So You’ve Decided to Write a Christmas Letter 10.30.2013

I don’t know how to tell you this, but Christmas letters are the WORST.  I say this knowing full well that if you send me a Christmas letter, I will not only read every word of it, I will read every word of it out loud so Eric can experience the letter with me.  I will pause to say things like:  “Awwww,” or  “We should skydive!”  And Eric will say things like:  “Do you know where my phone is?” or “What do you want for dinner?”  He’s not listening, but he is making dinner so I’m not complaining. 

But let’s get back to the point at hand:  Christmas letters are the WORST.  I cannot stand them.  Someone needs to write The Guidelines to Writing Christmas Letters or banish them.  Or maybe people need to write an outline first, have someone approve it, and then they can write the damn thing.

Look, it’s all good.  Life happens in the details.  But dispensing information about your colonoscopy is not okay.

I am writing about Christmas letters because I’m about to order our holiday cards, and recently made up received a slew of questions from fake people about Christmas letter etiquette.  So, grab a glass of champagne, and watch me help out these lost souls!

Hi Sindhu!  I’m not Christian but I really want to write a Christmas letter.  Is that okay?

Um…yeah.  I’m Hindu, Eric is Jewish (Hinjews!) and we wrap presents in Santa Claus paper.  Life is short.  Do what makes you happy and doesn’t hurt other people.  If the word “Christmas” gets your panties in a knot, call it a “holiday” letter. 

I’ve had a really rough year and I feel like everyone should know about it.  Is that okay?

Yes and no.  As with class letters to your alma mater, be honest and ask this question:  what's really important in my life?  Going through a divorce?  I want to know about it: it’s part of your year.  What I don’t think belongs in a Christmas letter is the extensive therapy you’re going through (good for you BTW!) or how much you hate your ex -- understandable but you're messing up your chi.  

My son Bobby hit three home runs in Little League – is this something I should include in a Christmas letter?

Look, I think it’s awesome that Bobby hit three home runs.  Really.  But that’s what Facebook is for.  Keep the Christmas letter focused on the big stuff.  Now if Bobby is 8 and he jumped out of a plane, put that in the letter.  And then hope no one calls Child Protective Services.

My wife and I have a draft of our Christmas letter, which is seven pages long – and it’s only October!  Do you think we need to shorten it?

Seriously? Stop! Christmas letters should be one page, one-sided in large enough font that I don’t have to take out my damn reading glasses.  Photos on the backside are welcome.

I think confetti is so festive -- is it okay to put confetti in a holiday letter?

No.  It is not.  If you do this, I will never open mail from you again. 

I’ve been working on a poem about my year in iambic pentameter and I am beyond excited to send it out.  Do you think poems for Christmas letters are a good idea?

I’m on the fence about this.  This is really a “know your audience” thing.  For example, if I sent a poem to my brother, he wouldn’t get past the first line.  But if I sent a poem to my friends who give a crap about poetry, they would read the whole thing and might even appreciate it.  Know your audience.

I get a Christmas letter from a family that only focuses the contents of the letter on their three kids.  I find it annoying.  Am I being harsh?

You are 100% right on the money.  Look, I get it:  I’m a life giver and I know how wonderfully intense it is to have kids.  Everything they do is awesome and you want everyone to know about it.  But it can’t be all about them.  It just can’t.  You can’t stop being part of the picture.  Whenever I get holiday cards with just kids in the photos, I immediately think:  Where the hell is the rest of the family?  Get your ass in the picture people!

Have real questions about etiquette?  Send them to me!  I'm running three businesses right now and I'm sure I'll have time to answer them!  Send your questions or comments to

It's Champagne Season! 10.22.2013

Let's face it:  it's always champagne season.  Sometimes, I sip champagne because it's Tuesday and the sunset looks great.  Why not?  But it is true that champagne is my favorite beverage and I never need an occasion to drink it.  

My wine guy, Phil Bernstein, of MacArthur Beverages in DC recently organized a tasting for wine/food bloggers to blind taste grower champagnes.  So I immediately arranged for child care and told Eric I would be out for the evening.  Obviously.

Grower champagnes -- also known as "farmer fizz" -- come directly from the families who own the vineyards.  Larger champagne houses such as Veuve, Moet, or Pol Roger, gather their grapes from the entire Champagne region.  You can distinguish a grower champagne by the initials RM (Recoltant-Manipulant, which means grower producer) on the wine label.

Phil set up eight brut champagnes for us to taste, with one ringer that was champagne but not a grower champagne.  I know what you're thinking:  this is more fun than anyone should be allowed to have.  If you've never been to tasting, you are missing out.  Aside from learning new tastes and textures of wine, the conversation that happens around the tasting is ridiculously fun for any wine nerd.

We blind tasted all eight champagnes, interspersed with comments, and guesses about the ringer.  I'm going to list the champagnes we tasted, with these comments:

My favorite was the Dosnon & Lepage Brut ($40).  It was dry with a tiny hint of sweetness.  It had a smooth texture and went down easy.  I'd enjoy this as my daily champagne, if I was someone who drank daily champagne.  

There were two rosés in the tasting and I was not crazy about them.  I have a hard time with rosé champagne:  the bubbles dissipate in a cluster-like way, which can be distracting from the taste, and the taste was not potent enough for me.  The two rosés were:  Dosnon & Lepage Brut rosé ($40) and Pascal Doquet Brut rosé ($49.99).

The ringer was a Louis Roederer Brut Premier ($40).  When I first smelled it, it was a little funky.  But that's never deterred me from trying a beverage and by the second sip, I was enjoying it.

Other champagnes in the blind taste test were:

  • L. Aubry Fils Brut Premier Cru ($39.99):  Very even; something I'd love to drink before (or with) an Indian meal.
  • Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvee de Reserve ($49.99):  a little smoother than the Aubry and a longer finish.
  • 2007 Vilmart & Cie Brut Grand Cellier D'Or ($69.99): Phil's description:  "This one would be for the acid freaks."
  • 2010 Cedric Bouchard (Inflorescence) Brut Blanc de Noirs Val Vilaine ($59.99):  Powerful finish; perfect to pair with oysters.

During the champagne tasting, there was also a tasting going on for Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whiskey (12 and 15 years aged).  In addition to being a champagne lover, I also very deeply love single malt scotch whiskey (I am Indian after all).  I tried both and purchased the 12 year;  smoother and just the right amount of intense smokiness.  Big recommend.

For all other wine recommendations, ask my wine guy.

MacArthur Beverages
4877 MacArthur Beverages, NW
Washington, DC 20007


So You're Thinking About Crashing A Wedding 10.14.2013

Cut it out.  You cannot crash a wedding.  Do you have any idea how expensive weddings are?  Do you have any idea what it takes to put a seating chart together so there is equilibrium between The Two Families?  That shit is no joke. So, take a deep breath, and make some other plans.

Now, if you were in India, not only could you crash a wedding, it would be a welcome intrusion.  If a family invited 800 guests to their daughter's wedding, and someone decided to bring six of his best friends, it is unlikely that someone would care.  But that is not how I roll.  On the RSVP card for my unusually small (120 guests) Indian wedding, I wrote something to the effect of:  "Due to limited space, the restaurant will not be able to accommodate guests in addition to those invited."  You know what happened?  That note scared the crap out of some of our Indian guests.

And while a wedding is not a time for instilling fear in people - especially those people who are so close to you - you, the guest or the wannabe guest, need to remember that the wedding is about not irritating whoever is paying for the wedding, and making sure the happy couple have a fun time.  

As part of this blog's "What the Hell Should I Do?" series, I made up received some questions from readers that hit on some core dos and don'ts in wedding etiquette.  I answer those questions.  Enjoy!

I have a friend visiting from out of town and during her visit, I'll be going to a wedding. I was offered a plus-one but turned it down.  I've been trying to score with her since college and this might be the perfect opportunity.  Is it okay for me to bring her since I was offered a plus-one?

Depending on how close you are to the wedding date, ask the bride or groom if it's okay to add the plus-one, and urge them to be honest with you.  If it's the day of the wedding, you may not ask the bride or groom anything.  If you're two weeks out, go for it.  And if they cannot make space for your date, do not look like a sad puppy.  You'll be fine, your friend will be fine.

And if you really want to get down with this lady, be a man and ask her out on a proper date.  

My family and I are going to a wedding but we have other plans right before the wedding.  The bride and groom are aware of our predicament and are okay with us showing up late.  Do we still need to get dressed up for the wedding or can we go in our hiking clothes? 

Wait...your "predicament" is a hike?  Seriously?  Look, I don't know if there's something, you know, special about this hike but I urge you to reschedule it.  One of my rules in life:  always attend weddings and funerals (and cocktail parties).  I know you know this, but I feel you need to hear it again:  life is short and you need to be there for these people.  

And no, you may not wear your hiking clothes to the wedding.  Get a grip.  How hard is it to throw some party clothes into your rucksack, slip into a bathroom, and change before arriving at the wedding?  Not hard at all.  Now, if I saw someone at a wedding who was dressed for a hike, I would not judge.  In the whole scheme of things, it's not a big deal.  But guys, this is a wedding:  the couple getting married want to be surrounded by people who give a shit.

My best friend is getting married and she does not want children at her wedding.  I have two adorable children and cannot find a sitter.  What should I do?

Well before the wedding day, ask the happy couple if there will be babysitting accommodations.  This is a thing now and I strongly urge happy couples everywhere to provide babysitting for their guests.  Makes life a lot easier for those people who so want to be with you on your big day but can't get their kids off their hands.

If you're getting married at a hotel, ask the person planning your wedding details for recommendations for babysitting services.  At nicer hotels, they will have sitters (bonded and insured) on site to take care of as many or as few kids as possible.

I was at an Indian wedding recently and a couple showed up with 11 additional guest.  The parents of the bride had to get another table set up, which I'm sure cost and arm and a leg.  All I could think was:  WTF?  You're Indian, what do you think?

Your thought is my thought.  This situation is presumptuous and totally out of control.  Here is my plea to old school Indian families everywhere:  if you are going to a wedding and suddenly have out of town guests, tell them they can hang out at your house or make plans for them if they are unable to do so on their own.  They will be fine.  Your out of town guests do not need to witness the wedding of a couple they do not know.  Trust me.

So, a few years ago, I decided to go vegan because I love our planet.  Is it okay for me to ask my friends who are getting married in three weeks to provide a vegan option at their wedding?

No.  No it is not.  Unless you are deathly allergic to something or have some horrible medical condition that is exasperated by certain food(s), do not bother the happy couple with your lifestyle issues.  I require endless champagne and spicy chicken curry -- you think if I show up at a vegan wedding, my lifestyle issues will be accommodated?  Not bloody likely.  Make do, dear reader.  

If the food is so offensive, eat before you get to the wedding and do not under any circumstances complain about anything.  Not your day.

And also, three weeks out?  No.  The happy couple is probably arguing about the seating chart or future inlaw issues or something.  If you want the happy couple's ear, you're going to have to talk to them a little closer to when the invitation went out (which in most cases is months in advance).

I'm attending a wedding in a few months and the couple getting married are totally wrong for each other.  It's so obvious to me and our mutual friends that this is not going to last.  What can we do?

Absolutely nothing.  

Have questions about entertainment, food, events, or the rules about anything?  Put it in an email and shoot it over to me at  I'll try to respond when I have some time.  

Teddy & the Bully Bar 10.03.2013

Oh, DC is a depressing place right now.  The government shutdown has left loads of people at home twiddling their thumbs, all the museums are closed, and fortheloveofgod! the National's Zoo's baby panda cam is turned off.  What!?  And even the scenic overlooks up and down long stretches of parkway are closed to people needing some damn scenery.  

While I am not a government worker, I feel the pain of this situation (mainly because it is idiotic) and have been doing my best to cook fine food and dine with good friends to keep from getting so irate that I cannot think straight.  And until Congress gets it's shit together, I'll be dining like a mad woman, and feeding friends who are no longer going into an office and have no idea when they will be going into an office.

I was meeting a friend for lunch downtown, and asked David Smelson of the blog Pleasures of the Table for a recommendation.  He suggested Teddy & the Bully Bar near Dupont Circle.  

Completely designed (both in its menu and its aesthetics) around the whims and loves of President Teddy Roosevelt, Teddy & the Bully Bar serves up small plates and excellent service.  Executive Chef Michael Hartzer (previously of Jack Rose, Citronelle, and IndeBleu) has plenty of game on the menu but there also is plenty of greenery and other diversions.

My friend Kim ordered the Teddy hamburger, and whenever someone orders a hamburger, I immediately want a hamburger.  But I resisted:  I started with the cured meats (so yummy), followed by the peaches and goat cheese salad (completely satisfying).  We both drank a glass of Cava (Mont Marcal, Brut Reserva, 2009) with our meal.

There are three selections under the cured meets and I chose the Proscuitto Rosso (Iowa) and the Salametto Piccante (California).   They arrived on a wooden tray with toasted bread.  I thought I would be in love with the proscuitto, but I loved the salametto more -- spicy and meaty.  The proscuitto seemed a little dry, as if it had been sitting out for a while.

The salad was delicious:  Maryland peaches and goat cheese crumbles on artisan field greens with mache (corn salad) and croutons.  The peaches were cooked and a great compliment to the greens and goat cheese.  

When I had arrived, Kim recommended going into the ladies room to see the following massive photo -- very I-will-take-my-lady.  We ate outside because these are the last warm days before the cold days of late fall and winter arrive, but next time I'm eating in the dining room, which is minimalist and elegant, as is the bar area. 

Teddy & The Bully Bar
1200 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC



Missed yesterday's scintilating post about how to talk to a Jehovah's Witness about sexy time?  It's not too it HERE.

How to Talk to a Jehovah's Witness About Sexy Time 10.01.2013

Yesterday I was working at my kitchen counter, which overlooks our front walkway.  It's one of my favorite work spaces because it allows me to see what's going on on my street (a lot of drivers speeding) and I get to wave at the postman and the cute UPS guy.  Yesterday, I was writing, minding my own business, when two women walked up to our door.

They were Jehovah's Witnesses and wanted to discuss the pain and suffering in the world.  One woman appeared to be in her early 70s, and the other in her 20s maybe, and she  stood quietly behind the elder woman.  These women informed me that God is angry from all the "sins of the flesh" people are committing, which results in global pain and suffering.  Once I clarified they were referring to sex between two (or more? I don't judge) people, I said in my most matter-of-fact voice possible:

"I don't think sex is causing all the pain and suffering in the world.  I think there are a lot of people who are lost or confused or damaged even, and that creates chaos."

"Okay," said the older of the two women.  And before she could go on to her next thought, I said:  "Sins of the flesh are actually quite enjoyable."


"In fact," I continued, "I think if people spent more time engaging in sins of the flesh, there would be less pain and suffering in the world.  People would be too busy having fun to cause harm."

Both women looked irritated and were not buying my argument.  But I wasn't buying their argument either.  The phone rang, I wished both women well, and they left, visibly disappointed they did not walk this Sinner down the Path of Good.

I've never understood the thinking that sex is a gateway to destruction.  Even as a kid (long before I knew sins of the flesh) I thought sexy time looked like a good time.  I have this clear memory of watching a movie during a family gathering when I was about 12 with a conservative Indian girl who was 16 or so.  I don't remember the movie but I remember her saying:  "There's too much sex on TV."

First of all, what 16-year-old says that?  That makes zero sense to me. Second, I responded:  "Really?  I think there's too much violence on TV."

Because come on:  doesn't sex look like more fun than shooting people or blowing up buildings?  (If you're a lost, confused, or damaged person, do not answer that question.)

I was convinced that the JV women would find my sexy talk so discouraging they would not return to my house, but my friend Andrew assures me they will be back weekly:  

"Let me put this in Breaking Bad terms:  Religious meth heads are easily addicted to people who (a) give them the time of day and (b) look like a conversion project."

I'll be waiting for that knock at the door (See that? That's another Breaking Bad reference!).  In the mean time, who's with me?  Do you want to make the world a better place?  Good.  I want everyone to take a pledge right now, right here to have some good, quality sexy time by the end of this week.  Twice if you're in it to win it.