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...

Monday, October 26, 2009

BB: Blue Cheese Souffle


Oh dear, I fell behind with my Barefoot Bloggers posts, but here is my BLUE CHEESE SOUFFLE, as selected by Summer from the Sexy Apartment blog.   I baked this up this weekend -- I was really excited to try this recipe because I had never made a souffle before, although I love souffles (for your San Franciscans, I love Cafe Jacqueline with all their (her) souffle goodness!).  I was a bit nervous about how it was going to turn out - would it rise?  Would it be fluffy?  Would it be overly blue-cheesy?

Luckily, it turned out just lovely.  It rose -- although not too too much -- and it developed a beautiful golden color on top.  This was actually much easier to make than I expected.  Knowing that souffles are somewhat sensitive, I prepped everything before starting down the souffle road.  Took out all the spices, separated all the egg whites from the egg yolks, chopped up the Roquefort cheese (I used a Danish blue)...  It all came together so quickly and it was fun!  I got to play with my Kitchenaid mixer, whipping up those egg whites - -although I was unsure if I had whipped them enough (they looked "firm and glossy" to me!).

The flavor of the souffle was really good.  Just enough blue cheese, not too salty, and I looved the slight crust created by the Parmesan cheese on the bottom and sides.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
  • 5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.
Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Waiting to bake...

Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dish in the District!

Hello lovelies!  So, much of my love of eating takes place here in Washington D.C. ... I live here, I play here, I work here... I EAT here.  I love love love exploring DC and all its delicious and frequently diverse eating options.  So, in part to remind me to post more often about my DC eating exploits, and also just to get more DC eats in here, I'm kicking off DISH IN THE DISTRICT (thanks Mich for the title idea!).  Every week, I'll post about eating here in DC under "Dish in the District."  I'm not sure if it will be the same day of the week every week, but will keep you updated!  Be on the lookout this week for the first "Dish in the District."

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


My friend, Kate (our wonderful organizer of our monthly Cookie Carnival) is in the running for a fabulous job in the "Good Mood Gig Talent Search." Please please support her by just clicking on the icon above and voting for her! You can find out more about her here. Voting every day helps :) And also go over and enjoy Kate's blog (and all our cookie carnival-ness).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cook Club: Giada's Kitchen

Top Scoring Dishes: Asparagus Lasagna & Roasted Eggplant Salad
Lowest Scoring Dishes: Linguine & Proscuitto Frittatas & Whole Wheat Linguine with Ricotta, Green Beans, and Lemon

For our first Cook Club cookbook, I picked out Giada DeLaurentiis's "Giada's Kitchen." I ADORE Giada, got the chance to meet her at the SOBE Food and Wine Festival a few years back, saw her this past year in DC, just love love love her. Plus, I feel like she offers a good variety of dishes, something for everyone to make. I picked her newest cookbook, Giada's Kitchen, which focuses on her love for fresh flavors.

Below are all the dishes that we tried with our comments, thoughts, and various musings. Each dish is given a score by the chef -- the scores on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the best. These scores were tabulated to come up with the final cookbook score!

Enjoy all the dishes -- and let us know if you've also tried dishes from Giada's Kitchen in the comments :)

Jazzie's Pick: Mini Calzones
Score: 3.4 (average of her score -- 2.7, and her husband's score -- 4)

Jasmine's Thoughts: I made Giada's recipe for mini calzones, however when I completed this dish, it was more like 2 large jumbo calzones. I didn't do the best job managing the dough so instead of the 8 mini rectangles that the recipe calls for, I got frustrated and ended up making 2 giant rectangles and thus, 2 jumbo calzones (my husband didn't mind this, but I could only eat one half of a calzone).I love spinach (what can I say, I was a big Popeye fan when I was younger) so I substituted the arugala that Giada uses for the calzones with spinach. I also added a layer of marinara inside of the calzone prior to adding the filling (only because I didn't read the recipe all the way through and just assumed that the marineria went inside, lol). I also added a layer of fresh mozarella cheese on top of the filling inside the calzone.I like the way the mozarella cheese melted inside and stretched all out when I opened the calzone after it was cooked. It looked really tasty. I wasn't really a fan of the cream cheese filling and in the future, I will only use mozarella and parmasean (I think that will just taste more fresh and authentic). All in all, the calzones were good.

Lisa's Crostata with Pancetta and Mushrooms
Score: 3.5

Lisa cooked up two of Giada's recipes this month. The first, the crostata with pancetta and mushrooms. Her thoughts:
The crust was rather dry compared to other crust recipes I have used previously. The topping, which consisted of thyme, garlic, shallots, mushroom, and pancetta was delicious.

Lisa's Linguine and Prosciutto Frittatas
Score: 3

Lisa's thoughts on the linguine and prosciutto frittatas:
The texture of the frittatas was dry and the linguine was hard. Smoked mozzarella was the dominant flavor in this dish.

Michelle's Curried Chicken Sandwich
Score: 3.5
Michelle enjoyed the flavors but found that the sandwich was just too dry. Next time, she would definitely add more moisture with either some mustard or soy mayo.

Anjali and Amanda's Creations :) (Anj and Amanda threw a party together filled with Giada food. Below are their reviews)

Watermelon, Tomato, Basil Skewers with Balsamic Reduction

Score: 4.5

Anjali: So I picked this recipe when it was a bit more summer-ish, then realized it might be difficult to find good watermelon. And I was correct. Nevertheless, I have been curious about savory watermelon dishes, so I marched on. The recipe was straightforward, as was the preparation: a lot of chopping. The balsamic reduction takes time, and though it says to cool it down, I was in a rush and it wasn't exactly cool when I poured it on the skewers. We waited about 20-30 minutes until we actually ate; this may have been why the reduction was sticking to the top of my mouth. Odd feeling, but otherwise a great dish. Definitely simple, light, and fresh, and would be even better in the peak of summer. Discovering a way to keep the balsamic reduction from being too gooey would be nice. :)

Amanda: Nice pairing with the halibut and eggplant. The balsamic syrup sat just a little too long before being served, so it was a bit sticky. Giada should have a included a time frame for cooling the syrup. To be fair to my co-chef, we had a dinner guest who was running late; the stickiness resulted from that, not from her inattentiveness. Overall, we loved the classic combination of tomato and basil, with the fun twist of watermelon.

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Score: 4.75 (averaged between 4.5 and 5)

Anjali: Again, this was a very straightforward recipe with simple preparation. I must be honest, I just used regular eggplants instead of Japanese, based on availability. I don't think it changed the end result too much. The hardest part was grilling the eggplant, since I only have George Foreman grill (no grill pan to speak of). My guests and I really enjoyed the dish! Again, light and fresh. You cannot go wrong with goat cheese, pine nuts, and basil. Perfect for anytime of year.

Amanda: Awesome! Very flavorful, such a great combination. No complaints, except as my co-chef mentioned the ridiculous amount of chopping required... I think this dish is worth it though.

Roasted Halibut with Fennel and Grapefruit Salsa
Score: 4.0

Anjali: So I picked this dish because I have never had halibut and...I dislike fennel. However, as a foodie, I don't think it's realistic to dislike a food that is used so much, so I knew I had to get over my fear. I first discovered that 1) halibut is hard to find and 2) when found, it is expensive. Oh well, on we go. Again, the recipe seemed straightforward. Once I started the prep work, however, I realized it would not be pain free. The grapefruit work is tedious and was the most time-intensive part of the dish. I also felt like the recipe asked for too much juice (one cup), as my grapefruit itself was also juicy. However, I might have created too much juice due to lack of precision when cutting my fruit. So, depending on your skill, either cut the fruit/juice down or getting a highly skilled grapefruit carver. :) The rest of the dish was easy and came together nicely. The finished product was pretty and...delicious! It was light, the right amount of savory, sweet, and sour, and I managed to put together three ingredients I am not a fan of (fennel, olives, and grapefruit) and come out with a tasty dish! Success!

Amanda: Very flavorful, with nice contrasts. The salsa went well with the halibut; I think it would also be fantastic with salmon. The dish was very “juicy”. I think I would reduce or eliminate the grapefruit juice next time around.

Whole-Wheat Linguine with Ricotta, Green Beans, and Lemon
Score: 3

Amanda: This dish did not transfer well…it sounded fantastic, but was a bit bland. It needed more salt to bring out the lemon, and pepper. We were also curious…what motivated the choice of whole wheat linguine? I think this dish would be much improved if Giada had chosen regular linguine instead. Wheat pasta is a great base, but cannot handle such delicate ingredients. I will try it again soon and substitute the pasta.

Anjali: The pasta was bland, but when salt was added, the flavor of the lemon came out. Why did Giada decide to be a health freak with the whole wheat pasta, which notoriously does not absorb flavors well?

Amaretto Sour with Prosecco
Score: 4

Amanda: Confession…I did not make my own sour mix. Given that the dinner party was thrown on a weekday, and that most busy, working women would prefer drinking a cocktail to creating a sour mix, I thought Giada was a little idealistic with the recipe. Despite this fact, I give my interpretation of it a 4. As the dinner guests said, “anything with prosecco is fantastic!”

Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate Score: 4
Amanda: Despite the heavy title, the cake was light. The mascarpone was a fluffy contrast to the chocolate cake, and the orange zest only added to the flavor. We would have liked more crunch, which probably means my caramelized sugar technique needs work. I would have liked the recipe more if Giada would have included how to toast and shell hazelnuts. This was not a huge deal, a little googling answered my question, but it would be nice if the information was included with the recipe. Overall, the cake was great, and fun to make.

Elaine's Smoked Mozzarella with Fig and Honey
The recipe called for smoked mozzarella which the local supermarket near me didn't carry and the specialty cheese shop had run out as well. So the cheeseman suggested that I go with a brie or camembert (I went with brie) to acheive creaminess and instead of the smokey element he suggested I grate some truffled cheese over the brie as the shop sells a truffled honey that sells well and should acheive the same effect since this recipe also uses honey. When making the parcels, they seemed thin so for some I used 2 sheets of filo but this wasn't necessary as 2 sheets made them way too thick. One thing I might do different next time is try to bake them in the oven instead of frying them in oil. I though this was a very heavy starter but good for a winter night.

Asparagus Lasagna (2)
Elaine's Asparagus Lasagna
Score: 5

This lasagna was absolutely fabulous, everyone enjoyed it and was surprised at how well the asparagus remained quite firm. As I didn't have a food processor handy I didn't make the sundried tomato pesto according to the recipe. Instead I used a ready made one by Sacla which I tried out beforehand to make sure it wasn't too salty. This worked really well and complimented the other ingredients perfectly. One confusing thing about this recipe was that you are asked to brown pancetta and remove before cooking the onion, garlic, and asparagus but the pancetta isn't used in the rest of the recipe so I don't think you actually need to bother with that step since it doesn't seem to contribute much. This was a very easy lasagna to make and I will definitely make it again.

Jackie's Orzo-Stuffed Peppers
Score: 4.5

I went back and forth about which recipes to try from this cookbook -- too many to choose from! -- and narrowed it to a few and had Mr. J pick. He picked these orzo-stuffed peppers. I was pretty excited because I've never made stuffed peppers before and they presented so well in the cookbook. I must say, I was very pleased with how they turned out. The recipe was simple to follow (although included quite a bit of chopping as in Anjali and Amanda's recipes). I had read reviews that the recipe was too bland, but I didn't find that to be the case (even though I was sick was a stuffy nose, I could still taste all the rich flavors). I added in some ground turkey for protein and was quite generous with the cheese (how could I not be, I love cheese). I thought that the fresh mint was an interesting twist -- very flavorful, but I grew tired of the mint after eating several leftover stuffed peppers. Would probably use basil or another fresh herb in its place next time. In any case, would definitely make this again!

Jackie's Tuna Sandwiches
Score: 4

We're a big football watching house, so I wanted something perfect for game watching... and this recipe contained some of my most favorite sandwich ingredients -- tuna, artichokes, olives, a "hummus-like" spread, and arugula. The most time consuming part of this recipe was making the hummus, but believe you me, I had leftover hummus that I used on other sandwiches for the rest of the week! I enjoyed all the flavors -- they blended so nicely together. And be sure to get the right type of bread -- we got baguette rolls that were ideal with these sandwiches. Regular bread would have become instantly soggy. I would make this again!

So there you have it folks, Giada's Kitchen. That was a fun one to start with... tune in next month for another tasty round of Cook Club: Cook the Books. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Orleans! Where in the World Wednesday

Crawfish Boil!

After a brief sojourn, this week's Where in the World Wednesday brings us to delicious New Orleans. Miss Anjali is our foodie tour guide and she certainly has lots to share with us! Anjali lived in New Orleans for three years... it would have been four, but she had to move to Houston when Hurricane Katrina hit. First, she lived in the Warehouse District, then after the hurricane she lived in the Lower Garden District in New Orleans, right off St. Charles. She's lived in TN, which makes her an expert on biscuits, gravy, and jack daniels, and MD, which makes me an expert on crabcakes. :)

Get ready to get hungry... :)


(1) Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally “New Orleans”? Do you have a favorite (include a recipe if you'd like!)

Oh my, that's a big question. Most people know about gumbo and jambalaya, but the list extends past that. Red beans and rice are eaten every Monday, because historically, Monday was laundry day and housewives put on the pot of rice and red beans to cook the whole day.

Po' boys were created years ago to feed the "poor boys" of the Great Depression. They started as a hollowed baguette filled with fried shrimp, but have now progressed to all sorts! Everyone in NOLA loves to discuss where their favorite po' boy is. (Mine - Domilise's for fried shrimp, Parkway Bakery for alligator sausage, Crabby Jacks for fried green tomato, and Parasol's for everything else!)

One of my favorite NOLA foods is crawfish etoufee. There are two different types here: Cream based and tomato based. I love both! And finally, New Orleans to me is a good crawfish boil. Huge boiling pots of crawfish with TONS of spice, along with whole garlic blubs, artichokes, potatoes, and corn. Then you pour it all over a table covered with newspaper and everyone gathers around to enjoy. The spice, the garlic smashed on crackers, and the friends (and beer, preferable Abita), make it my absolute favorite NOLA good experience.

(2) Do you find that the food in New Orleans has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities? If so, which ones?

One of my favorite things about New Orleans is the history and culture the city holds. Most people know of the French influence here, creating the Cajun cuisine, but there is more. The Spanish and African cultures have also had their hand in shaping our history, creating the Creole culture. Though not part of "traditional" NOLA cuisine, New Orleans has a large Vietnamese population, especially in the Eastern suburbs near the water, and tasty Vietnamese food can be found all around town.

(3) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of New Orleans for a friend that was visiting you from somewhere else, what would you include in it?

A one way ticket to New Orleans. ;) Ok, fine, one basket, let's see. Cafe du Monde chickory coffee, a king cake from Carnival season, Abita beer, Zapp's potato chips in all flavors (Creole Tomato is the best), a Central Grocery muffaletta (the original muffaletta), praline candy, bananas foster, Creole cream cheese, ice cream from Creole Creamery, turtle soup, hot sauce, and crab boil.

(4) Was there anything that surprised you about NOLA eats when you first moved there?

I think what surprised me is how easily I became obsessed with it. I spent a large part of my life as a vegetarian and am famous for eating salads 24/7, but moving to New Orleans, I very quickly became a fan of butter, cream, meat, and dessert! I must say, I do absolutely love the respect NOLA has for food.

Beignets :)

(5) Say that you’re taking me around NOLA, where would we go for breakfast and what would we have? Where would we go to cap off the night for late night eats and what would we have?

The most obvious of breakfasts is beignets and coffee or a cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. The French doughnuts with copious amounts of powdered sugar are divine and can also work as a midnight snack, since Cafe du Monde's original French Quarter location is open 24 hours a day. While there, you can enjoy the inevitable jazz band that will be playing on the street, the sight of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, and the smell of the Mississippi flowing past. Other tasty options for breakfast at Dante's Kitchen, Surrey's, which has amazing BBQ shrimp and grits and a fantastic take on eggs Benedict that has crab cakes and cilantro hollandaise, and Camelia Grille. Camelia is a small diner where you sit at the counter and watch the world's fastest short order cooks. The line is never less that around the corner. Before Katrina, this was open 24/7 and a popular late night spot, but one of the tragedies is the abridged hours post-K.

(6) When many people think of New Orleans, they think of Mardi Gras – are there any foods you can get only during Mardi Gras?

King cake is a traditional Carnival food. It is a sour dough cake that can be as simple as cinnamon flavored or filled with jelly/cream. It is always dusted purple, yellow, and green, the New Orleans/Mardi Gras colors. In every king cake is a small plastic baby, representing Baby Jesus, and the person who finds the baby has to buy the next King Cake! Abita beer makes a seasonal beer called Mardi Gras Bock for the season which is one of my favorites. Otherwise, it's standard NOLA food, and lots of it. ;) Mardi Gras means lots of parties at houses that are along parade routes and crawfish boils around town.

(7) How did Hurricane Katrina affect the food generally/ community/industry in NOLA?

Hurricane Katrina definitely hit the city hard, including the restaurant industry. Water and wind damage, along with looting, left these restaurants in shambles. The loss of power meant expensive ingredients and stellar wine cellars were lots. I came back months after and still many restaurants were making repairs. Wine lists suffered greatly, with the variety and quality slightly lacking. That said, the community came together, and there in addition to New Orleans institutions reopening, there were several new gems that opened, most notably, Cochon, a Donald Link creation, St. James Cheese Company, and several ice cream shops, such as La Divina Gelateria (featured on Food Network) and Sucre.

8) Where was your last amazing meal in NOLA and what was in it?

Fine dining - lunch at Cochon. My friend Amanda and I split the fried alligator with chilli garlic aioli, deviled crab and cheddar thyme crackers, spicy grilled pork ribs with watermelon rind pickle, eggplant and shrimp dressing, and washed it all down with Strawberry beer.

Casual - After grabbing a Bloody Mary from Igor's on St. Charles, we made it over to the French Quarter and got muffalettas and Barq's root beer from Central Grocery, then ate at the park in Jackson Sqaure while enjoying the sights and sounds of French Quarter Fest. Priceless.

(9) Where could you get a good meal and a drink for $20 and what would you get? (Given the current economic times!)

THIS IS HARD. NOLA does two things well. Cheap and fast (Po' boys, Fried anything) or Fine dining (Commander's, Galatoire's). The in between places are often mediocre. That being said, there are a few places where the food and atmosphere meet these criteria. NOLA loves its Lebanese/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food, with Mona's and Byblos both offering hummus, chicken schwarma, and other delicadies for an affordable price. Ignatius, on Magazine, offers Cajun food in a very unpretentious environment - think brown paper table cloth and baguette on the table, but the atmosphere, food, and Abita beer do not disappoint. Slice Pizzeria never disappoints with it's salads and pizzas, and often has wine specials and tasting menus. Finally, St. James Cheese company is a fun place to grab a good lunch. BYO from The Wine Cellar next door and grab a charcuterie plate or one of their creative salads or sandwiches, sit on the porch, and enjoy.

(10) If you could pick one food item that you had in NOLA that you could have with you always, what would it be?

My pantry always has Abita beer (Amber, Strawberry Harvest, and Restoration Ale are my favorites), Tabasco, and Zapp's Creole Tomato chips. The one thing I don't have that I crave is good crawfish. People don't truly understand spice outside of NOLA.

(11) Any summer drinks?

Mint Julep on the porch of the Columns. Strawberry Harvest Abita. Pmm's Cup, Sazerac, and Rum Punch. And non-alcoholic - Abita root beer is actually the best I have ever had.

Thanks Anj ... so let's go to NOLA ASAP, k? :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



So, a number of my close friends love to cook, or at the very least love food, but we are all scattered across the world. I had been trying to figure out how best to bring us all together in terms of cooking ... Then, I've been staring at the large number of cookbooks that line my shelves and started realizing (or rather, realized again, I seem to realize this every year) that I adore these cookbooks, but haven't actually cooked out of them. And then the light bulb went off -- a COOK CLUB to cook the books! Thus, Cook Club was born :)

I was so excited that my friends agreed to take part, so here's our inaugural post! Each month, a member of the group will select a cookbook to be the star of Cook Club. Each member will pick one or two recipes from the cookbook to cook up. At the end of the month, everyone sent my way their reviews, pictures, and scores for their dishes -- and here they all are -- for you to enjoy and to help inform your cookbook choices!

So let's meet the Cook Club members -- in alphabetical order...

Anjali: Miss Anjali is one of my best friends from college -- our friendship grew from our mutual love and obsession with food (amongst other guilty pleasures). Originally hailing from Tennessee, Anjali now resides in Dallas, TX after making multi-year stops in Baltimore and New Orleans (and a brief respite in Houston) ("This makes me an expert on biscuits and gravy, hot sauce, and crab cakes!"). She is "always drawn to duck, sweetbreads (and I make everyone at the table try them), anything with arugula or gorgonzola, and mussels!" Her favorite foodie cities in American are New Orleans, Bay Area/Wine country (creative, fresh, and always iwth good wine), and DC (unpretentious fine dining ... Anj notes that NYC is noticeably left off this list for that reason!). Her favorite foodie cities worldwide are London (no end to the variety, especially ethnic food, once you move past the Shepherd's pie and fish and chips), Paris, and Rome.

Amanda: I met Amanda through Miss Anjali and am excited to have another foodie friend! Amanda currently lives in Dallas and previously lived in Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee (BBQ and southern food snob rolled into one! Hehe). Her favorite thing to make from scratch is spaghetti sauce (ooh, I might have to ask for that recipe!) -- her mom grows tomatoes and cans them making them a "fantastic addition to the sauce." When she's not dining around Dallas, her favorite food cities are NYC, New Orleans, and Austin.

Elaine and I have known each other since high school (how time has flownnn by), and she's currently living on the other side of the pond in London! (learn about Lanie's food experiences in London here!). Her favorite dessert to make from scratch are blackbottom cupcakes (perhaps if you're nice, she'll give you her recipe ;)). Her favorite food towns are New York, London, and Hong Kong. As for favorite chefs, she quite likes the same foodie men as I do! "There are several and hard to choose between: Gordon Ramsay, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver. The first two because I've eaten some of the best food I've ever had at their restaurants and Jamie Oliver because of how passionate he is about food and his ability to make cooking great food accessible to everyone."

Jackie (Me!): You probably don't need that much of a bio on me -- my food thoughts are all over this food blog! In any case, I currently reside in Washington D.C., and love to travel. If I could, I would spend much of my time bouncing around the world, trying new foods and new places. My favorite food cities are Washington DC, Honolulu (or Oahu more generally ... just simply in love with all the fresh ingredients), and Singapore (yumm). My favorite kitchen tools are my Santoku knife (I use it to cut EVERYTHING!) and my KitchenAid mixer (although moving it back and forth is a pain!).

Jasmine: Jazzie is my former co-worker, but friend forever! She recently moved to Brooklyn, but before that, lived in Washington D.C. and in Los Angeles (where she was born and raised). Jazzie loves sprinkling cinnamon in things, she thinks it "always makes desserts or drink so cozy," (plus she shared the secret with me that it is a secret man luring spice! Her hubby likes the cinnamon :)). Her favorite chef is Paula Deen -- "all of her food looks sooo yummmy and really bad for you, lol. She's my guilty pleasure."

Lisa: Lisa, who I met through Anjali, is my newest foodie friend in DC! We had heard about each other a ton from Anjali and finally met, quite randomly, when we were both enjoying happy hour at a local restaurant. Our good fortune brought us there to meet each other! Lisa has lived all around the US, from Tennessee to St. Louis to Seattle to Little Rock and now DC. Her favorite food cities and countries are Paris, Rome, and St. Maarten (the French side -- I'm intrigued!). If you see Lisa cooking, you'll likely find her using her favorite kitchen tool -- the garlic press (maybe her and Mich would get along... see below).

: Mich is also one of my best friends from college Michelle, who grew up in Philly, is now residing in balmy Miami (you can learn all about her food experiences in Miami here!). Her favorite ingredient to cook with is garlic ("an essential base to almost any meal!") and you'll always find Mich using her favorite kitchen tool, a little paring knife ("It's nice and sharp and not so large as to make it unusable on lots of projects!!"). Her top three food cities of choice are Washington DC, NYC, and Baltimore.

Rachel: Rach and I met during grad school where we endured several years of some pretty painful classes, but lots of fun memories; although many of us have grown apart since grad school, Rach and I have stayed close. Rachel lives in Washington DC (proper :)), grew up in Wichita (18 years), and also lived in Boston for 5-6 years. Thanks to a stint in Americorps NCCC, she also lived for short periods of time in Colorado, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Rach's favorite thing to make from scratch is frosting (yum!); she enjoys "working with the various ingredients to get the exact texture and taste that I want - you need a different texture depending on if you're going to pipe or spread it (and what you want to do with the piping), and you want to make it pipe-able (thick) without making it overwhelmingly sweet. It's also important to balance the flavor and sweetness of the frosting off of the cake you're using for the base." Her favorite ingredient to cook with is the whole onion family - red, sweet yellow, scallions, leeks, shallots. Love the way they smell, love what they add to dishes. Although she doesn't love the whole celebrity chef phenomenon, she admits to loving Jose Andres and feels very fortunate to live in a town with so many of his wonderful restaurants, and that my favorite of those - Jaleo - is affordable if you order right.

Thanks again girls, I really appreciate you taking part :)