Also, unlike my friend Caitlin who is a more advanced and serious runner (ie: she’s not a French escargot like me!), I don’t have high expectations for myself and this race. I run *really* slow and as a new runner, beating my PR is pretty much a guaranteed at every race. Well… this one might be the exception since I do plan on stopping here and there to snap pictures with Disney characters along the way. But Caitlin is a good runner, and I do want to keep up with her as long as I can so we can take photos together and really share this experience (and capture it for posterity!) And that’s my motivation in training for my first Disney Run and international race. Because it’s not just about the destination for me here. It’s about the company and running a race in Paris, with my best friend who I met when our high schools paired us for an international exchange program they organized over 20 years ago. There was no guarantees we’d even get along, but we did…. and she’s been one of my favourite travel gal over the years, whether we were way outside of our comfort zone riding horses in a dude ranch in Montana or more in our element sipping wine at a beautiful seaside vineyard in Greece. And I can’t wait to add this experience to the list of memories we have together. Adding it to my running goal list almost seems secondary….
A few weekends ago, I kicked off Dîner en Blanc season by attending Charm City’s very first event, which was held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. It had been a while, since New York City three years ago actually, that I’d attended a dîner as a guest rather than a volunteer. Just showing up with my chairs, table, food, plates and flowers seemed so easy, but that’s because a) I’ve attended quite a few diners by now b) I’m usually responsible for getting 250 people from their meeting location to the diner venue and making sure they set up properly once on site 😉 Just showing up and having people tell me where to go was a nice change of pace! I do totally get that, for newbies, getting ready for the event can seem overwhelming though. Especially since participants no longer have the option of going through an official renting company for certain items. So I thought I’d break down all the items that you actually need to attend Dîner en Blanc, as give as give you a couple of tips if you want to take it up a notch or two.
1. A table – this is a strict BYOT(able) affair! But not just any table will do…. it should measure between 26-32″ and since you have to carry everything yourself, sometimes on the metro, I definitely recommend a roll up table. The table will be covered by a tablecloth so it’s actually one of the few items that does not need to be white. I recommend this one.
2. Two folding chairs – the lighter the better! These are fine and these will work too. If you already own folding chairs but they’re not white, don’t sweat it but do cover them with an extra table cloth or white bed sheets.
3. A white tablecloth & two napkins – I suggest you opt for a 72×72 tablecloth like this one since you’ll be using the space underneath your table to store everything that doesn’t need to be on top of it. A 54×54 is fine as well just make sure it’s white! As for the napkins, they’re really important. You’ll be waving them in the air at the beginning of the dinner so paper won’t do. Cloth napkins can be hard to find in twos so you might have to buy a pack of twelve and share with other friends attending.
4. Two white plates, glasses and a set of cutlery – the plates have to be white (here’s a good one) but your silverware doesn’t (here’s a set). For the glasses, think of what you’ll be drinking (Champagne? Wine? Water? All of the above!) and get what you’ll need. Tumblers or stem glasses are fine, and you probably can get away with GoVino glasses too… If you’re planning on purchasing a bottle of Jacquard champagne for the diner, you can also pick up a set of flutes and a champagne bucket in the Dîner en Blanc store.
5. A centerpiece for your table – you can go all out on this one (see my friend’s Jade fancy sail from last year) but you can also just keep it simple. This 15″ Eiffel Tower with some lights or a simple bouquet of white flower will do the trick just fine. For Dîner en Blanc in Baltimore I actually had small bouquets of fake flowers to make it easier on myself. The key is to remember that you do have to carry everything and that you can take a few shortcuts. Flowers are nice but the above mentioned champagne bucket from Jacquart can totally double up as a centerpiece too! Ditto for a cake stand like this one. And since you have to bring lights too a fancy candelabra like this one can totally serve dual purposes!
6. Lights – While the dinner kicks off around 6:30PM, eventually it will get dark and you will want to have a little extra lighting. You can use a candelabra, votives (paired with flameless tealight candles) or LED string lights(they look great in a vase!) , just remember to keep it on the fake side (yep, no fire!!)
7. Water – You can purchase some “summer water” through the Dîner en Blanc online store, but you’ll definitely want some real water too! It’s HOT in DC at the end of August. Some ice wouldn’t hurt either. All alcohol purchases (and there are some great options this year!) must be done through the online store due to city regulations.
9. Trash bags – Dîner en Blanc aims to leave the site of the event as pristine as it found it and that means guests are responsible for not leaving anything behind, and that includes trash. For this reason, pack a white trash bag or two.
10. A white bag/basket – All this stuff needs to go into something. I’ve seen people lug those white picnic baskets around (very elegant!), a large tote or basket works as well. Some participants go the suitcase or the grocery cart route. I’ve never been a fan because you have to store everything under your table and it gets crowded down there really quickly. A folding cart can definitely help with the chairs, but isn’t required.
Typically you have a little leeway when it comes to footwear and accessories. But don’t go crazy… we’re talking gold or silver jewelry, nude shoes and the like. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead too…. if it looks like rain is likely, you’ll want to add a white (or clear) umbrella and/or rain poncho to your shopping list. Dîner en Blanc will happen rain or shine. And on that note, I’d love to add a bonus item to my list:
An open mind and positive attitude – Part of the fun of Dîner en Blanc is that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you’re an intern on the hill, a doctor, a teacher or a partner in a law firm, you still have to carry all of your stuff, in the DC-in-August heat, to the secret location. The metro may not cooperate (I mean, does it ever?) and it might rain (fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened so far) but that’s part of the experience and everyone has to through it. If you’re not willing to kind of go with the flow or are upset because you don’t get to sit next to your friends, you’re probably not going to have a great time at Dîner en Blanc. But if you bring a little extra food to share with your neighbours, you might make some new friends…. and you can still meet up with your old friends on the dancefloor! If you take everything in stride, like, if metro shuts down the escalators again, then you’ll definitely have a great time at this exceptional event. I can’t wait to see you all in your chic-est white outfits somewhere in the city on August 26! If you’ve attended a Dîner en Blanc before, care to leave some tips in the comments?
ps: If you’re looking for a one stop shop option, this blog post from last year goes over all the items you can find at Ikea. I also have a nifty little public list on Amazon to help with the basic like table, chairs etc. Finally, if you’re trying to decide whether to BYOF(ood) or not, The Hungry Lobbyist has a great post recapping all of the options this year. They look delicious!
When the temperature go low, I go warm, melted cheese! One of my favourite thing to do in the winter is host friends over for raclette. If you don’t mind splurging on your own grill (you can get a small one for 2 people for $27 on amazon or a bigger one perfect for larger get-togethers for $63 — that last one is actually the one I own) you can throw your own party too. I’ve got this little guide and raclette 101 primer to help you plan it! But of course, you can head to one of these restaurants to get your hot, melted cheese fix:
Leave it to one of my favourite restaurant in the city to throw one of the best happy hour, complete with complimentary raclette! Between 5-6PM and again from 9-10PM, patrons can enjoy gooey melted cheese at the bar, in addition to $5 wine and $2 off draft beer. While the free raclette ends at 6PM, the drink specials are good until 7PM. And if you prefer your raclette tableside, it’s also on a menu for $13.
Cheesetique’s speciality is, obviously, cheese, so it’s not surprising to find two different types of fondue dishes on its menu during the winter (if you’re lucky you might even find some raclette in its cheese counter too!) The first fondue is pretty classic with gruyère, emmental, raclette and white wine ($18.) The other is $13 and varies every day depending on what cheeses are available.
The wine bar next door to the Four Seasons in Georgetown turns into an alpine chalet every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. $18 gets you a plate of bread, potato, cornichons and onions onto which the hot melted cheese is poured on. For a little extra, you can add charcuterie as well. And of course, since ENO is a wine bar, there’s a wine pairing option as well. The sommelier selected a sparkling Gewürztraminer from Washington state to go along the raclette ($18 for one glass).
Last March, chef Nathan Beauchamp kicked-off a series of raclette parties at his U Street restaurant. They were pretty popular, so they will be coming back in 2017, this time in the form of a 3-course menu. Until then, you can enjoy The Fainting Goat‘s popular take on fondue: its goat cheese fondue ($12 during regular hours and $10 during late nights Thursday-Saturday from 11PM-1AM.)
Just in time for winter, chef Rob Weland is bringing back the popular fondue pop-up at his Barracks Row restaurant. If the weather allows, you can even enjoy it on the heated patio. Wether indoors or out, it’s a pretty classic alpine fondue, offered at $18 per person. It comes with bread cubes unless you want to splurge on add-ons like heirloom apples, turnips, radishes, boiled potatoes, hanger steak tips, and, of course, the restaurant’s popular gougeres (the add-ons run between $4-10).
At Homestead in Petworth, raclette is considered an appetizer or shareable plate… it’s also noted as vegetarian unless you want to add lamb bacon lardons to it.
Brr! It got cold all of the sudden! After a gorgeous Saturday, it looks like temperatures are back to what they should be this time of year, which means I spent most of Sunday curled up on the couch with my cat, binging on The Crown. But before that, I did have quite the fun weekend.
LE BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU EST ARRIVÉ!
I kicked off the weekend at one of my favourite monthly gathering, Creative Mornings. Creative Mornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Every month, there’s a theme that’s picked for all of the chapters around the world. This month, it was “Fantasy” and all 157 chapters around the world gets to select an appropriate speaker from its local creative community based on their interpretation of that theme. For DC, host Joe Daly reached out to photojournalist Nicole Tung who showed some of her work in war-torn Syria at the National Geographic auditorium. The pictures were pretty rough, especially at 9AM, but it’s definitely work that needs to be seen….
On a more upbeat note, I wrapped up Friday at my friend Marc-Antoine’s annual Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. I’m too old to party at Bistrot du Coin until the wee hours on a week day (though I did have a lot of fun there back in my days…) and I much prefer a casual get together with friends. Everyone brings a bottle of Beaujolais and some cheese, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the new harvest. Have you tried this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau? It’s pretty fruity (though I guess I say that every year lol)
MINI-HIKE BEFORE MESSY KITCHEN’S FRIENDSGIVING POTLUCK
The weather was simply stunning Saturday, it would have been a shame to stay home (though I was really tempted to because I made the mistake of starting The Crown Friday evening!) I went on a mini-hike in Rock Creek Park to soak up all the fall colours (and the amazing 70 degree temperatures!)
That evening, I got a head start on Thanksgiving at my friend Notes from a Messy Kitchen‘s annual Friendsgiving potluck. Not only was the food amazing but she raised more than $2,000 for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry.
FOTOWEEK DC AND BINGING ON THE CROWN
Sunday was COLD! It was also the last day of Fotoweek DC. I wish I had had a chance to go to more events. I did make it to Scott Suchman‘s discussion of the Michelin guide (he showed stunning pictures he had taken at all of the restaurants that received stars and more). I also made it to one of the last events, a talk with Ami Vitale Sunday at National Geographic. Taking pictures of pandas is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it right?
After watching the U.S. pick its new president for the past two years, I finally got to vote as well. The French right and center right hosted an open primary on November 20, with a run-off on November 27 to select a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. For the French election, they will set up a voting station at the French embassy for us to vote in person, but this time we got to vote online which was kinda fun! The candidate I voted for made it to the second round, but I do want to spend the next few days leading to the second round combing through both Alain Juppé and François Fillon’s platform so that I can make the best decision of which candidate I want to see in the general election in May.
Finally, I wrapped up the weekend binging on The Crown, Netflix’s sumptuous 10-episode series staring Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth ascending the throne decades before she expected to. Have you had a chance to watch it yet? You should!
This week is going to be a short one… I hope you enjoy it and wish you a great Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating.
Ten days after the U.S. elections and one week before Thanksgiving, it’s time to celebrate a French holiday for a change: the arrival of the first wine of the season, le Beaujolais Nouveau. As always, it happens on the third Thursday of November, so unless you were up until 2 a.m. celebrating at Bistrot du Coin today’s the day! Here are 10 French restaurants and wine bars marking the occasion around town.
Cafe du Parc at the Willard InterContinental will be offering free George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with passed hors d’oeuvres at the bar on Thursday from 5-6pm. Beaujolais will also be available by the glass and as a pairing with a 4-course, prix-fixe dinner at the restaurant upstairs ($65 per person without the pairing, $85 with.)
Le Grenier on H Street will also be pouring complimentary Beaujolais at its bar from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday.
Beaujolais is pretty cheap wine, and Chef Cedric Maupillier totally gets that. He’ll be offering glasses of the vin primeur for $10 a glass ($7 at the bar during happy hour) and $25 a bottle throughout his Shaw restaurant Convivial. Around the corner from Convivial, my new favourite wine bar, La Jambe is celebrating the 2016 harvest with $9 glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau ($16 for two until supplies last so make it a wine date!) which will pair perfectly with owner Anastasia Mori’s homemade charcuterie. Petworth Citizen will also be pouring some Jean Paul Brun, but they don’t have Anastasia’s rillettes though….
Le Beaujolais Nouveau will also arrive at Central Michel Richard, where Domaine Dupeuble – Beaujolais Nouveau will be poured (and paired with Coq au Vin!) from Thursday to Saturday.
Across the pond in Old Town, Virginia, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux have crafted a fabulous three or four course menu ($39 and $49 respectively) at Bastille, designed to pair with a Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais, which will be offered for $9 a glass or $32 a bottle. (ps: Domaine Manoir du Carra has a Beaujolais rosé which you should absolutely try if you can get your hands on it!!)
Last year’s Beaujolais Nouveau release happened just on the heels of the Paris attacks when gunmen and suicide bombers hit the bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was a little difficult mustering the usual enthusiasm that accompanies the celebration. So I’m really looking forward to it this year and you’ll find me, as usual, celebrating with dear friends at home parties rather than out and about. Will you be celebrating the release of the new 2016 harvest this year?
RaShonda of Explore Savvy is one of my favourite local travel blogger. Between her recent trips to Cuba or Milan and her scooping of fabulous cheap or error fare her facebook and twitter feeds give me major wanderlust – and make me want to buy all the airline tickets! Earlier in the year, she posted about an error fare on TAP Portugal, which I quickly snagged for a cheap Thanksgiving get-away. I mean, $280 round trip to Lisbon? How could I not jump on that? She also took advantage of the mistake, but rather than just stay in Portugal, opted to hop along to Paris. Here are some highlights from her trip to Paris earlier this year.
WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS
As Laetitia mentioned, I came across a TAP Portugal deal for $285 round trip tickets from New York to many popular destinations in Europe. It was too good to pass up. My husband and I like to celebrate our anniversary in a different place each year so I figured we would take advantage of the deal to spend it in the City of Love this time around!
HOW I GOT THERE
We flew TAP Portugal. It was okay but nothing to write home about. If you ever fly this airline, my advice is to bring your own food and snacks. For what they lacked in food, they had plenty of red, white, and sparkling wine which made the food slightly more palatable. All of their flights from the US transit through Lisbon. If you have the time, they offer free tours during the stop-over, which is always a plus.
WHERE I STAYED
I’m a member of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) which means I earn points when staying at Starwood properties like Westins, W Hotels, Meridiens or Sheratons. They have properties around the world and I always try to capitalize on the use of points when I can. I wanted to stay some place that had its original Parisian charm and not your typical American hotel chain. Fortunately SPG had a few options that fit that requirement in Paris. We booked a room at Le Dokhan’s, a boutique hotel in a 19th century Haussmanian building in the 16eme arrondissement. It was recently acquired by SPG and was definitely the best of both worlds. From receiving a complimentary anniversary toast in Paris’ first champagne bar (located in the lobby level) to taking photos in its Louis Vuitton elevator, this place was oozing with charm.
Also, it’s a short stroll to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower! And while we didn’t use our points this go around, we earned enough for a free night or two in a less expensive city.
BEST THING I ATE
Paris is known for having tons of Michelin-rated restaurants and I figured I’d book one for our anniversary. I’d gone through the listing and narrowed down our selection to a few choices and ended up picking Kei, a one-star French restaurant which a slight Japanese influence. Each dish was so unique and the best part was all of them were very tasty. The service was absolutely amazing and I’d definitely recommend it to someone who’s celebrating a special occasion.
BEST FREE ACTIVITY
I’d definitely recommend spending the afternoon strolling down the Champs-Élysées. There are so many cute cafés and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit there and people watch. There’s also a ton of shopping. While many of the places can be found in the States too, they do offer different options in the European stores.
TOTALLY WORTH THE SPLURGE
I know they’re opening in Washington, D.C. soon, but I finally had a chance to a go to Ladurée. We went to the one located on the Champs-Élysées. The line was out of the door but fortunately it moved quickly. As we made it halfway through, we noticed people walking right past us and into the small café area. We followed suit and learned we could order our macarons from there with no wait. Who knew?
We ordered 8 macarons to go but still ended up sitting down and ordering a tea, a cappuccino, and a fancy ice cream dish. While, this was not our most expensive eating experience, we spent nearly $60 on an afternoon snack with a few macarons to go. But hey, you only live once 😉
MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS
I always hear people talking about how French people are so rude. Honestly, my husband and I had a totally different experience. As long as you realize that the culture in Paris is not the same as in the United States, you will see things differently and enjoy your experience. One major difference: service at restaurants! Waiters are usually not ignoring you, they’re just giving you your space. If you need something just make eye contact or wave to them and they’ll be right over. Also, if you’re not fluent in French, learn a few basic greetings. Trust me, when you simply try it goes a long way…
Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com
About the author: RaShonda Riddle is a nonprofit marketing director by day and travel enthusiast by night. She loves food, art, architecture, and learning about other cultures. Her passion is exploring the world one country at a time. You can read more about her travels on her blog Explore Savvy and on her social media channels (facebook & twitter.)
Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? After a long, emotional, week, mine was low key, in a good way, though I still managed to do quite a bit. Friday, I made my grand waitressing debut when I helped out with chef Bobby Pradachith’s Amone pop up at Mess Hall.
I’ve been pretty lucky. So far this summer, all of the weddings that I have been to have been local. Even better, since my college friend Sandra got married here at 2941 Restaurant not only did I not need to travel but a bunch of my college friends actually traveled to see me! Well, attend the wedding, but also see me!!
ALL THE PINXTOS AT ANXO
My friend Elena, who came down from Connecticut for the occasion, is pretty obsessed with all things Spanish culture. To be fair, she’s a Spanish teacher and has traveled extensively throughout Spain. She wanted to check out Anxo and I was more than happy to oblige since I had not yet been to DC’s first cidery and pinxto bar in Truxton Circle. The weather was beautiful, and we were able to eat all the Basque small plates (and drink all the cider) outside which was such a treat. My favourite is always the Pintxo Gilda, with Basque peppers, olives and anchovy!
POPSICLE BRUNCH & PLAYING TOURIST ON THE MALL
Since the wedding was at 4PM, I squeezed in a little brunch catching up with some other college friends. They were staying at the Melrose Hotel between Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, I suggested we try RIS’ popsicle mimosa brunch. The popsicles come in two flavours: pomegranate spice and ginger orange pineapple. Since my friends weren’t drinking, I only had one of the ginger orange pineapple mimosa but under different circumstances, I certainly would have jumped on the $20 bottomless option.
The wedding was beautiful, and one of the highlights was the vegan cake by chef Caitlin Dysart. Yep, vegan cake (the bride is vegan). Isn’t it just gorgeous?
FINALLY!! After 6 years on my DC-to-do-list, I can cross off visiting the U.S. Supreme Court! Well, actually, the item on my list was a little more ambitious than just visiting the U.S. Supreme Court. I wanted to sit through an oral argument. And that’s not exactly what I did this week, but close enough.
Thanks to a former colleague, I sat through a lecture on property rights in the progressive era, organized by the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and hosted by Justice Samuel Alito. The lecture itself was waaaay over my head, I have no legal background whatsoever, but the reception afterwards, in one of the court’s stunning conference rooms, was right up my alley! I mean, of course I would find a way to drink wine at the U.S. supreme Court right?
So now I actually do want to just take a tour of the building and get to learn more about it but I am still crossing the U.S. Supreme Court off my DC-to-do-list!! So far, I’m doing pretty good and I think I might be able to cross everything off… let’s recap:
- U.S. Supreme Court — check
- Sipping cocktails at the Columbia Room.
- Catching a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
- Dinner at Bad Saint — check (read about it here)
- Visit the Society of Cincinnati and Lars Anderson House.
- Watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport from Gravely Point — check
- Catch the Caps practice at the Kettler Iceplex — check
- Meander through the lush grounds at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden — check (and during Cherry Blossoms season which was absolutely gorgeous!)
- Go on a hike in Rock Creek Park — check (though I’d like to crush it from top to bottom like this Washingtonian article recommends.)
- Have drinks at The Tombs in Georgetown.
So 6 down, 4 to go with 7 weeks left in 2016! I think I can do it!!
If you missed Champagne Day on October 21, don’t worry! Champagne shouldn’t be celebrated in a day anyway, it clearly deserves its own week! At least that’s what my friends Jess and Alison thought. These two wine pros are throwing DC’s first ever Champagne Week, from Sunday November 6 to Thursday November 12.
The idea for DC Champagne Week started off small. Jess runs Young Winos of DC, a group that connects people in the District with wine tastings and events. She reached out to Alison, who runs her own wine consulting business Bon Vivant DC, to partner up on a champagne focused event. Jess jokes that Alison took a small idea and blew it up, but Alison retorts that Jess never would’ve reached out to her if she wanted something low key 😉 Before long, Alison was in Champagne attending le Printemps des Champagnes, the weeklong industry festival (you can read more about her trip to Paris and Champagne here). While there, she was able to meet producers, other champagne event producers and came back with a better understanding of what a champagne week might look like in DC. Right away, Alison had a vision of a grand tasting like the ones she just experienced at the Printemps des Champagnes and everything grew from there…
- An official launch party at Proof Restaurant Sunday November 6, with a custom champagne flight and a special menu
- A grand tasting at DAR’s Constitution Hall O’Byrne Gallery on Wednesday, November 9, with a book signing by David White, author of But First, Champagne.
- A seven course champagne pairing dinner at Ripple on Thursday, November 11, helmed by Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and Chef de Cuisine Sam Molavi.
- A masterclass on the concept of terroir in Champagne, taught by Carl Edmund Sherman and held at Ripple on Friday, November 12
The event will feature an elite lineup of champagne houses including Pol Roger, Gosset, Pierre Paillard, Charles Heidsieck, A.R. Lenoble, Canard-Duchêne, J de Telmont, Heucq Pere & Fils, and selections from the Terry Theise champagne portfolio. Select cuvées will be available for purchase throughout DC Champagne Week at Calvert Woodley, a fabulous wine shop and the event retail partner. You can find out more about DC Champagne Week right here and I definitely hope I’ll be seeing you at some of the events!!