Monday, November 26, 2007

A Visit to the New Neighborhood Wine Bar

Calling 11th Street N.W. part of the neighborhood is a stretch, but it is noteworthy that there is now a wine bar within walking distance of NCap.

Vinoteca (1940 11st St. N.W., near U Street) opened earlier this month. I was alerted to its existence this past Saturday by an unhappy customer who posted comments on the U Street listserv. I wasted no time to experience the restaurant for myself, and the visit was wholly positive.

Upon entering, I was quickly greeted by the server Katrina and her smile. Vinoteca's wine-by-the-glass list is more extensive than most of the other wine bars in the city. Although the prices are a bit above average in terms of comparable value, several wines can be found for $6-$9 a glass. A "taste" (a 2.5 ounce pour) is also an available option, the key sign that you have found a true wine bar.

I've found that I haven't been a big fan of French wines lately, so my first venture fell short. However, the Syrah la Voilette, Jean Luc Colombo (2005; $3.50 taste/$7 glass) is an economical option for the less demanding customer.

Vine Vale Shiraz, Tempus Two (Australia, 2005; $6 taste/$12 glass) is worth trying, with a nice bouquet, although it seemed a little heavy on the alcohol content.

The Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel, Four Vines (California 2005; $4 taste/$8 glass) featured aggressive forward fruit with good structure, and it was absolutely delicious.

My final wine turned out to be the winner. Try the Barnard Griffin Merlot (Washington State 2004; $6.5 taste/$13 glass/$52 bottle) while you still can. Wine Spectator rated it 89 for good reason, and Vinoteca is probably one of the last places you can find this wine because the vintage has sold out at Speaking of which, the restaurant had run out of two of the wines I requested, so I missed those opportunities.

What else is there to say about Vinoteca? Great atmosphere and decor, good background music, and (for me at least) very good service. I only wish it was located on NCap.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What I Am Most Thankful For

Yesterday, just before the annual Thanksgiving meal, I was asked about what I was most thankful for. "My neighbors" I responded.

I am thankful for that core group of neighbors, the one percent of residents who attend most of the meetings and neighborhood cleanups time and time again. People like Charlene McCullers, Stacie Birenbach, Joyce Robinson Paul, Joel Dubenitz, and Ted McGinn.

Ted McGinn is in his own class, an incredible leader, volunteer, and knowledge database.

Scott Roberts continues to tirelessly provide important news about the neighborhood from professional journals to neighborhood eyewitness accounts.

Darren Snell has run a tight ship with Eckington Civic Association.

People probably don't know that Beth Toland did petitioning to get speed humps on Quincy Place N.E. Please thank neighbor Hoyt King, if you ever meet him, for his leadership in the fight against crime.

Steven Rynecki has an eye for planning for the long-term future of Eckington. Agree with him on historical preservation designation or not, his emphasis on forward-thinking is important.

Pat Mitchell and North Capitol Main Street have worked diligently to bring us a commercially-viable business district.

Tom Usselman rarely has been recognized for his work with the police over the past year to advance the safety of citizens.

I'm thankful for my fellow ANC 5C commissioners, who have worked hard behind the scenes.

Chair Anita Bonds took on a thankless job, and it is quite an effort to assemble the agenda every month.

Commissioner Stu Davenport and his wife Lana have given the community a shot of adrenaline with Big Bear Cafe and the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market.

Commissioner John Salatti has done more things on behalf of the neighborhood this year than I can count.

The residents of the unit block of Hanover Place N.W. have really stepped up this year.

Althought not neighbors, I would also like to recognize the hard work of Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. (together with Bloomingdale resident Vicky Leonard-Chambers), Alice Thompson, and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

There are many more neighbors in 5C-02 and nearby who should be recognized... these are the people I have had the most contact with over the past year. Help me out by posting comments.

Search Continues for Second Resident Opposing Bloomingdale Farmers' Market

The Bloomingdale Farmers' Market recently finished its extremely successful run this year. In anticipation of coming back next year, a few weeks ago Market guru Ted McGinn claimed that the market would be returning this year. This statement incited a strong statement of opposition from a neighbor living on the 100 block of R Street N.W., who complained of the lack of parking and said that McGinn should not presume that the market will return next year.

The exceedingly strong support of the market in response to this resident's complaint underscores the importance of the market to this community's revitalization, both economically and psychologically. Many residents have pointed out that either (a) there isn't a parking problem or (b) any parking issues are far outweighed by the benefit to the community.

But Scott Roberts (who provided the message from the original complaintant) has offered an interesting comment from a resident on the unit block of R Street N.W., who argues for benefits to the disaffected resident:

I am not a social economist, but it seems to me (call it convention wisdom subject to being disproved) that the weekly inconvenience of closing off a very small block in the neighborhood adds to the value of the neighborhood, and actually helps maintain the presence of the Big Bear Cafe at your corner. Consider the alternative that existed before the Big Bear Cafe -- a corner liquor store/convenience store with a caged cashier. I used to find beer cans and Wild Turkey bottles in my tree box or gutter from time to time; I have not seen a single one at all this year.

I have no problem with your leading the search for alternate locations; but I think you are benefiting a substantial amount from having the Big Bear Cafe and the Farmer's Market at your doorstep. Please reconsider biting the hand that may very well be feeding your property value. An authentic economic analysis might help us to understand the impact of the market on the neighborhood, including the 100 block of R St NW.
We could use more economic analysis of social issues in our neighborhood. This anonymous comment is a good start.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

November 5C-02 Meeting Advances O Street-Hanover Place Partnership

This past Thursday, I held my monthly single-member-district meeting at St. Martin's Church jointly with the NW PSA 501 meeting. Eleven residents from my district attended, which is about twice the normal number of people at my meetings.

The meeting began with a presentation by representatives from Meridian North Capitol, which seeks to build a 29-unit high-end condo complex at the corner of Hanover Place N.W. and North Capitol Street (investor Howard University Professor Charles Murphy also attended). The developer need community support for the closure of an alley off Hanover (the alley is currently not wide enough to accommodate cars).

No residents expressed concern about the alley closure. Instead, although the project calls for the building of an underground parking garage, several residents voiced strong concerns about what impact the development would have on congestion and parking. Residents already find it difficult to find parking on Hanover. I asked the representatives to what degree they could accommodate these concerns, and they stressed that planning was in the early stages. ANC 5C will vote on the alley closure at its regularly scheduled meeting on November 20.

At 7:40 p.m., the PSA 501 portion of the meeting began. By this point, the meeting had grown to 18 people, plus police officers. The new PSA 501 captain, Capt. Edward Delgado began, and Lt. White and Lt. Wright made presentations. Residents were extremely involved in a discussion.

It is particularly important that the crime situation on O Street N.W. (given a recent homicide one evening right in front of SOME) and the continuing youth issues on Hanover Place be addressed, so at one point I steered the discussion in that direction. Mayor Adrian Fenty's representative, Clinton LeSueur, took the floor and proposed a strategy similar to the one that had been proposed elsewhere in the neighborhood: take action to raise the bar by identifying all nuisance properties, name the troublemakers, fix broken streetlights, and board up abandoned properties. Residents will be responding to Clinton's survey within the week, and I anticipate the these issues will be handled quickly.

I also spoke with MPD's Fayette Vaughn-Lee about reviving the District's Neighborhood Watch program, which seems to have languished despite its grand re-opening a year ago.

(Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe. 14 patrons were present at the time Big Bear closed around 6 p.m. tonight.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Art Gallery Reportedly Coming to Seaton Place

While participating in the Eckington Civic Association (ECA) cleanup on Saturday morning, I noticed that the building located at the corner of Seaton Place N.E. and Lincoln Road (26 Seaton Place N.E.) is being improved. It was approximately one year ago that I took a photo of the building while participating in another ECA cleanup. My post at the time appears here (incidentally, the amount of liquor containers found is way down compared to last year's cleanup).

I chatted with Steve, who just moved into a residence on Seaton. He says he spoke with someone in charge of the renovation, who said that an art gallery is planned for the space. So it's a rumor, but a good one. Either way, the improvement to this formerly-blighted structure is welcome.

Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Eckington Civic Association Fall Cleanup

Beginning at 9 a.m. this morning, I joined members of the Eckington Civic Association, in concert with NoMa Business Improvement District staff (more info on NOMA BID here), to pick up trash in our community. NoMa director of operations Merrit Drucker attended, and joined us for the post-cleanup cookout.

Because cleanup organizer and cookout chef Charlene McCullers (pictured here with her son Ashton) did not receive any requests from the community that particular areas be cleaned, cleanup selection essentially depended on where the residents lived. I cleaned up on Lincoln Road, North Capitol Street N.E., the unit blocks of S Street N.E. and Seaton Place N.E., and two blocks of T Street N.E. The unit block of T residents should be proud, because hardly any trash could be found on their block. On the other hand, the 100 block of T bears the burden of the local schools.

I then joined Ed Hodge with his efforts to clean streets in east Eckingto
n (he is pictured here with Merrit Drucker). Ed spoke out at a recent ANC meeting in order to hold ANC 5C to a higher standard (ANC 5C has been having issues with its website). But Ed is more than just talk, he is putting his words into action by running to fill the vacant ANC 5C-05 seat (the special election is set for December).

I have only known Ed Hodge for a short while, but he has impressed me wit
h his vision for the community and his integrity. So I was disappointed to learn that someone who lives outside our neighborhood challenged Ed's petition signatures in an effort to knock him off the ballot. It turns out that the challenger is Lenwood Johnson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from Ward One (1A-10).

Lenwood Johnson is... well, for one thing he has close ties to the notorious Sinclair Skinner. He also, according to Richard Layman's blog, has written that Councilman Jim Graham is "a world-class mother******" (but without the asterisks). Was Johnson acting on his own when he challenged the petitions? I'd like to give Ed's opponent the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless of any connection, the community almost missed the opportunity to have a real choice in the election. (The district lost at least two candidates when all of the candidates were knocked off the first time around due to a election technicality).

Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe.