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HERImpact Helps Women Entrepreneurs Crack Glass Ceiling

DC Startup Week 2019 revealed a different side of the District. Though it could be argued that a once promising startup culture bubbled and fizzed in DC over the past ten years, it appears our capital city has not abandoned innovation after all. Last week, it was on full display. Instead of playing host to pundits and politicos, venues from across the city turned into networking hubs for up and coming idea men – and women. 

On Wednesday, September 11, 10 female finalists, selected from more than 170 applicants in the HERImpact DC Pitch Competition, took to the stage at Eaton DC to make their case for support in five minutes or less. HERImpact, a joint initiative between the Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures, focuses on a special subset of women-owned and run business ventures, driven by a mission to do social good. 

“We believe that investments in women have a multiplying effect. When you invest in a woman’s future, the benefits of that investment extend beyond her, to her children, family and community around her. Through HERImpact we are helping women social entrepreneurs use business for good so that they can change the world,” says Yisel Cabrera, Ford Motor Company Fund Community Relations Manager. 

Together with 1863 Ventures, Cabrera and the team at Ford reviewed applications for the pitch competition, narrowing the field to five “early stage” and five “growth stage” enterprises that seek to solve real community problems, have sustainable business models and focus on products or services people will pay for – all of whom were invited to make their sale during startup week.

The event space at Eaton DC was overflowing with audience members representing a range of interests  potential investors, supporters and fellow entrepreneur hopefuls taking notes and cheering on the finalists. Among the diverse set of ventures were financial education services for youth, healthy food access opportunities and a digital community organizing app. However, three winners struck the judges and the audience as above the rest. Growth-stage entrant Stephanie Cummings, founder of Please Assist Me, received the First Place award of $25,000, with her company that enables customers to achieve a work-life balance needed for a successful career. 

“The competition really validated the number of people that were overwhelmed by household management,” Cummings says. “I was overwhelmed by the number of people of all genders and ages who approached me after the competition to let me know how my story resonated with them. It further ignited my passion to continue to grow Please Assist Me to bring work-life balance to everyone.”

Dafero’s founder Lina Zdruli says that her $20,000 Second Place award is groundbreaking for her business. 

We now have the exact funds needed to buy the equipment and materials to ensure we can launch our new product before the start of the holiday season, which is when we take in about 65 percent of our yearly sales,” Zdruli says, whose company is grounded in providing no-sugar (but plenty of flavor!) dessert options.

And without a doubt, LaQuida Chancey (an early-stage participant) earned her $5,000 Audience Choice award. Her pitch for Smalltimore Homes was an energetic, inspiring appeal to help end homelessness.

“I learned the significance of and how to articulate my unique value proposition,” Chancey says. “Today in business, any entity should be able to clearly state their benefit, how they are solving needs of their target audience and what distinguishes them apart from everyone else.”

Women have been banging on the glass ceiling of business for a while now, and the cracks are starting to show. Thanks to programs like the HERImpact Pitch Competition, opportunities for female entrepreneurs are a little less out of reach and, unsurprisingly, the women seizing those opportunities are doing so while lifting others up along the way. 

To learn more about the HERImpact DC Pitch Competition and the winners from the event, click here.

Photo: John Gervasi

Five Reasons You Should End Your Summer with DC Polo Society

This article first appeared on the #FrayLife section of dcfray.com.

Sadly, our summer days have slowly come to an end. But, are you still looking for a way to enjoy your final days of nice weather in the #district? Look no further than heading out to a polo match at DC Polo Society.

Read on for five reasons why you should check Polo out before the 2019 season is gone forever!

1. It’s an excuse to get outside and have a picnic with your friends. 

We all see those aesthetic Instagram’s people post with a nice bottle of wine and the cheese plates and picnic blankets. You can be one of those people now! Throw together your favorite snacks and your favorite beverages with a blanket and you too will have yourself an #insta worthy picnic to share.

2. You can watch and enjoy a new sport!

They say you’re never too old to learn something new (or something like that), and this is your chance, Polo isn’t just the response to Marco (see what we did there). There are so many layers to this game, more than polo shirts and white pants.

3. You can get out of the chaos of the city.

The constant hectic day to day of the city can wear you down, take a short drive out to the countryside to take a breather, and breathe in air that isn’t take over by smog or very tall buildings that take away from your enjoyment of the outdoors.

4. You can even take lessons at the club.

Do you ever see someone riding a horse and wish that you could be able to do the same? Well now is your chance, the club also allows for lessons, as long as you bring a helmet and a pair of boots they will provide everything else (even the horse!). As there is always a club pro on-site you will be able to learn from the best and immerse yourself in all that is horseback riding and polo!

 

Photo: John Gervasi

5. It’s a great way to make new friends!

If you’re new to the city you have probably come to the realization that it is extremely difficult to meet people ~socially~, in a place where everyone is on the go or working all the time there is hardly any time. Spending your whole day at a polo match, you will be able to network and socialize and make new friends!

Don’t miss out on the last Polo Sunday Funday of the year. Grab your friends and get tickets here before it’s too late!

Congressional Polo Club: 14660 Hughes Rd. Poolesville, MD; 844-260-4827; www.dcpolo.com

Nell Gwynn at Folger Theatre // Photo: Teresa Castracane

A Day In The Life With Regina Aquino

When Regina Aquino’s name was announced as the winner of the 2019 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play, the Filipino American actor was sure to pay tribute to her family in her acceptance speech. But she also made note of how big an honor it was to win during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and said she was “proud to be from DC.”

“It was such a huge thing for me,” she says. “I’m from the DC area and to be recognized by my peers for a show that was very, very important to me was humbling. I was deeply honored. It meant so much.”

For her award-winning role in Theater Alliance’s The Events last fall, Aquino played Claire – the only survivor of a mass shooting, haunted by thoughts of the shooter and searching for the peace she needs.

“We worked so hard on that show. To do a show about gun violence in this world we live in was very important to all of us in the room. I was honored that my community saw the work and thought it was noteworthy.”

The mother of two, whose repertoire includes productions at Folger Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Studio Theatre and Olney Theatre Center, chatted with us about her beginnings in theatre, the importance of breaking stereotypes in her roles, and her upcoming productions this winter with Mosaic Theater Company and Folger Theatre.

On Tap: What made you want to pursue acting as a career?
Regina Aquino: I’ve always been a performer. I think I was 4 years old when I decided I was going to act or sing – or do both. I did my first play in second grade and it was always a given. That’s what my personality and my dreams have always been. My mother was very supportive of it from a young age. She put me in a lot of theatre camps, and I went to Duke Ellington and studied theatre in high school.

OT: You work a great deal in the DC area and are known for being a great champion of the local theatre community. You even talked about it a bit in your 2019 acceptance speech. Why is it important for you to act in DC?
RA: Being from this area, I don’t go to New York unless they call me. It’s not my aspiration to be there. It’s my goal to stay in DC and do good theatre here. I love the sense of community here. It’s impossible to not know everyone. Everyone supports each other’s work and we all go to see each other’s shows. I love DC because there are so many theaters that push really subversive and challenging work, and there’s an audience base that looks for that. Plus, it’s an area where you can be a performing artist and have a family.


Work Must-Haves
Headphones to listen to playlists
Journal with thoughts + reflections
of my shows
Altar with photos of my grandparents + kids
Waterproof liquid eyeliner
Time in the theater space alone


OT: What do you look for in a role?
RA: I have to align with the art that I make – socially, politically and emotionally. I am very conscious of the type of roles I audition for, and choose what I am offered based on how my ethnicity informs that [and] how being a woman informs that. I won’t participate in things that promulgate stereotypes. I will never play a maid again unless the point of the play is to make a comment about that particular role being given to an Asian American. I have to believe in the work and the people producing it and what their goals are. I’m very conscious [of] not participating in tokenism. I have to know everyone has the best intentions.

OT: What have you been working on lately?
RA: I just finished a production called Tiger Style [at Olney Theatre] about a Chinese-American family who is trying to find their place in the world. They are frustrated with how race identifies them within this country, so they go back to China and try to find themselves there and realize they don’t really fit in there either. It’s a coming-of-age identity play about the Asian-American experience of being second- or third-generation instead of immigrants, which is something I don’t get to see very frequently.


Can’t Live Without
Music
Downtime with my family
Lattes
A diamond necklace with the letter “R” on it
Rice


OT: Any upcoming productions that DC audiences can see you in?
RA: I’m going to be working on Eureka Day, a play about anti-vaxxers in the Pacific Northwest, which should be super interesting and exciting. Then, I’ll be doing The Merry Wives of Windsor back at Folger. I haven’t done Shakespeare in 15 years, so I’m excited to be doing that – excited and scared.

OT: Have you made it a conscious choice to not do Shakespeare?
RA: No. It’s funny because when I was in school, my teachers always said I would make a career in classical theatre because my ethnicity wouldn’t matter, which is really an offensive thing to say. But it just isn’t true. I think the idea of diversity in classical theatre has only recently been pushed. I’m usually called in for new plays where my ethnicity is either dictated or I’m working with a theatre company where American does not default as white. I haven’t spoken in iambic pentameter in forever, so we’ll see if I remember how to do it.

Follow Aquino on Twitter @avereginaaquino. Don’t miss her in Mosaic Theater’s Eureka Day at Atlas Performing Arts Center from December 4 to January 5 and in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Folger Theatre from January 14 to March 1.

Learn more at www.mosaictheater.org and www.folger.edu.

John Thompson III, Sashi Brown, Tommy Sheppard, Ted Leonsis, Daniel Medina of Monumental Basketball // Photo Ned Dishman NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards’ Front Office Flips Page With New GM Tommy Sheppard

As the Washington Wizards embark on a new season, all eyes are on newly minted general manager Tommy Sheppard, who assumed his role this summer, and how he’ll guide the team in a period of rebuilding. Yes, that delightful word every sports fan – especially those in DC – loves to hear. Sheppard took time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the upcoming season and how he may be the leader the Wizards have been waiting for.

On Tap: How are you feeling about the upcoming season?
Tommy Sheppard: We are really excited. Everything we did from April on has built up to this moment in time as we get ready for training camp. We’ve had some pretty amazing turnaround in a short amount of time in terms of how many new players and new staff [have been added to the roster]. I think the best days are certainly ahead.

OT: You worked with former GM Ernie Grunfeld for many years. What did you learn philosophically from him that you will take with you into your new role?
TS: No matter what, you need the very best talent. Talent is the biggest, most important commodity in the NBA. I think there are so many ways to acquire talent. I put a high premium on character. Data-driven ways of scouting and the way we evaluate plays now is a little different. We worked together a long time and I have the most respect for [Grunfeld], but we are different people with different approaches. My challenge now is to execute a vision we are looking at collectively and not just, “Hey, this is how I want everything to look.” It is critical to everyone working with us that they feel like they have a piece of this, and that’s part of the new NBA as well.

OT: Does the team anticipate John Wall playing this season at any time?
TS: We’ve made a huge investment in John. This isn’t about this season. It’s about the rest of his career. Our performance staff has so much fire power and wisdom that they can truly test when someone is 100 percent, and John’s resume speaks for itself. He’s played through so many injuries in his career. But we have to be more thoughtful with load management and stress on players. We’re not going to rush anyone back, and certainly not John. You can’t fix your mind on a date. So, when he’s 100 percent healthy – not a month or a day [sooner].

OT: How do you envision using the G League as a place to develop players?
TS: We used it last year and were tremendously successful. We promoted our head coach of the G League [Jarell Christian], who is now an assistant with the Wizards. Thomas Bryant spent time there, and Troy Brown played there and got valuable game exposure and finished the [season] as a starter. The last roster spots will always change, and we are going to rotate a lot of players through to see what they can do. We don’t want to take away from the core of the Wizards. That’s the biggest piece: developing players under contract.

OT: Is your main focus this season on a playoff run or are you more focused on player development?
TS: This year, because we have brand new coaches and new players, it’s about getting everyone on a foundation and setting a routine. Playoffs to me is the big picture. You want to build something sustainable. We have to have wisdom to be patient and prudent with the money we spend so we’ll have more money in off years. This summer would have been easy to sign [Tomas] Satoransky, [Jabari] Parker and [Trevor] Ariza, but that’s propping up a team that didn’t make the playoffs. Those are good players and we will miss them, but logic told me they are signing one- or two-year deals – kind of like moving from one dilapidated house to another. Sooner or later, you have to bring it down to bring it back up, and I think we’ve done that.

OT: When you do have free time, what do you like to do around DC?
TS: I’m a museum junkie. I love the African American History [and Culture] Museum and the Air and Space Museum. I’m a big fan of SpaceX and what [Elon] Musk is doing, so I try to go back and figure out that history that led to this and what they are trying to create. I’ve got a big family and we live near Annapolis and have horses, so we love to be outdoors. And as far as restaurants go, Chloe down at the Navy Yard is one of my favorites.

 The Wizards’ preseason starts on Monday, October 7 at 7 p.m. with a home game against the New York Knicks. Learn more about the season at www.nba.com/wizards and follow the team on Twitter

202Creates Helps District Connect Arts Community

Three years ago, a month became a movement for the DC creative community.

“There were so many things coming to the forefront of the creative community,” says Angie Gates, director of the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME). “It started out with the intent to highlight our diverse and vibrant community. The original [idea] was to have the month of September be the main focus of highlighting our creatives. What we quickly realized after year one was: we can’t stop.”

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser established 202Creates in September 2016 to celebrate the city’s creative economy and culture, with input from the DC’s OCTFME, Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Office of Planning and Economic Development. What began as a designated month of events has since transformed into a relationship between the local government and its luminaries including fellowships, studio space and networking opportunities.

“To know that the mayor and the community are behind the creatives speaks to the climate of where we are and [the community’s] understanding of the arts in the District,” says local musician James Poet of indie group FutureBandDC. “There’s such a melting pot of creatives in the area. There’s so many visual artists and filmmakers and [musicians]. They’re part of the pulse of the community. It makes sense for the city to come in and make sure we have a voice and platform.”

Though the idea rapidly outgrew 30 days, September still holds significance for 202Creates. This year’s kickoff event on August 29 at Eaton DC will promote art installations, musical performances, dance activations and more. Other festivities included in the celebration are Art All Night on September 14, the DC Radio Anniversary event on September 19, and the 202Creates Month closeout event on September 28 featuring Poet and his band.

“I think 202Creates is a staple in DC,” Poet continues. “It’s the go-to for creatives in providing a platform for us to elevate our talents. They’ve created this platform to support the creativity community in all its functions, and we definitely wanted to make sure we support this initiative.”

The 202Creates community has grown because of the city’s willingness to increase support and provide a foundation for people looking to get their foot in the proverbial creative door, Gates says, mentioning the OCTFME television and radio stations.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Gates says. “I fondly refer to DC as the capital of creativity. Not only have [we] had an impact here in the District, but nationally people are [recognizing] what we’re doing here.”

And this form of support isn’t limited to people in the entertainment industry or people who deal in traditional mediums like photography or painting, as the city also considers practices like cosmetology and cooking to be artistic expressions that fall under 202Creates’ purview.

“It wasn’t so much about the government as much as this is how the government can help you find a creative pathway to the middle class,” Gates says. “What it really does is highlight the different resources and platforms that we have as a government that we can provide our creatives. It’s really about the creatives having a seat at the table and showcasing the talents of the city.”

Three years in, she says there are still people just learning about 202Creates and its programs, whether it be artists-in-residence or the coworking office on 200 I St. Through installations and social media, the movement has touched all eight wards of the District, unearthing and shepherding talent in a supportive manner.

“I think it would be a travesty if we didn’t grow each year,” she says. “When you have other artists and other things to spark your creativity around you, you start to expand and grow and develop. That’s the beauty of it all: to look at where we were in 2016 and where we are today.”

So how can locals gain access to these resources? Gates says it’s as easy as sending an email via www.202creates.com, but she’s also fielded pitches in person and over Instagram.

“We’re asking everyone to just come out and meet us,” she continues. “We have an open-door policy at our studios. The goal is to make sure our creatives can work closely with us. The main thing is to get engaged once you’re here and familiar with it.”

For a list of participating 202Creates Month events or for information on the initiative, visit the website at www.202creates.com or www.entertainment.dc.gov. Follow along with the community on Instagram @202Creates.

Photo: courtesy of Via Sophia

New and Notable: Casta’s Rum Bar, Oak Steakhouse, Piccolina and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Casta’s Rum Bar
Open: August 2
Location: West End
Lowdown: This colorful Cuban oasis is the result of a collaboration between the mayor-appointed Chairman of Nightlife and Culture, Vinoda Basnayake (who is also behind Heist Night Club and Morris American Bar) and the Cuban owner of Castañeda Cigars, Arian Castañeda. The indoor dining area and bar hides underground, but is full of life thanks to plenty of greenery, weathered walls and murals of the streets of Havana. Outside, the patio is infinitely Instagrammable, with lots more wall art and plants, dangling string lights and leaf tropical print upholstery. Chef Alberto Vega’s menu is made up of Cuban classics like a Cuban sandwich, empanadas, croquetas and ceviche Caribeño with citrus, mango, pineapple, cucumber and plantain chips. Cocktails are mainly rum-based and they don’t skimp on the rum. Choose from a simple mojito or a playful frozen Sexo Tropical with cognac, rum, coconut Red Bull and watermelon. For the full Cuban experience, pair your meal or drink with a cigar in the designated area of the patio. 1121 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.castasrumbar.com

Oak Steakhouse
Open: July 12
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Oak Steakhouse from Charleston-based restaurant group Indigo Road Hospitality has sprouted up in Alexandria. It’s the group’s second outpost in the area – the first being O-Ku Sushi restaurant in the Union Market neighborhood. Executive chef Joseph Conrad helms the newest location of Oak, highlighting Virginia ingredients with modern flair. The rustic reclaimed wood and exposed brick dining room gives way to a pewter tile open kitchen, where steaks and chops are the centerpiece. The options range from a modest 8-oz. Certified Angus Beef filet to a massive 36-oz., 60-day, dry-aged prime porterhouse for two. All the cuts can be enhanced with sauces and butters like the house steak sauce or black truffle butter, as well as accompaniments like a grilled half lobster tail or bone marrow. As if that wasn’t enough, there are decadent sides like baked and fried potatoes and crispy Brussels sprouts.  Don’t forget to start with appetizers like parker house rolls with cultured butter or creamy oysters Rockefeller. For dessert, opt for the peanut butter semifreddo, which mimics the flavors of a caramel apple, with caramel sauce, peanuts and Granny Smith chunks. 901 North Saint Asaph St. Alexandria, VA; www.oakalexandria.com

Piccolina
Open: July 29
Location: CityCenter
Lowdown: Chef Amy Brandwein’s restaurant family has grown by one with the addition of Piccolina, or “little one.” Her second restaurant complements the first, as an all-day café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s right across the alley from Centrolina restaurant and market, in the former RareSweets space, which was given an Italian makeover with brushed wood, hammered copper countertops, colorful and comfortable seating and a wood-fired oven. Much of the menu comes from that oven, including 10 rotating varieties of freshly baked breads and sandwiches, crepes and omelets cooked in custom long-handled iron pans and roasted fruits and vegetables like grapefruit and broccoli rabe. In addition, Piccolina is now home to several of the market offerings formerly at Centrolina, like pastries, coffee and prepared items like chicken salad, caponata and the beloved eggplant Parm. Rotating Italian varietals of wine as well as spritzes and house-made sodas pair well with the selections. Brandwein took significant time to prepare for the opening of Piccolina – she took a research and development trip to Sicily to perfect one of the featured wood-fired menu items, a stuffed flatbread called scacce. She also attended the San Francisco Baking Institute to learn the craft of bread baking. The menu will change with the seasons, as ingredients are available from the nonprofit farm DC Urban Greens. 963 Palmer Alley, NW, DC; www.piccolinadc.com

Via Sophia
Open: June 12
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: As part of the Hamilton Hotel’s multi-million dollar renovation, the property is now home to Via Sophia, a southern Italian osteria. The restaurant is headed up by executive chef Colin Clark, who served as the chef de cuisine at Fiola Mare. Sleek and bright, the space lined is with black and white quartz, illuminated by geometric fixtures and dotted with antique pizza paraphernalia. On the menu, Neapolitan pizza is a focus, kissed by the flames of the oak-burning oven handmade in Italy. Antipasti, crudo, pasta and hearty entrees like monkfish ossobucco round out the offerings. The beverage program skews heavily toward Italian wines, with local craft beers and spirits available as well. For an aperitif or a nightcap, head around the corner to the micro cocktail bar, situated off the lobby and hidden by day. Society is revealed at happy hour, when the 1920s art deco-inspired bar and lounge opens to the public. With dim lighting, dark leather, diamond glass chandeliers and curious artifacts, the space is reminiscent of the alleged interior of Yale’s Skull and Bones Society’s meeting hall. The succinct menu includes craft libations like the Triumvirate with whiskey, walnut liqueurs, dry vermouth and house bitters. 1001 14th St. NW, DC; www.viasophiadc.com

NOTABLE

Hook Hall
Location: Park View
Lowdown: DC’s coolest new event space has taken shape in a 13,500-square-foot 1940s building, with modern touches that don’t erase the antique character. On the walls, dark black bricks – actual cinderblocks – peek through industrial fixtures and a 15-foot projector screen. The café and tavern takes after its namesake, Captain Hook: Hook Hall is a place where no one will tell you to grow up. Dog- and kid-friendly, the space is filled with lawn games, communal tables and cabanas on the outdoor synthetic lawn. During the day, the café offers Vigilante coffee and food from Bread and Chocolate. In the evening, it turns into a bar and beer garden with cocktails, beer, wine and food from rotating local vendors like Rocklands, Smoke and Ember and Sunrise Caribbean. (After 9pm, it’s 21+.) The venue is regularly open to the public and also available for private bookings. Owner Anna Valero also plans to offer events like beer and wine festivals, edutainment courses, screenings of sporting events (including international soccer), workout classes and more. 3400 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.hookhall.com

Odd Provisions at Dio Wine Bar
Location: H Street
Lowdown: Pioneering natural wine bar, Dio, has partnered with a fellow woman-owned business to revamp their food offerings. [email protected] began this summer and is here to stay, featuring the food by Odd Provisions, a contemporary corner market in Columbia Heights. The new menu was designed with wine in mind – think cheese and charcuterie pairings, snacks like chicken liver mousse, hummus and pickles, as well as seasonal salads and sandwiches like the spicy salami with herb pesto, Gordy’s cherry pepper spread, fennel confit and pecorino. The partnership also means you can place special orders to buy Dio wines through Odd Provisions. 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Photo: Raisa Aziz

Big Flavors, Baller Bubbles At Zeppelin

While frosé floods the District in warm weather months, the creative minds behind Zeppelin encourage discerning drinkers to sip on something a little bit more progressive this fall. From the brothers behind the extensive cocktail list at Chaplin’s in Logan Circle, Micah and Ari Wilder crafted Zeppelin’s short but heavy-hitting cocktail list with one goal: be approachably esoteric.

“We steer clear of trendy,” Micah says bluntly. “Whatever’s in, we try not to capitalize [on it].”

Their approach at the Shaw newcomer, which opened this spring, is to draw inspiration from experiencing taste and travel. From architectural aesthetics to discovery of an unusual and savory ingredient, the Wilder brothers pride themselves on not acting on things they see everyone else doing.

“[Ideas] don’t just come from our dining experiences,” Ari adds. “It’s not always from other restaurants and cocktail bars. A lot of it is a blank canvas with very little influence from other people and places. That’s what’s always been great about us working together. We can bounce ideas off each other and one thought turns into a whole new direction.”

A large portion of the cocktail list at Zeppelin is dedicated to the highball, a tried and true cocktail that requires only a few basic ingredients: ice, a base spirit and soda water. At Zeppelin, the base spirit varies between whisky, bourbon, gin or vodka. The common denominator? They’re all Japanese and hard to find elsewhere in the city.

While most highballs are meant to be slow-sipping, many fall flat as the soda bubbles dissipate. To create the perfect cocktail, the Wilder brothers asked themselves how they could ensure a drink for sipping and savoring throughout the meal.

“We love champagne,” Ari says. “We enjoy playing with bubbles.”

Enter the Toki highball machine, a device that is able to procure champagne-like effervescence by running water through a coil system that creates small, continuous bubbles. The bubbles pass through a baking soda tablet and finish as a stream. The water pours out slower than a soda dispenser, but the result is long-lasting bubbles.

“It’s like what you see what you’re looking at the bottom of a freshly opened bottle of champagne,” Ari continues. “Bubbles continuously rising, velvety texture. It keeps going and going.”

Rather than just using champagne or a sparkling wine to enhance the cocktails, each libation is finished with highball bubbles so the drinker can enjoy a well-balanced, bubbly cocktail over a long period of time without the effect falling flat. The brothers are proud enough of this finishing touch to include it in the list of ingredients as “Baller Bubbles.”

While the use of a highball machine isn’t the most unusual idea (it’s popular in New York and Chicago), the brothers continue to revolutionize their take on highballs by mixing Japanese spirits with unusual combinations of sweet and savory ingredients.

“We didn’t want a huge, ridiculous scotch program because it doesn’t play with most of our food,” Ari comments. “The direction was to have a smaller, procured program that would focus on newer brands of spirits that aren’t everywhere.”

In fact, food plays a big factor in their approach to Zeppelin’s cocktail program.

“Sometimes you see things that you normally wouldn’t even think to add,” Micah explains. “You take sweet in a different direction. A combination of several ingredients gives us an idea. Food is definitely more of an inspiration than beverage.”

At Zeppelin, Chef Minoru Ogawa influences the cocktail list not by way of menu planning but by providing access to lesser-known ingredients to the expansive sushi menu and Japanese street fare.

“Inspiration is just walking through our kitchens and discovering cool ingredients we’ve never heard of,” Ari continues. “A part of how we’re discovering ingredients is seeing how the chefs use [them] in their sauces. We get to see and test fermented pastes. We ask the chefs about it. We start playing with [the ingredients].”

Fermented yuzu kosho (a fermented paste made from green or red Thai chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt) and sansho (Japanese peppercorns, which are similar to but more potent than Sichuan peppercorns) are both put to work along with ingredients like pandan, tamarind vinegar and choya plum to create the cocktails on Zeppelin’s menu. The yuzu kosho in particular is the defining ingredient for Zeppelin’s number one bestselling cocktail: The Heartbreaker.

“It really pushes the depth of the cocktail,” Micah confirms.

The brothers take pride in how often regulars will come into both of their locations with questions about hard-to-find spirits and liquors. They’re both emphatic about being an approachable neighborhood restaurant.

“We have a good chef and we love the neighborhood,” Micah says of their Shaw location. “We want to give the neighborhood what it needs.”

Ari adds that their passion is reinforced by people, and “it feels so much more valuable for us to develop such an amazing staff and culture of regulars and neighborhood supporters.”

So the next time you’re at Zeppelin, dive in with questions about the cocktail program. If you’re looking for a certain spirit, the Wilder brothers will most likely source it for you and incorporate it into the next iteration of their drink menu.

“[Our customers] continue to be a part of the decisions we make.”

Learn more about Zeppelin at www.zeppelindc.com.

Zeppelin: 1544 9th St. NW, DC; 202-506-1068; www.zeppelindc.com

Terry McLaurin // Photo: courtesy of the Washington Redskins

Wide Receiver Terry McLaurin Brings Determination and Precision To Washington Redskins’ 2019 Season

After finishing last season with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs, the Washington Redskins entered their 2019 training camp in Richmond with plenty of personnel questions.

Fortunately, Coach Jay Gruden found at least one easy answer in rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The tough and speedy pass catcher immediately turned heads in Richmond with his precision route-running, sure hands and tireless work ethic. And while the franchise had a half-dozen receivers on its roster at the outset of camp, McLaurin was the odds-on favorite to win a starting wideout spot.

McLaurin’s rapid ascent up the Redskins’ depth chart should come as no surprise, even though he wasn’t selected until the third round of the 2019 draft. The 23-year-old was an outstanding player for the Ohio State Buckeyes, ranking among the storied program’s top 15 receivers in four categories. He was also a role model off the field, graduating in three-and-a-half years with a degree in communications. McLaurin told On Tap that he brings a workmanlike approach to his game.

“I feel like you have to have that [approach] if you’re going to play at this level and be successful,” he said. “You have to enjoy the grind and the process. You can’t be afraid to get criticized and go out there and work on your weaknesses. I try to work on the things I do not do as well harder than the things I do well. I just want to prove that I can be a force in the league.”

Gruden said it’s already apparent that his promising rookie can do just that. In addition to his explosiveness as wide receiver, the Redskins like McLaurin because of his prowess on special teams. Gruden said he loves how the rookie races downfield and pins kick returners deep in their own territory.

“[He’s been] amazing, really,” Gruden told reporters after a practice in mid-August. “I didn’t know he was this good. He is a powerful, explosive player. He can really, really run. He’s detailed in his work. He’s smart. He has been one of our better players in camp.”

A few days later, Gruden was back at the podium heaping more praise on his rookie receiver.

“Terry is doing an excellent job. He can do everything: he can block, he can run the vertical routes, he can run the short, intermediate routes. He made an unbelievable double-move today. I’ve just been very impressed with the total package of Terry – not just his speed but his toughness, his attention to detail, his ability to finish play, his ability to block [and] line up correctly. He’s just been outstanding in all phases.”

The admiration seems mutual. McLaurin said Gruden’s upbeat enthusiasm is infectious.

“Coach Gruden is very competitive,” he said. “He wants to win every drill and he’s an offensive-minded coach, so he gets really animated when the offense isn’t making the plays we should. He holds everybody to a high standard, and I feel like when you have that kind of energy as a head coach, it just permeates through the rest of the team. He sets a great example.”

The Redskins hadn’t announced which quarterback prospect – Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or rookie Dwayne Haskins (Keenum was named starting quarterback at the end of August) – would be throwing the ball to McLaurin this season at the time of this interview. But the wide receiver said he wasn’t concerned about who the starter would be.

“I just try to create a chemistry with any of three [quarterback prospects] in there. One thing they do like is how I define my routes.”

Crisp, well-defined routes are a hallmark of McLaurin’s game, and it’s something he continued working on throughout training camp. What does that mean, exactly?

“It’s using your body language when you run a route,” he explained. “If you’re going to run a route, you want to define the angles. You want to be consistent in the way you run your route and define your angle full speed. If you’re taking the route skinny, take it skinny and if you’re going to flatten it off, you need to do it as fast as possible and keep that angle and don’t deviate from that.”

McLaurin’s pleased to have a familiar face on the field in Haskins, who played college ball with the wide receiver at Ohio State.

“We’re learning a new system, but the chemistry is still there. A post route is still a post route. I’m trying to tell him what the receivers are looking for and he’s telling us what the quarterbacks need, so it’s been very beneficial.”

While intensely focused on the difficult job of nailing down a starting slot on a competitive NFL roster, McLaurin said he sometimes does allow himself a moment to reflect on his hard-won NFL career.

“You set out a goal and have dream when you’re 7 years old. I took school very seriously. But this has always been my dream and my goal, and I was willing to put in the work to make it happen.”

Now his dream is to help make the Redskins winners again.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that Redskins fans are very loyal and they’re hungry for a winning team. Hopefully, I’ve been drafted to come in and help wherever I can. It’s cool to be a part of an NFL organization with such great history.”

Catch the Washington Redskins’ first home game of the regular season on Sunday, September 15 at 1 p.m. against the Dallas Cowboys. Learn more about their 2019 season at www.redskins.com.

FedExField: 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, MD; 301-276-6000; www.redskins.com

Photo: Rich Kessler

Where Culture and Community Collide: Culture House DC

Art without restrictions. Interactive installations with immersive experiences. Structured, well-funded programming. Consistent, tangible support of the local community. These are among the priorities reinforced by the leadership at community arts organization Culture House DC in Ward 6. When three strong voices echo the same sentiment in separate conversations, the shared vision and determination of the nonprofit space’s team become palpable – and worth digging into further.

Culture House DC turns six this month, fresh off the heels of a strategic rebrand that whittled the organization down to a simple, very focused ethos: to house all ideations of culture in an encompassing environment including everything from music, multimedia art and fashion to food and fitness.

“We were inspired by the German concept of a kunsthalle: a place for art but also for creatives and community,” says co-founder Stephen Tanner. “There isn’t a word in the English language like it.”

Tanner, who oversees financial planning for the repurposed historic church, had plans to redevelop the space in 2013 but first tried his hand at a short-term art experience with co-founder and executive director Ian Callender. What started as a pop-up in the more than 15,000-square-foot art space – one of several takeovers of abandoned, dilapidated facilities throughout the city to provide community programming – organically developed into a mixed-used, art-centered, long-term development project.

Tucked at the end of a cul-de-sac on Delaware Avenue in Southwest DC, the iconic building is likely one you’ve seen populate your Instagram feed. With bold swirls of color and abstract shapes lining the exterior in its entirety, it forms one bright, cohesive mural. And chances are, you’ve attended an event there too, or at least seen one pop up on Eventbrite. From Swatchroom Co-Founder and artist Maggie O’Neill’s monthlong “Superfierce” event promoting the female art community to TBD Immersive’s In Cabaret We Trust theatre experience – complete with fire performers and burlesque – the experiences housed in the space have been versatile, to say the least.

Tanner and Callender realized from the get-go that there weren’t other spaces like it, and they capitalized on the opportunity.

“It’s rare to have an art experience with this many different components,” Callender says of the building’s sheer size and scale. “We knew that, and we wanted to enhance the art experience with food and music, but really have an environment that encompassed that – especially in this part of Southwest.”

Since then, Callender has worked tirelessly to bring in a range of events to the space – from outside-the-box art exhibits and culinary experiences to private parties and weddings. As a space that relies on funding from the local community while also acting as a space to support that very same community, he built relationships with corporate sponsors to keep the organization on an upward trajectory.

Like many labors of love that undergo creative changes, Culture House has evolved with the times. The organization started out as Blind Whino SW Arts Club but switched to just SW Arts Club in 2017 when the connotations associated with “Whino” started limiting the scope of their collaborations. And now, after six years of hosting a vast and eclectic range of events while also creating opportunities for artists to expand their reach and display their works in original ways, Callender and Tanner are ready to streamline their mission and take Culture House DC next-level.

“We’re not looking to move or shift,” Callender says of his growing staff, which now includes resident art advisor Andrew Jacobson, a marketing and PR rep, a culinary team, and more. “We’re looking to build organically from the ground up […] with a newer identity.”

Jacobson joined the team this spring and is focused on increasing funding around exhibits and planning additional events to support and promote them. He believes this can be made possible by pushing Culture House to become a more structured organization where programming is set further in advance.

“If you have solid programming, it’s an all-around win for the organization,” he says.

Jacobson, whose background includes art curation, music production and involvement in huge art fairs like Art Basel, sees a wealth of untapped potential for the space and is eager to put those plans into motion.

“Culture House wants to be the premier art and events space in Washington, DC. I think we are en route, but we need to make some tweaks to really rightfully claim that title. There’s some things we can do that will really make the venue outstanding.”

Chief among his priorities is pursuing more interactive, thematic installations that can directly serve the community, especially underserved segments, that are right around the corner from the space. And he’s off to a great start, with a two-month exhibit from DC-based conceptual artist Maps Glover opening at the beginning of September. “Save The Seed” offers an interactive experience for audiences to “share and exchange stories and evaluate the value of the soul,” and is built around the artist’s vision of a black seed as a metaphor for the black soul.

Callender views Glover’s show as an artistic vehicle for utilizing Culture House’s space in ways that people haven’t seen, and to get more immersive and integrate unique experiences into the art.

“Maps, from what I’ve seen, has an ability to really articulate that conversation,” Callender says. “That’s what excites me the most: to be able to have a space where [artists] can get creative without any restrictions. I think this particular show will achieve that.”

He’s looking five steps ahead – way past the show being mounted and opening – to artist talks, panels, receptions and other opportunities for expanding “Save The Seed” and making the exhibit as multidimensional as possible.

“[We can] make it not just singular in its approach [by] taking advantage of the space and knowing this will be [Glover’s] home for the next couple of months. If it’s your home, what would you do at home? Invite your people into your home. I’m very excited to see what he has to offer.”

Looking ahead, Callender is envisioning other exhibits that move beyond utilizing just four walls to all six, where the ceiling and the floor also become part of the composition. At the top of his wish list is commissioning an artist to paint a basketball court in Culture House’s expansive upstairs space, and then installing a basketball-centric exhibit. And because the building is the organization’s best canvas, Callender and his team are considering a new iteration of the exterior’s mural – or maybe even just painting Culture House white and inviting people to throw paint balloons at its walls.

Though the façade might change and the scope of programming might narrow, one aspect of Culture House has remained intact since day one: supporting the artists and the surrounding community.

“This is always our goal,” Tanner reiterates. “We do this by making most events free of charge, with a suggested donation. With the community’s help and generosity, and with the city realizing how we support community, we can continue providing experiences and access like we’ve been doing for six years.”

Jacoboson shares this ethos, stressing the importance of raising more funds for Culture House’s no-commission art exhibits.

“Without money, you can’t do the right type of programming. You can’t get the right type of artists. You’re throwing things together at the last minute and hoping they stick. That’s not the way that you implement strong, consistent programming and without that, we can’t serve the community. I have a social and a moral obligation to support things that are going to contribute to the betterment of the community. With more help on that front, we can do a lot more.”

Their resounding commitment to functioning as a true community arts space is only reinforced by the third and final voice of Callender.

“It’s imperative for us to support [our artist community] in nontraditional ways – not just buying art but giving them a platform so that they can do what they do best. Community can mean so many different things to a person, but at the end of the day, it’s all communal. Culture can mean so many different things to a person, but at the end of the day, it’s all a singular node. There should always be a place where culture and community collide. Culture House is where culture meets community.”

Maps Glover’s “Save the Seed” exhibit runs at Culture House through September and October. Follow Culture House on social media @culturehousedc and learn more about upcoming events, including a soon-to-be-announced sixth anniversary party, at www.culturehousedc.org.

Culture House DC: 700 Delaware Ave. SW, DC; 202-554-0103; www.culturehousedc.org

Self Portrait: Tony Powell

DC’s Renaissance Man: Photographer Tony Powell

Tony Powell is fierce with a camera. He’s prompt and demanding of himself and his subjects. He’s direct but not unkind. He’s energetic but not overwhelming. And his work is everywhere in DC, adorning program pages for Arena Stage productions and plastered on the covers of Washington Life. He’s shot for The Atlantic. He’s shot for the Pope. He’s shot most of the President’s cabinet.

“I’ve never been more present, I’ve never been more alive, I’ve never been more secure and solid in what I’m doing,” Powell tells me in Georgetown while savoring a vegan concoction from South Block. “I have friends in every quarter of power in Washington. I’m in the homes of the secretaries, our cabinet here. The photography has just taken off.”

Powell is always positive. 

Early Experience

For a long time, photography was just one of many tools on his utility belt of expression: a portrait here, a selfie there. Many years prior to his time asking people to smile in the studio, Powell was on the stage. In the late 70s, when he was a child attending elementary school in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he participated in a dance organized by a visiting troupe from Howard University’s drama department. Like the other 500 kids, Powell froclicked and moved freely and effortlessly, but unlike the other children, he was noticed.

“They called me on the loud speaker: ‘Anthony Powell, come to the office,’ and I thought I had done something wrong,” Powell says. “I really couldn’t figure out what I’d done. So I get there and they said, ‘Would you be interested in auditioning for a performance?’ They really liked the way I danced and told me I had a wonderful sense of presence. I said, ‘Sure.’” 

Powell found himself on the European leg of Raisin, replacing Ralph Carter of Good Times fame. Here, at the age of 9, he got to experience orchestral performances, professional singers, dancers and creative professionals up close. 

“I got to see how an orchestra was put together. I watched the choreographers during the musical, and I watched how the lighting came together in the costume design and set design all in one major production,” he says. “It was like a fulfillment of an artistic dream of mine, even though I hadn’t yet had the dream. I was able to subconsciously see how it all comes together.” 

This almost unreal experience served as reinforcement for Powell’s eventual career in the arts. Growing up, his family had always encouraged him to pursue creative endeavors, but upon seeing the multitude of outlets in which he could do so, he embraced them all. 

“I was shown at a very young age that the arts were a viable avenue for my life – for livelihood,” Powell says. “I think it’s so important to expose children to the arts at an early age, to really give them a chance to see it as an option. I’m just really blessed, when I look back, that my parents were not closed-minded in that regard.” 

A Juilliard Grad

Upon returning, Powell performed throughout the DC area in ballets, plays and other art forms. As a teen, he modeled in print ads, acted in television shows and movies, and was a frequent audition for plays in New York. At 17, Powell almost shifted gears completely to become an architect. 

“I was going to either be an architect or go to Juilliard,” Powell declares.

Once the famed school accepted him, it was a no-brainer which direction he’d choose, and he enrolled in 1986 to study dance. The first three years were successful, but during his senior year, he encountered his first bout with alcohol addiction. 

After an intervention with school officials and his parents, Powell agreed to get sober and finish out the year, but he ultimately failed. 

“It was a chemical dependence,” Powell says. “It’s a disease, and at first it was innocuous. I didn’t have a problem with it for a long time. I could take it or leave it. They let me come back in 1995 after two of my professors fought for me. I had gotten sober and they championed my cause.”

During this time, Powell says he lived with famed choreographer Anna Sokolow, who introduced him to other renowned artists like choreographer Jerome Robbins and actor Lauren Bacall. He also began composing music between taking classes, dipping his toe into yet another medium. 

“In my mind, it was more interesting for me to write music than it was to play someone else’s,” he says. “That period of time was just nonstop: three to five new ballets a year with my company Tony Powell/Music & Movement.” 

Return to DC

From 1995 to 2002, Powell was a fixture in the DC arts scene, performing at the Kennedy Center, composing and choreographing pieces for the Joffrey Ballet, and making films. He was featured in numerous publications ranging from The Washington Post and The Washington Post Magazine to Washington Flyer, where he was often referred to as a “Renaissance man,” “precocious” and  “diverse.” 

“I wanted people to have multiple levels of experience when they came to my work,” he says.

“I’m going to not only see a dance, to hear a piece or to see a film, but I wanted to challenge people on different levels. So many people around town supported my work at a high level. But by the end, the drinking destroyed all that.” 

Powell began drinking again in 2002, and like a river bursting through a dam, all hell broke loose. 

“[In] 2002, I had probably the greatest performance I’d ever had in my life at the Kennedy Center,” Powell explains. “It was like an apex of my work. It was a combination of everything that I had ever come up with: film, five or six ballets, music. The Washington Post gave me one of the best reviews of my life, and I said to myself, ‘Oh, now I can have a drink.’”

One drink ultimately turned into a divorce and his dance company failing. Seemingly moments after he had finally arrived as a mature artist with great variance and focus, he was gone.

“I felt like, here it is,” Powell says, reflecting on the moment.  “What do I do? It was a rapid decline because when I start, I can’t stop. I literally can’t function.” 

Powell didn’t finally get sober until 2009. He’s close with all four of his children, and the youngest one has never seen him inebriated. 

His most prevalent creative outlet is his photography, and he’s now more often behind the camera than in front of it. In a few hours, he’ll be photographing Ben’s Chili Bowl Founder Virginia Ali before donning a suit to cover a conference featuring top doctors from around the world. 

“In one day, I can’t believe how much fun I get to have doing what I love to do,” he says. 

The artist still composes music and choreographs movements, but on a much smaller scale. He’ll do a piece for a friend here or get commissioned by a company there, if it fits his shoot schedule. When I suggest a new apex performance in the future that once again marries all his arts mastery, he’s coy but positive. Powell is always positive.  

“I had all of that pain to know what that’s like to really know how happy I am today,” Powell says. 

For more information about Tony Powell, follow him on Instagram @tonypowell1 and on Twitter @powellarts.