Mari Vanna

I decided to go back to my First and Second-Year roots in September and enrolled in a Russian class through the Global Language Network: a not-for-profit, largely volunteer-run language school here in DC. While I still find Russian очень трудно (“very difficult”… see, I’ve learned/been reminded of some things!), I’ve certainly enjoyed the weekly two-hours spent in a DuPont conference room.

Except last week we only spent one hour in said DuPont conference room, and then strolled down Connecticut halfway through class to grab some русская блюда (Russian food) at the local Russian restaurant: Mari Vanna. I’d never been before, and in fact, I realized that in spite of my former Russian fascination, I’d never even really experienced Russian cuisine before.


We expected it to go a little something like this (as shared by a classmate the week before):

But even though they proudly infuse their own vodka at Mari Vanna, we ended up making the more prudent Wednesday-night decision of foregoing the shots and settling on some Russian and Ukrainian пиво (and one Moscow Mule [insert requisite aphorism re: being in Rome]).


The full Mari Vanna menu can be viewed here. A few of us decided to share some of the items our teacher, Victoria, had briefed us on during the first half of class: cabbage pirozhki, sweet cherry vareniki, and the famous Сельдь под шубой (or “herring under a fur coat;” the “fur coat” being a bed of onions, beets, and mayonnaise. And I actually found it– and the rest of our order– pretttty tasty…). Other pirozhki and vareniki items were ordered, someone got a wings dish, and Victoria went for the chicken Kiev.


cabbage pirozhki


sweet cherry vareniki


herring under a fur coat


I think everyone was pretty happy with their dishes (though I’m still regretting not topping off the evening with some medovik— Russian honey cake), but what was also really noteworthy was the decor. It was like being in your little old Russian grandma’s house (but like, in a good way).

P1030371P1030354P1030370Final noteworthy thing: as the meal wound down, a Russian friend of a classmate showed up and was strongly encouraging that we accompany him upstairs for karaoke. While most of us resisted the temptation, it seemed worth passing on that there’s some allegedly very entertaining karaoke at Mari Vanna on Wednesday nights, and that at the very least they have “Fly Me to the Moon,” in terms of English songs.

Oh, okay, and final final thing (appropriate as we approach Thanksgiving): During the dinner our Turkish classmate regaled us with the history of how the turkey bird received its name– because no, the country was not named for the bird. It’s a pretty fascinating tale and the Economist gives a nice, thorough telling.

Guerillas do Gorillaz; Flume does U Street Music Hall

Last week was a good week for me, musically. Awhile ago my brother was excited to inform me he’d been asked to play trumpet with local act Guerilla Tactics when they, appropriately enough, covered the first Gorillaz album (“Gorillaz,” as it so happens) for an April Fool’s Day show. Guerilla Tactics is generally a two-man operation: Tucker Rogers and Rob Bedford (aka DJ XSV), two old friends of mine from my first stint in Charlottesville. For this undertaking they obviously were going to need a little more than an acoustic guitar and some turntables (and a trumpet), however. Another old friend, Travis Elliott, took lead vocals; another Tucker and another Rob (Titus and Richmond, respectively), joined them on drums and bass, respectively; and the Bowden sisters rounded out the mix with Kristen on keys and Amy on violin (and kazoo!).

To the best of my knowledge this spectacle came together with precious few rehearsals and limited time (as well as a couple last-minute changes in the lineup) and I thought the results were well impressive. And despite being moved back from my normal Monday-night bedtime of 10 pm to the unthinkable hour of 11:30 in order to avoid competing with another show at the Jefferson that night, turnout was massive and, suffice it to say, the House was most certainly Rocked.

And… even with all the fun I was having I managed to take over an hour of video? That I’ve trimmed down into four videos and made a playlist from? Enjoy! (Video quality, as always, is definitely lacking but the audio’s decent enough.)

Track listing: April Fool’s Day “treat”, “Re-Hash”, “New Genius (Brother)”, “Punk”, “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Double Bass”, “Rock the House” (featuring Aaron Ahlbrandt of Kings of Belmont), “19-2000”, “Latin Simone” (featuring Seth Green of Sons of Bill), “Slow Country”and the special encore, “Feel Good Inc.” (Also I apologize in advance for the nonsense chatter that, on occasion, can be heard in the background on my part… a friend and I decided that our only hope for remaining awake until such a late hour came in the form of $3 Jack & Gingers at the Virginian before the show…)

sibling shot! i love that i get to see these two so frequently :)

sibling shot! i love that i get to see these two so frequently

with the prompt 'pout.' (alas, i'm clearly far better-experienced in the ways of pouting than either of my brothers)

with the prompt ‘pout.’ (alas, i’m clearly far better-experienced in the ways of pouting than either of my brothers)

giving it another go

giving it another go

guerilla tacticsryan on stage

hadn't seen these lovely ladies in awhile!

hadn’t seen these lovely ladies in awhile!

having fun

genna matthew and ryan calonder... a match made in cville music heaven!

genna matthew and ryan calonder… a match made in cville music heaven!

Wednesday then found me saddling up to drive to DC to see Flume perform at U Street Music Hall with some friends. Flume (or “Harvey Streten,” as he may have once been known) is a 21-year-old DJ/producer from Australia that a friend had turned me on to awhile ago; U Street’s known to be a pretty dope venue; Nate said he’d take Ollie for the night… I couldn’t resist. And it was fun!

flume u street music hallI mean, there were a few drawbacks. He went on quite late and the set was fairly short (there were rumors that he’d come back on that kept us there later than we may have ordinarily stayed, but eventually we had to cut our losses). We also found ourselves musing that the first few tracks were sounding more or less like he’d just set his CD to “Play” (though even if this had truly been the case it still sounded extra-cool on the state-of-the-art soundsystem they’ve got there). And, this is probably my biggest lament, he didn’t play one of my favorite tracks, “Bring You Down”. That being said, before long he was doing some more novel and interesting things with both new and old songs, and all in all it was a right good time. (The same cannot be said for work on Thursday, but I suppose I was prepared for as much).

Here’s his most recent album:

(My favorites, in addition to “Bring You Down” are “Holdin On”, “Insane”, and “On Top”.)

One year ago: Ubud, Part One (and Getting There)
Two years ago: Krabi (yeah last week marked the two-year anniversary of my departure to Thailand!! So crazy…)
Three years ago: Hangzhou Two