Sunday, January 23, 2011

I’ve been away...

Top Chef is coming, I promise, but Where Was I?
American history buffs may know.

Architecture buffs may know.

Wine buffs may know.

H(usband) had meetings in beautifully temperate (NOT!) DC and then in Charlottesville, Va and I tagged along. Luckily, there were some wonderful events planned for those not ensconced in meetings and some wonderful meals planned for all.

In Washington, I had hoped to see Michelle on her way to the market or taking the kids to school. No such luck, but I did catch this guy being arrested in front of the White House protesting Hu’s visit.

The great thing about being in Washington when it's cold enough to skate on the streets is that there are few other people visiting, so there were no lines anywhere. I made two visits to the Newseum. The highpoint – the display of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs and the accompanying short film of interviews with many of the photographers. (Many of the photographs are graphic and definitely not suitable for young kids.)

Other great exhibits at the Newseum: sections from the Berlin Wall; The gallery of newspaper coverage of historical events - everything from the sinking of the Titanic to Marilyn Monroe’s death and so much more; a wonderful documentary on the history of sports coverage.

If you’ve ever been to the Capital, you would have appreciated the total lack of crowds last week. There was NO wait to get in, only a rather unpleasant airport-like security situation. (No privacy-busting x-ray machines, but lots of scanning.)

There were other folks on the Capital tour once we got inside, but not masses. My favorite part is Statuary Hall – the old home of the House of Representatives, where the latest inaugural luncheon took place. Lots of statues ring the room and if you stand in the place where John Adam's desk was (there’s a plaque on the floor), you can hear someone whispering from the other side of the room.

I also got in a quick visit to the Chester Dale Collection at the National Gallery. The great thing is that all the museums on the Mall (except the Newseum) are free, so you can run in and out without feeling you have to spend hours in each one.

Not too far from the Capital is Ted’s Bulletin, where we went for lunch. What a fantastic place!

Look at the menu. How could you NOT want to eat here?

Added to the fantastic burgers, sandwiches and other yummy things are their famous MILK SHAKES! Honestly, is there anything better than a good milk shake? Many thanks to my buddy C, who agreed to split a milk shake AND she didn’t even mind if it was a vanilla one, which I strongly believe is the best test of a good milk shake.

Ted’s Bulletin also has some pretty sensational sounding adult milkshakes with all kinds of booze. Mmmm. Really, I could have skipped lunch and tried several more. This is ONE milkshake, which they were nice enough to bring in two glasses.
Here are some other things from the menu - a huge burger, wonderful chili and huge crunchy onion rings.

Oh, they’re also famous for their homemade pop tarts.

Those remind me that there were some multicolored sprinkles on the top of our milkshake, which made for an interesting texture as we (I) slurped the milkshake down.

After a day or two in Washington, we drove to Charlottesville, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. The fascinating thing was that the buildings themselves were built to be part of the students’ curriculum. Here is one pavilion:

Here’s the one opposite:

Look at the different styles of columns, windows and doors. Each building was more interesting than the last. The rotunda is the most famous building on campus, but, unfortunately, the interior is at the moment covered with unattractive acoustic tiles. Ick.

I also learned this. The gorgeous crisp white columns against the brick aren’t how the buildings originally looked. They were a light beige, almost a tea color. They’ve restored one or two buildings of the main campus to look like that.

The more erudite and intellectual individuals touring with me preferred the authentic look. I have to admit I liked the bright white better. (Figures.)

We also got a super duper tour of Monticello, which is worth seeing any time you’re in the neighborhood. AND we had a spectacular dinner in the spectacular setting of the Jefferson Library Reading Room at the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. It was seriously gorgeous and beautifully organized.

I got to sit next to winemaker Gabriele Rause, who regaled me with stories of his fascinating life as an Italian winemaker turned Virginia wine fundi. Dinner was a super creamy cream of mushroom soup garnished with a fritter, pork (I think) and a lovely crème brûlée.

Other hot spots:
Lunch at L’étoile in Charlottesville.

Friend C also shared with me here. We split an excellent Crab Cake Po’Boy and Chicken Salad Sandwich. Yum.

We visited Barboursville Vineyards, which was winemaker Gabriele’s gig for awhile, and he’s in many of the pictures describing the history of the vineyards.

We were offered tastes of SIXTEEN wines. I skipped 5, because I wanted to be able to walk out of there. My favorites – Octagon 2006, possibly because we kept hearing that Thomas Jefferson loved octagons so much and the dessert rosé Rosato, which would have been perfect in warm weather...That's hard to even think about now.

Can you tell I took this picture AFTER the wine tasting?

We stayed at Keswick Hall, which is a glorious country inn. In nicer weather, you could play golf, tennis, bike or swim. Chef Dean Maupin gave us a fantastic tour of the efficient and friendly kitchen.

No unhappy faces here. This is the cute sous chef, Craig Shaver, who cooked that gorgeous dinner at the library.

The restaurant, Fossett's, looks out on the beautiful countryside.

We had time for one breakfast here. I had the Cinnamon Bread Pudding…of course, I did. It was too good!

The coffee - and the setting - were great too.

There was only time for a tiny bit of shopping in Charlottesville.

My favorite store was this one:

I wish I could have fitted this couch in my bag, but maybe it will be still be there for my next visit.


Emily said...

How fun! I'd love to go to Charlottesville and DC. Have you been to that area very much?

I think I could drink that whole milk shake myself. It looks amazing. Vanilla is my favorite, too. The burger looks great also.

Glad you're back and glad you had a good trip!

Lys said...

Welcome back Sue! Looks like an amazing trip! I'm in agreement with Emily - that milkshake looks fab. I rarely try vanilla but you have a point with that being a good test of how good a milkshake might be.

DC is on my must visit list - I've wanted to check out the Smithsonian Julia Child Exhibit and I've heard quite a bit about Chef Spike's place.

Can't wait for your Top Chef recap :)

Sue said...

Hi Em,
DC, occasionally; Charlottesville, never before.

EVERYTHING looked good at Ted's Bulletin. You would have had a boozy milk shake, I bet. Next time, I will too.

Anonymous said...

My friends who live near Ted's Bulletin and who can't eat there without an hour wait want to know how you got in! (That's why I haven't gone yet.)

Sue said...

Hi Lys,
I know vanilla is boring, but it's the best way to taste something.

I hated that part in Julie and Julia where Julie leaves a stick of butter by the Julia display. So disrespectful! I forgot about Spike's place, but we didn't have time anyway. Next time!

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for not being fed with me for not saying hi when I was in your neck of the woods. We were in DC for such a short time...

I looked at my pictures again and Ted's Bulletin was not full. I think we may have been a little bit late, but not that much. It was an absolutely awful, freezing weekday, so maybe that had something to do with it. Also we had a local guide with us, who perhaps facilitated a table being available.

WAIT, Tom, hold the presses!!! I just looked. They take reservations, so there's your answer.

Anonymous said...

Capitol Hill has always been more like its own village than a part of DC. Until recently, you wouldn't consider making a plan to eat there unless you lived there because there weren't really good places to eat. Things have improved over the past five years or so. But as the restaurants draw from the rest of the city, the neighborhood residents get nostalgic for the time when they could go to their neighborhood places without a reservation or a wait.

Sue said...

Hey Tom,
I know exactly what you mean. You find a great place and then it becomes everybody else’s favorite place and you never get in again.

Isn’t it funny, though, that the one time I go to THIS great place, the entire front counter section was empty and maybe a third or more of the back was too?