Category Archives: Events

Renoir Sucks at Painting 2, Renoir 0

As both all of my longtime readers know, I’ve been a passionate supporter of the #RenoirSucksAtPainting movement since its earliest days. I’ve posted items about the grassroots crusade to have the treacly, insipid works of the “painter” Pierre-Auguste Renoir removed from the world’s galleries and museums here and here.

And here. And here, too.

Massive #RenoirSucksAtPainting Rally, Demanding the Removal of Treacle from American Museums

Misguided Counter Protester

As you can tell from the number of postings, I care deeply about art, which is more than can be said about a certain dead French hack. That’s why I got such malevolent joy out of two news items in the past few weeks.

Art World Owes a Debt to Heroic Thief 

According to Agence France-Presse, “A small painting by French impressionist Auguste Renoir was stolen from an auctioneer in a Paris suburb on Saturday, the day before it was due to be sold, police said. ”

The article describes the theft as “brazen,” but art lovers everywhere hailed it as valiant.

BTW, The Onion, America’s most trusted source for news, anticipated the theft. Here’s what they wrote seven years ago:

Scamming the Scammer

A few years ago, a writer for Vanity Fair was given the unenviable job of shadowing a certain short-fingered vulgarian. Here’s part of his report:

And then this happened.

Ah, the Schadenfreude! It is so sweet!


“David Bowie is” Coming to the US!

This makes me very, very happy.

“David Bowie is”, an exhibition that originated at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013, will be installed at the Brooklyn Museum next year. It will be the last stop on a long journey.

After the original blockbuster show at the V&A, “David Bowie is” went on tour, visiting 10 cities on five continents. Along the way, it became the most popular exhibition in the museum’s 165-year history, attracting 1.8 million attendees so far.

I saw it in Toronto, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, on the first stop of the tour. You can read my rapturous reaction here, along with a description of some of the items on display. A quick summary: It was one of the most brilliantly staged and mounted museum exhibitions I’ve ever seen.

Here’s perhaps the highest compliment I can give to “David Bowie is”: It’s worthy of Bowie himself.

“David Bowie is” will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum from 2 March 2018 through 15 July 2018.

Museum Day Live! Is This Saturday

It’s that time of the year again.

“Museum Day Live!”, Smithsonian magazine’s annual celebration of American museums, takes place across the USA this Saturday, 23 September 2017. You can get free admission tickets for any of the 1,000+ participating museums, galleries, and cultural institutions at the magazine’s Museum Day Live! website.

The website makes it easy to find the participating museums in your area.

Federalist Pig — Lunch on 17 September 2017

Sunday was a beautiful day in Washington, so I decided to journey up to Adams Morgan and try the new-to-me Federalist Pig for lunch. The restaurant has taken over the space formerly occupied by Döner Bistro, the awesome German-Turkish kebab place that I discovered much too late in its existence—it closed a few weeks after my first and only visit, and I’ve been craving kebab ever since.

Dining at Döner Bistro made me feel like I was back in Berlin.  A meal at Federalist Pig—Barbecue!—could only happen in the good ole USA.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the pictures, but Federalist Pig’s storefront is a painted image of a distressed American flag. It’s easier to see another of the restaurant’s distinctive features:  From what I’ve heard, there’s almost always a line out the door.

Sampler Platter

Sampler Platter

This is the reason for that line.

For my lunch, I ordered the Sampler Platter, which gives the diner their* choice of three meats and two side dishes. I chose brisket, turkey breast, and pork shoulder, with seasoned French fries and crispy Brussels sprouts as the sides.

The sprouts were deep-fried, and calling the fries “spicy” would be a serious understatement. For my taste, the brisket could have been a little more tender, but that’s a minor complaint. The serving size was generous—I couldn’t finish the dish.

Beautiful day, beautiful meal, beautiful new experience.

*Yes, I’ve surrendered. I’m now using the singular “their” and “they,”  because that battle has been lost. But I’ll fight to the death on the “hopefully” front, and I’ve got a restraining order to prevent anyone who uses the vile “pro-active” from coming within 30 feet of me.

Jane Austen in Your Pocket

The Bank of England released the new £10 note today, featuring an image of Jane Austen and of her Pride and Prejudice heroine, Elizabeth Bennett. But Austen fans—and there are reported to be several—are not all pleased.

Some object to the Austen quotation cited on the note: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” A fine sentiment, but delivered, in the book, by the snobbish and superficial Caroline Bingley, who didn’t believe it for a minute. She was just using it to ensnare Mr Darcy.

Given how obsessed many of Austen’s characters are with money and the status it confers, one would think the designers could come up with a more appropriate, finance-related quote for a banknote. I’ve certainly plagiarized borrowed “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” often enough, although, now that I think about it, that line is probably too sexist and too damn heterocentric to be acceptable in the 21st century.

And then there’s a problem with the depiction of Jane Austen. It’s based on a portrait painted years after Austen’s death.

The Sunday Times quotes Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and author of the book Jane Austen at Home:

“It’s an author publicity portrait painted after she died in which she’s been given the Georgian equivalent of an airbrushing — she’s been subtly ‘improved.’

“Jane had a much sharper face — some might call it sour.”

On the left, a portrait of Austen by her sister, Cassandra. On the right, the image on the banknote.

On the left, a portrait of Austen by her sister, Cassandra. On the right, the image on the banknote.

I think she might have a point.

Still, it’s pleasant to see a nation’s writers and painters celebrated on its currency—the new £20 note, to be released in 2020, will feature J.M.W. Turner—instead of the usual dead politicians. I wouldn’t want it to happen here in the US, though. With the current sad state of American civilization, it’s all too easy to imagine the government replacing Lincoln on the $5 bill with a picture of Ayn Rand‎.

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks — Final Notes

Although various Restaurant Week extensions in the Washingon, DC metro area run for another 10 days, my late summer adventure ends here. Once again, Life has gotten in the way. It has a nasty habit of doing that, at the most inconvenient times.

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I eat,” as Robert Frost didn’t quite say.

So here are the final notes.

I usually try for a balance between old favourites and new venues, but this summer tilted heavily toward the familiar. I was a first-time visitor to only three of the 10 restaurants on this summer’s list. That may partially account for why I was so rarely disappointed with my meals.

The only real letdown was Honeysuckle, with its tiny portions of less-than-memorable food. I may be judging them too severely, because I was so fond of Vidalia, the restaurant that used to occupy Honeysuckle’s space.

While almost everything I tried was good, certain dishes stood out.

Best Starter

Vermilion’s chilled corn soup with poached prawn salad was simply amazing. Beautiful to look at, extraordinary to eat.

Best Starter – Runner Up

The polpette at Bibiana were the best I’ve ever tasted. I only wish there had been more of these little Sicilian-style meatballs—I could have eaten a dozen.

Best Main

This was a three-way tie. There’s no way I could choose the best among these mains, because they were all perfection on a plate. (Oops. I just noticed that all of them were served in bowls, not on plates. I’ll update this if I ever think of an appropriate complimentary word that starts with the letter “B.” Gotta preserve that alliteration.)

The duck fricassee at Café du Parc, with slow cooked lentils, charred quince, pea tendrils, and those little roasted potatoes, was perfect for a rainy day meal.

Cioppino. At Tadich Grill. A classic.

Vermilion scores again, with pork tenderloin in a rich sauce.

Best Dessert

Café du Parc’s brilliant mixed seasonal berries with Grand Marnier sabayon was a clear winner in the dessert category.

Best All-Around Meal

Gotta be Alexandria Old Town’s Vermilion, for the flawless meal and the superb service.

That’s it for 2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks. I plan to spend a lot more time on home cooking now that it’s over. Starting after the long Labor Day weekend, my foodie project for September will focus on French bistro classics.

(Note to self: 2018 Winter Restaurant Weeks are only five and a half months away.)

Bibiana — Lunch on 24 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Three, Day Two

The restaurant of the day—make that the ristorante della giornata—was Bibiana, an elegant Italian member of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best dining establishments in Washington.*

(Years ago, Roger Price wrote a book that included a section on how to avoid people. He offered a list 10 sentences that were so profoundly dull they would immediately bring an end to any attempt to engage the speaker in further conversation. Two that I remember are “A girl I went to high school with works for the phone company” and “I used to live down that street.”)

I used to work in the building right across the street from this restaurant.



I had a special reason I wanted to eat at Bibiana.

When I was in Venice last spring, I had lunch at Ca’ D’Oro, a restaurant where, according to the Michelin Guide, “…the meatballs are…legendary.” Those legendary meatballs are called “polpette,” and Ca’ D’Oro’s were said to be the best in Venice.

I wasn’t impressed. I thought they were nowhere nearly as good as the polpette I’d had at Bibiana.

Had my memory been inaccurate? Time for a taste test.

Bibiana’s Sicilian-style meatballs with tomato sauce and white polenta won, hands down.


My main was pan-seared Atlantic grouper. I had a little trouble identifying the vegetable component, which was eggplant caponata. I liked the slight lemony taste of the carrot purée, and the fish was perfect.


A nice Baba al Rum for dessert, made with rum-soaked sponge cake, vanilla bean Chantilly fIlling, and pistachio gelato.

*The Oval Room and 701 are Knightsbridge restaurants. So are Rasika and its offshoot, Rasika West. Rasika has a good claim to being the best Indian restaurant in the US.