Archive for the ‘DC’ Category

48 Hours in Washington, DC with Chef Kerry

May 22, 2011

One of the benefits of traveling a lot for my day job is that occasionally I get to spend a few hours – or even a day or two – exploring a new city. Over Easter weekend, I got the chance to spend a few days in our nation’s capital with my favorite foodie travel buddy, Head Chef Kerry.

It was a cold, rainy afternoon when we met up at the Dupont Circle Hotel, a nifty and apparently newly refurbished boutique hotel right off of Dupont Circle that Kerry had gotten a great deal on through SniqueAway. Our corner room was not huge but nicely furnished and comfortable, and the location near the Metro and in walking distance from the restaurants and bars of both Dupont and Logan Circles made it a great home base.

We immediately headed off through the rain to our first stop, The Willard Hotel, for afternoon tea in the hotel’s Peacock Alley. A dowager empress of a hotel, full of marble, low light, and the quiet murmur of harps, the Willard is an ideal spot for a civilized spot of tea and accompanying tea sandwiches, scones with lemon curd and jam, and mini pastries.

After sipping our tea like ladies and polishing off the sandwiches (my favorite was a smoked turkey salad on wheat), we headed out by foot towards the National Mall and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen is preserved under glass. On the way, we were passed by the presidential motorcade, a nice “mostly only in DC” moment.

That night, we headed to dinner at Birch & Barley in Logan Circle, walking distance from our hotel. It was here that I realized how much the food scene has progressed in DC in the years since my last visit. Housed in a narrow two-story building on 14th Street (the upstairs is a beer-focused bar, Churchkey), the restaurant is a stark yet cozy spot with a Northern European feel, devoted to showcasing a huge collection of artisan beers and the foods that go with them.  It also has a great, Germany and Alsace-leaning wine list.

We started off with seared foie gras and crispy polenta with mushrooms and taleggio, both of which were rich, flavorful, and full of texture. The bread basket with house-made pretzel rolls and cornbread were delicious as well, but I managed to save room for a delicious fresh tagliatelle with braised rabbit, baby carrots, and homemade ricotta. The pasta was chewy and light as air, a perfect base for delicate pieces of pulled rabbit, sweet bits of carrot, and the creaminess of the ricotta. It was a great meal and I look forward to going back.

Saturday morning was sunny and warm so we ambled down to the Old Ebbitt Grill for brunch before tackling the Spy Museum. A DC classic, the Grill is famous for its oyster bar and the clubby green booths in which everyone from lobbyists to senators to celebrities have dined. I had the country brunch, a plate of grits, eggs, and glazed Virginia ham shanks. Because of where we were, we also got some oysters – I introduced Chef K to little Kusshis from British Columbia, and to compare we got some similarly sized Virginicas from Virginia – briny and delicious, especially with champagne.

After a long walk in the sunshine to work off some of those grits, we met up with the lovely Ms. T at the next spot on our food itinerary, Chef Jose Andres’ Cafe Atlantico. Dizzy with the sunshine, we ordered margaritas and decided to splurge on the restaurant’s Chef’s Tasting Menu, featuring several courses representing the menu’s theme of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine, including  a rich, earthy foie gras soup, braised pork belly with mofongo, grilled cobia fish with parsnips and pineapple, and a pineapple colada cake with housemade sorbet.

Although not mind-blowing, the food was innovative and tasty, and I was sorry to hear that Cafe Atlantico will be closing in June to make way for an Andres-run theme restaurant tying into an upcoming National Archives exhibition. Hopefully a new location for this interesting spot will be found soon.

Our final morning in DC was Easter Sunday. Enticed by the lure of all-you-can-drink Mimosas, we took a chance on a spot neither of us had heard much about, Policy, also located on 14th St. near Howard University.  The slick, wonkish name didn’t quite match the hip, black and red interior, but the small plates menu offered eclectic treats such as crab eggs benedict, corned beef hash, beignets, mini-croissant BLTs, and fresh fruit muffins.

Everything was priced to order widely and share, which we did. Sweet, salty, and paired with multiple Mimosas, it was the perfect decadent end to a decadent weekend of wining and dining. Thank goodness DC is a walking city.