Sunday, July 31, 2011

Carmine's with M&J

My friends are expecting their first child this fall. They've been working feverishly to prepare the baby's room and get ready for their new addition. I'm not sure if you're ever really ready, but it's a very exciting time for them and I can't wait to meet their little boy. 
Since my boyfriend and I went to Maggiano's recently, and we were looking for Italian-American, I made a reservation at Carmine's. M was concerned that the portion sizes were too large, but I was happy to bring home leftovers.  Sitting at the bar, I noticed their bar menu includes sandwiches, which are of course oversized. They look delicious, and would be perfect to share for a "lighter" lunch one day.
 Massive platter of fried calamari.
 Meat lasagna.
The lasagna is ample enough to serve 4-6 people easily. I'm not a super fan of this rendition with the large ricotta cheese layer and ground beef. The sauce is a little too salty. I like lasagnas that include more vegetables like spinach, mushrooms and onions.
 Chicken Parmesan on a bed of spaghetti.
You can order just the chicken, but I liked having the pasta along with it. The chicken parm was incredibly tender, pounded thin and breaded, and remained fairly juicy. I think I'd like to try the chicken parm hoagie after trying this :)
My boyfriend wasn't up for the Titanic or Tugboat desserts, but the tiramisu was just right to share. 
We brought the leftovers home and have been eating them over the course of Sunday. We tried the linguine with white clam sauce before, and that's another dish I enjoyed. With a clam sauce craving, I foresee making some linguine con vongole this week with the large number of canned clams we bought at Costco this weekend. 

Brunch at home

My boyfriend loves pancakes. He's been really sweet about picking me up from the metro when I've had to stay late for meetings after work or catching up with friends at happy hour. To thank him, I decided to make him a Saturday treat.
 I'm not a super fan of pancakes, so my pancakes were mini ones with two fried eggs. 
I made a walnut toffee topping too.
For my boyfriend, I made some fresh whipped cream, mixed berry pancakes, and the walnut toffee. 
This was almost more dessert than breakfast. The textural interplay of crunchy walnuts, fluffy whipped cream and the pancakes worked well together. Adding a bit of Canadian maple syrup was magical.

Reception at the Japanese Ambassador's Residence

The Japanese Ambassador's residence near my alma mater, American University, always filled me with curiosity during my undergraduate days.  The fenced-in tree-lined view from the street masks one of my favorite Embassy residences in the city. The imposing residence has enough room to comfortably hold a large number of guests. 
 The Tea House.
This building was constructed in Japan, dismantled and shipped to Washington where it was rebuilt. The tatami mats strike a nostalgic heart string for my days in Japan. The simplicity of the room is very soothing. The open wall of windows brings a bit of nature into the room.
 View of the koi pond outside the Tea House.
 View from the Tea House towards the residence.
View of the reception from the Tea House.
The Ambassador is a wonderful supporter of cultural exchange between the US and Japan, including the JET Program. His dream to create a sister program to bring Japanese teachers of English to study in the US for a short-period has come to fruition. I truly hope the 100 JTEs enjoy experiencing American culture in the seven locations they were sent to around the US. They'll be studying ESL at universities with strong teaching programs, engaging in teaching practicums with American students, and some will have homestays with American families. 

Ceiba Happy Hour

My part-time MBA program brought together a diverse group of professionals. In the year following graduation, we've all gone in different directions. It was nice to get together over drinks and nibbles to catch up at Ceiba. One of the most adventurous, packed her bags and moved to Puerto Rico for a new challenge after graduation. Others have changed jobs, gotten engaged, married and started families. 
Fried lump crab and salt cod balls with fresh mango and scotch bonnet sauce.
Not quite as fluffy as the buenelos de bacalao at Jaleo, but a nice crunchy texture and easy to share.
 Tuna tartar taquitos
Mini corn tortilla shells with tuna tartar, avocado, queso fresco and a spicy soy sauce. Fresh tuna with good flavor and a great sauce.
 Chipotle bbq chicken quesadilla
Grilled corn, black beans, chicken and cheese with a blistered tomatillo sauce.
 Crispy Baja fish tacos
Soft corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, tomatillo salsa, salsa fresca, guacamole and crema.
 Spicy Joe Sliders
Homemade chorizo sliders with hearts of palm slaw and chimichurri sauce.
 Shredded beef flautas 
Red and green salsas
Queso Fundido con Chorizo with soft corn tortillas.
Hot lava stone with melted Oaxacan cheese with chorizo, onions and chile poblano peppers.
The best way to experience the bar menu is seated at the small tables off to the side from the bar area. With a  group of 5, we were able to sample a nice variety of dishes. The flavors at Ceiba were nuanced, and appropriately spicy. The ingredients were fresh and I liked the inventive mixtures. Definitely not a destination for vegetarians, unless you really want to eat a bowl of guacamole, salads or a plate of side items. Last time I tried Ceiba was at least four or more years ago. After this grazing experience, I wouldn't hesitate to head back.

Axian sandwiches in Farragut West

I really like this little take-out breakfast and lunch spot down the street from my office. Their bread is fresh, and I definitely recommend the marbled pumpernickel rye bread.
 Club sandwich on marbled rye.
Turkey, ham, tomato, lettuce and thick-cut bacon.
Chicken Sandwich Daily Special
Grilled chicken breast with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, cheese and dijon sauce. Not my favorite sandwich of the bunch I've tried so far, but still quite good. I think avocado, cheese, bacon and chicken is more up my alley.

National Harbor conference

I ventured across the Potomac to the Gaylord Conference Center at National Harbor for a DOE Biomass conference. Really a remarkable conference facility, with a very open design that infuses the hall with light and panoramic views of the river.
Buffet Lunch
Salad, roasted vegetables, chicken and goat cheese ravioli.
Networking reception nibbles
Fried macaroni and cheese balls, mini crab ball, polenta crostini with sliced beef, cheese and tomatoes.

Sunday Chicken BBQ at Home

Grilled chicken with an Italian marinade reminds me of my childhood and Brooks bbq chicken. The charcoal is essential for the proper flavor, but I thought I'd recreate a lighter bbq without the traditional tomato-based sauce.
 I marinate boneless chicken thighs in an Italian dressing overnight.
Homemade garlic cucumbers.
Mixed garlic, white vinegar, water, sugar and salt with quartered cucumbers from the CSA.
Grilled chicken with peach salsa, Japanese-style potato salad and pickle.

Fish Market's Anchor Bar in Old Town

After a 14 hour day, I finally made it back home. My boyfriend picked me up at the metro station and we headed out to find something to eat. We're too far from Annandale to venture to the 24 hour spots for a quick late-night bite, and Old Town is sadly lacking in good, cheap late night spots. We ended up going to the Anchor Bar.
 Super thick New England-style clam chowder. 
 Bleu burger
Lobster rolls. 
I'm not sure why there were two, when really one would have been sufficient. Decent but lacking in some personal preferences: celery or onion for crunch, and too much mayonnaise. The buttered rolls were good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Shopping and Snacks

I spent a very relaxing morning, sleeping in past 6 am for the first time all week. Oooh how I love sleeping in. With the magic of an eye mask, I was able to get some much needed shut-eye. After a good 3-4 mile run, we showered and headed out to our favorite grocery store, Super H Mart. Since we skipped breakfast outside of coffee, we stopped first at the food court.
 Seafood jambong. This was spicy and salty, with slurpable noodles. Definitely my favorite item.
My boyfriend was smarter, considering the sweltering 102F weather, and ordered chilled buckwheat noodles with cucumber, Asian pear and a boiled egg with sliced beef. Deliciously cool yet satisfying.

Happy at Home

I came home after a long day to a lovely surprise from my boyfriend. Beautiful pink roses :)

My artistic display of CSA fruits.

Friday Night Out

I attended a special reception with some new Japanese teachers of English. I'm so extremely happy that Ambassador Fujisaki created this new program to bring 100 Japanese teachers to the US for 6 months to have a chance to have a homestay and ESL training at some US universities with great teaching programs. As someone who worked with similar teachers in Japan, this program really offers a great experience for these teachers and their students once they return to their classrooms. I hope they have a chance to see a real side of the US beyond the textbooks and wish them all the best. After metro-ing home, my boyfriend picked me up at the train station and we headed out for a late Friday night dinner at Friday's down the road from our apartment.
 Grilled sirloin with zucchini and squash and coleslaw.
The steak was surprisingly well-cooked and very flavorful.
Potato skins.
It was a long week at work. Facing an oddly fusion menu, I was naughty and went with wine and cheesy-greasy goodness.  Spending time with my sweet boyfriend and finally relaxing after a busy week was the best feeling.

Final CSA Share

The adventures with the CSA has come to a conclusion. The weekly share definitely increased as the weeks progressed, which was a comfort since the initial week's share was paltry.  The quality of the produce exceeded my expectation, as well as the variety. It was super easy to head over to the DCJCC and pickup the weekly share. What I hadn't remembered was how hot DC in the midst of July becomes, and walking up and back 15 blocks in 90 and 100 degree weather was a bit more of a struggle than I anticipated. Fortunately my sweet boyfriend walked with me one day and drove us to the pickup twice.
 Week #6 Share
Cucumber, tomatoes, bok choy, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, apples, yellow squash, peaches, pluots, apricots, and basil.
 Fresh tomato, basil and garlic sauce for pasta.
Garden-fresh ratatouille with onion, zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash and garlic.

La Tasca in Old Town Alexandria

I'm not the biggest fan of La Tasca. I've been burned by a few less than stellar experiences at the Clarendon location. I thought I'd give it another shot over drinks and tapas with some other alums who live in the area. It was nice to relax and share good conversation with some great ladies.
 Shrimp with garlic
 Wild Mushrooms
These were unbelievably thin, but nice.
 Spanish cheese plate with quince.
Wow I love cheese and wine. This was lovely, great manchego, lovely bleu cheese and fresh goat cheese.
Beef empanadas with spicy sauce.

Four Sisters in Merrifield

I really like this Vietnamese restaurant, but the parking situation is a headache. While the new parking garage is under construction, finding a parking spot in the garage is increasingly difficult.
 Delicious shrimp wonton soup.
The broth is delicate but layered with flavor. It was absolutely lovely.
 Carmelized pork, both sweet and salty.
Grilled lemongrass beef bun
Grilled beef, carrots, herbs and vegetables on rice noodles with a light dipping sauce.
Once the parking situation has been settled, I hope to visit this restaurant more often.

DC Office Lunches

I was a lazy bear this last week and didn't make my normal lunch bentos. I did manage to make a chicken and rice dish for my boyfriend to eat at the office, so I wasn't a complete waste. Despite my best intentions, I tend to the gluttony impulses and the salty, fried-bad-for-you takeout options. Here's a selection of the good and the bad lunches from the last week.
Nirvana Express two curry with rice meal. 
Chickpeas and palak paneer.
 Pret a Manger Nicoise salad. 
This is one of the lowest calorie options, and was surprisingly filling. I had initially planned to indulge in mapo tofu from Sichuan Express, but had a change of heart and went with a little healthier and lower calorie option.
 New Potbelly Turkey and Cheese Sandwich.
They make skinny sandwiches now, with less bread and lighter quantities of meat.  
I finally caved and went to Sichuan Express.
I love love love their mapo tofu. It's super spicy and delicious. Their buffet also has a variety of other pitfalls, such as the crispy fried chicken (there must be cornstarch in the batter to make such a lovely crunchy crust), seafood and vegetables and chicken with broccoli.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Il Canale in Georgetown

I have a lovely group of friends who share my passions for food, books and yoga.  Over the years we've gathered for late night Harry Potter book releases and movies. We're not the "dress up in character" types like the girl we saw in mismatched socks, knit hat and bedsheet ala Dobby, but enjoy seeing the films together and discussing how closely the films align with the books. 
I've learned over the years to lower my expectations for the films. The Chris Colombus-helmed versions were too fluffy and kiddie-esque. The version by Alfonso Cuaron was sufficiently dark but still not perfect. David Yates directed the last two films, did an admirable job, but definitely not perfect and don't get me started on the 3D. The films never achieved the magic of the novels, but were entertaining nonetheless. Post-film we headed to Il Canale on 31st in Georgetown to find an al fresco table and some food.
 Linguine con vongole
 Mediterranean salad with dolma and a sampler of three antipasti, eggplant, artichoke and bell pepper.
 Salad with olives, grilled zucchini, carrot and fresh mozzarella.
Sofia pizza with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.
The pizza oven is busy, charring the dough and spewing ash out of the chimney.  While the rooftop tables were a nice vista, the ash floating down and coating us an added atmospheric element we didn't enjoy as much.  The pizza options come white or red (with sauce), The pizza was chewy, with a good flavor, but wish it was a bit thinner.
Consensus was the film ended appropriately, but there were glaring alterations from the books.  While I understand the profit motive for splitting the last book into two films, it felt a bit disjointed to me. Perhaps the deaths of beloved characters in the films would have been more shocking to anyone who had not read the books. I felt the impact of the loss of key characters was a bit muted. The redeeming aspect was Snape's memories in the pensieve. The books inspired a generation of children to read, for which I applaud, but the films were good but not great.