Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Sweetlife Festival @ Merriweather Post Pavilion — 5/11/13

Phoenix headlined the festival (Photo courtesy Sweetlife Festival)

Phoenix headlined the festival (Photo courtesy Sweetlife Festival)

The Sweetlife Festival very much fulfilled the promise implied by its name Saturday, May 11, delivering la dolce vita in a well organized celebration of music and food at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

I’m not traditionally the biggest fan of going to concerts at the DC-area outdoor pavilions — much less festivals after the chaos that accompanies the Virgin FreeFest annually at Merriweather. But Sweetlife made excellent use of the place, offering a mainstage, a “treehouse stage,” and a dance floor in the small 9:30 Clubhouse (officially, the 9:32 Club) on the grounds — all of which dissolved into an energetic performance by headliner Phoenix at the end of the night.

Food vendors, trucks and restaurants set themselves up in neat rows in various portions of the grounds and concertgoers queued up to patronize them around the clock. My companion and I parked and shuffled into the pavilion without difficulty and make our way toward lunch, pausing to check out Solange Knowles, performing an early set on the main stage. To our surprise, she struck up a cover of “I Could Fall in Love” by late Tejano singer Selena. While we didn’t really hang around to check her out, her soulful voice was crowdpleasing and the main stage attracted a sizable gathering for the time.

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Food and Drink, The Features

Summer Loving, and Eating

Photo courtesy of kimberlyfaye
courtesy of kimberlyfaye

Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue.  But enough of that.

I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.

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Food and Drink, The Features

Sneak Peek: SŪNA Pop-up

The pop-up restaurant phenomenon is taking over DC, but if you are looking for a place to pop your taste bud cherry, here it is. From March 21-25, three incredibly young and talented chefs are taking over the new Living Social event space for a unique culinary collaboration to showcase what they have in store for us at their upcoming restaurant, SŪNA. The triple threat team is made up of Chefs Johnny Spero (Komi and Townhouse), Erik Bruner-Yang (Toki Underground), and Ari Gejdenson (Acqua Al 2). SŪNA, due to open at the end of this year in Eastern Market, will offer Spero’s unique perspective on modern progressive cuisine that reflects both his professional and personal experiences. I was invited for a sneak peek of the pop-up menu and witnessed firsthand how chef Johnny Spero literally creates art, of the tastiest kind, on a plate. Not only are the dishes aesthetically beautiful, but they are also creative, delicious, and given the same attention in every detail. This is what a pop-up experience should be made of– energy, dedication, innovation.

Chef Johnny Spero will be spearheading the SŪNA project and continuing his strong focus on sustainability, supporting local farms and cooking seasonally as he and his co-chefs develop the menu and concept. Chef Spero’s culinary resume is impressive; he worked at Komi here in the District and Townhouse in Virginia, and has traveled the globe to stage at some of the best restaurants, including NOMA in Denmark (oh hey, it was rated #1 in the world), and spent a week at Alinea in Chicago.

Tickets to this coveted culinary event are priced at $120 and include an 8-course meal with 4 pairings. For a visual tasting of what to expect from it, read (and drool) on…

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Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Chinese New Year

Photo courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)
Chinese New Year courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)

It’s the Year of the Dragon folks, which other than promising good fortune and fire-breathing glory also means mouth-watering Chinese menus at some of DC’s best Asian haunts. Starting January 23rd  Zentan, Toki Underground, and The Source will be paying homage to the Dragon through the culinary traditions of the Chinese New Year.

Now, for some brain food. The Dragon, also known as the divine beast, is the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar which consists of 12 animal signs, and is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. The official Chinese New Year is Monday, January 23rd and is celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving, for a whole 15 days. Traditional foods include a whole fish (represents unity and abundance), chicken (for prosperity), uncut noodles (representing long life) and dumplings (for good fortune).

So, where can you get your Dragon on and eat for good luck?

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Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Toki Underground

Toki Underground, Washington DC courtesy of Plantains & Kimchi

Culinary Ninja. That is the only way to describe Erik Bruner-Yang, the man behind Toki Underground, a tiny ramen sanctuary on H Street. Recognized only by the small blue emblem on the door, this Taiwanese restaurant is serving the best ramen I’ve ever tasted, and in the coolest, freshest environment I’ve been to in a while.

It’s not as if Toki hasn’t received a share amount of praise and hype and I found me a secret. Au contraire, it’s been one of the most buzzed restaurants in town, and given their no reservations policy, a one to two hour wait is to be expected. What the kimchi is right–but seriously–it is worth it.

When you walk up the stairs you enter Erik’s world. A world filled with the most wonderful smells–of fried dumplings, hearty ramens, and tempura vegetables–sights and sounds that transport you. Every inch of the place screams rockstar genius. The walls are filled with graffiti art, skateboards form a faux roof above the kitchen, plastic toys battle each other on the edges. It’s a man’s world, and one which I never wanted to leave. The music blares and track after track the beats just get better.

Hello ninja house party, where have you been all my life?

The drink menu includes imported beers, an extensive list of premium sake, and some Thai drinks I had never heard of. I opted for the Toki Monster- a perfectly stirred Bourbon with honey liqueur, served on the rocks, with a pork belly skewer accompanying it. I’ll repeat–a pork belly skewer, as a garnish. One bite and sip of this monster and I knew this place meant business. I also knew that pork belly skewer was singlehandedly responsible for my increased BAC as one is never enough. But on to the food…
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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

First Look: TruOrleans

graffiato 001

TruOrleans Restaurant & Gallery sits on the early part of H St NE, before all the hustle and bustle you’ll find closer to Sticky Rice, Toki Underground and Granville Moore’s. If you stand across from it (by Ethiopic), TruOrleans really seems to command the entire block.

It is 2 floors with an open deck. The space is great, and the staff is friendly. Every time I make my way around the place, I’m greeted by the hostess, a waiter and a bartender. This friendliness is a saving grace.

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The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of
‘Pound the Hill’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

Watershed is open! Finally. Chef Todd and Ellen Gray’s second restaurant opened its doors last week. Not only is it one of the few restaurants that has actually managed to open on schedule, its menu also looks fantastic. So head to NoMa for some baked oysters and Carolina Style Barbequed Shrimp. I love that it also serves a “continental” breakfast…it is in the Hilton Garden Inn after all.


El Centro, D.F., aka taqueria & tequileria is opening up at 1819 14th St. next month. The restaurant actually spans three floors and will serve authentic Mexican comfort food. El Centro D.F. is a collaboration between partners Richard Sandoval, Kaz Okochi, and Ivan Iricanin, who also partnered on the neighboring Masa 14. I can’t wait to try the Tacos al Pastor with adobo marinade pork belly, cilantro, onion and grilled pineapple.


I wonder how many Toki Underground profiles have been written up so far. Either way, in this one, Washington City Paper’s Chris Shott writes: “Most chefs would profess to pouring a little heart and soul into every dish they make. Erik Bruner-Yang adds something more: a dash of DNA. ‘I taste every single bowl of ramen that leaves the kitchen,’ he says. Consider it a kiss from the cook. ‘Everyone gets a little backwash,’ he laughs.” So if you want to stand around for hours waiting for ramen…do. Worth it.

Pound Event

Pound the Hill will host an author talk with Garrett Peck, author of the newly-published Prohibition in Washington, DC: How Dry We Weren’t, on Wednesday, May 4 at 6:00 PM. Go here for more information.

Happy Eating!

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Food Tweet of the Week: Toki Underground

 Photo courtesy of
‘Toki Underground dumplings’
courtesy of ‘TPWP’
So I haven’t tried the famous Toki Underground yet, but I’ve known about it forever. Why? Pretty much because its Twitter Feed.

@TokiUnderground has been talking about its opening for months, getting everyone excited for ramen and dumplings on H Street. The Washington Post described Toki as “long-discussed” and “much awaited,” and the restaurant has gotten first look reviews from pretty much every DC-based pub and blog. Not a small feat.

See the tweet I love…

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The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’


Two new places opened up on H Street this week, and they’re sure to be favorites for residents and other Washingtonians. For less than $9 you can get a full plate of stir-fry at Khan’s Bar and Grill. It’s not fancy, but it works, and well at that. Just on the next block is the ramen and dumpling house, Toki Underground.  Of course, expect late hours for both.

Medium Rare also opened up this week with its minimalist menu. Pay $19.50 and you’ll get a prix-fixe menu of rustic bread, a mixed greens salad and a Sirloin Steak with fries. The Cleveland Park restaurant comes to us from Mark Bucher of BGR The Burger Joint.


Best Bites has some great news for meat lovers out there. To be exact, “a large, USDA-certified commissary for processing locally raised meat that will be sold on-location, to venues in the parent Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and eventually to a string of Red Apron butcheries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.” What that mouthful means is that you will soon be able to get pastrami short ribs, summer sausage, smoked jowl rillettes, wild-boar salami, and more at a brick and mortar.


Mike Isabella of the coming up Graffiato took second place in Top Chef, edged out by Richard Blais.  So yet again, a Washingtonian makes it so far and doesn’t grab the title. That’s okay. Congraulations!

This weekend

It’s time for ARTINI 2011. You can read our drinks roundup here, here, and here. This Saturday mixologists from 12 of the city’s top venues will serve up artistic martinis inspired by works from the Corcoran Collection. If you wanted to go, but don’t have a ticket, you’re out of luck because the event is sold out. But I still can’t wait to find out who wins!

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Coming Up Soon on H St.

Photo courtesy of
‘steak and kidney pie @ als cafe’
courtesy of ‘rjw1′
I love walking up H St NE. There’s always a storefront getting redone, a new restaurant opening up, or just some sort of action catching my attention in general. I went there yesterday to track the development of three restaurants I’ve had my eyes on recently.

We all know that a target opening date is often missed in DC, but I’m still hoping to see these three establishments open in March.

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Food and Drink

All Your 2011 Restaurant Openings to Look Forward To (Part 1)

courtesy of Tricia BarbaIf you love food as much as I do, then you eagerly track what DC restaurants are opening plus where and when. With this list, we hope to do that work for you, so that all you have to do is head to the new place and try it out!

I included every restaurant I knew of, but I’m obviously not perfect. So please email me at or send me a tweet at @SoooDC if I’m missing something. I’m always up for gossip too! This list is your list.


If there’s such a thing as a Capitol Hill watering-hole, Bullfeathers is it.  House staffers and lawmakers who have missed this mainstay, can stop worrying because the hangout is reopening on January 24. The new Bullfeathers is now owned by the team behind Stoney’s, Tunnicliff’s Tavern, and Ulah Bistro. It will be fun seeing what trademarks from those restaurants make it over to Bullfeathers.

410 First St. SE

Arrival: January 24, 2011


The popular Korean restaurant did so well in Dupont Circle that is is opening up in City Vista too.  Mandu was started by the Lee family — mother Yesoon and children Jean & Danny.  They saw many traditional Korean restaurants in the suburbs (hello, Annandale) but none in the District.  Mandu means dumpling in Korean, and here you can find beef & pork, shrimp, and vegetable dumplings.

475 K St. NW

Twitter: @ManduDC

Arrival: January 24

Jack Rose

This new upscale restaurant/lounge is expected to open in late January 2011, and we can’t wait for parking in Adams Morgan to get even harder to find. At the site of an old gym, I bet this 2-story and almost six thousand square feet building will be a new hot spot on the “strip.” One of the minds behing this venture is Bill Thomas, also the owner of Bourbon and Breadsoda.  The other is Michael Hartzer, who’s worked at Citronelle and IndeBleu. I wonder if the classic cocktail will always be on special.

2007 18th St NW.

Twitter: @JackRoseinDC

Expected Arrival: Late January 2011 Continue reading