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

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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

Ultimate Staunton Weekend

Friday

Staunton weekend was birthday weekend for me. We picked out Staunton because of the fact that we could take Amtrak there and because there was a restaurant that we wanted to try. Of course, we have taken Amtrak many times. However, we had never taken this line or been on these tracks before. I was SO excited!

On Friday morning, we got Shake Shack breakfast at Union Station. We enjoyed our greasy (in a good way) sausage and egg sandwiches and before we knew it, we were boarding Amtrak Cardinal train 52 en route to Chicago. The trip took a little over four hours and it brought us through the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. We got some picturesque views of the Shenandoah Valley after we left Charlottesville.

Once we arrived in Staunton, we walked from the station to our Airbnb. I would describe it as a fancy treehouse located on the fourth floor of a 19th century mansion, with a scenic rooftop deck.

Staunton Virginia Airbnb

We started our tour of Staunton by scaling the steep streets to the highest point, Mary Baldwin College. The main building of the college is a great example of Greek-revival architecture, slightly resembling the White House.

Mary Baldwin College

Hungry from our journey, we had an early dinner at Taste of India where we enjoyed two different types of naan, Lamb Rogan Josh and Aloo Tikka.

Taste of India

We happened to go to Staunton during their annual holiday event, known as Sparkles & Sweets. All of the stores on Beverley Street are open later than usual and they give out cookies and refreshments. Many have live music and events. Our Airbnb host owns an antique store, which was having an art show that night in their “Artisans Loft.”

Later on in the night, we checked out Yelping Dog Wine, a retail store which also served wine by the glass. Each of us had two glasses of Virginia wine. After that, we were tired and ready to call it a night.

Yelping Dog Wine

Saturday

We woke up early to go to the Staunton Farmers Market. There were a lot of vendors selling root vegetables, as you would expect this time of year. More surprising was a food truck serving Salvadoran food, which I would not expect in this corner of Appalachia.

Next, we took a self-guided tour of the 19th century homes in the Gospel Hill neighborhood. There is some truly stunning architecture in this area.

Staunton Virginia architecture

Staunton Virginia architecture

After traipsing around Gospel Hill, we walked north and checked out Gypsy Hill Park and sat around the duck pond. We watched the birds and the children trying to play with them.

Paul standing at Gypsy Hill Park

On the walk back, we shared a maple bacon doughnut from Rolling Pin Pastries. Rolling Pin is only open 3 hours a day, 3 days a week and the doughnut was one of my best bites of the weekend.

Rolling Pin Pastries: maple bacon doughnut

Still hungry, we shared a bratwurst sandwich with local sausage from By & By. At this point, we had done a lot of walking and a lot of snacking, so we headed back to the treehouse to nap. The big activity of the day, anyway, was dinner at The Shack.

The Shack lives up to its name; it really is a shack, and in a less than desirable location at that. These factors allow the chef, Ian Boden, to focus on food rather than trying to make rent. By the way, our Airbnb hosts were actually the chef’s parents! They were very nice and welcoming to us.

We went with the four course pre-fixe meal at The Shack. Both the food and the hospitality met our high expectations. Some highlights included crispy sunchokes and sweet potatoes with black garlic and chile dressing, squid ink rigatoni with pesto, crispy garlic chips and bottarga and an apple fry pie.

The Shack: Squid Ink Rigatoni

The Shack: Farro Pappardelle

The Shack: Lambchette

The Shack: Wild Black Bass

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we made coffee and enjoyed the mountain views from our Airbnb’s rooftop deck one last time. Next, we walked down the hill on Beverley Street for bagel sandwiches at the By & By.

By & By bagels

Fortified by breakfast, we walked up a very steep hill in the Sears Hill neighborhood. Our reward was the overlook at Wilson Park, where we got a view of the entire town. We stopped in Gospel Hill to see the homes and then got a quick lunch to go at Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, a natural foods store.

Wilson Park

At 2:03pm, exactly on time, Amtrak Train 50 stopped at Staunton and we started our journey home. I am emphasizing the fact that it was on time because the train left Chicago at 5:45pm Saturday!

Staunton makes a great weekend trip from the DC area and is accessible by public transportation. It has a perfect combination of history, nature and food. We highly recommend it!

Ultimate Staunton Weekend: Marnay and Paul

Where we went
Taste of India: 105 West Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
Yelping Dog Wine: 9 East Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
Gypsy Hill Park: 600 Churchville Avenue Staunton, VA 24401
Rolling Pin Pastries: 302 N Central Ave Staunton, VA 24401
By & By: 140 East Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
The Shack: 105 S Coalter Street Staunton, VA 24401
Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery: 7 S New Street Staunton, VA 24401

Da Rae Won and Kogiya

We were in the mood for Korean food last weekend so we ate two different styles: Korean noodles and Korean BBQ.  Here are our thoughts on Da Rae Won and Kogiya, combined into one review.

DA RAE WON

We worked up quite an appetite after going hiking in Greenbelt Park, so we headed for Da Rae Won.  Da Rae Won is a popular Korean restaurant in a strip-mall along Route 1 in Beltsvile.  They specialize in handmade noodles, which are made fresh throughout the day.

The restaurant has been open since 2003.  It’s an attractive space that shows few signs of wear, despite its age.   The menu, mostly in Korean, has short English descriptions below.  This can make it a little tricky to get a full understanding of what you are ordering based solely off the description.  We found the staff tremendously helpful and eager to explain the dishes, though.  For example, there were two “Noodles with Black Bean Sauce” on the menu, items “1” and” 2” in the numeric listing, so I asked our server to explain the difference.   One was more like a soup, she said, and the other had more onions and was saltier.  Plus, they both contained pork unless you tell them otherwise.  I chose the latter, while Marnay went for the Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup.

Da Rae Won panchan

The selection of panchan, or free side dishes, was a little small but the quality was high. The four dishes included radish kimchi, daikon, raw onion and an umami-packed black bean paste. Marnay described the thick, slightly sweet paste as tasting a bit like dark chocolate, almost like a mole sauce.

We also ordered four huge pork dumplings, or mandu, crispy from their brief swim in the deep-fryer but not greasy.

Da Rae Won pork dumplings

If you go to Da Rae Won, you may notice a constant “wapping” noise coming from the kitchen.  This is the sound of the noodle dough being constantly worked and stretched.   It is a welcome reminder of the freshness of the noodles you are about to enjoy.

Da Rae Won Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup

The best part of our dishes was the texture and chew from the handmade noodles.  For Marnay, next best was the tender squid in her soup.  On the other hand, the octopus was so chewy it was nearly inedible.  The spicy soup’s broth had a burn but it did not set our mouths on fire.

Da Rae Won Noodles with Black Bean Sauce

The noodles and the black bean sauce were served in separate bowls.  (Check out the before picture above and the after picture below).  I mixed in the bean paste, onions and pork on top of the noodles, creating something that looked like an oil slick.  The mole-like sauce and the snap of the noodles combined to make a delectable dish.

Da Rae Won Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
Da Rae Won is a friendly strip-mall restaurant with a dedication to the art of making noodles by hand.  It is well worth a drive or an Uber trip from the Greenbelt Metro.

Best Bite
Paul: Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
Marnay: Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup

Address
Da Rae Won: 5013 Garrett Ave Beltsville, MD 20705
Closest Metro: Greenbelt, 3.5 miles away

 


 

KOGIYA

The day after Da Rae Won, we still had not had our fill of Korean food.  So, we headed to Annandale, the DC area’s unofficial Koreatown.   The first thing you will notice at Kogiya is the massive amount of panchan that awaits you at your communal table.  It reminded me of the free snacks that were part of aperitvo in Milan.

Kogiya panchan

Kogiya is a Korean BBQ restaurant with tabletop grills, which are manned by your server.   The panchan selection was so vast that we only had to order two kinds of meats, and you could still do well with one meat between two people.  We chose soy-garlic ribeye and miso pork belly.

We grazed on the panchan and sipped on some Korean beer as our server cooked the thin slices of ribeye in front of us.  In about five minutes, it was done and we attacked it with our chopsticks with reckless abandon.  The ribeye was sweet from the marinade but still meaty.  Of the three dipping sauces available, my favorite was the gochujang, a spicy fermented bean paste.

Kogiya soy-garlic ribeye

There was a bit of an execution problem with the pork belly.  Our server came over to start cooking while we were still eating the ribeye.  The only thing is, he walked away and never told us when it was done.  Almost 20 minutes later, we flagged down another server and asked him if our food was finished cooking.  He took a look at the pork belly, fiddled with the grill and poked at the meat a few times and then declared it done.  By now, though, the pork wasn’t that hot. We liked the sweet and nutty flavor from the miso, but a few pieces were so chewy as to be inedible.

Kogiya miso pork belly

Pork belly confusion aside, we would be willing to go back to Kogiya.  We may go to another Korean BBQ restaurant first, though, and then compare.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Soy-garlic ribeye

Address
Kogiya: 4220-A Annandale Road, Annandale, VA 22003
Closest Metro: East Falls Church, 5.5 miles away

Ultimate Richmond Weekend

We woke up at 5:00am on a Saturday to get ready for our 7:00am Amtrak train to Richmond. Unfortunately, our train was an hour and 15 minutes late getting to Union Station.  It was fine, though, as it allowed us to walk around the station a few times before sitting on the train for over 2 hours.

Richmond Main Street is one of the nicest, cleanest Amtrak stations that we have ever been to.  The station itself is one of our favorite parts of visiting Richmond.  We left and walked straight to one of our all-time favorite lunch places, Grace Noodle. Marnay got miso ramen with ground pork and I got a rich vegetable ramen.  I am getting right now hungry thinking about it!  On top of everything, the place is ridiculously inexpensive.

While it was almost 100 degrees outside, we were prepared for it and went for a walk to the Manchester neighborhood, on the south side of the James River.  We normally like to organize activities ahead of time, but this was completely unplanned.  We stumbled across a train museum with a huge model train set which volunteers had spent years building.  We also found a modern art exhibit space called ArtWorks Richmond in a former industrial space.  In general, Richmond is doing an excellent job taking obsolete factories and turning them into lofts, artists spaces, etc.   Thirsty after all of this walking and exploring, we headed to BlueBee Cider and enjoyed a drink.

Next on our jam packed Richmond adventure we ubered to Hardywood Brewing for some more cold ones and to take advantage of their air conditioning.  We spent a lot of time at Hardywood enjoying the beer and staying cool.

By 4:00pm, we were absolutely starving, so we headed to the Roosevelt for our 5:00pm reservation.  Before we actually got to dinner, we stopped across the street at Sub Rosa, an incredible bakery, for some baked goods to help tide us over.  Our dinner at the Roosevelt was a tad inconsistent but we had a great roasted rockfish dish.  Most importantly, we were full for our long train ride home.

Richmond is easily doable as a day trip from Silver Spring/DC.  Plus if you take Amtrak like we did, you can sample as many drinks as the city has to offer without having to worry about driving home!

The Roosevelt cocktails

Places we visited
Grace Noodle: 1823 E Main Street Richmond, VA 23223
Old Dominion Railway Museum: 102 Hull Street Richmond, VA 23224
Art Works: 320 Hull Street Richmond, VA 23224
Blue Bee Cider: 212 W 6th Street Richmond, VA 23224
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: 2408-2410 Ownby Lane Richmond, VA 23220
Sub Rosa: 620 N 25th Street Richmond, VA 23223
The Roosevelt: 623 N 25th Street Richmond, VA 23223

Pizzeria Orso

We met after work at Farragut Square and took the Orange Line to East Falls Church. After a pit stop at Dominion Wine and Beer to pick up some Cigar City Jai Alai IPA (no idea how Dominion got this stuff, Cigar City doesn’t distribute this far north) and Delirium Tremens, we walked to Pizzeria Orso. Pizzeria Orso is located in an office building in Falls Church City and it is one of our favorite Neapolitan pizzerias in the DC area.

Pizzeria Orso was celebrating receiving its Verace Pizza Napoletana certification. Getting the certification is quite an ordeal. We started the meal with beers. Marnay had the Lost Rhino Faceplant IPA, from Ashburn, VA. It’s October and I had yet to have a pumpkin beer, so I got the Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. It’s brewed with actual pumpkin puree, which makes for a subtle flavor profile instead of an assault of spice and sweetness. The restaurant did put pumpkin spice on the rim of the glass and normally I would find that a little cheesy, but it was actually a fun touch based on the context of the meal.

Next, we got oven roasted olives with extremely fresh homemade sourdough bread. The olives had been roasted in olive oil and it was fun to dip the bread in the oil, or to make little open-faced sandwiches.

We also got a baby kale salad with pears, hazelnuts and white balsamic. The hazelnuts were our favorite part of this very simple salad, since we rarely see them. They brought a toasted flavor and a good crunch, but did not overpower the remaining ingredients. I think that as a general matter, the simpler the salad the better.

As part of the celebration, the restaurant’s DOC Margherita pizzas were half off! DOC pizzas must be made of 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella (made from water buffalo milk), natural yeast and salt. Absolutely nothing else. The dough must be mixed by hand, be no more than 11 inches and then be cooked for 60 to 90 seconds in a 900 degree wood or gas oven. At the end, basil and extra virgin olive oil are added.

We have had lots of DOC certified pizzas over the last two years, but this was the richest, creamiest mozzarella we’d ever had. It made the pizza, in my opinion. The crust had just the right level of char and the middle was soft, as it should be.

We had a great time at Pizzeria Orso. I can see us going after work quite often.

Address
Pizzeria Orso: 400 S Maple Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046
Closest Metro: East Falls Church