Northwest Vacation Recap: Portland

We have just returned from a Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle, our first trip to the West Coast since our honeymoon (in 2014!) where we traveled to San Francisco and Sonoma. We look forward to telling you about our favorite activities and of course our favorite restaurants! First up, Portland!

Saturday

We arrived in Portland late Saturday night, tired from our flight but definitely ready to do some exploring. We were staying at an Airbnb in the North Mississippi/Williams neighborhood, a hip neighborhood in Northeast Portland bustling with nightlife. One of my friends had told me about Alibi Tiki Bar, a 1940s tiki bar that is still in existence today. Our impression is that it felt very “Portland” – quirky and laid-back. Basically, the complete opposite of life in the Northeast. We were starving, so we ate a little bit of food – I would describe it as vaguely American Chinese food. This may sound odd, but the original tiki bars served an American version of Chinese food, considered exotic in the 1930s.

Alibi Tiki Bar neon sign

Sunday

Portland is known for being the premier biking city in America, due to having decades of bike-friendly policies. It should be no surprise, then, that we mainly got around the city by Biketown bike, their bikesharing system. The orange bikes were lighter than Capital Bikeshare, plus they had a basket which made running errands easy. You can also dock Biketown bikes at any public bike dock, which is incredible.

Marnay on a Biketown bike in Portland

We biked across the Broadway Bridge and arrived at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Ken’s is one of the best and most well-known bakeries in America. Of all things, we shared a locally made hot dog on an incredible baguette-like bun and some incredible macarons. A great way to start the morning in Portland.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery macarons

Portland has an aerial tram. It goes from a medical school and doctors offices to the corresponding hospital, on top of a hill. Still, it offered some incredible views of the Willamette River below and I’m glad we did it!

Portland aerial tram

 

Dinner that night was with one my old MARC train friend, Marcel, and his wife Martha. In June, Marcel moved to Portland from DC for work, so it was awesome to see them. We met at Tusk, a Middle-Eastern restaurant that Food & Wine Magazine recently named one of the best new restaurants in the country. All of the food was communal and it made a great way to catch up. All four of us agreed on a best bite: Melons, cucumbers, celtuce, pepper (hot!), cilantro and pepitas.

Tusk hummus with tehina, paprika and cumin

Tusk melons with cucumbers, celtuce, pepper, cilantro and pepita.

Marnay, Paul, Marcel and Martha at Tusk in Portland

It had been a long day, but we fit in some walking through the Laurelhurst neighborhood and a trip to Base Camp Brewing for a nightcap. A long but exciting day.

Monday

One requirement for Portland was that we needed to stay in an Airbnb that was walking distance to a Blue Star Donuts location and luckily we were two short blocks away from their Northeast Portland shop. We shared their signature Blueberry Bourbon Basil and their incredible Apple Fritter. So darn good!

Blue Star Donuts in Northeast Portland

Next, we headed to Portland’s Waterfront Trail, and biked along the Willamette River. We ended the ride by crossing the river over the Tilikum Crossing, the country’s first pedestrian and transit only bridge. It carries bikes, pedestrians, buses, light rail and streetcars. How amazing is that?!

Paul biking on the Tilikum Crossing bridge

That night, we had a nice bike ride through a few different neighborhoods en route to Han Oak, a Korean-inspired restaurant from chef Peter Cho. We were second in line, so we were able to sit at the chef’s counter right in front of the open kitchen. What a view! On Sunday and Monday nights, Han Oak has dumpling and noodle night. However, that night they had a guest chef cooking Indonesian Barbecue. Our best bite, and possibly the top bite in all of Portland, was the Indonesian Barbecue platter.

Han Oak dumplings

Han Oak Indonesian Barbecue

After dinner, we did some walking through nearby neighborhoods and then biked to Stormbreaker Brewing, just outside of our apartment. We stopped to pick up a growler so that we could enjoy it at home with the rest of our donuts. There wasn’t a TV, so we watched Portlandia on Netflix! Another fun night!

Blue Star Donuts, Stormbreaker Brewing growler and Portlandia on Netflix in our Airbnb in Portland

Tuesday

Tuesday was wine country day. But first, we had breakfast at Pop Bagel, a small bagel shop where all the bagels are pretzel bagels! It was a cool concept. The location, inside of an office building, made me jealous because my office building doesn’t have anything like this!

Pop Bagels

We took an Amtrak bus from Union Station to Salem, the capital of Oregon and our jumping off point for exploring the Willamette Valley. Once we arrived in Salem, we headed straight to Brooks Wine, Riesling specialists located in the Eola-Amity Hills subregion of the Willamette Valley. Before we left for Oregon, I read a wine column from a national columnist about wines to get for special occasions – one of the wines was from Brooks!

Brooks Wine vineyard

Brooks was incredible, the best winery we have ever been to. Since they specialize in white wines, we made sure to both get white wine tastings. Our favorites were the Sweet P Riesling (the one that was recommended in the column) and the Amycas, a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. We came away with a bottle of each.

After Brooks, we headed to Domaine Drouhin, in the Dundee Hills subregion. The Drouhin family is originally from Burgundy, home of the best Pinot Noir in the world. You can understand why we took home a bottle of their 2014 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.

Paul and Marnay at Domaine Drouhin

We took the very retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem back to Portland. Although we were tired, we were hungry after a day of drinking wine! When we were back in Portland, we grabbed Biketown bikes and picked up takeout from Pok Pok Noi, part of the amazing Pok Pok family of restaurants. The boar collar and Vienamese wings were delicious!

retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem to Portland

Wednesday

Our last full day in Portland. We got an early start by heading to Blue Star Donuts for another apple fritter. The best fritters ever! We took Biketown bikes and ended up at the iconic Powell’s Books, a must visit in Portland.

Lunch was at Maurice, a really cool European-style café that is only open for lunch. They serve French-Danish food plus vermouth, wine and sherry and incredible desserts and pastries. I do not think that we have been anywhere in America like this, it was really unique.

Maurice cardamom kissed squid

Maurice scone and pepper cheesecake

After our midday meal, we got some hiking in at Washington Park, a huge urban park in a particularly hilly section of Portland. We explored the Hoyt Arboretum and the International Rose Garden. Conveniently, the MAX light rail has an underground stop in the heart of the park and there is a free shuttle bus that can take you to the different attractions.

Paul walking on a trail at Washington Park

Dinner that night was our favorite dinner in Portland. We started at Jaqueline, in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, where we enjoyed $1 West Coast oysters along with a $2 Rainier tallboy and a $3 Topo Chico. So cheap! After our happy hour, we biked to Ken’s Artisan Pizza to grab some pizzas to go.

Jaqueline oyster happy hour

Back at home, we ate our two pizzas and drank the bottle of Brooks Sweet P Riesling. The Riesling had an aroma of petrol that reminded us of that bottle of Hermann J. Wiemer from Tail Up Goat. The two pizzas we ordered were: Handmade – hand-pulled fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic, fennel seed and chile flake and the Brooklyn – tomato sauce, mozzarella, capicollo, pickled jalapeño and honey. The Handmade pizza stole the show. A simple yet perfect pizza.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Brooks Sweet P Riesling in our airbnb in Portland

Thursday

We were taking the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle, although our train did not leave until about 3:00PM. That meant that we had plenty of time to partake in one of Portland’s favorite activities: brunch! Sweedeedee, a little less than a mile from our apartment, is known for their pie selection, in addition to more traditional breakfast food. The catch is that you order all of your food at the counter, but you are served pie immediately. What a concept! We shared a slice of peach pie with cream, which was divine. By the time our real breakfast arrived, we were nearly too full to eat. Marnay’s bee pollen biscuit sandwich with ham was memorable, though.

Sweedeedee peach pie

After brunch, we took a meandering walk around the neighborhood and then one final Biketown ride before heading to Union Station. On to Seattle!

Click here to read all about our Seattle adventure!

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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

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

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

Hazel

Being back in DC means that we get to check out some of the newer restaurants that we’ve been too busy to get to over the last few weeks (see the previous post).  On a dreary Thursday night during one of the rainiest weeks of 2016, we checked out Hazel in Shaw.  Hazel is an Asian-accented restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Partisan, Rustico, Sovereign, plus many others) and Chef Rob Rubba.  It is located in a brand new mixed-use building across V Street from the 930 Club.

Hazel restaurant

The first thing that one notices upon entering  at night is that the space is dark and moody.  From our perch at the bar there were spotlights above us that illuminated the otherwise dark space.  We spent the evening watching the rain through the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the restaurant.

As with any Neighborhood Restaurant Group restaurant, the beer list was stellar.  But Hazel also has a strong focus on cocktails.  I enjoyed the Too Short a Season, which was basically a spritz, my cocktail obsession of the moment.  The sweet yet bitter taste of the Cappelletti, also known as Specialino in its home of Brescia, really shined through the rest of the ingredients.  Marnay got a saison, her favorite style of beer, from Oxbow.

Hazel cocktails

Chef Rubba’s menu is entirely small plates, with two family-style “huge” plates:  a whole snapper and a roasted duck.  I am seeing this trend of having family-style portions pop up more and more on menus and I am a huge fan.  It takes dining from a semi-solitary activity and turns it into an experience, where interaction among others is required.

But on to our food.  English muffins slathered with whipped nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam were a striking example of the way hot and cool play off of each other.  The nduja, yogurt and jam were layered in a ramekin so that it resembled a sunny-side up egg.

Hazel english muffins with whipped nduja

We liked the littleneck clams in a brown butter miso broth, but would not be inclined to order them again.  After we finished the chewy clams, we took the small bowl of steamed rice and let it soak up the umami-packed broth.  An above average dish but not a repeater.

Hazel littleneck clams

My favorite was their Korean fried chicken style ribs, which is quickly becoming their quintessential dish.  The ribs are crunchy, sweet, spicy and meaty, pretty much the four adjectives that make up an optimal dish.  The heat was noticeable, and my sinuses would confirm this, but it didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

Hazel Korean fried chicken style ribs

We were very fond of the food at Hazel.  What set it apart from all of the other new restaurants with great food, though, was the atmosphere.  We felt like we spent a few hours after work hanging out in an exclusive club with superb food.

Best Bite
Paul: Korean fried chicken style ribs
Marnay: English muffins with nduja, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam

Address
Hazel: 808 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: U Street

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

Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend

Thursday

On Thursday, we headed to one of our favorite bars in Silver Spring, Scion, for their Right Proper Tap Takeover.   The event was to celebrate Right Proper’s entry into the Montgomery County market, which is certainly a big deal.  The Shaw brewpub just opened up a much larger production brewery in Northeast DC.

The bartender at Scion, Matt, is extremely knowledgeable about beer and a good guy in general.  Scion has a huge beer list and I will usually ask his opinion on what to get.  The bar is a relaxed place, and the atmosphere was still relaxed even though there was a good crowd for the event.  Another thing that Scion has going for it is that it has one of the best patios in Silver Spring, on the large sidewalk fronting East-West Highway.  The food at Scion proper is good, but at the bar you can also order bao (Chinese steamed buns) from their sister restaurant, Nainai’s.  I think that Nainai’s may be one of the best restaurants in Silver Spring for both quality and value.

Friday

As you know, we are both huge foodies.  About three weeks ago, I (Paul) saw one of my favorite food writers mention on twitter that she was at The Classics.  I tweeted back and told her that we’ve lived in Silver Spring for two and a half years and had never even considered it…we’re not really into steaks and it didn’t seem like the kind of place we would like.  She strongly recommended it, though. She said that she and her husband, who is also a food critic, used to go there every Friday until they moved.

Because of her recommendation, we decided to include it in our #ultimatesilverspringweekend.  Boy, are we glad we did. The bartender is this friendly yet curmudgeonly man and he is absolutely perfect for the place. He’s an old fashioned bar tender….the service was amazing, but he also just let us do our thing and didn’t bother us unless we wanted his attention.  We ordered a New York Strip Steak, cooked to a perfect medium. As I mentioned earlier, we are not big steak eaters, but we devoured this.  It was just the right amount of food for two people to be full afterwards.

We were finished up dinner, getting ready to leave, when guess who walks in?  M. Carrie Allan, the Washington Post spirts columnist who I had tweeted at three weeks ago! I froze, starstruck.  She came and sat at the other end of the bar.  We had already gotten the check at this point but I told the bartender that we had a change of plans.  We ordered another drink and who walks in but Tim Carman, the Washington Post food writer who sometimes fills in for Tom Sietesma as head food critic! Alas, we did not get a chance to talk to them. But it just shows what an interesting and fun place Silver Spring is!

Saturday

On Saturdays, first thing upon waking up we like to walk across the street to Bump ‘n Grind.  We will normally get two drip coffees to go as well as two biscuits, which are made at La Mano in Takoma Park.   We then take the biscuits and make sandwiches with them at home.  Bump ‘n Grind has recently starting showing soccer games on a large projector screen, which has drawn crowds the last few times I was there.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk to focus on the parks of Silver Spring.  We actually went on part of my running route and it was nice to be able to appreciate the scenery instead of flying by.  First stop was the surprisingly large Woodside Park, just on the edge of downtown at the corner of Spring and Georgia.  Next, we made our way through the Woodside neighborhood to connect with the Sligo Creek Trail, an incredible resource to have so close.  We walked all the way to Kemp Mill, basically to the northern end of the trail.  Exhausted and hungry, we sat in the parking lot of a shopping center and ate food from CVS, the only thing open.  Kemp Mill has a large Orthodox Jewish population, so almost everything was closed on Saturday.

We took the 9 Ride on Bus back to downtown and got some delicious black bass from Whole Foods to cook for dinner.  Whole Foods is another great resource to have in walking distance.

Sunday

Sunday was our Pete’s New Haven Apizza day.  We ordered three personal pizzas to share so that we would have lots of leftovers for dinner on Monday.   We got the Staven, with pepperoni, hot sausage, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and hot cherry peppers, the Margherita and the Merritt Parkway (named after the highway in Connecticut), with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, basil and olive oil.  Mmm, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about the Staven!  The Silver Spring food scene is embarrassment of riches.  We went to a lot of different restaurants on our Silver Spring weekend, but it would take a lot longer than a weekend to visit all of the good spots.

After we finished, we went home to drop off the pizza and then walked on the Sligo Creek Trail again, this time towards Takoma Park.  At Maple Ave, we started walking towards Philadelphia Ave and then hopped on the F4 Metrobus back to Silver Spring.  We got off at Veterans Plaza to pick up a few more things at Whole Foods.

We had a lot of fun on our Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend.  We learned  about some new things, like the Classics, but it also helped us appreciate the things we have nearby and that we may take for granted.   Silver Spring is an incredible place and we are happy to call it home!

Places we visited
Scion: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
The Classics: 8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Bump ‘n Grind: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Woodside Park: 8800 Georgia Avenue. Silver Spring, MD 20910
Whole Foods: 833 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pete’s New Haven Style Pizza: 962 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Bonchon

On one of the first warm Sunday nights of the year, we worked up an appetite walking around Yards Park and then headed over to Bonchon. There are multiple Bonchons in the DC area and we have been to the one in Rockville and the one in Hyattsville, but the Navy Yard location is by far the most modern and has the nicest bar.

This location has a good beer selection, so Marnay got a Hardywood Singel on draft while I got a bottle of Victory Golden Monkey, a Belgian Tripel.   There are a few other choices on the menu, but you cannot go to Bonchon without getting their signature dish.  The point of going to Bonchon is to eat the golden, double-fried Korean Fried Chicken.

Because the chicken is made to order, it can take a while.  We ordered edamame to tide us over.  The soybeans were nicely salted and went well with our cold beers.

Twenty-five to thirty minutes after we ordered our small combo of wings and drumsticks with soy garlic glaze arrived.  Biting into Bonchon fried chicken is one of the most satisfying culinary experiences that I can think of. The glaze has a garlicky flavor which comes out initially but then moves to more sweet and salty. The chicken is fresh and piping hot, the crust shattering as soon as you bite into it.

Our server was very friendly and engaging.  My only qualms were that the last drumstick I ate tasted a little burnt and the Golden Monkey tasted slightly old.  All in all, this is some incredible fried chicken and a great value.

Best Bite
The chicken, obviously!

Best Sip
Hardywood Singel

Address
Bonchon: 1015 Half St. SE, Washington, DC 20003
Closest Metro: Navy Yard

Menomale

On an unseasonably warm Friday night, we dined at Menomale in Brookland. We sat on the restaurant’s sidewalk patio, which can be enclosed but was open on this mild night.
When we first got to the restaurant, we noticed that Ettore, the owner, was there. We watched him the whole time through the window while we sat on the patio. He was so focused, so methodical–we could tell that we were in good hands. Menomale, like Pizzeria Orso, has a VPN certification. For what it’s worth, Menomale got their’s about 2 years before Pizzeria Orso. It takes a strong determination to keep up with all the requirements that come along with making DOC pizzas.

On this warm night, I started the meal out with a Sonoma Anvil Bourbon Cider. The bourbon flavor was interesting, but I found the drink too sweet for my liking. Marnay had a Goose Island Sofie, a saison. Marnay liked it, but wished that it had a little stronger flavor. Neither of us had the Sofie before, and it was a little mild for a Saison.

We were hungry (!), so we started the meal with Prosciutto di Parma e Melone. The prosciutto did not appear to be made in-house, but that did not mean it wasn’t delicious. The salty, nutty meat went perfectly with the slightly cold, sweet cantaloupe. Prosciutto di Parma gets its nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is in the pigs’ diets. The dish was served with arugula, grapes and strawberries.

You can’t go to Meomale and not get pizza, so we shared the d’Ettore, or chef’s special. The pizza has fior di latte (cows’ milk mozzarella), cherry tomatoes, arugula, prosciutto di Parma, grana Padano and extra-virgin olive oil. Even though the pizza has a lot going on, it still tasted like one pizza. I can’t say that there was one topping that overpowered the rest. I think that part of this can be attributed to the soft crust on a Neapolitan pizza. New York style pizzas, for example, have lots crust and cheese and are filled with grease whereas Neapolitan pizzas taste cleaner and prevent the toppings from getting lost. Neapolitan pizzas are also healthier than traditional New York pizzas, for the same reasons.

While we were finishing our meal on the patio, it started to pour! Luckily, some employees came and rolled down the windows before we started to get wet. While the rain was unexpected (we didn’t even bother to bring umbrellas), it did not put a damper on our experience. Menomale is a great Neapolitan pizzeria and a very good restaurant overall.

Address
Menomale: 2711 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20018
Closest Metro: either Brookland or Rhode Island Avenue

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