Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

First Look: Zentan

Photo courtesy of
‘zentan interior’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

Last night Inspiration DC‘s Rebecca and I headed over to preview Zentan, the new trendy hot spot at the Donovan House Hotel on Thomas Circle. The new hot spot opened on June 8th, after a bit of a kerfluffle (the space was supposed to be a new Todd English spot), when Chef Susur Lee of Shang in New York stepped up to fill in. Chef Lee, who is known for a wide variety of Asian-influenced restaurants, was also the second Canadian chef to appear on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America against Iron Chef Bobby Flay. So I was excited to see what came of all the drama – would Zentan live up?

Also, if you’ll let me ramble for a moment, Zentan signifies to me the solidification of the quality I’ve come to expect from hotel restaurants in our area. This is thanks in part to boutique chains like Kimpton, who work to pair quality Chef-driven restaurant concepts with their hotels. But excellent in-hotel restaurants are certainly on the rise in DC, and I have much higher standards for hotel restaurants here than I do when I travel. I was interested to see what Lee would bring to the District, plus get a peek at the Thompson Hotel. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

NASA’s space flight plans

Photo courtesy of Me


If you’re a space wonk and have some time tomorrow you might want to go to NASA’s public meeting about the plans for human space flight. Starting at 9am at the Carnegie Institution auditorium and running till 5pm topics will include the Constellation Program, the International Space Station, other orbital transport systems, and how it all gets paid for.

If you can’t sneak out of work but can keep busy-looking at your desk while screwing off you can just watch it all online on NASA TV.

Sports Fix, The Features

Sports Fix: Hangin’ By A Thread Edition

Photo courtesy of
‘Rock the Red’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

2nd Round: 2-3, facing Game 6 on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

It’s down to the raggedy edge again for the Caps. After starting 2-0 against the Penguins, the Pens have picked up 3 running, two of them in Overtime. The Caps are short on momentum right now, and that may well be their undoing. Ovechkin has been en fuego, and leads the NHL in post-season goals, but a pair of costly mistakes have cost the Caps their lead on the series.

Tonight, they’ll face elimination in Pittsburgh, much as they faced it two weeks ago in New York. Varlamov will need to be superlative, and the Caps will have to play aggressive & razor-sharp hockey. The good news is, Brashear’s coming off the bench after the end of his suspension, so that’ll return some hard-hitting power to the Caps’ side. The puck drops at 7pm, and can be seen on Versus. C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS! Endanger the Penguins!

Record: 10-19
Last Two Weeks: 6-6
Place: Last in the NL East

Well, we’re still the worst team in major league baseball. But, in the last two weeks, the Nats have played a lot better than their opening two weeks. Shairon Martis has been pretty much amazing, his last outing with a 5-hit complete game over the Cardinals last week. Jordan Zimmermann’s still 2-1, and though his ERA is over 5, he’s still got a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. And, of course, mid-season number-one-draft-pick-to-be Stephen Strasburg threw a no-hitter last week against Air Force. If the Nats can get together with a decent deal with Scott Boras, he’ll be up and pitching in DC by the end of the summer. Ryan Zimmerman’s got a 28-game hitting streak as it stands right now, as well. Get that up to 30 games and maybe he’ll get the credit he’s due. The Nats have three more games on the road against the Giants before coming home for a long homestand. Just think, 9 more wins and they’re at .500.
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The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Coffee Culture

"espresso at m.e. swing coffee roasters" by tvol, on Flickr

“espresso at m.e. swing coffee roasters” by tvol, on Flickr

For many of us, it’s coffee, not liquor, that’s our “water of life.” I’m quite certain I could survive without alcohol. But I know I could never live without caffeine. I’ve tried really really hard to give it up, especially when I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and began to notice every jitter and flutter. I fell off that wagon so many times I have a permanent head bump. Inevitably I’ve given up giving up, rationalizing that I’m just a much better person on caffeine. If you happen to be one of my friends who visited at least once my home you’ll find that the coffee storage I got from is never empty. That is just how I start my day.

But DC has a bit of a coffee culture problem. It’s hard for little independent cafes to survive (witness the deaths of Sparky’s, 14U, Mocha Hut, Mayorga, Murky Coffee…). Sometimes it seems we’ve given over to the Great Dairy Mermaid and her bitter rival the Loose Moose (wait, it’s the mermaid’s grinds that are really bitter, but I digress) that populate every corner plying milky sugary bastardized versions of the classics.

I know, I know, you can’t give up your vanilla syrup. It’s ok. I’m not going to repeat my last rant about the decline of the perfect cappuccino. I’m not going to wax poetical about espresso in Venice or cafe au lait in Paris. Everybody has their particular coffee fixation – drip, press, etc. The uniting point is that there are some fine places to get your fix, ah, enjoy your coffee, here in DC, beyond the glut of mass market methadone. And with the news that Murky’s being reinvented in Chinatown, and a new coffeehouse called Mid-City Cafe will hit 14th Street, things could be looking up. So here’s a sampling of java joints to get your joy jitters on – and please leave your favorites in the comments.

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Downtown, Essential DC, Life in the Capital, The District, The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Logan Circle

Photo courtesy of
‘Logan rowhomes’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

This week: Logan Circle! With a great mix of housing and retail, good connections to the city’s transportation network, and proximity to downtown, Logan Circle is one of DC’s most sought-after neighborhoods. What makes it so great? Well…

History: Logan Circle was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for DC, and was called Iowa Circle until 1930, when Congress renamed it to honor Civil War hero John Logan. After the Civil War, the area became home to DC’s wealthy and powerful, and by the turn of the century it was home to many black leaders, including Mary McLeod Bethune. Logan Circle, along with nearby Shaw, became the epicenter of Black Washington in the early- to mid-1900s. Continue reading

Downtown, The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Shoe Repair

"shoe repair in metro" by sacasterisk, on Flickr

“Thank you for keeping me in business.

They say one of the leading indicators of hard times economically is the rise of people getting their shoes repaired. It’s a pity, really, that in flush times people don’t appreciate as much the wonderful profession that used to be known by the old-fashioned term “cobbler.” Even after being sexed up when Daniel Day-Lewis went off to Italy to learn the craft, it still doesn’t get much attention or respect.

Well, besides learning how to fix your own hems, sew your own buttons on, and darn your socks (ok, even I draw the line at the last one) the best thing you can do is find a cobbler you like and bring in your shoes regularly for a shine and a spruce-up. I had three shoes that needed some help in varying degrees of complexity – here are two happy results, and one sad one.

I went to my local go-to guy downtown, the reliable 12th & G Cleaners & Shoe Repair. With a full shoe repair facility in the back, he was able to fix the first two with relative ease. 

Pair 1: ‘Dollhouse’ Three-Strap Mary Janes. Oh so demure, with a touch of dom around the ankle. They needed some touch-up where the leather was running raw at the toes, new heel taps, and a good polish. A relatively easy job nicely done. $18.

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Downtown, Essential DC, Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: Georgia Brown’s

Photo courtesy of
‘Smothered Fried Chicken’
courtesy of ‘Sabine01’

I’m a southern girl, I think I’ve made that abundantly clear on this blog. (Also, while we’re at it, let me just say, UNC is going to PWN you during March Madness, everyone. But I digress…) So what southern girl can’t love some Georgia Brown’s? A few friends and I headed there during my favorite week of the year, restaurant week, and were treated to some down-home food. I’ve been raised on southern cooking like Crook’s Corner and Mert’s Heart and Soul, so I was dying to find out if Georgia Brown’s lives up to it’s famous truly southern brethren.

I’m all about bread, I think I’ve also made that clear on this blog. If you start me off with some crappy bread, I’m going to be sad. It’s like a warm up jog before the workout, I need the bread starter to shine for me, gear me up for the meal to come. And boy, did Georgia Browns give me a run for my money. They sent out biscuts and corn bread and I’m not just warming up, I’m basically working out. They dished up biscuts with peach butter and corn bread – fresh, with actual corn in it. (Insert heavenly angelic aaaaah noise here!) Now that’s a way to start a meal. So I was sold right then and there, in my mind, there’s little you can do wrong after some biscuts and sweet butter… or is there? Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: Posto

"artwork" by ustreetgirl, on Flickr

"artwork" by ustreetgirl, on Flickr

“A modern Italian place to meet” is Posto‘s motto, and indeed its Logan Circle neighborhood has been eagerly waiting to meet it. The newest venture from executive chef Massimo Fabbri, of downtown’s lauded Tosca, it replaces Viridian next to Studio Theatre and has already escalated in popularity, evident by the full dining room on a freezing Monday night.

It’s a relief to find that Posto has warmed-up the walls of a previously minimal and rather chilly atmosphere from Viridian’s days. The decor might strike some as more Napa than Roma, with columns wrapped in glowing natural wood, but the large light installation murals of grapevines and various Italian scenes like Venice’s Campanile set the scene. Somehow these oversized murals, dancing the line between ironic and tacky, end up being rather joyous. And though many have commented on the decibel level, I found that though it was packed, our table of four could still carry on bantering without much problem.

For my first course I tried the Pesce Spada – swordfish carpaccio with tomatoes, capers and olives. I was surprised to have it come out with a heap of frisee on top (not so much a fan of twiggyness in food), but it matched well with the fish, which was delicate and flavorful. A friend pronounced the Granchio – lump crabmeat with peppers – “very yummy” – but another’s Insalata del Posto – arugula salad with fennel – was deemed “overdressed” (then again, he is a very picky German).

I’d heard pasta was the standout here, made in house by chef de cuisine Matteo Venini, and I was not disappointed. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Sorta like the Newseum only more free

Photo courtesy of
‘Film! – Headlines – 11-5-08’
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

Free as in beer, as the software nerds would say.  I am too lazy to get WaPo to stop sending me notices related to their PostPoints program and every once in a while something interesting comes through. This came in shilling that I could get 15 extra* PostPoints if I show my membership card** at this, but it looks like a good way to spend some time regardless.

From January 17th – January 19th, visit Through the Years, a free exhibit of historic front pages of The Washington Post. From the sinking of the Titanic to Nixon’s resignation, view 100+ years of history as chronicled in the next day’s edition of The Washington Post

The Washington Post
1150 15th street NW
1/17, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; 1/18, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, 1/19, 9:00 am – Noon

* Is there any kind that isn’t “extra?” I’ve yet to see any value in these things, though I’m not a big fan of loyalty programs in general…

** I have a membership card?

Arlington, Downtown, Life in the Capital, The Features

Thrifty District: Cheap, but Chic


"French Flappers, Parisian Cafe 1920's" by Vintage Lulu on Flickr

In one of my many other lives, I’m a theater costume designer. However, I’m not really a costumer (someone who actually makes clothes), though I sew on occasion, I’m always disappointing my friends by not making them exquisite clothes from scratch. But what I can do is shop with them! Costume designers have to realize a director’s expansive and expensive vision on a sometimes depressingly tight budget in a small amount of time. So in our continuing series on the Thrifty District and how to maximize your fast-depleting funds, I thought I’d give you a little taste of my favorite shops to get cheap yet chic fashion.

Let’s start with the basic rules (getting them out of the way fast so we can have fun with shops!):

Know Yourself and Support Yourself
No, this isn’t some New Age mantra. It means don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit. If it’s too tight or too loose just don’t do it. Don’t get distracted by sizes, they don’t mean anything anyway. If you knew your actual dressmaker size you’d freak out the number is so high – even you superskinny misses! Continue reading

Downtown, Monumental

Monumental: Casimir Pulaski

Pulaski in the Snow
Casimir Pulaski in the Snow by tbridge

On the Eastern side of Freedom Plaza stands a horse-mounted General, with one hoof raised. It’s Casimir Pulaski, the Polish-born Father of the American Cavalry, a Revolutionary War Hero. I only mention the one hoof in the air because of the old “How many raised hoofs determines how the historical figure died,” trope. It’s totally not an accurate rule. Sure it works some of the time, but it’s a bad guide more than it is a good one. Sure, it works better at Gettysburg, just up the road, but not in DC.

Casimir Pulaski, a native of Poland, came to the Colonies after his own failed revolution against the Russians failed. His land seized, his army gone, he left in disgrace, but with a brilliant military mind. Pulaski’s arrogance, and lack of command of the English that was common on the battlefield made him a difficult fit in the Continental Army. Through the intervention of General Washington, Pulaski was made Commander of the Horse, and eventually General of an independent horse corps that fought in the Siege of Charleston and the Battle of Savannah.

Pulaski was fatally wounded in an attempt to retake Savannah from British forces, shot in the groin by grapeshot. Thus, his statue, according to the horse code, should have both front hooves raised.

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: ACKC

"Audrey Hepburn" Hot Chocolate

When did it suddenly become autumn? Leaves need raking, boots need polishing, and I’m craving hot chocolate. Granted, our recent cold snap has given way to positively spring-like temperatures, but that’s typical DC fall for you… it isn’t going to stop me indulging in my favorite seasonal drink.

ACKC is a dangerous little shop and cafe at 14th & Q NW that could cause chocoholics to go into palpitations. Lacking a serious sweet tooth (more like a deer with a salt lick), I can enter without too much concern about breaking the bank on artisan chocolates, though bars with almonds and sea salt sure are tempting. And then again, now through February’s end, I do go crazy for hot chocolate. I don’t know why, maybe it’s when the weather turns dreary, the melancholy of the impending chill, but there’s something innately comforting about the magical liquid.

My favorite at ACKC is their European-style “Audrey Hepburn” – utterly decadent, thick and rich, meant to be sipped and savored over an hour – solo or easily coating a buttery croissant, if you want to go crazy dunking a pastry (and you know you do). Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Commissary

Very Berry Smoothie, Commissary

I had high hopes for Commissary, the new bar/coffeehouse/restaurant hybrid near Logan Circle. Positioned at the perfect midway point between my house and the Y, I had visions of stopping in beforehand for a cappuccino, or afterwards to unwind with a tall pint of pureed berries. And indeed, the smoothies at Commissary are delicious, especially the Very Berry – a purple garden in a glass. But as far as being able to call it my new third place, well, not so much.

Part of the EatWell empire responsible for Logan Tavern, Grillfish, and The Heights, Commissary replaces Merkado Kitchen – but apart from a paint job and the addition of a floating lounge in the center, retains the open design and high industrial ceilings of the former. The concept appears to be aiming along the lines of the popular Busboys and Poets. But there’s something lacking here. I can’t quite figure out why it leaves me cold, but after three visits, I’m not anxious to return.

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