Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dine Away

If you are already dreading the end of your Holiday Break, make sure you have something to look forward to in January.

DC Restaurant Week participating restaurants have been posted on Open Table (full list here). I have had great experiences with the Restaurant Week menus at Tosca, Hook, La Chaumiere, Ten Pehn, Zola, Corduroy and Bobby Van's Grill. Indebleu, which I have liked on other ocassions, had a very limited menu during previous Restaurant Weeks. Oya has wonderful food and a wide menu, but the decor detracts heavily from the meal.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Cocktails

Hope you are in festive spirits this holiday season. Passing along a few recipes for fun and celebratory cocktails. Enjoy.

Christmas Jones
5 fresh strawberries
1 part vodka
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
5 ounces of pineapple juice
Lime-flavored soda
Mint sprigs for garnish
In a blender, whiz the vodka, strawberries, sugar and pineapple juice together. Pour the mix equally into two champagne flutes. Top with 7-Up, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

3 ounces of Midori
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup (equal parts of water and sugar simmered together)
1 maraschino cherry for garnish
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Mistletoe Martini
3 ounces of vodka
2 ounces of orange juice
3 ounces of cranberry tea, chilled
3/4 ounce of lemon juice3 teaspoons of sugar
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into two chilled cocktail glasses.
Candy Cane
1 ounce of berry-flavored vodka
3/4 ounce of Peppermint Schnapps
3/4 ounce of white Crème de Cacao
1/4 ounce of grenadine
Half and half
Soda water
Pour the vodka, Peppermint Schnapps, white Creme de Cacao and grenadine into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Pour into a cocktail glass rimmed with crushed peppermint candy (but don't let the ice get into the glasses). Fill with half and half and top with soda water.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tasty Holiday Recipes for a Cozy Evening In

Hope you are enjoying the splendor of the holiday season, and have the time to step back and take a breath when you need it too. Wanted to pass along recipes for a few tasty treats that are all easy to prepare and quite tasty - enjoy.

Fig, Gorgonzola and Rosemary Bites
8 to 12 dried figs
3 to 4 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, in crumbles
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the stems of the figs and make a slit in the side of each fig. Push a piece of Gorgonzola into each fig. Place in a bowl and toss gently with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Heat in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cheese melts, and enjoy. Fabulous paired with a nice Pinot Noir.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
2 pounds small-medium Brussel sprouts
6 slices bacon
1 teaspoon butter
Kosher or sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse Brussel sprouts in a large colander and drain. Trim off the small stem on the bottom of each sprout and cut into halves. Cook bacon in medium frying pan until fat is rendered and the bacon is browned but not quite crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. Once the bacon has cooled a bit, cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat. Return pan to medium high heat and add butter to the bacon fat. Add the halved Brussel sprouts to the frying pan and toss to coat in the oil. Add the bacon to the Brussel sprouts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to toss and cook on the stove for another 2-3 minutes until the sprouts start taking on a bit of a golden brown color. Transfer into a 400 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes or until sprouts are golden brown and slightly soft. Delicious with an unoaked Chardonnay or a lighter-body red wine.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cinnamon and Cardamom
1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom spice
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 cooking apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries or raisins
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pork tenderloin in a roasting pan or casserole dish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir. Spoon the apple mixture around the pork tenderloin. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon the apple mixture over the tenderloin. Return to the oven and bake without a cover for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until pork tenderloin is browned and cooked through.

Grilled Peaches
4 peaches
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
Peel and halve peaches, and place in a plastic bag with one tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside. Boil remaining lemon juice with vinegar and sugar on medium high, until reduced by about half. Place peaches cut side down on a grill pan or rack which is lightly coated with cooking oil spray. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn over and baste with lemon mixture. Cook 3 minutes on second side and serve. Great with ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

You are where you eat

The problem with holiday meals - if you can call it a problem - is that the food takes a backseat to the company. Unless every single one of your friends is equally enthusiastic about ingredients and menus, convenience prevails. This is especially true when you have to juggle offices all over the Metropolitan area, parking, kids, significant others, and an ever-changing table composition. You're lucky if you can squeeze your party of 12 to a centrally-located casual-dining outpost.

This weekend I was pleasantly surprised to get a table for 6 with minimum hassle at the very reasonable hour of 8 PM at Tosca. I've eaten lunch there several times - since they do full menu, it's one of my Restaurant Week staples - and thought it's been around for more than 5 years, Massimo Fabbri comes up with gorgeous seasonal menus.

Tosca features Northern Italian cuisine that is on this side of hip. The menu is pretty straightforward yet it encourages adventurous ordering: on the one hand, every pasta dish is available as an appetizer or side order and on the other, anything on the tasting menus is available a la carte.

I started my meal with the Radicchio Salad. I had it the first time I went to the restaurant and I've happily eaten it since. The salad has radicchio and Bartlett pears, with a Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts. Each component is separate on the plate, and I especially like forming separate types of bites on my fork. B and S had the chestnut soup, a thick heavy concoction with Porcini mushrooms and ricotta cheese topped with Pancetta. The waitress suggested that the soup be stirred to incorporate all the ingredients. F and J had appetizer portions of the linguini with seafood.

Though S was dissapointed at the lack of Osso Bucco, there are plenty of protein options on the Tosca winter menu, including a perfectly cooked and somewhat intimidating Braised lamb shank with Barolo wine and vegetable ragu on a bed of polenta, Grilled pork tenderloin in a rosemary and Porcini mushroom crust, and a lovely rack of veal in a rosemary sauce. For a main course I ordered one of the pasta dishes from the Grande Degustazione Menu - Carrot pappardelle with a very well-seasoned rabbit ragu in a white wine sauce. Also from the same menu, B had a black truffle and pork sausage Risotto. The bite I managed to sneak was creamy and balanced - I could taste and smell everything on the dish. Our famished 6th - straight from DCA - had the roasted veal and proscioutto ravioli.

I love clementines and was happy to see a Clementine Panna Cotta on the dessert menu. It was a refreshing end to my meal and I had it while sipping espresso, combining two very good things (I feel the same way of the gorgonzola cheese ice cream on the menu).

Finally, a meal to match the company.

Ristorante Tosca
1112 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Ristorante Tosca on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tasty Recipes for a Cold Day

Even in lovely San Francisco the weather is certainly cooling off just a bit.
I know it's cold in DC, so I thought I would pass along a couple of really simply but totally delicious recipes. Cozy up inside your kitchen, perhaps open a nice bottle of a rich red wine and enjoy.

Rosemary Steak with Mushrooms
4 boneless beef loins or New York Strip Steaks, sliced into 1-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces of white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Kosher or sea salt
Coursly ground black pepper Fresh rosemary sprigs Mix the fresh rosemary, garlic, 1 tablespoon of oil, lemon peel, 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Sliced the steaks. Rub the mixture onto the surface of the steaks. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Bring a large griddle or cast-iron skillet to high heat, add the steaks and cook for about 8 minutes per side, (or to desired doneness). Remove the steaks and let cool. Keep the pan on the heat and add the other tablespoon of oil to the remaining steak juices. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sautee until mushrooms are softened a bit and slightly browned. Serve the steaks topped with the mushroom mixture on a platter garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs and enjoy.

Broccoli Almondine
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled, then head cut into 2-inch-wide spears
4 tablespoons of good olive oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Microwave the broccoli for 3 to 4 minutes on high heat. Cool broccoli 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pot over medium heat, add the almonds, and stir until oil and nuts are golden and have a nutty aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt. Add broccoli and toss.

Cheesy Sweet Potato Crisps
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Parchment paper (or a Silpat liner)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Finely grate sweet potatoes into a bowl. Squeeze grated sweet potatoes in batches to release as much moisture as possible and place in another bowl, and fluff with a fork. Stir in cheese, egg whites, rosemary, sage and pepper. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon batter onto cookie sheet and flatten into a thin, 2- to 2 1/2-inch round. Repeat with remaining batter, leaving 1 inch between rounds. Bake until edges and underside are crisp and browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt, let cool slightly and remove from parchment. If it suits you, serve with a small bowl of sour cream topped with a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and a sprig of rosemary.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


I love Thai food and I especially crave it when it gets this cold. Though I enjoy going to Rice, Thaitanic, Bua and Busara, I've been in a rut. When D. suggested we go to her mom's favorite Thai place in Arlington, I couldn't get out of the office fast enough.

Sawatdee is a very short walk from the Courthouse metro station. Decorated in muted golds, lacquered blacks, and Thai fine crafts, we were seated right away by courteous staff. Though the place had a lot of patrons, it wasn't overly loud or crowded.

I've had a Paulaner with lunch, so I skipped an evening cocktail. We split an appetizer of calamari with a sweet chili sauce, flash fried. For entrees, we ordered Drunken Noodles with Beef and Pad-Peth-Pa, chicken sauteed with Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, green beans and fresh basil leaves in chili sauce. The dish is wonderfully hot (noses run, lips tingle) and had a crunch and a freshness that is missing from the famous curries, and I was surprised to taste every ingredient (plus rice) in every bite. The Drunken Noodles were outstanding: they were firm, not mushy or unnecesarily greasy. To mirror the appetizer, we split a fried banana doused with simple syrup. Our bill, including tax and tip, came to 40 USD.

Even the staunchest DC-proper dinner should pay a visit to Sawatdee. I am looking forwad to trying other things on the menu. In this weather, I probably won't have too long a wait.

Sawatdee Thai Restaurant
Court House Plaza
2250 Clarendon Boulevard
Arlington, VA
Sawatdee on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Home is where the heart (and the plate) is

Mexico is a place of great culinary diversity, and many apparently simple dishes have complex recepies and require ingredients that even the best Whole Foods or Korean Market will rarely have in stock.

For those of you who want to try something close to the real thing (restaurant with pupusas - lovely, but Salvadorean - not included), the following are Mexican restaurants frequented by the expat Mexican community in DC.

1. Rosa Mexicano (Penn Quarter)
Known for: Margaritas, fresh Guacamole, packed bar, pink interior
Must try: Ice cream selection, queso fundido, mole

2. Taqueria Distrito Federal (Columbia Heights)
Known for: Tacos de Chicharron en Salsa Verde, Tacos Al Pastor, Shrine to las Aguilas del America Soccer Team
Must try: Tostadas de Pollo

Corner of 14th street and Oak Street, NW, Cash only.

3. Guajillo (Rosslyn)
Known for: Cowhide chairs, selection of Mexican beers, fresh salsa
Must Try: Antojitos

1772 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA

4. Casa Oaxaca (Adams Morgan)
Known for: Moles, owned by the same people as Guajillo
Must Try: Tres Moles, Tacos de Vegetales

5. Oyamel (Penn Quarter)
Known for: Ceviche, Aguas Frescas, Expensive Tacos, Butterfly mobile
Must Try: Mole Chocolate Cake, Tacos de Cochinita Pibil

6. Taqueria Nacionale (Capitol Hill)
Known for: Being owned by Ann Cashion, Importing Mexican Coke (flavored with real sugar), Misspelling "Nacional"
Must Try: Breakfast tacos, fish tacos

400 N Capitol St. NW, Washington, DC