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January 31, 2010

Warm Up With Chocolate

Photo from Co Co. Sala

Winter does not seem to want to let up this year. The bone-chilling cold makes me want to hybernate and eat comfort food. One thing that makes me feel warm inside is a nice hot chocolate treat. I could go all summer without so much as a single chocolate chip but as soon as the temperatures drop below the 30s I seek it out on a daily basis. Thankfully there are several places around DC that can cater to that craving and warm you up from the inside out.

Ritz Carlton, Georgetown- S'Mores Happy Hour
Daily, Every evening at sundown through March 31st
3100 South St, NW
Washington, DC 20007

The cafe has an impressive hot chocolate menu named after hollywood divas as well as other desserts and treats. They also offer many tasting events and classes.
1529C 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Co Co Sala
This swanky lounge has a plethora of hot and frozen chocolate drinks as well as adults-only drinks. Stop in for some bites from their small plates or choose one of their chocolate voyage three-course menus.
929 F Street, NW
Washington,  DC 20004

Blue Duck Tavern
You can get the fill of chocolatey comfort food with some housemade hot chocolate, flourless chocolate cake with rice crispy treat and chocolate cream, ice creams and pies.
24 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

January 26, 2010

Funky Kitchen Gadgets

I'm always looking for cool, modern kitchen gadgets.  Home Rule on 14th street carries a handful of  quirky goods that will guarantee you always have a sense of humor in the kitchen.

Hot Head Dog Oven Mit- $11.99

Salt & Peeper Shaker Set $9.99

If online shopping is more your thing, check out these funky finds:

  Toothpick Man- $48 Chiasso

Photo from Henrik-Drecker

Airplane Children's Spoon- Villeroy & Boch- $12.99 from

January 25, 2010

DC Inaugural Meat Week is Coming

Photo from

What is meat week? I am not totally sure to be honest. I have lived here a decade and never heard of it- but that's because this is the inaugural year. It does exist in a handful of other cities, including Baltimore, and some since 2006. This appears to be almost like an organized pub crawl, but instead of brew it's barbecue. The organizers have chosen some local favorites as well as some newcomers and tried to choose ones that are easily accessible. From Alexandria to Rockville, the group is hitting up these bbq joints and chowing down. It all starts Sunday 1/31 at Urban Bar-B-Que in Rockville, 7 p.m. For the full schedule, click here.

For all of my vegetarian friends, here is a great list of DC area vegetarian restaurants (or restaurants with plenty of vegetarian options) if you wish to retaliate.

On a related note, If you are a city dweller with a small balcony and still want to grill your own bbq, check out this flower pot balcony grill from Henrik-Drecker! It's just about one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time.

January 20, 2010

Sometimes I Like Breakfast For Dinner

Sometimes you crave what you crave, and lately I have been craving breakfast for dinner. Since I have been on a health kick, this was a great opportunity to make a healthy, high protein omelette. Spinach and goat cheese are not original, but they are often paired together for a reason. They are a delicious duo. If you want a healthy and satisfying omelette that is packed with nutrition, try this out. It's a great vegetarian option, too!

1/2 bag of baby spinach
4 large eggs
slightly less than 1/4 cup fat free half n' half
2 oz of plain, creamy goat cheese
salt & pepper

In a skillet, add water until it covers the bottom approximately 1/4 inch. Heat on med/high until it starts a light boil. Add spinach and wilt for about 30 seconds. Drain the spinach in a strainer, empty the skillet and return skillet to the heat. Reduce heat to medium and add a tablespoon of butter (this time real butter, low fat will cause your omelette to stick). In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the fat-free half n' half. Season lightly with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot and butter is melted, pour the eggs into the skillet. Top evenly with spinach and clumps of goat cheese. Cover and cook until the top is almost dry. When you see only a small amount of uncooked egg on top, remove the top and fold half of the omelette on top of the other half. Cover and cook about another 2 minutes, then plate and serve.

Turkey Patty Melt

Craving some delicious diner food but don't want to actually go to a diner to get it? Want a healthier twist on a diner classic? Try a Turkey Patty Melt. As I've already established, I love burgers. I love all types of burgers. I happen to think the best type of burger is a cross between a burger and a grilled cheese. I also think that you can make a healthier version of your favorite foods so you can still feed the craving without feeling the guilt. For my patty melt, I opted for lean ground turkey instead of beef. Don't worry- the seasonings I added will give you plenty of flavor. Even I was surprised at how flavorful, tender and juicy this turned out. Try for yourself!

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 Large yellow onion, sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Teaspoon onion powder
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 Teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sliced rye bread
Parrano cheese, thinly sliced
Spreadable butter (preferably light, but it's your call)

In a saute pan, heat olive oil and butter. Add onions and cook until caramelized, but not burnt. In a large bowl, gently combine turkey and all spices. Be careful not to over mix this or it will result in a tough, dried out burger. Form meat into oblong burgers (to fit the length of the rye). Use your thumb to press a slight well in the center of the patties.

January 19, 2010

Attend a Local Benefit for Haiti

In response to the recent tragedy in Haiti, many local restaurants and bars are hosting benefits for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. It's a great way to band together and show support for those in need. Below are a few local area benefits but if you can't make those, you can always make contributions to one of the many organizations online such as the American Red Cross, Global Giving, and Unicef.

  • January 21st: Policy, United for Haiti Benefit Partners In Health. 7:30pm-midnight for $25 which includes liquor drinks from 7:30-9:30. Cash bar for beer, happy hour specials and wine.
  • January 24th: Modern 9pm-2am with $10 min. donation
  • February 6th: The Black Cat- Benefit for the Victims of Haiti with Tennis System, The State Department, Nunchucks and more. $10 at door starting at 9pm
Also, check out the list put together by Metrocurean for more local restaurants and bars either hosting benefits or donating percentages of profits.

UPDATE: Here are some other places to get more information on benefits for Haiti in the DC metro area. If you know of any others, please post it in the comments. Thank you!

UPDATE 1/26: Vinoteca is donating 15% of all Happy Hour proceeds to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund January 25th through February 14th

Long View Gallery- Universal Relief- Yoga Benefit for Haiti- Suggested donation $15-20. Enjoy yoga, music, art, activism and treats donated by local eateries. 1/31 6:30-8:30pm

January 18, 2010

New Toy

For Christmas my in-laws got me a fun new toy that I will be experimenting with for the blog. They got me a photo light kit and a food styling book! I just set it up tonight and started playing. I clearly need some practice and perhaps I should read some books on lighting but give me a break- it's my first night. Hopefully my food photos will improve over time and I can contribute to society's food-porn addiction.

January 8, 2010

DC Restaurant Week Is Next Week

Photo from

DC Restaurant week is almost here and if you haven't done so already, make your reservations now. The best restaurants fill up quickly. Restaurant Week begins January 11th and runs through the 17th. Lunches are being offered at $20.10 for a three-course fixed-price meal and $30.10 for a three-course fixed-price dinner. You can make the reservations here through OpenTable.

This is a great opportunity to try restaurants that might normally be too pricey. It doesn't make sense to me to use restaurant week to go to restaurants you can go to any day. Below are some of my personal recommendations based on meals I've had, but I know there are MANY on the list I would love to try.

What Restaurant Should I review for Restaurant Week?

January 7, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms with Turkey Sausage

This recipe was another invention I came up with by scavenging through my refrigerator and cupboards to see what ingredients I could throw together. It thankfully turned out really good! I used sweet Italian turkey sausage to make it a little healthier. The mushrooms I found were so huge that we used this is a main course, but you can easily adapt these to be used as an appetizer for a dinner party.

12 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4-5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 slices center cut bacon
1 lb package of turkey sausage, casings removed
2 small ripe tomatoes, diced
2 small onions, diced
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup dry red wine
4 sprigs of thyme
olive oil
1 cup water
salt & pepper
kosher salt

For the sauce:
In a medium saucepan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, careful not to brown or burn. Add crushed tomatoes, 1/2 can tomato paste, basil and oregano. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer while the mushrooms are cooking. If the sauce is too thick, add the water and stir until it reaches a good consistency. Salt & pepper to taste.

January 6, 2010

Warm Up with French Onion Soup

The recent bone-chilling weather has led me to make a lot of warming comfort foods. That doesn't always mean it has to be fattening, however. French onion soup is comforting, delicious and can be relatively light if you choose the right ingredients.  I started with the base of Tyler Florence's recipe and decided to give it some lighter elements for a healthier twist. Here is my take:

4 Onions, sliced- 2 white, 2 yellow
3 cloves of garlic, 2 chopped, 1 whole
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts low-sodium beef broth
1 Cup dry red wine
1 french baguette
4 slices of reduced fat provolone cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, 2 cloves of garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until the onions are translucent, soft and caramelized (about 20-25 minutes). Be careful not to burn them. Add the red wine and boil to reduce. Cook until the onions are dry. Sift the flour and sprinkle on the onions, stirring to incorporate fully. Cook for a few minutes then add the beef broth. Heat thoroughly- about 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Turn your oven broiler on low and make sure the rack is at the top of the broiler, near the heat. Slice the french baguette into several small rounds. Rub the whole garlic on the rounds. Pour some of the soup into a ramekin or small oven-safe bowl. Top the soup with one round of the garlic baguette and a slice of the provolone cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese starts to darken and is bubbly. Remove and serve. (Be careful taking these out of the broiler- they will be very hot and easy to spill).

January 1, 2010

Mi Rancho is a Good Hangover Cure

After a night of overindulging for New Year's Eve I was a little sluggish today. I started the morning off with my first go-to for hangover cures- bacon. That always takes a little of the pain away. It is the new wonder-fruit.

I then mustered up the energy to lounge on the couch for a couple hours and do a whole lot of nothing. Several home improvement and cooking shows later, I decided maybe I should leave the house and go get lunch/dinner. I have been craving fajitas for about two weeks so decided Mi Rancho would be the next prescription for my hangover lethargy.

Given a late breakfast and skipping lunch we rolled into Mi Rancho at 3:30. I felt a bit like a senior citizen but I didn't care, I was starving. I was surprised to see that after about 15 minutes the place was packed. Looks like we weren't the only ones on the post-party schedule.

We opted for a feast including combination fajitas, ribs and shrimp. It was glorious. I love the warm, soft tortillas and the spicy, buttery flavor of the chicken and steak. The ribs were not the typical bbq, but rather a sticky and sweet glaze- I'm guessing a little molasses and brown sugar. Nothing tops the hangover cure better than the hair of the dog- Coronas and Margaritas. The food is good and the prices are very reasonable ($36 for the giant fajita feast for two). I don't know what your day-after elixir was today, but mine worked beautifully!

Mi Rancho
8701 Ramsey Ave
Silver Spring, MD