March Look Back

images-2

flower

March started with an ice storm and ended with daffodils popping out of the ground.

The highlight of this month happened near the beginning of March. We got 7 inches of snow in DC and a day later, we hopped onto a plane for Key West. This was a great trip, and the timing could not have been better! You can read more about it here, here, and here.

pier

Below are our suitcases during the Key West trip. I had to take a picture because it turns out like this every time. Guess which one is mine?

suitcases

After the Key West weekend, I had a week off work, so I finally got some boring but necessary things done I’d been putting off all winter– dentist appointments, washing my car, stuff like that.

I read three books in March including Rooftops of Tehran, a Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and How to be a Victorian (Did you know that before alarm clocks, people in Victorian England would pay someone to come around and tap on their windows when it was time to wake up in the morning? Fascinating.)

We had some good walks with the dog this month. We’re scoping out new places to take him on weekends when we have more time. We discovered Occaquan Park, which is right next to Historic Occaquan. We did this one Sunday mornign and then stopped at a bakery for a giant cardamom and sugar donut.

Speaking of donuts, of course like always, there was lots of eating out in March, and a whole weekend devoted to pork.

IMG_0292

Sean was so excited for an event called Cochon 555, which featured all you can eat bacon from mason jars. In fact, it was competition to see which local chef created the best tasting menu using pork. There’s lots more to say about this including my initiation to homemade maraschino cherries. I never knew they could taste that good.IMG_3785

Because we bought tickets to Cochon, we were also invited to a fun meal at The Arsenal at Blue Jacket, a brewery near the Capitols stadium. Here is the menu for this meal.

IMG_0256_2

This special tasting menu featured pork, but also foie gras in different formats, including a foie gras buttercream dessert that I still think about.

IMG_0289_2

That weekend, we were also introduced to a pie shop in downtown DC called Dangerously Delicious Pies. I got the French Toast pie, and it really did taste just like french toast in pie form.

IMG_3822

In late March, we had a fun date night in DC to see the New Zealand band Broods at the 9:30 Club. I’m really sold on this music venue and looking forward to attending more concerts there. It’s relatively small and has a balcony, where you can stake out a great spot if you get there early enough. That same night, Sean took me to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl for a pre-concert snack. You know, this place had long lines and terrible service (I ordered veggie chili and was given the meat one instead), but I’m glad I finally visited this historic spot frequented by President Clinton and Obama.

IMG_0323

IMG_0346

Finally, in other areas, the dog and cat continue to be good animals, though they harass us at times. Lately, Quinn has been getting upset in the middle of the night at the cat who decided he wants to sleep in the dog’s spot on the bed. There have been a few rough nights trying to get that settled between them.

Overall, March felt like a real transition to spring and warmer weather. I’m fully looking forward to cherry blossoms and evenings out on our patio.

Let’s go April!


Key West Favorite Meals and Drinks

 

th

collage3

What would a trip to Key West be without Key Lime Pie?

We had two versions while we were there… the one on the left is from Blue Heaven. We went to this wildly popular spot for breakfast one day (yes, we had pie– and other stuff for breakfast), and actually got seated right away. Usually, there’s an hour wait no matter what time you get there, but we had fortuitous timing on our side that morning. It was the first day of Daylight Savings Time (clocks moved forward an hour), so everyone, tourists and wait staff included was running a little slow.

The pie on the right is a frozen chocolate dipped Key Lime Pie from Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shop.  I had low expectations for this one, but it was so refreshing.

collage2

By far, our favorite food of the trip was from a small Caribbean Latin restaurant called Paseo. We loved the Caribbean sandwiches and savory rice and beans. We loved it so much that we went back another time, and would’ve gone back even once more beyond that, but they were closed that next day. One of the best things on the menu is a grilled corn cob slathered in butter and spices… Apparently, many people think so because I just found a copycat recipe for Paseo’s corn online.

Other nice meals included dinner at Santiago Bodega, where we enjoyed a round of tapas including beef carpaccio, patatas bravas, tuna ceviche, shrimp and chorizo. We also dined at the small neighborhood restaurant, 7 Fish.

While visiting the Hemingway House, the tour guide there mentioned that one of Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Captain Tony’s Saloon. In Hemingway’s day, it was named something else, but this was the actual physical place he would spend the time during hot afternoons.

capttonys

The interior is filled with license plates from around the country and bras… lots of bras. I wonder if any woman who left her bra here one crazy night has ever gone back the next day or years later and tried to reclaim it off the ceiling.

collage4

In addition to license plates and bras, the real amazing attraction is an old tree growing right in the middle of the bar.

And wait, it gets even better. I went over to take a picture of the tree and looked down, noticing something at the base of the tree.

To my surprise, it was a gravestone!  collage5

Some of our other favorite drinks in Key West included our very own free happy hour at our hotel, the Orchid Key Inn.

collage6

We also tried a few places on Duvall Street that were great locations  to sit outside and people watch. These included Grand Vin and the Rum Bar.

collage1

I end this post with a picture of a very special sandwich from Paseo, the grilled onion and garlic aioli sandwich. When the menu says you have to try the onion sandwich, then you must try the onion sandwich. While I’ve never had a sandwich before made entirely of onions, this was amazingly good and I will try to recreate this at home some time.

IMG_1414


2 Days in DC during Cherry Blossom Season


27681001-orchid-branch-silhouette-vector-for-design

lafayette

Every year in early March, I start tracking the cherry blossom bloom forecasts in giddy anticipation. The National Park service is predicting the 2015 peak bloom to be April 10-14, so I’m already planning how to soak in the fresh color in the nation’s capitol.

I created this 2 day guide with all my favorite local spots for budget-minded travelers coming to DC.

Because of all the visitors to the region during this special time of year, I DON”T recommend driving and parking in DC.

We’ve tried it in the past, and the parking is severely limited! This year, we’ll do a combination of metro and UBER ride service to get to our favorite places. At the end of the post, I offer a special UBER discount code to use.

Day 1

Start off the morning right with brunch at Ted’s Bulletin in the Capitol area. This fun diner is decorated like a retro newspaper office. All the food is great here, especially the breakfast burritos. The pop tarts are also good. This year, I’m going to try the peanut butter and bacon version.

IMG_8879

From there, we’ll take a quick UBER ride to the Tidal Basin for 360 degree views of cherry blossoms framing the Jefferson memorial, the National Monument, and even the Smithsonian museums. This year, we’re going to take a paddle boat out on the water, and see the trees from a different perspective on the water.

monument

After walking around the basin and taking loads of photos, we’re planning to pop into one of the Smithsonian museums since they’re right there. Next, I’ll head over to Lafayette Square across the street from the White House to take more photographs of the most beautiful trees.

Our yearly tradition is to make a pit stop at the Willard Hotel Intercontinental for a cocktail as the afternoon turns into evening. The patio tables, which have been stored away all winter, come out and it’s the most relaxing time to people watch and welcome spring. While you’re there, take a peek inside the historic lobby to admire the carpets, marble columns, and chandelier.

For dinner, we’ll head over to the nearby Old Ebbet’s Grill, a DC landmark with a very famous bar that has welcomed famous Washingtonians since 1856.

After dinner, there are plenty of other bars to pop into in the area… you could even easily walk over to the National Monument to admire it at night.

Day 2

We’ll start the day by taking the metro to Georgetown for brunch at Leopold’s Cafe. They have an outdoor patio and serve the most delicious rich coffee, Austrian style. I got the almond croissant in addition to a savory quiche the last time, but this year, I’m going to try one of the beautiful Austrian desserts from the long glass case in the center of the restaurant.

After eating, we’ll wander around the Georgetown neighborhood to admire the historic brick town homes and take a quick walk with our dog along the C & O canal.

Next up, we’ll take an UBER ride to the National Arboretum, which has acres of hills, trees, and wildlife. During cherry blossom season, there are miles and miles of pink and white trees to admire, and you can even do a 3 mile self-guided walking tour.

During other times of year, this is a great destination for having a picnic, admiring seasonal plants and flowers, and attending local festivals such as the bonzai, ikebana, and azaleas festivals during spring and summer. There is even a moon-lit hike that sells out every month. One of the best things is that it’s dog friendly too.

view

IMG_1235

After exploring the National Arboretum for a few hours, we’ll take an UBER to our FAVORITE pizza place, Menomale for some authentic brick oven pizza. There is an outdoor patio, so our dog can sit with us.

IMG_1278

Cherry blossom season is a really special time of year in Washington DC and Northern Virginia. Visiting all the national monuments and landmarks with a back drop of pink and white trees is lovely, but colorful trees are growing everywhere, in different neighborhoods and along major roads.

If you’re planning a trip to DC for cherry blossom viewing or anytime of year, take advantage of the convenience of UBER. The company  is offering this special promotion code, good for the rest of 2015.

Enjoy!


Scenes Around Key West

1238700038307766505warszawianka_Coconut_palm.svg.thumb

seanhousescenes

We had a lot of fun lazily strolling around the streets of Key West. I fell in love with all the old houses, the lush greenery, and the offbeat street scenes, of course. (Hello, a trash can for coconuts only!)

collage1

coconutsonly

collage2 writingroom

Hemingway’s casa is right there in the middle of the historic district of downtown Key West, and around the corner from our hotel. This house was so enchanting… big wrap around verandah, large open windows to let the ocean breeze through, and unique mementos from his travels around the world.

I would absolutely love to live at this estate and have my own personal writing room (pictured above). That’s where the magic happened, folks.

Hemingway was so focused on his writing that he built this work area in a separate adjacent building to his house. So that he absolutely could not be disturbed by anyone, he had a wire suspension bridge built between his bedroom and the workroom, which was the only way in.

In its day, this estate was considered so luxurious and expensive… I especially enjoyed the custom gold and black decorative tile in the bathroom.

I was actually somewhat surprised that the Hemingway house was so charming. I didn’t expect to love it, as I’ve read tons of Hemingway in my life and formed all these negative opinions about him and his relationship with women. I also read The Paris Wife a while back and really hated him after that. Of course, I know that has nothing to do with his home, but I sort of thought his home would be like a man cave or bachelor pad, but it was a lovely oasis. (he only lived there for 13 years while he was married to his second wife) Once he left, he never returned, which is a real shame.

collage4

collage3 scuplture

ostrich

lighthouse highway1

The next post is all about food… I’m still thinking about that frozen key lime pie on a stick!


Weekend in Key West

weekendinkeywest

Last weekend, we escaped the snow and cold in DC and headed to sunny tropical Key West.

I was looking forward to this trip like no other… the sun, the warm ocean breeze, the frozen key lime pie on a stick.

It was all so heavenly and this short vacation came at the perfect time, as we had just gotten 7 inches of snow.

When I lived in San Diego for so many years, I actually forgot that weather was cold in other places and I got desensitized to the beautiful weather there. So, one thing I appreciate about living in the DC area with its changing seasons is that I get so excited about nice weather when we endure a long cold winter.

collage1

onehumanfamily

collage2

Pictured above is one of the cats living at Hemingway’s residence and the sign at Fort Zachary Beach.

One morning, we walked over to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. This park has an old stone fort which served the US during the Civil War, World War I and World War II and there’s an area right on the beach. Incidentally, Sean’s family has some very very distant 8 person removed relation to Zachary Taylor and the family even has a silver punch bowl ladle which belonged to the President himself…

We got caught in a cozy morning rain shower on the beach, but after that, it was breezy and sunny.

I guess I was a little too enthusiastic about chattering on about being in Key West on the beach because Sean finally shushed me (“Can you give me a break for a few minutes?!!!”) and then promptly took a nap. Below is a picture of him after that dramatic moment. I finally did doze a little while listening to the ocean, and of course I had to take the obligatory toes in the ocean picture.

collage3 collage4

Our hotel during this trip was the Orchid Key Inn, which had sort of a 60s Mad Men vibe. The pool area was especially lovely, lined with palm trees each adorned with colorful orchids.  I found it to be a bit more expensive than we normally spend on hotel, but being spring and all, it was hard to avoid paying higher prices. In any case, I do think this hotel was worth it, being perfectly located off Duval Street and offering nice small touches like breakfast and a free happy hour.

collage5

collage6There’s so much more to say about this trip. Next up will be pictures of food and sights around town… Stay tuned!

backonbeach


Tasting Menu at Kapnos DC

5464885-spoon-fork-and-knife-isolated-on-white-background-vector-illustration

As mentioned in the February look back, one highlight of last month was a dinner with our friends Todd and Nili at Kapnos in DC.

This restaurant serves modern Greek food, and one of the owners/chefs was recently a finalist on Top Chef.

Feeling open-minded and adventurous, we splurged on the tasting menu, which overwhelmed us with all the delicious plates of food that arrived on our table.

Without further adieu, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Warm flatbread with dips (feta, eggplant with pomegranate, and sweet potato)

IMG_3716

Tuna tartar served with taro chips

IMG_3717

Stuffed grape leaves

IMG_3718Herb salad with homemade seeded cheese croutons

IMG_3719

Spinach and feta pastry

IMG_3723

Duck and cherry pistachio pastry

IMG_3722

Heirloom beet salad with yogurt

IMG_3720

Sauteed shrimp

IMG_3721

Braised lamb

IMG_3725

Rice pudding

IMG_3727

Baklava and chocolate tart desserts

IMG_3730

Our meal also included some other dishes which I didn’t photograph including seared cauliflower, sea bass, halibut, braised goat, suckling pig, and my favorite, grilled octopus.

Overall, I loved how each dish was presented on on a beautiful rustic plate. This was such a memorable meal, and because we tried the tasting menu, I sampled some food I wouldn’t normally order like the grilled octopus.

Are you a fan of tasting menus or do you prefer to order exactly what you want?