Rosslyn Needs Better Dining Options

Pitiful. The best adjective that I can think of to describe the dining options in Rosslyn. The area bounded by North Lynn Street is even worse. It is astonishing to see an area filled with many professionals having such limited dining options. Hence, I’m compiling a wish list.

1. Prêt A Manger (Please replace Cosi)

2. Le Pain Quotidien or PAUL Bakery

3. Nando’s

4. Potbelly

5. Caffe Nero (First U.S. outpost in Boston)

6. Itsu Sushi (Considering US Expansion)

7. Five Guys

8. & Pizza

9. McDonalds (An upscale one, please) 

Good Wife Composer Pushes Boundaries in Season 5

It’s been a roller coaster ride on season five of the CBS hit television drama The Good Wife. To accompany the twists and turns of each episode has been the elegant score that compliments the drama perfectly. D.C. Internationalist caught up again with composer David Buckley who has been creatively inspired to push the boundaries of t.v. show music.

DCI: How would you define this season’s music?

DB: We took a change in direction this season. We felt we did not need to be restricted by the character or tone of the music from the past. What prompted this change was the tumultuous events that happened when Will & Diane and Alicia & Cary go their own way. It was like a rebirth for both these parties, and thus it was felt the music too could redefine itself. I have often played around with classical/baroque string figures in the episodes, but now in season 5, these ideas really get crystalized and come to the forefront. Strings, piano, mandolin and woodwinds are all part of the pallet. Having said which, if an episode requires a more ambient approach, then we will do that rather than trying to jam in anything inappropriate.

DCI: Has it been intentional to extend scene music into the title card?

DB: We have always extended the scene music into the title card, but in the old days we primarily went into the same regular main credit music. Now the main title music varies for each episode. This is fun as it makes it episode specific. Again though, if there is no good reason to do this we revert to our original piece.

DCI: What is it like working with Robert and Michelle King?

DB: Robert and Michelle are fantastic. Episode 505 (the big episode) was temped with a load of tracks using just a drum kit (I don’t know who wrote them). I did not care for it and asked Robert if he liked it. He felt it did the job but did not need me to emulate it and in fact asked me to find another way of creating a similar energy but in another musical setting. I came up with these baroque motor cues and Robert loved them. That’s not to say I can write anything and he will say ‘yes, sure!’. He has a strong opinion and we often backwards and forwards before we find what he wants. But they (and the other producers) are both very keen that I should be able to widen my musical universe and not be restricted by the standard tropes of t.v. music.

DCI: What are some of your favorite cues? And where do you get your inspiration from?

DB: My favorite cues this season are from episode 501, 505 and 514. There are others too, like Fake Rental Company (from an episode I cannot recall). Prior to this season, I loved writing the cues for the relationship between Will and Alicia. Inspiration comes from Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli, Will, Alicia, Robert, Michelle, David Zucker…the list goes on!

Re-Imagining The Rest Stop

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You’d be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time upon entering the old incarnation of the Maryland House rest stop. As a frequent traveller on I-95, I too thought I had warped back to the 80’s. But last month, a gleaming new facility was unveiled to the public. Better food options. Lighter and welcoming spaces. Clean and modern facilities. This is the Maryland House of the future. Operated by Areas, USA and designed by Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore, the new Maryland House is set to capture the public imagination. 
 
It also begs the question; why can’t other rest stops be just as good if not better? Quite a few en route to New-York could do with a face list and Maryland House should serve as an inspiration. The State of Maryland executed a public-private partnership which allowed the rest stops to be upgraded. Commuters need better services and food options when traveling and state governments need to respond to those needs.
 
Unfortunately, some states such as California have strict laws that prohibit private retailers from operating at rest stops. Such laws were enacted to protect local businesses operating by major highways. Sadly, such laws do not not promote healthy competition. I should not have to drive off the beaten path to find a dining facility. In this day-and-age, people look for convenience. Not headaches. 

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Renderings: ASG/Chesapeake House (Opening Summer 2014)

Hot Off The Press: Brewing Coffee Wars

As we tweeted last night, it appears the La Boulange food range by Starbucks is set to hit D.C. area stores at the end of March. We checked with our local store in NoVA which is currently receiving new equipment to handle the new offerings. At the same time, D.C. Internationalist received a press release which announced the upcoming debut of London-based coffee chain Caffè Nero in…wait for it…Boston. The location at Boston’s Millennium Place will be the chain’s first U.S. outpost. Sorry Washingtonians. 

“We’re looking to bring European coffee house culture to the United States,” said Jay Gentile, director of U.S. operations for Caffè Nero. “Caffè Nero is an accessible, friendly coffee house where customers are welcome to grab a bite to eat, meet friends, catch up on work or simply read and relax.”

In order to be successful, Caffè Nero must differentiate themselves from the competition, build brand awareness, and understand their local market without compromising their identity. They are likely to be be seen as a competitor to Starbucks. Not Dunkin. In the past, British businesses entering the restaurant biz in the U.S. have had mixed results. When Pret A Manger entered the American market, they failed to do their homework. They over-expanded and realized that us Yanks have slightly different tastes compared to our British cousins. As The New-York Times reported, Pret realized Americans are not fond of mayonnaise and prefer drip coffee over espressos. Oh, we also like to shake our salads too. The sandwich chain ended up closing some stores, re-tooling their product, and eventually bounced back. Keep in mind that their success today is partially due to the fast-casual craze and the demand for healthier food. 

Caffè Nero will open more locations in Boston, but no additional details were provided. If I were their real estate agent, I’d stick to the city and establish a presence in prominent areas to “introduce” the brand. Harvard Square, anyone? Boston’s Logan Airport would be an intriguing choice. What a clever way to get locals introduced to the brand at place seeing thousands of potential customers each day. I’d recommend the Back Bay station, but I hear it’s pitiful compared to Union Station in D.C.

NPR Generation Listen Project Needs More Ears

No organization is immune to layoffs…including National Public Radio. I was troubled by a tweet I discovered recently in which the photo depicted employees bidding farewell to those who had accepted buyouts. NPR is a beacon of journalism in a world where profit stomps over content and integrity. So it is with great sadness that I pen this blogpost and offer a piece of advice; NPR must invest in its future audience and ramp up efforts on NPR Generation Listen.

The project is supposed to focus on my demographic (20’s). But I don’t see a lot of effort being mustered by this endeavor. The bright spot: the daily production of abundant and accessible content that my demo would find appealing. A prime example of this was an interview conducted by David Greene with the band TLC. The segment was energetic, fun, and exuded gravitas. If NPR can package and tailor its content into a 30 minute weekend show or digital podcast, I think more of my peers will tune in which is exactly what the public broadcaster needs to ensure its survival.

Holiday Rundown: Shawafel, Burberry, and More

We’ve been off the grid at D.C. Internationalist. But here is a rundown of the most recent and notable news items.

Travel: British Airways will feature the A380 on flight 216/217 to Dulles next September.

Media: Al Jazeera America is interested in prestige than profit.

Food: Despite the fast-casual craze in D.C., Ping Pong Dim Sum and Yo!Sushi are currently not in expansion mode.

More Food: Per the Shawafel social media guru, the fast-casual Lebanese joint plans to setup shop in the Courthouse area. More on this as we get it.

Update: Shawafel intends to open at 1919 Wilson Blvd in the spring.

Retail: Conneticut Avenue is losing a flagship retailer [Burberry] to CityCenter. Does the strip have any chance of attracting high-end retailers?  Prada and Saint Laurent have signed leases at Tysons Galleria making Conneticut Avenue seem like an after-thought.

Note: If you have any tips, please send an e-mail to dcinternationalist@gmail.com

Content is King on AJAM, But Presentation is Deplorable

Al Jazeera America, the new kid on the block aiming to provide authentic news coverage of domestic and global events for us Yanks, launched this week. It is an ambitious move by Al Jazeera and the tiny state of Qatar to launch a news channel in this country at a time when hard news is a hard sell. The fragmented media business has all players staking out their territory. The question remains to be answered as to whether Al Jazeera America can attract a sustainable audience in order to survive. But you have to give credit to those trying to bring back a rational and straight-forward voice to the marketplace. The content of “AJAM” programming presents us with an alternative point-of-view that has been lacking in the mainstream media. It is the peoples’ points of view that is front-and-center. While scholars and academics have a room on the channel, one does detect a socialistic tone in the output. AJAM strikes the right cord with the airing of domestic and international news coverage in addition to simulcasting “Newshour” from Al Jazeera English.

Yet AJAM is no match for AJE when it comes to on-air presentation. The grade school graphics and pompous music theme make AJAM look like an un-sophisticated and second tier news network. Its like the nerd in high school trying to be popular when he doesn’t have the goods to show off. What am I saying? AJAM lacks a strong and incisive visual identity and that is needed to stand out in the marketplace. It appears the creative and management folks missed the brilliant relaunch of ITV News and the inspiring visuals of Bloomberg or Al Arabiya. The production values are not slick enough to compete with the likes of CNN, Bloomberg or even BBC World News. Countless repeats of employee testimonials are not altruistic and come off as annoying. I care about why the “faces” of AJAM (Ali Velshi, Soledad O’Brien, Joie Chen, Davis Shuster, Tony Harris, John Seigenthaler) joined the network. These are the “stars” of the channel and I want to hear from them in an emotional and compelling capacity. Let us face one fact. If viewers elect to watch the news, their favorite anchors determine what channel gets picked. But like all new kids on the block, AJAM will somehow work out the kinks, adapt and survive. If it doesn’t, well, we can talk about it till the end of time.

08/26/13 Update: In my next post, I focus on the channel’s talent including those who have a bright future. Yes, I’m looking at you Thomas Drayton and Libby Casey.