Visiting the Library of Congress’ Reading Room

Twice a year, on President’s Day and Columbus Day, the stunning Reading Room of the Library of Congress opens its door to the general public. I’d visited the Library of Congress on many occasions but had never gotten a chance to really see the main Reading Room, other than through a glass window on a second floor balcony. So last week, I decided I would cross it off my DC-to-do-list.

The Library of Congress is a bibliophile’s dream. The collections of the Library include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages, including some rare works like the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries etcetera, etcetera. The building and exhibits are worth seeing, even if you don’t get to walk into the actual main reading room. One of my favourite detail from the ornate architecture of the building is the names of authors engraved in gold lettering at the top of the columns in the Great Hall. These illustrious authors, including French writer Victor Hugo, were popular at the time and considered to have made great contributions to literature.

Ceiling Reading Room Library of Congress

Library of Congress reading room

Library of Congress reading room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Library of Congress Reading Room

Of course, one can always visit the Main Reading Room, as long as you have a current is Reader Identification Card but you’re not typically allowed to take pictures then. Also, it’s a lot more fun to do on the open house days because they have staff on hand to answer questions (and tell you how to get said reader identification card, which takes less than 15 minutes…) So save the date for next President’s Day if you haven’t been yet 😉

New Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook – Meet the Author and Founder!

Le Pain Quotidien may come from Brussels but I won’t hold this against the chain of organic bakeries, cafés and food shops. After all, founder Alain Coumont sure knows how to make good bread. And how to export it around the world too. Besides, I can’t really hold being Belgian against anyone given my own background 😉 I remember my excitement when Le Pain Quotidien, which already had a nice presence in New York City, finally arrived in the District. I was starved for good bread, and I missed their breakfast, the one that’s just an excuse to sit at a rustic communal table and spread jams on bread and croissant. I heart my carbs! And I hearted the adorable little courtyard tucked away in the back of their first DC location, right at the entrance of Georgetown. Since that first restaurant, 8 more have more popped up in the DMV, which means that Washington, DC has more Le Pain Quotidien than Paris or Brussels now. Crazy!

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This week, Alain Coumont is paying a visit to three of his local restaurants, as he travels the country promoting his new cookbook “Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook” (co-written with Jean-Pierre Gabriel.) He’s stopping for book signings at LPQ Carroll Square Friday, June 14 (975 F Street, NW; 6-8pm,) LPQ Georgetown on Saturday, June 15 (2815 M Street; 11am-2pm) and LPQ Tyson Corner, also Saturday June 15 (3:30-5:30PM; 8101 Tyson Corner Center.)

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The new cookbook, Alain’s second, is full of favorite recipes from Le Pain Quotidien’s kitchens so you can enjoy your “daily bread” at home too. It presents over 100 recipes for simple, and healthy fare and includes a lot of carb-y recipes, yes, but also a lot of vegetarian ones. I haven’t had much of a chance to read through the book yet (it just came out) but I do own a copy of his previous cookbook, “Alain Coumont’s Communal Tables: Memories and Recipes” and thought I’d share one of my favourite recipe from that book with you. I’ve adapted the measurements from grams etc. to be more US kitchen friendly.

Feta, Olive, Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Quiche
Recipe courtesy of “Alain Coumont’s Communal Tables: Memories and Recipes”
Ingredients:
Store bought pie crust pastry
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
10 pitted kalamata olives, quartered
10 sun dried tomatoes, julienned
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 egg, plus 2 yolk
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
16 oz bag of chopped spinach
Extra Virgin olive oil
Grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

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Preheat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Wash and dry the spinach. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan and fry one of the garlic cloves. When it starts to brown, add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Line a round pastry dish with the pastry crust. Cover with foil. Weight down with pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn its temperature up to 400 degrees. Remove the foil/pie weights and brush the crust with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Top with the spinach mixture, the feta cheese, the olives and the sun dried tomatoes. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk, cream, the second garlic clove and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add a pinch of nutmeg and pour in the baking dish, covering the veggies and cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the quiche is set. Remove and let sit for another 10 minutes before serving, then enjoy with a light salad!

Bon Appétit!