ESOP Convention 2016

First of all, Happy Memorial Day! Thanks to anyone who has ever served our country, is currently serving our country, or plans on serving in the future. There's a reason we're always shouting, "USA! USA!" unironically; this is an amazing place to live and I am forever proud to be an American.

I thought I would be patriotic and share snippets from my short trip to DC last week. Because I was there for work, I really didn't do much in the city. However, I arrived early enough on Wednesday to roam around a bit before our dinner reservation and we had some free time here and there so I still managed to have a little bit of fun in between my lectures and sessions.

The main reason I was in DC was for work. A group of us were attending the annual ESOP convention. ESOP stands for 'Employee Stock Ownership Program' and it's a pretty cool concept. My company is an ESOP and basically, it means I own stock in my own company... for free. It makes me work harder and it gives me extra retirement money; it's a win-win. I was lucky enough to be allowed to attend and listened to several great speakers and got to network with people working for ESOPs.
It was a great way to spend a few days. And, if I'm allowed to say, it was frankly kind of nice to be out of the office for a few days especially since the weather was so lovely. Usually in DC, it would've been the beginning stages of muggy summer; instead, it was crisp and gorgeous.

Here's what I packed:
convention in dc
Everything fit into a neat little weekender. I took a small purse that fit my phone and wallet for our dinner outings. I purposely picked one item outfits, because they're more convenient and frankly, they pack much more easily. My coworkers were shocked at my lack of luggage. One of them asked, "Are you even staying overnight? What's wrong with you?" I took that as a compliment.
The Acela was a babe. It was a v. succinct two hour train ride, which is mind boggling compared to the 4+ hours it would have taken by car, and that doesn't even include traffic. We whizzed from Metropark to Philly to Wilmington to Baltimore and then we were in DC. I had an entire quad to myself so I was mighty comfortable too.
The convention was held at the JW Marriott, which was a gorgeous, fancy hotel just a block from the White House.
My room was nice and cozy with comfy beds and a lovely bathroom. I have it on my Marriott preferences that I like king size beds and they accommodate me 99% of the time so I was mildly disappointed. However, the entire place was booked up and they gave me a room on a high floor so I couldn't be too peeved.
Since I had a big chunk of free time on Wednesday, I hopped on a bike (hooray for Capital Bikeshare) and rode around the city. I stopped by to say hi to the Obamas and then rode down to the Tidal Basin.
It started to drizzle as I was leaving the Jefferson Memorial so I raced back to the hotel.
I ended up snacking and watching 'My 600 lb. Life' before dinner. I was torn between feeling gluttonous and having boosted self-esteem because I weigh less than 600 lbs.
We went to Jaleo for our first dinner and it was awesome. Our table wasn't quite ready when we arrived and we stood around for about an hour, so they gave us some free (frankly crappy) champagne. To revamp our moods, we ordered two pitchers of sangria which immediately perked us up, as it was really delicious.
Jaleo is a tapas style restaurant so we ordered a bunch of different plates which was passed around and shared. I didn't snap all of the dishes because I was busy eating, but we tried the scallops with peas and mint, chicken fritters served in a sneaker, fideua with shrimp and calamari, chorizo, braised lamb, seared lamb, hangar steak with peppers, crispy fried pork roll, a cheese plate with fig preserves, and asparagus. Everything was awesome; the fideua in particular was superb and gave me flashbacks to being in Barcelona.
The next morning, we had the convention sessions which lasted from 8AM to 4PM and then afterwards, I hopped on another bike and took a ride around town again.
The weather was much more beautiful that afternoon compared to the previous one.
It was pretty hot so to cool down, I went and got a cereal milk soft serve with sprinkles at Momofuku Milk Bar.
For our final dinner, we went to The Capital Grille and I had some of the best steak I've ever eaten in my life.
The wine storage was pretty awesome and I was pretty tickled by Abe Frohman, who I believe is the sausage king of Chicago. If you get that reference, you're cool. If not, go and watch some classic 80s movies and get back to me.
We started off with some amazing appetizers. The calamari with hot cherry peppers was so good; I plan on recreating it at home soon. We also had this fresh mozzarella wrapped with melted prosciutto sitting in a pool of balsamic vinegar. It was phenomenal.

For my main, I went for the tenderloin with lobster tails. The steak was perfectly cooked and tender and the lobster was insanely good and buttery. For sides, we shared the lobster mac & cheese, brussels sprouts with bacon, and truffle fries. I dabbled a bit in the sides but I was pretty obsessed with my steak and lobster that I didn't have much time to pay any attention to anything else.
The next morning, I went to a few sessions and then hopped in a cab to Union Station around lunchtime. I grabbed a bowl at ShopHouse, which was awesome. We need one of those up here. It's like Chipotle (in fact, it's owned by the same people) except it's Thai/Vietnamese cuisine. So you can pick noodles or rice and then top it off with a protein, vegetables, and a curry sauce. It was delicious and portable.
So, that was how I spent 48 hours in DC. The weather was amazing, especially for May, and I learned a lot.

I want to go back to DC next year and attempt to see the cherry blossoms again but I think I'll be underwhelmed because the JW Marriott was so frickin' nice and I know I could never afford a place like that ever again {sob}.