Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 22, 2014

August 18, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Iced Coffee Challenge Part 2

144691186 223x335 Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Iced Coffee Challenge Part 2

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Before the days of Starbucks in every urban street corner and suburban strip mall, “iced coffee” was rare. It had not yet arrived as a mainstay of American morning beverages, nor had the $4 coffee drink become the norm.

But now, iced coffee is here to stay — it’s come a long way since the days of the Starbucks bottled Frappuccino. Which is good news for just about everyone.

This week, the Roll Call After Dark’s Iced Coffee Challenge continues with three more contenders for Iced Americanos (for those curious why, see here for the explanation). Full story

August 14, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: The Duffeyroll


 Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: The Duffeyroll

The Duffeyroll and its pastry brethren beckon. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

DENVER — Here in Colorado’s Mile High City, the humble Duffeyroll has been staving off hunger pangs since 1986, a cinnamon roll with simplicity that belies its buttery, sugary goodness.

As the starch industrial complex moves from fetishizing cupcakes to doughnuts, something as “been there, done that” as the cinnamon roll has, perhaps, been left behind. Or perhaps its time will come yet. Who knows? In the meantime, the Duffeyroll abides.

The original Duffeyroll has been complemented in the intervening years by other flavors — Pecanilla, English Toffee, Zesty Orange, etc. — as well as a pecan sticky bun. They’re all good, too. But the original is a graceful classic, the black cocktail dress of breakfast desserts.

By Jason Dick Posted at 5:19 p.m.

August 13, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Iced Coffee Challenge

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(Chris Hondros/Getty Images File Photo)

In each of our caffeinated hearts, there is a special place for iced coffee.

Arguably more refreshing than a beer, cheaper than wine, fewer calories than a lemonade, and more caffeine than iced tea: Iced coffee might be the perfect summer beverage.

But not all iced coffees are created equal. So Roll Call After Dark has taken up the challenge to do a quick comparison. Full story

By Rebecca Gale Posted at 1:02 p.m.

August 11, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Road Scholar’

It’s August, when many people take vacation and are lured by the open road. “Road Scholar,” Roger Weisberg’s 1993 chronicle of Andrei Codrescu’s journey across America in a red Cadillac, is the perfect documentary to illustrate what could lay ahead: fast food, kitschy motels, machine guns and an exploration of what it means to be an American.

Codrescu, the long-time NPR commentator, reporter, novelist, essayist, poet, professor and editor, was born in Transylvania, Romania, one of his claims to fame, as he states at the beginning of the movie. His other? That he doesn’t drive, which he remedies by not only getting a drivers license but using it to take what he views as that most American of things: the cross-country road trip.

Along the way, he traces the paths not just of Americana but his own immigrant roots. He came to the United States in the 1960s, a political refugee, and landed in the most car-centric city of all: Detroit. His return to the Motor City is a sad one, with the decay that continues to define the city taking hold in the early 1990s.

It’s not all sad. Codrescu’s wry narrative, which helped the documentary win a Peabody award, navigates the American landscape with humor and affection. Years before Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” made some of these rounds, Codrescu paved the way, without having to fake the accent.

When Codrescu’s journey ends, in San Francisco at a citizenship ceremony he helps conduct, it’s a poignant moment that fits well into today’s debate on immigration. His own journey, from Romania to the United States, from New Orleans to San Francisco, shows the potential, accomplishment, absurdity and fun messiness of the American experience.

Plus, you get to listen to that awesome accent for a good hour and a half.

By Jason Dick Posted at 8:28 a.m.

August 8, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Quaff of The Week: B3K Black Lager by Wynkoop Brewing Co.

 Roll Call After Dark Quaff of The Week: B3K Black Lager by Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Mmmm. Black beer. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

DENVER — It’s not what the president drinks when he visits Wynkoop Brewing Co., but it’s still a great beer worth a quaff: B3K Black Lager.

The brewery that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper founded back in the 1980s is a fixture of LoDo and frequently cited as the pioneer in revitalizing the neighborhood. And it brews pretty decent beer, too. When Hickenlooper and President Barack Obama dropped by last month to shoot pool and drink beer, the two Democrats drank Rail Yard Ale, the establishment’s best seller, according to the Denver Post’s First Drafts blogger Eric Gorski.

Maybe it’s a contrarian nature, but I went with B3K, a German dark lager that’s unfiltered and black as midnight, because in Colorado, hoppy ales have their run of the place. It was a good choice on a hot (for Denver) day. Smooth, easy to down and refreshing, the dark color belies its light nature. It’s a quaff that shouldn’t be missed.

Maybe next time the president comes to “shoot some stick with Hick” as one of my friends here called the visit, he could go lager.

By Jason Dick Posted at 10:01 a.m.

August 7, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Tunes of the Week: ‘San Clemente’s Not The Same,’ by Barbara Foster (Video)

Is anything the same post-Nixon? Not really. But singer Barbara Foster was one of the first to put such sentiment to words and tunes when she released her song “San Clemente’s Not The Same (Mr. Nixon, You’re To Blame),” in 1969, bemoaning the effect of President Richard Nixon’s taking up part-time residence in the picturesque California beach town.

The song, which plays over the credits of the Penny Lane documentary “Our Nixon,” is all the more fun because it turns the knife with a smile. “You made our town your summer home/Crowned it with the Capitol Dome/Took a step out on the beach/Now Cotton’s Point is out of reach,” Foster sings, a familiar complaint for anyone whose access to previously public areas has been limited by a presidential detail.

This Saturday, Aug. 9, marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, after which Roll Call After Dark will scale back the Nixon obsession. Until then, hum a few bars!

By Jason Dick Posted at 12:43 p.m.

August 6, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: ‘Watergate’ by Thomas Mallon

 Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: Watergate by Thomas Mallon

Drink in this rich fictional history of Watergate. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

“Watergate,” a novel by Thomas Mallon, is a hoot, a fictional interpretation of the political saga that ended the presidency of Richard M. Nixon and irrevocably altered the lives of those around him, not to mention the American political system.

Mallon, who can see the infamous office and residential complex easily from his perch as director of the George Washington University creative writing program in Foggy Bottom, has a boatload of honors and credits to his career as a novelist, essayist and academic. In “Watergate,” though, he takes it all to another level in giving voice to everyone from Nixon to first lady Pat to break-in perps E. Howard Hunt, Committee to Re-Elect the President chiefs John Mitchell and Fred LaRue to forgotten ghosts of Washington’s past like Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Witness Pat Nixon desperately avoiding a drunk Martha Mitchell at a Hollywood fundraiser, or the president groaning in his sleep in Moscow, freaking out the eavesdropping KGB agents, or Hunt’s aggrieved anxiety in the aftermath of a botched black bag job he wanted no part of but nevertheless went through with anyway.

It’s those individuals, and Mallon’s ability to make us empathize with each and every one of them, that gives this novel a unique place in the canon of Watergate history. With the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s Aug. 9 resignation almost upon us, this is a critically acclaimed book worth adding to the reading list.

August 5, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: Canolis From Lechugas Italian Restaurant and Lounge

 Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: Canolis From Lechugas Italian Restaurant and Lounge

A handful of goodness in a savory canoli. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

DENVER — Here in what used to be called North Denver — then Highlands, then LoHi — there’s a restaurant that does something that feeds the masses in an exemplary way, combining Italian and Mexican influences to produce a savory canoli.

Lechugas Italian Restaurant and Lounge is a place that has been here through various phases of this neighborhood as reflected in its name changes. North Denver was an Italian enclave, Highlands was Hispanic and LoHi is riding the latest wave of gentrification here in the Mile High City. Lechugas combines those first two influences — the first owners were Italian, the current Hispanic — and spreads the love in its menu.

 Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: Canolis From Lechugas Italian Restaurant and Lounge

These canolis aren’t the ones you might expect. But they are delicious all the same. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

The canolis, dense rolls wrapped around sausage and peppers, are available in mild and hot and are a smoking bargain at $2 a piece. More than one is a meal. More than two is a party. More than three feeds the hungry — and then some — who assemble here at 3609 Tejon Street. The sweetness of the roll beautifully complements the spicy sausage and peppers. This is grab-and-go noshing at its best. No surprise that among the vehicles you see coming for lunch and take-out is a hefty dose of contractors’ trucks.

On the way out after lunch, I asked for a takeout menu. No dice. There’s no website, either. They don’t need it. People who come here know exactly what to order.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:07 p.m.

August 4, 2014

Who’s the Fairest Nixon of Them All?

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, capping off a political career and providing writers, historians and filmmakers creative fodder the likes of which Shakespeare would have drooled over.

Nixon’s ambition, his successes, his failures, his paranoia and his mannerisms have provided memorable film roles for some of Hollywood’s most talented actors. Here, then, are some of the best Nixon performances put to celluloid, yielding that most Washington of questions: Who is the fairest Nixon of them all?

— Philip Baker Hall in “Secret Honor” by Robert Altman. Hall’s Nixon is an enraged man alone in a White House with a bottle of booze, recording equipment and portraits of the people who have shaped his life and loom ominously over him. This cinematic one-man play is a bitter pill, and Hall gives his sweaty, drunken, extended soliloquy everything he’s got in the tank.

— Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” by Ron Howard. Langella’s portrayal of the disgraced ex-president seeking to redeem himself through his extended sit-down interviews with David Frost is a marvel. He shows a calculating, slippery, awkward man, deeply hurt and coldly calculating all the same, desperate to re-engage in the game.

— Anthony Hopkins in “Nixon” by Oliver Stone. Stone’s gonzo biopic allowed Hopkins to lean into his interpretation of Nixon as  a less-sophisticated but just as dangerous version of Hannibal Lecter. It’s a wonder Hopkins doesn’t bite someone in this role. You have to admire the commitment.

— Dan Hedaya in “Dick” by Andrew Fleming. The Watergate scandal as comedy! Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern of Nixon’s White House, two ditzy teenagers who find themselves enmeshed in the biggest political scandal of modern times. Hedaya, so used to playing cranky police captains, homicidal villains in Cohen brothers movies or Carla’s deranged husband Nick Tortelli in “Cheers,” gives the most bubbly portrayal of Nixon ever, a marvel considering how dark the source material is.

— Richard Nixon in “Our Nixon” and “Nixon by Nixon.” Judge for yourself how Nixon does compared to the other Nixons out there. Penny Lane’s “Our Nixon” and Peter Kunhardt’s “Nixon by Nixon” use archival footage, Super-8 home movies and the Watergate tapes to illustrate the 37th president. Both films, particularly viewed as a package, paint a portrait of Nixon that is compelling, entertaining and haunting.

By Jason Dick Posted at 1:18 p.m.

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Our Nixon’

The Aug. 9 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation is almost upon us, and it’s being accompanied by the recent releases of archival material and re-interpretations of the 37th president that portray Nixon as more than just a disgraced caricature.

Chief among these, partly because they marry the power of actual images to the sounds of real people’s voices, are two documentaries: Last week’s Documentary of the Week “Nixon by Nixon” by Peter Kunhardt and this week’s pick, “Our Nixon” by Penny Lane.

Both are the kind of movies that give non-fiction filmmaking a good name. Kunhardt’s film relies on Nixon’s secret tape recordings and archival news reports to paint the picture of the behind-the scenes president. Lane’s film is a different animal that uses some of the same techniques, but has an incredible twist, leaning on Super-8 home movies taken by White House aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin that were impounded by the FBI until just a few years ago.

What unfurls in Lane’s movie are images of a White House staff in its most candid moments, some light-hearted, some puzzling. It shows how much fun it can be in the White House and how dull it can be. Many of the film’s scenes depict a heavy conversation between, say, Nixon and Haldeman or Ehrlichman while the camera rolls on an image unfolding outside the West Wing — a hummingbird or a squirrel eating or spring-time blooms on the grounds. It’s a weird, abstractly sublime contrast.

“Our Nixon” shows a world most people don’t get to see outside of staffers and the press. It’s a view of the play from backstage, and the program is one of the most consequential epochs in American history.

By Jason Dick Posted at 9:50 a.m.

Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Graham Cracker Porter From Denver Beer Company

Screen shot 2014 08 04 at 8.57.22 AM 445x259 Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Graham Cracker Porter From Denver Beer Company

(Screenshot, Denver Beer Co.)

DENVER — When at 5,280 feet elevation, drink Denver Beer Company’s Graham Cracker Porter. On what passes for a hot day here in America’s mile high city (90 degrees, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky), DBC’s headliner beer is the way to go. The brewery describes their creation this way: “Like a campfire in a glass, this robust beauty has seductive notes of vanilla, smoked cedar, and mulling spices.  A dark pour with mild lacing, she is a rollercoaster of lush chocolate diving into a semi-dry finish of roasted malt and biscuit.” It’s hard to add to that, except to say that it goes down way too easy.  The dog friendly, relaxed vibe reminds everyone that drinking beer on a summer day is a communal thing.

 Roll Call After Dark Quaff of the Week: Graham Cracker Porter From Denver Beer Company

Denver Beer Company patrons come in all sizes. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

By Jason Dick Posted at 9:09 a.m.

July 31, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Tunes of the Week: Farewell to the Leader

The art of the mix-tape lives, particularly when it’s so useful in wishing a fond fare-the-well to outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Brother blog Heard on the Hill compiled a Spotify list that could be used as a substitute soundtrack for the tribute video Republicans prepared for Cantor. We present the play list here as our tunes of the week, with our personal favorites coming from two disparate films: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “The Sound of Music.”

By Jason Dick Posted at 5:55 p.m.

July 30, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: ‘The Final Days’ by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

 Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

If “All The President’s Men” is about the chase, the follow-up by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, “The Final Days” is about the long, slow, bleeding out and death of the hunted. A denser, complicated, multi-layered, sad descent into resignation, both literal and figurative, the recounting of the last few months of President Richard M. Nixon’s presidency is a master telling of the slog of a White House staff who knows that time is running out.

“[Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler] was exasperated. He only wanted the President to understand how dire things were, to recognize the hard choices fast closing in on him. But the President would not even accept the meaning of the words on the tapes and refused to believe that his lawyers were acting in his interest,” they write.

It’s just one of scores of examples of the sclerotic intransigence that gripped the Nixon White House in its final days. At the center of it is White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, the man in charge of the sinking ship, and White House special counsels for Watergate James D. St. Clair and J. Fred Buzhardt.

It’s a fascinating read, and an important, if quirky and somewhat neglected, part of the Watergate canon.


July 29, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: Chocolate Chip Cookies From Batter Bowl Bakery

 Roll Call After Dark Nosh of the Week: Chocolate Chip Cookies From Batter Bowl Bakery

Batter Bowl Bakery has the goods. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

Try as we might, it’s difficult to think of a better snack than the humble chocolate chip cookie. There’s something about the combo of chocolate chips, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter and the like that satisfies that most basic instinct to nosh.

Batter Bowl Bakery at 403 H St. NE makes a chocolate chip cookie for the ages. Whether it’s BBB’s obvious flaunting of the butter threshold, the cookie’s balance of bitter and sweet or its weighty appearance, this nosh is one for the ages.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:35 p.m.

July 28, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Nixon by Nixon’ (Video)

“Sometimes, I regret …,” President Richard M. Nixon intones at the beginning of the documentary “Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words.” The voice trails off, leaving the viewer, or Nixon himself perhaps, to fill in the rest.

How does one mark the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s Aug. 9 resignation? One way is by watching Peter Kunhardt’s movie, which makes its debut on HBO on Aug. 4. Kunhardt uses recordings from Nixon’s secret taping system from 1971 through 1973 to form the base of the movie, along with images from news footage and other vintage sources from the era.

The strength of this documentary is letting Nixon do the talking, with an assist from senior aides such H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger. The range of topics swings from Nixon’s attitude toward the press — “The press is the enemy. Write that down on a blackboard 100 times” — to the pandas he helped convince the Chinese to send to the National Zoo. “Oh, they’re just darling!” Pat Nixon tells her husband.

Let Nixon be your Virgil in this guided tour through Watergate’s back passages.


By Jason Dick Posted at 4:21 p.m.

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