Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Kir Royales

I have a new signature drink - Kir Royales. As anyone who went to college with me knows, I am a big lover of fruity drinks. Case in point - the fact that winer coolers were my gateway drug into alcohol. For me a Kir Royale is a wine cooler for grownups. And boy does it rock. I feel slightly low rent for giving a recipe with only two ingredients. It's so Sandra Lee-ish (who I think is the bane of my existence as both a eater and a cook). But here it is:

1 ounce of creme de cassis
1 glass of good champagne

Pour the C de C first, add the champagne until it reaches the top. Drink.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Onion Dip Recipe

I love how completely low rent and high class this dish is at the same time. This is one of Rob's favorites. It begins (as so many good things do) with caramelized onions.

For the caramelized onions:

2 big or three medium onions, preferably vidalia but not necessary
2 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinches of: paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup
1 shot of sesame oil

Uner low heat saute onions for about 10 minutes in the olive oil. Then add the other ingreidents. Saute for another 15 minutes until brown and caramelized. Stir ocassionally to avoid burning.

For the dip
Caramelized onions
1 8 oz block of cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together. Eat. Ruffles potato chips work well. Sassa's soy chips also hit the spot.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Jerry's Seafood, or Why I Like G&M

A friend was eager to try Jerry's Seafood on Saturday for lunch so out we went. The place is almost missable as you peak into Lanham. Jerry's is on the end of a strip mall in a small grouping of several.

We received a kind greeting that was perfectly appropriate though slightly less effusive than I was lead to expect by reading some reviews.

An attractive oyster bar was spread before us, but we chose to sit and order.

The challenge for me was to see if Jerry's could live up to the value and taste of the crabcakes at G&M in Linthicum, a favorite of mine and my friends from Baltimore who profess to know crab well.

Due to some budgetary constraints (I thought about $50 for lunch for two would be best), I was unable to do a side-by-side comparison of the large crabcakes both G&M and Jerry's offer. Why? Jerry's "Crab Bomb" http://www.jerrys-seafood.com/crab-cakes/crab-bomb.cfm costs nearly $35!!!! In contrast, G&M ( http://www.gandmcrabcakes.com ) offers one for 15.50 and two for $20.50. G&M also includes "a Tossed Salad, 2 Vegetables, Bread & Butter and Coffee or Hot Tea" while Jerry's offered rolls, and a choice of two sides.

So onto the food. My dining partner and I each ordered the crabcake plate lunch ($18.95). Her choices were string beans and a tossed salad; mine, vanilla-cinnamon apple sauce and a tossed salad.

The accompanying rolls were heavenly, soft and served warm with a chilled side-bowl with pats of salted butter. These were angelic, fluffy, white rolls with just enough crisp to keep the light steam in.

The side dishes were fresh and basic. Definitely what I would expect.

And now for the crab. It was awfully small for $18.95. The taste was wonderful. Enough spice and Old Bay to season it without distracting from the texture or getting in the way of the lumps of crab. Honestly, I wish I had the cash to try the larger one. I was grateful to have filled up on bread because the crabcake, were it not worth savoring at a more measured pace, could have disappeared with 3-4 sweeps of a moderately loaded fork.

On another note, I was appreciative of the attentive though not intrusive service. The sweet tea, which is always a find, was superb.

For the price though, I just don't see going back again. I think we would have faired much better at G and M.

Note: I have not yet tried Stoney's and the other crabcake places people rave about. I'll add to this once I make it out there.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Ugly Mug

Capitol Hill
The Ugly Mug
8th St. SE

Well, let's start with the food. Holy wow, the food was incredible. I eat beef about once every few years if that, but had tasted a burger at Matchbox that was wonderful. When I heard The Ugly Mug had a former Matchbox chef, I had to try it.

I went with a group of couples, none of whom were disappointed in the food. In a nutshell:

Mini Burgers- Holy #@^$^. Incredible. Well-priced.
Some had cheese and others didn't? (why?) Delicious taste of beef and light salt and pepper. Not too greasy.

Onion straws: Nicely seasoned, greasy yet not too much.

Calamari: Seriously good for something that would be passable if only average. They serve it with banana peppers which was a surprisingly nice touch.

Crab Cakes: Not the big lumps of crab I prefer (like at G&M in Linthicum), but also not a big hunk of fried bar food. Clearly the chef took some time in figuring out the recipe, plating the dish, etc. I will go back for these.

On food alone, this place is wonderful.

The concerns: We came in before our party, no one greeted us. There was no sign saying to seat ourselves. The bartender basically ignored us. WE were standing just inside waiting.

Our party arrived. Again, 6 people standing there. No one said hello, welcome, have a seat, someone will be right with you.

The place is very strangely decorated. There's definitely room for some more tables if they would take the behemoth booths out and put smaller ones in? Not sure what it would take but all agreed the space was pretty awkward.

The server-- very kind and she was trying really hard, but it seemed very overwhelming to her. She had no idea what beers they had or did not have-- even when given broad categories. She said it was changing every day so she was not sure. The food took forever, it took a long time to get a menu, etc. The place was fairly full, but our order was also pretty simple.

I could go on -- the jukebox ate our money, music in the place kept skipping, we were served the wrong beers, etc., but it seems like they are just trying to get it together.

Honestly, I won't go back for a while. They just don;t seem ready to be open. But after it solidifies, you won;t be able to keep me out of there. Why? The food is just that good. And this neighborhood (8th St. SE) needs more quality places to dine.

Conventional wisdom on the street ( I live and work here) is that Belga Cafe faces the same struggles. Great food, a very challenging time getting service up to speed. Belga does look quite nice unlike UM which for now just looks a bit weird and like it is missing a few things.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Lite N Fair, Um, Yum.

O. came over and had a taste for Lite N Fair in Old Town Alexandria. We hadn't been in a while, but wow. If you have not found this place, I suggest a trip. From the outside, it's not much to look at. The inside, even less. But the food is wonderful.

I had the cajun catfish in a rich spicy buttery sauce (not sure what it is called). It came with some sesame vegetables, perfectly steamed and seasoned and a fistfull of crispy spiced potatoes. The catfish was excellent and I beleive cost $8.95. Ridiculous. I've had worse and paid much more.

T. and O. had the surf and turf with tempura shrimp and a piece of tender, flavorful steak in a piquant sauce that I, again do not know the name of. Their dishes also came with the potatoes and vegetables. Cost for surf and turf: $10.50.

Dessert: A poached pear filled with chocolate mousse, and apple strudel, and a slice of baked Alaska -- each under $4.50.

I highly recommend this place. The chef used to be the chef at the Watergate and every time we go we really enjoy our meals. And the prices? You almost want to start all over once you finish.

So how do they do it so inexpensively? When I asked by a friend last night, I described as a cut-rate Waffle House look. You cant really see in that well from the outside, it maybe seats 20?, the dishes and glassware are nothing to write home about, you order at a counter like an understaffed Denny's. All this and the food is just so damn good.

I could go back right now.