I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to travel I am more inclined to think international, to think big, to think unique and different. Given travel choices, I will always choose the international trip. I do still enjoy exploring around the U.S., but for some reason not with quite the same zeal. Still, it’s important to remember that even in your own city, there is always something to do, somewhere new to go, a new restaurant to try, etc. I’m proud to say that this weekend, I did just that.
On Saturday, Ryan and I went to the Capitals game for his birthday. Despite the fact that we lost, we had an awesome time – how can you not at a hockey game, yeah?
Afterward, we decided to try out a Cuban/Mexican/El Salvadorean restaurant we’ve passed a few times. Ryan has Cuban family and is always wanting to find a place to get a real cafe con leche, not a literal translation of coffee with milk on the side.
As we popped off the metro at Eastern Market, I spotted Hill’s Kitchen, a local kitchen supply store that also offers cooking classes. I first heard of it when I was looking for a place to pick up some Uncle Brutha’s hot sauce – a locally made, all-natural hot sauce that I wanted to get for Ryan for Christams. Ryan LOVES hot sauce more than anyone I know and we have gone through literally dozens of bottles of tabasco, tapito, chalula, etc. With his other gifts, I decided not to get him the sauce, but we decided to stop in and pick some up! It was right up front and we opted for the hottest sauce – No. 10 – “A unique blend of four of the most flavorful chilies, (Habanero, Red and Green Jalapeño and Serrano) with garlic, resulting in one amazingly zesty, flavor enhancing combination.” It does not disappoint and neither does Hill’s Kitchen. Since we were already there we started looking at knives, aprons, a giant-sized french press, tea infusers, a pretty array of bamboo vessels and utensils and cookie cutters in the shapes of our homestates – Minnesota and Oregon. We left with just the sauce, but definitely would have been very happy to have spent much, much more.
Hot sauce in hand (well, inside my giant satchel of a purse), we traipsed over to Mi Vecindad. Upon opening the door you are engulfed in color – something I quite like. The decor is simple, but nice. The staff was very attentive (perhaps because we were there a little early for most dinner patrons – around 4:30 or perhaps as a genuine demonstration of their ethos). The chips were freshly baked with just the right amount of crisp and the salsa was tasty. In lieu of our traditional margaritas, we opted for a pitcher of mojitos, in order to gauge the Cuban authenticy. The mojitios were served with a stick of sugar cane – a definite plus – and of course mint leaves; however, it was a little too syrupy. Still, much better than most mojitos that are out there. Ryan ordered a dish of saffron rice, shrimp, chorizo and chicken while I went for the Ropa Vieja – “old clothes” – which is one of my favorite dishes from Cubano’s in Maryland. For dessert, we were hoping to have guava and cream cheese, but to no avail. Our water did come out with a yummy cake though. Overall, I still much prefer Cubano’s but Mi Vecindad was very good and I’m sure we will find ourselves wandering back there soon.
Bellies full, we decided that we may as well continuing our day of exploration with a local bar that we had been meaning to saddle up to. As some of you may know, The Irish Channel in Chinatown is not only where we had our first date, but also became our favorite watering hole in DC. One of the bartenders there, who has moved out west now :(, always told us that we should go to Trusty’s. A neighborhood bar actually located near us (right off the Potomac Ave metro stop), Trusty’s was awesome. Empty, vintage looking oil cans for lampshades and mason jars for glasses, Trusty’s was just our type of place. The bartenders were exactly what we were expecting with a recommendation from the Channel – friendly, attentive and fast. Once planted, we didn’t move until a four or five pitchers later. Sadly, we never thought to venture upstairs which features an old school bus as a bar and an outdoor patio. Guess we are now forced to go back…
To round out our fantastic weekend, Ryan and I celebrated his birthday yesterday with massages followed by Alsacian wine and sushi from Asian Spice – don’t underestimate this place. It is really good. For dessert, the carrot cake I made for the Valentine’s Day baby – Ryan!
Since it was Valentine’s Day, I’ll take a second to be mushy. To me, love is very similar to this local exploration. When you find someone you truly connect with, the everyday is still exciting and fun. It’s easy to feel in love while in Paris or Greece, or lazily lounging on the beach in Tahiti. What makes for lasting, real love is when you find that same happiness in the everyday.