Moving Machines, and Monuments.

In my cooler years – so, more than five years ago, but less than fifteen – I would have balked if you told me to get on a Segway. Like, no way, maannn. That’s “aannnn” with vocal fry, in case you couldn’t picture me during my cooler years. A vespa, I would have hopped on, but a Segway, where the initial getting on requires the ever-so-uncool act of stepping onto a low platform, definitely would have not fit my “cool” profile.

Segway Tour Group

Recently though, in addition to caring significantly less about my cool-factor, Segways have come an item of greater appeal in the eyes of the general public. Thanks, Paul Blart and “G.O.B.“Bluth! Not to mention, in the super-connected world of iPhones and internet, they nestle perfectly between the categories of extreme convenience and maximum efficiency. Much like the Roomba and the NestEgg, although neither of which I actually understand the necessity of owning but nonetheless prove to be popular consumer purchases.

Segway Tour-Scooters

While in DC this past year the DiploMan and I made it a point to try a Segway tour, which seemed like a good way to see the city, have fun, and -oh what the heck- try something new at the same time. Just ’cause we’re married, doesn’t mean we’re boring, people!

Popular in flat cities such as DC and Chicago (can you imagine a troupe of Segways motoring up and down the hills of San Francisco?!), Segway touring makes for a fun and fast way to check off a few key sites in one afternoon. And if DC isn’t freezing cold or miserably hot, it serves for a pretty pleasant way to spend an afternoon outside.

We had the choice between a two-hour and three-hour tour, and opted for the two-hour one due to time constraints (and ultimately, my LivingSocial voucher limitations). The first half hour was spent on learning how to ride the Segway, including the most awesome instructional video EVER (*insert sarcastic drawl here), followed by a test run on a closed lot. Much as you’d expect, like learning how to operate any moving piece of equipment, it takes a few tries to get it right. There were a few bumps and a few bruised egos. Maybe a couple of super star rookies, too (look at me, ma!).

Segway Tour-video time

Segway Tour-drivers ed


Little did I know that the act of riding a Segway scooter all depends on where and how you lean your body weight – there are no motor controls, no joystick to tell your wheels where to turn and how much. A little rock towards your toes and you zoom forward. A tiny squat back on your seat, and you’ve stopped. Lean right or left, and well, you turn right or left. Thankfully I’m pretty coordinated (most of the time) and was able to zoom around on two wheels in no time. Some others in the group, I can’t say the same.

Segway Tour-Group Tour

The Segways are pretty hardy little machines, and can, as I learned in an informative video, go “off-roading” as well. We zipped on and off sidewalks, in bike lanes, on gravel and paved dirt paths, and were off on our way through the streets of DC. We made a first, and unexpected stop in front of the Eisenhower Executive Building, which is a pretty dang cool  building that sits adjacent to the White House, that people often stop to admire but no one really knows what it is. We learned a few things, namely that the architect was moody and depressed and committed suicide by jumping off the top of the building. Fun.

We checked out the White House. There’s a hot tub back there, installed by good ol’ Clinton. Just thought you might find that as predictable and satisfying of a fact as I do.

Segway Tour-white house

We rode our trusty Segways, by this time extensions of our own two feet, along Pennsylvania and out onto the mall, stopping to admire the Washington Monument. It’s actually one of my favorite spaces in DC, and I’m always surprised at how everytime I find myself on the grassy lawn in front of the monument, it renders me speechless for a second or two. It’s just so tall. And stark. And monumental! Monument love, right here.

Segway Tour-washington monument

The obelisk has seen better times, since by the time I’m writing this, it’s fully covered with constructive scaffolding. But you would need a few adjustments too, if you were a 555 foot pile of stone that’s been around for almost one hundred fifty years. In monument years, it’s going through it’s teenage times, and just needs a bit of time with braces and a head gear before it goes back to its normal self.

Segway Tour-War Memorial

As the sun started to tuck itself between a huge mass of clouds, we hit a few more spots – the WWII Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. By that time though, my ill-prepared dresscode had rendered me officially freezing. I was catching more wind on the Segway than I anticipated, I guess. Luckily we were nearing the end of two hours, and pretty soon we found ourselves scooting back to our starting point to return our machines.

Back to warmth, back to two feet firmly planted on the ground.

Segway Tour-Jefferson Memorial

Segway Tour-Korean War Memorial

If you’ve read this post and are wondering how it so quickly turned into a tour of Washington, D.C., rest assured I kind of thought the same thing while on the Segway Tour myself. Although, signing up for something called “Segway TOUR” should have clued me in, derr… But simply, it’s easy to forget that in a city such as DC, one can swiftly transform from resident to tourist in minutes. That’s more of what this post is about really, rather than being about the super-fun topic of Segways. Hopefully, no matter where I go, I’ll be able to find these fun escapes and excursions. Whether or not they involve cool things like moving machines and monuments.

DC Dining Round Up, December 2012

It’s not December anymore. Heck, we’re already a week deep into 2013, but somehow I’ve still got my mind stuck in 2012. For the New Year (which I’m reluctantly shlepping into) I’ve got lots of intentions – to write, to network, to share, to open myself to new opportunities and new experiences. So to mark my fourth full month of living in the District and to follow these intentions with some action, I’ve compiled a second list of places to check out around DC.

DC’s dining scene certainly has a few holes to be filled, and to more adventurous and seasoned big-city (read: snobby) diners, the ‘scene’ here may be a bit disappointing at first. But as I learn more and more about the folks in the industry here and the new ideas that are coming forward, I’m willing to vouch for a good, solid future in DC dining.

The six places I’ve listed below are definitely some favorites I’ve frequented in the past months, and will continue to frequent this coming year. In an effort to curb my tendency for extreme wordiness, I’ve kept recommendations more concise. Hit me up if you want to know exactly what I thought about each, you know I’m happy to spill my guts.

Blind Dog Cafe

Go here, buzz up on some coffee and some stellar baked goods, and pound out some work on your laptop

Blind Dog Croissant If I’m not at Kafe Bohem like I mentioned in October, you can find me at Blind Dog. The food is better and the coffee a bit stronger (although, no free refills, boo), although the lack of good seating and tables wreak havoc on my back. What keeps me returning, in addition to fast free wifi and quiet work time, is the BEST croissant I’ve had yet in DC. Plus they have amazing chocolate chip cookies – this coming from a girl who isn’t a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, i try not to get both the croissant and the cookie on the same day.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
944 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20001
(202) 290-2865
Monday-Friday 7:30am-4:00pm, Saturday & Sunday 8:00am-4:00pm 


Go here with friends for a great Friday night dinner. and also if you are obsessed with Top Chef and still watch every episode of every season

“Is he the guy who make the pepperoni sauce?” This question was asked by DiploMan, who impressed me with his sneaky Top Chef dish-recognition skills. Why yes, that would be Mike Isabella, of Top Chef season 7 fame. We arrived for a 10pm reservation and were instructed to wait at the bar a bit longer – which turned into half an hour (and a weird stare-down from the hostess). But that’s fine, my friends and I were perfectly satiated with a round of drinks and a complimentary charcuterie board as soon as we arrived to our table. Frankly, the wait was very soon forgotten with an amazing round of small plates and a pretty damn tasty pizza (blistering hot out of the pizza oven).
6th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001


Go here to get crunk with a group of folks. Spider bowls and ramen bowls all around!!

Spider BowlIt’s a dark bar, with one wall crammed floor to ceiling with rum and rum-friendly mixers. That’s good. But it gets better. Hogo has also got food – the kind of really good, really creative, un-advertised menu that one might find in dark LES corners and far-flung Brooklyn outposts. The bar is located in a seedy strip between Chinatown and the Convention Center (no man’s land!!) and doesn’t even have a proper marquee, but frankly it all adds to the allure of the bar. Decor is also pretty minimal, aside from the huge pieces of graffiti artwork done by a local artist – rumor is the work was commissioned to compensate for a bar tab from neighboring sister bar, the Passenger.

The kitchen is open as long as the bar is, making it the premier late-night dining option in DC, if you ask me (also, I think the only place in DC right now where you can get Spam Musubi). The menu will change constantly alongside the roster of rotating chefs Hogo has planned.
1017 7th Sreet Northwest, Washington DC 20001

Tuesday-Thursday 5:00pm-1:30am, Saturday & Sunday 5:00pm-2:30am


Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Go here on a nice date, because you’ll love each other so much more after 6 courses of oysters.

Pearl Dive _Washingtonian The DiploMan doesn’t even like seafood all that much, and we both ate our faces off at this fine establishment. There’s usually an absurd wait for the restaurant, but that fact is assuaged by the fact that you can walk upstairs and enjoy a couple drinks at an equally rowdy and busy bar, BlackJack (complete with a bocce ball room in the back). One of my favorite meals so far in DC.
1612 14th Street Northwest  Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1612
Friday-Sunday 11:00am-3:00pm
 (BRUNCH), Monday- Sunday 5:00pm- 10:00pm

Thai X’ing

Go here if you want an authentic taste of Southeast Asian cooking, a rarity in any city in the states. Plus, it’s cheap!

Thai Xing Fish dish For homestyle, straightforward Thai cooking, Thai X’ing lives up to the hype. The underground restaurant, once operating from a tiny, basement-level apartment, has now spread to all three floors of the LeDroit neighborhood row house. There’s a team comprised of forceful Thai ladies, adept Mexican servers, and one funny bumbling, fumbling 50-year old Australian host. The menu is pre-set each day, and is coursed out in appetizers, mains, and desserts. Food is plenty and tasty, and beers – assuming you’ve brought your own – can be as flowing as you’d like. Dinners on Friday and Saturday are $40 per person.

Also, newsflash.
515 Florida Ave, NW, Washington DC 20001
Tuesday-Sunday 5:30pm-10:00pm

Union Market (no-brainer)

Go here with your parents, your in-laws, your friends, your toddlers, or your co-workers. It’s good for anyone because it’s got options for everyone!!

Union Market Exterior+flickr

Soooo I work here, which means I happen to eat here a lot too. But, this mention has nothing to do with a bit of nepotism, and everything to do with the fact that this place is awesome, filling a much-needed whole in DC’s dining and market scene. A few standouts, aside from Righteous Cheese of course, happen to be Border Springs Lamb, Neopol Smokery, and Trickling Springs Creamery. But there’s also a kick-ass home accessories boutique, a spice shop, Rappahanock Oyster bar, and a knife-sharpening joint – where I still have not yet mustered up the courage to overcome the embarrassment of bringing in $20 JR Henkel knives I bought at Target to get sharpened.

Bagel Sandwich

And yes, that’s bacon in my bagel sandwich.
@unionmarketdc, #UMnow
1309 5th Street Northeast, Washington DC 20002


Image Credits: Graffiato pizza: Rey Lopez c/o Eater DC // Pearl Dive restaurant: David Phillipich c/o Washingtonian Magazine // Thai X’ing dish: Thai X’ing web page // Union Market: flickr //

Upcoming to-do list: Maple, WTF, Two Amy’s, Bar Pilar, Komi, El Chucho. Let’s see if I get around to any of those.

Merry Christmas!!


The DiploMan and I are spending our first Christmas together as a (small, albeit big with love awwww) family…and we’ve decided to go on a short 3-day juice cleanse. Crazy, yes. But much needed after this season of holiday dinner parties and cocktails. Plus we are absolutely OBSESSED with our new BlendTec blender we received as our early xmas present!!

BlendTec Blender

Wishing you and your family a very very Merry, Healthy, and Cleansing Christmas from DC!!


DC Dining Round Up, October 2012

Despite setting the bar high earlier last month with small trips out of the DC area, I’ve been hanging around town the past few weekends. Not only because of a little inclement weather (called Sandy), but because it’s been nice getting to know this city. Plus given a small per diem that we’re getting from the DiploMan’s work, we’ve found it advantageous to delve into DC’s dining scene.

There’s nothing more I like to do than to eat out with loved ones (well, maybe except for cook at home with loved ones. So without further ado, here’s a round-up of some favorite eats we’ve been haunting since we’ve moved into town:

American Ice. Co

917 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Monday-Thursday 5pm-2am, Friday 5pm-3am, Saturday 1pm-3am, Sunday 1pm-2am

This place brings me back to Brooklyn. It’s industrial, it’s got lots of good canned beers, there’s a solid BBQ menu, and okay, maybe it’s a little hipster. Now that the weather is turning way cold, I’m a little hesitant to recommend the picnic benches that are in the courtyard area (courtyard = surrounded by a metal sheeting fence). My advice? Bundle up, and order a hot toddy. I’ll be having the Jack’s Dry Cider in the corner.

Drafting Table

1529 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Wednesday 4pm-11pm, Thursday 4pm-midnight, Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 8am-2am, Sunday 8am-midnight

This little spot just opened up close to our apartment. It’s not the most innovative food ever but it’s tasty (the menu is pretty predictable and doesn’t change too much: pickles! a burger! pears and prosciutto!) nor does it have a particularly special drink list, but it does have a great cider on tap (so into cider these days), HDTVs that don’t overpower the space, a cool industrial-style design, good bartenders, plus high communal tables that make it a nice place to pop into and grab a weeknight bite. Did I mention it’s pretty close to our apartment?

Food Trucks at K and 13th Streets

K Street between 13th and 14th, off of Franklin Park (closest metro: McPherson Square)
Track each food truck’s status, hours, and menus on twitter!

13th Street Trucks

Everyday during the week, a row of food trucks are parked off of Franklin Park on K between 13th and 14th.  They’re also regularly parked in Farragut Square, near the State Dept building, and in the Navy Yard. Food trucks have taken off in DC like I never thought they would. And that’s something I’m not particularly upset about.

Kafe Bohem

600 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
Monday-Friday 6am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm

Kafe Bohem

A few days during the week, I’ll park myself at one of a few local cafes to get some work done. Big Bear, Blind Dog, or Kafe Bohem are in my regular rotation, with Kafe Bohem the usual frontrunner. A little sister to it’s next door Bistro Bohem, the Kafe has ample outlets located near each table, free wifi, refills on coffee, a quiet work/study environment, plus I’m a sucker for cool fonts and good chalkboard art, and they’ve branded the place with an assortment of the two. Bohem is the best remote office in town, although, the chewy chocolate chunk cookies at Blind Dog prove them to be a viable competitor. DC’s slightly lacking in their coffee scene, but with new additions like these, I’m excited to see how it grows.

The Pig

1320 14th Street NW, Washington , DC 20005
Dinner nightly from 5pm-close, Lunch Friday noon-4, Brunch Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm

I’m not too keen on the service style here (“Your waiter, Luke, will be right with you”. “Hi, I’m Luke. Have you dined with us before? No? Well, let me tell you a little about us.”) But what I am certainly fond of is the menu. It’s our go-to spot to gather with a couple of friends, since the menu emphasizes piggy entrees that are served “tapas style”, as more restaurants are doing these days. It’s fun to dine with friends, and try and share several (okay, 7 or 8) different dishes. The drinks are good, and they have small 3oz pours of beers which makes tasting beers just as fun as tasting the food.


locations throughout the DC area, check website for hours and details

The DiploMan and I have been to Sweetgreen more than any other eatery in town. More than Chipotle, even! I know the concept of DIY salads isn’t novel to most of you, but to me, getting these made-to-order salads still feels so good after living in China for two years. I have learned, after my first $18 salad, that I really don’t need to add half the mix-ins they offer behind the counter. More importantly, I also learned that the lemon tahini dressing is delicious. If you’re new to DC and want a good go-to place for an easy takeaway weeknight meal, Sweetgreen’s the place to be.


1314 9th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Saturday noon-9pm

Sundevich Mural

Sundevich was our very first meal in DC. As in, we landed, put our bags down, and walked to Sundevich. It’s in an alley, so it’s a little hard to find, but it’s definitely a shining star in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood that borders our apartment. I’ve tried their vegetarian selections, but I’m telling you – go for the sandwiches with meat. Chorizo and chimichurri, pulled pork with pickles, yum.

Sushi Taro

1503 17th Street NW, Washington DC 20036
Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30-2:30, Dinner 5:30-10pm Monday-Saturday, Closed Sundays

Our first GREAT meal in the city. This place does what all good Japanese places do: present good, beautifully crafted, and tasty food. We’ve chosen a-la carte options rather than their more ambitious (and more expensive) tasting menus, which have certainly not gone unnoticed. We’ve been twice in two months already, made friends with the servers, and tried many of their rotating, seasonal dishes, all of which make you feel like the most special, decadent diner on the face of the earth. Next: must make sure to take advantage of their 50% off sushi at the bar during happy hour.

Town Tavern

2323 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
Monday-Friday 5pm-close, Saturday & Sunday noon-close

Niners at Town Tavern

Town Tavern is the local Bay Area sports bar in town. The food is quite disgusting and takes forever to come out, to boot. It’s a big party bar that I wouldn’t go to normally, but when the 49ers and the SF Giants are both playing on a Thursday night, it’s a great place to be.

Smoked Tofu Stir Fry

A version of this article will be popping up over on Honest Cooking in a few days. But I couldn’t resist sharing it here, first!!

smoked tofu stir fry recipe

Several months ago, while in China, I waxed poetic about the virtues of good, smoked, baked tofu. I shared an excellent recipe for tofu stir fry over on Honest Cooking- it was easy, tasty, fast, and fresh.

Now I’m back in the U.S., and the ideas of easy, tasty, fast, and fresh food can be found EVERYWHERE around me. I’m elated!

smoked tofu_top view

Since I’ve gotten a job over at Union Market, I’ve found myself exposed to a number of folks who are bringing back the artisan foodways of yesteryear. From farmhouse dairies, to homemade preserves, to in-house curing of meats, to family oyster farms and local bakeries, small business have come forward to provide and promote a small scale production of quality, local, and tasty provisions. And this is not just happening at my local market, but all over the city, too. In fact, it’s happening in cities all over the U.S..

But back to the offerings at Union Market: Neopol Smokery is part of this wonderful artisanal movement. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, their provisions feature a variety of smoked fish, but also extend to smoked spices, herbs, and most intriguing to me – smoked tofu.

smoked tofu+cross sections

I brought a cube of Neopol’s smoked tofu home with me last weekend. This isn’t your typical, store-bought, mild-flavored, densely packed smoked tofu. No, it’s a grill-marked, heavily scented, rich and smoky tofu, weighty, but pillowy and then firm, all at the same time. Slicing off a raw piece at home, I deemed the intense smokiness beckoning to be accompanied by other earthy, umami-rich ingredients such as mushrooms and leeks. The tofu, somewhat bland on its own, desired a kick of flavors that could easily be lent from soy, ginger, and mirin.

leeks, ginger, and mushrooms

Now, both as a writer and a cook, I shoot for variety in my work. But sometimes, when I come across something so good and so fresh and made with some much love and care, variety just gets pushed to the sidelines. So here it is, another recipe for a smoked tofu stir fry.

**For all my friends who have got a smoker in your backyard, I encourage you to try making your own smoked tofu. I know not everyone has access to Neopol’s amazing treasures. Of course, the store-bought stuff is a fine enough substitute….and that’s not said with any amount of snuff or anything…

tofu stir fry with leeks and mushrooms

Fresh Smoked Tofu Stir Fry

  • 1 medium leek, greens and whites, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cube smoked tofu, approx 8 oz., thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, any variety (cremini & hen-of-the-woods used here), chopped/sliced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 small nub ginger, finely minced (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • 6 oz. ground turkey
  1. Heat a bit of vegetable oil over high heat on a large skillet or wok. When oil is hot, add garlic and leeks. Saute for 3-5 minutes, or until leeks are soft.
  2. Lower heat slightly to medium high. Add tofu and mushrooms. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, turning occasionally to saute. Don’t stir too vigorously, or the tofu will break up. You want the tofu to brown on the sides and the mushrooms to become soft.
  3. Mix the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger in a small bowl. Add to the stir fry, and sautee. Add the ground turkey, and cook until turkey is well done, approx 5 more minutes.
  4. Serve, hot, accompanied by rice.
If you love spicy fare, this dish would do well with the addition of a couple of chili peppers or a teaspoon of hot sauce.
Yield: 2-3 servings, as a main dish


Local Excursions: Maryland Renaissance Fair


If it’s anything I got from watching the first season of 30 Rock, it’s that expression. Blurgh! I’ve been totally behind on so many things. Blurgh! I have so many things to blog about that are moving farther away into the time space continuum.  Blurgh! I just spilled tea all over my pants. It’s okay, they’re sweatpants, which blurgggh, I’m still in my pajamas.

garland at the Ren Faire

Little Lords and Ladies

But blurgh! Let me share with your some photos and my experience of the Renaissance Fair just outside of town. A few weeks ago, the DiploMan and I, along with our good friends (yet another newlywedded couple, what is in the water these days?!) drove out across the invisible DC border into Maryland for the Renaissance Fair in Crownsville, MD. One of the things I’ve loved about living in DC so far is the accessibility to get out of DC. Slightly ironic, I know. But in our short two months here, I feel like I’ve gotten to explore the “greater” dc area quite a bit. Starting with the “Ren-Fair”.

jousting arena

I’m not a too-cool-for-school type of gal, but i’ll admit: I’ve always been skeptical of Renaissance Fairs. Renaissance Fairs were big with gamers (not me), drama kids (not me), and people who enjoyed Halloween (not me). Or so I thought. After spending a day at the at the grounds in Crownsville, MD, I learned that, little did I know they are also full of food enthusiasts (me!), craft-lovers (me!), and really amazing people-watching (so me!).

plaid pleating

head wear

The Renaissance Fair was quite a spectacular production. The fair was filled with more colored fabrics I’ve seen since the DiploMan and I went to India early this year. It was filled with more colorful characters than I’ve seen in quite some time too. Though there was a good portion of the visitors dressed in normal civilian garb, I was surprised at how many people went all out with their hair, costume, and makeup. I learned lots of things, like the word “Huzzah!”, which I plan to incorporate into my daily speech, and that I had a previously unknown passion for masks, fascinators, and glass-blowing (currently seeking classes in the dc area to recreate any or all of those crafts. We’ll see how that goes…)

masks on a wall

Knight's stirrups

We threw axes at a wooden wall and shot arrows from a bow at targets just 20 yards away, both are which are much harder to do (accurately) than you think. We watched a jousting tournament, slightly disappointed at the less-than-youthful knights that graced our presence. It was followed by log throwing, which was much more intriguing than I ever thought watching someone throw logs would be.

hair braiding

We ate giant turkey legs, having NO IDEA it was a ‘thing’. I’m so glad it is. We drank some mead and some cider, and also ate, randomly, a pizza pocket. We also strolled past an elephant ride, wax-dipping lessons, hair braiders, and lots of mugs for sale. We also contemplated buying armored underwear. The boys played with wooden swords, and we girls tried on flower tiaras.

The renaissance era was a pretty darned good time, if you ask me.

wooden sword tip

axes in the wall

arrow feathers

Where I went: Maryland Renaissance Fair
Sundays and Saturdays in September and October.
Driving address: 1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis, MD 21401