Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Blog Announcement

If you're interested in continuing to follow my food adventures, please see my new blog at 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

To Sok Jip in Annandale

In the continuing quest to explore Korean restaurants in Annandale, we met up with a Korean friend to go to To Sok Jip in Annandale. (TSJ is located across the street from Honeypig and nearby Joseph's Coat, a resale shop.) She ordered effortlessly in Korean and gave helpful recommendations of dishes to try. One day I may finally learn how to read Hangul, but tonight was not that day. We arrived by 5 pm to get in line for a table. With only 7-8 tables inside this small restaurant, it's best to avoid prime time dining hours if you want to get a table without a lengthy wait. Even arriving on the early side, we had a few minutes to wait for a table and were instructed to look over the menu to decide what we wanted to order.
I had heard the pan chan were good and was eager to try them. The array was nice and the quality was better than most other Korean restaurants. To Sok Jip is known for making 'homestyle' Korean dishes. 
Hamul pajeon
A highly recommended dish is their version of the seafood pancake. Much thicker (I've seen it referred to as 'Chicago style') than other varieties, the squid remained nice and tender, not overcooked and rubbery. I think I prefer the version at Lighthouse better.
When you order a grilled or fried fish, you have a choice of soups/stews. This is the doenjang, a spicy miso-based stew with tofu and vegetables. The husband tried the one made with natto (fermented soybeans). While very healthy for you, it's an acquired taste (It smelled like feet). 
Grilled Mackerel
Mackerel can be extremely pungent when you cook it at home.  (This does not stop us. Makes you feel sorry for our neighbors.) We are both fans of the oily fish. This was a very large portion.
So glad I am not the dishwasher here, so many small dishes.
The husband ordered the fried croaker, which has a light almost cornmeal-like crust. I think he would have preferred the mackerel.
Our friend ordered the Fried Belt Fish, which is one of her favorites.
The flavor of the fish is really subtle and nice, although you need some dexterity with chopsticks to pick out the meat around the bones.
Barely looks like we made a dent in the dishes. We took home the remaining fish and pajeon and will have that tomorrow with some more kimchi and miso soup. 
All these dishes ended up costing $22 per person including tax and tip. Incredibly reasonable for so much food, and the quality was at the level I had anticipated. It may be a bit more difficult if you go without a Korean speaker, but the menu is also in English. For the different fish types, those are listed on the wall in Hangul, which is more difficult but manageable if you figure out the names for the mackerel, croaker or belt fish ahead of time. 
The husband was a little less impressed with the restaurant. Since I cook for him most nights of the week, he's not in search of a 'homestyle' restaurant. He prefers bbq places where we can kick back and enjoy some soju and Cass beer with the panchan, parade of Korean soups and grilled meats. 

Korean BBQ at Home

The husband loves Korean bbq with a capital "L". I've grown decidedly less fond of Honeypig, which he still really likes. Why don't I like it anymore? Maybe it was the crowds driven by Groupons and Living Social deals exacerbating the already long waits, perhaps it is because of the repeated surly and inattentive waitstaff, or maybe I've grown out of the introductory phase of Korean BBQ and am ready for something more. Trying to find a happy medium, we picked up sliced beef short ribs, kimchi, and vegetables to cook at home.
The electric teppanyaki grill pan is fantastic.
Mushrooms, potatoes, red bell pepper, zucchini; marinated beef short ribs.
While this did make our living room a little on the smoky side, this was a delicious dinner with bowls of rice, kimchi and salted seaweed. No need to wait for a table and surly service not required.

Cooking at Home

I'm an American girl at heart. I love sandwiches at any time of the day, pasta with a cheese blanket, mashed potatoes and a really good cheese burger. My husband is Japanese and while he likes most of my dinners, I know he prefers meals served with rice and preferably Japanese, Korean or Chinese. Trying to accommodate his tastes, I've been making an effort to expand the varieties of our dinners at home.
Kimchi and pork belly fried rice with baby bok choy, zucchini, mushroom and bean sprouts.
Thai red vegetable curry with carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper, cilantro, jalapeno and ginger.
Japanese-style fried chicken (karaage)
With a few extra vegetables from our weekly grocery store trip to Super H Mart to use up before we stuff our refrigerator in preparation for Thanksgiving, I made a different weekend breakfast dish.
Sauteed butternut squash and kale with onion, garlic and parmigiano cheese.
Two fried eggs in a rectangular Japanese pan.
It's ceramic and fantastic for frying eggs. 
I topped the squash and kale hash with one of the sunny side up eggs, a dash or two of hot sauce.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Overwood Brunch

We drove out to Bristow last night to try and catch the Obama campaign event. Checking out the online schedule, I saw that Obama would not take the stage until 10:40 pm. We stopped off in Virginia Gateway shopping center in Gainesville, VA to grab something to eat. Unfortunately, by the time we finished eating and headed over to Cedar Drive, the parking lots reached capacity and the police were blocking the access roads. Sigh. 
The husband was definitely disappointed by the missed chance to hear some acoustic Dave Matthews, and listen to Obama and Bill Clinton rally the supporters before the election. After enjoying an extra long sleep-in thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time, we both squeezed in workouts before heading out for brunch at Overwood in Old Town. 
Hello my pretty.
Fried Chicken and Biscuit with Mushroom-Sage Gravy
Instead of my regular order of Eggs Chesapeake (perfectly poached eggs with crabcakes, I tried something new. The menu was full of mouth-watering combinations. The fried chicken was nicely fried, with good seasoning and still juicy meat. The sage overpowers the mushrooms a little, but works nicely when all  of the components are together. Definitely need extra gravy to dip the biscuit into.
Asiago grits with poached eggs, bacon and toast.
Buttermilk pancakes with blueberries.
The husband went for a big breakfast. One of the eggs was poached a little too long, but the other egg was perfectly runny. The grits are very good, but get cold quickly. Overwood does a really nice brunch, with a number of creative, southern-inspired dishes. After all of this, time for a little afternoon nap while the Redskins toy with our hearts for another week.

Great Wall Chinese Takeout

Even with a shortened work week, it felt like a long one. Friday night after work, we headed up to Great Wall on 14th Street to pick up Sichuan takeout. I called in the order when we were on our way, and it was ready by the time we finally battled through the traffic. 
We love Sichuan food, and have tried Sichuan Jin River in Rockville, Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners, Sichuan Pavilion on K Street; as well as Uncle Liu's Hotpot in Falls Church and Mala Tang in Arlington. We ordered our usual favorites to base our comparison on. 
Dan Dan Noodles, Boiled Beef with Vegetables, Mapo Tofu with Pork
The Dan Dan Noodles are topped with ground pork and two sauteed yu choy. 
The sauce is nice and spicy with a good hint of vinegar bite. 
The noodles do get a bit too soft, and I think I prefer the super thin noodle version at Sichuan Pavilion.
Boiled Beef with Vegetables is laden with spice and flavor (and oil).
Solid version, in a three-way tie with versions from Sichuan Pavilion and Hong Kong Palace.
Mapo Tofu with pork and visible black beans.
Topped with a layer of oil that congealed during the time it took to travel from the restaurant to home.
When we got home, this definitely needed to be reheated on the stove to bring all the flavors into harmony and temperature back up to fiery inferno.
Mala Wontons and yu choy with garlic.
Admittedly, this is a lot of food, we spread it out over two meals. If you're in the Dupont or Logan Circle area, definitely check out Great Wall. Skip the Americanized Chinese and feel the ma-la burn. If you're closer to Foggy Bottom-Farragut West, check out Sichuan Pavilion. They have much more seating available and also a small private room if you need to host a dinner for 10-12 people. The Sichuan places we go to in Virginia do a comparable version with appropriate heating and spicing. No need to drive up to Rockville to Sichuan Jin River if you're in the DC or VA areas. 

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce and Spicy Italian Sausage

The husband really likes the capellini with tomato sauce at Faccia Luna with grilled sausage. While he always orders this dish, he prefers a thicker pasta. 
I picked up a package of buccatini, some spicy Italian pork sausage from Whole Foods, and gave Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce a whirl. It's a pretty simple sauce, just butter, onion and tomatoes simmered for 45 mintues. Instead of taking out the onion, I pureed the sauce together. Buccatini is thicker than capellini, with a nice tooth-feel. The husband liked it a lot.
Leftovers for Lunch