Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ford's Theatre - Sabrina Fair

If you think that Ford's Theatre is just for 8th grade tourists and Lincoln buffs, think again. Ford's is an active theater year-round and offers much more than just A Christmas Carol (though seeing the Christmas classic at Ford's should be required for all Washington residents). Under the direction of Paul Tetreault, Ford's is branching out beyond all things Lincoln and bringing uniquely-American theater productions to DC.

After seeing our post on Little Shop of Horrors, the friendly PR team at Ford's invited us to take a sneak peek at a rehearsal for the upcoming play Sabrina Fair. You might be familiar with the story line from the 1954 Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie Sabrina or the 1995 re-make of the same name starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond.

The play is billed as a modern twist on the Cinderella story. Sabrina, the daughter of the Larrabee family's chauffeur, returns from five years in Paris. As a child, Sabrina was shy and largely ignored, but she returns with confidence and sophistication that attracts the attention of the Larrabee brothers.

Originally written in 1953 focusing on class relations (with all white actors), director Stephen Rayne decided that casting Sabrina as an African American woman would modernize the story by portraying interracial romance. Without changing a word of the script, Rayne transformed the play into a powerful commentary on race relations in America.

While we only caught a glimpse of the play, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the set and costuming. The massive set transports you to the courtyard of a stately mansion. Just as I found myself getting swept away, the sight of the Lincoln balcony snapped me back to the reality of what happened in this historic place. With the combo of historical significance and top-notch plays, Ford's Theatre has become my favorite venue in DC.

It was a special treat to get an inside look at Sabrina Fair and to learn random facts about the production and Ford's Theatre itself. Bet you didn't know that Sabrina's pet bird is played by two birds (one lead and one understudy) named Frank and Stein (get it?) and that they have their own dressing room. You never know what else you'll learn on an outing at Ford's.

Second Thoughts From B

My mom's favorite Beatle was George. Not because she liked the quiet type or that she had anything against the witty John, cute Paul, or goofy Ringo. Rather, she liked George because everyone else adored the others (this is probably the extent of any childhood rebelliousness). In a way, that's how I feel about Ford's Theatre.

I feel like Ford's is the underground band that you discover before they make it big and are played out on every tween's iPod. Just as good as the big boys but without the hype. There's an insider cool about being a fan, and having a personal connection to the little theater that could.

I won't rehash my thoughts on interracial relationships since I did so here, but I will tell you that I look forward to seeing Sabrina Fair. From the little bit that I saw last night, I'm intrigued. Then again, I am a sucker for anything that puts a modern twist on an old favorite (how many times have I used that line when describing food?).

If you've read this far, perhaps you're intrigued by Ford's or their production of Sabrina Fair. In that case, we've got a little surprise for you. We'll be giving away two free tickets to a Sunday performance (October 10 at 2:30pm or 7:30pm, or October 17 at 2:30pm). To enter the random drawing, leave a comment with your favorite DC hidden gem by Wednesday, October 6th. We'll announce the winner in the next day's post. Good luck and see you at the theater!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Black's Bar and Kitchen

Despite the fact that B works in Bethesda, we rarely find ourselves there for dinner. However, as B will explain, Black's Bar and Kitchen holds a special place in our hearts and we're happy to make the special trip. An extensive renovation in 2006 turned Black's from a cozy, yet dated and dark, dining room into a chic, modern bistro.

We had one of those waiters that B dreams about who suggests dishes on the menu without being asked. He was informative without being overbearing. I had a hard time listening to his suggestions because the instant that I opened the menu I locked eyes with the white peach salad. Desperate to savor the last bites of summer, I had high hopes for this salad and it did not disappoint. The white peaches were firm enough to stand up to the greens, pickled onions, and spicy nuts, but not so firm that you wish they'd been left on the counter to ripen a few more days. This is my idea of a perfect salad.

As sure as I'm going to order a salad with fruit and nuts, B is going to order whatever the waiter tells him to. In this case, he was in for a very unique treat. On the specials list were pacu ribs. Pacu is a Brazilian fish that has big, meaty rib bones that look just like baby backs. Black's doused the ribs in a smoky/sweet BBQ sauce and served it with a tangy coleslaw and their take on a potato salad. It was like a backyard BBQ without the effort, since the silky fish slid right off each bone.

It's hard to top fish ribs. However, as soon as B took the first bite of his entree, a giant smile crept over his face and I knew he was excited about the salmon. Served with crispy skin on, this salmon was the envy of all other salmon dishes and comes with a wonderful blend of bacon, shrimp, sweet potatoes, green beans, and other goodies. If you don't think you like salmon, it is probably because most people cook it to death. Try Black's version and you might be converted. I know I was.

Sticking with a fruit theme, I ordered the tiger fish served over apples and duck confit in a brown butter sauce. I'd probably eat anything with brown butter sauce on it, but the tiger fish was so perfectly cooked that it didn't need the sauce. Silky smooth and not the least bit fishy = exactly how I like my fish.

When you walk into Black's you'll probably feel like you've seen this restaurant before. Yes, it has the trendy glass wine room and tables with one bench seat and one chair. Yes, it gets a little too noisy and the lighting is a little too low. However, once you bite into Black's fish creations, you'll be wishing that perfectly-cooked fish was something you saw a lot more often.

Second Thoughts from B

More than any other restaurant, Black's Bar and Kitchen turned me into a foodie. Despite my aversion to the term, that's probably how some people see me, especially through the lens of this blog. Nevertheless, I appreciate food more than some, and Black's was instrumental in that evolution.

We all know the stereotype about ramen noodles and the "poor college student," but having lived the life, I would say that the "poor grad student" might be an even better fit. I was that guy, if you'll permit baked potatoes and rice (with some awful combination of butter, salt, frozen vegetables, and hot dogs) as a substitute for the famous dehydrated noodles. (Mom, when you read this, don't worry that I felt deprived) But how does this relate to Black's? Let me set the stage.

After over 2 years playing the role of poor grad student, I was sent by my professor to Bethesda to establish a scientific collaboration with a researcher at the NIH. By my side was a fellow poor grad student who grew up in the middle-of-nowhere China and together, we had a combined $100 in per diem!

For the first time in my life I could afford a nice meal and was responsible for deciding where to go. Fortunately, we were pointed in the direction of Black's, where we indulged in one of the most memorable meals I'd had in years. Partially because it was such a treat, and partially because I was in the position to help my friend understand the difference between eating-to-live and living-to-eat, I savored and contemplated each bite. Rather than stuffing our faces, we talked about what the chef might have been thinking, and the contrasts of flavor and texture. As my grandfather, who came from equally humble beginnings in China used to say, "Slow down, you're here to dine, not just to eat."

I was sent to Bethesda quite often over the course of my grad school career, and each time, I tried to make my way back to Black's. In fact, it was one of the first places I took J, and that was before she learned to like fish. For me, nostalgia isn't the only reason I love the place. It simply serves great dishes that will make any guest slow down and learn to love food.
Black's Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Da Vinci, The Genius - National Geographic Museum

Long before The Da Vinci Code, Leonardo - the Renaissance Man, not the Ninja Turtle - was my kind of guy. Scientist, Philosopher, Inventor, Artist. The man mastered every craft. Two of the most famous paintings in history, the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, were his. His contributions to the understanding of human physiology, as well as novel ways to study it, were groundbreaking. 500 years ago he was inventing helicopters (seen below), gliders, SCUBA gear, cars, tanks, and any number of gadgets and gizmos that would make Doc Brown's head spin.

You've heard of the phrase "jack of all trades and master of none." Leonardo was a jack of all trades and master of all. Good thing he didn't have any younger siblings because he would have been the subject of tremendous jealousy and resentment, rivaled only by Marsha and Jan Brady.

My fascination with Leonardo increased while studying in Rome over 10 years ago. On a side trip, I passed through Vinci (as in Leonardo of Vinci). Among the beautiful sprawl of Italian vineyards sat a modest Mediterranean villa that housed models of some of Leonardo's inventions. So it is no surprise that I was more excited than the average DC resident to visit the similarly-structured exhibit at the National Geographic Museum titled "Da Vinci, The Genius."

In addition to his inventions, the show included the full breadth of Leonardo's life. A full room was dedicated to the Mona Lisa, and another looked into his fascination with anatomy. For the kids, and the kids at heart, there was an interactive "workshop" that allowed you to discover first-hand the many practical gadgets that seemed to flow from Leonardo's imagination. We were also fortunate to see a screening of Nat Geo's film on his life.

Thanks to Dan Brown, many only think of Leonardo as a code-making artist much like many in my generation think he's a blue sash-wearing, sword-toting, pizza-eating turtle. In this case, the only thing more fascinating than this fiction is the reality.

J Says

Unfortunately for you, this exhibit has moved on to Des Moines, Iowa. However, the Da Vinci exhibit is just one of many fascinating exhibits that find a home at the National Geographic Museum (you may remember our trip to see the Terra Cotta Warriors). Many of them (like the Da Vinci exhibit) are free of charge. The next time you're looking for something to do and think you've seen every museum in town, head over to 17th Street NW. Starting today you can see over 15 species of live geckos as part of the exhibit "Geckos: Tails to Toepads."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

It seems like we are drowning in information sometimes, not that I'm complaining. Between my daily commute spent reading the Express, J's fondness for blogs and Tom Sietsema, and the huge piles of free magazines that show up at our door, we can never use the excuse that we don't have any good ideas on how to fill our weekends.

For the last couple of years, our membership with the Smithsonian has resulted in more bathroom reading than any couple could possibly digest (without a serious medical condition). Among these materials are opportunities for classes and field trips, and the day trip to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater has always been one of the most eye-catching.

So when we found out that a childhood friend would be performing with his band near Pittsburgh, J and I jumped in the car for a mini road trip that included this architectural masterpiece.

Fallingwater was built as a vacation home for a wealthy family looking to escape the bustle of 1930s industrial Pittsburgh. Mission accomplished. Set among the woods and hovering over a stream, the home still maintains the "middle of nowhere" feel (because it still is).

At about 200 miles (or 3.5 hours) from DC, Fallingwater also makes for a great destination for a weekend trip. Neither J nor I know anything about architecture, but were able to appreciate the juxtaposition of the home's geometric lines set within the natural surroundings. We also loved the integration of the home with the stream, and fantasized about living in such a unique and serene environment.

More than anything, the half day at Fallingwater was a perfect retreat from our normal lives. The visit had a little of everything: nature, art, culture, and history. In all, another great way to spend a summer day in our neck of the woods.

J Says

I'm embarrassed to admit that I first heard of Fallingwater when Angelina Jolie took architecture buff Brad Pitt there to celebrate his birthday in 2006. Give me a break though. I was living in LA and that counted as "news." Fast forward a few years when my book club read Loving Frank, a fascinating peek into Frank Lloyd Wright's private life. Reading about the man behind Fallingwater increased my awareness of his work and my curiosity.

While my knowledge of architecture is limited to what I've learned from Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother, I found the Fallingwater trip to be well worth it. Even if you don't care one bit about architecture, you are sure to love the serene setting. At the very least, Fallingwater offers superb people watching.

The tour allows visitors to go back in time and imagine what it would have been like to live at Fallingwater. The furnishings are all authentic and you can see how "ahead of his time" Wright was given that the house has a very 1970's feel even though it was constructed in the 1930's. Perhaps most fascinating was learning about how Wright's unique cantilevered design has suffered from sagging over the years. Despite recent structural improvements, visitors can see a distinct bend in the lower level of the home.

While it was a pleasure to visit Fallingwater on a sunny late-summer day, I don't think there is a bad time of year to make the journey. The home changes with the seasons and looks stunning whether covered in a blanket of sparkling snow or surrounded by spring flowers (at least that's what I'd assume after looking at all the pictures). Bring your camera for the obligatory shot posed in front of the home and waterfall. You just might have yourself a holiday card.

Friday, September 17, 2010

RedRocks - Fire Brick Pizzeria

When we posted our updated list of favorite restaurants, one commenter enthusiastically recommended RedRocks pizza in Columbia Heights and the newly-opened Old Town Alexandria location. Never ones to turn down suggestions from our readers - or pizza, for that matter - we ventured up to the Columbia Heights location on one lazy Sunday afternoon. RedRocks is a perfect illustration of the revitalization of Columbia Heights. In 2007, the owners converted an old Federal-style rowhouse on a downtrodden corner into a cozy pizzeria. While still very much in transition, the neighborhood is coming to life thanks to RedRocks and its new neighbor Meridian Pint.

The bar area is small but inviting with several TVs for football watching and an interesting selection of beer on tap (including Chimay - sorry, inside joke). I fell in love with the coziness of the room and the way the sunlight warmed every inch of the brick house. This is a place you'd feel comfortable lingering in. They have a large patio area for those who want to grasp the final days of warmth before bundling up and eating inside for the Fall and Winter.

To start, we ordered the burrata di bufala salad with baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, olive oil, and fresh-baked bread. The cheese was the perfect creamy consistency which paired nicely with the tangy arugula. While fresh and comforting, it needed something to add a punch of flavor. Perhaps more sea salt or a touch of balsamic?

After we got the rabbit course out of the way, it was time for the main event. I present to you, what is quite possibly my favorite pizza in DC. I know you're thinking I fell on my head and have forgotten about my 2Amys infatuation, but let me explain. I adore 2Amys and I defend them to anyone who complains about the noise, the wait times, the hard-to-get-to location. I always say that the pizza, especially the plain old 2Amys pie, is worth any hassle. While I still believe that, I've found a pie that was served without the side of hassle, and stacked up nicely in the taste department. Behold the pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomato, and ricotta pizza.

I judge pizzas by their crust and this crust had me giggling with delight. It was light, yet had that sweet, doughy edge that is so hard to find, and so satisfying when you find it. The pesto and cheese combo added a good tang, but it didn't overwhelm the flavor of the dough. We couldn't stop smiling when eating this pizza. I felt like one of those over-dramatic chefs on Best Thing I Ever Ate.

To truly compare RedRocks to 2Amys, I had to order the classic Margherita pizza. While I loved the crust, the sauce was a bit on the sweet side, and a little over-saucing issue created a soupy center. Don't get me wrong, it was an excellent pizza, but I have to give the nod to 2Amys on this one.

RedRocks doesn't have toppings you've never heard of (no grana or cockles here), but they do have simple pizza done very, very well. The afternoon scene was so tranquil and the location so convenient, that I left thinking that I had a new favorite pizza place. For a more representative experience, I need to go back during the bustling evening hours to see how the atmosphere and service compare. Who wants to join us for a pizza quest? I promise you won't leave hungry.

Second Thoughts from B

When we looked at the menu, there were too many appealing options and too few mouths to accommodate them all. So being the savvy eating-machines that we are, we ordered a to-go item for dinner later that night. After joyfully filling ourselves with pizza, the waitress returned with our check and an enormous, football-sized calzone that contained fresh mozzarella, ricotta, spicy marinara, and parmesan. In other words, an Italian pinata of flavor encased in that wonderfully tasty RedRocks dough.

So let me sum up. Charming building and interior. Plenty of seating and no wait. Fantastic dough and high quality ingredients. Good non-pizza options. Could we have a new favorite on our hands?

J will tell you that I'm not much fun when playing the "what's the best?" or "what's your favorite?" game. Let me give you an example:

J: What is your favorite movie? Mine is "Big."
B: What do you mean? What kind of movie? Comedy, drama, what?
J: Just any movie.
B: It depends. Are we talking about something that is entertaining or something that makes you think?
J: I don't know. Just something that you like the most?
B: Well, it depends. Are we talking about something you can watch over and over or something that blew you away the first time?
J: Stop it [exasperated sigh], just... what's your favorite. That's it.
B: If you can't be more specific, how can I choose one?
J: Then give me a few. It's not life or death. There's no wrong answer. Just pick one... or some... or any.
B: Oh, I don't know. There's so many. I like... [insert about 20 movies with justifications and caveats for each one].

I'm guessing every group of friends has one of these people, and I'm it. Sorry. Let me make it up to you. Of all the pizza places I've tried in DC, RedRocks is my overall favorite. Period. No caveats. Well... a few. But I'll just leave it at that. You're welcome.
RedRocks Firebrick Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Yards Park - Grand Opening

While a trip to visit the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck already makes for a nice Friday night, we also caught the grand opening of The Yards Park. For those of you who have not ventured into Southeast recently, The Navy Yards gives you one more reason to jump on the Green line.

Some of you might be thinking, "Why would I want to go to Southeast?" And I would respond, "Because you're missing out." The Yards is a waterfront piece of land a couple blocks East of Nationals Park (which is worthy of a visit in its own right) that now hopes to draw people and businesses to its beautifully landscaped, multi-layered grassy areas and sparkling water feature. It is easy to imagine a bustling family-friendly scene filled with restaurants, live music, local artists, and community events in the next few years as the area continues to develop.

Until that day comes, however, we'll have to settle for one more beautiful hidden gem in this city... that and a more difficult parking situation when we drive to trapeze class at TSNY's new location.

J Says

As I've driven to this area every week for trapeze lessons, I've had the pleasure of watching The Yards grow from dirt pile to beautiful public park. Even though I'd seen glimpses of the construction, I was blown away by the final product. I'm a sucker for water features and The Yards has them in spades. I'm particularly fond of the gushing waterfall that you can walk behind.
While there isn't anything other than this beautiful park (and a seriously awesome trapeze school) to draw visitors, developers have plans for a vibrant retail scene. Though I'm sad to see the days of easy parking at trapeze school disappear, I'm thrilled that this community has a new gem to show off.
The other day as I took the Green Line toward the Navy Yard stop, the passenger behind me yelled, "Hey all you white people, get off our train, there's no baseball game today." Here's hoping that The Yards Park will help draw people of all kinds to this part of Southeast, whether the Nationals are in town or away.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck

While a wave of new food trucks has spread across DC in the last year, none has been more talked about than the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. On opening day a few weeks ago, the line stretched around the block. I kept an eye on their Twitter feed, just waiting for the opportunity to get my lobster roll fix without waiting an hour to do it. The lucky opportunity arrived when the truck made its way to the Grand Opening celebration for The Yards Park near Nationals Park. B and I Metro'd to Navy Yard and walked a couple of blocks to the newly-beautified Anacostia riverfront. When we walked up, there were only a few people in line waiting to get their lobster roll on.

If you're wondering about the quirky name, the owners first started serving lobster in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. A lobster "pound" is apparently Maine-speak for a lobster shack. I couldn't wait to see if the lobster rolls would be the best thing to come out of Brooklyn since the Dodgers and my grandparents.

The ordering process is simple, just the way food truck ordering should be. Choose between a lobster roll and a shrimp roll, and decide whether you want to pay $3 extra to make it a combo with Cape Cod potato chips and a Maine Root soda (from the fancy dispenser on the truck). If you don't specify, you'll get your roll served Maine-style with the lobster chilled and tossed in a tiny bit of homemade lemony-mayo. You can also order it Connecticut-style served warm with drawn butter on top. Red Hook also scores major points for accepting credit cards.

I ordered the lobster roll combo - Maine-style - and was immediately impressed with the giant chunks of lobster meat in the roll. This is no processed, unrecognizable pink mush. There were clearly discernible chunks of claw meat galore. Because they use such fresh lobster, I appreciated that they did not drown it in toppings. Toasty roll + fresh lobster = perfect end of Summer treat.

B isn't as big of a lobster fan as I am, so he test drove the shrimp roll. While packed with plump shrimp, the roll didn't make him jump up and down. He thought it was tasty and pretty amazing for food served from a truck, but it didn't elicit random high fives or fist pumps.

For dessert, we sampled one of the whoopie pies. While huge enough for two to share, it loses points for being served cold. The temperature caused the chocolate cake to taste dry. It needed more cream filling to offset the cake. As B said, too much pie and not enough whoopie.

I couldn't write about lobster rolls without comparing them to my first and favorite: the Tackle Box lobster rolls. The Tackle Box roll is more expensive ($19) than its truck-driving cousin ($15), but it is also larger. The quality of lobster meat in both is outstanding but I'll give a slight nod to TackleBox because they don't use celery in their rolls. I realize that most people probably love the crunch that celery adds, but I'm of the opinion that celery is better left to be eaten by first graders who don't know any better.

While I don't think the rolls are worth waiting in line for an hour, if fate smiles upon you and you happen to find the truck without a line, go for it!

Second Thoughts from B

Whether you choose lobster or shrimp, I think the Red Hook philosophy is clear: Deliver the freshest and meatiest seafood that a food truck can provide, and get out of the way. No fancy bread or sauce, just great (and great big) pieces of lobster.

It is not really fair to compare the Red Hook Lobster truck to Tackle Box, but in a way it is the highest of compliments. While Tackle Box wins hands down, the folks at Red Hook have managed to compete out of a food truck. Just being worthy of a comparison is a win for them.

When I was young, my parents bought some land and built their dream home. They were heavily involved in the design and construction, which meant a gorgeous house that didn't exactly appear overnight. Personally, this meant that a significant part of my young life was spent on a construction site. Consequently, I'm decently handy with a hammer and rather familiar with the sight of a "roach coach" parked in our driveway. For those of you unfamiliar with this less-evolved species of food truck, let's just say its culinary sophistication is equivalent to plumber's crack (another unfortunate aspect of construction that I was exposed to early in life). Fast forward 20 years and the roach coach has evolved into something serving fresh seafood and comparing favorably to some of the best seafood restaurants in town!
Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Favorite Restaurants - Revisited

One of our first and most visited posts featured a list of our favorite restaurants. Not necessarily the best, but those that we found ourselves returning to. After all, what does "best" really mean? Rather than assuming that we are any kind of authority, we chose to list those places which won the "put your money where your mouth is" award.

As a refresher, here is the list from the original February 2009 post.
Since that post, loyal readers will testify that we've spent the last year and a half expanding our culinary experiences in DC. They'd also note that we often promise return trips to those places that we've enjoyed. But which restaurants were so good or so memorable that they pushed themselves into heavy rotation?
  • Good Stuff Eatery. While it may not be the very best burger in the world (here's looking at you Ray), when combined with a Milky Way shake and fries dipped in sriracha mayo, it is a contender for best burger joint in the world.
  • Kotobuki. No frills, just plain good sushi served up with a side of the Beatles' Anthology on loop.
  • Matchbox. It won't make our "best" list with all the superior pizza options around, but we've found ourselves waiting for a table on more than one occasion. Even if we don't know exactly why, something must be drawing us back.
  • Mitsitam. The best dining option on the Mall. Indian fry bread tacos with a view of a serene waterfall makes this our go-to spot for visiting museum-goers.
  • Nando's Peri Peri. Spicy chicken and our favorite garlic bread in town can cure whatever ails you.
  • Ping Pong Dim Sum. While definitely not traditional, the dim sum is surprisingly tasty and the killer happy hour deals at the bar can't be beat.
  • Surfside. We drool thinking of their tacos. The very best fish tacos outside (and maybe even including) Southern California. No? Then show us what is better.
  • Tackle Box. The new fangled lobster roll truck may be getting all the publicity, but don't forget the stellar rolls served up at Tacklebox. Add a side of fried shrimp served by the friendliest cashier in town.
  • Taylor Gourmet. They had me at risotto balls, but the sandwiches are great too. This place has fallen to the bottom of our "favorites" list as they had run out of bread and closed early the last couple times we attempted to eat there.

  • Zorba's. A welcome respite from the over-priced under-tasty options in the Dupont area. Big portions of reasonably priced Greek food keep us coming back.

We'd love to know what we're missing. Where are you a repeat customer?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy 9.02.10

I'll admit it, this post is a bit of a stretch for a DC blog, but we had to pay homage to the one and only*, Beverly Hills, 90210 on the one and only 9.02.10. Then again, maybe it isn't as big of a stretch as you might think. After all, Brandon Walsh left Southern California for a job in DC. Doesn't that sound familiar?

*Just like all of the re-creations that tainted the legacy of great movies (see: Kid, The Karate), the new 90210 doesn't exist in my world.

People talk about "soulmates." You know, like David and Donna. Other, more cynical but perhaps more realistic people like Dylan might preach about finding someone who can tolerate the skeletons in your closet. The happy medium, of course, would be celebrating - rather than hiding - each other's idiosyncrasies, and I'd like to think that is what J and I do. The most obvious example would be our borderline unhealthy devotion to our alma mater. The less apparent, but no less important, would be our love of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Before meeting each other, we both loved the show, not as a beautiful gem of television artistry, but for what it was at the time. If I have to explain this to you, then you might as well skip the rest of this post and read about our latest culinary adventure...

The fact is that much of our early relationship was built on days that began with homemade waffles and 90210 reruns. And while our time with the class of W Bev Hi 93 isn't as extensive as it used to be, we aren't ashamed to admit that we dream of someday buying the Walsh house or opening a Peach Pit. Would you expect anything else out of the couple who incorporated a 90210 credit reel tribute into their wedding slideshow and seriously considered the Bel Age Hotel (site of the infamous West Bev "Donna Martin Graduates" prom) as a wedding location?

The advent of 9.02.10 made us think about where the gang would be today. They might look old (remember, they looked middle-aged during their junior year of high school), but they would all be in their late 30's and we'd argue (or dream) that they'd be in Washington, DC.

What? They'd all leave LA? Yes, we think they would. Consider that valedictorian Andrea shunned Yale, troublemaker Steve avoided jail, and youngster David graduated a year early so that the gang could all attend California University together. So is it so far-fetched that everyone would have followed Brandon to DC just to stay together? We think not.

This is how we see it playing out: Clearly, Brandon would have learned the political machine through his time in the press and channeled his experience with the late Josh Richland to challenge Henry Waxman (representing Beverly Hills) for the Democratic nomination in the House. Riding the wave of anti "inside the Beltway" sentiment and with the shrewd campaigning of Andrea Zuckerman-Vasquez, Brandon's chances look good. However, his connection to noted lobbyist and political fundraiser, Steve Sanders (currently undergoing an ethics violation probe), is causing concern. There are also rumblings that his relationship with Andrea is not completely platonic, which doesn't sit well with her reconciled husband Jesse - now at the DOJ - or their teenage daughter Hannah.

Meanwhile, Brandon's twin sister Brenda is also in the news. After two failed marriages and an acting career that never took off, she is leveraging her new marriage (and new-found fortune and status) to former fiance Stuart Carson into a spot on the Real Housewives of DC. Spicing up an otherwise dull season, Dylan McKay enters the picture when he comes to town to launch his latest investment; a non-profit organization located in Dupont that rescues kidnapped children called "Saving Erica," which of course, is run by Kelly Taylor with assistance (and drama) provided by Valerie Malone and detective Jonesey.

David and Donna would have also made the move to DC. After taking off in LA, the Donna Martin Originals brand has expanded to include "Now Wear This, Too" in Georgetown. As her business continues to grow (mostly from disgruntled Georgetown Cupcake customers realizing the cupcakes are not worth the wait), Donna is helping to replace the whale belts and pastel popped collars that are all too prevalent in the city. David, on the other hand, struggled to find his place and bounced around several nightclubs, using what was left of his one hit wonder fame from the song "Precious." However, opportunity struck with the rise of Barack Obama. Always one to be on the forefront of technology, David's social media presence was a key to the election, which led to a position as the White House's unofficial social media czar. Currently, David is again feuding with Ray Pruit, both professionally and personally. Ray is now heavily involved with the Tea Party and trying to patch things up with Donna.

Finally, Jim - now a senior adviser to Timothy Geithner - and Cindy have returned from Hong Kong and purchased a charming home in Chevy Chase, which is visited far too often by the gang. Nat also made the move East after the original Peach Pit went belly up due to its entire clientele relocating to DC. He and Willie are now serving up Megaburgers at his new location in the up and coming H Street NE corridor, which he hopes will soon be reviewed by the local blog, TwoDC.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Pop quiz time!

Question: What do (1) the Chipotle in Union Station, (2) Roberto Donna's "Galileo III," and (3) Ris Lacoste's "RIS" have in common?

Answer: They all shared interminable delays in launching, which caused Washingtonians to wonder if they would ever open.

While the wait continues for Chipotle and Galileo III, Chef Ris Lacoste finally opened the doors to RIS in December 2009... many, many months after posting a "RIS is coming" sign on the window of 2275 L Street NW. Chef Lacoste left Georgetown's 1789 (a.k.a. site of the worst service ever to take place in a DC restaurant) at the beginning of 2005 and spent the next four years preparing to open RIS. We decided to use a Restaurant Week lunch as an opportunity to see if RIS was worth the wait.

RIS has a bright and airy feel thanks to a huge wall of west-facing windows. Unfortunately, these windows face a grungy police station, but the designers did a nice job of masking the view without shutting out all of the light.

Each meal starts with a serving of biscuits and jam. The biscuits were a bit on the dry side, but the strawberry jam helped them slide right down and we had no problem eating all three.

B started with the gnudi (pronounced "nude-y"), which are ricotta dumplings and not naked women. We're on a streak (he he) of posts with deceptive names regarding nudity. Anyway, the pillowy dumplings were served on a bed of tomato and eggplant fondue with spinach and crispy prosciutto. A light but still decadent beginning.

I ordered the panzanella salad which contained so many goodies that it was a bit overwhelming. The flavors were bright and bold, but someone was heavy-handed with the balsamic, leaving a kiddie pool of vinegar in the bottom of the (generous) bowl.

Having fallen in love with the bivalves at Brasserie Beck, B wanted to see how RIS flexed her mussels. The preparation was unique, skipping the soupy broth and putting the focus on the spicy chorizo and plump mussels. While B appreciated the approach taken with this dish, he missed out his favorite Beck pastime: dunking the bread in the briny broth.

I always have a hard time turning down pasta and immediately locked eyes with the orecchiette pasta on the menu. It featured pesto, summer squash, goat cheese, and pine nuts. I whiffed a bit on the ordering because the flavors of the pasta were a bit similar to the salad and sent me into goat cheese overload. However, I adored the fresh pesto and love how the orecchiette stacked together like mini hats.

I was hoping RIS could snap us out of the Restaurant Week dessert doldrums that Art and Soul left us in... Success! These desserts could brighten even the dreariest of moods. B loved every bite of his puckery key lime meringue tart with raspberries.

I fell in love with my cherry vanilla eskimo pie with pistachios and caramel sauce. If you didn't grow up eating Eskimo Pies like I did, they are ice cream bars coated in chocolate. Each bite cracks the chocolate shell and lets the ice cream dribble out as it melts. I spent many a childhood summer afternoon with hands sticky with Eskimo Pie chocolate. RIS' version brought me right back to that happy place.

We had a delightful lunch at RIS and I applaud them for doing Restaurant Week the right way with great service, big portions, and a varied menu. The only thing that might keep us from coming back is that the concept blends in so well with so many other restaurants in town that it might get lost in the sea. That eskimo pie, however, will shine as a beacon of light calling me to return soon.

Second Thoughts From B

As you may have noticed, Restaurant Week has come and gone and yet we're just now writing about RIS. I guess "waiting" is a recurring theme in this post.

After our meal, I'm happy to report that the time that RIS needed to open was well spent. I also think the time that passed before writing this post has paid off. Let me explain.

It is easy to talk about a meal shortly after you've finished digesting, but time allows for a bit more focus as memories are created or forgotten. At a lesser restaurant, I might have to struggle to figure out what to write. However, I can still taste the perfectly seasoned gnudi that was a wonderful blend of flavors and textures. My mouth even watered as I wrote that sentence. I can also imagine the mussels that were infused with all the flavors of the chorizo and the tart that would have made my lime-loving father "woo" with pleasure.

The other thing we took away from RIS was how much more we enjoyed Restaurant Week lunches. With smaller crowds and almost half the price for a similar amount of food, I think this is the way to go. I also think that it would be a shame to wait until the next Restaurant Week before we taste that gnudi again.
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