Category Archives: Georgetown

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Ching Ching Cha: Georgetown’s Tea Oasis

I don’t think Ching Ching Cha has a suggestion box, but if they did, my recommendation would be to improve the lighting.

That’s it, that’s my suggestion. Aside from that, the Georgetown tea house is charming and quite unique. It feels like a peaceful oasis far removed the hustle and bustle of the city.

The place is a tea lover’s dream, with an abundance of exotic teas, teapots and accessories.

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There’s food too. It’s a smallish menu, focused mostly on light snacks and small bites. But I was very happy with my Tea Meal, which included a surprisingly excellent tomato egg drop soup, and generous pieces of miso salmon served along with crispy, fresh vegetable sides. It all felt very healthy and clean, just the sort of thing you’d want to nosh on at a tea house.

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“You know what this place needs?” I said to my friend Libby on our evening visit. “Better lighting.”

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There’s a coldness about the white light emanating from the overheads. A few low-hanging paper lanterns here and there, setting the place aglow with warm, inviting light, and the place would be transformed into something magical.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I like Ching Ching Cha a lot. Hope they stay around for a while.

Ching Ching Cha
1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-333-8288

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Dinner at Farmers Fishers Bakers

In preparation for this past Academy Awards show, I watched all nine nominated films for Best Picture. With the exception of Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, and possibly Argo, most of the films fell into my “good, not great” category. Skillful filmmaking all around, but each lacked something that prevented it from reaching the upper tier.

I had a similar feeling at Farmers Fishers Bakers.  Attractive space, lovely view, quality ingredients, admirable mission, appealing menu offerings, but when it came to our entrees… something was missing.

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Farmers Fishers Bakers sits near the Georgetown waterfront, adjacent to the seasonal skating rink. I imagine it’s extra nice dining at the outdoor tables in the summer.

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My friends and I agreed that our appetizers were the most successful dishes of the night. We gobbled up the hot crab dip — although the portion of crab dip was puny in relation to the quantity of bread. The serving dish arrived barely half full.

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The crisp and subtly spicy chicken wings were delicious.

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For entrees, Deirdre ordered the flounder Francaise. I took a taste — not much happening there flavor-wise. Liz’s steak was an improvement — the texture was excellent — but again, something wasn’t there with the flavor.

My cracklin’ pork shank wasn’t particularly cracklin’ — I expected a crisper skin. Nice piece of meat, but lacking a certain umami.

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For dessert, a plate of beignets. Hard not to compare them to the yeasty, full-bodied beignets at Bayou Bakery in Arlington. I liked them, but they were more like fritters than beignets.

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I love Farmers Fishers Bakers’ mission and commitment to seasonal ingredients, sustainability and environmental friendliness. As for the meal, it was decent enough, but with enough hiccups that none of us left saying “Wow!”  Maybe not Oscar worthy just yet.

Farmers Fishers Bakers
3000 K St NW
Washington, DC
202-298-8783

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Three Brunches, Three Sighs of Contentment

There’s no deep mystery behind the formula for a successful brunch. Basically, you want to offer a breakfast option, such as eggs, provide enough food to tide us over until dinner (it is breakfast and lunch after all), and serve everything up in a comfortable, casual environment.

These three restaurants fit the bill nicely.

Kafe Leopold

In Georgetown, you’ll find Kafe Leopold tucked away in a cozy space between M Street and Cadys Alley. If the weather’s warm enough, try to snag a table on the shaded, cobblestone patio with its bubbling fountain, because it’s quite atmospheric.

The inside’s sleek, bright and airy, with natural light streaming through the windows and all-white furniture that reminds me of IKEA.

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I got the eggs with grilled ham and toast.

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I’m blanking now on exactly what this is that my friend Melissa ordered. I know it’s vegetarian, and am pretty sure it’s an assortment of tea sandwiches with different types of cheese.

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A visit to Kafe Leopold is not complete without at least a gaze toward their dessert display case.  This pic does not do it justice.

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After each getting up to check out the offerings, Melissa and I named our top three options. We shared the dessert that was on both our lists, the Napoleon.

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Good lord.  Anything with puff pastry gets me, and this was a tour de force of flaky and crunchy. The vanilla cream and dabble of berries put it over the top. “Mmmmmmmm” was the general verdict.

L’Enfant Cafe

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A neighborhood spot on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. If they had TVs, this is where I’d come during the summer to nibble on a crepe and watch the Tour de France.

My three friends and I wandered in, hungry and perhaps slightly sleepy from a holiday party the night before.

I really like the brick walls and homey bar in the dining room. The diners were a nice cross section of neighborhood couples, groups and families. (With extremely well behaved small children who miraculously didn’t scream or shout. Thank you restaurant gods.)

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My frittata with seasonal vegetables, goat cheese and potatoes really hit the spot.

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And that fantastic bacon needs a special shout out. So meaty and well cooked. That’s how all bacon should be.

The Original Pancake House

As I walked up to the Bethesda restaurant yesterday to meet my friends, there was no sign of life from the outside. Great! I thought. There’ll be no wait. Everyone’s gone home for the holidays!

Um, no, it was packed. We entered and I was immediately pinballed around, bumping into people from all directions in the small waiting area. This place does boffo business.

Ended up being about a 15-minute wait, not bad at all considering there were six of us and it was the peak of brunch hour.

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As the name suggests, you probably want to order pancakes here.  They’ve got almost every variation you can think of. (Except for Johnny Cakes, the cornmeal pancakes that I will always associate with “The Sopranos.” RIP Vito Spatafore.)

The menu at The Original Pancake House hilariously lists the calorie counts for each item. My friend Matt says it’s a law in Montgomery County. My advice: Don’t look at the calorie count. You don’t want to know.

Didn’t matter much to us anyway; this was a fit group of people. Fay and Randy ran eight and ten miles respectively to the restaurant, for God’s sake.  I think they earned the right to pig out on whatever they wanted.

I chose “The Works”: two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and three pancakes. Here are the blueberry pancakes.

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Near the end of the meal, Matt said, “You’ve got to take a before and after picture!”

Before:

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And after:

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There you have it. Three spots that will all leave you yearning for a pleasant food coma nap. Can’t go wrong with any of them.

Happy brunching!

Kafe Leopold
3315 M Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-965-6005

L’Enfant Cafe
2000 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-319-1800

The Original Pancake House
7703 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD
301-986-0285

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I Kinda Like Georgetown. There, I Said It. (Dinner at Little Viet Garden.)

Bostonians avoid Faneuil Hall, San Franciscans mock Fisherman’s Wharf, and when was the last time a New Yorker hung out in Times Square?

For Washingtonians, there’s Georgetown.

Tourists flock there — case in point the line at Georgetown Cupcake — but most DC residents I know steer away from Georgetown in favor of U St., H St., Dupont, Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan.

A mention of Georgetown is often met with a shrug of indifference or an expression of disdain.  From what I’ve gathered, many locals view Georgetown as touristy, snobbish, generic, douchey and overrun by rich college kids. It’s also trickier to get to by public transportation and traffic there sucks.

I’m not familiar enough with the Georgetown scene to form a concrete opinion, but the few times I’ve hung out there, I’ve (shrinking with embarrassment) kind of liked it. It feels different from any other part of DC, and I enjoy the C&O Canal and waterfront (especially the beautiful, rebuilt Waterfront Park).

So I will say it proudly — I had a good time with my friend Melissa in Georgetown on Friday night.

We were both so famished that after deciding on Vietnamese, we essentially wandered into the first restaurant we stumbled upon — Little Viet Garden.

The “garden” seating is accessed by walking down some narrow stairs, past the bathrooms and out a back door. Not the most scenic route. But once you’re out there, it’s quite nice.

I was in a damn good mood. It was Friday night, the weather was perfect, and we lounging outdoors with a Tsingtao beer and food to come.

Like summer spring rolls with grilled pork.

For my entree, I got the black pepper caramel pork.

Came with a side of pickled vegetables.

Nice peppery sauce, although for a dish that was supposed to be spicy, it lacked heat. (We both squirted on a liberal dose of Sriracha).

As the sun went down, the outdoor dining area became even more quaint.

We were soon off to see a movie at the AMC theater, before checking out the art and live music at the Water St Project, and finishing up with late night drinks on the waterfront at Sequoia.

Agreed, Georgetown is yuppieish and awash with tourists. But on a beautiful spring night, it sure isn’t a bad place to be.

Little Viet Garden
2934 M St. NW
Washington, DC
202-337-4536

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Tough Decisions at Georgetown Cupcake

The timing was perfect. I was sitting on the Circulator bus tonight, traveling from Georgetown to Dupont Circle. I’d just met my friend Jenn, who was passing through town, at Georgetown Cupcake.  Thinking about the blog post I was going to write,  I overheard two people in front of me discussing cupcakes. Didn’t catch all of it, but this was the gist:

Guy: “I read that the city has something like 70 cupcake bakeries.”
Girl: “That’s crazy. You think, how often would you get a cupcake, maybe every two months at $4 a cupcake? I don’t know how that would support all of them.”

I don’t know when or how this whole cupcake craze started, but I suspect the credit goes to NYC’s Magnolia Bakery and Sex and the City. In any case, cupcake bakeries are white hot. I’ve never fully bought into the craze; I like cupcakes, but I don’t relish them with the fervor that others do, and I’d certainly never wait in line at Magnolia Bakery at 12:30 in the morning.

If it’s true that there are 70 cupcake bakeries in D.C., the sizeable line at Georgetown Cupcake proved that it’s one bakery not hurting for business.  Jenn and I did what normal people do — we checked out the selection and figured out what we wanted.  Of course someone always has to gum up the works — in this case, the woman in front of us who thought it’d be fun to take about a year to place her order. And the worst part was knew she was holding up the line (she acknowledged it), and that still didn’t speed up the process: What’s that one? How about that one over there? Oh, I don’t know…What does it taste like? Hey lady, I’ve got an idea: How about making a decision before I hit my 40s??!  I locked eyes with the poor girl taking the order, and we shared wry smiles and a roll of the eyes.

Jenn picked out a half dozen cupcakes for her aunt, and I chose these two: chocolate hazelnut and mint cookies and cream.

My issue with cupcakes in general is the price — $3 for a smallish cupcake — and the sometimes cloying sweetness. The mint cookies and cream frosting was an example of that — smooth and delicious, but there was just so much of it, and it was so sweet. The chocolate hazelnut cupcake was just right, though. Had a layer of chocolate between the cake and the frosting, and the chopped hazelnuts added a welcome crunch. Really good.

It’s now over three hours later. The woman in front of us is probably still placing her order.

Georgetown Cupcake
3301 M St. NW
Washington, DC
202-333-8448