Friday, March 30, 2012

A Few Upcoming Events to Check Out

As regular readers of this blog know, my posts typically review restaurants, venues, plays, etc. but not future events. As I've been adding social event after social event to my spring/ summer calendar recently, I got to thinking. I'm always looking for fun events to attend in and around the District. I love to dress up, be fancy, and mix and mingle. It doesn't hurt when the event is open bar, either. But the worst? When you hear about an event too late and it's sold out!

So, with that little intro, I present to you three events this social butterfly plans to attend over the next couple of months. Hopefully it will inspire you to attend a few, too. And purchase tickets!

Gold Cup
May 5, 2012
Great Meadows 
The Plains, Virginia

You'd think a girl from Maine wouldn't be into party dresses, pearls, and big hats. But you'd be wroooonnnng. Ever since I watched Gone With the Wind when I was 10 years old I've known that I was a southern belle in my past life (In fact, I'm pretty sure my name was Scarlett and I lived on a plantation named Tara). While I love men with beards, L.L. Bean boots, and the Patriots, I also carry around a huge affection for the south. And what's more southern than dressing up and heading off to the race tracks?!?

The Gold Cup is an annual horse race that takes place at Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia. It attracts over 50,000 people every year. The men sport pastel bow ties. The ladies wear sun dresses and big hats. Mint Juleps are a-flowing. It. Is. Simply. Fantastic.

The Gold Cup offers many different viewing options. Many college alumni chapters and other event planning groups host "tents" that are located along the perimeter of the race track. Tickets to these tents typically include transportation to the event, full open bar and food throughout the day, and transportation back to D.C./ Northern Virginia after. This is what I've done in years past and what friends and I are doing again this year. It's awesome...and the tents usually involve too much day drinking, beer pong. flip cup...and lots of bonding with old and new friends. I'm getting giddy just thinking about it!

I also know friends who like to buy tailgating tickets. This allows a group of friends to drive out together, park the car in a reserved spot in a field, tailgate before the races, and then have access to Member Hill to watch the races. Each year the Gold Cup sponsors a contest for the best tailgating. People get waaaayyyy into it with themes, decorations, food, and specialty drinks. Most Tailgating spots include a 12’ x 20’ space which accommodates up to 15 guests.

Whatever option you choose, I guarantee you will have a blast. Oh, yeah, and you might get to see some horse races, too. I always forget about that part.

Taste of the South
May 12, 2012
DAR Constitution Hall
Washington, D.C.


Speaking of my obsession affection for the south...the Taste of the South (TOTS) is also an annual event that I love. Black tie? Barbecue from thirteen southern states? Dancing? Open bar? Um, how could all those things NOT result in an amazing night?

TOTS was started 30 years ago by a group of Southerners living in D.C. What started out as a small event among a small group of people has exploded into one of the events to attend in D.C. Basically, each one of the thirteen participating states hosts a booth. Each booth is decorated to reflect that state and features that states very own barbecue. 

Mississippi's booth (photo credit: TOTS website) 

Guests mix and mingle and slowly make their way around the booths to taste the various barbecues. The event is open bar and usually features a live band, so after filling up on delicious barbecue everyone heads to the dance floor.

For many years the event took place at the DC armory but after realizing that patrons were sweating their little asses off in the unconditioned venue, TOTS decided to step it up a notch and host the event in Constitution Hall at the Daughters of the American Revolution Amazing venue. And who knew that air conditioning could feel so good?

Still need another reason to attend TOTS? You shouldn't. What I've written above should be enough to lure you in. BUT for all you good deeders out there, here's one more reason. Your money will go to a good cause. Each year TOTS donates a large portion of the proceeds to a charity located in one of the southern states. For example, in 2007 the gala raised $300,000 for charity!

TOTS tickets will go on sale April 10th. But be ready to act fast-- tickets sell out very quickly!

Savor
June 8-9, 2012
The National Building Museum
Washington, D.C.

Inside Savor at the National Building Museum
Now, I must preface this with letting you all know that I've never been to this event before. But when Thirsty Ivy (who knows more about beer than anyone I know) told me that Savor falls on her birthday weekend this year and asked me to go with her, it was a no brainer. I've had friends go before who wait all year long for this event. In fact, last year my cousin and her boyfriend flew into town from Oklahoma for it!

Basically, the National Building Museum is transformed into a beer lovers heaven. For $130 you get a ticket into an event where you can sample over 140 craft beers from across the United States and 42 different pairing dishes. Now, I can't tell you much more about it, other than the fact that my cousin had to cancel our brunch plans the day after Savor last year because she was so hungover. BUT I can pretty much guarantee that Thirsty Ivy will be blogging about this event.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where to Eat: Cheesetique

I have very fond feelings for cheese.  So much so that in college my friends dubbed me a "choco-cheese-itarian", which was sort of a nice way of saying I was a vegetarian with very poor eating habits.

Though I now eat more responsibly and am hopefully no longer in danger of developing scurvy, I will forever adore cheese, especially when paired with wine.

I recently went on a date to the Shirlington Cheesetique, and it was a thoroughly delightful experience.  Upon leaving, I was sad to realize it would likely be a while before I returned, as there are no locations in D.C. (the second Cheesetique is located in Alexandria).  Point: Virginia.

My date and I arrived around 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening to a little bit of a wait.  The hostess helpfully informed us that we could order drinks while we were waiting in the little cheese shop area at the front of the restaurant.  I failed to get a good picture of it, unfortunately, but it was a cute little space that displayed their selection of specialty cheeses and beverages.  According to their website, they feature cheeses from hard-to-find artisan and small-farm producers, and unique, small-production wines and beers.

Source
We didn't have to wait long before we were seated and attended to by our waitress.  It is worth noting that the atmosphere in Cheesetique is ideal for a date -- it's casual but intimate, and romantic without getting all up in your grill about it.  Perfect for an early date in which you may not want the pressure of an ornate, expensive restaurant.   

My date and I ordered wine to start, as well as a mixed board- you can select 1-6 cheeses to sample, served along with bread, crackers, and little bowls of grapes and pickles.
   
Source

All of the cheeses were insanely good, probably because our waitress helped us select them based on our stated preferences (or in my case, a dramatically stated aversion to goat cheese).  I also loved the crackers because they reminded me of the seasoning on everything bagels, i.e., deliciousness.  

I was very tempted to select a mac and cheese for my main course, since Cheesetique is known for it- and really, how can you go wrong with mac and cheese -- but I decided to go a little lighter and instead ordered the Veggie Salut sandwich, which came with sprouts, cucumber, tomato, avocado, artichoke pesto and Port Salut on multi-grain bread.  Whenever you pair cheese with avocado, it's pretty much a guaranteed party in your mouth, but I was still blown away by how fresh and tasty this sandwich was.  I really can't say enough good things about the food at Cheesetique -- it was all wonderful.  

Cheesetique, you have given this car-less DCer a reason to brave the metro out to Virginia (previously, this honor was owned by IHOP and Target, but Columbia Heights rendered that unnecessary).  If you open a DC  location, I promise to love you forever!      



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where to Meet New People: Your Local Alumni Group

FACT: D.C. is different. Even if you're brand-spanking-new to the area, surely you figured this out upon disembarking the ship ... or however you got here.  

We drink, eat, work, read, travel, commute, argue, dress, prioritize, communicate, meet people, and make friends differently. By nature, the demographics of D.C. are drastically different than, say, my hometown of Tampa. D.C. has a much higher concentration of young, educated, ambitious, and engaged people. It makes sense, then, that alumni groups are different-in-kind here too.

Because we tend to be a transient people, local alumni groups are especially well-accustomed to welcoming new members and bidding adieu to those departing for new opportunities. Lately, though, I've learned that several area friends have never taken advantage of this great opportunity to be active and get involved. Have you?

People frequently ask me where I met Awesome-Friend B or C or Slightly-Annoying-But-Hilarious Friend G. There are really only a handful of answers, but the two most frequent (at least lately) have been via Twitter (a totally unique being in D.C.) or university/alumni groups.

Since graduating from college, I've moved around quite a bit. For a couple of years, I even returned to my alma-mater to sit on the other side of the desk and force students to call me "Professor Thirsty." A big proportion of alumni stayed within the area, so team-fever was especially strong and contagious. (And you better believe I took full advantage of the faculty "2 free tickets to every game" deal!) The D.C. alumni chapter, though, is still more active and cohesive as a group.  

When I moved back to D.C. in 2009, the first outing on my calendar was an alumni softball game on the National Mall, where I connected with old friends and made a handful of new ones. (No, I don't play.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times
The Capital Alumni Network softball league's opening night is coming up on April 10, and there's a good chance that your school has a team. If you aren't an athlete or if your team doesn't have room on the roster this year, show up to support them anyway and join in on the post-game imbibing at The Exchange

In typical D.C. fashion, even alumni softball isn't as simple as it sounds; the competition is not over just because the players leave the field. Each game night, the title of "Last Team Standing" is awarded to the alumni group with the most endurance/tolerance ... at the bar! CAN has 2 pages of rules on this award, but it basically boils down to this -- the team that drinks the longest wins. Who better to relive your college days with than people who went there too?

Photo Credit: The Exchange's Facebook page

I went to a basketball school and am an intense fan (just ask The Singleship!), so March Madness is also a particularly important and exciting time of the year for me. Though I usually avoid the "official" gamewatches (the location is just inconvenient now that I'm wheel-less), friends and I created rogue viewing parties so as not to miss a second of the big dance.  

If you went to Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, or Ohio State, there's still time for you to buy a ticket to NOLA ... or just plan on joining your alumni groups at various bars in the city.

NCAA.com

D.C.'s Kentucky Wildcats can be found at Touchdown Sports Bar on U Street and outside the beltway at Grevey's in Falls Church. Jayhawks from Kansas congregate at the The Bottom Line (an old favorite) and Bailey's in Arlington. According to a comment on their Facebook page, the Louisville Cards will be at McFadden's, and Buckeyes from THE Ohio State (ugh...) are in my neighborhood at Rhino Bar & Pumphouse.

Don't know how to find your group? Come on, it's 2012! Google it, look on your school's website, find their Facebook page or Twitter account, or just ask around. I didn't go to any of these Final 4 schools, so the information is definitely out there!

If sports aren't your thing, most groups have alternative offerings throughout the year to engage alumni of all ages and interests. For example:

1. One of my alumni chapters routinely hosts lectures by local alumni experts or professors visiting from campus. 
2. If your school has a traveling glee club or orchestra, keep your eyes out for invitations to local musical performances.
3. My undergrad alma-mater was located just a few miles from an MLB stadium, so we all get discounted tickets to a Nationals game when they're in town.
4. Both of my schools host days of service for area alumni to connect with one another and give back to the city.
5. I've heard that there are occasional gatherings with alumni in Congress, but that tends to be VIP-only (Read: big donors. Read: not me).
6. During the off-season, you'll likely see more fundraising and networking opportunities -- be as generous as you can/choose or volunteer to help as part of your contribution.
7. If your school has an especially large D.C. presence, you'll probably see more opportunities for specific groups -- young alumni, over 50, singles, women, families, etc.
8. Last year, I met a bunch of great people (that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise) from rival schools at an All-State happy hour.  
9. Last week, one of my schools teamed up with the larger conference to participate in a night of comedy at Riot Act in Penn Quarter. 
10. This week, I'm seriously considering going to an alumni singles cocktail party.

Still on the fence? A close friend and outgoing president of a thriving, local alumni chapter has this sage advice for you: "get involved! The people running these groups are people like you and me. If you want to make a ton of new friends fast, then volunteer to be on a committee. It's not a lot of work but very rewarding."

Yes, there are countless ways to meet people and involve yourself in the city, but you do already have at least one thing in common with these folk! If you're looking to expand your social circle and connect with more people, you might as well give it a shot, right? If nothing else, maybe you too will be able to say, "Oh, I met Slightly-Annoying-But-Hilarious Friend G at an alumni trivia night."


Go Team!


Friday, March 23, 2012

He Said, She Said: A Review of Oyamel and Arena Stage's "Ah, Wilderness"

Last week, Matt* and I went to dinner at Oyamel and to the play "Ah, Wilderness" at Arena Stage. We thought it would be fun to each write a review about the night. Sort of a "he said, she said" thing. And that's exactly what we did.

Dinner at Oyamel

What She Said:

Our biggest challenge was finding a restaurant. You may recall that the last time I reviewed Arena Stage, my date and I went to Station 4 for dinner. Given that it's really the only decent restaurant near Arena Stage (yes, Cantina Marina is across the street and although I love me a good margarita while looking out across the Potomac, the food pretty much blows) our options were limited. So, we started thinking about other places to check out along the way. We eventually settled on Jose Andres' Oyamel in Chinatown.

And as luck would have it, we arrived only to discover that Oyamel was offering FREE tequila tastings. Tequila shots at 6pm? Sounded like a brilliant idea to us. We sampled three tequilas from Casa Noble. Let me tell you- this tequila was no joke. It was goood. Smooth. And the crowd at the bar was friendly and lively. All in all it was a pretty good happy hour. Oh, and my margarita (that was $5 for happy hour) was delicious. Although a bit heavy on the ice.

Because the weather was so unbelievably gorgeous, we decided to eat outside. Have I mentioned how much I love global warming? I was surprised by how small the patio was though--- only about six tables--- but it was nice to sit outside as the temperature dropped a bit.

Only issue? When we walked into the restaurant the sun was out and shining. By the time we sat down for dinner, rain clouds were forming to the west and the hostess simply said, "just to let you know, if it rains, we cannot guarantee you seating inside." Um, something we would have loved to hear before we waited a half hour for our "al fresco" table. Fortunately, other than the sky spitting for about two minutes, we avoided the rain.

I've been to Oyamel once before, but it was with a large group, after a long, extended happy hour, so all I remember ordering is the guacamole and tacos. And pitcher upon pitcher of margaritas.

This time we were a little more thoughtful in our food selection. Oyamel features a fairly extensive tapas menu. Our server offered some great recommendations from each of the different menu areas--- fish, meat, vegetables, etc.
Ceviche
We decided on the red snapper ceviche, grilled cactus paddles, crispy brussels sprouts, grilled skirt steak, and a lamb special the chef was featuring. I really enjoyed everything. I wish I could tell you that I had a favorite dish, but I have to say that the ceviche, the steak, and the brussels spouts all tied. The ceviche had great flavor with the avacado salsa, the bits of cilantro and lime juice. I would have preferred the steak a little more on the medium rare side but it still had great, fresh flavors and was tender. And the brussels sprouts...oh the brussels sprouts...they were cooked to perfection.

After doing tequila shots, fully stuffing our faces, and drinking throughout dinner, we opted to skip dessert...and caught a cab to Arena Stage.

What He Said:

We tried making small talk with other revelers and the distiller. We tried being classy as we drank our free tasting-alcohol out of champagne flutes. We tried being responsible.

But then again. Can you really be responsible drinking tequila?

So, as Kate and I stepped through the tequila flight, pretending to really care about how each batch was carefully distilled, I silently wondered about the metaphor of free tequila this early in the night? Were we so lucky to conveniently come to Oyamel for a tequila event night or was this a harbinger for tequila-induced bad decisions?

(Kate and I have had tequila together twice before. (1) Warm rail tequila from a lost NFL bet (Bills beat her Pats) and (2), well, here's the tweet:

After just one tequila flight, a happy hour drink, and some small talk, we were shown to an outdoor table. For being in the heart of DC and just a few blocks from the Gallery Place-China Town metro, I expected the outdoor seating to be accompanied by loud cars, exhaust, and noise. But surprisingly, the distractions were to a minimum and we could enjoy the outdoor weather and ambiance.

Oyamel focuses on antojitos - Mexican small plates. Smaller plates mean an opportunity to try much more of the menu. However, for those that struggle with indecision, trying to find 5-6 antojitos that (A) neither of you are allergic to, (B) look appetizing, (C) aren't at the top of the price range, and (D) easily pronounceable to the waiter (the titles are all in Spanish), can seem daunting. But whether it's date night, happy hour, or a normal night, the mood is relaxed and ordering off the menu really isn't that bad.

Kate and I settled on:

· Ceviche de huachinango (Red snapper ceviche)
· Nopal asado con salsa molcajete (Grilled fresh cactus paddles)
· Col de bruselas estilo San Quintin (Crispy brussel sprouts)
· Arrahera con salsa molcajete (Grilled skirt steak)
· Off the specials menu - grilled lamb with fava beans (or chick peas)


Grilled Cactus
Skirt Steak
As a whole, I was happy with our meal. The fresh chips and salsa were addicting and I made failed effort after failed effort to stop eating them. 





The ceviche was a little too spicy which overpowered the other flavors. But the skirt steak, grilled lamb, and crispy brussel sprouts were very good. The grilled cactus, topped with a warm, slightly sweet salsa, was milder than the ceviche which helped calm the spicier dish. Both meat dishes were very good and I'd order them again.


"Ah, Wilderness" at Arena Stage:

What She Said:
For those of you unfamiliar with Arena Stage, it's located on the Southwest Waterfront.  It was remodeled in 2010 and both the exterior and interior are stunning.

Fichandler Theatre in Arena Stage
The play, "Ah, Wilderness!" written by Eugene O'Neill and directed by Kyle Donnelly, takes place in Connecticut on July 4, 1906. I really liked the venue for the play--- in the Fichandler Threatre--- an amphitheatre. The play itself appears light and airy, with the youngest character around the age of 10 running around with sparklers and jokes throughout. There is laughter and singing, and typical family bickering, but there are also some pretty serious themes--- alcoholism, class division, prostitution. All of these more serious undertones are lightened by the laughter and jokes. Even as one character is so drunk he can barely sit up at the table, there is humor. So, it was easy to watch and enjoy.

My only real issue with the play was the length. Three hours is a long time to sit and watch a play, and while there were two intermissions, which were nice, it was a long time to sit, and the play was not engaging enough to keep me captivated. However, the length of the play was made up with the acting. The acting was superb. Which is not surprising, as I've never been to Arena Stage and experienced anything but top notch acting. I also really liked the set design. Which is another thing that Arena Stage always nails.

Would I recommend this play to someone? Yes, absolutely. But I would prepare him or her for the length and advise that doing tequila shots beforehand is probably not the best activity. Also, some the jokes seemed lost among my date and me…whereas older members of the audience found them to be hysterical. So, it may be a generational thing.

Overall, a great night. Good food, good entertainment, and, as always, good company.

What He Said:

The next stop of the night was Arena Stage to see the play Ah, Wilderness! (though an ellipses may have been more suitable - "Ah, Wilderness...") And while I didn't expect the show to have the caliber of a Kennedy Center or Broadway show production, the play was too long, and I felt it was lacking overall.

The first act (of three...) was too busy --- conversation quickly darting between actors like a rubber ball being thrown in an elevator. The audience wasn't gradually drawn into the story, but rather attacked with short staccato notes of prose. Too chaotic and about three actors too many on stage at any given point.

The second and third acts proved much stronger. Both acts feature more focused dialog that allow the audience to become more attached to the story. The characters start to take shape and the audience begins to recognize the nuances of each family member and the subtleties of this 1933 comedy.

It was interesting to observe the crowd as the play progressed (a stark and noticeable even split between 60+ and 20/30 somethings). As the 60+ crowd roared to life following another early 20th century English literary reference, I found myself trying to desperately grasp for the "in".

While the final two acts tried to rescue the first, I wouldn't see the play again. Which is surprising since the play is somewhat of a coming of age story with undercurrents of love and family mixed in with prostitution, drinking, and making fun of Yale. So while, these underlying themes are still current today, I found myself wanting something that falls in between the 1930s comedic style of Ah, Wilderness!'s playwright and the collegiate humor of the flute-touting American Pie.

But.

I'm never one to turn down a unique adventure or something different, especially if it’s with good company. So, while I wouldn’t go see that particular play again, tequila-tasting, antojitos, red dresses, and the Arena Stage are still in the mix.

(Ironically, the most intriguing portion of the Arena Stage visit came during our first intermission. As Kate and I wandered around the interior of the Arena Stage, we came across 8-12 bright red costume dresses, proudly on display for a different play. As we slowly passed each dress, I was asked to guess which one she would choose. While carefully trying to navigate between not-too-slutty, not-too-conservative, and not-too-Tinker-Bell, I found a single shoulder dress that hopefully, upon revealing my selection, wouldn't earn me a punch to the shoulder.)

* Matt is the creator of www.thirddatecooking.com. You can follow him on twitter at @3rdDateCooking

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where to See Cherry Blossoms: Dumbarton Oaks

Where did winter go?  Somehow March is already nearing an end, which means that cherry blossom fever has hit our fair city full force.  Residents of D.C. know it well- the sudden arrival of the delicate petals, the ten mile race, the parade, and above all else, the unrelenting crowds.  

Sometimes a gal just doesn’t feel like jabbing her elbows into the sides of tourists to get a glimpse of the pale pink beauties lining the Tidal Basin.  But not to worry, there are other, substantially more peaceful spots to view them, if you know where to go.  

Chief among those spots are the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, a research library and museum located in Georgetown.  Here you will find stunning views of D.C.’s signature blossoms with a mere fraction of the crowds.  


Source:  http://harvard-dc.org 





Source:  http://washingtontimes.com
In addition to the cherry blossoms, these next few weeks are also the perfect time to see the rows and rows of lovely yellow forsythia that Dumbarton Oaks also features.  




Source: http://thehousethatlarsbuilt.blogspot.com

Robert Frost famously alluded to the brief beauty of the spring in his poem Nothing Gold Can Stay, and it’s true -- both the forsythia and cherry blossoms will be in bloom for only a few short weeks, so plan accordingly (you can check out expected bloom dates here).    

In addition to the expansive, beautiful gardens, you can also tour the museum, but to be honest, I’ve never done that and can’t offer any insight.  I usually get so caught up in “oohing” and “ahhing” at the gardens that I forget that there is much more to see.

IF YOU GO: Dumbarton Oaks is open daily from 2:00-6:00 pm except on Monday, when it is closed.  

ADMISSION: The museum is free.  General admission to the gardens is $5 for children, seniors, and students and $8 for everyone else except Harvard students, faculty and staff, for whom it’s free.  Good for you, nerds!  

ADDITIONAL SERVICES: Brief introductory tours of the gardens are offered at 2:10 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.   

A guided 30 minute special tour of the first floor non-public historic rooms of Dumbarton Oaks --including the hall, Founders' Room, Study and Oval Room -- is offered on most Saturdays at 3:00 pm.

90 minute docent-led tours of the museum are offered the mornings of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday by advance reservation.

GETTING THERE:  There is ample street parking near the museum (the same cannot be said of the parking near the blossoms downtown, at least with a straight face).  Dumbarton Oaks is also easily accessible by bus or metro, and you can use the WMATA trip planner to tell you exactly how to get there- just enter your start point and your end point and you’ll be set.    
 

AFTERWARD: Who doesn’t love a good excuse to drink?  Continue the fun by treating  yourself to a cherry blossom-themed cocktail or two!  

Through April 27th, 100 restaurants in the D.C. area will feature cherry blossom inspired cuisine and cocktails on their menus. From triple cherry cheesecake at Georgia Brown's to the cherry blossom cocktail at DC Coast, only true cherry-haters will be disappointed by this vast offering of treats (you can see the entire set of "Cherry Picks" here).  T
ried some of the specials already? Let us know what you thought!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What to Read: Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't

Last week, we learned something we probably already knew: D.C. singles are the nation's biggest boozers. The week before, Glamour magazine via The Washington Post informed us that the District's single ladies are the nation's happiest. (Yes, I subscribe to both. You shouldn't be surprised.) For me -- and I'm confident I'm not alone on this one -- the two are related.

Drinking makes me happy.

No, no, I don't have a problem; rather, I have a hobby!

When I was in college, I drank well -- at the time, that meant avoiding the "working man's beer" and all booze sold in plastic bottles. Over the last seven years or so, I have actually developed a fairly refined palate (though I'll still knock back a cheap-ish bottle on half-price wine night) and acquired a deep love for craft beer and thoughtfully prepared cocktails.

D.C. has become a renowned hub for both ... but it hasn't always been that way, at least not officially so.

How many of you remember learning about the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution* in school? Most, I'm guessing. How many of you think "teetotaler" is a fun word to say? All, duh. How many of you appreciated what that actually meant for citizens/drinkers? Fewer, I'm sure. It definitely didn't mean much to me at the time, but now that I'm older, wiser, and less sober, I recognize how flustered distillers, imbibers, and bar owners must have been.

* How many of you immediately thought of a bar (18th Amendment on Capitol Hill) and a beer (21st Amendment out of CA) instead of laws? If we aren't already friends, we should be. 

Garrett Peck's Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't chronicles our town's sneaky ways around the law.
Notice the flask in the garter... how classy!

I first learned of the book just before its release last spring on Twitter ... where else? Derek Brown, of The Passenger fame, wrote the Forward and was publicizing the book.

You may already be familiar with Peck's other books or maybe even his "Temperance Tours" of downtown, but I wasn't in-the-know until reading the book.

I've recently put this tour on my to-do list -- a new twist on being a tourist in your own city! There's also a map in the Appendix. 

Have you ever visited our Temperance Fountain?
Photo Credit: dcist

Peck describes it as "both a history and a guidebook," and it's a great balance of the two. There are lots of maps and photos to help you picture where the speakeasies were located and how the bootleggers snuck in/out of town. For the more hands-on reader, you'll even find a handful of old-school recipes. The first, of course, is The Rickey (and its variations; I'm partial to the gin version) -- D.C.'s official cocktail.

For those of you who are Hill staffers, you'll probably appreciate one of my favorite parts of the book -- the chapter about how wet the dry Congress really was. Peck tells the story of George Cassiday, the "official" Congress supplier during the (not so) dry years. One senator referred to Cassiday as his "librarian" and placed his booze orders by asking for new "reading material." 

This stuff cracks me up!

Let's face it ... in addition to being drunk and happy, most of us are also a bunch of over-educated nerds who gobble up knowledge like the tourists do cupcakes. Why not arm yourself with a few more factoids about the city you love ... and the hobby that makes us all so jolly?!

If you aren't already on your way to check it out from the library (or to the liquor store for more "reading material" to test out the cocktail recipes), I'll leave you with one final data-point from the book's back cover:

"In 1929, it was estimated that every week bootleggers brought twenty-two thousand gallons of whiskey, moonshine, and other spirits into Washington, D.C.'s three thousand speakeasies." 

Not quite the desert they'd intended, huh? Kudos, D.C., and thank you, Repealers!

Cheers,

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Where NOT to Eat: Mad Hatter

I have a confession to make… I have a type. Actually, this is not as much of a confession, as it is an objectively true statement. In fact, anyone who knows me for more than 5 minutes can easily figure this out. What can I say… I have a weakness for preppies. As soon as I see a man with a bow tie, critter belt, and Polo, I literally melt. For as long as I can remember, I have always adored men that looked like they stepped out of a Vineyard Vines or Southern Proper ad. Naturally, I tend to show up to places where these men hang out, as well. Thus, it made perfect sense to suggest the Mad Hatter for dinner when a college friend was in the area and wanted grab a bite to eat and watch the games. Mad Hatter is located in Dupont Circle, where Greg wanted to meet (1319 Connecticut Ave NW – Accessed by Farragut West & Dupont Circle Metro stations), had outside seating, and there were plenty of TVs so we could monitor March Madness. Triple score! (Photo Credit: leadingacolorfullife.tumblr.com)

For the most part, Mad Hatter has never let me down in terms of its patrons. While I would not say preppily dressed individuals represent a majority of the people here, I never have to look too far for a checked print button down or backwards cap. However, for all of you that do not share my penchant for prepsters, fear not, the only time I’ve heard a “USA!” chant here was during the World Cup in 2010. But, I am getting off topic here… focus RWB… (Photo Credit: madhatterdc.com)



After confirming numbers for dinner, I called Mad Hatter Thursday morning and secured a reservation for an outside patio table at 7:30. Mother Nature, on the other hand, had other plans, as the rain started coming down at 7:15. Fortunately, there was plenty of seating available inside; the friendly hostess greeted us immediately and took us straight to our table.

Prior to Thursday night, the only food I had ever eaten at Mad Hatter was typical bar-food snacks during a big game, or during a late night dance fest (and in full disclosure, I was not 100% sober). Still, I knew that I should not expect gourmet cuisine and kept that in mind when ordering; my friends were also aware. In all honesty, we were just happy to be in a place where we could eat, drink, and watch the games all at once.

Upon taking our seats, we immediately noticed that it was hard to carry on a conversation amongst the loud bar chatter adjacent to our table. While there is a wall-like structure separating the dining room from the bar area, it is very hard to hear what is being said amongst the noise. In fact, Greg commented, “RWB, this is the only time I will say this to you, ever, but would you please speak a little louder, I can barely hear you.” (Photo Credit: DCAfter5.com)


Once we adjusted to the volume level, we perused the menu and made our initial choices. In typical game night fashion, we ordered the nachos as an appetizer. I suggested these, remembering I had eaten them before and recalled their gooey, cheesy, deliciousness. However, we were all sadly disappointed when they arrived at our table. The nachos contained little cheese and the chips were dry. My former server instincts kicked in and I presume that the nachos had been sitting under a warming lamp for a while and the server forgot to pick them up. Nevertheless, we ate them anyway, mainly because we were all extremely hungry.

After ordering drinks and appetizers, we moved on to the main course. Rob ordered the burger with a side of mac ‘n cheese, I ordered chicken fingers, fries, and cream of crab soup (I am from Maryland, do you think I could resist this?) and Greg ordered a gyro, fries, and a Caesar salad.

Again, because I grew up in Maryland, I am a bit of a crab snob. The runny Progresso light-esque liquid they pass of as cream of crab is embarrassing, to say the least. For starters, cream of crab is supposed to be chowder; it should be thick, not runny. Second, the soup contained a serious lack of Old Bay; when cooking a crab dish, it needs to be loaded with the seasoning, or use none at all. Finally, the soup was made with imitation crab… I was disappointed on so many levels.

After less than thrilling appetizers, when our meals arrived, I naively thought that our night could only improve. Since it is nearly impossible to mess up chicken fingers and fries, I cannot say I was disappointed with my meal. Similarly, Greg’s gyro was “fine,” although relatively forgettable. Rob’s burger, on the other hand, was grossly over cooked. Ordering a burger medium means there should be some pink; this burger looked like it was prepared in the Sahara desert and was absolutely scorched. Unfortunately, his mac ‘n cheese wasn’t much better. To me, the side dish tasted like oversized pasta shells smothered in the nacho cheese sauce they use at high school sporting events. Yes, it was that unappealing. In fact, the food was less than presentable, so I didn’t even bother taking photos.

Despite the less than delicious food, things did turn around, for me at least, when I spotted a few well-dressed prepsters in pastel shorts and half-zips. My heart actually skipped a beat; seriously, it pitter-pattered. But, I am sorry to say that the adorable boy sighting was not nearly enough to encourage me to return for dinner at Mad Hatter in the near future.

My suggestion: stick to Mad Hatter for drinks, dancing, and watching sports, you will be much happier. In fact, you can probably find me here cheering on the U.S. during the summer Olympics, I mean Michael Phelps is a Marylander. (Photo Credit: blogs.wsj.com).





Cheers to beers… and America,


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where to Brunch: Cafe La Ruche

This is not a post about online dating.  

How many of you have tried online dating in D.C.? Most, I'm guessing. Have you noticed a pattern? Silly question; of course you have! Match and OkCupid are both full of men and women who are laid-backsarcasticlooking for his/her partner in crime, shorter and/or heavier than reportedAND extremely well-traveled. I can't tell you how many profiles I've read that follow the EXACT SAME formula:

1. I'm originally from _____ and have lived in _____, _____, and _____.
2. I moved to D.C. to do _____ and have been here for _____ years/months.
3. I have traveled to _____ countries this year (see photo section for pictures of me looking like an ant, standing in front of the Seven Wonders of the World).

I won't lie, I have versions of steps 1 and 2 included in my profile as well (it's often a good/easy way to find a commonality). Step 3, however, is wholly absent. Why? I am severely under-traveled, and reading about everyone else's unbelievable excursions makes me even more aware of this sad fact. (Epcot doesn't count, right?)  

To make up for the fact that I'm not a world-traveler, I've made it a point to be a world-eater (you know what I mean). Whether it be Ethiopian, Japanese, Thai, or even my "native" German cuisine, count me in!  

This weekend, Appealing Kate and I took a trip to France. And by France, I mean my favorite neighborhood spot, Cafe La Ruche.
   
Seriously, how cute is this place?
Photo Credit: Prince of Petworth

Located in Georgetown on 31st Street between M and the water, the Beehive Cafe (see? I speak French. No, not really) is one of D.C.'s lesser-known gems. The Thirsty family has been feasting on authentic French delights here for more than 25 years and we still feel right at home in the quaint dining room. Check out their website for a fun history lesson about the building.

Since I've never actually been to France, I can't say with any authority that the ambiance is authentic. But I can say that it has a relaxed and simple vibe, which I imagine to be closer to the real deal than snootier, white table cloth spots I've been to in town. I also assume that the fact that there are often native French people sitting at the tables near me says something favorable about the food and setting.

I love that, on any given day, the dining room is filled with attorneys having power lunches, children with their parents, ladies brunching, couples celebrating an anniversary, and even runners replenishing after a race (a woman near us still had her St. Patrick's Day 8K bib on). Now that the weather is nice and warm more often than not, I plan on taking full advantage of their generously-sized patio too!

On Sunday, I talked Kate into joining me for brunch (convincing her took all of 2 seconds) and knew before we were even handed menus what I would order: Eggs Florentine. "Make that two!" said Kate.

Ignore the pepper on Egg #1. I tend to cover all food in the stuff and didn't remember to take the photo until I'd already started.

There are several things I love about this dish in particular:
1.  They offer this spinach version on the menu alongside the traditional Canadian bacon one. I don't eat the pig and find it frustrating that many restaurants don't offer alternatives up-front.
2.  The eggs are poached to perfection, smooth and runny. To me, there's nothing worse than an overcooked egg!
3.  The Hollandaise sauce is creamy and decadent but doesn't overwhelm the eggs.
4.  They don't pile greasy potatoes on the plate as an unnecessary side.  

I ordered my dish as part of their "brunch special" -- a mimosa (or plain old OJ), brunch entree, and dessert for $18. The mimosa was served in a wine glass, holding considerably more than a champagne flute, and was just what I needed to perk me up. Kate opted for coffee and took the significantly healthier route not to order dessert.  

When the time came, I placed my order for my usual fruit tart - it's $2 more but totally worth it. Confession: I don't really like desserts (I'm not a health-nut by any means; I'd just rather eat/drink my excess calories in cheese or beer), but I never go to Cafe La Ruche without ordering dessert! When you go, keep walking straight through the restaurant; you'll run right into the display case and immediately know why I can't pass it up!  

Fruit is a critical part of any balanced diet.

Once my beautiful treat hit the table, Kate folded. "Screw it. I'm getting something too." And straight to the display case she went to pick out her chocolate delight.

Chocolate makes people happy.

Neither of us finished ours, but we made our best attempts. One of these days, I'll go just for wine and dessert and finally finish a whole tart by myself.  

All this talk of dessert makes me realize that Cafe La Ruche would be a great pre-/post-movie outing or even the perfect finale of a progressive dinner!  

Now if only I could find a date ... 

Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where to Eat: Policy



Policy's 14th Street exterior.













I've been to Policy a handful of times for drinks and dancing in its upstairs "Liberty Lounge." But it's been on my list of places to try for dinner since I first discovered the spot in the fall of 2010. So, when my two girlfriends and I were desperately trying to book last minute dinner reservations this past Saturday night, Policy immediately came to mind. Luckily, they still had a few reservations when we called, so we snagged one.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the place mostly empty. I figured at 7:30 on a Saturday night the place would be packed (by the time we left a few hours later it was slammed). The friendly hostess seated us at a tall table by the window. It was perfect for the three of us--- a small table with a great a view of bustling 14th Street, and it was tucked away just enough for us to feel like we had a cozy little corner to ourselves.

The server introduced himself and did an excellent job describing the concept of the restaurant, as well as the cocktails and food specials the chef was featuring. By the end of the night we were on a first name basis with our server, and we were cracking jokes back and forth. I love it when servers are friendly and personable (and cute). In fact, one of my friends may have left the others number for our server on our check...Yes, we were those girls... but let's get back to business.

Policy prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients. The menu consists of small plates (tapas). Our server recommended that we order two per person (we decided on five total which was the perfect amount of food for the three of us). The menu has everything from a sweet chili glazed pork belly, to crispy scalloped potatoes, to oven roasted tomato hummus. I think the hardest part was deciding what to order. Everything sounded simply delicious. But one of the reasons why I looooovveee tapas restaurants? Everyone shares so you get to try lots of different dishes!

But, first, we ordered cocktails. I had the Pearfect Martini. I was a bit skeptical because I'm not a big fan of sweet, fruity drinks. But this really was perfect. While it is made with Grey Goose Pear, it also has champagne in it---this made the drink less sweet and a little fizzy. I had two. Okay, fine. I had three. But they were THAT good. Plus, it was Saturday night.

For dinner, we ordered the Grilled Strip Steak, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Braised and Grilled Short Ribs, Red Curried Lentils, and a Beef Slider Special. As is the tradition with tapas restaurants, dishes are served as soon as they are prepared. So, there was always a revolving series of dishes on our table.

Each dish had excellent presentation. We collectively agreed that the strip steak was our favorite. It was served with shitake mushrooms, fresh green beans, carrots, white and black sesame seeds, and a mild soy based sauce. Only caveat? We asked for it medium and it was definitely more on the well-done side. That withstanding, the flavors were still delicious and it was tender to eat. The lentils and the brussel sprouts were great vegetarian dishes. Each packed with flavor but relatively simple all at the same time.

We passed on dessert and two other friends joined us for drinks. The staff was very accommodating and had no problem with two people joining our party and ordering drinks.

Now, the atmosphere.

The restaurant has black walls and dark red booths. Sort of a Gothic diner type feel. The black paint on the walls is very flat and in my opinion looks half finished. As a result, it has a somewhat cold, rough feeling to it.  Which bothered me because every other aspect of the restaurant--- the menu, the service, even the dinner and stem ware--- is warm, inviting and cozy.

Policy's first floor dining room
Then again, I think the decor does fit in with U Street in general. A little rough. A little classy. A little hipster. So, I get what Policy is trying to accomplish. Just not really my cup of tea. Like I mentioned, I've been dancing upstairs plenty of times and I love it up there. Chandeliers. A fun, modern bar. Perfect amount of lighting. But downstairs is missing something. And if you read my reviews on a regular basis you know that atmosphere is huge for me. That aside, I give everything else a big thumbs-up.

So, check out Policy with some girlfriends. Go for a late-ish dinner, get tipsy on cocktails, and then head upstairs for some serious dancing and bad decision-making. You won't be disappointed. Especially if you get the chance to run into Policy's hot executive chef who likes to hang out upstairs by the bar after the dining room closes. And yes, I'm speaking from experience.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where to Spend a Sunny Day: Teddy Roosevelt Island

Spring has sprung in the nation’s capital! The sun is shining and the weather is warm. People are breaking out their sunglasses and croakies; they are shedding their tights and replacing ballet flats with flip flops. As soon as nice weather returns, D.C. residents are anxious to get outside and soak up the sun. In fact, I am currently writing this blog post sitting on my porch, and if I’m being honest, there is a (koozied) beer in my hand, and Eric Church is blasting, but I digress…

During the warm months, one of my favorite D.C. places to visit is Teddy Roosevelt Island. Not only are there beautiful monuments dedicated to one of my favorite Presidents (despite the fact that he always loses races at Nats games), but there are plenty of trails for walkers and joggers, as well. Plus, and most importantly to me, the island is dog friendly. Whether you own a teacup poodle or a St. Bernard, your four legged friend will have the time of his life!



This weekend, my friend Lexi and I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and go on a picnic lunch in the park. We grabbed sandwiches and drinks from Harris Teeter, put Lola on her leash, and walked to Teddy Roosevelt Island. Our adventure started with eating our picnic lunch on the benches near the monuments. As the photos show, we weren’t the only ones that decided to get outside this weekend. The parking lot was full, and we saw many other families, couples, tourists, and young people taking advantage of a gorgeous day, as well. I even made a new best friend. Her name was Ellie, and she, like Lola, was four years old. In fact she was born on the Fourth of July. Simply precious!



After eating our lunch, we headed down the steps to the hiking trails. And, an important safety note for future visitors - there is a sneaky step. Hypothetically, if a person is walking and talking and not paying attention they may miss this step and face-plant. I may currently have a giant bruise on my right knee.

After my minor incident, Lexi and I walked around the nearly 1.5 mile Swamp Trail that follows the edge of the island (it’s a lot more appealing than it sounds, I promise). With Lola leading the way (and stopping at every bench to take a break), we were able to catch up on while getting some much needed sunlight.



In total, Teddy Roosevelt Island has 4 trails spanning 88.5 acres. Park visitors can learn about both our 26th President as well as the natural environment while hiking through the natural reserve. The Island is open year round, from 10 AM to 6 PM. There are also regularly scheduled special events including Island Safaris as well as the “Paddle with a Ranger” program where guests can canoe or kayak around the park with a Park Ranger.

But, the best part about Teddy Roosevelt Island is that it really has something for everyone. Whether you are a painter that wants to observe the views from the bridge, a casual fisher, a runner, or someone who just wants to get outside, it is the perfect place for you. And I would be lying if I said I’d never imagined a gentleman bring me here on adorable picnic date (hint, hint).



So, if you are excited about getting outdoors, I highly recommend Teddy Roosevelt Island; it is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, car, or public transportation. Full directions found here. Two caveats, however: 1) Bicycles are not permitted on the island and must be kept in the rack by the parking lot. 2) Parking is first come first served and often difficult to find when the weather is nice.

Happy trails!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Back and Better Than Ever

If you follow this blog regularly, you'll probably have noticed that it's been quite some time since we last posted a review.  Sadly, life gets in the way sometimes.  Especially for social butterfly Gamma Girls like ourselves!  But what better way to get back on track with blogging regularly again than to announce some exciting new additions to our Gamma Girl team!

We are thrilled to introduce two new authors.  Both are true Gamma Girls -- through and through -- and we are beyond excited to welcome each to this project.


 Thirsty Ivy

Thirsty Ivy, born and bred in the Sunshine State, is now a true Washingtonian ... whether she likes it or not.  She moved here in 2009 to work on a PhD, waded into the dating pool without floaties, loved, lost, and dropped out of school.  You can find her tastefully toasting all over D.C. and, much to her Southern mother's dismay, on a dating website ... or three.





Red, White, and Bourbon

Born and raised in Maryland, RWB has a penchant for Paula Deen, pastels, pearls, and Pugs. True to her (barely) below the Mason Dixon roots, she likes her tea sweet and her whiskey sour. Yet despite her Maryland upbringing (and love of Old Bay and crabcakes), she is somehow an avid Red Sox fan. In her free time RWB can be found watching college football, tailgating at country music concerts, or parading her precious Pug, Lola, around Arlington.



We are also preeeettyyyy psyched to announce our plans to jump back into throwing some kick-ass Gamma Girl happy hours and events.  And in true Gamma Girl style, we hope to team up and co-host these events with other D.C. area bloggers.  Interested in co-hosting?  Shoot us an email so we can get the party planning started!

As we get back into the swing of things, we want to thank all of our loyal followers and supporters over the past several months.  Your comments, tweets, and emails only make this project even more fun.  We hope to meet many of you at our next event, which will be announced soon.  In the meantime, we are happy to be back!