Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I realize that i really don't have a Thanksgiving routine. Sometimes I fly out to California to spend time with family. Sometimes I stay in DC and J and I host. This year, J was visiting a friend in Asheville and I was lucky enough to be invited to Scotte's. What did we eat? Take a look here.

I had a great time. It was kind of a blogger Thanksgiving with three other bloggers at Scott and Jason's. Like Scott and Jason, their friends are really delightful. Scott put together little cards for everyone asking them an interesting question to provoke conversation. I, however, am the conversation killer where I got the "what's one restaurant you want to go to before you die?" And I responded, "French Laundry. Period." In between courses we watched Ratatouille and Sordid Lives, a totally hilarious indie movie about over the top personalities in a small Texas town.

The tasting menu consisted of a warm lentil salad (which I came too late for), a sage and onion tart, and a butternut squash and apple soup. I absolutely adored the sage and onion tart. Usually I avoid sage as I think it just has a musty flavor but here it complimented the onion and balsamic vinegar. The actual meal was traditional and best in class, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and the light for me, collard greens. They were made with smoked turkey wings and tasted absolutely wonderful. There was a good balance of the smoke and salt in the collards.

I am immensely impressed by how completely organized Scott and Jason are in their cooking. The kitchen was spotless and the food came out piping hot. They managed to have enough refrigerator space to brine their turkey and seemed to clean up and get plates out without a dishwasher! They were a well-oiled machine! Contrary to what Scott thinks, he did carve the turkey expertly.

Thanks to the two of you for a delightful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for bloggers!

Finally, the week before Thanksgiving marks the 8th year that J and I have been together. EIGHT YEARS! Wooo!!!!! Thanks J. It's been the best eight years of my life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Love, life, family, friends, spirit, senses, humor, expression,
Experience, perspective, reflection, flexibility, education,
Motion, narrative, story, history, truth, knowledge,
Light, color, shape, texture.

Performers, teachers, chefs, artists, writers, thinkers,
Farmers, workers, activists, organizers,
Volunteers, immigrants.

Appreciation evolved beyond tolerance,
simplicity with knowledge of complexity,
self-preservation with love for community,
consciousness married to critical thinking,
creativity without shame.

A swirling kitchen
A house full
A host

Outsider perspective
Feminist thought

The wild mind in whirl
Speaking with voice
Striving gently
Healthy silence



p.s. And for today. Those who grew or raised the food we eat. Those who cooked it. Those who engaged and made warmth with one another at the table and those who had not found much to do who got up before anyone else and got going on the dishes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's next? Fashion Week? Feng Shui Classes at Zengo

I think we've graduated from the blogging farm team to the blogging minor leagues. We went to a press event for Zengo restaurant in Chinatown where the press (that's us - HAH!) participated in a cooking Feng Shui class.

I was hoping we'd rearrange some furniture and put in a koi pond, but it was a class to talk about feng shui in cooking and drinking. The feng shui press event was to introduce their monthly cooking and mixology classes. Starting January, Zengo will be having classes the last Monday of every month.

We figure we were asked because Zengo was on our list of places to try. Not really sure why, but we decided to give it a shot. We've been asked to promote a few places in the past several months and might have done so if we had been to the place, but we've tried to have the blog be a bit more about our experiences and how we've enjoyed food here, there, and everywhere.

So we had never been to Zengo. From the outside it looked like a bar but once we got inside it was a sleek, sexy, hip eatery. If the food matched the decor, that was in reds and rusts, then this would be a place wed come back and pay for a meal. We've never been to a press event for anything sexy before. We've been to press events for the introduction or passage of a bill or the opening of a community center. But at a hip restaurant?

We came fairly late and sat at the table with the representatives from the Herradura Tequila U.S. distributors. Herradura Silver is a top shelf tequila (bring a ladder) that J was familiar with before the event. (Texas will do that to you).

Part of the class would be margarita making, using Herradura tequila. While T is more of a rum person, good liquor is good liquor. And you know, we really enjoyed it.

We came to the table and there were lobster potstickers and edamame waiting for us. The potstickers were divine, although T did think the sweetness of the lobster wasn't allowed to shine in this dish. What did make the dish was the wasabi plum sauce. One would think that the sweetness of the plum sauce would fight with the sharp salty flavor of the wasabi but they really worked together. The wasabi gave what would be a syrupy sweet sauce a nice tang and heat.

Next up, we met Ms. Claudia, the totally awesome beverage director for the restaurant group that Zengo is a part of. Think a warm Celine Dion crossed with an Almodavarian party hostess. She beckoned us to order a drink. With such yummy tequila on hand we had to start with margaritas. And OH MY GOD. They were mindblowing. The margarita was smooth. Really smooth.

As described by our tablemates, traditional margaritas in Mexico are tequila and lime juice. Period. Sometimes with a bit more of this and that, but often not. With a really great tequila I can see how this would be possible. We had more fun with Claudia as she talked to us about her role as beverage director, developing beverages for each of the restaurants in the Modern Mexican Restaurant Group.

Before the actual class starts, we order another round of drinks, a margarita for J and a mango mojito for T. And once again. OH MY GOD. If there was ever a drink for T, this was it. It was sweet and sharp. The mango worked organically with the flavors of the lime as opposed to being a kitschy add-in. Someone's been feng shui-ing their drinks.

We were then given Kobe Beef gyoza dumplings before starting the actual learning. These were truly exceptional. The beef was tender and flavorful and the black vinegar soy sauce cut through the rich and savory flavor of the beef. Well done.

We learned from Claudia, now our favorite gregarious, badass, amazon mixologist, that she wouldn't really advise making a big pitcher of margaritas to lay around unless the goal is to just get drunk. You make it fresh -- as we were about to do. The most important part is that you don't leave the ice laying around. It needs to be separate and mixed in at the last minute. We learned how silver tequila won't fight with the juice, that cocktail measurements can be as vital as baking measurements, and more. We got to use jiggers and shakers (a great name for a girly bar) and while J made his perfectly and got a stamp of approval from Claudia, T was not so lucky, but then again T is a rum man.

After the drink class, which continued for J as he was making the drinks for some of our new friends, we were joined by a few pro journalists. An editor at DC magazine and a travel writer for USA Today. In a entry rife with exclamation points, this is taking the cake. We were hitting with the big boys and girls. Not some of the big foodie names, the marketing people told us that reviewers didn't go to these things. We also learned that we were the only bloggers at the event. Surreal considering how much we love to read some of our more popular DC foodie blogs. We may have been the only ones to say yes?

But really, whoever thought that we would be at a press event with real journalists? It was surreal. It's not really what we have been going for and probably not where we are headed, but it was very fun to step into another world for a while.

OK, back to the food: Before the sushi-making part of the class we tried Zengo's raw hamachi with cucumber and shiso on a Chinese soup spoon. It had a bright, clean flavor. Delicious.

But this was overshadowed by the Arepas Vegetariano, cornmeal cakes with shitake mushrooms cooked in what tasted like hoisin with avocado and crema. These were just divine and gave the Asian influenced meal a nice heartiness. Like the margaritas, we really wanted more. We will definitely look for these when we go back to Zengo.

The sushi making class affirmed why you leave that stuff up to the professionals. The chef de cusine deftly prepared a huge slab of sushi-grade ahi tuna for the sushi demonstration. In about ten minutes he made a perfect tuna roll garnished with a sesame-chipotle rouille. The chipotle was a nice addition to the sushi, adding a wasabi-like spice with a nice amount of smokiness.

T had to wait a while to try my hand at the sushi making since only one station was set up at first. The excellent Zengo staff noticed that there was a like of guests waiting to make sushi and set up three more stations. Unfortunately, the chef de cuisine could only focus on one person at a time. T was able to get my sushi to look like a nicely shaped log but completely fell apart when Y tried cutting the log into bite-sized pieces. A little more instruction would have helped but there were quite a few people at the sushi-making station. Luckily, however messy his sushi looked, it tasted absolutely wonderful.

While we would have liked to try our hand at some more mixology, T had to leave for Cleveland the next day so we ended our evening with the warm goodbyes from the Zengo staff. As an added bonus we got a bag of swag which included a nice cocktail shaker. To those of you who are real food writers, is it always like this? While neither of us are writing this blog to be online celebrities, it's fun to have an evening where we're treated like rockstars.

Fried Pies!

Ok. I just had a moment of inspiration. The Thanksgiving meal that I am going to is probably going to be utterly mindblowing and elegant. Seriously, it has a TASTING menu. No event I have ever thrown has had a tasting menu.

Along with my pear tart tatin, I will be making.... FRIED PIES!

This is straight out of the Paula Deen playbook (or should I say cook book). I am rolling out canned biscuit dough with a premade (by me!) apple pie filling. With fried pies, because the cooking time is so fast, you need to precook the filling. When I've done it in the past, I've made a half recipe of pie filling (four apples, 1/4 cup of cranberries) and sauteed the mixture in a shallow pan for about 5 minutes until the apples have soften and the flour in the mixture has thickened the juices. After that, put about two tablespoons of the mixture in a biscuit that's been rolled to 1/4 inch thick; fold the dough over the filling and crimp with a fork. Fry in 2 inches of regular vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Looking for a Thanksgiving side dish and dessert?

yes I have scored an invite to an awesome Thanksgiving meal from an awesome fellow blogger. I think I will make a small turkey the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to have a turkey to pick on for the rest of the weekend. As written in the invite, what the host would appreciate is desserts and wine. I do have a lovely Riesling from my Virginia winery trip earlier this fall so I have that covered. But I also need to MAKE something. I am thinking of doing two desserts - my old standby, the ever beloved apple crostada with a creme anglaise and a pear tart glazed with a cardamom syrup and a nice sliced og Gorgonzola on the side. You see last Thanksgiving when J and I hosted, he made baklava and I made a griddle cakes with pears and Gorgonzola. In a Reese's Peanut butter Cup moment, we dipped the extra pear in the cardamom syrup from the baklava and topped it with Gorgonzola and a little slice of heaven was made. So I have to try my hand at recreate those flavors as a dessert. I was thinking of using the pear tart tatin recipe and tossing the pears in cardamom. What do you all think?

This Monday, J and I made the perfect fall meal. A tatsoi salad with homemade pickled onions (sugar, salt, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar), a quinoa pilaf that was cooked with shitake and porcini mushrooms, and a fall vegetable mash. The pilaf was good but needed a boost of flavor. Call me a philistine but I don't get the hoo hah over procini mushrooms. The soaking liquid made a good broth base but the mushrooms themselves were bland. The mash on the other hand was spectacular. We had cauliflower, turnips, and yukon gold potatoes from the farm so I boiled them all in salted water, put the cauliflower and turnips in the food processor and then mashed the potatoes by hand. I put stirred them together with more salt, olive oil and butter. And surprisingly, no milk or cream. Unlike regular mashed potatoes, the cauliflower and turnips makes it easy to reheat on the stovetop.

I am eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving, given that I don't have to clean!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Have I told you all how much I adore Fine Cooking magazine? It's totally expensive at $6.95 an issue but J got me a subscription for my birthday I've been reading it before I go to bed every night. Fine cooking combines the great photography with Cook's Illustrated-style of tips. The layout is really clear and readable with nice food pron shots. They go into ingredients, cuisines and techniques in depth. Throughout the issue there are themes where advice and tips are given.

So in my issue, there's tips on putting together a cheeseboard. Another section has readers write in to give their own tips such as using an ice cream scoop to scoop out the flesh of butternut squash. The highlight of the holiday issue for me was making crispy potato pancakes. The instructions were very clear and they are really good about emphasizing directives that make or break a dish, including using starchy potatoes, grating potatoes in a food processor, and frying only a few in a pan.

So here's the receipe J an I made (a double batch!)

Honey Almond Granola

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup of oat bran
2 cups who almonds, coarsely chopped (sliced almonds work great)
1 cup nonfot dry milk powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract (I used amaretto)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins (or dried cranberries or chopped dates - optional)

Position racks in the upprt and lower thirds of theo ven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the oats, oat bran, and almonds. In a smaller bowl whisk the dry milk powder, oil, honey, vanilla, almond flavoring, and salt. Pour the mixture (it will be gloppy) over the oats and stir.

Divide the mixture between two oiled baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, stir granola, and switch the positions of the pans. Bake until oats are golden brown and the almonds look well toasted, another 10 to 20 minutes, don't overcook. The oats may feel soft but will crisp as they cool. Let cool completely in the pans. When completely cool, stir in raisins, if using.

REALLY useful tips

* Spread the granola in a single layer on the baking sheet for even toasting

* Don't bake granola in a hot oven until completely crisp or it will tasted burned. It should come out a little soft and wilm firm as it cools.

*For added crispness in the granola, turn off oven, leave the door ajar, and let the granola cool in the oven.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Celebrating 100,000 Visits: DC Food Blogging Nominations

How cool is that. When we started this little blog, it was really just a way to track recipes and restaurants. I think it's also ended up as a semi-focused chronicle of other parts of our lives, but we've stayed mostly engaged with food, cooking, and dining. Since we started, we've enjoyed learning more about local restaurants and cooking from nearby farms, enjoyed being part of the DC food blogging community, and made some new friends along the way.

We've also enjoyed savoring the experience of cooking and dining in a more deliberate way.

It's also exposed us to some talented and interesting food writers and food writing. We've both enjoyed the Holly Hughes collections of the Best Food Writing, all of Ruth Reichl's books, and our local favorites: Tom Sietsema, Don Rockwell, Todd Kliman and all those amateur and semi-pro blogging and message board folks who take the time to consider their meals.

All that said, we're happy to announce our first annual poll of our readers. Please email us your nominations in the following categories:

Favorite Food Blog (any area)
Favorite Food Blog (DC area)
Best Recipe Blog
Best Food Photo on a DC Blog
Best Food Story in the DC Press
Best Restaurant Website
You Name it Category: Best _____________________

We'll take entries up until November 25th. After that, we'll pull some results together and share. One lucky person who sends a nomination will receive a prize as will the winner of the Favorite Food Blog (DC area)

Send your nominations via email to, not in the comments (though comments are welcome. We'll compile and release the nominations by December 1.

The basic rules: We're not so fancy here so rules seem kind of limiting. You can nominate in just one category or all. Thanks to those we've heard from so far. And yes, you can totally nominate yourself, your friend's blog or photo, etc. No nominations for us (thanks).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Off Topic - The Mushu Alarm Clock

I've had this story in me for ages. Well, since 1997, when it, you know, happened to me. It's a story of love, loss and Kelly Taylor-ish "I choose me."

So ten years ago I was unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend of 2 years, The Red. The last three months of this long-distance relationship were seriously beating a dead horse even though I didn't want to admit it. I was doing so much reassuring to The Red that he was a good boyfriend that I forgot about myself. When I tried to articulate my needs, it came out in crazy ways because, at age 25, I didn't have a handle on who I was and what I wanted. It was quite the rollercoaster being accommodating and demanding at the same time. I certainly didn't have my emotional act together. The crazy (at least on my side) came to a head at his high school reunion where, faced with a situation that was in no way, shape or form about me, I turned into a churlish ball of resentment. This resulted in a 5 hour fight before the reunion. Then AT the reunion, I gathered all the other resentful significant others and herded them to the hotel bar where we all refused to leave said bar and actually be part of the reunion. Which goes to show that I am a natural born community organizer.

In the end it was a classic situation of the more he pulled away, the tighter I held on. I wanted to fight for all the things that were good about us and it hurt the bejeezus out of me that the person on the other end wasn't willing to fight for something that was so precious. I didn't realize how much I was apologizing for myself, apologizing for WANTING to be with him, like it was some crazy ass burden that he had to carry. So he ended it. Looking back, that was the right think to do. We were both bringing the crazy by the bucketload and didn't know how to stop.

That shook me to my core. It made me question my worth. Whether I was worth fighting for and whether I could EVER be in a relationship if I couldn't make that one work. (Thank god that didn't come to fruition - Thanks J!!!)

I had a friend Tom, who I had lunch with weekly to dish over our love lives. We had this fear that only one of us could be in a functional relationship at a time and we monitored our love lives in great detail during these lunches. So about two weeks after the breakup, I had my weekly lunch with Tom and he hands over a box. In the box was an alarm clock in the shape of Mushu the dragon from Mulan. It was my favorite movie and I watched in four or five times that summer. Tom saved ten box cereal box tops to get me the dragon alarm clock.

And then I got it. I got it that I was worth having someone think of me enough to send ten box tops to General Mills to be redeemed for a plastic alarm clock. This is what friends do. They see you and they know you and they think of you. The silly inconsequential things that mean a lot to you are also important to your friends. To Tom, I was worthy of being cared for, considered, and respected. That alarm clock was the first huge step in healing from the breakup. It was a tangible reminder about my own worth as a person.

Here's the thing folks, don't settle for less than your friends. We all deserve a significant other who wants to be with us. Who celebrates all of the weird and goofy things about us. We deserve someone who makes a place for us in their lives and knows that place is a cherished gift we give each other and not an obligation.

In short, we deserve someone who will save ten box tops to get us a plastic dragon alarm clock.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Restaurants we want to try, and some to remember

In high school, we were allowed to leave campus for lunch. The goal was to get out and to the restaurant as quickly as possible. Have your books for your next class with you. No locker stops. No bathroom stops. No last minute grabbing of too many more people. Just git!

Inevitably, we'd get in the car and start the dance about where to go. Where could we go for $5? $7? Subs n' Stuff? The Chinese buffet our friend's Japanese parents owned? The burger joint our Chinese friend's parents owned? Pizza Buffet? A daring trek to the Olive Garden or all the way across town to the sandwich shop frequented almost exclusively by fro-yo loving real estate ladies and the mom's of kids who went to the rival high school?

And there was often a lot of back and forth. And I always wanted a list. Well, I wanted two lists. One for places we hadn't tried and one for places we went to but really liked and were workable for lunch.

Now I find myself in a similar situation. After a long day at work, when we're not really wanting to cook, sometimes we are too brain-dead or addled to come up with workable ideas of where to go for dinner. We tend to fall back on favorites, and that's fine, but I think keeping a list around to jog our thoughts is a good idea.

This list is not about my favorite restaurants, or the most practical for dinner. Not so many high end places on here either and there is a greater representation of places we don't mind driving to and parking at. And of course, some places simply closer to work or home.

I was most surprised writing the list of places I haven't been. We have some work to do.

My Restaurant Reminder List

2 Amy’s
Addis Ababa
Afghan Grill
Alamo Restaurant
Ban Cuon Saigon Restaurant
Bistro Italiano
Busboys and Poets (VA)
Dairy Godmother
El Tapatio
Han Sung Oak
Hollywood East Café on the Boulevard
Huong Viet
Lebanese Taverna
Los Tios
Majestic Café
Mark’s Kitchen
Mr. Henry’s
Myoung Dong (“Oriental Noodles”)
Pacific Cafe
Parkway Deli
Pasta Plus
Pete’s Diner
Pho Hiep Hoa
Pho VN One
Plato’s Diner
Saravana Palace
Sorak Garden
Taqueria Tres Reyes
The Old Siam
The Ugly Mug
Viet Bistro
Whole Foods

50 Places I Need to Visit for the First Time

Bangkok 54
Bebo Trattoria
Bob’s Noodle 66
Colorado Kitchen
Costa Alegre
Cuba de Ayer
Del Merei Grill
Dixie Bones
Eat First
El Charrito Caminante
Pollo Campero
Faidley’s (Baltimore)
Farrah Olivia
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Ill Mee Buffet
Italian Inn
Joe’s Noodle House
La Sirenita
Mark’s Duck House
Mi Rancho
Mitsitam Cafe
Ray’s The Classics
Ruan Thai
Saigon Café
South Street Steaks
Sunflower Vegetarian
Tabard Inn
Taqueria Distrito Federal
Taqueria Nacionale
Thai Square
Thanh Son Tofu