Category Archives: Reporting

Interview With Jesse Miller from Cafe Saint-Ex

My interview with chef Jesse Miller from Cafe Saint-Ex

Like most great chefs, Café Saint-Ex Executive Sous Chef Jesse Miller honed his skills the old-fashioned way, eschewing the chef-in-a-box culinary school route to earn his chops by working in kitchens for years. Originally from Baltimore, Jess studied painting at Towson University. To make money during art school, he worked at The Elkridge Furnace Inn, first as a dishwasher, then moving on to prep cook and sous chef. “You can be good at it [cooking] and hate it or bad at it and love it. It just bit me. I decided to focus on this art.” He spent seven years at the Elkridge Furnace Inn, which he describes as “a great place to learn,” and fortuitously met Saint-Ex’s Executive Chef Billy Klein there as well, who recruited him later to join Café Saint-Ex. Their collaboration continues to bear fruits—“we like pushing each other to get better.”
Café Saint-Ex’s menu is very seasonal and showcases the food of local farms. “We go to meet the farmers and it really makes you care about the food more. When you see how hard they work, it really gets you passionate about representing their food.”
At Fashion District, Jesse will be serving a King Salmon sashimi, with a Thai chili relish, yuzu vinaigrette and a soy reduction, with claytonia greens. The soy reduction has a deep, almost caramel undertone, resulting from the soy sauce being cooked for a really long time with a tiny bit of brown sugar, getting it to the right level of viscosity, with an almost-burned tinge for that little bit of char flavor. The yuzu vinaigrette is vibrant and really matches the equally springy claytonia [Miner’s lettuce] that is surrounded by the salmon.

Interview With The Prince Of Petworth

My Interview with the Humblingly Awesome Prince Of Petworth

Dan Silverman, The Prince Of Petworth blogger, is refreshingly old school in his sensibilities—mainly because he really is doing this for the community. His dedication literally emanates from him and his genuine love and appreciation for this city is clearly the only impetus he has. Utterly un-prince-like, Dan is charmingly humble and impressively curious and his knowledge of the city is what draws readers in. He goes out every day not in search of trendy happenings to report on, but for things that move people. His droll and thoroughly infectious enthusiasm for it is palpable—and gutsy—I mean only Prince Of Petworth can get away with posting pictures of doors because they are beautiful.

Like some modern day Lewis and Clark, he eschews the trappings of “cool.” You won’t find him to be a member of the hipsterhood, opting to instead literally tread this city on foot in search of beautiful things. Oh, and he definitely has a European definition of walkability—think 15-18 miles! With his trustee pocket notepad and a camera, The Prince goes in giant loops throughout the city, either following up on specific leads or just exploring. “My blogging day is very varied—I try to mix it up with a variety of things, not just keep it retail-focused. I try to find something that would be beautiful to share. When I discover something new, it’s the best feeling.”

“When I started the blog in 2006, I wanted to show was happening in Petworth, not in the whole city. When I moved to Petworth in 2003, my initial response was ‘I don’t see anything happening’ so I set out to write about things in my neighborhood. Things have definitely changed since then with tips coming in from people with the preface of, ‘I know it’s not in Petworth, but you might find this interesting.’”

5 Places I Love in DC:

1. Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park. I can’t think of a more beautiful place year around. The fountains in the summer, the vegetation in the spring, even in the winter when the leaves fall off the trees… It also has some of the most beautiful sculptures around—Dante, Joan Of Arc.

2. The waterfront areas of the city. It used to be that there was just the Georgetown one. Now there is Yards Park, Rock Creek Park, and so much more—I love water.

3. The neighborhoods themselves. There is something unique about every neighborhood and it is so nice to see the contrast in the architecture, the variety of it all…

4. The Aquatic Garden and the Arboretum. They are harder to get to without a car, but they are so huge and gorgeous and changing with the seasons.

5. Embassies. The embassies have such interesting architecture and I love stumbling upon a new one. Not too long ago, I was in Van Ness and I saw some embassies that I have not seen before—Pakistan, Egypt…what jaw-dropping architecture.

Dan Silverman

7 Things Essential To Me

1. A camera. More specifically, a Canon G11. That and the Flickr Pool.

2. Community. I do this for the community and the community is such an amazing thing to behold. People taking photos, people giving tips to me and to each other, the Flickr Pool—all this is what makes this site unique.

3. Music. I work by myself all day long and having music to listen to is essential to me. I listen to a wide mix of things – Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, Drive By Truckers. I usually walk something like 15 to 18 miles a day—this is how walkable this city is. When I first moved to Petworth, I felt isolated, like I had to drive everywhere, but I quickly learned I could walk. This is how you see all the beautiful things and have a chance to really see stuff you had no idea was there.

4. Comfortable shoes—for all that walking.

5. The Old School Notepad. My wife makes fun of me for it, saying that it makes me look like a geek. Yet, I can’t do without it. This is where I jot down a note when I see a “coming soon” sign. Or stuff like “Remember to come back to XYZ.”

6. Coffee. I started out very pedestrian in my tastes and over time, my appreciation has really grown. If I want something fast and quick, Dunkin’ Donuts is best for taste and speed. The structure of the cup is just perfect for mobility and walking around all day. I find that I need coffee way more than food too—I could go all day on three cups of coffee.

7. My forgetfulness. Being forgetful is a great trait to have in such a finite geographic area. It’s a beautiful quirk that allows me to stumble upon things and rediscover them.

Fashion: District

My review of fashion: district for Brightest Young Things:

Saturday’s fashion: District was a vibrant testament to the creativity, vitality, and relevance of DC’s fashion scene. Much akin to the much-maligned, non-existent DC hip hop scene, many would not exactly conflate DC and a fashion hub. ReadySetDC have single-handedly put DC fashion on the map, showcasing designers that are not only visionaries but who put out high-caliber, professional work well-deserving of the couture label. Plainly-put, it is not every day that you find yourself feeling like you are in Pret-A-Porter or The September Issue in the middle of DC and ReadySetDC are the ones who made it happen with such panache and flair.

Ginger Root Design were a true breath of fresh air with vintage-inspired, smart and original designs. Perfecting the art of upcycling [making something new out of something already in existence], the style was equally parts London-esque, tweed-and-zipper chique and something that Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary would wear. Zooey Deschanel/Manic Pixie Girl would definitely rock Ginger Root! Their designs were funky yet not groan-inducingly, self-referentially hipsterish.The colors were bold yet the patterns were not busy and relied more on a blocks rather than smashing of patterns approach.As the only designer to use “normal-sized” models, it was apparent that while Ginger Root make high-end fashion, their clothes were designed with a more pragmatic brush stroke and with at least some concern for practicality.Their menswear collection was particularly enthralling with two of the more memorable outfits being a tweed jacket with a zipper slicing a diagonal across the front and three leather straps as a closure and gingham shirt under a vest with a three-layered tie composed of overlapping triangles. The vest had a horizontal band of gray silk on the back, making for an extremely interesting layered visual effect.

Espion presented a really unique line of high-end evening couture. Some of the dresses were a really innovative mash-up of dominatrix meets Greek-goddess evening gown elegance. If you can imagine Athena channeling Madonna during the Blonde Ambition tour, you would get a pretty accurate idea. Other dresses were extremely regal—white and made of a stretchy material for a very sophisticated look.

Hugh & Crye delivered a very trendy men’s business wear line—it was solid and respectable and more than a little style. Artaya relied heavily on black, red, and white blocky ensembles with a nod to interesting textures.

SaintCHIC’s style was street-savvy yet high-fashion.For example, a lot of the skirts and pants relied on a “mummy” technique—they were comprised of overlapping-“bandages”/swaths of fabric.Definitely very unique and clever, and maybe a bit inspired by elements in industrial-scene wear which has been using straps on men-skirts for a good while now.The tops show-cased really layered framing necklines with a vaguely graffiti-esque feel that was equally parts hip-hop-dancer-sassy and classy.

Sika’s designs screamed creativity.Some of the fabrics had traditional African prints; some were very Asian.There were daringly plunging necklines and wee little bottom pieces, with bold colors such as orange and batik-like prints.Anthropologie would have been jealous!

Durkl’s line this season was downright underwhelming, at worst, and incredibly confusing, at best, especially considering how well-established and popular their line is.I think I was not alone in my luke-warm response to the fall collection, but maybe like the Post, I just don’t get it.At times, it seemed like they were channeling men’s wear circa Gap 1980, at other times, it seemed like their colors were literally popsicle- inspired [think patterns ala those fourth of July garish blue and red ones].

Derringer Friday deserve credit for figuring out how to make men’s ties swagger-worthy [common, it’s not an easy job]. Having female models strut around only in men’s shirts and thigh-high boots to “Ain’t Nuthin’ But A G Thing” will do that. Their end-of-the-show drinking-a-beer signature gimmick was also interesting, if a little befuddling. Oh, yeah—the ties were great too.

Fashion: District was a perfect mix of flair, swagger, style, finesse, and hard work and definitely an all-around rollicking good time.

Kollaboration DC: A Kaleidoscope Of Talent Shines

I covered this show for The Vinyl District.

By Toni Tileva | September 19, 2011 |

Kollaboration DC’s annual concert was a dazzling showcase of talent that transcended genre boundaries and shattered preconceptions.

Founded eleven years ago, Kollaboration is an Asian-American non-profit organization whose motto, “empowerment through entertainment” truly embodies its ethos—to present the public with positive, and more importantly, accurate images of Asian-Americans.

While community empowerment is integral to its mission, the entertainment aspect weighs equally heavily in the equation, to the benefit of anyone who has ever attended any of Kollaboration’s musical events. Saturday’s show at the University of The District of Columbia was a well-organized, rollicking affair, whose contest format did not in any sense harken of dreaded American Idol overtones or, even worse, stereotypical talent show fodder—because everyone in it was ridiculously talented.

University of Maryland’s classical Indian dance troupe Moksha delivered a Mahabharata-in-motion, thunderous, ebullient routine. It was traditional, yet it was modern. It was classical, yet it was avant-garde. It was definitely breathtaking.

There were genre-mashups galore—Phillip Chang proved equally adept at piano, singing, and b-boy moves. Alec Zhang and Emily Barnes danced an ethereal waltz. Chip Han’s beat-boxing sounded turntable-enviable. Lionz of Zion, a local break-dancing crew, which includes Geoffrey “ToyzRUs” Chang, roared forth with a stunning, gravity-be-damned routine. Local rapper Sickboi, and fellow MC Lyricks, are definitely putting Virginia hip-hop on the map.

Kollaboration DC was a true celebration of spirit and community and, ultimately, a reminder that talent grows and flourishes even in the often-described-as-stodgy Washington DC.

Asian Female Emcees Amaze At UHall

I covered this show for The Vinyl District.
July 19, 2011

Sulu DC’s Saturday showcase Miss Fortune: Spotlight on AAPI Women in Hip-Hop was a vibrant celebration of the true ethos of hip hop: community.

Funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and presented in conjunction with a number of community partners including Kollaboration DC, it was a tightly-run, eclectic showcase of talent that shattered stereotypes and expectations. If the only Asian MC you can name is Jin, you should have been at this show because while the artists were, yes, female, and yes, Asian-American, their viewpoints and styles were illustrative of the fact that these reductionistic labels are not keys to the grand creative milieu.

As spoken word artist and the show’s MC, Kelly Tsai put it, being a feminist and listening to most hip-hop often requires “selective listening” skills. As good fortune would have it, all you needed at this show was an open mind and open ears. The show was about girl power without being about girl power [the commercial version].

Sulu DC’s event was subversive by its very nature—where else can you go nowadays to hear Queen Latifah and Monie Love played [as spun by Sulu resident DJ The Pinstriped Rebel]!? The female artists took “Asian-American” and “female” from disenfranchised to identity-affirming, and all with a positive, uplifting stroke of the pen. It was definitely a “U.N.I.T.Y.” moment if there ever was one.

Spoken-word artist Kelly Tsai opened the show with her powerful piece “Real Women I Know” and kept the festivities moving with flair and comedic panache.

Kickrocks Crew, a local dance troupe, performed a hip-hop dance medley and got the crowd amped.

The true scene stealers of the show were a violin-and-MC sister duo from Brooklyn, Misnomer(S). Their powerhouse, raucous performance turned the oh-so-familiar cultural cliché of the violin-playing Asian kid on its head and then some. Knewdles and SOS’ natural synergy was palpable and single-handedly nudged the strings-and-hip hop paradigm out of its slumber [especially if P. Diddy’s cheesetastic tunes are what you are thinking of right now].

Knewdles described the theme of Misnomer(S)’ music as “identity”—the duo opened with the thought-provoking “For What It’s Worth,” which Knewdles explained was originally a piece that won her second-place in a slam poetry contest and first got her interested in MCing. “I was a poet before I was an emcee and I studied poetry in college.” She cites fellow Brooklynite Biggie as one of her major influences. “For What It’s Worth” could well be the anthem of the dual-identity generation—as an immigrant myself, Knewdles’ frustration with constantly being asked “no, where are you *really* from” and other equally inane off-shoots as “go back to your own country” [which, in her case, is America-doh!] rings especially true. Misnomer(S)’ music is refreshingly devoid of braggadocio and focused on relatable themes: living and working. In fact, their song “Worker Bee,” is one of the cleverest takes I have heard on the drone aspect of working to live and living to work, complete with smart references to Asian exploitation and the Chinese building railroads.

Knewdles’ passionate delivery, clearly well-honed from her stint in the slam circuit, inflects their music with a creative, indelibly feminine cadence and makes the duo really stand out in the indie hip hop circuit, along with fellow New Yorkers like Cool Calm Pete. If anything, it showcases that being confrontational and in-your-face is not requisite for delivering a social message or having something of value to say.

The show closed out with headliner Rocky Rivera, a seasoned MC from the Bay Area, who rapped like she had been at this for eons—with a professional, precise delivery that most male MCs would have been envious of, especially when one considers how hard it is to sound live like one sounds on record [have you ever been to a Wu Tang concert? Yeah, about that…]. With tons of swagger and style, Rocky evoked the golden days of Lil’ Kim. Her performance of “La Madrina” and “Married To The Hustle” got the crowd properly hyped.

SuluDC have artist showcases every month—definitely support their upcoming events!