Sunday, May 22, 2011

Road Trip - Preakness Stakes

The sun-soaked masses in front of the grandstand.

As a giant fan of archaic sports and Americana, I was determined to check out the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on the edge of Baltimore. Kathryn had to work, so my good buddy Robert and I made the short drive up to spend a day watching ponies. Fortunately, we both hate being late and missing out on stuff, but that also meant we spent about 9 hours at the park. We did it just about perfectly though. I may never go again or I may go every year, either way I'm happy.

We saw 12 races in all. But we also got to see literally thousands of dudes dressed like Andy Bernard and two guys who, if they weren't clearly trying to sneak into our seats, we swore were the Winklevoss twins. There were also the typical gals in big hats and salty racetrack regulars. The horse watching was great, but the people watching was unparalleled.

This is the view we had from our seats. We were in the sun, but it was a great location. Right across from the only big screen, near the finish line and the starting gates for the longer races (including the Preakness).

We were suddenly transported to some alternate world where these guys were famous enough for autograph sessions.

Towards the very end of the day, the Preakness field paraded between us and the sweaty misery of the infield.

A nice element of Pimlico is that the paddock is right in the center of the grandstand. We wandered over a couple of times to get out of the sun and look at some horses.

Look at this one...

Robert beating the crowd to a morning round of Black Eyed Susans, the signature drink of the Preakness Stakes. They are incredibly fruity and surprising powerful.

Later in the day we both tried our first oyster shooters - a raw oyster topped with Cayenne pepper, Tabasco, cocktail sauce, and the King of Beers...

I loved it.

The US Air Force parachuting in the flag before the Stakes.

Losers, all of them...

No trip to Baltimore is complete without a pit beef sandwich. We swung by Chaps on our way home.

Getting Out - Zoofari

Before I looked too stuffed...

Last Thursday night, we had the chance to combine our top two DC favorites - trying new restaurants and the National Zoo. Zoofari is an annual fundraiser that brings more than 100 restaurants (and wineries) to the zoo. Similar to the routine "Taste of..." events, each restaurant offers tasting portions of a couple of items, but instead of charging per item, Zoofari is an all inclusive flat rate "taste." We were excited to try foods from several restaurants we can't afford to eat regularly, like Michel Richard's Citronelle and Robert Weland's Poste. The forecast called for showers, but fortunately the weather was great.

Here's a quick summary:
  • The most impressive part of Zoofari were the plates, pictured above. They were strong, plastic trays with two slots for a fork and spoon, a sturdy handle, and a built-in cup holder. Engineering genius!
  • There were easily a dozen restaurants serving gazpacho variations and/or salmon. Mini-burgers were also very popular.
  • We didn't want to waste an hour in line for Georgetown Cupcake. That place always has a long line wherever they go.
  • We also really enjoyed checking out the cake decorating contest for the local culinary school.
  • I imagine this will likely become the highlight of our spring calendar for years to come.

Roasted pig for mini-burgers (of course).

Some of the cake decorating contestants early in the night.

The big winner!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eating Out - German

Nothing like bacon wrapped pork products.

Biergarten Haus (German)

Earlier this week we went to see rap collective Odd Future at the Rock and Roll Hotel on H St, and before the show, we grabbed some traditional German food next door at Biergarten Haus.

  • The coolest part of Biergarten Haus is their commitment to looking like a Bavarian beer hall, complete with giant wooden tables and liters of beer. There's a fine line between "cool" and "trying too hard," but I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt.
  • While I tend to stick to Miller Light and PBR whenever possible, Kathryn has a taste for wheat beers. BH offers several hefeweizen choices, and what's a German dinner without a nice beer? We were both very hungry, but knowing that larger portions were coming, we simply munched on a couple of soft pretzels and spicy mustard.
  • For an entrée Kathryn had the gemusespatzle, spatzle served with Brussels sprouts, onions, wild mushrooms, and cream sauce. It was decent, and far better than her side item -- a very disappointing potato pancake.
  • I, on the other hand, struck gold with my entrée selection - schweinshaxn, a skin-on braised pork shank with spicy mustard (pictured above). A giant roasted pig forearm isn't something you can make a regular habit of eating, but damn, it was delicious! The potato salad and red cabbage were both alright and served their purpose.
  • We ended the meal on a real bummer, a completely uninspired Black Forrest cake. It tasted like a standard restaurant supply order cake, which I should have expected given BH is - first and foremost - a bar.
  • One thing I came away with from the evening. Everything is expensive, particularly the (imported) beers. I think it's maybe worth the occasional splurge (particularly when friends visit), but it's not high on my list.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Active Commuting: Capital Bikeshare

This shirt usually keeps me from getting hit by cars while running. It now serves dual purpose.

We spent the first year and a half in the District walking to work, a rare but expensive urban luxury. Now that we live on Capitol Hill, we're forced to commute to work. We both have a direct metro ride that takes less than a half hour door-to-door, but the last two days I've tried a partial bike commute via Capital Bikeshare. Instead of slogging along underground, I was up on the street getting some nice exercise on my way home from work.

Capital Bikeshare is a communal bike program where, for a reasonable annual fee, you can check out a bike from a number of stands around the city for half an hour. After the half an hour, it costs a bit extra, but it's still a pretty solid deal. I'm fortunate enough to have a station outside of my work building and a couple of blocks from our home. The thirty minute ride (which includes climbing Capitol Hill) left me pretty gassed, but also pretty sweaty which is why I brought a t-shirt to work today.

The station at the office. The bikes are Dutch style "oma fitz" (grandma bike) with solid internal hubs and sturdy frames.

The station at home. My route is almost entirely on bike lanes, but I did get a bit lost. I should have this down in a few weeks.

Eating Out - Cuban

Any time we eat Caribbean food, Kathryn's meal is basically plantains and other stuff.

Mi Vecindad (Cuba, Salvadoran, and Mexican)

Located on the eastern edge of Capitol Hill, Mi Vecindad offers a selection of affordable and well-portioned Cuban, Salvadoran, and Mexican fare. The restaurant is on a sleepy Pennsylvania Avenue corner just a few blocks down from the more lively Barracks Row micro-neighborhood. It's not exactly clear how this hodge-podge menu came to be, but it has something to do with a guy named Henry who owns a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away. He even advertises for the other restaurant on the back of the Mi Vecindad menus.

  • It's fitting that our first dinner in our neighborhood was at a place named "my neighborhood."
  • The salsa and chips are pretty good. Of course, I seem to always be on the verge of starvation any time I eat chips and salsa, so I think all chips and salsa are pretty good.
  • Kathryn had a very fruity glass of Sangria, and I had strawberry margarita, which makes me seem pretty fruity.
  • Kathryn orderd some sort of ground, roast pork dish, and I tried the Cuban steak topped with salted onions. Both of our meals came with black beans, rice, and fried plantains. The best part of the dinner was actually the beans, but everything else was pretty good, too.
  • The weirdest part was that the waiter brought us each a complementary shot of tequila. Fortunately, we walked to the restaurant.
Thankfully we didn't take an after picture.

Home: Moving In and Setting Up Shop

I have no idea where we're going to put half this stuff.

After much anticipation and a couple of weeks of waiting, we're finally in our new home. We were pretty fortunate that the movers were able to make the entire move in one day, and we're already out of the boxes. I say "out of the boxes," but we're stilling working through some organization. Like most urban homes, we're low on closet and storage space, but so far, we're finding ways to make this space work. Here's a peak of what's been going on.

On our first night, Kathryn noticed this sweet effect of our house numbers casting a shadow on the wall.

I noticed this sweet DC Vote sculpture. Taxation without representation, indeed.

Our kitchen is no longer a wreck thanks to Kathryn's work.

We've gotten pretty good at putting together IKEA furniture.

This is what the grass looked like just before we moved in.

This is after my first attempt at trying to cut the grass with my new electric string trimmer. It's a little patchy, but fortunately, there's no city ordinance on patchiness.

Getting the hang of it the second time around.

When we were back in Illinois, my dad gave me this sweet tool cabinet and tool set. It wheels into our utility room perfectly.

I used the drill to hang this hose rack. Already becoming a handy man around the house.

A few days before move in, this is what a trip to Home Depot looks like.

A few days after move in, this is what a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond looks like. Both of those carts are ours by the way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Home: Our New House

Just hours after signing all the necessary papers.

In the last week, we ran a marathon and bought a house. I'm sure this blog will be filled with info about the place as we move in and get settled. For now, we'll just post some pictures of our new Capitol Hill home!

Here we are on the big day. (Ignore the sign, this thing is sold!)

I'm pretty excited to finally have a real backyard. OK, more like a deck and patio, but still, it's my first since high school.

Kathryn chilling on the stairs to the basement TV room.

"Our first visitor"

View of the parking pad and back yard from the upstairs bedroom.

The master bath has a jacuzzi tub! Another first for me...

Energy saving toilet. I'll pass on the obvious jokes.

This is what our sinks look like in the upstairs bathrooms.

Kathryn checking out the neighborhood from the master bedroom window.

We'll be excited to do full size loads of laundry again.

Any bets on how long these guys will live under our care? July? June?

Illinois Marathon

The final small stretch in Memorial Stadium. (Note the football)

Last weekend Kathryn and I ran the Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana. Our training program over the last few months is the leading cause of blog neglect. It was hard to find time explore the city and try new restaurants, but the sacrifice was more than worth it. Here are the highlights.

In addition to accomplishing a major goal, we also had the chance to visit with my family. Both of my sisters, pictured here, also ran events that weekend.

Friday night my sister ran her first 5K! She seemed to enjoy the weekend most of all, and we're hoping she picked up the running bug, too.

We're about 18 miles in, so the smiles probably wouldn't happen without the camera.

Looking strong.

Family high five pit stop!

Here we are crossing the finish line together in Memorial Stadium.

We pretty much collapsed after the race.

On the way to Illinois, we stopped at Fort Necessity. It's not a vacation without the National Park Service!

Kathryn rocking some sweet car ride clothes.

Only in Indiana! Notice that I also wear silly car ride clothes.

Saturday night, the bartender accidentally served us Beck's Non-alcoholic beer. It was the perfect combination of disgusting and dehydrating.