Tag: food

Pros and Cons of Taking Amtrak for a Weekend in DC

The first time I took the Amtrak between Alexandria and Richmond, I wasn’t thrilled with the experience.  The train was about 30 minutes late leaving Alexandria and it was crowded.  On the way back from Richmond that evening, you had to practically fight for seats.  The one I ended up with was broken, which I didn’t realize until after I claimed it.  The stations were unattractive and needed updating (still true). I thought trains were supposed to have some element of glamour!

My subsequent rides have been much better–quieter and much less crowded.  I’ve actually had productive train time.  While taking Amtrak is more expensive than driving for me, is being able to reclaim that few hours for myself worth the price of admission?  Consider looking out from the train window and seeing that 95 is completely swamped.  Even if your train is slow or not moving, at least you can do something else like watch a movie or read.  You could even nap!

What should you do when you’re stuck in traffic, whether on 95 or on a delayed train?  Relax, because there is not a damn thing you can do about it.  Just make sure that if you’re on the train, you have plenty of reading material/entertainment and snacks.

I’ve been hankering to get back to Alexandria and hang out in Old Town, and this weekend I got to, again staying with friends who live there.  This weekend was Old Town’s sidewalk sale, so a lot of the boutiques and stores had great sales running–my friend and her coworkers got some fantastic steals at the consignment stores!

Saturday night, some friends and I went to see Carbon Leaf at The Hamilton Live, a venue none of us had ever been to before.  (You may remember my friend Amanda and I have a history with this band…)  A friend and former roommate of mine used to work in the restaurant that houses the venue and he raved about it.  We made plans to get dinner at the restaurant before the venue doors opened.  Dinner was fabulous (pricey, sure, but that’s DC for you; Amanda balked at the fact that my cocktail was $13) and the service was fantastic.  Our waiter was very personable and accommodating.  Our tickets at the venue were standing room only, which naturally was right in front of the stage, in front of all the people who had paid more for actual seats and tables.  (You can order food and drinks in the venue, and their menu is different from the restaurant’s.)  The venue was very cool and posh-looking.  I saw TVs in the back for people who couldn’t see as well from where they were sitting.  Not only was the venue outstanding, but the band put on a legendary performance, and the crowd ate it up.  Carbon Leaf has a very devoted following, and it’s easy to see why!  Their opening act, The Christian Lopez Band, were also excellent and I recommend that if you live in NoVA that you go see them Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Jammin’ Java in Vienna (another cool venue)!

I also had a craving for an overpriced brunch from Le Pain Quotidien, a place my friends and I sometimes went in Old Town.  I went there Sunday morning with my friends Mileva and Aaron (you may know her from Capital Fit Geek) and I got the amazing avocado toast summer special (I have to figure out how they made that citrus cumin salt–sooooo delicious) and liberally slathered any bread available to me with the chocolate hazelnut spread (I still regret not buying a jar of it even though it’s $10).

So all in all, another great if short weekend in Northern Virginia.  Until next time…

That just happened: The story of the spiciest thing I’ve ever eaten

For dinner, I went to Quattro Formaggi, a gourmet food mart with sit-down dinner service (not to be confused with this Quattro Formaggi–mm, I do miss their pizza).  This happened because I got takeout from here Saturday night, and knowing it was good, I checked out their full menu the other day.  I found that A) they have a burger on the menu; B) they serve bourbon whiskey (no, I still don’t know the difference between the two); and bonus, they serve breakfast all day (a lot of places around here seem to do that; I heartily approve and wish that more places in the States would follow suit).

The waitress asked me if I wanted ice in my bourbon (according to the menu, it was Basil Hayden’s, which I’d heard was good–very smooth and enjoyable).  Sure.  When I ordered the burger, she also asked me if I was fine with the relish that came on the burger.  Sure, why not?  It’s relish, like you’d have on American hot dogs…right?

The manager came by and politely asked if I would cede my table to a couple who had just arrived, as the table had actually been reserved but hadn’t been marked as such.  (It was busy enough when I got there that it was the only immediately available seat that I saw, and it had only just been vacated as I walked in.)  He promised me a glass of wine in return.

The bourbon came and I was disappointed to find that it was full of the small spherical pieces of ice that melt quickly,  resulting in a watered-down drink.  C’est la vie.  The burger came and it was large.  There was lots of “rocket” (arugula…not sure who thought up that inventive name) and green salad-y stuff happening.  Plus, the burger bun was that kind of bread that is light and outwardly crispy to the extent that when you touch it, much less bite into it, it explodes and shoots EVERYWHERE like confetti.  I looked at it and thought biting into the burger would be a challenge.  As I took the first bite, I sort of laughed for a brief moment as millions of fragments of bun shot everywhere.  And then I registered the horseradish.*  And the peppers.  OH NO.  My sinuses felt the heat within at most two seconds.  So much horseradish.  Could I even finish this burger?  My eyes watered a little.  I took a second bite.  Still painful, my sinuses searing.  Did anyone even notice how miserable I must have looked?  I mean, the manager was at most two feet behind me as he spoke to the two women sitting to my left.  I had the bright idea of scraping off the “relish,” which was really just peppers.  (I have no idea what kind they were, but suffice to say, I am fearful of being in the same room as a ghost chili.)  This did nothing to alleviate the excessive horseradish, but at least the spiciness was diminished to the point where I didn’t feel like I was going to die.  Sadly, I wasn’t even left with the pleasant afterburn that I associate with spicy food.  (I think the burger itself was good, but for obvious reasons, I don’t really remember.)
The manager came by and asked me if I preferred red or white wine (red) and came back with it pretty quickly.  I was glad to know he hadn’t forgotten about it, as the place was loud and busy with not enough waitstaff to handle the crowd without running around like headless chickens.  The wine was fruity with just a hint of spice to it–very enjoyable.
My original waitress asked how I was doing and I ordered some tiramisu.  I didn’t need it to cool me off, but it just sounded good, and I was very glad I had ordered it.  It arrived in a stemless wine glass, which I didn’t expect.  I also didn’t expect it to be so airy with such a light coffee flavor.  Best tiramisu I’ve ever had?  Maybe.  (Will this small amount of coffee and the two drinks I had at dinner keep me from sleeping well tonight?  Likely.)

I wasn’t sure when a waiter or waitress would walk by again, and I saw the manager at the cash register, so I decided to just go over and pay there.  I mentioned that I had the burger (he did seem to appreciate my opinion that it was painfully hot), the wonderful tiramisu and the bourbon.  (“You didn’t have bourbon?”  Yeah, I did.  “My kind of girl.”)  I must have asked about the wine and was surprised to find out that it was a Sangiovese since I don’t normally like Italian wine; he said it was an Italian grape grown in Australia.

In other news, tomorrow I move to my host’s apartment since he is going out of town for a couple of weeks.  This is an upgrade. I had tea with him one day last week and was able to assess his rather minimalist apartment as being nicer than the one I’m currently staying in.  The one I’m in now is nice but a little old-fashioned in its decor and furnishings (I do love the blue and white bathroom though).

I’ll fill you all in later on things I’ve done this week.  For now, I need sleep.  Until next time…

*In my defense, the menu said “mustard,” and it looked like mustard.