Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Out - Millennium Stage

Asleep at the Wheel

DC's most famous arts venue, the Kennedy Center, also offers one of the city's most under-used tourist attractions - The Millennium Stage. Millennium Stage is really nothing more than two giant stages set up at either end of the large atrium/hall way facing the Potomac. The reason it should be a top tourist destination - every night at 6 they offer a free performance. This is a very low cost opportunity to stroll around a famous DC landmark and check out some tunes.

I would also argue that it's appropriately used by DC residents. This would typically imply that it's a favorite destination for swells of Washingtonians, but instead I mean that people rarely go... and for good reason. Millennium Stage's typical offerings are less than appealing to most non-stuck-up-artsy-fartsy-folks. Here's a selection of descriptions pulled from actual upcoming shows "The influential 6- and 11-string guitarist" and "creating a hybrid of Cajun, country, stringband, and swing" or how about "salsa band combines native African and Cuban rhythms with Afro-American funk, jazz, soul". I think you catch my drift.

There are few exceptions though, and these shows are totally under-used. This week we went to check out one of my favorite Western Swing bands, Asleep at the Wheel. They were very entertaining, packing the crowded temporary dance floor set up for the occasion. If you're interested in checking out the show, it's available on the Kennedy Center's website here:

Getting Out - John Philip Sousa

Sousa's grave honoring his time as Marine Corps Band director.

We're quickly discovering a number of interesting things hidden around Capitol Hill. One of the more fascinating features is the Congressional Cemetery. It serves, obviously, as a place of remembrance, but also, a dog park (more on that on a future date). Congressional Cemetery is the resting place of several members of Congress who died in office before the days of embalming. At that time, it was difficult to return the body to his or her (although I'm sure it's almost exclusively his over that period of time) home state. There are also a few famous folks who were born and raised in Capitol Hill - most famously J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, and John Philip Sousa.

Also, located on Capitol Hill is the Marine Barracks which is the home to The President's Own Marine Corps Band. Every year, to honor Sousa's birthday the band comes to his grave-site to play a few of his tunes. It was a surprisingly moving, patriotic experience.

Sousa impersonator starting the event.

Here comes the band.

"The Stars and Stripes Forever"

Kathryn and the Drum Major. A very tall man with an exceptionally tall hat.

James F. Amos was the honored guest - Four Star General, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting Out - Kingman and Heritage Island

A cool and sunny Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend, we spent Sunday afternoon exploring Kingman and Heritage Islands. The islands are located on the Anacostia River next to RFK Stadium. The islands are not as well known as the Potomac's Teddy Roosevelt Island, and in some ways, that's what makes them great. It's rare to have a beautiful place to yourself, so come check out the islands before word gets out.

Here are some great pictures Kathryn snapped on our walk.

The marshy tidal areas between Heritage Island and RFK Stadium.

There are some awesome looking flowers and plants on the islands.


Pretty flowers on Kingman.

Crazy cup-shaped leaves with berries inside.

My favorite picture of the day.

Amelia absolutely loved exploring the islands, especially the super muddy spots on Heritage Island.

Heritage Island.

Muddy dog...

There was also some pretty crazy wildlife on and around the islands. Here's a big muskrat that I thought was a beaver at first. In Baltimore, they eat these things (no joke!).

You can barely make out the turtles on the log in the middle of the river.

Cranes along the shoreline.

We saw several herons and geese.

Kathryn standing on the bridge to Heritage Island, and the bridge to Kingman Island is in the background.

Eating Out - Pakistani


Aatish on the Hill (Pakistani/Indian)

There are at least two camps of ethnic food eaters. One tribe seeks out the smallest and dingiest places possible. All of the other diners must belong to that ethnic group, and the food is "authentic." The other tribe prefers high end restaurants with a celebrated chef that "draws on his/her heritage" when re-inventing classic dishes (from either their native cuisine or preferably, something more mainstream). The food is "inspirational." Food critics try to move seamlessly between these two camps to evaluate what qualifies as "authentic" and what qualifies as "inspirational."

The reason I like places like Aatish is that it's neither of those. It's in Capitol Hill and has white table clothes, but it's also pretty cheap and offers delivery and a lunch buffet. It's decidedly middle rent.

  • I've never had Pakistani food, but I've eaten plenty of Indian foods. So I'm just going to assume that the foods I didn't recognize were the Pakistani portion of the menu. For example, when we were seated, the waiter brought us an order of pappadam - a lentil cracker. (Tasty.)
  • Kathryn had the chicken biryani, a sort of fried rice that we frequently have delivered from a neighborhood Indian place.
  • I had a pretty interesting dish that seemed to represent Pakistan's geography. The seekh kabab masala is a grilled kabab of ground beef (Middle Eastern) then stewed in a masala sauce (Indian). A solid blend of two of my favorite dishes.
  • We also split an order of aloo pratha, a hearty bread stuffed with potatoes and peas. Paired with the cucumber yogurt sauce, it was probably the highlight of the meal.

Eating Out - Fish and Chips

We got complaints from family that we had too many pictures of food and too few pictures of us. So instead of a chunk of fried fish, here's Kathryn and my mom.

Eamonn's a Dublin Chipper (Irish/Fish and Chips)

My mom came to town for a week to help us get the house decorated. We spent a full day checking out art galleries and shops in Old Town Alexandria. King St. seems specifically designed for entertaining moms. It's (literally) wall-to-wall decoration stores and cute places to eat.

  • My mom, a South Carolinian, loves grouper, but we quickly learned that the only real option at Eamonn's is to get the cod. Fortunately, we had big enough portions and plenty of chips, so we let the grouper be.
  • There are several sauce options available. I went for the curry (served warm), but my mom and Kathryn opted for two mayo based sauces. Kathryn's featured Old Bay, and my mom's had sun dried tomatoes. All seemed to be pretty solid options.
  • At the end of the meal, we split two UK candy bars between the three of us. I don't remember the names, and it was outrageously expensive. But it was a fun way to end the meal.
  • The place is called "Eamonn's" but this song by "Eamon" got stuck in my head. First when we ate there and then again while I wrote this post.

Getting Out - National Arboretum

National Capitol Columns... the old columns from the east portico of the Capitol. In the foreground is a capital from one of the Capitol Columns. (That's a technical term. Google it.)

I've recently become engrossed in another fundamental element of DC (pop) culture, George Pelecanos' novels. I'm not much of a reader (other than newspaper and magazines), but I've been burning through Pelecanos' crime novels. The first one I read, "The Way Home," had a character that talked about the greatness of the National Arboretum. That was all the excuse I needed to finally check it out, so Kathryn, Amelia, and I spent an afternoon exploring the park. We intentionally didn't see everything because we wanted to save some for a future visit.

Kathryn and Amelia at the base of the Asian Collection at the Anacostia River.

At the herb garden.

Kathryn has gotten particularly skilled at taking great looking photos with my phone.

Amelia's nose was already going crazy, so taking her to the herb garden might be considered a weird form of torture.

The best part of the herb garden was looking for plants that Kathryn will let me plant in the front yard. She wants a pretty front yard. I want a yard full of edible plants.

With pretty peppers like this, I don't have to try to talk Kathryn into letting me grow collard greens in the front yard.

Mission accomplished - Amelia was passed out before we even made it out of the park.

Eating Out - Afghan

Once again, the phone camera does not do the food justice.

The Afghan Grill (Afghan)

There are times I feel like we've tried every type of cuisine available, but then we stumble across a restaurant that reminds me that there is no way that's even possible. Fortunately, Groupon sometimes acts as a reminder, too, and armed with a half off coupon, we headed to Woodley Park to see what the heck Afghan cuisine even is.

  • We went in the absolute pouring down rain, after eight, on a week night, and much to my surprise, the place was crowded. We had to wait for several minutes for a table, and fortunate for us, it was first-come-first-served. That system was not so fortunate for the folks who made reservations.
  • The restaurant is really pretty. They have a nice view of the fringes of Adams Morgan, comfortable lighting, and beautiful plates and dishes. Judging by the diners around us, it appears to be a go-to date place for college seniors, liberal arts grad students, or not-for-profit staffers. You know, young, liberal minded study abroad types.
  • We started the meal with an order of bulanee, a leek filled turnover topped with mint (pictured above). I immediately wanted more...
  • I had the korma chaloa - chicken breast simmered with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and coriander seeds. It was pretty delicious.
  • Kathryn had the mantoo - steamed beef dumplings topped with garlic yogurt and vegetable sauce. It was definitely a comfort food - very similar to beef stroganov but with more spice.
  • We bought their next Groupon a few days later! We're definitely headed back.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eating Out - Korean BBQ

So many tiny plates of pickled stuff... so hard to choose...

Yechon (Korean)

Unlike most American cities, DC's interesting immigrant enclaves aren't located in the forgotten areas near the urban center; they're out in the suburbs. (Ethiopians excluded, of course. They're still here in the District.) The quest for the ultimate in Korean BBQ experience therefore sent us to Annandale, Virginia. To be fair, Annandale is inside the Beltway, so most of folks don't consider it a suburb. But I'm a District snob, so I say it's in the suburbs.

Two of our best foodie friends were in town, so we had to roll out the red carpet and head for the odd and interesting eateries around DC. We met up with another couple who were able to serve as our guides into the deep trenches of VA Korean BBQ.

  • To cover our bases real quick, Korean BBQ is just about the most fun way to eat a meal with friends. The dinner table is filled with little plates full of interesting side dishes (mostly pickled vegetables - oh and free refills on these). In the center of the table sits a large grill pan, and you sit around grill your own meats.
  • Only at Yechon, you don't grill your own meats - the waitress does. But you still get to go home smelling like grilled meat! Everybody wins!
  • Yechon is an interesting looking place. The facade is lined with neon lights, and a giant lighted sign reads "Open 24 Hours." Everyone suggested that it's weird that people would eat Korean BBQ at 3 am, but I think this makes perfect sense. I think it's weird that people would eat Korean BBQ at 9 am.
  • The food was all incredible, but to be honest, I don't really remember what all I ate. I'm sure there was bulgogi and kimchi. But what I do remember is what I drank. It's some sort of Korean wine. Similar to saki, it's served in shot glasses, so I was left wondering whether to sip it or shoot it (I shot it). Check out the bottle though, this stuff wasn't made for sipping...

Garden Update

Our best crop of the summer - okra

Well, summer is - by most meaningful measures - over. Last weekend, I tore out the last of the garden which had been leveled by all of the storms we've been dealing with (including Hurricane Irene). It wasn't the most successful garden, but I learned some valuable lessons. Next summer, I want to build up the beds, so the plants can develop a strong network of roots without having to fight through shards glass, clay, broken bricks, and who knows what else.

Here's one last teary-eyed look at the end of summer highlights of our garden:

I decided to pickle up some okra along with our hot peppers and chives for the DC State Fair. Hurricane Irene messed that up too, and I wasn't able to enter the make up date. Oh well...

I threw in one jar of cucumbers as an experiment. They aren't pickling cucumbers, so we'll see what they're like once I crack them open this winter.


After... cucumbers with sour cream and chives and okra stewed in tomato juice.


After... roasted red peppers with goat cheese and fresh basil.


After... homemade pesto (pretty tasty on pasta)

Going Out - The Passenger

All signs look cooler with DC iconography.

The Passenger

I always roll my eyes when someone talks about a bar being "hipster." Hipsterism is already dead (or in antiquated hipster lingo "it already happened"), and to make matters worse, DC isn't really a hipster town. "Hipster" is in general as meaningless a term as "alternative" was before it. It just means not-mainstream, or more appropriately, not the kind of place attorneys go to network after 5. Which in DC, that happens even at "hipster" bars.

All that said, the Passenger is a hip place. It's named after an Iggy Popp song. It's got a rail car themed room. They have rock and roll on the jukebox. It's the exact kind of place I want to have a drink after work, excluding the networking attorneys.

They serve kimchi hot dogs!

They make a great Rickey (DC's official cocktail).
I was so overcome by hipness I took this picture with a polaroid app.

They have a copy of Sticky Fingers to mark the men's room.

OK, I guess that's enough evidence. Maybe the Passenger is a hipster bar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day Trip - North Beach, MD

Chesapeake Bay - my new favorite giant body of water.

I've been craving a day at the beach. Although the Atlantic isn't too far away, the thought of driving 4 hours in traffic to a crowded beach didn't seem worth it. I stumbled across a small article in a free paper here in town about North Beach, MD. It's only 30 miles from our house, and it has all of the offerings of a decent beach town: sand, boardwalk, ice cream stand, hot dog vendor, candy store, and seafood restaurant.

2011 will mark the summer I fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay.

The sand beach is divided in two by a nice size peer. I didn't get the chance to fish from the peer, but maybe Kathryn will let me try next time.

We went for a walk down the boardwalk to get a plate of mussels, crab chowder, and cold beers.

The beach had filled in by the end of the day, but it was far from overrun.