There’s No Place Like Home

It is the middle of November and my body is having a bit of a shock from lack of ethnic food. Screaming! The coup de grace came last night when I went to dinner with some friends who swore to the four corners of the earth that I would love the restaurant where they were taking me. Off to Virginia I went to some down-homey American restaurant with meat, meat, grease, and more meat on the menu. Not wanting to come across as a prude, which I should have, I partook of a few items on the menu. Being a vegetarian who will eat fish and will not cringe at the presence of chicken, the pickings were slim for my palate — the ubiquitous salad bar screamed rabbit food and I simply am not a purist vegan in that vein. Fried this. Fried that. Beef. Pork. Ribs. Gravy with globs of grease in it. And in the middle of the night, my matchbox corporate apartment room spun like a roulette wheel. I am still draining myself of the ginger tea I had to prepare and drink non-stop to cease my stomach from bubbling. The room was still spinning by mid afternoon and when I last looked in the mirror, I do believe the green tinge to my skin has diminished some. However, the thought of what I ate last night makes my eyes cross still.

Panang Curry Chicken
Healthy Breakfast

While I give big ups to Washington, DC, for being a bastion of job opportunities, museums, people who talk about themselves — ad nauseum — and lots of tourist sites, there are those very important things that make a city most appealing to me — culture and food. Washington, DC, is very homogeneous. Many thanks to Ma and Pop Williams for not breeding a Stepford child. Being a product of the global community, I have more interest in being in settings that promote individuality. When it comes to food, the saying, “Variety is the spice of life,” comes to mind. Searching for small-owned, minority-owned, or independently-owned ethnic eateries is a bit of a scavenger hunt. Surprisingly so, because Washington, DC, being the capital of America, should boast the top ethnic restaurants in the whole of North America. Big box, upscale fast food, hotel restaurants, and chain restaurants dominate the culinary landscape. Even some of the coffee houses are like Target stores converted into lounges with dim lighting. There is no lack of quantity, for sure. But there is an absence of community that I have become accustomed to in Chicago, unless you go with a group of friends. After last night’s adventure, I think being set on fire would be more pleasurable than returning to any establishment that falls into one or more of the aforementioned categories.

Blackened Catfish, Collard Greens, Dirty Rice
Oxtails, Fish, Rice, Plantains

I have one co-worker who is a vegetarian. She recently gave me a list of the greatest vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in the city. Yes!!! A contact on my Flickr page saw some of my photos I had taken at a few of the small, ethnic restaurants where I have gone and he offered a few suggestions that have made there way to the top of my list. Yes!!! With the city being relatively small and quick to walk within a reasonable number of miles, having Google Maps on my cell phone has led me to some Thai, Ghanaian, French, and German eateries. I found the stretch of independent restaurants in Adams Morgan that reminded me of the long stretch of Clark Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Lakeview. I wandered upon U Street, so reminiscent of Wicker Park up through Logan Square. There is Foggy Bottom that reminds me of Hyde Park. There are some chi-chi restaurants akin to those found in Streeterville and Gold Coast. But the insides of my jaws have popped with flavour only a few times and I have done my share of eating since I have been in DC.

Peacock Cake with Apples
Butternut Squash Soup

The top restaurants and cafes where I have gone since being in Washington, DC, are as follows — with links to those having websites:

Panang Curry Chicken
Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, Collard Greens

Okay, so the restaurant scene is not all that bad. But a food hound such as myself knows how to scout out the good eats wherever they may be found and spin straw into gold, even if it is not like stepping outside my condominium to a bevy of ethnic wonders in my Logan Square community. Having had some rather nice weather for this autumn, I have been able to get out of the apartment on the weekends and see where the culinary talent is hiding. There are pockets and one thing I have discovered is that it is imperative to get to these little gems as soon as the doors open because others like me appreciate finer things — like authenticity in their ethnic food and flavour. Between now and the time I return north to Chicago and all of its excitement, I will definitely sample the recommendations from my co-worker and Flickr friend. Know this to be true.

Frofrot, Togbei
Seafood Crepes

My time is nearing, for I shall return to Chicago where I shall indulge myself to excess on what my body has been craving since I left for DC. I already have my calendar set for the Cuban cafe, Thai restaurant, Japanese sushi bar, Brazilian restaurant, and Trinidad hole in the wall where all I have to do is walk in and greetings ring about on first name familiarity. Then I will be off to home to celebrate the end of the year with family. If you could see the smile that I have on my face, knowing that Ma Williams will have the house smelling of inviting aromas and me a few days later across the bed, on the floor, and up against the wall trying to get into a pair of jeans that will have somehow shrank between the time I will have gotten to her house and me stuffing myself to completion.

Spiced Potatoes and Omelette  Provençal
Salmon and Portabello Mushroom Sandwich and Salad

Off to the kitchen for some more ginger tea: slumber insurance. I do believe that I will be fine enough in the morning to get up and prepare some breakfast — scrambled eggs with cream cheese in it, avocado with lime, and blueberry waffles. Of course, I will get to pour some syrup that cost me damn near $7.00 from Whole Foods on the waffles.

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