Apple Tart Nostalgia

I made an apple tart last week, on Sunday, which took me right back to that autumn in France. Sure, we cut the apples differently then, but the idea was the same. A basic butter crust, handmade of course, without a machine or even a special pastry tool. Apples, peeled and sliced. A bit of sugar and butter on top, before it goes into the oven to bake.

There are a lot of different recipes for a French apple tart, all claiming to be the authentic version.  Some say you should add Calvados, whereas others must be cooked upside down so that the apples and sugar caramelize. But this is the one I remember. Simple, easy. I spent a lot of time after I got home trying to recreate that tart. But I felt I could never get the taste quite right (maybe something with the crust?) even though it had seemed so straight forward. Like somehow taking the simplest of ingredients out of the French countryside rendered them different, even though I was putting them together the same way. 

That first autumn is too long ago now for me to remember if what I made last week tasted like the apple tarts then.  But making it felt the same, which is maybe all that matters. 



For a brief while I was away from DC, all the way down to the southern hemisphere, where the days were expanding, the sun was high and bright in the sky, and the clouds were pregnant with rain. Springtime. Eighteen hours later, I'm back on the other side, where everything is starting to contract. The sun is pale and the last of the wisteria blooms hang, ready to fall off the vine.

Summer Heat Hideaways

Most of this summer here in DC has been unusually pleasant for a mid-Atlantic summer, with low (80s) temperatures and less humidity than normal. But starting this weekend and pushing on through this week, the temperatures and humidity are back up. Summer's last salvo.


Everyone likes to talk about how much they hate the heat here, and I say I do too. But, I kind of like it at the same time. The heat here forces you to slow down and bend with it. If you walk anywhere, you have to abandon your ego (because you will be covered in sweat) and take your time. And one of the best parts about the heat is the search for the cool spots, the little urban hideaways where you can pause and bring your body temperature down. These cool spots offer the delicious respite. And maybe its because I'm always cold, but the only thing I like more than the sensation of cooling off, is the feeling of going outside again into the heat after. That brief moment of equilibrium - cool skin, hot air. The perfect temperature.

In honor of the dog days of summer, three of my neighborhood favorites for cooling down before heating up again:

Sakana Japanese Restaurant on P Street: This little sushi joint is reliably good, fast, and at the ground/underground level. I'm not sure if they even have to use AC, or if the low level, shade, and fans keep it cool. Either way, its a blessedly cool stop over if you don't want to cook after work, or you're on a weekend walkabout. And if you wait at the bar for takeout, they will give you a ice cold green tea, free of charge, which is the perfect thing to chill the sweat right off of you.

Yoga District Dupont: This is a weird one - exercise makes you hot, right? And yoga is taught without AC to keep the muscles limber. Worse, this studio is on the top floor of a converted DC row house, where all the heat rises. True, this cool down spot requires a time and energy investment. You will definitely get hotter before you get cooler. But (and I write this as somebody who rarely exercises and is not a yoga aficionado) if you can push past the heat, you'll be rewarded with a blissful temperature by the time you are lying on your back meditating at the end of class, with the sounds of the street a soft murmur from three stories up. I can't quite say you will be freezing cold, but you will be the right temperature.

Kramerbooks Bar: Always cold and kind of dark no matter what hour of day, with not a window to be seen, this is one of my favorite spots to dodge the heat and tuck in with a book and cold beer.

What are your favorite spots to cool down?