Category Archives: Food

Labor Day Special: Modern Manners’ Recipe for the Perfect BBQ

pic courtesy of Twirling Clare

While the end of summer holiday, Labor Day, neither marks a change in the weather (curse you, climate change!) nor the autumnal equinox (curse you, solar calendar!), it does mean something everyone can support: barbeque.

The Labor Day Weekend BBQ is a great tradition of Americana, a last hurrah before school starts, or more appropriately for DC, Congress returns. Here are a few tips for throwing a Labor Day BBQ that will be the exclamation point to end your summer.

(I’ll leave it to far better informed sources to advise you on how to prepare Labor Day delicacies.)

Invitations—Digital Age Decisions

With so many different ways to issue an invitation now—Facebook, Evite, email, text, old fashioned paper—it can be hard to decide which method is best. My advice is to choose a way that all or nearly all your invitees use to communicate. If there are a few outliers that don’t use that method of communication, you can reach out to them separately. Don’t forget to provide a date by which you would like people to RSVP.

And a side note to everyone on the receiving end of the invitation: respond. Let the person know whether or not you can attend. It’s the bare minimum you can do to acknowledge that you have been invited into someone’s home.

For online invitations, I’m personally a fan of Paperless Post. They have the aesthetic appeal of paper invitations (Evite graphics are fug), are easy to use, and add a sense of gravitas to your event. You aren’t throwing some Natty Lite kegger in your backyard—you are having an event in your garden with microbrews.

Audience Participation—Clarity is Key

Some people assume that a barbeque means they should bring food or drink. Others don’t assume this at all. For the convenience of your guests, let them know clearly in the invitation whether or not they are invited to bring something of their own. (Of course, if you are hosting a potluck, say you are hosting a potluck. However, a potluck is different than a BBQ. Moving on.)

Use simple, straightforward language about bringing food, such as, “We will have plenty of food and drinks, but please feel free to bring something if you wish.” Or if you prefer your guests do not bring anything, say “All food and drink will be provided.” If you are… CRING… sending a text invite and that’s all too many words, “BYOB” or “NOT BYOB” should get the point across.

Preparations—The Boy Scout Way

There are some clutch items you’ll need to have a clean and comfortable BBQ:

  • Plenty of plates, utensils, napkins and cups. Disposable ones are admittedly easier, but consider the environment and get recyclable materials or even use your own regular kitchen items.
  • A few spare blankets or sheets for people to sit on the ground if you run out of chairs.
  • Bug spray. Everyone will love you for this.
  • Large coolers with plenty of ice.
  • Clearly labeled bins for trash and recycling. Don’t forget the extra bags.
  • Outside lighting if you are going into the late hours of the day—think tiki torches, Christmas lights or candles.
  • Band-Aids for the random boo-boos.
  • Sunscreen. You should have plenty left over from the pool.
  • Extra TP and paper towels are critical for hosting.

Food & Refreshments—Om Nom Nom

MM makes no claims whatsoever about being a good cook, but I do have a few quick pieces of advice to make sure all your guests go home satisfied.

  • Diversify. In the modern world of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters, it’s good to have options. Provide at least one main dish that can be enjoyed by the most restricted eater you know is coming. If it’s any good, everyone will have some.
  • Have a plan B. Stash a couple frozen pizzas or keep a delivery number handy. In the unfortunate event that your planned cuisine goes caput or you run out of chow, you’ll have a low-stress solution ready to go.
  • Wetness is the essence of beauty. Have plenty of water and nonalcoholic drinks available.
  • Buy an extra case of inexpensive beer. If you get to the point where you need to delve into the cheapo case, no one will care by then what they are drinking.

Happy Labor Day, workers of Washington!

-MM

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Le Grenier: Délicieuse H Rue

pic courtesy of H Street Great Street

Huzzah! Another restaurant is about to open on the western side of H Street. Long awaited French bistro Le Grenier, located on the 500 block, is having their soft opening this Friday the 17th, followed by the official opening on Sunday. We took a sneak peak inside and it looks great – lots of patterned wallpaper and eccentric, ornate knick-knacks.

Hopefully it will be just as good as its sister restaurant, Le Chat Noir up in Tenleytown. Don’t miss the big Coca Cola sign painted on the brick wall upstairs. You can expect classic bistro fare (mmm…steak frites) and a nice wine list – sip from a glass of Bordeaux and imagine you’re on the Champs-Élysées.

Written by Joel Church.

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Death Match: Teaism vs. Ebeneezer’s

pic courtesy of Ten Best

In this corner, we have Teaism, purveyor of the famous salty oat cookie and owner of the needlessly long tea list. In the other corner, Ebeneezer’s is mellowly rearing to go. With soft pop rock on the radio and beyond friendly staff, they don’t need a cookie to put them in this fight.

Teaism coffee shop cred: yes, there is no coffee on the menu, but with a list of tea that would satisfy even the most particular of British grandmothers, Teaism bounds into the race with its secret weapon: the salty oat cookie. Somewhere in the nether region between salty and sweet, the hockey puck-sized cookie is substantial enough for a snack and decadent (and expensive) enough for a treat.

The rest of Teaism follows suit as a neither fish nor fowl oasis in Chinatown. With a soothing koi pond and a “kisako” policy (please leave when you’re finished if you notice other people waiting), Teaism builds a tranquil, polite atmosphere. On weekends, and especially during tourist season, the downstairs can become quite crowded, but the noise level never gets above an energetic murmur.

Teaism has locations all over the DC area, but still doesn’t seem ubiquitous. They pop up in Penn Quarter, Dupont, and Farragut. With satisfying bento boxes and a beer and wine list, it’s much more than just a tea spot.

Ebeneezer’s coffee shop cred: unbeatable location for Hill workers. Just a block from Union Station, it’s a convenient stop before going through those metal detectors or for a quick break during the day. The homegrown feel is refreshing in this Starbucks-civilization. A handwritten chalkboard of hot and iced coffee drinks as well as smoothies and some baked goods put patrons at ease. Ebeneezer’s doubles as a worship space on Sundays and a haven for wi-fi seekers during the week. They also host live music in the basement most nights of the week.

Final score:while Ebeneezer’s has the all important location, location, location and absurdly friendly staff, Teaism pulls out a win thanks to the spot they fill in DC: fresh food and drink in no way reminiscent of Starbucks or Cosi.

While comparing these two outstanding coffee/tea spots, we acknowledge an uneven playing field with much left unsaid. Explore both options for yourself, be you a coffee, tea, or even a smoothie type.

pic courtesy of Ebeneezer’s

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Potbelly Ice Cream Sandwich: Which Flavor Goes Well with Shame?

DC residents all know Potbelly—the local chain that specializes in delicious sandwiches, cookies and ice cream milkshakes that all make you feel bad about yourself. Seriously. Even their new Mediterranean vegetable sandwich is enough to make you understand that you’ve disappointed your family. The restaurant also offers salads, but no one knows what they are like because no one has ever ordered a salad at a Potbelly.

And while DC residents love to brag to their out-of-town friends about how glad we are to have places like Jack Rose, chefs like José Andres and chains like Chop’t, Teaism  and the great and powerful Sweet Green, we all have a dirty little secret: We all eat at Potbelly. And we all love it. Every time we have one of their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, it’s the best thing we eat all day. Every time.

Well, the next time you have to decide between eating yourself to shame with a sandwich, a cookie or a milk shake, spare yourself the decision and just conflate all three: Potbelly makes ice cream sandwiches.

Yeah.

You know how Potbelly’s milkshakes taste like heaven probably smells? Well, they take the ice cream from those things and they stick it between any two cookies you choose. Personally, I’d go for two oatmeal chocolate chips, but the brownie chocolate chip cookie (seriously, I got diabetes just typing that) with vanilla ice cream would probably be a nice throwback to suburban American childhood.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what kind of ice cream would go well in a sugar cookie sandwich, but if you figure it out, be sure to mention it in your will.

Rick Barry  currently directs communication for a network of churches in Washington, DC, and in his spare time serves as managing editor of Vision of the City, a blog dedicated to the intersection of Christian faith and civic life.  He has cut a watermelon in half with his bare hand. The last is, by far, his proudest achievement.

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Restaurant Review: Viking Quest

pic courtesy of Prince of Petworth

Today’s post comes from contributor Ryan White.  Read more “low-brow redundancy” here and more over the top wit here.

Though Washington, DC is known more as a destination for politicians rather than foodies, the culinary scene in our nation’s capital has flourished over the past few years. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have opened restaurants in the city, such as José Andrés’ “Minibar,” Michel Richard’s “Citronelle,” and Boyardee’s “Canned Food Drive-Through.” As part of an occasional, Wheelhouse-exclusive and now syndicated series, this author will review some of the hottest new restaurants and give you the inside scoop on the burgeoning restaurant scene here in the center of democracy. So loosen that belt and warm up those taste buds as we prepare for the first stop in our fantastic food voyage: Viking Quest Restaurant.

Background and Location
Viking Quest is the latest in a bevy of Viking-inspired cuisine that has swept the culinary world like a battle axe through butter. The restaurant is owned and operated by a large, hirsute man known only by the singular name “Olaf,” who immigrated to the United States just one year ago. It’s the classic American success story–Olaf opened his restaurant with money he received after conquering a small but resource-abundant portion of Iceland, which then he sold back to Reykjavík after a furious bidding war between the government and the estate of Björk. After all, why flip real estate when you can flip autonomous territory, right? Assuming my interpreter, Lief, translated Olaf’s guffaws and violent gestures correctly, becoming a world-class restaurateur has always been Olaf’s long-held dream, and he settled on DC as a destination after mistaking the Washington Monument for the penis of Thor.

The restaurant is located in the little known but vibrant Nordic community on the outskirts of Northeastern DC. Recent immigrants like Olaf have turned this once decrepit area into one of DC’s most treasured hidden gems. So treasured, in fact, that the community has taken to fortifying their enclave with a herring-filled moat, unscalable walls, and rather menacing sculptures of Norse deities. Inaccessibility aside, once you enter the compound you’ll be glad you made the trek to “New Vikington” and supplied the gatekeeper with the correct password. What awaits inside is a charmingly rustic community that stays true to its cultural roots and is teeming with traditional Viking shops that sell products strikingly similar to those found in stores outside the gated community for prices so low it’s almost criminal. The gender ratio of the population does seem to skew overwhelmingly male, at least from a casual glance around during the mechanical longboat ride from the gate to the restaurant, but that only adds to the aura of Viking Quest being one of the city’s best happy hour destinations for single females and hottest after-hours spots for gay Norsemen.

Atmosphere
The first thing you notice upon entering Viking Quest is the celebrity-filled crowd. Patrons included your usual DC pols and bigwigs, a litany of “who’s who” within Scandinavian diplomatic circles, poorly-animated characters from Ikea instruction booklets, and even former Vikings’ quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Unfortunately we were an hour too late and just missed meeting the stars of the famed Capital One “what’s in your wallet” commercials. Ironically, Viking Quest only accepts American Express.

Aside from the clientele, the general design of the restaurant seems to be one of chic minimalism. Almost everything in the restaurant is made from the same type of unstained wood–possibly teak, but also possibly drift–and with the exception of an oversized portrait of Olaf hung rather clumsily above the entryway, the walls are left bare. Far be it from this author to question the authenticity of segments of Viking culture, but I remain skeptical that the rhinestones used so prominently in the grand portrait of Olaf were a popular medium in the time of his ancestors. That one possible historical anachronism aside, the remainder of the restaurant did seem to project an unmistakable aura of true Viking-ness. Again with the assistance of Lief the Interpreter, I learned that Olaf chose not to hook his restaurant up to the power grid, given that electricity was invented far after the golden age of the Viking. Instead, everything in Viking Quest runs on power generated from dozens of wayward Hill interns shackled to rowing devices in the building’s basement.

Food
Given the gluten-free, low-carb diets that are all the rage these days, it’s no wonder Viking food has seen its popularity soar. Formerly-fat celebrities who grace the covers of check-out aisle magazine like Us, People, and Cat Fancy, credit the Viking diet with their fit new physiques. Even Jared, the formerly fat but now just ugly spokesman for Subway, has forgone his usual diet of a $5 footlong sandwiches and is all about the Viking food craze. In fact, Us Weekly reported last week Jared is now dating a Kardashian that he met at a Viking cooking class. They later retracted this story after discovering no one gave a shit.

Regarding the cuisine, Viking food is based on three simple ingredients: meat, meat, and more meat. The exact source and type of meat is a well-guarded secret within the Viking Quest establishment. I tried my best to get Olaf to divulge the secret origins of their house speciality, but his ire seemed to increase as my questions persisted, to the point where his words morphed into what the increasingly flustered Lief said were sounds frighteningly similar to the battle cries of a long-extinct variety of whale. After he pointed menacingly to the basement and made a rowing-like motion, myself and the rest of the party to decided to drop the matter and go about enjoying our mystery meat.

The meat-food itself was delicious and is easily the best all-meat cuisine I’ve had in this city. Even the presentation was charmingly authentic. Having eaten varieties of food like Indian and Ethiopian that eschew the use of utensils I was well-equipped for a similar experience with Viking food, but was pleasantly surprised by the utter absence of plates or serving conduits of any kind. While I think little harm would done to the restaurant’s claim to authenticity by adding a sprig of parsley to their dishes, or even providing patrons with a singular Wet-Nap, their maniacal fixation on giving diners a “true” Viking meal is admirable and really the heart and soul of the restaurant’s appeal. We all had a good laugh towards the end of our meal when Lief, himself raised in an all-Viking household and hence no stranger to this style of dining, ended up nearly ingesting an inch-long splinter while the rest of us newbies ate unscathed. Even the usually stoic Olaf couldn’t contain his laughter and eventually joined us for a final drink, served in hollowed-out, intern-sized skulls.

Overall Rating
If you’re looking for a culinary and cultural experience like none you’ve had before, Viking Quest is certainly for you. The one-item menu unfortunately leaves me no room to suggest a favorite dish, but chances are the chefs rotate the singular house specialty based on the season and resistance of outlying townspeople, so you’ll be in for a surprise treat regardless. The service may seem brusque, or downright belligerent at times, but chances are you’ll be able to look past that once you set your eyes on the charming two-horned helmets worn by the all-male wait staff. I would, however, suggest to Olaf that the restaurant employ some form of background music, if for nothing else than to cover up the faint sounds of tortured screams emanating from the basement, but even that fades into the background as the sounds of whipping gain an almost rhythmic, musical pulse to them. Do be sure to call ahead though. It’s necessary both to secure a reservation and to ensure your personal safety. If they say they’re packed just tell them Ryan sent you! And if that doesn’t work, quickly hang up the phone and get your number and address unlisted as fast as you can.

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Jaleo’s New Atmosphere and New Prices

pic courtesy Bites to Eat

Though not really that new, Jaleo’s redesigned interior blew me away on a recent visit.  As a tried-and-true Chinatown happy hour spot, I stopped in to check out the new digs before heading to the theater next door.

The fresh design is half Madrid, half fun: there’s a toro (bull) head mounted on the wall wearing a luchador mask, there is a series of conceptual photographs of frolicking feet in sneakers on the wall behind the bar.  As far as practical changes, there are sound pads installed above the bar to absorb the higher volume in a small space, the edges of the bars are rounded, with curves protruding in place of high tables.  The result is a sleeker, smarter design.
But the changes come at a price.  I was sorry to find that happy hour at Jaleo is now a thing of the past.  The Crystal City and Bethesda locations of the local chain still feature happy hour (with discounted wine, beer and tapas plates), but the Chinatown location no longer allows lowered prices at any time.  Jaleo has been transformed into a lovely restaurant: it’s a little fancier, a few rungs up the ladder.
Of course, what is good for business means that frequenting Jaleo [for me] will no longer be so frequent.  Stopping in for a discounted glass of wine and some gambas alioli with patatas bravas and peasant bread is gone; a sit-down dinner for twice the price has arrived.
Ah well, Jaleo.  At least I can say I knew you when.
Written by Haley Fults.

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Fish ‘n’ Pies, Northeast Update

Our crack team of DC Style Is Real tipsters got a sneak peek into upcoming Le Grenier at 502 H. The door was ajar and we just couldn’t resist. Looks like they’ve been doing some renovating. While it appeared that they still have lots to do, it’s good to see some progress on this French bistro.

Our tipsters also sneakily caught a glimpse of the construction of long-awaited Hikari Sushi and Sake Bar located right down the street at 644 H. Looks like they still have a lot of work to do before opening. We’ll bring you more info as these projects move forward.

H and Pizza, located in the old Birdland building next to Taylor at 1118 H, should be opening very soon.
And speaking of pizza, rumors are spreading that local chain Pete’s Apizzais eyeing the newly vacated spot at the corner of 3rd and Massachusetts NE, formerly home to White Tiger. Fingers crossed!

The first US outpost of Yo! Sushi, Brit-based purveyors of conveyor-style sushi, is opening very soon in the west hall of Union Station.  Also opening in Union is the 2nd location of Dangerously Delicious Pies. Look for them in the downstairs food court.
Written by Joel Church.

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Ms. Vedral Goes to Washington: Have You Met Ted?

pic courtesy of Hungry in DCI’ve been waiting to do a review of Ted’s Bulletin, almost since I first moved down here. But there was no way that one meal could do it justice, so after four visits (with definitely more to come), here is my take on Ted’s.

For those living in North or Southeast, Ted’s should become a staple, if it hasn’t become one already. For my Northwestern friends, it’s absolutely worth a trek across town.

My first visit to Ted’s was also my fourth day in the District. The week of moving had been emotional and I still hadn’t finished unpacking. A friend from New York had come down with me to help me set up and attend a conference that weekend. She showed up at my house at 8am on a Saturday and told me to get dressed so that we could get breakfast before her bus. Someone had recommended Ted’s and she insisted that we go.

Since we went so early on a Saturday, we only waited a few minutes. However, if you go during normal brunch hours 10am-2pm, you should probably make reservations or be prepared for a long wait.

Anyway, on that cold, rainy February morning, emotionally exhausted from my move, I ordered the appropriately named “Mark On An Off Day” breakfast (with egg whites). Bear in mind, I am not a big fan of eggs, especially since I can’t eat “egg yellows.” If you’re looking for comfort food, this is a great choice. The coffee is pretty good and the service was attentive, especially on a busy Saturday morning. Most importantly, the experience was comforting during an especially stressful week in a new city.

My second visit to Ted’s came a week later. A few friends from New York were in town and Ted’s was one of only like, four restaurants I knew of at the time. We went again on a Saturday morning and this time, I went healthy and ordered Jon’s Omelet (which was also delicious). One friend ordered The Walk of Shame Breakfast Burrito, which she really enjoyed. Another ordered Nana’s Beer Biscuits and Sausage Gravy and apparently it was comparable to an actual grandmother’s biscuits and gravy…situation.

However, despite these delightful experiences I knew that I couldn’t write a review until I tried their famous homemade pop-tarts or an adult milkshake. Or tried a meal other than breakfast.

I had my first non-breakfast meal there about six weeks into my life here. A friend and I decided to spend the day “caféing” and went to Ted’s for lunch after having being extremely indecisive about where to eat (seriously, we went to about four other places and even tried samples. So sorry, other places! We were the worst). The lunch crowd was fairly sparse and it was easy to get a table. Our server was also attentive, almost more so than was conducive to peaceful eating. But that’s probably better than emotionally unavailable and passive-aggressive, right?

All of the lunch sandwiches can be made “healthier” with a wrap option, rather than a bun or bread. I was unsuccessful at convincing my friend to order The Famous Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup as a wrap (come on! That server was way too attentive!), she order the Tzatziki Greek burger. I ordered the Cali Club. She loved her burger, but my sandwich wasn’t amazing. It’s fine–I can try again. If this was the only smirch on a so far stellar record, I’m ok with that. As Ayn Rand would say in 1,000 pages (if she were a restaurant critic): not every sandwich can be special (There. I just summed up her whole canon of work for you. You’re welcome, DC).

We were so full from lunch we couldn’t order pop tarts or adult milkshakes. Like Jack Shephard, I knew that I had to go back.

And I did. On a fateful, Friday night–a Good Friday night, if you will–after indulging in another DC treasure, I went back to Ted’s. And despite all the other temptations on the menu, I ordered a pop tart (peanut butter and bacon) and an adult milkshake (Dirty Girl Scout). And though I know that the caloric intake of both probably equaled one’s daily allowance, they were amazing. The pop tart was an amazing mixture of salty and sweet. If they have that flavor when you go, definitely order it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts or you don’t eat bacon). When I mentioned that I was reviewing Ted’s for this blog, the bartender gave me another pop tart on the house. It was brown sugar and cinnamon (so basically, a tasty peanut/bacon-free alternative).

As for the Dirty Girl Scout. As Ayn Rand would NOT say, I recommend sharing. There’s no way you can finish that whole thing by yourself. Well, there was no way I could finish the whole thing by myself. Not only do you get brainfreeze, it’s just really filling. Still, as far as taste goes, it was delicious and is a staff pick (although, next time I want to try the Grasshopper).

Finally, besides the delicious menu, what is it really about Ted’s? The restaurant has a great retro decor. Even the menus are designed to look “old timey.” The ambience is definitely unique.

I hope one day you can join me at Ted’s–for a Grasshopper maybe? Or a cocktail (they make one with a fig jam–I mean that’s just begging to be tried)? Now that I’ve met Ted, I’m
looking forward to getting to know him better.

At 505 8th Street, SE in Eastern Market.

Written by Juliet Vedral.  Follow her on Twitter.

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Russia House: Are We Still in DC?

pic courtesy of Do WashingtonRussia House, situated in a grand structure at the corner of Connecticut and Florida in upper Dupont, is a spectacular departure from the Aleros and Subways nearby.  Hello, red velvet curtains and chandeliers.  Goodbye sunshine and humidity.  You’re in Russia now, babe.

The first thing to strike is the darkness.  Much more intense than the comparative darkness of just being inside on a sunny day, Russia House imbues the customer with a luxurious darkness, the kind that makes you want to read Arthur Conan Doyle and enjoy a nice warm stew.  The first floor is set with small tables on a thick carpet.

The staff of attractive blondes in short black dresses attends to drink and food orders.  If you don’t know your Russian vodkas (Russia House’s list goes on for two pages), hew closely to this advice: just order a Moscow Mule.  Presented in a very tall and large chilled martini glass, the drink is made with vodka, ginger beer and lime.  The refreshing taste and sheer volume make this the obvious drink of choice.  But if you prefer, there are many other martini options, as well as imported Russian beers.

The food is also impressive.  Since Russian cuisine is not one of my fortés, I sampled from the starters and was not disappointed.  Pelmini, little pillows of veal and pork served in marsala cream with forest mushrooms, made me feel decadent and cultured.  And I don’t know why I was surprised, but the Chicken Croquettes with Two Russian Salads were not spring greens but mayonnaise-based cold salads.  Delicious and creamy, with crunchy croquettes finishing out the dish…equals yum.

While not a bargain by any means, Russia House delivers decadence without breaking the bank.  But seriously, use a Groupon if you possibly can.

I don’t go in for being inside on a sunny day, but at Russia House, I could get behind the idea with the help of a martini and a small plate of labor intensive snackage.

At 1800 Connecticut Avenue, NW.

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The Queen Vic: Your New Local

The Queen Vic, H Street’s best neighborhood hangout, has started to host a delightful trivia night upstairs every Tuesday at 7:30. Check out the newly roofed back patio on warm nights, sip on a pint, have a proper scran, and just straight chill, holmes. Teams are strictly limited to 4 people, and for Pete’s sake, resist the urge to reach for your smartphone — it’s a hollow victory if you cheat.

The quizmaster is warm and congenial, the questions aren’t too difficult (I’m staring in your general direction, Fadó’s trivia night), and the waitstaff is wonderfully attentive as always. And to top it all off, yours truly and his rag-tag band of mates won last night and got $50 off our bar tab! Amerigo Vespucci, we love thee. A fantastic way to spend a Tuesday.
Feel free to gush over this amazing feat and offer your humble congratulations in the comments below.
Written by Joel Church.

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