Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York, New York: Where in the World Wednesday!

This week brings an extra special Where in the World Wednesday!  Quite a few of my friends live or have lived in New York City -- so I decided to do a mega edition of Where in the World Wednesday with four (plus more!) tour guides to give us a tour of the delicious eats of NYC.  I was curious to see how they would agree (or not agree) on their answers... Plus, NYC is filled with so many delectable bites, we probably need more than just one guide anyways.

So let's meet the guides:

Julie and I met in grad school and I've been sad since she has left DC!  Jul is a true New Yorker, having been born in Manhattan, raised on Long Island, and she's lived in Union Square (2 summers), West Village (1 summer), Murray Hill (2 years), and the Upper East Side (2 years).  I still remember some of our food outings together when I've visited her.  Her top five food cities around the world (other than NYC of course) are Tel Aviv, Santorini, DC, and Cabo San Lucas.

Elaine and I have known each other since high school and have been best friends-fellow foodies ever since!  Elaine now lives in London (check out her London Where in the World Wednesday here!) but went to NYU for college.  She lived in Union Square, the Financial District, and the East Village during her time there.  Her top food cities are New York, London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong.

Steph and I met our freshman year of college in our Introduction to Fiction and Poetry class and have continually bonded over food ever since!  (check out her Japan Where in the World Wednesday here!)  Steph has lived in NYC for five and a half years, 2 years on the Upper West Side and since then in the East Village.  Her top five food cities are NYC, Kobe, Paris, Bangkok, and Barcelona.

Aaron and I also met our freshman  year of college and as a fellow foodie, thought would be a great male perspective!   Aaron has lived in NYC for five years, in Midtown West near Columbus Circle and now in Union Square.  His top five food cities are New York, Pittsburgh, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Tokyo.

Now on with our foodie tour of NEW YORK CITY! 
(1) How would you describe food in NYC in 10 words or less?

Julie: Many options for all palates -- gourmet and picky.
Elaine Whatever you want whenever you want it.
Steph Diverse, creative, innovative, global, comforting
Aaron: Anything and everything... just ask!

(2) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of NYC for a visiting friend, what would you include in it? (Feel free to include perishable items!)

Julie: Soft pretzel from a street cart, pizza, black and white cookie, Tasti DLite, rainbow cookie, bagel.

Elaine Shack Burger and Cheese Fries from Shake Shack, Bagels, favorite candies from Dylan's Candy Bar, Pizza from Grimaldi's, Frrrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity 3, Raspberry Cheese Blintzes and Chicken Noodle Soup from Veselka

Steph: If I was putting together a food basket, I would probably include H&H bagels with lox from Zabars, also delicious smoked salmon and herring from Russ & Daughters in the LES, and donuts from Doughnut Plant.

Aaron Cheese and mac from S'Mac.  Bacon hot dog from Crif Dog.  Stinky bleu from Picholine.  halal street meat.  mussels from flex mussels.  some over-the-top nonsense peruvian/japanese fusion plate with obnoxious ginger garnish.  all blended together?

(3) Which ethnicities / religions have mainly influenced the food in NYC?

Julie: There are so many different neighborhoods -- Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy ... all have influenced NY in their own way!

Elaine There are too many to list! If you don't believe me, check out here!

Steph: Which ethnicities/religions haven't influenced the food here?  I live in the East Village where I can walk down my block and get Italian, Thai, Moroccan, Chinese, turn around the corner and get Japanese ramen, burgers, tacos, and falafel.  I love it!

Aaron: Don't know NYC genealogy very well but would have to say people of Jewish or Italian descent.  But I know Manhattan best and it's not the most representative of vintage New York boroughs...most restaurants here are financed and catered to whatever can be called unique and popular with the incipient trends.  Increasingly a business that has less and less a component of heritage (not a bad thing.)  I've noticed that NYC hasn't caught on to it's fair share of Chinese, African or North/Eastern European tastes....but it has most of everything else well covered.

(4) What makes NYC unique – foodwise?

Julie: Diners! Expansive menu, 24 hours a day.  24 hour delivery! You can get whatever you want, whenever you want.  Legit bagels -- forever tainted my ability to eat bagels anywhere else.

Elaine: You can find amazing food of any cuisine no matter what your budget is.

Steph: NY is unique in that you can find anything here, food-wise.  All the big chefs, the experimental restaurants, the cuisines from countries you didn't even know existed, can all be found here.  As for me, I miss Japanese food and love that i can get quality Japanese food here in NY.

Aaron: Some 19,000 restaurants...100 closures and new restaurants a week.

(5) If I were to visit you, what are three food related places that we definitely would have to go to?

Julie: Da Nico (best place in Little Italy w/ an outdoor private garden), Gotham Bar & Grill (consistent upscale deliciousness), Ess a Bagel (best bagels in the whole world), Stanton Social (small plates -- best French Onion Soup dumplings) (Me: OMG, French onion soup dumplings?  Um, that sounds amazing...)

Elaine: Shake Shack, Per Se, Babbo

Steph: If you were visiting me, I would take you to Stanton Social for brunch (it's a restaurant in the LES where they have tapas-styled brunch, so it's great to go in a group and share small dishes, eliminating my usual savory vs. sweet debate), if the weather is nice we can go to Shake Shack for a burger and if not we can go to Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien too, as for dinner, one of my favorite restaurants is Alta (mediterranean tapas-style, I guess I like sharing) so we'll have to go there!

Aaron Standing exception to #3....Katz's Deli.  Also, Little Owl and Spotted Pig

(6) You know the saying, NYC is the city that never sleeps… where would we go for late night eats?

Julie: Any diner (truly they are all pretty good) -- my friend always orders pound cake and vanilla ice cream, I always go for omelettes.  Also, Pizza 33 -- brick-oven pizza that is packed til the wee hours. (Random factoid -- during the big blackout, it was one of the only places where you could get hot food, because of the brick oven!)

Elaine Veselka - 24 hour diner
San Loco - unpretentious Tex Mex open til 4am or 5am
French Roast - 24 hour Parisian bistro

Steph: There's always a slice or falafel available at every corner... also used to go to Crif Dogs (hot dog joint) in St. Marks where they have a lot of different toppings along with tater tots...

Aaron: Fatty Crab.  grungy music and crab...the best.  Veselka for pierogis and borscht...and I saw Scarlet Johannsson there last time.

(7) Given the current economic times, where would you go for a meal plus drink for $15 or less?

Julie: Well, drinks in NYC are rarely less than $10. So perhaps a margarita at Rio Grande and split a massive quesadilla with a friend?

Elaine: There are so many places but here are some of my favorites:
Zen Restaurant: $5 sushi rolls!
Chickpea: Shawafel Pocket (shawarma and falafel) - $6.96
Shake Shack: Double ShackBurger, Cheese Fries, and The Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half ice tea) - $13.25

Steph: there's always dim sum in chinatown, or a lot of vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) places have opened up recently in the east village/LES so that plus a drink would definitely still be under $15!

Aaron:   Morning food carts...those guys make for great conversation.  You get free donuts from time to time.

(8) As we're in the holiday season, what are some of your favorite food related holiday traditions in NYC?

Julie: Hanukkah gelt (chocolate money), hot chocolate (City Bakery has THE best cup w/ homemade marshmallows)

Elaine Drinking hot chocolate while walking around the city, stocking up on candy at Dylan's Candy Bar, having dim sum with family and friends

Steph: Not necessarily traditions, but I feel like eating heartier food near the holidays - I like Friend of a Farmer (near Union Square, has great brunch too) or Sylvia's in Harlem (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, etc).  and hot chocolate!  NY has a ton of great hot chocolate spots, such as Chocolate Bar, Vosges, etc.

Aaron: Tradition?  nah

(9) What is your most memorable food experience in NYC?

Julie: Hard to narrow this down ...(!)

Elaine: Both meals I had at Per Se - the food was so exquisite that I can still remember how some of the dishes taste!

Steph Too much here to remember, but great dinners have been had at WD-50 (an experimental restaurant where you can be excited/nervous about what you're about to eat), at great tapas restaurants like Casa Mono (Mario Batali's restaurant) etc.  OH but I can't forget, my dinner at Sammy's Roumanian steakhouse in the LES.  It was one Saturday night when I was dressed up for dinner but the wait for a table was way too long at the restaurant we had planned to eat.  So my friends told me of a great steakhouse nearby, which was this restaurant - it's a divey kitschy Jewish Romanian joint that would be fine just as a general cultural experience - but I wasn't prepared for it!  There was a man in his 70s that was the DJ, spinning the same few songs over and over, my table had a long black hair lying on top of it, there were jugs of melted butter smack in the middle of the table, and old foreign ladies wearing short skirts that were dancing and singing, drunk off their minds, and lifting their legs a little too high in front of my face.  The steak itself was fine, although expensive for the lack of ambiance, and to top it off there was an older group behind us, maybe late 40s early 50s, and a wife was leaning on her husband sitting next to her.  Suddenly she put her head in his lap and threw up all over him - and this was right behind me, halfway through my steak.  People seem to love this place, but once was enough for me!!

Aaron: wd-50.  the chefs are clearly on drugs.

(10) As a special edition to Where in the World Wednesday, let's pick your brains to see where your go-to places are for the following...

Julie: I don't eat sushi, but everyone loves Haru.
Elaine Zen Restaurant on St. Marks Place
Steph Ushiwakamaru
Aaron Sushi Yasuda, Bond St.

Julie: Pizza 33. The Italian restaurant Gonzo has fantastic gourmet pizza.
Elaine: Lombardi's (Manhattan) or Grimaldi's (Brooklyn)
Steph There's a ton of places of course, but i love the truffle oil pizza at L'Asso.  Artichoke pizza is good too, but huge!
Aaron PIE (because it's next door)

Julie: Spotted Pig (roquefort cheese...); Shake Shack (in the summer, requires patience bec of the long line)
Elaine: Shake Shack
Steph Shake Shack.  Zeitzeff, burger joint at le parker meridien
Aaron Resto, burger joint (parker meridien hotel) or shake shack (at citi field bc the other one takes too long)

Julie: Sarabeth's Central Park South location (good people watching, serves porridge!)
Elaine: Bubby's
Steph Clinton St Bakery, Stanton Social, Friend of a Farmer
Aaron Blue Ribbon bakery

Julie: Da Nico (free zeppoli!)
Elaine Babbo or Lupa
Steph Supper, Max, Lavagna (interestingly, these restaurants are all within 2 blocks from my apt)
Aaron: Campagnola or Scarpetta.  Sorry Babbo...

Julie: Magnolia
Elaine Magnolia Bakery
Julie: Bryant & Cooper (on Long Island); Peter Luger's
Elaine: Primehouse
Steph peter luger's (I actually haven't really been to much steakhouses here, but I know there's plenty of good steak to be had)
Aaron Strip House, Quality Meats

Special Occasion
Elaine Per Se
Steph Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill
Aaron Daniel, Gramercy Tavern

Taking Out of Town Guests
Julie: Morandi's. But generally anywhere you can sit outside in the summer. Many good people watching spots.
Elaine Any of the above depending on the mood of the guests!
Steph: Same as special occasion + Dressler, Alta, Ippudo (great ramen), Soba-koh (favorite soba place in the city)
Aaron: Back-Forty

Thanks so much to Jul, Lanie, Steph, and Aaron for taking part in this week's mega version of Where in the World Wednesday!  Not only am I drooling all over my keyboard, but I found it especially interesting to see where you all overlapped (and where you diverged).   

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Provence, France -- Where in the World Wednesday!

This week's Where in the World Wednesday jets us off to the beautiful countryside of Provence, France!  Our tour guide this week is one of my close friends Katia who spent a year living in a town called Cavaillon in Provence (yes, I'm jealous too!).  She currently resides in Philadelphia and definitely experienced some wanderlust after answering these questions...

(1) How would you describe food in Provence in 10 words or less?

Fresh, flavor, meat, colorful

(2) Are there any dishes that are traditionally from Provence?

Yes,  ratatouille.  It's a dish with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and peppers.  I think technically the vegetables should be layered in a dish and baked, but I like to saute the vegetables together and add fresh herbs.  There is another famous dish called bouillabasse which is a seafood stew.  The stew contains a mix of fish and shellfish, whatever came in from the day's catch. Tapenade (a dip made of olives) and aioli (some combination of mayonnaise or egg, and garlic, olive oil, lemon) are also from Provence.

(3) If you were bringing back a food gift basket representative of Provence/France for a friend, what would you include in it?  (Feel free to include perishable items!)

Cheese (probably some sort of smelly goat cheese from a local farm), wine, herbes de provence, a lavender plant, sunshine :-), olives, aioli, lavender candies, a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape (red/grenache wine)

(4) Do you find that food in Provence/France has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities/religions?  If so, which ones?

Hmmmmmm (that was me thinking very hard) I think the dishes tend to be very local and reflective of what is available regionally.  But there were a lot of Moroccan restaurants in the area.

(5) What did you have for breakfast most mornings?

A bowl of cereal and when I was done with the cereal I would pour coffee directly into the bowl and use up the milk in my coffee.  Or else I would have a bowl of coffee and baguette with jam or Nutella.  Sometimes we'd have French toast if there was stale bread that needed to be used up.   I picked up the coffee in my cereal bowl from the family who I lived with when I first got there.  Super nutritious.

(6) Were there any food traditions that your host family had? 

 If the weather was nice all meals were eaten outside in the garden.  Also, any special meal (if there were visitors, if it was someone's birthday, holiday meals) lasted hours.  The meal would usually start with crudités, which could be as simple as sliced tomatoes or carrots.  The meal would also likely have one or two meat courses.  A lot of special meals included some sort of game or lamb.  There would also be a cheese course, possibly as the dessert. 

There were a couple other special meals I remember having.  The first was raclette.  It is a certain cheese that you melt right at the table on a raclette melting machine.  The cheese was then put on potatoes or ham.  Another meal was basically strips of raw meat - chicken, beef and lamb - that we cooked on a special grill at the tableAnd a final dish I really liked to make was tartiflette.  It is a cheesy potato dish.  Basically you saute potato slices with onions and lardons (sliced up Canadian bacon) put it in a big dish and add crème fraiche.  The cheese used is rablochon and looks a lot like a wheel of brie.  The cheese gets sliced in half so there are two circles and placed on top of the dish so that it melts down into the potato as it bakes.  Also super nutritious.

(7) What is one of your favorite pastries/desserts that you had? 

My favorite European pastry is a Brioche Suisse.  I'm not really sure where it comes from, perhaps Switzerland, and it goes by different names in different countries.  It is a braided flaky pastry with a custard and chocolate chips on top.

(8) If I had visited you while you were there, what food-related outing would you have taken me on?

Hands down I would have taken you to a wine festival (see above picture!).  While I was there I subscribed to a magazine (can't remember the name off the top of my head) that put out a monthly schedule of wine festivals throughout France.  I planned my trips to different regions based on when they had a wine festival.  Basically all of the vineyards from that region would come together in a gymnasium or convention center and give out samples of their different wines and vintages.  As a novice wine taster I really enjoyed festivals where the wines were arranged by flavor.  Answering these questions made me a little nostalgic for all of the exciting adventures I had at the different festivals, so I pulled out my "tasting notes" from a tasting I went to in Avignon called Rhône Exaltation: Degustations – Gastronomie – Patrimoine.  For 7 euros my friends and I received a tasting glass, a carrying case to wear around our necks and carry the wine glass, a certain number of drink tickets and most importantly a single use breathalyzer.  We somehow managed to taste any wine we wanted, no one ever asked us for tickets.  My friends and I would sit and describe the wines to each other.  My favorite descriptions included "tastes like an old friend you haven't seen in a while, but is still very familiar"  or "honey and vanilla ambrosia."  We also described a wine as tasting like "a rotting bag of clementines."  It's a good thing my passport is expired because I'm about ready to run to the airport and wait stand-by for a plane back to France!

(9) Were there any ingredients that you often found in dishes?

Garlic, herbes de provence, whatever was seasonal at the time.

(10) Was there anything that particularly surprised you about the food there?

Baguettes really are on the table at every meal.  Also, people tend not to buy any fresh vegetables or fruit if they are out of season.  Oh and eating like the French won't really help you lose weight, apparently the kicker is smoking like the French :-)

(11) What was your most memorable food experience in Provence?

Well the wine festivals are probably my most memorable experience.  But I also loved shopping at the markets for fresh vegetables, fruit and meat.  And of course getting to taste the vast array of cheeses was incredible.

Thanks Katia for participating in Where in the World Wednesday!  Anyone else want to buy a ticket with me to head to Provence?

Saturday, December 5, 2009


November's Cookie Carnival recipe was PECAN PIE COOKIES.  OMG.  Yes.  Pecan pie cookies.  I thought Mr. J would faint (pecan pie is his fave!).  I was excited to try this recipe out, meant to do it for Thanksgiving, but alas, time slipped away from me.  But I got to them today :)

Thanks to Beantown Baker, Jen, for suggesting this to the group!

These cookies turned out quite well.  They weren't nearly as sweet as I thought they would be -- the use of brown sugar instead of white sugar I think helped quite a bit.  The balance between the sweetness of the topping (mmm yes, pecan pie all the way!) and the tenderness of the cookie was wonderful.  The cookies were almost like mini cakes -- very soft.  These were also very easy to make and didn't take a lot of time!  Definitely plan to make these again.

RECIPE: Pecan Pie Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredients except flour and baking powder in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. (I followed Jen's suggestion and chilled my dough for about an hour before proceeding because my cookies do tend to spread!) 

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Make indentation in each cookie with thumb; rotate thumb to hollow out slightly.

Combine all filling ingredients in small bowl; fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.  (I would recommend cooling for longer -- mine fell apart when I first tried to take them off the cookie sheets, so I let them rest for ten more minutes).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kansas: Where in the World Wednesday!

Welcome back to Where in the World Wednesday!  We took a brief hiatus there, but are back in full form... lots of fun eats in the weeks to come!

This week's Where in the World Wednesday brings us to the midwest of the United States - Kansas!  My wonderful friend Rachel, who grew up in Wichita, will be our tour guide on this round of Where in the World Wednesday. 

(1) How would you describe food in Wichita/Kansas in 10 words or less?

Traditional American/comfort food, with some surprising cultural diversity.

(2) Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally "Kansas?"

There are definitely dishes that are traditionally Midwestern, but I don’t know that it would be fair to say they are traditionally “Kansas.” Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri have pretty similar food tastes from what I’ve seen. A lot of church basement food – “funeral potatoes,” Waldorf salad, homemade jams, jellies and pickles, meatloaf.

(3) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Kansas for a friend visiting, what would you include in it?  (Feel free to include perishable items!)

A salted caramel cupcake from Sugar Sisters Bakery
Beef or bison jerky
A hamburger from Jack’s North Hi Carryout (See above!)
A “hamburger” from Nu-Way
“Strawberry salad” – layer of crushed graham crackers and melted butter, layer of frozen strawberries and strawberry jell-o, layer of whipped cream, cream cheese and mini marshmallows
Pulled pork
And finally, a Nancy’s #8 from the Artichoke Sandwich Shop (turkey, swiss and cream cheese, lettuce and tomato with ranch dressing on a grilled onion hoagie)

(4) Do you find that food in Wichita/Kansas has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities?  If so, which ones?

Wichita has a large population of both Mexican and Vietnamese first-and-second-generation immigrants. Although I don’t think that this has influenced traditional Midwestern food very much, it means that there are some great Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants in Wichita! My favorite Vietnamese place is Saigon, on North Broadway. I always get the charbroiled pork with rice noodles. There are also Mexican and Vietnamese markets so it’s easy to get the right ingredients to cook these foods at home.

(5) Is there anything about the food in Kansas that you think would surprise people that have never been there?

I think people would be surprised by the variety of restaurants in Wichita. For a city of its size (less than 400,000 in the city proper), it has a lot more than just chain restaurants. There are some ambitious entrepreneurs who really know about food and have introduced Wichita to sushi, Lebanese food, decent vegetarian food, great Thai food. Also, people don’t understand about the hamburgers. You can’t get a Wichita hamburger anywhere else in this world. Thin patty. Freshest beef because the cow lived right outside town. Chopped onions seasoned with 50 years worth of grill gunk. Soft but sturdy bun. You could eat five and still want another one.

(6) When you were growing up, was there somewhere that you would ask your parents to take you for a treat?  Where was it?  Why did you love it?

There is a chain in Wichita (and in Oklahoma and a few other nearby states) called Braum’s. They have their own dairy farms (milk their own cows), and make all the ice cream, baked goods, dairy products and pretty much everything else they sell. That’s pretty rare in the restaurant business. Anyway, Braum’s is mostly an ice cream place, and it’s THE place to take your kid after school events – sporting events, band concerts, awards ceremonies and all that. I always got the same thing: peppermint ice cream on a sugar cone. And for birthday parties and holidays, we always went to the Nifty Nut House – still my favorite candy store, and I’ve been to, you know, a lot of them :) It’s a HUGE nut and candy store, owned by a Wichita family since 1937. My mom says she’s friends with the owner, but I think everyone who goes there feels that way. Great prices, super-fresh-I-just-fell-off-the-tree nuts, wide variety of bulk and packaged candy, and you are pretty much guaranteed good customer service, since they only hire nice people :)

(7) If you were to take me to Wichita, what are three food related places that we definitely would have to go to?

UNGHHH this is so hard. Like when I come to Wichita for a long weekend and there are only 8 or 9 possible meals. OK, lemme think. Well, number one, I’m gonna go with a place outside Wichita – we have a small Amish community in southeast Kansas, and in the town of Yoder there is a restaurant called Carriage Crossing. You can’t get any more traditional Midwest than this – fried chicken, fried vegetables, ham. But mostly people come for the giant, fresh, frosting-slathered cinnamon rolls. YUM. (Stroud’s also has great fried chicken, if you like that kind of thing. But that’s just an aside and doesn’t count as one of my three!)

I always want to go to N and J Cafe. It’s a Lebanese café and catering business (I used them for my mom’s 50th birthday party, and it was a hit). Fresh, parsley-heavy taboulli and hummus, but also beef and chicken shawarma, kibbe, and decent fattoush.

And my third…I’d have to go to Jack’s North Hi Carryout for burgers and fries. It closed for a few years a little while back, but somebody rescued it and reopened it, thank goodness. That was decades worth of awesome grill gunk built up on that grill! All that flavor would have been LOST FOREVER! 

(8) Do you have any favorite candies that originate from Kansas? 

Sifer’s Valomilks are made in Kansas. Kind of like a Reese’s, but filled with a fluid vanilla cream. Very messy and very sweet, but a fun treat (and made with only natural ingredients). Cero’s makes great chocolates.

(9) If you could pick one food item from Kansas/Wichita to have with you always, what would it be?

Something I can’t get anymore: my grandma’s strawberry freezer jam. So much sugar it’s pink instead of red, but the freshest strawberry flavor you can imagine – she always made it out of strawberries my grandpa grew in the backyard that were picked that day or the day before. The Sunfresh company makes a jam that comes pretty close – I plan on ordering some to have at Christmas this year!

Oh yum, Rach -- thanks so much for the tour!!  I'm starving now after re-reading your answers and look forward to you one day taking me to Wichita :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dish in the District: Martin's Tavern

I am a self-diagnosed brunch addict (much to Mr. J's chagrin because he hates brunch).  I'm always in search of new brunch places, particularly for when out-of-town friends are visiting (if any Washingtonians have any suggestions, please provide!).  Fairly recently, I tried out Billy Martin's Tavern in Georgetown on two occasions for brunch.  Martin's Tavern is a tried and true restaurant located at the corner of Wisconsin and N Streets and celebrated its 75th anniversary last year.  Known for being steeped in DC history and being a Georgetown staple, I had been meaning to try it for quite awhile.  Particularly well-known are their booths -- my favorite spot to sit -- although a bit on the tight side, these dark brown wooden booths have seen much history.  My favorite booth is Booth #3 -- where JFK proposed to Jackie Kennedy -- I love telling that story to any guests in town!

Martin's Tavern serves up a good, hardy breakfast (plus an assortment of lunch options for those of you who don't want eggs after 10 am), for reasonable (for Georgetown...and DC) prices.  Often crowded, arrive early-ish or reserve a spot -- plus seating outdoors during the warmer months!

The first time I came to Martin's Tavern, I had their corned beef hash with poached eggs (mmmm, drool), but this time around, I wanted something a little bit more...decadent.  I had eyed this cheese covered, creamy rarebit sauce slathered dish the last time I was there, and decided to go for it -- the HOT BROWN (see above) ... Sliced roasted turkey on toast smothered in their homemade rarebit sauce topped with sliced tomato, parmesan cheese and bacon ... all broiled together in a skillet.  (For you foodie-philes, hot browns are open faced sandwiches that originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926.  It was created to serve as an alternative to ham and egg late night suppers... thank you Wiki).

If you're a poached egg fan, this is the place for you, with at least five different poached egg possibilities.  Although it's not listed on the website, there is an additional brunch menu, that includes a eggs benedict with avocado (one of my faves) and I believe crab meat (oh the Marylander in me...).  Don't like poached eggs?  No worries, most of the egg dishes allow you to pick how you want your eggs cooked.

My friends got some pretty delicious dishes too.  Check out the "Tavern Treat" -- Sautéed jumbo lump crabmeat and sliced mushrooms over an English muffin and topped with Hollandaise sauce served with french fries" and the french toast.

And no brunch would be complete without the proper beverage.  I happily tried a pomegranate mimosa -- instead of OJ, pom juice with champagne.  Not only a beautiful color, but fabulous tasting.  Hope that you found brunch here as tasty I did.

Billy Martin's Tavern
1264 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dish in the District: The Local Chefs Come Out to Play (Chef Voltaggio!)

So as it turned out, I took a break from work to go to the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show.  Imagine, a convention center filled with booths of food... all different types of samples... sausages, Indian food, sangria slushies, horseradish cheese, bbq...lots of bbq, hot sauce, salsa (very popular was the crab salsa), bite sized cookies, decorative cakes, and the list goes on.  It was quite fun to eat our way through the Show.

But the highlight this year was seeing BRYAN VOLTAGGIO - Maryland's own Top Chef contestant, owner and head chef of Volt in Frederick, MD.  Chef B.V. was featured at the Bloom Cooking stage -- the Bloom stage featured a number of favorite local chefs, including Top Chef/Zaytinya Chef Mike Isabella, Chef Cathal Armstrong from Restaurant Eve, Chef Barton Seaver from Blue Ridge, Chef Robert Wiedmaier from Marcel's and Brasserie Beck, and  Chef David Deshaies from Michel Richard Citronelle.  Other Top Chef alum, Chef Richard Blais, also cooked up a storm at the Bloom stage.  Knowing that I only had a few hours to spare from work, we structured our visit to the Show around Chef Bryan's feature.

I can't help it, I just love him.  Every Wednesday (or perhaps Thursday or Friday... whenever I get to the DVR'ed show) I cheer him on -- not just because he's my home state favorite (being from Maryland and all), but because I think he is simply a fantastic chef.

We hurried over to the Bloom stage at the tail end of Chef Wiedmaier's presentation to grab seats for Chef Bryan's show.  And a good thing we did!  The seating area quickly filled up and then soon it was standing room only (so smart people brought in chairs from other places around the convention center).  A few minutes before the show began, Chef Bryan came out and you could see everyone testing their cameras, taking test shots, to use flashes or not (I wonder what he thought of all this hubbub)...

For the next 45 minutes, we enjoyed learning all about making desserts - in particular his flexible chocolate ganache that he had made during Top Chef.  He made it look so simple, giving us little hints along the way.  He also made milk chocolate ice cream using liquid nitrogen -- which he kindly warned us not to try at home and to be very careful with -- and a KitchenAid mixer (see first pic).  And then these caramel tuilles (which he times with his phone with the dog bark alarm).  And yum.  We snagged a sample of the dessert - chocolatey deliciousness (check out the recipes below!)

Along the way, we learned a few things about him (very few questions were asked til the very end...): (1) He has his own tattoos (! on his arms), (2) He got into cooking when he was a teenager because (a) he thought it would be a good way to meet girls and (b) he had been a busboy at the restaurant he worked at and had thought that cooking seemed like more fun, (3) He moved back to Frederick to open Volt just as his family was all moving away, but his wife's family still lives there, and (4) He couldn't say which of the DC restaurants were his faves because too many of his friends were chefs in DC.

We snuck out before the crowd got too rowdy so missed the final questions, but it was fun to see him in his element and cooking up a storm.  Volt is high on our list of places to try now (perhaps as a birthday celebration?) so hopefully will be reporting on that soon as well.

Chef Voltaggio's Recipes: White Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Tuile, Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Chocolate Powder

To assemble:
1) Cut the ganache into a long rectangular portion 6” X 1”
2) Plate with the ganache shaped like an “S” on the plate.
3) Place chocolate powder on one end of the ganache falling off the ganache
4) Place cocoa nibs chopped rough on each portion
5) Place shards of the chocolate tuile into the ganache
6) Quenelle the ice cream on top of the chocolate powder

White Chocolate Ganache (he cooked up a dark chocolate ganache for us)

450 Gr. White Chocolate
1 ¼ Gelatin Sheet, Bloomed
50 Gr. Water
100 Gr. Sorbitol
3 Gr. Agar
50 Gr. Glucose
300 Gr. Cream
2 Gr. Salt

Combine the water, sorbitol, agar in a medium size pot then bring to boil.

In a separate pot combine the glucose, cream, salt and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat then add gelatin.

Add then 2 hot mixtures over the chocolate stir until dissolved. Do not whisk. You don’t want air bubbles.

Strain over sheet tray lined with pan spray and lay a sheet of acetate, allow to cool. Once set cut and store in cooler.

Chocolate Tuile

1500 Gr. Sugar
25 Gr. Pectin
500 Gr. Butter
400 Gr. Glucose
800 Gr. Water
500 Gr. Cocoa Paste
100 Gr. Cocoa Powder


Bring sugar, pectin, butter, glucose, and water to boil.

Stir in cocoa paste and powder. Continue cooking and string until thick.

Cool and spread onto silpat, bake at 300° F until crisp.

Store in cool dry place.

Cocoa Syrup

100 Gr. Water
20 Gr. Cream
60 Gr. Sugar
30 Gr. Cocoa powder
* For chocolate powder combine with Tapicoa maltodextrin


Combine the water, cream, sugar, and cocoa powder.

Bring to a simmer. Steep for 20 minutes.

Strain through a coffee filter

Cool and add to the maltodextrin for chocolate powder

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

3000 Gr. Milk
350 Gr. Sugar
950 Gr. Cream
200 Gr. Milk chocolate
900 Gr. Egg yolk
5 Gr. Cream stabilizer


Combine the milk, cream, and sugar bring to a boil

Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate, add the stabilizer.

Temper the egg yolks into the cream and then cook until the ice cream base thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Strain and cool immediately. Process in a ice cream machine. Store frozen until ready to plate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cook Club: Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen


TOP SCORING DISH: Hong Kong Crab Cakes with Bok Choy

October Cook Club brings us Jasmine's cookbook pick of TYLER FLORENCE'S REAL KITCHEN cookbook. How could she after all resist that cutie -- plus she loves him on the Today show and she has been wanting to make that french toast with caramel apples (see photo above!) for quite awhile.

As always, every cook scored their dishes on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best) and these scores are averaged to come up with the cookbook's final score. Will Tyler's cookbook beat Giada's from last month? Check it out below.

By category this month -- listed under: 
Appetizers / Cocktail Party, Main Course, Side Dish, Breakfast

Anjali's Teriyaki Chicken Wings with Sesame and Cilantro
Score = 3.5

I picked this recipe beause I have always wanted to make my own wings. It seems so easy! And I have to say, it was. While the ingredients list is lengthy (as Asian recipes often are), the preparation was straightforward. I admit, I cheated multiple times.  Instead of using storebought hoisin sauce, I made my own (so easy!), and I used honey instead of sugar. I think both these modifications did alter the final result, but not in a negative way. And I totally forgot the cilantro garnish!

And about the final result ~ it was good! I made the wings for a party and everyone seemed to like them. I will say that while they were good, I generally prefer my wings to be more creatively flavored, so next time I would want to try some fun, crazy ingredients.  I will also say that I do not know why grapefruit juice was used, as I could not taste it at all!

Overall, I would give it a 3.5 and I would make it again, with a twist. ;)

Lisa's Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Score = Rolls (3.5) and Sauce (4.5) = 4

My recipes (Hong Kong Crab Cakes with Baby Bok Choy and the Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce) had an extensive ingredient list and required much labor. My husband and I prepped and cooked for two hours straight in order to create these dishes.

When we cook, we try to find all ingredients at our local Harris Teeter. We were unable to find rice paper wrappers, so we substituted soy wrappers instead. The preparation for this dish was exhausting. Alone the rolls were ok (see above, the inside of the roll!), but with the sauce they were incredible. The sauce was extremely easy to make and would be a great accompaniment to any spring roll. We will use this sauce in the future, but we will try to find a less tedious recipe for the spring rolls.

Michelle's New England Clam Chowder
Score: 3.5

I would use more clams if I remade this because it didnt have enough of that New England clam chowder flavor. Also, it was incredibly watery. I would cut down on the water from the start of the soup. Finally, I would also add more potatoes to thicken up the soup. I plan on trying this again, with my modifications! I'll let you know how it is!


Jackie's Lemon Chicken with Smashed Broccoli
Score = 3.5 (Chicken was great, the smashed broccoli not so much)
Earlier this year as part of Tyler Florence Fridays, I cooked up two recipes from this book as well.  I figured that I would integrate them in here (the more recipes the merrier!).  Check out the full review with the recipe here.

The chicken here was the star of the show for me. Not only did all the chicken's herbs and lemony-ness perfume our house deliciously (and I'm sure, wafted out of our house to tantalize the noses of our neighbors), the chicken itself was also wonderfully moist and flavorful.  I was rather indifferent to the smashed broccoli. Although I love broccoli, the smashed broccoli though didn't appeal to me as much.  I just think I'm more of a crunchy broccoli type of girl.

Jackie's Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
Score: 4
One of Mr. J's favorite dishes is MEATLOAF.  Over the years, I've tried making different recipes for him, some which were big hits, some which were not so much.  Tyler's recipe touts this meatloaf as one of the most moist meatloaves you'll try -- it is also the recipe he used when he used to work at Cafeteria in NYC.  I had never made a meatloaf where you put together a tomato "relish" to incorporate into the meat mixture -- this gave it a lot of great flavor.  The tomato relish was a mixture of tomatoes, red peppers, and more...  Although I did enjoy the flavors, the texture for me was a bit "meal-y" -- Mr. J loved this though, so I'll bump up the score a little bit.  Plus it had bacon on top (we used turkey bacon) -- and how can you go wrong with that?

Lisa's Hong Kong Crab Cakes with Baby Bok Choy
Score = 5

We halved this recipe, which significantly reduced the cost of this dish as jumbo lump crab can be extremely expensive. The crab cakes were flavorful! The sauce for the bok choy was salty and sweet – the perfect combination. As seen, we plated the bok choy separately from the crab cakes. However, we quickly realized that the incredible bok choy sauce needed to be on the crab cakes. We would recommend plating the bok choy and sauce over the crab cake. We will most definitely make this dish again!

Amanda's Roasted Carrots with Orange Brown Butter and Sage
Score: 4

The carrots had a good flavor. Two of my dinner guests who do not usually like cooked carrots said they liked these, so I consider this recipe a success ;-) I used baby carrots instead, which are a little sweeter than regular carrots. I think the orange butter was a little more difficult to taste for this reason. Overall, I liked this recipe and would make it again. It was very easy and low maintenance. My parents roast vegetables all the time, and really want to try this recipe, so I have a feeling I will be experimenting on them over the holidays!

Amanda's Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Dill
Score: 3.5

Again, a very easy recipe to make. The most difficult part was the chopping, and even that did not take very long. I think the dill was a very interesting choice. It gave the cabbage a different flavor, one which I'm still not sure I'm fond of. My parents have a braised red cabbage recipe that is VERY yummy, so that might have been influencing my palette ;-)

Jackie's Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Black Pepper
Score: 4.3
I've always been a big fan of polenta -- so versatile!  Mr. J actually picked this out to go with the meatloaf, but we never got around to making them together.  Which actually worked out quite well -- this recipe makes a very large pot of polenta, perfect for several days.  The first day, we had it on the side with chicken.  The second day, we had it as the main dish but with bacon (yes, that turkey bacon reappears) crumbled on top.  I LOVED the flavors of the polenta -- the parmesan cheese comes through very nicely and I love black pepper so I cranked quite a bit in it.  Mr. J added in some Worcestershire sauce and horseradish, which added in another layer of flavor.  The polenta did not turn out very "creamy" -- I think next time I would add a bit more heavy cream to it.  Although my arm hurt after making this (nearly 30 minutes of whisking!  I need to work out more...), definitely would make again!


Elaine's Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze
Score: 4
These scones turned out nicely in the end but there were a few hurdles to overcome. The recipe called for heavy cream and in the London supermarkets sell single, double, and double extra thick cream - I went for the double cream as the extra thick really was super thick.

When it came to actually putting the dough together, I followed some advice I read about freezing the blueberries so that you don't end up with purple dough. That worked like a charm but as this was the first scone dough I had ever made I wasn't sure what the consistency was supposed to be like. The dough wasn't coming together with the amount of heavy cream called for in the recipe and there wasn't any guidance either on what to look for so I just used more until I was able to form round mounds instead of the triangles suggested. The lemon glaze was super easy to make and was a really good addition. The lemon smelled very strong but wasn't too overpowering for the scones since they were so rich.

Jackie's Coconut Bread
Score: 3.9
Here's the other recipe that I made earlier this year for Tyler Florence Fridays!  Check out the full review and recipe here.

I love to bake and in this recipe, Tyler references trips to Sydney, Australia, one of my favorite places in the world. In particular, he talks about a breakfast place in Darlinghurst called bills. Bill Granger is the chef at bills and he is a chef that I’ve always wanted to sample his food...

The coconut bread turned out nicely... It was admittedly a bit dry, a little bit more dry than I would have preferred.  But the flavors of the bread were great. The coconut is not overpowering -- more subtle hints of the coconut. The lemon zest actually comes across fairly strong, so next time, I would probably cut back a little on the lemon zest. I think that this would also be fabulous with chocolate chips (but really, almost anything is better with chocolate chips!) mixed into the batter. The bread keeps well for at least a week (we took Tyler's suggestion and wrapped it up tightly and placed it in a plastic bag).

Jasmine's French Toast with Caramel Apples
Score: 4.5 (4 from Jasmine, 5 from her hubby)

I made the Croissant French Toast and Caramel Apples. They were really sweet and really filling and really good! I thought that the recipe would be pretty simple and easy (the recipe said that it would only take 30 min). The recipe took me, HOUR! The hardest part: the caramel apples. Who knew that caramel apples were so complicated? Lucky for them they are so delicious. We even had some left over and my husband wants to use the sauce as a topping for ice cream! All in all, I would give this recipe an 4 (husband gives it a usual).

Thanks to all of you who participated!  This next Cook Club entry won't be posted until January ... we'll be spending a solid two months (with all the holidays!) on one cookbook... now which one is it?  Wait to see in January!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dish in the District: Lima Restaurant and Lounge

Chicken Croquette

Over the summer, three friends and I tried out the Tastings Journal's dinner at Lima. After battling through torrential rain showers (now really, FOUR thunderstorms over the daylight hours? and note that the torrential rain came down while it was bright and sunny... so odd to see a rainbow stretched over the park in front of my office!), I made it inside Lima... which was PACKED. Well, at least the bar and lounge areas were packed with nearby workers happy to be out of the office.

As my two friends and I waited for our fourth to arrive, we decided to treat ourselves to what turned out to be a massive (2 foot tall) pitcher of passion fruit mojitos.  Not bad at all.  Lima, located at 14th and K is tucked in amongst all the office buildings.  It is a fun destination for drinks with a small outdoor patio in the front (best during the warm weather months!) and two floors of "lounge" area inside for drinks and appetizers.  The third floor is where dining takes place.   I've been to Lima a handful of times for dinner (and for lunch when they used to serve lunch!).  Dimly lit with modern decor, Lima serves up South American food with a very tasty twist. 

The Tastings Journal dinner offered a five course menu with a wine pairing for $45 (really, quite the bargain at Lima).  My friends and I tried a variety of the dishes (see menu below), my favorites being the: tuna & ginger ceviche (fabulous flavors), steak churrasco (I always seem to order it when I'm there), and the fried churros (with a lime dipping sauce and a chocolate dipping sauce). 

FIRST: Choice of Whitefish Ceviche, Salmon Chipotle Ceviche, Tuna & Ginger Ceviche
SECOND: Choice of Empanadas, Chicken Croquettes, Cod Fritters
THIRD: Choice of Mixed Field Greens Salad, Jamon Serrano (see above!), Manchego Cheese Plate,
MAIN: (Paired with wine!) Choice of Wild Salmon, Cuban Chicken, Steak Churrasco, Vegetarian Dish
DESSERT: Choice of Warm Chocolate Cake, Fried Churros (see left), or Ice Creams and Sorbets

The feedback from one of my friends?  My favorite part (food-wise) was the ceviche.  Also the mixed greens were spot-on.  I thought it was a little silly though that they did not give us silverware for the croquettes.  The main course was very hearty, I think I was expecting something a little more delicate, but still it was a good steak.  And the mojitos there are always a treat -- it seemed like we got 8 glasses out of that pitcher!   

Thinking about the dinner now makes me quite hungry...  Hmm, what to have for lunch!  In any case, Lima is a fun place for a night out on the town... paired with some tasty food...

Lima Restaurant & Lounge
1401 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20005

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dish in the District: Fabulous Foodie Events and Openings

Last Year's Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show

Every so often, I like to immerse myself in finding out about the newest restaurant openings (because let's be honest, restaurants are constantly opening in DC!).  This week's Dish in the District brings us some restaurant openings and coming soons... PLUS some fantastic foodie events taking place in the next week!  I'm really sad that I won't be able to make any of these events this year due to work, but please go go and tell me all about it!


Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show: November 7-8, 2009 at the Convention Center -- I went last year to this delicious food show -- see your favorite Food Network chefs (Giada!  Paula!  Tyler!) and also DC / Maryland Top Chef darlings Bryan Voltaggio of Volt and Mike Isabella of Zaytinya.  We went with the general admission, which buys you into a convention hall full of foodie exhibitors that will make your mouth water.  Last year, we went to go see Giada's cooking demo too.  Def check it out!

Capital Food Fight: November 11, 2009 - When our friends James and Shannon told us about this event, I wanted to sign up immediately.  Unfortunately, it is right in the middle of one of my busiest weeks of work.  60 restaurants, 5 battling chefs... More of DC's favorites will be battling each other -- Barton Seaver, Michael Mina, Bryan Voltaggio, Mike Isabella, and Tracy O'Grady ... 52 of DC's best restaurants serving food... chairman and host, the wonderfully inventive Jose Andres (Jaleo, Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel) with co-host Anthony Bourdain and co-chair Ted Leonis.  Talk about my dream line-up here!  Judging the competition?  Ted Allen, Eric Ripert, and Carla Hall.  And all going to support DC Central Kitchen.  I'm utterly depressed that I can't go, but if you go, please fill me in!

(Descriptions courtesy of The List Are You On It - check it out, a fabulous site!)

Birch & Barley/ChurchKey:   The beer-centric destinations, both located in the former Dakota Cowgirl space at Logan Circle mark the first foray into the District for NRG, which operates Buzz, EatBar, Evening Star Café, Planet Wine, Rustico, Star Catering, Tallula and Vermilion, all in Northern Virginia. On the ground floor is Birch & Barley, a beer-forward and wine-friendly restaurant. The husband-and-wife team of Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac will run the kitchen. Kyle is the executive chef and MacIsaac is the pastry chef. Both were previously at Allen & Delancey in NYC. Upstairs, a new kind of beer haven awaits at the 3,200 square-foot ChurchKey. Governed by Beer Director Greg Engert, who serves in the same position at Rustico, the bar will serves 555 different beers, including 500 bottles representing 100 styles and 30 countries. Fifty drafts are available and five authentic hand pumped cask-conditioned ales representing rare English and other international styles are here, too. You'll also find domestic beers that are often not seen in DC. (1337 14th Street; 202.518.7549)

J. Chocolatier - In the the Georgetown rowhouse that formerly housed Chez Mama-San, Maitre chocolatier Jane Morris recently opened her first J. Chocolatier retail store, after doing wholesale in the DC area for almost three years. Morris founded J. Chocolatier with the belief that affordable indulgences are what make life the sweetest. After studying with acclaimed chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt, Maitre Chocolatier Morris has returned to Washington, DC to create her own line of chocolates, focusing on elegant flavors with classic hand-crafted techniques and timeless quality. (1039 33rd Street, NW)

Masa 14- In a partnership between Kaz Okochi of KAZ Sushi Bistro, Richard Sandoval of Modern Mexican Group and SULA, LLC, Masa 14 has opened it's doors. With a capacity for 240 guests, Masa 14 features a spacious 100-seat restaurant, plus a private dining room which can accommodate parties of 18, and a handsome 74-seat bar/lounge featuring ample selections of tequila, sake, beer, wine and cocktails. Antonio Burrell is Chef de Cuisine. Prior to joining Masa 14, Burrell served as the chef de cuisine of CommonWealth in Columbia Heights. Burrell's career also includes working for six years in two of Washington's most elite kitchens: Vidalia and Bistro Bis under Chef/Owner Jeffrey Buben. The all-small plates menu will incorporate Asian and Latin flavors, and is priced from $6 to $14. Guests dining at Masa 14 can view the open kitchen complete with a wood-fired brick oven which will be an important centerpiece to Masa 14's menu. (1825 14th Street, NW; 202.328.1414)

The Reserve - Owner Mo Hamdan has opened The Reserve, a modern fusion tapas restaurant located in the former Olly's Trolley space on L Street. Executive chef Frederik De Pue has created an international tapas menu that will change seasonally.  Look for offerings such as beef tartar, crusted black sesame tuna, and guinea hen jalousie. On the wine list, there are 100 wines from all regions of the world, handpicked by The Reserve's in-house sommelier, Olivier Ledoux. Finished brick walls, santos mahogany hardwood floors, marble table tops, brushed spiral metal staircases and custom oak wood finish envelope two floors of rustic, modern, contemporary furnishings.  The Reserve has seating for 140, with both private & semi-private dining space available. (1426 L Street, NW; 202.628.8900)

(Descriptions courtesy of The List Are You On It - check it out, a fabulous site!)

We,The Pizza - Celebrity chef and former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn is preparing to open another Capitol Hill restaurant – this time a pizza joint. Located right next door to Good Stuff Eatery, We, The Pizza should open in December or January serving NY-style thin crust pizzas both by the pie and the slice. We, The Pizza will also offer homemade gelato and "old school" sodas.  (Check out my review of Good Stuff here!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Taste of Georgetown 2009 -- Dish in the District!

My friends with our chocolate covered bacon lollipops! :)

Welcome to the first Dish in the District entry!  (See here for more dets)

Oh it was a cloudy, rainy day in Georgetown. But that couldn't keep us away from the wafting scents of grilled meats, pipin' hot noodle dishes, deep fried duck... Oh yes, the annual Taste of Georgetown arrived again on October 10th (check out the 2008 version here!). This year, I had a few more taste testers with discerning palates accompanying me -- Michelle, Elaine, and Joe. You've already met these fave people of mine in various other blog entries (here, here, and here) and I was so happy to have them visiting me that weekend!

The rain was kind of a blessing in disguise... unlike last year, which was brilliantly sunny and filled with bright blue skies, this year was MUCH less crowded, which meant less time waiting in lines! (Although, note that when I say less crowded, it was still CROWDED, but at least we weren't waiting in 20 minute lines!). We protected our heads with these pink Vineyard Vines WHALE hats (oh yes, see above)! I think I was a bit overly excited about the hats -- I had seen them before at other events, but finally had an "excuse" to wear one. We caught the attention even of a local photographer who captured our photo for all to see on a DC website. Hurrah!

In any case, the Taste of Georgetown was such fun this year. Lots of good options to eat (26 restaurants in all!), cute doggies being walked around to be adopted, and fun friends. We bought five tickets to share amongst the four of us for our lunch (plus scored a free dish from the Indian food stand!) -- lots of great options to choose from that we didn't get to try everything (for instance, lobster and truffle mac and cheese ... butternut squash agnolotti). Here are our picks and thoughts:
  • Bangkok Joe's: Chicken Pad Thai: Ohhh, I could not resist the chicken pad thai. It called to me. It was so delicious last year, and without fail, whenever I'm actually eating at Bangkok Joe's, I want  the chicken pad thai. And this year did not disappoint. Although the serving seemed smaller than last year it was still a hefty amount. Verdict: Yes, yes, and yes -- have again next year! 
  • Agraria: Chocolate Covered Bacon Lollipops with Apple Slices: Next to Bangkok Joe's was Agraria's stand... and we hadn't even been thinking about getting the chocolate covered bacon, but it caught Michelle's eye and we had to go for it. (Plus, they had these fun stickers: "I heart chocolate covered bacon" -- this sticker is residing on my fridge door).  The taste of bacon wasn't immediately evident -- mainly, it provided a bit of saltiness to complement the dark chocolate that covered it.  The juicy apple slices helped to balance out the flavors.  Verdict: Would try again, but maybe try something else next year.

  • Clyde's of Georgetown: Lobster roll: I found this dish to be surprisingly satisfying.  I had a few lobster rolls in Georgetown over time, but never at Clyde's... this lobster roll was full of flavor, loads of lobster (as seen above!), and a tangy sauce binding all the ingredients together.  Verdict: Yes, would try again next year!
  • 1789: Crispy duck confit with cranberry and fennel compote with Toigo Orchards apple turnover: Now where to go next... we saw people walking around with these plates of what looked like deep fried goodness and thought to ourselves, oh we could definitely share that... And very glad we did. This one was very flavorful, and the savory-ness of the duck complemented the compote and apple turnover well. Verdict: Open to trying again next year!
  • Mie n Yu: Bulgogi style local beef with housemade kimchi and rice: We had our eye on the bulgogi almost the entire time we were at the Taste of Georgetown and finally came back to it at the end of our "lunch." The bulgogi was quite tasty, although it didn't have the sweetness that we were familiar with other bulgogis. The kim chee provided just the right amount of kick and the rice tempered the kim chee's kick. Verdict: Very tasty, but may leave this spot open for something else next year.
Hurrah for the Taste of Georgetown!  Can't wait til next year for even more tasty eats...