Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Washington, DC: Good food, bad weather

Dave was invited to join a leadership training program in Washington, D.C., which is the first time he has gotten to go to our nation's capital for work since he joined the Department of Education.  I got excited and decided to join him to sight-see for a few days before his program began.

I had already booked about four restaurants and one U.S. Capitol Building tour when the reports started coming in about Hurricane Sandy.  Being intrepid Illinoisans, we decided that we wouldn't let a little hurricane get in the way, so we continued on with our trip and met up on Saturday in D.C.

Our first stop was dinner at Proof, which was the best meal we ended up having the entire two days we were in D.C.  I ate:

  • Full charcuterie board (shared with table)
  • Bibb salad with grapefruit and avocado
  • Cheese plate with four blue cheeses, one Camembert, and one triple cream (not shared with table - yes, I ate all that cheese)

We had dessert with Dave's college friend at Co Co. Sala, where I enjoyed a "chocolate onyx," a concoction with dark chocolate ice cream and chocolate mousse with a cinnamon truffle.  It was really delicious, but the other restaurant-goers were drunken idiots, which made us all feel a little awkward.

The next morning, we went to Founding Farmers, where I continued my eggs benedict tour of the world with a truly amazing crab benedict.  Even the chamomile / lavender tea was really good, and it definitely makes me want to add a few buds of lavender into my chamomile at work.  (And I did just buy some loose lavender buds at the Spice House.)

After breakfast, we got to walk by the White House and Washington Monument, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. D.C. Marathon runners!  We cheered them on for a moment and then proceeded up the Mall to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Dave loves the dinosaurs, I love the gems and minerals.

Last stop before lunch was the National Gallery of Art (both buildings), where we saw many classical and modern paintings.  There was a da Vinci in the west building, which many people seemed to be gawking at simply because it was a da Vinci, as well as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and more.  The east building contained the wonderful Roy Lichtenstein exhibit that I missed while it was in Chicago, as well as some Chuck Closes.

Lunch / brunch was at Birch and Barley, which was recommended to us by a friend.  Dave and I shared some donuts, which included one dipped in bittersweet chocolate, one glazed with maple and bacon, and one glazed in lemon and poppyseed.  I ordered the autumn salad with an Aventinus Weissbier Bräuerei Schneider, which was a dark wheat beer I really liked.

After that, we caught a cab to the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, although actually it would be more accurate to say that we got dropped off at a park near the gardens, we walked aimlessly through the park for 15 minutes, came out on the other side near the Danish Embassy, went back into the park, and then found the gardens one block away from where we had originally started.  (It's not really a vacation unless you get lost, right?)

It was at the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens that I got to see what I was really excited to come to D.C. for:  the Cloud Terrace sculpture.  It had been featured on NPR and I was rarin' to visit:  it's chicken wire sculptured to the shape of clouds, then strung with 10,000 Swarovski crystals.  It was as beautiful as I imagined, even with no sun.

By this point, it had started raining and we went over to the Lincoln Memorial for one last-ditch effort at some more sight-seeing.  We saw the memorial, went back to the hotel only to find out that we had no news of my flight OR Dave's program, and we went to dinner.

Our dinner was a new-ish small plate Mexican restaurant called Oyamel.  I had a pork taco with pickled onions, refried beans stuffed into plantains, and refried beans with freshly made corn tortillas.  Dave was MUCH more adventurous, ordering a grasshopper taco, a taco with pâté and chicken gizzards, and a tuna ceviche.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel to find out that Hurricane Sandy was imminent, my flight had been cancelled, and so was Dave's program.  We scrambled to refund my flight and get a rental car back to Chicago ASAP, since our earliest flight back was Wednesday.  Dave spent two hours on the phone with American Airlines and succeeded in getting all of that done.  

We drove back through rain and wind on Monday and returned in 11 hours, including a visit to the Waffle House (but not including a stop at Three Floyds Brewpub).  Weather was icky all the way through Ohio, and it stopped raining sometime before the Indiana border.  I felt lucky that we were able to get out, as rental cars were hard to come by and downed trees near D.C. blocked the interstates intermittently.

At 3F, I got a very strange but delicious black lager, Das Klein Schwarz Einhorn ("Little Black Unicorn") that I was sad was not for sale in bomber bottles.  We shared fried Brussels sprouts, as well as a pizza with pesto, chicken, popcorn, and pancetta.  Oh, and dessert - a vanilla / milk chocolate pot de crème with brandied cherries and a pink peppercorn tuille.  The meal and beer was good, but the dessert was really amazing.

The bunny was happy to see us on Monday night, unaware of our strange journey.  I feel like we fit a lot into our sight-seeing on Sunday, and I am eager to go back, since I had to cancel reservations at Rasika, an in-demand Indian restaurant.  Hopefully the next time we go, there won't be a threat of a tropical storm...

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