This photo courtesy of photographer Sandy Schaeffer, 2011
Much has changed in just over two decades (21 years, to be exact), and that is a testament to the strength of the German people and their capacity for great change. (For an interesting take on that part of history, check out the film Good Bye Lenin! Then, for a more depressing angle watch The Lives of Others.) It was a fantastic party complete with unpasturized beer — as it should be, sparkling Riesling, and lots of delicious food featuring traditional favorites from around the country such as herring, Wursts, Rinderbraten, Spaetzle and more. And of course, the chocolate sculpture of the eagle caught my attention.
We were invited to join the after-party in the Berlin Bar, the private lounge downstairs in the residence. It was a truly interesting crowd to say the least, and quite a night.
If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, take my word on the matter: the Germans know how to throw a good party!
Being in D.C. gave us the excuse to explore the cuisine there, and though it was an unconscious and spontaneous decision, tapas turned out to be a theme in our trip! We started at Estadio for dinner.
Just a year old, and already a semifinalist this year for a James Beard award, this place does not have any kinks to work out. Near the DuPont Circle neighborhood, this place has a hip urban ambiance with a combination of exposed brick and Moroccan-inspired walls, not forgetting the great art.
The food was out of this world. We sat at the bar overlooking the chef’s station and watched them fire away dish after luscious dish which made me want everything I saw. The beauty and the danger of tapas: they are small. So, we ordered up. If you go: start with the Spicy Marcona Almonds and Pickled Garlic, Pepinillos, and Olives. They were a perfect pairing of spice and tang.
Other favorites included the Jamón Wrapped Fig, with Almond and Cabrales.
The Lomo Ibérico (cured pork loin) was lovely. And the Pork Belly sandwich was sinfully good, and then came Scallops and a delicious Grilled Octopus.
Next, the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads, and Roasted Sweet Corn with Manchego and Basque Chile and Lime (which, tasted just like Oaxaca, by the way…or vice versa?).
By this point, we were sated, but here I was, ogling over each and every thing the chefs were turning out. Enter Haidar Karoum, the Exec. Chef who was instructing one of his staff on a new item: Foie Gras Scrambled Eggs with Black Truffle Butter served over a rustic slice of bread. Could it have been the looks on our faces that made Haidar turn to us and offer the eggs? Who could say no? So, we polished that off, and were reminded of how the EGG is maybe one of the finest foods on this planet. We finished the meal off by sharing the Manchego Cheesecake with a quince glaze, on a bed of pistachio granola. Not too sweet (just the way dessert should be), and the texture of the cheesecake was perfect — just look at it!
Thank goodness for taxis, because the walk back to our hotel would have been too much to bear after such a meal, supported only by stillettos. That I was even hungry the next day may come as a shock to some, but well… What can I say? I ate some truly delicious granola at Le Pain Quotidien. I am loving this granola trend of adding whole nuts to the mix — finding giant cashews and pistachios in my bowl of granola makes me happy.
Then it was off to the National Gallery to feast our eyes on some amazing art. The Chester Dale Collection (From Impressionism to Modernism) was impressive, and I was intrigued by the art of Amedeo Modigliani to whom I have never given proper attention. Then we were on to Modern exhibits, and it was the food paintings that caught my eye.
James Rosenquist, American born, 1933: “White Bread” 1964, oil on canvas
Wayne Theibaud, American born, 1920: “Cakes” 1963
Nearly faint with hunger now, we were off to Oyamel — this time, we craved Mexican food.
One quick glance over the menu to find nopales, huitlacoche and chapulines and I knew we had scored a good place. Again, I wanted to try everything, but I had learned my lesson the night before (what lesson?) and didn’t make it quite as far through the menu this time around. The nopalito salad with tomatoes in lime dressing was the definition of fresh and bright.
The tuna ceviche was fantastic and my favorite part was the crispy amaranth which added an unexpected crunch you don’t normally get with ceviche. Brilliant.
We enjoyed the Quesadilla Huitlacoche, and then a couple of tacos, with the Cochinita Pibil being a favorite. We finished off the late lunch with Pastel de Tres Leches served with a rum and milk foam and pineapple gelatin and salsa and a Cafe de Olla (sweetened coffee with cinnamon and star anise).
D.C., it was good to see you again. It was, another wonderful trip. . .