Swimming Upstream

September 30, 2009 at 11:07 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Alright, alright, you know I’m trying to get used to this blogging thing, so I apologize again for the delayed new post.  My association had its board meeting last week so there was no way I had time to cook for myself.  Anyway!  I am here now with a new post, new review and a new recipe that is easy, cheap and delicious!

As I said, last week was my board meeting which went well, but on our last day, a couple of my coworkers and I wanted to thank one of our colleagues for allowing us to make him our bitch all last week.  So instead of sticking around for the “make your own deli sandwich” looking display, we headed around the corner to Bistro Bis located at the Hotel George near Union Station.  Bistro Bis has (obviously) French/Belgian cuisine and is known for being a place to spot top legislators and lobbyists due to its close proximity to the Capitol building.  And for those of you who actually care about seeing that stuff on your lunch break, I still wouldn’t recommend this place.

I had been here once or twice before and the food is decent, but it doesn’t stand out as being a place that is unique or worth the money.  If you really want mussels, go to Granville Moore’s on H street, NE (and on Monday’s they are half off!).  And if you really want Belgian cuisine, I recommend Brasserie Beck on 12th.

The food not being memorable was one thing, but the service was entirely different.  I understand that you’ll catch a place on a bad day once, and maybe it’ll keep you from there for a while, but this was so bad, I’m never going back.  Not only did it take our food an hour and a half to get to the table, but our server was horrendous.  We didn’t see him through most of our wait time, and when we did, he blamed our wait on the kitchen.  Now, I don’t know how many of you have worked in the service industry, but here’s what your job entails… making sure the customer is all set.  No one cares whose fault it is that you brought me the wrong wine, or that my food is cold, or that I’ve now been sitting here for over an hour for a $13 cheeseburger.  Your job is to come over to the table, apologize, and make sure we have everything else we need, not blame someone else.  Another faux pas, we didn’t see a manager until the food had actually come out… and they forgot part of our order.  Yeah, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Sooo needless to say, I will not be frequenting Bistro Bis anytime soon, or basically ever again.  There are too many other places where the food stands out and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I would rather waste my time and money thank you very much.

Phew, now that I have gotten that rant out of the way, I have a delicious and easy recipe that is good for anytime of year.  I got this from my brother who can cook with the best of them.  He made it while I was home in August and it was divine.  It’s Maple Baked Salmon with rice pilaf and asparagus.

Now as I was getting everything prepared and ready to cook, I switched on the TV to see what could entertain my ears while I watch my food cook…low and behold, my favorite movie Across the Universe was on.  I knew it was going to be a good night.  I am a HUGE Beatles fan, and this movie did a great job telling a story through some of their finest song writing.  It’s wicked trippy, so for those of you who would like to stay away from the psychedelic, I would not recommend this movie… I also suggest we stop begin friends.  So, now that I’ve got my Beatles tunes through the eyes of Julie Taymor, my food prepped and my wine poured, its time to cook!

So about this maple syrup, I’m not talking about your Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin maple “syrup” aka CRAP.  What you need is the REAL New England Maple Syrup.  It’s going to be the most expensive piece of this meal you buy, but use it, (especially the next time you have pancakes), I promise, you’ll never want to go back to the rubbery stuff.  Everything else for the meal will probably cost about $10-15 depending on where you get your fish.

I got just over a half a pound of Salmon because I was cooking for one.  The best part about that size, I could have definitely cooked for two (that means leftovers woo!).  Also, just grab a small batch of asparagus and a box of rice pilaf and you’re ready to go!

Utensils you will need includes a pastry brush, casserole dish, frying pan, and a pot.

To get started, preheat the oven to 350.  While the oven is heating up, paint the bottom of the casserole dish with the maple syrup, just enough to cover the space the fish will take up while you bake it.  Then place the fish over that area and paint more syrup to the top and sides of the salmon.  If you like things sweeter, you can add a couple coats.  Once you have put the salmon in the oven, bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the piece you have.

Once the fish is in the oven, begin cooking your rice pilaf, this will also take about 20-25 minutes.  The directions are right on the box, so I won’t get into those details for you.

When there’s about 10 minutes left, put your asparagus on the frying pan and fry until soft.  You’ll notice they will start turning a vibrant, beautiful green as they cook.  You can cook them by covering the frying pan with a top and letting the asparagus sweat itself, or do what I do, which is toss them in a little olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper and let them cook.

When you’re all done cooking, making a nice display out of this dish is just too easy.  Spread some rice pilaf on the bottom of the dish then some asparagus stalks, then place the piece of fish on top of it all.  If you’ve cooked the fish enough, the skin will part from the meat as you slide the spatula in between them.


It looks so fancy, but is so easy!  Like I said, I cooked for one, but had enough of everything for leftovers for tonight, so cooking this meal for two will not cost you anymore than it cost me.

Now to recommend some wine.  I frequented my favorite wine shop, Au Domaine, where they just so happened to be having an Italian wine tasting (man was Saturday my lucky day!).  There, I tried a Pinot Bianco from the Northern region of Italy.  I knew this would be a great compliment to this dish since it has beautiful flavors, but dries the more you drink it.  This compliments the sweet of the maple syrup on the salmon.


The picture of the label below is a little fuzzy, but the wine comes from the di Leonardo vineyards and runs about $10.99.  It’s a great wine to drink the day you buy it, or a couple weeks down the road and is well within a reasonable price range.

Alright kids, well I hope you enjoy this dish, I know it’s one I will be making again (and again and again).  Watch out for another post up here this week/weekend since I need to start expanding my stomach for the Sicilian food fest that is my trip Providence, RI next weekend.  Anyway, until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!


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It’s the pesto of cities.

September 14, 2009 at 1:23 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Hello alll!  I know, I know it’s been FOREVER (okay really only 26 days) since the last post, but I’m sure you survived…

Anyways, a lot has happened since my last post, I spent a week in the Caymans Islands which was fantastic, exactly what I needed before Congress came back to session and everyone started running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  I did nothing but lay on the beach… oh yeah, and swam with stingrays, snorkeled, jet skied, ocean kayaked, and shopped, but other than that, nothing.

I will not try to recap the couple of Top Chefs I missed while I was away, but I will restart with that this week.  I’m just pumped that all my guys are still on and doing really well.  And Preeti is gone who doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Ashley or Eve, but still bothered me.  Regardless, this season is freaking awesome and I’m happy it’s just really begun.

Since my last post, I’ve visited my FAVORITE restaurant in Washington, DC which is Cafe Atlantico (thanks Radman!).  They had extended their Restaurant Week menu so I had to indulge.  I went for a business lunch which happened to be the first time I hadn’t been there during the dinner rush.  The food was JUST as good (as were the mojitos!).  The starter was perfect for having just come back from the Caymans, Conch Fritters accompanied by guacamole dumplings.  They were to die for, I wanted to reach onto the tray of every waiter that walked by with them for more.  The main course I chose was a mushroom quesadilla which was another no fail choice.  Dessert (which is never my favorite serving) was chocolate lava cake that was quite delicious.  Overall another top notch experience at Jose Andres’ Cafe Atlantico.

Labor Day weekend brought a couple of blogworthy experiences as well.  We cooked all weekend!  Friday, I could FINALLY head to the new wine shop in Alexandria called Au Domaine.  A co-worker of mine used to travel around France with owners Rick and Barbara, who are fantastic people.  They came downtown for a tasting a couple months ago, where I purchased a six- pack of their wines.  Now, one of the reasons I absolutely love this place, is they only sell wines where the grapes have been grown, harvested, crushed, barreled and aged on the premise of the property who owns them.  They also sell amazing cheeses, sausages and oils.  It’s fantastic.  I went to get my six pack and picked up a rose and some garlic and olive oil goat cheese to enjoy ourselves Friday night.  Man, did Rick make some great recommendations, we devoured both the cheese and the wine, both getting better with every bite and sip.

Saturday we decided, instead of going out to dinner, we would make our own feast after getting all riled up watching college football.  Here’s where the really great recipes come in.  About a month and a half ago, while partaking in my usual Sunday ritual with Maggie (vegging on the couch while watching the Food Network until it’s dark), my girl Claire Robinson’s Five Ingredient Fix came on.  She was making rack of lamb with mint almond pesto… um…. hello?! I think SO!  I immediately added it to my recipe box and knew this was the perfect night to try it.  Anyways, off to Eastern Market we went to get our fresh veggies, cheeses and meats.

My contribution to the dinner was the rack of lamb with mint pesto with my dad’s mashed potatoes.  Now, this may sound like a really complicated meal to make, but it’s actually quite easy.  The 2 things you absolutely need for this though, and 2 things that you don’t find in too many twenty-somethings’ kitchens; a food processor and a grill pan.  Both of these you can find at Target for under $40 (or over if you think you’re Bobby Flay.)  I would suggest making the pesto first just to get it out of the way.  So here we go!



  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, from about 2 large bunches
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 lemon, zested, plus juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 12 lamb rib chops, Frenched, about 2 pounds


Put the mint, almonds, zest, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, add the lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the oil until thick and smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons water until a thick but spreadable paste forms; continue adding water until desired consistency. Taste pesto and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Generously drizzle the lamb chops with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare; remove to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the grilled chops with mint pesto drizzled over the top.

Now the mashed potatoes are even easier.  Guestimate how many people you’re having and I’d say buy 2-3 potatoes per person.  Then peel, cube evenly, and place into a big pot of water.  Boil the potatoes until they start floating on the top/soften to the point that sticking a fork into the cubes, they almost fall apart.  Drain the water, just enough to still cover the bottom, place potatoes back into the pot, throw in some heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper and start mashin’!  Depending on how chunky, creamy, garlicy, you like your potatoes, you can pretty much do anything with them.  I always throw in some minced garlic, but leave most of the buttering, salting, etc to each person.  Not everyone likes salty potatoes!

Alright, so that was a lot!  But I had to share that most delicious rack of lamb with mint almond pesto recipe.  It’s easy and just too good not to try.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my ranting and raving.  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again this week… Top Chef is Wednesday for goodness sake! Anyways, until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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