Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The Little Prince

Ian Pedersen as the Little Prince and Alex Vernon as the Aviator in Ambassador Theater's "The Little Prince."

There are many delights in Ambassador Theater’s production of The Little Prince, but chief among them for me was watching the reactions of the children in the audience. “Who I am writing a review for?” I asked myself afterward. It’s unlikely any of those enraptured five-year-olds would care what I think. Their parents? Perhaps. Funny then that this push-pull between the world of adults and children is at the heart of the much-loved book by Antoine Saint-Exupery (or Saint-Ex, as he’s affectionately known in my neighborhood).

From the small set beautifully draped in tunneling parachutes to the whimsical shadow puppets helping transport the audience to outer space, this is an evening of both sweetness and sadness that held the attention of the children I saw there. One even may have fallen in love with the little prince herself. For adults, the play is a reminder that, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eyes.”

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Bloomingdale

Photo courtesy of
‘DSC_0940′
courtesy of ‘mediaslave’

Thanks to your great suggestions telling me where you live, we have several more neighborhoods in the District, Virginia, and Maryland to profile over the coming weeks.  This week, we’re heading back in to DC to look at a very neighborly neighborhood: Bloomingdale.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood close to the center of town but it feels worlds away.  Read on to find out what makes Bloomingdale a great community, and the number one thing that residents love about the neighborhood.

History: Bloomingdale wasn’t part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan, and started out as a pretty rural area.  It was next to the planned suburb LeDroit Park, and didn’t really see much residential development until the 1890s when streets were paved and a streetcar connected through the area.  Bloomingdale quickly became home to rowhouses, churches, and schools, and it has remained a quiet residential neighborhood ever since.   More on the history of Bloomingdale over at Bloomingdale DC.

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The Daily Feed

Girls Rock DC showcase is here again

It’s hard to believe it’s been another year but Girls Rock!DC is underway again. Just as before the bands will take to the stage of the 9:30 Club at 11am on Saturday to show off what they’ve been working on this week. If you believe – as I do – that live performance is about energy and joy then this is a can’t-miss. The measly $10 it costs to get in goes towards continuing the program and you get to scream your support for young women getting up and rocking out.

The Daily Feed

Cuba Libre To Open On September 17th

Photo courtesy of
‘Cuba Street Sign’
courtesy of ‘Khirol Amir’

The embargo is officially over: Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar will open its doors on September 17th in Penn Quarter. With outposts in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Orlando, the restaurant’s Washington opening marks a highly anticipated (and oft-delayed) addition to the city’s dining scene.

The restaurant’s 200-seat dining room will evoke Havana’s 1950′s golden age, placing guests in what will feel like a tropical outdoor courtyard. While the design takes a page from the past, the cuisine is all nuevo Cubano. Think lunchtime Cuban Bento Boxes, shareable tasting plates and flights of (sustainable!) ceviche. The menu – developed specifically for DC by the chain’s Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot – will pay culinary homage to the island’s African, Creole, Asian and native Tainos influences. If you’re more focused on the “Rum Bar” portion of the restaurant’s name, never fear: as Jenn reported back in January, the restaurant is known for its 75 varieties of rum and countless other cocktails.

To celebrate the restaurant’s opening, Cuba Libre will be offering 50% off its dinner menu from September 17th through 23rd. From September 24th through 30th, you can still enjoy 25% discounts before full prices kick in on October 1st. It’s the restaurant’s way of thanking patrons for their patience as they work out the kinks and settle into their groove.

Cuba Libre is located at 801A 9th Street NW. Closest Metro stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown (Green, Yellow, Red lines). For more information, call (202) 408-1600.

Entertainment, Penn Quarter, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Johnny Meister + The Stitch

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 Pigs was 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.

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Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Dickson Wine Bar

Photo courtesy of
‘Dickson Wine Bar’
courtesy of ‘Jenn Larsen’

Dickson Wine Bar has been open for a few weeks now, occupying a three story brick building opposite Nellie’s. It’s got a rather nondescript industrial look outside, save for the old stone plaque “Dickson BLDG 903 You” from which the bar took its name. I walked by one night in late March, noticing the sexy candlelit interior, and vowed to hit it as soon as possible. I’ve been back twice and can say it will definitely become a regular stop for me from now on. You can’t beat having a bar like this five blocks from your house!

It certainly has a great pedigree – the owners are Tien Claudio (with her husband and DC legend Eric Hilton) and Steve Kaufman (with his husband Fred Paxton), all locals living in Adams Morgan. They wanted to create a friendly neighborhood bar, and that’s the vibe here – residents, workers, Howard University students – everyone’s mingling nicely in an atmosphere that manages to be both adult and fun. As my friend who lives a block away puts it aptly, “the clientele seemed more interested in the food and drink than in finding potential spouses.”

And that food and drink is definitely a draw. Executive chef James Claudio (who also helms the kitchen at Marvin) has dedicated the food menu to local ingredients, and the wine list designed by Jarad Slipp, restaurant director at Cityzen, features organic and biodynamic selections. Rounding out the team is Tom Street, who created the cocktail program and selected the beers. Tom told me they are planning on changing the entire beverage program “quite often,” and in keeping with the eco-conscious theme, the food menu will also change seasonally. Everyone on staff is incredibly personable and helpful, which imbues the bar with a kind of care and love that’s really striking.
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The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Three Sisters

ThreeSistersAct4

Nanna Ingvarsson, Amy Quiggins and Catherine Deadman in Constellation Theatre Company's "Three Sisters." Photo credit: Daniel Schwartz

It’s been over 100 years since Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s death. We’re still struggling against a traditional view of how to perform, and indeed experience, a genius that straddled two very different centuries. Last year, Theater J attacked some sacred cows with a lively production of The Seagull. I expected a young company like Constellation Theatre to be able to blow away some of the same cobwebs with their take on Three Sisters. I certainly loved the gusto with which they attacked Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear.

However, this is a very respectful production, full of talented actors making safe choices. The love of the play is evident, but with a few notable exceptions, no one seems willing to break their established view of how Chekhov should be done. If you’re new to Chekhov’s work, then this is a fine place to start. But if you’re looking for any risk-taking, you won’t really find it here. There’s just too much reverence for that.

Director Allison Arkell Stockman makes two great choices from the start. She uses the Lanford Wilson translation, nicely accessible while retaining some lovely poetic phrases. She also has the play performed in the round, which gives the illusion of our eavesdropping on the lives of the Prozorov family – three sisters Olga, Masha and Irina and their brother Andrei. Her direction highlights the trap closing around the family as one by one their dreams of a meaningful, rewarding life are trampled on. Pretty depressing stuff, thankfully lightened by humor (Chekhov billed it as a comedy, after all).

The plot is a journey through several years with the Prozorov family, who live in a provincial garrison town with their daily routines enlivened by the soldiers. All they have is a dream of moving to Moscow and finding meaningful work (both metaphors would be humorous to an audience at the time, now they are symbols for any childhood dream held dear). Little by little, they lose their illusions, and become adults in a drab world. Continue reading

Farm Fresh, Food and Drink, We Green DC

Farm Fresh: AGAINN

PC150389

Here’s another feature where WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) have paired up to tell you about local area restaurants that take on the challenge of being green. Donna explains the restaurant’s environmentally friendly efforts and Katie tells you if the food tastes any good. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it, right?

Donna: I don’t want to go overboard about how much I liked AGAINN, but let’s just say that three days after my first visit, I dragged a friend from out of town over there to try AGAINN again. The restaurant’s said to be a modern twist on traditional British Isles pub cuisine, but that makes me think of greasy fish ‘n’ chips, not the savory ham and apple cider pie steaming under a delicate puff pastry crust that I had for dinner.

Katie: I haven’t exactly been subtle about my enthusiasm for DC’s newest gastropub, either. I love the space, the details are impeccable, the drinks, the food, everything. So when I visited and found out that Chef Wesley Morton had constructed a VERY local menu and put a ton of thought into his sourcing, it made me love AGAINN that much more.

Donna: Executive Chef Wesley Morton is from Louisiana, and he grew up on a farm surrounded by cows, figs, oranges, and all sorts of goodness. His family didn’t buy meat at the store; they raised their own food. He’s now continuing that tradition, using food that’s grown and processed locally and animals that are treated humanely. An example is the smoked country ham, cured in Allan Benton’s small family shop in Tennessee. You can order it as a charcuterie, or get a taste of its salty deliciousness atop the soft russet potato dumplings as they melt in your mouth. Continue reading

The Features, Tourism

Tourism: Union Station

Photo courtesy of
‘Color Photo – Arriving at Union Station’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Despite the history, the sculptures, the uniqueness, it’s still kind of hard to wax poetic about Union Station. You see, when Union Station was built, residents lauded the civic project for finally bringing an impressive and worthy gateway for visitors into the nation’s capital. But today, people run in and out of Union Station faster than… well, faster than a speeding train.

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Food and Drink, Night Life, People, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: The Passenger

Photo courtesy of
‘The Passenger 7′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Let’s say you love hand-crafted cocktails, but your friend is all about Miller High Life. Up until this point, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a place where you both would feel comfortable. Thankfully, brothers Derek and Tom Brown have created a bar where the two of you can happily cosy up in a booth together.

Last night, The Passenger opened its doors to the public. The night before, I was lucky to attend a preview of the new bar and sample the atmosphere. It’s still a work in progress, the rough-and-ready quality mimicking the surrounding neighborhood. If you were familiar with the Warehouse, the space revamps the front bar and the back area near the theater. It’s got a black diamond quality, with exposed brick, hardwood floors and a long photographic mural that’s meant to remind you of the view from a train’s windows. Booths line the walls and by this weekend the back section will be finished to resemble a mirrored dining car.

If you’re expecting an upscale exclusive club atmosphere with pinkies raised over clinkety-clink glasses, well, you’ll be disappointed. What we have here is a funky, eclectic neighborhood bar that’s set to evolve organically. And I’m not kidding, in addition to those famous made-to-taste cocktails you can also get Miller High Life and a chili half-smoke.

This is a bar where both mods and rockers are easily at home. Continue reading

The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Disco Pigs

Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's "Disco Pigs." Photo credit: Dan Brick

Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty in Solas Nua's "Disco Pigs." Photo credit: Dan Brick

The joy of being so entwined you can finish each other’s thoughts… the pain when those thoughts become dissonant.

For one hour in a small black box theater, Madeleine Carr and Rex Daugherty command your attention with these extreme emotions, in Solas Nua‘s production of “Disco Pigs.” It’s rare that I cry at the theater – having a drama background sadly numbs your reactions sometimes – but this was such a visceral experience I found myself deeply moved. Or perhaps it hit me on a profoundly personal level. Whatever the case, I urge you to spend the hour with them.

Enda Walsh’s play is densely verbal and the Irish accents are thick. This means for the first five minutes or so your brain is processing fast and wild, just like the characters. Pig and Runt are born at the same time at the same hospital and connected by the strong bond of outcasts. They celebrate their seventeenth birthday by terrorizing Cork (which they call “Pork,” snorting and eating like little pigs), their parents, pub denizens and disco dancers – until slowly they become terrorized themselves, by new emotions and challenges to their bond. Continue reading

Entertainment, Essential DC, The Features, Tourism

Tourism: The Newseum

First Amendment Etched in Glass

Last Saturday, my wife and I decided to take some family members out to the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was the first time I’d been able to visit the place since a pre-pre-pre-opening tour I’d had back in 2006 (when there were practically no displays in place, just the news van and the Checkpoint Charlie tower). And, for the record, the Newseum hooked us up with tickets; even so, I think the museum could be worth the full $20 admission price.

And yes, I said ‘could.’ I’ll qualify that later for you.

The building itself is a marvel of architecture. Designed by Polshek Partnership Architects, the combination of open space, glass and concrete blends well within the museum. The mix provides division for each contained exhibit (permanent and visiting), yet bleeds back into the open air of the general concourse. I suppose I could say it’s like the news field and media blending with the openness of life and all that, but why bore you?

The Newseum certainly won’t. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

New Sculpture at 5th and K City Vista

Busboys sculpture

Yesterday, I noticed a cranes and quite an operation setting up this fanciful metal sculpture outside of the Busboys and Poets and 5th and K. It reminds me of the sculpture outside of Zaytinya at 9th and K, and I kind of like it…

We could use a little art on that corner to block the view of the drug busts going on round the clock on the corner across the street. Although, I find those quite entertaining as well.

What do you think? Love it or hate it?

The Daily Feed, We Green DC

Making Black Gold

Photo courtesy of
‘autumn mums’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

One way to make your houseplants or garden look healthy and lush like this — and not like mine, all spindly — is to enrich your soil.

And one way to do that is to make compost, known as black gold, from your kitchen scraps and yard clippings. Composting also keeps those potato peels and faded blooms out of landfills, incinerators, and wastewater treatment plants, so it’s good for the planet.

And yes, you can do it even if you don’t have a big backyard. Next Monday at 7 p.m., you can learn the secrets at How to Compost in the City, held in Shaw, by CarbonfreeDC.

Entertainment, Music, The Daily Feed

Super Diamond Comes to 9:30

Photo courtesy of
‘At the Super Diamond Show’
courtesy of ‘rejohnson71′

Super Diamond, the Neil Diamond tribute band, will be playing the 9:30 Club this Friday at 8PM. Yes, you read that right. DJ lil’e will be getting things started with an all-80′s set, and then Randy “Surreal Neil” Cordeiro and his band will be taking the stage to play the rest of the show. You may laugh, but one of my favorite concert surprises of all time was when the Japanese Beatles tribute band Silver Beats opened for The Killers at the Patriot Center. They were great, and I felt like I had already seen a great show by the time The Killers started their set. So I feel like I owe it to myself, and of course to Neil, to find out if Super Diamond is any good.

We Love Food

We Love Food: Zengo

Photo courtesy of Me

Our outing to Zengo for restaurant week was perfect in every way. Zengo deserves much of the credit, obviously, but it helped to have a good sized group of people – five – who were all willing and thrilled to share their food. I think Frank Bruni’s article about how deranged his dining companions have been over the years says less about the world at large – as he alleges – and more about the caliber of his friends. Certainly none of the attitudes he describes were at play at our table, as nothing failed to get passed around and shared and nobody was shy about consuming their fair share.

Photo courtesy of Me

My darling wife and I arrived ahead of both our dining companions and our reservation so we spent a little quality time in the bar. I’m a boring beer drinker but my dearest had the cucumber mojito, which she declared excellent. The bartender claims their mango mojito is also superb, but the conversation happened because of the look of horror on our faces when he made a few in front of them. No doubt that mass of pink goo he dropped in on top of the ice tastes like delicious mango mint goodness once it’s dissolved into the drink, but, like sausage, this is something you should not watch being made if you expect to enjoy it.

I comment on how polite and efficient the host staff was in seating us only because it was the beginning of a trend. I see a lot of concern from people about the quality of service during restaurant week but if any of the staff at Zengo thought we were unworthy of their best effort than I can only imagine what it’s like there during ‘normal’ service. I was tempted to see if was even possible for me to drain my water glass below the halfway mark before someone came around but I feared I’d rupture something.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Shaw

Photo courtesy of
‘so d.c.’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to the latest edition of Where We Live.  This week we’ll be covering a DC neighborhood with a storied history– Shaw!  Shaw and the surrounding neighborhoods of Eckington and Bloomingdale have seen a great deal of reinvestment over the last decade, and many people are discovering the charm and history in this beautiful urban neighborhood.

History: Now this is a neighborhood with a great history.  Shaw was named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and originally started as a freed slave encampment just outside the original Washington City.  The neighborhood thrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a center of black culture.  Howard University opened in the area in 1866.  The area was the hotbed of jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, with its most famous resident Duke Ellington. In the 1960s, the area was hit hard by the riots, and hit again in the 1990s by the crack epidemic.  But new residents started moving in in the 1990s, drawn by its central location and reasonable housing prices, and the area began to redevelop.  Today, Shaw is one of the District’s most-loved neighborhoods, with beautiful housing, a great location, and civically-engaged residents.

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Downtown, Penn Quarter, The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Penn Quarter

Photo courtesy of
‘Penn Quarter’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

Another two weeks, another neighborhood!  This week we’ll be looking at the neighborhood at the center of it all: Penn Quarter. This neighborhood encompasses much of the downtown/Chinatown area north of Pennsylvania between 5th Street NW and 9th Street NW.  It’s a neighborhood that changed a lot in the past decade, seeing as it didn’t really exist before the 1990s.

History: This neighborhood is once again the heart of downtown DC, but up until recently it went through a pretty rough patch.  Because of its central location, the area was the hub of activity in the city up through the mid-twentieth century. Theaters, department stores, streetcar lines, restaurants, offices– this was the heart of the city (check out Washington Kaleidoscope’s Lost Washington series for historic photographs of the area).  But the streetcar lines were torn out, theaters were shuttered, and department stores closed their doors when the population base of the city escaped to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.  Apparently President Kennedy commented on the sad state of this part of Pennsylvania Avenue during his inauguration, and in 1962 the President’s Council on Pennsylvania Avenue was established.

The President’s Council proposed a number of redevelopment projects in the area (including plans for a Freedom Plaza that would have rivaled the size of Moscow’s Red Square), and in 1972 the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) was founded to guide the redevelopment.  The PADC got a lot of things done: the Federal Triangle area was redeveloped and the Ronald Reagan Building was completed, the Canadian embassy was built, and a bunch of new mixed-use projects were undertaken in the Penn Quarter area.  The MCI Center (now Verizon Center) was a crowning achievement for the area when it opened in 1997.  With its sports events and concerts, it attracted restaurants and stores to locate in the area.  After the first stage of retail development, new downtown housing was built throughout the area, thus creating the neighborhood of Penn Quarter.  Today, the area is the most vibrant and active of the District’s neighborhoods– it’s hard to believe that fifteen years ago, it was considered to be an abandoned and dangerous part of town.

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Downtown, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Momoyama

Photo courtesy of
‘Roll’
courtesy of ‘lorigoldberg’

Momoyama defines off the beaten path. It couldn’t be any more off the beaten path unless it were literally down an actual dirt road. It is not. But it is tucked back in this really weird city block on the Senate side of the Capitol on second street near 395. But boy, is it worth seeking out. It is some great sushi.

A converted rowhome, with a tiny dining space, it seats maybe thirty maximum. The sushi is rolled up front by two sushi masters grabbing rice from a bowl between them, cutting fish and drizzling sauces. The prices are super cheap, and the service is great. I love everything about Momoyama, it feels like my own little sushi corner of the world. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

For the Love of Cats, Dogs and…Sushi

Photo courtesy of
‘when Nelson met Cali’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

On the same week that doggie Molly is returned to her rightful owner, two area animal rescue groups are holding fundraisers — oddly enough, both with sushi.

Tomorrow, if you eat at Sushi-Zen Restaurant in Arlington, mention Homeward Trails, and 20 percent of your check’s proceeds will help dogs and cats find permanent homes. Join their free Royalty Rewards program to donate an additional $5.00.

This Sunday afternoon is Bark & Bubbles, with sushi and bubbly drinks for the humans, ice cream, doggie treats and pet caricatures. The Washington Animal Rescue League will benefit from this event at WagTime Pet Spa & Boutique, which will offer same-day discounts to guests.