Joining the Science Club
July 17, 2011

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Last night, M and I had a late dinner at Science Club, a D.C. bar that’s equipped with a highly vegan-friendly bar menu. I was excited; not only was the Science Club management extremely accommodating when I asked to make a reservation, but perusal of the online menu had also filled me with anticipation. Rice paper rolls with fresh veggies? Crudites with vegan aioli? Quinoa stuffed portabello? I was impressed.

It’s not easy to find fresh and innovative vegan food here in D.C.; you can find vegan options pretty much anywhere, and you can find vegan lunch food (Java Green) or treats (Sticky Fingers) easily. But when it comes to the kind of super-healthified, slightly eccentric vegan food that I love, my choices are limited. Great Sage was a revelation, but it’s a serious hike for a non-driver. And while I like Busboys and Poets plenty, I can’t say that the options are creative: it’s just the standard stuff (veggie burger; hummus plate; nachos) done notably well. I’ve been aching for more raw options and more health food, period, and I was hopeful that Science Club would fit the bill.

M and I arrived to the cozy, dimly light space, which was playing a pretty nice mix of music.

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Once again, I salivated over the menu:

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See all those “V’s”? I loved the availability of vegan options!

The bar features a solid wine list that also happens to be quite reasonably priced; M and I sampled a Chilean red for only $6.00 that was excellent. I was also very impressed with our hostess: when our food was delayed due to a big private party elsewhere in the restaurant, she gave us a realistic estimate of when to expect it, along with a gracious apology and some complimentary pita bread.

More pita came with my Mediterranean hummus platter, which featured a spicy red pepper and regular blend. The hummus was a little garlicky and not creamy enough for my taste, but M and I both devoured it:

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I was also quite enamored of my rice paper rolls and Thai dipping sauce: they were great, and M liked them, too. It reminded me that I ought to buy rice paper wrappers far more often!

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For the “entrees” (mine wasn’t really that, since I got a bunch of small plates together), M got the veggie burger and fries:

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Sadly, he wasn’t impressed, and I had to agree: veggie burgers are one of the most delightful vegan meals when they’re done right, and a lot of places do them right. The bar has been set high, and so this burger—which was crumbly and not very flavorful—just didn’t match up.

My quinoa tabouli, on the other hand, was quite tasty:

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Though I should point out that it wasn’t really tabouli, so much as quinoa over arugula with balsamic vinaigrette. Great idea, but not tabouli. For flavor and perfectly cooked, fluffy quinoa, however, this dish got major CR thumbs up.

Ultimate verdict? I liked Science Club a lot. I liked the privacy and the quiet of the brownstone setting, and I liked the music, and I love that the food is different: quinoa tabouli may be standard fare in my little corner of the food world, but it’s not typical bar fare, and it was a standout on the menu. I like the emphasis on healthy food, rather than vegan food that tastes good, but only at the price of a lot of processed ingredients or needless fat, salt, and sugar.

The downside here is that Science Club makes the kind of food I know and love, and knowing and loving it means also knowing when it’s not done perfectly. The hummus could have been creamier, the tabouli more authentic, the burger more tasty. Healthy food turns diners off when it’s not also truly delicious, and I hate it when that happens, because people who are trying to eat healthily find themselves feeling that they have to choose between nutrition and taste. That’s not true, and any restaurant that aims to make healthy, whole food should be working just as hard to make the flavors sing. I’m sure that, with a little more time, Science Club will perfect all of these super smart, super innovative menu items. I’ll definitely be back to enjoy them!

Thanks, SC, for a welcoming and nourishing meal.

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Speaking of science and science clubs, I think you’ve all probably gathered that I was NOT in the science club of my high school. No, no: I was a humanities girl, through and through, and actually had no problem declaring math and science to be a big waste of my time. This attitude, however juvenile, persisted well into my undergraduate career, and even into my career in publishing. It wasn’t until I’d been an editor for a few years that the ugliness of our double standard hit me: we humanities people are so quick to turn up our noses at anyone who isn’t familiar with all of Shakespeare’s canon, but we’re equally quick to admit—without apology, and sometimes even with pride—that we don’t know the first thing about math or science. This is disturbing on many levels, but the saddest thing about it is that we’re missing out on a vast realm of knowledge—knowledge that’s fascinating, beautiful, and provocative.

Becoming a science student at twenty-nine has not been easy: the learning curve has been steep, my performance has been relatively average, and I’ve had to work really hard to grasp the most basic of concepts. In the last few weeks, though, I’ve realized—much to my surprise and delight—that certain things are starting to make sense. I’m getting quicker at my stoichiometric calculations; I can visualize a molecule without having to Google it; I feel the rhythms of chemical equations so much more than I used to. I’d never claim that nuclear chemistry (or, God forbid, anything to do with physics) comes as naturally to me as does analyzing a poem, or memorizing facts from European history, or learning French, but it is starting to come to me, period. And that’s exciting. It’s as if a curtain has been lifted, and what it reveals is an entire world I never bothered to look at.

Most of us are quick to categorize ourselves as sciencey or humanities-ish, as left or right brain, but it’s really not that simple: we may have natural tendencies as thinkers, but there’s no divider between the disciplines that can’t be bridged with some hard work and initiative. Thank goodness for my return to student life: even if I don’t get into med school, I’ll always be glad I got a post-bacc, because it made me so much more adept at a new way of seeing the world. Maybe I’ll even like physics one day.

Kidding.

xo

 

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    58 Comments
  1. It is amazing to me that you didn’t like their black bean burger. It’s fantastic, and everyone I’ve ever brought there has thought it was top-notch, as well (because I insist they try it).

    Can’t please everyone, I suppose 😛

  2. Stumbling upon this post quite late…. and it certainly makes me miss DC!
    I love Science Club.. my boyfriend and I met there (right along that white brick wall, in fact) so it’s definitely special to me.
    On the restaurant front… have you been to the Vegetable Garden in Rockville? It’s a bit far but easy to access via Metro. It’s not raw and not always exactly the “healthiest” option but it is great if you have a craving for wonton soup and spring rolls.

  3. Ah Science Club. Once I tried to go there and it was too much like a club and there was some event for cool people and I wasn’t allowed in (they must’ve known about my horrid science grades throughout my academic career). I did return and felt similarly about the food. Though I do appreciate that I can take regular people there and not feel like I’m making them eat at a freakish place.

    Clearly I’m not a science gal. Never have been. That’s why I so admire what you’re doing!

  4. Thanks for posting about the Science Club – I’m definitely going to try it! And I second, third, and fourth Everlasting Life – it’s my fave place I’ve found here so far! Don’t get your hopes up too high about the smoothies, but otherwise, it’s great.

  5. Virgin poster here,
    I just found this website today and absolutely LOVING it!! I started the vegan lifestyle about a month or so ago and am always looking for new sources of information, especially those that are nutrition based and not just animal-free based.

    This restaurant looks nice, we have limited options here in Grand Rapids, MI but have found a little ethiopian restaurant that is completely vegan and absolutely yummy!!

    If I ever make it to DC, I would definitely give this a try!

    Keep up the good work Gena, the web needs more like you!!

  6. You might like Toscana Grill in Clarendon. They have raw pasta and pizza. And cake from Vegan Treats, a bakery in Bethlehem, PA. Literally some of the best cake I’ve had in my entire life.

  7. I like to think I straddle the arts-sciences boundary as a PhD student in experimental psychology- I certainly did as a liberal arts student undergrad. I have found the sciences very meaningful and even spiritual at times- a whole new way of trying to understand the world on its own terms, not human ones. That doesn’t mean that chemistry ever came easily- it didn’t- but that my philosophy and neuroscience majors dovetailed nicely in a pursuit to understand the nature of things. Knowledge is SO powerful in the life sciences, whether or not you become a doctor (which, give me a break, you will, whether or not it’s at the school of your choice). Congrats on the concepts clicking… your brain is hard at work supporting this conceptual change. Go Gena!

  8. glad another decent dining option is in D.C.!

    as far as the left brain-right brain discussion, I completely relate. I think I grew up believing science and math was for boys and English/humanities for girls (whether from society, T.V., my family, I don’t know…). That was just my perception/experience. I happened to love English, majored in it, and work in publishing now, but I do feel like I limited myself by thinking I “wasn’t good at math.” Which of course wasn’t true–I did well in math class growing up. I think I did miss out by writing off math/science so completely. And fleeting thoughts of going back to school now for public health have seemed overwhelming having no math/science prerequesit requirements met. Anyway. I admire you for getting into it now–so, so impressive!

      • well, *kind of*–I’m in magazine publishing. I’m an editorial assistant for a Jewish magazine. 🙂 Although, not for much longer; next week is my last before I’m onto other things (social work) and back to school! I’m hoping the student life (aka homework/papers/exams) is like riding a bike, as I’m a bit rusty! And I welcome tips ha!

  9. ok your title kinda scared me off for a second of this post. i thought it might not be about food. i should not have doubted! glad to know there’s another option when in the DC area. let’s hope for more and more vegan options everywhere.

    are you doing apps for med school yet? relax about it until it’s time.

  10. Hi Gena! I love your blog and your approach to food, science, and life in general 🙂 I too did a post-bacc as a humanities girl, and while it was tough, it is do-able. You’ll get it! Congrats on all the hard work!

    Just a quick question; have you ever considered applying to Physician Assistant school instead of or if you don’t get in to med school? I am sure you will, but PA school is the route I decided to go, mainly since there are fewer years of school involved before you are able to get out and help people. Just curious; I admire you regardless 🙂

    • Courtney,

      Definitely an option I’m considering if I don’t get admitted into med school 🙂 Thanks for the nice comment!

      G

  11. So is this like the DC version of the Jekyll & Hyde Club? 😉

    Yeah, I’m a picky restaurant-goer when it’s a cuisine I’m really fond of. Though not a Gena food, I’m uber picky about my steaks. It’s disappointing to order one and realize I could’ve made a better one on my grill.

    But sometimes I get slightly tired of my own cooking (I think everyone’s cooking has a bit of a “signature taste” even if they cuisines and dishes are different) and just relish the taste of something new.

    Hehe, I really feel you on the science vs. humanities. I’ve so been in the “what do you MEAN you never read Macbeth?!” camp. Learning more about computers gave me much more respect for math. But then I remember sobbing over chemistry homework and thank the gods I chose journalism.

  12. I’ve been out of town at another dance competition, so I apologize for lack of commenting or reading posts.

    Glad that you liked the Science Club overall – sorry about the burger though 🙁

    And I like the comparison between the right & left brain, and how we don’t have to be categorized in just one 100%.

  13. Hi there, I just discovered your website. I must say, though, that the first thing that caught my eye was the cooked steak from “Dominick’s 100% Tender Beef” ad, through the foodbuzz ad network – screaming at me from of the large vertical banner to the left of this post. Not a good fit, since your website even has “compassionate” in its tagline. It just doesn’t seem sincere to run these kinds of ads – as if you were advocating one thing and monetizing on the other. Is there maybe the option to exclude ads that stand in contrast to your message from your ad network’s rotation – or going with a ad network altogether?
    Cheers,
    Alex

    • Hey Alex,

      I totally understand why you find the ads troubling; I do, too. I’ve actually been working with FoodBuzz toward an agreement where they try to control and eliminate meat ads from CR, but occasionally an ad slips through and I have to email them about it, which is what I just did.

      Gena

      • I had wondered about the same thing. Thanks for your efforts, Gena! I appreciate it, and hopefully that will encourage FoodBuzz in a more positive direction!

        • I give you both my word of honor that I take this issue seriously, and that it won’t persist too much longer. I’m just hoping to influence/change the system before I opt out of it.

    • …sorry, I meant “with a different ad network altogether”. And, the steak banner was to the right of the post – not the left. Sheesh.

  14. Wow, the menu look fabulous! That hummus platter would disappear fast with me too, yum. I wish I had a place like that nearby, so true about the perception of healthy menu options and taste. Great review, thanks.

  15. The last parts of your post really speak to me. I’ve been an academic overachiever all my life, and put myself firmly in the Humanities camp. In fact, I made a big joke about how, in college (years 11 and 12 in Australia), I never even stepped foot in the Science buildings in the entire two years.

    The funny thing is, though, that I won the Science prize in high school (7-10 in Aus), and came top of maths in my first semester of Year 11 two, before switching over just to humanities. I’ve since realised that my scoffing at science was due to three straight years of horrible science teachers in high school, and that I rather enjoyed it in year 7. I really regret this, as I’ve sometimes dreamed of being an optometrist or a nutritionist. I feel like I’ve missed the boat, being 24, but your story gives me hope that maybe, in a few years, I could throw myself into a new life too…

  16. I was very much like you, Gena. I pretty much ignored science and maths and focussed on the arts and humanities. I always had a vague interest in biology but never sought to understand the rest. Culture shock when I started my nursing degree! In hindsight, I wish I had given maths and science more time when i was younger because we use it so much. Luckily Tom’s a pro at sciences and maths so he’s been helping me loads otherwise calculations would have been much harder (they’re still hard now, but it’s all starting to slot into place). Hope you have a great week x

  17. I’m so glad that you found a place in keeping with your preferences. Know exactly what you mean that this make your standards more exacting.

    I love hearing you talk about crossing over from humanities to sciences. I’m a humanities person too, but I felt ‘wrong’ about it for so long. I tried to keep studying math for way longer than worked with my schedule and actually had a bit of an inferiority complex about not being a scientist.

    I think it’s amazing that you’re looking ahead to where you’re going with this post-bacc, acknowledging that the med school thing isn’t a shoe-in, and being so philosophical and balanced about it all. I’m rooting for you that you’ll find your way and realize your passion: I have the feeling that you will. It’s wonderful that you’re getting the validation of seeing certain things come about more easily.
    love
    Ela

  18. Hahahhahah I hate physics so much.

    That restaurant seems exACTLY my cup of tea. I am all about those hole-in-the-wall cute restaurants, especially when they’ve got QUINOA of all things!

    D.C. has an abundance of vegan and highly vegan-friendly restaurants, which I love. In comparison to New York, it just doesn’t measure up, but coming from a city with only ONE vegan restaurant (and not that popular mind you), D.C. was like coming home. There are salad joints everywhere, Cafe Green (with more than one location!), Le Pain Quotidien, Zeb’s Ethiopian, and millllions of other places that are so vegan-friendly. You are truly lucky mahdear <3

  19. I thought that first picture was M, so I squealed inside. And then I saw it was a restaurant employee and admittedly I squealed inside anyway. 🙂

  20. Hey Gena,

    I was also the kind of high school student who said (shouted) things like, “WHY would I EVER need to find the foci points of an ellipse in real life?” I went on to major in cultural anthropology and then, like you, did a pre-medical post-bac program after college.

    One of the reasons it was so difficult for me was that I had to partially redefine my identity. Of course I didn’t change my core beliefs, but I had to relax my ego in order to allow myself to believe I could do well in organic chemistry and physics lab. (This involved not a few full-blown weepy meltdowns.)

    Sounds like you are doing a great job of finding balance in your life… So stoked you’re still able to find time to your devoted readers even while memorizing all the linear kinematics equations!

  21. Hey G! I totally thought that the guy in the first picture was your M, and I have to admit, I was a little shocked! I had pictured someone with a far different style. But then when I saw him behind the bar, I realized what was really going on. And you are so so right about the humanities vs. science people. We all have natural tenancies, but that does not mean we cannot appreciate the beauty of the “other side” so to speak. Not to mention, as vegans we use the power of math and science to back up our choices all the time! It is important to expand out thinking and learn new things. I am so happy that things are starting to come easier for you. With time I am sure it will end up feeling as natural as poetry.

  22. You KNOW I am a science girl, and I want to eat here just for the sheer novelty of it! I hear you with the vegan and healthy food though. Healthy food doesn’t mean bland and tasteless, but unfortunately restaurants rely so often on butter and salt to add “flavor” that that is what people are used to. Take that away and you have bland food, unless you replace it with other flavors that “sing” as you say. 🙂

    Congrats on improving in stoichiometry! I am a math/science girl all the way, but I also try to cultivate my creative side so that I am not all left brained.

  23. what a cute little place! So glad to see that there are more places offering vegan options 🙂 We have never been good at the whole science thing but honor and respect those that do… like you! 🙂

  24. The hardest thing about being a Science student who is actually a Humanities person at heart, through and through, is getting over the notion of romanticizing Science. It’s distracting and time-consuming! I spent most of my four years of undergraduate studies trying to convince myself that I saw beauty in things that I couldn’t understand. I spent a lot of time talking about science, rather than doing it. I got by really well in labs and fared slightly above average in class, but…I never seemed to pick up any passion of sorts. I think there might have been glimpses of revelation from time to time, but in the end… I genuinely don’t know that one’s brain can really be wired the other way. I hope you’ll be able to make an unprecedented and successful transition to medical school.

  25. aww, i love this post. and i need to check out science club! also have i mentioned we’re probably neighbors? 😉 glad you’re enjoying science!

  26. So glad you are feeling more comfortable in your studies, Gena. I really admire your perseverance and courage in going back to school! 🙂

  27. As a bio major at a liberal arts college with a heavy emphasis on the humanities, I experienced the flip side of this while taking our required literature and social science courses. Although I did enjoy those classes and tried to make the most of the learning opportunity, I think I would still feel very insecure about my knowledge if I suddenly became involved in a discussion of Kant/Nietzsche/etc! So it goes both ways. 🙂

  28. I think much of right/left brainedness is actually shaped by society and gender expectations rather than something we’re actually born with. I’m not saying this to be insulting, as a female I’m working toward a joint degree in psychology and therapeutic recreation, both arguable female dominate fields, especially at the undergrad level. I very much consider myself anti-science and math (one of my personal hesitations when previously considering med school)but admire those with brains for numbers.

    I’m just saying it to be realistic. Although we’d all like to believe we are unique individuals and we are in many aspects, so much of who we’ve become is shaped by enormous forces outside of ourselves.

  29. Have you been to Sticky Rice (stickyricedc.com)? They have a lot of vegan / vegan-option choices.

  30. Oh my gosh, I lived in DC this past semester and went to the Science Club all the time! I love that bar! So sorry that M didn’t like the burger – I’ve had it a few times and thought it was really tasty! (It definitely does fall apart though.) I saw another commenter mention Everlasting Life – that place is amazing and the staff is super friendly and will let you sample anything. Definitely check it out!

  31. I wholeheartedly agree, even in a modern age where ever narrowing specialization is the norm, and a well-rounded liberal arts education (in the traditional sense, including math and science) is the exception.

    What so many do not realize is the creativity and nimbleness that is required to be a truly great scientist or practitioner in such fields. The genesis of theories and solutions and models requires an artistry all its own.

    The stark poetry of a mathematical equation and the emotional calculus of a novel… what a lovely post, Gena.

  32. Aaaw, I still can’t get over how much your DC posts make me super nostalgic… I actually went to the launch of the Science Club’s vegan options (the very month I became vegan, I now realize!), it was the same night Sarah Kramer launched her latest book, Vegan-a-Go-Go! It was a great night. I definitely recommend the mushrooms next time, they’re quite yummy as far as I remember!

  33. gahhh! i would have loved this place simply for the name 🙂 if it makes you feel any better, i’m STILL not a physics person and i am a research scientist in immunology lol. i’ll always be a life science girl!

  34. Pre-med science is rough! Even for science-minded peoples like myself. Especially summer classes?? Rough. I took orgo a few summers back and had a similar schedule as you: class. lab. work. repeat. I’ve graduated as well, and haven’t looked at all this stuff in forever, but am preparing for the MCAT in a few weeks. I felt a little burn getting back into the hang of it. (And well..after a practice test I def have some brain-hurtage.) But it gets easier, I promise! Healthy delicious brain power food helps. 🙂

  35. You might have some more luck finding vegan food in DC if you venture off the beaten path a bit- Everlasting Life Cafe near Howard University is an all-vegan soul food place and has a juice bar. Soul Vegetarian’s Exodus and Elizabeth’s Gone Raw are supposed to be good too.

    • Thanks Anna! I hear awesome things about EL. My class schedule is so nuts right now that I rarely leave G-Town and Woodley paths, but as soon as I start work at Washington Hospital Ctr, I’m visiting!

  36. “Healthy food turns diners off when it’s not also truly delicious, and I hate it when that happens, because people who are trying to eat healthily find themselves feeling that they have to choose between nutrition and taste.”–

    Amen girl.

    That’s why if I know I am cooking for others who arent veggie/vegan, who arent into “health food”, I try EXTRA hard to make vegan food/”healthy” food taste amazing.

    That’s also why I am not afraid to cook with sugar or lots of fats in say a vegan and GF dessert. There are already things missing, i.e. wheat gluten really is so versatile..so I make up for it by making the dessert with real sugar or adding extra chocolate or cocoa powder..because I want to feel wow’ed and I want other to feel the same.

    That vegan and GF doenst *have* to be tasteless, or “taste healthy”..but yes, it doesnt always come naturally or easily and that sucks the restaurant didnt quite nail it.

    As for you and getting into med school…my god. You have a GREAT attitude about getting a post-bacc even if you didnt get into med school but I have to say, if I were you, and I went thru ALL of what you’re going thru and didnt get in…I would be devastated! Your attitude is phenomenal! 🙂

    • I have no doubt that I’ll cry for weeks if/when I don’t get into med school, but I do believe that I’ll be glad I got the post-bacc in spite of it. Thanks for the nice comment — it’s not so much great attitude as it is sheer realism! 🙂

  37. I really enjoy your insight on crossing the barrier between humanities and sciences.I’ve always been good at science, but my interests are far broader-reaching than just biochemistry, in which I have a bachelor’s degree and am currently working toward a Ph.D. I always feel like, since I was both naturally adept at grasping scientific concepts and a woman, I was pushed to make science my career and now I’m regretting not exploring my humanities interests more. Good for your for making the leap, good luck!

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