A Day in Washington DC

A few suggestions:

Start with Bikram at Bikram Tysons in McLean Virginia.  They have a large lovely studio that’s just hot enough and big bathroom facilities with 3 showers. Carol led class with just enough fuerza and vigor but without some of the stridency that can accompany the Bikram dialogue. We got icy lavender scented towels during the final savasana and they had a $20/first week special for new students. It was my first class back in about 5 months and I loved it.

Locolat Cafe for Breakfast
Locolat is a Belgian cafe in Adams Morgan specializing in waffles and beer and things you might put on waffles (like smoked salmon and asparagus) or eat while you drink beer (like chocolate). It’s a cute little place with a big glass case of luscious pastries and a very decent Belgian beer list. I’d recommend avoiding the “red hot mimosas,” which were overpriced and badly mixed with cheap champagne but the waffles were stellar and the portion sizes perfect. The service was a bit absent minded but we weren’t in a hurry so it wasn’t an issue. They’re closed on Mondays.

National Postal Museum
When I said “Let’s go to the National Postal Museum!”, 2 friends said “Why?” That’s probably the reaction most of you had . However, you should go anyway and here are the reasons why:

1. It’s free.
2. It’s interesting. Mail has been shockingly important to the building of American communities.
3. The mail trebuchet. Yes, it’s a mail flinging device. No, I won’t describe it. You have to go see it.
4. Washington DC has A LOT of museums. Most of them are focused on art. This one isn’t. It’s worth a visit for that reason alone.
5. It’s small so it won’t take long and you’ll feel interestingly educated afterwards. Plus, stamps are beautiful.

Busboys and Poets for Lunch
Classic Washington DC establishment with a couple different locations. Hipstery, organic, good with the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free selections and also an art gallery/homage to political revolutions. If this is your kind of place, you’ll love it. Come for the paninis, stay for the poetry slam.

Renwick Gallery – Best 40 Under 40 exhibit
2 museums, Kaitlyn? Yeah, I know. But it is DC and there are SO many museums, most of which are worth visiting. I always enjoy the Renwick because it’s the perfect size and can well experienced in under an hour. Their permanent collection is on the top floor and I particularly like the giant salon with pictures hung in groups. If you’re in DC sometime soon, go see this temporary exhibit of the top 40 Craftsman in America under 40 years old for a glimpse into the past and future of American Craftsmanship. Pieces range from a meditation room (definitely go in) to a room covered in knitted pieces called “Knitting is for Pus****” and a set of fierce sculpted metal talon gloves. If this is America’s craft future, I think technology will only become more involved in the artistic process but it won’t replace the need for real artistic technique. That makes me hopeful.

Georgetown Cupcakes for a late afternoon sugar jolt
Is the cupcake craze ever going away? I keep thinking it might but then nothing arises to take it’s place. I’m waiting for the cake pop revolution. Until then, these are the best cupcakes in DC. No question.

The Hamilton for pre dinner drinks
Upscale, classy joint with well mixed drinks and late night food. Makes you feel like maybe you might want to get involved in politics or have an affair with a politician. Very DC.

Firefly for dinner
Part of the GussiedUpComfortFood movement. In a good way. The restaurant interior is charmingly wooded, literally, with a nice tree swing for photo ops. The menu has a great selection of small plates they call Urban Picnic. The deviled eggs were spicy creamy bites of heaven, as were the pimento cheese fritters. I cleansed my palate with a chopped kale salad with smoked pumpkin seeds that was flavorful and with a bright vinaigrette to offset the kale’s natural bitterness. The vegetable risotto with goat cheese might have been the best risotto I’ve ever tasted and I also liked the shrimp and grits, which made up in flavor what it lacked in photogenic appeal. The firefly/outdoor theme was consistent but not overwhelming and they gave us our  check in a little mason jar with a light in it. Cute, right? We got there early and had no trouble getting a table but it filled up quickly so I’d recommend reservations.

For dinner you could also try Burger, Tap and Shake where they serve a Southern Comfort burger with pimento cheese on it and adult ice cream shakes with booze in them. Order the sides to share though, everything’s big here. Or District Commons, which is right next door and has an amazing (though expensive) seafood cobb salad.

Or perhaps EatBar in Arlington for dinner (if you want to get out of the city)
EatBar is the best kind of Gastropub because they have a nice selection of vegetable dishes and over 40 bottles of wine on tap. On tap! The Bang Bang Broccoli was fantastic as were the fried green tomatoes. I’d take a pass on the roasted cauliflower, were I you but definitely try the Cheasapeake Clam Roll (that’s how they spell it. Don’t ask me.) This is a cozy little bar with great food and killer atmosphere. They have movie nights too.

51st State Tavern for post dinner drinks
We watched the election returns here. Can you tell? Foggy Bottom has a fair number of great neighborhood bars and 51st State is one of them. Late night food. Good drink prices. Upstairs/downstairs. Fun times.

I’d also recommend Lindy’s Red Lion home of the beer helmets and sandwiches and chips served on paper plates, Froggy Bottom Pub with it’s sticky floors, basement bar and $6 doubles (more like quadruples…), and Old Ebbitt Grill with the half off raw bar after 11pm.

Now go back to your hotel and get some sleep. You’ve had a busy day!

Tasteful Kitchen Vegetarian Food

Is is mandatory that American vegetarian food be boring and bland? Is that a rule somewhere? How is it that all manner of ethnic populations the world over produce meatless food bursting with spice and excitement and America produces Tofurky? I don’t get it.

In fact, I’d put Tofurky, Chick’n and Faken at the pinnacle of egregious vegetarian sins. Who made this crap up? Isn’t the point of Vegetarian food to be anti-meat? Why would a Vegetarian want to eat something pretending to be bacon? If a meat eater wants bacon, why would they choose a pallid non-meat version?

I’m so enraged by bad food. I want to be an equal opportunity eater but my experience with recent Vegetarian restaurants has a 20% success ratio and I chalk much of the failure up to a lack of culinary imagination, a fear of spice and the wrong-headed decision to take amazing vegetables and grains and process them into terrible meat substitutes.

I have vegetarian friends that are crossing me off their Christmas lists right now but my recent experience can be summed up by the equation Vegetarian = Boring.

Tasteful Kitchen is a lovely space run by lovely people with the best of intentions. They do manage to keep from using fake meats and they are (I think) the only restaurant in Tucson to offer Raw food but I still found their cooking to be completely underwhelming.

I had dinner at Tasteful Kitchen with my friend Sarah, who is vegetarian. We both opted for the prix fixe meal that included soup, entree and dessert for $25. I chose the vegetarian meal and Sarah went with the raw meal.

Dinner started with butternut squash soup for me and Sarah’s much fancier carrot ginger.

Tucson, AZ

I think the soups had the most flavor of anything we ate that night. Sarah’s soup was actually spicy and mine had a little chili kick to it.

The entrees were less exciting. Sarah’s seaweed rolls looked very promising and artistic but I found them blandly chewy and insubstantial.

Tucson, AZ

My shepherd’s pie-esque stew had a nice mashed potato crust that would have benefited from butter and/or cream and the vegetables beneath needed smoke and spice and depth of flavor. Maybe even more salt would have helped.

Tucson, AZ

Fortunately, it’s easy to make a vegetarian dessert and the carrot cake was delicious though intensely sweet after a rather bland meal.

Tucson, AZ

I will give Tasteful Kitchen high marks for their artistic food presentation and the server’s demeanor, which was serene and attentive. I also found the small space to be cozy and inviting. I basically love everything about this restaurant except for the food.

There are only a couple of Vegetarian restaurants in Tucson so I pity the Arizonian Vegetarian in their tepid choices. Lovin’ Spoonfuls has a menu full of fake meat and Tasteful Kitchen lacks spice and flavor.