“When I travel around the country there are occasions to understand what brewers are doing by trying what they make, but it’s not really a central part of my work,” says the 37-year-old D.C. native who now resides in Van Ness.
What is central to her work is meticulously collecting artifacts and documenting stories for the museum’s American Brewing History Initiative. McCulla, who has a culinary arts diploma and a Ph.D. in American studies, has spent the past three years traveling the country to piece together America’s home-brewing and craft beer legacy. Her penchant for drinking and dining also spills over to her dream day, where she highlights some of her favorite dishes around the D.C. area.
I would certainly begin with a trip to Nagadi Coffee. They open to the public only on Saturday mornings, and their roasting facilities are in this little industrial park in Silver Spring. It’s just a really wonderful, friendly place where you can pick your beans and pick any preparation of it, and they have little cookies set out around the place, too.
After coffee, I’d hit up the Van Ness Farmers Market, which is managed by the [University of the District of Columbia]. It’s a great spot to pick up a bunch of fresh fruit, veggies, herbs and beans, and they have live music and craft vendors.
I would pick up a baguette at the bakery Bread Furst. It’s an awesome baguette. My 2 1/2-year-old daughter insists on holding the bag while she’s in her stroller and nibbling the ends off the baguette.
For lunch, I feel like we’d pop up to Rockville for Taiwanese small plates at A&J Restaurant, which is a longtime favorite. Their standout dishes are the Dan Dan noodles, and a little salad of dry bean curd, peanut and cilantro. My toddler has a favorite dish that’s braised pork on rice with a braised egg, and it’s just this wonderful comfort dish.
If I were to go back in my neighborhood, I would take a walk or run in Rock Creek Park. If I decided not to go to my neighborhood, I would head to the Hirshhorn Museum. On Sundays, they have a bilingual story time which is really great. They read books and we look at art on the walls, but then the facilitators have the little kids make art, too. I’d definitely pick up a coffee at Dolcezza in the lobby.
One of my favorite Smithsonian spaces is probably also one of the smallest, and that’s right on the west side of the Hirshhorn called Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. It’s this beautiful little garden that’s basically this like long winding pathway that goes from the mall down to Independence Avenue. It’s peaceful and beautiful in every season. I’d walk further down to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial to admire the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
At this point, it would be happy hour. If we’re not at one of the region’s craft beer taprooms, we might be at Anxo on Kennedy Street NW. They have wonderful ciders there, and a lot of them are very dry with funky flavor profiles that I love.
If I were to go out for dinner in the evening, it would be hard to decide between two favorites. One of those is Beteseb Restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, and I would go for the veggie combo plate or doro wot. And then another longtime favorite of ours is 2 Amys on Macomb Street NW. They have a special menu of what they call “Little Things,” with our regular favorites deviled eggs with green sauce and suppli a telefono. There’s also ripieno extra stuffed pizza, which is awesome, or Marsala custard for dessert.
If the weather is nice, I would totally look for an evening concert at Wolf Trap with a picnic on the lawn. We’d probably go there with dinner from Shemali’s, which is this great Mediterranean restaurant, and get a bottle of wine or some beers from Calvert Woodley in our neighborhood. If the weather is not nice, I’d see if Jason Moran has anything interesting going on at the Kennedy Center.