Thursday, September 14, 2017

U.S. Adventures: Washington D.C.

Recently, we had a whirlwind trip to D.C., where my daughter was participating in National History Day. She had summer school as well, so she could only miss one day of class, and was presenting on a Monday, so we took the opportunity to fly out early Saturday morning and do some sightseeing and eating. The boys flew in on Sunday, because of baseball conflicts.

The first meal was just me and my daughter, and we headed to the Eastern Market, which is sort of like our City Market, but with more meat and seafood counters, and fewer prepared food places. The one main restaurant type place had a line out the door, and I had read favorable places about it, and since she is more patient than son and hubby, we queued up and waited the hour or so it took to get through the line. It was totally worth it. Even though they were technically serving a brunch menu, I asked if they would make me soft shell crab from the weekday lunch menu and the owner/cashier was more than happy to. In fact, he insisted I get the sandwich, because he thinks it’s one of the best things on the menu. He was right.  This was the best soft shell I have had in ages. Lightly fried, and the crab was super meaty and tender, with just the right amount of crunch from the soft shell. There was slaw on it, and I added a little hot sauce, and it was perfection. My daughter ordered their crab cake benedict and it was very good as well. The crab cake had a lot of flavor and wasn’t overly bready. Perfectly poached egg and all was well. The owner was quite upset when she ordered the fried potatoes instead of grits and insisted we try the grits as well, and sent us a side of their spicy version on the house. They were very tasty, with green chilies, and more spice than heat. He also said it was required that we order one of their buckwheat blueberry pancakes, because they are known for them (and pretty much everyone there had at least one on the side). I am not a big sweets as my meal person, but this one was very good—it wasn’t overly sweet and had nice blueberry flavor. Yes, it was way too much food, and yes we didn’t finish everything (that soft shell crab was totally gone though), but it was fun to try everything. And I’d go back in a heartbeat. On Saturdays they have a big farmer’s market outside as well as artists selling their art, and even a few booths of a flea market. It was a fun place to spend a few hours (and delicious).

For dinner that night the daughter and I hit Momofuku ccdc. She has developed a taste for ramen, and I thought it would be fun. We started with the biscuit bites ($6) because my daughter is a bread fiend, and the soft shell crab buns ($19), because, well, as you know, I am a soft shell crab fiend. They were in season and we were on the east coast and I was going to order them everywhere I saw them. The biscuit bites were actually pretty large oblong biscuits that had chives cooked into them—they were pretty standard biscuits—good but not amazing—but we really enjoyed the Szechwan honey butter. One is certainly enough for each person, even for my daughter. The soft shell crab buns were so good. We each had one, and both thought they were great. They were steamed buns, ½ a lightly fried crab, Old Bay seasoning, remoulade sauce and shaved lettuce.

We both got a bowl of ramen for dinner. I went with the classic pork ramen with pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg ($17) and she went with the vegetarian hozon ramen with scallions, kale and fried chickpeas ($16) and added a poached egg ($2). My pork version was very classic, and very tasty. The broth was nice and rich, and there were nice greens, scallions and bean sprouts in there as well. My daughter’s was also very good—and a bit more unique, but also lighter. I loved the addition of the crunchy fried chickpeas for texture and also for a bit of protein. The broth had an herby aromatic flavor and was a nice change of pace. We shared a couple of milkbar desserts, but I have to say, they were the most disappointing parts of the meal—the cookie we had was extremely dry and the cake pops so dense, they weren’t that appealing.

Once hubby and my son got there, we met up with them for more sightseeing. We had an opportunity to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the Holocaust museum. Both were great experiences. We grabbed a quick lunch at Old Ebbit’s Grill, just because we hadn’t made plans for lunch and the concierge could get us in. It was so hot the weekend we were there, the air conditioning was a welcome respite. The food here is fine, not amazing, but it’s an old historical restaurant, so it’s kind of a cool place to take the kids.  Hubby and I split a fried oysters dinner and we all shared some crab and artichoke dip ($11.59), which was quite tasty. The kids had trout parmesan ($18.99) and a burger. Both were fine. We all shared a piece of key lime pie, which was not good. It had no tartness. 

For dinner that night, after the welcoming ceremony for my daughter’s event, we went to Zaytinya, which is a hip Mediterranean tapas place. We all love small plates because we can get a million things, and we all get to choose a few. And we were excited for the cuisine after our trip to Greece last summer. I can’t even begin to tell you everything we had because there was a lot, but some of the highlights were the hommus ($7), the pita (free), the bronzino ($12), the lamb kleftico ($14), and the crispy eggplant dish ($8.50). The pita was like a balloon-filled up with air and super light. It was extremely addicting and so good with the hommus. My daughter, who often ignores hommus, gobbled this one up. The bronzino had a nice acidic kick and interesting flavors from fennel and raki (an anise-flavored alcohol). The lamb kleftico was really interesting—patties made with lamb and phyllo and sitting on top of feta, dill and oil. It was crunchy and rich and the cheese added just the right freshness. The hunks of super crispy eggplant were one of my favorites, although the rest of the family doesn’t like eggplant as much as I do. It was served with a roasted garlic yogurt sauce. Perfect combo of crispy veg and acidic sauce. There were many other courses, but these were the standouts. The olives were a nice thing to eat with everything as well. The soft shell crab was my least favorite of the trip because it was kind of over fried. Several other dishes were just ok. It was a very enjoyable meal, with several really good things, but we all agreed it wasn’t a place we would rush back to. The service was a little weird as well. The waiter sort of ignored my son, and ended up not bringing him one of the dishes he ordered. So my son’s advice was to only bring one kid here at a time. 

The last day, after my daughter did her presentation, we had just barely enough time to get lunch somewhere before heading back to the airport. A couple of different people I know and trust for food had recommended Rasika, so we got a quick reservation and headed there. It’s an upscale Indian restaurant with a couple of locations. We talked to our waiter about recommendations and were told we absolutely should order the palak chaat ($12). Boy was he right. This is one of the best dishes I’ve had in recent memory. My family and I have already started searching the Internet for copycat recipes. So it is spinach, but it’s fried so each leaf is nice and crispy. The whole thing is then topped with this yogurt sauce with tamarind and dates. Then there were diced tomatoes and cilantro on top. Oh my, this was so good. Next time, there will likely be multiple orders. I know, it doesn’t sound that interesting, but it was. As another appetizer, we also shared the tuna chutneywala ($14). This was a very interesting and tasty dish as well (and also recommended) and was seared tuna stacked with a coconut cilantro flavored sauce. It was light, and the coconut added an interesting flavor dimension. Between us we also tried the chicken tikka masala ($19), the tandoori chicken ($18), the dal dhungaree ($7 for half) and the salmon tandoori ($22). All of these were good, but none were as interesting as the appetizers. I’d be tempted to just go with a bunch of apps next time. The dal dhungaree was interesting though—smoked lentils with garlic, tomatoes and fenugreek. All in all, this was a fun place and like nothing we have in Indy, so it was a good place to try. And I’d go back just for the spinach.

All in all, a very satisfying, but quick trip to D.C. We got to try a lot of variation in food, and all of it was good.

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