Day Trip to Washington, DC

I grew up in Baltimore, an hour north of the nation’s capital. Spending the day in Washington, D.C. was never a very big deal. In fact, many of our school field trips were spent in the Air and Space Museum, driving by the Jefferson Memorial and walking up the steps to the massive statue of Lincoln sitting on his chair. it wasn’t until later that I realized these were the very same steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

One of my earliest memories of Washington, D.C. was my mother taking me to the Library of Congress. Since then, I frequented the city for various purposes. I have sung several times in the National Gallery of Art, cried in the Holocaust Museum and played Balinese gamelan in the Cherry Blossom Parade. Over the years, I have joined demonstrations and protests of all sorts, including flying down from Connecticut for the Equality March in 2000 and, most recently, flying up from Florida for the first Women’s March in 2016.

Since moving away from the area, my relationship with the capital has changed a bit. It’s no longer “just down the street”and I discovered that there is actually quite a lot about Washington, DC that I have yet to discover. I flew into DCA and decided to spend an afternoon and evening there before driving out to California, Maryland to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday.

Planet Word

One of the things I love about the Reagan National Airport is it’s close proximity to the city. I picked up my rental car and within minutes, I was downtown and ready for my first stop.

As a linguist, I was super excited to come across the Planet Word Museum while searching for things to do in the area. A museum solely dedicated to all facets of human language? It’s like it was created just for me. The staff was welcoming and friendly and seemed to be quite proud of their museum. I was told to take the elevator to the top floor and work my way down. The inside walls of the elevator were lined with book-laden bookshelves; it felt like being in the stacks of a library and I thought about my librarian friend Beth.

The elevator in Planet Word in Washington, DC

Planet Word did not disappoint. Upon leaving the elevator, I walked into a room with a huge display of the most commonly used English words. I loved it! An interactive demonstration, where certain words would be highlighted by color, provoked visitors to think about word origin and synonyms stemming from different languages. For example, we were given the verb question and asked to think of a synonym that might be used by police officers. The answer was interrogate. I loved it!

The most common English words at Planet Word in Washington, D.C.

During the few hours I spent there, I learned about the origins and diffusion of language, endangered languages, dead languages, borrowed words and expressions, how to tell a joke, and how to communicate a few phrases in Korean, American Sign Language, Russian, Quechua, Japanese and Piscataway (an extinct Indigenous language that used to be spoken in Maryland). Interestingly, there are about 70 Piscataway words now used in English. Chesapeake is one of them.

That’s me in a pickle! At Planet Word in Washington, D.C.

Planet Word exceeded my expectations. The exhibits were fun and interactive. I learned about the power of persuasion and tools of advertising and was even able to create my own effective ad using word play, double meaning, provocation, a twisted phrase or brand personality. I also revisited the features of poetry and what makes a poem good. And if I had been brave enough, I could have sung karaoke in the exhibit exploring lyrics. There was a section on children’s books, an exhibit on the differences among spoof, satire and parody and a photo booth where you could have your picture taken acting out a random collegiate word. I got outlandish. Maybe it wasn’t so random after all? LOL

Just one of the many interesting questions visitors are asked at Planet Word in Washington, DC

I very much enjoyed the exhibit on accents and language bias, where I was introduced to Jamila Lyiscott, a professor of Social Justice Education. I watched her recite her powerful spoken-word essay: Broken English. I also got to write down one word that I loved from another language. I added the German word Auflauf (casserole) to the board full of international words. It’s just a fun word to say.

After buying a few souvenirs for myself, I left Planet Word understanding why the staff was so proud of their museum. I could have easily stayed longer, but my stomach was telling me it was time to go. Plus, I had a reservation.

Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

Only a few minutes walk from Planet Word stands Elizabeth’s, a fine-dining vegan restaurant housed in a unassuming townhouse.

The façade of Elizabeth’s in Washington, DC – I sat at the table in the upper left window

The atmosphere was chic, friendly and elegant. The wait staff was professional and I was impressed that the owner, Elizabeth, was sure to make it to all the tables to introduce herself and to inquire if everything was to our satisfaction. This personal touch made me feel very welcome.

Elizabeth’s bar in Washington, DC

First course: Amuse

Elizabeth’s fine-dining experience began with an amuse-bouche: a seaweed tuna tartare & cutlet and watercress carrot top tartlet. The seaweed tuna tartare was made of wasabi and avocado mousseline, ginger-nama shoyu and micro-cilantro. The “tuna” consisted of konjac (a root vegetable found in east and southeast Asia), algae oil and algae stock. The waitress told me quite an interesting fact about this dish: flamingos actually get their pink coloring because they eat the shrimp who dine on the type of algae featured in this tartare. The shell that cupped all the ingredients was made of tapioca and rice.

The second appetizer, the watercress carrot top tartlet consisted of smoked creme fraiche, yuzu pearls, dill and hydroponic watercress. The shell was made using wakame (a type of kelp) and carrot tops. Both of these tartlets did indeed amuse the mouth, as a variety of flavors woke up my taste buds.

Seaweed tuna tartare & cutlet (left) and watercress carrot top tartlet (right) from Elizabeth’s

Second Course: Soup

I very much enjoy chilled soups in general, so I was excited to try Elizabeth’s second course: chilled purple cabbage soup, consisting of a kohlrabi dumpling, dijon parmesan quenelle, and einkorn crisp. The outside of the dumpling is made by cold-pressing kohlrabi that was marinated in pine needle oil. The filling includes anise, yellow chartreuse and baby spinach that was marinated in tarragon oil and anise seed. The waitress poured the beautiful purple cabbage broth at the table, creating quite a colorful, not to mention flavorful, second course.

Chilled purple cabbage soup from Elizabeth’s

Course Three: Appetizer

I again delighted in the colors of the third course: deconstructed yellow beets. This dish involves a roasted nut trio (pistacho, cashew and hazelnuts), ginger crisp and verbena marinated apples, horseradish foam and sunflower seeds. The beets were infused with sea buckthorn, ginger and lemongrass. Due to the quickly dissipating flavors and aromas of this course, I was encouraged not to hesitate before digging in.

Deconstructed yellow beets infused with sea buckthorn from Elizabeth’s

Course Four: Intermezzo

To cleanse the palette, I was brought a very refreshing red currant sorbet. The red currants were cooked with agave and lemon juice and the foam, upon which the sorbert rested, was made with lentil milk, celery and golden and red delicious apples. Again, my taste buds felt alive!

Red currant sorbet from Elizabeth’s

Course Five: Main

The main course was so much fun! Grilled European sunchokes were presented as a “garden party” with mini vegetables actually planted in the dirt (crispy black quinoa). This dish also included garlic fried enoki mushrooms, black truffle and black beldi olive paper. The sauce was a vicchyssoise, made with lentil cream, leeks, garlic, onion and fermented purple potatoes. The most creative course of the evening, this dish naturally embraced earthiness, visually and in flavor. I loved it!

Grilled European sunchokes from Elizabeth’s

Course Six: Dessert

The dessert course was nothing short of amazing! Imagine beginning with unripe dates, peeling them and removing the seeds, then slowly softening them in the oven and blending them with pink peppercorn, water and coconut oil. This concoction is made into a totally sugar-free ice-cream. The pumpkin custard part of the dessert is made with fava milk, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and agave. The blue cheese in the blue cheese espuma was aged for 5 plus months before getting blended with lentil cream. The lace is made with oat milk and coconut sugar and the whole thing is topped off with roasted pecans. I mean, wow!

Fresh date ice-cream from Elizabeth’s

I ordered the cheese platter to go and happily enjoyed it with my friend the following day at lunch. The almond brie ages for 2-5 weeks, the macadamia ricotta, which is topped with paprika and chives, is made daily and the cashew brie ages for whopping 5 months. The blue color comes from spirulina, a blue-green algae that grows in both salt and freshwater.

Vegan cheeses from Elizabeth’s: almond brie (left), cashew blue (center), macadamia ricotta (right)

The cheese platter also came with fresh black mission figs, peach preserves, yucca crisps, cassava crackers, a purple cracker made from almond flour, red wine and fennel seed. With every bite, I could taste the amount of work that went into Elizabeth’s cheese platter.

What a fabulous DC excursion! I would absolutely revisit Planet Word as there was a lot that I could have delved deeper into. And the next time I find myself in the DC area, I will most certainly dine at Elizabeth’s again. With an ever evolving pre-fixe menu, each dining adventure is sure to be truly unique.

2 thoughts on “Day Trip to Washington, DC

  1. Moving to FL after retiring and visit often. Curious if you have found dining establishments of the same caliber in FL. Would love to check them out if so. Interesting enough, I currently reside in Frederick, MD. Look forward to meeting you and your partner at a future Campazons event.


    1. Hi Carla, thanks for your kind comment. Yes, I found vegan fine-dining restaurant in Sarasota called Ka Papa, which I highly recommend. I look forward to meeting you too! Thanks for reaching out 🙂


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