Maine Avenue Fish Market (DC Fish Wharf)

5 04 2011

“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” – Theodor Seuss Geisel

Maine Ave

You can actually park there?

One sunny Sunday afternoon I tagged along with LGF who was making a trip to the DC Fish wharf. I hadn’t been there in a while and needed some fresh air so off I went. Coming from Virginia, you see the marker over the side of I-395 crossing into DC, down below you like some brightly covered carnival. When you finally make your way down there, you then get to compete with a bunch of SUV’s for parking spaces (seems far more reasonable on a week day).

At first you’re almost overwhelmed with the plethora of food (cooked and raw) available for you to purchase. Your best bet is to walk a mandatory lap around the market to scout out everything before you dive in.  After LGF bought some fish and raw shrimp for dinner, we decided to hit up some of the cooked food.

DC Shrimp 2

Got Old Bay?

The shrimp was cooked to perfection with liberal amounts of Old Bay dumped on top (per LGF’s request). It was like eating an entire bag of Utz’s Crab Chips in one or two shrimp. You can buy shrimp in a variety of sizes from medium all the way up to jumbo. The ones featured above might have been Large? The also have fried shrimp (which take longer than the cooked shrimp to prepare) as the shrimp are freshly battered and fried to order. I personally preferred the fried shrimp, they were fried to a perfect golden brown, while still being moist and juicy on the inside.

The fries were reminiscent of freshly made McDonald’s fries and paired up really well with the fried shrimp. The secret to ordering fries here is to ask for them without salt so they will made to order  rather than sitting out under a heat lamp. We also picked up some baked mac ‘n’ cheese from the fried chicken stand. Cheesy decadence is the only way I can truly describe it, but what can I say? I’m a big fan of mac ‘n’ cheese.

If you’ve got a sunny weekend afternoon to burn and are in the mood for seafood I highly suggest the trip to SW DC and sample the sights and smells of the fish wharf.

Note: The first image is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the source.


Space Jamón – Spain [Franklin Smith]

13 10 2010

Jamón: it’s what’s for dinner (and lunch, midnight snack, maybe even breakfast too).

I want to spin you a tale about a substance which, through just the mention of its name, will bring most Spaniards to the point of frenzy.  When prepared in the right way it will dissolve in your mouth, leaving you with a fiery Iberian desire for more.  They save the best for Christmas, with short Spanish grandpas hoarding small pieces in the deep recess of a dark attic.  I told the kids in my English class that it was my favorite food here, and I basically received a standing ovation.

Jamón. It could be translated and watered down to something like “Spanish Ham”, but that would really be an unintelligible act, because there is nothing else like it in the world.  Or, to be more precise: jamón ibérico de bellota.  The best pigs are only fed on acorns (bellotas), giving them the perfect fat content in order to be mind-blowingly delicious.  Once fattened up, the pigs are killed (there are even festivals just devoted to this), salted, cured, hung, and aged.  This isn’t Oscar Meyer or Boar’s Head quality– those brands seem like they don’t even come from the same animal as jamón.  Try to imagine a thinner and fattier prosciuttio, and try to think of an overwhelming feeling of warmth.  You could eat this stuff without teeth.  Half of the time, you just put it in your mouth and enter into a trance, returning to consciousness to find yourself blindly groping for the next piece.

I usually buy packaged jamón in the grocery store.  (Not the highest quality, but I’m on a budget, see?).  It is basically as cheap as lunchmeat in the USA, and at the bigger stores you can buy whole legs, about 15 pounds for $75.  Or, if you are serious about your jamón, you can go to the ‘jamón only’ stores (and there are tons of them).  Going into these stores is like being transported to the set of a Rocky movie, bumping into hanging slabs of meat amidst primitive grunts and utterances.  (But if you punched the meat here, they would definitely throw you out instantly.)  And eating it in a restaurant is the best; at some of the more ridiculous ones, they have the leg of jamón sitting out in the open, and they cut your pieces in front of you.

I was told that the proper way to eat this jamón is to ‘let it sweat’.  Take it out of the fridge and its plastic packaging.  Let it sit on a platter for a little while.  Drink some wine while you are doing this.  In time, it’ll reach room temperature and the full salty flavor will come out.  The only utensils to use are your fingers, making the eating of this meat a full-body experience.

When I was in tenth grade I did a presentation on this meat, thinking that Spaniards must be more than a little crazy to be so obsessed with this stuff.  All that I read just didn’t make any sense.  But now that I understand it a little more,  I wish that I could bring a couple slices back in time to 16-year-old Franklin and let him taste the substance behind the words.  All I can say is: hopefully on my way back to America, customs doesn’t decide to look inside my suspiciously ham-shaped duffel bag…


Amsterdam Falafel – Adam’s Morgan

5 10 2010

“I was wondering, do you deliver falafel to the top of Mt. Zion? Great. I’d like a large falafel with pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese. Yes, I know what a falafel is.” – Homer Simpson


Front of the Shop


Amsterdam Falafel is a place that is near and dear to my heart. They are on a very short list of places who’s food I will specifically crave. They have a very unassuming shopfront due to the fact that they’re built into a townhouse. The interior feels just like they’ve invited you into their underground, quasi-legal food joint. A breath of fresh air from the generic modern look of the gentrified, yuppie food dispensaries. They keep it simple here: they serve falafel and fries (with purchasable baked goods). Their prices are simple: $10 for falafel, soda, and fries (tax included). All you have to say is combo white or wheat depending on what type of pita you desire. That’s the simplest ordering system I’ve ever seen in DC, which becomes quite obvious if you come here after partaking in the night life. That’s not to say that this place isn’t totally awesome in the daytime either as a lunch spot.

They fry up the balls for the falafel and the fries in small batches so your food always tastes fresh and hot. They then simply hand you your falafel in a paper bag and fries in a paper cup, the rest is up to you. That’s right, there’s a topping bar.


Forget the bedroom, this is where the magic happens


They have a sheet on top of the topping bar to guide you through the proper process if it is your first time. Namely crushing the balls of your falafel before putting in toppings and a few rules regarding taking extra toppings in extra containers. As you can see, there are a plethora of toppings available for your falafel and I advise you to constantly try new stuff and don’t be afraid. The Turkish Salad is a must-have though; I cannot stress how excellent it truly is. There is even an iPhone Application for topping selection available on their website. There is also a selection of sauces to the left of the topping bar as well as a selection of sauces for your fries next to the soda machine. The peanut butter sauce is phenomenal and immediately became the default condiment for any French Fries I consumed there.

Try to avoid getting the itis after coming here, I challenge you. I know I have yet to accomplish this daring feat.

Amsterdam Falafel Website

(Note: Images used in this review are not my own. If you click on the image it will take you to the source website I borrowed them from)

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Weekend Latino Market in Unity Park – Adams Morgan

25 09 2010


Latino Weekend Market in Adam's Morgan


Imagine a place where cuisines from numerous Latino countries were offered in a concentrated area. The food was fresh tasting, prepared (but not cooked) in front of you, and was cash only. This mythological place we speak of is a reality if you choose to make the journey to Unity Park in Adams Morgan between Friday and Sunday. When one of my friends called and asked if I wanted to go help him pick his car up from his DC law school I promptly agreed, having been sick for the past three days and filled with a desire to fulfill my resolution to spend more time in DC proper.

He picked me up from my house and so our journey began. Initially we had plans to visit the most excellent Schwarma Spot, but while driving in Adams Morgan we spotted the Latino Market and impulsively decided to check it out. There were plenty of people of all sorts of ethnicities hanging around the area and eating so we figured it must be good. Walking up to it from our parking spot we started spotting the flags of various countries (and territories); Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, Puerto Rico, etc.

Initially overwhelmed at the plethora of choices, we made the rounds before deciding to start our feast at one of the Salvadoran tents. We ordered the beef tacos (2 for $5) and chicken taquitos (4 for $5). The first item we ate was the tacos. Having watched the woman taking our order pile beef, fresh pico de gallo, cheese, and then HALF AN AVACADO PER TACO onto fluffy, fresh tortillas our mouths were watering. It turns out not only our mouths would be wet, but also our hands for these were the juiciest tacos I have ever eaten. Our hands were dripping with juice and grease, forcing us to eat over the styrofoam container in which they came in. After we devoured the tacos we realized we needed napkins, but fret not, for the stand provided us with the greatest napkins known to man, paper towels. Enthusiastic after the tacos we moved onto the taquitos. I am not the biggest fan of taquitos and rarely order them when out. These taquitos were hands down the best I’ve ever had. They were fried perfectly, leaving the chicken succulent and moist. They were topped with more of the pico de gallo on top, which frankly didn’t get eaten that much since it fell off. These single-handedly changed my opinion of taquitos.

Since the mercury was hovering around 99 degrees that day and we had just consumed a delicious meal, we decided beverages were a must. Every tent was offering some form of beverage, but we made the calculated decision to get ices. I am not a sno-cone man. Frankly, I hate it when things are colored bright blue (including Gatorade) and they generally offer me little joy. These ices were delicious, their syrup offerings far surpassed the traditional carnival fare with flavors such as pineapple, mango, coconut, etc. I went with a pineapple and mango blend, while my associate went straight mango. Our two ices were standard sno-cone sized and came in a small styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon with the price being $5 for both (seeing a pattern here?). As the ices melted in the sweltering DC Fall heat, they became better and better, allowing the flavors to seep into the ice with greater depth.

I know what you’re thinking and yes it was a good meal, but we weren’t done yet. On the way to the car, we passed by a stand selling empanadas and got two chicken empanadas for $5 ($3 for 1 or 2 for $5). It made a delicious snack about an hour later when I ate it. The dough was chewy, soft, and did a fantastic job of maintaining structure, thus preventing the filling from falling out as I munched on it, instead of disintegrating like a second-rate pastry. The filling was very simple composed mainly of chicken, onions, and a few other ingredients I have since forgotten. Overall a delicious snack, that was conveniently pocket-sized.

If you want simple, delicious food at great prices please make the trip out to Unity Park in Adams Morgan. I guarantee you will find something you like (unless you’re a vegetarian) at a price that’s quite reasonable. If you’re a fan of street food, make the pilgrimage.

Upon returning home I did a little research about this market and discovered that the neighboring restaurants in the area are not as big of fans as we were. But this isn’t a blog about local politics, it’s about reviewing food.

Article about the controversy surrounding the market

(The above image was not taken by me, but rather borrowed from Prince of Petworth)

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