Pick Your Own Tulips at Burnside Farms

Tulips are a beautiful symbol of spring. In Washington, tulips typically bloom right after the cherry blossoms have come and gone, but they were a little late this year, probably because we’ve had such a cold spring. Over the past 2 weeks though, their vibrant colours have been on full display across the city. 

Tulips at the White House

Tulips at the US Capitol

And just outside of the District, a quick 45 minutes drive away, a farm in Haymarket, Virginia, plays host to one of largest pick-your-own tulips festival in the United States. Nicknamed “Holland in Haymarket,” the festival typically runs late April to mid-May, depending on when the flowers actually bloom. Visitors pay an entrance fee of $3.00, and then there’s a cost per stem for each flower that you pick, depending on the variety of tulips that you select.  

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With tulips of every shape and colour as far as the eyes can see, it’s easy to feel like you’re in Holland for a little while, but just to make sure, Burnside Farms also adds over 200 wooden pairs of authentic Dutch clogs (including a giant pair!) for perfect photo-opps. 

Holland in Haymarket

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All that’s missing really is a miniature (or not-so miniature) windmill or something. And maybe some gouda. You can pick up a basket from a variety that the farm offers, and there’s usually some food vendors too if you want to make a half-day of it (I’m pretty sure you can bring your own picnic as well). For children, Burnside Farms also has a little farm set up, with a turkey, some goats, chicken and little adorable baby chicks on hand… and for grown-ups there are two wineries within a 10 minutes drive 😉 

Virginia is for wine and tulips lovers too, apparently!

Retail’s Night Out @ City Center DC

The National Retail Federation knows a thing or two about shopping, and in an effort to highlight retail’s entrepreneurial spirit, the trade association is hosting Retail’s Night Out at City Center DC on May 6, 2015. The one night only event featuring pop-up shops from local merchants and national brands is part of Small Business Week (May 4-8, 2015) and will also feature live music, local food trucks and a red carpet.

 

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Participating retailers include: ALEX AND ANI, ArtJamz, Bull and Moose, JRINK Juicery, Salt & Sundry, stubble & ‘stache, Hugh & Crye, Potomac River Running Store, proper topper, Milk Cult, Ah Love Oil and Vinegar, LiLi The First, UrbanStems and more. Food will be available for purchase from Pepe Food Truck, Ball or Nothing and CapMac. Music will be provided by Levi Stephens.This event is free and open to the public.

Learn more here and here.  Need another reason to head to City Center DC? I’ve got you covered with this list of five (French) reasons you should go

VinoFest DC: Music, Wine, Food, Charity

My! How Vinolovers has grown? It feels like not too long ago, I was attending the D.C. startup’s launch party at 1776 (see pictures below) and now they’re throwing VinoFest DC, a huge wine and music festival at a venue so cool I haven’t even heard of it yet.

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Let me backtrack… Vinolovers is a DC-based personalized wine subscription and delivery service and this is their second year hosting VinoFest DC actually. Last year’s event was held at Union Market, and on Saturday, May 9, wine producers, musicians, DJs and of course, vinolovers, will take over Storey Park in NoMa. If you’ve been in the city for a while like I have you may remember that place as the former Greyhound bus station. Right now it’s an empty lot and until it transforms into a mixed use commercial office building it’s set to host NoMa’s Summer Screen Series, more awesome festival-type events like VinoFest DC and possibly a temporary dog park.

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This year’s VinoFest DC will bring to the empty lot a full day of live music, headlined by QuestLove, of Roots and Jimmy Fallon fame, and featuring awesome local acts like 90s band White Ford Bronco and one of my faves: DJ Neekola. On the wine side, the $59.99 GA ticket (buy them here) grants you the chance to taste a variety of wines, including local vintages made in neighboring Virginia, classic wines from regions like France and California, and few lesser known places, like Romania. There’ll be some food trucks present as well, of course, like Puddin’, Timber Pizza, MilkCult, and the amazing Chaia Farm to Taco. Best of all, you can toast to doing a good deed by attending: proceeds from VinoFest DC benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation Mid-Atlantic, DC Central Kitchen, and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Well done Vinolovers!

Get your tickets now–general admission, VIP tickets (think two more hours to party, more wine, more food), and specially-priced options for designated drivers are still available.

DC en rose: Cherry Blossoms Season in DC

I don’t typically gush up over a few pink petals like this, but I’ve been pretty swept up in the citywide cherry blossoms celebration this year. I blame my eagerness to switch from red wine to rosé at the end of a long winter 😉 Usually, I find the whole festival annoying: local restaurants and bars stretch their menus to add cherries to everything (need I mention the cherry trees in DC don’t actually produce cherries?), tourists take over the streets with their selfie sticks and, worst of all, my sinuses go nuts from the pollen influx. But this year, I’m got really into it and I just can’t get enough pink. I too have caught cherry blossoms fever! Here is some of what I enjoyed this year:

1. WALKING AROUND THE TIDAL BASIN

Cherry blossoms are fickle delicate little flowers, and the weather doesn’t always cooperate with the timing of the festival. The first year I ran the cherry blossoms 10 miler, my friend Caitlin came down from New York eager to run surrounded by pink flowers. Instead, it rained two days before the race and all the blossoms were washed away. This year, we were so lucky that peak bloom fell not only on a weekend (and on the weekend of the parade and the 10 miler at that) but that it also happened to be a beautiful sunny and warm weekend. Don’t believe me? Check out some of my pics! I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and Sunday to try and beat the crowds around the Tidal Basin (keyword: tried!) and it certainly was worth every minutes of lost sleep.

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2. SIP INTO SPRING

Bars and restaurants throughout Washington offered special flights, tastings and/or parings of seasonal wines through RAMW‘s Spring Wine Fling. You can read more about that here.

3. SPEAKING OF WINE: IT’S FINALLY ROSE REASON

just in time for spring, The Red Hen‘s co-owner and Beverage Director Sebastian Zutant released Dahlia, a pink wine produced in partnership with Virginia Wineworks in Charlottesville. Dahlia is a very decent rosé and it was the first I drank this season so it will have a special place in my heart this year!

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4. DOG TAG BAKERY’S KYOTO CHERRY ROSE GREEN TEACLAIR & OLIVIA MACARON’S ROSE MACARON

I love pastries. I love rose. That’s all there is to it. The teaclair could have been a little more flavourful, it was a little too subtle for my taste, but it looked SO pretty!

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5. ODYSSEY’S CHERRY BLOSSOMS CRUISE

The trees had yet to bloom when we set sail from South West D.C. but it was great discovering the city I live in from a completely different angle. The boat cruised down past the national stadium all the way to the Kennedy Center, which is beautiful at night, and the Georgetown Waterfront. The cruise reminded me a little of Paris’ bateaux mouches minus all the commentaries, plus a lovely dinner and some bubbles.

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Odyssey Cruise offers a variety of experiences throughout the year, including bottomless mimosa brunch cruises, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day cruises, full moon dinners and a July 4th fireworks special cruise. You can find more information on their website. I’ll just say that while I loved the night-time cruise, I think I’d love to do a day-time one in the future so I can take pictures and really see the sights.

Did you enjoy cherry blossom season this year? Anything in particular?

Postcard from New York: Meow Parlour

Meow ParlourCrumbs & Whiskers‘ kickstarter campaign has raised over $35,000, has gotten all of the necessary permits from the D.C. government and, this just in, officially signed a lease for a Georgetown location. So Washington is definitely getting a cat café in the near future though it probably won’t open until late summer. And until it does, I thought I’d share what I hope Crumbs & Whiskers will be like. And that’s basically Meow Parlour.

Meow Parlour is New York’s first, adn to date only, cat café. Or perhaps I should say a space with cats, where you can bring coffee purchased at another location around the corner. Unlike Paris’ cat cafe, Cafe des Chats (which actually is more of a teahouse than a café), D.C.’s Crumbs & Whiskers will also technically not really be a café. The US has stricter restrictions on food service industry regulations that basically mandate that kitchens be not only cat-free but also in a completely separate space. When I talked to Crumbs & Whiskers‘ founder, Kanchan Singh, at her kickstarter campaign launch (yes, I’m pretty into this cat café business) she mentioned partnering with a food provider in order to comply with health code regulations. Just like at Meow Parlour, you’ll basically be paying for play time with kitties… and you can chose to bring in pastries and/or coffee from an approved vendor along. For Meow Parlour, that approved vendor is Macaron Parlour, an East Village bakery I first discovered when it was just a booth at Union Square Holiday Market and have enjoyed visiting since, even when they make crazy flavours like Cheetos macarons (which are actually quite delicious by the way). Macarons and cats are basically two of my favourite things, so the minute online reservations opened for Meow Parlour I booked two spots to check it out during a business trip to New York. I dragged my friend Caitlin, who may not love cats nearly as much as I do, but can’t resist the appeal of macarons, and checking out a hot new local business.

Before getting to Meow Parlour, we actually swung by Meow Parlour Patisserie just around the corner to pick up a coffee and some macarons, including some adorable Hello Kitty looking ones.

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We then entered Meow Parlour, where the first thing we were asked to do is sign a lengthy waiver, take off our shoes and sanitize our hands. In New York in February this wasn’t my favourite thing to do so if you go, be warned: wear pretty socks or make sure you’ve got a good pedicure going! Once inside, you’ll find the space bright, clean and chic. Also, of course, full of cats! There’s definitely a strong cat-theme but everything is done very tastefully. There’s a wall of cats of course, with pictures of the current residents along with their “purrsonality type” but there’s no tacky cat trees.

Wall of cats at Meow Parlour

Instead there’s a full wall bookshelf with nooks and crannies and holes that allow the kittens to hop up and down, hide in scratchers at the top or lay next to you and a tasteful Le Chat pillows as you read The Cat in The Hat (or another cat themed book) from the library.

I love the design of the space at Meow Parlous! (picture courtesy Meow Parlour)

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Before even entering Meow Parlour, you’ll probably spot a few kitties observing the traffic on Hester Street from oversized white wooden letters that spell the word “meow” at the floor to ceiling window at the front.

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Back towards the shelves, there’s also soft cushions on the floors surrounding low hexagonal white coffee tables with see-through tops and cat beds inside, as well as cat head shaped holes on the sides. There’s typically a cat or two inside the table as well and you can watch them sleep peacefully 😉 If you’re here to get some work done, there’s high top tables and free wi-fi. Cats, it is a well known fact, love nothing more than laying on computer keyboards while you’re trying to write a blog post… so hopefully you have realistic expectations about how much work you can actually get done at Meow Parlour. And if you just want to play with some cats, there’s plenty of toys laying around and plenty of cats willing to chase stuff around.

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Since visiting, I have loved following Meow Parlour on social media since it opened. That’s another thing that the New York cat cafe does really well and I can’t believe there’s actually someone on their payroll whose job it is to hang out with cats of day, take pictures of them and post them on social media (follow Meow Parlour on twitter, instagram and facebook). Add the fact that there’s macarons involved in the business too and, well, you can pretty much guess this is my dream job. All jokes aside (I’m actually not really joking) the folks at Meow Parlour do a great job of updating followers on new resident kittens and on letting them know who found his or her forever home. Because, of course, all of the cats at Meow Parlour are available for adoption. In that regard, Meow Parlour and Crumbs & Whiskers, which will follow the same model, are kind of halfway houses for cats… it’s not quite like being in a shelter and the idea is that they shouldn’t stay there very long. I can only hope that Crumbs & Whiskers will be as tastefully a space as Meow Parlour and that it will enjoy the same level of adoption rates. There’s definitely been a lot of turn-over at Meow Parlour since it’s opened and that’s a sign that it’s doing something right! I certainly hope for the same success rate for the cats at Crumbs & Whiskers, which will all come from the Washington Humane Society.

If you’re interested in checking out Meow Parlour when you’re in New York, they take a limited number of walk-ins so you should definitely consider making a reservation online at meowparlour.com. A half hour of kitty time will set you back $4 and you can book up to 5 hours. They have children hours too if you have kids (check the website for details). Meow Parlour is at 46 Hester Street in the Lower East Side, and Meow Parlour Patisserie is around the corner at 34 Ludlow Street. All pictures unless otherwise noted were taken by me back in February 2015.

Sip Into Spring with RAMW’s Spring Wine Fling

DC Spring Wine Fling 2015I don’t really need a reason to drink wine on a regular weeknight, but if you do, here’s one for you: it’s Spring Wine Fling!!! During this week-long (March 23-29, 2015) celebration of wine programs across the Washington, D.C. region, participating bars and restaurants are offering special flights, tastings and/or parings of seasonal wines. Last night, I sat down at Boss Sheperd’s, in part because I had never been and I figured it was a good excuse, to check out their spring wine fling offering. For $15, you can order a flight of three wines, sparkling, white, red or a mix from either category. I opted for the mix, though if you go, I recommend the sparkling wine flight that includes my favourite American bubbly, Gruet, Prosecco and Veuve Clicquot.

 

Spring wine fling flight at Boss Sheperd's

 

Outside of Boss Sheperd’s here is a list of notable bars and restaurants participating in Spring Wine Fling:

  • Occidental Grill & Seafood ~ It’s all about the most spring-friendly wine at the historical Pennsylvania avenue restaurant with $18 flights of specially selected rosé from different wine regions around the globe.
  • Ici Urban Bistro ~ Le Bar at the Sofitel Hotel and its restaurant ici gives you three flight options: a $31 Sparkling celebration that’s a Laurent Perrier champagne flight, a $31 American whites flight and a $28 Red Bodies flights.
  • Pizza Vinoteca ~ My new favourite Ballston spot rocks 36 wine by the glass daily, all for under $10, so it’s not surprising that it’s offering a great Spring Wine Fling deal! Through March 29, guests can chose 4-pour flights from any of the restaurant’s wine categories (sparkling, gold, amber etc.) for $14. Not to sound like a broken record, but i’m going to recommend the sparkling flight on this one: prosecco, nebbiolo brut rose, sparkling pinot noir and lambrusco. YES PLEASE! Bonus, for $15 you can get a brussels sprout pizza + a glass of gruner Veltliner or merlot-tannat. YES PLEASE times two!
  • Pinea ~ The new-ish restaurant at the W Hotel boasts a brand new mural by Gaia and here’s an excuse if you need one to go check it out: two 4-pour flights, one red and one white showcasing uncommon Southern European varietals.
  • Smith & Wollensky and i Ricchi ~ both restaurants are showcasing wines made by women. At Smith & Wollensky, the $20 flight feature wines by notable women winemakers, including a 2012 Bordeaux Lafite Reserve. At i Ricchi, it’s a $12 flight featuring 3 wines, from 3 regions and 3 (Italian) women.

You can find a complete list of participating bars and restaurants on RAMW’s website.

Cheers to Spring!

Saint Paddy’s Day Treats at The Sweet Lobby & Olivia Macaron

Two of the best macarons shops in Washington have cooked up special Saint Patrick’s Day treats! Obviously both are going green, though Olivia Macaron’s Irish Cream macaron has a hint of gold dusting too!

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What would your ultimate Saint Patrick’s Day macaron flavour be? I love Bailey’s so I think that’s be a great flavour… but I also think an Irish Whiskey Caramel macaron would be pretty awesome!

Images courtesy of Olivia Macarons’ instagram and The Sweet Lobby’s Instagram

DC’s Crumbs and Whiskers off to a Great Start

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Crumbs and Whiskers’ founder Kanchan Singh kicks off the cat cafe’s kickstarter campaign


I’ve been making the cat café rounds lately. Last November, I visited both Café des Chats locations in Paris. More recently, I swung by Meow Parlour in New York City, and enjoyed a Hello Kitty themed macaron while hanging out with a bunch of adoptable cats. So, obviously, while I have my own BFF (Best Furry Friend) already, I’m thrilled that there’s a plan to bring a cat café concept to the D.C. area. And apparently, I’m not the only one. Last Sunday, some 50 people showed up at Penn Social for the launch of Crumbs & Whiskers’ kickstarter campaign. A campaign which, by the way, reached its goal within 24 hours and has already surpassed its stretch goal (update: it’s currently at $25,000… meaning, hello CAT WHEEL!). Not bad for a concept that still hasn’t actually signed a lease (though is rumoured to be looking at space in Georgetown… womp womp!)

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers' Kickstarter Launch Party

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers’ Kickstarter Launch Party

Crumbs and Whiskers‘ founder Kanchan Singh is a bubbly 24 year girl who just quit her consulting job to focus full time on this new venture. I had a blast at the event, though I realize I need better crazy cat-lady clothes 😉 It was great meeting her and her brother as well as her group of supportive friends. It’ll be interesting to see where Crumbs and Whiskers ends up, and what concept it ultimately becomes since D.C. regulations probably prevent it from being a traditional cat café… the launch party and success of the kickstarter campaign shows that there’s definitely a receptive audience (myself included) in Washington…

Gaia Mural & Art Intervention at the W Hotel

We had a blast Friday night celebrating the unveiling of a new indoor mural by street artist Gaia at Pinea, the new(ish) restaurant that replaced J&G Steakhouse at the luxury hotel W Washington D.C. To go along Chef Barry Koslow’s southern Mediterranean menu, the mural was inspired by a sculpture of Cesar Augustus and also features birds, a leitmotiv in Gaia’s work.

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Street Artist Gaia discusses his art intervention and mural for Pinea at the W hotel in DC

Street Artist Gaia discusses his art intervention and mural for Pinea at the W hotel in DC

 

I personally love the mural and thinks it not only livens up Pinea’s dining room but also really works with what I expect a restaurant at a W Hotel to look like. Wondering where you may have seen Gaia’s works before? The 27 years old Baltimore-based street artist has a couple of murals throughout the city. He was one of 3 street artists featured in Forbes Magazine recently as one of 30 under 30 in the Arts and Style category (the other two were Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Portugal-based Vhils.)

Rooster Mural at Smith Commons on H Street, Washington DC, 2012. Picture courtesy of Gaia.

Rooster Mural at Smith Commons on H St, Washington DC, 2012. Picture courtesy of Gaia.

Three Stages of 1817 Benning Rd, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Three Stages of 1817 Benning Rd, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Fishing, 8th St SE, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

Overfishing, 8th St SE, Washington DC, 2013. Image courtesy of Gaia.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Pinea, the new restaurant at the W Hotel, you now have a great excuse to! Or you can just swing by the dining on your way to Root Cellar, the hotel’s new whiskey bar which is directly underneath the dining room.

Francophonie Festival, 2015 Edition

The largest celebration of French culture and language in the world—the Francophonie Cultural Festival—is returning to the US capital March 5 to April 1, 2015. Organized by the D.C. Francophonie Committee in association with l’Alliance Française and Smithsonian Associates, the festival engages over 40 embassies for a month of cultural events ranging from lectures to concerts and movie screenings, culminating as usual with la Grande Fête de la Francophonie, a huge foodie bash at la Maison Française at the French Embassy.

What I’ve loved about the partnership with Smithsonian Associates this year is how active Smithsonian at 8 (the 21+  after-hours event planning art of the Smithsonian) has been about shinning a light on all the different countries that belong to the francophone world. Check out their facebook page, for example. Over the past few years, they’ve posted a recipe for Belgian waffles and the essentials of Senegalese cuisine, highlighted 10 of the most confusing words in the French language, gave us a crash course of playing the African drums and got me dreaming of jetting off to Guinea!

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Of course, Smithsonian at 8 has also been promoting the Grande Fête which will cap off the festival on March 27, 2015, and doing a Caption That contest to help you win free tickets. I’ve been to the Grande Fête many times, and here are a few tips to enjoy the party at the French Embassy:

  • la grande fete de la francophonieBuy your tickets early. The event will sell out, it always does.
  • Get to the party early. Even though the Grande Fête takes place on the expansive grounds of La Maison Francaise at the French Embassy, it gets very crowded, very fast. If you’re attending with a large group of people, agree on a meeting point because you’ll probably loose each other.
  • Don’t bring a big bag! They’ll be checking IDs and bags at the entrance so you’ll go through faster if you don’t have too much on you.
  • Uber to and back from the Embassy. There’s no parking available at the Embassy and not many spots in the streets nearby. The D6 bus does stop and pick up really close if you want to take public transportation.
  • Be prepared for long lines as you sample food and drink from more than 30 embassies as diverse as Ukraine, Cape Verde, Haiti, Tunisia and Belgium.
  • Stay for the concert! DJ Princess Slaya will spin music from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and plenty of destinations in between. The concert is when you stop spending all your time in a line and when the party really gets moving!
  • Bring cash. You’ll get food/drink samples from 7-9PM but it’s cash bar afterwards.

This year’s schedule seems a little more limited than in previous years, but besides the Grande Fête, there are a few interesting events like the Swiss Art Night at Hillyer Art Space, March 26 (6:30-9:00PM – free), Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler, a celebration of Louisiana at l’Alliance Française, March 20 (7PM – $20-$30) or Annecy in DC: a Selection of French Animated Shorts at the French Embassy, March 11 (7PM – free but reservations required.)

Make sure to visit FrancophonieDC.org for more info, including ticket costs, the description of the events and films, and times and locations.