Well, I was still here on Tuesday, and after a truly alarming 2-minute period of selling every advance ticket for next month's Perfect Liars Club (if you didn't get one, come try your luck on the door!), it was off, with parents in tow, to Coco Sala for dinner - the only place in DC where my cocktail has included a giant chocolate-covered strawberry. I found this highly satisfactory... More satisfactory than my sense of direction, as I'd chosen it for being near our next stop, the Folger Shakespeare Library, which of course it is not! Luckily Uber whisked us up to Capitol Hill and got us there in time.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is a quite brilliant and mad building, unlike any other building in Washington. I only got to see some of it, of course, but the outside is decorated with cool stone carvings of scenes from Shakespeare's plays which are quite lovely and worth a peek if you have any knowledge/interest in his plays. We were there for their obscurely advertised PEN/Faulkner reading series. This is run by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Essentially what they do is bring together American authors and American readers to promote a love of literature. In a city that has only very occasional real literary events other than Politics and Prose, it is confusing to me that it's taken me so long to venture to this series, which, with its mission and its amazing venue, and its reasonable $15 price tag, should by rights be a sell-out extravaganza; in fact it was just moderately full. Our event in question featured three biographers of famous authors, of which one was cool and witty and fascinating, one was reasonably interesting, and one left my mother unsubtly snoring next to me. Which is not a bad line up for a reasonably obscure genre of authors... I do wonder why more people don't know about this literary series (or attend it). What was particularly cool was the little Elizabethan theatre where the event took place. I don't even know how to describe it, except to say it was a sort of combination of Shakespeare-time theatre-in-the-round and mad old temple design. I cannot emphasize enough that it is absolutely worth going to an event here to admire the theatre alone! As though all of that was not compelling enough, afterwards we all retired to a huge vaulted hall with quirky little Shakespeare displays and more cool architecture for free cheese and wine. The next one's on February 24th. I see a presumably much larger theatre in the building is also currently showing Richard III - doesn't tempt me personally but I'd love to see if that auditorium is also exciting, and there's lots of other stuff. Details here.
After a long gap for Vegas, we staggered in the door on Sunday night and a combination of excessive Vegas buffets and a chill too harsh to tempt me to my regular YMCA exercise classes had me checking out the free Monday 6pm boot camp style class at Athleta in Georgetown, just round the corner from my apartment. I love that stores are doing free fitness classes, even if our stretching at the end was accompanied by a pitch for the gym that provided the instructor. About ten women attended the Athleta class this week (the more hardcore people go down a few blocks to Nike) and actually the class was quite good. I was impressed. Two days later my muscles still hurt from all those squats... Much as I cursed them at the time, I may even return for another class! Rumor has it they also do yoga and zumba...
But far more tempting to me in the loosely-defined exercise (for lazy people) category is ten-pin bowling. This weekend, after great anticipation (by my lovely wife and me, anyway), Pinstripes opened! This bowling/bocce/bar/bistro chain has set up shop in the old Georgetown mall, and looks to be a fine addition to the entertainment-within-a-five-minute-stroll-of-my-house line up. My dear wife and I ventured down en route home from Las Vegas - literally with luggage in hand - to check it out, and then returned yesterday to actually do some bowling. And so far, we are excited! It's a curious venue in some ways - it doesn't really feel like its primary purpose is bowling. They make a lot of their dining options, which you walk through to get to the bowling. And the alley itself is bright, pristine, with comfy leather sofas instead of benches by each lane, decorated with cool old bowling photographs. Waitresses come by to take food and drink orders - and they have a nice drinks selection, especially local beers. The only thing that sort of disappoints me can be summed up in one word: beige. It just seems an incongruous color scheme for a bowling alley. It feels a tiny bit like an office. I'll be interested to see what they do with lighting etc in the evening to bring a bit of atmosphere to the bowling alley. At any rate, a great addition to Georgetown's entertainment options, and a grown-up bowling experience which I really enjoyed - despite losing to a wife who was having to bowl with her left hand due to a shoulder injury. Hmmm... But with bowling $3-5 per game (plus $4 shoes) I think it'll become a regular haunt.
In food and drink venue round-up, we had a tasty lunch in Cafe Bonaparte - their weekends are always so crazily busy that I can't be bothered to wait in line, but midweek, their $11 soup-and-sandwich/crepe lunches and their lovely French ambience made for an excellent birthday treat for me yesterday. I hear they do live jazz on second Wednesday of the month evenings too...
The big treat of the week though was Rose's Luxury. The first time I went, a few months ago, I had no hesitation in saying that in my view, this is currently DC's best restaurant. I loved their beautifully executed, innovative, exciting food. I loved their ambience. I was impressed with their stellar service. I felt special that I got in, as unless you turn up at 5:30, the lines are intimidating. I told everyone I knew to try it. So of course, I couldn't wait to return (at 5:30pm prompt) for my birthday dinner. And I'm afraid that while their food was still beautifully executed, their ambience still lovely, their service still stellar... I was a bit disappointed. The chef has removed many of the most exciting/quirky/truly innovative-feeling dishes from the menu, and pared down the vegetarian options so that there's now a much meaner selection. I wonder whether the chef lost his nerve after the Washingtonian review was a bit rude about his popcorn soup... at any rate I almost wept when I found it has been abandoned. Our lovely waitress did everything she could to keep us delighted, bringing us beautifully executed off-menu dishes (and an amazing little birthday cake). Her efforts moved us from frustration to happiness. This is an excellent restaurant. You should still go. You should still stand in line. You should still grin in anticipation. This food is still some of Washington's best. But it probably is no longer the most exciting. I hope they get their nerve back soon.
Finally, a shout out to a little bar billed as an East London gastropub, Duke's Grocery on 17th Street. While it in no way feels like any East London pub I've ever ventured into, it is a charming little venue with nice decor, ambience and staff. Worth checking out. I'll definitely return.
What's happening this week
Clearly there is a correlation between Valentines and storytelling. Snow-permitting, you can go to a run of fantastic storytelling events this week:
Tonight, Wednesday 12th Feb
There are still tickets left for Mortified, the story type show where people read pages of their angst-ridden teenage diaries to great comic effect. I can't make it but I went to one of these shows and it was hilarious. It's at Town tonight. I also like the sound of the National Museum of Women in the Arts Wine, Twine and Valentine happy hour tonight - if you're a crafty person with $20 in your pocket, it might be fun!
Thursday 13th Feb
Spoilt for choice here, ladies and gentlemen. There's DoubleXLovefest at Sixth and I, a talkshow/podcast type thing about women, culture, and love. I have no idea what it will be like but it sounds intriguing... then off to the Postal Museum for a Smithsonian at 8 Valentine's event featuring Story League, called Signed, Sealed, Delivered. It sounds like potentially one of the Smithsonian at 8's best events to date - I can't wait. The Story League performance bit is at 9pm.
Friday 14th Feb
The hot ticket is Sucker for Love, Speakeasy DC's annual Valentine's Day spectacular at the 9:30 Club. I'm performing in this, and can personally assure you there have been lots of rehearsals to make sure this show will be really good. The original show has sold out, but they're now doing a second show at 10pm so if you're a late bird, there are tickets available here. Alas I am only performing in the early show as I have promised post-show romance around DC for my lovely wife. But the rest of the cast will be abandoning their beloved for your late night story pleasure...
Sunday 16th Feb
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company do an annual intern benefit. It's $20 and there will be music, a free drink, and entry to their new show, We Are Proud to Present... A good deal and a good cause. Tickets and details here.