WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013 – For most Mom’s, the best Mother’s Day gift is a simple break in the routine. Doing something different. A break in the proverbial everyday.
And face it, isn’t that what we all want? A quick vacation away from what we normally do.
In the DC Metro area that means heading to my favorite spot, National Harbor. From all that there is to do in the Harbor or the many fine things to do at Gaylord National, there options are many.
Following is a trifecta of fun for Mom perfect for any Sunday:
Start your day with the area’s most exquistive brunch at Pienza Italian Market.
Executive Sous Chef Earnest Bester seems to have put a bit of his smile, and hospitality, into every thing he serves. With the melodic background of strolling minstrels, The Stereo Strings, comprised of John Glover, Bass (R. Army Band), Nick Canzona, and Stephanie Myers, violinist, (R. US Marine Band), the soothing river and the bright sun light through the atrium windows, a perfect Sunday repast is had.
The Pienza Italian Market brunch offers four-market style dining presentations laden with delicious, fresh foods, much of it sourced as close to home as possible. Chef Bester walks among the tables with a bright grin and warm countenance. He watches the food buffets, removing that which offends his eagle eye and offering help to guests contemplating from among the many offerings.
Walking in, guests are treated with the visual gastronomic delight of an iced table with meaty, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, peeled steamed shrimp, and clusters of red-orange crab legs mounded next to smoked salmon with capers, bright red sliced tomatoes, purple slices of onions with wedges of lemon and bowls of robust cocktail sauce with horseradish.
And right there, one might be satisfied, but there is more. Much more. There is the traditional breakfast foods, cereals, Belgian waffles and made to order omelets. For those looking for a higher protein choice, slow roasted meats, juicy and flavorful, there is rare steamship round with creamy horseradish sauce or t he slightly salty traditional ham roast.
A fire roars in the pizza oven where thin-crusted pies are laden with fresh cheeses, tomatoes, pepperoni and vegetables.
Those seeking a lunch repast can find moist chicken, thinly sliced pork loin, salads, pastries, baked pasta and risotto and a large selection of handmade cakes, tarts, tiramisu, cookies, profiterole, and pastries.
For the adults who want something stronger than a perfect latte, Pienza offers an incredible array of choices to customize your bloody Mary exactly how you like it as well as Champaign with fresh orange juice.
The family can head out to the carousel, walk the harbor, play over near The Awakening sculpture, the 70-foot statue of a giant, struggling to break free from the earth that was moved to National Harbor from its original installation at DC’s Hains Point.
While mom heads to the Relache Spa.
Guests are first greeted by Bertha, who gently walks them through check in, and into a robe before settling them deeply into a comfortable chair overlooking the Potomac.
A plate of freshly cut fruit and infused water nourishes and relaxes the body and could be the most important part of the process.
It is surely a pleasant start to the day.
Merone, she of the capable strong, cool hands and long fingers that work the soothing emollients into the skin and remove the stress from shoulder and arms, administers a facial that is deep and relaxing. Explaining processes and products when asked blissfully quiet when you are, she knows how to do this, and is deft in her administrations.
Having experienced my fair share of hurried or poorly applied facials, Merone can truly be appreciated. Following the facial a steam, cool shower and relaxing whirlpool and the mid-day is quickly passed in blissful ease
A few more moments of quiet relaxation with cool water, fruits, and a healthful trail mix and one is ready to step back outside to the bustle.
But first there is the afternoon Artisanal Cheese class ($39) at Old Hickory Steakhouse. Executive Chef Matthew Sheppard and Maître d’ Fromage LaVonia Carter, takes an intimate group through three different wines, and cheese pairing, encouraging guests to try different combinations, guiding them through the wines changing flavor profile.
The Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay ($26+) from a Napa Valley vineyard. This wine is a bit tart with flavor of apple and hazelnut, and for a white, it has a nice body and mouth feel with complex minerals.
This wine is paired with a Mahon cheese, a dry, salty cheese however I truly enjoyed it with the MitiBleu.
From Spain MitiBleu is a sheep’s milk cheese and its full body, with fruity and grass undertones and salt from the Mediterranean’s winds, and it pairs beautifully with the grass and oaks, and subtle pears, of the chardonnay
Of course, the standard wine for a blue cheese is robust red, or dark ale, but the pairing with the Chardonnay provides a surprisingly pleasant taste. However, there are no right or wrongs in pairing cheese and wine, there is only what you like.
In addition to the Chardonnay, an A Acacia Pinot Noir (moderate at $11.99/Total Wine) paired flavors of dark red fruits, plums, and dark cherry, with roses and the spiciness of oak for a balanced wine with a fruit-imbued finish.
Ms. Carter paired this with the Leonora pasteurized goat cheese from Leon, Spain. The cheese has hints of grass and lemon and offers a smooth, sharper goat cheese with a bit of an earthy finish. With the light, fruitier Pinot, the cheese was well supported, however the clarity of the Pinot allowed it to stand next to, and not be overpowered by the Leonora, as it was by the Mitibleu.
The wine chosen for that robust Mitibleu, with its rich texture and strong salt was a Degiorgia Moscato D’Asti ($17), a sparkling white wine that is full and on the sweet side. The effervescence and crisp fruits – peach and pear, with herbal hints of sage and mint, work to cleanse the mouth following the creaminess of the cheese, providing a nice balance to the robust cheese.
Interesting to note, this is a wine that should not be lain down in your rack for long, and should be drank when purchased, or at least within a year to ensure its flavor and fragrance.
There is plenty of time of discussion and questions, and along with the cheeses, chef presented three sweet bites – a quince paste, candied walnut, dried apricots and fig. Each of these exotic sweets changes the texture, mouth feel and taste profile of the wines.
Worth trying at home.
Guests are sent home with new ideas, a great booklet on Cheeses that provides definitions of cheese terms. Also included is how to store cheese and a wine comparative chart.
Guests go home with lucious black truffles and a fun, black, embroidered chef’s apron.
And memories of a great break in the routine.
Happy Mother’s Day and remember, mom, our yourself, should be celebrated any day.