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Oyamel’s chef wows

A night of exquisite Mexican cuisine



Oyamel, Gay News, Washington Blade
Oyamel, Gay News, Washington Blade

Oyamel Taco (photo courtesy Oyamel)

Chef Jose Andres is a powerhouse in the D.C. restaurant scene. Along with business partner Rob Wilder, he owns several renowned restaurants, including Jaleo, America Eats, minibar, Zaytinya, and Oyamel (401 7th St., N.W.) Andres has also won numerous awards including Outstanding Chef from the James Beard Foundation (2011) and Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012. When Andres recently appointed a new head chef at Oyamel, it seemed like the perfect time to dine in this newly renovated space.

Chef Colin King was appointed the head chef of Oyamel after serving as the sous chef at Zaytinya under Chef Michael Costa starting in the summer of 2012. King quickly proved himself a leader in the kitchen. Prior to joining ThinkFoodGroup, Chef King worked at Market Restaurant Group in Tucson, Ariz. He served as the executive chef at Harvest Restaurant and Hacienda de Sol. Since this was our opportunity to experience all that Chef Colin King could deliver we opted for the “Oyamel Experience Menu,” where he took us on a culinary tour through Mexican cuisine for $55 per person. I personally opted to also indulge in the Artisan Bar Pairing for $35.00.

The experience began with chips, salsa, and guacamole made tableside with fresh creamy avocadoes, tomatillo, serrano chile and queso fresco. As we worked our way through the guacamole a plate of tuna ceviche was brought to the table. The tuna was lightly marinated in lime adding a fresh citrusy zip to the fish; avocado, toasted pecans and jalapenos accompanied it. After the tuna ceviche, which was an outstanding dish, we were presented with a plate of “ceviche tradicional” — raw striped bass with lime, onion, tomato, sweet potato and corn. All of these components came together perfectly and each bite erupted with freshness and well balanced flavors. To accompany the two ceviches I was served the “Sagrado Corazon,” which was tequila, cilantro, and toasted coriander gimlet over hibiscus ice. It morphed into a delightfully floral drink as the hibiscus ice melted away.

Spectacular dish after spectacular dish continued to arrive at the table, each one seeming to be better than the last. Then the seared red fish was put in front of us. This fish had a rich and meaty texture, not the flakey texture you expect from fish. It was seasoned perfectly with tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, and jalapeno chilies giving it a deep warm flavor. This was one of the true standout dishes of the evening. After the red fish we sampled a couple of tacos from the menu, including the wild mushroom taco with salsa, shallots and Mexican cream as well as the legendary sautéed grasshopper taco.

We were beginning to feel satiated when the two plates of dessert arrived at the table. The “tres leches con pina” was a cake soaked in rum, three milks, as well as pineapple salsa and it was served with a scoop of caramel ice cream. The other was the “café de olla” which was coffee ice cream, Mexican cinnamon and sugar, caramelized bananas, lime gelatin and Mexican cinnamon shortbread. Both dishes were devoured in moments and we ended up getting seconds of both.

There was not a single dish that was put in front of us that was disappointing. Head Chef Colin King does not let the diner down as he leads you through a delectable tour of Mexico. Each plate is unique and impeccably prepared, allowing the food and flavors to speak for themselves. It was a delightful evening, and the best part was, we didn’t even need to decide what to order, Chef King handled that all for us.

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Music & Concerts

DC Different Drummers Jazz Band to perform ‘Oasis’

Performance by combo ‘2nd Independence’ scheduled



The DC Different Drummers Jazz Band will perform on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Central Library.

This concert, titled “The Oasis,” will feature the 20-person big band playing jazz pieces in a variety of styles, from swing to bossa nova to jazz fusion and more. There will also be a performance from the improvisational jazz combo, 2nd Independence.

Admission is free and more details are available on the event’s website

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Out & About

Smithsonian Zoo programming is back

Family-friendly Halloween event begins Oct. 28



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute will host “Boo at the Zoo” starting on Friday, Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. 

This is a family-friendly Halloween event that includes special after-hours access for animal viewing at the Elephant Community Center, Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center, Great Ape House and Think Tank, a Halloween souvenir treat bag, dance party and 30 trick-or-treat stations around the festively decorated Zoo. 

Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased on the Smithsonian’s website.

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‘Hamilton’ star boosting Afro-Latinx, queer representation

Gonzalez and partner launch DominiRican Productions



Pierre Jean Gonzalez (Photo courtesy Ambe J. Photography)

Through Oct. 9
The Kennedy Center Opera House
2700 F St., N.W.

For gay Latinx actor Pierre Jean Gonzalez, playing the title Founding Father in the national tour of “Hamilton” isn’t just another part.

“It’s a powerful thing,” says Gonzalez, recognizing the enormity of the job. “We all learned history in school. We know who’s who when we look at a textbook; but when people who look like you are telling the story, it shifts.”

Currently moored to the Kennedy Center Opera House through Oct. 9, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s seminal 2015 sung-and-rapped through musical presents early American history in a novel and inclusive way, focusing on the life experience of one man. With 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the show continues to be the hottest draw in town wherever it pitches its tent. 

“When I step on stage as Hamilton, I’m continually amazed by the pandemonium in the audience, especially the younger fans. If we miss a single lyric, the children know,” he says. 

“It’s a drama, a soap, and an action movie. An ambitious immigrant, Hamilton pushes through obstacles, creates his own narrative, and doesn’t throw away a shot. Audiences like that.”

Reared in a housing project in the Bronx as the only boy in a Dominican/Puerto Rican family it wasn’t cool to be queer, says Gonzalez. So, he played it straight until his second year at Rutgers University when a comfortably out friend inspired him to follow suit. Back at home, the family wasn’t all that surprised, he adds with a chuckle.

Navigating through life as his authentic self gives Gonzalez a leg up. He explains, “I think feeling more connected and open makes me a better actor.”

As a drama student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Gonzalez spent a life-altering junior year studying Shakespeare at the Globe in London: “For me the metronome, cadence, the words and music in ‘Hamilton’ are very much connected to Shakespeare, and that’s why I’m here now.”

After school, despite finding an agent and auditioning, those first four years weren’t good. “For a Latinx actor with my look there were three roles: thug #3, a dishwasher, or hitman.”

He was dismayed. Despite possessing training, talent, energy, and good looks, casting agents didn’t see him as a leading man. But with “Hamilton,” the industry changed and so did Gonzalez’s self-perception: “Finally, I knew I was the right choice to play a leading man.”

In total, Gonzalez has toured with “Hamilton” for five years counting 18 months of “pandemic nothingness,” he says. Before being promoted to playing Alexander Hamilton in August of 2021, he was standby, covering Hamilton, Burr (the villain) and Britain’s King George. At a moment’s notice he might have been called on to play one of three tracks. “It was turning me on artistically,” he says. “One of the last crazy days before the pandemic, I was Hamilton for a Saturday matinee and that same evening I was Burr. Not a lot of actors can say that.”

During the early days of the pandemic and before, Gonzalez and his fiancé Cedric Leiba Jr., an Afro-Latino actor, had many conversations surrounding career frustrations. They discussed the challenges faced by actors of color, and how those challenges can be compounded when said actors are also queer.

In 2020, the couple founded DominiRican Productions, an award-winning film production company whose mission is to ramp up Afro-Latinx and queer representation both behind and in front of the camera.

“It kind of happened as a protest,” he explains. “George Floyd had just been killed and the country was starting to look at itself and ask why are Black and Brown bodies treated this way?”

Success has ensued with two collaborative, celebrated shorts — “Release” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get Who?” — both directed by Gonzalez. 

While working with your partner can sometimes be a lot, it also has its advantages, says Gonzalez. He appreciates the pair ultimately always have one another’s back. Also, they’re different in complementary ways. “Cedric is more type A, really gets things done,” says Gonzalez “He keeps me tethered to the ground.” 

For the moment, the affianced actors have put nuptials on the back burner, preferring to invest their time and money in the company. Gonzalez says, “We don’t have kids or a mortgage, the company is our child; it’s what drives us.” 

And what about “Hamilton”? “Another year, maybe longer? Whatever happens, I’m taking it one day at a time and feeling a lot of gratitude,” he says. 

Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Hamilton. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
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