Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Los Angeles Eats, Here I Come!!!

Heading to LA tonight to enjoy some fun in the sun and some delicious eats... will try to post while I'm there, but surely, lots of food thoughts when I come back. Going to explore some of the celeb chefs restaurants along with some more casual options.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

On the fourth day of Hawaii... dinner at Alan Wong's!


On the fourth day of Hawaii and on this very cheery day, my true love gave to me... dinner at Alan Wong's! I know, a double dose of Alan Wong's but I couldn't help myself.

On a sidenote, I had emailed Alan Wong to ask him a little bit about his favorite holiday traditions -- and to my delight, I heard back! Here's what he said:

"I actually like to eat traditional roast turkey on Christmas, just because it's a tradition. It reminds me of home-cooked meals with family in a festive atmosphere. I actually like the taste of turkey with gravy and rice. My favorite holiday tradition would be to spend some time with my mom and eat her deliciously prepared food. She usually prepares Japanese food, especially at New Years, but her American food is great too!"

Thank you Chef Wong!
As for the dinner at Alan Wong's Restaurant, here is the Christmas Dinner Menu:

Alan Wong's Christmas Menu:

Araimo Potato Croquette with Sevruga Caviar

Choice of One:
“Oxtail Soup”: Braised Oxtail Terrine, Peanuts, Ginger & Grated Mochi
“Scallop Dumpling”: “Superior” Broth, Spinach & Shiitake Mushrooms

Seared Ahi with Edamame Mousse, Soy Calamansi Sauce

Butter Poached Lobster with Lobster Sausage, Miso Mustard Vinaigrette, Tokyo Negi Sauerkraut

Ginger Crusted Onaga with Organically Grown Hamakua Mushrooms, Corn, Miso Sesame Vinaigrette

Maui Cattle Company Beef Tenderloin with Black Pepper Coconut Sauce, Hamakua Mushrooms, Swiss Chard & Baby Beets

Smoked Kurobuta Pork Chop with Braised Red Cabbage, Foie Gras Bread Dumpling, Ohelo Cranberry Sauce

Red Wine Braised Duck “Sauerbraten” Style with Spice Roasted Pumpkin, Gobo, Hasu & Carrot

Japanese Wagyu Beef with Nagaimo Potato, Pickled Vegetables & Calamansi Lime(Supplemental Charge of $30.00)

“Chocolate Wishes”: Waialua Chocolate Chestnut Cake, Eggnog Truffles,Chocolate Sorbet and Candied Chestnuts

“Caramel Dipped Apple”: Ohelo Berry Fruit Cake, House Made Hot Apple Ciderwith Green Shiso Kanten, Macadamia Nut Praline Ice Cream


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eating Local -- Kapiolani Farmers' Market

On the third day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me...

One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to make a stop at the local farmers market, to search for local crafts, tropical flowers, and more so, local eats. Hawaii, blessed with rich volcanic soil and a tropical climate mixing brilliantly sunny days and warm rains, offers so much to see and eat at their farmers' markets. What I love is trying all the produce and agriculture that I can't find at home.

Our favorite market to go to in Oahu is the Diamond Head Saturday Farmers' Market at Kapiolani Community College. The market is sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at the KCC. Located up near Diamond Head, the Saturday Farmers' Market runs from 7:30 am to 11:00 am. It's best to get in early, as that the parking lot fills up quickly, and the best picks of the day disappear. That said, still come regardless of what time -- we've visited at all hours and still found plenty to fill our bellies and our suitcases.

When you enter, you'll receive a "TIP SHEET" for the day pointing you to the day's specials and also a list of all the day's vendors. This past Saturday's specials include: Breakfast cooked up by Grandma G, the Wailea Agircultural Group's Hawaiian hearts of palm, avocados, and fresh nutmeg, Gourmet Island's Hamakua mushrooms, and Big Island Bees' local honey products. After purusing the Tip Sheet, just enjoy your morning wandering through the stalls, picking up free samples, chat with local farmers and eaters, and pick out your favorite treats.

The range in items is incredible -- Kona coffee, braising greens, tatsoi, lowfat fruitcake with gogi berries, mango, pumpkin, and pecan oatcakes, sea asparagus, holiday music, fresh roasted Kahuku corn (mmm), marinated fresh seafood, Waialua Big Wave Tomatoes, pineapple and macadamia nut cakes, fresh strawberry mochi, jams, jellies, salad dressings, Maui kaki (persimmon), bok choy, papayas, roses, orchids, hibiscus plants... and that's only "Row A."

Some of my favorite places include:

PacifiKool: Fresh Island Ginger Ale
Two Hot Tomatoes: fried green tomatoes, sweet Maui onion rings
North Shore Cattle Co: naturally raised hormone free beef from Haleiwa (North Shore), all beef Portuguese and andouille sausages

What better way to explore a new (or an old favorite) place than visiting their farmers markets?


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the second day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me... malasadas!

On the second day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me... malasadas!
My family and I had traveled to Hawaii for years before discovering the magical breakfast item known as the malasada. If you haven't heard of it, then you're in for a real treat (and a new love in your life). A malasada is essentially a Portuguese donut. Not to be confused with the ubiquitous Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kremes (which don't get me wrong, I love those donuts too... I mean, we specifically drove to Portland from Hood River to eat at Voodoo Donut... but that's a story for another time), malasadas are served piping hot and somehow manage to be airy and doughy at the same time.

Malasadas were first made by inhabitants of Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. Deep-fried in oil and coated with sugar, they were traditionally made to use up all the "bad stuff" (fat and sugar!) in the house before Lent. They're often eaten on Mardi Gras -- Mardi Gras is also "Malasada Day" in Hawaii.

I don't even recall exactly how we came across the malasada, but all I do know is that every time we are in Oahu now, we find ourselves promptly on the doorstep of Leonard's Bakery at 933 Kapahulu Avenue. The lines are often long, but they move quickly...and are worth it. Step up to the counter, contemplate to yourself -- sugared or cinnamon? Filling or no filling? Everyone has a personal favorite. My dad loves the traditional, plain sugared malasada. My mom could go for the cinnamon. Me, I love the fillings... I'm not a jelly-donut person, but there's something about those tropical cream fillings that Leonard's pipes into their malasadas that makes me want to come back every month to try a different filling. When last there, I had the mango filled malasada... I am awaiting to try the lilikoi (one of my favorite tropical fruits!) malasada. (I just heard from my parents who just came back from Hawaii that this month's "fillings" are strawberry and pumpkin... mmm, pumpkin).

We've tried other malasada bakeries around Oahu, but none of them quite live up to Leonard's. I'm sure it is just a personal preference, but all the other places were too doughy or too cakey or too yeasty. We've also tried to seek out malasadas elsewhere, widely doing google searches for malasada offerings nearby or in places we've visited. My dad eventually found a place in Los Angeles that occasionally will sell them (you have to call to make sure), but he was rather disappointed with the results. My parents tried to find them in Macau, thinking that these Portuguese donuts may be found in a former Portuguese colony. No luck. We tried to find them in Brazil, thinking again about the Portuguese history... although no "malasadas" were found, we did learn on the last day of a pastry called the "solhnos" (my spelling is probably quite off...).

In any case, I suppose I'll just have to go back to Hawaii. Darn.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the first day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me...Alan Wong's!

In celebration of the holidays, I decided to do my own version of the "12 days of Christmas" as the "12 days of Hawaii" as that would be my ultimate Christmas gift (a trip... or rather an extended stay in Hawaii!). But, as always, as the holidays approached, life became busier, and my "12 days of Hawaii" have now shrunk to "5 days of Hawaii." Originally I was going to end this on Christmas Day, but figured why not add an extra day?

So, here is the kickoff! I can think of no better way to kick off my "5 days of Hawaii" than with an entry about my favorite restaurant in the world - Alan Wong's. I never thought I could pinpoint one particular restaurant as my favorite in the world, but after many repeat visits to Alan Wong's, I think I can safely say that I've found my number 1. Located on the third floor of non-descript building in Honolulu, from the moment you step into the restaurant, you feel welcomed. Perhaps it is the aloha spirit or just the "Wong Way," but you just know that it is going to be a good evening once you enter. I've yet to encounter an unfriendly staff member at Alan Wong's - from the hostesses to the servers, everyone is there to make you feel right at home.

I've also yet to encounter a restaurant where nearly everything on the menu makes my mouth water. I've done meals of solely appetizers -- a medley of Hawaiian/Asian flavors ("Hawaiian Regional Cuisine"), with sizeable portions where even just two appetizers satisfies your hunger (everyone seems to have their favorite -- mine is the "Chinatown Roast Duck Nacho," my dad's is the "Da Bag" -- steamed clams with kalua pig, shiitake mushrooms in a foil bag, and my mom's the "soup and sandwich" -- Foie Gras and Kalua Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich w/Yellow and Red Tomato Soup). I've done your typical three course meal.

And most recently, I've been coming back to the five course meal time and time again. The five course consists of:
  • Appetizer Duo : the "Soup and Sandwich" and "Poki-Pines" (Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls on Avocado with Wasabi Sauce)

  • Ginger Crusted Onaga with Organically Grown Hamakua Mushrooms and Corn, Miso Sesame Vinaigrette (My favorite dish at Alan Wong's, I love every ingredient in it!!)
  • Butter Poached Kona Lobster with Nagaimo Potato Cake, Green Onion Oil

  • Twice Cooked Shortrib, Soy Braised and Grilled "Kalbi" style with gingered shrimp and Ko Choo Jang Sauce
  • Dessert Duet : Chocolate "Crunch Bars' (my favorite dessert -- for you Washingtonians, similar (but betterrr) than Michel Richard's Kit Kat bar) and Coconut Tapioca

We've celebrated many events at Alan Wong's from birthdays to anniversaries, and most recently, our honeymoon! It's such a small detail, but I loved the "Congratulations" dessert and the personalized copy of the menu, titled with our names and signed by all of the Alan Wong staff.

Maybe that's what I love so much about Alan Wong's -- all the little details that add up into an amazing experience. It's the chili aioli accompanying the warm bread. It's the smiling servers, happy to answer your questions. It's Chef Wong himself coming around to say hello to his guests and making them feel welcomed. It's the food, the drinks, the atmosphere.

Alan Wong's isn't a stuffy, over the top restaurant -- instead, it is a place that you can and WANT to come back to time and time again, where although the menu may be infused with some new dishes, you know that the experience itself will live up to the last time you were there and the time before that and the time before that. I know that I often speak positively about the restaurants I try, but Alan Wong's is a place that I simply love and would urge you to try.

And in case you don't want to take my word for it, perhaps several accolades will help :) Alan Wong's Restaurant was listed on Food & Wine Magazine's Go List 2008, listed as #8 in Gourmet Magazine's America's Top 50 Restaurants in 2006, named as "2008 Best of the Best Winner" Best Pacific Rim Food by the Honolulu Advertiser Annual People's Choice Award, and received multiple times the Best Restaurant 'Ilima Award.

Simply 'ono-licious.

Alan Wong's, 1857 S. King Street, Third Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826, (808) 949-2526

(Btw, if you don't have time to try out Alan Wong's, perhaps stop by his slightly more casual outpost at the Ala Moana Mall - The Pineapple Room. Some of the same dishes are offered there, plus, my favorite, Maui onion soup with kalua pig and gruyere cheese. That soup by itself could be a whole meal.)

Monday Munchies: Georgetown Cupcake - A Friend's Experience

(R's Camera Phone Photo of the Treats - Gingerbread, Coconut, Carrot Cake)

My cupcake-making friend R made a trip over to Georgetown Cupcake this past weekend -- if there is anyone's opinion I trust about baked goods, it is hers! (See future entry regarding Cadbury Creme Egg Easter cake!). As you know, I love Georgetown Cupcake and I'm pleased to know that she agrees with me for the most part. In any case, she was so kind to offer her thoughts on her bites there:

R's Georgetown Cupcake Experience
I sampled four cupcakes - I got the Gingerbread and the Key Lime, and I tasted JL's Coconut and Carrot Cake. My friend A got the Red Velvet, but I didn't try it. Overall I was very impressed - the frosting is exactly how I like it (thick and not just sweet, but also flavorful), and the decorations are adorable - I particularly loved the wee, shimmery gingerbread man :) (I think he was gum paste - didn't taste like marzipan). $15 is pretty steep for 6 cupcakes (that'd run you what, $4 at Safeway?) but for an occasional treat, definitely worth the splurge. And I will be having lots of Georgetown Cupcakes on my birthday this year =)

Gingerbread - Really spicy, warm, flavorful gingerbread with a mild frosting that nicely set off the spice

Key Lime - My favorite - didn't taste like key lime pie so much as actual key limes, one of my favorite fruits (along with Meyer lemons). The frosting was AWESOME - had lots of flecks of real key lime zest in it. The cake was moist and really nice.

Carrot Cake - The cream cheese frosting was the star (SO thick and creamy), but I was disappointed that the cake seemed really pretty plain and not that spicy or carroty. J loves carrot cake and thought I was nuts, however, so this might just be my beef.

Coconut - Again yummy frosting, piled especially high on this one and topped with fresh coconut. The cake was disappointing though - pretty dry. I don't know what it is about coconut cake but it's really hard to make it moist. My grandma made an awesome coconut cake and none of us have ever been able to duplicate it, it comes out too dry no matter what the quantity or type of liquid we use. Not a bad cupcake but not as good as the others.

I really want to go back on a Friday sometime so I can try the Lemon Blossom, and I also want to try the Mocha and the Chocolate Mint. And of course the Vanilla2. I surprised myself by not getting the Vanilla2 yesterday since vanilla/vanilla is my favorite cake/cupcake, but I couldn't resist the Gingerbread or Key Lime :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tapas Come to Georgetown - Bodega Tapas and Lounge

Tonight I tried out fairly new Bodega Spanish Tapas & Lounge in Georgetown. Located on the main drag (M Street), Bodega replaced Manhattan restaurant several months ago. I had seen it several times, spotted it when it first opened, but never had the chance to try it out.

In any case, my good friend AC was visiting DC this weekend, so I suggested this new place for our dining adventures. I was curious about it -I've peered in from the outside, noting the sleek looking bar and the general darkness of the restaurant. And really, I am a fan of tapas, so how could one go wrong?

My first impression wasn't excellent. The hostess said perhaps two words (ok, perhaps only one word to me) when I came in and she seated me. Not exactly the way I was hoping to be greeted... The waitstaff mainly made up for it thought; although our waiter may have been a bit TOO eager, he was quite friendly and checked in on us throughout our meal.

The restaurant itself was a bit of tight quarters, but more cozy than crowded. Everything was as I thought rather dark -- brick walls painted black with occasion splashes of red in places. But generally I liked the atmosphere - everyone there seemed like they were having a good time and were thoroughly enjoying the food. The back of the restaurant seemed to have a "lounge type" area, one where perhaps you could rent out for larger parties.

The menu is comprised mainly of tapas (as apparent from the name of the restaurant!), but they also offer several paellas and entree sized portions. We were tempted by many of the tapas, but decided for the two of us to try: Pan Con Tomate (Tomato Bread), Gambas al Ajillo (Sauteed Shrimp in Garlic & Crismona Virgin Olive Oil), Lamb Chops with "potato chips", Espinacas a la Catalana (Sauteed Spinach with Pine nuts, Apples & Raisins), and Pimentos del Piquillo Relleno con Vieras Y Champinones (Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Scallops and Mushrooms, Topped with Lobster Bisque). My favorite were the garlic shrimp (although perhaps cooked a little bit too much, but very flavorful and savory) and the spinach (YUM). Also, I used to have an aversion to tomato bread (I ate way too much of it when in Barcelona paired with seafood and had food poisoning so was unable to eat tomato bread for nearly two years after), but the tomato bread here was delicious. The portions are just right -- not too large, but not tiny either -- five dishes was perfect for the two of us.
The menu has a wide selection of options, mainly consisting of hot/warm tapas. We took a peek at the dessert menu - flan, sorbet (spicy lemon or blood orange), molten chocolate cake etc..., but felt quite full from our meal.

We also sampled a few drinks. I'm a sucker for a caipirinha (how can you not be?), especially because this one was combined with strawberries (mmmm, like what Zengo used to have!), so I tried the strawberry caipirinha (quite tasty). We also tried glasses of the red wine (ranging from $8-$11). We were eyeing the sangria (offered in red and cava) but decided to pass on this round.

I'm curious to come back and try more. The tables are a BIT too close together, but not so much that I felt like my neighbors were listening into my conversation. There are certainly plenty of options and the atmosphere is one that is cozy, yet modern, trendy, yet fun and comfortable.
3116 M St. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Swords of meat in Ipanema -- Carretao Churrascaria

I have been meaning to write this entry for months now (unbelieveable that it has now been MONTHS, how fast time flies...)

One of my favorite meals we had in Brazil was at our second churrascaria -- Carretao Churrascaria. We decided to take the late flight back from Brazil so we could have a full day on our final day. Sadly, the storms rolled in and the weather wasn't exactly ideal for beaching or meandering around. So what was the next best option? Lounging around at lunch of course ... at least as long as possible.

We decided to go to Carretao in part based on recommendations and in part because it was across from Shopping Leblon (and nestled amongst numerous other stores). We hadn't shopped very much during this trip and what better time than right before we planned to leave!

We didn't know what to expect when we arrived at Carretao -- although it was fairly late for lunch, the entire restaurant was full and bustling. Long tables were filled with families celebrating birthdays, couples were dining on the sides hailing over the waiters, an electric model train chugged along the ceiling, and the general mood was energized and cheery. I secretly was happy to see the waiters carrying around swords of meat (as oppose to just presenting the food on wooden planks as at Marius from our first foray into Rio churrascarias) and was slightly mesmerized by the wide selection of food.

(My first plate...)

In any case, we were seated at a side table, right next to the buffet (hello sushi! 20 types of fresh salad! bacalhau a bras -- a Portuguese dish of codfish stew with potatoes, olives, and egg! fresh shrimp! hello gigantic leg of serrano ham!) and right next to where the waiters popped out of the kitchen with their sizzling cuts of meat. We had our trusty cards to flip over to "green" for "please feed us with lots of meaty goodness!" or to "red" for "must... take... a... break." We had our cold beverages and ordered our side dishes (sweet plaintains, rice and beans, polenta...). We were set.

We ventured to the buffet to start with and stocked up on a bit of everything. I started off with some sushi (never can get enough of it), roasted red peppers, hearts of palm, fresh steamed shrimp (see above!)... We were sure however not to stock up TOO much (and with the knowledge that we could always come back for more, we felt like we could indulge more as the afternoon wore on...).

It was time to flip to green! Almost instantaneously, three waiters arrived at our tables (it reminded me somewhat of when first sitting down for dim sum and the swarms of carts that come to your table...).

The selection of grilled items as extensive. Standouts included the picanha (my favorite -- salty slice loin served with garlic), maminha (beef tri-tip roast, best medium rare or rare!), Argentine contra-filet, miolo de alactra (rump steak), pork ribs (see right)... The meats, to me, were perhaps juicier than those at Marius. There were a number of more unusual dishes including grilled chicken hearts (many many tiny hearts on each skewer!).

One of my favorite surprises was the grilled pineapple -- the grill technique brought out the extreme sweetness of the pineapple with a bit of tartness to wake up the tastebuds. It was perfect after eating so much protein.

(The heavenly flavorful pineapple)

The experience was different than that at Marius - but not necessarily better or worse. I'm glad that I tried both of the churrascarias and I would urge other Rio visitors to try out multiple churrascarias to find one to suit their liking (that is, if you can find time between all the other appetizing restaurants!).

Overall, I thought that Carretao was a very satisfying place to end our Brazilian adventure. We got to order our "chopps" that we learned about on our first day, sample Portuguese and Brazilian treats, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon out of the cold rain. The prices were reasonable as far as churrascarias go in Rio, the service was friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious (and offered some pleasing surprises along the way).

Carretao Churrascaria (Ipanema)
Rua Visconde de Piraja, 112
Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
Phone: 55 (21) 2267.3965

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The "Omnivore" 100 List - What would you eat?

I found this on "What Smells So Good"'s blog through foodbuzz and felt inspired to try it out! The list below is the "Omnivore 100 List" listing 100 different food items or ingredients (there are also lists for Vegetarians and Vegans -- I plan to work through those later!) .

The rules for the list are:
bold = have eaten
unhighlight = haven't eaten
struck out = won't ever eat (ok, well, never say never, so instead, probably won't eat)

Would love to hear what you think...

Here we go... (for ones that I wasn't sure what they were, I linked them where I could for more information...)

The Omnivore 100 List
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (LOVE)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (LOVE)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (LOVE)
28. Oysters (LOVE)
29. Baklava
Bagna cauda (sounds tasty!)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
Salted lassi (I've had a mango lassi, but not a salted lassi...)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea (
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
Phaal (spicy!)
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (hmmm, iffy on this one)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
53. Abalone
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
Poutine (oooh, tasty)
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (yum)
68. Haggis (hmmm, iffy)
69. Fried plaintains (double yum)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu

77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong (might have tried?)
80. Bellini (yum)
81. Tom yum (yum)
82. Eggs Benedict (double yum)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo Chocolate (me thinks yes)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (YUM)
93. Rose harissa (sounds tasty)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (not a big fan of lox...)
97. Lobster Thermidor (I think so?)
98. Polenta (yes! made it pan fried just the other night!)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (yes! we used to sell it at the coffee place I worked at)
100. Snake (hmmm, iffy)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Munchies: Holiday Drinks

Well, the weather outside is frightful... but it doesn't have to be inside! As we near the holidays, my thoughts start to wander towards holiday treats... the recipes that caught my attention this past week were the delicious options of holiday drinks! Here are some holiday drink ideas from some of my favorite food bloggers to warm up your insides, even when it is cold outside. Cheers!

(1) Spiced Cider and Warm Wassail (What's to Eat Baltimore?)
(2) Hot Cider Three Ways (Mistress of Cakes)
(3) Coquito (Coconut Eggnog) (Accidents are Avoidable?)
(4) Sweet Coconut Thai Chai (Fake Food Free)
(5) Rosiest Hot Chocolate (The Pink Peppercorn)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fall off your fork brisket

(After we already started digging in and I suddenly realized I needed to take a picture!)
Years ago, one of my best friends, M, invited me over for a brisket dinner made with her favorite brisket recipe. I remember stepping into her apartment and being hit immediately with this waft of meaty goodness. Let's just say that waiting for another hour for the brisket to be done drummed up my appetite!

Finally, I got the chance to try the recipe out myself -- not only was it easy to make but it was delicious the day of (served up with potatoes and green beans) and it was equally, if not more, delicious days/weeks after as brisket sandwiches, brisket with rice, brisket on top of salad, and so forth.

Perfect for a winter day whether you are serving it just for two (with plenty of leftovers) or for a group (still, likely to have plenty of leftovers!) -- thanks M! enjoy!

M's Fall Off Your Fork Brisket

5 or 6 pound brisket (have butcher trim some fat off)
1 onion (pref vidalia)
1 12 oz. jar of chili sauce
1 package of dry onion soup mix (2 envelopes inside; use both!)
1 can of regular coke (must be regular, not diet, or else it won't work)

What to do:
(1) Preheat the oven to 325
(2) Put the brisket fatty side up in a pan
(3) Pour both envelopes of onion soup over the brisket. Rub it in making sure it coats well

(About to rub the second side with onion soup mix... and couldn't buy just one can of coke, so measured out 12 oz from a bottle!)
(4) Pour the entire bottle of chili sauce over the brisket.
(5) Pour the can of coke over the brisket
(6) Cover tightly with foil
(7) Place pan into the oven for two hours
(8) After two hours, take the pan out of the oven and slice the brisket. It'll be messy so best to do it next to the sink or even in the sink if you have a big enough cutting board.

(9) Put the slices back in the pan making sure they are completely covered by the juices

(10) Chop the onion and add to the pan

(11) Cover the pan again with foil and cook for at least another 3 hours, until it is falling off your fork.

(12) Serve it up and enjoy!

I cooked my brisket for about 5.5 hours total, but I wished I had left it in the oven just a bit longer. So check on the brisket after you've cooked it about 5 to 5.5 hours (depending on the size of it) and test it out for consistency.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New cupcakery! Red Velvet Cupcake

Just read on Delleicious DC's blog that a NEW CUPCAKERY is opening this month in DC -- Welcome to town, Red Velvet Cupcakery!

Red Velvet is opening in the hot restaurant area of Penn Quarter at 675 E St NW (corner of 7th and E). For $3.25, you can sample one of their eight current flavors:
  • Vanilla bean -- vanilla bean cake, madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting
  • Devil's food -- chocolate-buttermilk cake, bittersweet chocolate ganache
  • B-day -- american yellow butter cake, milk chocolate ganache
  • Key West -- key lime cake, white chocolate buttercream
  • Peanut Butter Cup -- chocolate chocolate-chip cake, salted peanut butter frosting
  • Southern Belle -- red velvet cake, whipped cream cheese frosting
  • Morning call -- chocolate espresso cake, mocho buttercream
  • Summertime -- lemon cake, coconut frosting

Fun fact: Owner Canada Gordon is brother to the owner of TangySweet (a part of the other big trend in DC right now -- frozen yogurt!).

Perhaps a holiday treat for that special someone...?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Melt in your mouth cupcakes - Georgetown Cupcake!

I can’t help but be excited by the cupcake boom that has hit DC. It seemed like for several months that new cupcake places were popping up every other week. Despite what now seems like an endless selection, I have a favorite—GEORGETOWN CUPCAKE.

I had heard the rumors, but didn’t know it was true until I saw the line around the corner myself. We arrived a couple minutes before the store even opened to pick up cupcakes for our friend’s birthday and already there was a line snaking around the corner! Luckily, the line moved quickly and there was plenty of cupcake eye candy to keep us distracted.

Why do I love Georgetown Cupcake? For its fresh, flavorful, and just simply divine bites of goodness. The flavors rotate on a daily basis (check out their menu or give them a call to find out the treats of the day!). My favorites include the chocolate coconut, red velvet, and this season’s pumpkin spice…

If you’re a chocolate fan, you’ve come to chocolate heaven. There are AT LEAST 10 cupcakes that involve chocolate (chocolate squared, chocolate banana, chocolate pb swirl, chocolate hazelnut, chocolate vanilla…) and perhaps even more with their “seasonal flavors” (hello december! chocolate peppermint!).

Yes, the cupcakes are costly, but well worth it for the occasional indulgence. They are light and fluffy, the icings are filled with flavor and not too dense or heavy.

They (and I) recommend that you call ahead if you are traveling from a distance or want particular flavors to make sure they still have them—the cupcakes are baked fresh daily, so popular flavors can run out quickly. (This month's seasonal flavors: chocolate peppermint, gingerbread, snowball, hannukah cupcakes, christmas cupcakes, and new year's eve cucpakes)

Finally, I love Georgetown Cupcake because they also DELIVER. We’ve now celebrated two birthdays with cupcake delivery (a $10 delivery charge) and this way, your favorite flavors are packaged up and ready to show up at your front door.

Georgetown Cupcake
1209 Potomac Street NW (cross street: M St)
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-8448

Smitten with this "pumpkin pie"

I came across No Recipes' "Crustless Milk & Cardamom 'Pumpkin Pie'" today and am absolutely intrigued by it... so I wanted to share it with you. I love nearly any variation of pumpkin pie and I'm tempted to try this one -- for the recipe, check out "No Recipes" blog.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dessert for dinner? Yes please! Co Co. Sala

("Co Co Grown Up")

When I first heard about Co Co. Sala, a place that served “only chocolate” dishes for dinner, I thought I died and went to Willy Wonka heaven. My excitement grew even larger when I read over the menu and saw that there were numerous savory small bites to be had as well. Namely, all of my favorite things (mac & cheese, crabcakes, sliders…). Even the savory dishes involved some element of chocolate or coffee…

I finally got the chance to try Co Co. Sala when my best friend came to town – I had sent her the menu months before and as soon as she booked her flight, she asked, can we go to that dessert place?

Co Co. Sala is part lounge, part restaurant—atlhough, let’s be honest, the entire restaurant feels like a giant lounge that you could stay at all night. We sat in the “booths.” The seats were cushy, the tables were small and cozy and started ordering up a storm. We started with drinks (a must here!)—the “Diletto” ranked as one of our favorites (vodka, fresh basil & strawberries, balsamic drizzle).

Then, the food… All the dishes are “small plates” so amongst the three of us (my friend, her sister, and me), we got to share:

  • “Shrimp Mac & Cheese”: Mini penne, jack & cheddar, garlic shrimp, jalapenos (amazing)
  • Moroccan Swordfish Slider with fennel salad, aged pecorino, hazelnut coffee dressing
  • Blue cheese beef slider with co co mole sauce, sauteed spinach, and wild mushrooms (my other fave)
  • Crispy Louisiana Crabcake with mango salsa, chipotle chocolate tomato glaze, avocado cilantro emulsion
  • Goat Cheese & Beets: Yellow and red beets, greens, maracaibo nibs, raspberry vinaigrette

And then… dessert. Dessert is an obvious must have here, and we had been keeping an eye out for what other guests were ordering. Although you can order certain desserts separately, we decided to get one of the flights (“monde du chocolat”)... there are four flights in total ranging from “chocolate maya” (focus on indian flavors), “ciocco” (focus on italian flavors), and “xocolatyl” (“aztec experience”). We jumped for the “co co. grown up”—a combination of “childhood favorites” made adult style.

Our three courses were:

- the amuse: mini boston cream doughnut and cappucino panna cotta

- the main dessert: milk chocolate, pb & banana foster split (yum), mini co co cupcake, malted shooter

- the petit fours: mint chocolate chip cone (eh), strawberry cheese cake lolly with pop rocks (yum)

A meal of decadence!

Co Co. Sala
929 F St. NW
Washington, DC 20004

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Munchies: A Post-Thanksgiving Recap

Hello Monday! Why is it that Monday seems to come around so quickly?

Several post-Thanksgiving treats to whet your appetite for the week to come...

(1) A Peking Duck Thanksgiving (Appetite for China)
(2) The 12 Days of Cookies (No Fear Entertaining)
(3) A Little Bit Too Much Time in the Oven (What's to Eat Baltimore?)
(4) Creamy, cranberry horseradish sauce (Tangled Noodle)
(5) And an additional special treat... The Swedish Fish -- my family-in-law introduced me to this drink over the holidays -- and indeed it does taste like that sweet candy treat. Add in equal parts of cranberry juice and 7UP or Sprite. Then add in Black Haus blackberry schnapps just until you can smell it. A sweet treat! Be careful though about how much you add in of each or else you'll end up with a drink that smells a bit like cough syrup ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Date night with my favorite person at Black's Bar and Kitchen

(Apologies for the blurry pictures! -- the special appetizer suckling pork with sauteed mushrooms and topped with a fried egg)

After a stressful past several weeks, Mr. J thought that date night was much in order for a little relaxation, good food, and fun times. He had the perfect place in mind, which he discovered on L's suggestion -- Black's Bar and Kitchen.

Ironically, Black's is owned by the same group that owns a restaurant that has been on my "to eat" list for some time - BlackSalt (also in their group are Addie's Restaurant (Rockville) and Black Market Bistro (Garrett Park)). I had heard rave reviews about BlackSalt, a seafood restaurant in the Palisades, but Black's Bar and Kitchen was (at that time) unknown to me.

So we saddled up and drove out to Bethesda... next door to Black's is a huge parking garage (hurrah! free parking, and loads of it!) so we quickly darted out of the cold from the parking garage to the restaurant.

Immediately after stepping into Black's, we felt warmed -- although fairly large, the restaurant itself felt cozy and inviting, with dimmed lighting, beautiful wood paneled walls, and cushy booths. We sat in one of the booths in the bar section, with an excellent view of the open kitchen. The bar section offers both the regular menu and an additional menu of smaller bites -- I love a wide selection (despite my indecisiveness...), so I welcomed the chance to pick from a larger array of choices!

Our waitress was bubbly and friendly - she rattled off their specials, each one sounding more tasty than the last. I admit, it took me quite awhile to decide what to get. Black's menu came across as very farm fresh -- loads of seasonal produce, local fish and meat options (in fact, I just noticed this, Black's is self-described as "blending organic ingredients and regional flavors with a light and fresh flair" -- sounds like an accurate description to me!). Over time, these are the types of restaurants that I've become increasingly attracted to -- ones that serve not overly fancy food, but food that is made of fresh ingredients with techniques that allow those flavors to come through and just generally good, satisfying food.

After mentally deciding to come back, we decided to get the following: (1) crispy squid with creole tartar sauce, (2) the appetizer special - slices of suckling pig on a bed of sauteed mushrooms topped with a fried egg, (3) yellowfin tuna quarter pounder with frisee, vine ripe tomatoes, tangy dijon and house made chips (for Mr. J ... delicious! I think I plan to get this next time), and (4) wood grilled Chesapeake Bay bluefish with black truffle pierogies, soft herb sauce, and red cabbage sauerkraut (below).

Talk about an explosion of flavors. I am obsessed with the black truffle pierogies (panfried on one side) (above, on the right) and the tuna quarter pounder (below).

The calamari (below) was very tender and fresh (not chewy like you often find at restaurants) with a bit of kick (paprika? cayenne?). I wasn't bowled over by the bluefish (although the skin was so crispy, which I love), but could have eaten the sides it came with again and again.

By the time we embarked on dessert options, the restaurant was filled with other people that apparently had the same idea to escape out of the cold to this retreat. We hardly thought we could eat dessert, but after hearing Mr. J talk about the pumpkin mousse they had last time and also watching dessert after dessert pass by us, I couldn't resist (and I always did say I had a separate compartment for desserts...). My frontrunners were the spoken of pumpkin mousse with caramel ice cream, butterscotch creme brulee with vanilla madeleines (I love butterscotch and madeleines!), or the bourbon pecan tart with maple ice cream (perfect for the upcoming holiday!). We fell for the pumpkin mousse and it was the right choice... it was almost like a pumpkin panna cotta, not too heavy, quite light, and filled with pumpkin-y goodness (all atop a graham cracker).

All in all, a wonderful night -- good company, stomach warming satisfying food, friendly service, and enjoyable surroundings.

[One fun fact that I discovered on Black's website -- when renovated in 2006, all materials were recycled and reclaimed... and the entire restaurant is powered by wind energy]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Munchies: several pre-Thanksgiving tidbits

Monday Munchies: I figure that Mondays are ease into work days... so every Monday, bringing to you some of my favorite finds! Several pre-Thanksgiving tidbits ... these entries made me either (1) smile, (2) salivate, or (3) desire to cook up a storm in the past week while at work... I thought you might enjoy them as well!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The best day in Brazil - Morro Branco

Now that the days are starting to get colder and snow seems to be "imminent," I can't help but daydream about warmer beach days. It is hard to believe that the Brazil trip was almost two months ago now, but I still think about my favorite day in Brazil. So, consider this a little cold weather break...

During our stay in Fortaleza, Brazil, we decided to take a day trip to one of the outside "beach towns." We heard that they were a must when visiting Fortaleza (...and, to be honest, we were growing a bit bored of Fortaleza... four days there definitely was plenty ... probably more than plenty). After some discussion, we decided to go to the Morro Branco, an area about 1.5 - 2 hours away from Fortaleza and famous for its colorful sand cliffs.

Morro Branco was, hands down, my favorite adventure during my trip to Brazil. We arrived at the "dune buggy" spot and were paired with our very own dune buggy driver. He didn't speak a lot of English, but was friendly, energetic, and pointed out all the important sites to us... he drove us to the town of Beberibe and where we were greeted by local tour guides.

Our tour guide, although not very fluent in English (and we knew very very very little Portuguese, except maybe "obrigado" and "bom dia") was quite charming, and led us through Beberibe, showed us the vistas of the sand cliffs, introduced us to a local craftsman who was creating a sand masterpiece -- the landscape of Morro Branco in a large glass jar. Our final stop on this tour was the "labyrinth."

I LOVED it and found it just breathtaking. I wondered to myself at every turn why had I never heard of Morro Branco before -- the labyrinth essentially was part of the sand cliffs and, over time, water had eroded a path through the cliffs. The colors were so vibrant, especially under the bright sun and against the blue sky. I could have stayed there all day. It was so peaceful, quiet, and awe-inspiring.

At the end of the labyrinth, we were greeted by our dune buggy driver and AWAY WE WENT! We zipped down the beach, along the ocean, with twists and turns, up and down hills. We ended up at these HUGE sand dunes and it was like nature's rollercoaster. At the bottom of the dunes was an expansive lagoon where we were left to go swimming for half an hour... After our quick dip, our dune buggy took us back to the beach, to feast on lunch.

This whole time, you were probably wondering (if you even got to this point) where is the food in this story? Our meal at Morro Branco was the perfect end to what was an unexpectedly perfect day. We found ourselves sitting about 15 feet from the ocean, at a table on the beach. We sipped on caipirinhas ($2 a caipirinha!) ... dug our feet into the sand... watched the fishermen bring their boat in from the sea with their catches.
We purused the menu, quite extensive with many seafood options and settled on starting with a bowl of crab soup to share and then fresh steamed shrimp with garlic and a mixed platter with lobster, grilled fish, and more shrimp!

We played on the beach while we waited for our food to come, picked up some shells, checked out the fishermen's catches. When the food came, we were blown away by the sheer amount of food we ordered. All of the dishes came with rice, beans, and farofa (below!) (toasted manioc/yuca flour -- found everywhere in Brazil!).

I dug straight into the shrimp -- so sweet and succulent -- and then the lobster -- and then... the fish. The fish was my favorite part. So fresh, flaky, and flavorful. The skin was crispy and the meat, although flaky, was not dry. I could have eaten the entire thing.

With full bellies, we rested on the beach for another hour and then began the journey back to Fortaleza (promptly falling asleep in the van). If you're ever in Ceara, please go to Morro Branco! It was simply a magical, beautiful place and well worth the journey.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tackle Box - my craving for its fresh seafood

So, I've been CRAVING Tackle Box for weeks now... and every time I'm about to go, something seems to come up at work... So I thought that perhaps I could partially satisfy my craving for Tackle Box by chatting about it? (and...also putting out there some hopeful vibes that I can visit it again this weekend...)

In any case, DC was much in need of a casual, but tasty seafood restaurant, and the owners of Hook (next door) deliver with Georgetown’s Tackle Box. Tackle Box is located right on M Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Potomac Street, next to its sister restaurant Hook and next to potentially soon a co-owned butcher shop! Ok, maybe that doesn't give you exact coordinates, but it is directly across from the Georgetown Mall (home to JCrew, Clyde's, H&M, Anthropologie etc) and only a hop, skip, jump from the ever busy M St - Wisconsin Avenue intersection (think the big bank with the gold dome).

Like Hook, Tackle Box focuses on seafood sustainability and offers an array of seafood choices, from peel & eat shrimp to Hook’s (my fave) grilled calamari (yum) and from lobster rolls to even (non-seafood) grilled chorizo sausages. My favorite and in my opinion the best deal is the “Maine Meal.” You get 1 fish, 2 sides, and 1 sauce for $13, and believe me, it is plenty of food. You can choose to have your “fish” made “crispy” (choices include bay scallops, shrimp, calamari, oysters, catfish, etc) or “wood-grilled.” Wood-grilled is my personal selection, and usually I’ll fall for the rainbow trout or the tilapia.

And then there are the sides… and the sauces… there are 10 different sides to choose from (but usually I think five of them are offered each day) and six different sauces. The highlights are mac & cheese, grilled corn, sweet potato fries… The basil-walnut pesto is a must have and I am also a fan of the spicy marinara (the lemon-garlic aioli sounds good in theory, but not too flavorful…).

They also serve up (to go) a "lobster pot" with a 1 1/4 lb Maine lobster, grilled red onions, quahog clams, white water mussels, chorizo sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob, lemon, rockweed, butter & "Tackle Box spice" for $40 per person. I haven't tried it yet, but I think it'll be a good way to bring a taste of summer to the house this winter.

Tackle Box is definitely worth the visit – the staff is very friendly and helpful, the atmosphere is laid back and casual. Also... maybe this time I'll save room for the blueberry pie for dessert... or... maybe take that home as a treat for later.

Tackle Box
3245 M St. NW
Washington, DC 20007
Open 7 days a week, 11 am - 11pm

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday Dim Sum with my Family

(Some dim sum to "touch your heart" -- here we have from the buns on the left, clockwise -- baked roast pork buns, steamed roast pork buns, egg custard tarts, pan fried chicken buns, pork spare ribs with black bean sauce, steamed rice crepe with shrimp inside, pan seared waterchestnut cake (maa tai gou), and in the center, shu mai)

For as long as I can remember, we would make a morning weekend trip to our favorite dim sum restaurant of the moment. Now that life is a bit busier, the weekend trips have evolved into monthly, sometimes every-other-month trips, but still a fun and delicious experience each time!

Our favorite of the moment is New Fortune Restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland. We've been going to this one for some time, and I do admit that if you've never been for dim sum before, this restaurant can be a bit intimidating. But you should still go!! The restaurant is quite large (I would estimate about 50 tables? Don't quote me on that, my estimation of numbers isn't great) and offers push cart dim sum seven days a week. The best is to go on the weekends when there are loads of carts and loads of people so the dim sum is always hot and fresh.

When you sit down, tea is a must (we usually get jasmine ... and ok, I usually get a glass of ice water too) and comes steaming hot to your table. Literally on the heels of the tea are the carts... and let the food rush begin! Think of it as a smorgasbord of Chinese tapas (I'm mixing up a couple too many food cultures here...), but really, that's what it is like. You can see what the dishes are, point or ask for certain dishes, inquire about what is in them. But unless you're with a big group, I would say only take one plate of the dishes of your choice - with nearly 90 different options, you don't want to indulge too much in the beginning (I'm often guilty of this though, with my "eyes being bigger than my stomach).

There's something for everyone. Deep fried, steamed, pan fried... chicken, pork, beef, shrimp (lots of shrimp), vegetables... buns, dumplings, noodles, skewers... and yes, dessert too. Often the steamed dishes come out first (some in the first picture) and these are very tasty options.

Below are some highlights of the day:
"Deep fried taro dumpling" -- the outer shell is made from taro and inside is ground pork and vegetables.

For lack of a better description, like a spring roll but warmed in a black bean sauce and not as crunchy. Filled with pork and veggies.

Bean curd stuffed with shrimp (warmed in black bean sauce)
I didn't get the chance to take many other pictures, but perhaps next time I'll take some of the desserts and show them here!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DC's Food Show -- The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show Part I

Months ago, I first heard about the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show being held at the DC Convention Center... I admittedly have an addiction to food festivals and food shows... particularly those that feature chefs that I adore. Word was out that Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, and (my fave) Giada de Laurentiis would be guest starring at the show, but tickets were not yet on sale.

Fast forward about three months to last Friday. I had completely forgotten about the food show (how work gets in the way...!) until a friend mentioned that she was going to go see Bobby Flay's presentation and asked if I was going to go. I nearly leaped out my seat! Sure enough, tickets were still available (according to the founder of the DC food show, 16,000 tickets were sold to the two day show!) and I bought two tickets. Our tickets bought us entry into Giada's hour long cooking demonstration (YES!) and general admission to the show.

I had no idea what to expect! I have been to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival (let's see... chef demonstrations? Wine tastings? Book signings? on the beach? fabulous...) but not to too many other food shows. When we arrived though, I was amazed by the massive number of booths set up (more than 200! see above).

There was everything from horseradish cheese (yum)
to fudge, embroidered glassware to healthy food cooking demos, a booth dedicated just to Paula Deen and her products (I didn't even know she had all those products!),

beautiful and unique cakes from The Sweet Life (co-owned by Norman Davis (a Food Network competitor!) and Zane Beg),

mustards a plenty,

and the list goes on and on. We spent about an hour (and could have spent many more) wandering and sampling from the local purveyors of delights.

A laundry list of some of DC's best and favorite chefs presented at the show as well: Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's), RJ Cooper (Vidalia), Roberto Donna (Bebo Trattoria, previously Galileo), Jacques Haeringer (L'Auberge Chez Francois), Jamie Leeds (Hank's Oyster Bar), and so on...

We didn't get a chance to see the "Nation's Capital Chef's Association 3rd Annual Culinary Salon," a competition judged by a group of Certified Master Chefs. Honestly, I'm a bit fascinated by the Certified Master Chefs after reading Michael Ruhlman's "Soul of a Chef" -- but that's a discussion for another day.

In addition to Food Network competitor Norman Davis above, Food Network competitor fruit and veggie carver James Parker (Veggy Art) had a booth:

After a morning (and early afternoon) of samples, we concluded that some of our favorites include... (perhaps coming to a holiday gift near you!)
More in the next post about Giada's cooking presentation!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck - Hawaii

For no good reason, I'm posting about Giovanni's Shrimp Truck today... or really, for no other reason than I love Hawaii, wish I was there right now, and adore the shrimp truck. Located on the North Shore of Oahu (this is the Kahuku one, but I've heard rumors of a Hale'iwa one...), the drive is worth it to get these sweet, fresh, dripping in garlic shrimp with two scoops of rice. If you are brave (and enjoy spicy food!), get the spicy version... be prepared with loads of napkins!

For more shrimp truck details, check this out...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Lunch Bites - Openings and Coming Soons

In today's "Friday Lunch Bites" : Restaurant Openings and (the more exciting) Coming Soons.

Here are several that caught my eye...

Momiji: Offers traditional hibachi-style dishes and sushi for lunch and dinner. (503 H Street, NW)

Taquiera Distrito Federal: With the original located in Columbia Heights, the second location of this Mexican restaurant has opened in Petworth. Tacos, burritos, weekend specials, breakfast (huevos rancheros!). New location at 805 Kennedy Street NW.

Taylor Gourmet: Craving a Philly style hoagie? Your wish has been granted... this deli is serving up hoagies with house-rousted meats. Italian specialties are also offered including chicken cutlets and risotto balls. Think a Philly Italian market transplanted to DC. For more information click here. (1116 H Street, NE)

Coming Soons
Ben's Next Door: The owner of famed Ben's Chili Bowl will oepn Ben's Next Door in early December. According to "the list are you on it," the restaurant will be 3,000 square feet and be "a bit more upscale, serving an American bar menu, alcohol, and, of course, those famous chili dogs." You can look for Ben's Next Door at 1211 U Street, NW.

Bourbon Steak: (very excited!!) Michael Mina (Nobhill, Seablue, Michael Mina restaurant) is opening a branch of Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown this winter. Branches of Bourbon Steak can be found in Scottsdale, Miami, and Detroit. (2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW)

Mad Butcher: The owners of Georgetown's Hook and Tackle Box hope to open the Mad Butcher next door to Tackle Box (currently occupied by Havanamax cigar shop). Mad Butcher, a butcher shop and restaurant, would bring in meats from local farmers and prepare them on-site. (3249 M Street, NW)

Todd English at the Donovan House: Are you a fan of chef Todd English's delectable "Olives" restaurants? Well, English is bringing another restaurant to town, this time an "Asian themed" restaurant. Sadly, it'll be another 1-2 years before it debuts at the Donovan House (1155 14th St. NW).

***Some of the above information comes from an email service/website I've subscribed to called: "the list are you on it" -- the group provides fantastic information about the DC metropolitan area food world.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


(Two cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake!)

For two months, the Washington Post has been conducting a "cupcake wars" experiment, trying cupcakes from all the local cupcake purveyors... Cupcake shops have popped up all around the DC area in the past year, so it definitely seemed like a delicious (and worthwhile) endeavor to find the best of the bunch!

The Washington Post has crowned its champion -- GEORGETOWN CUPCAKE -- a personal favorite of mine as well. Below is the article published November 5, 2008, that provides some "tasty tidbits" about the cupcake craze, about Georgetown cupcake, and other cupcake locations throughout the area.

(As a sidenote, when this first began, I felt inspired to try out my own cupcake war as a very belated housewarming party... entries to come about that cupcake war... after the war eventually happens!)
Here's the article:

It took 8 weeks, 141 varieties and extra gym time, but we found the best cupcake in town.

By Jane Black
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; F01

There's almost always a line at Georgetown Cupcake, especially on weekends. But on Oct. 11, the queue had snaked out the door of the cult bakery on Potomac Street and was threatening to block traffic. Perhaps it was spillover from the Taste of Georgetown food festival, which drew more than 10,000 people. Perhaps it was that the bakery had scored several perfect 10s that week in our Cupcake Wars taste-offs. Whatever the reason, police arrived to help manage the flow. By the end of the day, the eight-month-old bakery had sold 5,000 cupcakes.

That's busier than most Saturdays. But only by about 25 percent. Co-owners and sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, winners of our Cupcake Wars, bake from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. most days. And though they allow employees to scoop batter into tins and check the ovens, they pipe the frosting on every single cupcake themselves. On average, the store sells between 2,000 and 3,000 cupcakes Tuesdays through Fridays (up from 800 when it opened in February), 4,000 on Saturdays and 2,000 on Sundays. Do the math: At $2.75 each, that conservatively adds up to sales of more than $38,000 a week and $2 million annually.

No wonder then that "cupcakeries" continue to open in Washington and around the country. This past summer, Lavender Moon Cupcakery opened in Alexandria and Hello Cupcake debuted in Dupont Circle. And just when it seems the market is saturated, more are on the way. Before the end of the year, Nostalgia Cupcake will open in Annapolis, and Red Velvet Cupcakery, sister to Dupont Circle's TangySweet, will open in Penn Quarter. Online-only Bakeshop DC, which sells at Murky Coffee, plans a storefront in Clarendon. Upstart Cup of Yumm is searching for space in and around Gaithersburg. Sprinkles, the famed Los Angeles cupcake shop, is hunting for space in Northwest Washington, with plans to open late next year.

To be honest, we thought that cupcakes' 15 minutes might well be over when we launched Cupcake Wars, a round-robin showdown of Washington area bakeries. But after receiving hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from bakers and rabid fans, we could see that the trend has life in it yet. We established clear rules to keep things manageable -- all bakers must have a retail storefront presence inside the Beltway -- and extended the battle from six to eight weeks to accommodate a mountain of reader suggestions.

It wasn't long before we had a bad case of cupcake fever, too. In and out of the tasting room, we debated at length the proper ratio of frosting to cake and how much more quickly a vanilla cake can dry out than a chocolate one. We had a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers on the cupcakes' weights, prices and flavors. In total, in the preliminary rounds alone, we sampled 141 varieties or 31 pounds of cupcakes; that's 7.75 pounds for each regular taster. The amount of weight gained by each taster is considered private.

The appeal is nostalgic, of course; we all fondly remember the cupcakes of our childhoods. But cupcakes actually date to the 19th century. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, there are two theories about the origin of the word "cupcake." The first refers to any small cake baked in a cup-shaped mold, as small cakes were before the invention of the muffin tin. In the United States, the term also may refer to the American use of cups as a measuring system. An 1845 recipe for a "cup cake" includes four cups of flour, three of sugar, one of melted butter and one of sour cream with a teaspoon of baking powder dissolved in it for a loaf-size cake.

The modern cupcake craze began in 1996 when Magnolia Bakery, a quaint Southern-style bake shop, opened in New York's Greenwich Village. According to legend, co-founder Allysa Torey began making vanilla cupcakes as a way to use up leftover batter. Cheap, and by definition portion controlled, the cupcakes were a hit in the neighborhood, and it wasn't uncommon to see a line out the door on weekends. The cupcakes' national debut occurred in 2000, when an episode of HBO's "Sex and the City" featured Carrie Bradshaw and gang digging into the retro sweets. The lines got longer. Soon, Magnolia was a stop on the "Sex and the City" bus tour, and bloggers were breathlessly posting four times a day about cupcake news and trends. Savvy entrepreneurs began to wonder if they could create cupcake mania elsewhere in New York and beyond.

Magnolia may have created the trend, but today most cupcakeries take their inspiration from Sprinkles. The sleek Beverly Hills shop set aside birthday party nostalgia and offered instead elegant, dainty cakes in more than 20 rotating flavors such as ginger lemon, chai latte and chocolate marshmallow. Sprinkles President Charles Nelson says he had a hard time persuading any landlord to rent him space for the first shop. Today, the bakery has five outlets in three states, each selling about 1,500 cupcakes a day. Sprinkles plans to open in 18 cities, including Washington.

If others don't beat them to it. Local cupcake shops have developed fast followings. Hello Cupcake, which offers 18 flavors at a time, has a line outside most mornings before the shop opens at 10 a.m., says owner Penny Karas. There's a second rush between noon and 3 p.m. and a final flurry after work hours. At Baked & Wired, a 7 1/2 -year-old bakery in Georgetown, cupcakes have forcibly moved center stage. Eighteen months ago, owner Teresa Velazquez says, she was making 50 or 60 cupcakes a day. Now she tries to keep five flavors in stock and sells 300 to 400 on weekdays and up to 1,000 on weekends. "I never wanted to be a cupcake place," she says. "But if you don't have cupcakes on weekends or you've run out, people get really upset."

None of the cupcake entrepreneurs is worried the market is too crowded. But there is a push to differentiate. At Hello, the flavors have cutesy names such as You Tart! (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting) and Prima Donna (chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream). The Penn Quarter's Red Velvet will offer classic Southern flavor combinations from David Guas, a former executive pastry chef for the Passion Food Hospitality group, which includes DC Coast and Acadiana. For a steep $4.50 each, Nostalgia Cupcakes in Annapolis will offer alcoholic flavors, such as the Black Tie (chocolate liqueur cake with raspberry Chambord filling and white chocolate meringue frosting), when it opens within the next few weeks.

In Chicago, More Cupcakes has gone one step further. In addition to sophisticated sweet flavors (passionfruit poppy seed, for example) there are bold, savory flavors, including the BLT, a bacon cupcake with ranch frosting topped with an heirloom tomato and micro-arugula; the peach Camembert, with a Sauternes reduction frosting; and the bacon maple, a brown-sugar cake topped with maple frosting and candied bacon. "A few years ago, thyme ice cream seemed so outrageous. Now it's just normal," says founder Patty Rothman. "The question is, how far can we push it? Can we make a cupcake into an appetizer or a side dish?"

More Cupcakes already is successfully serving mini-savory cupcakes as hors d'oeuvres, and the savory cupcakes, especially anything bacon-flavored, have been moving well. The shop sells up to 150 BLT cupcakes a day. Men in particular like them; women favor the bacon-maple. The trick, Rothman says, is tapping familiar flavor pairings. Apple and gorgonzola makes sense to people. Madras curry, a curry cake swirled with berry jam and topped with goat cheese frosting? Not so much.

More's menu has garnered much attention; Couture Cupcakes is considering adding savory flavors to its menu, too. After less than two months in business, Rothman already is planning a second location.

Cupcake entrepreneurs acknowledge that the exploding number of bakeries could lead to a shakeout. But none anticipates a full-scale cupcake backlash. "It's a small pleasure. At $3.25, we're equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks and cheaper than a treat at Cold Stone Creamery," says Sprinkles' Nelson. "And who's not having a birthday, even in an economic downturn?"

The exception to the expansion rush seems to be Georgetown Cupcake. When they opened, LaMontagne and Kallinis registered Internet domain names for Dupont Cupcake, Kalorama Cupcake, Capitol Hill Cupcake and others. But after eight months in the spotlight -- the sisters appeared Monday on Martha Stewart's television show -- they're rethinking their strategy.
"We don't want to be a chain," LaMontagne says. "We still want cupcakes to be special."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Election Day Special: Obama's and McCain's favorite foods ... and some election day freebies

Today being a historic election day ... and being in the nation's capital ... I thought it would be fitting to post these blog entries I found on So Good blog.

Yes, you know all about their politics, all about their platforms, all about their SNL skits... but do you know Obama's and McCain's favorite foods?

Check it out here: OBAMA vs. McCAIN

As featured on Good Morning America, Obama's chili recipe:
Obama Family Chili Recipe
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans

Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft.
Add ground meat and brown.
Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat.
Add red wine vinegar.
Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down.
Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes.
Serve over white or brown rice.
Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.


McCain's Rib Recipe
Dry Rub:
1/3 part Garlic Powder
1/3 part Salt
1/3 part Pepper
3 lemons

Turn the grill down to low temperature.
Mix together garlic powder, salt and pepper. Then cover both sides of the ribs with that.
Grill ribs, bone side down, for 90 percent of the time. It will take about an hour to an hour and a half. Squeeze the lemon on it frequently, because that makes it taste a lot better.

And a small bonus...

Who knew you would get free bonuses for your vote today? Need some extra incentive to get out there? Here's a couple food treats being offered up in DC today if you show off that "I Voted" sticker:

Daily Grill: Free happy hour appetizer on Election day from 4 pm until close
Ben and Jerry's: Free scoop of ice cream
Krispy Kreme: Free star-shaped doughnuts with red, white, and blue sprinkles
Starbucks: Free tall-size brewed coffee