Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting Out - Cherry Blossoms

Kathryn took this very pretty picture with our new camera.

This weekend was the start of the Cherry Blossom Festival. We'll be out of town for this year's peak bloom, so we headed out to the mall Saturday afternoon for our first look at these DC icons. The blossoms were like a little slice of Karate Kid II right here in DC. I'm not sure what the difference is between peak time and now, but the trees were still pretty. The majority of the trees were filled with white flowers, and the rest of the trees stilled donned pink buds. The metro was absolutely packed, and the mall was pretty crazy. Saturday was also the Smithsonian Kite Festival. We missed the kite displays earlier in the day, but the mall was still filled with people flying kites. It was a nice complement to the cherry blossoms, minus the crowd and all.

Kites above the mall.

Kathryn at the start of our walk, across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial.

Taking a short break about half way around the Tidal Basin.

Eating Out - Ethiopian

Kathryn with our friends Jim and Kristin.

Etete (Ethiopian)

Remember how I told you that DC is home to the largest population of Salvadorans in the country? Well, the Salvadorans have nothing on the Ethiopians. We've got about 70,000 strong. It's no surprise that we have a lot of Ethiopian restaurants to choose from, and there is quite a debate about which one is the best. A few months ago (before we started this blog) we tried DC's oldest, Zed's in Georgetown. This weekend we went to dinner with a college friend and his girlfriend at Etete in U Street, one of the big three contenders for best Ethiopian restaurant.

  • First thing's first, we all started with a sambusa, a pastry filled with lentils, jalapeƱos and onions. So far so good.
  • We decided to order a bottle of the (we're almost certain homemade) Tej honey wine. It's a wine made from honey, but it has hops. It tasted like old apple cider that was left in the fridge too long. Nobody really liked it, so Jim and I held our noses and took it like a shot.
  • After the failed wine, I tried a Harar Ethiopean beer. Pretty decent.
  • If you've never had Ethiopian food before, everything is served on this big spongy pancake-like bread called injera. The injera is used to sop up mouthfuls of meat and vegetables with your bare hands. It's meant to be eaten as a group and shared around the table.
  • Here's what we had: stewed chicken legs (doro wat), lamb cooked in jalapeƱos (lega tibs), and a bunch of stewed vegetables (carrots, cabbage, collard greens, lentils, peas, etc) .
  • Oh I forgot to mention, we also ate a bunch of seasoned raw ground beef (kitfo). If I didn't know it was raw, I would have had no idea. It was rather tasty once you get used to the fact that it's raw ground beef. (Right now Kathryn's mom just had a minor heart attack. Sorry Fran.)
  • For such a nice dinner and plenty of drinks, the food was actually pretty cheap. Not less than a quarter a day cheap, but still.

Tej. First and last.

After dinner we headed to Adams Morgan for a couple of drinks. We started at Dan's Cafe, a rusty shed that sells beer by the bottle, liquor by the pint (with the mixers on the side), and shots in a squeeze bottle. Then we moved on to Millie and Al's which features a giant light bulb. When the bulb is on, jello shots are just a dollar. Nice way to wrap up the night and/or start the morning. Hopefully next time we can do a post about bars, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going Out - DC Environmental Film Festival

DC Environmental Film Festival - Coal Country

Last night we made it out to a screening as part of the DC Environmental Film Festival. We saw was the screening cut of "Coal Country." It's a film about coal mining in West Virginia and the conflict surrounding mountain top removal (or mountain top mining). As a big fan of both coal mining and documentaries, I highly recommend it.

  • The film screened at St. Columba Episcopal Church in Tenleytown. It was a nice place to see a movie on the cheap, but the hard wooden benches were not forgiving after an hour or so.
  • The director and producer fielded questions after the show, but we ducked out when it was revealed that it was basically people asking questions like "I really like the movie and this is why..."
  • This was our first film festival experience but it doesn't really count because the audience was full of environmental nerds, not film nerds.
  • Tenleytown was a nice area. It's basically a less intimidating version of U Street or Columbia Heights.
  • We made our first trip to Whole Foods following the movie. It is a mandatory part of our transition to official Washingtonians (read yuppies). We went to pick up a few staples and ended blowing our budget on interesting looking items. We seriously can't keep doing that (see IKEA post).

Going Out - Black Cat Club

Image from the wonderful DC Blog - BrightestYoungThings

Black Cat Club - Black Lips/Box Elders/Vermillions

After living in the District for almost four months, we finally made it out to a "show" (which I still call a "concert" although that makes me sound 50 years old). We specifically went to see one of our favorite bands, Black Lips. We saw them a couple of years ago in Chicago, and I actually caught a couple of minutes of their show at the now defunct Downtown Records back in Lafayette. They are easily the most fun band I've ever seen, so I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance.

The other bonus is that we got to check out one of DC's most famous rock venues, the Black Cat Club. It's a nice multistory venue in the 14th/U Street Corridor.

  • We went to the show with a few of Purdue friends.
  • It was tough finding a place to eat and have a few beers before hand. Turns out everyone wants to go out for dinner and drinks on the first Friday with really, really nice weather.
  • This was an all ages show. Surprisingly, I didn't feel too old.
  • We scored some nice chairs on an elevated plat form in the back, but I went right up front for part of the show. Standing next to a stack of amps, I did in fact feel too old.
  • One of the guy's in our group is from the DC area, and he pointed out that the Straight Edge culture is still very much a part of the DC rock community. It was amazing how many giant X's we saw.
  • Box Elders were the surprise of the night. At times they sounded too much like the headliner, possibly, but I always think the world needs more Beach Boysesque pop bands.
  • Black Lips were a lot of fun, but not as crazy as one would expect. They did play a new song from their album that's in the works and all of the fan favorites.
  • As soon as the show was over, I started looking forward to my next Black Lips show.
  • Kathryn and I spent an hour walking around after the show because she got confused about the difference between Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme. We did however get to see DuPont Circle in all of it's dance club glory. Not really for us though.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eating Out - Salvadoran

I'm learning that slaw from any country in the world is amazing.

El Rinconcito II (Salvadoran/Mexican)

DC is home to the largest population of Salvadorians in any US city, and it follows naturally that the city is home to a lot of Salvadoran restaurants. This Sunday we went to gawk at some row houses in Columbia Heights, and took the opportunity to try our first pupusas. Pupusas are a fairly typical Salvadoran food and kind of a thing here in DC. If you've never had one, it's sort of like a tamale that's been squished flat and grilled. They sort of look like pita pockets (see picture above). This is one of our first dinners out that was dictated by location, but I think we still made a good choice.

  • There were two types of horchata on the menu - horchata and horchata Mexicano. They didn't have the Mexican variety, so I tried the regular (I assume this means Salvadoran). I must say, Mexican is much better.
  • When we were in Costa Rica Kathryn ate so many plantains she had the shakes when we got home. Therefore, she was pretty excited to split the plantains appetizer. It was served with sour cream and refried beans. The best thing we ate. Amazing.
  • We both got sampler plates that consisted of a tamale, beans, slaw, rice, and pupusas.
  • The slaw was outstanding and Kathryn's favorite non-plantain food of the day. I was a rice man, myself.
  • Next time we got back, I'm getting the "typical breakfast" which features plantains, eggs, beans, and rice. Already excited!
  • I should also note that we were fans of Columbia Heights. The neighborhood offers a near perfect mix of old school DC (pretty houses, friendly neighbors, and crime) and new school DC (Target, Chipotle, and crime).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Road Trip: State College, PA

Mandatory Nittany Lion Shrine Picture.

So I've been promising to add some non-restaurant content to this blog. Here's the first installment of our Road Trip series. It was our first chance to get out of town since Christmas (although Kathryn described Bethesda as "a hike" the other day), and we both needed a weekend away. We had yet to fulfill our annual Purdue road game commitment, so we headed off to State College, PA for the Boilermakers vs. Penn State. It's worth noting that we have now attended a game at 40% of Big Ten campuses over the last three seasons, not counting home games. (Next year - Northwestern? )

Penn State is supposedly the nation's #1 party school, so we hit the town ready to see some crazies. Turns out that it was the first weekend of spring break. We still found plenty of fun things to do. Here they are:

Kathryn enjoying some strawberry ice cream at Penn State's Creamery. Every ag college in the country needs one of these things.

So everyone says Penn State isn't into basketball. I guess that's especially true when your team is 11-19. Upside? Easy to get good seats!

After the game.

I would be lying if I didn't say that Chris Kramer was one of the major reasons we went to Penn State. Last chance to see one of our very favorite ball players.
(Also, I thought Kathryn was going to come around to the other side. I'm not intentionally hogging all the Chris Kramer.)

Kathryn and JaJuan Johnson. Kathryn claims it's blurry because I was so nervous. (Also, my theory is that she's goosing him in this picture.)

Keaton Grant. He scored his 1,000th point that day!

I guess we have to have some restaurant entry. We went to Herwig's Austrian Bistro in downtown State College after the game. The food was outstanding, but exceptionally filling. I'm a sucker for the sampler plate, but after I only managed to eat half...

...the waiter made me wear this stupid hat - "the chicken of shame." Notice how I'm about to puke. I look like Chet Ripley after he polishes off the Old 96-er.

I, of course, grabbed some regional snacks on the way home. Boyers Smoothi Cups (peanut butter and butterscotch) and birch beer - it's like a super bitey root beer.

Oh yeah, some how I forgot to mention that we stayed on campus at the beautiful Nittany Lion Inn. It was nice because Purdue stayed there, too. We saw Robbie Hummel, and rode in the elevator with (former SIU assistant) Jack Owens. Curiously, Penn State's mens basketball team was also staying there...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eating Out - Peruvian

This peanut spread is unlike anything I've ever tried.

El Chalan

So this was not supposed to be a food blog, or a restaurant blog. It was supposed to be a DC blog about all the things we do in DC. Well, since we've had so much bad weather and there is almost always a Purdue basketball game to watch, this is pretty much a restaurant blog. Hope to change that soon.

We've actually been to El Chalan twice, but we've never gotten around to recording the experience. It's only a few blocks from us, so a doesn't feel like an adventure eating there. However, it's been really good both times we went, and the reviews say it's authentic (for whatever that's worth).

  • El Chalan is tucked away in a basement on a street that's mostly office buildings (including the World Bank), so when you go there you sort of feel like you're in the know.
  • I've been blown away by Peruvian food in general. I didn't really know what to expect, but the food is all really, really good - far more eggs, potatoes, and peanuts than I expected. If you come to visit us, we'll probably try to convince you to eat there.
  • In the two times we went I've had (i) goat stew and (ii) lomo saltado. Kathryn had the same chicken dish both times.
  • Last time we went we tried the famous pisco sour. It's supposedly the drink of Peru. If you've ever thought "I should mix this margarita with some eggnog" then the pisco sour is for you.

Eating Out - Peruvian

Eating Out - Maryland

My turn for a silly picture.

Bethesda Crab House (Crabs)

Last week I was really feeling the need to get away, so we went five metro stops to beautiful Bethesda, Maryland. Downtown Bethesda is basically like a nice shopping mall, so I was afraid this place was going to be a lot like Joe's Crab Shack. Luckily, Bethesda Crab House is, in fact, a real dump.

  • This is might be the best food we've tried yet, and it definitely provided the most "I live out East" feeling.
  • Kathryn and I split half a dozen large crabs, a crab cake, and a side of shrimp (half pound). That's right. At Bethesda Crab House, shrimp is a side item. Oh, we also had some slaw.
  • The waitress had to show us how to open up the crabs, but we got the hang of it. (Some of us more than others - zing!)
  • The crabs come with three little tubs: oldbay, vinegar, and butter. The best option is to dip the crab in the vinegar and then oldbay.
  • What could be more Classic Bethesda than Georgetown Cupcake? We picked up some on the way home, but we'll tell you more about that in our dedicated DC cup cake review post. (Coming soon, stay tuned)