Category Archives: Photos

pictures and video clips of, well… food porn

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

I am not a fan of pumpkin. There, I said it. I like pumpkins for decoration, like seeing them growing in patches, maybe painting one for Halloween, but in terms of pumpkin bread, pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes? Not my thing. Growing up, we were a sweet potato pie family and that’s always stuck with me. Now the experienced foodies out there probably know by now that with most dishes, whether you use sweet potato or pumpkin, the spices are often the same and there’s probably only a slight difference in taste depending on how much sugar is used… but you still won’t see pumpkin “delicacies” coming out of my kitchen.

This sweet potato cheesecake recipe was a result of the combination of my love for cheesecake and the rapidly dwindling supplies of frozen homemade sweet potato pies that my aunt would send us each year. I’ve made sweet potato pies before, but somehow they don’t seem to impress and/or entice as much as cheesecake. I admit it, sometimes I make a dessert to bring to an event that will impress. I’m only human!

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Crust*:

  • 14-ounce bag of gingersnap cookies, finely ground
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Cheesecake:

  • 14-ounce can of canned yams in light syrup*, mashed with fork until it makes 34 cup
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 34 teaspoon ginger
  • 34 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 34 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 10 1 12-inch springform pan. (Optional) Line the bottom and sides of the pan with buttered parchment paper to make for an easier removal.
  2. If you’re a kitchen gadget person–like me–grind the cookies up in a food processor, if not, place the cookies in a large zip-top bag and crush them to your desired fineness with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter and stir well. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing out from the center and up against the sides to roughly an inch. A thicker base crust will mean less height on the sides. Use any round smooth-bottomed glass, measuring cup or kitchen tool to tamp down the crumbs, forming an even crust.
  4. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, the edges of the crust should pick up a bit of color but the crust will not be set. Remove from oven to cool slightly while completing the cake batter.
  5. In a mixer with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, butter and sugar. Mix until smooth and combined. You may need to pause to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
  6. Add the reserved sweet potato puree and mix to blend. Add apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream and mix well. Add eggs, two at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and mix just until incorporated and the batter is smooth. (With most mixers, paddle attachments are pretty good at collecting "potato strings" for easy removal.)
  7. Pour batter into the prepared crust and bake at 350° F for an hour. It should be just set around the edges, and slightly jiggly in the center.
    • Employ your own "cheesecake baking/cooling method" here. I prefer an hour at constant temperature, then turning the heat off and leaving it in the oven another hour or two until it’s cooled down to help avoid cracking.
    • Some cheesecake recipes call for a slow reducing of temperature over time. Ex: 20 minutes at 350, then 20 at 325, 20 at 300, etc. That’s too much bother for me, but your miles may vary and you know your oven better than I.
  8. Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight before serving.

* Notes: My default crust for cheesecakes is now ginger snaps as opposed to graham crackers. It generally adds something extra and I’ve had friends that wanted to nibble on the crust more than the cake. I think the cookie better complements this cheesecake, but feel free to substitute your preferred crust.

I drain the yams and reserve the syrup, adding it back in as needed to make a smooth puree. It’s ok to mash together everything in the can, but be mindful of the level of sweetness.

As I note in the recipe, everyone has their particular cheesecake baking quirks, usually based on their oven or aversion to cracked cheesecakes. Sometimes I use a water bath or just a baking pan filled with water for steam, but the addition of the sweet potato puree to this one seems to ward off cracking, but if you have a standard baking method, there’s no need to deviate just for this recipe.

And before the purists get on my case, I know, the recipe says “sweet potato” and I’m using canned yams. I consider that a result of my upbringing as well since we didn’t really know the difference and more often than not bought cans labeled “yams” for the pie. I have made this with actual sweet potatoes–but not actual yams–before, and when it comes to the supermarket aisle, you’ll often see cans with both “yams” and “sweet potatoes” on the label. From what I can tell, what’s in the cans are sweet potatoes, but the cake will still taste great.

Obviously this cheesecake would be a hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but don’t be afraid to serve it anytime. Enjoy!

How to Quickly Peel a Head of Garlic

SAVEUR Executive Food Editor Todd Coleman has a great technique for peeling an entire head of garlic in less than 10 seconds, no knife required.

I’ve seen tricks for quickly peeling a clove at a time, but never for peeling an entire head of garlic at once. When I’ve made Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, I follow Ina Garten’s suggestion of quickly placing the cloves into boiling water to loosen up the skins, which works, but unless you have asbestos hands, you’re still dealing with a lot of work. I may have to try this method next time… after I find two appropriate bowls, that is.

Better than The “Best” Sangria

I know, I know, I already posted a recipe for “The Best” Sangria a year ago that remains one of my most visited pages on this site. Well, no disrespect to America’s Test Kitchen, but while their recipe is good, I think I’ve improved upon the original. As much as I see Sangria as a make-ahead recipe, I wanted to change it up a little bit that would allow it to only have to sit for a short time but release the “bite” that wine can sometimes have. Also, I wanted it to really taste more like the drink that you’ve made when you have a few bottles left open the morning after a big meal with friends.

Since mentioning Sangria as a good go-to Summertime party drink, many people would tell me how they used to make Sangria in college–always college–and it generally involved adding vodka, brandy or grain alcohol to wine, fruit optional. And while there’s nothing wrong with boozing up some wine, I didn’t think that would create a smooth and sip’able drink. Still, there was some wisdom to be had in adding either more or diverse liquor to my original recipe. I also figured, if this was a next day drink/punch, one wouldn’t necessarily have all the same type of wine lying around, right?

Thankfully, I had a party to attend, so tripling the amount of Sangria–using three different wines–wasn’t a bad thing and it’s a lot easier to transport 3 liters of Sangria in a bucket than trying to funnel it back into bottles. It vanished rapidly, clearly a big hit and I was told by a friend that it was better than my usual, so the recipe is a keeper!

Better than The "Best" Sangria

  • 3 (inexpensive or leftover) 750mL bottles of red wine
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Shiraz
    • Shiraz-Grenache
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 3 oz. triple sec
  • 3 oz. peach schnapps
  • 1 oz. St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 4 sliced lemons
  • 4 sliced medium oranges
  • 4 juiced medium oranges*
  1. Add sliced oranges, lemons and sugar to large pitcher (or bucket) and muddle–not crush–with a spoon until the fruit releases some of its juice and the sugar dissolves a bit.
  2. Add orange juice, triple sec, peach schnapps and St. Germaine; stir.
  3. Pour in wine, stir to combine and refrigerate for at least 2–and up to 8–hours. Overnight is best.
    • If making a day ahead, remove the fruit with a slotted spoon after about 8 hours. The fruit’s oils will have been imparted into the Sangria and after that point it starts to become bitter from the peel & pith.
    • Reserve the fruit to add back in before serving.
  4. Stir briskly to distribute fruit and pulp; serve immediately over ice.

* If you’re not in the mood to pick over oranges in the produce aisle, pick up a 3 lb. bag of oranges that don’t look too bad. It should contain 8 or 9 oranges and you’re all set. Juice the ugly ones and slice the pretty ones.

The type of wines and liqueur you use is up to you, obviously, but the above combo is a winner. It makes a sweet enough drink to have right away and a smooth enough drink to have the next day. If you really want a “quick” batch, I’d use all Grenache blends as they have less acid and tannins so already come with less of a bite, even when blended with stronger reds. Removing the fruit helps the Sangria keep longer–without added bitterness–and makes for a boozy snack that still lets you say you’re getting a daily requirement of fruit… right?

After my last party experience, I’m tempted to suggest that you double the above recipe so long as you don’t throw out your back trying to move it from the counter to the fridge. If there are other libations available, it should last the evening for a party of 10 or so, but don’t count on there being any left over to take home with you. The summer may be almost over, but consider this recipe–whether served in a bucket or tastefully appointed punchbowl–for those “last hurrah” and Labor Day parties.

Brunch at Petits Plats

Since Saturday turned out to be extremely pleasant, after hitting the 14th & U Farmers Market, we decided to venture over to Woodley Park and find a bit of brunch. I hadn’t been to any of the restaurants along the row for brunch–or any meal in quite some time–but we decided to give French a try.

Petits Plats bills itself as, “The best French Restaurant in the heart of Woodley Park with very distinguished cuisine and variety selection of wine.”

As we’ve only been there the once, I can attest to the French part, as they seem to be the only restaurant for that on that strip and our brunch was definitely a pleasant experience. They have patio seating but they also have a porch which allowed us to sit well away from the sidewalk/street while still being able to watch people and enjoy the fresh air.

Croque Monsieur at Petits Plats

Their brunch menu was pretty extensive, but we focused on the egg options–wisely deciding to skip the snail dishes. Pictured above is their Croque Monsieur which I’ve never had before, but reading the words: ham, cheese, butter & brioche pretty much sold me on it and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is less of a review and more the writeup of an experience. We try to switch it up for brunch, but the next time there’s an early Saturday with temps in the low 70s… in July, we might just head back to Petits Plats for champagne cocktails and a little bon vivant vibe to get the weekend off to a good start.

The English Garden

While I love the start of Farmers Market season in DC for access to great fresh goods, I admit that one of the first things I make a beeline for is strawberries. Whether I just eat them straight, make ice cream or sorbet with them or find a way to introduce them into my cocktails, I’m generally coming home with at least 2 pints.

English Garden Just over a year ago, I got together with Stephanie of Adventures in Shaw (and now Whisked!) to come up with a seasonal cocktail using strawberries, and I figured why not stick with what works for 2011.

I first tried my strawberry puree with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, lemon and gin and it was “good” but not great. It had the essence of fruit and floral notes, but was missing something. I recall that one of our favorite drinks at Againn was the Lady MacBethrecipe here–which uses an egg white to lighten up the drink and give it a lovely foamy head that feels like a pillow on the tongue.

I’d never used an egg white in any of my cocktails before, but after a little research I felt confident enough that it would work and had a very small chance of making me sick. I don’t have egg allergies and the risk of salmonella is small. Plus, as I use raw eggs in my cooking all the time, clearly I have no fear. So I modified the recipe, added in an egg white, shook until I thought my arms would fall off and ended up with a definite winner.

English Garden

English Garden, instagram style

  • 1 12 oz. gin
  • 12 oz. strawberry puree*
  • 12 oz. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • 12 oz. simple syrup
  • splash lemon juice
  • 1 large egg white (about 2 tbsp?)**
  1. Pour gin, strawberry puree, St. Germain, simple syrup and lemon juice into cocktail shaker and give a good stir to blend ingredients.
  2. Add egg white, stir, then give a good shake (no ice, yet) to mix ingredients and prepare yourself for what’s about to come. I was also advised that removing the spring from a cocktail strainer, balling it up and adding it to the shaker in this step would help. The insert from a ball whisk would likely also do.
  3. Add ice, I usually fill 2/3 of the way, and shake like your life depended on it. I found that a clear shaker was the most fun for this because you can see the mixture get really frothy. But seriously, give it a good hard shake. You aren’t trying to create a mousse or meringue, but you are trying to get that quality from the egg white to lighten the drink.
  4. Using a mesh strainer, strain into cocktail glass. As you’ve likely pulverized the ice into shards and pellets, this will keep the drink ice-free, it should also keep strawberry bits out of the drink depending on how smooth your puree is. You may find that you need to tap or shake the strainer to get everything through.

* Strawberry puree is made by chopping and hulling strawberries, add sugar to taste and stir. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then puree in blender, food processor or with immersion/stick blender. Strain and keep in fridge. (If solely for cocktails, adding a tablespoon vodka will help it last longer)

** If you have an egg allergy or just fear raw eggs, you can also use pasteurized or powdered egg whites. No promises that it will have the same effect, but may be easier if making a lot at once.

I call it an English Garden because it has the feel of having afternoon tea, with cakes and biscuits, out on a patio or in the garden… while getting nicely hammered. Unfortunately there’s already a drink called English Garden that is similar but tries to be more English than Garden. Still, I should probably find a new name for mine.

Any ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Loyal readers–all 3 of you–of this blog should know that I love my slow-cooker, crock pot, whatever you want to call it. Whether it’s making barbecue or mulling cider, it’s a nice and easy “no fuss” method of cooking that you can prepare well in advance and cook mostly unattended. It’s a bit like those old films of “Life in the Future” mixed with modern film techniques. I dump ingredients into the device in the morning, turn a dial, press a button and go to work. Jump-cut to 8 hours later when I come home, lift the lid and deliciousness ensues. Ah the convenience of technology!

Salt-soaking the kidney beans Admittedly most slow-cooker recipes aren’t so simple, but when America’s Test Kitchen came out with their Slow Cooker Revolution, I prodded them on Twitter to ask just how much pre-prep was required for their recipes. I was happy to hear that “most” of them don’t require a lot of work and once I got the book, it was nice to see many of the recipes marked as “Easy Prep.”

After finding their barbecue style chicken to be a huge improvement over my usual method, I was ready to give their Red Beans and Rice Stew a try. The dish is a household favorite, my other half naming it as one of his comfort foods. So I was definitely encouraged to see if I could skip the box mix and make it myself for a change. The ingredient list is simple enough for anyone with even a lightly stocked spice rack and a nearby grocery store. The only stumbling block is time. Slow-cooker recipes take a while–by virtue of the name, naturally–but this one needed 9-11 hours to cook on low and I always prefer to cook on low when I can. It also says 5-7 hours on high, but I prefer low. Also, they recommend salt-soaking the kidney beans overnight, though they also offer a method for quick soaking (as do most pre-bagged beans).

Since this was my first time making it, I didn’t want to let it cook overnight since some slow-cooker recipes need more attention than others. Believe me, now I know better! I did all the prep on the meat and veggies the night before, had everything staged and ready to go… for waking up at 6 the following morning to get things cooking. Pretty easy though, soften veggies, rinse beans, dump everything into the pot and back to sleep!

Red Beans and Rice Stew (serves 6)

Simmering the stew after adding all ingredients

  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 12 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 14 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (2 12 cups), picked over, salt-soaked, and rinsed
  • 1 pound andouille sausage. sliced 12 inch thick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
  • 12 cup long-grain white rice
  • salt and pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  1. Microwave onions, celery, garlic, oil, thyme, paprika, and cayenne in bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir broth, water, beans, sausage, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
  3. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves.
  4. Stir bell peppers and rice into stew, cover, and cook on high until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Aside from the overwhelming compulsion to lift the lid and stir it, this stew really doesn’t need a lot of babysitting. It’s also not very exciting to photograph, until you have a finished product.

Red Beans and Rice

I used Wild Boar Andouille sausage from Red Apron Butchery and it’s excellent though next time I think I might put an extra half-pound of sausage in the mix, or grill it separately to serve on top. I also bumped up the amount of rice to 34 cups and still didn’t feel like it was enough, so prepared another 12 cup (before cooking) rice separately and stirred it in. The Test Kitchen recipe is designed to make more of a stew, but I like my red beans and rice thicker. I’m always skeptical of adding dry rice to any meal, but giving it over 30 minutes to cook in was about the right time and it didn’t get too mushy. Next time I’ll try serving it over rice, but I admit that fast food and box mix versions have gotten me used to having it all mixed together.

The splash of red wine vinegar is definitely a must, but I usually skip garnishes so didn’t bother with the scallions. I might also replace the cayenne with chipotle in future as I like things spicy, but this dish makes me sweat when I eat it. Some might want that, but until I get the proper ingredients and glasses for hurricane cocktails at home, I need to take it easy! Once I figure out how to better hack the needed cook/prep time, I could see making this recipe a lot, especially in colder seasons.

I’m really impressed with Slow Cooker Revolution and am already planning my next slow cooker experiment. The lasagna recipe is tempting, but I think I’d like to try a dessert… or wings!

Bohemian goes Barefoot, Pt. 1: They Meet

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!

Buddha-Bar DC new Lunch menu

Last week I was invited to try out Buddha-Bar DC‘s new “wallet-friendly” lunch options along with some other bloggers and journalists. I hadn’t been to Buddha Bar before, but one of the consistent opinions among friends were that the entree prices were a little on the high side, so this is a much-welcomed addition. Buddha-Bar is nestled into the still-growing corridor on Massachusetts Ave NW near Chinatown and the Convention Center but mostly what’s gone in there are apartment buildings and condos save for the CityVista with a supermarket and Busboys and Poets. It’s still developing as a “going out” area, but since a lot of people work in the area, changing up their lunch menu to appeal to a wider audience is a good thing.

Before I knew there were a collection of restaurants, my only exposure to Buddha Bar was the music compilation. The venue definitely suits the music, there’s even a DJ and I’m sure I heard a few chill lounge tracks from the albums. With a giant statue of Buddha overlooking the dining area and Asian touches throughout, they definitely create a mood that seems more suited to lifestyle dining than just heading to a restaurant.

From their recent press release:

Chef Gregg Fortunato’s new appetizers at lunch service include Big Eye Tuna Flatbread for $8 and Miso Black Cod Lettuce Cups priced at $10. New standout entrée salads, priced at $14 each, include an Asian Style Wedge with a Choice of Chicken or Shrimp; Thai Beef Salad or the delectable Green Papaya Salad with a Choice of Duck or Shrimp. Entree choices to beckon lunch-goers are the Kurobuta BLT, a Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos or the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips which range in price from $13 to $16. The new additions will be available for lunch service only Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For the most part the food and service were excellent, though at times it felt like I was in one or two servers’ way, or that I couldn’t finish my water fast enough for them to offer to refill it. The tables and chairs don’t seem terribly well suited for the long-legged or tall diner, so that may have added to my discomfort. For starters they brought out their Buddha Bar (salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna, snow crab wrapped in a cucumber “paper”) and Mass sushi rolls, then an eel-based roll after a member of our party disclosed a shellfish allergy and some Thai Beef Tataki skewers that were amazing–I found myself slowly sliding the plate away from others’ notice–and the Big Eye Tuna Flatbread which is also offered to lounge patrons as a complimentary treat while they enjoy cocktails.

We got a pretty good range of entrees: the Korean BBQ Sandwich, Kobe Beef Sliders, Japanese Sea Bass Tacos and the Buddha Bar Fish & Chips and there was some sharing, but definitely some standout dishes. Thankfully my friend was willing to trade her BBQ sandwich for one of my sliders and I feel that she made the better choice. Sliders are not always the easiest thing to pull off and for advertising that they were Kobe beef, these turned out surprisingly dry as if the size factor was working against them. My other friend was over the moon about her fish tacos, so I think I’ll be better informed for a future visit.

It’s hard to judge the time factor as there were about 8 of us and at the best of times, a group lunch like that takes well over an hour, but food came relatively quickly with enough time for us to chat and not feel rushed. Depending on starters or cocktails, the meals might have come to at least $20 or so per person, so it won’t be for everyone, but to change it up during the week or for a group outing, Buddha-Bar is a very impressive venue. We were there before the bulk of their lunch crowd, but when it fills up, you might find the noise level a touch above that for intimate conversation. The high ceilings, decor and spacious room would lend the venue to having a dance floor–especially since they have a DJ–however it’s said that patrons are free to dance at their tables–yeah, right. It was a fun time for lunch and I look forward to visiting again for happy hour!

Links
Buddha Bar DC: Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Buddha Bar on Urbanspoon

Bringing Pickles (not back) Back

A few months back there was all kinds of fuss in the cocktail world about the “pickle back”. A shot of pickle juice served after a shot of whiskey, lauded by many as a great combination. Pickle juice cocktails were soon to follow, cute but not terribly long lasting as a drinking fad.

A cosmopolitan with a pickle back that's an actual pickle. I got ALL of that beat. Way way back in the Summer of 2003, the guy I was dating had gotten me to sit down and watch Office Space for the first time ever. Everything I’d heard before had not prepared me for how little I would be impressed by the film. Sure it was funny, but as I’ve said before, my “office” movie is Nine to Five. The things I remember most from Office Space are Gary Cole and “my O face”.

After I called the Superman III scheme a few seconds before a character mentioned it, he realized the viewing was quickly going downhill, so he shook up a batch of cosmos but the only snack he had was a jar of pickles. We weren’t proud, we were short on funds and we weren’t putting on pants, so pickles it was.

Lemme tell ya, the best ideas are born of desperation! And as it so happens that today is another day when I’m not proud and happen to have a pickle handy, I’m takin’ it back to ’03! Unfortunately, supermarket jar dills work much better than the deli variety, it relies more on salty than sour, but if you’re a homemade pickle person you can easily make them to your taste. So don’t bother with pickle juice with your cocktails, think more about a pickle pairing!

Fall is here . . . at Starbucks!

Confession time: I have never cared for Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latté. You may commence pelting me with scones at your leisure. I do, however, love the fervor with which its return is welcomed every year–this being the 7th–by Starbucks fans and even the occasional Starbucks hater. The coming of the Pumpkin Spice Latté seems to be one of the cultural signs of the coming of Fall, even though the first day of Autumn is weeks away. In DC we’re still experiencing temperatures in the mid-90s, so popping in for a hot drink to while away the afternoon isn’t the first activity that springs to mind. Still, it can’t be denied as a portent of cooler days just down the road.

I’m a bit excited about this year’s new offering, the Toffee Mocha Latté. Even though I don’t normally go for their candy-like drinks, something about that chocolaty toffee sauce just sounded so good! So far, it hasn’t disappointed. I ordered one this morning while they set out a sample tray and it’s not quite like a candy bar dunked into a coffee, but has just enough sweetness in the opposite direction from my usual Vanilla Latté to make it a viable option. I hope other customers like it as I wouldn’t mind seeing it stick around even after the colder months. There have been more than a few seasonal drinks at the ‘bucks that I’ve loved, but have never been seen again.

So here I sit, in my air-conditioned office, sipping my espresso drink while the sun’s already ramping up for a hot day out there and yet… life is good. Happy September, everyone, and here’s to cooler days!