Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Where to Brunch: Jazz Brunches in D.C.

Want to feel peppy and great about life on this drizzly, gray day? Take a listen to this in your government-issue cubicle:
 

Something about that jazz, the harmonious blending of the trumpet, trombone, bass and clarinet really puts that bounce back in your step, doesn't it? Perhaps that's why jazz music is such an entertainment trend for the boozy brunches the District's hungover masses schlep themselves to each Sunday morning (OK, early afternoon).

And more than that, in addition to cheering you up the day after an alcohol downward spiral, D.C.'s jazz brunches seem to also offer some of the best brunch deals.

Here are a few jazz brunches you can check out this weekend:


Acadiana, 901 New York Ave. NW

Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., this New Orleans-style restaurant features live jazz bands and a $29 three-course brunch menu with $2 blood orange mimosas or Cajun Marys. The service is impeccable, and while I've had hit-or-miss options during dinner at Acadiana, the brunch has been pretty spot on.

Louisiana Crawfish Etouffee (above) and Southern Shrimp & Grits

Acadiana also serves complimentary butter biscuits with this jalapeno cream cheese spread that is just TO DIE FOR. Sooooo good.


Beacon Bar & Grill, 1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW

A Beacon omelet
The price for the jazz brunch at this restaurant in the Beacon Hotel in Dupont Circle has slowly crept upwards over the last few years, but it's still a good deal: For $34.95 a person, you get access to a buffet with unlimited champagne, mimosas and bloody Marys. Not gonna lie: I got tanked with my grandparents here a few years back. Or, alongside my grandparents, rather; they're teetotalers.


Georgia Brown's, 950 15th St. NW

This is the most expensive option on the list at $40.95 per person and drinks NOT included, but there's a reason for that: You get access to a savory buffet, a sweet buffet AND they load you up with an entire entree. Most people end up taking that part home for dinner -- it's just too much in one sitting.

Brunch buffet offerings
Georgia Brown's has one of the best live jazz bands, too.


M Street Bar and Grill, 2033 M St. NW

M Street Bar and Grill has been a recent discovery for me, but I'm pretty impressed at the deal: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can get unlimited mimosas, bellinis and champagne and a three-course brunch for $26.95 a person. The BF and I tried it out this weekend, and we were impressed/satiated.

Cinnamon-raisin French toast
The one thing I will say as a negative was that the jazz music was a woman with an electric keyboard playing elevator-music-style renditions of songs like "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," which was ridiculously cheesy, but whatever -- we stuffed ourselves and got tipsy regardless.

That's it! Hopefully this entry has made you think feel like this:



In brunch we trust,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Take a Day Trip From D.C.: Baltimore

This blog post is going to recommend something I would ordinarily eschew: traveling to Maryland. I normally keep my gallivanting confined to the District or Northern Virginia. I'm sure there are parts of Maryland that are lovely; I just haven't found them yet.

Well, I hadn't found them, that is. Or at least, I hadn't recognized that I'd found them, despite trip after trip up to Baltimore to visit my sister. But after spending a delightful day there this past weekend and having eaten some absolutely incredible meals there over the last few weeks, I'm changing my tune: Our sister city to the north is a phenomenal place to take an easy day trip from D.C.

FOR FOOD:

For a quick, cheap-but-filling meal, stop by Thairish, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it hole in the wall located on Charles Street in Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square neighborhood.



It's a family-run spot that's reminiscent of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi: No substitutions, no alterations, get in line and get out. But, oh man -- you will be glad you did. My notoriously picky/constantly upset to her stomach sister swears by their pad thai. When she took me there, I ordered the chicken panang and had my MIND BLOWN. The sauce was thicker than I'm generally used to, but so amazingly flavorful. And the chicken -- the CHICKEN!!! -- the chicken was more succulent and juicy than any chicken I've had in recent memory. And I eat a lot of chicken.

For a more expensive/nice meal, the recently opened Of Love and Regret will not let you down. I'll admit, the gastropub is located on a somewhat seedy-looking street in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood, but anytime something is billed as a "gastropub," nothing can stop me from chowing down there.


Additionally, what's super cool about this place is how uniquely Baltimorean it is: Of Love and Regret takes its name from a Belgian Saison Ale brewed by Stillwater Artisanal Ales, a Baltimore microbrewery whose entire catalog of tasty beer is featured on the restaurant's many taps.



The beer was amazing, and the food was even better. My dining compatriot (dare I say it: new boyfriend?) and I shared the duck confit mac n' cheese, and it rocked my face off!


FOR CULTURE:

While Baltimore doesn't boast the same bevy of tourist activities that D.C. does, it does have a few things worth seeing.

For starters, check out the USS Constellation, a warship that was commissioned in 1855, drydocked in 1894, and revamped and opened to the public many years later. It's now permanently docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.



The Constellation sailed during the Civil War, so for the amateur historians out there, it's definitely worth the $11 price of admission.

Also in the Inner Harbor is the National Aquarium, which is WAY BETTER than the D.C. aquarium, which is basically a glorified fish tank.


At nearly $30 a person, this is definitely a pricier thing to do in Baltimore, but certainly worth seeing.

Baltimore's only about an hour's drive from D.C. via 295 North, so it's a perfect place to go for a last-minute, unplanned trip. And if you don't have a car, you can still get there: Amtrak tickets from Union Station to Baltimore's Penn Station will run you about $30 round trip, and from there you can use the Charm City Circulator, which is FREE.

Happy Baltimoring, hon!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dueling Reviews: Appealing Kate and Capital Katie on Hank's Oyster Bar

Appealing Kate and Capital Katie hadn't seen each other in a while and were both craving a lady date, so they made plans to meet up at Hank's Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle for a night of cocktails, girl talk and, of course, oysters! These tandem reviews were the result of their lovely evening:

CAPITAL KATIE SAYS...

I had passed Hank's Oyster Bar's Q Street location countless times during my years in D.C., yet I'd never had an opportunity to suck down the slimy sea creatures there. So when Appealing Kate suggested it as a meeting point, I jumped on it.

I think we were both shocked at how nice the place actually is. From tables outside, it appears that it would have a casual -- dare I say "beachy"? -- feel.

On second thought, probably not beachy. But definitely casual.
But once inside the restaurant, it's just as much of an upscale gastropub as Lyon Hall or Boxcar Tavern. My one criticism aesthetically is that Hank's Oyster Bar is not entirely sure what it wants to be design-wise -- it has one back room that looks like it's straight out of a K Street Lounge, and an upstairs that has a nautical feel. There's no coherence from room to room.

Hank's upstairs
Hank's back room










But at the end of the day, none of that matters if the food and service are good, right? Hank's was packed the night we went, so our server was a little overworked, but was generally attentive/kind regardless. He was brutally honest with me when I asked about a drink called "the Corpse Reviver" ("It's AWFUL," he deadpanned), which I appreciated.

I ordered the lobster roll, which Appealing Kate assured me was Maine-authentic (served on a buttered up hotdog-type bun) and which was exquisitely flavorful. We also shared oysters, which our server was helpful enough to choose for us since we knew nothing about what we were ordering in that department. I'll be the first to admit I'm not an oyster connoisseur, but they tasted alright to me.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat!


APPEALING KATE SAYS...

Prior to Friday, I had not seen Katie in, gasp, two months, so I was really looking forward to catching up with my good friend. When she suggested that we find a place neither of had been before, I thought Hank's Oyster Bar might be fun to try.

As we walked in, I told Katie that when I mentioned to Matt from Third Date Cooking we were going to Hank's he gave it great reviews.  Katie responded "Oh, I'm sure we will like it then. I trust Matt's opinion." And, yes, I am mentioning this so that Matt will cook me dinner this weekend.

Hank's is modern yet comfortable. Sort of "fancy Malibu ocean side restaurant meets Cape Cod seafood shack." The combo works perfectly to create a cozy, eclectic, sophisticated space.

The place was packed. Luckily, we called ahead of time to add our name to the wait list, because when we arrived the hostess told the party of four in front of us it would be a two hour wait.

Katie and I ordered drinks at the bar while we waited for our table. We both ordered the Hanky Panky (strong, refreshing and delicious). The cute bartender was attentive and flirty.
Oysters

We were seated about 45 minutes later, and our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. We decided to split an order of oysters, because, well, we were at Hank's Oyster Bar. We tried three different varieties.  They werrreeeee tasty.

For dinner, I ordered two appetizers--- the grilled crab cake and the tuna tartar. Both were in-friggin-credible. Katie ordered the lobster roll, and let me tell you---it sure did look exactly how a Maine lobster roll should look. Well done, Hanks, well done.


crab cake appetizer
Maine lobster roll and fries
We took a mini tour of the restaurant after dinner, because it has multiple dining rooms. Each was completely unique from the others. One is modern like a NYC lounge, one beachy and simple. The third (where we sat) felt like an open and airy New England dining room.

Overall, Hank's is a great spot with delicious food and friendly staff. The atmosphere creates the perfect locale for a romantic date, a group gathering, or a Friday night dinner with a good friend.

You should go there immediately. Just remember to call ahead because Hank's does not take reservations.


Have a great weekend!