Where do I…have fun with my family despite the cold weather?

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baby panda

My little panda enjoys getting to the big pandas in person

Q: What’s white, black and cute all over?

A: Baby panda Bao Bao!

Head over the National Zoo in between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park for a great time for kids of all ages.

A few highlights to consider:

Panda fever seems to hit the DC area every time there is a baby cub in town, so be prepared for a little line inside the Panda House. It’s definitely worth the wait. I recommend going during this time of year before the flocks of school buses head to the zoo this Spring and Summer.

It’s free! No admission fees whatsoever. Keep in mind, you’ll likely spend a few dollars at the gift shop or on warm beverages. We bought a cool $8 panda spinning light for our 8-month-old during our last visit, but there are reasonably priced gifts for everyone.

Bring your camera or charge your Smartphone. There is a lot to see while you’re at the zoo. I recommend starting with the Asia Trail. Smithsonian invested millions of dollars to revamp this exciting side of the park. You can see the baby otters playing, fall in love with the sloth bears, and wild cats. If you get the sensation that someone is watching you, it’s most likely the red panda in the tree peering down on you. The planners made sure you would have lots of photo opps while you’re visiting – so make sure you perfect your selfie poses.

On the cold days, you can find comfort in the respective animal houses. Check out the new Elephant Community, the Think Tank, the Bird House and the Petting Zoo in the barn for educational exhibits in the heated indoors. My fear of snakes makes me steer clear of the Reptile House, but I would imagine that would be a warm place to defrost.

If you’re not into eating hot dogs, chicken tenders, fries or popcorn, I would suggest visiting some of the local restaurants. I love going to Lebanese Taverna after to get mezze. Woodley Park & Cleveland Park have quite the array of options. If you want to eat at the zoo, I recommend going to Vace to grab a few slices of delicious pizza and Italian snacks to enjoy on your walk to the zoo.

Say hi to the animals for me!

Where Do I…go to escape the Polar Vortex and grab a hot chocolate?

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Polar Bear Vortex

The dreaded Polar Vortex has arrived in bone-chilling fashion. If you checked your Facebook feed this  morning, you’ll see a variety of complaints and screenshots of weather forecasts. Those of you brave enough to face the “tundra” without the proper protection have become KO”d by the wind’s eye-popping ability to slap your face with its frigid force. You’re searching for something that can warm you up instantly and defrost your frozen smile. Perhaps you’re dreaming of the chocolate river scene as you regain feeling in your toes:  http://youtu.be/FdSORiSaRW8. 

For the readers that laugh in the face of Mr. Freeze, I highly recommend stopping by Pleasant Pops or Mr. Yogato for a delicious cup of gourmet hot cocoa. Move over Swiss Miss. These places are not messing with your artificial ingredients and “marshmallows” that look like they were accidentally caught in the laser beam from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” You may find it ironic that both places specialize in frozen treats, but they want to make sure their customers stay happy during the winter months.

Here’s the difference between the two:

  • Put your creative powers to the test – Mr. Yogato gives you flavored Monin syrup, toppings (including eggos) and trivia question discounts They don’t skimp on the quality of chocolate. Mmmm. Ghiradelli cocoa. Your tastebuds rejoice as the liquid gold oozes down to your stomach, warming everything along the way. Since I’m a Nutella addict, I highly recommend the hazelnut syrup. Maybe the different options and ability to play Super Mario will take your mind off of the Polar Vortex that is waiting to freeze your nose off. Go drink your cocoa, warm up your fingers pressing Up, Down, A and B buttons on the old school Nintendo controllers and play a few board games to pass the time.
  • Marshmallows – Hot Chocolate Pops are their “thing” at Pleasant Pops. Fluffy, square tufts of flavored marshmallows. These are sure to make Swiss Miss blush. I am convinced the Hot Chocolate Pops have therapeutic powers to help you combat the cold.  They also offer amazing soups here if you would rather stay for a meal.

Now, the decision is yours. You can stay inside and stare at the weather forecasters telling you how cold it is. Or earn bragging rights to say you survived the Polar Vortex.

Where do I…find a decent bagel?

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Image of Pumpernickel’s bagels courtesy of a Yelp reviewer.

Hands downs,  Pumpernickel’s Bagelry & Deli. It’s a small shop near Chevy Chase Circle on Connecticut Avenue (5504 Connecticut Ave, NW to be exact). No bells and whistles here. Just good bagels. Maybe it’s the texture or the flavorful ingredients, but this as close as you can get to a true bagel in this area. Not too doughy or dry. Just right. In fact, this is where I order bagels from when we cater brunch events.

My favorite treat is the egg and cheese on a pumpernickel bagel with a side of home fries. Somehow the Bagel Geniuses there created bagels to be the perfect complement to a fried egg and cheese. The home fries are chunky potatoes mixed with bell peppers and a you’re sure to get a jolt of spicy pepper. My husband and I usually split up responsibilities – he gets the Starbucks, I order the bagels and we convene at outside table to enjoy our breakfast together with our furry friend.

Don’t be put off by the staff or the grungy decor. The food is worth it.

Where do I…cure my [New Year’s] hangover?

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My daughter and pup wish you a Happy 2014!

My daughter and pup wish you a Happy 2014!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Oh sorry, I’ll try to limit the use of caps lock since you’re probably bleary-eyed and hungover after ringing in 2014. If you’re searching for a way get rid of that pesky headache, I’ve listed some of my favorite cures:

Open City‘s OC Royale – this dish has it all, plus you get to feel empowered as you choose how you want your eggs prepared and all of your sides. I  suggest hash browns, rye toast, more carbs disguised as golden brioche french toast, and meat of choice. All of this combined in your stomach is sure to absorb the alcohol you are regretting from the night before.  I highly recommend pairing this dish with a latte or hot chocolate so you can feel warm and cuddly thanks to the animal crackers that accompany your beverage. No pressure to get out of bed early – they serve breakfast all day. I enjoy Open City’s coffeehouse atmosphere and outdoor area if the sun is shining. Parents – this is a kid-friendly place.

I don’t understand the magical powers of Pho, but there is something hearty about the broth that makes you forget the world’s problems. Maybe it’s because you’re more focused on the condiments. “Did I add enough sriracha? I love the taste of fresh basil. Should I add another jalapeno?” I recently fell in love with Pho 14. The service is good and you can taste the quality in the fresh ingredients. The broth – well it’s magical. I also really enjoy the rest of their menu – check out the banh mi platter specials if you’re feeling extra hungry. Pho 14 has three DC locations: Adams Morgan (kid-friendly spot), Columbia Heights and Van Ness.

Still feeling a little buzzed and/or too tired to get out of bed? Order in Drunken Noodles from your favorite Thai place. The dish’s name, pad ki mao, translates to drunkard noodles. The combination of fat noodles and stir fried veggies covered in a savory sauce with a big kick of spice wakes up your tastebuds. I recommend delivery from Nooshi because they are prompt and amazingly delicious. I never had a bad dish from Nooshi…granted I usually order the same three things every time. While you’re ordering their Drunkin Noodles dish, throw in some dumplings or rolls. This place has it all (including sushi).

And then there’s the hair of the dog. Yes, I said it. Nothing cures a hangover like going to an all-you-can-drink brunch. DC is serious about brunch. You have to consider a lot of factors here: unlimited drink options, the right mix of savory and sweet dishes, price, laid back atmosphere and price. In my opinion, Masa 14 is the way to go. It’s worth making a reservation for Saturday or Sunday to make sure you get a seat here. Masa 14 provides you with a unique fusion brunch menu – hello Latin and Asian tapas. First of all, unlimited just makes me smile. It’s not that I can really make a dent in the kitchen’s food supply, but I just like having that option. Order as much as you like. Taste everything on the menu if your stomach can handle it. The small plates come out at different times, allowing you to take a break from stuffing your face.  Make sure to leave room for the pan dulce. Back to your solution of continuing to drink – the unlimited drinks even have fun ingredients, such as lychee bellini & bacon bloody mary, standing out from your typical bloody and mimosas. I’ve had the pleasure of watching many hungover people dine here with their head hovering over the table. I definitely believe you’re getting the best value brunch here and it’s a great people-watching spot.

Not in the mood to eat? Pamper your muscles. Book a Red Door Signature Massage at Red Door Spa. Or make it a Deep Tissue massage if you’re feeling extra tense and those muscles need a beating. Start 2014 with a relaxation session fully focused on you. While you’re there, why not book a mani/pedi or body treatment? After all, you deserve it.

Happy Detoxing!

The First Blog Post: What is Where Do I – DC?

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Where do I….?

  • …go with my friends tonight to meet single, hot guys?
  • …shop to find a cute outfit for a first date?
  • …find a picturesque wedding venue by the water for 150 guests?
  • …take my dog to play fetch near Dupont Circle?
  • …enroll my newborn for swim classes?

Just like the DC scene, my life has evolved over the years. As a DC native, I’ve been exposed to the best of the best foods and events the common folk should enjoy in the Nation’s capital. Growing up in the restaurant industry, courtesy of my family’s business, allowed me to take a peek into the most exclusive kitchens, get the scoop on the launches and feel disappointed when an old favorite had to close its doors. That’s why I love discovering what DC has to offer. It’s a metropolitan area that continues to adjust to the transient inhabitants bringing in their trends from other cities or countries around the globe. Politics aside, this is why I truly believe we have the best of the best. Just look at our cupcakes, Ethiopian food, music clubs, museums, burger joints and scandals (hello, top rated TV drama).

Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many proverbial “hats” while living in DC for the past 30 years. I’ve served as tour guide for out-of-town guests, cheered loudly as a proud DC sports fan, planned every type of party from bachelorette to my pup’s “Gotcha Day” celebration, participated in the trendy “sports” leagues (which resulted in meeting my amazing husband), stumbled my way through drunken bar crawls, tasted gourmet meals and strapped on my most comfortable hiking boots to explore parks. My career in communications allowed me to plan some of the most memorable events throughout the DC area and fueled my desire to share my knowledge with others. Now I’m a wife/social media guru/mom to a 7-month-old baby girl and rescue dog/foodie/networker. I find myself being the go-to person to answer the question “Where do I….?” and I love it.

Armed with camera and ready to blog

The lightbulb went off recently when I decided to break free from the red tape for a bit to share what I know to help others. Thankfully, I have this blog to serve as a medium to spread my thoughts. I’m not a Foursquare mayor. 140 characters on Twitter is too limiting in my opinion. I keep my Facebook profile as private as Mark Zuckerberg allows. Like you, I am conflicted when I read reviews on Yelp, OpenTable reviews and the Washington Post because of the differing opinions. But when it comes to an extremely special occasion, you just want to be able to ask many as many questions to someone who listens to your needs. That’s what I’m here for armed with my experiences, iPhone camera and blog. So ask away!