Friday, July 17, 2009


Special issues are my newspaper are a whole lot of work. This week's special issue is the Staycation guide, or things to do in D.C. if you can't afford to go on vacation. Since it's in one big unwieldly link, here are the sections of interest. Or, the interesting parts I wrote.

Cultural Activities

1. See some art. This summer, Saturdays are free at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (, 500 17th St., N.W.), so it’s the perfect time to check out its cool new William Eggleston retrospective. Eggleston, a pioneer in color photography, shot a wide range of American culture, from portraits to every day objects.

2. Hear some jazz. Jazz in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden is one of my favorite D.C. summer activities. Round up some friends, grab a blanket and snacks and head to the garden starting at 5 p.m. It fills up fast, so get there early, and try the delicious sangria you can purchase there. (, National Mall at 7th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.)

3. Catch a play. The Studio Theatre (, 1501 14th St., N.W.) opened Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Fucking A” this week, and it’s a modern, blood-soaked take on “The Scarlet Letter.” The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “King Lear” has been garnering lots of buzz and runs through July 26 (, 610 F St., N.W.). See “ The Color Purple,” starring “American Idol” winner Fantasia, at the Kennedy Center (, 2700 F St., N.W.) through Aug. 9. Also at the Kennedy is the D.C. premiere of musical “Spring Awakening,” through Aug. 2.

4. Make art (more) fun. Lots of people know about Hirshhorn After Hours (the next event is July 24), where you can mix socializing, drinking and art (, Independence Ave. at Seventh St., S.W.). I prefer the laid-back vibe at Phillips After 5, where you can find jazz performances, food, wine and beer tastings, DJs, film screenings and other activities. The event will be held every Thursday in August from 5 to 8:30 p.m. (, 1600 21st St., N.W.)

5. Go behind the scenes. The Folger Shakespeare Library is opening its doors on July 22 and Aug. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. for “Stories from the Folger Vaults.” There will be discussions with staff experts on topics like 16th-century love spells, a chance to see its summer exhibition, “The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vaults” and a dessert reception. Free. (, 201 East Capitol St., S.E.)

6. Head to Wolftrap. There’s something for everyone at Wolftrap, from Puccini’s tragic “La Boheme” to a screening of “Lord of the Rings” with live music accompaniment. The venue, which is a national park, regularly features some of the summer’s best entertainment. (, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Va.)

7. Visit Hong Kong. The Freer Gallery is putting on the 14th annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival this summer with seven films in the line-up. Directors include Johnnie To, Wong Kar-wai and Tsui Hark, and the focus is on current trends in Hong Kong filmmaking. It runs through Aug. 23. (, Jefferson Drive at 12th St., S.W.)

Expand your palate

1. Blue Ridge. This Glover Park spot, which focuses on seasonal, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients from the Mid-Atlantic, features Barton Seaver as executive chef. Look for dishes like rustic pork meat loaf and sweet potato fritters. (2340 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., 202-337-2340)

2. H Street Country Club. The newest spot to open in the hot H Street corridor is the H Street Country Club. The menu, by Ann Cashion, is Mexican cuisine, so think lamb enchiladas and pork rib carnitas. Work off calories after dinner with a round of mini-golf, or play pool, shuffleboard or skeeball. (1335 H St., N.E.,

3. Eatonville. The Zora Neale Hurston-themed restaurant features tasty Southern cooking (hush puppies filled with rock shrimp and leeks, fried catfish and bread pudding), and drinks served in mason jars. Décor is also Southern — murals painted by local artists tell the story of Hurston’s life, and a “front porch” area includes rocking chairs. (2121 14th St., N.W.,

4. Fire and Sage. Fire and Sage is the new restaurant at Marriott Metro Center, and it’s a big step up from the old Regatta Bar. Try the bacon-wrapped oak plank scallops and a delicious “Hot Bag O’Doughnuts” with honey butter and strawberry compote

(775 12th St., N.W.,

5. J&G Steakhouse. The newest kid on the block is the J&G Steakhouse, which opened last week at the W Hotel. It’s the baby of famous chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has opened restaurants all over the world. Dishes include barbecue lamb chops over potato purée with sweet peas and crabcakes with Champagne mangoes and ginger-lime vinaigrette. (515 15th St., N.W., 202-661-2440)

6. Cedars. Look for contemporary American cuisine out of chef Andrew Kitko’s kitchen — the former toque at Redwood is cooking up dishes like wild mushroom-stuffed quail and herb-crusted pork tenderloin. Country meets urban in this downtown spot. (822 E St., N.W.,

7. Zentan. Chef Susur Lee’s pan Asian cuisine is on display at this new spot in the Donovan House Hotel. Dishes include the Singapore slaw, tempura rock shrimp and crispy garlic chicken. Sushi and Asian crudos will be available at the rooftop lounge later this summer. (1155 14th St., N.W.,

Hot summer books

You may not have had a required summer reading list since high school, but these books can provide an escape from the blistering D.C. heat. Some are old, some are new, but all are hot right now.

1. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower. Tower has written an engrossing set of stories in “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.” From a group of Vikings to a man and his aquarium, Tower provides great insight into contemporary culture and injects humor into each of his tales.

2. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. Wallace died last fall and thousands of readers around the world (including me) are taking on “Infinite Jest,” his 1,079-page masterpiece, and sharing thoughts online ( Set in a tennis academy and addicts’ house in Boston, “Infinite Jest” is about many things, including a film so entertaining that viewers can’t do anything besides watch it. The book is a brilliant take on entertainment and the role it plays in our lives.

3. The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Spanish author Zafon wrote “The Shadow of the Wind,” an international bestseller several years ago, and he’s back with “The Angel’s Game.” Set in Barcelona, “The Angel's Game” is about David, a young author who writes thrillers under a pseudonym and lives in a house where the previous owner died under mysterious circumstances. As the novel progresses, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor asking him to write a strange book that seems to have a mysterious connection to his house. “The Angel’s Game” is difficult to put down.

4. The Selected Works Of T. S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen. T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old boy from Montana who maps everything, and the Smithsonian, not realizing how old he is, invites him to speak at an event. Spivet journeys across the country by train and “Selected Works” is about his adventures. Larsen includes stories and maps in the book’s marginalia.

5. Provenance, by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. A non-fiction thriller by a husband-and-wife team, “Provenance” is about John Drewe, who masterminded an elaborate art hoax. He forged letters of authenticity, doctored exhibition catalogs and tricked art experts and museums into accepting paintings supposedly by Matisse and others, but which are really by forger John Myatt.

6. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s classic story of his youth in Paris, “A Moveable Feast” has been updated in this “restored edition.” Hemingway left the work unfinished, and his widow, Mary, had a hand in the first edition in 1964. Many felt it painted Hemingway’s first wives in a bad light, and now Hemingway's grandson Sean brings some of the original text back to what he felt his grandfather would have wanted.

7. Renegade, by Richard Wolffe. Wolffe, an MSNBC analyst, followed Obama on the campaign trail and conducted interviews with Obama during and after the campaign. His book is an insightful look into the man who became President.

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