King Cake

Quills on Que

September 13, 2015

Cathy Alter (Photo by: Cathy Alter via Facebook) Cathy Alter

There are many things I adore about living in Georgetown. The beauty of the rowhouses. The gardens and cemeteries. The uneven pavements, uneven because of the roots of the old, beautiful trees. The fact that everything is beautiful no matter the season. And the people. The amazingly interesting people. In particular, a very special kind of people – writers. When I moved to Georgetown, I had no idea I lived by so many amazing authors.  If you have not met them, try to. If you have not read any of their stories or books, do. It will give you one more reason to love this neighborhood.

Cathy Alter. My word for Cathy: Witty. Read her memoir Up for Renewal to get a sense of her self-deprecating and caustic wit. You will laugh and cringe. And laugh again. Read her numerous articles in Washingtonian Magazine and Washington Post Magazine. You will learn a lot, including about unusual churches a half-block from your home.

Elaine Crockett (Photo by: Elaine Crockett) Elaine Crockett

Elaine Crockett. My word for Elaine: Elegant. Actually I have three more words for her. Under-stated and under-cover and thoughtful. Her book, Do Not Assume, which takes place in Georgetown with all of the appropriate DC references and characters, is an anagram: DNA. I won’t reveal more so as not to spoil the amazing twists and turns of her novel. I can’t wait for the next one. And the next one after that.  

Jane Stanton Hitchcock. My word for Jane: Surprising. I met Jane thanks to her book Mortal Friends (set in DC, another amazing novel filled with love and suspense). I then quickly red One Dangerous Lady, Social Crimes, and Trick of the Eye. And then I found out this author plays in the World Series of Poker. I am hoping her next book will tell some of those tales.

Mary Louise Kelly (Photo by: Mary Louise Kelly) Mary Louise Kelly

Mary Louise Kelly. My word for Mary Louise: Cosmopolitan. She went to Harvard. She worked with NPR and travelled the world for many years. Then wrote her first book, Anonymous Sources. Then she summered in Tuscany, to write most of her second book, The Bullet.

Karin Tanabe (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Karin Tanabe

Karin Tanabe. My word for Karin: Glamorous. Half Belgian and half Japanese, she is drop dead gorgeous, even funnier, and a lover of all beauty products (perhaps from her past working at various glossy magazines and writing about beauty). Her first book, The List, takes place in DC and Middleburg, and is the best fall read ever (horses, cashmere, intrigue, and love). Her second book, The Price of Inheritance, takes place in Newport, RI, has to do with art theft, and how life never goes quite the way you expect it.

There are many more. I am sure some of them are men. These five were my first Georgetown author crushes. And my first author neighbors – it must be something about Q Street.

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Paris On My Mind

August 10, 2015

On the few delicious weekends that my husband and I get to spend in DC, we have a pretty set routine. Run the bridge loop. Go to SoulCycle. Stop by the Apple store to see the new gadgets. And eat at our favorite places, usually at the bar. These include Thunder Burger, TownHall, Black Salt, Rasika West End, Morton’s, and of course Peacock Café.

Last night, we decided to go out of our comfort zone and try one of the three new Georgetown restaurants recently written up in DC Modern Luxury Magazine – Chez Billy Sud. I have always loved the space this restaurant occupies, previously home of Café LaRuche. The bar area is so intimate and the side patio lovely – but what I love the most is that once inside the main dining room, I really feel like I could be in the Saint Germain neighborhood in Paris.

I have to say that we will have to add this to our list of favorite Georgetown places – I already can’t wait to go back – perhaps for brunch. The highlight of the evening were my Kir Royal, made perfectly and served in a champagne coupe glass instead of the usual flute, and the appetizers. I still can’t decide what was better: the smoked bluefish rillettes, perfectly fishy yet not too chunky, made smoother even by the crème freche, or the chicken liver torchon, which had the perfect balance of liver and Armagnac.

We chose the duck confit and the “semoules” as our main courses, which were both delightful – flavorful, delicisouly-prepared, yet not too heavy (which is always a concern of mine with French cuisine).

While a true French dinner must end with dessert, we had to pass this time – although I eyed the Plat de Fromage the couple at the table next to use was having.

Chez Billy Sud, we will be back. And now I have Paris on my mind …


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Tinos Remains a Paradise

July 1, 2015

The tide comes in an out. The monks chant. The wind blows. The bells of the church ring. All seems to be well, normal, on the Greek island of Tinos. We have been coming here for the past six years, and these are all “normal” things indeed. This year, however, there are signs of uncertainty, signs that the economy is unwell. Signs like long lines at the ATMs, when they are dispensing money. Signs like red posters in front of the ATMs indicating that they are not working, all out of cash. No one wants to talk about it – after all, most of the people we meet are, like us, on vacation (mostly Greeks summering in Tinos), and part of the point of vacation is to forget about the cares of real life. But given the timing, it is impossible not to discuss. The mood, while not somber, is very uncertain. When we ask our new friends Georgios and Dimitra when they will come back to Tinos, the answer is “we don’t know… we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.” Our architect friend Panagyotis doesn’t know if he will have access to his money to pay his workers on the various sites he has to visit in Athens tomorrow. It is, indeed, uncertain.

Yet for all of this, the paradise that is Tinos remains a paradise. The people who live here have a deep kindness, a genuine care for others that I have never seen anywhere else. Last night, we left our favorite restaurant, Bourou, after a delicious meal, without paying. The credit card machine was down. (Does this have to do with the banking situation, who knows?). While we had cash, the maître d’h Georgios just told us to come back tomorrow morning. “The banks may close,” he said, “but we will still be here.”

For all that is going on, however, Tinos remains the paradise it will always be for me. An island in the Cyclades without an airport, it is one of the least touristy for that reason. And, in my mind, one of the most beautiful. Should you decide to explore Greece, head to Tinos – the flight to Athens, followed by a 45-minute taxi ride to the port of Raffina, followed by a 2-hour ferry to Tinos is well worth it. And when you get here, make sure you visit these addresses (and have a Greek salad at each, you will taste differences in the feta that will make you question what we call feta in the US).

-          Bourou: mentioned above, this is one of my favorite restaurants. It moved this past March closer to town (it is located between the center of town and the beach of Kionia), the food is excellent (grilled sardines are their specialty), and the décor shows a certain attention to detail and to aesthetics that I love.

-          Pranzo: in town, this is a fabulous Italian restaurant for when you need a break from Greek food. They also make their own wine.

-          O’Dinos: this is in the bay of Kardiani, a restaurant by the sea where three generations of the family work. The grandfather, Dinos, oversees the work; the father cooks; and the young son does “bus boy” tasks. Their fish soup is a must to start any meal.

-          Thalassaki: In Isternia Bay, this is the place to watch the sun set; you are literally on the water, where the magic of sunset is most powerful. Indeed, the name of the restaurant literally means “the young sea.” Try the squid ink risotto and the pasta with meatballs.

-          If you make the trip to Panormos, about halfway around the island, eat at the third taverna, Maestro. The meat is delicious, as is the homemade Tinos cheese.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, I will return to Tinos. Every year as long as I am able. It is my happy place, it is good for my soul. You should go there too…

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