The Italian Store

What up, party people. Happy Thursday to YOU! As easy as it is to get lost in my day to day,  I try to remember to balance out my bougie bites with my tried and true favorites for this blog. So alas, here is one that I actually remembered to document for this exact purpose. Enter The Italian Store (3123 Lee Highway, Arlington VA).

I had heard MUCHO about this place as far back as my times as a collegiate youth– bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager to conquer the world. But, woe is me, I never had a vehicle to get me there, nor the attention span (slash funds) to work a Zipcar. Suddenly, one afternoon, in my post-barre3 haggard and hungry state, out of the woodwork, my friend Noelle mentioned she had grabbed sandwiches from there on the way out of town. I thought to myself, “Self. I now have a car. Self. I would like to try this place.” BOOM, shaka laka! An idea was reborn.

italian storeSince that fateful day many many moons ago, the Italian Store has become a staple to the ever-growing food wardrobe, like a well-worn black blazer or a leather jacket (or if you’re gym-ratchet like me, my lululemon wunderunders. God, I live a #blessed life). At a point in my life where there are so many fantastic food options in and around my body, I’m probably not going to eat a sandwich unless I know it’s going to be a really good one. So, when I find myself a-jones-ing, this is IT. Nestled in a strip mall off Lee Highway, you’ll find this hidden gem of a place. Sandwiches, pizza, and snacks await you, as does a well-curated selection of artisanal, local and Italian eats and treats. italian store 3

How does one make a sandwich beautiful for a glamour shot (also while trying so hard to exhibit restraint towards devouring it)? The world will never know. But check out that beauty above. It’s The Capri – an Italian “Philadelphia-style” sub featuring proscuitto, Genoa salami, provolone cheese and spiced capacola ham. Boo-yeah, son! I usually get the small size on a soft Italian roll, but you should definitely do you and find whatever your little heart fancies, ’cause you can’t go wrong.

italian store 4The BF is probably sick of us going here, but only exclusively because each time I buy a big ol’ sleeve of these fantastic little guys and just eat and eat and eat to my heart’s content like the baby whale that I am. Berger’s Cookies, fudge creams to be exact, have been a weakness of mine since some blessed parent started bringing them to the GW tent at all our college regattas and duel races. They’re extra thick, super rich and highly addictive, and I’ll never stop loving them!

If you’re down for a foodventure and a scenic drive along the George Washington Parkway (I recommend going ASAP ’cause the fall eaves are a beauty right now), make your way to the Italian Store to satiate all your sandwich-loving cravings. Actually, for your pizza cravings too because I’ve had it and it’s TASTY. For cheap, quality eats that are worth your dollar, I absolutely love it. Get after it this weekend, kids!

Pro tip: Plan on bringing these on a picnic (or who am I kidding, your couch) to eat, unless you’re down for sitting at their far and few outdoor tables. Also, don’t be deterred by the line — it moves super fast, and is worth the wait!

 
Italian Store on Urbanspoon


The Red Hen

 

It’s been a bit since I’ve given you a full-on review. I’m a slacker that loves a shortcut, so it’s been much easier to just upload to the ‘gram and call it a day (shameless plug, find me on Instagram: @thebabywhale). After all, it’s much easier to carry an iPhone around than my big cam, and just as satisfying to write a tiny blurb and send it out over the interwebs.

But, I really do love the writing component of it all so keeping that in mind I thought I’d share this outstanding bit from a few weeks back. Logan’s parents came into town, which of course meant showing them all the good spots. Our first stop of the weekend was Red Hen in Shaw (1822 First Street NW, Washington DC). Located unsuspectingly in a supremely residential and up-and-coming spot, from the outside and in, it’s such a neighborhood hang. Casual families young and old (babies! grandparents! teenagers too!) dine alongside couples dressed in their best from a long day at work or the upcoming night out. I love the that this has become the norm for DC’s dining scene – warm and homey with a mix of old and new –  and definitely not just to describe the ambiance.

the red hen 1Like most good stories out there, this one begins with a nice drink. I’m always one for something light and refreshing, but I’ll never turn down a potent elixir either. The String of Pearls ($10)  combines Greenhook Gin, Green Chartreuse, and apricot to accomplish both. May or may not have had a few of these. May or may not have overly enjoyed it.

the red hen 2I’m super, SUPER into burrata (honestly, it’s a little weird if you’re not), so we ordered the burrata with grilled broccolini “marinati”, sicilian pesto and breadcrumbs ($15).  It’s a tasty, creamy cheese that is extremely trendy right now, which I’m absolutely loving ’cause I can order it all the time. I loved this seasonal, savory take on it that made it heavier and more filling than others I’ve tasted, and was impressed by the contrast of both texture and flavor between the creamy cheese and the tangy crunch of the broccolini. And the burrata itself – I mean, it essentially melted when we cut into it. Ah-mayze. the red hen 3The smoked ricotta crostini with balsamic brown butter and truffle honey ($6) is, in essence, the toast of my dreams. It’s super easy to overdo it with the “smoked” and the “truffle” element, but in this simplified serving, neither are too cliche or overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the pairing of it with balsamic brown butter to cut those two strong tastes a bit. This crostini is so simple in concept but nicely layered in flavor - the kind of dish your mouth becomes a little addicted to. red hen 4

I can also say the same for the tuscan chicken liver crostini with fig conserva and fresh thyme ($6). Your mouth just can’t/won’t stop. I am not typically one for the liver frontier of things, but I could totally get past my fear/disgust for the taste that this packed. I’m totally in love with both of these crostinis, and would certainly order them again!

the red hen 4Wow. Let’s just all take a moment to take a look above at the past two photos and chuckle at my horrendous photography. At first glance, I legitimately had no idea what that was. Sorry about that, folks! If you’ve ever tried food blogging, I highly discourage it. Food photography gets in the way of eating, and 75% of the time my feral instincts kick in and I snap the quickest picture I can before diving right in. I then regret it two weeks later when I become incredibly embarrassed I’m even publishing this for all of the internet to see. YOLO. But at least you know why I’m not DC’s top food-tographer.

Above is the grilled octopus with white beans “alla romesco”, shaved fennel, frisee and tonnato sauce ($14). While I wish I could say that the photo doesn’t do the dish justice, I hate to say it, but I think I’ve become an asshole about octopus. In a city with so many fabulous restaurants, all of which feature octopus in some way, shape or form, it just wasn’t that great (especially compared to DC’s grilled octopus king, which I will discuss in a later post) – a little dry, a little lacking in the flavor. And that made me sad.the red hen 6But then I remembered there were a ton of other dishes coming our way. I was especially excited about this one, the spinach fettucini with braised duck sugo, sweet potato, mint and parmiggiano reggiano ($17). How can one not become excited over braised duck sugo, especially combined with all of the aforementioned ingredients?  It was delicious, and warmed both my belly and my heart. the red hen 7I  think it would be a sin to go to a place called The Red Hen and not order the wood grilled chicken “fra diavolo” with kale, fingerling potatoes, currants and preserved lemons ($23). It’s a taste-challenge of sorts. So we did it, and with full confidence I can say this was well done. Wonderfully moist and just a little spicy enough to make each bite exciting. Boom boom pow. I’ll never regret ordering chicken from here.

the red hen 5I was all about the black paccheri with calamari, chick peas, pea shoots, pickled fresno chile and breadcrumbs ($17). The texture of the black paccheri complemented that of the calamari, and I loved the denseness and spice in each bite.

the red hen 8

Finally, the best for last, the caramelized scallops with grilled kale, bacon, roasted cauliflower and soft polenta ($24). These scallops were truly next level. Perfectly cooked to a tender, buttery texture with a nice caramelized later to top it off. YUM. Plus they were matched with hearty kale and polenta, so you never felt bored by the scallop’s rich taste.

You’ve gotta have it here at The Red Hen. Their pasta game is killer, and you won’t want to choose between the small plates and large dishes (I promise, you’ll want it all!). These mid-range munches mix modern elements into hearty, home-style Italian, and you’ll leave feeling warm, fuzzy, and super full of delicious eats.

 


Duke’s Grocery

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Two weeks back I got to sample the much-buzzed-about Duke’s Grocery in Dupont for the first time for a Saturday brunch/lunch, and just wow. The DC people have spoken and they’re certainly not wrong. From start to finish, everything at this East London meets East Dupont eatery was so fresh + so well done.

Photographed above is the Avocado Tartine featuring a runny egg on a thick slice of grain-crusted multi-grain, smashed – and extremely fresh- avocado, radish, chili, corn shoots and pea tendrils. It was so beautiful I didn’t want to eat it. Until I did. Not pictured is the side of toast with house-made jam I ordered on the side, which, considering the monster portions here, was totally unnecessary, but totally delicious.  Logan ordered the Proper Burger, and even sampling just one bite, it’s safe to say I’ll be making a return for that one (it’s the best burger bite I’ve had in awhile).

To drink I sampled guzzled a few Proper Pimm’s – Pimm’s #1, citrus, ginger-chili syrup (be still, my heart), ginger beer, and cucumber spear. Super refreshing, super sneaky with the alcohols, and just a teeny bite of spice to round out the flavor.

For it’s ambiance, accessibility, and overall food/drink experience, you’ve gotta have it at Duke’s Grocery in Dupont Circle. Pro tips: Expect excellent hospitality, but not efficiency (I mean, half of DC is there on any given day). Also, portions are massive, so try not to be a baby whale like me and let your eyes make decisions for your stomach.

Duke’s Grocery 

1513 17th Street NW

Washington, DC

Duke's Grocery on Urbanspoon


They’re Back

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ICYMI on the ‘gram, it’s that time of the year again. Pumpkin Donut Muffins + Chaider have returned to Baked & Wired and until springtime, approximately 75% of my weekly caloric intake will be coming from these. See my post from last year here.  Chaider is available every day until springtime, Pumpkin Donut Muffins are in limited availability, and only on certain days (website says Sunday, Tuesday and Friday but  they’re not always pumpkin).

In my professional experience, if you go to B&W every day, there is a 50% possibility they’ll have them, and a 100% possibility that it is worth the risk due to the excellent alternatives. These won’t be around for long, so today seems like a good day to test it out.

Baked & Wired

1052  Thomas Jefferson NW

Washington, DC

Baked & Wired on Urbanspoon


Breakfast Tacos at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

It’s Monday. Gross. Most Mondays I’m just trying to make it through the day by eating my life away. And, most Mondays, I like to get that started by making my way to Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse right around the corner for some deeeee-licious coffee and some breakfast tacos.

breakfast taco

They’re not the prettiest (I’m sure if I ate them on-site instead of enjoying them on my comfy couch, they’d be much more beautiful), but they sure do taste the part. Home-fried potatoes, eggs, salsa fresca, and some tri-blend queso come together in a soft shell for a super hearty, extra satisfying breakfast taco. They’re a weekday-morning treat only (such a shame, I’d crush so many of these on the weekend), so find a way to be on my side of the city this early and let’s have breakfast like we’re on the beach in Southern California.

Super cheap ($), super tasty. I like it. 

Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

201 F Street NE

Washington, DC 20002

Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon


Three Things

To finally blog for The Baby Whale, I actually have to be a baby whale and so I thought I’d at least give you a little something to work with by showing you the favorites on my food radar as of lately. Also,  it’s a great way to get a sense of my rating scale. Here’s what’s been in and around my body: all the things I like, the things I love, and the things I’ve gotta have.

 

the standard - bbqI know you probably like to imbibe from their copious beer selection, but have you ever indulged in their BBQ? Every time I go, I try to avoid it. Every time I go, I fail. It’s just too good! These Pulled Pork and Brisket BBQ Sandwiches from Garden District (formerly known as The Standard) are paired with Onion Rings and Frickles – have you seen anything crispier?- to make for a solid day of day drinking with excellent snacks. Note on my preferences: I typically like my frickles as medallions and not spheres, but I also am not one to complain about delicious fried creatures. (Garden District, 1801 14th Street NW. Like it. $)

taco bambaBut seriously, I’ve been hunting for the realest of real tacos in the District and it’s a shame that I had to trek all the way to Taco Bamba in Falls Church to find them. I went when Spencer from Whiskey and Soba came to visit a few weeks back, and hazed my body/soul in so many ways with these flavor-filled guys in Carnitas, Al Pastor and Shrimp varieties.  Find your car and get there this weekend, it’s worth the adventure into the depths of VA. (Taco Bamba, 2190 Pimmit Drive, Falls Church. Love it. $sushi capitolI literally hate that I am sharing this wealth of information with you, but it has to be done. I have discovered the most unbelievable sushi place and I can’t keep it a secret for much longer. I have been filling my belly with the freshest fish I’ve ever encountered in DC at Sushi Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and I can’t/won’t stop. If you’re into super crazy rolls they have those too, but honestly gtfo because this ish is reserved for my sashimi lovin’, nigiri bumpin’ amigos. They have excellent, seasonal specials that are truly unique (i.e. these teeny tiny crabs that were flash-fried and served as chips…weird but amazing), and it’s all perfectly and traditionally prepared. More on this one later. (Sushi Capitol. 325 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Gotta have it. $$)

I just drooled a little while writing this, so I hope that’s an indication that I’ve satisfied the baby whale within you too. Embrace it.


It’s Whale Wednesday

It’s the humpiest of all days and for some reason I’m feeling super inclined to start writing again. Perhaps it’s the disappearance of summer swimsuit weather and the beginnings of fall getting me excited to layer my body up in all of the calories and extra LB’s.  Perhaps it’s the fact that despite the fact that I’ve been the worst blogger for about half of a year and running, I still get a ton of clicks (where they come from? I have no idea, but I thank you for them. My peeps are a diligent one.)

To be perfectly honest with you, it’s 195% because the domain renewal just hit for Daily Love Affair, and  now that I’m no longer fiscally bound to it, I’m taking the artistic liberty of running as far away from that cheesy domain name as I possibly can. One can only become so awkward about hating their very own blog’s name, and I definitely hit that point.  I will never fully understand why I started my blog being under such a lame name. Maybe I was drunk.

Regardless, like the obnoxiously drunk girl you just made BFF’s with in the bathroom at a bar on a sloppy Saturday, Daily Love Affair, Bye Felicia.  I really hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave.

Welcome to the world of The Baby Whale. My spirit animal and alter ego. Here’s what I promise: more food, less bullshit, more fun. At least for me. All you have to promise is that you’ll stick around with or without the drag that was Daily Love Affair

xoxo,

KQ