Mary Beth Albright

Correspondent

  • Washington, D.C., USA

Mary Beth Albright is a correspondent who lives in Washington, D.C., and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. A longtime Washingtonian, Albright knows the capital’s best sights and delights as a food critic, mom and lawyer (but only two of these roles had great restaurant expense accounts). She was DC Magazine’s food columnist for five years and a finalist on season 7 of Food Network Star. Albright appears regularly on local television and radio, and her legal practice represents food entrepreneurs.

  • On March 6, 2013
  • On February 28, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    Where are the best cocktails in Washington D.C.?

    Even with the demise of the martini lunch (sigh) Washingtonians love our cocktails. Jeff Faile is a master of spirits, and his talents have fully unfurled at the fabulous Fiola Restaurant. His enormous bar hosts tastings and mixology classes – our favorite is his PhD-worthy seminar on gin. Faile has the goods to back up his talents, with no fewer than a dozen bourbons to pour for any given happy hour. Love a bitter negroni? He has five kinds, including a trendy white version with Cocchi Americano.

    Faile’s alma mater, Palena, continues its reputation as the bar of record for in-the-know Washingtonians with the city’s best Manhattan. For a hip vibe, head to Black Jack for an El Dorado (tequila, habanero, and orange bitters) by the bocce ball court. Or try Jack Rose Dining Saloon for one of the city’s largest selection of spirits, with more than one hundred whiskeys alone.
  • On February 28, 2013
  • On February 28, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What new museum exhibits are in Washington D.C.?

    For years, foodies have made pilgrimage visits to Julia Child’s kitchen reconstructed at the National Museum of American History. Now fans can learn more about cooking’s evolution at a new permanent exhibit that just arrived: “Food: Transforming the American table, 1950-2000.” Julia’s kitchen, arranged exactly as it was in her Cambridge, Massachusetts home when she donated it to the museum, has been incorporated into the new exhibit, which includes a whole section on American winemaking. Learn about the meteoric rise of Napa Valley and the expansion of viticulture to labels in all 50 states. (Alaskan wine, anyone?)

    Another favorite part of the exhibit, Resetting the Table, examines the explosion of ethnic flavors and incorporation of native-land techniques into cooking. From Italy to Asia, immigrants have had immeasurable influence on American cuisine and this fascinating timeline shows its progression. “New and Improved” follows our country’s progression from small-farm centric to large-scale agriculture, and now our modern obsession with handmade, artisanal foods.
  • On February 28, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    Where is the best shopping in Washington D.C.?

    We love the area known as Book Hill, which is the slice of heaven just below the Georgetown Public Library, between Glover Park and Georgetown. Although not metro-accessible you’ll leave your car behind once you park, to stroll through enough boutiques, artisanal food shops, and antique stores for an afternoon of retail therapy. On sunny days when central Georgetown is packed and single-file walking is the only option, Book Hill is breezy and civilized.

    Pop into Patisserie Poupon for a slice of quiche or Panini. For dessert, make sure to stop at Macaron Bee, for dozens of inventive flavors like peanut butter and jelly – the cookies are crisp and soft, chewy with just enough sweetness. If your motto, like Carrie Bradshaw’s is “Shopping is my cardio,” work off lunch while trying on Sassanova’s chic clothes or Sherman Pickey’s preppy threads. Finish up at The French Apartment for Gallic kitchen accessories and furniture.
  • On February 28, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the best attractions in Washington D.C.?

    Washington’s green spaces are among the country’s best, with serious cash spent toward landscape planning. Head to the National Cathedral Bishop’s Garden for a mellow afternoon in the shadow of the world’s sixth-largest cathedral. The garden is part of the Cathedral’s fifth-nine acre close and is extraordinarily designed, with a small waterfall and fish pond, rose garden, herb gardens, and stone shadow house. Not surprisingly, Frederick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame) penned the garden’s original blueprints. Gazing at the cathedral’s gothic spires and stained glass windows while munching on a picnic on the sprawling lawn, it could be medieval times.

    Another fantastic al fresco dining spot, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden can’t be missed. The sculptures range from classic to modern, and a large fountain burbles in the garden’s center. Across the Mall, we once spotted a couple hand-tossing a salad at a picnic table on a sunny afternoon in the Smithsonian Castle’s garden – go in early summer to enjoy the fragrant roses.
  • On February 26, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Washington D.C.?

    Romance is subjective. For some, a secluded table at a buzzy restaurant evokes both mystery and coziness. Head to Bourbon Steak’s table 105, a corner booth that assures privacy and a view of who’s dining with whom. Even though steak and Bourbon’s famous duck fat fried don’t exactly scream amour, the menu has diverse seafood offerings for a lighter dinner.

    We saw Bill and Hillary Clinton at CityZen one Valentine’s Day, at a window table with nighttime views of the Jefferson Memorial. Chef Eric Ziebold’s tasting menu also means fewer decisions about ordering, and more time for flirting.

    Palena’s dining room with its rich fabrics and positively age-reducing lighting, provides a wonderful nook for an intimate dinner. The service is attentive and lighthearted but not overbearing or too familiar (no one will ask, “are you still working on that?”) and desserts are creative and modern, and still homey and comforting.
  • On February 26, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the best places for brunch in Washington D.C.?

    Ah, brunch, the world’s best excuse for sleeping through breakfast. The Tabard Inn offers extra incentive with their famous doughnuts served hot and pillowy, available only on weekends. Palena’s doughnuts also make rolling out of bed worthwhile, as do their lush egg dishes. The Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant takes the crown for brunch with a view, with its romantic wraparound balcony overlooking the Potomac River and monuments. The buffet boasts several types of fruit and vegetable salads, a raw bar, an omelet station, and a special kids’ buffet. (But we won’t tell anyone if you snag a few of the addictive pigs in a blanket, with their flaky pastry and savory spiced meat, for yourself.)

    Matchbox offers several locations in the DC area, including the suburbs, and something for everyone so it’s great for brunch with a crowd. Children, vegans, and burger lovers will all leave happy with its diverse menu.
  • On February 26, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What is Washington D.C.’s dining scene like?

    Washington’s dining scene is as diverse as its residents. On one level, there are the up-in-bright-lights fine dining restaurants in busy areas that capture the glitterati’s imaginations and get almost as much ink as Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. Some of them are worthy of the hype – I’m thinking of Komi, Bourbon Steak, and The Source.

    DC has terrific off-the-beaten-path choices too, like the outdoor garden at The Tabard Inn (or the cozy dining room in winter) and Palena in Cleveland Park for both high-end dining or the busy no-reservations café which serves the city’s greatest roast chicken and hamburgers, in addition to delicate consommés and crudo.

    Don’t neglect niche restaurants that are positively crave worthy. Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Adams Morgan makes such great chickpea patties, they didn’t need to make some of the city’s best French fries too…but they do, served steaming in a paper bag that keeps these crunchy potatoes hot until you devour them on your walk home. Etete serves terrific Ethiopian food.
  • On February 26, 2013
  • On February 25, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the best day trips near Washington D.C.?

    After an early renaissance that was, for some wineries, as rocky as Burgundian soil, Virginia vineyards are blooming into their full potential. For one-stop tasting, head to Early Mountain Vineyards where owners Steve and Jean Case have created a hub for showcasing Virginia wines and food. Opened just last year at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tasting room offers sips from ten or so different Virginia wineries, including the spectacular Linden, Barboursville, and Thibaut-Janisson labels. Our favorite comes from Early Mountain’s own property, a lush 2008 Merlot.

    Early Mountain shows off the state’s terroir by matching local artisanal foods with their wines in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. Antipasti plates of famed Virginia ham and local cow- and goat-milk cheeses paired with vino taste even better when sinking into one of the long room’s plush couches. Live music and a blazing fireplace welcome imbibers from 6 to 8 pm Fridays in the winter, and there’s a picnic space for warmer weather. Or buy a sandwich to-go from the Marketplace and take a stroll through nearby Shenandoah National Park, where the wildflowers arrive in March and April.
  • On February 25, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the best places to see a play in Washington D.C.?

    Although we’re known more for political theatrics than the arts, DC has an extraordinarily active drama scene. The past decade has seen a sharp increase in interest in plays, evidenced by three stunning new theaters built for long-established companies.

    Washingtonians love the classics, and the Folger Shakespeare Theater does the Bard justice with six shows per season in the company’s new $90 million digs in Penn Quarter. The company also performs non-Shakespeare plays, and draws accomplished stage actors like Patrick Stewart.

    To satisfy DC’s appetite for more experimental theater, the Woolly Mammoth Theater focuses on risk-taking plays and new playwrights. The company performs in their gorgeous new theater, also in Penn Quarter. 

    Arena Stage’s flagship theater on the water in Southwest Washington was completed in 2010, and showcases diverse American works from around the country. Kathleen Turner received rave reviews for her performance in Red Hot Patriot earlier this season.
  • On February 25, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What are the best museums in Washington D.C.?

    One of our favorite spots is the International Spy Museum, proof positive that DC has evolved since your eighth-grade field trip. Check in and you’ll receive a dossier with a secret identity. Then travel through interactive exhibits on hush-hush missions and discover DC’s covert history with a GPS-guided tour of the city’s top spy spots. Special programs include Argo Exposed, a comprehensive history of the real events that inspired the Academy Awards’ Best Picture this year, and SpyKids, a drop-off class for children (one recent topic: ninjas). The museum also houses one of the city’s niftiest gift shops.

    The US Botanic Garden is terrific for all seasons, but we especially love it in winter and early spring – few experiences chase the chill away quite like stepping out of the blustery cold and into a hothouse filled with Hawaiian orchids. Under the shadow of the dome on Capitol Hill, the Conservatory houses several different climates, including jungles and deserts, and thousands of plants. The perfect spot for a clandestine political meeting.
  • On February 21, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    Where can you get the best view of Washington D.C.?

    One fabulous thing about Washington – by Federal law, no building can be taller than 130 feet. The height restriction, combined with a ton of federal-park green space, gives Washington an open, breezy feeling. Head to the top of the Newseum on Capitol Hill to appreciate the open space with a panoramic view of the Capitol and the Mall (the view you often see in the background on TV news). The bell tower on top of the Washington National Cathedral recently reopened after the 2011 earthquake, and it’s a gorgeous king-of-the-world perch from the highest spot in DC.
     
    When enjoying a cocktail at the P.O.V. lounge on top of the W Hotel, you can hardly believe you’re allowed up there – it sits overlooking the Washington Monument and into the White House’s yard, so close you can practically watch the First Family walk Bo. History buffs will love standing on the Jefferson Memorial’s steps, overlooking the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin with a straight-shot view to the White House.
  • On February 21, 2013
    Mary Beth Albright answered the question: Mary Beth Albright

    What is public transportation like in Washington D.C.?

    Even if you have a driver to cart you around the city, the metro subway system is an amazing alternative travelers should check out. It can be a quick alternative to driving when the city is gridlocked or streets are closed for DC’s innumerable protests, parades, and pickets. The subway goes into Maryland and Virginia, so it’s a great option even if you’re out in the ‘burbs.
     
    If your destination isn’t Metro accessible, catch a cab – Washington’s bus system is byzantine and service can be spotty, often off schedule by more than 10 minutes. Taxis recently changed to a straightforward meter system to calculate charges, banishing DC’s confusing zone system. And there’s always Uber, the private-car-for-hire app, to hail a driver from your smartphone.
     
    If you’re downtown when it’s warm, look for the rickshaw bike riders – they’ll tow you in a wooden cart with a seat for two for about the cost of a cab.