Got Plans? Join the gurus and Room 11 owner Dan Searing the author of "The Punch Bowl," to talk about holiday cocktails and entertaining..

Dec 08, 2011

Got Plans? Join the gurus and Room 11 owner Dan Searing the author of "The Punch Bowl," to talk about holiday cocktails and entertaining..

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Got Plans?. There are a lot of holiday questions in the queue, and we're going to get to them as soon as possible, but first, two announcements:

The Fringe Festival favorite "e-Geaux (beta)" returns for two shows tonight at Artisphere. We've got free tickets to give away: Just tell us the one Facebook status message you've written that you wish you could take back.

Also today, we're joined by mixologist/Room 11 owner/author Dan Searing, who will take your questions about cocktails, holiday drink recipes, Punch Club and anything else you'd like to ask. You can get to know a little more about Dan via this Q&A from our blog.

All ready? Let's begin.

I have a friend from out of town who is obsessed with someone making her a layered shot/drink. Are there any bars in DC where I could find someone to make such a thing for her? Second, I am throwing a Christmas party soon and want to serve some holiday drinks. My crowd definitely enjoys drinking but I have one guest who doesn't drink at all. Suggestions for alcohol and non-alcohol?

The classic layered drink is the Pousse Cafe which involves some unusual spirits like Chartreuse and Maraschino liqueur so look for a well stocked bar with a craft bartender, ask nicely and not when it's busy. The Passenger or even better the Columbia Room are good bets. That said, I've had few Baby Guinness (Kahlua topped with Baileys) shots with co-owner Angie at Dodge City so that's another fun option.

An easy party friendly holiday drink that works with and without alcohol is mulled cider. Warm apple cider on a stove or in a slow cooker with cinnamon, clove and orange peel and keep a bottle or two of rum or whiskey nearby (but not too near an open flame) for guests to spike their own.

So, I know this isn't exactly a going out question, but I have definitely seen the topic covered in past chats: Where are reasonably priced, good places to go furniture shopping (for a couch or coffee table) in the metro area? I'm looking for something a little unique, possibly mid-century modern. I feel like past chats suggested places on 14th and in Adams Morgan, as well as maybe Leesburg for antiques? Names of specific shops would be great! Thanks!

Okay, I just finished furnishing an apartment, so I have a few ideas. In Logan Circle area, try: Miss Pixie's, Good Wood, Hunted House or Millennium Decorative Arts. Leesburg is also an excellent place to find furnishings, though generally more shabby-chic than mid-century modern. Try Urban Pickers, Savannah's, Four Shabby Chicks, Otter Creek, or Leesburg Antique Emporium. Anyone else have some great ideas?

If you don't find anything at these places the first time, I recommend checking back frequently. There's always new inventory coming in. And if you have to go over the weekend, I recommend trying to hit it on Saturday rather than Sunday. Things can get pretty picked over sometimes by then, especially at the places in D.C.

Also, we found an amazing contemporary-looking black leather couch on Craigslist. If you're going to be diligent about checking it all the time and are willing to wait a few extra days, it might be worth it. People here are moving all the time. Never know what you might find!

Submitting early so I don't forget. Does anyone know if the Lobster Truck is out and about on Saturdays? I'm coming down to D.C. with a friend on Saturday and if we could meet up with the truck it would be great. I checked their website, it doesn't list the days they're out. Thanks!

The Red Hook Lobster Truck is generally only out Monday through Friday, unless there's a special event. Try following them on Twitter (@lobstertruckdc) for updates.

GOGS, I am in desperate need of your help. My parents want to go out dancing for New Years Eve, they're an older couple so I know they wouldn't like to go clubbing or anything but could you guys recommend a place where they could go and dance the night away? They were thinking of the Dance Factory's New Years celebration but any other recommendations would be great! THanks!

It depends on what kind of music they're looking for, and how much they want to spend. The art-deco Carlyle  Club in Alexandria is hosting Joe Coleman -- a former member of the Platters and the Drifters -- for an oldies/doo-wop New Year's Eve, with a full dinner and drinks before dancing for $125. At the other end of the spectrum is the Tom Cunningham Orchestra's big band celebration at Glen Echo Park. Gorgeous old ballroom, hot swing music -- but it's not really a restaurant-style celebration with food and drink.

Hello! Gift shopping ideas, help? I am seeking a gift for my friends, a couple. They are DINKs and have eclectic tastes. Big time foodies... theater lovers (incl opera), movies, art, you name it. Very wide range of interests. They also have nice jobs so they can buy what they want (and do) and travel, etc. Sounds like it would be easy, doesn't it? Well, I don't want to go predictable. I could get them a gift cert to a nice restaurant but there isn't a lot of thought in that. They are a couple who will fly to London for a long weekend just to see a few plays - etc. Help? It doesn't have to be expensive, 100 bucks total is fine. This could be a couples gift or two smaller ones for each. It might be easier to get one couples gift. Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: I would look into getting them membership status at one of the area museums or cultural institutions. It would really be a gift that keeps giving all year long (and for a good cause, no less). For example, if you got them a dual membership to the Phillips Collection ($100 for the two of them), highlights include free entry to the museum all year long, early previews of exhibitions and big discounts on other programming. Ditto the Corcoran: $90 will allow them waived admission, discounts on classes and lower prices at the shop and cafe, among other perks. There are similar programs for the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center and any number of other local cultural destinations.

I am planning my husbands 30th birthday for a Saturday night. I am hosting a dinner at Againn for 10-14 people, but am trying to figure out the best plan for after. My husband LOVES good beer. Do you think it makes more sense to try to reserve a space for that # of people, or maybe just hit up H-street and try our luck at Biergarten Haus & Smith Commons. Any recommendations for a beer-centric place that will let me reserve space?

It's a source of frustration (kind of) to me that most of my favorite beer bars don't take reservations, or have weird limitations. Meridian Pint takes reservations for the tap tables downstairs. Biergarten Haus doesn't take reservations for parties after 7 p.m. ChurchKey never takes them upstairs, except for private parties; Rustico is primarily first-come, first-served.

On a Saturday night, you're better off trying your luck. Meridian Pint's basement is a good bet. RFD Washington has a large back room. Bier Baron (the old Brickskller) has plenty of tables that would fit the bill. If you head for H Street, try your luck at both Smith Commons and Biergarten Haus. My memory from last winter is that Biergarten doesn't get as crowded as it does in the summer. The patio is tented and heated -- check out the outdoor fireplace -- but most people don't think of it as a cold-weather destination.

Okay, so the wife and I have finally gotten ourselves a break and are planning on going out tomorrow night in Georgetown- dinner reservations for 6:30 which should get us wrapped up in the 8 to 8:30 range. So the question is what's next? Is there any good live music options in Georgetown that would start around 9ish? Neither one of us can make it much past midnight anymore, but we do want to enjoy the evening somewhat.

How about: You grab a glass of wine at Bistrot Lepic and then head over to the 10 p.m. Marcus Johnson's Holiday Party at Blues Alley? It promises to be a tasteful yet cheerful mix of great jazzy holiday tunes.

Hi Gurus and Dan, It's a Latin American tradition to make tamales around Christmas and we're hosting our annual tamale making party this Saturday. I'm scratching my head for drinks. I'd prefer to keep lower in alcohol as it takes quite awhile to assemble and steam the tamales. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Tamales, yum! How about Calimotxo (or calimocho), the mix of equal parts red wine and cola that's Spanish in origin but popular in many Latin American countries? You could sub a decaf cola if you don't want to get too wired. Or Micheladas, beer with lime and tomato juice plus Worcestershire and hot sauce, sometimes with a salted rim. A fun but maybe not so low in alcohol punch that would work is my Conquistador Punch, made with tequila, sherry and clementine juice, the recipe for which we'll post at the end of the chat.

I just bought a sectional from Belfort Furniture in Chantilly. It is ENORMOUS and carries all kinds of brands/price ranges. Worth a look. Also liked the couch selection at Room and Board and at Mitchell Gold.

Sounds great! Thank you!

How would you rate the non-alcoholic beers & what else (besides cider) would you recommend if your fav bar doesn't have any?

Erdinger Alkoholfrei and Bitburger's Drive are the only non-alcoholic beers I've had that I would try again. Nice crisp German lagers. But low alcohol beers -- there's a goldmine of good stuff out there. The Williams Brothers Scottish Session is a wonderful dry, slighly hoppy ale and clocks in at 3.7 percent alcohol. (As a comparison, Budweier is around 5 percent.) I've seen it at the Queen Vic and Pizzeria Paradiso, among others.

You do see more "Winter Warmers" and high-alcohol beers this time of year, presumably to fight the season's chill.

And don't assume cider is low-alcohol; some of the Scrumpys at the Queen Vic are over 10 percent ABV.

My mom will be in town this weekend, and I want to take her to a show. I am trying to decide between the Second City show, "Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies" at the Woolly Mammoth or "Bust" at Studio Theater. Which one do you recommend?

You really can't go wrong. While both should be funny, the tones will be a little different. "Bust" is pretty confessional and has the storytelling vibe, while "Spoiler Alert" features the talented Second City comedy troupe, which means that show might be a little more giddy and off-the-wall.

Don't miss Reincarnations, 14th and Rhode Island Also try Modern Mobler, at Georgia and Geranium


Hi Gurus. I shop at the same 3 clothing stores everytime I go to the mall and I really need to change up my wardrobe. Do you have any boutiques you recommend in the city for some new styles to help me mix it up. Thanks!

What kind of style do you have? What do you like? What are the three stores that you do shop at? What's your price range? Give us some more info and we'll try to help with your shopping woes!

A friend of the family used to invite us over on Christmas eve for Glogg and abelskivers and krumkake. They passed away years ago and I've looked online for Glogg recipes but there are so many! Where can I find this in the DC area if I'm out and about or what's a good recipe to make at home?

Nothing says winter hospitatlity like mulled wine and glogg is my favorite type (it's the cardamom). There's a great recipe right here on the Washington Post web site and a simpler one in my book. We also serve it at my bar Room 11 on weekends and some weeknights (call ahead to check during the week).

What's a DINK?

Dual Income No Kids

Can you guys please help me find a great brownie sundae that meets the following requirements are a warm brownie, NON-soft-serve ice cream, and hot fudge (not chocolate) sauce. The sundae I had at ACKC was great but failed to meet my fussy date's ice cream and hot fudge requirements. If I can get everything he's asking for in one sundae, I'll look like a hero. I guess I could resort to making it myself, but would rather not scare him off with my baking skills yet. Thanks!

This is going to sound absolutely insane, but the best brownie sundae I've had is at Stoney's. I only know this because my roommate likes to test my will power by ordering it as brain food during Wednesday night trivia. Better yet, it meets all of your requirements. Chatters, any other favorite brownie sundae spots?

Hi Gurus, My girlfriend is an avid animal lover, specifically horses. She used to show Morgan horses growing up, but it is hard to find/expensive in this area. Are there any volunteering or even part-time (non 9-5 times) positions where she could ride (maybe with tours - already know of Rock Creek Horse Center), or even help out in the stables? Thanks!

Maryland Theraputic Riding, which uses horseback riding as a way to help people with seriously illnesses, special-needs kids and wounded veterans, among others, is always looking for volunteers with riding experience. You can contact them via

Where can you find the best warm cocktails in DC?

Funny you should ask, since that's the subject of my column in tomorrow's Weekend Section. Here's a top 5; the list will be longer by this afternoon. Promise.

Personally, the one that's not on that list yet that I think everyone should try is at Tryst: Mexican mole hot chocolate with mezcal. It's spicy, smoky, rich and delicious -- everything you need on a chilly night.

Are there anywhere in the DC area that is skilled in serving absinthe that you could please recommend?

Wisodm is known for their absinthe selection and service. They also specialize in absinthe at Chinatown Coffee, believe it or not, and you'll find good service at many craft focused bars like PS7s (an absinthe fountain is a good clue but not a guarantee that they know what they're doing).

Hey Dan - what kind of cherries do you use in the Cold Claret punch?

I have used fresh, Luxardo brand, and my own preserved cherries. You can make your own easily with frozen cherries soaked in liquor for as little time as overnight with as much as half sweetener like sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar. Try marachino liqueur, rum or brandy or for a fun spicy version try HUM Botanical Spirit, a rum based infusion of ginger, cardamom, hibiscus and kaffir lime (with or withourt sweetening).

Hey, I rhymed. An old friend who moved (home) to London several years ago is back in town and told his FB friends to meet him at the Front Page. We're all mid 40s. Are we going to be mistaken for chaperones? Is the food any good there (since I'll be leaving from work and be hungry) and is there any cocktail they do well? Thanks

Yes, you will look like chaperones. Or intern advisers. Slip out of the Front Page as fast as possible. Across the circle is Bar Dupont, which has a decent cocktail list and good small plates, and is more of a 30s-40s crowd than the 21-25-year-old Front Page. Around the corner is Pizzeria Paradiso, which pairs excellent pies with one of the city's best beer selections. The basement-level cantina of Darlington House -- formerly the Childe Harold -- is a good bet for bar basics, and you could also do worse than the divey Big Hunt, which has seriously good wings and a solid draft beer lineup.

At which bars in DC (preferably Dupont/Penn Quarter area) can I get real egg nog? Tom Sietsema mentioned one in an article the other day, but it was $15, which is a bit steep for me for a drink.

The excellent eggnog at PS 7's, which I mentioned in the hot drinks story linked above, was $11. I haven't seen a good, boozy, cheap eggnog yet this year, though I'm betting someone will be hawking it the week before Christmas.

What's a good drink/punch for the morning after the holiday night before brunches/recovery? Something beyond the usual bloody mary and mimosa options.

A favorite of mine is the Corpse Reviver II, equal parts gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and Lillet or Cocchi Americano (an aromatized wine similar to Lillet when it still had the bitterness of cinchona bark - think tonic) and a dash of absinthe shaken with ice and strained. The story goes that after a few of these even the dead will walk again. Anything with bitters is great though, so try a basic champagne cocktail or a Seelbach which adds more bitters and bourbon to the sparkling wine.

My dad drinks but my mom doesn't. Anywhere to find a decent selection of half bottles of wine?

Ooh, good question. Calvert-Woodly Liquors in Van Ness and Ace Beverage near A.U. have been helpful for me before. Schneider's of Capitol Hill is another one to try... and Total Wine in Virgina.

So sweet cherries rather than pie cherries?

Pie cherries are great but can be hard to get and sweet cherries will work just fine (especially in the Cold Claret) if you back off on the sugar in the preserving liquid or in the recipe a little.

Hello everyone! Any suggestions for VA wines to buy to impress my wine loving family when I go home for the holidays? Thanks

Boxwood, Barboursville (Octagon is especially great) and Horton (especially Viognier and Cabernet Franc) are all ones I like.

Revels show at Lisner. Andalucian music (Spanish, Sefardic and Arabic) plus cute kids, lots of costumes, giant sets and general holiday mood. The music is really stunning this year and not something you've necessarily heard before.

That sounds awesome! Great suggestion.

Hi Gurus, I know this search is probably futile, but I am trying to convince my sisters to come visit DC around New Years, but I need to get a good plan in place to seal the deal. None of us like clubs, and don't really want to go anywhere with tickets or open bars, just a fun place to hang out and drink with out being packed in like sardines, bonus if they have live music or a good DJ. I live in Foggy Bottom so I was thinking Bayou, but the band they have lined up does not appeal to me. I was also considering Mr. Smiths, do you have any ideas? Thanks for the help!

I'm still working on the New Year's Eve listings (outside of the big clubs and hotel parties), and in D.C. at least, I'm seeing a lot of big-ticket all-inclusive options, and not as many of the "We're just going to be open, so come hang out" variety. That said, I think those folks are the last ones to get their acts together.

One that does intrigue me, though, is Lost Society: $25 admission includes "three top-shelf cocktails" and dancing to DJs Chris Burns and Gavin Holland, who hold down the fort at Lost Society on Fridays and Saturdays, respectively, with a mix of vintage disco, house and other fun tunes.

What kind of DJ/music are you looking for?

Studying abroad in Barcelona, my classmates and I would drink that all the time, but we didn't know what it was called so we always said Quasimoto (as in The Hunchback). Sounds similar... makes sense in retrospect. As for my question, my company's holiday party theme is Masquerade. Any thoughts on where to find a mask that might help me win first prize for best disguise?

Try Backstage on Barracks Row in Capitol Hill.

My dad recently transitioned and is now a lovely 6 foot 2 inch blond named Deborah. While she is far more happy now, she is from a small conservative town and is still working on being comfortable going out and about in new places. She and her wife are coming to visit over Christmas, staying in DuPont, and I want to take them out and about in DC. They are in their 60s, like quiet restaurants and the theater, and like to be home by 10 or 11, so I am not looking for anything crazy. My instinct is that in DC she will feel more comforable just by virtue of it being a city and people in DC being open to all kinds of people, but I am wondering if you GoGs have any good suggestions on where to take them, either for food, drinks, or thater, where she will feel the most comfortable and relaxed. They aren't big drinkers but love Italian food, and really all ethnic food, and are into traditional theater and concerts. Thanks!

As far as theater, my first thought is take them to Billy Elliot, since it's such a feel-good show about straying from the norm; I don't see it until next week, but I definitely have high hopes for that one. Also promising: "Ann," about the take-no-prisoners one-time governor of Texas. Or if you think they'd be up for something a bit more irreverent, check out Lavanya's picks for funny anti-holiday fare.

For the person looking for volunteer opportunities, I've never worked with them myself but I have a coworker who dedicates her weekends to Days End Farm Horse Rescue. I know she's a huge fan and think it's definitely worth investigating.

Another good idea for the horse-lover.

Ruppert's used to make a great eggnog. (I used to have Christmas Eve dinner there every year. They would give you a little plate of fabulous cookies and some of that eggnog to finish your meal.) Dan, any chance Paul has the recipe and you might feature it at some point?

I'll ask him and if he does we'll try to put it on the Room 11 Facebook page or website. We're making some Atholl Brose there right now which you will probably like of you like eggnog.

So I hear that Rigas Black Balzams is the stuff for cold seasons. Do you know anything about Black Balzams and hot currant juice with a slice of orange? Do you know where to get Balzams in DC? Thank you for your answer, The Curious Latvian

Fopr those not familia Balzams is the bitter and herbal national liqueur of Latvia. An aquired taste but great if you like Amaro. I saw some recently at Potomac Wines and Spirits at 3100 M St NW in Georgetown. I haven't tried it with hot currant juice but it sounds good. I bet Rodman's has that.

I am trying to organize a fun activity for Saturday Dec 24th, so far i have come up with going to see the White House Tree and diner close by. What else i can add in between the tree visit and diner? Thanks

How about wandering down the Mall to see the Capitol Christmas Tree, with a stop along the way at the U.S. Botanic Garden? Their holiday exhibit has festive decorations, including a huge display of poinsettias and a vast model train layout.

When is it coming back?

I hope we may do Punch Club or something a similar again sometime next year though probably not weekly. Like the Room 11 page on Facebook and we'll keep you in the loop.

Where to watch El Clasico this Saturday? I defy you to name one place in or near Logan Circle, one in/near Adams Morgan, and one in Arlington that is not Summers. Two requirements: Alcohol, and as many giddy Spaniards as possible.

There are always Barca and Real fans at Lucky Bar -- always -- but if I was going to watch with a large Spanish crowd, I'd want to go watch with the official Barcelona supporters group at Elephant and Castle at 19th and L. Singing, scarves, the works.

Oh, and in Adams Morgan: the bar at Churreria Madrid. Easy.

A friend just got back from London and fell in love with Perry's, a hard pear cider. Anywhere around here we could find it?

I've seen it somewhere, but I'm blanking. Queen Vic on H has a huge cider selection right now, but I'm not sure if it was that. Might have been ChurchKey. Help me out, people -- please?

Hey gurus. My girlfriend is defending her thesis Tuesday morning and we're going to brunch after with her fam. What are some good weekday brunch options? Heck, what's places are even open for brunch during the week? Looking to stay in NW.

Weekday brunch is never quite the same as what you're going to find on Saturday and Sunday, but some good options would be Commissary in Logan Circle, Luna Grill on Connecticut and Leopold's in Georgetown. Hotel restaurants may also be a good bet; Firefly comes to mind. Brunch fave Tabard Inn also serves breakfast on weekdays.

I know of your book of punch recipes, Dan. Where's the best place to get a copy and what would be something cool to put with it, if I wanted to give it as a gift?

It's easily available online from the usual places or Powell's if you want to support an indie and locally at Politics & Prose and Barnes and Noble. Pair it with a nice bottle of punch friendly booze like a rum or brandy. You can get good advice on selection at Ace Beverage or Central Liquors (note their new location at 625 E St.) Or add a vintage punchbowl, ladle or other bar tool from the Hour in Old Town Alexandria.

I'm the same way as the poster. I shop at Banana, J Crew, and Ann Taylor a lot and am getting bored of it. Am willing to spend a bit more for a boutique, but nothing crazy. Am also petitie if that matters.

Okay, if you're bored of this kind of norm, I have a few suggestions. For basics, maybe give Zara a try. The aesthetic tends to be a bit edgier, but you can still find some classic pieces as well, and it won't break the bank. You could also try some consignment or vintage stores, such as Secondi, Mercedes Bien, Meeps, Annie Creamcheese or Second Time Around. These places have tons of variety, and sometimes you can find some truly outstanding, very gently used designer pieces for the same price as something you might buy at J Crew.

Other suggestions: Browse Logan Circle and Georgetown. Shoutouts from folks here in the GOG pod include Ella-Rue and Barneys CO-OP, and I personally recommend the Leesburg Corner outlets; they have everything from Cole Haan to Michael Kors to Barneys. It's pretty much heaven, not going to lie. Hope that helps!

Some of my girl friends and I are planning to have a night out where we all wear cute, colorful dresses that don't get enough usage because they're really only appropriate for semiformal holiday parties. What are some places in D.C. where we can get fancy cocktails and not feel like we're overdressed?

What a great idea. You should definitely head for some of D.C.'s nicer hotel bars for this -- at Bourbon Steak's sleek lounge, for example, you're going to feel cooler if you're dressed up than if you're not, especially with a classic cocktail in your hand. Same with Degrees, in the Georgetown Ritz Carlton, or Adour in the St. Regis.

There are now at least 10 in Alexandria from An American in Paris to Treat to a couple brand new ones on King Street the names of which escape me. They really have exploded in the past year. There is also a new shoe place on King to go with Shoehive. You have also several terrific consignment shops like Diva.


Agreed -- American in Paris has beautiful things...

I saw it on the menu at Againn recently (I planned to order it, but was diverted by a fantastic sauv blanc).

Yes. Thank you. It's currently on the menu, too.

Rodman's has it. It was on at the Reef for a while, but not now. Meridian Pint has some, I think.

I have been told I was "obviously" thinking of Meridian Pint.

I'm looking to meet a friend for a holiday drink. We would like to know which hotel and restaurant bars have the best decorations for the holidays. Ideally, traditional decorations, but fun decorations also considered. Oh, and drinks do not neccessarily have to be holiday-related, and we are interested in Christmas decorations, primarily. Thanks!

The Willard's gorgeous lobby goes over the top, but I also like the tastefully decorated lobby (with fireplace) at the Ritz in Georgetown, or just a seat in the fireplace lounge at the Tabard Inn, which was so, so welcoming last night, due to the awfulness of the weather.

Hi Dan! Can you steer me towards a good eggnog recipe for a party I'm having for the holidays? I'm also planning a spiced cider with apple jack, any other festive beverages you'd recommend? Thanks!

David Wondrich's Esquire column is always a good place to look for a reliable recipe for a classic. His Virginia Eggnog is here. My recipe for Atholl Brose, a Scottish drink similar to eggnog is on the Express web site here. Try a milk punch for a different way to use dairy. Ben Franklin's recipe is here and there are several in my book.

Hi gurus, I'm bringing home the boyfriend to meet the family and I'm looking for some suggestions on what we can all do together, maybe a meal plus something else. For the meal I was thinking Korean BBQ or Japanese hibachi, so that there is some entertainment/distraction while we eat. Not sure what else we can do, looking for something in NoVa. Thanks for the suggestions!

What about a trip to Mala Tang in Ballston? The gimmick, as it were, is that it's a Chinese hot pot restaurant, so that everyone cooks their own meal, adding meats/veggies and spices.

Then: Ice skating at Kettler, the Capitals' practice rink above the Ballston Common Mall.

Or, actually, you could reverse this, and use the hot pot to warm up after some skating.

How about up the street at Brasserie Beck? The bar can be tight, but with a group that large, you could probably muscle your way into a good space, or luck out and get on one their tables. Awesome Belgian beer and great apps/frites to take the edge off.

The last few times I've been to Beck on a weekend it has been so crowded at the bar that I thought they'd restarted the late-night happy hour again. (Alas, they haven't.) It's frequently crowded, but an option for great Belgian beers.

Hi, I find I will be in DC for Dec. 22nd thru Dec 27th, w/o family. Would like some ideas of restaurants that would be comfortable for a single person, I don't mind splurging-- Thanks--

Any fine dining reestaurant worth its salt will make a single diner feel at home though I often like to eat at the bar when dining alone. It can be fun to watch the goings on and sometimes a chat with the bartender or a nearby patron can be fun. Try City Zen, Fiola, PS7s or Proof.

I want to bounce around the District on Saturday to find some creative and unique gifts for the last few people on my list, and I'd love to do it in a market-type environment. Do you know what holiday markets will be open this weekend? Also, does Eastern Market feature special vendors this time of year? I feel like its been the exact same ones the last few times I've gone.

Here are a few very different ideas for markets where you can do some holiday shopping this weekend.

I know you've answered this a million times, but a refresh would do wonders. I am looking for a bar/lounge that wouldn't be overrun by 15-20 people after a holiday dinner Saturday night at about 10-10:30. We will be eating near the convention center and don't want to travel *too* far but will likely cab. I know you often recommend iron horse...but am thinking something a little nicer. I appreciate any thoughts and suggestions! Happy Holiday Season!!

For 20 people near the convention center, you need to go big: Maybe the Capitol City Brewing Company at 11th and H, maybe the basement "Boot Bar" under Hill Country Barbecue, or, if you walk a few more blocks, you can get really classy in the bar at Fiola, which is only open until midnight but has some of the best cocktails in D.C.

I'm meeting some of my friends while our wives are at book club. We would like to meet in the Fairfax area, and the last few times we have met at Dogfish head in Fairfax. Any other suggestions for good beers and decent food? Bonus if it is not in Arlington, because we would rather not drive there. Thanks

Mad Fox in Falls Church is a go-to for me for good beers and decent food. Public House No. 7 in Falls Church has a great pub vibe and really good fish and chips, plus good English beers.

I ended up making an a** out of myself at Thanksgiving in front of my husband's family, due to drinking too early. I'm the type that needs to always be drinking. Can you recommend any cocktails that are low in alcohol, but not sugary? Thanks!

Try vermouth or any aromatized wine (Lillet, etc) or a low alcohol bitter like Campari or Aperol with soda, ice and a twist. Grown up flavor but conducive to grown up behavior. Another idea is a reverse martini or manhattan, two or three parts vermouth to one part gin or whiskey. Delicious but not dangerous. If you really want to slow it down but still feel like you're drinking, try bitters and soda.

Hi GOGs! My boyfriend and I, and another couple, want to head out somewhere Friday night and we're looking for a place other than just a restaurant or show (although we're not opposed to a place to eat nearby too). We like to be active, such as TopGolf in Alexandria, so we were wondering if there is anywhere in Northern Virginia that would have something like that. D.C. would be fine too. Thanks in advance for helping us be creative!

It can get crowded but there is a cool indoor bocce court at Blackjack (above Pearl Dive Oyster Palace at 1612 14th St NW).

Hi GOGs, Hoping you can point us in the right direction. A mix group of friends and I have quite the weekend ahead of us: We're staying at the Fairfield Inn in Chinatown Fri & Sat nights, a few are coming in from Boston and we would like to show our guests a good time while in DC. We have tickets to the Caps, Army/Navy and the Skins/Pats games but we need places to go post-game. Preferably places with no/cheap cover, ample selection of beers, dancing, and jeans okay for the dress code. Thanks!

Around Chinatown, I'd stear you towards Fado Irish Pub, which has a DJ on Friday night. There's a whole strip of bars that will cater to everything you want: R.F.D. Washington for a huge beer selection, Rocket Bar and the Iron Horse Tap Room for skee-ball/shuffleboard/pool and drinks, Hill Country BBQ for live music and dancing -- none have dress codes or covers.

Thanks for all the great questions, and we hope we were able to help solve some of your holiday dilemmas.

Thanks to Dan Searing for taking all the cocktail questions this week. Next Thursday, we'll be joined by dating experts Rita Colbert and "You Lost Him at Hello" author Jess McCann, to talk you through holiday dating questions. See you then!

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The Going Out Gurus
The Going Out Gurus are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
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