Poire cocktail by the Wilder Brothers at Zola. Photo courtesy Stir Food Group.
It’s hard to imagine but it’s been eight years since Zola first opened back in the former culinary wasteland then being redeveloped around the Verizon Center. I remember being so excited about the wittily gorgeous space and enjoying a few cocktails and dinner before it fell off my radar. Last night I was invited to attend a press dinner to sample the new chef’s tasting table and beverage programs. With the other foodies at WLDC being laid low by colds, and intrigued by the release of the cocktail menu from Wilder Bros Craft, I headed over to see what has changed. I’m happy to report that the revamp is very tasty and I’ll definitely return on my own dime.
The interior space is still the same spy motif as before, a bit refreshed but left mostly untouched – and funnily enough that look seems modern again, probably because of the Mad Men influenced retro revival. Food-wise, chef Bryan Moscatello’s offerings are now split between a modern American bistro menu for the bar and front seating area, and a chef’s tasting room menu for the back. The latter features a choice between either three courses ($55) or five courses ($69), and it was this menu that I sampled last night, paired with wines chosen by the delightful wine and spirits director Malia Milstead. There’s even a new dessert menu created by pastry chef Reggie Abalos.
But of course, since it’s me, we’ll start off with drinks. Ari and Micah Wilder of Wilder Bros Craft have designed a very lovely craft cocktail menu featuring historical flair by using old fashioned techniques such as gomme syrup. You’ll often see gomme syrup mentioned in old cocktail books – Micah kindly explained the process.
Appropriately dubbed the “Indian Chipotle”, newcomer Merzi is giving away free food today from 11 a.m. to noon at the Penn Quarter restaurant. I stopped by last night for a sneak preview, and walked away a big fan. The steps are just like Chipotle, pick a base (in this case, Naan, Chaat, Rice or Salad), add beans, add a meat (I recommend the beef, shrimp or chicken), toppings like lettuce and rice, and then a masala or a chutney to finish. My favorite was the green chili chutney, but don’t expect to cuddle up to your coworkers after lunch, it certainly has a kick.
Good news for our gluten-free friends, the owner’s son has a gluten allergy, so the restaurant is particularly conscientious of careful gluten-free preparation and keeps most items entirely gluten free (aside from the naan and the samosas, obviously). Boylan’s bottled sodas and a mango and probiotic yogurt smoothie keep you refreshed. Merzi is located on 7th street between D and E next to Carmine’s, and is open from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.
Paata Tsikurishvili, Irina Tsikurishvili, Sara Taurchini and Katherine Frattini in Synetic Theater's "The Master and Margarita." Photo credit: Graeme B. Shaw.
Synetic Theater is following up on their muscular rendition of King Arthurwith something a bit more cerebral. Actually, a lot more cerebral, with not one but two men losing their heads onstage. Joking aside, it’s hard for me to know how to judge The Master and Margarita, playing through December 12 at the Lansburgh Theatre. As the company revisits its 2004 production of the Mikhail Bulgakov novel with a new adaptation by Roland Reed, all the usual elements we’ve come to expect and love from Synetic are in full force – extremely beautiful design, powerful physical visuals, and dramatic intensity. Putting these talents at the service of a densely intellectual story, mostly unfamiliar to American audiences, is the kind of risky undertaking I certainly admire. Yet somehow, I felt like I was watching a diamond – exquisite, but cold.
In his director’s notes, Paata Tsikurishvili says “we have chosen to embrace the absurdist elements of his story and highlight the Master’s (and Bulgakov’s) own artistic and religious struggle.” Esoteric struggles work in literary terms – but do they translate well to physical action and is the audience able to connect?
On the surface we have ninety minutes of stunning production visuals, especially the work of Anastasia Rurikov Simes, whose set and costumes are an eerie evocation of a surreal Soviet Union – like watching propaganda posters come to life through the prism of The Red Shoes. Continue reading →
You might say: “But Rebecca, what the heck is a carrotmob?” And up until 15 minutes ago, I would have responded “I have no clue. Perhaps a pack of redheads angrily waving orange vegetables?” And, unsurprisingly, I’d be dead wrong.
In reality the term “Carrotmob” comes from the phase “use the carrot, not the stick,” and is a method of activism in which consumers use their buying power to reward businesses that take socially responsible actions.
The TEAISM mobbing is in response to the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act,which passed two years ago and provides 3-7 days of paid sick/safe leave to many District workers. However, the law left out your server, waitress, waiter, and bartender, so they’ve been working (aka serving you) while they’re sick. Despite this TEAISM has gone above and beyond the call of duty and provides all their workers 5-7 sick days; They are indeed truly worthy of a good old fashioned carrotmobbing.
You can join the mobbing by visiting the Penn Quarter TEAISM this Saturday and by RSVPing at the event’s Facebook page.
Although I’ve never been to Cuba, I am fairly certain that Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar doesn’t scream authenticity. The restaurant’s interior, styled as an open air piazza, feels like the Epcot version of Havana. The plaster is artfully peeling in all the right places. At any moment, a mechanized figure from “It’s A Small World After All” could pop up from behind the false windows and burst into song. But like all things Disney, Cuba Libre is a happy, cheerful place. Maybe it’s the Latin music wafting from the background. Maybe it’s the rum. Either way, the restaurant has a lively, summery atmosphere that should be welcome as winter sets in.
With locations in Atlantic City, Orlando and Philadelphia, Cuba Libre’s recent opening marks the chain’s first foray into Washington. The restaurant has made its name on “nuevo Cubano” cuisine, and dishes borrow heavily from Asia, South America and the Caribbean. More than half the menu is devoted to small plates (ranging from $5 to $13), though classic and contemporary entrées ($16 to $32) are available for those who are morally opposed to tapas.
Now is that time of year when you wake up a little late Saturday morning and have that mental debate with yourself over whether to get up or roll over and sleep until it’s sunny again. Last year around this time I was having that very same fight, when I bribed myself to get out of bed by heading to the local farmers market…just to find out it had closed the weekend before. It’s tough to keep all the closing dates straight, so read on and find your local market and its closing date, or check out the ones that stay open even when it’s frigid outside. Everyone loves shivering in front of their veggie purveyor.
Derek A. Bencomo, Hana Valley, First View from the Peaks and Valleys Series, 1997, milowood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Fleur and Charles Bresler in honor of Kenneth R. Trapp, curator-in-charge of the Renwick Gallery (1995--2003); photo courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum
In the late 1950s, during the heyday of aviation and the dawning of space flight, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) approached Lockheed to develop a new aircraft that could overfly the Soviet Union. The CIA’s current plane (at the time) was the U-2, which served admirably in its role as a high-flying reconnaissance plane but was still susceptible to being shot down by high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM). Such an incident did occur in 1960, when Gary Powers was shot down while conducting an overflight over the U.S.S.R.
The result was the A-12, code name OXCART, which ended up in a different role as the Vietnam war broke out. The CIA’s spy plane flew several black missions during the war before being phased out and replaced by the U.S. Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird. On Thursday evening at the International Spy Museum, many aspects of the A-12 Oxcart program will be discussed by several experts, including CIA chief historian David Robarge, J-58 engine inventor Robert B. Abernethy, flight specialist Thornton D. Barnes, CIA officer S. Eugene Poteat, and pilot Kenneth Collins.
For a taste of the discussion, we managed to pin down CIA chief historian David Robarge for a few minutes to discuss the Oxcart and BLACK SHIELD programs. Continue reading →
So now that the tourists are (mostly) gone, time to get out and hit our various museums and their great programs and exhibitions! There’s a lot going on this month at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and we’re going to run down the list for you. Programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated; the SAAM is located in Penn Quarter at 8th and G Streets, NW. Note that some programs are at the Renwick Gallery at 17th and Pennsylvania and are noted accordingly.
Intersections/Intersecciones (Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.)
Artists Kathy Vargas, María Martínez-Cañas, and Martina López discuss the intersection of Latino culture and gender identity in their work. Moderated by Muriel Hasbun, associate professor of fine art photography at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. No tickets required; seating available in McEvoy Auditorium on a first-come, first-served basis.
Art à la Cart (Sept. 12, Noon – 3 p.m.)
Travel throughout the galleries to find interactive carts where kids can handle brushes, palettes, bison hide, bottle caps, and quilt squares. Ages 7-12. Pick up your Art à la Cart map and passport at information desks located in the F Street and G Street lobbies.
Eric Hissom and Katie deBuys in “In the Next Room or the vibrator play.” Photo credit: Stan Barouh.
Ah, the Victorians! Always keeping the naughty bits tightly corseted. Such control freaks. At least, that’s our view of them now. It might come as a shock to learn about such inventions as the “electric massager,” on the scene in the 1870’s to relieve the frayed nerves of delicate housewives suffering from mysterious bouts of anxiety. Even more of a shock to learn before the dawn of the electrical age, physicians alleviated such symptoms of their patients the um, old-fashioned way, through manual manipulation. Yet somehow the resulting “paroxysms” and the accompanying relief were seen as strictly therapeutic and not erotic. Masters of keeping the physical and the sexual realms separate, those Victorians. One side Health, the other Damnation.
MORE: The history of humans sexual fantasies and exploration is a rich subject. The use of sex toys has been recorded hundreds of years ago, which makes dildos and vibrators available today on local stores and even online from sex shops like Plug Lust is not surprising. Read more on the topic with articles published by Fiona Petree.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s 2010-2011 season is titled “A Striptease for Your Subconscious” – and if the first play out of the gate is any indication, this is going to be one wild ride. In the Next Room, or the vibrator play explores this acutely private dance between the physical and the sexual, between control and release. Yes, it’s a play about a male scientist/physician using a primitive vibrator on his female patients (and one male) to bring them to orgasm in order to restore the bloom in their cheeks, and yes there are several scenes depicting this, but there’s a lot more going on. Playwright Sarah Ruhl dances on the edge of fairy tale, weaving the mythology of feminine awakening with just enough sweetness to win over any prudish audience member. The final moment of reveal and revelation might still shock some, but its daringness is rather beautiful.
In the Next Room or the vibrator play presents us with a seemingly ill-matched couple – the practical man of science Dr. Givings (a briskly authoritative Eric Hissom) and his wife, the charmingly impulsive Catherine (a radiant Katie deBuys). Sense and sensibility, these two. The doctor plies his trade in the next room, protecting his wife from his work and denying her the deeper affection she craves. The love they share is blocked, just as the unseen walls separate the doctor’s operating room from the drawing room, as the society separates the physical from the erotic. Into their circle weave other blocked lives, some comical, others heart-wrenching. Continue reading →
American Craft Masterpieces – Kim Schmahmann, Bureau of Bureaucracy, 1993-1999, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum
August promises to be chock full of events at many museums around town as the summer heat continues to build. Check out what’s going on down at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) during the dog days of August; all programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. The SAAM is located over in Penn Quarter at 8th and F Streets, NW.
Conservation Clinic (Aug 4; by appointment only)
Questions about the condition of a painting, frame, drawing, print, or sculpture? American Art conservators are available by appointment for consultation about the preservation of privately-owned art. To request an appointment or to learn more, email DWRCLunder@si.edu and specify CLINIC in the subject line.
Book Talk & Signing: “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera” (Aug 5, 6:30pm)
Many of Rockwell’s most memorable characters were friends and neighbors who served as amateur models. Author Ron Schick discusses how Rockwell acted as director — carefully orchestrating models, selecting props, and choosing locations for the photographs that served as the basis of his iconic images. Book signing follows. (This is a part of the SAAM’s comprehensive Rockwell & the Movies exhibition.)
I love throwing dinner parties. In my head, they always turn out like the cover of Bon Appetit and there’s always enough delicious food and the wine is perfect and everyone is happy. But in actuality, the food is pretty okay, it never is all ready at the same time, and I usually forget to put forks on the table. I always just assumed that the perfect dinner party was in the same category as unicorns and leprechauns, but Poste Roast proves that is not the case.
Poste Roast is a genius special event put on by the fine folks at Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco. It’s part pig roast and part elegant dinner party. I admittedly didn’t really know what to expect when I forced seven of my closest friends to give over full control of their dinner and wallets to me that night, but I thought it was bound to be something memorable.
Rachel: Well, I’m fresh off a stint in Nashville to audition for American Idol. It didn’t go my way but I learned a lot and am ready to rock out harder than ever before after being “cut” from the program before ever seeing any air-time. I’ve got a gig booked for Saturday night at the Tonic Lounge (located at 2036 G Street NW, near the Foggy Bottom Metro). I’m not the only entertainment on tap, several artists from the DC area will take the stage too. So grab a drink at the bar, stay for the tunes, and if you’re a Glee fan I guarantee a solid new cover added to my repertoire from the second half of last season’s show. Not gonna tell you what it is, you’ll have to stop by to hear it. Show starts at 8 p.m. with a $5 cover. I’ll also have albums on sale with proceeds going to the National Kidney Foundation in honor of my late father who received a heart transplant in 1999. Hope to see you there! It should be a rockin’ good time.
Patrick: Weeks of no social life ends this weekend. Noises Off! opens this Saturday at Keegan Theatre in Dupont Circle. As the stage manager I’ll be in the booth playing the role of incompetent sound technician #1. No seriously, come see the show and watch the actors freak out at me during Act III. The show will run through August so I hope to see everybody there eventually. While I’m running the show I’ll also be trying to figure out where to eat and drink before and after performances- anybody have any suggestions for places I should check out around 17th Street?
"The Books" by Dana Ellyn. Courtesy of the artist.
There was a time when banning a book meant silencing a voice. Flush with the power of our digital age, we may forget that information so readily available to us – both truth and lies – was once so easily stopped. That is, until we read about governmental attempts to control knowledge through digital means and realize it’s all still very prevalent.
I distinctly remember being very frightened as a child by the idea of books being banned – or worse, burned. The clandestine copy of Forever passed around my grammar school, eagerly highlighted, was the best instructor of sex education we had (we have it so easy now, seriously) and when it was confiscated by a puritanical teacher the sense of shame and then rebellion that resulted was a defining moment. Later on, books like Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange spoke deeply to my developing beliefs about personal freedom and responsibility. There’s a natural outrage in me against those who would try to censor artists from holding the mirror up to our not-so civil society.
Artist Dana Ellyn continues her examination of controversial subjects with Banned, a solo exhibit showing now through July 31 at MLK Library. Last December she applied her laser eye for hypocrisy to a wide range of untouchable subjects such as religion, politics, and feminine identity in Divinely Irreverent, a show I unabashedly loved as “an audacious exhibit delivering hard slaps to myths of many kinds.” Here, the examination comes from books banned or otherwise considered subversive – perfect for Dana’s love of metaphor – and the slaps are delivered to those who would ban information and keep us in the dark.
Chris Dinolfo and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's production of "Johnny Meister and The Stitch" Photo credit: Aoife Mckenna
The “black box” theater is a tricky environment. Actors and audience, being so close to one another in a tight setting, enter into a kind of silent agreement – we see them sweat, they hear us breathe. Actually, it’s a bit like a date. We start out eager for it all to go well, maybe laughing a little too hard, being charmed. But it can end awkwardly. Or go brilliantly.
Solas Nua has the black box date down. In a tiny square nestled in the Flashpoint Gallery (properly known as the Flashpoint Mead Theatre Lab), they keep things sparse and simple, focusing on brutally provocative plays featuring actors who relish the meat of contemporary Irish drama. It works. I’ve yet to see a lazy or self-indulgent piece performed here (last year’s startling Disco Pigswas the first play in a long time to punch me in the gut so hard I cried).
On a given performance of Johnny Meister + The Stitch, the immediacy of live theater is strongly evident as you watch the beads of sweat slowly trickle down Chris Dinolfo’s face as he stands (briefly, it’s a fast clip) lit by long flourescent bulbs. Or the dangerous crackle of Rex Daugherty’s eyes as he makes momentary eye contact with an audience member. This is the thrill of the black box theater, and it’s highlighted by this American premiere of Rosemary Jenkinson’s play about two rough Belfast boys and one wild night.
Michael Hayden as King Henry V in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s Henry V, directed by David Muse. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Now this is more like it.
From the first moments of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Henry V, there’s a feeling of power and potency that I found lacking in Richard II, playing in repertory at Sidney Harman Hall. This is a company in command, helmed by David Muse’s tight, almost economical direction which sets the play firmly on course.
Productions of Henry V can veer from pro-war to anti-war (most famously, see the contrast of two films – Laurence Olivier vs. Kenneth Branagh). Here, war is certainly horrible, but it’s simply what kings must do to reign. This exploration of duty is the key to Muse’s production, in my opinion, and to the performance that leads it – Michael Hayden’s superb Henry. He embodies not just Henry’s description of himself as “plain soldier” but also of a man whose study of humanity in his wild days serves him well as king.
He’s also a scrappy fighter and a man whose bad side you want to avoid. No matter how close or safe you think you are, cross him at your peril.
From the beginning, when Muse chooses to split the Chorus into three characters (wonderfully played by Larry Paulsen, Robynn Rodriguez and Ted van Griethuysen), we’re on alert that there’s something different in store. With enthusiasm, sadness and humor they guide us through the history play by connecting directly with the audience, controlling lights and sound as if performing a lecture. It’s a conceit already inherent in the play itself, and here it lends a sense of the magic of theater that is echoed in key brilliant choices – stirring singing, unfurling maps, ghostly helmets hanging in air, a bright red laser pointer.
Michael Hayden as King Richard II in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Richard II, directed by Michael Kahn. Photo by Scott Suchman.
I don’t normally write the kind of review that I’m writing today. But to be blunt, I’ve had enough. What is going on at Shakespeare Theatre Company? Inconsistent vocality, acting styles ranging all over from natural to downright hammy, condescending directorial choices, flubbed lines. With so much talent at its disposal, I can only attribute it to growing pains with the Harman Center. But even that excuse is not going to last much longer with me. I love theater and I love Shakespeare. I want everyone to succeed. But if you don’t start bringing it, STC, I’m going to lose faith.
My first hint something was not right with Richard II, now playing in repertory with Henry V as part of an exploration on leadership themes, was in reading Michael Kahn’s directorial notes. He had decided to add a prologue from an anonymously penned Elizabethean play called Thomas of Woodstock because “I’ve always been aware of how mystified the audience is for the first four scenes.” Um, what? The audience has to piece together what happens at the first scene of Hamlet too, but I don’t see anyone advocating giving the ghost’s secret away right off the bat. So this is a choice to enlighten the audience? Why, we’re too dumb to catch up on our own? The patched together prologue is interminable and unnecessary, giving us our first glimpse of Richard’s neurosis and paranoia far too soon, not to mention solidifying in my mind –
Every Friday for the next six weeks, the International Spy Museum (ISM) will be debuting a new exhibit within the museum, including the addition of several new rare artifacts from the shadowy world of espionage. These new additions (some for a limited time only) join the already-extensive collection regarding the world’s “second-oldest profession” and the new gallery dedicated to espionage in the 21st Century. Several of these exhibits will tie into special programs occurring at the museum over the next few months, covering not only the secret history of spying but also exploring today’s hottest topics that daily impact the world of intelligence. “Espionage deals with clandestine, hidden information and the best spies make sure their every trace disappears, which makes finding personal pieces of tradecraft very challenging,” says Anna Slafer, ISM’s Director of Exhibitions and Programs. “Many of our new artifacts have to come us from intelligence agencies and the families of these famous spies, giving us a detailed story of these object’s role in history.”
Ben Cunis and Irina Tsikurishvili in Synetic Theater's "Antony & Cleopatra." Photo credit: Graeme B. Shaw.
If you want to know why Synetic Theater has been nominated for 13 Helen Hayes awards for its productions last year, go see Antony & Cleopatra. Now.Everything this robust and vibrant company is beloved for is here on stage at the Lansburgh’s beautiful proscenium, as part of an alliance with Shakespeare Theatre that I hope means more Synetic productions at the Penn Quarter space. Their glorious athleticism, sensual energy and biting humor are all here, framed by what founding artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili calls their “art of silence.”
The characters of Antony and Cleopatra are full of lust – for life, for power, for each other. It’s a play highlighting the contradictory battle between masculine and feminine desires inherent in both sexes, and at its heart is the human ambition to seize the moment even at the risk of total loss.
Stakes are pretty high here, as director Paata Tsikurishvili makes clear by adding a prologue to the actual Shakespearean plot – the meeting of Caesar and Cleopatra, their ambition no less than to rule the entire known world together, uniting East and West. As they stand together, a map of the world splits up and swirls about them in an orgy of power. This is the ultimate gamble, player beware. Continue reading →