Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

One day a year, we gather together with friends and family to share a meal and give thanks for all the good things we have. Despite ups and downs in life, one constant positive is Thanksgiving, which remains firmly ingrained in the American psyche. It's a unifying national force, whether you like turkey or prefer a different main dish, it's about realizing all the things we have to truly be thankful for and sharing with others. With this in mind, we opened up our home to friends and family.
4:30 am skillet cornbread, apple pie, pumpkin pie
cranberry orange walnut bread and muffins, spinach gratin.
I'm thankful for the beautiful flowers from my sweet fiance.
I'm thankful that my fiance was in charge of the turkey this year. 
He believes in fully cleaning the turkey inside and out.
Beautifully roasted turkey.
Maybe it was all the skin manipulation or butter he massaged under the skin, but it was a lovely brown.
After realizing there were so many butter-laden dishes, I decided to add something a little lighter and brighter than my non-turkey eating friend could enjoy.
Shrimp, olives, artichokes, cucumber, parsley and orzo with a lemon-oregano dressing.
I made homemade cranberry sauce this year. 
It's not for everyone, but I loved the tartness as a palate refresher from the creamy spinach, mushroom gravy and dressing. Delicious food, good company and I got other people to play Scrabble with me. I'm thankful that my friend saw my post about pie dough failure and brought over a much-appreciated cherry pie and one of my favorite wines, Albarino. I'm also thankful that my fiance and I have 5 days off from work together, the first mini vacation since last Christmas.

Peking Gourmet Inn Pre-Thanksgiving

I took my first day off from work in six months to handle Thanksgiving dinner preparations. Despite having cooked the huge feast half a dozen times, I never seem to manage to make it as effortless an endeavor as the food magazines and Food Network celeb chefs make it look. This year, my fiance joined forces with me, and it was so wonderful to have a partner. Especially since my attempt at making dough was a complete failure, while my fiance's ad hoc version concocted with use of a potato masher and pasta scoop was fabulous. After a full day of prep work and discovering our hot water was out, we headed out for dinner at PGI.
Scallion dumplings, Hong Kong wonton soup and egg drop soup.
The dumplings are great, although the dumpling skins are thicker than Korean and Japanese dumplings.
Pork with Garlic Sprouts
The pork has a smoky flavor, and this was a great dish to share.
Yeo-Jen Shrimp
Perfectly fried with garlic bits.
Yang Chow Fried Rice.
This is not your typical Americanized soy sauce-laden fried rice dish. The shrimp were a weak point but the roast pork and chicken pieces were delightful.
Thankful for this Bounty and the best partner.

Lunches and Stuff

Some days are so busy I sit at my desk eating a sad sandwich or bowl of soup from home. Other days I pop out to indulge in something delicious for lunch.
Kaz Sushi Chicken Teriyaki Bento.
Wish there was a little more vegetables, but tasted good and definitely filling.
Maoz Junior Falafel Sandwich on Whole Wheat Pita.
Good flavored falafel with slightly bland toppings.
The best lunch on a cold, gray day.
Mabo tofu noodle soup from Sichuan Express.

Carmine's MBA Lunch Reunion

I met a bunch of interesting and diverse people in my MBA program. Since we graduated, a lot of changes have happened to my classmates. There were engagements, weddings, births and many got new jobs. We tried to meet up before, but Hurricane Irene cancelled plans for a bbq. We tried again and gathered for a late lunch at Carmine's. One couple has been married for a year, the other three couples were engaged, one as recently as that morning; and three had new jobs.
Fried calamari with marinara.
Nicely fried, good flavor and easy to share.
Portobella Mushrooms Parmigiana
Mushrooms breaded and covered in marinara and cheese.
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce.
Spaghetti and Meatballs 
Shrimp Diavolo with Fettucini
Chicken Parmigiana
In hindsight, we should have diversified the ordering better. The dishes were predominantly red sauce or covered in cheese. They handle large tables well, and the portions are designed for sharing. It was great to see everyone and catch up, and I was particularly happy to hear about the latest engagement. 

Cooking at Home

Life has been a bit hectic in the run up to "The Fattening" aka Thanksgiving and I've been a bit behind on updating. We're trying to eat a bit more vegetables, and I'm trying to diversify what we eat so it doesn't get boring. Some days the creative juices flow, other times not so much.
Mini baked potatoes with broccoli and cheddar cheese.
Oven "fried" chicken legs.
With a craving for fried chicken and crispy crunchy skin, I searched for a recipe that would satisfy without adding an exorbitant amount of guilt. Bake at 425F chicken dusted in a seasoned flour. These smelled great, with the feel of fried chicken.
Vinaigrette coleslaw.
With a frozen package including the noodles and soup mix, I added a little more spice, some frozen seafood and vegetables.
Mini okonomiyaki

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daniel O'Connells Part Deux

We headed back to Daniel O'Connells over the weekend for an early dinner. We learned last time that the restaurant fills up fairly early, especially when the upstairs area is booked for a private party. Although it was a bit cold outdoors, it was super cozy and warm upstairs.
 Beer-Battered Bangers with Fries and Curry Sauce
Although this plate was under the "appetizers" section, it's really a full meal. Great curry sauce and really nice fried sausages. Ordinary frozen fries.
 Shrimp Cocktail
I don't know why but this appealed to me.
 Guinness Cheeseburger on a bed of mashed potatoes
Burger is cooked to order, covered in Guinness cheese and sauteed onions, gravy  and two fried onion rings.
Mussels in White Wine with cream and bacon
Good but super salty.
Dinner was good, although the debate over where to house hunt was less agreeable. Unfortunately with the high price for houses in my preferred areas and our budget, buying a house with any amount of land is not possible unless we venture out to Loudoun County or farther afield. I've never had a driving desire to own an expansive home, and I definitely don't see the value in moving an hour+ car commute from where we work. HGTV marathons of House Hunters and Holmes Inspection also has me a bit wary.. I'm finally comfortable in Alexandria and hopefully we can find something that fits us without moving into suburbatory. 

Bangkok 54

My fiance has always said that he's not a big fan of Thai food in the area. I think it's because he hasn't gone to some of the better quality places. There's mediocre Thai around Old Town, but a short trip to Columbia Pike and it's a different world. Since we were working on a federal holiday, we headed out from our offices right at quitting time. We made it to Bangkok 54 in time for their happy hour specials, including discounted drinks and small plates.
 Grilled Beef Salad
Nice flavor profile, with a hit of fish sauce, spice, cilantro and red onion.
 Tom Yum Soup with Seafood
He would have preferred if the soup had a spicier kick to it. His mom has a recipe I need to try and learn.
 Spicy Mixed Seafood
The scallops were great, although I'm not a super fan of squid cut like this.
Green Curry with Shrimp
I love a good green curry, the sweetness of the coconut along with a spicy kick. This version was good but would have been nicer if a bit spicier.
Basil and chili fried rice with shrimp
The servers were really pleasant and attentive. For the first time, I sat over in the lounge area. Very comfortable banquette table and it was not as loud as the other side. Another time, I'd like to order the whole fish with chilies and garlic.  It was a nice change of pace, although for super spicy food, Korean soon dubu is still my go-to. With a comfortable experience and good Thai classics, the best feedback was my fiance finally liked a Thai place. 

Lawson's Deli Turkey Club

Rye bread, American cheese, sliced turkey with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Not a low-calorie lunch, but satisfying. I think I prefer the Club A sandwich at Axian but I was coming back from a lecture over at 15th St.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cleaning out the Refrigerator Dinner

By the end of the week, our refrigerator gets a little sparse. Trying to be creative and use up some of the odds and ends is a challenge. With some leftover miso soup with soft tofu and vegetables, these salmon steaks and hasselback potatoes were pretty satisfying.
 Salmon steaks with thinly sliced zucchini, scallions and enoki mushrooms wrapped in foil and baked.
Peruvian Salted Hasselback Potatoes
Tastes like baked potatoes with a bit of a crunch on the ridges.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace lunch

Jeff Black opened up a new, more casual restaurant on the exciting 14th St dining row. What a difference two decades make in DC living, an area that was a transitional neighborhood has blossomed into a really exciting dining destination. With a gaggle of gals, we checked out the newest addition for a leisurely lunch over the weekend.
 You can't go to a place with "oyster" in the name without trying the oysters. PDOP has an extensive list of oysters from the east and west coast, with a variety of sauces including a yuzu citrus version. The waiter was well versed in the flavor profile of the oysters, but it would have been helpful to have a written list like Hank's.
 1/2 order Mussels with garlic, tomato, parsley and white wine
 Fries versus chips
The waiter strongly recommended the chips, although one of the group had tried the fries before and highly recommended them. To solve the delicious dilemma, the fries and chips went head to head in an informal taste test. Interestingly, the super crunchy chips appealed to some of the group, while others preferred the short and thin potato fries. 
Cup of Soup of the Day
Mushroom soup with a melange of mushrooms.
 Oyster Po'Boy
Fantastic fried oysters with a crunchy French baguette. The bread was a bit small, for the $10 price tag. I get it, we're paying for the atmosphere and it's not about quantity but quality of the ingredients. I kind of dislike the extra cost for side items but do like the option of a side salad, fries or chips.
$13 "Banh Mi"
$3 banh mi in Eden Center reconfigured a little on the fancy side with shrimp and pork belly for $13 on 14th St. I understand the reason for adding a Vietnamese-influence item, since the restaurant has a New Orlean's theme and the Vietnamese have added their own influence on the food scene in NoLa. The pork belly was a bit on the thick side, making it difficult to eat in the sandwich but a nice bread choice. 
The meal was decidedly leisurely. The gumbo looked nice, although I'm pleased with the mussels and po'boy. If you decide to start off with a dozen oysters, it takes some time for the oysters to be shucked and the price ranges from $2-2.50 each. Select oysters are on special during happy hour, although it sounds like the bar area gets a bit crowded. In all, a good addition to the neighborhood. I'm not patient enough to venture there for dinner because of the no reservations policy, but will stop by again for lunch to try out a few other dishes.

Kaz Sushi Bistro

My college best friend works crazy hours in retail and hadn't met my super sweet guy since we started dating. After we got engaged, my friend's store renovation finally was completed and we were able to meet up for a long overdue meet and greet dinner.
 Fried oysters
 Fried Fugu
 Shrimp and vegetable tempura
 Grilled baby octopus
 Tofu Dengaku
Yellowtail and scallion roll, crunchy salmon roll, tuna and avocado roll plus amaebi nigiri.
Our server was great, she balanced a party of 10 and her other tables without appearing flustered at all. She also proved to my fiance that the restaurant deserved a second chance. He really enjoyed the sashimi, and he has pretty high standards, and the other items were well executed. Really great to have an indulgent dinner at Kaz while catching up with my friend and introducing him to my sweet boy. The price point is a bit higher than we normally indulge in, but we had a nice night. Prices are much gentler at lunchtime.