Foodcation 2012: Crabby

Even before the start of the 2011-2012 NHL season, I had planned to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Obviously, when the Kings won the Cup, this trip meant a hell of a lot more. And though the presentation cup wasn’t on display while I was there (since it was still traveling with the Kings organization), it was nice to see the case dedicated to the 2012 Champs and to relive the Kings 2012 playoff run in the Hartland Molson Theatre (aka Stanley Cup theater). More on this later…

Our trip began with a weekend in Washington DC. We were fortunate enough to have a friend house us and take us around. We arrived late Friday afternoon and after settling in a bit, Henry and I went to dinner at Blue Duck Tavern while our host and his brother went to a ballgame. They totally missed out on an AMAZING meal.

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UntitledOpen kitchen on the way to the fanciest bathrooms (inside Park Hyatt Hotel)

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Untitled UntitledAmuse Bouche, Oysters
Wood Oven Roasted Bone Marrow, Creamed Corn
Muscovy Duck Breast, 12 Hour Roasted Suckling Pig
Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Goat’s Milk Caramel

The bone marrow with truffle shavings and roasted garlic was TO DIE for. BEST. EVER!!! I also LOVED the creamed corn side. The jalapeno added a refreshing aspect to the dish without the heat (surprisingly). I thought the presentation of our sweet corn ice cream dessert was so so so cute. Our waitress was kind enough to give us the goat’s milk caramel on the house so our dessert became caramel corn ice cream! 😀

After devouring our meal, we decided to take a post-dinner walk to the Lincoln Memorial.

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Apparently, the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial had been out of commission for a couple of years due to renovations and was just reopened 2 weeks before our trip! Woooooooo!

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There’s just something about seeing these famous monuments and memorials at night… so so beautiful!

While we were sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, our friend CN called us up. He was back from the ballgame and wanted to take us to the infamous Ben’s Chili Bowl. We’re not ones to turn down food and besides, we just walked off our dinner 😉

At first we took the car, but parking in DC is seriously impossible so we dropped off the car and took the Metro.

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Luckily, the line at Ben’s Chili Bowl at 1:30AM wasn’t too long since we beat the bar crowd. The four of us shared 6 Chili Half-Smokes and Chili Fries.

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There’s no denying that the chili dogs were deeeeeelish, but the price for one is a little ridiculous… $5.70 for one chili dog!!! whattttttt the whattttttttt??????????!!!!!!!! Still… I would recommend visiting this landmark if you’re in DC and you’ve never been.

The next day, our friends led us on a bike tour of DC.

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We used the Capital Bikeshare system, which for those familiar with BIXI is pretty much the same thing. For those not familiar, here is a brief guide for travelers:

* Membership fees: 24 hr = $7, 3-day = $15
* For 24 hr or 3-day memberships, a security deposit of $101 per bike will be held on the card you used for the rental. 2 bike maximum on 1 card.
* To complete rental, an unlocking code can be viewed or printed. Pick a bike and enter the code.
* The first 30 minutes is included with each bike that is rented. Extra time with the same bike is at an additional charge (see website for rate table). In other words, for the most affordable experience, consult the station map and plan accordingly. No matter where you want to go, I assure you, there will be a station on the way. If your destination is clearly more than a 30 minute bike ride away (and you really want to use Capital Bikeshare), just check in the bike at a station along the way and rent out a new bike.
* Downsides include 1) not having an empty bike dock available to return a bike and 2) not having bikes available for rent. The fix for both is to find another station – for returns, if you come across a full station, you can add 15 minutes free to your rental to avoid additional charges.

Despite the downsides above, I think these bike systems (Capital Bikeshare, BIXI) are a great alternative to walking, driving or public transportation. You get to exercise, sight see and have fun, all at the same time!

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We rode the bikes along the Potomac River to the Jefferson Memorial.

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Another view of the Washington Monument

We were supposed to stop at Maine Avenue Fish Market to snack on some crabs, but CN wanted to show us Washington Nationals Park first. The day started out bright and sunny, but as we rode towards the ballpark, I noticed dark clouds and thought to myself, geez, that can’t be good. And it wasn’t…

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… we were caught in a crazy storm!!!

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People running for their lives!!

Luckily, the high winds and rain started right after we checked in our bikes and ran across the street to take cover.

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The storm passed relatively quickly, but it held us back enough so that we weren’t able to get crabs. Our friends had another ballgame to go to and we had dinner reservations at Rasika, a swanky Indian Restaurant.

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I’ve always tried to steer away from fancy schmancy Asian restaurants. I’m spoiled because I live in an area where I have access to yummy Asian food ON THE CHEAP! So why would I want to pay a 100% mark-up for essentially the same thing just dressed up? Well, with almost 1000 reviews on Yelp confirming Rasika as the best Indian restaurant in DC, of course I had to try. And honestly, I didn’t know it was upscale until I arrived. Sure, the prices listed online seemed a bit high, but weren’t to the point of being ridiculous (FYI, $$$ on Yelp).

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We ordered the dishes that our waitress highly recommended and added an appetizer because we wanted some lamb. For starters, we had two barbequed items.

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Mango Shrimp – fresh mango / cashew nut / ginger / coriander / mint chutney

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Seekh Kebab – minced lamb / garam masala / mint chutney

The shrimp was good, but at $12 for 4 pieces, not good enough. Our waitress warned that the minced lamb was really spicy, but when I took a bite, it wasn’t too spicy at all. I actually liked the amount of heat and it had good flavor.

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Palak Chaat – crispy baby spinach / sweet yogurt / tamarind / date chutney

This baby right here is Rasika’s signature dish. As I browsed through reviews on Yelp, I noticed that almost every review mentioned the Palak Chaat. Even after reading these reviews, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, how could fried spinach be that good? But man, it was. It really was. The Palak Chaat was unlike anything I’ve ever had. Crispy, light, a mixture of sweet and spice. So simple and delicious!

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Black Cod – fresh dill / honey / star anise / red wine vinegar

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Chicken Makhani – broiled chicken / tomato / fenugreek

The best dish of the night came next: black cod. OMG, I DIE. It was MELT IN YOUR MOUTH AMAZING. The only other experience I’ve had with fish that matched this was when I tasted Roy’s Misoyaki Butterfish (Black Cod) for the first time (subsequent experiences have been sub-par).

One of my favorite Indian dishes is butter chicken and Rasika’s Chicken Makhani was pretty damn good. The chicken was incredibly tender and the sauce had a nice balance of tomato, butter and cream. I only wish the dish had more heat.

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Date & Toffee Pudding

I love sticky toffee pudding, but many restaurants make it way too sweet. This is usually masked by serving it with ice cream. Rasika’s sticky toffee pudding was moist and not too sweet. Just… perfection.

As with the night before, we took a walk after dinner. This time we made our way to the opposite side of the National Mall, the Capitol.

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To get home, we were going to walk back to the Metro stop by the restaurant, but Henry was struggling with a sore calf. The night before we flew to DC, Henry thought it would be a good idea to run a couple of miles, ya know, so that he wouldn’t feel as bad for all the food we would be consuming on our trip. The problem was, Henry hadn’t run in a very long time. So yea, instead of walking back to the Metro, we biked back. Good thing for Capital Bikeshare! 😀

Our last full day in DC was museum day. I’ve been to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, USS Midway in SD and Intrepid Air & Space Museum in NYC. So, of course I had to visit the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum while I was in DC. For those on a budget, the Smithsonian Museums are great because they’re FREE! Sure, the Air & Space Museum was dated and didn’t have the “cool” aircraft that the other museums have, but I still enjoyed the few hours that I spent there.

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Since we had a few hours to kill before dinner, we went to get crabs with CN. The crabs usually take some time to prepare so instead of just waiting around, we stood in line for oysters thinking that we would snack on them while we waited for the crabs to cook. Well, we were STILL in line when the crabs were ready and ended up waiting an additional 20 minutes for the oysters. There was only one shucker and the people ahead of us probably ordered 10 dozen oysters combined!

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Appetizers 😉

After indulging in a seafood feast, we reluctantly cleaned up and headed to dinner. I had high expectations for our last dinner in DC. Not only because we’ve had delicious meals the nights before, but because this was the only dinner CN could make and we wanted to treat him out for being such a great host.

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Amuse Bouche, Eggplant w/ Lamb Shank
Pappardelle w/ Smoked Duck Breast, Raviolini w/ Braised Veal Shoulder

Unfortunately, dinner at Siroc turned out to be one of the worst in recent memory. Hopefully this was just an off night because I don’t see how Siroc is deserving of a 4 star rating on Yelp. Even though the restaurant was not busy, service was lacking and the food was mediocre at best. My dish, the raviolini, seemed to be the only one that turned out as the menu described. There was definitely something wrong with the eggplant w/ lamb shank and we all think it was the cheese; it tasted and smelled rotten! At first I thought, perhaps this is a type of cheese that I’m not familiar with, but when I looked at the menu again, I was surprised to see, “Pecorino Romano”. I’ve cooked with pecorino romano! The pappardelle was overloaded with mushrooms and had very little duck. I don’t understand how this pasta with mushrooms and duck bits cost $20 while the fabulous Muscovy Duck Breast at Blue Duck Tavern cost $28!

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We had a great weekend in DC with great company. I wish we could have stayed longer!

The following day was a travel day. We took the subway to Union Station and caught the MARC train to BWI Airport (Baltimore). All this to save money because flights from BWI to BUF (Buffalo) were much cheaper 🙂 The ride on the MARC took about 40 minutes.

Untitled UntitledTip: MARC runs M-F and will cost $6 from Union Station to BWI

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From BWI, we flew to BUF and then drove to our next destination, Toronto 😀

… to be continued.

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DC Eats (+our verdict):
Blue Duck Tavern, 4.5/5
Rasika, 4.5/5
Ben’s Chili Bowl, 3/5
Siroc, 1.5/5
Captain White’s Seafood City, 4/5

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