On Saturday, May 13th, the 28 countries of the European Union (and the EU Delegation) opened the doors to their embassies for a day of cultural education during the EU Open House. As a travel-junkie, this is one of my favorite “DC” events all year. My parents usually come down for a visit around this time each year too, and it’s become a favorite activity of ours. Each year we see how many embassies we can make it too – returning to old favorites and checking out some new ones as well. The event typically runs from 10am-4pm and rain or shine, it’s always a hit. Below I’ve highlighted the six embassies that I visited this year. Keep this on your radar for next year – it’s a great way to sample some food and drink that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. The embassy staff and volunteers are super friendly and most
Our first stop is always Belgium. Having lived in Brussels for 6 months, I may be a bit biased, but this Embassy typically ends up with huge lines later on in the day. In addition to features on WWI and companies in their country, the Embassy passes out chocolate, Speculoos cookies, and yes, beer. Outside in front of the Embassy, there are waffles and fries for sale too. This year, there was also a Belgian brewery (Brouwerij Cornelissen) pouring a selection of 6 of their beers. They aren’t available in the U.S. yet, but are trying to be soon.
Next, we walked down the street to the British Embassy. Greer featured the Embassy’s schedule of events and foods in advance of the Open House, and you can read more about that here. In addition to a tour of the main floor of the Ambassador’s Residence, we witnessed *actual* ravens and enjoyed a nice scotch tasting.
This was our first “new” Embassy on Saturday. This is one of the most recognizable buildings on Mass Ave and I’ve always been curious what it looked liked on the inside. Guests were greeted by Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi and then embarked on a culinary tour of Finland. There was cheese, there was salmon, there was lingonberry pie – and a new item – mushroom coffee. It’s supposed to better for you due to less caffeine. While the taste was actually pretty good, if a little earthy, I don’t think I’ll be trading in my Dunkin’ anytime soon. All the food items were prepared by the Embassy’s resident chef.
Next up, we hopped in an Uber and headed over to the embassies near the Van Ness metro stop. Visitors can purchase food and beverage tickets for vodka tastings and halušky, and there was a variety of wines and mead to sample. The servings are generous – especially the vodka pours. Guests can also learn more about traditional Slovak culture and there are musical performances throughout the day.
The Austrian Embassy had a lot going on during the day. By the time we arrived we were hungry for something more substantial and the offerings did not disappoint. We enjoyed some good bratwurst and beer, as well as apfelstrudel from Little Austria in Virginia. The apfelstrudel was delicious – all it was missing was a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. If you missed the event at the embassy but still want to try some, Little Austria sells their baked goods at the Marymount Farmer’s Market and the Westover Farmer’s Market (both in Arlington, Virginia).
Our final stop was the Czech Republic, tucked away in Van Ness. There were children dressed in traditional costumes singing songs, tables set up with information on everything from technology to Gregor Mendel. The Ambassador’s residence was also open to the public, and the Ambassador himself was available to chat with. He shared with us some lively tales of his previous postings and the origin stories of some of the artifacts in his living room. By this point, we were too full for more food, although the traditional sausage and rye bread looked simple and delicious. Of course, we couldn’t help ourselves from sampling some Moravian wines and enjoying a Czech Pilsner Urquell.
All in all, the EU Open House is a day of family, friends, fun, and food. Rain or shine, it’s always a fun way to spend the day, learn something, and try something new. Make sure to check it out next year!