Friday, December 17, 2010

Little Bits = Tasty Holiday Treats

Since it's that time of year for  baking holiday treats, I wanted to put in a plug for the Little Bits Shop on Triangle Lane.  Even if you're not a serious baker, this place is pretty impressive.  On my last visit, I was amazed by the huge spectrum of food colorings they have (any color you want!), the variety of cookie cutters, and lots of cute holiday treat accessories like cupcake wrappers and decorative candy toppers.

I'm having a cookie-making party this weekend, so I'm going to stop by there either today or tomorrow to pick up some supplies.

Check out the Little Bits website for their address and hours.  My only wish is that they would have extended hours around the holiday season, since it's a little tough for me to make it there after work before they close.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Washington City Paper article on Wheaton Redevelopment

I was surprised to see an article on Washington City Paper's website today about the Wheaton Redevelopment project being headed up by B.F. Saul.  I wouldn't say there was any earth-shattering revelations in it, but I was disappointed to read that there really aren't any provisions to support existing small businesses in our neighborhood once the redevelopment is under way.  While I understand that a private developer isn't obligated to provide assistance to existing small businesses affected by their project, I am disappointed that the county has not assumed more of a leadership role in this.

So, what's up, Montgomery County?  Where's your leadership in this project?  A major part of the feedback during the community meeting the other week was directly related to maintaining the small business community that makes Wheaton unique.  How are any of those concerns going to be addressed if B.F. Saul doesn't plan on doing anything about it?  The county needs to step up now and make sure a framework is in place for maintaining the uniqueness of our neighborhood amidst the redevelopment process.  Don't get me wrong, the development is Silver Spring is a success in many ways.  But other than the restoration of the AFI, the rest of the redeveloped area of Silver Spring along Ellsworth (edited 12-14-10) is a pretty generic place that could have been plopped down in just about any town in America.  I think Wheaton will be worse in the long run if we lose the unique businesses that define our community.

Oh, and I was offended about article writer's  jab about restaurants here needing to hire English speaking waiters to attempt to lure 'gringos' into their businesses.  I have eaten at many ethnic restaurants in Wheaton and have never had the slightest problem communicating with the waiters in English.  Also, while I know that Wheaton has its share of crime, I've never heard about the prostitution rings that the writer claims some restaurants are using to boost their income. Geez.

I will also put a plug in for Sergio's, which was featured pretty prominently in the article.  They're serving my favorite hispanic food in Wheaton right now, and I have been surprised at how empty it always seems to be.  Check it out sometime!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Safeway's New Year Resolution - Demolition!

The Gazette has reported that demolition of the existing Safeway building will start in January or February.  Hurray!  The same article also reports the anticipated opening of the new Safeway happening in mid-2012.  For a project of this size, a year and a half for demo and construction seems pretty quick, but if they can stick to that schedule, I'll be thrilled.

Monday, November 29, 2010

B.F. Saul posts summary of community feedback

B.F. Saul's website has posted a summary (PDF) of the feedback they heard from the community meeting held on November 17th.

It generally seems like a fairly detailed list, but I noticed they did gloss over a few points that people were trying to make.  Just from the groups I was in, I noticed that their summary doesn't list some of the requests to improve accessibility of sidewalks (i.e. avoid having light poles, parking meters, etc. become obstacles in the sidewalk).  They also don't really address the concerns that Chip Py (passionately!) spoke about regarding the rights of people in the town square to assemble, protest, take pictures, etc., without interference from security guards (i.e. the kind of issues that have been popping up in Silver Spring).

I was hoping that they would just scan in the sheets of paper used to write down everyone's suggestions rather than type up a summary.  Since they have decided to go with a summary, they should have a process in place for people to comment on B.F. Saul's version of the community feedback.  If you do feel that they have omitted or misrepresented something you heard at the meeting, I would recommend using their 'Contact Us' link on the website to voice your concerns.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Easy, Tasty Dinner from H-Mart

I was out and about in MoCo today taking care of some holiday shopping and when I headed home in the late afternoon, I started to brainstorm some easy dinner options.  After eating waaaay too much Thanksgiving food this weekend, I was in the mood for something different.  I decided to shop for dinner at H-Mart.  When I had a cookout at my house this summer, my boss, who is Korean, brought over some bulgogi from H-Mart that we threw on the grill.  It was awesome!  So, I decided to pick up some bulgogi today to make for dinner.

For those of you not familiar with bulgogi, it's very thinly sliced beef that is marinated in garlic, onion, scallions, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  To find it in H-Mart, head to the left once you enter the store (towards the freezer section), and you'll see a refrigerated wall case with a 'Korean BBQ' sign hanging from the ceiling.  There are lots of plastic containers with all sorts of prepared foods.  I found the bulgogi in an open freezer case across the aisle from the wall case.  It was labelled 'Marinated Thin Slices of Beef Rib Eye' and was selling for $3.99/lb, which is pretty damn cheap considering that Woomi Garden charges over $20 for it.

I also picked up a few sides from the refrigerated case to have with it - stir fried black beans and seaweed.

When I got home, I started a pot of rice and chopped up some onion and a beautiful bell pepper that I got at H-Mart to saute with the meat (not necessary for bulgogi, but I wanted some veggies).  I added some sesame oil to a skillet, turned the burner up to high, then threw in the meat and veggies.  I sauteed them until the liquid evaporated and things started to brown.

Once the food in the skillet was done, I served it up with some rice and the sides I picked up (which I just served cold from the containers).  After about 15 minutes worth of work, I had an awesome dinner and enough leftovers for two lunches at work this week (my coworkers will be so jealous!).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Turkey Day, Wheaton!

I hope all of you out there have a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe travels if you're heading out of town.  I'm on up my way up to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with family.  And for any of you still working on your menus, here is a link to a good 'ol fashioned stuffing recipe from the Joy of Cooking that I really like.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recap of B.F. Saul Meeting

I just got back from the B.F. Saul meeting for community input on the Wheaton redevelopment project.  Overall, I came away from it with a good impression of both the redevelopment team and the Wheaton residents who participated in the meeting.  There was a great turnout - I would estimate about 125 people (but I reserve the right to be completely wrong on that).  After an initial intro, which included much patting on the back by county people and WMATA reps, the B.F. Saul team took the stage to give a brief presentation about their plans for public input on the process and they gave a recap of what past redevelopment meetings in Wheaton have shown residents are looking for.  I had to laugh at the chart they showed for what community groups they are getting input from.  The list included several local blogs, including Just Up the Pike, Good Eatin in Wheaton, and the Talk of Wheaton, but NO mention of Wheaton Calling.  Where's the love, B.F. Saul???

***Sidenote:  Mr. WC just reminded me that perhaps this omission was due to some not-so-kind words I had about the portfolio of work shown on B.F. Saul's website.  Fair enough!***

Anyways, after the initial intro, the audience broke into smaller groups at 8 different tables, which were centered around different themes for the revelopment:  Desired Land Uses and Small Business Impact, Streets & Sidewalks, Town Square & Open Space, and Overall Vision for Wheaton's New Downtown.  Each table had an architect (from Torti Galls) or developer rep(from B.F. Saul) acting as a facilitator and taking down suggestions from the residents on each topic.  After two 30-minute sessions, the development team pulled together common themes that they had heard and presented them to the group.  I was nicely surprised at how cohesive all of us residents were in what we asked for.  I came into this expecting much more of a strong NIMBY presence, but instead I found that people were passionately dedicated to preserving Wheaton's diversity and creating a lively, diverse town center that welcomes all residents and visitors to Wheaton.  The facilitators were also patient, taking down pretty much every suggestion and comment, even if they got a little wacky (my table jokingly asked for jugglers, to which the facilatator replies, "Okay!  We're putting jugglers on the list!").

The next steps in the process include B.F. Saul working out a deal on the land in question with the county and WMATA.  Once that is resolved, the team will work on putting together a concept plan of the project and will present it for further input from the community in March or April.  If you go to the project map on the team's website, the areas in red are the areas that B.F. Saul is currently working on purchasing from the county and WMATA.

Two members of the architectural team summarizing the input they heard from residents
 Here is an abridged summary of the input they heard from residents at the meeting (apparently scans of all the notes from the meeting will be posted to their website):

Desired Land Uses and Small Business Impact
-Avoid chain restaurants
-Provide retailers that benefit the community, i.e. a hardware store or pet shop
-Keep parking on the perimeter of the project
-Don't lose the unique small town feel of Wheaton
-Bring more office space and office workers to the downtown
-Facilitate loans for small business to improve their storefronts
-Attract more people to existing businesses
-Add a hotel to the downtown
-Leverage the anticipated crowds for Costco into opportunities for downtown Wheaton

Streets & Sidewalks
-Improve sight lines for drivers
-Tame (or even periodically close?) Reedie Drive
-Provide buffers between cars, pedestrians, and bikes
-Provide wider sidewalks with more plantings and trees
-Include flexible seating
-Improve access to the metro station
-Possibly partner with Brookside Gardens for plantings/streetscapes (I like this idea!)
-Design a signature lighting theme that includes banners, hanging flower baskets, etc.
-Improved bike lanes (how about any bike lanes?) and secure bike storage
-Less concrete, more green

Town Square
-Provide space for a farmers market and flea market; space should also work for the Taste of Wheaton and outdoor concerts
-Design a public space that welcomes all people
-Make sustainability a priority, especially stormwater management
-Better signage for metro entrances

Overall Vision
-More public art
-Pedestrian and bike access
-'Safety in Design' - through architectural design, lighting, and accessibility
-Celebrate Wheaton's diversity.  We don't want to be Bethesda, Silver Spring, or Rockville!

If it's not Scottish, it's crap

We have been hitting the Royal Mile pretty hard lately, but I can't seem to stop myself!  Their burger continues to be one of my all-time favorites, and with cooler weather moving in, my craving for comfort food and beer keeps getting stronger.  The other night when we stopped by, we were treated to a 'kilted' gentleman standing in front of the restaurant playing bagpipes.  I immediately started envisioning bagpiper faceoffs ("We have a piper down!") with the Limerick Pub across the street once that opens.

As usual, the burger I got (with mushrooms and swiss cheese) was fantastic - flavorful meat that was nice and juicy, plus a big side of delicous fries.  They were out of a few of the beers that I initially tried to order, but I still enjoyed the Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout that I finally ended up getting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your chance to weigh in on Wheaton's redevelopment

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday the 17th), B.F. Saul, the developer selected by the county to develop the 'triangle' of land between Viers Mill and Georgia, is holding a community workshop to get input on what Wheaton residents want to see happen in this area.  This is a very important meeting for us Wheaton residents to really make our voices heard.

Based on my experiences with these types of meetings so far, there's always a very strong showing by long-time Wheaton residents, many of whom have pretty strong NIMBY leanings.  I'd like to see a more balanced cross-section of our community at these meetings, both homeowners and renters.  I've heard stories of developers avoiding Wheaton in the past for redevelopment efforts simply because they got the impression that residents really don't want anything to change.  While it's perfectly understandable that some residents don't want any redevelopment to happen in Wheaton, I know that there are also alot of other residents out there who are in support of it.

The meeting is on Wednesday, the 17th (tomorrow), from 7pm to 9pm at the Crossway Community Center in Kensington (guess there aren't any large meeting spaces in downtown Wheaton?).  The address is 3015 Upton Drive, Kensington.  It sounds like they're going to have break-out sessions on different topics, so it will be more of a workshop than a public meeting, which I think is a good thing.  The county has a press release with a few more details.  B.F. Saul has also started a website to keep the community updated on the project of their redevelopment effort.  This looks like a good place to go for updates on community meetings.  Hope to see lots of residents at the meeting tomorrow!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Matamoros? Eh. Matamaybe...

And with that cheesy blog title, I bring you my review of a dinner that me and Mr. WC had at Matamoros the other night.  This was our first visit to the restaurant, and it's been on our list to try for a while.  We ate there on a Tuesday and were the only people in the restaurant for most of our meal.  We shared two pupusas for an appetizer.  While they were a little burned here and there, I thought they were both alright.  The fillings didn't really have enough flavor to them, though, so I mostly ended up tasting the sauce and cabbage we had with them more than the pupusas themselves.

Ordering entrees was a little frustrating since they were out of the first two fish dishes we were interested in trying.  We ended up sharing two dishes - the plato durango, which includes a chicken enchilada, a beef taco (hard shell), and a chicken tamal with rice and beans; and the huachinango en cilantro, which was pan-fried red snapper with cilantro based sauce and grilled zucchini. 

None of the items in the plato durango really stood out for me.  Both chicken dishes were fairly bland, but I thought that the beef taco was decent.  I liked the red snapper slightly better, but still, it just seemed a little bland to me.

While our meal at Matamoros wasn't horrible, it wasn't great either.  I would definitely rank Sergio's ahead of Matamoros in terms of meal quality and for the variety of dishes offered on the menu.  I'm also still a fan of Irene's for the pupusas, but I need to get back over there for a review because it's been a while.

Any readers out there have any other recommendations for Tex-Mex/Salvadoran/etc food in Wheaton?  Perhaps a visit to a certain food truck is in order.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Safeway is on the way

Good news for all of you who have been waiting for-ev-er for the new Safeway project to get underway.  On October 28th, the planning board gave their final approval for the project to move forward.  Click here for the Gazette article, which includes an artist's rendering of the project.  Courtesy of Eatin' In Wheaton, there's also a good post on DCMud with lots of info on the project.

On a side note, did you know that video links are available on the planning board's website for all of their hearings?  Out of curiosity, I watched the portion of the meeting dealing with the Safeway approval.  The new building sounds pretty sweet - there will be a 5th floor open-air terrace level with a lawn, pool, lounge area, and fire pit.  Inside the building, there will be a fitness center, play room, and lounge.  There will be an outdoor seating area at street level along the Safeway facade.  The public art they have planned sounds kind of dull (little mini-figures showing people going about their businesss), but it was amusing to hear the developer and artist try to sell the idea to the planning board during the meeting...People will end up naming the statues!  They'll dress them up for holidays!  Eh, I don't know about that.  But still, I'd rather have something small and innocuous than some sort of big, ugly public art monstrosity.

Now that the project has the planning board's approval, they'll still have to get all of their building permits for the demolition and new construction work.  So, it will be a number of months before any progress is seen, but things seem to be on the right track!

And then there was one...

As many of you probably noticed either last night or this morning, there is now only 1 working escalator in the Wheaton metro station.  So far, they've had the functioning elevator running in the 'up' direction, which I think makes sense regardless of whether it's in the morning or evening rush hours.  But, it's probably only a matter of time before I come home from work and find it running in the 'down' direction.  Who needs a gym when we have the Wheaton escalators, right?

***Update on Wednesday, 11/10:  Two escalators were up and running this morning!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Walking Dead

Tomorrow night (Saturday, the 22nd) the third annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk will invade downtown SS.  I will be there, dressed as a zombie bridesmaid grunge person from the nineties (it's going to be too cold for my bridesmaid dress!), along with several of my zombie friends.  Even if you don't want to dress up, this zombie walk is truly a sight to behold.  Also, the AFI will be playing two excellent movies that night - Dawn of the Dead at 9:45 (which all of us zombies will be lurching to) and Susperia at midnight.  I will going to both, but I'm probably most excited about seeing Susperia on the big screen.

One day, all of us Wheaton zombies will have organize our own walk, but for now, come on down to Silver Spring to participate.

Here are a few links:
Silver Spring Zombie Walk
Gazette Article
DCist review of the movies
AFI recap of Dawn of the Dead (get tickets early!)
AFI recap of Susperia

See you there!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dinner at New Kam Fong

My boyfriend and I enjoyed a great dinner at New Kam Fong last night.  After seeing Good Eatin' in Wheaton's mention of a recent review of the restaurant, we decided to head back over for a meal.  It's been about 8 or 9 months since the last time we dined there.  After seeing mentions of it in several reviews, my boyfriend tried the twin lobster entree with scallions and ground pork sauce.  The waitress told him he could choose from a number of sauces, but he went with the ground pork, which ended up being a good choice.  The dish came out on a huge platter, and the plate was postiviely teeming with big chunks of lobster.  The lobster was still on the shell, but had been cut into large pieces.  It had been fried so that the pieces of meat were nice and crispy.  The green onions and ground pork were an interesting addition to the dish, and they worked really well.  Even on its own, the ground pork sauce was fantastic.  Add that to fried lobster, and it's pretty much the best thing ever.  Be prepared to get messy if you get this dish.  Picking through the sauce-covered shells to get to the meat takes some work, but it's worth it.  The dish cost $23.99, which seems like a pretty good deal for all that food.  It was enough to feed two people if they weren't super hungry.

I got the 1/2 Beijing roasted duck, which came with pancakes, some interesting fluffy fried things in various colors (white, orange and pink), and thinly sliced raw scallions.  The pancakes were very similar to tortillas, making this dish seem similar to fajitas.  The duck had a crispy fried skin and the meat was very juicy.  Another nice bonus of this dish is that the meat was already separated from the bones, which made for very easy eating compared to some of the roast duck I have had at Chinese restaurants.  While this dish wasn't as flashy as the twin lobster meal, I still really enjoyed it.  Also, the waiters were very nice and friendly throughout our meal,  but they got kind of swamped when a large family group came in and took up several tables at once.

Ever since the new Hollywood East opened, we've been heading there for dim sum on the weekends to satisfy our cravings for Chinese food.  Our meal at New Kam Fong is a good reminder of all the other Chinese options here in Wheaton.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Alleged Wheaton Tire Slasher (and Duck Murderer?) Apprehended

A few days ago, the Gazette posted an article describing a series of recent tire slashings in the neighorhood just east of the Wheaton metro station.  The crimes appear to target Hispanic homeowners in the neighborhood.

The Washington Post later had an update that a local Wheaton resident has been arrested in connection with the crimes.

Now, this morning, there is yet another article stating that the same person is suspected of killing and decapitating a duck being kept in the yard of one of the tire slashing victims. 

There is contact information listed in the articles for anyone who may have additional information regarding these crimes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Possible Community Garden in Wheaton

I'm on the email list for updates on community gardens in Montgomery County, and the email update that I received today had some promising news for gardeners in Wheaton.  There is a community garden being proposed near Wheaton Regional Park along Kemp Mill Road.  A meeting is scheduled on October 21st, 7:00-8:30pm at 11721 Kemp Mill Rd (Silver Spring Center/Randolph Academy) to share a powerpoint presentation about the proposed plans and gather input from the community.  The meeting will be held in the large meeting room in the school at that location.

I would have to drive to this garden since it's not quite close enough to walk to from my house, but it's still encouraging to see a possible community garden coming to the Wheaton area.  Information about existing community gardens in the county is available here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Safeway Update

It's seemed like the whole Safeway project is taking for-ev-er.  Why don't they just tear the old building down already!?!?!  Well, I've recently heard an update about the status of the project.  Plans are still moving forward, and the developer has a hearing on October 28th with the planning board (I'll post more info when I have it) for their final site approval. Once that approval is reached, their site plan will be approved, which I *think* means that they can begin demolition and prepare the site for the new building.  All the rest of the building permits will still have to be approved, but it will be great to see some progress.  I didn't get any information about when the demo work might actually start, but it's encouraging to know that things are moving forward.

I also got some info about the planned design of the project.  The Safeway store itself will be more than twice as big as the existing store and will have either a Starbucks or some sort of coffee stand inside of  it.  On my recent vacation to Washington, there were Safeways all over the place, and they all seemed newly renovated.  If we get anything close to the new stores I saw in Washington, I'll be happy.  There will be about 150 spaces for shoppers in the parking garage on site.  This isn't alot of parking, but I think that the store will get alot of foot traffic from people leaving the metro, apartment dwellers, and local homeowners (like me).  The apartment building will have just under 500 units, and it sounds like there will about an even mix between studios, 1 bedrooms, and 2 bedrooms.  It also sounds like they are planning lots of nice amenities for their residents, like a roof deck pool, outdoor space on the top floor, fitness center, washer/dryers in units, etc.  This could all change as project moves forward, but it's good to see that they're aiming high. 

Rendering from a Gazette article about the project

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm back, baby!

I apologize for being MIA for the past month and a half.  First, I had to deal with several weeks of 12 hour days at my job (not fun), then I had a 2-week vacation to Seattle and Washington state (very fun).  I'm happy to now be back home and finally have some free time on my hands to work on some posts.

The trip to Washington (the 'other' Washington) was great.  I spent one week hiking and camping in Olympic National Park...
Rialto Beach
Including a few days staying in the Twilight-vampire-crazy town of Forks...
Yes, there a stand selling Twilight-themed firewood
Spent a few days in Mt. Rainier National Park...
Yep, that's Mt. Rainier
Drove up the coast along Chuckanut Drive...
We had an amazing dinner at Chuckanut Manor, which included this great view of the sunset from our table on the deck.
To the interesting town of Bellingham...
We enjoyed an awesome beer sampler and tasty food at this brewery.
Then wrapped up the trip with a few days in Seattle.

The neighborhood of Fremont in Seattle was lots of fun and we enjoyed walking around to enjoy all the public art.  Fremont is well known for its gigantic troll sculpture that is hunched underneath one of their highway overpasses.
Yes, that's a real VW beetle in the trolls hand
The Fremont troll got me brainstorming ideas for a distinctive public art piece for Wheaton that would have a similar impact.  I decided that the field of antennas along University present an excellent opportunity for a cool/weird public art piece that would be a landmark for Wheaton region.  So, I present to you my design concept for this public art piece (using Microsoft Paint on my home computer)...the Wheaton King Kong!
Be back in a few days with some more Wheaton info!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Primary Elections - Cliff Notes Version

I've become much more interested in local politics since I've moved to Wheaton because I've been able to see firsthand the impact that the local government has on our changing neighborhood.  Are you happy about the incentives Costco is getting to open a store here?  Want to see more development encouraged around the metro?  Or maybe you like Wheaton the way it is and don't want your tax dollars going to change things.  Whatever your opinion about Wheaton's much discussed redevelopment, as long as you have an opinion, you should care about who is elected into our local county government.

Since our area leans heavily toward Democratic candidates, the primary elections here are just as important as the general elections on November 4th.  I found that the info out there about the primaries can be a little jumbled, so here's the information that all of you Wheatonites out there should care about, along with links where I think they're helpful:

Date of primary:  Tuesday, September 14th, 7am-8pm

Early voting information:  Click here.

Absentee ballott information:  Click here. (PDF)

Polling location for Wheaton:  Use this link to find it based on your address.

County positions that you should care about, and who's running (this link lists all county candidates):
County Executive:  Ike Leggett is running unopposed for the Democrats.  Douglas Rosenfeld and Daniel Vovak are the two Republican candidates.

District 5 Council Member:  Valerie Ervin is running unopposed for the Democrats.  Joseph Russek is running unopposed for the Republicans.

At-Large Council Member:  Having some at-large council members looking out for Wheaton will be critical for our neighborhood to get more attention from the county council in the future.  After all, we only have a single council member representing our district, and there are 8 other people on the council (4 at-large members).  While I have some favorites for who I'd like the at-large members to be, I'm going to avoid giving any endorsements since I admit that I'm not an authority on county politics.  I encourage all of you to look into the positions of these candidates for yourself and head out to vote in the primaries.

Here are the Democratic candidates:
Jane de Winter
Marc Elrich
Fred Evans
Nancy Floreen
George Leventhal
Raj Narayanan
Hans Riemer
Duchy Trachtenberg
Becky Wagner

And here are the Republican candidates:
Robert Dyer
Mark Fennel
Brandon Rippeon
Robin Nixon Uncapher

And one Green party candidate:
George Gluck

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Wheaton. I love you.

Well, it's been just over a year now since I've moved to here, and I've got say, Wheaton, I think I'm falling in love with you.  When we first met, I found myself comparing you to your flashier younger sister, downtown Silver Spring.  But now that I've gotten to know you, I think you're really special.  I mean, good looks aren't everything, right?  And what you don't have in looks, you make up for in personality.  I never knew how delicious Thai food could be before you.  And I never realized how convenient it could be to have three paint stores all within walking distance from my house (Ben Moore, Duron, McCormick).  Before I got to know you better, I had no idea that just beyond your slightly run-down strip malls lie a beautiful park and gardens.  If it wasn't for you, I never would get to experience the western hemisphere's longest escalator every single day, whether it's running or not.  I've really enjoyed our first year together, Wheaton, and I'm looking forward to many more to come.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blog Party

I headed over to Jackie's Side Bar in Silver Spring last night for a farewell happy hour for Dan Reed, the creative genius behind just up the pike.  It was great to meet Dan in person after reading his blog for years now.  I also spent some time chatting with local photographer Chip Py, and Casey, a local Silver Spring resident.  As a relative newcomer to the Silver Spring area (going on six years now), I was really impressed by everyone's knowledge of and involvement in local politics.  I definitely learned more about Ike Leggett's political past than I've ever wanted to know (and I'll just leave it at that).  This was the first time I've met with local bloggers, and everyone was very welcoming.  I definitely hope to stay in touch with this group who is so enthusiastic about our area and where it's headed in the future.  Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We got the power

After hearing on the PEPCO hotline yesterday afternoon that it would be Friday before our power was restored, it was a pleasant surprise when our electricity came back on yesterday around 6pm.  How did you survive the power outage?  Are you still waiting for PEPCO to restore yours?

I got out for a bike ride last night while my house was cooling down for the night.  I saw a higher-than-average number of people out enjoying the nice weather, especially in Sligo Creek Park.  Personally, I didn't mind the power outage, other than the loss of power to our refrigerator, which was a bummer.  The PEPCO outage map is showing just over 1000 Wheaton residents without power, down from over 7000 yesterday when I checked.

In other news and notes, I saw an article today about the new library that has opened in Shaw.  I think this is an example of the sort of community hub that we could have had with a new library in Wheaton's downtown.  Regardless of your opinion on what Wheaton should have, I think you can agree that the residents of Shaw are getting a beautiful addition to their neighborhood.

The Gazette had a few Wheaton-related postings today.  A local developer, B.F. Saul, was awarded a contract by the county to redevelop the 12 acres of land around the metro.  I work in the architectural field and I have never heard of this developer before.  I checked out their website, and all I can say is...barf.  And apparently all they can say is, "We love to build large boring buildlings without any distinguishing characteristics.  Yay.  Go us."  They better get one hell of an architect to work with them on this, because I don't see anything in their portfolio of work that would indicate they can pull off a major redevelopment effort in Wheaton.

Also, the planning board is holding a public meeting tomorrow to discuss the Wheaton Sector Plan.  I've been working really long hours lately, so I'm a little doubtful that I'll get to attend, but I should really try to get over there for it.  Here's the info from the Gazette article, including directions on how to sign up to speak.  I saw a blurb a while ago saying that the redevelopment in Wheaton was going to focus on residential growth without any growth in commerical office space.  That seemed like a weird strategy to me (can you think of any bustling local areas that don't have any office space?).  The article on this hearing doesn't mention anything about that strategy, but I'll be interested to see if that resurfaces.  Here is a link to the county's website with information about the current sector plan.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A few interesting links...

Since my job has been possessing my entire body and soul for the past week or two, I'm going to take it easy and share a few interesting links with you...

First of all (and most importantly!), the Silver Spring Zombie Walk is on.  I've participated in the zombie walk for the past two years - as a regular 'human' the first year, and as a zombie mummy last year.  I am a huge fan of Halloween, and the zombie walk is one of the highlights of the season for me.  Until we get enough Wheaton zombies to reenact Dawn of the Dead at our own mall, I'm going to stick with the zombies in Silver Spring.

The excellent local blog, Just Up the Pike, recently posted about the new, superhero-sounding Citizens League of Mongomery County.  It sounds like they might be a good antidote to many of the NIMBY-minded neighborhood associations in our county that often provide a strong voice against the kind of start growth that I'm in favor of.  Right now, their board members seem to skew towards the west of Wheaton, with heavy representation for the North Bethesda/White Flint area.  So, if any of you politically-minded readers out there want to get involved in county politics and redevelopment efforts, this might be an interesting association to participate in.

On the crime and punishment front, two disturbing crimes have stood out over the past few weeks.  Luckily, there have been arrests for both of them.  First, there was the carjacking near Crisp 'N Juicy of a man who was putting his kids into their car seats.  Fortunately, he was allowed to get his kids out of the car before the carjackers took off with it.  Here's the latest from the Gazette on the arrest that was made.  While you can't help but be distracted when you loading kids, groceries, or shopping bags into your call, this is a reminder to stay as alert as possible when getting in and out of your car.

The second crime, which just happened in Silver Spring, is really horrible.  It occured in the new Civic Center plaza that just opened and resulted in serious injuries to an innocent bystander.  I also find it upsetting that the horrible acts of a few delinquents are going to cast all the teenagers who hang out in downtown Silver Spring in a bad light.  The various Silver Spring blogs are en fuego with people commenting on this, many of whom seem to be spiraling out into their own fantasy worlds of what a dangerous urban jungle downtown Silver Spring has become (really???).  The Gazette has a wrap-up on the police response to this and several other recent incidents in the area.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay...

I spent the long holiday weekend far far away from Wheaton in lovely Potter County, Pennsylvania, where my sister lives (in Shinglehouse, to be precise).  So, as a mini-vacation from writing about all things Wheaton, I thought I'd share the highlights of our fun weekend in the country, much of which centered around some delicious, locally grown food.

My boyfriend and I met my sister for lunch on Saturday in Ansonia, PA, which is close to the very scenic PA Grand Canyon.  We ate at the Burnin' Barrell Bar, whose menu features beef sourced from local, grass-fed cattle.  My burger was delicious and tasty, as were the philly cheesesteak and italian hoagie that we also shared.

After lunch, we headed over to the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum where they were holding their annual Barkpeelers Convention, which features demonstrations and competitions centered around the logging history in the region.  The highlight of the day was the greased pole competition.  No, it's not as dirty as it sounds, but it is maybe a little gay (don't tell those strapping young country boys that, though!).  The 8ft long log cake was also quite impressive.

In the photo below, the greased pole competitors are preparing to hit each other with heavy beanbags.  First person to fall off the 'greased pole' (a tree covered in Crisco) loses.
We also made a visit to the Cuba Cheese Shoppe in Cuba, NY, where we tried lots of delicious cheeses.  We brought home some 'drunken goat cheese' (goat cheese with white wine in it) and a white cheese with garlic, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes (pungent but tasty).

My sister also treated us to lots of delicious food over the weekend, much of it coming from her own garden and chickens, which she keeps in her back yard.  We had fresh eggs for breakfast in the morning and roasted chicken for dinner from some 'meat chickens' they butchered a few days before the weekend (glad I wasn't there for that).  We also enjoyed some lettuce, cucumber, and a few squash from the garden, which we had with the roasted chicken for dinner.

Here are some 'before' pictures...
And here are some 'after' pictures...

Overall, it was a relaxing weekend and a welcome escape from all the hot weather in DC!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wheaton Whish List - A Community Garden

I have a little bit of a green thumb.  Don't worry, it's not a medical condition.  I just like to garden.  I lived in apartment for several years and now own a house with no yard to garden in, so I've turned to community gardens as a way to garden and raise my own food without having a yard.
I first tried out a community garden in College Park near the Home Depot on Cherry Hill Road.  It didn't work out well for me - I had to drive there from Silver Spring and they didn't have a water source so I had to carry in jugs of water (not fun).  This year, I'm in my second season of gardening in a community garden near Fort Totten.  It's kind of a long drive from Wheaton, but I can hop off the metro at Fort Totten on my way home from work and walk to the garden, so that's nice.

What would be even nicer is a community garden in Wheaton.  I emailed two people with the county parks and recreation department that are working on new community gardens (David Vismara and Ursula Sabia Sukinik) to ask if any plans are in the works.  According to David, there is a lack of unused open space in the neighborhood, especially land owned by the county.  He did also say that suggestions for locations are welcome.  In the meantime, if you want to be added to the waiting list of a community garden elsewhere in the county, email Ursula, who is the coordination for the community garden program.  Her email address is Ursula dot SabinaSukinik at  If you have any ideas for possible community garden locations, let me know!
Some cherry tomatoes starting to grow on one of my plants.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Urban Hike - Wheaton to Takoma Park

In anticipation of a fall hiking/camping vacation in Washington state, I'm working on building up my endurance.  Since this past weekend was so hot and steamy, I decided to skip doing a serious hike and use one of the many trails in the area to get in some miles.  My route started at my house in Wheaton and ended at the Sunday farmer's market in Takoma Park.  I used the Sligo Creek Trail (pdf) for most of my route, and the total distance was between 6 and 7 miles.  Here's a description of my urban hike with photos...

I started out on Windham Lane, which starts around Georgia Ave and continues all the way to the Sligo Creek Trail.  At one point, the road ends, but a footpath continues and connects back up with the next section of Windham.

Windham ends at the Sligo Creek Trail.  Once you get there, turn right to start heading towards Silver Spring and (eventually!) Takoma Park.  As you can see, there was lots of shade thanks to the trees, so this was a relatively comfortable walk on a hot sunny day.
Continue along the trail, making several road crossings.  Eventually you'll see Holy Cross Hospital and the 'tunnel' that goes under the beltway.  You're getting close to Silver Spring!
As you continue along, ponder the mileage markers along the trail, none of which go higher than 1 1/2 miles, even though the trail is nearly 9 miles long.  What do they mean???  The 'Finish' sign that happens around the mid-point of the trail is especially mysterious.
As you get closer to Takoma, the trail starts to hop back and forth over Sligo Creek using a series of scenic bridges.  It starts to feel like some of the woods I might see on my upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Eventually, when you reach Adventist Hospital, you'll see a sign for the Takoma Park Community Center.  At this point, you leave the trail and turn right onto Maple Ave to follow the sign.
Continue along Maple Ave. past several blocks of apartment buildings.  Eventually, you'll need to turn left to get onto Carroll Ave., which is running parallel to Maple.  I turned left onto Grant Ave., then turned right at the traffic light for Ethan Allen Ave., which turns into Carroll Ave.  You know you're getting close to middle of Takoma Park when the houses start to get more colorful...

And the lawn ornaments get much more interesting!

Eventually, the farmer's market comes into sight!  Relax with some snacks at the market before taking the metro back to Wheaton.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mi La Cay (a.k.a. Song Phat) Review

Sorry for the long gap between posts, but I just got back from a week at the beach and before that work was crazy leading up to vacation.  Now, I'm well-rested and ready to blog!

In my continuing exploration of Vietnamese options in Wheaton, my boyfriend and I paid a visit to Mi La Cay, formerly Song Phat (actually, there are still some Song Phat signs outside the building).  The restaurant is in the same buidling as the wonderfully-named Hung Phat grocery and is the former location of Nava Thai.  The dining room is simple, but fairly clean and comfortable.

We started our meal with an order of summer rolls, always a good way to check out a Vietnamese restaurant.  I would rank the rolls higher than those at Saigonese.  There was a good mix of fresh herbs and veggies in addition to the steamed shrimp, and I liked the peanut sauce that comes with them for dipping.  My only complaint is that the shrimp still had the tails on them, so I had to kind of dig around in the roll between bites to pull off the tails.

I also started my meal with an order of mango bubble drink, which had a nice taste but strangely none of the tapioca balls you would expect.  I tried to get my boyfriend to order the durian bubble drink, but he was too chicken.  He made up for this weak showing, though, with what he ordered for dinner!

He ordered the lemongrass beef noodles soup and I ordered the vietnamese pancake so I could compare it to the crepe at Saigonese.  My boyfriend's soup arrived with copious amounts of red chili oil floating on top, so it was spicy, but not oh-my-god burn off the roof of your mouth spicy.  In addition to beef and noodles, it had a veritable cornucopia of interesting things floating in it (much of which we couldn't identify).  There was a large pig knuckle floating in it, which made for good dinner entertainment while I watched him attempt to stab it with his chopsticks.  There was also a beige-color pressed meat thing, and...(drumroll)...coagulated pig's blood, which my boyfriend actually ate.  I may be brave enough to eat cow heart, but I wasn't interested in eating blood.  When I asked him what it tasted like, he told me, predictably, "Well, it tastes like blood".  Overall, he liked the soup, but said that it wasn't close to Nava Thai's floating market noodle soup, which is his gold standard for spicy noodle soups.

I liked my pancake much better than the one at Saigonese.  Instead of being really thin and fried, the crepe had some thickness to it, which made the shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts inside seem more incorporated into the egg pancake.  My only compliant was the sauce that came with it (nuoc cham) was kind of watery and not as zingy as it usually is.  I ended up wishing I hadn't drowned my crepe in it.  Otherwise, I liked it.  I liked my dish a little bit more than Saigonese, but I'd need to try more dishes before I could decide which restaurant is better overall.

For more reviews of Mi La Cay, click here or here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Quickie Review of Hollywood East

On Memorial Day, I decided to stop by Hollywood East for lunch and was expecting to order off their regular menu since they only have dim sum carts on the weekend.  Much my surprise, they had dim sum carts in operation since it was a holiday.  So, we sat down and started to dig in.

I think they maybe had less carts than usual since it wasn't the weekend, but we still were able to try a good variety of food.  The dining room was about 75% full when were there, so that's a good sign for their business.  I wasn't taking photos or keeping notes during our meal, so I'll just say that most of the dumplings and rolls we had were steamed and delicious.  The steamed dishes we had included shrimp, pork, and veggies.  One of the more unusual steamed dumplings had pork, peanuts, garlic, and spinach in it.  On the fried side, we shared some of their fried crab balls and also a taro root fried dumpling, which was one of my favorites of our meal.  We also had a bbq pork 'croissant', which had a wonderful flakiness to it.  We enjoyed some of their custard carrots for dessert.  Yum!

In addition to the great food, the service was also excellent.  We got frequent refills on water, the waiters and the manager (or maybe one of the owners?) stopped by our table to see how everything was, and the same manager chatted it up with us as we were waiting at the register to pay.  So in addition to eating some great dim sum, we were also treated as valued customers by the employees.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Weird Wheaton News...

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.  I spent most of it camping and hiking in George Washington National Forest down by Luray, VA.  It's a beautiful area to visit to get away from it all.  Oddly enough, as we were driving near Front Royal, we spotted a "Keep Sligo Golf Open" sign.  We wizzed by too fast to get a picture, but it was definitely one of the green signs that you see around our neighborhood.  Maybe a Wheaton resident has a vacation cabin down there?

And I wanted to share this week's weird Wheaton news story from WTOP.

And here's another weird news story...apparently a little person is a wanted murder suspect?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Did you bike to work today?

Today was the annual Bike To Work Day in the DC area.  Local biking organization WABA organized the event and even had 'ride convoys' today to help beginners bike into their offices.  Did any of you bike to work today?

I took the plunge and rode my bike in from Wheaton to Farragut West where my office is.  It's about 13 miles each way (whew!).  I've been strategizing on bike routes since I moved to Wheaton because I would bike into downtown DC every so often when I lived in Silver Spring using either the Capital Crescent Trail (longer route but car-free) or Beach Drive.  A few weekends ago, I did a test run into my office using Plyers Mill, snaking through neighborhoods down towards Capitol View, then onto Jones Mill, which connects into Beach Drive.  The route worked, but the windy, curvy roads to get to Beach Drive were an issue both from a car safety standpoint (no shoulders) and because they were damn hard to bike up on the way home!

So after talking to some people and looking at a suggested route on WABA's website, I devised a new route, which I tried for the first time today.  Here's my disclaimer:  Part of my route to get to Silver Spring involved riding my bike on sidewalks along Georgia, which you're not really supposed to do.  I was thinking on my ride in how nice it would be if they widened the sidewalk enough to have a bike lane that people could use as a direct route to Silver Spring.  A link like that would give easy bicycle access to downtown S.S., the metro station, and the Capital Crescent Trail

Going from Wheaton to downtown DC:
-Ride the sidewalks along Georgia, using the 'bridge to nowhere' to cross the Beltway
-Take the right to 16th St., continuing to use the sidewalk until the road opens up into multiple lanes.  Then, I moved into the street
-At the weird intersection with Colesville Road, make a right turn onto North Portal.
-From there, I used the directions provided by WABA
Biking time:  1 hour
Distance:  13 miles

This route in was nice, but because of the hills, I devised a different route home through the city along streets with more gradual hills instead of the steep ones in Rock Creek.  I was pretty happy with this route.  You're always going to go uphill heading out of the city, but this route felt easier than alot of ones that I've tried and the traffic was fairly light:
Going from downtown DC (around Farragut West) to Wheaton:
-Go north on 18th St.
-Right on Florida Ave
-Left on 11th St (bike lanes)
-Hop over one block to 10th St once 11th becomes one way in the opposing direction
-Left on Randolph, then a quick right onto Kansas (bike lanes)
-Left onto Missouri, then a quick right onto 3rd St
-When 3rd ends at Blair Road, take a left then quick right to under the Metro Bridge.  This puts you onto Sandy Spring Road, which turns into Maple Ave
-Continue on Maple Ave through beautiful Takoma Park until you reach the intersection with the Sligo Creek Parkway.
-Hop onto the Sligo Creek Trail.  Once the road gets better shoulders (after you cross Colesville), I left the trail and used the road instead.
-My route home from Sligo Creek was to turn left on the trail connector leading to Windham Ln.  Windham eventually dead ends, but a foot/bike trail continues on and connects up with another section of Windham.  This road then intersects with Amherst Ave, and you're back in downtown Wheaton!
Biking Time:  1 hour 20min (like I said, there are some hills!)
Distance:  13 miles

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Encouraging Redevelopment News

A newly posted article in the Gazette covers some encouraging news about the county's redevelopment efforts for Wheaton.  The county has received multiple bids by developers for both the metro bus bays and the surface parking lot #13 in the triangle retail area.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Planning Board Update - Costco

Last week, the planning board unanimously disapproved the proposed ZTA 10-04, which would have allowed Costco to bypass the standard county process for installing a 16-pump gas station.  The Gazette has an article discussing the latest planning board decision.  The county council has the ultimate say in whether or not this goes through, and as I've mentioned before, the hearing for this decision is on May 20th.

In addition to giving me a bad opinion of Westfield management, this whole ZTA issue has also given me a fairly bad opinion of Ike Leggett.  The ZTA was originally proposed by him, in addition to the $4 million that he wants to give Costco to further sweeten the deal.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cabanita Review

I spent lunchtime on Sunday trying all sorts of tasty ethnic food at the Taste of Wheaton, then spent the afternoon over at Brookside Gardens strolling around and enjoying the nice weather.  For dinner, I was feeling adventurous, so my boyfriend and I headed over to Cabanita on 11305 Elkin St. around the corner from the Royal Mile.  This place has been on my radar ever since Eatin in Wheaton mentioned it in one of his posts

The restaurant specializes in food from the Arequipas region of Peru.  The place doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside the walls were painted a cheery yellow color with photos of Arequipas decorating the walls.  The wall-mounted TV was tuned to a spanish-language sports channel, but it was later changed to a spanish music channel.  It was a little loud, but not too distracting.

They had a fairly big menu, with just about everything listed in both english and spanish.  We did notice that a spanish-only part of the menu listed 'cuy' as being available if you give them 5 days notice.  Cuy (pronounced 'kwee') is guinea pig, which is a fairly popular traditional dish in Peru.  Well, since we didn't give them 5 days notice, cuy wasn't in the cards for us, so we looked over the rest of the menu.  It wasn't quite as cheap as we had hoped - most of the entrees were in the range of $12-$18.

We shared a pitcher of chicha, which is a corn-based drink (non-alcoholic at Cabanita).  It resembed a red fruit punch with a little bit of a cinnamon taste.  I liked it, but the pitcher was way too big for two people to share.  We then ordered an appetizer of roasted sliced potatoes, which came with a 'mild sauce' that was thick and tasted a little like peanut sauce.  It was good, but not super-exciting.

Next we ordered two entrees to share.  First was grilled beef heart, which came with crispy sliced potatoes and a vareity of corn that has really huge kernels.  It was one of the cheaper dishes at $9.  I've never had beef heart before, but the grilled skewers of meat were tender and very flavorful.
The other dish we ordered was lomo saltado.  It was about $13 and consisted of roasted beef tenderloin, onions, and red peppers all cooked in the beef broth with french fries thrown in with them.  Peruvian people really like their potatoes, but that's okay because I also love taters.  The dish came with a side of rice, which was great for soaking up the broth.  Again, the beef was very tender, and all the vegetables and beef cooked together gave the dish a rich taste.
Our bill came to about $38, but you could definitely eat for less if you skipped the appetizer and maybe ordered a glass of chicha instead of the pitcher we got.  We just happened to get two beef dishes, but they had a number of fish dishes that also looked good as well as some chicken.

The restaurant was empty when we first walked in around 6, but a few families came in later in our meal, which livened things up.  Our waitress was friendly and helpful, and I got the impression that she would have been happy to help us out if we had any questions.  I give Cabanita two thumbs up!