Thursday, June 28, 2007

Opinions are like eyes...everyone's got them

AND I WANT YOURS! BWAAHAHAHAHA!!! Well, your opinion anyway.

For a picnic Sunday, I would love to make a bread salad. The kicker is I am loving my Asian Brined Cucumbers. I was thinking of making an Asian style bread salad where I would omit the tomatoes, increase the red and yellow bell peppers, and put in Thai basil instead of Genovese (got both from the farm - YEAH BABY!)and drenched in a rice wine vinaigrette. Dear readers, how does that sound to you? Would the very western bread croutons do well soaking up an Asian dressing? Should I commit to one or the other?

I would love some advice from you all.

off topic - Hairspray!

So what if someone made a fat acceptance/racial integration 60's bubblegum-pop musical? Let's just say I'm so there. Or more exactly, I WAS so there. Connecticut Bob and Slim let us know that One in Ten was having an advance screening of Hairspray that the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. The cheesy, wall mural of carpet ambiance of the Drafthouse was perfect to see Hairspray. Even better was having a crowd that was ready to love the movie. Because of the 6:30 pm opening (for a 7:30 pm movie start time), there were no drag queens in full regalia. All of the people dressed up for the contest were WOMEN. And a girl who was clearly aiming to go play Tracy on Broadway completely won the contest and the hearts of the audience. This was the first time in YEARS that J and I were in all Gay boy company with Slim, CT Bob, and their friend Smokey.

On a food note, while the food at the Drafthouse is a slight step above movie food, the drinks are really lovely. We all had the cosmopolitans and they were very tasty. On the food front, we did order pizza, nachos, cheese fries, and potato skins so it's not like we were aiming for the stars there.

So how was the movie? So good that I am fuming about the fact I can't download the soundtrack on itunes. This is a movie that knows what it is. And what it is is 2 hours of fun. For a movie about fat acceptance and racial integration, it wasn't a statement movie. The pacing and direction moved merrily along. The music was crazily catchy (hence the anger about no soundtrack) with no Oscar-bait power ballads (we're looking at you Dreamgirls!). Here is a musical that isn't ashamed to be a big, fun musical comedy. It starts with Tracy bopping through the streets of Baltimore (complete with rats) sing the opening number. This movie may be the reason I will see Knocked Up because here is a movie where big girl Tracy Turnblad gets the dreamboat without undergoing a makeover, apologizing for her weight, or having the movie portray the romance as Linc doing her a big favor. I want to use the line from the closing song "you can't stop my happiness, because I like the way I am" as my epitaph.

Best of all the cast was uniformly excellent with one HUUUUUUUUGE exception. Sorry to disappoint the John Travolta fans out there but he was just off. The performance seemed to be blunted by the layers of latex. And while the role was screaming for high camp, he seemed to be playing a drag queen as opposed to BEING a drag queen BEING a 60's housewife. He did come to life in the song and dance numbers but they were few and far between for the Edna character.

This was brought in huge relief by the boatloads of charisma radiating from almost every other member of the cast. The two revelations were James Marsden as Corny Collins and Michele Pfieffer as Velma Von tussle. Who knew that James Marsden could sing and dance like like the 50's style non-bloated Elvis. It's clear he's relishing this role and makes the most of it. Where has Michele Pfieffer been all these years? With Velma Ton Tussle she's found a role where she can chew on scenery as if it were a $2.99 buffet as the Mirage. The over the top campy acting is precisely right the Hairspray and she really buoys every scene she's in. Nice to see she brought her A game.

No review would be complete without singing the praises of Nikki Blonsky as Tracy. She makes a believable, unself-pitying Tracy who really does light up every room she's in. Her singing and dancing is top notch and she really carries the movie. Here's hoping that Hollywood will know what to do with her.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Top Chef -Episode 2 Sunny Delights

Finally the Golden sister gets to talk. Unfortunately for most of the episode she's kind of clueless, being incoherent at the Quickfire, having no idea about the heat of a scotch bonnet, and then acting as if she's never had to light a BBQ before. She wasn't covering herself in glory this episode but she does pull it out in the end.

So we open in the Hotel "Fountain Blue." The poetically named Sandee Birdsong is talking about her rise to power. Micah is grumpy about getting up. She parades her grumpiness to the crew. Howie is feeling vulnerable and wants to win the next challenge. Wow CJ is tall.

The contestants walk into the kitchen overflowing with citrus fruits. I correctly predicted there would be a plethora of blood oranges being used because blood oranges are the go to citurs of the snooty and pretentious. The guest judge is Norman Van Aken, some Flordia foodie bigwig. Salman Rushdie's Trophy Wife (SRTW) says that the challenge is to make a dish with some of the gorgeous citrus in the kitchen. F4 F4 F$. Sarah the Golden Sister says she wants to keep it simple and expects to win the challenge if she can keep her cool. Fat cha nce girlfriend. Micah self deprecatingly points out that she is having a harder time figuring out what to do with citrus than with geoduck and monkfish liver. F4 F4 F4 Tre and Hung are both feeling confident. Sarah the Golden Sister is discombobulated about her unpeeled and undeveined shrimp.

CJ towers over everyone. He makes satueed sea perch with tangelos and oranges and a citrus seed. Casey the unremarkable makes a citurs style s'more. The presentation is a big ol' mess. Sandee does a key lime mojito, a brulee of pink grapefuit and a orange/scotch bonnet sea bass. The mojito has a big flower in it that's kind of silly. Micah does an avacado soup that is the consistency of pudding. Lia does a crab salad with grapefuit vinaigrette but blows it on the execution when SRTW bites into a piece of shell. She's endearingly sheepish about it. Dale does a salad of Belgian endive, watercress and citrus segments. Sounds pretty pedestrian to me since even I can make that. Although I hate fennel so I wouldnt. Sarah N. completely loses her shit and can't even get the words out to describe her dish. She hates her own dish which is always bad. Hung, on the other hand is calling the other dishes "slummy" and thinks he will win the challenge. He does a slow roasted sea bass and a citrus crumble and a watercress salad. Ray leky. Tre does a hot and cold salmon which gets raves from Ray. Howie doesa vanilla butterpoached lobster tail with a ctirus salad. Why is this sweeping the nation? It sounds a little silly to me since I love vanilla as a sweet thing. Brian Malarkey does a halibut with a blood orange and pomegranate molasses. That also wins approval from Ray. I am really hoping they do a team challenge and kick off two people because I am getting sick of recapping this many dishes. New York Joey does a watermelon shooter and a fennel salad with blood oranges. YAAWN but Ray likes the shooter. There's a portentous shot of Hung looking on. OOOOO! Foreshadowing!

At the bottom are the ladies - Sarah N. SanDeE*, and Micah. Micah is pissy about being at the bottom. The top three were CJ (complex and coordinated), Hung, and Tre. Hung wins and he thinks the win is totally expected. What gets more interesting as the episode goes along is that Hung only is a ass in confessional. He's actually really nice face to face. Joey is pissed that he wasn't in the top three. It's fennel and citrus salad. INA GARTEN makes it. It's not all that innovative.

The next challenge will be to cooking at an"ulta-glamorous champagne BBQ" thrown by some male socialite (would that make him a social?) Lee Schrager. The challenge is sponsored by Kingsford and they have to make an upscale BBQ dish for the sexy and sophisticated crowd. They have two hours to cook it. And what seems to be causing flames of outrage across the internet food world, two hours is GRILLING not BBQing. Having in-laws from Texas, I know BBQ takes DAYS not a couple of hours. Tre is from Texas and he's feeling good about this challenge. Howie wants to prove himself.

Much F4 at the market. Sarah N is getting a lot of confessional time. Caset tries to get CJ to help her buy meat but CJ begs off on helping her. Malarkey goes with seafood since everyone is going for the meat. Micah is focusing on the produce and also whining aobut being away from her daughter. Ok seriously, this was not inflicted on you. Noone FORCED you to be on a reality show that would take you away from your daughter. You are not Sophie and this is not your choice This is working my last nerve. At least she isn't saying she's doing ALLLL for her daughter. GAWD these reality show people are like 6 year olds at camp. In a total moment of non-assholeness, Hung helps Sarah N. out by pointing out getting 20 pounds of ribeye would blow her budget. She scales back. And Hung becomes a touch more endearing.

Back at the GE kitchen, lots of F4 style scrambling. Hung s going nuts. He's not jsut F4ing, he's F16ing. Something drops and Hung says he didn't do it but he also cleans the mess up. CJ is making some pineapple thing that is wrapped in salt. Brian is pureeing scallops to make a seafood sausage. For those of your who think this is the shit, I'd like to point out Lee Ann did that two seasons ago and it feels like a whitey version of the Vietnamese chao tom which is pureed shrimp wrapped in sugar cane. Tre is feeling good about his grilling skillz. Lots of onion chopping. SanDeE is doing lobster with bacon and vanilla butter. Dear god there's more whining from Micah. Everyone sees right through her and points out she DID lose the quickfire and seems to excusing her whinyness by missing her daughter. OH MY GOD, Sarah N is freaking out because her hands are on fire using SCOTCH BONNET PEPPERS! Did she go to culinary school? One trip to California Tortilla would have taught you THAT lesson. Think of all the bottles of hot sauce that say sotch bonnet and have some red faced cartoon character on it.

Bakc at the apartments, Tre and Hung are doing pushups and SanDeE is calming Joey down from cooking for 60 Hung and Brian Malarkey dress up for the challenge. Joey derides Hung, saying that he looks like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. Hung just laughs it off. I would have responded by saying "at least I don't SOUND like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever." Hung is clasier than me. Sarah N is stressing. The editors are giving her a big loser edit.

Poolside at some condo complex, there are 14 BBqs lined up. And Sarah is completely hapless about lighting the BBQ. Micah freaks me out by pour a gallon on lighter fluid on the coals. Poor Brian some constantly bent over cooking food over the BBQ. Chef Tom does is patented sniff and sneer. He approaches Hung who refuses to rest on his laurels and Tre who is confident that his BBQ skills will carry him through. He questions Joeys taste level for cooking chicken. He also disapproves about SanDeE's poached lobster and Howi'e dried out meat. Timing-wise, it looks as if everyone is ready to serve. Gail, Chef Tom, Ray and Padma arrive and the oh so glamrous people arrive. Sarah decided to just chill the heck out and serve her dish. Much shots of produced place Moet. Brian is very organized and able to socialize and serve. Micah does have mad plating skillz. Her lamb and grilled haloumni sounds great. Sarah does a traditional Vietnamese BBQ on a lettuce leaf with cucumber. Brian des a badly plated seafood sausage. Tre does a peach BBQ glazed salmon. SanDeE* vanilla butter lobster spends absolutely no time on an actualy flame. Howie's pork is dry as the Sahara. It gets back to Joey who says if that happened in New York someone would go home. Joey spreads the sunshine even more by criticizing Hung's watermelon champagne and cribbing off of his watermelon shooter. YOU DO NOT HAVE A PATENT ON WATERMELON DRINKS JOEY! he then calls Hung a kiss ass. Huh? Joey insults Hung by saying he will buy him knee pads (for the ass kissing). Hung has the good taste to just laugh it off. Padma does a little more product placement by telling the chefs to clean up using the glad force flex bags.

At judging, Hung gets dinged for having a simple dish. Tre's salmon gets criticized for being both salty and unseasoned. SanDeE* is duly ripped for her lack of BBQ or even GRILLING. At the top Brian, Sarah N. and Micah get accolades. Padma in her mean judge voice asks for the top three to come in. They are all releived when they are told they are the top three dishes. Sarah is losing it in her surprise. She gives very good answers of her reasoning. Brian is kind of weird and bubbly while Micah talks about lamb being her country's go-to BBQ meat. Ray likes the redemption stories of Sarah N and Micah. In the end, Brian wins.

The bottom four are Tre, SanDeE*, Howie and Joey. At their evaluation, the pot is serious stirred when Joey is asked whose dish he would send back. He points out Howie even though he never tasted Howie's dish. Howie then pints out Joey's whining. When they leave judging it's the battle of the meatheads as Joey does the "be a man" attack on Howie and Howie does some major finger wagging at Joey. Is this an episode of the Sopranos?

You would think all of that whining would impact the judging but in the end the judges tell SanDeE* that she's the one to go based on her lack of actual BBQ. It makes me sad as she really does seem very chill. Bye SanDeE*!!!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saigonese in Wheaton

Last night we checked out Saigonese, a Vietnamese restaurant in Wheaton. As some of you know, we spend a lot of time at Minh's, the Eden Center, and other Vietnamese restaurants in the area. We haven't done much exploring in this area, but will be doing more soon.

Here is a mini-review of the dishes we had. We'll be back to Saigonese.


CHARCOAL GRILLED TOFU - Dau Hu Nuong: Fresh tofu charcoal grilled and served with peanut sauce. $4.95

Very nice and simple dish. Great for those who like the grill taste.

Goi Cuon Rau (2 rolls): The popular non-fried fully-cooked rolls. Softened rice paper wrapped around tofu, carrot,vermicelli and green leaf and served with peanut sauce. $3.95

Lovely and mult-textured. Peanut sauce is not anything special but tastes just right.

49. BLACK-PEPPERED GLUTEN - Mi Can Kho Tieu: Gluten (made from wheat) sautéed in caramel soy sauce and seasoned with black pepper. Cooked in a clay pot and served with steamed rice. $7.95

Perhaps the best dish of the evening. Gluten is all about the texture. So tasty and the pepper was not overpowering. Sweet but not too much so.

57. TOFU SAUTEED WITH GINGER - Dau Hu Kho Gung: Tofu simmered in a clay pot with ginger in rich caramel soy sauce and served with steamed rice. $7.95

Super-gingery as expected. Tofu was cooked through and rice was lovely.

The Next Food Network Star - NBA Chocolate Challenge

Just when you thought Colombe was a hippy dippy airhead she turns out to be a stone cold beeyotch. Other than that and an uncharacteristically incompetent performance from Michael, everyone is true to form. Adrien is well competent; Amy is didactic; Paul is a big gay spaz;

At the NFNS apartments Adrien and Tom are missing thier families, particularly Adrien and Tom. Amy gives the totally cliched statement of doing it for her family.

We then go to the Food Network Kitchens where Guy Fieri walks in who is hosting and judging this week. I do wonder if Dan and Steve are resentful that Guy's Food Network career has taken off, while their's is stuck in the 8:00 am on a Sunday slot. Anyway, Guy then intoduces Darryl Dawkins, otherwise known as the Chocolate Thunder. This feels weirdly racist to me, but if Chocolate THunder is something he named himself, whatever. I'm also indifferent because i have no idea who Darryl Dawkins is. The first challenge is to make a chocolate dish, savory or sweet. Guy also says that two competitors wil lbe leaving this week. Much F4 ensues. Paul saves Tom's ass by telling him not to let his chocolate seize. Rory sets another dishtowl on fire. JAG is making something complicated with a wine reduction. BTW, has anyone seen the articles about JAG embellishing his resume? It appears he never reached the level of Corporal in the Army and then he never graduated from cooking school. His "defense" is that he never actually LIED he just let the Food Network assume things about his resume. If he's in the final two, please do not vote for him. Colombe spends a lot of time looking for cinnamon where Paul saves Tom's ass again by handing him the cayenne. They then have 30 seconds to present their dish on camera with a requirement to give a tip. And seeing the judges lined up, Bob Tuschmann is really tiny. Shorter than me and I am not tall in the least.

Chocolate Challenge:

Paul - Makes a chocoalte in Phyllo thingy with a whimsical presentation. He's actually farily on it and not annoying. His tip is to use flicks of a whisk to decorate with chocolate. Not a great tip but otherwise a decent performance (for a change!). The judges love the dish.

Tom - He makes a cocoa encrusted pork tenderloin with roasted squash and a banana ravioli. In other hads i think this would be a magnificent plate, i ntommy's it just feels off. Also off is his performance which is kind of inert. He also has 7 seconds left when he's done.

Rory - She makes a chocolate mousse. In a bit of brilliance, she gives her ti at the beginning, saying that body builders eat dark chocolate for strength. Her mousse looks grainy.

Josh - Makes a Mexican style tempura with a mole. It looks good. He seems a little less mean but I'm still not feeling him. And probably never will.

Adrien - Finally they bring up the fact that he hosts a local cooking show. He makes pork tenderloin with a dark chocoalte barbeque sauce. I find his plating to be kind of bleh but otherwise he's really got the Tyler thing going on. The judges can't taste the chocolate.

Amy - Like Paul she makes a chocoalte thing ina phyllo cup. Her voice is so measured and yes she does talk about French Food. She blathers on and doesn't get ot her tip. I am really surprised noone is taking the Rory route and giving their tip first. The dish is great.

Colombe - She wants to come across more authoratative but she comes off as bizaarely perky. She makes inedible chocoalte-brioche French toast sandwiches. She tip is that chocolate isn't sinful. That's so not a tip.

Michael - Does way too much ass kissing to Darryl Dawkins and makes a cardinal sin of calling him the chocolate passion and not chocolate thunder. He seems to forget this is an on-camera challenge and just talks to the judges. His dish is a s'more. Guy is pissed.

The next challenge is to please fans by making food in a cart. Darryl says this is just like the NBA where you have to keep the fans happy. I totally call bullshit in this by saying two words - Kobe Bryant. 'Nuff said. Back to the competition, they havet o serve their food at a New Jersey Nets game. This is exactly like the food cart challenged in th first season of Top Chef.

At the market, much chaos ensues. Then it comes to THE INCIDENT. In the checkout line, Colombe finds a bag of food that isn't hers. It's fairy clear that Paul was in front of her so it's his. Also clear is that Paul is still in the market. A simple, "hey Paul don' forget your bag" would have been enough. But she lets the bag sit at the store. At the kitchens more F4 and then Paul discovers that he's missing a bag. I will say this - Paul does just move on and seasons his beef as opposed to dwelling on the lost bag. Colombe lies like a dog and says she never saw a bag. Adrien is supportive of Paul and lets Paul borrow some of his BBQ sauce. Colombe is already pissing Guy and the world off by making "all natural" nachos using canned cheese and bought tortilla chips The only thing she is making is the pico de gallo. JAG is making a chili dog in a pita. And Adrien is making bacon wrapped mushrooms with BBQ sauce. That doesn't sound like much cooking to me. Amy is making a chicken quesadilla with mango bites.

Back at the apartment, we witness THE THROWDOWN to THE INCIDENT. Amy calls Colombe out on her treachery saying "if I saw a spare bag, I would have held it up and said, 'Anyone lose a bag?" YES!!! While Amy is totally superior and schoolmarmish about it, she's also totally right. Colombe responds in confessional by saying "Amy is good at doing the right thing all the time."

At the nets arena more and more F4. Paul is losing his battle to not spaz out. Colombe is now pissing Rory off by continuing to open the heated holding area. She stands by the holding area so that Colombe doesn't keep opening it. Because Colombe really didn't cook anything, she helps Paul with his dish which earns her brownie point with Paul. In a portentous moment Guy tells the contestants they have 9 minutes till showtime and to put their smiles on and their food up to temperature.

The crowd streams in. JAG and Michael shine in the customer service and friendliness department. Rory earns a lot of hatred from me by saying she's wearning a pushup bra to get the guys. The ladies can go screw themselves. Guy walks by Paul's cart and tests the temperature of his burger. It is well below the 140 degrees necessary to be sanitary. This feels like some Food Network drama because Guy could have tested BEFORE the meat went on the cart. Paul is scrambling even more. The selection comittee stands by Paul's cart waiting for a burger. Ok so here's how it shakes out:

Paul - Hawaiian beef burger with grilled pineapple. IS TOTALLY ANNOYING TO THE JUDGES!!!! he even does a hula. HAAATE!!!

Colombe - Dear god what a mess. It's her sad ass nachos. THe panel zings her on Sandra Leeing her dish with all of the brought crap. She's still so stoned.

JAG - Chili dog pita. Gets much props by making nachos WITH HIS OWN THREE CHEESE QUESO!!! Hmm....who doesn't that resemble.

Tom - Making ginormous meatballs that really can't be eaten in a stadium. He seems depressed.

Rory - Bringing the rock in a big way. The judges smarkily notice the rack. They aren't happy. And yes these are the people who put Giada in Paradise on the air. If you didn't notice she makde cheesesteaks.

Adrien - BBQ bacon wrapped mushrooms. Once again seems competent and engaging.

Michael - I think he hits it out of the ball park (not to mix metaphors) with this one He makes shrimp versions of lobster rolls. He says that it's for folks who don't want heavy food. It also seems very portable.

At judging, JAG wins the chocolate challenge and Adrien wins the cart challenge. They are sent upstairs. The judges hate Michael's focusing on the jduges and not the camera at the chocolate challenge but really had a good performance at the NBA challenge. Bob says that a Food Network star should be strong in EVERY episode. To which I call bullshit on because have you seen the early episodes of Everyday Italian? Giada is stiff and awkward. Colombe is called out for her bad cooking and her lack of knowledge of food. Amy is criticized by her fast talking on the chcolate challenge. They also ask her about the appropriateness of her dish in the NBA challenge. Amy responds by sayin that in San Diego her dish would have been appropriate. That's silly because quesadillas are everywhere. The judges are tired of Rory setting things on fire. The judges are also wondering why Tommy seems to be retreating into himself. Tommy responds by saying he is missing his family. This is a reality show. You will be away from your family. The judges actually love Paul's food. They hate his frenetic energy. He complains about being a short order cook ecuase he had to cook his burgers again.

The bottom three are Colombe, Paul, and Tom. Colombe is asked to leave and she stalks off the set with a perfunctory goodbye. Paul is put out of his misery and is sent home. Unlike Colombe everyone is really sad at Tommy departure. Big group hug for Tommy (sans Colombe). Tommy will never leave his family again and Adrien is really sad that Tommy is leaving.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A bit o'healthy eating

Getting a bin of vegetables each week has really made me up my game in the healthy eating department. I eat a mixing bowl-sized salad at least four times a week. On top of that I've been really conscious about getting nibbly little vegetables at the farm like baby carrots (REAL baby carrots as opposed to the stuff that was whittled away from big carrots that is sold at th supermarket) and sugar snap peas and radishes. with the right dip, I can plow through my entire share of little nibblies in one sitting.

My ideal dip is an herb yogurt one that is made of Greek yogurt but Greek yogurt is hard to find so I buy regular nonfat yogurt and let it sit overnight on top of a colander lined with a paper towel. I should count this as #11 on the things I learned from the Frugal Gourmet because he did this on his show. Barefoot Contessa also uses this technique for her orange yogurt. Straining it overnight gives the yogurt the consistency of marscapone cheese and makes it a perfect dip. Simply add any fresh herbs you want - basil, mint, dill, oregano, and parsley - along with lemon juice, a touch of salt and pepper, and a teeny weeny bit of olive oil. it holds up well and tastes great.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I've been away for sometime, but am returning to the living to give some mini-updates and reviews.

Pho VN One Beltsville

Today's trip to Pho VN One was long overdue. As fans of Pho 88, Pho 75, and various places at the Eden Center, we've pretty much covered the pho landscape. Or so we thought. My pho ga (chicken) was the best I have had. Cleaner than most, and more flavorful than all. Ts was more complex. The brisket in his bowl was tender, flavorful, and succulent. A sweet anise made friends with the meaty broth and they enjoyed one another's company. Pho VN One is generous with the noodles and the salt balance was perfection; We will be back. Maybe soon

El Tapatio Bladensburg

I have enjoyed a few of the selections at Tapatio. Ever bite into something and try to taste, swallow, and praise it's fabulosity at the same time? El Tapatio's tacos al pastor are worthy of such oral confusion. Robust, spicy, warm and packed in a soft white corn tortilla. The salsa has that hint o cumin that you love and the horchata is sweet and refreshing. Go.

Cafe Atlantico (vegetarian tasting menu) DC

We've been to Cafe Atlantico before and enjoyed the full tasting menu for "Latin Dim Sum". A culinary dance marathon with a finish line where they ask you if you want to repeat any of the 743 dishes you have just sampled before you roll out onto the street somehwat high from the whole experience.

The vegetarian tasting menu was a shadow of its version for omnivores and appropriately priced at about $10 yes. Seriously, this is some mighty fine cooking. Great presentation, too. I would do it again, but I must admit that I was pining for items like the conch fritters with a liquid heart (beer makes this one zing), and the duck. Still, items like the coconut rice, mushroom quesadillas, and quinoa couscous are absolutely delciious. Dessert both times was a freakishly tasty pan dulce, but I would like to see that rotated with some of the other gorgeous desserts I saw going by.

Saravana Palace Vienna

Look for a full review of our meals at Saravana Palace, but for now, just know that this is a new favorite. An incredible vegetarian menu with a wide variety of breads, sauces and more. Dishes were either quite good or best in class each time we went. Service can be slower when it is crowded, but it was never too bad.

Los Tios Del Ray

I'm a simple man. Give me fresh, delcious Tex-Mex meal, margarita not from some sugary mix, and a bowl of fresh chips with salsa, and I am set. For my birthday, I wanted a simple and delicious meal and we chose Los Tios, which, again, did not disappoint. Chicken fajitas, my old standby were served piping hot with plenty of grilled onions and the standard-issue side plate of rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo. I wanted something a bit hotter for the occasion so they brought out a special habanero sauce that I loved. Use is sparingly though. Oh, and my margaritas were the best I have had since Andale closed downtown.

Dairy Godmother Del Ray

It would be crazy not to mention that the Dairy Godmother is that frozen cup of America that I just love coming back to. Delicious, innovative, clean, community dessert place. The mango lassi sorbet is tangy, sweet, and fruity. The custard is fabulous. Thick, cold, comforting. And anything topped with marshmallow sauce and/or sour cherries, is just heaven.

The Ugly Mug Capitol Hill

I have had consistently good food here. They have a spinach salad with potato croutons and blue cheese that is one of my favorites. Barbecued chicken pizza, pepperoni rolls, or a heaping plate of calamari -- all washed down with a Shiner or a Magic Hat. This is bar food elevated to yummy. I don't expect service like The French Laundry. This is a place to unwind and grab some tasty grub.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Top Chef Season 3

Here's a quickie on Top Chef. I have high hopes for this season. The personalities seems a lot more stable and professional (with a few exceptions). The judges seem less invested in tearing people down (Chef Colicchio isn't sniffing and sneering as much). No women saying that they wil lbe using their attractiveness to get ahead. And the challenges really seem to be about innovation in cooking. Go figure.

Quick thoughts on the contestants:


Tre - Deserved winner of the elimination challenged. Love that he's low key yet not robotic. Love that he BROUGHT IT and came back from his humiliation at the quickfire.

Lia - Didn't get much air time but seems really down to earth and friendly. I seriously want to invite her over for scrabble.

Sandee - As a shout out to L.A. Story: SAnDeE*!!!! Love her! Sounds like she has a very defined style that isn't schticky. She seems to have the skills. Certainly isn't bringing the drama (YET!)

Sarah N - SSSOOOOOOOOO adorable!!!!!!! Unfortunately the Golden Sister never gets to talk. Although there are many shots of her in a bikini coming out of a hot tub.


Casey - From Texas. Big Southern Flavors. Comfort food.

Dale - Messed up the elimination challenge but gets props for trying the exotic proteins.

Howie - From the promos he will be throwing down.

Micah - The Kara Janx of top Chef. Strong skills and won the quickfire but I don't see her going all the way.

Sarah M - Was she even in the episode?

Brain - Any comments? He hardly registered with me.

Camille - She's on the show?

CJ - He's REALLY tall.


Joey - Did tom from NFNS clone himself. This guy is like an entire season of hte Sopranos wrapped up in a chef sized package.

Hung - I should love him as a golden brother but HAAAAAAAAATEE! When you make Stephen from Season 1 look like a perfectly reasonable person, you are a serious douchebag (as opposed to a hilarious one). At least he can bring it.

Clay - I don't hate him but boy the editors weren't even trying to disguise that he was going to be the frist out. His cooking seemed atrocious but he seemed totally lovable. And did I hear correctly that his father committed suicide? He said "my father died because he couldn't make it in the food business."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where I try not to piss off the internets - especially you Stef!

So the Next Food Network Star came back in a huge way on Sunday. Gone were the Real World style histrionics and the Survivor style backstabbing and the Top Chef Style team challenges. In their place were challenges that actually relate to the job of being a Food Network host. The judging was about the actual FOOD and the presentation of the food and it was fair and deserved. One thing you can totally tell is that Giada did not want to have Colombe horning in on her sexiest lady on the Food Network Turf (not including Nigella). It was totally hilarious to see the Giada daggers of death coming out of her eyes during judging.

So we start in the NFNS apartments where Amy is being told she talks in her sleep by Rory. Rory insidiously says that Amy is talking about informing her kids about being eliminated. And wow does Rory have big ass teeth. We also get Rory talking about how nervous she was being on the chopping block last week. Well stop making ugly-ass cakes.

We next go to the Food Network studio where Giada is the guest judge/mentor. She looks lovely although her makeup is crazy heavy. JAG already icks me out by says Giada is "hotta." How creative. Giada announces that the challenge is to demo Giada's chicken florentine recipe where each contestant gets 1 minute to demo a step. Amy seems to take charge and goes over the recipe with everyone. Rory volunteers to start.

1 Minute Demo
Rory - Spends way too much time setting up the premise. She is surprisingly approachable but gets behind on the actual demoing.

Michael - All right, I've gotta admit that Michael has won me over. I totally want him to win. He's warm and friendly without that aggressive HI I'M MICHAEL energy that so many Food Network hosts have. He's pretty skillful about dealing with the pan being too hot for the butter.

JAG - He's pissed Michael hasn't made up more time and he gives us a good tip on cooling down the pan (run the back of it under cold water) and is able to get the group back on track. Here's the problem with JAG, like Guy, he's tough. Unlike Guy, he doesn't give off any of that gooey-heart-inside-of-a-tough exterior vibe. He's just tough. I will say he's really competent. But he's giving the CHEF vibe.

Colombe - Dear, dear Colombe. She's friendly and warm but totally feels like she's stoned. Stoned to the point that she doesn't notice a pan is filling with smoke.

Paul - Wow he is managing to bug the hell out of me. Taking over from Colombe, he bitches "speaking of BURRRNING Colombe, how about we take this pan off the heat." Just address the issue without calling out your competitor. Seriously this guy belongs on Top Chef. On top of that he wasn't particularly engaging. There are points where he just trips himself up.

Adrien - Ok, I don't know why the Food Network doesn't acknowledge he has his own local cooking show. He's really competent and speaks clearly. He's like a less surfer boy version of Tyler Florence which is always a good thing.

Tom - Starts off fine but then just goes off camera. He doesn't look up at all.

Amy - Shut up about being a Mom giving you the edge. It's not like we haven't heard that on every other reality show. But otherwise she's got that unruffled, calm Sara Moulton thing going on. Oh Sara Moulton how we miss you and your lack of histrionics.

Nikki - Wow is Nikki uptight and boring. She looks PISSED and never looks up to the camera. Giada is shooting her the daggers of death.

In the debriefing JAG btiches about being off script and Giada gives the completely useless advice of not letting the audience see you sweat. Well HOW do you address kitchen mishaps without being a spaz? Anyway she gives props to JAG. The next challenge is a totally relevant and very interesting challenge of making the cover recipe for Bon Appetit. I am immediately riveted. Christine Kidd from Bon Appetit comes on and explains what Bon Appetit is looking for in a cover recipe. The criteria is looking delicious, something a home cook can make themselves, and something that you would want to eat in season.

Taking a piece from Dancerindc, much F4 ensues. F4 = scrambling around and prepping. Not really worth recapping other than Rory deciding to make 5-hour ribs in 90 minutes.

Bon Appetit Challenge
Tom - Grilled ribeye steak with a forlorn spring of broccoli rabe underneath that's been drizzled with olive oil. That plate looks like an abattoir. He definitely has a big personality that mines the Boston Eye-talian thing he has going on but without the presentation skills. He bugs the crap out of me by coming back to the ready room and saying (unironically) he has "mad skillz." The judges hate the presentation.

Michael - The ever-beloved Michael. His chicken and vegetables have clear grill marks and the elements of the dish (chicken, zucchini and corn) all are distinct and well presented. The judges go gaga over his "throw herbs on the grill" tip. He has a nice balance between being interested in what he is saying but not spazzy. He is justifiably confident.

Amy - Blah blah blah French words. Her chicken and vegetable dish looks like a dog's breakfast as Ina Garten would put it. Nothing stands out and everything looks like a big chaotic mess. There's supposed to be goat cheese in it but it's lost in the chaos of chopped stone fruit. The Bon Appetit editor bitchily dismisses her. The judges hate the chaos but like the backyard presentation.

Adrien - People are complaining about the Giada bitchface on this one, but come on. It does look like someone regurgitated all over a bell pepper. It looks like some kind of mushroom, corn hash. The judges hate all of the spicy flavors in the hash. Although, Bon Appetit editor likes the flavor aside from the spiciness.

Colombe - This is just plain painful. She has lng awkward pauses in her presentation and seems completely discombobulated or stoned, take your pick. She mistakes her skirt steak for flank steak and just fumbles through the whole thing. Everyone looks like they want to send her to the lions. Bitchfaces all around and quite frankly, th bitchfaces were deserved.

JAG - His plate reeks of trying too hard with lamb chops, caramelized onion and mushroom ragout and grilled vegetables. Once again, I totally agreed with the judges that the dish looks too composed and more like a restaurant dish than something you would serve at home. He is too busy blathering on about the dish that he forgets to actually serve the judges. The Bon Appetit editor asks to taste it and she tries to engage him but he's mentally out the door. I just realized that Christine Kidd looks like Amy Sedaris.

Rory - It's all about redemption. She presents her dish on a cast iron grill pan. It's unpretentious and the elements of the ribs, corn and grilled cantaloupe are distinct and beautiful on the dish. Like one of the judges, I know I would hate the parsley salad because I think parsley tastes like grass. She does a great job describing how the dish reflects her Texas roots.

Nikki - Oh dear. She is totally rehearsing her presentation to death. She works every nerve I have when she starts, "July. Is. For. JAMAAAIIICA ME CRAAAZY jerk chicken MON!" Oh COME ON!!!!! There's certainly plenty of jerk in the room but it's not on the plate. Her dish is a jerk chicken and pineapple skewer with a potato and apple salad. Actually well presented but Nikki completely fake and cadenced speech is even more robotic than Katie Lee Joel. The judges like the potato salad but the chicken didn't have much jerk spice in it.

Paul - Another float in the parade of crazy. It's a good thing I am not a judge because making the little hats for the rack of lamb is not home food to me. It's just silly and affected, just like Paul. It's a beautiful presentation however and looks clean and presentable. What isn't presentable is Paul, who starts off ok but then goes into these total drama queeny deep breaths. Drag Queens on Broadway bring less drama than Paul. Wow does Giada look unhappy. The judges hate the use of dried instead of fresh herbs.

The redemption of Rory. Michael and Rory are singled out as the top Bon Appetit dishes. Rory wins the challenge and both she and Michael are safe. Michael is totally gracious and happy for Rory. I so want him to win this thing. I do have to laugh at Bob Tuschman's statement that Food Network viewers can spot phony from 500 miles away. An clueless statement considering that this is the network of Sandra Lee. In the middle of the pack are JAG, Amy, Tommy, and Paul. In the bottom are Adrien (?), Nikki, and Colombe. In the end Nikki gets kicked off and vows to keep trying.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Off Topic - Knocked Up

So last Sunday, we were all hanging out at the Marrieds for brunch when Married Boy mentioned that he and Married girl went to see Knocked Up. Like most of the North America, the Marrieds really enjoyed Knocked Up. There's been quite a bit of chatter online about Knocked Up.

Both rapturous:

And critical:,0,3575880.story

Knowing it was made by Judd Apatow, I am sure it was well written and well acted and damn entertaining. Nevertheless, without seeing the movie, it still chafes my chaps. It probably makes me a fundamentalist feminazi to dismiss something without actually SEEING it but I still can't deal with the premise no matter how wonderfully executed. This totally makes me a hypocrite because I loved Bringing Down the House, that cheesy, cliche-ridden spectacle of Steve Martin clearly trying to earn a paycheck. But I went into howls of laughter at the black person helps whitep erson find his groove movie. And I can understand how people can love Knocked Up for transcending the cliches on which it is based. But I can't get past that. On the Stevethepenguin blog a commenter put it far, far better than I.

Anonymous said...

Bianca, I don't have a blog, but I am a professional writer - and I was cruising the internet when I saw "Knocked up" and I thought, is there anyone else that sees something wrong with this picture, literally?

Even the premise. The guy is not a diamond in the rough. Is this movie brought to us or funded by some conservative organization who think that getting mom to keep the baby and marry the baby is going to hold the fabric of society together? Clearly this is the fantasy of a shlubby guy as well? But where is the woman's happy ending, I ask again?

If you think that guy is "cute" and "kewl," imagine that in short order in that scenerio, you become the nag, the mother, the keeper of order and bills and all unfun things in the house, and chief fun killer, while the guy makes cameo appearances at parenting: the adorable holding asleep on the couch while the baby takes a nap, the crawling into an undersized house or jungle gym -- comedy ensues.

What possible outcome are we serving up to all the date-movie goers? Why is this fun for the kiddies? You become Marge Simpson. That wife on everyone loves Ramond.

The guy gets to have fun, not diet, be himself, a load of laughs to have a beer with, while you become the drudge. The woman grinds her teeth and becomes The one that pays the taxes, gets the kids up, goes to work regardless. When you get to be older, what do you do when you really fall in love with someone compatible, or does your sex drive and desire for compatible compansionship even count in this? Is that why women need a "starter marriage" to get the adorable fuff out of her system?

I ask you, what sort of success would a movie be if the roles were reversed. A chubby, stubbly young girl who is not the brightest bulb who shulbs around in a t-shirt and jeans gets knocked up with a shapely smart A-lister hottie (insert name here)? Would it be a happy ending that the guy commits her? Would it seem natural for that to be a best-ever date movie for all the male reviewers?

Are women allowed to be natural? Fumbling? Just okay? Just funny? And still get the "great" guy?

Or do we all have to be Marge Simpson? The mommy? The stern good girl that secretly grins at the loveable foof, but she cannot be as free herself. She has to sort of keep her girdle on, be the good girl, be the parent.

The message of this movie: Give it up girls, you're natural role is to deny, deny, deny yourself and be a mommy. It is god-ordained for you to be the mommy. And not just to a baby, but a man-child.

How many young women say to themselves: "I aspire to have a life like the wife on the Family Guy?" or "I aspire to be Marge Simpson, that is the happy ending for me." This movie is how that life starts. It's a great deal for the guy...

I really can't let this movie pass without comment. Never mind violence on tv or smokers in the movies, what are we teaching the youngsters here? What are we telling young women about what to expect and ask for in life?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Because I will not stop talking about my fabulous CSA

Ah, going beyond the salad days of summer to the collard greens and kale days of good intentions. On our first two CSA shares, we've been able to mow through them because you could just make a salad and gotten rid of all of your share. And with the herbs we've been picking, we just either make an herb dip or grind it all up as pesto. But with the collard greens, kale and swiss chard, you have to make an actual DISH out of them. The thing about greens as opposed to salads is that they are actually pretty filling. Halfway through the week, we need to figure out what to do with all the greens.

Auntie Em came over Saturday and we brainstormed some ideas for what to do with what's left in your CSA vegetable bin. And really, what's left in the bin is the green because I made croutons Sunday and ate salad every day this week. I do need to make a trip to Whole Foods and get champagne and sherry vinegar because my vinaigrettes are getting boring. As a change I've been thinning my dill dip with lemon juice to turn it into a salad dressing. Here's list of things that you can use up your CSA share on:

Stir Fries

So three weeks in to the CSA program here's what's been a hit:

Bok Choy
Garlic Scapes

Here are the misses:

Collard Greens
Swiss Chard

Overall we've eaten everything in our share so far and this is where the rubber hits the road - figuring out what to do with the greens.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Season 3 of the Next Food Network Star

This will be a season of Next food Network Star (NFNS) recaplets because my god is this series getting to be blecherous. You remember in the first two seasons where this seemed to be an actual job interview to become the host of a Food Network show? So the challenges seem to relate to creating interesting recipes, developing show concepts, and appearing in front of the camera? While none of the personalities of either season seemed to be memorable (either in the charming Nigella way or the horrifying Sandra Lee way), the process seemed to make a modicum of sense.

This season, the NFNS producers decided to put on a bastardized Top Chef complete with a bullshit catering challenge. Not only that, they've appeared to ratchet up the drama so that anyone personality that might be likable is now subjected to Top Chef style backstabbing and bus throwing. How are we as the audience supposed to get behind ANYONE as a host after they are all bitchy with each other?

Here's my thoughts on the contestants:

The Frontrunners

Amy - the mom. Fairly even keeled personality who knows when not to go overboard. Witness her understated, chandelier themed wedding cake. Witness her brilliance at choosing ALL the caterers for the team challenge.

Michael - As long as he stops with the Salmon, as in the fish, schtick, he's a front runner. He seems fairly personable and with his culinary experience, he has the chops. But yet another white dude wining NFNS?

Adrien - hosts his own cooking show. Has a fairly easy charm that harks to Tyler Florence. I would say that he really let the stress of the catering challenge get to him.

On the Fence

Nikki - A caterer to the stars? Sounds like the second coming of Deborah. She broke the rule of reality shows when she denigrated her own dessert during the catering challenge. Another one who is way too intense.

Paul - Wasn't irritating until chicken-broth-gate when he crowed about the other team screwing up their vegetarian polenta by adding chicken broth. Even worse, he crowed about it during judging. It made him look petty and mean. And really, he was doing fairly well up until then.

Rory - Who? Nuff said. Except that awful Texas sunset cake.


Colombe - Does it seem like every season has a dishy blonde that is essentially roadkill? She seemed to make every wrong decision possible on the catering challenge.

Tom - Knowing the Food Network, this guy is gonna win. Totally over the top personality complete with ever-present stogie. Unfortunately the Food Network execs seem to eat that crap up. I hated his behavior on the catering challenge. He never owned up to his own incompetence.

Josh (aka JAG) - The judges were right, this guy's TV personality is MEAN. I liked his ability to improvise on the catering challenge but I so don't want to watch him week after week telling me how to cook.


Vivian -
Enough with the salads!

Patrick - It felt like he was on Top Chef than NFNS. Still nowhere near as mean as JAG

This will be a hard season to slog through. I don't have the stomach for full recaps but definitely will want to sound off on what will be a trainwreck of a season.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Long Awaited Mango Mousse Tart

Ok. It's been a while but it's been that kind of week that required me to COMMUTE to Tyson's Corner from the other side of the DC diamond. I've never been so exhausted in my life. How do people do it? Because seriously, I was having a nervous breakdown every evening for the two days I had to make the 7 am commute.

Anyway, I said I would post the mango mousse tart recipe. This comes from Martha Stewart Living. The recipe calls for either eight round molds (like they use to plate things in restaurants or an 8-inch springform pan. I ended up using a 10-inch tart pan. It worked perfectly fine.

For the crust:
1 ounce salted, dry-roasted macadamia nuts (1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the mousse
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (1 scant tablespoon)
- Whole Foods did not have any unflavored gelatin so I substituted 2 tablespoons of organic orange jello and it worked perfectly fine.
2 firm but ripe mangoes
(each 1 pound)
1/2 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat over to 250 degrees. Lightly coat ring molds or pan with cooking spray. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
2. Make the crust: pulse macadamia nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. In a bowl, combine nuts, flour and butter with a fork until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Press into pan or molds. Bake for 12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.
3. Make the mousse: Pour orange juice into a small saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Heat over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat.
4. Cut 1/4 of the mango into 1/4 inch thick slices for garnish (halve large slices). Coarsely chop remaining mangoes. In a blender, puree chopped mangoes, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth. With machine running, add gelatin mixture in a slow and steady stream until combined. Transfer to a bowl.
5. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and beat until soft peaks return. Whisk 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mango mixture. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream.
6. Pour into molds/pan until 3/4 full and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until firm (at least 4 hours and up to a week).
7. While the recipe says to let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. I found it's soft enough to serve straight from the freezer.

Receive accolades with a degree of modesty. Inwardly exult.