Monday, August 30, 2010

The Big Night

Ok... we weren't crazy enough to make a timpano, but we did think that we'd have a forking good time trying to make some gnocchi. Handmade gnocchi in August in DC...what were we thinking? It was a mini-fail but we had plenty of other delicious things for the joint birthday-bon voyage party.
Crostini two-ways: fresh fig with gorgonzola and honey, and artichoke tapenade

Wild mushroom and bechamel lasagna. This was my experiment in creating a meatless, red sauce-less lasagna.
Insalata caprese

Cantaloupe melon wrapped in prosciutto with fresh mint
Orange, olive and red onion salad
Fresh peaches with mint and onion
Setting up the table
Baked and Wired cupcakes in assorted flavors
The full table
Assorted salads, crostini and lasagna
Antipasti platters with salumi, roasted peppers, eggs and tomatoes; grapes, cheeses and olives

Peking Gourmet Inn

Eddie Tsui and his wife started Peking Gourmet Inn in 1978. It's located in the nondescript Culmore shopping center in Falls Church and serves mostly northern Chinese food, including its politically-incorrect moniker, Peking duck.
The Tsui family continues to run the 275-seat establishment and sources many of its vegetables from Robert Tsui's farm, Grass Root Farm, in Purcellville, VA. The restaurant does excel at cooking a crispy duck which is carved table-side. Some of the menu items are hit-or-miss, but I do love their pan-fried dumplings and the pan-fried seafood noodles.
silky egg-drop soup
fiery chilies dressed in soy sauce
pan-fried Chinese leek dumplings
Peking duck, cucumber, scallions and hoisin sauce wraps. At $38 per duck, it's not exactly inexpensive, but the ducks are expertly carved tableside by experienced waiters. At a rough glance, I'd estimate the restaurant serves 500 ducks a day.
Massive platter of pan-fried noodles with seafood ($26). Snow crab, scallops, jumbo shrimp, bok choy, mushrooms, snap peas and toothsome noodles that taste handmade. This dish was large enough for two meals for us.
We normally over-order. This time we used a little more restraint than previous visits. We still left with a heavy bag of leftovers. Perhaps we venture to PGI at off-peak times, but we haven't had to wait extremely long for a table. The decor is definitely dated, and it can be a bit unsettling to dine surrounded by faces staring at you from framed and signed photos on the walls. While a particular favorite spot for the Bush family, that fact should neither encourage nor discourage a visit. If you venture there at peak dining hours, expect a long wait in a cramped entrance way.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clarendon's Lyon Hall

Finally stopped in Lyon Hall. I had heard some great things about it from my favorite bar manager in the neighborhood, but also some middling reviews from friends. Well...I really liked it. Partially it was the company and perfect weather for sitting outside, but the service was very enjoyable. We had to wait a few minutes at the bar for a table outside. The bartender was informative and poured tastes of a few draft beers to help my friend decide what to drink.
Peach and heirloom tomato salad. The waitress highly recommended this. The tomatoes were flavorful and ripe and the sweet peach was a nice contrast. Wish there was a little more peach.
Mussels and frites. J'adore les moules et frites. With a white wine, garlic, parsley and leeks, the broth was so good I couldn't resist dipping the housemade bread into it.
Herb spaetzle with sauerkraut, gruyere and ham. The spaetzle were good, although the aroma of the sausages at nearby tables was more enticing.
The menu has some lovely cheeses and draft beers that I would like to try. The prices are also pretty moderate. I'd like to bring my better half here to try out the black pudding or lamb sausage. The inside is pretty vibrant and loud, but the patio area is much quieter and relaxing.

Ben's Chili Bowl and Nationals Baseball

One day the Nationals won't be last in their league.  Despite their lack of evening game at the Nationals stadium is a really enjoyable way to spend a late summer evening with some friends.
RFK Stadium wasn't terrible, but the food options definitely were less than spectacular. With the new stadium came new food vendors. Instead of sad looking hotdogs, or so-so turkey sandwiches, now you can buy 5 Guys fries and a cheeseburger, Hard Times chili, or the quintessential DC food... a Ben's Chili Bowl halfsmoke "all the way" with an order of chili fries. Halfsmoke with chili, shredded cheese, yellow mustard and diced onions. Halfsmokes are a 1/4 lb. pork and beef smoked sausage and delicious.Ben's chili fries. 5 Guys fries are tastier.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Favorite Sandwiches

I love sandwiches. What's not to love? They're portable and versatile meals in your hand that require minimal clean-up. The following is a very subjective list of my favorites and where to find them.
"The Milano" at the Italian Store (big fan of the Philly and Roma too). Worth the trip over the river into Virginia and the long wait in line. You can order ahead to pick up if anxiously grasping a deli ticket stub and waiting for your number to be called is not your thing. Also, you're silly if you don't order the large on a soft roll with everything. While you're waiting, check out their wines, refrigerated pastas and other Italian sundries.
Greek Deli gyro You will know you've found the hole-in-the-wall office-drone lunchtime take-out spot when you see the long line of people waiting to hear Kostas shout out "Next!" Know what you want to order, march up to the front and speak loudly. The Greek meatballs special looks delicious, but the gyro is my go-to.
A fairly new contender now that I no longer eat meat is the veggie wrap at Whitlows on Wilson Not a fan of their caesar dressing (too tangy) but good when you ask for their balsamic vinaigrette dressing instead. You have to order the side of onion rings, they're fantastic. Whitlows also has a wonderfully greasy turkey Reuben and good burgers.
Hank's Oyster Bar's fried oyster po'boy. I love Hank's. Excellent selection of raw oysters. I also enjoyed their oyster po'boy. Perfectly fried oysters mounded on a buttery sandwich roll. The coleslaw accompaniment was ok, although a little watery.
Kinkead's bar menu shrimp po'boy Spicy and tangy remoulade sauce with three fried jumbo shrimp, lettuce, tomato and jalapeno slices on a grilled, buttery baguette. It's a bit fancier, but satisfying.
Perfection on a roll. Lobster roll in Boston. I've tried the lobster rolls at Hank's and Tackle Box... neither satisfied my craving. I have high hopes for the Red Hook lobster pound food truck, but no desire to wait 45 minutes to two hours in line for a lobster roll. Until their line becomes shorter or they open up a brick and mortar shop, I'll make my own with steamed lobsters from Cannon's Fish Market
Honorable mentions:
Cafe Tu-o-Tu Caprese Melt They have a great selection of salads and wraps as well.
Crabcake sandwich with a lump crabcake from Chris' Marketplace You can order backfin or lump crabcakes online or visit Chris at an area farmers' market where you'll find him frying up delicious samples. His gazpacho is also terrific. He's at the Dupont market on Sundays, White House and Penn Quarter on Thursdays and Falls Church on Saturdays.

Remembering PS7

Some places I try out I really enjoy but somehow never return a second time. PS7 is one of those restaurants. Went during RW a few years ago, and everything was very good. Not that much has changed on their menu, except the delicious scallops are sadly absent. I would like to try out their lounge's cocktail list, but wish their lounge menu had sandwich options that were not so heavily meat-focused. PS 7 tuna slider...a perfect bite-size starter of three pieces of fresh tuna tartare on mini brioche buns speckled with black and white sesame seeds.
PS7 gnocchi with spring peas and corriander
perfectly seared PS7 scallops
PS7 chicken breast with English peas, chanterelles, earl gray, and pappardelle
PS7 steak with fried potato sticks

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why doesn't DC have a real NY-style pizza place?

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. We had tons of pizza places and no matter where you ordered from the pizza was good. Thin crust with a nice sauce, gooey cheese and whatever toppings you liked. Nothing fancy, but solid NY-style. While the DC area has many great ethnic restaurants, it sorely lacks a good NY-style pizza place. The Neopolitan style pies at 2Amys or Pizzeria Paradiso and the New Haven style at Pete's are fine, but I still miss the pies from Little Italy.

(One of the best things I ate in Las Vegas was a slice of plain cheese at New York New York. It tasted like home.)
Searching for a decent pie and a little taste of nostalgia, I tried a place my better half enjoys, Valentino's in Alexandria
The garlic knots ($2.75) were good and the marinara sauce had a nice, robust flavor.
Nice light olive salad ($8.95). Shrimp Fra Diavolo with fettucini ($15.95). The sauce could be a little spicier, but the pasta and shrimp were good.Tomato sauce, cheese, mushrooms and fresh garlic pie (Small = 14 inches $16.95).
Valentino's is a nice little family place you'd take your kids after a soccer game, or when you want a giant pizza and some Italian-American favorites. It's not quite Little Italy or Ianelli's, but it was a satisfying pie and I'd gladly go back to try a few others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hiking Adventures

Recently we started hiking different trails in the Shenandoah. It's wonderful to get out in woods, traverse some challenging elevation changes and enjoy some clean, fresh air. In addition to carrying enough water and mugi-cha, we like to bring something good to eat for lunch.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar bento set is perfect for packing lunch for bigger appetites.Hello Kitty bento set works well too.
hand-made onigiri with salmon and shiso furikake
kiwi fruit, blueberries and a tangerine
mixed fruit, grape tomatoes, edamame and onigiri

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Brunch - Option B

In 2009, Travel & Leisure magazine published an article "America's Best Burgers" I often wonder if these publications truly test out their picks, or even where they come up with the contenders. I love cheeseburgers and highly recommend any of the burgers at Rays Hell Burger or Palena's truffled cheeseburger. So...I had to check out this so-called "America's Best Burger" from a DC restaurant. Kemble Park Tavern is located in that odd area called the Palisades. It's a cute area, but I really have very little reason to be over there other than to try the brunch burger.
Brioche bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion, 2 strips of bacon, fried egg, cheddar cheese and beef patty.
Pretty wan lettuce and not quite ripe tomato. The bacon was decidedly not crispy...blech...and the fried egg was cooked over-medium, and not sunny-side up like the pretty T&L photo.
At least it was pretty when all stacked together.
Dissection shot: Definitely not the medium-rare I ordered. The bun was not the freshest.
While it was a decent burger, if this is what America's best burger looks like...we've got a lot of work to do.
3/31/11 Update:  Maybe it was the obscure location, but Kemble Park Tavern shuttered its doors.

Weekend Brunch - Option A

Maybe you don't think about going to a pizza place for brunch, but you should. Matchbox alternately amuses me and annoys me. I like the menu, but I hated the looong wait at the Chinatown location. Anything more than 30 minutes and I'm going somewhere else. I'm just not that patient. With a second location in Capitol Hill, it's a lot easier to get a table, some sliders and a pie.
Matchbox has a fun list of Bloody Marys. The Fire one in particular is deliciously spicy. Sriracha rim? Yes please. They also have a more whimsical rendition called the Bloody Beer, with a PBR tall boy and your choice of bloody mary mix.

Fresh fruit waffle with strawberries and bananas. The raspberry whipped cream was a little sad though.

Veggie Frittata with cremini mushrooms, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, fingerling potatoes, baby spinach and pesto.

Cast-iron chorizo and manchego egg tortilla with salsa verde, chipotle sour cream and brunch potatoes (the potato sticks on top).

Small Simple Salad with parmesan cheese crisp, dried cherries, tomatoes, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette.
Fire and Smoke pizza with roasted red peppers, Spanish onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic pureer, smoked gouda and fresh basil. Spicy and delicious.
Veggie with cremini mushrooms, Spanish onions, roasted garlic, roasted poblano peppers, mozzarella, fresh herbs and fingerling potato crisps. The crispy potatoes added textural interest, were kind of unnecessary.