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On a festive night in Chicago, Wizards prove too green to compete

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On a festive night in Chicago, Wizards prove too green to compete


CHICAGO — They take St. Patrick’s Day seriously here, and the Washington Wizards got to see the whole shebang Saturday: The Chicago River received its annual Kelly green dye job in the morning, and inside United Center the Bulls-Wizards game had an extra dollop of charm. Fans sported green top hats and hoodies, and venerated mascot Benny the Bull’s fur (hair?) was green, not red, for a change.

Also, Bulls legend Dennis Rodman was there for a special pregame acknowledgment that earned him a standing ovation. His hair, in what seems like a missed opportunity, was not green.

The Wizards were in no shape to join the festivities.

They lost, 127-98, to close out their four-game, seven-night road trip on a dour note and fell short of scoring 100 points for the sixth time this season.

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By the end of the week, their injury report had swollen to include five names, not including the newly acquired Tristan Vukcevic, who appeared as a formality because he is not yet with the team. Starting forward Deni Avdija (knee), starting center Marvin Bagley III (back), starting point guard Tyus Jones (back), Isaiah Livers (hip) and Landry Shamet (calf) were all bench-bound, leaving a skeleton crew to contend with the Bulls.

That meant Jordan Poole got his first start in Jones’s place since he was moved to the bench Feb. 22 in Denver — he finished with 13 points and eight assists. It meant rookie Bilal Coulibaly had room to shine and was a highlight for Washington with 15 points and eight rebounds. He also spent time guarding DeMar DeRozan on defense.

“I think Bilal has really been growing. You can see it in each game,” interim coach Brian Keefe said. “Just his activity, eight rebounds, he got to the free throw line eight times, his cutting. I thought he did a pretty good job guarding DeMar DeRozan. I think that we’re seeing growth each game now that he’s been a starter.”

It also meant the Wizards (11-56) were so thoroughly overmatched early on that those green-clad fans witnessed some funky lineups. Chicago’s much larger big men thundered into the paint against a feeble defense to grab momentum. By the end of the first quarter, Kyle Kuzma was lined up alongside forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., center Eugene Omoruyi, point guard Jared Butler and guard Justin Champagnie.

What’s an odder sight than a bright-green Benny the Bull? The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Omoruyi having to fight for rebounds under the basket against 6-11, 279-pound Chicago center Andre Drummond.

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The Wizards’ defense was woefully overtaxed from the start, Coulibaly’s positive moments aside, and the Bulls racked up a 21-point lead early in the second quarter.

Ayo Dosunmu led Chicago with a career-high 34 points after recovering from the pregame news, which caused a brief stir at United Center, that his friend, former Bears quarterback Justin Fields, had been traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nikola Vucevic added 29 points and 13 rebounds.

Guard Corey Kispert again flourished as a part of the starting lineup after taking Avdija’s place.

Keefe said Avdija would be available to play in his pregame news conference Saturday, approximately 90 minutes before the start of the game — but just before tip-off, there was a change of plans. Avdija warmed up to see whether his body would be ready but instead missed his fourth game of the season with a right knee contusion after slipping and falling in the fourth quarter in Houston on Thursday.

Kispert was told just before tip-off he was being called up for his fourth straight start.

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“I want to be a player that can play with anybody,” Kispert said. “Coach told me literally as the lights were going out that I was going to be starting tonight, so I’ve got to be light on my feet and take whatever role I can get. … I want to be somebody that anybody can play with.”

He led Washington with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, three rebounds, one assist, three blocks and three steals — and yes, that most certainly counted as flourishing, given the circumstances.

Unluckily for the Wizards, they have more green in their future and hardly any time at all to lick their wounds. They face the Boston Celtics at Capital One Arena on Sunday.



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Ron Washington Unhappy With Jo Adell for ‘Embarrassing’ Base Running Blunder That Cost Angels

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Ron Washington Unhappy With Jo Adell for ‘Embarrassing’ Base Running Blunder That Cost Angels


Jo Adell made a major blunder during the Los Angeles Angels’ 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday. With the Angels trailing by two during the eighth inning, Adell took off to steal a base. He easily reached second base, but ran past the bag, giving the Rays enough time to get him out before he could return. This was the final out of the inning, preventing the Angels from having a chance at coming back with a runner on and the tying run at the plate. They would be unable to score again during the ninth inning, sealing the loss.

Angels manager Ron Washington was highly critical of the move after the game, calling the gaffe ’embarrassing.’

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“I don’t care what kind of jump you got, you gotta get that bag. Simply because of the situation of the game,” Washington said, via Bally Sports West. “Hopefully, that will never happen again because when you actually look at it, it was embarrassing to all of us.”

This easily blown opportunity was one of the costly moments for the Angels on Wednesday as they lost their sixth game of the season and fell to 6-6 overall. They’ve now lost four of their last six games.

Along with Adell’s mistake, Washington was critical of several other aspects of the game. He slammed the umpire after the game, saying his calls toward the end of the game seemed to indicate the umpire had a flight to catch or somewhere to be.

It’s unlikely Washington will be pleased with his team’s performance until they get back in the win column. After finishing their home series against the Rays with those back-to-back losses, the Angels head back on the road where they will face the Boston Red Sox on Friday.





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Review | Pascual raises the bar for Mexican cooking in D.C.

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Review | Pascual raises the bar for Mexican cooking in D.C.


If you chase hot new restaurants in Washington, this much is certain: You’re eating a lot of dinners around 5 p.m.

Pascual, from chefs Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss, seems impossible to book. From the moment the Mexican eatery opened in February on Capitol Hill, no amount of trying led me to a reservation.

Blame it on the dining room, a mere 30 seats including a bar, or the reputations of the chefs, who met cute while they were working in New York at the admired Empellón and subsequently relocated to Washington to open Lutèce in Georgetown. Conroy’s credits include the breezy-but-serious Oxomoco in Brooklyn. Coss, a native of Mexico City who cooked at the world-class Pujol there when she was just 17, went on to be the pastry chef at Cosme in Manhattan.

You could say a lot of food fans were champing at the bit to get an early taste of their menu.

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My strategy for getting into impossible situations is to just show up — early, hopeful and with a smile on my face. Most restaurateurs don’t want to say “no” to would-be diners who have taken the initiative to wait outside their door until opening time. Or really, anyone able and present.

Needless to say, I am relieved to see just two people outside Pascual on my initial trip in mid-March — albeit 30 minutes before showtime. “One and two?” I ask them, and they nod. Like my partner and me, the couple doesn’t have a reservation. “We’re three and four,” I tell them, just as a third couple strolls up. “And we’re five and six!” one of the two strangers announces to the early birds, which grows to a flock within minutes.

I don’t know about the others, but my sense of accomplishment feels like finding Wonka’s golden ticket. At least until opening time, when the shades of the windows at Pascual go up and a hostess calls out to those with reservations. The lucky ones form a separate, exclusive line that looks like the boarding process at an airport: first-class travelers first. Meanwhile, the huddled masses yearning to drink mezcal margaritas (awesome) and eat lamb neck (just as marvelous) start making silent calculations about their prospects.

A long moment passes. Then in we go, to a spare, light-filled dining room. Omar Popal, whose family also owns Lapis in Adams Morgan and Lutèce, where Conroy and Coss continue to cook, created the minimalist look, which is punctuated by some botanicals. Otherwise, white brick walls and blond wood chairs and tables direct your attention to the food and drink.

If you’ve done any homework on the place, named for the patron saint of cooks and the kitchen, you know to order the guacamole, “the perfect beginning of a meal,” says Coss. The dip starts with the basics — avocados, lime, salt — but also pickled jalapeños followed by finishes of olive oil and crushed toasted avocado powder. Nice. But the chefs raise the bar for every guac around by serving it on a Lazy Susan with half a dozen salsas and other condiments, what Coss playfully calls banchan, a reference to the Korean side dishes that often launch a meal. They include pickled vegetables, spiced pineapple and papaya, and bright salsas with varying degrees of heat including the dark brown oil-based salsa macha, “the new chile crunch,” says the chef of the dip with the twin allures of sesame and smoke. There’s no rush to clear the condiments when a fresh course arrives; servers encourage you to enjoy them throughout the rest of dinner.

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Pascual employs a full-time “tortilla lady” to make the alluring rounds patted out from a variety of colors of heirloom corn. What’s seemingly simple is important to the chefs. When Coss lands somewhere new, she says, she looks for a good tortilla that “makes me miss Mexico less.”

With the first bite of anything here, you realize how special Pascual is. Yet this is a level of talent I’ve tasted before, in visits to Mexico and Los Angeles, as well as right here at home. If you haven’t noticed, distinctive Mexican cooking is easier than ever to find in and around Washington, and at all price points.

I have yet to greet shad or rhubarb anywhere. For me, spring was sprung at Pascual with a tlayuda — a giant soft tortilla turned crisp on the wood-fired grill — decorated with asparagus, mint salsa and streaks of smoked yogurt fueled with dried scallions and herbs. The green of the assembly pulls you into the season; the toppings keep you there.

A lot of people talk up the parsnip tamal, whose creamy mole — white with almonds, sesame seeds and golden raisins — and nonstaining slivered endive and finely grated cheese explain why brides want to serve it on their wedding day. I like, but do not love, the combination, which veers sweet for me. “Sent by an angel,” a server says as she placed the dish on the table and announced it as a staff favorite. For me, the more celestial vegetarian combination gathers garbanzo beans, potatoes and a custard spiced as if it were green chorizo. The suggestion of eucalyptus in the flan comes from hoja santa, the heart-shaped Mexican pepper leaf that lends its savor to many dishes in Oaxaca in particular. The crunch is dried garbanzos.

The chefs offer dishes from around Mexico. Seafood is a strong suit. Prawns are brushed with a spicy paste of pickled chipotle and grilled in their open shells so the seafood remains tender. Like the chefs, I eat the (thin) crisp shell along with the prawn. Any mess is erased by incoming hot cloths. Skate might look more at home at the French-themed Lutèce, but Conroy likes the fish for its bones, which keep skate moist during cooking and are easily separated from the flesh at the table for taco-making. Before the fish is swaddled in a banana leaf and placed over embers, it gets brushed with a sauce of tomatoes, fruity guajillo peppers, coriander and oregano that flatters the entree without masking it.

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The larger dishes include a lamb neck that demonstrates the time and attention lavished on the food at Pascual. The centerpiece is brined for a day; marinated in an adobo sauce built from chiles, avocado leaves, onions and garlic; seared over the fire; bundled in agave leaves; and braised, during which the juices of the meat are captured, strained and used to cook the sublime ayocote beans that ground the imposing lamb neck in its bowl. A brief time on the grill before serving crisps the meat, which goes into some of the most extraordinary tacos you’re likely to make with the accompanying salsa crudo and tortillas. (One complaint: Those margaritas are great, but Mexico also makes some fine wines. It would be nice to see some on Pascual’s itty-bitty list.)

Dessert is another excuse to take photos. Other Mexican restaurants offer churros. Pascual uses a big rosette iron to make plate-size buñuelos, fried confections dusted in sugar and Mexican cinnamon and served with two sauces: chocolate with cajeta, caramel sauce made with goat milk. The rice pudding with poached quince hidden at the bottom is very good, too, but it’s second to the lovely ornament, supported on what looks like a little air bag in its bowl.

Coss, whose parents were both woodworkers, says the setting in the onetime Kenny’s BBQ Smokehouse “feels like home. The smell of wood is familiar.” The blank canvas on the ground floor yields to a spa vibe in the basement, where the restrooms are soothing in pink and scented with palo santo.

Pascual opens its doors Thursday through Monday. The schedule lets the team explore other restaurants with more traditional hours and makes it easier for industry types to visit Pascual. Cooking for peers on Monday night is a “fun service” that ends on a high note for all involved, says Coss.

Getting in requires patience. But Pascual is worth the wait or line. The latest in a succession of Mexican models, foremost Amparo Fondita in Dupont Circle, this mom-and-pop proves the best yet.

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732 Maryland Ave. NE. 202-450-1954. pascualdc.com. Open for dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Prices: appetizers $8 to $24, main dishes $34 to $50. Sound check: 73 decibels/Must speak with raised voice. Accessibility: A small ramp can be used for the step at the door, but the dining room is compact and restrooms are all down a flight of narrow stairs.



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Top British Diplomat Cameron Gets ‘Snubbed’ in Washington

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Top British Diplomat Cameron Gets ‘Snubbed’ in Washington


British Foreign Affairs Secretary David Cameron during a two-day visit didn’t meet with a White House official and anybody in the lower legislature chamber of the House of Representatives where a bill for Ukraine funding has stalled for nearly two months.

The purpose of his visit was to offer a “plea” to continue US support for Ukraine as it withstands an all-out onslaught by invading Russian forces.

Britain’s former prime minister met with his counterpart Antony Blinken and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as is customary to speak with the political opposition by visiting British envoys.

However, President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy official, Jake Sullivan cancelled a meeting and instead held a phone call with the British diplomat.

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A meeting was held with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Cameron didn’t get to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who has for 60 days sat idle on a Senate funding bill that includes more than $60 billion for Kyiv.

“We know what works, we know what they [Ukrainians] need, and we know what is right for us,” Cameron said at a joint press availability with Blinken on April 9. “We know that if we give the Ukrainians the support they deserve, they can win this war.”

The reception Cameron received in Washington was underwhelming, Peter Dickinson, the British publisher of Business Ukraine Magazine told the Kyiv Post.

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The visit, during which Ukraine signed a 10-year bilateral security deal with Latvia, comes after Moscow launched a barrage of aerial attacks, targeting energy facilities across Ukraine.

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Cameron’s visit “was a failure, it was an embarrassment, he was frankly snubbed essentially,” he said. “He didn’t get the key meetings with the key people…the message was quite clear that this is purely a domestic affair, it looked bad for Britain, it looked bad from an optic point of view.”

His visit came as Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is being surgically destroyed by Russian aerial attacks amid air-defense shortages. Kyiv’s forces have had to ration weaponry and is running short of manpower.

America’s top US general in Europe, Christopher Cavoli, told a House Armed Services Committee on April 11 that Russia currently enjoys a five-to-one- ratio in artillery against Ukraine. In the coming weeks Moscow could increase that ratio to ten-to-one.

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Since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Kyiv has been mostly reliant on US military support, which has mostly dried up.

“They’re [Ukrainians] are mostly dependent this year on us,” Gen. Cavoli told the House committee.

The last Congressional funding bill for Ukraine was passed in 2022 and included $113 billion in security and financial aid to Ukraine, of which, $67 billion was allocated toward defense needs.

Prior to Cameron’s truncated Capitol Hill swing, he met with former President Trump.

The latter’s campaign summary noted that both parties discussed “the upcoming US and UK elections, policy matters specific to Brexit, the need for NATO countries to meet their defense spending requirements, and ending the killing in Ukraine.”

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