discoveries: february

1 // Watching: Swan Lake
We recently went to the Kennedy Center to see Misty Copeland dance in the American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake. I bought tickets back in November and we were so excited the entire holiday season for this - and it did not disappoint!! ...even though we sat down in our seats, opened up our playbills, and read that Misty was injured and wouldn't be performing. womp womp. J & I were both a little bummed at first BUT Isabella Boylston, who substituted for her, was just. so. good.  We loved this whole experience - from walking underneath the flags in the Hall of Nations to the final bows onstage.

We always leave the Kennedy Center saying we need to go more often - maybe this year is the year we finally get that season membership? We'd both love to see masterpieces like this more frequently. Whenever the lights darken and the orchestra starts playing the overture to any production, I am immediately transported back to my acting days. I forget how much I love the theater. 

2 // Listening: Pod Save America
I'm living for this podcast right now. Recently I've found myself hungering for media that prioritizes honest discussion, frank analysis of current events, and - probably most importantly - clear pathways to action. The hosts of this podcast all worked for Obama's administration (including speechwriter Jon Favreau, who I'm a little in love with, sorry J), so it obviously leans to the left, but I feel like nothing is neutral these days and I need a weekly update on current events that includes actual practical strategies on (1) getting your voice heard AND (2) ensuring the most marginalized groups in our society are protected and supported. They interview a range of interesting and brilliant people from across the country, working in all different areas of policy and politics. I especially loved one of their recent episodes, recorded live in Brooklyn - the interviews with Mayor de Blasio and Alex Wagner were both fascinating and inspiring. (Head's up for language and snarkiness, in case either of those bother you.)

3 // Eating: Rose's Luxury
A couple of weeks ago I had a suspicion that Winter Restaurant Week might provide the perfect opportunity to eat at what is frequently referred to as the best restaurant in DC. Rose's has a Michelin star and notoriously infamous lines - in fact, there's a bar nearby with a cocktail named "Waiting for Rose's." Thankfully, my instinct was 100% correct - we showed up around 6pm and were seated right away. (!! I still can't believe it.)  We made the last-minute decision to have their ten-course tasting menu and it was amaaaaazing and we're still talking about it weeks later.

We are also both now a little obsessed with freshly-made stracciatella. OBSESSED.
Worth the hype, of course, and absolutely one of our more magical dining experiences in DC.

4 // Reading: The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
I have no idea why it took me so long to read this, but I'm so glad I did. On a high level, it's a dystopian novel exploring what would happen if a future America was forced into a totalitarian theocracy, and more specifically, what would happen to women. It's well-written, not very long, and unsettling. I loved it for a lot of reasons, and not just because I love books that also serve as warnings.

Hulu has a TV version premiering in April. I hope it's good. I always get nervous/apprehensive when books I love are turned into shows.

5 // Thinking: about stewardship
Our religion has this section of scripture colloquially referred to as the Word of Wisdom.  It's generally interpreted as a health code, and I've never really thought too much about it until a random conversation last year encouraged me to read it again, more closely. And I am a little embarrassed to say that I was so surprised by what I found. That section of scripture is amazing. Sure, there's like the three main things that are all everyone ever talks about - no drugs, alcohol, or tea/coffee - but that's one tiny little part! and there is so much else there. Those verses talk about partaking of meat and herbs and fruits and vegetables not only in their season (buy seasonal!) but also with prudence and thanksgiving. It talks about eating meat and grains sparingly. It's a giant, beautiful, all-encompassing health code that also commands this beautiful way of seeing the earth and partaking of its bounty. I really think that because our culture focuses almost exclusively on like two solitary lines, we are missing out on such a bigger, more wonderful mandate of truly being stewards of the earth.

So much of consumerism today flies directly in the face of these commandments.  Thinking about that section of scripture and reading books about rampant fraud in the food industry have really helped me - us - evaluate where we're putting our money when it comes to buying groceries. We've always eaten pretty healthy, but now we're paying more attention to where we're getting our meat and produce, and how frequently, and where our food is coming from. We're trying to be more prudent.

This mentality is spilling over into other areas of my life as well. Just as I've felt uncomfortable with the food industry and how Americans consume, consume, consume, I've also been feeling uncomfortable with the fashion industry. I've grown sick of buying clothes that fall apart after a few wears, with an utter lack of craftsmanship, without any knowledge of where they came from or what went into their manufacture. Like a lot of people, I've been drawn to companies like Everlane who make beautiful clothing while at the same time being completely transparent about their pricing model.  And then just last week I read a wonderfully refreshing blog post by the talented owner of Elizabeth Suzann, this beautiful store in Nashville, where she wrote even more frankly about mindful fashion, and it got me thinking about the value of my dollar.  If I'm going to spend $50 on clothing, where do I want it to go? Do I want to buy three super-cheap shirts at a fast fashion store that aren't well-made, will fall apart, and were made overseas taking advantage of cheap labor (and the terrible working conditions that often accompany that labor)? Or do I want to spend that $50 on one single well-made item, from a company that houses its entire shop in one big building, produces 100% American-made items, treats its employees well, and prioritizes giving back to the community and protecting the environment?  Right now, for me, the answer to that question is obvious.

So, I'm on a mission to buy less and buy better.  Because being a steward of the earth means being a steward over all the earth, and doing what you can to help with every dollar that you spend.*

*...where you can. Missing from this, of course, is a conversation about how it is a privilege to be able to be choosy about where you buy your groceries or where you shop for jeans. I fully recognize that privilege, am very grateful for it, and am eager to learn more about opportunities to be good stewards in other ways and through other means.

the year of the cookbooks

I am really excited about cooking this year.

(^ Homemade steak & pepper pies, whipped up one night when we were nostalgic for the real deal in New Zealand.)

Last year, we had a lot of fun trying out one new restaurant a month.  But this year, we wanted to do something different.  Both J and I love being in the kitchen and learning new things together, so we set a completely different goal for 2017:
Try one new cookbook each month.

I AM SO EXCITED. We've been accumulating cookbooks for a while, but hadn't really set a goal of working our way through them or figuring out what makes each book shine.  We have two ultimate goals for this project:

  1. to get out of our cooking comfort zone and try new techniques & cuisines; and
  2. to hopefully find a cookbook or two that will become a household staple for us for years to come.

(^ Coq au vin in progress, one of our favorite homemade meals of 2016.)

As far as cookbooks go, I'm afraid I'm a little bit picky.  I like a beautifully-made, full-of-glossy-photographs book, but I can't bring myself to purchase what Matt Sartwell calls "cheffy cookbooks."  (I didn't even have a name for this category of books, I just knew I didn't love them, until I heard him use this phrase and thought YES THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE.)  According to Sartwell, "cheffy" books are those that (1) are written by celebrity chefs and either (a) are far too convoluted/complicated to become true home staples OR (b) don't really contain anything groundbreaking - people just buy them because of the personality behind the cookbook.  Some examples he gave are cookbooks by Ina Garten or Deb Perelman (author of the Smitten Kitchen blog).  I almost unequivocally agree with him - though I'll pick up cookbooks by those authors in a store and page through them, admiring perfectly-styled shots (especially in the SK book, which is gorgeous)..... I never end up buying them.*  So it's going to be a bit of a challenge to hunt down cookbooks that are (1) beautifully made (2) challenging yet accessible for an adventurous home chef and (3) actually contain delicious recipes.  But I am 100% game for the challenge.

^ (if you're going to try any SK recipe, her berry bundt is delicious, easy to modify depending on what's in season, and a total crowdpleaser. all hail buttermilk!)

Anyway! Welcome to the Year of the Cookbooks, in which we hope to learn a lot, eat a lot, and have a lot of fun cooking together.  We haven't really set any rules for ourselves: just a different cookbook each month, trying out at least two different recipes - anything from a salad to a pizza dough to an entrΓ©e to a homemade ice cream.  A caveat: we're not counting January, which was a hectic blur, and we're not counting February either, since we're spending 30 days this month doing Whole30. (<--which, actually, has not been difficult for us. but definitely feels great!) So! Come March, we'll dive headfirst into our first cookbook of the year.

And, of course, we'll take a few photos and write about it a bit here.  If you have any all-time favorite, must-have cookbooks, please let us know! We are always up for recommendations.

(^ superhero muffins from Shalane Flanagan's run fast eat slow. 100% fangirl status, I know, but SUCH a good practical resource when you need meal ideas during training cycles.)

*(One exception to this rule for me is Chrissy Teigen's book Cravings, which is the least sophisticated, most basic cookbook you will ever purchase.  As in, the recipes literally include ingredients like Mrs. Butterworth's pancake syrup and ramen noodles.  Not legitimate ramen noodles - Cup Noodles, the fifty-cent-per-cup staple of every college student in America.  But the book is so damn funny that it's actually really refreshing, a nice break from the uber-pretentiousness of so much of the food world these days.  And ever since the first afternoon I made her crispy prosciutto buratta salad, Jason's requested it approximately 40 more times.  So no worries, Chrissy, I still freaking love you, and we love your silly, hilarious, lovely cookbook.)

looking back & moving forward

It's January 29, almost a full month into 2017, and I'm still trying to figure out where I stand with this new year. So far, frankly, it has been an extremely busy and an extremely stressful month, for a lot of reasons - but it hasn't been bad, per se. On the contrary, I'm feeling empowered, determined, and ready to work.

2016 was a good year for us personally (though a rough year in a lot of ways for the world in general). Some completed items on last year's bucket list include:

  • travel to three new foreign countries
  • visit one new-to-us DC-area restaurant each month
    • completed with pleasure. and full stomachs. series here.
  • get published
    • this happened - twice. It's exhilarating (and a little stressful!) to see your name in print (!!), and I will absolutely continue to make time for writing this year. at a legal event earlier this month, a judge asked us what we would do if we weren't lawyers. I never have to think twice about that question: I would write. (well, and probably go to culinary school. and maybe also business school. but! chief of all - I would write.)
  • go kayaking
  • camp in Shenandoah
  • bike the Mt. Vernon trail to Alexandria
  • read 30 books
  • graduate from law school
    • BOOM. still a little bit surreal.
  • pass the bar exam
    • phew! 
  • take a watercolor class
  • build a piece of furniture

I'm struggling to write out a list of goals for 2017, which is maybe okay - I think maybe this year is about a certain feeling, a certain kind of dedication, more so than a to-do list.  I want to work exceptionally hard, make time to read books that matter, engage more with the concept of charity, get out of my comfort zone, and never stop searching for ways to protect and support those less fortunate than we are.  Lately I've been feeling like it's not coincidence that I became a lawyer at this moment in time, and I feel even more committed than I previously did to using those tools, skills, and connections for the greater good. There's a lot of work to do, and we're so lucky to be here on the front lines in DC.

This year is going to be busy, and I don't actually think it's going to be easy - the list J & I do have of goals for this year is short and formidable. But it's okay; I'm ready for it.
Come at me, 2017.

the great DC food tour // months 10-12

The end of 2016 was so busy, and most of our dining out happened in New Zealand and France, but we did manage to hit a few new DC restaurants:

Where we went:
When I was in college, there was a great Ethiopian place near campus that I loved.  It's been a struggle to find authentic, delicious Ethiopian that compares, so when I heard about Letena's grand opening, I was really excited to try it out.  They fancy themselves as fast-casual - think maybe Cafe Rio-level casual - which is nice because we're so busy these days it's hard to find several hours to spend on dinner. This is conveniently next to all the shopping in Columbia Heights, too, right near the metro stop, which was great since we needed to conduct a Target run the same night. :)

What we ate:
We ordered the meat sampler, which comes with four different meat dishes (doro wot - chicken, kay siga wot - beef, kitfo - a kind of steak tartare, & alicha sigh wot - more mild beef dish) and plenty of (bottomless) injera.  The sampler was only about $18.50 and plenty of food for two people - a really good deal, especially in DC.  It was delicious! and service was really fast.  The only downside for us is that Columbia Heights is pretty far out of the way for us, so we probably wouldn't come back unless we were already in the neighborhood.  But it fulfilled my craving for fresh injera and spicy Ethiopian chicken, so I was happy.

Where we went: 
This is a little bit of a cheat, because (1) I actually went here without J and with a bff instead (sorry babe); and (2) I've been to Maketto before - but never for lunch! They also have a [hipster's paradise of a] store and a coffeeshop, where I've met friends for study groups and writing sessions, but this was the first time I had a chance to try out their lunch fare.

What we ate: I had the chicken noodle salad and we shared pork buns.  I have no words for this except to say it was amazing and fresh and satisfying.  On cold winter days, all I want is warm, spicy Asian food, the end.  YUM.

Also, they have a great bakery, so I was able to bring a donut home for Jason. win/win.

Where we went: Duke's Counter
We're a little obsessed with Duke's Grocery, an absolutely delicious British restaurant with fantastic breakfast sandwiches and what may be Jason's favorite burger in this city.  Recently, they opened up a smaller, more casual location just down the street from the entrance to the National Zoo.  I've been wanting to stop by for months, but it's basically on the opposite side of the city from us, and it took all year before we managed to sneak in a visit. (It's pretty dim in there, so pardon the poorly-lit photos. They do not do justice to the french fries, which were beautiful. haha)

What we ate:
Jason couldn't turn down a burger, because they have phenomenal burgers, and I had the BLTA. Both were so good - I love arugula and avocado on a BLT, and their fries are perfect.  I don't think you could go wrong with any choice here, and it was a LOT less crowded than the Grocery, which is always slammed (though possibly because it's in Dupont).  If we lived nearby it would be the biggest temptation of my life to just pick up a sandwich for dinner on the way home from work e.v.e.r.y. n.i.g.h.t.

Aaaand this concludes the Great DC Food Tour of 2016! ...except obviously it's going to unofficially continue, haha. This city is a never-ending supply of fantastic eateries. 

previous installments: months 1-3 // 4-6 // 7-9