Brooklyn in the DC Heights - Meridian Pint

Though I live less than 5 blocks west of the burgeoning hip strip of 11th Street NW, the main place that I frequent there is the delectable, but, busy, Red Rocks Pizza.  When a close friend of mine moved back from California and wanted to get dinner in Columbia Heights, I thought about my go-to’s and then decided to branch out and try the year old Meridian Pint at 3400 11th St NW.

Before I visited, I knew that Meridian Pint would have a long beer list, that it had tables with built in taps and that it had a souped-up bar menu.  What I didn’t know, is that the long draft beer list was compiled of delicious, herbaceous, diverse local and domestic brews from as close as Baltimore to California in addition to a page long list of 750 ML special beers for sharing.  I also didn’t know that the menu was so vegetarian and vegan friendly, indeed there were the requisite hamburgers with foodie toppings, but also dishes featuring ginger-soy tofu, grilled polenta and walnut lentil salad with roasted pepper sauce and grilled fennel!  Mains also included tasty looking braised beef ribs served with mac-n-cheese, grilled trout and steak.  We tried an out of this world starter – roasted sweet potatoes.  They served them quartered, seemingly grilled and broiled at the same time with amazing caramelized edges.

The atmosphere reminded me of a bar in Brooklyn, dark wood, low lights, upbeat indie music, and beer signs on the wall.  The layout was friendly for all kinds of gatherings – booths for intimate conversations, tables that can accommodate groups of all kinds, including those with kids, a long bar for a casual night and a party friendly downstairs with tables with built in beer taps, pool tables and another long bar. 

I’m sorry that it took me so long to visit and so pleased to have a vegetarian friendly local pub to bring friends. Next up on 11th Street NW – Room 11 and Bloom Bars.


Palm Trees and Exploration in South Florida

Like many in Northern Climes, I made what has become an annual expedition to the South of Florida.  In the past, I’ve mostly spent time north of Ft. Lauderdale, 5 miles or so inland of Route 1 and bored, aside from expeditions to what could be called a landmark of East Coast American Jewish Culture, the Festival Flea Market.  This trip was different.  The first few days consisted of visits with various family and rambling around Boca Raton and its environs (which were warm and full of sun and palm trees – thus great). The second few days centered on exploring Miami, the Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale (by the sea).  My goal with the review below is to provide a quick guide to some of the fun things we stumbled upon to do in the South of Florida.  I’ll start with the favorites.

Miami, oh, Miami – how my northern heart loves you with your pulsing mix of cultures, bright pastel buildings, art deco, delis, Calle Ocho, art, jungly trees and gorgeous Coconut Grove.  Last visit in December 09, we visited the more eastern bit of Calle Ocho near Domino Park for a  coffee, a walk and an attempt to visit the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library (which was closed).  This time, we found ourselves on the more Western edge of Calle Ocho, closer to Coral Gables.  We wanted to sample a Cuban dinner (not so easy to find in Maryland and Long Island) and settled on deciding between to kitschy, classic Cuban eateries, La Caretta and Versailles.  Both had hundreds of reviews on yelp (more on that) describing the fare, at atmosphere and the service.  At the end, the eating decision came down to the architecture of the restaurant, La Caretta had a big wooden wheel with bright yellow lights, it just looked cool so we went in.  I had Riopas Viejas made with beef (a sort of tomato, peppery stewed beef dish) served with sweet plantains (my favorites), white rice and black beans.  He had Riopas Fritatas which was basically the same sides served with braised, then fried with onions beef.  We started the meal with Yucca Fries and a green aioli and buttered, toasted garlic bread.  The meal cost about $30 including tip and was fabulous!  We made our way from Calle Ocho to South Beach (can’t resist Art Deco) for fabled ice cream and sorbet at the Frieze, off a side road near the Lincoln Road Outdoor Mall (which is really a scene!).  The Frieze had incredible Sorbets, with flavors ranging from Champagne to Tamarind to Coconut and Mango.  Feeling in the mood for something Thai inspired, I tried coconut and mango sorbets. WOW!  Bright popping flavors, really special desert.  Watch out though, the fruit sorbets can get a little sweet.

We also had the surprise opportunity to go to the St. Stephens and Coconut Grove Art Festivals. After a breakfast of New York Bagels and Nova Spread at Ft. Lauderdale’s Pomperdale Deli, which made me wonder why you can get such good New York style bagels in Ft. Lauderdale and not DC if the theory that the NY water is what makes them special.  Coconut Grove, settled through waves of immigration starting in 1925, is a precious village, now annexed by Miami and home to some of its major tourist attractions such as the Villa Vizcaya (still haven’t visited), lots of open air cafes and a bohemian air.  The Coconut Grove Art Festival is a real treat.  For $10, you can walk through hundreds of white tented artist pavilions to view unique, creative pieces in a variety of mediums including metal work (robot art?), photography, oil and jewelry. There are cooking demonstrations, live music and a mix of festival and local food options.  To explore the area more, we decided to leave the festival for lunch and visit the Last Carrot, a hippy vegetarian hold out from the 70s.  The Last Carrot’s simple menu is extremely healthy and very delicious.  On offer are sandwiches with tuna, baked spicy tofu, avocado, hummus and salads, freshly squeezed vegetable juices and fresh fruit smoothies rounded out by deserts (some vegan).  The main seating is a bar where you watch the staff prepare your food.  We absolutely loved it and recommend it to anyone seeking a refreshing healthy (non bank breaking) lunch in the grove.

The Everglades: Coming down to S. Florida a few times a year nearly my whole life and not visiting the Everglades is a scandal.  On the drive down from Boca Raton, we read the Wikipedia entry about them (how’s that for modern tourism) learning how they were seen an environment to be conquered by the exploring Europeans and how that very conquering distorted the ecosystems.  The way they were described, as a 60 mile wide and 120 mile long river swamp at the very southern trip of the United States made us feel as though we were venturing to the end of the earth.  As we passed through Miami and Homestead into Florida City, we had a sense that we normally don’t have in coastal areas that we were hovering on a wild edge that divided the U.S. and the Caribbean.  It was interesting. If you make your way down to the Edward Coe Entrance, near Homestead, you must stop at Robert is Here, a Florida City landmark.  Robert is Here is a farmers market with a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a milkshake shack and a zoo with turtles, donkeys, an ostrich and goats all in one.  They make an amazing Strawberry Key Lime Milkshake and fresh salsa and guacamole.  We picked up a bag of tortilla chips, milkshakes and guac and called it lunch. 

Once you enter the everglades from the Coe entrance, it is 38 miles to the Flamingo Visitors center, a bright pink 50s style building on the true southernmost Atlantic tip of the United States.  It’s host to a restaurant, park ranger talks, campgrounds and picnic area.  Be sure to plan your trip in advance as there are talks and tours all day that you won’t want to miss (such as the one to an old cold war missile site, that we did miss).  Along the 38 mile route there are numerous scenic overlooks where you can park and visit ponds, walk through bogs on board walks, see lakes, hike and start a boat trip. 

Random Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Del Ray Tips:

In lieu of giving a play by play for these areas, I will make a few suggestions:

In Ft. Lauderdale, you might want to drive to Las Olas Blvd and take a peek around the shops.  A healthy and delicious breakfast overlooking the water and completely reasonable non-tourist rates can be found at St. Barts Coffee Shop ($7 for fresh fruit, yogurt, granola).  In this area you will see the real Ft. Lauderdale bling of mansions and yachts on the intercoastal.  Off the beaten path on Commercial Blvd, you can find Ambry’s German Restaurant with a salad bar and tasty German classics sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel, spatzle and red cabbage with friendly service and an authentic German restaurant space.  Pomperdale New York Deli, is just that, a tasty, cheap New York deli with counter service and serve yourself coffee.

In Boca Raton, don’t miss Mizner Park near the Boca Raton Museum of Art.  There are outdoor concerts, a beautiful fountain anchored park, an assortment of pretty upscale restaurants and a tasty S. Florida chain serve yourself frozen yogurt joint – Orange Leaf.  Great for a nice meal with family on the beaten path.  Lemongrass in near by Royal Palm Plaza also serves up delicious Asian Fusion food.  Its popular, you will need a reservation.

Del Ray – the main strip on Atlantic Avenue is full of unique restaurants, ice cream, frozen yogurt and lively young nightlife . Visit this trip on a weekend night and be prepared for a VERY lively scene.  I haven’t tried it, but 32 East was recommended to me there.


Following a Top Chef Master's Trail - Brunch at Art & Soul

A recent weekend of much brunching included a visit to the Art & Soul, suggested after a friend watched this WETA hour long documentary of Washington metropolitan area breakfast restaurants.  Located in the Capitol Liaison Hotel, not far from Union Station, Art & Soul, a southern influenced restaurant has a chic, polished atmosphere.  Chef-owner of Art & Soul, Art Smith, has served as personal chef to Oprah, and to former Florida governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush.  *For fans of Top Chef, Art Smith participated in Top Chef Masters. The décor of his restaurant is a mix of red and black and the walls have large modern red and black portraits.  There are four-top and two-top tables and a row of cosy white leather cube like booths along the wall with room for three people.

The menu tracks chef-owner Art Smith’s specialty in southern cooking with one special flare, not seen often on southern menus, a health section (only at breakfast).  You can expect to see staples of southern brunch, such as Chicken and Waffles, served classically with chicken gravy or kicked up with a maple syrup.  There are omelet and frittata options served with mixed vegetables and goat cheese, delicious sounding lemon yogurt pancakes and smoke salmon hoe-cakes on the menu.  The “Art Start” menu includes quinoa granola, oatmeal, a breakfast bar and an egg white omelet with cucumber tomato salsa and avocado cream.  

At the start of the meal, you are presented with a warm basket of freshly baked cinnamon biscuits with a drizzle of white icing.  I ordered the egg white omelet with salsa and avocado cream.  This was my first (in now what might be a long line) of egg white omlets.  The eggs were fluffy and flavorful and the fresh salsa was delicious.  My fellow brunchers ordered the chicken and waffles (with classic chicken gravy, as recommended by the server) and the Chesapeake Benedict.  Both loved the flavors of their dishes and agreed that Art & Soul is worth a revisit.

My tips – make a reservation if you are going after 11:00 AM as this is when the restaurant appears to start reaching capacity for Sunday brunch.  As for the “Art Start” menu at brunch, while its online for breakfast, they apparently don’t offer it unless you request it for brunch.  


Domku – Polish/Swedish/Danish Morning Joy?

Yesterday I was treated to a birthday brunch at Domku by some of my close friends.  Though I’ve had brunch at Domku four times, I have yet to review it.  Domku is a Polish-Swedish restaurant, which is a both unexpected and expected combination.  There is little geographic reason for there not to be more connected cuisine between Scandinavia and Poland/Baltic areas of Europe.  In the 1300 and 1400’s Polish cities were closely linked to Scandinavian cities in the trading union known as the Hanseatic League.  While the Swedish Empire that lasted from about 1600-1700 mostly focused its power in Scandinavia and the Baltics, its hard to imagine how Polish cuisine could not be impacted from its strong neighbors influence to the North and East.  If you travel in the Baltics, especially Estonia where nationalism is strongly felt, you will often seen references to the Hanseatic Lague and its history in the region.  The reason for that is the same reason that we often do not see Eastern European and Scandinavian cooking linked today – the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union has severed our mental notion of the connection of Eastern and Western Europe and these countries are keen to let us know that they are European – not "Eastern European" or "Former Soviet Bloc" countries.

Enough history for this morning, Domku does a really nice job of melding the cuisine of the “East” with that of the “North.”  Their menu includes Borschts (more typical of Ukraine, Russia and the Baltics) and lots of dishes featuring smoked salmon.  Trendy foods make their way into the menu such as Israeli salad.  Norway is represented through large flat Norweigian Pancakes served with toppings such as tomatoes, mushrooms and gouda cheese or cardamom scented waffles.  Salads and other dishes with herrings and beets also dot the menu.  A major plus of the Domku menu is its either intentional or unintentional emphasis on healthy food and portions.  In the evening (and at brunch, if its your thing) cocktails are served.  I’m always especially to have one made with Zabrowka Vodka.  They also have a large selection of Aquavit’s, flavored with herbs and spices – great for a night without a car.

My favorite part about Domku is the atmosphere.  The walls have quirky (Polish maybe?) art and hanging lights.  There are a variety of types of places to sit – bar, vintage couches, old wooden tables.  I love quirky put together places – and this is one of them. 

SOTD - There is a light that never goes out | Dum Dum Girls

Its my opinion that its not really worth covering a song for a studio album, unless you are doing something really different or unique with it.  A good recent example of this is "Warning Sign" covered by Local Natives on their album Gorilla Manor.  While you can find traces of the original (notably lyrics) it is a different song than the original.  There are a few bands and songs that probably shouldn't be covered.  In my eyes, The Smiths, are just one of those bands.  Listening to XMU's Download 15 last night, I was therefore surprised to hear Indie girl band darlings the Dum Dum Girls covering The Smiths "There is a Light that Never Goes Out."  This is one of my very favorite Smiths songs, so I'm probably a little over protective of it (much like, "Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" covered by She and Him).  The main change that the Dum Dum Girls made to this song was electrifying it, and using woman's vocals.  I'd be psyched to hear this version as an encore at a show, but, on an album?  Not enough change for me to justify it.  Smith's fans..... agree or disagree?


Little Fountain Café: Europe (Kind Of) in Adams Morgan

Though we usually go out on Friday night only when we are traveling – last night was the expiration of a Groupon for Little Fountain Café, so we made an exception and took a walk to 18th Street to visit this basement spot.  I think I put off using the Groupon for the precise reason that the café was in the basement, which is a shame, because the basement space is cozy, warm and a little oasis from both the hustle of 18th Street and Washington, D.C. in general.  The walls are white, with funky paintings of women and other subjects and dark wood panels through the ceiling and walls.  I felt transported to Europe.

Now to the menu, it is a simple menu with about eight appetizers such as mussels, soup, dips, green salads and an onion torte.  The entrée menu included duck breast, steak, roast chicken, trout, scallops, eggplant pasta, and gnocchi.  The pasta dishes and some of the more simple appetizers are available in a prix-fix menu ($24.95) with desert.  With a groupon, this deal was not available.  Warm bread is served with a garlicky, spiced butter.  Our service was very slow, but very nice.  We spent more than an hour and a half at Little Fountain total.  I had the Brook Trout that was very lightly breaded and pan sautéed, served with a plain orzo pasta, tomatoes and snow peas.  It had a tangy lemon wine sauce with capers mixed in.  I’m trying to eat much more healthfully than usual, so this was a tasty and good option for achieving my goals.  As the duck was already sold out at 7 PM, he had roast chicken with potatoes gratin and steamed broccoli.   I tried the gratin and the chicken.  The gratin was tasty, made with extremely thin cut potatoes, however the chicken was pretty average breast meat baked with spicy rubbed on the skin.

All and all, the atmosphere was really charming, but the food was not outstanding for the price.  For a $18-25 price point, I can think of many places that serve something more special and outstanding and as some have said, without the groupon, I would have felt ripped off.  If you have family visiting you in DC or want a quiet place for a long chat or intimate night – the atmosphere might outweigh the food, it really was great.


SOTD: Camp Dory by Tennis

It might be sunnny, but its cold and the winds are blowing so hard that my hair is constantly in front of my face.  Welcome to the end of a Washington, DC winter.  I heard this song by "Tennis" in the car this weekend and my first thought was about the band name (not great in my opinion), but, I kept the song on because the vocalist has this sort of sort yet fifties style voice that really pops.  Since then, I've been listening over and over to the album and especially this song, Cape Dory.  Tennis created this album to illustrate their experiences sailing. I love the images of exploring the coast in the dark and laying on sand with shells.  I especially like it knowing that the songs are the expressions of impressions from a long sailing trip up and down the East Coast of the United States.

NPR has a great story about the couple and their trip.


H Street NE

After a period of indecisiveness over evening activities and a quick stop at Home Rule to assess new kitchen gear (and to purchase a pastry cutter, some plastic squeeze bottles and a double jigger), we eventually decided to finally visit Granville Moore together.  I knew that there would be a line, and at 6.45 PM, I expected a one-hour wait, but due to being extremely popular and extremely gorgeous space (at least in my humble, euro-tinged opinion), when we arrived, we were asked to leave our number and wait a couple of hours. 

No problem – H Street NE, the “newest” (well about 3.5 years and running) nightlife/colonization-style gentrification district, has tons of options for places to get a small plate and a couple of drinks.  Sticky Rice next door (and prolific offerer of Living Social and Groupons) had a one-hour wait.  With more Groupons in hand, we instead made our way to the H Street Country Club to spend our wait.  We were noshy, so I had the St. Norita Margarita (tequila, st. germain elderflower blossom liqueur and a splash of cava and lime juice) and he had a Smuttynose IPA.  We also shared the queso cheese-topped guacamole and a Napolito salad (supposedly with grilled cactus).  Guac was great – I would not recommend the salad.  There were about 7 tiny slivers of “cactus” which were kind of tough and salty.  We also played a round of mini golf in a precious course that details D.C. life, including meter maids, the beltway mixing bowl, U Street and the Washington Monument.  After about 1 hour and 40 minutes, Granville Moore’s called.

We were offered what we consider one of the top tables - a little wooden one by the window, perfect for bar watching and street watching (which apparently even at 9 PM can be pretty interesting over there).  Granville Moore’s is a dark row house converted into a restaurant. There are about 8 tables and a bar downstairs, and roughly the same upstairs.  The walls and ceiling are dark wood and it really does feel like a Belgian pub (minus the long beer list, as a former resident of Belgium, I feel obligated to point out that Belgian Bars never have 5-10 page menus outlining all of the tiny breweries throughout the country with flavor descriptions).  ALSO- fruit beers and lambics, my favorites are CHEAP.  And they always serve Jupiler (not the highest quality but about the same as the much-touted Stella Artois).

Moving along from the atmosphere, which did include a jukebox specializing in 60’s psychedelic rock and Motown, Granville Moore has a simple menu.  There is a list of appetizers, but most are full of pork* and are not moules/frites so I don’t really bother with them.  They have burgers too, but I don’t understand that either - why have those when you can have moules frites!?  Moules frites, served in enormous white bowls, come piping hot and steamed in a variety of mixtures from the classic marinere in white wine, cream and herbs to “Diablo” in tomatoes, shallots and chilies, to the “wilder” with mushrooms and the bleu (with bleu cheese and white wine that can be made without the pork belly). Fries are offered in large and small (I’d go small for two people and large for more) with sauces (as they would be in Belgium, except there you could even have up to 20 to choose from, in a restaurant it would probably be only mayonnaise and ketchup).   Of the long list of beers, we tried the Corsondonk, Maredsous and the Petrus Blonde.  YUM!  Ask your server to help you choose, they know the menu and delight in making recommendations.

While the two-hour wait was long, it was really fun to be at Granville Moore on a Saturday night.  The atmosphere is buzzing with great food and fun music.  If you are not out to get drunk and stay out until dawn, try to get to H Street around 7PM or earlier as the restaurants are tiny and all have multi-hour waits (most take reservations, but not Granville Moore).  At 7PM, the H Street Country Club is really pleasant, people are there, but no long lines or craziness;  by 11 PM, you will wait in line outside.  If you turn up somewhere like Granville Moore much later than 8.15/8.30 you may not be able to even put your name on the list for a table as the kitchen will close by the time you’re seated.  That said, fun times!  Where do you like to go on H Street?  My next place to try is Ethiopic.

*Just a note for readers, I don’t eat pork and try not to mix red meat and milk to respect - to a degree - Jewish dietary restrictions. FYI, my rabbi gave me permission to treat mussels as vegetables for the evening. J

SOTD - I Follow Rivers | Lykke Li

Good morning Washington, DC. I first heard "I Follow Rivers" by Swedish artist Lykke Li on XM radio on Monday. Since then, the addicting drum sequence and syncopated lyrics have been playing in my head. The album comes out in a month - so enjoy this until then.


SOTD- Tame Impala - Its not Meant to Be

Psychedelic Saturday - here is your Australian song of the day by Perth based band Tame Impala. Kind of creepy how John Lennon came back to life to sing the vocals....

Just hanging out at home looking at a solid white-gray sky and listening to music on this do-nothing Shabbat.


Funxion – Healthy Week Day City Lunch

A quick lunch review – though I’m frequently near Metro Center, I (a) rarely go out to lunch (b) have not yet tried Funxion.  As I’m making a big push to be healthier, I thought it would be a good choice because they do not actually serve anything unhealthy.  So it seems, and so it is.  First – the environment.  Funxion has a great multi-use space which includes a bar area, a few low café tables and an upstairs with restaurant tables.  The aesthetic is very modern, with shine, red leather and mirrors.  The menu includes very vegetarian friendly items ranging from salads, to sandwiches, to pizzas all served with fresh vegetables and labeled with calorie counts.  Varied condiments are offered at a counter for all to sample include salsa and pomegranate cream. All and all, if you are looking for a healthy lunch at a place that will make it hard for you to actually choose anything too unhealthy, in a fun space, look no further.  Another bonus, because of the lay-out, it can serve social or work purposes (good to know for week day lunches in the city).


Adventure Creature North Carolina Adventures – Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, Chapel Hill

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships made their way to Greensboro North Carolina this weekend and so did I.  Attempting to find a way to stay involved in skating without actually skating myself, I brought the boyfriend to North Carolina to watch the weekend events of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships (from here known as Nationals) at the Greensboro Coliseum.  We were unsure about what to expect as both of us are northeastern types, however, we were really pleasantly surprised!  

In our eyes, the small cities had the same feeling as Richmond, big buildings for corporations surrounded by side streets filled with unique shops and independent restaurants.  As you make your way out of the cities, you begin to stumble upon typical big-box suburbs. 
I appreciated historic Elm Street in Greensboro not only for its history and great International Civil Rights Museum, but, also for the Green Bean, a perfect coffee shop playing excellent music and serving not only the typical espresso drinks that independent (and not so independent) coffee shops are known for but also Red Lattes.  Red Latte is a drink made from red rooibos tea that is ground up and brewed quickly in an espresso machine to make a very concentrated brew.  I had drink with this red espresso combined with white chocolate, milk and honey.  Wow!   We also visited the unique “Just Be” art and gift shop that was filled with local and U.S. domestic hand-made art from new and recycled materials.  The items were along the lines of the DC Crafty Bastards art fair mixed with some more commercial merchandise such as a guide to Kabbalah, Pangea body products and other “insprirational” gear. 

We also had a really nice dinner at Table 16, a restaurant known for their use of local produce and food.  The experience was great – the staff were welcoming, the manager helped us choose (including a tasting) our wine for dinner and the menu items were fresh and unique.  I had a main course of flounder, pan fried and lightly breaded, with caramelized onions, pomegranate seeds and roasted Brussels sprouts! A nice surprise, I really liked the dinner bread too.

Also in Greensboro, we had an enormous and really tasty breakfast at the Smith Street Diner.  The diner was a small place, maybe no more than 15 tables and a counter with walls covered in photographs, drawings and paintings of PIGS! They served out of this world biscuits, as big as your hand and probably about 4 inches high.  It is impossible to finish one if you hope to eat some of your breakfast as well.  The boyfriend had a corn beef hash that he loved and I had an omelet with mushrooms, onions, smoked salmon, peppers and tomatoes.  With unlimited coffee, this fabulous brunch came to about $18!! Really, really great. 

Winston-Salem offered us brunch as well in its burgeoning arts district at “Breakfast of Course” or “Marys Too.”  Winston-Salem is sort of a strange place in our eyes because it seems to be prosperous, with even more tall buildings (ones that you can even see from the distance) than Greensboro, but with prosperity built from RJ Reynolds and tobacco.  The bit that we visited, the arts district, was like a college town street, with tons of unique art and new age shops combined with independent restaurants.  BOC offered a quirky breakfast menu that included breakfast nachos, breakfast burgers, breakfast asian salads and a developed list of options to make your own pancakes and omelet.  What really did it for me though was the atmosphere and the art.  The walls were covered in original designs of funky animals with little sayings.  The ceiling in the main dining room was painted like a “galaxy” full of stars and a milky way.  Coffee was served in random, non matching mugs and each table had different salt and pepper shakers.  They also had a cigarette dispenser transformed into a hand made art dispenser.  Awesome J  I had corn griddle cakes (essentially fried polenta), veggie sausage, home fries and eggs while the boyfriend had a breakfast burger.  Overall great experience, however, word to the wise, there was already a line at 9.30 AM!

Finally – a few quick nods – we visited Scratch in Durham to sample their crostadas as a quick road stop guided by yelp on the way to Greensboro and stopped in Chapel Hill to have a vegetarian dinner at the Spotted Dog. 


New Love – Found in Eden

I have been dealing with a serious case of wanderlust, you know it, don’t you? The feeling that you want to board a plane and go just about anywhere the looks, smells and is different than home and that requires the use of a passport?  With no real plans just a desire to see and experience something different?  Well – given the spike in oil prices and the new smartness of airlines in cutting flights and calibrating routes, tickets have been out-of-bounds expensive and I’ve been stuck stateside. 

In the mean time, through a journey out to Michaels and through my favorite food blogger Tyler Cowen, I’ve been introduced to the joy that is the Eden Center.  Located in Falls Church, the Eden Center and surrounding environs are an international mash up of Vietnam (Eden Center), pan-Asian vegetarian (Sunflower Café) and the Grand International Mart (everything you need for Asian cooking).  The signs of the Eden Center, even those that demarcate the parking lot (the lanes have street names), are in Vietnamese.  You can sample all kinds of Pho, Vermicelli Dishes, Tofu (there is one store front that only does tofu), Boba Tea and glassware.  

We ate at Houng Viet, which seemed pretty Western friendly.  The menu was in both languages and the décor was inviting and blingy with metallic decorations. The prices are super reasonable at about $10 per item and the menu included a long list of Vietnamese style favorites ranging from Pho, to Vermicelli (yum, light noodles covered in raw vegetables, fresh herbs including cilantro and mint and some protein of your choice), exquisite soups (like duck leg and rice noodles) to caramelized stir fries.  

Near to the Eden Center is the vegetarian and vegan friendly Sunflower Café.  As the name implies, the spot is tricked out in sunflower memorabilia and has a cozy atmosphere.  The entrees are a mix of Western, Asian and fusion and include all veggie/seitan/tempeh stir fries, pastas, udon noodles and raw mixes.  We had a kung pao faux-chicken dish, spring rolls and a gingery lo mein stir fry mix.  Lately, I’ve been especially into vegetarian restaurants for health benefits and Sunflower rose to the top of my list. 
I can’t wait to check out the rest of the area… Any suggestions?