Kicking off the start of this city-focus series is my current home of Washington, D.C. Getting lost here is a regular activity, since when Monsieur L’Enfant designed this city, I theorize that he was secretly playing a cruel joke on les americains stupide by building in roundabouts with badly timed traffic lights, zig-zagging streets and roads that go one-way on one block and another way on the next. Nonetheless, the city is prepping for a new leader, and the National Tree this year seems extra sparkly, perhaps with a little more hope than in previous years.
Jon and I went to see the National Tree three times already. The first time was yesterday, when we were afraid we would miss out on seeing the tree before we took off to New York for Christmas, and then we ended up returning to the tree another two more times until we were sick of seeing the tree. We were sort of rushed through the first time, anyway, because we were trying to make a dinner reservation at Legal Sea Food in Chinatown (it’s a seafood chain along the east coast, but it was one of our favorite restaurants when we all lived in Boston, pre-Jon) and then to see a one-man show of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries at Warehouse Theater. So we felt the second visit was justified, and it was with my niece, who is really cute when it comes to shiny bright things. The third time was an hour later, because my friend Lauren was an hour late to meet us all so my sister and niece went home, and Jon and I headed to the ice skating rink at the sculpture garden only to learn it was sold out for the rest of the day.
But our first time seeing the tree was pretty fantastic. As a New Yorker I’ve seen the giant tree at Rockefeller and subsequent littler versions around the city every year, and we hoisted a pretty cool one in our living room too. But this tree has a one-up on Rockfeller – not only is it surrounded by a really cool model train set with multiple tracks laid around , both the tree and the train tracks are surrounded by about 55 other trees, each representing a state or territory, and decorated with ornaments donated from an organization, hospital, school or historic society within that state. There’s also Santa’s Workshop, which we skipped, partly because only children were allowed after 6pm, and then a giant firepit several feet deep with what looked like giant Sequoia logs burning away to warm us up, briefly.
Afterwards, because Jon and I had been stuck outside in the cold AND windy night air, we piled into a cab and went to Raku Diner for a giant bowl of udon noodle soup with shrimp tempura and lukewarm tea. Later we lit the menorah for the first night of Hannukah, and I finished making chocolate truffles for my building manager who does everything for us, from putting all our wedding gifts into our apartment to setting mousetraps for our furry new roommate. Our friends in California often question how we can handle the cold weather, but (especially if you have a balcony) it does make for a great second refrigerator, especially during parties and when making large quantities of chocolate truffles. Plus, we’re going to appreciate Thailand’s tropical weather that much more now.
Chocolate truffles covered in 1. chopped almonds or 2. dipped in dark chocolate.