DC Diary: A taste of the world within the Beltway

Taste of Bethesda
Bethesda, Md.
Saturday, Oct. 6
2:47 p.m.

Picture last Saturday and the Saturday before that and the one before that. What was so exciting about those weekends? Sleeping? Attempting to study? Or maybe just lounging around watching vintage “90210” reruns on FX. Well, we admit that we found ourselves trapped in this vicious cycle. But this weekend we set out to break away from our apathetic lifestyles, get our butts off the couch and experience life outside City Hall.

What more could we ask for than free food, good music and a cowboy on stilts. Confused? These are just some of the sites we witnessed at the Taste of Bethesda, a food-tasting festival in Bethesda, Md., off of the Bethesda Metro stop on the Red line.

This outdoor festival would supposedly feature all that downtown Bethesda had to offer. We figured we would be in and out of there in no more than 10 minutes. It’s only Bethesda, right?

As soon as we got off the Metro, we realized our Taste of Bethesda would be more like the feast of Bethesda. There was so much for us to check out. We were overwhelmed with the sights, smells and sounds of the street fair. This was no 10-cent lemonade stand. This festival featured 46 restaurant tents, four stages of live music and activities that anyone could enjoy.

Our first stop was the Haandi Indian Restaurant tent to sample chicken tandoori. All the proceeds from this tent were donated to the United Way’s Sept. 11 Fund. We gave them a ticket, which cost us $1.25 and got ourselves a plate of high-quality Indian food. I never thought food cooked on an outdoor grill could taste so good. The spicy, delicious chicken-on-rice combo really hit the spot.

As we allowed our eyes to wander, we spotted many tents of in the area. McCormick and Schmick’s, La Madeleine, Tara Thai and Tia Queta were among the popular stands with lines of up to 30 people waiting with watering mouths.

Beyond the food, the atmosphere radiated with carefree people of all ages who were out to have a relaxing day of fun. It was such a nice change of tempo from fast-paced Foggy Bottom to the family-oriented streets of Bethesda.

There were also many political campaigners hoping to use the crowds of people to get their message across. Democrat Mark Shriver was passing out bumper stickers, while the Committee to Cut State Sales Tax passed out two pennies to festival-goers in an attempt to illustrate the goal to save “two pennies for every dollar spent” in Maryland.

Just as we thought there was no more to be seen, we rounded a corner and heard the distant sound of jazz music. As we got closer, we noticed 14 members on stage playing saxophones, trombones and clarinets among other instruments. This motley group of people was the James Bazen Big Band, and their music did not go unrecognized. Swing dancers, packed tables of listeners and kids on dads’ shoulders could all be seen enjoying the old favorites.

Although we happen to be jazz lovers, there were other options for those who are not, including an international stage with African, Spanish and other musical flavors to compliment the food from the various cultures.

Two blocks down on the soft-rock stage, the Krewe of Renegades jammed some New Orleans rhythm and blues. Since when is rhythm and blues soft rock? Nonetheless, who needs Kenny G when you have Alicia Keyes?

Even those who don’t like music could check out the celebration stage with Irish, African and Mexican dancing.

The Taste of Bethesda extended through six blocks and accommodated hundreds of people. It was nice to see volunteers handing out maps, answering questions and helping out in any way possible.

We could not help but feel warm and fuzzy inside when we saw a dad tragically trying to dance but instead looking like a total goof. This dad exemplified the lighthearted outlook of this festival.

The dance not only made the two-year-old laugh, it made us rethink our judgmental attitudes. It’s the simple things that bring back childhood memories of crisp fall days and eating candied apples. These images remind us to take time out of the day, lose the attitude and live a little.

The Taste of Bethesda was worth the $2 Metro ride. We realized that Bethesda doesn’t get enough credit. With many great restaurants and things to do, this overlooked gem would be a great weekend option for GW students in search for something different.

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