Sunday, August 8, 2010

Big City, Small World

We knew the pizza and pong would be tasty and fun after seeing Comet Ping Pong featured on The Food Network's hit show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri, but who knew date night would lead to a chat with a Pulitzer Prize nominated author about the Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa over Peruvian cocktails and beers in D.C.

It happened just like that. On a whim we decided to book a babysitter and take a night for ourselves. So with the man-van parked at the Springfield Metro station, we took a carefree train ride into D.C. to sample some new pizza and battle for ping pong bragging rights.

Comet's neon sign may be visible from the moon. I've never visited the lunar rock, but the sign is a bright beacon to any and all crispy crust, wood-fired pizza lovers in our corner of the solar system. Seriously, the pizza was awesome, the beer selection was more than respectable, and the ping pong action was hot.

Comet features three full-size tables and one mini table in the back, and one full-size table outside- yes, outside. The outdoor seating area was packed with pizza people! So dinner was a rockin' success, except that the online review we read had us hop off at one Metro station too soon. Luckily the cabs were prevalent and we caught a relaxing ride north. Last thing about the Comet: have fun finding the restrooms. I mean it - have fun!

So the pepperoni and cheese of this blog post was our bartender at Los Andes in Adams Morgan. The basement bar beneath the Peruvian restaurant Los Canteras caught Angie's attention because she saw a lone patron through the barred windows. Well, barred windows, dark stairs to a subterranean bar, and anything in Spanish is usually enough to draw us in for a drink.

The lone patron turned out to be the chef, and he quickly withdrew to the kitchen to prepare for the dinner rush. (We're parents, so date night starts around Boca del Vista time, i.e. early) So with the chef cooking, we had the barman's full attention. He slid me a bottle of Cusquena, which he described as a fuller beer than Peru's alternate hopped beverage option, Cristal. (Cusquena's slogan is "the gold of the Incas") My wife went with a Macchu Pisco, an egg-free twist on the bar's signature Pisco Sour cocktail.

My wife shared a story about our friends, who married themselves along the Inca trail on the way to the mountain ruins of Machu Picchu. The barman listened quietly, a knowing smirk forming in the corners of his mouth. After listening to her story, he divulged that he was co-owner of a B&B in a small Peruvian village near the Machu Picchu trailhead.

As the conversation flowed on, we learned that he had been a travel writer for the Washington Post and Time magazine. In fact, he once ran the Post's Moscow bureau in Russia. I didn't learn until later, during a Google search on the way home, that he was fluent in five languages and had been nominated for a Pulitzer for his writing. He was much too modest to brag about such an honor.

Maybe the most interesting thing to us was that one of his brothers had run a restaurant in Ames, Iowa, where we had gone to college. He couldn't remember the name of the joint, but we left our email address in case it came to him. After reading his profile on a travel writers Web site, I think he'll follow through. As a former Post reporter, I'm sure he won't be able to sleep until he knows the restaurant's name.

What a great night out! The best thing about living in and around big cities is meeting fellow transplants. Everyone has a story to tell. We were just lucky enough to be served by a well-traveled, professional storyteller and Pulitzer Prize nominee from Tulsa, Oklahoma.


  1. Good shit, I'm jealous. I only meet convenience store clerks and grocery store checkout kids, and they never have interesting back stories.

  2. Good Date Night! With the way our Sunday went too bad we didn't make it a 24 hour date. Angie

  3. The setting can be beautiful. The food can be great. The drinks can be flowing. What do remember the most. The people and their stories. Sound like you had it all. What a great date night.

  4. Pizza, ping pong, Peru, Pulitzer - pure poetry, Mr. Kaiser. I love a night with a thousand stories.

  5. Second read, still fantastic. But did you ever get the name of the restaurant from the former Post writer?

  6. @kenny Turns out his brother's restaurant had been in Iowa City not Ames.