Archive for March, 2007

Overwood in Alexandria


Originally uploaded by tbridge.

One of my favorite places to take friends when they’re passing through town is the Boulevard Woodgrill. Now, full disclosure, I’m their web guy, and a friend of the management, but I’ve been a regular fixture there for about four years off and on. The food’s great, the prices are really reasonable, and the atmosphere is classy, but separate from the formality of downtown DC. On a nice Spring night, dinner on the sidewalk there is a small slice of heaven. When Managing Partner Ryan Duncan told me that he was opening up a new spot in Old Town Alexandria, I wondered if they could duplicate some of that feeling across town; turns out, they’ve done one better.

Overwood opens today, marking the fourth restaurant in the group, and bringing that stylish feel to Old Town’s antique brick. Overwood’s open interior and exposed brick and wood give the place a warm feeling. It’s not a new restaurant, it’s the same great place you’ve been coming to for years. You feel right at home as soon as you’re in the front door. Their wet bar features an incredible array of draft beers (including new-to-DC Bell’s, as well as old standby Victory’s HopDevil and Allagash White) and a great wine list.

The staff was still getting the kinks out on our visit to their Mock Service last Saturday night, but the kitchen seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, as chef Boubker Errami (formerly of Faccia Luna) produced some absolutely delicious food. I had the center-cut pork chops on potatoes with gingered black beans, and Tiff had a cut-with-a-fork lamb shank with mirepoix. Their new signature dessert, the Elvis Pie, is a big slice of a peanut butter/banana pie that has to be eaten to be believed. I hold no responsibility for any hip-shaking you may feel necessary after eating it, though.

Its location off King St, about two blocks from the Torpedo Factory makes Overwood feels like it’s already a part of the community, meshing well with the cute townhouses and offices that are part of Old Town. It feels like a neighborhood place, something homey and dependable, even though they’re just barely open. Be sure to check out their amazing panini sandwiches at lunch, or their Rockfish or Lamb Shank or Lasagna at dinner.

220 North Lee Street
Alexandria VA

We Got a Bleeder

I gave blood today. Take that, all you body-pierced sex tourists who whine about the Red Cross’s standards.

They say you should eat before donating, so I ate (with a fork of course) a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Turtle Soup. Sorry about the cholesterol, blood recipients.

I went to Georgetown University and found the Village C building. I guess they’re waiting for the right donor to give that building a better name. I went in, signed in and waited. The TV had a soap opera on.

They asked if I wanted to do the machine that only takes red blood cells but returns my platelets and plasma. I said sure. They tested my blood and told me my iron was too low for the machine but was still good enough to do a regular donation. I said sure.

They had me sit at a computer and answer a bunch of yes-or-no questions about sex, medication and disease. Then I was good to go. I was given a free shirt (yes!) and sent to the donation area.

I sat back on one of the bed-chairs and kicked my feet up. I had put on excellent argyle socks since I knew my feet would be on display a while. The attendant wrapped the blood pressure monitor around my arm and was inflating it when a commotion broke out.

Mai Thai is the Shiznit

I had lunch yesterday at Mai Thai at 6 King Street in Alexandria, right by the Torpedo Factory. Honestly, I was a little hesitant at first, knowing that it was nestled in a high-rent area and figuring that I could only get the priciest of meals there. How wrong I was!

For $21 my lunch companion and I each got delicious entrees and shared a dessert. Now, this may not seem like a complete bargain and more like a regular bill for such a meal, but the price was more than right. When you figure in cost per unit deliciousness (the ultimate restaurant bargain determining factor), Mai Thai offered one of the best deals around.

My drunken noodles with tofu was delightful, having a wonderfully intertwined mélange of basil, garlic and some sort of incredible brown sauce I don’t entirely know how to describe but have gotten better at reproducing. All I know is that I was belching up Thai goodness all afternoon and enjoying every minute of it. Although it was not as spicy as I prefer, it did have a little bite and was completely digestible, which was a great trade-off.

The other dish ordered was fried rice with chicken and shrimp, which was reportedly very good. I cannot comment firsthand on this one, as I do not eat meat, even in Thai restaurants. I am sure the shrimpy goodness was a blast of subtle exuberance and the chicken was as delicious as the day it was born. Or something like that. I don’t know how to describe chicken and shrimp anymore.

Our dessert was mango with sticky rice. This simple dessert really takes a deft hand to complete and it’s all in the sauce. Usually the sticky rice is cooked with coconut milk and sugar but at Mai Thai they do something a little different – they pour a coconut milk sauce over the sticky rice, which makes the dish even more interesting to behold. A very slight salt flavour in the sauce helped bring out the sweetness in the mango, making this most delicious of all fruits (with the possible exception of the durian) seem all that much more delicious.

In short, I highly recommend Mai Thai. On top of the incredible food, the servers were all friendly and helpful and made our visit enjoyable. It’s hard to pick a favorite Thai restaurant but Mai Thai is certainly up there.

What’s your favorite Thai place? I want to go try it!

What qualifies as front-page news?

I don’t want to get the reputation here as a Washington Post basher – when I moved here from Miami I was delighted to be somewhere with a paper superior to the one from my home town that I felt was somewhat trashy – but the Post’s page 5 placement of this story on radio system being deployed by the DOJ made me raise my eyebrows.

The story reveals that Justice has spent almost 2/3 of their allocation these past six years for this project to maintain their old system rather than making progress on the new one. DHS is setting out on their own to set up a system because they claim they can’t wait. The new system is currently 15 months behind schedule.

The article only makes passing mention of 9/11 as an issue here with the statement “The need to upgrade and unify emergency law enforcement communications has long been identified by emergency personnel as a major problem, one underscored by the confusion seen in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” More accurately, there’s a strong belief that the state of the NYC radio systems was a major player in the number of deaths – particularly among the fire department – that happened that say.

As a resident of what is arguably the #1 terrorist target city in the nation, I’d like to see this system come together expediently… particularly since the target date – which is apparently already in danger of not being met – isn’t till 2021.

Am I being overly reactionary in thinking this should have been front-page news?

Mike Panetta: Call the Speaker.

Mike Panetta is the DC Shadow Representive (not to be confused with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton) and while I’m not sure adding an amendment is a “rare parliamentary procedure”, it does strike me that his point is fairly clear: Let’s get a vote held on the DC Voting Rights Act!

In specific, Shadow Rep Panetta would like you to call Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer to get them to get working on the DC Voting Rights Act. Specifically:

Can you please take a minute and make two phone calls to help with this effort? I need you to call both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Both have been champions on this issue and we need to thank them for their leadership in this fight. They also need to hear from people that this bill needs to brought back to the House floor this week before the upcoming recess.

Their phone numbers are below:

Speaker Pelosi: (202) 225-0100

Majority Leader Hoyer: (202) 225-3130

Please make the following points on your phone call:

* You are calling in regards to the DC Voting Rights Act
* You are very appreciative of their leadership on this issue
* You are urging the House leadership to bring the bill back to a floor vote this week.

Give ’em a call. It’s time for the District to get some representation. And no, we don’t mean the morons who claim they’re your reps. Better yet, come out to the DC Voting Rights Happy Hour and drink the vote.

Last Chance for “Form Over Function”

Maria Simonsson’s display of fiber vessels called “Form Over Function” will be going off display after April 1st, so this is the last week you can go enjoy the works. The idea of fiber vessels may seem silly at first thought but seeing how real and functional they look, you might never guess that they would not hold water.

By the way, if you are rich enough to purchase such cool art, I recommend not trying to use these. They are beautiful and certainly fit the idea and form of vessels but when introduced to water or other liquids worthy of decanting, I suspect these would prove to be highly absorbent.

The installation, which looks at the form and function of various types of vessels, is on display at The Art League Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria. Gallery hours are 10-5 Monday-Saturday and 12-5 Sunday and the location is 105 N. Union Street in Alexandria.

Arlington Drafthouse – It’s What’s for Dinner. Or not.

I made my maiden voyage to the Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse this weekend and was excited at the prospect of table service during the movie, and even more excited once I saw the menu. Unfortunately, the very swift delivery of my fountain-poured Coke product was the highlight of the dining experience.

I ordered “nachos deluxe,” which could have been a very nice meal of tasty nachos and all the fixings but instead was a small gathering of cheap movie house chips, melted Velveeta and some tiny dabs of sour cream and jalapeños and cheap salsa. It was a mushy mess with no fork to eat it with. Velveeta on my fingers has always been less of a problem than it seems like, but it was messy all the same.

My mother, who was in town for my birthday, had some chicken dish she said she couldn’t even taste (seriously) and my wife had the eggplant parmesan, which she said was somewhere between okay and good.

I had high hopes for this movie house but now am not sure I will return unless it is to simply watch a movie and have a few beers. Usually I give a restaurant two chances before ending the relationship but in this case I think I will break it off early. Three samples at once is good enough for me.

On the other hand, the Drafthouse has wine tastings, $1 movie admissions on Mondays and even monthly bus trips to Virginia wineries. Definitely go check it out but don’t arrive hungry unless you plan on filling up on beer and good movies.

Listening to thieves

I’m sitting in Starbucks – having been chased out of my home, my first choice for a comfortable place to work and drink coffee – and twenty minutes ago I was amazed at how many people come here to conduct business.

Now I am amazed that apparently nobody comes here to conduct legitimate business. Maybe its legit in a legal sense but it’s business I would be ashamed to tell my mom I was in.

Listen, if you’re reading this and you don’t know it already, ALL MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING SYSTEMS ARE SCAMS. They are essentially envelope stuffing systems with more complexity. They are pyramid schemes that manage to stay on the right side of the law through a baloney dodge of having a legitimate product line in parallel with the nonsense that happens on the layer that does the recruiting.

If you’re not sure you understand how these things work well enough to identify them and not fall for them, here’s the simple test: ANY ’employment’ scheme that (a) promises you huge money easy and quick and (2) wants YOU to pay THEM up front is certainly designed to make money… for the people selling that material. You, on the other hand, will be pushed to attend paid seminars or buy materials to “help” you better sell and add people beneath you.

In the case of the scheme I had to listen to (hey thieves – INSIDE voices, dudes, INSIDE voices – your mark is 2 feet from you, those of us across the room don’t need to hear you), recognize that someone who spends ten minutes telling you they “can’t spend forty-five minutes answering your every question” is full of bull. That “Informational Session” they want you to come to is just setting you up to talk to the more experienced closer.

Smithsonian Chief Steps Down

Lawrence Small stepped down from his post atop the Smithsonian Institution today, amid furor over his extravaganceas the Senate had voted this past week to freeze the $17M increase in spending budgeted from Congress. Things were looking pretty rough for Small, and it’s good that he decided to find someone else to pay over $2,500 to have his chandelier cleaned.

I suppose that amount might feel more appropriate if that was a euphemism for something.

Webb Staffer Arrested for Gun at Capitol

One of Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s staffers was arrested today for trying to take a loaded firearm into the Capitol. Relax, relax, it looks like he wasn’t going to go all postal on someone, it looks more likely that the staffer was carrying the Senator’s gun, which was left loaded and inside his personal effects, unbeknownst to the aide. There’s a lot of guessing as to what really happened right now, but overall, it just looks like an embarassing faux pas, not something really important or sinister.

Recommence ignoring the Hill in 5…4…3…

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