Race Recap: National Women’s Half Marathon

As a new runner, my main race goal so far has usually been to just cross that finish line. But now that I have a couple of races behind me, I thought it was time I get a little ambitious and set the bar a little higher for the National Women’s Half Marathon on April 29.¬†

After all, this race was my fourth half marathon, second this year, and third race in April alone. We’ll circle back on the valuable lesson I learned from signing up for too many races this spring in a separate post ūüėȬ†

So here are my previous half marathon times:

For every single one, I have an excuse: 2013 I didn’t train! Disney I wasted time trying to get a picture with Mickey. And the most recent half, back in March, I didn’t want to push myself too hard since I had a huge conference starting the next day. I still PRed though technically… Well, I didn’t have an excuse this time around. I’ve actually been running. Based on my performances in April alone (I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1:55:31 and the GW Parkway Classic in 1:53:32) and thanks to my awesome new Garmin I actually have a better understanding of my pace. Realistically, I knew that my pace of 7:00-7:15 per kilometer / 11:15-11:30 per mile means I should be able to finish a half marathon in two hours and a half. With that in mind, here were my goals for the National Women’s Half Marathon:

  • Stretch goal: finish closer to 2:20 than 2:30
  • Realistic goal: finish under 2:35
  • Worst-case scenario goal: finish under my previous half marathon personal best of 2:41:31

So how did I do? If you follow me on instagram, you probably already know the answer. If you don’t, you should (here!)! But let me tell you a little bit about the race first. This is the first time this race was held in D.C. I snagged my spot pretty early on, meaning I paid almost nothing to register (the initial registration price was $1 and increased as the race got closer.) I’d never done nor sought out a women-only race and that wasn’t a factor in me deciding to do this race. From the start, the event seemed pretty disorganized so I didn’t have very high expectations of how things would run the day of. To be fair, packet pick-up at Pacers was a breeze (love my Pacers!) This wasn’t my first race so I didn’t care really that there was no expo, but I know for a lot of women, this WAS their first race ever and I’m sure they would have liked a bit more of fuss with maybe a backdrop for bib pictures and the opportunity to buy race souvenirs.¬†

I made a slight mistake the night before the race and watched the two new episodes of the Handmaid Tale. I don’t know if that’s why I didn’t sleep well but I felt tired Sunday morning. I still stuck with my usual pre-race routine: got up two hours before the race, had an RX bar and a kiwi as I listened to the latest episode of Pod Save America. I’ve been trying out Nuun¬†and had a vitamin & caffeine enhanced drink instead of a small cup of coffee. I don’t like waiting around too long, and I knew I wouldn’t need either bag check or the restrooms so I left my place pretty late at 6:20AM. Turns out I should have paid closer attention to the site of the start/finish line and ubered there. Typically, I’ll see a lot of runners on my way to the start and this time around I saw NO ONE! Downtown D.C. was completely deserted. I started to panic. As I realized the start line¬† was on the other side of the Tidal Basin and much further than I thought, I ended up run/walking 2 miles before even starting the race. Not reading the Athlete’s Guide properly is on me but that’s the worst place to start a race! I got there just in time to hop into the third wave but I started the race tired and stressed. For a while, I entertained the opportunity to run the 8K if I didn’t get to the start line on time for the half marathon and that was kind of a thought that didn’t leave me throughout the race.

Given that I had injured myself in late March and cut down on my running I knew that running two 10-milers and a half marathon in a month was a lot for me. I considered dropping out of the GW Parkway Classic but ended up running it and actually felt good afterwards. I feel like I tend to psych myself out before races so I decided I wouldn’t do that for the half-marathon. I wouldn’t downgrade. I would run the whole thing and I would do well! Except from the start, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be the case. I knew pretty early on I wouldn’t meet my stretch nor my realistic goal. ¬†And I psyched myself out. I wasted time going to the bathroom but otherwise I was running under 11:30 for the first 4 miles. I wasn’t doing great, but I was doing ok. And then two things happened around mile 5. One, there was this sign about choosing between the half marathon (go right!) and the 8K (go left). I kinda didn’t want to run anymore and seriously entertained gearing to the left!¬†

And then we saw her. The leading runner. She was getting to mile 11 and I was barely at mile 5. She seemed so strong and she was going so fast. And then we saw another runner. And one more. And one more. And then lots more. For the next 4 miles all I could focus on were the runners on the other side, the ones who would finish in an hour and half. I knew I wasn’t half way threw and already just wanted to be done. Not the best mindset during a race…. I went through the motions for the rest of the race but honestly I wasn’t feeling it.¬†

Technically met my worst case scenario goal. I did finish “faster” the National Women’s Half Marathon faster than I did the Rock’n’Roll Half. By 10 seconds. I know it’s technically a PR. Woo hoo (<– being sarcastic here) but the truth is I didn’t enjoy this race. I had so much more fun at the Rock’n’Roll Half. I had no expectations. I didn’t push myself. I stopped and hugged friends along the course. I *finally* took some of the beer people hand out along the course. I walked some. And yet I finished in THE EXACT SAME TIME when I feel like I worked harder and struggled more at the National Women’s Half Marathon. And it’s probably due to fatigue. As I said, three races was a lot for me and my leg has been bothering me… I think beyond some minor organizational issues (the water stations weren’t efficiently managed, the start line was too far, communication was poor) I just didn’t like the run because I didn’t have fun running it. And my performance showed that.¬†

I do want to end this post on a positive note. Here is one thing I *loved* about this race: the girl power aspect! I never sought out a women-only race. Just their names (Divas, Princess, Queen B) are usually a turn off (unless princess is followed by Disney and then it’s awesome!) are a turn off, so are the tutus, the tiaras, the pink, the stiletto logos (really!).¬† But the National Women’s ¬†like a celebration of women’s running and of women being strong and kicking some ass(phalt!) There were groups of girlfriends who were doing this together, many of them as their first big race and everyone was so supportive and encouraging of each other in a way only women are really. I wouldn’t mind doing another ūüėČ But not anytime soon! I had been warned I would most likely burn out signing up for all those races. I’m sure a most-experienced runner would handle the pressure better but I’m still new to this. Instead of just going through the motions at all the races, I need to focus on doing well in a few races. With that in mind, my next D.C. race will actually be the marine Corps Marathon in late October. I will be running La Grande Classique Paris-Versailles¬†but that is it! I am not allowed to sign up for anymore fall races! One of the things I missed in yesterday’s race was the lack of spectators. Don’t get me wrong, there actually were quite a few, especially men cheering on their girlfriends/wives/friends. I loved that. But Hains Point and Rock Creek Park are hard to get to so there weren’t as many as during the Cherry Blossom 10 Miller or the Rock’n’Roll Half. I missed spectating (WAY less work than running too!) so I’m going to focus on cheering for a bit. That’s really fun too!¬†

Washington, D.C. To-Do List for Thanksgiving Weekend

Guess who’s stuck in Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving?¬†

Not Taylor Swift, me ūüėČ If you’re raising your hand too, I’ve got a few ideas of things you can do to still have a fabulous weekend in the city.

VOLUNTEER

So you have no family here or you’re stuck having to work on Friday… guess what, there are people who have it worse than you. So why not give back and help those less fortunate.¬†The D.C. Jewish Community Center hosts a number of “everything but the turkey” volunteer events¬†between Sunday November 19th and Tuesday November 21st (including one that is family friendly.) All of the shifts to assist with thanksgiving food preparation the week of Thanksgiving are already full at Food & Friends but you can still buy one of the Thanksgiving Pies they are selling to benefit their¬†Slice of Life initiative (that one’s a win-win for everyone involved!).¬†The Holiday Helpings opportunities at¬†Bread for the City are also mostly all filled up (we’re obviously a city that loves to volunteer!)¬†but you can still find some openings by looking through their volunteer opportunity calendar here. You can also participate in one of the region’s many Turkey Trots like the one benefiting SOME at Freedom Plaza¬†on¬†Thursday, November 23, 2017.

SOME is also accepting Thanksgiving donation baskets at 71 O Street on Friday, November 17 (8AM-4PM), Saturday November 18 (10AM-1PM) and Monday November 20 (8AM-4PM). You can learn more about this opportunity and what they need <here>. 

SEE A SHOW/PLAY/CONCERT/GAME

There’s always something happening at the newly re-branded Capitol One Arena in Chinatown. During Thanksgiving week, we’re looking at Lady gaga on Sunday, November 19th, hockey games on Saturday (Capitals vs Minnesota), Monday (vs. Calgary), Wednesday (vs. Ottawa) and Friday (vs. Tampa Bay) or basketball (Wizards vs. Portland on Saturday November 25.¬†Other concerts include St. Vincent,¬†performing at D.C.’s newest venue The Anthem on¬†November 27 or Diplo at Echostage November 25th. On the more classical side, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform the score from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while audiences relive the magic of the film on giant screens (November 24-25 and 26.)

Picture courtesy of the Kennedy Center

And of course, the Nutcracker starts at the Kennedy Center too… because Christmas. That means yep, A Christmas Carol is back at Ford’s Theater too.¬†Less Christmas-y, you can catch performances of Twelfth Night by the Shakespeare Theater Company at Sidney Harman Hall (November 14-December 20th, tickets here), Nina Simone: Four Women at Arena Stage (November 10-December 24, tickets here) or¬†The Second City Presents ‚ÄėNothing to Lose (But Our Chains)’¬†(November 11 ‚Äď December 31) at Woolly Mammoth Theater.¬†¬†

CHECK OUT AN EXHIBIT OR A NEW MUSEUM

The University of Iowa Museum of Art was kind enough to loan us Jackson Pollock‚Äôs ‘Mural’, the artist’s largest work¬†which will be on display at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building starting November 19th. While you’re there, you can still catch the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting exhibit which opened on the West Building a few weeks ago.¬† And since the Freer Gallery of Art just reopened after nearly two years of renovations, why not check out its¬†Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt exhibit (Miaou! open through January 15, 2018 at the Sackler Galleries), Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia (open through November 2020) or instagram your way through¬†Subodh Gupta: ‘Terminal a¬†new large-scale installation made from towers of brass containers that are connected by thread.

Image courtesy of the Hauser & Wirth Gallery

You can also catch the last few days of Kingdom of Colors at Artechouse. The¬†¬†immersive visual experience, designed by French filmmaker¬†Thomas Blanchard¬†and artist¬†Oilhack (with a soundtrack by Lyon-based composer Leonardo Villiger), closes November 26th. And there will be 5 augmented reality cocktails at this one! Finally, if that’s your thing, you can also visit D.C.’s newest museum, the Museum of the Bible, which will open November 17 (tickets are free.)

START CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAY SEASON

It might be Thanksgiving weekend, but as soon I’ve you’ve digested that Turkey the city is all about the holidays. Thanksgiving weekend is really Christmas season’s first weekend and you can get into the holiday spirits at one of those events:

  • Season‚Äôs Greenings, the United States Botanical Garden annual holiday show, opens Friday, November 23 (and runs through January 1, 2018.) Tickets are free but you might want to wait until a little later in December when the crowds die down a little. There will be a number of special evenings as well throughout the month with live music… and less children! You can read my recap of the 2015 edition right here.

  • Get a head start on buying those Christmas presents at the Downtown Holiday Market, whose tents will start appearing¬†by the National Portrait Gallery as early as Saturday November 24.¬†¬†
  • If the weather is nice, you can head to the National Zoo for ZooLights, a fun display of LED Christmas lights. (Free admission; 5-9 PM daily; November 24 ‚Äď January 1, 2018)
  • CityCenterDC will light its impressive 75 feet tall holiday tree on Saturday, November 25 (6 PM) Also making an appearance, the 25-foot reindeer (I love those!)¬†¬†
  • Donald Trump and his family will also be lighting the National Christmas Tree that Saturday. You had to enter a lottery¬†to go to the actual ceremony but you can also just go check it out on Sunday instead. In addition to the National Christmas Tree, each state and US Territory has a smaller tree on display in President’s Park.¬†

 

A First Look at the Shop Made in DC

I’ve been writing a lot about running lately, so I thought it was time for a non-jogging related post. Meet the Shop Made in D.C., a newly opened shop-caf√© combo at 1333 19th street NW. As you may have guessed by the name, the 2,500-square-foot space only stocks products that are made in the District, from the coffee (which comes from Small Plane, Ryan Jensen’s new roasting company) to a rotating selection of goods by local small business owners. All of them belong to the Department of Small and Local Business Development‚Äôs Made in D.C. program, which provided $100,000 in funding for the project, through a grant to the Golden Triangle BID. Other financial backers include Boston Properties,¬†People¬†Make Place¬†and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.¬†

Two things caught my eyes right away when I came in last Saturday. First, big black letters at the back of the store with the words EAT and DRINK. I guess I was hungry ūüėČ

It was a little too early for tacos (from Tortilladora) or momos (from Dorjee momo), so I just grabbed an everything bagel from Bullfrog Bagels and a coffee. The shop carries oat-milk which is my new favourite so I was excited about that!

I’ll have to come back to try more of the food offerings, including the beers which Greg Engert, director of the beverage program, selected from 6 local breweries.¬†

Next, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a long brick wall on the side of the store, with bold and¬† bright posters from 18 of DC’s landmark neighbourhoods, created by¬†Anthony Dihle of Victory Dance Creative.

Alongside all the products featured in the shop, you can find little cards detailing the name of the artisan that made it (24 currently), alongside their makerhood, how many years they have been a maker, how many years they have been in DC and of course, their social media handles so you can look them up.

 

Food products and prints are most prominent in the shop, but you can also find beautiful leather goods from Stitch and Rivet , shirts by District of Clothing or pottery from Hollow Work Ceramics. For now, all of the local entrepreneurs featured have to be DC based businesses registered with the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development though that might change soon since that partnership is only slated to last 6 months as it stands right now.

I foresee the Shop Made in DC being a great event space too, and they are already organizing a Meet the Makers evenings as well as participating in Dupont’s First Friday art walks. I’m sure there’ll be a lot more different events planned soon, especially with the holidays coming up, and I can’t wait!¬†

Shop Made in DC. 1330 19th Street, Northwest. Open Monday though Friday, 7 AM to 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM to 6 PM. 

The Only 10 Things You Need for a Successful D√ģner En Blanc

A little photo booth fun at Baltimore’s first D√ģner en Blanc

A few weekends ago, I kicked off D√ģner en Blanc season by attending Charm City’s very first event, which was held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. It had been a while, since New York City three years ago actually, that I’d attended a d√ģner as a guest rather than a volunteer. Just showing up with my chairs, table, food, plates and flowers seemed so easy, but that’s because a) I’ve attended quite a few diners by now b) I’m usually responsible for getting 250 people from their meeting location to the diner venue and making sure they set up properly once on site ūüėČ Just showing up and having people tell me where to go was a nice change of pace! I do totally get that, for newbies, getting ready for the event can seem overwhelming though. Especially since participants no longer have the option of going through an official renting company for certain items. So I thought I’d break down all the items that you actually need to attend D√ģner en Blanc, as give as give you a couple of tips if you want to take it up a notch or two.

1. A table – this is a strict BYOT(able) affair! But not just any table will do…. it should measure between 26-32‚Ä≥ and since you have to carry everything yourself, sometimes on the metro, I definitely recommend a roll up table. The table will be covered by a tablecloth so it’s actually one of the few items that does not need to be white. I recommend this one.¬†

2. Two folding chairs – the lighter the better! These are fine¬†and these will work too. If you already own folding chairs but they’re not white, don’t sweat it but do cover them with an extra table cloth or white bed sheets.¬†

3. A white tablecloth & two napkins¬†– I suggest you opt for a 72×72 tablecloth like this one since you’ll be using the space underneath your table to store everything that doesn’t need to be on top of it. A 54×54 is fine as well just make sure it’s white! As for the napkins, they’re really¬†important. You’ll be waving them in the air at the beginning of the dinner so paper won’t do. Cloth napkins can be hard to find in twos so you might have to buy a pack of twelve and share with other friends attending.¬†

4. Two white plates, glasses and a set of cutlery – the plates have to be white (here’s a good one) but your silverware doesn’t (here’s a set). For the glasses, think of what you’ll be drinking (Champagne? Wine? Water? All of the above!) and get what you’ll need. Tumblers or stem glasses are fine, and you probably can get away with GoVino glasses too… If you’re planning on purchasing a bottle of Jacquard champagne for the diner, you can also pick up a set of flutes and a champagne bucket in the D√ģner en Blanc store.¬†

5. A centerpiece for your table – you can go all out on this one (see my friend’s Jade fancy sail from last year) but you can also just keep it simple. This 15″ Eiffel Tower with some lights or a simple bouquet of white flower will do the trick just fine. For D√ģner en Blanc in Baltimore I actually had small bouquets of fake flowers to make it easier on myself. The key is to remember that you do have to carry everything and that you can take a few shortcuts. Flowers are nice but the above mentioned champagne bucket from Jacquart can totally double up as a centerpiece too! Ditto for a cake stand like this one. And since you have to bring lights too a fancy candelabra like this one can totally serve dual purposes!

My friend Jade put a lot of work into her centerpiece last year!

6. Lights РWhile the dinner kicks off around 6:30PM, eventually it will get dark and you will want to have a little extra lighting. You can use a candelabra, votives (paired with flameless tealight candles) or LED string lights(they look great in a vase!) , just remember to keep it on the fake side (yep, no fire!!)

7. Water – You can purchase some ¬†“summer water” through the D√ģner en Blanc online store, but you’ll definitely want some real water too! It’s HOT in DC at the end of August. Some ice wouldn’t hurt either. All alcohol purchases (and there are some great options this year!) must be done through the online store due to city regulations.

8. Food – You have the option of purchasing one of¬†Mike Isabella’s six unique picnic baskets (I’ve got my eyes on the one from Kapnos myself!) but you can also bring your own food of course.¬†

9. Trash bags – D√ģner en Blanc aims to leave the site of the event as pristine as it found it and that means guests are responsible for not leaving anything behind, and that includes trash. For this reason, pack a white trash bag or two.

10. A white bag/basket –¬†All this stuff needs to go into something. I’ve seen people lug those white picnic baskets around (very elegant!), a large tote or basket works as well. Some participants go the suitcase or the grocery cart route. I’ve never been a fan because you have to store everything under your table and it gets crowded down there really quickly. A folding cart can definitely help with the chairs, but isn’t required.

Of course, you also need to be dressed in white from head to toe.

Typically you have a little leeway when it comes to footwear and accessories. But don’t go crazy… we’re talking gold or silver jewelry, nude shoes and the like. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead too…. if it looks like rain is likely, you’ll want to add a white (or clear) umbrella and/or rain poncho to your shopping list.¬†D√ģner en Blanc will happen rain or shine. And on that note, I’d love to add a bonus item to my list:

An open mind and positive attitude –¬†Part of the fun of D√ģner en Blanc is that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you’re an intern on the hill, a doctor, a teacher or a partner in a law firm, you still have to carry all of your stuff, in the DC-in-August heat, to the secret location. The metro may not cooperate (I mean, does it ever?) and it might rain (fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened so far) but that’s part of the experience and everyone has to through it. If you’re not willing to kind of go with the flow or are upset because you don’t get to sit next to your friends, you’re probably not going to have a great time at D√ģner en Blanc. But if you bring a little extra food to share with your neighbours, you might make some new friends…. and you can still meet up with your old friends on the dancefloor! If you take everything in stride, like, if metro shuts down the escalators again, then you’ll definitely have a great time at this exceptional event. I can’t wait to see you all in your chic-est white outfits somewhere in the city on August 26! ¬†If you’ve attended a D√ģner en Blanc before, care to leave some tips in the comments?

ps: If you’re looking for a one stop shop option, this blog post from last year goes over all the items you can find at Ikea.¬†I also have a nifty little public list on Amazon to help with the basic like table, chairs etc. Finally, if you’re trying to decide whether to BYOF(ood) or not, The Hungry Lobbyist has a great post recapping all of the options this year. They look delicious!

Le Beaujolais Nouveau is Arriving at These 6 French Spots

Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

Ten¬†days after the U.S. elections and one week before Thanksgiving, it’s time to celebrate a French holiday for a change: the arrival of the first wine of the season, le Beaujolais Nouveau. As always, it happens on the third Thursday¬†of November, so unless you were up until 2 a.m. celebrating at Bistrot du Coin today’s the day! Here are 10¬†French restaurants and wine bars marking the occasion around town.

Cafe du Parc at the Willard InterContinental will be offering free George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with passed hors d’oeuvres at the bar on Thursday from 5-6pm. Beaujolais will also be available by the glass and as a pairing with a 4-course, prix-fixe dinner at the restaurant upstairs ($65 per person¬†without the pairing, $85 with.)

Le Grenier on H Street will also be pouring complimentary Beaujolais at its bar from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday. 


Beaujolais Nouveau at La JambeBeaujolais is pretty cheap wine, and Chef Cedric Maupillier totally gets that.
¬†He’ll be offering glasses¬†of the¬†vin primeur for $10 a glass ($7 at the bar during happy hour)¬†and $25 a bottle throughout his Shaw restaurant¬†Convivial.¬†Around the corner from Convivial, my new favourite wine bar,¬†La Jambe¬†is celebrating the 2016 harvest with $9 glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau ($16 for two¬†until supplies last so make it a wine date!) which will pair perfectly with owner Anastasia Mori’s homemade charcuterie. Petworth Citizen will also be pouring some Jean Paul Brun, but they don’t have Anastasia’s rillettes though….¬†

Le Beaujolais Nouveau will also arrive at Central Michel Richard, where Domaine Dupeuble РBeaujolais Nouveau will be poured (and paired with Coq au Vin!) from Thursday to Saturday. 

Coq au vin and Beaujolais at Central Michel Richard

Across the pond in Old Town, Virginia, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux have crafted a fabulous three or four course menu ($39 and $49 respectively) at Bastille, designed to pair with a Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais, which will be offered for $9 a glass or $32 a bottle. (ps: Domaine Manoir du Carra has a Beaujolais rosé which you should absolutely try if you can get your hands on it!!) 

Last year’s Beaujolais Nouveau release happened just on the heels of the Paris attacks when¬†gunmen and suicide bombers hit the bataclan¬†concert hall, the Stade de France, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was a little difficult mustering the usual enthusiasm that accompanies the celebration. So I’m really looking forward to it this year and you’ll find me, as usual, celebrating with dear friends at home parties rather than out and about. Will you be celebrating the release of the new 2016 harvest this year?

 

U.S. Supreme Court? CHECK!

FINALLY!! After 6 years on my DC-to-do-list, I can cross off visiting the U.S. Supreme Court! Well, actually, the item on my list was a little more ambitious than just visiting the U.S. Supreme Court. I wanted to sit through an oral argument. And that’s not exactly what I did this week, but close enough.¬†

US Supreme Court

Thanks to a former colleague, I sat through a lecture on property rights in the progressive era, organized by the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and hosted by Justice Samuel Alito. The lecture itself was waaaay over my head, I have no legal background whatsoever, but the reception afterwards, in one of the court’s stunning conference rooms, was right up my alley! I mean, of course I would find a way to drink wine at the U.S. supreme Court right?¬†

Reception at the US Supreme Court

So now I actually do want to just take a tour of the building and get to learn more about it but I am still crossing the U.S. Supreme Court off my DC-to-do-list!! So far, I’m doing pretty good and I think I might be able to cross everything off… let’s recap:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court — check¬†
  2. Sipping cocktails at the Columbia Room.
  3. Catching a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
  4. Dinner at Bad Saint — check (read about it here)
  5. Visit the Society of Cincinnati and Lars Anderson House.
  6. Watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport from Gravely Point — check
  7. Catch the Caps practice at the Kettler Iceplex¬†— check
  8. Meander through the lush grounds at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden¬†— check (and during Cherry Blossoms season which was absolutely gorgeous!)
  9. Go on a hike in Rock Creek Park¬†— check (though I’d like to crush it from top to bottom like this Washingtonian article recommends.)
  10. Have drinks at The Tombs in Georgetown.

So 6 down, 4 to go with 7 weeks left in 2016! I think I can do it!! 

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 ūüėČ 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-Duch√™ne, J de Telmont, Heucq Pere & Fils, and selections from the Terry Theise¬†champagne portfolio.¬†Select cuv√©es 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!! 

Crossing Off Bad Saint From My DC-To-Do-List

When I added Bad Saint to my 2016 DC-To-Do list in early January the tiny Filipino eatery¬†in Columbia Heights was already quite the popular destination for¬†local foodies. Grabbing a seat at the tiny 25-seats restaurant¬†required a some advance planning (or luck!) since it has a strict no¬†reservations policy. Then came national recognition. In September, Bon App√©tit magazine gave¬†Bad Saint¬†the #¬†2 spot on its Hot 10 list of best new restaurants in America. Michelin inspectors took notice as well and a few weeks ago¬†included¬†Bad Saint in its Bib Gourmand list of worthy yet affordable¬†restaurants in DC’s very first edition of the guide (you can see a full list here). Not the greatest timing to decide to cross it off my list ūüėČ

By 5:30PM the line for dinner at Bad Saint went down the block

By 5:30PM the line for dinner at Bad Saint went down the block

But you know what, I’ve made some questionable choices about my time lately, including waiting 3 hours in line for Hello Kitty themed macarons, so I figured, what’s one more line, especially if there’s fabulous Filipino food at the end of it right? And so I headed to Columbia Heights yesterday, armed with a good book and some mosquito spray. I got there around 3:50PM, which was a bit later than I had meant, and almost didn’t get a table for the first seating at 5:30PM. Luckily, around 5:45PM, my dining companion and I were shown to two uncomfortable stools at a narrow counter facing a mirror and near the exit. Not the greatest seats in the house though the dim space filled with photographs and knick-knacks is otherwise fairly cosy. A bit crammed, but cosy. Co-owner Genevieve Villamora waited on us for part of the evening, providing attentive service and many welcomed explanations about the menu.¬†

The menu is separated in three sections: gulay (vegetables and salads), isda at iba pa (fish and more) and carne (meat.) Within each of these sections, dishes are organized by size and Genevieve recommended we order one to two dishes per person, depending on their size and how hungry we were. So we did.¬†Here’s what we ordered, mostly from the vegetarian section.¬†

Kinilaw na pugita (octopus, fingerling potatoes, queen olives)

Kinilaw na pugita (octopus, fingerling potatoes, queen olives)

Ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon, farm egg, preserved black beans)

Ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon, farm egg, preserved black beans)

Like many of the diners that head to¬†Bad Saint, I don’t have much experience with Filipino cooking. It’s not a cuisine I’m that familiar with, but I am familiar with good food, and good food I ate!! The¬†ampalaya (the bitter melon salad with a farm egg and fermented black beans) was probably the only dish that didn’t wow me, though I found its unconventional flavours interesting. I loved the octopus and fingerling potato ceviche, though I would have loved a bit more olives in there. My¬†grandmother is from Morocco, the land of olives,¬†and I pretty much always want more olives. The Adobong Dilaw was like autumn in a clay pot and I can’t wait to have some of the leftovers tonight!
Ginisang tokwat (fried tofu, yu choi, sate oil)

Ginisang tokwat (fried tofu, yu choi, sate oil)

Adobong Dilaw (cauliflower, kabocha squash, tumeric)

Adobong Dilaw (cauliflower, kabocha squash, tumeric)

Since the menu changes frequently, you may not see these items when you visit, though I think the bitter melon salad and a version of the¬†Adobong Dilaw are typically found (there was also a chicken version of the dish¬†on the menu too.) I know¬†Bad Saint doesn’t accept parties larger than 4 but I found myself wishing that I had come with more people. It’s not that my friend J.C. was bad company, it’s that there’s only so much we could eat and I would have loved to be able to order more dishes and explore even more of chef Tom Cunanan’s creative Filipino menu!¬†

 

Have you been to¬†Bad Saint yet? Does its presence in the Michelin Guide make you more likely to go? I wanted to check it out well before Michelin and Bon App√©tit took notice, but the release of the red guide definitely gave me that extra push to go and do the waiting in line thing. There’s a lot of other Michelin-starred or Bib Gourmand restaurants I want to try. Sadly, Minibar, Pineapple and Pearls and Kinship are not quite dining options for¬†my budget right now, so I’m tackling the list¬†from the bottom up, at least price wise, and starting with the Bib Gourmand I haven’t been to yet. So,¬†Bad Saint:¬†check. Bonus for¬†crossing it off my 2016 DC-To-Do-List too. And Ottoman Taverna… you’re next!¬†

Week-End Highlights: GLT Get-Together and All the Pumpkins!

This week-end was all about two things: girlfriends and pumpkins! We had planned a fun day-trip to the Middletown/Frederick area to visit a pumpkin patch and the weather¬†could not have been more¬†perfect. If anything, it was too warm to wear the typical¬†instagrammable fall outfit ūüėČ

We headed to Jumbo’s pumpkin patch¬†because I had seen it listed in a couple of articles as one of the best in the United States (like in this post on Travel + Leisure). This seven-generation family farm offers lots of family friendly activities like face painting, pony rides, hayrides etc. but also has a legit patch where you can pick-your-own gourd. There were A LOT of kids, but once you got out to the patch it felt a bit calmer. ¬†And it’s just an hour from D.C. so it’s a perfect day trip!¬†

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

We had planned on visiting nearby South Mountain Creamery and¬†Distillery Lane Ciderworks¬†but unfortunately ran out of time after a particularly long lunch at The Main Cup. We did squeeze in a quick visit to Olde Mother Brewing, just outside of Frederick, on the way back. It’s a pretty new spot, and I wouldn’t have thought to visit it if one of my friends and former colleagues hadn’t messaged me that she worked there when she saw that I was in the neighbourhood. I must say I actually really liked their pumpkin beer (which is rare!!)¬†

Tasting flight at Olde Mother Brewing

In the evening, I met up for dinner and drinks with a couple of awesome local ladies from the Girls Love Travel group. I’ve recently joined this group to interact with like-minded travel chicks and get some travel inspiration and it was super fun to get together for the first time. Some of the girls are actually pretty new to the DC areas and up for doing some slightly touristy stuff, which is always fun!¬†

Girls love travel get together in DC

Sunday, I went back to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a third time. I had wanted to go back to the history galleries since I skipped those altogether on my second visit but there was a pretty ridiculous hour wait just to get into that part of the museum. So instead, I focused on the “Making a Way Out of No Way” section, which details how¬†African Americans acted to change and build their lives despite tremendous obstacles. This is probably the last time I’ll go to the new Smithsonian this year, though I feel like I still have SO much to see. Have you been yet?¬†

2015 Notre Dame de Cousignac Rosé Luberon

I spent the rest of the day writing. The weather was beautiful so I opened up a bottle of 2015 Notre Dame De Cousignac Ros√© Luberon just in time for sunset! ¬†I love¬†trying wines from regions I have been to, like the¬†Luberon where we spent Christmas with my uncle’s family a few years ago. I found the bottle in the 2 for $20 bins at Batch 13 so it was quite a steal too! ps: that pic is from snap chat. Do you follow each other on the social platform yet? We should ūüėČ Click here to find me!

Hope you had a great week-end too! 

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 ūüėČ

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.¬†‚ÄúI am living proof” he said “that if you wait long enough your prayers will be answered.‚ÄĚ 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?