November 5, 2014

Painting the Nation's Capitol Red, Wine and Blue

I wrote this last year (2013) but only got around to editing it now. Enjoy!

For our collective birthdays, my sweetie and I flew to Washington, DC to visit his son. I was born in DC and have lived in both Virginia and Maryland, but had not been back to this area in over a dozen years. While anticipating visiting many a memorial and museum, mostly we walked around the city, cruising cafes, schmoozing in bars and feasting in a number of restaurants. Decadence in DC, we did more than paint the town red, really, we painted in red, wine and blue!

We took a red eye flight out of San Francisco, not an experience I would like to repeat soon. While the travel went as smooth as butter, I did not sleep on the midnight flight, nor after connecting in Dallas, Texas. I found myself mesmerized by the sun rise, a bright fuchsia streak that gradually changed to a vivid, neon orange, illuminating the white fluffy clouds as we crossed Arkansas. We could see the shows of the contrails from other planes on the clouds, and I wondered about both the Wright brothers and Leonardo DaVinci, if even in their dreams they imagined we would someday fly so high.

After checking into our fancy pants hotel, The Fairfax on Embassy row, we roamed around looking for lunch. The beer tasting place recommended by Fieldtrip was closed, we ended up at the DC cafe on P street, which had the most delicious Mediterranean food, including a Lebanese beer. There were a few mix ups with our order, but the waiter, owner and even chef all came out to make sure we were cared for. The hummus was excellent, chicken Sherma divine, and tabbouleh salad beautifully balanced between parsley and spice.

We went back to the hotel and napped for a few hours, then met up with C for drinks at The Gibson. There was no signage whatsoever, just a black door tucked between two other bars,where we gave the secret knock. A dapper host in a plaid suit and pork pie hat made sure we had reservations before escorting us to our table. We ordered cocktails from their exclusive menu - first I had something that could only be described as floral, the second with a super spicy ginger beer base. After a couple of hours, the host came to tell us that our time was up, as the table had the next reservation arriving. We left and meandered down 14th street until we came to Sweet Greens, a salad bar chain, and had super yummy, fresh seasonal salads. Mine had apples, pears, cheddar, walnuts, and a light vinaigrette tossed with mesclun greens, super tasty and just what I wanted. We said our goodbyes and wandered back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

Saturday morning was spent doing C's "coffee triangle". We started at TCB where I had green tea and a prosciutto croissant. I was pleased to see they served Santa Cruz coffee there, even though I don't drink coffee anymore. C's partner, J, joined us, and we had a pleasant time discussing the rise of millennaists in the DC area, the need to plan for the unexpected as outlined in the book The Black Swan, and the easy sway of public opinion as demonstrated in the book The Madness of Crowds, whether discussing the inquisition if the witches in the dark ages or the paranoia concerning mass weapons of destruction today.

J left for a rugby match and the rest of us meandered on over to the cafe Wydown. I was sated so did not indulge in any more caffeine or pastries, and our conversation revolved around personal life choices. The random guy next to us at the shared table seemed a little put off, maybe we were interfering with his own thought process, but then, don't bring your laptop to a public place and expect to get any work done. From there we worked our way to cafe Perigine were I had a scrumptious ginger ale and procured a bar of chocolate made with bacon. Mmmm, bacon....

Next we hopped on a bus up to Adams Morgan and across the Duke Ellington Memorial bridge. C is such a gentleman, truly a kind and gentle soul, ready to give up his seat to an elderly or alternatively abled person. Definitely his father's son, the most considerate and generous person I have ever met. We hopped off and wound our way back. It was quite warm in DC, almost seventy degrees, and the fall foliage has not really begun, but the view from the bridge was spectacular. After a veritable plethora of choices, we wound up having lunch at La Fourchette, a delightful French restaurant with super fresh, crusty baguettes. I had a salad with mesclun, goat cheese and a very tasty vinaigrette, complemented with a fine French white wine.

We wandered back to the hotel and Chip and C left to go have drinks at the Columbia and do some father-son bonding. I actually accomplished quite a bit of work, reducing my 130 "to do" emails down to 25, mostly by process of elimination or by relabeling them, still a good sorting process. Then we met up and walked over to Annie's restaurant, meeting up with J, to a very delightful dinner. I had the crab stuffed trout, two seafoods I associate with the East Coast, accompanied by a nice Sauvignon Blanc. Afterwards, we meandered over to The Tabard, which had a lovely garden patio with delicious sculptures. We said our goodbyes and walked back to DuPont Circle, I must admit I felt slightly lost, but my map guy got us safely back to the hotel where we enjoyed a nightcap of fine whiskey. This was an opportunity for me to thank the bartender, who had been quite kind to me earlier when the waiter was a little brusque, to say the least- maybe because I was in hiking boots instead if stilettos.

Sunday I woke up at 9:09am for the third day in a row, of course, 6ish in California time, my usual routine. After a scrumptious morning simply enjoying the space, we meandered down P street to find breakfast. Everywhere was packed with brunchers, and we consistently were told a 45 minute wait to be seated. We decided to explore 14th Ave instead, and found the most delightful breakfast at an Ethiopian restaurant called Lalibela. Here we feasted on eggs that were topped upon collard greens or fava beans and excellent coffee. C joined us eventually, and got the eggs Benedict on a portobello mushroom with Virginia ham, seeming to enjoy every bite.

  We walked over to his house and picked up a board game, then crammed inside his tiny car and drove over to the marina. We set up camp on the boat, playing "Power Grid", drinking local IPAs and enjoying the fair weather. Three hours passed as one, and it was time to transition. C dropped us off on 11th street and U, where we easily found our destination, Dukem, another Ethiopian restaurant. Here we met my high school friend Kathleen and her lovely husband Lee, feasting upon dotwar chicken, lentils, yellow peas, collard greens and other spicy goodness all sopped up with that magnificent ethiopian bread, using our fingers to clear each platter.

Henceforth we walked over to a quaint little restaurant, Vinoteca, where we were met with lively flamenco music, including dancers. C hooked up with us again, and while he enjoyed the bison special, Chip and I indulged further with their cheese sampler and. Wonderful Spanish Tempernillo. The nut filled dates were divine, let alone the Appalachian sheep cheese, and C even shared his chocolate flight, which included a rather divine mint filled truffle goodness, much to my delight.

Monday was a little bit cooler, low sixties, still with bright blue skies and a brisk autumn breeze. We meandered back to DuPont circle and had an incredible brunch at Kramer's Books and More. I feasted upon a most succulent slab of salmon, smothered in seaweed salad, tobiko, wasabi, and a delectable sesame dressing to spice up the fresh greens and edamame accompaniment. After giving Chip his birthday present, we wandered over to DuPont Circle. Here we basked in the sunlight for a couple of hours, reading our books and absorbing the laughter of the children playing around the fountain, the easy comraderie of others on the bench. Surreptitiously I took photos of the three gentlemen beside me, trying to get one in particular, his long fingers resting on a sheet of music.

C had the opportunity to leave work a little early, so we went back to the hotel to freshen up. I gave Chip a mini hypnosis session, as twenty minutes of hypnosis is the same as two hour nap. We all met in the lobby and began the evenings wander, first stopping to appreciate the sidewalk art that incorporated the orbits of the planets. We continued on to the Washington Hilton, where we sat by a pleasant fountain near a fire pit, sipping drinks and enjoying fried calamari. Next we moved practically across the street to the Russia House. First I enjoyed a gingery Moscow Mule while we munched on pierogi and elk sausage. Then we did a vodka sampler, cleansing our palates with sour gherkins between sips.

We found we had some time before dinner reservations, so C led us to another underground bistro, this one called "Two Birds, One Stone". The drinks were excellent, but by far the most redeeming factor was the erotic wallpaper in the bathrooms. We continued on to Le Diplomat, where we met J for a fabulous three course dinner in honor of Chip's birthday. We started with escargot, radishes and French onion soup. For the second course I chose the trout almandine with haricourt vert. Last, we split both a creme brule and a delectable apple peach pie a la mode. All was accompanied with various French wines, including a delicious Bordeaux. We walked back to the hotel, fully sated and content.

Tuesday was overcast, our last morning in DC. We checked out and checked our bags, then proceeded over to the Phillips Gallery to catch the current exhibit on Van Gogh repetitions. Gaggles of elementary schoolers on field trips juxtaposed themselves with elderly senior citizen tourists, but still we had a wonderful time losing each other in the galleries, texting each other to conjoin for lunch. The cafe at the gallery provided some hearty sandwiches, mine a chicken satay with apple slices, Chip's a french ham with brie, and we mixed and matched until we both felt full. We spent another hour getting lost in the expanse of art, and I was delighted to photograph the fireplace's of the building as well as some Georgia O'Keefes, my personal favorite artist.

We went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and the shuttle, arriving at National Airport with plenty of time to navigate security. As we lifted off, I could so clearly see the Capitol, the Smithsonian, and the Washington monument, knowing that somewhere down there was the former Columbia hospital for Women, now an apartment complex, the place where I had been born. I pondered upon how comfortable I had felt all five days in DC - it is very clean, I had only a couple of homeless folks accost me for money (a huge difference from Santa Cruz), and I loved how tended to every townhouse porch felt, filled with pansies, mums and other annuals, brightening the city and reminding of my trip to Sweden.

 I look forward to visiting again, hopefully for longer. It was a joy to avoid the summer humidity I remember so well, let alone the winter blizzards. I loved witnessing the international array of people and was struck over and over by the basic kindness and civility that greeted me everywhere. Despite political corruption, government shutdowns, and all that needs to be improved in our country, our nations Capitol is a wonderful representative of what it means to be an American, and I feel both proud and optimistic for our future.