Who knew the power of this little blog I started a little less than a month ago. On Tuesday, I wrote a post in frustration after being unable to even file for unemployment benefits in DC. On Wednesday, after coming back from a job interview, a DC government employee had commented on my post and asked me to get in touch with them so they could help me out.

I got in touch with him this morning via email. Recently after, I received an email and then a phone call from the director of unemployment compensation with the Department of Employment Services. He apologized for my less-than-positive experience with his department, explained that they’d seen a 85% increase in claims (and called it an explanation, but not an excuse – which I appreciated), and quickly remedied the situation. Within 5 minutes of talking with him, a representative had called me and taken my application for unemployment benefits over the phone.

Sure, it was a very frustrating experience to begin with, but I am impressed with how quickly the situation was remedied once I went to the Internets to complain about it. So, thank you DC Department of Employment Services, for being so quick to fix the problem once it was brought to your attention.

Posto on 14th street

Posto on 14th street

I finally dined at Posto last night. After writing about it and hearing about it, I was happy to finally experience it for myself. And, well it met and beat my expectations.

The food: so good. I had the house cured olives (good, but it’s hard to make olives taste bad in my book) and the polenta with sausage to start. The polenta was very good, comforting, warm, a little spicy, perfect for a cold rainy night.

Main dishes were the scallops with a lentil ragout and the cinghiale (aka wild boar). The scallops were good, I didn’t instantly think lentils would work with scallops, but they did. It was another warming, comforting dish for winter. The cinghiale, the first I had ever had, was chewy (as to be expected after seeing a recent Iron Chef featuring the ingredient) but so flavorful, so good.

For dessert (because I was feeling decadent, hadn’t had a ton to eat all day, and had just scored my first job interview since losing my job) cranberry and mixed berry cobbler and poached pear with chocolate panna cotta. A nice finish to a great dinner, and I appreciate that the desserts offered weren’t the expected ones you often find at restaurants (usual suspects: flourless chocolate cake, apple pie, creme brulee, ice cream of some sort).

The service: attentive, friendly, nice, in two words: very good. The waiter was very enthusiastic, the hostess and manager were chatty and friendly as well.

The dining room was noisy. I even noticed that they’d put foam at the bottom of the tables to absorb some of the noise, but it wasn’t doing much good. It wasn’t terribly loud though, conversation wasn’t impossible. Though, it’s not a place you’d take a date for a quiet, romantic dinner.

In short, Posto surpassed my expectations for what I hoped it would be: a nice, tasty neighborhood option. I will definitely be returning on a regular basis. Plus: I learned it offers takeout, which will be an awesome alternative to some other options in the neighborhood.

After the jump: more photos. (more…)

Luckily, while I was recently laid off, I’ve gotten some part-time work that might lead to something full-time in the near future. However, as I’m not working full-time, I still qualify for unemployment benefits. I do all the research, go on to DC’s Department of Employment Services website, and find out I can file for unemployment online: sweet.

Oh but, after the fourth page of the application there is just a blank page, it won’t go forward. Great. I’m on Firefox, let’s try on IE. Nope, same problem. Oh but there’s a number to call, let me call them and tell them of the problem. Oh but it’s busy, EVERY SINGLE TIME I TRY TO CALL. How the hell does a DC government office not have the ability to put people on hold? Ridiculous.

OK, let’s try calling one of the One Stop Career Center’s to see if they can help. After 5 times trying to call and getting a busy signal: I get through. Put on hold. Ask, is there anyway I can file over the phone because your website is broken. Lady says, sure here are four number to try to call.

Me: So you’re saying if I call one of these numbers I can file for unemployment over the phone?

Unemployment lady: Yes, ma’am.

Try to call first number: busy. Second number: voice mail, leave a message. Third number: another unemployment lady answers.

Me: So I can file for unemployment through this phone number?

Unemployment lady 2: No. Who told you that?

Me: I called one of your One Stop Career Centers and the woman who answered the phone gave me this number and told me I could.

Unemployment lady 2: Oh you can only do it online or by this number (original number that’s been busy every time I’ve called).

Me: Well I tried that, your website is broken and that number is busy.

Unemployment lady 2: Well that’s the only way you can do it.

Me (Pulling out hair, banging head on laptop keyboard): Can I at least tell you what’s wrong with your website?

I proceed to tell her what’s wrong, she says she’ll “tell someone about it.” Lovely. I sent an email to my council member Jim Graham detailing the mess. I continue to call the ever busy signal number. Will I ever be able to file for unemployment? Time will only tell.

Bar Pilar, on 14th street

Bar Pilar, on 14th street

Bar Pilar is perhaps my favorite bar in DC (that might change when I finally go to the Gibson though). I especially like it on a weekday night, when it isn’t too crowded, I can talk to the bartender (I don’t know her name, but she’s always there when I go and while it took her time to warm up to me, I think she likes me now), peruse the ever-changing menu, and enjoy the company of whomever I’ve gone to the bar with.

I know that there has been a lot of criticism of Bar Pilar’s menu after it went from well-done comfort food to something more fancy. First, it was two years ago, let’s all move on. But listen, more importantly the food they serve is so good. Whatever I get there, I’m always blown away. On my last visit, the roasted beef sandwich with demi-glace sauce was AMAZING. Unfortunately, their most recent menu isn’t up on the website, or the dish I had was a special add-in, but if it’s on the menu, order it. Even when I ordered chicken there, which I don’t usually get at restaurants because it’s so normal and blah, their braised chicken was out of this world.

Bar Pilar is consistently rated as one of the best places to get a cocktail, but if you didn’t know to ask, you probably wouldn’t know. The thing to do, is to go on a Tuesday night, early, get a seat to enjoy the interesting, unusual creations of mixologist (don’t you hate that word?) Adam Bernbach.

Sure, it can get crowded with suburbanites looking to have a cool night out in DC on the weekends, and no, the service is nothing approaching good, but at its heart it’s a neighborhood place to swing by and have a great drink and bite on random night.

A regular feature in which I spotlight local businesses.

Perusing some of the websites I checkout nearly every day, I come across this gem of a story from the Washington Post: Warm Conditions Offer Rare Chance to Dress Down – where yes, the whole stupid article is about how since it was warm yesterday people wore lighter clothes. REALLY? This article is perhaps the encapulation of what is wrong with old media.

This was a “oh crap nothing really happened this weekend in the district because it’s a holiday but we need an article to take up space” article. Snippets of the genius reporting:

Epic fail by the Washington Post

Fail by the Washington Post

“Despite overcast skies, drizzle and a breeze that put a slight chill in the air yesterday afternoon, T-shirts and light sweaters were out in force in front of the White House, along Pennsylvania Avenue. Tourists carried jackets under their arms, and scarves were loosened. More than a few people broke out flip-flops for the occasion.”

The reporter then needs some quotations, so he talks to a weatherman (ooooh) and a purveyor at the Dupont farmers market who claims they sold out of parsnips (WTF?).

This is what I hate about traditional media, a meaningless story just to take up space in the paper, and it needed to get out fast therefore lackluster reporting, pointless descriptions of tourists in flip-flops, and just stupidness. So much of old media is entrenched in old traditions that no longer make sense, but they stick to their mores because they don’t know what else to do. I ran across this a lot in journalism school, where I was penalized for having a too long lead, not including a quotation in the first third of the story, not telling a story in a “pyramid” theme… and I couldn’t help but think how pointless these conventions were and how they were going to kill traditional journalism. Well, here we are a few years later and traditional media is taking its last gasps of breath…

Galileo's old location, courtesy of erin_johnson (Flickr)

Galileo's old location, courtesy of erin_johnson (Flickr)

Tom Sietsema gives us news that Galileo returns from the dead, and will occupy Butterfield 9’s space on 14th street near the White House.

Galileo was actually one of the first restaurants I ate at in DC, while I was visiting colleges in DC I stayed around the corner from the restaurant’s original location in the West End/Foggy Bottom area on 21st and L. A misguided front desk clerk at the hotel told my dad and me that it would be a good place for a quick dinner before we headed to a (now-defunct) Crossfire taping. She failed to mention it was also one of the most snooty, expensive restaurants in the area. Thanks lady. Sure, the food was great, but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting.

In 2006, Galileo closed as the building it was located in underwent a complete renovation (oh I know, I used to live right next to the building and the construction woke me up every morning) and was set to eventually re-open when the renovation was completed. However, now it is set to open in April or May of 2009 in the shuttered Butterfield 9 space. Should be interesting (and hopefully the snooty, stuck-up service notorious at the old Galileo will disappear).

The Washington Post informs us that Hell’s Kitchen winner, Alexandria native Rahman Harper will be the chef at Next Door. Apparently the original concept for Next Door is changing – once meant to be a relaxed place to get a beer with a half smoke, in the past few weeks the Ali family has decided to make it more “upscale” – while half smokes will still be on the menu, so will ravioli stuffed with turkey, marscapone, and sweet potato.

I don’t know about this. I know it would be silly for Next Door to have a copy cat of Ben’s menu with beer. And I like that the the inside has a different look than Ben’s: cool, inviting, warm, with all of the wood. And I’m fine with changing the menu to offer some other dishes, it only makes sense. But bringing in a quasi-celebrity chef? I’m skeptical.

Beef Tibs, courtesy of Andrea Chiu (Flickr)

Beef Tibs, courtesy of Andrea Chiu (Flickr)

DCist does a review of local Ethiopian restaurant’s tibs dishes, and sort of declares the winners Madjet on U street and Queen Makeda on 9th off of U. Now, I’m more of a kitfo and veggie platter girl myself, but I like tibs, a stir fried or grilled lamb or beef dish, from time to time. I would put however, Etete, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant at the top spot, but DCist didn’t include it in their review (too bad).

Now, I can’t say I’ve ever eaten at either Madjet or Queen Makeda, I tend to stick to Etete for eat in and Dukem for take out. And with all of the choices for Ethiopian in my ‘hood, it’s good to have a few favorites with dishes you know you like, instead of experimenting in what can be some mediocre food, as the DCist reviewer finds out.

Now, what I’d really like to do is cook some Ethiopian food myself, as Dukem’s market sells berbere spices and injera bread. Another post, I guess.

Vinoteca, off of U Street

Vinoteca, at 11th and U

After seeing 14th and You’s post on brunch at Vinoteca a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, why don’t I go there more often? It’s a block away from my place, the times I’ve been there the food has been good, the wine choices plentiful, and the service friendly. I guess for me, and for others in the neighborhood, it doesn’t really come up as a “go to” place when you’re thinking of a place to go to dinner. It really should be.

Vinoteca has been open a little more than a year, and is a nice alternate to the always-packed, though wonderful, Cork. Their winter menu has some nice options, such as the great Lobster and Grits I had the last time I was there, along with classics like Duck Confit and things you can’t usually find, like Bison Top Sirloin. Their brunch sounds great though I haven’t had the chance to make it over yet (a late morning Pilates class gets in the way of Sunday brunch).

I also like that they offer events like wine classes, for about $35, where you can explore different grape varietals with a knowledgeable instructor. (It looks like, however, they’ve temporarily suspended the classes, usually held every Tuesday, hopefully they’ll start up again.)

So, I’m going to make visits to Vinoteca more regular, because I really like what they’re doing.

A regular feature in which I spotlight local businesses.

As some might have guessed by my banner on the blog, I’m a devoted Ben’s Chili Bowl fan. I love the food, the atmosphere, and the history of the place. I was one of the most excited to hear that Ben’s had bought the empty retail space next door and was turning it into everyone’s dream, Ben’s with alcohol. If you’ve walked by, you can tell it’s very close to opening, all the furniture is there, even the beer taps are in the bar. Prince of Petworth was able to get a sneak peak into the bar, he says:

The space is very warm and comfortable and a bit more upscale than the original shop next door. Nizam [the co-owner] was sure to explain that “we love Ben’s exactly like it is.” He explained that the new spot is “a chance for the second generation to do something ourselves while paying tribute to Ben’s and keeping Ben’s exactly the way it is.” He also emphasized that Next Door will be a comfortable spot with the same atmosphere as the original Ben’s. “It’s not going to be a trendy place it is going to be about service, friendliness and fun,” said Nizam… While the menu is not finalized, in addition to the traditional Ben’s fare, you’ll likely be able to find wings, nachos, bigger burgers, salads and the possibility of “getting some veggie.s” Nizam explains, “we don’t want to be ‘bougie’ high end, everything at Ben’s is tasty we it to be the same thing here.”

Solid. I’m looking forward to it. It should be open before or a little after the new year.