I think we should stop worrying about what the calendar says when Starbucks is more than happy to decide for us when the seasons change. You know it’s Fall when the Pumpkin Spice latte comes around, you know Winter has started when they change to the red cups and when they start offering specials on iced/blended drinks, it’s clearly Spring… or Summer, I’m not sure which.
Starting today through May 15, if you hit Starbucks during “happy hour” between the hours and 3-5pm, you can get yourself a Frappuccino® for half off:
Frappuccino® blended beverages are completely customizable – you call all the shots, so you can create the perfect drink for your perfect summer day. And what could make a warm, sunny day better than strolling around with one of our NEW Mocha Coconut Frappuccino® blended beverages? Just tell us how you like it and we’ll do the rest.
Ah, from their text, I believe that they’re saying it’s Summer. Apparently Starbucks doesn’t really do Spring. Let’s hope that in a month or two, they’ll also offer their afternoon $2 iced drink special as they’ve done in past years.
Depending on how adept your local barista is, you may be better off heading elsewhere for a milkshake, but if you want a cheap afternoon pick me up, it’s a good way to save a few bucks. Just be sure to check out the nutritional stats on your favorite Frapp. It’s a good treat, but perhaps not something to make a habit of.
I’m sure you’ve been in suspense this entire time about whether I met Ina Garten and if she made me one of her fabulous friends up in the Hamptons. Have I left my life in DC behind to go from dazzling urbanite to scintillating suburbanite? Well the short answer is no and the long answer is noooooo.
I did get to “meet” her, more or less, but getting to that point is a tale in the telling. I haven’t been to too many book signing events in my time, but between the atmosphere and the signing itself, this could easily turn one off of them. Not that I wasn’t elated to meet her, but after standing around for 2 hours in the rain, one could have hoped for a bit more.
With the signing on a weekday afternoon, none of my friends were able to take time off and make it but I was able to talk a co-worker into going with me and she drove us, so no negotiating metro to get there. What I didn’t realize was just how popular the signing would be, even though I barely heard about it myself only finding out through a friend that heard it on the radio. It “started” at noon, and we got there around 12:30p. By that time, the store was full of people waiting and the line stretched outside the store, around Pentagon Row and nearly “ended” back at the store! On the advice of others waiting in line, we went into the store to buy our books and then got in line. When we made our purchases, there was a very short stack of cookbooks that the employee said “That’s the last batch and when they’re gone, they’re gone!”
Now, when we left the office, it was just a cloudy day, rain was forecast for the evening, but nothing else. When we got out of the store, the bottom dropped out. We quickly walked around the shopping center to get in line and my co-worker went back to the car to get our umbrellas. And then came the waiting… We struck up conversations with others in line, I shared my umbrella with a very nice guy and as the line moved, we inched forward… and kept checking the time. I know that she’s popular, but I don’t think any of us expect to stand in line for nearly 2 hours, outside, in the rain, without much organization or information. Eventually Sur La Table employees brought us out plastic bags in which to hold our books and tried to give us a heads-up as best they could. It started to feel like an amusement park, “From this point there will be a 45 minute wait,” except there were no Fastpasses! I did my best to maintain a positive attitude, tweeting and sending photos, but at some point the phrase “I survived cancer for this?!” did go through my head.
Finally after what seemed like hours–and actually was hours, we made it inside the store. The line still stretched around the interior of the place, but it still felt like progress… and then we saw the signing rules: no personalized autographs and no posing for photos. The guy I’d shared my umbrella with immediately said “Are you kidding me?!” and there was a four-letter word uttered by someone behind us in line. Now if I’d known these rules before paying full price for the book and getting in a 2-hour line…in the rain, I might have reconsidered it all, but that sign wasn’t near the books or the cash register. By the time we saw it, we felt so close that it seemed ok to stick it out, even if we were being shuffled past her as if we were on an assembly line.
A few feet from the door to the room, an employee advised us how to arrange our books for an easier–read faster–signing, and then at the doorway another employee reminded us that she couldn’t pose for photographs, but that we could give our camera to an employee who’d take a picture of us while she signed our books. Still not the best arrangement, but I took a deep breath, worked on my best smile and convinced myself that if I was ever going to become one of her gays, now was the time. As mentioned, that didn’t happen, but she was very nice for all of the 45 or so seconds I got to “talk” to her. Thankfully I had two books for her to sign, so I got a little bit of extra time and I mean a “little bit” and then a security guard shuffled me along, barely giving me time to put my cameras away.
And that was it, really. Aside from a few photos I snapped through the window or while waiting in line, it wasn’t exactly a great “foodie” experience. When compared to meeting Sara Moulton at Hill’s Kitchen, this one pales in comparison. Admittedly, it was a smaller crowd and Sara scheduled a cooking demo and Q&A, and while I didn’t expect all that, I was hoping that I could at least get a “To: _____” in my book, not just her quickly scrawled autograph. Still, I did get to see one of my food idols, even if I couldn’t really say more than a sentence to her, so I suppose that counts for something. Next time, however, I will call ahead to find out if the store or publishing company has any rules or restrictions on the signing. Caveat emptor and all that, right?
As much as the signing felt like a comedy of errors, trying to make a recipe from her book turned into just as much of one, too. But that’s for Part 2!
If you’re a fan of Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa, then the title of her new book should come as no surprise: How Easy Is That? Even though her “How _____ is that?” catchphrase is easy to snark on, it’s often pretty true and as a devoted Barefoot Contessa fan, I find myself muttering it while in the kitchen every now and then. Especially when using her go-to recipe for Roast Chicken again and again. Not that roast chicken is terribly difficult, but the thought of it can be really daunting until you see how easy it is to make–it’s also easy to mess up, but few things aren’t!
Still, the recipes on her show do range from simple to complex and at times she does suffer from what I call “Martha Stewart Syndrome” where she will say a recipe is “simple” and then call for ingredients or devices that you simply can’t get at your local store or even on a weekend errand run. Not that I mind buying hard-to-get items online, but waiting 2-7 days for something to arrive so I can make a dish isn’t all that fun. She’s also not afraid of cooking with butter or alcohol, though it’s the former that sends most people running… that and her penchant for heavy cream! But most of her dishes are designed to feed at least 4 people and we can always determine our own healthy-sized portions, right?
Of course, if you hit this entry, you don’t need me telling you what you likely already know, so here’s the important news: Ina is currently on a signing tour with the new book and she’ll be at Sur La Table at Pentagon Row in Arlington, VA tomorrow October 27 from noon to 2pm. (If you’re anything like me, you had a little *SQUEE!* moment when you first heard about this.) I’m hoping to arrange a little food-lover group of signing buddies to go, but if you can’t make it, I believe they will let you call ahead–703-414-3580–and purchase a signed book or possibly order one through their website.
I’ll be honest though, I’m mainly going to meet Ina and make this year one where I meet two of my food idols. And I sort of have this fantasy that she’ll sweep me up in her magical button-down oxford shirt to The Hamptons and make me one of her gays… but that can’t happen without eye contact! If you’re into her recipes and not bothered about an autographed copy, some online retailers have her new book for nearly 50% of the list price. But she has signings scheduled through the end of the year, so if you’re not in the DC area, there’s still a chance to see her.
Admittedly, I’m no book reviewer, just a huge fan so if you’re not yet sold on the idea of the cookbook, here are some excerpts & recipes that might help make up your mind:
Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of the salt and toss again.
Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.
If you’re planning on going, leave a comment or drop me a note! Because just like with Sara Moulton, I want to get a picture of me with Ina Garten. And let’s face it: The Urban Bohemian and The Barefoot Contessa? How perfect is that?
“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
I’m not quite as much of a wine drinker as I used to be. Vintage Virginia used to be firmly scheduled each year, but when I got rid of my car and other friends with cars moved away, it wasn’t quite as easy to make it out to VA to attend. This year a last-minute invite in response to my need for a day trip appeared out of nowhere and Vintage Virginia was back on!
About 50 wineries from Virginia show up, along with food and crafts vendors, and it’s a really good time. You’d think that it would be a loss for the wineries as they’re just giving away product all day–albeit in 1-2 ounce doses–but the vendors I talked to seemed really excited about the day. When I’d been in the past, the wineries had descriptions of their wines available and you could request a tasting of select bottles, but this year most of them seemed content to give tasting flights to a group at a time. This was both good and bad, as the group I was with was there to taste and buy, not taste and party. We got stuck behind some people for whom tasting had evolved to drinking. But as every taster is a potential purchaser, I can’t fault the wineries and volunteers for making sure no one’s glass went dry.
Thankfully the sun stayed away for most of the day, but around 4 or so, it was streaming down on us. By then even my tasting had become drinking–especially as some wineries also sell wines by the glass. Along the way we’d made lots of notes about the wines we liked and decided to head back to our favored wineries to buy some bottles and have them sent to will call. (Will Call at a wine festival is the most dangerous and brilliant idea ever.) Luckily, for me, some of the wineries had sold out of the bottles I wanted by the time we rolled around. This is really a defensive maneuver on my part as I only came home with nine bottles. If I’d been buying while tasting, I’d have bought a lot more.
The pictures from the day are on flickr, and I’ve still got my notes on the wines I liked and the wineries I want to visit. Most of the wineries are a few hours outside DC/NoVA and I look forward to a day trip or two to make a visit. However, even if I can’t make it, living in DC allows me to have wine shipped–a big plus. Between Vintage Virginia and Wine in the Woods each year, there are few excuses not to indulge your love of wines and local wineries.
Just over a week ago, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my food idols. I’d already planned to make it a “food excursion day” with some friends, grabbing a bite on the Hill and heading up to Bethesda to check out a tea shop when we saw that Hill’s Kitchen was hosting Sara Moulton for a cooking demonstration and book signing. You never saw plans change so fast!
If you’ve ever seen her shows Cooking Live or Sara’s Secrets, she is just as friendly and engaging in person. She reminds you of the friendly neighbor that might stop by to borrow a cup of sugar and then come back with a share of the cookies or brownies she baked with it.
Watching her talk about Food Network, Gourmet Magazine, her family, her recipes and the new book was like seeing her on TV all over again. One of the things she practices and stresses is that cooking shouldn’t be a burden. Many people resort to fast food or dining out because they see cooking as a chore, especially when they have families to take care of. The recipes in her latest book, Everyday Family Dinners are the cure for that. The longest “total preparation time” I’ve seen in the book is 2 hours and 30 minutes and that was for “quick” kimchi, most of the “hands on” times are 15-30 minutes. She even starts the book off with a “How to Use This Book” section explaining cooking terms, where to find ingredients mentioned, the difference in weight between box grated and microplane grated cheese and most importantly the equivalent between chopped fresh herbs and dried herbs–1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. For most people, this is common knowledge, but it’s something that used to confound me when I started cooking, especially when finding fresh herbs wasn’t easy if you didn’t have a garden.
For the demo, she showed us how to make her Polenta Lasagna and Warm Chocolate Cheesecake (recipe below) and sent samples around the room for tasting. Chantal cookware is sponsoring her book tour, so she used their wares and was happy to show off its capabilities, but it didn’t feel like a sales pitch. Leah did make sure, however, to let us know that the items Sara was using were all available for purchase at Hill’s Kitchen!
When she was finished cooking, she answered our questions–about anything, not just food–and then the book signing began. Thankfully my friends were knowledgeable in the ways of book signings and explained the Post-It note thing to me. During her discussion, she admitted that she steered us wrong when she had her cooking show and never had a chance to correct herself. One of the classic cooking teachings is that when you oversalt something, you can add a potato to correct it… well this is a myth, and I now have her signed say-so! However, she did say that there are two things while cooking that you can’t undo if you mess them up: burning things and mashed potatoes.
I’m not a giant, she really is that adorably tiny in person. And when she found out my friend and I were food bloggers, she asked for our cards! Sara Moulton asked for my card! Believe me, I was buzzed off of that for days! It was a fun morning and simply amazing to meet her. There are few food celebrities/personalities that I consider must-see, and Sara is easily at the top of that list. Take a look at her book if you see it while out and about and Amazon has a Kindle edition for 1/2 price. This one won’t be collecting dust on my shelves for a while!
Warm Chocolate Cheesecake
One 3.5-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces full-fat or 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter four 1/2-cup ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
Coarsely chop the chocolate and melt it in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Combine the chocolate with the cream cheese and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process until well blended.
Stir together the sugar and flour, add it to the processor, and blend it into the chocolate mixture. Add the egg and pulse until smooth. Divide the batter among the ramekins.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the centers are set. Transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly before serving.
It was hard to pick a favorite, but I managed to cast my vote–and then maybe have a few more nibbles. Of the competing chefs: R.J. Cooper of Vidalia, Joe Palma of Westend Bistro, Daniel Singhofen of Eola, Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, and David Varley of Bourbon Steak, it was Varley of Bourbon Steak who was declared the winner. Honestly though, all of us in attendance were the winners. I’m sort of glad I’m fasting for a hospital visit today because I still don’t have any room after last night!
The new Capitol Riverfront Market, offering fresh produce and locally prepared foods, will open Thursday, May 6th and operate from 3 pm to 7 pm weekly through November at the intersection of New Jersey Ave., SE & M St., SE, adjacent to the Navy Yard Metro (New Jersey Ave exit). Entrance to the market is on M St., SE.
This is very exciting news for the residents of this area who haven’t really been served very well in terms of local markets. There are some fast food places, a nearby gourmet foods store and a bar/cafe just opened up, but the best options for produce have been either Eastern Market or the new Safeway at the Waterfront Metro station. Neither one is far away, and both make for a great walk on the weekend when you’ve time to spare, but in terms of an after-work shopping trip, navigating the metro can be a bit of a pain–dealing with commuting crowds when you just want to pick up some items for dinner!
I’m optimistic with a drop of pessimism. The Capitol Riverfront BID has tried a market before and it didn’t do so well. In fact, it didn’t even last a day. That market was aimed more at general shopping–gifts for the season, etc.–than just food, but I’ve seen at least one merchant at another market and he seemed hesitant to give them another try. Still, this area has plenty of residents and I hope they can make this a success. I know I’ll be stopping by to check it out next Thursday!
In addition to the usual $10.40 offers that surface around 4/15 a.k.a. Tax Day, there are a few places in the DC area where you get free stuff tomorrow.
Since it’s part of most people’s morning commute, this is an easy one from Starbucks. As part of the Big Picture movement, on April 15th, bring a reusable travel mug into your local Starbucks and get a free brewed coffee. It looks like the offer is valid all day, so it’s good for your morning cuppa or that mid-day coffee break.
If coffee isn’t your thing, perhaps a free frozen treat from Dairy Queen better suits you. The Blizzardmobile will be parked outside of the IRS Building at the corner of 10th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. tomorrow from noon to 1 p.m. To celebrate the 25th birthday of the Blizzard and Tax Day, they’ll be giving out free Mini Blizzards.
Eventually places will realize that April 1 is more than just the beginning of a prime Spring month and catch on to the natural skepticism surrounding April Fools Day, but until then Urbana’s taking advantage of it…
Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar (2121 P Street NW, in the Hotel Palomar) presents their “Only Fools Fall In Love” lunch giveaway for the first 300 customers starting at 11:30 on April 1st. The free bagged lunch includes their new pulled pork parmesan sandwich made with braised pork shoulder, bolognese sauce, mozzarella, and radicchio. Comes with a pickle, chocolate chip cookie, and bottled water.
I don’t work near enough to take advantage of this, and I don’t know if they take lunch reservations, but this may be a line-up, first-served type of deal. Still, it looks to be in the high 70s tomorrow which makes for a perfect day to take your lunch outside!
If you’re a Starbucks addict like me, you know that tomorrow morning, Tuesday March 23rd is Free Pastry Day at Starbucks. Get a free pastry with the purchase of a beverage.
The free pastry coupon is available here at their blog. You can print out the coupon or show them the coupon on a mobile device. They’ll stop redeeming the offer at 10:30 am–just in time for the morning coffee stop or that 10am coffee break.
I had to stop getting pastries at Starbucks when I started reading their nutritional information. Even though they’re advertising a more natural, less artificial line of pastries with no trans-fats, I still pass on them for something a bit more on the healthy (and filling) side. But if you’re looking for a little sugar rush to go with the daily caffeine, it’s a good deal. You usually can’t beat free. And since people do love free, I’d hit them up earlier rather than later.