Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Out - SLU Alumni

The other night Kathryn and I went to our first ever Saint Louis University alumni event in DC. The Cardinals vs. Nats game was the first bit of university subsidized fun I've had in over five years.

Jim and I taking in the game (and the free beers).

Pretty decent seats.

The "Curly W" pretzel looks awesome but tasted like a mix of donuts and hot dog grease.

  • Kathryn is a full on Nats fan at this point. Her team lost though, thankfully. My Birds are trying to make the playoffs.
  • We got to see Pujols rip his 401st home run.
  • The guy working the alumni pregame tailgate gave us a few "beers to go" that lasted us through the game. SLU just keeps giving.
  • Kathryn ran into two gals from her sorority at the event, one of which works at her hospital.
  • We also go to see one of the guys from my fraternity but only for a few minutes.
  • Once again Kathryn had to work the next morning after the ball game, but we stayed late to see the Friday night fireworks at Nats Park.
  • Kathryn was so inspired by one of her favorite player's up-to-bat-jam that she had me download Ice Cube's "Check Yo'self (the Message Remix)" on her iPod. Pudge Rodriguez knows how to pick them.

Eating Out - Food Trucks

Sriracha sauce makes everything better!

El Floridano (Floridian?)

I'm continuing to burn through the food truck/cart fad at an exceptional rate. Once again, armed with only a few bucks and twitter account, I was able to find some relatively cheap and interesting eats at Farragut Square.

  • El Floridano keeps it simple. They offer three sandwiches and about 5 drink options. This keeps lunch simple for everyone involved.
  • I had a very large sandwich listed as "Turkey Meatloaf Bahn Mi with Pickled Green Mango and Tamarind BBQ Sauce" I, of course, added a bit of sriracha and paired it with a sugar cane cola. The sandwich was incredibly delicious and kept me full all day.
  • I sat on a park bench next to a very talkative old dude in a bright yellow suit. He looked like a cross between Bernie Mac and a blue singer. We spent a half hour talking about cell phone plans, Gary Indiana, and sports TV packages. It was the kind of lunch that made you hopeful for the city.

Family Vacation - Nashville

We haven't had the chance to get back to visit our friends and family in Nashville since Christmas, but last week we got to spend a very nice long weekend back home. Here's some of the highlights.

As soon as we hit town, we went for a great dinner at Whitfield's. Here's me with my good friend David, the Chef de Cuisine.

Best French onion soup ever.

Our friends Jim and Lena got married which gave us a great excuse to visit.

Kathryn and her niece shared dinner at Jim and Lena's reception.

Two goat cheese fans unite!

Honky tonks after the reception. Typical Nashville bar band.

Kathryn's brother Rob and his beautiful wife Colby honky tonkin'.

Hoff kids.

This is the kind of bar you can find in Nashville's Printer's Alley. Sadly, we didn't get to go in. Plus, I had been yelling all night so my singing voice was shot anyway.

Kathryn's niece rocking the pots and pans band.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eating Out - Steakhouse

Almost forgot to take the picture.

The Palm (Steakhouse)

This is a sleepy time in Washington, DC: it's too hot to move around, the interns are leaving town, the college students have yet to arrive, and - most importantly - Congress is on recess. That last one means fewer big shots glad handing around town. This is a good thing for the rest of us because the limited business means one thing - DC Restaurant Week. A number of the nicer establishments in town sign on to offer three course fixed rate lunch and dinner menus at $20 and $35, respectively. This great opportunity only rolls around twice a year (there's a winter addition).

This week we only had the chance to hit one restaurant week meal, and we headed to the famous steakhouse The Palm in DuPont Circle. You may have seen this one on the DC travel shows or in the guidebooks. It's the one with charactertures of famous patrons on the wall.

  • Kathryn joined me and some friends from work (and Purdue, of course) for the prix fixe lunch. We both ended up ordering the Caesar salad followed by fillet medallions in red wine sauce with onions and mushrooms.
  • The two side dishes were served family style for the whole table to split (creamed corn, potato chips, and fried onions). This inevitably made me feel like a pig and worry that I was taking more than my share.
  • We did order different deserts. Kathryn went with the peanut butter pie, and I had the cheesecake. I normally don't eat cheesecake, but at a steakhouse where the waiters wear white jackets, the choice seemed appropriate.
  • All of the food was delicious but a bit rich, which made my afternoon productivity plummet.
  • Cokes were only 8oz (kind of a rip off).
  • This lunchtime menu is available every day, not just during restaurant week, but the prices are discounted. Kathryn and I saved a total of $1.70 off of the usual price. What a bargain!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Going Out - Trusty's

The fake vintage settings on my camera phone seemed appropriate for the night.


As a newcomer to the District, it's weird to think that some of our favorite haunts are located in what were some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America about 20 years ago. One perfect example is Trusty's Full-Serve Bar. It's located in South East (next door to an urban sports clothier) in a neighborhood quickly being swallowed up by the Capitol Hill set. The bar has a mechanic shop theme, with a new upstairs patio featuring a school bus facade and seats. It's a very cool bar that varies between longtime SE residents and more alternative young professionals. They also have a bunch of board games.

The highlight of the night was drinking a few cans of National Bohemian for the first time. Nati Bo was originally brewed in Baltimore and was featured heavily in the Wire (a huge hit with both longtime SE residents and more alternative young professionals). At first I drank it out of curiosity, but by the end of the end I actually preferred the Bo to PBR (a rare occurrence).

Tom and Tani settling up the bill.

I find myself playing a ton of Jenga recently. It might be the best barroom game of all time. This is the "Warhol" setting on my camera. It looks way cooler after a few Nati Bos.

Kathryn and Tani at the DC United game before heading to Trusty's. The bar is one of the few located just a short walk from RFK stadium.

Eating Out - New American

A little bit of West Lafayette in DC.

Ted's Bulletin (New American)

This last weekend we had the chance to check out Ted's Bulletin in Capitol Hill. The restaurant fills up fairly easily, but we went squeezed right in at 5:30. They sell senior citizen favorites like meat loaf and chicken fried steak, so I would argue it's a more natural time to eat there.

  • Our friends Tani and Tom picked out Ted's for our pregame dinner. It was actually before a soccer game, not "pregame" as in drinking, to clarify for all our early 20-something readers.
  • One of the attractions of Ted's Bulletin is the selection of "Adult Milkshakes." Tom had a superb White Russian (a Caucasian, Jacky), and I had the deceptively boozy Grasshopper.
  • I guess "New" means lots of seasoning and spices for traditionally bland food. Kathryn's chicken fried steak was smothered in a very herby gravy.
  • I was able to track down an old Indiana favorite in DC - the peanut butter cheeseburger! The burger was as good as any I've ever had in West Lafayette. The highlight was the curry tomato dipping sauce. Kathryn probably had as many of my fries as I did.
  • All of the food was so good that the girls were clawing at our food when Tom and I were hurting from the giant, creamy milkshakes.

"It's basically an upscale Cracker Barrel" Tom

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting Out - Ultimate Frisbee

In beautiful Anacostia

Since we've moved to DC Kathryn and I have joined the Washington Area Frisbee Club (WAFC) and played in both spring and summer rec leagues. Kathryn is brand new to the sport, and I'm back after a considerable amount of time off. But, we've still had a lot of good times and met some really nice folks. We also got the chance to play with a friend of mine from SLU last spring and a our good friend (and regular reader) Tani from Purdue this summer.

After a dreadful start of the season, I'm happy to report our summer league team is now fighting back toward 500. Our most recent game was particularly exciting in that (1) we won, (2) Kathryn scored a point, and (3) I had three assists. Our season closes in a couple weeks with the league tournament. Wish us luck!

Darkwing Huck after a hard fought victory.

Eating Out - Food Trucks

El Tri.

Food Chain (Tacos)

I'm continuing my assault on DC food trucks this week. Although Food Chain is technically a food cart, not a truck. It's still pretty awesome street food, and this week has been pretty busy here at work. It's nice to step out and take a break from the office.

Food Chain operates several carts around the city, with two on the block across the street from my office today. They offer three kinds of carts: barbeque, Caribbean, and tacos. Today I went to the taco cart, but next time I'm getting jerk at the Caribbean cart.

  • I went with the three taco combo: beef barbacoa, chicken, and black bean. It's hard to rank them because they were all about the same (i.e., damn good).
  • The barbacoa and black bean tacos were topped with chimichurri sauce, and the chicken was covered in "baja" sauce (whatever that means). All of them were of course topped with onions, cilantro, and hot sauce.
  • The tacos were all decently spicy - not too hot but just hot enough to guarantee you'll buy a drink.
  • I ate my tacos in the tiny park across the street from my office. I was quickly joined by some little finches. They beg a bit, but they are way cuter than pigeons. Yet another reason DC is cooler than NYC.

A big fan of taco shells.

(Editor's note: I should mention that Kathryn got me a HTC Droid Incredible for our anniversary. The nice camera phone will likely increase my blogging frequency. Let me know if I go overboard.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Road Trip - West Virginia

Hitting the rapids.

This past weekend Kathryn and I, along with our DC friends Jim and Kristin, went for a great weekend getaway in West Virginia. We headed out from DC after work on Friday, which resulted in us putting up tents at 2am. Fortunately, this weekend I was able to cash in on a bunch of my underused skills like putting up tents and building campfires. We spent Saturday whitewater rafting (a first time for me!). The rivers are fairly dry in the late summer, so the trip may not have been up to its full potential. It was still one of the best weekend trips we've ever done. We took the long way home on Sunday and stopped at a bunch of random stuff in WV and VA.

Take a look....

Our campsite in the day time. Our new tent is the little one on the left.

Chilling out fireside.

Kathryn chomping down on a smore. I'm convinced that this is the reason she likes to go camping.

The four of us at the New River Gorge on the way home.

We stopped to check out the natural bridge in Natural Bridge, Virginia.

We also discovered Foamhenge, a recreation of Stonehenge (to scale) made entirely of Styrofoam. A must see American roadside treasure.

One last whitewater rafting shot. The pictures we bought didn't scan too well, unfortunately.

Eating Out - Food Trucks

Good thing I didn't order that side of potato salad.

Sauca (International/Food Truck)

I've tried my best to document a number of DC culinary trends, including the gourmet burger, cupcakes, and wood fire pizzas. One arena of DC food trends I didn't get around to trying until today is the food truck. Food trucks are huge all over the country right now, and DC is jumping on the bandwagon. Here's my first (of hopefully many) food truck lunches. I signed up for Twitter this week just so I could find out who would be slinging lunch near my workplace.

  • Sauca uses the tagline "Eat the World." I generally find that eateries that offer a lot of different cuisines fall flat, but Sauca may have pulled it off. At least my lunch was really good. I can't speak for the other menu offerings.
  • I had the pork banh mi sauca. It was essentially a large pita stuffed with soy and chili stewed pork with rice, pickled veggies, and a mix of Thai peanut and coconut curry sauces.
  • I usually don't like to have a meal with just one item (I love sides), but this one item lunch was more than enough.
  • I also had a bottle of the refreshing limunad (that's how they spell it, I just said lemonade). The lemon flavor was dominated by the "mint and orange blossom." I thought it tasted like rose. I'll probably get it again, but I doubt it's for everybody.
  • It was kind of nice to eat lunch in the heat listening to the traffic and homeless people begging for money. You know, the true DC experience.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Out - Fort Reno

The Evens

When we decided to move to DC, I didn't know much about the city. I knew that the summers were notoriously humid, and I knew the town was the birthplace of hardcore punk, one of my favorite musical genres. Monday night we went to see a DC punk rock legend, Ian MacKaye, at Fort Reno with his current band, The Evens (a duo with his wife).

The thing I love about Fort Reno is that the lineup is usually made up of different rock bands. The crowd is surprisingly similar to what you would find at the usual "on the grass" summer events like jazz (which nobody really likes), symphonies (ditto), and Shakespeare (ditto, unless you teach drama). It's still a lawn full of picnics, sleepy dogs on leashes, little kids playing in the grass, and an ice cream truck. Just no alcohol. No drugs. DC hardcore style.

Kathryn enjoying an assortment of tofus and salads from the nearby Whole Foods.

Ian MacKaye's good buddy Henry Rollins was there to catch the show and help carry equipment. It's weird that these two dudes have been doing this together for 35 years.

D.C. Sports - Washington Nationals

Fortunately, none of the Phillies fans turned around to give our camera the finger.

I grew up a Cardinals fan which means I will always be a Cardinals fan. Kathryn, on the other hand, finds Cardinals fans annoying which means she didn't follow baseball the only time she lived in a major MLB market. Although somehow Kathryn has a growing interest in the Washington Nationals. She started following when the Nationals were in the chase for the NL East (read: April). This weekend we made our first trip to the ball park to celebrate the amazing weekend weather.

  • Everyone says you should never buy Nats tickets in advance. There are always plenty of cheap seats available at the box office. This is not true however when the Phillies come to town. We actually had to scalp tickets to get into the sold out game.
  • Nats Park is a great facility, but the food selection was terrible. (I wish they too sold Willie McGee's cookies.)
  • Ratio of Phillies fans to Nats fan: 4 - 1.
  • After growing up in the Midwest, I have been evaluating all of my long held stereotypes about people "out East." I can confirm all of the stereotypes about Philly sports fans. Those people are savages.
  • Kathryn had to work the next morning, so we were forced to leave early. We didn't miss too much. Just a walk off homer to win the game.
I think the ballpark is mostly marketed to tourists and interns. There is a lot of "check out how Washington this is" type stuff, like this Honest Abe giant bobble head.

Or how about this George Washington mascot thing? I think they should have gone with the Ex-Presidents from Point Break - way cooler.

Eating Out - Burgers

The only reason to visit.

Rogue States (Burgers)

The newest competitor in DC's premium burger war, Rogue States, just opened not far from where we live and work, so we stepped in to try a burger one afternoon when a Chop't salad just didn't seem hearty enough.

  • We both played it safe with the classic bacon cheeseburger. The "exotic" burgers didn't really sound that great or interesting.
  • They try to pack too much flavor into the patty (the wall literally uses the phrase "flavor flav" to describe the burgers). It's a lot like how the steaks at Outback all taste like that "Australian" spice rub. Except they don't have bloomin onions, so Outback at least has that going for them.
  • The only - I repeat only - thing that would get me to go back to Rogue States is a cup of their perfectly cooked sweet potato fries.
  • Much like Good Stuff, the fries are kicked up a notch by the assortment of flavored mayos. The old bay seasoned mayonnaise is damn good, but the wasabi mayo is unreal.
  • Save your money, go to Five Guys.

Vacation - Mexico (Nuptials)

It's official!

The main event of our trip to Mexico was our friends Phil and Chantal's wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony at a gazebo next to the beach. After the nuptials we celebrated with dinner and a live mariachi band.

I had the distinct honor of serving as best man.

I put this up for only one reason. I look a lot like my dad.

The wedding party on the beach.

Vacation - Mexico (Chichen Itza)

I'm resisting the urge to use the caption "Sweatin' to the Oldies"

While on vacation in Mexico we took a long day trip to Chichen Itza. I wasn't originally sold on the idea, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. It also helped that, for maybe the first time in my life, I was able to sleep on a bus. We got the chance to swim in a giant sinkhole on the way back to the resort. Sadly, no pictures.

Kathryn playing it smart and wearing a giant floppy hat.

Thornberrys standing in front of the temple.

Kathryn outside of the ball court with a giant snake sculpture.

(Editor's note: I some how forgot to mention that our tour guide told us Sir Elton John recently played a concert at Chichen Itza. We spent a large portion of the trip discussing how this was even possible and who would actually come to said concert.)

Vacation - Mexico (Resort Pictures)

The lovely beach at Playa Mujeres.

Two of our great friends Phil and Chantal got married in Mexico, and it was the perfect excuse for a week of vacation. We stayed at the Excellence Playa Mujeres. Here's some of the fun at the resort:

Kathryn figured out how to use the auto timer on our camera. Hotel suite shot.

Here's me and the entire Thornberry clan at the lazy river. We spent virtually our entire vacation there.

sugary drinks = sleep in the lazy river