Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinner and Theater Date Night: My review of Station 4 and Arena Stage's Red

Last night I went to dinner and to the theater (please go back, read that sentence again and pronounce it with a British accent, to emphasize of how classy and cultured I sound. And please disregard that my typical Thursday nights usually involve drinking $1.00 budlights out of plastic mugs at Madhatters and trying not to get hit on by GW undergrads). 

I must say that I planned one hell of a date if I do say so myself. My date agreed. And my date was female. And we alllll know how picky girls are about dates.

We started off our evening with dinner at Station 4, which is owned by the same people that own Ulah Bistro, Tunnicliffs, Stoney's, and Bullfeathers. It opened last June and is located directly across the street from the Waterfront Metro Station in Southwest D.C.

I arrived before my date and was greeted by a friendly hostess who showed me to our table in the dining room. I immediately loved the decor and the atmosphere. Station 4 has an extremely upscale yet cozy yet eclectic feel. Interesting combo, huh? There are long patterned, sheer curtains hanging from the floor to ceiling windows. Chandeliers strung above faux red leather booths. A variety of round and rectangular tables. Dark wood floors with a long electric fire place spanning almost the entire length of one wall.


The dining room is separated from the bar and I could hear the bustle from the happy hour crowd while I waited for my friend to arrive. I noticed that the manager went over and greeted the regulars sitting at the table next to mine. It was, upon first impression, perfect. And exactly the type of atmosphere this girl loves.

My friend arrived and we each ordered a glass of wine. Station 4 has an impressive wines by the glass list. Then we studied the menu which is essentially broken down into four sections--- appetizers, soups/ salads, pizzas, and entrees. We both decided to skip the apps and go for the full entrees. The server told us about the special dish for the evening--- fresh grouper fillet served with broccolini, cantrell mushrooms, and a red pesto sauce. We were both intrigued. It sounded delicious.

My friend ordered the grouper special, while I decided on a salmon dish. After we ordered, the server brought us dinner rolls and olive oil. The rolls were a little hard and would have been better if they were warm. They seemed like they were possibly a day old.

My date and I had a lot to catch up on since we had not seen each other since NYE, so we were chit-chatting away before I realized that it had been almost 25 minutes since we had placed our order. "Are you still dating Mr. Hurricane?" "Have you seen the guy from the wedding?" Apparently, a lot can change in a month.

Eventually, our meals arrived. Both had excellent presentation. But here is my one big complaint. While my salmon was cooked to perfection -- crispy on the outside and medium on the inside -- the sauce was as sweet as Aunt Jemima's syrup. It was almost unbearable it was so sweet and it completely overpowered the salmon, the mushrooms, and the bok choy. Very disappointing.

Seared salmon with shitake mushroom broth, bok choy, fried scallion oil, and sesame seeds

My friend's grouper was also cooked perfectly. And she really liked the red pesto sauce and the mushrooms. Given Station 4's proximity to the D.C. Fish Market, we wondered if the chef gets his fish there. But we forgot to ask our server (if you want more information about the fish market, click here for a post I wrote about it this past fall).
Fresh grouper fillet with broccolini, cantrell mushrooms, and red pesto sauce

 
We finished off our dinner with cappuccinos. And yes, I took the photo to the right. And yes, I feel like a professional, artsy photographer.

Once we settled up our bill, which came to about $80 total (for two glasses of wine, two entrees, and two cappuccinos), we scurried off to part two of our night -- a show at Arena Stage, located less than a block away.





Arena Stage is known for its great shows and last night's premiere of Red, written by playwright John Logan, was just another example of that reputation holding true.

Red is about the famous painter Mark Rothko. Knowing very little about Rothko, I was not sure what to expect. I sort of envisioned some artsy fartsy play oozing with symbolism and stuff. Totally not my taste. I tend to enjoy plays that focus more on character development. Well, was I in for a surprise because I spent an hour and forty minutes watching one of the best plays I have ever seen.


The set
The story line is essentially this: Mark Rothko (played by Edward Gero) hires an assistant (played by Patrick Andrew) to help him while he paints a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. The entire play takes place in Rothko's art studio. During the first scene of the play, Ken stares out in the audience for close to a minute. Everything on stage is silent. The audience is silent. That moment just seemed to suck the entire audience in and connected us all to the stage. I felt myself grinning and knew that I would love the rest of the play.


Although the themes and discussions about life, death, art, alcoholism are deep, the humor that is worked into the script is smart. And both actors delivered it perfectly.

There was real chemistry between the two actors. Nothing seemed scripted. Everything seemed real.

I was sad when the play ended. My friend I both agreed that we were so engrossed in it, we felt as if only 20 minutes had passed, not an hour and forty minutes.


Overall rating for the night? While Station 4 did not live up to all my expectations, I would go back. And would recommend that you check it out. The menu has lots of options, the food (despite some flaws) was all very fresh, and the atmosphere will suck you in.

And the play. Oh the play. Excellent acting. Awesome set. And you know when you wake up the next morning still processing and thinking about what you saw the night before? Yup. I am still doing that. In fact, I am even considering going to see it again.

Red will be playing at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater until March 11th. Tickets can be purchased by calling (202) 488-3300 or online at http://tickets.arenastage.org/single/psDetail.aspx?psn=13137


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best and Worst Date Locales: Napoleon and Starbucks

Check out the first edition of Best and Worst Date locales here

There was a period of time not so far in the past in which medical problems rendered me unable to drink.  I refer to this time as the Dark Ages.  Unfortunately, the Dark Ages followed the Cry And Eat A Lot Of Ice Cream period, which can alternately be referred to as the Getting Over A Breakup days.  Therefore, a lot of really awkward first dates occurred in that time when unlucky circumstances forbade me from destroying my liver with vodka.

Now that I can drink again, I always seem to find myself at bars on first dates.  And while I do have very fond feelings for alcohol, much like Kanye West has very fond feelings for himself, the main reason I always default to a bar for a first date is because there aren't a lot of great alternatives.

A good first date spot is one that has lots of ambiance, affords the flexibility of staying for three hours (wow, this date is going awesome) or 30 minutes (does this guy not know his toupee is migrating south as we speak?), and one that is vibrant and interesting, but not so loud or crowded that you can't talk with ease.  And you can forget any cute ideas like walking among the cherry blossoms or flying a kite on the mall when it's the middle of January.      

But do not fear, you can find alternatives to bars that offer the same advantages and none of the pressure to drink.  Here's one to check out, and one to avoid at all costs.

A GOOD PLACE TO TAKE A DATE

Napoleon, a classy bistro on Columbia Road, has ambiance to spare.  Who needs alcohol when you have seductive black chandeliers glittering above walls with gold accents?  It manages to pull off class without seeming too fussy- it's got that certain je ne sais quoi the French are so good at.  Boy, there's been a lot of love for France on this site lately, hasn't there?  Here's a random insult to offset it- you're a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

Napoleon has a large bar area where you can perch while sipping a delicacy from their impressive list of gourmet coffees and teas.  If you get hungry, there are lots of delicious treats to choose from, and you can easily extend the date if it's going well.

Still not convinced?  Two words for you: Nutella espresso.
A BAD PLACE TO TAKE A DATE


Look, I love Starbucks, a fact which would be pretty evident if I actually kept track of how much I spend there each month and was able to horrify you with that figure.

But that's part of the problem- Starbucks is ubiquitous.  It's often difficult to even ascertain which Starbucks your date wants to meet at because there are multiple on the same street.  It is frequently filled with screaming children.  It is too bright inside.  It will be easy for the people sitting next to you to hear your conversation and make you uncomfortable with their judgmental looks.  It is simply not a good place for a date.  Just say no!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where to Watch Football and Drink Beer: Redline

Growing up in a house with three brothers, sports were huge. Especially football. All my brothers played football. All my guy friends played football. My high school boyfriend was even the quarterback. I still remember being that loyal girlfriend and sister standing on the sidelines decked out in a purple and white tank top (our school colors) IN NOVEMBER. IN MAINE. Cheering on the team. Yup, I was hardcore.

So, it is no wonder that I still love football. And who is my favorite team? The Patriots, of course.

Look how good we look together*
While some Sundays it is nice to sit home on the couch with a Bud Light and watch my future husband make perfect, precise passes to Welker, Ochocinco, and Gronkowski, sometimes I want to go out and sport one of my many Pats jerseys and talk some trash to the Steelers fans sitting at the table next to me. And where is the best place to do that?

Redline in Chinatown.




Redline has, ohhh, about 50,000 flat screen TVs (OK, not really...but you get my drift) placed on every wall and nook and cranny in the place. Even in the bathroom.

It has a great beer selection and the menu is perfect for football watching -- nachos, tots, and wings? Yes, yes, please. And the crowd at Redline on Sundays? They all sport jerseys and hoot and cheer and it's just...simply...fantastic.


Main dining room at Redline
In addition, if you make reservations in advance you can reserve a table that has your OWN tap on it. As Redline's website states, "eight premium booths are fitted with the 'personal tap system', and guests are invited to pour their own draft beers and enjoy a no-wait standard of service." That's right -- you don't even need to rely on the waitress to bring you a refill. But, as my three guy friends and I observed not too long ago, maybe you want the waitresses serving you -- all are cute blondes with little black tank tops. Even I was impressed at the hotness level.
So, with the post season upon us, and games galore this weekend (who's excited? THIS GIRL), check out Redline. If you see a brunette with a Pat's jersey on, that would be me, so come on over and say hello. Unless you are a Giants fan. In that case, you probably want to stay away.


*And no, I did not spend 45 minutes pasting myself into that picture.  That would be really weird.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where to Brunch: Asylum

Brunch can sometimes be seen as a staid affair.  Even when you throw some mimosas into the mix, it can't match the seedy fun of the dark nightlife.


The brunch at Asylum, however, is anything but staid.  For one thing, it's got the distinct feel of a dive bar, because that's kind of what it is.  What, you don't want to have brunch in the basement of a dive bar?  I'll admit that this kind of thinking initially deterred me from checking it out, despite all the great things I'd heard about it.  But once I did, I was sorry I had waited so long to partake in the deliciousness.

Located along the strip of Adams Morgan bars on 18th Street, Asylum is easy to pass by and dismiss as a place that's only good for nighttime activities like tequila shots and making out with strangers.


But inside, you will find a plethora of delicious brunch treats that cater to a wide array of tastes.  From beer-battered chicken tenders to vegan nachos, there is lots of meaty goodness as well as ample veggie options to help you beat your hangover. 

Also worth checking out?  Asylum's happy hour, which features $1.50 tacos and $0.50 wings (vegan wings are available too!) from Monday to Friday, 5:00 pm- 8:00 pm.

And for those who prefer a less divey happy hour setting, Asylum recently finished renovations on what used to be its upper level bar, now called Smoke & Barrel.  Similar in style and fare to American Ice Company, here you'll find barbeque and beer in a more traditional restaurant setting.


Anyone have any other recommendations for brunch places to check out this weekend?  Let us know!


     

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where to Brunch: La Fourchette

Fries, toast, kissing -- I love French things!


All ridiculous kidding aside, there's one cozy D.C. cafe I keep returning to over and over again for brunch, regardless of season, company or hangover status: La Fourchette, the little taste of Paris that's been an Adams Morgan stalwart for more than 30 years.

And the best way to describe the digs? Frenchy french french french frahnche frahnche frahnche ronh honh honh.

(That might have been moderately culturally insensitive. French people, are you offended?)

I was first turned on to La Fourchette when my very best girlfriend Alyssa suggested it as a place to take my mother way back in 2008. The place doesn't look like much from the outside:

Especially at this moment in time, as 18th Street is currently torn to shit
from top to bottom for road construction.
But once inside, the brick walls, dark wood tables and beautiful painted mural along the wall will make you feel transported to La Rive Gauche. And when you hear Jacqueline Chauvet, the cafe's matriarch, barking orders at her servers en francais, you'll start wondering why you left your beret at home.


And the brunch food? Oh, the food. La Fourchette has a selection of benedicts like none other in D.C. My personal favorite is the Neptune, which is smoked salmon eggs benedict atop a butter-soaked baguette served with fried potatoes, and which is what I ordered when I ate there for New Year's Day brunch with my gentleman caller. My gentleman caller ordered the Florentine, which is the poached eggs atop spinach with baked Swiss cheese and mornay sauce.

In both cases, the poached eggs were perfect. And I mean perfect. The yolk was just the right amount of thick and runny, and slowly oozed over the rest of our food when we cracked open the eggs with our forks.

Sadly, I do not have any pictures of our brunch fare -- I was too busy eating it. And just to illustrate how good the benedicts truly are, I absolutely adore my gentleman caller, but had he tried to swipe a morsel off my plate, I would have stabbed his hand with my fork. I would have stolen his keys, and subsequently his car (he drove us), and left him there while screaming all the foulest expletives in his direction. 

This would not have been an overreaction; the benedicts are just that good.

On another sad note, the service, unfortunately, is also about as European as it gets. You'll sit there for ages waiting for your coffee to be refilled or your check to be delivered. But trust me -- the wait is worth it.