Washington, DC, is the capital of the US but also home to almost three quarters of a million people. The architecture is varied and increasingly high rise. Driving around DC, I realize how much I do not know about the architecture or history of DC. For a guide to the basic styles of homes in DC, check out this link.
Every country takes the food of their immigrants and makes it their own. In Italy, it’s “Italianized” and mild. In America, it is supersized. But, as the US is a country of many immigrants, the food melds and blends seamlessly across menus.
Case in point, I recently went to Pho-Cue in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a hipster vibe-y place that could easily be in Oakland, California, or London, England. The staff have tattoos and shaved manbuns. The food is a mix of Vietnamese food, pan-Asian food, and American barbecue.
The barbecue was too strong for the pho soup but I like that they tried. The banh mi sandwiches were gigonormous.
The best thing were the pork belly “chips” — because why not take a fatty pork belly and deep fry it? It’s almost the American way.
After living in Rome, it was nice to get both pho and barbecue of high caliber.
One of the wonders of living in Rome is the amount of Roman ruins everywhere. It seems so commonplace that I have become immune to it.
Not only in the city of Rome which is a living open museum of ancient Rome, but also outside Rome. Any drive outside Rome is a constant journey through time.
In thew few years that I have lived in Rome, I have never gotten over how old things are. I remain impressed.
When thinking of Canadian food, it’s hard to describe all the foods of the various first nations and immigrant groups that make up modern day Canada. Here are a few to try (some have similar counterparts “down south” in the USA).
Poutine: French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy.
The Caesar: that drink that I had fling with for a week.
Nanaimo bar: a fudge-like bar.
Bannock and Beaver tail: fried dough, a dish common in some first nations. When the dough is shaped like a beaver tail, then it’s called a beaver tail. (Timbits: donut holes from Tim Hortons, Canada’s mainstream coffee chain.)
Peameal bacon: Canadian bacon (which is ham, really. Well, the Canadians do have a history of preserving the loin by rolling in pea flour, hence the name).
Game and fish, smoked and dried: from salmon jerky to whale blubber.
Butter tarts: much like a pecan pie but with no pecans.
Montreal style bagel: a chewy, yeasty, smaller, free-form bagel.
Nova Scotia lobster roll: like a New England “lobstah” roll.
Maple syrup: in candy, on pancakes, and on bacon…
In the frenzied days before my move to Colombia, each evening involves, sometimes twice, a “farewell and hasta luego” dinner. Each evening, the question is the same, “what type of food will you not be able to get in Colombia?” That’s something we’ll find out, but for now, my farewell meals have included: Vietnamese pho, banh mi, Chinese hot pot, Korean barbecue, American hamburgers, Italian pizza, British pub fish and chips, donuts, and coffee cake topped with coffee flavor ice cream.
During my time in Washington, DC, I have enjoyed exploring the eateries, and of the the new restaurants I’ve tried, I’ve most enjoyed the new “it” restaurant, Rose’s Luxury. The last time I went there, the tattooed-swears-like-a-sailor-waitress remembered me from my visit in February… and then she guided us through most of the menu, including drinks. I didn’t think all the dishes were worth it but since they change their menu on a continuous basis, there is usually something you’ll like, but it may not be on the menu the next time. Sometimes the dishes really work and the staff (with *#&&^% added for emphasis) are eager to explain how to eat the dishes to get the full alchemy of the flavors.
Okay, maybe this posting was just an excuse to post food photos.
Recently, some of my Bangladeshi friends visited the U.S… which made me think about iconic American foods to make them try while visiting D.C. The following are some of my recommendations.
1. Krispy Kreme: Who does not love a freshly fried yeast doughnut, hot and fresh from a sugar glaze waterfall?
2. Five Guys and Shake Shack: The last decade has seen the rise of the new hamburger restaurant which makes me happy. Freshly made with fresh French fries – it sounds simple but we, the consumers, put up with so much less for too long. Five Guys is a nationwide chain that started a few miles from D.C. and if you have peanut allergies, you must stay away…
3. All-American classic restaurants and bars: These are classic modern restaurants and bars in the “old boys’ club” style of dark wood, etc. — The Hamilton, The Lincoln, and also Old Ebbitt Grill, the Willard, and Ray’s the Steaks.
4. Ben’s Chili Bowl: Visitors like this historic place which has recently become a chain and it will soon be opening a branch at National Airport.
5. Honey Pig (noisy Korean BBQ restaurant), To Sok Jib (hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant), and Bon Chon Chicken: Annandale, Virginia is a well known Korea-town but Bon Chon has just opened a branch in Clarendon. There is also Lighthouse Tofu which serves more than tofu and Oegadgib which serves all-you-can-eat Korean including shabu-shabu (shabu-shabu are the words you should say to time how long you swish your meat in the broth to cook it.).
6. Pho soup: Eden Center is a little Vietnam in Falls Church, Virginia, where the restaurants serve pho and other Vietnamese food.
7. Ravi Kabob: It’s a northern South Asian/Pakistani place that is “hole-in-the-wall” and serves delicious food. The most famous local chain is Moby Dick’s.
8. Edy’s Chicken or El Pollo Rico: It’s Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. Anthony Bourdain went to El Pollo Rico but I like that Edy’s serves yucca fries. There are also several other Peruvian style restaurants in the area where you can explore some of this world famous cuisine, although I’m still waiting for the celebrity chef level restaurants to open.
9. Ramen shops: This is a fairly new trend in American food, thanks in part to David Chang of Momofuku, and I like the trend. Yummy, homemade soup. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is.
10. El Salvadorean food: Try a fresh pupusa as the El Salvadorean population begins to emerge on the culinary scene (there are not that many Mexican places in this area but Jugalita is authentic).
Of course there are also many Ethiopian restaurants to try and loads of food carts serving all manner of new American foods (Korean kalbi taco, anyone?). Every new group of immigrants contributes a new flavor to American cuisine.
When tourists visit the U.S., many want to try Chipotle and other famous restaurants. I recommend using Yelp to find the locations. Speaking of American foods, there is, of course, pie, lobster, grits, collard greens, chicken and waffles, barbecue, etc. to be had here in D.C., but, maybe I’ll write about that another time. And not to forget, I’ve done some research and it looks like there is only one Colombian restaurant in the area… y claro, por supuesto, voy a visitarlo.
One of the things I enjoy about Washington, DC, is that almost all the museums are free. Most of the big museums are part of the Smithsonian but there are lots of smaller unknown museums like the one at the Organization of American States. Located near where Virginia Avenue meets Constitution Avenue, this small building has a great garden and some pretty tiles, plus a rotating exhibit. I went to see the photo exhibit about identity. Although the exhibit was Argentinian, a discussion of stereotypes is relevant to all nationalities, including Bangladesh and Colombia. My mental image of Bangladesh before I lived there was one of cyclones and floods. Colombia suffers from other stereotypes.
My photos are taken from the photo catalog because I did not have my camera with me. But, flash photography is allowed in the temporary exhibit. I was just amazed that they were giving away the color catalog for free. Not all the photos in the photo exhibit were of people but I thought they were the best. I’ll write more about art and photography in a later post. Certainly once I have been to the famous gold museum in Bogota. For now, these photographs allowed for a little armchair travel.
There are some places that remind me of how beautiful this world is and how lucky I am to see it. Yosemite National Park is one of those places. Yosemite (one interpretation of the meaning of “yos-e-miti” is that it means “those who kill” and the native tribe was warning the early visitors — who mistook this warning as the name of the valley) is a beauty, both photogenic and gorgeous in the flesh. There are so many great stories to be heard about the valley, El Capitan, Half Dome, and all the other rock stars (ha!) of the park.
El Capitan, considered by many to be the largest monolith in the world, is actually called “inchworm” in the local lore. The local story explains how the lowliest smallest creature, the inchworm, saves two bear cubs who fell asleep on top of the rock.