Tag Archives: dc eats

The Great Coffee Debate

14 Apr

(Check out the full Hipster Barista collection to see where coffee and memes collide.)

Honestly, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until I came to D.C. Sure, back in undergrad I often found myself camped out at the local coffee shops with a latte in hand to get some homework done, but over the last few years I have definitely kicked it up a notch or two.

I have also learned that some people are ver-r-r-y passionate about their coffee selections. There are a few different camps – those who love Starbucks with all of their hearts, others who hate Starbucks with a vengeance in favor of local shops, and some who don’t really care as long as they get their caffeine NOW.

I fall somewhere in the middle. At home, I rely on my old reliable French Press filled with whatever coffee I happen to have  at the moment. Politics don’t really motivate my coffee decisions; I am an equal opportunity macchiato enthusiast. But I do have an appreciation for what my local coffee institutions bring to the table.

Below are a few stand-out purveyors of caffeine in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – do you have a favorite?

1. Starbucks

237 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://www.yelp.com/biz/starbucks-washington

What can I say about Starbucks that you don’t already know? I consider this location to be “my” Starbucks. A couple weeks ago we ran into Eric Cantor there and he was surprisingly pleasant. If you are feeling fancy, this particular shop is one of only about 250 Starbucks stores in the whole  U.S. that has the Clover Brewing System, a specialty filter that i can honestly say makes a difference. Also: there is an upstairs with a sweet fireplace a small conference room that you can reserve for meetings, book clubs, or whatev. It is kind of a neighborhood secret, so shhh!

2. Pound Coffee

621 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://www.poundcoffee.com/
Pound opened up a year or two ago on Pennsylvania Avenue. In terms of ambiance, it can’t be beat. The iced nutella latte (!!) is a winner. It also serves a full menu (homemade hummus is my fave) and recently started selling beer and wine. This is the place that I will go when I need to  get some work done late at night. But beware – seating goes fast during peak hours and it gets a little too crowded for my taste. This is a great spot to grab lunch or a blended coffee beverage on the  go with a friend.

3. Peregrine Espresso

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE
http://peregrineespresso.com

Peregrine has two locations – the other is on U Street. They make hands down the best latte that I have had. Be sure to order an iced vanilla latte with whole milk if you can – don’t skimp on the non-fat (trust me, it’s worth it.) The down side – there is  not much seating and the line gets long.  I recommend  visiting Peregrine during a weekend trip to Eastern Market. But be aware – the serving sizes are a lot smaller than the Grande or Venti that you may be used to. This is coffee meant to savor.

 

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Something Old and Something New On Capitol Hill

1 Apr

The great thing about living on Capitol Hill is that there is no shortage of food options. Today, I wanted to share a couple of my old and new favorite food establishments located in my neck of the woods.

First, meet Hunan Dynasty.

When the work days are long… and the school work just doesn’t seem to let up… and the thought of cooking is simply too exhausting to comprehend… Hunan is the first place that I call. I am not going to pretend that this is the most authentic Asian cuisine but there’s something to be said for having the option to order Chinese and sushi at the same place. It’s a one-stop-shop, if you will.

Hunan is a family-run business located at 215 Pennsylvania Ave SE. If you go inside, you will find the walls of the humbly decorated establishment covered with photos of the owners posing with the Washington’s “A List” – Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and just about every Congressperson under the sun. But I mostly turn to Hunan for delivery. (I grew up in rural, RURAL Northern California where the closest Starbucks was at least 30 minutes away. Delivery was not an option. I have to admit that living in the city does have its perks!)

If you live near Capitol Hill and haven’t tried Hunan yet, I would suggest the sushi (California roll is just $4.50! The spider roll never disappoints!) and/or the chicken lo mein. The wantons are so-so. The portions and pricing are generous.

Now, for something ENTIRELY different, meet the new kid on the block, Sapore.

It’s the Hill’s first specialty olive oil and balsamic shop! This place is brand new – just opened on March 18. Last Saturday, I dragged my boyfriend through the rain to check out the new digs at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (right next to Eastern Market). All I can say is WOW. “Sapore” means “taste” in Italian and I can honestly say it lived up to its name!

You can sample olive oils and balsamics from around the world. They bottle them for you on site. In addition to regular ol’ olive oil, flavors include meyer lemon, garlic, blood orange and much more. They have flavors I have ever heard of. Case in point: champagne infused vinegar.

I walked out of there with a bottle of Italian herb infused olive oil and a California blackberry balsamic for about $12 each. If you enjoy a good crusty bread and olive oil as much as me, I would heartily suggest you to check Sapore out. (Plus, the owner was really nice and it always feels good to support a local business.)

If you are interested in learning more about where some of that delicious olive oil comes from, follow the tweets from https://twitter.com/oliveoilfarmer in Paso Robles, CA or check out the http://www.facebook.com/lucerooliveoil Facebook page – Lucero is located in Northern California pretty close to where I grew up!

What is your guilty food pleasure? Do you have a favorite locally-owned shop in your neighborhood?

A New Take On “America Eats”

3 Mar

(Image via.)

Last weekend, I had my first “Jose Andres” experience.

It was a cold, dreary Saturday. I was juuuust about to settle in for a few chapters of The Hunger Games (guilty pleasure) when suddenly, I heard brunch calling my name.

And that’s a call that you just can’t refuse, am I wrong? So, with boyfriend in tow, I ventured out into the wind and rain to a restaurant that I have been dying to try for quite a while – America Eats Tavern in Penn Quarter.

This little gem is celebri-chef Andres’ latest offering. It’s in the former location of Cafe Atlantico, and the infamous Minibar is located in the same building, a “restaurant within a restaurant”, if you will. It was opened last year to celebrate the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit at the National Archives – which for an agriculture and food geek like me, was just amazing. The exhibit offered an inside look at how the government has impacted our food choices, from the first food guide pyramid (butter was its own food group) to war time food propaganda posters.

Alright, already, back to the food.

Here’s the thing: I am sucker for a good themed restaurant, ESPECIALLY one that offers legitimately delicious food. All of the menu items included the date the recipe was first invented and a little bit of back story. Example: my “Ramos Gin Fiz” was invented by one Henry C. Ramos of New Orleans in 1888 and “was traditionally shaken for 12 minutes by a line of 25 shaker boys”. Good to know. (Side note – TRY IT.)

(Image via.)

My oyster po’ boy (invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, again in New Orleans, in 1925) featured what could be the best fried oysters that I have had in D.C. – not greasy at all, just crispy enough, delicate flavors, yum. My boyfriend’s fried chicken with catsup (which, if you are interested, originated from a recipe dating back to 1889 in Gordonsville, Virginia) was similarly well made. Also – America Eats offers a veritable spectrum of catsup flavors. Try the blackberry and the Jack Daniels. (Wink.)

(Image via.)

Check out the brunch menu here: http://www.americaeatstavern.com/images/content_images/AEmenu_brunch_120213.pdf.

The restaurant itself is divided into four floors set up around a winding staircase. The decor includes famous foodie artwork like Norman Rockwells’ “Freedom From Want” and tons of fun food posters from WWI. Our waitress was helpful and attentive, even if the service was a bit slow. Our check was delivered in a Hardy Boy’s book. Fun.

In conclusion: I would heartily recommend a visit to the America Eats Tavern to anyone who enjoys good food with a little history sprinkled in for good measure. I know that I will be back!

A Pennsylvania Avenue Food Show Down

12 Feb

Sometimes, in this crazy thing called life, we are forced to choose sides. Cats vs dogs. Seinfield vs Newman. Yankees vs Red Sox.

Have you experienced D.C.’s ultimate fast food faceoff, courtesy of chef Spike Mendelsohn?

Okay, okay, so this might be a bit melodramatic. But it’s true that Chef Spike has introduced a dilemma to the lives of Capitol Hill dwellers such as myself: burgers or pizza?

I like Chef Spike, despite that I didn’t watch his season of Top Chef and that he made some locals grumpy last year by calling D.C. a “second-tier city”.  (That one hurt, Chef.)

His Good Stuff Eatery opened up in 2008 at a prime Pennsylvania Avenue location, and We, The Pizza moved right next door in 2010, effectively dominating the block with affordable lunch options for hill staffers and non-politicos alike.

Make no mistake – these are both essentially fast food joints. But sometimes all you really need is a nice, cheesy piece of pizza and/or  a creamy milkshake, am I wrong? And the food at both of these venues is well above what you would ever find at the golden arches or your standard jumbo slice establishment.

And I have to admit that Good Stuff’s farm-themed decor makes this rural girl happy.

We, The Pizza

Love It: 
  • The buffalo chicken pizza can not be missed. The the Forest Shroomin’ pie is also a keeper.
  • The soda fountain is a fun touch – ask for the C.R.E.A.M. soda. The barista will  whip one up from scratch!
Leave It:
  • The gelato is not very flavorful, despite the proclamation that it’s homemade on site.
Notes:
The $10 for two slices and a soda deal is a good value. But be forewarned:  the  place gets busy. Really busy. I have run into some ver-r-r-y slow service on  multiple occasions. (Think one hour + wait for a couple of slices of pizza. Not good.)
 

Good Stuff Eatery

Love It:
  • The  Farm House cheeseburger is probably the freshest-tasting, juiciest burger that I have had in D.C.
  •  You must, must get a milkshake. Order the Dulce de Leche for a caramel-vanilla treat or opt for the Toasted Marshmellow.
  •  Spike’s Village Fries come with fresh thyme, rosemary, and sea salt and the  regular size bag is big enough to share. Check out the array of specialty mayos and dips.
Leave It:
  • The chicken sandwiches are okay, but let’s face it, this place is really about  the beef.
Notes:
The food is more expensive than most burger joints. Burgers run $6-8 and  milkshakes are $5. The portions are not particularly generous.
 

Verdict:


To me, Good Stuff outedges We, the Pizza due to consistent service and food that never fails to impress me.  If you go, be sure to scan the room for the guy with the beard and the fedora on. You might just see Chef Spike himself.

And a word to the wise: both are closed on Sundays!

Have you visited these fine establishments? What is your vote?