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Exploring the Everyday in Life and Love

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.

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Food and Drink, Life

 

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Out and About in Bend, Oregon: Part 2 – Land of Exceptional Beverages

After my first trip to Bend, Oregon I endearingly termed it “The Land of Exceptional Beverages.”  (It should really be their motto, perhaps I should petition them).  Adding to their goliath standing as some of the most fantastic beer to ever hit my lips, the breweries in Bend also have incredible food.  You can’t really go wrong with any brewery you choose, but here are a couple of my favorites:

Deschutes Brewery – Deschutes is probably my most favorite of all the breweries.  The beers are fantastic, food is absolutely delicious and the staff is always friendly.  Plus, I bought my first growler there, so maybe I am just bias.  My go-to beer is the Green Lakes Organic; however, their Mirror Pond Pale Ale is also tasty and has picked up lots of awards over the years including the 2010 Gold Medal for Classic English-Style Pale Ale at the Great American Beer Festival.  Or if you are more in the mood for something heavier or something to warm you up during the cooler months, be sure to get the Obsidian Stout – very good and chocolatey! 

My favorite food to get at the pub is whatever mac and cheese they have at the time.  Last year when I went, they had a lobster mac that was yummy and this year’s mac was even tastier – Cajun shrimp mac and cheese!  I will say, it is definitely spicy (and I cook with habeneros), so if you don’t like spicy food, don’t get it.  Other favorites from the rest of our group: Adam loved his elk burger and  french onion soup and we all agreed that the sweet potato fries were as my sister says, “bomb.”

Cascade Lakes Brewery – Cascade is a little out of the way compared to some of the others, but is definitely worth the effort.  I have also been told that it is a great place to stop in after a day of skiing on Bachelor (I have only visited Bend in September so I can’t say that I have experienced it first hand, but I can imagine that it would be awesome!).  My first time at Cascade, I made that common mistake that I mentioned in the last post – I did not order what Ryan did!  He ordered the blackened buffalo burger and it is in my top five all time best burger.  Every time that I have been to Cascade since, I have ordered the blackened buffalo burger.  I also usually go with the 20″ Brown (a deliciously malty beer) to accompany my tasty lunch.  Lots of people also like the Blonde Bombshell, which is good and more mild than most of the beers in Bend, making it a good choice for those that don’t necessarily like really hoppy beers (blasphemy!).    

10 Barrel – The newest of the breweries, 10 Barrel seems to really have gotten it right!  So much pressure is on if you plan to open up in Bend – lots of strong competition!  Still, they did a really great job of creating a good atmosphere, having a really nice outdoor space and putting together some really good beers.  My favorite was the Apocalypse IPA, which actually has crept its way up to become one of my all time favorite beers.  Did not have a chance to eat here at all, but I know Ryan and his parents liked it!

McMenamins – McMenamins was a Catholic school back in the day and was turned into a beer-drinking resort.  There are a few different bars throughout the “campus” and outdoor fire pits that you can sit around while sipping on the nectar of the Gods.  If you go to McMenamins and could only order one beer (In what world would this HORRIBLE circumstance occur, I am not sure, but let’s be prepared for anything), the one beer should be a Rubinator.  This Frankenstein concoction is a mix of two of their brews: the Ruby (a raspberry ale) and the Terminator (a stout).  For any of you that used to mix all of the pop (soda for those of you unfortunate fools who grew up outside the midwest) in the self-serve fountain station, this is what you were trying to achieve.  It’s nice to know that the common sense idea that if you like one thing and you like another, you will love them if mixed together does work from time to time!  Doesn’t always turn out that your childish ideas manifest into fantastic ones, so relish in this!  

Getting Rowdy

I love, love, LOVE microbrews and especially the beers that are all hoped up.  However, sometimes you just wanna get out and get a little rowdy.  Microbrews are not always the best choice for this….so, we went out and explored some of the other bars in Bend….

The Wall – The second night that we were in Bend (my sister’s first night), we all went to The Wall.  This bar seems to be a true local’s bar and while I understand that some local’s bars aren’t as warm and friendly to outsiders, the bartender at The Wall was absurd and incredibly rude – in fact, she was a bitch.  Jason was ordering a round for all of us and started ordering with her.  She walked away to get those drinks and when she came back he asked for the rest.  Her response…”you’re killing me.  Are you going to be ordering any more drinks?”  Now, I realize that in text only this might not be so bad.  Perhaps she was going for the sarcastic/flirty approach and trying to garner a bigger tip.  Absolutely NOT the case.  She was dead serious and clearly annoyed at us.  Let me also say, this is even more unbelievable to me as we were ordering grey goose gimlets and Hennessey.  Not only did she have the personality of a urinal cake, but she was also as dumb as a sack of hammers.   

On Saturday night, Ryan’s parents put together a bbq for all of us that was incredibly yummy.  Afterwards, Ryan and Adam decided to stay back and kick it on the patio because they wanted to get up early and do a big ride on Sunday.  Their version of taking it easy was to finish almost an entire fridge full of beers.  The rest of us (Jess, Dre, Mike, Steve, Jason and Jeff) decided to unleash the fury on the poor, unsuspecting town of Bend.  

Velvet Lounge – We started off our night here and it’s a great little spot to do just that.  The place is small and there is limited seating but we managed to get a snag a corner section pretty quickly.  Red bull vodkas woke us ladies up and got us ready to go!  Meanwhile, Jason started on his grey goose gimlets, which he drank all night and introduced to all of us (really tasty!) and Steve went for the always classy 40 of PBR. 

Summit – The Summit is mainly a mediocre spot to chill and get some beers.  However, like many things, it is what you make of it.  On this particular night, we turned this place into a dance party that could only be rivaled by a cheesy dance movie ala Save the Last Dance or Step It Up.  We were busting out moves like the running man, the fisherman, and my old roommate Liz’s “space dance” just to name a few.  There was also a whole lot of putting our hands up in the air, like its a stick up, stick up, stick up.  And when Taio Cruz  came on, we all threw our hands up in the air sometimes, saying aaaaayo.  I wanna celebrate and live my life, saying aaaaaayo.  And then the DJ would put on Usher and…Haaands up, and suddenly we all got our haaaands up.  Needless to say, the next day my side was sore from all the aggressive fist pumping that I was doing.  While we were getting dressed for brunch the next day, Jess started to try to dance to the music (she’s always dancing) and started with a calm little move until she realized how sore she was…..”I think I tore my rotator cuff dancing last night!”  Hahahaha. 

Seven – So, after showing everyone up at Summit, we were off to Seven – a “nightclub” in Bend.  What a joke!  We also went here for maybe 15 minutes one of the other nights.  During that time, someone threw a pool ball at Jason, hitting him in the back and somebody else was trying to start something with my sister mistaking her for someone with some crazy name.  Why did we go back?!  Just as the elusive number of licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop – the world may never know.  This time was more entertaining for me because there was a go-go dancer cage and all of the yahoos I was with got up in there.  I remained uncaged and took photos of the hilariousness. 

As a side note, I don’t know how I have not mentioned this yet….Mike’s arm was in a sling this whole time after having shoulder surgery just a week or so before.  Yes, Mike and his “bat wing” were up in the cage too!  While he was up there cutting a rug (my favorite old lady expression), he managed to shake loose his therapeutic ball that he is supposed to use to work his arm muscles.  Once our dancing fiend noticed that he had lost this, Dre turned to me and in a dead-serious tone said, “I know I am going to find it.  Let’s go find the ball.”  So, there we were crouching down with our cell phones scouring the dance floor and every nook and cranny of the room for a black therapy ball.  Eventually, we gave up on our quest and we all waited until the bar was clearing out for the night.  Finally Mike learned from a very dense bartender that she had found it and thrown it away.  Unbelievable.     

JC’s – A sportsbar, JC’s is cool if you want to chill, chat, play some pool, or load up the jukebox.  It also can be fun if you have a ridiculous bunch of folks who are all a little “three sheets to incoherent.”  JC’s was also the host of a major turning point for Jess and Dre.  While I was trying to get another round, my sister bounded over, shoved her phone in my face and yelled, “look what comes up when I google giblet!!!”  I immediately started laughing.  She thought I was laughing at her google findings and continued to try to discuss them with me.  “It’s a gimlet with an ‘m’ not giblet with a ‘b!'”  I finally managed to correct her.  For the entire weekend she thought they were called vodka giblets.  While Jason and I made fun of her, she called Dre over to back her up.  Sadly, yes, they both had thought it was giblet…A little while later, Jason and I tried to order girly shots while Mariah Carey was pumping from the jukebox, but we were too slow!  Turned out we would need to take gangsta shots instead.  Night went from there……

Somewhere during one of these nights, Ryan and I paid a visit to the dumpling cart.  SUCH A GOOD IDEA!  These dumplings are very, very good.  Find them and enjoy!

All and all, if you don’t have a good time in Bend, you won’t have a good time anywhere.  If you prefer a more chill mode and enjoy microbrews (this is me) then you will love all of Bend’s breweries and will have plenty to do if you try to make the rounds of all the brewpubs to sample the panoply of beers!  If you want to go out and be redonkey (my sister), then you can go out and do that too.  Or, you can combine the two ventures into one incredible weekend…trust me, I did and it was fantastic!  Such a good vacation!!!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Food and Drink, Travel

 

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