Eating D.C.: Dining Dispatches from the Capital
As of this writing, I am still comfortably ensconced in the Hotel Palomar in our nation's capital. There is a Negroni at my side, compliments of the hotel, which was waiting for me in the room after I returned from walking off a Shake Shack burger at lunch. That's service.
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt I brought Jester King's original Black Metal to the White House. Texas represent! (Side note: Security was surprisingly okay with this. "Don't worry," the young screener told me. "The x-ray machine won't hurt your beer.")
Both the Shake Shack and the hotel are located in the vibrant Dupont Circle part of town, where everyone walks and rides bikes despite the heat and frequents food carts on the street and eats at adorable restaurants in cozy brownstone basements. It's an area which I quickly fell in love with before learning via Craigslist that it costs roughly $3,000 a month for a 400-square-foot studio. And then I remembered one of the many reasons Houston isn't so bad after all.
I'm here for the annual Association of Food Journalists conference, three short days which have been as exciting as the food in D.C. itself. I've taken a tour of the not-yet-opened FOOD (yes, all caps) exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and viewed Julia Child's kitchen with all the wonder of a small child -- and felt like one, too, peering over her extra-tall counters.
I've listened to Barry Estabrook talk about the years of investigative journalism that went into the writing of Tomatoland, the book which unveiled the disgusting slave trade that goes into the production of your winter tomatoes in Florida. I've had punch and oysters with Nadia Arumugam from Forbes and Slate, whose British-accented advice on food history writing and consumer reporting I let wash over me while I learned all about the trouble with expiration dates and the growing wheat problem in Japan.
Julia Child's preserved-in-amber kitchen is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It will be the centerpiece of the FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibit when it opens on November 20.
I've toured the White House gardens with executive chef Cristeta Comerford and pastry chef Bill Yosses, who let us eat lemon verbena and tomatoes off the vine. I went to a ritzy State Department soiree where the brand-new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership was launched in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation and saw first-hand just how important food is to the current White House administration.
White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford and pastry chef Bill Yosses.
I laughed along with my other food writers while Ann Hodgman led a panel on humor's place in food. I listened enraptured as Robert Sietsema and Tom Sietsema -- fifth cousins who are the food critics for the Village Voice and the Washington Post, respectively -- explained how they both accidentally fell into food writing. And I found out that other food critics often feel as insane and frazzled as I do, perhaps the most welcome lesson of all this week.
Equally importantly, I ate. A lot.