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?

Weekend Highlights: 2Amys, Taste of DC & a Muddy Music Festival

We don’t have a lot of three days weekends in the United States and hurricane Matthew caused problems for many travelers who had fun plans for the holiday… I didn’t have any plans to get away from Washington but there was plenty going on in the city!

POST ITALIAN EMBASSY DINNER AT 2AMYS

Since October 2012, the Italian Embassy has engaged the public in an open discussion on digital diplomacy and innovation in foreign policy through its Digital Diplomacy Series. Last week, they gathered a great panel of folks from the White House, Tumblr, Facebook and Google/YouTube to discuss what happens when digital diplomacy goes live. Afterwards, since we were already in the Cathedral Heights neighbourhood and in an Italian mood, we decided to grab diner at 2Amys. The Neapolitan-style DOC-certified pizzeria had just received a Bib Gourmand from Michelin earlier that day and I had never been so it seemed like the right time to go check it out! (You can read the full list of restaurants that just received a Bib Gourmand for the first edition of the DC Michelin Guide here.)

Pizza Neopolitano at 2Amys

Recent reviews seem to imply that 2Amys is resting on its laurel a bit, but I totally understand why it would be appealing to Michelin inspectors and my bill definitely came under the $40 required to get on the Bib Gourmand list. 

ALL THINGS GO FALL CLASSIC AT YARDS’ PARK 

As he took the stage around 6:30PM, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos greeted the crowd by screaming “Rain or shine, motherf**kers. Rain or shine.” The Nationals postponed their game, but the show still went on at Yard’s Park, despite frigid rain and lots of mud! I was SO stoked to see Christine and the Queens perform, though regrettably she “declined to performed,” leaving festival-goers soaked and with not much to do in a muddy parking-lot turned concert venue. Womp Womp.

Christine and the Queens is a diva

All Things Go Fall Classic music festival

Things turned around though, the sky cleared up and almost looked like pink cotton candy by the time Sylvan Esso wrapped up their set. I wasn’t too familiar with Passion Pit’s music but I enjoyed their exuberant act but called it an early night before Empire of the Sun came on. I heard they put on quite a show though!

TASTE OF DC ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE

By Sunday the weather had cleared up for Jessica of Young Winos of DC and I ate our way through Washington at Taste of DC. And drank our way too, of course. It was the perfect day for rosé and the backdrop was pretty perfect too!

Rose all day by the US Capitol

CATCHING UP ON VERSAILLES

While the weather was perhaps too pretty to stay indoors, my friend Cecile and I had made plans to watch the first few episodes of Versailles, the lavish British-Franco-Canadian production set during the construction of Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. The series already aired in France, the U.K., and Canada but just premiered on Ovation here in the States. 

Versailles Series

For the most expensive series in French history, I remain unconvinced so far. There are way too many subplots introduced in too short of a timeframe to keep track of and all the characters, especially the men, look the same with their long wavy brown hair, so it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who and what’s going on. I’ll keep watching, but I’m not impressed so far. On the plus side, Cecile made a fabulous tagine with green olives so at least the food was good! 

Did you get around to doing anything fun this weekend? Were you affected by Matthew at all? Let me know in the comments and have a great week!

Michelin Awards Bib Gourmand Honours to 19 DC Restaurants

 

Bib Gourmand

The lines at Bad Saint are about to get even longer 😉 As is customary, Michelin announced today the list of “affordable” restaurants that have earned the designation of Bib Gourmand. These restaurants will not be receiving stars next week (the DC edition of the Michelin Guide will be released on October 13th) but do offer “exceptional good food at moderate price.” Bib, in this case, doesn’t refer to the piece of cloth you place around your neck to keep your clothes from spills while eating. It’s short for Bibendum (aka, the Michelin Man!) and I’d encourage you to read this article for a little background on one of France’s most beloved brand mascot.

Without further ado though, here are the 19 restaurants that have earned this recognition: 

  • Bad Saint 
  • Bidwell
  • Boqueria
  • Chercher
  • China Chicano
  • Das
  • Doi moi
  • Jaleo
  • Kyirisan
  • Lapis
  • Maketto
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Oyamel
  • Pearl Dive
  • Red Hen
  • Royal
  • Thip Khao
  • 2Amys
  • Zaytinya 

I personally love that the Michelin inspectors, like myself, are DC-suburbs adverse. I hate reading these lists of Washington cheap-eats only to see that none of them are in the city 😉 The Michelin Guide will only include restaurants in D.C., which rules out the Inn at Little Washington for a three stars. Could Jose Andres’ MiniBar get that honour? It’s very possible… 4 of his restaurants are already on the Bib Gourmand list…. but I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Stay tuned! 

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!! 

 

My Trip To Paris (And Champagne) By Alison

There’s no conversation I love more than when one of friends tells me that they’re off to Paris. OK, there is: the conversation we have when they get back full of stories from my hometown and appreciation for it. So I was thrilled when my friend Alison of Bon Vivant DC told me she was stopping in Paris in between visits to Portugal and Champagne. OK, I was jealous too… but thrilled mostly. Alison runs a wine consulting business so I knew she’d have a fabulous trip. Here’s an overview of how it went, in Alison’s own words.

Alison Marriott in Champagne

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS

Paris has always been my favorite city, so when I found myself with five days between a vacation in Portugal and a weeklong industry event in Champagne, my choice of where to go in between these two stops was an easy one.  Besides its proximity to Champagne, Paris was an obvious choice for my extended ‘layover’ as I have several friends and acquaintances there. Oh, and the food.  (Doesn’t everyone travel for food?!)

HOW I GOT THERE

I was already in Portugal and flew I from Madeira into Paris’ Orly airport. On the way back, I took a direct flight from Charles de Gaulle to Dulles. 

WHERE I STAYED

I made a return visit to the Relais St. Sulpice, a small luxury boutique hotel ideally situated in the heart of Saint Germain. It’s on a quiet street that’s easily accessed by metro and walkable to many of my favorite sites in Paris including the Latin Quarter, l’Ile de la Cité, the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s reasonably priced, with infinitely comfortable beds, and the lobby has a charming self serve bar and small library where you can read or relax.

BEST THING I ATE

One of my favorite things about Paris truly is the food- pâté, cheese, the bread, croissants… you name it, I love it! Although I had several fancier meals, café culture is one of my favorite things about Paris, and where I had one of my most memorable meals on this trip.  Café Bonaparte is in quite a touristy stretch of rue St. Germain, within a stone’s throw of the more famous Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. While no means a bargain, it beats the prices of its more famous brethren with the same amazing people-watching this neighborhood is perfectly suited for. The atmosphere is as quintessentially Parisian as it gets! It was one of the only dinners that I ate alone, and so its convenience to my hotel was paramount. Big thanks to Cécile of The Worldly Bite for this great suggestion!

Champagne at Cafe Bonaparte

I also adored having crêpes and Britany cider out of traditional ceramic bowls with Laetitia’s mom at Breizh Café, right behind the Picasso Museum in the Marais! It’s a place I can imagine returning again and again to try different combinations.

Lastly, I had a lovely time picnicking along the Seine with my dear friend Tanisha of Girl Meets Glass. We picked up everything we needed at the local Monoprix and were loaded down with an astounding array of cheeses, tapenade, fruit, bread, charcuterie and a few bottles of wine for less than 30€! As we made our way over to a quai on the Seine, the fading sun cast beautiful light and shadows over the city.  After pulling the cork on a bottle of Provençal rosé we watched the lights illuminate Notre Dame across the river – which is perhaps most impressive seen at night.

BEST FREE ACTIVITY 

Though pretty touristy, taking in the Eiffel Tower at night tops this list. Feel free to take a bottle of wine and settle in for the light show, which takes place at the top of every hour.

La Tour Eiffel

I also adore wandering around the jardin du Luxembourg.  It’s one of the loveliest spots in Paris, particularly in the spring, when thousands of tulips are in bloom. 

The Luxembourg Garden in the spring

Finally not technically free but at 3.30€, practically: the gardens at the Rodin Museum. Skip the pricier interior to take in the sculptor’s most famous works set amidst a beautiful park devoid of the crowds and tour groups that throng most large museums. This has to be one of the most under-rated sites in Paris! 

WORTH THE SPLURGE 

I was in France to attend the industry only Printemps des Champagnes series of tastings as I prepare to host DC’s first Champagne Week, which will take place in early November. What most people don’t realize is how very easy it is to visit Champagne as a day trip from Paris. The TGV train will get you from Gare du Nord to the center of Reims in a mere 40 minutes.  From there, it’s easy to visit the stunning Cathedral of Reims and pop into a few of the notable champagne houses.  Taittinger has spectacular tours and beautiful cellars. Travelers who venture a bit further into the countryside (which does require a car) are rewarded with beautiful scenery and small, grower champagne houses. Just be sure to make an appointment! 

Caves in Reims

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS 

1) Don’t over schedule!  Remember to schedule time to relax, peruse the charming shops, explore hidden courtyards, and lounge in any number of the lovely parks. Take time to soak in the city while relaxing at a picturesque cafe over a mid afternoon pastry. 

2) If it’s your first trip to Paris, pick a few sites that are most important to see and really spend some time enjoying them. My own “Top 5 Must Sees” are the Sainte Chapelle, hidden inside France’s Palais de Justice,  the light show at the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Sculpture Gardens, the Musée D’Orsay, and the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

La Sainte Chapelle

3) Dress up and learn a few French words. There are a few things that can help you blend in a bit and not stand out as an American (or as a tourist) really.  We typically dress more casually than our Parisian counterparts so like to trade tennis shoes for driving loafers and throw on a blazer over jeans. Though you may not be mistaken for a local, dressing up just a bit commands respect and you won’t look the part of the dreaded “Ugly American.” Also, even though my French is abysmal, I’ve mastered a few key phrases like “thank you” (merci), “excuse me” (pardon), “please” (s’il vous plaît), “hello” (bonjour.) Parisians really appreciate the effort and you’ll find that many are actually eager to practice their english with you too!

Though I’ve been to Paris many times, there are still sites that I’ve never made it to- and that’s OK!  Part of the charm of this beautiful city is embracing the Parisian joie de vivre, luxuriating in the experiences you DO choose to enjoy. I can’t wait to visit the flea markets, more museums, and perhaps the Catacombes or nearby Giverny on my next visit, but you can bet I’ll still find plenty of time to enjoy a glass of champagne, pâté, and people watching – which will always top my list of favorite things to do in Paris!

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Alison Marriott of Bon Vivant DCAbout the author: Alison and I met through mutual friends and a common love of of all things vino. She runs her own wine consultancy Bon Vivant DC and is currently hard at work planning the city’s first Champagne Week, with a Grand Tasting planned on November 9th. There will also be a champagne pairing dinner held at Ripple, and custom flights of champagne around town. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.dcchampagneweek.com. Yep, that’s the week of the election and the perfect opportunity to celebrate your candidate’s victory — or plot your theoretical move to Paris over the world’s finest bubbles.

Christine & The Queens at the All Things Go Fall Classic Festival

Have you heard of Christine And the Queens? Did you go see her and her band when she played at the 9:30 Club earlier this year? I couldn’t make it, so I’m stoked she’s coming back! As part of a small North American tour, she’ll be performing at the All Things Go Fall Classic Music Festival at Yards Park this Saturday, October 8th. DC’s not a big music festival town  and I’ve loved seeing this one grow from its beginning at Dock 5 behind Union Market in 2014. And of course I love that there’s a French artist in the line-up!! 

All Things Go Classic

The headliners this year are Empire of the Sun (the videos from the Australian band are amazing, like this one for Alive, so I bet they put on quite a show!). They’ll be joined on stage by Passion Pit, Sylvan Esso and others, including of course Christine! The best part of this music festival, in my opinion, is that it marries music and food. In addition to all the artists, the restaurant review site Infatuation selected vendors like Buredo, Takorean, Milk Cut or Beefsteak to make sure festival-goers don’t go hungry. Isn’t that nice of them 😉

Christine and the Queens at the 9:30 Club in May 2016 - Photo by Francois Boo

Christine and the Queens at the 9:30 Club in May 2016 – Photo by François Boo

You can still grab tickets if you’re interested in going (click here) and use the code FrenchTwist to save 10%.

ps: check out my earlier write up on Christine and the Queens.

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! 

 

Postcard from Paris: 5 Spots Where I Love to Grab a Cup of Coffee

When I left Paris to move to Washington, DC thirteen years ago (**le gasp**) the city didn’t even have a single Starbucks yet. Now they’re everywhere, and I’m not saying that’s a good thing but I do want to point out that the coffee scene has changed in a few years. Of course, Paris has always been known for its street-side cafés, where you can grab a quick noisette at the counter or linger for hours at the terrace people watching and sipping a café crème. Those were never really about the coffee and new cafés, inspired by the artisanal coffee culture in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. have popped up all over town. In many of those, it’s not unusual to hear English spoken fluently behind the counter as well as drip or filtered coffee (not espresso) in the cups. I’m not complaining about this change, I actually love discovering new coffee shops when I’m in Paris, though here are the five I always go back to: 

CAFÉ KITSUNÉ FILLES DU CALVAIRE

Kitsuné means fox in Japanese and in France, it’s synonymous with cool tunes and trendy clothes. The record and fashion label owns a couple of shops in Tokyo and Paris (as well as two in New York too!) including one rue Amelot/boulevard des filles du calvaires, blocks from where I grew up. Tucked beneath the boutique, you’ll find a bright and playful space, with custom speckled faux marble walls and floors, that makes some of the best matcha lattes in the city, as well as adorable little fox shaped cookies. There’s another Café Kitsuné in the gardens of the Palais Royal that I enjoy in the summer as well.

Cafe Kitsune palais royal

Cafe Kitsune in ParisCafe Kitsune in Paris

Café Kitsuné is located at 51 galerie de Montpensier, 1er (Palais Royal) & 109 rue Amelot, 11eme (Filles du Calvaire)

CAFÉ OBERKAMPF

I don’t why you would be looking for vegemite in Paris, but if you are, you will find some at Café Oberkampf 😉 You’ll also find a minimalist space, brunch all day, “avo toasts” and a grilled cheese sandwich named after a famous American expat blog. Doesn’t hurt that Café Oberkampf runs an awesome instagram account either (with English captions… bien sur!)

Cafe Oberkampf

Cafe Oberkampf Instagram

 

 Café Oberkampf is located at 3 rue Neuve Popincourt, 11eme 

CAFÉ SUÉDOIS

My mom is quite the regular there when the weather is nice… it’s a short stroll from her place and just a lovely spot in the Marais.  Located in l’Hôtel de Marle, a magnificent 18th century mansion that now houses the Swedish Cultural Institute, its main draw is the peaceful paved courtyard. It’s the perfect spot for fika, or to read a book while seating on Ikea furniture and nibbling on kanelbullar. Try it in the winter too, they have glögg around Christmas time!! On occasion, like last summer, they’ll also open up the grassy garden on the other side of the building and host activities for children too.
L'Institut suédois in the Marais - Picture courtesy of l'Institut suédois.

L’Institut suédois in the Marais – Picture courtesy of l’Institut suédois.

L’Institut Tessin/Centre Culturel Suédois is tucked away in a quiet spot of the 3eme, at 11 rue Payenne.

BOOT CAFÉ

The outside still reads “Cordonnerie” in faded paint because the shoebox sized coffee shop is (appropriately) located in a former shoe repair shop. It’s cute as a button, though seats are scarce so you should plan on taking you Belleville Brûlerie coffee to go (and perhaps walk to the Picasso Museum a few blocks away….) 

Boot Cafe in the Marais

Boot Cafe in the Marais

Boot Café is in a former cordonnerie at 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 3eme

LA CAFÉOTHÈQUE 

I just discovered this spot recently when I got together with Pola of Jetting Around for a quick cup of coffee. I’m so glad she suggested it. I went to middle school at Francois Couperin literally one street away and had NO idea this café existed. Unlike the other spots on the list that have a more anglo angle, La Caféothèque is owned by Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador for Guatemala in France, who views coffee like we view wine, with an emphasis on terroir. It’s actually where the coffee revolution in Paris first kicked off (it’s been open for over ten years). There’s a very artsy and cozy feel to the space, and it’s actually VERY roomy compared to most of the other spots on my list 😉 

La Caféothèque

La Caféothèque – Photo courtesy of La Caféothèque

La Caféothèque is located at 52 Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4eme 

   *        *      *       *      *

Do you have a favourite coffee shop in Paris? While these are my personal faves right now, and yes, they’re concentrated in the 3 arrondissements that I frequent the most. I’ll say though, sometimes, I still just pop up at an old school café for my noisette though. You? 

Bonus coffee shop: I cannot not mention Le Café des Chats. There’s a location rue Sedaine, by my parents’ as well as one closer to Beaubourg. You can read more about it in one of my previous blog post here.

Le Cafe des chats in Paris

Premières Visites du Nouveau Musée d’Histoire & Culture Afro-Américaine

Ça y est! Le tout nouveau Musée National de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine (l’acronyme c’est NMAAHC en anglais) a ouvert ses portes au public samedi dernier à Washington. Et il les a ouvertes en grande pompe et circonstance,  avec l’ancien président George W. Bush, Barack et Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey et plein d’autres célébrités ainsi que deux jours de fête et de concerts sur le National Mall.
National Museum of African American History and Culture L’inauguration du NMAAHC c’est l’événement culturel de l’année ici… les billets d’entrée (qui sont gratuits d’ailleurs, comme ceux pour tous les musées nationaux gérés par l’Institution Smithsonian) se sont arrachés comme des petits pains en ligne. Il faut maintenant quasiment attendre jusqu’à janvier pour avoir des places. Heureusement, je m’y suis prise à l’avance et du coup j’en suis déjà à ma deuxième visite 😉 J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir le visiter juste avant son ouverture officielle, trois jours après l’inauguration et j’y retourne mi-octobre…. Un peu beaucoup? Non. Il y a plus 33 000 objets a découvrir sur presque 40 000 mètres carrés, donc je pense que j’aurais même besoin d’y retourner l’année prochaine, surtout que je n’ai pas du tout étudié l’histoire américaine  à l’école, donc j’apprends plein de chose à chaque fois!

En gros, le Musée National de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine propose un veritable voyage dans l’histoire des Etats Unis comme l’ont vécus les afro-américains. La visite s’organise chronologiquement au début et commence tout en bas, au troisième sous-sol du musée. C’est symbolique, bien sûr. Dans ces premières salles on revoit les épisodes les plus sombres de l’histoire Américaine: l’esclavage et la ségrégation… Cette partie m’a rappelé le Musée de l’Holocauste, qui est tout près d’ailleurs. On y voit des cartes retraçant le commerce des esclaves, des chaînes (dont des toutes petites pour enfants), des notes de vente et une cabane d’esclaves provenant d’une ancienne plantation de Caroline du Sud.
unnamed-27National Museum African American History and Culture

Un grand mur m’a fait particulièrement réfléchir: celui du paradoxe de la liberté. Derrière une statue de Thomas Jefferson on peut lire les noms de tous les esclaves dont il était “propriétaire…” lui, l’auteur principal de la Déclaration d’Independence qui décrit que tous les hommes sont nés égaux et sont doués par le Créateur de certains droits inaliénables; parmi ces droits se trouvent la vie, la liberté et la recherche du bonheur. Progressivement, on arrive à l’époque de la ségrégation et à la lutte pour les droits civiques. Là, il n’est pas rare d’entendre quelques personnes un peu plus âgés raconter leur propre experience pendant cette période et c’est extrêmement émouvant quand ils sont là en famille, avec leur enfants et leurs petits enfants, de les voir partager ces souvenirs difficiles qu’ils ont vécus personnellement. Cette scène de parents qui expliquent ce lourd contexte à leurs enfant se répète à travers le musée. Certains sont si jeunes qu’ils n’ont jamais connu d’autre président que Barack Obama, dont l’élection conclue d’ailleurs cette partie du musée. On sort enfin des épisodes les plus sombres de l’histoire américaine pour arriver aux plus glorieux.

Tuskegee Airmen Trainer Plane at the NMAAHC

Les étages supérieurs redonnent leur place aux contributions des Afro-Américains dans l’histoire militaire, le sport, les arts et la culture. Les thèmes précédents ne sont pas oubliés… la ségrégation et la lutte pour les droits civiques y sont encore mais on y célèbre surtout la réussite, les victoires, les premières historiques que ce soit celle de Josephine Baker, Alvin Alley, Spike Lee, Mohamed Ali ou des soeurs Williams. Et oui, d’Oprah Winfrey aussi… elle a donné plus de 20 millions au musée donc elle est un peu partout 😉

Oprah Winfrey's studio at NMAAHC A statue of the 1968 Olympics black power salute at NMAAHC

En dehors des expositions, il y a trois endroits que j’ai beaucoup aimé dans le musée. Le premier c’est une petite fenêtre cachée dans la section histoire militaire au troisième étage. Quelle vue! Attention, pour prendre la photo comme moi, il faut s’allonger par terre, sinon on coupe le haut du Washington Monument… 

The view from the 3rd floor of NMAAHC

Ensuite, c’est la cafétéria au premier sous sol, qui est en elle même un exposition à part entière puisque le menu retrace les contributions culinaires afro-américaine à la cuisine du pays. Enfin, un bon resto sur le mall 😉

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich from sweet Home Cafe at NMAAHC

Le dernier endroit est un pièce dédiée à la contemplation, un endroit calme (assez dur à trouver d’ailleurs!) où on peut s’assoir et, bercé par le murmure d’une fontaine qui tombe du plafond, réfléchir un peu à tout ce que l’on vient de voir, au poids de l’histoire, à la situation actuelle qui est loin d’être idéale en ce moment. Bonus: ça fait une belle photo instagram aussi! 

Contemplation room at NMAAHC

Le musée est déjà un énorme succès avec plus de 28,000 visiteurs en quelques jours… Si vous ne vous êtes pas pris comme moi au mois d’août pour réserver vos places gratuites, il faudra vous armer d’un peu de patience… et d’un bon réveil. Tous les matins, des places seront mises à la disposition du public à 9:15. Une fois toutes distribuées, il vous faudra revenir le lendemain. Donc surtout là au début je conseillerai d’y aller assez tôt! Sinon, les reservations pour janvier-fevrier s’ouvriront le lundi 3 octobre à 9 heures du matin. Après vous pouvez aussi juste apprécier l’architecture extérieur du musée, il est superbe aussi… mais bon, si vous pouvez visiter, c’est mieux tout de même! 

Week-end Highlights: Pho, Poutine & Playing Tourist on the Mall

Happy Monday!! How was your first weekend of fall? Friday and Sunday were absolutely beautiful here in Washington. I really wish I had made some outdoorsy plans… or that I had a car so I could be spontaneous and go play outside of the city. But I still found ways to enjoy the beautiful weather.

SUNSET ROSÉ ON THE ROOF

I’d had a busy week and I wanted to go swimming Saturday morning (call it the post Olympics effect, but I’ve been going swimming at Dunbar Aquatic Center three times a week lately) so I took it easy Friday night and just enjoyed some rosé on the roof before watching the series premiere of Designated Survivor with the husband. I found a $8.99 bottle of Coteaux Varois, Mémoires rosé de Provence at my local liquor store and really liked it. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a bottle and this was a good value rosé.

Sunset rose on the roof

I love this pineapple wine tumbler I scored at Marshall’s for just $2.99!

I also really liked the first episode of Designated Survivor! The show marks Kiefer Sutherland’s return to television as a low-ranking cabinet official catapulted into the nation’s top job following an act of terrorism that kills all of the U.S. government during the state of the Union. I’m definitely going to watch the next few episodes! Have you seen it? Watched any other good new shows?

FOODIE SATURDAY (OH, AND ART ALL NIGHT TOO)

I was a bit upset Saturday because we were supposed to go to Barrel Oak Winery to celebrate a friend’s birthday but ended up having to excuse ourselves since we couldn’t arrange for transportation to the vineyard (the lesson here is don’t let your husband be in charge of those kinds of arrangement, even if he’s a former classmate of the birthday girl and good friends with her husband.) I was super bummed because I really wanted to get out of the city and would have love to spend the day outdoors, with friends, sipping wine. But I did end up slightly out of the city, in the suburbs, near Morningside, Maryland (where Andrews Air Force Base is) to try my friend Madalene’s family restaurant Pho Viet. I *love* pho and the weather was actually pretty perfect for a warm bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup. It was also super fun to chat with Madalene’s mom, one of the owners of the restaurant, and her sister who was in the kitchen making the soup that day. I actually I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures only so I can have more pho 😉

The #1 pho at Pho Viet in Morningside, MD

The #1 pho with brisket, tendons, meatballs and rare beef

The eating didn’t stop there 😉 Afterwards, my friends Cecile, Aparna and I checked into Le Diplomate for the last Saturday of their summer glaces and sorbets cart. The fromage blanc and strawberry ice cream were SO good but I guess summer is definitely over 😦 And for dinner I finally tried Haikan‘s mapo tofu poutine.

Mapo Tofu Poutine at Haikan in DC

Mapo Tofu Poutine at Haikan in DC

Ice cream from le Diplomate in DC

Ice cream from Le Diplomate

I’d been wanting to try it ever since the restaurant opened. I’m still on the fence about it though. I mean, having spent 4 years in Montreal, I’m always on the lookout for poutine here in DC but I think I’m more of a purist. The tofu just isn’t a good replacement for the cheese curds for me 😉 But still, it was an interesting twist on the dish. And while we were up in North End Shaw, we checked out Art All Night. Every year I tell myself that I’m not going to compare the event to the Nuit Blanche in Paris. But it’s hard not to. Yes, it’s fun to walk around your neighbourhood after hours and discover new businesses. It’s always fun to see Batala play and witness a new mural come up, but the art part of Art All Night just really isn’t there and it’s kind of the same thing year after year… There’s been a bit of controversy about this year’s event which was rebranded from Nuit Blanche | Art All Night to Art All Night: Made in DC but they really need to step it up if they want this to be more of a cultural event and not just a glorified evening block party. Putting a couple of DJs in restaurants and on empty parking lots, with some weak projections on the walls really doesn’t cut it. 

PLAYING TOURISTS ON THE NATIONAL MALL

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous and I reeeeeeally wanted to get out of the city!!! But alas, that wasn’t meant to be. So I did the next best thing I could think of and took a really walk around the National Mall. I’m so lucky that America’s backyard also happens to be mine! Altogether, I walked some 7 miles, stopping to catch some of the music performances at the Freedom Sounds Festival and take pretty pictures of the monuments. I still would have liked to escape the city for a bit, but this wasn’t bad 😉 

Picture Perfect day at the Tidal Basin

Picture Perfect day at the Tidal Basin

What’s your favourite way to escape the city when you simply can’t get out? Let me know in the comments!!