DC

Last weekend we flew to Washington, DC. Lindsay was speaking at a conference. I tagged along.

THURSDAY

We got an early Porter flight out, arrived at Dulles airport, and Uber’d through a severe rainstorm to the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD. That town is just down the Potomac River from DC and seemed like some kind of weird manufactured resort town. Literally within sight of downtown. Anyway.

 We desperately needed lunch, and walked around the corner to Succotash for some…well, maybe not southern, but southern-inspired food. We had cocktails (Lindsay: mint julep; me: Succotash / Maker’s Mark private select bourbon), oysters, crispy fried okra, hush puppies, a dirty chicken Cobb salad (her), and fried chicken sandwich (me). I also found a tasty Troegs Brewing “Javahead” stout on the bottle list.

Thus sated, we walked back to the hotel, watched some March Madness, and did a bunch of work. With some napping added in.

Eventually we needed dinner, and walked downstairs to Old Hickory, the steakhouse in the resort. We weren’t expecting much, but we were pretty pleasantly surprised. We had some champagne, followed by Lindsay’s lobster bisque w/ sherry reduction, citrus crème, crostini and my butternut squash soup w/ cinnamon & black pepper meringue, paired with a couple of California chards. Our mains came out much more quickly than we expected, so we didn’t quite have room for the 7oz waygu center cut sirloin and 22oz (!) cowboy ribeye we ordered (along with french fries and asparagus), and the bottle of 2015 Trefethen Family cab sauv we ordered barely had time to breathe. Aside: I met the Trefethen family nearly six years ago, while on safari in Botswana. Was never able to try their wine until now.

FRIDAY

Mostly work, day two was, within Linds prepping for or at her conference talk, and I working or calling into meetings. As soon as we were done we left that weird little village and took an Uber into DC proper, driving through a crazy rain/sleet storm along the way. Eventually we arrived at our home for the next two nights: The Line DC.

Hotels don’t often blow me away, but this one did. It’s built in a century-old church (which resembled a temple, to my eyes), has style coming out its eaves, and attracted huge crowds of diners and hangers-out. They broadcast/podcast content from their lobby. Their rooms are gorgeous. Their dining options are all superhotspots. Even their coffee shop was killer.

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After checking in we had snacks (french fries w/ yuzu aioli, nori; burrata w/ shishito peppers, persimmons) and some cocktails at Brothers & Sisters in the lobby while we waited for Lindsay’s friend Shannon to arrive. Once she got there we had drinks in our room and caught up until it was time for dinner (downstairs, again) at their main restaurant, A Rake’s Progress.

We ate potato gnocchi w/ braised rabbit, glazed roots, shiitake, and winter herbs; lobster tagliatelle w/ shiitake and lobster butter; kilt greens w/ crisped ham, spelt crumb, egg, and hot bacon mustard dressing; an enormous pork blade steak (chopped up) w/ steamed buns and pickled ingredients…basically a bunch of bao ingredients; and a bottle of 2016 Lioco “Estero” Chardonnay from the Russian River valley.

Our server, by the way, was a phenomenon. She guided our choices, she was an utter delight in terms of fun and demeanor, and it actually felt like she took such care of/with us. The three of us told her that our dinner felt like therapy. Anyway, I’m gutted that I can’t remember her name, because she was a goddamn treasure. 

From there, Shannon stumbled into an Uber, and we stumbled upstairs to bed.

SATURDAY

We had pre-ordered room service, and it was the best hotel breakfast we’ve had since Champagne. That fit nicely with our leisurely morning, just enjoying the room, until we eventually scooted downtown. We decided to see what was on at the Hirshhorn. Lots of good stuff, as it turned out, including the latest in Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s Pulse series. Much of that was lovely, but the experience was ruined for us when two huge families had a get-together followed by a fucking proposal. This they did while whooping and hollering and illuminating the scene with their phones, all in a room where the very exhibit calls for quiet and darkness. What utter trash. Pull it together, morons.

Anyway.

After that (and the rest of the museum, which was all pretty impressive) we grabbed a late lunch at The Partisan, the only nearby place which my beer research had flagged. It’s attached to a butcher shop, so all the meat we had was spot-on. I had a chicken that had been brined, rotisseried, and then deep fried in beef fat; Lindsay had an Italian sandwich the size of her head. We each sampled deeply from their excellent beer list.

Luckily, the National Portrait Gallery is right around the corner, so we had enough energy left to do that. We saw some good work there, like a statue of Gertrude Stein or a brain-breakingly photo-realistic painting of Maya Angelou. We also saw so many more morons…the kind of people who wait in line to take a picture of themselves in front of the presidential portrait of Barack Obama, without ever actually looking at it. Or, more egregiously, the Instagram couple who kept striking poses in front of Nam June Paik‘s Electronic Superhighway (link) to the point where you couldn’t even get close to Florida or Georgia. Picture this type of pose, but much much cheesier and worse:

Sigh.

Back to the hotel, then. Shannon joined us for dinner again, this time meeting us at a used bookstore around the corner, and we decided to try our restaurant — Tail Up Goat — early in case they could seat us. 

On the walk there we passed Malcolm Gladwell and a friend. I pointed that out to Shannon and Lindsay, and we proceeded to shit-talk his writing methods. I mean, he’s entertaining, and I love his podcasts, but the way he extrapolates trends out of anecdotes drives me nuts. Lindsay and Shannon had other criticisms. Anyway, we walk around the corner and into the restaurant. I held the door for the people who’d been walking behind us and realize…it’s Malcolm Gladwell. They’d been looking for the same restaurant, and walked behind us for the last hundred feet or so. And, presumably, heard all our comments. Cool. Cool. Ugh.

Sadly, or luckily, they did not have our table ready. Michelin-starred restaurants don’t have much vacancy; who knew? We walked back to our room, drank a little wine, and eventually returned to find our table waiting. And about ten feet from our fellow Canadian. We shook it off, and focused on dinner.

Which. Was. AWESOME, by the way. We started with cocktails (I don’t know what my companions got, but mine was called the Alright Alright Alright and I must have said it twelve times. Anyhoo. Here’s what we ate & drank:

  • berbere sausage w/ apple mostarda, puffed flax seed
  • focaccia w/ meatballs, stracciatella, almond pesto trapanese, aronia berry vinegar, basil
  • yellowfin tuna crudo w/ pomelo, pine nut syrup, basil, fennel pollen chicharrones
  • casarecce pasta w/ ramp sausage, pea shoots, pecorino, carrot + chili honey, aleppo breadcrumbs
  • seared halibut w/ acqua pazza, fermented + pickled fennel, salsa verde, calabrian chilies
  • a bottle of Chablis; I don’t remember exactly which, but we bugged the sommelier for some time before arriving on it, and I tried to change her mind about Gewurztraminer by telling her about the Klipfel Clos Zisser Grand Cru.
  • for dessert Shannon had tea, Lindsay had Madeira, and I had something I’d never tried before: a glass of Keo St. John Commandaria from Cyprus

We closed the joint down. Mercifully, Gladwell was already gone. We stumbled home and tried to watch a bedtime Jeopardy but I was asleep before Johnny had finished welcoming Alex.

SUNDAY

After another stellar breakfast we packed up. Lindsay headed to Shannon’s place to hang out; I decided to see some of Washington. I saw the Lincoln MemorialVietnam Veteran’s MemorialKorean War Veterans MemorialMartin Luther King Jr MemorialWWII MemorialNational Monument, and a bit of the National Gallery. It was sunny and 20° so I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a while looking at the reflecting pool, and walked the whole way along the mall. What a day.

Afterward I was thirsty, so I went back to The Partisan.

I killed more of their beer list until it was time to Uber back to The Line, grab our luggage, get one last coffee at The Cup We All Race 4 in the lobby, call another Uber, pick up Lindsay, and head to the airport. We had a bite and some wine at the Vino Volo there (the first I’d ever seen), found our gate, endured the short-but-felt-long flight home, and crashed into bed.

In short: we like DC. Not National Harbor so much, but definitely DC. Adams-Morgan (where our hotel was) was a strange beast of a neighbourhood, but the city has a lot of green space and great restaurants and sights to see. And a good friend.

Little rest in store for us weary travelers though — we’ll be over the Atlantic by midnight Thursday.

.:.

Cover photo taken inside Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s Pulse exhibit at the Hirshhorn. And no, I did not use flash.

“It’s pronounced colonel. It’s the highest rank in the military.”

This past weekend we drove down to Ithaca, NY. In part to check out Cornell, in part to check out the town itself, and a little bit to check out the drive there and back. Just in case it becomes a regular thing.

We took the scenic (read: non-toll) route there, which led us through some scary country. More than one Trump sign. Ugh. Not a good start.

Finally we pulled into Ithaca, checked in to the Marriott on the Commons, and set out to find some lunch. And, more importantly: beer. We hit the Ithaca Alehouse, ate some great burgers, drank some good beers, and had a long conversation with a local guy named Mike. Turns out he’s a musician / actor / comedian / etc. named Mike Brindisi. He calmed our fears about the town, confirming what we thought, that it’s not unlike the Austin of New York State. So we felt a bit better.

Mike told us about a good restaurant — Gola — to try that night, and we made a reservation. A few hours later, though, Lindsay felt sick. Then sicker. Then pukey. Then…post-pukey. Maybe the burgers weren’t so great after all? So we didn’t go out to dinner at all, just had them send up some plain food (and a few local microbrews for me) and got some rest.

The next day, after a big breakfast at Monk’s and some shopping at Home Green Home and a quick stroll around the rest of the commons, we had lunch at Coltivare. Or, brunch, rather. It was a cute place with a jazz band playing, but the service was off and all the menu items were creative to the point of being misleading. Like, the chicken and biscuits I almost ordered were actually just biscuits covered in gravy. And Lindsay’s gravlox & carrot wasn’t salmon, it was carrot shaved and smoked and sliced to look like salmon. So…yeah. Anyway, it wasn’t bad, but it felt like a bit of a (pricey) miss.

On the way home we bought some used books at Autumn Leaves and bought coffee at Ten Forward (definitely the only Star Trek-themed vegan cafe I’ve visited), dropped everything at the hotel, and drove up to the Cornell campus to visit the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. After that we crossed the street to see the waterfalls, which are We stuck our head into the Uris library too, which is gorgeous.

That night Lindsay had a dinner at Simeon’s so I posted up at the bar at Monk’s, ate dinner, plowed through their (very good) beer list, met a Cape Bretoner (!) at the bar next to me, listened to music (it was St. Paddy’s), and waited for Lindsay to get back. The night ended with more drinks and long heartfelt talks with the Caper’s wife. Anyway. Happy St. Paddy’s?

Monday we (somehow) got up early, had more breakfast, and drove back up to Cornell for more appointments. While Lindsay had her meetings I walked back to said gorgeous library, set myself down on a couch at the window, and worked for a couple of hours. Not a bad venue!

With that done we said goodbye to Ithaca in hardcore-American style — burgers and shakes at Five Guys — and drove home. We took toll roads this time, which took us up and along the shore of Cayuga Lake, which was far more picturesque than the drive down. Apart from a whiteout along the way, it was a pretty solid return trip.

Fun trip, if kinda tiring. Whatever happens next, at least we’ve seen Ithaca. And the colonel.

Cover photo from the Bymark site

Behind

SO far behind on recounting things here. Honestly, it’s been a pretty frenetically busy period, so I keep forgetting about stuff. Here, then, a loose collection of a few ways I’ve entertained myself betwixt work & life.

On the flights to/from London I watched five movies: Mission Impossible: Fallout (imdb | rotten tomatoes), Annihilation (imdb | rotten tomatoes), The Old Man & The Gun (imdb | rotten tomatoes), Can You Ever Forgive Me? (imdb | rotten tomatoes), and Somm III (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Annihilation was weird, but the rest were all really good. I mean, Somm III was maybe too inside-baseball for anyone not super into wine, but it was right in my sweet spot.

I’ve been lucky enough to see two Raptors games too, and I think maybe the curse has been broken. I watched them run the Celtics out of the building, and saw them take down LeBron and the Lakers too.

I had a work dinner at Bymark, my first time back there in over a decade, and almost fifteen years after my first visit. For the first time, I did not get the burger.

We also had a reunion-y last weekend, as we had dirty diner breakfast with Brian + Mandy + Charlotte & Brock + Margaret at Fran’s, where I also bumped into wee Jenna McCutchen. That day we did a bunch of work at Boxcar before going next door to Chez Nous. We expected to see Laura there but instead saw Olivia (of Ricky + Olivia) who Lindsay knows from way back. It was good to catch up with everyone. We’ve been so busy for the past six months that we miss…people.

.:.

Cover photo from the Bymark site

Cover photo from the CBC

The Senate

Forgot to mention: I was in Ottawa last month for work. I flew in, stayed at Le Germain, ate dinner (duck tartare + romanesco + cauliflower + birch and plum gastrique / smoked pork chop + side striped shrimp + fennel paper + hand-rolled semolina + rapini) at Norca, ate lunch the next day at Clover, and flew home ~24 hours later.

Really though, I was in Ottawa to address the Senate. Well, a Senate committee. It was interesting, and kind of fun. The meeting ran so smoothly it was almost shocking. Who says government can’t be efficient? Anyway, I also got to be one of the first people to present at a committee meeting in the new (temporary) Senate building, right across from the Chateau Laurier.

Fun. And not something I ever pictured myself doing, frankly.

.:.

Cover photo from the CBC

More Hawksmoor

I spent the better part of my last week in London. Mostly for work, but I squeezed in a little fun as well.

I flew out Saturday morning. The cost to upgrade to premium economy had been more than reasonable, which made the flight pretty easy — I watched a movie and got tons of work done. After landing I had my easiest ever escape from Heathrow; the customs line had four people in it. I’ve spent hours in that line before.

After a long Uber ride downtown I checked into the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. I got some room service, including a fair bit of judgment when I ordered a bottle of wine with only one glass. Anyway.

I had the next day free (it was about $1000 cheaper to fly out Saturday vs. Sunday, so it saved the company money, but also gave me a day to hang out in London…wins everywhere.) and forced my tired self up at 8am, ate a big breakfast in the room, and went for a bit of a walk. I walked down the Thames toward Southbank, then crossed and doubled back toward Westminster, passed Big Ben (currently shrouded in scaffolding) and Westminster Abbey, along Victoria, ducking off to walk past Westminster Cathedral, and crossing Vauxhall. I grabbed an espresso at The Roasting and reveled in the opportunity to enjoy it outdoors, knowing full well that it was going to be -20 or so back in Toronto that week.

I was getting hungry again, so I went round the corner to one of the top-rated beer places in London: Cask Pub & Kitchen. I sampled four excellent craft beers and ate a roast chicken lunch that nearly killed me.

I walked back to the hotel via the Lambeth bridge, and — for the first time in months, probably — did almost nothing. Read some articles. Watched a movie. Willed my body to digest beer-soaked chicken and Yorkshire pudding. It was nice.

I’d booked a late dinner at a new location of a steak place I’ve been to twice now: Hawksmoor. This time I walked the thirty minutes, past Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, to the Seven Dials location. I took my table and jumped right to it, foregoing starters or cocktails for the main event: a 400g (14oz) ribeye, cooked rare with bearnaise sauce on the side, with a side of maple-roasted parsnips & bacon, all paired with 500ml of a Duero red. I finished it all off with a glass of Sauternes. The whole meal was great, but the steak might have been one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

My conference started Monday. I’d had plans to meet up with my friend Tom after, but work intruded. I made do by seeking out a nearby beer place: Beerhawk, in Southbank. I had a pile of fantastic craft, and a delicious little toastie made with pastrami.

On Tuesday I didn’t want another conference lunch, so I skipped outside looking for another option. I happened upon a little wine bar, Unwined in Waterloo, and had a brilliant lunch. It was the first day for the new chef, so the Instagram shot below was the exact special that ended up in front of me seconds later — a flatbread with chicken, spinach, peppers, halloumi, sriracha, and yogurt. I had an amazing glass of Georgian wine, then followed it up with a fried chicken slider and glass of Australian chard.

That night, through a bit of luck and good timing, I was able to have dinner with brother #2! He was in London for a conference of his own, which was scheduled well after my trip was set up, so it all worked out. He lives in Egypt now, and was craving certain kinds of meat, and I figured…screw it, let’s do another Hawksmoor. We met at the location in Knightsbridge, and ate yet another killer meal. I had scallops with an Alsatian Pinot Gris, then the filet. We split a bottle of 2005 Rioja, which lasted us through a cheese dessert course.

Wednesday was my last day — I finished up at the conference, got to the airport, sped through in (again) record time, hung out in the lounge, and flew home. The flight wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time, given the occupants of the neighbouring seats, but I zipped through Pearson and into an Uber home. I was tired and cold and a little jet lagged, but really happy to be home.

.:.

Cover photo taken inside Beerhawk.

Patel, di Nisio, Fung, Tarocco

Thursday night we went to the opening of a not new, but re-branded gallery: Patel Gallery, which we’d known as Project Gallery. We’d been a few times, and bought a gift there for friends, but last month Lindsay bought some pieces for work and I swooped in after she was done to buy one for myself. See bottom of this post for what, exactly. (I love it so much.)

The opening was nice — I saw Bigfoot, and met a few nice new people, including one whose husband is from Amherst. Afterward we went to Ascari for dinner, and a lovely one at that. An Italian winemaker (Francesca di Nisio) was there to discuss her wine, of which we had a flight: a Pecorino, a Cerasuolo, and a Montepulciano. Lovely, all. We had them with a small meat and cheese board, the highlight of which was some local honeycomb.

The rest of the meal — Arancini Cacio e Pepe; rapini w/ poached salt cod, lemon, almonds, and chili flakes; caramelle w/ kabocha squash & mascarpone filling, sage, brown butter, capers, and lemon (Lindsay); and pappardelle w/ braised beef cheeks, black pepper, fried shallot, marjoram, and grana padano (Dan) — was sensational. Most of it went with a bottle of 2006 Il Tarocco Chianti Classico, which was goddamn outstanding.

Lion Head Ginger Jar Art Vase in Blue and White by Dominique Fung