Friday, February 29, 2008

Chinese New Year: Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard

In a totally spur of the moment thing, our friend Pauline proposed getting together for a Chinese New Year's activity. This is the year of the rat, the year that Pauline, J and I were born. Hopefully that means something lucky will happen this year. Actually the meal in itself was lucky. A perfect Lunar New Year banquet with lion dancers, food, and red envelopes.

So the Saturday of Chinese New Year week, six of us decided to go to Hollywood East (which I lobbied hard for) to do a white elephant red envelope exchange. We've said how much we adore Hollywood East in Wheaton. Their dim sum is totally the best in the city and their dinner menu keeps up the quality. With the exception of the mayonnaise-laden honey walnut shrimp, every dish is well flavored without being overly sweet and syrupy. The service is friendly (if a bit slow). Surprisingly (especially during dim sum), there isn't a huge wait.

In a bit of luck, Hollywood East was having Lunar New Year's entertainment that night as well. In a happy bit of luck, we came in on the tail end of the lion dance. We waited in the vestibule and got to see the dance without having it disrupt our meal. As a nice touch, the lion dancers did a little dance on the street for those folks who were just arriving.

We started off with tea and the gift exchange. J and I gave lottery tickets (as they could fit in a red envelope). Our friend L also gave lottery tickets but her boyfriend J 2.0 put together a gourmet Chinese take out box with little chocolates and goodies from World Market. J 2.0 is so Martha! Rootbeer gave a gift card from Whole Foods and Pauline gave a rather naughty red envelope stuffer. Going all out, Pauline gave us all little Asian ceramic cats from the Sackler gallery gift shop. They are kind of the precursor to Hello Kitty.

And then the eating began. We ordered four appetizers - won tons, har gow, shu mai, and potstickers. While the won tons were very crab rangoonish, the dim sum style dumplings were their usual high quality. One thing about the shrimp dumplings is that they don't puree their shrimp until it becomes a paste, the taste and texture of chunks of shrimp in the shrimp filling is a really thoughtful and delicious touch.

And then came the entrees. Each of us ordered one and the dishes came from the land, sea, and air. All were wonderful. The surprise of the evening was the seafood pan fried noodle. It came out looking a bit disappointing. The array of shrimp, fish, and squid with vegetables over rice stick noodles with a clear sauce. It looked like boring city but the dish actually had a lot of flavor and the sauce was neither tasteless nor overpowering. The standouts in our six-entree meal were the crispy beef, a wonderfully light take on a General Tso's beef with a lovely sauce that didn't have a speck on cornstarch (YAY!), and the chicken with garlic sauce, a New Year's special that was spicy and earthy at the same time.

I can never come to Holly East for dinner without ordering the steamed ling fish. I discovered this dish when I took my parents and my cousins Amanda and Madeleine to Hollywood East. Both Amanda and Madeleine are foodies in their own right and Amanda asked for whole rockfish with ginger and scallions (a dish they don't have). Our server suggested the ling fish and it was a perfect choice. The ling fish is moist and tender with a very seabass texture. It was cooked with the lightest of touches, steamed with ginger, scallions, and garlic with a hint of sesame oil and soy. The flavors were subtle but profound.

And the bill with six dishes, hot tea, and four appetizers came out to $21 INCLUDING tip. It was a night of much joy and a bit of luck!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Books and Crackers: A New Blog

Hello friends,

Have a look at my friend's new blog, Books and Crackers. If you read books and like crackers this is the place for you.

If you don't read, I'm wondering how you are following along here.

Crackers? Well, that's another story.

As for me, my favorite crackers come from Cheesetique in Del Ray. Peppery and yummy. I'll need to get some more to give you the name.

Xanadu Interlude

While we work on the next post, I thought you might want some Xana . . .du.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Obama/Clinton Struggle: Thanks

Thanks for the emails about the Obama/Clinton post. We love having this be a food blog, but sometimes it is something different. To the Clinton folks who emailed with supportive comments, that is so cool. I get that we ended up in different places, but the dialogue has been civil and mutually supportive. Not that any of us require that, but I enjoy it. We're taking the White House and building a Democratic spine at the same time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Complicated Road A Vote and a Note for Obama

After an incredible amount of thinking, research, conversation and fret, I cast my vote for Obama today. I sank inside a bit.

My hope was less audacious than I would have liked. I voted for a man who gave a speaking opportunity to someone who thinks a part of me that I love and cherish is something to be healed. That man, Donnie McClurkin, globalized his homophobia and now preaches that we all have the opportunity he thinks he took, to be delivered from homosexuality.

And I listen to Obama, who said he does not agree with McClurkin, speak of hope. Speak eloquently of hope, and I cannot help but feel used to gain votes from more conservative Southerners.

Senator Obama, I want to be cheering and excited and on the wagon. I want to be behind this candidacy full on. I have some time on my hands due to a job change. I want to volunteer and engage and shake hands, and use my considerable skills to help bring change to this country.

And I'm struggling terribly with it.

And for the record, Mr. McClurkin, I don't want to be delivered from my relationship of 9 years that is full of a more Audacious Hope than Barack Obama could possibly speak of while he allows you his pulpit to throw me under the bus.

McClurkin's message creates silence, self-loathing, and encourages anxiety, fear, and hatred. That silence keeps people in the closet, slows access to information about sexuality that young men and women need. And I expect better from Obama, from my leaders, and better from any Democrat so boldly proclaiming he will bring us together.

And to explain it as dialogue with those who are different? Try that with the known racist, the known woman-hater. I still feel completely thrown under the bus. It makes me doubt Obama's commitment to unity. It makes me question the audacity of his hope, his political courage.

It makes me feel like his foot is crushing my neck while he stands on the stage. And I can't be part of the celebration of all these wonderful ideas when you say my marriage is not worthy, that listening to others opinions is a good idea here.

Speaking in front of other audiences and disavowing hatred against gays is great, but handing the haters the microphone is deplorable.

Toni Morrison speaks of Obama as “someone whose moral center [is] un-embargoed.” Really? When you dance with McClurkin in the name of educating people about the other side, I would say this is a significant embargo on your moral center.

It’s hurtful to Americans and Obama should apologize for having McClurkin on the microphone and should do so while having his picture taken with Gavin Newsom.

To be fair:

I think I would have sunk inside if I voted for Clinton as well. Someone who, like Obama takes the position that my marriage is unequal to hers. Someone well acquainted with struggles for dignity and humanity but who would only repeal part of the Defense of Marriage Act (Obama, as a plus, would repeal it all).

Someone who voted for a war so many of us knew was preemptive, wrongheaded, and full of opportunities for greed and a misuse of patriotism, a great misuse of our resources and our military.

It is not about finding the perfect candidate. My struggle is with supporting people who deny my humanity. Who say I am less worthy than they are. Who use policy and political tactics to separate me from others. And one who made war possible when we need peace. I hate it.

Obama and Clinton should be grateful that I can still remind myself that my party offers the best opportunities for women, for people of color, for education, for gays and lesbians, and for a healthy economy.

We are more likely to get our soldiers out of Iraq, to sensibly reform and fund No Child Left Behind, and to invest in a green economy. We may very well offer the best opportunity to save Darfur, to encourage peace, and to create opportunities for Fair Trade. To insure the uninsured, to fix our crumbling infrastructure, and to install Supreme Court Justices who are wise and invested in our civil rights and liberties.

I can't help but think I had to make a tough decision today while, at the same time, being excited about the end of the Bush reign.

Even Republicans are understanding what an incredible failure this man has been. Our country, and yes, even Republicans, can do so much better.

For me, a classic undecided Dem for weeks, the decision to vote for Obama came down to a few key factors:

1. We need the strongest contrast to McCain's hawkishness on the war. I reject the thought that Obama is some peace savior here. He has been voting for continuing the war funding and could have been more courageous in his votes. But Hillary Clinton trusted the wrong guy. This is where a healthy partisanship might have helped. Block anything that could come close to authorizing force. Obama looks better against McCain and that matters.

2. I think she would be more effective at ending the war, at patching things up abroad, and getting the right people in place to re-imagine diplomacy. But, I think it is a real roll of the dice to say she can win against McCain. I trust that the people surrounding Obama will work with him to make good choices. I hope she is one of those people.

3. The mobilized, grassroots operation that Obama has is working and reflects Dean's 50 state strategy. An energized electorate matters and Democrats are coming in with record turnouts.

4. The downline Democratic candidates around the country need to ride in on something. The freshness of someone less known but popular will help Democrats in red states in a way that I do not think Hillary Clinton could. She is too known, overexposed, too discussed.

Here is a bit of my thinking before I cast my vote. I take notes on such things:

Neither candidate is a slam-dunk for me.

I will support the Democratic candidate in the general.

I am more interested in what someone says they will do and how they will do it than big ideas writ large.

I believe the country is partisan and divided and that common ground can be useful provided we are not finding it at the expense of the poor and the disenfranchised. Similarly, I think our candidate should be a Democrat first, rest assured their candidate will be a Republican and rushing to the middle ground will not be high on their agenda.

I believe corporate interests have too much power and control and that this has diluted the influence of citizens.

I believe the war in Iraq was wrong and that anyone who knew Bush should have known that. We invaded a country that has nothing to do with 9/11 and spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives and I'm sickened by the thought that anyone could think Bush was going to do this on the up and up.

I do not believe all opinions are equal. I can respect a difference, while taking a stand. But that does not mean I favor consensus, especially when it relates to dignity and equal opportunity and the horrific ways the right has demonized gays, women, and others. When Obama consistently talks about uniting the country and even says he respects the views of those who feel differently than he does on gay rights, I am angered. When he says he wants to end the partisan bickering in Washington, I want to know what he will say when the right goes after a woman's right to choose, fails to sign Kyoto, creates insane corporate loopholes, devises anti-child legislation that is harmful to education, and more. We bickered over FEMA royally screwing New Orleans. We bickered over parental notification. Many Democrats bickered over Iraq. I want to hear that you will fight.

I don’t believe Clinton has cornered the market on being a target of right wing propaganda and intense, distracting media-absorbing insanity. These people are working on Obama already. I’m certainly not going to let these tools of distraction have anything to do with my vote, but I think it is naive to say Clinton would be more of a distraction.

I’m a Democrat, a liberal, and I believe in progressive values.

I believe Hillary Clinton is sharper on policy, more issue-focused, incredibly intelligent, and astoundingly capable. I respect her experience and dedication fighting for children and families. I am grateful for her initial attempt to take on health care reform and think the current campaign would not be featuring this very important issue had it not been for Clinton taking some major hits during the Bill Clinton years. I respect her knowledge and foreign policy experience.

I believe Barack Obama is more tested than people give him credit for and less verbal about his policy knowledge than many of us would like. I think he is incredibly intelligent, a savvy campaigner, and an inspiring force. I believe he has surrounded himself with more progressive advisors. I think he will bring new people into the government and that we need that. I am excited that we have someone running with a community organizing background. No Republican has been out there trying to help working families and Obama's work here is inspiring.

Hillary’s likability is irrelevant to me. Too often, it has seemed like people throw the likability statement around with little reason. I am certain that some do feel that they do not like her, but for me, it’s not an issue. I will not be having beer with the President any time soon. I will not be going to dinner with them. And I absolutely do not need the President to be like me. I think our leaders need to be well read, incredibly policy-savvy, with a detailed and critical understanding of history and how policy decisions have made a difference in the world and at home. I believe Hillary Clinton is all of those things and yes, I think I would actually like her quite a bit.


Race and Gender Matter

Race and gender matter. They matter to me. I have to be honest, that I want to see young black and biracial men see someone leading the country who looks like them. I want the racist woman whose story I recently heard to look up and see a person of color whose name sounds different than hers, as the leader of the free world.

And I want to see young girls know that despite the sexism and misogyny of much of the world and much of the country, they too can achieve visible and acknowledged power and agency. I want boys and men to see a bold and loud testimony that women are powerful, courageous, and wise.

I refuse to choose on this regard, but it matters. I am also grateful to be connected to a party that has put forward two candidates who have some understanding of outsider status.

To not be in the majority, to not look like those with most of the power to be connected to the disenfranchised matters. And for the misogynist, the racist, the hater, I hope whoever is elected sends a message to them as well. "I will achieve in spite of the laws you put on my body and I will change them. I will achieve in spite of your prejudice and hatred that would keep me bound, in prison, in fear and I will make important changes to make a better world, even for you."


Next Steps

I hope to catch the Obama fever for the general. I care about what happens to this country and am against McCain's war stance and so many of his policies.

I hope to feel Obama's foot lift off the backs of gays and lesbians and that he will find a clear way to support us as equals. His record points in that direction, I hope his actions will from this point forward.


Next stop: Chinese New Year!

We're not irrelevant

During the New Hampshire primary, I totally pissed off a friend of mine who is an Obama supporter by supporting Hillary for that primary. The reason wasn't who I personally would vote for, it was because I didn't want a coronation that would leave the Potomac Primary irrelevant. And guess what? We're so relevant? The nomination race is a true blue horse race and I am so happy to be important. It's so nice to have candidates come to my state, air cheesy commercials, and kiss my ass. Our two states and the District of Columbia matter. Three areas that encompass urban and rural, that have significant Latino, Black and Asian American populations, and cover the South and the mid-Atlantic get our votes counted. It'll all go away in the general election, but let's enjoy our moment in the sun.

This came from dailykos:

This post was inspired by a comment I read earlier yesterday, which I can't find now, so apologies for the unsourced inspiration.

One of the hilarious side-effects of every Obama victory is the spin from Clinton quarters and its surrogates and supporters explaining why said victories "don't matter".

Iowa didn't matter because it was a caucus state, and it's undemocratic. Same goes for every other caucus state including Maine. The only caucus state that mattered was Nevada.

Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alaska, and Utah don't matter because they're small Red states that Democrats won't carry in November.

Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana don't matter because they have black people. Expect the same spin out of DC this Tuesday. Black people don't apparently count.

Washington and Minnesota don't matter because they have educated white people.

In any case, Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana didn't matter on Saturday because everyone expected Obama to win them anyway.

Virginia and Maryland, assuming they're won by Obama, will be a combination of the "black people" and "educated people" rationalizations. Throw a little of "Obama was expected to win anyway", and you've got the trifecta.

Illinois doesn't matter because that's Obama's home state. Expect the same spin when Obama wins Hawaii by double-digit margins in two weeks.

Missouri doesn't matter because Clinton sent out a press release claiming she won it.

Colorado was a caucus state, so that leaves Delaware and Connecticut. Those are the only two states that apparently matter, giving Hillary Clinton a commanding 10-2 lead among states that matter.

One final line of attack used to minimize Obama's victories is the notion that "he can't win states without his base", his base of course being African Americans, white yuppies, and Red state Democrats. Yet the corollary of that is what? That Hillary can't win states that

1.) she hasn't lived in recently (New York and Arkansas),

2.) aren't next to states she has lived in (Tennessee, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma),

3.) don't share a media market with states she has lived in (New Hampshire), or

4.) are outside the Southwest with its large Latino population (California, which she won with the strength of her SoCal vote, Arizona, Nevada and probably New Mexico).

Pretty silly game, huh?

Incidentally, if these stupid generalizations were to actually hold true the rest of this primary, the states would fall like this:

Clinton: Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania.

Obama: Virginia, DC, Maryland, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota.

Neither: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky

But that's not what the final tally will look like.

p.s. Interestingly enough, other than New Mexico, the only other razor-thin contest thus far was Missouri -- a state which borders both Illinois and Arkansas. So in the battle of "neighboring state contest", Obama won, but only by a hair, and only because the Illinois-Missouri border is longer than the Arkansas-Missouri one.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

First Taste of Rajaji: Indian in Woodley Park

Rajaji Indian Curry House
2603 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington 20008
Phone: 202-265-7344

Last week, we were looking for a nice meal near Woodley Park and were interested in trying something new. After looking around the net, I discovered Rajaji, one of three Indian restaurants across from the Woodley Park Metro on Connecticut Ave NW.

So we headed over around 6:30 on a Thursday night. The room was almost empty. I was not expecting a large crowd at 6:30 on a Thursday, but the lack of customers worried me a bit.

Turns out, there was not much to worry about at all. All three of us enjoyed our meals. Mine was exceptional as was our friend's. T's was good, not great.

We started with the combination appetizer platter which consisted of two samosas, chicken croquettes, botti kabab (lamb pieces), chicken tikka & 2 pakoras. These were just what you want from an Indian meal. Served warm with a good level of spice for each of us (we are medium-spice people, though T tolerates hot quite well). The lamb was succulent and aromatic. Pakoras were not too greasy as sometimes happens, and samosas had a nice filling-to-crust ratio.

T enjoyed his vegetarian platter, which started with a salad, then aloo gobi, palak paneer, vegetable kofta, aloo matar, rice, raita, mango chutney, puri and gulab jamun. Again, T felt this was good. Good enough to go back and good enough to be our go-to place in Woodley Park.

Ms. Stitch was very pleased with the Keema Matar, saute├ęd minced lamb, cooked with peas and a delicious sauce. I'm not sure I can even describe it. Definitely some garam masala, garlic, and maybe some cumin and or cilantro. I loved my taste of this and will definitely order it next time we go.

But I was also quite pleased with my dish, the Lamb Doh-Peeazah, lamb with tomato and onion cooked until the flavors were quite harmonious. Delicious and Doh-pleasing!

Gulab jamun, (what my high school friends called "Honeyballs") was less successful, mostly due to being cold in the center. But that did not detract from an otherwise delicious meal.

Oh, and get the cardamom tea. It really hit the spot on a cold night!

Off topic - A post that blows away all credibility

Last night I went with my friend writergirl to see High School Musical, the Tour, playing at the National Theater. J was able to score us some free tickets so we were so there. Boy was it a cultural experience. I felt old as the hills as there were gaggles of preteens and their parents who looked MY AGE! It was less a night at the theater and more like a Hannah Montana concert. Complete with audience clapping, streamers, and screams of "I love you" to certain characters. Sadly I have seen both High School Musical and its sequel. Multiple times.

As I am one of 10 people over the age of 25 who can claim an encyclopedic knowledge of High School Musical, I offer to you a comparison of the TV version and the stage version.

Ways the Stage Version is Better than the TV Version

1. Kelsi actually has a good excuse for running into people and dropping her music - new glasses.

2. Troy actually looks like an athlete and not a member of a boy band.

3. Ryan is REALLY gay. Like REAAAAALLLLY gay. Like REAAAALLLLLY REAAAAALLLY Gay.

4. Sharpay actually has a decent excuse for being such a beeoytch - she's really insecure.

5. The row of 15 year olds behind us doing group cheers.

6. The synchronized clapping of the audience. Yes, I totally clapped along.

7. The random shout-outs to other Disney movies.

8. The prominence of pop and lock girl. (if this befuddles you, then you need to see the movie).


Ways the Stage Version is Worse than the TV Version

1. The sucky sucky sound system where you could barely hear the vocalists.

2. The fact that Kelsi didn't get her makeover where she wears an one should top and shakes out her fabulous hair.

3. They turned both power ballads into peppy group numbers.

4. The stage show didn't include Gabrielle's control freak mother.

5. The compressed timeframe where there were fewer scenes with Troy and Gabrielle rehearsing.

Apparently it's all gyoza all the time

So yes I love me some gyoza. It was your typical weeknight where neither of us could figure out what we wanted to have for dinner. One thing we kept on coming back to was some crab we picked up at Trader Joe's. I highly recommend getting the Trader Joe's crab because it's like half the price of what you get in the regular grocery store. So yes we tried to think of a good use for the crab. Crab and pasta? Crab salad? Nothing was really popping out at us until I saw the gyoza skins and decided to make crab potstickers. Very good decision. They turned out perfectly. We were both worried about how much liquid the filling was giving off but the filling ended up handing together quite well. Here's what we did.

Finely mince

1 tablespoon of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
2 jalepeno peppers (deseeded)
1/2 a medium onion
1/4 of a red bell pepper (or two or three red chilies)

I just throw the whole mess in a food processor myself. Then in a tablespoon of oil, cook the whole mixture until the liquid has evarporated and the mush is tender. Let cool and add that to and mixture of:

1 1/2 cups of crabmeat
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg

Mix thoroughly. Put a scant tablespoon of the mixture onto the gyoza, brush one side with an egg wash and seal. In a nonstick skillet, pan fry the potstickers in enough oil to coat the skillet. Flip them over, and let them fry another minute and the add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Let the mixture cook under low heat for about 5 minutes. And then you have crab potstickers!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Slow Cook: A Blog Worth Reading

There are so many great food information sites out there, but I am especially enjoying reading The Slow Cook. If anything, joining our CSA this year helped us be more thoughtful about our food and food choices. The Slow Cook takes that to what I think is a quite visionary and dedicated place.

Where and how we get our food matters and how we plan to do something about the food challenges confronting our society and economy matter as well.

I for one have refused to shop Nike, Wal-Mart, Disney, and others for many years because of ongoing policies and practices I disagree with. I think it's useful to think about our food as well. I was astounded to recently learn that Paula Deen from the Food Network is shilling for Smithfield, a meat plant increasingly notorious for highly problematic labor practices.

I think there are some intriguing lessons and ideas, policy updates and more over at The Slow Cook and I will definitely be reading consistently.

I also look forward to highlighting blogs like this and organizations like those in the nonprofits section over on the right.

The most recent entry
details some of the horrible practices at Westland Meats, a major supplier of beef to our public schools. The US Department of Agriculture has weighed in as have the Humane Society and the Washington Post.

The entry also details the promotion of junk food in the Montgomery County Schools, and has a great link to one of my favorite stories about a high school student who doe s what it takes to open his town's only grocery store.

I should also mention that The Slow Cook also frequently has entries about cooking with kids and teaching kids about food. Love this!

Powerful stuff people, I hope readers of DC Food Blog check it out.

-J