Brunch at Blackwall Hitch

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Let’s discuss the Sunday Brunch at Blackwall Hitch.   Those who know me, know that Blackwall Hitch is my favorite place for Crab Cakes in the DMV area.    Well, now, Blackwall Hitch is on my list of top 10 Brunch locations in the DMV.

I was skeptical at first, since Crab Cakes are not on the Sunday Brunch menu.  I must say, the brunch really is excellent. The brunch is set up buffet style and is complete with bread,

There is an omelet station sent from heaven.   I created my own omelet of lump crab meat, shrimp, Applewood-smoked bacon, spinach and cheese.   It. Was. Delicious. Egg White Omelets are also available. There is a Chicken and Waffles station, complete with Glazed Cherries, Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Whipped Cream, Walnuts in a Maple Glaze, Chocolate Chips, and of course, Butter.  The Waffles are Belgium and the Chicken is seasoned and fried.

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First Plate…Waffles with fresh fruit, Seafood Omelet, Homestyle Potatoes, & Cheese Grits

Also included in the brunch are the typical breakfast foods, Scrambled Eggs, Applewood-Smoke Bacon, Sausage, and Homestyle Breakfast Potatoes.  Then, there is a Penne Pasta dish, followed by Creamy Cheese Grits. For those wanting even more, there are two carving stations, both Top Round Roast with Rosemary Au Jus and Deep Fried Turkey Breast with Cranberry Fig Jam.

Pastries line the wall ready to meet your sweet tooth.  There is an assortment of donuts, macaroons, and parfaits.   The Sunch Brunch Buffet is simply delightful. To top it all off, Mimosas are $5.

This brunch is extremely popular.  Reserve your table early.  An 18% gratuity is automatically charged for parties of 8 or more people.

The atmosphere is buzzing throughout the brunch.  While dining, I spotted someone familiar….. however, I was too busy enjoying brunch to ask questions.  Go, enjoy yourself next Sunday.

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Cherry Blossom Fresh! Can you guess who this is?

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Hearty Hen Quarter

Hen Quarter Prides itself on its Southern Fare.  The logo even states “Southern Fare, Free Range Cocktails”  I must say, their food is really tasty.  On my most recent visit to the Silver Spring location, I met the lovely staff, led by Jacqueline, who helped set a warm atmosphere at the front of the house.  Walking into Hen Quarter, I felt comfortable and welcomed.  The background music made me dance on my way to my table.

The Silver Spring location is perfect for a date night or a night out with friends in any season of the year.  There is free garage parking, plus shopping and a movie theater all in the same complex.

Now to the food.  Let’s start with the biscuits.  The biscuits are thick & hearty homemade biscuits, honey!  THey are served with fresh churned honey pearl butter and fig jam.  Delicious!

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For dinner, I ordered the Hen Quarter Special which is two pieces of Southern Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Smashed Yukon Potatoes, and a Biscuit.  The Fried Chicken was good, although, I prefer my chicken with a bit more seasoning salt.  (Although, I understand the need to limit the amount of salt for all patrons).  The collard greens were cooked perfectly.  They had the right amount of spice.  I was surprised by the amount of flavor in the potatoes.  The potatoes were mashed with skin on, and were so moist and tasty, they almost outshined the rest of the meal!  The Hen Quarter Special portion size was just right!

Overall, I enjoyed the food.  I will return.  I look forward to trying out more menu items.

Best Chocolate in the World

Last Sunday, I went on a tour of a real life Chocolate Factory!  No, Willie Wonka is not the only chocolate maker. This Chocolate Factory was quite impressive.  As a chocolate lover, I really appreciate the methods SPAGnVOLA go through to preserve the integrity of the chocolate.IMG-4275

 

SPAGnVOLA is a real life Chocolate Factory, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland.   Upon arrival I opened the door to sights and smells of a lovely chocolate shop. There was lots of sweet treats to choose from behind the glass.  I saw many types of truffles, bonbons, and chocolate bars!

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When it was time for the chocolate tour, I was led down a stairway to the space underneath the chocolate shop.   Eleanor was my tour guide. She was really knowledgeable about the chocolate making process, explaining it from start to finish while also displaying the machinery used to cultivate chocolate.

The owner/onsite Chocolatier, Crisoire Reid owns a farm on the mountain slopes of the Eastern part of the her home country, the Dominican Republic.  The cacao beans used to make the chocolate at SPAGnVOLA are flown in directly from this farm. Mrs. Reid’s goal is to preserve the integrity of the cacao bean and produce the purest, best chocolate possible.  Crisoire calls her creation “ultra premium” chocolate, the best chocolate in the world.

Once in the factory, I witnessed the entire process.  I was able to touch the raw cacao bean in all of its stages until I tasted the final product, a delicious piece of chocolate.

In 2008, Crisoire Reid and her husband Eric Reid started on a journey of chocolate.  In 2011, they realized their dream of opening an artisan Chocolate factory, selling the finest chocolate in the world.  The Reids hand pick, ferment, dry, and grade cacao beans themselves. The cacao beans are then roasted and refined in small batches in their Gaithersburg, Maryland chocolate factory.

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After completing the tour, I had to taste the chocolates!  I got a 12 piece selection of Crisoire & Signature bonbons collection, and truffles collection.  I definitely prefer the truffles over the bonbons.

Here are some of my suggestions:

Truffles:

Mocha: 54% milk chocolate ganache infused with coffee grounds and 70% dark chocolate.

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Jasmine Rose Truffle: 62% Semi Sweet Chocolate Ganache infused with Jasmine Rose Tea, coated with 70% Dark Chocolate

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Honey Truffle: 62% semi sweet chocolate ganache infused with Dominican Honey and coated in 70% dark chocolate.

Bonbons:

Cafe Caramel Bonbon: 54% Milk Chocolate Ganache with Coffee flavor, caramel and covered in 70% Dark Chocolate

Passion Fruit Bonbon: White Chocolate Ganache with natural passion fruit puree and 70% Dark Chocolate.

I highly recommend SPAGnVOLA.  You will love every moment of you visit.  Take some chocolates home, give chocolates as gifts.  Remember, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy hand crafted chocolates….and that’s pretty much the same thing!

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Learn more about SPAGnVOLA and their chocolate making process by visiting www.spagnvola.com

Deep Dish District of Pi

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District of Pi is a pizza oasis. I am a pizza person. I love love love pizza.  My favorite type of pizza is Chicago Style, Deep Dish Pizza.  Prior to today, Giordano’s in Chicago was the only restaurant I trusted to make my favorite pizza. I have tried many, many restaurants who claim to make Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. I have been disappointed over and over again. All of that ended today, when I waltzed into District of Pi for lunch.

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I am so pleasantly surprised by District of Pi. The restaurant looks like a pizzeria complete with Red and White checkered napkins and wooden tables, but with a touch of class displayed with the presence of chandeliers.

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Now to the food. I ordered District of Pi’s signature Cornmeal Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza. When my waitress Sherry brought the pizza to my table, my eyes lit up in joy and disbelief. My first thought was, “Could it Be?” This pizza looks like an authentic Chicago Style Deep Dish pizza.

The crust is solid & crispy. I bit into the pizza. The crust was crispy and crunchy. The marriage of cheese, pepperoni, and sauce made me dance in my seat. The sauce is flavorful. I can see and taste the Italian seasonings in the sauce through every bite. There are chunks of tomatoes in every bite of pizza. I enjoyed this pizza so much.

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I am so happy to discover District of Pi. I can now have Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza in Washington D.C. I look forward to my next visit.

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Journey to the Land of Milk & Honey

This Saturday morning, I got up at 7:30 am in order to have breakfast/brunch at this quaint restaurant that my sister recommended.  It was worth the early rise.  This is not just any restaurant, it is literally the land of milk and honey……seriously, the restaurant’s name is Milk & Honey Cafe.

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Just as you can imagine, the land of Milk & Honey is hard to find, and can only be experienced by the most determined seekers.   It is sandwiched between other businesses in a strip mall area.  There is no signage over the door of the restaurant.  You just have to “know” where it is, and how to reach it.   Once inside, I got the feeling of being in someone’s home.   The seating is a comfortable mix of chairs and sofas surrounding various dining tables.  Pictures of the owner mingling with satisfied customers adorn the walls.

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I must say, Milk and Honey lives up to its name.  It is a wonderful blend of savory and sweet.  The air inside actually smells like honey.  Milk & Honey Cafe is owned by Chopped Champion, Sammy Davis.  I was excited to taste Chef Sammy’s Award Winning 1/2lb Shrimp & Grits.   But, I had to start with something sweet.  Strawberry Shortcake Deep Fried Biscuits hit the spot.  The presentation was marvelous.  The portion size was large with three big biscuits, strawberries, cream cheese glaze, and powdered sugar.  The biscuits were hot & crispy on the outside, yet buttery and moist on the inside.

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For the main dish, I had Chef Sammy’s Award winning 1/2lb Shrimp & Grits.  According to sis, I danced in my seat when the food arrived.   (I believe it, I dance when I have good satisfying food).  The dish was colorful and appetizing, and even included turkey sausage!  Just one bite let me know why Chef Sammy is The Food Network’s Chopped Champion.   The grits are amazing.  They genuinely taste like southern homemade cheese grits.  They are creamy, seasoned, and have just the right “grits” consistency.  They are not grainy at all, and form a nice accompaniment to the cajun cream sauce.  I am so happy to have discovered this dish.  I had almost given up on finding good southern grits in the Washington D.C. area.

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We washed it all down with orange and cranberry mimosas.  At $4 each, the mimosas are a refreshing enhancement to an already delicious breakfast.

I will absolutely return to the land of Milk and Honey.  I would recommend this restaurant to all of my friends.   Milk and Honey is one of the first restaurant’s I have visited where I want to taste EVERYTHING on the menu.  Until my next visit, I’ll stay sweet.

 

Busboys, Poets, and Me

Last weekend, I went to Busboys and Poets for the first time.  I already understand why everyone loves it so much.  Just take a look at what Busboys and Poets says about itself

Busboys and Poets is a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted…a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul…a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide…we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.

Upon entering the restaurant, I notice the organic feeling of community.   Is it a bookstore?  Is it a restaurant?  Is it a coffee shop?  It is all of these in one.  The building is filled with eclectic decor, artwork, and paint.  There is a constant chatter from the diverse crowd.  Time seems suspended in this place.  What year is it?  It does not matter.  Just enjoy the relaxing vibe while you are there.

I ordered the Bacon and Cheddar Burger.  My burger tasted so fresh!  The fresh, not frozen, taste comes from beef burgers made with free-range, 100% grass-fed, local beef.  My side dish was the Sweet Potato fries.  The fries were really good.  They were naturally sweet and served solo, no dipping sauce.   If you would like sauce, I suggest drizzling honey over the fries.  The honey adds just the right boost of sweetness.  At the price point of $14, it was a good meal.

The beverage menu has something for everyone.  I ordered the Langston Cooler, which is a Busboy Classic made with Spiced Rum, Dark Rum, Peach Schnapps, and Fresh Orange Juice, with a splash of Cranberry.

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I really like Busboys and Poets, I can see myself going there often, having drinks, reading a good book, listening to music, or just having brunch with friends.

I will be back.  I see why they have so many regular customers.

 

RT or Reduced Taste

My Southern Comfort friends and I decided to participate in Alexandria’s restaurant week.  Somehow, RT was the restaurant of choice.    Let’s just say, the best feature of this restaurant is the free parking lot across the street.

Upon entering, I was surprised by the lack of splendor in the restaurant.  I was shocked that this restaurant participated in Restaurant week.   I had Chart House expectations, but was met with bare wooden tables and bad lighting.

RT’s website states that they have the “best Creole and Cajun food outside of Louisiana.”  That. Is. An. Untruth. Just dismiss all of your Cajun expectations.  The description of the items on RT’s special restaurant week menu looked really appetizing.  I began with the the Crawfish & Shrimp Beignets.    This was the best dish on the restaurant week menu, although, the dish was misnamed.   This is a beignet.  cafe-du-monde-beignet-mix.df7001e73e0fc40b5eca509086b70496

Yet, this is what I  was served.

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The remoulade sauce was good, although it did not taste homemade.  The “beignets” were hot out of the deep fryer.  It was a decent appetizer.  I would eat it again.   That’s where my praise must end.  I had such high hopes.  But, just like a summer rain interrupts a summer BBQ, the rest of the menu disrupted my taste buds.

I ordered the Shellfish Etouffee, which is Gulf Shrimp, Lump Crab & Crawfish smothered cajun style served with garlic-parsley rice.  Now, I like sauce.  It was served with plenty of sauce/gravy, but the dish itself was bland.  I don’t remember tasting crab nor shrimp.  The rice was decent, but I had to add salt to my dish before I could eat it.   Now,  I wished for more creole seasoning, but there was none to be found.

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My dinner companions ordered various dishes.  The fried catfish was another problematic dish.  The fish was fried properly, it just wasn’t seasoned.  Now, if you are on a strict diet and must avoid spices, salt, seasonings, etc, then this restaurant is for you.  But if you enjoy zest, zing, and flavor, RT will disappoint you.

The Shrimp and Grits looked really savory….that is until you notice that the grits are solidified into one big block, which can be lifted in its entirety, off of the plate with a fork.

I had the chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was lackluster at best.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either.   I had a craving for something sweet, this did not gratify my sweet tooth.

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I really dislike leaving negative reviews, however, I spent $50 at this restaurant, yet I left unsatisfied.   I feel the need to warn others more than I feel the need to be nice.  The food just isn’t good…and that’s Real Talk.

Carolina Kitchen, Just Like Home

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From the moment I entered The Carolina Kitchen, I felt as though I was visiting a familiar place.  The restaurant is extremely welcoming.  It smells like home cooked meals, the music is EVERYTHING.  I dance in my seat each time I visit.  I like each. Song. played. No DJ is needed.  Take a look at what Carolina Kitchen says about itself on its website:

The Carolina Kitchen is the most amazing and popular southern cuisine restaurant group; it has a unique charm that appeals to everyone. From the moment one enters, they are transported to another world designed to stimulate the soul and indulge the senses. It was created to offer its guest taste buds an amazing journey through the South.  Using only the freshest ingredients to our menu, we combine unique blends of Cajun and Creole spices with traditional and savory home-style cooking. Our customers are the heart and soul of what we do and why we do it. Welcome, Welcome, Welcome to the Carolina Kitchen.

The menu is wonderful.  There is so much food, that everyone in your party should be satisfied.  There is something for grandparents, grandchildren, and everyone else in between.  On my first visit, I knew I would return, because there are so many dishes I would like to try.

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Ultimately, I ordered the cornbread muffins as a starter, and catfish tenders appetizer.  The cornbread is literally dipped in honey!  Be careful not to get full off of cornbread!  Just have one….or two.  The catfish is seasoned, lighCarolinaKitchen3t, and crisp.  Add some hot sauce (which is conveniently located near the candles on each table.)

 

 

 

 

For the main course, I ordered the Homestyle meal, 3 piece Fried Chicken (breast, thigh, and drumstick) with a side of Macaroni & Cheese, and Collard Greens.  Y’all.  It was so good.  The fried chicken is seasoned well and is served hot and crispy.  The Macaroni and Cheese is baked in butter and cheese, and has earned my two thumbs up of approval.  It is just gooey goodness.  The Collard Greens stopped me in my tracks.  I was shocked.  I have never in my life tasted Collard Greens like this from a restaurant.  I consider myself an excellent cook.  After eating just one serving of the Collard Greens, I declared that I never need to cook Collard Greens again.  I can just go to The Carolina Kitchen in Hyattsville.  WOW.  They really are amazing.  They are seasoned well with pork, tender, cooked for the proper duration of time.  They are even a little spicy.

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Guess what?  The 3 Piece Fried Chicken dinner with two sides is only $14.  Yes, there is no typo.  All of that for $14.  well. worth. the. price.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed my dinner.  Of course I will be back.  I have already been there twice in two weeks!

Oh, before I forget.   The drinks are good too.  Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Arnold Palmer.  Sweet tangy, and delicious.  The alcoholic drinks are equally as good.  A pitcher of Rum Punch is only $25.  It is well worth it.

If you are celebrating a birthday, this is the spot for you.  The staff will clap and sing “Happy Birthday”, not just any Happy Birthday, but Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday.

For more information or to reserve a table, visit www.thecarolinakitchen.com

To read more of my reviews and to follow me on my journey through food, visit me at www.baconandbellini.com

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Big Night D.C. New Year’s Eve Extravaganza 2018

The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center was the scene for this over the top New Year’s Eve Experience.  My cousins and I had VIP tickets to this event. VIP tickets were an excellent investment.   First, I love food.  Anytime food is involved, the event is that much better.  There were two VIP buffet areas!  The dinner was served buffet style, complete with seared Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli and Braised Beef with Cabernet Reduction and Mashed Potatoes.  These entrees were served was Chopped Salad with a delicious Vinaigrette dressing, along with seasonal Squash.    There was an assortment of desserts including, Mini-Cheesecakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Raspberry Mousse, Brownies, and more!

Of course the drinks were top shelf and unlimited.  By top shelf, I mean Irish Jameson, Grey Goose, Johnny Walker Black, 1800 Silver, Crown Royal, Bombay Gin just to name a few of the brands.

Upon entering the Gaylord, we were ushered upstairs to get in line for check in.   We arrived about 10:00 pm, so that line was moderately long, but while waiting, we witnessed a couple getting engaged under the gazebo!

Everyone was dressed to impress wearing gowns, tuxedos, rhinestone bodysuits, and sequins rompers.

Now to the entertainment.  There were two huge ballrooms.  One ballroom had a live bands including: “Go Go Gadjet” and “Jump Off Band” with DJ Rene band breaks.

The other large ballroom had DJ Ri5s, and Chris Styles.  The multiple party rooms provided something for everyone.  There was a Decades Room, Retro Zone, UFC Gym Band Zone, EDM room, Karaoke, International, Video DJ, Country, and Silent Disco.   Additionally, there was a VIP club with DJ Big C and a VIP Acoustic with Billy “T” Wilde.

One of my favorite things about VIP access was guaranteed seating!   Of course I wore my cute shoes for New Year’s Eve, so I was grateful for the ample VIP seating areas.

The drinks were strong and flowing.  The trick is to know when to get a drink.  There was a Champagne toast at Midnight.   With the wall of windows and balcony access of the Gaylord, we had a personal view of the New Year’s Eve Midnight Fireworks over the Potomac.  The view was so beautiful, it overshadowed the cold weather (almost).

The only big issue was with the complimentary coat check.  The Gaylord ran out of hangers for coats, and they ran out of coat storage space.  But, because it is the Gaylord, they solved the problem quickly.   If you go next year, buy VIP tickets.  There is also a VIP coat check.

While waiting in line for coat check at the end of the evening, I noticed signs for a $6  medium pizza!  Yes!  I didn’t get a pizza.  I was still full from the five crab cakes I ate!  Overall, there was plenty of food, plenty of drinks, plenty of bottled water, plenty of people, and plenty of fun!  I would definitely go back.  There’s no place in the DMV area like the Gaylord National Hotel & Resort for New Year’s Eve.  Until then, Happy New Year!

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Christmas Before Midnight

To Kick-off the Holiday season, I went to the Anthem to see Fantasia: Christmas After Midnight.  It was a wonderful show, and was held on the perfect evening, the first snowfall of the season.  As I walked along The Wharf, the snow was falling, people were ice skating, the Christmas tree was twinkling, Christmas cheer was in the air.  What a wonderful evening for a Christmas concert.

The Anthem is the newest theater in Washington, D.C. It is located on the waterfront at the Wharf.  Though it has just opened, The Anthem has already hosted great musical talents such as Erykah Badu.

The Anthem is very spacious.  There’s plenty of room to walk around on all three floors.  The stairway is wide.  The restrooms are large, Chandeliers are striking, and the views of the Wharf are spectacular.

The theater itself is both classical and modern.  What appears to be draped curtains from a distance are really LED lights in the shape of draped curtains.  It makes for a really nice scene when only the stage lights are on.

There not a bad seat in the theater.  There is a clear view of the stage, from every angle.  There is plenty of leg room at each seat.

Now to the food.  Yes, food.  The Anthem sells much more than popcorn and hot dogs.  The popcorn flavor choices include Old Bay and Garlic Parmesan.  The Anthem serves “The Wharfle”, which is a fresh warm Belgian Liege waffle with Full Monty Chocolate Sauce for $8.00.  The waffles are hot and fresh.  If you need more meat, order the Shrimp tray (yes, shrimp)!

The Anthem has a full bar on both sides of the theater and on each floor.  This makes for short lines.  What’s more, the Anthem offers gourmet Hot Chocolate and Coffee!  Those who do not drink liquor will be ecstatic to learn this!  The Hot Chocolate is made fresh right before your eyes.

The stage was decorated with Christmas Trees, poinsettias, and lots of twinkling lights.  The acoustics are great, which make this an ideal location for a concert.

Demetria McKinney opened the show and shocked the crowd by singing classic songs recorded by Patti LaBelle and Whitney Houston.  I must say, Demetria was really good.  I am now a fan.  I would definitely go to a Demetria McKinney concert.

Fantasia walked onto stage wearing a White Satin Pantsuit and just looked like the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow.  She gave the luster of mid-day to concert goers below.  Fantasia’s voice echoed off the walls and ceiling.  She sang a medley of Christmas songs and Fantasia hits, while also recalling her family holiday traditions.  Fantasia has evolved since her days on American Idol.  I was so proud of Fantasia’s growth… as proud as I would be if she were a family member of mine.  Bravo Fantasia!  Bravo!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to the Anthem.  The spaciousness, acoustics, and snack options make the Anthem one of my new favorite venues.   I look forward to attending many more events here!

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