Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The End: Zaytinya.

Our final evening spent in Washington DC was a treat and an absolute delight.  The hubbs invited me to his end-of-AACR group dinner, along with about 30 of his coworkers at the popular and beloved José Andrés restaurant, Zaytinya.  The last of my three culinary conquests while visiting our nation's capitol, it certainly lived up to expectations.  Going above and beyond, we found ourselves elated and slightly overwhelmed (in a good way) by the dinner we experienced that evening.  No one could have prepared me for the sheer magnitude of food we were about to receive...
"Under the direction of celebrated chef José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup, Zaytinya offers an innovative mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines served up in a sleek and modern setting. Building on Jose’s deep knowledge of Mediterranean cooking and years of research and travel, the menu features shared small plates of authentic and innovative fare, creative cocktails, and unique Mediterranean wines, making Zaytinya one of the most exciting restaurants in Washington. Since opening in 2002, Zaytinya ranks consistently as a Top DC Dining Destination."
Zaytinya is a modern oasis in midtown DC, with cool steel and glass composing it's large structural restaurant walls.  It's open and airy, simplified, yet incredibly chic.  When we arrived, the restaurant was packed to the gills with the business happy hour crowd, power diners, professionals and large groups of friends celebrating some sort of event.  Everywhere you looked, each seat and each table was taken-- thank goodness we had reservations because I believe they were booked for the evening.  We were greeted and brought upstairs to a private loft with a view of the entire dining area and 9th street outside, still jammed with commuter traffic.

As soon as we were seated, the fun began with cocktails.  The hubbs ordered a glass of rosé, while I was way too intrigued by the Greek Gin & Tonic, a concoction of gin, black tonic, kaffir lime leaf, barberries and licorice stick.  This was no ordinary gin & tonic.  This drink was served in a pint glass, including a racquetball-sized ice orb filled with suspended juniper clippings- a fun twist on a classic cocktail, a quirky way to bring molecular gastronomy to the masses.  The table oooh'd and ahh'd at creativity of the drink.  I must say, it tasted pretty darn good as well.  My second celebratory glass was the Athena’s Punch, a vodka, cucumber, dill syrup, lemon juice & cava creation.  Both drinks were refreshing and light, a welcome change from your everyday sticky sweet bar swill.
Next, came our tasting menu.  At first glance, the majority of us assumed that we would be choosing a dish from each course to satisfy our singular preferences.  Boy, were we mistaken.  There were seventeen dishes total being served to every single diner, all in a family-style manner of sharing.  A mind-boggling array of Zaytinya's most popular and well-loved plates, all artfully arranged and presented in the same fashion they would be if we were dining on our own.  You can imagine my elation once I learned that I'd get to try all seventeen dishes, something I'd never dreamed of being able to do on my first visit.  Check out the menu:
Falafel... traditional chickpea fritters, tahini sauce.
Mini Spanakopita... house made phyllo, spinach, feta cheese.
1st Round
Hommus... puree of chickpeas, garlic, tahini.
Htipiti... marinated roasted red peppers, feta, thyme.
Fattoush... tomato, cucumber, red onion, peppers, radish, pita chips, pomegranate vinegar dressing.
Grape-Leaves Dolmades... grape leaves with rice, tomato, fennel, pine nuts, gold raisins, labneh.
Elies Tis Elladas... greek olives marinated in oregano, kalamata oil, chickpea fritters, tahini sauce.

2nd Round
Roasted Cauliflower... sultans, caper berries, pine nuts.
Crab Cakes... mini jumbo lump crab cakes, roasted garlic yogurt sauce.
Sea Scallops... seared scallops, yogurt-dill sauce, sugar snap peas.
Ottoman Pilaf... saffron rice, dates, pistachios.
3rd Round
Spit-Roasted Lamb Shoulder... lightly smoked and spit-roasted.
Grilled Fish of the Day... served boneless, Santorini style.
Piyaz... imported warm giant beans, kale, over roasted tomato, garlic.
Seasonal Mushrooms... sauteed mushrooms, dates, toasted almond.
Turkish Coffee Chocolate... warm chocolate cake, bittersweet chocolate flan, and cardamom espuma finished with espresso syrup.
Turkish Delight... walnut ice cream, yogurt mousse, honey geleé, orange-caramel sauce and caramelized pine nuts.

Dinner was amazing.  The Hommus was a favorite, along with the Fattoush, Ottoman Pilaf, and Spit-Roasted Lamb Shoulder.  Strangely, by far my personal favorite out of all seventeen dishes was the Piyaz-- imported warm giant white beans, kale, oven roasted tomato and garlic served in a deep, toasty warm bowl.  I took advantage and helped myself to a second serving of comforting, salty stew.  The taste was so original to me, like nothing I'd tried before, and I absolutely loved it.

I believe in the end dinner took about 3 hours total, from sit-down to leaving the building, but we were perfectly at ease with the lengthy meal.  The food wasn't rushed, the helpings were enormous and spirited atmosphere of the restaurant made you want to sit there all night, eating and laughing away.  The hubbs was in heaven with so much food and such a great wine list, and I was as happy as clam in this foodie paradise.

This was the perfect end to amazing trip, and I'm honored to have been invited to join in the festivities. If you are ever visiting Washington DC, make sure to grab a reservation at Zaytinya.  You won't soon forget the wonderful foods of José Andrés, or this shimmering gem of a restaurant.

Be well,

All photos courtesy of Zaytinya.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Part Five: Oyamel.

Being from California, I possess a genuine, passionate love for authentic Mexican cuisine.  We're practically born and raised with it here on the west coast, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  The hubbs and I have, in fact, incorporated these foods into our weekly meals because neither of us can go longer than seven days before we break out into "I-want-Mexican-food-hives" and/or severe anxiety resulting in salsa verde temper tantrums.  When I learned about the existence of Oyamel, Chef José Andrés version of a traditional Mexican cocina, my curiosity was piqued.  It's a natural reaction I have when travelling, wondering, "Will it be as good as home?"  Call me crazy, but I haven't found better "authentic" Mexican food outside of California (not including actual Mexico, which of course, puts all Cal-Mexi to shame) although I'm sure it exists.  I had to give Oyamel a fighting chance, especially when I was told that their ceviche would keep me coming back for years...

Why call it Oyamel?
"Every year, millions of monarch butterflies leave their homes in the US and Canada and migrate south to spend their winter in the mountains of Michoacán. The butterflies seek refuge in the oyamel tree, considered a sacred fir native to central Mexico. The forest appears to be draped in gold thanks to the thousands of butterflies covering the trees. Adding to the otherworldly quality of the place is the "shhhhhh" sound from the butterflies flapping their wings to stay warm. The locals welcome back the returning butterflies, which, because they appear about the time of Day of the Dead, they believe bear the spirits of their departed."

I made my way back to Penn Quarter to have lunch at Oyamel on a very hot, humid day.  It seemed fitting at the time, and I was enamored with the neighborhood.  So many restaurants, pubs and random shops, not to mention it was a great way to burn off some calories, being a four mile roundtrip walk from our hotel.  Arriving at precisely noon, right as AACR broke for lunch, was a bit of a struggle-- being on my own gave me a great advantage as I approached the restaurant because my mad j-walking skills kicked in.  I managed to beat the hoards of hungry smart people to the punch, and snagged at seat at ceviche bar inside of the main Oyamel window.
The inside of the restaurant is decorated with brightly colored walls, festive paper mache scultpures, punched-tin lighting and mobiles hanging from every part ceiling, paying homage to the restaurants namesake.  The dining area is small but comfortable, and the staff is dressed in what I can only explain as gimme-one-now tees (see above).
As I sat down at the ceviche counter, the first thing I noticed was the shining, bright-eyed face of the young sous chef behind the glass counter preparing the tiny dishes of uncooked fish.  He was a quietly focused individual with such meticulous attention to detail that in his right hand were a pair of tweezers holding a single stem of pea shoot.  Tweezers.  For food.  He greeted me with a smile and a nod, then continued his construction of what looked like a favorite Oyamel dish-- Ceviche verde "El Bajio", a  Hawaiian walu with a creamy sauce of avocado, tomatillo, green olives, and jalapeño chiles.  
I waited for the hubbs to arrive, and watched him, fascinated by the level of quality-control, care and thought he was putting into every single dish.  Tasting everything before it was placed in the hands of a waiter, answering the silliest questions by us patrons ogling his abilities.  It was almost as if you didn't want to startle him, for fear of ruining his concentration and thus destroying the delicate dishes of gulf shrimp, Hawaiian sunfish and striped bass he was so gently plating and decorating with fresh produce slivers and flower garnishes.  I was so intrigued by this fella that I hadn't noticed that a large chunk of time had passed and he was probably wondering if I was going to order anything at all.
Thank goodness the hubbs did finally fight his way through the crowds to join me for a quick, delicious meal.  We ordered ourselves two glasses of cava and reveled in the bustling buzz of the compact little restaurant.  Our waitress brought us some of their mouth-watering salsa (smoky chipotle chiles, onions and field ripened tomatoes) along with still hot house-made savory tortilla chips (fresh masa, fried daily, seasoned with a house-made blend of chiles, salt and tequila).  We decided go with the daily lunch special and were very happy with our choices.  For $20 a person, you get to choose two antojitos (street food) and a taco or an antojito, a taco and a postres (dessert).  It doesn't sound like a ton of food for one person, but believe me, you will leave possibly too full or with a doggy bag.  The hubbs and I were completely satiated having enjoyed the following...

Ceviche verde “El Bajio”
Hawaiian walu with a creamy sauce of avocado, tomatillo, green olives, and jalapeño chiles.  The rumors are true.  Oyamel ceviche is to die for-- fresh, bursting with flavor, just the right amount of tang, all balanced by the various components of the dish.  The avocado was perfectly ripe and I appreciated that the dish was not overly spicy, although it did have a little kick.
Camarones al mojo de ajo negro
Shrimp sautéed with shallots, arbol chile, poblano pepper, lime and sweet aged black garlic.  This dish was much more filling than expected, but tasty all the same.  Large prawns steeped in aromatic flavors, cooked with tails on and still sizzling upon arrival.
Tamal Verde
Tamal with green sauce of tomatillo, shredded chicken breast, chili, garlic and cilantro.  Both the hubbs and I had to order the tamal, along with everyone else in the restaurant.  So tender and savory, with the creamiest, seedless sauce on earth that practically melts in your mouth.  Divine.
Cochinita pibil con cebolla en escabeche
Yucatan-style pit barbecued pork with pickled, red onion and Mexican sour orange.  The tacos are certainly some of the most popular on the menu for patrons.  When the hubbs took his first bite of this tiny street-style taco, his eyes widened and he insisted that I stop mid-tamal to taste it.  He was right, it was the closest thing to authentic street-style Mexican grub that I've tasted oustide of my home state.  Bravo Chef, bravo.
Needless to say, we had blast at Oyamel, sitting by the counter, laughing and enjoying the atmosphere, and watching the people rush by outside as we sat and relished our DC-Mexi food.  We were both in agreement when we finally finished our meal, bid adieu to the lovely ceviche chef with a wave, a smile and a "thank you so much", that Oyamel was indeed, a little bit of home on the east coast.

Next up, Zaytinya...

Be well,

Photos courtesy of Oyamel.
Photo #5 author's own.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DC Part Four: Jaleo.

One of the most exciting parts of our trip to Washington D.C. was the idea that I would get to eat at least three of four restaurants owned by one of my favorite culinary icons, Chef José Andrés.  Within DC, his establishments MinibarJaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya have captured the hearts and tastebuds of locals and visitors alike, with their stylish settings, extraordinary food and everyday accessibility.  For a small-plate junkie like myself, it was hard to decide where exactly I should start with these "bucketlist" restaurants- which deserved to be first?  Should I save the best for last? Which one do people enjoy the most?  The only one I didn't visit was Minibar, the molecular gastronomy lovers dream (José trained for years alongside famed Ferran Adrià of El Bulli)-- due to extremely high reservation demand and lack of enough scheduled notice, Minibar will have to be our treat next time we visit, and I'm ok with that.  It gives me something spectacular to look forward to...

I began with Jaleo.

"Under the direction of famed chef José Andrés, Jaleo offers an impressive assortment of tapas, the traditional small dishes of Spain, as well as savory paellas, superb sangrias and a fine selection of Spanish wines and Sherries in a festive, casual atmosphere. Created in 1993 by Rob Wilder, Roberto Alvarez, and José Andrés, Jaleo has become a DC institution."

Located in DC's Penn Quarter, Jaleo's exterior calls out to passersby with its huge, red-type spelled out in the two-story tall windows.  The restaurant itself had a complete renovation in March of 2012, giving it a modern, funky interior, full of color and pattern.  I was most amused by the giant portrait of human legs, seemingly flying into the party-zone above the bar.  The technicolor honeycomb ceiling and vibrant red furniture, accompanied by the beaded wooden curtains in the windows give the feeling of stepping into some incredibly sassy, fun, exotic diner.  The staff is friendly, and my waiter was an absolute darling- always smiling and ever-attentive.  
Trying to calm my nerves (and excitement by being there), I ordered a glass of sparkling rose from their incredibly extensive Spanish wines list, sat back and took in the scenery.  The restaurant was clearly in-between seatings, a little after lunch and a few hours before dinner.  A few patrons at the bar, several couples enjoying a casual afternoon, girlfriends sharing a laugh over sangria.  It felt so much like a restaurant in the middle of Barcelona that my heart skipped a beat with happiness.  I looked over the menu and picked a few plates to sample.  
I started with the wildly famous Aceitunas Ferrán Adrià (Ferrán Adrià liquid olives).  What you are looking at is not actually a green olive... It's a liquid olive, created by using the reverse spherification technique made famous by the boys at El Bulli.  Hard to explain-- there is no skin, it's just a bubble of self-contained olive juice sitting in a spoon.  Delicious, salty, flavorful olive juice.  I was so excited to try it, I practically jumped out of my seat when the waiter recommended it.
Next I chose the Pan De Cristal Con Piquillo (toasted slices of uniquely crispy and ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato with roasted red peppers).  A Spanish classic, delicately toasted with rich, red piquillo peppers layered on top.  Nothing compares to the freshness of the peppers in the dish, I could eat them all day long while sipping my rose.  Yum.

Of course I sampled the Patatas Bravas (fried fingerling potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli).  I ate this so fast, I couldn't even get a picture of it.  The waiter brought it to my table and poof!  It was gone as quickly as it arrived.
I finished up my mid-day meal with the Ibérico De Bellota Mini Hamburguesas (Spanish mini burger made from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed ibérico pigs of Spain).  This is one juicy, flavorful, gooey, greasy, tasty, tiny delight.  I immediately thought of the hubbs as soon as it arrived, and felt guilty for indulging without him.  The handmade roll was squishy and light-- I liked that it wasn't too dense and didn't overpower the burger.  I devoured it and could have easily asked for another serving, but decided to hold back out of glutton-embarrassment.

I'd love to visit DC again and try dinner at Jaleo.  I feel like I barely chipped the ice, but still got a good idea of José Andrés' vision of tapas in America.  I was incredibly happy with the entire experience here, and very much enjoyed the food and the atmosphere.  Ideally, I'd bring the hubbs back, we'd start with some fancy cocktails and then sit for hours, sampling the menu.  I will most certainly return.  After all, Jaleo is a Spanish word meaning revelry, fun, and bustle...  Indeed it is, and I look forward to visiting again.

Next up, Oyamel!

Be well,

Photos 1 & 3 courtesy of Jaleo.
All other photos author's own.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DC Part Three.

On the third day of my Washington DC journey, I slept in and took my time getting ready, reveling in the fact that I still had two more days to kill.  Since our evening before had been quite mellow and enjoyable, I was well rested and ready to make more new discoveries out-and-about the area.

I started off due west from our hotel, crossing the Rock Creek Parkway and into what looked like the idyllic suburban family neighborhood, filled with parks, puppies and children playing t-ball in the sunshine.  People were definitely taking advantage of the beautiful Sunday weather, out in droves it seemed, and curiously all walking the same direction as I was.  Mind you, I never quite plan out my adventures, I just pick a direction and go.  I figure in a city like DC, you're bound to run into something interesting, no matter which way the wind blows you.  Little did I know I was headed straight into the upper-crust heart of Georgetown...
This home was for sale. I was tempted.
The Old Stone House.
Myself and four other people were photographing this gorgeous tree at the same time.

This is the kind of community that makes me giddy.  Where house after house looks as though it has been constructed just to make people smile.  With it's brick red sidewalks, wrought-iron street lamps, white shuddered windows warmly lit from inside by antique chandeliers and the ivy covered front stoops, this place, this wonderfully historic place, is absolutely enchanting.  The deeper you delve into the streets, the more elaborate and endearing the homes become-- each with their own character, their own story, lovingly looked after by their lucky tenants.  It was like I had walked into a storybook full of pop-up houses, bathed in Spring's finest array of blooms.  Every house was decorated for the season, some with simple wreaths made of daffodils or hydrangea, others with full garlands of intertwined tulips or classic Americana bunting.  A dazzling display of proud American architectural heritage, dating all the way back to the late 1700's, dressed in it's finest warm weather attire.
Martin's Tavern.

Town Hall.
The Daily Grill, G-town.

Once through the thick of the residential neighborhood, I found myself on the main shopping drag of retail-therapy Georgetown.  A street clamoring with Sunday brunchers, waiting outside restaurants like Martin's Tavern, Cafe Bonaparte, Town Hall and The Daily Grill.  Amidst the hundreds of jam-packed restaurants lining the tiny streets, I ended up enjoying a small brunch meal at The Daily Grill, one of two outposts in DC, the other being over on 18th street closer to downtown.  I sat at the bar, was serviced quickly and in a warm fashion, and ordered their Crab Cake BLT, topped with Crispy Bacon, Arugula, Tomato and Remoulade Sauce.  The sandwich was tasty-- the bacon was cooked to perfection and the crab was incredibly fresh.  My experience was pretty run-of-the-mill, but I'd consider this restaurant a dependable local joint, serving up classic American favorites.

I had developed a pretty intense craving for something sweet, since it had become sweltering at this point, so I made my way back to air-conditioning by way of Thomas Sweet.  Some of the best all natural, yummy, frosty treats in town.  Thomas Sweet has been around since the year of my birth, and are serving up everything from frozen yogurt, chocolates, ice cream and baked goodies.  I, of course, ordered their Mint Chip ice cream, which to the confusion of some, is downy white.  Finishing up my ice cream, I then decided it was nap time-- a retreat back to the comfort of my hotel was in order.

A cute little flat on the way back to our hotel.

The remainder of the early afternoon was blur of drowsiness and sugar-induced delirium.  I was grateful to be able to have a place to relax after walking a total of 5.4 miles, all before 3pm, in hopes of reserving my energy for evening festivities.

The hubbs was released from conference and ended up back at the hotel by about 5:30, antsy and in need of an adult beverage.  We whittled away our time before dinner, chatting with the crew at Urbana, sipping champagne and Fernet, laughing and generally enjoying the company of our new friends.


At 6:30 that night we met up with some of the hubbs coworkers at the uber-trendy Churchkey.  With an emphasis on all things beer and a massive collection of 555 different labels, mostly all handcrafted, Churchkey's Beer Director Greg Engert and Chef Kyle Bailey have encapsulated the quirky brew culture with a refined, yet funky twist on barroom chic.  We enjoyed our short time spent here, especially while munching on their crispy tater tots and chatting with the humorously sarcastic bartender. The beer list is impressive and worth checking out, but be aware, the crowds at Churchkey get huge, and you will most certainly have to wait for a table if you can't squeeze in at the bar upstairs, so plan ahead.

By the time we left Churchkey, we were desperate for an actual meal.  Life is not all about liquid and bar snacks, and our tummies were growling like angry bears.  We figure it's always best to head back in the direction you came after a busy night, and thankfully we did or we wouldn't have run across the fabulous Boqueria.  A fantastic tapas bar and restaurant, located right on the outskirts of Dupont Circle, easy walking distance from our hotel.

"Boqueria restaurants were inspired by the best tapas bars in Barcelona. Bars such as Xampanyet, Vinya del Senor, Ciudad Condal and others where one can go at any time of night for a beer, glass of wine, and perhaps the best fast food known to man are institutions in a city known for its devotion to epicurean delights."
The hubbs and I were thrilled to find this gem, as we adore Spanish food and wine.  It was a comforting escape amidst streets full of unfamiliar restaurants on a night when we just wanted to sit down, order a ton of food and chat about our busy days.  A huge, well-light dining room with a marketplace feel, smiling faces in every direction, and the food... Oh, the food!!  Endless lists of tapas scrawled on various chalkboards above our heads-- decisions, decisions.  I became so overwhelmed that I gave in and let both the waiter and hubbs pick out a "few" dishes.  Here's the good stuff:

Pan con Tomate... Grilled bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil.
Tortilla Española... Traditional Spanish omelet of eggs, confit potatoes and Spanish onions.
Pimientos de Padrón... Blistered Shishito peppers, coarse sea salt.
Salteado de Setas... Sautéed wild mushrooms, Manchego cheese, thyme.
Patatas Bravas... Crispy potatoes, salsa brava, roasted garlic aioli.
Tabla de Quesos... Manchego, Caña de Cabra, Idiazábal, served with olives and pan con tomate.
Lomo Ibérico... Dry cured, acorn-fed pork loin.

Now all of these dishes were outstanding, but I think the one that brought tears to both our eyes was the Patatas Bravas.  These potatoes rivaled even ones we've eaten in Spain.  Their crisp exterior, warm squishy center, spicy salsa and finger-licking-good garlic aioli was much too hard to resist.  I also thought the tomato bread was delicious, served on a light ciabatta.  The Spanish omelet was probably our second favorite, disappearing rather quickly once it was served.  We loved this restaurant to pieces and would highly recommend stopping in for a visit.  With such a convivial atmosphere, this tapas restaurant, great for couples, groups or just sitting by yourself at the bar, is well-worth trying out.

Clearly enjoying the trip!  Stay tuned for my next post as I visit three out of four of Jose Andres restaurants in DC... Jaleo, Oyamel & Zaytinya.

Be well,




Thursday, April 18, 2013

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Dinner.


Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Dinner
Thursday April 25, 7pm
Indulge in the wonderful flavors of Marin & Sonoma Counties!

Reception: A tasting of Lagunitas Brewery Beers


Gougeres, Point Reyes Original Blue, Caramelized Shallots
Medloc Ames Chardonnay, Russian River 2011


Salad of Mozzarella, Grilled Eggplant, Red Pepper, Spring Garlic
Capture ‘Tradition’ Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County / Lake County 2011


Toma, Pancetta, Petaluma Egg on Brioche
Red Car Winery ‘ S&P Cuvee’ Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2011


Grilled Sonoma Quail, Spring Panzanella,
Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese, Thyme Sherry Vinaigrette
Ridge ‘Geyserville Vineyard’ Zinfandel, Geyserville 2011


Bay Blue Cheese Souffle, Chestnut Honey, Candied Almonds
Medloc Ames ‘Bell Mountain Ranch’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Verjus cocktail

Hosted by Lynn Giacomini Stray owner of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Executive Chef Adam Mali
& F&B Director / Sommelier Nicole Kosta

b&w logo.JPG
For more information and reservations please call (415)986-2020

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DC Part Two.

I'm back in action after a enjoyable birthday weekend- one that left me with a wicked, wicked cold... Thus, I am stuck on my couch in my pj's with hot tea and really overcooked Kraft macaroni & cheese.  On a positive note, it gives me time to write more about our DC trip, between dozing off and blowing my nose that is.

As the hubbs left for his first full day of AACR, I set out on foot for a whopping 9 mile adventure, rambling the streets in flip-flops and sunglasses.  This day was definitely more about visiting monuments than restaurants.  The weather was magnificent, an unusual 75 degrees for April.  We lucked out, because with that weather, came the breathtaking National Cherry Blossom Festival, a celebration of the thousands of blossoming trees lining the streets, parks and monuments all throughout the city.  Ladies and gentlemen, the blossoms...

It was impossible not to let your jaw drop at this spectacle of mother nature.  I've never seen anything like it.  The trees took on a life of their own, some fat and fluffy with darker magenta flowers, some light and airy with tiny white buds.  At times it felt as though I was walking through forests of cotton candy, silently flitting their petals in the spring breeze.  It's easy to imagine as you walk along, a certain feeling of... heaven.  An almost unbearable beauty that was being photographed by every single person surrounding me.  If there is a time of year you are thinking of visiting Washington D.C, be sure to visit during this ethereal season.

Not only are the cherry blossoms in full show, but the equally as gorgeous DC magnolia trees are in doing the their best to compete with their world-famous flora friends.  I found some of the most lovely trees closest to The White House.  Along with the ogling of flowering plants, I became accustomed to every passing tourist proclaim, "It's so much smaller in person!" as they set eyes on Mr. President's home.  It's strange feeling to be standing in front of this little palace, watching others see it for the first time.  What made it particularly intriguing for me this time around, was the presence of a singular Muezzin, calling to prayer, standing dead center and alone on Pennsylvania Avenue.  His presence was impossible not to stop and observe, a wailing, eery cry that echoed through Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets.  I stopped, listened and watched the people around me looking puzzled by this character, dressed in his traditional garb, hands raised to the sky.  The avenue has been closed for years, and even with hundreds of people milling about, it feels quiet and sombre.  A moment in time that will stay with me for a a long while.  


I sat on a park bench in the square for about an hour, people watching with a popsicle in hand, pleased to learn that the good people of DC have a just as much of a sweet-tooth as I do.  Can't complain about ice cream trucks on every corner, especially in the sweltering heat.  I continued my walk, heading towards the National Mall, passing by the Eisenhower Building and stopping in at the Renwick Gallery to take a peek at the Smithsonian American Art exhibit.  If only I could've taken photos inside-- what a wonderful collection.
The Washington Monument with it's facelift gear on-  looking good obelisk, looking good!

I heart Abe.

Upon my arrival to the National Mall, I was completely taken aback by the amount of people in the park that day.  I don't know why, it was perfect outside.  I love visiting the mall.  The Lincoln Memorial is probably one of my favorite places to visit in the U.S.  There's nothing like sitting at his feet, watching the world go by as thousands of people come up, touch him and smile, cry or just stare in awe.  Such a moving monument- it took my breath away at 13 and more recently at 34, and I hope it never stops doing so.  A place that makes you think and feel like maybe people are still generally good, or at least that there is hope that we are.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in DC.

More to come...

Be well,