Spring in Washington DC is a lovely time to visit this great American city. When the famous cherry trees are blossoming it makes it even more special.
We had a busy week visiting family, seeing the sites, enjoying great food and of course taking lots of photos of the beautiful pink cherry trees blooming in all of their glory. Our timing was perfect as we hit peak bloom weekend.
Sightseeing and Dining in The Capitol
With so much to do in the Washington DC-Virginia area and only nine days we had to pick and choose what we wanted see.
Crowds limited what we could do (no museum visits) without spending all day in lines, but we had our list of monuments and famous sites to visit.
We took the metro into the city just to walk around a bit. Lunch was at a favorite east coast seafood restaurant – Legal Seafoods. Dinner was at a friends. But before then we stopped at a terrific wine shop, The Wine Cabinet in Reston, VA.
They had a great selection of wines, cheeses and goodies, even locally made French macarons. That made me think of Laduree’s In Paris, world famous for their light French confections. These small, round cookie-cakes are crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle. If you’ve never had a French macaron, you must try them! We could not resist taking a favorite Chardonnay, wonderful cheese and macarons to the hostess.
Easter Morning at The Jefferson
Easter morning we got up at 5:00 AM, painful as it was, and headed into the city. We wanted to get photos of the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise across the tidal basin through the cherry trees. If we did not get there before the crowds we would not get the shots we wanted. One thing I’ve learned about photography is that the best shots are done at sunrise and sunset. Not always convenient, but worth it when you look back at the photographs.
As the sun rose and the light warmed to a beautiful Easter morning we were glad we had crawled out of our warm beds. Hymns wafted across the morning air from another park area. Crowds gathered on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial for worship and prayer. Starbucks in hand, we enjoyed the cool early morning air and got our shots before the crowds arrived.
The rest of Easter Sunday we relaxed, napped, and watched Saddleback Church’s 30th anniversary service on the web. For dinner we roasted fresh spring halibut with a nut-herb crust (use the crust from this recipe) and opened a nice bottle of Chardonnay to celebrate the most important day in the world together.
Arlington National Cemetery-The Tomb of the Unknown
Monday we started the day at Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the changing of the guard. It’s been guarded around the clock every day, rain or shine since the 1930’s.
Watching the precision of the guard in perfect dress uniform execute their duties was solemn, respectful and impressive. Walking the grounds surrounded by thousands of white crosses across rolling green hillsides was a powerful reminder of the cost of freedom and human sacrifice.
A Family Affair
Wednesday afternoon family came over adn I cooked for dinner at my sisters. I wanted to do something easy that everyone would love. Something you couldn’t go wrong with. That would be my version of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and baby green beans.
Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes
Considered an American classic, meatloaf is something many of us grew up with. My mom made meatloaf regularly and I always got my hands dirty helping mix the ingredients.
With it’s origins in German, Belgian and Dutch cuisines, it’s a cousin to the Italian meatball. American meatloaf has its origins in a Pennsylvania Dutch dish called scrapple, and that was my mom’s background. It’s traditionally a mixture of ground meat and breadcrumbs often topped with ketchup.
My Meatloaf Recipe
Many of my clients wrinkle up their faces at the mention of meatloaf, but I guarantee my recipe is not your mother’s meatloaf. It’s moist, flavorful and combines lean ground sirloin with ground turkey for a good base. And yes it sounds strange but I add finely diced Granny Smith apple to the mix, which adds moisture and healthy fiber that you will never know is there. Trust me!
Add Dijon mustard, horseradish and a few other ingredients and you’ll have a terrific meatloaf for dinner, and if you are lucky a sandwich the next day. Instead of the traditional ketchup I top mine with a spiced apple-barbecue glaze. You can use your favorite barbecue sauce as is or thinned down to use as a glaze.
Bringing Puzzle Pieces Together
Dinner was a hit and we had a wonderful time talking, sharing stories and looking at old family photographs. It was more than it sounds. Not just the usual family gathering. For the group that gathered, it was bringing together the pieces to a puzzle we never thought would come together, yet it did after more than 50 years. I got to meet a side of my family I never knew. It s was amazing. Food, family, fellowship: what is more important and satisfying?
Something Out of Harry Potter
We headed to Old Town in historic Alexandria. We spent the afternoon enjoying the shops along Kings Street, walking the streets of Colonial style townhomes with brick and stone facades and colorful shutters. We had lunch at a cute little French place with good pate for an appetizer but saved room for rich, creamy homemade ice cream at The Creamery. Walking off our ice cream we came across an old apothecary.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary & Museum
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary opened in 1792 and closed during the Great Depression. One day the owners sadly just locked the doors and walked away. This untouched piece of history was turned into a museum in 1939. For $5 you can take a guided tour.
The first floor is interesting enough, but when the guide takes you behind the scenes to the closed off second level it’s like entering the world of Harry Potter.
Totally preserved and untouched, it feels like stepping back in time with old boxes of Dragons Blood and Unicorn Root in a musty, dim room where you expect a wizard to greet you. We could have spent all day there it was so interesting.
The National Cathedral
Visiting the Washington National Cathedral was on our list. Wherever you are driving in Washington DC, the monumental visage of the National Cathedral looms on the horizon. From miles away it looks enormous, and it is. It’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world.
We expect to see great Gothic style cathedrals in Europe, not in the US, but yes, we have one in our nation’s capitol. The foundation stone was laid in 1907 and construction completed in 1990. This spectacular house of worship was 83 years in the making. We could have spent all day there, basking in the multi-colored light that shown through the brilliant stained glass windows, but our tummies were growling.
A short walk from the cathedral was 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizza. With black and white checked floors and pale buttery yellow walls, it’s a neighborhood kind of place. It was also a busy place and we were too hungry to wait, so we opted to sit at the bar and order lunch.
2 Amys makes authentic, thin-crusted Neapolitan pizza from a wood-burning oven. According to Italian law, only soft-grain flour, fresh yeast, water, and sea salt may be used for the dough, and only Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil or dried oregano may be used for the toppings. No wonder it was so incredible; just terrific pizza.
The next day we were still thinking about the pizza, wishing it was not such a long drive or we would have gone for more!
Restaurant Eve and PX Speakeasy
The most anticipated dinner of the week was a reservation at the top rated Restaurant Eve in Alexandria. My Sister made reservations months in advance to get us into the Chef’s Tasting Room. Thanks Lisa!
With the kitchen headed by acclaimed Chef/owner Cathal Armstrong, a Food & Wine Hall of Fame 50 Best new Chefs recipient and the front of the house run by the boss, his wife Meshelle, we knew we were in for a special dining experience.
Using only the freshest ingredients from local farms and markets, the menu changes frequently. Sipping a glass of Champagne we mused over the menu options, knowing it was going to be a very hard decision. We opted for the five-course menu. I loved the way the menu was divided into Creation, Ocean, Earth & Sky, Age and Eden for first through dessert courses. Very creative and inventive.
Deciding to go all out for the evening to see what this kitchen could do we started with the Foie Gras en Croute with Preserved Troigo Orchard Peach Jam and Peach-Sauternes Jelly for our Creation course. Normally I’m not a big fan of rich Foie Gras, but here I had to try it. This tiny box of pastry arrived, beautifully and artfully plated. The pastry was warm and the Foie Gras melted in your mouth. The fruity peach jam and glistening jelly were a perfect complement to the richness of the “fat liver” and golden buttery pastry.
For the Ocean course we enjoyed the Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Heirloom Carrots, Ginger and Micro Cilantro. It too was fantastic. Every dish arrived on beautiful plates looking like an edible work of art. We were going to try and take pictures, but it was too difficult. Sometimes you have to put the cameras down and just enjoy!
The Earth and Sky course was venison and Korubuta pork. Each course was paired with its own wine, so we had the pleasure of tasting many fantastic wine selections over the course of the evening, each a beautiful compliment to the individual dish. Todd Thrasher, General Manager, Sommelier and partner, took care of us for the evening for our wine pairings explaining each selection and sometimes even providing tastes of two different wines so we could understand the differences between them with the dish.
We finished off our evening with a cheese selection and a little dessert. Restaurant Eve definitely lived up to our expectations and it’s much heralded reviews. It was a wonderful evening.
PX Lounge – A Modern Art-Deco Speakeasy
Afterwards we walked down the block and around the corner to a door with a blue light glowing. No sign. Just a blue light. We knocked at the door. A small window opened, checked us out and quickly closed. The door quickly opened.
We were ushered up a narrow stairway into the PX Lounge, a new age speakeasy. Shrouded in secrecy due to their illegal serving of alcoholic beverages, speakeasies came to be during the Prohibition-era of the 1920’s-1930’s. Decorated in art deco style, PX is a hip little jewel box hidden inside a historic building.
Owned by Restaurant Eve, PX is the hot place to go for a hand crafted cocktail. Now I’m not much of a cocktail drinker, but we had heard so much about the trend setting cocktails made at PX that we just had to go for a nightcap.
PX specializes in creating incredible artisan cocktails like you’ve never had using the freshest ingredients like painstakingly house made bitters and hand squeezed juices. Again at the helm, acclaimed and talented spirits Wizard of Oz Todd Thrasher, who executes magic taking a chef’s approach to the bar with whimsical cocktails like the Plight of the Honey Bee, the Black Bass and I Cuddah Binnah Contendah. The cocktails were amazing!
One Last Memorial Visit
After getting home at an hour I had not seen in many years, we slept in Saturday and finished the day at sunset, shooting again at the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials to end our trip to Washington DC. We drove past the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial one last time, and the beautiful but short-lived pink hues of the cherry trees had already turned to green, gone until next spring.