DMV tings

Man plans – God laughs

Before I can dive into the greatness my recent trip to the DMV area was I have to reflect a bit on the absence of posts to I like many “bloggers” have had more than one. I start with such gusto and then …. well things just happen. The Universe doesn’t care about my plans to more seriously food write. It laughs because I thought starting grad school (Go Boilermakers!), working full-time (with increased responsibilities and a raise to boot), moving to a new apartment (and moving my mom back home to Colorado) and saying yes to every “extracurricular” possible would still leave me time to write both here and in Omaha’s locally owned Black-paper.

Clearly I was incorrect, or at least incorrect for a few months. This post serves two purposes. The first of course is to take you on the food journey I attempt to have every time I travel, but the second is to remind me why I wanted this site in the first place. Why people ask me about places to eat or things to make. It reminds me that while I probably need to have a Year of No (I know this isn’t quite what you were thinking Shonda), I need to not say no to the things that fill my heart and that I’m truly gifted at. Now that sappy emotion time is over let’s get into it lol.

When a friend asked if I would be interested in going to a networking conference a few months ago I was at once curious (networking conference = sell me things I can’t afford) and totally with it (I love DC). A couple hundred dollars later (including a hefty bill to board my doggy baby) I was rushing to catch my Southwest flight (which ended up being the same one as my friends .. no we did not know that until I stepped on board .. a minute before the closed the doors). Quick #shoutout to Southwest because my boss flies them so much I can normally get a free drink coupon out of her, and two free checked bags comes in handy, and I don’t always care about having an assigned seat and they fly most places I want to go.

Day 1

We touched down at DCA and after an interesting Uber ride, checked into the Gaylord National Resort on the National Harbor. This.Place.Is.HUGE. Our room overlooked the atrium that had four different restaurants, a lobby bar and tiny houses.  It was a bit overwhelming so after we checked into the conference we headed across the street to Public House for some food during their HH. Blame it on the jet lag or on being super hungry but I forgot to take pictures of my food ._. We both started with a half priced well (their bourbon well was Jim so I was satisfied) and I ordered the cheesesteak spring rolls and the chicken quesadilla. I didn’t love the spring roll due to the lack of cheesiness I expect with a cheesesteak but the quesadilla was quite good. I tasted a bit of Christen’s crab & artichoke dip which was pretty meh. The service wasn’t super great but we definitely noticed Public House was the place to be for the 21-30 crowd so we got some people watching in.

After a quick nap and homework break, we decided to venture back out and walked another block over to try The Tasting Room. Immediately we made a comparison to Brix in Omaha as they had little wine tasting machines. You load money onto a card and taste away. We tried a couple and then both got a glass of wine. I tried the Boxwood Rose which was very good and not too dry. They had a special of $10 off to go wines so we took a bottle back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 2

After a day of conference stuff, we needed a place to eat. After a bit of a run around part of our group ended up a Nando’s Peri Peri. This place was on my list of things to eat and our Uber driver the day before recommended it so we came in with high expectations.

I ordered the Chicken burger (hot) with chips and got their new blood orange lemonade. Literally everything was perfect. The chicken breast was juicy and the pineapple complemented the spiciness of the marinade. My lemonade was refreshing but I would have liked the “chips” to be a little crisper. My lunchmates all agreed we had made the right choice with Nando’s.

Later for dinner we stopped by Succotash, another restaurant I had researched beforehand. This may have been the place I was most excited to try because I love southern food and many places are doing great things with the southern/asian fusion concept. We started out with the Belle’s Punch, though we were hesitant to combine Vodka, Bourbon and Champagne. Our waiter assured us we wouldn’t die so we proceeded.

I wanted to try a little bit of everything so I ordered the crispy local blue catfish, bacon mac n cheese, cheddar bay biscuits and tried my friend’s crispy brussels sprouts.

Catfish – I liked the mint aioli and the char on the lemon lent a bit of smokiness to it. The fish was fresh and crisp but I did have some pieces that seemed a little underdone (I saw some red).

Mac n cheese – overall I liked this dish. Once you got past the exterior though the actual bechamel sauce didn’t have a lot of cheese in it; but the dish wasn’t dry so I got over it.

Biscuits – So this may have been the most disappointing dish of the night. You could tell there was cheddar on the top of the biscuits, but cheese seemed to be missing in the interior. They weren’t super fluffy and crumbled a bit which isn’t the worst thing and the black pepper butter was a nice touch.
Brussels sprouts –  These were okay. I liked the char on them but wouldn’t eat the whole bowl. Will probably never get over my disdain for brussels sprouts.

C got the shrimp and grits which came with a fried egg. It had a brown gravy which she found a little weird but she enjoyed it overall.


We came back to Public House that night and were greeted by a slightly different scene. A live DJ played trap music and rap while people filtered in to get late night drinks. C ended up taking one for the team so our three or four drinks each were free on top of a tequila shot (which is something you can’t escape taking while with C).

Day 4

Friday was a full day of conference stuff and a luncheon so outside of a quick stop at the outlet mall we stayed in the hotel. That night we decided to venture out into neighboring Old Town Alexandria to try Don Taco. Their Facebook page looked like what taco dreams are made of so we were both looking forward to the experience. We shared an order of white queso fundo and guacamole. I enjoyed the queso though I think more of melted stringy cheese when talking about fundo and not straight up queso. Would have loved some spice in this from peppers or even some chorizo. The guacamole was super fresh and a medium chunky consistency.


I started off with the Mexican mule which was delicious and made me forget I was drinking tequila (almost). The combination of the tequila, ginger, lime, bubbles and bitters created a good flavor profile.



I tried three tacos: California roll, surf and turf and pomegranate glazed skirt steak along with a chicken empanada.


The surf and turf and skirt steak tacos were PHENOMENAL. The steak on both was super tender and flavorful. I griped slightly that the surf and turf only had one shrimp but I loved the steak so whatevs.

The California roll, on the other hand, was not a winner. I blame this on myself for getting too adventurous in thinking sushi roll ingredients would be a taco I would like. The fish was fresh and it had avocado, but it was the blandest of the trio. Points for creativity but the execution was ehh.

The crust on the empanada was sufficiently flaky and crisp. The chicken was tender but there wasn’t a big kick of flavors that I was expecting for some reason. Still a super filling and worthwhile choice on their menu.

I also tried a Carlito’s Way (because how could I not, that movie is great) which had agave nectar and grapefruit bitters. Generally, I don’t like grapefruit drinks but I enjoyed the bitters in this and was very satisfied with the drink’s finish.


Day 5

It was our last full day in the DMV with lots on the conference agenda. We grabbed a quick dinner at Crab Cake Cafe which is fast casual before going to the closing party. I ordered the Crab melt which came on an English muffin with melted cheddar. I asked for a side of their remoulade and ordered an Old Bay Cheddar Corn Muffin. My gosh was this crab cake tender and juicy with more meat than filler. The muffin was really good, despite the lack of cheese, which in this case was okay.



After the 30 or so minutes we spent at the closing “yacht” part we headed into D.C. to do U Street. We danced, we drank and we made some new friends. At the end of the night, I was hungry of course and the line for &pizza was too long so we headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl instead. I got a chili burger with a side of cheese fries I never finished. It was the perfect drunk food – greasy and cheesy. I wish there was an option for spicy chili but other than that this D.C. food institution is good in my book.


Day 6

I had a couple of hours to spare before my flight left so I meet a friend in the Navy Yard at Scarlet Oak for brunch. Of course, I went with the bottomless mimosas; that’s what you do in D.C. before a 2-hour flight. I went with the fried chicken benedict with a side of fruit to prove I was a paragon of health and wellness. I was very excited that it was mostly strawberries and pineapples as I hate cantaloupe.


The roasted potatoes were done well but needed a bit of flavor so I asked for hot sauce. The fried chicken breast was great; juicy inside, crispy outside and the right thickness as to not be overwhelming to the English muffin. I would have liked them to have a spicy hollandaise with this but overall a tasty option for brunch.

As always I enjoyed everything I ate during my visit and have added probably four or five additional places to try out the next time I’m feeling a trip to the “East Coast” (let’s face it though, the DMV is basically also the south).


Texas Take Two

I began and ended the first month of 2016 in Texas.

Partially because of fondness, mainly out of a commitment to travel more (so I can eat more; which should lead to writing more). Here are the foods (many new, some old favorites) that promise many more Texas trips for


To start, I met a friend who is simultaneously the worst person but the best at finding really good food to eat. He recommended Sissy’s and told me not to waste my time with anything but the fried chicken to start. Chicken and waffles (dark meat) it had to be then with sweet tea and a side of mac & cheese to share. The brined and pressure fried chicken was at once moist and juicy with the prerequisite crispy exterior. Would have liked a bit more pronounced flavor but sometimes, chicken just needs to be freshly fried chicken. The waffle was sufficiently fluffy and held it’s own against the chicken, butter syrup barrage I put it through.

The mac and cheese was a creamy, cheesy baked pan of great. I found the choice of noodles interesting, but a good call as it held on to the creamy sauce perfectly.A great start to my mini Dallas/Ft. Worth mini adventure.  

That night, back in Forth Worth my friend, her boyfriend and I set out in search of an authentic Mexican taco truck. We’ve all had Torchy’s and other “chain” taco shops but the lure of authentic, straightforward Mexican cuisine took hold that night. After a quick stop to get cash we located a truck so authentic, nothing on the menu or truck was even in English. I will probably never recall the name and will always rely on them to remind me where it was these tacos were everything you could want. I tried barbacoa, carnitas, pork and chicken; all perfectly cooked and not overwhelmed with more than onion and cilantro. Their green and red salsas were spicy enough to require some thought before slathering them over everything in sight.


To really make this a night out we also stopped at the Southern Classic Daiquiri Factory. Under advice I misguidedly took I got both a 12 oz and 32 oz daiquiri. One a “Twerk Sum’n” and one a special listed on a little board on the counter. The vibe inside the shop was festive Friday Night with a packed party room and a line before 10. We took ours to go so they provided little convenient tops so no open container arrests needed to be made. And as blasphemest as it sounds both daiquiris I ordered (one with an extra shot one without) were stronger than all the ones I had when I visited New Orleans.


The next morning, we paid Shipley’s a visit. By far the lightest donuts (doughnuts) I’ve ever had in life I went with a cherry glazed and strawberry glazed. They were unfortunately out of country sausage kolaches, yielding my Shipley’s mission unfinished.  

After some other random errands and my first experience with eyebrow threading (nowhere near as painful as I expected) we headed to Steel City Pops (another recommendation from the worst). The fact that it was warm enough for us to eat popsicles while walking outside should be lost on no one but I was grateful for the opportunity. Micks went with peanut butter covered in chocolate; me, a strawberry lemonade pop. At once super tart and juicy I could see why it’s a favorite. You could literally see the strawberry seeds in the pop, affirming the presence of strawberry puree. A Pop bag is coming home with me next time.  

If you know me (or have just read my previous Texas trip post) you know I can’t enter the Lone Star State without at least one visit to Whataburger. This time would not be the exception.


I should probably be ashamed of this next part, but I have never had bbq in Texas. Not even in college when I visited Austin. None of my trips to Houston. That had to change so off we trekked to Deep Ellum for a night at Pecan Lodge. Initially, we thought the lines would be too crazy and we’d end up turning around but we were at the counter in less than 30 minutes.  

Because it is very hard for me to decided one thing to eat I went with the two meat platter. Brisket was an obvious choice and fried ribs were the perfect wildcard item. Add a side of their mac & cheese and collard greens and I was good to go. I also snagged a Blood & Honey Pale Wheat Ale while waiting for my food, brewed locally in Granbury, TX. Perfect for all the smokey goodness I was about to enjoy.  

The brisket was by far my favorite. SUPER juicy and buttery, it had the right amount of fat and wasn’t covered in distracting sauce. The fried rib was an interesting experience. I did like the nice crunch to the outside, but the ribs weren’t very meaty so you got the feeling that most of the rib you would enjoy, got fried up. Would love this technique employed on meatier ribs. The mac & cheese was good, far better than most I’ve tried at bbq joints. The bacon was a nice touch but baking them would have raised it up a notch. The collard greens, however, were not good. They were super sweet as if a pound of sugar was introduced while they simmered. Nice tenderness and it had bacon, but I could not get over the sweet juice leaving it all on my platter in the end.


Brunch was the next day, at Brewed Forth Worth. After waiting ages we were seated near the bar. I started with a poinsettia which is a pomegranate juice version of the mimosa. Loved it since it wasn’t 85% juice.

I was quite excited for the scotch eggs I ordered as I’ve wanted to try this dish in general for a while. Overall a fabulous dish that was super filling. I wished the eggs were a little softer in the middle but I’m sure that’s just part of the process in making sure the sausage exterior is fully cooked. The aioli was really good, I only wished there was more of it and the arugula was a nice contrast as well.

The serrano grits I ordered as a side weren’t as impressive. Don’t get me wrong they were a great consistency, smooth and creamy, but since I was in the South I expected good grits. These did not have the flavor punch I was expecting from serrano peppers. My bowl barely had any, my friend had a bit more. Could be improved with some sort of spicy cheese as well. Micks ordered the chicken & waffles with a side of grits. She loved her waffle, was less impressed with the chicken as it didn’t have much flavor.


After a harrowing day that included my flight getting cancelled and talking to various people on the phone to end up paying $380 to return to Omaha before a blizzard that never appeared, I stopped at Green Door Public House before heading to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I got an Irish Mule featuring my favorite whisky, Jameson, and a baked avocado (a whole avocado halved and stuffed with goat cheese, bread crumbs, bacon, pico de gallo and topped with balsamic reduction.  

The mule was delicious as expected. I really liked the avocado in concept. The balsamic reduction was just such a contrast to the pico that it ended up being weird, especially against the slight tang of the goat cheese. I think I’d really enjoy it without the drizzle, substituting a hot sauce in instead.


I always enjoy getting away to Texas and with my mother and NaNa potentially moving there within the year there will be more tasty trips to come. A few on my list for next time: Rudy’s, a Shipley’s kolache, Whiskey Cake and a return to Austin finally.

A Texas New Year

Last year I made a vow to myself – never spend another New Year’s in Omaha. While I’m not among the “Omaha is the worst” crowd I just couldn’t handle it anymore. NYE is the one holiday I actually celebrate. Whether it’s the starting fresh and making improvements aspect or just the drinking, New Year’s is on the top of my Top Five.

So when a friend absent-mindedly asked if I’d like to go to Houston I said yes before even thinking about the logistics. I knew I had the whole week off from work so that was all that really mattered. After a bit of time and a few group chats the plans were finalized. We’d leave on a Tuesday night, staying in Dallas for one day then driving the few hours to Houston on New Year’s Eve. With two bags packed and flask in hand I was ready to eat all the things I’d missed the last time I was in Texas.

True to form, my hunger couldn’t be contained and Whataburger happened before I even crossed Texas state lines. I don’t care what you say – I will always be here for a honey butter chicken biscuit or spicy ketchup on fries (I hate ketchup). The only In-N-Outs we acknowledge are located in California.


I’m so dedicated I dragged everyone to an H-E-B to buy spicy ketchup and honey butter to take home.


Our time in Dallas was short so we ended up only having dinner and breakfast. The trip’s organizer had only one food request: that we stop at The Boiling Crab that night. So after the almost mandatory two-hour wait I sat down looking to be impressed.

The atmosphere is very casual at BC. Large tables covered in paper, no real plates or silverware and everyone gets a plastic bib for protection. They were out of blue crab by the time we were seated (shakes fists) so I went with a pound of shrimp: medium, the whole she-bang (rajun cajun, lemon pepper and garlic spread) with half a pound of sausage and cajun fries. Unless you order one of the fried meals your food comes out to you in a giant plastic bag (again no frills).


The shrimps were huge and whole so not for the squeamish types who don’t like the heads on things. Was a little disappointed that the seasoning wasn’t spicy – they must reserve the really good spice for their fries which were great. The meal was still really tasty and fun to eat.


Before heading to Houston we stopped at The Original Pancake House a much nicer version of iHop, Village Inn, etc. After a little bit of a wait we sat down and ordered, having already read through the menu in the front. I got a bacon waffle, homemade sausage patty, scrambled eggs with cheese and some of my friend’s hashbrowns.


The worst dish had to be the eggs which were a little rubbery. I really enjoyed the spice in the sausage and the hashbrowns were the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The bacon waffle was also a treat. The bacon pieces were good-sized and still crispy, giving the whole thing a sort of chewy texture. It came off a little salty so I would ease up on the butter. Worth a try for anyone liking new twists on old favorites.

We headed to Houston and after a night of NYE shenanigans woke up hungry. While waiting for a missing party and the car my friend and I had brunch at the hotel bar. Despite the mimosas being $12 dollars (the bartender did make the second one STRONG, probably because she knew we didn’t know how much they were) they had a pineapple juice option so I was sated. I went with the chicken and waffle sliders which were good-sized. The chicken itself was really tasty and the coleslaw that came on it had a honey dressing which helped tie the dish together. Because the waffles were slider sized they ended up being just a bit dry but not to bad when you dipped it in syrup.


Next we went to Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen and yes I ordered food within 30 minutes of eating brunch because I’m a food monster. It was happy hour so I got a Cajun Twist for $6 which is a mix of their hurricane and ragin rita’. This drink was big and strong and frozen happiness in a glass.


I also ordered their boudin balls which came with fries and a honey creole remoulade. I am in love with boudin so I jump on any chance I get to eat some. Again, Boudreaux’s didn’t skimp on size with this perfectly cooked appetizer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the remoulade, the honey just made it a bit too sweet for this savory item.


Later that night (well technically the next morning) we made a stop at Dreams so I had to get an order of wings and fries. Traditional thinking would have you believe you shouldn’t order food at a strip club. Well they are wrong. They don’t want you to get some of the best wings you’ll ever eat. Dreams wings are major 🔑🔑🔑.


On our last full day in Houston my friend and I met her dean for lunch. We drove to City Centre to try out Yardhouse. Their patio was heated and covered so we were seated there with little protest, despite it being a chilly, rainy mess outside. We split an order of duck fat potatoes which I was expecting to lean more towards fries. The dish was mainly chips with a few chunks of fried potato. The caramelized onion bacon dip was a good complement although the bacon was a bit sparse.


To drink I got a sparkling blood orange with ketel one orange vodka, monin blood orange, orange juice, orange bitters and zardetto prosecco. Basically a mimosa on steroids it surprisingly didn’t taste overwhelmingly orange-y.


I went big as it was my last big meal in Texas, choosing the surf & turf burger. Lobster, grilled asparagus, arugula, tomato bearnaise and a substitution of swiss for their house truffle cheese all atop a medium well burger. After a smear of garlic aioli I requested on the side this treat was ready for consumption. It felt so over the top because it was so rich – I’m sure my cholesterol is still paying for this day.


In theory the addition of the asparagus is a sound choice but the grilled execution just didn’t cut it. It was hard to take a bite and just get a little asparagus – the whole spear had to come along. The fries were thin and crispy, just how fries should be. Possibly the best fries I’ve ever had and the chipotle mayo I ordered on the side gave them a nice kick.



After four days it was time to head back to Nebraska, but you an’t leave anywhere that has a Waffle House and not get Waffle House. Although this location didn’t check off all of my “this will be the best WH food” boxes (really it just needs to look suspect or have cooks who look like they probably might could kill you) the food got the job done. Waffle House is simple and offers you good food for so cheap you just wonder how it works. There’s a pseudo campaign to bring one to Omaha and Dear Lawd I hope it happens so I can get grits I didn’t have to make myself and smothered & covered hashbrowns.


While there were a few spots on my list that I didn’t get to make (mainly Frenchy’s, Torchy’s, Velvet Taco and Shipley’s) I will definitely be back. Some of those checks will be marked later this month when I go to Dallas for more than a day, but I’m leaving the rest to add to the many reasons I will be back to Houston asap.

Home is where the heart is…

and NOLA has stolen mine.

My mother’s side of the family is from Louisiana. Both my late grandmother, aunt, uncle and NaNa are natives; my mother lived there for a brief period during her youth. You could say without New Orleans, there’d be no Ashley Raelene.

So when my friend decided to visit the Creole State I knew I had to go too. Despite some set-backs immediately preceding this trip (story of my life) I was determined not to miss this opportunity. So as my friend celebrated her actual date of birth, I got on a plane to start my NOLA weekend early, visiting my aunt until everyone arrived the following day.

To be in a place that seemed so familiar, although I couldn’t actually remember ever being there, is an experience only those having been “raised” Southern in another region will likely experience. As soon as I stepped off the plane a feeling of comfort washed over me, as if I’d been missing this place all along. Listening to my aunt, driving to her house and mentally noting the changes she made after Katrina left me swimming in a sea of feelings. Not all bad feelings, but some of displacement– of knowing I’d never see New Orleans completely as she’d been before.

The remainder of my trip could be summed up in three categories: the people, the food and the buildings.

The People

Having lived in Nebraska for a number of years I’m familiar with “Nebraska nice”. The notion that Midwesterners are inherently nice and easy-going, quick to offer a hand or just a friendly hello. Recently I’ve heard NE Nice more accurately described as “Nebraska Nice … to your face”. An endless circle jerk of people wanting to appear warm and welcoming despite their conservative leanings towards judging your whole life.. and telling their friends about it later.

New Orleans’ brand of nice, however, is authentically more genuine. Even honking at a pedestrian wrongly crossing Canal Street takes on an air of politeness here not seen above the Mason-Dixie. It’s hard to think of an interaction during my trip that didn’t leave me a little bit happier (save my phone getting stolen, which gave way for a chivalrous search by someone else). Unlike many who fall in love with a place they visit, only to worry about not knowing anyone if they move there, New Orleans is a place that would welcome you with open arms, even before you’ve signed a lease.

The Food

Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to write this part. People travel from far and wide to enjoy the creative creole and Cajun cuisine Louisiana has to offer. From the stuffed shrimp I had at Dooky Chase‘s to the shrimp and crawfish mac and cheese I stood 30 minutes for at the Treme Gumbo Fest, I left New Orleans ruing not being able to eat like I did over the weekend, every day. Even the selection at the Riverwalk Outlet mall was amazing, with Mike Anderson’s Seafood offering the best fried okra I’ve had since my grandmother’s.

As I get older, the more I recognize foods multifaceted-ness. It connects us not only to our family and pasts, like the okra did for me, but also to new cultures and friends. The food is so much a part of many people’s experiences that NOLA could never be separated from its culinary offerings. And as this space becomes more and more attractive for millennials marked with scarlet letters of F (for foodie) NOLA has done an outstanding job preserving its food traditions while incorporating cuisines from its many “immigrant” populations.

The Buildings

Take one step into The French Quarter, Bourbon Street or The Garden District and you immediately know where you are. Every architectural style can be found within a few minutes of each other from creole cottages to the signature french balconies to the skyscrapers in the CBD. Doing a more “adventurous” part of our trip we trekked on foot through the Garden District from Magazine Street to St Charles. As time passed I found it increasingly difficult to find a condo, house or apartment I wouldn’t be able to see myself living in (though my penchant for going pant-less immediately upon arrival home may conflict with many of the floor to ceiling front windows).

Though I’m not planning to cut my time in Omaha short, no matter how much I reminisce on this trip, I do think NOLA has a much larger part of my heart than Colorado does. When the timing is right, we’ll see if my heart wins out (and a head hunter comes and offers me $$$$$ to work somewhere it doesn’t snow in November). Until then– there’s plenty of festivals and food to come back for.


*sorry this post lacks the many amazing pictures I took during the trip. Again my phone got stolen and only a couple were backed up on my iCloud. Dooky Chase’s stuffed shrimp were one of them 🙂