Friday, June 24, 2011

Bad timing, great pizza

For the last three years I've worked as a school librarian for a charter school here in the city, and for two and half of those years our school was located just east of North Capitol Street in a part of town that didn't have much to offer. Big Bear Cafe and a corner deli were the only options and if we wanted to do happy hour, we had to hop on the bus and head downtown.

Picture this: it's 3:45 on a Friday which means it's almost time to get the most alcohol we possibly can for the least amount of money. Estelle and I, being vehicularly challenged, are going from classroom to classroom, trying to gauge who's coming out, but more importantly who's driving. We know what it feels like to take two buses and walk 5 blocks to just miss the end of $1 happy hour at Nellie's. We have to find a ride! Some weeks are easy: everyone's coming out and getting out and even home is a breeze. Other weeks, we find ourselves doing the Metrobus two-step or just walking and calling it "exercise".

One week, while making the trek to the bus stop, we noticed a newly renovated brownstone with papered over windows that reeked of gentrification. It was clearly a new restaurant or bar and we couldn't wait to see what it would be. But we did wait. By the time the place opened, I was elbow deep in boxes, packing tape, and book dust because the school was moving over winter break. The place, that arrived too late to be my default but that I'm happy for all the same, is Rustik, an aptly named restaurant and bar that serves up cold beers and delicious brick oven pizza.

I recently paid Rustik a visit, with the intention of writing a review and drowning my stress in a Yuengling and some piping hot pizza. Rustik feels rustic, but not in a woodsy way. The exposed brick and a rich wood bar are warm, while the wall murals that remind me of the graphic novel Coraline lend a sense of fun that is creative and certainly hipster.

My friends and I arrived just after 5, and took a seat at the high tables near the windows where we were served room temperature water (the ice delivery hadn't arrived yet) by our very apologetic waitress. The ice soon arrived, our water was chilled, and we proceeded to enjoy some cold beer with little to no distractions as the restaurant was nearly empty until about 7. When people did start to come in, I was amazed by who came in the door: young edgy families and intrepid home owners, pushing their blond babies in strollers and greeting each other familiarly. It felt like I had entered a secret sanctum, where the white people of Bloomingdale shed the invisibility they used on the streets and magically appeared to one another. My friends and I found ourselves in the racial minority for the first time in that neighborhood (but certainly not in the city) and we wondered where else in the area this strange magic took place.

As I was dining with vegetarians, I tearfully passed on the Christina, a pizza topped with pear, goat cheese and prosciutto and opted for the Going Green, an intensely flavorful pizza with roasted garlic sauce, watercress, and mozzarella. I cannot exaggerate how much this pizza blessed my spirit that day. When it was put down in front of me, the smell that reached my nose was mind-blowing, so much so that the fact that it was fresh out of the oven and the cheese was literally bubbling did not stop me from diving in. My friend ordered the Margherita that was good, but no match for my choice. They say sharing is caring, but I had a hard time sharing that day.

Visit Rustik during happy hour, where beers are $2 and small selection of pizzas are available for only $4. Go early if you want the place to yourself, or come a little later to people watch. A dime for every plaid shirt or barefoot child will make you a millionaire.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jah Guide...

As many of you know, I am off to Jamaica for three weeks where I will be a teacher on one of Learn-Serve International's summer trips. I will be one of three adults, travelling around the island with eight hard-working and deserving students from the DC area.
On this trip we will be volunteering our time tutoring under privileged students in Kingston and a small town in the Blue mountains with KBC Learning. While service is the official mission of this trip, the chance to experience a new culture and share our own is just as important.
With this in mind, I will be invading kitchens whenever I can, to hear the stories that can only be told over a steaming pot, to try some island recipes, and to learn more about Jamaica than can ever be learned from a book (or a Sean Paul video).
So I will try to find some wi-fi and check in, but if not "Jah Guide" and see you soon!
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Today's Special: Air with a side of sunlight

I don't usually discuss dieting. Instead I prefer to believe that diets don't exist and the number of calories I consume has NOTHING to do with how I look in a swimsuit or how hard stairs have become... but I recently read an article that has me outraged and dying to share the insanity with you all.

Published in the May 2011 issue of Marie Claire, "I'll Have What She's Having", is a look at the eating habits of five of the most successful nutritionists in the business and if they heed the advice they give their body-conscience clients. Of the five blurbs , the stand-out, by far is the first section, on detox guru (and obvious anorexic) Natalia Rose.

The first thing we read about Rose is that she is 5'7" and 117 pounds and that she works out daily. I cannot fathom someone of her height and weight being able to hold their head up, let alone manage any physical exertion. Her diet consists of a disturbing mix of raw fruits and vegetables (all eaten at dinner time) and a daily dessert binge that makes up almost half of her daily calorie intake.

The real kicker is Rose's explanation of her regiment:

"I believe that we take our vitality predominately from the air, sunlight, and clean water,
so I don't take anything but this 'life force energy' until the sun goes down..."

Life force energy? Are we to believe Rose is recommending that we conduct photosynthesis for sustenance? Rose is clearly not ashamed to tell the world that she doesn't eat ALL DAY, but she works out 45 minutes a day. How am I supposed to read this as anything but an excuse for her anorexia?

A look at Rose's website, Detox the World, and the Life Force Families section make this all the more disturbing. The content is only available to registered members, but I can only imagine what kind of advice she is offering parents: "If your child complains about hunger, give them some water and have them run laps until they're too tired to eat. Remember, they are full off of solar energy AND your love, even if they don't know it!"

To be clear, I recognize that eating disorders are a major issue that should be treated with sensitivity and sincerity, but the fact that this woman makes a living telling people how to be healthy is seriously disturbing. Furthermore, it is a travesty that Marie Claire had the audacity to print this nonsense with the title "I'll Have What She's Having" like Rose's diet is something to be emulated. Interestingly, the online version of the article is published with the title "What Nutritionists Really Eat". Maybe they got the message that their promotion of this anorexic nonsense could lead to some seriously negative press. Or little girls eating air for breakfast.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Holleration! Examination! Publication!"*

I'm officially an examiner y'all! I'll be looking at ethnic restaurants in the DC area.
Check out my article, leave a comment, and spread the word.

Watch out DC, cause I'm coming for you!

*Title inspired by Roderick. Nothing better than a corny rhyme.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Truckeroo'd! You should too.

Friday night was amazing. Estelle and I arrived at Truckeroo around 6 and found a moderate crowd gathered at Das Bullpen. The lines were manageable, except for the ultra popular TaKorean and Red Hook Lobster trucks. We were able to get our first round of margaritas, play a few rounds of corn hole, mull around, and then get some beers before we even decided what to eat. But I'm glad we got food when we did because by 7:30 when we found a comfy spot under the tent to perch and gorge, the place was jumpin' and the lines were super long. My friend Kelly waited in line for 45 minutes to choose from the 2 things left on the BBQ Bus menu! She opted for ribs that did not meet her Texan expectations (or my lowly Northerner ones either!)

I tried two new food trucks and loved everything I ate. Eat Wonky has hot dogs, grilled cheese and whoopie pies, but the "wonky" is poutine - a French dish that consists of fries, covered in cheese and gravy (in Jersey its called Disco fries). Estelle and I shared the "Wonky Dog" which is a hot dog topped with poutine. While fresh cheese curd and brown gravy doesn't make the most appetizing looking meal, it was delicious. Salty, fattening and very satisfying, especially with a cold beer.

Dessert was a slice of the Baltimore Bomb pie from the Dangerously Delicious Pies truck. The creepy all-black truck with its lazily scribbled menu screams Bal-ti-mo with a capital "TI" and the pie went right along with the image. It was a scary thugged out slice of pie - all rough around the edges and perilously unrecognizable - but just like Omar from the Wire when his lover was killed, it turned out to be sweet and lovely. I want to marry that pie. The main ingredient in the Bomb is Baltimore's "famous" Berger cookies that I somehow missed when I was living there. These chocolate covered sugar cookies were crushed and mixed with custard and then baked in an insanely moist and buttery pie crust.

Trust me, that was not my last encounter with the Baltimore Bomb, so help me God.

- you need to go to the next Truckeroo
- get there early so you can actually eat
- wear sunscreen
- try some disco fries - Churchkey near Logan Circle has them on their bar menu as does the Black Squirrel in Adams Mo.
- RUN to your nearest DD Pies and get a slice of the Baltimore Bomb. Heck, buy a whole pie and then invite me over for some. Or else...

The bar, and the talented Tico from White Loafer who had everyone shakin it to the beat.

I had to stop and say hi to those crazy kids at Merlindia.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Truckeroo, and Me too!

This Friday, June 3rd, come out to the Biergarten at Das Bullpen across from Nationals Park to enjoy what I call heaven: all of the best food trucks in DC in one place!

Last year's Curbside Kickoff was awesome and taught a valid lesson to event planners and food truck owners - if you park it, they will come and if you park all of them in one lot, there is ALOT of money to be made. So Bullpen owner Bo Blair has invented Truckeroo - a monthly food truck party with live music, free admission, and beer from, where else but Das Bullpen. Genius, no?

A whoopie pie (missing a big bite) from Red Hook Lobster Truck. They'll be there!

The Nats are away this Friday, so the crowds will be all about the food. Stop in for lunch or make it dinner with a beer. I arrived at the Kickoff last year around 8pm, and most of the trucks were already sold out, so the earlier the better.

I'll be there so tweet me if you come too!

Truckeroo at Das Bullpen
Right across from Navy Yard Metro Station
Friday 6/3

Those crazy guys from Fojol Brothers should be there.


The Trucks:

  • TaKorean
  • Sweet Bites
  • Sauza
  • DC Empanada
  • BBQ Bus
  • DC Slices
  • Sabora Street
  • Red Hook Lobster Truck
  • PORC
  • Dangerously Delicious Pies (so excited!)
  • Big Cheese
  • Eat Wonky
  • Pleasant Pops
  • Fojol Bros
  • El Floridano
  • Curbside Cupcakes
  • CapMac
visit for details.

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SAVOR the beer

For those of you in town who love fancy craft beer, check out the extensive list of events and specials for Capital Beer Week. The main SAVOR event is sold out, but there are lots of other chances to taste some of the best beer in the area

My favorites are the deals switch like at Iron Horse last night where craft beers will be $5 but lite staples like miller and bud will cost you $9. Really puts bland-brand loyalty to a test!*

*don't worry, I'm not hating on Miller. Unfortunately, I love it...

photo courtesy of

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