James Conaway

Tequila 101

Behind the best tequila lurks the physical heat and spiritual intensity of the country of its origin, whether you’re drinking it by the shot (caballito) or in the heavenly embrace of lime juice con orange liqueur and shaved ice.

Wine Tasting 101

Wine drinking’s pretty much self-explanatory. But no matter what’s in the glass, it will reveal itself best when approached systematically and when all sensory apparati are exposed to it (well, not your ears). That doesn’t mean making a spectacle of your examination, or trying to out-inhale the person next to you. It does mean thinking…

Permanent Collection: D.C.’s National Gallery

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Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art is an awesome trove, but approaching it requires planning. Most of the gallery’s art is not on display at any one time, of course, but some spectacular pieces always are, and they provide the best starting point. Here are ten must-see works recommended by curator Eric Denker.

High on Wine in New Zealand

If Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy were real it would still take place in New Zealand because no other place has so much natural enchantment. But the ring wraiths would be searching for grape clones instead of the gold ring, and Frodo would be uncorking a 2010 vintage Pinot Noir and not sweating the small stuff.

Iconic Greece: Thessaloniki

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Icons are, for the uninitiated (that means most of us), an encounter with the unknown: religious paintings on wooden panels of great antiquity. For others, they take on great spiritual significance. And there’s no better place to see them than Thessaloniki in northern Greece.

Water Into Wine, Wine Into…Fiction

James Conaway’s long love affair with wine began with a column at the Washington Post and inspired him to pen two non-fiction books on the subject — but he eventually came to realize that fiction has advantages over journalism when dealing with “a subculture as broad as the Earth and as deep as history itself.”

Great Scotch: A Primer

The whiskey industry is no longer in precipitous decline and sales of single-malt scotch have romped for a couple of decades now. Its popularity reflects the heightened awareness of quality among drinkers of everything from tequila to cognac — and a willingness to pay for it.

Bellows Unmasked

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One of the most vivid, spontaneous American painters of the early 20th century, George Bellows, chronicled in bold strokes both the interior and exterior life of New York City. His best known oils are probably his boxing scenes – “Club Night,” “Stag at Sharkey’s,” and “Both Members of the Club” – all part of a literal treasure trove of Bellows’s work that just opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Food Fridays: America Eats

Spanish chef José Andrés, a force of nature in the culinary world (Time just named him among its annual 100 most influential people in the world) and an enduring presence in this nation’s capital, founded America Eats Tavern less than a year ago in the space formerly occupied by his popular Café Atlantico (405 8th Street,…

Free to See: Masterpieces on the Mall

The most famous depiction today of a wave may be Hokusai’s block print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” Not only is it a beautiful, stylized evocation of the sea’s power but also a layered testament to the illusion of solidity (Mount Fuji poking up in the background) and human frailty (those poor fishermen cowering in their…

In Focus: D.C.’s 20th Environmental Film Festival

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The 20th anniversary of D.C.’s Environmental Film Festival is underway (March 13-25) and shouldn’t be missed, in part because there’s nothing quite like it. This assemblage of films from around the world makes the urgency of climate change both real and provocative, and provides a running history of the environmental movement itself. Symbolically, Washington’s cherry…

The Awe-Enlightening Di Rosa Preserve

The sheep on that hillside off Highway 28, just north of San Francisco Bay, remind me that this place, called Carneros, is named for rams. It was once considered useless for anything but pasture, but today extensive vineyards indicate a different reality — primo chardonnay and pinot noir and, indirectly, art. Those sheep aren’t moving…