Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day at the Smithsonian / Meskerem (or, "Hey, where did all the Ethiopian restaurants go?")

My friend Gil came into town from California for a few days to visit his sister in Northern Virginia. Actually, most of his family came into town to do that. Since I was so close, we decided to meet up in DC for the day on Monday. Surprise, surprise! Gil's parents and brother came along. It was fine; they're a nice family. But it was comical to ask on the way home why they were almost an hour late meeting me at the West Falls Church Metro. Typical family stuff, the same ones that would inevitably make my family take forever to get there, too.

We first visited the Natural History Museum, and Gil's family wanted to see the gems and minerals first and foremost. This area has never really interested me as much as the more biological and anthropological exhibits. But with so much attention being paid to all the jewelry and minerals, particularly the Hope Diamond, I found them much more interesting than I ever did. I did, however, run down to take photos of the blue whale, which is finally back on display in the brand new ocean life hall, after being down for years. The giant squid is there, too.

Afterwards, we took a detour to the American History Museum, newly opened after years of being closed for remodeling. As with the first museum, we entered on the Constitution Avenue side - a must, since the lines are infinitely longer and slower through the Mall-side entrance. After the very inspiring Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Gil's family leaving (his father was tired), the two of us who remained spent some quality time in Julia Child's kitchen. The Bon Appétit! exhibit was one of the unchanged exhibits in the museum (First Ladies? Probably changed, but the line was even longer than the one for the Star-Spangled Banner, so we didn't bother with it). Among the highlights:

  • the many simple tools needed to make classic French bread (quarry tiles? razor blade?)
  • a looping cooking video showing Julia cooking with other chefs, including one chef who made a raw salad of olive-oil-drizzled thinly-sliced fennel, mushrooms and Parmesan (mmmm) , and a New England chef who just whipped out two unsuspecting lobsters and cut them in half before our very eyes - without flinching! (Well, the people in the TV didn't flinch anyway.)
  • and my hitting my head on the Plexiglas in front of Julia's kitchen door.

Afterwards, we hit Adams Morgan, passing by some promising gay clubs in search of Ethiopian food. Gil was looking for a long-remembered favorite restaurant, but as we finally got into Adams Morgan, we couldn't find the restaurant. In fact, most of the Ethiopian restaurants we had remembered weren't there. There seem to be two on 18th Street near Florida Ave now: Awash, which looked like it had a primarily Ethiopian clientele, and Meskerem, a favorite of mine that has a very diverse clientele, though mainly non-Ethiopian from what I could see. We figured on going to Awash at some point in the future, but to Meskerem that night.

We got seated pretty fast at one of their many mesob basket tables. We settled on Harar Beer (about $5 each), which was light and thirst-quenching after a long day of walking all over downtown DC.

Oops! Forgot to turn off the flash.

With that we got an order of ground beef sambussas (about $4), which we knew were very much like Ethiopian samosas. These things were packed with ground beef, no skimping.

Flash back off. Yeah, this is the type of photo I get.

The main course was a two-person sampler platter of lamb, beef and chicken wots with various lentil and vegetable dishes. Words cannot describe how good everything was. We needed extra injera bread because there was so much food to eat.

Wot a Combo!

Among the highlights on a near-perfect platter:
  • red lentils that tasted strongly of cinnamon
  • pieces of chicken legs with meat on the bone, that we just had to give up and pick up and eat. But since it is custom to pick up everything with your injera, I held my chicken leg in a small piece of injera. This chicken wasn't dry or greasy at all, the way much chicken tastes I'm afraid.
  • The lamb chunks were as good as the stew they were cooked in.
  • There were big chunks of carrot that were soft as sweet potatoes, mixed in with some very flavorful pieces of potato.
All together, the price for the platter and the two beers came to about $43. I figured they must have charged us for the extra injera and perhaps the bottle of water that the waitress poured without prompting. After tax the price came to about $48. It didn't hit me at first, but Gil got out $45 and handed it over to pay the tab. "Well at least get the tip!" he said. (BTW: Thanks, Gil!) I whipped out a ten and we left, very full.

After dinner we had a nice long walk back to the Dupont Circle Metro stop, to work off all that Ethiopian food. It was a nice end to an exhausting yet enjoyable trip to Washington.

Other photos -

Souvenir Inaugural Metro Day Pass. I wonder who the guy in the photo is? Is he famous or something?

Ever wondered what a crystal of salt looks like really, really big? This is magnified 1.5 billion times

The line for the Star Spangled Banner exhibit (every Bawlamoron should know what that is). The line for the First Ladies' exhibit wasn't as long, but moved much more slowly.

Julia's kitchen wasn't the only one on display. This was a 1940's kitchen from a house transplanted to the American History Museum from Ipswich, Massachusetts.

This wasn't a joke. The inauguration is big business in DC these days. Taken on 14th Street, near Logan Circle.


Nanc Twop said...

Obama Hot Cocoa!

*To be inclusive, do they make a version with white chocolate too?

Happy New Year's Eve!

/my verification word was appropriate for a food blog...

' inGut '