Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Rare Bulleted-List Blog Post

There are a few things I want to tell you:
  • I went to a speakeasy tonight. Yep, a speakeasy, even though it's 2010, so there's no need for that underground bullshiz anymore. Still, because I've got respect for old-timey, hipstery stuff that only exists in big cities, I'm not even gonna tell you where it was. Sorry. What I will tell you is that I sat at a very small table with a very tall boy, & that we couldn't get in without reservations (disclaimer: I might be making this up, but I think it's true). And that I drank something pink topped with foam that turned out to be made of an egg white, which freaked me out more than a little - as in, I had to keep not telling myself ridiculous things like, "There's a chicken fetus in this beverage!" I also drank part of a Georgian mint julep that I couldn't finish because brandy is strong & apparently I'm a wuss. But the fact that I tried is big news because, hey, remember this?

  • I have a new scarf, located via CheapChicDaily & snagged for $7.99 on sale from New York & Company. It's faux, so don't get all PETA on me, but it's also sort of absurd, even for me. When I wear it, complete strangers sort of stare me down awkwardly, trying to determine whether I actually have a black squirrel or a skinny terrier draped around my neck. But lemme tell ya - it's warm, guys, & it makes me feel like a doddering old Jewish woman who lives in one of those senior living centers disguised as fancy apartments. (Clevelanders, I'm thinking Menorah Park. You dig?)


  • I've been going to bed circa 3:30 a.m. every single night for the past week. I don't know why, & I don't know how to stop. My body hates me, & I spend every morning wishing I were dead rather than awake. I also have to work all weekend - like, overnighters. Bottom line? My life is one big zombie invasion, minus the cool pop culture cred. Please send Ambien.

  • I'm eagerly awaiting the posting of photos from last weekend's urban photo shoot in NYC, courtesy of the lovely Wild and Crazy Pearl (who has not blogged since the 18th! AhemI'mwaitingahemmm). She had us do some fun things, like pose with Christmas lights at Cafe Lalo (it's from "You've Got Mail"!) & stop in the middle of crosswalks to capture that fun "Sex & the City" vibe. (Admission: I have never seen "Sex & the City." Ever.) She was kind enough to post a couple previews for me, including this one of me, sitting on strangers' steps & looking more than a little nervous because they'd just come to the door, presumably to inquire why I was sitting on their steps:
That's all. Nothing special. Just wanted to check in & tell you that I went to a speakeasy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Waffling: The Belgians Do It Best

I took The Great DC Brunch Tour of 2009-2010 on the road last weekend when I traveled to that other city, NYC, for work. Mixing business with pleasure & playing the part of a New York vagabond, I packed a meager four outfits in a shockingly compact shoulder bag & took a train north to spend three nights in the Big Apple, where I stayed with a different friend (all former coworkers!) each night.

I should first note that if I ever conducted a Great Mac & Cheese Tour (OMGsecondbestideaI'veveerhad), I'd definitely hit up New York for the bulk of those reviews, considering I ate no fewer than - don't judge me - three different mac dishes during my visit. But let's get back on topic. The topic is waffles. Ohhhh, the waffles.

On Saturday morning, I joined the three friends I stayed with (they're all friends, too!) at the Stuyvesant Town location of Petite Abeille, a Belgian NYC chain. Rarely have I been as jazzed about a brunch menu as I was about theirs - because what better place to grab a Belgian waffle than from the Belgians themselves?! Fine, our waiter was a Syrian transplant to Brooklyn, but that's entirely beside the point.

Upon delivery to our table, I was disappointed to discover that the waffle was pretty small. Upon tasting it, however, I promptly declared it the best waffle I'd ever eaten. In my life. And let me tell you, my life has seen a lot of waffles. I would even dare go so far as to label myself a connoisseur, so, you know, this is serious stuff.

Sadly, my little waffle-ironed piece of heaven came sans side dishes, which meant that once the glory was complete, my stomach was still a'grumblin' - because even a few bites of deliciousness, if served solo, do not a full meal make. Luckily, I have a bff who is mysteriously disinterested in breakfast potatoes, so I scarfed savored hers - mashed potatoes with onions & carrots, a traditional Belgian side dish. I couldn't put syrup on them because as much as I like syrup, even I can admit that it's not a carrot-friendly condiment, but for once, that wasn't a strike in the Bad Breakfast Potatoes column.

Good Belgian God. Everything was so good. My stomach hates me just for remembering all of it, only because I can't go back, like, tomorrow.


Where's your favorite NYC restaurant? It need not be a brunch spot. But while we're on the topic, WHERE CAN I GET MORE WAFFLES?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The One Where I Get a Little Self-Esteemy & You Wait for Me to Return to Normal

I write because it's what I do. I write because when I stop writing, I stop knowing who I am. I write because my brain works in paragraphs & commas, because I'm more comfortable typing ampersands than continuing spoken sentences. Because it's the only way I can feel - feel alive, feel intelligent, feel talented, feel anything. And mostly, as simple as it is, I write because I'm a writer - because even when my job says I'm something else, writing is all that has ever made me entirely me.

I blog because I'm a writer, & also because I'm vain (as all bloggers are). I don't blog because I think my life is phenomenally interesting or because I think that you should care so much about it. Instead, I write because my life is average & so are my thoughts, but if I can explain them to you in a way that draws you in & piques your interest, without ever exaggerating or lying, then I'm becoming a better writer. I blog to make my life beautiful. And really, that makes me no more vain than a filmmaker who creates films he hopes others will want to watch, or a musician who sings because she wants others to want to listen to her voice. Writers are artists - & art needs appreciation, an audience, an outlet.

I've always been told not to blog for an audience - to blog for myself. But I can't. I can write for myself, in journals & on paper & in this Macbook that holds every secret I've ever put to the keyboard. But blogging? I blog for you, because I want you to want to read the things I say - because that's what bloggers want.

But blogging is a little tough on my soul sometimes.

I try not to care how many comments I get or how many readers I've acquired during my two-&-a-half year stint on this blog. I try not to compare myself to the bloggers I read & respect who garner dozens upon dozens of comments on every post, no matter what they say or how well it's written or whether it's anything worth reading (though, of course, it so often is). I try not to wonder why so many bloggers with enviable followings are also those with the poorest writing skills or the least interesting stories. I try to stay positive, to be encouraging, to realize that others blog for the same reasons I do. I try to be happy for them, with them & because of them, & I try not to be negative toward them or envious of them.

But it's difficult. My words, even when they're on stupid topics that mean nothing at all - they're words I put a lot of care into. They're words I'm proud of, because I'm proud of my ability to write the way I do - the way I think, the way I feel, in a voice that is distinctly & definitively mine. I can't help but wonder, though: Am I doing something wrong?

I think people just want more. Most readers, it seems, want to know things: They want to know about dates & careers & kids & nights out on the town. They want photos of decorated apartments, of new babies, of wedding dresses. They don't just want words. They want intimate details of other peoples' lives, & I'm loath to provide those. I don't want too much of me on here. I want what's on here to be on here - & I want that to be enough. But it's not. No matter how witty or well-spoken I am, the topics I choose to write about simply fail to entice the sheer numbers of readers that other bloggers' content does.

And look, I know it's not just about numbers. I definitely know. Every time someone tells me they read my blog, or they love my blog, or they saw something on my blog that inspired them to [insert something cool & tingles-inducing here], I'm reminded that it's not about the numbers. But that doesn't mean I don't still wonder.

I'm trying to blog for myself and for you - to give you what you want while staying true to myself & to what I'm comfortable with. But so often, so many late nights as I pore through my Google Reader, scrolling & browsing & commenting, I can't help but wonder: What am I doing wrong? And how long before I get tired of doing it all wrong & stop doing it altogether?

Is it worth it? And even if it's not, can I stop?

But I know the answer: I'm a writer. So it doesn't matter. I can't stop.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cliches Exist for a Reason (I'm Talking to You, March for Lifers)

I love a good cliche. In fact, I love them so much that my very thoughtful roommate bought me The Facts on File: Dictionary of Cliches for Chanukah (he knows me well!). Presently, there are a few cliches out there that have to do with talking: "Don't speak unless spoken to," for example, and "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." (Thanks, Thumper.) I'm sure there are others.

After watching this Sum of Change video from my friend Plight of the Pumpernickel, who took to the National Mall last week to interview anti-choicers at their massive March for Life rally, I would like to introduce a new cliche: Don't speak unless you know what the dickens you're talking about.



Come back to our fair city when you've read a newspaper or two. Better yet: Read the bills!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beer Aficionado Mad Libs!

After tonight's (very tasty) dinner at Birch & Barley, it has come to my attention that nearly anyone could fake their way into looking like a beer aficionado, if only briefly, by filling in the blanks of the following sentence: "It's got some nice [insert adjective here] notes & just a hint of [tantalizing noun], which will really bring out the [obscure flavor] in your [overly verbose entree]." Our server was knowledgeable & generous, but his vocab led us to the realization that in order to mimic beer lovers' jargon, you need only intersperse the essential "notes" with the similarly crucial "hops" to fool a less savvy beer drinker into thinking you really know your brew.

Like me. I am a less savvy beer drinker. I drink like I'm from a small town in Ohio.

What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means I mostly drink Miller Lite, when given my druthers. (What are druthers, anyway?) When I came to DC, I quickly wised up to local disdain for my beverage of choice & upped my orders to Yuengling, a taste I've embraced as my go-to. (Dear Midwest: Can you make a deal with Pennsylvania, please? What are you waiting for? Love, Kate)

Still, I don't like good beer, & I am not an adventurous or knowledgeable beer-drinker. I know it, at least; it's not like I'm pretending that my two-steps-from-water drinks are top-notch. Once, at Brickskeller, I told an eager waiter that the ale he'd so cockily served me (I let him pick) tasted like flowers. Actually, I tend to think most beer tastes like flowers - or wood chips, or stomach acid, or some other lovely-but-spot-on analogy.

Last week, though, Cleveland's own renowned Great Lakes Brewery started distributing in the District. Though I missed the launch party at my favorite dive, The Big Hunt, because I was too tired to function, the joy of that event was lasting: Lots of DC venues now serve Cleveland's best brew - including tonight's dinner venue!

Because I like crappy beer, the truth is that I don't like all - or even most - of Great Lakes' brews. Once, on a weekend trip to Columbus, I got so excited by the presence of Great Lakes on the menu that I ordered an Eliot Ness... which I quickly & disappointingly remembered I despise. Still, I was thrilled to see Ohio's prized brew sold in my adopted city, so tonight, at a restaurant known for its fancy beer selection (not a Yuengling to be found!), I took a risk & ordered a little hometown pride in the form of a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, which I was pretty sure I remembered that I liked.

The verdict? SUCCESS! I drank it so slowly that it lasted me through an hour-&-a-half-long meal, but I liked it. And it only tasted a little bit like flowers. And I felt a lot like an Ohioan who, for once, wasn't embarrassed of her drink choice. Score one for the Midwesterner in me!

A final note, however (& not the kind found in beer): Why is alcohol so expensive in this city? It's something I'll never get used to or become forgiving of. Can't a girl get a Dollar Draft Night up in here?!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Too Bad I Have Plans Tomorrow...


You stay classy, McFadden's. Meanwhile, I will be spending my $15 at Birch & Barley, where I am also guaranteed entry - because I made a reservation & also because I'm an astute speller. The lovely Wild & Crazy Pearl recently reviewed this fine establishment, thus inspiring my desire to dine, & I intend to consume the Port-Glazed Figs Flatbread Gorgonzola Cremificato & Prosciutto, just like she did.

So: "Jersey Shore" with DC's finest wannabe guidos & guidettes or fancy food with friends. Which would you choose?

I guess I could still wear my Bump-It to dinner! Best of both worlds?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Living the Good (Double) Life

I’ve lived in DC for almost two & a half years now. In that time, I’ve made some really close friends. The problem is, I still have a lot of really close friends at home, too.

OK, OK, so that’s not exactly a problem. But here’s the thing: For someone who’s such a social hermit, I sure do have an uncanny ability to bring lots of great people into my life. And this is a problem because it means that about 70% of the time, I want to be sitting on my couch watching TV or blogging or reading a book, which are all distinctly not the best ways to keep in touch with any of these great people.

I am notorious for bailing on plans, something I’m trying to work on ("Don’t commit in the first place if you know you probably won’t follow through," & other such brilliant pieces of advice to myself). I’m also notorious for saying things like, “I’d love to come. I’ll let you know!” & then either falling asleep or failing to muster the inspiration to put on pants & leave the apartment.

When I visit home, it’s much the same. It should be relaxing to go back to the place I love most, right? You’d think so - but I’ve spent two years trying to cram in quality time with all of my friends & all of my family on every single trip back to the Buckeye State. On each long weekend home, I verbally pencil in a dozen odd visits; my mom helps me overbook myself, scheduling lunches & breakfasts & quick drop-ins.

The last few trips home, though, exhausted by my DC life & needing an Ohio-induced pick-me-up, I decided it was time to take a different approach. So I slept in. I stayed home a little, lounged & watched TV & played with my dog. And when I scheduled time with friends, I scheduled it with – gasp! – only those people I really wanted to see (save a few) & then made the effort to see those people more than once, if possible. The end result was a few fun nights of actual QT with the people I’m pretty sure I’ll still be friends with 20 years from now. A shocking & earth-shattering move on my part, I know, but this seemingly self-evident change made for two of the best (& most rejuvenating!) visits home in two & a half years.

And tonight, I got reamed for it. I won't go into it, but it was nasty & hurtful & high-schoolesque, sent via text from a friend I didn't get to see this time around. I sulked a little, cried a little, & spent a good hour feeling like a huge jerk. And in the end, I was left wondering if I'd made the right decision on those last two trips. I never meant to burn any bridges - I just wanted to be with the people I wanted to be with.

But you know what? I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't been able to see them, the people I saw, they wouldn't have been (too) angry with me - & if they were, they would have forgiven fairly quickly. They would have seen that time is precious & that it's a hot commodity on short trips. They would have realized that I was tired, sad, overwhelmed - that I needed me-time, or family time, or time with other people. They would have told me that we could make up for it next time I was in town. In short, they would have understood.

And that's how I know that I made the right choice in the first place. The people I chose to spend time with are the ones who would have understood if I hadn't had the time to spend with them. Because that's what friends do - they understand when you need them to.

I never got that "Garden State" feeling, where home stops feeling like home. For me, Ohio has always felt like home, & I don't foresee that changing anytime soon, if ever. It's tough living two lives - one here & one there, both filled with equally meaningful relationships. But it's worth it, I think. They're all worth it.

Remember that childhood song, “Make new friends, but keep the old”? I could never figure out who was silver & who was gold, or which was supposed to be the better of the two. But maybe that's the point.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Confessions of a Cranky Would-Be Diner

You may recall that I've complained more than once about the poor quality of customer service in the District. I've been lucky enough to encounter the opposite of that recently - at Founding Farmers, for example, where our server, Cory, was the epitome of awesome.

Cue the good old days, though. A friend just invited me to join her Restaurant Week reservation at Vidalia, where I've never been. Annoyingly, I couldn't get the menu to load on my computer, in any browser, & a couple of my friends couldn't either. I'm a picky eater but also a Restaurant Week lover, so I gave Vidalia a call to see if I could have a RW menu faxed or emailed to me (extreme, I know). The hostess I spoke to transferred me to (a man whom I assumed was) a manager.

When I explained my problem to him, he answered, & I'm not exaggerating: "I have a lobby full of people here. Is there something you want from me?" When I told him I was hoping for an alternate way to see the menu - or, just to be kind & tell them their site wasn't working! - he said something to the effect of, "Do you have a reservation here or are you just looking?" Well, sir, even if I didn't, you're certainly not going to get a reservation out of me like that.

"Other customers use our website just fine," he told me matter-of-factly. "So it's not from our end." When I assured him I felt it was, he repeated (imagine the tone for yourself), "I have a lobby full of people. I don't have time to deal with computer problems." In a tone that was a struggle for me to maintain, I told him I wouldn't be dining at Vidalia if he couldn't treat his would-be customers with a little respect. And I hung up.

I still want to go there, if only because I like the friends who invited me, & I promise to update my cranky Yelp review as appropriate. But for now, the manager at Vidalia could use a few lessons in customer service.

Dear DC: Teach your employees how to be nice, will ya?

Edit/PS/Note: I didn't necessarily need them to DO anything. I was trying to be helpful, mostly, & probably could've done without a menu or checked back later. A simple, "Thanks for letting us know. I'll check in with our Webmaster" would've done the trick. But then again, perhaps I am too demanding.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chained Melody

One of my internal New Year's resolutions (even though I think resolutions are bound for failure & thus set life goals instead, because I'm more comfortable with bullshit, watered-down terminology like that) was to be more creative. At some point last year, I was shocked to discovered that I don't refer to myself as a writer or artist nearly as often as I used to - & that's only because I don't write or create art as often as I'd like to.

Art's an expensive habit to get into, so I've been holding back a bit. But two days ago, bursting at the proverbial seams with an urge to get crafty, I made a necklace inspired by this one from the GAP:

Because I'm resourceful & respectful of recycling & all that other new-age hippie shiz, I took apart a bunch of old, gold-toned necklaces I haven't worn for awhile & sewed them to the strap of a canvas tote bag. Sounds ugly, I know, but I'm pretty proud of the result:

A free necklace! SCORE. And yes, I'm aware that the tote bang handle absolutely looks like a tote bag handle (I tried to braid it & failed), but for a first attempt, I'll take it. Sadly, the trouble now is that I'm itching to keep creating... but I'm fresh out of bits & pieces of broken jewelry! My lovely mother offered to snag a bunch of thrift store pieces for me on her day off, but in the meantime, I've got to find something else to make. She's also notoriously unreliable at shipping, so it may be awhile. (Ahem. Love you, Mom!)

I could really get into this free accessories thing & being allowed to refer to myself as an artist. Bring it on, 2010!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let's Get Interactive: Now Presenting the Winter Crazies Photo Challenge!

I once dubbed myself "the queen of pseudo-surreptitious Metro photography," back when my cellular telephone had an epic zoom feature that enabled my sneaky habits. Sadly, my current gizmo lacks such a feature, making it much trickier for me to take the kind of crazy-awkward pics I used to pride myself on.

Another problem: It's cold now! And that means that my fingers are almost always gloved when I'm outside. And that means I can't use my damn touch-screen phone while I'm out & about. (PS: I love you, iPhone, I just gotta vent.)

This has felt particularly problematic this month, when I've passed amazingly dressed individuals on the cold streets of DC & have been unable to capture their glory to share with you here on the Interwebs. Men in Russian fur hats, women in Innuit-esque jackets, kids in full-facial mugger gear. Seriously, where do these people think they live? Siberia? Listen, the Midwesterners I know would spit on you wimps. And their spit would freeze before it hit the ground because that's how cold it is there.

Anyway, Midwest puffery aside, I want to take this opportunity to ask for your assistance. Will you send me the best cell photos you can snap of the crazily dressed winterphobes in your cities & towns? I'll compile the pics into some sort of funny collage... & the photographer of my favorite entry will win something wintry. I don't know what it is yet, but don't get your hopes too high. Mostly I'm just in this for the humor & the hats. But I swear, the humor & the hats will be enough. A real winter wonderland.

You have until midnight on January 20th - that's two whole weeks, so get photographing & send me your pics at suburbansweetheart@gmail.com (or, if you've got my number, just text it to me). To get you started, I leave you with this guy:

Because nothing says "business attire" like a three-piece suit & an ear-flapped fur hat.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Think.

And now, I interrupt this regularly scheduled humor for a serious moment.

Last night, a woman died at the Woodley Park Metro Station (my home station) when, reports say, she "placed herself in the path of the train." She stepped onto the tracks at 11:36 p.m. & died of her injuries this morning. She was from 50 years old & from Kensington, MD - & that's all I know about her.

But you know what? I don't need to know that woman to know this: To do what she did, she had to have been in a very, very dark place.

I also know that I am disgusted - do you hear me? DISGUSTED - by some of the comments left on reports of her death. A smattering: "All DC people who feel they need to end their life under the wheels of a metro train can all line up in one station and we can get get it over with in one fell swoop," and "This has gotten old and very boring. Just toss the smooshed crazies, drunks and attention seekers off the tracks and keep the trains rolling."

These comments read much like they did the last time someone died on the tracks (an occurrence that's become sadly all too common), & I cried when I read those one, too. Yeah, sometimes I'm a crier. Shhh. But don't some things warrant it?

These people who are "placing themselves in the paths of trains"? They're real people, & what they've chosen to do isn't some PC, clean term. They're someone's mother, someone's son, someone's sister, someone's best friend. They are someone. And for whatever reason, they are so despondent, so scared & alone & depressed, that they've chosen to step in front of massive, fast-moving trains as a means of achieving a quick, surefire way out of the lives that torment them.

And whatever happened to not speaking ill of the dead? To respecting life lost? To just having some goddamn compassion for your fellow human beings? These nasty, thoughtless comments come from people who are so busy, so self-important, & so concerned with their own schedules, with worrying that they'll be late to work or miss a meeting or be a no-show for dinner with friends, that they indulge in the anonymity the Internet provides them, feeling invincible & important & crueler than they'd ever have the balls to be face-to-face, whining about how their precious day was ruined. But hey, someone else's day was ruined, too, guys - that woman who died, for starters, & everyone who ever loved her.

You know where this is going don't you? Yeah, it's going there. First, I trust that you, the noble readers of this blog, are people who respect others enough not to leave sick comments like the ones that inspired this post. But here's where this is going: Many of you know me. You know my story, Dave's story. You have stories of your own, maybe. And if so, you know that this means a lot to me, that I daily feel the impact of suicide. I'm just a writer, & not even a "real" one; I'm just a blogger. But if I can make someone, anyone, think before they speak or act, then I'm doing something right.

So here's something cheesy but important: Even if it's just a single minute, take one liiiittle minute out of your day to think before you say something hurtful. And even better, think to say something meaningful & kind before it's too late for that person on a ledge or a Metro platform.

Are you thinking? OK, good.

My sense of humor & I will be back tomorrow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I've Got Superbad Judgment...

Oh, happy day! The Blockbuster at 17th & P is going out of business (may it rest in peace), & now that it's only got six days left before its doors shut forever, all previously viewed DVDs are now on super-sale - just $2 apiece!

I almost never buy movies, so I jumped at this opportunity to increase my DVD collection tenfold, almost literally (if tenfold means "plus 10" & not "times 10" - I'm not sure which it really means...) So, of course, I went crazy snapping up cheesy flicks that I can leave on in the background while I multitask, because no matter what I'm doing or how hard I'm concentrating, I almost always leave the TV on - hazards of being an only child!

In all, I walked away with nine new movies. Judge me & my amazing taste if you must - yes, there are two Zac Efron films in the bunch, plus an amazing '90s film that features a clothed monkey - but more importantly, while you're judging, please also take note of the idiotic mistake I made... & didn't realize until my roommate pointed it out to me:


Who let me into this smart-people city?! OY.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sustainable Brunching: "Are You Ready for This?"

Let's welcome a brand new guest blogger! RBC, who lived in DC & worked with me my first year here, now resides back in her hometown of that other city, New York, though she does occasionally grace us with her presence back here in the District (she's the one in blue, below). This past weekend was one such gem of a visit. On Saturday morning, she also joined in on Round IV of The Great DC Brunch Tour, wherein six of my favorite ladies braved the winter cold to dine at Founding Farmers, which I've been dying to try for months now. Read on for RBC's review!

Biting winds couldn't keep us away from Founding Farmers, the site of the Saturday stop on the Great DC Brunch Tour of 2009-2010. While outside, it was blustery and cold, the inside of this sustainable restaurant on 20th & Pennsylvania was a bright, warm space, with large windows that made the most of DC's feeble winter light, & eco-friendly decor that inspired both the foodie & HGTV-watcher in me. From the moment I stepped inside, I was ready to dig into brunch & bask in the atmosphere that was so perfectly up my alley.

Upon arriving considerably early, we chose to bide our time at the bar (which serves fresh Arnold Palmers, a particular joy in my life) before heading upstairs to our perfectly sized round table - a feat for large, oddly numbered parties such as our own. Two minutes of consulting the menu told me my pledge to bring moderation into my new year would have to wait another day. Cory, our fantastically friendly & impressively game waiter, took our orders & did a commendable job keeping up with our requests (& keeping any opinions about the quantity of food I ordered to himself). Bonus points to him for affably chattering with us, finding the perfect balance of attentiveness without hovering, & laughing along with our over-long innuendo-fest regarding the strangely named peanut/fruit mix titled "Jonny's Nuts."

We Brunch Tour participants ordered a variety of items that, I believe, all hovered on the delicious end of the food-critic spectrum - all enhanced by the waitstaff's enthusiasm when bringing our meals out: exclamations of "OK, are you ready for this?!" & "Here's some Florentine action for you!" accompanied our plates to the table.

The verdict: the coffee was excellent, a proper brunch blend. My roasted tomato soup, pastrami hash & black pepper maple "bacon upgrade" were all flavorful & to be savored, the latter of which prompted me to enthuse, "I want this with me always." [ Note from your Suburban Sweetheart: This was one of the most hilarious food-induced utterances ever.] Admittedly, I spent more time powering through my own piles of food than I did paying attention to the reviews of my fellow diners, but I did manage to catch their applause for the fruit salad's lack of honeydew (apparently previously ferreted out to be a sneaky space-filler) & the reasonably priced menu.

On a slightly different note, though certainly no less important, the auto-flush in the restrooms were perfectly timed, & the music playing unobtrusively in the background was an eclectic, fun mix. I clearly had a ball & find myself wishing Founding Farmers would open a satellite location in New York City, preferably on 52nd & 1st.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Overload FT(actual)W!

Let's cut to the chase on this one. To make a long story short, my friend JW had a 25th birthday party yesterday. Her Evite announced, "Here's the twist - it's IRON CHEF style. Your challenge is to bring a dessert that involves chocolate AND peanut butter." Creative, no?!

My visiting friend RBC took it upon herself to Google a few potential recipes so that we could team up for a PB & chocolate takeover. Short on time, we ultimately chose to make Crunchy Mega Peanut Butter Cups, a recipe found & adapted from this recipe from Two Fat Als.

There were 14 entries in total, each more delicious than the next - torte cakes, ganache brownies, Puppy Chow, popcorn, Buckeyes. All party-goers sampled the goodies, cast their ballots (a whopping 178 votes total!) & consumed a lot of liquids to wash down so much sticky PB & chocolate goodness. The end result, as decided upon by the voters, was that RBC's & my joint creation was, in fact, the most delicious of the bunch!

One anonymous voter wrote of our PB cups, "
HOLY SHIT! Sophisticated - like a Joyce novel, not for everyone but those who put in the effort are swiftly rewarded."

Want to be like us? Well, we can't blame you. We also can't guarantee you'll win any prizes for your dessert, as we did (a bag of Reese's cups, plus "Milk" & "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"!), but we can guarantee that it'll taste pretty gosh-darn good.
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Reese's Dessert Toppings
  • 12 muffin cups

    Combine the chocolate & peanut butter chips. Melt half the concoction by microwaving for 30 seconds then stirring (& repeating) until chocolate has melted. Spoon a little of the chocolate/PB mixture into each muffin wrapper, spreading the chocolate up the sides of the wrapper (we used a cheap foam craft brush like these to make this a little easier). Freeze candy shells until set.

    In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt & vanilla. If it is not soft, you can microwave it a bit. Add a generous amount of the filling into each prepared candy cup, & chill again until set. Melt all remaining chocolate & peanut butter chips, & use it to cover peanut butter filling with chocolate. Top cups with crushed Reese's Dessert Topping. Chill a final time until set.

The end result should look something like this:

And your pride should look something like this:

Recapping 2009 – Retro Reviews from the Great Brunch Tour

Ladies & gents, please enjoy a guest post from one miss Rachel BC, the first guest blogger to review the Great DC Brunch Tour of 2009/2010. We'd taken a quick hiatus from our brunching, but we're BACK, & Rachel reviews the not one but TWO places we forgot to tell you about - & we assure you it won't happen again. Brunch well, all ye hungry Washingtonians!

Welcome to the New Year, loyal Suburban Sweetheart readers! After taking some time off from the Great Brunch Tour for work & holiday travels, we resumed on the first weekend of 2010 with a wonderful meal at Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom - but I’ll leave that review to another RBC & instead do my best to catch you up on where we’ve been since our first very successful stop at Crème Café on U Street back in October. Apologies for the delay, but you know what they say – better late than never. In the New Year I resolve to use fewer clichés, but again – that’s another post for another day.

Our second brunchventure took place at Rosemary’s Thyme in Dupont, an old favorite of many in our group. We enjoyed benedicts, pides (a Turkish pizza-like treat often topped with fried eggs) & tasty French toast. Rosemary’s was a great place to accommodate our large group – nearly 15 friends showed up to enjoy the company of one miss Micaela HT, who graced us with her presence before traveling to Rwanda for a year of service (yes, she’s a better person than the rest of us). Rosemary’s gets high marks for its creative menu – particularly the pides & Mediterranean influence throughout– and its friendly service, but I’d recommend returning on a day when you can sit outside and enjoy all the people watching that 18th street has to offer. Rosemary’s is like an old Snuggie – warm, comfortable, reliable, but it’s not going to knock your socks off.

Stop 3 on the Great Brunch Tour took our group back to U Street, this time to Ulah Bistro, which our fearless leader Kate had ‘previewed’ to make sure it was worth our time & critical expertise. I'm automatically a big fan of any place I can walk to in 10 minutes or fewer, & luckily three of our four stops have fit this criterion! After our first two brunches brought groups of at least 10 each, we decided to venture to Ulah with a slightly smaller crowd. This was a good thing, as Ulah has a minimal seating area & more intimate feel than some of our other destinations. Just a few blocks past Crème (at the busy 14th & U intersection), Ulah is much quieter, though I’m not sure why - the food is equally delicious & on par in terms of price.

The décor at Ulah is simple but welcoming – lots of warm wood on the walls and floor, wine bottles lining the sills, and simple decorations throughout. But we didn’t waste too much time savoring the atmosphere - we had come for the food & were ready for plenty of it. We quickly surveyed the menu, made our choices (being sure to sample a variety of items off the menu), & caught up on the events of the previous evening as at least one of us nursed hangovers with ample water & coffee.

Writing several weeks later, I can’t fully recall all the meals around the table, but I had the pleasure of savoring the French toast, a plate I won’t soon forget. Topped with a drizzle of raspberry sauce, syrup, & (the real finishing touch) a dollop of creamy mascarpone, I can honestly say that Ulah makes some of the best French toast I've ever had (though my favorite French toast of 2009 is still Zaftig’s Deli in Brookline, Mass.). With a perfect ratio of bread (the good, thick kind) to eggs to keep the toast from drying out during frying, a nice balance of sweet & savory between the syrup and mascarpone, & four thick slices to fill me up, this meal did not disappoint. I could've used a bit more color on the plate (fruit salad never killed anyone!), but I can’t complain. Like at most brunch spots, Ulah doesn’t serve its sweet dishes with potatoes or bacon - an unfortunate reality for those of us who enjoy both the sweet and savory sides of the best meal of the day - but the reviews of the sides from others at the table were equally impressive. The boys around me enjoyed hearty omelets full of veggies & proteins; I can only assume that they were tasty, as neither of them saved any for me to try!

If you’re looking for a relatively quiet brunch spot in the neighborhood & want to enjoy both sweet & savory options without the lines at Kramers or The Diner, Ulah may be the place for you. Call ahead because the dining room is small, but don’t worry – they do feature a full bar (showing football games in season), & you’re sure to enjoy a nice plate of food. All in all, Ulah was a delicious stop on the tour, one that this diner will surely will return to. OK, let’s be honest, I already went back for a second shot at the French toast last week – & it was still good!
  • Service: 7 – attentive but not particularly friendly – no wait for table though, which is huge
  • Food: 8.5 - see paragraph-long French toast description above.
  • Decor: 5 - nothing special but everything was clean and nice enough
  • Noise/Ambiance: 8 - significantly quieter than our other stops despite a full dining room. I, for one, appreciate a little peace and quiet as I brunch, but if you are looking for hustle, bustle, and people-watching, Ulah may not be your best bet
  • Value: 8 – average prices for above average food
  • Coffee: 6 – drinkable but not memorable

Friday, January 1, 2010

Latkapocalypse!

I have a confession to make: Until this week, I'd never thrown a party.

OK, that's a little bit of a lie. I had a couple shindigs in college, the kind where your mom goes out of town &, unbeknownst to you, your home friends & school friends get together to conspire to bring a male stripper to your house for your 19th birthday. You know, that kind of thing. Um, hypothetically.

In college, I lived in the dorms. And then in a sorority house. And then with my mom. In other words? All notably not party central. My super-senior year, I lived in a great apartment with four others; they hosted both a Superbowl party & a New Year's Eve party, both of which I missed.

And, as you may recall, my current roommates & I recently hosted an impromptu Halloween soiree last fall, though it was largely unplanned & primarily consisted of my throwing CVS sale candy into a bowl & sending a mass text out that read something terribly inviting like "Come pregame at our place!"

So imagine my excitement at throwing my very first party - ever! It happened just last week (Tuesday, to be precise) & was belatedly titled all sorts of things, officially via Evite "A Post-Chanukah Latke Party" but informally Latkapocalypse, Latkepalooza, etc. My culinarily apt roommates spent all day whipping up batch after batch of delicious fried food, & I assembled a lovely topping bar complete with:
  • Applesauce (duh)
  • Sour cream (duh)
  • Ketchup
  • Mango chutney
  • Helluva Good French Onion Dip
  • Dill sour cream
  • Peppercorn ranch dressing
  • Creamy basil pesto
  • Roasted red pepper veggie dip
  • Spicy(ish) hummus
  • Black bean & chipotle salsa
I know. So proud. And I didn't eat any of them except the applesauce because, well, I hate condiments. But my cute, handwritten signs went over well, & the latkes were crisp & delicious. More importantly, people showed up & the company was lovely.

The bad news? I took approx seven pictures. Go figure. Who needs photographic evidence of my very first party, anyway? Luckily, my pal Emily at Wild & Crazy Pearl took a couple, too; combined, we've got a pretty decent showing.

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