Monday, December 20, 2010

Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church

My friends in Vienna have said they really like Pizzeria Orso. I finally made it out to Falls Church to give it a try over the weekend.  I knew the owners came from 2Amys, which I like a lot for its Neopolitan pizzas, and overall enjoyed Orso.  Is it worth driving on Rte. 7 from Alexandria?  Probably not.  But very little would be worth that traffic headache.
 Some of the loveliest things at 2Amys were the salads and small plates.  I had to try Orso's fennel salad. Sliced fennel, oranges, chives and olives.  I love that they have a half size ($4). 
Half-portion of the mixed greens salad ($4).
 Margherita DOC ($13).  Nicely charred crust with a light tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.  We opted to forego the olive oil finish.  I like the restraint used in topping the pizza.  Massive in size.
Orso ($18).  Ricotta, mozzarella, grana padano, fontina, pecorino, garlic and prosciutto di parma.

Great Wall Sichuan Take-Out

I finally tried the ma la dishes at Great Wall on 14th St NW.  Their menu is 3/4ths American-Chinese dishes, but the last page has the Sichuan dishes that make this bare bones take-out place worth trying.  We did carryout and waited only 15 minutes for our bag of spicy treats.
 Mapo Tofu $8.95 Soft tofu with ground beef, chili and Sichuan peppercorns.
 Dan Dan Noodle $7.95.  Fiery mixture of chili, Sichuan peppercorns, scallions and ground beef.
 Baby pak choy with garlic $8.95.  Not bad, but I liked the baby bok choy with garlic at Mark's Duck House better.
Ma La Wontons $5.50.
Everything was good, although the last bowl of Dan Dan Mein I had at Sichuan Pavillion on K Street was definitely hotter.  We ordered enough to share and still have leftovers.  The next day I boiled some dumplings and mixed them in the leftover mapo tofu.  Delicious.  If you like Sichuan dishes and don't feel like trekking to Rockville, Great Wall is a solid alternative.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hank's Oyster Bar in DC

The holidays have crept up so quickly.  Still haven't finished my holiday cards yet. Christmas shopping?  Yeah, haven't done that either.  Last night was a lovely gathering to catch up with a friend who spent her Thanksgiving in Spain, and another who's preparing to resume her world traveling.  We all love Hank's, so despite the cold we met at their 17th Street location.
 If you arrive before 6:30 pm, they have a happy hour oyster special where the types with an asterix on the board are $1 each.  Luckily I arrived at 6:28 pm and my friend quickly put in an order for 2 of each of the HH special oysters for each of us.  All three were excellent.  Cold, briney and one had a hint of creaminess to it.
 I've been thinking about lobster rolls since summertime.  Hank's version is respectable, but for $23 (plus $2 to substitute mac and cheesy for the fries) I think I could do a comparable rendition at home for less.  I think I like bigger chunks of lobster too.
Bouillabaisse special ($23)
It was lovely to see my friends and share a relaxed dinner together.  After hearing the travel stories, I now want to go to Spain and eat copious amounts of tapas. I hope my traveling friend stays safe and happy in the new year.

Return to Lyon Hall

I'm a fan of Lyon Hall in Clarendon.  Their brunch offers a nice array of breakfast (great donuts) and more substantial options.  I really enjoy their mussels and frites.  My first visit was in August. Since their food tends towards the heavier side, I wished they had a few lighter options.  Now, with the brisk winter weather upon us, their menu is perfect. 
 Bratwurst Kaiserkrainen ($18).  Bratwurst with brussels sprouts, walnuts, apple schnapps jus, gruyere and potato-parsnip puree. 
Black Canyon Filet Mignon 8 oz ($23).  shallot marmalade, potato-parsnip puree, carmelized endive, watercress salad and fried salsify.
I had the mussels frites ($15) with white wine, garley, parsley and some fabulously crispy frites.  The mussels at Bistro la Bonne were a little plumper, but these were lovely too.  Try the beer tasting for a nice selection of drafts ($10).  It's an interesting menu that changes seasonally.  The Grilled Pear Salad ($8) was excellent, and I hope they bring back the tomato-peach salad next summer.

Vapiano in DC

One of the nicest results of moving the office is now working closer to my boyfriend.  In between our office buildings, is one of his favorite fast-casual places. We tried to go there once this summer for lunch, but 12-1 pm is definitely a time to avoid as the lunch crowd creates bottlenecks at the various stations.  Yesterday we went a bit later, and it was much quieter.  The card system makes this an easy way to pick different things from the pasta, pizza, panini and salad stations. 
Spicy Sausage and roasted vegetables with papparadelle ($11.95). 
 Pomodoro and arugula with spaghetti.  ($9.95)
Arugula Salad with sliced mushrooms, parmesan cheese and zucchini ($7.95)
The pastas were cooked al dente and the sauces were well-made.  I like that you can choose which type of pasta you'd like with the sauce of your choice.  It was all fresh and nice to share lunch together with my boyfriend.  It's not a super fast lunch excursion, and I could see how navigating the place when it's busier would detract from the experience.  Luckily, they'll place your order in take-out containers if you prefer to eat in your office. 

Post-Rehearsal Snack

I met the girls for a delicious dinner at Lyon Hall while my boyfriend was busy rehearsing with his bandmate out in Vienna.  I decided it would be nice to make him a little snack when he finished up.  Since it was pretty late, I tried to keep it on the light side.
 Roast beef with horseradish, grapes, olives, cheddar, mozzarella, Parano cheese and celery sticks.
I also made a few deviled eggs with salmon roe because he loves ikura.  With a little white wine, he was a happy boy.
If you haven't tried Three Wishes from your local Whole Foods, I recommend it.  It's WF's answer to Trader Joe's 2 Buck Chuck.  The wine is made in California, yet the Chardonnay is not too sweet nor oak-y.  The best part, they're $3.99 each.  So pick up a bottle, or 4 like me.

Bombay Bistro in Oakton, VA We headed out to Vienna to visit with some friends.  Afterwards, we tried this Indian restaurant out.  It's a pretty decent hike from where we live, but I liked it and the price point was reasonable.   
 Vegetable Samosa with spicy chana and two sauces. ($1.95)
 Chicken Tandoori with salad and rice. ($10.95)  Very flavorful and juicy.
 Saag Ghost. ($12.95) Lamb cooked in mildly spiced spinach.
 Lamb Vindaloo. ($11.95) Lamb cooked in a spicy sauce with potatoes.
Special Vegetarian Thali ($15.95).  Lentils, raita, a puri (puffed bread), mattar paneer (peas and cheese in a tomato curry), palak paneer (spinach and cheese), baingan bharta (roasted eggplant with tomato, onion and spices), and mango with papaya chunks. 
The thali was very good, exceptionally filling, and satisfied my urge to try a bit of everything.  Reasonable prices, fairly prompt service, and worth a look if you're out that way on Chain Bridge Road.

Moving in December, What Were We Thinking?

Luckily the office move took place on a blustery cold day in December that was a high of 43F instead of yesterday with its blustery 28F.  However, all the accompanying headaches with moving have felt like an onslaught.  Holiday cards?  Probably will arrive mid-January at the rate we're tackling all the hurdles.  The one nice bit is moving closer to my friends who work downtown.  Met up with one at Malaysia Kopitiam for some vegetable curry laksa.
I think the flavor of the chicken one is a little better, and I could use a bit more spice, but this is savory, and very satisfying.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bistro La Bonne

I love mussels.  Steamed in some traditional concoction with crispy frites on the side, add a cold beer or white wine and some crusty bread to sop up the savory broth and I'm a happy girl.  I finally made it to Bistro La Bonne on U Street after months of intending to try it out.  After a hectic day, it was the perfect place to pull up a stool and catch up with a friend.
 Moules Mariniere - white wine, shallots, parsley and garlic ($15.95)
 Crispy frites.
Pasta with bolognese sauce. 
The chef and owner comes from Bistrot du Coin, the Dupont establishment that marries French bistro fare with a lively atmosphere.  BLB has a nice relaxed atmosphere, and some of my French favorites.  Their Monday night special included a glass of wine or a beer with the moules et frites for $15.  The mussels were plump and delicious, and the sauvingnon blanc was a nice accompaniment.   Can't wait to go back and try some other dishes.

Sakana in Dupont

Post-office move, my boss and I headed out in our new neighborhood for lunch at Sakana.  We should have continued on down P Street to Uni, which has fresher sushi.  Everything was fine, very filling, but I'm still searching for an affordable and consistently good sushi-ya. 
Sushi bento lunch $15 with rice, tsukemono, tempura shrimp and vegetables, tamagoyaki, yakitori and breaded and fried fish. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today's Bento

Mushrooms and bell pepper in kochujang-soy sauce, rolled egg, broccoli with soy-sesame sauce.
Arugula with lemon and garlic, rice with shiso furikake and salmon flakes.

Thai Old Town

With hectic post-holiday work catchup and packing up my office for the big move this weekend, it's been a bit stressful.  My boyfriend has been really sweet.  He's been driving us to work, and picking me up afterwards.  We have a chance to chat, which has been nice.  Last night he suggested we go out to eat instead of cooking at home.  We went to Thai Old Town at 300 King Street in Alexandria.  It's a bit nondescript, but the staff were friendly and you could choose how spicy the dishes were.
Seafood Ka Prow - Hot
Green Curry with Vegetables - Hot
We also had an order of vegetable spring rolls and a very spicy Tom Yum soup with shrimp.  The green curry is my favorite, and it was nice to order it a bit spicier than normal.  Everything was bright and fresh, excellent scallops.  With a Singha beer, it was just what I needed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Today's Bento

Leftover dressing topped with turkey and a mushroom gravy. 
Mixed vegetables with mango and cranberry chutney.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

We had a lot of leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast, despite sending home some food with our guests.  
One lunch was a turkey dinner redux.
 For the leftover macaroni and cheese, I cut the cold macaroni into sticks, dredged them in egg wash and panko, then fried them in hot oil.  After they turned brown, I put them in the oven at 350F for 20 minutes while I made the spicy tomato dipping sauce.
The coating was nice and crunchy, the insides were meltingly luscious.  Extremely decadent and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, although maybe this should remain a once a year assault on my arteries.
I also made homemade turkey stock for a vegetable-filled turkey chowder.  Paired with a turkey sandwich, we've almost finished the last of the leftovers.  My boyfriend and I will need to go on a cleansing diet after this week of holiday gluttony. 


I love Thanksgiving, it's a day to bring people together and give thanks for all the wonderful people in our lives and events we have experienced.  What I do not like is traveling by plane, train or car during this 4-day weekend.  This year I spent Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and a few friends who were staying in the area.  I haven't cooked a full Thanksgiving meal in a while, so it was with a bit of trepidation and excitement that I planned what to cook.
 My boyfriend's a Southern boy at heart, so he wanted some macaroni and cheese.  I made it with spinach, gruyere and a 3 cheese blend.  Due to limited oven space, I made it Tuesday night. It was ok but a little too crunchy on the top.
 I made a vegetarian and a meat-based dressing.  Listening to NPR, I got the idea to cook chicken drumsticks on top of the sausage dressing to give it that "stuffed in a turkey" flavor. I made both dressings Wednesday evening.
 My boyfriend picked up some pretty flowers for the table.
 We started off with some nibbles as I cooked the turkey.  Marcona almonds with sea salt and rosemary, olives, roasted red peppers, grapes, smoked salmon, salami and a smoked trout dip.  I also made two flatbreads, one with zucchini and feta and the other with mushrooms, zucchini and feta.
 We bought a 12 pound turkey, which I basted with a sage-thyme butter.  I roasted the turkey on top of onion, carrot, celery and some turkey stock, and placed lemon, onion and herbs inside the cavity.
 We needed a bit more space, so we set up a table to hold the hot dishes include mushroom dressing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, sausage dressing, turkey, buttermilk biscuits and a cranberry nut bread.
 For a few lighter sides, I made green beans with lemon, salad and carrots with thyme.
 My turkey carving skills would have been aided by having a proper carving knife on-hand.  
The sausage dressing turned out much more flavorful than previous renditions.  The roasted chicken dumsticks gave a lovely aroma and moistness to the dressing.
Thanksgiving is so much more special when you can spend it with family or friends, and I'm so thankful I could spend mine with some wonderful people.  I think a few things could have been cooked with more finesse, but there were no major kitchen catastrophes and everyone had a full belly and a nice evening, which I consider to be a success.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Today's Bento

Yakisoba with Napa cabbage, shrimp, mushrooms, onion and pickled ginger.
In preparation for Needless Turkey Murder Day, I used up some leftover vegetables in my yakisoba to make more room in the refrigerator.  Yakisoba is a great dish for improvising and incorporating leftover bits of vegetables and proteins.

Dancing Crab in Tenleytown

Continuing the crab quest, we debated where to go.  Bethesda Crab House and Joe's Crab Shack in Fairfax were too far away.  We compromised with the Dancing Crab.  A divey interior, the restaurant moved from its previous location next door.
Jumbo hardshell crabs.  1/2 dozen for $45.
Bib on and ready to attack.
Picking steamed crab is labor-intensive.  I went the lazier route with the Alaskan king crab dinner ($39.99).