Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16, 2014

Welcome to the end of week three in DC! My name is Jessica Laird and I’m the final blogger for the Spring 2014 semester. I’m currently a junior at CMC, majoring in both Philosophy and Government. My internship this semester is with the White House in the Chief of Staff’s office.

So far the bloggers have been doing a great job of describing the program and providing some guidance on what to expect when you first arrive. They have, however, been failing to focus on one of the most basic things about living on your own (DC or anywhere) – food!

There are a few things to think about food-wise for your semester in DC. First, there is a plethora of amazing and diverse restaurants in the city and you should take the time to try new foods. Second, DC is also very expensive and you will most likely be on a tight budget. Third, between school and work the schedule here can be exhausting, so cooking or going out every night isn’t necessarily feasible. My experiences won’t apply to everyone, but I will share some tips I’ve learned so far.

The Amazing Restaurants

In the past decade, DC has really blossomed as a culinary destination. Because it is the national capitol and attracts visitors from all over the world, the city has an extensive international cuisine. I’m a huge fan of Chinese and Thai food, which works out well since my roommate, Sarah Owens, and I live in Chinatown. There are still so many great places I want to try; The Washington Post is a great resource for dining out with their “Going Out Guide.” Trying new places is also a great way to spend time with your classmates or fellow-interns.

Each weekend we have been going out to different restaurants as a group. Washington, DC is known for having really good Ethiopian food, so on the first weekend of the program a group of us went to Dukem in the U Street corridor.


Ethiopian food has a similar texture and common ingredients with Indian food. What is unique is that you don’t use utensils when you eat; instead, you use bread similar to a buckwheat pancake to scoop up your food.

The second week, we tried a new continent and went to Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown. Unlike in a traditional dim sum house, at Ping Pong you order all dishes off of a menu and they have a full bar – it was very trendy.  The dumplings were still delicious, but everyone was a little surprised by the bill at the end of the night. It served as a good lesson for the future: even though a restaurant is well rated, you should check the prices on the menu before going there. I’ve made that mistake a couple of times now and I don’t plan on making it again.

Eating on a Budget

I have found that allotting $15/day is a reasonable way to budget my food expenses. This allows me to buy more than enough groceries each week and go out to eat once or twice on the weekends. Going out is definitely more expensive if you are 21 and choose to drink. I do, however, believe that it’s worth managing your spending throughout the week so you can afford to go out. DC has so many great bars and it’s a really social city. There are also tons of happy hour specials, which makes dining out and drinking very affordable if you want it to be. lists all the bars and restaurants with happy hour deals by neighborhood. 

Another way to save money on food while still being social is to have dinner parties or cook with your friends. Although I wouldn’t say cooking is my passion, I really enjoy food and trying new recipes. I am a vegetarian, so I like cooking for myself and making dishes to my preference. But cooking for a group often ends up being cheaper than dining out and leaves you with plenty of leftovers. Sarah and I both like to cook and we are lucky to live in the same building as Isabel, who is a culinary wizard. She often calls on us to be her baking experiment taste testers and we are more than happy to comply.


Sarah and I made guacamole and salsa and Henry made wings when we watched the Super Bowl at Aman, Lucas, Dane and Henry’s apartment.


Everyone made delicious dishes for a Valentine’s Day potluck at our apartment.

Eating During the Week

With a busy work schedule and a rigorous coarse load I am pretty tired every night and often don’t have the energy to cook dinner or go out. My solution, which has worked out well in terms of price and convenience, is to make a casserole or baked dish each weekend that can be reheated for dinner throughout the week. There are so many great recipes online and so many websites devoted to easy cooking. I can’t wait to try them throughout the semester! Did I mention I like to eat?


                               Mushroom, feta, kale and spinach frittata.

                  Potato, cauliflower, spinach, onion and mozzarella casserole (pre-bake).

This is not a meal, but I have become addicted to puppy chow.

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