Thursday, May 19, 2011
The setting sun casts its golden rays upon the U.S. Capitol, a short walk from our hotel.
She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent Mother’s Day weekend in the nation’s capital. We were there primarily to visit Elder Daughter and to catch her latest show, at the same time celebrating her birthday (albeit a tad early). And, of course, it was a chance to enjoy a Mother’s Day with the very offspring who, thirty-two years ago, elevated SWMBO to the status of Mother.
We stayed on Capitol Hill in a hotel - a hipster-haven sort of affair called The Liaison - a short walk from Union Station. The rooms were nicely appointed - you could even order up a special pillow from their Special Pillow Collection. I picked the one that was stuffed with buckwheat hulls - it had a comforting texture akin to a bag of pebbles, reminiscent of a favorite childhood pillow - and that night visions of kasha varnishkes danced in my head.
Sensorium, Elder Daughter’s show, was not so much a show as a steampunk dinner party - a twelve-course meal interspersed with song, dance, and Performance Art. We caught what turned out to be the penultimate seating late that Saturday evening... and my brother - The Other Elisson - joined us for the occasion!
Elder Daughter performs at Sensorium.
To give you an idea of the level of whimsy, the first course, an amuse-bouche (a foo-foo term for “appetizer”), consisted of a blob of gelatin-encapsulated kir royale in a spoon, along with a folded paper containing mysterious crystalline chunks of... just what, exactly? The crystals were to be dumped on top of the blob before sticking the whole affair in one’s mouth. Rather than crack cocaine, the crystals turned out to be Pop Rocks, the notoriously effervescent candy, which combined with the kir-blob to tickle the palate.
Dishes served at Sensorium. Top row (L to R): Pop Rocks and gelatin-encapsulated kir royale, fennel and tomato salad, gnocchi with English peas and gorgonzola sauce. Second row: Beet gazpacho with goat cheese ice, rabbit leg on caramelized onion, caramelized onion on parsnip purée (a vegetarian alternative to the rabbit). Third row: Fried eggplant with thyme, shrimp and clam with cucumber foam over polenta, fried artichokes with heirloom tomato and balsamic glaze. Bottom row: braised pork belly, sweet potato, and asparagus; zeppole with white chocolate ice cream and chocolate-ancho chile sauce; magic beans. Not pictured: oxtail ragoût.
To give you an idea of the culinary skill on display, some of the courses were jaw-droppingly delicious. A beet gazpacho with frozen goat cheese granules... a perfectly braised slab of pork belly (served atop a miniature table and chair)... a leg of rabbit on a buttery caramelized onion... miniature zeppole (Italian doughnuts) with white chocolate ice cream and chocolate-ancho chile sauce. Each dish was a tiny, jewel-like confection that left you wanting more... and yet, over the course of the evening, there was plenty enough to satisfy.
To give you an idea of the science involved, one of the dishes consisted of miniature ice-pops, frozen right on the spot with a device that dispensed a trickle of liquid nitrogen onto spoons that each held a squirt of lemon pudding. It was dramatic... and tasty, too!
All of this culinary and artistic awesomeness was offered up in temporary quarters, a geodesic dome built specifically for the occasion on the waterfront adjacent to the Navy Yard. With Sensorium now having completed its Washington run, Chef Bryon Brown plans to take his show on the road, with Miami as the likely next stop.
We had other tasty adventures in the District besides Sensorium. A Friday evening dinner at Art and Soul, conveniently located at our hotel. Kimchi ramen noodles and the legendary Toki Monster cocktail at Toki Underground in the H Corridor. A Belgian meal to die for at the Belga Café, hard by the Eastern Market - the most authentic Belgian food I’ve ever had outside of Belgium, washed down with draughts of excellent abbey beer and kriek lambic. And for Mother’s Day, a late breakfast at Granville Moore’s, where I enjoyed the best Bloody Mary ever to cross these jaded lips.
Alas, there was a bittersweet tinge to our visit. Even as we were discovering so many more of the little joys the District has to offer, we knew that we would not have occasion to visit the District as often in the future. Elder Daughter, you see, is moving on to new projects in other places.
I have a feeling that we’ll waste no time scoping out the good eating and drinking places in her (eventual) new home. And there’ll be plenty of ’em. Cheesesteaks! Soft pretzels with mustard! Gelato!