Munching through vacation: Baltimore, DC and Philadelphia

 We were fortunate to get outta Dodge recently, for some much needed R&R – hence the lack of posts lately! I’ve been really struggling with balance lately and this was a good way to reset. Sometimes you just need to get away, you know?

While on the road, we had a bunch of great meals and did some other fun, food-related stops so I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights.

One of our best meals of the trip was the first one. Our hotel in Baltimore was right on the border of the city’s Little Italy. My plan was to wing it and find something when we showed up, but Mark did some research and picked out this place for a late lunch. Amicci’s was cute, causal and (obviously) Italian.

 We both ordered pastas off the lunch menu: penne with vodka sauce for me; rigatoni with a sausage tomato sauce for Mark. They had a big list of pasta and a big list of sauces and you could mix and match anything you wanted, which was neat. We also had house salad and bread. The bread was to-die-for. I’m always a bread fan, but this stuff seriously made me so, so happy. It was fresh and soft and just amazing. It was also really affordable – we spent just about $30 on lunch. I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area!

Mark also found out that we were also going to be there for The Gathering – which is basically a food truck meet-up with live bands that changes location. We lucked out – it was walking distance from our hotel when we were in town! We grabbed late night bites from Gypsy Queen Cafe (Korean beef tacos) and Flavor Cupcakery (the chocolate peanut butter cupcake was to die for). It was a mostly-locals event, which was a lot of fun.

For something completely touristy, we checked out McCormick World of Flavors in the Inner Harbor. It’s their only retail location and in addition to selling tons of spices, they had some interactive games and displays. One of the games was guess-the-spice – the machine puffed the scent of a spice at you and you had to identify it. We were 5 for 5 (and feeling pretty proud of ourselves!) and won a 25% off coupon for it. We used it to stock up on some spices that I have more trouble getting around here and some new blends and products that haven’t made it to our local stores yet.

We jumped over to D.C. next – and did a lot of walking. We walked an average of 12 miles a day, which in hindsight seems kind of crazy! One of our hikes was over to We, the Pizza, one of Spike Mendelsohn’s restaurants. We had loved Spike on Top Chef, so we were really excited to see the place in person!

 The pizza was awesome. Mark got two slices – Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage (with caramelized onions, mozzarella and Cajun seasoning) and Buffalo Chicken. I got Colletti’s Notorious BBQ (pulled pork, bbq sauce, cheddar and crispy onions). So, so good!

 The next day, while walking through the city again, we got approached by a White House volunteer who was handing out tickets to the White House Fall Garden Tour. We hadn’t heard of the garden tours before (they’re held two weekends a year, one in the spring and one in the fall) so we were sort of blown away that we’d be able to walk through the White House’s backyard without making crazy arrangements far in advance. It was so cool to see things like the Rose Garden up close and we were essentially close enough to touch the building (we didn’t, because… scary security guys). But, we were so close!

One of the best parts of the tour, for me, was that we got to see the kitchen garden that Michelle Obama championed. It was gorgeous and still looked plentiful at the end of October. It totally puts my backyard garden to shame! I can only cream about having a garden like this!

Another fantastic meal we had was at Jose Andres’s Oyamel. It was all Mexican tapas and recommended by one of Mark’s coworkers and my friend Amy from What’s Brewing in the Kitchen so we knew we had to try it out. We ordered a whole bunch of tacos, fries with mole sauce and queso fresco and refried beans with melted cheese. There was also chips and salsa, margaritas and tres leches. Everything was really, really good. I was particularly in love with the fries.

Our third and final stop of the trip was in Philadelphia, where I started getting lazy and not taking as many pictures. We did the standard Independence Hall tour and then headed over to Jim’s on South Street for cheesesteaks. This was a favorite of mine in college but I hadn’t been back in years. It was a nice trip down memory lane! If you go, I recommend a steak with wiz and peppers.

We also stopped off at Reading Terminal Market, which we were embarrassingly unprepared for. I knew it was a food place, but I didn’t know any specifics so when Mark suggested checking it out I was game. We walked in and I was instantly overwhelmed. It’s just rows and rows of farm stands, little restaurant counters, specialty food stores and the like. We spent a lot of time wandering before sitting down for a Nutella-strawberry-banana crepe at Profi’s Creperie. We picked up some goodies on our way out – fresh baked cookies, baklava from a Greek restaurant, fresh strawberry lemonade and a few pounds of sausage. I would have grabbed more, but the Amish stands were closing up for the day so I missed out on pie and pickles – probably for the best, though, since we we still a mile from the car!

It was a great little trip with a lot of fun adventures and good food. I’ll be getting back to a normal posting schedule shortly – expect new recipes later this week!

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