Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to see DC in 2 days

One of the things I love about DC is that there’ Monuments! Memorials! Museums! Oh my! It’s definitely too much to cover in one trip. However, when a favorite aunt comes to town for only a few days, that’s when ya make it hap’n, cap’n.

DC in two days? BRING IT.

Having done a fair amount of traveling, I intimately understand the sadness of not being able to do all the things you’d like to do in a destination city. (London, I will return to you.) Thus, here are some quick tips to help you out:

Condense your city into a concise list of priorities.  Don’t feel badly about the things you leave out – it’s tourist season, Jefferson won’t even notice that you stood him up for Lincoln. He’ll be too busy fending off about a quadrillion 8th grade tour groups.

It’s ok to fudge the numbers a little. You want to see the Smithsonian. Awesome. Me too. But the Smithsonian consists of no fewer than 19 museums and 9 different research centers, and each of those museums has multiple floors and multiple wings, with rotating exhibits and 3-D movies and fancy gift shops. Is it physically possible to see all this stuff? Erm, no. Soooo…pick one. Bam. You saw the Smithsonian. (I recommend the Air and Space Museum – it hits a lot of cool stuff you don’t necessarily get in school.)

Wentelteefjes: Belgian “French” toast.

Go with some city-savvy locals. (Ahem, I’m city-savvy now, my blog says so in the title!) Locals will show you how to navigate the metro system quickly and efficiently (escalators: stand on the right, walk on the left!), tell you what’s worth seeing and what’s not, and introduce you to cool little holes-in-the-wall that the guidebook didn’t mention (Belga CafĂ© – my favorite brunch spot!).

Never.stop.walking. If you do, you’re done. You’ll never get started again. Just ignore your aching limbs and bruised feet – pain is weakness leaving the body.

Refuel with mango margaritas. Okay fine, it’s ok to stop for alcohol.

Be spontaneous. I like to think of The Plan as more of The Suggestion. Sometimes adhering so strictly to The Plan actually just makes us miserable. So, if you get the sudden urge to walk barefoot through the grass at Arlington Cemetery, or dip your toes in the pool at the Sculpture Garden, or run naked around the Washington Monument, do it.

Okay, maybe don’t do that last one. Let someone else do that, and then you can gawk and get pictures as they get dragged away by police.

And finally, enjoy your exhaustion at the end of the day. You earned it. 

Do we look related, or what?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fried chicken, donuts, and BEER: a Churchkey experience

I’ve been meaning to write this story up for a while, but hey, sometimes life happens – say, perchance, your car gets towed (through no fault of your own, might I add), or you realize you’re a legal American citizen and must therefore pay taxes – and before you know it three weeks have passed and you’ve almost forgotten that you had a blog in the first place.  

Contrary to the tenor of my last couple posts, this one should serve as a reassurance that I am, in fact, enjoying my life here in DC. Really! It’s true! My friends are great, my sis is great, and as always, everything is better with beer.  

So. A couple weeks months back, The Sis and I decided to leave work early and take advantage of the unseasonably warm spring day. How best to do this? Hop a few blocks over to Churchkey for happy hour, of course. For non-DCers, Churchkey is one of, if not THE best bar for beer in the District. It boasts a selection of over 500 beers from all over the world, as well as a pretty yummy menu. Being an employee of a liquor store, and therefore knowing a bit more about beer allotments for the District than your average Joe, I can say with some authority that Churchkey is often allotted certain specialty beers that almost no one else receives from distributors.  

Sadly, I had not yet been to Churchkey before this day. *shamefacedly hides in a broom closet* 

The Sis and I arrived at about 4 o’clock. The bar was largely empty at this early hour, except for some sort of film crew that was occupying all the tables near the windows. I grumbled to myself – living the last year of my life in windowless cubicles has made me crave sunlight like a withered plant – and sat down at the bar, as near as possible to the windows.  I assumed the film crew was updating the menu, taking new shots of meals and such. I didn’t pay them much mind, largely because The Sis and I had engaged the bartender in a lively discussion about beer. 

Another plus of working in a liquor store: I actually kind of know what I’m talking about. We chatted about hops (this girl is NOT a hops fan), maltiness, fruity crisp notes, and the inherent superiority of Salmon Fly Rye, a beer brewed out of Montana. (Okay, I talked about the inherent superiority of Salmon Fly Rye, and the bartender listened patiently and had the good sense to agree with me.) Occasionally other bartenders would meander past us and offer their opinions. 

After a few minutes of this, a member of the film crew sidled up on my right and leaned his elbows on the bar. Score one for being a cute girl in a bar, where the only other competition is your look-alike twin sister, I thought. 

“Hey,” Film Crew Guy said. “You ladies seem to be having a very dynamic conversation here…you sound like you really know what you’re talking about.” We do. As already established. “Would you be interested in participating in our TV show?” 

Say what? Sure!! I washed my hair today, so why not? 

Film Crew Guy explained that his show, ABC’s The Chew, was doing a special about different eateries around DC. Churchkey was chosen for its beer reputation and for its unique sandwich called “The Luther.” The Luther is essentially a behemoth of fried chicken, donuts, and maple syrup. A surprising combination, and surprisingly good. (UNsurprisingly, it’s probably worth at least 4 heart attacks.) 

FCG introduced us to the host of the show, a jet-lagged but energetic Kiwi named Jason, and explained that they would do a couple takes of Jason interviewing us, and then us actually eating the sandwich and commenting on how much we loved it. [Obviously, we loved it…people aren’t interviewed to give their REAL opinions.] We ran through these scenes quickly, eating little bites of the sandwich each time. The Sis was a little hesitant about eating too much of The Luther, and rightly so; one bite had to have been at least 1,000 calories.  I had every intention of maintaining discretion as well, but…hey, I actually did really like the sandwich. [Meaning I ate the whole thing.] At one point FCG complimented us on our acting skills and presentation – “Wow, you guys actually sound perfect, like real actors!” Why thank you, I told him. I actually had the lead in my 5th-grade Christmas play.

For those interested, the clip of the Chew can be seen here. Thanks to my friend Jon for pointing it out! And ignore the fact that I sound like a ditzy sorority girl.

At the end of the shoot, Jason gestured toward our drinks. “What are you guys drinkin? Next round’s on us.” Why thank you, Jason. We chatted with him and the crew a while longer before meandering back over to the bar, which was packed at this point with people just off from work. Actually, a little crowd of them had been watching us during the entire interview. 

Our favorite bartender came back over and chatted with us for a moment, but he was much busier now. Didn’t matter too much, the people next to us were very interested in our interview and what was going on. [Note: by “people next to us” I mean “that guy next to my sister,” and by “interested in our interview” I mean “interested in her phone number.” But I digress.]

Eventually, one guy approached us and introduced himself as the manager of the bar. “I hear you ladies are the new face of Churchkey!” he exclaimed. We are? Okay, I guess I can handle that.  We chatted with him about beer and other things, explaining just how good a tall Coldsmoke is – it’s another beer out of Montana, a rich stout that people also make into a special ice cream. The Sis and I made it very clear: if he wanted his bar to TRULY be the best in the District, it needed to import some Montana beer. After all, we have one of the highest ratios of micro-breweries to people in the entire country!  

True fact. Maybe.  

Point is, we convinced him, and discussed a few different import strategies. And as we were talking, he mentioned that Churchkey does its own version of a beer ice cream, and insisted that we try it. On the house. The Heart-attack Yummo Sandwich Luther followed by beer ice cream? Okay, I guess I can handle that. 

“Well, it’s been lovely chatting with you ladies,” the manager said, preparing to depart. “How about we comp your tab for the rest of the night?”  

I think my eyes bugged out of my head. Free beer and food at Churchkey for the rest of the night!? Okay, I think I can handle that. 

I had been about ready to leave the bar – I had a date that night across town. After the manager’s offer, though, I quickly dialed my date and explained the situation. He agreed to the change in plans immediately. Smart guy.

And that’s how I got interviewed for a show on ABC, got a free tab at a favorite bar, and arranged to import Montana beer all in the same night.

I guess I kinda like this DC town.