Monthly Archives: November 2006

On the Wine Kick: 2007 Virginia Wine Festival

Now that I’m stuck thinking about the great, cheap fun Virginia wineries can offer, I have to let you know about a not-so-kept best secret: the Virginia Wine Festival.

I missed it in 2006. The 2007 Virginia Wine Festival won’t take till September next year but it’s worth marking your calendars for now. When I went, I wasn’t expecting anything huge but it exceeded my expectations.

For just about $20, plus the cost of shmoozing your designated driver with water bottles and/or food items, you can literally taste every Virginia wine made and then some! The festival takes place about 2 hours from D.C. in Great Meadows, Va. in a large field, surrounded by the mountains.

Similar to the Linden Vineyards experience, this one is a great way to get out of the city for a day and enjoy the beautiful views (and tasty booze). Okay, a little corny. Wines come in flavors I didn’t even realize existed, like blueberry.

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Living the Good Life in Virginia Wine Country

Overlooking Linden Winery vines
Upon first moving to Northern Virginia, my roommates at the time insisted they were going to spend every Sunday touring the wineries in the area. At first, I was a little leary, having often thought any winery worth visiting must certainly exist in Califorinia or Italy but not in Virginia.

After some manipulation, I jumped on the bandwagon only to realize I was completely wrong about Virginia wineries (well, most of them). Not long after a couple of Sunday drives out into the countryside, I discovered my favorite winery so far: Linden Vineyards. Linden is only a little over an hour from D.C. but it’s shocking the relief from the city life you feel as soon as you arrive. I simply cannot describe it! You must go!

Wine tastings are free. During most of my visits, we go through about 3 red and 3 white wines…each about a 1 ounce pour. Since you’re buying the wine on the premises, it’s much cheaper than it’d be in the store, somewhere in the neighborhood of $15. Select cheeses and meats are a little pricey ($6 for a small block of cheese) but you can bring your own picnic as long as you eat it on the tables in the grass.

From Linden’s site: “For those interested in greater depth, on the weekends we offer a special reserve cellar tasting ($12). You can sign up for it when you arrive. We taste our special single vineyard wines and older vintages. It happens every 45 minutes beginning at 12:15.”

There are plenty of great opportunities at Linden; they often offer seminars and such. Just start with the free wine tasting and lovely ambiance. The photo that accompanies this entry was taken by me when I brought visiting family to Linden. They loved the views.

Spend Less on Dry Cleaning, More on Self

After getting an office job I realized there was this little thing called business casual attire that could possibly ruin my life if I let it. In a flash, I understood why my mother had stressed so much about the dry cleaner, often only picking out clothing that was machine washable and thus, forcing me to do the same. All of the appreciation I owed her filled me completely with guilt for she had slaved away while I lived at home ironing my shirts so they were crisp and nice. I was determined to find a less abrasive solution than having to do the thing I hate most in this world: iron. At first, I was also very poor.

Dry cleaning can add up. Through an acquaintance, I learned of ZIPS Dry Cleaners, a formidable force in the D.C. area. For just more than $1, you can get your button-downs laundered and pressed, just like mom used to do.

I realized after a while that ZIPS was best for my blouses and business casual pants, maybe a jacket here and there. They also do alterations though I’ve never used their services myself.

Cheap Ethiopian Cuisine in Adam’s Morgan

Meskerem, an Ethiopian restaurant located on popular 18th Street in Adam’s Morgan, is a great steal. It was my first experience with Ethiopian food ever and one of the first places I ate out in D.C. Ethiopian is suitable for many tastes and offers sampler platters, tons of vegetarian options and large portions!

Many of the tasty entrees at at Meskerem are less than $10 and they also offer cheap Ethiopian wines by the glass. Often you have to pay for entertainment and atmosphere in D.C. restaurants but Meskerem includes that in their affordable price. Get to know the Ethiopian tradition while you eat on low stools surrounding a bowl-shaped table.

How to Rent for Less, Still Walk Outside at Night

Like I said earlier, living near the Metro will often cost a little more rent-wise but so will sitting in hours of traffic in total gas and car upkeep expenditures. When moving to the D.C. area, this is a decision many have to make: cheaper rent or convenience.

Cheap places can be found in the city, though often you’ll sacrafice any sort of yard, a washer and dryer, parking for a car and much less favorably, your safety. Living in Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda can sometimes be as expensive as the city but never underestimate the power of Craigslist.

The site will let you search Northern Virgina, Maryland and D.C. and I’ve used to to find both of my rentals in D.C.

When I first moved here, I was bound and determined to live in the city but my new roommate, who had lived in the D.C. area for over a year, explained to me how much more we could get for the money in Northern Virginia. In general, I now have to agree with her.

I’m only 4 miles from the city and without traffic, can get all the way to Dupont in a half hour. Living in Arlington, I still have access to great restaurants and bars for times when I don’t feel like going into the city but all of the city fun at my fingertips, all for only $550/month (I share a 3-bedroom house with two other roommates). How did I find this great deal? Craigslist! Give it a shot.

Being open-minded is essential to finding the right place for yourself in the D.C. area. Be willing to look at up to 10 places before deciding on one; you never know what kind of deal you might run across.

Wanna Drink? Choose Happy Hour

Drinking in D.C. can become an expensive habit unless you drink six packs alone in your house and in that case, you may have a problem.

Anyhow, occasionally in D.C. some student with a ton of time on their hands will circulate a large Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that lists happy hour (food and drink) by neighborhood and day of the week. That might sound obscure, but it’s true…keep an eye out. In the meantime, try this site to keep abreast of all the latest deals. While DC Happy Hour isn’t an extensive as this “mystery list,” it’ll do for now.

Virtually every neighborhood in the D.C. area has a few bars that offer food and drink specials, often with extras like free pool too! When I first moved here, I didn’t realize how much of a 9 to 5 city D.C. really was until I got my first 9 to 5 and started trying to commute in during rush hour and over lunch; happy hour in D.C. isn’t any different so skip out of work a half hour early and do yourself a favor: be there by 5!

Fa, Fa, Falafel! For Less…

Falafel, those delicious little balls of fried chickpeas often thrown in a pita for a delicous sandwich, is something other than tasty: cheap. Listed on Epicurous.com’s budget site, Amsterdam Falafel is an extremely tasty, yet inexpensive treat. Adam’s Morgan boasts tons of bars and restuarants and this one will assure your wallet won’t be empty when you want a filling dinner before, or after, visting a few bars.

Amsterdam Falafel serves the simple sandwich up in wax paper but the fun is that you get to put on whatever fixin’s you wanna. Customizable sandwiches can be topped with hummos, lettuce, tomato and a variety of unique sauces. For a couple bucks more, you can get some Dutch-style fries that’ll complement the falafel nicely.

Because this great place is open till 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays visiting before or after the bar is an option. Beware: plan on waiting in a long line if you visit Amsterdam Falafel after a few drinks at night, especially on weekends. It’s a really popular late night snack in Adam’s Morgan!