You were, are, and will always be my first city-love. I have such incredibly fond memories of running around the museum campuses, going to concerts at the House of Blues and the Metro, and eating Edwardo's pizza with my family.
But I've found another city, and I'm not sure that it's just a fling. Chicago, I'm falling for Washington, D.C.
It all started with a trip to the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. Between odd pockets of unscheduled time, I walked around massive, gorgeous buildings surrounded by cherry blossoms, drinking in the history and the people.
Then, I found the food. My good friends Chris and Thomas took me to Thomas Sweet in Georgetown for ice cream after a fabulous dinner at the Tombs. And that was where it all started...
I had too much trouble deciding, and was stuffed from my amazing eggplant burger at Tombs, so I got a small with hazelnut ice cream (on top), and chocolate Oreo marshmallow (hidden... best for last!). The hazelnut was intense, sweet, and reminiscent of gelato I've had in Italy. The chocolate marshmallow Oreo was much like Ben and Jerry's Phish Food, but elevated. You can tell when there are quality ingredients in an ice cream, and this stuff was no joke!
And yes, Oreos are quality ingredients.
The decor is very eco-friendly and eclectic. I kind of loved this piece with old bicycle wheels. Would love to cop this in my house someday...
No joke-- this was one of the best salads I have ever eaten. I know this is a chain, but it was incredible. I ordered the Santorini salad, with grapes, roasted shrimp, chickpeas, and mint. They squeezed half a fresh lemon on top (awesome!) and tossed it with a basil cucumber yogurt dressing. I threw in their iced tea of the day (hibiscus lime), and was on cloud nine. The perfect, refreshing, cleansing break in a hectic schedule!
The cherry blossom festival was just ending, but the blossoms were only starting to come out. The air smelled incredible-- Chicago, are you taking notes?
The next morning, I found something familiar. You can take the girl out of the midwest, but you can't take the midwest out of the girl!
After the Rally for Medical Research, I headed south from the convention center to Teaism Restaurant, which I had heard of from Rachel Ray's $40 A Day. It was touted as real food with quick service. Again, another local chain, but I'm a fan of going to a local chain if I need something fast over McDonald's any day!
It was nice and open, with cheery decor and an extensive list of teas and Japanese-style food.
I ordered the vegetarian bento box. Roasted kabocha squash (my favorite!), salted pears, sticky rice, tempeh, and a delicious broccoli, spaghetti squash, celery, and kale salad. All for $10. Amazing-- why don't we have a place like this here?!
I also ordered their Morrocan mint tea, and their (famous?) chocolate chocolate salty oat cookie... just because.
Let me tell you, I've had my fair share of cookies in my life. This was the ABSOLUTE best cookie I have ever had in my entire life. No hyperbole-- the best. It was a giant, dense, soft and crunchy in all the right places, chocolatey, with melty chunks of hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate throughout, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. Get yourself over there and get one! (And if you can't, not to worry-- I'm working on cracking this recipe as we speak!)
Finally, I snuck off during a fifteen minute break to Red Velvet, a popular local cupcake shop. I was very excited to have found time to head over there during my last crazy day. The storefront was adorable, set in an old, historic building.
She recommended the devil's food (with a dark chocolate ganache), the "birthday cake" (a yellow cake with a milk chocolate ganache), and the namesake red velvet.
I could go into detail about these cupcakes, but the things that I have said to others about these were... well, not lady-like. I will simply say that I've had better cupcakes from boxed mixes and canned frosting, and that I could make 24 of those for the cost of one of these. Perhaps it was because I headed there at the end of the day and the cupcakes had been sitting there, but I honestly cannot think of a single kind word to say about these cupcakes, so I won't say more.