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!