Wild Kitchen Summer Dinner Series

On a recent, gorgeous summer evening, I was fortunate enough to experience an incredible dinner party as part of the Wild Kitchen Summer Dinner Series sponsored by REI and Brightest Young Things. The dinner series consists of a number of pop-up dinner parties held throughout the summer in collaboration with local DC chefs to benefit an environmental charity serving our area. Many have already heard that REI is about to open a flagship store here in DC at the historic Uline Arena. It sounds like it’s going to be an amazing place with a cafe, courtyard for musical performances and giant fire pit. They plan to continue to host events like this one. REI recognized the link between people who love great food and who care about the environment and decided to bring them all together as part of their national United Outside campaign. Every single cent of the proceeds goes to the charity of the night. The charity for our dinner was The Chesapeake Conservancy which was exciting since the Chesapeake Bay is near and dear to my heart. As a child, my grandfather had a boat and we spent many weekends exploring the Chesapeake. And I also went to college on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and spent my summers working in Ocean City, MD. So, I was super interested to learn about the work of the Conservancy and all they are doing to protect the Bay and to give people access to this amazing natural resource that is so fundamental to our entire region.

File Aug 09, 10 59 38 AM

My gorgeous friend Haleh and I taking advantage of the spectacular evening light to snap a pic.

One of the reasons I chose this particular dinner is because the chef for the evening was from Whaley’s, the newest member of SE DC’s Yards Park restaurant scene. Whaley’s  has been getting a lot of buzz for its spectacular seafood so I knew there was potential for an amazing food experience here. When we arrived at Wunder Garten, a fun and quirky German style beer garden in NoMa within sight of the Uline Arena and where REI has their community space, we were greeted with a delicious IPA donated by Atlas Works and two long, adorably decorated picnic tables. Since the number of tickets sold for each dinner was limited, we were a small group of about 30 people just sharing a family style meal. First, we heard from REI and learned more about the United Outside Campaign and their plans for the new DC store. Then we met folks from the Chesapeake Conservancy and learned about the great work that they are doing and the improving health of the Bay. And then it was time to dig in.

File Aug 09, 11 00 53 AM

Fresh and briny Oysters Rockefeller

Of course there were oysters. Delicious oysters. Briny and garlicky and amazing Oysters Rockefeller on a bed of rock salt. Everything was served family style and the presentation was just spectacular. The second course was such an unexpected and delicious treat – soft shell crabs with a salad of roasted red pepper and charred corn. The orange of the pepper puree, the red of the actual roasted peppers, bright purple onions and yellow corn topped with the soft shell crabs made for a stunningly beautiful plate. As we learned from our Chesapeake Conservancy friends, the window of time when soft shell crabs can be harvested is very narrow, so we lucked out. I admit that I have only ever tried soft shell crabs fried in a sandwich, but these were grilled which enhanced rather than masked the delicate flavor of the rich meat.


File Aug 09, 11 01 19 AM

Succulent soft shell crab. Can you believe those colors?

And then for another showstopper – Whole Roasted Sea Bass. Delicate and delicious fish with a light rustic herb sauce and fresh tomatoes. It was a work of art but that didn’t stop us from digging in. As we enjoyed the fish and chatted with our dinner mates, the sun began to set and candles were lit casting a magical glow over the garden. By candlelight, we enjoyed the final course of the evening, grilled peaches with marscapone cheese and honey. A perfectly light and seasonal dessert after such an extraordinary meal.

File Aug 09, 11 01 44 AM

Stunning Sea Bass

Every single dinner in the Wild Kitchen series has sold out. And it’s no wonder. This was that rare evening of really special food and drink, great conversation with like-minded folks and philanthropy. It was an evening that I will not soon forget and one that has set the bar high for the perfect summertime dinner party.


Treasure Hunting

About a year ago, I was flipping through an issue of Washingtonian magazine reading a feature about the best antique shops in DC. I was making a mental note of where to go for great vintage jewelry, clothing and home decor. A photo of a huge warehouse space filled to the gills with funky, colorful antiques caught my attention and as I scanned for the address, I was excited and surprised to learn that Off the Beaten Track was in my neighborhood of Woodridge! Turns out that, true to its name, it is hidden away in a residential area just beside the railroad tracks. The hours are limited – they’re only open on Thursdays and Fridays from 10am – 4pm and then two weekends a month – but I headed over to check it out right away.

2016-05-19 14.30.17

Warehouse space packed with goodies.

I had so much fun exploring and of course picked up a cute chair for my office. I was struck by the quality of the items and the relatively inexpensive price tags compared to some other antique shops in the city. Speaking of price tags, they use old photos for price tags which is adorable.

File May 24, 12 32 45 PM

Creative price tags.

The owners are engaging and friendly and somewhat willing to negotiate on price, depending on the item and how much they purchased it for. They live in Brookland so they’re happy to support their loyal customer base. And I was quick to explain that this was the perfect spot for me to find gifts for my real estate clients. In fact, I picked up a great mirror for some clients who are renovating an old Wardman rowhouse with beautiful original Victorian details.

File May 24, 12 22 37 PM

The antique mirror made a great client gift.

Since it’s virtually impossible for me to go there without picking up something for myself, I also bought this great carved wooden screen to hang above my bed.

File May 24, 12 23 07 PM

Framed wooden carved screen, likely from Indonesia.

The other really cool thing is that the furniture showroom is not the only business in the warehouse. The rest of the building was converted to affordable artist studios and workshops. You can wander around and visit artists hard at work on their latest projects and the Saturdays when the showroom is open turns into a kind of block party.


Filling the Belly with Goodness at Donburi

It was a bit of a rainy, dreary afternoon when my friend and I found ourselves looking for a quick but tasty lunch in Adams Morgan after an appointment. Having lived in DC for so long, we’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on 18th Street and patronizing the various bars and eateries. We both wanted to try something new and my friend deferred to me since I’m the foodie. We were inspired to go small and local after admiring the mural below and you can’t get much smaller or more local than a tiny restaurant originally launched as a food truck. Since I still hadn’t been to the 18th Street location of Donburi, we agreed to give it a go.

2016-05-23 12.40.03-1

Small Business Saturday Mural in Adams Morgan by Aniekan Udofia.

The space is essentially a galley kitchen with one long counter, which feels intimate and welcoming, at least on a day like this one when it wasn’t packed with people. We ordered our food at the front and took a seat at the counter to watch it being prepared. It’s impossible to hide the freshness and quality of the food when you’re prepping and plating in front of all the nosy patrons watching for their dish. It’s a cozy spot with low lighting and good music contributing to the ambiance. The counter is filled with plenty of condiments – extra Donburi sauce, utensils, tea, water – so you have everything you’ll need.

I decided on the Shiitakedon bowl as I’m a mushroom lover. The menu says a half cooked egg on top but with the scallion it seemed a little like an egg scallion pancake which was fine by me. It was soft and delicious, oozing over the mushrooms. The briny pickles were a great compliment to cut the overall richness of the dish. This is a lot of food! I left super stuffed but that might be because of the side order of Karaagedon or fried chicken. I’ve been on a bit of a Korean fried chicken kick lately and just couldn’t resist some Japanese fried chicken. And it was worth it.

2016-05-23 12.54.32-1

Left to Right: Karaagadon (fried chicken) with Japanese Curry, Side order of Karaagadon, Shiitakedon (mushroom rice bowl with egg)

My friend also got the fried chicken bowl but with the Japanese Curry Sauce. She loved it but the curry sauce wasn’t completely my cup of tea. It just wasn’t the kind of curry that I seek out. It tasted like the powdered curry we find in the spice aisle of American supermarkets, the only kind of curry I knew during my childhood. I was hoping for something a little more unexpected. But overall, it was a delicious lunch. Next time, I want to try the Gyudon or beef brisket and the panko covered shrimp which we were drooling over as we watched them being prepared in the kitchen. I expect to leave just as stuffed and happy as I was today.


A Worthwhile Trek to the National Arboretum

Tucked away in a parcel of land at the northeast corner of the city surrounded by drab industrial areas along New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, the National Arboretum isn’t easy to get to without a car making it a bit of a lesser known attraction in the area, but it’s well worth the trek.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of the Arboretum is the National Capitol Columns. The stately Corinthian columns were once part of the US Capitol but were replaced in 1958 and eventually found their permanent home on top of a slightly elevated open field at the Arboretum called the Ellipse Meadow. Their appearance is imposing and photo worthy and a popular local spot for wedding and engagement shots.

File May 23, 7 17 27 PM

National Capitol Columns

There are over 400 acres of land in the Arboretum so there’s much more to explore. There’s an impressive Bonsai garden, an azalea garden that is absolutely breathtaking if you hit it at peak bloom, a youth garden and even plenty of cherry blossom trees for those looking to avoid the overwhelming crowds at the Tidal Basin in the spring. Although it’s currently under construction, outside of the Administration Building is a large koi fish pond and visitors get to feed the fish. It’s a favorite kid activity. They love to see the huge fish crowd around with their gaping mouths begging for food. We can’t wait for the koi fish to return when construction is complete.

Vine Arbor

Vine Arbor

One of my personal favorites is the Asian Collection which backs up to the Anacostia River and includes a few secluded benches with great river views. It’s easy to drive in and follow the signs to a small parking lot right off the gardens. I’ve often found myself completely alone in contemplation and peaceful silence.

2016-05-18 14.14.04

Rustic secluded bench nestled among lush greenery in the Asian Garden.

There is a tram that offers tours of the grounds but they tend to run on the weekends only. There are also plenty of guided walking tours, even a full moon hike in the evening after hours which is on my to-do list but plan ahead b/c they fill up quickly.

Helpful Tip: If you don’t bring along a picnic lunch and you’re needing to fill your belly after all the walking you’ll do at the Arboretum, there’s a great Szechuan Chinese restaurant called Panda Gourmet just up Bladensburg Road inside the Days Inn. You’ll be skeptical, but trust me, it’s good and authentic Chinese food in the most unlikely of places.




A Retreat for Quiet Reflection and Natural Beauty in NE DC

These days I am filled with NE DC pride, but when I bought my house in Woodridge in 2010, I had no clue about the neighborhood. I understand why NE DC is still unknown to many folks who live in and visit DC, but there are some spectacular places to explore, particularly for nature and garden enthusiasts.

One of the best is the Franciscan Monastery in Brookland. I’m so lucky to have this amazing attraction within walking distance. I visit often for reflection and relaxation and just to enjoy a gorgeous sunny afternoon surrounded by the well tended gardens.

File May 23, 5 04 05 PM

Tulip Garden

The Monastery includes a pretty impressive church, but I go for the gardens. Gorgeous rose and tulip gardens are huge draws for visitors in the know every year. There are numerous replicas of Vatican grottos on the grounds as well and a small path. The Monastery holds many events like spaghetti dinners and their famous plant sales which generate money to help maintain the gardens, as well as a shop where they sell honey made by the bees raised onsite. The 2016 honey harvests are in June and September and you can participate in extracting the honey by attending a workshop. There are guided tours throughout the spring and summer on Saturday afternoons through the Garden Guild or you can just roam around during their open hours.

2016-04-06 13.49.54 HDR

The Rosary Portico

Most don’t know that there is also a hermitage on the grounds available for nightly rental. It’s designed for single person use as a way to quiet the mind, reflect and contemplate spirituality. I fully intend to try it one of these days.

2016-04-06 13.57.48