Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome 2012!

After sleeping in, it was time to welcome in the new year. The best gift was breakfast made by my fiance.
Eggs, bacon, oranges with a baguette, Bloody Mary and coffee.
Breakfast grits with cheddar and pepperjack cheese and scallions.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, updating this food blog and watching a marathon of Murder She Wrote. The Hallmark movie channel has some interesting commercials, including constipation medication,  adult diapers, sweatpant jeans, easy boiled eggs, and some weird Snuggie-like outfit called the Forever Lazy.  

Wine Murder Mystery NYE Party

I have some pretty amazing friends with a multitude of talents. One of them is a fantastic party planner and she decided to host a New Year's Eve murder mystery party. With a story set in Napa Valley and a colorful cast of characters, our hostess with the mostest made some delicious foods and coordinated the party interaction. She even made special wine labels!
Some excellent Underwood vintages
Olives, grapes, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and truffled popcorn.
The truffle oil on the popcorn is great (I think I need to get a bottle). All of little bites paired well with the wine.
Endive with chevre, orange slices, chives and slivered almonds.
Ribolitta (Tuscan bread soup)
We all came in costume, and our hostess gave us scripts with dialogue and secrets to reveal over the course of the game. My character, Tiny Bubbles, was a bit of a tart. It was an entertaining evening and a nice way to wrap up the year. The downside was the long metro ride home and dearth of taxicabs. 

Great Start to New Year's Eve

Pho #15 large
We went to our neighborhood pho joint for some restorative pho. It's not as nuanced a broth as Pho 75, but it's much closer, and I like that they offer vegetarian pho, shrimp pho, chicken pho with either white or dark meat and all the regular beef bowls. They also have summer rolls and spring rolls, or rice dishes. 
It's a great start to the day, but I hate the cramped parking lot that shares spots with a Hispanic grocery store. Almost every visit, I've seen really terrible driving. Life's too short to get in fights with other people over parking spots. 

Office Dinner with Japanese Homecooking

My boss hosted an office dinner to celebrate the return visit of a colleague reassigned to Tokyo and the wedding of my coworker. Unfortunately both my fiance and her husband had caught colds and had to cancel at the last minute. Their loss, it was a delicious dinner. His wife is a remarkable cook, and the care and thought she put into the dishes were evident from first smell, sight and taste.
 Kamaboko, satsuimo (mountain potato), konnyaku, simmered burdock root wrapped with thin-sliced beef, snow peas and carrots.
 Lemon pepper chicken wings, salt-roasted new potatoes.
 Freshly fried kushikatsu with pork and onion.
 Tonkatsu sauce on the pork and onion kushikatsu.
 Homemade chirashi sushi.
Perfectly seasoned and cooked sushi rice.
Tonjiru Soup
Pork, onions and carrot in a delicate broth.
Homemade tofu balls, cheesecake, annin dofu and fresh fruits with coffee rounded out the amazing dinner. 

Last Office Lunches of the Year

Since I changed jobs at the end of May, it's taken time to earn vacation days. We're hoping to travel to Japan in 2012 and I wanted to save up as many holidays as possible. Therefore, I was stuck working during the week before and after Christmas. Luckily, it was a quiet few days in the office, with most of the building closed for the holidays.
Caught up with my friend on a rainy work day during the abbreviated work week for lunch. We went to Luna Cafe on Connecticut Avenue. While I used to like their tomato basil soup with grilled cheese, I had consumed enough dairy in the previous few days and tried something different.
 Turkey Burger with avocado, tomato, lettuce and red onion.
 Axian Roast Beef, cheddar sandwich with horseradish mayo on marbled rye bread.
I love this bread. The beef was a mistake, a little fatty and chewy compared to normal, and the horseradish was too spicy. I should have had the turkey instead.
Feeling under the weather, a takeout order of mapo tofu noodle soup was just the thing when you can't find a decent bowl of steaming pho. I like that you can order the soup with pork or without.  Proximity to Sichuan Express does not help with weight loss. 

Famous Dave's BBQ

The night before my parents arrived, we went out for a late dinner at Famous Dave's. While was at work, my fiance had the day off and he cleaned the apartment from top to bottom. Afterwards he braved the traffic and shopping malls to pick up some last minute gifts and a new entertainment center to hold the tv, dvds and other equipment. 
 Half rack of ribs with broccoli, mashed potatoes, corn and corn muffin.
Smoked Beef Tips with macaroni and cheese, fries, corn and corn muffin.
The ribs were smokey and good, and there are many different sauces to add. The rib tips were tougher and a different texture. We were probably the last diners, but our waiter was very efficient and we didn't feel rushed. A plus, they have sweet tea, which my fiance likes to drink when eating bbq.

Christmastime Nonstop Eating

With my parents visiting us for the holidays, we spent ages cleaning and preparing for their visit. Stuffing four people into a one bedroom in the US is a recipe for tight quarters and potential conflict. Somehow it works in Japan, perhaps since you can fold up futons and store in the closets during the day to use the space for living space. In hindsight, the biggest issue was only having one bathroom.
 Homemade Tomato Basil Soup
With onion, garlic, red pepper and carrots, this is a super vitamin-packed soup that paired well with the grilled ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches I made after we picked them up from the airport. 
 I also made a mushroom soup without cream. With an immersion blender the soup achieved a creamy texture without the fat and guilt. Given a choice, my parents couldn't decide so I gave them smaller bowls of both.
 Football Snacks
Chorizo, proscuitto, brie, cheddar, pepperjack, fig butter, marinated mozzarella, peanuts, chocolate truffles, olives and shrimp cocktails.
 Christmas Eve Roast Beef
First time roasting a boneless rib roast, and it ended up a tad closer towards medium than medium rare. We had talked about a stuffed pork roast or roasting a chicken, but the seasoned rib roast stood out at the meat counter to my fiance. Served the sliced beef along with mashed potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.
 Fruit-topped custard pie from Whole Foods. 

Crustless broccoli quiche for Christmas Day breakfast.
Served along with oranges, cinnamon buns and cookies.

Turkey lasagna for Christmas Day dinner at my brother's.
We watched a four year old open a mountain of presents for over an hour. A tad excruciating, made more so by the arctic room temperature.
We also went to a few restaurants during their stay. Daniel O'Connell's in Old Town, Lighthouse Tofu for soon dubu and hamul pajeon, a historic burger and fries at Mount Vernon food court, and Papa John's pizza.

Full Kee, Full Bellies

We watched Kung Fu Panda recently, and I love the scenes with Po eating dumplings and noodle soups. Fortunately, my fiance is also easily persuaded by what we watch. The dilemma was whether to head to Peking Gourmet Inn or Full Kee. Since PGI is super busy normally and extra busy during the holidays, we ventured over to Full Kee for Cantonese.
 Steamed Dumplings
The wrapper is thicker than I prefer.
 Wonton noodle soup with roast duck
While the soup was good and I liked the wontons and noodles, the roast duck was a little greasy. 
 My fiance loves the roast duck here.
I am less of a fan and prefer the style at PGI instead.
 Best Dish
Sauteed snow peas with garlic. 
Seafood Panfried Noodles
We liked the thinner crunchy noodles with this dish compared to the version at PGI. The seafood assortment and sauce is better at PGI, but priced $20 less, the Full Kee version is a more affordable alternative.

Malaysia Kopitiam

Curry Laksa noodle soups were just the thing for a cold December day before the holidays started. Met up for lunch with my friend and we ordered the chicken curry laksa and the vegetable curry laksa. I knew the flavor was different, but seeing them side by side, you can really see how different the broths are. 
 Chicken Curry Laksa
The dark chicken meat stands up to the rich spice and coconut broth.
Vegetable Curry Laksa
Nice array of vegetables, but the broth lacks a flavor dimension present in the chicken version.
With a side of roti, it was a deliciously filling lunch. Although, I do wish the soups arrived hotter.