Recent food and film winners

1. The good cheer and brightness of the golgappa at Bindaas in Cleveland Park, with friends Carlos and Meghvi. Avocado plus pastry, how can you go wrong? Writes Tom Sietsma of the dish: “My pals of Indian heritage are inevitably charmed by the golgappa, sheer puffed biscuits the size of quarters, with holes in the top that hint of their fillings. A traditional well might include tangy water, chickpeas and mint, which can make for messy eating if you don’t treat the liquid salad like a single shot. [Chef Vikram] Sunderam gets around the problem by using creamy but solid avocado, along with sweetened yogurt and date-tamarind chutney, in his golgappa, one of several featured chaat (savory snacks).”

2. The smoked paprika casarecce at Sfoglina in Van Ness. The menu describes it as “lobster, octopus, Amalfi style,” and no dish since our Amalfi honeymoon has taken us back there so dramatically. That pasta beat the other two we tasted, but barely. The restaurant is beautiful (“The restaurant is a girl,” says the owner, Maria), and we left feeling every dish on the menu is probably delicious.

3. Paterson with friend Darren at E Street Cinema. A great movie about poetry! Of all things. Not only is the movie about poetry, but it feels like poetry, slowing you down and finding moments to be weird while keeping your focus. It’s also a celebration of the most fascinating kind of poetic life to me — the poet who has a day job. Bus driving, in this case. Poetry magazine has a good audio interview with Ron Padgett, whose Alone and Not Alone I really liked last year, and who was the poetry consultant and wrote all the poems for the movie.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life at the Miracle Theater on Barracks Row, the night before the night before Christmas. The town had emptied out, and the theater was only a quarter full or less. Everyone laughed. Everyone got quiet. The movie held up in glorious fashion. Lori had a bad cold, and we still had a great time.

NSO trombones + a go-go band

This made my day the other night. The National Symphony Orchestra’s “In Your Neighborhood” program came to the Hill Center, bringing two NSO trombonists, two guest trombonists and a go-go band.

The only video I can find from the event is this one, and the sound isn’t great. But you get the idea, back and forth between the trombones and the band, including through this Imperial March, and later they all came together for a big finish. Will post it if/when I find it.

‘If you were an elephant’

A surprising and welcome essay today in The Guardian.

You’d be a communitarian. Relationality would be everything. It’s not that you couldn’t survive alone, although there would certainly be a survival benefit from being a member of a community, just as humans live longer if they are plugged into a church, a mosque or a bowling club. Yes, at some level your altruism might be reciprocal altruism, where you scratch my back if I scratch yours, or kin selection, where you are somehow persuaded to sacrifice yourself if your death or disadvantage will preserve a gene in a sufficiently closely related gene-bearer. But at a much more obvious and important level you’d be relational – joyously shouldering the duties that come with community – because it made you happy. Why do elephants seek out other elephants? Not primarily for sex, or for an extra arsenal of receptors to pick up the scent of poachers, or because they assume that the others will have found particularly nutritious food, but because they like other elephants.

In the Dupont Underground

The pictures only begin to capture the oddness of the old streetcar tunnels beneath Dupont Circle. Graffiti covering the platforms, the short-lived and then transient-camp food court, two-thirds of the tour in darkness, interspersed with light shows and the balls from the Building Museum pit.

The tour provides the flashlights. You wear closed-toe shoes and watch out for stray metal. If you have serious asthma or similar issues, consider a mouth-and-nose covering. The guy who walks at the back of the tour and ensures no one disappears wears one. I felt okay, but the flashlights make the dust and dirt and trashed-plaster wreckage clear.

We followed up the tour with playoff football at Buffalo Billiards and a board game at Kramerbooks. (The board-game bar — who knew there was such a thing — was, to our surprise and to the bar’s credit, too full.) These activities felt nicely normalizing. After you get a glimpse of the end of civilization, surrounding yourself with people feels warm and helpful.

Here’s one of the light shows.

A video posted by Patrick Cooper (@btrpkc) on

And here are plenty of pictures.

Continue reading In the Dupont Underground

Capitol view

Watching the Obama helicopter depart the inauguration.

It’s been something to see inauguration- and march-goers come and go from the Airbnbs scattered around the neighborhood. All kinds of signs carried down the block — and a huge New Mexico flag. Salt trucks blocking the road up to Union Station before Trump’s inauguration-eve dinner there. Big hair and black Suburbans waiting for each other. John Elway’s taxicab video taking place a few streets over. Lots of sirens passing by our place when other roads across the Hill are closed off. Signs quoting Martin Luther King Jr. popping up in many neighbors’ yards.

Hemingway at the Hill Center

Was fortunate last night to see a cool Hemingway reading at the Hill Center near Barracks Row. A production of the Shakespeare Theatre and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, actors and authors did readings of Hemingway passages meaningful to them, and Capitol Hill Books and Lori’s Riverby Books put together a beautiful selection of books from Earnest and his friends and inspirations. Among the readers was an actor I’ve loved in several Folger productions, Craig Wallace.

And Capitol Hill Books did a beautiful catalog for the show.

Washington is in rough shape these days, so I’m trying to keep my District separate from its Washington. It’s been a good District weekend so far. Today I tried a new barber on East Capitol Street: Charlie, owner of Hair by Charlie. Not only did Charlie turn out to be a former Senate and Supreme Court barber, but the son of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton came in with his family. And the sun is out. So, we’ve got that.

What modern technology can do

I’m glad I married into a Torpedo Factory family. There’s a new food place in the Factory, and they have invented… the bronut.

As fans of portmanteau words might be able to deduce, the bronut ($3.25) is a combination of a brownie and a doughnut. It’s a little more complex than a round brownie: Chang developed a lighter dough that kept the rich chocolate flavor of a brownie while giving it some of the airiness of a doughnut.

It’s baked in the shape of a doughnut ring, of course, which is good news for people like me who are willing to do battle for the corner brownie.

Every bite of the bronut is like having an edge piece, with a slightly crunchy outside and a tender, cakelike interior.

Amazing. Will report back when I consume one.

I don’t know John Edgar Wideman’s work, but…

This passage from a recent Esquire Classics interview with him, via the Sunday Long Read email newsletter, is good, particularly Wideman’s thoughts on how completion of a creative exercise — in his case writing a book — affects you. One thing I’ve struggled with on a personal level throughout my digital work is how the multi-tracked, iteration-heavy nature of digital creation leaves you, at times, without clear breaking points, moments of celebration, cyclical energy, etc.

EC: Are you pleased with how [the book] turned out?

JW: Yes, I am. Of course you always think writing a book will change your life.

EC: You mean how well it is reviewed, how it sells?

JW: No, not in that sense. Not that it will get you something concrete but this sense that everything fails, this pessimisim of being human, being vulnerable. When you start out on a book, you’re hoping that when you finish you’ll be different. How different? What different? If you knew that you wouldn’t need to write the book. You can’t say. Just that you are going to be a different person. That is hope in its most amorphous, shimmery, vaporous sense, but I think it’s part of the artistic urge. To write something, to make a piece of music, you really think you are going to change the world.

You’re not a new person when you’ve finished a book. The world hasn’t changed. But it’s not bad that you were able to sit down and do it. And it’s not bad that it ends. Then you try to sit down and do it again if you get the urge, if you can stretch yourself and make the leap.

Checking in with Moose

From the CBS affiliate in New York:

As head basketball coach at Montoursville High School in Pennsylvania, the 270-game winner has more anxiety about his team’s 2-5 start than seeing if he will move closer to the 75 percent balloting mark needed for election to Cooperstown. Mussina saw a significant gain a year ago when he garnered 43 percent and has momentum that could get him there in the next couple years.

As of today, Mike sits at 60.5 percent. Momentum!