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About DonRocks

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  1. The bar program is still a big strength at Bistro 1521 - their beer selection is crammed full of "local" brews (enough to make this grizzled veteran wide-eyed), and their wine list is workable, with fairly priced wines by the glass. Our bartender, David, was a very nice person who offered to go back and get my friend a taste of Banana Ketchup, which he'd never before heard of (banana ketchup is a staple condiment in the Philippines, and is often sold under the label of, believe it or not, Heinz (aside - one of Australia's largest players in the Vegemite market is Kraft, who recently began selling a product that's Vegemite mixed with cheese, called Cheesybite!). I'll take banana ketchup over regular ketchup any day of the week). I have a relatively penetrating knowledge of Filipino cuisine, having studied it for years, and having taken part in numerous Filipino family functions among other things (you do not leave these things hungry, I assure you). One attribute about most Filipino foods is that they're generally quite mild; in fact, spiciness is the exception (although it is highly regional, and there are some spicy dishes) - another attribute is that the Filipina home cook will often have a massive jar of MSG crystals at the ready - they use MSG like we use antibiotics, but this is mostly for home cooking. I'm surprised the bar at Bistro 1521 didn't have bowls of Pulutan or Tenga ng Baboy, but this did used to be an Applebee's, and they know their Ballston clientele might not go for such tawdry things. I began my meal at Bistro 1521 with a 10-ounce snifter of Grapefruit Sculpin IPA ($9) made by Ballast Point Brewing Company - a San Diego, CA-based brewery with an outpost in Daleville, VA; but don't be fooled by the homey "small-town, craft brewery shtick" - Ballast Point was sold for over $1 billion to Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 company worth over $41 billion. I *really* hate that the consumer must research each individual beer to determine whether or not they're essentially buying Budweiser - someone should publish an annual guidebook to this that you can take to the supermarket; alternatively, retailers and restaurants should do the work for the consumer. This beer was as boring and soulless as you might imagine - yes, you could taste hints of citrus, but so what? My friend started with a glass of 2016 Trencalos Sauvignon Blanc ($8) from the Castilla region of Spain (there are numeros typos on the wine list at Bistro 1521, e.g., "Reisling," and there was one here, too). This was a generic Sauvignon Blanc with enough acidity to cut through the mildly zesty notes in the appetizers and her entree - you could tell it was a Sauvignon Blanc, but it would take someone like Gerry Dawes to know it was Spanish, much less Castilian. I'm grousing about both of these drinks, but they're really no different than what you find at 95% of restaurants, so don't blame Bistro 1521; the blame goes much further up the chain than this. Hell, the Original Sin lies with Procter & Gamble. Both drinks were served in good stemware and at the correct temperature, with friendly, prompt service, and there isn't a whole lot more this restaurant could have done. Our appetizer was an order of Lumpiang Shanghai ($5 at happy hour; normally $9) - two very good lumpia, halved, and nicely presented with appropriate dipping sauce (which worked much better than the banana ketchup). These were very good lumpia, arguably the highlight of the meal, and although I'd never pay $9 for two of them, they're worth getting at the $5 happy-hour price. I'd finished my glass of beer, and despite ordering a "red-wine" course, wanted to stick with white, so I got a glass of 2016 Domaine Bellevue Unoaked Chardonnay ($9) from Touraine, France. I've had this wine numerous times, and knew what I was getting in advance - compared with my friend's Sauvignon Blanc, I would recommend that others tend towards the Sauvignon Blanc due to its crispness, but I also knew that my dish was going to be somewhat stolid, and not needing any type of zing from my wine. With her Sauvignon Blanc, the classic Filipino dish with the funny name, Bicol Express ($17), specifically marked "spicy." This was a stir-fried dish of "sliced," pinkish pork, coconut milk, ginger, peppers, and shrimp paste, served with a small bowl of steamed, white rice. We both agreed that the dish had good flavors, and only the mildest hint of spice - and the Sauvignon was the wine of choice here. Up above, I said the lumpia was "arguably" the highlight of the meal; this was the other argument - although this dish won't win any awards, it tasted good, and was well within the spirit of Filipino home cooking. I can recommend this for people to try - not necessarily for Filipino nationals, but for people looking to transition into the cuisine. They say never to order an entree for one of the side dishes, but I did anyway. Mechado ($23) was presented a *lot* like an American pot roast, mashed potatoes, and greens dish, basking in a thick gravy - except this was braised short ribs, grilled asparagus, "Mechado sauce," and mashed purple yam. It had the feel (if not the look) of something you'd get at a hotel banquet, but was actually quite enjoyable, the one exception being when it cooled to room temperature: The Mechado sauce brown gravy, which had been thickened with corn starch, separated and clotted - there seemed to be a similar, but less dramatic effect, with the shrimp paste in the Bicol Express; however, the Mechado gravy became mildly disgusting once it broke. Nevertheless, it was a good dish, and every bite of food was finished on all the plates. I won't recommend this to people, and would urge the restaurant to stay closer to its roots, instead of trying to guess what Ballston residents might be looking for in a restaurant. Let them come to you: Word will get out, I promise.
  2. A little late, Scottie - the repeat is already occurring: Peoples' innate greed will continue to defy and outweigh logic, common sense, and long-term thought. Look into "Bespoke Tranche Opportunities" (think "BTO," like Bachman-Turner Overdrive) which is history repeating itself, because we didn't learn from it. I'm not an economic savant, but I do not believe that our economy has recovered from the "worst economic malaise since The Great Depression" so quickly - Americans (and, I suppose, by extension, the rest of the world) need many years of extreme hardship in order to really understand the ramifications of debt, defaults, the quick-buck, short-term thinking, living above your means, etc. It really *is* as simple as: "Don't spend more than you can afford," and there really *is* a parallel with the National Debt and Personal Debt - I have thought seriously about this for over thirty years, and nobody has ever convinced me otherwise. I can't remember with whom I disagreed about the severity of the National Debt, but I maintain that we've been swimming closer-and-closer towards a polar bear, which is going to bite us in the ass.
  3. This is fine, but I've always believed that the victims of discrimination (or equivalent) should be the ones whose words carry the most weight, and need to be listened to the most carefully. Example: Racism - I would ask Black Americans, Native Americans, etc., what they think are the biggest problems are, and what their opinions are about the best ideas to address these problems. Sexism - Ask females. Disability Issues - Ask the disabled. Sexual Orientation? Ask the LGBT community. Elder Abuse - Ask the elderly. Etc., etc., etc. - This doesn't mean that others can't voice opinions; merely that I personally assign more weight (or, at least, *initial* weight) to those who have been discriminated against. I've practiced this in this community since 2005: If someone says something offensive to certain groups, and I get a couple complaints from members of those groups, I sit up straight and pay careful attention to what they're saying - this has only happened a couple of times in 12+ years, but I'm *always* available to anyone who wishes to voice concern about any issue. This is nothing earth-shattering; just lending an ear, as well as encouragement to speak up, to those who have been traditionally suppressed or ignored - I don't think white males are your best bets for designing solutions to these types of problems, although they shouldn't be dismissed, either (after all, what you're currently reading is a white male issuing an opinion). Personally? I'd be eager to live in a society with female leadership - or at least give it a try for awhile.
  4. I just rewatched this film, and really enjoyed the celebrities using analogy to demonstrate and explain complicated financial concepts that I would otherwise have no clue about: Margot Robbie explains Mortgage-Backed Securities and Subprime Mortgages Anthony Bourdain explains CDO's (Collateralized Debt Obligations) Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez explain Synthetic CDO's
  5. "Infinity Chamber" (originally called "Somnio") is so new that it doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. I'm not sure if it was even released in theaters, and it just came out on streaming video last month. There was initially an attempt to fund it on Kickstarter - if you watch the video there (which won't give much away), you'll "get to know" Writer-Director Travis Milloy, which makes me feel somewhat guilty for what I'm about to write. This intriguing title is about an equally intriguing subject: A man wakes up with only a vague recollection of being shot, and is imprisoned by a high-tech, futuristic, fully automated "LSO" (Life-Support Operative) named "Howard," which is a self-learning computer, fully (and hilariously) reminiscent of HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Note that the diminutive of Howard would be "HOW.") *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Howard is the best and most memorable part of this film, which the LA Times correctly says is "a little too long." It's actually not only too long, but also too garbled, with an unsatisfying denouement that leaves the viewer with a "What the hell just happened" perception. There are films (such as "Inception") with deliberately ambiguous endings, but "Infinity Chamber" is more than just ambiguous - it's also perplexing, and not in a good way. I'm all-for open-ended endings, subject to interpretation, but this movie was one hell of a long ramble, not justified by the payoff. Christopher Soren Kelly plays Frank Lerner (note the double entendre), Cassandra Clark plays the girl of his dreams, Gabby (note the double entendre), and both are just about perfect in their roles, so the acting here is quite good. Howard is a delight as the laid-back, thoughtful LSO who almost befriends Frank during the arduous time spent getting to "know" one-another. The lighting is good ... until it isn't (the film becomes one of "those" black-as-night films, which leaves the viewer squinting and guessing - they've become a fad, and I'm sick of them), the music by Jacob Yoffee fits the movie, and the angular cinematography is as good as it can be within its severe limitations. This all sounds wonderful, but the actual plot not only plods, but is so infuriatingly vague that the stingy reveal leaves the viewer empty. Did Frank outsmart Howard? Is it all a dream? Did he die despite the ventilator? Is he happy-ever-after? You're welcome to pick-and-choose whatever you wish, and you won't be wrong, unless there's something patently obvious that I've missed. "Infinity Chamber" isn't a joy to sit through; it's hard work at times, and the claustrophobic set must have been the cinematographer Jason Nolte's worst nightmare, because with such a long film, and such a limited space, he simply ran out of things to try. As much as I don't want to say this, I just can't recommend this film to anyone except the most avid science-fiction fans - it does a lot of things right (and doesn't even come across as being low-budget), but there are just too many inherent flaws in the story and direction for talent to overcome - the irony being that I think there is some talent in writer-director Travis Milloy; it just didn't come out in this film.
  6. You're reading me wrong - between West End Bistro and Little Serow, it was absolutely the most popular restaurant in DC.
  7. This is an hour-long video of Noah being interviewed at Northwestern University about race, South Africa, and his identity in America. I'd heard thatTrevor doesn't "Noah lot" about American politics, and in this video, you can see why - he is South African, through-and-through, and his take on "race and identity" is absolutely fascinating. "Trevor Noah Speaks with the Times Tonight about Race and Identity" on nytimes.com I just did this (using Chromebook, it took about 20 seconds to download and activate the extension). It isn't so much about "the style they deserve"; it's about preserving my own sanity, and now being able to look at things through a lens of humor - it's really very funny, and can be removed at any time. Highly recommended, and has the same, calming effect as blocking an annoying person on Facebook or Twitter.
  8. In retrospect, isn't the signage for these two restaurants a lot alike? Block-like ivory-yellow letters in all-caps?
  9. Dining at Airports

    A fascinating Tweet by our own Jon Karl, who would know as well as anyone about the traffic situation at DCA: Question for @dcairports: are the now common massive traffic backups at @Reagan_Airport because of all the trolling @uber & @lyft drivers?
  10. Seb, Unfortunately, the only award you're really eligible for is "Best Chef ...." - to win an "Outstanding ...." award, you have to either have already won a "Best Chef ...." award, or have been in business for ten years. America's Classics almost always go to dive-type places that have been around for decades, so that would be a tough one for Amoo's. (For the "Best Chef ...." awards, you need to have been cooking in the region (not necessarily at your current restaurant) for five years.)
  11. In a way, Harvey Weinstein has committed transgressions even worse than Bill Cosby, because in addition to being a sexual predator, he was a psychological predator, guilty of abusing his power in the worst possible way (abuse of power is one of my personal pet peeves). Even here in this community, Weinstein has had some influence in our Film Forum. Two early articles about this situation surpass all others I've seen, and are worth remembering. Although there was probably some inter-publication rivalry as to who got the story out first, and the NY Times technically "beat" New Yorker by five days, it seems as though New Yorker was very much on top of this story, and bided their time in publishing it - from a reader's point-of-view (which includes 99.9% of the population), people couldn't care less which publication breaks a story. Oct 5, 2017 - "Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harrassment Accusers for Decades" by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on nytimes.com Oct 10, 2017 - "From Aggressive Overtones to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein's Accusers Tell Their Stories" by Ronan Farrow on newyorker.com I would appreciate hearing from some females regarding what, if anything, the average male can do to completely smash the glass ceiling, end sexual abuse, and put an end to things such as this forever: Is simply living a good life enough, or should males be doing something more pro-active? When a Presidential candidate can say the things he said (about grabbing women by the p****, etc.), and still be elected, that does not bode well for American women. This tweet by Larry Flynt could not possibly be more ironic ... or could it?
  12. This Facebook post from Sep 15 says, "We would like to thank everyone for the patience, we are finally open starting today. Please come and enjoy our delicious food once again." Just to propose a scenario: My table-tennis coach took his family to Shanghai this summer, and was gone in June, July, and August. If the folks who own Lotus Garden have a relative in China who is old or sick, it's very plausible they could have stayed for several months.
  13. Syracuse deserved it - they came out with unbridled fury, and played to win. They ran a no-huddle offense the entire game, and caught Clemson's defense completely off-guard. "Week 7s Top 10: Multiple Major Upsets Bring a Plethora of Changes" by Bruce Feldman on si.com The truth is that Clemson's best quarterback, IMO, is playing third-string, and their starting quarterback twisted an ankle in the second quarter and sat out the entire second half - Clemson chose to play their backup (Zerrick Cooper), who I think is a very poor choice. Also, they lost their field-goal kicker for the season a few weeks ago, leaving their special teams in a shambles. Their backup kicker, Alex Spence, missed FGs from 35 and 38 yards, and simply isn't good enough to play at this level (he's a 4.0 student, and won't have any trouble finding a job after his college career is over). Unlike, for example, quarterback, great college teams generally don't have more than one great kicker - they almost never get injured, and no good high-school kicker wants to ride the bench for their entire career: It doesn't matter if they play for Alabama, or George Mason - they just want to play and be noticed. Clemson's first-string kicker, two-time All-ACC Greg Huegel, got injured in an unlikely practice situation, and is out for the season. Clemson's special teams are below average, and that right there is enough to kill a top-level team. Sep 21, 2017 - "Clemson Kicker Greg Huegel Out for Season after Tearing ACL on Final Play of Practice" by Jeremy Woo on si.com Obviously, I'm a huge Clemson fan, but I'm also a realist: In order to reach the playoffs this year, Clemson must win out, and hope for a little help from the Football Gods (which they'll probably get). However, due to their unsettled quarterback situation, and their desperate situation with special teams, I don't expect them to win the rest of their games. They could have done it if they were healthy, but they aren't healthy, and being healthy is every bit as important as having, for example, a great defensive line - it's part of the game. All this to repeat my first sentence: Syracuse was the better team Friday night.
  14. But now we're entering the world of house-made ice creams at the hands of a pastry chef - don't you think this is different? If not, what about places such as Kinship and Mirabelle? Hell, even Joe H's house. I think a more apt comparison would be Dolcezza, no?