July 29, 2009

DC: Dinner at Marvin

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On our second night in DC the other weekend, Tammi and I met up with friends for dinner at Marvin. As I mentioned in a previous post, Marvin's menu stars the somewhat startling combination of Southern American and Belgian dishes. Though it seems odd at first, I have to say it worked well.

I had the chicken and waffle, above, which was wonderful. The breading had just the right crispy crunch to it and was complemented wonderfully by the sweetness of the syrup. Even the side of sauteed greens with a cream sauce that sat beneath the waffle mixed well, adding a slightly bitter edge to all that sweet and savory.

Tammi went with an order of Moules Frites, which came with a huge pile of mussels. She was so full from that, that she barely touched her fries. If you knew how much she loves fries, you'd understand how good the mussels must have been.

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After dinner we headed upstairs and listened to the DJ spin some tunes while we relaxed for a couple hours. The space filled up over the evening and there was a great vibe. Good times.

July 27, 2009

DC: America - The Store

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Reagan National Airport.

July 26, 2009

William Eggleston at The Corcoran Gallery

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The reason we went down to DC last weekend was to see the William Eggleston exhibit at The Corcoran Gallery. The event is part of a traveling show sponsored by The Whitney. I missed it in New York last year, largely because I'd never heard of him before I started taking classes at ICP.

Once I had, I realized that Eggleston has deeply influenced everything I've ever tried to do as a photographer without me even knowing it. His focus on everyday details and objects, the 'democratizing' effect that this exhibit was named after is the basis of everything that has inspired me to shoot. But I had no idea. At least not until I heard about him in class.

The work was amazing. Beyond the subjects, which I still cling to when making and viewing photographs, his composition did things I barely understand.

After we walked out of the exhibit, there was a performance art piece, above, in the lobby. These people were singing and screaming and falling down -and up- the stairs. I had no idea of it's 'meaning,' I'm entirely unfamiliar with such things. But it sort of captured how I felt after seeing Eggleston's work: Devastated.

It left me suddenly aware of the 'unknown unknowns' that Donald Rumsfeld spoke of. That is, it made me aware of not just how much I had to learn, but how much I had to learn that I didn't know I had to learn.

To my discredit, I let these things intimidate me. I've barely shot any thing since seeing this exhibit. Admittedly, it's been a hectic, pre-trip week, so it's not all nerves. But I hope to spend some time shooting during my off time while out here and getting over my self-confidence issues.

July 23, 2009

Batala at Farragut Square

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I've found that when traveling, sometimes the most interesting experiences are the ones you just stumble upon unexpectedly.

Saturday, while we walked through DC heading down to a Museum from our hotel, we felt, more than heard the thumping beats of The Batala Washinton Percussion Band performing in Farragut Square.

Tammi and I joined the crowd that had gathered to watch these dozens of women pounding on their drums and feeling the rhythms flow through them.

Batala is an international network of groups that celebrate Afro-Brazilian rhythms around the world. This group is all women, but others, including the founding band in Paris are mixed.

If you'd like to see them, Batala Washington can be found rehearsing every Saturday at Farragut Square. They also have a number of performances listed on their calendar

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May 22, 2009

DC: Alhambra Negra


I had this Alhambra at an outdoor bar called Rumba Cafe on 18th Street in Washington. It was a dark, malty beer which is unusual for Spanish beer. The body was lighter, according the the website, "adapted to Mediterranean tastes." It was a good find. I hope to find it again here in New York.

April 27, 2009

DC: Coal is Dirty


Here's some more political graffiti I found off 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Maybe I'm seeing a trend where one doesn't exist, but I found it interesting how directly political some of the graffiti in DC was.

This collage of paste-ups pieced together slogans and imagery in protest against the coal industry, including fliers for a rally last month. There's a fair amount of graffiti that references politics in New York, but in my experience they tend to be broader anti-establishment messages rather than specifically regarding policy.

April 26, 2009

DC: Ben's Chili Bowl

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Everyone's talking about Ben's Chili Bowl these days. It's been months since the blogs were abuzz about the where to go in DC during the pre-inaugural festivities.

Ben's, a fixture on the U Street strip that used to be called the Black Broadway, received particular attention after then President-Elect Obama stopping in to ask "What's a Half-Smoke?"


This is a Half-smoke, topped with everything, including the eponymous chili. It's a damn good dog. Don't let the shop's name fool you, the chili is peripheral, the Half-Smoke is king. The meat is spicy and flavorful and firm enough to give just the right amount of resistance to the bite.


The chili complements it extraordinarily well, but strictly in a supporting role. It's a condiment, I probably wouldn't eat it on it's own any more than I would have a bowl of mustard or ketchup. It's more a thick gravy that soaks into every pore and crevice of the bun extending the flavor of meat to depths unimaginable.

I'm salivating just thinking of it.

April 24, 2009

DC: Pide at Rosemary's Thyme


This is a Pide (pronounced pee-day). I had it for brunch at Rosemary's Thyme not far from our hotel in Dupont Circle.

Pide is a type of Turkish pizza, a flatbread with a meaty topping. This one was topped with Sujuk, Turkish sausage on one half, Pastirma, cured beef strips on the other and cheese with veggies all around. Since it was brunch, they threw an egg on top. Based on the meal alone, I'd be raving about the place, but the experience was dampened by poor service.

No one was rude, but everything was very slow. I don't know that there was a single time that the waiter came by without apologizing for the tardiness of one thing or another. Looking around online, it seems that this is a common experience, which is unfortunate. The space itself is pretty nice, with a huge indoor space taking up what seems like 3 storefronts and an outdoor deck that stretches across all of them.

This dish was really great- almost good enough to make me want to return. But given the experience, I'm more likely look for a Turkish place with better service.

DC: The White House Garden Tour


Entirely by luck, Tammi and I ended up in DC the weekend of the Spring Garden Tour. Turns out that the White House opens up the gardens for self-guided tours along the path in front of the south facade. They only offer it twice a year, with nothing more needed than a free ticket picked up an hour or two in advance.

Tammi and I got up bright and early to get our tickets as soon as we found out. Outside of this, our only option would have been requesting tickets from our congressman for a party of 10 or more people, which is pretty unlikely.

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Being in the middle of all of that is fascinating because it brings to life this hugely famous place that I read and see and hear about nearly every day of my life.

Walking by trees and gardens planted by people I've read about in history books was jarring, but comforting at the same time. I do hope to eventually make it to the tour of the building one day, but until that's available, I'm really excited to have been that close to The White House.

And really, how can you not be excited about being so close to a place protected by this guy:


April 23, 2009

DC: The French Chef's Kitchen


Despite our best intentions, we only managed to check out one Smithsonian museum in The Mall, The American History branch. I was annoyed that none of the old artifacts I remember like Fonzy's jacket, Archie Bunker's chair and Indiana Jones' hat were on display, but I was psyched to find one thing that I had no idea was there: Julia Child's kitchen.

It was really cool to see and only slightly tainted by some women describing Julia Child to her kid as "sort of like Rachel Ray." Horrifying.

DC: Post-Election Clearance Sale

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Found at the gift shop at DCA.

April 22, 2009

DC: Thanks Mayor Fenty


I found this in an empty lot off U Street. It's always interesting to catch a glimpse of the local politics when traveling.

In the case, The Franklin School, which has served as an emergency shelter since 2002, was shut down by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. This stencil appears to be a part of the Reopen Franklin Shelter Now campaign.

DC: The Metro


When I think of the DC Metro, I immediately think of two things: the hypnotic texture of the huge cavernous ceilings and the vertiginous depths of the escalator at Dupont Circle.


While the stations lack the individual personality of the New York system, its consistency and freakish cleanliness seems to match the streets of Downtown DC.

(Thanks to Gadling for using the escalator photo as yesterday's POTD as well as plugging the blog - welcome readers!)

April 21, 2009

DC: Weekend in the Capital

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Last weekend, Tammi and I took a quick trip out of town and headed down to Washington. Yes, she'd just been there, but hanging out with friends meant bypassing all the main attractions that she hadn't ever been to.

So this time, we altered our typical strategy and sought out the tourist sites we usually avoid. It was a great time, but consequently a little exhausting.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, with temperatures well into the upper-70's, so the crowds were out in droves. The Mall is almost like an amusement park of history and patriotism, there were crowds and lines and buses full of people. It was an interesting experience seeing all the families and tour groups and students dressed in matching tees.

It was a whirlwind weekend, but we packed a lot in. I'll be posting about the highlights over the next couple days.

February 20, 2009

DC Dispatch

What's a Half-Smoke?

This Weekend, Tammi is taking a Ladies' Weekend down to our nations capital to knit, hang out and generally swoon in Obama-Awe. On request, Guyvera chimed in with a number of recommendations on places to eat. I'm posting it here for my own future reference as much as yours.

For further recommendations, Serious Eats posted a DC Eating Guide for Inauguration week last month.

And now, Guyvera...

Typical DC-Fare:
Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's is close to the U Street/Af-Am Civl War Memorial stop on the Green Line
Ben's is cheapish. Most things on the menu are decently sized, and run $6-7. You can be happy full (and greasy) for $10 or less. Things to get here are 1/2-smoke hot dogs (w or w/o chili); chili fries (quite quite good), scrapple (if you can handle it), greasy breakfasts (with grits!). Ben's is good, but in my personal opinion not earth-shattering. Still, it's a bit of a must-hit for a number of reasons (local celebs, famous place, mix of "real" DC people and assorted hosers). Ben's keeps late hours, and is the kind of place that tastes better the later it is.
(1213 U St NW (between N 12th St & N 13th St) (202) 667-0909)

In the U street Area, there's also a respectable soul food place called Oohs and Aahs (it's good, not transcendent, and tends to be heavy with the salt), a good (if salty and with unpredictable hours) VEGETARIAN SOUL FOOD place run by Black Israelites (no joke) across the street from Howard Univ. It's called Soul Vegetarian. Prices are about $10/plate, but I usually eat 1/2 for dinner and 1/2 the next day for lunch. Yep, the portions are really that big.

One of my favorite hangouts in the general area is a place called Busboys and Poets. It's a bookstore, cafe, and performance space. I find the cafe to be overpriced, though the food is good (not totally worth the price, but not a disaster either). Lots of good looking professional people here in their late 20s early 30s. Nice vibe. Internet, lots of poignancy and whatnot.
(2021 14th St NW (between N U St & N V St) - (202) 387-7638)

Walking distance (20 min walk) away, is Amsterdam Falafel
This place is in the heart of the Adam's Morgan area. Amsterdam's falafel by itself is ok. Where it shines is in your ability to add whatever topping you please from their self-serve bar: beets, yogurt, hot sauce spicy enough to give me the hiccoughs, peppers, cabbage, tahini, etc. The fries here are also particularly delicious, and I'm not much of a french fry-man. Falafel sandwiches here run about $6, but if you stuff the pita well, you won't really need anything else. There are not a lot of places to sit here. If you eat outside on a weekend night, you can watch drunken frat boys wander the streets.
(2425 18th Street NW - (202) 234-1969)

Ok. one or two more for now, and maybe a couple later on tonight...

Chinatown area:
Full Kee Restaurant
Chinatown in DC is a testament to displacement and gentrification. It's becoming Chinatown without Chinese people. Anyway, the food at Full Kee is good, reasonably priced, and there's stuff here both for people who like "General Tso's Chicken" and for people who like Congee, or more "typical" fare. My fave is something like "Stinky turnip greens with pig intestine." No joke. De-lish!
(509 H St NW (202) 371-2233)

Gourmet pizza, tasty sliders. This is a "scene" place. It's not crazy expensive, but you go here in part to see and be seen. It's a hangout, and is often ridiculously packed on weekend nights at prime dining hours. It's ok. You know I'm not exactly highbrow in my dining choices. This place is respectable. You already know where to find truly quality pizza. Food is fine.
(713 H Street NW (between N 7th St & N 8th St) (202) 289-4441)

Two places I haven't been, but am eager to go:

Lighthouse Tofu
This is supposed to be The Spot around here for soon dobu (spelling?), an often spicy Korean stew (rice served on the side) with tofu and your choice of meat. TOJ introduced me to this particular dish at a place in L.A. Very nice. The page on that describes this place is full of typical Yelp nincompoopery, but the reviews collectively do a good job of describing the stew.
(4121 Chatelain Road Suite 100 Annandale, VA 22003)

Honey Pig
Korean BBQ. I can only hope this is the DC area cousin of a place with the same name I've visited a few times in LA. This is pricier, though not fancier than any other place on the list. Maybe in the neighborhood of $20 per person? Korean BBQ. You know the drill. Tasty Pork meat bits. Mmmm.
(7220-C Columbia Pike Annandale, VA 22003 (703) 256-5229)

Also, I'd be remiss to not mention the local chain of burger joints called Five Guys. I've seen one or two in NYC, but the Washington Metro area (actually northern VA) is the birthplace. Think the East Coast version of In 'N Out, except not quite as fresh, but with a lot more toppings, better fries, and a total lack of creepy religious subliminal messages. In 'N Out is still my gold standard for fast food burgers, but when I get a hankering for a greazy cheeseburger, and I'm here, I go to Five Guys.

July 16, 2008

Summer Vacation Options Part 1: Mid-Atlantic

Roll 3 - 96, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This would be a relatively leisurely itinerary. We'd be able to meander down the seaboard to sampling some regional specialties along the way.

First stop, Philadelphia:
Obviously, I know more than a few places to go in Philly. I imagine I'd want to spend most of the time there in Northern Liberties. I keep hearing about more and more places popping up there. If we're driving, it would be the perfect opportunity for me to finally check out a few South Philly gems that I've only read about, including John's Roast Pork and the Italian Market. Osteria, which I never managed to post about last year, is a must.

Pit stop, Baltimore:
Crabs are key. I don't know where to go, but if we were heading towards DC, I'd want to sample some of the famous crustaceans.

Washington DC:
This is Guy's turf these days, so I'd leave it to him to figure out particulars. I'd probably want to check out the Smithsonian, while I'm there and probably Brickskellers a beer bar I visited many years ago.

North Carolina:
My Aunt is in Chapel Hill, so I'd stop in an visit her for a few days. There is also a huge amount of barbecued pork that needs to be eaten. My aunt is a vegetarian, so I rarely get to seek out the legendary pork shacks while down there. This would be the time.

July 13, 2008

Graffiti of the Day: Borf Rising

IMG_2058, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Washington DC. 2005.

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