Sunday, September 30, 2012

Turkish Festival in DC

In its 10th year, I finally checked out the Turkish Festival with an MBA friend. It was a stunning fall day, sunny and at times even hot, and a lot of fun. We met up on the early side, just after noon, which was a good idea. We were able to pick up some different Turkish foods while the lines were manageable.
 When I think of Turkish food, one of the big ones is 'doner kabab'. 
 While wandering around before my friend arrived, I checked out all of the food stalls to see what they were offering.
 Picked up some tasty dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) from TurCuisine and a bottle of water. These were nicely wrapped and a great start to the day.
 After my friend arrived, we picked up a doner sandwich from Istanbul Doner.
 A small side of baklava with the doner sandwich.
 This was definitely not what I had imagined when I ordered the beef doner.
The bread was a little less than fresh. I ended up eating only the beef. bah...kind of a waste of calories.
 Pretty baklava, in a sweet glaze.
 Hmmm...feeling like a lemming, we got into the longest line at Kazan. Maybe these people knew something we didn't?
 This is more like it. A spinning hunk of lamb on a spit being sliced off with what reminded me of electric hair clippers.
 Sliced lamb and sliced chicken for doner sandwiches.
 Spin and roast my pretty...Clearly the chicken in the middle was not the go-for item.
 Why hello...this is much more like it. Delicious, albeit greasy doner lamb sandwich.
I never found the place that had a nicely stuffed doner in pita that we saw a couple enjoying near us.
Ezme had a booth too.
This is one of my favorite Turkish meze joints in Dupont. Their muhammara dip is fantastic.
We watched some fun dance performances too at the main stage. I really appreciated that they set up a whole seating area with folding chairs. This helped ensure a good view of the stage and a good place to sit down, eat some fun Turkish food, and enjoy the festival. 

Pete's Apizza in Clarendon pre-Godfather 2 Viewing

Owning a house is expensive in the greater DC area. One of the benefits of renting in the Clarendon area is apartment buildings with high-end amenities, like the building one of my friends lives in. She has a fabulous gym, party room and even a movie viewing room with large screen and comfortable theater seating. Before watching the Godfather 2, we gathered at Pete's Apizza in Clarendon for dinner. 
 Small Spinach Salad
Goat cheese, roasted tomato, pine nuts and a kalamata olive dressing on baby spinach.
This was a surprisingly delicious salad. I need to fmake the olive dressing at home.
Large pizza, half with clams and garlic, half with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage and pepperoni.
The crust...oh the crust was fantastic, thin with a great crunch and good flavor. The husband was definitely not a fan of the clam pizza option, at all. He did like the other half a lot. Good pizza, nice establishment, and a great meal before watching how every family has a Fredo.

Lighthouse Tofu

What a long week at work. We both attended a lot of events, including a full day conference on Myanmar/Burma. After getting home on Friday, we did our Rush Fit workout and then headed over to Annandale for some Korean food.
 Assorted pan chan.
We ordered a large seafood pancake (hamul pajeon), large Cass beer and a bottle of soju, and two mushroom soon dubu, one spicy, one spicy spicy.
Leftover soon dubu.
Spicy on the left (orange), spicy spicy version on the right (red).
For brunch on Saturday, we finished the leftover pajeon, soon dubu, rice with tea and fried salted mackerel with arugula salad. The mackerel is a super healthy oily fish, but wow it's a pungent item to cook indoors. My Korean friend looked at me like I was nuts for cooking this indoors when I told her about it.

Cooking at Home

We picked up groceries closer to home for the last week at Trader Joe's in Old Town Alexandria instead of driving all the way to Fairfax to Super H Mart. With TJ's more limited selection, I tend to cook less Asia-inspired meals and go back to my roots with regular American dishes. 
 Sausage, kale, mushroom and onion pasta bake with mozzarella cheese.
Made this on Sunday so we had a tasty dinner ready to reheat during the work week and leftovers to freeze.
 Calzones for Sunday football 
This was the first time I've made calzones in ages. With some refrigerated pizza dough from TJ's, super easy dinner to enjoy while watching the Redskins lose another week. Baking on parchment paper makes this super easy to clean up too.
 Calzone with kale, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion and cheese.
The husband was surprised that this was so tasty after starting from just dough and things. 
Vegetable soup with baked mini turkey meatballs.
Red peppers, kale, carrots, onion, celery and zucchini helped make the base of the soup.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners

We love spicy food. The husband and I are both heat-seekers, but in different ways. He loves when he eats spicy peppers that make him sweat rivers. I love the ma-la deliciousness of Sichuan peppercorns with a nice heat the hits the tongue in different areas. I find myself grinding up some Sichuan peppercorns into just about anything and crave the spice and heat. 
We headed over to Seven Corners last night to assuage my Sichuan cravings. We saw a few couples waiting, but by the time we parked, a few tables turned over and we were seated at a table after a brief wait. This is not a fancy restaurant, and you shouldn't come expecting to order Americanized Chinese. Despite the moniker, this is not Cantonese but Sichuan. 
Dan Dan Mein
The noodles in this version as similar to linguine, which is a bit weird. You have to toss the noodles in the sauce, which collects at the bottom of the bowl. This version is not as spicy as Sichuan Pavilion and Sichuan Jin River.
Zhong Dumplings with pork and spicy sauce.
Needing something green to cut through the impending oil and spice, sauteed spinach with garlic.
Mapo Tofu
This version has slices of leeks.
Beef and vegetables in spicy broth.
This is similar to to tender beef, and the sour cabbage and celery add a nice vinegary bite to the hot and spicy dish. 
We took home the leftovers, which made a fantastic brunch with the addition of some more vegetables to the beef dish the next day. Sometime soon we're going to have to order some of the Sichuan dishes from Great Wall to compare mala and spice. 

Overwood Brunch in Old Town Alexandria

The husband had a super long Friday as he accompanied a VIP all day to Pennsylvania and back. His day started off at 5:30 am, and he was on the go until he finally returned home at 10:30 pm. After a good night's sleep, we started out bright and early on Saturday morning. We headed to Old Town so he could get a haircut. I wandered around the quaint sidewalks, noting that most of the stores do not open until at least 11 am. I wandered around a special charity shop whose proceeds benefit the blind, and found two books. After meeting up, we headed to Overwood for a big brunch.
Super fluffy and light blueberry pancakes. 
Cheese grits with poached eggs, toast and bacon.
The grits were sooo creamy and delicious, with a hint of garlic. The eggs were poached perfectly.
Eggs Chesapeake
Two poached eggs on crabcakes and an English muffin with crispy homefries.
We rarely have big brunches these days, but Overwood is always a solid choice, and probably my favorite brunch spot in Old Town. After a nice post-brunch nap, I did a workout, the husband finally had time to thoroughly wash the car, and I headed up to Clarendon to see two lovely ladies. Overall, a pretty great day.

District Commons Restaurant in Foggy Bottom

We've had a super busy September so far at the office, with high level visits every week including the new company president. Japanese companies are interesting in the manner they rotate their Japanese staff into subsidiaries overseas. After two years, our boss is returning home and we have a new office GM. 
Since it was my coworker's birthday on Friday, I took her out to celebrate for lunch. We walked over to Foggy Bottom and scored a table by the window. The restaurant is very open and can become pretty loud. I definitely recommend asking for one of the booths by the window if they're available. 

Pretzel Bread with beer-mustard-butter ($2)
A smidge greasy, the bread was a great way to start off.
Arugula Salad with Pimento cheese fritters, chicken cracklings ($10)
with a side of macaroni and cheese ($5). The Mac and Cheese was super creamy. 
Seafood Cobb Salad ($18)
with avocado, Benton bacon, sundried tomatoes, radish, chopped egg, blue cheese, cold salmon, shrimp, and lump crab meat.
The bacon was super fatty, and I would have preferred a crispier, less fatty bacon.
The service was very good, observant without being intrusive. Our waitress read our table pretty well, and I bet does well taking care of patrons conducting business lunches. Next time I might try one of their flatbread s and a salad, or perhaps the mussels. The crabcake sandwich here is a pretty nice rendition. 

Nationals vs. Dodgers Game

The husband was given a pair of tickets to the Nationals Game on Thursday against the Dodgers. He had a colleague from Tokyo in DC for a few days for a conference, so we picked up a game day ticket for him. We introduced his colleague to probably DC's most famous food, Ben's Chili Bowl halfsmoke all the way.
While not a thing of beauty, this is seriously delicious ballpark treat.
Halfsmoke (combination of sausage and hotdog flavor) topped with shredded cheese, beef chili, diced raw onions, mustard and melted cheese.
Feeling ambitious, the husband and Kaneko-san ate two each.
This was our first time this season to watch the Nationals at the stadium, and a fantastic night to go. For the first time in decades, the Nationals won the game and secured their bid to post-season play. Surprisingly, the Nationals have been in first place of the Nationals East Coast division. 

Paul in Downtown DC

What downtown DC definitely needs more of, is cute outdoor seating areas. Fortunately the scaffolds that had been hiding this stretch of Connecticut Avenue have come down, revealing the super cute Paul. A French bakery known for its bread, with locations in Japan, Paul has opened three stores in DC in the last year: Penn Quarter, Downtown (Connecticut and 17th) and Georgetown. 
Enjoying the last bit of nice weather at lunchtime.
I picked up a ham and swiss cheese baguette sandwich. ($7.85)
Fantastic bread, this could definitely be split in two. Reminded me of the nice baguette sandwiches we ate during our honeymoon in Norway. I stopped by another day, and their sandwich offerings do not look as fresh and nice later in the day. 

Meaza Ethiopian Restaurant on Columbia Pike

Most of the well-known Ethiopian restaurants are located in DC. On the weekend, the last thing I want to do is venture back into the city. Instead, since moving down to Alexandria, I've been trying to check out some different Virginia restaurants. Since the husband isn't a super fan of Ethiopian food, I had to wait to try out Meaza until a lunch date with one of my friends. 
Lentil Sambusa
Interestingly crispy on the outside but a little cold on the inside. The lentil filling had a nice spice.
Vegetable Super Combo with another dish of  Beef Tibs with butter and spices. 
I liked most of the vegetable varieties, except for the red one with pieces of injera. The tibs came out in a sizzling hot plate. 
Meaza is an interesting place and it was good to try it out. It looks like they have a good set up for evening music performances with speakers and lights installed in the ceiling, and they have side rooms perfect for banquets or large private parties. My lunch date barely ate that much so perhaps she didn't enjoy the meal that much. I put a decent dent in everything as I started to feel more human after overdoing open bar at my friends' wedding the night before. Doubtful I'd go back, since the prices were a bit high, the service a bit slow, and the location inconvenient for some of my other friends who like Ethiopian food.

Sichuan Pavilion on K Street

Since the husband needed to work until 7 pm, we ended up grabbing dinner at Sichuan Pavilion, located conveniently one block away from our offices. This spot is a favorite of many of my former Japanese coworkers at my previous job. While we were there, we even saw a large party from the Japanese Embassy arrive. 
Customized Water Glasses: New PR push for people to drink DC water.
The husband often has to come here for business dinners, so he has a number of favorite dishes. 
These are two of his choices: cold jellyfish and cold chicken in spicy sauce.
I'm not a huge fan of either, but I do prefer the chicken dish here compared to the version at Sichuan Jin River in MD.
This is more like it. Dan Dan Noodles
Sichuan Pavilion uses super thin noodles and their dan dan dish is a little soupier than other places. A nice combination of spicy pork with spinach in a spicy broth. Usually it's more fiery, but the flavor seemed a bit tame. Or perhaps my taste buds just craved a spicier, incendiary broth.
Tender Beef in Spicy Sauce this dish. The beef really is tender, and you can see the spicy chili flakes.

Daniel O'Connell's Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria

After the August lull, our work schedules have kicked back up into full gear. I couldn't find enough relevant think tank events to attend in August, and now have to deliberate which timely and interesting-sounding event to attend. We're also working longer hours. Feeling unmotivated to cook dinner, we stopped off at a local restaurant after work. We haven't been back to O'Connell's since my parents visited half a year ago.
A very literal dish of Chicken Curry.
Diced Chicken in a Curry Sauce on white rice. The husband liked it, but we were surprised there were no vegetables included all.
Feeling a touch of fall in the air, I chose the Irish Shepherd's Pie.
Seriously savory and comforting with a light salad on the side. The cast iron keeps the meat and potatoes nice and hot. I'm definitely ordering this again.
Best thing: The husband didn't have to wash dishes, and I didn't spend over an hour in the kitchen finagling something edible out of the refrigerator after a long day of work. Win-Win.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Royal Restaurant in Old Town

We decided to try out a different restaurant near the Trader Joe's in Old Town. It's an old diner that is apparently popular for breakfast. It was kind of weird place when we tried it out for a casual dinner this week.  
Fried calamari with marinara sauce and cocktail sauce.
Spaghetti with meatballs (this came with a trip to the salad bar).
Buffalo chicken sandwich with provolone cheese.
Ever since Chick Fil-A's owner came out with his staunch support for a set of beliefs I cannot support, the fried chicken sandwich joint has been on the banned list for us. Unfortunately I've been fixating on the idea of a crispy fried chicken sandwich ever since. This did not assuage that craving.

Making Mapo Tofu at Home

I have a Sichuan mapo tofu obsession. I'm obsessed and continuing to try to get the flavor and spicing correct in my homemade versions. The sauce is a wild mixture of chili powder, sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorns, fermented black beans, chili oil, tobanjan (spicy chili bean paste), a dash of this, a splash of that. I'm getting closer and closer. My husband is a fabulous taste tester too. 
Bok Choy with oyster sauce.
Mapo Tofu with ground pork and scallions.
Served with hot rice, this was a super satisfying dinner, and an even more delightful bento lunch the next day.