2.05.2016

My Current Favorite Restaurants to Eat at in DC, February 2016

While we're at it, let's talk about the places that I consistently just looooove when it comes to DC food. Some are great dives, some neighborhood joints, some just have brilliant chefs and bartenders at the helm (most of them): 

Washington, DC:
  • The Dabney - have only been to the bar, but AWESOME drinks, Mid-Atlantic cuisine
  • Rose’s Luxury - American on Barrack’s row (no reservations, but fun bar)
  • Masseria - Italian by Union Market (<3 patio bar)
  • Union Market - multiple vendors w indoor and outdoor seating
  • Wydown - baked goods and coffee on 14th Street/Logan Circle
  • Toki Underground - Ramen on H Street
  • Bayou Bakery on Capitol Hill - Southern, great coffee & breakfast, wifi, indoor and outdoor seating
  • Osteria Morini - Italian on the waterfront, indoor/outdoor seating, know the chef/pastry chef, $10 Morini Mondays pasta deal
  • Cantina Marina - waterfront bar + eats in Southwest Waterfront
  • The Source - Asian… just got a menu & decor refresh. I want to go for the Hot Pot table, Dumpling Mondays and Dim Sum Brunch (I know the Chef… Scott Drewno… nicest chef in town.)
  • Rasika - Modern Indian in Penn Quarter
  • Central by Michel Richard - Casual-ish French on Penn Ave near Mall, White House, etc. Know the bar manager
  • District Taco - TACOS! Downtown
  • Bub & Pops - incredible sandwiches in the ‘Golden Triangle’
  • Astro Donuts & Fried Chicken - what it says, downtown
  • Slipstream - coffee/cocktails with good, healthy food options (farm salad… avocado toast)
  • Shake Shack - downtown, south Dupont Circle for burgers and shakes
  • Blue Duck Tavern - farm to table, great for brunch or cocktails in West End
  • Little Serow - spicy Asian, no reservations, tasting menu only, awesome
  • Mintwood - America in Adams Morgan
  • Cashion’s - Greek-American in Adams Morgan
  • Donburi - Korean rice bowls and sashimi joint in Adams Morgan
  • Sakuramen - Ramen in Adams Morgan
  • Cork - Wine bar and American on 14th Street/Logan Circle
  • Garden District - beer garden and BBQ, only open in spring/summer on 14th Street/Logan Circle
  • 2 Birds, 1 Stone - cocktail bar with bites from upstairs Asian restaurant
  • American Ice Company - BBQ and bar with outdoor patio near U Street
  • All Souls - good bar near U Street (dark, with good bourbon drinks)
  • The Royal - coffee, cocktails and good food with outdoor seating and great wifi, open lunch and eve in Shaw
  • Makoto -- casual but pricey AMAZING sushi in Palisades, reservations only
  • Lupo Verde - Italian in Logan Circle/14th/U Street with great outdoor patio, awesome bartenders
  • Compass Rose - awesome selection of dishes from the owners world travels in 14th Street/U/Logan
  • Bar Pilar - great brunch and bar food, awesome bar
  • Saint Ex - great bar, outdoor patio, brunch
  • Fiola - swank Italian + great bar + wifi + outdoor tables in Penn Quarter/near Mall
  • Fiola Mare - swank Italian/seafood in Georgetown, water view, outdoor tables
  • Casa Luca - family style Italian in Downtown/City Center by the Fiola family
  • Room 11 - great great bar with baked goods in the morning, awesome brunch and dinner/late night eats in Columbia Heights
  • DCity Smokehouse - BBQ in (is that Shaw?)
  • BreadFurst - Bakery, coffee and sandwich shop in Van Ness
  • Medium Rare - Prix fixe steakhouse with great brunch in Cleveland Park
  • Bistro Du Coin - French bistro with great bar in Dupont Circle
  • 2 Amy's - pizza near Cathedral


Virginia:
  • SER - traditional Spanish with great bar in Ballston
  • Italian Store - pizza and sandwiches and more in Arlington
  • Ray’s Hell Burger - incredible burgers in Arlington
  • Bob & Edith’s Diner - breakfast in Arlington


Maryland:

  • Parkway Deli - Jewish Deli with awesome breakfast in Silver Spring
  • Cuban Corner - Cuban food in Rockville


My DC Restaurant To Do List, February 2016

Life moves pretty fast. And, the DC restaurant scene is moving even faster. My restaurant to do list has somehow grown to *thirty-seven* spots. And, that's not counting making time to visit all of my perennial favorites

What's on your list? 




Washington, DC
  • Mi Cuba Cafe - Cuban in Columbia Heights
  • Thip Khao - Laotian in Columbia Heights
  • Bad Saint - Filipino in Columbia Heights
  • Crane and Turtle - Japanese French in Columbia Heights-ish
  • Small Fry - BBQ in Columbia Heights
  • Brookland Pint - American/Southern in Brookland (USB chargers at bar)
  • Brookland’s Finest - American in Brookland (has outdoor patio)
  • Right Proper Brewing & Tasting Room - Brewery in Brookland
  • MGM Roast Beef - Handcrafted sandwiches + breakfast in Brentwood
  • Maketto - Asian street food and fashion market with indoor/outdoor seating
  • Garrison - Southern on Barrack’s Row (has fondue in winter)
  • Tosca - Classic swank Italian in Downtown
  • Pedro & Vinny’s Burrito Cart - downtown burrito stand
  • Cher Cher Ethiopian -
  • Mangialardo & Sons - Italian Subs in Southeast (old school DC spot)
  • Marcel’s - swank French. Love the bar, but never eaten at the restaurant
  • Chaia - tacos in Georgetown
  • Maki Shop - Maki hand rolls in Logan Circle/14th
  • Momofuku CCDC - pork buns and ramen in City Center
  • Convivial - American-French by Chef Cedric Maupelier (of Mintwood) on 9th Street/Shaw
  • Baan Thai - Thai on 14th Street that Tim Carman loves
  • Songbyrd - coffeshop in Adams Morgan
  • Southern Efficiency - Southern food and Bourbon Bar on 7th/Shaw
  • Eat The Rich - Seafood in Shaw
  • Uprising Muffin Company - baked goods in Shaw
  • Kinship - American by Chef Eric Ziebold near Convention Center

Virginia:
  • Peking Gourmet Inn - Chinese where #41 goes
  • Yona - ramen, Korean & Japanse in Ballston
  • Aladdin - Bangladeshi in Cherrydale
  • Peter Chang  - Sichuan Chinese in Cherrydale
  • Duck Donuts - Outer Banks cult donut shop in Cherrydale
  • Mokomandy - Korean in Sterling

Maryland:
  • Peter Chang - Chinese Sichuan in Rockville
  • Frankly… Pizza! - Italian in Kensington
  • La Casita Pupuseria - Salvadoran in Silver Spring
  • Pho Real - Vietnamese in Silver Spring
  • Northwest Chinese - Chinese in College Park
  • Chez Dior - Hyattsville
  • Curry Leaf - Southern Indian in Laurel
  • Urban Butcher - charcuterie and cocktails in Silver Spring
  • Arturo's Trattoria

12.01.2015

A Week in Maui: What Not to Do

I won't lie. The flight to Hawaii from DC is a brutal stretch, and mine started at 5:40am. But, that meant we were wheels down in Maui by 1:30pm... so we all make sacrifices.

Maui is stunning. The islands are just naturally beautiful and everyone has been so nice. We rented an awesome Jeep from Budget.  I'm about halfway through my vacation and before I share a few tips -about what you must do, let me tell you what I would do differently if I was planning this again.

1. I flew American Airlines, which normally is great because I fly so often that I have status with them. Our economy plus seats were roomy and comfortable, but plan ahead people. The eight+ hour flight does not include food, so you'll be eating two meals of snack packs or Pringles unless you pack a picnic. Next, wifi. That wasn't even an option. It didn't exist on our flight. (Though oddly, some seats had chargers underneath them. Just. Not Mine.) That's ok, right. Because you can watch one of the movies. Nope. There are only shared TV screens that were showing Mission Impossible 12 and a whole roster of single episode NBC shows... for. eight. hours. I would like to issue a memo to the person who programs this channel. If you have a captive audience for eight hours, let them marathon your best series. Get them hooked. Mid-season single episodes were at best a tease, and at worst maddening.

But who cares... Hawaii, right? I'm just saying. Pick another airline and confirm the food and entertainment in advance. Download from iTunes and pack battery packs - because your fully charged MacAir will die on episode four of Empire season one.

2. If you believe you are a person like me (one who isn't the most easy going after spending the whole day on a plane trapped with Tom Cruise and The Mysteries of Laura), do not under any circumstances book a luau the same day that you land. As cool of a local tradition as this is, your entry point to Maui should not be terrible sugary tiki drinks with Marge, Bob and the kids from [insert town.] I just didn't have the patience to watch a bikini fashion show and kids learning to hula. But, I'm here to save you. When you land, if you're near Lahaina, go straight to Hula Barefoot Bar and have a fresh-squeezed lime margarita while you decompress and stare at the horizon line until your blood pressure settles down to island time. Walk down to Black Rock Beach. If and when you are patient and relaxed enough to sit through a luau with hundreds of tourists, the Drums of the Pacific one at the Hyatt was good.

3. I stayed at the Westin in Ka'anapali on Starwood Preferred Guest points. This is usually a great idea and a great hotel chain. I love staying at Westins. This one is huge. It's great for families - with lots of pools and a slide. But, I had several fairly frustrating experiences in which staff from various parts of the hotel service equation didn't know the answers to questions like, "Where is the 7am spin class?" or "Can I order food?" or "Can I rent this cabana from you, cabana guy?" I tweeted my frustration and the always on-the-ball Starwood social team immediately reached out to get more information and even had the hotel manager call me (within minutes.) The best social media program can't solve for on-the-ground management unconcerned with customer experience though... The manager response was, "Sorry, all of those people are vendors and none of the systems talk to each other." I actually think I would have been ok with that answer if she had added, "We know it's a problem and we are working on integrating our systems to provide a more seamless experience for guests."

The hotel is fine. But, compared to other properties we visited, it needs a serious technology upgrade to the user experience. I want to write a report and send it to the Starwood experience team. Your vacation user experience shouldn't feel like a scavenger hunt. And, all of the issues were so solvable, but it didn't seem like there was any plan to solve it.

So, TL:DR... if you're looking to do burn Starwood points on a relaxing Maui vacation, the Sheraton looked much nicer, more modern and had a more spacious beach (right by Black Rock). I know it seems luxe-counterintuitive, but if I had done this again, I would have booked the Sheraton.

Stay tuned for two more posts coming with the good stuff... and there is so much good stuff to share.

ADDENDUM: You know how you see all of these images of people deplaning and getting leis? That's a lie. We didn't get them at the Westin either. On our fourth day, we checked into the Andaz. They placed luscious fresh floral leis over our heads and it was like we were transported into another dimension. I basically never want to leave the Andaz.

11.25.2015

Winter Wineries & Vineyards to Visit in Virginia

Spring and summer, I spent a lot of time in the tasting rooms and on the patios of Virginia's vineyards. Sunny days seemed the perfect excuse to pack a picnic, put the top down on the MINI and head for the hills.

Now that it's inching closer to winter, a few wineries are still open and are cozier than ever. After my last meeting today, Al and I pointed the car towards Early Mountain Vineyards to visit our friend Rachel. We were greeted with barns donning wreaths, twinkly trees in the tasting room and fresh cut wood by the outdoor fire pits.

Those few hours spent under blankets and sunshine drinking a Boxwood Winery red (one of my favorite things about Early Mountain is that they showcase the best wines from across the state in addition to their own) and eating warm sausage dip made us forget the stresses of the job.
Left: Pretzels with dips; Right: Sausage Dip
This weekend (November 28 and 29), they have photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides and a cookie decorating party!

What other Virginia wineries have a great winter season scenario? Tell me in the comments or tweet me @tammy!

Early Mountain Vineyards is located at 6109 Wolftown-Hood Road in Madison, VA. Depending on traffic, it takes a little more than two hours to reach from Washington, DC. There is a tasting room, full service restaurant, locally sourced store and event space on the property.

Follow my Twitter list of favorite Virginia wineries to keep up to date on the latest releases and events: https://twitter.com/tammy/lists/favevirginiawineries

PS. Vineyards might be the cutest place for holiday card photos. I tried to make Ike sit still, but...

8.17.2015

I Have a New Favorite Virginia Winery: Early Mountain Vineyards

Full disclosure. My friend Rachel just got a job working at Early Mountain Vineyards. And, I want to quit my job and be her social media manager after spending 24 hours here.

I mean, I have the qualifications: many years experience managing social media, a deep love of wine - particularly the rose - and my dog and I look damn good on the farm.
Barns for days...
I love exploring Virginia's wine scene, but Early Mountain differentiates itself in a few ways. First and foremost, this is a destination. It's not just about the wine made on the property, rather Early Mountain seeks to elevate the entire Virginia food and wine scene. 

The tasting room is so civilized. There's a stand up bar if you like, but I loved that they also have table service and a full menu.

General Manager, Dave Kostelnik gave us a tour of the vineyard on his Gator while regaling us with tales of bears and brides. He talked us through all of the varietals on the vineyard, introduced us to the winemaker and talked about the plans for the future (glamping, anyone?) I love that they also have such amazing event space for concerts (I saw Gallatin Canyon play while I was there), corporate retreats and weddings or parties.


One of the coolest parts of the Early Mountain experience is that you have your choice - taste a flight of their own best wines... or try the best of Virginia. That's right, you can get a sampling of the best reds, whites or sparklers from across the state at Early Mountain. And, there's a full menu made with local ingredients. Find something you love? Make sure to check their local Virginia goods market to see if you can take it home with you. I really loved the whipped local honey that came on the side of the chevre.

Flight of Early Mountain wines
In the summertime, I can drink Early Mountain's rose all day long, so I bought two bottles. And, one of the Foothills red, which is perfect for Bolognese night.

The Barns of Early Mountain
I knew I'd be back, so I went ahead and joined the wine club. I'm already looking forward to my first winemaker dinner. 

NOTE: Special thanks to the Early Mountain team who allowed us to stay on the property. Extra special thanks to everyone for not getting married there the weekend I was there so that I could use the cottage. The view waking up was amazing... almost as amazing as the ham biscuits we bought the night before at the bluegrass concert.
Ham Biscuits for Early Mountain Breakfast
Early Mountain Vineyards is located at 6109 Wolftown-Hood Road, Madison, Virginia.  My AirBNB WishList for Virginia Wineries has some pretty good places to stay that are nearby enough, but also check VRBO or stay in nearby Charlottesville.

8.16.2015

I Fell In Love With White Moose Inn

Last Thursday, I made a snap decision that laundry could wait and I needed a road trip to cruise Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains. On the way there, I saw a sign for Washington, Virginia (home of the famed Inn at Little Washington) and I turned in to see what it was all about. I made a left and saw this yellow door pop out at me... The White Moose Inn. As I pulled out of town, I couldn't stop thinking of it. 

I drove Skyline Drive, took in some amazing vistas. And even though there were hotel rooms available there, I had White Moose on the brain, so I aimed the car back to Little Washington. 
The White Moose Inn
The cell service is terrible out there (or fantastic if you're trying to be unreachable, which I was), so it took me a few tries to get a call through to see if there was a room open. It was my lucky day because the cottage was available - and I had Ike with me, so bonus, it's pet friendly.
The Cottage at White Moose Inn
Carlo greeted me at the door and I instantly wanted him to be my new best friend. He gave me restaurant recommendations, the wifi code, walked me through the in room technology and went on his way promising to see me at breakfast in the morning. 
Bedside Table at White Moose Inn
I poured myself a glass of Early Mountain Vineyards' Foothills, popped a few of the bedside peanut m-n-ms and turned in for the night.

The next morning, I made myself an espresso (after finding a Nespresso YouTube how to video on my phone) and settled on the sun-dappled private patio to finish reading The Knockoff.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Meanwhile, Ike decided to take a nap. 

Happy Dog
Carlo brought over breakfast -- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, a delicious Gruyere and summer zucchini quiche and a blueberry muffin, plus fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. I didn't want to leave. 

Breakfast al fresco at White Moose Inn

Alas, new guests were coming in, so I packed up and promised myself that I'd come back another time. It's the perfect spot to stay if you're eating at Inn at Little Washington, visiting Skyline Drive or popping around local vineyards... or if you just need to treat yourself.

White Moose Inn's backyard

White Moose Inn is located at 291 Main Street in Washington, Virginia. I do recommend calling ahead for reservations -- the Inn doesn't have very many rooms and I'd hate for you to miss out.

PS. Carlo heading to Australia to study abroad. Give his blog - Black Ink - a follow

8.14.2015

Taking a Break

It's been a really tumultuous year. And after several things that were really important to me capsized, one thing was glaringly obvious. I needed a break.

I was dreaming in PowerPoint slides and Twitter feeds.

I was neglecting friends and family for work. Hell, I was neglecting *me* for work.

I couldn't separate myself from social media.

And, my just picking up iPhone was giving me shoulder and wrist pain from so much repetitive use.

So, I've been taking some time off. A lot of time off. I've caught flights and taken impromptu solo road trips. I've shifted back to paper books. I have become one of those Solidcore, SoulCycle people. I joined a pool. I visited wineries and fantasized about moving to the country. I have spent more time with people I love, people I want to get to know better and, of course, Ike.

As the summer comes to a close, I hope I can retain some of this zen, while continuing to be inspired by my team and this amazing time we live in. There is so much to be excited about ahead, so much to learn, so many ways to grow and lead and laugh and live well.

Sometimes you just need to step away to see it.


7.26.2015

Caipirinhas for Breakfast in Puerto Rico

I've been a lazy beach rat, explored gorgeous Old San Juan, tasted as many local foods as I could fit into my day (mofongo, red snapper, mallorca with guava butter)... but the decadent St. Regis Bahia Beach vacation is coming to a close.

I'll share my favorite photos, moments and restaurants with you once I get home, but I'm going to be spending the last few hours in Puerto Rico soaking up sun, drinking Caipirinhas at breakfast and looking forward to seeing my dog when I get home tonight.

Cheers y'all.

7.22.2015

Favorite Things I Ate This Week in DC: July 2015

Beef Bourguignon and a Luberon rose at Le Diplomate in Logan Circle:
Le Diplomate
Spicy lamb meatballs over supergreens with feta, harissa, hummus and quinoa at Cava Grill in Bethesda:

Cava Grill
Breakfast Bowl (for lunch) at Slipstream on 14th Street, along with a must read, Station Eleven:

Slipstream

7.19.2015

What I'm Listening To: The Ike Reilly Assassination

Back when CDs were a thing, my brother would burn me these mixes of bands I'd never heard of but immediately loved. Thats how I first heard Ike Reilly and I immediately went out and bought his album, Salesmen and Racists. I'm not sure where those CDs are, but it's been in high rotation on my Spotify, iTunes and Pandora playlists.
Signed CD. *swoon*
So, when my brother told me he was going to be playing Rock and Roll Hotel, I was all in. The guy is an amazing, fun, gritty, smart ass performer. I loved the back stories he told about the songs. He gave a shout out to the AFL-CIO to rousing shouts and I quickly realized all of the good looking guys in the audience were laborers -- and Ike was singing their anthems.



Reilly's songs are great stories that make you smile or smirk even when grappling with heartbreak, addiction and getting older. Give the title track, Born On Fire , a listen below. It's going on my morning playlists to give me some feel good mojo to start tough days.


Download or buy my two favorite albums through the Amazon.com links below. I'll get a few pennies tossed my way so that I can go see more live music.