For the second year in a row, my parents decided to celebrate our nation’s presidents by spending a long weekend in Maryland. Last year they stayed with family friends in Baltimore, and I drove down to spend time with everyone. This year, they were excited to stay with me in my first apartment without roommates. They drove up on Friday afternoon and conveniently arrived right at the end of my telework day.
We first went for a walk around Bethesda, enjoying the unseasonable weather until the sun fell low enough in the sky that it stopped keeping us warm. Then Kirios met us back at my apartment and we walked over to Pizzeria da Marco, a Neopolitan pizza place extremely close by. Kirios and I had been a couple of times before and enjoyed their pizza, especially during happy hour when their margherita pizza is just $5. My father has a particular fondness for pizzerias with brick ovens who take their food seriously, so I had been waiting for him to visit so I could take him there for sometime. We enjoyed arugula salads with oranges, red onion, fennel and chili flakes before feasting on a variety of pizzas, which we divided up evenly amongst ourselves. We enjoyed the certified authentic Margherita D.O.P.; Quatro Formaggi; Siciliana with eggplant confit, black olives, and capers; and the Diavola which had roasted red peppers. The Diavola also came with finocchiona, a cured ham, which Kirios ordered on the side so he could add it to his slices. Pizzeria da Marco serves a good product, with a chewy crust and flavorful toppings. It does tend to pool liquid from tomatoes and other toppings in the center, where the crust is extremely thin, which is a bit of a turn off and keeps them from topping our favorites list. But all in all, it was a very satisfying meal.
Saturday morning the parental units were feeling ambitious and prepared to take on the District. We had an early lunch and then we drove downtown with Kirios for some tourist activities. We made a spur of the moment decision to go into the Old Post Office. Kirios had taken me there during my last birthday, but due to rain storms and heavy winds, the National Park Service had shut down the tower (the main reason to visit the pavilion) rumored to have one of the best views of the city. Since it was announced only days earlier that Donald Trump will take over the historic building and convert it into a hotel, we figured we better visit while we could. The wait was longer than we had hoped, and the view was a bit anticlimactic. But at least I got to cross it off my DC bucket list.
After the Post Office, we realized we were running behind schedule and ditched our original plan to visit the Newseum. Instead we went to the nearby and free American History Smithsonian. There were a couple of closed exhibits, but we did spend some time judging the first ladies’ fashion choices, and other museum highlights.
Around four we walked over to Chinatownin order to enjoy an early meal at Zaytinya, Kirios’ favorite restaurant which I first tried on his birthday. (We were originally planning to go to Founding Farmers, but it proved difficult to get a reservation on a Saturday in Washington DC!) Kirios and I weren’t too disappointed by the tradeoff. At Zaytinya, I ordered my favorite brussel sprouts afelia and Kirios indulged in his beloved garides me anitho, sauted shrimp. We also shared a flatbread with tomato sauce, cinnamon, oregano, and halloumi cheese (Kirios’ favorite cheese, made in Cyprus); greek olives; mushroom saganaki with tomato and kefalograviera cheese; bamya (okra with crispy chickpeas); seared salmon with squash puree, maitake mushrooms, and pomegranate molasses; almond trout with preserved lemon-kalamata olive tapenade and garlic yogurt; and the kolokithokeftedes (zucchini and cheese patties) which I had ordered over Kirios’ birthday also. These dishes were all quite enjoyable, but there was one more dish which stood above all the rest (or in the case of the brussel sprouts, and the shrimp for Kirios, on par) and that was the havoc koftesi, carrot, apricot and pine nut fritters with a pistachio sauce. These balls were packed with flavor, and my mom instantly began planning a kugel version that she can serve on Passover, leaving out the pine nuts (which did provide a nice texture) and substituting flour for potato starch. We saved a bit of room for delicious desserts and Turkish coffee too.
We finished our feast at Zaytinya ahead of schedule, so we quickly jumped into the National Portrait Gallery across the street to check out the Annie Leibovitz exhibition, Pilgrimage (which uncharacteristically doesn’t include pictures of people). Following the exhibition we walked over the Ronald Reagan Building, where Kirios and I enjoyed a round of drinks before the four of us enjoyed a show by the political satire group, The Capitol Steps. I’ve enjoyed their public radio broadcasts on July 4th, and April Fools and so on throughout the years, and both Mom and Kirios have seen them perform live in the past. It was truly a treat, and the four of us spent the entire performance smiling.
We returned home a bit before 11pm, and I made sure my parents were comfortable and all set for bed before before heading out with Kirios to hear our friends’ band perform at a wing bar a couple of blocks away. I got home around 12:30am, exhausted from an extremely full day.
I woke up Sunday morning feeling extremely grateful that it was a long weekend, and then next time I woke up wouldn’t be at 5:50am. There were still adventures to be had. Kirios and our family friends from Baltimore came over at 10:30, and I showed off my big girl apartment before we walked over to Bethesda Row to have brunch at Le Pain Quotidien, a Belgian chain centered around the idea of communal tables. We were all extremely impressed with the food. Their omlettes and quiches were quite nice, as well as their breads and pastries. I had a smoked salmon omlette and we tried both their lemon tart and pistachio tart (which was more of a cake) for dessert. The only thing that didn’t impress us was their seasonal soy chai special which was too thin for our liking. (I heard the coffee was good though.) As we kvelled over the food, we flipped through their cookbooks displayed on their tables. Kirios and I scanned the barcode on the back of one for kicks, since my mother loves to collect cookbooks, and Amazon offered it starting at $146. Less than 10 minutes later, Kirios returned from a trip to the bathroom with a shrink-wrapped copy which he presented to my mother as an early birthday gift. (It was available much cheaper than what we had seen online, but was nonetheless an extremely generous and thoughtful measure. He’s a keeper!)
Following brunch, we visited some of the cute shops along Bethesda Row. I ran into a great friend of mine from college, and then we were all interviewed for a YouTube video about the red “parking meters” to donate change to the homeless in Bethesda. Although I must admit, the focus of the video was clouded by excitement over the mozzarella bar across the street. Watch for yourself, we’re famous. http://youtu.be/xrR2KCbK8Io And this of course led to a great demand for a follow up video http://youtu.be/IN8kVp_akSw. There’s been big talk about eventually visiting this place… I’ll be waiting.
By mid-afternoon we all parted ways and my parents and I enjoyed some much needed R&R back at the apartment before cooking a meal together. My parents left fairly early on Monday morning, and I was happy to have a bit of down time before returning to work on Tuesday!