So apparently a good amount of "green commons" does exist in DC that is beleaguered by coin-ravenous homeless people or hampered by food-truck foodies lieing about diving into their corn quesadillas or kabobs. Of course to get there, one must run about 7 miles, take a few slippery, unlevel trails that do untold harm on one's adductor muscle, and make some informed decisions on which way you think the sun is shining on a rainy day because you a lost out of your mind. Rock Creek State Park afforded me all of those. Apparently the city of DC or Bethesda saw all the trees down on the cliff-hanging trails and said, "Well they can definitely get over that, or they may die...eh they're athletic they can jump." No local bureaucrats, I cannot jump, and hate having to climb and duck my way under tress that are both huge, prickly, and wet. Unfortunately, I run "naked," meaning only a key to get in my apartment and my anti-ipod Zune....or and I guess shorts. But what a beautiful run, the trails run along a white water, rocky creek (go figure) and are mostly dirt. But the best part is that all the roads are completely shut down, just you, black pavement that has never seen a tire, and the wet mossy undergrowth of the park. For about 2 hours I was there, I was completely at peace, and so very happy to be out in the wilderness with other crazy ass runners and bikers......"On your LEFT!"
Obviously, running a ton and hurting yourself merits food. In fact, it merits a ton of food. To start your day, you eat breakfast, so after a morning run, you eat just that, so that is the order I'll go in for this post. Firehook, which has many locations all over DC (though the nicest is in Dupont, where they play classical music and the owner works there and is always quite chipper). This, as I have had to do since Amsterdam, is my place for bread. The sweet potato is quite excellent, it is a subtle yeasty-ness to start and then goes into a light sweetness that when turned into crazy grilled cheese (lets just say some fancy swiss brie and red-wine goat cheese) can make for one hell of a dinner. But C'mon its not just about bread, well actually it is, because I am highly addicted to their different reconstitutions of bread, like their orange-currant-chocolate scones, "good morning muffins" (with orange peel, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, and I think carrot), chocolate granola which just melts into a pile of gooey, chocolatey braniness, and their penchant for costing very little. Does this supplant my hometown addiction of Oakmont Bakery, well they may not have as many cupcakes or normal cakes, but their scones, petit foures, and bread blow OB out of the water. Wow, I never thought I'd type that...
(that nasty banana belongs to me, not M.E. Swing) So what better to follow-up breakfast with more sugary bread? No really, the coffee here is what pulls me in...though the face-sized fritter doesn't hurt. Its been around for over 100 years, and imports coffee from everywhere, Indonesia, Coast Rica, Ivory Coast, you name it, they've got it. And, whenever I go here, there is no one there ,but as soon as I check out, there is a huge line. I guess either I am a freakin genius, or people stalk me. Either or I suppose it can be a good thing. Only 2 blocks from the White House, it feels authentically DC, old-school bins, barstools, and wood panels where you can sip your cup of joe and pick apart croissants that are probably breaking size and butter rules by the department right done Pennsylvania Avenue. A good, and I mean more that just an overly glazed piece of fried dough is hard to come by. But the behemoth below is, well, what you get at M.E. Swing. They certainly are swinging for the fences here because not only is it not overly glazed (like those mysterious things you find next to the cigarettes and powerade at gas stations) but properly cinnamoned. Yes cinnamoned, a verb, the act of cinnamoning something to the point where it could be growing mold and still be delicious. This thing was cinnamoned, glazed, and unfortunately, eaten far to fast.
Never before have I advocated for someone to use a restaurants bathroom. Never before have I walked in and seen a lady in a mirror, turn around, and say to me "you overwhelmed too?" Mie n Yu, a fancy, Georgetown Asian-Indian establishment provides just that. Its Asian, its Indian, its bathrooms are a Buddhists dream, and the food is fabulous.
Now, I have never eaten at a spot that could also double as a torture chamber. Encaged booths, holey trimmed seats, and way too expensive statues laying about, that is what this place is. It looks, as though you are either in a travelling Persian circus, or are in a really cool boat.
Yep, those are rocks, movable rocks, if you so choose, in the copper sink that is hooked up to a piece of wood. And yes, those are petrified wood seats on the right there. And yes, my phone's camera hates multiple source of lights in the middle one. Marking the third day in a row of eating hummus, I had a nice big glob here (probably to the detriment of my lower intestine) a small lamb kabob, and a traditional stripped-beef dish with a nice fat egg on top. Of course, after using the bathroom, there was not much more that could excite me. I mean, I moved rocks in a public sink that I didn't own and were meant to be there, how awesome is that? Tell me the last time you did such a thing!
So, at the end of any good meal, you need to have a nice slice of mafia..oops I mean cake. What drew me in to a Georgetown establishment was the lady to the left. It was at 930 at night, and I was craving a cake after being delighted at the 1970s, bureaucratically decorated French Embassy. Old Mama Mia here was holding a conversation with some Italian tourists while making noodles. No old Mama Mia should be up that late making the staple of one-quarter of my heritage. But, I sure as hell brought me in.
So, you descend down a narrow staircase into what can best be described as if purgatory only imported goods from Naples. White statues, fancy pots, golden-gaudy decor, and pure Italian men flipping around corkscrews like candy. After sitting down and ordering only wine and only a hazelnut-mouse cake, I felt as though at any moment I may witness a Godfather reenactment. Someone just coming out of the bathroom with a .38 special and poping two slugs right into someone's forehead. For our transgressions of skipping the "noodles and sauce" menu, I thought it'd be us. The cake has hazelly, moussey, and the chocolate ganache was so thick it was hard to chew (a positive thing for sure)and the red wine (which I don't normally ingest, but when in Rome, literally) went together very well. Of course I was getting ready to get black bagged, pulled out into a car, driven to a highway collection station and shot up, but luckily, I made it out just fine.
I can honestly say I have eaten my way through DC. I don't splurge on much, the occasional third beer, a fancier oatmeal at Whole Foods, or experimenting with cooking with wine, but I've made great progress in eating this city (not in the Godzilla sense). Only 4 days to go, and oh how I wish I could stay...
Where should this one start, the half pound red velvet cupcakes that I stumbled upon on a rainy Wednesday, or the red velvet pancakes that made a Friday morning a special period? Or how about the fact that Nationals Park is overtly sexual in everyway? Screw it, bring on the American-sized cupcakes!
Let me say it for you---Holy S%#t. Yes, two cupcakes that stood in for my bicep workout for my week. DC finally did it. In previous posts I did not believe that I would ever be brought into the cupcake camp. After probably 2 pounds of cupcake, I am sold. Crumbs up there on 17th & Something caught my eye walking back on an alternate route from work. It was raining, windy, and I had no umbrella, but I did find cupcakes. I was walking down the road, looked right, and BAM! a shelf full of gigantic CC's caught me eye. They even sell ones that are bigger than newborn babies...just saying. I figured to get a red velvet, simple, decadent, but a good bakery standard (like General Tsao's at Chinese places). And of course, I could not simply walk by the monstrosity that was a "blackout CC," a fudgy icing plastered with crushed Oreo (one of many weaknesses in this world). To sum up those preceding minutes, I shall do so in four words: Wow, Really?, F#@k me.
So, a bacon fiesta last week, cupcakes mid-week, and a week full of events with pastries should be aptly capped off with ridiculous pancakes. Try a carrot cake and 2 red velvet pancakes that met the Aaron Pancake Deliciousness Standards (or APDS for acronym sake). I told the waiter that I was a pancake master, and well, needed to get at least one of each of those glorious and adventurous cakes (where I haven't been yet...). He happily obliged. And of course, I ordered bacon, you may be saying, "This guy is digusting!" but I say, "Why the hell not? Could you turn down black pepper maple bacon slabs that are a quarter-inch thick and a foot long?" Yea no I'm neither crazy or gastronomically hard to look at, I'm quite human thanks. Anyways, I was perplexed when my coffee came, nice sized coffee that was fresh and roasty, and a little tin of milk. It provoked a "WTF???" moment. Luckily, my inherent breakfast skills said, "Just put the white stuff in the tin in the coffee, everything will be okay." I did, and ate my pancakey heart out, which is very hard to do, seeing that I eat them at least twice a week, but these Founding Farmers cakes may just take that cake itself. Best pancake ever? The carrot cake one caused me to do something not meant to happen at 9 on a friday. The red velvet were win for most colorful cake, but that bacon.....well I described it and you can maybe fathom its mouth watering fatty salty sweetness.
D'em Nationals. Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, the One, the Only Adam L - A - R - O -C - H - E. The park itself is nothing spectacular, besides the awesome sports bar in left field, the chili dogs, and the views of the Capitol and Potomac. I've never seen a "booze cart" at a sporting event, but this park is jacked full of Jack. If you've got ridiculous cash to spend on ballpark liquor, then more power to ya, cause once I've reached that point in my life, I'm calling it quits. To see Bryce Harper play was great, even though he didn't do a whole lot, and screaming and making up an Adam LaRoche chant on a whim, slightly disturbing those in front of me was definitely a good time.
So, I know tubed meat has a plethora of sexual puns, jokes, and dual meanings to it. The whole meat packing process (yea there you go) is quite hands-on (yep uh huh). But must you make it so obvious Nationals Park? I know it runs with the theme of Congressmen and pages, but really? "Senators Sausages" is about as much a given as the real thing. Plus you had Nats Dogs, Taste of the Majors, and Pop Fly Popcorn. I didn't even have to work for the jokes or self-chuckles. If the Nationals are trying to keep me awake during the game, then I guess they are at least doing me a service, much like that Senators Sausage.
It's quite sad to think this DC excursion is almost over. Of course I'll be back, as this is the locus of political power. But, I have covered a good amount of ground, and will "hit it hard" (no not the Senators Sausage, I had enough of that last Wednesday--see Nationals Park, too easy) on the DC scene. I have to at least drink something fancy in a place I don't belong, eat a Cuban, and go to a Pittsburgh Bar outside of the 'Burgh. Not to mention I haven't had my weekly G-town ice cream in a while....well no rush, its going to be bearable (meaning low 90s) this week, and after today, which didn't break 75 degrees, I am rearing to go for another week! As long as I don't get a Taste of the Majors from Nats Dogs from Nats Pop Fly. Seriously Nationals Park, at least make me think!
Usually I begin these things in a chronological fashion. But this post is purely premised on the powerful and fantastical idea that anything with bacon is simply one of, it not the best thing that can be ingested on a semi-regular pattern. Livingsocial, luckily, had a "Bacon & Beer" tasting event. Holy crap, there were Flying Dog Barleywine and bacon wrapped slathered plates. What was there not to like? I had hickory smoked, BBQ glazed, Danish cheese garnished, but the thing that threw me over the edge, if not hit me into another culinary world, was the bacon wrapped Blue-cheese filled date. Sweet, tangy, with that dark sweetness of dates, and paired with a nice stout, I believe I may have eaten heaven. Just took a bit of it right from underneath the angels and deposited it right in my mouth. I also met some fellow Yinzers in there, people who shared the same affection for Oakmont cake, Stiller football, and a common bond in baconology. Bacon-beer-'Burghers, can't get much better than that.
Woohhhh okay, now that I got that hot and sweaty, bacon filled memory out of the way, and now that I am properly calmed down, where shall I go? Oh yea, that guy, L. Ron Hubbard, fictionist, sci-fi geek, "creator" of a "religion" apparently used to live in DC. Walking up a street one day, his Holiness the Mighty Creator of the esteemed Tom Cruise I saw the house, the spot, the brick- two-by-four sheltered dwelling where L-rOn dreamed up a wonderful fictional sci-fi flick about aliens dropping their dead souls into our prehistoric ancestors. (Oops, let me amend, the house where he dreamed up a "non-fictional, definitely not to get rich bible about said aliens and our primate ancestors). Who couldn't believe that?
This week was a streak of culinary genius. Crepes (which I am warming up on the left here before I partake in its cherry-strawberry-raspberry-brie deliciousness), hush puppies, fishy tacos, amaretto-cinnamon ice cream, and a boatload of my favorite foamy libations, it was a busy week for my digestive tract. Crepe at Eastern Market, simply the best. The guy literally does nothing but throw down batter on a flat-level griddle and flips all day. Crepe, after Crepe, after Crepe. With menu longer than most ditzy upscale restaurants where you have four items to choose from all over $30, and end up getting something the size of a small Oreo, it's glorious. It makes running out a few miles east in swelteringly oppressive conditions to buy fruit all the more enjoyable!
Now I like food. Indeed, it is an indulgence that I pride myself in over indulging in. At least it provides me with sustenance, and the wherewithal to live. So, what better thing to do than to go out after dinner, eat four hush puppies the size of baseballs with a piece of creamy-cheese encrusted grilled corn and eat your fellow partners in crimes' left over currywurst? Well, maybe it was the a few days before where I ate a massive chocolate-almond croissant, only to have it followed up later by a Thomas Sweet (G-town) amaretto-cinnamon ice cream cone. Evil? Yes, but oh so good. The only thing better would of been all that above mentioned food wrapped in bacon and thrown into a milkshake. Plausible that that could happen? Slim to none, but at the rate I am having an awesome time here, it could be in the "maybe" range.
I like coffee. I've had in steamed, Frenched, dripped, dropped, flamboozalded, and flabbergasted. Typically though, it is quickly made and given to me. I guess my Black&Decker single cup coffee maker from freshman year of college has spoiled me. Throw shit in, have a nice cup of coffee in 4 minutes, if that. So, one morning (still reeling from my Coffee-Bean mistake of weeks past) I went to get coffee inside a basement. In many houses here, there is a front door on the first level, then a bottom door that leads into a basement, usually another bedroom that people lease out. Well, on 20th street way far north there is a dungeon-like place called Filter. To drink coffee in a basement is weird enough, but ordering coffee that is hand poured through a strainer into mini glass jars is a whole other field of play. It was cool to have it done this way, very different, and you could appreciate the guy's passion for so intently pouring water for a few hours everyday. But, as I waited and waited, my chocolate scone was getting lonely. I love to pair food with my coffee, but unfortunately, this scone died a very lonely scone (I don't think that scones have been biologically proven to be either male or female, though with a namely like "Scone," I would imagine it'd be a quite prickly fellow). Would I ever like to get this type of strained coffee again? Sure, I lived off of it abroad, but that was in EUrope, where things move slower and the coffee is plentiful. Here in America, the luxury I have is getting coffee (good or brown water) quickly and efficiently so that there are no lonely scones out there. Cool idea, but patience is key, and early in the morning, it just isn't happening. Aaron likes quick crepes, coffee, and carnivorous capers, so this week, to say the least, worked. To more 100degree weather and with a probably chance of beer and food? I'd say most likely!
What's more American than a Turkish Pancake? Well how about an American working for a foreign institution eating that pancake in a place than specialized in Thai street food 1 block from the White House. Yea, that's how I roll. Keeping it all multicultural a day before the 4th of July in order to honor my heritage, which is none of the aforementioned ethnicities. But that is okay, because G St. Food specializes in many different types of street food, hell I had a donut there the other day that was doughy, tasted strongly of vanilla, and was about the size of a bagel. Typically I need at least 2 or 3 donuts to feel even slightly full (and typically limit myself because then I feel quite guilty) but one of these bad boys is all one needs (see picture below).
Now, after than uber-cultural culinary excursion, it was time to actually live America. Yes, the day of the utmost Americanism (no, not the Kenny Chesney concert) Independence Day just so happened to coincide with me being in town. Just about everything one can do on that day in the city was done. The only thing my group of fellow com-Patriots missed was eating apple pie off of a bison's back while dressed in colonial garb with a 3-cornered hat on which is perched a bald eagle. That, I think, will be saved for next year. It was going to be a slog of a day, and I figured food would probably be infrequent, so I stocked up on some 'Murican style pancakes (peaches and craisins--peaches because they are 'Murican, and craisins because they are a symbol of 'Murican ingenuity, Minnesota streams, and good marketing--who could make dried cranberries a huge hit? Only in America). After a caloric intake most likely well above FDA standards for a breakfast, it was off to the Parade! It was a wonderful showing of what America stands for, which consists of subjecting our youth to march miles in wool uniforms and toot horns while we gawk at their pubescent awkwardness, big cars that just are killing the environment but are oh soooo cool, balloon figures that are out of proportion (cough cough...look outside and you'll be bound to see a human personification), and an apparently attempt at some public diplomacy in Vietnamese culture. Yes, the Vietnamese had a large spot in the parade, and yes, just like the time I saw the Chinese guy leading his tour group thru the Vietnam Memorial by holding a Chinese flag, I did, just a pidge, feel awkward.
Immediately following the parade was a wonderful eh 2 hours say of walking on the dusty, sun-beaten, land-grant imbibed Mall. The theme was "land-grant colleges" and let me tell you, University of Vermont has the best, most exciting major available---Maple Syrup Agriculture Studies---Me venturing into the Catskills, tapping trees, harvesting sweet tree-nectar, and learning Maple Syrup Grading Law? Please, tell me where to sign.
But before I could go get my Graduate degree in Maple Studies, I had to go see the big ol' Capitol Concert. With a Mall under construction and full of equipment, concrete blocks, and rebar, there was limited space and 2 million people who wanted to go see it. What does that mean?, you know, 4 hours of waiting in only 99degree weather with zero cloud cover. Smart? No, could I have died of dehydration, sun poisoning, or have been murdered by a fellow 'Murican for not being 'Murican enough, oh yea. But I am here writing this blog on the 7th, so I made it thru. We did, however,get the esteemed pleasure to see two extraordinary events only by those privileged to come super early 1) We got to see American Idol award winner Phillip Phillips' (or 'Phil Phil' in my terms) first onstage practice of his first onstage performance since rockin the s#*t out of Idol. Chills (not really, as I was unsure of who he was until way after the fact). 2) We saw Matthew Broderick, yes the guy who played in Inspector Gadget, yes the guy who went to war with Danny Devito over Christmas lights, and yes THE Matthew Broderick who played in the only Godzilla movie to ever happen in America try to sing with a Grammy nominated lady who sung like an angel. Was he pulling her "down" and octave? Well lets just say that out of the 3 times we heard their song, he missed the runway twice. But he ended up pulling it out in the end.
Nothing beats John Williams. Unless it is John Williams conducting the Olympic march. Unless it is that all on the grass that calls itself the lawn of the Capitol Building. Yea chills. After 4 hours of roasting, and let me state that I enjoy the outdoor activities: running in complete humidity, doing steps under 100degree conditions, golfing on days no one dares to go out, this one tested my will, but so worth it. A great concert, with my favorite actress from Glee, and a new appreciation for getting to things early. That tent though...cool idea with the lights, projections and such, but NOT practical for firework viewing. So, when Tschiakovsky's 1812 Overture was played, it was a mad dash to the exits. Flags, cups, lawn chairs, they all went flying for the corners to get out. It was a "nice music National Orchestra, but we wanna watch things explode."
As a native Pittsburgher, I was obviously fascinated by the colorful explosive sparkles that are at every Pittsburgh event. Seeing them with the music in the background was quite the experience, though maybe next time the reflecting pool and West Lawn won't be chewed up so that people can actually watch these things. Eh oh well, got to take what life gives you. In this case, it was a heck of a tan waiting for the nation's capital's glorious display of probably Chinese colored explosives. What a grand day!
Well, I finally lost it. It has been 22 years now, but it is gone. It was taken away like so many others. It happened during the day, on the corner of 17th & K St., in the view of everyone, under a shady tree. It was hot, sweet, and sloppy. But, I did fine lose that card, to a yellow truck that specializes in meaty sandwiches. Yes, I lost my food-truck virginity. And I lost it to THE BEST brisket has ever sat between two white buns.
The day was typical. Hot, sweaty, steamy, and the sidewalks were crowded. However, on a trip back from a meeting, I thought it was time to lose it. So, it happened, right there among interns, businessmen, and people asking for change, to a bright yellow truck (DCBBQ)serving up BBQ Brisket with #5 Sauce (a rich, creamy, heavenly BBQ sauce that was smoky and mmmmmhhhhhhmmmmmm so good). Of course, my love for beans was also fixed, as I also ate a side of their BBQ beans, and let me say, it was thick, juicy, not too fatty, and made me completely doubt the usefulness and feasibility of sit-down restaurants......oh yea.....they are air conditioned and you don't have to sit on the ground where every homeless person calls "bed." But with such possibilities, with the endless Chinese and Kabob trucks, one even serving up Afghani fare (I guess we should at least try the cuisine of the countries we invade...), and a fanatical love for tacos. Now see here is where I arrive at a massive dilemma. To eat or not to eat? It is no secret that anything, and I mean practically anything, to me, is quite delightful between, in, on top of, or around a pita/soft shell tortilla/naan. But the real problem lies in the fact that I can eat so much of it. I like my tacos fully loaded, meat, beans, sour cream, lettuce, onion, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and well, I am unsure as to whether I would have to go bankrupt to actually get full from a truck, I question whether those little trucks have enough resources to satisfy my insatiable "below the Rio Grande" hunger for meat and beans on a tortilla.
(<<<<<Where I lost it!) So, even though one truck looks extremely promising, where there is always a line, I believe I may have to digress, and go to a restaurant down the road for $0.50 taco night. I'll gladly slap down a ten dollar bill and see what happens, which, if I go through my history of taco ingesting, is a full belly, sloppy hands, and an absolute look of disgust by all those around me. Heck as long as I am happy!
Another thing that this town absolutely is head over heals for besides tacos and cupcakes (see previous posts), are crepes. Now I can already cook up a mean crepe and my pancake making skills are pretty epic and adventurous. Bacon pancakes? Please. Almond/nutella/oatmeal with apple-honey syrup? C'mon, that's child's play. I've made German, Dutch, and American pancakes and recently got into the business of crepes. But, I usually plop some banana and nutella in mine and call it a day. Why screw with perfection? But, when I am hungry and it is midday, and coming from a event that had enough pastries and sticky buns to give the FDA a heart attack, I went for savory.
Prosciutto, cheese, basil, cappicola, and some other "S" word meat that was thinly sliced. It was the best midday meal since the day before with the brisket. This particular one came from Crepeaway, a supposed DC staple. It has lots of awards, the Prez. goes there, and with exhaustive lists of savory and sweet, plus those beautiful flat plates and little crepe-stick things, these guys know what is going on.
See, even though last week's blog was written a little late, and there is a very small gap in between, I am not messing around here. If you don't eat well, then hell, why even exist? And with so many trucks everywhere, one is never far from something delicious and funky. I love it, and I look forward to be munching on truck food for many more lunches to come.
The other day was quite interesting, it stormed and almost every piece of trash, sign, and untethered thing was flying about the air. 80mph gusts with constant lightning strikes for about an hour and a half made up our Friday night. Looking outside, and living adjacent to a humongous construction site that has a cement hole dug about 50 feet into the earth was kind of funny. All we could hear in our apartment was the sound of construction materials, signs, and metal barrels plummeting to their demise. And it was very reassuring that the huge crane just so happened to be right over our window, and watching it sway in the wind just sent shivers of reassurance and hope that the people who put that thing up didn't come drunk to work. Apparently they were quite sober, or at least accurate drunks, because I am still alive and our building made it through unscathed. Of course, my favorite part of the entire night was hearing and watching those poor souls who decided to go out on the town with an imminent "severe thunderstorm warning.....80mph gusts expected" en route. Listening to their screams of trying to fitfully fight Mother Nature was great. I guess between getting hit with the pelting rain and dodging bottles, signs, and god knows what else that the winds can pick up in DC will make you learn to at least look at the radar before you go out.
[Below: Me having a Success! Moment briefly after that above picture......then, the huge tree in Georgetown that decided to take a nap on a little blue BMW.]