Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 2

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 1.

Saturday

Because we were so tired on Friday, we went to sleep early but also woke up early. We left the house and walked to Methodical Coffee, a third-wave coffee shop located in an office building downtown. We sat upstairs, listened to tunes on their record player and ate one of the best almond croissants we had ever had. Afterwards we checked out the farmers market on Main Street and purchased a drawing of the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, which is now the location of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We talked to the artist for a while and she said that it took her 40 hours to draw, using only dots!

Methodical Coffee with an almond croissant in Greenville, SC

We had been carrying helmets around all morning so that we could try out Greenville’s bikeshare system, B-Cycle. Greenville has a good amount of bike lanes and a tremendous amount of bike shops, which reflects a healthy biking culture. We rode east from downtown, down a large hill on Washington Street and then into Cleveland Park, home of the Greenville zoo. We dropped off the bikes and walked around but then headed uphill back into town. It was time for lunch!

Paul biking with B-Cycle in Greenville, SC

We met my parents at their hotel and then drove to Swamp Rabbit Café. Unlike Friday morning, when we made a very brief stop there, now we had time to check the place out. The outdoor pizza oven was open so my Dad and grandfather shared a nice thin-crust pie. Marnay and I ate picnic-style, choosing from the selection of mostly local products in the market: La Quercia prosciutto (delicious but not local), housemade stecca, a focaccia-like bread, local salami, local mozzarella and local strawberries. It was truly a feast! The mozzarella, made just up the road in Travelers Rest, was the star of the show. That and the bread!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe picnic in Greenville, SC

My parents dropped us off at our Airbnb, but we were not ready to rest. We walked about two miles through some interesting areas to the Birds Fly South Ale Project, which when we looked at the map later was actually very close to Swamp Rabbit Café. The brewery had garage-style doors that looked out onto a grassy lawn and it was a great place to spend the afternoon hanging out, drinking some brews.

Our dinner reservation that night was Jianna, the much-anticipated new Italian restaurant from Chef Michael Kramer. The second-story views overlooking Falls Park could not be beat, but our server was not well trained and had no idea what he was doing. The food wasn’t bad, but what will remember the most was server, especially compared to the incredible service at Anchorage the night before.

Jianna

Post-dinner, we walked to Falls Park on the Reedy, the beautiful park that is the centerpiece of Greenville. The only other place that we’ve been to where it seems as though the town was built around the waterfall is Niagara Falls. The best way to view the waterfall is from the pedestrian-only suspension bridge.

Falls Park on the Reedy waterfall in Greenville, SC

Sunday

Sunday was unfortunately our last day in Greenville. It was only a partial day, as we had a 3:00pm flight home. We woke up early (6:30am) in order to make the most of our time. It was lightly raining, the first non-sunny day since we arrived, but we still set out on foot and headed towards Methodical Coffee. We enjoyed their coffee but unfortunately they did not get their delivery of pastries until after we left.

Marnay at Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC

After having a snack on the go, we spent more time walking through Falls Park. It’s clear that the city put a serious investment into the park, and boy did it pay off. You could say that the entire town is built around the park, much in the way towns are built around transit. We capped things off by sitting on a wooden swinging-bench and took in the sights for one last time. Until next time, Greenville! If you are interested in visiting Greenville, I strongly suggest taking the train at least one way. It is a unique experience and while it takes longer than flying, it is much more comfortable.

Places we visited
Amtrak Crescent

Swamp Rabbit Café 205 Cedar Lane Road Greenville, SC 29611

Swamp Rabbit Trail

OJ’s Diner 907 Pendleton Street Greenville, SC 29601

Anchorage 586 Perry Avenue Greenville, SC 29611

Methodical Coffee 101 N. Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

B-Cycle Greenville

Birds Fly South Ale Project 1320 Hampton Avenue Ext Greenville, SC 29601

Falls Park on the Reedy 601 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Jianna 600 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 1

Thursday

This Memorial Day Weekend, we took Amtrak’s Crescent from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC. That’s right, we took at 10 hour, overnight train to South Carolina! We stayed in a sleeper car, which included our own bedroom and own bathroom. When we boarded the train, we met our extremely helpful sleeping car attendant who showed us around our room, gave us bottles of water and then made a dinner reservation for us.

Paul boarding the Amtrak Crescent train at Union Station

The room was nicer and more spacious than we imagined. We had bunk beds, although they were folded up at this time. The bottom bunk folded into a couch and we also had a fold-out chair along the window. There was a sink next to the couch, which was a minor inconvenience but not a big deal.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car room

We boarded the train at 6:15pm and at 6:45pm, it was time for dinner in the adjacent dining car. The dining car is community seating, so the attendant matched us up at a four seat table with our new friends, Al and Sheila (names changed), a retired couple from southwest Virginia. Our tablemates were great and very interesting—they were on their way back from Seattle so we got to hear what it’s like to ride the rails cross-country. We talked a lot about beer, one of our areas of expertise, and I let Al know about the soon-to-open east coast location of Deschutes, which will be in Roanoke. Al is a stout fan so I told him about the Abyss, Deschutes famous Imperial Stout, and he made sure to write the name down for future reference.

The décor of the dining car reminded me of a classic Jersey diner, although believe it or not, the Amtrak menu had more interesting options than traditional Jersey diner food. Plus, all of our food was cooked in a real kitchen located in the dining car. None of it was like the café car food in Northeast Regional trains, which gets “cooked” in the microwave. I ordered the Amtrak signature steak cooked to medium, which came with a side of succotash. The steak was a tad overcooked but still tasted good and the succotash tasted fresh. The best bite of the meal, in my opinion, was Marnay’s seared shrimp, served jambalaya-style. Marnay’s meal had some serious kick to it.

Amtrak Crescent train dining car dinner

After dinner, we went back to our room to relax, listen to Spotify and watch the Virginia scenery fly by through our huge windows. When it was time for sleep, our sleeping car attendant made our beds and gave us bottles of water. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was arriving in Danville, VA around 11:30pm. We had a short night of sleep ahead of us, since we were going to arrive in Greenville at 5:00am on Friday.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car beds

Friday

We got off the train in Greenville very early Friday morning and made our way to downtown. Of course, it was before 6am so there was not much that we could do. We were able to at least get some coffee at a hotel Starbucks to keep us awake and energized because we had a full day of exploring ahead. Fortified by coffee, we took a local Greenlink bus to Swamp Rabbit Café.

Marnay and Paul at Greenville station with the Amtrak Crescent train

Swamp Rabbit Café is a local produce market plus has prepared sandwiches and coffee and is located along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a transformative rail trail that runs through the region. The Swamp Rabbit Trail has spurred a lot of development in the area, particularly in Greenville and the nearby community of Travelers Rest. The café is an extremely popular stop for bikers along the trail, as it also hosts a bike shop. We sat outside at the café’s outdoor tables and relaxed for a while, then put on sunscreen and went for a walk!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville, SC

The Swamp Rabbit Trail follows the Reedy River, and it was pleasant to walk along the shaded trail and watch as the water goes by. There is something about moving water that is just so relaxing. From the café to downtown Greenville, it is a little under 3 miles.

walking

However, we were not headed back to our Airbnb, located in a residential neighbor just north of downtown. No, we were headed for OJ’s Diner, a classic Southern meat-and-three. A meat-and-three is usually a buffet-style restaurant where a person chooses a meat option, usually fried chicken, pork chops, ribs, etc. and then three sides. Everything is scratch made and very inexpensive. To be honest, we were a bit intimidated because it was our first time and we didn’t even know how to order.

OJ's Diner in Greenville, SC

As it turned out, the staff at OJ’s could not possibly have been any friendlier. Our sweet teas were never empty for more than 30 seconds, as a server kept making her rounds. At the cafeteria-style line, I ordered fried chicken with turnip greens, pinto beans and a biscuit. Marnay ordered fried croaker along with turnip greens, rice and gravy and cornbread. From now on, when we think about fried fish, this is what we will think about. OJ’s is a place we would HAPPILY go back to.

fish

After some much needed sleep at our Airbnb, we made our way to dinner at Anchorage in West Greenville with my parents and grandfather. (We will be doing a full review for Anchorage next week!) Anchorage is a modern American restaurant that serves whatever is available and in-season from local farms. The restaurant is helmed by Greg McPhee, a Husk-alum. The outside of the restaurant is one large farm-themed mural, full of fruits and vegetables, and it is really quite beautiful.

Anchorage large farm-themed mural in Greenville, SC

The menu is mainly made up of small plates, and I believe that we got every single one to share among the 5 of us. The best bite of the meal was the Bahamian Salted Fish Fritters, which we liked so much we go two orders!

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 2.

Fairfax County Adventure

On Sunday, we took the metro Silver Line for the first time since 2014 and got off at the Greensboro station. After a walk of about three miles (and dodging cicadas along the way), we arrived in downtown Vienna and to our lunch destination, Chase the Submarine.

Paul at Greensboro station on the Silver Line Metro

Chase the Submarine

Chase the Submarine is a deli and specialty market operated by Tim and Joey Ma, the minds behind Water & Wall and Kyirisan. We heard about Chase the Submarine through Washingtonian’s Best Cheap Eats issue, and since we rarely make it out to this part of Virginia, we were excited to try it and see if it lived up to the hype. It did not disappoint! We shared the housemade pastrami sandwich served with carrot sauerkraut, whole grain mustard, crème fraiche and pickled shallots on toasted rye. The thinly-sliced crispy pastrami reminded me of bacon, while the carrots gave a nice crunch but were thin enough so that they did not detract from the rest of the sandwich.

Chase the Submarine: housemade pastrami sandwich served with carrot sauerkraut, whole grain mustard, crème fraiche and pickled shallots on toasted rye

The ultimate test: How did this pastrami sandwich compare to Smoked & Stacked? I think that Chase the Submarine is slightly better, while Marnay gives Smoked & Stacked the edge. We also ordered the crème fraiche wings, which are coated in a mix of crème fraiche, gochujang and tamari. I think that it is genius to coat hot wings in crème fraiche, since it cools off the heat from the gochujang, without the need for dipping sauce. The tamari rounded things out with its umami flavor. I would order the wings every time at Chase the Submarine.

Chase the Submarine sign

Caboose Brewing

Afterwards, we walked west on the W&OD Trail to Caboose Brewing. Caboose’s patio looks out on the trail, and it’s incredible the amount of bikers that stop in for a bite to eat or a beer, or even just to use the restroom. Caboose even has bike tools that they’re able to use.

Marnay with the Caboose Brewing trail sign

We stood on the patio and people-watched while enjoying some beers. Our favorite was the Citra Session IPA. Its low alcohol content makes it refreshing for a warm day full of exercise. The perfect late-Spring afternoon beer.

Caboose Brewing Citra Session IPA

Taco Bamba

Even with all we had done, we were not ready to go home just yet. Instead, we walked almost 5 miles to Taco Bamba in Falls Church. Of course, there was a perfectly good Taco Bamba in Vienna but we wanted the adventure and exercise. We arrived during the peak of the Sunday rush and my gosh was it crowded! Still, we were still able to squeeze into two of the high top chairs that ring the restaurant, which is basically a takeout joint. Taco Bamba is the creation of Victor Albisu, the chef behind the downtown DC steakhouse Del Campo.

Taco Bamba

The chef’s menu has many more adventurous options than your typical taqueria. Whether you think that is a good thing is up to you. We ordered three tacos each, which is our usual amount, although we quickly found out that these were more substantial than we are used to. A highlight of the meal was the “guest” taco from Centrolina’s Amy Brandwein, called “The Porky Pulpo”. It included braised octopus and pork belly with mache salad and Calabrian chiles. So good! Also good was the lightly battered and fried tilapia in the Black Pearl taco, although the black aioli resembled sludge and was not pleasant to look at nor was it particularly appetizing. I think we will return to Taco Bamba at some point, but there are other taquerias we would go to first.

Best Bite and Location
Chase the Submarine:
Paul and Marnay: Pastrami Sandwich
Address: 132 Church Street, NW Vienna, VA 22180
Closest Metro: Vienna or Greensboro

Caboose Brewing:
Paul and Marnay: Session IPA
Address: 520 Mill Street, NE Vienna, VA 22180
Closest Metro: Vienna or Greensboro

Taco Bamba:
Paul: Porky Pulpo
Marnay: Fried Tilapia
Address: 2190 Pimmit Drive Falls Church, VA 22043
Closest Metro: West Falls Church

2 Amy’s / Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

2 Amys

We have been writing this blog long enough that we are starting to revisit some earlier restaurants. It’s always good to check in with an old favorite every now and then to see if they are still putting out quality dishes. This past weekend, we went to both 2 Amys and Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana.

2 Amys Paul

Our assessment of 2 Amys remains the same: the crazy good small plates steal the show from the good but not quite as amazing pizzas. The last time we went to 2 Amys it was winter, so this time the ever-changing small plates menu was full of spring produce. The radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt” was an example of a spring menu item, as ramps have a very short window. I tasted the butter on its own and got a hit of garlicky, oniony flavor from those ramps mellowed out by the creamy room-temperature butter. The ramp butter on housemade bread, topped with radish slices rolled in salt was one of my favorite dishes of the month and something we would happily order again. Another winner: Cantabrian anchovies, which are from the northern coast of Spain, on top of the same housemade bread with a dollop of butter.

2 Amys radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt”

A surprise hit was a salad of orange-segments splayed out on a plate and simply topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives. The salt and pepper topping was an effective way to bring out the flavors of the oranges.

2 Amys salad of orange-segments topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives

After all these incredible small plates, the pizza was almost anti-climactic. We ordered the special of the day, which was tender squid, green tomato sauce, ramps, parsley and hot pepper. We could taste the hot pepper, for sure, and the squid would have been great on its own or as a small plate. But the (intentionally) floppy authentic Neapolitan crust could not hold the ingredients. It was a mess. And it could have used some salt.

2 Amys pizza

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana is in Gaithersburg, which is not that easy to access from Silver Spring if you don’t have a car. As a result, we decided to make a day out of it. We started with brunch at Peter Chang in Rockville and then biked to Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg. We walked around the mixed-use neighborhood and then sat outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer.

Marnay outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer

The last time we went to Inferno, it was late summer, and as such our favorite dishes involved sweet corn. This time, we made sure to hit anything involving asparagus, rhubarb or strawberries. A creamy orb of burrata sat on top of sweet and sour strawberry-rhubarb puree that tasted like sorbet and was a welcome start to a fantastic meal. Another hit was tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts. A large plate of this would make for a hearty vegetarian meal. Ember roasted beets, on the other hand, were a little too one-note (vinegar).

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts

The pie de resistance (get it?) was artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja, that spicy spreadable salami that is having its moment right now. The nduja came in big chunks and it brought some welcome heat and texture to the pizza. In general, whenever I think of artichokes, I think of the artichoke hearts in a jar sitting in a salty brine. These, on the other hand, brought freshness and lightness to the pizza. It didn’t hurt that the crust was able to hold the ingredients much better than our pizza from 2Amys.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja

Not only did we get dessert, we went all out and got one dessert each. A root beer float transported me back to childhood days at Sundae’s Sweet Shop in Branchburg, NJ. This time the float was upgraded with housemade vanilla soft-serve and Sprecher’s root beer, from Wisconsin. I did not think I was going to be able to finish even half of it, but it was just so good I inhaled the whole thing. We also couldn’t go to Inferno without getting the soft-serve special. On this day, it was wildflower-honey with a strawberry rhubarb topping.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana ice cream

We ate extremely well at both 2Amys and Inferno. While there were some very minor hiccups among the food, service was excellent at both and we would happily go back again and again.

Best Bite
2 Amys
Paul: Radishes and ramp butter
Marnay: Orange salad

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana
Paul: Artichoke pizza
Marnay: Soft-serve

Vedge

We had quite a weekend adventure in Philadelphia recently, which included visits to Martha for drinks, American Sardine Bar for snacks and beer and culminating in dinner at Vedge. Vedge is located in a historic townhouse in Midtown Village, Philadelphia. We were seated in a small side room in front of a fireplace and beneath whimsical chandelier made out of spoons.

Vedge in Philadelphia

The menu is divided into “The Vedge Bar”, mostly cold small plates, “The Grill”, which is the entrée section and finally “The Dirt List” which are sides. We started out with the beautiful “Fancy Radishes”, which were served sashimi-style. Four types of radishes: watermelon, spanish, meat and daikon are splayed on top of various accompaniments including yuzu avocado, pickled tofu, shishito and shredded zucchini along with a spoonful of smoked tamari for dipping. Of course, similar to sushi, we made sure to only dip the radish end in the tamari! Served at the same time was the avocado stuffed with pickled cauliflower “fried rice” and held in a rice cracker shell. It was pleasant, particularly the way the creamy texture contrasted with the crunch of the rice cracker.

Vedge: Fancy Radishes and Avocado stuffed with pickled cauliflower “fried rice”

From the grill, we got a gigantic wood roasted carrot and the eggplant braciole. Every time I went to take a forkful of the braciole, I expected it to be biting into an Italian sausage—the resemblance was uncanny. The rolled smoked eggplant is stuffed with cured olives and mushrooms, seared at what must be an extremely hot temperature and served with salsa verde. The eggplant tasted more like meat than meat does at some lesser restaurants.

Vedge eggplant braciole

The wood-roasted carrot is Vedge’s take on a Reuben. It’s a huge carrot cut lengthwise and served on top of a white-bean puree, garbanzos and pumpernickel toast with carrot kraut off to the side. This is the dish that we have been raving about since our visit. We noticed that our server brought out our entrees about a minute before our sides. We think that this was so we could fully appreciate the entrees and not get overwhelmed by all of the food on our table.

Vedge wood-roasted carrot

To keep our carrots & eggplant company, we ordered nebrodini mushrooms served in the style of fazoletti pasta with charred ramp butter and roasted cherry tomatoes as sauce. We also got the campfire potatoes and shaved brussels sprouts. The char from the nebrodini mushrooms dish was evident in the ramp butter, although the ramp flavor was a little more subtle. For those not aware, ramps are everyone’s favorite foraged vegetable. The fazoletti was very tender with a pleasant mouthfeel and had been truly transformed into pasta cooked al dente.

Our campfire potatoes with black garlic tahini and za’atar was good enough, but not transformed. That seems like a high bar to set for a dish, and admittedly it is, but it was just that all of the other things we ordered at Vedge were SO unique that a simple dish of potatoes didn’t quite cut it for us.

Vedge nebrodini mushrooms, campfire potatoes and shaved brussels sprouts

Dessert seemed like the most difficult dish to pull off without dairy, but Vedge knocked it out of the park. The Chocolate Uber Chunk, consisted of malt custard, pretzels and peanut butter and stout ice cream served three different ways. The ramekin filled with layers of custard and crunchy peanuts and pretzels was one of our best bites of the night.

Vedge dessert

One of my concerns about Vedge, and perhaps I was being naïve, was that we would walk away hungry. That CERTAINLY was not the case. Beyond just being delicious, it was inspiring the way that vegetables can be transformed into a hearty meal.

Best Bite
Paul: Fancy radishes
Marnay: Wood-roasted carrot

Address
Vedge: 1221 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Tail Up Goat

As part of the post half-marathon celebration, we talked about having dinner at Tail Up Goat. Of course, it’s a popular restaurant and we knew we would have to make reservations at least three weeks out. However, we were on a group winery tour on Saturday, sitting on the upstairs porch at Cana Vineyards in Middleburg drinking some Albarino, when we decided to take a look at reservations. To our shock, there was a reservation at 5:00pm that night!

Cana Vineyards

There was a little problem in that our tour ended at the West Falls Church metro at 4:15pm. Luck was on our side because we somehow were able to take the metro to Farragut West and then a Lyft to Adams Morgan just in time for our reservation.

Once we were seated, the server gave us a shrub made out of sour cherry, lemon and lavender, a way of awakening the taste buds. Now awoken, our taste buds were assaulted by the charred carrots, one of the meatiest vegetables we have ever tasted, served with carrot slaw, crème fraiche, dill and crumbled poppy seed cookie. It tasted at once sour, salty and sweet. It reminded me a little of barbecue, likely because of the smokiness.

Tail Up Goat charred carrots

Tail Up Goat is known for their freshly-baked bread, and we made sure not to miss that. The thick slice of toasted brown rice bread was so fresh it reminded me of my Mom’s homemade bread when it came right out of the oven. The toast is brushed with what tastes like olive oil and salt, then topped with a heavenly house-made ricotta, the first green garlic and garlic chives of the season and drizzled with pine nut syrup. I want to go back with a large group solely to get all the varieties of breads!

Tail Up Goat bread

The piece de resistance was the heaping pile of lamb ribs served on top of onion yogurt, fig puree and grilled lemon rind. The yogurt really cut the fattiness from the lamb ribs and the dish would not be the same without it. We liked the flavor of the lemon, but not the crunchy chewy texture which felt out of place and reminded us of fish bones. Still, these minor issues did not detract from the prehistoric pleasure of eating the pile of ribs. We used a knife and fork, although we noticed other tables eating the ribs with their hands. The knife wasn’t all that necessary since the meat falls right off the bone. The menu says the lamb ribs serve two, although we would have been able to share them with at least one more person—it’s a lot of food.

Tail Up Goat ribs

Having been there for the first time, we can now understand why there is so much buzz surrounding Tail Up Goat. The food is incredible, the prices are reasonable and the vibe is casual.

Best Bite
Paul: Brown rice bread
Marnay: Charred carrots

Address
Tail Up Goat: 1827 Adams Mill Rd, NW Washington, DC 20009
Closest Metro: Columbia Heights or Woodley Park

Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon Weekend

I ran the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this past weekend. While this is my 5th year in a row running the race, I have never had to run it in weather this cold. At the starting line, the temperature was in the 20s. In March! I wore three shirts, two layers of pants, a hat and gloves on a day I normally wear a t-shirt and shorts. Marnay, my parents and my grandfather braved the cold to cheer me on at the start and then met me at the midway point in Woodley Park. There is a picture of me at the midway point that they took — if you look closely, you can see a layer of frost on my hat.

Paul running the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I had been training for months and felt well prepared, but this was a tough day to run. Still, I felt proud of myself for sticking it out! I actually ended up with a PR (personal record), beating last years’ time by 3 minutes!

Pizzeria Vetri

It was so cold outside so we didn’t linger at the finish line at RFK. I brought snacks with me on the run, but they all froze! I had seen a sign at mile 12 that said “keep going, you’re only 1 mile from brunch!”, and MAN did that make me hungry. Once I got through the runner finish line area, we headed right for the metro and made our way to Pizzeria Vetri, one of our favorite pizza spots.

Pizzeria Vetri

We started with a rotolo, a Pizzeria Vetri invention, which looks like a savory cinnamon roll made of pizza dough. The dough is stuffed with ricotta and mortadella, rolled, baked in the pizza oven and topped with pistachio pesto. The use of pistachios really took us back to our time in Milan. Another item that reminded us of Milan is Pizzeria Vetri’s simple prosciutto cotto calzone, cooked up in their 650 degree wood-fired oven. We rounded things out with their incredibly light and crispy margherita pizza. Even though I was really hungry, we had plenty of leftovers.

Pizzeria Vetri rotolo

Pizzeria Vetri prosciutto cotto calzone

Pizzeria Vetri margherita pizza

Hill Prince

We continued the celebration on Sunday by checking out the brand new Hill Prince on H Street NE, from the group responsible for DGS and Whaley’s. The narrow space is a former horse stable and it is simply a modest bar with two to three communal tables in the back and one small table in the front by the windows. There’s no kitchen, so they serve snacks, mainly from local restaurants. All cocktails are $10 or less, which I have noticed becoming a trend in the DC area at places like Ten Tigers Parlour and Colada Shop.

Hill Prince

I enjoyed a well-made Americano, made sweet by swapping out Campari for Cappelletti, which is on the sweeter end of Italian bitter liquors. Meanwhile, Marnay had a classic Aviation, with gin, maraschino liquor, crème de cassis (instead of crème de violette) and lemon.

The star of the show at Hill Prince, though, was our bartender Tony. He was incredibly friendly and talkative and genuinely a nice guy. He even took us on a tour of the place, showing us the back patio where they plan on opening a second bar when it gets warm out. We usually don’t get this type of treatment at bars.

Hill Prince cocktails

The combination of well-made drinks, a cool atmosphere and incredible service makes it likely that we will become regulars at Hill Prince. In fact, we went back on Wednesday with a group of friends for happy hour.

Best Bite
Paul: Margherita pizza
Marnay: Rotolo

Places we visited
Pizzeria Vetri: 2221 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 2009
Hill Prince: 1337 H Street, NE Washington, DC 20002

Ultimate Richmond Adventure: Part 2

We usually go to Richmond two to three times per year, once in the summer and once during winter. As you may recall, it was about 100 degrees on our last visit to Richmond. This time, even though it was only February, it was nearly 60 degrees outside. I had thought of a bunch of indoor activities for the day, but since it was spring-like weather, we had to take advantage of it.

Rapp Session

From Main Street Station, we walked west through downtown a grabbed brunch at Rapp Session, the more casual sister restaurant to Rappahannock Restaurant. Travis and Ryan Croxton, the owners of Rappahannock Oyster Co. and local oyster gods, also own Rappahannock Restaurant and Rapp Session. Marnay got the hangtown fry, a 19th century San Francisco creation, which is scrambled eggs, cornmeal crusted fried oysters, bacon and salsa verde served with a green salad. I have never loved fried oysters, but this dish may have turned me into a fried oyster convert. I got the absolutely addictive sourdough beer-battered fried local catfish sandwich with tartar sauce and vinegary slaw on crusty buttered bread. We try not to repeat things on our Richmond visits since there is so much to explore, but it will be difficult not going back to here next time.

Rapp Session brunch

Exploring

Because it was so nice out, we set aside our plan to go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and instead spent the afternoon walking and exploring. We walked down to the James River onto Browns Island and the brand new pedestrian bridge across the river to the south side, where we took in the views of downtown from the river bluffs.

Richmond James River pedestrian bridge

We made our way back across the bridge, through the Oregon Hill neighborhood, the bustling VCU campus and the Fan District. When all was said and done, we walked 10 miles! The neighborhoods would alternate between reminding us of Capitol Hill and the more quirky Hamden in Baltimore.

Sugar & Twine

When we reached Carytown, we briefly paused to have mid-afternoon snack at Sugar & Twine, a confectionary from a Portland ex-pat who decided to set up shop in Richmond. We sat on a sidewalk table off West Cary Street and people-watched while devouring a heart-shaped meringue cookie, a peanut butter brownie and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

Sugar & Twine cookies

Isley Brewing

Each time we visit Richmond, our train back to Union Station leaves at 6:30pm. Even though we had done a lot on this trip already, we still had a surprising amount of time left in the day. After finishing our treats, we walked to the Scott’s Addition neighborhood, Richmond’s de facto brewery district. The area used to be industrial but one by one the warehouses are being converted into lofts, breweries, distilleries, CrossFit gyms, etc.

We checked out Isley Brewing, a family-owned brewery that opened in 2013. It had been a while since we had sat down and our legs were a little tired, so we grabbed a stool and enjoyed our Need for Greed black IPA and the quaffable 1708 ACDC Belgian IPA.

Isley Brewing Company

Metzger Bar & Butchery

After finishing our beers, we ubered to the Union Hill neighborhood, just east of Main Street Station. Metzger Bar & Butchery is a small German restaurant, which, just days after we dined there, was named a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Category.

Metzger Bar & Butchery cocktails

Marnay started out the meal with a very refreshing cocktail called the Land of Flowers, with gin, mandarin thyme cordial, lime, fino sherry and luxardo bitters while I went with a bone dry Riesling from Pfalz, Germany.

Metzger Bar & Butchery striped bass crudo

Food-wise, we ordered the house bread basket, striped bass crudo and pork schnitzel. The bread basket was superb, especially the buttery parker house rolls and the pretzel rolls. I mean, if you are a German restaurant, you really need to have good pretzel rolls and Metzger delivered. The star of the show, though, was the outrageously delicious, transcendent striped bass crudo with red pepper flakes, sea salt, citrus, chives and pickled cabbage. Seriously, we could have easily eaten three plates of the crudo.

Metzger Bar & Butchery golden pork schnitzel

The finale was golden pork schnitzel, another traditional German dish. The schnitzel was glistening when it first came to the table and believe me, it tasted as good as it looks. We couldn’t linger at the restaurant on account of our train, but we will definitely be back to Metzger on our next Richmond trip.

Video Recap

 

Places we visited:

Rapp Session: 318 E. Grace Street Richmond, VA 23219

Tyler Potterfield Pedestrian Bridge: North end at Browns Island

Sugar & Twine: 2928 W. Cary Street Richmond, VA 23221

Isley Brewing Company 1715 Summit Avenue Richmond, VA 23230

Metzger Bar & Butchery 801 N. 23rd Street Richmond, VA 23223

Marcel’s

Thanks to a generous OpenTable gift card we received from our family for Christmas, we were able to have dinner at Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End. From 5:00pm-6:30pm each night, Marcel’s offers a $70 per person pre-theater menu. You can choose from one of three options for a first course, main and dessert. When it’s all said and done, you get whisked away in a town car to the Kennedy Center. When we were first seated, our server asked us what time our show was so that the kitchen could get could get the timing down.

Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End

For our first course, the local mixed green salad with shaved cucumber, beet, carrot and sherry vinaigrette topped with shaved cheese was a master-course in proper seasoning and texture. Meanwhile, the duck confit tortellini with black trumpet mushrooms and scallions in a parmesan cream sauce was the definition of decadence. We both forgot what was stuffed inside the pasta because all of the flavors went so well together.

Marcel's duck confit tortellini

Marcel's local mixed green salad

Mains included pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto and English peas and the New York strip steak with potato gratin and white asparagus matchsticks in a cabernet reduction. The salmon had an impossibly crisp skin, but it was the lobster risotto, with its huge chunks of sweet lobster, that stole the show. The New York strip compared favorably to the “DC Steakhouse” course at Pineapples & Pearls, thoroughly seasoned and with a nearly complete absence of grit and gristle. Chef Paul Stearman cooked the steak to medium rare, which is his preference, but the server gave me the option of choosing something else if that is what I wanted.

Marcel's pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto

Marcel's New York strip steak with potato gratin

Dessert is where we encountered a minor hiccup in the meal’s pacing. Everything had been planned out just so, but the restaurant did not account for the fact that the hot chocolate soufflé would take longer than our other dessert. As a result, we arrived at the Kennedy Center minutes before our show started. It didn’t affect our experience at either Marcel’s of the Kennedy Center, though.

The hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream was a showstopper. Our server punctured the inflated soufflé, added the ice cream in the middle and then doused everything with hot chocolate. We also got the chocolate mousse with crispy praline, chocolate caramel sauce and a cocoa nib tuille. The best part was the praline on the bottom, although the whole dessert was good. The soufflé was just amazing, though.

Marcel's chocolate mousse with crispy praline

Marcel's hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream

Marcel’s is one of the best examples of old-school fine dining in DC, and the complementary town car ride to the Kennedy Center put it over the top. However, the food is anything but old-school.

Marcels, Marnay and Paul

Best Bite
Paul: Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Marnay: Duck Confit Tortellini

Address
Marcel’s: 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom

Women’s March / Smoked & Stacked / Buttercream Bakeshop

We live so close that we felt it would be wrong not to attend Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. While this is a food blog, of course, it was nice to be there and feel like we were part of something important.

Women’s March on Washington

Around 1:00pm we got hungry for lunch. We didn’t have anything in mind other than walking north, away from the Mall. A few miles later we ended up in Shaw at Smoked & Stacked, Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s new deli and sandwich shop. Chef Marjorie is a bit of a celebrity from last season’s Top Chef, so we were star struck to see her in the kitchen preparing sandwiches.

Smoked and Stacked

Smoked & Stacked is counter-serve restaurant, but I would not call it fast-casual. For example, it doesn’t have that assembly line atmosphere that is a hallmark of fast-casual restaurants. Instead, Smoked & Stacked has a chef-driven menu that clearly had a lot of thought put into them.   While you can customize your sandwich, it’s probably best to stick the featured sandwiches.

The star of the show is the housemade pastrami, so we could not miss that. We shared “The Stacked”, which is pastrami, slaw and Dijon mustard on a sea-salt topped milkbread bun. The moist and meaty warm pastrami gets a cool crunch from the slaw. The best part, though, may be the sweet and pillowy milkbread. In fact, it’s so good that it distracts a bit from the pastrami. Still, the chef can’t be faulted if her bread tastes too good.

Smoked and Stacked housemade pastrami

The sandwiches are substantial in size and would make a hearty lunch. We shared one, plus a bag of Route 11 potato chips, so that we would have room for dessert. Conveniently, Buttercream Bakeshop is directly across 9th Street, NW. The much anticipated bakery is a partnership between former Neighborhood Restaurant Group pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac and cake decorator Alexandra Muddy-Till.

Buttercream Bakeshop

We shared an “808 Bar”, which resembles a s’more. It ended up tasting like a luscious combination brownie, blondie and fudge sprinkled with toasted coconut. I also got a matcha latte, creamy from steamed 2% milk. The barista asked if I wanted it sweetened. I said “no” but if I could do it again, I’d say yes. This is a purely personal preference, but by having it sweetened, it just would have underscored the decadence of our trip to Buttercream.

Buttercream Bakeshop 808 Bar

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: The Stacked

Address
Smoked & Stacked: 1239 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Buttercream Bakeshop: 1250 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Mt Vernon Square