Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The wide and wonderful world of food trucks

Want lunch? Don't have time to sit down and wait? Try a food truck. Rolling through the streets of Washington, you can now find crepes, lobster rolls, Korean tacos, cupcakes, and a long list of other culinary options. It was news to me that this phenomenon was so widespread when my colleagues rushed off to Adams Morgan one evening after work to get in line for $15 lobster rolls.

Today, the Washington Post's Food and Dining section highlights the food trucks trend, with a pull-out list of several mobile food vendors, including their Twitter handles so the hungry can find them:

Here's the longer feature, focusing on three of said trucks, Solar Crepes, Fry Captain, which sells fries and milkshakes, and Eat Wonky, featuring something called poutine, described as a Canadian dishes of fries smothered in gravy and cheese:

If this trend moves south, looks like my friend Hot Dog Mike in Little Rock might find himself with some competition.

But there's actually more to the story. My family recently engaged in a rather opinionated discussion over whether food trucks should be legal or not. The business types argued that they're stealing business from sit-down restaurants and that they're likely evading paying the appropriate taxes. The rest of us said, So? What's wrong with a little healthy competition? Small businesses struggle to survive, and this is a cheaper, faster way of getting your product out there without all the overhead. Down with government regulations on our culinary choices, said the libertarians! When it comes to increasing lunch choices, the only attitude is a laissez faire attitude.

D.C.'s Democratic Mayoral nominee, D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray (who is essentially the mayor-to-be, considering he has no opponent), has threatened to use his new power to rein in the situation, however. "They need to play by the rules," he says, and they certainly shouldn't park in front of restaurants selling the exact same kinds of things.

The Post's All We Can Eat blog references one suggested resolution to the problem: a "food truck ghetto," a designated spot for mobile food vendors to set up shop:

The 2010 Curbside Cookoff, sponsored by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, will feature 20 of the hottest food trucks. It's 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Oct. 7-8 at CityCenter DC, 11th Street and New York Ave., NW. The list of participating vendors is here:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bagels and commuting

So, this little place on Connecticut might be my downfall. Two days ago, I discovered Cafe International. It's completely non-descript, and probably the only "international" thing about it is the staff, who appear to all be Asian, which really doesn't say anything about whether they're from another country or not. The place has your basics -- bagels, coffee, muffins, croissants, and later in the day, sandwiches, which I have yet to try. There's very little that looks exciting about this place.

But, oh, how I have missed bagels! And I am yet to get used to sitting down at home and eating breakfast and consuming enough caffeine to get me through the day all before my 8 a.m. departure time for the Metro. Don't get me wrong, I'm very supportive of WMATA's prohibition on food and drink. I detest rats, and I don't want to see them skittering across the tracks as they do beneath the platforms of some other cities, which will remain nameless. However, in my previous life, my routine was to make coffee and pita toast at home, then bring them with me to work. My commute, if you can call it that, was a 2.5-mile drive that took about seven minutes -- in my own, rodent-free car.

But back to this cafe. For two days in a row now, I have skipped breakfast at home, telling myself that I'm not hungry so early and can't have coffee with me on the Metro anyway. But I have to wonder if really I actually wanted to wait so that I could consume a warm, freshly toasted blueberry bagel upon exiting the Metro. That, combined with my large coffee, cost me a total of $4.28, a small price to pay for pure, bagel-induced happiness and the gradual defogging that comes with coffee enjoyed over time instead of gulped down in a rush. I'm not going to do the math to figure out what kind of a pricey habit this could become.

On a related note, recent observations of the D.C. Metro:

1) You can never hear the conductor mumbling the name of the upcoming station, so what's the point? And because of that, does everyone else feel compelled to look up every single time the train stops to read the platform signs and make sure they haven't missed their stop?

2) I really like being a D.C. commuter. It makes me feel important to get on the Metro every day and ride it to work.

3) Some of the escalators are obscenely long. This often makes me wonder how far underground I really am. At Woodley Park, for instance, I ascend no less than three escalators every morning. Sometimes, Metro escalators don't work. And then some crazy, who's probably both strung out and hung over (at 3 p.m.), starts yelling his entire wobbly way down the narrow escalator, "Why doesn't this work? Who runs this place?" (This happened Sunday somewhere downtown. Probably typical, but kind of unnerving).

4) During rush hour at the Grosvenor stop, the trick to getting a seat is to wait for every other train, because every other originates there instead of the end of the line. But, who's ever going to do that? I mean, who's actually going to let a train -- even if it's packed to the gills -- leave the station without getting on?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Swirl margarita at Lauriol Plaza. Need I say more?
This place never gets old.
Lauriol Plaza, 1835 18th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Hoya Saxa

Finally, I can go to Georgetown basketball games whenever I want, I can walk through Healy Gates to admire campus whenever I want, and yes, I can buy all the clothes and paraphernalia at the overpriced bookstore that I want. These are exciting times for me.

I went to my first Georgetown DC Alumni Club meeting this week. They wined and dined us at Cafe Asia near Farragut Square -- not to be confused with Cafe Japones in Dupont, where the sushi comes with a side of karaoke -- in an attempt to bring in fresh Hoya-blue blood.

I'm proud to report that although the university no longer considers me a "young alumna" -- I graduated one year too early for that -- the alumni club does. A) This makes me feel young and vibrant. B) This means I get a discount to join. For people who graduated between 2004 and 2008, the joining fee is discounted. And for the babies who graduated in 2009 and 2010, it's free. Smart of the leadership -- best to bring people in early, even if it costs the club money, so that they'll become invested and stick around as they get older. For DC-area Hoyas who may want to join, more info here:

The club offers volunteer opportunities, cocktail parties for networking and interacting with Georgetown faculty, wine tastings, game watch parties, and travel. Arkansas didn't have such a club; there weren't enough alums throughout the state, let alone in Little Rock, to have one. The best I could do was be an alumni interviewer for undergraduate applicants, which helped me stay connected to the school, but didn't give me the chance to get to know other alums. So, after years of getting emails about events I couldn't attend, I finally have the chance to become a part of a local alumni network.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Nats game!

Nationals Park, near the Navy Yard, Southeast D.C.
Tonight, I went to a Washington Nationals game. It was the first time I saw the team play in the stadium where they've played since 2008, Nationals Park. I hadn't been to a game since the team's opening season in 2005, when they still played at RFK Stadium. The Nats lost to the Astros, but my hotdog was good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Yom Kippur

Celebrated Yom Kippur at Georgetown today. (Is celebrate the right word for this holiday? I never really know.)

It's always good to be back on the campus. 
Healy Hall
The rabbi read a poem that resonated, so I am sharing in honor of the holiday, and as we start another new year of new opportunities.

"If Tomorrow Never Comes"
by Norma Cornett Market, 1989

If I knew it would be the last time that I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly, and pray the Lord your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time that I'd see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss, and call you back for just one more.

If I knew it would be the last time I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would tape each word and action, and play them back throughout my days
If I knew it would be the last time, I would spare an extra minute or two,
To stop and say "I love you," instead of assuming you know I do.

So just in case tomorrow never comes, and today is all I get,
I'd like to say how much I love you, and I hope we never will forget.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you're waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes, you'll surely regret the day
That you didn't take that extra time for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
And you were too busy to grant someone, what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today, and whisper in their ear,
That you love them very much, and you'll always hold them dear.
Take time to say "I'm sorry," "Please forgive me," "thank you" or "it's okay".
And if tomorrow never comes, you'll have no regrets about today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Observation: Are there no rabbits in Arkansas?

Since I've been back on the East Coast, I've seen rabbits in both Delaware and Maryland residential neighborhoods. I've always liked seeing the little guys in gardens -- it's very sort of Velveteen Rabbit coming to life-esque -- but for some reason, I'm noticing them more than usual. The only conclusion I can come to is that maybe it's been a few years since I've seen one and that's why they seem so rare.

I remember a few almost run-ins between Clyde and a possum (or is it opossum?) and also seeing many a roadkill version of armadillo (which until Arkansas, I thought was a New Mexico species), but now that I think about it, I can't remember seeing a rabbit. Could this be?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Saturday in Delaware

You'd be surprised how many festivals and art shows can be found in and around the small towns lining the Delmarva Peninsula's coastline. Today, we visited three.

The 32nd Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival featured the work of more than 100 mostly local artists. The booths lined the narrow boardwalk, and though it was after Labor Day, it was probably the most crowded I've ever seen the Bethany Boardwalk. Good to see so many people come out for a non-summer event.
There was jewely, pottery, metalware, serving dishes, paintings, sculptures, outdoor art for your garden, etc. I bought a seaglass-adorned bottle opener to replace the one I left behind in Little Rock -- presumably lost in the home of some lucky Little Rock friend.
Example of beach house stuff on sale
Next, we went to the Biden Center -- Vice President Biden is also Delaware's longest serving Senator -- at Cape Henlopen State Park, in Lewes, Del. The advertised "chocolate tasting" to benefit the Friends of the Park group was no Ronald McDonald House Chocolate Fantasy Ball; it was more like a glorified bake sale. But I guess their marketing worked -- it got us there. We'd never visited that park before, so it was a good excuse to see it. The Nature Center includes a small acquarium. One tank features sea horses. I'm not sure that before seeing the little creatures swimming around I entirely believed they were real animals, and I certainly didn't know they could be found in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Delaware. So that was educational.

The next destination was the Quilt and Arts Festival, a fundraiser for the Cadbury retirement community, also in Lewes. The art wasn't as impressive as in Bethany, and many of the pieces weren't for sale. In addition to the patchwork quilts, there were several quilted with nature scenes, which I'd never seen anything like before. The sign beside them read, "Please do not touch the quilts. Ask white glove person for help." Made me think of the White Rabbit.

Hanging out in an assisted living facility isn't exactly my idea of a fun time, so we didn't last long there. We skipped the antique show at the Rehoboth Convention Center; I'd seen enough old things for one day.

Being that this was my first trip to the beach since moving back -- and considering it's already mid-September and the crab season may be coming to a close -- the day ended with a ceremonial crab feast. The blue crabs, traditionally from the Chesapeake Bay, might as well be Maryland's state shellfish. They are a staple cuisine at the beach and in inland Maryland, and are served  hot and smothered with zesty Old Bay seasoning, then eaten just like that or dipped in melted butter or vinegar.
Blue crabs turn red when cooked.
One of my favorite things to do with friends who are visiting is to take them out to eat crabs. It's a messy sight, and you better know the anatomy of the little guy if you're going to venture to crack it open and find the meat.

We left for home Sunday morning. So excited the beach will now be a more frequent part of my life!
At daylight

Cooking lesson - clams at the beach

Came to the beach house in Delaware for the weekend. Oh how I craved these weekends from landlocked Arkansas.

We bought littleneck clams, pre-scrubbed, at a local fish market with the intention of eating them raw, but sans clam knife, wecouldn't pry them open.
Raw clams
So, we steamed the clams instead, using part of a recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics (2007). All we did was heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cook a couple minutes until the garlic is golden, and add the clams and some dry white wine, raising the heat to high. Bring to a boil; cover, and cook, shaking occassionally, 2-3 minutes, until the clams open.
Clams sauteeing
Stir in parsley, and serve with cocktail sauce.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy 5771!

It seems fitting that I'm starting a new chapter in life just as we celebrate the beginning of a new Jewish year. In years past, I often have come home to join my family for Rosh Hashanah, but it was different to be here for the holiday, now that this actually IS my home.
Apples and honey for a sweet new year
Figs for the fall season from my cousins' garden
Round challah to symbolize the cycle of the seasons of a year
My cousins Gail and Bob always bring something special to their holiday table, a message that each of their guests can take with them and reflect upon later. I thought today's was particularly meaningful, and I've copied it below:

We cannot merely pray to end war:
For we know that the world is made in such a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and with his neighbor.

We cannot merely pray t o end starvation:
For we already have the resources
WIth which to feed the entire world,
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to root out prejudice:
For we already have eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to end despair:
For we already have the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to end disease:
For we already have great minds
With which to search out cures and healings
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just pray,
To become instead of merely to wish,
That our land may be safe
And that our lives may be blessed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clyde's first appearance

My almost-12-year-old bichon frise, Clyde, has now moved with me three times since we first left Maryland. My frequent companion, he's a common subject of blog posts.
Clyde watches me unpack. Yes, he burrowed himself into these pillows. This is not my doing.

A Washingtonian again

Five years ago, I left my native Washington to brave the Midwest. A product of the Maryland suburbs, I had become a proud Georgetown Hoya. But after graduating in 2005, I decided it was time to see more of this country. So, I spent the next year and a half in Columbia, Missouri, followed by the next almost four years in Little Rock, Arkansas. Neither were places that even a few months before graduating, I ever would have imagined I'd live. And now, at almost 27, I've come full circle and I'm back in D.C.

I started writing a blog in Little Rock with the intention of sharing the many wonderful cultural, culinary and outdoor experiences I had there. I found that I needed a way to record these precious and unique moments, as well as had a craving to share them with others. As the blog developed, it became clear that I had two primary audiences -- friends in Little Rock who found it amusing that I found things so common to them amusing, and friends from the East Coast who couldn't get enough of my Southern activities and experiences, which often seemed quite foreign and unusual to them. My goal was never to forget the things I learned and the memories I gained while I was there, as well as to introduce people who had perhaps never visited Arkansas to what a wonderful and often hidden treasure it is.

So, now it's time to start a blog on Washington. While it's true that I spent my first 21 years in the area, I've never lived here as an adult (college absolutely does not count as adult life). I anticipate this blog will become sort of a log of my re-learning and re-discovering D.C., both as a former suburbanite who grew up in the sweet and protective towns on the periphery, and as a former college student obsessed with Georgetown but also always aware that D.C. had so much more to offer beyond its non-Metro-accessible borders.

Visit often - and don't forget to keep an eye on the old blog as well. When inspiration strikes, I'll still post to Small Town, Little Rock: