Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mishri's Answers

Thanks Mishri! I'm still in Hawaii. The big Hawaii update wil lbe forthcoming.

1. I used to keep a diary off-and-on, but I was too lazy to maintain the discipline need. Blogging is easier because I can now type faster than I write and typing enables me to keep up with my mind's pace better.

2. The weirdest thing that happened to me because of blogging was that I got offered a job. I didn't take it, but it was fun to be offered a job by a reader.

3. Nope, never met someone who read my blog without my previously knowing it.

4. I think I'm proud of most of my entries about being Indian. They can veer toward whiny, but I think they're heartfelt.

5. I wrote an entry on another blog I keep anonymously. It was about hating certain types of people and I got a hate mail for it, and I was not prepared to cope with the flaming.

6, I don't keep blogging. I'm lazy about it. But when I do write, it's because I can't hold it in anymore and I want to share what I feel. The occasional positive comment serves as a nice boost.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Scotte's Answers

1. Did you ever keep a diary? Do you still? How is blogging different from keeping a written journal?

No. I think blogging is different because it's open to anyone who clicks in. Some folks guard themselves a bit when writing a blog. Some people hide behind the anonymous web and share all.

2. What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you because of blogging?

I met you! HA. But seriously, I have met some very interesting, great people.

3. Have you ever met someone who read your blog without previously knowing they read your blog?


4. Is there an entry you are particularly proud of? What was it about?

There are few, but the one I keep clicking back to is the Brown Butter/Vanilla Brioche. Particularly because it was such a project!

5. Is there any entry you are particularly embarrassed about? What was it about?

Not really. Being a food blogger, I try to post the good and the bad. There was one mishap with scallops that was certainly awful.

6. Why do you keep blogging?

I love it. It's the longest I've kept with any hobby.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My answers

Ok here are my answers. I am not blogging from the beach but blogging from the lanai of our one-block-away-from-the-beach condo we are renting in Hawaii. Jealous? BTW Stef, you get a home cooked, healthy meal courtesy of yours truly. Name the date.

1. Did you ever keep a diary? Do you still? How is blogging different from keeping a written journal?
I kept one journal in my life and that was my year abroad in Europe. It was really boring and mundane and said stuff like "today I went to see Big Ben." It's funny that having an audience makes me a lot more open and free with my writing and myself. Knowing that i am just talking about food (for the most part) makes me able to share the WHO of what I am if not the what.

2. What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you because of blogging?

The fact that the Next Food Network Stars read DCfoodblog. It's alternately thrilling and weird. It is a reality check to the power of words.

3. Have you ever met someone who read your blog without previously knowing they read your blog?
Yep. In fact he's marrying one of my best friends.

4. Is there an entry you are particularly proud of? What was it about?
I am an attention whore so any entry that gets lots and lots of comments is one I'm proud of. The two that come to mind are my Barefoot Contessa ones that STILL get comments and the Paula Deen ones. Both have comments that range from "right on" to " screw you to Paula/Ina hater." And the thing is I LOOOOVE those two.

5. Is there any entry you are particularly embarrassed about? What was it about?
Actually on another blog I wrote, my first entry was an analysis of Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones. Talk about dated.

6. Why do you keep blogging?
Didn't you hear? I'm an attention whore. Seriously though, I love the interaction. I love having an audience and I love reading other people's blogs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stef's answers

It looks like stef is the only one to play. Come on folks. Gimme some love.

1. Yes, off and on since I was about 10. My biggest journaling time was college-grad school-early 20's. I'm a lot more open, vulnerable, and seraching in my journals than on the blog, for obvious reasons.

2. The random happy hours with strangers were pretty weird. I usually had fun, but it was a strange way to have small talk with people you didn't know at all but had been reading about, and vice versa.

3. I don't think so, but I've had friends who I didn't know read my blog say things to me that they only could've known by reading.

4. I was really excited that my first time in the Express was one of my more thoughtful political posts. Later ones were more random. And I made it into Wonkette with an Ann Coulter-hellfire post!

5. Ah, the whole eHarmony thing. I really didn't know it was that evil until I posted about it and everyone told me. I was embarrassed that I hadn't done more research on my own and had been giving money to a company that I should've despised all along.

6. God, who knows. I think about quitting pretty often. I don't get the same out of it as I used to - and I tend to like reading my friends' blogs more than writing my own these days.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shout out to Pie a la Mona

Are you reading Pie a la Mona? We are :) Great pictures, tasty recipes, and an enjoyable voice. Yahoo!


Since Scotte's Answering Questions...

So tomorrow I'm headed to Hawaii. For work. I know. I know. Hard Life but it is a hard life. I will be cranking the 18 hour days and hoping that i wake up at 5:00 am to go to the beach for a half an hour before I need to set up registration. Anyway, so we don't go into complete radio silence when I'm away, I am leaving it up to you all, my fellow bloggers to help a fellow blogger out. Put answers in the comments and I will post them on the blog.

Here's some navel gazing:

1. Did you ever keep a diary? Do you still? How is blogging different from keeping a written journal?

2. What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you because of blogging?

3. Have you ever met someone who read your blog without previously knowing they read your blog?

4. Is there an entry you are particularly proud of? What was it about?

5. Is there any entry you are particularly embarrassed about? What was it about?

6, Why do you keep blogging?

My answers will be forthcoming. I will most likely be wearing a lei while typing them. In the meantime, I want answers!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Finally, a Recipe

Between recapping NFNS (thanks for all the comments!), work - preparing for a Convention in Hawaii, and the New York trip, I haven't had much time to do any recipes. This past Saturday, J and I had a wonderfully relaxing al fresco dinner in the backyard of the Timily's. The Timily's brought some refreshing rose wine and made a German potato salad that was light and refreshing (it contained sugar snap peas, and fried ham!). Our contribution was a two-way pizza. One half was a basic pizza margarhita with fresh tomatoes and basil from the CSA and topped with mozzarella and (surprise!) cheddar cheese. On the other side was my famous (among a certain group of my friends) Thai eggplant pizza. Inexplicably, I hadn't made it since J and I got together. It really is divine. Once again, think of this as guidelines and not necessarily a recipe. It all depends on how much eggplant you have and how big your pizza crust is.

Thai Eggplant pizza
1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 tablespoons Thai Sweet Chili sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ball of pizza dough (homemade or otherwise)
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
Additions - sliced onions, scallions, slices of grilled chicken, shitake mushrooms

slice the eggplant into 1 inch slices. Throw them in a bowl or ziploc bag with the next 6 ingredients. Let sit for at least an hour. Roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick. Put a layer of the cheese enough to the cover the dough with a 1 inch border. Cove that with the eggplant and additions. Spoon a little of the marinade on for moisture. Bake at 425 degrees (this is cooler than usual because the eggplant needs time to cook) for at least 20 minutes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

John Edwards

After watching John Edwards in tonight's GLBT conversations on Logo, it is clear that at this point, at this time in history, with all the information that is out there, his position on gay marriage is unacceptable. Depressing. Mr. Edwards, you should expect better of yourself.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New York: Quickie Food Tour 2007

In a historic turn of events both T and J will be writing this entry. T is in italics.

A few weekends ago J and I went to see Wicked in New York (he gives great Christmas presents!). We stayed at the luxurious Benjamin Hotel, one of the best hotel experiences we’ve ever had. They have a pillow menu where you can choose hypoallergenic, magnetic(?), Japanese, full-body, memory foam, etc.. Not only that, we left several items in the fridge and they were kind enough to ship them to us. It’s expensive but well worth it and we had a major price break through

Given our limited time in New York, we ended up having to make the choice between doing food stuff or seeing another show in addition to Wicked. Well this IS a food blog. We have to thank the denizens of chowhound for their excellent advice. Every eatery we went to that was recommended by Chowhounders was a home run.

Late Night Dining, Friday Night

Sarge’s Deli

548 3rd Avenue
between 36th & 37th Sts.
New York, N. Y. 10016
(212) 679-0442
(877) SARGES1

By the time we arrived at Sarge’s Deli in Midtown, we had been traveling far too long by train, cab, and foot. Our Amtrak snack was wearing off and we were hungry.

The Scene: a cooler of pies, the expected celebrity photos (Soupy Sales, Jerry Springer, Jackie Mason), rows of knishes, and shrink-wrapped black and white cookies ready for us to enjoy. And enjoy we did.

Starting with the Chopped Liver Appetizer was a good choice. In a word, it was “fresh” tasting. Served just slightly cool with healthy tastes of onion, pepper, garlic, and of course chicken liver. To me, it tasted like New York. All in all, It was quite competently made, but we have been spoiled by the amazing chopped liver that Syprogyra’s Mom makes for Rootbeer’s Seder. The flavor was great but the texture was a bit too crumbly for me. Ms Gyra simply nails this.

Our waitress was hard, but attentive. She was alternately curious about how we were doing and somewhat dispassionate in general. It’s amazing how quickly we moved from being the residents of a popular tourist destination to being the somewhat gawking visitors. I felt like Bobby Hill, both because I loved the taste of the plate of organ meat before me, but also because I wanted to yell, “That's so New York!” It’s amazing that New York can make the residents of the nation’s capitol feel a bit like clueless rubes.

I don’t mean to imply that we were idiotic about the situation or that we are not in some sense comfortable and unobtrusive travelers, but I am certain that a few key observations would have given us away. That said, T has spent much more time in New York than I have and between his experience and my research, we charted a pretty good course for the weekend.

Sarge’s offers a platter with a couple of items that are new for us. Stuffed Derma and Kreplach sounded a bit to me like the spinoff of Dharma and Greg that never got off the ground. T asked Sharon ( I call her Sharon, but don’t know her name) just what Derma and Kreplach are.

Sharon explains that derma is some kind of a stuffed savory item and kreplach is a Jewish dumpling with shredded beef. The derma was like a thick mashed sweet potato (though made of carrots?) while the kreplach was kind of like a Jewish version of a potsticker. Crispy outside like a thick potsticker skin with a center of flavorful, finely shredded beef. These were served with a potato pancake that had an amazing texture that was crunchy, fluffy, and starchy all at the same time.

Pastrami Sandwich The Pastrami sandwich was positively architectural. In general, there wasn’t much to it. Whereas some of the other dishes brought a better flavor or texture than most we have had before, the pastrami was really just pastrami. 350 pounds of it and tasty, but just pastrami. If this was a pizza place, it might have been called the Triple meat deluxe.

Really though, I’m not sure that’s a criticism. It was what it was. The spicy mustard on the table certainly helped it along.

Saturday Morning

I really wanted to take J to the Lower East Side where the Hasidic Jewish community, the Asian Community and the Italian community come together. It’s in the process of gentrifying but still has crazy good food for nothing prices. The Lower East Side is a foodie dream.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

Doughnut Plant was our first morning stop. Just off Grand Ave ,it’s a place T had been before. I have not had a better doughnut. Ever. We were pacing ourselves so we shared just three. After a few bites, it was clear why so many in line were purchasing dozens.

The pastry was not too sweet, fresh, bready and had a great tooth-feel. Cold treats are often described as having a good “mouth feel,” so I figure “tooth feel” is fair game. Not too chewy, not too thick or thin, it just felt right.

Let’s break down the doughnut goodness for you.

The Valrhona Chocolate Doughnut was iced with a thin but opaque dark coating that sat on top of the pastry like a rich brown crown. It was friends with the pastry and neither forced the other one to take a leading role. This was doughnut and chocolate harmony.

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut was such a reasonable approach to such a concoction that I was grateful for whatever restraint the baker had shown. The reason I even comment is that it seems like making a peanut butter and jelly doughnut offers such an opportunity to go towards the sickeningly sticky and overly gloopy. I’ve made many a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was oozier and rarely one that tasted as good. It should be noted that Doughnut Plant's yeast doughnuts that are filled are square with a hole in the center. Every bite has some filling and the apricot jelly in this one was fabulous.

The Coconut Doughnut was what put Doughnut Plant over the top. I would describe it in elaborate and gushing detail, but I am not sure our readers could handle the extremity of my lusty praise. If you run an internet search of “’Doughnut Plant’ Coconut” you can read more about this wonderful concoction. We had the yeast-raised doughnut with coconut cream, glaze and coconut on top. Insane. I was giddy and walked out of Doughnut Plant a changed person.

I don't know if I was changed for the better, but I was changed for good.

And to wash it all down, a Blueberry Lemonade that was the best lemonade we had on the whole trip. New York was sticky and humid so there were several cups and the sugar overload in most was pretty ridiculous. I also am quite grossed out by powdered lemonade and its barrel o' chemicals taste.

The blueberries in Doughnut Plant's zingy cup of goodness gave this a robust antioxidant-filled kick and, though it was a bit pulpy, it was unique and refreshing. And no, Doughnut Plant does not ship as of yet, but I have to hope one day they will.

Dumpling House
118 Eldridge St
New York, NY 10002-4418
(212) 625-8008

“How do they do it?” We kept asking ourselves that question for the rest of the weekend. Dumpling House was a Chowhound recommendation and, again, a place T had been before. A very small alcove tucked right off of Broome Street, in the lower East side, this is a find.

I swear you could feed a small army there with twenty dollars. Not only are the dishes very affordable, they taste wonderful! We shared Sesame Noodles and a serving of Pork and Chive Dumplings.

And how much did this set us back? $3.50. That’s right. Less than five bucks for easily the best dumplings I have had and noodles that were hot, thick, and yummy. Of all the places we went, I am certain I would want to return here. There’s something about having affordable food done right and just hanging out slurping it up outside the walk-up window. How do they do it?

The sesame noodles were extraordinary. They had a lovely doughy texture that is indicative of fresh noodles. While the sesame sauce was nothing to write home about the noodles themselves were just spectacular. One thing about the Dumpling House, if you don’t speak some Chinese dialect, you will wait.

Economy Candy
108 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002
(800) 352-4544

A few people had recommended Economy Candy. Now neither of us are big candy people. (Not as in made of candy!) But places like this are pretty fun to visit. An assault of colors and memories and camp. There were gargantunoid Pez dispensers, foot-tall Chuppa pops, about twenty shapes and flavors of licorice bits, gummy everythings, and more.

I was most happy to see an old friend, Zotz. Zotz are a fizzy candy I used to pick up at the dime store after school or on a weekend bike ride when I was a kid. Intense flavor with a real zip and sizzle. The handful of apple Zotz I picked up have been fun!

We were also glad to find Sunkist Fruit Gems. We usually pick these up at Franklin’s General Store in Hyattsville, but have been without our fix since they have been renovating.

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery
138 Mott St
(between Grand St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-1541

This was good banh mi. I’d probably even go back, but the banh mi at Song Que in the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia is a bit tastier. Same goes for $1.50 banh mi in Toronto's Chinatown. We opted for the pork and the vegetarian and took them home for dinner. Perhaps there was a quality loss in the carting around but there was hardly enough pork on the pork sandwich to get a real taste for it, and the vegetarian version ended up rather sloppy. This did provide us with the banh mi fix we wanted, but I’d enjoy less bread next time. I wasn’t crazy about this place. It was a competently made sandwich but I measure all sandwiches by the Lee’s Sandwich chain and this wasn’t even close.

Saturday Afternoon

Saturday afternoon was one of those wander around traveling experiences you dream of. We walked north looking for a cab and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of Little Italy. I know it’s all touristified but damn if they didn’t have Italian Ice that hit the spot. J had the lemon and I had the pineapple. I do love that it’s such a pedestrian area.

408 Broome Street
(between Centre St & Cleveland Pl)
New York City, NY 10013
(212) 219-5050

In the ultimate food traveler story, we wandered north of Little Italy desperate for a cab to Chelsea Market and I happened to see the red sign for Despana Spanish market. This gleaming, Williams Sonoma style market called out to me to come in. How could I resist the big hunk o’ prosciutto being sliced thinly by hand in the window? Despite our exhaustion, this excursion was well worth it. They had samples everywhere of cheese, olive oil, vinegar, and cured meats. It was all delicious and the friendly people behind the counter beckoned me to try (and buy) everything. My biggest regret is not buying the paprika-flavored goat cheese, but I was afraid it wouldn’t keep. We did end up getting a delicious and reasonably-priced sherry vinegar (I’ve been looking for that for ages), some prosciutto, and the best chorizo I’ve have ever put into my mouth. Rather than being bright red, this chorizo was a dark brown and had a sweeter, muskier flavor.

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
(Between 15th and 16th Streets)
New York, NY

Chelsea Market is one of those famed New York culinary food destinations that we were excited to visit. After a long day of walking around, it may have been slightly less amazing tan we were expecting. Shops for kitchen wares, cookies and cupcakes, seafood, bread and baked goods, gourmet gift basket items, Italian specialty foods, and more.

The one shop we found totally absurd was Eleni's Cookies. Don't get me wrong, the place was terribly cute. Colored icings and fancy frilly things abound, but for goodness sakes, the cookie prices were hilarious. Over $50 for a dozen assorted decorated cookies. Come on. Are they adorable, labor-intensive, and beautifully made? Yes. But even on a food adventure, we have our limits.

I was also sad the the perfectly decorated chocolate cupcake I had was sub par. The buttercream frosting was good and the portion was generous, but the cake itself was dry. I would suggest they try using Ina Garten's chocolate ganache cake recipe, or something?

The Lobster Place, was a feast for the eyes. According to their site, they are "New York City’s largest purveyor of live lobster, selling over 1,000,000 pounds . . . year." We're talking stunning and gorgeous fish. Tuna was a deep jewel-toned purplish red, healthy looking cuts of salmon, and lobster everywhere. We were simply too full to eat anything here, but I know we will go back. And yes, it was pricey as well, but truly stunning.

Bread choices at Amy’s Bread were tasty. I can't say this is the best bakery I have ever been to, but the olive loaf, wheat bread, and pound cake we bought for home have been quite enjoyable. The Amy's staff were bright and friendly and helpful. I always think it's funny when people talk about folks in New York being rude or sharp. Sure, that happens, but the people we dealt with had great customer service skills.

Buon Italia
is a fabulous Italian market that was a lot of fun to explore. I must admit that we were truly running out of steam by this time so we were becoming less and less curious about discovering new and delicious treats. But then . . .

I found it. Pocket Coffee. Are you kidding me!? I've been looking for Pocket Coffee for at least a year. The manufacturer will not ship it during the summer because they say it will melt in the heat. Pocket Coffee, for me, is the Holy Grail of Italian novelty candy. And I found some. And I loved it. And it loved me. And we were happy.

And I left it at the hotel. All of it except the three pieces I had enjoyed. My sweet espresso filled thin pralines covered in chocolate. I am still heartbroken.

A quick interlude here to say that we truly enjoyed Wicked. The acting was first rate and the singers did a fabulous job. I have only seen the show once, but the leads, Lisa Brescia and Kendra Kassebaum were incredibly compelling and I was moved by their performances. The characters were incredibly real and the choices the actors made helped build a very natural and realistic story in spite of flying monkeys and absurdist dance numbers.

Late Saturday Night

Morningstar Café
949 2nd Ave
(between 50th St & 51st St)
New York, NY 10022
(212) 588-1050

We really did not focus much on the food because the conversation at the next table kept creeping our way. Morningstar Café was right by the hotel and two gentlemen in hats were having an intense conversation about a documentary about ping-pong. Table tennis. If we were in the South I might have poked my head over the booth and offered that I would really enjoy a documentary about ping pong and they should go for it. I would even offer to be on their street team!

I had pancakes and eggs. Tasted great, filled me up. Service was courteous and attentive. That was all I needed. T had the liver and liked it too.

Sunday Morning

831 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-980-1010

What a fitting way to end a trip to New York. It seems there are a million opinions about where the best bagels are, but I can tell you that I have yet to have one anywhere close to Ess-A-Bagel. We arrived to a medium-sized line and separated. T went to the sandwich ordering line and I went over to the bagels by the dozen line. When I ordered my bagels to take home on the train, the man behind the counter said it would be a minute because the bagels were on their way out of the oven. A few minutes later he popped a baker's dozen of piping hot goodness into my bag.

I enjoyed an everything bagel with lox and red onion while T had a chopped liver sandwich. We read the New York Times, drank orange juice and felt like we were home.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A little navel gazing

Wow, check out this article about online food reviews. While the two of us at DCfoodblog are intermittent food reviewers, we do take review much more seriously than we do the other posts that we do. After all this is someone's livelihood.

I really like how even handed the article is. The tenor of the article, which is the push-pull of having non-Food critics do food reviews is really fascinating. It's about the broader issue of those of us as consumers being a little savvy about the information we take it. J and I use both yelp and chowhound religiously. In our past trip to New York, every eating establishment we went to was recommended by a yelper or chowhounder. While we wouldn't depend on any one critic, the consensus is really valuable to see whether a food place is worth going to. I think of non-food critic opinions as snapshots while I think of a food critic's review as a painting. Food critic will take the time to capture the dining experience in its totality. They will research and eat multiple times and consult. BUT having the chorus of opinions is really valuable to see if a consensus occurs and to see SPECIFIC experiences.

I think that the restaurateur who actively engaged with his critics really has the right attitude. No one critic should have their reviews taken as gospel. But the feedback is really invaluable to making a better dining experience. In the end, I don't think there's a conflict. In fact, I think us in the blogosphere really build the audience for the pros. A lot of the people who J and I know, read tom Sietsema's reviews and chats religiously. They appreciate his thorough expertise even in the cases they don't agree with his actual opinion. Most of the food bloggers we know are voracious readers of food periodicals, watchers of the Food Network, and buyers of food books like Ruth Reichl's or Julia Child's memoirs. The fact that we can extend the conversation into our blogs is a good thing.