By Mary Morgan
Last night, I attended the Best of Washington for the first time. My expectations were high – as they should have been. The Washingtonian event was advertised well, and featured small plates from a long list of DC restaurants.
The short version: My experience was mixed, but I would certainly recommend it. Just follow my suggestions.
Now for the long version.
Tickets were $125 for regular admission – 7 p.m. – and $175 for early admission at 6 p.m. My coworker and I purchased the regular tickets. We arrived promptly at 7 p.m. at the National Building Museum. Check-in was a breeze, and at the door were ladies dressed as airline stewardesses directing us inside with rolled up Washingtonian magazines. I can only assume they were interns.
Side note: The National Building Museum is absolutely beautiful. Marble columns stretched for the mile-high ceilings, with small hot air balloons dreamily paused in the space above, light from the plethora of windows dancing across the room. If you haven’t seen the National Building Museum, take a voyage.
Immediately upon entering, I found myself lost. Each table island had four sides – and each side featured a different restaurant. Tables were scattered all over the giant room. With an endless sight of tables to my left, right and front, we went forward towards the first food we could find.
A strategy is important. We decided upon starting from one end and going to the other, hitting each table’s side along the way.
Every flavor of food was available. American, French, seafood, steakhouse, Asian, Indian – the list went on and on. There was an assortment of drinks as well, ranging from beer, to homemade infused vodka lemonade, to infused gin, to tequila-soaked popsicles… there were a lot of choices.
And now let me introduce the main problem of the event: There is not enough time to try every flavor, and allow yourself time to actually breathe or enjoy the food.
Within the first hour, I had piled gazpacho, dumplings, Indian food, oysters, cupcakes, lobster and Mediterranean food into my stomach. I cannot stress enough that everything I tried was delicious. And considering just how delectable everything was, it would have been nice to be able to pause between stations and really enjoy each unique flavor – every spice, every taste, every “oo!” felt rushed, because I had to quickly flutter to the next table.
You may be thinking, “But Mary, you had three hours at the event! That’s plenty of time to try each food without shoving it down your throat!”
In theory, you would be correct. But by 8 or 8:30, some of the tables were completely out of food. I had been excited to finally try some of the city’s best restaurants that I haven’t gotten around to going to yet. After last night, I can still sadly say that some of those restaurants are still untried. By 9:30, nearly the whole room was packed up, and the auction wasn’t even announced until closer to 10. It was almost as if they wanted everyone out of there an hour early.
I left at 9:30 feeling confident that at most, I tried 75 percent of the food available. Even that number feels like a stretch.
So to anyone considering going in the years to come, here are my top five suggestions:
- Have a strategy.
- If there are certain restaurants you prioritize, go there first. Otherwise you might not try it.
- Go extremely hungry. Your stomach should be on empty.
- If you can splurge the extra money, get the more expensive ticket. It gives you more time, and also ensures that you will be able to try those high-interest restaurants.
- Go with great company. You will most likely not meet anyone new at the event, so don’t consider it to be a socialite extravaganza. Just have fun.