Dateline: Washington, D.C.

Long runs. Large meals. Lots and lots of friends. I’d say this was my best trip to D.C. yet- no small feat, considering I was there five times last year.

The official reason for my visit was to attend a dear friend’s baby shower. But over the course of three days I also managed to see friends from nearly every stage of life, meet some wonderful new people, go on a couple of very humid runs, and eat lots of delicious food. (Though I managed to avoid Potbelly….)

Natty Bo: the official beer of trips to D.C./ Capitol building

The trip kicked off with a visit to my friend Tracy’s condo, where we snacked and caught up while her better half cooked up a feast of fried plantains, coconut rice, black beans and jerk-marinated tempeh. It was a challenge not to go overboard with such a great meal, but I had to save some room because later that night I met up with my bestie and her husband for dinner at Rasika. In a city full of egos, Rasika is heralded as one of the best of the best, and it lived up to it. Sure, it seems silly to pay $24 for chicken tika masala when you can get it at your neighborhood curry shop for half that, but Rasika isn’t your ordinary curry shop. It’s high-end imaginative cuisine, the kind of place where your server will take the time to explain the ins and outs of a dish to you, and the chef will go out of his way to cook something you’ve never seen before. We ordered a bunch of things for the table. A few favorites:

-Palak Chaat: crispy fried spinach with sweet yogurt and tamarind. This is spinach like you’ve never seen it before. Deep fried til crunchy and slightly spiced, I could have eaten plate after plate of this and been perfectly happy.
– Swordfish Tika: swordfish braised in basil, mint and cilantro. Slightly spicy and perfectly cooked, the fish was tender and moist. I would have loved a bit more of the sauce though to dress up some basmanti rice.
– Mixed Vegetable Rassa: zucchini, carrot and other vegetables were simmered in a tangy, slightly sour sauce. With all the other spicy stuff on the table, it was a welcome treat for my flaming lips.

After eating two dinners Thursday, I knew I needed some exercise. So I set out early Friday and ran from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial, a round trip of about six miles. It seemed like every eighth-grader in America was on the National Mall with all the school groups that were there. I ran from group to group, dodging and weaving through the crowds. It actually brought back a lot of memories of middle school when my sister and I would come down to visit my grandparents. My grandmother would always take us into the city to go to this museum or that, and to ride on this carousel.

National Mall Carousel/ Lincoln Memorial

A few hours later I met up with my buddy Jimmy, who I studied with in Costa Rica more than a decade ago (I still cannot believe it’s been that long). Jimmy suggested lunch at Ted’s Bulletin, which I’d heard good things about. Located in Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row, Ted’s specializes in homemade pop tarts, adult milkshakes, and other comfort foods. I managed to keep things on the lighter side with chicken chili and a side salad, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to order a brown sugar pop tart. It was good, but I don’t think I’d get it again… there are so many other things on the menu that I want to try, like those biscuits below.

Bar and biscuits at Ted’s Bulletin

Later Friday we headed to Nats Bash, a sort of tailgate party that happens twice a year before the National’s game. Living in a place where the ball park has been sold-out for every home game since 2003, it was really fun to go to a city where $20 gets you all the beer you can drink AND a baseball ticket. Sadly, it started pouring Friday afternoon and they cancelled the game due to tornado warnings, but that didn’t stop Nats Bash revelers from throwing a few back away from the park.

Saturday started with brunch at Belga Cafe, one of my favorite spots in DC. Good beer, mussels five ways and ample frites always mean a good time, and this visit was no different. In addition to mussels (always!) we had a corn waffle topped with pulled pork and eggs, and got so wound up in conversation that I forgot to take a single picture. We then wandered over to Eastern Market, which I’ve somehow never been to before. After buying way too much jewelry in the flea market part, we went over to the food area, which just blew me away with the quantity and quality of produce. We got little zucchinis and eggplants grown by Amish farmers in Pennsylvania, red peppers from a grandmother, and some surprisingly fresh fish. Not surprisingly, this is where I went into picture-taking mode.

Saturday afternoon I made my way to Meridian Pint for said baby shower. It really should have been an un-baby shower because except for the plethora of pregnant women and the baby blue cake, it didn’t feel much like a shower. Instead, we feasted on deep-fried pickles and buffalo wings, caught up with old friends, opened zero presents and played zero games. It was perfect.

That night, we grilled vegetables and made the fish packets featured in Bon Appetit last month. Make them. They will make you happy.

Of course, one dinner is never enough. So later Saturday we met up with some friends from Orlando, took them to Sonoma for dinner, and then ended the night with several Natty Bo’s at the Tune Inn. Fun times.

Sunday began quietly drinking coffee and reading papers on a patio in the sun. Later, we went to a brunch in Maryland that somehow stretched into four hours and felt like 15 minutes. And afterwards, a quick run that felt even faster.

Suddenly, it was time to go and I was going through security, boarding a plane and landing in Boston, wondering where the time had gone and how I got so darn lucky.