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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Celebrating 20 Years of Tuesdays with Morrie @Sixth and I --- Politics and Prose

Tuesdays with Morrie, written by Mitch Albom about the final words of wisdom from his beloved professor Morrie Schwartz, is recognized as one of the most popular books ever written on how to live your life with understanding and how to face your death with dignity.
Albom and Ted Koppel, who featured Schwartz on three occasions on Nightline, appeared recently in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the book and talk about the tremendous impact Morrie’s words had on them and millions of readers around the world.
Booming Encore Senior Contributor Dave Price captures the essence of this ongoing publishing phenomenon in a two-part series.

Ted Koepel and Mitch Album discuss their remembrances of Morrie Schwartz
Album with his beloved professor Morrie Schwartz

Freer and Sackler Galleries Reopen on National Mall

After almost two years of renovations, the Freer Sackler, which showcases Asian art, has reopened on the National Mall.

The Freer Gallery of Art opened to the public in 1923, while the Sackler Gallery debuted in 1987.

The Smithsonian held an IlluminAsia festival of Asian art, food, and culture this past weekend both inside the museum and outside on the National Mall.

Here is a sampling of some of what visitors got to to do in addition to touring the renovated museum, with its 3 new exhibits:

Watch artists create work

Listen to live Asian music like that provide by District of Raga

 View Asian Crafts and Craftspeople at Work

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Counter Culture in DC - @Bub and Pop's

TV food celeb Guy Fieri watches chef Johnathan Taub get cooking
Maybe it's because as a South Jersey boy I grew up eating a lot of Philly food. Or maybe it's when a really good chef decides to concentrate on sandwiches, the food can't help but be good. But no matter what the reason, Bub and Pop's is one of our favorite lunch spots in DC.

And we're not alone. Here are some other testimonials to the great taste at the Dupont Circle neighborhood eatery:

In a recent article on the best sandwich shops in each state, Bub and Pop's captured the nod for DC. Noted TV food personality Guy Fieri praises the "warmly decorated nook serving up handcrafted hoagies and unique pickles, plus soups and salads". And area publications routinely place Bub and Pop's sandwiches at the top of their best to eat lists.

Credit for the great food goes to chef Jonathan Taub, who trained at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia. Everything is made from scratch here, even the condiments.

But the idea of Bub and Pop's goes back decades. As teenagers in South Philadelphia, Mae and Irv (Bub and Pop) Wagner fell in love and married in their early 20s. When Pop returned home as a decorated war hero from World War II, he and Bub bought a small corner grocery/deli in West Philly and created their own Italian hoagie and braised beef brisket sandwiches. 60 years later, their grandson Jonathan is carrying on that tradition in the district.

The Obama and beef brisket soup w/Asian accents 
Picking a favorite sandwich here is like choosing the most influential member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's difficult because there are so many options.

Some diners might opt for Bub's Italian Hoagie or the Shrimp Rich Boy. But, if pressed, I would have to pick the Real Obama, named for the 44th president of the United States. This is a standout presidential sandwich in a city filled with presidents, politics, and food.

And what is an Obama, you ask? It's a Chicago-style slow braised beef brisket sub, w/giardinera (cold, spicy pickled vegetables) and aged provolone cheese. Trust me. It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you like braised beef with a bit of spice, you can endorse this sandwich.

Another great treat at Bub and Pop's is you will probably place your order with co-owner Arlene, who has that special diner/deli way of making you feel as special as the food you're ordering.

Now let's hear Jonathan and Arlene tell you in their own words about their eatery:

An Inside Look at Bub and Pop's 

DC Day Tripper Rating: 4 out 4 Yum, Yum Eat 'Em Ups

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kennedy, King, and a Call That Changed History

In the waning months of 1960, Democratic Senator John Kennedy found himself embroiled in an extremely tight race for the presidency with Republican Vice President Richard Nixon.

Kennedy's and Nixon's advisers were keenly aware that one major mistake on the part of either candidate could be the difference between winning or losing the election and neither side wanted to make such an error.

In October, Negro (yes, this was a time before the terms Black or African-American had entered the American parlance) Civil Rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been arrested on trumped-up charges in Georgia and secretly spirited away to a maximum security prison there, where his life was in jeopardy from both Negro-hating jailers and white inmates.

Meanwhile, at home in Atlanta, Coretta King, six months pregnant with their third child, was frantically worried for the safety of husband.

As news of King's jailing spread, both Kennedy and Nixon received a petition from more than 20 Civil Rights organizations demanding that they speak out against their leaders's imprisonment.

In the Nixon camp, his political strategists calculated the political consequences and concluded the vice president should remain silent.

Throughout the campaign, Kennedy had been courting the then-solid Democratic white support in the South, attempting to allay fears that be an aggressive civil rights president. It was therefore expected that he would follow the same course.

However, King had two staunch proponents in the Kennedy camp - political aide Harris Wofford and Sergeant Shriver, Kennedy's brother-in-law and head of his Civil Rights section. Wofford, working with other King supporters came up with a plan - Kennedy should pick up the phone and reach out to Mrs. King, conveying his concern about her husband's situation.

Made aware of the plan, Shriver headed immediately to relay it to Kennedy. Kennedy's other aides were rigidly opposed.  Some feared such a public call could alienate white support in the South. Others feared it could be interpreted as a gimmick to reel in black voters and backfire.

But Shriver, convinced it was the right moral, if not political, action to take was able to get a few minutes alone with Kennedy.

According to accounts, Shriver, attempting to appeal to his brother-in-law's conscience, told Kennedy he needed only to convey to Mrs. King he believed what happened to her husband was wrong, that he would see what he could do to get the situation rectified, and that in general he supported the King family.

Kennedy agreed to the call, which lasted no more than 90 seconds. When top aides learned of Kennedy's action and Shriver's involvement, they were apoplectic, claiming the election had just been lost.

And, indeed, that call may well have changed history. But not in the way Kennedy's aides feared.

Word of the call and King's subsequent release galvanized black communities across the country, unleashing a wave of support for the Democratic candidate from black citizens who had been Republican since the days of Abraham Lincoln.

That support continued on to Election Day, where blacks voted for Kennedy in record numbers. And, if not for that support, historians believe it is highly likely that Nixon would have won. In Illinois, for instance, where Kennedy topped Nixon by only 9,000, 250,000 blacks cast votes for the Massachusetts senator. In South Carolina, where he carried the state by 10,000 votes, blacks cast 40,000 votes for the winner. In fact, some claimed black votes in 11 states provided Kennedy with the margin of victory.

Levingston signs books after his appearance. 
The call to Coretta King, which may have won the 1960 election, is just one of many fascinating Kennedy/King connections author Steven Levingston explores in his new book Kennedy and King:
The President, the Pastor, and Civil Rights.

Levingston, appearing on a recent edition of Inside Media at the Newseum, said he was drawn to writing about Kennedy because "he had a great capacity for growth as a president, a human being, and a leader."

"We all have help to improve ourselves and King pushed him (Kennedy) forward, educating him and making sure he didn't lose sight of the goal," Levingston explained.

The author said he wanted to trace the "thread that bound these two men from two different worlds" Levingston believes the bond was "the understanding of discrimination" that linked Kennedy, an Irish-American and a Catholic with King, who, as black man and activist,  continued to face some of the worst the South at the time had to offer.

"I think Kennedy had a little bit of an inkling of what it was like to live in an unfair society," Levingston said.

In his first years in office, Kennedy proved to be "a ditherer," not wanting to act directly on racial discrimination. "But Birmingham was the turning point," Livingston said, noting that the sight of fire hoses and dogs being turned lose on young blacks "really turned John Kennedy's stomach".

Kennedy issued a dramatic address on the issue to the nation where he was "almost channeling Martin Luther King."

Of course, Kennedy's final actions on the question of civil rights will never be known since his life ended in 1963 with his tragic assassination in Dallas, Texas.

In addition to shedding more light on both men and the Civil Rights movement between 1960 and 1963, Levingston said he hopes his book can provide background for what America is experiencing with its seemingly worsening race relations today.

"There's always progress and regression," he said. "You move forward and then you move back. I hope this book shows how relevant history is today and how and why these issues are so alive."

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fine Dining DC - @Succotash

If I had to choose my favorite regional cooking in the United States it would be Southern. And if I had to choose my favorite world cooking, it would be Asian.

Therefore, it stands to reason that I would like chef Edward Lee's just-opened flagship restaurant Succotash in the Gallery Place section of the district. And I did. A lot.

Lee, a 6-time James Beard Award finalist who appeared in season 9 of Top Chef and won national acclaim for his 610 Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, has moved his operations to DC, where he now runs 2 restaurants - the new Succotash (jokingly nicknamed 2.0) and one by the same name in nearby National Harbor.

"The joy of being in DC is that DC is kind of a part of the South, but it is also a global city as well," Lee told writer Travis Mitchell of the DCist. "I don't think the clientele here is necessarily stuck on the traditions of 100 years ago. I think we're allowed to be more playful with the menu."

As culinary director, Lee mixes traditional southern food with Asian accents, especially tasty Korean touches. "These are really fun things for me to work on because they really do allow me to bridge that Asian food I like so much with Southern tradition," Lee explained.

Food critic for The Washington Post Tom Sietsema gave Succotash, with its gleaming dining rooms, multiple bars, free-floating mezzanine and seemingly endless ceiling, a stellar first review. "Good Southern cooking is underrepresented in Washington - or was, until the arrival of the $6 million Succotash in September. Let the eating of shrimp and grits and bourbon milkshakes begin," Sietsama wrote in his review.

We made our initial visit with my wife's step-brother Corky and his wife Sandy, who were in town for  a legal meeting on maritime law. As we often do if a restaurant has a tasting menu, we opted for that choice and convinced Corky and Sandy to order it as well, as everyone at the table must partake of the tasters menu if it is your dining choice.

Here is what we received on our Succotash Taste of the South sampler:

  • southern deviled eggs
  • smoked chicken wings
  • fried green tomato salad
  • cornbread cakes
  • fried chicken and waffles
  • BBQ pork ribs
  • crispy blue catfish
  • collards w/kimchi and country ham
  • daily seasonal side (chilled tomato succotash)
  • beignets with green-tea powdered sugar
  • cashew-white chocolate puree hummingbird truffles w/fruit and whipped cream
Based on that single meal (and of course, we will be back for more) Succotash leapt on to our Top 10 Favorite DC Places to Dine list. Amazingly, the cost for the outstanding sampler meal was only $42 a person.

DC Day Tripper Rating: 4 out of 4 Yum, Yum Eat 'Em Ups.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Gallery Art Talk @Walter E. Washington Convention Center

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center has the largest public art collection in the District outside of a museum.  
With more than 130 works of art, the collection includes a 3-floor wall drawing by Sol LeWitt, an installation by Sarah Sze, a triptych by Carrie Mae Weems, a mixed media work by Radcliffe Bailey, as well as works by Sam Gilliam and many others.  More than half of the collection is comprised of work by regional artists.
The collection is accessible to the public only through free tours led by Managing Curator of the collection Joan Oshinsky, which are offered to the public four times a year. 
Each tour lasts for approximately 90 minutes and covers important collection highlights, plus an additional selection of works that changes with each tour.
We took the Fall tour and here is some of what we saw ...

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