Photo: Courtesy of Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi
Photo: Courtesy of Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi

Get Hungry for Winter Restaurant Week

Foodies in the DC area, brace yourselves: Winter Restaurant Week is coming. Presented by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), this week-long event features three-course dinners priced at $35, and lunch and brunch at $22, for all locations. On Tap had the opportunity to sample fare from five of the 250 participating restaurants this week, from Italian comfort food served up by Alta Strada to cheese and charcuterie platters from the sophisticated Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi. Read on for our take on these five must-visit spots during Winter Restaurant Week. 

Espita Mezcaleria
The first stop on our Restaurant Week preview was this Southern Mexican inspired restaurant known for its mezcal selection. While waiting for our food to arrive, we sipped on a Ricky Ricardo, a zesty cocktail that was not unlike a margarita but on a different level with a spicy-salty, chili rim. Then out came Espita’s borracha salsa, a sweet and spicy dip with corn tortilla chips, followed by tostada de camarón, a crunchy shrimp bite with spice from the charred jalapeño and a serrano crema and avocado to balance. Espita’s Restaurant Week menu leans toward rich and natural, with executive chef Robert Aitkens playing with vegetables and fresh ingredients while staying true to the restaurant’s Oaxacan cultural roots. Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

Alta Strada City Vista
This urban trattoria is owned and run by Michael Schlow, who was inspired by his travels through Italian locations such as Tuscany and Campania, and features antipasti, house-made pastas and pizzas, among other entrees. Upon entry, we were handed a Rosemary’s Baby cocktail, a licorice-like drink flavored with ouzo. Then came platters of Brussels sprouts salad mixed with pears and prosciutto, cauliflower topped with grana padano cheese, and mini-versions of the Italian restaurant’s eggplant parm sandwich and soppressata pizza. Feeling right at home as a part Italian myself, this was definitely one of the restaurants that was harder to leave. Alta Strada City Vista: 465 K St. NW, DC; www.altastradarestaurant.com

Joselito Casa de Comidas
We then headed to the charming Joselito’s in Capitol Hill. Joselito’s serves up traditional Spanish cuisine inspired by owner Javier Candon’s late father, José, who valued family meals at restaurants that had a warm, old-school feel. We started our visit with an aperitif of red or white vermouth chilled by a large ice cube of frozen fruit. Plates of paté de higaditos de pollo, filete de buey and boquerones fritos were then brought out (a.k.a. chicken liver, flank steak and fried anchovies). We then sampled torrijas caseras, an Andalusian bread pudding, for dessert. If you can’t make it to Joselito’s for Restaurant Week, they also offer a unique Hemingway hour on weekdays from 4-7 p.m. where everything on the menu is 20 percent off. Joselito Casa de Comidas: 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.joselitodc.com

Osteria Morini
The next stop on our tour was reminiscent of Emilia-Romagna, the Northern-Italian location that inspired Osteria Morini. Using classic Italian ingredients from this region such as prosciutto, parmigiano and balsamic vinegar, you can watch your meals being made from the open kitchen on one side while enjoying waterfront views on the other. After entering the restaurant, we sipped red, sparkling wine while watching the bartender whip up A Cure for January, a whisky-based cocktail with a star anise lit on fire that made for a show. We then sat down and were brought desserts of agrume, an olive oil cake with candied citrus, and bavarese, pomegranate mousse with chocolate crema. Osteria Morini: 301 Water St. #109, SE, DC; www.osteriamorini.com/washington-dc

Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi
The final and most extravagant stop on our tour took us to Del Mar at The Wharf. Owned and run by Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, the pair has expanded beyond their Italian roots to include the coastal Spanish cuisine of Del Mar. The waterfront restaurant pays homage to Maria, who has roots in Spain, and the Trabocchi family’s home on the island of Mallorca. We were led upstairs to the private dining section, passing numerous Spanish artifacts on our way, and brought to the biblioteca room that overlooked the waterfront. To begin our meal, we watched as the bartender made Del Mar’s Te Quiero, a fruity gin tonic rich with lemongrass and grapefruit that used gin from a porthole – a round, thin, glass container of gin infused with different ingredients and refreshed daily. We then helped ourselves to savory appetizers of manchego and caña de cabra cheese, jamón serrano, sobrassada, Catalan crispbread and escalivada. If you go anywhere for Restaurant Week, go here. The incredible food and affordable price will make this a meal to remember. Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi: 791 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.delmardc.com

Winter Restaurant Week runs from Monday, January 22 to Sunday, January 28. See which restaurants are taking part in the week and make your reservations here

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Walk The Moon at The Anthem

Cincinnati’s Walk The Moon has been captivating audiences with energetic live shows for the better part of a decade. The alt-rock/pop quartet first made a name for themselves by touring relentlessly in support of their self-titled debut, which featured the indie classic “Anna Sun.” The band was then catapulted into the spotlight when 2014’s “Shut Up and Dance” became a multi-platinum global smash, crossing sonic barriers to top three different Billboard charts. The group played at The Anthem on January 12. 

Photos: KGabriellePhoto.com / Write-up: Ticketfly

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DC Tattoo Expo 2018

The DC Tattoo Expo was held from January 12-14 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, once again featuring a score of talented tattoo artists from around the country. Whether you were in the market for ink, prints or even some graphic street wear, the expo featured vendors for nearly any and all things tattoo. Photos / Write-up: Trent Johnson

Photo: Denizens Brewing Co.'s Facebook page
Photo: Denizens Brewing Co.'s Facebook page

Denizens Brewing Co. Highlights Forgotten Causes A Year After Trump’s Inauguration

Denizens Brewing Co. has one message for the Trump administration: we’re still here.

Denizens General Manager Stephanie Nale says she saw many people come together and congregate at the brewery when Donald Trump was inaugurated, marking a time that saw great division among different groups. To reignite that unity, the brewery wanted to host a celebration and gather people together again, but also to celebrate the causes that Denizens feels the Trump administration has ignored – whether that be women, immigrants or climate change, to name a few.

To remind the administration that these groups and their supports are not going anywhere, Denizens will be hosting the four-day event “We’re Still Here.” From Thursday, January 18 through Sunday, January 21, the brewery will put a spotlight on a different organization each day with a focus on DMV chapters, and donate 10 percent of that day’s profit to that organization.

Thursday’s featured organization will be Ayuda, a DMV-based, immigration-focused organization; Friday will be Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington; Saturday will be ACLU, an organization that protects and defends rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution; and Sunday will be the Climate Reality Project.

“These organizations [are] some we’ve supported before, and some of them we are just continuously standing behind and we want to give them a chance to shine within our own community,” Nale says.

Each day of the event will have information about the cause-of-the-day spread throughout the taproom, whether it’s people from that organization talking to patrons or literature available to read. In addition, Denizens will be releasing a new beer in celebration of the weekend.

Denizens prides itself on being a place where everybody is welcome, and Nale says she hopes this event will unite people together again, as they were a year ago, and spark healthy conversations where people can feel free to voice their thoughts.

“We do definitely have our own opinions” Nale says. “We don’t force [them] upon anybody; we really try to make that clear. But we’re also not going to be afraid to say, ‘Hey, these are the things we do believe in.’ So just come and join us, and hopefully we can start a conversation.”

Visit Denizens Brewing Co. from January 18-21 to take part in their “We’re Still Here” event. Entry is free.

Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; 301-557-9818; www.denizensbrewingco.com

Photo: www.nmwa.org
Photo: www.nmwa.org

Seeing the Invisible at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Set over a gold-colored background, lines of red and blue seem to pulse from the center to the edge of the canvas in Mildred Thompson’s Magnetic Fields (1991). It’s one of the first paintings on view in the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ current exhibit, which runs through January 21, and it is also the inspiration for the exhibit title: Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today.

Virginia Treanor, the museum’s associate curator, tells me that she and her team were inspired by the way Thompson renders the invisible in her painting, and wanted to do the same with the exhibit – that is, make visible the work of black women abstractionists. The exhibit was originally designed by curators at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and features 21 artists. Magnetic Fields broadens notions of what abstract art can look like, what it can say and who can practice it.

The works in the exhibit were chosen for the way that they could be perceived as in dialogue with one another. For the works of Abigail Deville and Mavis Pusey, in Harlem Flag (2014) and Dejygea (1970) respectively, that dialogue is about New York, though both speak to such different things and in such different forms.

Deville’s Harlem Flag looks as if it might carry infection. It’s composed of detritus Deville found walking through Harlem and later treated. The flag in the title comes from the American flag, which Deville found, and it’s lost almost all of its color to the amount of sewage it’s seen. The work captures Harlem when for the first time, it was no longer predominantly black.

Pusey’s Dejygea is more classically abstract. It’s an oil on canvas, composed of abstract shapes. Like Deville’s Harlem Flag, it speaks to her personal experience in New York, but only to the extent that she was fascinated by the constant construction she saw going on when she moved to the city from rural Jamaica. Dejygea also shows how art by a minority artist can have little or nothing to do with identity, unless that’s the artist’s intention.

Two works from Mary Lovelace O’Neal and Shinique Smith, Racism is Like Rain, Either it’s Raining or it’s Gathering Somewhere (1993) and Bale Variant No. 0017 (2009) respectively, are often interpreted as being about identity, but these do not speak about the same thing so much as they speak in the same, almost tongue-in-cheek way.

O’Neal’s large-scale acrylic and mixed media on canvas gives nods to both minimalism and abstract expressionism by being one-half flurry of vibrant gestural painting and one-half solid black. Taken as a whole, though, the piece is an evocative representation of its title.

Smith’s Bale Variant No. 0017 is also often interpreted as being inspired by her identity as a black woman. Her sculpture is a massive cube made from what looks like laundry held together with twine. The clothing is assumed to be an allusion to the cotton trade in the U.S. and slavery, but rather, she says that her intent was to make the piece more about her identity as an American.

“The way we cast off and consume materials is very unique to us.”

She complicates the work’s meaning by using the clothing of family members and lovers. At the same, there’s a subtext in her choice of both a cube and fabrics as her material. With regards to the former, she winks at minimalism in making a cube, but such a messy cube; and with regards to the latter, she undermines the idea of sculpture as a masculine medium in her use of fabric as her material.

These works are on view, along with many others, at the National Museum of Women in the ArtsMagnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today through January 21. Come Wednesday, January 17 at noon for a 30-minute guided tour of the gallery. And see one of the featured artists, Maren Hassinger, speak about her work in the exhibit on Friday, January 19 at 1 p.m.

National Museum of Women in the Arts: 1250 New York Ave NW, DC; 202-783-5000; www.nmwa.org

Photo: Matthew Murphy
Photo: Matthew Murphy

Kennedy Center’s On Your Feet! Offers More Than The Rhythm

The Kennedy Center’s On Your Feet! lives up to everything you’d expect from a musical filled with the songs of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and their legendary group, the Miami Sound Machine. The audience can’t help but mouth along the words, shimmy their shoulders, stomp their feet and fight the urge during the entire first act to dance to that conga beat.

But beyond the bright musical numbers, the loud costumes, and the budding romance between Gloria (played exquisitely by Christie Prades) and Emilio (an incredibly charming and leggy Mauricio Martinez), family is at the root of On Your Feet! 

We meet Gloria’s grandmother and father, who encourage her at every moment to step out of her shell and let her musical talent shine. We learn a dark, resentful secret about her mother, who fled Cuba during the revolution, that carries on throughout the second act.

Anyone who has felt the tension between family responsibility and the desire to find your own identity and follow your dreams will feel a pang in their heart.

The Estefans are the original #RelationshipGoals. From the moment Emilio sets eyes on Gloria, he knows that her talent is special and different, and he makes it his responsibility to make her a star first, and woo her secondly.

A sweet highlight in their love story is during an early Miami Sound Machine rehearsal, where Gloria perfects her choreography as she sings “1-2-3” to Emilio, with the help of an incredibly talented ensemble. The music, smiles and dancing will whisk you back to the memory of the first person who stole your heart away.

When their record exec tells them that there’s no way a Latin group can successfully cross over, Emilio’s response elicits rousing applause and cheers from the audience.

Their story is the story of the person sitting next to you, the story of the girl who practiced her piano for hours after school, the story of the father looking to build a legacy for their family, the story of any person with a talent and a drive who is determined to prove naysayers wrong – a story that is above it all, uniquely American.

On Your Feet! is playing at The Kennedy Center though Sunday, January 28. You can get tickets here

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Photo: Courtship Pull
Photo: Courtship Pull

Even Openers Bump at 9:30 Club: Courtship and Nation of Language

The crowd was a mixed bag at 9:30 Club last night. But those who showed early were young, and there for either of the two openers: Courtship and Nation of Language. Each make synth-pop, though their takes on the sound diverge. Ultimately, this made little difference; both had the crowd moving and those who had only arrived early for a better sight line of The Wombats found themselves getting the worm.

Nation of Language are a New York City-based, synth-pop trio. Their sound is distinctly new wave, featuring lush synths and thudding drum machines. Much of their music and stage presence come from their lead vocalist Ian Devaney. His voice and bearing are one part David Byrne, another part Morrissey, and yet another John Maus – and his voice is no less powerful. Their look was decidedly retro and curated, but when not dancing, Devaney was quite casual, introducing their last three songs with “Another song that we play,” “Here’s a last song” and lastly, “Here’s another last song.” 

On the opposite end of the synth-pop spectrum (if that’s a thing – hey look, I might have created a thing), Courtship mixes a blissful style in contrast to Nation of Language’s goth-inspired tone. The band is based in Los Angeles and “California” really comes across. Their sound is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, but with drums that have much more in common with pop music in practice (aka they use a drum machine). Their songwriting is, simply put, really good, and replete with choruses that moved the entire club.

Courtship’s approach to their performance was also straightforward. Cofounder Micah Gordon couldn’t hide his excitement at both playing the 9:30 Club and opening for The Wombats. Midway through the set, he shared a story of sneaking into a Wombats show while growing up in Portland.

“Guys, this is out of control. I know I sound chill, but I am losing my sh-t.” 

The two bands are still quite nascent, but big things await them in this freshly minted 2018. Both are set to continue touring with The Wombats, but hopefully will launch solo tours of their own. Though each only have singles on Spotify, you can check out Courtship and Nation of Language on Bandcamp. More of Courtship can be found by searching on YouTube – only look for the videos that feature a Polaroid overlaid with a painted winking face (it’s their telltale). 

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au
Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au

Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton on The Anthem

Down to earth is the quality that comes to mind when speaking with Eric Hilton, who, along with Rob Garza, co-founded Thievery Corporation, the DC-based electronic music group known for their blend of dub, acid jazz, reggae and hip-hop. On Tap recently chatted with Hilton about the group’s upcoming New Year’s Eve show at The Anthem, and the impact the new venue at The Wharf is having on our city.

Thievery Corporation has become one of the most well-known bands to come out of DC since the group’s start in 1995, but Hilton is also known for having his finger on the next “it” spot in DC. Venues like American Ice Company, El Rey and Satellite Room are just a few that he’s been involved with. And Thievery Corporation actually got its start out of the Eighteenth Street Lounge, which Hilton founded along with a few DJs. When we asked his thoughts on The Anthem, he described the venue as a game changer for DC.

“You have arena size, like Capital One, and then you have 9:30 Club, and then of course the small clubs,” Hilton said. “But you know, some bands are caught in-between. Some shows are not going to sell out [at] Capital One, but people don’t want to do multiple nights at 9:30 Club.”

Thievery Corporation has been known to play five nights in a row at 9:30 Club, but Hilton added that the difference is that they’re from the area. Hilton shared an anecdote about The Anthem as well.

“[This] is a kind of ‘ra ra for DC’ comment, but I was talking to the manager for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and he was saying that he felt that after New York, DC might be the best live music market in the country because of the addition of The Anthem.”

Hilton said people in DC spend a lot of money per capita on live music, and he thinks it’s because “they work their ass[es] off. They work hard, they make their money and they want to get something good for it.”

He said his upcoming Anthem show might be Thievery Corporation’s last in DC for the next year or two. The group plans to travel to record music and take a break from their touring pace.

“I don’t know if we’ll be back anytime soon, but this is a big show for us and we’re excited about it.”

Thievery Corporation will share the stage with gypsy punk rockers Gogol Bordello and Trouble Funk, a fellow DC band who have been making funk and go-go records since the 80s, at The Anthem on New Year’s Eve. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $75. Learn more about the band here, and keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming album Treasures from the Temple, out next March.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of the DarkSide Bar
Photo: Courtesy of the DarkSide Bar

Let Your Inner Darth Vader Out at The DarkSide Bar

Attention all Star Wars fanatics. I have decided to join the Dark Side, and so should you.

I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t join the Dark Side! Darth Vader is the worst and they’ve killed innocent people!” 

But what if I told you there is a really awesome Dark Side bar where burlesque dancers spin around with glowing rings and you are served red globes of smoky drinks, all while Star Wars is playing in the background? I bet you’re tempted now.

Whether you’re a full-blown fan who will do anything and everything Star Wars-related or you just want to go somewhere different where drinks are lit on fire, the DarkSide Bar is a must-try.

Located at Mythology on H Street, as well as locations in New York and L.A., the DarkSide Bar is a temporary pop-up bar inspired, obviously, by the Star Wars movies, and in particular, the dark side of the Force. While not purposely designed to appear around the same time as the new Star Wars movie, now is the perfect time to get prepared for the film or just have a unique bar experience before the pop-up shuts down on January 15.

My transformation to the Dark Side began with a walk up a flight of stairs where I was checked in by a stormtrooper. I was then led into a mostly black room with bars on either end, tables with mini Death Stars hanging above and a small dance floor, all while surrounded by Princess Leias and Chewbaccas.

I made my way over to the bar on the right where my bartender for the night was a Sith. While I usually find it fun to watch bartenders make classic drinks in any bar, it was truly a show watching the bartenders at DarkSide making fiery, lit up drinks.

The first drink I sampled was the Blue Force, made with Hendricks Gin, Blue Curaçao and topped with dry ice for a smoky effect. There was also a Red Force version made with cherry vodka, peach schnapps, grenadine and pineapple juice (pro tip: wait for the dry ice to melt before drinking). The second drink I sampled was The Imperial, made with spiced rum, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper, and finished off by being lit on fire (major pro tip: blow out fire before you drink and let it cool off).

While I was sipping away at my drink, listening to Sia and Justin Bieber while watching Star Wars: Episode IV on screens around the bar, I was interrupted by the announcement that Darth Vader would be joining the crowd shortly. Soon after, the dark lord himself was led out to mingle with the crowd, escorted by his stormtroopers.

My Dark Side experience was then wrapped up with a performance by a silver-clad burlesque dancer who spun around with a lit-up hula hoop in a nook of the bar. If I wasn’t convinced the Dark Side has more fun when I started, I was by night’s end.

Still don’t believe me? Check out the DarkSide Bar for yourself. The pop-up bar is open until January 15 (tentative date) with six drinks on the menu, food and different events on different nights, such as alien speed dating and trivia. Reservations are $33 per person and include two drinks. $40 at the door.

The DarkSide Bar at Mythology: 816 H St. NE, DC; 202-847-0098; www.thedarksidebar.com

Photo: Farrah Skeiky
Photo: Farrah Skeiky

LinguaLink DC’s Verbal Virtuoso

At just seven years old, German-born Marike Korn was already an English language teacher. It started small, helping her parents learn how to read English in their family living room, and later as a teenager, teaching her friends.

Since then, Korn has taken teaching to a whole new level. She’s the founder and sole coach of LinguaLink DC, a company that teaches English. Professionals from all over the world who find themselves in DC come to Korn, who speaks three languages and has a working knowledge of four others, in order to improve their English skills in their field of work.

But Korn’s teaching methods are not your average language lesson. For every new student that comes along, Korn customizes English lessons that are unique to the individual, strongly believing that no two people learn exactly the same way.

“I just firmly believe, especially when it comes to learning, that every single person learns differently,” Korn says. “We have different backgrounds, approaches and interests, and our first language also has an effect on how we learn another language.”

And Korn’s seen it all. She’s taught English to people from almost every non-English speaking country in the world – everyone from refugees to doctors – including some who were not even literate in their own language.

More than just a trained English teacher, Korn also pursued American studies and received a master’s in political science, with a specialization in U.S. domestic and foreign policy and international relations. Needless to say, she knows as much about being American as those born and raised in the States.

“It’s the perfect package for what I do,” Korn says, as most of her students are diplomats and international professionals.

For some of us (like myself) who had to sit through Spanish class repeating after the teacher and learning grammar that seems impractical for a beginner, it can be difficult to understand how someone like Korn could learn and teach languages so easily. So what does Korn tell her students when learning a language feels like a chore?

“Visualize how beautiful your future will be with you achieving [your] goals.”

For example, she says, imagine ordering Chinese food in front of your partner and impressing them.

“As soon as you fall in love with a language, it’s so much easier to learn it. As soon as you start associating beautiful memories with it, then you kind of embrace it in a way. And as soon as you understand it’s not just a tool, it’s so much more fun.”

She also recommends getting a language app like Duolingo, at least for languages with easier grammar like Romance languages, and practicing at least 15 minutes a day.

“You have to be disciplined,” she says.

She also advises exposing yourself to the language as much as possible, like watching movies with subtitles or going to exhibits. She says ultimately, you need a teacher if you truly want to speak another language.

So how does one get a job like Korn’s? She says there is no easy answer as she has formed her company around her skill set, but having a degree in English as a second language is necessary. Who you are teaching also plays a part.

Korn says it is important to be able to keep up with the industry that your student is a part of, as often times these people are already at a high level of English and only need help with industry lingo. Lastly, she says having a passion for people is vital.

“A language is not just a tool, it’s so much more. It’s about building connections with other human beings; it’s about building bridges between countries and culture. It’s something that I think could make our world a better place – understanding each other.”

For more information about Korn and LinguaLink DC, visit here.