Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DC Loves Food is now Hungry with Children

It's been great, but you'll now have to deal with the real me, not my alter ego...

Please find me at Hungry With Children.

A Watershed Moment

Yes, this title was far too obvious, but bear with me now. I have my reasons.  It’s Spring, after all; the time of renewal and refocusing; the time for burgeoning ideas to blossom and become reality. It’s time to open new restaurants, and launch new websites! Yes, indeed it is. We’re coming full picture now, aren’t we?!

For my last post as the “mysterious Mark Felt”, I thought our mock service lunch liaison at Todd Gray’s (and Ellen Gray’s – this is a true labor of love - so we should give credit where credit is due) Watershed was the perfect occasion. If the name fits, after all. 

Watershed is located in the new Hilton Garden Inn in NoMa (about 7 or 8 blocks north of Union Station, in the middle of the developing New York Ave. federal government complex). It's a great concept - familiar, comfortable, but delicious food with quality, yet affordable ingredients, served in a hotel restaurant - a hotel at which "real" people (i.e., bureaucrats like myself, on our government per diems) stay. I know you've been there - in your not-exactly-the-Ritz inn, and the only dining options are something like a Houlihan's, or an overpriced and overcooked steak in the hotel bar. This is the solution to such dilemmas. Watershed is casual enough to make the average DC hotel guest (we're talking middle income tourists, government business travelers, your parents?!) feel at home, yet sophisticated enough to challenge a palette; precisely what a hotel like a Hilton Garden Inn needs. Actually, precisely what hotels around the country need - let's start a trend here.

Now, here's the part where I have to admit that I'm a dumbass and I somehow deleted the pics of all of the delicious cuisine we enjoyed on the house. So, I'll try to give you a quick rundown of why you should make a stop (there's plenty of mouth-watering pics on the website if you don't trust me) - here's a few reasons - the crispy and flavorful Po'Boy (or Rappohanack River Oyster Sandwich, as it's properly known), the newfangled Wedge salad with roasted tomatoes and subtle blue cheese, the Paprika-spiced potato chips (I'm also addicted to house oyster crackers served alongside the soups), the Baltimore Seafood Stew (okay, I didn't actually try this - I merely drooled over the table next to us as they enjoyed), and the desserts. Yes, there were desserts.

For me, though, our pleasant experience comes back to the comfort factor. A room full of natural color and light, welcoming textures, and simple yet flavorful dishes. As life changes, these types of the experiences, the kind where we are able to be ourselves, are those that we gravitate towards. 

In that spirit, let me sign off one last time, and welcome you to visit (and follow!) the real me at my new website, Hungry with Children. I'm excited for what the future holds, excited to write about the inspiration I find in the every day, and yes, still very much excited about all of the food I will continue to enjoy and blog. For now, adieu (pssst, that's your cue to meet me on the other side).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reading and Rhetoric

Feeling a little snarky today, particularly given the imminent shutdown and unemployment (though, just for reference, per my contract, which still dictates my actions while unemployed, I may neither seek another job, nor unemployment assistance payments). So, my Things That Are Making Me Happy During Spring post has now been laced with cynicism…My attempt to emulate our esteemed Congresspeople and translate my otherwise innocuous observations into nausea-inducing political rhetoric.

I love that Spring is the time for simple and light meals, like Steamy Kitchen’s chicken sausage and apple slaw (I went even lighter on the dressing as I don’t love a ton of mayo, and it was still great!).

Rhetorical Translation: We citizens need to arm ourselves (reload, if you will) with healthy recipes to help us protect our children from the serious obesity epidemic crippling this great nation.

It’s White House Easter Egg Roll Lottery time again. We did not win the lottery – again - maybe someday we’ll get in, but I’m not holding out hope as I am not nor do I want to be politically connected.

Rhetorical Translation: Shouldn’t all Americans, the taxpaying good citizens of this nation, have access to government programs? Isn’t it time that we stop making the distinction between the haves and the have-nots? Isn’t it time that we give equal rights to all our citizens?

I am looking forward to getting back on the bike for spring-time commuting.

Rhetorical Translation: As our nation sinks into more and more desperate times, wasting the time we should be spending with our families on our clogged roadways, we must free ourselves of the bondage of foreign oil. Unless we do, we'll fall into a world of peril where two-wheel commuting is our future. It is essential to the vitality of our economy, to our future as the most prosperous nation on earth.

Due to inclement weather, I was not able to bring the little man to this year’s elephant walk. It’s always a fun time to watch the parade - hopefully, next year.

Rhetorical Translation: We must make examples of these circus members, who for too long we have failed to hold accountable for their deplorable exploitation of the cherished pachyderm species. This is their day of reckoning. Not on my watch.

I have an appointment with our landscaper this week. Maybe he can teach me a thing or two about gardening…He seems to think dumping mulch is the answer to all gardening issues. I tend to disagree, but I’ve proven before that I seriously lack a green thumb.

Rhetorical Translation: My esteemed colleagues across the aisle will tell you that mulch is the answer, that mulch is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. But, let me tell you - mulch has a price. If we continue to balance our garden's sustainability on the back of a worthless bed of mulch, we will end up owing the Chinese. You need to hold this landscaper's feet to the fire.

It's almost playoff time. Time to cheer on our first-place Caps, even in the outer limits of the DMV. Well, at least for one series...

Rhetorical Translation: We need to get to the business of government, to serving our fine taxpayers in grips of this financial crisis. We need to cut out waste and inefficiency like NCAA pools, or wasting time hanging out with Ovechkin.

Oberon is out for the season! It’s time to celebrate the taste of spring (and summer). For me, it's also a taste of home. By the way, home, I may be there soon. It appears I'll soon have a few extra days of unpaid leave on my hands (though I may be beckoned back at any time).

Rhetorical Translation: I need a beer. I’ve had enough politics!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Apple Strudel

This weekend's inspiration for dessert? Richard Blaise's challenge to recreate Wolfgang Puck's childhood memories meal. I was totally craving strudel after that Top Chef episode. The best strudel I ever had was courtesy of Mario Batali, but the chef at the Austro-German restaurant I worked at in college made a mean version as well.

Pretty happy with myself for creating my own take (with dried cranberries, because I don't like raisins, and with pecans, because I prefer them over walnuts). I totally eyeballed this recipe, but it worked well. I'll stick with my estimates as they are more accurate than trying to convert to actual measurements (mind you, with this recipe, there will be extra filling, so don't overstuff the pastry). Enjoy....

3 medium (roughly one pound) Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced into strips
1 handful brown sugar
3 spoonfuls sugar
1 splash apple cider vinegar
1/2 handful pecans, finely chopped
1/2 handful dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup prepared muesli or old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough (Trader Joe's is great)
kosher salt
ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove pastry from freezer and lay over parchment on work surface.

Mix together apples, sugar, vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon.

With hands, crumble together brown sugar, muesli, and dried cranberries.

Spread pastry with even layer of melted butter.

Spread crumble evenly over pastry, leaving 1/4 inch on one side. Top with even layer of apples. Lift untopped side and begin to delicately roll. As you roll, brush each pastry layer with butter.   

Sprinkle with kosher salt and sugar. Place parchment on baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown (may have to broil for one minute to get perfectly brown).

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce*, and remaining filling.

Oh my - the strudel was sooooo good. Totally worth the extra hippage I'm sporting this week to indulge. In fact, I'm thinking I may have to indulge again this week - we're having dinner guests, and between the strudel and Smitten Kitchen's temptation to finally try spaetzle, I'm thinking German.

(* My caramel sauce was made by caramelizing 1/4 cup sugar with one tablespoon salted butter. I then added one can of tempered condensed milk.)