A Foodie Bachelorette Party

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Credit: Meghan McDonald

I recently hit the road with some of my best friends for my bachelorette party in Washington, D.C. It wasn’t the wildest of weekends but it was absolutely the most fun I have had in awhile. I want to share some of it here because the girls planned a very personalized bachelorette weekend which, of course, included some fantastic food. It also included jumbo slices of pizza purchased from a small carryout restaurant located one block away from Town Danceboutique. We don’t need to talk about that.

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She feels pretty, oh so pretty

My wonderful sister planned a fabulous weekend of dancing, drinking, dining, and pampering that I will never forget. It all started with a trip to Town Danceboutique for the Friday night drag show, at which I was teased for being a bachelorette and then forced to awkwardly shake my money maker on stage. After the show, Town turns into a big dance party with an amazing crowd and nonstop awesome music.

The club can’t even handle me right now.

After an evening of debauchery, we slept in at our swanky hotel, Helix, which is located in the hip Logan Circle neighborhood. A few Starbucks coffees and hot showers later, everyone was ready for a food porn marathon.

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hot

We began with brunch at Co Co Sala, a “chocolate lounge” that offers a three course prix fixe brunch on weekends. First, a round of brunch cocktails took the edge off.

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Clockwise, from left: Berries & Bubbles, Fire & Ice, Wasabi Bloody Mary, Peachy Keen

We enjoyed our cocktails with the amuse bouche, which was a cocoa flavored ball of fried dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with chocolate caramel, and sprinkled with nuts.

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One of the highlights of brunch was the Aztec Cheese Enchilada, which is a “pepper cheese enchilada with  guava sauce and avocado,” with a ” shaved fennel & mache salad with chipotle chocolate ganache, jalapeno jack cheese & guava lime vinaigrette.”

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Another hit was the Cheese Magic, which included “twice baked upside down cheese soufflé,  leek sauce and tomato marmalade” with a “blue cheese pear salad with walnuts, cranberries, & honey balsamic vinaigrette.”

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The Grown-up Grilled Cheese was perfect for a cool and cozy late morning meal. Cheddar cheese was melted between slices of truffle-scented brioche, and then the sandwich was served alongside a cup of roasted tomato soup and a cheese fritter.

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The two best desserts were the peanut butter cheesecake with a milk chocolate and peanut brittle crunch, and the Onyx, which was a dark chocolate mousse with vanilla creme brulee, salted caramel, crispy chocolate pearls and a brownie bottom. The Onyx was so delicious that I managed to eat the whole thing, even though I was already stuffed.

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I am so happy that I’m not starving myself to fit into the wedding dress, or I may have missed out on all this amazing food. I recently came to the realization that the only reason I haven’t had a single bridezilla moment or major meltdown is that I’m not trying to lose weight. Seriously, the stress of wedding planning on top of working an amazing full time job, volunteering on the weekends, and developing my freelance writing career is enough to cause the occasional freak-out. If I were dieting on top of that, forget it. I think the reason some brides turn into psychotic, self-centered, emotionally unstable monsters is that they can’t handle the stress while being so damn hungry all the time. Not a problem for me!

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Onward to the best dinner I have had in a long time. My lovely sister (and gorgeous maid of honor) made us reservations at the number one restaurant on my list of places to try in D.C.! Dinner at  Zaytinya with my closest friends was simply wonderful. Zaytinya is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant that serves Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese inspired mezzes under the direction of Chef José Andrés.

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Zorro was here

The meal began with bread and oil, which I went easy on since the best was yet to come.

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I ordered a bottle of the Agiorgitiko, Gaia Estate 14-18h, which is a Greek rosé. After a couple of course, one bottle for the table turned into two bottles, which is exactly how you should do tapas or mezzes, in my opinion.

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Everything we ate there was amazing and we practically licked every plate clean. Some of my favorites were:

  • Maroulosalata – heirloom lettuces, dill, mizithra cheese, red wine vinegar dressing, nasturtium flower petals
  • Bantijan Bil Laban – crispy eggplant, roasted garlic-yogurt sauce
  • Bamya – caramelized okra, fresh and crispy chickpeas, cardamom tomato stew
  • Mercimek Koftesi – traditional seared red lentil patties, preserved lemon yogurt, pomegranate, lettuce leaves

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After dinner, we took a long walk back to our adorable hotel and did a fun spa night, complete with DIY manicures and pedicures. . . and enough sparkling wine to make us just clumsy enough to forget we had wet nails and consequently ruin our manicures. The itinerary of this trip was so personalized to my tastes, and while it might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, this bachelorette weekend was so uniquely me. I am so grateful that I have such wonderful friends to come along for the ride.

Table for One at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA

When I booked my flight to San Francisco for the annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, I decided to treat myself before the official festival began. I expected a hectic work week followed by an early morning flight and a jam-packed weekend of what can only be described as food blogger bliss. I wanted some quiet time and I deserved to have it at Alice Waters’ iconic Berkeley, CA restaurant, Chez Panisse. So I made a lunch reservation for one at the Chez Panisse Cafe.

When Chez Panisse opened its doors forty years ago, Alice Waters, the executive chef and owner, started a movement to build a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” She is a pioneer of the American cooking philosophy that promotes fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. She is an advocate for sustainable farming practices and food production. Alice Waters testified to the power of local sustainable food long before it became the fast-growing trend that it is today. Because this is a philosophy that guides my food choices, I was thrilled to go to the place where it all began and enjoy a delicious meal upon my arrival in San Francisco.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy for making the trek out to Berkeley to dine solo. When I told people about my plans, I received a few looks of pity, that I would have to endure the lonely experience of sitting at a table for one for an hour that would inevitably be a string of uncomfortable experiences: where to look? what to do? can these people tell I’m eavesdropping on their conversation just to satisfy my desperate yearning for human interaction?

Let's try a half-full mentality, shall we?

I experienced none of these things. Instead I nestled into my corner table, read every word of a beautiful menu, and took in every decorative element of the simply elegant cafe. I was not distracted by gossip from my tablemate. I was not rushed into a menu selection based on someone else’s readiness to order. Surrounded by people enjoying simple, fresh, seasonal food, I did not feel alone.

The meal began with bread and water, served in a beaker-like carafe, delicately engraved with the restaurant logo.

I selected the rigatoni alla Norma. I almost went for a salad because I felt that the pasta would be better for dinner. However as I watched other people’s plates come out, I noticed that several people had ordered full entrees and they all looked amazing. Besides, when will I ever be back at Chez Panisse for dinner? So as not to miss my opportunity, I just went for it. While I waited, I read Holly Hughes’ Best Food Writing 2011 and took in the decor.

Located directly above the main dining room (dinner only, prix fixe), the Chez Panisse Cafe offers a more casual environment with an a la carte menu. Mirrors around the room reflected the warm sunlight and the walls are papered with a collection of past daily menus. A few caught my eye, like Lunch for the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. I mused on what I would serve for lunch of Hillary Clinton was coming over, or Michelle Obama. I suppose you would serve what you do best and hope that she liked the selection.

The housemade rigatoni was incredible. I learned earlier this year what a difference fresh ricotta salata makes on a dish and experienced it again here. I was also struck by the uniformity of the vegetables in size and shape and made a mental note to work on my knife skills. I ate every bite on the whole plate and didn’t apologize for it. The servers were very attentive and offered coffee and dessert. I was really impressed with how friendly they were; sometimes when you visit an iconic restaurant such as this one, there is a hint (or a deluge) of snobbery from the waitstaff. Not the case at Chez Panisse. They were delightful.

Yes, I was stuffed but of course I didn’t pass up dessert. I ordered the Frog Hollow Farm pear crisp with toasted almond ice cream. The pears were so fresh and the crisp was exactly what it should be: light and crispy. The ice cream was to die for – how did they achieve the perfect toasted almond flavor? It was warm and smoky and nutty and everything I had hoped it would be. I couldn’t finish the whole thing because I was so full, but I had several perfect bites before I pushed the plate away.

After lunch I strolled through Berkeley and reflected on the meal. Dining alone is not all that bad. I felt way more present in the moment. I saw, smelled, tasted, and heard so much more than I would have if I had dined with a companion. I enjoyed every fresh, local, seasonal bite and was inspired by the dishes I tried. I love sharing food experiences with friends and family, but I will definitely do this again sometime. When I returned to my hotel forty minutes later, refreshed and inspired, I noticed the one downfall of dining alone. There is no one there to tell you when you have fresh, local, seasonal basil in your teeth. Oh well.