By Kate Oczypok - 07/06/11 11:12 PM EDT
Longing to share a baguette with your special someone, or perhaps taste sumptuous soft cheeses with your best friend? Don’t bother blowing your savings on a plane ticket to Europe — hop on the Metro to Old Town and create your own Parisian-style picnic.
The Butcher’s Block (1600 King Street), a market by Robert Wiedmaier, is full of the smells of freshly cut meat and warm bread straight out of the oven. The butchers are friendly and personable, offering recommendations on what to choose for the perfect picnic.
After popping the amber bottles, the two men joked with my picnic partner and myself about how they looked like Coronas. “You two will surely be having a good time,” they teased.
Now, where to enjoy this feast? If you’re on the clock and need to get back to work in a certain amount of time, a park near the King Street Metro is an ideal spot. Small café tables dot a patio shaded by ivy and beautiful flowers. Perfect for holding hands and people-watching, it’s a wonderful oasis among the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you have a little more time to enjoy your delectables, right next to The Butcher’s Block lies the Lorien Hotel and Spa courtyard. Open to the public, it’s a sunny, private spot perfect for dining and conversation. The clock in a fountain and small brick buildings with street lights hearken back to Old Town circa the Colonial era.
Finally, if it’s one of those dangerously hot and humid days in the D.C. area, it might be worth catching the free King Street trolley down to the waterfront. Settle in on a bench and watch the relaxing waves of the Potomac wash against the shoreline. It’s almost like the Seine; if you close your eyes, you can imagine the Washington Monument in the distance looks a little more like the Eiffel Tower.
Come on an empty stomach to the Butcher’s Block — the sandwiches aren’t for those with pint-sized appetites. The turkey sandwich is packed full of freshly carved meat, spicy Dijon mayo, red onion marmalade, creamy avocado and baby arugula with balsamic vinaigrette.
The prosciutto is also a noteworthy choice. The salty shavings of meat combined with sweet fig jam, creamy brie and arugula and balsamic vinaigrette on French bread just explodes with flavor.
To go a little more French, try the ham sandwich with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and honey Dijon dressing. For the ultimate patriot who just can’t seem to get enough American fare, the roast beef sandwich and chef’s chicken salad are other solid choices.
Bottles of wine are available for purchase and are perfect with the shop’s warm bread, baked fresh in house, and generous cheese trays. The afternoon of my picnic, I chose a sharp cheddar cheese with another, softer, more flavorful cheese called “the Marissa.” Both were delicious, particularly served with the pure organic honey thrown in as a bonus by the butchers.
Cheese and honey is a popular dish in Spain, so when you’re spreading the liquid gold onto the soft cheese, imagine the Potomac morphing into the Mediterranean Sea.
With a little imagination, it’s easy to spend some time abroad without the vacation days or the hassle of going through an airport. All you need is a little Old Town charm and tasty sandwiches for your own little oasis in the city.