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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

District Affairs

I go down to Washington DC fairly often, often doing the same things over and over again though trying at some level to always experience something new on each trip, even if it's walking down a different block.

On my latest visit I decided I wanted to try very very hard to do some things recommended to me by the Washington Post.

So I went to get cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake.  Now, this whole cupcake craze has me a little befuddled.  Illogically, because I think it's crazy to pay in the neighborhood of $3 for a little cupcake.  Why do I say that's illogical?  Because we all have things we're willing to indulge in.  I pay $6.50 every so often for a slice of Juniors Cheesecake, so why not pay $3 for a cupcake.  But logically, because Juniors is really good stuff (I think so, most people I've introduced it to think so, or have sent as a gift).   But most of these cupcakes are pretty dreary, and paying so much money for a bad cupcake?  Like this little place in Sunnyside that opened up near me recently, and I tried one of their expensive cupcakes and it was so godawful dry and bad and ugh ugh ugh.  

But I was willing to give this Georgetown Cupcake a try because when the Washington Post did a whole series of cupcake reviews in the fall they actually admitted time and again over the course of the reviews that the emperor had no clothes, that most of the cupcakes they were trying weren't very good.  Neither place very good in week #1.  Week #2, one of the places "no better than grade school cafeteria."   Hence, when they concluded the series by rating Georgetown Cupcake as the best, I was willing to give them some credence, and so I happily waited on line to try some of them.  I ended up getting six cupcakes, which with tax cost $16.50.  Each a different flavor.  As things turned out I ended up carrying them with me to dinner, then to the train station, then home, and some of them toppled over a bit even though they give a very good box which does hold the cupcakes well in more normal transport, but they were more than good enough even so for me to concur that if you want to indulge in a cupcake this is a very good place to do it.  I liked the chocolate mint quite a bit, banana pudding not bad at all, red velvet much better than average.  Chocolate #3 was a little bit disappointing but wasn't one of the fresher by the time I got around to it.  Bottom line, the cakes were moist and yummy, and the icings were flavorful without being icky sweet.  

For the record, here in NYC the cupcakes at Magnolia, Billys and Buttercup are among those that leave me feeling cold.  Sage has a decent ersatz Hostess cupcake, the Little Pie Co. has a nice cream filled chocolate if eaten at room temperature (I also like Juniors best at room temp), and some Crumbs like the grasshopper are OK, but I think from now on I'll save myself for when I can do Georgetown Cupcake.

Dinner that night, cupcakes in tow, was at Ray's Hellburger, which the Washington Post liked quite a bit and put in their fall magazine listing as one of the best restaurants in DC.  Well, thank you Tom Sietsema!  This is one yummy hamburger.  I got a pepper encrusted burger cooked medium with some swiss cheese atop.  It was big and juicy, moderately but not overly messy.  Like the review says the bun was a little overmatched, but it was a good bun with some real texture and substance to it.  The surroundings are not luxurious.  You order at the counter then sit down and wait a few minutes for the burger to be delivered.  You might be sitting in close surroundings to somebody else.  I had my bags and cupcakes because my next stop was Union Station, and I had to kind of fight my way through the ordering crowd to get to the bathroom.  But if you want a good, no frills, eating experience when you're in DC. Rays Hellburger is well worthwhile.

If you want a bit of a walking tour, Rays is at the downhill side of the very walkable very pleasant Clarendon corridor.  Now that the B. Dalton won't be there any more I'm not sure if it makes sense to start a walk at the far end by Ballston Commons.  But certainly you can get off at Clarendon, enjoy the little park and admire historic theatres in the CVS window and think on the very good Delhi Club for some other meal someday, walk downhill to the upscale shopping mall, browse at the Barnes & Noble, check e-mail at the Apple Store, pick up some vino at Whole Foods, down a little further past the Arlington County courthouse and the AMC, then eventually go down Wilson a little bit further to Rays.  Have good burger, having built up nice appetite.  Then continue down Wilson to Rosslyn, walk over the scenic and glorious Key Bridge into Georgetown, with wonderful views in abundance, and then just a few short blocks to Georgetown Cupcake.  It's only 1.3 miles according to Mapquest from Hellburger to Georgetown Cupcake, downhill, (burn more calories by having cupcake first then going to burger), and my that would be good.  The problem with the Clarendon corridor is that it gives too many good choices.  If you eat at Ray's you can't eat at Whole Foods, if you go to Georgetown Cupcake who'll have an appetite for a slice of Linda's Fudge Cake at Cheesecake Factory, if you go to Delhi Club there's no chili at Hard Times.  

My other DC item to review quickly was the production of Grey Gardens at the Studio Theatre.  This was the classic Studio production for me to see, something I'd kind of wanted to see when it was on Broadway but never quite got around to, so the DC production becomes a last chance at a theatre that I know will generally do a good job of things.  The production was solid enough with the lead played by someone with lots of Broadway experience and another role filled by one of the cast members from the Studio's superb stunningly good wish-it-were-still-running production of Jerry Springer the Opera, but it's not a very good musical alas.  It's based on a documentary about some Onassis relatives living in squalor at the eponymous estate on Long Island.  The first act is set earlier in the 20th century when Grey Gardens is still a place to be seen.  Joe Kennedy is courting the ladies.  All very frilly but not very thrilling.  I don't care about these people at all.  The second act gets a little more interesting with some nicely staged numbers with the entire company and one particularly interesting song called Jerry Likes My Corn that is an ode to the handyman who's willing to help out the crazy ladies in Grey Gardens, but one bad act followed by one mildly interesting one doesn't make for a good night at the theatre to me.  So One Slithy Toad for this production, seen at the evening performance on Sunday January 1, 2009.  Interestingly enough, Peter Marks, the critic for the Washington Post seems to feel the same way that the production is much better in the second act than the first, and I guess overall liked much more than I since his capsule review gave it the "recommended" star.  But shouldn't he have genuinely liked both acts before he recommends it, instead of giving that little star to something that even he seems to say has some first act issues?


Charlotte said...

Delurking to agree with you that the Magnolia cupcakes are disappointing! I had one on my trip to NYC in November and was saddened by its ickiness. However, I am now even sadder to discover that I should have been eating cheesecake at Juniors - there was a branch across from my hotel where I had, of all things, an omelette. I now have cheesecake regret.

Maria said...

I used some Post recommendations when we were in DC last May--for the most part, the rec's were dismally disappointing. The best recommendations were those in Chinatown. We went out of our way to go to a couple of restaurants that were "highly" recommended that turned out to be very average.

Some of the best meals we ate outside the Chinese was at Union Station where you can find just about anything.

Lisa Iriarte said...

We have a wonderful little cupcake place in Mt. Dora, Florida, if you find yourself down this way. The red velvet is the best, with inch-thick cream cheese frosting. I don't get there often, but I go for the Spring writing conference and I always indulge.

Lisa Iriarte said...

Hey, totally unrelated, but congrats on your author Adam-Troy Castro being nominated for a Philip K. Dick award!

Lynxswift said...

Hey how about some more of your local NYC or even Queens picks :). I eat sadly too often at the Boston Market as it is :(.