Last week I was traveling for work in our nation’s capital and happened to do a bit of research before I left so that I might lunch and dinner at some unique and well-acclaimed places. Here’s what I discovered:
1. Vegan cupcakes may look pretty, but the flavor just can’t compare (and really, maybe I shouldn’t even be comparing them to nonvegan cupcakes; they are, after all, entirely different concepts). I stopped in at Sticky Fingers bakery in Columbia Heights for an afternoon snack and chose the “Strawberry Daquiwi” cupcake– a delightfully pink-frostinged number whose lisp-inducing name made me feel quite self-conscious around the fairly attractive cashier whose masculinity seemed oddly out of place among so many dainty desserts.
The idea of the flavors in this cupcake were nice: vanilla cake with strawberry frosting and a burst of sour kiwi curd in the middle. But the texture was pretty dry–almost chalky, even. I found the kiwi unpronounced in most bites and overwhelmingly sour in others. I don’t know…maybe I am just not cut out to be a vegan cupcake connoisseur, so feel free to take my review with a grain of salt (after all, this bakery did win something on Food Network, so they’re clearly doing something right even if it puzzles nonvegans like myself).
2. I fell back in love with the BLT. You know, the sandwich that you order when you want something with meat but not too much, you want some veggies so that you can convince yourself you’re being healthy, and the sandwich that, frankly, can be a little boring? Boring is the antithesis of the BLT I enjoyed at Art and Soul on New Jersey Avenue. Two thick slabs of smokey, house made bacon melted in my mouth, followed by the burst of concentrated tomato flavor from the oven-baked beauties that were layered underneath. (the lettuce did its job too, I suppose, soaking up the bright herbed aioli that was gently slathered on a homemade brioche bun, but, you know, they could have just made the bacon and oven-baked tomatoes a sandwich and I would have been a happy camper).
3. Things that pair well together in one setting, will likely pair nicely in another setting. Well, admittedly, not everything. But I am thinking of apples and cheese. Popularly paired in the raw as an appetizers or even a dessert, I was intrigued to find a macaroni and cheese dish on the menu at Founding Farmers (on Pennsylvania Avenue) that contained peas, ham, and slices of granny smith apples. I didn’t doubt that it would work– rather, I just wanted to try it since it actually sounded like something I might have thought of (especially with the help of these two books) but hadn’t yet made. In case you were wondering, it works beautifully.
4. Always ask to see the dessert menu. This is less about something I learned and more something that I will continue to promote doing. Alex always teases me for sitting down at a restaurant and flipping straight to the dessert menu. I insist this is so I am informed in making my entree selection: previewing the desserts helps me decide what I need to save room for. At Founding Farmers, we were asked if we’d like to see the dessert menu, and though we were full from eating a bacon lollipop appetizer, plus our entrees, we agreed. I got the most amazing baggie of beignets with a trio of dipping sauces. The dough was perfectly airy and fried and the powdered sugar just melted onto my fingers. My favorite dipping sauce, by the way, was the raspberry coulis.
If you’re visiting Washington D.C. anytime soon, I encourage you to consider adding these places to your itinerary (gotta eat, right?). But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good food in D.C. And even if you’re not headed to D.C. anytime soon, I hope that you might feel inspired by what I learned dining out to try something new in your kitchen or try that new restaurant that just opened up near you. Any thoughts? Meanwhile, I guess I’m off to go daydream about bacon…