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December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve in DC

Photo from

I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's. I love getting dressed up and going out with friends, but I hate the ridiculous pressure in making plans and the insane amount of money you have to front to go out. Seriously- it should be illegal to charge $150 at the door unless they are planning on donating it to a charity.

If you still don't know what you're doing tonight, here are some ideas that will hopefully help you ring in 2010:

  • Party with friends at a house or apartment. Get some easy appetizers and whip up a signature cocktail asking everyone else to bring something. You will save money, sanity and if you go out you are likely to be socializing with your own group anyway.
  • Hotel parties where you will probably pay too much, but guaranteed drinks, music and fun. You may have needed to buy advanced tickets though.
  • Take your pick of numerous bars, clubs and lounges having New Year's parties that you don't likely need advanced tickets to
  • Celebrate with a good meal and cocktails at a nice restaurant. Many restaurants across the DC area  have special menus and party specials- it is likely to be difficult to get a reservation at this point but don't be afraid to call though. People DO cancel at the last minute. I did it last year when I got the flu and got charged $120 for it. Thanks Hudson.
Whatever your plans, I hope you have a safe and fun celebration. Happy New Year!

December 28, 2009

Mrs. K's Toll House

The weekend before Christmas we took my father for a birthday dinner at Mrs. K's Toll House in Silver Spring. I had been there a few times before- for a happy hour in the wine cellar downstairs (very cozy and charming) and for brunch and lunch (both delicious).

When you walk in, it looks like a quaint cottage in the countryside. It is charming, old, and makes you feel as though you are someplace 3 hours outside of DC. The entry area is decorated with antiques and you can see the character in the old faded wallpaper. The dining room had a fire going in the fireplace and ornaments hanging from the ceiling. It is a very beautiful restaurant.

I wasn't sure what to make of our server at first- he was a little stand-offish. He redeemed himself however when he brought our cocktails and shared a laugh at his french-martini making skills (and again later by bringing my dad birthday cake without me even asking).

For appetizers, we started with caesar salads and some chorizo and potato fritters. One of the salads was forgotten, but did eventually come out late. They were very good caesars- I will give them that. The dressing was creamy and flavorful with that little lemony bite. The fritters were delicious. They were delicately crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The texture of the interior reminded me of applesauce which was off-putting to my husband, but it didn't bother me. I thought they were delicious. They had just enough spicy kick without being overpowering.

For entrees, my father and I ordered the seafood pasta in champagne sauce. The flavor was rich and not overpowered by the seafood. My only beef with it is that it was extremely heavy and my first bite had crab shell in it. That's not a big deal I guess since I know how difficult it is to pick apart crab meat, it's just a pet peeve of mine. I have the same problem with eggs- if there is even the tiniest bit of egg white uncooked I am turned off and can't finish it. I did continue eating the pasta, however. The scallops were some of the best I have had in awhile. They were large, tender and not at all fishy.

My husband got the lamb chops which did look beautiful. It was cooked perfectly and plated well. He noted to me that he didn't think it tasted like anything though. I grabbed my fork and took a taste and had to agree. It was odd that it wouldn't taste like much of anything- especially since it was lamb. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad by any means. It just didn't have a lot of flavor. That could be just the cut of meat in general.

We continued the meal by stuffing ourselves with some birthday desserts. My father insisted on ordering two- a chocolate cake and bread pudding with whisky sauce. The waiter also brought a slice of birthday cake which had an incredible frosting on it with coconut. The chocolate cake was dark, rich and dense with a berry sauce. Who doesn't like that? My favorite was the bread pudding with whisky sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was the embodiment of comfort food. I wanted to lick the plate.

My father had a wonderful birthday and loved Mrs. K's Toll House. I was pleased, although I admit mildly disappointed in the overall experience. I will certainly go back again, though. I recommend if you go for dinner, go early and have a drink in the downstairs wine bar. It's really charming!

December 18, 2009

Gingerbread House Contest

Photo from This Old House

Ahh the holidays. It's a time of year for traditions. For many, one of these traditions involves making a huge mess, getting your hands covered in frosting and candy and losing your patience building an edible house. For those who are extremely talented at this task, This Old House is holding a Gingerbread House Contest. Some of these are unbelievable (and some are not, but I won't be like this guy.) If you think you have the gingerbread-building chops for it and have steady hands, enter for the chance at the T.O.H. Gingerbread Champion title.

I'm no stranger to gingerbread competitions myself. Thanks to my friend Christy, we held a little competition in our office for a few years. We sadly retired the contest after she left for San Francisco, but frankly I think it's really because people were just too scared to challenge me anymore. I have to say I was pretty awesome at gingerbread architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright had nothing on me. See for yourself. Maybe I should enter the This Old House contest. What do you think?

December 16, 2009

Holiday Roast Beast

This past weekend we got in the holiday spirit by decking the halls, trimming the tree and a meal of roast beast. By roast beast I'm talking about a recipe I found from Tyler Florence for Roast Prime Rib of Beef with a Horseradish Crust. Whenever I want to make a special meal, comfort food or just something that I KNOW will turn out good, I turn to Tyler. His recipes have never failed me and usually aren't overly complicated.

This prime rib is simple, easy, will impress your friends and family, and most importantly it's delicious. This year for your holiday meal or dinner party- try out this recipe. You will appreciate its simplicity and enjoy spending time with your guests instead of frantically slaving away in the kitchen. Just be mindful of the amount of salt and seasoning you use if you adjust the recipe for a smaller or larger roast- the balance is important. If you want to make it even easier on yourself- omit the sauce recipe. It's delicious without it.

Tyler's Roast Prime Rib of Beef with Horseradish Crust

December 14, 2009

Food & Wine's Best Places In DC

Food and Wine put together a great list of the best places to eat around the world. You can click on a city on the map and it will list their top restaurant picks for that area. I was embarrassed to discover that I have only been to 3 out of the 10 picks they had for DC. Shameful! I clearly have some dining out to do.

The 3 that I had been to were Commonwealth, Ray's Hell-Burger and Proof. Commonwealth had a crispy and delicious Smithwick's Fish n' Chips. Ray's had the best burger I've ever had, hands down (I accept the challenge of others if they think they can beat it). Proof had some of the most sophisticated and well-thought out dishes I've had in DC (for example, they have a duck confit with grilled house made lamb sausage as well as charcuterie and cheese plates to awaken the palate).  Let's not overlook their impressive wine selection and knowledgeable food pairings.

I'm very much looking forward to hitting up some of the others on their list. If you've been to any of them, let me know how they are!

Food and Wine's Picks for Best Restaurants in DC

December 12, 2009

Mashed Potatoes Are My Crack

If you know me, you know that I am mildly obsessed with mashed potatoes. I love them. I worship them. They are my drug of choice. I don't get how anyone could NOT love mashed potatoes. They are creamy, rich, salty and smooth. People who say they don't like mashed potatoes are either lying to try not to sound like a fatty or they haven't had them prepared properly. It does make a big difference. No lumps, no dried pile of mush and no boxed mixes here. Check out Chow's how-to video on making the perfect mashed potatoes and I'm sure you will be just as much of a worshiper as I am.

December 9, 2009

Voltaggio's and Tonight's Top Chef Finale

Photo from

In case you haven't noticed, I'm eager to watch the Top Chef finale tonight. With 2 out of the 3 finalists originating from the DC area (Frederick) this season has become particularly relevant.  The Washington Post just did a Q&A with the Voltaggio brothers that asks several questions we all want to know- including questions relating to their sibling rivalry. Check out the full article here.

The brothers seem to be taking to their new-found fame quite well.  They are even launching a new site tonight, It appears to be a site that will be dedicated to food lovers (and perhaps Voltaggio lovers!)

If you still haven't gotten your V-bros fill, follow them on twitter at @BryanVoltaggio and @MVoltaggio. (So far, Bryan is more twit-talkative). You can bet I will be catching the brothers in action tonight on the Top Chef finale at 10pm on Bravo.  We'll see what's in store for them next! Good luck Voltaggios!

December 7, 2009

OMG, Who Will Be The Next Top Chef?

I know I'm not unique in being completely obsessed with this show. I am waiting on edge to find out who the winner of this season will be. Will it be one of the local-bred Voltaggio brothers (although Michael now resides in LA) or the lovable Kevin from Atlanta? Although I think all three of them are incredibly talented I am putting my money on Bryan Voltaggio. His food is sophisticated, looks delicious and he is consistent. Michael shows incredible skill and is never afraid to do something risky to wow the judges, but it doesn't always pay off and I'm a little put off by his cocky arrogance. Or do I like that about him? I can't decide. I will say that I ADORE Kevin. He seems like he has to be the sweetest, nicest guy on the planet and makes food that everyone would love. His food seems to evoke comfort and I have no doubt some of that comes from his personality and overall aura. I am guessing the judges will go with Bryan, though because of his consistently immaculate plates, complex and sophisticated style and likable personality. Besides, the producers have to give the V brothers one more thing to fight about for the rest of their lives. I have been surprised before though, so I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens.

Now the only question is, where should one watch the finale? I'm sure there have to be viewing parties around DC. Perhaps you could go to booted contestant Mike Isabella's Zaytinya or see how hard it is to get a reservation at Volt in Frederick (I'm guessing impossible). Better yet, gather some friends and show off your culinary skills by hosting a Top Chef party of your own with a little help from Bravo or even do a virtual party.

If you know of any great parties or happy hours let us all know! Until then, I'll be counting down the minutes until Wednesday's finale!