by Borderstan.com May 21, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com.

"Books"

What will you read? Tenth of December by George Sounders. (Courtesy Ramdom House)

There’s a trend happening in young professional social circles across the country. 20-something professionals are coming together and forming clubs with the purpose of reading books. Yes – you read that correctly.

After leaving four plus years of higher learning, my fellow young professionals are deciding that this reading business which Kunta Kinte LeVar Burton talked about so much is actually fun. Plus if Oprah does it, it must be cool (that woman is timeless).

But a book club doesn’t just run itself. You must cultivate it. But how? Here are some guiding principles to keep up with the trend and start your own book club.

The More, the Merrier

Has Oprah ever disallowed someone to join her book club? Of course not! She’s way too classy for that kind of shenanigan. There are three values to take away from kindergarten: share with others, reading is cool, and don’t kill the class hamster (whoops) – and having an exclusive book club breaks two of those rules.

It’s a Book Club, Not a Book Tyranny

You may have started the club, but you certainly don’t get to pick all the books. Choosing books that everyone will enjoy, or at least appreciate, is fundamental to book club success. Take turns choosing or vote during get-togethers. And whatever you do, don’t start with The Casual Vacancy (I learned that one the hard way).

Keep it Boozy and Delicious

Whether its wine and cheese or mimosas and brunch, no one wants to talk about a book in their free time without some serious refreshments. Maybe you can rotate book club locations at people’s homes and make it potluck, or follow along with Bitches who Brunch with a standing brunch book club. Or find a nice outdoor patio for book club happy hour. Just keep the drinks and noshes coming.

Pick a Set Date

Gosh it sucks trying to find free time amongst a whole group of professionals. You can Doodle the heck out of your calendars, but you’ll never have any success unless you just pick a standing date (like the first Sunday of every month). You may have to go on without someone every once in a while, but at least it will work!

Have Fun With It

You may have been an English major, but this isn’t your dissertation. Don’t get upset if someone didn’t like your pick or if they didn’t see the same symbolism that you did in Gone Girl. If you take it too seriously, your book club may just go rogue and pull a Gone Girl on you.

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by Borderstan.com May 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

"Beer"

LivingSocial Beerfest. (Lauren Levine)

From Scott Leibowitz. Find Scott on Twitter @Lebodome, email him at [email protected].

Whether you think the city made a good or bad decision giving Living Social massive tax incentives to put their headquarters in our fair city is irrelevant. What is important is that this company keeps giving back to the city by bringing wonderful weekend beer tastings to the Bullpen next to Nationals Park.

Fellow writer, Lauren, and I had the pleasure of covering this event last year, and I can say hands down Living Social has figured this thing out and this year’s execution was spot on.

Thanks to gorgeous weather all weekend, the city’s underpaid 20 to 35-year-old’s enjoyed a wide range of ales, brews, and ciders from all over the world in the form of a small plastic cup. I myself was able to enjoy Smuttynose IPA, Lost Rhino pilsner, Duvel, Ommegang Hennepin, Angry Orchard, and Shocktop Summer. From that list, my top choices would have to be the Ommegang and the Lost Rhino as both had a great taste and weren’t too heavy.

Another great feature of this unlimited beer tasting is that some of the city’s finest food trucks are there (I wonder if heavy drinking leads to hunger?). Those steak tacos I had from Surfside hit the spot while listening to the fantastic cover band Kristen and the Noise sing classics like “What’s my age again” and “Forget You.”

Overall, this is just a great event. Only thing I’d say for next year is, if you want to go, go the second day as most of the crowd goes Saturday. It’s just easier to move around and drink on Sunday. Most Living Social emails are probably worth deleting, but next time you get that one that says beerfest, forward to your friends and get a game plan going. You won’t regret it.

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by Borderstan.com May 7, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com.

"Love"

Choose the site that works for you. (Luis Gomez Photos)

While the percentage of people who meet their spouse in college has been on the decline for a while now, it sure isn’t getting any easier to meet that special someone. Even Harry met Sally in college. And though it worked out for Ben Stone and Alison Scott, most 20-somethings no longer meet someone special at a bar — at least someone who is special for more than one night.

If you’re single and looking, it’s time to take a page from Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly: Go online.

I’m Not That Desperate Yet…

As I sit and listen to my friends complain about their love lives — the men who didn’t call back, the women who won’t give them the time of day, or that someone who just moved to 3,000 miles for law school — I always suggest they go ahead and make an online dating profile. Yet I am often met with surprising resistance. “It’s so awkward.” “I don’t have time for that.” “I’m not desperate enough to need an online boyfriend/girlfriend.”

People: you found your apartment on Craigslist. You do all your banking virtually. Your only form of communication with 90% of every friend you’ve ever had is on Facebook.

You are not better than online dating. It’s okay to admit that it is very hard to meet new people these days who have the potential to be your spouse.

Where Do I Start?

Find a site! There are so many to choose from.

  • OKCupid is free and great for 20-somethings unwilling to dish out cash to supplement a not-yet-totally-desperate love life.
  • Match.com is a little more serious, since you have to pay. As a result, the average age is slightly older. I recommend it for 30/40-somethings.
  • Niche websites — whether it’s JDate or ChristianMingle, or perhaps more importantly in this town, RedStateDate or BlueStateDate — might help you find someone without as much screening for that trait you need in your #1.
  • Start-up sites like DC’s own Hinge, “it’s all about the date itself” HowAboutWe, strength in numbers via Grouper, or let’s GPS this date using Tinder, can be really fun if nothing else.

It’s Not Working

Here’s a few things you could do to revamp, or as I like to say, optimize, your online dating profile:

  • Have a friend read your bio. You didn’t send your college admissions essay off without at least one second opinion. This is being judged far more harshly.
  • Headshot? Try full body. The sad truth is that people want to see the full package. You are who you are and they’re going to find out sooner or later.
  • Go on one new date a week. People tend to go overboard and line up three to five dates in a single week (especially those who like to make their date pay — but that’s a different story). People fall into the online dating fallacy of thinking that there’s infinite fish in the digital sea. There’s not. Give each date some respect. Similarly, if you’re only doing one date a month, you could probably be a little more aggressive.

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by Borderstan.com April 23, 2013 at 8:00 am 1,673 4 Comments

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Foodie"

Are you truly a foodie? (Borderstan collage)

How often have you read an “about me” for a 20-something and seen “food” or “restaurants” or “being a foodie” listed? “I can’t wait to try that new Mike Isabella restaurant,” they say, “I’m a self-described foodie.”

It’s no secret that food has taken over our country. And as a young professional, you could be struggling with defining your identity, and wind up calling yourself a “foodie.”

As someone who derives great pleasure from food but is certainly no expert and not a foodie, I’m here to guide you through deciding whether you are, or more likely, are not, a foodie.

Do you like going out to eat?

If yes, you are exactly the same as every other person in America. When given the option to cook for ourselves or have someone else cook for us, of course we are all going to choose the latter.

If no, you are most definitely, absolutely not a foodie.

Do you prefer going to restaurants that may be considered “fine dining”?

If yes, that simply makes you well-off, not a foodie. If you are a young professional, and self-described foodie, and you talk a lot about trying fancy new restaurants (and not in the context of restaurant week), then you’re kind of a dick. The rest of us are happy if we can pay rent in DC and maybe get sushi once a week.

If no, you may still be a foodie. Don’t be discouraged.

Do you like to cook?

If you answered yes to the previous questions, but no to this question, you are most definitely not a foodie. You are just lazy.

If yes, you may still be a foodie. Continue on.

Do you make up your recipes?

If no, and you still like to cook, you’re just a normal person. You may own a Joy of Cooking or worse yet, anything by Rachel Ray. But you are certainly not foodie.

If yes, you very well might be a foodie. I’m impressed.

Do you have a food blog?

If you do not make up your own recipes but you have a food blog, you are just a food scrapbooker, not a foodie. You may make my Google searches for “easy healthy turkey burger recipe” slightly easier, but you’re no Jose Andres.

If yes, and you make up your own recipes, you are probably a foodie. Congratulations!

Have you ever thought about food theory?

Can you name different spice palettes? Is food chemistry second nature to you? Can you explain the difference between julienne and chiffonade or hollandaise vs. béarnaise? You’re a foodie.

If not, just give it up. You simply like food, just like the rest of us.

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by Borderstan.com April 9, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Students"

Students at American University.                  (Luis Gomez Photos)

As a young professional, you’re inevitably friends with a person or two who is currently attending graduate school. In DC, we’re surrounded by many fine institutions of higher learning and the odds of being acquaintances, friends or even dating a graduate student increases greatly.

But I’m going to go ahead and put this out there — grad students can be tough to be around. Some are certainly better than others. So, without further ado, the five types of grad students from best to worst.

The Academic

They’ve resigned themselves to a life of elbow pads and tweed, and you have to respect them for it. They’re following that niche passion of theirs, be it classical architecture or Japanese poetry, and know that they probably won’t make a lot of money or get much notoriety.

They just love to soak up knowledge, and you have to love them for it. It’s inspiring.

The Part-Time Professional

You may have one of these guys or gals in your office — the student who is also working part- or full-time.

Because of the forced interaction with professionals who, you know, get up at the same time every day and sit at desks and stuff, they manage to maintain a good grasp of what’s happening in the world and when it is or is not an acceptable time to talk about how much debt they are going to have to pay off.

The Med School Student

Yes, some of them manage the stress better than others, and the ones who don’t do it well can be a doozy to be around. But for the most part I’m always impressed with a med school student’s ability to leave that hospital and party like they weren’t just wrist-deep in a cadaver.

Plus, how much better is it to ask your friend about your embarrassing symptom than asking WebMD ?

The Practical Degree

This is extremely common in DC in particular: the person getting a degree in something practical like international affairs, business, public policy or public health. I get it — you need that “MA” on your resume to get your dream job. But please stop talking about your debt, your thesis or how busy you are.

The best of these people are the ones who also work part time. The worst are the ones who have multiple masters. Are you trying to one-up Van Wilder? Are you aware that the goal of these degrees is usually this “job” thing? What are you really searching for?

The Law School Student

You knew it was coming — law school students are the absolute worst. I understand that the freakishly competitive and close-knit environment of law school makes you revert back to your high school behaviors, that after a hard exam it’s like you’re drinking alcohol for the very first time, that your study group is essentially your social universe right now and that you have probably entered into a massive amount of debt without any promise of an actual career after you’re done.

But, please, listen:  you chose this. You saw all those Times articles about how we do not need any more lawyers, but you persevered. “No,” you said, “I am really good at arguing — I always get my way.” Ugh, Elle Woods, that’s the worst argument in favor of going to law school I’ve ever heard. Best of luck in the next few years — I’ll meet you at your bar exam party.

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by Borderstan.com March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Date"

Get out and date. (Luis Gomez Photos).

Believe it or not, in just a few weeks thousands of tourists will descend upon our city to witness the return to life of our cherished cherry blossoms. And with it will come spring romance.

Yes, it’s freaking adorable to stroll around the tidal basin hand-in-hand with your special someone rather than just a Starbucks iced latte (though both is ideal). So if cold winter nights got you down but watching other people coupled up in the sun sharing a picnic in the Circle makes it worse, here’s a few ideas to find the Portia to your Ellen.

Get Out There!

It’s finally almost nice out – which means that all the good looking people who have been hiding in their gorgeous Logan Circle apartments reading the New Yorker and watching House of Cards are finally venturing outside. Wait in line at some of DC’s public tennis courts for four hours and you’ll be sure to bond with strangers –or in line for brunch at Open City, for that matter. Hit up a rooftop bar, or get a group together for a hike on the Billy Goat Trail and have everyone bring a new friend.

Stop Being So Intimidating

Yes, you. I’m talking to you. If you’re trying to pick someone up, or get noticed, you probably don’t want to surround yourself with nine friends who act like they’re the Justice League. Even if you manage to get a table at American Ice Company on a beautiful day, you’re not more special than everyone else. Try to give off a welcoming vibe — a foreign concept to many serious and ambitious DC young professionals.

Don’t Get Wasted

There are a lot of drinks to be consumed in our lovely and stressed out city. After a 70 hour week, I understand that you want to let loose at a Nats game, the Pride Parade or Jack Rose. But we all know that the sexiest person in the room is not the one with horrible beer breath, slurring their speech as they try to invite you to brunch at Mintwood Place. We’re now in the era of “tipsy,” and “sloppy” should be reserved for special occasions.

Be Brave

I’ve observed that your best love potentials are the people right there in front of you. If you’ve got a crush, or if we’re trying to be grown up about it, a hunch that someone might be right for you, you’ve got to go for it. Let’s be clear – this goes for males and females. If the concept of “date night” scares you away, then take advantage of some of DC’s awesome activities – like a museum, the cherry blossoms, the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park, Eastern or Union Market – to create a date that is unique, less stressful, and fun!

The Internet is Not Going Away

Let’s face it, people. If you’re not internet dating yet, and you want to find someone, you probably should. You trusted the internet to find your apartment and file your taxes, so take one month to try out an internet dating website. The worst thing that happens is you get a good story and you’re in the same place you are right now.

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by Borderstan.com March 15, 2013 at 10:30 am 1 Comment

Whiskey

The DC Whiskey Walk was last Saturday. (Scott Leibowitz)

From Lauren Levine and Scott Leibowitz.

On Saturday March 9, we set out on a lovely sunny winter’s day to taste the finest Irish whiskey DC has to offer. Thankfully, the first ever DC Whiskey Walk was very well organized, with registration including a map and punch card system that made tasting and moving bar-to-bar easy and efficient. The friendly registration table prepared us for an afternoon of drinking with a live bagpiper and plenty of green beaded necklaces to go around.

While the many bar crawls in DC attract a crowd of 21- to 25-year-olds, this walk brought in residents of all ages. Each of the eight bars offered one unique whiskey as well as other drink and food specials. The mood was festive, as it was a gorgeous sunny day, making it pleasant to stroll from bar to bar throughout the Dupont area. We were especially thankful for the few bars, likes James Hoban’s and Irish Whiskey Public House, which offered outdoor seating.

Meet the Pickleback

For us, the highlight of the day was learning about the “pickleback” — a shot of whiskey followed by pickle juice. A fellow whiskey walker tipped us off to it at Madhatter and with an enthusiastic endorsement from the Madhatter bartender, we gave it a shot (pun intended). Though the taste was unique, it had some of us wanting actual pickles.

Is there a future for whiskey walks? Time will tell. The level of attendance was hard to guess because participants were spread across eight bars. It was not as social as other District drinking events are, and we found it difficult to meet new people. Maybe we needed more whiskey.

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by Borderstan.com March 12, 2013 at 11:00 am 3 Comments

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Friendwork"

Kayaking with a friend. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s no secret that DC is a transient city. You’ve probably been here less than three years and probably plan to move within three years, resulting in a lot of social turbulence. Friends must be made and friends must be replaced.

When I first moved here, I was in need of friends. But making friends isn’t easy. I can’t just walk up to a girl with a “Free John Bates” tote bag at the farmer’s market and tell her that she would be my perfect new best friend and would she like to drink wine with me and talk about Jennifer Lawrence? Even though my freckles and dimples are very disarming, she’d probably think I was a creep.

That’s where “friendworking” comes in — meeting friends through mutual friends. Friendworking is networking’s friendlier and more attractive older brother, yet less serious than matchmaking.

Friendworking is More Important than Networking

Networking might get you a new job with more responsibility, a higher pay check and maybe even your own intern. But at the end of the day, will that new job sit with you while you catch up on Breaking Bad? Will your new job take you rock climbing for the first time?

In these early years of our ambitious climb out of entry-level positions, it’s easy to lose sight of what will bring you long-term happiness. Countless studies show that a wide circle of friends and close relationships are the key to happiness.

How to Friendwork

Unlike dating, friendworking in the 21st Century can actually happen outside of OkCupid. You can do it at work, at a happy hour, at a party or at your entertainment venue of choice. Potential friends are everywhere.

  • Stop asking everyone “what do you do?” the second you meet them. It’s no way to start off a friendship. Keep that question for networking events only.
  • The best way to friendwork is to be open to every new person you meet. They could end up as your best friend, your golf buddy, your foreign film watching companion or your free ride to the nearest Costco. They might be a perfect rebound for your recently dumped best friend, or they may be able to teach you how to make jam (which I know you’ve been dying to learn).
  • Be inviting. If you sense that someone in your life could use some new social connections, be a pal and invite them along. Oprah’s book club isn’t exclusive and yours shouldn’t be either.

There are so many things that a new friend could offer you (in a non-professional way), and you’ll never know until you give them a chance!

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by Borderstan.com January 29, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Young Professional"

The perfect host! (Google Maps)

Isn’t it peculiar how this city is practically dominated by young professionals (and over-pampered dogs) and yet there’s no one making fun of our strange and highly predictable ways? Well move aside, baby boomers, foreign diplomats and anyone with a mortgage (ages 30 to 55).

Generation Y is here to stay in the District and boy do we have problems.

If you’re a young professional living in the District, and especially one living in Borderstan, like me, you are probably a perpetual host.

But, if you’re also like me, having a visitor is quite a double edged sword. You’re excited to see them but exhausted at the thought of entertaining them for a few days. Parents may visit you every six to 12 months, and assuming you’re an underpaid, low-level staffer or, worse yet, an intern, you can’t go wrong with nice restaurants and non-Smithsonian museums (Newseum? $20? Ugh).

A Friend in Town?

Having a friend in town, though? That’s a completely different story. Whether or not you care to admit it, you’re in it to impress them with your awesome post-college lifestyle. I recommend:

  • The ultimate mall tour – we both know that you can’t afford a $50 hop on, hop off bus tour, let alone a $75 segway tour. So I recommend lacing up your sneakers and doing Lauren’s ultimate walking tour: a full day of bonding while being an excellent tour guide. Plus the walking will make you feel less guilty about the eating and drinking!
  • The nightlife – Most importantly, with a friend visiting, you have to show them a good time. You don’t want your visitor to think you have anything but the most vibrant social life. To show off your 15 to 25 friends all in one venue, I recommend American Ice Company (“look how hipster and trendy I am now!”), Buffalo Billiards (“Hail to the Redskins! I think that’s what all the locals say…”) or Lost Society (“Don’t you just love how DC has rooftop bars?”).
  • Late night eating – I’m both ashamed and proud to admit that my friends usually remember this best. Whether it’s Amsterdam Falafel, Jumbo Slice or Ben’s Chili Bowl, there’s a lot to show off in and near Borderstan.
YPP_Collage

(Luis Gomez Photos)

Pro Tips

  • Old Town Alexandria – Gosh this place is perfect for visitors. There’s amazing food, cute one-of-a-kind shops and it’s great in all seasons.
  • Mount Vernon – DC residents all too often forget that our city’s namesake lived just down the road, accessible by car, bike or boat – ideal for a political/history nerd.
  • The National Arboretum – 8 out of 12 months of the year, pack up a picnic (or some Taylor Gourmet sandwiches to go) and head over to our nicest park. Take fun photos among the Capitol Building columns!
  • Great Falls – Too crunchy for typical tourist stuff? Great Falls National Park is a quick drive away, and even if your visitor isn’t up for a hike, you can get instragrams views of the falls without having to walk more than 100 yards from your car!
YPP_Collage2

(Luis Gomez Photos)

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by Borderstan.com November 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,367 1 Comment

"DGS"

Deli anyone? (Lauren Levine)

From Lauren Levine.

When word spread that a new, Jewish-style restaurant was opening up in Dupont, needless to say myself and all the other Jews of the District (so, about 30 percent of the population?) were excited. Homemade pickles? Matzoh ball soup? Meat that was cooked slowly and with such care that it just melts in your mouth? Count me in.

It was with high hopes and my loosest pants that I booked my reservation to try out DGS Delicatessen which recently opened at 1317 Connecticut Avenue NW for its only available Saturday night timeslot at 9:15. The décor was modern, the staff was young and the blown-up picture of a mid-20th century Jewish family at their Shabbos dinner table seemed completely out of place.

DGS offers a fairly limited menu full of Yiddish words and dishes that anyone with familiarity with Jewish culture (which we all know heavily revolves around the food) will recognize.

As a passionate pickle-connoisseur and amateur pickler myself, I was intrigued by their house-made pickles. The pickle plate appetizer did not disappoint; I was pleased to find a large arrangement of pickled vegetables, including cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and even leeks, made in both vinegar and fermented styles.

Of course, you simply can’t have a Jewish deli without some matzoh ball soup. Every family has its master matzoh-baller, and one sip (hopefully with the perfect proportion of ball:broth) evokes memories of big family dinners and begging your mom/dad/bubbe to make it for you when you’re sick. And DGS was able to stand tall next to the memories of yore – while the broth was a little bland, the matzoh ball made up for it with perfect consistency and flavor.

At this point, it has to be said – Chef Barry Koslow can be applauded for finding a niche in DC’s population and playing to it with homestyle dishes like matzoh ball soup and hot pastrami, and doing it with responsibly farmed and homemade ingredients. However, there are many local Jews who will not forgive him for opening yet another “Jewish” deli that does not serve kosher meat.

When it comes to entrees, at DGS you have a selection of four sandwiches and five entrees. Most of the dishes are Jewish in name and not flavor. My flanken was so tender it fell apart on my fork. And though the Tunisian spices were fun and tasty, I missed my great-grandmother’s traditional flanken, stewed for hours in onions and garlic, with carrots and potatoes served over egg noodles.

The shishlik, which my boyfriend ate, was similarly delicious, but their fish skewers were nothing like traditional shishlik of beef or lamb. Nonetheless, my boyfriend, as a kosher observing Jew, appreciated having a protein on the menu he could eat.

Post-entrée, I was giving thanks for my most comfortable pants, but I knew I had to go on. There’s nothing in Jewish law that says thou shall eat only until full. To top off our “Jewish” meal, we split the babka bread pudding. While there was no babka to be found in the ramekin we were served, it was rich and had perfect morsels of dark chocolate.

DGS is nothing to kvell about (especially if you have the word “kvell” in your vocabulary), and I wouldn’t bring bubbe or zayde there when they come to visit. And yet, the food is good, and I left content. You be the judge.

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