DC-To-Do List ~ 2016 Edition

To Do List

Every year since 2010, I’ve been listing 10 things I *must* do in the district that year (check out the 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2010 editions.) Washington is a little bit like Paris in that even if you’ve lived there for a while, there’s ALWAYS going to be something you haven’t done yet. Whether it’s checking out a new restaurant that just opened (or has been around for a while) or finally doing that one super touristy thing you just haven’t done yet, like going to the top of the Washington Monument (which I finally did in 2014 and highly recommends everyone does at least once!) I keep a running list for Paris and one for Washington and try to keep it at 10 every year so that it is manageable. I obviously do WAY more than these ten things, but I think it helps to set goals and it’s also WAY more fun than the usual “I’m going to work out and read more books” New Years’ resolutions. Though I will eat healthier and read more books this year! I will.

So far, some of the items I’ve crossed off my DC-to-do-list have included: running the Cherry Blossom Miler, attending a concert at Wolf Trap (One Republic was really good!), walking through the historical congressional cemetery and take off at Gravely Point and attending an event at the French Ambassador’s Residence (which was tricky since it closed for renovations for a while!) Glad I crossed those off, but unfortunately there are a couple of items I’ve been carrying over for a few years including:

1. Sitting in on an oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court. How have I still not done this? It’s been on my list since 2010….

2. Sipping cocktails at the Columbia Room. To be fair, it closed for a bit. But it’s going to reopen, still very close to where I live so I will have no excuse now! That one is from the 2013 list, and I’d love to finally cross it off!

3. Catching a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse. Also from the 2013 list, and I do still want to do go. The theater recently introduced wine nights on Fridays so I think this is a sign….

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

4. Dinner at Little Serow. I’m actually going to scratch that one off the list for good. To be honest, there are just other restaurants like Thip Kao and Bad Saint that are higher on my must-eat-there list right now. {August update: let’s trade dinner at Little Serow for dinner at Bad Saint since Bon Appetit magazine just named it the second best restaurant in America right now.}

5. Visit the Society of Cincinnati and Lars Anderson House. This is an item I added last year, so I haven’t been carrying it over nearly as much as some of the others, but I’d really like to get to this one this year.

The society of Cincinnati in Washington, DC

6. Watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport from Gravely Point, from the 2015 list. 

7. Catch the Caps practice at the Kettler Iceplex. Also from the 2015 list. 

8. Meander through the lush grounds at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden.

9. Go on a hike in Rock Creek Park.

10. Have drinks at The Tombs in Georgetown.

11 (Bonus item.) Since there are so many items from previous list and little room for new one, I’m adding a bonus one: “Raise high” at a George Washington Colonials men’s basketball game. Confession time: I have never been to a single sporting event at my alma matter. Maybe it’s because I went there for grad school… though to be fair, I didn’t really go to any collegiate games of any kind when I was in undergrad either… I mean, why see the McGill Redmen when you can see the Montreal Canadiens you know? This is the year this changes!

Do you keep any kind of bucket lists, either a local one or one for travel? I was thinking of starting a US travel bucket list too…

Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden

Every holiday season in Washington, I look forward to escaping the winter cold by taking a quick tropical break at the United States Botanic Garden. The dry heat in the desert environment and the warm humidity in the lush tropical rainforest immediately transport you hundreds of miles away. The colourful orchids also have a way of brightening up any grey day! 

Cactus

IMG_4376

IMG_2486

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, this year, there’s not much winter chills to be escaped, but I still looked forward to visiting the indoor garden for another reason: the annual display of National Mall landmarks made out of dried plant materials in the Garden Court. I’m always amazed at how detailed the structures are. For the bigger structures like that of the US Capitol, Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination can spend up to 600 hours turning pine cone scales, acorn caps and cinnamon sticks into intricate works of art! Check it out:

Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

The National Monument

The National Monument

The US Capitol Building

The US Capitol Building

US Botanic Garden

Even the US Botanic Garden gets a plant-made replica!

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress structure is so intricate!

Albert Einstein Memorial

One of my favourite DC statue got a replica too: the Albert Einstein Memorial

The Smithsonian Castle

The Smithsonian Castle

The Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial

The White House

The not-quite-white White House

In addition to the replicas, there’s also a train display in the East Gallery that perfect for young children. Be warned though, there’s typically a long line to get into that exhibit. Otherwise, it’s free as well, just like the rest of the Botanic Garden. Season’s Greenings typically opens the day after Thanksgiving and closes right after the new years. For 2016, the exhibit is open until January 3rd, 2016.  

Experience the sparkle of the season at Georgetown GLOW

Two years ago my friend Sylvain Cornevaux, then Cultural Director for l’Alliance Française, partnered with the Georgetown Business Improvement District and other groups to bring a week-long public art and light display festival to DC’s oldest neighbour. Inspired by Lyon’s renowned Fête des Lumières, the festival, now in its third year, has now evolved into Georgetown Glow, independently organized by the BID in parallel to their annual holiday window display competition. 

The 10-night light art exhibition puts a modern, artistic twist on traditional holiday displays and takes place nightly along the C&O Canal between December 11 and 20th (from 6-10PM). The event still has a bit of a French flair, and three of the five artists represented in Georgetown Glow 2015 – Isabelle Duverger, Arthur Gallice and Hervé Orgeas, are Frenchies. Overall, the event makes for a fun stroll through Georgetown, especially since the temperatures have been so warm. Here is some of the work presented at Georgetown Glow:

"iGlow" by the DC-based trans-disciplinary design collective HiJAC

“iGlow” by the DC-based trans-disciplinary design collective HiJAC,  is a corridor of light in the courtyard outside of Grace Church in Georgetown

‪DC‬ artist Kelly Towles, known around town for his colourful murals, created the A Happy Place light and video installation for Georgetown Glow 2015.

DC‬ artist Kelly Towles, known around town for his large scale murals, created the “A Happy Place” light and video installation in the Jefferson Court office courtyard on K Street

 

 Laia Cabrera & Co.'s "Shifting Gaze," a video mapping/sound/animation mashup along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Laia Cabrera & Co.’s “Shifting Gaze,” a video mapping/sound/animation mashup along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

 

Frenchies Herve Orgeas and Arthur Gallice tell the story of 2 "lovers" in 'WIRED People Project: The Lovers" under the historic Wisconsin Avenue Bridge.

Frenchies Herve Orgeas and Arthur Gallice tell the story of 2 “lovers” in ‘WIRED People Project: The Lovers” under the historic Wisconsin Avenue Bridge

 

There’s nothing truly holiday-y in Georgetown Glow, if anything it reminded me a bit of the Nuit Blanche…  Curator Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams has been involved with the Downtown BID’s Art All Night event, which I did not attend this year, but have found rather disappointing in the past, perhaps only because the caliber of the work presented falls well below what I have experienced at the original Nuit Blanche in Paris. There were definitely moments, however, at Georgetown Glow where I felt like I could have been at Art All Night, particularly watching Kelly Towles’ “A Happy Place.” I really wish they would bring more work like this and like “Wired” to Art All Night… hopefully next year right? 

Until then, Georgetown Glow 2015 is taking place from Friday, December 11  to Sunday, December 20. All of the work, except Kelly’s, are lit between 6 and 10 PM nightly. Kelly gets a shorter window: 7-9PM. Georgetown Glow is organized by the Georgetown Business
Improvement District (BID) with support from the JBG Companies (read this great article about the real estate giant’s sponsorship of street art around town), Jamestown/Georgetown Park, The Washington Harbour Ice Rink, HOK Architects, Hickok Cole Architects, AIR (American Institutes for Research), RB Properties, Inc., Sea Catch Restaurant, Jaguar/Land Rover, The Georgetown Current Newspapers, Grace Episcopal Church, Georgetown Suites, and Think Out Loud Productions. Maps are provided though 3 of the five pieces can be found alongside the C&O Canal. 

 

 

Holiday Spirit on Ice at City Center DC

I’m pretty sure the folks over at City Center DC didn’t anticipate that it would be 70 degrees outside when they planned a live ice sculpting event for December 12th. Despite the unseasonably warm temperature, the event was a ton of fun! While two sculptors worked on an ice dress and a Christmas tree at the Park at CityCenterDC, additional sculptures were slowly melting away in Palmer Alley! My favourite was the Birkin bag, of course 😉

Check out some of my pictures below. 

Ice sculpture at city center DC

Live ice sculpting at City Center DC

Ice sculptures at City Center DC

 Ice Menorah at City Center DC

Carolers at City Center DC

Ice sculpture at City Center DC

Ice sculpture at city center DC
And while I’m pretty sure none of the sculpture survived the evening, you can catch more icy action at the National Habor where ICE! at Gaylord National features 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and five ice slides, among other attractions, inside 15,000-square-foot tent kept at a cool 9 degrees. Ok, that’s actually cold not cool! Brrr. 

8 Ways Washington, D.C. Rocks the Holidays

IMG_0889Washington does Christmas pretty well! Here are some of the holiday displays I look forward to year after year.

CHRISTMAS WREATHS AT UNION STATION

Union Station all decked out for the holidays

In addition to the three large wreaths hanging in the three main archways in front of Union Station, there’s other decorations including a giant Model Train exhibit inside in the West Hall and a 32 feet tall Christmas tree outside, both courtesy of the Norwegian embassy. In 2013, the tree was decked out with 700 shining replicas of Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream. In 2014, the tree made a statement on the environment and was decorated with polar bears. I can’t wait to see what the Norwegian embassy comes up with this year! (<– CDs!)

 

OLD EBBITT GRILL’S NUTCRACKER SOLDIERS 

Nutcracker Soldiers Standing Guard outside Old Ebbitt grill

These guys are guarding the best oyster happy hour in the city – half price raw bar Monday-Thursday between 3-6PM, so swing by before heading to the National Christmas Tree (coming up at number 3!)

 

NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE (AND NATIONAL MENORAH) 

National Christmas Tree and Menorah

BOTANIC GARDEN CHRISTMAS DISPLAY

During the holidays, replicas of Washington, D.C.'s most famous monuments made entirely in tree products are displayed at the Botanic Garden.

During the holiday season, the U.S. Botanic Garden presents “Season’s Greenings”, a unique exhibit featuring model trains and replicas of Washington, D.C.’s most famous buildings and monuments, made entirely in tree products. In 2013, there was even an Eiffel Tower replica! Check out all the landmarks on display in 2015 in my Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden post

 

DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET

Downtown Holiday Market offers seasonal shopping in the heart of Washington’s Penn Quarter. Don’t miss Vigilante Coffee to get your caffeine fix before going on the shopping spree, Migue’s Mini donuts and Cherry Blossom Creative and Grey Moggie‘s booths for awesome letterpress cards and prints. 

Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, DC

ZOOLIGHTS

Zoolights in Washington, DC

The annual winter celebration at the National Zoo runs from November 27 to January 2nd this year, with more than 500,000 LED lights brightening up the zoo from 5-9 p.m. each night (other than December 24-25 and New Year’s Eve when the zoo is closed.)

GINGERBREAD HOUSES EVERYWHERE

Gingerbread house at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC

If you’re a pastry chef in Washington, D.C. around the holiday season, you better know how to make a gingerbread house. In France, sweet Christmas creativity is typically channeled into bûche de Noël (some are real works of art!) but here it’s all about the gingerbread houses. Each holiday season, former White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier creates a gingerbread replica of George Washington’s mansion displayed at Mount Vernon. There’s always stunning gingerbread creations as part of the Christmas decor at the White House too, but many of the city’s hotels will also feature fun and festive creations in their lobbies or restaurants too, like the Ritz Carlton version of the Smithsonian Castle pictured above.

 

CITY CENTER’S TWO 25-FOOT REINDEERS & CHRISTMAS TREE

Holiday display at city center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a new tradition started in 2014 and I certainly hope they’re here to stay!  

 

BONUS: MANDU’S DUCKS AND THEIR ADORABLE SANTA HATS

Mandu's duckies all decked out for the holidays

Life Goes On~Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau in Washington, DC

I’m not exactly in a celebratory mood these days, but life goes on. Paris is about life, about being at a terrasse right now etc. Life has to go on and this week life includes the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau, which always takes place on the third Thursday of November (or midnight that Wednesday!) Here are a few, selected spots where you can partake in some Gamay-drinking in Washington, D.C.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

BITRO DU COIN    Still THE place to be at midnight when Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It’s probably too late to get reservations for dinner, but show up around 10PM when they start  clearing out the tables. The Beaujolais typically starts pouring 11PM, which technically is well past midnight in France anyways 😉 More details here.

CAFE DU PARC Get a complimentary glass of George Duboeuf Beaujolais at the bar between 6-9PM, with additional ones and small bites available for purchase too. If you like it, stay for the prix-fixe Beaujolais dinner ($55 diner only, $80 with George Duboeuf wine pairing).

CENTRAL   Michel Richard’s Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant will keep the party going from Thursday November 19 through Saturday, November 23. Rather than serve the Duboeuf Beaujolais you’ll find pretty much everywhere else, they’ll be pouring a Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 for $11 a glass, or $42 bottle. Executive Chef David Deshaies has also created a classically French 3-course prix fixe menu ($55) to pair with the grapes, featuring gougeres, escargot Fricasse, Filet mignon with syrah-shallot sauce, and winter vegetables; and a seasonal Apple-cranberry cobbler for dessert.  

SLATE   For those who want to try some of the finer vintages of Beaujolais, Slate’s owner/Sommelier Danny Lledo will be leading private at-the-table tastings of the 2014 Nouveau and three choice Beaujolais for guests on Thursday, November 19th from 5-8 pm.  The cost of the tasting is $15 and choices include: George Duboeuf Beaujolais “Nouveau” 2015, George Duboeuf Flower Label Beaujolais 2014, Jean Paul Champagnon Fleurie, Beaujolais 2013 andDomaine Laurent Martray Brouilly, Beaujolais 2013.

TABLE Who wants to cook the day before Thanksgiving? Nobody, that’s who. For $150, Table invites you to give thanks for Gamay wine with  masterfully prepared local cuisine paired beautifully with Cru Beaujolais on Wednesday November 25. Check out the full menu and book your spot here

 

Beaujolais Nouveau

 

BEAUJOLAIS FOR A CAUSE    The DC Center is hosting a Beaujolais-themed fundraiser at the Human Rights Campaign on November 19th to benefit its Women Center. Tickets are $20. L’Alliance Française and the French-American Chamber of Commerce are also hosting a “Beaujolais and Beyond” “fun”raiser celebration at La Maison Française. Beaujolais Nouveau and other red wines will be free-flowing and proceeds benefit causes dear to both francophone organizations. 

ENO Wine Bar in Georgetown is dedicating its Beaujolais celebrations to the 129 victims who lost their lives during the Paris attacks on November 13. On Thursday, November 19, the bar will be illuminated with France’s national colours blue, white and red. ENO will be pouring a Dupeuble 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau (same wine as Le Diplomate though it’ll be $9/a glass and $35/bottle at the 14th street bistro) for $10 a glass and $40 a bottle. Guests are encouraged to share prayers and messages over social media using hash tag #ENOPrayersforParis. These messages will be displayed on a loop on Thursday evening at the wine bar. I’m not a huge fan of the #prayforParis hashtag, though I really appreciate the sentiment. Consider adding a #Parisisaboutlife or . Paris may get tossed by the waves but she will not sink, even in a pool of Beaujolais.

Beaujolais Nouveau

 

Finally if you’re like me and your favourite way of “enjoying” a glass (or five) of Beaujolais Nouveau is at home with some friends, here are a couple of wine shop I recommend:

WEYGANDT WINES is carrying 3 unique cuvées of Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Beaujolais Primeur 2015: Cuvée Pierre Chermette ($12/bottle), Beaujolais Primeur Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2015 and Chermette’s Beaujolais Primeur Rosé 2015 (OMD Beaujolais Rosé!! Game changer!! That one is exteremely limited so go snag a bottle right now!!) ($12/bottle).

DCANTER carries a Domaine Descroix Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 priced at $13. This is a pretty decent Beaujolais option that would pair really well with your Thanksgiving meal, so you might want to reserve a few bottle since the Capitol Hill shop will most likely sell out pretty quickly. 

CORK & FORK is where I usually pick up my Beaujolais Nouveau every year. Dominque Landragin typically selects a couple of interesting bottles that you won’t find in most stores. Like DCanter, he’s offering the Domaine Descroix Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 as well as a Domaine Anoir du Carra Beaujolais Village Nouveau. My recommendation when it comes to Beaujolais is always go for the village if you can… 

Last Friday, terrorists sought to attack France’s way of life… what better way to show them that our spirit will never be defeated than with some headache inducing Beaujolais Nouveau. Or something like that 😉 Cheers!

 

 

 

Third Annual Craft Spirit of Poe Cocktail Fundraiser

Last Thursday, I got a sneak peek of Craft Spirit of Poe, a gothic cocktail fundraiser that challenges local mixologists to author bespoke cocktails inspired by Edgar Allen Poe stories. Proceeds from the event benefit Les Dames d’Escoffier DC’s scholarship and grant programs for women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. 

Craft Spirit of Poe

On Thursday, judges Chantal Tseng (Red Eye Menu), Derek Brown (Drink Co.), Kelly Magyarics (Craft Spirit Exchange) and Emily Heil (Washington Post) had the difficult task of tasting and evaluating 12 different concoctions and interpreations of Poe. The main event will take October 6th, the day before the anniversary of Poe’s death, at The Loft at 600F, and you can still purchase tickets here ($45). There, attendees will find out who the juries picked for the Poe prize for best interpretative cocktail. They’ll also get their say by voting in the People’s Choice Poe-letariate Award by putting dollar bills in the tip jars of each mixologist. The one will the most tips will win, though all of the tips will be donated back to Les Dames d’Escofier. 

My personal favourite cocktail from the friendly competition was one of two inspired by My Heart Tell Tale Heart, which also happened to be the only Edgar Allen Poe inspiration story that I actually remember reading. Both Erin Goodman of Roofers Union and Meghan Coyle of Twisted Horn  (the upcoming new bar from the Hank’s Oyster Bar team) crafted cocktails based on the story and I loved them both though Erin’s version with green hat gin, spiced chai, pomegranate seeds and grenadine bitters acting as the heart beating thru floor edge the other one out in my books. In addition to all the cocktails, Tuesday’s event will also feature a game of JeoPOEdy and very own Haiku POE-m with the help of Haiku masters. How fun!

You can learn more about the event, and buy tickets here.

 

 

Gad Elmaleh in DC – Part Trois, Now All In English


Le revoici, le revoilà! Gad Elmaleh repasse au Birchmere, avec un petit changement qui n’est pas négligeable: le comedien fait son show en Anglais!! 

It’s hard enough being funny in your native language, let alone in a foreign one. Seinfeld, for example, was notoriously bad when dubbed in French, and the humour didn’t quite translate. And yet, that’s exactly the personal challenge that French funnyman (and Seinfeld BFF) Gad Elmaleh has set for himself. After performing sold-out shows in Washington, DC twice in 2013 (in April and September – you can read my recap from the September show right here), the comedien is back for a third time. This fall, he’ll try to branch out of the French-speaking and expat crowd by performing en anglais in 17 cities across the US and Canada.

Gad Elmaleh al in English

I thought he was absolutely hilarious when he performed at the Birchmere in Alexandria two years ago. The running joke throughout the performance was Cathy, the lone non-French speaker in the audience whom Gad picked on repeatedly. Good news for her, she can go back to the Birchmere on December 13 and finally be in on the jokes. I, for one, would rather see the comedien in v.o. (version originale). But I’m excited at the prospect of bringing my husband to the show this time, or some of my other friends here who appreciate French but may not speak it well enough to follow an entire stand-up routine in it (maybe they should do like at the opera and have surtitles!). 

You can get your tics for the DC, Montreal and Vancouver shows here. You can also catch one of his film, Capital, on Netflix right now. Or you can get a sneak peek of his English show on YouTube, with a short segment where he comments on two very American things French expats in the US don’t get: air conditioning and over-zealous wait staff at restaurants 😉 Don’t worry, it’s not all US bashing during his routine. The French definitely get picked on too! 

*** note: it appears the DC show is already sold out… womp womp for those who didn’t purchase tickets soon enough, like me! But wow, that was quick!!*** 

A Rainbow of Colourful Treats from Olivia Macarons

Olivia Macaron

Ever since it opened back in 2013, Olivia Macaron has been my go-to spot to grab my favourite French treats! I love the way these turned out as a rainbow of delightful pastries, with, from top to bottom, red velvet, rose (always my fave!), lemon-basil, almond (close runner up!) and honey-lavender. Not pictured are some of their current seasonal offerings: passion fruit (a local take on Pierre Herme’s famous mogador combo that pairs the tart fruit with milk chocolate – I’m allergic to cocoa, so I’ve never been a fan) and black sesame.

What’s your ultimate favourite macaron flavour? Please share in the comments and have a wonderful #MacaronMonday!  

Save the Date~Two Fabulous Champagne Lanson Events Coming September 15th

Just last weekend I was dressed in white from head to toe and appropriately sipping some Champagne Lanson Brut White Label NV at Washington’s second annual Diner en Blanc. 

Champagne Lanson Diner en BlancDiner en blanc dc


Champagne Lanson Diner en Blanc

You can read more about DC’s 2015 Diner en Blanc here (and here and here and here.) If you missed Diner en Blanc or you just want to relive a part of this magical evening, the House of Lanson is coming to town and hosting two events in the District.

The first, more casual, is a tasting of the entire champagne house portfolio at one of my go-to wine shop Cork and Fork (always trust a wine shop owner whose grandfather ran the Champagne Veuve Clicquot vineyards) between 6-8PM on September 15 (Tickets $20).

Champagne Lanson, Cork and ForkThe second is a wine pairing diner at 701 near the National Archives/Navy Memorial also on September 15 (starting at 7:30PM, $100 not including tax and gratuity). Executive Chef Benjamin Lambert will prepare a five-course feast while Enguerrand Baijot, the director of Champagne Lanson North America, will orchestrate pairings of Champagne Lanson, including Black Label Brut NV, Rose Label Brut, the White Label that was served at Diner en Blanc and a “Gold Label” Vintage Brut 2002. The Young Winos of DC have complete menu for you here and you can book your spot for dinner by calling the restaurant at 202-393-0701. 

Cheers!! 

ps: all pictures from Diner en Blanc included in this post were taken by my very good friend Cecile. You can read her take on Diner en Blanc right here.