Woah, what day is it again? From traveling to Washington, D.C., and back, I have neglected to give you SGE readers some tasty recipes to stay entertained while I’m out working my butt off, but hey, I’m back and I have so many things to share with you!
Why D.C., you ask? I was on Capitol Hill lobbying for my job along with other Easter Seals affiliates from across the United States, along with other trainings and seminars related to the great work that my organization does. During my 3 day / 4 night stay, I spent a majority of my time inside a hotel building to network and learn from those around me, but we flew in the day before it began and I had a little time to spend adventuring around D.C.
Washington, D.C. food culture was surprising. Well, to me, at least. I was not sure what to expect since it has been about 4 years since I visited the city last. At that time I was only beginning to think about cooking my own dinners.
First off, I have to give a huge shout out to Yelp. It’s how I planned where to go and when. Yelp told me when a restaurant was open, what the general price was and offered photos so I knew what to look for when I walked down the street.
And thanks to Yelp, I found Union Market.
Indianapolis folks can compare Union Market to City Market in that both are large buildings full of independent restaurant, grocery and retail vendors with an area for seating. Unlike City Market, Union Market has vendors that cater to a mix of middle and upper-scale class citizens who may stop by for lunch or to grab ingredients for that evening’s dinner on their way home. Yelpers toy with calling it a yuppie-haven of expensive, high-end foods and treats. Well, it is what it is. A treat.
Located in the NoMa / Gallaudet region, a quick 5 block walk from the Metro station, Union Market is somewhat of an oasis in a neighborhood filled with vendors that supply food for ethnic restaurants in the area. You may question whether you are walking in the right direction until you start to spot the big UNION MARKET sign on top of the white building with its orange overhangs.
Who was inside?
Freshly baked bread. Olive oils and vinegars. Wines and craft beers. Bazaar spices. An art gallery. Oyster Bar. A charcuterie meat market. A fish market. Korean BBQ tacos. Floral arrangements. Fermented foods. Coffee and tea shops. One sit-down “responsibly sourced” market. And other delicious, lovely things.
This was one of the fermented food bars. Because everyone needs a good dose of kimchi now and then.
Union Market misses the historical feeling that City Market has, which is disappointing considering it is in Washington, D.C., for one, and I can see why so many call it a hipster paradise. You have to be on the up-and-up to be able to afford to dine here on a regular basis, or maybe you just live nearby and it is what is available to you.
That was all saved, however, by DC Empanadas.
DC Empanadas was inside. It was my gateway to Union Market in that I originally found DC Empanadas on Yelp and then looked up what Union Market was. I am sure glad I did! At $3 an empanada, I ordered two, one beef and one pork. Both were made in advance but fried to order, which meant they were fast and hot. Brent went for the Korean BBQ tacos, and at an equal $3 a piece, we considered this food adventure a success.
What I didn’t realize was my small portioned lunch prepared me for the dinner that would presume, a restaurant that only serves what it knows best – steak and fries.
I must add that while I’m dragging my boss alongside with me throughout these adventures. While dining solo is totally cool, we both had time to spend prior to being in conference mode the next day.
Medium Rare has two locations in D.C., one of which in Cleveland Park, literally a few steps away from the Metro red line stop (which was my route). Their fixed menu literally consists of a simple, three-course meal: crusty table bread with salted butter, a small salad of just lettuce, tomatoes, parmesan and a vinaigrette, and the main plate of steak served with a “special sauce” and crispy fries.
Sure, there are desserts, craft beers and wine available, but only 3-4 of each, keeping with the simple menu. In return, you are provided with speedy services and not one but TWO plates of steak and fries. I didn’t read that on a Yelp review so I was a little surprised, but in a pleasant way. Who doesn’t want more steak and fries? I was all for it.
No vegetarians here. Sorry Mom.
Did I mention that this was all for $20.00? Yes, I am still being serious here.
I was surprised to find such a great meal for that price right inside D.C. Not only was the food worth the Metro trip for, but the weather was in the mid-70s and we snagged an outdoor table.
Since the majority of my time from Sunday on would be spent in the conference, I strategically used my morning hours to grab coffee at M.E. Swing’s Coffee Roasters, located just south of The White House and a short 4 blocks from my hotel.
Let’s get this straight right now – I drink coffee. Black coffee. Rarely will I order a cappuccino or a latte unless there is something truly unique about it (like Bee Coffee Roaster’s Shagadelic, brewed with shag bark and cardamon pods). So when I go to a coffee place, I really want to taste a good cup of coffee just as it is. Since it was so hot, I ordered a large iced coffee and it was strong yet smooth without any coffee grind residue, a sure way to tell that they pay attention to their brewing methods.
What I liked most about this place was the retro vibe as seen in the wall art and old school coffee roasting machines that they left in the place for nostalgia. I can just imagine what it was like to walk in the doors of this place in the 1920s (it was established in 1919) where the black suit and ties ordered their cups of coffee for a few cents on the dollar. With only being a few feet away from the hustle and bustle of politics, I’m sure this coffee joint keeps the gears turnin’ for many.
I learned that some of the simplest outdoor signs meant that true treasures were inside.
Yes, I brought back a bag of coffee beans.
I forgot to mention that on Thursday, two days before I left, I came down hard with sinus and allergy crap. Since then, my head was full of unwanted pressure, mucus and general discomfort. I mustered through the conference since all I needed to do was sit, pay attention and brainstorm, but the end of the day reception was loud, packed and slightly uncomfortable given my state of affairs.
I needed some fresh air.
Without a plan of action, I wandered outside the hotel and ended up near Chinatown, about 10 blocks away from my hotel. After stumbling along Ford’s Theater which was blocked off and had a few small crowds gathering. After a few moments of chatting with locals and tourists, we watched the Nancy Pelosi come out of a big black Suburban and then about 20 minutes after that we watched the Vice President’s limo roll up. It was crazy and happened within a few seconds, but the limo drove up with a second car behind it, stopping in this white tent where it was quickly out of sight. Secret Service agents rushed out the limo and into the tent. The VP seal was on the limo so I could only assume it was Biden – but hey, it was cool nonetheless.
I heard that it was a 2 hour show, so instead of waiting around to hopefully get a glimpse of someone, I walked away. Though some had waited 2-3 hours before that just in hopes of seeing the President.
After two stops at M E Swings Coffee Roasters that week, I decided to find another coffee place for breakfast on my last day. Yelp found a gem just around the corner from my hotel – Cafe Phillips.
Clearly modernized from its earlier days, Cafe Phillips offers reasonably priced bagels, breakfast sandwiches and coffee with a limited menu that likely speeds through the lines, though on a Wednesday at 8:45 AM I only saw 10-12 people come through the door. I do not know why, considering it is close to large office buildings, hotels and the White House so you’d think people would find it easily.
I ordered a plain bagel with scallion cream cheese, clearly homemade with freshly chopped scallions. It was just the right amount. I don’t believe the bagels were made fresh, but it was better than a Panera bagel, likely because it was toasted. And the cream cheese made up for it.
Yup, those are coffee ice cubes in the iced coffee. A nice touch.
Washington, D.C. was a lot of fun and I can easily see John and I visiting again for a vacation trip. Unlike Chicago, D.C. has several food adventures left. Yelp proved it – there were several other places I wrote down but did not get to go to and would love to go back for just a bite here and there. It is moderately priced but more expensive the closer you are to the heart of downtown, of course. Also known for their food trucks along The Mall, D.C. has plenty more to offer me.
Where there’s food, I will travel.