Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shana Tova Umetukah!

An experiment for tomorrow, from My Most Favorite Dessert Company Cookbook by HarperCollins

Honik Lekaj

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup honey
3/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 large McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch angel food cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and line the pan with it. Do not grease the paper.
2. Onto a large sheet of wax paper, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs. Beat on medium speed until combined.
4. Turn the machine off and add the honey. Beat on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.
5. Turn off the machine again and add the dry ingredients, alternating with the coffee, until the batter is combined. (The batter will be loose.)
6. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped apples.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the cake is deep golden on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven to a wire rack and let it stand for 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully remove the cake from the bottom. Let the cake stand right side up on a wire rack to cool. Store the cake, covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 1 week.
To Freeze: Make the cake as directed in the recipe, let it cool completely, then wrap it well in plastic wrap and place it in a large freezer bag. Freeze for up to several weeks.
To Defrost: Remove all the wrappings and let it stand at room temperature until ready to serve.

Makes one 10-inch tube cake, or 10 to 12 servings.

A good and sweet year to all!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wine About

Just like its sister property in Dupont Circle, the Hotel Palomar in Arlington has committed its public spaces to arts and wine, bringing warmth and life to what could otherwise have been just another hotel lobby overlooking the high rises on the Virginia side of Key Bridge. Last Monday, Australian wine makers took over the spacious lounge, and patrons could sample reds and whites. Though the phrase "wine and cheese" is often maligned, particularly for those of us who still have fresh memories of grad school entertaining, the fresh figs, grapes, prosciutto, peppered ham, salami, gorgonzola, goat cheese (kept wonderfully replenished by Domaso staff, who took the time to unfurl practically every piece), would make anyone reconsider. The muted tones of the lounge furniture were a great contrast to the vibrant colors of their art pieces (permanent as well as special exhibit for the evening) and light fixtures, and the couches are roomy enough to fit a gaggle of friends.

I sampled every wine at the event, and my favorite was West Cape Howe Two Steps Shiraz Viognier, from their Southern Range. Shiraz has long been the grape of choice for Australian wines and this mix features viognier, a white grape originally from the Rhone region in France. A peppery wine, with a subtle oak aroma, with berry flavors that make the palate soft and juicy. A wonderful wine at a great price (20.99 USD)

I bought my bottle at Domasoteca, a specialty store located at ground level, stacks the bottles upon a glass and steel cellar - a veritable library that, more than sell bottles, invites patrons to find new and different ways to experience all the possibilities grapes have to offer, without breaking the bank. Since you're already dare to meditate on the life and times of wine bottles that came from all over to find you in Virginia, you might want to partake on the chocolates and cheese. Domasoteca's kind and speedy staff will cheerfully ring you up, making sure you leave with a quip or two about the bottle you are taking with you.

Domasoteca at Hotel Palomar - Arlington
1121 North 19th Street
Arlington, VA 22209
Tel: 703.351.1211

West Cape Howe Wines

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday

Downtown has many places to do a power lunch, but few venues that can walk the line between an ordinary evening out and occasion dining. We had a birthday to celebrate and another to anticipate, so we decided to have dinner at Café Atlantico.

I like Zaytinya, Oyamel and Jaleo very much, but Café Atlantico is my favorite outpost of Chef José Andrés' empire. House in a three-story building a block away from the Navy Memorial, the restaurant features a full bar in the ground floor, an open kitchen in the second floor, ample seating throughout. The service is always attentive and friendly and the decor incorporates Caribbean elements (in lovely washes of red, orange and turquoise in fabrics) without going into sensory overload or full-blown kitsch. The first level of the third story, where we sat, has a view of the famed MiniBar, the limited-seating restaurant within a restaurant.

The restaurant's signature cocktails are well worth their own trip. The mojitos are made with fresh ingredients (you can always taste the preservatives in a mix, no matter how good or expensive it is) and proper garnishes, the passion fruit martini is a great seasonal drink, and the air Margarita is the best use of a foam I've seen in a drink: the lime zest and salt literally float on top of the lime juice and tequila, giving it the consistency of a frothy cappuccino.

Like Oyamel, its sister restaurant, Café Atlantico offers guacamole, which can be prepared table-side (a traditional preparation with fresh chili, diced onions and tomatoes that can give the famed one at Rosa Mexicano a run for its money) or prepared in the kitchen with Cotija, un-aged cheese. The latter is an interesting take on a classic, but we opted for the table-side last night. Prepared in a traditional molcajete (a mortar made of volcanic rock, typical of Mexico) and served with tortilla chips.

The menu is a tour of Latinamerican culinary traditions and ingredients and the Dim Sum brunch, served on Sundays, has great examples of Nuevo Latino and Avant-Garde cooking. Patrons used to the prices at Jaleo and Zaytinia may find Café Atlantico to be far more expensive, but keep in mind that these are full dinner portions, not tapas or mezze. Since we had guacamole and wanted to leave room for dessert, we went straight to entrees. O. had the Duck Confit, a cured duck leg poached in its own fat, Pedro Ximenez sherry, accompanied with Brussel sprouts, apples and raisins, garnished with pine nuts, a fantastic dish to mark the beginning of Autumn. Jd. had the flank steak, grilled and accompanied by malanga (a root vegetable closely related to the Taro Root, found in the Caribbean)two ways, as a puree and as chips, providing three very distinct textures in one plate. Jl. opted for a scallop appetizer that could be doubled for an entree, scallops with coconut rice, crispy rice, ginger, squid and squid ink oil. The oil provided the aromatics without coloring the delicate rice black, and the crispy rice kept the dish from being too creamy. I went full-on Caribbean and had the Jerk Chicken, wonderfully spiced (with clear and present notes of anise, clove and cinnamon) and accompanied with a take on Puerto Rican Mofongo, a plantain puree seasoned with garlic, olive oil and pork crackings, garnished with bacon bits, roasted garlic and pearl onions that seeped the jerk seasonings.

Though we were fully satisfied after the first two courses, birthday etiquette mandated that desserts be had. We ordered the sorbet of the day, passion fruit (to keep with the theme) and the Bizcocho, a warm chocolate cake with a Venezuelan chocolate flan (that was too runny to be an actual flan, more like a creme anglaise, but it still tasted wonderful), banana foam, and a banana slices squirted with lime juice, a staple of Latin fruit plates. The plate was small but layered textures masterfully, from firm to gooey to airy.

A great place to celebrate, be it friends or food.

Cafe Atlantico
405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812 view menu
Café Atlántico on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hankering for Ceviche

Ceviche, a citrus-marinated seafood salad, can be found in several Latin American cuisines, including Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. The recipes for the different ceviches are simple enough, but the prep work (dicing fish an other seafood) can take hours. This is where I like to go for a quick fix:

1. Peruvian

Barnone, the best Peruvian ceviche in DC-proper. The appetizer menu features both Fish Ceviche and Ceviche mixto (fish, conch, squid and shrimp) garnished with red onion, corn, and sweet potato. There is some chili in there, but the overall heat effect is minimum.

El Chalan
1924 Eye Street, NW Washington, DC

2. Tour

Ceiba has a fantastic ceviche sampler that will allow you to try Equadorean, Peruvian and Mexican takes on the dish, all prepared with different fish (or shrimp, in the case of Mexico) ordered by degree of hotness.

701 14th Street, NW Washington DC

3. Mexican and Peruvian

A very cool take on a neighborhood restaurant, taking over the space of the long-ailing Austin Grill. A great place to linger.

Ceviche - Glover Park
2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC

Australian Art & Wine Tasting at Domaso

A great opportunity to check out Domaso and Domasoteca at the Hotel Palomar in Arlington, just over Key Bridge.

Domasoteca, Domaso and the Hotel Palomar Arlington in conjunction with the Country Vintner, Gallery Sydney-East, and The Workhouse Arts Center present an 'Australian Walkabout,' where guests can indulge and taste 18 different Australian wines, have a rare opportunity to meet Australian winemakers and view a stunning collection of prized Aboriginal art.

For one night only, guests will enjoy an exclusive exhibition of contemporary Australian Aboriginal artwork displayed by Gallery Sydney-East and the Workhouse Arts Center. A total of 15 pieces will be exhibited, including featured works from famed Aboriginal artists Joey Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Eunice Napangardi, Napanangka Yukenbarri, Marika Patrick and Billy Duncan. Come and see what legendary art critic, Robert Hughes has called "the world's last great art movement."

The 'Australian Walkabout' includes a tasting of 18 wines, charcuterie and cheeses, and an exhibit of 15 featured art pieces, with an exclusive opportunity to purchase the art before unveiling at the Workhouse Arts Center**. Admission is $20 per person and reservations are recommended.

All guests will receive 20% off of mix and match case purchases of featured Australian wines from Domasoteca.