I’d like to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, namely, me slowly but surely completing my recap of my travels to Istanbul and Cairo, to pause for a moment, and update you on a little weekend wandering I’ve done recently! It has taken me quite a long time to get around to writing about it (more on that here), but before the holidays in December, I ventured down to DC to visit my best friends from grad school. I had been to DC several times before, but only for work related events, and as we know, work travel isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and these trips to DC involved a whole lot of seeing the inside of a conference room, and not a whole lot of actually seeing DC. So, for all intents and purposes, I got to see DC with a fresh set of eyes, like it was a new city to me.
I flew into Reagan International Airport, which is always handy because it’s a short ride on the metro to get into DC proper, but this time, I was lucky and my friend came and picked me up in her car. Living the high life. While we were driving to her house, she pointed out all the major sites to me; it’s cool in DC how all the important monuments and buildings are more or less in one place. As a history and government nerd, I was in heaven.
I arrived to DC late on a Friday after work (my usual weekend wanderings MO) so shortly after reaching my friend’s house in Columbia Heights, we headed out for a fancy girls night to celebrate my friend’s birthday. Our dinner choice, and by ours I mean theirs because I know not what’s trendy in DC, was a restaurant called Bar Pilar on 14th Street. Bar Pilar is a farm to table restaurant, and please do not get me started on my thoughts on the bougification of the farm to table movement and the multitude of restaurants justifying their extremely mediocre food with the “farm to table” moniker. Like seriously, thank you for the unseasoned chicken breast, green beans, and potatoes, but I could have made it better in my own kitchen. Bar Pilar, however, was not one such farm to table restaurant. The food was insane. Yes, this was a very food-centric trip, so my recap is essentially going to be an ode to food, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Because we were feeling quite celebratory, we went fairly all out on the menu. To start, we tried the maple sriracha glazed buttermilk chicken skins. Like what. It was as delicious (and probably as fattening) as it sounds. We also got a curried cauliflower dish, and I don’t even like cauliflower, but it’s possible that I liked it even more than the buttermilk chicken skins, I’m not kidding. Our starter trifecta was rounded out by potato chips and onion dip with a twist- the chips were seasoned with a Japanese chili powder and the onion dip with toasted sesame seeds. For the main course I ordered lamb belly bolognese with gnocchi and parmesan chips. I wasn’t quite sure I’d like it because I do like lamb but I don’t love fattiness on meat and lamb belly is a very fatty cut. However, my obsession with bolognese and gnocchi won out and I’m very glad it did. To die for. It was very very rich and heavy, but the portion was small enough that I didn’t feel destroyed by it (despite mowing through three shared starters beforehand). The lamb belly was a little fatty, but the meat itself just melted on your tongue and the sauce was incredible. So, so good. Ok, I just spent like 500 words talking about my dinner. But seriously, it made an impression. Go there.
Just kidding, I’m going to keep talking about food. Next on my culinary tour of DC were the fine offerings of Columbia Heights, where my friend who I was staying with lives. We met up for brunch with a couple other close friends at The Coupe, which was absolutely jammed on a Saturday morning. I wasn’t particularly adventurous and got a burger and french fries, but they were very tasty. Most importantly, The Coupe keeps the kitchen open until 2:30am on the weekends, this is important later in the story.
Next, my friend took us to the Capitol and gave us a private tour. It was quite cool, as hordes of tourists waited in line and followed tour guides throughout the building like a row of ducklings, my friend swooped under the ropes, flashed her employee badge, and showed the good stuff. I love American history, and there’s a lot of wonderful artwork in the Capitol as well, so it was a pretty special experience to get all of that shown to us by a friend. The more serious narration of American history was interspersed with spontaneous outbursts of lyrics from Hamilton, by my other friend, who was into Hamilton before it was cool to be into Hamilton (sigh), and now has reached new heights of super fandom that are both terrifying and amusing at the same time.
After waltzing through the Capitol for much of the afternoon, we met up with a bigger group for a night out celebrating my Hamilton-loving friend’s birthday with a more lively affair than our quiet girls dinner from the night before. Columbia Heights has a variety of night spots that we ventured to before ending the evening back where we began the day- at The Coupe, this time over a glorious shared plate of poutine and mozzarella sticks.
The following day, the food tour continued at the Union Market. Union Market is an indoor year round market that primarily has food, both made to order and for specialty groceries. After making several rounds through the market to sample tasty treats, including a cold press juice priced at $60 for a large bottle, to which the attendant huffily responded “well you can’t put a price on the chef’s art” to our obvious sticker shock, we finally settled on some fresh of bread and a block of cheese the size of my face. Another meal for which DC did not disappoint.
We then went to the movies and saw The Suffragette, which I cried for and then basically needed to be alone in a corner rocking back and forth to process. As a woman, I found it to be an incredibly powerful and important film. It made me simultaneously angry, frustratd, sad, happy, and proud. GLASS CASE OF EMOTIONS. I highly recommend seeing it.
Post-emotional and mental breakdown at the cinema, we made our way to the National Mall at sunset. From the Mall, you can view the National Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and a handful of other important memorials and museums. The National Monument, a nearly 600 foot tall marble obelisk that pierces the DC skyline, is perhaps the most iconic. After a long stroll and life chat at dusk, my two friends and I made it back to the apartment for take out and a chick flick marathon, before I woke up at an ungodly hour the next morning to catch a early commuter flight to Boston, making it into the office before 9am (as I do).
Not too bad for my first trip to DC in the daytime, I don’t think! Food, time with friends, and exploring a semi-new city, is always a treat. Well worth that Monday morning spent rubbing my eyes, smoothing out my work clothes, and downing copious amounts of caffeinated beverages.