Po-To-Mac

TheRose says things like I spell things— she sounds it out.  And so when she announced while driving that we had crossed the Po-to-mac River on our way from Raleigh to Washington DC, I paused to translate, then smiled — she’ll have lots of fun trying to sound out all the wacky names we have for things here in the North East! For those of you who don’t know about the mighty Potomac, here’s a link for you.

Before we started the 5ish hour drive, we made sure to stop at The Roast Grill in downtown Raleigh, right near the North Carolina State University campus.  Like almost all of our other food stops, this one was Man V.S. Food inspired…and once again, it proved to be well worth it.

While the name might make you think of roasted chicken on the grill, or perhaps a grilled pot roast, this place served up nothing but hot dogs. I got two “all the way” which means chili, mustard, and onions, and I must say, they were extremely good!  The 8oz glass bottle of Coke was a perfect compliment.

This place was a true hole-in-the-wall, with a faded, broken exterior and a well worn old fashion diner interior.  The creaky aluminum screen door gave entrance to a narrow single-file walk way with an eight seat bar on the right and two miniature round tables on the left — with all seats occupied and standing room only (of course).  Behind the counter were the owners, one making the dogs and the other serving up drinks and conversation. They did things the old fashioned way as that was their shtick. From the “NO KATCHUP” signs to the fixed price poster (manually modified several times over) for dogs and drinks, they had a specific way of doing things that hasn’t changed for a long long time.

For TheRose and I, eating there was 50% about the food, and 50% about the old school real feel experience. Both combined to make a very memorable meal.

The 5-ish hour drive north was uneventful. It seemed to go very quickly, in part because we took the country roads to get there (quite literally). I think April’s map app is stuck on “scenic route” or something….

We arrived in DC around 6:30 PM and our first stop was to meet Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Tracy at their place in Georgetown.  It was awesome seeing them — first time since our wedding 1.5 years ago!  We all went to a trendy DC place and the conversation and food were excellent.

We didn’t leave T&Ts until late — 11 or so — and TheRose and I were extremely tired. But on the way out of DC we took a wrong turn and ended up by the National Monument. And when we saw it towering above us, glowing ominously in the night sky, we just couldn’t resist going to take a closer look.  And so with our last bit of energy we parked the Versa with all of our stuff in it on Constitution Drive, grabbed the camera and tripod, and set out to get a closer peak at the national monuments.

It was a beautiful night for walking around DC; just the right temperature for shorts and a t-shirt, and just the right sky for long exposure picture taking.  We walked past the National Monument, checked out the new-ish (2004) World War 2 memorial (all lit up with fountains galore), and then ended our evening stroll at the Lincoln Memorial.  For those of you who weren’t aware, it’s open (and guarded by police) 24/7! Tax dollars hard at work.

After plenty of picture taking, the fatigue of the day began to set back in. We said goodbye to Lincoln and set a course for our home-of-the-day, warp factor 9.  Well, TheRose drove because I was too tired, so it was more like warp factor 2.

Giggling Like A Schoolgirl

Had a late check-out at the [almost] 2-month old Holiday Inn, located at Truth or Consequences, NM. First of all, what the heck kind of town name is that? Truth or Consequences? I imagine this town used to be some rebel settlement where you had gunslingers duking it out on Date Street (one of the main streets in the tiny town). I suppose, with a name like this, you can let your imagination run wild.

The Holiday Inn Express itself was super new. I bet our room had been previously occupied only once–if at all! Everything was excellent. One criticism I do have is their decision to stick the coffee maker on the bathroom counter, directly next to the toilet. Gross. This new hotel is also the tallest hotel in the entire town, with three floors. That’s how tiny this place was.

After taking advantage of the late check-out, we headed out to Hatch, New Mexico. The chile capital of the country. Can’t cite reputable sources where this claim is made, but I believe Anthony Bourdain has said this. If you watch his show “No Reservations,” he visits this restaurant called Peppy’s Pot (now renamed to Pepper Pot). In the show, he orders the enchiladas, half green chile and half red chile. I did the same thing, except I added chicken in the mix. It was damn good. Bourdain concluded that he liked the red chile more, while I ended falling for the green chile. But, to put it in perspective, liking one chile over another is all about preference. Both chile sauces are excellent. Very rich and distinct flavors, with a lot of depth in it. I have a bias towards green chiles anyway (hence, my inclination to cook chicken chile verde for leftover chicken), so my preference did not come as a surprise.

The reason for the title of this post has to do with the fact that I was starstruck as soon as we pulled over in front of the restaurant. I don’t get starstruck easily. Not sure if it’s my Los Angeles upbringing, but that’s how I roll. Anyway, I had been anticipating this visit since I was able to take my mind off school. As soon as we walked in, I could instantly point out where Tony Bourdain and his crew sat. And, to my excitement, I saw one of the two sisters (the owners) out on the floor talking to customers. Holy shit. I figuratively peed in my pants.

We ate, we now understood the hype. Robin also preferred the green chile sauce, and jointly concluded that it was worth the stop. I had anxiety about talking to one of the owners, but Robin ultimately convinced me to go for it. So, I pestered the waitress (who I surmised was one of the daughters of the owners, and future heir of the secret recipes) to talk to one of them. Mensa, I believe her name was, came out looking confused and I sputtered out, “Hi, we came out here from LA–we saw you on TV–we are such big fans–can I take a picture?” I don’t think I said one complete sentence to the lady. So, Robin took a picture, we shook hands some more, promised to come back again, and we were off. On the way to door, my knees buckled, and I started giggling. I looked like someone who was high on marijuana.

Good times.


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