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 mncppc-mc.org.  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?