Welcome to the New Republic. Now with Booze!

If anyone has been following the blog–back to when I spent almost every day touting the seemingly simple logic of: Go to bed at a reasonable hour and go to class. This will actually help you save tens of thousands of dollars–then you may know why this restaurant opening was such an exciting idea. Of course, I’m only about 10 minutes away from the old haunts of “downtown” Takoma Park but I’m still not down the creek very often these days. But one night I made plans to meet a friend who lives there (practically around the corner) for dinner one night to celebrate his new job.

Republic, located in Takoma Park

Republic, located in Takoma Park

For anyone who is familiar with the nicer suburbs of DC, Takoma Park is a bit of an oddball in that it’s classy but it hasn’t been “hip” in a while. It’s also known as the “hippie repository” of the outer DC area. For anyone wondering why that might be, I happen to know exactly why that is: The Seventh-day Adventists.

That’s right, those teetotal religious looneys who happen to have large churches on three major corners within the city, adjoining church offices and schools (elementary and high school), a university (from which I happen to have two degrees), and that rather large hospital (at which I happened to be born). Those were the original vegan hippies hailing from Battle Creek, MI. Spewing the usual Second Awakening Revivalist type nonsense about religion, the SdA’s had this really crazy thing against booze and meat. Some of their other school even to this day don’t have ketchup (because of the vinegar) or pepper in their cafeterias because of the church’s original health message.

So how did this eventually affect my evening’s entertainment? Well what all this means is that Takoma Park, for a very long time was a “dry” city. To this day there are no liquor shops in the city limits and only recently was alcohol even a topic of discussion in many of the local cafe’s and restaurants. Partly, this was due the fact that the church folks practically owned the city (mafia style). Their headquarters were there, their churches, schools… so the actually passed legislation that prevented the type of locales that would bring in the type of people you see in the newer restaurants in DC.

There have been cafe type places in Takoma Park for quite some time. The Capital City Cheesecake right down the sidewalk has been a favorite spot for coffee and pastries for years (since it was Savory’s). It was a rocky start for a place that didn’t seem to fit in with the neighborhood needs but it’s finally found it’s path and looks to be doing well. I enjoy reading my comic books and sipping coffee there many an afternoon when I was still working at the university.

Capital City Cheesecake

Capital City Cheesecake

When it comes to restaurants there were Mark’s Kitchen and Middle Eastern Cuisine (from which many of my events at the university were catered) which have both been something like “fixtures” in the area. And we were all curious and twittering in anticipation when Roscoes began to put up signs. Roscoes, by the way, is named after a wild rooster that used to run around Takoma Park and was lovingly named Roscoe by locals. Roscoe was hit by a car and a memorial statue of him now stands where the weekend farmer’s market begins. I learned this all while not being very productive before finals week from a professor of mine.

Roscoe (Link goes to the WETA blog post on “Boundary Stones” about the community’s beloved chicken)

This photo is clearly somewhat outdated since you should be able to see at least some of the black “Republic” sign on the right. It looks like it was still Video Americana at the time this picture was taken. Video stores, another archaic item… But we were talking about Republic.

Republic, which was oddly just ok this time around. It looks like a nice downtown restaurant but it had the crowd of…well… Takoma Park. We tried the drinks and they were what one would expect from a good DC bar. And the service was great. But the food needs work. It wasn’t bad but it reminded me of a dinner I had once in CA during those beach bum days where the person with me made the experience good but I don’t remember the food. Then again, I’m usually alright with that. in this case, however, something was a bit off. And If I go back and have the same experience I will definitely say something. Because when a sauce for empanadas can be described very quickly as “not-very-good-homemade-mayo” there is a serious problem.

If you’re suddenly very concerned and thinking that this is a place to avoid, think again! Takoma Park is picky. If a restaurant like this can maintain itself in a city that’s fairly closed off yet open minded, please the natives, and yet still draw out downtowners into this rather small off-shoot from the DC diamond that’s something to keep in mind. Republic is still new to the area but I’d be interested to see with what they manage to turn into. They’ve already started off well with their interior designs, menu concepts (no matter what details still need a little tweaking), and the fact that they plan to add a patio and hire a music manager to coordinate.

And from the original article (if you follow the link from the first photo of Republic’s interior) I see a lot of comments about Takoma Park not being funky. And it’s true. Takoma Park is just weird. But in an incredibly homey way. Republic, on the other hand is very SoCal (including the moustaches in some cases). This is a place where you raise a family but as more and more people in my age bracket are starting to do that, we’d like to bring a little more of the inner city into our suburban lives and it’s appropriately being started by someone who knows DC and also happens to be learning very quickly about some of us weird folks who got excited about an italian restaurant/cafe (across the street) named after a community chicken.

In-Your-Face Goodness

This morning on the way to work we were a bit early so decided to make a quick stop at a Whole Foods so my chauffeur could pick up some salad for breakfast. Meanwhile, I traipsed right up to the chocolate aisle and browsed for a bar to keep on my desk to nibble on during the day. Because once I get started on my spreadsheets I get up to refill my coffee in the break room and go to the bathroom. Having a lunch break is for those who don’t know what properly organized data looks like.

And in times like these there was only one chocolate bar that could do the job…

Barcelona Bar

I’m not a fan of most chocolates over 65% cacao. This one is 45% and milk chocolate, which I find to be smoother and more enjoyable on a regular chocolate day as opposed to a time that calls for slightly more drastic measures. And unlike a lot of other chocolates this one has a balanced flavor as opposed to these over the top, teeth grittingly sweet options you usually find out there.

And of course in the process of finding good quality photos of the bar of chocolate that kept me and my cubicle mates company all afternoon I found out there’s a place called “Barcelona” in DC that I know need to try out when the weather is more forgiving to one’s human sensitivities.

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Ice Cream Week: “Olive Oil Gelato” (Day 7)

Olive Oil Gelato

“Olive Oil Gelato” from Saveur

Some time ago, back during the aftershocks of almost ending up in a very bad situation in Chad, I went with my mom to Jaleo in DC with another lady who was giving me tips on getting a job in foreign aid. My resume looks good for that type of work. Unfortunately I know I would hate it. I love traveling. I love helping others. And I really do want to be of use to the world. But that just really isn’t my niche.

All that personal junk aside… I remember that when we were there the most interesting thing on the menu for us was the “Olive Oil Ice Cream”. My mom thinks it will taste horrible. I think it could be interesting. But we never actually ordered it and so we still have no end to the debate. I recently finished up my good quality olive oil that I had around so I might need to buy a small amount of something really nice to try and make this gelato but I’m for sure going to give it a try. And I might try doing it as an ice cream as well because I would like to see the difference between the two with using a rather simple ingredient (which is also complex in flavor) like olive oil.

And that concludes the Foodie Nation’s Ice Cream Week! Hope you all enjoyed and are getting your regular dose of frozen goodies wherever you and whatever the weather might be.

Cupcakes:Classic, Not A Fad

Chocolate Graham S’more Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

“Chocolate Graham S’more Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting” from Bakingdom

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about how cupcakes are on their way out and that the newest food fad in DC is doughnuts. I seriously hope not because there is no way that a doughnut can stand up against a cupcake. I understand how macarons were popular there for like… a few months but this is one of those battles I don’t even think it’s worth discussing. Cupcakes are classic and will continue to be classic. Doughnuts are great but they aren’t classy. They’re doughnuts. Cupcakes are mini cakes. End of story.

Hail to the Cupcake!

Breaking Down and Grilling

Caprese Burgers

“Caprese Burgers” from Food & Wine

I know I’ve been on a really good vegetarian roll for a while but then I saw this and then I just broke down… Sometimes I really just crave a real burger. And this one has done it for me. I’m not craving it right now but knowing of the existence of such a thing and thoroughly undone me. I have never made my own burgers but I do know how it is done. There is nothing standing in my way from this awesomeness! Well perhaps still being rather unwell might but I will be better soon (I have determined!) and then I shall grill… Grill, baby! Grill!

Enjoy the lovely weather these days, Foodie Nation, for they will not last long and then will settle in the great DC heat full of muggy grossness that makes you want to sit in an ice bath and end it all.

Cold Comfort

The weather in the DC area is starting to get warmer and the humidity is starting to build up and I’ve been reminding myself that I really need to make a decision on that ice cream machine before it’s NEXT summer and I still haven’t done anything about it.  We’re not too far from it actually being a full year since I first considered getting the device and kept procrastinating until… well I think it’s evident what happened. I don’t have one.

But here are a couple alternative options that would not only allow me to NOT break my spending fast for the month of April but would allow me to take some of the hot drinks I was getting used to over the cooler months and bring them into summer with me:

Irish Coffee Pops

“Irish Coffee Pops” from Souvlaki For The Soul

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

“Hot Cocoa Popsicles” from Pastry Affair

And this is what popsicles looked like when I was a kid living overseas. My Apo used to make avocado ones for me with palm sugar. Mmmmm!

Avocado Ice Pops

“Avocado Ice Pops” from Cooking tackle

All these and more can be found and followed on the “Freeze It!” Pinterest board.