Monday, July 11, 2011

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part I- Washington, D.C.: Tortilla Cafe & Charleston, SC: Husk

Surprise! (or not...). It's back to Portland for this honey! 

A month or so ago (yeah, been slacking on posting a little) my parents met me in Boston, helped me load up a U-Haul with all my stuff, and drove me across the country to my new/old home: Portland, OR.

I know, they're pretty much the best parents ever. (Thanks again, Mom & Dad!!)

It was definitely a long week. Especially because this is what the inside of the U-Haul cab looked like:

Yours truly had the honor of sitting in that baby bucket seat for most of the trip... fun!

But actually, it was fun. We definitely had some mishaps along the way (ever drive a 11ft-clearance truck under a 9ft-clearance bridge?) and some super long days of driving, but we also got to visit lots of places we'd never been to and ate lots of good food.

Here's a breakdown of our days with more info on our favorite stops: 

Day 1: Boston, MA to Wilmington, DE.
Applebee's for dinner in New Jersey. The shame!

Day 2: Wilimgton, DE to Fayetteville, NC.
Stopped in Washington D.C. for lunch.

What: Tortilla Cafe
Where: 210 7th St SE, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
Honeys Heart: Plantains

I was hoping to take the parentals to Good Stuff Eatery, but unfortunately it's closed on Sundays. Boo. But after some quick Yelp research, we determined Tortilla Cafe would be a good replacement.

Tortilla Cafe serves Mexican and Salvadorian food and, much to my mom's delight, has also been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

All three of us opted for the Pupusa Platter ($6.29) which comes with 2 pupusas (corn tortillas filled with cheese or pork and cheese, your choice) and 2 sides.

I've been kind of obsessed with pupusas ever since Gab's mom taught us how to make them in Spanish class senior year (say "pupusa" outloud- fun huh?) and these did not disappoint. However, I think it was the side of plantains that really stole the show. My mom made the mistake of ordering rice and beans as her 2 sides and my dad and I had to fight her off to keep her from eating all our delicious, caramelized plantains. I think she found her new favorite fruit...

And of course we couldn't leave D.C. without visiting my favorite cupcake place of all time (yep, it's official), Baked & Wired.

This time around we tried the Smurfette (vanilla cake with fresh blueberries and lemon buttercream frosting), the Mocha (chocolate cake with mocha buttercream frosting) and The Tessita (vanilla cake with dulce de leche filling and chocolate-hazelnut satin icing).

Really, a lot of cupcake places could take a lesson from Baked & Wired in terms of both texture and taste. All three cupcakes were perfectly moist and oh-so flavorful. I just looked to see if they ship their cupcakes. Doesn't look like it. I am devastated.

Day 3: Fayetteville, SC to Columbia, SC.
Stopped in Charleston for lunch and a horse-drawn carriage tour.

What: Husk
Where: 76 Queen St, downtown Charleston, SC
Honeys Heart: Smoked Bacon Cornbread

My mom heard about Husk both in Everyday with Rachel Ray and on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Turns out it was opened by James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock and it's kind of a big deal. I can see why.

At the time we ate there, I had just finishing reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, so I was especially excited to find that Husk is all about providing high-quality southern-inspired food using the freshest of local ingredients. In fact, Husk's website states that "Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment." Love that.

I also loved the decor. Simple, elegant and homey all at the same time. Perfect.

My dad and I started off by ordering some local beers. I tried Starr Hill's The Love. Great hefeweizen.

My dad opted for Williamsburg AleWerks's Chesapeake Pale Ale. This was our favorite of the two.

As far as food, we knew we couldn't eat at Husk without trying their famous Smoked Bacon Skillet Cornbread. This, my friends, is what heaven tastes like. I'm sure of it. The smokey-bacon flavor permeated the perfectly cooked cornbread creating an amazing combo of smokey, salty, sweet. Seriously, my mouth is watering like crazy right now. You need to try this.

For our main courses, I tried the Cornmeal Dusted NC Catfish ($12) with hot sauce butter and succotash. The hot sauce butter was not my favorite but I loved the catfish and the succotash.

My dad tried Mark Marhefka’s Grouper ($13) with herb butter and broccoli. I ate as much of it as my dad would let me.

My mom ordered the Smoky Pork Po’ Boy ($10) with buttermilk cheddar and Husk Chow Chow (Southern pickle relish). This was very tasty too.

We also ordered a side of Anson Mills Grits ($15) with Carolina Mushrooms and TN Cheddar. These grits were much thicker than grits I've had before, a plus in my book, and were so richly flavorful thanks to both the mushrooms and the cheddar.

Looking back, our decadent lunch at Husk was probably my favorite meal of the trip. If you are ever in Charleston, it should be on the top of your list.

Coming up next in Part II: A "meat and three" in Nashville, Kansas City BBQ, and Biker Jim's famous hot-dogs.