Friday, December 14, 2012

What to Do in the District This Weekend

You guys, it's our last weekend before the end of the world.


Just in case the Mayans' apocalyptic prediction is right and the world does indeed implode in one week, you'll want to get in as much fun as you can.  Maybe throw a good deed in there too while you enjoy all the fun holiday festivities.  Need ideas?  We've got you covered.   

Tonight 

If you're in the mood for something festive, stop by The Willard from 5:30-7:30 for some Christmas Caroling.  The Capital Hearings will be singing some a cappella harmonies to get you in the holiday spirit in the lovely lobby of the historic Willard Hotel.  The performance is free and open to the public, and includes traditional carols, classical selections, and holiday favorites.    

Another festive option is offered at Union Market, where the Grinch Holiday Happy Hour runs from 4:30-7:00.  Here you'll find live music by Capital Blend, holiday drink specials from Buffaloo & Bergin and Rappahannock Oyster Bar, and a special appearance from The Grinch himself.  

Afterward, head to George for Jive to Survive, a late-night holiday throwdown to benefit Thrive DC.  Thrive DC serves homeless and vulnerable individuals by providing services like twice daily meals, health screenings, and intensive job training.  $12 in advance and $20 at the door will get you drink specials that include $1 Rail and Red Bull Vodka and $1 Bud Light, and all proceeds go to Thrive DC.  There will also be photographers, raffle items, and Uber voucher cards.  

Finally, there's "The End of an Era Show" at the Red Palace.  Capital Katie is a fan- she wrote about it in her Where to Have an Exotic Date post- and tonight the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow is taking the stage for the last time before the club closes in 2013.  Cheeky Monkey's show includes burlesque, sword swallowing, magic tricks and stunts involving broken glass, flaming batons, and more. So even if you're as anti-holiday as Grumpy Cat, you'll still enjoy this one. 
   
Saturday

From Appealing Kate: While I am heading out of town to make questionable decisions for the weekend in the Big Apple, I need to make the following plug about a great event on Saturday.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my home state of Maine. And how couldn't you when you come from the most beautiful state in all the country, full of the friendliest, nicest people (me biased? nahhhh).

What- you don't believe me? Well, below is an example of an exceptional Mainer and a chance for you to get involved in one of best activities in the District during the holiday season.

Twenty years ago, Morrill Worcester, owner or Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, found himself with a surplus of wreaths towards the end of the holiday season. With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Worcester was able to work with Arlington National Cemetery to place wreaths in one of the older sections of the cemetery, a section which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. Thus began an annual tradition of trucking wreaths from Maine to Washington. It's turned into an event that attracts thousands upon thousands of volunteers each year, and this year there are a record 37 semi-trucks of wreaths (all from Maine) on their way to Arlington right now.

Still not convinced? Check out this video (but get the tissues ready. It's a tear jerker).


The organizers encourage volunteers of all ages to come and help and all are welcome simply by showing up (no need to sign up in advance).

Below is a basic schedule of events:
0700 – Metro opens system-wide
0800 – Arlington National Cemetery gates and parking lot opens
0830 (approx) – 8 Truck Wreath Convoy arrives
0930 – Opening Ceremony at Memorial Amphitheater
1000 – Wreath laying begins
1100 – Wreath laying ceremony at President Kennedy’s grave
1130 – Wreath laying ceremony at U.S.S. Maine Mast
1200 – Wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

You can find more information about the event by visiting the organization's website or by finding it on facebook or twitter.

After you do your good deed for the day, and get ready for another round of holiday parties to attend, stop by the new Dry Bar in Georgetown for a blow dry.
After, walk around Georgetown and do some shopping while enjoying all of the festive decorations, or stop by the new ice-skating rink at the Georgetown Waterfront. It's adorable.

Sunday

Starting at 11:00 AM, Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse will be running its annual day-long screening of Christmas movies.  For the mere price of $8, you can see "A Christmas Story," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," my personal favorite- "Elf"- and more.  You can come and go as you please, which is helpful in case you've got to step out to make snow angels for two hours, and then go ice skating, and then eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as you can, and then snuggle.

There's not too much on the docket for Sunday otherwise, so perhaps this would be an opportune time to head to Old Town to finish (or start!) your holiday shopping.  The historic streets are decorated brightly for the holidays, and entertainers on street corners and colorful shop windows help ring the holiday season in with style. 

You can also head to Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens from 9:00-4:00 for special festivities that include themed decorations, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations, 18th-century dancing, and even a Christmas camel like George Washington had on the grounds during Christmas of 1787. 
A highlight is the Mount Vernon Candlelight Tour, in which Martha Washington hosts an 18th-century Christmas with candlelit walks, fireside caroling, and festive d├ęcor.

Enjoy the weekend!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where to Eat Barbecue in D.C.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in Cincinnati. It's a much-ballyhooed fact that in 1835, the city was America's hog-packing headquarters and was affectionately dubbed "Porkopolis" as a result. It's a history the Queen City has taken to heart, holding the swine as divine and decorating downtown with these little ethereal piglets:

The Flying Pig, the unofficial mascot of Cincinnati.
In any case, these pigs have apparently flown across my radar one time too many because I'm obsessed with them. Call it a porcine predilection, a hog hunger, a passion for pork. Whatever words you choose, it is by far the most delicious meat, and I want nothing more than to have it smoked, pulled, slathered in barbecue sauce and lining the insides of my belly.

And even though my hometown is not known for its barbecue, my desire to dig in to a plate of Babe has made me strive to find the best barbecue in D.C. Now, unfortunately, with the forthcoming list, I can't necessarily promise you anything to rival your Texas, St. Louis or North Carolina favorites, or even guarantee very much authenticity. The District hasn't quite caught on to the scrumptious barbecue of the South yet. But, my beloved adopted city definitely tries, and there are a bevy of options for those of you who want to fill your ribs with... well, ribs.



TEXAS

Hill Country Barbecue, 410 7th St. NW



One of the newer dining options in Penn Quarter, the basement level of this barbecue chain feels very much like an Austin honky tonk, according to a Texas-native pal. Upstairs in the dining area, you have to wait in line cafeteria-style to get your meat, which I personally hated doing, but they served my drink in a mason jar and the meat was tasty so all was forgiven.



TENNESSEE

Memphis Barbeque, 320 S. 23rd St., Arlington



The most awesome thing about this place? They serve you hush puppies in the way that most restaurants serve you bread. Can I tell you how much I loved that? I loved that. I loved that so much I nearly kissed our server on the mouth. Oh, and the food was pretty delicious, too.

Red Hot & Blue, 1600 Wilson Blvd., Arlington (among others)

A chain, which automatically knocks it down a peg or two in my opinion, but I liked the sweet potato fries.



INDETERMINATE ORIGIN

Pork Barrel BBQ, 2312 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria



Talk about supporting local businesses -- the founders of Pork Barrel are former Senate staffers who swapped days of dry paperwork for dry rubs. They created various barbecue accoutrements, started selling them at local stores, and eventually partnered with local restauranteurs for this brick-and-mortar establishment in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. It's definitely worth the trip out to the suburbs!

Smoke and Barrel, 2471 18th St. NW



In the heart of Adams Morgan, this little place serves up a variety of vegan options alongside their meats, proving that vegetarians and carnivores can actually be friends. There's quite a craft beer list here, too.

Old Glory Bar-B-Que, 3139 M St. NW



This was the first barbecue joint I tried when I moved to D.C., so even though it is located amongst the riff raff of Georgetown, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's one of those places that gives you about six different sauce options splayed out on your table, so you can switch from a North Carolina sauce to a mustard-based sauce to something else with every bite. This place is also known for its extensive bourbon offerings.

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company, four locations in Washington, Alexandria, Arlington and Rockville

Pretty standard barbecue from a guy who dropped out of medical school once upon a time. That's quite the turn-around on the whole health situation, huh?



FANCY BBQ

Epic Smokehouse, 1330 S. Fern St., Arlington



This is the only restaurant on this list that you need to dress up for (and even then, only slightly). It's the newest barbecue joint to open in town, in the unfortunate and exceedingly unappetizing location next to the Dumpster/loading dock at CostCo in Crystal City. Still, it serves a maple bacon cupcake for dessert, so just don't look out the window and you'll be fine.



THE UNDISPUTED CHAMPION

Hogs on the Hill, 2003 Bladensburg Road NE



Oh my God, this place should not be delicious but it is. This is a hole-in-the-wall, carry-out only barbecue joint just off New York Avenue on your way out of the city on 295. The sticky, sweet barbecue sauce will coat your insides with happiness. TRUST ME.


In hog we trust!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What to Do in the District on New Year's Eve


A friend posted the above video on facebook last week. I watched it approximately seven times because, well, it's just simply adorable. Around my fourth viewing though, I was suddenly all ohhhh crrraaappppp-- what AM I DOING for New Year's Eve?

Have no fear, dear reader, for I have since solidified my plans. Phew. But I thought I would share some ideas that were generated when my friends and I were contemplating what to do for the big night.

Option #1: The Big Party

D.C. has so many big, over the top, all you can drink, fancy schmancy parties with live bands and tons of people that are 100% guaranteed to result in bad decisions. Here are a few that I recommend:

Big Night DC
Gaylord Hotel, National Harbor
9:00pm-3:00am

This event sounds insane (but in a good way). Last year, 7,000, yes, 7,000 people attended. It takes place at the Gaylord National Resort and will include over a dozen different parties that attendees can roam in and out of. Additionally, there will be numerous open bars and non-stop food. I know, sounds intense. Also sounds super crazy fun, though, amiright?

Masquerade Ball
Howard Theatre, Shaw/ U Street
9:30pm-3:00am

Dress up fancy, wear a masquerade mask, and dance to a mix of house music, top 40 hits, and hip hop tunes at the old historic Howard Theatre. The burlesque themed event will also have various performers, including pop violinists and fire breathers, and there will be a massive balloon drop at midnight.

James Bond Thunderball Gala
Washington Plaza Hotel, Thomas Circle
9:00pm-3:00am

This formal event will feature an open bar all night, internationally themed buffets, mock casino gambling, Bond cars, sexy Bond girls, two huge balloon drops, a champagne toast at midnight, performances by top DC Djs and a seven piece orchestra, and, of course, lots of martinis, shaken not stirred.

Brightest Young Thing's Fancy Schmancy NYE Ball
Former Spanish Ambassador's Residence, Columbia Heights
8:00pm-4:00am

I went to BYT's New Year's Eve party last year. While it was packed to the gills with people, it was a ton of fun. Awesome music, cool people (i.e. not your usual douche-baggy D.C. people), and open bar? All three things pretty much guarantee a great party. This year the event will include a full open bar all night, food stations, a photo booth, and half a dozen different DJs.

Option #2: Fancy Dinner Events

While open bar dance parties can be fun, I'm also a big fan of putting on my favorite LBD and going out to a fancy dinner with a cute man and/ or a group of friends. And that is exactly what I'm doing this year. While researching options, I found a whole host of restaurants offering special prix fixed New Year's Eve menus:

Ristorante Piccolo (Georgetown)- four course Italian menu, strolling musician, cozy fireplaces, and champagne toast.

Zentan (downtown)- five course menu, live DJ, dancing, and a champagne toast at midnight.

Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar (Capitol Hill)- "Vintage Vegas" themed decorations, three course tasting menu, and complimentary champagne toast.

Vidalia (Downtown)- A la carte menu or five course tasting menu from 5:30pm-7:00pm, and a six course tasting menu from 8:00pm-11:00pm.

Lincoln (McPherson Square)- Six course tasting menu, live music, casino tables, and a champagne toast at midnight.

Dino (Cleveland Park)- Five course tasting menu and special wine flights.

Co Co Sala (Penn Quarter)- Eight course menu beginning at 8:30pm, dancing, party favors, and champagne toast.

Blue Duck Tavern (West End)- Three course dinner with a champagne toast.

And last but not least, you could have dinner on the Odyssey Boat.  I've gone before, and while the food isn't great, it is romantic and fun.  This year's NYE dinner cruise will feature three courses, live entertainment, dancing, a chocolate fountain, open bar, champagne toast at midnight, and you can't beat the views of the monuments while sailing down the Potomac.

Option #3: Your Local Bar/ Watering Hole

Just about every bar in the District and the surrounding area will have some sort of New Year's Eve special. Give your local bar a call and see what fun they have planned.  Then grab a few of your friends and have a super chill, relaxed NYE.  Oh, but don't forget to flirt with that cutie at the bar so you have someone to kiss at midnight.  Gotta start the year off right, after all.

That's all I've got folks.  Hope this helps you plan your New Year's Eve in the District. Happy Holidays!







Friday, December 7, 2012

What to Do in the District this Weekend (sort of)

Sadly, the Gamma Girls have been too busy drinking spiked eggnog and attending holiday parties this week, so we do not have our weekly weekend post for you.

The Gamma Girls all week long:



The Gamma Girls today:


BUT...that doesn't mean we don't have ideas to share.

Jules and Appealing Kate both love being cozy. Check out Jules post about where to have a cozy date in Cleveland. It provides both indoor and outdoor options, and read Appealing Kate's suggestions for all sorts of cozy spots in and around the District.

Feeling like you want to stay home, turn on your Christmas tree lights, and curl up on the couch? In honor of Repeal Week, check out Thirsty Ivy's book recommendation about prohibition in the District, or read Appealing Kate's reviews of television shows based in the District to get ideas of what to watch On Demand

No weekend is complete without brunch. Check out Capital Katie's recommendations for the best brunch sandwiches in the District. And all you crazy college football fans should read Red, White and Bourbon's game day guide to find the best spots to cheer on your team.

Want to act like a tourist this weekend? Read Jules post about fun museum event to attend.

Since it is the second weekend of December, it's about time you start planning that holiday party or New Years Eve event, and Capital Katie has all kinds of advice on how to host a successful event in the District. You can even go old school and send out paper invitations by reading Thirsty Ivy's recommendations on the best stationery stores in the District.

Lastly, read Appealing Kate's How to Get in the Holiday Spirit post for festive things to do in the District.

Happy Friday and Happy Holidays!

The Gamma Girls

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where to Buy Running Gear in the District (Plus, Join Our Cherry Blossom Team!)

Want to join the Gamma Girls' Cherry Blossom 10-Miler team? See the end of the post for more info! 


I am not one of those runners who wakes up at 5:00 AM and runs five miles in 20 degree weather because I just love it.  No. 

The truth is, I am a runner who hates running.  I hate it so much.  Because running is terrible.  It is exhausting and difficult and frankly, it's boring.  The best part about running is being finished with running and knowing at least a day or two will pass before I feel compelled to do it again.   

I suspect there are a lot of people out there who secretly hate running but do it anyway.  Why?  Because of what running results in.  It quickly and efficiently burns off Jumbo Slice consumed on a street corner at 3:00 AM.  It doesn't require a gym membership or anything other than a pair of sneakers.  It relieves stress, improves blood pressure, and lessens insomnia.  And it makes you feel pretty damn proud of yourself every time you do it, because it's so. freaking. hard.

Whether you're a newbie trying it out or a seasoned runner training for your tenth marathon because you just can't get enough (PS, I hate you), the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to get a good pair of running shoes that are tailored to your needs.

With that in mind, I recently stopped by Potomac River Running in Cleveland Park on the lookout for a new pair of shoes.  And I was blown away by how helpful and patient the staff was.  They didn't make any judgmental remarks when they saw my current pair were so worn that the size markings had  faded to obscurity (I can't be blamed for this behavior- I learned it from my father, who used to duct tape his running shoes when they became so worn that holes started to appear).

After I explained that my feet are freakishly narrow, the staff brought out all the shoes in my size that come in narrow widths or run on the narrow side.  They encouraged me to try every single pair on the store treadmill, and examined my gait to ensure that I was fitted with a proper shoe.  I left with a rare desire to go on a run just for fun because I was so happy with my new pink-laced kicks.

But several weeks later, I begrudgingly returned to Potomac River Running, pink-laced shoes in tow.  I explained that though my new shoes fit perfectly, the arch of my foot hurt sometimes when I ran, which had never been a problem before.

"Are they Asics?" asked one staff member.

When I confirmed they were, she nodded knowingly.  "They don't have much arch support compared to the other brands.  A brand like Brooks would be better."

Not only did they allow me to exchange a pair of shoes I admitted to wearing a good dozen times, they didn't bat an eye when I told them I'd lost the receipt.  And a few weeks later, I can say confidently that the Brooks fit perfectly and provide the exact level of support that I need.

Both pairs of shoes- the Asics and Brooks- came in right around $90, which, for running shoes, is an extremely reasonable price.  The store also carries a good selection of clothes and accessories and pretty much anything else you can possibly buy that relates to running.

With reasonable prices, a wide selection,  friendly and knowledgeable staff, excellent customer service, and a convenient right-next-to-Metro location, it's hard to imagine a reason to go anywhere else.


Interested in running the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler with some of the Gamma Girls?  Email us at doingthedistrict@gmail.com by Tuesday, December 11 and we'll add your name to our group!  Registration is conducted by lottery, so no guarantees, but our fingers are crossed.  The run is beautiful- just look at the picture- and we're a laid back group that runs at all different speeds, so everyone is welcome.  

For more on running, check out Kate's post, Where to Run in the District  



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Review of Arena Stage's Pullman Porter Blues

I don't know about all of you readers, but I've had a terrible case of the "I just want to stay home and be cozy in my apartment" lately. It's hard to do that though when I'm also like a moth to a flame when it comes to invitations.

Already home with my yoga pants on, watching jeopardy, about to have my first sip of Pinot Noir, and my phone buzzes with an invitation to meet up and watch Monday night football in Dupont? I want to say no. But. I. Just. Can't. 30 minutes later I'm walking into the bar.

Just finishing a long run after work, looking forward to watching approximately four episodes of West Wing on DVD, baking an apple pie, and going to bed early? All it takes is a call from a girlfriend inviting me out to a random extended happy hour in Chinatown and I'm hopping in that shower faster than it takes President Obama to reject a Republican proposal about the fiscal cliff.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that last Thursday night I wanted nothing more than a night at home after a week full of social events, but I just couldn't turn down the invitation to attend Arena Stage's performance of Pullman Porter Blues. And I'm really, really glad I didn't.

My date and I started off our night at Station 4, conveniently located across the street from the Waterfront metro and less than a block from Arena Stage. You can read my review of it's full dinner service here, but on Thursday we opted to try the happy hour at the bar instead. We both ordered the featured happy hour red wine. It was a delicious Malbec and was the perfect way to warm up after a chilly commute over. We also ordered two flat-bread pizzas (also on happy hour special). One was a meat lovers dream with pork belly, blue cheese, caramelized onions, arugula and a fig balsamic reduction. The other was vegetarian with chick peas, zucchini, roasted eggplant, artichokes, and feta cheese. Both had great flavor and filled us right up.

Then, we simply closed our tab and scooted across the street to Arena Stage to catch the play. The evening started off with a brief welcome from the Arena Stage executive director and then the playwright, Cheryl West. It was a nice way to introduce the play because West gave us a brief history of Pullman porters. I knew virtually nothing about them before this, but, jeez, what a fascinating piece of history that had a profound impact on our country.

Here is what I learned: The Pullman Train Company was founded in 1868 (all you history buffs should recall that this was just three years after the emancipation proclamation). Pullman recruited black men for jobs as porters on its passenger cars. These jobs were extremely attractive to former slaves, because the men could give up harsh jobs in the field for clean uniforms and a chance to travel all over the country. That said, the hours were long, the wages extremely low, and the work was grueling. By the 1920s, the Pullman Company was the largest employer of black men in the country, with over 20,000 full time workers. Porters were very well respected in their communities because they worked hard, saved their money, put their kids through school, and even established the first black labor union. Additionally, porters are credited with directly impacting what is called the Great Migration- the movement of blacks from the South to find jobs in the North. Porters helped achieve this by transporting Northern newspapers to the South allowing blacks to learn about the good jobs offered in the North.

Now that you've had your history lesson for the week (you're welcome), this play centers around three generations of porters on a train traveling from Chicago to New Orleans on a June night in 1937. Monroe, the eldest, is the hardworking, obedient, senior porter. His son, Sylvester, is the opposite. Hot tempered and angry, he is secretly working to help establish the black labor union. And, lastly, is Cephas, the youngest, who has just finished his first year of college at the University of Chicago. While Monroe is complacent and proud to be a porter, Sylvester is resentful and wants more out of life for his son. Cephas, however, is your typical twenty year old, still trying to figure out his place in the world.


Despite the darker themes of racism, class lines, rape, and family conflict and secrets that develop throughout the play, the opening scene begins with an upbeat and captivating blues song. This is the first of 12 blues songs performed throughout the play. Although I enjoyed the acting and the story line, the musical performances were my favorite aspect of this play. Each song seemed to energize the audience.



I also really enjoyed the set. The backdrop is a copper train car, and the various set pieces are wheeled in and out as needed. The set was clean enough so that it wasn't distracting, but intricate enough to feel like the actors are really chugging along on a train.

Remember above when I mentioned how I wanted a couch night? Yeah, the opening scene instantly made me realize I had made the right decision to venture out to the theater. And I was thoroughly entertained and engaged throughout the entire performance.


If you've read any of my past reviews for Arena Stage, you may recall that I just about always recommend seeing the play. But this one? I realllllllyyy recommend it. It's nothing but entertaining.

Pullman Porter Blues will be playing at Arena Stage until January 6th. Ticket and show information can be found here.