My mom is sitting across a candlelit table with two glasses of wine and half a cocktail, and she's giggling at a bad joke I just made. We are at the beautiful restaurant, Jardenea, in Washington D.C. where we ordered the wine pairing...not the best idea since mom is the biggest lightweight I know. Luckily, I’m a bit more seasoned and happy to help her with her drinks. We got gussied up for a special evening together for no reason other than to enjoy each other’s company. As we happily converse over our delicious meal, I reflect on how far our relationship has come.
There was a time when I never took anything my mom said seriously. Her guidance seemed antiquated, and I knew from the bottom of my teenage heart, that I was always right. I saw her as a traditional Korean who was out of touch with American culture and modernity.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I see how mistaken I was. Her advice is always right, and I kick myself in the ass when I stubbornly disregard it. I’ve also realized we are so alike it’s uncanny – something I’m now sincerely proud of. We both love people and use too many superlatives; you’ll commonly hear us say, “Isn’t this the best day ever!” or “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted!!!” And we both appreciate the little pleasures in life and show our love through food.
And speaking of food, our dinner at Jardenea complemented our high spirits; it was soulful and generous. Mom enjoyed a jumbo-lump crab salad topped with a delicate fan of creamy avocado and white truffle vinaigrette. She enthusiastically ate it with a smile. My deconstructed caesar salad was my favorite dish of the evening. Super crunchy romaine hearts were stuffed in a brioche crouton ring and topped with peppery dressing, large shards of parmesan, and beautiful white anchovy filets. This course got me excited about caesar salad again, and I’ve been craving it ever since.
For entrées, I had beef short rib en croute with polenta batonetts, and mom had Jardenea’s signature coriander dusted Hawaiian sea bass with blue corn grits. Both dishes were spot-hitting, but the sea bass was memorable. The earthy and citrusy notes of the toasted coriander complemented the clean, sweetness of the perfectly cooked fish. By the end of the night our stomachs were content and we were slightly buzzed, but couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. We ordered coffee and crème brulee and chatted until we knew we had overextended our stay.
It’s funny how relationships evolve over the years, and when you finally realize that your parents are people too. As an adult, I have a newfound respect for my mom and have developed a friendship that's unique to a mother and daughter. I cherish the times we spend alone, and it's meals like these that I'll always treasure.
Jardenea Restaurant - Located in the Melrose Georgetown Hotel
2430 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037