Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Pumpkin Day! - Pumpkin Gnocchi in Brazil

Now, when you think of Brazil, you think...beaches, ocean, teeny swimsuits, and, well, warmth. But, while I was there this past month, it was cold. At least, part of the time. And rainy. Brazil is coming off of winter and in the midst of spring right now...

The night we arrived in Rio, we were tired ... and starving. It was a bit chilly and all I wanted was something warm and delicious. We ended up at Bar d'Hotel at the Marina All Suites in Leblon/Ipanema. The food there was fabulously fresh and even better, deliciously decadent. After much debate, I went with my craving and got the pumpkin gnocchi. It was covered in this creamy cheese sauce, had crunchy onions on it, and each gnocchi melted on my tongue.

Delicious success!

Giada's Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

As a tribute to Pumpkin Day (i.e. Halloween), I'm posting a pumpkin recipe that I've been wanting to try by one of my faves, Giada De Laurentiis. If anyone has tried this, would love to hear feedback before I make it! Seems like a great quick meal. (Or if you have suggestions on making your own pumpkin ravioli...)

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings

1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound fresh pumpkin ravioli
1 stick unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves
Large pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 amaretti cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread hazelnuts onto a baking tray. Toast hazelnuts in oven until light golden brown and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Coarsely chop the cooled hazelnuts and set aside. In a 10 or 12-inch saute pan with high sides, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the vegetable oil to prevent the ravioli from sticking to one another. Add ravioli and cook for 4 minutes or until they float to the top. Using a spider strainer, carefully remove ravioli to a large platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

In a small saute pan, melt the butter. When butter is sizzling and starts to brown, tear sage leaves into the pan and fry for about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg. Pour butter sauce over ravioli and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. Grate amaretti cookies over the dish and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cupcakes for Cancer!

As more and more cupcake shops open around DC, my addiction to cupcakes grows ever larger... So I start to seek out anything that is cupcake related. In my break from work today, I came across "Cupcakes for Cancer" (thanks to Just something to bring a smile to someone ... for every "e-cupcake" you send, a dollar is donated to CancerCare.

Yum, cupcakes...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shuck, Slurp, Gulp - Maryland Oyster Festival

For the past 42 years, St. Mary's County has been home to the Maryland Oyster Festival where the "national oyster shucking" champion is crowned, hundreds (thousands?) of these tasty bivalves are gulped, and the national oyster cook-off draws in crowds.

We ventured out to Leonardtown this year to try it out! We've been to the delicious Fells Point Oyster Festival in past years, but never to the Maryland Oyster Festival. Loaded up with caffeine, we drove the two hours there - it was a beautiful day for a fall festival. When we arrived, the festival was already in full swing. We beelined to the food - it was lunchtime and we were starving. But where to begin...? Stands upon stands of food were set up ... from the curious (crab stuffed pretzels!) to the divine (grilled oysters with garlic and butter), from the body warming (hot apple cider) to the...again body warming (the Guinness truck with the beer spouts). Food paradise. By the end of our lunch rush, we had tried: deep fried oysters (very tasty), oyster stew (a little bit too watery), oyster sandwich (mmm fried oysters on a roll!), and my favorite, the grilled oysters with garlic and butter.

The oyster festival has a little bit for everyone. Not a fan of oysters? No problem -- the oyster festival is a mix of a food festival and a fun county fair. There are carnival rides (not recommended after eating oysters), local crafts, and live music.

I was sadly full before I could indulge in all the treats I wanted. The crab stuffed pretzels, the funnel cake, the barbeque beef sandwich, and crab soup will have to wait til next year.

OH! And before I forget, the WINE TASTING. I hadn't expected a wine tasting booth at the Oyster Festival but the Solomon Island Winery was set up with about 12 different wines to taste! For only $3, you could sample 6 wines. We sampled both the "island mist" wines (fruity) and the premium wines... We really only intended to sample, but came home with two bottles for future tastings! I loved their Blueberry Pinot Noir and my oyster loving companion fell for their Green Apple Riesling. Yes, yes, they are quite sweet, but perfect for a summer's day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Taste of Georgetown Recipes

More for as a note to myself, here are the recipes from the Taste of Georgetown:

Baked and Wired Carrot Cake
o 2 ¼ (11.5) oz. all-purpose flour
o 2 cups sugar
o 2 teaspoon baking soda
o 1 teaspoon cinnamon
o ½ teaspoon salt
o 2 cups shredded carrots
o 1 ½ cup canola oil
o 4 eggs
o 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted, and cooled

Pre-set oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9” pans. Whisk together all dry ingredients. Blend all ingredients at low speed, except nuts. Whisk with attachment on mixer for 3 minutes on high. Stir in pecans. Bake for 34 minutes, remove and allow to cool.

Cream Cheese Icing:
o 1 stick butter, softened
o 1 lbs. 8 oz. powdered sugar
o 1 teaspoon vanilla
o 1 tablespoon evaporated milk (may not need)

Blend together all the ingredients, and apply to cup cakes. Spread additional ½ cups of chopped and toasted pecans over the icing for decoration. Makes 16 Cup Cakes.
Recipe Provided by: Baked and Wired

Leopold's Kafe Cucumber Radish Salad
o 7in. plate
o European seedless cucumbers
o Yogurt dressing (See condiments ect.)
o Radishes
o Dill
o Toasted walnuts
o Frissee
o Lemon-honey oil

Slice cucumbers on the mandoline skin on. Toss generously with kosher salt and press in a perforated hotel pan with a fair amount of weight on top. Cucumbers should come out crisp and a little salty. Toss with some yogurt dressing and black pepper to taste. Salt only if needed! Make a small pile of frissee in the middle of the plate to add some height to the dish. Pile a neat mound of salad to resemble a pyramid and decorate around with slice radishes (held in water) like a Christmas tree. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts, top with some fresh dill peluche and drizzle some of the lemon-honey oil around.

Recipe Provided by: Leopold's Kafe

Clyde's Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Serves 2
It is important to pick over the crab meat gently to remove excess shell and cartilage. This is one of our most requested recipes.

o 1 lb. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
o 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
o 1 tblsp Water
o 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
o 1 tblsp Dijon Mustard
o 1 tblsp Chopped Parsley
o 4 Saltine Crackers

1. Pick the crab meat over to remove excess shells and cartilage.
2. Combine the mayo, Old Bay, parsley, mustard and water until smooth.
3. Add the mayo mixture to the crab meat and mix, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab meat.
4. With your hands, break up the saltines into crumbs and mix into the crab mixture.
5. Form into four patties and pan-fry, or broil the cakes until golden brown.

Recipe Provided by: Clyde's Crabcrake Sliders

Four Seasons Hotel Grilled Pineapple
o 1 Pineapple, whole
o 2 C Orange Liquor (Like Grand Mariner)
o 1/2 C Honey
o 1/4 C Brown Sugar
o 1 T Pink Peppercorns
o 1 qt. Honey or French Vanilla Ice Cream
o 1 pt. Caramel (good store bought is fine)

1. Remove the outer skin of the pineapple, yet leave the top. Trim the top leaves with scissors so they do not have sharp points.
2. Marinade:Over a low/medium heat simmer the liquor, honey, brown sugar and peppercorns.Simmer until the liquid is reduced and visible thicker. Remove from heat and chill.Place the pineapple in a ziplock bag and pour the liquid in the bag. Let sit from 6--10 hours.
3. Grill:Before removing the pineapple from the bag, triwl the pineapple in the bag one more time to coat the fruit with the marinade. Place the pineapple on the grill over a low heat. Spin the pineapple every 3-5 minutes, until all sides of the pineapple are dark brown (not burnt and caramelized). The pineapple should be fork tender all of the way through, including the core.
4. Slice 1" thick piece of pineapple. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled With warm caramel. Great with a Riesling Wine.

Recipe Provided by: Four Seasons Hotel

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Taste of Georgetown 2008

I finally made it over to the Taste of Georgetown this year. Accompanied by Mr. J, we braved the crowds that gathered between M St. and K St. on Wisconsin Avenue. The weather was absolutely beautiful -- sunny, blue skies, no clouds, and just warm enough to be happy to be standing in line... And stand in line we did. Not that we minded - it was actually fun (and mouthwatering) to watch other participants walk by with their piles of food and scope out what stands to hit next.

The Taste of Georgetown featured 27 of favorite Georgetown restaurants -- each restaurant offered between 1 -5 different selections. We purchased 5 tasting tickets for $20 and split it between us for "lunch." Our selections:
  • Morton's: Steak sandwich : We spent our first tasting ticket on this... and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. Although Mr. J was a fan of this one, I found that the sandwich had very little steak on it and was dominated by bread. The sandwich itself was quite small too, especially compared to the generous portions offered by other restaurants. Verdict: Skip next year.
  • Agraria: Pork Belly: Agraria's booth was near Morton's and talk about an improvement! The pork belly came with an apple/sweet potato mash and both were delicious. The pork belly wasn't too dry and had tons of flavor. The mash was a nice compliment to the saltiness of the pork belly. Verdict: One of the day's best.
  • Bangkok Joe's: Chicken Pad Thai: The line at Bangkok Joe's was at least 15 people deep, but well worth the wait! I was salivating watching people leave the Bangkok Joe's booth with their plates stacked high with pad thai. I generally love Bangkok Joe's pad thai anyways and was very pleased with the selection that day. Especially with some of their chili sauce squirted on it, gives it an extra bite. Verdict: One of the day's best.
  • Seacatch: Mushroom soup, shrimp in puff pastry, salmon tartare: Here's a restaurant that I've passed by time and time again, so we were curious to give it a try. Each of the bites were tasty, but they didn't bowl me over... think a plate of hors d'oeurves. Verdict: Good, but perhaps should have tried something else.
  • Cafe Bonaparte: Nutella and strawberry crepes: I was shocked by the length of this line. But by this point, we were dying for dessert... and Georgetown Cupcake already ran out of cupcakes (plus I celebrated a co-worker's birthday the day before with Gtown Cupcakes) and Baked and Wired looked out too. Plus, I love crepes... I mean, let's be honest, I love anything covered in nutella! The line took a long time to get through because Cafe Bonaparte was making each of their crepes fresh. Verdict: Very tasty but probably better to go to the restaurant.

All in all, I think it was a successful "meal" at the Taste of Georgetown. I would definitely go back to sample more next year -- this is my favorite form of eating anyways. Grazing over little dishes. We missed out on the wine pavillion this year, but luckily, there's always next year...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No coffee, I'll take a Guarana Antarctica please

I first had Guarana Antarctica at a Brazilian restaurant in DC... The waiter suggested it to my friends and I as an alternative soda option. We figured why not -- my fellow diners weren't very thrilled with the taste, but I actually liked the sweet, apple-like taste of it.

So of course when I saw it in Brazil, I was rather excited. Let's be honest, I had no idea what was actually in these guarana drinks but eventually I started drinking them daily and my mom also ordered them regularly. We sampled the Guarana Antarctica and the Kuat Guarana sodas (as a side note -- AmBev produces Guarana Antarctica (the most popular brand in Brazil, which amongst other things, hosts the Guarana Antaractica Street Festival and paired up with Brazilian designer Osklen in 2005) and Coca Cola sells Kuat Guarana).

Out of curiosity this morning, I googled Guarana to find the Guarana Antarctica website. For some reason, I knew it sounded familiar (even before drinking it in DC), but wasn't sure why. And then I realized why... a friend had mentioned it to me months ago (perhaps a year or more now) as an alternative to caffeine. Guarana contains a high level of guaranine, a substance with similar characteristics as caffeine. In fact, my brief googling has revealed to me that Guarana Antarctica has a caffeine content equivalent to most energy drinks and the berry has two to three times the caffeine of a coffee bean! Looking back, I don't recall feeling the effects of the caffeine (but maybe is more of an indication that caffeine is affecting me less and less... oops). Aside from the energizing qualities of guarana, some believe that guarana has medicinal effects.
Whatever the effects of guarana, I enjoyed it. Although I probably won't seek it out, if I find it on a local menu, I'm almost certain to try it again.