Monthly Archives: June 2008

Last Night of Class…

This is a true milestone……last Tuesday night was my very LAST night of class.  I realize what a slacker I have been getting any new posts up, but I have a very good excuse……I’m lazy.  I am also having a more difficult time than I thought I would adjusting to post-school life.  I’m the kind of person who has to have way too much going on in order to function properly, because when I only really have work and maybe some golf or opera lessons to worry about I tend to be completely lethargic and I procrastinate like a sumbitch.  If I’m not involved with some task that is making me wonder why in the hell I have anything to do with it in the first place, I withdraw from society completely.  So last Tueday was my real last night of class, and the past several weeks have been torture since I already walked last month (this class was a make-up for what I missed for surgery).  When I think about it, I guess I’ve been in school full time for nearly the past five years.  As soon as I found out about the SWEET tuition policy at my company I went straight into finishing my undergrad and went straight from THAT into grad school.  It has been a busy few years, and now there is no school to constantly worry about and dread.  Sure, I could start applying for PhD programs, and I may do that, but that is a pretty big goddamn commitment.  I don’t know if I have it in me right now.

So I guess when I’m not overly busy, I have no angst, and when I have no angst I am one shitty blogger.  Today I’ve started the “5 Day Pouch Test” that I found on Kaye Bailey’s site months ago, as a way to detox and get a fresh start after so much crazy living over the past month.  Thankfully I haven’t gained any weight, but man have I really been shooting for the moon lately with graduation, the wedding and the DC trip.  The pouch test is just way to get back into the mode you were in right after surgery.  Two days of liquid proteins, clear liquids, and then you incorporate different proteins into your diet for the three days after that.  It’s a good way to clean the carbs out of your system and tighten up the new stomach.  For me it will be a nice way to deal with my downtime and not start obsessing over food since I don’t have a whole hell of a lot going on. 

Lastly, my next big trip is going to be Nashville the weekend of July 11th for a pretty over the top wine event and auction.  I could normally never afford to attend an event like this, but I’m lucky enough to have an insider in the family, so that will be one hell of a weekend.  I even have to go and buy a damn tuxedo.  With all of the good wine in mind, last week I spent a Red-X gift card on a few bottles that I drank over a couple of days after I finished my last night of class.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate an accomplishment like finishing grad school than some good wines.  So here are some notes and thoughts on those  (and no, I am not nearly as good at talking about wine as I am food)…..

Le Volte, 2006, $22

This is a medium bodied Tuscan wine, bottled by Ornellaia (of mega-$$ Super Tuscan fame).  And HERE is why (other than Cellar Rat) Red-X is the ONLY wine store for me in Kansas City.  Last week was the second time in a row I went in there ready to spend x-amount of money, and they talked me into a cheaper option.  I had a very nice gift card and reason to celebrate, so I asked if they could recommend something from Piedmont in the 60ish dollar range that was drinkable now (dumb question, I know).  After perusing the Barolo’s and Amarone’s, the guy said they’d all be a little too tight and would need to be held for a few years yet, BUT here was this really decent Tuscan wine for $22 that I’d really like.  That was the second time in two visits where one of the staff told me about a cheaper option than what I was looking for, and while it was no Piedmontese tannin-bomb I did enjoy it quite a bit.  I actually tried it a little over ten years ago and remember enjoying it back then. Very, very smooth and fruity, slightly acidic. 

 

Adelsheim Pinot Noir, 2006 Willamette Valley, ~$26.00

Okay, the only reason I got this wine (besides the fact that the guy at Red-X saved me a lot of money on that bottle of Le Volte) is because I loved the Adelsheim Rose at Cafe Atlantico/minibar so much.  So what the hell?  I love a good Pinot, and this may not be at the VERY top of my list but it was still pretty good.  A light amount of spice, a very slight tannic pucker to it, some peppery flavors on the front, and a floral/fruit finish. 

 

K Vintner’s “The Boy”, Walla Walla Valley 2006, $35

This is a wine from K Vintners that I have not tried yet.  Other than “The Creator” I think I’ve tried them all.  I love these guys, especially their House Wine from the “Magnificent Wine Company”, which is arguably one of the best under-$10 bottles out there.  You have to love the label, and the quote on the back of the bottle from Serge Gainsbourg that says “I’m the boy who can enjoy invisibility”.  It’s a 94% Grenache, 6% Syrah mix, and I just had to try it out.  THIS was a very, very pleasant surprise.  Even though I’m sure it would have benefitted from another year or two on the shelf, it was the best $35 I’ve spent on wine in a very long time.  I highly recommend it if you can find it locally.  Full bodied with that very specific flavor I think of as “swiss cheese” on the front end, then very rich and dark with earth, tobacco and musky almost overripe fruit.  If I had the money to make this an “everyday” wine, I’d buy it by the case.

So that’s about it for now. No big excitement for the past few days, but the C.H.U.D. is coming to town in a couple of weeks and then I’m off to Nashville.  Will post something later this week or this weekend to talk about my progress with the 5 day pouch test……

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Filed under Bariatric Surgery, culture, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, Recovery, Tent Revival, Weight Loss

minibar, Washington DC

 

First of all, I know there is a real mix of folks that stop by here, so for those of you who are already familiar with minibar, not a ton of new info here since the menu doesn’t change that often.  Also, I’m someone who focuses on remaining immersed in the experience vs. trying to remember to take notes and snap photos with my crappy camera.  So apologies for the missing photos, bad photos, and my less than stellar memory when it comes to the finer points of sauces, accompaniments, etc.  Now, with the disclaimers out of the way……

 

 

Jose Andres’ “minibar” is a restaurant within a restaurant, located upstairs in Cafe Atlantico, a stone’s throw from the National Archives in DC.  I did eat at Cafe Atlantico in March when I was in town on business, and the experience prompted me to do all I could to secure seats at minibar once I found out I was going to be in town on vacation last week.  Basically, minibar only has six seats which are filled twice per night, and you have to call right at 10am one month to the day in advance to get a reservation.  I dialed and redialed on two phones on the morning of April 30th, finally getting in at about 10:04, at which time I scored the last 2 seats for the 6pm seating.  After talking to people in DC, I really got lucky since it was my first try and I only had a 2 day window for dinner.  Once you score a reservation, then you work with the coordinator to email personal information back and forth……dietary restrictions, credit card info, etc.  I know to many people this all has to sound pretty pretentious, and I will admit this type of experience is not for everyone.  However, this type of dining is right up my alley…….small bites of exotic and delicious food over the course of 2+ hours.  Don’t get me wrong, I do look at this type of meal as the ULTIMATE special occasion….from both a caloric and monetary standpoint.  This is in no way a normal experience for me.  The last time I did something similar was at Manresa a couple of years ago.  So it was one long month between the time I made the reservations and when we were seated……

 

My date and I got to the Penn Quarter area pretty early in the evening, arriving at Cafe Atlantico right at 5pm so that we could sit and relax with a drink and chat for a while before being escorted upstairs.  We enjoyed a couple of signature cocktails…..a “Magic Mojito” and a Pineapple Caipharina.  Before long, our server Daniel came down to discuss our drink and wine selections for dinner.  I settled on the same bottle of Adelsheim Rose that I enjoyed in March.  It’s a very tasty wine that is just dry enough….and I thought it would be a safe bet flavorwise with the extreme diversity of flavors ahead of us.  The party of four that would be joining us was running a little late, so we got to our seats at 6:10 and they ran us through all of the “instructions”.  I know, instructions on how to eat dinner…..but in this format it’s necessary.  Basically, the setup is like a sushi bar, so as courses are available you pull them off of the counter, and the servers constantly come up behind you to take away plates, refill glasses and provide you with course-specific flatware. 

 

 

PREP WORK (Prior to launch and during service)

 

I have to say, there is nothing like sitting and watching what goes on in the minibar “kitchen”.  It’s part laboratory, with things like liquid nitrogen and thermal immersion circulators, and part gourmet kitchen, with all manner of containers and ingredients meticulously spread out on the counter.  Our chefs for the evening were Brad and Ryan, and the efficiency with which they worked reminded me of Taylor’s “time and motion studies” in the early 20th century…..there is absolutely no wasted movement from start to finish.  To be honest, at one point I thought the service was going way too fast…but when I looked at the actual time between courses it was just fine…what was throwing me off was watching how quickly Brad and Ryan were working and how they ping-ponged off of one another to get one dish out while the others were being prepped.  The level of detail is excruciatingly amazing…..elements like using a big pair of surgical tweezers to grab single bits of lime zest off of a microplane before gently placing it on top of a dish…and that sort of precision was the theme throughout the evening.  Later on, one of the chefs mentioned that what we don’t get to see is the 8-9 hours of prep time that has to happen before we are seated.  When you have to do things like pick out individual zucchini seeds for an hour for one dish, I’m surprised it doesn’t take even longer. 

 

And now to the FOOD……

 

MUNCHIES

 

1.  “Nitro” Sangria

 

It’s kind of like a Slurpee.  That is, if your 7-Eleven has delicious sangria that they “slushify” using liquid nitrogen right in front of you.  On the bottom is an extremely well chilled cube of watermelon.  Good start to the evening.

 

2. Parmesan “Pringles”

 

Good munche to go along with the sangria. Basically the “Pringles” are made with Parmesan and on the side is a nice yogurt dipping sauce.

 

3. Beet “Tumbleweed”

 

You can’t really see it here, but the ball of dehydrated beet resembles the inside of a golf ball…..a single bite that is very reminiscent of what a sweet potato-potato chip would taste like.

 

4. Olive Oil “Bon-Bon”

 

This is a shot of very good Spanish olive oil encapsulated in an isomalt shell.  For any Top Chef fans, this is the technique Marcel couldn’t get right in Hawaii because of the humidity.  The shell was thicker than I was expecting, but did not detract from the flavor of the wonderful olive oil, accentuated with a small amount of vinegar and few grains of salt. 

 

 

5. “Mojito”

 

No picture here, but the dish was simply a shot of carbonated mojto inside an algenate sphere, with a few flecks of lime zest on top.  Tasted just like a mojito, very fun presentation on a spoon. 

 

6. “Bagels & Lox”

 

I had enjoyed everything up to this point, but this is where the tastebuds started to get fired up.  The crisp little cornet is filled with cream cheese and salmon roe with a little dill……..I’m assuming it’s a friendly nod to Thomas Keller’s famous bite. 

 

 

7. Blue Cheese and Almond

 

This is an almond shell that is formed in a bath of liquid nitrogen and filled with a blue cheese cream sauce and almond pieces on top.  It was a dish that we were instructed to “eat quickly before it melts”, and I wish I’d waited a little longer because I found the shell to be tooth-achingly, brain freezing cold.  Good cheese flavor.  I will mention what a trooper my girl was during dinner.  She hates blue cheese and tried it anyway.  For someone who was brand new to “molecular gastronomy”, she really went with it and we both had a blast.

 

8. “Dragon’s Breath” Popcorn

 

Sorry for not having a pic, but it was another one to “eat quickly”…….basically just a curry flavored bite-sized ball of popcorn that has been treated with liquid nitrogen. It’s a tasty bite, but the fun thing is when you eat it and breathe out through your nose like the chefs tell you, huge billows of “smoke” pour out of your nostrils. 

 

9. Boneless Chicken Wing

 

I’m actually bummed out that I don’t have a picture of this dish because it was the first one to get a HUGE positive reaction out of me.  LOVED IT.  It’s a single bite of chicken wing that is heavily spiced and a brown sugar mixture is placed on top and torched.  I could eat a lot of these.  One of the tastiest single bites I’ve had.

 

10. Steamed Brioche Bun with Caviar

 

This incredibly cute little dish in a one-bite steamer provided a wonderful counterpoint to the previous, spicy course.  It’s a small bun of steamed brioche with some kind of cream/cream cheese in the middle, and osetra caviar and lemon air on the top.  A nice little comforting “bread course”.

 

11. Cotton Candy Eel

 

 

Super duper rock star dish.  I kid you not.  One out of many now that I think about it.  After the chicken wing dish we were on a whole new playing field of flavor.  These two bites are pretty involved, and it was a blast to watch the prep.  The soy cotton candy with a sprinkling of spice sits on top of a piece of lightly sauced grilled eel that is wrapped in a shiso leaf.  We were instructed to eat “one end and then the other”…..first bite was fantastic, and the second bite had a little surprise…..a wee bit of wasabi was tucked in the opposite end.  I loves me some eel, in fact, it was the unagi dish I had at Cafe Atlantico that convinced me I had to come back at some point.  I know eel sounds like too much to some people, but I promise you that when cooked correctly you would never know the difference between it and the tastiest mild and meaty light-fleshed fish.  Delicious dish.

 

 

FLAVORS & TEXTURES

 

12. Green Almonds and Pedro Ximenez “Raisins”

 

And the hits just kept on coming.  For the life of me I can’t remember what the creamy sauce was made of, but for such a simple dish we LOVED IT.  Raw almonds have such a different texture…more like a water chestnut.  The two darker almonds have a marcona praline coating, and the lighter one is all natural.  The dark dots are “raisins” made out of Pedro Ximenez that has been treated somehow to maintain a raisinish shape.  And the sea beans…..I love sea beans.  Somehow this whole thing was unctious, clean and full of wonderful textures.  I’d eat it again.

 

 

13. Zucchini in Three Textures

 

You can’t see this very well, but it is a layered dish that has a creamy zucchini puree on the bottom and a single, beautiful layer of zucchini seeds in a gel on top of that.  When I read about this dish I thought “eh”, but it ended up being very impressive.  Besides the obvious work that goes into preparing it, there is way more flavor than one would expect from the humble squash.  Plus it was seasoned perfectly…..juuuuust enough salt to make it an addictive little treat. 

 

 

14. “Caesar Salad”

 

This was a good dish, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t one of my favorites of the evening.  It’s basically a deconstructed caesar salad, prepared like a maki roll, sitting on top of a caesar dressing with oyster cracker-like “croutons.  The wrapper is made of thinly shaved jicama and it is filled with romaine lettuce (probably something else too, can’t remember). One piece has a quail egg yolk on top of it, and the other is topped with shaved parmesan.  Like I said, I like it but it was more about presentation than flavor for me.

 

15. Sea Urchin “Ceviche” with Hibiscus

 

I love sea urchin.  My date got the opportunity to find out she does NOT like sea urchin.  A very simple presentation….a nice piece of fresh urchin topped with hibiscus air.  Two tasty little bites. 

 

 

16. Parmesan “Egg” with Migas

 

This was pretty interesting……a “sphere” of parmesan that resembles a poached egg, filled with parmesan broth and a quail egg yolk.  I enjoyed it.  Not a broad range of flavors, but I do love a lot of parmesan flavor.  The little crisp bits it was served with reminded me of when you dip up your egg yolk with toast. 

 

 

17. Corn on the Cob

 

Just a simple, tasty bite of food.  Sauteed baby corn served over corn puree with a corn shoot on top.  Very cute.

 

18. Smoked Oyster

 

This was the point in the meal where the amount of food began catching up with me.  I wasn’t “full” but I was getting pickier and pickier about what was going to turn me on.  I didn’t dislike this dish, but I could have gave it up to leave room in my stomach.  It’s comprised of a small smoked oyster with a bit of juniper and some sliced apple (and I think an apple foam). 

 

 

19. “Guacamole”

 

A prep nightmare and a hell of a dish.  Thinly sliced avocado wrapped around a tomato sorbet and topped with lime, pieces of tomato, crushed fritos and baby cilantro.  It was just very refreshing and delicious….and reminiscent of actual guacamole.

 

 

20. Salmon-Pineapple “Ravioli” with Crispy Quinoa

 

Loved it.  Another super duper hit.  Two perfectly cooked chunks of rich salmon wrapped in the thinnest layer of pineapple, topped with crispy quinoa and sitting alongside a nice avocado puree.  Between the texture of the quinoa and the richness of the salmon and avocado, this was a perfect dish.  We were both surprised at how much we liked it.

 

 

21. New England Clam Chowder

 

No pic and my least favorite dish of the evening.  It just wasn’t for me.  It consisted of two fresh clams, a potato puree I believe and (in my opinion) and overly rich and creamy sauce.  I guess it just didn’t remind me of clam chowder, and the creaminess of the sauce didn’t go well with the clams.  No big deal, this was my only real clunker of the night.

 

22. Breaded Cigala with Sea Salad

 

This was a stellar dish, I was just beginning to hit the wall at this point.  The cigala is basically the same as a langoustine, and it was cooked as perfectly as any piece of shellfish I’d ever had.  It’s topped with a piece of fried breading with my favorite new veggie (sea beans) on the side.  I don’t remember what components were in the sauce, but if I had not been as full as I was I would be raving a lot more about this dish.

 

 

23. “Philly Cheesesteak”

 

 

The death blow.  Plus, they took away all of our silverware so that we were for FORCED to make a mess.  It was so rich, and I was so done with the savory dishes, but it was so damn good.  Thinly sliced wagyu beef is draped over a pastry-like roll that is filled with an aged cheddar (and I’m sure other things) sauce.  The sauce goes everywhere, the thing is just delicious, and by the time you make it here you are DONE.  I loved this thing. 

 

 

PRE DESSERT

24. Kumquats & Pumpkin Seed Oil

 

 

So at this point I’m done……I can go for some light desserts but I’m not wild about it.  Well, this is just the dish I needed to clean and wake up my palate.  By wake up my palate, I simply mean that this was, bar none, the single most tart thing I’ve ever eaten.  Son-of-a-bitch this was tart.  I had a couple of bites and don’t remember all of the different components, but I believe the kumquat was filled with some kind of fizzy liquid and the whole thing was a needed eye-opener.  Not necessarily that tasty to me, but absolutely functional. 

 

 

DESSERT

25. Frozen Yogurt and Honey

 

I think the only components in this dish were freezed dried yogurt, freeze dried honey, bits of mint and a pool of very good honey.  As simple as it sounds, the “texture” of the freeze dried elements mixed in with the honey was delicious.  I was surprised at how much I liked this.  Gentle, refreshing and merciful after such a rollercoaster of flavors and textures. 

 

26. Thai Dessert

 

 

Now, I’m not the biggest dessert person in the world.  I like it, but I’d just as soon eat more of a savory dish or have some cheese.  So this thing totally took me by surprise.  It was not only one of my favorite overall dishes of the evening, it may literally be the favorite dessert of my entire life.  Flavorwise it reminded me in many ways of a good Thai or Vietnamese spring roll. I don’t remember the composition of the peanut “blanket”, but the flavor was very similar to a rich Asian peanut sauce.  Underneath was a coconut milk (I think) ice cream.  There was also a peanut sauce and some tamarind, and baby cilantro on top.  What absolutely MADE the dish was the red chile powder on the side that we were instructed to include in every bite.  This thing fired on all cylinders, and was probably even better than I remember since I was already so spent.  I don’t throw this word around very often because it is so overused, but it was genius.  True genius. 

 

 

SWEET ENDINGS

27. Fizzy Ball

28. Chocolate Covered Corn Nuts

29. White Chocolate, Black Olive and Mango Box

30. Saffron Gumdrop with Edible Wrapper

 

 

A little slate platter filled with tasty mignardises.  No big revelations or notes here, but I will say that the white chocolate, black olive and mango box was one of the most interesting flavor combinations I’ve tasted in a while.  I’d like to try it again sans food coma so that I could think about it further and decide if I loved it or hated it. 

 

UTENSILS

 

A meal like this requires special utensils.

 

THE BILL

 

 

The bill is playfully presented in an egg shell and smashed on the counter right in front of you.  I’m sure some will think I’m crazy when I say this, but the $120.00 per person price tag on the meal (not including tax, tip or drinks) is one of the biggest culinary bargains in the United States. 

 

 

Okay, so this was absolutely in the top two meals I’ve ever had…..I just can’t say it was BETTER than Manresa because it was so different.  From start to finish it was executed perfectly, the service was as good and professional as it gets, and the flavors and textures will stick with me for life.  I’d love to go back sometime.  I will say that dining companions are important during a meal like this one.  When the other two couples arrived I thought we were in trouble.  There was a bit of an air of “DC Douchebag” about them…..you know, loud yacking about work, arriving LATE FOR F’ING MINIBAR, etc.  But soon we realized what was PROBABLY going on was that the one couple were both for-real food folks, and their male friend, who was pretty cool, was “hooked up” for a first date with the second girl (we could be wrong about this, but the girl and I are very perceptive).  And it was the second girl that was the problem……..total prima donna pain in the ass syndrome, and when there are only six seats at the counter it tends to stick out more than it normally would.  Seriously, this was her throughout the entire meal…. “Is this the right end of the utensil to use?  What about last course?  Did I use the right end THEN?  WHEN DO WE USE THE OTHER END? Are we good customers?  How would you rate us?  Would you say we’re the best customers you’ve ever had?”.   I kid you not, that was the entire evening for her, she was a broken record.  Plus, she was the vegetarian of the group.  And I have to hand it to the chefs at minibar, they go out of their way to make the vegetarian experience all that it can be and they time the dishes perfectly to go with the non-veggie options.  I’d say at this point I’m about 80% vegetarian with the meals I eat at home, so I have nothing against the lifestyle, but when you need to remind everyone every fifteen seconds that you don’t eat meat AND THEN you go ahead at the end of the meal and suck down one of the Philly Cheesesteaks…….you suck as a human being.  Everyone but this girl was a trooper and a well spoken food-savvy individual, so it definitely could have been worse.  Plus, you’d have to be dropping mortar fire on me to truly ruin a meal like that or draw my attention from it completely.

 

Lastly, I’d be crazy not to include the “bariatric” angle here.  The amount of food that I’d be consuming was a concern with my gastric bypass.  Calorie-wise it was not something I can do very often, but surprisingly I made it through all of the dishes just fine due to the timing and the fact that most were only one or two bites.  At one point later in the meal I did get some mild queasiness due to the richness of some courses, but nothing alarming.  I would not recommend it for all post-surgery folks because I do have a freakishly strong constitution, but as far as high end dining after gastric bypass goes, I guarantee the most bang for the buck at a restaurant like minibar.

 

Honestly, I will remember this meal forever for a number of reasons.  The food, the theatrical preparations and presentations, and the fact that it was the second date with “the C.H.U.D.”, are all elements that made it the most special of all special occasions. 

 

Now back to my daily intake of tofu, vitamins and protein supplements………….I’m due for the “Five day pouch test” really soon.

 

 

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Filed under Bariatric Surgery, culture, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, Recovery, Tent Revival, Weight Loss

LIVE! From Washington DC….

Okay, not really LIVE from DC, I actually started writing this on the plane home to Kansas City.  The original plan was to do daily updates like I did in Maryland, but believe it or not I was having such a good time that the most I could muster was checking my email every day.  It must be shocking for most of you to hear that I had such a wonderful trip, considering the trepidation with which I concluded my last post.  Long story short, the only reason I went to DC was because of a stalker.  I thought that only aging actresses who wanted to breathe some life into their sagging careers got stalkers, but I was wrong.  I tried to ignore this stalker, but she had dug up some dirt on me that I thought was long dead AND she threatened to murder my family unless I met up with her in DC.  I caught onto the fact that she was a C.H.U.D. pretty quickly, so of course I feared for my safety once I arrived……but not as much as I feared for my family.  I am rarely without at least two firearms on my person, so I knew that barring a sneak attack I could put four or five hydrashocks in that C.H.U.D. cranium if things got out of hand. And it’s not like I’m killing a PERSON, I’m just killing a filthy goddamn C.H.U.D…..but anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  There were several hours of hell ahead of me before I met the C.H.U.D. for the first time…..I just wanted to let you know why I was even in that city.

 

I’m just going to put this out there……….I hate children.  To put a finer point on it…..I hate YOUR children.  As far as I’m concerned, they should be relegated to “Children Only” water fountains and more importantly……airplanes, until they are at least ten or twelve.  Now that I think of it, airports too.  And if we cannot segregate the little fuckers, then at the very least each of them should be equipped with a dilaudid drip straight into their carotid arteries, and at the other end of that drip should be one of us childless people who suffer through the little fucks on every airplane ride we take.  The kid starts getting loud….warning shot of dilaudid…..they keep it up, boom….enough to guarantee they are junkies by the age of twelve.   The little fucker keeps it up?  Well, I’ll just say this….if I had MY WAY you’d be wishing you went ahead and suffocated the little shit a la that chick from Quigley Down Under when the Dingoes were coming instead of having to listen to me yell “clickety clickety CLACK!” as I administered a lethal dose of juice.  Seriously……they shoot horses don’t they?

 

Call it karma, poetic justice, whatever you will…..but you child loving assholes will get a kick out of the next part of my trip.  After I landed and got to the luxurious Club Quarters on I Street to desk check my bags, I had a couple of hours to kill before I could get into my room.   I kid you not, the DC Metro is just about the greatest thing in the history of transportation, and Club Quarters is literally ten feet away from the Farragut West Station, so I headed on down to the Smithsonian area.  After all, it was a Thursday around lunchtime…how hideous could the crowds be?  Well, apparently after Memorial Day, every fucking day is like a bad Vietnam flashback in the tourist corridors of DC.  Sure, I’m a tourist, but I’m not one of those all up in your face, invading your personal space, bumping into you and blocking every lane of traffic with my mongoloid antics kind of tourist.  I blend in.  And needless to say I was a unique and precious snowflake when I got to the Smithsonian buildings.  Honestly, museums are one of my favorite things on earth.  I LOVE museums, I even took a class on museums as an undergrad so that I could appreciate and critique them.  But I’m telling you, tourist season in DC takes the piss right out of anything approaching enjoyment.  When I literally loathe the Natural History Museum to the point where I can only stomach ten minutes of it, something is wrong.  People shoulder to shoulder, three deep at every exhibit, jockeying for space to snap a photo of the goddamn Hope Diamond.  Children running and screaming like a Special Olympics version of Lord of the Flies.  I just kept wanting to scream “This ain’t Ellis Island, motherfuckers!  Go back HOME!”.  Please DO NOT think I am joking after I say what I am about to say…….I have never been more serious.  You know how at Disney there will be one day of the year that is chosen to be “Gay Day”?  Well, I wish that all of the museums in Washington DC would sponsor a “Sex Offender Day”.  That way I’d know what day is safe from the screaming throngs of waterheads.  I know.  I know exactly what I am saying.  I would LITERALLY rather be shoulder to shoulder with convicted sex offenders than your children.  I mean, they’re not going to molest ME, I’m almost forty.  In fact, the next time I buy a house I’m going on the sex offender registry and buying whatever is smack dab in the middle of the highest concentration of what we refer to as “touchers”. 

 

So I bailed. Back on the Metro to the hotel, cruising the neighborhood looking for a decent wine store and places for carryout.  I will say that the eccentric street folks could use work.  Compared to NYC, they wouldn’t even register. Like the black guy on the corner of 17th and I, lying in front of the bus stop doing crunches and screaming “Oh don’t go near him! He’s black!  Stay away from him!”.  Come on fella, you can do better than that. There was a lot of decent stuff in the neighborhood, to be completely honest. Tons of delis, various ethnic eateries, nice little parks…but before I allow myself to relax and tell you about the wonderful stuff, I’m going to go off on one more tangent about…… the “DC Douchebags”.  Apparently, everyone knows about these guys. Seriously, every bartender we talked to was like “oh yeah, those guys…..welcome to DC”.  You’ll know exactly who I’m talking about as soon as I describe the 5:01pm uniform……mediocre loafers, crumpled slacks, long sleeves rolled to the elbow, top button undone with the very unflattering tie loosened “just so”. And if you have any doubts about their douchebag pedigree……as soon as they speak you will know……”OH YEAH, WELL CLARK OVER HERE, CLARK WAS JUST BRUTAL TO THAT BITCH IN COURT TODAY!  HOLY FUCK!  I WAS LIKE, CLARK, EASE UP ON THAT STUPID BITCH!  WHAT A BITCH!  BUT CLARK! CLARK IS THE MAN! HE BRUTALIZED HER ‘TIL SHE WAS LOOKING LIKE A WIFE WHO JUST WON’T LISTEN!”.  Yay, being a lawyer in Washington DC…..there’s an accomplishment.  We were staying in the middle of douchebag ground zero, not far from the White House…..which I guess stands to reason considering the current administration.  DC Douchebags do not possess “indoor” voices, which is apparently caused by the fact that they constantly try to talk over one another when discussing their superior skillsets.  And when you are unlucky enough to be seated near them in a bar, it’s quite a show.  Every-single-time I was within earshot of one of them, they ALWAYS asked for some kind of gin or rum nobody has ever heard of, but they had it on a trip or a cruise……and as whatever piece of shit Jimmy Buffett fratboy anthem comes flooding back into their memory they manage to wax poetic about this magical elixir while at the same time berating the bartender for not stocking it.  I did not realize the movie “The Boys from Brazil” was a fucking documentary.

 

 

So there is my venting for the trip…..I basically hate everyone, and I am very, very comfortable with that fact.  But now I’m done with that and will get on with the fun stuff.  I finally checked into my room around 2pm on Thursday, and soon after that……..I met the C.H.U.D.  I think she was trying a sneak-attack by getting to the hotel about 2 hours earlier than I expected, but I was prepared for the worst case scenario.  If you’ve seen the Rammstein video for “Du Hast”, I was EXACTLY like the guy who walks into the barn with his hand behind his back, clutching his pistol.  For someone with no formal military training, my reflexes are pretty sharp.  As soon as I heard the key-card in the door, my hand was at the small of my back and I had the hammer back on my .45.  Any trouble, and there would be two to the chest and one in the brain; special forces style.  After about a minute or so I discerned that I was in no immediate danger.  How can I really fault someone for being obsessed enough with ME to threaten physical violence if they can’t have some of THIS?  I’m actually shocked it doesn’t happen more often.  So for a filthy C.H.U.D. she was very sweet, and we settled in for what would end up being a wonderful weekend.  On Thursday we just spent some time getting acquainted, explored the neighborhood, and had a tasty Peruvian meal at a little place called El Chalan.  Mixed seafood ceviche, and a Peruvian version of a knish: stuffed and deep fried mashed potatoes….how can you go wrong with that?

 

Friday ended up being one of the greatest days ever.  We started off by grabbing breakfast around the corner at Park Place Gourmet……eating bagels and drinking coffee and Red Bull in the park across the street.  Speaking of Park Place Gourmet, I actually saw Scrapple in person for the first time in my life on their breakfast bar.  I was intrigued by it, and also by the chipped beef in gravy which I’d never seen before either.  They were both calling out to me, and I talked about them quite a bit throughout the weekend…….but I knew, I just KNEW deep down that if there were ever foods that were the poster children for Dumping Syndrome, these were the ones.  As sexy as suffering from crippling nausea while dry heaving and spraying the bowl may be……I had to pass.  But it was not easy.

 

 

The statue in Farragut Park, our main breakfast hangout next to the hotel.

 

After breakfast we decided to take a stroll down by the White House to see what was going on.  It was a beautiful day, and it was only about two blocks away. 

 

Here is a gratuitous shot of the White House, complete with non-Mexican gardener working out front. Way to be edgy, Dubya!

 

 

Me and the C.H.U.D.  And yes, my shirt IS the ugliest one on the planet.  But it’s one of the only short sleeved shirts I have that fits now, so piss off.

 

If this isn’t an advertisement for forced sterilization, then I don’t know what is.

 

Running a very close second to the uber-male DC Douchebags are the ever present Segway Douchebags.  They are everywhere, and yes, they tend to live in clusters. 

 

 

We must have spent at least an hour just sitting on a park bench checking out the different protesters camped in front of Dubya’s Mongoloid Hostel.  Entertainment at its finest, and damn fine people if you ask me.  These are the “24 Hour Protest People”. 

 

 

We named this fellow “Box Head”.  Box Head is probably one of the coolest people ever, unless it’s really just Dick Cheney in disguise, out having some fun.  I think you will agree that the subtlety and simplicity of Box Head’s ensemble is what really drives his point home.  He left after a while, and I’m pretty sure it was because he was being upstaged by this NEXT guy…..

 

 

I don’t think anyone can come up with an argument to convince me that this is NOT one of the greatest people to have ever lived.  We were so impressed we couldn’t even come up with a name for him….so he’s just the God of Death.  The God of Death not only has an incredibly well thought-out apocalyptic diatribe that serves as the basis for his beliefs, he puts his heart and soul into his display. It is a multimedia experience, complete with smoke effects, tons of music (Devil Went Down to Georgia, for instance), literature, an interactive wheel of apocalyptic scenarios…….the dude has got it going on. He knows how to draw a crowd and keep them fixated on his genius.

 

When the crowds and school groups got to be too much, we strolled down the street and happened upon what would end up being our only “real” museum experience of the trip.  The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery of American Art is right across the street from the White House, and for whatever reason we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves.  When I say “real” museum experience, I just mean that you are able to peruse the displays in relative peace, whispering back and forth to one another….instead of being jostled by throngs of tourists.  The Renwick is a beautiful building, and I took a few pictures of pieces of art that I wish I could have in my house. 

 

 

Creepiest kid ever, with an amazing 3D effect.  Way scarier than the movie “The Ring”.

 

 

This is a “Shaker Television”.  Get it?

 

 

 

The sheer size of this piece is what makes it so incredible.  Sixteen artists worked to create every individual piece of glass on the tablescape, which is inspired by those ornate 18th century paintings featuring huge feasts.  It’s hard to see, but all of the major food groups are represented in glass. 

 

 

 

This ceramic bunny from hell is simply titled “i am no one”.  I’m just assuming I’m not the only person who would love to have this in a corner of their dining room. 

 

 

So after the Renwick we strolled around for a while before heading back to the hotel to shower and get dressed for the rest of Friday’s adventure.  For whatever reason, I got it into my head that we should visit the Holocaust Museum right before it was time to head over to minibar.  I guess it just had something to do with the extreme contrast between what was arguably the most hideous event in all of human history juxtaposed against a dining experience that is arguably one of the greatest in the world.

 

Uh-huh. You know what I’LL never forget that I saw?  The sheer number of human bodies packed into the museum…to the point where it was literally impossible to take in any portion of the exhibit.  Tickets to the main exhibition are free, but they pass them out and time entries to avoid too many people being in there at once.  If the number of people they let in at one time is intentional, then I’d hate to see what a free-for-all would look like.  Honestly, even with my museum-critic glasses on, it was hard to find fault with the layout and design of the Holocaust Museum.  It may very well be the best executed exhibit I have ever seen.  Being assigned an “identity” of a holocaust victim upon entry is effective….basically you get an ID card and read more and more about the person as you walk through.  Then at the end you find out if you lived or died.  I died.  The C.H.U.D. lived.  Such irony.  Sadly, there were just too many people crammed in there to do it justice and give it the proper respect it deserved.  Constantly having to fight your way past strollers precludes you from immersing yourself in the experience.

 

 

And then it was on to minibar.  I won’t go into great detail here because I’ll do a whole separate post on the experience, but it truly was one of the top two dining experiences of my life (the other being at Manresa in Los Gatos, CA).  Two hours, 31 courses…..it will be etched in my memory forever.

 

Me and the C.H.U.D. enjoying a pre-dinner drink……they do mix a fine cocktail down at the bar at Cafe Atlantico.  And I have to say the bartenders earn their money….I’ve never seen an entire bus tub full of limes in the prep area of a bar before, but when you see them muddle every mojito by hand you understand the sheer scope of their lime usage. 

 

 

On Saturday we kind of took it easy, heading down to Chinatown for lunch at New Big Wong.  Not just a great name, but it was one of the only places in Chinatown that was recommended by DC food folks.  I have to say that the Mongolian Beef we shared was by far the best I’ve ever had.  I don’t put a lot of stock in “American” Chinese food, and never have high hopes, but this stuff was incredible.  Melt in your mouth tender.  After lunch we ran through a torrential downpour to the theatre right down the street. The original plan was to see Sex and the City, but all shows were sold out, so we went with The Strangers.  Not a bad movie, it’s a very good concept, there’s just no way to get past how stupid white people in horror movies can be.  “Okay, I know we should stay in this closet with this loaded shotgun…..but I’m going to run out the barn for a bit”. 

 

After the movie the weather was still kind of spotty, so we decided to find a nice bar and hole up for a while.  The area around Chinatown and the Verizon Center is not exactly the place to find a nice hole in the wall….it’s more of a place to get awesome blossoms and riblets at any one of the megachain Applebee’s/Ruby Tuesday establishments on that street.  As luck would have it, we found “Rocket Bar”.  Now, I have no idea what this place is like when it’s hopping….it could be wall to wall peckerheads for all I know. However, at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon you pretty much have the place to yourself.  Greatest jukebox ever…..all digital/touch screen and I think it’s loaded via satellite so you can literally find any song by any band that has ever put out an album.  Not only the greatest jukebox, but also the greatest bartender……..our new best friend forever Rodney.  Rodney has great stories, he pours a very, VERY healthy bourbon and coke, knows what you’re talking about when you mention DC Douchebags (but he calls them DoucheNozzles, which is even worse), and he isn’t shy about skipping through the song selections of the emo-freaks at the pool table as soon as you give him the nod.  If you are dumb enough to think a song like “Lightning Crashes” is appropriate listening in a bar where I’m drinking bourbon, then you deserve to lose that dollar so I can hear whatever Social D we’ve got queued up behind it.  The C.H.U.D. and I really saw eye to eye with all of this.  All Emo fuckers should die.  It was also at Rocket Bar that I came up with one of the best ideas I’ve ever had……you remember the movie Memento, where the guy had no short term memory and had to either write stuff down or tattoo it on his arm?  Well, if I lived in DC that’s what I’d do for when I was too drunk and needed to remember what Metro Lines went where.  All down the inside of my forearm I’d have things like “Red Line Originates in Shady Grove, transfer to the Yellow Line at Metro Center”.  Rodney really put a hurtin’ on me with their rail bourbon, and at one point I told the C.H.U.D. she needed to stop drinking so that one of us could get us around safely.  Honestly, she couldn’t have been a better travel companion, I really lucked out as far as stalkers go.  Funny, great conversationalist, puts up with the kind of humor I can’t even post on HERE, very sweet……..but when it came down to it I had to know….when the shit hits the fan, can this C.H.U.D. get us home alive?  And by shit hitting the fan, I just mean me getting pretty drunk.  Well, somehow she got us all the way back from Rocket Bar to the hotel where we showered and put on some party clothes so that we could keep things rolling.  So we went on down to the local watering hole….The Bottom Line, on the next block across from our hotel.  Since it was the weekend there weren’t any DC Douchebags in there, but you know what?  The bartender finished my thought for me as soon as I even started a conversation about them.  She was pretty cool, and after a couple of Knob Creek Manhattans I decided it was time to leave and give the C.H.U.D. the final shit-hitting-the-fan test.  Some people will view this as a symptom of excess, especially since I said I was saying goodbye to bourbon (like THAT shit was going to happen), but I view it as progress.  Yes, progress.  When I am comfortable enough with my new body to pull some antics in the park, it is a very positive thing.  Basically, it just consisted of me unbuttoning my shirt and threatening to ask passersby if they “wanted some of THIS”.  Then there was the unbuckling of my pants because I wanted to “feel the wind whistle across my ‘taint”.  Good stuff.  And the C.H.U.D. was very calm and caring with her response.  There were the initial embarassed pleas, the reverse psychology……a battery of things that made her the perfect babysitter and travel companion.  Even when we were back in the room and I kept threatening to go back out to the park and get naked, she hung in there.  A real champ. 

 

 

 

This is probably about ten minutes from the windy ‘taint related antics in the park……

 

 

Well, I could go on for a while about what a great time I had in DC with the C.H.U.D., but this is already about twice as long as my longest post……and I still have to write about minibar.  On Sunday we happened to run into one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met, as we sat in the park. He was 90 years old, served at D-Day, had two uncles in WWI, and was a very well spoken and sharply dressed Dubya-hater.  We enjoyed a long conversation with him, and pretty much just took it easy all day after the marathon bourbon bash the night before.  Since it was our last night in town, we did walk all the way down to the monuments in the evening……so here are some gratuitous shots of THAT….

 

 

A giant Masonic penis….

 

 

 

The WWII memorial……the waters were so inviting, but there signs about every five feet warning you against any monkey business. 

 

Night falls on the giant Masonic penis and its Capitol building gonad…..

 

I know I don’t feature it in any of these nighttime shots, but even at 9 or 10pm you are not safe from the throngs of people getting off of tour buses. In fact, the tour guides each have their own uniquely lit baton or crazy lighted glasses frames so that their people can find them.  I know that I’m unrealistic in my expectation to have all of these places to myself, it’s just weird to have SO MANY goddamn people around you at all times. Great monuments though, despite the hordes. 

 

 

No, I didn’t start quoting any Big Lebowski.  But I did think about it.  Out of all of the monuments, the Vietnam Memorial may have been my favorite.  There is something ominous about seeing all of those names.

 

 

So anyway, there you have it.  The DC trip where I met up with the C.H.U.D. stalker.  It went so well that I actually think she’s going to come up to Kansas City next month.  I managed to let my guard down a little bit since she was so nice to me, but you better believe I’ll be packing when she’s here on my home turf this close to my family and friends. 

 

minbar writeup in the next couple of days……..

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