Monday, February 10, 2014

TwoDC Turns Five

It has been five years since J and I started TwoDC.  That's a long time.  It's longer than most of us spend in high school or college.  It's longer than a Presidential term.  And in this case, it has outlasted our time on the East Coast.  We've often written about our California roots.  And now we're writing about our return home.

This is easily the hardest post I've had to write.  It was difficult to leave Washington but returning to California was made easy by focusing on our exciting future.  This post forces me to look back at all we left behind and close the door on some of the best times of our life.

We've settled into a new home, a new job (for B) and a new understanding of the meaning of cold winter weather (50s and a light drizzle).  However, I've not settled with the fact that DC is not part of my daily life any more.  I miss the sparkling white marble of the monuments.  I miss being surrounded by passionate people who hope to change the world.  I miss the convenience of the Express and Metro (yeah, I said it).  I miss standing on the Mall and feeling big and small at the same time.  I miss the community of Ultimate frisbee.  I miss the snow (but not the humidity).  I miss the view from our condo that overlooked a bustling, dynamic and diverse city.  I miss the access to the rest of the East Coast and to Europe.  I miss being able to walk to anything and everything.  I miss the friends we made that became our second family.  And I miss exploring DC and writing about it in this blog.

This makes blog post number 415.  Looking at the backlog of half-written posts, it is clear that the end is near.  Perhaps that's why it has taken me so long to respond to J's reminders that I owe her some Second Thoughts on our last few posts.  I've not been a good writing partner lately.  Maybe it is because I don't want it to end.  More likely, I just don't have the words to do justice to the town, to the experience, to the time of my life that was so memorable.  

Art is littered with this very problem.  People infinitely more talented have struggled to capture the idea of transitioning from one stage of life to the next.  I've sat here for the last half hour thinking of what song lyric, Shakespearean sonnet, movie quote, classical painting or trite cliche would best sum up my feelings, but there are none.  Our time in DC was our time.  It was wonderfully unique and a real blessing to be able to share with you.  So I guess the only thing left to say is thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

J Says

Hello? Anyone out there? With the demise of Google Reader and a 6 month lapse in posts, I'm fairly sure I'm writing to my parents and perhaps one PR rep who will undoubtedly email us the same press release 6 times (oh the restaurant is creating a special day-after-Presidents-Day menu? You don't say...).

As B mentioned, we live in California now.  After homesickness crept into about 397 of our 415 posts, we realized that we needed to be closer to our families.  But, as I type this, my eyes are welling with tears as I think about the family we left behind in DC.  When we arrived in DC in 2007, we were newlyweds with a brand new condo, new jobs, no friends in town and no clue where to get a good meal.  In 2013, when we pulled out of the driveway to begin the long journey West, we were driving away from an incredible network of friends and a booming restaurant scene that we'd lived and breathed for 5 years (back to the days when 14th street was the sketchy street you walked down to get to Whole Foods).  There's no way to sum up what this city and this blog has meant to us.

When we moved, the number one question our friends asked was "Are you going to start a new blog?"  The answer came swiftly and succinctly: NO.  It's pretty obvious that food blogging has peaked and is on the downward slope.  Some may say that's a blessing, while others (looking to procrastinate at work) are wondering how the heck they're going to get through the day without an amateur recap of the latest pork belly dish. With the rise of Instagram and Twitter, there's little room on the interwebs for rambling essays like we're fond of writing.  Also, to be perfectly honest, blogging is a hell of a lot of work.  We're thrilled we kept it going for 4.5 years and are so grateful to have this scrapbook of our time in DC (and we plan to turn it into an actual memory book - not for sale unless there's some editor out there who is really desperate for content).  There will be no TwoCA and B and J are exiting the blogging business as soon as we give you the last couple posts we swore for months were coming.

Thank you for reading and for commenting. Thank you for emailing us and telling us what you liked and what you didn't like.  Thank you for inviting us to restaurant openings when we had no business being in the same room as actual honest to goodness food critics.  Thanks for all the free booze and that one time you gave us free lobster... that was rad.  Please email us to keep in touch and follow along on Twitter as we see how long it takes for us to lose all of our followers now that our tweets concern mainly UCLA, national parks and California transit issues.  My favorite part of this blog was interacting with our readers and I hope that doesn't end.  We're a great source for (out of date) recommendations on where you should take your parents when they come visit you in DC.  Until we meet again DC,  J

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Inn at Little Washington - The Inn

A zillion words have been written about the Inn at Little Washington's incredible restaurant (and we'll be adding a few too many words about our experience soon), but not as many that detail the experience of being an overnight guest at the Inn. 

For a celebratory weekend, I booked a surprise trip for B to the Inn for a one night stay and dinner.  We paired it with a hiking day trip to Shenandoah for an unforgettable weekend.  We left DC in the morning and took our time with the drive out to Washington, VA.  I figured we could show up well before check-in time and wander around the town.  Turns out that it takes about 3.5 minutes to walk around the whole "town."  It's really nothing more than the Inn, a few art galleries and little bed and breakfasts.  We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at a roadside cafe a few miles past the Inn and heading to check-in early.

From the minute we pulled up to the Inn, I knew it would be quite a treat.  The staff met us at the car, welcomed us by name, and whisked our bags away.  We had a welcome cocktail in our hands in about five seconds flat and were led into the tea room for afternoon tea.  Our host, Cameron, is the Inn's tea and cheese guru and has a personality as quirky and fun as the Inn's decor.  He brought us each a pot of tea and selection of sweet and savory goodies from the kitchen.  We sat back in the overstuffed chairs and marveled at the over-the-top room that would make a Louis proud.  Everything about the Inn is wacky and wonderful.

After tea, we were led up to our room. During the Inn's remodel, each room was designed and named for an iconic food personality.  Our room, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten room, overlooked the front of the Inn.

We enjoyed the handwritten welcome note from Chef Patrick O'Connell and the basket of fruit and baked goods that awaited us. The room was cozy and comfortable in a country way.  It was plenty spacious too, with a separate sitting area and balcony.  The fluffy robes and bath products were also top notch.

We'll save dinner for another post, but breakfast (included with the stay) deserves mention. This is not your ordinary hotel breakfast with stale bagels and bad OJ.  It is a breakfast befitting the Inn's five star culinary reputation.  We were seated facing the sunny patio in a comfy side-by-side table.  This is the one time that sitting on the same side of a table is perfectly acceptable.  Otherwise, it's just weird.

They brought out a selection of fresh juices and pastries, granola and fruit.  Though still full from the epic marathon meal the night before, we managed to put away every delicious morsel.

As we packed up the car to leave the Inn, they presented us with bottled water for the drive home and a tin of hard candies.  We've stayed at some pretty cool places around the world, but have never seen so many personal and thoughtful touches as we did at the Inn.  It was over-the-top fantastic in every way.

Second Thoughts From B

Part upper-crust French country cottage, part Willy Wonka's culinary wonderland, the Inn at Little Washington hardly seems like the product of humble beginnings. However, did you know that one of America's greatest restaurants grew out of an old gas station?  True fact.

I don't know if the origin of the Inn's structure gets the credit but outside of the small fortune required to be a guest, there is no air of pretentiousness or elitism that I could detect among the staff or patrons.  Rather, it felt like you were staying at your eccentric uncle's farm house. It was comfortable, quiet and accommodating. Admittedly, we were waited on throughout our stay but it was done so in a friendly and helpful manner that made us feel comfortable.  We were given what we wanted before we considered asking for it and were not put in the awkward position of turning down unnecessary service that often comes with high-end hotels. "Yes, come to think of it, I would like some more tea" rather than "no, I don't need you to turn the page of my menu."

I don't know how a business strikes the balance between pampering and overbearing but the Inn was able to do it.  Then again, I don't know how they do half the things there... I'm just happy that they do. The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tel Veh

We live in a condo building that has been searching for a retail tenant for over six years.  During that time, we've chatted with our neighbors about what kind of place we'd like to have take over that space.  I think we found our answer in Tel Veh.  Tel Veh is a cafe and wine bar in the ground level of the 400 Mass condo building.  It's noisy as heck inside during happy hour, but quieted down nicely as the evening wore on.

They have a menu of small plates, charcuterie, cheese and wine that we were expecting to be just average.  We ended up very impressed by all of the food and jealous of the 400 Mass folks who have this downstairs.  Here's a quick play-by-play of our meal:

Rocket Salad:  grilled haloumi cheese, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds and honey balsamic.  How can you go wrong with grilled cheese?

Octopus with roasted red peppers, capers and an onion vinaigrette.  Perfectly cooked octopus.  We even liked it better than Mike Isabella's octopus at Graffiato.

Truffled seafood risotto.  Your standard risotto with the addition of a giant prawn and some well-cooked mussels and clams.

Herb-crusted rack of lamb.  B will love any lamb dish.  The true test is whether I loved it . . . and I did!

Selection of three cheeses.  I thought they were too skimpy on the accompaniments but they were nice and gave us more of the awesome fig jam when we licked the first serving dry.

We had a great Friday night dinner at Tel Veh and would probably be regulars if we lived upstairs.  The prices are a bit steep during the regular dinner hour, but check out their happy hour specials to save a few bucks.

Second Thoughts from B

It takes a lot to compose the perfect evening.  Food, atmosphere, service, company, occasion, state of mind.  But when they do come along, you remember.  Tel Veh was not perfect, but it reminded me of another night that was.

We have some good friends that live in the Bay Area.  On one particular visit they took us to a typical California wine bar that was not unlike Tel Veh.  Though it was several years ago, I can still taste the cheese, nuts, honey, and fruit that seems so typical of that region.  I remember the relaxed atmosphere and the comfort of old friends.  It was a perfect night and one I've longed to recreate.

When I come home from work, I'm often greeted with the question, "What do you want to do tonight?"  My answer of "whatever" is my inarticulate way of saying I am happy to go along with whatever my foodie wife has in mind.  On this particular night, J had two options in mind and when one was described as a California wine bar with tapas, charcuterie and cheese, I was sold.  Why?  Because of memories of that perfect night in the Bay Area.

With those kinds of expectations, Tel Veh was set up to fail.  Sure they weren't perfect, but they more than held their own and reinforced the fact that I look forward to my next California meal... regardless of which coast it is on.
Tel’veh Cafe & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beau Thai

On one of those "we're way too exhausted to cook" nights, B said he was in the mood for Thai food.  Thankfully, our friends had just mentioned that they really enjoyed Beau Thai in Mt. Pleasant.  Remembering that they also have a Shaw location, I called them to see if they'd deliver to us on the outskirts of Shaw.  They happily agreed to deliver and I happily set about ordering a random assortment of dishes.

About 30 minutes later, the delivery driver called and dinner was ready.  It was a little awkward because the driver didn't get out of his car and I had to look in the windows of three different cars in our building's driveway to see who had my food.  Most drivers wait in the lobby, so he gets a few minus points for that.  However, I'll overlook it because they were speedy and I like that they take credit cards.

The food arrived hot and in sturdy non-styrofoam packaging.  The crispy tofu wrapped in sesame seeds retained its crunch, which is no small feat for delivery food.

Two thumbs up (awww, RIP Roger Ebert) to their signature Beau Thai Chicken: lightly battered chicken tossed in a spicy garlic sauce and string beans, served with white jasmine rice.

The papaya salad was a little heavy on the Thai lime dressing but otherwise a refreshing way to end the meal.

We were happy with our first Beau Thai delivery experience. One thing to understand before you order is that it's not cheapo bulk Thai food.  You aren't going to get days of leftovers for $5.  Instead, it's high quality food served in smaller portions than we're used to for takeout.  If you want mega American-style portions, it's probably a good idea to order more dishes than you normally would.

Have you been to Beau Thai?  How is the dining-in experience?

Second Thoughts From B

Half the fun of having Thai or other Asian food delivered to your home is the next day's leftovers.  The business model of inexpensive mountains of food piled high over rice or noodles is well known.  But Beau Thai seems to be trying to break the mold.  Is there such a thing as "gourmet delivery"?

Call me old fashioned but as good as Beau Thai was, I missed the delivery experience.  I missed the enormous portions of mystery meat slathered in overly sweet or hypersalty sauces that mixed perfectly with white rice.  I missed the soggy vegetables and copious amounts of individually packaged condiments.  I missed the gluttonous waddle to the kitchen to find 47 pieces of mismatched Tupperware to store the rest of our bounty.  And most of all, I missed the soupy, mushy, deliciousness reemerging from the fridge the next day on the fast track to the microwave.  That is what delivery is in my mind.  It is not good for you and it certainly isn't gourmet, but it is familiar and wonderful.  I missed that with Beau Thai. 

Beau Thai should be commended for trying to elevate delivery.  They were effective in bringing the restaurant experience to our home.  But it seems that my little reptilian brain couldn't handle it.  So I guess we'll have to enjoy their food in their restaurant next time because as disoriented as I was, it was tasty.
Beau Thai on Urbanspoon