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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polar Vortex Dining on California Tortilla's Dime

The way I figure, if you're going to experience the effects of the bone-chilling Polar Vortex, you should get something for it. That's why I was excited to hear about the special freezing weather promotion from California Tortilla.

For those of you not familiar with the company, California Tortilla is a Mexican eatery company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.

The firm, which operates restaurants throughout the DC area, was making an unusual promise - any customer buying something to eat today at any of its establishments, would also receive an order of chips and hot, cheesy queso for the cost of whatever the wind chill factor turned out to be at the California Tortilla headquarters at 10 a.m.

Thus, for example, if the wind chill factor was 5 degrees, the chips and queso would cost 5 cents. However, if the wind chill factor dipped below zero, the chips and queso would be free and you would be paid the total of the negative degrees shown on the thermometer.

So with a 10 a.m. wind chill of -10 degrees, we headed out 4 hours later to the California Tortilla across the street from our Crystal City apartment complex to see if the company would actually make good on its promised deal.

When we entered the eatery, we were greeted by cashier Laprisha. As soon as we said the required statement, "man, it's cold outside," Laprisha smiled and told us we were eligible for free chips and queso. She also offered us one of the dimes she was holding in her hand. I had to ask her if she had been busier than usual for a Tuesday. "We really have" she said. "I'm running out of dimes."

Even though we had only walked across the street, the bitter wind chill had done its damage. I wanted something hot to balance the ungodly cold. I came up with what I was sure was the perfect combination - a spicy cup of chicken tortilla soup paired with a fiery Korean BBQ burrito bowl, plentiful drizzled in both sweet and spicy Korean BBQ sauce and Siracha chili sauce. And if that still wasn't spicy enough, I could turn up the heat with any combination of the dozens and dozens of special hot sauces that are always available off the California Tortilla Wall of Flame.

A woman bundled against the cold walks past a homeless man in McPherson Square as temperatures dipped into the single digits Tuesday morning in Washington. (Mladen Antonov/Getty Images/AFP)
Of course, while our eating adventure made fun of the arctic-like temperatures, there was a serious side to the arrival of the cold front, which had been plaguing the Midwest for a couple of days. The Washington Post reported that the region's social service agencies had been working since Monday afternoon to try to get people into shelters before the freezing, possibly-fatal weather hit. Those agencies were reporting that they had opened extra warming centers and placed extra beds in shelters, only to find themselves still short of space.

Meanwhile, other newspapers across the country devoted much of their front page space to detailing the effects the Polar Vortex was having on their coverage areas. Here is a sample of some of those pages courtesy of The Huffington Post.

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I am a retired educator and journalist who is enjoying his new life in DC. So much to do here and so much for free.

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