Drink all the French Bubbles at DC’s First Champagne Week

DC Champagne WeekIf 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…

Champagne Week DCSo what can you expect from DC Champagne Week? Here’s a run-down of the events:

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!!

Santé!! 

Celebrating DC’s First Michelin Guide at the French Ambassador’s Residence

Bibendum at the release party for DC's first Michelin Guide

Being invited to the French Ambassador’s Residence is always a treat… I’ve only been there a few times in my 13 years in Washington and I’m always elated when I have the chance to attend an event there. Last night was no exception, if anything it was more special than ever as Washington’s top toques gathered to celebrate the release of the District’s very first Michelin Guide. So. Many. Chefs. 

In addition to the 11 chefs who were awarded coveted stars in the red guide, representatives from the restaurants who were awarded Bib Gourmand last week as well as from those who were listed in the book were present. Who was left in DC’s kitchens last night? A lot of sous-chefs in charge 😉

DC's Michelin Starred Chefs

There are 107 restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide, including 19 Bib Gourmand, 9 one-star restaurants and 3 two-stars restaurants. The big winners from this first edition are Jose Andres and Aaron Silverman. At 34, the chef who made D.C. fall in love with a litchi and pork sausage dish is one of very people in the world to have both a one star (Rose’s Luxury) and a two stars (Pineapple & Pearl) restaurant. And he’s just getting started! Jose Andres also had a very good week, receiving two stars for his Minibar and a Bib Gourmand for pretty much all of his other establishments (Oyamel, China Chilcano, Zaytinya and Jaleo).

My favourite moment from last night’s event, other than sipping champagne among the who’s who of the Washington culinary scene — and getting my picture taken with Bibendum — was when Patrick O’Connor, the chef and proprietor of the two-star Inn at Little Washington said a few words as he accepted his recognition. At 71, he is twice Aaron Silverman’s age and had long lobbied Michelin’s to cover the city. “I am living proof” he said “that if you wait long enough your prayers will be answered.” Despite their insistence that they would only include restaurants from DC proper in the guide, I am so glad that the Michelin inspecteurs ventured out to Washington, VA. I’m hoping to make a trip out there soon, but until then, I’ll be combing through the guide (which shouldn’t take long, the D.C. edition is a mere 96 pages long, of which maybe 15 are ads for Michelin and maps) and picking out some new spots to try!

DC Michelin Guide

The first on my lists are all around where I live, and I can’t believe I eaten there yet: Ottoman Taverna (Bib Gourmand), Kinship (one star) and Chercher, a Bib Gourmand Ethiopian restaurant I hadn’t even heard of until the guide came out. Do you think the release of the guide will influence where you’re going to eat in the near future?

Getting my Coffee Fix at Qualia Luke’s Diner

Luke's Diner pop up at Qualia

Where you a fan of Gilmore Girls? I watched it religiously when I was in college and I can’t wait until Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the four-episode revival of the series, comes out on Netflix November 25! To celebrate the 16th gilmoreversary of the series’ original pilot air date (this is making me feel old!!) and of course promote the new season, Netflix had the brilliant idea of bringing a little bit of Stars Hollow to life by turning some 200 coffee shops across the U.S. and Canada into Luke’s Diner pop-ups. And to serve free coffee, which we know Rory and Lorelai would have totally be fans of!!  

Luke's diner pop up

There were five coffee shops that got the Luke’s Diner treatment in the D.C. area: Bump ‘n Grind in Silver Spring; Grounded Coffee Shop in Alexandria; Flying Fish Coffee & Tea in Mt Pleasant; Three Fifty Bakery and Coffee Bar on 17th Street and Qualia Coffee on Georgia Avenue which is where I headed for my coffee fix this morning. Of course, the lines were pretty long at all of these, but it was definitely worth it! Loved seeing the staff all dressed up like Luke, wearing flannel shirts and (Netflix-branded) baseball caps turned backwards.

Qualia turned into Luke's Diner for the day

Cell phones were only in their infancy back when the show first aired and we all remember that Luke Danes was not a fan, with a NO CELL PHONES sign prominently placed in his diner. Well, that was there today of course….

Luke's Diner no cell phone sign

Some pop-up Luke’s Diner around the country even got a life size Luke’s cutout displaying the updated no cell phone rule… looks like 2016 Luke is still as grumpy as ever 😉 The new sign reads: “No texting while ordering. No MAN BUNS! No taking pictures of food. No headphones. If I can hear your music through your headphones, WHY ARE YOU WEARING HEADPHONES?”

New no cell phone rules at Luke's diner

No taking pictures of my food!?! Why doesn’t he just write no millennials allowed in 😉 Can’t wait to see play out in the show’s revival!! 

 

New Mural at 801 N Street NW

It’s been pretty gloomy in Washington, DC lately so I was pretty excited to stumble upon a new pop of colour in Shaw. Kuddos to Jessie and Katey, an artistic duo from Baltimore, for working in the rain to turn a dull wall above a parking lot into a vibrant public mural.

Jessie and Katey mural at 801 N Street NW in Washington, DC

The mural is part of the District Wall project sponsored by Blind Whino and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Between September 19th and September 30th, abstract muralists like Jason Woodside (1380 H st NE), Remi Rough (649 Kenyon St NW), Tavar Zawacki (1012 7th St SE) or Waone Interesni Kazki (829 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW) have been painting new pieces of street art around the city. I’m always eager to see more graffiti cover the city’s empty walls. And even though the project was supposed to end September 30, some of the murals are still works in progress. James Reka (Rekaone) just got started on his for example, so there’s still more to come… yeah! 

 

Weekend Highlights: Garnacha, Hello Kitty, a Pique Nique & a Sneak Peek at NMAAHC

I can’t believe it’s already Monday! I packed a lot in three short days, and the weekend definitely flew by! Now let’s just hope the week goes just as fast too 😉 

MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY AT GRAND CATA

Have you been to Grand Cata yet? It’s one of my favourite wine store in the city… and since it doesn’t carry many French bottles, that’s saying something about the rest of their selection! My first instinct when picking vino is usually to go straight for what I know, French wines but Julio and Pedro who co-own the Latin-centric shop are always spot with their recommendations. Whether it’s a Spanish garnacha, a Portuguese rose or a bottle from South America, they’ve definitely helped me step out of my wine-comfort box and explore different wine producing regions. On Friday, they held a bit of a party at their 7th street store to celebrate Mexico’s Día de la Independencia. There was Mezcal (Grand Cata sells more than just wine) and tasty maizopes courtesy of Manos de Maiz. 

Manos de Maiz

Grand Cata Wine Store in Washington DCCelebrating #Garnachaday

Since Snooth, an online community for wine drinkers was hosting a virtual tasting party with Wines of Garnacha for #GarnachaDay I picked up a 2014 Gardacho from Alzania vineyards in Navarra, a 100% garnacha wine that they recommended and joined the twitter fun while watching St Vincent on Netflix 😉 I definitely needed a night in after a busy week, though I’m not gonna lie, I thought the movie was going to be a bit funnier… I was quite depressed after watching it… 

HELLO KITTY CAFE TRUCK PARKS IN BETHESDA

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

I also needed a good nice rest since I had to get up super early to head to Bethesda for the scheduled appearance of the Hello Kitty Cafe truck. Yes, I pretty much dedicated all of my Saturday to waiting in line, outside a pink truck, to grab one box of $15 Hello Kitty themed macarons.

Nicole and the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

The wait was a bit ridiculous (Hello Kitty sure has some dedicated fans!) and the line could certainly have been managed better but it was all worth it! Besides, I got to swing by Fresh Baguette while I was there and tried their pumpkin croissant too! ps: speaking of Fresh Baguette, they’re in the running to have their bread named DC’s best baguette. Will I see you at the best baguette finale at the French Embassy on September 29th

 

END OF SUMMER FRENCH PIQUE NIQUE

Sunday, some of my Frenchies and I had planned a get-together with friends and other members of the french expat meet-up at Peirce Mill and Barn in Rock Creek Park for a low key picnic. The ratio of baguettes to attendees was excellent, which I guess is to be expected when French people get together… 

Peirce Mill and Barn Frenchie pique nique

Peirce Mill & Barn

 

 

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY & CULTURE PREVIEW

National Museum of African American History and CultureA huge merci to Ninette who let me tag along with her during the friends and family preview of much anticipated NMAAHC, which will officially open this Saturday. I *cannot* wait to go back! Three hours was barely enough time to skim the surface of this fantastic new Smithsonian museum, which takes visitors on a journey through the lens of the African American experience, from slavery in Africa at the lowest underground level of the museum to the brighter upper floors to segregation to the third and uppermost history level, called “1968 to Today.” There, the mood lightens, with sections celebrating achievements and contributions to pop culture, music, sports and the arts.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Oprah Winfrey at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

On my next visit to the museum (I have timed free-tickets for September 22) I’ll actually start at the upper levels and make my way down since I spent most of my time Sunday at the lower levels. I also will absolutely visit Sweet Home Cafe, the museum’s dining hall for which chef Carla Hall was a culinary ambassador. Like Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the National Museum of American Indians, the 400 seats-restaurant is split into 4 food sections that tell the culinary story of African Americans: the North States, Agricultural South, Creole Coast, and Western Range. I was only able to peek at the menu for the Creole Coast, with candied yams, house pickled vegetables, catfish po’boy and duck, andouille and crawfish gumbo among other. My husband is from Louisiana and I definitely want to eat my way through that menu — and discover the rest too! 

So that was my weekend… next week is the National Book Festival and Art All Night (two September events I’ve been looking forward toso I have another busy weekend ahead. Hopefully, the week will go by quickly!! How was your weekend? How’s your week shaping up?

Weekend Highlights ~ Low Key Labour Day

The first Monday of September is always Labor Day in the United States. It honors American workers and their contributions to the strength of the country. It’s also considered the unofficial end of summer… le sigh.

DRINKS AT THE WATERGATE HOTEL

We kicked off the weekend with happy hour at the Next Whisky Bar in the newly opened Watergate Hotel. Of course, everyone knows of the Watergate from the history books and the role it played in the demise of president Richard Nixon. But today, it’s a complex of 5 buildings right by the Kennedy Center. One of those building is now a landmark hotel overlooking the Potomac River and I hadn’t been yet since it reopened in June (it was closed for renovations since 2007.) The drinks are pretty pricey, so it’s not a spot where I’m going to become a regular at, but I loved the bar’s splashy atmosphere, with its lush red seats and the soft amber glow from the curved illuminated wall of 2,500 whisky bottles. 

The Bar at the Watergate Hotel

 

LABOUR DAY CAPITOL CONCERT

After that, my weekend was rather low key. Saturday, I went for a quick jog to the U.S. Capitol. I really want to get back into running now and jogging to and from the Capitol is a nice and easy 3 miles, the perfect distance when you havn’t been running for a while. Plus it’s such a pretty route, especially now that the scaffholding is almost all down. 

Concert on the West Lawn of the US Capitol

Sunday evening, I went back to the Capitol, to the West Lawn to be exact, to catch the free concert by the National Symphony Orchestra. It was a very only-in-DC concert. The musicians, led by Steven Reineke, kicked off the program with the star spangled banner. Featured singer Storm Large and her band Le Bonheur then launched into some American classic, including America the beautiful. My favourite moments were when she dedicated her performance of The Lady is a Tramp to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (her “spirit animal”) before serenading Bernie Sanders with a special version of My Funny Valentine, which she turned into My Bernie Valentine. Yep, politics is everywhere, always (but especially in an election year!) Washington, DC 😉 

Labor day concert at the US Captiol

 

STUNNING SUNSETS

Was it because of Hermine? I’m not sure, but we were treated to some pretty magical, unforgettable sunsets Friday and Saturday nights. According to my instagram feed, that was the case all along the East Coast, all the way to New York City. I wish my pictures could do justice to just how breath taking the red sky was… 

Sunset

Stunning sunset in Washington, DC

 

SUP-ING ON THE POTOMAC

I try to go kayaking on the Potomac at least once every summer, though I waited until the very end this year (let’s be real, it was too hot before that!) The weather was so perfect on Monday, we definitely weren’t the only ones who had that idea. We opted to do the Stand Up Paddleboards this time, which was a great workout on top of being a fun way to see the city from a different angle, including the Watergate where I had kicked off the weekend. 

Boating in DC
SUP-ing on the PotomacSUP-ing to the WatergateWe wrapped up the weekend with a little grilling, of course. That’s kinda synonymous with Labour Day right? In addition to running again, I’m trying to eat less meat so rather than cook steaks or burgers, I tried something different: grilled artichokes. 

Grilled artichoke with rose

It was actually really good and super easy to do. The trick is to boil the artichokes first. Once they’ve cooled down a bit, cut them in half and brush them with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. You’ll grill them for 5-10 minutes (until the tips are a little charred) and enjoy with a little more of the olive oil mixture. It’s actually quite perfect if you ever have vegetarian friends over for BBQ!

How was your labour day weekend? Did you go anywhere fun or stayed behind and enjoyed an emptier city? Let me know in the comments and have a great (short) week!

 

Diner en Blanc by the Lincoln Memorial

The very first diner en blanc took place in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne in the 1980s and has popped up in some of the most iconic locations around town since then, like the Champs Elysees, Notre Dame or the Place des Vosges to name a few. While I loved Washington’s first two diners en blanc, the sites (Navy Yard Park in 2014 and the Carnegie Library in 2015) had lacked a certain wow factor. This year, however, the organizers really delivered that only-in-DC magic as 3500 white-clad diners descended on Henry Bacon Park for an over the top, elegant pop-up picnic in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

Diner en Blanc, Washington DC

Getting so many people, slugging their tables, chairs, decorations and for many food, to an undisclosed location and setting them up at the site is always an exercise in organized chaos, but it always all comes together beautifully in the end.

Diner en Blanc at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial

Photograph by Vita Images for Diner en Blanc Washington, DC

The diner has many detractors but, as I mentioned to the Washington Post for an article on the event, one of the reasons I keep getting involved in Diner en Blanc is the camaraderie and the creativity. For all the talk that it’s a pretentious, posh, exclusive event, with a restrictive dress code and many strict rules, it’s actually one of the most inclusive and diverse I’ve ever attended in the city. Whether you’re a chief of staff in a congressional office or an inter, a lobbyist or a student, a lawyer or a bartender, everyone is equal for one night. I’ve never heard anyone ask someone else the dreadful “oh, what do you do” question at Diner en Blanc. Instead it’s compliments on fun angel wings, a sparkly beard, original outfits or crafty centerpieces. Everyone is treated the same at Diner en Blanc: everyone has to drag their stuff across town, no one knows where they’re going to end up setting up and everyone is given the same blank white canvass to work with. And they are free to get as creative as they want… well, as long as you keep it white 😉

Diner en blanc Washington DC

Diner en blanc Washington, DC

Some of my friends express their creativity through their outfits, others go all out on their table scape. Check out this sail my friend Jade made! It was amazing!

Diner en Blanc at the Lincoln Memorial

Some get creative on the dance floor too ! I usually focus on my menu but this year decided to spend some time and energy on a homemade flower crown instead. And I had a pretty simple but stunning table design planned that involved massive white balloons (inspired by this pin) too but that was thwarted by the National Park Service rangers who apparently disapprove of balloons… womp womp. We still got a few good pictures with them though!

Photo by Jai Williams for DCist

Photo by Jai Williams for DCist

Picture by Vithaya Phongsavan for DC Modern Luxury

Picture by Vithaya Phongsavan for DC Modern Luxury

Again, it was a wonderful evening, spent laughing, eating, drinking champagne and dancing under the stars with old friends, and strangers alike, in one of those truly only-in-DC moments. I only wish it could have lasted longer…

Diner en blanc 2016

 

 

Weekend Highlights ~ Restaurant Week, Caipirinhas & Grilled Peach Pizza

Definitely another low-key weekend… sometimes you just need some of those you know, especially as I gear up Diner en Blanc next Saturday. Friday night, I had a couple of girlfriends over for rosé on the roof. My friends Jean and Aparna can’t make it to diner en blanc, so we thought we’d dress in white and have a bit of a test run. I’m being a bit of a rebel this year and sprinkling hints of gold into my tablescape so I wanted to check out how it looked. Plus I love any excuse to host. I think it turned out pretty well no?

diner en blanc table

I wanted to keep things simple for the menu so I made Martha Stewart’s Grilled Peach Pizza recipe as well as a pitcher of caipirinhas (check out my recipe here, along with some personal memories of drinking Caipirinhas in Brazil)  since I wanted to finish my bottle of cachaca. We talked about the Olympics, of course, our latest trips, ones we have coming and diner en blanc. It was lovely.

Martha Stewart's Grilled Peach Pizza

Martha Stewart's Grilled Peach PizzaSaturday was beautiful and I was quite lazy, spending most of it at the pool. On Sunday, I caught the tail-end of Restaurant Week with a lunch-date with the hubby at Del Campo in Chinatown. I used to be so into restaurant week before, booking lunches and dinner throughout the time of the promotion, but now not much. Del Campo did a great job with their menu though. I kicked off my meal with the Chilean Salmon Ceviche while my husband had the empanadas de Pino. Those were basically breakfast empanadas with bacon and egg and I’m totally going to try and make them at home one day! 

Salmon ceviche at Del Campo

empenadas de pino at Del Campo

Since I had Brazil on my mind, I ordered the Smoked Pork Feijoada. It was ok, though definitely not as good as my husband’s Grilled Short Rib with jalapeno potato puree and bone marrow. 

Short rib and bone marrow at Del Campo

The desserts were lovely, I always love the tres leches twinkies with passion fruit sorbet. The menu offered for lunch and diner is actually exactly the same but it’s $13 pricier in the evenings, so I’d definitely recommend the earlier option and the deal continues through next Sunday too. There’s also a $55 Restaurant Week’s chef menu, that swaps the short rib for grilled Wagyu bavette sirloin & chorizo and the empanadas de pino for Wagyu skirt steak empanadas. I still think the lunch menu was really good and a good deal, so I’d stick with that though.

Tres leche twinkies at Del Campo

Did you partake in restaurant week this past week? If yes, any stand-out meals? If not… why not? Do you find your interest in the promotion to have decreased over the years? Let me know in the comments and have a great week!! 

Soirée Guerre des Etoiles au Match de Baseball

Dans la catégorie experience typique Américaine à faire au moins une fois, je vous présente le baseball. Mon premier match c’était à Fenway Park, le terrain de jeu des célèbres Red Sox de Boston, qui est aussi le stade de baseball de plus ancien encore utilisé aux U.S. Tant qu’à faire, autant choisir un stade historique et une équipe mythique non?  

Match de baseball des Washington Nationals

L’équipe de D.C. c’est les Washington Nationals et elle est plutôt nouvelle. La capitale Américaine avait été privée de son sport national pendant des années, jusqu’à ce que les Expos de Montréal débarquent sous un nouveau nom et branding en 2005, pour la plus grande joie de tout le monde. En contraste au Red Sox et à Fenway qui sont pleins d’histoire et de nostalgie, nous on a un stade et une équipe flambants neufs. En tout, j’ai dû aller à une dizaine de matchs, souvent avec le travail, car ça se fait beaucoup ici les virées organisées au match de baseball l’été quand les bureaux sont un peu plus calmes. Sinon, je préfère m’abstenir et j’ai de la chance, mon mari c’est pas son truc non plus le baseball. Sauf que hier c’était soirée Guerre des Etoiles au stade et que pour une fois j’avais vraiment envie de voir ça!! 

Soiree guerre des etoiles au match the baseball

Et oui, comme la saison de baseball dure 6 mois et que chaque team joue plus de 160 matchs, le staff marketing des équipes organisent souvent des soirées à thèmes pour égayer un peu tout ça. Souvent c’est des “Girls Night Out” ou “Bark at the Park” quand on peut amener ses copines ou son chien. Et des fois c’est un peu plus geek avec des matchs Pixar, Zombies, Star Trek, Game of Throne ou Star Wars. Pourquoi pas…? 

Comme la force était forte du côté du thermomètre (il faisait encore 35 degrès à 7 heures du soir) j’ai laissé à la maison mon costume de wookie Chewbacca  et j’ai improvisé un look princesse Leia fan des Nationals, tout en blanc avec le logo de l’équipe (et surtout des manches courtes!) et les doubles chignons macarons. Les 20,000 premiers spectateurs arrivé au stade on eut le droit à un t-shirt special, les présidents qui vont la course au quatrième inning étaient en costume aussi et un peu partout a travers le stade il y avait des photos opps avec les personages de la franchise. 

Star Wars Night at the baseball game

Star Wars Night at the Baseball Stadium

Star Wars Night at the baseball game

 

 

 

Star Wars Night at the baseball stadium

Sinon, le match… oui, j’ai pas trop regardé 😉 

                                           *              *              *                *                  *

Deux trois trucs a connaitre pour voir jouer les Nationals, l’équipe de Baseball de Washington:

  • La saison de baseball c’est debut Avril a fin Septembre et les matchs se passent au Nationals Park dans le Sud Ouest de Washington, au metro Navy Yard. Y’a plein de truc à faire avant le match, comme le Bullpen at Half Street Fairgrounds, avec de la bière et des food-trucks, ou la brasserie Bluejacket. Mais il ne faut pas trop se gaver… les concessions à l’intérieur du stade valent vraiment une visite! 
  • Les billets s’achètent en ligne sur le site de l’équipe. Sinon, vous pouvez vous renseigner sur la disponibilité des places sur place au stade en vous rendant à la billetterie le jour du match. Les prix varient entre $10 pour des places plutôt basique à la Right Field Terrace et $370 dans le Delta SKY360 Club ou vous avez buffet et boissons à volonté (et une vue bien meilleure a mon avis…)

 

 

Happy Watermelon Day!

Rather than give you a French inspired recipe using summer’s most refreshing fruit, pastèque, I give you one of the most colourful house in Washington, DC and one of my favourite piece of street art in the city: the Watermelon house!!

DC's Watermelon House

The row house is located at 1112 Q Street near Logan Circle. Its exposed side has been painted in pink and green to resemble a has a watermelon slice, complete with seeds. Story has it all started with a bad paint job and since everything I know about Logan Circle’s famed Watermelon House I know from this Washington Post article, you can read all about it there too.

Oh, and if you really want some recipes, I do have two super refreshing ones for you right here.

Bonne journée de la pastèque!! Are you celebrating?