Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Last night at 9:36 p.m., I put my sweet 1996 Chevy Cavalier up for sale on Craig's List.

This morning, as of 9:15, I have received not one or two or three but SEVEN RESPONSES.

Honestly, how in god's name did people do ANYTHING before the internet?

In related news, it looks like I'm gonna be able to unload this car without any problems. Huzzah!

Posted by Dakota on 8:38 AM link |

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Restaurant week continues unabated.

7:45 p.m., 3 Aug 2005
Taberna del Alabardero
18th between H and I

Fancy fancy FANCY pants. Taberna del Alabardero (who's clunky overly syllabic name translates as Tavern of the Halberdier. Halberdier, for me at least, required additional definition, and google was able to tell me that it's one who's armed with a halberd. Regoogling indicates that a halberd is a cross between a spear and a battle-axe. Who knew?) is sort of the epitome of what restaurant week restaurant should be: it sort of oozes with pretention, and the food was great, but it's probably not a place I'd go back to if it weren't on restaurant week, which makes the whole experience that much better. I say this despite the fact that I've now been back 3 times. Nonetheless, maybe you see where I'm coming from.

Let's get this out of the way: for a restaurant that reeks of old money and Spanish royalty, the service was hilariously incompetent. Specifically, I don't think they managed to pour me a drink -- sparkling water, red wine -- without getting a sizeable amount on the tablecloth. But I wasn't really overly concerned, because it's restaurant week, and I understand that the servers don't feel the need to bring their A game.

So then, the food:

A house appetizer of gazpatcho, served in a shot glass. Adorable. Refreshing, tasty: it was sort of like a shot glass of salsa. Not really all that much to write home about, but I really enjoy an extra course when an extra course presents itself as an option, and a free anything, as far as I'm concerned, is nothing to sneeze at.

Appetizer course:
I: Salad of field greens, dressed very lightly with vinaigrette, and tossed with
sliced pears, chilled duck, and shaved goat cheese.

We've already established that I love a good field green salad, but this one I thought was PARTICULARLY excellent. Flavor explosion, you see. The Other Option: chilled potato-leek soup, served over some shaved salmon and croutons, or some such. I had a nibble of it, and it was like drinking a chilled baked-potato. I do enjoy a good potato leek soup, and this one was quite good, but I think the salad was better.

Main course:
I: Grilled mahi-mahi, served over a mushroom and seafood (squid? I think?) ragout with a light rosemaryish gravy, and a potato chunket on the side.

Fish was good. Fish wasn't great, but fish was good. Fish was NOT as good as the other main, which was delightful:

The Other Main: Beef, medium rare, with roasted peppers and potato puree. Which was damn good, and the roasted peppers gave it enough of a Spanish flair that it wasn't just another steak.

The main problem with the fish was the general lack of flavor, concentrated in the flavorless ragout. I like mushrooms quite a bit (they're a fungus, you see), but these just weren't doing the trick.

The Third Main: Because we're ridiculous human beings, two first courses, a main course and a dessert just weren't shaping up to be enough. Thus, we all split some Paella, with chicken, prawns and delicious delicious sugar snap peas. Paella is a damn good food product. It's just too bad it's IMPOSSIBLE to make at home.

I: Slivered-almond topped chocolate mousse over strawberries. Light, delicious. Would've been better colder, but still a delicious dessert.

But not as delicious as: the Bread Pudding Option. Which was some of the best damn bread pudding I've ever had (creme fraiche, raisins, dates, perfect).

And then home for a delightful game of poker which I, as always, lost. Tragically, during said poker game, more than just 10 bucks was lost, as Walnut also lost his Dakota Poker rights. Tragic, but them's the shakes, I suppose. It can be filed in the same drawer as Risk with Quixote: no longer an option.


Posted by Dakota on 9:33 AM link |

Monday, August 01, 2005

It's that time again. Restaurant week (alhumduliilah!). And honestly, it's about time.

Pakistan rears it's (ugly? can I say ugly head in describing Pakistan without creating an international incident? I don't really think Pakistan is ugly. In fact, quite the opposite. Switzerland of Asia! [technically, that's Tibet. Or is it Tajikistan?]. Regardless, we'll just disregard that expression and start over).

T-Minus 28 days to wheels up for Pakistan. The point here being: I'm hitting restaurant week like she's never been hit before. Well. Sort of. Ok, to be more precise, I'm hitting restaurant week like she was hit 2 years ago. You get the point.

Monday, 1 Aug 2005. 7:15.
Indebleu 707 G St. NW

Quick recap:
-- Demitasse of 'Seasonal Soup', which turned out to be chilled corn.
-- Field Greens, dressed in a cashew-cumin vinaigrette, over watermelon.
-- Chicken, in some sort of coconut milk sauce, with mushrooms, carrots, and a parsley-based pesto
-- Chai Ice Cream with assorted biscotti
-- Cookie niblets.

Snap-judgement scale of one to ten rating, based on food, service, atmosphere and general feel of the 'Dining Experience,' (capital D, capital E): 3.4.

That said, a fun meal little meal. My god I love restaurant week.

The full recap:

Indebleu! Hilarious. Honestly, one can only try so hard to be avant garde. Let's get this out of the way: the place is art deco in a way that makes interior designers -- in conjunction (cahoots, even) with graphic designers -- gasp.

The menus (food, wine, dessert) match the wallpaper in the bathroom. I mean, honestly.

Entry at 6:55ish with AJT, post being sidelined by a guy who convinces Walnut to part with 15 bucks in return for a full-body auto buff during dinner. We debate over cocktails: will he actually make the car shine? Or will he pocket the 15 and bolt once we turn the corner? Or worse, knowing we're off for a while, will he break the window and hotwire the car?

Cocktails. I'm leaning glass of white wine. Walnut careens gin and tonicward, the bartender upsells him to a gin cocktail mixed with a basil-laced simple syrup, club soda, splash of seven up. I ditch the wine and go for the gin thing as well. She gives us the drinks -- they're GREAT, mind you -- and a specialty drink menu in the shape of a metro map. Cool. I've got high hopes for this place.

I snag a menu while we wait for SCS and I_W. (The lack of known middle initial in conjunction with military background leads to the obvious comparison with Major _____ de Coverly). Examine the menu, am somewhat disappointed: restaurant week menu is set. No choosing to be had. Normally there's a few things to choose from, two or three appetizers, two or three main courses, dessert TBD and what have you. Not this time. Straight up, four courses. Take it or leave it.

We take it. All of us. Which is actually kind of cool, because then it's a truly communal restaurant week experience -- there can be no buyers remorse over someone else's salad, the disappointing shrimp and grits instead of the surprisingly good partridge mcnuggets or some other give and take of high-end dining. You get my point.

Course the First: A hilarious espresso cup of chilled cream of corn soup. Let's get this out of the way: I'm a corn lover. I love it. On the cob, in the can, creamed, whole kernal, white, yellow, big fan. Call it maize if you must, I'm still pro.

Chilled corn soup: yech. It was closer to an espresso cup of heavy whipping cream, that was perhaps prepared in the vicinity of corn. If there was further seasoning, it escaped me. The bottom got more corny as time went on, but for being an ounce and a half, maximum, of corn soup, it was harder to take down than a shot of rail tequila. The more I drank, the more I prayed for it to end.

Until the end, when there were delightful nuggets of corn left at the bottom. And who doesn't love corn?

Course II: Field Greens over watermelon, cumin-cashew vinaigrette.

Perhaps I ate this wrong. I (a field-green lover, in addition to a corn lover) skimmed the greens off the top and failed to eat it in concert with the watermelon. My mistake, I believe: the watermelon afterward had soaked up all the dressing, leaving it salty, cuminy, and pretty gross by itself, but it probably would've gone well with the (somewhat dry) field greens, since as it was posthumously discovered to be holding all the dressing.

Oops. You win some, you lose some.

By this point, I'd say none of us were really holding out breath for the main course.

Course III: Chicken, carrots, mushrooms, in unidentifiable coconut milk sauce, parsley pesto.

Ok. So then. Indian-French fusion. Yes. Where to begin?

To be fair: Coconut milk in the sauce means it's from a part of India whose cuisine I'm not really all the familiar with. (Tamil Nadu, how ARE you?) THAT SAID, my big prblem with the concept of Asian fusion is that more often than not, the 'fusion' just sort of means dumbing down the flavor of the more exotic regional cuisine and blunting it with a higher fat content. Indian food has more flavor than almost any other cuisine on the planet. It leaps off the plate. The incredible spice variety available on the subcontinent is what made India into the Crown Jewel of the British Empire.

That said, chicken in unidentifiable coconut milk sauce was pretty much everything you don't want in fusion: coconut milk (a comodity we can chalk right up there with field greens and corn for me), blunted perhaps with some straight up cream? and tossed with chicken and a few veggies. The pesto on the side didn't really seem to complement the meal at all; it just sort of was. It existed. It did add a tuch of flavor to the chicken, which was quite dry, despite the fact that it was sitting in a pool of sauce. Beyond that, not much.

That said, I've never had mushrooms in Indian cuisine before, and I'm pretty pro mushroom, so that was nice.

Beyond that, nothing. Flat. Chicken. Coconut. Cream. Much more French than Indian. Like, maybe the 3rd generation paris-born grandchild of immigrants from Tamil Nadu, who maybe give their son up for adoption when he was 5. Disappointing.

Course IV: Ice cream, hooray! Specifically, chai ice cream, which was damn good.

And then cookies with the check. I'm pro cookie. Although, two each of three kinds of cookies is an annoying amount for 4 people, but I understand that Indebleu is on a budget, so no worry. So then, cookies, hooray!

All in all: I could see myself going back and sitting at the bar and kicking back a couple of their fancypants cocktails, but I think that's about it. At least: 1. the company was good, and 2. I discovered that Indebleu isn't worth eating at while only paying 30 bucks. Not too shabby.

And in the end, this much I can say: for 15 bucks, the guy made Walnut's car GLEAM!

Posted by Dakota on 9:35 PM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com
Five Random DC bloggers. Asterix indicates recently updated.