Holiday Round-Up, Y’all!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season.

Yes, I realize it is mid-January but darn it, I have some good December travels that I need to share!

I needed to be in Washington DC, Fresno, and the Bay Area for work during two weeks in December and I decided to mash all of them into one long trip. I started out in DC for a work event and had the fortuitous timing to be there on the final evening of President George H.W. Bush lying in state at the Capitol. A few intrepid coworkers and I decided to brave the chilly weather and wait in line to pay our respects. The line was clearly long but the way it wound around from two directions made it look deceptively shorter than it actually was. After around three hours in the frigid weather but fun conversation, we were let into the warmth of the Capitol building. After a few more shorts queues, we made our way into the Rotunda. I’ve never seen a president lie in state before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was an eerie quiet in the Rotunda, with a member of each branch of the Armed Forces standing on guard around the casket. It was a strange dichotomy to witness – the commiserating and at times, jovial conversations happening as everyone waited in line, then complete silence and reverence in the Rotunda, and then animated conversations resuming once we exited the Rotunda. Although a somber occasion, I feel very fortunate to have been able to see this small piece of history firsthand. 

My long weekend began Thursday night after work events were finished and thus began approximately 60 hours of ridiculously delicious food and drinks. My dear friend, the Sheriff, lives in the DC area so we decided to be touristy and eat all the food. It started with dinner at Cheesetique in Arlington. This one was a no-brainer since my one true love in life is CHEESE. Well, maybe it’s not my ONE true love but it’s definitely up there. This place did not disappoint. We went with another friend and all decided to get our own entrees but order variations of the mac and cheeses to share. I ordered the Sassy Goat – fresh Chèvre, bacon, avocado, roasted tomatoes, and garlic aioli on crispy ciabatta and we split the Lobster Mac (lobster meat tossed with Fontina Fontal, tarragon, and a touch of Sherry) and the Mac & Cheesetique (Goat Gouda, Asiago and Cacio de Roma topped with truffle-infused bread crumbs), paired with a delish pumpkin ale. After ordering, we were informed by the hostess that a woman was set up in the back of the restaurant reading Tarot cards and asked if we wanted a turn. My two friends passed, but I (obviously) was down for a reading. We all headed back and they watched as this woman gave, what in my opinion, was actually a really accurate reading. Tarot cards are one of those things that I don’t not believe in, but I also don’t know if I totally believe. Either way, it was fun. After the reading it was time to chow down.

After dinner, we parted ways with our friend and headed to First Down, a causal hole-in-the-wall bar to watch Thursday Night Football with another friend. Football and cheap beer was the perfect way to end the day.

The next morning, we headed to District Taco (my third time that week) to fuel up on breakfast burritos before embarking on a jam-packed day. From there, we headed toward the Spy Museum where we were meeting back up with our Cheesetique friend. On the way we grabbed some obligatory Starbucks holiday drinks (Juniper Latte for me, which was surprisingly good) and waited on our friend at the Downtown Holiday Market across the street. The holiday market was packed with shoppers looking for the perfect holiday gifts from the hugely talented vendors who had set up shop for the season. Upon our friend’s arrival, we headed over to the Spy Museum, which did not exactly come with resounding recommendations from my coworkers earlier in the week. I am pleased to report, however, that the museum was a BLAST! We all assumed aliases, tested out audio bugs, climbed through ductwork (and miserably failed the detection sensors due to our laughing and clunking around the tunnel), saw far too many devices that spies hid in their hindparts, and actually learned quite a bit. The gift shop (you know me and my souvenirs!) was excellent and I, of course, picked up a number of items. If you wish to check out the museum, be sure to check their website first as they are in the process of moving to a new location so they might be closed. After the museum, we all headed back across the street to the holiday market where we got the BEST churros from a vendor and perused the booths (yes, more purchases for me).

All of the espionage and churros made us hungry, so we headed to Kofuku for some ramen. The steaming bowl of happy was just what we needed to warm up before continuing on our adventures. Next stop was the National Archives, where I was set on checking out the Project Blue Book documents. Before even being allowed into the research area, we had to go through security, get registered at the front desk, and obtain researcher photo ID cards. Once we were legit, we met with an archivist who would find out the documents we needed and retrieve them for us. This process was very quick since all they did was tell us that the Project Blue Book documents were at a different location in Maryland. Womp womp. Undeterred and taking advantage of the situation, we headed upstairs to take a peek at the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Word to the wise, don’t have your phone in your hand near these documents. I assure you, the guards will yell at you. Not that I would know this firsthand, or anything. I swear I was just making sure my ringer was off. Eek.

After a stop at the National Archives gift shop, we’d worked up a good appetite and were in desperate need of a beer. We headed back toward Arlington where we were meeting up with yet another friend at Heavy Seas Brewery. It was a good thing I’d been stuffing my face all day because once we had a few beers and got to gabbing, dinner somehow went by the wayside. We wound up hanging at Heavy Seas for about four hours and I’m certain we sampled their entire beer menu, which was a bit too delicious. The Tropi-Cannon and Powder Monkey served me well, just saying. Upon returning back to the apartment we realized our failure to have dinner and ordered some Ben’s Chili Bowl, which I’d actually been wanting to try for quite some time and I must say, it was a bit disappointing. I’m used to Cincinnati chili and YES, that IS chili! And it’s far better than any of that other stuff that tries to pass itself off as chili! I realize I may not be in the majority on that opinion, but either way, I found myself wishing I had some Skyline cheese coneys instead of whatever came in the little white boxes from Ben’s.

On Saturday morning, the first order of business was obviously to eat some more and have bloody marys. Ragtime was the brunch location of choice, which is a place I go almost every time I’m in DC. Their food is amazing and cajun, which just might be my favorite type of food, and their Bloody Mary bar was extensive and I must say, I made a dang good and spicy bloody. My brunch selection recommendation is the Lobster Benedict. No explanation necessary, just good ol’ fashioned deliciousness with a Cajun bite.

Some Christmas shopping at T.J. Maxx, Zara, and the holiday market again were on the agenda next followed with a drink at The Smith. This place is pretty pricey for a meal, but if you want to experience the beautiful building and have a phenomenal cocktail, swing in just for a drink at the bar. Prices were reasonable, unless you ordered a $24 shot like someone who shall not be named. I, for the life of me, cannot remember the cocktail I ordered. I’m guessing it must have been a special because nothing on the menu sounds familiar. Either way, it was not only delicious, but fun to watch the bartender prepare it.  I am a HUGE Christmas and holidays fan and loved seeing the old building decorated to the nines.

After our fancy drinks we headed over to the National Christmas Tree.   Obviously my Christmas-loving self had a blast… the tree was pretty, the toy trains making their way through tiny Christmas villages at the base of the tree were adorable and the display of trees decorated with ornaments made by school children from each state was a nice touch.   It was at the tree that the Sheriff and I were met with our calling in life – to take pictures of people for them on their phones.   I’m not sure if we just looked like master photographers or what but we took pictures for four different groups of people.  And all were in different locations so it’s not even like one group saw us taking a picture for another group and thought, man, what professionals!  Between side gigs, I got a few pictures myself. 

By this point, I was bursting with holiday cheer but was freezing and hungry and recalled that I had been promised tacos.  We made our way back to Arlington and to Uncle Julio’s.  Or heaven, whatever you want to call it.  Now I’m second guessing my earlier  proclamation about cajun food being my favorite.   Maybe it’s tacos.   Maybe it’s cajun tacos.  With lots of cheese.   Sorry, where was I?  Uncle Julio’s, yes of course!  This is a chain that is in a number of markets so I highly recommend it if you find yourself near one.   I might be a weirdo but the first thing I judge a Mexican restaurant on is the color of their salsa.   Let’s be real, I love any salsa and chips BUT I find that my favorite types of salsa are not the bright red fare you see most places.   I love ones that have more brown undertones and pack a spicy kick.   Uncle Julio knows what’s up.  The salsa was fab, the chips were warm and thin, I wanted to bathe in the queso with a giant bag of chips, the enchiladas were top notch, and the Guava-rita was the perfect blend of sweetness and tequila.

Sadly, my culinary tour of DC was coming to an end and I flew to California the next morning   My standard airport meal at Reagan is always Legal Sea Foods.  Although it was no cajun taco covered in queso, it was good as always.  A fine meal to prepare me for a busy week (and more tacos) in California!

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