Friday, September 29, 2006

me likey post chats, though

When they're not botching captions, the Post does have the best chats in the biz...

Especially when they use my questions :)

Crystal City, VA: Re: The Redskins' trading of draft picks.

The Redskins under Gibbs' first tenure were able to pick up quality players in later rounds or through unsigned free agents. Clint Didier, Dexter Manley, Raleigh McKenzie, Kurt Gouveia - none of those guys were first or second rounders, or even a fourth.

I think that he has retained a bit of that disdain for first rounders - considering Darrell Green and Mark May were about the only ones he used the first time around.

That was before the days of Mel Kiper Jr. and his legion of draftniks and scouts pouring over the college ranks like the Zapruder film.

Draft picks are -MUCH- more valuable now, as scouting has gotten better, and game film is much more available.

This bias will come back to hurt the Redskins. A team made up of second-day guys just won't be able to compete in the 21st Century NFL.

Jason La Canfora: Their philosophy prizes NFL experience more than draft picks. Free agency is their thing.

I'm not the biggest Redskin fan in the world, but how this team can continue to sign big-name free agents and NOT run afoul of the salary cap is beyond me.

Not quite, DCPost...

In Michael Wilbon's piece on NFL quarterback and area native Byron Leftwich, their photo caption staff made a slight mistake...

That ain't Daunte Culpepper, kids.

This is Daunte Culpepper.

Note the Miami Dolphins uniform versus Leftwich's Jacksonville Jaguar's kit? I wouldn't be mad if they made the mistake once - I mean, after all, all black quarterbacks who play for NFL teams in Florida look alike, right? But twice in the same caption - that's awfully sloppy.

Bad call, Post caption crew.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

From DCFUD - Oyamel is No-yamel


I picked the wrong weekend to leave town.

My favorite of Jose' Andres' group of restaurants, Oyamel, has closed in Crystal City. The last night was September 16th. It will reopen in Andale's old space, 401 7th Street NW, sometime in 2007.

Granted, this is old news, and I knew it was coming, but it is still jarring to see the sign in the window explaining the move. My day job is in Crystal City, and I've enjoyed the diversity of restaurants here, from surprisingly good chains like Ted's Montana Grill and Hamburger Hamlet, to interesting family-owned places like Urban Thai, Punjab Kabob, The Portofino and Cafe' Italia. Having two of Chef Andres' finest, Jaleo and Oyamel, on the same block, has been a wonderful bonus. Oyamel's happy hour specials of tacos, especially the chicken and chorizo combo, and fine margaritas made a nice afterwork treat. Jaleo's not bad, but I preferred Oyamel's bolder spicing and flavors.

Many `burbs have lousy food choices, and it's certainly better here in Crystal City than in my former office space in Owings Mills, Maryland. Sam's Club hot dogs vs. Red Robin vs. Hops vs. TGIFridays, maybe a Ruby Tuesday to spice things up - that's just not a winning battle. It made me long for the fictional fare from Chotchkie’s or ShenaniganZ.

It's comforting to know Oyamel will be back and will be a nice alternative downtown to Rosa Mexicano. Plus, Oyamel's space will soon be occupied by a new Roberto Donna project, a casual Italian place dubbed Bebo Trattoria.

This must be how parents rationalize when their child marries - I'm not losing an Jose', but gaining a Roberto.

Rollercoaster...of Chili. Say What?


Ohio is home to several large rollercoaster-based theme parks, including Cedar Point in Sandusky and King's Island near Cincinnati. Taking an early fall mini-vacation, I headed out to the land of large rollercoasters and WKRP. My main goal was to ride the legendary wood coaster The Beast, and his "offspring," the fearsome, looping Son of Beast. Sadly, the son is being grounded for hurting some passengers earlier this year, so I had to settle for the old man, and trust me, he's no joke. Wilder than any ride around here, including Ride of Steel, the Grizzly, Volcano or Apollo's Chariot, but not quite as crazy as 395 at 6:30pm. However, the theme park is full of places to get chili, which didn't strike me as the usual fare. Chili + rollercoasters + overstimulated sugar-filled kids = a strange color of sick.

Cincinnati-style chili is a relatively mild mix of meat, tomatoes and chilies, but, rather than going for heat or spice, they make it sweeter by adding cinnamon to the mix. Usually served over a plate of pasta with cheese (3-way), onions (4-way) and beans (5-way), or on a small hot dog with similar toppings called a Coney, Cincinnati chili is very smooth and easy-to-eat, pretty much perfect for kids and not too rough on the ole' G.I. tract. This chili is not going to be used for some Herculean eating contest, where consumption of the brew comes with a waiver and a medical warning.

The Queen City has chili joints like we've got Starbucks, tapas and Peruvian chicken takeouts. There's at least one at every interstate exit, usually next to the Steak 'n Shake or the massive grocery stores out there, like Biggs or Meijers. You'll see two major chili chains, Skyline and Gold Star, with shops throughout southwestern Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, along with a smaller Kentucky-centric chain, Dixie. You'll find canned and frozen versions of all three shops' wares at the massive grocery stores, and rumor has it that a couple of local grocers here carry them from time-to-time.

If you like a meatier chili, you'll like Gold Star a bit better. The meat seemed a bit heartier and substantial. Skyline has a good seasoning, and though the recipe is secret, I thought I could taste some bay leaf and allspice in their mix. Dixie is a good mix of the two, though I'll confess I couldn't eat their offering fresh from the store, as two 3-ways and two Coneys from both Skyline and Gold Star had me craving anything BUT chili by that point.

If you want to try this version of chili, you can mail order some from any of the store's websites, or swing by any of the Hard Times around here, where they also offer spicier chilis, like the tasty Terlingua Red as well as Cincinnati style.

Oyamel has Oyaclosed. Oi vay!

my favorite restaurant in Crystal City, Oyamel, has closed up shop. They're moving downtown to Penn Quarter, and will reopen in `07.


Monday, September 11, 2006

from DCFUD - Tooth Decay in Del Ray, Part One


Not to get all Andy Rooney on you, but, didja ever notice how some neighborhoods seem hell-bent on making you fatter? The Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria is one of those enclaves where the chocolate drowns and the sweets chase your blues away. This place is so devoted to making you chubby, I have to make this a two-part series.

You can start your own personal Tour Du Pudge at The Dairy Godmother, formerly known as the Del Ray Dreamery or That Custard Place in Del Ray. Though the name has changed, the incredibly high-quality goodies have not. This charming place offers all sorts of frozen and baked snacks, such as a variety of sorbets, cookies and turnovers, though the star of the show is the handmade frozen custard, a thicker, though not-really-more-fattening form of ice cream. Owned by Wisconsin native Liz Davis, The Dairy Godmother offers both chocolate and vanilla custards, plus a flavor of the day. Her imagination with custard is boundless, and you're likely to find her cranking out a traditional Mint Chocolate Chip as you are to try a Lemon/Blueberry mix or the exotic flavors of India in her cardamom and almond Khulfi. Fortunately, she keeps the shop's website flavor-of-the-day calendar updated, though I'd like to see her expand that to include her delicious sorbets. Also, treat you dogs to frozen Puppy Pops or dog treats shaped like squirrels.

St. Elmo's is celebrating their 10th anniversary, and the lively crowd of locals, shoppers scouring Mt. Vernon Avenue, and a varying array of local musicians give this place a fun, tangible energy. While folks who are content to be buried in the throes of the Sunday Post and iPods are certainly welcome, it's a great place to learn the scoop on local restaurants, real estate, politicians, etc... In many ways, this might as well be the Del Ray community hall, the subject of a fine, albeit over-caffeinated, Norman Rockwell painting. St. Elmo's has a fine selection of coffees and teas, large muffins, sandwiches and small snacks. Their White Chocolate Mocha uses their own brew mixed with Ghiradelli's white chocolate, and should come with a warning label not to handle explosives or large machinery afterwards.

The sign said "Chocolate Covered Peaches," and pointed down the street to a new chocolate-centric sweetery. Artfully Chocolate is the new kid on the block, and makes a strong case for devastating your diet, artfully. Open for just a little over a month, the shop is located around the corner from The Dairy Godmother and St. Elmo's, and features a wide assortment of novelties, fudge, truffles and licorices. The fudge is richer than a Saudi oil baron, and the trays of chocolate-dipped cookies are enough to make Dr. Atkins roll over in his protein-rich grave.

The bold tile mosaics, acrylics on mylar, and 3-D pieces at Artfully Chocolate are the works of owner Eric Nelson. It's not just a chocolate store, but an art gallery with caramel. While I'm not qualified to be an art critic, his tile-and-mesh mosaic of Marylin Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" mixes skill and whimsy. In an eclectic, artsy neighborhood, Artfully Chocolate stands out as being even more artsy and eclectic.

If Del Ray hasn't thrown you into a sugar coma yet, walk another block down on Mt. Vernon and visit The Sundae Times. This is a good old-fashioned ice cream stand, and the banana splits are the size of a small whaling vessel. While the flavors aren't as exotic as The Dairy Godmother's, its traditional ice creams made by Gifford's of Montgomery County are wonderful, and the wider variety of flavors are handy, especially on those occasions where TGM's FoTD is not your bag, baby.

Coming up in Part Two, a look at the Cheesetique, Caboose Bakery and Cafe, Fireflies and others...