Thursday, July 30, 2009

When he's's snacks for dinner

I've been eating snacks (more specifically hors d'oevres) for dinner  this week - G is out of town on business.

Tonight, my salt-craving was sated with this bit of porcini pate (paste) with a sprinkle of caper salt on water crackers. We got these fun little jars of delicious from the eponymous Italian Store in Arlington a couple weekends back. That place is pretty fabulous.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

After Lou, After Hours, and Late Night Eats

After we left the "Romanticism" opening, we headed over to the Hirshhorn "After Hours" event, where we met our friends, Sean and Candy.

Hosted four times a year, it's a sort of museum soiree in the courtyard area. The music was booming, the pink neon glow lent an air of clubiness, as did the pink vodka mojitos. There were several bars set up with a limited array of drinks, including beer, wine, and vodka.


During the After Hours events, the museum stays open late. We caught the "Strange Bodies" exhibit, which runs through November 11th. The grouping of figurative sculpture, paintings, drawings and film is at times dark, but compelling.

Ron Mueck's "Untitled (Big Man)," 2000

Then we moved on. After grabbing drinks at 18th Street Lounge (and paying a stupid $10 cover) - we decided it was too loud and crowded to talk.


Candy was tired, and I was hungry. So after we said our good-byes, G and I headed over to Kramer's Books and Afterwards (the little indie book store and cafe/diner). Emphasis on the afterwards. It's a great old standby for late night bites.

The food is not bad. But no pommes frites, which was what I was craving. And when we asked for chips, they brought us tortilla crisps. No fried potatoes in sight. I settled, however, for this yummy seared tuna with edamame and ginger salad.

We were full of drinks and hors d'oevres from earlier, along with the salad. But we would have otherwise gotten dessert. (Kramer's mixed berry pie is pretty great.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Art Gallery Stuff: Nice Noshes and Lou Reed

Laurie and David Adamson held a private opening of Lou Reed's photographic work last night. "Romanticism" is Lou Reed's third photo collection, the subjects are various landscape and architectural motifs encountered and documented in travels through Scotland, Denmark, Spain, Rome, China and Big Sur in California. It's pretty decent stuff - we are purchasing one small piece along with the book of his work. (Check out image #21 at the Adamson Gallery.)

We enjoyed the food and drinks as much as the art. They served small hors d'oevres of seared tuna on tortilla chips, mini crabcakes, Tuscan flatbread pizza, and avocado and goat cheese crostinis. Very simple, but quite delicious. The drinks of Champagne and Mojitos were perfect for the hot weather.

Laurie Anderson - sans her signature red hair.

G and collector extraordinaire, Philip Barlow
With David Adamson and Lou Reed

Friday, July 24, 2009

Food Advice Fridays: Pantry Meals & Umami

Dear Roganista:

You often write about "pantry meals". What do you consider a pantry meal? What's your favorite?

- Hungry in Ashburn


Dear HIA:

A pantry meal is the product of an improvised, make-it-up-as-you-go recipe created by pulling together whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. Of course the ingredients should make sense together, but sometimes odd combinations can result in something pretty tasty. At the very least, I try to up the umami-ante. What's umami you ask? It's the "fifth taste" as they say. It's that savory, brothy, earthiness found in things like red meat, hard cheeses (like Parmesan), soy, and mushrooms. I find that whatever I make, as long as I focus on highlighting that fifth taste, it can turn humble pantry ingredients into something delicious.

I always have the following ingredients on hand: Parmesan, soy, chicken bouillon, Worcestershire, fresh garlic, garlic and onion powder, canned tomatoes, beef stock, dried mushrooms, and some sort of protein.

My favorite thing to make is the pedestrian, but accessible chili. It's never the same recipe twice, but we love it in our house.

Ever since we returned from our honeymoon, we've been busy with entertaining and going out, but have not been very good about grocery shopping for our daily needs. So one night last week we had to make due with a pantry meal.

I had all the staples I highlighted above. Looking in the freezer, I spied some ground turkey and I knew I had some kidney beans and brown rice. In the refrigerator there were a couple stalks of green onion leftover from a dinner party. In the spice drawer, I had cumin and some smoked paprika someone had given me for my bridal shower. Perfect. That was all I needed to whip up a nice, hearty chili.

Roganista's Never-really-a-recipe Chili recipe:

All you do is saute about two cloves of chopped garlic in oil. Add the meat (about one pound) and brown it. Add 1/4 cup of Worcestershire or a few splashes of soy sauce. (These savory condiments add a lot of rich umami depth.) Then add a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of kidney beans (liquid and all), 1 to 3 tablespoons of smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons (or more if you like) of chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin. Blend it all together. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let it simmer. To give it that long, slow-cooked taste, mix a bit (about 1 tablespoon) of chicken bouillon with 1/4 cup of water and add to the mixture. After about 45 minutes, you got yourself easy chili. Serve over brown rice. Umami-lishes

Monday, July 20, 2009

Macarons! ACKC, Not Just for Chocolate Phalluses Anymore

As I mentioned in my previous post, we stopped by ACKC (Artfully Chocolate, Kingsbury Confections), a "cocoa bar" that serves hand-made chocolates and other sugary treats (as well as drinks) in a cafe setting. (They somehow blend art into the mix as well.) Brightly colored in pink and yellow with bistro seating inside and outside along the sidewalk, the shop is vibrant and cutesy.

It reminds me of Ethel M's, a chocolate "bar" out in Las Vegas, where they offer couture chocolates and gourmet drinks. Anyway, the concept is still relatively novel in this part of the world, so there's that kind of appeal. However, since I'm not a chocolate lover--save for the occasional dark chocolate--it's lost on me. That is, until I saw this sign:

So many times, I've walked by our gayborhood's sweet shop, which has been known to display chocolate penises, just to turn my nose up! This particular evening last Friday, they were advertising some macarons that they got in from Michel Patisserie (who?). So we had to try it out. There was a nice assortment of colors and flavors...even these Bastille Day red white a blue (which looked more like hot pink and turquoise).

We opted for a classic pistachio; a funny speckled passion fruit and chocolate; and a brightly hued raspberry.

We ate them the next morning. They were definitely created using the French method, which yields a flatter top and granier texture (whereas the Italian method results in a smooth and puffy hamburger-bun product). Though I like the texture and appearance of French method, there was something missing with these. Don't get me wrong - they were good (and bravo to anyone who can make these impossible treats). But I prefer the ones at Kafe Leopold's (even though they're of the Italian variety) - they have a really nice, rich nutty flavor.

I would, however, go back to ACKC to try out something dark chocolate-y.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Salad Pizza is My Favorite, Posto

In my last two posts, I made reference to pizza. It made me realize that I had not had American pizza in quite a while (the big slice I had at my bachelorette night doesn't count as pizza...or food).

So we walked over to Posto Friday night. The new-ish neighborhood Italian place--brought to you by the guys over at the swanky Tosca (not to be confused with the La Tasca chain)--is their more democratic eatery. More casual, no white table cloths, but certainly not down market. The prices are recession-friendly, and the service is good (they replace your silverware after each course and everything).

We started with the brageola. So many cured meats are made of pork - this is not one of them. A dried cured beef, it was unassuming and yummy served with a tossing of arugula, walnuts, thin slices of pecorino and a garlic and celery sauteed warm dressing. Celery? It worked.

We brought with us this bottle. Corkage was only $20. (Did you know that it's illegal to charge more than $25 for corkage in DC? Now you do.)

I like, what I call, salad pizza - a warm pizza with some sort of uncooked greens on top. I had the Canales pizza, a pie made of melted bufala mozzarella and fresh sliced tomatoes, topped with prosciutto and fresh, cool arugula. The contrasting saltiness of the thinly sliced prosciutto with the peppery coolness of the arugula along with the additional dimension of the soft, creamy warmth of the mozzarella was to-die-for.

G had the Picante, a meat pizza with sausage and spicy salami (thus the name). The crust (on both our pies) was thin, tender and chewy with the slightest amount of char. Really nice.

Despite being REALLY loud - the floors are concrete and the ceiling is high- it was an enjoyable experience. They also have a very coveted outdoor patio space that is nice, as well, and is less noisy (save for the street din). As I mentioned in a previous post on Posto, we're glad it's in the our neighborhood. We'll go again.

On our way home, we stopped by ACKC for some macarons...more on those in a separate post.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Advice Fridays: Priorities - Wine or Meal?

In this edition of Food Advice Friday, reader, Cary, asks:

"Cost and availability of ingredients aside, when planning a special meal, is it best to tailor the menu around a particular wine choice, or to choose the wine based on the menu?"

Dear Cary,

When is cost and availabililty of ingredients ever an "aside"? Parameters are always part of the equation. No, life's not fair. But I like parameters, they force me to be imaginative and resourceful. But having said all that, I find that it's more exciting to create a fanciful menu and then find the wine that will go with it than the other way around. I find that - for me anyway - doing the other way around is a bit limiting. Hmm what should I serve with this bold, earthy red? Beef. I get so uninspired by this scenario. But when I'm given an open-ended option to create a menu, that's what I prefer.

Anwho, to answer your quorschun, generally speaking, I plan special meals around the food (not the wine). G is the wine maven in our home, and he selects wine(s) based on the menu. It's secondary. Rarely is it the case that we plan ingredients around the wine. That's too complicated for us lazy amateurs. Even when we have our oenophile friends over bringing with them amazing bottles, we plan the dinner first and then let the chips fall where they may in terms of the drink. There is, I will say, occasionally some tweaking in terms of the cheese/dessert course and the wine. If we know someone is bringing, say a Muscat, we'll serve a blue...something like that. But that's as far as I go with it. We shoot for the most brilliant pairing, but again, the food comes first.


And again having said all that, we're looking for an occasion to drink our most prized bottles. We haven't found it yet. I imagine that we'll drink the Chateau Mouton Rothschild with a Papa John's pizza - because it's that good and it doesn't matter what we eat with it. And we like contrasts.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Party Leftovers: A Sort of Steak Pizza

It never fails: Leftovers after a party. But it's great when they're nice leftovers. For the "Italian Summer" party, our friends, Eileen and Jeff brought over three different loaves of fresh-baked artisan bread. Of course there was so much food, we didn't even touch two of the loaves.

So for dinner Monday night, I decided to make a sort of open faced sandwich/steak pizza with the leftover meat and the bread.

I just topped the warmed Turkish barbari bread with little bit of blue cheese (because blue cheese and beef are awesome together), basil from the potted garden, tomatoes, and the steak.

I've said it before, I love getting creative with whatever is leftover or around the house!

Bastille Day - How to Do It Right

Happy belated Bastille Day (it was on the 14th - "le quatorze juillet" in common parlance). I just wanted to pass along this little snippet.


One of my all time favorite bloggers over at Tongue in Cheek wrote about her Bastille Day (she's an American living in France). It was celebrated in a simple, magnificent foodie way:

"Celebrating Bastille Day in the South of France -

The fire was set up with oak wood to grill the sardines. Our friends layered the grill with a bed of thyme, laurel, and rosemary. The dinner was set up outside under the cyprus trees. The table was a cornucopia of provencal goodness: Garden tomatoes, fresh green beans with garlic, and roasted potatoes in lemon and olive oil.

In the near distance, behind the stone wall, the town was celebrating as well, the eve of Bastille day. Later we walked over to the town square, laughter mingled with music filled the space between the square and the stars up above. Families gathered around listening to the band, sipping Pastis, celebrating in unison the eve of Bastille Day.

The baker in his blue checked pants stepped out of the bakery to take part of the merriment, he leaned on the fountain and sent a cloud of flour dust when he clapped his hands. The bartender called over to the waiter to send the baker a drink, the baker shook his head declining the offer, "Do you want burnt baguettes tomorrow?"

The bartender took the dishtowel from his pants and snapped it at him.Over the cobblestones, I jitterbugged in the arms of my husband. Children chased each other weaving amongst those of us dancing. As my dress swirled around my legs to the tune of a French song I do not know but have heard a hundred times before, I caught kaleidoscope glimpses of the crowd.

Simplicity.Celebration.Joy.The band was playing when the church bells struck twelve bringing in the new day like fireworks.

Happy Bastille Day."

Is that not the most beautiful snapshot of a life well-lived?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Upcoming Tastings: Raw Silk Indian Restaurant

Where: Raw Silk Indian Restaurant & Lounge, 719 King Street, Alexandria , VA 22314, 703-706-5701

When: Monday, July 27, 7 PM

What: 4-courses of Indian fare paired with Chilean & South African wines.


- CALCU ( CHILE ) - Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere & Cabernet Franc blend served with Papri Chaat & Chicken Wings

- ROBERTSON PINOTAGE PHANTOM RIDGE ( SOUTH AFRICA ) served with choice of Chicken Tikka Masala or Lamb Korma, with Basmati Rice, Lentil Daal & Tandoori Naan

- ROBERTSON ALMOND GROVE RIESLING ( SOUTH AFRICA ) served with Mango Kulfi or Rice Pudding.

- Tea & Coffee.

"Raw Silk opened their doors quietly on January 11th and have just completed (this week) the last stage of interior design in the dining room. Raw Silk offers Northern Indian fare moderately priced and an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list. The name is representative of the core industry in India , one that is lively and vibrant. The lounge is inviting and cozy, similar to the modern lounges proprietors Jasmine and Tarun Chopra enjoy in New Delhi , India . They host private events in the “ South Beach ” like lounge, up to 35 people. While the menu is based on traditional northern Indian fare and cooking techniques, Jasmine adds modern touches to the menu such as street foods of India and signature martini drinks named "Seven Nights at Raw Silk" and Tango Lassi.

The intricate menu covers and silk panels were individually created by Tarun’s mother, Shashi Chopra.

Jasmine & Tarun Chopra were born and raised in New Delhi and met online in a chat room. They lived 10 minutes from each other - it was simply destiny. They were two of the early users of the Internet in India - very slow, dial up found at Internet cafes. They came to the United States in 2001 when Tarun got a job working for Whirlpool. Jasmine has a Master’s in Computers and Tarun is a MBA and Chartered Accountant (CPA equivalent). The Chopra’s have had a dream to open a restaurant since they first arrived in the US and now it is a reality.

Jasmine, Executive Chef, creates the food they grew up with. All dishes are inspired by Chaiji (Jasmine’s grandmother). “She would make Rogan Josh and Kheema Matter to perfection. She was very deft in working with the clay oven and marveled at making Tandoori Kheema Naan with a tinge of Dahnia (coriander seeds). Baoji (Jasmine’s Grandfather) as well as the rest of my family would take great pride in her cooking skills and would continually invite friends over to enliven their taste buds.” said Jasmine Chopra.

In addition to their regular lunch menu, Raw Silk serves a modern “buffet” called Buffet Thali – samples of items brought to the table and served on to your dish, as opposed to walking up to a buffet. Refills are free. ($10.95 for non-vegetarian, $9.95 for vegetarian during the week, and a more extensive Buffet Thali is available on weekends for $12.95). "

Easy Citrus Pesto

I love pesto. It's easy and yields a lot of flavor for a minimal amount of effort (unlike artichokes-- again, more on those later). I especially love it because you don't have to be exacting and you can use all kinds of different substitutions and additions. No cooking; just blending. I made it as a sauce to top the flank steak we served for our "Italian Summer" dinner party.

Here's how it went down. I purchased some small basil plants and pinched off about a cup of the larger leaves;

...peeled two large cloves of garlic and put them, along with the basil and some nuts--which in this case was walnuts (a great substitution for the traditional pine nuts)--into the food processor and gave a few good pulses until well-minced.

Then I drizzled in about a half a cup of olive oil, but drizzle in as much or little as you want, while blending it all on low. The consistency should be that of pancake batter.

Then I poured in the juice of half a lemon and about a 1/2 tsp of lemon zest, still blending. After it was well incorporated, I poured the mixture into a bowl. Then I added in grated Parmegiano, stirring with a fork. It results in a thicker, more textured sauce.

Voila! Easy citrus pesto. Serve at room temperature.

Oh yeah, what was left of the basil plants, I put in our potted garden to use later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Italian Summer"

We had some friends over for a little dinner party this Saturday. I themed it "Italian Summer" as a bit of a nod to our italian foodie honeymoon. This was the first party we hosted after coming back from our vacation, so it seemed appropriate.

The menu consisted of (ostensibly) easy and light dishes including a linguine with a tomato and watercress "raw sauce", a grilled flank steak with fresh basil and lemon pesto, and grilled garlic and parsley artichokes. Easy, in concept; a time consuming mess in reality. I'm speaking primarily of the artichokes (more on those in another post).

We started off with some Prosecco and noshes on the deck. We're not fans of Prosecco. The only thing we considered when we purchased it was that it had to be brut. In terms of wine, we prefer dry over sweet for everything, save for late harvest varieties served with dessert. (So sorry, I didn't really pay attention to the labels.)

Prosecco, prosciutto de Parma, melonPretty flowers that Abby broughtOne of three delicious Italian cheeses Michelle and Graham broughtObligatory crostini and a tapenade I made of pureed sundried tomatoes and olive oilSalty and delicious salumi and grapes

Then we moved it inside. As I tossed the linguini with the cold sauce, everyone watched snippets of the videos Graham took at our wedding.

The table set with flowers from Jonathan; linguini in cold sauceG had previously decanted this 2000 Bordeaux (Chateau Garraud), an inexpensive, but nice "go-to" red that we had several bottles of in the cellar. (Unfortunately, we don't have too many Italian wines.)

As we ate the pasta, G went out and grilled (perfectly, I might add) the flank steak (that I had previously marinated in olive oil, parsley, and garlic) and the time-consuming artichokes.Here's the simple dinner, grilled flank steak and artichoke with a bit of basil and lemon pesto. I used walnuts, rather than pine-nuts, and mixed in grated Parmagiano with a fork after pureeing the other ingredients for a thicker, more textured sauce

Then on to dessert. As many of you know, I do not bake (except macarons), especially in 80-90 degree summer heat. So we opted to serve Ciao Bella brand gelato and sorbetto: Dark chocolate and jalapeno (really delicious, love the complex flavor play); hazelnut (kind of boring, but good); blackberry cabernet (strong cab flavor); and bright lemon (actually had chunks of lemon zest).

We served it in these vintage, cut glass dessert dishes we got from one of my favorite flea market/shabby chic plunder parlors: "Rough and Ready" on 14th street.

We had a great time talking about everything from Michael Jackson, to vegetarianism and
the sustainability of meat consumption; to terroire and the food guides we used on our honeymoon (more on those later); to dating and relationships. Then Graham spilled wine all over the table cloth and broke a glass.

La dolce vita, baby.

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