D.C. Food & Drink Fest
This weekend my college roommates and I from NYU met up for a mini “reunion” of sorts. We graduated almost four years ago in 2006 and all live in different parts of the country. While we wanted to meet up in a warm city, Washington D.C. was the cheapest and most convenient for most of us involved.
I drove down 3 1/2 hours and picked up my friends Suzy (Miami) and Caitlin (Chicago) at the airport in Baltimore before we drove down to D.C. to meet with my old roommate Mike, whose is from D.C.
We had been e-mailing each other for weeks, compiling a list of restaurants, bars, and bakeries that we needed to visit during our brief visit. Upon entering the city we immediately drove to Ben’s Chili Bowl – a highly recommended chili joint that served VEGAN CHILI! Here’s how they describe it:
Veggie Chili done the Ben’s way. Our milder Veggie Chili is vegan and uses texturized vegetable protein instead of beef. With finely chopped tomatoes, green peppers and onions, this is a great alternative for those wanting a more healthy meal.
This was absolutely delicious and amazing! I cleared my bowl completely. In fact, we kept saying how much we wanted to return here for a “quick lunch” each day as we were craving the deliciousness we were served! Be forewarned, it is quite busy in this joint and seating can be limited at times. We were lucky enough to have a large enough group to be seated with a server. I absolutely recommend visiting!
We spent the afternoon visiting the national mall, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, before working up quite an appetite and heading out for a drink at a local bar, and then dinner. We decided on Ethiopian, which we heard D.C. was known for. I had never eaten Ethiopian before, but menu really excited me. We walked over to Lalibela restaurant, which featured an entire vegetarian section. Although I toyed with the idea of ordering the combo platter, I knew my tastes and stuck with the Potato Curry dish, which was both delicious and satisfying – however the portion was rather meager and I couldn’t help but be hungry hours later. The lighting was terrible, so no picture! What was interesting about eating this cuisine was the fact that they served us on a huge plate of doughy bread that we used to pick up our meal with, meaning: NO UTENSILS! It really didn’t faze me though, I tend to eat with my fingers as much as possible as it is.
We trudged on through the snowpocalypic weather to The Brickskellar, apparently the home of the “World’s Largest Selection of Beers”. This place was straight out of the bar massacre scene of Inglorious Basterds. I’m not much a beer drinker – but my friends are. And so I tried one rather fruity apricot beer that I managed to finish, and mildly enjoy. I think a stop here is necessary for any beef aficionado, and even was worth a trip for someone less beer-educated like myself. The vibe is worth the stop.
We then forged through some more frigid weather to find “Pharmacy Bar”, which was supposed to serve beer from beakers and test tubes (a selling point for my friend graduating med. school), however this was NOT the case and we returned home for the night.
Day 2, Valentines Day
We awoke with the initial plan of eating a rocking brunch – after visiting a cupcakery which was high on my personal to-do list. Hello Cupcake, which serves a small selection of vegan cupcakes in addition to their many cupcake flavors. When I arrived they only had a selection of chocolate vegan cupcakes with either strawberry, peanut butter, or vanilla frosting. I decided on the vanilla and dived right in. This was quite delicious and very moist. The cupcake was the right size, and the strawberry flavor was light and fresh – perfectly complimenting the chocolate. While the chocolate flavor wasn’t quite as rich as it could have been, I think Hello Cupcake made a fantastic vegan cupcake. I only wish I could have tried another flavor!
We then headed over to Matchbox to enjoy Sunday brunch. Except, there weren’t very many vegan brunch options available, and so I decided that since it was well after noon, it was entirely allowable for me to enjoy some pizza for brunch. I ordered the veggie pizza without cheese, and with roma tomatoes. While it was quite delicious, it was a bit bland. I can’t blame the restaurant though – I did remove a key ingredient. I think perhaps it would have been better with a spicier tomato base. Everyone else really enjoyed their brunch items, however I def. would not give this my vegan friendly stamp of approval.
We frolicked through snow to the National gallery, the White House, and the majority of the monuments, before becoming entirely exhausted from all the walking and starving. Those snow piles were as tall (or short) as me! Our feet were all entirely soaked and frigid by the end of the day.
Again, at the top of my to-do list was a visit to an all vegan bakery, Sticky Fingers, which offers a HUGE variety of baked goods, sandwiches, and other vegan fare. I had the original intent of acquiring a ‘Smores cupcake but the last one was bought in front of me, so I went with the Red Velvet. I also bought a chocolate chip cookies, and splurged on a Daiya grilled cheese. This was hands down the BEST stop of my visit. I wish I could have tried the cinnamon rolls and a tempeh sandwich as well. Enough reason to return, that’s for sure.
The grilled cheese was the most fantastic thing that passed my lips the entire weekend. I had been craving grilled cheese for months, and this was worth the wait. I only wish I lived closer to this fantastic eatery so that I could enjoy its goods daily! The chocolate chip was enjoyed much later in the evening, however all three non-vegans with me stated they could not tell the cupcakes, cookies, or brownie was vegan – and all enjoyed it. Also, I shared one small bite of my grilled cheese with my omni friend, who was scared, but stated it was delicious. I could go here again and again and again!!! Approved!
We made our next stop at ChurchKey, to do some more beer tastings. This restaurant/bar has a fantastic vibe to it, with chandelier-esque lighting on the burnt wallpapered walls, and long tables you may share with strangers. Although I am a self-proclaimed non-beer drinker, this place may have turned me. At least for beers on tap. They have an very large draft menu, where you can order a full 12oz or taste a 4oz. I tasted three (or four), including: Gouden Carolus Classic (plums), Tröegs Mad Elf Ale (cherries), and Wells Banana Bread Beer (duh). I actually LOVED all of these, esp. the first two. I think I am officially interested in beer, a little. Even if it is girly fruity beer. We ended up staying here for a long time before traipsing around looking for a late-night Subway, how classy.
We wanted to leave with a delicious breakfast in our stomach before heading out to our long flights/drives home. After much research we decided on the VERY vegan friendly Busboys & Poets. The menu offers many vegan options for a variety of meals, leaving nothing to be coveted (aside from french toast – why, oh why wasn’t this vegan?). The restaurant itself holds a bookstore upon entering, rendering the ambiance as a mixture of a coffeehouse and restaurant similar to many I frequented in San Diego, however double the size and style. First – it is important to note they have soy milk for coffee. After perusing the amazing options the menu had to offer (I could eat many MEALS here), I decided on the Vegan Egg Wrap with mixed veggies, vegan bacon and vegan cheese, with home fries. It’s not pictured because I dug right into it. Now, I’ve had a few tofu scrambles, and I’ve had issues with each one. Some too bland, other too tumericy, etc. etc. This was the HANDS DOWN the ABSOLUTE BEST tofu scramble I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it was the tempeh bacon, maybe it was the vegan cheese, hell if I know. But I do know I could eat breakfast here again and again and was craving another wrap around lunch time. I need more restaurants like this in my life.
Overall, our DC trip was super successful, as it involved vegan baked goods & meals, an introduction to beer, and friendsies. I can’t wait to explore more local vegan restaurants and what NYC has to offer when the weather becomes a bit milder. Unfortunately, these photos were a smack in the face that I may have gained a few pounds over the past few months of vegan baking adventures, and so I now must pay some attention to what I eat and how I work out. This starts now.
On a good note, my cholesterol, triglicerides, and LDL are all finally in the low range (where they were high back in May and August when last tested, and pre-vegan). Taking dairy out of my diet has absolutely affected my health in a positive way, now I just need to weed out excessive snacking and balance out my fitness. Here’s to a new goal!