ARTECHOUSE image by Hasnain Bhatti
As we approach the one year anniversary of that fateful day of November 9, 2016, it bears repeating that the post-election hysteria had people threatening to avoid at all costs a D.C. that had a White House occupied by…you-know-who. But seriously, it’s still our capital, kids – and these days a significantly more interesting one at that.
At the first sign of autumn, we rode the (Amtrak) rails down to the majestic Union Station, only to find it was actually still pretty balmy in D.C. – perhaps due to all the hot air being produced in the halls of Congress. But the city has plenty to be excited about: an awesome new concert venue, Anthem, from the 9:30 Club people (upcoming shows include St. Vincent, Morrissey and Erykah Badu); a fascinating new subterranean cultural space, Dupont Underground, in an abandoned trolley station near Dupont Circle; and, what we were especially excited for, the reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler gallery of Asian art.
For three days took in as much food and culture as the physics of time would allow. Here’s what we did.
The name says it: this playfully stylish hotel sits majestically amidst all those grandiose international embassies – though it aesthetically roundly rejects the stuffy pomp of some of the city’s more trad sleeps. Indeed, there’s an adult game room (challenge a politically ideological foe to some fierce foosball or ping pong), a grab-and-go coffee bar, the casual chic Station Kitchen + Cocktails, and easily the city’s grooviest rooftop bar scene, complete with poolside partying. (And yoga/meditation programs for speedy morning recovery.) Rooms have regal blue-and-yellow color schemes and dazzling skyline views. The hotel also hosts silent disco in the bar (full disclosure: as longtime clubbers, we admit to finding this concept a bit awkward), and it was packed out on a recent Saturday night.
It makes sense that technology has enough cultural frisson to now warrant its own dedicated galleries. And the whimsically cool ARTECHOUSE hosts exhibitions that tend to be quite visually striking – but perhaps also remind that tech maybe isn’t quite the same as dada, Abstract Expressionism and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Opening November 10 is Kingdom of Colors, an immersive experience conceived by French filmmaker Thomas Blanchard and artist Oilhack, with a soundtrack by composer Leonardo Villiger.
As America’s relationship to Asia grows more complex by the hour (including threats of, erm, nuclear conflict), it’s surely advisable to brush up on that continent’s glittering history at the Smithsonian’s newly relaunched and most buzzed about gallery. But seriously, don’t come here with your thinking cap on too tightly – rather, bask in the sheer aesthetic majesty of centuries of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Himalayan and Islamic art and artifacts. Current exhibitions include Encountering the Buddha: Art + Practice Across Asia, and a little less seriously, Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. Don’t miss the Peacock Room.
This is one of those sorts of museums we’re particularly fond of, as it’s like visiting the stately home of an exceedingly cultivated art collector friend (one who happens to own Rothkos, de Koonings and van Goghs). The current exhibition, Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, contextualizes the proto-Impressionist’s most exalted painting in terms of the art, society and fashion of its times.
We’re not sure if the name is intended to provoke – but the programming certainly does. This radical little community arts center in a now wildly reimagined 1886 Baptist church hosts perception-challenging performances and exhibitions, including the recent female-focused Superfierce. Check the schedule for the latest happenings.
Okay, everyone’s got a farmer’s market now. But the Wall Street Journal actually named this one of the best in the country. (And that includes places where there are actual farms, obviously.) It’s also just half a block from the Embassy Row Hotel – so you can stock up on farmstead cheeses, gluten-free pastries, perhaps even a few seafood empanadas, and have a brunch bash back at the hotel’s lobby or game room.
The Embassy Row’s trendy-fun lobby bar and restaurant does a daily special served in a bowl designed by students from the Corcoran School of Art & Design – and a portion of the price is donated to So Others Might Eat. The positive side of global warming? You’ll likely still be able to dine on the hotel’s colorful terrace (with an impressive view of the Indonesian embassy) until at least Christmas.
We’ve never even attempted to hide our Belgophilia – so this hip Belgian eatery was surely one of our favorite discoveries. And since Brussels is the EU capital, you might just find yourself rubbing shoulders with a visiting Eurocrat or two here. Brunch is a scene for mussels, Green Eggs Belga and, of course, Broodje met Gegrilde Zalm (that’s a roasted salmon sandwich, for those of you who never bothered to learn Flemish). The signature creation is called a Doffle (think: waffle-ized Cronut), which is so decadent it could spark a revolution.
This is different. It’s got the Yosemite Sam name (“Sufferin’…”), and serves down home, though somewhat culinarily elevated Southern cooking from chef Edward Lee…but in the breathtakingly grandiose setting of the landmarked former Equitable Bank – which actually looks sort of like the once home of a baroque-era Austrian nobleman (book a table on the mezzanine for full-effect). The deviled eggs are killer, and the chicken & waffles and fried green tomatoes with cornbread are elegantly presented and every bit as good as they sound. Succotash is also nirvana for whisky aficionados.
Image by Clarence Butts