We visited the Botanical Gardens on the Mall on Sunday, drawn by the annual orchid exhibit. The exhibit lets you get face to face with a huge number of orchids, in every color and shape imaginable. But the hit of the visit was the West Wing's kid-accessible spice exhibit. Metal flower sculptures house sniffable samples of spices, with a focus on the component part of several spicing mixes from around the world. There's some educational material about the plants, processing, and harvest methods. Either the exhibit is very new, or the curators are doing a good job of rotating the spice samples. Everything smelled quite fresh. If your kid enjoys sniffing your spice jars, they will get a kick out of this exhibit.
Our appetites whetted by the spices (and the one orchid plant that was distinctly cinnamon scented), we went to the nearby National Museum of the American Indian for lunch. Mitsitam cafe showcases native foods from a number of different regions. We ended up with selections from the Northwest.
The Cedar-planked salmon was a skimpy portion (maybe 2 inches of a fillet) and dried out, not to the point of being salmon jerky, but certainly to the point that it was not at its best. The buffalo was thin buffalo slices drowned in salty gravy. Our mashed potato with horseradish contained not even a hint that it included horseradish.
The buffalo stew was better; it had both flavor and texture. A small cup was fairly pricy, but the spouse opined that next time he'd skip the buffalo slices and have just the stew.
I had an agua fresca made with quinoa. It was citrusy and a bit chunky--and I'd have it again.
There's no question that Mitsitam Cafe offers some dishes we cannot find elsewhere in our region. But yesterday's lunch makes me wonder whether we're getting good examples of the dishes.
The strength of Mitsitam is the setting (we had window seats, looking out onto the fountain and a pair of mallards) and the variety.
But for overall quality, both the National Gallery and the Natural History seem to have better food for your Mall excursions.