Saturday, May 20, 2006

Finally you all get to find out what the h*ll takes place inside the house at 19th and P. Here's my (edited) review I did for Yelp! and not the review I wrote for the magazine:
"I used to drive by on my way home from work and wonder, "What sort of place is this?" and always wanted to try it. A part of my job is writing restaurant and food reviews, the requirement being that they are older than 25 years. So, for my most recent column in the magazine, I finally checked out Thistle Dew, as it is located in a house built in 1894.

Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre is located within a voluminous structure that sits majestically at the corner of 19th and P Streets. The building, a Victorian house, was constructed in 1894 and accommodates three successful businesses: the Dessert Theatre, Gina's Caffe, and a law office. The theatre itself is located in the basement, and showcases plays on Friday and Saturday evenings. To sweeten the deal, literally, patrons get a dessert of their choice in the dining area during the play's intermission. After the refreshments, the play resumes within the theatre area.

On the evening I visited Thistle Dew, I previewed the two act show "The Butterfly Within," written by one of the theatre's proprietors. Having never been to a "dessert" theatre, I was unsure what to expect. I got into a line to receive my admission, then was invited to have a beverage of my choice, or to purchase a glass of wine for $6. (Both white and red wine are available and the glasses poured are very generous for the price.) I was then directed to sit wherever I liked inside the theatre. I was surprised at the petite dimensions of the venue, and how close patrons sit to the limited performance area. The benefit of the size, though, is that there is not a bad seat in the theatre, and one is able to hear lines being read without any amplification.

During the two-hour (Jesus, God it was painful) presentation's intermission, I followed the other guests to the lobby and dining area to receive the dessert portion of the theatre experience (included in the ticket price). I was given a choice of coffee, tea, or water to drink, and then got into a buffet-type line to pick a dessert. The selections that evening included apple pie, a chocolate torte, tiramisu, cheesecake and ice cream. Plates were also copiously being served a la mode. The desserts are not made in-house, but still seemed to satiate customers, hungry from watching the first act of the play.

I looked around to see the last morsels of chocolate cake and the crumbs of pastry being scraped from plates. Soon after, I returned to the theatre area with my stunning mystery companion and the rest of the crowd to see the remaining act.

Following the play, I spoke with the owners of the establishment. They purchased the Victorian together in 1993. The house suffered a fire in 1996, but after years of hard restoration work, it is as grand as it was originally built. The theatre within it shines weekly, hosting playwright workshops on Monday evenings, and play productions on the weekends.

The Good:
The wine cost/serving size.
The concept of the place.
The beautiful house it is in.
The location.
The petite-ness of the theatre area itself. Which can also be a bad thing:

The Bad:
1. Claustrophobics beware.
2. A much older crowd.
3. The owners decide on your portion of dessert. And it's sort of uneven that way, as they are trying to rush and serve everyone in a small amount of time.
4. Wine is extra $$$
5. Ticket price is $22. Kind of steep for non-professional productions.
6. The play itself.

The Ugly: My most scathing thing to report is:
Desserts are not made in house! To me that would be the most charming thing ABOUT a DESSERT theatre. They appear to be purchased from Safeway and/or Costco/Sam's Club, as was the Ice Cream Tub that was being served. I am such a freaking food snob, I bathed in my second glass of fairly OK wine instead of scooping any sugary GRUB into my face.

2.5 Sparklies outta 5 Sparklies. I probably won't be back unless I take my mom there, because she would probably enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Hi I am Gina........owner of Gina's Caffe` Inside of the Thistle Dew Theater. Yes, you reviewed the I would like for you to come in and have lunch. No, I do not provide desserts for the Theater. I contribute to the Dinner Theater, resaervations permitting....come in and have lunch and you will definitely be in for a treat. ALL of my food is preparred fresh daily and using only the finest ingredients...why I do not provide desserts for the theater? Tom, the owner of the theater, has it down AND, personally, I don't like to bake.....but I love to cook and you are guaranteed to enjoy your lunch.....Mon-Fri 11:00-2.30 pm Thanks, Gina

cakegrrl said...

I would love to come in and try one of your lunches. Thanks for the offer. I will contact you very soon.
Also, I want to note that the review that made it into Senior Magazine did not include my entire blog entry. The point was to attract customers to his theatre, not deter them. :)

Anonymous said...

Cakgrrl: I just read your review of the Thistle Dew Theater a little bit more thoroughly and would like to inform you that in the state of California it is highly illegal for a retailer of Wine/spirits/whatever to include that price in admission to anything. One must always charge extra for alcohol. And you stated that your wine was ok....not good or bad, just ok.....fine we all have our opinions. However, you must keep in mind that I own an Italian Caffe` so most likely I want to support Italian Wines. The only California wines I serve are owned by Italian American families. Kinda like to support my herritage. I am trying to find where in your review, other than how great the building is, that you are trying to attract customers and not deter them? I, personally, interpret your review really didn't enjoy the play, the desserts, the wine, the intimate theater........I hope that your next experience at the Thistle Dew Theater, whether it be seeing a play or having lunch in my Caffe`, will be more gratifying.....Thank you, Gina Martini.......Gina's Caffe`

cakegrrl said...

With all due respect, Ms. Martini, I will state again my review on my blog is quite different than the one that is being published in the magazine. I was grateful the owners allowed me the opportunity to see the show and to do the review, so I was very nice in my text, even though I did not enjoy the show. In the magazine, I did not mention that I did not enjoy the show.
I did not know about the alcohol law. I think what I am getting at is that I would have liked the option of paying for dessert seperately, then a glass of wine or slice of pie would be more affordable. And, maybe that way, the owner could spend more money on desserts and then the desserts would not appear so Costco-ish. I will say that one cake appeared (and I am not sure because I didn't actually eat it) to have come from Rick's on K Street, so that is very redeeming.
About the Italian wines, it's great to have a little nationalism, I didn't take into account that they might be served in the caffe. But, I would have liked to have more than one choice of red. I am not a big fan of whites. I guess that's why I was a little fussy about it.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the lack of Red Wine Choices. I am a huge red wine drinker.....used to work for several wine distributors and brokers. I offer several by the glass and bottle. The owners must have pulled what was on the shelf behind them and not offered you a wine list........Again, I apologize for the lack of professionalism on all of our parts. I run the Caffe` and a highly successful catering business by myself. Sometimes the simplest things of restocking a shelf can be easily overlooked. And, yes, you are right about the desserts.......but you know what? His regulars LOVE them. I have done Cannoli and Gelato during the plays, but they love the desserts that Tom has been dishing up for years. We are all learning each and every day......Tom, I must hand it to him, really knows his customers.....Ciao, Gina

cakegrrl said...

I am just happy that such a place exists, even though I was not completely impressed with my visit. That's OK, many others love the place and the desserts, which is great. I am so picky with food, though. I hardly ever eat sugar and when I do, it has to be something I know is going to be exquisite, or else its not worth the calories. (Been watching my diet way too long now, and I guess I become pretty unfun about it--I do drink, though, and that's the only "sugar" I really ingest.)
I just like knowing that individual businesses are alive downtown. It's one of the reasons I am proud to live here. I would have a lot worse things to say about The Melting Pot or another chain that I think can be done much better in one's own kitchen, especially for the price. I will post the actual page of the magazine so that you can see what was printed.
Also, do you happen to have a menu that I can peruse before I come in?

Anonymous said...

I am with you on all points of the sugar issue. I reserve my sugar intake for wine and dark chocolate only (hypoglycemic). Yes, I do have a menu I can fax you. Just give me a number. Be patient with the emailing of one....I don't think I quite have that down. Not the most computer literate....just know how to turn my mac on and do my wine lists and menus. I do hope you come in. I, too am a foodie and will only eat in restaurants that feature cuisine I am not quite capable of, Vietnamese, etc. Just come in hungry, my portions tend to be on the large side. Thanks again, Gina