Looking for a getaway in Virginia?

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Riverfront house in Heathsville, VA

For booking click here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8123738

In early August a group of friends and I decided to take a weekend off and rent a house in Heathsville, Virginia to decompress from our work lives D.C.  We found this house on AirBnB and it worked out pretty darn well for us, so I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the work week.

Located two and half hours from D.C., this house easily held the 9 of us staying there.  The host was very generous, attentive, but also left us alone to enjoy our weekend once all the rules were covered (there weren’t very many).  It should be noted that the house is the owners actual residence that she rents out, so it’s furnished like a real home and not a summer home.  Here are the details of the house.

  • 4 bedrooms (2 queens, 2 doubles), 1 living room with queen pull out couch, 2.5 bathrooms
    • great historic architecture; each room is “themed” by different countries the family has lived in.  For example, the son’s room was British themed, one of the adult bedrooms was Australia themed, etc.
    • It’s a bit of a hike for the two people who get the kids rooms upstairs FYI, and the ceilings are pretty low in those rooms
  • Fully stocked kitchen with plenty of dishes, silverware, and cooking supplies
  • A/C in every room except the hallways which was key since it was ridiculously hot out
  • Grill on the back patio for use
  • Sun room (which we didn’t use because it was too hot)

In addition to the house itself, the property offered several activities for us to entertain ourselves with.  (The videos below were provided by Kristal Ernst Przeklasa)

  • A beautiful salt water pool with basketball hoop was where we spent most of our time
    • There is a Bluetooth speaker attached to the pool house which provided the tunes for the weekend, along with plenty of towels and chairs provided by the host
    • One thing to note:  At the height of summer, the salt water pool gets pretty warm.  Like almost bathwater warm.  So if you want to go for a icy, refreshing swim, you’ll need to do that in the morning
  • A soccer net and huge field to play football/bocce/croquet/etc. surrounds the property
  • There’s a quick walk to the river (although down a steep and rocky hill, so be mindful of that) with the owner’s kayaks, and cages for crabbing available

In the immediate area there’s one neighbor who isn’t very close, so noise isn’t a factor.  The house is also a 10-minute walk to Athena Vineyards, which wasn’t anything to write home about in terms of their wine, but the $5 tasting of ALL their wines (I think it was 8 total) is a steal.  They are however turning it into a cidery at some point.

If you need supplies, such as food, sunblock or bug spray (something only I and not necessarily the group needed because all the f**king bugs were attracted to me), there’s a Wal-Mart and Food Lion a 10-minute drive down the road.  (Some of the photos were provided by Victoria Zapata and Chad Barrington)

Quick Hits: Bad Saint

Bad Saint
3226 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
Hours: Sun, M, W, Th 5:30-10; F & Sat 5:30-11; Closed Tuesdays

I’m going to take a quick pause from Denver stuff to let you in on a well-known D.C. secret at this point.  Bad Saint is excellent.  I’ve passed by it numerous times on my way to soccer and have been meaning to try it out for a while.  Tonight, I finally made it.

They don’t take reservations and the restaurant seats only about 15 people, so expect to wait (1.5 hours for 2 seats tonight), but there are plenty of places to grab a drink in the area and they’ll call you when your seats are ready.

The atmosphere was what you’d expect from a hipster, Filipino restaurant.  I really felt like it belonged in Brooklyn, NY more than D.C.  That being said, there was nothing pretentious about it and it felt pretty homey.  You could feel the love from the staff for the food that they serve there.  Our waitress talked about the changing menu being like an art where the flavors will always be complimentary regardless of the fact that the options are different every night (depending on what’s in season, what they have, etc.).  And to be honest, you do feel the care that’s put into the dishes.

It’s weird to review this place because the food I had probably won’t be on the menu when you go.  Regardless, if some variation of what I had is available, I’d highly recommend it.  I had the Tocino, which consisted of slow-cooked pork, fried egg, and garlic rice (and fresh greens which wasn’t noted on the menu).  It’s a pretty incredible feat to be able to create different, well-liked dishes enough to constantly get rave reviews.  I loved my first experience; the true test of this place will be if I feel the same way with the new dishes I try the next time I go back.

Quick Hits: Chaia

Chaia
3207 Grace Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Hours: M-W 11-8, Sat 10-8, Sun 11-6

When I first heard the idea of a vegetarian taco shop in Georgetown, my immediate reaction was one that any meat eating person would have: That doesn’t sound good.

I was wrong.

Chaia’s tacos are in fact very good.  Using some interesting combinations of hearty vegetables, the tacos have a ton of flavor and you won’t be left feeling hungry afterwards.  There aren’t a whole lot of options, but the three that I tried were all quite good (all with corn tortillas).  I put them in order of my favorite here:

  • Creamy Kale + Potato with pepperjack, poblano crema, green sauce + pickled onions
  • Winter Squash with caramelized onion, ricotta salata, chipotle yogurt + mint
  • Mushroom with feta, red sauce + cilantro

Do I still think tacos with meat are better?  Yes.  However, my view of what typically makes good taco filling has been significantly altered and I can honestly say that I’ll be going back.

Quick Hits – Rose’s Luxury’s Pork Sausage, Habanero, & Lychee Salad

Hey folks. This is the first of my new “Quick Hits” series which I’m going to use for short reviews since I’ve experienced a lot in my travels that don’t really require a full blog post.  For this entry, I want to highlight the single best dish I’ve had in Washington, D.C.

Rose’s Luxury in the Barrack’s Row region of D.C. has a changing menu, but the one constant is their Pork Sausage, Habanero, and Lychee Salad.  Truth be told, when I went to Rose’s Luxury, we didn’t even order it.  They had brought it to our table by mistake, but when they realized it wasn’t ours, in a classy move they told us, “It’s on the house”.  I’m glad they made the mistake.  The salad, while it does sound weird, was amazing.

It comes in a bowl with all the ingredients separated which you have to mix together.  The first scoop I ate blew my mind, it was the strangest mix of flavoring that worked perfectly.  Spicy, and sweet.  Meaty and fruity.  Soft, but a little crunchy as well.  It’s worth going to Rose’s Luxury just to try it.

Pork Sausage, Habanero, and Lychee Salad
Pork Sausage, Habanero, and Lychee Salad

 

Little Serow

1511 17th Street NW
Washington DC 20036

Hours
Tuesday-Thursday: 5:30-10:00 PM
Friday-Saturday: 5:30-10:30 PM
Sunday-Monday: Closed

I’m going to say this right off the bat: Little Serow is my favorite meal experience in Washington, D.C. up to this point.  More than living up to the hype, Johnny Monis, the head chef of the famous Komi restaurant (which is regarded by many as the best restaurant in D.C.) has created a cheaper, Asian restaurant right next door.  For $45, you get a pre-fixed menu consisting of mainly Thai flavored cuisine.  And you’ll be hard pressed to find a better $45 meal anywhere else in the city.

In order to find the restaurant you’ll want to find and face Komi first; Little Serow’s door is the unmarked basement door to the lower left.  Keep this in mind: there will most likely be a very long wait.  They don’t take reservations, so you have to put your name on the list with the hostess.  In most cases, there will be a line JUST to put your name on what usually is a 2-hour wait list.  From what we heard, on the weekends that line can even be as long as 20 minutes.  It is a ridiculously long wait time to be sure, but it’s worth it.  Just plan accordingly, and plan on having a drink at one of the nearby bars while you wait.  They will text you when your table is ready, so you can go as far away as you want.

The restaurant itself has very limited seating; there’s only about five tables that seat 4, three tables that seat 2, and one communal large table that seats about 12.  The atmosphere is like being in a minimalist kitchen with dim intimate lighting.  The music is not too loud and all the waitresses are dressed like mothers or Laura Ingalls’ look alikes.  And they were great; perfectly attentive without being too intrusive.

I would typically give a review of each individual food item, but because the menu routinely changes up, there’s no real guarantee that what I’ve tried will be on the menu for you.  The menu apparently changes up on a weekly basis.  After doing a little research though, it does appear that there are a few staples that are on often regularly on the menu, including the pork ribs on ours.

So even though there’s no point giving individual critiques, as a whole the food was DELICIOUS.  There were so many flavors that felt totally new, yet familiar at the same time.  The food was very, very spicy too – I cannot stress this enough.  The side of vegetables and sticky rice will be your best friend throughout the meal.  Our dinner ended up being 7 plates with a small dessert.  The standouts on our menu were the mushrooms, which were a unique flavoring of sweet as you first eat it and then spicy as you finish it, and the pork ribs.

To sum it up – try this place.  It’s not going to kill your wallet at $45 and you’re guaranteed to experience flavors that you’ve never tasted before.  I plan on going back to try some different plates and it only takes a quick look at its critics, Yelp, and TripAdvisor reviews to see a communal appreciation for the place even though several different meals were sampled.  For me personally, if Little Serow was this good, I’m more than curious to know what his even more prestigious Komi restaurant is like.  It looks like I’ve got something new to save up for.   Grade: A

UPDATE: I emailed the restaurant to get a better idea of how much the menu changes.  They responded very, very quickly and told me that one item usually changes a week.  So if you want to make sure you go back and have a totally different menu, I’d give it a couple months in between visits.

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Medium Rare

MEDIUM RARE
3500 CONNECTICUT AVE. N.W
WASHINGTON DC 20008

Dinner Daily 5:PM – 10:30PM
Friday & Saturday until 11:PM
Brunch Sunday 11:AM – 2:30PM

I may have found the best deal in Washington, D.C. last night.  Medium Rare was on my long list of restaurants to try in Washington, D.C. and last night I had the opportunity to give it a go.  Located conveniently at the top of the Cleveland Park metro stop, Medium Rare on the outside looks like another non-chalant restaurant on the bustling street.  But the venue is far from bland.

If you’re looking for a steak – this is a place you need to try, and don’t come here looking for anything else because they won’t have it.  And I mean that literally.  The schtick is that Medium Rare has pretty much one item on their menu – their prefixed menu that includes their steak, signature sauce, french fries, side salad and bread for a very, very affordable $19.95.  I was skeptical at first – where are you gonna find a really good steak meal for $20?  Well, Medium Rare does just that.

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but that’s not a problem because the longest you’ll ever have to wait is 10-15 minutes (when there’s no real menu choice, the meal process is that much faster).   After getting seated, we order drinks – the drink menu has 5  red wine options, 3 white wine options, a couple sparking wines, and 4 different draft beers, and they present us with a loaf of perfectly warm, flaky crusty bread and warm butter.

Two “MR”s to designate that we wanted our steak medium rare

The waitress then explains to us how the place works and that we get the salad, then the steak and fries, then another plate of fries (which I thought was weird that they top off with that, but more on that later).  She asks us how we’d like our steaks cooked, and we obviously go for medium rare, which she marks in crayon on the table where we sit.

First we get our salad, which was essentially an Olive Garden salad – a solid starter, but nothing special.  A few minutes later our steaks arrive with a side of fries.  The steak is delicious.  It’s probably about 8 oz. and sliced into 5 pieces with the Medium Rare sauce drizzled all over it.  The sauce reminded me of that fantastic steak place we went to in Lisbon.  The steak was cooked perfectly (peppery, charry, but not burnt outside, and dark pink, juicy on the inside), and while it didn’t melt in my mouth like the steak in Lisbon, it was still so good.  The McDonald’s style fries complimented the steak as well and were probably a little better than Micky D’s because they were a little more golden brown and thicker.

Now the meal as it stood would have been worth the $20.  I was savoring each bite and eating pretty slowly in order to stretch the experience out.  The two women at the table next to us hardly touched their steak and were getting it boxed, which astounded me.  Then the waitress came back, with a pan in hand and that’s when I understood.  I had misheard her at the beginning – we weren’t just getting a second plate of just fries.  We were getting a second plate of steak and fries!

The first portion
The second portion
Extra Medium Rare sauce

Yeah, that was pretty much my face when the second helping of steaming hot steak and fries landed on my plate.  They also provided an additional little jar of the sauce to apply at your discretion.  It’s a genius idea – getting the meal in two portions promises that the steak and fries will always be hot instead of getting one big 16 oz steak and fries and letting it cool off towards the end.

They do have desert, but we opted to pass.  Though the few we saw on other tables looked pretty awesome, and HUGE, so keep that in mind if you decide you want to end with something sweet.  And here’s one last quirky thing about Medium Rare: they give you a piece of Bazooka Joe bubble gum with your check.

Medium Rare is probably my new favorite restaurant.  The food, ambiance, price, and fast service are all perfectly in tune with what I want in a meal out.  Obviously, if you want something other than steak, then don’t go to there.  But if you want an delicious, affordable steak meal – go to Medium Rare.  Grade: A

Here’s a review from my friends at Boobs Bacon Bourbon of the brunch that they offer: http://www.boobsbaconbourbon.com/2012/07/24/medium-rare-best-brunch-deal-in-dc/

Rafting/Tubing/Camping

Before I begin I need to say that this blog post is being done because I have no interest in going outside into the ridiculously hot, muggy weather we’ve got here in D.C.  This really is the nastiest I have ever felt it being outside in my life.

This weather is just a continuation of the heat wave that has hit the U.S. which started the day my friends and I went whitewater rafting/tubing and camping.  It’s a funny story about our experience that weekend.  We decided to go whitewater rafting in the morning and tubing in the afternoon with River & Trail Outfitters near Harpers Ferry on the Shenandoah/Potomac Rivers ($83 a person).  The ride from Washington, D.C. is about an hour. Little did we know that the oppressive heat during that day would be the cause of a ridiculously violent storm that night.  More on that later.

The River & Trail organization is top notch with knowledgable raft guides and they did a really nice job helping us plan the day.  For the whitewater rafting in the morning, they served us lunch on an island partway through the trip consisting of some remarkably good fried chicken, potato salad and watermelon (vegetarian options are available as well on request).  The rafting itself however was a little disappointing.  The water level was too low, so we ended up doing much more getting our raft off of rocks than actually paddling through rapids.  So here’s a tip: Try to find a weekend when the dams are opening.  The water level is higher and the rapids are continuous on the river throughout.   Also, in the event that you do like your raft guide, have a few dollars in your pocket (even if they get wet), because by the time we got on the bus back to the car and all that – getting money to your guide might slip your mind as it did our group (Sorry, Nate).

For the tubing in the afternoon, we drove our car down to the tubing launch point after the whitewater rafting trip was done.  Keep this in mind – by the time we got to the tubing, it was already around 3 so if you want to do both, know that the whitewater rafting will probably cut into the afternoon tubing time.  Most of the companies around Harpers Ferry that run tubing trips launch from the same point on the Shenandoah River, so be sure to compare prices first between River & Trail Outfitters, Adventure Center (formerly known as Butts Tubes, I guess they wanted to be taken more seriously), and River Riders to see where you can get the best deal.

The float down can take anywhere from an hour to two depending on how fast the current is and it is most definitely a relaxing time.  Don’t forget to put on your sunscreen even while you’re on the water!  Also, don’t worry about the rules saying no alcohol – you can bring whatever you want in coolers and most of those companies provide cooler tubes for $10 or so (River Riders have really nice yellow, large life raft looking tubes that fit a large coolers FYI).  Also, here’s another tip: don’t forget rope.  It’s more fun to float when you’re able to stay near your friends without needing to paddle constantly, and if you want to anchor yourselves to the middle of the river.

So after our little water baking/napping/drinking float we headed our way to Greenbrier State Park.  Greenbrier is about 30 minutes away from Harpers Ferry and for $25 a night you can book a tent spot, each with a picnic table and firepit/grill.  Note: the summer weekends and holidays will require you to book a least 2 nights.  The campground is really nice, with a beach and lake for swimming and some pretty decent hiking trails all around.  Also, there are several bathrooms/showers in the area that are remarkably very clean, as well as several drinking water fountains and convenient dumpsters located on the driveway out of the park.  The park also does host activities such as bingo, outdoor movies, and things of that nature on the summer weekends.

The one drawback is that some of the campsites are really close to each other, so when you choose your site to reserve online, try and find one that “looks” like its a little bit apart from the rest or else your tent could easily be a few yards away from your neighbor (who could be a loud 10 year-old kid or something).

So we get to the campsite and because we were on the water all day, we had no idea that a massive, historically bad thunderstorm was on its way to the area (apparently known as a “derecho” – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/derecho-behind-washington-dcs-destructive-thunderstorm-outbreak-june-29-2012/2012/06/30/gJQA22O7DW_blog.html).   The ranger told us we need to “batten down” as we were in the direct line of where the storm was heading.  Obviously we took this as, “Oh it’s gonna rain, that sucks”.  So we set up our tents, and started grilling our dinner (dum-dee-dum).  Tip: bring more coal than you think you’ll need.  Those fire pits don’t hold the heat in as well as a Weber grill so you need to keep pouring on the charcoal to keep the heat going.

Luckily for us, our grilling was just wrapping up when the rain came down – and boy did it come down.  We took shelter in one of the tents that, while water resistant, still was leaking all over us as we tried to play cards.  The thunder and lightning were pretty much continuous for most of the night.  I ended up sleeping in my car because the tent I was maybe planning on sleeping in with my buddy had flooded because the window in that tent was accidently left open (Tip: Don’t leave your tent window open in the middle of a thunderstorm…stupid).

In the end we survived the experience and despite the heat and rain, it certainly was better than being in the office.  I would recommend both River & Trail and Greenbrier if you ever do want to plan a trip such as ours in the Harpers Ferry region.  And here’s to good weather when you go.