Every year in the last week of July, my work has sent me off to a conference in the DC area. The actual particulars of the conference I won’t bore you with since, while sort of interesting to someone in my field, it would likely bore the average internet reader who stumbled on this blog. The conference itself isn’t bad. It’s informative and, at times, inspirational. However, the experience is just a little weird. Firstly, the timing is always horrible. July is hot and muggy in DC (not that it’s any better in Louisiana) and this year it bumped right into the end of my actual vacation (aka Come Along Bestie 2013). Secondly, there seem to never be decently priced direct flights to DC, so there is always a (lengthy) layover, usually in Atlanta. It’s not that I really have anything against the Atlanta airport, I just don’t want to spend four hours there. Also, like any born and bred New Orleans girl I have a healthy general disdain for all things Atlanta.
But what’s worse than a layover in Atlanta is being delayed at Regan in DC. The AirTran/Southwest/JetBlue terminal is what I would imagine the gates of hell would look like – smelly, weirdly cold and full of off brand eateries whose best offer is a sandwich in a plastic box. Thirdly, the conference isn’t actually in DC, it’s on this creepy little island called National Harbor. Basically, the entire island is made of upscale chain restaurants and the huge Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Probably the most significant feature of the hotel is the 19-story atrium with indoor gardens, a quaint Colonial-style village and a water show. While it is a generically beautiful hotel, I can’t help but feel like I’m vacationing on one of the outer planets and they are simulating Earth’s atmosphere.
However, the one highlight every year is the Old Hickory Steakhouse. Situated on the Lobby Level of the Gaylord, the restaurant never fails to impress. We always start with the six-cheese sampler. A cheese monger (for lack of a better term) comes around with a wide variety of small-batched artisanal cheeses from around the world and explains each in detail. Based on her description and your own palette you get to craft your own cheese plate. We then move on to salads, generally either the Wedge or the Caesar. Both choices are fantastic, but I’d recommend the Wedge if you are a fan of bacon as it is covered in thick delicious chunks. One of my co-workers and I always share the Rib-eye topped with Crab and Asparagus Béarnaise.
At 20 oz sharing is almost a necessity for the steak, but, honestly, if I got it on my own I’d likely finish it and wish I had more. It’s just that amazing. Sides are ordered for the table and we tend to over order. My favorites are the rich creamy mashed potatoes and the perfectly crisp Brussels sprouts. You likely won’t have room for dessert, but I’m sure they have a fine selection. The prices are not for the faint of heart, but if you ever find yourself stuck on a fake moonbase on a weird little island outside of DC, I think it’s worth the treat.
Bathrooms: 3 out of 5 wipes. Nice, but generic. Nothing to write home about, however, this year it did smell kind of weird.