the tax payer, being supplicated on all sides by the Republican elephant, the Democratic donkey, and the Progressive goat. Candidates have been promising to cut my taxes since well before I was born -- ain't politics grand?

Aint politics grand?
The entire exhibit is available online, click here to take a look, but if you are in the city head over the archives and see the original. And if you're luckier than my lawyer-in-training friend, you'll get to pop upstairs and see the Constitution while you're there.