Food Diary: How a 27-Year-Old Consultant Eats on $225,000/Year in Washington, DC

7:58 p.m. Magpie and the Tiger, a new restaurant serving Korean American cuisine, is high on the list of things to eat for me and my boyfriend, so we book our Saturday night date there. I haven’t had a good meal all day and we end up ordering the majority of the menu. For drinks, I order the Matcha Sunset, a grapefruit, yuzu, habanero, and matcha cocktail that comes out blank from the menu, but it’s not that anymore when I add soju to it ($9.00 blank, $16.00 $ with alcohol). My boyfriend orders a bottle of Hana Makgeolli Takju ($48.00), a Korean rice wine, to share. Appetizers include focaccia di recco ($13.00), reminiscent of a scallion pancake, and mala tteokbokki ($16), a particularly spicy take on the Korean rice cake snack. Next are the yachae bokkum ($15.00), made with bok choy, mushrooms and a 63-degree egg, and the lobster, ginger and shallot guksu ($47.00). The noodles have a slightly chewy bite and aren’t drenched in a heavy sauce, which really lets them shine; these are some of the best noodles I have had in recent memory.

The star of the show is the whole rib kalbi ($68.00), which serves the beef cut into slices and comes with umami rice, ssamjang and red leaf lettuce. I grew up eating ssäm at home, but this is the tastiest Korean BBQ lettuce wrap I’ve come across. I had to stop initiating the conversation, because my boyfriend said “you just walked into a different world” after my third wrap. I know this dish is a winner because my boyfriend, who I’ve never seen eat leftovers, asked for it to be wrapped (no pun intended). Dessert is ube hotteok ($9), ube ice cream on a hot donut. Our check comes with two shortbread cookies in the shape of magpie birds and comes to $306.24, $20.00 of which I already paid when booking, and the rest is covered by my boyfriend . Again, relational equity.

11 p.m. Our final stop of the evening is at L’Annex, a cocktail bar in Georgetown that serves the most unique drinks I’ve seen. We usually meet our friends here and also made friends with his management. We often participate in a “team meeting” (a round of tequila shots) with the bar staff when we come. I once brought pandan and activated charcoal as drink ingredients, just to see what The Annex could come up with. (I think the latter is benign in small doses, but beware it can be a drug disruptor.) Shortly after, they were both on the menu – pandan in a drink called Spruce Banner, which includes gin , arak, mastiha, chartreuse, cucumber, lemon, mint and activated charcoal in a drink named Esmoquin, containing mezcal, crème de cacao and orange bitters. I am not saying that I am responsible for this, but I am not. One of the chefs at Chez Billy Sud, a nearby French bistro, even liked it so much that he asked the staff at L’Annex how this drink came about, then he came to see me at the bar to thank me for ‘ve helped create this. Tonight the bar manager brings us a round of champagne on arrival, and it’s that service and familiarity that keeps us coming back. I placed an order for Honeydew You Love Me ($18.00), a sparkling gin drink with notes of melon and a soft green tint, which is now perhaps my favorite drink of all time. I take the check for both of us and tip extra, so it comes down to $50.00.

Total Saturday: $70.00

Artwork by Maggie Cowles


8:40 am Afraid of waking my boyfriend at an odd hour on a Sunday morning, I take my morning Americano and my work appointments in the hallway outside my condo. I return to find him already awake and watching the golf – the final round of the Open is on.

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