Monday, May 31, 2010

Road Trip - Philadelphia

Independence Hall after closing time.

Kathryn and I spent Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend in beautiful Philadelphia. The trip was motivated by the US National Team send off game against Turkey. Kathryn was nice enough to enjoy two soccer games in less than a one week span. For club and for country!

In the cheap seats!

Corner kick in the first half. I should mention that Kathryn is officially better than me at taking pictures.

Even the protesters are more intimidating in Philadelphia. Plus, what are these dudes wearing?

We were lucky to meet up with our DC friends Jim and Kristin who showed us around South Street. We took in some German grub and beer. Sadly, I couldn't find a German beer that tastes like Pabst or Miller Light.

Enjoying a gyro and birch beer at Reading Terminal Market.

We also used the trip as an excuse to visit the nation's oldest zoo.

This dude was our favorite animal at the Philly Zoo.

We couldn't leave town without trying a Philly cheese steak. This is the "wiz wit" from the iconic Pat's King of Steaks. We made it all the way to Delaware before my stomach ache set in.


Kathryn showing off her piping skills on this homemade yellow cake with chocolate icing.

Last Wednesday was my birthday. Also, DC United was hosting AC Milan in an international friendly. The Black-and-Red played in great form and pulled off a 3-2 win. It was a heck of a nice day.

Papusas with beans and rice. So DC. So good.

Clarence Seedorf's (10) corner kick towards Ronaldinho (80).

Giant United kit raised after every goal!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting Out - Our First 5K

Don't be grossed out. A lot of that is rain.

You may have seen in the news Washington, DC was just named the nation's fittest city. It's a city where everybody runs. It's almost mandatory. Kathryn and I have gotten into the act too since moving to the city. We've been slowly working our way up with an interval program, and this Sunday we completed our first ever 5K race, the Poplar Spring "Run for the Animals!"

We picked the race based on the date and how far we had to drive, so there was a lot we weren't expecting.
  • This was a relatively small race, with only 326 finishers.
  • Most of the field was made up of hardcore competitive runners.
  • The route was partially on running paths and partially on muddy trails.
  • It rained pretty hard before the race and sprinkled throughout. This was actually quite nice.
  • DC is a super flat town, so neither of us have much experience with hills. The course was loaded with hills which provided a fun challenge.
It wasn't pretty, but it was fun. We were able to finish, and by definition, we both achieved new personal records. 37:35 for me and 38:10 for Kathryn, that's 261 and 270 place finishes, people!

Here's a look at the course map from my awesome Garmin Forerunner watch (my birthday gift from Kathryn).

Elevation changes, also from Forerunner.

Update: Here's a couple of (low resolution) finish line pictures from the run.

Eating Out - Baller

When dinner and drinks quickly turns into "drinks and dinner"

Clyde's (Classic American)

One of my good buddies from Purdue is spending the summer in Washington for an internship. We got together for dinner Friday night without much of a plan, so our restaurant choice was entirely dictated by our mutual craving of French fries. We walked to Clyde's in nearby Georgetown. Kathryn and I previously visited their Chinatown location. Clyde's is essentially O'Charly's for the upper tax bracket. The kind of place where everyone eats lobster on an average Friday night.

After a couple of drinks at the bar, we were pleased to learn that everyone was eating lobster because it was only about $18 (with fries!). Naturally, we had to have it.

  • This post exists basically because my buddy laughed "this needs to go up on ya'lls' blog" as he dipped his fries in melted butter. There isn't really much to review.

How can you get more American than those wet naps?

Smithsonian Museums - American Indian

Outside the museum.

National Museum of the American Indian

Kathryn and I both had the day off Friday, so we headed to the mall to continue my pledge of visiting every Smithsonian in Washington. (If you didn't know there are two in NYC.)

  • This museum is a relative new comer. It opened in 2004, and I was pretty disappointed that almost all of the museum's materials were created (or recreated) since Will Smith released Willenium.
  • The museum is very modern and the architecture is quite nice, but the museum content didn't really hold our interest. The only exception was the collection of modern art by Native Americans.
  • You know what did hold our interest? The museum's food court! The cafeteria features five areas each with a menu inspired by the dishes of a different Native American population. It's widely believed to be the best lunch on the mall. Also, if the crowds are stressing you out, they serve beer and wine.
  • Kathryn and I both had Indian fry bread topped with buffalo chili, and we split another piece of fry bread topped with honey.
  • My advice for enjoying this museum: check out the sculptures outside, grab a nice lunch, and then head to a different museum

Fry bread desert and fry bread entrée.

Since the museum was such a snoozer, we had a lot of day left to kill. We made a quick lap through the sunny conservatory of the US Botanic Garden.

Rain Forrest exhibit, even better than the Rain Forrest Cafe

I was hoping to take in another Smithsonian, so we headed out for the Postal Museum. When we got inside, we realized we were at the Old Post Office Pavilion. The nice part about DC is that if you get lost you will likely end up at a place run by the national park service. The building has a very tall tower (12 stories!) with some nice views of the city.

The monument commemorates George Washington's presidency, and the wires keep people from jumping.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Going Out - Rock and Roll Ping Pong

Tasty food, cold beer, ping pong....

For some reason, I haven't put together a Rock and Roll Ping Pong Post yet, but it's something I try to do almost every Monday night. There's a great bar/venue in Northeast DC called the Rock and Roll Hotel, and every Monday (when they don't have bands playing) they have free open table tennis. They sometimes attract a small crowd, but lately it's been just our small crew of a few Purdue grads and buddies.

The bar usually features
  • free ping pong
  • movies on a giant screen, including such hits as The Big Lebowski, Full Metal Jacket, and Raiders of the Lost Arc
  • rock albums played in their entirety, which almost always includes Fugazi's 13 Song (Fugazi : DC punk bars :: John Mellencamp : Purdue campus bars)
  • Jenga
Here's the highlights from last week
  • It was again pouring down rain (notice a trend), so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We literally had the place to ourselves for about an hour.
  • Kathryn and I got burgers (her - veggie, me - beef) and were very impressed. The awesomeness was way overshadowed, however, by the French fries in truffle oil and garlic mayo. It was perhaps the greatest bar food I've ever had.
  • Surprisingly, we spent most of the night playing Jenga.
  • I now live in a town where $4 PBR tallboys is a good deal!

Combing one and a half boxes of Jenga pieces.

Eating Out - Thai

Neither of us wanted in the picture.

Thai Kitchen (Thai, obviously)

Kathryn and I found ourself at Thai Kitchen the other night against our wishes. We set out toward DuPont Circle to eat at one of our favorite spots, Saigon Bistro (Vietnamese), but as soon as we got outside, the sky opened up on us. We got soaked to the bone. Instead of fighting the giant grey wall of water, we settled on a restaurant just across the street from our place.

  • We started with the creatively named Yum Tofu, deep fried tofu cubes covered in hot sauce and roasted cashews. Amazing.
  • Started to dry off a bit.
  • Until a couple of months ago, Kathryn hated curry, but now she's crazy about it. She had the panang, a spicy creamy curry, with pork.
  • I had the pork pad preow wan, which I'm sure you recognize as stir fried pork with onions, scallions, cucumber, bell pepper, and pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce. Any time you can combine pork and pineapple, you have my attention.
  • The best part of the restaurant is the music. They play Thai pop covers of top 40 hits, sung in English (of course). Kathryn spotted it with the Thai take on Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," but the Thai cover of Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" made me want to steal the stereo.
  • I normally say whether or not we would go back. The food here is pretty good, but like I said, it's right across the street. We will definitely go again (next time we're caught in a downpour).

Monday, May 17, 2010

DC United

My friend Nic took this nice picture from our seats at the United vs. Kansas City Wizards game last week. I hope to write a full post about a United game soon (when Kathryn finally isn't working during the game). For now, this picture will have to do.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Smithsonian Museums - National Zoological Park

Kathryn (left) and an Asian elephant (right)

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Over the next year, I'm going to visit every Smithsonian in the metro area. There's like 17 of them. Kathryn doesn't know about this plan until she reads it here, so I might be going it alone to some of them (like the both Air and Space museums). Anyway, on to the zoo....

  • The weather was great this weekend, and there is no better place to spend a nice day than the zoo. Plus, we haven't been back since Christmas, so we were do for a visit.
  • There was a lot of construction going on, so there were a number of closed exhibits. We are looking forward to the new elephant habitat and finally getting to see the bears.
  • We always check the progress of the baby gorilla who is now moving around pretty independently and appears to like carrots.
  • A free zoo brings out all types of people - all types.
  • We decided to act like grown ups and finally joined the Friends of the National Zoo. Pretty excited about the magazine. And if you come to the zoo with us, I can hook you up with free cookies.

Even the tigers were up moving around.

Eating Out - Steakhouse


The Capital Grille (Classic American Steakhouse!) 1

You've probably figured out that Kathryn and I like to eat and like to try new restaurants. You may have also notice that we gravitate toward cheap, ethnic eateries --- $5-for-a-plate-of-noodles-or-beans-and-rice-type places. Well, this weekend we broke free and went out for a giant steak at a proper steakhouse.

For Christmas this year, Kathryn's brother Rob and his wife Colby gave us a gift card for Capital Grille, considered one of the city's best restaurants. The restaurant is located just steps from the capitol. The only disappointing part of the dinner is that we didn't spot Senators breaking down policies over a big pile of steak, but this could still be because we don't know what any of them look like.

  • We decided to do it up right, which means drinks, appetizers, steak, and desert.
  • Drinks: adults only Arnold Palmer (K), classic Rob Roy (T)
  • Appetizer: shrimp cocktail (K), clam chowder (T)
  • Steak: bone-in kona crusted sirloin with caramelized shallot butter (K), dry-aged porterhouse (T)
  • Side: parmesan truffle oil french fries (split, seriously look how much we already ate)
  • Desert: coconut cream pie tart (K), mint ice cream (T)
  • I liked Kathryn's steak better than mine. She liked mine better than hers. We didn't find this out until after we were stuffed.
  • I would describe Kathryn's steak as a wonderful flavor combination with caramelized shallots, seasonings, and coffee rub to create a first-class steak. I would do this because that's how The Capital Grille's website does.
  • The mint ice cream was unlike anything I've ever had before. It tasted like fresh mint or mint oil. I was expecting more of a Bryer's mint-chocolate-chip type flavor.
  • There was a scotch list with about 40 different single malts, but I didn't have room after dinner. This means one thing. I'll be back.
  • We were so stuffed we had to go for a walk around the mall to unwind.
  • I had a couple of great steak sandwiches this weekend.
1 This post is brought to you in part by Rob and Colby Hoff.

Eating Out - Vietnamese

My dad enjoys his first Vietnamese dinner with Kathryn.

Huong Viet (Vietnamese)

Huong Viet is located in the middle of Eden Center, a shopping center filled with over 100 stores (all Vietnamese), including Vietnamese specialty barber shops, jewelry stores, travel agents, bakeries, nail salons, restaurants, pho joints, bars, and grocery stores. You've never seen anything like Eden Center. It will blow your mind that (a) this place exists and (b) it's in Falls Church, Virginia of all places. Huong Viet is well decorated by the Washington Post, Washingtonian, City Paper and others. It's cheap. It's good. It's a must go to place for anyone visiting DC (with access to a car).

Kathryn and I have been to Huong Viet at least a half a dozen times. We took my dad for his first Vietnamese dinner, as well as a pho-obsessed friend from California. I'm finally taking the time to write a post about one of our favorite restaurants (in the country).

  • We always get a bubble team. Sometimes we split one, sometimes we each get our own, but we always have lychee bubble tea. The boba are so fresh. They also offer a durian flavor. If any of you want to try it, I'll treat. I just want to see someone try to slurp that thing down.
  • The rice paper rolls (summer rolls) are always pretty good.
  • Every entrée we've tried has been outstanding. The center attraction is the marinated and grilled pork. Kathryn prefers it over crepe style noodles. I like it on vermicelli paired with a fried spring roll.
  • I've also had the Vietnamese pancake a couple of times. It's very good, but only if you don't mind getting your hands dirty all the way to the elbow.
  • The patrons are always a mix of Vietnamese families and white folks from suburban Virginia. The white folks like to act like they're in the know. (Of course, maybe they are.)
  • There's often a wait to get in, and the parking lot fills up pretty easy. Be warned.

Visitors - Wazzz

Dad and I on the double decker bus.

My dad will register as our first official over night guest. Over the course of his five night stay, we were able to squeeze in most of the major DC highlights. We were really lucky to get our best stretch of weather in the district since we moved here.
  • Dad took the Amtrak out here, surprisingly without major problems or interruptions.
  • First night we went to Bethesda Crab House for the complete Maryland feast.
  • We got two-day passes for a double decker tour bus (Open Top Tours) which picks up just a block from our house. It was a great way to see all the major points of interest.
  • The places we hopped off the first day: Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, National Archives (still my favorite museum in DC)
  • The second day we went to Ford's Theater - a surprisingly good small museum.
  • Took dad to his first Vietnamese restaurant
  • Went to El Pollo Rico for Peruvian chicken, of course
  • My dad discovered the Smithsonian's American Indian Museum and its outstanding native American themed food court (more on that in a future post). He went on his own, and then took me back the next day.
  • Dad and I also went to the National Botanic Garden. It was nice and compact with plenty of pretty flowers.
  • We saw Michael Douglas standing out front of the Four Seasons in Georgetown.

Kathryn and I at the reflecting pool.