Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Party, Party, Party!

The thing I love most about the holidays is how often I get to see friends and family.  By that, I mean how often I get to see them at holiday parties!  I absolutely love holiday parties, and the holiday season in general.  B and I go all out with our decorations- we even chop down a real Christmas tree and put it up in our apartment (it usually takes up half our living space, but who cares)!  Because we (and by we, I mean mostly I…) did such an awesome job decorating this year, B and I decided to throw our own Christmas party for our friends.  It’s been ages since we’ve hosted a party, so we went all out with the food, drinks and decorations.  We tried some new recipes, and our friends contributed some yummy treats, for which I need to get recipes (hint hint ladies!).  Our menu consisted of butternut squash soup shooters, mini pigs in a blanket, roasted sugared almonds, a veggie tray, Italian mini meatballs, (semi-)homemade margarita pizza, stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto (oh how I wish I could claim credit for those!), and mini pot pie biscuits (ditto!).  Our specialty cocktail was cranberry champagne to match the season. Oh, and Christmas cookies, of course! 

I must say, B and I have gotten party planning down to a science.  We’ve been host to many a party and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Read on for our party tips and the recipe for my butternut squash soup!

JM and B’s Party Planning Tip
  • Start Early!  Clean your house/apartment the day before, and put together your menu at least a week in advance to give yourself enough time to go shopping.
  • We are big fans of Evite- it’s easy to send out, add guests to the list, and keep track of who has responded.  Send it out a month in advance, with a reminder follow-up a week out.  Schedules fill up quickly around the holidays, and reminders are essential!
  • If guests ask if they can bring anything, let them!  It’s great to be able to add a few extra appetizers or drinks without adding the extra work.  Just make sure you don’t scrimp on your menu because you’re counting on everyone else to do the work for you.
  • Prepare your food early.  I do my cookies at the beginning of December and freeze them.  As for the rest of the menu, we assemble everything early in the day so that it’s ready to be cooked and the dishes are already clean and put away. 
  • Don’t put out all the food at once.  It gets cold that way, and guests tend to trickle in a few at a time.  You want to be able to keep the food hot.  We start with 3 or 4 items and then add new dishes throughout the evening. 
  • Serve your guests their drinks; don’t make them get it themselves!
  • Turn off the TV and turn on some background music.
  • Make sure you socialize with each guest, and introduce people that don’t know each other (tell them something they have in common to spark conversation).
  • Attend to your guests, but don’t spend the whole evening cleaning up after people. 

Butternut Squash Soup Shooters
Adapted from recipe by Giada de Laurentis
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 poundbutternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. dried sage
  • Salt and Pepper
In a Dutch oven, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes, then ladle (in batches) into a food processor and blend until smooth (you’ll want to pour each batch in another bowl until finished).  Return blended soup to the Dutch oven, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm over low heat until you are ready to serve.
To Serve:  Turn off heat.  Using a turkey baster, put soup in shot glasses and serve to guests. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Football Chili

B and I love pretty much everything about fall- sweater weather, caramel apples, hot apple cider, fairs and festivals, and most importantly, football and fall food.  Sunday’s in our apartment are dedicated from 1 PM on to NFL and tailgate-worthy eats.  Nothing welcomes the season better than homemade chili.  I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to make chili- you have to have cool weather to really enjoy it.  Summer chili just won’t do.  Read on for my Sunday Football Chili recipe, and GO EAGLES!  (Sorry, no matter how long B and I live here, we’ll never be Redskins fans…)

JM’s Sunday Football Chili
Serves 6
1 ½ lb ground turkey
1 46 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ of a Vidalia onion, chopped
½ of a red pepper, chopped
½ of a green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp basil
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup chili powder

Brown meat in a Dutch oven on stove over medium high heat.  Add the peppers and onions and cook until onions are translucent.  Add all other ingredients, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with cornbread.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italian Jambalaya

I realize it's been a long time since I've posted a new recipe, but that's only because I want to provide you with only the best of my work (and I'm just not much of a summer cook...let's just say I've ODed on BBQ food).  Luckily I got my groove back when I had some leftovers from our (FINAL) cookout that I needed to use up.  We had some Italian sausage and chicken breast left over from Labor Day, so I decided to come up with something creative to rid my refrigerator of all of it at once and get B and I through most of the week.  I originally wanted to make jambalaya, but B insisted he hates jambalaya (I'm calling his bluff on that, by the way) and insisted I throw everything together with some pasta and marinara sauce, which I am very tired of at the moment.  Rather than overruling him and being a culinary dictator (even though I was the one doing all the work), I decided to be creative and come up with a compromise that incorporated both of our ideas.  I came with an Italian-style "jambalaya," with orzo subbing in for rice and the tomato base filling B's request for a red sauce.  I have to say I was quite pleased with 1- my ingenuity and 2- my benevolence.  Hey, I could have totally overruled him and made him eat whatever I cooked.  Instead I took the high road.  I'm going to be such a good wife!  (BTW, I feel like a giggly teenage girl referring to myself as a future wife...wonder when the reality of that is actually going to kick in?)  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the result of my good wife-practicing exercise, I know I did!  (B secretly did too, even though he won't admit it and insists he still would have rather had boring old pasta and red sauce...someone's going to have to clue him in on the "tell your wife whatever she makes you is delicious so you don't starve" rule before we get married).   

Italian Jambalaya
Makes 6-8 servings
extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 Italian sausages, cut into bite size rounds
2 red bell peppers, bite-size chunks
1 green bell pepper, bite-size chunks
1 vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes and juice
1/2 tsp each of oregano, basil, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 box orzo

Begin by heating about 1/4 cup of EVOO in a dutch oven pan on medium to medium-high heat.  Brown the chicken and sausage, then remove from pan and set aside.  Saute the peppers and onion in the pan, adding a little more oil if the pan is dry.  Saute until onions are translucent, then add in the garlic and herbs and reduce heat to medium.  Saute for a few minutes, then add in the chicken, sausage, tomatoes, chicken broth, and white wine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, cook for at least an hour.  About half an hour before serving, cook the orzo according to the directions on the box.  Drain, then add to the jambalaya.  It's best to let it cook for a few more minutes so the orzo absorbs the flavor of the sauce.  Remove from heat and serve with a crusty bread and top with fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Restaurant Review: Oceanaire

It's been awhile since I've done a restaurant review, mainly because I'm saving money for the wedding and therefore had to cut back on fun things like dining out and shopping (sad, I know). I finally got to enjoy a nice lunch when I went out with a few friends to Oceanaire. I'd never been there before, so I was excited to try it. I'm not a big seafood person- I usually choose steak or Italian over a seafood place- but what better way to mark the end of summer than with a great seafood dish?

 I'd heard good things about Oceanaire before, and it didn't disappoint. The food was phenominal. While the restaurant is a little stuffy (lots of suits), the food and service made up for it. Definitely a power lunch spot and a place to impress. Now, onto the most important review- the food. We started off with a few appetizers for the table: calamari, crab cakes, and oysters rockefeller. All were delish- the calamari had a great red pepper sauce with it, and the crab cakes were the best I've ever had- huge chunks of crab and not too mayonnaisey. The oysters, however, were the star of the show. I have only had oysters once before, and they were raw and gross. I just can't handle the texture, it makes me want to gag. Needless to say, I was not excited when someone at the table suggested we order them, until they reassured me these oysters were cooked. I figured why not give it a try since I've only had them raw before. I was pleasantly surprised. They were cooked with a little spinach and cheese, and they were superb. I've definitely changed my tune on oysters (cooked ones, anyway).

For the main course, I ordered the sea scallops. They were by far the best scallops I've ever had. I cleaned my plate, and I never do that! They were cooked to perfection, and the buttery sauce was to die for. My only complaint is that sides are served family-style. While I don't mind sharing, I fully believe that to really showcase a dish, it should come with the perfect side to compliment it, and should be served all together on one plate. The family-style side dish thing to me is just a restaurant ploy to charge you more money. $30+ a plate meals should come with a side, I shouldn't be charged extra for a few vegetables. Alright, I'll step off my soap box now that you know how I feel about that...

On to dessert (yes, I had a 3 course lunch, don't judge me). Again, we split a few for the table- a baked Alaska, which I haven't had for years, and creme brulee, one of my all-time favorite desserts. The baked Alaska was interesting, but just not my thing. I'm not big on meringue, which is a major part of the dish, so the effect was kind of lost on me. The creme brulee was great though, not to mention huge! We ordered two for the table, expecting a little ramekin, but got a huge seashell shaped dish that easily fed 2-3 people. Finally, generosity from the restaurant business! Seriously, I can't hide my excitement from big portions at expensive restaurants. It makes me feel justified spending the money on something I can share with another person!

Overall, my impression of Oceanaire was fantastic food, great service, and just an alright atmosphere. It certainly fits it's reputation of being a power lunch spot. I'd be curious to see what it's like after the work day. While I wouldn't recommend it for a date or a get together with friends, if you're looking to impress or are craving great seafood, this fits the bill.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wedding Madness

I know, it seems WAY too early to already use that title in a blog post, but really, it has fit the first few months of wedding planning.  Even though our wedding isn't until the fall of 2011, B and I have already felt the stress that comes along with planning a wedding.  The difficult decisions are definitely right at the beginning of the process, as you have to deal with the most important questions right away-- the budget, the location, and the number of guests.  These are all huge, and stressful, decisions, which I am happy to say have all been decided!  The most difficult decision was the location.  B and I currently live in the DC area (obviously!), but my family is from central/western Pennsylvania, and his family is from the eastern part of the state, with other relatives spread across the country.  No matter where we have the wedding, someone will have to travel.  This made our decision easier and harder at the same time.  In the end, we decided on a DC wedding (yay!), for numerous reasons, but mostly because it is what we really, really wanted.

Once we had the big 3 questions answered, it was time to select a venue.  There are so many options here, so we were a little overwhelmed at first.  While our budget and number of guests helped us narrow down the choices, it also seemed to make the search a little difficult, as DC venues are generally very expensive and we didn't want to blow our budget.  B and I also have a very specific vision for our wedding- we want something elegant, different, and that could also host the ceremony.  After numerous venue visits across the DC metro area, we decided we definitely did not like the hotel ballroom option and basically had to start our search over.  After narrowing it down, we were left with three possible options- the Tower Club, DAR Constitution Hall, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.  Each venue was unique and beautiful, but one blew us away.  The Carnegie Institution has everything we were looking for and is a quintessential DC space.  It is perfect for our wedding, and when we went to see it, I could see myself walking down the aisle in their gorgeous rotunda.  I'm excited to say that we were able to book it and we officially have a venue and a wedding date! 

We are both so happy to have a beautiful venue (and to have the hardest decision made) and cannot wait to start planning the details.  Up next- catering!  Food is incredibly important to us, so this will be another big decision that will likely take some time and effort.  You will be sure to hear all about our catering search and many more details as we continue planning one of the most important days of our lives!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


B and I just got back from Kauai (Hawaii), where we enjoyed the sun, sand, and of course food for a weeklong vacation to attend the lovely wedding of two of our friends.  Kauai was absolutely stunning, they call it the Garden Island with good reason!  I highly recommend visiting, it was by far my favorite and most relaxing vacation (minus the confused roosters that run loose all over the island and crow at all hours of the day...).  We really enjoyed every part of the island and got to see much of it via a helicopter tour (highly recommend!) and a catamaran sunset sail to the Na'Pali Coast.  I could talk about Kauai all day, but since this is a food blog, lets turn now to that! 
Overall, B and I were quite surprised with the food selection in Kauai.  We expected great tropical fruits, and we weren't disappointed there.  However we searched for good seafood at the market and were disappointed with the small selection.  We did have great fish at both the wedding and restaurant we visited, so maybe we missed some hidden seafood market that us mere tourists couldn't find.  We ended up not doing too much cooking anyway, so we were in no way starved on our trip!  In fact, we stumbled upon the hidden jewel of Kauai (at least as far as food goes!) on a day trip to Hanalei Bay.  Nick's Taqueria is a little taco cart run by Nick, a surfer originally from Colorado that is only open from noon to 3 pm so that he can surf the rest of the day.  Normally I am not a food cart person, I just can't get past my germophobe anxiety when it comes to eating something out of the back of a truck.  However I was starving and there were no other options, so B and I gave it a try.  I'm SO GLAD we did.  It was by far the best pork taco I've ever had.  Everything is made fresh right there, no pre-made, pre-wrapped tacos that are just reheated and thrown at you.  It was definitely worth the wait!  I had no idea something so delicious could come out of  a food truck.  Is this what I've been missing all these years??  Nick's just may have changed my whole outlook on food carts!  If you ever go to Kauai, definitely make the trip to Hanalei Bay (which is one of the most beautiful spots on the island) and stop by Nick's for a pork taco.
Unfortunately B and I are back to reality on the mainland, but refreshed, recharged, and with a new outlook on food trucks.  If you ever get the chance, go to Kauai, you won't regret it!
Mahalo (thanks) for reading!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monday Blues

Hi DCFoodLovers!  Sorry the posts have been sparse lately, summer really just seems to have a way of getting away from me!  Between travelling and a crazy work schedule, June and July are always a little hectic.  That and I haven't been cooking much lately because I'm never home!  I did try out a new pasta recipe earlier this week though, so I finally have something to share! 

Monday night B and I invited two friends up for dinner.  Everyone hates Mondays, so I can't think of a better way to cheer up the day and make the week more bearable than by spending the night with friends, a bottle of wine, a good meal, and The Bachelorette!  Pasta is my go-to comfort food, so I picked a new Giada recipe to try to help beat the Monday blues.  Of course I adapted it to my own liking- added more vegetables, and I kind of guestimated measurements (that's the beauty of a pasta dish, you can usually get away with just throwing things together).  I thought it turned out very well, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it really was a great way to start off the week!
I encourage you all to try an early-week dinner party, you won't be sorry!
Italian Baked Chicken and Pasta
Adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 zuchinni, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
oregano, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta until tender (about 5 minutes) and drain.

Meanwhile, saute the chicken in olive oil over medium heat.  Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the onion, garlic and zuchinni and cook for 5 more minutes.  Put the pasta in a mixing bowl and add the chicken and zuchinni mixture, the can of tomatoes, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and mix well.  Place in a buttered 8 by 8 baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan and bits of butter.  Bake for 30 minutes. 
Cook's note: You can save yourself some time on Monday by making this dish ahead of time Sunday night.  Just stop after placing the mix in the baking dish, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Add the breadcrumbs and parmesan right before baking on Monday.

Bon Apetit! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lacking Lunches...

Oh capitol hill cafeterias, what high hopes I have for you- all the promises from restaurant vendors for better and cheaper options for us poor, underpaid hill staffers, all the tasty sounding daily lunch options and weekly specials- only to have those hopes dashed when I bring back a soggy sandwich or salty turkey dinner to suffer through at my desk...

I can't tell you what a struggle it is to find a decent lunch option on the hill.  First time visitors to the capitol complex may be impressed with the wide array of services available to Members and staff.  Honestly, you can get everything you need to survive the week without stepping outside- cafeterias, a barber, a dry cleaner, a bank, a post office, and a gym.  Unfortunately, the appeal wears off quickly, and staffers are left suffering through subpar meals or eating from a vending machine.  SInce we're pretty much chained to our desks when Congress is in session, we can't hit up all the great downtown restaurants for a 2 hour lunch.  We're left with the cafeterias, a brown bagged lunch, or one of the few takeout places in a 10 minute walk.  I'm usually a brown bag girl.  A. It's cheaper, and B. I can't handle the overpriced, tasteless cafeteria food (it takes me back to my high school days...).  When I need a break from packing I run up the street to grab food to take back to the office.  In the three years that I've worked on the Hill, I've discovered a relative lack of affordable food options in walking distance of the Capitol.  The discovery surprised me, after all, there are tens of thousands of Hill employees, plus an influx of lobbyists, tourists, and business people when we are in session.  You'd think the place would be bursting with options waiting to capitalize on all that potential.   

Fortunately, restaurants are beginning to catch on, and Pennsylvania Ave is finally getting some action.  I can't tell you how excited Hill staffers get for new lunch options!  Good Stuff Eatery has to make a killing off us, and Sweetgreen just opened.  I can't wait for Chef Spike's pizza shop to open next month!  

While lunch wish number one is starting to come true, and I'm excited with the influx of options down the street, I'm still waiting for the cafeterias to catch up and offer something halfway decent.  Until then, I guess it's brown bags for me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Now thatsa spicy meat-a-ball!"

Hey it’s B.  Last weekend for JM’s b-day celebration, I decided to make up my own spicy meatball recipe.  I’ve included my creation below.  For those who tend to shy away from spicy foods, you may find the recipe below to be a little hot (but that’s just how I roll!).  If you like foods a little more mild, I’d suggest using a regular marinara sauce instead of the spicy marinara sauce and skipping the habanera pepper.  I’d also suggest taste testing as you cook this meal.  If it’s too tame, add more of the spices, and if during your tasting you feel the meal may be too spicy for your guests, continue adding additional amounts of sour cream, lemon juice, or sugar (all three will help to chill out the heat of the dish).  I also recommend including a cool dip for the meatballs.  I went simple and put out a bowl of sour cream, but you can try all kinds of creamy dips. 

2 lbs. of beef
3 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. cumin
1 tbs. nutmeg
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 finely chopped habanera pepper
1 finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 egg

2 jars of spicy marinara sauce
½ c. sour cream
2 tbs. lemon juice
¼ c. sugar
2 bay leaves

Toss all the meatball ingredients into a big bowl and use your hands to get in there and blend everything together.  Once the meat is evenly mixed, begin rolling bite –sized meatballs and set aside.  Get your olive oil out again and put 2 tbs. of olive oil in a big sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat.  Then begin placing 4-5 meatballs into the pan at a time, rolling the meatballs every 45-60 seconds so the outside is cooked evenly.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside.  Now that all the meatballs have been browned get out a crock-pot and, beginning with a layer of marinara sauce, alternate between putting a layer of meatballs and sauce into the crock-pot.  Set the crock-pot to low and let cook for about 6 hours.  After the meatballs have cooked for 6 hours, add the sour cream, lemon juice, sugar, and bay leaves and stir until the sour cream dissolves into the sauce.  Then cover and let cook for another 2 hours (just a side note, cooking time is flexible, that’s the best thing about crock-pots!).  Feel free to serve the meatballs directly out of the crock-pot or serve on individual plates with a scoop of sour cream for dipping.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Birthday/Engagement Celebration

In planning our proposal weekend, B thought of everything, including how excited I would be to celebrate with all of our friends. That’s why his proposal timing was perfect- it was the weekend before my 25th birthday party weekend. A little background before I go into the details…every few weeks, my friends from college and I get together in one of our current homes. A few months ago, we decided to celebrate my birthday and Cee’s birthday (the day after mine) in Arlington. B knew all about the birthday plans of course, and planned the proposal so that I would get to see all my friends the next weekend to celebrate our engagement along with Cee and my birthdays. 

So last weekend, all the girls and Cee’s boyfriend came down for a visit. We had a busy weekend planned- an all day wine tour in Virginia, plus a birthday party that evening. Friday night everyone arrived in town and we spent the evening prepping the food and catching up. We got up early Saturday morning and kicked off the day with mimosas before heading out to Ballston, where our wine tour bus picked us up. We took the Boomerang bus, which was fairly cheap and, though not the most comfortable, a lot of fun. We visited two wineries in Loudon County, the Bluemont Vineyard and Veramar. They were both beautiful, but the view from Bluemont was breathtaking. It was set into the side of a hill, with an altitude 951 feet you could see the entire valley below. It was a gorgeous day, though roasting at 95 degrees! We had a lot of fun at both wineries doing tastings and enjoying a picnic we packed. I highly recommend taking a picnic (if the winery allows it), buying a bottle of wine or two and sitting outside to enjoy the scenery. 

After the wine tour, we came home and got ready for the party, hosted generously by our friend E who lives in the same building (talk about convenient!). We made all the food and drinks ourselves of course, prepping everything the night before since we knew we’d be back late from the wine tour. It definitely made life easier to have everything made ahead of time and just finish off that evening. Our menu was simple, we stuck with two specialty cocktails named after the birthday girls- the JM was a cucumber mint martini, and the Cee was a pomegranate martini. For appetizers, we served ham and cheese puff pastry sandwiches (a Barefoot Contessa recipe), roasted red peppers and mozzarella, spinach and artichoke dip, marinated olives, spicy mini meatballs, and cupcakes made by one of the girls. B did a wonderful job creating the spicy meatballs. We couldn’t find any recipes that we wanted to try, so he started from scratch and made something really yummy (though a little too spicy for some of our guests!). B will post more about them later. 

Overall the birthday/engagement celebration weekend was a blast, and it was so wonderful to get to see so many of my closest friends at once and share our engagement story in person! The girls all seem really excited to help me plan the wedding, which made me really happy. I love all the creativity that goes into planning a party, and our wedding will by far be the biggest and most important party we’ll ever throw. Having all of our friends be excited and want to help will make planning our wedding fun, and surely will help balance out the stress that I’m sure we will experience as well. I can’t wait!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Power of Cheese

Hey it's B.  So this past weekend I proposed to JM at The Inn at Little Washington (if you read her last post that's probably pretty obvious) and while at The Inn we had the opportunity to enjoy a wonderfully prepared dinner.  They have a fantastic menu, but there was one item that specifically caught my eye and had me at hello.  Who'd have thunk  it…you go to one of the most prestigious restaurants in the area and right there under the second course listings was Mac & Cheese.  Could have ordered the chilled petals of veal tongue ravigote with fresh horseradish or perhaps the pecan crusted soft shell crab tempura with Italian mustard fruit and marinated cabbage slaw, but nope, I'm going Mac & Cheese; and that has made all the difference.

Have you ever taken a bite of something and had a physical reaction (and I'm not talking about the bad kind where you get stuffed with a breathing tube and have to be rushed to the hospital)?  I'm talking about the kind of reaction Elaine had when she tasted the Soup Nazi's soup and says "Oh God, I gotta sit down".  Well this was kind of my reaction, except luckily I was already seated.

The component of the dish that was like a karate kick to my pallet was the thin sliver of finely-aged parmesan cheese placed vertically on the plate.  For my first bite, I neglected to break off a piece of the parmesan cheese and combine it with the cheesy noodles and summer truffle bits, and therefore, my initial thought was that it was good, but I didn't feel overly impressed.  The second bite, however, was a whole new ballgame.   This time I included some of the parmesan and was absolutely blown away.  I'm pretty sure my tongue took a break from the festivities so that it could go write me a thank you letter.  It…was…incredible.  There were a couple seconds where I went to speak and had to stop to gain my composure.  Unfortunately for me, this got JM's attention and I then was forced to begrudgingly share some of my plate with her (I had to; we had just gotten engaged!).

It made me think, is there some element of every dish that might give a recipe that "makes your knees buckle" taste.  I've been telling JM for years that all you have to do to make anything better is add cheese and bacon to it (they even make vegetables taste good!).  Maybe after this past weekend, she'll heed my words more seriously.  Of course now that we're engaged and soon to be married, she'll probably just start tuning my words out completely. 

Thanks for reading everybody.

Monday, June 14, 2010

B and JM Get Engaged!

B and I have great news to share with everyone.  We’re engaged!  B proposed on Friday evening, and it was the most perfect proposal I could imagine.  The story starts three weeks ago; when I was back in Pennsylvania and B called me to tell me he made dinner reservations for the Friday before my birthday.  He called my Chief of Staff to make sure it would be ok for me to leave work a few hours early, because he was taking me somewhere about an hour and a half outside of the city.  This of course made me speculate and wonder if he was planning a proposal, but I had myself convinced that it was not anything more than a birthday dinner. 

Fast forward three weeks later, to the car ride on Friday.  B was pretty quiet on the ride down, and I still did not know where he was taking me, until I saw a sign for The Inn at Little Washington.  I glanced over at him and asked, “Are you taking me where I think you are taking me?!”  He got a big smile on his face, but didn’t answer.  I found out 5 minutes later, when we pulled up to the Inn.  

We were about 45 minutes early for our reservation, so B suggested we walk the grounds.  He grabbed his suit jacket out of the car, and I saw a big white gift box with a ribbon.  Of course, I wondered if there might be a ring in that box.  I found out, after we walked into the garden and sat on a bench.  B handed me the box and said to go ahead and open my birthday gift.  I opened it to find a pretty silk dress.  As I was thanking him for my present, B said there was one problem with the dress, and that was that I didn’t have any jewelry to go with it.  I was a little confused, because I have a lot of jewelry, but I went with it and said that I wasn’t sure what shoes would go with it either, but it doesn’t matter.  Then B said, “Well, I did get you one piece of jewelry to go with it, but it’s conditional.”  He got down on one knee, pulled out a ring box, and said, “Will you marry me?”  I was so thrown off by the dress earlier; I couldn’t believe he was really proposing!  After I recovered from my shock, I of course said yes!  I cried, and B slid the ring on my finger. 
The surprises kept coming, when B told me that our dinner reservations were later in the evening and we were actually staying at the Inn.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  We went back to the car, where B pulled out a bag he packed for us, and we walked up to the Inn.  Right away the valet ran up to us and took the bag and welcomed us to the Inn.  The host took us right in for a welcome drink and to congratulate us on our engagement.  He gave us a tour of the Inn and took us up to the room, where they had an ice bucket and glasses for us (B brought champagne).  Our room had a balcony, and it was so nice to have an hour before dinner to let it sink in and enjoy some champagne and celebrate together. 

Later in the evening we went down for dinner.  Every staff member that greeted us congratulated us, and we were so blown away by the consideration and extra gestures the entire staff gave us to make our engagement special.  Our server gave us our menus and a glass of champagne.  When we opened the menu, it was printed with a congratulatory message just for us.  We shared a bottle of wine (the Inn’s Cabernet Franc), and the most incredible meal either of us have ever experienced.  The chef even wrote best wishes and congratulations on our desserts.  At the end of the dinner, our server asked us if we would like a tour of the kitchen.  Of course we did, so the host took us back and introduced us to the one and only Chef Patrick O’Connell.  He was so nice and considerate, complimenting my ring and taking pictures of us in the kitchen.  It was such an honor to get to meet one of the best chefs in the world. 

After dinner, we retreated back to our room, where we took our bottle of champagne onto the balcony, along with a video B made of the pre-proposal process.  He taped everything, from scouting out proposal sites, the ring, and the phone call to my dad asking permission to marry me.  It was so wonderful to get to see that video, and we continued it the next day, when B recorded my reaction at our proposal site.  We look forward to incorporating the video into some part of our wedding. 

The proposal was so special and wonderful, and we are so excited, happy, and definitely looking forward to planning our wedding.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the process!  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Attention All Wine Lovers!

I wanted to let you all know about the upcoming 'Toast of The Town' event hosted by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in Washington, DC on Friday, June 11th at the National Building Museum. 

'Toast of The Town' is America's premier wine and restaurant tasting event, featuring more than 500 wines and spirits from around the world and culinary creations from more than 30 top-rated DC-area restaurants.   

The event looks like a lot of fun, unfortunately B and I can’t attend (B has a birthday surprise planned for me that night, more about that later!).  Details are below, and don’t forget to use the code to get discounted tickets!

Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 'Toast of The Town'
Wine Enthusiast hosts a series of 'Toast of The Town' events across the country each year, however 2010 marks the premiere of 'Toast of The Town' in Washington, DC. 

Friday, June 11, 2010
5:00-7:00pm VIP Tasting
7:00-10:00pm Grand Tasting

The National Building Museum
401 F St NW
Washington, DC

DC Food Love readers can get a discount of $10 off Grand tickets and $20 off VIP tickets.  You just need to purchase tickets online by going to and entering in the following promotional code during the check-out process: DCFOOD


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

JM's Memorial Day Getaway

Memorial Day weekend was spent gloriously on the beach with a group of girlfriends.  A long weekend of fun and sun was exactly what I needed after the past few very stressful weeks at work.  At the beginning of the trip I only knew half of the girls going, but we got lucky and the whole group got along really well.  Everyone was laid back and fun to hang out with.  We rented a small townhouse a block from the beach, and to save some money we decided to cook most of our meals.  We skipped the usual barbeque and grill foods, two of the girls were vegetarian and we didn’t have a grill anyway.  At first I thought meals might be difficult- I almost always cook meat- and wasn’t sure what we would eat all weekend without it.  I’m happy to report that it wasn’t difficult at all (the girls ate fish, so it made things a little easier).  Meals were cooked together and served family-style, so it was easy and a fun way to hang out. 

I learned a new meal that I am definitely planning on making again, fish tacos.  I’d had shrimp tacos before, but never ones made with fish, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  They were delicious and healthy!  We were limited on spices since we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something we’d use once or twice, but we used such fresh ingredients that we didn’t need much more than salt and pepper anyway.  We baked tilapia with a tequila lime seasoning rub (just a packet of premixed seasoning), mixed up a cabbage-cucumber salsa, and topped off with homemade guacamole and fresh tomato salsa.  The cabbage-cucumber mixture was a big improvisation, we bought mangos with the intention of making mango salsa, but they weren’t ripe.  Instead, we threw together some red cabbage (prepackaged), diced red onion, a jalapeno, cucumber, tomato, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  It was so easy and had a ton of flavor.  It had just enough citrus to complement the fish, and a little kick from the jalapeno.  The tacos were incredibly fresh tasting; it was a perfect summer beach meal. 

All in all it was a successful weekend away, I got plenty  of sun (my sunburned skin says too much), made some new friends, and even learned something new.  If you did anything fun or made an interesting meal, tell us about it in the comments!  

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bro-date at G-hut

Hey everyone it's B.  So the other day I met up with a good buddy of mine at Galaxy Hut, or as we like to call it, G-hut.  It's a little dive bar in Clarendon on Wilson Boulevard pretty much directly across from Whole Foods.  I love the place. In my opinion, for its size, they have one of the best beer selections in town.  You'll pay a little more per beer, but you're also getting some top notch liquid deliciousness.  The decor is not what you might expect for a little hole in the wall bar:  there's a lot of interesting art hanging on the walls, as well as several tables made up of old-school arcade games which you can play for a few quarters (we're talking Pac Man here!).  And I'll tell you a few more reasons I keep going back to this place...1.  The grilled cheese sandwich is awesome.  It's two thick slices of Texas toast, and an abundance of ooey gooey cheddar and American cheese.  Go ahead and try to find a better grilled cheese sandwich.  2.  These guys were selling tater tots before the Napoleon Dynamite craze, and they have perfected them.  These aren't the broken and smashed up tots you used to get at the cafeteria in middle school.  These bad boys are deep fried to a delicious crispy brown.  The epitome of what every tot should strive to be.  3.  As long as I'm willing to wait about 5-10 minutes, and keep a sharp eye, I can usually manage to find a couple seats at the bar.  And there's nothing better than going to a dive bar and being one of those guys with a bar seat.  You become one of the respected, the envied, the desired. Basically you become Chuck Norris, except you have a tasty beer, scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich, and the tots of a champion.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Family Cooking

I’m sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this month.  Things at work have been crazy busy, and I’ve been out of town every single weekend in May (and will be for the rest of the month…).  Needless to say, I haven’t been cooking much. 

This past weekend I was back in Pennsylvania visiting my dad and brothers.  When I’m home, I try to help out my dad and clean up the house - it’s a lot of work cleaning up after two boys - and I try to cook a nutritious meal, since I highly doubt they eat any kind of vegetable when I’m not there (they’re subscribers to the meat and potatoes diet).  While I’m usually on my own on the cleaning front, I usually end up with at least one brother acting as my assistant when I’m preparing dinner.  Cooking for my family has turned into one of my favorite parts of going home.  Even though it’s a lot of work, I like being helpful and get really excited when they enjoy something I’ve cooked. It’s even better when my brothers join in to help.  Cooking together has really become a bonding experience for the three of us. We’re all very different, but hanging out in the kitchen seems to be second nature to all of us (must be the Italian blood).  It gives us a chance to talk and is one of the times I feel like I can teach them something useful.  Showing them how to incorporate vegetables, make things more flavorful, or just teaching simple cooking techniques is a chance for me to really embrace the “big sister” role.  I value that time I get to spend with the boys, and we all get to enjoy the end result after! 

Cooking is such a great activity to spend time together.  The next time you are making a meal, simple or complicated, for a few people or many, I encourage you to ask for others to join in.  Use that time in the kitchen as part of the time you spend with others, rather than a task you have to complete before you get to enjoy time with your loved ones. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate (not in DC)...

Part of what JM and I wanted to do with this blog is find all the “have to try” foods the DC area has to offer.  My current goal is to find the best hoagie spot in town, but so far I’ve had difficulty finding a place that makes amazing bread and stuffs their sandwiches with enough meats and cheeses to even leave Kristie Alley satisfied.  In my life, I’ve had lots of good sandwiches, but when my family was coming in to town over Easter, I had to use the opportunity to have my sister bring me a special delivery of the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  It’s the buffalo chicken cheese steak found at the one and only Nuse’s Deli in Morgantown, PA.  If you’re ever in the area, make sure you stop and give it a try.  I like mine with extra hot sauce and blue cheese.  I was thinking about this sandwich for at least a month and it made me realize that I haven’t found something around here yet that brings out the same “need to scarf” attitude in me.  So if you know of any sandwiches in the area that don’t allow you to think straight until you finally get to take a bite of it, let me know, because I’d love to give it a try.

Leave your thoughts in the Comments!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick and Easy Dessert

I’m not much of a baker.  Baking tends to require more precision than I am willing to use (I’m a little of this, little of that kind of girl), therefore I don’t usually make desserts.  However, on Sunday I found myself with not much to do and some leftover phyllo dough in the fridge that I needed to use up.  I had some apples sitting out, and remembered that B really likes apple turnovers.  I never made them before, but figured a lazy Sunday was the best time to attempt to create a dessert recipe.  Now I won’t claim that this experience has turned me into a pastry chef, but I did manage to pull off the turnovers quite well with a recipe loosely inspired by Emeril’s Apple Cups.  Read on for a quick and pretty foolproof dessert.

Apple & Pear Turnovers
Makes 4 turnovers

1 apple
1 pear
2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, melted
3 sheets phyllo dough
1 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Peel, core and slice apple and pear.  Place fruit slices, orange juice, water, cinnamon and honey in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until apples are soft, approx. 10 minutes.  Lay out one sheet phyllo dough, brush with melted butter, then layer on a 2nd sheet.  Repeat and add a 3rd sheet.  Cut into 4 strips.  Place a tablespoon or so of the filling at the end of each strip, fold into a triangle shape and continue folding up the rest of the dough, maintaining the triangle shape.  Brush the end with butter to seal.  Brush both sides of the turnovers with butter and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes until brown.