travel, hike, eat. repeat.

my adventures are often on a budget… and always clumsy.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Thai Square

Remember when I waxed poetic about Thai Square in Arlington? Now, finally, I can wax nostalgic about it.

Post Great Falls rain hike fuel with Matt & Randall. It looks like a hole in the wall, but we felt a little too disheveled and dirty once we were inside!

First course: spring rolls and sun-dried beef. The rolls are perfectly fried, and you can taste the shiitake mushrooms used in them.This picture doesn’t show the beef in the best light, but it’s quite good. The red sauce is spicy; it’s a perfect starter dish to share.

Second course: noodles and curry! Randall got chicken panang (top left); Matt got pad see ew (right) and I got my standard, drunken noodles (below). Panang is traditionally heavy on coconut milk and medium on spice. They nailed it. It had a great flavor. Matt’s pad see ew stole the show. It’s smoky. My pad kee mao didn’t impress. It had the right amount of spice, but it carried a strong chargrilled flavor that didn’t stop me from eating it, but kept me nibbling at Matt and Randall’s dishes.

My first words when we sat down were, “No matter HOW FULL I get, we have to order mango and sticky rice!” So we did. It’s my favorite dessert, and it did not disappoint at Thai Square.

I really, really love mango and sticky rice. Did I mention that?!

When we walked in for lunch on a Saturday, the restaurant was 3/4 full of Thai nationals. If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will!

Our meal came to about $22 each, but as you saw, we ate everything (and ordered sodas/beer). They have great lunch specials for $7.95, but unfortunately the deal is only Monday-Friday. On a weekend, you can expect to eat for $12-15, including tip, if you skip the appetizers and drinks.

Thai Square Menu

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friday’s letters

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Dear Vacation, Home is where the ocean is; I needed you.

over the river and through the mud, on a Great Falls hike we go…

I’ve been hankering to do a mud run for several years, and after taking on a mud/rain hike this weekend, I’m positively convinced it needs to happen STAT.

Randall, Matt & I had planned to go hiking on Saturday, and when it started pouring, and the weather channel predicted rain and storms all day, somehow we still got in the car and headed out, you know, I guess on the hope that it would stop? It didn’t, and it was freaking awesome. I’m like a six year old my puppy Theodore on a muddy trail – I don’t avoid puddles, I jump in them!

Little Theo is, ah, well, hyperactive, to say the least. I thought as a Beagle/Basset mix he’d have the curiosity and cute face of a beagle with the lazy, adorable long body of a basset. Aside from the body parts, I was way, way wrong. My little Bagle Hound is a freak of nature. He’s supernaturally energetic at all hours of the day or night. And he will walk you if you let him, and it’s mostly impossible to not. And he loves hiking. He’s all hound, that’s for sure – he smells anything, like a rock, I swear, he’ll run to chase it and want to play with it.

So anyway, we brought Theo along with us, and I, like the clever pet owner I think I am, brought a cup of peanut butter for him. He loves peanut butter, and I use it in training him to be better on the leash. What I learned: hiking > peanut butter. He didn’t care one iota about the peanut butter. He smelled mud, it was raining, and he was in nature; he was the happiest little dog. He practically made our fairly easy hike into a mud run, as we pulled him and called out to him and ran to keep up with him. And it was freaking awesome.

We trekked the 25 minutes or so out to Great Falls on the Maryland side to hike the Billy Goat section “C” trail. I wanted to show Randall and Matt section “A,” the most strenuous of the three (though not very), chock full of rock scrambling. “A” contains a pretty steep section, however, that dogs can’t do (trust, don’t try), and given the rain, would be treacherous.

Hiking “C” turned out to be beautiful and a section of Great Falls I’d never seen before. There’s only about 200 feet of incline, so it’s a simple, laid back hike. That said, you really do feel encompassed by green, locked in a forest all your own (especially when it’s raining and muddy and no one else dares to hike!). There are incredible pockets between the foliage allowing for pristine views of the Potomac.

There’s a waterfall mid-way through the hike, a small but lovely one, that requires slightly tricky footwork to cross, especially when the water is high. Theo doesn’t like water, to say the least, and Matt had to soothe him and help him across.

The “C” section trail we did was only about 1.5 miles. You can do it as a loop, walking the last .5 miles on the paved road to return to the parking lot. We opted to make it an out-and-back hike, returning the way we came, to make it a solid 3 miles.

You know what the best part of hiking is? It’s freeeeeee!!! Well, there’s gas, but at a mere 25 minutes outside D.C., it’s nominal.* If there’s any greater feeling than accomplishing a great hike, it’s being rain-drenched and mud-covered after!

*Unfortunately, Great Falls is 7-10 miles from the nearest Metro, making it inaccessible by public transportation.

brave natitude

My favorite time to be in Nationals Stadium comes during the seventh inning, when all 40,000 baseball fans stand up and sing, yes, you guessed it, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I don’t think I’ve ever even had a cracker jack, but I belt it like keeping my social security card depends on it.

Unfortunately, Matt, Randall and I didn’t make it that far during last Friday night’s Braves-Nationals game…

Randall came to visit this weekend. He’s one of my oldest friends; we’re going on 15 years. That’s, like, a lot. A lot a lot. So many, in fact, we can have entire conversations comprised solely of inside jokes. We’re really cool like that.

When he booked his flight, we ventured to find unique activities, things he hadn’t done in D.C. I’d say we outdid ourselves; we had an awesome weekend, most all of it $50 weekend approved! Since we’re both from Georgia, as is my roommate and close friend Matt, we had to see the ball game. The only problem was… I may be a Georgia peach, but after two years in D.C., I couldn’t pick which team to root on!

After a couple of margaritas at Bullpen, the open air bar directly across from the Navy Yard metro exit, I too-easily talked myself into a $5 Braves hat on the way into the stadium. Even with the hat, I split my allegiance down the middle – rooting for the Braves to win, but involuntarily whooping and hollering at every Nats success, much to Randall’s chagrin.

By the 5th inning and the ensuing rain storm, with the Nats four runs ahead, we decided to head out from the game. We were not in our right minds! It ended up being a heart-thumping, intense game all the way to the 10th inning. The Braves made a giant comeback to best the Nats 11-10 in our own stadium.

Meanwhile… we ventured over to Nelly’s Sports Bar on U Street for a brew. We ended our night with late-night Horace and Dickies and H &Pizza by the house, and saddest of all, we all crashed before midnight. We are PARTYERS, y’all!

We got upper level tickets for $25, which is not a steal. You can get tix as inexpensive as $5-10 for Nats games. Make sure to also check out their Beltway Burger Pack – for $32 with taxes and fees, you get a ticket for the game (great seats!), a burger, fries and a soda or water. The lines are long for the food, but it’s worth it!

Last summer, Nats frenzy went right past me. I didn’t attend a single game. This summer, I’ve been to three and will definitely be screaming for Bryce Harper at a few more before the season ends. All I have left to do is order some cracker jacks.

Word to the wise: their margaritas pack a punch!

Photo bombing your own camera? Classy!

Yes, yes Matt (left) and Randall (right) are wearing the same pants. Yep, that happened!

Step Up 5: Bullpen

The Peach State Kids.

friday’s letters

RDB (Randall) and me in 2007. We’ve been friends since MIDDLE SCHOOL, y’all, middle school!

Dear Zan, Thank you for coming out from Bethesda to have lunch with me (in the rain, no less!). Seeing you put a woolly mammoth-size smile on my face and made the chaos and stress of my morning feel simply like background noise. Dear Rain, please go away and come back when it’s not a Nats game day! Dear Randall, I’m so excited you’re here visiting this weekend! I can’t wait to show you the parts of D.C. that have become special to me. Whatever we decide to do – hiking, biking, kayaking, day drinking… will be memorable. And I’m sure we’ll find a way to fit a rendition of, “Couldya wouldya” in! Dear Sir Theodore Prince of Bagle Hounds, Congratulations on graduating from Manners Class last night! Our relationship has grown so much over the course of this class, and I’m so excited to understand you and your little nose a little better. Now, if only we could master that whole loose leash walking thing… Dear Graham, No excuses, I’m dragging you out for a beer soon! Dear Colorado, The news of the shooting destroyed me this morning. I feel like before my mind could even register the new day, there were tears in my eyes. I can’t fathom the fear every person in that theater felt, and I can’t fathom the pain the families of the victims are experiencing. I do know that there’s a mass solidarity right now in our country, a sense of togetherness, and that over brimming love and support is surrounding you all. I hope, in some small way, that offers comfort. Dear Friday, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Mexican fiesta!

From vineyards in Verona to mole in Mexico, my wanderlust knows no borders. I remember living in Los Angeles in 2008, the summer before my last semester of undergrad, and going salsa dancing at a dive bar next to my studio in Hollywood. A suave, stereotypically sexy Latin man spun me until the phrase “swept me off my feet” felt real.

I can’t wait to get to Mexico.

Anywho.

Until I can make it to Mexico, I live la vida loca right here in the District.

Last Friday night, Zan’s and my good friends Marty and Kim invited us to their Dupont Casa for Mexican night. They supplied the homemade enchiladas, and we brought chips and salsa, guacamole and dessert. We drank mucho wine, the bottles extending into the wee hours of the next morning.

On top of having an incredible, pressure-free, laid back time with friends, the icing on the cake (cinnamon sugar on the churros?) is how inexpensive these evenings can be. Living in D.C., even I – perpetually broke, on-a-budget girl, get caught up in the foodie, wino, event-driven culture. It can get socially and financially fatiguing to constantly go-go-go. Sometimes a night in with friends is better than all of the pizzazz of the city.

Bucket list: visit an avocado orchard in Mexico (picture from http://avocado.omeletla.com/site/uncategorized/where-do-avocados-grow)

Zan and I spent maybe $20 total on desserts, guacamole fixins, chips and Red Hill Farm salsa (the best! sold at Whole Foods). Marty & Kim probably spent about the same on ingredients for enchiladas.

Bucket list: sunrise yoga on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. I can’t get enough of Emilie Johnson’s Tulum pictures…

On our way to Marty and Kim’s, Zan and I stopped at La Frontera Cantina at 17th and R NW. It has abysmal Yelp! reviews, but we enjoyed it! The margaritas are solid and at $4 during their extra long happy hour (4pm-8pm!), can’t be matched in the city. The service deserved the 2 star reviews, however, and we didn’t try the food, so perhaps that’s their other flaw? Either way, we’ll be back for happy hour!

I love nights like those. They’re the nights when friendships are deepened and maintained, the ones whose memories stay vibrant. I’ve known Marty for not quite a year and a half, and Kim at least eight months of those. After our Mexican fiesta, it feels much longer.

the world according to grapes

On the first day of my job teaching English in Japan, almost exactly three years ago, I made a to-do list. It covered the whole of Japan: each of the four major islands, hiking Mt. Fuji, exploring the castles, pagodas and temples of Kyoto and even taking karate classes in my town. I folded my handwritten baker’s dozen list of dreams and placed it in a nook of my wallet. It’s still there now, the creases more defined and the letters faded. Everything is crossed off.

When I left Japan, I promised myself that I would live in D.C., the city that would be my new home, like I lived in Japan – voracious for experience, excited to see and do everything the place has to offer. Until about four months ago, I hadn’t made good on that promise. I’d explored some, did some things and experienced only a modicum of what this area boasts.

In the past several months, that has changed, this summer more than ever. Zan and I made a summer “to-do” list back in early June. In the six too-short weeks since then, we’ve crossed off half of it. This weekend, we crossed off wine tasting in Virginia wine country.

Zan planned the day for us. He surprised me with tickets for Winestock, Little Washington Winery’s debut into the Virginia wine scene. He followed it with trips to two wineries – Philip Carter I’d been coveting since a tasting at the Clifton Wine Festival and Boxwood Winery, home to a few of Zan’s favorite local wines.

It was a quiet Saturday, the soft mountain air breezes welcome in the mid-summer heat and the wine refreshing on our palettes. My iPhone maps took us off-roading twice down bumpy, one-lane gravel roads. By then, we had no cell service, no way to be rerouted, so we trusted the paths, disconnected from everything, and enjoyed the adventure and breathtaking scenery.

“Winestock” was an ambitious name for the tiny wine festival held at Little Washington Winery, but at $10 for tickets, including 10 tastings, we didn’t mind. There were no lines and the view was breathtaking.

Little Washington Winery

Melanie noted that my eyes are closed, and now I can’t stop noticing it.

Tastings are $6/pp. They have package options for picnics, including blanket rentals and wine.

When it comes to the view, Philip Carter takes Best in Show.

My legs were blinded by the light.

My camera died right before we got to Boxwood so this is the only one I have. If Philip Carter won Best in Show for the view, Boxwood wins for the best wines of the day. Tastings are $10/pp for five wines, and you can keep the glass.

Zan told me once that when asked by a friend what he likes most about me, his response was, “We do things together.” It’s my favorite, too.

In terms of cost, wine tasting can fit the bill on a budget. For tastings and tickets for two people, our day came to $52 (excluding gas and bottles we purchased). Many wineries are as little as $5 for a tasting of 3-10 wines. 

a message to Patty Berglund from the blogger

…it occurred to her that she was a person who dwelt in fantasies with essentially no relation to reality.

I’m reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen on recommendation from my long-time best friend Melanie (check out her beautiful blog). I’m 203 pages into the 597-page behemoth so I’ll reserve judgment.

Franzen skillfully crafts Patty Berglund, protagonist. She’s complicated and multidimensional in ways that strike me as hard to read; she’s almost too human, almost too afflicted with average human flaws, flaws I could find in myself. And she’s sad in her humanity, incapable of seeing her own worth, her own goodness, specialness and value, yet another flaw that can resonate all too easily. She believes herself altogether unworthy and detached from her own reality.

When I was young, my mom and I would watch While You Were Sleeping weekly. I’d blow into the VCR by habit and push the old VHS inside. We’d fall asleep quoting the lines, always giggling at the banter about a leaning hug.

Melanie and I wrote a romantic comedy screenplay in seventh grade, entitled, Life, Love & Something Else. Patrick and Grant were two of the main characters, their love interests in the same group of friends. We enacted their dialogue aloud, passing a spiral bound notebook back and forth at our sleepovers and in between periods (and during classes) at school.

I can still recall the covers of the young adult romance-filled fiction I devoured as a pre-teen. To this day I think holding hands walking on the beach at sunset is the pinnacle of romance, an idea learned from one of those very novels.

I’m versed in the art of contrived, imagined romance. I have engrained ideas, passions and expectations for love. I may be a person inclined to dwell in fantasies with essentially no relation to reality, but I’m beginning to learn through trial and error and life itself that reality can be sweeter than those fantasies.

I hope Patty Berglund grows to discover the same in the next 394 pages.

Reading can be free (yay libraries!), but if you’re like me and love nothing better than growing your already overflowing bookshelves with the smell of the printed word, check out AbeBooks.com and, in D.C., Capitol Hill Books for inexpensive, used books.

NOM &Pizza

My buddy Doug has built a social media empire managing accounts for D.C.’s hottest small businesses, including Taylor Gourmet. The newest restaurant in his repertoire is H &Pizza, the sizzling hot restaurant that opened just this morning at the corner of 12th and H NE.

Doug too kindly invited me to H &Pizza’s soft-opening that took place last night. I jumped at the chance to check it out before it’s official debut today, and let me tell you – it is BOMB. Yep, I just brought back “bomb.” It is that good, y’all, and I’m not just saying that because I got to hang with the cool kids at &Pizza’s swanky shindig!

Here’s the rundown…

Apologies for the poor menu pic! What’s big: $8.64 for any and all the toppings you want! What is this, HEAVEN? (Check out H Street Great Street’s post for a better menu picture.)

H &Pizza boasts tasty, creative individual pies at that awesome price I mentioned above. Moonstruck had me at “truffle.”

For me? Best in Show.

I left covered in chocolate and powdered sugar. They’re doing it right.

CAKE &Pizza.

Welcome to the neighborhood, H &Pizza!

on the boardwalk…

I didn’t know 1960s style arcades still existed, let alone their prices. Did you?

Last week I stumbled into two vacation days, and Zander decided to take them off with me. He invited me out to Rehoboth Beach, DE for a “minication.” This was poignant for two reasons: 1) his parents live there, and I hadn’t met them yet. 2) Well, refer to #1.

I didn’t hesitate to say yes; I was nervous to meet his parents but excited to spend a few days on the beach and in the community where Zan spent so many of his formative years.

Rehoboth is beautiful. We walked barefoot in the sand along the breaking shore in the late afternoon sunlight happy just to be somewhere else, somewhere new together. We filled our ever too short days to the brim with relaxation, sunshine, decadent meals and myriad wines.

Meeting the ‘rents was special and wonderful. They introduced me to their friends – bartenders, chefs and neighborhood couples, welcoming me into their lives, past and present.

Our first night there, they took us to their favorite restaurant in town, Shorebreak. Besides the mouthwatering edamame hummus, what stood out most at that dinner was Zan’s parents teasing him about his high school job at the beach boardwalk arcade and amusement park Funland. I couldn’t be made to sit still; we had to go!

Zan indulged my whimsy the next afternoon. After several blissful hours of lying on the beach, we headed to the boardwalk.

We shared a custard cone before heading into Funland ($3).

At Fundland, I cajoled Zan into goofing off in the Photobooth ($2).

We won a stuffed shark showing off our skeeball prowess ($.25/game…. WHAT?!).

We talked smack in bumper cars ($3 for 10 tix).

Combined, our afternoon on the boardwalk cost a mere $10; it was as though we stepped back in time! And speaking of ancient history (hehe), my favorite part was getting a sneak peek into Zan’s life as a teenager. He told me stories of pranks he and the staff used to pull, which rides were still run the same way and insider tips on the games. I’m a veritable Funland expert now!

Until we meet again, Rehoboth…

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