Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bazaar by Jose Andres

This past weekend we were in LA for Audrey's wedding, and obviously had to take advantage of this fact to try out Jose Andres' new restaurant in West Hollywood, The Bazaar. It's billed as a full-size restaurant version of Minibar, and since I am not a person of importance and I'm pretty sure there's no "redial" button on my phone, I figured this may be my only opportunity to sample Andres' "modern Spanish" (see "Kinda wish I didn't hate olives" post) wonders. Thank you to Laura for humoring me!

First off, the menu is huge. Four panels, and pretty much everything sounded good. Working under the assumption that there were only so many tapas we could reasonably consume, we decided to stick with 6, plus dessert of course!

First: olives, traditional and modern. The traditional were green and stuffed with anchovy and pimento, the modern were those burst-in-your-mouth chemistry masterpieces for which JA is so famous. I politely abstained from this one, due to my disdain for olives, but Pat and Laura very much enjoyed them. Believe it or not, Pat said the ones we had at Artisa kitchen were better, although they were not as pretty.

Second dish: Tortilla de patatas, "new way”." This was Laura's selection and she totally won for best choice of the night. It was served in an egg shell with a miniature wooden spoon; given my love for all things mini, I was sold before I even tasted it. But when I did...WOW. Bottom was caramelized onion jam, layered with a goopy, partially cooked egg, potato foam, and little toasty hash brown tasting things on top. You must order this if you go.

Third up were the Japanese tacos, with eel, a tiny bit of wasabi, and shiso, all wrapped up in a thin slice of cucumber. My only complaint is that these were not sandwich-sized, because I'm pretty sure I could have eaten about 10 of them, given the opportunity.

Fourth, brussels sprouts, with some tiny chunks of dried apricots, olive oil, and "lemon air." This was okay. The chef went a bit heavy on the lemon, but the sprouts were cooked well...not a hint of bitterness. They had already been basically taken apart for us, which I was disappointed by--I love the feeling of the layers squishing around in my mouth.

Fifth, buñuelos -- codfish fritters with honey aioli. This is how cod should taste--not at all fishy; the insides were almost crabcake-like in their consistency. Sadly, I don't think the fryer was at the right temperature...the fritters were not at all crispy.

Last, at my insistence, were the “"Philly cheesesteak”s." A crunchy, hollow bun filled (not entirely, though) with a foamy, liquid cheddar, and topped with thin slices of Wagyu beef. These were actually the reason we went to the Bazaar, and they did not disappoint! Pat said it was the best cheddar he had ever had, as he licked the drippings from his fingers. :)

For dessert, they moved us indoors to this creepy, Alice in Wonderland-type candy shop. Pat and I split the "warm chocolate heart," which was basically a chocolate lava cake that was not too sweet and spiked with coffee. The best part was the cardamom creme. HEART cardamom. Laura got a raspberry lolli, which she seemed happy with.

Other things about the restaurant: service was...hit and miss. They took the time to explain what each dish was, but it took forever for us to get a chance to place our order. After we had done so, though, tapas came out quickly and not all at once, which I appreciated. The decor is bizarre...I wonder if the decorator was having fun with puns? Anyway, trippy and we did not like.

Finally, I must point out that, if you are a hungry, growing boy, I recommend you have a snack prior or plan on forking over a wad for dinner. After 6 tapas and dessert, Pat still had to have a bowl of cereal to fill his happy, but not satiated tummy. I secretly wish he had said something at dinner...there were sea urchin sandwiches and Ottoman carrot fritters with my name on them! (portions x-posted to

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dinner tonight: Roast Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage

Last night, I planned on just eating roasted cauliflower--lots of volume and low in calories--to make up for last weekend's transgressions. But I also had a boy to feed, who did not just spend the whole weekend binging, so I had to make sure I had some protein as well. For that, I picked up al fresco chicken sausages, in roasted garlic flavor. I'll admit, it was my first time buying chicken sausages, and I probably spent 2o minutes in front of that little refrigerated section, trying to decide between spicy jalepeno, spinach and feta, roasted red pepper and many choices! The only thing I knew I didn't want was blueberry. Gross.

The cauliflower turned out all right. Easy-peasy to make, and nice crisp-cooked with a touch of char. However, I think it could have used double the dijon, because the flavor was a bit too subtle using the recommended amount of mustard. (Also, sorry about the pic. Once again I forgot to take pictures last night, so this is of my leftovers at lunch today. >:) )
I ended up eating a half a sausage anyway, because it turns out they are very tasty! I think they paired really well with the cf, and, although they were a bit salty, that was okay because the cf was a bit under-salted. In fact, I think if I had to do it again, I would have cut up the sausage and roasted it directly with the veg, instead of pan-frying. That, with the double dijon, would have made a very tasty, easy one-pan dish!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Binge-fest at the Rivah (and PB&J muffins)

This weekend, we all went down to Ashleigh's parents' river house for 24 hours of debauchery. We ate and drank pretty much from the time we got there to the time we left, and we ate well!

Apps included Mandy's Mediterranean orzo salad, crabs pulled from the river and simply boiled (thanks Lawrence!),

imitation crab pico de gallo, scallop and snapper ceviche, and Peruvian chicken,

all prepared by Eric and Es. And that doesn't include a smattering of other cheeses, dips, veggies, and the like. We washed it all down with homemade sangria and summer brew.

Because we were all such piggies, we ended up not eating dinner until nearly 11pm. NY strips, corn, and squash on the grill, green beans, crusty bread, and I'm sure some other food that I've forgotten. Dessert was awesome...a HOMEMADE chocolate and strawberry ice cream cake with bananas, strawberries, and chocolate cookie crust. Mandy is my sweet tooth hero.

We had another smorgasbord at breakfast. Eggs and bacon cooked superbly by Taly and Adriana, leftovers, english muffins, and peanut butter and jelly muffins (yes, I actually contributed something!). As a general rule, I don't bake (precise measurements make me anxious), but I was responsible for breakfast, and I love PB&J, so decided to make a go of it. The muffins were different and delicious, although definitely dense (um, alliteration much?). I was told they would have been much better with a big glass of milk. I may have also brought some Spongebob go-gurts. Because I am 5.

So. We ate. We drank. We repeated. Needless to say, I will be detoxing for at least the first part of this week. I will still post a recipe review for Tuesday's dinner, and I may even throw in a post on how to cut back on calories to make up for a weekend like that! Thankfully, I *had* put in a 6.5 mile run before the trip, so I that's a good 600 calories I did not have to regret.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Acadiana -- Happy Hour

Things at Acadiana did not get off to a good start. We went explicitly for the Cajun Grill happy hour, happening *only* on Fridays in August. I wanted to get myself a crocodelicious gatortail sandwich. Sadly, there was no gator to be had, and I was devastated. They had decided not to run the special due to Restaurant Week, although the first time I heard about this was as I was walking in the door! Nothing on the website, and apparently nothing on the facebook or twitter pages either. I'm sure there were many sad tummies today.

Having already made the effort to come out here, though, we sat down to happy hour anyway. My first drink was a River something-or-other, with Firefly, lemonade, and soda. Good, but pretty weak. I then switched to Ashleigh's drink, a Pimm's cup. Just sweet enough, very refreshing, and much more kick!
We split three apps--the fried green tomatoes, boudin balls (heehee), and calamari salad. All mediocre. First, the tomatoes. They were cut way too thin, and the "shrimp remoulade" was actually mostly cocktail sauce and COLD shrimp. Meh.
Three boudin balls were a bit better. Not as fluffy as Marcel's, but I'm pretty sure Acadiana doesn't make interns hand-whip them for two hours straight. They weren't too greasy, and halfway decent with the jalapeno jelly and whole grain mustard.
The calamari salad was the best of the three. I was a bit surprised to find fried calamari on a salad; I had expected grilled. I've learned, though, that unless it a menu explicitly says that the calamari is NOT fried, it probably is. Guess people are scared to see little squidlings on their plates? The batter hides their cute little cephalopod heads well. Anyhoo, the salad was a bit overdressed and the dressing a bit sweet, but not overly offensive. I will also say, for half-priced apps, the portions were decently generous.

Our bartender was not very friendly, nor attentive. I don't expect great service at a bar, but at least pretend like you care!

So...glad we went, but after that taste, it is unlikely I will return for dinner. If you want FGTs, go to Ris. THOSE will rock your world. (x-posted to

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Song Que Vietnamese Deli

This evening, Shenan and I took a field trip to Eden Center, northern Virginia's little Vietnam and famous for banh mi (Vietnamese pork sandwiches). We had hoped to do a little wandering and exploring, but sadly, many of the fun stores were closed.

We had both googled "best banh mi eden center" and found a WashPo article that said Song Que had some of the best sammies around, so there we went! We ordered at the counter and took a seat; the b.m.s were delivered to our table. I ordered the #8, grilled pork, with a thai bubble tea and Shenan got the #5, special braised ham. Both were super-cheap at $3 a piece!

So I've actually had banh mi in Vietnam. This was nothing like that, it was pretty tasty! The baguette was good, not too crispy on the outside, nice and chewy inside. The pork was also good--very tender, slightly sweet and salty, in small little chunks, and surprisingly lean. The jalepeno was generous, but not out of control...only about half my b.m. bites made me want to dunk my head in a bucket of milk, which means the other half gave my tongue a respite. :) The BEST part, though, was the "mayo," which S believes to be egg yolk and olive oil. Probably not good that I also had two eggs for bfast...I'm sure my arteries love me right now. Still...that mayo might be worth surging my blood cholesterol.

I have to admit, though, the sandwich was not perfection. The carrots were cut a little thickly, and I don't think a knife got anywhere near the sprigs of cilantro. So some of the bites were a bit awkward. S's sammie looked about the same...chunky condiments aside, she seemed happy overall with her choice, as was I.
The bubble tea was more disappointing. I don't like my boba tea with ice, because it makes it really had to get at the boba! Though I wasn't too sad about that this time, since the boba were pretty flavorless. The tea itself was fine, although I think there may have been a bit too much poor little Jew tummy is not particularly happy at the moment.

Of course, we couldn't leave without taking home some goodies. S got some fun coconut mochi, and I got a pork bao, on which I will feast tomorrow! (portions x-posted to

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dinner tonight: Tomato Chutney-Smothered Tilapia witn Indian Okra

Last night we made use of last week's red tomato chutney (see previous post) in an Indian-inspired dinner: red tomato chutney-smothered tilapia with skillet-roasted spiced okra and brown basmati rice.

I took the chutney out of the fridge about an hour before dinner to let it warm up to room temperature. Cooked the basmati according to package directions (although I burned it quite a bit) and tilapia was simply baked--seasoned with S&P, baked at 400 for 10 min. The great thing about tilapia is that it is not fishy and has very little flavor, so it's a great canvas for sauces and salsas. Unfortunately, the chutney is so bold that it probably good have used a bit of a stronger tasting fish. Next time we're thinking salmon.

Accompanying the fish was skillet-roasted spiced okra, a recipe from Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef and Woodfire Grill fame. (heart him!) This was my first time cooking okra, inspired by the bounty at the farmer's market last weekend. A note on okra: I swear it must be related to the cactus family. I googled and wikipedia'ed it, and it's not, but...OUCH. Seriously, be careful handling this stuff. They has tiny little prickly hairs all over that freaking hurt when you pick, wash, and prepare them. Pat also noticed the stickers during dinner, but I think maybe I was still recovering from the okra-induced hand pain and didn't notice. That said, the veggie dish was delish! Apparently, okra can get slimy, but this did not at all. Don't skip the lemon juice spritzing at the adds some brightness to otherwise very earthy flavors.

Dinner as a whole was pretty good and well-spiced. Lots of bold flavors, which makes up (maybe?) for all the times I've under-seasoned dinner. I do recommend trying out the okra dish, but maybe wear gloves?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dinner tonight: Thai beef rolls and Korean cucumber salad

Okay, so actually this was dinner Monday night and lunch today, but that makes too long of a title, so let's pretend.

We went to a Wolftrap concert, so I wanted to bring a picnic that was good cold, portable, and preferably didn't take up a lot of space (I metro'd there). We went with an Asian theme: Thai beef rolls, Korean cucumber salad and some sesame rice crackers.
Subs I made: Instead of flour tortillas, I used Flat-Outs multigrain flax wraps. Fewer calories, whole grains, more fiber -- win, win, win! Because my laziness is infinite, I also used broccoli slaw instead of julienning carrots, since it is already pre-julienned.

Verdict: Eh. I thought there was a tad too much ginger in the beef rolls' sauce, and that it lacked something. When I made leftovers, I added some soy sauce...better, but still not great.

I was also pretty disappointed with the cucumber salad. I *love* cucumbers, vinegar, and sugar, but this one was a little blah. I think the recipe intended to say to rinse off the cucumbers after the salting and sitting phase, because it doesn't, I didn't, and I think the salad was way too salty. It also needed probably twice as much vinegar and sugar, and maybe a little more kick as well!

The one real success was the crackers...Pat ate most of the package (in his defense, the entire thing was fairly guilt-free for a boy, at something like 350 calories). Sadly, that was the one part of the meal I didn't make, so I can't take credit.

Not that I have a recipe rotation, but if I did, I'm pretty sure these two would not be going into it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Skyline Cafe

Yes, readers, today you get *2* restaurant reviews! Good for you, bad for my thighs. But tomorrow we will have a healthy recipe review. So.

Skyline Cafe. Remember how I said the best ethnic food is usually in a sketchy strip mall? Here's another exhibit, dear jury. Skyline Cafe is an Ethiopian restaurant, dangerously close to my work, in the BuildAmerica strip mall that looks like it was built in the '70s, is a NIGHTMARE to park in, and where every storefront has the same hideous orange and brown signage. Which of course means the food is bound to be awesome.

And it is. I think I've been to this place at least a half a dozen times, and I rarely eat lunch anywhere but my desk. I don't know what anything in Ethiopian cuisine is called, so I usually just order the vegetarian sampler or the meat one. This time, we ordered the veggie sampler for two. YUM. The enjara (fluffy bread used to scoop up your food--that's right, no utensils) here is just perfect. Not soggy, not too sour, and it flows freely from the kitchen...I think my personal record is 3 whole rounds. My favorites from the platter were the lentils, both yellow (sweet and mild) and brown (spicy and kicky!). Although I'm not a huge fan of collards, they go down easily here. Be forewarned...the platter for two can feed at least double that. I took home leftovers (which, incidentally weighed approximately ten pounds), had enough for two more meals, and had to throw out the rest because the binging was getting ridiculous.

I'm no expert on Ethiopian food, but I think this is one of the best places around. Consistently delish food, and none of the pretension that comes with some of the more well know places, like Zed's in Gtown. A plus -- we were in a huge hurry at lunch (less than 45 minutes to get there, eat, and get back), and told our server so: our food arrived, no joke, within 3 minutes of us ordering it, and we were fed and paid and on our way in 20! Not that I recommend speed eating, but sometimes you have no choice. (portions x-posted to

Commonwealth Gastropub

We were looking for a brunch place that was a) in the city, b) had both healthy and indulgent options, and c) wasn't too pricey. Commonwealth Gastropub, in Columbia Heights, seemed to fit the profile pretty well, plus we could get a reservation on opentable.

The food was...okay. The only thing offensive was the breakfast potatoes, which looked like they should be deliciously crispy, rustic, thick-cut chips but actually were greasy, soggy, and pretty flavorless. We started with popovers, which were not bad...nice size, warm upon arrival at our table, with a light dusting of confectioner's sugar. The dough was eggy, but lacked a little sweetness...I felt compelled to use the maple syrup that accompanied it, although I didn't intend to originally. I wanted to eat healthy (okay, except for the popover!) and got the goat cheese and beet salad. The beets were almost as flavorless as the potatoes, and the goat cheese was a little stinky for my taste. My dining companions both got egg dishes -- toad in a hole and salmon benny. Both seemed underwhelmed, but not disappointed. Honestly, though, for a freaking PUB, I would have expected larger portions--as in, more than one "toad" per serving.

Pros for the thrifty--free mimosa with every brunch entree, and very reasonable prices. Although maybe that's why the portions are small!

Overall assessment: reasonably priced, mostly unoffensive food. But not likely to make a cameo in my food fantasies. (x-posted to

Saturday, August 7, 2010


You know that pizza place in Eat, Pray, Love? The one in Naples that has the best pizza in Naples, which has the best pizza in Italy, which has the best pizza in the world, and is therefore, by extrapolation, the best pizza in the world? I've been to that place, 4 times actually, and Pupatella's pizza is by far the closest I've come to having that experience in the U.S., let alone in the place where I live!

I think the restaurant (which used to be just a cart near the Ballston metro) got off to a shaky start...when we tried to order a few weeks ago, we were told our pizza would take 2.5 hours to be ready. By last night, though, they seemed to have smoothed things out. I was able to order and pay for the pizza online, which is good because they never answer the phone. You can even put in a delayed order, and tell them what time and day you want to pick it up. I ordered a bit early, nonetheless, unsure that they had yet ironed out all the kinks.

Got to the restaurant for pick-up, which I definitely recommend, because the place is *tiny.* My pizza was, in fact, ready within 10 minutes of my named pick-up time, so I was back home a bit before dinner and the pizza stayed warming in the oven for a little bit. The drive home, with the scent of pizzas torturing me from the passenger seat, was almost too much to bear.

Now, for the pizza. Awesome. They have the dough just right. Doughy, a bit chewy and charred, not too sweet. The real neapolitan is the one that tastes like the place in Naples. If the sauce had been just a tad less sweet, I swear they would be identical. We also got the eggplant, which came with fantastically sweet roasted eggplant, red bell peppers, and fontina cheese. Although I think they were a tad heavy-handed with the salty fontina, this pizza, too, was awesome. Only two tiny pieces survived our gluttony as left overs. Tiny pieces.

Definitely go. Definitely order online. And definitely do take-out. If I didn't still have a little bread guilt from former Atkin's diet traumatic stress, I would probably be returning today. (x-posted to

Thursday, August 5, 2010


This post warrants a disclaimer: The following goes against pretty much everything this blog stands for. It is not fine dining. It is not low-calorie. And it certainly is not organic, locally sourced, or nutritious. But it was too good not to post!

Several years ago, our team at work came into possession of a Twinkie Cookbook. Yes, someone was paid to write such a masterpiece, and apparently at least one person actually paid to own it. Somehow this cookbook disappeared for a while under "real books," but managed to reappear yesterday. In honor of one of our colleague's birthdays, in place of the standard chocolate birthday cake, a certain team leader prepared THE TWINKIEMISU.

Although somewhat horrified, I had to at least taste it. Surprisingly, it was really fantastically delicious. Of course, the gallons of amaretto may have swayed by judgment a bit, but still. It didn't taste like partially hydrogenated oil or something with a shelf life on the order of decades. Granted, it didn't taste exactly like tiramisu, but apparently it was good enough that when I looked down at my paper plate, I realized I had eaten my entire piece. And maybe licked the fork afterward. :)

Once again. I do not condone such things. But, if you MUST eat a twinkie, this is totally the way to go.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Not actually dinner tonight: Red Tomato Chutney

Hello blog-readers!
I apologize for the dearth of posts the last few days, but I've had little exciting to write about. I spent a lot of the intervening meals dining on leftovers...either the boys at the family dinner party were not as big eaters as I expected, or they were being polite. Our typical Tuesday night dinner was spent this week at the Legg Mason tennis tournament, and the "lamb gyro" from Kabob and Naan I had was decidedly NOT worth blogging about. Hence, my absence.

Today, however, eating excitement returns! One of my favorite parts of summer the past several years is the little brown bag of homegrown tomatoes my boss leaves on my desk every so often. These are the sweetest, tenderest tomatoes I've ever had, and really put supermarket tomatoes to shame. The latest installment from tomato Santa appeared in my office this morning; although I had no intention of doing any real cooking these week, I couldn't let these beauties go to waste. And so, tonight they became red tomato chutney.

I made this chutney exactly as the recipe states, although it took nearly twice as long for it to cook down as written. The result is pretty fantastic...more savory than a fruit chutney--a little tart, a little sweet, a teensy bit like vinegary tomato sauce. And the best part is, it keeps for 2 months! Looking forward to enjoying it soon, perhaps over a flaky white fish, or maybe on a grilled muenster sandwich?