Monday, July 15, 2013

summer dinners with a boy

My boyfriend was off climbing mountains in Colorado, and now he’s livin’ it up in chicago. I’m v. jealous (by which I’m v. sad I’m busy taking Biochemistry and couldn’t tag along) and also missing him just a bit.

So, I thought I’d recap some of the culinary fun we’ve been up to of late. Eating meals with Steve is really great, because instead of hemming and hawing about what to order, worrying whether there’ll be too much food, and so on; or when at home instead of limiting meal plans to one or two items; I have the thoroughly impressive appetite of Steve at my disposal. There can be enormous piles of food on the table and it matters not. All will be eaten and savored.

Steve’s second to last day in town we decided to have ourselves a proper date. First we took a looooooooooong walk along my favorite trail, stopping along the way to pick lotsa raspberries (the insane amount of raspberries appearing here in Virginia will definitely get their own post). On the outset of our walk, the sun shone brightly in the sky, but then ominous clouds began lurking across the horizon. Suffice it to say that we ended up sooooooooooaked to the skin. Drenched! Drowned rat looking!

However, as abruptly as the rain had begun, it ended, and we made our way back into the town of Vienna, where we’d parked, to have a nice early dinner. The sun semi-dried us along the way, and we also simply wrung water out of our clothes as we could.

We ended up at Alegria, which turned out to be an AMAZING Mexican restaurant. The area where I live is wonderfully diverse. If you fancy Korean barbecue, Peruvian chicken, or Vietnamese pho, you’re set. However, for whatever reason, likely having to do with immigration trends, Mexican restaurants are woefully lacking. This is a wonderful exception to that.

Loved the menu:


Loved the look of the space- dramatic arches, vaguely industrial looking yet beautiful light fixtures, neat paintings and ornaments hanging about. Pretty flowery whatsits. Bricks with character.


The open kitchen made for an entertaining view as we waited for our meals to be served.


I think the caliber of a Mexican restaurant can often be determined simply by tasting its salsa. (Though Taco Bell does have that delicious fire sauce…)


Both of these salsas were SPLENDID. The green (verde) one had clearly been prepared using fresh tomatillos and burst with favor. Not too spicy, just really fresh! The one on the right had that slow-cooked, intensely flavorful chipotle fabulousness. Heavenly. And of course the chips were freshly fried.


Alegria has a happy hour with not extraordinary deals but at least interesting options. Depending on the day of the week, you can get various flavors of margaritas (the day we went the option was tamarindo, and though for one semester of college I had a Mexican roommate and tried to sample the tamarindo candy she brought from home with gusto, I think it’s one of those flavors upon which you have to be raised to truly appreciate it). You can also get a food special each day, and this particular day there were taquitos. The boyfriend was right on that.


I only had a taste because I just didn’t feel like eating anything fried (fairly shocking for me; perhaps the endless procession of deep-fried awesome in New Orleans finally satiated that urge for a bit?) but anyway, they were delicious. An impressive quantity of shredded, flavorful beef and wonderful crema atop.

Then it was time to go to TACO TOOOOOOOOOOOWN! (That video pretty much sums up my boyfriend. When together, we quote it at least once a day.)


I was SO pleased with my order. You get three tacos for $12, which is a pretty good deal if you consider the caliber and size of these tacos. And of course the overall classiness of the restaurant :)

Remember that thing I said about not feeling like fried food? Clearly joking. The first taco I consumed, and possibly my favorite (though all were delicious) was the fried fish taco. The PERFECTLY fried fish taco. The astonishingly crunchy beer-battered awesomeness on the outside, zippy slaw beneath perfectly balancing the flavors, lovely and tender and flavorful fish taco.

In the center, the fish taco a la plancha, with the fish grilled, accompanied by the most wonderful, satisfyingly non-mushy veggies, with a zippy sauce atop.

And the dark, poorly lit one is the grilled portabella mushroom taco, complete with caramelized onions and a delightful crunch from pepitas.


Rounding out the plate was some rice and beans on the side, which I mostly gave to Steve.

So so so so good!

Now let’s talk home cooking. In Steve’s apartment, now vacated, he had a cute little patio outside and a cute little tiny Weber grill on it. We spent many a relaxing evening out there, having dinner or sometimes just a glass of wine.

In lieu of deck furniture, we just moved the coffee table outside!

Cookout at mitt lagenhet (7) 

(Note: forgot my camera and Steve was nice enough to let me use the phone on his camera. The scene was too pleasant not to capture, but the light was a little dim!) 

This particular evening, Steve took the lead on the menu.

It included:

- Grilled peppers stuffed with a flavorful rice mixture, topped with cheese
- Grilled corn on the cob

Cookout at mitt lagenhet (19)Cookout at mitt lagenhet (11)
- Foil packets, placed on the grill, one of a DUH-LICIOUS dill and butter and potato combination; and another of squash with herbs 

Cookout at mitt lagenhet (13)Cookout at mitt lagenhet (18)
- Homemade pico de gallo (two variations, one of which included a mango habanero hot sauce that Steve picked up in New Orleans). Lettuce wrappers in lieu of chips, to make whatever exciting combinations we felt like.

Quite the feast!

Cookout at mitt lagenhet (1)Cookout at mitt lagenhet (4)

Another, indoor meal (likely there were too many bugs and/or there was too little light). I’d been eyeing this Cooking Light recipe for chilled butter bean soup ever since I’d gotten the June issue in the mail. A trip to HMart later, I had fresh fava beans (mmmmmm) rather than the butter beans called for, but I felt no fear.

This was WAY good! The relish gives it a nice welcome chew and fresh basil makes everything more delicious.


Speaking of fresh basil, I used this as an opportunity to make the first PESTO of the summer! Always such a wonderful milestone. (I also had my first tomato salad of the summer last week, and that was an absolute joy as well!)

This pesto was particularly amazing for two reasons, both involving Steve:

1. It was served atop Steve’s homemade pasta, which he has become a BEAST at making! I have a pasta maker inherited from my cousin (who inherited it from my grandmother) that I rarely use, but with which Steve has fallen in love. He’s been making pasta at least every week, often more, and has come up with the most delicious variations (with a sweet potato-flax incarnation being particularly noteable).

2. I made a blenderful of pesto [oh, oh, additional good thing about Steve- he always has pine nuts!] and it was a big ol’ batch so I was thinking we’d have some on the pasta and have some leftover. Well, Steve, as a nonbeliever in leftovers, just dumped it all on the pasta. So it was essentially equal parts pasta and pesto. If you love pesto (and how could you not?!) this is a really delicious idea.


Helpful Steve also took on cheese grating duty

1 comment:

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...

I was looking at the stars in full out West and it made me think of our moment with your godparents at Thompson Pass, Montana (think post-Snake Pit).

I must say your Lele lingo: I miss you so v. much, Ileana. You are vair beautiful to me.