Monday, March 26, 2007

Please Don't Go Joey, Or Life is Like a Bowl of Chili

Bobby: There are a few epochal dates in musical history that completely redefine a genre. Friday night was one such date. Joey McIntrye (aka the youngest New Kid) came to Jammin' Java in Vienna, Virginia and rocked Jazz Standards like no one before. After the Joey Mac Show, Giada, Rachel, Julia, Emeril, and I went to Bar Rouge for drinks, and capped the evening at the DC institution that is Ben's Chili Bowl. The following is a rare triple-review of all of the evening's festivities.

Joey Mac Attack: A Review of the Entertainment

Bobby: The atmosphere at Jammin' Java was electric just before the Big J took the stage. One fan effusively informed the opening performer that she once had a Joey Mac sleeping bag, although upon further reflection it may have been a pillowcase.

Giada: I had a Joey Mac pillow case. It was white, with neon orange and green marks, and a picture of Joey's mug front and center. I loved that pillow case.

Bobby: The Big J came out in a dapper three piece suit and a top hat that foreshadowed a multitude of twirling possibilities. He led off with Nat King Cole's L.O.V.E., knocked it dead, and slowly won over even the most jaded of fans.

Giada: I informed Bobby that we would be purchasing him a three-piece suit, post haste.

Bobby: But the crescendo of the evening came when Joey Mac pulled out the ace up his sleeve, "Please Don't Go Girl." With silky vocals like that, one can rest assured that no lady is going to be leaving Mr. McIntyre anytime soon.

Giada: Having grown up in a rural part of the country, I never got to see a New Kids performance. Hearing Joey sing "Please Don't Go Girl" made Saturday night the concert I'd been waiting 20 years for.

Bobby: Joey Mac finished the set with some tunes from the Chairman of the Board, Elvis, and Nat King Cole, but left the stage without doing an encore, which left me filling without closure. But closure came with a vengence outside Jammin' Java waiting for a cab. Julia and I were loitering a little behind Rachel and Giada, and by heavens that was a smart move, for Joey Mac walked right by Julia and said, "Thanks for coming out." Julia, always calm under pressure, pointed and softly uttered a garbled "Hey." This cogent prompting caused me to turn around and see the great man walk by. Rachel and Giada unfortunately were already walking toward the cab and missed this brush with greatness. I can't feel too bad for them, as Joey Mac thanked me personally for coming to his show. No need for that Joey, the pleasure was all mine.

Giada: So mad at myself, unable to comment further.

Bobby's Joey Mac Rating: 11 out of 10. (Some might think an 11 out of 10 is not possible, those people have never seen Joey Mac in person).
Giada's Joey Mac Rating: 10 hearts out of 10 hearts.

Applying Some Rouge: A Review of the Drinks

Bobby: After being pumped up by Joey, we boarded the Metro and were treated to a fully choreographed of "The Right Stuff" by Giada. Those who saw it will never forget it. It was that good.

Giada: I, however, have forgotten most of it, as memories of that point of the evening are oddly hazy. Go figure.

Bobby: Then after the eternal cab ride/walk, we made it to Bar Rouge, which is on 16th & N and not 15th & Mass as we discovered.

Giada: Eh, we were close.

Bobby: As if I needed any affirmance that I enjoy things that are a little girly sometimes, I once again showed that I am the King of picking out the best fruity drink. In this case that drink is the Ruby Rouge Martini. Not as good as the Raspberrytini at Blue Duck, but still a fine drink. By the second round, all the ladies had joined me in partaking in this sweet nectar.

Giada: I started with some other champagne cocktail, which was good. But Bobby's right -- he's the King of Fruity Drinks, and he knows how to pick them.

Bobby: As for the place, it's got your standard Kimpton hotel bar look. Snazzy, colorful (red, as the name suggests), long and narrow. Not dead, but not too crowded, with comfortable seats and no overbearing music.

Giada: Kimpton bars are great for evenings where you want to hang out with friends and enjoy conversation at an upscale-ish place. They're not pick-up bars (although I'm sure it's happened now and again), and tend to offer a number of specialty drinks. If you're in a group under 4 people (and often even more) seating is generally available. However, drinks tend to be on the pricier side, and while the places attempt an upscale vibe, it's often clear that the materials used are not top-of-the-line.

Bobby's Rating: 8.2 out of 10
Giada's Rating: 7 out of 10

Chili Today, Hot Tamale: A Review of the Bowl

Bobby: After the drinks, we strolled down to U street and got some chili from Uncle Ben. I have mixed feelings about the Bowl. On the one hand, it is cool, seems relatively authentic, and has good food. On the other hand, it tends to draw a lot of annoying wannabe hipsters/dorky frat guys.

Giada: Agreed. The line was a long one of exactly what Bobby describes. I was also a little annoyed that they weren't serving milkshakes or grilled cheese, although on further reflection it makes sense, or that line would never move. As it was, with a menu limited mainly to chili, chili dogs, half-smokes, and fries (they also grilled up a burger for Rachel, although it took a long time and I'd recommend sticking to the staples), the line moved quite quickly.

Giada: Also, Ben's could use a good scrubbing. I know that part of a "greasy spoon" is the grease, but I think you could apply a lot of 409 before Ben's would lose any of its charm.

Bobby's Chili Bowl Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Giada's Chili Bowl Rating: 5 out 10

Recipe for an excellent evening: Two parts overgrown teeny-bopper idol, one part Ruby Rouge Martini blended with sparkling conversation. Stir with greasy spoon, and prepare the spend the next day on the couch recovering.

227 Maple Avenue
East Vienna, VA

1315 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC

1213 U Street, NW
Washington, DC

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Slogan Dynasty

So, in an important development for our nation, the District of Columbia is looking for a new slogan. Now, D.C. has been the epicenter of a number of important campaign slogans in the past. For example, who can forget the memorable "Grandfather's Hat Fits Ben," the campaign slogan of one of our least memorable presidents: Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison). By the way, Giada is still mad about Harrison signing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, so Harrison is kind of tough topic in this household. But, the best slogan of all time is unequivocally the inventive, "We Polked You in '44, We Shall Pierce You in '52," from our 14th President. Seems a little risque until you consider that Pierce was a notorious alcoholic who drank himself to death.

But, apparently, D.C. government feels it needs something better than "Washington, DC: An American Experience." So, being civic-minded folks, Giada and I thought we would offer our help.

Giada thinks the slogan should be "A Capital City." Simple, cute, and elegant.

I, however, think the slogan should be: "A Monumental Town." Because there are monuments in the District. It's a play on words.

Another suggestion, this one a little more honest: "D.C.: A Quarter Gentrifying, Three-Quarters Languishing."

For the competitive types, how about: "D.C.: Fewer Murders Than Baltimore."

Taken from one of our most eloquent former mayors, Marion Barry: "Outside Of the Killings, We Have One of the Lowest Crime Rates in the Country."

A nod to the politicos: "DC: Come Have Your Filibuster of Fun."

Anyway, those are our suggestions. Although I'm sure the D.C. government in its infinite competency will come up with something better.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just Ducky at Blue Duck

Rachel: A few weeks ago Bobby and Giada were kind enough to let me tag along to the Edward Scissorhands ballet performance at the Kennedy Center.

Giada: We just adore the ballet. Almost as much as we like telling people that we go to the ballet.

Rachel: As if that wasn't enough, they decided that the evening was not complete until we'd had drinks and appetizers at Blue Duck. They do spoil me so.

Giada: It's Bobby. He loves to spoil.

Rachel: Since it was bitterly cold, we left the Kennedy Center in hopes of finding a cab, but our plan was foiled by the fact that there was not a single cab waiting outside. Not a single one! What is wrong with you, taxicabs?!

Giada: It was at this point that Bobby informed us that he was moving back to Texas. Which is too bad, but maybe he will visit.

Rachel: Not realizing that I would be trekking across the frozen tundra that was New Hampshire Avenue, I had been foolish enough to prefer looking pretty over being warm, and was dressed in a skirt and very precarious heels. Giada was kind enough to give me her arm so I did not end up on my butt, because who wants to finish up a lovely evening with a trip to the hospital to mend a broken bone? And I am pretty clumsy...

Giada: Agreed. She's a complete klutz.


Rachel: We sat in the lounge area, which I think can only be described as quirky. It is decorated with an odd mix of multi-level hardwood floors, random glass partitions separating various sections of the lounge, and stainless steel and wooden tables complete with drawers. Around the tables are swivel armchairs, which were one of my favorite parts about the place.

Giada: Rachel's description is right on, but it somehow never seemed "quirky" to me. I've always thought of it as a fairly elegant, but comfortable lounge.

Rachel: The strangest part of the decor was surely the seating areas to our left, which were wooden tables and high-backed Amish-style benches. The benches looked extremely uncomfortable, but the really odd part was that both tables were surrounded by glass walls, making them like private rooms where everyone could stare at you. Definitely wouldn't want to sit there.

Giada: Ok, I'll agree -- that is a pretty weird aspect.

Rachel's Decor Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (an extra point for all the conversation pieces in the room)
Giada's Decor Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Rachel: Bobby was determined to sample all of the desserts on the menu, but Giada vetoed that idea since he hadn't had dinner yet. She is determined not to let him exist on fruit rollups, candy, and ice cream.

Giada: I am not joking, for all the wonderful food the man eats, he gets most excited about things marketed to 12-year-olds.

Rachel: I tried lobbying on his behalf, but being a little sister apparently holds no sway.

Giada: And this is something you're figuring out now? You did all of my ironing through high school, and you're just learning who's the boss?

Rachel: Anyway, I was more concerned with the cocktail menu, since I'm not much for desserts and am always looking to see if someone can top the Maker's Mark and pomegranate drink I had a while back at Restaurant Eve. On this night, I settled on the Pear and Elderflower martini, but the moment I saw Bobby's Raspberry Martini (or Raspberrytini as he liked to call it) I knew I had chosen wrong. I generally try to avoid very sweet drinks, and the Pear Martini was certainly that. The sweetness was not overwhelming, but still a bit much for my taste.

Giada: I had a strawberry flavored martini, and while also very, very good (I'm a fan of the sweet drinks), Bobby's was better.

Rachel: Since I am a good girl who always eats my dinner before dessert, I ordered the turkey club sandwich with french fries. The portion size was larger than I expected, and good as far as club sandwiches are concerned. My only complaint was that the tomatoes were sliced a bit thick, so that when I bit into it the toast hurt the roof of my mouth. You'll be glad to know that taking out one of the tomato slices solved that problem just fine.

Giada: While not stealing fries, I enjoyed the Artichoke Bisque. I'm actually not a huge artichoke fan, but soup was called for on such a cold night. And did I make the right call. The bisque was smooth and creamy, and wonderfully flavored.

Rachel: Halfway through the sandwich I got to order the Raspberry Martini that I had been eyeing, and it was even better than I thought it would be. Fresh muddled raspberries gave it a bit of a tart flavor instead of the usual sweetness of Raspberry vodka, which is the standard with such drinks and should be changed. Immediately. The fresh raspberry garnish in lieu of the usual marachino cherry was also a nice touch. On the whole, the drink reminded me of a spiked Fresh Samantha's Raspberry Dream, i.e., perfection.

Giada: It may seem like we're beating this to death, but the drink was REALLY good.

Rachel: Bobby and I both ate a satisfactory amount of our meals to order dessert, although Giada did steal a fair amount of my fries. We decided to share desserts and ordered the Apple Pie and Ice Cream. The pie was not merely a piece of pie but an entire individual-size pie and was fantastic. The apples were perfectly tender and there was exactly the right amount of sugar and cinnamon, but the true standout was the presentation of the ice cream. It came in a short pitcher with three scoops and a giant wooden spoon (which I immediately claimed as my dessert spoon), along with a smaller pitcher of homemade hot fudge sauce on the side.

Giada: I actually found the presentation of the ice cream to be a little much, because the pitcher was deep enough that getting out the scoops was somewhat of a pain. But really, sort of a minor detail.

Rachel: I think Giada would agree that the hot fudge sauce was not quite as good as our grandmother makes, but she has the market cornered on hot fudge sauce so it's not really fair to compare.

Giada: Yeah, the sauce was good, but not great.

Rachel's Food Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Giada's Food Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Rachel: Our service that evening was outstanding. Our server was very friendly, prompt with all of our requests, and even brought us a new candle when she noticed Giada stealing one from the table next to us after ours went out.

Giada: What can I say? I'm a fan of ambiance. And it wasn't like people were sitting at the other table.

Rachel: My only problem was not with the server herself, but with the fact that there was a tall table in the middle of the room that served as a dumping station for dirty plates until they were brought to the kitchen. I might not have noticed if we hadn't been seated fairly close to it, but I am not a fan of being seated next to others' dirty plates.

Giada: Agreed on all counts. The server was seriously outstanding. Friendly but not chummy, intelligent, patient, prompt ... she was the total package. And yeah, Blue Duck is too nice to have dirty plates station so close to patrons.

Rachel's Service Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Giada's Service Rating: 10 out of 10!!


Blue Duck is the perfect place for a quiet evening of drinks, as it's the type of place where friends can chat and not have to compete with loud music or drunk barflies. It's also a great romantic spot for a date, little sister in tow or otherwise.

Blue Duck
Park Hyatt Washington Hotel
1201 24th Street, NW
Washington, DC

Monday, March 5, 2007

Well, It's Sorta Related To Food

Note to guys: Next time you need to purchase flowers to woo your girl, save yourself $30 and buy them from a street vendor.

Why? Not because you're a cheap bastard, but because THE FLOWERS OFF THE STREET ARE BETTER.

Case Study: As many of you will remember, Washington D.C. played host to a miserable ice storm this past Valentine's Day. As such, there were concerns that delivery services would be delayed, meaning that those oh-so-important expressions of love would not reach their intended recipient on the big day. One concerned patron, who goes by the name of Bobby around here, was worried his flower order with 1-800-FLOWERS would not make it to Giada's office that day (for Giada had braved the sleet and snow, as she is a good little worker bee. Also, she's tough). Being the resourceful chap he is, Bobby took it upon himself to leave the warm comfort of his office where he spends his days shuffling paper (by night, Bobby is an intrepid crime fighter AND restaurant reviewer) purchase a dozen roses from the street vendor on G and 12th, and personally deliver them to Giada. Thus, Bobby saved Valentine's Day.

However, the scrappy delivery folks at 1-800-FLOWERS did manage to get through the sleet and snow and make their delivery to Giada as well. Which meant Giada was lucky enough to receive 2 dozen roses this past Valentine's Day. Don't worry, she knows how fortunate she is.

But all roses are not created equal. The dark red roses from 1-800-FLOWERS, ordered over a month in advance and costing a hefty $60, were a pitiful site even out of the box, and nothing Giada did would revive them. Most of the roses were shut tight and never opened for Giada to enjoy. After a week, Giada removed the eyesore from the back of her office to the garbage can.

The flowers purchased only a few blocks away, however, were simply lovely. They arrived in varying states of bloom -- some fully blossomed, others just beginning to, and others still wrapped tight. As the days went on, those that had already blossomed held their bloom, while the younger flowers opened up beautifully. The roses sat on Giada's desk for over two full weeks and prompted numerous compliments from passers-by.

The moral of the story: save your pennies and buy local. As an additional bonus, you won't stick your girl with yet another glass vase that looks exactly like the 20 she already has sitting in her kitchen cupboards at home.