I’m not sure when I came around on wings. When I was a kid, they were sold as “Drumettes” and my mom might make them if we were camping or at a group picnic, but in general I always thought they were too much work, too little food. And when I’d have them in later years, they were drowned in a sauce that made them soggy and a total mess to eat. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for Pan-Asian take out places that straight up fried the wings with no sauce, I might have given up on them forever.
Unfortunately… the wings were fried. It became a great comfort food for me… and my belly… and my waistline. So I tried doing them myself at home, baking them didn’t have the mojo at all, smoking them was hit or miss and roasting them was good, but the main method I followed–Alton Brown’s–was a little more tedious than I liked. It still became a go-to recipe, however, until a little more browsing around online resulted in my new method.
Happy New Year!… if a bit late, and happy returns… to blogging? Been a bit of a rough year, but there’s no way to get back to writing than to just do it! And what better way to do that than with a Friday treat? In fact, I plan to try and treat myself every Friday, hence this new “Friday, I’m in Love” series–thank you Robert Smith. It might be going out, staying in, but it will be a nice way to force myself to post something at least weekly, but I digress…
I had earned a short day at the office today and was planning on a very quick walk to metro to get out of the cold. Since I was passing at lunchtime, the food trucks were out in force at Canal Park. Normally, I don’t bother stopping because of the cold and the lines, but fortune was smiling upon me as Curbside Cupcakes, one of my favorite trucks happened to be out there and how better to treat myself than to a ½ dozen cupcakes paired with some ice cold milk–or hot espresso–at home?
Mention “ramen” to most people and you’ll get a weird look followed by “you mean the stuff in the cup?” or others might remember the college days when your “pantry” consisted of packets of Kool-Aid and instant ramen noodles since both could be bought in large amounts for not a lot of money. In any case, it’s not likely to evoke a good reaction to anyone that isn’t aware of how ramen noodles are prepared elsewhere in the world. So when a friend suggested Sakuramen in Adams Morgan a few weeks back, I was intrigued but skeptical, after all, even if it isn’t instant, it’s still just noodles and broth, right?
Well that is true, but completely undersells the experience. Since my first visit, I’ve been back twice and it’s a welcome comfort each time. When it’s chilly outside, ramen is warm and filling and with flu season upon us, there’s nothing like a good soup to make you feel better.
Especially if you’re like me and start with Gyoza (or Jiaozi, Dumplings, Potstickers, whatever you like to call them). Dumplings are one of my food addictions, no matter how much I plan to eat, I have to start with them if they’re on the menu. Steamed if I’m trying to be healthy, fried if I just don’t care. You get a nice serving of five which is perfect for sharing… just not with me!
I went for the Gojiramen: traditional shoyu (soy sauce/chicken stock broth) ramen with chashu (roasted Berkshire pork), menma (marinated bamboo shoots), scallions, nori (seaweed), and sprouts. I’ve had the Shoki bowl before as well and both were delicious and had me tipping the bowl after finishing to slurp up a bit more broth. Speaking of slurping, if you’ve ever seen the Spaghetti scene from Tampopo, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but slurping is definitely not frowned upon here.
A few more pictures are up on flickr, but I didn’t really “chow down” on this visit. A gentleman seated near me made the mistake of ordering too much and had to have his appetizers boxed up to take with him. There are other delights on their menu that I look forward to trying on future visits, but this little out of the way place is enough to get me down to Adams Morgan on a more regular basis and that’s saying something. I certainly won’t look at ramen the same way anymore and no microwaved cup with a seasoning packet will ever cut it again.
My love for Bourbon Steak DC is no secret, but we typically go for lunch or dinner, only spending a few minutes at the bar while waiting for our entire party to arrive. Mostly that was tactical since as some of our bunch are lightweights, indulging in a smattering of cocktails before our dinner would have them passing out before the entree arrived. So when a friend suggested heading over there for happy hour to celebrate her late mother’s birthday, it was a great reason to have some cocktails and laughs in the lounge.
Pain d’epices, butterscotch caramel, and pepitas. Can we interest you in our Macallan 18 Butterscotch Pot De Crème? ow.ly/dbEbd
I was well aware of the tempting libations from previous visits and the restaurant makes great use of social media, tempting their followers from time to time with food and drink suggestions…
I started things off with an Achilles Heel, hanger one frasier river raspberry, metaxa ouzo, fresh lime and ginger served in a salted glass with cucumber garnish. I’m normally pretty wary of ouzo, but I knew I was in good hands with Duane Sylvestre who made sure I got the most out of the drink by encouraging me to tuck into the garnish after having a sip. Who knew that a little salted cucumber could enhance one’s cocktail experience so well?
The boy prefers his drinks on the sweeter side and cooled off with a classic Planter’s Punch to start while my friend opened with her usual, a Sazerac. It was a good thing we got there fairly early as we were able to chat with the bar staff and I could get out my cocktail nerdity before the lounge got too loud and crowded.
For my second round, I went with the Wooden Chair Rickey, Bourbon Steak’s entry into 2012’s Rickey Month competition.
It had a nice blend of flavors which I confess I can’t recall exactly at the moment–perhaps too much celebrating–garnished with pickled cherries. It satisfied the requirements of the classic Rickey, it was cold, tart and fizzy with more than a hint of sweetness, or as the drink is commonly called, “air conditioning in a glass”. I always try to order a few in the warm months and I’m glad I didn’t pass this one up.
Closing out the night with a delicious burger and a Planter’s Punch of my own, it was a really fun evening with a bit of nerdy celebrity spotting, many laughs and sharing memories and stories. Something I feel you can’t always do with your friends online.
As I’ve said before, unfortunately Bourbon Steak isn’t for the everyday meal or cocktail hour, but as a special treat to yourself every now and then–I think we’re up to once or twice a season, now–you will enjoy a great afternoon or evening with impeccable service, delicious food and as I can now confirm, amazing cocktails.
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
3⁄4 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*
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.
Add orange juice, triple sec, peach schnapps and St. Germaine; stir.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Just a little food porn to get your Monday morning off to a good start. A friend and I have started cracking open our cookbooks in an attempt to get back to the fun of cooking and since these happen to be collections of lighter and healthier recipes, it doesn’t hurt the bottom line either. Above is a “Lighter” Fettucine Alfredo from America’s Test Kitchen which cut the usual cals/fat by roughly 40% or so. They use fresh (or store-packaged fresh) pasta, swap out the heavy cream and butter for half & half thickened with cornstarch and reduce the amount of cheese. Unlike many of their lighter recipes, this one wasn’t too involved and didn’t have weird or crazy substitutions, but unlike the more traditional creamier sauce, this doesn’t keep its sauciness very well, so my leftovers will probably need a dash of water or half & half while reheating.
I’m a fan of chicken with the dish, so I sauteed a bone-/skin-less breast to serve atop it. I’m not normally a “one serving” person, but this was plenty satisfying for me and I didn’t have any urge to snack or look for a dessert later. Like other recipes in The Best Light Recipe, it cuts back on the cals, but not if you chow down the whole thing. When living & cooking single, it’s hard to resist going back for another nibble, but I’m looking forward to enjoying this for the next few days and not having to worry about what to make for dinner.
We have tons of recipes for items that are a little past their prime. Whether it’s making bread pudding or french toast from day old/stale bread or using those browning bananas for banana bread, there’s always something that can be done with most leftover food. But when it comes to drinks, the field is pretty scarce, but Sangria is easily at the top of the list. While it’s mostly made with unopened wines, it’s also a perfect recipe for throwing together the leftover wines from the previous evening. Unless, of course, you’re like me and have to ask, “What’s leftover wine?”
My go-to recipe is pretty simple, but it’s not mine save for the odd alteration. This is “The Best Sangria” as determined by America’s Test Kitchen and the recipe’s been up on my other blog for a while now, but there’s nothing wrong with rehashing a classic, especially now that Summer is here. This really is the perfect beverage for a backyard cookout, a rooftop party or anytime it gets a little too hot and you’ve had time to prepare a cool beverage.
2 large oranges, washed (one sliced, one juiced)
1 large lemon, washed and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup triple sec
1 (750 ml) bottle inexpensive fruity medium-bodied red wine
Add sliced orange, lemon and sugar to large pitcher; mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.
Stir in orange juice, triple sec, and wine; refrigerate for at least 2–and up to 8–hours.
Before serving, add ice and stir briskly to distribute fruit and pulp; serve immediately.
And it’s just that simple. A large orange produces about a 1/2 cup of juice in case you don’t have enough fruit around the house and I may change up the liqueur used, substituting out pear for orange or just adding it in to make it more potent. It will need at least 6 hours before serving to give the wine time to mellow out, so I usually make it the night before, or in the wee hours of the morning. If you won’t be enjoying it for a while, take the fruit out after about 8-10 hours and strain it to be stirred back in later.
As this is a “leftover” dish, it’s not meant for your finest wines unless you’re really into that. I usually opt for Fish Eye Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot because it 1: comes in screwtop bottles, which are great for transporting the sangria once made, and 2: it’s cheap. It costs $4.50 a bottle when you buy it as a 6-pack from Safeway. This recipe scales upwards nearly equally, so you’ll likely need a bucket when making a bigger batch, but I find that people appreciate that just as much.
As a special reward for yourself, you’ll find that, for example, making 3 bottles of wine into sangria results in about 4 bottles worth of sangria. So you can keep a bit for yourself at home in case you didn’t get enough of your own concoction at the party. But if–like me–you’re not proud, carting the sangria around in a bucket is just fine too and a lot easier. With the added potential of making new friends on the metro when they see what’s in the bag! And if you need a creative gift, buy some nicer bottles or make your own labels to slap on some screwtop bottles. This recipe keeps in the fridge for up to a week before it starts to go through a bit of fermentation which, while making it more potent, also turns it bitter faster. So it’s not something to keep around forever like regular wine.
If you can find it on the cheap, or happen to be gifted some Spanish wines, a Tempranillo or Grenache would be great or a big fruity French Beaujolais, but those are definitely bottles you’d use for next-day Sangria. This isn’t a drink to spend either too much money or time on. That latter because it goes fast. If you fear you haven’t made enough, be sure to fill each person’s glass with plenty of ice & fruit and as a last “stretching” resort, top each glass with ginger ale. In my experience, however, this won’t work for long but by the time it’s all gone people will be feeling pretty good anyway.
Now that my “secret” is out, I may have to start bringing actual food to potlucks and cookouts… the horror!
Last week, CommonWealth held a free cocktail reception for local media and food bloggers to introduce their new small plates, dinner and dessert items with a patio roast. Thankfully, as it was really too hot to enjoy it on the patio, they seated us inside.
I used to live down the street from CommonWealth and would often stop in after work for a drink and bar snack before heading home. It’s a very warm place, often busy, but it’s always felt more like a restaurant than a neighborhood watering hole. Their new “snacks” menu items may change that. They’ve added more televisions around the dining room, though there are still some tables where one won’t have to watch them, and their small plates seem to encourage people to come in for a lighter meal and linger. A move that can help maintain a good revolving crowd, but can backfire if a place becomes too popular. As CommonWealth is nicely established, I think this will bring in new diners without alienating their regulars.
The staff and owner Sandy Lewis were very knowledgeable about the food and drinks. And as is the growing trend, Lewis was able to tell us their farms and sources for the dishes. Chef Jamie Leeds–most recognizable from Hank’s Oyster Bar–was also on hand to answer questions, though you’re more likely to see her through the view of the kitchen available from some of the dining room tables.
I no longer live close enough to make CommonWealth the break in my commute, but when I get a bit misty-eyed for Columbia Heights, I could definitely metro up for a lamb burger and a french margarita. These new small plates seem to shift them a bit from gastropub to pub, but for many of us that’s a fine thing indeed!