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

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Good Stuff Eatery

Today, I went with two friends to Good Stuff Eatery, the burger place opened by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame. We've heard rave reviews about it (and word that it could take nearly 30-45 minutes to get your burger of choice)... we decided to brave the crowds today since it was a gorgeous fall day to be out.

We got a little bit nervous when we asked this one woman who was standing outside if she was waiting to get in ... we found out quickly that we were unnecessarily nervous (we think she was just waiting for an outdoor table). We entered the line to place our orders... the line was about 20 people deep, but we were happy to have the time to take it all in. The menu looked delicious - different types of burgers for all tastebuds, not to mention salads and desserts. I nearly drooled on myself looking at people's "hand spun shakes" -- in particular, the seasonal "pumpkin spice" shake caught my eye. But first things first.

We made a game plan - we would each order different burgers and different sides so we could try as much as possible. As we were making our plans, I looked over across the counter, and THERE WAS SPIKE. I admit, I get fairly starstruck. The girl in front of us "secretly" took a picture of him with her camera phone. The guy behind us struck up a conversation with Spike mentioning how he has been wanting to come by for months but it was always packed. I mainly thought it was so great to see Spike behind the counter, cooking up the burgers, overseeing everything. This is clearly his baby and I hope that they will expand to have more locations around DC (as I read that they were thinking about doing...).

In the end, we decided to get:
  • Coletti's Smokehouse Burger -- applewood bacon, sharp vermont cheddar, fried vidalia onion rings with chipotle bbq sauce (that's the giant onion ring on the burger)

  • Blazin' Barn Burger -- (kind of a Thai burger!) pickled daikon & carrots, mint, cilantro, thai basil, lettuce, mint

  • Uncle D's Chili in Cheddar: spicy chili, cheddar, green onions, and sour cream (with the "Spike's Village Fries" below)

And sides of course... "Sunny's handcut fries," "Spike's Village Fries" (thyme, rosemary, cracked pepper!), and "Cliff's Homegrown Vidalia Onion Rings."

The verdict: Delicious. My favorite was probably Coletti's Smokehouse Burger - I am a sucker for a bacon cheeseburger and the bacon on this was particularly sweet which was a nice compliment to the richness of the burger. I did enjoy the Blazin' Barn Burger quite a bit because the vegetables and herbs made it really refreshing.

My co-eaters? They thought that the beef tasted really fresh and that the burgers in general were better than Five Guys (DC's ubiquitous burger chain... that I crave after a long day at work... or for lunch after a long night), but that the fries were about the same.

I have to say that one of the things I was surprised about but was quite excited about was the array of dipping sauces. We tried them all. Your usual ketchup and mustard... and then a series of mayonnaises... old bay mayo (I can't resist Old Bay... but this was on the salty side), Sriracha mayo (thai hot sauce), chipotle mayo (my favorite), and mango mayo (not very "mango-y" but quite sweet).

Good Stuff Eatery is a great neighborhood spot to just drop by and enjoy some good, soul-comforting food. The staff was very friendly and happy to help. The scene is a little bit chaotic, but that goes along with the popularity of Good Stuff Eatery. There are some tables outside on the sidewalk and tables on the second floor. We were able to find a table easily despite the volume of customers and they move quickly to get the food out.

(A combination of our three burgers!)

To be honest, I'm already trying to find a time to go back... and I've already started planning out my menu. Or attempting to. This time around, I was tempted by the Good Stuff Melt (melted cheddar & muenster, caramelized onions & mushrooms with good stuff sauce) ... but I read about Spike's "favorite" burger, the Spike's 5 Napkin burger... dairy fresh cheese, applewood bacon, farm fresh fried egg, brioche bun, good stuff sauce. And then there's the turkey burger with "chunky avocado and sprouts" and muenster chees and "ruby tomato" and.... AHHHH. Apparently I'll just have to go back again and again... and maybe one of these times I'll actually engage Spike in a real conversation...

Regardless, definitely on the list is one of the hand spun shakes... If I make it back during the fall, I MUST have the pumpkin spice shake. But otherwise, I think I will fall for the "D-lechable Leche."

Ok, must go find something to eat now... maybe next time I should just buy two burgers and save one for later. This was a much longer post than expected!