Wednesday, June 30, 2010


We're not shy about our love for Jose Andres. We love the bold flavors and fun atmosphere that his restaurants offer (see our thoughts on Minibar, Oyamel, and Cafe Atlantico). We ventured out to Jaleo in Penn Quarter to test out the Paella Festival. We had only been to the Jaleo in Crystal City so it was fun trying the one that is in our backyard. We started with a pitcher of fruity sangria. It was about 8 million degrees outside so this refreshing drink was a must.

Jaleo, for the uninitiated, is a tapas restaurant. To go with our paella, we ordered a variety of tapas. To start, the Datiles con Tocino. The menu describes them as "fried dates wrapped in bacon that you will want to eat every day." How cute is that? Not only is the description cute, it is accurate. If it wasn't for the whole fried and bacon thing, I could definitely eat these every day.

Next were the roasted sweet onions with pine nuts and blue cheese. The onions were uber-sweet and contrasted really well with the sour bite of the blue cheese. The fact that the dish is served cold and contains blue cheese might turn off some people, but that's ok, more for me!

The main event was the paella: Fideos a banda con bogavante (traditional fried pasta, paella style with lobster and fresh squid). B read an Express article about Jaleo bringing in a chef from Spain for its paella festival (Maria Jose San Ramon). She cooks up a variety of paella with pasta instead of rice. We were really psyched to try it and though the flavor was excellent, but I think it needed more time over the heat. The noodles weren't at all crispy and left the whole pan with a rather mushy texture. My favorite part of paella is the crispy part that sticks to the pan and we didn't get any of that on this visit. The paella was, however, packed with generous servings of lobster and squid.

The next dish was another pesky looksbetteronthemenusapien, which we initially met at Wasabi (see here). The description of salmon with cauliflower puree and raspberries sounded intriguing, but mostly the dish just tasted like a piece of salmon. The cauliflower puree didn't add a lot of flavor and there wasn't enough of the raspberry flavor to jazz it up. Also, no fun to pick bones out of your fish.

For our starch course we tried the Papas Arrugas (Canary Island-style wrinkled baby potatoes served with mojo verde). Canary Island-style must mean "looks like dessert but tastes dry." The potatoes didn't soak up any of the sauce so it felt sort of disjointed. This didn't faze B though. Recipe for success in his world = starch + salt. He ended up eating the whole bowl.

I was a big fan of the Lomo de Buey (grilled hanger steak with piquillo peppers). It was tender and the piquillo peppers added a nice zing.

Our visit to Jaleo was a bit like our table: hot and cold. We were seated in the uber-air conditioned dining room but near the patio door so every so often would get huge blasts of hot air from outside. The same could be said about the meal. Every so often we'd get huge blasts of flavor and smiles all around, while a couple of other dishes left us cold. The variety of Jaleo's menu and the fact that Jose Andres is just a really likeable guy, means we'll be back.

Second Thoughts from B

I've been to each of Jose Andres' restaurants and in my humble opinion, Jaleo is the least outstanding. Saying that, however, is like identifying the least attractive supermodel. Ultimately, they are all really good choices and it just comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Speaking of personal preference, that is one of the things I love about the diversity of Jaleo's menu. It is a great place to go with a group of people when several different needs must be met. Jaleo can be "fit for foodies" who are impressed by Jose Andres' name yet wouldn't intimidate a less sophisticated palate. You'd be comfortable dressed up or in jeans and a t-shirt. Vegetarian requirements? No problem. Someone on a diet? Tapas are the perfect thing for portion control. Basically, there's something for everyone.

Paella was the something for me on this night. Having recently returned from Spain and sampling the original dish in Madrid, I had a craving (and writing this now is making my mouth water). I don't know what it is about paella but I think it has recently ascended to the top of my comfort food list without ever having appeared in my childhood. I just want to stuff myself silly, curl up in a little ball, and fade off into a food coma. I don't know what else I can say... I'm hooked.
Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 28, 2010

Toscana - Guest Post

Over the last week and a half, J and I were lucky enough to be in South Africa where we were on safari and took in a couple of World Cup games. While we were having the time of our lives on the other side of the earth, someone needed to continue our quest to explore every nook and cranny of DC. The following is what that someone - our good friend and loyal reader "A" - found. Apparently, we should thank her for filling in for us AND for saving us from a less than savory experience... Yikes!

-B and J

On Friday evening, I was catching up on my television (Real Housewives of New York, the charming Baby Mama – so reader, know I am not snobby about television and please extrapolate that I am not snobby about food), when, a few minutes after eight, my husband, M, called to let me know he was on his way home from work. We discussed dinner – and settled on takeout from Toscana CafĂ©, which is a block away from our apartment.

Now, we live on the north side of Capitol Hill, and there are not a lot of dinner options here. Due to the dearth of dining, we are very lenient with the food around here – it doesn’t have to be fantastic, just serviceable. We do love Kyoto Sushi, but M felt like pizza and, since Clemson was playing in the College World Series, we needed to eat at home. And oh how I wish Clemson had won to make up for our terrible meal.

Toscana is close to home, and that’s about all it has going for it. Oh, that’s not entirely true. Toscana has a partnership with Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, wherein patrons can bring beverages from Schneider’s to Toscana and not pay a corking fee. And Schneider’s is amazing – they have an impossibly huge selection of wine, beer, and spirits in a tiny store, and their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. In the three years we have lived here, we have had one bottle of wine that we didn’t care for – everything else we have gotten there, we’ve loved.

So on this Friday night, I strolled over to Toscana to check out their takeout menu and order a quick meal. M wanted a pizza with vegetables, and I decided a salad would go well with it. To start, they don’t have paper takeout menus; instead, patrons look at about five different boards with dishes written on them while basically standing in the kitchen. They offer three types of pizza, none of them obviously veggie, so I asked the host/main waiter to suggest a veggie pizza. He said that they didn’t really have any, but the Formaggi pizza, with spinach, ricotta, and fontina would be good. I also ordered the Grilled Corn and Orzo Salad with Shrimp, Cucumbers, Peppers, and Coriander with Passion Fruit Dressing. When I walked in to order takeout, I was told it would be 20 minutes, but when I placed my order I was told it would take 30.

Thirty minutes later, after a quick few sips of beer and a little pre-game coverage of the Clemson game, I walked over to Toscana to pick up our dinner. I was told it would be another 15 minutes, and I unhappily walked home. I think that they had forgotten to make our pizza, but when I want back after 15 minutes, there was a pizza waiting. The man I ordered from asked me if I had ordered anything else, and I said that I had ordered a salad. He asked what kind, and then went into the back to root around a bit before telling me that they were out of it. One of the sous chefs said he was making it (cooking the shrimp, by far the highlight of our meal). I was not charged for the salad, paid $10 for the pizza, and walked home in a huff. At 9:30, we finally started our dinner.

Does this look like a veggie pizza? Not a vegetable to be found:

(note: the photos were taken on my Droid. We did not feel motivated to take good photos of our bad food).

Frankly, I could have walked to the corner store, bought a frozen pizza, and we would have finished our meal long before the game started. And that frozen pizza would have tasted better – the pizza was bland, and the crust was far too thick for the amount of sauce and cheese. Neither the crust nor the bottom of the pizza was brown, but there were burnt, not brown, portions of the cheese. As M said, the crust just tasted like bread. I will say the sauce was not as sweet as many pizza sauces I’ve tasted, but I only had a bite. M ate half, probably because he didn’t eat the salad. At the end of the meal, M stated that Jumbo Slice, eaten sober, is better than this pizza.

Ah, the salad:

Well, M was not a fan of the passion fruit dressing, or as he liked to call it, the “weed dressing.” Yes, it smelled suspiciously and quite strongly like the newly legalized herb. We don’t like to pour bong water on our salads. And M had poured it on his serving, rendering it inedible.

I did not use any dressing, making me quite confused when M started calling it weed salad. I shared the rest of my grilled shrimp, which as I mentioned, was delicious. But the jokes from Half Baked continued all night, so I guess this salad was worth every penny!

As a little backstory, we did eat at Toscana a few months before, and I can confidently say that the best part of the meal was the bottle of wine we brought from Schneider’s. M ordered the Papardelle with roasted tomato lamb ragu, and I had the Gnocchi with basil pesto, sundried tomato, and shrimp. M’s papardelle was overwhelmed with rosemary – I know that rosemary is a typical lamb pairing, but rosemary can taste like soap when too much is added. The dish tasted entirely of rosemary, and M says he was still burping up rosemary hours later (ladies, don’t be jealous of my husband – you can’t have him!). Meanwhile, my gnocchi with basil pesto came in a pink cream sauce. You can imagine my confusion, since I know basil to be green, but I ate it anyway because I really don’t like to make a scene. Finally, M flagged down our waitress to ask why my sauce was pink, and it was explained to us that the sauce did have basil pesto in it, as well as marinara sauce and alfredo sauce. Huh?

Incensed by bland pizza and another misrepresentation of a dish on the menu, I called to complain about the lack of vegetables. The person I spoke to was very apologetic and tried to explain that they had been swamped that evening. Well, the restaurant has been open since last fall, so I don’t understand why they couldn’t handle one night when the outdoor patio was not even full of diners. He even offered to comp our next dinner there, which I firmly turned down. And I am cheap, cheap, cheap. In the words of our previous president, “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again!”

But don’t worry, I had a delicious dinner, thanks to Schneider’s:

In conclusion, a plea to Chipotle – please open in Union Station NOW! Your sign has said “Coming Soon” for months. COME NOW!!

Thanks to J and B, and to everyone who made it through my long rant.
Toscana Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Are you doing the "I have friends in town and I don't know where to go eat near the Mall" routine for the millionth time? Problem solved: take them to Mitsitam in the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

Before you laugh and say that you're never going to a museum food court, take a closer look. Mitsitam (which means "Let's eat") features cuisine native to different regions of the Americas: Northern Woodlands, South America, Northwest Coast, Meso America, and the Great Plains. In addition to your typical chicken tenders and burgers, you'll find Indian frybread, buffalo steak, cedar plank salmon, roasted chayote squash, and much, much more.

In addition to having the best menu on the Mall, Mitsitam also has the best view. If you're lucky, you can snag a seat next to the flowing waters that surround the museum. This "best kept secret" isn't so secret any longer and it can be pretty crowded and peak times.

Go early (or late), grab a tray and explore.

B likes to try a different item each time we go. This time, he journeyed to the Northwest Coast for cedar plank juniper salmon, stewed blackeyed peas with horseradish root and spinach, and broccoli with pumpkin seed and lavender butter.

I found something I love and I stick to it. The Indian Taco made with buffalo chili smothered over fry bread is my go-to lunch. Part taco salad, part flatbread, all yummy.

Mitsitam also offers aguas frescas (that always look better than they taste) and desserts to cap off your meal. The cafeteria-style and huge variety of options makes it a perfect destination for groups or hard to please visitors. It isn't as cheap as the McDonald's next door in the Air and Space Museum but it is light years better.

Second Thoughts from B

There's so much to love about Mitsitam and only one drawback. The drawback is that you'll pay museum prices. But aside from the cafeteria style operations, it is closer to restaurant quality food. Plus, if you're on the Mall doing the tourist thing, the cafeteria speed is a benefit.

As J said, we eat here often whenever we are playing tour guide. Diverse and unique dining options, a beautiful setting, and a convenient location (almost exclusively given the Mall's lack of options) are all worth making this a regular stop.

But there's one more thing that I think is so unique. Appropriately, it seems that the philosophy is that eating time during a museum visit is not a time to stop learning. Through the wide-range of dishes and the ingredients that are used, visitors can experience a taste of American Indian life. A version catered to the modern palate to be sure, but considering the emphasis on authenticity and the strong ties to native peoples at the museum, it will open more than a few eyes (and mouths). Over the course of many meals I've had, I can say that each time I've enjoyed something that was foreign to me. In fact, my goal is usually to find something I've never heard of (and can't pronounce) and I've yet to leave disappointed.
Mitsitam Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 21, 2010


After the Pride Parade (see our thoughts here), we were in need of some grub. Not wanting to venture far from our viewing spot on P Street, we headed to Commissary. You might recognize the space as it formerly housed Merkado. Apparently Merkado's Latin/Asian fusion theme wasn't bringing in the big bucks, so the owners closed up shop and converted the space into Commissary, which has a coffehouse/cafe feel.

Some days all you want is a plain old burger. Well, that's what I got at Commissary. It was as basic as a burger gets: bun, beef, lettuce, tomato, onion. As you can see from one of the ugliest pictures to grace this blog, the burger was a bit over done. It wasn't that good but was what I needed after a lot of celebrating at the parade.

B had better luck with his prosciutto, gruyere, and arugula pizza. It was thin and light in the crust department, but bold in the flavor department. Not quite 2 Amy's (see here) but a solid pie.
Commissary wants to be "your neighborhood place" and if it was in our neighborhood we might be more likely to pop in for a drink or a casual meal. But, with all of the fun places opening in the Logan area, Commissary isn't going to be what brings us to this 'hood.

Second Thought from B

Commissary isn't exactly gourmet, but it isn't looking to be either. It is much more a place to refuel that anything else (after all, its name is synonymous with "dining hall"), and in that role, it succeeds. Therefore, anything more than something to quench your hunger is a bonus.

As J said, my pizza exceeded my modest expectations. It was a nice combination of mostly salty ingredients with some refreshing citrus, all on a well done crust. If anything, the flavors might have been too bold. Not everything needs to be turned up to 11, despite what our friends in Spinal Tap might say. Still, if your meal is more about visiting with friends and filling your stomach, you could do much worse.
Commissary on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Capital Pride Parade

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it is this: you don't have to be gay to enjoy the Capital Pride Parade. It is a time to celebrate who we all are as people and as a community. J and I went to celebrate our friends and family who are gay, but perhaps even more so, to soak up one of the many colorful pieces of this city that makes it so unique. I love that we are not a homogeneous community. I love the different perspectives, backgrounds, and beliefs. And I love that so many in this town -whether I agree with them or not - strive to get involved and make a positive change in this world.

The LGBT movement has a lot to celebrate this year after gaining the right to marry in the District, and it showed. We were told that over 200 "floats" participated and as you might expect, their was no lack of diversity. Some groups were more obvious than others. For every Gay Men's Chorus (seen below and written about here), there was a "gay people who like historic cars" or a "gay people who live near Dulles" or a "gay people with dogs."

But understandably so, it was the more over-the-top folks (code for scantily clad) that stole the show.

And if you added song and dance to the bounty of flesh, all that much better on this day.

But no matter what was going on in the middle of the street, the thing that I''ll remember is the joy in the crowds. It really was a party that is perfectly named... Pride. I don't mean to get political (and maybe it isn't my place as a straight man to say this), but it was great to see so many people who have undoubtedly not had the easiest path in life be able to celebrate the very thing that has made things difficult for them.

I admire anyone who can take society's negative and make it a personal positive. For that, everyone celebrating on P St. should be very proud.

J Says

The Pride Parade is one of my favorite DC events. As B mentioned, the joy and community spirit felt among parade viewers and participants is palpable. We've also been spoiled the last couple of years by getting to watch the parade from a balcony perched above the route on P Street. Shouting and cheering as the performers attempt to throw plastic beads on the balcony is one of the best parts of the day.

The jubilation felt by those in attendance makes for one really amazing party that doesn't stop when the last float completes the route. Here's to hoping that the warm feelings evoked by Pride last throughout the year.

Monday, June 14, 2010


We first ventured to Central in the summer of 2007, our first summer in DC. The fact that it took us three years to return is not a reflection on the quality of the restaurant, but rather a reflection on the sheer number of good restaurants in DC that we wanted to try.

I have a soft spot for Central because it was one of the first "special" restaurants we tried in DC. Long before I knew anything about the DC dining scene, I knew that Central was a hotspot that couldn't be missed. Though 3 years have passed, Michel Richard's bistro is as popular as ever. You won't want to show up without a reservation. You also won't want to be caught calling it "Central." It is pronounced "Cen - trahl."

As we took our seats, I whispered to B that Central is the kind of place where you might see a famous person. He looked toward the bar area and said "You mean like Mike Isabella?" Sure enough, the Top Cheftestant (and Zaytinya executive chef) was dining near the bar. Though that might not meet your definition of "famous", it was fun to see a familiar TV face. Also, when you see a chef dining in a restaurant, you figure it is probably going to be good.

After my Mike Isabella-gawking subsided, we dug into a basket of cheese puffs. I've heard people rave about these things. While I thought they were really tasty, I couldn't help comparing them to the cheese puffs served at nearby Oya (see our thoughts here). The difference? Central's version is a $7 appetizer and Oya's version is a freebie given out instead of the bread basket. My advice to Central: ditch the boring bread basket and sub the cheese puffs. They can't cost that much to make and they'd win you even more fans than you already have.

Central's menu descriptions are brief. While I don't need a paragraph explaining every minute detail of the preparation and source of ingredients, I do find it harder to decide what to order when the menu lists only "Bucatini and meatballs." I feel compelled to bombard the waitress with questions (e.g., "what kind of sauce? is the pasta made in house? what sides are included?). Because Central is so busy (and so very loud) this kind of interaction isn't always practical. To our waitress' credit, she did recommend two very tasty dishes. For B, she recommended the lamb shank with creamy corn polenta. The magicians in the kitchen managed to serve up a sauce that was incredibly rich and flavorful without being heavy. It snuggled the lamb like a fleece blanket instead of smothering it like one of those scratchy Motel 6 comforters.

Once the waitress said the magic words "fried chicken" I knew what I was going to be eating for dinner (probably similar to B's reaction when she said lamb). I'm on a mission to find the best fried chicken in DC and Central had tough competition from Oohhs & Aahhs and Sou'wester (see out posts here and here, respectively). Central's rendition was a twist on the classic preparation using a more panko-style breading. It was light and juicy, and most importantly, delicious. The addition of a horseradishy dipping sauce added a little zing. The mashed potatoes were forgettable but that just left more room to finish the chicken.

Central is known for its "Michel's chocolate bar" dessert which is a fancy take on a Kit Kat Bar. We tried it 3 years ago and weren't completely blown away (it was really good but not life changing), so we wanted to try something different. We chose Michel's Napoleon which was a tower of pastry/custard goodness. While gorgeous to look at, we wasted no time attacking it with our forks and crushing the pastry layers into delectable smithereens.

After such a yummy meal, I don't think we'll make the mistake of letting 3 years pass before our next visit to Central.

Second Thoughts From B

Just as sure as I will ask a waiter/waitress for a suggestion, J will ask any chef we happen across where they like to eat out. At Central, we had a first hand account from one of the best chefs in the city. Say what you want about him personally from the show (I choose to reserve judgment knowing that "reality show" is quite the misnomer), but the guy knows food.

But what did I think? After all (beware of huge ego trip approaching), if you cared what Mike thought, you'd be reading his blog... so here goes: I think Central fills the niche of fine dining in a more casual and more affordable setting really well. When it burst onto the scene several years ago, this was a much more novel concept. Today, perhaps partially due to its success, you'll find many other downtown options where a nice pair of jeans and $20 can get you a really nice meal. Of course, none will carry the prestigious of the Michel Richard name, but I would argue that the gap has closed and Central is one of many rather than the undisputed leader of the pack. This is not to say that they have slipped. Instead, the rest have caught up.

Still, it is a place where you might see someone famous. Maybe that has something to do with its owner's reputation or the restaurant's role in transforming DC's dining scene or the James Beard Award it won in 2008. I'm even willing to admit that it may have something to do with subtle techniques that are lost on lesser culinary minds and palates such as my own. But whatever the reason, Central is a destination that should be on the list of anyone looking for good food in DC.
Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

Finally, thank you for everyone who participated in our online scavenger hunt. Some of your comments were hilarious! Also, congratulations to our big winner, Victoria. Enjoy the $40 gift certificate.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Sometimes, when it is hot and sticky outside (and the air conditioning is broken), the last thing you want to do is cook. For those nights when the thought of turning on the oven makes you shudder and even putting on pants to go out to eat seems like too much work, let Meiwah come to your rescue.

Many - especially B - lament the lack of good Chinese food in the District. I don't disagree with those lamenting types. However, we've discovered that Meiwah serves up respectable Chinese cuisine and generally has a very speedy delivery team making them our go-to Chinese delivery joint. We also like dining in at Meiwah, but that's partly due to the fact that we've become buddies with one of the owners who looooooves to chat with B. I think he just tolerates me so he can talk to B.

Anyway, on one steamy Thursday evening we called Meiwah as we trekked home from Dupont Circle. The takeout lady isn't the most patient person we've ever dealt with and she wasn't thrilled that B didn't have a menu in front of him and couldn't remember the exact names of the dishes he wanted to order. On the upside, she did understand the handful of Chinese words that he has in his repertoire. After some negotiating, he placed the order and we walked home to wait for it.

Normally, the delivery driver shows up so quickly that we aren't really sure if there is some Meiwah kitchen tucked in the basement of our condo building. This time, we waited for about an hour before I called our favorite takeout lady and she sharply barked "he already left here!" So, about an hour and 10 minutes after the first call, the friendly driver showed up at our door with a piping hot bag of tastiness.

My favorite Meiwah dish is the jumbo shrimp with spiced salt. They take jumbo shrimp and flash fry them in this tempura-like batter and lovingly douse them with spicy salt. B ordered them without the shell, but purists like him would tell you to order them shell on. I'm not a fan of crunching my way through the shell or picking it off with my fingers, so I recommend asking Meiwah to serve these puppies naked.

We asked for a vegetable dish and ended up with Shanghai bok choy with black mushrooms. It was packed with giant meaty mushrooms and plenty of bok choy, but the sauce was a bit oily for a veggie dish.

Because a meal with J wouldn't be complete without a noodle dish, I asked B to order the chow foon. Nothing unique here, just delicious big fat noodles, veggies, and beef.

B's family introduced me to spicy tofu and I've been in love ever since. Ladle this silky yet spicy dish over steamed rice and you've got yourself a meal (and great leftovers for days).

Overall, Meiwah's food is a little on the pricy side and a little on the Americanized side, but it suits our takeout needs perfectly. All we had to do to get yummy Chinese food was get up from the couch and answer the door. One of us may not have been wearing pants....

Second Thoughts from B

Let me just go out and give Meiwah my stamp of approval. And in honor of the militant lady on the other end of the phone, let me bark out several reasons why...
  1. There is a semi-intelligible, no-nonsense (read: efficient) Chinese lady taking delivery orders. I know we've mentioned this a few times but let me be clear, like the cockroach theorem,* this is a good thing.
  2. Unlike every other Chinese owned and run business that makes respectable Chinese food in the area, Meiwah isn't located an hour or more north of downtown.
  3. We were introduced to Meiwah, and one of the owners, by a Chinese co-worker of J's whose family owns a Chinese restaurant in West Virginia. OK, ignore that last part. They own a Chinese restaurant. Seems like this guy would know what he is talking about...
  4. For what it's worth, I've been led to believe that frequent deliveries over the last 20 years have been made to some guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I can't say that folks from Arkansas or Texas are known for their expertise in authentic Chinese cuisine, but you never know (see point #3). And if that's not enough, they have a comically long (~300?) list of pictures of celebrity guests on their website. So if you don't want to take our word or that of the President, how about Don King or Craig T. Nelson?
  5. And finally, if my Chinese grandparents were still alive, this is where I'd take them. Need I say more? It may not be what you'll find in San Francisco, and maybe not even Rockville, but when a pilgrimage isn't in the cards, this is your best bet.
* The Cockroach Theorem as described in a previous post: "My Chinese grandmother had a saying about good Chinese food restaurants. She said that if you feel a little uncomfortable putting your purse (that would be her purse not mine) on the ground, then you're in a good place."
Meiwah on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

La Panetteria

We don't often post recipes on TwoDC but I'm going to share one with you today.

The Perfect Day

Serves: 2

No work
Sunny weather
Best friend
Yummy food

Take the no work and combine on a shady trail with the sunny weather. Next, take one bicycle (doesn't have to be top-shelf) and sit on it. Grab your best friend (helps if best friend has bicycle too) and stir thoroughly until a sweat develops. Place in a restaurant serving yummy food. Let rest for about 20 minutes. Eat and enjoy!

Recently, we had the opportunity to make this recipe and, in this case, the star ingredient was La Panetteria in Bethesda. We rode our bikes up the C&O Trail (see more thoughts on local bike trails here) to this cozy Italian restaurant and were seated (helmets, dirt, and water bottles included) on this brilliantly sunny indoor patio.

After a very warm ride, I was craving cold water and pizza. The adorable Italian waiter recommended the white pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms. It was an incredible blend of flavorful cheeses and garlicky goodness, served atop a pillowy dough. I could eat a dangerous amount of this stuff.

For B, the waiter suggested the lasagna. This was a mammoth-sized piece homemade lasagna that was just as huge in the flavor department as it was in the size department. Good thing we had a bike ride home to burn off some of those calories.

I'm smiling just thinking about this meal. We were dirty and hot and tired, but La Panetteria welcomed us with open Italian arms. I can't wait to go back when we're a bit more presentable and try their dinner options.

Second Thoughts from B

Consider me humbled. On the list of good ideas, this one seemed like a great one. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account that only one of us has been waking up before dawn to attend spinning class for the last 6 months. Basically, I spent much of this beautiful - albeit somewhat muggy - day trying to keep up. I think I lost my ego at mile 3 and by the time I reached Bethesda, I was spent. So thank goodness for La Panetteria.

And while I'm handing out kudos, let me give a shout out to our Droids. As we've talked about (see here), we picked up these smart phones in December and haven't looked back. This time it was to use the Urbanspoon app to find something to eat and we hit the jackpot...

When I, of course, asked our waiter what he'd recommend (hint, hint, that statement could win you $40!), he pointed me to lasagna that was "just like his grandmother's." Game, set, match, grandma! The fresh pasta, high quality cheeses, and homemade sauces made me weak in the knees. Sure, it could have been from chasing after J all morning, but I'd like to think it was the food. Point is, no matter how you get to Bethesda, take a trip to La Panetteria and tell them grandma sent you.
La Panetteria on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 7, 2010

How well do you know TwoDC?

In honor of... well... nothing in particular other than a generous donation to our blog, TwoDC is hosting a shamelessly self-promoting online scavenger hunt. The prize? A $40 gift certificate to any of CSN's 200+ websites where you can purchase everything from lighting to espresso machines to hammocks to fitness equipment. (A full list of stores is here) The challenge? Answer as many of the following questions as you can about B and J. The more questions you get right, the better your chances of winning.

Everything you need to know is contained somewhere in a previous post. Simply identify that post and leave a comment with the answer and a way to identify yourself. All correct answers left prior to Friday, June 11, 6pm EST will be put in a hat and drawn at random. We'll even throw in an extra entry for anyone who links to this post or re-tweets our announcement on Twitter.

Now for the questions:

"I've got 5 minutes for free stuff" Category
Where did B and J grow up?

"I'm a Google Master" Category
Where did B and J get the "best" mac & cheese?
Where did B and J get the "best" fried shrimp?
How did B and J use their dining points from OpenTable ?
Who is J's favorite jockey?
Where did B and J honeymoon?
What is J's favorite cupcake shop?
Which chef have B and J taken multiple cooking classes from?

"I share B and J's DNA" Category
What type of meat entree can B never seem to turn down?
What does B always seem to do when choosing what to order?
What herb is J not a fan of?
What musician does J share a birthday with?

Have fun and good luck!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rogue States

In this installment of DC Food Trend Watch 2010, we headed to one of the newer burger places on the block, Rogue States. I expected Rogue States to be the same concept as the other newish burger joints (gourmet burgers, fancy ingredients, rinse, repeat) but I was wrong. At Rogue States, they take the fancy toppings and put them IN - instead of on - your burger.

While I fed the meter outside on busy Connecticut Avenue (btw, I am not a fan of the new extended meter hours!), B ordered our lunch. At the recommendation of the adorable little kid helping out behind the counter, B chose the Rogue State burger: house spice blend, chipotle, and cilantro blended in the patty. For toppings, he chose the provolone cheese and onion and lettuce. All burgers are half a pound and cost $7. Fancy toppings will cost you extra. Cheese is 50 cents, bacon and grilled red peppers are $1, and wild mushrooms are $1.50. Because of the blend of flavors in the patty, we found that these babies didn't need much in the way of toppings.

For me, B ordered the Now & Zen burger (soy sauce, green onion, ginger, and sesame seeds in the patty topped with tomato, lettuce, onion, and pickles). I didn't feel the need to add any ketchup, mustard, or mayo to this burger because it just screamed flavor. You can order it cooked "pink" or "no pink" and I found the pink to be just right for me (a medium rare). The cool part about packing the flavor inside the burger is that you don't have to deal with the fancy toppings falling in your lap as you eat. They are cradled inside a lovely, hormone free blanket o' beef.

We also sampled the sweet potato fries. I've never met a sweet potato fry that I didn't like but Rogue States' taters were memorably delicious. In what seemed to be a rip-off of Good Stuff Eatery (see our post here), they feature fancy mayos for dipping such as Old Bay, chipotle, and wasabi.

One thing that sets Rogue States apart in the burger wars is that it is open til 5am for your post-bar burger needs. They also feature beer on tap from a local brewery. I am probably in the minority, but I'd prefer a milkshake instead of a beer with my burger. Because Rogue States is milkshake-less, it won't replace Good Stuff in my burger joint rotation. However, I think it is worthy of its own unique place in my burger-loving heart. If your heart is of the veggie variety, be warned that Rogue States does not offer a veggie burger option. If you don't do beef, you can sub a turkey burger for an extra $2. Happy eating, burger friends!

Second Thoughts from B

Mark this one up under the "why didn't I think of that?" category. So many places have taken the average burger and glammed it up with high-end or exotic add-ins. They all boast about beef that is grass fed, local, fresh, blah, blah, blah. They might even slap some "special spices" in there but all in all, it is still a patty of beef that often ends up playing second fiddle to everything else.

Not so at Rogue States. The burger is the unquestioned star of the show. Supremely juicy and flavorful, it comes in seven different forms, all of which seem appetizing. But just because this new iteration of the favorite American staple features the patty, don't think the other elements were forgotten. Of particular note is the brioche bun which perfectly sops up the juices that you'll not want to waste.

As I sat enjoying my burger, I couldn't help but compare it to our other favorite burger options, namely Ray's Hell Burger (see post here) and Good Stuff. However, I found it hard to consider Rogue States' offering as the same menu item. It was, as they say, comparing apples and oranges. And while Ray's and Good Stuff will continue to see plenty of my business, I'm here to announce that the burger has evolved... and I like it.
Rogue States on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

At first glance, it would be easy to say that the neighborhoods that you pass on your way to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are not the best in DC. Then again, can your backyard live up to this?

Over 100 years ago, Walter Shaw (not to be confused with the DC neighborhood's namesake Colonel Robert Gould Shaw or Charles Shaw of "Two Buck Chuck" fame) cultivated aquatic gardens featuring water lilies that he brought from Maine. Today, thanks to the National Park Service, Shaw's gardens are an urban oasis more reminiscent of Monet's Giverny than the Anacostia neighborhood it resides in.

Spring - if not summer - is here, and I cannot imagine a better time to visit the gardens. But as the days go from hot to hotter, make sure you plan on arriving early. Be warned, fair-weather Californians aren't the only ones who shy away from sweltering days in the sun; the lilies will close once things get too hot. In addition to being more temperate, early morning strolls at the gardens are quiet and peaceful... and often solitary. J and I arrived for the 9am ranger tour and ended up with a 1-hour private tour of the grounds with a knowledgeable and engaging host. Once again, I feel obliged to point out what an underutilized resource National Park rangers are.

Spring is also that time when the lilies are in bloom and when newborns are discovering the world. From 6 week old Canadian geese...

to nickel-sized turtles sunbathing on lily pads.

But as we were reminded on our tour, the gardens are more than the lilies. Don't forget to take in the beautiful wildflowers and local vegetation.

And perhaps the best surprise of all... a swamp with very few mosquitoes! According to our ranger, there are enough predators to keep the blood-sucking pests away so that your only encounters with insects are in the form of butterflies and dragonflies.

Just another hidden part of our city that makes it so much fun to explore... the quintessential diamond in the rough.

J Says

I was a bit skeptical as we drove past a giant razor fence into the parking lot. However, one look at the lily pond and I squealed "Monet!" My only prior experience with water lilies was at a very snooze-worthy talk on Monet's gardens at the Smithsonian. Little did I know that instead of seeing blurry photos of Giverny on a projector, I could travel 15 minutes from my house and see the lilies in bloom.

I'm glad we woke up early to see the gardens in their sleepy state before the blazing sun imposed its wrath. As our personal tour guide explained, the gardens change so much throughout the day and throughout the year that no two visits are the same. There are countless ways to enjoy the gardens: with your dog (on a leash), via canoe, or with a picnic lunch as bloggers I Flip for Food demonstrated this past weekend.

Anacostia may not be Giverny, but it sure is a whole lot easier to get to!