Washington, DC… the Gluten-Free Girl chronicles

Lucy at Ben's Chili Bowl

Maybe this is obvious since I live in the NYC area, and Shauna lives in the Seattle area, but she and I don’t see each other very often. Yes, we talk on Twitter a lot, but I hadn’t seen her, Danny, and Lucy since October at Blogher Food 10. Lucky thing for me that we were both asked to be speakers at Eat Write Retreat in D.C. And even luckier, we both arrived a day early. Here’s how it went. First stop, the legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Lucy at Ben's Chili Bowl

I’m not sure what the story is behind the colorful bear outside the restaurant, but Lucy hopped right on it. (Good thing no one dared me to take a seat.) There is something about Lucy’s face and her pose in this photo… I just love it.

Ben's Chili Bowl

If you don’t already know, Ben’s does chili, chili fries, chili dogs, burgers, cake for desserts, and not a whole lot else. What else do you need? One caution — this is about as far from health food as you can get, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Lucy at Ben's Chili Bowl

Something tells me Lucy had never seen cheese-chili fries before, let alone the fluorescent pink lemonade I’d ordered to wash the food down. But within seconds after sitting down, Lucy was getting curious.

Ben's Chili Bowl

As you can see, I had no trouble devouring my lunch.

Sixth and Rye food truck, DC

The next day, it just happened that Spike Mendelsohn was co-opening a new food truck called Sixth & Rye. Shauna, Danny, and Lucy came alone with me to check it out. This photo was the moment he saw I’d arrived. Spike cracks me up.

Sixth and Rye food truck, DC

The new food truck is really interesting — a partnership with the synagogue Sixth & I. It will only operate on Fridays in D.C. They’re serving really well-done Jewish deli fare — pastrami on rye, the most incredible pickles which are brought in from Montreal, fresh-made potato chips (you have to try these), and some lighter sides like a salad made with Israeli-style couscous. We got just a little sample of the food at the press launch before the truck pulled up to the crowd and apparently served 275 customers on the first day. Yeow!

Sixth and Rye food truck, DC

There’s Spike again with the whole team, including chef Malcolm Mitchell, third from the right.

Julia Child kitchen at Smithsonian

Next Shauna, Danny, Lucy and I headed over to the National Mall. We took in some sights along the way, but we had an important destination in mind at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Julia Child kitchen at Smithsonian

Visiting the exhibit for Julia Child’s kitchen was one of those “wow” moments. I’m not sure how to explain why. First, it’s behind plexiglass, so you can’t touch or smell anything. You can’t step in and peek inside the oven. You can’t browse through her cookbooks or see what she kept in the cupboards. You can’t sit down at the table and hear how the chairs creak. There are people everywhere trying to snap photos just like I was. And yet, it felt kind of magical. Not just a piece of history that absolutely belongs in a museum, but a glimpse into the life of someone who changed the way Americans see and think about food. I’m so glad Shauna suggested we see it in person.

Julia Child kitchen at Smithsonian

The pots and pans are set aside in a separate case. My kitchen dreams look something like this wall.

Lucy at Farmer's Market, DC

The next day a few of us got up early to visit the farmer’s market at U and 14th Street. I’ve written about it a little bit already. Everyone got excited about the strawberries. Jennie bought a couple pints, and Lucy started snacking right away.

gelato at Farmer's Market, DC

It was probably a little early in the morning for gelato and sorbet, but that didn’t stop us from buying a few different cups to try some of the offerings at the Dolcezza stand. They were all outstanding, so it was just a question of which of the seasonal flavors we liked best. Don’t ask me to choose one because my answer is “all of them.”

Lucy at Farmer's Market, DC

Lucy at Farmer's Market, DC

Lucy at Farmer's Market, DC

How sweet is Lucy in the little pink dress? I think at first glance she wasn’t sure what to make of the gelato — that looks like mango — but her skepticism didn’t last long. I should mention I didn’t take any photos of a great meal at Medium Rare, a must-try if you’re ever in D.C. It was a perfect meal with Pam, Jennie, Shauna, Danny, Lucy and Carol. All the restaurant serves is steak with fries. You sit down and order drinks, then they bring you some warm bread and a salad to start. Later, your main course arrives, slathered in a spectacular “secret” sauce. Part of the fun of the meal is trying to guess what’s in the sauce. Then it gets really good — after you finish what’s on  your plate, they come to serve you MORE steak and fries. The goal is to make sure your food doesn’t go cold while you’re eating it, so they serve you in two steps, and it works brilliantly. And they put cups of that amazing sauce on the table for topping your steak to taste. Between the good food, awesome side trips, and spending so much time with Shauna & Co., I’m already missing D.C.


22 thoughts on “Washington, DC… the Gluten-Free Girl chronicles

  1. yeah Spike! Oh justin love love love this post.
    I miss the chili bowl (hubby & I lived in DC for a bit)
    we lived in olde town–did you see that area?
    we ate a lot this weekend too, tomorrow back to the gym….
    I should post some pics of our eats like you do, it’s so interesting.

  2. Oh man. You totally gave me Food Blogging Conference envy AGAIN. I think I was at the wrong one. *sigh*

    There is NO decent Jewish Deli here in SF. None. It’s really sad.

    And how adorable is Lucy? Serious. So. Darn. Cute.

  3. Oh My Goodness – looks like you had such an amazing time and you’re kinda makin me wish I had skipped BlogHer and gone to DC with you guys. Maybe next time.

  4. Just found your blog by way of Shauna’s tweets. Look forward to reading more. I grew up in NYC and miss it and New Yorkers so much. Don’t miss the summer heat though. These days we are lucky the temperature rises to 60 here in Seattle.

    Irvin- I lived in San Fran for 26 years. What about David’s on Geary. It’s definitely decent IMO, not great but decent.

    Lucy is rockin that dress!

    1. it’s sweltering here now, so i know what you mean. and yes, I’ve heard David’s is decent too, although i guess nothing can compare to the offerings in NYC.

  5. Aw, you got some great pics of Lu! That kid is too cute. Sounds like you all had a great trip.

    Also, your meal at Medium Rare sounds exactly like the dining experience at Le Relais de Venise here in the city. I’d highly recommend checking it out. My husband and I have been a couple times and have left happily stuffed on each occasion.

  6. Concerning the bear: For a couple years the DC Arts Commission let artists decorate statues that were placed all over the city. One year it was bears, the other year it was “party animals” so there were donkeys and elephants all over. After the display period is over, businesses can but them to support the arts. Ben’s Chili Bowl bought this one.

  7. Lucy is very adorable! Love how she is chilling on the colorful bear lap. Hopefully, I’ll get to Ben’s Chili Bowl soon, regard I was too full last time I was in town.

  8. I keep ending up at your website while trying to figure out if Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC has gluten free items, and since this post is named the Gluten-Free Girl Chronicles …. and since you appear to be eating there… my hopes are that it is! Any help you can give would be great.

    1. The chili and fries are fine, along with the hot dogs and burgers without buns, but of course they have buns, cakes and other gluten stuff available and for sale, so you’ve been warned!

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