So I spent yesterday romping around DC with my 10 year old cousins. So fun!
Jewel, on your left, is my stepmother’s niece. Kayla, on the right, is my aunt’s granddaughter. (I, in the back, hate having my picture taken).
Jewel is staying with my dad and stepmom for the year. Kayla is visiting for a few weeks. I called my aunt and went “!!! They’re both ten! Let’s set them up!”
Thus, our adorable outing.
I began by Metro-ing in to the city, Jewel at my side.
Destination number one was the Museum of Natural History, where we met up with Kayla and my aunt Dena.
Easy access to The Smithsonian really is one of my favorite things about living by DC. It is so great! And free!
We played around by the gems and sparklies (Jewel took all of the museum pictures, by the way. She had lots of fun playing with my new camera!)
And hit up a dinosaur IMax (seeing movies in IMax still makes me feel about 10 years old myself) and then looked around at the real deal…
And then it was time for lunch!
Our destination? Why here is Jewel, modeling the menu!
We hit up Zaytinya, one of the places in Jose Andres’ tapas empire, until recently the employer of Mike Isabella from Top Chef fame, and a place that’s been on my “I Want To Eat There!” list for years. They do small-plate style foods like tapas; but it’s mezze. Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern flavors.
We began with scrumptious fresh lighter-than-air pita bread, with the adorable Kayla peeking out from behind it.
Isn’t the olive oil pretty?! They did a Z for Zaytinya in what I believe was harissa.
Kayla doesn’t eat anything and Jewel has already learned a ton of English but I think is still a bit shell-shocked by American menus. So my aunt and I got them set up with a chicken souvlaki sandwich, and then ordered mezze for us to eat and the girls to look suspicious of.
Asparagus Salata: smoked white asparagus, tomato, pickled onions, yogurt.
This was probably my favorite thing we ate. The yogurt base was herby and rich and delicious, the microgreens were pristine, and wow the asparagus. Admittedly smoked white asparagus is not something one comes across a great deal and you know what? More’s the pity. It is fantastic.
This was a special so I don’t have the menu description, but you can all clearly see that it is a melon and feta salad.
It was good, but I wanted more melon! I love feta, but I think when you have beautiful ripe summer melon, that should be the star! It should be melon with a side of feta, not vice versa.
Garides me Anitho: sautéed shrimp, dill, shallots, mustard, lemon juice.
Oh my sweet Lord. Actually the shrimp was a bit too cooked, in my opinion. But the SAUCE. THE SAUCE.
It was the best. sauce. I have ever. tasted. It was intensely flavorful from the citrus and the beautiful fresh dill. The speckling of mustard seeds made it beautiful and flavorful, and oh my heavens the creaminess.
My aunt, who cooks almost exclusively with olive oil, said “What is giving it that creaminess?” and I went “BUTTER!” Hurray for butter.
“Flatbread” (quotation marks deliberate).
Peynirli Pide: Turkish tomato sauce with cinnamon and oregano, covered in haloumi cheese.
Yeah, whatever Zaytinya.
Readers, do you have eyes? Do you see a cheese pizza? Yes. That is what it was. Whatevs. Wish we’d gotten something more exciting. I saw halloumi and had had high hopes.
We also helped ourselves to the fries and labneh dipping sauce that came with the girls’ sandwich.
So those were all the savory eats.
A brief tangent: my father, when he was a restaurant reviewer (I know, best job ever, I don’t know why he left it!) always made sure to go into the bathroom.
First of all, the comfort of the patrons should be a consideration of the management of a restaurant. Second of all, if a bathroom is gross, you have to wonder about the kitchen, too.
To that end- I have been in GAS STATIONS with nicer bathrooms than Zaytinya. It was GROSS. You guys need to DEAL WITH THAT.
I enjoyed most of the food, but my experience did seem like it would be marred by that incident.
The dessert course.
I simply ordered my usual coffee, which they put as “Turkish coffee” on the menu but I, as usual, got all ethnic and ordered as “Greek coffee” :D
The best. Rich and sweet and highly highly caffeinated.
However, my aunt and Jewel had kept seeing another dish appear on other diners’ tables and ordered it.
This bad boy:
No description online, but the bottom layer is apricots (we vaguely remembered something about wine soaking) and the top is a clear apricoty gel and some pistachio sprinkling, but ohhhhhhhh the center.
They call this a yogurt parfait, but this was custard. I don’t know how Jose Andres did it, but he turned yogurt into crème brulee. Sweet, rich, vanilla-flecked bliss. And with the apricot there were moments of creamsicle reminiscence. Beautiful. A beautiful beautiful eating experience.
My aunt, a photographer with a Nikon SLR, took pictures of her dessert as well as Jewel digging into hers that put anything else ever done on my blog to shame.
Dena, you should really work for Food and Wine.
After lunch, the girls’ tentative bonding (so cute!) continued with a scavenger hunt they offer in the National Portrait Gallery (so much fun! So great for kids!)
And then they goofed around in the modern art section for a bit. That “woman” is actually an art installation, but “she” is made from a cast of a real person and is very vivid looking. The girls had a riotous time trying to get “her” attention.
And then back to the Metro, a little more tired (and a lot more crowded!). Jewel, a trouper, simply perched.
A lovely day :D
Finally, I myself felt like a 10 year old in the throes of sibling rivalry when I got wayyyyyyy more comments about my sister’s cream cheese brownies than on anything I had ever made! Sheesh!
I am happy to provide the recipe: it is a classic, from my family’s beloved baking bible, Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book. Get yourself a copy- this woman’s recipe was named the Best Brownies in America!