My Golden Rule To Reuniting With An Old Friend In D.C. (Or Anywhere)
Hint: don’t ruin your appetite
Do you remember your teenage years? If you’re lucky, you’ve probably forgotten most of it.
Still, setting awkward moments aside for a moment, it was probably a time in your life that you met people that had a large impact, whether or not you knew it at the time. Those people may still be in your life now, depending on how many years have gone by and potentially how much of a hold that Mark Zuckerberg had on your adolescence. Regardless, those people lurking out there will always have a unique view into who you are.
On a recent trip to DC, I had the opportunity to be reunited with an old friend. The last time we saw each other was 15 years ago.
In those years, I went to college, got a job, got a different job, did that a few more times, met a lot of new people, broke a few hearts, made some lifelong friends and lost a few, made more mistakes than I will ever admit to, and (mostly) grew up. She did, too.
Now, here we are, 15 years later. I’m in her town; she went to college in DC and she has made it her stomping ground. Enemy territory? Perhaps…
So, what’s the best way handle this? Some would say you only see old friends like this at high school reunions; it’s safer that way if you have good bragging rights. Others would say keep it on the Facebook/Instagram see-saw; like each other from a distance, thank you very much. And me? Well, you can decide after you hear about my week.
On Monday night, my friend took me to The Red Hen, this delicious, neighborhood restaurant in Bloomingdale, right on the center point between Northwest and Northeast DC.
I tried orange wine for the first time ever, and then we ate like queens: fried brussels, wild mushroom paccheri pasta, squid ink linguini with calamari, and roasted spaghetti squash.
All of this happened in a place that was lit at that perfect point between dark enough to be intimate and easy, but light enough to see your dining companion, with a soundtrack made up of happy chatters offset by clinking glasses and silverware.
Two nights after that we ended up at Ethiopic, yes, an Ethiopian restaurant in the heart of the H Street Corridor, the currently hip area in DC. I got to meet her husband, we teased her together mercilessly, and then relinquished our appetites into her hands, as she’s a globetrotter and so knew exactly what to order for us to be happy. Awaze Tibs, cubed prime beef sautéed in berbere sauce and Ethiopic Signature Tibs, boneless leg of lamb marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, jalapeños, tomato, and rosemary.
And also the large vegetarian sampler, which had all the vegetables done all the right ways.
This was all served atop perfectly spongey and tasty injera flatbreads and washed down with Ethiopian beers that I can’t remember the name of, save this:
One was referred to as “velvet kisses” and it did exactly that. I slept well that night.
On Friday, my final night in DC, it was me and my old, but now new again, friend, and we explored Union Market, which is DC’s answer to NYC’s Hudson Cafeteria, Chelsea Market, and Urbanspace Vanderbilt. Our first stop was Rappahannock Oyster Bar for a dozen oysters and wine. Then we strolled the space, browsing at DC Sharp, a Japanese kitchen knife boutique ,and then perusing the shelves of Salt & Sundry.
15 years is a lot of time, so our catching up continued later into the evening at Bidwell, a restaurant that grows its own fruits and vegetables in aeroponic planters on the roof of Union Market.
My friend knows everybody in DC, so she’s had the opportunity to go to the roof to see the planters and would have had me take a trip up, except that same day was when they took the planters down for the season. So, now I have spring plans! As we were sans reservations, we first tarried at the bar and had a cheese and meat platter: a sharp, crumbly cheddar and a smooth blue matched off against a sweet prosciutto. The mustard they served had muscles, smoky and up the nose, but I loved it with the honey and flatbread crackers.
For dinner, we kept it light: a lobster taco and mac+cheese with bacon (of course!) for me, and kale salad with the asparagus soup for her. The portions were not large, but they were good. That taco, just two bites, but two of the most flavor-explosive bites that I may ever have had the distinct pleasure of putting in my mouth.
DC is a wonderful town, but what made it special was getting to enjoy the company of someone who has known me a long time.
It is nice that she remembers who I was before, awkward and adolescent and ridiculous, but it’s even better than she appreciates who I am now, and I feel the same about her.
[FYI: In case you’re still asking, what is the best way to reunite with an old friend? Here’s my simple answer: over delicious drinks and good food.]
Rekindle friendship in DC
The Red Hen
1822 1st St NW
401 H St NE
b/t N 5th St & N 4th St
H Street Corridor/Atlas District/Near Northeast
Rappahannock Oyster Bar
1309 5th St NE
b/t N Penn St & N Neal Pl
1309 5th St NE Salt & Sundry
1309 5th St NE Bidwell
1309 5th St NE b/t N Penn St & N Neal Pl Cassandra John has also written about heartbreak and crab toasties in Dublin