DC/Baltimore/NC Round Up

Preface: As promised...our food on the road tales of Christmas 2009. Scott will tempt your taste buds soon with a post on our New Mexican treats.

This year, Hungry Times Two's plans for a low-key holiday went completely out the window, down the street, and on to a totally different universe.

Rather than a Nashville-to-Concord, NC route, circumstances sent us this way: Nashville -DC - Baltimore - North Carolina-Nashville-New Mexico. Whew. Between dueling Christmas colds, Scott's budding dental woes, and the sheer exhaustion of the trip, it was quite an affair to remember.

Particularly the nine hours spent in the car through a dead standstill in the aftermath of a historic snowstorm on Virginia's I-81. Exhibit A below: Erin's frozen frustration.

And yet - the silver lining - new foods and restaurants to explore.

DC-wise, we didn't have much time to taste the flavors of our nation's capital. We did, however, visit Ben's Chili Bowl, a.k.a. the place where only Bill Cosby and President Barack Obama eat for free.

Located on U Street, Ben's is apparently a DC institution. You go in and instantly are beckoned to one of many cash register/order stations with flashing green lights serving as beacons to hungry grease seekers. I felt rushed to order, so I asked for a chili half-smoke, which is a grilled half pork/half beef sausage (similar to a bratwurst) split in two, covered in beef chili, and scattered with cheese, mustard and onions. Scott ordered a bowl of chili.

All I can say is that no matter who you are, Bill or Barack, you're gonna need some a double dose of Tums after a meal at Ben's. Please do not judge us from the photo above: yes that is chili with cheese in the back, chili cheese fries in the middle, and the half-smoke with chili and cheese in the front. Forgive us, Foodie Gods, for we know not what we do.

Between DC and Baltimore, we stopped in Hyattsville, Md. for a bite at Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery & General Store. I had a terrific pomegranate, orange, and blue cheese salad with toasted walnuts and a honey-sherry vinaigrette, and a small cup of tomato basil soup. Scott chowed down on a Chicken Pot Pie, which was served in - I swear - the World's Largest Ramekin.

We made it to Baltimore, where it was not crab season. Boo. Instead, we dined at a Little Italy restaurant, Amicci's. It was very family friendly, nothing adventurous on the menu - I had the Isabella - shrimp and veggies over linguine in a Marsala sauce - and it was good. Not amazing, but good.

Our last evening in Baltimore, we dined at Akbar on Charles Street. Recommended to us by our hostel (or rather, prodded on as Akbar gives a meal discount to hostel guests), it was lovely. The chai and the spices in our meals - the Vegetarian Thali, with Palak paneer and dal (lentils) for me - took the chill off the insanely cold weather.

Back in the car we went to Concord, NC for a couple days at my mom's. She made our ritual meals: French Onion soup and stuffed mushrooms for Christmas Eve dinner and Moravian sugar cake for Christmas Day breakfast.

She also made a Lane cake - Exhibit B. A Lane Cake is a an old-school Southern American dessert, meaning it has a lot of butter and a whole lot of bourbon in it. How can it not be awesome?

Mother Margaret thinks her Lane Cake is pretty awesome, as you can see.

While we were in NC, I wanted to check out The Liberty, a gastropub in Charlotte recommended by Kath at KERF. Her review of the new spot is here. We didn't make it, but I plan to go the next time I visit my mom, because in Concord, NC, their culinary hot spots range from Captain D's to The Olive Garden.

As it was, time just flew and we had enough to eat in the house as is.

Even Santa and Mrs. Claus were too stuffed.

Despite the insanity which was our holiday travel - the Christmas Express (woot, woot!) as we like to call it - we can't say we didn't eat well. We consider that a real gift, and look forward to a new year of new eats and exploration. Cheers!