Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

Unasked Review: Daniel O’Connell’s

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Last Friday, me and the missus decided to dine in Old Town. We were craving Irish food; after our jaunt up in Maine a few weeks back and hitting several New England pubs we were feeling nostalgic for our Ireland walkabout back in 2005 and wanted to try getting back to that setting. Yes, yes, this is Virginia after all, but no harm in trying, right?

I’d read some reviews on O’Connell’s a while back and since it boasted itself as “a modern Irish restaurant in an ancient Irish setting” (from their website), we decided to give it a whirl.

We arrived right at 5 p.m., before the dinner crush on a typical spring weekend evening on King Street. After doing a quick check of the menu out front, we followed the pleasant and cheery hostess upstairs to the third floor. (As an aside, I love it when restaurants post their menus out front – saves me a heap of time of going in, scanning the menu and then bailing because I can’t find anything on it that waters my mouth.)

Seated in a corner along the long banister “corridor” connecting two of the older bars upstairs, the busboy was prompt in getting us water. So we dove into the menu and after some discussion, decided what to eat.

And then waited for our server. (more…)

Cracks in the Ice…

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Remember this experience?

Well, I received a phone message last week while I was off gallivanting around Maine; the caller was from CSC’s corporate offices. [I had filled out their online customer comment card, pointing to the previous article so they could see for themselves what was going on. Thanks, by the way, for everyone’s comments – hopefully they caught those as well.]

I was assured the matter was being looked into and the franchisee was being notified. Supposedly I should have already received a call from the store (nope) and received a gift certificate notification through the mail (nope).

Now, I’ll state right here and now I didn’t start all this for some form of free anything. I’ve done the retail punishment for over 15 years before I got smart and left; it pains me to see poor customer service, especially in establishments I frequent. I feel it’s my duty to politely let them know when they’re failing the public trust. And yes, also when they’ve gone above and beyond as well. (And yes, I’m an excellent tipper when it’s warranted.)

So while the call back is refreshing, the lack of local follow-up is disappointing. If / when we get those certificates, we’ll head back to the same location, if only to see if anything has changed (and yes, I’ll let everyone here know!). Meantimes, we’ll probably shift to the Hoffman location, unless someone can suggest a great local spot in Alexandria / Kingstowne / Springfield to try. (For the record, not a fan of Kalidescoops or Maggie Moo’s.)

Please, readers, suggest away!

Stone Cold Silence

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So last night me and the missus went to look at a couple of townhomes, one of which we’re considering purchasing. We’d both had a really long mental day at our dayjobs, so I suggested we make the trip out to the Cold Stone Creamery on US 1, near the I-495 interchange. There’s not really a good place for ice cream near our current home and we both like the taste of CSC’s ice cream. So it’s worth the drive for us.

Read the rest of our adventure after the jump. (more…)

Free Concert @ Farragut Square 5-7pm

Sounds in the SquareThe Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (or GTBID for short) is having their kick-off in a series of “Sounds in the Square” this evening at 5pm. I’m not sure how much foot traffic of commuters it will draw away from the mass movement of people to and fro as they rush home, but at least it may be an attention getter away from the razing of the building at Connecticut and K Streets Wayan had such fond memories of.

This evening’s affair will star Justin Jones & The Driving Rain, but other concerts will follow from May 22 and June 5, 12, 19, 26 (and a reschedule from last week’s rained out performance on September 4). I’m sure it will be an interesting experiment for GTBID, who were also, if I remember, one of the first areas in downtown D.C. to offer free WiFi in the park a number of years ago. And you know they’re hip and with it, not just because they dress in gold and black, because they have a MySpace page!

Trying Out

I’ve heard the Star-Spangled Banner so many ways that it takes something really quite unique to surprise me. I’ve heard six part male harmony, I’ve heard it performed by a tuba quartet. I’ve heard it sung by little kids, I’ve heard it played on an expensive and rare violin. I’ve heard renditions so good that the hairs on the back of my neck prickled with emotion, and I’ve heard renditions so bad that they offended me personally.

To say that I’m a bit of a connoisseur of the National Anthem is a bit of an understatement. But, Tom, you say, can you really complain until you’ve tried out yourself?

No. Despite my music degree, despite my years of choral and solo voice, I’ve never performed it for a live audience, save those within the sound of my voice when I sing along at baseball games and other sporting events. It’s a nerve-wracking experience standing down on the field and singing into the giant expanse of a stadium, I’m sure. But I decided it was time to buck up and give the audition a try.

Read on to find out about the audition

Nationals Open New Stadium in Dramatic Fashion

I couldn’t help but think, as Ryan Zimmerman rounded first, his fist triumphantly thrust in the air, that I would not have written the ending quite as well as it had come out. With the remaining crowd on their feet and cheering, despite the bitter cold and wind, the new ballpark became the Nationals new Home.

Left Field Crowd (Tight)

I arrived at the Stadium in 40 minutes today, some hour and twenty minutes more quickly than our Saturday debacle, and after making it through a thorough, yet friendly, search of my person and camera bag, it was onward into the stadium. The Braves were taking batting practice. The concourse was full of Nats Pack handing out game booklets and stadium information, as well as a number of photographers taking fan photos and capturing the new ballpark.

I settled into Section 108 to watch the Braves put on a hitting show. The ball was carrying well into the outfield, and several lucky fans got souvenirs to take home. Around 6, I headed up to get a Kielbasa and a Coke from the stand at the top of our section. There was a bit of a line, but 15 minutes later I had dinner and was a happy guy again. Tiff went for sodas around 6:30 and had a bit of a wait, but everything was happy for the most part. My frustration came at 7:15 when I waited 40 minutes for a Half-smoke All-the-way from the Nats Dogs concession. While the Ben’s Chili Bowl line was horrendous, the other hotdog stands still carry the signature half-smoke with Ben’s Chili, but the line was bad. It moved, sure, but sporadically, and it seemed that concession workers were still getting a feel for their roles, as I saw many people bumping into each other. The only thing they seemed to be short on was popcorn. Tasty as the half-smoke was, it wasn’t worth a 40 minute wait.

I hear the other lines were pretty long as well, but I suspect much will get better as we get further into the season.

The Nationals, despite a solid first inning of offense, went 24 batters out in a row, between their last hit in the 1st and Zimmerman’s homer with 2 outs in the 9th. I was hoping for a bit more offense out of the club. But, the pitching held true, and kept the Braves from doing little to catch up to the 2-0 lead. Lo Duca’s passed ball in the 9th was a real heartbreaker, and at least one guy in our row wondered what Rauch was doing on the mound instead of the Chief. But in the end, it didn’t matter. Part of me wondered, as my friend Ben said to me later, if we weren’t all in some shared hallucination, seeing what our minds wanted to happen, instead of some sadder truth. I’m thankful it was real.

Row of Seats Asking for a Ball Beer Man Darryl Waiting for a Ball

Let Teddy Win! Nats Pack Girl Warehouse Bunting Left Field Concessions

Read on for a status report on the ballpark
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The Blossoms Cometh

Photo uploaded by Ghost_Bear

It’s that time of year again. Our area’s arguably largest tourist pull, the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Yes, yes, everyone’s covering it, from Express to DCist. I won’t bore you with a rehash.

Actually, I come with a few questions.

My lovely wife and I have been down every year since we relocated here and frankly, I love it not so much for the blossoms (they’re gorgeous), but moreso to watch and photograph the people. I pick up a lot of great observation vignettes for my own writing; it’s like hitting the writer’s lotto.

This year, we’ve got a couple of good friends headed down from New York City. They’ve never been to¬†the District¬†and will only be here the first weekend of April. So naturally, I got them all excited about the Festival. It helps they’re both photogs, too, so if you see four people (three girls ignoring the one guy with them) wandering around with extensive camera gear, that’d be us. Picture-taking is pretty much a given. So is taking Metro.

Thing is, I’m trying to figure out what else to do on that Saturday before we head over to Old Towne for dinner and staking out a nice patch of marina rail for the fireworks. There’s the photo safaris, but those cost money and we’re decent photo people. So I think that’s out.

I was also considering the Edo Master’s collection at the Sackler. Or possibly the Japanese Cultural Fair, which promises a tea ceremony, origami and calligraphy demonstrations.

So what should I do? Any readers attended these in years prior? Or should I shy away from other Festival events and take them to the standard DC sites we always funnel tourists to? If so, what would you suggest?

Frankly, I’m stumped. It’s the first time we’ve had friends visit who could only stay two days; normally, we have practically a week to show them around or point them somewhere – this is a bit harder.

Oh, and even worse? They’re amateur foodies, like us. So figuring out good spots to eat is also on tap – suggestions for lunch would be appreciated, since none of the ladies have my appreciating taste for the curbside vendors and their cuisine. Dinner’s already planned, so fortunately I don’t look like a total incompetant to our jet-setting New York socialites.

So, anyone have some great suggestions to help a guy out?

Tidal Cherries, uploaded by bhrome

Foray Into Foreclosures, Part II

Photo courtesy of PhotoDu.de

Ok, so it’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry on house-hunting. I’d mentioned then we’d be scouring the I-95 corridor…

Well, nix that idea. Every time I think of commuting up that nightmare stretch of road, I get the shakes and want to vomit. Spending nearly a quarter of my day stuck in a metal cocoon (even if it is a SUV) with other hapless souls just sucks a bit more life out of me.

So I put my foot down. We’re gonna pass. Even the allure of half-price housing just doesn’t do it for me. The fuel cost alone would even out the mortgage savings.

That issue settled, we instead spent some time looking along the Fairfax County Parkway corridor (aka “Rt 7100” for you locals who think it’s a speedway).

Yes, yes, we’ll look at DC at some point, it’s on the list (looks at Wayan).

We’ve found nothing but depressing sites (save one corner lot). My question is to these faceless foreclosed souls is a simple one, really. Were you THAT greedy a few years back that you bought well above your means to the point that you had to play landlord for a bit? And did you ever hear about “tenant screening”? Using Craigslist doesn’t count, period. My God, these homes looked so abused and malformed… If they were children, I would’ve sworn we were in a Third World country.

I know that if you are trying to short sale, you think it excuses you from cleaning up the place. It doesn’t. It only makes me want to smack you and dissuades me from even considering your house as a viable purchase to save you from the bank. My sympathy turns from your hard-luck case to the sad state of your former home.

And I don’t have the extra $$$ to spend on cleaning up and re-fixing the house.

Good thing we have time to be picky. I’d hate to be doing this with only a month or two to find something.

What about you? Are you more inclined to consider a place that’s at least clean (or attempted as such)? Or is there something worse that turns you off a potential home sale?

For Sale, courtesy of PhotoDu.de

Best of DC (According to Me)

Anybody who has picked up today’s Washington City Paper has probably seen the ballot for “Best of D.C.: Celebrating the Classics 2008”. They are getting in the game with The Washington Post and The Washingtonian, asking readers to vote on what places, things, and cute bartenders make life in DC special and fun.

This has inspired me to finally launch a new series here that I have been mulling for some time.

Here is how this will work: I will take on the challenge of finding the “best in DC” – one thing at a time. Be it cupcakes, shoe stores, or dj nights, I will solicit recommendations of competitors, do some research, and then go try out those which claim to vie for title of “best”.

In other words – one girl’s highly subjective search to sift through mediocrity and mass-name-recognition (is Potbelly really the best sandwich place in town as it is consistently voted – or just the only one that a majority of the voters have been to?) to bring you what I think are the best bets around.

For this to work, I will need a lot of input from you. I want you to send me on missions that you want to read about. In the comments below, I would love to see suggestions of things you want me to review for you! I also need your suggestions of where to go. Do you think you know about the best beer selection in town? Let me know! Hopefully, other people will have different ideas, and I will try to put them all to the test.

One stipulation: I am not finding out the best fetish club. If you want to know, you will have to wait for the City Paper’s results. (Also, I reserve the right not to be sent on any missions I consider immoral or generally icky. You know.)

Also, we are going to need to think of a name. I thought about calling it “The Decider”, but that seems pretty dated at this point…

photo by erin m on flickr

Win for the "Home" Team!

So Sunday was the highly-anticipated Pens-Caps showdown, at least for my household. We managed to secure some last-minute seats thanks to a timely cancellation and firmly planted our Penguin-bedecked selves squarely in Section 428.

Penguin fan central.

Though our section was admittedly more tame than that of 423-425 – sections we’ve sat in previous times we’ve journeyed to these intense rivalry games – it was still wonderful to behold.

See, Penguin fans since time began – ok, since our continual playoff clashes in the ’90s – have always made it a point to flood the MCI/Verizon Center to support our flightless birds of black-n-gold. Sunday was no exception. The idea of making the rival arena our ‘temporary home’ is always appealing. We’re like a virus, after all. Albeit a black-n-gold one.

Though I will admit, the playoff possibilities have energized Cap fans to actually, you know, show up for these games now. No longer do our “Let’s Go Pens!” chants dominate the arena. Still, from where we sat, it was like being at the Mellon Arena all over again….though decidedly more updated, with a nicer scoreboard and bigger sightlines and…

Ok, fine. I’m jealous. Until the ‘guins get their new arena, that is.

Still, I’ve always loved Pens/Caps games. The energy both sides bring to the game is just phenomenal. And wonderfully respectful. I mean, there are grumpy drunks on both sides of the fence, but at least the attacks on each other remain in the verbal realm. No need for either of us to mimic Philly fans, after all. (No offense, Philly readers. But, well, you know.)

The game was electric. Ovechkin, Semin, Crosby and Malkin were all spectacular. And for it to be decided by Backstrom’s errant shot…well, that’s the breaks in hockey. I was, at least, looking forward to an intense OT period and hopefully, a successful shootout afterwards. Though I can live with the actual outcome, too.

Needless to say, though, I do hope the Capitals can pull it together for the playoffs this year. Their trades at the deadline were magnificent, Ovie’s in top form… Yeah, I can honestly say I’d love to see the Caps get into the second round at least.

Because then they’ll face the Penguins. And oh, what a series THAT will be. So never fear, Cap fans – I’ll be rooting for you for the final three games I have tickets for (Atlanta, Boston, Tampa).

Selfish? Of course! After all, I *am* a Penguins fan.

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