Category Archives: Architecture

PassionFish Bethesda — Lunch on 9 August 2019

PassionFish

PassionFish

It’s that time of the year again, when restaurateurs counter the industry’s traditional late-summer slump by offering special deals to attract diners. Between late July and mid-September, you can find a Restaurant Week promotion in almost every American city where “going out for a good meal” implies something a little more exciting than having dinner at Burger King.

Washington, DC, and its suburbs have three overlapping Restaurant Week programs: one based in Bethesda, featuring restaurants in suburban Maryland, one in Alexandria, Virginia, and one covering the entire metropolitan area. It’s not unusual for some restaurants to extend their Restaurant Week specials for a second week, or even longer, which means that in August, I tend to dine very well, at a relatively low cost.

First stop for me this summer: PassionFish Bethesda.

Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque

Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque

I’ve gotten into the habit of almost always beginning RW at one of the Passion Food Hospitality group’s restaurants, like PassionFish Bethesda, District Commons, or the now-closed and much-missed Acadiana, and I’ve never had any regrets.

This time, I started with a Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque, with lobster (duh), carrots, and peas.

Red Thai Curry and Golden Pineapple

Red Thai Curry and Golden Pineapple

The Red Thai Curry, with a hint of Kaffir lime, had just the right heat for my Western tastes, and the golden pineapple was a nice complement. Served with shrimp over jasmine rice.

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

A wonderful dessert, but I kept thinking that it looked like it belonged with another meal. It was a very “European” dessert following an Asian main, resulting in a slight culture clash. That didn’t stop me from enjoying this Chocolate Mousse Crunch with strawberry coulis.


At the Bethesda Metro Station

It was good to see the waters flowing again at the entrance to the Bethesda Metro Station. In its earlier years, Metro put a lot of effort into making some of the approaches to station entrances architecturally interesting. That’s no longer a priority, unfortunately.

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Scott and Zelda and Gerald and Sara

On the left, Scott and Zelda Fitgerald, sometime in the 1920s. On the right, Gerald and Sara Murphy at Cap d’Antibes beach in 1923.


Last week I made a passing reference to Gerald and Sara Murphy, the wealthy American couple who played a huge part in the literary and artistic communities in Paris during the 1920s, when Paris was the center of the literary and artistic world. “Paris was where the twentieth century was,” wrote Gertrude Stein.

Dick and Nicole Diver, the central characters in F. Scott Fitgerald’s novel, Tender is the Night, are based partly on the Murphys and partly on Scott and Zelda Fitgerald themselves.

Fitzgerald thought the book was his best work. It was the last novel he completed.

I mentioned that I planned to re-read Calvin Tomkins’ 1962 New Yorker article about the Murphys and the Fitzgeralds, and posted a link. I’ve just finished it, and it’s even more impressive than I remembered it being.  It’s a beautifully written piece about some extraordinary people.

Here once again is a link for “Living Well Is the Best Revenge”, along with my highest recommendation.


After The Flood—An Update

It’s been a while. Anybody still out there?

Regular postings will resume in the next few days. What follows here is a brief rundown on why I’ve been hors de combat since Memorial Day. It isn’t very pretty, and you may just want to skip this entry and wait for the new posts.


Summer of 2019 has not been anything close to the most wonderful summer of my life. In fact, I’d probably rank it near the bottom three, only slightly higher than the summer I spent in a Bulgarian prison (mistaken identity), the summer I got lost on the Appalachian trail and had to survive on berries and mushrooms for six weeks, or the summer when that Abercrombie and Fitch model kept calling me and emailing me and stalking me until I finally got the restraining order. (Actually, that one was rather fun.)

The season had started with such high hopes and great expectations! In late May I returned to Washington from a couple of weeks in gloomy and glorious Budapest,* restored, revitalized, and ready to live a much richer and more, well, elegant life. Think Gerald and Sara Murphy in Paris and on the French Riviera in the 1920s.**

The first warning signs came during an otherwise delightful visit by my Nevada brother and sister-in-law, when my long-standing pulmonary problems started to act up. I knew from experience that this meant I was in the early stages of a two- to four-weeks of low-level morbidity, marked by fatigue, marathon coughing sessions, and general yuckiness. And then The Flood happened.

Here’s where things get serious.

I wasn’t aware of it until later, but the whole mess—illness and injury, loss of autonomy and privacy, property damage and disruption of plans, and general uncertainty—left me seriously depressed and effectively paralyzed, unable to do much more than sleep, play online games, and watch immediately forgettable junk TV.  I stopped returning phone calls and answering email. My big project for the year, improving my cooking skills? Abandoned. I had no desire to be in my post-Flood, chaotically disarranged kitchen, and no interest in exploring new restaurants. I survived on deli take-out and on great quantities of Diet Cherry Pepsi.

It was only just before Bastille Day, six weeks post-Flood, that I (metaphorically) slapped myself in the face and told myself that I couldn’t continue to live the way I’d been living, that the numbness began to diminish. I turned off the TV in the middle of an episode of Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away and made reservations at regular hang-out ARTECHOUSE and at a couple of good restaurants. Not only would I get out of bed and dressed before 2 PM, but I would also actually leave the apartment!

And I did.

So while things here are still ugly—restoration of my condo and of the ~30 other units damaged by The Flood may not even be completed before the end of 2019—it seems life is finally, slowly, back on the upswing.

I’ll be spending the rest of my Unwonderful Summer posting here, dining out, and re-reading Living Well Is the Best Revenge and Tender Is the Night.


*It was my fourth visit to that endlessly fascinating city, my third in 18 months. I’ve told people that entitles me to honourary citizenship, but I may have been misinformed.

**See Living Well Is the Best Revenge.

New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.


Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.


* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….

Costumes from The Favourite on Display at Kensington Palace

Image Found on the Web.

There’s a small exhibition of costumes from The Favourite on display at Kensington Palace, the current home of Wills and Kate and Harry and Meghan.

Image Found on the Web.

Image Found on the Web.

Here’s a short “Making of…” video:

The exhibition is open daily until 8 February 2019.


*Harry and Meghan will be getting their own place soon. I supposed they doubled up to save money on heating bills and stuff.

The Third Man, and Café Mozart

That scene contains the most frequently quoted passage from The Third Man, and as it ends, you can hear part of Anton Karas’s famous musical score, played on the zither.

The Third Man is a classic 1949 film noir set among the ruins of Vienna during the post-WWII occupation. An American, Holly Martins, spends much of the movie trying to find out what happened to his friend and potential employer, the mysterious Harry Lime. The film, with Joseph Cotten as Martins and Orson Welles as Lime, was written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. With that much talent involved, it’s not surprising that the British Film Institute named it as the greatest British film of all time.*

I’ve mentioned that one of my little side projects on this trip was an exploration of some of the historical cafés and coffee houses of Vienna. Here’s how The Third Man fits in.

Café Mozart is identified by name in the movie, but the scene that was set there was actually filmed at another Vienna café. The real significance of Café Mozart is that this is where Graham Greene worked on the script.


Coincidence

As I headed for the café, I walked past this building, and recognized it immediately.

In The Third Man, this is the entrance to Harry Lime’s apartment building. It looks unchanged from when the film was made in the 1940s.


Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart can trace its origins back to 1794, and was renovated in 1994.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Knowing myself as well as I do, I realized that once I was comfortably seated in a nice warm cafe, drinking a nice hot cup of chocolate, it would take an enormous effort to get me back onto the cold, windy streets of the city.

Mozart Schokolade

Mozart Schokolade

Hot chocolate, with a chocolate and pistachio sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Cream Cheese Dumplings

Dumplings

Cream Cheese Dumplings on a berry compote.

Let’s just say I stayed a little longer than I’d planned, and much longer than was absolutely necessary. But can you think of a more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a chilly afternoon?


*A solid choice, although I’d probably go with Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Bridge on the River Kwai.