Sunday, August 28, 2011

Post-Storm Brekkie

After the cable and internet went out, we watched some of David Attenborough's Planet Earth on the dvd.
We slept through the worst and the power went off for a bit. In the morning, the power was back on, and I made breakfast for my boyfriend.
Sauteed mushrooms, toast with cherry preserves, pineapple, fried eggs, roasted jalapenos and bacon.

What did you do before the storm?

Pre-Irene, we looked out the window and decided it was worth braving the rains before the storm hit. My boyfriend had a hankering for some pho, so we headed over to the nearby spot on Route 1.
Small #9 with flank and eye round.
I wasn't super hungry, so I took half home with me. While deciding what else to do before the storm struck in full force, my boyfriend suggested I get a pedicure from the nearby nail salon. Sure, why not? They were super nice and I'll definitely go back again. So pho and a pedi for me, how did you prep for the storm weekend?

Preparing for the Storm

With Hurricane Irene on the way, I stopped off at the grocery store on Thursday to prepare something for us to eat in case the power went out due to the storm during the weekend. We have a tabletop stove, so even without electricity, we could eat something hearty and satisfying. Ina Garten beef stew recipe to the rescue.
 Carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and beef in the slow cooker with beef broth and red wine set to cook for 6 hours.
Six hours later.
Fortunately, we only lost power briefly while we slept, but the stew was delicious. I made a roux with flour and butter plus broth to thicken up the stew. With some turkey and roast beef sandwiches intermixed, we spent a nice hurricane weekend together at home. 
Fortunately, flooding in the area was minimal, nothing like what happened in my hometown, where the county is under water. 

International Square Sichuan Express

For once I bypassed my favorite mapo ramen and ordered noodle soup #2.
Shrimp, greens, bamboo and edamame with noodles. 
Delicious, this may be a new favorite.


I've experience numerous earthquakes during my years living in Japan. One time I was teaching and couldn't understand why my students were bouncing around in front of me and suddenly dove under their desks. When reality dawned on me, the building began to sway and I realized I was on the third floor of a very old school set to be demolished in a year, oy vay! The worst registered  a 7.5 with so many aftershocks I spent many a fitful night of sleep.
Tuesday, I was sitting in my office researching Latin American trade opportunities and risks when the room started shaking. At first I thought it was just more renovations underneath our offices for the new cafe, but this was different. Suddenly there were throngs of people standing out on the sidewalks. Building maintenance staff came around and forced us to evacuate the building. 5.8 earthquake shook the east coast.
Ended up standing in front of the building for awhile, trying in vain to contact my boyfriend on my mobile. The mobile systems were incapacitated. Ridiculous! I ventured over towards his office building, didn't see him so wandered around for a bit to while away the time before we would be let back into the office building. Hmm... a saunter down 19th Street and I saw a miraculous sight, no line in front of the Greek Deli. I grabbed a gyro sandwich to eat back in the office. 
5.8 earthquake that only lasted 45 seconds, the news sources went nuts. Best part of the day once I realized the evacuation scenario from downtown DC is dismal at best, was the tasty gyro.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Captain Billy's in Newburg, Maryland

We traveled down to the river house of one of my boyfriend's friends. "River house" doesn't really do justice to this light-filled loft-style house on the end of the peninsula on the Virginia side of the Potomac. The house had a lovely wrap-around deck, beautiful view of the water, nice waterside breezes. Most importantly, there was a grill.
After grilling beef, vegetable and chicken kabobs for brunch, we walked around and talked to the other house guests while listening to the two drum and bass guys mix. We helped put together the birthday surprise for the host's girlfriend, including a delicious chocolate cake from Whole Foods that my boyfriend picked up. After surprising the birthday girl and everyone trying a piece of cake, we set off for the drive home. One the way home we stopped off at Captain Billy's for some steamed crabs and a beautiful view.
 The online reviews for Captain Billy's made us a bit skeptical.
 However the location and view were worth the risk.
Pound of steamed crabs and steamed shrimp.
Beautiful view, cold beer and a nice seat on the deck overlooking the water with country music gently playing in the background. The crabs were good, although the only size they had were mediums. The shrimp were also on the small side. The snow crab legs and other dishes that passed by looked promising. We ate a few and brought the rest home in our new cooler, and later I picked the remaining crabs and made crabcakes. A nice and relaxing meal with my favorite person.

Havana Cafe at International Square

The lines at Sichuan Express and the Greek place in International Square were too long and I needed to be back quickly to the office so I tried out Havana Cafe. A bit of a mess trying to find out which person to place my order with but they were pretty fast and nice. I ordered the half chicken with black beans and salad.
A massive amount of food, the salad had a very light oregano-based dressing. The chicken was somehow fall-off-the-bone and dry at the same time. What really shone was the side of black beans, wonderful flavor and not overcooked. I'd go back and order a side salad and beans in a heartbeat. Their green sauce was a nice accompaniment to the chicken, helped offset the dryness.

Kanpai Sushi in Rosslyn

Juggling nonprofit meetings, work and life has been challenging. It feels like the summer has flown by and I've fallen off the grid. I really appreciate the friends who understand the stress and my schedule, making concrete plans for what time to meet and where. Some weeks all I have time for is a quick chat with one of my  favorite people, a hardworking MBA friend. Other times, I've been able to catch up with my favorite yogis over a movie or quick bite. The early dinner dates fit best into my schedule, so I can try to get enough sleep. I've discovered which people are really supportive and genuine, although my boyfriend's been the absolute best. Fortunately I was able to catch up with one of those people at the last minute for sushi after work. 
We ordered an assortment of rolls. The service was pretty good, and the restaurant was not too loud or crowded. It was good to see more of my friend than just posts on Facebook. I'm still in awe that she ate four hot dogs in one day. For the price and location, it's a decent alternative to Cafe Asia, as long as you do not go in expecting extremely authentic Japanese food. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spa World and Honey Pig in Centreville

Spent the most relaxing and self-indulgent day out in Centreville. Went with two friends to Spa World for a day of bathing, skin scrubs, dolsot bibimbap in the restaurant and a much needed nap in the hard to find resting room on the second floor. I've been numerous times to the Korean spa but this was the first time to try out the 60 minute skin scrub and massage. It's really amazing how much skin they slough off in 30 minutes of continuous scrubbing, twisting and washing. I should have stopped there, because the ensuing 30 minutes of contortions, slapping and massaging was dancing back and forth across a fine line of torture and pain. Definitely recommend the scrub, your skin will feel renewed and super soft. 
Afterwards, I donned the institutional orange shirt and shorts set and ventured out to the communal area. Watched a little K-drama and then headed into the restaurant. One of the fun things about Spa World is the use of computerized locker keys the workers can add different service charges onto like the scrub and lunch. After lunch a nice nap in the dark napping room left me super refreshed. We ventured out and wandered around Hanaro, a Korean grocery store, and then to Honey Pig.
 Spicy pork belly with grilled kimchee and sliced brisket.
Pork belly with beef and octopus chul pan.

Cities on 19th Street

They have outdoor seating, which would be nice if the weather this summer wasn't oscillating between exceptionally hot and hot and humid. Instead we ventured to a different post-work place than Sichuan Pavilion for drinks with my boyfriend's coworker. The bar area is pretty lively, with happy hour specials from 4-8 pm. The tables in the back were nearly empty, which was a bit bizarre. The menu is a truly odd mixture of items from around the world. 
 Chicken satay. Fairly standard and a little dry.
 Chorizo in a sauce. Good flavor and went well with the paella.
 Grilled calamari with two dipping sauces.
Ok, but the calamari lacked the requisite char one would expect from grilling.
 "Paella" with chunks of seafood.
This felt more like tomato-sauced rice with a variety of odds and ends mixed in. I liked it, but not incredibly high on the authenticity guage.
 Mussels with frites on top. 
 Grilled fish.
 Tuna tartare. Really disliked this version.
In all, it's a good place to sit down for a few drinks and light small plates. Any restaurant that sets out to represent dishes from around the world is bound to be a little disappointing. In the back you can definitely hold a conversation and not shout, which is a step up from E&C across the street. Avoid the tuna tartare.

I love Axian Sandwiches

Making my way down the sandwich special menu at the nearby lunch spot, I tried the Old English.
Boarshead Roast Beef with Cheddar Cheese, horseradish sauce, lettuce and tomato on a sub roll.
I'd definitely order this again, although eating only half would be wise. They offer Groupons frequently, so definitely take advantage and give them a try.

Virtue Grain and Feed in Old Town

On an incredibly stormy Sunday evening we headed to Old Town to try a newish restaurant to join the Cathal Armstrong mini-empire. The reviews I've seen online have been a bit underwhelming, although the power of yelp allows semi-anonymous ordinary restaurant patrons exert an unduly deserved degree of power over the image and reputation of restaurants.  In complete honesty, we went to Virtue because one of my boyfriend's closest friends started to work there. A former Ollson's bookstore location, the 2-level space is really striking with distressed wood, windows, hanging window seats and even a backroom game area. 
 We sat in a hanging window seat with a low table. Aesthetically pleasing, the table was a bit low for dining but perfect for snacks and drinks.
 A Manhattan and special drink of the day, frozen Pina Colada.
 Farmhouse cheese plate.
Cashel  Blue, Point Reyes and goat cheese.
The cheese was a nice mixture of taste and textures, but the bread was not the best accompaniment. Wish there was some sort of chutney or fig or fruit spread to counteract the taste of the cheese.

 Fried calamari with spicy remoulade sauce.
Nicely cooked and loved the dipping sauce.
Special of the night, slow-roasted pork.
The pork meat was pulled from different areas, was very delicious with a rich and savory pork jus. 
The one downside was the waitress who told us the specials refrained from also mentioning the price, which was almost $10 more than the regular entrees. 
 Side of Black-Eyed Peas mixed with pork jus.
 Fried okra.
The breading on the okra was greaseless, which was surprising since our waiter told us these were deep fried and not oven baked like I initially thought. I really enjoyed these and the okra was a nice contrast to the pork and black eyed peas.
Smoked Haddock Chowder
Really beautiful presentation and a nice array of seafood including mussels, shrimp, smoked haddock, clams and salmon bites. The problem with the shallow bowl and artful arrangement was the temperature of the broth.
It's a great space, the servers are eager to be helpful although I'm sure there are improvements that will naturally happen as the staff settles in. The menu's a bit difficult to navigate if you're a vegetarian or unsure of what a "Pope's Lunch" or "Shaggers Pie" includes. It's also an unusual mixture of Irish and American dishes. I'm not quite sure what engendered the array of negative reviews, but again that's part of the issue I have with yelp. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dim Sum at Fortune in Falls Church

I missed Saturday morning. With the exhaustion from the week and eye mask firmly in place, I slept until feeling fully rested, and finally got up at noon. My boyfriend has been craving dim sum for a while so we tried out a different place. We headed to Fortune in Falls Church. Dim sum is definitely best with a large group, and earlier in the day when the offerings are fresh. By the time we reached the restaurant there was only an hour left of their dim sum cart service, so some of the dishes had been sitting out for awhile.
 Deep-fried shrimp and crab claws.
 Har Gao
 Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings
I'm just not a fan. It's too greasy, full of bones and gelatinous.
 Gail Lan
Steamed Crab Dumplings
In honor of Shark Week - Shark-fin dumplings.
I would not recommend these. The flavor was unexpectedly unpleasant, the texture bothered me, and my boyfriend thought the inside was similar to uncooked spam. Blech.
Perhaps we arrived too late to enjoy nice and hot dishes, but dim sum at Fortune was not as good as our previous experiences at Mark's Duck House. The staff at Fortune swarm with their carts on the newly arriving tables, which was a bit overwhelming. Instead of the older staff of MDH and Oriental East, Fortune's cart wielders are all very young. 

Late Dinner at Faccia Luna

This week was a blur, full of making meeting appointments for our colleagues, wrangling the intern finishing up the second week of a DC internship, and attending two days of meetings. Since we also run a nonprofit organization out of our office in addition to our regular activities, this was a particularly exhausting two weeks. There's a lot of learning as we go, and some of the learning curves are quite steep. After working late nights all week, Friday night finally arrived. Arriving back home around 8:30, we headed out for dinner nearby at Faccia Luna.
 Caesar Salad 
 Special pasta with garlic, chili and oil with sausage.
Wild Mushroom ravioli in cream sauce with arugula.
My boyfriend also ordered some mussels, however, the waiter didn't write down our order and he conveniently forgot to include them in the order. Perhaps he was saving us from gluttony.

Lunch at Kaz Sushi

During a busy day of meetings with colleagues from NY, we stopped off for a brief lunch before heading out to our next engagement with USDA. Since Kaz Sushi is next door, we set off there.
 Vegetable Bento 
 Friday lunch special: Beef Teriyaki and Sushi.
Cold Ramen Special
The nicest part about an early lunch at Kaz is their promotion to take off 10% of the bill for diners who pay before 12:30 pm. With lunch finished, we set out for more ethanol discussions. The fascinating part about the ethanol industry is, the more you learn, the more questions you have. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Delivery Dinner

After arriving home late from a long day at work, the desire to cook dinner was pretty low. There are not a lot of places nearby that deliver, but down the street is a little place called Maggio's.
 Onion rings
 Beef "Donna" kebab wrap.
Similar to a beef gyro sandwich.
Steak and cheese sandwich.  
Greasy and satisfying.

Clam Sauce Two Ways

I love white clam sauce and my boyfriend prefers red clam sauce so I made two renditions.
 White wine, garlic, chopped clams and cherrystone clams with a little chopped tomato and parmesan cheese.
Red clam sauce was more tomatoes with the clams and garlic. 

Curry Chicken

With a plethora of of chicken thighs, I've been trying to think of creative ideas so we don't become quickly bored. With some curry powder, garlic, ginger, red peppers, carrots, onions and tomato with coconut milk, I made a curry of sorts.
By cooking this Sunday night, it was easy to reheat for out dinner after work on Monday. I definitely did not make it with enough heat and spice, but it was a good first experiment.