Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

This year was full of activity, not always the trendiest or fanciest of restaurants (though we did okay), but nevertheless full of excitement. Looking back, it was a ton of fun...

As you well know, the end of 2009 brought a new member to our household, and with that, a long blogging hiatus. I came back with a bang during Snowpocalypse II in February.

Soon after, I preached a little on food philosophy ... I'm rather certain it will be a college major soon. Damn, just a few years too late.

In March, we inched our way back into foodie-dom with celebratory meals at J&G Steakhouse and Blue Duck Tavern, and I tried my first of many food trucks to come.

I, of course, indulged in the ubiquitous cupcakes and burgers around town.  As is the case, I suspect, with most new parents, we also fell into a takeout routine. We had some bad meals, but some very good ones as well.

There were rants, again, and again, and again. I also started some post series; food as memories (only two so far) and lunch liaisons.

I did A LOT of cooking at home!

There was the big trip to Chicago, with a ton of eating involved, including stops at Topolobampo and Cibo Matto.

I finally completed a couple of Google doc projects, my NoVa Restaurant Guide and Food Trend Tracker.

We made it through 21 courses at VOLT, while we (Bryan Voltaggio included) sweated out the MSU-ND game.

And, as the year wore on, the blog became more and more personal, and I realized that its format must change. New things are to come in 2011. Stay tuned, and thank you all for reading. Love to you all and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Declare 2010 the Year of.....

Bacon!!! This year I found culinary inspiration from a lot of sources, but time after time, I found bacon as a key ingredient in the dishes I wanted to try. Here's my top five most notable bacon uses for 2010:

Haute-Meal Cookies (WaPo Holiday Cookie Guide)
Bacon-dusted fries (hopefully coming soon to a restaurant near us) 
Bacon Donuts - (at Lyon Hall)
Brussel sprouts (via eat, make read) - okay, Italian bacon - I used pancetta
Burrito topping (at District Taco) - Bacon in a burrito? Yes, in fact - it's fantastic.

Let's ring in 2011! What will be this year's inspiration? 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Food as Memories, Part 2 (The Merry Christmas Version)

Merry Christmas everyone!! I hope you are, like me, finding some time to relax and remark upon this past year's blessings. I have so many things in my life that bring such great comfort and joy. Those blessings and happiness are only from God. On his son's birthday, I thank God for the ultimate blessing that was and is Christ. May the blessing of Christ fill you with joy this holiday season as well.

A lot of my readers and friends are not Christians, but we all tend to celebrate Christmas with our own holiday traditions (Chinese restaurants and movie theaters are proof enough of that!). In this time that I find myself so inspired and swelling with faith, I share the joy of the season with my non-believing friends too. May the spirit of Christmas warm your home this holiday as well.

I always find that thinking about holiday memories also warms the season. What a perfect time to follow up with encore food as memories post. These experiences are appropriately full of holidays, family, and friends.

Our first Christmas as husband and wife - the Bellagio buffet

We tied the knot exactly a week before Christmas, so for our first holiday as an official married couple, we were not looking to start making holiday traditions. We were merely looking for a way to celebrate Christmas but enjoy a few quiet days together, just the two of us. Las Vegas became our less than traditional choice. And for Christmas dinner, where else than the Bellagio buffet?! We snuck in at the lunch price and got the spoils of both the lunch and dinner offerings, a decadent spread to say the least. We also made instant family in the hour long line, a sort self-governing body. What a truly unique way to become a family all our own.

Our foodie first date - eatin' good in the neighborhood

One of the things I love most about C is that he is always one hundred percent real. No facade. When we finally got around to going on a real day, rather than flirting our way around the golf courses of greater St. Louis, where did my future husband sweep me off to? Yup, Applebee's. Once I saw him polish off the chicken fingers and riblets basket without coming up for air, I knew that this man would never pretend with me. I was right. He's the same man today.

Summer camp at VBYC - puke and pancakes

Summer camp taught me a very valuable lesson. I am completely unable to digest whole milk. Unfortunately, this lesson was learned over several visits to the nurse's cabin. Fortunately, there was a cute boy suffering from an ugly bout of something that turned him green (still cute) to keep me company. To this day, I still associate certain tastes with camp, be it that bitter nauseousness after whole milk, rubbery pancakes (which were sooo good on cold mornings), or industrial canned peanut butter. Sometimes, I really miss the simple pleasures of childhood.

Back to red meat at Arby's

It was not a Big Mac (there was no such thing as a Ray's Hellburger in those days) or a Porterhouse that brought me back to moo cows after four years off red meat. No, it was an Arby's roast beef sandwich. And, you know what? It was good. Having the two people closest to me during my high school years (the no red meat years) helped make the first juicy bite even more magical.

The truckload of shrimp

Over the years, two of C's qualities, over all others, have secured his status as a cemented member of our family. The first is his ability to eat copious amounts of food. My dad loves to fondly look back on one of the first weekends they spent with C, and the portions that C inhaled over that weekend. Not only was there a Mongolian BBQ showing by the Carnivore (I think he eventually put that place out of business), there was also the seafood joint that served Old Bay shrimp by the pound (in a toy dump truck for effect). As my parents watched C inhale mollusk after mollusk, I like to think that at some point in that time they decided, yes, with the way that boy eats, he's qualified to be a family member.

The other quality has been and continues to be C's adoption of our stance on Spartan fan-dam. At some point in time, C became just as obsessive and emotional (okay, it's hard to be as emotional as me) about MSU as the rest of us. He's truly fanatical, and for that, my clan loves him. They love him so much, in fact, that my dad declared to C over Thanksgiving, "C, you're the best son-in-law I could imagine. I mean that. I'd say that even if you were a Notre Dame fan." which point, my mom and I both teared up pretty seriously.

On that happy note, it's time for me to sign off. I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas. Next week, while we're off seeing Harry Potter and friends, I've scheduled some posts to look back on 2010. When I return, a glimpse at Vermilion.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pick A Cookie, Any Cookie

Holiday cookies have been a tradition since we were first married. I just like the idea of giving homemade gifts to other families and colleagues. I also like to clear out the baking shelf of the pantry and "restock" for the new year. Considering this year's supplies and the diversity of to-die-for recipes out there, the following made this year's list:

Peppermint Bark (This is the Toll House recipe. One of the best investments I ever made was the $6 purchase of the Toll House cookies book. However, even Nestle makes mistakes. Do not attempt to melt the white chocolate in the microwave; it could turn into a feta-looking disaster. Get out your double boiler instead.)

Oatmeal Scotchies (I used this recipe as a base and branched out a little as well, with Ranger Cookies - of course! - and these "haute-meal" cookies with bacon, yes, BACON!!)
Lemon Ginger Bars (Hands down, the most popular cookie I made this year. Everyone raved!)

Pumpkin Puppy Cookies (Because the doggy in your life needs a little holiday love too!)

Which holiday cookies are you making this year? Please comment and are appreciated too! Send them to

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Katsu Update

Remember last Spring when I scoured the city for Katsu goodness, and my recommendation came in the form of a great little dive in Northern Rockville?! Well, I found some Katsu goodness in the city, downtown in fact.

New York Ave's Mazu, just off the old Convention Center parking lot, has a worthy substitute for the lengthy trip, particularly for those without cars. I'm not going say Mazu is as good as Cafe Temari - it's not - but I have no complaints. The crispy, lean panko-coated cutlet is fried perfectly (and not too greasy, though I should note I ordered chicken). The rice is sticky. And, the pickled radish is crunchy.

For this Katsu fiend, a downtown substitute is trouble - more deep-fried goodness in my life. Oh well, there are worse things to complain about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Free Shipping Friday!

If you are desperately searching for some deals today, let me point you to a few of my favorite websites. - I rely on this site to get through every week. Free two-day shipping on any order over $50 (and that includes all your products from and as well). This is my lifeline. I may never have to make a Costco trip again. Also, did I mention the coupons? - Yes, I still wear Mary Kay make-up; it's incredibly high-quality, customized, and inexpensive compared to the department store goodies. Plus, I get to order from my best friend in high school, and there is always free shipping and returns, and most of the time, a free gift too. - Okay, first I'll point out the negative - I hate the sale merchandise on J Crew's website. I would much rather shop for steep discounts in store. That said, I do love a coupon, and J Crew online often has great ones. I even got a $90 price adjustment - yes, ninety bucks! - on my last order when a coupon popped up two days later.  Score! - A foodie must. My kitchen is stocked with purchases from here. I often buy online, and pick up at the Clarendon store, to maximize free shipping and parking. And did I mention the gift-wrapping instructional videos? - When you are in need of a treatment, it's always great to make an appointment online. (I will note that I also like the reservation site, but you cannot cancel an appointment within 24 hours at Bliss). Plus, lots of goodies and gift cards for last minute ideas. - This is more of a delivery service than a one-time shopping destination, but what about buying someone a subscription for produce delivery? I cannot get enough of their local (when available) and organic goodness. or - Both have lots of comfy winter warmth, very high quality stuff, and comparably inexpensive prices. Plus, both have bricks and mortar locations in the area. You can return LL Bean goods to the Tyson's store, and Lands End goods to any Sears. - I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Certain things are great - wish lists, the ability to link to other sites, and of course, their prices. Oh, and don't let me forget all things Kindle. But, often, free shipping (or prime shipping, if you want something fast) involves navigating just the right purchases. Coupons are the same way - often I find that items are priced ever-so-precisely as to make it impossible to take advantage. All of that said, I keep coming back, so I have to count Amazon amongst my favorites too.

 If you still are looking, even after perusing all of these sites, might I suggest another celebration of Small Business Saturday this weekend? For my Michigan peeps, I adore Kitchen Connection in Niles. Arlingtonians - try Kinder Haus Toys for kids, or ShoeFly for adults, both with locations in Clarendon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

La Caraquena in Falls Church

This is the full story of how we finally ended up at La Caraquena for a recent weekday lunch...Many times while driving in downtown Falls Church, either to my son's pediatrician, Weight Watchers, the farmers market, or baby gym (I know, we should move to Falls Church!), we would drive past and remark, "Wow, lots of people going into that restaurant at the no-tell motel". Again, and again, it would happen. We would see crowds going in, or waiting outside, but never were we quite motivated enough to try it out. Plus, neither of us could exactly remember the name to look it up. But, then, we see a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode (we were watching because one of personal faves, Metro 29, was on recently) in which Guy Fieri counts La Caraquena amongst his local stops. Why it is we need Guy Fieri, jack of all trades, to convince us to stop in, I don't know, but we finally did. I'm not entirely convinced that the man can cook, but he can sell fierce cutlery (and yes, I do mean fierce as in the outdated 2008 use of the word - no other word properly describes the Big Baller Knuckle Sandwich set), host game shows, and eat his way across the United States. Guy is a pro in at least one of his chosen trades. He can find a good restaurant, though I suspect that this has more to do with his viewers phoning in rather than any of Guy's abilities.

Arepas are the house specialty at La Caraquena. These Venezuelan sandwiches are petite, but packed with filling, so you won't be left hungry. I don't see any reason to browse beyond the classic avocado chicken salad, the reina pepeada. C prefers the carne mechada, a seasoned pulled beef. We also have a difference of opinion as to dough preparation. I'm a grilled girl; C likes the crunch of the fried. We need to get tees. Honestly though, you cannot go wrong, no matter how you choose to build your arepas; check out the website's pic of one for evidence:

It's hard to find something you won't like here - yucca fries were another hit for us. Actually, there was a problem was a small problem with the fries; we should have ordered two servings. What was not a problem was the accompanying housemaid mayo. I don't like mayo, especially not as a dipping sauce, but this was fantastic. It was robust and flavorful, and stood up to the perfectly crisp and slightly sweet fries. Empanadas were already sold out for our late lunch, but I will return to try them. Look at this pic. How could I not return to try? Oh, and there's an entire dinner menu we missed. Obviously a return visit is in order. 

 A couple of helpful tips: Even if you decide to "stop in" in the middle of the day on a Saturday, go to the trouble of making a reservation. The place only seats about 40, so it's in your best interest to book, and not end up disappointed, like we did on our first attempted visit. Also, make sure that you are parking in the motel lot and not the neighboring strip mall. One could envision that a tow could ruin any meal. Finally, let the staff dote on you a bit, and relax yourself. No need to hurry through this deliciousness (this coming from someone who has learned to inhale her food before Baby H starts chucking Cheerios at waitstaff).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grandma Greats' Ranger Cookies

When you look up a recipe for Ranger cookies, you'll find them attributed to everyone from Mennonites to the Texas Rangers (I assume as in Walker, not MLB). For me, and pretty much my entire family on my mom's side, these cookies are only properly made by Grandma Great (her version involved lots of oats, Rice Krispies, and coconut, and of course, chocolate).

Once you reach fourth generation status in our clan, you are no longer Grandma Smith or Grandma Jones (or nana, or meemaw, or whatever it is you prefer), you become Grandma Great. It's a royal moniker of sorts, like duchess - no official title, but you are really special. Now that we've reproduced, my own grandma is officially our Grandma Great (with no disrespect to the original matriarch; she is smiling down on us these days). She has her own version of the perfect cookie, involving both chocolate and butterscotch chips - a cookie that I've always referred to as a ranger cookie, because as a child, logic told me that cookies made by grandmas are ranger cookies...I also used to associate these cookies with allergy shots, but that's a story for a different day. In an ode to both Grandma Greats, a blend of their respective recipes for the perfect ranger cookie:

Grandma Greats' Ranger Cookies

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening or unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1/4 cup coconut
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 12 oz. package butterscotch chips (1 cup)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream sugars and butter; add eggs and beat well (a few drops of water may be added here as well). Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture. When well-blended, stir in oatmeal, Rice Krispies, coconut, and chips.  Drop heaping teaspoons about an inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 8-12 minutes until brown. Makes 5 or 6 dozen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All He Wants for Christmas

Is the Redskins not to suck….

The annual gift-buying season is a frustrating one. Actually, that's too broad of a statement. Generally, I do pretty well, with the exception of the leather bag I bought (online) my brother last year and thought would be the size of a gym tote, but turned out to be a murse. No, my annual frustration is limited to one important individual in my house. I'm married to the man who has everything he needs (at least in his mind, no matter how awful I might believe that certain pair of pants he wears twice weekly appear - I may have, ahem, taken a slightly severe tactic of telling him he was dressed like a homeless person to get him to cut back). If he wants something , he buys it for himself. (Okay, other than the used Les Paul for our fifth wedding anniversary, or the replacement of his old set of irons, for which he had a set in mind, but felt them too expensive to purchase for himself - hence, last year's birthday present). For a few items, it's my responsibility to do the selection or pick whatever up - "Honey, can you get more of those wool socks I like?"…."Babe, I'm out of the good kind of drink mixes"….or, I find holes in clothing, and make the unilateral decision to replace. But, otherwise, generally speaking, the annual edition of Madden magically makes its way to our house the instant it's released, books continue to appear on C's iPhone Kindle, and C is a happy man (unless, of course, I failed to stock adequate meat in the house that week). 

As a result, I've come up with a couple of traditional gifts that are of no surprise when the box is opened - they are boring, static, everyday items. I also usually try to gift an inexpensive, cheesy, romantic sort of thing. But, the "big one" - the one marked "from Santa" - is always a mystery and I do my best to come up with something to make him spend some time on himself - greens fees, etc…Usually, C seems pleased and that warms my heart.

The thing is, annually, I know exactly what he wants. And I know that I cannot give it to him. He wants the Redskins of his youth back. And it breaks my heart that I can do nothing to make this happen…nor, would it appear, can anyone else. I know he's not expecting another glorious ten year period with three championships, but for the love of all things holy, can they at least show some dignity?! So, Santa, I'm asking you, please bring it home for C (the "it" being not a ring, just some pride).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lunch Liaisons: Taylor Gourmet (Mount Vernon Square)

(Lunch liaisons is a regular segment wherein C and I meet for weekday lunch dates. The associated posts are not nearly as cloak-and-dagger as they may sound, but instead are reviews consistent with the quick and painless lunch hour theme).   

I'm committing DC sandwich blasphemy here, I know.  But, Taylor Gourmet? Not my favorite. Pluses include quality Italian meats and cheeses (the provolone in particular is tasty), as well as the cannoli (it's not North Boston, but for the limited DC options, it will do). One of the minuses is the bread. I've read over and over how it's driven in from a Philly bakery daily, but it's a little too crusty and chewy for me. The broccoli rabe on my sandwich added to the chewiness. C didn't care for the sesame seeds either.  Another minus - the house roast pork - it was lacking in flavor and anything but lean. Nothing too special from my perspective. All that build up for eh... I'll stay in Arlington for Italian Store hoagies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Little Appreciation

This week, I was all set to bitch about our president's brilliant plan to fix the deficit. Yes, freezing the pay of federal workers is what's going to do it! I was prepared to rant about creating a completely inaccurate, yet seemingly sustainable image that cutting wages will fix all that ails our economy, and more importantly our nation's debts; about how insulting it is to call someone highly skilled and underpaid in one breath and cut their pay in the next; about how I want our president to really tighten his belt, across the board and not target a selected group of individuals (I should note that I support freezing pay if it is part of a more comprehensive spending cut package); about how this should not occur in the same week that a turkey is put up at the W.

But, then, I met someone out of work, and someone hoping to be able to pay their rent this month, and yet another someone struggling to scrape together Christmas gifts for their kids. In these tough times, we meet these people nearly every day. I could tell their stories, but unfortunately, you've already heard the same stories countless times in the last few years. My point is that in this cherished time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the most inspiring time to give and count my blessings, I need to do just that. I need to make a written reminder of just how incredibly blessed by God I am. Let me name just a very few of the blessings that I have in my life (and suck it up, and stop complaining).

  • A beautiful, healthy, and happy baby boy
  • A supportive, honest, and loving husband
  • A dog that would sooner lose a limb than see me upset
  • An incredible support system of family and friends
  • FOOD (glorious FOOD) - Heat - Clothing (that all remains tighter than I would like, but who's to blame for that?)
  • A beautiful kitchen to exhibit my love 
  • A MSU Big Ten Championship, in football
  • Hope and Love
  • Most importantly, faith that we as a family, as a community, as a nation will survive these struggles and come out stronger as a result
May you know and feel God's blessings this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Choose Our Own Adventure

My parents are coming the week before Christmas to see their grandson, which conveniently happens to fall on our anniversary. As you know, we've already celebrated in style. Given the availability of child care, we are looking for a low-key (and budget-friendly) activity to spend our day or evening. Two options presented themselves - one a little more physically ambitious than the other.

One of the most fun couples activities that C and I have enjoyed recently was my hometown's Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot. We weren't, by any means, running competitively in the 5K, so it was nice time to just enjoy a relaxed run together. Plus, our threesome of awesome babysitters had Baby H on hand to cheer us on as we completed the race. Thus, with the idea of a joint workout in mind, option one is a day of snowboarding at nearby (and conservatively-hilled) Bryce Resort, perhaps with a stop at my favorite convenience store, Sheetz, for breakfast sandwiches and hot chocolate to burn off.

Option two is a little more refined and seasonal. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is presenting, for $15 a person, Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge. The warmth of a packed house often puts me to sleep during A Christmas Carol, so I'm thinking this might be an attention-keeping alternative. Plus, we have a gift certificate for Brabo for maximum value-added.

So, I pose it to you - what do you all think? I invite you to choose our adventure for us. Please vote in the comment section.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I hope you all had a very happy holiday, and are recovering accordingly! This is less than seasonal, now that my full attention should be devoted to peppermint bark and eggnog. But, if you are like me, you still have a pumpkin or two (or butternut squash, or yams, all of which tend to be interchangeable to a degree) left in the house to cook up. For that purpose, let my experience in whipping up recipes for a "lil' pumpkin"-themed baby shower assist you in your endeavors.

For the favors, which inexplicably turned out to be the most labor intensive recipe, by far, I made Pumpkin Cake Pops. My lesson learned in this experience? Take Pioneer Woman's advice and limit the amount of frosting. Firm balls (okay, just ignore that one and move on) make for much better chocolate dipping.

Melting the orange candy melts, which are an incredible invention, by the way!

Prepare to dip...

Admittedly, I'm "borrowing" this shot from Java Cupcake, but really, mine did look the same. I just got busy and forgot to take a pic of the finished product. Ask C how much I was stressing out as the shower approached.

The other recipes, much easier, and equally as delicious, filled out the menu with pumpkin goodness.

We had this lovely Warm Pumpkin and Polenta Salad from epicurious, which had the convenient combination of deliciousness and healthiness. Woot!

Why I snapped the pic while tossing, I don't know. It fails to highlight my lovely C&B serving dish.

Next up, Pumpkin Seed Pesto. So, laughably, I (or C, as it were, who has not entirely forgiven me for his assigned task) first tried to harvest the seeds because they were not yet in season at Harris Teeter and Safeway. After this debacle, a trip to Whole Foods was in order.

Do you like my self-made serving dish? Well, I felt creative for a minute. (Also, notice the much more attractive salad serving apparatus in the background.)

The next course involves an admission - I don't like pumpkin pie. I just don't, and yes, I understand that means that I'm un-American. This recipe, however, for Crockpot Pumpkin Pie Pudding (or souffle, as I would call it) is scrumptious, and cooking literally involves mixing ingredients together and then letting them sit for 6-7 hours.

In the spirit of Laziness Maximus, I served this with Cool Whip, rather than whipped cream. Who wants to add work to a dish that requires none?

And finally, I don't know how I can ever express my appreciation to Ms. KD for baking up (and delivering, lest my clumsiness lead to a disaster) this amazing pumpkin cake, for which I am unable to provide a recipe, but merely a reference to one incredible baker. First, my family and everyone I know still have remnants in our respective freezers, and second, look at this piece of art. My friend, you may not want to be in cake-decorating business, but you are a very talented lady and you should consider it.

Plus, for no satisfactory reason, I'm including this quintessential fall photo of Arlington (which just seemed to fit in the theme) to brighten your Wednesday...After all, even if the Christmas madness is descending, the solstice tells us we still have three good weeks of Fall left.
via - 11.22.10 Morning Notes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Eggplant & Chicken Sausage Parmigiana

I'm going to take almost full credit for this one, as I was actually capable of conceiving my own recipe idea rather than adapting from another. Though, I do have to point out that my recent roasted vegetable kick is attributable to inspiration from FoodWanderings. I love this dish because the smokey flavors of the roasted eggplant are so perfectly complimented by the spice of the chicken sausage. That, and it's a good way to sneak in some veggies for the carnivore....Oh, and that you don't have to fry individual layers of eggplant, or fry at all for that matter. (Okay, there are a lot of things that I love about this dish!)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs thyme, removed from sprigs
10 basil leaves
1 tbsp. dry italian seasonings
2 medium eggplants
1 to 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either this arrabbiata sauce, or Trader Joe's marinara - it's fabulous for a canned sauce)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
2 eggs, beaten
2 mild Italian chicken sausages, casings removed - I like the Whole Food's version; one of their more reasonably priced items
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

TIP: Roast eggplant the night before - Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Dice eggplants, skins on, into 1-inch cubes. Toss in bowl with olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Spread in one layer over a parchment-lined hotel pan. Spread basil leaves evenly across eggplant. Roast for three hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown sausage into medium chunks. Mix with parmesan, tomato sauce, eggs, italian seasonings, and eggplant, and spread into loaf pan. Top with mozzarella. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lunch Liaisons: 701

(Lunch liaisons is a regular segment wherein C and I meet for weekday lunch dates. The associated posts are not nearly as cloak-and-dagger as they may sound, but instead are reviews consistent with the quick and painless lunch hour theme). 

I can make this one particularly simple: order the pasta - anything else will be at least a little disappointing. At 701, my orecchiette, served with acorn squash, brown butter, fried sage, and walnuts, and just a hint of ricotta salata, was perfectly seasonal and scrumptious on a rainy day. (Tom Sietsema also has good things to say about the pasta, particularly the ham and cheese ravioli, which I really want now). My fig and arugula salad met the promised description, but did not excite me. C enjoyed his veal meatball appetizer, served with linguine (the texture was off to me, but to each his own), but C's entree, the special, a pork shoulder steak, was ribboned with grisly fat, and cooked until it was dry. He described it as terrifically bad. We finished, or rather started, with the hot buttered apple cider (without the rum, this was a lunch liaison). It was bit a rich, but on the other hand, substituted for dessert.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What I Meant to Say...

(In other words, this is a compilation of recent posts that were supposed to be, but never quite were.)

Where I've been...

Getting injured by an attempt at this recipe for kettle corn: Seriously, I took a kernel in the eye. I'm thinking Metrocurean's spicy caramel corn may be less dangerous.

In and out of Denver in 36 hours, with a wedding in between: The foodie highlights of the trip were definitely the pair of restaurants helmed by a pair of chicas. (Go Denver Girl Power). At Rioja, on a Friday evening, my friend M and I grabbed dinner and wine. We shared some artichoke ravioli, delicately laced with goat cheese, and the seared scallops with vanilla brown butter - actually, it was more like I ate my dish, and then a good part of M's too. Both were so incredible, I don't remember who ordered what, but I do remember regrettably leaving behind other menu selections, including artisan buffalo milk cheese, and beignets stuffed with goat cheese and figs. The next day, after a morning spent watching College GameDay in my hotel bed, and then working out (yes, this is exactly what a mama does when she gets a day off - balances the need to relax with the need to accomplish), I treated myself to a platter of poutine (and salad, to get my veggies) at Euclid Hall, run by the same duo of awesome ladies. The crunchy apply cabbage slaw (from the "roughage" category of the menu) was a perfect balance to the rich Poutine of hangar steak, short ribs, bordeaux gravy, and cheddar cheese curds I enjoyed (pic below). Poutine, by the way, is an entire menu category at Euclid Hall, as are Schnitzels. Gotta love this concept, and the 1883 building housing the joint (see the website for a very interesting history lesson). While in town, the crew also made a point of hitting up the Peaks Lounge rooftop bar (a little chach-ish for our collective tastes - we were in and out quickly), Pinkberry - it really is sooo good, and got happy hour soup and beer (my self-determined antidote for altitude sickness) at the Ship Tavern in the fancified Brown Palace Hotel - I was staying in the not-as-classy Comfort Inn across the street.

Cooking up this Tyler Florence Ultimate Veal Piccata with the i flip for food crew before they skipped town: By the way, Tyler's recipe for arrabbiata sauce is so versatile and so seriously delicious - I use it constantly for almost any tomato sauce need. A couple of recipe edits - I could not stomach the idea of adding a half stick of butter to the noodles, so I tossed in about a tablespoon (along with about a tablespoon of parmesan, salt and pepper). It was enough, highlighting the spaghetti with the right amount of flavor and richness. Also, I forgot sauce the veal with the butter, capers, and parsley, instead just squeezing a half lemon over the top. It turns out the sauce was not necessary at all - the lemon and a little of the leftover arrabbiata sauce were perfect accompaniments. Finally, the calamari was delicious, but my frying technique still needs work - I guess not being able to deep fry properly is more of a blessing than a curse. I also notched up the cannoli with pistachio infused oil, which made the flavor all the more sublime. If you have a bit of time on your hands, including the time to make a run to the butcher and upscale market, I definitely would recommend this meal - and share your own edits - I love to hear each cook's take.

Failing to find anything noteworthy to say about Restaurant Week at WestEnd Bistro: The steak frites were acceptably good, and my tomato "soup" of ripened heirloom grape tomatoes and tomato water was refreshing, but the cream puffs were chewy and topped with what appeared to be Hershey's syrup, C found his steak tartare to be unoriginal, and the experience as a whole was rather blah. Not quite the superlative meal as our other restaurant week choice. I thought it best not to write about an experience about which I didn't have much to say; these posts have been less than stellar in the past.

Coming up with my own take on Bacon Week: C really wanted to make it out to Restaurant 3, but with childcare and available free evenings severely limiting our opportunities to dine out these days, we end up, on average, about one dinner out per month (including those with additional babysitters in tow). So, we have to properly consider our choices. I checked out the Restaurant 3 menu in advance, which included, amongst other items, a bacon-wrapped cornbread-stuffed pork chop, BLT wedge salad, and baked potato soup. No offense to the chefs, but I thought, "I can do that", and as it turns out, I could. While C entertained Baby H and watched the Redskins, I prepared a feast of pork. I did not follow any recipes, just the general ideas from the menu. It was a liberating culinary experience to cook specifically with a plan leading to a carniverous delight for C, yet not being held back by the restraints of any specific recipe construction.

Fending off the mobs at the Rally to Restore Sanity: It was really rather disappointing, from my perspective. I'm pretty sure the message of reasonableness got lost in the craziness of 200K people protesting, rallying, or just wearing the most attention-grabbing Halloween costume they could imagine. With the crowds, it was difficult to see and hear, and though other people evidently found fun signs, probably the best I saw was "Remember to check your signs for spelling and grammatical errors". The sanity concept was definitely bastardized by those with their own versions, mostly on the left, but a few overly right leaners too. Something to see, but really no inspiration to be drawn. Alas, just when I find myself disenchanted by all things political (don't worry - I will still take every advantage of my suffrage - I voted Tuesday) and thinking that my ideals are dead and I can no longer be inspired, along comes a quietly victorious (by a more than comfortable margin) Governor-elect with simple yet fundamentally smart plans for limiting government spending while still creating sustainable jobs, providing real health care (and a candidate who broaches the subject of personal responsibility in our health care - how awesome is that?!), being an environmental steward, and restoring hope and pride to a State that so severely lacks those attributes.

Where I'll be....

Enjoying a lunch liaison with C at 701; trying new spots in my hood (assuming takeout is an option), including Rustico, a bricks and mortar District Taco, and Chez Manelle (evidently the only Tunisian restaurant in the country - well, given that I now know what Tunisian cuisine is, that's clearly a must).

With the exception of those choices listed above, cooking at home: This weekend, I'm doing a Nigella recipe for braised beef shank from an episode of the Today Show. In true fashion, I don't plan to follow the recipe precisely. I'll be adding a mirepoix instead of just onions and a little less pancetta. Alongside, I'll probably do the NYTimes spaghetti squash gratin. Tonight, chicken sausage and roasted eggplant parmesan (I'm still inventing in my head - if it turns out, I'll share), served with ricotta gnocchi, also a NYTimes recipe. Probably a take on brussel sprouts too - the one veggie my parents never even tried to entice me to eat - having tried Zatinya's version, I have a wholly enlightened perspective on what I thought could only be stinky and soggy nastiness.

Whipping up recipes for a pumpkin-themed baby shower, cookie monster cupcakes for my little lion (I have policy of not posting pics of him to the blog, but let me just say he was the cutest Halloween baby ever) who turns one - yes, one year old - this month, and probably also Food Wandering's sweet potato rolls for Thanksgiving.

Blogging more on what I want to write and not what I feel like someone might want to read: If I expect politicians and media figures to hold themselves accountable for their need for attention, I can't go falling into that trap myself, now can I?! Besides, with recent posts, it's difficult to pretend this blog doesn't at least partially serve the function of an online journal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eggs in Hades

This is my take on the popular (and ridiculously simple) Eggs in Hell dish. I add ham - thus, the play on words. Here's my version for a quick breakfast (or dinner - it was mine last Friday). By the way, that pic is not mine, it's Rick Tramonto's version, which I'm certain is much more fancified. My version, however, is ready in ten minutes. I may take a cue from the Chicago chef though, and use individual-sized skillets next time. The presentation is awesome. Oh well, here's my cheap (yet still, pretty darned delicious) method...

4 fresh eggs
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 lb. lean honey-smoked ham, diced or cubed
2-3 tbsp. grated parmesan

Spray large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, and heat to medium high. Once the pan is warm, add ham and brown. Reduce heat to medium low and add roughly two-thirds of the jar of sauce; stir. Crack 4 eggs over the sauce combination. Do not stir. Cover for 10 minutes and continue to let simmer until eggs are fully cooked (outsides are white and yolks are gelatinous). Sprinkle each egg with a dusting of parmesan just before serving. Serves four (add a piece of crusty bread or whole grain toast for dipping).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Helmet Head

It would not be an overstatement to say that in our house, we're a bit football-obsessed. I love the imperfectly emotional and dramatic play of college ball, even the BCS system  and all its flaws (more of a love-hate thing). C loves the precision, speed, and force of professional football. Well, he loves the Redskins, and he loves fantasy football, and loves the game itself. Thus, he loves the NFL, just maybe not all of its virtues and policies. With the birth of our son, I think it was forgone conclusion that Baby H too, would be indoctrinated into Friday Night Lights, College GameDay, and Any Given Sunday.

So, with the near constant presence of games and SportsCenter at our place, it's no surprise that the great helmet debate would enter our worldview. (In case it doesn't enter yours, four players suffered concussions Sunday from helmet-to-helmet hits - i.e., when one player runs into another's head with his own. These incidents occurred a day after a Rutgers University player was rendered quadriplegic as a result of a similar hit.)

Thinking about this from a mama perspective, I have to admit that I'm a little shocked about reactions, both fans' and players', to the NFL's new ruling (suspension for any helmet-to-helmet hits) . For the ruling's hypocrisy, sure, I understand the indignation, but not for its substance. This is not about pretty-boy QBs who prefer to not touch (except for between the center's legs) or be touched while playing football - this is about violent head butts laid with launching force. These fans and players, presumably most are parents too, cannot possibly be thinking about it from their childrens' perspectives, can they?! Look, I am no perfect parent - I do something wrong and second-guess myself daily. I learn from those mistakes, and continue to try to do right by and what's best for my son. As I noted before, I would be kidding myself if I said that I didn't want him to play football. As a result, I cannot pretend that he will not be without pressure to do so (no, not the kind of "you have to play" pressure, but more of the "I know my parents love football, and I love my parents, so I want to play football"  internal kind of pressure).  

In my imperfection, my little guy falls and gets boo-boos. Every single time, it nearly kills me. I cannot imagine the pain and fear I would experience if ever I saw the little man (though he would not be such a little man at the time) go down from a helmet-to-helmet tackle. 

NFL players are paid a lot of money to take on the risks of the violence of the game. I get that. I also get that many of these players are paid the bug bucks to lay down severe hits that hurt to even watch. But, they are also being paid to be role models, whether they like it or not. Yes, the NFL may profit from their violence, but it doesn't change the fact that little kids idolize these players and every thing they do. Kids want to do what the big boys do, including tackling with debilitating force.

I don't pretend to know if the solution should be the NFL's new policy of suspension, safer helmets, or as crazy Mike Ditka proposes, no helmets. But, of one thing I am certain - I'm glad Baby H will not be donning a football uniform for almost ten years. Maybe by then, I won't have to choose between love and safety to allow him to play a game I know he'll adore.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dining Guide Destinations

It's that time of year again - Tom Sietsema's annual WaPo Dining Guide is out. Time to get excited! With it, some things are confirmed (that the Inn at Little Washington, Restaurant Eve's Tasting Room, and Komi are all pretty awesome); others leave us wondering (no CityZen - hmm, maybe it took to serving up cuisine on par with Sou'Wester); still others leave us wanting to try new things (many, many of those). So, I pose to you readers, what's next amongst the WaPo top tier? Is Citronelle really worth the big bucks? Should we try the lounge instead? How about Michel's new eponymous Tyson's Corner location instead?

One little other note - I've been raving about Praline in Bethesda for years. Part of me is bummed that I'll have to deal with crowds larger than just the pushy ladies-who-lunch who currently frequent the place (okay, perhaps it's me who's pushy), but I'm also satisfied to see a little whole in the wall (or strip mall destination, as it were) get it's due. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lunch Liaisons: Lincoln's Waffle Shop

(Lunch liaisons is a regular segment wherein C and I meet for weekday lunch dates. The associated posts are not nearly as cloak-and-dagger as they may sound, but instead are reviews consistent with the quick and painless lunch hour theme). 

First, thank you for excusing today's earlier foray into the slightly absurd. Sometimes, ridiculous behavior begets irrational behavior. Thanks for letting me vent about my childhood frustrations with confusing the lines between religion and college football. On to the latest lunch liaison - actually, this one was breakfast - C and I were looking to grab coffee in the 15 minutes we had to share last Wednesday, and ended up being able to sit down to breakfast together...

Lincoln's Waffle Shop, in its relocated space in the crazy tourist block on 10th Street between E and F, is a bit of a downtown gem. An interesting crowd to say the least -  the Korean family running the place, the Transformers crew members, a couple of early-rising tourist families, and a smattering of blue and white collar workers who appear to be regulars. I was referred to as "honey" and "sweetie" more than once during our brief visit. I'm not complaining. While the waffle shop is not fancy, the coffee is fresh, service is warm, inviting, and fast, and the waffle is surprisingly delicious. We ordered a pair of waffle breakfast specials, mine with ham, and C's with sausage. The eggs and ham were nothing special, but C was impressed by his savory sausage - not your typical IHOP pre-formed frozen patties. The coffee was pretty tasty too, though it had the added benefit of real cream and sugar - as I said, the lady behind the counter was quite friendly, but I dared not look beyond the counter offerings and ask for my normal 2% and Splenda. However, what really impressed (both of us) was the waffle. With a pattern smaller than that of an Eggo, this version is the kind you would typically find with a side of fried chicken. I loved the flavor and texture, and the table syrup served here (C detected a bit of vanilla) added the perfect accent. All in all, a pretty fantastic meal for $6.45. It's a bit of comfort tucked in the stress of tourist mecca, law firms, and the stone pillars of our government.

1966 - That Says It All

The October 4 edition of Sports Illustrated escaped my attention for a few weeks, but I came across it over the weekend. When reading SI, I'm sort of compulsive about how I ingest my weekly sports update - I flip through the photographs that make up the first few pages, then Faces in the Crowd, and finally Sign of the Apocalypse, before moving on the articles. This particular week, I never made it to the Boise State cover piece. Here's what the Sign of the Apocalypse segment read:

A South Bend sports radio host last week suggested that the heart attack suffered by Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio after his team upset Notre Dame on Sept. 18 was God's way of paying the Spartans back for a controversial last-second touchdown on a fake field goal that cost the Irish the game.

I wish I could laugh and move on at the ridiculousness of the statement. Granted, this was one idiot radio host spewing verbal diarrhea, and he hardly represents your average ND fan, or anyone associated with the program. But, behind every spouting-off statement is a small element of truth (and no, the truth is not that God was exacting his revenge in case anyone is confused about that one). This little snippet encapsulates the reasons behind years of indignation I felt towards the pious hypocrisy of the House That Rockne Built. I admit it, I'm making too big of a deal out of something rather silly, but sometimes, as a little kid, I wanted to stand up and scream, "I'm not a worse Christian for cheering for the Spartans!". But, alas, I'm all grown up now and I've got better things to say. If we are talking about righteous revenge here, I have my own version...Revenge, you say? It's a dish best served in BCS rankings - MSU #7; ND - hmmm, can't seem to find 'em in the top 25.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Salsa

I tried to find a recipe, and did not like any that I found (it seemed as if the current recipes out there were adapting salsa from hummus - salsa and hummus are not the same thing - not even close), so I made my own. The two kinds of vinegar served to bring out the flavors of the produce, but without dominating. This salsa is so incredibly simple, and easy to make, I was surprised by the flavors layered with complexity. Smokey and sweet, but with a kick, this recipe was such a hit with last night's dinner guests, I had to share immediately....

2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Banana Pepper
1 Serrano Chile, Minced
2 Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp. White Vinegar
3/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
Salt and Pepper

Place red pepper and banana pepper on aluminum-foil covered pan in 450 degree oven. Roast peppers for 10-12 minutes or until skins blister. When peppers blister, remove from oven and place in ziploc bag for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, bring two cups of water to a boil. Turn off heat and add tomatoes to soak for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, transfer tomatoes to cold water to soak for an additional 2 minutes. Skins of tomatoes and peppers should be easy to remove after these processes.

Roughly chop tomatoes and peppers, and add to remaining ingredients. Either place the ingredients in a blender, or in a bowl and use an immersion blender to puree. Makes about a quart of salsa.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food Trend Tracking

For larger image, zoom or click here.

So, sometimes I get brilliant ideas (at least I think they are brilliant ideas), and then they end up being just a teensy bit more difficult to execute than I had in mind. This post would be one of them. I put a lot of work in to this one, so I'd appreciate any comments or tips for making this graphic a little more user friendly. Or, at least vote below. Anyway, let me get to my point.

Back in the day, I posted about our local addiction to the next best thing in food. Little did I know, years later, we would still be embracing those same trends. So, for your reference, a timeline of the most popular DC foodie fads. Perhaps not foodies, because these places would not all still be in business if the clientele were limited to foodies. Man, do we love our pizza, cupcakes, and burgers. With FroYo being the one semi-healthy exception, it's a wonder we're not walking oompa-loompas.

With that, I pose to you, what will be the next food trend? As I've been tweeting, I vote macarons (or maybe it's wishful thinking, but at least some are on their way, along with other French confections, dangerously close to my office). But, more to the point, what do you, valued readers, think? Gourmet salad bars? Delis (we need em)? Other thoughts? Please share your insight. I've created a poll...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holiday Reading

Happy Columbus Day everyone! If you are one of those who had to head in to work this morning, first, I sympathize (C was one of you), and second, DCist seems to think that taking a morning stroll will make you feel better about having to show up to put your hours in. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that a longer commute, coupled with staring at the beautiful day outside your office window, will be of no particular comfort. Maybe some bacon-dusted fries may help (okay, they are in Maine, but I've now laid the idea for DC).

Enough with the complaining...for those looking to celebrate this holiday, some fast Columbus facts. Indigenous Peoples Day - I lived in Cali for a year, including through the month of October, and never knew.

Where shall we dine for our next Lunch Liaison? Newly-opened Galileo III (we've not enjoyed the best luck with Chef Roberto Donna before, and he is now a felon) or Cuba Libre?!

Last week, Hope College hosted its annual Critical Issues Symposium. The topic?! Good Food for the Common Good. Speakers included Polyface Farm's Joel Salatin, "Eco-Chef and Food Justice Activist" Bryant Terry, my very own brother (of whom we are exceptionally proud), and another fine young Hope alum who graces our fair city. Not only do the speakers have my utmost respect, for their timeliness and their devotion to this important issue (check this out too), but so does the school. Bravo to Hope College for devoting resources to and raising awareness of a major issue facing our society. 

District of Pi, an offshoot of St. Louis-based Pi Pizzeria, will be opening in Penn Quarter. Funny, I don't remember this place back when I was in the STL; all I remember is the nasty provel-topped cardboard that was Imo's. I may not remember Pi, but they have their own Schlafly custom brew, so already, I'm a fan!

If you have not been following Young & Hungry's series embedding a staffer with the Restaurant Eve crew, you should. It's very compelling. 

And finally, just because - COOKIES, and more COOKIES!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brunching Old Town: Columbia Firehouse

Columbia Firehouse was a pleasant encounter for brunch. We walked in with no reservation on an early Saturday afternoon, and the staff made a point to welcome well as baby. We started with the tuna tartare tacos, which were not fabulous. But, Southern-themed entrees made up for it. My "Southern Benedict" served with a fried green tomato and jalapeno-accented hollandaise had nice flavors and was topped with a perfectly-cooked egg. C loved his traditional Po'Boy. The cornbread in the bread basket certainly made us happy as well. Other hits here include the house-made sausages. Generally, a reliable place to brunch. Lyon Hall could take a nod from the kitchen here - consistency, even without reaching the highest of heights, has its own value.

Brunching Clarendon: Lyon Hall

You know I'm a fan of both Northside Social and Liberty Tavern, the sister restaurants to Clarendon's Lyon Hall. For LH itself, I'm still trying to love it. The inconsistencies of brunch did the relatively new restaurant no favors. Tea and crumpets (okay, donuts) both were delicious. My Jasmine Tea was really flavorful and comforting. The bacon (yup), orange, and cinnamon sugar varieties of the donuts were loads of greasy goodness (yeast style - think Krispy Kreme - not cake style). But, our burgers were evidence of the inconsistent kitchen. We both ordered medium rare, mine was at least two temps past C's, and the fries were overcooked and flavorless. Plus, I'm not sure the burger would have been particularly tasty had it been properly cooked - the stone ground mustard was overpowering, and took away from the more pleasant flavors of the poppy bun and cheddar shavings. With the burger competition around here, come on, you have to put a better product on the plate. Better luck next time. While I am a fan of the Euro-brasserie concept, and the Charcuterie and small plates I tried at a happy hour were better than the brunch fare, there remains much room for improvement at Lyon Hall.

TANGENT ALERT: Not Lyon Hall's fault: the couple on the same side of a two-top making out in front of us. Yes, this is a tangent, but I just have to make note because their conduct was that far out of bounds. I awkwardly tried to look down at my lap, while Baby H full on stared with his mouth gaped open (C wasn't facing them, and the worst of it occurred when he was visiting the much-talked-about restroom). H then looked at me with a quizzical "what's going on?" expression. Just a note folks, I'm not a fan of PDA generally - but, when reminders of what PDA leads to are sitting right in front of you, please keep the activities in check. I'm not yet prepared to have the birds and the bees talk with a person under one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Sunshiny Monday Morning to You

Courtesy of $3.99 at Trader Joe's...

(Taken before the clouds moved in yesterday)

Wow, four bucks worth of African wild roses go a long way towards brightening up a day.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TV Dinner

With Fall, comes pumpkin, apple, and spice flavors, raking leaves, Friday night lights, and new TV. I love this season, for all of those the little things that feel like home (the shallower notions of these homey feelings included). Lots of new additions to the network (big and cable) schedules this fall. Who will make the cut?

Boardwalk Empire (HBO): The period setting and gangster theme both provide for captivating entertainment. Steve Buschemi is also very good in his role as A.C. Treasurer/Town Goon Nucky Thompson. I enjoyed the first episode a lot more than the second, which frankly, got unnecessarily weird. We’ll see which direction episode three takes.

The Event (NBC): C endorsed this pick to fill the void he’s been feeling with Lost gone.  Neither the plot nor the characters of The Event are nearly as engrossing as its predecessor, however. Just in case it gets more interesting, we’ve decided to give the show a fair shake with a six episode trial run before giving it the ax.

Hawaii Five-O (CBS): This pick was actually mine. As long as you accept the formulaic CBS procedural drama context (the CSI and NCIS franchises) and early 80s cheesiness (a la The A Team, Dukes of Hazzard, Magnum, P.I.), this cop serial may just turn out to be a winner. For me, it fills a couple of Lost voids (beautiful Hawaii scenery and at least half of the immortal Jin and Sun in Daniel Dae Kim). Scott Caan, well he’s not winning any Emmys, but his characters always get me – I’m not precisely sure why.

Lonestar (FOX): Well, I gave it one episode (maybe half) before pulling the plug, FOX gave it two. I only set the DVR to record the one, so I guess I wasn’t too surprised when the show was canceled – unlikeable leads (notice how Meredith Gray is much less annoying than she used to be; and as nasty as he is, you always ended up rooting for Tony Soprano) don’t lead to well-rated television.

Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC): [SPOILER] Michael Imperioli is quite impressive as surly detective
Louis Fitch, who in the first episode calms a murderous father who has taken his mother and children hostage and reveals his unrequited love for a colleague. If the rest of the cast keeps up, this will probably turn out to be rookie of the year. Playing on multiple-plot-lines-turn-out-to-be-related and shocker ending (brand-new detective shot suddenly as his wife goes into labor) themes worked well in the pilot, but I hope that the docu-drama style is not overly dependent on plot devices. Oh, and it’s set in Michigan! :)

No Ordinary Family (ABC): I have not seen it yet (it premiered a week later than other new series), but the incessant commercials finally got me, and I DVR’d one episode. I’m not hopeful for any lasting relationship, but I’ll give it a shot. I doubt C will join me.

Blue Bloods (CBS): [SPOILER] Can I tell you a secret? I think Donnie Wahlberg, in addition to his obvious NKOTB cred, has more acting chops than his brother but has never found the right opportunity. Time will tell if this is that opportunity. Surrounded by a cast including Tom Selleck, Will Estes (whom I adored as JJ on American Dreams), and Bridget Moynahan (yup, Tom Brady’s baby mama), the first episode created the appropriate amount of intrigue (was a secret society involved in the murder of a dead brother?) and cop family warm and fuzzies. I have high hopes, but Fridays at 10, not a positive endorsement from the network.

The Whole Truth (ABC): I want to root for Maura Tierney in her cancer comeback role, so I DVRd one episode, but I have not yet felt compelled to watch it, so not a good sign of success for this legal drama.

Running Wilde (FOX): C loves him some Will Arnett, so I can observe him actively trying to adore this show. I’m going to give it a supportive try. But my first reaction – this is no Arrested Development. C counters that AD is not a fair comparison, but I say why not? – entertainment is entertainment; humor is humor. The beauty of Arnett’s Gob Bluthe was that he was surrounded by an equally ridiculous and hilarious cast of Bluthes, including the sane brother in Jason Bateman. That supporting cast is lacking so far in Running Wilde. This may be a C watches on his own.

Not a chance: Outlaw (NBC): Jimmy Smits and a supposed resignation from the Supreme Court for the greater good  – child, please; Undercovers (NBC): The marketing gurus behind the promos seemed to think that noting that this series is from JJ Abrams is enough to make the hard sell; you’re going to have to show me more than a pair of Black Aliases to make me watch.

Not exactly new, but worthy of mention: The Good Wife (CBS): Okay, I’ve yet to actually view this season premiere, but the Good Wife (solely On Demand viewing as background noise on my part-time days thus far) has potential to make it to the DVR queue this season, mostly due to the fact that the issues have some basis in law (not a particularly high bar - no pun intended) - actual legal ethics questions, what do you know?; The Good Guys (FOX): Not to be confused with The Good Wife, this show officially premiered this summer, but it coming back for the fall…Colin Hanks’ straight man proves to be the perfect foil to  Bradley Whitford at his comic best, quite possibly better than (gasp) his Billy Madison appearance as Eric Gordon (just watch the recent Baba O’Riley montage for evidence); Friday Night Lights (NBC): With real football and the Direct TV (we’re cable folks) seasons in progress, I yearn for a little Eric and Tammy Taylor coaching/most supportive fan action.

Imminent break-ups: Desperate Housewives (ABC): I did love Wilhelmina Slater on the departed Ugly Betty, but I don’t think I can take the same Vanessa Williams character – nor the same washed-up storyline – yet again; Monday Night Football (ESPN): Da Bears were on this week, but even an interesting game fails to make amends for the travesty that is the Gruden/Jaws combo (if they mentioned Clay Matthews and that nasty mane again, whilst the aforementioned linebacker continued to do nothing defensively, I was going to throw the television out the window); Chuck (NBC): The title character is no longer as awkward and lovable as he used to be, and it detracts from the show’s charm; Amazing Race (CBS): It’s been a long run - it’s likely our last season - it’s just time.

Fall, the season for weeding the new shows and figuring out which will make the cut - we only have so much time for the more shallow pursuits and need to make time for others, like the dinner quotient of this title…

For some of those fall flavors I mentioned earlier, try roasting this squash combo.  Other yummy tastes for television pairing: Arugula Files’ Heirloom Tomato Grilled Pizza, IEatDC’s Braided Challah, iflipforfood’s Warm Fingerling Potato Salad, or The Carnivore and the Vegetarian’s Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto. For more on the seasonal noshing quotient, maybe some Apple Wine or Eat Make Read’s Savory Cheddar Biscotti. I’m also seeking pumpkin recipes – who’s got em? 

With thoughts on new TV, I'll leave you with my reflections on this summer's v.v. special television spectacle.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Volt's Table 21

After dining at Volt's Table 21 a couple of weekends back for our annual early celebration of our anniversary (we were married around Christmas, and it gets to too harried to celebrate at the proper time), these five things I know to be true: 

(1) Bryan Voltaggio is quite possibly more OCD than me, and that's really saying something.
(2) There is some talent working in this kitchen - I expect to see these rising stars elsewhere soon.

(3) This is the most scientific meal I have ever eaten (or probably ever will). It was an adventure - definitely something to try at least once.

(4) The staff here aims to please (over-the-top service, patience with our questions, and upon my request per a friend's advice, bacon brioche to bring home).

(5) Pictures (C's handiwork - much better than I could do) of a few sampling of the courses tell this story so much better than I can…

1-5 (plus, cocktails, and my "two cents")

6-14 (and parts of 4 & 5)

"the particulars"

"Dippin' Dots" of gazpacho with micro greens and mozzarella pearl drop and olive oil sorbet

Goat cheese ravioli with butternut squash puree, maitake mushroom, and chamomile honey foam

Butter-poached lobster with carrot gnocchi, caramelized fennel, sunchoke puree, and pork rind

Arctic char, maroon carrot puree, and caramelized red onion gelee

Skate wing, with New Zealand potato, "sour cream and onion" (creme fraiche and shallot) accents

Fried roulade of veal sweetbreads with lemon oil, olive puree, and caper powder

Tuscan beets alongside goat cheese mousse, shaved parmesan, and balsamic glaze

Strip steak, Yukon Gold mash, Bacon lardon disk, and lobster mushroom

Goat cheese cheesecake, dulce de leche ice cream, butter finger crisp, and bourbon apple

Meyer lemon curd and powder, creme fraiche shortbread, peach slice, and apricot "fruit roll-up"

Textures of chocolate with rich ganache, candied disk, malted "cocoa powder", and chocolate ice cream

Oh, we also spent the night at Nora Roberts' B&B in nearby Boonsboro (Inn Boonsboro - I didn't know it was Roberts' place at the time). I'd recommend the Inn for the night if you are headed to the T-21 late seating (you'll be there past midnight). Themed rooms and high-tech toilets (I'm still confused; just happy it flushed) are a charming and funny experience.

At my insistence (C, in traditional man fashion, was leaning towards the only non-literary room, the Penthouse), we had the Westley and Buttercup Suite. The Princess Bride is one of my childhood favorites (any VBYCers reading - I still look back so fondly on that particular themed week). I'm smiling just thinking about it.