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.

vinofest dc

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.

Ici Urban Bistro Joins Thousands of Restaurants Across the World to Celebrate Goût de France

Gout de France

This Thursday, March 19, some 1,300 chefs will cook up special dinners at restaurants and embassies in 150 countries across all five continents for a worldwide celebration of French cuisine and gastronomy. Under the patronage of France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius and famed Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, “Goût de France / Good France” was inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners), in which one menu was served to as many guests as possible worldwide in one day.  This time, however, the chefs have some creative freedom to come up with their own menus, though they must adhere to a strict traditional degustation format and serve, in this order, a French apéritif, a cold starter, a hot starter, a fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, a French cheese (or cheeseboard), a chocolate dessert, French wine and digestif. The menus will also be priced at the restaurant’s discretion, but participating establishments are encouraged to donate 5% of proceeds to local organizations.

In the District, there’s only one restaurant participating: the Sofitel Hotel’s own Ici Urban Bistro. Executive Chef Franck Loquet has crafted a wonderful menu for the occasion.

Gout de France menu at Ici Urban Bistro

The special March 19th dinner will be presided by Olivier Serot-Almeras, French General Consul, and is priced at $150 (you can purchase tickets here). 5% of the proceeds from this dinner will be donated to the local NGO Petits Frères des Pauvres (American Fund of the Little Brothers of the Poor.)

Last Friday, I got to taste some of the dishes that will be served (as well the delightful champagne) and diners are in for a treat! Check out the mouth-watering pictures below. You can also check out Gout de France’s website to view a complete listing of all the restaurants participating throughout the world. Since there are diners in 150 restaurants, there’s bound to be one near you! In New York? Ladurée is one of the restaurants participating (check out the menu here)!! Just saying…

Fine Woodland Mushroom Tart at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de FranceBranzino Tartare at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de France
Atlantic Salmon Mit Cuit

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin

Cremeux aux Trois Chocolats for Ici Urban Bistro's Gout de France diner

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.

A Year In Champagne at the Angelika Film Center

Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market With its reserved seating, gourmet concessions and interesting mix of blockbuster and special interest films, the Angelika Film Center & Cafe at the Mosaic District is one of my absolute favourite movie theater in the Washington area. Keyword: Washington area. It’s nowhere near the city and pretty inconvenient to get to if you don’t have a car. So I was thrilled when a smaller, albeit temporary version, of the art-house movie theater popped up behind Union Market. It became pretty handy when I was trying to catch up on my Oscar nominated films, showing Whiplash, Still Alice and a couple of other nominated flicks. Eventually, the pop-up Angelika Film theater at Union Market will transform into a full scale permanent location but until then, its three screens currently offers around 4-6 different indie and art-house films at various times throughout the day. You can reserve your seat in advance, meaning you can hang out in the lounge area or at Union Market until right about the time your film starts. The only downside is that the theater has NO incline, meaning you’re kinda screwed if someone tall sits in front of you…But on the plus side, there’s free drip coffee during matinee shows and you can purchase wine and beer to bring inside the movie.

Speaking of wine and beer… both Angelika theaters in the D.C. area are showing a great documentary on champagne on Wednesday March 4 2015. The film, A Year in Champagne, is part of a wine trilogy led by renowned wine importer Martine Saunier. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can catch the first chapter, A Year in Burgundy,  on Netflix where it’s streaming. The third chapter, a Year in Porto, will be released later. About the film: A Year in Champagne gives viewers a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne by spending time with six houses, from a small independent maker like Champagne Saint-Chamant, where each and every bottle is still turned by hand in the cellars to the illustrious houses of Gosset and Bollinger, which have been instrumental in shaping the image of Champagne around the world.

Both Angelika theaters are throwing a champagne tasting party to go along the film screening on March 4, 2015!
At the Angelika Film Center & Cafe in Fairfax, happy hour will start at 6PM in the lounge with wine, beer and snacks available for purchase. Experts from nearby wine shop Swirl & Sip will also be on hand to talk about Champagne before the movie screening at 7pm (movie tickets available here.) In Washington, the screening will also take place on the 4th and start with a tasting at Cordial Fine Wines & Spirits from 4:30-6:30PM (advance movie tickets available here.)

Cheers!

New Éclair de Dessert Collection at Paul Bakery

Looks like it’s definitely éclairs season in DC! After introducing two decadent new éclair flavours for Valentine’s Day (framboise & trois chocolats,) Paul Bakery  is keeping the momentum going with a whole month of new limited edition éclairs. A new line-up of tasty éclairs with join Paul’s traditional flavours vanille, café and chocolate.

Eclairs traditionels at Paul Bakery

 

Jot down this schedule! The Un Éclair de Dessert campaign will debut on February 25 by tackling one of France’s most beloved dessert: the Paris-Brest. What’s that you ask? It’s actually kind of like an éclair! Named after a bicycle race that used to take place way before the Tour de France was a thing between the French capital and one of Brittany’s largest city, it’s also made with pâte à choux. But, instead of being oblong shaped, it’s round to resemble a bicycle wheel and filled with whipped cream. It also lacks the fondant layer that typically tops the éclair. Paul’s Paris-Brest inspired éclair will be available from February 25 to March 3, and will be filled with a buttery praline cream and enhanced with caramelized hazelnuts. WANT.

Eclair Paris Brest

 

The following week will see the springtime return of one of my fall favourite: Paul’s noix de pecan éclair, typically available around Thanksgiving. Don’t miss it! It will only be in stores from March 4 to 10, 2015.

Pecan eclair

 

Next, from March 11 to March 17 will come the éclair coconut, topped with finely grated coconut instead of ganache,

Eclair coconut

 

Rounding up the series will be the éclair framboise-pistache (March 18-25) and the éclair fraise-pistache (March 25-31.)

Eclairs at Paul

 

All of these eclairs will be available individually during their respective time-frame (and only then, so plan your visits to accordingly) at all of Paul’s location throughout the Washington, DC area (you can find a Paul near you here) for $5.65 each. A special box set with 3 éclairs of your choice will also be available for $15.99.

I’m planning on hitting Paul every week to try each flavour because, well, do i need a reason beyond loving éclairs and pastries in general? Is there one you’re looking forward to trying more than the others? I’d love to hear! Eclair meet-up anyone?

French Offerings at the 25th Washington Jewish Film Festival

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Joyeux anniversaire to the Washington Jewish Film Festival (WJFF)! This year, the WJFF celebrates its 25th year with 11 days of film programming, and cultural events exploring the diversity of the Jewish experience across the globe. Between February 19 and March 1, 2015, D.C. audiences will be treated to some 100 movie screenings and related events across the DMV, including many premieres and an exciting roster of filmmaker and cast appearances. To honour the festival’s past, former festival directors have also selected a special line up of retrospective film screenings that includes the heartbreaking classic Louis Malle film Au Revoir les Enfants (on Feb 21 at the Goethe Institut and Feb 24 at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center.) Here are some of the French or French-language films that will be shown at this year’s festival:

Yidlife Crisis (episode 1 & 2 on February 21, 8:30PM and episode 3 & 4 on March 1 at 4:30PM, both screenings at the Goethe Institut)  ~ this series is actually in yiddish, but I wanted to include it in the list because it’s set in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood and is directed by/stars a McGill University graduate, like myself. Check out the first episode below. It’s about Yom Kippur and is set at la Banquise. Chaimie orders his poutine with sauce on the side to try and make it more kosher friendly…. and it’s hilarious!

 

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Belle et Sebastien (February 28, 12:30PM at DCJCC and March 1 at 11AM at the DCJCC) ~ I actually really want to see this heartwarming feature film adaptation of a sweet TV cartoon I used to watch as a kid. Belle et Sebastien tells the beautiful story of the friendship between a boy and dog, with the German occupation and the French Alps as backdrop. Actually, I don’t remember there being Nazis in the TV series… so I guess they changed a few things here and there… but there’s still a beautiful friendship between a boy and his dog and it’s you have kids, it’s probably one of the most family-friendly offering at the festival.

Qu'est-ce_qu'on_a_fait_au_bon_dieu-_posterQu’est qu’on a fait au bon Dieu/Serial (Bad) Weddings (February 21, 8:45PM at the DCJCC and February 24, 8:30PM at the Avalon) ~ this movie was a commercial hit in France and it looks really funny. I’m not sure it’s entirely PC since it plays off, and then upends, racial stereotypes of all stripes. It’s about parents who just want their youngest daughter to marry a catholic boy after the first three married successively a Jewish man, an Arab man and an Asian man.

images**Just added** A special screening of Felix et Meira (February 25, 8:45Pm at the DCJCC) ~ a Canadian drama also set in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood. It’s a forbidden love story that has explores love across cultural divides as a married Hasidic Jewish woman and a penniless, atheist francophone trying to find a meaningful connection despite all of their differences.

The Last Metro (February 24, 12:15PM at DCJCC and February 25, 7PM at the Goethe Institut) and Au Revoir les Enfants (February 21, 6:30PM at the Goethe Institut and February 24, 3PM at the DCJCC) ~ classic French films that are worth seeing over and over and are part of the special line up of retrospective films. You can actually stream Au Revoir on hulu as well.

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Beyond the films, there’s also some events happening in parallel to the film festival, like a special dinner at DGS delicatessen on February 21, following the screening of Deli Man.

Are you looking forward to seeing any films at the 25th Washington Jewish Film Festival? You can look up a full line up of all the movies showing right here.

Chantons Noel Concerts at National City Christian Church

Fa Oh la la la la la ~ The celebrated Children’s Chorus of Washington will be touring France this summer (lucky them) and in anticipation of their trip, they are giving their Christmas concerts a french twist this year. The award winning chorus will be joined by the Amadeus Brass Quintet for two concerts of French Christmas music at the National City Christian Church at Thomas Circle.

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The two concerts are December 20 and December 21, both at 4PM. Tickets are $50 for adult premium sitting, $25 regular and $10 for children under 12. Save the date and purchase your tickets here.

♫ Mon beau sapin ♪ roi des forêts… ♬

Wine Wednesday: A Special Screening of American Wine Story on November 13

A couple of years ago, my husband and I ran the Lawyers Have Heart 10K through Georgetown to benefit the American Heart Association. That was fun. But you know what sounds like an even more fun way to benefit that same association? Not running, and watching a documentary on American winemakers followed by Q&A and tasting reception instead. Definitely.

American Wine Story Screening

You’ve heard the claims before… drinking red wine (in moderation) may lower the risk of heart disease, and every year the American Heart Association hosts an amazing 4-days wine auction event in Washington, DC, called Heart’s Delight. The fundraiser celebrates exceptional food and wine and has raised more than 13 million dollars for the American Heart Association over the past 15 years. This year’s auction will be held April 22-25, 2015 (so save the date for that too!) but until then, you can celebrate wine AND benefit the American Heart Association by attending a special screening of “American Wine Story” on November 13 at E Street Cinema. The film celebrates the men and women at the heart (pun intended) of the American wine industry, including Jimi Brooks, a young Oregon wine maker who died of a heart attack at the age of 38. When he passed away, just before harvest, his fellow winemakers banded together to make his wine. The film also profiles a number of passionate local winemakers like who put aside their initial careers to start over and follow their dreams of making wine. Among the winemakers highlighted in the documentary are Al and Cindy Schornberg of Keswick Vineyards in Virginia or Luca Paschina of Barboursville, also in Virginia. All three will be present, along with David Baker, who wrote, directed and narrated the film (which he funded through Kickstarter,) at a wine tasting reception and Q&A session following the screening.

For more information and ticket sales (tickets are $50) click here. Or, you know, you can start training for the Lawyers Have Heart 10K. It’ll be on June 13 next year 😉

 

 

Visiting the Library of Congress’ Reading Room

Twice a year, on President’s Day and Columbus Day, the stunning Reading Room of the Library of Congress opens its door to the general public. I’d visited the Library of Congress on many occasions but had never gotten a chance to really see the main Reading Room, other than through a glass window on a second floor balcony. So last week, I decided I would cross it off my DC-to-do-list.

The Library of Congress is a bibliophile’s dream. The collections of the Library include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages, including some rare works like the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries etcetera, etcetera. The building and exhibits are worth seeing, even if you don’t get to walk into the actual main reading room. One of my favourite detail from the ornate architecture of the building is the names of authors engraved in gold lettering at the top of the columns in the Great Hall. These illustrious authors, including French writer Victor Hugo, were popular at the time and considered to have made great contributions to literature.

Ceiling Reading Room Library of Congress

Library of Congress reading room

Library of Congress reading room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Library of Congress Reading Room

Of course, one can always visit the Main Reading Room, as long as you have a current is Reader Identification Card but you’re not typically allowed to take pictures then. Also, it’s a lot more fun to do on the open house days because they have staff on hand to answer questions (and tell you how to get said reader identification card, which takes less than 15 minutes…) So save the date for next President’s Day if you haven’t been yet 😉

Art All Night Returns September 27, Expands Across the District

I’ve given up on D.C.’s Art For All ever being a cultural event of the scale and caliber of Paris’ Nuit Blanche, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not looking forward to it. The main event, Art All Night/Nuit Blanche DC, now in its fourth edition, will take place Saturday, September  27  and go beyond the Shaw neighbourhood to all four quadrants of the city.

Art all night, art all night 2014, art event dc, nuit blanche dc

Art All Night uses art to cast a new light on the city and one of the things I love the most about the DC version is that it allows me to explore both established art spaces and discover more underutilized venues. This year is no exception. Here are some of the highlights:

Activated! Art4All Launch Party ~ If you haven’t walked through the new City Center complex downtown (and seen its fun digital art feature the Gateway), now is your chance! D.C.’s newest development will host the official launch party for the 3 week festival on Friday, September 26 (6-8PM.) The $15 tickets include 2 tickets and appetizers, provided by recently opened DBGB DC and Del Frisco’s. That alone should sell you on it.

North Capitol Main Streets ~ That part of town is definitely not one that I would want to explore at 1AM on any other night, but during Art All Night 50 artists will turn 3 lots between 1514 and 1638 North Capitol into THE place to be on September 27. Curated by Art Soiree and the team that put the Wonderbread Factory on the cultural map, North Capitol Main Street will feature a silent disco, a commissioned graffiti mural, food trucks, projected video art and more between 7PM and 3AM.

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Dupont Circle ~ Here, Art All Night is mainly taking place in small, established galleries like Hillyer Art Space, Foundry Gallery or the Washington Studio School. Don’t miss an interactive movie making experience at the Heurich House Museum and Alex Braden‘s Outside and Play (Reprise), a 12-minute site, sound, and time-specific performance beginning promptly at 12:05am (it’s BYO headphones!) at Hillyer Art Space.

H Street NE ~ There will be a little bit of everything on H Street: golf at 3rd and H, dessert making at 646 H Street, DJs, film projections, an open house and preview of the new Ben’s Chili Bowl, live bike frame painting and custom bike making and a performance by an eclectic chamber collective at the Atlas Theater (between 8-10PM only.) Basically, a pretty typical scene for a Saturday night on H Street 😉

Congress Heights ~ Curated by Tendani Mpulubusi El., the area around the MLK corridor will host a sidewalk arts fest between 2700 – 2900 Martin Luther King Avenue SE, exciting lighting schemes and graphic projections as well as store front displays, readings, sip and paint and, of course, music.

IMG_4784Shaw ~ Shaw was the main host for all of the Art All Night events in 2013 and will be the main hub again this year. The area has changed SO much in the past 12 months though! If you want to see everything Art All Night has to offer in that part of town, start the evening at the Carnegie Library (live music) and zig zag your way up to the Popeye Building through 7th and 9th street. There’s too much stuff going on for me to list them all but I’m looking forward to the unveiling of a new outdoor mural by Kelly Towles at 1509 7th St. NW, abstract painting and sculpture (also much needed caffeine!!) at just-opened Compass Coffee, the return of Anienkan Udofia’s Marvin Gaye mural (which was recently lost to construction) at 1748 7th st. NW, and DJ + photo booth at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library.

After the 27th, Art For All continues with two “PorchFests” on Rhode Island Avenue NE (October 4th) and Adams Morgan (October 18th). Inspired by similar PorchFest events across the country aimed at creating a family-friendly, neighborhood-based alternative to the nightclub music scene, these two events will celebrate local talent by turning the front porches of neighborhood homes into performance spaces.

So yes, D.C.’s version of Art All Night is more of a take on the Parisian concept, an (almost) all-night exploration and celebration of art that’s amplified through a 3-weeks long art festival. I think it mainly succeeds in showcasing local artists and bringing art within everyone’s reach in a fun, party-like atmosphere. But, in Paris, some of the major museums like the Louvre, Pompidou, the Grand and Petit Palais or the Palais de Tokyo open up to the public (free of charge and ALL night) for Nuit Blanche. Wouldn’t it be awesome if some of the Smithsonians or the Newseum could open their door for D.C.’s Art All Night? In Paris, Art Happenings take place in both unusual and underused locations as well as major buildings that are not typically open to the public. For example, this year, Motoi Yamamoto  will create an art piece using salt on the floor of the salle des Tapisseries in City Hall. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could get some of the government buildings to partake? Like all night readings of the Constitution to different music at the Archives, or something like this? Just my suggestions…