The Best Museum Meal Ever РMitsitam Caf̩ in Washington, D.C.

Let’s face it – nobody goes to a museum to find a good meal. You’re bound to get either over-priced fast food or something more amibitious that’s been bungled, burned and left to dessicate under a heat lamp.

But then you have the Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The contents of the museum itself didn’t do much for me. But it’s an amazing building. And even better, if I lived in D.C., I’d make regular visits for lunch.

The cafe is broken into several themed sections. Each section represents a different region of indiginous people from the Americas, such as Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains. In each section, you’ll find items using ingredients that people from that region would’ve used in their cooking. That yields some really unusual items such as a quinoa-type grain with blueberries, smoked eel, braised rabbit and nopales (a type of pad cactus). I managed to find some sort of dish using chilled beets and potatoes, and it was tasty enough for me to try making it at home. I’d love to see a complete list of the cafe’s menu somewhere so I can do a little research and duplication here in Arizona.

Now let’s say you’re not quite up for eel, or you have kids. They can take a small step over to the wild side with pupusas, a nice corn-based flatbread sort of thing that’s usually stuffed with meat or cheese. Or if that’s still too much, they can try a buffalo burger and yucca fries.

For dessert, you can check out items like the sage and pine nut tart.

Now, this isn’t exactly a cheap menu. Typically, and entree with two sides runs from $7.99 up to around $13.99. But it’s tasty and unusual. And let’s not forget – it’s part of the Smithsonian family of museums. That means admission is free, so this is a nice way to spend a little to keep the museums ticking beyond your tax dollars.

Score one for sister-in-law Rachel for the great idea.

My Phoenix-Area Craft Brew Rankings

There’s some good news for Phoenix-area folks (and visitors to the area) who love craft brew: Sleepy Dog Brewing and Dave’s Electric Brewpub will open soon in Tempe. This bodes well for a metro area ranking low nationwide on craft brewers per capita. We’ve still got a long way to go, but Sleepy Dog and Dave’s Electric are welcome additions.

In recognition of their opening, let’s take a look at other craft brewers in the area. I’ve not included chains such as BJ’s, Gordon Biersch or Rock Bottom here because I want to emphasize local above all else. I’ve ranked them, and included some reasoning for their rankings. Enjoy!

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My Top 4 Female Mountain Bike Icons

Paola Pezzo was a good bet to win everytime she lined up at the start.
Paola Pezzo was a good bet to win everytime she lined up at the start. (photog unknown)

So my new pal and fellow Specialized Trail Crew* reject Mountain Biking Girl [UPDATE Oct. 2011: She is now a member of the Canadian Trail Crew … congrats!] was recently lamenting the lack of women in mountain biking. And she’s right. Show up to a group ride, and it will overwhelmingly be a bananarama. My theory is that the combination of few prominent female riders and too many tech-talking geeks in the shops leads to fewer women.

Let’s address the prominent female riders thing. I read the mountain bike mags, pretty much all of them. What I don’t see is quite the focus on the sport’s personalities. Consequently, it seems that there is no personality.

Contrast that with that wonderful Golden Age of mountain biking – those grand times when you replaced every stock bolt on your bike with titanium. Downhill forks had three inches of travel. Anodized purple was the order of the day. You could get a high-quality steel-framed bike at any shop. Back in those days, the sport had personalities. And some of the greatest of them sported two X chromosomes. Here are my four favorites, in no particular order cause they all freakin’ rule (there are lots of honorable mentions like Ruthy Mathis, but these are the ones that, for me, stand above the rest).

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6 Impressions of Boston – Plus 3 Great Restaurants

Boston has a great skyline, tasty food and very cool people. It'll shortchange you in the espresso department, though.
Boston has a great skyline, tasty food and very cool people. It'll shortchange you in the espresso department, though.

Generally, I avoid the eastern United States. It’s just not my sort of place. Up north, it’s cold. Down south, it’s humid and flat.

But since my sister-in-law is studying law at Boston University, the wife decided it was time to visit her and maybe see some Boston landmarks. Boston intrigued me. I’d never been there, and it has a lot of history. I also have some Internet buddies living there. So I could think of worse places to go. We wound up staying at a HoJo near Fenway Park. It was grossly overpriced, as were all of the hotels I found. But it was a nice location near Berklee College of Music, BU, Harvard and even MIT. And near this great running path near the Chahls* River.

Here are six things that really stick out about Boston, plus three awesome restaurants and the best-ever pop culture reference to Beantown. As you’ll see, I really liked Boston overall with one big quibble.

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