Tag Archives: Washingtonian

Weekend Round-Up: Fourth of July Edition

This being my first Fourth of July in our nation’s capital, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the festivities and festivals planned for this weekend! Fortunately, some of my favorite bloggers and websites sifted through all of the info and distilled it into thorough, easy-to-read guides that are much better than anything I could come up with. Here they are:

Washingtonian: Perhaps the most detailed guide I came across, the Washingtonian includes a round-up of local restaurants that will be open and celebrating on the 4th, fun events around DC, where to watch fireworks in the suburbs, and more. Click here to read.

Going Out Gurus: Features a nifty map of where all the events are taking place, July 4 nightlife from the incredible Fritz Hahn, a Mall survival guide that’s essential for newbies like myself, and free events throughout the weekend. Click here to see it all.

Girl Meets Food: A short but sweet dining guide for those looking to eat out on the 4th. One entry that caught my eye was Equinox, which will host an outdoor barbecue on its patio from 4-9 p.m. Click here to see more.

And don’t forget, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is happening on the Mall today though Monday. The event, which draws about 1 million visitors annually, features cooking demonstrations and plenty of ethnic concession stands. The culinary themes this year are Mexico and Asia Pacific, so expect lots of fabulous flavors. Click here to read a more detailed description of the festival from the Washington Post’s resident food writer, Jane Black.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Eat lots and stay cool!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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Veritable Vietnamese at Minh’s

The Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats Guide might be eating away at my relationship. Since its arrival, I’ve annotated the entire thing, drawing big stars next to the restaurants I’m dying to try and ranking them in order of which ones I’ll go to first. And every weekend without fail, I drive my boyfriend crazy by agonizing over where we should eat. Are we in the mood for El Salvadorian pizza? Or what about Afghan kabobs? Or Tunisian brika? An hour of this usually goes by before we start arguing and he exclaims out of exasperation, “Just decide already!”

But last Saturday, after braving the heat during the Caribbean parade and wolfing down some of the spiciest jerk chicken around, a miracle happened. When dinnertime rolled around, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat–Vietnamese. And I knew just the place, which I had circled and starred in my sacred Cheap Eats guide: Minh’s, a Vietnamese restaurant near Court House which the Washingtonian described as “masterful with a fryer and deft with rice and noodles.”

Located on the bottom floor of an office building, Minh’s is pretty unassuming from the exterior. The interior reminded me of a 1980s Asian-style hotel ballroom, with floral silk covered chandeliers and white table cloths. The atmosphere was pleasant, with several table occupied by families and friends catching up on each other’s lives and sharing Minh’s excellent Vietnamese cuisine.

We started off with the shrimp cakes ($7.25), which contrary to my initial assumption, are not actually cakes at all. They’re fritters of whole shrimp interspersed with shredded yam and potato, deep fried to a golden crisp–miraculously without a trace of grease. The accompanying fish sauce and greens (lettuce, mint leaves, and cilantro)–a hallmark of Vietnamese cuisine–added sweetness and freshness to the dish. My recommendation is wrapping the fritters in the greens, like a burrito, and dipping it all in the fish sauce–absolutely delicious.

For our main courses, we ordered grilled shrimp and pork with thin noodles ($12.75) and lemongrass chicken ($11.50). The pork and shrimp absorbed the smoky, earthy flavor of the charcoal and was tempered, once again, by the accompanying greens and fish sauce. The noodles provided a nice chewiness and starch to the dish. Plus, it was certainly enough for 2 people to share, especially considering we still had another course to go!

The lemongrass chicken was, simply put, to die for. Cooked slowly in a clay pot, the chicken absorbed the complex, layered flavors of the marinade. Though the kitchen wouldn’t reveal the ingredients in their exquisite marinade, I detected soy sauce for saltiness, fish sauce for sweetness, lemongrass (obviously) for aroma, and red pepper flakes for heat (and there’s probably more ingredients that my inexperienced palate couldn’t discern).

My favorite part of the dish, however, had to be the onions. They soaked up the marinade even more so than the chicken, and tasted like they had been drowned in the most delectable nectar of the gods–I’m telling you, they were that good, especially over steamed white rice!

Since every course at dinner was fantastic, we decided to ignore our widening belt lines and order dessert. The kitchen ran out of our first choice–banana flambe over vanilla ice cream–so we opted for sweet mango sticky rice with coconut milk and mango ($5.00). Sadly, that was a mistake. The rice was more hard than sticky, and the coconut milk had no flavor. The fresh mango was the dish’s only saving grace.

Despite this disappointing end, the meal was on the whole superb. Minh’s affordable prices, vibrant Vietnamese cuisine, and vast menu (which includes over 100 items!) make it a destination that DC foodies won’t want to miss. And even though it’s crossed off my list, and there’s still more Washingtonian Cheap Eats restaurants left to check out, I won’t argue with going back for another meal at Minh’s.

Minh’s Restaurant

2500 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22201

(703) 525-2828

Minh's on Urbanspoon

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Top Chef Premiere at Spike’s Good Stuff Eatery

Last night’s Top Chef DC Party at Good Stuff Eatery was a packed event, where local foodies and fans flocked to Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s burger joint watch the much anticipated premiere, sample some of the best shakes in town, and mingle with former Top Chef contestants Carla Hall (hootie hoo!) and Spike. Here are some photos from the fun and food-filled escapade (and sorry for the blurriness; I was trying to be discreet with my photographing!):

One of the highlights of the evening was when Good Stuff brought out free pizza from Spike’s much hyped, soon-to-be-opened restaurant, We, The Pizza, located right next door. I grabbed a slice of the sausage and basil pizza, and fans awaiting We the Pizza’s opening–you will not be disappointed.

And of course, I saved the best for last:

From left to right: Chef Carla, Mary from Girl Meets Food, Chef Spike, and me! Thanks to Carla and Spike for posing, and to food newsie for taking the photo.

The party was a fantastic way to inaugurate what is sure to be a phenomenal season of Top Chef. And an appetizing excuse to order a handspun chocolate milkshake and juicy burger with bacon and roquefort cheese and catch up with foodie friends like Girl Meets Food, French Twist DC, and Food Newsie. All in all, an amazing night to be living in DC!

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Weekend Round-Up

The weather forecast predicts gloriously warm temps in the 80s for this weekend. Woot woot! I am beyond excited to finally get out of this cold weather slump and dawn sundresses and sandals again. Luckily for me, and all Unpaid Gourmet readers out there, this weekend is full of fabulous events that offer good food, outdoor fun, and occasions to show finally show off your summer wardrobe. Here’s a list of events, compiled from some of my favorite D.C. blogs:

Saturday 5/1

Passport DC Embassy Tours: This Saturday, Washingtonians can travel around the world in one day. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., embassies from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas will all be open to the public for tours and activities. Each embassy will have booths, performances, and food (!) that will showcase their country’s culture. I’ll for sure be stopping by the Korean embassy, which will offer samples of delicious kimchi (their signature fermented cabbage) and Korean barbecue, and the Thai embassy, which will of course serve pad thai. For a complete schedule of events, click here. And please note: some embassies (e.g. Japan) require that you pick up tickets in advance. Thanks to the Going Out Gurus for pointing out this event!

Taste of Eighth: From 1-4 p.m., Barracks Row on Capitol Hill will host their annual Taste of Eighth¬†event, where 14 restaurants along 8th St. will offer samples of their most delectable dishes. Participating restaurants include Cava Mezze (Greek small plates), Belga Cafe (Belgian fare), Levi’s Port Cafe (Soul food), Zest (recently opened, with American cuisine focused on using local ingredients), and many more. Tickets for food samples are $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets, and will be sold at retail shops on 8th St. Click here for more details. Props to Tasting Table DC for publicizing the event (and for your daily emails, which I would be lost without).

Cafe Green Opening Party: Prince of Petworth is one of the best sources for events and news all around D.C.–follow him on Twitter for the most up-to-the-minute updates (@popville). That’s how I found out about the Cafe Green Opening Party on Saturday! The restaurant will be open and serving its organic vegan cuisine from 11 a.m.-11p.m., along with a gift card raffle, music, and tons of specials. My friend is a big fan of Java Green (Cafe Green’s sister restaurant), so I’m sure the food will be excellent. Plus, there just aren’t many vegan restaurants in the D.C. area and it would be great to support one. Click here for more details–and menus!

Capital City Cheesecake Opening: If you’re in Takoma Park on Saturday, stop by Capital City Cheesecake for its grand opening. Capital City Cheesecake, or CCC, gained a following by selling their decadent cheesecakes online. Now, the bakery is finally moving to a brick-and-mortar shop, which will serve fresh baked bagels, truffles, and fair trade coffee in addition to cheesecake. Shoutouts to the Washington City Paper’s incomparable Tim Carman for scooping this event. Check out the Young and Hungry blog for more details.

Kentucky Derby Happy Hour at Acadiana: Put on your fanciest hat and heels and head over to the Kentucky Derby happy hour at Acadiana. From 5-7 p.m., the bar will offer $5 mint juleps and $5 Derby-inspired dishes to celebrate the race. See the Washingtonian for more details.

Sunday 5/2

Street Performance Festival at French Embassy: If you were disappointed with last week’s Georgetown French Market (which, in my opinion, was sorely lacking), then perhaps this event will satisfy your French cravings. From 12:30-6 p.m., la maison francaise will host more than 40 performances throughout the day. Performers include jugglers, acrobats, comedians, and more. ¬†Patrons can nibble on dainty French pastries (like crepes, quiches, and croissants) and sip Mimosas while watching the show. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door; children under age 10 get in free. Click here for more details and props to the Washingtonian for finding the event.

Wags and Wine: For wine lovers in VA (or those in DC with cars), this is the event for you. From 1-4 p.m., Wags and Wine will offer over 40 wines to taste and food from Cafe Oggi, a popular Mclean restaurant. The event will be held at the Palladium’s Civic Green fountain courtyard and admission is $10. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Washington Humane Society, so animal lovers should check out the event as well. Click here for details; thanks to Tasting Table DC for the notice.

Bethesda Row Restaurant Week: Sunday marks the last day of Bethesda Row’s Restaurant Week–hurry over before these great deals end! As my friend Mary over at Girl Meets Food writes, guests can enjoy a three-course lunch for $15 or a three-course dinner for $30 at participating restaurants. These include Le Pain Quotidien, Jaleo, Lebanese Taverna, and many more. Check out the Web site for more details.

Have a wonderful, sun-and-food-filled weekend, everyone!