If you're all about gastronomic overkill, try this one on for size: the Old Ebbitt Grill's Annual Oyster Riot. About 15 to 20 varieties of oysters--all you can eat, of course--and seven to 10 different kinds of oyster wines (chardonnays, sauvignon blancs), all you can drink. For FOUR HOURS.
That's about $15 an hour (seems cheaper that way), since the tickets go for $60 apiece. In advance only. The event has gotten larger and larger each year, primarily on the strength of word of mouth, so you may be doing some waiting in line while the shuckers feverishly try to keep pace with demand. We're telling you now because if you don't act, like, immediately, the tickets for the Nov. 19 event will be gobbled up like so many selects.
It's impossible to rate the oysters against one another; they're mostly all very yummy, but in the first three years of the event, no oyster from Totten Inlet in Washington state has done anyone wrong. But the thing that the insider of insiders knows is to stake out the entrances to the indoor patio where waiters bring in the most delectable seafood hors d'oeuvres. These poor souls rarely make it more than 20 feet before their entire payload is gone and they're wondering what hit them.
You can pick up tickets at the restaurant (675 15th St. NW) or order them by mail. Call 202-347-4800 for instructions.
--Jack Shay, Chicago
The Accidental Car Thief
After having dinner with a friend in Dupont Circle, I returned to my gray Toyota Camry, which was parked several blocks away, unlocked the car door with my keys, started the engine and headed home. But barreling up Connecticut Avenue, I struggled with the car's tape deck, repeatedly punching its various buttons without getting any response. I pressed the eject button, examined the ejected tape and realized that it was not my usual cheap brand.
Glancing beside me, I saw an unfamiliar folder resting on the passenger seat; it contained a letter addressed to someone I didn't know. I looked around and noticed that the pile of empty Diet Coke cans on the floor was mysteriously absent.
Suddenly, it struck me: "This isn't my car!" But how couldn't it be? They were definitely my keys.
I didn't really have time to ponder the metaphysics of the situation. I was driving a stolen car, and needed to return it to its Dupont Circle parking space really fast. But not so fast I broke any traffic laws--I didn't relish trying to explain to a police officer why I was driving someone else's car above the speed limit.
How could this happen? A Toyota spokesman explained that though the company sold 1.2 million cars last year, it manufactures only 62,000 different key shapes. That means what happened to me was a monster long shot (1 in 62,000 times the chances of finding a similar gray Toyota near where I parked my gray Toyota), but not so monstrous that it never happens. Just asking around, I found a mom who had been blithely rolling down the road, oblivious that she too had inadvertently stolen a car until her child chirped from the back seat, "Mommy, what are all these fishing poles doing back here?"
Two ways to avoid that shock: One, the cheap, low-tech way, is to attach to your car's front seat or dashboard an identifying sign or object that you would immediately miss. Two, Toyota recently began offering an optional, meaning more expensive, security option: a car that can be unlocked and started only by a key with a unique computerized component.
My question is, what happens on Jan. 1?
--Lily Whiteman, Washington
Submit items (accompanied by address, daytime phone and Social Security number) via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org); fax (202-334-5587); or mail (Insider's Guide, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).