One of my (local) friends and I talk about having “civilized” lunches (and I’ve probably mentioned it), meaning not something in a bag, pushed through a window, or handed over a counter; but a sit down, tablecloths, silver, glassware, and most importantly: no schedule!. So “civilized” behavior has become sort of my goal whenever possible. Well, last Saturday, was a very civilized day for me.
It was the weekend of the 2014 edition of the Smithsonian Craft show, and I wanted to talk to our “clock guy” who was an exhibitor. We have a small problem with our clock (which is probably trivial to all but engineers), so I called him and he said to come up, and we'd chat. Using that as an excuse I arranged to meet my long time friend up there for lunch and then “do” the show. MFO was still under the weather and didn’t want to make the journey, but was well enough to stay by herself for the day.
So I got in the Flutter Mobile II, set the GPS and off I went. By this time, I pretty much know the route, but it is always comforting to have the electronics on your side. I stopped off in Dunkirk to get a Starbucks, and saw one of the people working there that used to work in our local shop. Nice to see her. A relatively easy 40 minutes later found me at his apartment, a few blocks from the mall. I cleansed the rigors of the road with a civil glass of chilled Prosecco, fruit, and some excellent aged Gouda, a cheese we both greatly enjoy. Properly refreshed we started out on foot with no particular lunch destination in mind. He lives not far from the Eastern Market district and we headed in that direction. Between the wonderful weather, the cherry blossom festival, and the popularity of the area, the streets were packed, mostly with people just enjoying being outside and with friends and family. We stopped in at a little place called Sona, a wine and cheese store which also serves sandwiches (and wine and cheese!). They had a lovely selection and we sampled a couple of cheeses at the (strenuous) urging of somebody behind the counter. After that we went next door to another little store called “Sapore” which specializes in “artisanal oils, vinegars, and sea salts”. They had rows and rows of containers for sampling all of the above.
A similar experience here at home would be the “Cooking Items” aisle at Giant, except you’d get arrested if you tried to taste. A bit of a stretch, but how nice to see what I would call a civilized shop in DC. I bought a bottle lime infused olive oil for MFO, a flavor she is particularly fond of, especially at cocktail time.
From there we proceeded over to the Eastern Market with its outdoor stalls of produce,
and “stuff”, for browsing and people watching…
We then went inside to look at the rows and rows of cases
Of anything you might want or need
While I’m not sure everything is authentic or local, a lot of it is. A great place. Kind of like our local farmers market on Steroids!
We then wandered over to 8th street, where there are a lot of restaurants, none of which I knew as chains. Every cuisine you might wish for, many which had outdoor seating and it all made for kind of a café scene. Most are casual, so DFD isn’t much of an issue (I certainly verified that!) Just a lot of people enjoying friends over food. Very nice. Kind of Parisian. Anyway my friend finally wanted to take me to a place that features Belgian Cuisine
It is pretty highly thought of, so we went inside (skin cancer kid here) and got a table. The lunch menu contained a lot of stuff you might expect, mussels, frites, and (duhh) Belgian waffles. Normally you would think that there would be fairly heavy stuff, and you would be correct. Note the second choice of sides... wish i could have seen one!!
Knowing we would be doing more walking, I decided to stay light, and eschewed the bucket o’bacon and went with “Prei Soep” a described as Leek Soup, smoked salmon, and crème fraiche. My friend went with a waffle.. It was fairly noisy inside, I suppose bistro like and it was pretty packed. They did a good job of taking orders, and it appeared food moved fairly rapidly. They had of course a huge selection of beers, so I went with a Belgian. Our food arrived in a timely manner, not rushed, but just about right. My soup was smooth and very flavorful.
It was served in a civil manner, with the ingredients brought in the bowl, and then the soup was poured over it. I like that. The waffle was, well, quite as you might expect
This one was topped with mangoes, peaches, figs, and mascarpone cheese. I would like to go back for dinner sometime, they had some very unusual dishes (unless you are Belgian, I suppose) on the menu, like: STOOFPOTJE VAN KONIJNEBIL ..Braised rabbit legs, turnips, bacon, pearl onion, potatoes, carrots, prunes, mustard beer sauce. Not your light dinner fare!
Anyway we left the restaurant, returned to the car, passing a Metro Station and the normal street musicians playing their hearts out
and drove over to the National Building Museum, annual home to the Smithsonian Craft Show. I know I’ve waxed eloquent about this in the past, but it is a show that features the top of the line crafters in the US. I was pleased that our “clock guy” Jim Borden was selected for the second year in a row. His wooden clocks are amazing (note I am not using this term for food, I think it is warranted here). Ours was having a little clocking problem, like when the minute hand was exactly on “twelve”, the hour hand was lagging a bit. Drove me nuts. I explained the problem to Jim who promptly took me over and showed me how to fix it, right in the middle of the show. By and large, I find the crafters are very friendly, and in Jim’s case he is from Zumbrota, Minnesota.. really nice guy as you might expect, ya, you betcha!!.
I also have mentioned that the prices are pretty extraordinary to go with the extraordinary objects. Here’s a shot of some little glass things about the size of a salt shaker. They are a wire frame with glass powder and then fired. They are indeed beautiful and my grab shot doesn’t do them justice, but mostly I took it for the price tag in the lower right of the image.
And, the little red dots are the universal sign of “sold”. So you are looking at over ten large. But, it only costs fifteen bucks to get in and enjoy the objects even if you can’t own them!
So I would say that I had a pretty civilized day with a good friend. There are certainly advantages (cafes, shops) to living in a place like that, but of course there are also associated disadvantages (traffic, parking). I guess it is nice to be able to drive to civility, but maybe not live there. I am sure there are more occasions there to
PS: there is a Brian Ganz Piano Talk tomorrow (noon, SMH).. bring your small change, there is a fee…b*****ds… not sure I’m going, we’ll see..