WASHINGTON, March 7, 2013 ― The Conservative Political Action Committee returns to D.C., March 14 – 16, but this time the group steps out from beneath the monuments and heads to National Harbor and the Gaylord National Hotel.
And it is a great destination.
Designers and architects have joined forces to create a stunning hotel and relaxation getaway just eight miles south of Washington. Located on the Potomac, the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center combines a spectacular hotel with shops and restaurants, all within the 300-acre National Harbor waterfront entertainment district.
National Harbor offers everything the group could possibly want: quality hotels, fabulous dining and casual eateries, shopping and entertainment. The Gaylord offers a luxurious and exotic atmosphere that DC Metro residents know is a great weekend destination, whether for a stay or just to enjoy the property’s offerings.
A combination of amenities, elegance, and easy access put it at the top of resident “staycations,” a romantic destination or the perfect enclave for conservatives seeking the perfect cut of steak or lobby bar martini.
From the moment you step into the stunning 19-story atrium, you know this hotel is special. The hotel staff, from curbside to front desk to guest room, radiates a gentle, southern friendliness with an “I-can-do-that-for-you” attitude. But it takes more than smiles and attitude to make a good hotel in a luxurious resort, and the Gaylord delivers. The rooms are decorated with the colors of sunlight and rich earth tones, creating a feeling of warmth and gracious calm. The linens of the bed are smooth and cool to the touch, the hallmark of quality.
After a quick check in process, it is time to relax in the Belvedere Lobby Bar, listening to live music while watching the sun set, the sky turning from hues of pink to velvet dark as the lights of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge illuminate the Potomac, creating a magical scene.
Tear yourself from the comfort of the lobby, complete with the soothing sounds of the magnificent fountain, for dinner. Stay at the Gaylord and enjoy the casual National Pastime Sports Bar and Grill, or the Pienza Restaurant, where Sunday morning brunch features a seafood bar filled with oysters on the half shell, sweet shrimp, and crab legs. In the evening, dinner at Old Hickory Steakhouse is a gastronomical event.
Or step outside to the National Harbor to enjoy the diverse, high-quality dining options available. A favorite place for guacamole prepared at your table and salt-rimmed margaritas is Rosa Mexicano, which has locations in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Francisco and National Harbor. Known for their guacamole, Rosa Mexicano mixes the rich avocado dip with ripe avocados, perfectly balanced seasonings, and a little chili to turn on the heat in an authentic-looking molcajete, or lava bowl with pestle.
The food is authentic, yet upscale. Enchiladas de Pollo bring chunks of moist, white breast meat wrapped in soft corn tortillas, enhanced by a sweet tomatillo cream sauce and black beans. The dish is recognizable from countless Mexican restaurants, but here the chicken is neither shredded nor left to overcook, meaning that even for a late night dinner, the meat is soft and moist, tasting like it was cooked for the dish, not for the night.
Alambre a la Mexican is a brochette of choice filet mignon and chorizo sausage, cooked with tomatoes and Serrano peppers, then served over rice with a duo of sweet tomatillo and spicy tomato-chipotle sauce. The filet is well textured, while the Mexican style sausage delivers the right amount of heat.
While both dishes were instant hits, the star was the Pato Confitado: roasted duck with mole poblano sauce. This is a crispy, slow-roasted leg of duck served with braised Brussels sprouts, black trumpet mushrooms, and butternut squash dumplings over a rich mole poblano sauce. The complex chili-cacao sauce has just the right amount of heat, allowing the rich, sweet duck meat to shine.
The margaritas are salty, but in need of a touch more tequila to counterbalance the heat of the food.
The Brussels sprouts were an incredible surprise; with the butternut and mole, they create a trio of flavors that worked together surprisingly well, providing both an olfactory treat and also a surprising mélange of taste.
Waking up at the Gaylord means immersing oneself into a controlled bustle. Room service brings up breakfast with a smile, and the food is surprisingly fresh considering the size of the property and the journey it must travel. The eggs arrive perfectly over easy and warm, with toast and an assortment of jellies, fresh orange juice, and coffee.
Open your veranda doors and look out over the lobby to the brightening day as the sun rises high enough in the sky to reflect from the river. But what to do? Boat ride on the Potomac? A trip to DC to see the monuments? How about a morning at the Relâche Spa & Salon followed by an afternoon learning about wine at Old Hickory Steakhouse.
Upon entering the spa, we are greeted first by Bertha, who takes us through check in, gets us into a luxurious robe, then into a deep, comfortable chair overlooking the Potomac. A plate of freshly cut fruit and infused water nourishes and relaxes the body and may be the most important part of the process.
It is surely a pleasant start to the day.
Following the facial, a steam, a cool shower and a relaxing whirlpool make the morning pass in blissful ease and tranquility.
A few more moments of quiet relaxation with cool water, fruit, and a healthful trail mix, and you are ready to step back outside to the bustle.
Lunch is at Fiorella Trattoria & Pizzeria, where wafer-thin pizza is crisp, with a tangy sauce and flavorful cheese. Then take a walk around the harbor for plenty of boutique shopping, or just while away the time on the waterfront.
An afternoon Artisanal Cheese class ($39) has Executive Chef Matthew Sheppard and Maître d’ Fromage LaVonia Carter taking an intimate group through three different wines and a variety of cheeses. They encourage guests to try different combinations, guiding them through the wines’ changing flavor profiles. Sips of wine are paired with creamy and salty cheeses and sweet tastes, creating flavor combinations that are surprising and delightful.
Guests are sent home with new ideas, a great booklet on cheese that provides definitions of cheese terms and advice on how to store cheese, wine comparatives and a fun, black, embroidered chef’s apron.
Dinner takes us out of the Gaylord over to Bond 45, a Prohibition-themed New York steak house that is as dedicated to the ambience and service as it is to the steaks and seafood they serve.
Bond 45 is part of the Shelly Fireman Restaurant group that also owns the previously mentioned Fiorella Trattoria & Pizzeria. (Read a Bond 45 Restaurant review here.) It offers an alternative to the Old Hickory Steakhouse (read review here) located in the Gaylord National.
Each restaurant offers a unique dining choice, and atmosphere. While Bond 45 brings a prohibition era New York steak house to the harbor, Old Hickory abounds with southern elegance and charm.
Particularly enjoyable at Old Hickory is the cheese cart, bringing forth the oft forgotten, but wholly enjoyable cheese course to the meal.
Breakfast can be a leisurely meal enjoyed en suite, or a celebration filled with delicacies at the Pienza Italian Market, with it’s open stall market theme, Executive Sous Chef Ernest Bester, one of the nicest persons you will meet any day or anyplace, serves bounties from land and sea, along with the largest, and tastiest Bloody Mary one will find. Tastiest because it is made to your exact specification, with olive or citrus, celery or pepper. (Read a review of Pienza here).
While National Harbor and the Gaylord will be abuzz with political excitement, there is little doubt that this gem on the Potomac is the number one staycation or vacation destination in the Metro DC area.
Because simply put, it offers everything you could possibly want.
And then a little more.
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