Oh those summer nights

The view from our corner table at Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale

The view from our corner table at Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale

This has been a very atypical weekend in DC. Hurricane Arthur missed us completely, but brought this amazing warm but not humid weather so it’s actually been nice to be outside for a few days. Also it was the Fourth of July, which is one of my favorite holidays. And also, my lady returned home from a trip to Florida, and we actually overlap in DC for four entire days.

My friend Molly hosted us for the Fourth – she has a beautiful roof deck with a view of several communities’ fireworks displays. We had an amazing meal of grilled broccoli, carrots and romaine, with tempeh, tofu and chicken for the omnivores.

I brought along some homemade hummus and vegan and gluten-free peanut butter cookies from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking. The cookies were popular  even with the non-gf folks at the party…and it was fun to share the good news with people who were enjoying them but had no idea they were vegan. They’re also super simple to make; I’m a big fan of this cookbook in general.

Anyway.

We had some serious erranding to do on Saturday, which required us to go to the Athleta store Georgetown. I’ve lived in DC three and a half years and managed to avoid Georgetown thus far…it’s kind of the worst. Crowded with aggressively shopping tourists and full of overpriced mediocre food options.  We did accomplish our goals (except for a stop at Baked & Wired, because I am not standing in a half-block-long line for a cupcake, sorry Georgetown) and then booked it back to our neighborhood for an afternoon siesta.

I want to swim in this avocado soup

I want to swim in this avocado soup

By around 6 pm, we were restless and hungry and thinking about dinner options. I was in the mood for Bacio pizza (have I blogged about Bacio before? I can’t remember) but my lady was looking for a lighter option. We were heading out for a pre-dinner cocktail when we passed Big Bear.

I’ve never actually eaten at Big Bear, even though it’s only a few blocks from home. I’ve stopped in for cocktails or tea, but there’s never been anything on the menu that fits my dietary restrictions, so it’s kind of off my radar. This evening, the host was super friendly and pointed out the menu items that were both vegan and gluten-free, and assured me that people with stricter diets than mine had eaten there successfully in the past. So. He led us to a corner table under a grape arbor, and we had one of the best meals I’ve had in DC.

We started with a ridiculous chilled avocado soup that was amazingly cool and light with a lingering spiciness from serrano peppers. I was a bit worried that the soup would taste like guacamole, but it was a very unique flavor. I did finish most of my wine trying to cool off from the peppers.

2014-07-05 19.32.54

…with coconut rice and red lentil dal!

My main course, Spiced Spinach, Cauliflower and Cashews (although I’m pretty sure this was chard and not spinach), was pretty incredible. The rice was light and flavorful, and the dal was perfect for dipping the vegetables and rice. There was also a sort of chutney with grapes and maybe rhubarb? So. good. (The dish is served with poori, which the host indicated is not gluten-free.) My lady had Pomegranate Braised Short Ribs, which were a hit.

Big Bear has a beautiful patio surrounded by a pretty extensive outdoor garden, and I saw one of the cooks come out to clip herbs while we were eating, which was pretty awesome. It seems they change up their menu pretty frequently, so it might be worth checking the menu or calling ahead before you go. The staff was helpful and well-informed about the menu items and ingredients, and I had no issues or symptoms after the meal. I’m really excited to have a good outdoor eating option near home, and I’m looking forward to visiting Big Bear again.

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