Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘DC Foodie’ Category

UK_03_11_2012_15_25_44

This may be old news to some, but to those who haven’t yet heard, permit me to brag a bit: for the THIRD year in a row, Washington, D.C. is the most literate city in the US!  (The study, of cities with 250,000+ residents, is conducted annually and looks at variables such as number of bookstores, newspaper circulation, and internet resources, among others.)  Fellow Washingtonians, we should be very proud.

Last year when we won, I tossed up a quick celebratory post. This year, though, I think more of a party is in order. Because… Three years running. That’s good stuff. And what better way to toast my town than with a literary crawl of Washington, D.C.?  This is a town that’s full of history and promise alike, and amply blessed with things to see, places to eat, and literary gems.  So, here are ten D.C. attractions, places to read nearby, and books to check out that celebrate, portray, or speak to our nation’s very literate capital.

10.  Mount Vernon

George Washington’s estate sits on the banks of the Potomac, looking from Virginia to Maryland.  You can stroll through history here, walk in the footsteps of Presidents on the well-trod floors of the Mansion, feed heirloom sheep, marvel at Farmer George’s ingenious barn, and wander amongst cherry trees in the nursery.  And you can wonder at the spirit of a small band of rebels who dared to take on an Empire, and at their leader who could switch from drawing up battle plans to instructing Martha on what curtains to purchase for the new dining room in the blink of an eye.

What to Read:  1776, by David McCullough.
Where to Read: the Mount Vernon Inn, over a steaming bowl of “pretty terrific” peanut and chestnut soup.

9.  Old Town Alexandria

It’s older than America!  In GW’s day, Old Town was… well… not that old, and it was a thriving small city south of the wetlands that would one day become Washington, D.C.  The Potomac was a thoroughfare and all kinds of travelers passed through on their way to and from Mount Vernon, or to stay.

What to Read: March, by Geraldine Brooks.
Where to Read: Misha’s Coffeehouse, with a cup of something hot, or The Grape and Bean.

8.  The Library of Congress

It’s America’s Library, so you know I’m all over this.  I used to work near the LOC and I’d walk over there on my lunch break just to marvel at the domed ceiling and the public exhibits.  I can’t imagine a better shrine to books and words.

What to Read: The Portable Thomas Jefferson, by Thomas Jefferson (Merrill Peterson, Ed.).
Where to Read: Mitsitam Restaurant at the National Museum of the American Indian – yum.

7.  The Supreme Court

The highest court in the land, and a temple for those of us who stammered our way through moot court competitions.  You can catch an argument there – they’re open to the public and only the most contentious cases fill the court gallery.  Or you can just goggle at the crisp white shrine to justice and recite Article III of the Constitution in your mind.  (Just me?)

What to Read: The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin (obviously!).
Where to Read: Walk over to Eastern Market and plop down at Market Lunch.  Have pancakes.

6.  The Capitol

It’s where the people’s work gets done… or not, depending.  (Mostly not.)  You can watch floor debates from the gallery or get a tour if you contact your Representative ahead of time (or if you know someone inside, as most Washingtonians do… there are almost as many Hill staffers as there are K Street lawyers in this town), or you can just pose for a snapshot and admire the iconic dome.

What to Read: The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell (Americans should be informed!).
Where to Read: Over a beer at Hawk and Dove, rubbing elbows with Dem staffers from the House.

5.  The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. is the most famous address in the United States.  And whether you like the current resident or not, it’s probably the coolest photo op in D.C.

What to Read: Murder in the White House, by Margaret Truman (yes, President Truman’s daughter).
Where to Read: Breadline, where the staffers get their sandwiches and cookies, or the Hay-Adams Hotel if you’re fawncy.

4.  The National Archives

The most famous, important, heart-stirring documents from our nation’s history are here, and you can see them for free!  If you want to get up close and personal with the Declaration of Independence, this is the place to do so (but hands off, Nicholas Cage!).  Or you can be like me – bypass the Declaration and make straight for the Constitution.  I like to have a moment with Article III and the First Amendment.  What?  You totally have favorite parts of the Constitution, too.

What to Read: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine (another important historical document!)
Where to Read: Pop over to the National Gallery of Art and grab a gelato from the Cascade Cafe while you read.

3.  Kramerbooks

It’s part bookstore, part cafe (with an emphasis on pie… mmmm, pie) and that’s reason enough to visit this D.C. institution just north of Dupont Circle.  But it also has the dubious honor of being a favorite hangout spot for Monica Lewinsky (remember her?).  So you can shop for books, have a slice of their amazing blueberry pie, and indulge your secret love of scandal, all in one spot.  Best bang for the buck in D.C., and that’s even if you buy lunch and a book.

What to Read: A Vast Conspiracy, by Jeffrey Toobin, or anything from the shelves – support indie bookstores!
Where to Read: Afterwords, the attached cafe and bakery – have the crab and avocado salad, and a slice of pie.

2.  The Watergate

Oooooh, more scandal!  (Like it or not, there’s plenty of it to go around inside the Beltway.)  This upscale apartment building and hotel is the scene of the famous Watergate break-in that ultimately brought down a President (and that also caused us to add -gate to the end of every scandal that followed).  The apartments are popular with Washington bigwigs (when I first moved to D.C., I lived two blocks away on New Hampshire Avenue and used to go to the Watergate for Chinese food all the time; once hubby and I were mistaken for staffers and almost charged $75 for Condi’s order – then we fainted, because we were poor, yo) and – bonus – you’re just across the street from the Kennedy Center, if you fancy a musical interlude.

What to Read: All the President’s Men, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (what else?!).
Where to Read: Grab a table at Chen’s and have the eggplant in spicy sauce.

1.  Georgetown

One of my favorite haunts, this upscale neighborhood that grew up around the intersections of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, N.W. has shops, restaurants, and history in abundance.  Jackie Kennedy once walked these brick sidewalks.  And The Old Stone House, the only surviving pre-Revolution structure in the District, still stands here (and freaks out the more nervous among us after dark – it’s said to be haunted by the ghost of a murderous misogynist).

What to Read: Katharine Graham’s Washington, by Katharine Graham.
Where to Read: At the Haagen-Dasz shop, where you can nurse a shake and check out the Georgetown map mural.

Have you been to D.C.?  Do you have favorite literary haunts, or Washington-inspired reads?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Although I am very excited that hubby and I have at last bought and moved into our “forever” house, there are definitely things I miss about our condo – other than the kitchen and my stainless steel appliances, that is.  One of my favorite things about our condo was its fantastic location – an easy trip into DC, and walking distance to parks, tennis courts, bike trails and the Falls Church Farmers Market.  Hubby and I made a ritual Saturday morning trip to this market to buy fresh veggies and fruits and take in the scene.  We didn’t go every week, but we went often enough that this market felt like an integral part of our condo experience.  I’m sure I’ll find another “home” farmers market soon, but in the meantime, I’m reminiscing over some shots from our last trip to the Falls Church market.

Some of the tents set up by the vendors… in the summer, there are twice, or maybe three times as many vendors.  The winter market just has a few tents, but the vendors who come every week to bring delicious salad greens, fruits, vegetables, breads, wines and prepared foods are some of the best the market has to offer even in its crowded days:

Lovely spring blooms.  This was just a couple of weeks before Easter, and I would have been tempted if I hadn’t known that these potted plants would have to take a ride in a moving truck a week later: 

Gorgeous apples, which we have all winter long – one of the great benefits of living in a temperate area:

I’m very proud of our northern Virginia wines.  They’re getting better every year!  Hubby and I love to ride out to Loudoun County, where some of our favorite wineries are located.  We take along a picnic and have a wonderful afternoon of tasting – something we try to do a few times a year.  But it was nice that North Gate would come to us, to our own local farmers market, every week too:

Here is just one example of many vendors who bring their delicious prepared foods – soups, dips, canned and pickled items and… yes, you read this right… hot fudge sauce:

And in case the market isn’t diverting enough on its own (as if!) we even had live music from a real Virginia… cowboy?  Rock ‘n roll!

I’ve checked out a number of farmers markets since beginning to really appreciate food.  I love the opportunity they provide, to interact with the people who grow our food.  And the veggies and fruits I go home with are always fresher and more flavorful than anything I can get at the supermarket.  While I’m always up for visiting a farmers market on my travels – like the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, my very first stop in San Francisco, or the Berkeley Springs Farmers Market in West Virginia, where I got a great local cooking pamphlet and lots of honey for the hubs – I’ll never cherish any market more than my home market.  And the Falls Church Farmers Market was a great one.

Read Full Post »

In 2009, for the first time, I attended the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in DC.  This massive trade show had somehow escaped my notice until I received an email about it from my mentor at work, a major foodie himself.  When I looked into it and saw that Giada de Laurentiis was going to be doing a cooking demonstration, I didn’t hesitate for a second!

The entryway to the show floor:

Some vendors set up on the show floor (this was right when the show opened, before the crazy crowds hit):

Fellow veggie lovers at Indigo Rabbit:

Indigo Rabbit is a cookie company based in New England, which hides vegetables – such as squash, for instance — in their cookies!  The cookies are delicious and chewy, and I promise they don’t taste like vegetables.  We chatted about hiding vegetables in baked goods and exchanged blog addresses – check them out at www.rainbowonyourplate.com – and  I brought home a box of their Seriously Cinnamon Almond cookies, which are sweetened with cane sugar and include a puree of carrots and sweet potatoes!  As cookies go, these are just about as healthy as they can get, and taste better than pretty much any other store-bought cookie I’ve encountered.  They have quite a few flavors – all delicious.  Hubby and I also liked the Luscious Lemon Chewies, although the Seriously Cinnamon Almond was by far my favorite.

(Nota Baker: I paid full price for the cookies.  My recommendation is based completely on the fact that they are absolutely freaking delicious.  I have not received any free products in exchange for recommending these cookies.  Just try them.  You’ll see.)

Yummy:

I also picked up some fun tropical fruit sauces – mango mustard, banana barbeque sauce, and two tropical chutneys – from the Nature Isle booth:

After I made friends with the Indigo Rabbit crew, hubby and I headed over to see what was, for us, the main event…

GIADA!!!!!!!!!!

Chefs prepare the stage for Giada’s demonstration:

And out she came!  Giada brought members of the audience up on stage to make a roasted pork loin with balsamic sauce, rigatoni with butternut squash, and espresso ricotta creme.  She also answered audience questions throughout the demonstration.  Hubby and I were too shy to stand up and ask a question, although in retrospect, I don’t think there is anything we could have said that would be more embarrassing than the guy who prefaced his question with, “First of all, you’re gorgeous.”

Please don’t let the camera fool you.  We actually sat pretty close to the stage.  Clearly, I need a big, clunky zoom lens for my giant camera.  Santa, are you listening?

Giada was fantastic!  Her cooking demonstration was a blast and she was endlessly patient with the multitudes of audience members who didn’t actually have a question, but just wanted to come up onstage and cook with her.  After the demonstration, hubby and I took one more swing through the trade show and then headed home to make some homemade pasta.  Of course, right?

Read Full Post »