People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Rosemary Feit Covey’s Red Handed

Sometimes we experience works of art that embody both beauty and horror. The old word for this, now sadly devalued, was “awesome.” I hope artist Rosemary Feit Covey will forgive me for using that word to describe her current complete gallery installation, Red Handed. It is simply awesome.

Recently I visited Morton Fine Art to watch as Covey installed the work under the gentle eye of curator Amy Morton, spreading vinyl pieces across the floor. Even in that unfinished state before opening, it had undeniable power. Swirling vortexes of bald, nude figures, mouths open and arms red to the fingertips, soon covered the floor. I stepped gingerly over their faces, having no other option but to participate in their torture. It’s impossible to look away from the unsettling mass of bodies under your feet. It feels disrespectful. Jarring.

Guilty. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Blood Wedding

Deidra LaWan Starnes in Constellation Theatre Company's production of Blood Wedding. Photo credit: Scott Suchman

Somewhere it must be written in a Surrealist manifesto that Death steals every scene. In Constellation Theatre Company‘s production of Blood Wedding, he stalks them too. A shadowy figure swathed in a black tulle hat, his manifestation gradually gains power until at last, veil cast off, he’s revealed as the primal force behind love, lust and revenge.

Through both his poetry and plays, Federico García Lorca explored the tragic beauty of deep primitive myths – only to become one himself after his murder in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Three years earlier he’d written Blood Wedding, a play whose themes go beyond folk superstition to uncover the dark pagan nature within us all.

Constellation is normally very much at home in the realm of Surrealist drama and epic theater, however, this production can’t seem to find a cohesive vocal or physical style for Lorca’s poetic dance of death. The result is a lot of discordant emotive vocality that threatens to overwhelm the action and the poetry, even while director Shirley Serotsky presents us with some eerily beautiful tableaux by a talented ensemble.

The story itself is a simple one: a mother has misgivings about her son’s intended wife. Add in a spurned lover, repressed passion and a blood feud, and mother turns out to be terribly right. She always is, isn’t she?

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Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

FREE FOOD ALERT: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Photo courtesy of afagen
Coffee: It’s why you got out of bed today
courtesy of afagen

Cupid wake you up on the wrong side of the bed today? Ease into the day with a free cup of Joe or tea and some breakfast treats at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s grand opening in the Dupont Circle Hilton.

Plus if you take a picture on your phone with the “Cupid” they have on site (please tweet those my way because I’d love to see you striking a pose with a goofy cupid for a little chuckle), you’ll get half off all drinks for the rest of February when you show the photo to the barista. Or you might be one of the lucky 12 to win a month of free drinks.

The open house goes from 7 AM until 10 AM today. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is located at 1919 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Takashi Ohseki of Cork (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of
‘Stuffed french toast’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

Ah, breakfast. Some say the most important meal of the day. So why not spruce it up a bit, ditch the usual bowl of cereal and start the day off right with something a little decadent? After the jump you’ll find chef Takashi Ohseki’s recipe for ricotta-stuffed french toast that’s on the current brunch menu at Cork Wine Bar. Bring out the maple syrup and roll up your sleeves for this one.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Takashi Ohseki of Cork (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of
‘Chef Takashi Ohseki of Cork’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

At first glance you might not think a scientist and a chef have much in common. Sure the two follow recipes of sorts, but one gets to be creative with food while the other has to follow some pretty rigid rules, right? For Takashi Ohseki, executive chef brunch sous chef of Cork Wine Bar, the two roles coexist in his kitchen. “When you run an assay, it’s like making a recipe,” he says. “Only here in the kitchen we can adjust things more.”

The former biological science major and researcher put down the pipettes and traded them in for a chef’s knife when he realized that a career cooking sounded better than one in the research lab. While his upbringing had taught him that college and a job in an office setting was the right path, he knew he needed a change of pace. “You have to like what you do,” he says. So Ohseki studied at L’academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and didn’t look back.
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Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle Expands

Photo courtesy of
‘A Summer Night Delight’
courtesy of ‘LaTur’

Hank’s Oyster Bar just got a whole lot bigger and better. The restaurant in Dupont Circle recently renovated and doubled its capacity to 68 seats inside, 40 seats on the outdoor patio and a private dining room upstairs. Plus, the new lounge space next door is offering longer late night service until 2 AM on Sundays through Thursdays and until 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you go to check out the new space, I recommend trying some of the new bar snacks such as their seafood ceviche and the housemade pretzels with beer cheese sauce. Since oysters are the name of the game, try Hank’s own variety, the Hayden’s Reef Oyster, named after the son of chef/owner, Jamie Leeds. The meaty oysters were developed with the help of Bruce Wood of Dragon Creek in Montross, Virginia and have a good, slightly sweet flavor. And before the restaurant’s menu changes with the new season approaching, try their getaway cocktail with a homemade cinnamon clove syrup. Park yourself on the patio or the bar for a few hours and take in the beautiful new space.

Food and Drink, Night Life, The Features

Lost Society Opening on U Street

Photo courtesy of
‘Steak, Lost Society’
courtesy of ‘Jenn Larsen’

Last Thursday I was a guest at the media preview for “boutique steakhouse” Lost Society, occupying the top two floors of a classic corner building at 14th and U Streets. I’ve long awaited this building’s renovation, as it’s been a blight on a corner of what should be prime real estate. I’m happy to report that Lost Society will counter-balance the chains planned for the bottom floor (as a local resident, not too happy with yet another Subway!).

Opening this Friday, July 1, the space is interesting in that it’s divided into “decor vignettes” – changing the mood as you turn each corner. The second floor is dominated by a double-sided bar, which is in turn flanked by a series of booths with a view overlooking 14th Street that can be enclosed by privacy curtains, a line of pub tables with a grey velvet banquette, a lounge area with purple couches and leather chairs, and finally a whimsical alcove wallpapered with flirtatious Gibson Girls. You wouldn’t feel out of place wearing a smoking jacket. Let’s take a look.  Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The Green Bird

Rex Daugherty in Constellation Theatre's production of The Green Bird. Photo credit: Scott Suchman.

With Carlo Gozzi’s The Green Bird, Constellation Theatre has found the perfect medium for their hyper-surrealist style in a play inspired by commedia dell’arte. It’s like a wild Ferrari driven by Max Ernst through a Brothers Grimm forest. Every piece – acting, design, script – is completely committed to the creation of a madcap fairy tale world.

A hilarious translation featuring quips like, “It’s as hard to find a true friend as it is to wipe your ass with a rose” is a strong reason for the success of this production, and it’s also ably adapted and directed by Allison Arkell Stockman. As the company’s artistic director, she’s honed the ensemble’s distinctive vocal and physical gymnastics to the point where now when I think of Constellation, the idea of a majestically plumed green bird bounding across the stage to perch and speak riddles seems absolutely believable.

And what a bird. As the Green Bird of the play’s title, Rex Daugherty manages to combine elegant sensibility with masculine power while looking like a feather-festooned Brazilian dancer at an acid-drenched Carnival. Every flick of his foot like a wink at the audience, and his first frenetic appearance is a signal that this play is going to be one wild romp. Continue reading

Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Hank’s Oyster Bar

Photo courtesy of
‘P1010522′
courtesy of ‘sygyzy’
Hank’s Oyster Bar has all the makings of being my go-to secret neighborhood joint — that perfectly undiscovered gem, with amazing food and an owner who remembers me so I never have to wait for a table. In a perfect world, yes, this would be the case. But this is not a perfect world and the rest of Washington has discovered Hank’s. There’s usually a wait, and to make matters worse, it’s not even in my neighborhood. But it almost was my neighborhood. I looked at an apartment in the Cairo building, and while I was thrilled with the opportunity to live in a haunted former brothel, I was even more excited about the possibility of living within viewing distance of the line at Hank’s.

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Adams Morgan, The Daily Feed, Ward 1, Ward 5

Mt. Pleasant Temporium is a Hit, Adams Morgan Gets Their Own

Photo courtesy of
‘Temporium crowd’
courtesy of ‘neuefrau’

Pop-up stores, pop-up art exhibits, pop-up restaurants–I need to resist making the cliche that DC is literally “poppin’.” Moreover, all of these places seem to be having pretty successful runs.

Mt. Pleasant Temporium, which Rebecca Gross reported on earlier, took in $31,000 in sales in less than a month. The temporium was open from February 18th to March 13th and saw more than 6,800 visitors and hosted 23 events with storytelling, crafting and live music. Not too shabby, huh? Garment District in Shaw also closed their doors this past weekend. Though word on the tweets is they still have some pieces for sale that you can snag at Shaw Main Streets’ Annual meeting tomorrow at 7 pm.

Fear not if you didn’t get the memo on these last pop-ups. The AdMo Pop-Up Shop is opening this Sunday, March 27th at 2421 18th St. NW. The store’s run coincides with the National Cherry Blossom Festival (as it’s an approved Cherry Blossom partner) and will close on April 10th. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 12 PM – 9 PM and Friday and Saturday, 11 AM – 10 PM. Similar to the Mt. Pleasant Temporium, the AdMo Pop-up Shop will offer arts, crafts, entertainment and workshops. No events other than the opening ribbon-cutting ceremony and the closing wine tasting have been posted on their site yet, but you can keep tabs on them here.

Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Zorba’s Cafe

Photo courtesy of
‘Zorba’s Cafe’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

So now that it is sort of starting to get warmer (right? RIGHT?) all I can think about is eating and drinking outside. As a native Washingtonian, I know that the window of outdoor eating opportunity here in our nation’s capital is small, and I like to take advantage of it when I can. Since we’ve been friends for a while, Internet readers, I feel like it’s high time I let you in on my absolute favorite outdoor dining spot — Zorba’s. If you’ve never been here before, you have without a doubt walked by it a thousand times and never looked twice. Right by the Q St. exit of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, it doesn’t exactly scream “fancy dining experience.” And to be honest, you’re right. It may not be fancy, but they’ve got lots of patio seating, pitchers of beer and food that reminds me of sunny days nursing a hangover on the beaches of Greece. Or at least, that’s what I think they’d be like.

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Adams Morgan

We Love Food: Cashion’s Eat Place

Photo courtesy of
‘Cashion’s’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’
If there is one thing I have to thank Cashion’s Eat Place for, it’s that it single-handedly convinced my parents that Adams Morgan is not the hotbed of crime and dereliction it once was. It’s a completely different kind of hotbed than it was in the 70′s and 80′s, but that’s a discussion for another time. Though my parents weren’t previously in to the world east of Connecticut Avenue, they came in the name of my birthday a few years ago and after a great meal were quick to tell me that it was in fact their idea to come to Adams Morgan. Parents, so predictable.

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The Features

We Love Arts: Wife Swappers

Clockwise from top: Mac (Michael Miyazaki), Shirl (Lucrezia Blozia), Karen (Judith Baicich), and Jake (Tony Greenberg). All photos by MV Jantzen.

This is not the feel-good show of the holiday season. If that’s your thing, maybe Ford’s Theater still has some seats for Christmas Carol.

Where Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem was about the banality of evil, playwright Justin Tanner’s Wife Swappers is devoted to the banality of perversion. The characters are not mass murderers – they’re rigidly, traditionally moralistic in any matters beyond group sex – but they’re still hard to empathize with, and watching them is more highway accident rubbernecking than connecting.

Wife Swappers tells a story that unfolds in a single evening in the home of Jake and Lorette, hosts to a recurring sex party attended by folks who are delighted to swap partners but are exceedingly uptight in pretty much every other way. When newcomer Karen wonders whether the boys ever touch each other during the lubetacular extravaganza the others recoil in horror and disgust. It’s a theme repeated several times in the work – these folks who wish they didn’t have to keep their alternative lifestyle on the down-low are completely unaware of the hypocrisy as they point their scorn and judgment at plenty of other marginalized groups.

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News, The Daily Feed

Adams Morgan Hotel project in trouble

Photo courtesy of
‘Old Steps’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

Facing a shortfall, even imaginary spending becomes unpopular with legislators, and yesterday the finance and revenue panel of the DC council killed a $61M proposed tax abatement for a hotel project in Adams Morgan that was to have incorporated the First Church of Christ Scientist at Euclid & Champlain NW.  The hotel is estimated by its developer to have contributed $7M/year in various taxes which would have offset the property tax abatement that was proposed, according to a quote from the developer acquired by the Business Journal’s Michael Neibauer.

It’s frustrating to see something that wouldn’t have affected the bottom line of the city until 2015 get the axe, but when you’re facing the budget gaps that this city is facing, easy cuts with high dollar value seem like a good place to start.

Adams Morgan, Food and Drink, Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: David Fritzler

David Fritzler pours up a Blue Blazer cocktail at Tryst. Photo credit: Samer Farha.

We Love Drinks continues our series where we look behind the bar, profiling the many people – from mixologists to bartenders, sommeliers to publicans – who make your drinks experience happen.

I first met David Fritzler back in January when fellow WLDC author Samer and I watched him pour up an impressive flaming Blue Blazer at Tryst. You might think such pyrotechnics indicate a showy brash personality, but that’s far from the case. As I saw this summer when he served up his Rickey Contest entry, he’s a thoughtful crafter of cocktails. It was that Smokin’ Joe Rickey, somehow reminiscent of Lapsang Souchang tea, that made me want to learn more.

“The drink is never more important than the people enjoying it,” David says, “It’s not all about the cappuccino or the cocktail. It’s about the moment and memories that the drink facilitates.”

David was kind to sit down with me at Tryst this past weekend and let me sample a few of their new warming cocktails while discussing his drinks philosophy. Tryst has been an Adams Morgan neighborhood favorite since it opened in 1998, and it’s still going strong, recently winning Best Local Coffeehouse of 2010 in Express Night Out. For many of my friends it’s their “third place” – office, studyhall, living room – and it inspires a great deal of local love. David’s been there almost since the beginning, ten years of dedication.

As beverage director, it’s not all flash – at the end of our chat he was off to Open City to take apart the espresso machine. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Women Beware Women

Caley Milliken as Bianca in Constellation Theatre Company's production of "Women Beware Women." Photo credit: Daniel Schwartz.

The very walls seem to ooze misogyny in Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women. But strip that tacky wallpaper away and you’ll find a Jacobean-era playwright keenly aware of the plight of women in his day, no matter how harshly he seems to treat them at first glance. Basically sold at market, their only value virginity (for a proper wife) or beauty (for a proper whore), the few roles available to women in the 1600′s were fraught with danger and boredom.

It’s a world Constellation Theatre Company relishes, their epic ensemble style boldly walking the line between grand guignol scenery chewing and magical hyper-surrealism. And in a month where zombies lurch and vampires stalk, this is the perfect theatrical outing for Halloween.

The play’s anti-humanist self-loathing is deeply rooted in a Calvinist world view that may not be so alien to our own. The fear of the inevitable decline of the body, the perversion of purity into decay, love to lust, flesh to disease… what a great time to live! These fears were daily concerns to people who saw their world laid waste by bubonic plague and civil war. Constellation has cleverly chosen to shake up this grotesquerie with a Tim Burton flair. Though it takes a bit for that creepiness to blossom, when it finally does it’s twisted sick fun.

Of course nothing is creepier than a theremin… Continue reading

People, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Laurel Hausler

Laurel Hausler. Photo credit: Tory Pugliese

The ghosts of the past are always with us, brushing past in layers of time, like veils in a dance being pulled away. They haunt us with both pain and humor, and to reveal their presence takes honesty and sensitivity as an artist. Not to mention, a bit of detective work.

Every so often an artist’s work hits me with a visceral force, and I knew when I saw a few pieces by Laurel Hausler at the Small Works on Paper exhibit at Morton Fine Art that I needed to see more. Luckily, you can too. Hausler has a full exhibit at MFA showing now through October 14, and I highly recommend a visit to view these wickedly beautiful oil paintings. Heavily layered both by paint and meaning, alternately revealing and concealing, the exhibit is titled Debutantes & Feral Children.

Aren’t we all a bit of both?

Hausler, a native of the DC area now based here as well, paints with a subtractive process – in other words, she begins by covering canvas or paper with many layers of paint which she then removes to reveal the subject. Actually, she first begins with research. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Small Works on Paper

Vonn Sumner, 'Totem', 13.5"x11", watercolor on paper

The art galleries I love most are inviting and unintimidating, highlighting a thoughtful curator’s focus and giving you a intimate view into the artist’s world. Stepping into Morton Fine Art’s new space on Florida Avenue off U Street felt instantly relaxing as curator Amy Morton welcomed me with a warm smile. I was eager to take a look.

MFA is housed in an airy white room on the street level of the MINT building, billed as an “innovative arts lab.” Really several concepts rolled into one – studio, arts consulting, gallery, artist advocacy – it’s conceived as a way to serve the changing contemporary arts scene by collaborating with multiple artists as opposed to maintaining a “static stable.” In addition to shows at the studio space itself, MFA hosts the bi-annual exhibit known as *a pop-up project which “pops-up” at various temporary locations around the city.

The opening exhibit is Small Works on Paper, on display now through August 26. It’s completely manageable for an afternoon pop-in with a carefully chosen selection from three artists – Vonn Sumner, Rosemary Feit Covey, and Laurel Hausler – working in mediums ranging from watercolor, wood engravings and mixed media. Strongly dedicated to the belief that anyone can be an art collector, Morton took the time to walk me through the current exhibit and shared her enthusiasm for the artists. It works. After a few minutes I felt the itch to take home one of Rosemary Feit Covey’s subversive wood engravings. It might happen to you as well. Or you can simply linger, wondering over some quietly powerful images. Continue reading

Entertainment, Music, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Sophisticated Ladies

Wynnona Smith, Janine DiVita, Maurice Hines, Marva Hicks and Karla Mosley in the Arena Stage production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies (Photo by Scott Suchman)

As of last Thursday night, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies has become the best selling show in Arena Stage’s history (that’s a record-breaker over six decades of distinguished theater). It’s been extended through June 6 at the Lincoln Theatre, and rightly so. Go see it.

(I could just leave it at that, but of course I won’t!)

On my way walking the few blocks from my house to the Lincoln Theatre, I made a point of passing the house where Duke Ellington lived on 13th Street. There’s now a placard on the fence outside proudly proclaiming that fact. It gave me a bit of a thrill, walking up that street, past the Whitelaw, and then over to the storied Lincoln Theatre, thinking of the young Duke maybe doing the same. I’ve always had a crush on Ellington since I was a little girl listening to my dad’s jazz records, so I had a special feeling going to this performance – and it did not disappoint.

Glitz, glamour, class and sass. An excess of talented singers and dancers. The Duke’s scintillating music performed by a slamming onstage orchestra. And a legend of tap graciously highlighting two extraordinary newcomers. That’s what you’ll get with Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies. Continue reading

Adams Morgan, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: Tryst

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David Fritzler burns up a Blue Blazer. Photo credit: Samer Farha.

For many people I know, Tryst is “The Office.” Well, now they can drink on the job in style!

Last week the Adams Morgan coffeehouse pioneer rolled out a new cocktail menu, and fellow WLDC author Samer and I were treated to some fine libation as they branch away from the bean. And as we all await the impending snowflakes of doom, it’s nice to note that Tryst will be open throughout the storm!

In operation since 1998, Tryst has always aimed to be a neighborhood gathering place true to its fun motto, “No Corporate Coffee, No Matching Silverware.” Of course they opened the year after I’d already left Adams Morgan for Logan Circle, so I’ve never been one to hang out there – but several friends really do treat it as their office, setting up with laptops and getting social over the screens, fueled by lots and lots of coffee. Just as the java isn’t corporate, when it came time to debut a new cocktail menu, Tryst wanted to do the same for drinks. With David Fritzler at the helm, Tryst’s beverage director for the past ten years, and two new bartenders – J.P. Cacares and Lana Labermeier – the new menu is billed as “quality cafe cocktails” ranging in price from $6-10.

As David told us, “I want to bring pre-Prohibition cocktail knowledge, quality liquors and fresh ingredients out of the speakeasy and expensive hotel bars and to the general public.” As a member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild, he’s already dedicated to a high standard of cocktail culture. We parked ourselves at the bar and knocked back a few to see whether the drinks would succeed.

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