April 26, 2015

Boxerfest 2015

2014 was the first year of a Suburu-only car meet, Boxerfest. Bao and I attended this years event after having such a great time last year. I distinctly remember driving in last year with several Suburus, we basically took over a leg of the highway. Although a few years ago I was interested solely in muscle cars, there's something about a growing shared interest of someone you love. After meeting Bao and seeing how much he loved his STI, I grew more and more fond of Suburus and the great community around them. Perhaps in a few years I will purchase my own Suburu, preferably a Forester ;)

The weather was significantly colder this year, with gray clouds covering the sun and blistery winds. We started off the morning with a hearty breakfast at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, to fuel us through an exciting day.

Busboys and Poets
5331 Baltimore Ave
Hyattsville, MD 20781
The atmosphere in Busboy's is well-embellished with varied mosaics and a small library of books. We were seated on a long wooden table, and ordered hot coffees, fresh squeezed orange juice and various breakfast dishes.
It's not unusual for me to look over the menu before trying a new place (it helps me get excited about going there to eat as well), and I wanted to choose something I couldn't make so easily at home. I chose the french toast, as I was curious to see how Busboy's would try this classic.
The toast was made on thicker cut slices of sweet bread, with a light dusting of powdered sugar. I like the fact that the toast wasn't soggy with too much egg like the typical french toast, but more spongey with a buttery crust.
Bao went for a more classic eggs, hash, ham and wheat toast. The menus had a little information about how all their eggs were organic and cage-free. Although only available in scrambled for brunch, they were tasty!
After our big breakfast, we made our way to FedEx Field for Boxerfest.

FedEx Field
1600 Fedex Way
Hyattsville, MD 20785

As we drove into the roundabout parking lots around FedEx Field, it was easy to find the lot that Boxerfest was being held. There were hundreds of Suburus parked in rows - definitely a beautiful sight.

When you walk through the main tent, there are a ton of Suburu exclusive (and non) companies setting up tents to showcase their products, usually at a discounted price. There's also a huge track to take your car for a spin, but the list was full weeks prior to the event! Along with a few lineups of cars on display for the competition (best impreza, best forester, etc.), tents and track, there's plenty to see during the event.
Lisa and I sitting in front of some cars on display, I joked on social media they were ours (but they're definitely not, haha)!
Our group shot, taken by the talented Tho (but with my smaller camera). Check out his website and portfolio at TVN Photography for his legitimate photographs!

The last time I saw this cool chick was at last year's event, and now she's a glowing mama-to-be! Awesome Suburu enthusiast herself and amazing food blogger, check out her page Miemonster Chronicles :)

There was a fun exhaust competition, along with a limbo contest! 
A quick shot of Bao's car before we left :) The event always ended with a huge raffle (prizes ranged from hoodies to exhausts and $500 gift cards!) that was a little cold to stand through (the breeze was getting stronger and a little drizzle started) but it's still incredible how much they give away at this event.

After five to six hours at the event, we were all famished and looked for the closest possible restaurant. Sardi's seemed like a great option, a chain specializing in Peruvian chicken and various sides.

Sardi's Pollo A La Brasa
8811 Hampton Mall Dr
Capitol Heights, MD 20743 
I got half a charbroiled chicken with yuca fries and rice and beans. THIS WAS AMAZING. I can't believe I've never been to Sardi's before this weekend, this huge dish (which could last me two full meals) was only $10!
Bao also got half a charbroiled chicken with rice and beans and plantains. I expected the plantains to be sliced thin and fried as well, but these caramelized versions were sweet and a great compliment to the rest of the savory meal.

All in all, the day was so much fun and we can't wait for next year! Wicked Big Meet in Connecticut is lined up next, America's largest Suburu fest in June :)

Until next time!

Stay hungry,

April 21, 2015

Taco Bamba!

Upon first hearing about Taco Bamba, I was immediately interested. A friend told me it was a small hidden spot in Tysons with rave reviews, so I had to find it! Bao absolutely loves tacos (and got me craving lately too) so we were both excited to try it out. We made our way down route 7 late in the evening for a delicious meal.

Taco Bamba
2190 Pimmet Dr,
Falls Church, VA 22043
I'm not completely familiar with most of Virginia, but the Whole Foods shopping center looked incredibly familiar. Taco Bamba is hidden in a smaller shopping center behind a Subway, and I realized it was literally two doors down from a store my mother owned years ago! The shopping center houses a small bar, a hair salon, MMA center, and an authentic Mexican grocery. 
As soon as you walk inside, you hear the hot grill sizzling with all kinds of delicious proteins and soft corn tortillas. Neatly written menus adorn the right wall and above the register. 
After a quick browse through the choices, we settled on carne asada, carnitas, chorizo, al pastor, tripa and taco bamba.
Close up of the tripa (beef intestine) that was cooked to a delicious crisp! Bao enjoyed this one too. All the meat was flavorful, but my favorite was a tie between the tripa and carnitas. The carne asada was surprisingly not as soft as I was expecting (tasted slightly burnt) but the juicy pineapple pieces added a nice sweetness to balance it out.
Three tacos were deliciously filling and there was a nice selection of sauces to top our choices. I loved the corn tortillas and was happy they doubled per taco. The filling wasn't overflowing, which is appreciated when you're already eating a messy meal.

Just found out Taco Bamba is owned by same chef Victor Albisu of Del Campo in DC! Learn more about Albisu and the main chef for Taco Bamba, Carlos Gonzalez here. We will definitely be back, I would recommend this place to everyone that likes authentic tacos :)

Until next time!

Stay Hungry,

April 17, 2015

DC Cherry Blossoms and MXDC Review

This past weekend there was one of the most highly anticipated events that draw tourists from all over the US - cherry blossoms! Predicted to be at peak bloom between April 11-14th,  big crowds and major traffic was to be expected. Many friends were visiting from out of town, so there was a fun weekend planned.
The history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival dates back all the way to 1912 when Tokyo's mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted over 3,000 cherry trees to signify the friendship between the US and Japan. The cherry blossom, also known as the "Sakura", is a symbol of evanescence of human life.

Although the history behind what these cherry blossoms represent is too long to add in one post, a few of my favorite snippets:
  • First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (the wife of Japanese ambassador) planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees still stand near the John Paul Jones Memorial at the terminus of 17th St, SW!
  • The lantern that is lit annually to open the National Cherry Blossom Festival was gifted in 1954 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Treaty of Peace.
  • Through a cycle of exchanges and gifts over the years, "the cherry trees fulfilled their role as a symbol and an agent of friendship."
I summarized immensely, you can learn more from this article here and interesting timeline here. Aside from this rich history, our group was ready to brave the crowds to enjoy the beauty of these cherry blossoms.
We started the weekend off with a late night hearty meal - all you can eat Korean barbecue! The deal at Il Mee is spectacular at only $13.95 a person after 10pm. We had a generous helping of various proteins and unlimited side dishes, until we finally went back home after midnight.

We all planned on arriving in DC at 9am to beat the thick of the crowd, and thank goodness we hadn't come later. There was a good amount of traffic going into the city, but not nearly as much as it grew through the afternoon hours!

A snippet of our day...

After a few hours of walking through the Tidal Basin and admiring the blooms, we made our way through the festival to where we hoped to have our first meal of the day.
We walked several blocks to get to District Taco, a well known spot (over 500 reviews on Yelp!). However the line seemed too long for our starving appetites and we moved on. Definitely must eat there soon! Unfortunately, none of us were even remotely aware of how crowded every other restaurant was.

After trying Old Ebbit Grill and a few other places with great reviews online, we came along a restaurant that could seat our party of nine right away - seemed like a winner!

600 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
To start off, many of us were wary of the fact that this restaurant was nearly empty although every other location we passed by had lines out the door. The hostess was standoffish from the moment we asked for a table to accommodate our large party - her original plan was to squeeze us at a smaller table by adding extra chairs (please note again, the entire restaurant was empty). 

After being seated, we were excited to find a special on Sangria's and ordered two pitchers for the table. In our starved state, we were almost immediately ready to order. 
After enjoying our glasses of sangria, we patiently waited for our food to arrive, while also noticing the restaurant starting to fill up. After a full hour of waiting, the entire restaurant was full and EVERY table had their meals arrive (and were consumed) before we could even get a hold of the waiter again. 

Sadly, our experience was absolutely horrible and none of us plan to return. We ended up letting the waiter know we'd just pay for our drinks and leave. Our still-famished group ended up at the closest food court and enjoyed an assortment of Halaal food and Moe's Southwest Grill. Although disappointed in our experience at MXDC, we saved a ton of money and enjoyed our lunches regardless!
After arriving back at our cars and enjoying a more relaxed dinner in Shirlington, Lisa and Hoang generously allowed all of us to stay at their place overnight since we planned on having dimsum the next morning. We were all pretty exhausted after nine miles of walking through DC that day, and ended the night watching Interstellar with wine and mini ice cream sandwiches haha!

Overall the festival was fun with the absolutely beautiful weather (balmy 65 degrees with some strong breezes throughout the day) but we may hold off next year for the packed crowds. Driving alone took over 2-3 hours (people were walking into the streets without a care) and with all the packed restaurants, it may be best to avoid the weekends to enjoy the buds. Hopefully those planning on going this weekend don't have to face as big a crowd as we did!
Until next time!

Stay Hungry,

April 6, 2015

Dinner at Deb's: White Wine Seafood Pasta and Chocolate Mousse

The last week has been a complete roller coaster ride with unexpected hurdles. After getting home late after work and gym, I decided to finally grill some chicken and sweet potatoes for work lunches and snacks for the weekend. I hadn't gone straight to my room in like I normally do, with the intent of being productive in the kitchen before bed. As midnight passed by, I started cleaning and made my way to my room for some much needed sleep.

**Warning, story time!**

As I stepped onto my basement room carpet, I thought I was delirious when I felt the cold, spongey ground soaking my socks. I looked around, confused, and realized nearly my entire room had flooded. It wasn't the typical flooding with water in clear sight, more so the water had completely soaked my carpet, piles of clothing and blankets on my floor. How did this happen? I've had basement flooding before in older homes I lived in, but it was always after a huge rainstorm or our sump pump malfunctioning, but no one in my family had told me there were any issues. Before I could panic, I thought of my options and laid down all the towels I could find.

After cleaning up as much as I could, I decided to sleep on the couch until morning, and talk to my landlord about my options. Turned out the pipes in my home weren't completely cleared of water (otherwise known as winterization), so the remaining water froze within the pipes over the harsh winter and cracked the pipes to cause flooding. Fortunately my family's rooms were alright (since everyone is upstairs) and decided things could have ended up so much worse.

The next morning into late afternoon was spent wet-vacuuming my room in hopes to dry out the mess, but I soon found an issue with the wet-vac spewing out water instead of containing. I went to Home Depot in hopes of a solution, and after several attempts to talk to the employees I realized no one really knew anything to help my situation. I spotted a man in the same aisle and asked him (recognizing he wasn't an HD employee) and after a half hour of thoroughly explaining the process, he offered to take a look at the damage for free.

Typically, I'm very wary of strangers or anyone showing so much kindness (cynical but reading through the barrage of horror stories scares me), but this time around with my brother at home I figured I'd be safe. He came by and kindly assessed the damage, and offered to speak to my landlord in how to proceed. To my dismay, my hours of vacuuming had gone to waste, as we had to strip the carpet in the end. After hours and hours of pulling/rolling wet carpet, cutting out the sponge-padding (my trusty x-acto's came in handy) and clearing my room with the help of my wonderful boyfriend (seriously unreal, not a single complaint or any remote indication of not wanting to help me!), we made our way to Deb's house with the sweet offer of dinner and a warm bed to sleep in. Luckily Deb and I live less than ten minutes away from each other!

Even though I was exhausted beyond belief (running on three to four hours of sleep), good friends are always the best remedy for tough times.
Bao and I got to Deb's house and per usual, there was the warm aura that always radiates from her home. With the amazing smell of a white wine sauce bubbling on the stove with an assortment of fresh clams, I immediately felt a thousand times better.
After taking the cooked clams out of the boiling pan, Deb moved the handmade pasta directly into the remaining sauce.
She already had another full pot of this (in the red dutch oven in the back) that she and Kim had made during the day. Deb is known to make a lot of food (and loves to pack leftovers for us to enjoy another delicious meal the next day).
Soon, we were ready to eat. Deb's plating skills always add that beautiful final touch to all her creations! I helped my way to seconds, and then a third helping of just the amazing clams. No shame.
In true fashion, Deb prepared a decadent dessert of dark chocolate mousse with a perfectly sweet and tangy raspberry sauce on top (courtesy of Kim!). 
A few candids :)
After the hearty meal, a few glasses and good laughs, I slowly started to feel the heavy lull of sleep coming. I think the entire week had been long for everyone, since we all started to drift off pretty soon (on the couch or floor, no less!). I distinctly remember having a few conversations with my eyes closed haha! Here's an extra "candid" that Deb caught :P
Eventually I did make it to that warm bed I was looking forward to, but this photo was so silly and shows how exhausted we all were. 

The rest of the story is much, much longer and more tiresome (Saturday was another beast to conquer), but after such a difficult weekend of labor, I realized the importance of truly good-hearted people. It's hard to appreciate the things you're used to on the daily when everything is comfortable, so I try to remind myself that these obstacles come at the right time. Interestingly enough, as I was sorting through my old college art work, I found a lithography print with the phrase "Sh*t could be worse". Finding that piece in the midst of my dread - funny how timing works - it really was a great reminder that I have much to be thankful for even in times of struggle. I ended up downsizing significantly, learned some valuable lessons about prepping my home for winter, and learned a bit of construction methods after watching the process. I'd say that's a considerable amount of good I could take away from an otherwise bad situation.

Until next time!

Stay Hungry,

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