Every now and then, I love to back my bags, empty my stomach, clean my palate and explore different cities! I think it’s very important to experience meals far from home and to see what's trending food-wise in different locations. I recently went to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Confession: Washington D.C. would not have been my destination for the food scene alone, I had another motive for going...a guy. Although I went for a guy, I decided I would eat some good food while I was at it. Luckily for me, he loved food too and was excited to take me on a culinary tour of the city he called home for eight years, before moving back to his homeland, Greece. (I'm The Food Pervert, of course I have international romances!)
D.C. was much tastier than I remember it being when I was 13 hopping on and off a tour bus. Our first night, the air was so warm we were able to eat outside. He took me to Zaytinya, José Andres’ take on Mediterranean cuisine. Being Greek, this was one of his favorite D.C. restaurants. Let's refer to my guide as "Adonis." (Adonis, if you’re reading this, thanks again.) I trusted him to do the ordering, we usually agreed on menu items anyway.
- Keftedes Kapama: Beef and lamb meatballs, feta cheese, rustic tomato sauce, cinnamon, allspice
- Kolokithokeftedes: Zucchini and cheese patties, caper-yogurt sauce
- And something else delicious that was a special that I didn't write down, but it was wrapped in phyllo dough and had lamb inside!
Later that night, we ended up at his friend’s bar, Bar-Code, where he insisted I try the best grilled calamari in D.C. I wish I hadn't been so full from dinner, I would have eaten more of it! It was prepared perfectly with olive oil, scallions, and lemon.
The next morning, it was bagel time! We went to Dupont Circle to Adonis’ favorite bagel place Bethesda Bagels. I was overwhelmed by the too-many ways I could order my bagel and just stood in front of the wide glass case for about 10 minutes, pondering every possible way I could enjoy my bagel. This was my one shot! I also became distracted by the largest doughnuts I had ever seen in my life.
Did I want an egg and cheese bagel sandwich? A classic bagel and cream cheese? A whole wheat bagel? A sesame bagel? I went with the pervy-est choice I could make. Cream cheese and lox on an everything bagel! IT WAS SO DIVINE! Tomatoes, red onion, savory, soft, melty salmon and a thick smear of cream cheese. No capers, which was fine, not a caper fan. Flecks of garlic, salt, poppy seed, and sesame seed dotted my tongue before disappearing into the fold of lox, cheese and dough. Sorry west coast, bagels just aren’t your thing and they never will be.
For lunch we went to Taylor Gourmet, an adorable sandwich shop with hand-crafted soda! Again, I made the best choice possible and ordered The Reading Terminal: Pepper Crusted Roast Beef (roasted in house), Horseradish Cream, Caramelized Onions, Sweet Provolone and Hot Beef Au Jus tucked neatly inside a gluten free wrap! For a fast-food style sandwich shop, I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients! Adonis was jealous of my red-meaty perfection…I think he got something with turkey.
Oyamel was the restaurant I chose for dinner. It was the one D.C. restaurant that I researched and really wanted to go to. As a fan of José Andrés, I didn’t want to miss this experience. Even though we went to Zaytinya the night before, I still wanted more José! We had an 8pm reservation. This was the most lovely evening I can remember having in far too long. I wore one of my favorite dresses and my favorite black heels. We were at our best. The restaurant had extremely detailed decor, the walls were splattered in bright colors; orange, pink, red and yellow. I loved the animal statues protruding from the walls and hanging from the ceiling. The glass doorway was painted with monarch butterflies...which I walked into, not noticing the glass. Something about Oyamel spoke to my heart. I felt at home.
We ordered margaritas and sipped them as our guacamole was whipped together tableside. In that moment I had no worries, no fears, no doubt. I was in the moment, a gift I rarely give myself. We ordered the following incredible dishes. The ceviche was my favorite. It was spot on, the fish was fresh and the salsa has just the right amount of lime and spice.
- Ceviche de Peje-Sol: Hawaiian sunfish with avocado marinated in a salsa Mexicana of tomato, sweet onion, cilantro and lime juice
- Machuco y Calabaza Relleno de Frijol con Salsa Negra: Plantain and butternut squash fritters stuffed with black beans and served with a chipotle chile and piloncillo sugar sauce
- Pollo con Mole Poblano: Half of a grilled young chicken with epazote herb rice and a mole poblano sauce of almonds, chiles and a touch of chocolate
- Carnitas estilo Michoacan salsa de Tomatillo: Confit of baby pig with green tomatillo sauce, pork rinds, onions and cilantro
- Chilorio de Res: Shredded beef braised in a rich and tangy sauce of pasilla and guajillo chiles, topped with white onions
Mid-way through our spicy feast, I took a quiet beat after swallowing a bite and said out loud how happy I was, how perfect this night was. This was my favorite thing to do in the whole wide world; experience great food at a great restaurant in great company. That to me is as grand as heaven could ever be. Adonis joked and said, "We should pretend it's your birthday since I can't be with you on your real birthday." We calmly reached for each other's hand and shared a silent smile. When every plate had been destroyed it was time to go. I knew what I wanted next and it wasn’t on the menu.