Last weekend we took a minibreak to DC for a surprise baby shower and Hampton’s birthday.
It started off with a bang.
I was washing my hair Friday morning and heard a massive crash of glass. The globe from the ceiling fan on our upstairs landing had fallen and smashed EVERYwhere.
Luckily, I didn’t hear any exploratory doggies, so I finished my shower before properly assessing the damage.
Let me tell you, these funky vintage floors are way more cute when you’re not fishing broken glass from between the boards.
I texted my boss to say I would be late, and in the midst of cleanup, realized that my shower is leaking. Still. After five plumbers.
At that point, I retexted my boss to say how ‘bout I just not come in, since I was taking a half-day anyway. God bless understanding employers and PTO. And procrastination, because some of my shoes are still not put away properly, which was WAY handier than trying to go down the glass-strewn steps barefoot.
After cleaning up the mess, I decide to kick off our minibreak by treating myself to breakfast, retail therapy, and a pedicure.
While my sandwich was delightful, Ulta was out of the two things I drove across town for, so I decided to skip the nail salon and go home for restorative puppy snugs and painting my own dang toes.
Thankfully, Hampton’s day went much more smoothly, and it was soon time to hit the road!
I love driving, but also really appreciate when Hampton drives so I can read. I finished three books I had started but not gotten around to finishing just on the way up…. and another one on the way back, while starting two more. #icanquitanytimeiwantto
Of course, because Friday was a hot mess, we had kindof a trial getting fast food on the way to DC. But we did end up at this time capsule of an Arby’s so there’s that.
We stayed at the Kimpton Carlyle in Dupont Circle, which has a funky little bar and fine cocktail menu. Huzzah for being settled.
The next morning felt extra cold after the false spring we had last week in NC, so we chose breakfast options based on their proximity to the hotel. We ended up at Ted’s Bulletin, which is a small, trendy DC chain, known most for their boozy milkshakes and homemade Pop-Tarts.
There was a 55-minute wait (I mentioned “trendy”, right?”), so we stepped into the bar for breakfast cocktails and, after a few minutes, managed to score seats there – well before our names came up on the list.
The bartenders were attentive and pleasant (even before we had seats), effortlessly serving the crowd and table orders, while visiting with regulars. Good restaurants are more than just good food!
After that, we got the car and headed to my old stomping grounds of NE Capitol Hill. The baby shower was for the friend who convinced me to move to NC… and then moved to my old neighborhood. I still like her, anyway.
Because I volunteered to bring wine (perks of a grocer husband), we parked near the party and I walked Hampton to a nearby bar to wait. We visited one of the best wine shops ever, Schneider’s, on the way.
Then I headed back through the bracing air to baby it up.
The party was lovely and I got to see my two besties from Home, Hannah and Meghan, and other dear friends (and relatives) of the guest of honor, and there were no games, so it’s probably the best baby shower I have ever been to. And I was able to tell Hannah’s husband and his brother where Hampton was, so he got to hang out with them. Wins all around.
That night, we had dinner reservations at Jaleo by Jose Andreas. I wasn’t a foodie when I lived in DC, but I had at least heard of it. When a colleague was headed there for work, I recommended it to him – and now he goes every time he’s in the city, so we HAD to go; we have a particular bent toward tapas, anyway, as mentioned in other travelogues, esp. as it’s the one thing missing in Winston-Salem. (again, anyone want to give us capital to start one?)
A few weeks before our trip, we were watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Mark Murphy talked about Jaleo’s paella. Sadly, it serves six, and we were just two, and we wanted so many other things on the menu that we had to pass. Next time.
But the squid dish we ordered had crispy rice so we felt like we maybe got a little taste. And that taste was divine. As was everything else!
Had you ever told me BH (Before Hampton) that octopus would be my favorite thing, I never would have believed you.
We also had a shaved fennel, apple, and manchego salad that was lovely and fresh and we’re going to try to replicate soon.
After that, we headed two blocks away to barmini. Also by Jose Andreas, it’s a cocktail bar below his super fancy and creative minibar restaurant. The owner of our new local spot, Southside Beer Garden, suggested we swing by, and as we are big fans of Andreas’ humanitarian efforts on top of his food, we decided it sounded like a good idea.
We didn’t expect we’d have to ring a buzzer to get in.
We less expected what we found when we got in.
The whole place is white and very… eclectic. There were chairs with antlers and ears and a wall of sculpted hands holding fruit and. It reminded me a lot of the Bass museum we visited in Miami this time last year.
As we didn’t have a reservation, they said we could probably only fit in one round. So we had to make our choices carefully.
We chose well.
If you have a proper reservation, you can do their cocktail flights. Which we will TOTALLY DO NEXT TIME. We watched a waiter top off wine goblet-type glasses WITH EXTRA SMOKE FROM A BEAKER. It was delightful and worth every penny.
It was going to be hard to get an Uber from barmini, so we ducked into Clyde’s, a DC mainstay, this one attached to the downtown arena.
Just as a Capitals hockey game left out. Whoops.
On the way back to the hotel, we took an Uber pool. The following scene happened and still makes me laugh:
The next morning, we decided to brunch wherever we could get a reservation at the time we wanted without walking too far and ended up at a place called Trio, as it checked those boxes and had a prosciutto and melon appetizer.
Never before have I had to ask for more Bloody Mary mix because the drink was too strong – esp. for $16 bottomless drinks! I can handle this sort of problem.
Also, my sandwich was perfection.
Sadly, Hampton’s French toast was not nearly as pleasing. All in all, though, it was a decent find.
Then, I got to introduce Hampton to one of my favorite places of all time, Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café. One of the books we picked up was the Obama and Biden mystery because #wheninDC.
We hit a few other Dupont Circle bars I used to visit once upon a time and then met up with one of my library school friends, Annie, who is now a children’s librarian for the DCPL.
After that…. It was time for Maydān.
Maydān was on Food and Wine’s Best New Restaurant list. We did a few of their recipes when they were featured in the magazine and love the flavor profiles of middle eastern cooking, so we had to go. Reservations are released 28 days out, at midnight. I set an alarm on my phone for the day of, but missed my first chance. The second time was a Monday, and it was for a Sunday night reservation, so I jumped online when Hampton got up for work – and they were already sold out at 5:30 a.m.
I sent an email to the restaurant saying I’m sure they’re super busy and popular which is awesome, but also, is there any chance there was a technical difficulty?
They sent back a very nice email with information the bar seating and day-of wait list. But also, how many people were we looking to sit?
In the words of my mother, always ask, kids. Always ask.
Maydān is set down a side street with no big sign. But then you open the (huge) door and are awash in gorgeous aromas – and fire. There were things cooking on embers, on the fire itself, and smoking above. And it all smelled to die for.
And tasted the same way.
We had barramundi, a fish we never prepare at home, in a way we never could. Much like the tenderloin kebab, it had a great sear and the most tender bite. The fish had chermoula and lemon, a perfect fresh foil to the chili and aleppo flavors in the tenderloin and ground lamb kebabs.
We also had two types of spread — m’tabbal has a swiss chard base and could kindof be thought of as Lebanon’s answer to spinach and artichoke dip, and muhamarra which was walnut and red pepper, with some pomegranate molasses to elevate those earthy flavors.
And we ordered toum. Toum is a garlic and olive oil dip I have tried to make twice – the first time, I saved it with some cold water (thanks, internet tip), but the second was a massive, massive fail. I’m not sure I want to try a third time because this version was just perfection. Rich and pungent but also fresh and creamy and completely addictive.
On the way out, we were just watching the chefs in amazement, and ended up chatting with the owner. Luckily, I didn’t realize she was The Owner and managed to not totally fangirl – or mention how much I love her husband’s work (he’s an NPR anchor).
If you have any sort of appreciation of food and are heading to DC, you need to try this place. The hype is 100% worth it. I can’t even say too much more because my words will never do it justice.
The next morning, a leisurely lie-in and it was back to the road on a cold and dreary morning. Luckily, the snow that had begun the night before didn’t stick – and double luckily, I haven’t lost my DC driving skills.
A Starbucks stop in suburban Virginia, some roadtrip snacks, and many more pages later, we were back to the puppers.
But the birthday celebrations and good food were not over!
Last night was Hampton’s actual birthday and, with his parents, we went to the restaurant where we’ve celebrated at least two other years – 1703.
I started following the chef on Instagram somehow, and his work has never ever disappointed. On Tuesday nights, he plays with small plates, and he’s always cranking out really creative dishes. Curtis is one of the only licensed mushroom foragers around, so that’s also super fun.
Even though it was a Tuesday, we stuck with the main menu. Rack of lamb is not something we usually cook, so I couldn’t resist.
Back to the real world. But better. We have plans to use some of the Maydān flavors for Valentine’s night and are going to try to replicate the Jaleo salad for a dinner party Saturday night. Can we do it? Stay tuned…..