Category Archives: Local

Sugarloaf Mountain

As the DC area prepared for Hurricane Sandy, this weekend, my husband and I decided to go for a hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD (7901 Comus RoadDickerson, MD 20842) this weekend before the hurricane blew away all the pretty autumn leaves.  Unfortunately, most of the leaves on Sugarloaf Mountain have already fallen, but it was still a beautiful day for a hike and we both enjoyed spending the time outside.  We parked in the Westview Parking Lot and took the blue blazed Northern Peaks Trail until the intersection with the red blazed trail Monadnock Trail to go up to the summit.  We spent some time at the summit admiring the views and then we backtracked down the red blazed trail back to the intersection with the blue blazed Northern Peaks Trail and continued hiking along the 5 mile Northern Peaks Trail and ended right back in the Westview Parking lot.  Since most of the leaves have already fallen, it was difficult to see the trail at some points because the trails were entirely covered with leaves, which also made it slippery in some areas (there were some near falls).  There were several nice overlooks like the one at White Rocks along the Northern Peaks Trail.

I’veheard that the orange blazed Sunrise Trail to the summit was the most challenging, but we opted to go on a longer hike this time and will likely try the orange blazed trail next time.  The summit was very crowded with most people taking the steps (yes, actual stairs) up on the green blazed A. M. Thomas Trail.

View from the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain

On our way home, we stopped by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (18125 Comus Road Dickerson, Maryland 20842), which was also pretty crowded.  They have a nice outdoor area with tables and seating along with an indoor area for purchasing and enjoying wine and crackers and cheese.  For $10, you can sample 8 of their wines in the outdoor patio before going inside to purchase wine.

Next, we stopped by Comus Market (23830 Old Hundred Road Dickerson, MD 20842) to take a look at their many varieties of pumpkins and winter squash.  They had a large selection of different kinds of pumpkins including Cinderella pumpkins, sugar pumpkins, blue pumpkins, peanut pumpkins, Fairytale pumpkins and much more.  They also had a large selection of winter squash like butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, turban squash and much more.  We both had fun learning more about the different varieties of pumpkins and winter squash and how to cook them.  My favorite was definitely the Cinderella pumpkin because it was so beautiful and also because it has a magical quality for me since I’m still a big kid who loves Cinderella and hasn’t outgrown Disney.

Comus Market


Winter Squash

Cinderella Pumpkin

It was another wonderful autumn Saturday before Hurricane Sandy!


Harpers Ferry

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Harpers Ferry, WV for the first time. It was a beautiful autumn day and we were looking forward to hiking and enjoying nature for a few hours.  Harpers Ferry is located at the intersection of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is well known for John Brown’s raid on the armory during the Civil War.  We decided to go on the popular Maryland Heights trail. We arrived in Harpers Ferry around 1:00 pm and parked in the main parking lot and took the shuttle down to historic Harpers Ferry. There was a $10 admission for a single vehicle. We walked through part of the town and crossed the footbridge, turned left and walked along the canal before crossing another footbridge to the beginning of the trailhead. As we walked across the main footbridge, we could see the old stone piers that contained a railroad and bridge. John Brown crossed this bridge for his famous raid in 1859.

John Brown’s Fort


Maryland Heights is made up of 3 trails: the Combined Trail, the Stone Fort Trail and the Overlook Trail. From the trailhead, we hiked along the Combined Trail passing the Naval Battery from 1862. Most people go directly to the Overlook Trail from the Combined Trail to the popular overlook over Harper’s Ferry, but we decided to first hike the Stone Fort Trail and then going to the Overlook Trail. The Stone Overlook Trail involved a steep uphill climb as we approached walls of the Stone Fort. There are some lovely views from the summit at the Stone Fort. Descending down from the Stone Fort, we passed the 100 Pounder Battery and 300 Pounder Battery.

Interior wall of the Stone Fort

View from from Stone Fort summit

As we walked down a pretty steep trail, we turned right and went on the Overlook Trail down to the popular cliffs to enjoy a beautiful view of Harpers Ferry where the Potomac River joins the Shenandoah River. Then we started hiking back down to the trailhead and went back across the footbridge to the town. The hike took about 4 hours including several stops to enjoy the view. Without stopping, the hike probably would’ve taken 3 hours. As a treat, we stopped by Scoops Ice Cream (173 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV).  where I had a delicious pumpkin shake and my husband had a hot chocolate. Then we went back to the parking lot via the shuttle. I wish we could have explored the town a little more, but it was getting late and we needed to start heading home.

View of Harpers Ferry from the cliff

Scoops Ice Cream

Pumpkin Shake from Scoops Ice Cream

It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful autumn day!

Bistro D’oc

I love French food so whenever I go out to dinner with my husband, I always want French food.  Last weekend, we decided to try Bistro D’oc in DC.  Bistro D’oc specializes in food from the Languedoc region of French along with casual French bistro cuisine.  It is conveniently located across the street from Ford’s Theatre and is easily accessible by metro by using the Metro Center or Gallery Place/Chinatown stops.  We decided to drive since it was a bit late, but we had to drive around in circles before we found a spot on the street 4 blocks away on F Street .  Next time, we’ll probably take the metro.

We started off with the 6 escargot appetizer ($8), which was presented like traditional French escargot in the shell.  I had read some reviews on Yelp that said that the escargot was overcooked and rubbery, but we took a chance and decided to try it out.  The risk paid off and the escargot were cooked perfectly and were nice and buttery.


My husband ordered the Steak Frites Sauce Roquefort ($21.50) and I had the Crispy Duck Confit ($21).  My husband’s steak was very flavorful and the fries were very good as well.  We’re not big fans of bleu cheese, so we didn’t try the bleu cheese sauce that accompanied the steak.  I was pleasantly surprised by the duck confit.  It was delightfully crispy on the outside and juicy and succulent on the inside.  The duck, which was served bone-in, was accompanied by a mushroom fricassee and house French fries.  I thought the mushroom fricassee was a bit too salty for my taste and the house French fries were like thin potato slices, which not what I expected.  I didn’t mind though because the duck fell right off the bone and was simply delicious.

Steak Frites

Duck Confit

The restaurant has a bistro style dining room that is dimly lit and cozy. We were seated on the first floor by the window with a nice view of Ford’s Theatre.  Our server was very attentive and the service was very fast.  I was also impressed that our server spoke fluent French.  One awkward thing to me was that the specials were listed on a giant dry-erase board that the servers lugged around and mounted on easels by each diner.  It was strange to be sitting so close to a giant dry-erase board listing the specials.

Overall, the food was excellent and we hope to be back some day to try some other dishes!

518 10th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-5444

Charlie Palmer Steak

I recently went to Charlie Palmer Steak in DC for dinner for a friend’s bachelorette party.  We dined in the banquet room and had a delicious dinner before going to POV.  I had the filet ($40) with herb roasted asparagus ($10), wild mushrooms and onions ($9) and yukon gold potato puree ($7).  The filet was tender and perfect and I loved all the sides, especially the mushrooms and potatoes.  I highly recommend going to Charlie Palmer the next time you’re in the mood for steak!

Filet at Charlie Palmer Steak

Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 547-8100

Pacifica Cafe

My parents wanted to take my husband and I out to dinner on Saturday, so I thought this was a good opportunity to try Pacifica Cafe.  Pacifica Cafe specializes in Shanghainese cuisine, but they also serve dishes from China, Thailand, Singapore and Japan.  I’ve heard great things about the place, especially their eight treasure duck so I called on Thursday to pre-order the dish since it has to be pre-ordered 48 hours in advance because it needs to be steamed for 2 days!  It was worth the wait because everything was absolutely delicious.  My parents are pretty harsh critics of authentic Chinese food and they thought all the food was great too.  We started off with the pre-ordered eight treasure duck, which is a boneless duck stuffed with sticky rice, sausages, nuts and  mushrooms and wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed for 2 days.  I love sticky rice and everything combined together was just perfect.  This was my dad’s favorite dish of the night.

Then after my mom, being the typical Asian mom, asked the tables around us what they ordered, we had the giant hot pot which contained assorted vegetables, meats, dumplings and seafood in broth and served in a clay pot.  This was my mom’s favorite dish of the night and it was delicious to have on a cold, rainy night.

 Finally, we ordered the chef’s famous fish which was slices of flounder with wood ear mushrooms in a white wine sauce.  I wish we had started with this dish because while it was very tasty, it was a bit disappointing after the first two superb dishes.

We all loved our dinner at Pacifica Cafe and the owner was very warm and welcoming.  The service was also great and our waitress was very attentive.  I highly recommend trying Pacifica Cafe and it might be a good idea to make reservations and check their menu ahead of time in case you want to pre-order some of their specialties.

Pacifica Cafe

621 Center Point Way
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(Kentlands Market Square)
(301) 519-3113

Great Urban Race

I love The Amazing Race and since there is no way I will ever be able to take enough time off of work to be on the show, I do the next best thing- I participate in the Great Urban Race in Washington, DC.  The Great Urban Race is an urban scavenger hunt where teams participate in challenges and puzzles while discovering and racing in a city.    I’ve raced in 2009 (with a good friend) and 2010 (with my boyfriend/now husband) and unfortunately had to miss out on last year’s race because I was at a friend’s wedding.  If you enjoy scavenger hunts or exploring a city or just having a great time with a friend, register to participate in the Great Urban Race in Washington, DC on Saturday, May 12, 2012 or check and see when the Great Urban Race will be near you here.  Visit the Great Urban Race website for more information!

I’ve always done the race for fun and never to win, but I’ve always placed pretty well without sprinting the whole thing and here are some of my tips for success:

  • Make sure you and your partner both have a smart phone of some kind so that you can look up answers to clues and locate your next destination
  • Have a phone-a-friend.  Having a friend standing by at a computer who can help you look stuff help is a lot faster than typing on your touch screen smart phone.  My partner usually talks with our phone-a-friend to figure out clues while I search using my iPhone.
  • Figure out all the clues in the beginning so that you can formulate the quickest plan to complete all the challenges and map out where you need to go.
  • Use a large paper map.  Before each race, I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased an actual, old school map of DC so that I can plot the location of each challenge on the map so that I can see the big picture of where we are going and plan the quickest route.
  • Load up your metro card before the race so that you don’t need to spend time adding money to your card.
  • Drink plenty of water and wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothes and shoes.
  • Try to run or power walk if you can’t run.  It is a race.
  • Be courteous to people in the city who are not participating in the race. One year, we had a challenge on the George Washington University campus where graduation was being held at the same time and there were graduates and their families taking pictures around campus and some GUR racers were practically running into the graduates and families, which I thought was very rude and unnecessary.  There are always so many tourists in DC and we don’t want their impression of the city to be based on rude GUR racers.
  • And most importantly, have fun with your team!