Last weekend we flew to Washington, DC. Lindsay was speaking at a conference. I tagged along.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 Memorial, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, WWII Memorial, National 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.