Dancing bananas and surprising websites

Have you ever been to Banana Leaves at Connecticut and Florida NW? I went once when they first opened, and was pleased with the food. The bench seats were freshly varnished and stuck to my jeans, though. They have a pretty goofy website with a little dancing banana gif straight out of 1996, but they also have a pretty neat little online ordering system. It apparently doesn’t work too well in Firefox 3 on OSX (The wife’s computer, not mine), but it was fine on my work laptop (Firefox 3, XP). I just ordered dinner. I’m waiting for confirmation. The interface is a little bit three years ago, lacking the polish that we’ve become accustomed to, but it seems to work well. This is fantastic for those of us who would really like to abolish phones. I try not to ever have to talk on the phone. I did have to call them to make sure they deliver to us, although I could have just ordered and waited for them to say no, but that would have taken too much time. We’re trying to time delivery with the little Fusspot’s eating schedule so that maybe the wife and I can both eat together without a screaming baby. She’s been pretty good today, so we’re hopeful. I’ll let you know how the food is.

Happy hour at Target?

I was just at Target at DCUSA picking up some aluminum foil and some other stuff so we (read: the wife) can cook stuff to freeze for quick post-baby dining. And also so I could cook some soy-free seitan (Note: URL is not safe for work. At least, if your work doesn’t like profanity. It’s probably safe, but I just like to warn people just in case). Anyway, school is clearly back in session. The escalator into Target was mobbed, and there were literally thousands of kids running around buying up dorm supplies. Well, maybe not thousands. But a lot. And I love that the vast majority seemed to be coming up the escalators, meaning that they walked or took the Metro rather than driving. Maybe that’s more a function of not owning cars than green city living, but I’ll take what I can get.

A little weekend getaway

Originally uploaded by thetejon

The wife had the brilliant idea of heading out on our 84th babymoon before this kid finally arrives. Not that it hasn’t traveled enough in utero – it’s been to San Fransisco, NYC, Paris, LA, Boston, Las Vegas, Nashville, three MLB stadiums, an NBA finals game . . . And now it’s been to a nice little bed and breakfast near Charles Town, WV. Our first stop was Harpers Ferry. We wandered around, had lunch, and took some pictures. We passed on the hiking, which is supposed to be nice, but since the wife is 39 weeks along, and my foot is still not totally recovered (The only shoes I can get on my foot at the moment are flip flops and my work shoes – my running shoes and hiking shoes both require more flexibility in my toe than I currently have), we didn’t walk too far. And there were a ton of people tubing on the river, which looked really nice. The B&B; is in a town called Berryville, which unfortunately closes down at 6pm. Since we arrived at about 4, we didn’t really get a good feel for the town. But we had a nice dinner in nearby Winchester. The B&B; itself was really nice. We’ve been encouraged to come back with the baby, as the proprietor is waiting to be a grandmother and has apparently tired of waited. However, it’s not a really large place, and the sound tends to carry a bit (I could hear Law and Order all the way down the hall, even with the door closed), so I’m not sure the rest of the guests would appreciate it. The next day, we were served a great breakfast and then we headed out. Our first stop was a consignment store in Charles Town. We passed it on the way in and it was closed, so we went back and bought some baby clothes and two books (One was a Harold and the purple crayon book, which perhaps only my mom will appreciate). Then we were off to the wineries! We stopped at three – Veramar, Bluemont, and Willowcroft. All three were very nice – much prettier than the average wineries. Bluemont, for example, is high up on a hill and offers a view of Tysons Corner thirty miles or so off in the distance. We stopped at the Leesburg outlets on the way back, which was probably a huge mistake given that it was Labor Day weekend, but we survived. And then back home. The cat didn’t even seem too irritated with us.

From the farmers market to your table at Poste

If you’re looking for a unique and interesting dinner in DC on a Thursday night, look no further. You have to make reservations in advance (Which requires a form. A form to fax in to get a dinner reservation. I feel so important.), and it books up (Although not last night), but the “To Market/To Market” dinner at Poste at Gallery Place is a fantastic way to spend a Thursday evening. We were supposed to go last week for our anniversary (My surprise for the wife, thanks to my coworker for the recommendation), but they were already booked. So we went tonight, and were the only ones doing the special dinner. The evening begins with greetings from the chef and your server. Then you’re whisked off to the farmers market across the street. We got a tour from the guy who runs it, and got to hear about all the different farmers who sell things there, and a little about what they sell. It’s a very warm and inviting atmosphere. And there’s a good chance you’ve eaten food from there even if you didn’t go yourself – many DC chefs show up there at opening with huge carts to take back to their respective restaurants. After the tour, we got a tour of the garden at Poste, which is inside their charming little courtyard, just past people drinking fruity martinis and glasses of wine. They grow all sorts of stuff to supplement what they buy. We got to taste their spinach leaves, which the chef picked while we were standing there. And then dinner. It’s a little pricey, and the organic wine pairing is also not cheap, but it’s a ton of food, and it’s delicious. We started with amuse-bouche. There was a salmon tartar with dijon mustard in a funny sweetish cone that was really good. My favorite was the yellowtail with fruit. They had fried squash blossom with cheese, and a very salty oyster. The second course was a gazpacho that I didn’t like very much. But the wife thought it was great, so I conclude that I just don’t like gazpacho. Next was a tomato salad, which was great. Different kinds of tomatoes, prepared different ways, with some fresh cheese from the market. And then fish with a mushroom sauce for me, and a pistou (Apparently French pesto – who knew?). Which brings me to another point – I mentioned when making the reservation that the wife eats seafood but no other meat, and that she can’t stand mushrooms, and they made sure not to serve her either one. That was followed by the “main course”. All the courses were small, but it ended up being plenty of food. I suppose that’s what happens when you have so many courses. Anyway, my main course was rabbit, which was delicious. I would never have ordered rabbit if I were choosing from a menu, but it was good. A little more meaty than chicken, I thought. The wife had ravioli with cheese and nettles from the garden, which was also delicious. That’s the hidden benefit of a partner who doesn’t eat meat – if your dinner has meat in it, you can taste hers and not share yours. Marry a vegetarian who can cook, kids – you won’t regret it. And finally the dessert course. There was a cheesecake with blackberries and sweet corn ice cream (Yes, I know that’s weird. Yes, it was good). There was a chocolate mousse, and olive oil cake with rosemary, dates, and creme fraiche ice cream. Just when we thought we were done, they brought out peaches, poached in paper, with a honey cheese sauce. They were fantastic, as well. And on the way out, they gave us little mason jars, one with pickled heirloom tomatoes, and one with apricot jam. If I did it again, I might skip the wine pairing. They were all good – I was especially surprised by the muscat that they served first, because I don’t generally like sweet wine, but it was very light and pleasant. But the wines were all white or rose. I would have liked a nice dry red. I suppose it doesn’t pair with summer vegetables, but they could make up an excuse and no one would call them on it. Except maybe super food snobs, and no one cares what they think, anyway. I wish I’d written down the wines we had (Well, I had, and the wife tried. It’s funny – the tables are high enough that you can’t really see that she’s pregnant), but I didn’t think to bring a notepad. The service was great. We got a lot of attention from a number of different people, and never had to wait long when we needed a server. The atmosphere in the restaurant was good, although the bathroom is quite a hike (Through the hotel lobby, around the corner, up the stairs, down the hall). The bar had a very Happy Hour crowd, although it wasn’t unpleasant. At the end of the night, we were quite happy with our evening. It was a lot of money, but it was also a lot of food, all of it delicious (Unless you don’t like gazpacho). If you love white wines and some sweetish light reds, go for the wine pairing, but if you’re more of a dry red person, you’re probably better off ordering your own wine. But we would definitely go back. And I think we’ll be visiting the farmers market sometimes, too – it’s nice to know about a market during the week, since so many are open only on a weekend day.

Finally made it to Commonwealth

Originally uploaded by thetejon

A friend and I met our wives at Commonwealth last night. It had been girls night – they met up in Arlington and had dinner. So the guys went to the Nationals game to watch the Rockies pummel the Nationals, I still haven’t seen a Nationals win in the new stadium. Anyway, since the wife is 37 weeks pregnant now, she got to choose the location, and she chose one near us. It was a beautiful night, so we sat outside. This means I didn’t really get a feel for the inside, but maybe we can do that next time. They were serving from their pub menu since it was late. We got an order of fries, which I didn’t actually try, but the table consensus was positive. They are large chunks of potato, so if that’s the way you like your fries, you’re in luck. And we tried the Scotch eggs, which were very good. And the service was good. I think my only complaint was the lack of any sort of description on the menu. We thought at first it was just the pub menu that didn’t have descriptions, but they brought us what I assumed was the regular menu, as well, because it had the drinks, and it didn’t have descriptions, either. Since there is a ton of stuff on the menu that’s a bit out of the ordinary, at least for this side of the pond, it seems that maybe descriptions on the menu would be nice. But if that’s the biggest complaint from a self-proclaimed complainer, I think the trip was a resounding success. I’m sure we’ll be back – my father-in-law has already been informed that there is a bar with outdoor seating and bubble and squeak on the menu, so it would take the intervention of the health department or some equally powerful entity to keep us from revisiting Commonwealth next time he comes down to visit.

The CommonWealth Gastropub is almost open

PoP Exclusive: First Look Inside the New Restaurant CommonWealth Opening Aug. 6th

Even with all the craziness it had a very warm and open feel. I was excited to see checkers and chess tables, an open bar area and some very comfortable seats. I am super stoked to try the place.

I hate it when restaurants don’t update their website. But I guess I’ll forgive them if the place ends up being as cool as people say it will be. I haven’t been past it yet – with the bum foot and pregnant wife, I haven’t been doing as much walking around as I might otherwise. But PoP’s pictures of the place look great, and this thread at realbeer.com suggests the beer selection will be good. This is also a great option for me next time I work from home and the wife admonishes me, “No PotBelly or Five Guys for lunch today!”. Although I don’t suppose obeying the letter and ignoring the spirit will win me many brownie points.

Dinner at The Heights on a lovely Thursday night

Birthing class got out early tonight, and we don’t have any food in the house. It’s a combination of my bum foot and the wife’s almost-full-term baby that leads to us not going to the grocery store. So we went to The Heights for dinner around 8pm. Thursday night is generally a nice night out, and tonight is some of the nicest weather we’ve had in a while. The Heights was full but not overcrowded. Most of the seats were taken, indoors and out. It was a diverse crowd – a pregnant couple with a friend on one side of us, a gay couple on the other. A woman and two young boys were being seated as we left. A couple walked in just in front of us, apparently having walked from somewhere nearby (I choose to believe that they walked from home rather than parking in the neighborhood). The food and the service were good. The wife says she’s not sure that we’ve ever had a bad server there, and I certainly can’t think of anything to contradict her. And I was impressed by their mixed greens salad that comes with all the entrees. It was plain lettuce, but it had cherry tomatoes, jicama, and beets, which is pretty exotic and healthful for your average restaurant. The buffalo shrimp appetizer was delicious, although a little light on shrimp. I recommend saving some bread to mop up the extra sauce rather than eating it with a fork, as someone at my table for two did this evening. Their rotating beer taps were not entirely exciting this time – Brooklyn Lager and a Sam Adams seasonal – but the idea of rotating taps is cool. The table next to us was raving about the bread pudding sundae, which we didn’t order because we were both full. And we found that Merkado, a restaurant in Logan Circle owned by the same people, is closing at the end of August. In its place will be “a neighborhood place” called Commissary, hoping to emulate Busboys and Poets and Tryst. They hope to grab all the trendy kids who will move into the new building across from Whole Foods and take all their money. I’m a little sad that Merkado is closing – the wife and I had a lovely dinner there for my 29th birthday – but this sounds like an interesting replacement, although calling it “Commissary” is a little too hipster for my tastes.


Beautiful day for Preakness yesterday. We had a huge group this year. It’s a family tradition for my wife, ever since her dad started going years ago. This is my fourth year going. We sit in the stands with the civilized people, rather than in the infield with the drunken idiots. We arrived yesterday just before the 6th race of the day. I like to do a little betting, probably two $2 bets per race, more or less. Usually a little more on the actual Preakness race. This year, we brought a friend, Heather, whose father is a pretty serious horse race enthusiast. He sent her some tips on the races. On his advice, I bet a $2 exacta on the sixth race, on #3 Roshani and #4 Lady Digby. Imagine my surprise as they came around to finish in just that order, just ahead of #1 Valbenny, the pre-race favorite. I won $21.40 on that bet, which was a pretty nice way to start the day. We didn’t have any tips for race 7, so I had to make my own decisions. I liked #1, Roman Emperor, one of the favorites, and the wife liked #5, Da’ Tara. I was even more surprised to win that exacta, too, paying off $12. The word on the 8th race was #8, True to Tradition. I put down a $2 bet for a friend on him to place, and one for myself. I made my (so far) only mistake on the betting machine and accidentally bet him to show, but figured I’d keep the ticket anyway. When he finished second, both tickets paid, $5.20 and $4.20. I didn’t win anything else on the night, but I did get to see an impressive win in the Preakness by Big Brown. It sure looks like he has a good shot at the Triple Crown. Last time we had one of those was the year I was born. I didn’t see the race. And I ended the day up $10 (Well, not including what I spent on things other than betting). Any day of betting where you end up with more than you came with is a good day of betting. After the race, we went to Chiapparelli’s in Little Italy in Baltimore for dinner. It was good. They did a nice job serving our huge party, although they were a little late seating us. When you arrive 15 minutes early for a reservation, and get seated 10 minutes late, that’s kind of annoying. But it didn’t spoil our evening.

Awful website, great restaurant

The wife and I had dinner at Rumba Cafe in Adams Morgan last night. It was a 1000 point reservation at Open Table, which puts us almost to a $50 gift certificate to any restaurant that deals with Open Table, which is awesome. The Rumba Cafe website seems to be under maintenance this morning (I think it should be euthanized, personally (And did you know that “euthanized” isn’t in the default Firefox dictionary? Weird)), but no matter. We sat outside, since it was so nice last night. The service was very good, the beer mediocre, and the food was excellent. I had the steak with a fried egg on top, served with rice and black beans and a fried plantain. Reminded me of Costa Rican “casados”, which I love. The wife had some kind of fish, I forget what, but it was good, too. I highly recommend Adams Morgan when it’s not overrun with kids (By kids I mean 23-year-olds). 8PM on a Tuesday it’s alive with people (Plenty of kickballers and others just out for dinner or a drink) but doesn’t have that “everyone around you is wasted” vibe that it gets on the weekend. It was just a nice spring evening.

Eat Well DC hires new chef – Washington Business Journal –

Eat Well DC hires new chef | Washington Business Journal

Eat Well DC Restaurant Group has hired a new chef to oversee the company’s four D.C. restaurants. Branden Levine, who was formerly chef and owner of The Tavern Restaurant in Heathsville, Va., replaces Sal Del Rosario, who was with the company for 18 months.

This is interesting news. I’ve been to Merkado once, and to The Heights numerous times (How smug are we about being there opening night?). I have no idea what’s going to change with a new chef. The food there is good, although I liked what I had at Merkado better than most of what I’ve had at The Heights. There’s something about the food at The Heights that knocks it down a notch. It’s not that the food is bad, because it isn’t. It just feels like they could tweak some recipes just a little bit and be much better. So, we’ll see what happens.