Gather round, children, and listen to a tale of a forgotten age.  In those days, young professionals who wanted to expand their circles of friends beyond their former classmates and coworkers had few choices.  From this confusion emerged a few enterprising souls who attempted to bring order: operating list-servs that provided a rundown of upcoming activities, turning to the Style section and its blogs for a calendar of events, even going so far as to create websites and companies dedicated to organizing activities and events that individuals and small groups could attend.

With the opening of LivingSocial’s new space at 918 F Street, NW, those dark days are all but a thing of the past.  Want to impress a date with a multi-course dinner from one of the hottest chefs in town? Check.  Looking for a chill night out with some friends, some wine, and some art? Check again.  Want to expand your wardrobe with a one-off sample sale or a local merchants’ showcase? Yeah, they’ve got those, too.

Full Disclosure: We were invited to check out a recent pop-up beer pairing dinner from the team at Birch & Barley as an opportunity to see 918 F Street for ourselves.

While there, we got a quick tour of the space and a media kit from Communications Director Maire Griffin.  All of the images used in this post (with the exception of the pop-up menu) come from that kit, which was stored on the world’s smallest USB drive.

Take a look around the 120 year-old space with us and watch your calendar fill up after the jump.

The group that first made its name as a locally-based rival to Groupon has emerged as a significant player in Washington’s cultural life.  Remember that “Sh*t People in DC Say” video you loved and then hated and now kinda love again?  Courtesy of SocialStudiesDC, a LivingSocial effort.  And in addition to their voucher-based deals, they also offer instant dining discounts.

Since their inception, LivingSocial has evolved from a passive middle man to a catalyst for new and unique events.  They have worked with local chefs and designers to create programming, not just promote it.  918 F Street takes that to a whole new level.

Actually, it takes it to six new levels.  LivingSocial completely refurbished the old National Union Insurance Company building, which adjoins the alley that John Wilkes Booth used to escape from Ford’s Theater on the night he assassinated Abraham Lincoln.  They worked to preserve architectural and design elements throughout, including the 120 year-old Seneca sandstone facade and what may be the last working exposed cage elevator in the District.

From the basement bar to the open event spaces above, everything has been built with an eye toward flexibility and function.  Upon entering the building, a receptionist directs you to your event space (or a common waiting area on the second floor)…because there are as many as a half-dozen different things happening here simultaneously!

If you’re here for an intimate concert or a small gathering, you may be directed to the first floor space or the speakeasy-style bar below it.  Here for a yoga class or a painting class complete with wine?  You may be headed to the flexible space on the second floor.

The third floor features a fully-equipped commercial kitchen designed with input from local chefs to ensure they would have the greatest possible freedom to get creative.  But it also includes a studio-style kitchen with motion-activated cameras that track the chef/instructor’s every move during cooking classes.

Up another flight of stairs that curves around the cage elevator you come to two large open spaces that are used for a wide range of events.  The front of these two rooms was the site of our Birch & Barley pop-up dinner, providing a great view of F Street out the large windows and minimally decorated in a way that suggested a converted loft or warehouse.

And the dinner was amazing.  As our server explained to us, Chef Kyle Bailey has always been intrigued by the concept of a multi-course pasta dinner, and 918 F Street provided him the freedom to do just that.  We were treated to a progression of pasta-based dishes that included a rock shrimp risotto, gnocchi tossed with salt cod, and red wheat ravioli.  Each dish was expertly paired with a beer selected by Greg Engert, with a focus on complementary flavors and unique brews – like Goose Island’s “Pepe Nero” and its peppery notes set against the salt cod.

Perhaps most impressive of all was the fact that we ate our way through four courses of pasta, dessert and five beer pairings and didn’t leave feeling uncomfortably full.  The dishes were lighter than we thought possible, and the pasta was more of a canvas for their various flavors and ingredients than the focal point it might be when made at home.

Want to hold your own amazing event at 918 F Street?  Unfortunately, you can’t.  The space isn’t available for private rentals – LivingSocial is committed to using the building for the greater good of all Washingtonians in need of good nightlife options.  All events taking place at 918 F are open to the public via purchase of vouchers.

If you want to check out 918 F Street for yourself, you really don’t have to wait.  They have multiple events taking place there most nights…you simply need to check with LivingSocial to see what’s currently on offer or keep up with them on Twitter and Facebook.

But if you’re looking for the next great foodie event at the space, you’d better act quickly.  Just this morning, LivingSocial announced an 8-course exclusive preview of sūna, the new restaurant opening at the end of 2012 from Ari Gejdenson of Acqua al 2 and Erik Yang of Toki Underground.  This pop-up event will feature food by Chef Johnny Spero, whose handiwork you may have enjoyed at Komi or Toki Underground.  Oh, and he’s also staged at some places you may have heard of like Alinea, NOMA and Town House.

The sūna sneak peek runs next week from March 21st through March 25th, and reservations are $119 for an 8-course meal with four beverage pairings.  They’re already selling quickly, so check it out while you still can (the deal runs through Sunday).

 

918 F Street
918 F Street, NW
Washington, DC
event schedule constantly changing – check in and check it out

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