No Soup For You…Redux!!!

July 20, 2010 at 4:34 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

So I came into today not expecting much.  The news is always kept on in my office (not by choice) which is horrible because there’s nothing more depressing on television than the news.  Then…I came across this little headline.  One that combines two of my favorite things in the entire world and absolutely puts a smile on my face.

“Real-life ‘Soup Nazi’ reopening famed shop”

You really didn’t think I was going to put the actual link there instead of that video did you?! Wow.  I guess we don’t know each other as well as I thought… well that’s awkward.

In all seriousness though, the original Soup Nazi is reopening his shop in midtown NYC!  I’ve never been a huge soup person unless is one of those delicious but insanely heavy cream based soups.  Lobster bisque….uhhh thank ya, yes, PLEASE.  But if you find yourself in NYC you MUST try this place.  The soup really is as good as Seinfeld lets on.

This excites me because not only was this place an icon before Seinfeld, but it still shows how prevalent the greatest show on television still is, even almost 10 years after it went off the air.  Seriously, I challenge anyone to debate me on why they think Seinfeld is not the best show with the best writing that’s ever been on TV.  Double dog dare you…

Alright, this one was short and sweet but until next time sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

*Peas, love and yada, yada, yada*

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She Sells Sea Shell(fish) by the Sea Shore

July 15, 2010 at 4:22 PM (Uncategorized) (, , )

This past weekend my mom came from Connecticut to visit which was great because visitors to me screams restaurant time!!!  This is when I head to Open Table, Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine for recommendations in my area.  Her visit prompted me to finally try the Bedford Village Inn right outside Manchester.  Now we all know I’ve bitched and complained about the food around here, in fact, I’ve been waiting for a meal at a restaurant around here that really was satisfying…well ladies and gentlemen! I’ve found it!

There are a number of reasons I absolutely will be making the BVI my “go-to” restaurant in my remaining months here in New Hampshire.  One, of course, as mentioned the quality of food.  Nothing was over-salted (cough cough Firefly cough), undercooked or bland.  The second reason is actually the main reason I love this place: they have three different restaurants in the Inn and regardless of where you eat, the tavern, the restaurant or Corks, the wine bar, you can choose from any of the three menus.  So if you want a more contemporary feeling place with lounge type music but want the high end food from the main restaurant you can.  Or if you want a cheese platter while dressed down in the tavern, you can!  There is also a great wine list.  Corks, which I said before, is the wine bar set up at BVI and it was great.  They had Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc by the glass which is EXACTLY what I was looking for on a hot Friday like last week.

I also felt like I had walked into any restaurant in DC walking into Corks.  It most reminded me of Veritas in Dupont which is a fantastic wine and cheese bar I would highly recommend down there.  It’s definitely a “hidden gem” as you’ve probably driven past it 100 times and just never knew it was there.  I digress!  To the food!  My mother had a veggie pizza that was to DIE for, and I ordered their bamboo steamed shrimp and scallops that came over lo mein noodles with a somewhat spicy soy sauce on it.  It was so good.  I would recommend this place to anyone having to visit the Manchester area.  So happy I finally found a place where I KNOW I’ll get a good plate of food!

Just when I thought I had probably the only good restaurant meal I’ll have in Manchester, we found Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier on Saturday after some retail therapy.  Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is over the water in Kittery Point, Maine and it is the quintessential place to have lobster!  As you can see, even Travel & Leisure Magazine agrees!!  You eat at picnic tables, wear Lobster bibs, and BYOB.  It is THE best way to experience lobster– here’s the little sucker they made mine:

This was the sweetest, most succulent lobster I have ever had.  It doesn’t even need the drawn butter!  And seriously, if anyone tries to tell you lobster is best in a restaurant, they are clearly out of their minds.  The ONLY way to eat lobster is at a picnic table, fingers covered in shell and a mug of beer next to you.  End of story.  So if you have a chance, get to Chauncey Creek, its absolutely unreal.  Dang it now my mouth’s watering!

Okay, since we’re talking shellfish, let’s talk this week’s Top Chef — since I’ve already written a novel on those 2 restaurants, I’ll make my summary quick.  Here goes:

Crab Quickfire challenge = awesome because everyone knows the best place to get lobster is (well duh) Maine, crawfish is NOLA, and crab is MURALAND (that’s Maryland for all you non district readers).

Fresh Farm Market elimination challenge = also good because of the amazing fresh farm markets DC has to offer… HOWEVER they traveled to Virginia for this one.  Yeah, adds to the beef I have with this season (pun, INtended).

Amanda still drives me nuts, I’m still angry Nelson is gone, and now the Maryland homeboy has been axed.  I’m pretty sure I’m still right though about Tamesha soooo keep an eye on that.

Well thanks for reading!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and Lobstah**

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Hail to the Chef…

July 7, 2010 at 10:04 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

HOW COULD I FORGET!!!!! Top Chef DC has started! And I know I tried to incorporate Top Chef Vegas last year when I started this blog, but I was horrible at keeping this thing up last year.  Also, this year Top Chef takes place in DC!  I mean seriously, I spent more than 6 years there, and was the person my friends called to get restaurant recommendations (and still do!).  So since I’ve already condemned myself for forgetting this, let’s move on because I seriously have some thoughts about this season… herre we gooooooo!

Bravo…I love you.  With all my heart, even when you try to make every guy that watches your station gay…. C’mon, I remember the days you were a station SPECIFICALLY created to replay the best movies ever… get it… BRAVO!?!?! We like the movies so much we watch you to replay them?! Yea.  Those days were a loooong time ago.  Regardless, I love you.  Especially when you introduced things like Millionaire Matchmaker, Project Runway and….Top Chef.

Here’s my beef with this season…no pun intended.  What kind of challenges are these?!  DC is a VERY underrated foodie city.  I had some of the best meals of my life in that city and some of the most prominent chefs in the WORLD have restaurants there… and this week…you want them to come up with a Hilton room service menu option… I mean, it could make sense, a lot of business travel happens in DC, a lot of dirty politicians bringing their mistresses to hotels….maybe.  But STILL!  So far, I’ve seen lame DC challenges involving people that are in NO WAY interns (thank you though for taking Hill staffers down a notch, that actually gave you bonus points this season muahah), this Hilton menu challenge and baby food?!

Also, this week, they had guest judges Mike Isabella (my love and executive chef of one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in DC, Zaytinya), Brian Voltaggio and Spike.   Amazing guest judges for being in DC…but to not mention Good Stuff Eatery when introducing Spike?! Have these people been to DC in the past 2 years?!  Apparently not.  Spike opened Good Stuff after his appearance on Top Chef season 4.  He’s made creative burgers and the best milkshakes I’ve ever had– something that was missing from DC (other than Five Guys of course, which is different because it’s a chain).   I mean I get trying to market and advertise a pizza place he hasn’t even opened yet, but come on, at least we know Good Stuff is doing well already.  Oh man I feel like I’m just getting started…

Can we talk about Amanda for a second.  She’s AWFUL.  I mean Robin last season was bad because she was just annoying and kept getting through even though her cooking was no where on par with the unbelievable talent that radiated from the chefs in Vegas, Amanda is just a bitch.  I understand competition, but she’s just mean.  Angelo on the other hand is like Mike Isabella from last season, cocky because he’s competitive.  I like that.  (It does help Angelo is from Connecticut…us Connecticutians have to stick together!)  That and he’s actually really good! Just like Mike I. was, people just don’t like them because they have egos.

Two other chefs I really enjoy are Arnold and Kenny.  Unfortunately, one of them went home this week because they were paired with people who I kept forgetting their names because they just don’t stand out.  I mean the woman Arnold was paired with, I can NEVER remember her name!!  Anyway, that’s competition, in one day out the next.  I also have to admit that I really liked Tracey because she was full of one liners and I have a prediction…

Tanesha = dark horse.  Write that down.

Okay, I’ve bitched (almost) enough about this season but regardless, it’s still one of my all time favorite shows so I will continue to watch and continue to update on the blog.  Hopefully they will really take advantage of the incredible views, restaurants and chefs that call DC home in the near future.  It would be a shame to have Nancy Pelosi (gew) show up on one episode and find that sufficient enough to qualify that as Top Chef DC.

Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, (and) Love (to the) best city in the US**

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Oui, Oui, Sonsie

June 7, 2010 at 9:39 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

In the 25 and a half years of my life, I never thought there would be a day when food just sounded repulsive, a day when I had no appetite.  I have found such a day… about 10 days ago, I had to undergo the quarter-life ritual of wisdom tooth extraction.  It’s the first (and probably) only time I can say I had no appetite for a week and I am forever scarred from Strawberry Jell-O so the last thing I wanted to do was watching the Food Network or dream up delicious recipes to add to the blog knowing full well I couldn’t even chew them.

Woe-is-me…eeeh not so much.  I got to go to Providence for the rest of the Memorial Day weekend to cure me of the horrible case of cabin fever I was suffering from, and by Sunday, I could mush around enough to eat something other than yogurt and apple sauce.  I got to visit DePasquale Square on Federal Hill which is home to the best Italian food outside of your grandmother’s kitchen.  We took advantage of the beautiful weather and sat outside at Caffe Dolce Vita which has a huge menu and delicious food!  I ordered the eggplant rollatini which for the first meal in a couple days was like Heaven on Earth.  It was just mushy enough that I didn’t have to chew, but outside of that, I love everything eggplant, especially when its SMOTHERED in cheese!  This puppy had ricotta and mozzarella inside as well as fresh mozzarella melted allll over the top.  It was finished off with their homemade tomato sauce and baked in the oven.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

If you ever get a chance to get to Providence, do us all a favor, get to Federal Hill, I promise, you’ve never had Italian food like this….I mean, Frankie Blue Eyes’ favorite restaurant of all time is there!!!

Now, Caffe Dolce Vita was note worthy, but that’s not why I’m writing.  Last night, I had to be in Boston for work (yes, yesterday was a Sunday…no, I don’t want to talk about it).  It actually turned out perfectly because staff was not allowed in the actual dinner of the event…so naturally, I took this opportunity to log into my Open Table account, something I haven’t done since my trip to DC in January, and found restaurants near the Sheraton on Dalton St.  After perusing a couple of menus, I came upon a little place called Sonsie, and their caption? Luck, Love Life.  It became the first draw.  The second was the menu.  It’s an American restaurant with a bit of everything on the menu, fish, steak, pasta.  It’s also pretty moderately priced, which is also always a plus!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a serial menu stalker, I always scope it out before I get there…and then pretend to not already know what I want when I get the menu…buuuuut who doesn’t? Am I right? No? Okay…dagger.  Anyways, I had stalked the menu and knew there was absolutely no question I was getting their Bronzino dish.

Bronzino is a European seabass, so a white fish, and with the grilled fish, they served soft polenta, ricotta spinach and artichoke…and dear LORD!  It was fantastic.  We all know I firmly believe that a great dish is one where each element on the plate is good alone, but also tastes fantastic when you build the elements together.  This was one of those dishes.   The fish was grilled perfectly, the polenta stayed warm which prevented the top from hardening, and I had never had ricotta spinach, and I’m glad that’s changed because if I see it on another menu, it’s mine.  If you do get to check out Sonsie, I highly recommend this dish.

The ambiance is great too, Sonsie is nestled on the famous Newbury Street in Boston.  The floor to ceiling windows/doors open to make the restaurant floor level with the sidewalk which makes for great people watching.  Even the bar area is great with comfortable high chairs and signature cocktails.

Well now that I am able to eat again and enjoy my food, I’m glad I could share with you another delicious spot, except this time in Beantown!  Next time you’re in the area, stop by Sonsie, you should be preeeetty pleased.  This week I should get back into some home cooking so I’ll be sure to include some recipes hopefully later this week.  As always, thanks for reading and until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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“Everything but the squeal…”

May 25, 2010 at 3:18 PM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Doesn’t sound like the most appetizing phrase, ya know, not something that would make you walk in off the street, but the restaurant responsible for that saying is worth not just walking in off the street, but getting yourself all the way to Raleigh, NC.  We all know the South is known for is mastery of two types of food: soul food and barbecue.  This past Easter, instead of traveling home, I decided to take a trip to Raleigh to see one of my best friends of all time.  We grew up down the street together, and we knew that it would be a perfect weekend to get a couple of our old friends in town to see his new home.

Before going down, I was watching one of my favorite shows, Man vs. Food, on the Travel Channel.  If you’ve never seen this show…make sure you do something about that.  Now, I’m not a person that enjoys watching others suffer, but nothing puts a smile on my face like watching Adam Richman take down a pulled pork sandwich doused in “shut up juice” in Little Rock, AR or any of the other spicy foods he’s challenged to eat.  Anyways, I was watching and there happened to be an episode on about the Raleigh-Durham area!  The timing could not have been better.  On that episode, Adam visited a place called “The Pit” in downtown Raleigh.  Now, I’d been craving some pulled pork since my trip to Arizona in February and since the Southwest is not the place to find it, I knew we had to visit this restaurant.

Man was that the best decision we made all weekend!!  Now on the episode they didn’t do too much coverage of the layout of the restaurant so I was half expecting sawdust on the floor and the smell of bbq sauce and vinegar everywhere.  But that was not what we walked into- we walked into a beautiful but casual restaurant with a trendy bar and it smelled like…well…HEEAVENNNN!  My senses were heightened the second we walked in, the aroma was the perfect blend of slow cooked pork, corn bread, and bbq sauce.  You could feel the love that goes into their food before we even sat down.

Now even before looking at the menu, I knew I was getting pulled pork with a side of slaw and homemade mac and cheese.  That to me is hands down, the perfect barbecue dish.  And since there were so many options, I don’t think anyone at the table had the same thing!  Before our main courses, we did order their wings.  Let me preface this by mentioning that, to me, the best wings are smothered in buffalo sauce and spicy.  I’m not taking make you cry spicy, but maybe enough to clear your sinuses… and enough sauce to keep the ends of your fingernails orange for a day or two…those are the perfect wings.  The wings at The Pit…looked nothing like that, but that wasn’t going to stop my from tasting these bad boys.  These wings had a homemade dry rub on them and when I say they were the best chicken wings I’ve ever had I mean they were the best damn chicken wings I have EVER had.   They didn’t need to be dipped in ranch, or blue cheese, or anything, every bite you got a new tang on your tongue.  These wings were somewhat sweet and tangy and the meat just fell off the bone.  While the rub wasn’t like a sauce dripping down my fingers, I definitely licked those babies clean.

That was just the appetizer!!!  I stopped myself at 2 wings because I knew I had a whole plate of pulled pork with slaw and mac and cheese coming my way.  Before getting to the deliciousness that was my meal, I have to point out the wine I was drinking which was also pleasantly surprising.  It was a Zinfandel called “Hey Mambo” (Mambo, Italiano!  I feel like Cartman with Styx’s “Come Sail Away” when I say that wine name…I have to finish the line!)  It’s a fairly cheap zin that I hadn’t heard of before, but really very tasty and went very well with my meal.  Alright, onto the masterpiece put together by Pitmaster Ed Mitchell.  In the episode of Man vs. Food, you watch how Pitmaster Mitchell preps and slow cooks the pork.  It’s so perfect that Adam didn’t need more than a fork to get the meat away from the bone.  To pull the pork, they don’t chop it or shred it, they can literally just pull it off the bone by hand its so tender.  It’s one thing to watch them do that on television and talk about it, it’s an entirely different thing to have experienced how moist, delicious and tender the pork really is.  Every bite got better and better.

My definition of a fantastic meal is when each component on the dish tastes phenomenal on its own, but pairing it with something else on the plate makes it an entirely new experience.  This dish was exactly that.  The slaw, mac and cheese and pork all tasted so good on their own, but the slaw with the pork or the mac and cheese with the pork created new flavors.  Cole slaw is not something I usually order at a restaurant.  I prefer homemade slaw that isn’t overpowered by mayonnaise or has soggy cabbage.  This slaw was perfect, just enough vinegar, not too creamy, and a fresh, cool, crunch from the fresh veggies that complimented the warm, tender pork.  The homemade mac and cheese was something your grandmother used to make in her oven when you were 10, extremely nostalgic, the perfect comfort food.

Wow, I need a trip back down there ASAP!  1000 words about “The Pit” just made me insanely hungry for pulled pork…go figure!  If you are ever in the Raleigh-Durham area, do yourself a favor…GO TO THE PIT!  They’re waiting for you!  What was also surprising, was after that full meal (where I ate so much I could have been rolled out of the place) and 2 glasses of wine, my tab was half of what I was expecting.  Having lived in DC so long, I’m used to paying for a good meal… but this, I would have paid twice what it costs me to eat at the Pit it was that good.  Alright, I need to stop, I’m going to need to find second grade pulled pork if I keep this up…and that’s the last thing I need.

Thanks, as usual, for stopping by!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and the Squeal**

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Bellissimo

October 5, 2009 at 1:13 PM (Uncategorized) ()

Well it’s finally October.

Jack-O-Lantern

Where the hell September and the rest of summer went, I have no idea.  But I’m okay with that!  This is my favorite time of year.  Time for Zeigler’s Apple Cider and Captain Morgan (great autumn/tailgating cocktail, hot OR cold!), autumn leaves candles, my grandmother’s “yucky” and pumpkin mac and cheese!

I know all those things sound so amazing, but unfortunately, today I don’t have a recipe ready for you.  However, I tried a new restaurant that deserves to be discussed; Potenza.  It’s on 15th and H St, NW right near Old Ebbitt Grill and the White House (some of you may have heard of that little landmark.)  A couple of friends and I needed to do some catching up, one of whom decided we should try this place.  Man, did she pick well!  It’s a very reasonably priced Italian restaurant that had great decor, wasn’t too loud, and impeccable service.  For those of you who have tried Zola on 8th and F in Chinatown, its owned by the same group.  If you do try this place out, see if you can sit in Daniel’s section, he was great.  He treated us VERY well.

The name Potenza is an area in Italy just Southeast of Naples and is actually where my family is from!!

potenza

The decor was a hybrid of an old, run down, hole-in-the-wall (the best kind of Italian restaurants) and a modern foodie hot spot.  It was never too loud, yet the every seat in the house was occupied.

To start, Daniel brought us some Fried Risotto Balls on the house.  Anything that involves fried and risotto, I want (yeah,  you thought I was going somewhere else with that, get your head out of the gutter).  We accompanied our food with a lovely Pinot Bianco (I can’t remember the name since I didn’t pick it, but its bottle number 150 on the wine list), a nice compromise for the variety of wine preferences sitting at our table.

I ordered the Isalate Caprese, of course, and it was delicious.  It came with yellow, red, and brandywine tomatoes, fresh mozzorella, fresh basil and a very tasty Balsamic reduction.  I highly recommend this to start.  For the main course I had the mushroom risotto with fresh Parmesan cheese…it was so good.  It was the melt in your mouth kind of silky risotto.  Others ordered the soup of the day, the tortelloni, and the manicotti.  Every one was very please with their choices.  Now, if you do try this place, there is something they do not tell on the menu, which is **you can order half portions of all the main courses except the manicotti**.  This was great news, since we all are big fat kids for life were really hungry and wanted to try an appetizer, we could actually do that now and not have to worry about how much food would be left over.  If you plan on getting an appetizer or dessert, I would recommend the half portion entrees.  They really were the perfect amount of food.

When it was time for dessert we ordered the tiramisu, assortment of sorbets, and cookies.  And just like our meals, everything was good, even the pizzelles on the sorbet were delicious.  Now as if Daniel hadn’t treated us well enough, he brought us complimentary dessert wine.  I’m not usually a fan of sweet wines, but this was a sparkling white (that I unfortunately did not get the name of) that was just sweet enough to compliment our dessert choices.

Even without the tremendous service, the food and drink are definitely worth a visit.  Potenza will be added to the list of favorite Italian restaurants in DC. Filomena and Pasta Mia still top the list by far, but Potenza is the top contender as a convenient, inexpensive alternative to those.  Write that down.  I hope you all enjoyed reading about Potenza, and that you check it out, and until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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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.

salmon

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.

vino

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!

Ingredients:

 

  • 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

Directions:

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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Smorgasbord

August 20, 2009 at 10:49 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Well since my last post on Saturday, a smattering of things relevant to this blog have happened (hence the post title.)  Tuesday I made a delicious, EASY and cheap dish that yields plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.  It’s a dish that my mom used to make all the time, bow tie pasta with spicy Italian sausage.  I like my food with spice, you can obviously use whatever heat sausage you’d like.  Hell use Turkey sausage if you so please, that also works in this dish.  Now none of this is homemade, although one day when I have time I’ll include a recipe for homemade Vodka Sauce, but its something I wanted to include for those cooking on a budget (because honestly, who isn’t these days.)  In total this meal will run less than $10 and will make enough for a week’s worth of pasta.

This is so simple, all you need is a 16 oz roll of Hot Jimmy Dean Sausage ($3.99), a 16 oz box of Farfalle bow tie pasta which you can find for $1-2, and a bottle of Classico Vodka Sauce which usually runs about $3-4.

– In a frying pan, cook the sausage through while breaking down with a fork.

– While sausage is cooking, boil water, cook pasta

– When the sausage is done, drain the grease by putting a paper towel over the plate you will put the sausage on, dab the top with another towel

– When the pasta is done and drained, place it back into the bowl, keep stove on low, pour vodka sauce on top let the sauce heat up as you mix it over the pasta

– Lastly, add the sausage, mix it in with the pasta and sauce and, voila! You’re done!

It’s that simple.

Now, because this WOULD happen to me, after I made a week’s worth of lunch or dinner with this dish, my schedule completely filled up with business lunches and dinners with friends to catch up before my vacation next week.  In DC, August is the time of year to do these things.  Congress is out, it’s too damn hot for tourists, and everyone takes their vacation, so it’s a great time to take advantage of the usually busy restaurants in the city.  This is exactly what 3 of my colleagues and myself did yesterday.  We decided our lunch would be at Kinkead’s, An American Bistro.

This restaurant is right in the Foggy Bottom Shopping Center on the GWU Campus (my grad school Alma mater!)  It’s an American bistro with a heavy seafood influence (twist my arm.)  Now, I had been running late from being called into a senior staff meeting, which is weird because I’m no where near senior level management…anyways!  I showed up desperately looking for a strong drink to calm my nerves, and settled with the Red Zin they serve by the glass.  I was so frazzled I didn’t even ask what it was, but it was quite delicious.  My colleagues all went with the crabcakes which they said were phenomenal and I went with the Cashew and Coconut crusted Cod with Brazilian Style Chile Coconut Milk Sauce with Shrimp, Yucca, Lime and Cilantro, it was as amazing as it sounds.  I would definitely recommend Kinkead’s although I still think the Oceanaire has some of the best seafood in the city.

Since I had some catching up to do at dinner time as well, my friend and I decided to FINALLY try the Good Stuff Eatery on 3rd and Penn, SE.  For those of you who watch Top Chef, this is the burger and salad joint Spike from Season 4 opened.  Now from what I had heard, the burgers are good, not quite as good as Five Guys, but what keeps you coming back there instead of Five Guys are the milkshakes.  I wholeheartedly agree.  The burgers were so good, I went with the Good Stuff Melt that had Muenster and Cheddar cheese, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions with the Good Stuff sauce and a plain vanilla milkshake.  My friend went with the Coletti’s Smokehouse which has applewood bacon,sharp Vermont cheddar, fried Vidalia onion rings with
Chipotle BBQ sauce and a Toasted Marshmallow shake, their number one seller.  The milkshakes were the best we’ve ever had.  Hands down, if you’re ever craving a milkshake, go to Good Stuff.  They’re also known for the Milky Way shake… that one’s next on the list!

This trip was fitting as last night was the premier of Top Chef Season 6 which takes place is Las Vegas!!!  Now, it’s as just a shock to me as it was my mother that I LOVE Las Vegas and hosting a show like Top Chef there is a great idea.  It’s a hot spot for foodies and celebrity chefs.  Without getting into a complete synopsis of the show, they’re already throwing out more twists and turns than ever.  Fitting in Sin City.  The first quickfire challenge was a relay challenge and I love those.  Watching Preeti (who I honeslty could not tell if she was a guy or a girl for the first 10 minutes) try to shuck clams was embarassing.  Seriously, how did you make it on this show.

The winning relay team then had to challenge each other with a dish that included the food that was their leg of the relay.  Girl from Philthadelphia won. Ugh.  Anyways, the elimination challenge was great, they had to base a dish over a vice of theirs.  Some chefs got very creative, especially the winner, Kevin whose dish was based on his procrastination.  He switched the food that was supposed to be slow cooked to fast, and the fast cooking food to slow.  He wowed the judges and I wanted to scratch his beard and make him do a little Leprachaun dance.  While Kevin’s dish was awesome and I really do enjoy watching him, I’m totally rooting for Michael Isabella!

Michael Isabella1

Yeap! That’s my guy.  And you wanna know why?!  He’s the Head Chef of Zaytinya, one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in Washington, DC.  It’s one of Jose Andres’ 5 restaurants in the area and is a Lebanese and Mediterranean Tapas place.  My best friend and I go there all the time to sit outside, enjoy a bottle of Cypriot wine, eat pita bread (and other delectable dishes) and play “who has the better deal.”  Yes, each couple that walks by, we say, out loud, which of the two is getting the better deal.  Try it sometime. Oh, and there can be a draw, but there seldom is.  Anywho!  Michael did really well the first episode, I think he can make it pretty far.  He does have to step it up a little bit if he wants to be a finalist.  Whip out that braised lamb with almond pasta, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers.  If the judges find it as orgasmic as I do, he wins.  At the end, Tattoo Neck (yeap you can guarantee they’ll all have nicknames by the end of this season) has to “pack up her knives and go.”

tattooneck

Thank God, I couldn’t even remember what she looked like or what she cooked because I was too busy staring at her tattoo neck and gagging over her peach- sized earring holes…

Alright, now that I’ve written a small dissertation about my week in food, I’ll let you all go.  Until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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