Saturday, June 26, 2010

Eating Out - Brazilian

Making sure to eat my green vegetables.

Fogo de Chao (Brazilian Steakhouse)

Brazilian steakhouses or churrascarias have been one of the big culinary crazes of the last few years. It seems like every time I talk to someone about international cuisines, they eventually say "have you been to one of these Brazilian steak places?" My response, until just a few days ago, was always "No, but I really really really want to go."

For the five of you who I actually beat to the churrascaria, the restaurant has two courses: salad and meat. And by "salad" or "salad bar" they mean stuff that isn't hot cuts of meat. But a big portion of the salad bar is also meat (salamis, chicken salad, strips of bacon, etc). The rest of the time dudes walk around with swords! with giant chunks of meat that they serve at your table - 15 kinds in all.

The point everyone always makes is that you get this little card you can flip over. Green means "I want more meat." Red means "I'm cool for now." This is only a formality. They will try to serve you meat no matter what signal you're trying to send.

  • This is the perfect place to celebrate a big occasion like a graduation (for my buddy Todd) or a wedding anniversary (for Kathryn and me).
  • The caipirinhas will get you absolutely black out drunk (also available in strawberry flavor). I'm not sure if this makes it easier or harder to consume Conehead portions of grilled meats.
  • Todd got cut off by the waitress. Not from booze, but from steak.
  • There were 15 kinds of grilled meats. I tried almost all of them. Worst - lamb chop, Best - chicken leg (...or maybe the fillet)
  • Kathryn and I played a rare strategy and each got our own desert. She got the chocolate lava cake, and I went with the creme brulee. Because it was our anniversary, I let her break the melted sugar on my creme brulee even though she didn't eat any of it.
  • My stomach hurt for three days - not exaggerating, and I spent more money than I have ever spent on one meal. However, I'm ready to go back first chance I get. Kathryn may or may not want to go. She's still trying to work her way through the powerful roller coaster of emotions that is the churrascaria.

Barely hanging in there.

Kathryn and I just before my evening turned south. (Bonus: I was really tempted to swipe one of those bottles of wine, but I think it was just the pork ribs making me delusional. Also, I don't really like wine.)

Eating Out - Pizza

Mmmmmm pizza.....

Pizzeria Paradiso (Pizza)

There are two things you can find in every (gentrified/gentrifying) neighborhood in DC: (1) a cupcake shop and (2) a brick oven pizza shop. People go crazy for those things, and it makes sense because they have a lot in common. Both are good or bad based almost entirely on the bread portion. Both are simple comfort foods, but covered with expensive gourmet toppings ensuring a 70% price markup on an otherwise inexpensive food item. Both taste best at room temperature, but maybe that's just me.

Pizzeria Paradiso is a popular choice judging by the fact that there is always a wait (at both locations), regardless of the time or day. Here's the break down.

  • Paradiso is one of those places that prides themselves on having a great beer selection. You know what that means? None of my personal big three: (1) Pabst, (2) High Life, or (3) Miller Light. They think this makes them cool.
  • In my two trips, I've tried the margherita, the mozzarella and tomatoe, and one called "atomica" with salami, black olives, hot pepper flakes, and mozzarella. The atomica is my favorite of the lot.
  • They have a pizza with mussels baked on the crust still in the shell. I'm going to try this one next time, if I don't chicken out.
  • I honestly wasn't a fan after my first visit, but a second trip proved that it's a nice meal. The only complaint - doesn't hold up well fridge for leftovers. Oh yeah, and the beer thing. That's completely annoying.

Visitors - Todd and Jonni

Todd is carefully evaluating my arguments at a Senate committee room.

Last week we had a nice visit from two of our best buddies from Purdue, my old officemate Todd and his wife Jonni. We squeezed in most of the must sees, but we also checked out a couple of places that were new to Kathryn and me.
  • Started off with the classic White House/mall walk - but in the unforgiving DC heat.
  • We were able to hit up some key DC eats, including Peruvian chicken and American Indian museum cafe.
  • We made our first trip to the International Spy Museum. I've wanted to check this place out since we moved to town. It's a nice museum, but the single focus gets a bit boring after a long visit. The spy museum is one of the few private museums in the city, which means you'll have to pay, but it's worth the trip. Also, it's pretty cold inside the exhibits, so it can be a nice break from a hot day.
  • We also checked out a few other museums and restaurants, which you can see in the neighboring posts.
  • The highlight of the visit was our first tour of the capitol. We were taken around on a tour by an acquaintance from SLU who did a wonderful job. The capitol is completely unlike anything I expected.

Corn column at the capital.

Kathryn and I also celebrated our fifth anniversary.

Smithsonian Museums - Portrait Gallery and American Art

Three brilliant Missourians

Smithsonian American Art Museum
National Portrait Gallery

American Art and the Portrait Gallery share one building - a museum twofer. The content alternates wings throughout the three story building.

  • It's fun to see some of the more famous presidential portraits, as well as some quirky ones.
  • The portrait gallery also features some amazing rotating exhibits. Right now there is a bunch of photo-realist portraits that are pretty outstanding.
  • The American Art portion is much better than I anticipated. You can see great works by Americans Georgia O'Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Hart Benton (big up Missouri!), and Andy Warhol.
  • Andy Warhol screen printed a bunch of stuff.
  • In short this a museum that is better than expected. It's several blocks off of the mall, but it's just far enough that the crowds are more manageable.

Electronic Superhighway - one of the museum's iconic pieces.

George H. W. Bush playing horseshoes.

Smithsonian Museums - American History

Two Todds

National Museum of American History

Growing up in the Midwest, I thought the Smithsonian consisted of a single, giant museum. One giant building with the bar from Cheers, Fonzie's jacket, a bunch of dinosaur bones, and a ton of boring paintings. A lot of people seem to have this impression and then are a bit disappointed when they get to Washington. This is especially true for American History because it holds a huge portion of the stuff people associate with the Smithsonian.

Here's what I came away with after a visit with our friends Todd and Jonni from Purdue.

  • American History is best known for its pop culture stuff including Archie Bunker's chair, the ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, and The Fonz's leather jacket. The rest of this collection rotates. Right now it's pretty lame. Apollo Ohno's skates and Nastia Liukin's leotard. Are you kidding me Smithsonian? That's all you've got for me?
  • The other big draw is Julia Child's kitchen. The gal owned way more cooking stuff than anyone would ever need.
  • There was a really cool exhibit about ships and an even better one about transportation in US history.

Kermit de frog

The birthplace of pretentious American foodies.

What great museum is complete without a Chrysler minivan?

Eating Out - Spanish

Fruit wrapped in bacon and deep fried !

Bodega (Spanish-Tapas)

The term "tapas" is no longer tied to Spanish food, and tapas are no longer the "it" food. Still, I love the idea of small plates of interesting foods. It's all the variety of a buffet without having to leave your table or worry that someone sneezed on your plate. It is, however, the food of great compromise. If you're the only one at the table who likes chorizo, you're probably out of luck.

Kathryn and I went to Bodega after a day of shopping in downtown Georgetown. Kathryn need some summer tops and dresses, and afterwards, I needed sangria.

  • A dinner at a Spanish restaurant isn't complete without sangria. Who doesn't prefer their wine with fruit and more booze in it? The sangria at this joint was just OK.
  • I know that tapas are small, but at Bodega they are tiny.
  • Here's what we tried: Spanish tortilla (a must get at every tapas meal), crispy fried dates wrapped in bacon (!!!!), scallops with capers and fava beans (Kathryn recently discovered she likes scallops), chicken croquettes, tomato bread with serrano ham.
  • The food was all very good, but it's the bacon wrapped dates that will get me back.
  • We saw a guy who was easily over 7 feet tall. His knees came up past the table, and he looked like the dude from Billy Cristal's "My Giant" or a white Kenny George.