Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New DCFud post

My obsession with holiday entertaining continues on DCFud. Check out the recipe for Union Square mixed nuts.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Busy busy busy

How come even the most reclusive people decide to throw a party in December? It's like bad traffic during Thanksgiving. People should know better but they do it anyway. This December proves to be more of the same as we have stuff every weekend in December culminating in a New Year's Day brunch and gift exchange that Rootbeer is hosting. For the next few entries I will be relying on my friends to provide the recipes since J and I have sensibly decided that we will just GO to the events and not host them. However, I'll kick off my holiday recipes by providing a totally cheesy Sandra Leeish punch.

2 bottle of cheap champagne
1 bottle of sparkling apple cider
2 cups of cranberry juice
1/4 cup of Contreau or Grand Marnier

Pour all into a punch bowl and keep chilled.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Green Papaya: Bethesda, MD

I've written this review a few times now. I'm always on the lookout for good Vietnamese places and like to suggest them to friends who have had less Vietnamese. A friend from out of town came in for dinner and the group chose Green Papaya in Bethesda. Honestly, almost a week later, I am still conflicted about whether I really enjoyed it or not.

The service was good and the restaurant is lovely, but I kept finding myself wishing I was at Minh's in Arlington. Bun Thit Nuong (pork over vermicelli noodles) was noticeably more complex and flavorful than Bun Tom Nuong (shrimp over vermicelli noodles). The Bun Tom Nuong, which cost considerably more than Minh's, was served on a bed of clumpy overcooked vermicelli. Much of the flavor seemed to stay on the shell. While tasty, I was hoping for better. Appetizer spring rolls were well-prepared and satisfying, though, again, I found myself thinking about Minh's.

I was also surprised that the servers had not heard of hoisin or soda chanh, two items I love at most Vietnamese restaurants. Green Papaya does have pho on the menu which is typically served with hoisin and siracha. It made me wonder what they do serve it with since hoisin was definitely a mystery.

I think this explains why reviewers go to a restaurant several times. I'd like to see the flavor kicked up a bit and for the vermicelli to be served correctly. I'll update when I go back. Anyone else out there tried it? What am I missing?

I should note that my dining companions really seemed to enjoy their meals and that the company, service, and atmosphere was delightful. just hoping it clicks next time.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Declaring the holiday Season Open...

With Internet Karaoke! Please forgive me but I cannot stop listening to and singing along with Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You. In a vian attempt to get it out of my head, I will attempt to do internet karaoke. This is deidcated to J, the best Christmas present EVER!

*Tinkly music plays*
IiiiIIII don't want a LOT for Christmas
ThEEEere's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
UUUuunderneath the Christmas tree
I just waaaaant you for my ooooown
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come truOOOOOOOOoooe
All I want for ChristmaaaaAAAaas iiiiIIIIiiiis...
YoOOOOoooUUUu Yeah

I don't WANT a lot for Christmas
There's just ONE thing I need
(And IIIIII) I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my OWN
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come trUUUUUUuuue
All I want for Christmas is yoOOOOOUuuuUUu
YOOOouuuu baby

I'm just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mIIIIIIstleTOE
I won't make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won't even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeers click
'Cause I just want you here tonIIIIght
Holding on to me so tIIIIght
What more can I dOOOOo
Baby all I want for ChristmAAAAs is yOOOOoooUUUuuu
Ooh baby
All the lights are shining
So brightly everywhere
And the SOUND of children's
Laughter fills the air
And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing

Oh I don't want a lot for Christmas
This is all I'm asking fOOoor
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door
Oh I just want you for my oOOOoown
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come trOOOuue
Baby all I want for ChristMAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS is...


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes it truly is the most adored food holiday in all the land. I'm in the bosom of my full crazy family in Houston. I've played about seventeen gazillions games of hide and seek with my 4 and 8 year old cousins and made my apple crostadas. It a happy twist of fate, my foodies uncles have taken over Thanksgiving. As we speak, a 22 pound tukey is being brined. Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!! -T

I'm here in DC, excited to be spending time with neighborhood and work friends. My version of Paula Deen's Marshmallow-Stuffed Sweet Potato Balls is ready for transport along with one of two green bean casseroles made with water chestnuts for crunch, worcestershire for a salty bite, and a southern-boy portion of sharp cheddar cheese to make it, well, cheesy. Also ready for transport is a jug of spiked apple cider with rum and cinnamon schnapps and some cream cheese with jalapeno jelly that seems to have a permanent place at the holiday table in Texas. It's not quite there yet, but I think it's pretty damn good.

Among all the other things, today I am thankful for food, education, humor, art, friends, family, and most of all T.

Best wishes to you and yours. -J

Monday, November 21, 2005

Paula Deen's Thanksgiving special

I won't do a full recap because the special is an hour long but I have to make a few comments about it. The highlight of the whole thing for me was the homemade turducken. I nearly lost it when the teaser said she was going to make her own turducken. Turducken (I love saying that word!) aside, it was a kind of meh episode. She was laying it on thick with her corn pone antics and her sons were laying it thicker with their UGA frat routine. I was trying to figure out whether the two ladies at the poker game for Jamie and Bobby's wives or Michael's children.

Not including the turducken, the food was pretty meh. Paula made an oyster stuffing with oysters that were essentially harvested in her backyard. It was a fairly standard cornbread stuffing that I thought was way too wet. When it was taken out of the oven, it had a bread-pudding-like consistency. I like my stuffing to be breadier and more solid. While that was going on, fratty Boddy and Jaime were staying true to their Southern roots and frying a turkey. They essentially rubbed it with butter and spices and dunked it into a huge fryer. More fake hijinks of Paula trying to steal a drumstick from the boys.

When we get back from commercial Paula is putting together her turducken. It's a sight to behold. I'll leave it at that. She then makes a sweet potato ball that's a mound of sweet potato with a marshmallow surprise inside. I went into sugar shock just looking at it.

There's this whole fakety fake scene of poker playing that is just plain stagey. I google Jaime Deen (the bigger, doughier one), and it looks like Brooke is his wife. She looks like she could be a cheerleader, complete with heavy eyeliner, chunky highlights and a perky smile. She has the good sense to look a little embarassed at the fake poker cheating.

Jaime and Bobby retire to the kitchen to make some artery hardening snacks. Bobby wraps sesame pretzel sticks in bacon and Jaime makes a little hamburger and wraps it with puff pastry. They have an easygoing rapport and pal around while they cook.

They come back to the game with a plateful of snacks and fake accuse their mother of cheating in the fake poker game. Thankfully we leave that and go to Paula's gorgeous porch where she SAYS she set the table but we all know it was some poor production assistant working until 4:00 am. It is a fall fantasy of leaves, red and orange flowers, and pumpkins.

In her final demonstration she mixes cranberry juice and apple juice together with some cloves and cinnamon to make a cider. We leave the Deen/Groover household on the gorgeous porch hoping they don't drop dead from a heart attack.

Some more about Del Ray

J told you all about Los Tios and I wanted to let you all know about our other little jaunts in Del Ray. Del Ray isn't a huge commercial area, but the shops that are there are interesting and worth exploring. After we were sated at Los Tios, we went to Cheesetique to forage. Ironically, we ended up getting everything BUT cheese. J and I got some pepper crackers and fig jam in hopes of recreating Two Amy's pipe dreams goat cheese with fig jam. We had a log of goat cheese form the cheese vendor at Eastern Market. We then went to what used to be called the Dreamery. It was forced to change it's name because some evil ice cream conglomerate sued them. So now it's called Dairy Godmother. This pisses me off to no end. It's just like when some family owned a pub in Scotland and were sued by MacDonald's for calling themselves MacDonald's. This family WAS the clan MacDonald. As if anyone will confuse a Scottish pub with a soulness fast food joint. Anyway, we got some custard sundaes at the shop-formerly-known-as-Dreamery and they were fine. For J, the sundaes were a marshmallow topping delivery system. What I found was funny was that the jukebox only played songs with the word "dream" in the title. Boy D put in a quarter for the jukebox to play the Billy Ocean classic "Get out of my Dreams, Get in to my Car." While an attention whore like me will totally start bopping in public to a song like that, I was tickled pink when both Boy D and Girl D starting bopping too.

Del Ray was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and well worth exploring.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday in Del Ray: Los Tios Grill

Los Tios Grill is a small but colorful restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray section of Alexandria. We went Sunday with our friends D&D who recently moved in just down the street. For those who haven't been, Del Ray's main drag is populated with shops, independent restaurants and more with commercial sections divided by the occasional stretch of houses. It was a gorgeous day for a walk so we left D&Ds and enjoyed a cool stroll to Los Tios.

Those who know me and some who have read it here know that I truly love good Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I love everything from the basics to the more complex and unique foods and flavors of our neighbors to the south. For me, today was all about the basics.

I did not really have expectations of my lunch at Los Tios. D&D had been told it was good though they have spent more time enjoying Taqueria Poblano, not too far down the street. The menu of Tex-Mex and Salvadoran cuisine, has many of my favorites including the standard round of fajita, enchilada, burrito, and chimichanga options. I wanted to try many dishes but settled on the chicken fajitas, mainly because I think they are a good measure of how a restaurant handles a potentially bland, and usually very simple dish.

But before the main course, the table opted for the guacamole appetizer ($4.95) and the Tamal de Elote ($2.25) along with the complimentary chips and salsa. I love some good chips and I find they truly set the tone for the rest of the meal. I have rarely had good food at a place that doesn't know how to work the chips and salsa. The chips were light but substantial enough to hold a goodly amount of salsa. They were served warm and fresh with a standard, but delicious red salsa with tasty bits of onion and just enough cilantro and heat to satisfy my pretty picky tastebuds.

The guacamole appetizer was a hit for four guacamole lovers. Served in a fried mini flour tortilla cup and surrounded by triangles of fried flour tortillas, it was a well-mixed balance of creamy and chunky. The Tamal de Elote was a comforting sweet corn appetizer served with sour cream. Think a slightly more dry creamed corn served in the shape of a medium-sized tamale. Always a treat when done right and worth the very reasonable $2.25.

The chicken fajitas arrived on their sizzling platter with a stack of fresh tortillas and spoonfuls of rice, beans, guacamole, and sour cream. Grilled chicken rested on a bed of onions and peppers that tasted of garlic, a hint of soy possibly and lime juice. The chicken itself was delicious, full of flavor, and expertly grilled. The accompanying tortillas were soft and pliant and had a good hand-feel. All-in-all, I was very pleased and enjoyed slathering each serving with their tasty salsa.

It was perceptive of the server, who did a great job throughout the meal, to bring us a special hot sauce that was as delicious as it was powerfully hot. A mix of citrus, jalapeno, habanero, and cilantro, it provided one hell of a punch but was not too painful considering its potential.

The server and other employees at Los Tios Grill were warm and welcoming and this was not lost on us. It's great to feel like your business is valued and that people enjoy your enjoying their restaurant.

We will be back!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Did I not declare Thanksgiving season open?

Which is why I am doing yet another Thanksgiving post. And speaking of the Post and Thanksgiving, when did the Washington Post Food Section get an injection of relevancy? I am so loving Wednesday's Food Section, answering some basic Thanksgiving questions and giving some of the basic recipes. I love that the Food Section is not trying to track or make trends. This week it's about giving some recipe and tips that address problems of the home cook. For example, the difficult thing about mashed potatoes is that you have to make them a milisecond before you serve them, because cold or lukewarm mashed potatoes...BLECH. They solve that problem by turning the mashed potatoes into a casserole that stays warm in the oven so that you can make them ahead of time. BRILLIANT! All of the questions they answer are ones that even experienced cooks have asked themselves before like, "What's the best way to roast a turkey and how long does it take?" or "I'm not a gravy person, and don't really know how to make it. But at Thanksigving everybody seems to want it. Help!" For this week's food section, the editors realize Thanksgiving isn't the time to be avante garde. I'm sure even vegetarian conceptual artists in SoHo are opening up cans of Burpee Fried Onions to make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving. The Post food writers chose recipes that were interesting but not threatening. They do the basics of roast turkey, herbed bread dressing, and mac 'n cheese. Even better, they acknowledge that NOONE wants offbeat ingredients like jalepeno peppers in their cranberry sauce. Their more adventurous recipes include a Prosciutto and Cornbread stuffing, corn pudding, and mixed greens with pears and balsamic vinaigrette. While they include some non-traditional ingredients, the recipes themselves aren't out of the ordinary.

By the way, if you ever disagreed with me that Ina Garten is a co-dependent mess, watch her first Thanksgiving episode. She talks about how she wanted to serve a Virginia ham for Thanksgiving but all of her friends screamed at her to serve a turkey. Of course she caved and served the turkey. She spends the WHOLE episode talking about how you have to make Thanksgiving EXACTLY how people had it growing up. So she makes brussel sprouts for one person and then makes two kinds of cranberry conserve because one person doesn't like nuts. It's like that Thanksgiving episode on Friends where everyone is telling Monica how to make mashed potatoes (lumpy, with tater tots, with peas). Ina, you're hosting the party and doing all the work. Serve whatever the hell you want.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thanksgiving Plans

I am having two Thanksgivings. The first is in Houston at my aunt's place with all of my family. I am trepidatious of this because I don't know what kind of kitchen toys I'll have. I do know I will be doing the turkey at the insistence of my cousin Anna. I am interested to see what my aunts come up with for the rest of the meal. Houston has this ginormous Asian supermarket that is the size of a football stadium. There's more live fish there than in the Baltimore Aquarium. It could be that we have turkey and a mostly Vietnamese meal.

Because the only way to get a fare under $500 was to leave Tuesday and return Friday, I will also be doing a Thanksgiving on Saturday with the Lancasters. It appears Lady Lancaster's parents are a cheap as me and got tickets to come to DC at 8:30 pm on Thursday. For the sanity of everyone, they decided to hold their Thanksgiving on Saturday. I scored an invitation to that shindig for J and I by offering to make dessert and a couple sides. I will make the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert. I don;t know what I am making for the starchy side but I am definitely making broccoli slaw for the vegetable. It's somehow very much the essence of fall but also refreshing. Basically, you get a bag of broccoli slaw, add about a cup of shredded purple cabbage, a half a cup of cranberries, and a half a cup of chopped walnuts or pceans. Toss with the maple-balsamic dressing (see the balsalmic-glazed salmon for that) and let sit for a least 15 minutes.

In other news, the sexy librarian glasses have not yet arrived.

Monday, November 14, 2005

DC and More Restaurant Reviews Index

2 Amy’s, Part 1
2 Amy’s, Part 2

Amasia Bistro
Belga Café
Bistro Italiano
Blondie’s Pizza: California
Chicken Tortilla
DC Coast
Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza
Flying Fish: Old Town
Green Papaya: Bethesda
Han Sung Oak: Annandale, Part 1
Han Sung Oak: Annandale, Part 2
Hollywood East Café
Jerry’s Seafood/G&M Crabcakes
Lite-N-Fair: Old Town
Strawberry Hill (Lancaster, PA)
The Old Siam
The Ugly Mug


Alamo Restaurant


Cafe Atlantico

Café Atlantico (mini)

Dairy Godmother

El Tapatio

Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles

Indigo Landing

Java Green

Los Tios

New York Food Tour

Pho 88

Pho VN One


Saravana Palace

Seven Seas


Ten Penh

The Ugly Mug

Updated!! DC Foodblog's Recipe list

Ok. This took for effing EVER.

The Basics
Pie Crust
Dinner Rolls
Roast Chicken
Roast Turkey
Homemade Mayonnaise

Comfort Food
Roasted Tomato Soup
Cheese Grits
Barley Casserole
Two kinds of stuffing
Mac 'n Cheese
French toast

Liquid Courage
Kir Royales
Blackberry lemonade

Chocolate bliss cookies
Lemonade Cake
Chocolate Cake
Crack Matzo
Sugar Cookies
Cheesecake bars
Martha Washingtons
Rum Balls
Nell's sugar cookies
Peanut Butter sandwiches
Chocolate chip cookies
Pistachio cake
Butterscotch Bundt Cake
Apple strudel
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Apple Crostada
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread
Chocolate Crinkles
Raspberry Turnovers
Carrot cake
Key Lime Pie

Appetizers and Sides

Mini Quiches
Squash Casserole
Onion Dip
Won Tons
Satay Meatballs
Candy Salad
Dumpling dipping sauce
Risotto Balls
Broccoli Slaw
Roasted Pepper Dip
Salmon Puffs
Cheddar Olives

Main courses
Erik E-Strada
Vegetarian Bourguignonne
Balsalmic Glazed Salmon
Spicy Omelet
Enchilada Casserole
Shrimp and Grits
Tofu in Tomato Sauce
Bengali Chicken

Chicken Pot Pie

Crab Balls

Dill Dip

Double Vanilla White Chocolate Mousse

Herbed Griddle Cakes

Lime Chicken

Magical San Antonio Flan Cake

Mango Mousse Tart

Mushroom Carrot Strudel

Orzo Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Salsa Verde


Thai Eggplant Pizza

Chicken Tortilla: Barracks Row's Latest

Chicken Tortilla
1100 8th St. SE

Well, Barracks Row has done it again. Want a mighty fine burrito with some tasty rotisserie chicken? I think I found the place.

Chicken Tortilla has been open for about 6 weeks down at 1100 8th St. SE. This is a great addition to Barracks Row. T and I went to try out the new place and we were not disappointed. In fact, in the burrito wars where people fawn and fight over Burrito Brothers, Chipotle, and California Tortilla, I'd say they have a shot at the crown.


Well, first, it should be made clear that this is a rotisserie chicken place that makes burritos. So the chicken better be damn good right? It is. The rotisserie imparts a roasty toasty deep flavor that was very tasty. The taste held up in my burrito quite well and it had a lot to contend with in there. T added that it was nice to taste roasted chicken that was not overly dependent on salt.

The "Burraso" is a 13-inch tortilla filled with steak, chicken or neither; rice, pinto or black beans, your choice of salsas, sour cream, etc. I had mine done up with chicken, guacamole ($1.50 extra), rice, black beans, a tomatillo salsa verde, and some fresh crisp mixed lettuce. This was a big mamma burrito and the burrista ("burrito+barrista") had some serious trouble folding it up. I think a little less would have been fine.

What matters most to me with a jam-packed burrito is that the individual ingredients are fresh, flavorful, and stand on their own while playing their part in the overall package. As I said, the chicken was a highlight, but the fresh and slightly tangy guacamole came in a nice second. Rice was the perfect texture even at the end of the evening and the salsa was kicky and placed throughout the burrito. A less apt burrista would have all the good bits sloshed in the bottom. Not here.

T had the 1/4 chicken dark and liked it a lot as well. He gave me a bite of his fried yucca, one of several available sides. It was crisp and yummy.

We finished with a generic but surprisingly moist chocolate cake which had a lovely mousse filling. With sodas, it came to about $20.00 for the two of us, but it could have been cheaper without the dessert and the guacamole.

One thing I do hope is that Chicken Tortilla will consider a slightly smaller burrito than the Burraso behemoths that they offer. I know some folks who just wouldn't make it through. Today though, after skipping lunch, this really hit the spot.

I'm happy they are here and hope people will go check them out. The folks were nice and the place is sparkling clean.


Risotto Balls

Eat with Me just posted a what looks to be a killer pumpkin risotto recipe. He serves it in little pumpkins! I feel like a bull in a china shop compared to that fabulousness.

While many may wax poetically about the luscious creaminess of risotto, my Vietnamese tastebuds find the texture to be unsettling. It's somewhere between your fluffy steamed rice and the fully wet congee. However, leftover risotto becomes the perfect base for a kicking croquette. I was inspired by Two Amy's whimsically named Suppli Di Telefono to make my own risotto balls. I used Nigella's lemon risotto recipe for the base and mozarella cheese as the cremay center and it worked out wonderfully. Being inspired by Eat with Me's recipe, I decided to make a fall version. Needless to say, it worked out wonderfully. This will be on my Thanksgiving table.

So make a double recipe of Eat with Me's pumpkin risotto. Serve half to your friends in little pumpkin bowls and save the other half for risotto balls the next night. Hopefully you will have about 3 cups of risotto.

The rest of the ingredients are:
12 (1/2-inch) cubes of a nutty Swiss cheese like Gruyere or Emmenthaler (about 1 oz total)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (not seasoned)
About 8 cups vegetable oil for frying

Roll chilled risotto into 12 (1 1/2-inch) balls using wet hands. Poke a small hole in center of each ball and insert a 1/2 inch cube of the Swiss cheese, then re-form into a ball.

Put flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dredge 1 risotto ball in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs and transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Repeat with remaining balls.

Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot. Working in batches of 4, lower rice balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 360°F between batches. Let balls stand 2 minutes (for cheese to melt).

This can be fried ahead of time and then reheated in a 350 degree over for 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sometimes Magic Happens

So the whole reason I was at Big Queer Organizing Conference was to give a presentation on the organizing I do on issue X. It was your typical panel presentation with a lawyer for a certain legal group and an Executive Director of an organization that worked with certain student clubs (it rhymes with Play Great Alliances). The lawyer talked about ligitation around issue X and the E.D. talked about implementation and enforcement of laws around issue X. I talked about how to get the laws passed in the first place. The workshop was at 6:00pm, the very last workshop that day. I spent the day hoping noone would be there so I could have dinner earlier with my peeps. Who the hell has workshops at 6:00pm when people are getting ready for dinner? As you can see, I wasn't expecting much. And that's when the magic happens. We had a good crowd of around 25 people. Those 25 people were people who really wanted to listen to what we had to say. Surprisingly enough, we were on. We all complemented each other and gave concrete, useful information. The questions reflected the expertise and interest of the audience and the discussion was lively. Being the feedback whore that I am, as soon as the crowd cleared, I went through the evaluations. They rated the information we gave out and the speakers as uniformly excellent. WHEE! The only complaint was that they wished there was more time for discussion.

One my workshop high, I went with June, R1.0, and Bethany to Berkeley to have the college dining experience of a slice of Blondies pizza and a ginormous serving of frozen yogurt at Yogurt Park. Over pizza we discussed the politics of the feminist movement. It was fitting that my last meal in the bay area ended with a large serving of boysenberry frozen yogurt from Yogurt Park. The yogurt is smooth and creamy and served not in little dishes but cups the size of a medium soft drink. All for $2.35. Licking down the frozen berriness, we discussed - "Will the feminist movement make space for the next generation?" Heady stuff to think about over FroYo.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dumpling Dipping Sauce

A delicious dim sum accompaniment . . .

Whenever we have siu mai, dumplings, or other dippable dim sum delights, I throw together a yummy dipping sauce that T originally taught me.

What You Need

3 tbsp rice vinegar
5 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp thai sweeet chili suace

Stir the ingredients together and taste. Different folks will want more sweet, spicy, etc. Add to taste and serve with your hot dumplings.

Better yet, put the ingredients out and let people make their own. This is a delightfully complex mix of flavors.

Enjoy! -J

Report from the Conference

SO I'm out here in sunny Oakland at the big queer organizing conference. Big evil word of the day is binary. Folks here don't like being put into labels and boxes. I on the other hand, have mixed feelings. Being queer and Vietnamese is important for me. That "label" is my identity and I am proud of the culture I come from and the communities that I am a part of. It's an interesting experience come to Big Ol' Queer Conference because I know so many people. There's an amazing security in seeing so many people I can catch up and talk shop with. As much as anyone can feel "in," I certainly do here. These are my peeps. As messy as things can get when you think about the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, and class, I feel at home. It has certainly afforded me the freedom to spend time by myself and call it a night when it seems the rest of the world is going to some fabulous party.

Woo, sorry to get all deep on you. I'm just in that kind of space. Speaking of the space I'm in, I love being in downtown Oakland, near a thriving and vital "Chinatown" that serves the diverse Asian Pacific Islander population of Oakland. It brings home the fact that DC's Chinatown bites the big one. Oakland's Chinatown, reflects the multicultural nature of this city. This Chinatown serves the Asians who LIVE in Oakland and you will be hard pressed to find a Starbucks or Coyote Ugly in here. Instead there are blocks of Asian markets, jewelry stores, herbalists, pharmacies, restaurants and take-out places. I have eaten every single one of my lunches in Chinatown alternately at Vietnamese delis (with amazing Banh Mis - Vietnamese sandwiches) and the take out dim sum places with potstickers the size of my fist. I have never paid more than $3 for a filling and delicious lunch. Things like shu mai and har gow are 45 cents. Char Siu baos are $1. And Banh Mis are $2. I have never left my lunches hungry. It's also fairly evident with the take out dim sum that the dumplings are made fresh on the premises. It's weird to eat supersized versions of my little dim sum dumplings but it allows you to taste the flavors of the savory fillings more clearly.

Foodwise, Asian seems to be the theme. I ate one meal that wasn't Asian food, and that was breakfast. Wednesday night I had dinner with my brother at Le Cheval, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant near my hotel. We had the seven courses of beef. While I appreciate the delicate flavors of the beef carpaccio and the beef that was rolled up in rice paper, there were too many dishes that required you to rolled up thin slices of beef in rice paper with lettuce and herbs. Having three dishes done that way, homogenized the differences in flavor between beef that was dipped in boiling broth and beef that was grilled in a hibachi on the table. Being a cold night, we both appreciated the warmth of the Vietnamese rice porridge with shredded beef.

Last night, I had a little reunion with June, Auntie Ang, and R1.0, meeting in the Mission district to have dinner a Burma Star, a very small and very popular restaurant. I was impressed by similarities and differences Burmese food had with other cuisines from Southeast Asia. There were the usual curries and noodle dishes but these dishes had the deeper salty-sour flavor that marked Burmese food. Thanks to Auntie Ang for being the Auntie to the group and picking up the tab. We LOOOOVE you.

I always come away from the Bay area impressed with the love of good cheap food that is in almost every neighborhood here. In one block in the Mission District, there were three coffee houses, two dessert places, a Korean restaurant, two pho places, a vegetarian sandwich shop and of course, Burma Star.

DC is my home and my community, but I am always wistful about the food of San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We're not that schmancy

Just in case anyone thinks we're this totally schmancy couple that eats frisee salad and sushi all the time, I just wanted to let you know our dinner last night consisted of frozen foods. Trader Joe's shu mai and vegetarian corn dogs.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Deconstruction: It's not just for Derrida

The late philosopher Jacques Derrida once said, "Let little but extremity in its ugliest form separate me from a mighty fine casserole. For it is casserole, signified by its savory amalgam of pieces textures that allows one a measure of clear humility in a haute cuisine world, which is itself signified by artistic plate creations that disappear with one swift lift of tiny pitchforks of culinary death."

Ok, so he didn't say that, but it would have been very funny. Or, at least a little weird.

T and I have been working on variations of the stacked Mexican (Tex-Mex) casserole, or deconstructed enchiladas, and have a couple of good ones under our belts (or, um, over).

Tonight, I needed a special potluck recipe for the return of our friend AC who left DC for the OC (or nearby). I know she likes a little spice so I put together the latest version of these layered Mexi-favorites.

Stacked Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

The "Meat" Section

4 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 small onions, diced within an inch of their lives
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 box Smart Ground Original
4 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 dashed black pepper
4 Tbsp salsa
1 shot Tabasco/Arizona Gunslinger/Crystal or other hot sauce
1 pinch salt

The Moisture and the Veggies

1 can diced tomatoes
Small jar of salsa or equivalent of homemade
4 oz. frozen corn
1 small can of green chilis

Holdin' it Together and Make it Corny

5-6 corn tortillas
1 - 1.5 cups grated cheese
1 cornbread mix

The Steps

I am a firm believer that spicing at various and appropriate times throughout the cooking process yields the best flavors for most multi-part dishes. For this recipe, make the meat first.


Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot 4 tbsp canola or vegetable oil and saute the onions and garlic until they give off an enticing aroma and the onions are almost translucent. Crumble the box of Smart Ground Original into the pot and stir thoroughly.

Add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and pepper. Stir thoroughly.
Add salsa, hot sauce and salt. Stir some more.

Keep the meat heating on low.

Moisture and Veggies:

Mix the diced tomatoes and salsa in a bowl. You'll be using this for the layering. Open the green chilis but do not mix in.

Holdin' it Together:

Soak 5-6 tortillas in the salsa/tomato mixture. Its great to get them nice and wet. If your tortillas are particularly tough, be sure to allow some extra time for soaking!

Get that cheese grated! For best results, use a mix of cheddars or some cheddar and some jalapeno monterey jack.

Construction of the Layers:

1. Ladle the salsa mixture in a thin coating on the bottom of a casserole dish to cover.

2. Cover that with a layer of the taco "meat."

3. Sprinkle some cheese to lightly cover or to really cheese it up.

4. Toss some of green chilis and some corn on top.

5. Put a little more of the salsa mixture.

6. Cover with a sloppy wet tortilla.

Repeat steps 2-6, till satisfied, then,

Repeat Steps 2-5.

At this point, you can pop some foil on and put it in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or you can get corny by placing dollops of cornbread mixture on top. If you cover it with the cornbread mixture, do NOT put the foil on or it will take forever to cook.

Once you take it out of the oven, let it sit for a little bit so the flavors relax into each other. Grab a fat spoon and enjoy!

Variations we have enjoyed:

Use jalapeno corn bread instead of regular
Use sauteed and spiced shrimp instead of the meat
Use some spicy cooked veggies instead of the salsa (squash, zucchini and carrots work great)
Use Fritos instead of the tortillas
Serve with sour cream and freshly cut chives
Make up your own! -J

Prada, Baby, Prada

Thanks to my kicking insurance plan, I finally have a piece of the Prada empire and joined the ranks of the sexy librarians. That's right folks. I ordered new glasses. While I am completely indifferent about clothes, I have long coveted the sexy librarian Prada glasses. My former boss Stan told me that glasses should be completely invisible or completely take over your face. I've had the bottom-of-the-line ones that do neither because my previous jobs didn't cover vision care. Luckily, for a measly $5 a month I get vision coverage in my health care plan. This covers the cost of the exam and the lenses and cheap frames or a big chunk of the costs of expensive frames. In the end, I paid $30 for my glasses. I could have gone with the free frames but...PRADA!!!!!

In actual food news, we took the In-Laws to Flying Fish in Old Town Saturday. It was perfect for an exhausting day of fall foliage and window shopping. The decor is simultaneously tacky and elegant with funky aquariums and mounted swordfish on the walls. J and I split a frisee salad, an order of cooked sushi, the pan-fried red snapper in buerre blanc and a grilled doughnut. The frisee salad was frisee salad, lightly dressed and fresh. Nothing earth shattering but refreshing and light. J disagrees but I think the sushi as Spices is better than Flying Fish's. I may have a plebian tongue (don't go there) but I just couldn't taste the difference in quality of the fish. The snapper however, is a different story. The whole schtick of Flying Fish is that you can order any of their quality fish in three diffferent ways, poached, pan seared or grilled, or blackened. Hearing that the snapper was particularly good that night, I ordered it pan seared. That seemed to work best with the moist, tender flesh of the fish with a delicate flavor. The lemony flavor and silky texture of the beurre blanc was a perfect compliment to the fish. It also came with expertly made, sauteed sugar snap peas and green beans and we ordered the blue potatoes, potato croquettes with bleu cheese in them, as an accompaniment. For dessert we had the grilled doughnut which was a true triumph. The grilling took away the treacly sweetness of the doughnut glaze and gave the doughnut a nice crispy texture and smoky aroma. My only complaint about the dessert was the ice cream on top. It was melting all over the place and I couldn't appreciate the vanilla flavor. All in all a great fall meal that was statisfying and refreshing.

And PRADA, baby PRADA.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ending the "radio" silence

Sorry about the radio silence folks. Just a crazy busy weekend. The in-laws are in town for a big fundraiser I was helping out on. And by helping, I being involved with every effing thing because I am a total control freak. Luckily the in-laws (who are the best in-laws IN THE WORLD) were duly impressed because everything was a perfect as it could possibly be. People had a good time and the event finished according to schedule. I've helped run fundraisers before, and I've learned some things on this one I'd like to share with the blogoverse.

1. Cocktail PARTY - As elegant as a sit-down dinner is, if you want people to have a good time, COCKTAIL PARTY. If you have a good caterer (WHICH WE DID!), there will be plenty of food and noone will go hungry. The appeal of a cocktail party is that people are not planted to one table and can socialize, chat, and dance. It really allows guests to float around, catching up with people they haven't seen in a while.

2. Swing band - Speaking of dancing, I'd highly recommend having swing music. With a rock or pop band, you run the risk of cheesy music and bad covers. If you have a DJ, you will end up with Love Shack and the Chicken Dance. However, it's hard to ruin swing music. It ends up being the type of music everyone can dance to and isn't so loud or jarring to disrupt conversation. But the true fun is seeing people twirl around the dance floor. Grunge music? No twirling.

3. HO-DOVERS - To quote the Food Whore, "Feed them early, feed them well." A cocktail party allows for food to be available when people get to the event. No waiting for a server to give you your plate or for your table to get called for the buffet.

4. Drinky drinky - Finally, our wonderful caterers made a strategic decision that made the party a raging success: SHOVE DRINKS INTO PEOPLE'S FACES. The caterers had servers with trays of cocktails at the registration area and the entrance to the fundraiser. Before you've even entered the room you had a Cosmopolitan in your hand. YEAH BABY! Even if you don't drink, there's something festive about entering a party with a drink in hand. It makes you truly feel a part of the party.

I hope you can get something out of my kernels of wisdom. In my opinion, the measure of a good event is how full the dnace floor is and this one was packed.

P.S. - I am usually not coy about anything, but to a certain twosome who may be reading this, I'd like to quote Blondie by saying "one day I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna get ya, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha getcha!!!!" HEE.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

J's 7 things . . .

I haven't been posting for a bit, but am a bit under the weather so I've pulled over to do something fun. T did his 7 things and I am doing mine. I don't really have 7 folks to send it to so I changed that to 7 foods I want to eat . . .

7 things I want to make before I die:

1. The tallest meringue pie I have seen that does not weep.
2. Popcorn balls (I just want to do it)
3. Vanilla sorbet
4. Morgan's cheese tortellini soup
5. Bunuelos
6. Dim Sum
7. A baby

7 things I cannot do in the kitchen:

1. Recover from a baking screwup
2. Make donuts
3. Roll sushi
4. Perfectly dice an onion
5. Make candy
6. Make tabouleh like my grandmother's
7. Make my grandfather's BBQ sauce

7 things that attract me to a kitchen:

1. Easy storage options
2. An open concept to a living area
3. A deep sink with two sections (one to soak and one to rinse)
4. Room for a table
5. Lots of glassware
6. Warmth and brightness
7. Logical layout

7 things that I say most often in the kitchen:

1. Holy shit, T, that's fantastic.
2. Are we out of tortillas?
3. Is this bad? It seems old.
4. I hope those people aren't looking in here.
5. We need a bigger kitchen.
6. How many people?
7. Do you need some help?

7 celebrity crushes in the food world:

1. T
2. Kylie Kwong
3. Moinica Greene of Monica's Aca Y Alla
4. Paula Deen
5. Rosemary Shrager of Rosemary, Queen of the Kitchen
6. Ming Tsai
7. Two Fat Ladies (ok, one is gone, but I loved them)

7 foods I want to eat:

1. Marshmallow Sauce from Crystal's Pizza in Fort Worth, Texas
2. Pho Ga from a place in Orange County that I have not been to
3. Chips and salsa from Monica's Aca y Alla in Dallas
4. Tamales
5. My mom's/grandmother's chili cream
6. Banh Cuon from the Eden Center

Much love to the blogworld -- J

Sometimes when God...

Gives you a blinding migraine at 6:00 am, she schedules a episode of Nigella Bites. The worst thing about getting a migraine when you wake up is that the Execedrin (caffeine in a pill) is the only thing that can take the pain away. And that means no jumping back into bed because you are awake and jittery. THANK GOD for the Style Network's early morning episodes of Nigella Biters. And I think it is one of three Nigella's I have not seen. It's the slow food one where she roasts not one but TWO huge slabs of meat in the oven. I won't do a formal recap but in her second meal, she roasts a huge leg of pork with the skin on. I'm not sure whether I'm delighted or horrified, but she ends up serving the crackling pig skin as a side dish to the roast pork. Yes, Nigella SERVES PORK RINDS. Albeit pork rinds with an aromatic garlic-chili rub.

In other news, my work gave me a hoodie. It's soft and warm and I look positively adorable in it.