by Borderstan.com March 26, 2013 at 9:30 am 0

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com.

"Councilmember"

Talk to your Councilmember face-to-face. (Photo:Luis Gomez)

Tired of all the muggings and stabbings happening on your street? Upset about that intersection near your apartment where you’ve almost been hit on your bike, twice? Want to weigh in for or against the proposed liquor moratorium? Or do you have something positive to report — a city service that was completed efficiently, maybe; or good feedback on the development coming to your neighborhood?

Now you can unload all the good and the bad with someone who could actually do something about it. This Thursday, two DC Councilmembers are having informal meet and greets or “office hours” in and around Borderstan: new Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) and longtime Councilmember (and likely mayoral candidate) Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who now has most of Shaw in his Ward.

These open meetings provide an intimate setting away from City Hall for you to ask your biggest questions and actually get answers. Did you come up with a plan to fix the Metro escalators? Have a brilliant idea for the public school on your block? Want to suggest a parking ticket amnesty day? Don’t keep those to yourself — share them!

Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6)

  • Community Office Hours: Azi’s Café (1336 9th Street NW) on Thursday, March 28, 8 a.m to 9:30 a.m.

Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large)

  • Grosso Near You: Big Bear Café (1700 1st Street NW) on Thursday, March 28, 8 am to 9:30 am.

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by Borderstan.com March 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

"Nana"

Nana: Spring Collection debuts March 27 at GoodWood. (Courtesy Nana Collection)

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com.

Some people will do whatever it takes to pursue their dreams. Obstacles? Surmount them. Challenges? Overcome them. Pretty, flattering dresses? Sew them.

Jackie Flanagan, proprietor of Nana, a former boutique in Mount Pleasant and on U Street NW and now a super stylish clothing line, is one of those people. Fearless entrepreneur pursuing her passion so that we all may be dressed a little bit better? Check, check.

Nana was first launched on U Street in 2003 as part consignment, part vintage, part new clothing store. As the store grew and expanded, the focus shifted to accommodate what customers were looking for — more new pieces and eventually, a few of Flanagan’s own creations.

Now, Nana has evolved into what Flanagan thinks her customers are really after: a unique, affordable, vintage-inspired-yet-modern, tailored clothing collection, handmade entirely in the District, sold at trunk shows and online.

Flanagan wasn’t a designer in the beginning – she has a background in marketing, publishing, and the arts — but she knew how to sew, she learned pattern making, and she knew her Nana clientele. Was it crazy for a non-designer to launch a clothing line?  Perhaps, but she says she just jumped in and did it. “Life is in the doing.”

This is the Whatever-It-Takes model of entrepreneurship, and just the kind of small business owners many of us in Borderstan hope to support. And better yet, the clothes are all designed, sewn, and finished by Flanagan and her partners in Adams Morgan and Mount Pleasant. That’s just cool.

While part of the retail-to-pop-up evolution was responding to customers, part was to fill Flanagan’s own creative needs to “switch things up.” After ten years of the storefront, it was important to Flanagan to have a business that focused more on her favorite, best parts – do a few things, and do them well.

So you won’t find Flanagan running her boutique these days, but you will find her popping up all over town with her spring line. As she says, “Business isn’t a location.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we will be joining Flanagan on Wednesday at Goodwood as she unveils her spring collection with a trunk show, full of classic tops and tunics ($65 to $100), pencil skirts ($100 to $120), go-anywhere shift dresses ($140 to $180), and more. The detailing is the star here, with soft floral patterns like this daffodil top, earthy neutrals and a focus on fit. Included in the sales price of each item will be custom tailoring.

And champagne, did we mention champagne?

If you’re not able to make it on Wednesday, all pieces will be available on Nana’s website after the show. And stay tuned all spring, as Flanagan plans to unveil more items from the collection every month at a new pop-up location.

Asked her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and fashion designers, and it was simple: “Learn to sew.”

Nana Spring Collection Pop-Up

  • Where: GoodWood, 1428 U Street NW.
  • When: Wednesday, March 27, from 5 until 8 pm.
  • And? No appointment necessary.

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by Borderstan.com March 11, 2013 at 11:05 am 0

Let's go-go. (Melanie Hudson)

Let’s go-go. (Melanie Hudson)

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. Featured photo: “Cool Disco Dan” by Hudson.

By now you’ve heard about the new exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s, which is lighting up Twitter and Instagram and popping up everywhere in your Facebook feed. Finally, the culture critics say, Washington has an exhibit all its own, featuring the only musical form indigenous to the area — go-go — and attracting tastemakers from all over.

But here’s my advice, Borderstanis, don’t just go to the exhibit. Do the Washington thing and attend a lecture or panel discussion. This month, the Corcoran is offering a series of events to highlight the show, geared at all of the music geeks and amateur music historians out there. Each of these events is full of such cool information, it will no doubt figure prominently as your standard “Did you know…” conversation piece from here on.

The History of Go-Go

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a primer: in the aftermath of the riots of 1968 when neighborhoods across the city were destroyed, Chuck Brown emerged with a new funk sound (go-go), that was hyper-local to each DC neighborhood and “crew.” Around the same time, an underground punk scene was thriving with the 9:30 Club at its heart (it was downtown then).

Graffiti, street music, self-promotion and a do-it-yourself culture connected this local music scene, in a time where many people felt abandoned by a corrupt government and overwhelmed by violence. All of this resulted in something Washingtonians can now be proud of: a unique punk, hardcore, and go-go scene, now being studied by academics and historians the world over.

The Corcoran has collected (on loan from local institutions like the 9:30 Club and Globe printing press) an incredible display of memorabilia, including a huge selection of neon Globe concert posters; old music photos, flyers and record covers; DC political memorabilia (lots of stuff on Mayor-for-life Marion Barry); video footage of shows, riots, graffiti and violence; and newspaper clippings depicting the tragic murders and the rise of drugs in 1980s DC.

The exhibit was curated by Roger Gastman, a Bethesda native, publisher, filmmaker and graffiti connoisseur of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” fame, now also the guy behind the new film “Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan.” In fact, the king of DC graffiti, Cool “Disco” Dan, figures prominently in the storyline, shown tagging DC buses and making a name for himself – long before DC Donutz came around.

Events and Exhibit

Details on the events are below and the exhibit runs through April 7. All events are $10 for non-members, $8 for members, and $5 for students. Register early — you’re not the only academic in town.

  • Bustin’ Loose: Stories from D.C.’s Underground Music Scenes, Tuesday, March 12, 7 pm Panel Discussion: Tomorrow, take in this panel featuring homegrown experts of the unique-to-D.C. underground youth culture of go-go and hardcore, just swapping stories: 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz; D.C. Go-Go and hip-hop artist DJ Kool; discographer, writer and DJ Iley Brown, II; and musician Alec MacKaye.
  • Go-Go Music: The History and Evolution of DC’s Legendary Beat, Monday, March 18, 7 pm Lecture: Ever heard of ethnomusicology? Of course you have. Expert Kip Lornell, Adjunct Professor of American Music and Ethnomusicology at George Washington University and co-author of The Beat: Go Go Music from Washington, DC, will talk about go-go music’s development and ongoing popularity, including the births of bands such as Rare Essence (RE), Trouble Funk, and Junk Yard Band in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as more recent bands and their modern take.
  • DIY DC, Thursday, March 28, 7 pm Panel Discussion: Do-It-Yourself was not invented by Martha Stewart, people. Both go-go and punk subcultures followed a DIY approach, often promoting their own music, making their own posters and creating their own scene outside of a mainstream record label or industry. Discussion will focus on the music and gangs of pre-gentrification DC and panelists include Trouble Funk’s “Big” Tony Fisher, Rare Essence’s Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, Washington music writer Mark Jenkins, former D.C. Police detective Donald “Goose” Gossage and Gangster George, a former member of the Gangster Chronicles crew.

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by Borderstan.com February 26, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

"hair"

Your hair deserves an affair. (Melanie Hudson)

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

We like to think of ourselves as monogamous. Loyal. Committed. Once we find The One, we never so much as let our eyes wander. We invest a lot of hours into nurturing this relationship, and we wouldn’t think of messing it up with a cheap fling. We follow him as he bounces from place to place, as he becomes less available, as he demands more time and money, because we are devoted. He gets me, we think. He makes me feel gorgeous. He’s got such strong hands. He’s met my mother.

Ladies, forget about it. For a good time, you may need to cheat on your once-in-a-lifetime relationship and call someone new – someone who specializes in the kind of quickie you’re looking for: a really good blow out.

Why pay someone to wash, dry and flat iron or curl your hair, when it’s not time for a trim or color? Because they do it better than you do. Because you have somewhere important to be and you want to rock it. Because with someone new, you can experiment and try something totally different. Because they give you a mini scalp massage. Because it’s only a small indulgence, but it feels like a big one. Because you leave the salon feeling super gorgeous and confident. Isn’t that the point?

If you’re worried you might get caught, leave Borderstan and try Drybar (1825 Wisconsin Avenue NW; $40), the three-month-old Georgetown outpost of the trendy yellow-accented hair salon chain that focuses entirely on blow outs, up dos and styling. No cuts. No nails. No drama. Just a quick(ish), cheap(ish) hair fix in a very stylish space with really friendly people. This just feels better.

The stylists at Drybar have clearly spent a lot of hours perfecting the hair-dry experience, and it shows. You can choose your style from a photo album of cutsey-named options such as Mai Tai and Cosmo. You can order a drink and snack and watch Sex and the City in the background. You can throw a birthday party or bridal shower and buy a monthly package in advance. Best of all, there is one price no matter what kind of hair you have – no extra charge for thick, long or curly hair as other salons routinely do. It’s also easy – online booking! – and open as early as 7 am and as late as 9 pm on many days.

Local Salons

If the mixed reviews on Yelp (mostly about the longer-than-advertised 35 minute appointment time) leave you suspicious, try a blow out at a traditional salon in the neighborhood. Most are more expensive than Drybar, however. Here’s a short list of popular salons in Borderstan:

  • Blondie’s Hair Studio: $40 and up (depending on hair thickness and length), 1910 18th Street NW.
  • Cristophe: $40-65 (Charming stylist Phillipe is offering a $40 special; others are $65), 1125 18th Street NW.
  • Immortal Beloved: $50, 1457 Church St NW.
  • Mimosa: $40, 1706 Connecticut Ave NW.
  • Salon Blu: $45 and up, 1339 14th Street NW.

Now, resolve to have an affair – just a little one – with a new stylist who works wonders with a high-quality blow dryer, curling iron, flat iron and styling stick, and at sometimes half the price of your regular haircut. Marvel at the patience it takes to methodically separate your hair into sections, drying each piece so deliberately. Sit in awe as even your frizzy mane turns silky smooth. Smile. Then, see how long you can wait before you go back for more – probably not long.

There’s no need to break up with your longtime love. Just find yourself a hair salon paramour. No matter what, you won’t be complaining about the blow out – it’s totally worth the cheat.

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by Borderstan.com February 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

"Day"

For the unconventional gift. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

It’s only a few days before the dreaded holiday-that’s-not-really-a-holiday: Valentine’s Day. The one day every year it becomes acceptable to say things like “I wheelie like you” and “I love you a latte.” The one day every year you feel justified eating a box of Godiva, because after all, it was a gift. Or the one day you allow yourself to wallow in your singlehood, indulging in a Sex and the City marathon over potato chips and wine.

Even if you are an unsentimental cynic for 364 other days, on Valentine’s Day you’ve been known to send your girlfriend expensive roses, leave a love-sticky-note on the mirror for your fiancé or make overpriced dinner reservations at a restaurant serving chocolate wine for your future partner-for-life. (Or, buy yourself those patent leather platform pumps you’ve been eyeing.)

Listen up, Borderstan: this year, ditch the traditional trappings that Hallmark is peddling and give your sweetheart something memorable, personal, and dare we say, quite hot. This Valentine’s Day, Secret Pleasures Boutique (1510 U Street NW) will add fire and spice into the mix, and Valentine’s Day will never be the same.

Secret Pleasures is a sex shop. There, I said it. Now that term of art can conjure up tawdry, sordid images. But let me assure you, dear readers, it is not a dank and dark house of pornography. Secret Pleasure is a modern, full-service palace of wonders, specializing in discretion. Its tasteful and well-curated articles range from lingerie and crotchless undies to bondage gear and fancy vibrators.

Of course there is your usual assortment of bachelorette party paraphernalia, but the full wall dedicated to lube is a sight to behold. Catering to men and women, straight and gay, singles and couples, the store sells every sex-related item you can think of — and many that even the most inventive imaginations could not dream up.

Among the offerings: body stockings, furry hand cuffs, whips, feathers, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Smart Girls Guide to the G-Spot, Lelo and Je Joue rechargeable massagers and vibrators, how-to manuals, games for couples, leather of every variety and many things we cannot print.

Staff members are open minded, not pushy and have helpful titles, such as “education coordinator.” Many have training in sexuality issues and will answer any and all of your questions. Secret Pleasures encourages its clients to check their reservations at the door and explore a healthy sexuality. They offer classes like the upcoming “Sex Toys 101” and a recent course on aphrodisiac cooking. And, a variety of their products is available on their website or they will ship orders by phone — for the shy ones among us.

So, you can go the easy route: shop for gifts from a stylish selection, look for an available table at area restaurants, buy a V-Day recommended wine and make a fancy Champagne and Chambord cocktail. Or you can shock the hell out of your significant other — or yourself! — and give a gift from Secret Pleasures. Try it, you might like it.

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by Borderstan.com January 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

"Cycle"

Off-Road at U Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

By now we’ve all heard about New York’s Soul Cycle, the highly addictive, incredibly expensive, indoor cycling studio that has (allegedly) transformed the typical gym spinning class into a spiritual journey.

Some describe it as a destination exercise ritual, planned weeks in advance, done by candlelight to club music, and more akin to a new age experience than a sweaty 45 minutes on a stationary bike.

Avid Soul Cyclers equate their instructors with a life coach and are more than willing to shell out 35 bucks per class for the transformative experience.

Hearing of this insanity brought to mind meggings, an unfortunate trend we all hope doesn’t catch on with DC men anytime soon. Surely, I thought, DC’ers would be more financially practical and keep their spinning at WSC and their affirmations in the privacy of their iPods.

Of course, I was wrong. DC, never one to buck a trend, has caught the soul-ful cycle wave. We are all cycling aficionados now — albeit with slightly more affordable classes, a more playful attitude and a somewhat less cult-like following. In the last year we have seen an abundance of indoor cycling studios pop up all over the DMV, varying in atmosphere, size, and the level of spiritual intensity, but all promising an intense, full body workout in a fun, supportive setting.

Most classes go through a series of traditional cycling intervals led by an energetic instructor (instructors vary on the spectrum between Miley Cyrus-hyper and Richard Gere-Zen). Some have dim lighting, others have segments using 2-3 pound weights for upper body exercises. Fortunately, most rock out with a well-curated soundtrack. Several studios combine spinning with yoga or barre, giving you more bang for your buck with each ride. And all classes will get your heart racing, burn calories and likely include core work – and a good amount of sweat.

The good news is these intense and intimate classes, while not cheap, have moved beyond the basic spinning routine and may finally bring us closer to ditching those big-box gym memberships. Personalized boutique fitness lovers, rejoice!

Here’s the skinny on cycling studios in Borderstan and beyond. Let us know your favorites in the comments section below and check out this cool website for more detailed reviews of each.

DC-Area Options

  • Off Road, 905 U Street NW. Borderstan’s own cycling studio offers spinning as well as boxing and TRX. Fans of Off Road cite the personal attention from the instructors and the owners, as well as a generally excellent music selection, as reasons to keep going back. While the space is small, they have a very cool projection screen for virtual rides during classes. They also offer fun diversions like Friday happy hour rides and Sunday “sufferfests” to make things interesting. $20 for a single class.
  • Sculpt DC, 950 F Street NW. This large, upscale studio uses mood lighting and a top-notch sound system to get your body moving. They incorporate weights in most classes and also offer “fusion” classes that combine 30 minutes of spinning and 30 minutes of yoga. The studio itself is very Zen and peaceful, and the downtown location is very convenient.  Drop in rate $25.
  • Stroga, 1808 Adams Mill Road NW. The popular yoga and strength training studio will begin offering cycling classes in February.
  • Revolve, 1025 North Fillmore Street, Arlington. This one-year-old Arlington studio clearly resembles Soul Cycle in terms of the spiritual elements (instructors talk about warriors as inspiration). Classes are large and done in the dark, and the studio requires you to bring clip-in shoes or rent shoes from them. They also offer a combo barre-ride for something different.  $18 per class (ask for the first class free special!)
  • ZenGo Fitness, 4866 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda. Intense, energetic classes include lots of upper body work and a spiritual focus similar to Soul Cycle. Studio offers other classes including barre. Single class $21.
  • Biker Barre738 7th Street SE. Intimate studio offering candlelit, incredibly high-energy classes near Eastern Market. Studio has a distinct community feel, and they even pass out mimosas after classes on the weekends. Students love the friendly, supportive atmosphere and the excellent music. Single class $22.

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by Borderstan.com January 11, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

"Y" Photo courtesy YMCA of Metropolitan Washington

Glenn Donellan. (Courtesy YMCA of Metropolitan Washington)

A Night of Imagination (and exercise) with the Y and NSO

It’s January again, that time of the year marketed as full of promise and self-improvement – new year, new you! – but, in reality, it’s the height of our homebody season.

It’s that time of year we most want to stay at home, order in Thai food and dissect the episodes of Breaking Bad we missed while we were too busy fretting over the train wreck characters of Girls.

Here to save us from our self-imposed winter doldrums and couch paralysis is the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. This Saturday, Glenn Donnellan of the National Symphony Orchestra will perform a free concert at the historic Twelfth Street Y building in Shaw.

This event is part of the NSO’s popular In Your Neighborhood series taking place all over Borderstan this month.  (See other concerts happening this weekend here, including performances at Shiloh Baptist Church, Lincoln Theatre, 9:30 Club and Whole Foods).

Donnellan will perform on his famous electric violin, fashioned out of a Louisville Slugger baseball bat (it sounds like an electric guitar). Guests will participate in group exercise demos, yoga, an obstacle course and create DIY trail mix. Kids and adults are welcome, but leave your winter blues (and your Walter White proclivities) at home.

The free concert also doubles as a preview for the much-anticipated launch of the new Anthony Bowen YMCA building at 14th and W Streets NW. Expected to open in March as part of the 14W residential and commercial project, it will feature fitness studios, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a large indoor pool, camps and classes for kids and adults, child care, rock climbing, cooking demos, poetry readings, movie nights and a Sweetgreen!

Celebrating 160 years in DC, the Y is confident the massive new facility will become a “hub for healthy living” as well as an integral part of the diverse options for social and recreational fun in the community. The author humbly suggests group screenings of Downton Abbey and Veep, for starters.

While you’re at it on Saturday, get a little history with your exercise: the Twelfth Street Y building is the 100-year-old home of the first YMCA chapter for African-Americans in the country, which was founded in 1853 by Anthony Bowen. The building was designed by William Sidney Pittman, son-in-law of Booker T. Washington and one of the nation’s first African-American architects. It is now home to the Thurgood Marshall Center.

Details:

  • What: A Night of Imagination with the Y and NSO
  • When: Saturday, January 12 5 to 8pm
  • With: Glenn Donnellan of the National Symphony Orchestra 6 to 7:30pm
  • Where: Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street NW

FREE but register here.

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by Borderstan.com December 31, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,229 0

From Melanie Hudson. Follow her at @champagne_me or Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

"women"

Women entrepreneurs. (Courtesy Her Corner)

What’s missing from this great round up of creative and enterprising Borderstan entrepreneurs? Women. One group is helping to change the face of local business in 2013. Enter Her Corner, a new DC-based company helping to bring women business owners together through personal, face-to-face relationships to build, grow and support one another’s businesses.

Her Corner builds hyper-local and personal networks for women entrepreneurs who are committed to growing their businesses. Founded by Frederique Campagne Irwin, a local entrepreneur with an extensive background in management consulting and several startups of her own, Her Corner was originally begun two years ago as a resource for Irwin who sought greater opportunities for networking and peer support in her own career.

It quickly took on a life of its own, launching as a full scale enterprise in August and receiving more than 400 applications from prospective members in its first two weeks.

“It’s an opportunity to grow your business by meeting other women like you who are near you,” Frederique says.

Based around neighborhoods, groups have been formed in Georgetown, Cleveland Park, Arlington and Chevy Chase, among other places. For Borderstan women, Her Corner is launching a Dupont-centered group in January. There are also ample online opportunities and a bi-monthly speaker series held in partnership with American University’s Kogod School of Business.

Many of us are familiar with the numerous career networking events going on all over town – even ones geared specifically toward women. Her Corner is unique in that it is a network of and by women entrepreneurs, meeting in each other’s homes and dedicated to helping other women succeed in starting and growing women-owned businesses.

That intimate setting leads to a natural conversation – rather than a forced, aggressive, in-your-face exchange of business cards – about each member’s business, how group members can help, who they can introduce each other to, and how each member can become more successful. Irwin says much of Her Corner’s style comes from the differences between the way men and women network.

In her experience, women thrive in an environment that is naturally focused on mentoring and advising each other — without sharp elbows. These personal conversations lead to deeper connections and help build the social capital that many first-time women entrepreneurs lack. Frederique notes, “As women, we don’t build businesses for the same reasons or in the same way as men — we’re no less ambitious but just doing it differently.”

She is focused on growth for Her Corner as much as she is focused on growing each of her member’s businesses. She hopes to expand networking groups beyond DC to other cities in the near future. So, for all you women out there who run your own business, make your new year’s resolution worthwhile and get involved with a network of like-minded women. Here are three upcoming Her Corner events to check out:

  • January 3 at 8 pm: Dupont Circle information session. Her Corner’s founders will host a conference call for prospective members to share more details about the benefits and requirements of joining. Click here for more information.
  • January 4 10 am to noon: Her Corner open discussion and coffee. On the first Friday of every month, Frederique hosts an open coffee for current and prospective members and for any budding entrepreneurs who want to learn more about starting a new business. Click here for details.
  • February 7: Speaker series at AU’s Kogod School featuring Hulya Aksu, founder of Modern DC Business Magazine. Find out more here about the speaker series.

Happy New Year’s, Borderstan! Get an RSS Feed for all Borderstan stories or subscribe to Borderstan’s daily email newsletter.

by Borderstan.com December 17, 2012 at 9:00 am 0

"gift"

The guide for the last minute Holiday gifts that you need. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

What? What’s that you say? It’s December 17 and you forgot about Christmas? Only a fellow procrastinator like me would understand your dilemma – so, relax, Borderstanis, I’ve got you covered.

This year, trade in the airport-gift-shop snow globes and tacky flea market pashminas for gifts with legs: these gift ideas double as outings and are as unique as they are fun. You’ll get credit for thinking of your friends and family, as well as for organizing something better than the office holiday party cruise on the Potomac.

  • For your clever (and discreet) assistant: Take him/her to cozy Tabard Inn (1739 N Street NW) for classic cocktails by the fire and bond over something more interesting than spreadsheets and to-do lists. While it’s not the newest or trendiest choice around, there is good reason it’s as busy now as it ever was. Order the mulled cider, a Sazerac, or one of the expert bartenders’ crafty concoctions perfectly suited to this festive time of year, and confess where you really were that one day you called in “sick.” This ought to make the office a lot more fun.
  • For your long-distance sweetheart visiting on New Year’s Eve: The overwhelming pressure to entertain an out-of-town guest is only slightly less stifling than the immense burden to “have fun” on New Year’s Eve. Conquer both with one click and head to the 9:30 Club (815 V Street NW): on December 31, you can see the very popular alt-rock-country band Drive-By Truckers with special guest and Bonaroo favorite North Mississippi Allstars. After an evening of singing and dancing with your fellow plaid shirt wearing fans – plus a champagne toast at midnight – your honey-dear will want to stick around well into the new year.
  • For your best friend with kids who never spoils herself anymore: Organize a day out for a woman who really needs it – whether she will admit it or not. Take an afternoon shopping tour of Borderstan, either for last-minute gifts (if she is a procrastinator like you!) or to take advantage of post-Christmas sales, that doubles as quality best friend time. There are so many routes to choose from, all lined with home goods, clothing, baby, furniture, paper, food and pet shops galore: 14th Street NW from Thomas Circle to U Street; U Street NW from 9th to 18th Streets; or Connecticut Avenue NW from K Street to Florida Avenue. It will be her favorite gift all year.
  • For your parents (you know, the people you generally take for granted the other 11 months of the year): Something about the festive atmosphere of a French bistro reminds us of the holidays. This year, get out of the house and pretend you’re in Paris with a Christmas Eve meal at Bistro La Bonne (1340 U Street NW) – your treat. On December 24 they will be open from noon until 10 p.m. and are offering a special three-course holiday meal in addition to their regular menu classics like steak frites, cassoulet and mussels. Further impress your family by making a reservation and have Champagne waiting at the table. It’s only once a year you can realistically keep this up, so you might as well make it good.
  • For your neighbors who have the dubious honor of holding your spare key: Say thank you for all those times you locked yourself out or left the iron plugged in or forgot to feed your cat. Take your neighbors’ annual holiday party to the next level and have a half case (or more) of wine or several bottles of spirits delivered straight to their door via 1 West Dupont Circle Wine and Liquor (2012 P Street NW). This huge bottle shop just off Dupont Circle at P Street will deliver for free, and even bring ice which is always the first thing to go. With this generosity, your neighbors will become your friends – and be more likely to overlook the fact you stayed at their party perhaps one drink too long.

And if none of these ideas suit you, it’s always a good idea to give to your favorite local nonprofit in honor of someone you love; most nonprofits will send a card to the honoree acknowledging your gift in their name. It’s a generous way to let someone know you’re thinking of them during this annual season of giving.

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Happy holidays!

by Borderstan.com December 3, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,632 8 Comments

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

"bagels"

Bethesda Bagels, 1718 Connecticut Avenue. (Luis Gomez Photos)

I hate you, we break up, you call me, I love you.

If Taylor Swift lived in Borderstan and ate bagels, we would be able to stop the speculation about the target of her incredibly catchy pop anthem (Jake Gyllenhaal? John Mayer?) and know with certainty she is talking about Bethesda Bagels (1718 Connecticut Avenue NW).

Any Borderstani who has visited the DC outpost of Bethesda Bagels can attest to two things: their extremely delicious bagels and their extremely poor customer service. The lines? The attitude? The chaos? Please, just give me my bagel.

This is a bagel shop you want to love – large, fresh, hot, soft bagels with great flavor, seasoning on both sides (a must), and a crunchy exterior bursting with an excess of cream cheese, homemade spreads and deli meats. Consistently rated the best bagel in DC, one of their endless variety of sandwiches will fill you up well past lunch. They willingly serve breakfast all day, and a simple toasted bagel with cream cheese costs less than $3 – a good price for such a delicious treat. So, what’s not to like?

For starters, nearly everything in the bagel transaction is designed to maximize your frustration level. Entering their bagel paradise is like Dante entering the nine circles of Hell, subjecting yourself to the whims of a lackadaisical, inconsistent, mismatched staff, who may or may not heed your request for “light on the butter” or “heavy on the cream cheese” or “untoasted” or “extra tomatoes.” What will you end up with today? Who knows!

This time, I’m telling you, I’m telling you.

But that could be overlooked if the ordering process were not so stressful and confusing. Nearly every month since they opened in Dupont a year ago, there has been a new “system” to organize customers in line, take orders, and pay — all of which, as far as I can tell, have resulted in varying degrees of chaos. Do I pay when I order or when I receive my food? Well, that depends on the time of day. Where should I stand while I wait? Here, or there. Will there be an awkward snake of line-dividers in the middle of the store, preventing any free flow of traffic?  You can count on it.

A quick search on Google and Yelp reveals this is not an isolated complaint from one disgruntled customer. The same themes are expressed over and over, as in these examples:

“Good food, poor service.”

“Bagels are definitely good but the service is awful. Someone probably forgot to tell them they are in the customer service business…”

“Minus one star for the ordering process…it is so confusing.”

If you are not a bagel-enthusiast, you are wondering why customers just don’t stop griping and go somewhere else. But bagel-devotees know the answer: there is nowhere else in DC as good as Bethesda Bagels. So, despite the lack of coherent, friendly and efficient service, we go back, thinking this time will be different. We get frustrated by the long and disorderly lines, but return again and again, craving that delicious goodness like a drug we know we should quit.

I used to think that we were forever and I used to say never say never.

I’ve finally had enough. I have broken up with Bethesda Bagels. As good as the everything bagel, toasted, with light veggie cream cheese is, I can’t handle the stress. Ordering a bagel should not make a person want to scream and storm out of the store in protest – both of which I have done, before going back the following week in sunglasses. In the interest of my sanity and my skinny jeans, we are breaking up and – at least this week – never, ever, ever, getting back together.

This is exhausting.  We are never getting back together.  Like, ever.

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by Borderstan.com November 19, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,001 0

"wine"

Some of the wine options for Thanksgiving. (Melanie Hudson)

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

Thanksgiving seems to have come a little early this year. Suddenly we shifted into high gear, running all over Borderstan buying cinnamon scented pine cone decorations, counting how many place settings we actually have and asking strangers on the street how big of a turkey to buy for eight people (12 to 14 pounds). What is likely still on most of our to-do lists, however, is shopping for wine for the big meal. Whether you are the host or the guest, don’t show up empty handed and leave the wine choices to your neighbor’s friend’s boyfriend’s cousin. This year, get it right.

We asked Borderstan wine guy Bobby Kim, owner of Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor (1529 Connecticut Avenue NW) for his recommendations on the perfect Thanksgiving pairings. Situated on the north side of the Dupont Circle metro stop, the convenience factor and his extensive selection of affordable wines (and craft beers) make it unnecessary to look any further than local. Plus, he is open late.

Here are seven perfectly-paired bottles of wine for Thanksgiving that will ensure thanks from your guests and accolades from your hosts. Happy Thanksgiving, Borderstan!

  • 2012 Las Perdices Viognier (Mendoza, Argentina) $13.99Viognier is a must. Unlike French Viogniers, American and South American varieties are not overly dry. This wine is full of character and fruit and complements a traditional Thanksgiving menu – and probably even a tofurkey one, too. Plus, the price is right.
  • 2011 Domaine Pichot Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Sec (Loire Valley, France) $17.99. This wine is a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Vouvray is traditionally creamy, but Vouvray Sec is dryer and great with food. This is an option for those tempted to buy Sauvignon Blanc, which does not pair well with a Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing.
  • 2011 Frog’s Leap La Grenouille Rouganté Rosé (Napa Valley, California) $21.99. Just because summer is over does not mean you need to put away the rosé. In fact, this wine, described as gravelly with a crisp acidity, goes particularly well with heartier food. Made from Zinfindel and Valdiguie (aka Napa Gamay), it is a more complex wine and your palette will be rewarded.
  • 2009 Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir (Coteaux du Verdon, France) $14.99. The well-known French Burgundy producer Louis Latour makes this Pinot Noir in southwestern France but in the mold of new-world style Sonoma and Russian River Valley Pinots – meaning, fuller-bodied, lush and fruit forward compared to the traditional lighter French Pinots. This Pinot is a good choice for Thanksgiving as it pairs well with the food but is not heavy, and it is imminently drinkable.
  • 2010 Domaine de Chateaumar Cuvée Bastien Cotes du Rhone (Southern Rhone Valley, France) $19.99. This wine is a clean, full-bodied red that is the opposite of Pinot Noir. It is 100% Grenache, which is unique, and opens up as it breathes. This wine pairs well with rich flavors and will provide a good complement to the heaviness of the mashed potatoes and gravy.
  • 2010 Sass Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon) $23.99. For many, Oregon Pinot Noir is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but this particular choice is elegant, not as fruity, and slightly dry – a complete balance. Sass is a boutique winery with smaller productions, which means you will get a little more character than name recognition, and at a slightly higher price.  But, with its earthy and silky qualities, this versatile wine may be the all-around perfect match for Thanksgiving.

Tell us your picks for Thanksgiving wines in the comments below!

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by Borderstan.com November 8, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,788 2 Comments

"Barre"

Barre all over town. (Courtesy B.Fit )

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

Perhaps you have fond memories of ballet class as a child, back when every student wore a pink tutu and tights and had no problems with posture. You saw Black Swan and imagine that you, too, could become a vegan, drop 20 pounds and win an Oscar – if only you had a full year of your life to dedicate to the task.  Whatever the reason, embrace your inner ballerina and make a beeline for the barre.

Barre classes – which combine elements of ballet dancing, Pilates, yoga, strength training and stretching in a series of intense, repetitive exercises – date back to at least the 1970’s but didn’t quite catch fire until about 10 years ago. While there are various styles and methods, all can be traced back to the German dancer Lotte Berk who first used ballet barre routines as exercise with her celebrity clients in London as early as 1959.

But let’s not kid ourselves: this is not your mother’s ballet. These classes are hard. As in, your thighs, glutes, hamstrings, abs and arms will beg you to stop and it will take every ounce of willpower you have to keep going. It’s all worth it, though – barre results in a lean, firm, sculpted body that even Natalie Portman would envy.

Here are the most popular barre classes in Borderstan and beyond. Tell us about your favorite studios in our comment section.

  • B. Fit ,1339 14th Street NW Suite #3 (Logan Circle), $22 new student special for 2 classes. This five-year old friendly and intimate studio space in a walk up in Logan Circle offers classes that combine strength training, Pilates, and ballet barre exercises that are accessible and easy to learn. Focused on form and the isolation and exhaustion of major muscles, B. Fit has just enough ballet movement to carry you through the intense sequences of butt-kicking drills. Prepare to get worked.
  • Epic Yoga, 1323 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle), $18 single class or $20 unlimited week for first time clients. This beautiful yoga studio (hardwood floors, exposed brick, high ceilings) known for its instructors offers a popular barre-yoga class that incorporates elements of ballet barre, cardio and Pilates into traditional yoga. Amenities include locker rooms, showers and laundry service and a lounge with wifi.
  • XTend Barre DC ®, 1228 Blagden Alley NW (Mt. Vernon Square), $20 walk in; studio will honor Fuel mat class packages; free classes November 10-11. Opening November 10 from the owners of Fuel Pilates in Georgetown, XTend Barre DC is a particular style of barre that blends Pilates and sculpting exercises with the fast-paced rhythm of dance to strengthen, lengthen and stretch. Currently offered at Fuel as well as in studios across the country and around the world, this method promises to chisel your body – and fast. Now that is an offer we’re willing to accept.
  • The Bar Method DC ™, 750 9th Street NW (Chinatown), $24 single class or $125 unlimited month for first time clients. The DC franchise of The Bar Method, which they say is the heir to the Lotte Berk way of teaching, offers an intense, highly regimented Pilates-style class that combines isometrics, dance conditioning and interval training for that lean, sought-after body. The instructors make it a point to call you out by name, so there is no hiding in the back of class. The pushups alone will exhaust you. Showers and lockers are provided in their spacious, clean – and carpeted – studios.
  • Barre 3 ®, 1000 Wisconsin Ave NW Suite G-100 (Georgetown), $25 single class or $45 for 3 classes for new clients. A franchise of the national parent company, this barre class focuses on balance, strength and flexibility in exercises that bring together ballet barre, yoga, and Pilates. Studio has more of a scene-y vibe (Jill Biden occasionally pops by!) and offers a bonus: inexpensive childcare on-site.
  • Biker Barre, 738 7th Street SE (Capitol Hill), $22 single class or $50 unlimited week for new clients. This new cycling and barre studio from the former owners of Red Bow Studio offers low-impact, high-intensity barre classes that are music-driven and combine Pilates, dance, and yoga. Studio encourages use of their lounge area and free wifi and has a relaxed atmosphere perfect for beginners and experts alike. Plus, mimosas after Sunday morning classes!

Next up: Borderstan tackles New York’s trend of the moment: Soul Cycle!

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by Borderstan.com November 5, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,575 0

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

"Market"

Glen’s Market to open in spring 2013. (Luis Gomez Photos)

New farm fresh market to open spring 2013.

It has been a long two years for residents on the north and west sides of Borderstan looking for last minute fixings for dinner. Since the Townhouse (“Secret”) Safeway at Florida and 20h Street closed, Dupont residents have been out of luck.

There has been Safeway on 17th Street in a pinch – but when what you really need is that organic ingredient, super-fresh produce or a particular specialty item, Whole Foods was a time consuming trek in a time crunch.

Next spring our long yuppie nightmare will end with the opening of Glen’s Garden Market in the former Secret Safeway space in Dupont Circle (2001 S Street NW). Proprietor Danielle Vogel will bring seasonal and sustainable produce, meats, dairy, beers and wine and specialty foods straight from the Chesapeake Bay watershed to our dinner tables. Her goal is to source products only from farms and chefs in the immediate DMV area as well as West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York – tasting every product as she goes.

Danielle has spent several years developing relationships with local farmers who produce the types of small batch products, most often without huge production facilities, that she hopes to feature at Glen’s and has tasted her fair share of jellies, jams and mustards. All this research will pay off for customers in the form of a “full time farmer’s market in a grocery store.”

The market will also feature a beer and wine bar, showcasing the regional breweries and wineries that consistently bring home the gold in competition, and a communal space for enjoying our region’s best products in the store with friends.

A former Borderstan resident who has lived in the DC area for a decade, Danielle knows the neighborhood and clientele well, and even has done her own stint in the government like many of us. Though she is a first-time business owner, she is excited to join the generations of entrepreneurs in her family, and feels like this is something she has been waiting to do her whole life. That passion for food and family shows: Glen’s Garden Market is named after her father, Glen, who passed away in 2002.

We think her future is bright. Keep track of the store’s progress on the Facebook page and count down the days until we bring local local.

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by Borderstan.com October 19, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,291 0

"yoga"

Join YOGAVOTES this weekend for a one-of-a-kind call to action. (Photo credit: Kristin Adair, courtesy of YogaVotes)

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 

What do politics and yoga have in common? Except for both being very popular among Borderstan readers, not much, right? Well the organizers of YOGAVOTES think differently. They believe the same values yogis embrace on the mat – mindfulness, connection, compassion, awareness – should be an essential part of yogis’ lives off the mat, as well.

YOGAVOTES is a project of Off the Mat, Into the World and is a nonpartisan push for greater electoral participation among the 20 million Americans who practice yoga. By motivating people to think about why voting is important, YOGAVOTES and Off the Mat hope to encourage yogis to practice “mindful” voting.

This Sunday that idea will be tested here in DC with an event they are calling “Yoga the Vote: Vote Your Heart.” This “yoga variety show” will include a free yoga class with several teachers including Kerri Kelly, a concert by Mike de la Rocha, who is a musician activist touring with Rock the Vote, and a talk and meditation by internationally known teacher and author Max Strom.

Along with the yoga celebrities in attendance, participants will be encouraged to ask questions of themselves: what do I stand for and how? Why will I vote and what am I voting for? Why is it important to me to be active in my community? Ultimately, the organizers hope, yogis will unite around the ideas of voting from their hearts, getting connected, getting involved – and expressing those values of compassion, mindfulness and awareness.

Kristin Adair, a yoga instructor (in northern Virginia and at Embrace in Adams Morgan) and DC Community Builder with Off the Mat, has said they expect 100-150 people to turn out this weekend. Her background as a Hill staffer, presidential campaign aide, and lawyer and lobbyist for nonprofit causes has prepared her well for this new role encouraging more active civic participation and awareness.

“I had lots of opportunities to see inspiring aspects in my work, but also disheartening aspects. Yoga and politics can go together – they aren’t separate. We need to bridge the gap between knowledge about the political process and our yoga space.”

She is also aware of her critics, some of whom are yogis unconcerned or uninformed about politics. Kristin says that your individual yoga practice can influence your participation, and that you can get involved in a way that is meaningful to you.

For example, when thinking about elections, many of us have a very partisan view and often a very negative view of the other side.  YOGAVOTES encourages bringing mindfulness and unity and compassion into the lens through which we view politics, and actually listening to people on the other side of a debate.

“It’s interesting to think about yoga: everyone is welcome – all abilities, all viewpoints, it doesn’t matter. That is different than politics. So if we bring a mindset of being present and listening to the other side, and not assume because they are on other side they are wrong – this is a revelation for me.”

For me as well.  I could have used that advice so far in this campaign cycle.

To find out how you can get involved:

  • Download materials including a voter’s guide, workshop curriculum, debate watching guide.
  • Visit a VOGAVOTES partner studio supporting the campaign to gather more information and join fellow yogis in debate watch parties and discussion.  Borderstan studios include Yoga District (two locations: 1635 Connecticut Avenue NW; 1910 14th Street NW ) and Flow Yoga Center (1450 P Street NW).
  • Pledge to vote on the YOGAVOTES website and vote in a mindful way in November.
  • Attend the Yoga the Vote D.C. event on Sunday, October 21 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at 23rd and Constitution Avenue NW (near the Lincoln Memorial). RSVP or just show up – it’s free!  Bring yoga mats and water. Beginners and experts welcome.

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by Borderstan.com September 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,062 1 Comment

Borderstan Welcomes new contributor Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com

Who has a Dutch tulip broker and a mushroom hunter on speed dial? One of our neighbors, that’s who. Sidra Forman, a lawyer by training, gave up her legal pad for gardening gloves and a chef’s knife and started a successful flower, garden, food, restaurant consulting and writing business all from her impeccable Borderstan home, and all based around a singular philosophy: simple and straightforward, with the best available ingredients from sources you trust.

"garden"

Food from the garden. (Sidra Forman)

“My food is very clean, ingredient driven and healthy by nature. The best food for you happens to be the best tasting. You don’t need to sacrifice one or the other.”

For Sidra, food was what she had always done, though informally and at home with her family. She briefly practiced law before falling into her first foodie venture: a restaurant she started with her classically trained chef husband and front-of-house-manager brother, called Ruppert’s. Located on 7th Street in a time – the mid-90s – before new businesses began opening on 7th Street, their forward-thinking food philosophy matched their status as urban pioneers.

Sidra and her husband focused on ingredients, imparting to their guests the idea that the most delicious meals are very ingredient-driven, and that meat could be merely a foil for vegetables.

“So that means best available ingredients – often means local, but doesn’t always mean local.  If I can get a beautiful white truffle from Italy I’m not going to not serve it because it’s not local. I know that sometimes I can find or purchase local chanterelles, but the season out in Oregon is long, and I have a great connection with a mushroom hunter out there, and I’m not going to not use them.”

After eight years at Ruppert’s, Sidra and her husband closed the restaurant and she turned her attention to flowers, which, she says, is the current centerpiece of her business.

Following the same “ingredient-driven” and “know your source” style, Sidra provides centerpieces and arrangements for weddings, corporate events, and parties, mostly through word of mouth and her website. Sidra sources her flowers from a variety of places: she grows some, including peonies, daisies, roses, and herbs and greens used as filler for arrangements; she buys some from local farms and wholesalers; and she purchases others from as far away as co-op farms in South America and the Dutch Auction, where she has a broker on call and can have flowers at her doorstep in two days. Working directly with her sources eliminates not only days from the process, but also increases the variety she can choose from – and virtually ensures she is going to get the best available.

"garden)

Flowers from Forman’s garden. (Caroline Tran)

Similarly, Sidra knows where her food comes from – meaning, in many cases, she knows the farmers who grew it. For example, when asked where she grocery shops, the answer is complex: her own garden, local farmers markets, Hana Japanese Market (17th and U Streets NW), wholesale dry goods purveyor International Gourmet, Whole Foods, and home delivery from an Amish farmers’ cooperative in Pennsylvania.

Forman’s career is full of diverse and multi-dimensional projects that lead tangentially to more projects, keeping her moving quickly from one thing to another. She has consulted on restaurants including old favorites like Perry’s and now-shuttered Viridian and Vegetate, and also found a successful career in food writing. With a longtime nutritionist friend, she has worked on books for lifestyle guru (and Oprah favorite) Bob Greene, including developing the recipes for several of his books.

But her favorite project and the one of which she is most proud, is helping to start the farm at Walker Jones Education Campus. She describes it as a real community effort, with neighbors, teachers, a librarian, and a principal taking over a huge piece of land, putting in some “crazy manual labor”, pulling some strings, and ending up with a functioning vegetable garden for the school. Today the food is used in the cafeteria, sold at farmers markets, and taken home for dinner by the students.

“For those of us who can afford to buy food we have lots of options, unfortunately that’s not available for everyone,” Forman said.

Sidra is particularly tied to the neighborhood and has lived on 6th Street NW,  on the edge of Borderstan for 14 years. She has seen not only the arrival of Whole Foods in Logan Circle but the changes, both good and bad, that come with new neighbors and condo developments. Surprisingly, on her block the majority of neighbors have been there even longer than her family has – meaning not only do they all know each other, they do the neighborly things most of us only wish for: warning each other about parking tickets, looking out for crime and apologizing in the one instance she says there was a break in – apologizing for not seeing anything. “It feels like people have your back,” she says.

Not one to rest on her success, Sidra has a book proposal in the works with an agent in New York on a “new food trend” (she is vegan herself), including research on the science behind it and new recipes. She is busy pulling together flowers for multiple weddings each weekend, and  hosts monthly “home restaurant” dinner parties serving food such as wood grilled quail with parsley; lamb sausage with fig, arugula, chestnut, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic; and white peach with tomato and basil.

Plus, she has a 13-year-old ballerina daughter to worry about. It seems like a full plate for most people, but Sidra says it works due to the flexibility she has with her job.  She works a lot, all night sometimes, but can stop and take time to eat dinner with her family. “I feel very lucky that I have been able to figure out a life that merges these two things.”

Visit Sidra at Sidraforman.com

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