Tag Archives: photo

Lunch at Bourbon Steak DC

Ever since the amazing dinner at Bourbon Steak DC, there was no question that I’d be back, but it’s not the kind of place one can visit every day. Still, when a friend was celebrating a birthday with a Four Seasons spa day and lunch to follow, I couldn’t resist joining.

This post won’t be about the meal, though I could go on about it at length. My dining companions were so relaxed and blissed out from the spa, and I so enjoyed the chance to ignore my troubles for a while that we ended up spending over 3 hours eating, drinking and enjoying their amazing service. No, this post is more about patting myself on the back. I’ve been working on my photography skills, especially food photography and I think I managed to take some great shots during lunch. I don’t have a DSLR yet, but my little point & shoot still manages to take a good photo from time to time.

As in my previous visit, the food was delicious and the service incredible. I’m not kidding about that 3-hour “lunch” but at no time did they ever make us feel rushed. The gorgeous weather and amazing sunshine gave us plenty of light and opportunity to capture our meals. I added what I think are my best three shots from that afternoon to this post: their New York Strip Burger, a lovely tower of Onion Rings and their exquisitely deconstructed Tiramisu.

My full set of lunch photos is on flickr including an amusing behind-the-scenes shot that showcases us for the “beautiful photo nerds” that we are. If you have a chance to pop over to Georgetown while the weather is still Spring-like–which won’t last long in DC–it should definitely go on your to-do list.

Smoked Turkey Legs

It still feels weird to open up the browser to write for this blog when the devastation in Haiti continues. Adventures in Shaw wrote about some local venues and restaurants making donations and the Washingtonian has an updated listing of benefit events still taking place.

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

One of my Christmas presents to myself was a Camerons stovetop smoker and while I’ve been enjoying trying a few different dishes prepared with it, the main thing I was looking forward to was smoked turkey legs! These tender salty & seasoned treats are often the only reason I go to Renaissance Faires anymore. Those are usually the only places that one feels perfectly at home walking around gnawing on a humongous bird leg. So after a bit of research online for tips and methods, I cobbled together a fairly good recipe to try them on my own. I will note that nowhere online was an “official” recipe. I doubt it’s a trade secret, but it’s more likely that home cooks just don’t have the right equipment and supermarkets don’t have the right supply of legs prepared for “easy” cooking.

While these don’t have the look of legs from the fair, they certainly had the right flavor! The stovetop smoker mainly acts as an enclosed oven with smoke. It uses the heating element (gas or electric) to smolder wood chips while the body heats/cooks the food. Some smoke escapes during cooking, but that just makes the kitchen smell great and is never enough to trip the smoke alarm. Stovetop smokers don’t seem to be made for “slow & low” cooking as some standalone smokers can accomplish, but it does a good job of thorough cooking while imparting a nice smoky flavor to meat, veggies… even cheese and nuts!

Preparation is simple, but not quick as it requires brining overnight and up to 24 hours:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (optional: brown sugar)
  • 1 gallon water
  1. You can also add any other seasoning you like to the brine. I added garlic powder, but some recipes have suggested cayenne, onion powder, paprika for color, etc.
  2. After dissolving the spices in hot water, let it get cold in the fridge while you prepare the legs–basically pricking them with a fork in spots to help the brine penetrate. But if you plan to soak them longer than 8 hours, that step isn’t really necessary.
  3. Before cooking, rinse the legs, pat them dry and let them come to room temperature. While they come to temp, prepare your smoker–or oven-smoking method. I used a combination of cherry and alder wood chips
  4. Lightly season the legs with salt and pepper (mostly for appearance) or a dry rub of your choice. I used Cavender’s Greek Seasoning. You won’t need to use much because of the brine.
  5. My smoker has the wood chips in the base, a drip tray atop that and then a rack for the food. Arrange the legs with some space around each one, turn the heat to medium and at the first sign of a wisp of smoke, place the cover on. My cover wouldn’t easily slide over the legs, so I made one out of heavy duty foil for the first stage of cooking.
  6. Most recipes for smoked turkey legs will call for low steady heat for about 4-6 hours, but the stovetop smoker isn’t really about low and slow. I let it cook for 1 hr 15 min and checked the meat. It had reached the right internal temperature and cooked down enough for the proper cover to be used. I turned the heat off and let them continue to cook/smoke for another 15 minutes before removing the legs.

As I said, they don’t have the look of fair legs, but the taste was excellent. The meat was tender and slid right off the bone–with the exception of the brine prep, they were done in under 2 hours which is a passable (though not optimal) cooking time for a nightly meal. So far I’ve used the smoker for poultry and pork chops, but am looking forward to trying out some fish and sausage in it as well. I don’t advocate that anyone become as much of a kitchen gadget person as I am, but I’m happy with this purchase and it allows to recreate some flavors and methods at home that I’d normally have to go out–sometimes to the country–for.

If anyone out there has some great smoker recipes, let me know! I admit to a bit of puppy love with the smoker right now, but I’m sure it’ll pass soon… right?

Waffle Iron French Toast

Happy (Belated) New Year! With the lovely cold snap January in DC brings, I’ve been keeping it pretty simple on the food front. It’s hardly the time for grand meals when it’s a bit too frigid to walk to the store. Still, I wanted more than the standard cereal and coffee this morning for breakfast so I thought I’d dust off the Waffle Iron French Toast recipe for another go.

It’s a simple French Toast recipe, cut back to 1 serving for about 2 slices of bread, scale as needed:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

The first time I tried this recipe, it didn’t come out as I’d hoped and the main reason for that was I was using the waffle iron’s suggested temperature setting for waffles. Today I bumped it up an additional setting (mine has five) and they came out nicely browned & crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. My waffle iron has a red/green light indicator to tell when the waffles are ready, but just in case, I set a timer to 3 minutes for each slice. I kept the finished waffles on a plate in a 200° oven while the rest cooked so they’d be nicely warm and ready to eat!

For a classic waffle maker, using relatively thin sliced bread, I just soaked the slices before cooking. If I had a belgian or deeper pocket waffle iron, I would use thicker sliced bread (brioche? baguette?) and let it soak overnight. Thinner bread always seems to break apart on me if soaked too long. Even transferring bread from the dish to the waffle iron was a very careful operation with a long spatula. This is not a recipe that I’d advise you use Wonder bread! But it took about 25 minutes from cracking the first egg to spreading the butter on the last waffle, so it is very fast and easy.

This recipe/method will likely become a favorite of mine because–confession time–I can’t make french toast in a pan to save my life, pancakes either, truth be told. I can do a baked french toast with no problem, but when it comes to a pan, I’m hopeless. Thankfully it isn’t a vital cooking skill, but every now and again I crave french toast and when it’s 20° or less outside, I’m certainly not heading out into the cold for brunch! It would especially make for a good “empty pantry” or “snowpocalypse” meal when you’re down to the basics but have rushed out to buy plenty of milk, bread and eggs… and perhaps you could make a nice centerpiece out of the toilet paper.

Lunch at Matchbox Barracks Row

Just some quick shots from a little holiday lunch with friends and co-workers. Matchbox is quickly becoming our go-to restaurant for lunch excursions and it’s well-earned. I was surprised that they hadn’t announced the day’s specials on twitter yet, but when we got there the server told us the special entree was a crab and mushroom mac & cheese–SOLD!

We also shared their shrimp and grits starter which was yummy, their grits were appropriately seasoned and creamy. I might stop back by for brunch if they had a full entree size of the dish. Unfortunately the Circulator doesn’t run past there from Union Station or Navy Yard on evenings or weekends, but it’s just a short walk away from Eastern Market metro. So far it’s been 100% for deliciousness and service has always been great.

Matchbox DC: Twitter
Matchbox Barracks Row on Urbanspoon

Ping Pong Dim Sum

One thing I’ve been hearing since moving to a city with a–more or less–proper Chinatown is “Where can you go for good dim sum?” And as it was well before my out and about knowledge, I had no idea, but I knew what people were talking about was the classic concept of the on-cart, a la carte dim sum, pointing and ordering on the fly. I’ve been to places in the area that served dim sum in the area, meaning either small plates or many types of dumplings but not on the carts.

Ping Pong Dim Sum DC - exterior

Ping Pong Dim Sum is one of DC’s latest international imports, with restaurants already in London, Brazil and Dubai. Their impending presence had been known for a while, but a fellow foodie friend and I walked past a week or so before their opening and spoke to the manager about the place. My friend reported seeing them training their staff each night as she headed home from work, so after our conversation, we were looking forward to giving them a try.

This is a restaurant with an active social media presence: @PingPongDC, so they had already been responding to a few of us on twitter. Those in attendance were @Shaw_Girl, @floridagirlindc, @MangoTomato & @urbanbohemian (me).

Ping Pong Dim Sum - 08

It’s a wonderfully designed restaurant, definitely striking notes of “asian modern”. You’ll want to check your coat as the chairs have no backs! A nice combination of oblong and round tables in the dining room seemed to give the servers an easier time making it around the restaurant. We were there for a 12:30 lunch and the place was busy, not crowded. Not too noisy, or at least not so much that we couldn’t hear our own party and the server–though she did have to speak up and lean in a few times.

Their menu is a good balance of dumplings (baked, steamed, grilled and fried) and other options including salads and signature dishes. Definitely some non-salad options here for vegetarians. Our table went with the three set menu options, Seafood, Vegetarian and the “Dumpling Fix” containing a nice sampling. Similar to sushi, you have a piece of paper with the menu options and you mark how many of each that your table is ordering. As the servers come round with your dishes, they confirm it and drop it off. That is primarily because the items may come out in any order and they most certainly did–at times confusing our servers!

I’ll preface this by mentioning that they had been open for just over a week when we had our lunch. I say that because while the food was good, they still have a bit of work to do to get into their groove. Three dishes were brought to our table that we didn’t order, the first of which was described so lovingly by the server that we thought it was an amuse-bouche! Thankfully none of us tucked into it before he returned and admitted his mistake. After the third mistaken item arrived, we’d pretty much resolved that whatever hit the table next would be claimed regardless.

When we did get our items, there was a little confusion–since we’d all ordered set meals–as to which dish belonged to which diner. We did sort it out, more or less, but it turns out that we may not have been 100% certain about what we were eating. I say this, not as a foodie but as an ignorant American: I could have used a legend similar to the ones appearing in Whitman Samplers. Even though we suspected while eating, that we might have been served the wrong dumpling platters, a second look today at the menu and my photos seems to indicate that we got the right items.

I don’t have any physical or ethical food allergies, so it didn’t bother me except from the consumer’s standpoint of getting what you ordered. Obviously the restaurant and servers are still a little green, but as many of the dumpling items look the same, a little education as to what filling was in what dumpling would have immediately made it clear whether we had the correct dishes or not. The more I think about it now, I believe it was strength of flavors that gave us that thought more than anything else. As delicious as everything was, there was very little distinction of flavor from one dumpling to the next and anything with seafood (prawn or scallop) in it, overpowered the entire dumpling.

Even so, I will visit again, but I’ll be more careful about what I order and ask more questions when it arrives. Once they start having a happy hour, I suspect the place will be very popular. The options on their drinks menu are quite varied. The ones we had showed a great command of mixology with fresh ingredients and creativity. If they combine those drinks with some happy hour food/drink special prices, it will make the perfect after-work spot. They told us there are plans for both after-work and late-night happy hours in 2010, so I’ll keep an eye out, but for now I’ll give them another month or two to get settled into their new home.

Ping Pong Dim Sum (US): Twitter & Facebook
Ping Pong Dim Sum on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Bar Pilar

A Bloody Caesar cocktail aka Bloody Mary with Gin instead of Vodka

After a museum visit downtown, we found ourselves wanting a little nosh and I mentioned Bar Pilar. While we were both thinking burgers, it turned out that they were only serving from the brunch menu (PDF) at that time. Not exactly what we wanted, but no problem, roll with the punches, etc. Plus, the prospect of a Bloody Caesar soon put us at ease. I’m not much for Bloody Marys, and often when replacing the Vodka with Gin, it’s too much for me, but these were pleasantly smooth and not over the top spicy. The fresh squeeze of lemon & lime definitely made the drink.

Everything was delicious and the atmosphere made for a nice warm haven on a rather chilly December afternoon. My pancake sandwich was the perfect blend of traditional breakfast items, and his chicken salad sandwich even sounded good. Seriously, the crunch from the bite made me wish I’d ordered differently. However… I’m still craving that burger!

Home fries with ketchup

Bar Pilar: Facebook
Bar Pilar on Urbanspoon

Appetite comes with tweeting…

This is less of a blog entry and more of a public service. When you follow restaurants and other food-related businesses on twitter, let it be at your own risk! It’s bad enough following and chatting with my fellow foodies during the day as we get to trade tips and deals back and forth, but I’m also following a few local restaurants and therein lies the trouble.

Flat-iron steak pizza from Matchbox

After surviving a birthday happy hour last night for Thrifty DC Cook and the subsequent 2-for-1 cocktails at Halo, I was sort of slugging through the day with a serious craving for pizza. So I thought I might knock off over to Matchbox on Barracks Row for lunch. Since I’m following their twitter account: @MatchboxDC, I noticed their daily posted soup and pizza specials and there was no question I’d be heading over. After a failed plan to meet up with some friends, I aimed to head out on my own, but some co-workers decided to come along with.

Continue reading Appetite comes with tweeting…

Mulled/Spiced Apple Cider

I’m not much for holiday cooking and baking. I rarely host for any of the big holidays, and about the only thing I’ll bring to potlucks are non-holiday specific desserts. When a friend was throwing down for Thanksgiving and told us that we didn’t need to bring anything, I figured I could at least provide some libations. While wine is a default gift, I also sent ahead spices and ingredients to make mulled cider in the slow cooker. It’s a really simple recipe, but impressive mostly because of the seasonal charm and the fact that it will make your kitchen/apartment smell amazing while it simmers away.


Continue reading Mulled/Spiced Apple Cider

Southern Lazy Sunday

Sweet Iced Tea and Chicken n' Dumplings

I can’t always be bothered to take photos of the entire meal from prep to finish, especially when it isn’t my recipe! Plus it’s a crock pot meal and believe me, there’s a good six to eight hours when they aren’t exciting in the least. Chris over at Ramblings of a Hopeless Khowaga posted this recipe for slow cooker chicken n’ dumplings that was passed along to him. Even though we aren’t feeling the bite of chilly fall/winter yet, I’m loving my crock pot meals and this one was too easy.

While I might pester him for more specific measurements, and I skipped the cornstarch completely as he didn’t mention it–it still made for an amazing dish. The vague spices ingredient is really a doorway for you to give it your own additional flavor. I tossed garlic cloves into mine before cooking and then some diced garlic in after the biscuit dough for both the sweet and the bite. This recipe would easily make enough for a week for one, a few nights for a couple and perhaps dinner and next-day lunches for more than that.

The iced tea was more an afterthought to show off some of the new glasses I bought at IKEA, but rest assured, it was made in the Southern way: brewed with flavor and loaded with sugar. (Or in this case artificial sweetener, but in iced drinks, you can’t tell.)