Valentine’s Day Guide: Around the world in four D.C. dates

In an all-American city like D.C., dating can be anything but. Sure, dinner and the latest chick flick might do the trick, but with so many exotic options right here in the District, American-as-apple-pie looks a little bland.

Take your date to a different place without leaving the area code or splurging on pricy airfare for two by exploring D.C.’s museums, theaters and multitude of restaurants. If you’re looking for stereotypical Valentine romance, you might not find it here, as these dates are designed to get you out of your rut. However, instead of forgettable chocolate martinis at some jazz club, you’ll learn more about the District, and maybe pick up some culture along the way.

France:

The country of chocolate, wine and lingerie is an obvious inspiration for valentine’s amour. Begin your French date with a trip to the National Gallery for the newly-opened “Paris in Transition: Photographs from the National Gallery of Art.” The exhibit contains works from the gallery’s collection from Paris from the beginning of photography to the height of modernism. Photographers such as Eugene Atget and Andre Kertesz capture everything from the daily street life in the city to the grand cathedrals and Eiffel Tower.

For dinner, get a traditional French meal in Georgetown at Caf? Bonaparte (1522 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.), where sweet and savory crepes can be had at nearly all hours of the night – this spot stays open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For a Parisian taste of Valentine’s Day, try a cr?pe with Nutella, bananas and whipped cream. Other restaurants with sweet cr?pes, cr?me brul?e and wine aplenty include Adams Morgan’s Caf? L’Enfant (2000 18th St. N.W.), or Dupont’s rowdy Bistro Du Coin (1738 Connecticut Ave. N.W.), whose menu features p?t? and foie gras.

Finally, take your guy or gal to the E Street Cinema for a screening of “Le Petit Lieutenant,” a nouveau-noir mystery film set along the banks of the Seine. If Valentine’s Day isn’t your night, but you’re looking for a French weekend diversion, Head to the Kennedy Center for the Feb. 17 opening of “Carnival!” a musical about a girl who runs away to join the circus.

Africa:

A journey through Washingtonian Africa begins at the National Museum of African Art (950 Independence Ave. S.W.) with the exhibit “Body of Evidence.” African Art is much more than just tribal masks, as this exhibit proves – with contemporary artists contributing works from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Egypt and several other countries, the works are a blend of modern technique and traditional custom.

Sharing your meal with your date will bring you closer as you both lean over rich-smelling plates of Ethiopian food at Etete (1942 Ninth St. N.W.) or Meskerem (2434 18th St. N.W.). Etete is known for its vegetarian entrees, while Meskerem dishes out stewed meats on top of injera, the pancake-like bread that works as both plate and utensil. For a very different African food experience, head over to Bukom Caf? (2442 18th St. N.W.) for West African cuisine, where whole fish is the specialty and you receive a knife and fork to help you eat it.

To complete an African-themed Valentine’s date, check out “Aida,” the brainchild of Elton John and Tim Rice, who collaborated on the Tony Award-winning musical about a love triangle between two African princesses and a soldier. The musical will be at the Warner Theatre (513 13th St N.W.) from Feb. 13-18.

Great Britain:

The Shakespeare in Washington Festival provides plenty of theatrical options for Anglophiles in the District all semester long, as nearly every major performance space will be staging one of the Bard’s works before June. The Folger Theater (201 East Capitol St. S.E.), known for its authentically Shakespearean setting made to look like an Elizabethan-era inn, will be performing “King Lear,” one of the oldest dysfunctional family tales. If traditional Shakespeare sounds more like classwork than fun, Rorschach Theatre’s “Rough Magic” might be more your taste. Performed at the Casa Del Pueblo church (1459 Columbia Rd. N.W.), this version of “The Tempest” was written by a former Marvel Comics writer, who sets the adaptation in Manhattan where drag queens and a dramaturge with magical powers steal the show.

British food, most say, isn’t the most delectable – besides, fish and chips don’t exactly scream Valentine romance. A spot of tea, however, is a nice gesture, and when it comes with crumpets and scones in a charming Alexandria rowhouse run by British expatriots, you and your date might feel as though you’re across the pond. The British Collection and Tea Company (119 S. Royal St., Alexandria, Va.) serves high tea from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. featuring 10 types of scones, as well as traditional British food like shepherd’s pie.

Japan:

The Freer and Sackler galleries are the obvious choice for Asian art. One recently opened show, “Landscapes in Japanese Art,” examines the soaring mountains and waves, and delicate greenery of these paintings and ceramic works dating back to the fifteenth century. For a contemporary take on Japanese art, head over to the Japan Information and Culture Center (1155 21st St. N.W.) for their new show, “Shojo Manga, Girl Power: Girls’ Comics from Japan.” The exhibit displays various manga, or comics, that go far beyond “Sailor Moon.”

Of course, there’s no better way to end a Japanese date than with sushi. Kaz Sushi Bistro (1915 I St. N.W.), conveniently close to campus, offers rolls of all types, from surf clam to blue crab. For those looking to venture a little further away, Saki (2477 18th St. N.W.) has sushi until midnight, and offers a fashionable nightclub-like atmosphere. And if you’re really into sushi but your date is only so-so, try Spices Asian Restaurant and Sushi Bar (3333 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) – which presents a menu of sushi, Thai and Chinese cuisines to please the most finicky of valentines.

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