Monday, March 30, 2009

Le Pain Quotidien-Clarendon

Pistachio Marzipan tart at Le Pain Quotidien. A little pricey, but delish! The Belgian bakery chain just opened a new spot three weeks ago in Clarendon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Update: Final Four Wildcats and Philly Hoagies!

Penns' Quarter Tavern erupted with emotion as Scottie Reynolds drove down the court to shoot and make the most important lay-up of his life. After seeing the fortunes of the Villanova Wildcats teeter on the brink of disaster for the duration of the game, the collected alumni shouted for joy, slapped hands with strangers, hugged significant others and made plans to celebrate victory Philly-style at Taylor Gourmet. Once again, Chris and Erica clued us in to what's hip and delicious in the H-street corridor. Founded by two Philadelphia natives and hoagie lovers, Taylor Gourmet specializes in Italian style hoagies that are big on flavor and feature their founders Philly pride. Their bread is shipped in daily from Sarcone's Bakery in Philadelphia and loaded up with tasty ingredients like homemade meatballs, breaded or grilled chicken cutlets, pesto, aged provolone, and fresh arugula. Each sandwich and dish is named for a Philadelphia street or landmark, which prompted nostalgic musings and munching. Taylor Gourmet also serves up a slightly different beverage experience with Boylan's Fountain Soda, made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup. The cane sugar adds a different, more refreshing flavor to pop favorites like orange, cola, and root beer. The sandwich shop delivers in many neighborhoods throughout the district and also has an Italian specialty market in the back.

Ambiance note : The sleek, urban, yet casual style of Taylor Gourmet really reminded me of restaurants in Miami. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the samba-style music playing in the background? I'm not sure. Their website attributes the design to a collaboration with grupo 07 so if anyone knows who they are please let me know. The design is fantastic. I'll post pics on our next visit.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Talk on the Web: Ask Tom

I just found this awesome website for advice on DC dining. (Literally, two minutes ago!) Ask Tom at the Washington Post's site gives you a chance to ask Tom Sietsema, the Post's food critic, a mundane or esoteric question about dining in the greater DC area. If you have a question about dining beyond the Beltway area, Tom comes to the rescue with a Postcard about said foreign or domestic location. Although you have to be a member to see the postcard, registration is free.

In other news, my sister Mimi and her roomate Nicki have entered the blogosphere with their blog Fit 2 Cook. This is their first week on the web and will be sharing fitness and healthy eating tips with the world. I highly recommend them, not only because Mims is my sister, but also because they are workout and healty eating nuts. They just completed a half marathon in Miami and sent me an awesome recipe for granola (with pics) that I will be posting sometime this week.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Meatloaf to the Rescue

Last week I was in a cooking funk. I'm not sure if it is all the recent travel, or the dwindling reserves in my pantry and freezer, but dinners were less than spectacular. There was the case or the burned tomato sauce on Monday, the terrible tabouleh and gritty clams of friday, and one other mishap that I seem to be repressing from my memory. I considered sharing all of this with you all on the blog, but chickened out at the last minute. Who wants to see blackened tomato sauce and overcooked bulgur? Luckily (for Vince) Monday's Italian style meatloaf seasoned with Tenuta's spice blend saved the day! I mixed ground pork and beef with a generous pinch of Tenuta's Italian spice blend added some tomato sauce, bread crumbs, a couple of eggs, onions and garlic and came out with this delicious little loaf. I cooked it on a wire rack in a baking pan because I thought it was going to be really greasy, but I seem to have stumbled upon an ingenous way to keep from burning the bottom, while sealing in all the juices. I'm not sure what ingredient contributed to the golden color, but I sure am glad that I made and froze another loaf for later!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weekend Update: Carousels are Cool

This weekend DC got a taste of spring, just a little. With our friends in town and Villanova in the tournament, we headed to the Penn's Quarter Tavern to watch the Wildcats completely dominate UCLA. While the game rocked, the nachos left a lot to be desired, for starters - cheese. But that was the only low point of the weekend. After a visit to the National Archives (yes, the Constitution is still there and still cool to see) we enjoyed the brisk air and revisited our childhoods by riding on the Carousel on the Mall. After a glimpse of the White House, but none of Obama (sorry, Kate!) We tramped off to Georgetown for Thai at our new favorite place, Bangkok Bistro. The mussels were devine as was the whole meal actually, but Bangkok Bistro deserves its own post, so I guess we'll just have to eat there again! We saved dessert for Boccato in Clarendon and indulged in some heavenly gelato. There flavors are so innovative and delicious that they too merit another post and another visit. In short, it was a lovely weekend with friends that warm weather made even sweeter.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Guest Post from Across the Pond

British culinary explosion
by UK resident Claudia Vilato

British food is bad, and everyone knows it. But for the past several years, it has been undergoing a makeover- or more like plastic surgery. There’s the sultry Nigella with her spoon licking and delighted moans tasting a frittata, the feisty Gordon Ramsay, whose madman bullying has pressured newbies to churn out impressive culinary feasts, and the homey Jamie Oliver, whose campaigns to make Britain healthier and tastier has won him both friends and enemies on this pork rind-eating, beer-drinking island. These chefs have done such a great job that they have won fans even in America.

But there’s one chef who has yet to influence across the pond, and interestingly, has the most to offer: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the man who started River Cottage. Hugh’s project is simple- he wants people to realize that growing one’s own food is the healthiest, most delicious, and most ethical option there is.

And it’s really fun. Hugh and his team not only grow fruits, veggies, and herbs (as in helicopter, not hour), they also maintain (and kill) chickens, pigs, cows, geese, and lambs, and they hunt wild game and fish. He has mentioned that he does not forget for one minute that the animal he is feeding and caring for will end up on a plate, but he derives much pleasure knowing that, because of him, the animal led a good and happy life and died in a humane way. He might be smug, but I admire his thinking as a smart, ethical alternative to boring, bland, and uptight vegetarianism.

What’s more, I admire his cooking!! Lord above, he is good. I remember watching his Medieval Christmas show, in which he made a stuffed 10 bird roast, from turkey to pigeon and everything in between. On another show he made marshmelllows from scratch, and on another, he and his friends went fishing and cooked the catch with a fresh lemony sauce right on the boat. His book is even better because it’s got recipes and it shows readers how to grow food and raise animals for food. All ingredients are fresh from the farm. He makes such things as zucchini and raisin chutney, lovage soup, fresh made pate, and lamb’s kidneys with chili and lentils. He’s even got this one recipe for beef tartare (totally raw ground beef with raw egg mixed in)—not for the gastronomically challenged!!

In America, there might be some tasty international cuisine, but we certainly hold last place when it comes to food politics. From pesticides to pumping hormones and packing animals into cages, we are sorely backwards in this department. It’s nice to see that the Brits have swallowed their pride enough to address the taste issues in British cooking as well as the political ones. I urge everyone to take a simple test- buy organic carrots and non-organic ones, and see which ones you like better…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tacos for Two

The Mission: Make a taco dinner with all the fixing for two people. The catch: There can be no leftovers! This was the situation I found myself in just prior to our trip to Wisconsin. I had leftover red beans from Monday night's dinner and had a hankering for tacos. But the idea that half a tomato, half a bag of shredded cheese, three quarters of a head of lettuce and seven-eighths of a red onion would be rotting in my fridge while we were out, just bugged me. The solution?

Harris Teeter's excellent salad bar! For less than $5 I got just the right amount of fixin's for a taco dinner.

Add a little bit of elbow grease and voila! Instant taco toppings!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Williams Sonoma Banana Bread

When your bananas look like this:

There is just one way to dispose of them, banana bread! Last week, I tried the Williams-Sonoma Breakfast (Simon and Schuster, 2003) recipe for Banana-Raisan Bread with a few of my own tweaks.

Being a raisan-hater, I substituted chocolate chips and made my own buttermilk (vinegar and regular milk, recipe at The bread came out pretty good. The recipe called for much less sugar than I am used to and the result is a banana bread that isn't sickly sweet. The chocolate chips fulfilled the raisans' role by adding moisture and sweetness. All in all a good recipe.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Ah, Wisconsin!

We spent the weekend in Kenosha, Wisconsin visiting family and eating some of the best Italian food we've had in a long time. The food feast started with the Lent special at Mike and Angelo's in Racine. Lake Michigan perch fried golden in a light batter and served with your choice of fries or spaghetti.

After dinner, we headed for drinks at Captain Mike's Lighthouse Pub, the bar where everyone will know your name if you can make it through the 100 beers on hand (30 on tap) in record time. On Saturday we started with a trip to Oliver's Bakery for cookies, and then off to Tenuta's. If you are from Wisconsin, you know this is the place to get any of your Italian staples. Their cheese, charcuterie, and wine selections are impressive as is their collection of dried, fresh, and frozen pasta. We loaded up on Parmesano Reggiano, aged provolone, and dried pasta, but, regretfully, had to leave the pasta sauces and wine for our next road trip.

Tenuta's meatball bombers and seasoned olives held us over until dinner at Wells Brothers Pizza rated one of the top ten pizzeria's in the U.S. by USA Today. Cut in squares, the incredibly thin and crispy crust is piled with savory toppings and cheese in any combination you want: anchovies and garlic, sausage and onions, tomato basil, or simply pepperoni. It is simply amazing how quickly those little squares of savory goodness go down. We tried some of Wisconsin's microbrews with our dinners, but will definitely have to come back for a more thorough examination of the state's breweries.

Finally, we capped the weekend with a home-cooked lunch that bested them all, complete with arroncini [fried risotto balls] made from scratch, fresh ravioli, and my father-in-law's newest invention, an eggplant-topped dish with layers of potato and spare rib meat hiding underneath. Top that off with a Kenosha staple, Cardinali's bread, and what can I say, it was great.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aprihop at Dogfish Head Alehouse

Last night, we celebrated the launch of Dogfish Head Alehouse's Aprihop beer with our friends Rob and Emily and with Chris. For those of you who haven't been, Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church (they have one in Gaithersburg as well) offers great casual dining and an excellent selection of unique brews that you won't find in many other restaurants of the same caliber. We tasted the Aprihop beer for the novelty (and the free glass), and I found it to be a great date beer. There was a hint of apricot to keep it sweet for her, but enough hops to make it manly for the gentleman. The food tasted great and was delivered promptly at the proper temperature. I ordered the Greek salad to start and shared a pizza, Cajun-Alfredo with Vince. The greens were crisp and not overdressed and the pizza exploded with flavor. I am now on a quest to find andouille sausage to cook with in my own kitchen. Service was smooth and the only drawback I can see to coming here with a large party is the "one check per table" rule. While this is certainly an advantage to the dining establishment, it can make things complicated at the end of the meal, especially when there are so many excellent beers to sample. My advice, bring cash and follow this simple formula recently expounded by my friend : "When the check comes-- PLEASE be sure to account for Everything that you ATE + DRANK + TAX + TIP."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A new spin on Mom's cooking

When we think of "mom's cooking" many of us hearken back to the comfort foods we had as children for some this might be creamy gooey mac n' cheese, meatloaf, or, in my case, rice and beans. But just because these favorites have a special place in our stomachs and hearts doesn't mean that moms can't spread their own culinary wings and try new favorites. For example, this past weekend my mom made a dish I had never her make before in a culinary tradition that isn't ours by heritage. Embellishing on a recipe found in Real Simple magazine, she cooked up some thai-chili shrimp and fried shitake mushrooms served on a bed of white rice and watercress. This was a quick and savory meal that balanced sweetness, savoriness, bitterness, and acidity while still looking beautiful on the plate.

Monday, March 9, 2009

First Picnic 2009

This weekend was a glorious weekend in DC. Warm weather for the first time this year, sunshine at least on Sunday afternoon, and time to relax and enjoy with my favorite people. My sister Ana came to visit and that gave us an even greater incentive to get out and see the monuments and visit Great Falls National park. On a regular day, the teeming crowds would have made me crazy, but this weekend they added to the euphoria as everyone broke free from the cage of winter weather. Even cloudy skies and a little mugginess on Sunday afternoon couldn't dampen our spirits. Saturday we celebrated a peak at spring with a visit to the Eastern Market, hopping with vendors, and a picnic of pulled pork sandwiches on the mall. At night we topped it off with an impromptu barbecue at Chris's house and a fire just to savor the warm air a little longer. One of the unexpected surprises came as we were crossing the Potomac River on 395 with the windows down; up from the southwest waterfront, wafted the incredible smell of crabs and old bay seasoning a taste of the bounty coming in the next months.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Resolution Check-In

I was just surfing the internet while eating my lunch, and I came across this little gem of a slideshow from msn. com Seven Decades of Wacky Dieting Trends. It really is amazing what people will subject themselves to in order to drop a few pounds. Seen with the cool eye of reason and a several decades of perspective, some of these plans (smoking, cabbage soup, diet pills) seem insane. Not that it stops people from continuing them to this day! I, for one, must confess to the 3-day diet (hot dogs, cottage cheese, you get the picture), weight watchers (which does work as long as you can count your points) and various other crazy things. Being as it is March and usually a time when resolutions have been long forgotten, I wonder if there isn't a better way to diet? Is it possible to change your relationship with food: to love it, rather than hate it; to understand it, rather than fear it? As the Weight Watchers commercials tell us, "Diets don't work", but changing our attitude toward food might. For more on this approach to eating, I suggest French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Giuliano. While I may not agree with everything she says, the central wisdom of the book is right. Enjoy food of the best quality you can in judicious quantities. Don't feel guilty for loving, desiring, or even (gasp!) eating chocolate if that is what you really want. Savoring the moment leads to satiety and a greater appreciation of the amazing mechanics of the human body that allow us to enjoy food rather than simply photosynthesizing it out of the air. Until next time, Adieu and Bon Apetit!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yay, Miami!

I've been home for the weekend in Miami and will be here for the next couple of days. It's been a whirlwind trip and not soon to stop. A few quick notes before the full report to come, Mom's cooking will always be delicious and comforting, wedding dinners don't have to taste bad, and celebrating your grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary will always be emotional (in a good way). Hooray for warm weather, but why is it 50 today in Miami? At least it's not wintry mix!

Photo from Flickr: