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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, December 3, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed the best places for getting in the holiday spirit on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. ET.

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washingtonpost.com: Did you miss us last week? Or were you too busy fasting ahead of a massive turkey day feast? In any case, we're back, and we come bearing gifts. We're giving away two tickets to "A Christmas Carol" on Dec. 13 at Ford's Theatre and two tickets to the Repeal Day Ball on Saturday. To be considered, just submit a comment with your favorite way to get into the holiday spirit, whether it's a certain movie, a seasonal beverage or a dose of awkward office party karaoke. We'll announce the winners at the end of the chat. And as always, we're ready for all of your most pressing questions, so let's get started.

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Rockville, Md.: Question for Fritz: "usual suspects" for watching the 2010 World Cup draw? Fado's? Summer's? Lucky Bar?

Looking forward to the release of the Adidas ball. (Note to soccer haters: maybe you guys could try out for the Redskins.)

Fritz: Fado, Summers and Lucky Bar are all planning to be open tomorrow at noon to televise the draw. I'd go with Fado, just because I think the food is better, but Lucky should have a good atmosphere.

(BTW, my prediction for the U.S. group: England, USA, Nigeria and Portugal.)

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Arlington, Va.: I'm trying to figure out where to have dinner on my birthday this Monday. Is there a good steak place in the region that won't kill my wallet -- or perhaps any new Italian? Looking to try something new. Thanks!

Julia: Ray's is more affordable than many steak places. New Italian... Bibiana has entrees in the high teens to mid-20s, so it's definitely not cheap, but it's a really nice space. (And about to get a good Tom S. review this weekend -- if you sign up for our e-mail newsletter, you can check that out this afternoon.) Other options to explore: Posto or the long-standing, somewhat overlooked cheap-eats Italian spot Luigi's. Happy birthday!

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Shopping help for holidays: I know this isn't the types of question you generally answer since it's not bar related but where would you gurus go for some good shopping, unique places and moderate prices are a must as well as close to food/bar for afterwards. I've done the typical malls (pentagon city, tysons etc) as well as the typical outlet malls (hagerstown, leesburg etc). I don't want to buy clothing for people for christmas. More along the lines of home nick nacs. I've already been to king street and georgetown.

Suggestions?

Stephanie: I vote for taking a stroll along 14th and U Streets. Check out Home Rule, Go Mama Go and Pulp, then head over to Millennium Decorative Arts for something funky. Or maybe the Craft Mutiny Market will have what you're looking for. If you're still stuck after that, our massive holiday guide might have the answer!

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Washington, D.C.: We are headed over to Martin's Tavern in Georgetown for Repeal-Day on Friday. They claim to be the first establishment to receive their spirits-license in Washington in 1933 due to their connection with politicians.

What other bars in DC were open in 1933? Are there any other historic spots?

Thanks! Alec

Fritz: They certainly were one of the first. The thing about "historic" Washington bars is that so many of them have moved/changed locations over the years that it's rare for one to have been in the same place for a long time. The Old Ebbitt may be able to trace its history back to 1856, for example, but the current building -- including the bar layout -- only dates to 1983.

I'd add the Willard Hotel's Round Robin to your list, since the hotel was built in 1901 (but only reopened in the '80s). And the Tune Inn, though it's only been around since 1955, because it feels much older.

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Arlington: Looking to take advantage of an early Christmas present/holiday days off by taking my parents to the Newseum for a Saturday. Where is there a good place to have a late lunch around there on a weekend?

Julia: I'd probably go to Oyamel if I wanted something a little nicer. Penn Quarter Sports Tavern if I wanted a beer and a (fantastic) burger.

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Big crush: Hi gurus! Please help me make a good impression :)

I have a third date tomorrow with someone pretty great, and it's my turn to plan the evening. We're having dinner in Georgetown, but I'm trying to think of something seasonally fun to do after dinner as we're both big into Christmas. Any ideas for a good spot to walk to for lights or something else that may be going on?

On a related note, I just have to put in my plug for watching Love Actually to get into the holiday spirit. Yes, I know it's the dreaded romantic comedy genre, but actually most of the guys I know will (secretly) admit to enjoying it AND I dare anyone to watch without a smile slowly creeping over the face. It helped rev me up two weeks ago--and the cookie baking while watching helped too!

Thanks guys--you're the best!

Stephanie: If you're looking for fun holiday displays, then I say head to the zoo. And, coincidentally, Love Actually + cookie baking is how I get into the holiday spirit, too. Weird!

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Shopping Help: Market St in Frederick has a lot of unique stores. Plus the many restaurants. This weekend is First Saturday in Frederick. Stores go all out and sometimes horse and buggy rides, Santa, ect.....

Stephanie: Another idea for the gift-seeker.

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Washington, D.C.: Submitting early; Ms. Claus and I are doing a train theme... 3 stops this year:

1. We're planning on swinging by the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall to catch a free holiday concert and check out the model trains, (model trains are the greatest/most awesomest part of Christmas? Please answer in essay form);

2. Walk over to Union Station to take in some holiday nostalgia, (easiest way to channel your inner Home Alone/Macaulay Culkin without rigging a smoldering iron to your basement light switch);

3. Then shuttle to Granville Moore's on H Street for beer, food, and a more good times at the upstairs bar.

(Naming this, "Train Trifecta," when the H St. streetcar line is completed, woot!)

Happy Holidays, GoGs!

(Repeal Day would be a rad warm-up)

Laurance

Stephanie: Sounds like you've got this all planned out!

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Friendship Heights: Wake Up Little Suzie in Cleveland Park's usually good for some gift finds.

Stephanie: And another idea for unique gifts.

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Washington, D.C.: What are some traditional Christmas type traditions to do in the DC metro area? For instance, I've heard the Willard is nice this time of year, but what does that mean exactly? Should I just stroll into the lobby and look around, or are there programs they put on etc? I'm from NYC area and just moved here a few months ago, so my reference point is going into the city, checking out southstreet seaport, then heading up to Rockefeller Center, and so on. Thanks for your suggestions!

Fritz: The Willard really is a nice place for the holidays. The lobby is decorated with garlands and greenery, carolers perform between 5:30 and 7:30 every night, and there are also holiday performances during the afternoon tea. (And the bar's hot spiced cocktails really hit the spot on a cold evening.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: Buying the cheapest and most hideous gift possible for the office holiday party white elephant gift game.

Stephanie: Good call. I once got a Ralphie Parker (of A Christmas Story fame) bobblehead for the office gift exchange, only to find out that everyone else was giving serious gifts: Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and Amazon gift cards. Luckily, it was all anonymous.

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Eating near Ford's Theater: Hey Gurus,

My father-in-law tasked me with going to some gift shop near Ford's Theater (I have no idea what one) in search of some windsock. Since I don't live near there and have never been where you go to grab a light lunch? I don't want anything heavy.

Help.

Julia: This might be my favorite question of the week -- mostly for the bizarre windsock task. Anyway, Teaism has great light lunch options and is pretty close. Asia Nine is good for Thai. If you want something a little fancier -- and you're going on a weekday -- check out the $12 lunch + wine special at Proof.

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USA group: So you don't think we're getting out of the group stage? If that is our group, I'd have to agree. When Charlie Davies was healthy I was optimistic, but now with him and Onyewu out, it's going to be a serious challenge.

Now, what's the buzz on The Passenger?

Fritz: If that's our group, we could pray to possibly finish third. I'm hoping for the best, which would be South Africa, North Korea and Switzerland.

As for the the Passenger, I've been a few times and really enjoy it. It's what the owners said it would be before it opened: A low-key spot with great cocktails, a fun (and unexpected) wine list stocked with unusual but very good bottles, and a fine beer selection. I love that there's no cocktail list, so you have to tell the bartender what you're in the mood for -- "something with rum," "not too sweet, maybe seasonal" -- and they whip up a drink. It's also off the beaten path enough that it's not overcrowded.

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Washington, D.C.: My roommates and I (seniors in college) want to go to the Christmas tree downtown, and then out to dinner. Where would you recommend? We want to do a nice restaurant for a fun girls' night out, but not somewhere overly expensive -- we are just poor college kids, after all.

Julia: Near the White House, my picks would be Old Ebbitt Grill (might be too expensive for you guys; check the online menus), Potenza (good pizzas to share) and Chef Geoff's (esp. if you time it with happy hour) -- in that order.

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: Oh Ralphie, you'll shoot your eye out!! Haha gotta love that movie; we watched it over Thanksgiving for the hundredth time.

Julia: You know I had never seen that movie until last year? Crazy, right?

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Washington, D.C. : The best way to get into the holiday spirit is by following an old Irish tradition: The 12 Pubs of Christmas. It involves a day-long bar crawl with a big group of your closest friends (and any new best friend you pick up along the way). By the end of that, you're guaranteed to feel festive!

Stephanie: I'm guessing this would get Fritz's vote!

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Arlington: My favorite way to get into the holiday spirit is a Christmas movie marathon (including Elf, Love Actually, and National Lampoon of course) with my roommates as we take an entire Saturday off from school, work, etc. to buy our Christmas tree, make cookies, and decorate our house. Also the fact that the e-mail chain we started today to discuss purchasing our tree is entitled "Which one of you shoved 11 cookies in the vcr?"

Julia: I love the decorating too. My friends and I used to do this amazing tree-trimming party every year.

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More shopping help: Handmade Mart is taking place in downtown Silver Spring this Saturday. As an added bonus, the farmer's market vendors will be in the same location as all the indie craft vendors. it should be a fun event!

Come to think of it, going to indie craft fairs is one of my favorite ways to get in the holiday spirit.

Stephanie: A suggestion and a contest submission all in one.

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For Ford's Theatre Guy: He probably means the D.C.-themed visitor's center gift shop across the street from Ford's Theatre. There are also the regular chain places down there, like Cosi and Au Bon Pain for a cheap light lunch as well.

Julia: Agreed. And the Chop't. I like pointing out the homegrown places when I can.

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Best Bet: Whiskey, a Christmas sweater, and lots of holiday lights...and some mistle toe make out action!

Stephanie: A well thought out response....

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Washington, D.C.: Going Out Gurus,

As recent college grads, it's our first New Year's Eve in D.C.! We are so excited but have no idea what to do or where to go (or if we should have friends over at home). Are there any great venues/ideas you'd recommend?

Thanks!

Fritz: Okay, here's my take on New Year's Eve. I think it's the most overrated night of the year, especially at bars. Expectations are always sky-high. Everyone wants to have the most memorable time ever, with free-flowing champagne, the midnight kiss, etc. In truth, it's rarely like that.

We have a lot of questions in the queue about New Year's, so I'll say this -- if you're wondering which bar to go to, I'd encourage you to go to one you've already visited and had a good time on a Saturday night, because that's the best indicator of what NYE is going to be like.

Bars don't change their DNA on Dec. 31. If you like the music at Eighteenth Street Lounge, you'll dig NYE there. (I have in the past.) If you think it's crowded and pretentious and bridge-and-tunnel most nights, then don't even consider it for NYE.

The crowd at McFadden's doesn't suddenly get older on NYE -- still going to be a 21-27 crowd (for the most part), only rowdier and more packed. If you think it takes too long to get a drink at Marvin on a regular weekend, wait until you see it on the 31st, when everyone's pressing the bartenders for their midnight glass of champagne.

I guess what I'm saying is it's usually best to go with what you know to avoid disappointment. Sorry if this sounds Scroogey. Not trying to be that way. It's just that every January I hear from people saying "Oh, we went to XXXX bar and it was so crowded and we couldn't get drinks, and ..." and I hate for people to have a bad time. On the other hand, I go barhopping every year and I have had some great New Years' parties in the past. (ESL, the Gibson and the Reef all come to mind in recent years.)

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: It's a classic!

Julia: I know! I'm so glad I'm among the initiated, finally. Though I have to say, everytime someone would be like "You'll poke your eye out!" I'd say "You know I've never seen that movie?" And they be like "Really?" Now, I've got nothin'. I'm just like everybody else. People who know what it means to see a lamp made out of a leg.

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"What's the buzz on The Passenger?': Its an awesome Iggy Pop tune, among other things.

Fritz: The absolute WORST thing about that bar is getting that song stuck in my head every time I'm walking over there. But then the bartender plays some Motorhead or some '90s grunge or something and I'm fine again.

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Falafel: now that maoz has opened and with all the suggestions from last chat, i say we have a happy hour falafel crawl. go from one side of city to other while eating at the falafels and the walking will make us hungry for more.

Stephanie: I'm in!

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No cocktail list: Yeah, that works when you have GREAT bartenders. Before I knew him well, I walked into Cork on Mardi Gras and said to Tom Brown, I didn't feel like wine but did feel like a Mardi Gras appropriate cocktail. He nodded and made me a Sazerac. Great drink. Not all bartenders are as good as the Brown Brothers.

Fritz: Definitely not. My go-to list for bartenders who can make ANYTHING (and I mean anything) on the fly like that would include both Browns, Chantal Tseng at the Tabard, Jason at Rasika, Gina at PS7's, the Legendary Sam at the Town and Country, Tiffany, Melanie or Jon at the Gibson, Dan at Room 11.... there are many more, but that's a start.

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Eastern Market, D.C.: Christmas Spirit in Three Steps:

Step One: Walk by Eastern Market, browse the dozens of Christmas trees for sale. They smell nice. Step Two: Slowly walk to H St, admiring the various elaborate light displays of Cap Hill homes. Singing/Humming/Whistling of cool X-mas songs (Sufjan? Hollis Queens?) is optional here. Step Three: Arrive at Granville Moore's. Order anything with NOEL in it's name at the bar. Spirit acquired.

Stephanie: AND Eastern Market is a great place to get offbeat gifts.

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Brentwood, DC: Fritz,

I really like Passenger as well. One comment though: we were in early on Saturday night. It wasn't packed - we got a table - but the bar was full. I knew what I wanted, but someone else at our table decided to try the "I like Gin drinks, could you recommend..." with the waitress - expecting her to ask the bartender. The waitress, who was really sweet, said she had no idea what to suggest. My friend had a Gin & Tonic. I know waitresses aren't the experts - but what to do at a table? We couldn't get to the bar... Maybe a drink list for the tables?

Fritz: Oh, man. That is a very good idea. At the Gibson, where I also like to order off the menu, I've cheated in the past and gone to the bar to order my drinks, then had a waitress bring them over...

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White elephant party: I suggest purchasing the Snuggie for Dogs. Just $10, and found at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Harris Teeter, Petco, Petsmart, and I'm sure other stores. Sure to be a hit!

Fritz: Yeah, but what if your recipient doesn't have a dog? What do they do then?

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Reston, Va.: Hi Gurus, Maybe this is a Tom question but hopefully you might be able to help me out too! It's my boyfriend's 35th birthday and he LOVES beer. Do you have top picks for restaurants that do a tasting menu with beer pairings? I'm VA and he's MD (I know...rare combination) so really it can be anywhere. Thanks!!

Fritz: Brasserie Beck does this. Belga Cafe, too. But honestly, he'd probably love a visit to ChurchKey if you haven't been already -- just take the day off work and get there around 4 to make sure you're at a good spot at the bar, then let the bartenders (especially Drew or Greg, if they're there) pick your drinks for you sommelier-style.

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Mid-Week date: Hello gurus! Help me out please, I'm looking for a decent, semi-romantic restaurant in the city that would be ideal for a Tuesday or Wednesday night date. Not too crowded, mid-range in terms of price, good food, good beer selection. Bonus points if its near Union Station so we can kick off the holidays the way I usually do, seeing the train set in the lobby. It's not Christmas until I've gone to Union Station to look at the train set. Thanks a ton!

Julia: Cute! The romantic restaurant coming to mind in that part of town is Bistro Bis (which, as I've disclosed before, employs a buddy of mine from waaaay back in the day.) Entrees in the high twenties, so not sure if that works with your price range. Others I think you should look into Toscana Cafe (which is open for dinner now) and Sonoma (very romantic upstairs).

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Back to Texas: Hi Gurus...so I'm moving back to TX in August. Have you guys ever put out a D.C. list? Is there anything I would regret not doing before I leave?

Stephanie: This is a tough one since I don't know what you've already done, but you might want to check out some of our Best Bets lists to make sure you've hit the big spots. Top local attractions would be a good place to start.

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Christmas Spirit: Am I wrong for actually wanting to get Tori Amos' new Holiday Album just to see if there's a song about cutting yourself for Jesus?

Fritz: This is my vote for question/idea of the day.

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Downtown D.C.: I've had some good times and some bad times on NYE. Best was a low key night of darts and beers with some adorable Marines. Worst was when the party host got sulky over a flurry of last-minute cancellations (there was an ice storm!) and proceeded to ignore his guests and watch TV all night.

This year, I'm having some friends over for a nice dinner and some cocktails. I figure that if it's at my home, I'm guaranteed to have a good time.

Fritz: I love the low-key NYE with darts and beers. I've done that myself at Bedrock Billiards, where NYE is usually just another night with a ton of regulars.

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Gets me into christmas: First stop, Dupont farmer's market for apple cider. second stop, buy bourbon. third stop, Kramers for good book. finally home to make hot totties, read book, sit in snuggie on couch in front of the "fire" (the on-demand yule log)listening to some holiday jazz.

Stephanie: I'm with you minus the jazz. I'm all about the Carpenter's Christmas Album.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm going to an event at Charlie Palmer this weekend and haven't been before; aside from pour from the reputable wine list, is there anything their bartenders do especially well?

Fritz: My experiences with the bartenders at CPS have been okay at best. They're really good at recommending wines I've never tried before, so I usually play to that strength, rather than cocktails. (You'd do better with drinks at the nearby Source.)

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Advice for Christmas sweater wearer: Dear Gurus,

I don't know about the whole Christmas sweater thing--or anything remotely similar in that category, such as a Christmas-spirited tie. I'm no kill joy but if someone wears those things, I'm not sure how much under-the-mistle-toe-action they will be getting.

Early happy holidays to all!

Stephanie: A little PSA for all you mistletoe fans.

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Beer Tasting: Yesterday's Food Section also listed a 4 course beer tasting brunch this Sunday at Pizzeria Paradiso.

Fritz: Ah, right. Forgot about that. It's a Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada brunch. Should be great, especially because I hear there's a firkin of Sierra Celebration involved.

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Annapolis, Md.: To get into the holiday spirit, I love watching the light parade around the Annapolis harbor every year on the first or second weekend in December. All the boats- from massive yachts to tiny dinghys- are decked out with Christmas lights! Each boat is unique- from nautical and tropical themes to the more traditional holiday light displays. (and in my opinion, the best place to watch it is at the sea wall on the Naval Academy campus!)

Fritz: Love the Annapolis Parade of Lighted Boats. I usually go over to Eastport and sneak into one of the yacht clubs, or onto the dock at one of the restaurants -- and you can get drinks at the bar to stay warm, which is always important. (While t's always a madhouse, I think the Pussers Landing bar at the waterfront Marriott has the best views, but unless you get there early, you don't see anything.)

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Arlington, Va.: My favorite way to celebrate the holidays is one that seems to have fallen out of favor -- Christmas caroling.

Throughout high school, and during the holiday break in college, a group of friends and I would go around the neighborhood of that year's host (we took turns hosting), knock on people's doors, and sing. Because one of us lived in the neighborhood, we knew which houses would appreciate the singing and which ones wouldn't.

We had a few rules:

-- Two songs at each house, usually one of the better-known carols plus "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" It was upstate New York, so it can get cold for the audience to stand there with the door open for a long time; -- No 12 Days of Christmas (unless we hated the family whose house we were visiting!); -- If there are children at home, we would sing lighter songs that the kids were more likely to know, such as Rudolf or Jingle Bells; -- No going inside people's houses, even if invited. We wanted to hit as many as possible. -- No harmonizing unless you really know the part...

I loved seeing people who were genuinely happy to have carolers at their door, I loved the snow on the ground, and I loved seeing the Christmas decorations at each house. Families with kids and older people whose children no longer lived at home seemed to appreciate our visits the most.

Often our audiences would give us cookies or candy canes as a thank-you. Perhaps my favorite memories were the two times when the residents came outside and joined in on the singing!

After the caroling, we would go back to the host's house for snacks and hot cider by a fire.

I haven't gone caroling in years, and I miss it. I live in an apartment complex now, and I never see people caroling, but perhaps it happens more often in neighborhoods with single-family homes. Singalongs are fun, too, but there's something about surprising people with a couple of holiday songs that just can't be beat. Do people still go Christmas caroling? Do people hate carolers because they don't like to be put in the position of being an unwilling audience?

NM

Rhome: I've turned into a scrooge in my later years but I'm trying to reverse that. In high school we used to go sing Christmas carols for old folks. Might have to pick that one back up again.

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Leesburg, Va.: Are there any performances of Handel's Messiah this year at KenCen or WNC?

Stephanie: Indeed. And the Cathedral's Messiah is happening this weekend.

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Table to Bar: Yeah, that's not an uncommon problem. Servers aren't always accomplished bartenders or drinkers which is why some restaurants employ sommeliers. If it were me, and admittedly I'm willing to be adventurous, I'd ask the server to let the bartender make his/her favorite drink with gin.

Fritz: I agree, but I think the example here was that the server wasn't completely comfortable making that request, which I can understand. Some bartenders like to ask a ton of followup questions.

However, asking "What's YOUR favorite drink?" sounds like a good strategy to me.

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Speaking of DFH and SN: Any spottings of their collaboration beer, Life and Limb? Other than at the dinner, presumably.

Fritz: I've had it twice now -- well, Life and Limb once and Limb and Life (the lower-alcohol small-beer version) once. I even put the Limb and Life in Nightlife Agenda so people could try it out. It's shown up at Birreria, ChurchKey and the Reef so far.

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Chevy Chase: If you're not much of a drinker, swing dancing at Glen Echo's a great option-cheap and easy on the liver, too. Of course, you could opt for damaging your coordination and stumble over after knocking back a few at the Irish Inn next door, too.

Fritz: More NYE ideas, and yeah, I love Glen Echo on New Year's Eve. Such a great atmosphere.

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Petworth: There are so many fabulous holiday things to do in D.C. that it is really hard to narrow it down.

One of the newest, and very cool, is the downtown holiday market.

The Botanical Gardens are always fabulous, and can easily be combined with a trip over the the Capitol tree, or even to the train display at Union Station.

The trees on the Elipse are great too.

The Creche exhibit at the National Cathedral is cool.

A holiday show is always great - Christmas Carol at Ford's, the Messiah at the Kennedy Center..

And of course - SHOPPING! Hit EVERY museum store because they have the coolest stuff this time of year. Don't forget places like the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and the book stores at the memorials! Go to 8th St and visit Hill's Kitchen. Go to 14th St and visit Pulp, Home Rule, and Go Mama Go. Go to Cleveland Park for Wake up Little Susie. Don't miss Eastern Market. In general go to those only in Washington places and get those only in Washington things.

Stephanie: Thanks, Petworth. Knew we could count on you!

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Holiday Spirt[s]: Nothing says Christmas like the 1st annual "Brew-Ho-Ho Beer Tasting" my friends and I are attending.

It's a simple idea - invite your buddies, have everyone bring a holiday/Christmas/winter beer of their choice and then break out the cheap -conveniently red] party cups for everyone to do a tasting. Add festive cheeses and ask a pretty girl to bring a Yule log.

It's a recipe for a brew-tastic holiday!

Fritz: I like your thinking.

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DC: "my prediction for the U.S. group: England, USA, Nigeria and Portugal"

Piece of cake - who do we get in the Round of 16?

Fritz: I like your optimism.

I wish I shared it.

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Annapolis, Md.: Fritz, Pusser's is my first stop after the light parade- the painkillers are good anytime of year!

Fritz: It's just so crowded, though! I usually hit Boatyard or Davis's Pub. Because I love Eastport. And fewer crowds.

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Washington, D.C.: My Chinese born, mid-western living aunt will be visiting DC this Christmas. She already has lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl on her to-do list (Thank you, Travel Channel). She wants to try soul food. I prefer to stay in the District so am thinking of the following places - Henry's, Florida Ave Grill, Saints Paradise Cafeteri or Oohhs and Aahhs Soul Food. What are the Guru's preferences? Your input is greatly appreciated.

Stephanie: Oohhs & Aahhs gets my vote!

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Gurus, Please help:

I told my lovely cousin that I will take her out this coming Saturday for her birthday. I was looking for very good food and great ambiance. I am looking for something loungey and trendy and not really for a very formal restaurant with white table cloth :-). In the past, she loved Zaytinya, Zengo and Matte. (you get what kind of place I am looking for). Any where in D.C. is fine. Thanks for the rescue!!

Julia: Perhaps the new Masa 14 could fit your needs?

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: Hey mid-week date, should definitely try Matchbox, the Chinatown location isn't too far from Union station...great wood-fire pizzas, salads, etc. and cocktail menu. Very cozy!

Julia: I do love Matchbox!

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Arlington, Va.: Hey guys, for years I've been reading your chats and love keeping up with what was going on in D.C. So now I've moved back and I need your help! I've allowed my friend to have a birthday party for me and about 8 other females all in their 30's (mostly singles). It's scheduled for sat night and we plan to hit D.C. -- but where's a good place that 8 of us can just stroll into (and hopefully not pay too much of a cover or wait in a horrendous line) that has good music for those who dance, good drinks for those who drink, and a bit upscale (but not a place that's mostly a restaurant or tiny bar area). I expect to start around 10ish- any great places that fit?

Thanks!!!!

Fritz: Welcome back, Arlington. Some options I'd throw out for a Saturday night: Chi-Cha Lounge, Aroma, Eighteenth Street Lounge if you arrive before 11, maybe Tattoo if you want more of a lounge atmosphere -- the '80s music always gets people dancing and ladies almost never pay cover. I went to a friend's birthday party at New Vegas Lounge recently and had a great time dancing to the '60s soul and R&B covers that the band was cranking out. I'd definitely put that on your list.

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Holiday Market: For unique gifts don't forget the holiday market in front of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and National Portrait Gallery, runs Dec. 4 - 23 Noon- 8. Not associated with them, just someone who's excited for all the variety and supporting individuals, not corporations. www.downtownholidaymarket.com

Julia: I've said it before, I'll say it again. The holiday market totally rules.

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: I want to chat but it doesn't look like my posts are showing! In a last ditch attempt, my girlfriends and I always do a Secret Santa present exchange, middle-school style haha. Except we get together over wine and Christmas cookies at someone's house, or out at a happy hour...this year we'll be at Vapiano in Chinatown, $3 wine at happy hour and comfy sofas!

Stephanie: Nothing says the holidays like cheap wine and silly gifts.

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Bar-etiquette question: Hi, Gurus.

A couple of weekends ago I was out and of course ended up at an overly populated bar. Anyway, I found it irksome (with a crowd several people deep behind the bar) waiting, looking for seats. Walking up and down alongside the bar, I noticed that a couple of people placed their jackets on the seat next to them. I figured that someone was sitting there (obviously) and that they would return shortly. Nope. I thought maybe they were holding the seat for a few minutes because someone was on their way and was running a bit late. Nah. They just put their stuff there to "take" the seat. Uh, isn't that rude!? Please tell me that there is some etiquette that people must be unaware of (aside from regular plain ol' common courtesty) that dictates that is a no-no, especially when the bar is so packed, people are waiting to get in. I was also surprised that the bartenders/hostess/wait staff didn't do anything to change the situation, although I don't think it's their job to do so.

So, is this how things are and do I just need to learn how to put up with this lack of etiquette?

Thanks

Fritz: This is how things are. I encountered it at a bar recently -- I was meeting a friend. I was early. The seat next to me had coats on it. My friend showed up. I was about to give her my seat and stand at the bar (I'm such a gentleman) when the person two seats over said, "Oh, there's no one sitting there. We just needed a place to put our coats. Sorry."

It's a seasonal thing, especially when bars don't have hooks under the bar or a coatroom or something.

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Speaking of Light Parades: This weekend, actually Saturday evening starting at 5 pm at the Southwest Waterfront, will be the annual Parade of Lights. Sailboats and powerboats from DC and Alexandria will be decorated and will "parade" down Washington Channel and then head over to Alexandria to parade at their waterfront. Full disclosure, I sail here and have done this twice in spite of the freezing temps out on the boats. Obviously it's free and so it might be a nice way for folks to get into the holiday spirit.

Fritz: Yep. I just mentioned this in the paper on Monday, actually. It's fun, and great for the kids. But I like Annapolis' better, possibly because they have more waterside bars.

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Eastern Market, D.C.: Christmas Spirit in Three Steps:

Step One: Walk by Eastern Market, browse the dozens of Christmas trees for sale. They smell nice.

Step Two: Slowly walk to H St, admiring the various elaborate light displays of Cap Hill homes. Singing/Humming/Whistling of cool X-mas songs (Sufjan? Hollis Queens?) is optional here.

Step Three: Arrive at Granville Moore's. Order anything with NOEL in it's name at the bar. Spirit acquired.

Julia: Aha! So that's how....

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Black Cat: What is the crowd like at the 80s Mayhem dance parties? Is it big and crazy and young? Trying to get a group of 40 somethings to go and relive some old dancing.

Fritz: It is actually a interesting mix. Lots of 20-somethings (and even under-21s) show up to dance, but you get 30- and 40-somethings out to relive the old days, too.

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Best Christmas Shopping: The Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore has a gift shop worth visiting for Christmas shopping, plus the whole museum is pretty cool! Lot's of unique things you won't find other places!

Fritz: So true. Very ... unique presents there.

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Courthouse, Va.: My favorite way to get in the holiday spirit is to put on cheesy (nothing the slightest bit tasteful allowed) Christmas music (yes, I own a Kenny and Dolly "Once Upon A Christmas" CD) and decorate my apartment with a wreath, tree and pretty white lights. I got started last night hanging up the mistletoe!

Stephanie: You guys are just crazy for mistletoe, aren't you?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: A friend and I want to meet for a pre-holiday brunch sometime before December 17th (when she heads out of town), and were looking for someplace with decent food and (preferably) a bottomless beverage option (mimosas or bloody marys). She's in Vienna, and I'm in G'burg - but we're willing to meet somewhere in between or slightly out of the way if it's a good place. Thoughts?

Fritz: Social in Columbia Heights has both bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas at brunch, and really good food. The Front Page has a buffet-style brunch, but cheap bottomless drinks. Julia recommends Creme Cafe on U Street.

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Petworth: Oh, so I send that long list of cool holiday stuff and leave off one the best - Holiday movies.

The AFI Silver always does a movie series that's way cool. One year I went to a Christmas Eve matinee of "Meet me in St Louis," and another year we saw "Muppet Christmas Carol." They've got "Christmas Vacation" this year.

I wish the Avalon still did vintage movies - one year they had "The Bishop's Wife" on Christmas Eve.

Rhome: I endorse this.

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Possibly because they have more waterfront bars: Exactly what we need to revamp the waterfronts here on the Potomac...note to the COG.

Fritz: The reason Tony and Joe's, Nick's and Sequoia are always packed has nothing to do with quality. Take note. I've always felt the Old Town waterfront was tragically underused. For bars, I mean.

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Bathing Suit Shopping: If you can't answer this, can you please post it so the readers can answer? I am going to the Caribbean in a couple of days and need to buy a couple of bathing suits (and summer clothes) to take with me. Where can I shop for bathing suits right now?

Julia: I think Macy's is your best bet, or another department store.

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WASHDCed: I usually watch 'A Christmas Story' and order Chinese takeout to get into the holiday spirit.

Fritz: Do you sing, too?

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Getting in the Holiday Spirit: One of my favorite things to do to get in the holiday spirit is the Alexandria Scottish Christmas Parade. What could be more festive than a parade of Scottie dogs all dressed in plaid? We get all bundled up and take the metro to King Street. After the parade we walk around Old Town looking at the decorations on all the old houses, grab lunch, and then take the metro to the Pentagon City mall to do some Christmas shopping. We've done this for the past few years, and it's become a great tradition to help us kick off the holiday season.

Rhome: You had me at "dogs in plaid."

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Alexandria, Va.: I posted a question earlier and your chat helped answer some of it. For my and my husband's annual "pre-Christmas" date, I think we're going to see the WH Christmas stuff and have drinks afterward at the Willard. But where should we have dinner beforehand? It'll be a weeknight, we both work in Chinatown.

Thanks!

Julia: I'l give my short list, which sounds perilously close to restaurants I mention every week, but I'll go with Proof or Sei.

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Againn: Hi gurus!

I missed you guys and gals last week. Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving.

The question I have is what recession? There are so many new places opening up here in D.C. Anyway, any word for those of us missing life over and across the pond--how is Againn? Yay or nay? Is it expensive? Good selection? Authentic?

Fritz: I love the Scotch Eggs. Better than Commonwealth's. And I love that they have beers from Brewdog, an esoteric Scottish brewery that's showing up more and more in these parts.

I ran into a friend from London there one night, and he was really enjoying the drink selections and the vibe at the bar. I haven't tried too much of the menu, though.

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Petworth: The soul food person should add the Hitching Post to the list of potential places. That's my favorite, although Saint's is also good.

Stephanie: Good call!

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Annapolis: It's just not Christmas without a tacky Christmas sweater party. Or the party my friend is having this year, where her roommate's friends think the theme is "Classy Christmas" while our friends think it's Tacky Christmas Sweaters. That should be interesting.

Fritz: I hope you take lots of pictures.

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Zuvielekatzen, Va.: A contemplative way to get into the Christmas spirit: I go to the National Cathedral's exhibit of creches from around the world. Yes, it's keeping the Christ in Christmas, but it's also very interesting to see the story interpreted in different styles from all over the world. I took my 4 year old friend last year and after looking at the Nigerian creche, she exclaimed "Baby Jesus is just a tiny piece of wood!!"

Rhome: After you're done viewing these, make your own with the little tyke. I swear I'm Rhome, not Heloise. Although I read her a lot as a kid. Go figure.

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Bloomingdale: Hi, gurus! I have a question related to bars or restaurants (or any business, really) that have a minimum charge amount for credit cards. I've heard that this practice is illegal, as in, if the business accepts the card they have to accept whatever charge the customer puts on it. (I understand that credit card charges are high and this is why businesses do it.) I'm sure we've all been in situations where we want to order less than the $10-$15 minimum and have to scramble to buy a friend's drink or order more than we really want to. I've always wondered about what would happen if I politely insisted that I would only be paying for my one $7 drink and that the bar has no right to refuse my method of payment. Any thoughts? Or confirmation/denial about the legality issue?

Fritz: It's illegal. I have raised a fuss before at a couple of bars, and they usually say "Well, this is our policy." I've found asking for a manager is usually the best way, and if you're nice, they'll usually charge it for you anyway.

Also, honestly, it's not like they're going to just give you the drinks if you don't have any cash.

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re the Georgetown waterfront bars: You said it. the quality of the booze at those bars is terrible. Perfect if you want to be squeezed into a crowd of people drinking beer and constantly bumping into you, spilling drinks, etc. Great venues for drunken meatheadisms and only get away with it because there are no other options. Sequoia in particular could be a fantastic place but the food is mediocre at best and the alcohol not worth the price you pay.

Okay, wow, didn't realize I had so much bile to vent on the G'Town waterfront. I think I'm better now. Thanks.

Fritz: This is why I go to Cantina Marina.

Also, Annapolis.

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Answer me! Answer me! NYE Question: GOGs- What's the scoop on the DC101 Downtown Countdown? Is it really worth the money? What kind of crowd is it? I've tried a couple of these hotel events and normally just end up feeling like cattle that paid too much to inch forward with the crowd. Are there any smaller parties for the 30+ crowd that are worth looking into? Thank you!!!

Fritz: It's very similar to the other ones, only on a much bigger scale. (I think capacity is 6,000.) There's much more room to spread out.

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Cleveland Park, DC: Having moved to the city this past summer and having a car that isn't exactly set up to toss a Christmas Tree on the roof, where in the Cleveland/Glover Park area should I be looking for a real Christmas Tree? Surprisingly I haven't seen much regarding sites that are selling them. You all are the best!

Fritz: I'm going to put in a plug for my neighborhood school, the Oyster School, at 29th and Calvert, which is selling trees this weekend and next weekend. Proceeds to go the school, so it's a great cause.

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: For some reason not sure my previous post went through, but I'd said that it isn't hard to get in the holiday spirit in DC...we always go ice-skating at the National Gallery sculpture garden, go on a candlelight tour at Mt. Vernon, see the really funny play "A Tuna Christmas" and warm up with Irish coffees at Fados.

The Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend in Alexandria is also really cool, and if you haven't done the Capitol Hill Ugly Sweater Bar Tour you are missing out! And I know Cosi's isn't just in DC, but roasting marshmallows over the first (even if it's at your table) is always a good time!

Fritz: The ugly sweater bar crawl is a great idea.

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washingtonpost.com: Thanks for all of your amazing suggestions. It was incredibly hard to choose winners, but this is what we came up with: The Repeal Day tickets go to the train-themed day of Botanic Gardens + Union Station + H Street. And the Christmas Carol tickets go to the Scottish Christmas Parade-goer who loves seeing Scotties in plaid. Send us an e-mail with your contact info to events [at] washingtonpost [dot] com. See you guys next week.

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The Going Out Gurus write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene. Check in with them throughout the week on the GOG Blog or join their live Q&A every Thursday at 1 p.m.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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