Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We're Moving!

We're moving to Wordpress, which we find much more user friendly (sorry Blogger)! So to all of our millions of fans... please update your links to http://thedcdish.wordpress.com.

Additionally, both Peter and I are moving in real life in early August. And no, not together (nosy), we just happen to be moving at the same time. So bear with us as August will be a quiet month.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Good Stuff Part 2

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave S.E, Washington D.C. 20003
Nearest Metro: Capitol South

We didn’t get to Good Stuff on opening day as I would have liked to; instead we gave them a few days to work the kinks out, and we went on opening weekend. On the way to the restaurant we thought it might be busy, so when we turned the corner to Pennsylvania Ave, we weren’t too surprised to see a long line outside.

Luckily, it was a beautiful night and we weren’t in a hurry. As we waited outside most of the other people in line were friendly and made small talk with those already eating on the small patio area. Everyone seemed very happy with their food, and would recommend one burger or another. By the time we got inside we were very excited to order our food!

Of course, Chef Spike was there, working the line, and while it was busy, he was very personable and fun to talk to. He didn't have to be nice, as lines were out the door, but he joked and talked with everyone in my party, which made ordering all the more pleasant.

I ordered the original Farmhouse Burger and a large bag of Village Fries (seasoned with rosemary and thyme) to share with JB. I opted out of a shake since I had had a big breakfast, but our friend M. ordered a chocolate one, and it was rich, thick, and worth going back for.

Everyone was very happy with the burger they ordered. While the patty was not that spectacular itself, everyone else who had ordered special burgers agreed that it was the toppings and fixings that made them great. Additionally, my friend Ben said there was gristle in his burger, but no one else seemed to have that problem. Next time I would probably order something a little less plain, as the Farmhouse is a little bland.

I really liked the french fries, especially with the seasonings! The dipping sauces were great, and I loved Spike’s nod to Maryland in the form of Old Bay Mayo. However, I could have eaten a large by myself, JB and I were not happy about sharing and they were the first thing that disappeared off the table. To be honest, it didn’t even seem that much larger than the small.

Since Capitol Hill isn’t really in my backyard, I don’t think I’ll be heading back anytime soon, but it was worth the trip and the experience. I would definitely take friends there who were visiting from out of town for lunch after a day of touristy stuff, because it is pretty fun. All in all I think it is a welcome addition to D.C. and worth stopping by if you’re not too far.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcake
1209 Potomac St. N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007
Nearest Metro: Foggy Bottom

I will confess, I really didn’t want to like Georgetown Cupcake. Maybe its because the first two times I went, I waited in line for 30 minutes to still not be on the same block as the shop. Maybe because everyone in the D.C. blogosphere had already deemed them “overrated." But honestly, I didn’t want to like them because of plain old jealousy. It's not really a secret that I would love to open a cupcake shop, but that's another story!

Housed in an adorable (but very tiny) Georgetown rowhouse, the bakery is the first in D.C. to sell only cupcakes. Much like Magnolia Bakery (which I think is terrible) in New York City, lines are out the door and onto the street with tourists, students and locals waiting for a tasty treat. I guess the third time really is the charm, although I hear the staff is much speedier than in the opening weeks.

JB, PK and I decided to get half a dozen (for $15) and just share bites of all of them. There are 20 total flavors but they only serve 12 everyday. JB chose the Mocha cupcake, PK picked Hazelnut and Carrot, and I rounded out the order with Lemon Berry, Lava and Chocolate Coconut. If you look at their menu online, for some reason you will not find Carrot, and you will probably find it difficult to read as it is not really in alphabetical order. But back to the point... we actually ended up only eating five, and saving the Coconut for T. to eat later. Poor thing was at work and was really sad to be missing out. We’re so nice!

From left to right: Chocolate Coconut, Mocha, Lava
Lemon Berry, Hazelnut and Carrot

As I said before, we had read reviews of the shop and weren’t expecting much. But as I distributed the cakes to my friends I could not help but notice how soft they were to the touch. It seemed like a good sign. We all dug in, and were more then pleasantly surprised. The chocolate cakes were moist and flavorful, the carrot spicy, and the lemon tart with fresh lemon zest throughout. Most of the cakes were covered in some variation of cream cheese frosting (plain for carrot and lava, espresso cream cheese for the mocha and berry cream cheese on the lemon). All of the various cream cheese frostings were rich, thick, with just a hint of cream cheese flavor. The perfect complement to the cakes.

The only cake we didn’t enjoy was the hazelnut. While the crunchy nut topping was delicious, the cake was dry, and had a very thin layer of frosting. I don't know why these particular chocolate cakes were dry, when the three others we had were so moist and perfect. Maybe it was just a bad batch.

I think it is safe to say that if you order anything from Georgetown Cupcake and you like cream cheese frosting you will be happy with your choice. A few of the choices on the main menu weren’t for sale the day we went so I plan to go back and taste some more. But so far I would say they are definitely worth the hype.

Happy 4th of July!

While I love to go out to eat, there is nothing like a home cooked meal with your closest friends and family. When I think about it, most of my favorite memories are not when I’m out at six course meals, but at a friend's house in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. Cheesy? Maybe a little, but, I love any excuse to get together with friends and family, and holidays give me the opportunity to celebrate with the people I care about the most.

The 4th of July is no exception! I’m sure most Washingtonians would agree, there is no finer tradition than grilling all day, and then heading down to the National Mall to watch mediocre fireworks (I prefer Disneyland’s regular evening fireworks to D.C.). And, since my friend, Whitney was on a plane to Peru during the actual festivities, we decided to celebrate twice.

Thursday night we gathered for a girls’ night of wine, salad, lasagna, and red velvet cupcakes. The meal was colorful and delicious and after we were full, we headed out for the “traditional” girls night of club hopping, dancing and more drinks.

On the 4th we planned to have a poolside bbq; I was beyond excited because my friend PK was cooking and he just happens to be a professional chef! Okay, he's still in culinary school, but he's already a fabulous cook in his own right. His talents have allowed him to work in some fabulous restaurants including the late Bistro Asiatique of Bethesda.

When my friends and I arrived PK had already cooked quite a spread, including burgers, hot dogs, beef short ribs, chili and pulled pork sandwiches! Despite the rain and horrible humidity, we toughed it out with the help of a medley of summer Sam Adams and fresh made strawberry-banana daiquiris. For sides my friend M. brought two different pasta salads and I rounded out the meal with a strawberry-blueberry short cake.

Some recipes, including are on the second page. Enjoy!

Continue reading...

Here are some of the recipes from the two Fourth of July dinners I attended:

Whitney’s lasagna:
Her recipe comes from her friend's blog,
Two Fat Als.

Vegetable Lasagna:
2 zucchini, sliced thinly (1 yellow, 1 green)
1 tomato, sliced thinly
2 portabello mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 eggplant, sliced thinly
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 jar tomato sauce
1/3 cup pesto
2 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 box whole wheat lasagna pasta

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Toss the vegetables in the oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread them onto the baking sheets. Roast for about 30 minutes, until they are caramelized.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is just barely done. Also, mix the pesto and ricotta together in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the mozzarella and parmesan.

When the vegetables are done, prepare to assemble the lasagna by turning the oven to 325 and finding a large 9×15 inch baking sheet.

Layer the lasagna by adding sauce to the bottom, then 3 noodles. Next add 1/3 of the pesto ricotta cheese, 1/3 of the vegetables, then 1/4 of the parmesan/mozzarella mixture. Repeat twice, then the remaining parmesan/mozzarella, and any leftover vegetables or sauce to the top of the lasagna.

Bake for 40 minutes uncovered, and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Red Velvet Cupcakes:
I just adapted the recipe from
www.joyofbaking.com to make cupcakes instead of a layer cake. I fill the tins 2/3 full and keep a close eye on them (about 20 minutes). I also use a regular cream cheese frosting, instead of a whipped.

Red Velvet Cake:
2 1/2 cups (250 grams) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (15 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
In bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.

Working quickly, divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The British Are Coming!

Kind of. Sort of. Well, not exactly…Two restaurants with large followings across the pond are finally making their way to the District.

Portuguese themed restaurant Nando’s is spicing up the D.C. food scene with the opening of their very first U.S. location this weekend. Located in Chinatown (819 7th Street NW), Nando’s is well known in the UK evidenced by their 185 UK locations. The chain originated in South Africa in 1987 and now has locations in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Kuwait to name a few countries. Patrons are hot for their PERi-PERi chicken and marinades. The PERi-PERi flame-grilled chicken comes basted to your taste and sides include corn on the cob, spicy rice, “chips,” coleslaw, and salads. The food has caught on in a big way, count “Becks” David Beckham and Ricky Gervais among the fans.

Wagamama is a chain based on modern ramen bars that serves up pan-Asian inspired noodles and side dishes. The restaurant is insanely popular in the UK, so much so, that it has now twice (2005, 2006) earned the distinction of London’s most popular restaurant by Zagat London Guide. First opened in Bloomsbury, London in 1992, Wagamama has grown to over 90 locations worldwide. The first U.S. location opened up in Boston in the spring of 2007. Hungry diners will find picnic bench style seating, hip waiters taking orders on PDAs, and dishes that come out once ready. For those curious the website states the translation of wagamama is “wilful / naughty child.” Washingtonians, get ready for this “naughty child” to create a stir once its doors open later this year or early next on 418 7th Street NW, former site of Olsson’s Books & Records.

Erin texted me at work yesterday with the news of Wagamama coming to D.C. and it was the best news I heard all day. I have personally dined at the Nando’s and Wagamama in London on multiple occasions and I can not wait to have a "jolly good time" grabbing some pints and sampling the D.C. locations.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New FroYo in Dupont

2029 P Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036
Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle

One of the things I real want to talk about on the blog are places to find sweets (especially cupcakes) in the D.C. area! To me, there is nothing like a nice pastry to make a bad day better, or a good day great! Plus, I have the biggest sweet tooth out of anyone I know, and that’s saying a lot since most of my friends are dessert (and food) lovers as well.

I am a little skeptical when my roommate tells me she wants to take me to Tangysweet. She went last week with her coworkers, and can’t stop raving about it and I HAVE to meet her after work so we can go together and try. I know this concept of healthy yogurt covered in fruit, cereal, cookies, etc is very trendy, and every time I visit my friend A. in NYC she begs me to try Pinkberry with her. I always say no, telling her that it can’t really be all that good if it’s “good for you”. I want my dessert full of calories, fat, sugar, etc.

We meet after work for an evening of wine and appetizers at Firefly, strolling through Dupont, browsing through the $1 books at Second Story, and finally wandering over to Tangysweet. Not too hungry, we decide to share a small Original with raspberries and chocolate chips. The yogurt comes in three flavors, Original, Pomegranate, and Green Tea. The owner is there, and generously lets the girls behind us, who’ve “never tried it before” sample all three flavors. They tell him it’s better than Pinkberry. He smiles and says that’s what he likes to hear.

After sitting down outside the shop, hesitant, I take a bite. While it is not your typical sugary sweet “fro yo”, it sure is delicious. Tangy, it tastes like eating a creamier, colder, thicker version of the yogurt I bring to work in my lunch box. The raspberries are fresh and flavorful and combined with the chocolate chips the toppings are the perfect complement to the smooth yogurt. Before we knew it, the whole cup was gone.

My only complaint would be more toppings. Five raspberries for $.95? While they were delicious, I expect a few more for paying almost a dollar. But, I am definitely a believer now, and will be frequently visiting Tangysweet on hot summer days for a refreshing treat.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Winning Isn't Everything

There are plenty of places to get the news on the D.C. restaurant scene, so we’re trying to stick to reviewing. But I just cannot resist anything that has to do with Top Chef. No, he didn’t win, but Spike is coming to town! Good Stuff Eatery will be serving burgers, fresh cut fries and homemade milkshakes! It’s rumored to be opening July 7, so hopefully I can drag Pete with me on opening day…

Monday, June 16, 2008

Star Struck

Westend Bistro
1190 22nd Street NW Washington, D.C. 20037
Nearest Metro: Foggy Bottom

A few weeks ago T took me out to Westend Bistro to check out Eric Ripert’s D.C. venue. I was super excited, mostly because sometimes he is on Top Chef (and also because it has gotten some decent reviews). While having been ignored for a while, it seems that Ripert and many other chefs are jumping on the D.C. bandwagon and opening restaurants downtown. And I’m not the only one who is “star struck” by the idea of a celebrity chef in D.C. Is it worth the all the hype?

First impressions, the restaurant was beautiful, busy, on a Wednesday night. Dark, candlelit, with a ceiling to floor glass wall, perfect for people watching, IF you’re sitting at one of the booths. However, the tables were so close together that it was hard not listen to the cute elderly couple directly next to us.

To drink I had a glass of Fume Blanc, which I had never tasted before. I really can’t say I know much about wine, (it’s something I would like to learn more about) but I enjoyed it, however would not have reordered it. T had a glass of Caymus Conundrum, a surprisingly bright yellow blend that I tasted, and liked more than my own.

To start I ordered the chicken soup with pesto and T ordered the mussels. The soup came with alphabet pasta, it was very playful and cute. However, it was extremely salty, the beginning of a dangerous trend for the evening.

We ordered dinner, I chose the skirt steak in a shallot sauce, T went for the halibut in a shallot sauce and we opted to share a basket of fries. However, a good 30 minutes after we had ordered the waiter came back to inform us that the kitchen was out of halibut, and what would he like instead? 30 minutes to figure that out? T went with his second choice, the Chesapeake Bay stew.

Our entrees arrived… and the stew… more mussels. The descriptions on the menu weren’t very good, and while T knew it was a seafood stew, I feel like our waiter could have mentioned that when he was making his selection.

But back to my food; my steak, cooked perfectly, the sauce delicious… but after it was all cooked and plated I felt like someone had taken a salt shaker and gone to town. It was too salty for me to finish even half. The fries were the same, perfectly cooked, not too greasy, nice and crispy, but completely over seasoned.

Finally, for dessert we ordered the warm chocolate cake with rum ice cream and bruleed bananas. First of all, I love anything carmelized so I was happy the instant it was placed on the table. While the cake could have been a little warmer it was chocolate-y and moist, while the ice cream had a nice strong rum flavor.

T would disagree, saying, “you can barely taste the rum!” But I think my mom’s Thanksgiving sweet potatoes taste too much like rum, so most people would probably agree with him.

I left the restaurant feeling a little disappointed. Dinner left me feeling salty, but I was very happy with the sweet ending.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prom, Pizza, and Cupcakes

Mia’s Pizza
4926 Cordell Avenue Bethesda, Md. 20814
Nearest Metro: Bethesda

The Washington, D.C. region has suddenly become a hotbed of upscale pizza places. Whether it’s the Zagat rated Pizza Paradiso, 2Amys featuring Neapolitan pizzas, or Matchbox’s brick oven New York style pizzas, options are aplenty. The field has only gotten more crowded with the additions of Comet Ping Pong pizza and the brand new Pete’s aPizza.

Pete’s take…

For our first review we decided to dine at Mia’s Pizza’s in Bethesda. Mia’s is the brainchild of Melissa Ballinger, formerly of the previously mentioned Pizza Paradiso. Seated on the patio enjoying the view of high schoolers sharply dressed and eagerly awaiting their proms I got to enjoy my first glass of Samuel Adams Summer Ale this year while Erin got herself a glass of Syrah off the wine list. While the beer selection was a bit limited (unlike at Pizza Paradiso) Mia’s definitely gets props for wisely having Sammy Summer on tap.

Initially looking at the menu I was excited at the prospect of ordering deviled eggs, which I love but you hardly ever see them on restaurant menus. However, when our Crocs wearing waitress came around to take our orders we had decided to split the meatball sliders starter and I chose to order the Alsace pizza, which was topped with caramelized onions, pancetta, and gruyere cheese. The service was fast and our sliders were served promptly. Although we both agreed that the sliders had too much bread, the meatball itself is solid. At first it may seem bland but there is a nice spicy kick to the meatballs that left me satisfied and eagerly awaiting the pièce de résistance.

Right after our pizzas arrived the waitress grated fresh parmesan generously over the well proportioned personal pizza that comes sliced into four pieces. I had read in other reviews that the pizza was sometimes undercooked at Mia’s, I found this to not be true. The pizza had just the right amount of char and to me the crust was the right mix of chewy and crispy. The flavors of the cheese, pancetta and onions melded together nicely. The only thing I wished for was some olive oil at the table to dip my crust in.

Even while eating the meatball sliders both Erin and I became seduced by the cupcake sundae ordered by the table next to us. So when it came time for dessert it was a no brainer. While my home baked vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting was good, my pistachio gelato was too sweet and had too many pistachios. Now my expectations for gelato may have been a little high considering the fact that I enjoyed gelato at Festival of Gelato while in Florence for 6 straight days. However, I was not disappointed by the concept of the dessert.

Overall I am in agreement with what many other patrons of Mia’s have stated. It is a good addition to the Bethesda food scene and a place to definitely try if it isn’t too far. Good atmosphere, good food, good prices. Next time I will definitely be getting the deviled eggs.

And Erin…

Although I’ve already been to Mia’s a few times, Pete wanted to try it, and we wanted to go to a nice place to discuss the beginnings of our blog. I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Mia’s, but probably because when it comes to pizza I find something I like and then order it over and over again.

We sat down and ordered drinks, I had a nice glass of syrah, while we discussed appetizers. After agreeing on the meatball sliders we dived into our conversation until the food arrived. I found the meatballs (a mix of pork, veal and beef) nicely spiced and quite good, but the cheese a little bland, and the bread overwhelming.

For dinner I ordered the marghertia pizza, which was covered in a generous amount of basil. The dough was a nice texture with a nice char and I am a sucker for buffalo mozzarella. I have ordered this every time I go to Mia’s and as always I enjoyed the pie.

We both ordered cupcake sundaes for dessert, a concept I haven’t really seen in many restaurants, casual or upscale. I am a bit finicky about my cupcakes, since I happen to bake them often myself. I chose the Oreo with chocolate frosting and vanilla gelato. Somehow, I ended up with a cinnamon cupcake, which was underneath a large pile of chocolate ganache. I feel like I could have dealt with the chocolate/cinnamon combination but the large pile of chocolate frosting simply overpowered the dry cinnamon cake, and I didn’t get the spicy/sweet combo I was looking for. Combined with the sickeningly sweet vanilla gelato, the whole dessert was just a bust.

Bottom line, while I enjoyed the atmosphere of sitting on the patio of Mia’s, if I was to go again I would probably skip appetizers and dessert and just order my pie.