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Spanish tapas and modern art in Washington, D.C.

While visiting Washington, D.C., in January, I spent a day crossing items off my D.C. Bucket List.

These were places I had often walked past while living in the D.C. area for three-and-a-half years. I’d always think, someday I’ll visit that museum or someday I’ll eat at that restaurant.  But, when you live near a tourist destination, you sometimes forget to be a tourist in your own city. Work consumes your weekdays. Social obligations dominate the weekend. Before you know it, all your somedays are gone. You’re moving on to the next chapter of your life, leaving that unvisited museum or restaurant hundreds of miles away.

Well, someday finally came.

First stop: Lunch at Jaleo for sangria and Spanish tapas

Chef Jose Andres’ Spanish tapas restaurant on the corner of 7th and E streets Northwest has been on my to-do list for a while. After dining at the Spanish chef’s nearby Mexican restaurant, Oyamel, I had high hopes for a delicious meal at Jaleo.

Red sangria at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

Red sangria at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

The fruity Sangria did not disappoint. I believe red sangria was the only variety available by the glass ($8). But, for $52, you can order a bowl for the table of sangria with cava. Combining bubbly with sangria? Sounds pretty genius to me. Jaleo also offers 15 cocktails — many are classics with a Spanish twist, a la the Spanish Collins — and $14 gin and tonics available in six varieties like Jose’s Choice with Kaffir lime, juniper, lemon and lime. Spanish beers and a local DC Brau ale round out the international drink list.

Tapas, drinks and wine menus at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

Tapas, drinks and wine menus at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

As usual, I opted for vegetarian tapas. First up I tried the Escalivada Catalana, which is roasted red peppers, sweet onions and eggplant in a sherry dressing. It is served with toasted bread.

Escalivada Catalana is sweet onions, eggplant and roasted red peppers in a sherry dressing that is served with toasted bread.

Escalivada Catalana is sweet onions, eggplant and roasted red peppers in a sherry dressing that is served with toasted bread.

The sherry dressing was sweet and a bit messy. I liked this dish, but I admit it would be better to share among a table than as meal for one.

Tapas atop toasted bread at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

Tapas atop toasted bread at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

While I’m not sure I’d order the vegetables in sherry dressing again, I would eat the Arroz Cremoso De Setas every single time I visit Jaleo. The dish is a creamy risotto with seasonal mushrooms and melted Idiazabal cheese — a nutty-flavored sheep’s milk cheese from Basque Country in northern Spain. Simply scrumptious.

Arroz Cremoso De Setas is like a risotto. It's creamy rice with an assortment of mushrooms and melted Spanish sheep's milk cheese.

Arroz Cremoso De Setas is like a risotto. It’s creamy rice with an assortment of mushrooms and melted Spanish sheep’s milk cheese.

Jaleo | 480 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Next Stop: Red Velvet Cupcakery to find out if another D.C. bakery can rival Georgetown Cupcake

I’ve eaten cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake — which you might know from TLC’s show “DC Cupcakes” — and CakeLove, which is owned by lawyer-turned-baker Warren Brown. You might recognize him from hosting “Sugar Rush” on the Food Network. But, never had I stopped into this small Penn Quarter shop for a quick dessert. What I discovered was that I had really been missing out.

Red Velvet Cupcakery in Washington, D.C.

Red Velvet Cupcakery in Washington, D.C.

The red velvet cupcake was moist and topped with a heavenly cream cheese frosting. There were so many intriguing flavors that it was difficult to choose just four to purchase! I much preferred Red Velvet Cupcakery over CakeLove’s cupcakes, and the line is significantly shorter here than at Georgetown Cupcake.

Red Velvet Cupcakery | 505 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Final stop: Enjoy an artful afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery

I visited several of the Smithsonian’s art museums while living in the Washington, D.C. area, but I never did make it to the one I wanted to visit most — the National Portrait Gallery. My favorite forms of art to view are photography, modern/abstract art, sculpture and portraits of famous or historical figures. This museum encompassed them all. Also a plus: Entry into a Smithsonian museum is free!

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Inside the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum complex in Washington, D.C.

Inside the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum complex in Washington, D.C.

At the National Portrait Gallery, I viewed presidential portraits and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.

Portraits of famous Americans include film and music stars Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and LL Cool J at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Portraits of famous Americans include film and music stars Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and LL Cool J at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The National Portrait Gallery is connected to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which houses modern art. Below are some of my favorite pieces from the collection.

Sunflower III (1969) by Joan Mitchell and other post-war pieces

Sunflower III (1969) by Joan Mitchell and other post-war pieces

The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum | 8th and F streets NW, Washington, D.C.

All of these destinations are within a short walk from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station on the Red, Green and Yellow lines and the National Archives Metro Station on the Yellow and Green lines.

So, that was my day knocking off a few of my Washington, D.C. bucket list items. I’ll be back in the Washington, D.C. area this summer for a wedding, so maybe I’ll check a few more off the list then. Stay tuned!

Do you have any bucket list items in a city where you’ve once lived? Tell me about them by leaving a comment below!

Wish you were here,

Erin

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