Saturday, February 23, 2013

awesomeness interjection

I spent a brief period of today feeling gloomy and eating carbohydrates in an unfocused way. An hour, tops.

Then a great AWESOMENESSS INTERJECTION shouted its way into my life.

And now I’m DONE WITH THAT. I am in my bathrobe, admiring the GORE-JESS flowers my CLASSY sister sent for absolutely no reason at all except that she’s rad…


… and watching, over and over, Evolution of Mom Dancing. Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon in drag, you make me proud to be an American.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

classy valentines

Though Steve and I have been together more than 2.25 years (!) we still get to learn all kinds of fun new things about each other. Like Steve is ticklish if you poke him under the ribs in just the right way, and other important things that will allow me to victimize him.

And there is still something very fun and exciting about going to a snazzy new place with someone, especially this glamorous locale.


True story: I am NOT a fan of Valentine’s Day. Like I hate other Hallmark holidays. While we’re on the subject, I’m disgusted by wedding expos and public proposals, and excessive quantities of Facebook posts using the word “husband” (no joke, I starting hiding all posts from a certain friend).

However, Steve is a true believer in love and destiny and all of those things, and is thus more tolerant of the ersatz expressions of love all around on Valentine’s Day because he still believes in celebrating the real thing.

Thus, our fancy fancy dinner!

You know you’ve got class when a restaurant is only named in numbers.


2941 is literally the classiest place you’ll get in the DC Metro area without actually going to DC. Well… okay, Beyonce and Jay Z stayed at the Four Seasons at Tysons (whaa? In a mall. Beyonce you are so above that. I would have let you stay at my house and renovated it in your honor and put in some kind of throne). But I still think 2941 is classier.

The outside is goooooooorgeous, on a lake (a fake lake, but cmon, it’s Northern Virginia, all the lakes are fake). There are koi ponds and enormous windows.

We were seated near an architecturally interesting and wonderfully warm fireplace, as well as a… geodey kind of thing.

DSC02482 DSC02483  

Because of class schedules, we actually went out for our classy Valentine’s Day meal on the 15th, which ended up being kind of brilliant. No paying absurd prices for food that in all likelihood is probably worse than a typical day, no awkwardly overhearing the lovey dovey conversation of the couple next to you because they shove in so many tables for V-Day.

The menu was classy…


… unlike Steve and I, who were snorting under our breaths at “fingered citron”.


Bread arrived and was stupid good. STELLAR crust, with lots of seeds and things. Wonderful lightness within, even in the whole wheat! I have a special place in my heart for restaurants who take a stab at whole wheat, and they succeeded.


So the reason we were able to swing this classy classy restaurant was because of a Google Offer. I would never in a hundred bazillion years allow my boyfriend to drop the kind of bank required to swing the regular menu items.

For that Google Offer, we got a small bite and an appetizer to share, and two entrees.

The “small bite” was both of our favorite item!

Per the menu, Mushroom Tartine ricotta, sauteed mushrooms, parsley and garlic.


Well menu, WELL, what you neglect to mention is the TRUFFLE OIL ALL WHIPPED UP IN THAT AWESOMENESS!

Super awesome toasty crusty bread, heaven-truffle-cheese-whip, mushroom heaven, herbs. We were happy, happy campers as we ate this.


Now, let me mention our waiter, in that he was awesome. All of the waiters were, like, grownups there. And our guy was the most hilarious, charming, amusing, attentive without being hovering guy. I suspect he makes MAD TIPS.

So we told him we were just soooo overwhelmed by the delicious sounding menu and wanted to order all of these things, and he gave us our expertise.

Which is how we ended up with a half order of the pasta for an appetizer.

Butternut Squash Agnolotti fried Brussels sprouts, Parmesan cheese, fingered citron


Our waiter said the pasta was good but a little one-note with the sweet, creamy filling, and it was better to get as an appetizer portion. That made sense to us, and I was shocked how large the portion was for an appetizer.

The highlight of this? The BRUSSELS SPROUTS. They had this rich, intense, meaty flavor that was just crazy good. Our waiter saw us salivating us and went, “Aren’t they good?!” and we were like, “Yes! Yes!” and so he starts telling us how they make them:

“… So they deflower the brussels sprouts…”

Chortle chortle chortle. Steve and I are just incredibly immature. We belong together.

Round about this time we decided that a special meal should involve a special drink. And, quite honestly, I am such a lightweight that one drink generally goes right to my head, and Steve finds me to be a charming and amusing drunk. Eesh.

Anyway, I got an exceedingly exciting cocktail. I can’t find it on the online menu, but it involved gin, a French liqueur that was sort of herb-y, lime, and a hint of cherry (I had assurances it was not excessively sweet, which it wasn’t).



Steve got a glass of Malbec, and I was glad to switch with him midway through the meal as I felt a bit wobbly.

As for the entrees, we got two to share.

Lobster Fettuccini Fideuá style, lobster ragú, saffron, pimento, chorizo


Grilled Rockfish squash, quinoa, salmoriglio sauce


And honestly? Not all that exciting. Good, well cooked, high quality ingredients, yadda yadda. Just nothing to write home about. Honestly, I find that to often be true at fancy restaurants. The chef uses up all of his or her creativity on the appetizers and the entrees were just, meh.

Both had their thumbs downs and thumbs up. The pasta tasted too distinct from the sauce it was in; my understanding is that it’s the common practice at restaurants to blanch the pasta before service but then finish cooking it in its sauce, and this didn’t taste like that had happened. However, the sauce, once the pasta was gone, was fab-u-lous and we sopped it up with a ton of bread. Meanwhile the rockfish was cooked well but didn’t have any particularly vibrant flavor; however the quinoa and vegetables it was on top of were peppy, flavorful, and texturally interesting.

Fortunately, we had to order dessert. Because it was Valentine’s Day! You HAVE TO!

Because our waiter was just generally so awesome, we told him we wanted a dessert to share and to bring us his favorite.

Ohhh, yes.


Chocolate Pecan Bar pecan shortbread, dark chocolate mousse, malted milk ice cream

Once it arrived, I actually remembered having read rave reviews of the fancy dessert that looked like a chocolate bar. HEAVENS this was good. Subtly salty cookie base, rich and wonderful dark chocolate mousse atop, intense shell that was still smooth (not hard like ganache gets). Heavenly. And then on the side, those little brioche bits that I swear tasted like classy french toast sticks. And that ice cream! Delightful.

A final adorable dessert note.


Cheap it isn’t, and the entrees weren’t earth-shattering like the rest of the food; still, for the sheer glamour of the experience- the gorgeous surroundings, the immensely likeable staff, and the dishes that DID wow us with their inventiveness- it was a wonderful, wonderful evening.


Happy V-Day kid.

(Final confession- all the giggling about double entendres in the menu? That was all me)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the best lunches

The best lunches are spent with people you like!

Alone meals < With Friend Meals

Now that Steve and I are both on student schedules, lunches are the best mealtimes for us to meet up Tuesday-Thursday.

Arriving at his place is fun and unpredictable. Sometimes he has an adorable appetizer waiting for me.


These were absolutely delightful stacks of sliced banana, peanut butter, a shredded wheat piece, honey, yogurt, and a blueberry on top.


As for the main course, it typically involves rice, beans, and veggies cooked in some manner. And by usually I mean always. This particular day, those items went into tuna tacos. Odd but good. Particularly good with Cholula atop, and kale chips on the side.


The best pictures in Steve’s apartment are taken next to the glass door… but it means you get really intense carpet texture in your shots. Nonetheless, the food looks good.


And Steve’s latest obsession is oven-baked sweet potato fries (yum) with a condiment of mayonnaise mixed with sesame-oil-enriched Korean hot sauce. YUM YUM YUM!


True story: I may claim to love to cook but I think I actually hate it, because I am always soooooooooo grateful when Steve makes meals for me. And they are always soooooooooo delicious. And his kitchen is walled off from the rest of the apartment and I only wander in and out while he cooks which meaaaaaans… I don’t have to know how much butter he uses.

Friday I met up with my best friend Lydia for lunch. It was a fun if slightly woeful lunch, since Lydia’s skippin’ town to go up to the frigid North. Her boyfriend, and a buncha great opportunities are up there… but I will miiiiiiiiss herrrrrrr!

Anyway, we went to Sweetgreen, where they make you salads the size of babies. It was a beautifully sunny, if depressingly cold, day.


Let’s see if I can remember everything this contained:
- base of kale and baby spinach
- roasted broccoli
- roasted teeny cubes of sweet potato
- cherry tomatoes
- almonds
- baked falafel, which was kee-razy good. If any of you are fortunate enough to have tried the chickpea two ways at Cava, it tasted like that. Crispy outside, heavenly light and olive-oily innards.
- carrot-chile dressing


Came with their outrageously delicious whole grain bread. PERFECT bread (in my opinion): dense chewy crust, puffy bubbly slightly tanger center.


Hosted a farewell dinner for Lydia on Saturday. Didn’t feel like documenting with fun pictures (see “will misssssssssss herrrrrrrrrr”, above) but the meal was EXCELLENT.

- Steve’s pico de gallo
- homemade plantain chips (just so-so, didn’t use enough oil)
- kick-ass enchiladas: cooked up soy chorizo (Lydia’s a vegetarian… and it’s DELICIOUS) with some veggies (a little onion, lotsa mushrooms, green pepper) and browned everything all up. Then added diced sweet potatoes (!) and water and cooked down til tender. Meanwhile made this incredibly easy homemade enchilada sauce. For some reason I have always been intimidated by making enchilada sauce and was thisclose to buying a bottle at Trader Joe’s til I read the ingredient list, scoffed at the various sugar derivations and nasty oils and artificial whatsit, and decided to make it myself. REALLY easy, REALLY good. Anyway, so into my pan went whole wheat tortillas (too big, oops!) wrapped around that great filling with that great sauce and a whole buncha cheese on top (Steve was in charge of shredding!) Spectacularly delicious, actually
- Mark Bittman’s fruit crumble. Apples as the filling (used a mix of sweet, tart, and sweet-tart, per some authoritative article about baking with apples I read a million years ago). Used the citrus-herb variation of the topping, which involves large amounts of citrus zest, ground coriander and black pepper (!) along with a stick of butter. How could it not be glorious?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

adventures in chickpea flour

My thoughts on gluten are influenced by some insufferable people in my life being unable (or allegedly unable) to tolerate it. This is unfair to people with Celiac disease, an increasingly growing portion of the population.

However, some brief venting.

- My sister’s ex boyfriend claims he can’t have gluten. I hate him. Also, he is a regular beer drinker. Really?

- Gwyneth Paltrow claims she can’t have gluten. Actually, according to her exhaustingly hilarious (that’s a phrase) newsletter,, a “doctor” diagnosed her with anemia and told her to consume “no coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deep-water fish, no wheat, no meat, no soy, nothing processed at all!” Someone on Jezebel commented about a correlation between increasing income and increasing inability to eat normal people food.

- Several of my old coworkers were constantly “eliminating” things from their diets to feel “freer”, including gluten. Mostly in a certain department. They know who they are. Potlucks were tedious.

Anyway, before everyone thinks I’m a horrible person, let me share my love for the wonderful and kind and generous and warm-hearted Betty, who sings with me in the church choir, someone diagnosed with Celiac disease by a medical doctor. Going off gluten made her quit having the stomach pains she’d had for her ENTIRE LIFE. Can you imagine how awful that must be/ how amazing it must be to finally be brought to good health through a change in your diet?

I’ve made gluten free goodies for her, like the simple and worth-replicating gf shortbread recipe I linked to in this post. And now, what?! Her husband has Celiac too! Causing everyone at church to joke (joke? maybe scared joke) that it’s contagious.

Fortunately, one of my new favorite things to cook with is: CHICKPEA FLOUR!


For some reason I feel compelled to point out that this is chickpea flour from the Indian store. Something about buying chickpea flour at Whole Foods still feels a little too insufferable to me. (As a general note, I love the Indian store and it has amazingly affordable legumes and spices, along with big ol’ sacks of chickpea flour).

My first undertaking was crackers.

Making crackers is really satisfying for someone as methodical as I am about things. In addition, you can manhandle gluten-free batters and doughs as much as you want because you don’t have to worry about overdeveloping gluten and making them mega-chewy. This is great for stirring addicts like my best friend.

Anyway, they looked pretty coming out of the oven.


Bubbly! Ooh. Ahh. Crispy brown edges.


But ended up a bit… cardboardy. Wouldn’t recommend this particular recipe. If I hunt one down that I love I will! I did enjoy the addition of sesame and poppy seeds- worth repeating.


So I made SOCCA. All you need to do is Google “socca” once to become aware of a huge socca-loving portion of the population. I had only a vague idea of what it even was, and sort of associated it with obnoxious bloggers who never eat normal food (sorry.)

Anyway, then I read about it in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, a book full of both normal and extraordinary food, and decided it was time for me to try it instead of being judgmental. And LUCKY ME.

For those of you not in the know, socca is essentially a salty, peppery, olive oil-y, crisp edged, dense, heavenly chickpea flour pancake.

Bittman has you bake and broil it.

It makes me SOOOOOOOOOO happy!


Have any of you guys had the Orville Redenbacher salt ‘n pepper popcorn? (If not, may I recommend pausing your reading and getting some? Cause it’s good!) Anyway, this, like that, is really a pepper and oil vehicle. And I mean that in the best possible way.

And is perhaps even better the next day, when you pop leftovers in the toaster oven to make them even CRISPIER!

Plus kale salad.


Plus yogurt ‘n fruit ‘n lord knows what is in that other dish, I made this meal a good long while ago.


Anywho, I then tried to make that boss sweet potato pizza crust again, incorporating some chickpea flour just for funsies. The toppings were great (caramelized onions, goat cheese, balsamic roasted broccoli), but the chickpea flour taste was just too strong and weird with the sweet potatoes.


What made it palatable, nay delicious, was when my weird boyfriend mixed spicy African hot sauce with mayo and smeared it on top. He’s so weird/a genius.

Anyway, that experiment abandoned, I went back to socca.

Served leftovers with an old favorite: what I call Austin brussels sprouts. Based on a meal I ate at Snack Bar in Austin (<3<3<3) oh, almost three years ago now.

Half brussels sprouts. Lightly film the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil. Brown one side, then the other of the sprouts. Add dijon (2 tsp?), honey (1 1/2 tsp?), dill (1/4-1/2 tsp?) and water to deglaze it all.

Cook til awesome.


Monday, February 18, 2013

the Chinese new year experience

So I am not Chinese but sometimes I wish I was.

Some of you may recall my trip to Taiwan back in the day. I ended up there both because my dad was going on a business trip and invited me to tag along (I’d just graduated college early), and because my stepmother is Taiwanese and it was a chance to get to know her family.

Anyway, my experiences there should have somewhat prepared me for the mega-quantity of food produced for my dad and Sally’s Chinese New Year dinner.

(note: this is not all the food. Not at all)

So we arrived to an already-bustling kitchen. Sally had created her own giant (GIANT) radish cake. She sort of explained the process to me, claiming that the steps involved, which included cutting radishes into tiny cubes, boiling them, combining them in mysterious proportions with a very specific kind of rice flour and dried shrimp, onion, and pork were “easy”… but I’m going to leave that to her expertise.


I just went ahead and fried them.


The kitchen filled with all kinds of other sauces and ingredients, some typical-looking and others utterly mysterious. Sally’s friends arrived and there was much gleeful chattering. Various relatives and relatives’ friends arrived. Place was hoppin’.


My dad decided he had to make cold sesame noodles. He got to work on that. Meanwhile, my aunt and I thinly sliced carrots upon which to steam the buns, which was an adventure with an electrically troubled food processor.


To begin the meal, soup was mandatory, per Chinese culture. Sally used like a GAZILLION types of mushrooms (yes!)


… to create a delectable hot and sour soup.


The other soup was a tangy, spicy, beef and radish. Different, and good.


My fried radish cake pieces went out, lovingly arranged with Steve’s skill.


Speaking of Steve, he was crazy about this ultra-thin-sliced beef. My boyfriend loves him some saturated fat :)


I was enjoying various veggie and noodle dishes (though I sampled everything).

I think these were something in the garlic/onion family. Livened up my breath for suuuuure!


This noodle dish was spectacular: the noodles were something special, as was the sauce. I’m feeling very inadequate to describe these things because I truly don’t know what went into them. Other than deliciousness.


My dad’s sesame noodles went out next to ma po tofu. WOW. Have to make. So spicy and savory and amazing. I don’t cook a lot with silken tofu but it only makes sense in this recipe. Also, in the US you tend to only see tofu in vegetarian dishes, but whaddya know; meat mixed with tofu tastes boss.


Speaking of meat, this fall-off-the-bone tender pork was the best meat I’ve had in recent memory. It didn’t taste all that Chinese; just like a really really good braise.


These head-on, tail-on, whole shebang shrimp were excellent and spicy. Some were tender enough to eat the shells, which had a lotta flavor.


Oh yes, there’s more!

Comfort food delight in this thinly shredded cabbage and thinly sliced pork dish.


Fish, always served at Chinese New Year: apparently it’s good luck because the scales look like money! Thus, you are supposed to leave some on the plate to have money in the new year.


So the table sort of wobbled under the weight of all those dishes, and we all sat around the living room and chowed down. And had some non-Chinese wine :)

Was that the end? Of course not!

There were two kinds of dumplings and steamed buns that then came off the stove. I mean really.


The rest of the evening was spent eating the cake my cousin made (cause why not), and watching Celine Dion’s performance (!!!!!!!!) singing in Chinese (!!!!!!!!!) on Chinese state television (!!!!!!!!!!!!)