Monday, April 1, 2013

A Weekend In DC

cherry blossoms & Washington Monument
I blog about my travels, but don't really talk about my hometown. That's because I tend to stay in the suburbs and don't venture inside the city often. It's such a shame because DC is just a short metro ride away and really has a lot to offer.

My cousin was in town over the weekend and asked if I could take Friday off so we can spend a day inside the city. I happily agreed as I already had plans to be off from work. She wanted to check out Union Market, then also casually mentioned that there's a ramen shop inside. Umm... no need to ask this glutton twice!

Along with my mom, we spent a girls day in the city playing tourists. First stop: Union Market. I didn't know anything about this place, and hadn't even heard of it until my cousin brought it up. According to SIL, it's now the hip place to be. What rock have I been living under?! DH was also shocked because he remembers going there often with his grandma when he was growing up. He described it as a place that smelled and looked like a dump (this was in the mid-80s). His sharpest memory was the long walk, especially the part over some bridge that seemingly went on forever. I teased and said his stubby legs probably couldn't keep up. The world (and bridge) just looks bigger from a child's point of view.
Union Market
The neighborhood surrounding Union Market isn't the nicest -- it's fine in the daytime, but I'd use common sense after dark. The market itself is housed in a white, warehouse-like building with a very airy, bright, and modern feel. There looked to be garage doors along the main entrance, so I imagine they'd be lifted come summer time. The place actually reminds me of San Francisco's Ferry Building, in the shop setup and offerings, but on a smaller scale. I recall seeing booths for coffee, meat & butcher, soup, cheese, tea [photo below], granola, bread, and the like.
at Union Market
Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market
Unfortunately we didn't see a ramen booth, so we settled for an oyster bar instead. We sampled tuna tartare [photo below], oysters and chowder [photo above left]. I like the taste and texture of oysters, but my tongue isn't discerning, so I'm useless with a review. I felt the chowder portion could be bigger, but they made up for it with chunky ingredients. The tuna tartare tasted quite good, with a touch of spiciness, lime zest, and a good amount of tuna bites. Unfortunately I couldn't help but compare our meal to Hog Island Oysters from when I was in SF (which was amazing), so I was a bit disappointed.
tuna tartare at Union Market

We also sampled Korean BBQ tacos from TaKorean (which I believe originated as a food truck). The menu and ordering style is set up like Chipotle's -- you pick a meat, a vegetable, and toppings. I wasn't sure what to make of the flavoring. On one hand, I feel I've had more authentic Korean flavors in Annandale (unofficially considered "Korean Town" in the DC metro area), but my low tolerance for spicy food allowed me to enjoy the kimchi and sriracha sauce of the tacos. I do wish they had the option of flour tortillas because I'm not a fan of the corn version (blame my Americanized tongue). If memory serves, one taco is $3.50 or three tacos for $9.
Takorean tacos at Union Market

After lunch, we metro-ed over to the National Mall mainly to see the cherry blossoms but to also check out museum exhibits. Personally, I think DC is the most beautiful during cherry blossom season. Though I don't know how much weight you can place on my opinion, considering I've only gone to see the flowers about 5 times in the span of 20+ years. We try to make a point to walk all the way around the Tidal Basin every time, to enjoy the scenery and check out the memorials.

We made the trip too early this year and so instead of a sea of pretty pink, all we saw were brown twigs with some buds [photo below]. For out-of-towners trying to time their visit during peak bloom, I highly recommend consulting this bloom guide which documents historical and projected peak dates. The best time this year is actually the upcoming weekend. I'll probably be too lazy to make another trip out though.
cherry blossoms
World War II Memorial
[photo above] One half of the World War II memorial.
[photo below] Outfit details here. Although geared towards kids, I couldn't resist a silly photo with this cute beaver.
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Day two of my cousin's stay was spent in Georgetown, DC's mecca of all things preppy. I lost count of how many bow ties, olive J.Crew downtown field jackets, and Longchamp bags I saw. Not hating, I was carrying the latter myself.

Georgetown lacks a metro stop, so it's more inconvenient to visit if you don't have a car, or if you're like me, horrible at parallel parking. On nice weather days, I like to take the metro to the Rosslyn stop, then walk about 15 mins across the Key Bridge to one end of M Street (the main shopping area). I highly recommend this walk because as you cross the Potomac River, you see a gorgeous view of Georgetown along the water, as well as the Washington Monument off in the distance. Another alternative is to take a bus from the Foggy Bottom metro stop (for $1-2), which will take you to select locations along M Street. A tip to riding the metro: stand on the right, walk on the left of escalators. It drives the locals crazy when there's a bottleneck during rush hour.

Friends in real life rave about Luke's Lobster and blogging friends SPG & Jean only have good things to say about lobster rolls, so I figured, why not kill two birds with one stone. We opted to try Noah's Ark [photo below], which includes three rolls split in half (shrimp, crab, and lobster), two drinks, and two bags of chips for $42. Yum. I couldn't decide on a favorite between the three types of meat. I personally wouldn't mind more seasoning, but if you like the fresh flavor of seafood, then you'd probably enjoy these rolls.
Noah's Ark @ Luke's Lobster
There's also a Luke's location in Penn Quarter and some in NYC. The one we were at is actually located next door to the original Georgetown Cupcakes. After lunch, I saw a few people lingering outside looking like they had won the lottery because there was no line for cupcakes. Unfortunately I pooped on their party and told them the new location is now on M Street, with lines even longer than before. I recall overhearing someone say the wait was 2+ hours long. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I wanted to tell them we were headed to Baked & Wired, a cupcakes shop that rivals Georgetown Cupcakes, but felt uncomfortable since I hadn't tried it myself and didn't know what the wait was like. Thank goodness the line for pastries was much shorter, about 15 mins or so. The coffee line was even shorter and people can bypass the main line and go right on in.

We chose to try three cupcakes for $11.50. From left to right [photo below]: cherry blossom, red velvet, and strawberry. I had Georgetown Cupcakes a long time ago and wasn't impressed. I felt Baked & Wired's were bigger, more moist, and tasted better overall. My favorite of the three is the cherry blossom. It had chunks of cherries mixed in and the icing wasn't too sweet. My cousin liked the red velvet because it was the least sweet of the three. But what she really enjoyed was Baked & Wired's coffee. She's a coffee person and really liked the blend they used. Me being the fake coffee drinker that I am, opted for a chai latte. I actually found it to be quite good because the flavor wasn't overwhelming.
Baked & Wired cupcakes

Georgetown's great for shopping and I had the chance to visit a few new stores for the first time. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos, so I'll do my best at being descriptive.

- Massimo Dutti is the higher-end version of Zara with seemingly better quality and a price point to match. Two items caught my eye, a pair of chain ballerina flats and a striped dress. I didn't see my size for either, so I didn't try them on. See Elle's experience with the brand.

- My cousin wanted to check out Barbour, a name that felt familiar but I couldn't quite place. They're a British company known for their outdoor wax jackets. I ended up trying their navy Liddesdale quilted jacket with a fun floral print on the inside lining. This is when a photo would be handy, but I'll be relying on my memory instead. The sleeves were a bit roomy and long, which was perfect to cuff so the floral pattern shows. A size 4 fits me just right in the shoulders and best throughout the torso with not much room for layers underneath. A size 6 fits comfortably when I tried it on over a sweatshirt. I passed because I needed time to mull over.

- I've been using an old purple round chair with metal legs as my reading chair. I'm an adult now and I figured it's time to find a more mature reading chair as a replacement. We stopped by Jonathan Adler, which reminds me of a higher-end C. Wonder that also sells furniture. The colors and patterns are bright and trendy with a preppy feel. It's a pretty store but most items were out of my price range. We then stopped by CB2 and I may have just found what I'm looking for in this parlour tweed chair. It's comfortable, not too big (space is limited), and not too feminine that DH would object. I love the tweed material and actually would love to get my hands on a blazer or pair of pants in that fabric. Now I just have to figure out if the chair is worth retail or if I should hold out for a sale.

That's it for a quick tour of DC. Thank you for letting me share!

31 comments:

  1. OMG! I am drooling over your food photos and it's only 10:30 AM lol. I would love to see the cherry blossom one day. I was in DC in April a few years ago but sadly, missed the peak bloom. Will keep this post in mind the next time I am there. Enjoy your week, C!

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    1. Syd, if you're ever in town again, let me know!

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  2. goodness this is a lot of words for a monday, lol. those cupcakes look so yummy! i could go for a red velvet one myself! i hadn't heard of Massimo Dutti until really recently. it just seems too expensive for what it is.

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    1. Haha! Good thing most of the post was written last night because it sure took me awhile to function this morning ;)

      I think the first Massimo Dutti store opened in the US last fall, so I'm going to wait until sale season to give them a try.

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  3. Ymmmm the lobster roll picture looks so good! The cupcakes too!

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  4. The pictures of the food look amazing!!! Those cupcakes are making my mouth water!!!

    Agi:)

    vodkainfusedlemonade.com

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  5. This is a great post! Thank you for taking the time to put it together. I'm putting every one of those places on my bucket list for the next time I have to travel to DC for work. I've never heard of Union Market either, and the photo of the tuna tartare looks SO GOOD.

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    1. (I always opt for flour tortillas over corn, too, but I figured that was my Chinese upbringing. :-P )

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    2. Hey, I'm Chinese too! I'm not sure why I didn't think of that when I realized my taste buds prefer flour tortillas (I just assumed corn tortillas = more authentic, lol). Perhaps it's from all the dumplings/wontons that we grew up eating?

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    3. Mushu wrappers = flour tortillas, of course!

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    4. How did I forget about those?! Same with slices of duck + hoisin sauce + green onions wrapped in flour tortilla! Aww man, now I'm craving some Chinese, lol!

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    5. Ooh, duck with hoisin sauce and green onions, even better! Man, now I'm going to have get Peking duck this weekend.

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  6. i love baked & wired! my sis lives in DC and she recommended that over the overrated Georgetown Cupcakes. i always ask her to bring me their bee sting bars when she comes home.

    that tuna tartare looks amazing. great foodie photos!

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    1. Thanks for the recs! I'll have to remember the bee sting bars the next time I pay them a visit.

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  7. Looks AWESOME! I want to visit DC now.

    Did you get a new camera? your pictures have all been really awesome lately. Last time you wrote about your camera you were still using a point and shoot, but I'm guessing you've since upgraded?

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    1. I like how you gave credit to a nice camera for producing awesome photos, but not my skillz. Jk, jk. It's all in the camera (and lens). I've had my new camera for about 1.5 years now. It's a step up from point-and-shoot but not a full-fledged DSLR. I definitely recommend researching mirrorless cameras if you're ever in the market for an upgrade but don't want to lug around a bulky DSLR.

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  8. Love this post! That first picture is great! And those lobster rolls look amazing! I am the same way...despite having the Strip, I stick to the suburbs for the most part.

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    1. Me too, me too. The first photo might be my favorite pic I've ever taken!

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  9. I love reading about DC, and I'm glad you don't have time for Georgetown Cupcakes, lol. It's ridiculous. I lived close by in college and lived in Foggy Bottom for a summer during law school. I was just there this weekend but really only went to Dupont Circle for a night out.

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    1. I love meeting others who know DC well! Would you mind me asking where you went to school? My nosy self went to GW for grad school.

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  10. haha being a local I love to read about reviews for DMV too! I've forwarded your post to a couple of my friends just now and they all loved it!!

    I stopped by Massimo Dutti for the first time 2 weeks ago too. To me it feels like a combination of Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and Jack Wills - my favorite stores all in one!

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    1. Glad you and your friends enjoyed this, Julia!

      I *knew* I should've stopped in Jack Wills! We went into Gant not realizing it's a mens store until the SA started giving us funny looks... and I figured Jack Wills is the same, lol. I have to remember for next time!

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  11. omg those lobster rolls!!! yum.

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  12. Your pics are gorgeous. I appreciate you writing about your visit to D.C. I live 1 hr away & rarely visit even though I want too. Thank you for providing a link to the cherry blossom bloom time guide as I've always wanted to see them again (first & last time I saw them was when I was about 5 yrs old).

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    1. Thank you! I should practice more behind the camera instead of in front all the time ;)

      I feel like the weather's still pretty cold, so I don't know how accurate the projections are. The site will be updated as experts keep an eye on the buds. I hope you're able to catch the blossoms at their peak!

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  13. Hi Christine,

    Thanks for doing this quick tour of D.C. I'll definitely check out these places in a future visit. The lobster rolls looked delicious. I'm from San Francisco and I think you're right about Union Market resembling the Ferry Building. You guys have Rappahannock Oyster Bar and we have Hog Island. =)

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    1. You got the better end of the deal though, Candice. I LOVE Hog Island and wish they would open up stores on the East Coast!

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  14. Sorry for commenting so late... I really miss DC now. I also never been to Union Market, I wish I went there before leaving!

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    1. I had forgotten you moved, SS! Perhaps a quick stop by Union Market on your next visit? :)

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  15. I walk past Luke's Lobster almost on a daily basis but never stop by. Now that I know, it's time to stop by for a lobster roll or two (or three!). Haven't had any good ones since I lived in New England.

    I never get the hype with Georgetown Cupcakes. Baked & Wired is so much better! But all the better, a hidden gem that only those in the know, know. ;)



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    1. Yes, please do try out Luke's! I'd love to hear what a New Englander thinks of the rolls.

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I'd love to hear from you. Constructive criticisms welcome!

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