Monday, May 25, 2009

Brunch at a Pizzeria? Oh yes - Red Rocks Pizzeria

You + Me + Bottomless Mimosas + Pizza AND Brunch + Sun = Happy Sunday...

I seem to be on quite the DC pizza kick these days... It seems that everywhere I turn, there is a new place serving up pizza and I am quite happy to HAVE to go try all of them (yes, twist my arm...). Ironically though, my friend K and I ended up at Red Rocks in Columbia Heights to check out their BRUNCH. We heard rave reviews from a friend about their brunch (and bottomless mimosas...) -- plus, it was a gorgeous spring day here in DC, so a place with a sizeable patio for outdoor dining can't be beat.

We were happy to find a spot outside in the sun. We were both starving by this point (K from a good, I was just hungry). The service was very prompt and pleasant... despite our hunger and the quick service, it took awhile to pick out something to eat because everything on the menu looked great. And although I came for brunch and often can't resist brunch (I'm a savory brunch fan, and the prosciutto and mozzarella omelet was calling my name), I caught a whiff of someone's pizza and was done for.

RedRocks offers a wide variety of pizza options, with eighteen total (9 "pizze rosse" and 9 "pizze blanche"). I was tempted by many of them (I love my toppings), but decided instead to just go traditional and get the Margherita (tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sea salt). K went for the brunch and had the "scrambled delight" (scrambled eggs with Italian sausage, mushrooms, parmesan, served with breakfast potatoes and toast). And two bottomless mimosas please.


Overall, the food was tasty and satisfying. The pizzas are thin crust (as I like them), not soggy, and very flavorful. I would have preferred to have a bit more mozzarella and basil on my pizza, but was pleased with the flavor. K enjoyed the egg part of her scrambled delight, but the potatoes were not as pleasing. K admitted to not being a breakfast potato kind of girl, but I surely am...and these weren't particularly noteworthy. I tend to like my potatoes a little bit crispier, these were almost too...doughy? And covered in an orange sauce that made them a bit too salty. The mimosas were quite tasty, although some batches were a little bit light on the champagne.


All in all, it was a beautiful day to be out and I was happy that we went to RedRocks. I would go back to try more pizzas and perhaps try out an omelet or two.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Asian Tuna Salad


This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe brings us Tuna Salad. Tuna salad you say? Isn't that just popping open a can and mixing it up with mayo (and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped celery)? Not for the Barefoot Contessa! This recipe, selected by Kate from Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails, includes much more -- fresh tuna steaks, avocados, wasabi, lime zest... Think, tuna salad with an Asian flare.

Now, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit and tried it out with canned tuna instead. I've posted here the original recipe and go into detail about my changes in the results/comments section.

4 Servings


  • 2 pounds very fresh tuna steak, cut 1-inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 limes, zest grated
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 10 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
  • 1 to 2 ripe Haas avocados, medium diced
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, small diced


Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in a very hot saute pan and cook for only 1 minute on each side. Set aside on a platter.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, lime zest, wasabi, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce. Add the avocados to the vinaigrette.

Cut the tuna in chunks and place it in a large bowl. Add the scallions and red onion and mix well. Pour the vinaigrette mixture over the tuna and carefully mix.


This turned out pretty well... although my tuna salad does not look particularly beautiful, I loved the flavor profile of the vinaigrette. I decided to cut the recipe in half (as that I'm heading on vacation soon, so didn't want too much leftover). I also used canned tuna instead of the fresh tuna steaks (I had a hard time coming across fresh tuna steaks and I also wanted to try it out in the way that I would most likely use it in the future).

A few other bumps in the road... I went to the grocery store on the same night that I made this dish and found very few avocados... and no ripe avocados. Normally I would buy avocados and bring them home to ripen, but I was short on time, so just in case my avocado wasn't ripe enough, I bought some guacamole to substitute. (I love avocados and guac, so I didn't want to omit this from the recipe!). As it turned out, my avocado definitely was not ripe enough, but I cubed a few pieces into the mixture and added in guacamole to taste. Oh, and I also used wasabi paste instead of wasabi powder -- accidentally grabbed the wrong thing when I was at the market, but this still provided the kick of wasabi in the salad.


I taste-tested the "vinaigrette" before mixing it in with the tuna and I LOVED it. It contains many flavors that I love and I could see myself using in a wide variety of dishes. A little bit salty, a little bit spicy, and a little bit of bite. I think next time I might try it with chicken.

This recipe was so simple to put together. A very quick dinner with leftovers to spare for lunch the next day. I wasn't bowled over by it, but I would try it again with different proteins. I think though that it would be quite delicious with fresh tuna, so I'll put that on my list of things to try.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Authentic mozzarella and pizza hit DC - Fratelli la Bufala

DC is no stranger to Italian restaurants... I think I could probably count at least eight Italian restaurants in Georgetown alone. This has not stopped the opening of (at least) two more Italian places in the past two months -- Fratelli la Bufala and Potenza. Now, I'm not complaining. Both of these restaurants were immediately added to my "must try" list and I happily checked off Fratelli la Bufala last weekend.

Back when I first moved to DC, we used to go to this restaurant called the Alamo Grill in Georgetown. It was on a side street off of M Street, served up Tex-Mex fare, and had a lovely outdoor patio that was perfect even in those humid DC summers for some margaritas, guacamole, salsa, and chips. The food may not have been top notch, but it was still a fun place to venture to on a nice day... and you rarely had to wait, which can be difficult to come across in the tourist-filled DC summers. But perhaps that was the first sign that the Alamo Grill wasn't going to make it... the second clue was when the restaurant closed and renovations took over that building.

And then, Mr. J came home one day and mentioned that he jogged past the old Alamo Grill and there was this new place, started with an "F", not sure what it was going to serve... Then I opened up my "The List Are You On It" email and read about "Fratelli la Bufala"... famous for their buffalo mozzarella? Second location to open in the US (first one in Miami)? Serving up 15-20 types of pizzas with the oven right there for all to see? Sign me up!

And so we found ourselves on a nice Saturday night at the doorstep of Fratelli la Bufala. The Georgetown location of Fratelli la Bufala is just off the canal, on the same street as two other Italian restaurants (Paper Moon and Piccolo Restaurant -- although Piccolo Restaurant is still currently closed due to the October fire). Fratelli la Bufala started in Italy and has spread around the world (Dubai, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo to name a few of the non-Italy outposts). Coming from a family that was in the buffalo milk and mozzarella business, the three brothers opened up these restaurants after their father passed away (the full story can be read on their menus!).

We were seated on the first floor, right next to the pizza oven and with prime seating to look into the glass walled kitchen. An antipasti bar was set up in front of the kitchen, the walls were decorated with various buffalo-type decor plus paintings of the family. The tables were a bit tight and although we liked the excellent views from our seats, we felt like we were in the middle of traffic between the two rooms on the floor.

Any concerns about tight seating though were diminished by the looks and smells of the pizzas. We eyed every pizza that came by as we tried to select our own pizzas from the menu. I was also quite distracted by the list of available pastas -- all their pastas are handmade in-house and I heard rave reviews about the pappardelle (which I am a sucker for...). But I tried to stay on track, because it has been a long time since I last had a pizza worth writing about.

With our stomachs rumbling, we decided to get a caprese salad for an appetizer (after hearing so much about the buffalo mozzarella, we wanted to try the mozzarella in its untouched form!) and then TWO pizzas, one selected by each of us. A forewarning -- it isn't necessary to get one pizza per person, they are bigger than a "personal pan" type pizza (and bigger than nearby Pizzeria Paradiso's pizzas), but with so many to choose from, it couldn't hurt to have pizza to take home, right? Mr. J selected the "Casertana" (bufala mozzarella, spinach, and bufala sausage) and I selected the "Capricciosa" (I butchered that name when I tried to order it, no worries though! tomato sauce, bufala mozzarella, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and ham... I'm a sucker for artichoke hearts and mushrooms... photo of my pizza is at the top).

The caprese salad was fresh, the bufala mozzarella was flavorful and slightly tangy. The pizzas were mouthwatering. We saw them come right out of the wood-burning oven. Both were delicious. The tomato sauce on my pizza was not too sweet and all the toppings worked well together -- the richness of the mozzarella was balanced by the vegetables. I think my pizza was a little bit undercooked, or perhaps I picked a pizza with a few too many toppings, because the pizza wasn't quite as crisp as I expected (not that I expected super crisp, but it was a little bit soggy in a few areas) (added sidenote: I read recently that "sogginess" may actually be a sign of authenticity... that actual Neapolitan pizzas actually have that sogginess and require a fork and knife to eat the center of the pizza...). Mr. J's pizza held up much better (which is why I think that I had a few too many toppings on mine) and he loved it. I think he was about to pass out from how much he liked it. Both were fantastic, and I'm by no means a Neapolitan pizza expert, but this was some of the top pizza I've had in DC.

We were having such a nice time that we decided to get dessert too (might as well have the full experience, huh?). The cannolini caught our eye -- a cannoli with bufala ricotta cream, limoncello, and chocolate -- but the Carpaccio d'Ananas sounded more intriguing. Paper thin slices of pineapple, drizzled with chocolate, and buffalo milk ice cream on the side. It was the perfect light end to our meal.

I will most certainly be revisiting Fratelli la Bufala. I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost everything on the menu appealed to me ... so much left still to try! I'm dying to have another pizza, but then there are all the other pasta options, and then the different mozzarella appetizers, and I've heard that even the salads are delish. AND, word is that they are opening a "tiki" type bar on the outdoor patio... and if you know me, I do love my tropical themed bars, so a tiki bar WITH excellent food? How can I not come back?

On a quick aside, we also happened to hear from our neighboring table that President Obama was dining a block away from us at Michel Richard's Citronelle... needless to say, we ventured over there after dinner, and sure enough (after a little wait), there was President Obama, Mrs. Obama, and Chef Richard, with a motorcade entourage. It was exciting! We met some Secret Service people (who scanned the crowd with explosive detectors), bonded with other fellow on-lookers (none of whom were from DC!), and waved at the Obamas (they waved back!). All in all, a good night.

Fratelli la Bufala
1063 31st St. NW

Washington, DC 20007