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December 15, 2010

My Chat with Top Chef All Stars' Spike Mendelsohn


Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking with Chef Spike Mendelsohn, the famed fedora-donning celebrity chef from Top Chef Season 4 and the current Top Chef All Stars. His resume is impressive to say the least. He was trained in classic French cuisine, received the highest honors one can get at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in world-renowned restaurants (that I will probably never get into) such as Les Crayeres, Bouchon and Le Cirque. He has studied on a culinary adventure in Vietnam and has worked with some of the best chefs in the world. Needless to say, I’m jealous. DC is lucky that we have not one, but two of Spike’s restaurants- Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza.

Chef Spike was kind enough to speak with me regarding some of his latest adventures and projects including teaming up with Mastercard and Suntrust for a donation to his favorite charity, Horton's Kids which provides tutoring, mentoring and support to children in DC.

DDC: Can I get your thoughts on the current season of Top Chef All Stars- how it's going and how is it different from your first Top Chef experience?

Chef Spike: My first experience I didn't have anything to lose. I was a kitchen rat and had a good resume. I was just myself. This time around, I've had opportunities with cookbooks, events, charities, and restaurants. Now I'm representing more than just myself. I have a more laid back approach.

DDC: What are your thoughts about the last episode of Top Chef All Stars with Jen leaving and the drama of Jamie's finger cut?

Chef Spike: The finger cut, yeah. We've all cut ourselves in the kitchen. Definitely wasn't warranted to be rushed off to the hospital. I was really disappointed in Jamie. She put the extra work on Jen. I thought it was weak. I mean they were on the other team so I was laughing it up but I thought it was weak. On Jen leaving- We were all surprised. It just shows the intensity and how competitive it is. Any one of us could be sent home at any time over a couple granules of salt or something.

DDC: Anything you can share about the next episode?

Chef Spike: All I can really share is it definitely should be one of the all-time best quick fires.

DDC: I want to touch on some memories from Top Chef Season 4. Are there any fun things that happened and didn't make the episodes that aired?

Chef Spike: I remember we were playing cards one night and Antonia wouldn’t show us her hand so we dragged her around on the floor. It was a long time ago, but we had a lot of fun, silly moments.

DDC: What’s your favorite dish you ever made on Top Chef?

Chef Spike: Butternut squash soup for the Improv on Season 4- definitely. I also loved having the opportunity to remake the scallop dish the way it should be and got a shout-out from Bourdain. That was pretty amazing!

DDC: Can you tell me a little more about teaming up with Mastercard and Suntrust for their Marketplace to support your favorite charity?

Chef Spike: They donated $5,000 on my behalf that will go to buy gifts from the marketplace for Horton's Kids in Anacostia. It's for all Mastercard holders. [You get] free access to hundreds of discounts and it’s great for last minute online shopping for the holidays. You can also use it to donate to charity directly if you wanted to donate to Horton's Kids.

DDC: That’s awesome! It’s great that they donated to the children and that people can log on and easily do the same.

Chef Spike: Yeah, It’s going to be great. I’m going today to hand out gifts to them.

DDC: For people doing last minute shopping, do you have any favorite retailers or gifts on there?

Chef Spike: Omaha Steaks is great. You can donate them to a charity or send as a gift. Barnes & Noble is also on there (which carries my cookbook, too.)

DDC: Speaking of holidays, do you and your family have any Holiday traditions or holiday food traditions?

Chef Spike: We change it up every year in my family. This year we are going to Puerto Rico. Maybe I'll do some traditional Puerto Rican food or maybe roast a pig or something. Who knows!

DDC: That’s awesome. Way to do the holidays in style! For those of us not lucky enough to go to Puerto Rico, do you have any holiday tips?

Chef Spike: Ha, yeah. I’d just say keep it simple, easy and comfortable. It's all about being with family. We will get together and do a lot of comfort food- mac n' cheese, turkey, cornbread, mashed potatoes. It’s all about comfort.

DDC: Do you have any special Holiday additions to menus at your restaurants?

Chef Spike: Well, not really. I mean, it’s pizza and burgers. We just celebrate by being festive, but we do have an Eggnog milkshake.

DDC: That sounds awesome. I assume that's the non-adult version?

Chef Spike: ha, yeah, non-adult, although if you want an adult version I suppose you can ask a certain way, haha.

DDC: Ok, one more thing I have to ask, how many fedoras do you own?

Chef Spike: Hmm, I'd say about 65. Yeah, 65. I've been giving a bunch away lately.

DDC: Do you get a lot as gifts?

Chef Spike: Yeah, people do send me fedoras a lot. I'm the guy that wears the hat.

DDC: Thank you so much for your time and sharing with Devouring DC Readers. Be sure to let me know if you ever open a place in the Bay area!

Chef Spike: Definitely! I love San Francisco. Definitely get brunch at Mama's on the waterfront. Monte Cristo with jam. The best brunch!

(FYI- I will be going there first chance I get!)


Be sure to watch Chef Spike on Top Chef All Stars tonight at 10/9c on Bravo. Below is more information on the Mastercard/Suntrust Marketplace, Spike’s Restaurants and Horton’s Kids.
Last but not least- Happy Birthday Spike! Hope you have a great day, great holiday season and a Happy New Year. Best of luck on Top Chef!

Mastercard/Suntrust Marketplace- click here.

Horton's Kids
110 Maryland Avenue, NE Suite 207
Washington, DC 20002
202-544-5033


Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
202.543.8222


We, The Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003
202.544.4008

Road Trip America, Final Destination

We made it! Ok, we made it on Friday but haven’t had our cable and internet hooked up so had to leave you hanging for a few days.

The morning of departure from Lake Havasu we were planning to go take pictures of the London Bridge and continue our drive all the way to San Jose for a pit stop to see some friends and then the extra half hour to San Bruno, our final destination. When we got up, though, we just wanted to get going. The trip had finally taken its toll. We skipped the London Bridge pictures, although we drove past it so still saw it.

The trip seems to have taken its toll on the dogs as well. Lelu declared that she’d “had it” and kept trying to crawl over the front seat. This went on approximately every 10 minutes for the entire 10 hour drive.

We didn’t make any more sight-seeing stops along the way, but I followed along on the Roadside America app to see what oddities were out there. There were some interesting things. Out in the Mojave desert area, there were an abundance of alien-related stops. People building weird chambers and houses in the shape of spaceships type of thing. There was the last gas station James Dean stopped at before his fatal car accident as well as a memorial at the sight of his accident. There are small wild-west towns with donkeys roaming the unpaved streets and little old motels that have been in business for 60 or more years.

We started at a lake in red mountains, passed through the Mojave desert, then to more flat land similar to Texas, then lush, rolling hills that looked like Italy. We did stop for some food along the way, but couldn’t find any cool mom-and-pop places. It was pretty desolate. Sadly, our choices were rest-stop Pizza Hut, Taco Bell or Carl’s Jr. So, we got incredibly sloppy burgers from Carl’s Jr. and gas station snacks. Yum?

We met our friends in San Jose and introduced our dogs. It went better than expected, until Lelu’s patience wore out. We got to San Bruno around 9:30pm and crashed at our new, empty house. Now, for the furniture to arrive…

December 9, 2010

Road Trip America, Pit Stop #5: Lake Havasu via the Grand Canyon

Today is the second to last day of our cross-country journey and we started it off with the sight we were most looking forward to seeing- the Grand Canyon. 

We drove about an hour up the long two-lane road to the main parking area.  We grabbed the dogs and started walking towards the first viewing area.  As we approached the rim, we both looked at each other with the "you've gotta be kidding me" expressions on our faces.  I knew the Grand Canyon would be big and I knew it would be beautiful, but there are no words to describe just how big and beautiful it really is.  You see pictures, you see it on tv, but there is absolutely nothing like seeing this in person.  It's breathtaking.

We hopped in the car and hit a 7 mile stretch of road leading to half a dozen different view points.  Each vista was more jaw-dropping than the next.  We overheard an old tour guide saying it was 3000 feet down to this one trail we could see on a plateau and then another 1000 feet down to the river from that.  We saw donkeys on a trail way below us but they looked like ants.  I also heard the guide point out this semicircle rock formation they call the ampitheatre.  He said if it were an ampitheatre, it would seat half a million people!  That's just ridiculous.  I enjoyed eavesdropping on this elderly tour group.

After about two-and-a-half hours of taking in the sights we were on our way back down to towards Grand Canyon village to grab some lunch.  We stopped at a place with no name.  It just said "Internet, Espresso, Sandwiches, Gifts."  Ok.  Great name.  I decided I love this little cafe.  It had computers, great books, souvenirs and a coffee/sandwich shop.  It had the charm of a family owned business.  The woman actually made a pretty mean vanilla latte.  I got a turkey sandwich on sourdough and I have to say, it was better than I expected.  We haven't had a lot of fresh food lately so something as simple as a turkey sandwich on super soft sourdough really made me happy.

We got back on the highway and drove another 4-ish hours to Lake Havasu, AZ, on the border of Arizona and California.  It was beautiful driving into this city with the sun setting behind massive rock formations.  Once again, we were exhausted after a long day so asked for a local delivery and got a pizza.  We ordered a pepperoni and meatball pizza from Rosati's.  I was confused about their crust options- thin, Chicago, double crust or pan.  Their pan crust sounded thicker than the double crust (which they say they invented.)  We ordered the double crust, and it was incredibly thick.  I can't imagine what the pan pizza is like.  It was really heavy, but pretty good.  The meatballs were well seasoned and the sauce was good, although hot as lava.

I'm stuffed and tired, but looking forward to tomorrow.  Tomorrow we see the London Bridge-yes, the London Bridge.  It was brought over piece by piece and rebuilt, now standing here in Lake Havasu.  We saw it on the way in- it was lit up with Christmas lights.  We're going to get a better look in the morning and then back on the road.  Maybe we'll hit some more of old Route 66 on our way up to San Jose and then our final destination of the trip- our new home in San Bruno.

Road Trip America, Pit Stop #4: Flagstaff via New Mexico and the Meteor Crater

Yesterday was a long travel day of about 10 hours.  We got up early and left the hotel without breakfast in the hopes that we could make it to the Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ before they close at 5pm while still seeing other sights along the way.  I watched Starman about 150 times when I was a kid so I was determined to get to this crater.

Luckily, the other attraction we wanted to see was just 3 miles from our hotel in Amarillo.  Just off the highway is Cadillac Ranch- a bunch of old Cadillacs buried nose down in a field by an eccentric billionaire.  These cars have become an iconic image of Route 66.  It was a beautiful, sunny morning and perfect for hiking out into the field dodging cows (and more importantly cow pies) to take photos of spray-painted cars.  There were paint cans all over the field from tourists coming to tag the art (which is apparently encouraged.) 

We got back on the road and continued the long drive on the open road through New Mexico.  This is quite possibly the straightest, longest road in the world.  Thankfully they increase the speed limit to 75, but it's so open and straight it feels like you're going 40.  We entertained ourselves with more comedy albums and cruised through to Albequerque.  Sadly, there isn't much to report as far as food goes.  I never realized how difficult it can be to eat on the road.  The location we stopped in Albequerque didn't have much that we could easily grab for the road so we resorted to Quiznos. Yuck. I know if we had more time we could've found some great grub but we were on the clock to get to the crater.

A couple hours later, we arrived at the turn for the crater.  As we drove 6 miles down a quiet road in the we saw signs to turn to AM1610 for crater info (along with signs to watch for cattle. The crater property is privately owned and they have cows everywhere, with no fence keeping them from the road.)  We were quite entertained with the crater radio.  The voice on the radio, who I will refer to as "crater man" was very dramatic and enthusiastic.  We burst into laughter as he announced "EXPERIENCE THE IMPACT!"  We got to the site and hiked up the steps to the viewing platform.  We forgot that we come from 340 feet above sea level and this is at 6000 so we were gasping for breath.  All I can say is that it's awesome.  It really is a beautiful and impressive sight.  It's definitely worth the stop.

After the crater we continued on to Flagstaff to the hotel.  (By the way, I highly recommend Spring Hill Suites if you're visiting that area.)  We were pretty exhausted by the time we got in so looked for dinner that we could bring back to the room.  We found a place up the road called Buster's.  I'm pretty sure it's a chain, but it wasn't bad.  We got steaks and baked potatoes.  The steaks were cooked perfectly, but the potatoes were not.  I could tell they were microwaved, but I didn't care.  The meal got the job done.  We were all pretty beat (dogs included) so made it a lazy night and planned our next leg of the journey.

Today we're off to the Grand Canyon then Lake Havasu.  Hopefully we'll find a good dive along the way.

December 7, 2010

Road Trip America, Pit Stop #3- Oklahoma

Today we got up early in Fort Smith, Arkansas and crossed the bridge into Oklahoma.  Miles and miles of quiet highway with small, quiet forgotten towns were speckled along the way.

Our first stop was to see the Oklahoma City Memorial.  It was a pretty dreary, cold and gray day today.  We discovered Oklahoma City is pretty industrial and quiet.  We were able to park right across the street from the memorial.  The memorial is quite beautiful and moving, remembering those lost in the horrific bombings of the Murrah building back in 2005.  There is still a partial wall of the original structure with the steel rods exposed set against the backdrop of a field of empty chairs and reflecting pool that looks smooth as ice.  The memorial is bookended by two towering structures.  It is a beautiful reminder of a sad event in American history.  I was particularly moved by the smaller chairs next to the others and the Christmas wreaths hanging from each one.

After the memorial, we continued to pass through town on the way to Amarillo.  Through the rest of Oklahoma and into Texas it was long stretches of road with not much to offer the eye but cows and windmills.  We stopped for lunch at a little cabin off the highway in the middle of nowhere outside Clinton, OK called Jigg's Smokehouse.  you walk into this tiny smoke shack and are greeted with tables and the smell of smoked meats.  The walls are adorned with memorabilia of those who have passed through, most of which were business cards stapled to the walls.  I ordered a BBQ beef brisket sandwich and my husband got the "Kitchen Sink".  This sandwich was ridiculous!  It was about two pounds of ham, summer sausage and what appeared to be 5 other smoked meats topped with a special BBQ sauce and cheddar.  It was like a delicious brick.  My BBQ brisket was awesome.  The sauce is really tangy and sweet but still has a hot kick that builds up the more you eat.  Great lunch!  We both left our business cards to be added to their collection.

Feeling like we just ate another Thanksgiving dinner, we continued on for another few hours to Amarillo, TX where we will rest our chilled bones for the evening.  Getting up bright and early to hit the road by 7 for sunrise photos at Cadillac Ranch followed by (if we make it in time) the Winslow Meteor Crater and on to Flagstaff, AZ.  Hopefully we'll get some good photos and good eats along the way.

December 6, 2010

Road Trip America, Pit Stop #2: Nashville to Fort Smith, AZ Via Memphis (cont.)

Ok, there wasn't really "nothing."  There was something, but nothing I care to see again. We decided to hit up Graceland along the way and hope to get some Memphis BBQ.   I cannot express how much we deeply regret this.

If you're passing through Memphis and think to yourself "I have to see Graceland", just tell the voices in your head to shut up. Graceland is the pits. No joke. I thought it was some beautiful estate kept as a shrine to the King in the beautiful countryside. It is quite the opposite. (This is why you need to do more research, kids.) Graceland is in the, well, less-than-desirable section of town, let's just say. It's pawn shop strip-mall after strip-mall and the famed "Elvis Presly Boulevard" is riddled with potholes that will surely rip the chassis right off your car. My husband said "this can't be right" just about the time we arrived at the parking entrance of Graceland ($10. Ten-frickin-dollars to park in an empty parking lot in the ghetto that looked more deserted than Wally World.) I immediately felt depressed. This place clearly was not reminiscent of the glamour and glory of the old days of Elvis. In fact, I'm quite positive the King would roll over in his grave and throw fried peanut butter-banana sandwiches in the faces of all that now run this place. To top it all off, we never saw the mansion. The standard tour is $30/person (no dogs, obvi) and I had already decided I was uncomfortable enough with this place to not stay. I would love, however, to meet the person who shells out $69/person for the deluxe mansion tour. What the hell could you possibly see to make walking in an old house where someone once lived worth it?

Anyways, I ran inside the ticket area/gift shop to see what the deal was and was dead set on at least getting me some Elvis sunglasses to make the $10 parking worth it. Nope. All they had were super cheap-looking shiny plastic sunglasses for $25. I feel like those should be free w/parking at this hell hole. (*NOTE: I apologize if you are from here and love it. God speed or something nice.  I heard it used to be lovely.)

So...long story long, we got out of Graceland w/in 10 minutes. (That's a dollar a minute for anyone counting.) We set off to grab some Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives BBQ nearby. No chance. I wasn't stopping anywhere near there. We opted for a bag of Doritos we had in the car and kept driving to Fort Smith, AK. In case you haven't taken this drive, there isn't much to see other than flat fields spotted with the occasional Jesus sign. We were entertained by downloading Aziz Ansari standup from iTunes. (Love him- hilarious.) It was a quiet, peaceful section of road, but left us with zero fun food options.

So, I'm sad to say I have no good food stories to report from day 2 of my Road Trip America. Tomorrow we're passing through Oklahoma City on to Amarillo, TX. From what I've read, we should definitely catch some great sites and great eats as we begin to hit the old Route 66. I'll keep my fingers crossed and keep you posted!

Road Trip America, Pit Stop #2: Nashville to Fort Smith, AZ Via Memphis

Day #2 of the journey and we set off on 40W from Nashville to the other side of Arkansas in Fort Smith.  Oh man, do you know what there is to see along the way?!!!!


Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Road Trip America- Pit Stop #1: Pizza Palace, Knoxville, TN

As you may know I'm in the middle of moving across the country to San Francisco.  What better opportunity to see (and taste) the country than a cross-country road trip?  After packing up our house into a moving van and packing our dogs into a tiny mazda hatchback, we were off.

We left yesterday morning and drove from Silver Spring to Nashville with some minor pit-stops along the way.  It was an easy drive of about 11 hours, mostly up and down mountains with stretches of 40 miles between rest areas.  What surprised us the most is the cold.  It seems the further southwest we traveled the colder it got.  We hit some snow, but thankfully nothing that really stuck.  The wind was pretty brutal, though.  I was thankful we decided to drive the Southern Route.

Our friends Suzi and Eric got us Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives book before we left.  What a great idea!  We decided we were going to hit as many stops as we could along the way from that book

Our first DD&D stop was the Pizza Palace in Knoxville, TN.  Three immigrant brothers from Greece opened this drive-in in 1961 after buying a pasta sauce recipe.  The "secret sauce" is now a star attraction at this joint.  They are known for their pizza, pasta and onion rings. 

We pulled the car up to the little menu speaker box and ordered a pizza and onion rings (recommended by Guy.)  When the woman brought out the tray, she exuded that southern hospitality one would expect in Knoxville.  She proclaimed "we have the best pizza in the world, ya know! we're famous!"  Love her.  She doted on our cute dogs, remarked what a giant head Lelu has (she really does have a big noggin') and handed us the hot tray of artery-clogging food.  The pizza had thick layers of mozzarella oozing from each slice like hot lava.  They do have something about their sauce.  That was the first thing I noticed.  I almost regretted getting ham and pepperoni because I didn't want to mask the sauce.  It was pretty good pizza, but I wouldn't run out and say "the best in the world."  You have to love her spirit though.  The onion rings are hand battered, giant sweet vidalia onions.  Not bad.  I would recommend stopping if you're ever passing through.  There isn't much else around there...really.  There is nothing.  It's a quick stop off the highway though so not too much of a hike.  It's really all about the old school drive-in experience with southern hospitality and charm.

So what's next?  I'm not sure exactly.  I'm pretty sure lunch today will involve some Memphis BBQ though.  More to come...

November 8, 2010

App Review: Epicurious for iPhone

Photo courtesy of iTunes

There are tons of food-related iPhone apps out there and I honestly find most of them useless.  They either don't have the features that I would want or have only a handful of recipes.  I have come across one that I have now fallen in love with: the Epicurious app.

This app offers loads of useful functions for the beginning cook and the seasoned pro.  You can search for recipes by keywords, ingredient, course, dietary consideration and even season or occasion.  There is an impressive variety of recipes- over 8,000 under the main ingredients search alone.  Once you find ones you like, you can save them into a favorites folder.  When you're ready to use it, you can save it to your "shopping list" where it breaks out all of the ingredients you need.  This app has photos and user reviews as well. 

I have yet to see another app out there that combines all of these functions.  The best part...it's FREE!  This is quickly joining the Yelp app as one of my favorites.

October 27, 2010

Brunch is Awesome

I love brunch. There is nothing more perfect after rolling out of bed extra late on a Sunday and brushing off a hangover with some Eggs Benedict (Benny) or Belgian waffles. This weekend being Halloween I imagine there will be plenty of need for a gluttonous Sunday feast.

One thing I hate is deciding at the last minute you want brunch and then not knowing where to go.  Brunch DC has a great blog about brunch all around the DC metro area. I was particularly tempted by the Tabard Inn's homemade doughnuts and and Cafe Saint-Ex's Monte Cristo! They have a pretty extensive list of brunch reviews and you can sort by neighborhood.

If you want to be original, host your own brunch! Change it up- do a special theme or cuisine. Friends will love the casual gathering and it can be a nice change of pace from standing in line because a lot of places don't do reservations for casual brunch. Check out this list of a Month of Brunch Menus to give you some inspiration.

Whether you go buffet style, sit-down, formal or a casual brunch at home- be sure to go heavy on the grease and keep the mimosas coming!

October 20, 2010

Devouring San Francisco

Nope- this just doesn't have the same feel as Devouring DC.  Lacks originality and alliteration.  Now that I'm a Bay Area transplant I'm going to have to redirect my foodie focus.  I could still write about DC, I just won't have any recent personal experience to back it up.  Now how is that helpful to anyone?

I've been agonizing (embellished, but still) about what to call my new blog.  It seems every time I come up with a name someone else has already done it.  Let's face it, food blogs in San Francisco are a dime a dozen.  I'm going to need to stand out and really set myself apart from the others if I don't want to get swallowed and lost in the bowels of food blogging hell. OK, that was an overly descriptive, overly dramatic and just plain gross metaphor. Sorry.  Now let's focus.  It's time for you to help me!  If you have any fun, original and creative ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  Results TBD...

October 19, 2010

The CIA Is Coming to DC!

Not that one from Langley, the food one.  I'm talking about the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the world with an alumni roster that includes the likes of Cat Cora, Michael Symon, John Besh, Anthony Bourdain and Michael Chiarello. 

If you've ever thought about becoming a chef, baker or restauranteur (and who hasn't?) then now is your chance to rub elbows with staff and find out everything you need to know.  The CIA is holding an admissions reception in DC on Monday, October 25th at 6:30pm at the J.W. Marriott downtown at Metro Center.  Admissions staff will be on hand to answer all of your questions and provide information about their programs and scholarship opportunities.  Speaking of scholarships, you could enter for a chance to win up to a $15,000 scholarship for the best Thanksgiving turkey in the CIA Top Turkey Scholarship contest!

Not really looking for a career change but want to have the experience?  Try out the CIA boot camp.  This is an intense training camps for adults with a passion for food.  I am personally saving up for the week-long bootcamp at the CIA campus in St. Helena, CA. That sounds like a perfect vacation to me!

October 7, 2010

What's Happening DC? Upcoming Food Events

I thought before I move to the left coast on Sunday I would do a post about all of the things I'll be missing back here in the DC area. : (  If you go to any of these, particularly the last one,  be sure to post a comment to rub it in!

Singles Dinner for Six
Friday October 8th (7:30pm ages 40s-50s; 8:00pm 20s-30s)
Potenza- 1430 H st., NW and Bistro Bis 15 E st, NW
It's exactly what it sounds like.

Taste of Georgetown
Saturday 10/9 11:00am
Georgetown
Nearly 30 of G'town's restaurants will have food to sample along with wine pairings and live jazz while benefiting the homeless

Daylight Washington DC
Sunday 10/10 4:55pm (every Sunday)
Bohemian Caverns (11th and U st.)
Music, dancing, drink specials and catered buffet from 5-7pm

Champagne Brunch
Every Sunday 11:00am
The Mansion on O- 2020 O St., NW
Gourmet buffet with omelet/crepe/waffle bar and champagne. Explore the "Mans" while you're there- over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors!

Capital Food Fight
Thursday, 11/11 6:00pm
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center- DC
Top chefs battle on stage in a competition that benefits DC Central Kitchen. Be sure to catch celebrity chefs Jose Andres, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio and Michael Mina!

October 1, 2010

It's My Birthday and I Will Eat What I Want To

Yay, it's my birthday and I'm (none of your damn business) years old!  If there is one day out of the year I let myself eat anything I want (and there isn't, it's most days actually, but I digress,) it's today!  Where will I go?  What will I devour?  No clue. I might head over to Mussel Bar, even though I'm likely to face a 90 minute wait on a Friday, but I don't care.  I love moules frittes!  Right now I'm actually more concerned with my cake (or just dessert in general.)  I love a great pumpkin cheesecake on my birthday.  You can't beat it.  One year I had a fantastic one at Chef Geoff's.  I might have to call and see if they have it.  Love that place.

I'm also a huge fan of Max's Best pumpkin ice cream.  It's to die for!  I love Max's ice cream.  I used to live in Glover Park and loved going to Max's.  I think it's the best in DC.  I miss that neighborhood!

If anyone wants to make me a cake, the Internet Food Association's blog has a recipe posted here.  If not, feel free to send me your recommendations!

If you're planning on grabbing some dessert yourself, here are some places to check out:

Co Co. Sala
929 F. Street, NW

ACKC
1529C 14th St, NW

Dangerously Delicious Pies
1339 H Street, NE

September 30, 2010

More Modern Kitchen Gadgets

So I've been surfing the interweb again for cool, modern kitchen gadgets and came across some of these funky finds:

Rubik's Cuet Salt & Pepper Shaker
Uncommon Goods- $15

Penguin Corkscrew
Uncommon Goods- $10

Modern Gadget- $27.50 (yes, that's for one glass)

And for my personal favorite...

Vino Mug
Chiasso- $18


I'm going to need a bigger kitchen.

Boneless Pork Loin Chops with Curry Butternut Squash Puree

It's Autumn! This is absolutely my favorite time of year, and not just because my birthday falls near the beginning of the season (we will not speak of that.)  I love the cooler night air, the leaves turning gold and red and, of course, the harvest of beautiful earthy vegetables. 

Unfortunately, it's been more than a bit dreary on the east coast the last few days.  I am staring out the window now at the at the billions of rain drops plummeting to the earth as if they had a personal vendetta for Montgomery county.  Rain jerks.  Even my dogs feel the general malaise, slumbering  all day long with occasional sighs and grunts of boredom and cabin fever.  What better on a day like this than comfort food?

Here is a recipe I whipped up that might take the dampness out of your bones and brighten your spirits. 

Ingredients (serves 2):
PORK:
2 boneless pork loin chops, thick cut
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

SQUASH PUREE
1 butternut squash
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup chicken stock (warmed)
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Skin the butternut squash and slice into 1 inch cubes.  Coat them in a bowl with the olive oil then mix with Kosher salt and curry.  Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until tender.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet on medium high heat.  Season the pork on both sides with Kosher salt and pepper.  Place in the pan and cook for about 6-8 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the chops. (Pork is not something you want to under or over-cook. There is very little chance your cut will be exactly the same as what I bought so I recommend using a meat thermometer. The pork will be done when the center reaches 155 degrees.)  Remove the pork and rest on a cutting board while you prepare the squash.

In a large bowl or mixer, puree the squash with the chicken stock and butter until smooth. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary (always taste your food before serving!)

*NOTE: In the picture, I served with red-wine braised shiitake mushrooms. I didn't include them here because I didn't think they added to the dish.  My husband disagrees. I'll leave it up to you...

MUSHROOMS:
2 cups shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp. butter
1/8 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet on medium heat, saute the mushrooms in butter until soft. Add red wine and reduce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

September 25, 2010

Taylor Gourmet...But Not Really

Last weekend I was doing some shopping in Bethesda and wanted to grab a quick sandwich for lunch to bring home.  I heard the new Taylor Gourmet was really good and I have seen the place look packed before so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The menu definitely has a lot to offer with over 20 signature hoagies as well as chicken cutlet and vegetarian sandwiches. I decided to get the Race Street hoagie which has turkey, prosciutto, pesto and mozzarella.  It was a great combination of ingredients but there was one major, MAJOR flaw...I couldn't get through the bread.  The hoagie was so thick and hard it was like gnawing on a hockey puck.  I actually had to use all of the strenth in my jaws as well as my biceps to rip through this bread.  If I wanted to feel barbaric, I would have gotten a damn turkey leg at the Renaissance Festival or go to Medieval Times. This was obnoxious. It was so bad that I actually got slices of my own bread and transferred the toppings- which were just ok.

I'm sorry Taylor Gourmet, but epic FAIL. I give you 1 fork out of 5. Thumbs down.

September 20, 2010

Post-Race Brunch in Philly

This past Sunday my sister-in-law and I ran in the Philadelphia Rock n' Roll Half Marathon. It was a beautiful day and we ran for a great cause, raising money to support research for MS. After burning about 1300 calories and nourishing our bodies with Cytomax and Gu, we needed a proper brunch to celebrate. We cleaned ourselves up and headed to Bar Ferdinand on North 2nd Street.

The interior had an unmistakable Spanish charm, with lace-draped chandeliers and dried roses hanging around the bar. We chose to sit outside and enjoy the sun and fresh air. While sipping on bloody mary's and white sangria cocktails, we decided to start with some tapas for the table. We ordered Croquettes filled with serrano ham and charred scallion along with puff pastry triangles filled with dates, bacon and cream cheese. The croquettes were crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. They were cheesy, salty and rich. The pastries were a perfect combination of salty and sweet- the dates were balanced with the salty bacon and flaky crust. Two fantastic ways to start a meal.

For brunch they offer a special- your choice of one of three 4-course menus for $15. Awesome deal! I ordered the eggs benedict with saffron hollandaise, potatoes with spicy tomato aioli, house-made Spanish bacon and bruschetta with spicy tomato sauce. The potatoes were golden fried and the sauce gave them a great little kick. The crisp, salty bacon was about as perfect as bacon could ever be and the benedict was outstanding. The eggs were beautifully poached into these perfect little orbs. I cut into them and the yolk poured out like tasty lava. I am VERY particular about my eggs, too. If I see one HINT of uncooked egg white, I won't touch the dish. These were perfect. The hollandaise was incredibly rich and smooth.

As full as I was, my sister-in-law was telling me the cupcake shop on the way back was featured on Oprah as one of her favorites. Of course that means I had to get one for the road. We stepped into Brown Betty Dessert Boutique a few doors down where I grabbed a red velvet cupcake to go. When I got home, it was smushed, but it didn't matter. One of the best cupcakes I've had to date. It was moist, rich and the icing was creamy but not too sweet. So worth the calories! What a great end to a great day! Many thanks to my family, my tutu-sporting running partner, friends and to all those who donated to I Run to Stop MS!

September 18, 2010

Oceanaire Seafood Room

The other night we went to dinner at Oceanaire by Metro Center in honor of my friend Suzi, who had back surgery on Friday. (Speedy recovery Suz! French martinis are waiting!) Speaking of French martinis, Suzi and I both started with those while we looked over the menu. I love French martinis, I really do. The problem is most places don't have a clue how to make a good one. Oceanaire does, which means I had two.

For appetizers, we ordered fried asparagus and Caesar salads. The Caesar wasn't bad, I just a bit light on dressing which means light on flavor. The asparagus was pretty good, not too greasy.

For an entree, I ordered the cornmeal crusted trout. It had a perfectly crispy coating and the inside was tender, flaky and moist. I would definitely order that again. We all agreed to split the sauteed spinach with garlic, Au Gratin potatoes and hashed browns a la Oceanaire as the sides for the table. The spinach could have been skipped. I love garlic spinach, but again, this one lacked flavor. The potato dishes, however- they were full of it. The hashed browns came out on a plate that appeared to be holding a giant tater tot. How can that NOT be good? The Au Gratin potatoes were incredibly creamy and cheesy- all top-notch things in my book.

Overall, the food was pretty good and the service OK. It isn't the absolute best food I've ever had, but I am also partial to completed dishes as opposed to steakhouse-style menus with staple dishes and family style sides. That being said, I had a good meal although I wouldn't make a habit of going there as it's a bit on the pricey side.

September 17, 2010

Assaggi Mozzarella Bar

Recently I joined a couple of girlfriends for dinner in Bethesda at Assaggi Mozzarella Bar. The menu concept is northern Italian and specializing in different mozzarella's paired with condiments. The menu is very traditional, with multiple courses.

For the first course, we split an assorted tray of cured meats and mozzarella di buffala. The cheese was very fresh and it was a great way to awaken our palates. I chose a beet and goat cheese salad for the next course. It was sweet and rich. I would have been happy with that as my meal.

After nibbling at our first and second courses and sipping our champagne cocktails, we ordered our entrees. I couldn't decide (shocker) between two pastas so they offered to give me two half orders. Done! I ordered the Bigolo-a thick spaghetti with a duck and porcini mushroom ragu- and the Orecchiette which had mild Italian sausage, green peas and Parmigiano Reggiano.  Both of these pasta dishes were quite delicious, although the Orecchette was by far my favorite. It was somehow rich and light at the same time, even though there was no sauce. The sauce was simply the oil from the sausage. The duck pasta was also delicious, however the thick spaghetti could have used just another minute in the water- a little too al dente for me. I would recommend either dish.

The food was really pretty good and the atmosphere...well...quiet. The service was excellent and we had a great time. If I were to go back, I would definitely stick to one course and take it easy on the drinks. The cocktails will drain your wallet at around $15 a pop and all of those courses add up. At around $270 for three girls, I would say keep this in mind when ordering and try not to listen too much to your grumbling stomach.

September 13, 2010

OBX Eats: The Really Good and the Really Bad

While getting our floors refinished, we headed to the Outer Banks to stay with my in-laws at their beach house.  I worked remotely by day and feasted heavily by night (well...and pretty much all day, too.)

My favorite restaurant anywhere would have to be The Blue Point in Duck. I've been going there for years. I was a little concerned when I heard rumors of recent bad reviews and dining experiences. Not once have I had anything short of exceptional. Hearing of these so-called bad reviews, I was anxious to go. I had to prove them wrong and make sure, for my own sanity, that they hadn't slipped.

There were six of us dining that evening and we were seated at a table with a great view of the sunset. Our server was very pleasant and quickly took our drink orders then came back with an amuse bouche. You don't see many restaurants offer these tiny palate-pleasers anymore. I love that the Blue Point provides this extra touch.

For first courses, we ordered the crab dip special and she-crab soup. The crab dip was creamy, smooth and rich. The she-crab soup, a restaurant specialty, was amazing as usual. I feel compelled to have this every time I'm there.

For an entree, I ordered the tilefish special, with a fresh corn salsa and tomato water. It was heavenly. The fish was cooked to perfection- tender, flaky and moist. The salsa was obviously fresh and shaved off the cob and the tomato water added a sweet balance to the fish. We were tempted to order dessert, but knew we had my homemade dark chocolate ice cream waiting back at the house.

Another spot I like to hit up is Baldie's Burgers and Ice Cream in Duck. I love grabbing burgers from this place for lunch or for a no-fuss dinner. They actually remind me a lot of Five Guys' burgers. I always have to get a single bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, pickles and ketchup. Simple and delicious. We grabbed burgers and salty skin-on fries to take back to the house. Hit...the...spot.

The last time I was down in Duck, we had lunch at the Roadside Cafe. I remember it being pretty good but the service was slow. We decided to give it another shot one of our final nights there. Boy, do I regret this decision. When we arrived, we put our names in and got drinks. After about 30 minutes, we were seated outside. Little did we know, this is where we would have our butts parked for the next couple of hours. To say we had been neglected would be an understatement. We did get our orders in and our salads came eventually. Unfortunately, no one has told them that Balsamic dressing and Ceasar dressing don't go together. It's just wrong. Maybe I'm a caesar salad purist, but I don't think it's something to be messed with. It's hard enough to find a good basic caesar without having restaurants try to get "innovative." It's salad. Leave it at that.

At least another hour passed after our salads arrived as we sat with our over-dressed plates, empty glasses and chill of the night air. Thankfully we had the company of a giant spider that looked like a Maryland crab to entertain us. It could see we were getting bored so decided to dip up and down and back and forth between the pergola and our table umbrella. This freak of nature enjoyed paralyzing me with fear while I wait anxiously for our main course.

We sat so long my legs ached. As we all had the debate of whether or not to walk out- something I have NEVER done or even come CLOSE to thinking about- my husband made the call to go inside and see what the hell they were doing in there, if not cooking our dinners. (For the record, I voted to walk out. We'll be renegades next time, Mrs. G!)

About 10 minutes later our entrees arrived (not at the same time, of course.) We weren't even hungry anymore at this point, but shoveled away, pushing our food around our plates. To add insult, they barely apologized and were "generous" enough to comp us our drinks. Um, thanks. Needless to say, that will be on the list of places I shall never return. Cue the violins.

The Roadside adventure aside, we had a lot of great meals in the Outer Banks this trip and, even if I was working, it was great to be with our family to close out another season at It's Noon Somewhere. It may be a while before we can all get back there again, but I will be counting the days.

September 3, 2010

Pizza Making Class at Sorriso


Back in February I wrote a blog entry about a wonderful dining experience at Sorriso in Cleveland Park.  When I looked back on their website, I noticed the Pizzaiolo, Stefano, got his Masters in pizza making in Italy.  I also noticed that they would be offering classes, so I couldn't wait to sign up. The class is small, maximum of four people, which is fantastic.  It guarantees a great learning experience and it's fun to do with a few friends.

When we arrived on a hot July morning there was a man there with a camera. He asked if we were there for the class. I was confused since we already had 4 people for the class but he said he was doing a story on the Polles family for CNN.  First a "debut" on Top Chef now CNN- I'm on a roll this year!

We went inside where Stefano greeted us, gave us our aprons and a packet that includes some history and recipes. We dove right in. He told us about the importance of the dough, the ingredients and method. (I won't be sharing these secrets with you, sorry. I paid good money for this class- pay your own way!) Our math skills were put to the test in measuring out ingredients- which can be challenging first thing in the morning with a camera on you. No pressure! We went through in detail, step-by-step, the dough making process where we made the dough that would actually be served at the restaurant that week!

We kneaded, stretched, rolled and formed all of the dough balls. It was so much fun I wanted to stay on that evening as free help! Now it was time to make our own pizzas. Stefano showed us how to form the pizza and properly top them. By properly, I mean with simple, fresh ingredients. As a Domino's and Pizza Hut nation, we tend to get a little carried away sometimes. He showed us their kick-ass, wood-fired rotating pizza oven that costs about the same as half my college education. (I want.) We topped our pizzas and put them in the oven.  Shortly after, we were enjoying the fruits of our labor with a glass of Prosecco (admittedly followed by some wine and other libations.) The pizza was so incredibly fresh tasting and the crust...THE CRUST! Stefano was not messing around. Dough is not something to be taken lightly- it truly makes the pizza.

As we sat and stuffed our faces, Stefano's father, Pietro entertained us with stories and told us about his vineyard back in Italy. I want his life. What a charming and hospitable man.

As a foodie, there couldn't be a better way to spend a Saturday. It felt great to be in a kitchen again, other than my own. I had a great day with friends, great food and it was a great learning experience.

The added bonus was that it was filmed for CNN! Once again, however, only the back of my head made the cut. I see a trend here! I encourage you to check out the story below and definitely take the class!


Contact Info: Sorriso@verizon.net
202-537-4800

 


August 31, 2010

Bay Area Bites


Recently I just started my new job in San Francisco. I went out for a week to get started and am now working remotely. I use this as yet another excuse for not having any blog entries lately. (Excuses, excuses.)

I would be remiss if I didn't make a post about the fabulous food I consumed while in the restaurant capital of the U.S. I didn't get out quite as much as I wanted to because I was still on east coast time and my dining schedule was all out of whack but don't worry, I still managed to pack in some great grub.

The day I arrived, my hotel room wouldn't be ready for a few hours. It was a beautiful day though so I was eager to get out and check out the area. I was staying near Union Square so had plenty to keep me busy. I sat down for lunch at Puccini & Pinetti, a family Italian restaurant bordering Union Square and Tenderloin. I ordered the "P.E.L.T." sandwich which includes pancetta, aioli, a fried egg and roasted tomatoes on sourdough. It was messy, salty, gooey and delicious. Unfortunately the waiter thought it would be a great idea to ask me how it was as I was shoving a bite in my mouth and had pancetta hanging from my lip. He awkwardly said "oh, should've waited. sorry" then proceeded to stand there and watch me fight with the pancetta for what seemed like 3 minutes. Awwwwkward!

Later that night, I met up with my friends Christy and Jesse (insert shout-out here: happy 1 year anniversary!) We went to the Thirsty Bear in SOMA. Here I managed to fill myself with a plethora of tapas and pack on quite a brew buzz the night before my first day at work. I think this is a perfect way to start my week in SF!

My second night I was truly exhausted. Jet-lag had set in and I was pretty sure I was going to pass out on my desk at 3pm. Needless to say, I did not go out that night but opted for a room-service Caesar salad. I should've gone out.

The next few nights I spent wandering around Union Square, shopping and checking out the dining scene. I noshed on sushi from some restaurant I don't remember and wandered through Chinatown in search of noodles.

My new coworkers took me out to lunch several times. I am particularly fond of Ironside on 2nd and Townsend. Great pizzas and sandwiches and an overall fun, laid back atmosphere. Another fantastic lunch was from the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen on 2nd and Brannan. A restaurant dedicated to gourmet grilled cheese?! I love this town! I ordered the Moscone, with mozzarella, Fontina, roasted tomatoes, basil-lavender pesto and tapenade along with a cup of smoky tomato soup. THIS is what I call comfort food! I also had a huge Thai feast of red curry at Ozone and had a great happy hour at MoMo's. Awesome first week!

The work week finished with my friend coming into the city for a girls' night. We got fresh and fruity drinks at Cantina on Sutter street. I'm not really sure what the theme was for this place but there were pirate skulls, dark candle lighting, fresh-squeezed fruity drinks, loungy couches in back and...wait for it...Madonna songs. Works for me. I loved that they had a giant bowl of fresh fruit (including Buddha's hand) that they used to make the cocktails with. After a few at Cantina, we were starving all of the sudden. We walked around for a bit and landed at Max's On the Square on Geary Street. Is there anything like a greasy, medium rare cheeseburger with onion strings after a couple of cocktails? We planned on checking out a bar around the corner afterwards that has a slide going from the second floor to the dance floor (trouble), but when we saw the line of 18 year-old girls with fake IDs in tube tops for skirts and 9 inch platforms trailing around the next block we decided we were too old for that sh*t, bought a bottle of Prosecco at a mini mart and went on our way.

The next day, my friends treated me to homemade BBQ ribs, slaw and they even made their own sausage. All of this was followed by homemade peppermint ice cream! I'm going to need to step up my game.

After a night at their house full of Corona's, Pimm's Cups and Wine, we took our weary selves to dim sum the next day where we physically hurt ourselves by eating too much. It was awesome.

My last dinner on the way to the airport was at this awesome place called Henry's Hi Life in San Jose. I love this place. You walk in, place your order immediately from a wooden sign listing out their various meats, then sit and have drinks at the bar while you wait for a table. When you are called for your table, your salads are there waiting for you. Genius! The steaks were the size of Alaska and accompanied with a baked potato with a chive butter ball that could rival a scoop of ice cream. This place is heaven to a meat and potatoes girl.

There you have it- my first week in the Bay area. I think I gained 5 lbs within a day and I don't regret a single bite.

August 11, 2010

Places for the Obama's to Get Deep Dish in DC

Ok, I know I just posted about pizza. So what. I like it, and from what I read on the interweb, the President does as well. Being from Chicago, I imagine he misses the good old deep-dish from time to time. DC doesn't have a ton of options, but I'm determined to dig up a few.

I admit, I haven't tried most of these places, but if you have, please let me know how they were in the comments! I haven't had deep-dish in ages but it appears I need to venture out from behind the computer and get some.

DC:
Alberto's
2010 P Street, NW- DuPont Circle, DC
2438 18th Street, NW- Adams Morgan, DC

Pizzeria Uno
Union Station
3211 M St, NW- Georgetown

Armand's
4231 Wisconsin Ave, NW- Tenleytown, DC
226 Mass. Ave, NE- Capitol Hill, DC

We, The Pizza
(offers cast iron pies)
305 Pennsylvania Ave, SE- DC

MD:
Pizzeria Uno
4001 Town Ctr. Blvd- Bowie, MD
10300 Little Patuxent Pkwy- Columbia, MD
4470 Long Gate Pkwy- Ellicott City, MD

1909 Seminary Rd- Silver Spring, MD
190 Halpine Rd.- Rockville, MD
18208 Contour Rd.- Gaithersburg, MD
18070 Georgia Ave- Olney, MD

VA:
Bugsies
111 King Street- Alexandria, VA

Pizzeria Uno
3058 Gatehouse Plaza- Falls Church, VA
11948 Market Street- Reston, VA
5935 Kingstowne Towne Center- Kingstowne, VA
2680 Prince William Pkwy- Woodbridge, VA

*Disclaimer: Being the numbers-oriented blog-geek that I am, I check out how many people actually read my blog from time to time. I noticed that someone from the White House may have glanced at it, so I (shamelessly) made this post in the hopes that Mr. President (or White House intern) will return for my impeccable food advice and recipes. Now- what would be really cool, is for the President or First Lady to "like" me on Facebook. (wink wink)

August 10, 2010

Pesto Pizza with Ricotta, Salami and Artichoke Hearts


I clearly have some sort of pizza addiction. Last night I decided to switch it up and go with pesto instead of the traditional sauce. The crust decided to blow up on me, but I think that's because I was a little impatient and didn't work the dough properly. It didn't phase me- it was still a pretty great pizza.

I highly recommend (demand) that you make your own pesto. The flavor is so much more intense and fresh. You can also control the amount of oil, which is key. If you have too much oil in your pesto, it will gather in the center of the pie and make it soggy. Soggy = bad pizza. I also recommend (demand) that you buy quality ingredients. There is no point to going through the effort of pizza making if you're going to just throw any old flavorless garbage on top. That's what certain unnamed chain delivery services are for. For this, I used hand rolled ricotta that I found at Whole Foods. It had a relatively low moisture content (again, for the anti-soggy factor) and it was so light and fluffy, yet still rich and creamy. You could eat it with a spoon, and I did.

Ingredients:
1 Pizza Dough- Recipe here or buy a good quality ball of dough from an Italian store or Balducci's
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesano Reggiano cheese
5-6 slices good quality salami (I don't recommend genoa, the flavor is quite strong)
1/4 cup good quality ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated mozzarella
1/2 can drained artichoke hearts
All purpose flour

Special Equipment:
Pizza stone
Cuisinart mixer or blender
Pizza paddle

If making dough from scratch, prepare per instructions. Preheat the oven with the stone inside to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go). Allow it to heat at this temperature for at least 30 minutes to give the stone time to come to temperature.

Make the Pesto: In the mixer, combine the basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, kosher salt and cheese until mixed into a paste. If it is too dry, drizzle a little more olive oil, but remember- you don't want it too oily for the pizza. It should be a thick paste.

Sprinkle some flour on the pizza paddle. Stretch the dough out and form into pizza shape on the paddle, getting as thin as possible without tearing. (See video below for stretching method.) Spread the pesto evenly over the dough. Top with the shredded mozzarella then add the salami and artichoke hearts. Using a spoon, drop mounds of the fresh ricotta on top in different areas of the pizza. (Don't try to spread it, you will make a mess. It's more rustic this way anyways.) Carefully slide the pizza off the paddle onto the pizza stone in the oven and bake about 8 minutes or until the crust startst to brown and the cheeses bubble. Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the paddle for at least 5 minutes before serving. For a little finishing touch, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and grate some fresh black pepper.

Stretching Pizza Dough:

August 9, 2010

Go To Hell

photo courtesy of my iPhone

I'm not being rude, I'm referring to Ray's Hell Burger. I have posted about Ray's before, back in the early days of le-blog, and have only recently had the chance to cross over to The VA and visit this burger heaven again.

Ray's has changed a bit since my last visit- slightly larger and with some outdoor seating- but the burgers are everything I remembered them to be.  Juicy, giant and full of flavor. I ordered the Au Poivre burger with grilled onions, cognac and sherry sauteed mushrooms and chimay a la biere cheese. Holy crap it was awesome. It was pure burger beauty, in medium rare form. To lessen the intimidation, I decided to cut the burger in half. Looking around, I noticed I was not the only one with this strategy of attack. The chimay cheese oozed down from the top and onto the plate. In the words of Will Ferrell, it was glorious! I also ordered the skin-on french fries, which were perfectly salty. Alas, the burger defeated me and I had to pack up half for another time.

If you can handle the crowds, standing in line and gladiator battles for the next open table, go to Ray's. It is everything a burger should be.

August 4, 2010

I Am The Worst Food Blogger Ever

Let me start off with saying I'm sorry. I have neglected the blog, but not on purpose. Thanks to a five minute thunderstorm I lost power for almost a week. The power returned just in time for me to go to the beach for a girls' beach weekend. So, this post won't be so much about any one food thing in particular, but rather a quick catch up of food-related randomness. So, here we go...


  • Girls' beach weekend in Bethany I would like to thank by dear friends, especially SPF and her in-laws, for a wonderful beach weekend in Bethany Beach. It was incredibly relaxing and full of naughty food and drinks. Here are some highlights:

    • Pig + Fish: had a yummy crabcake and steak, fantastically large goblets of Sangria and some wine to follow. Tip: skip the mashed potatoes. They were brown and dull. I know- I AM a mashed potato snob. The crabcakes and steak were perfect though!
    • The gluttony lunch from Surf's Up: this place is apparently just something you have to experience. You have to be willing to let yourself go (in every sense) and just dive in to the juicy and insanely large cheesesteaks. I used to be terrified of them after a bad hangover experience from a bachelorette party (Trish), but upon trying it out again this weekend, they were really good and full of cheesy, greasy, goodness. 
    • Mango Mikes: Two words- Orange Crush. I have to be honest, I don't really remember the food we ate. I know it was a ridiculously large assortment of appetizers. I wasn't there for the food. We were all there for the crush. This drink is refreshing, light and dangerous. You can't taste the alcohol, so they go down quite easily. 

  • What's going on right now in DC:
    • Groupon Deal: 50% off a cooking class with Top Chef's Carla Hall! This season 5 finalist from Top Chef is offering cooking classes at Alchemy Caterers. Sign up to meet a cheftestant and sharpen your culinary skills!
    • Living Social DC: Today's deal is $25 for $50 gift card to Strike in Bethesda.  I used to love going here when I lived there.  It's fun and I love their bar food- particularly the sliders. They remind me of White Castle.  I would definitely get the coupon, because it's easy to rack up a tab here.
    • Restaurant Week!: Restaurant week starts August 16th and ends the 22nd. Make reservations for $20.10 three-course fixed price lunches and $35.10 three-course fixed price dinners. Don't procrastinate on your reservations. Even though there are over 200 restaurants participating, they book up quickly. Oh the pressure- so many places I've been wanting to try out!!

  • And the biggest news is... I'm moving to San Francisco! Yup- you read that right. This foodie is moving to the foodie capital of the US. Don't worry- I will still be cooking and blogging- probably more than ever. It does mean, however, that this blog will be, well, irrelevant. SO- why don't you help me come up with a new blog name. Post suggestions in the comments. If I pick your idea, you get...um...recognition. Sorry, I'm moving across the country. I don't have the funds to be buying people dinners. I'm still in the DC area for awhile (until fall) but I will keep you all posted on a move date and blog-change date. Please stick with me, loves!

July 16, 2010

OMG It's An Earthquake!

Ok, it was kind of fun waking up at 5 a.m. this morning to the rumblings of a 3.7 earthquake.  (Well, maybe not the 5 a.m. part.)  If you can get over the trauma and sleep deprivation, here are some things happening in the DC area this weekend that might be fun to check out:


  • According to Metromix DC there are not one, but TWO Christmas in July parties this weekend.  The first is at the Eden rooftop at 1715 I Street, NW and the other on Union Street in Alexandria.  If you're looking for something a little less, um, Christmas-y, head over to the Palace of Wonders for the "Best Night of Your $!@# Life"
  • What better way to celebrate our first "big" earthquake in 30 years than with a shake?! The Washingtonian Best Bites Blog rounds up some of the best milkshakes in the area.  I like peppermint.  I'm just sayin'.
  • Still not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth?  Georgetown Cupcake has a treat for you.  In celebration of the premier of their new show on TLC tonight, they are offering free cupcakes all day today! Head on over to grab your cupcake crack and tune in to TLC at 10pm tonight.  (I'm not selling out because I work for a certain media company in Silver Spring, I am fairly reporting DC food news and this is relevant...and I like cupcakes.)
  • Want some great food from a DC landmark followed my an evening of mellow music? (Or the other way around if you want music first then munchies.) Hit up Ben's Chili Bowl then walk down to the 9:30 Club for the Jack Johnson show.  I'm a huge fan of their turkey burger and, of course, chili fries.  Oh- and coming soon, there will be an app for that.
  • If you can't get enough Top Chef mania, head over to We, The Pizza on Capitol Hill.  Show alum, Spike Mendolsohn's new joint offers traditional and cast iron pies as well as wings, subs, salads and Italian sodas.  It's opening was delayed until Monday, however, so you'll have to ride the weekend out.

July 15, 2010

Some of My Favorite Things

I've decided to let you all in on some of my favorite things- from restaurants to specific eats.  They are now on the left above the produce that's in season locally. I'm sure my list will change periodically and if you have any recommendations, be sure to let me know and I'll check them out!

July 14, 2010

Schnitzel With Sherry Mushroom Sauce


I was watching Tyler's Ultimate the other day (favorite comfort food master of mine) and he made a dish I've never cooked before- schnitzel.  No, that's not a swear.  After watching him pan-fry the breaded thin pork cutlet into a crisp, golden brown medallion of heaven, I decided I needed to try it and hope it didn't turn out like shitzel. (OK, really horribly lame joke. I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights- give me a break.  When getting ready this morning I mistakenly spread what I thought was toner all over my face only to look down and see I "freshened" my skin with contact lens solution.)  Anyhoooo, here is my take on the dish, and I will say, it turned out great. (In case you haven't noticed, I don't bother publishing my horribly, embarrassing failures.)

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. boneless pork loin
8 oz. Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup flour
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
4 sprigs fresh Thyme
6 oz. egg noodles
1/2 cup Sherry
1/4 cup fat free half n' half
Salt & Pepper

Fill a pot with water, season with salt and place on high heat to bring to a boil.

In the meantime, prepare the pork:  Heat a large saucepan on medium high heat and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Set up a dredging station by putting the flour in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs in another.  Remove the leaves from the Thyme and add to the breadcrumbs.  Beat the egg in a small bowl with the tablespoon of water.  Lay the pork out on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap and pound out flat- about 1/4 inch thick.  Dip the pork, one piece at a time in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Then dip in the egg and coat in the breadcrumbs. Once the oil is hot, put the pork in the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Remove to a plate with a paper towel and set aside.  Tent it with foil to keep warm.

Drain the excess oil from the pan.  Add butter.  Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until tender.  Add the sherry, reducing until slightly thickened.

Boil the egg noodles for about 10 minutes and drain.

Remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and mix in the half n' half.  Place some egg noodles on a plate, top with pork and then mushroom and sauce mixture.

July 9, 2010

Bacon is the New Black


Bacon is no longer just a side to your morning eggs. It is turning up in gourmet dishes and cocktails in many restaurants all over the nation and DC restaurants are no exception.

According to a study by Mintel, the number of restaurant menu items containing bacon has spiked 25% in the last five years.  No longer simply wrapped around scallops as an appetizer, bacon is dipped in chocolate, garnishing drinks and even blended into gelato. 

At Founding Farmers in downtown DC, there are a total of seven items on the menu showcasing this salty, smoky meat. Their Bacon Lollis appetizer, in which they candy Nueske’s bacon with a cinnamon and brown sugar glaze, is their star. The lolli doubles as a garnish in their Bone 12 cocktail made with Knob Creek bourbon, fresh lime juice and Tobasco. Plenty of people are ordering these smoked meat concoctions.  The restaurant goes through 50 pounds of bacon a week just to make enough lollis for the bar to garnish every Bone 12 they mix.  Their sister restaurant, Farmers & Fishers in Georgetown, also offers a bacon lollipop appetizer, but this one is dipped in chocolate. “It’s a nice flavor to start with and is an easy thing to eat and drink,” says Jennifer Motruk Loy, their Director of Marketing.

The ultimate homage to pork would have to be the “I Love Bacon” cooking class at Lia’s in Chevy Chase. For $55 a person, Chef Geoff Tracy or Chef Peter Russo instructs students on four courses including a soup, salad, entrĂ©e with side and a dessert that all include bacon. The class even teaches you how to make your own bacon, should you be so inclined.

It’s not just DC that is experiencing the boost in bacon. In Scottsdale, Arizona there is a restaurant devoted to pork, appropriately named Bacon. Vosges Haut Chocolat based in Chicago with boutiques in New York and Las Vegas makes a chocolate bar with bacon as the main ingredient. It is called the Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar which has applewood smoked bacon, alder wood smoked salt and milk chocolate.  Lou, a wine bar in Los Angeles, has an item on their menu called Pig Candy, which is bacon with spices and brown sugar frozen to have the texture of brittle or toffee.  If you don’t want to go out, you can create one of 150 dishes from The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas.  There are also websites such as bacontoday.com that offer everything one could ever want to know about this salty pork.  It even has stories of people proposing marriage with bacon!

Could this obsession with bacon be causing a toll on our health?  In short, yes. Medical News Today reported on a study published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that frequent consumption of cured meats could lead to increased odds of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is due to the nitrates added to cured meats. They are “thought to generate reactive nitrogen species in the body—molecules that cause structural damage to lung tissue, in a similar way to emphysema.” The study found this risk to be greater for those eating cured meats at least 14 times a month. COPD is just one thing to consider, however. At the Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Joint Conference this year, the American Heart Association states that eating processed meats is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, if you are consuming cured meats you made yourself or that don’t contain nitrates, these risks are not as significant.

Despite these health risks, people are still flocking to consume bacon dishes and drinks, as evidenced by the recent upswing in bacon-based menu items at popular restaurants. The cookbooks, classes and websites devoted to the meat are evidence that sometimes bacon just makes things better.