The National Geographic Society is eclectic in its areas of expertise: photography, geography, exploration, science…they demonstrated their mastery of meteorology by having an outdoor event showcasing the Greek food of the Washington area on the least humid and most zephyric evening of July. It was one of many events around the Nat Geo’s major attraction of the summer, the Greeks Exhibit.
The courtyard of the Museum was filled with booths dispensing food and drink, and people consuming same. The street entrance was guarded by a huge wooden structure with a horse’s head and tail attached – just in case you had any question about what might be found inside! The horse was unimaginatively named Troy, but this was not the fault of Nat Geo. The structure was built to frame the subway stop exit near the Field Museum in Chicago. It was shipped here along with the exhibit.
About two dozen booths were offering little bites of one or two courses. As mezze is a big section of most Greek restaurant’s menus, this was right up in their wheelhouse. I managed to taste the offerings of each booth, and then waddled into the museum to marvel at the exhibit.
And since any event these days is tragically unhip without a signature cocktail, Radiator was mixing up a libation called Persephone’s Return, which of course included pomegranate juice.
And there were two nymphs in service to Bacchus dispensing Blue Valley Vineyard wine. They had matching circlets, very fetching.
Zaytinya, one of Jose Andres’ restaurants, offered dolmades and apricots with Greek yogurt.
At Mykonos, it was a family affair.
But the best dish, in my totally subjective opinion, was the octopus at Kellari Taverna.
The exhibit covers artifacts from the Neolithic to Alexander the Great – 5,000 years of history. There were many food-related artifacts, both ceremonial and functional. An amphora of the type that would be filled with olive oil and awarded to winners in the Panathenaic Games in Athens was placed next to an interactive part of the exhibit – one could practice scraping oneself with a replica strigil, as athletes did.
There was a wonderful silver drinking cup with the head of Silenus, foster father of Bacchus, inside. Maybe related to those nymphs in the courtyard?
Exiting through the gift shop, I noticed a whole fixture full of food and cookbooks for sale.
The exhibit closes October 10. Go see it! Even without an appropriate feast beforehand, it is totally worth it.