Monday, February 28, 2011

Valentino's NY-Style Pizza

After a full day of apartment moving, dropping off donations at Goodwill, and returning the rental truck to an area of VA I'd like to not become too acquainted with, we drove over to Valentino's to pick up food.  The staff is really pleasant, they make enormous pizzas, and I love their salads.
 Valentino's Special Large pizza with an order of garlic knots.
Greek Salad half order - lovely feta cheese was creamy and not too briney, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, olives and a great balsamic vinaigrette.

Sushiko Bento

Helping out with interviews, we had a choice of bento lunches last week.  Every year the meat, fish and vegetarian bentos are ordered from different Japanese restaurants.  Sometimes they are gloriously transcendant, other times I'm left feeling like I should have chosen better. 
 Thursday's Fish Bento.  Nice, fresh, but paltry in size compared to the steak bento that came with rice, potato salad, spinach and mashed sweet potato.  Even the vegetarian bento was more substantial.
 Friday's Fish Bento.  Despite the organizer calling and pleading for something different, only the orientation of the maki changed. I should have jumped ship with the others to the Vegetarian option.
 Vegetarian Bento.  2 maki, vegetarian nigiri and inari-zushi.
Plus! a lovely seaweed salad.

Malaysia Kopitiam...Where's the Heat?

I needed something spicy but flavorful and was debating the merits of Heritage India Bistro or Malaysia Kopitiam.  I liked both in the past, but the need for noodles pushed me towards the basement-level Kopitiam.  It's kind of a dive, and usually the restaurant atmosphere doesn't affect the meal.  Usually.  Unfortunately the heat in the restaurant was not working and the interior felt as cold as the winter evening.  Bundled in my coat, I did enjoy the roti canai and chicken curry laska with egg noodles, but next time I might just order take-out.
 The roti are buttery-flavored and delicious dipped in the curry.
I've had the laksa numerous times, and this was the first time I wondered, where are the bean sprouts? 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day

My boyfriend's probably similar to most males and not super enthusiastic about Valentine's Day.  He did offer to make reservations at a restaurant of my choice, but the idea of overpriced "special" set menus did not appeal to me.  Instead I suggested we cook something nice together at home.  Originially we were going to have lobster tails, porterhouse steak, caprese salad and risotto.  Since we're both trying to slim down so the pants are less tight, I switched the risotto for a light cauliflower puree and we had the lobster tails a different night.
 Creamy fresh mozzarella with vine-ripened tomatoes
 My boyfriend cooked the porterhouse medium-rare in his cast-iron skillet.
We had creamy cauliflower and zucchini as well.  The cauliflower was pureed with chicken broth and was lighter than mashed potatoes.
Brut Rose from Whole Foods was nice, bubbly and went well with the taramosalata and crackers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chinese-Bowling with Friends

I like planning themed group events.  Last year Chinese New Year and Valentine's day were the same day, so I gathered some friends and spent a Sunday packed with activities including brunch, bowling and dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  It was so much fun, I wanted to do it again despite the holidays not aligning. 
This year's theme was "the more, the merrier", and we gathered a group of 14 people together for Chinese-Bowling with lunch at Peking Gourmet Inn and bowling at Bowl America in Falls Church.  PGI is a nice place for groups with large round tables and an excellent and affordable group menu for lunch.  Due to some food allergies and diets, we had two tables, one for the group menu and one for ordering ala carte.  The lunch group menu is a bargain with Spring Rolls & Fried Dumplings, Peking Duck, Jeo-Yan Shrimp, Beef Szechuan Proper, Four Season String Beans, Yang Chow Fried Rice, Jasmine Tea & Fortune Cookies for a minimum of 8 people at $15.50 pp (about $20 pp with tax and tip). 
The other table ordered a melange of dishes and everyone seemed to enjoy their choices.  They have a special ala carte lunch menu for $8.95 including a soup, egg roll, fried rice and choice of entree.
 Hot and Sour Soup (this had duck meat as well as the mushrooms)
 Steamed vegetarian dumplings 
 Peking-style Chicken
 Shrimp in Lobster Sauce ala carte meal
Mu Shu Vegetables
It was definitely fun to share food, some gross decomposing animal-related stories, and cheer for each other at bowling.  To mix up the day a bit, we drew names to create the teams for each lane, and I hope everyone had a chance to talk to someone new and share in the spirit of the day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Super Busy Saturday

Today we had tons of errands to tackle.  After our dinner at Sushiko last night, we had enough time to do our weekly grocery shopping at Whole Foods, which helped lessen our Saturday chores.  We were going to have a lovely dinner together after shopping and errands, but our late afternoon snack was more than we should have indulged in.  Neither of us were hungry for a full meal, so after quick workouts, we settled in for something lighter.
 We love the Whole Foods brand of inexpensive wine.  The chardonnay is unoaked, so similar in body to the light pinot grigio and sauvignon blancs we often lean towards.  At $3.99, it's tough to walk out of Whole Foods with only one bottle.
 We picked up a half baguette of fresh multigrain bread, 2 lobster tails (1 day special for $5.99 each), and celery.
Which is better, a Maine lobster roll or Connecticut-style? 
Why choose just one when you can have both?
I cooked the lobster tails and made two types of mini-lobster rolls.  The chilled celery, mayonnaise Maine-style lobster roll and the warm butter-poached with celery lobster roll. 
My boyfriend liked them both, but I think preferred the warm butter version.

Vegetarian and So Delicious

We have a busy week ahead of us, so I planned to use the kabocha squash and green beans we purchased at Lotte in an Epicurious recipe I found online that we can eat throughout the week.  It's a super healthy and low calorie kabocha, green beans and black beans stew.  Since kabocha can be quite sweet when cooked, the cumin and spices offset the flavor in a delightful way. 
Tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, onion, squash, green beans and black bean stew with cumin, chili spices and oregano.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sushi Ko Glover Park

I've gotten burned by Groupon before.  Kayak lessons groupon was purchased but couldn't book because the company was sold out for months and then the weather turned too cold.  Grrr.  However, Groupons for restaurants, I'm a fan, although I like to wait a few weeks before I use mine so the mad rush subsides a bit.  Recently they offered one for Sushiko and I had to buy it.  I like the restaurant a lot, but it can quickly become pricey if I indulge in all my favorite rolls.  Surprisingly my Japanese boyfriend has never gone there despite living in the area since the 90s.  We started with some age-dofu and gyoza before the barrage of sushi.
 Spicy scallop maki; rockshrimp, jalapeno, and cilantro maki; salmon and avocado maki.
 Sashimi Moriawase with beautiful otoro, salmon, amaebi, maguro, with two white fish we couldn't decipher but loved nonetheless.  The fish was super fresh and the two tunas were meltingly tender.
 Tuna and jalapeno maki
Salmon skin maki, saba nigiri, otoro nigiri, engawa nigiri and uni nigiri.
Our $40 Groupon barely put a dent into the final bill but the sushi and sashimi was super fresh and delicious.  Definitely a gluttonous splurge, but what a wonderful meal together with my favorite Japanese guy for Valentine's weekend.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Post-Workout Ramen and Lunch Bento

After a post-work trot on the treadmill, I came back to a nice surprise.  My boyfriend brought back some spinach and dumplings from his work dinner for me.  With some miso ramen, a boiled egg and  leftover beansprouts, it was lovely. 
Afterwards I made jap-chae for his lunch bento.  Bok choy, carrot, mushroom, onion, leek, garlic, zucchini and a bit of sliced beef with the dangmyun noodles.  The sauce is soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and water.  This could easily be made with tofu or only vegetables.  With a side of green grapes and celery sticks for a snack, he was all set for the day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"It's the Super Bowl, we can't eat salad..."

According to my boyfriend, the Super Bowl is no time for dieting.  We decided to recreate the Korean fried chicken recipe again from Saveur magazine.  This time I added a little more red chili pepper powder to the sauce.  Yum!  The combination of corn starch-flour-water and double-frying technique creates a special crunch missing from regular Buffalo wings.  We picked up 1.8 lbs of chicken wings from Lotte for under $12.  The only downside was having to separate and cut the wings into pieces, but it meant I had plenty of wing tips to roast and make a nice broth with.
 After the first 6 minutes of frying.
 After the second 6 minutes of frying, the wings turn a lovely brown color.
 Toss the wings in the sauce (I should have made much more).
 I also prepared a small roasted potato with roasted garlic and scallions, some carrot and celery sticks, a chunk of blue cheese and roasted garlic cloves.
 Fresh kimchee.
Korean-style bean sprouts.
It's a really good thing we went to the gym earlier in the day.  We didn't really care which team won, but it was fun to watch and eat some football food with a twist.  I think I liked the commercials the best.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Korean Cooking at Home (Viewer Discretion Advised)

(If you are vegetarian or squeamish, don't look further down at the photos.) 
We went to Lotte supermarket for the first time last night to pick up our weekly groceries.  I'm a fan of Super H Mart, but my boyfriend's coworker said Lotte had yukkejang packages and a better food court so we checked it out.  We needed more rice and kimchee, and I planned a few other meals that used Asian ingredients.  One of his special requests was pork belly with kimchee. 
 He loves roasted garlic, so I roasted a clove in the oven at 400F for 50 minutes until it was nice and soft. 
 Korean-style bean sprouts with soy, chili and sesame oil
 Baby bok choy and green beans with ginger, soy, mirin and sesame oil.
 Salmon fish heads.  Delicacy for Asians, trash for most Americans, therefore inexpensive.  It's actually one of the most tender and delicious parts of the fish, especially near the jaw bone.  The best way to prepare this is to salt the skin side and broil. 
 Homemade spicy pork belly with kimchee.  I made the marinade from gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, onion, garlic, sugar and chili pepper powder.
 Shioyaki shake-kama. 
(ok pretend the eye is not there, but this is something that makes my boyfriend remember nice dinners with his family and I'm happy to recreate it even if it means I call him into the kitchen every 10 minultes to check out how it looks.)
 Table-top teppanyaki grill.  Kimchee, jalapeno and spicy pork belly at 350F. 
The best way to eat the pork belly is wrapped in a lettuce leaf with grilled kimchee and the marinated bean sprouts. 

"The Person Who Created the Donut Is a Genius..."

(According to my boyfriend.)  He helped me finish pack up my apartment and take my books and clothing donations to Goodwill today.  On the way to the Goodwill dropoff in Alexandria, there was a gleaming light that was too bright for him to pass by. 
 1/2 dozen doughnuts and 2 black coffees for $9.22.  The cashier told us that for a $1 more we could get another 1/2 dozen.  I squeaked out quickly, "No thank you!"  If we had, there would have been a youtube video project titled "KK Donut Explosion Challenge" pioneered by my boyfriend.
2 custard-filled donuts, 1 jelly-filled donut and 3 glazed.

Cafe Asia in Rosslyn

Life has become increasingly hectic lately.  I feel like I've been moving belongings for months since the office move just finished and I'm preparing to move apartments now.  Weekends mean sorting and packing up my belongings now that the apartment search is finally over.  Today I was able to catch up with one of my favorite people for lunch near my apartment in between boxing up kitchen things and clothing.
 Lemongrass chicken soup with vermicelli noodles.
 A good friend is one who not only waits for me to take a quick photo of the dish, but also does a noodle pose for me. (^o^)
Curry Laksa with shrimp and fried tofu puffs with egg noodles.  It's not as spicy and flavorful as the version at Malaysia Kopitiam, but it's a nice bowl that helped make the rainy gray day a little warmer.

Honeypig Annandale

I loved Honeypig for many reasons, but never for its service.  For a brief period, it felt like the waitresses were trying a bit harder with the non-Korean speaking clientele.  For the last few visits, there have been more non-Asians dining there, and the service has been returning to the semi-uninterested state from two years ago.  Sigh.
 My boyfriend loves the galbi.  It's a pricier option at $24.99 per order but we were planning to cook spicy pork belly at home soon.
 Grilling the jalapeno slices and garlic on the pan adds nice flavor.
 The waitress came by to turn the meat.
 She returned to use her cooking scissors to cut the meat off the bone.
 Delicious soon dubu with seafood.