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A tasty New Year’s Eve

Last day of Dec. a great time to try special dishes

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Bourbon Glazed Manchester Farms Quail, Jardenea, dining, gay news, Washington Blade
Bourbon Glazed Manchester Farms Quail, Jardenea, dining, gay news, Washington Blade, Eve

Bourbon Glazed Manchester Farms Quail from Jardenea (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Many of Washington’s hottest dining spots are offering New Year’s Eve specials. Here are a few:

Chef Bryan Voltaggio presents the Supper Club at Range (5335 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.) from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Range would be my personal New Year’s pick — a great opportunity to experience four hours of Voltaggio’s impeccable craftsmanship. Table reservations are available for two or more at $200 per person and include the Supper Club Feast, Never Ending Punch Bowl and champagne toast. General Admission is also available for $175 and includes the feast and the champagne toast. The night will also feature live music from The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn.

Alba Osteria (425 I St. N.W.) opened in late December but is eagerly jumping into the New Year’s Eve ring offering an al la carte menu. Executive Chef Roberto Donna and Chef de Cuisine Amy Brandwein recommend standout dishes like the gnocchi verde served with sausage ragu or the Agnolotti al Brasato.

Ambar (523 8th St. S.E.) is serving a New Year’s Eve menu showcasing the best dishes throughout the Balkan Peninsula with a modern twist. The menu includes grilled bacon-wrapped prunes with goat cheese and blueberry balsamic reduction (which I need to try), sesame crusted salmon and veal schnitzel.

Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St. N.W.) will offer two seatings this new year’s eve. The first will be at 5:30 p.m. and features a three-course menu. The second seating also includes a three-course menu along with a champagne toast at midnight. Dinner starts at $75 per person and goes up to $175.

Café Dupont (1500 New Hampshire Ave. N.W.) will have a five course prix-fixe menu handcrafted by Executive Chef David Fritsche available for $85 per person or $130 if you opt for wine pairings.

City Tap House D.C. (901 9th St. N.W.) will showcase its refined American pub fare, Executive Chef Scott Swiderski prix-fixe menu will be offered at $50 per person or at $80 with pairings. Standouts like the blue crab mac and cheese and the pork collar with cheddar grits will be offered.

Daikaya (705 6th St. N.W.) is a popular izakaya that will be offering small plates with a Japanese twist for New Year’s. The meal will include items like grilled avocado with crab salad, pork and brussel sprouts with apricot and truffled yougurt and wasabi octopus.

Jaleo (480 7th St. N.W.) will offer a traditional New Year’s celebration with unlimited tapas off the New Year’s tasting menu from 8:30-11:30 at $90 per person. Selections include favorites like the huevo frito with caviar and the pork Canelones with béchamel sauce. At midnight guests will be offered a celebratory glass of cava and 12 grapes for good luck, a Spanish tradition I remember fondly from childhood.

Jardenea (2430 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.) offers a five-course menu priced at $90 per person with an optional wine pairing for an additional $50.

nopa Kitchen + Bar (800 F St. N.W.) offers a three-course prix-fix menu featuring entrees off Chef Greg McCarty’s menu. Pastry Chef Jemil Gadea will contribute to the festivities with tempting desserts like her fried pies: chocolate bar with peppermint ice-cream and sweet potato crème caramel with persimmon pudding.

If you want to celebrate the New Year just steps from the White House, then the Oval Room (800 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) is the place to be. You can enjoy a four-course meal with wine pairings where Executive Chef Tony Conte will feature dishes like the Maine peekytoe crab. Sweet confections like the passion fruit curd with coconut frozen yogurt will also be available.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace/Blackjack (1612 14th St. N.W.) will offer several New Year’s Eve specials in addition to their regular menu including a scallop and braised short rib duo and a raspberry and champagne trifle.

Rasika (523 8th St. S.E.), named among the top 20 restaurants in America by Zagat, will serve a special New Year’s Eve menu prepared by Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam. Menu highlights include Tandoori scallops with pickled spices, grouper manga with mustard seeds and Lucknowi lamb chop with caramelized onion. The three-course menu is $55 per person and $95 with wine pairings. The four-course menu is $85 and $145 with wine.

Ripple (3417 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley will offer two prix-fixe menus: a four-course menu will be $75 and the five-course menu will be $95. To make reservations, call 202-244-7995.

RIS (2275 L Street NW) will ring in the new year by serving a multi-course meal and live jazz. The menu will feature delicious dishes like smoked trout panna cotta, winter squash agnolutti and the smoked paprika Muscovy duck. Reservations are required and the prix-fix is $90 per person or $130 with wine pairing.

Zengo (781 7th St. N.W.) will offer two tasting menus from 5-9 p.m. and a four-course menu for $55. Staff will also have a four course-tasting menu available all night with specials that are not generally available at Zengo, as well as a champagne toast for $75 per person.

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Gender expression is fluid in captivating ‘Paul & Trisha’ doc

Exploring what’s possible when you allow yourself to become who you truly are

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Paul Whitehead and Trisha van Cleef in ‘Paul & Trisha.’ (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Given the polarizing controversies surrounding the subject of gender in today’s world, it might feel as if challenges to the conventional “norms” around the way we understand it were a product of the modern age. They’re not, of course; artists have been exploring the boundaries of gender  – both its presentation and its perception – since long before the language we use to discuss the topic today was ever developed. After all, gender is a universal experience, and isn’t art, ultimately, meant to be about the sharing of universal experiences in a way that bypasses, or at least overcomes, the limitations of language?

We know, we know; debate about the “purpose” of art is almost as fraught with controversy as the one about gender identity, but it’s still undeniable that art has always been the place to find ideas that contradict or question conventional ways of viewing the world. Thanks to the heavy expectation of conformity to society’s comfortable “norms”  in our relationship with gender, it’s inevitable that artists might chafe at such restrictive assumptions enough to challenge them – and few have committed quite so completely to doing so as Paul Whitehead, the focus of “Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity,” a new documentary from filmmaker Fia Perera now available via VOD on iTunes and Apple TV after a successful run on the festival circuit.

Whitehead, who first gained attention and found success in London’s fertile art-and-fashion scene of the mid 1960s, might not be a household name, but he has worked closely with many people who are. A job as an in-house illustrator at a record company led to his hiring as the first art director for the UK Magazine Time Out, which opened the door for even more prominent commissions for album art – including a series of iconic covers for Genesis, Van der Graaf, Generator, and Peter Hammill, which helped to shape the visual aesthetic of the Progressive Rock movement with his bold, surrealistic pop aesthetic, and worked as an art director for John Lennon for a time. Moving to Los Angeles in 1973, his continuing work in the music industry expanded to encompass a wide variety of commercial art and landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as painter of the largest indoor mural in the world inside the now-demolished Vegas World Casino in Las Vegas. As a founder of the Eyes and Ears Foundation, he conceived and organized the “Artboard Festival”, which turned a stretch of L.A. roadway into a “drive-through art gallery” with donated billboards painted by participating artists.

Perera’s film catches up with Whitehead in the relatively low-profile city of Ventura, Calif., where the globally renowned visual artist now operates from a combination studio and gallery in a strip mall storefront. Still prolific and producing striking artworks (many of them influenced and inspired by his self-described “closet Hinduism”), the film reveals a man who, far from coming off as elderly, seems ageless; possessed of a rare mix of spiritual insight and worldly wisdom, he is left by the filmmaker to tell his own story by himself, and he embraces the task with the effortless verve of a seasoned raconteur. For roughly the first half of the film, we are treated to the chronicle of his early career provided straight from the source, without “talking head” commentaries or interview footage culled from entertainment news archives, and laced with anecdotes and observations that reveal a clear-headedness, along with a remarkable sense of self-knowledge and an inspiring freedom of thought, that makes his observations feel like deep wisdom. He’s a fascinating host, taking us on a tour of the life he has lived so far, and it’s like spending time with the most interesting guy at the party.

It’s when “Art of Fluidity” introduces its second subject, however, that things really begin to get interesting, because as Whitehead was pushing boundaries as an in-demand artist, he was also pushing boundaries in other parts of his life. Experimenting with his gender identity through cross-dressing since the 1960s, what began tentatively as an “in the bedroom” fetish became a long-term process of self-discovery that resulted in the emergence of “converged artist” Trisha Van Cleef, a feminine manifestation of Whitehead’s persona who has been creating art of her own since 2004. Neither dissociated “alter ego” nor performative character, Trisha might be a conceptual construct, in some ways, but she’s also a very authentic expression of personal gender perception who exists just as definitively as Paul Whitehead. They are, like the seeming opposites of yin and yang, two sides of the same fundamental and united nature.

Naturally, the bold process of redefining one’s personal relationship with gender is not an easy one, and part of what makes Trisha so compelling is the challenge she represents to Paul – and, by extension, the audience – by co-existing with him in his own life. She pushes him to step beyond his fears – such as his concerns about the hostile attitude of the shopkeeper next door and the danger of bullying, brutality, and worse when Trisha goes out in public – and embrace both sides of his nature instead of trying to force himself to be one or the other alone. And while the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the brutal reality about the risk of violence against non-gender-conforming people in our culture, it also highlights what is possible when you choose to allow yourself to become who you truly are.

As a sort of disclaimer, it must be acknowledged that some viewers may take issue with some of Whitehead’s personal beliefs about gender identity, which might not quite mesh with prevailing ideas and could be perceived as “problematic” within certain perspectives. Similarly, the depth of his engagement with Hindu cosmology might be off-putting to audiences geared toward skepticism around any spiritually inspired outlook on the world. However, it’s clear within the larger context of the documentary that both Paul and Trisha speak only for themselves, expressing a personal truth that does not nullify or deny the personal truth of anyone else. Further, one of the facets that gives “Art of Fluidity” its mesmerizing, upbeat charm is the sense that we are watching an ongoing evolution, a work in progress in which an artist is still discovering the way forward. There’s no insinuation that any aspect of Paul or Trisha’s shared life is definitive, rather we come to see them as a united pair, in constant flux, moving through the world together, as one, and becoming more like themselves every step of the way.

That’s something toward which we all would be wise to aspire; the acceptance of all of our parts and the understanding that we are always in the process of becoming something else would certainly go a long way toward making a happier, friendlier world.

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PHOTOS: Pride Rewind

Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party held at The Square

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(Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

The Capital Pride Alliance held its “Pride Rewind: Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party” at The Square (1850 K Street, N.W.) on Saturday, June 8.

(Washington Blade photos by Emily Hanna)

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PHOTOS: Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show

Washington Blade holds annual event at The Wharf

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2024 Pride on the Pier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade and the Ladies of LURe held the Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show at The Wharf on Saturday, June 8. The fireworks were presented by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna; Wildside Media photos used with permission; @marvimage photo used with permission)

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