Sunday, March 28, 2010

Caipirinhas, Fish Tacos, Martinis...Oh Heeey!

Friday night meant a yummy dinner party followed by a night out bar hopping. I played sous chef as Selin made some yummy fish and shrimp tacos,

her 'crack sauce' (I mentioned my green crack sauce and we realized we used several similar ingredients), cabbage slaw,
salsa, corn and black bean salad and...
Caipirinhas! Between seven of us, we polished off an entire bottle of cachaca before heading out on the town. Many good times were had and the evening was quite a blur.
Needless to say, we weren't exactly functional the next day.

I love vacation.

We had a late start on Saturday morning and went to Yank Sing for some dim sum. Selin had been talking about this place for awhile and said the dim sum was legit and worth the extra cash (we're used to super cheap dim sum places). Oh my god. No joke.

So dim sum is a little too overwhelming for me so I never remember to take pictures - things just happen too fast and honestly, I'm usually more concerned with flagging carts down and eating the tasty treats. (Thanks to some intense Google image searching, I found a couple pictures of our dishes.) We sat right next to the kitchen - money spot! Immediately we grabbed some Pork Shumai,
Shrimp Dumplings,
BBQ Pork Buns, and Shanghai (soup) Dumplings.
Heaven! I was SO excited they had soup dumplings! I haven't had them since our trip to Shanghai a few years ago! These were nice and gingery and had just the right amount of meat and soupy goodness inside.

We HAD to throw some fried goodies in for good measure. Some Fried Prawns and Sesame Bean Balls were welcomed to our table as well as these awesome fried glutinous rice balls filled with a savory (somewhat barbeque flavored) meat filling. I loved the crisp shell paired with the sticky, slightly sweet rice and salty meat!

Selin's friend flagged down the Peking Duck cart and I originally wasn't going to sample any...until the woman opened her basket of buns! So you know how Peking duck is usually served with thin flour pancakes? These were fun little steamed bun pockets!
So much better than the thin, dry wrappers!

Sadly, we ended up passing up the rest of the lovely day for a nap post dim sum. At least the window was open haha. We got a couple of things done before heading out for (surprise!) dinner at Henry's Hunan in Noe Valley. Apparently we HAD to devour some meat pies. I never object to meat in pie form :)

We get to the restaurant, sit down and the five of us order three of Diana's Special Meat Pies. The waiter questions us and says 'Three?! No, maybe two.' Oh no, we were determined to order three. We then proceed to order one entree each so we can dine family style...and for some reason our waiter didn't question that decision. Hm.

The meat pies arrived and oh my they exceed my expectations! Basically seasoned meat, cheese and lettuce are sandwiched between two crispy flour tortillas. Sprinkled with some chili sauce, they were absolutely perfect!

A little note about the chili sauce I've come across on this trip - it's not only the chili flakes in oil. They mix up some fermented black beans in the chili sauce and it makes a nice salty, beany sauce! I want a jar!

For entrees, we barely made a dent in some Chow Mein Noodles with Prawn and Veggies
Bean Curd with Meat Sauce (aka Ma Po Tofu with some peas)
Hunan Spare Ribs
Sauteed Eggplant
Hunan Scallops
Ridic. We all went home with leftovers...not that we needed them! UGH! SOOO much food! Wait til you see what was consumed the following day ;p

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vacation has officially started!

Well the do nothing/no agenda portion :)

After a mighty productive morning (which included blogging!) I ran out to meet with an old coworker in the Mission for drinks. I totally showed public transportation who's boss! I must say, the buses here are AWESOME compared to DC - they actually take you places!

I planned to meet Friend at the Make Out Room not long after hitting 'post' on my blog. Eek! It looked far! Thanks to the genius, I was able to time and plan my trip (also better and more accurate than WMATA's trip planner) accordingly :)

So the Make Out Room - at first sight I thought 'Whaat? Friend wants to go here?!'
However, when I walked closer and popped my head in, I heard some fun 80s/early 90s music and all was well again. Rail drinks and beers are a mere $3!
We caught up over a couple drinks and then moved onto Medjool around the corner. Medjool was definitely snazzier than the Make Out Room, but not crowded at all.
We settled at a corner loungy table and enjoyed some delicious sangria and a plate of hummus, babagnoush, and tabbouleh. Great snacks to go with the sangria and a caipirinha that somehow ended up in front of me later in the evening (a little reminder of how I love cachaça). It was really great catching up and relaxing over drinks - perfect way to start vacation.

Made my way back to Selin's and vowed to have a sleep-in day today. Um, that doesn't work out too well when you're still a little jet lagged. Ha. I lingered for a bit and then began my day of exploring a couple neighborhoods.

I started off with some Guava Pandas for breakfast:
Yes, not quite the breakfast of champions, but they were yummy. I grabbed this bag yesterday since I needed cash for the bus. They were a little pricey, but I thought they were delicious. Not too sweet, plus I love all things gummy :)

I snacked on the pandas while hoofing up some pretty massive hills and caught some phenomenal views:
Pretty sweet, ya? GORGEOUS weather! Eventually, I came across this:
Stairs built into a hill. Pretty sure that means it's really steep. The views were worth the huffing and puffing:

I wandered into a few shops along the way before hopping on a bus to Saigon Sandwich! I've been looking forward to this for quite some time. Remember my first visit in November? Obsessed!

This time I went with the Special Combination (Roast Pork, Steamed Pork, Pate) and a Chicken Bun for good measure. I walked a bit after leaving so I could grab a bus to explore another area and find a place to eat my glorious Banh Mi. SO proud of myself for mastering the buses :)

I walked along Polk Street and stumbled on a cute store called Cheese Plus. They had a bunch of different cheeses (duh) and some interesting condiments. I walked out with a couple items, including a refreshing bevy:
Have you tried GuS Sodas? If you haven't, I recommend you do. I think they're awesome. The first one I had was Cranberry Lime and it tasted almost exactly like the mix I do at home (lime bubbly water and a splash of cranberry juice)...not too sweet and tons of bubbles! The Valencia Orange one reminded me of a less sweet version of Orangina.

At some point, I got really hungry and decided to bust into my chicken bun from Saigon Sandwich. No picture, because I was walking while eating. That was challenging enough. Plus, it wasn't very good. It was cold and not as flavorful as I wanted it to be. Plus, there were a couple unexpected items in it - a hard boiled egg and a piece of chinese sausage. MEH? I mean, it wasn't an accident. They were strategically placed in the middle of the bun. Not exactly my type of filling. I'm not a chinese sausage fan and the combination of that and the egg pretty much spoiled my snack. Fail.

Eventually I got closer to Selin's and decided to hang out in a nearby park since it was so nice out. I sat and figured it was about time I got comfortable with my banh mi :)
Hello! I love you! That little white bit on the left side is the steamed pork. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I saw steamed pork listed, but I soon realized it's sort of like deli meat. You know how deli turkey or chicken comes in a big ball and is usually pumped up with water? That's what the pork looked like.
The pate was a great little addition to the sandwich - just a slight liver taste...nothing too in your face.

I also now know what was missing from that banh mi I had in Columbia Heights. FLAVOR! ha. Saigon Sandwich's mayo is legit. it has all the flavor in it. The sweet, and savory flavor of the mayo sauce plus the pate. flavorful roast pork, and crisp veggies make it so great.

More to come...caipirinhas and fish tacos for dinner!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Greetings from gorgeous Northern California! I thought I'd squeeze in some blogging since I actually have a functioning computer :)

After a short, yet ridiculously productive day, I began my long trip to Dulles Airport...via public transportation. Metro to shuttle bus to terminal - approximate travel time: 1 hr 15 minutes. Not bad considering I dozed off for a bit on the shuttle.

Changed into my elastic pants (um, so very necessary!), breezed through security and grabbed a few essentials:
(Not pictured, my giant water) For some reason I was craving dried pineapple. That never happens but I saw the bag and immediately thought 'mmm pineapple.' Impulse shopper!

Btw, that cookie - not good. I took a couple bites halfway through my flight and thought it was too dense and orangy. Blech. To make up for the cookie fail, I cozied up with Season 1 of Arrested Development (thanks, Selin!) and tried to avoid the sleeping dude next to me that kept invading my space.

Settled in and crashed pretty early since I had to pick up my rental car at 6:30am for my little day trip to St. Helena. So here's the thing. I live in DC. Land of the flat. I also don't drive (I haven't driven in a little less than a year, which is why I sold my car). WTF am I doing starting up again in San Francisco of all places?!

Even though I wrote out the directions, I got a little lost (thanks to the randomly placed exit) and found myself freaking out a bit and crawling down steep hills and not knowing whether or not I was allowed to drive on cable car tracks. I will not be driving again during this trip.

Once I got out of the city, I had a beautiful morning drive north. Despite the morning fog, the scenery made me happy and I *almost* didn't notice it was a 1.5 hr drive.

Next thing I know I'm approaching a massive stone building on my left - hello, CIA Greystone!

Check out the view!
I explored and decided to lunch at the Wine Spectator restaurant - where 2nd year culinary students spend approximately 3 weeks cooking/learning. There was a bit of a wait for a table so I opted for the bar, which had a direct view of the kitchen.

Figured I'd splurge for lunch and got a Crisp White and Ancho Chili Braised Oxtail Empanadas (pumpkin seed salsa, cumin lime crème fraiche, cilantro salad) to start. My drink (though I really wanted a glass of wine, it seemed a bit early) was crisp, tart and refreshing!
The empanadas had a great crisp shell and soft inside - great contrast.
However, the filling sort of got lost. I guess I expected a more flavorful braise? One of the CIA instructors had mentioned something about the aggressiveness of filling flavors earlier in the day and I guess it stuck. She said when it comes to fillings, you want to season them more aggressively since they will be inside of something. I had never thought of that before and these empanadas were a perfect example of what she was talking about avoiding. I still polished them off. :p I do heart anything with sauce and/or cilantro afterall.

Because one cannot live on meatpies and juice alone, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad which was a great acidic contrast to the empanadas.
The server mentioned I should be careful of the olives because they had pits in them, but I didn't see any olives. I DID see some anchovy fillets though :) YUM!

My departing view from the Wine Spectator patio:
Ok, I'm off to meet with an old coworker for drinks in the Mission. More later :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vacation is so close I can smell it!

This time tomorrow I'll be landing in San Francisco! Hooray! I should be packing and cleaning, but instead I'm blogging ;p

I grabbed a late lunch today and since I didn't go grocery shopping, I had to buy (sad). I've been wanting to check out Mixt Greens, a new salad spot that filled in the space Organic to Go left.
From their website:
"Eco: our business puts the earth first from the food we serve (organic, sustainable, local) to the take-away containers we use (made from 100% compostable corn) to the spaces we occupy (built with renewable, recycled, and environmentally friendly materials).

Gourmet: our menu is the creation of executive chef Andrew Swallow, our food is prepared in house with the freshest, highest quality, organic, and locally sourced ingredients, we research the source of each ingredient to ensure it lives up to our high standards."
Local ingredients, fresh greens, tons of toppings - SOLD!

I was a little overwhelmed at first and I finally settled on the Cowboy (romaine hearts, herb marinated grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, black beans, sharp cheddar, red onion, point reyes blue cheese dressing with a chipotle honey drizzle).
It was pretty good, maybe a few too many onions for my taste. I really liked the dressing too! I'm not really a blue cheese dressing sort of girl, so I really liked that this was pretty mild. The chipotle honey drizzle provided a really nice smokey kick...we all know how I like my spice!

I'm almost ashamed to admit that upon first bite, I was a little surprised at the large lettuce leaves. Haha. WOW. They weren't even that big...I think I've had one too many Chop't salads. My o my.

Anyway, I'm definitely going back to Mixt to check out their sandwich options. The descriptions were making me drool in line! How do you like your salad? Lots of toppings? Chopped?

Off to pack!! Feel free to send over any San Francisco food/drink/activity suggestions...I've got a whole week :) :)

**So I just grabbed my laundry and I think it's time to retire this shirt. What do you think?
HAH! I've had this since high school - I think it wins for oldest item of clothing in my closet!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I did it!

First half marathon of the year/first long run post-injury - CHECK!

Probably not my best idea ever, but I decided to still run/walk/jog the National Half Marathon this weekend. My longest run/walk had only been 45 minutes, but I couldn't let my running buddies run their first half marathon alone - especially since I coerced them into signing up ;p

Susan came over to drop off our race packets, feast on some pasta and talk race morning logistics. Check out the nifty new bib timing:
Crazy, right? These little strips are located on the back of your bib and you need to strategically place your bib on your torso and have it visible at all times on your outermost layer. Eh....ok? I ended up attaching my bib to a t-shirt that I wore over a long sleeve shirt. Long sleeve shirt got tossed (and may I say it was quite a sight as I tried to take off the long sleeve shirt mid run) eventually. I think I prefer the D-tag timing. Much easier to deal with.

I had a pretty good jog on the Mall Friday evening - 30 minutes of straight jogging (yay!) followed by a nice long stretch session so I figured I would be good to go on Saturday morning. Plan was to take it at a comfortable jog for the first few miles and then switch to a run/walk. I was feeling good for the most part so I ended up running at a comfy pace until about mile 8 and then took it down a notch.

Kept it at a slow pace until mile 10 and then switched to the run/walk, with a little extra run at the end, and finished in 2:18. Definitely not my fastest time, but not my slowest either! I'll take it :) I stretched, Sticked and iced a bit before work and was feeling pretty good...until the next morning. OW. Achilles is still a little swollen, but not really painful. Fingers crossed I didn't mess things up too much :(

Enough about my lame run. My running buddies finished their first half marathon!! WOOO hooray for Sparky and Susan! We celebrated with a few of these
at the Brickskeller in Dupont where we met up with another half marathon finisher friend and shared some race stories. Apparently there was a dude running barefoot through the streets of DC. UM, no. I'm sorry, but every time I see people running straight up BAREFOOT, I cringe. These are city streets. They are filthy. I don't even like my shoes touching them. Who knows what you are stepping in...and I'm pretty sure there are random sharp particles scattered around. *shudder*

O wait, I forgot the most important part of the weekend - DINNER! Haha. Susan and I planned a pre-race sushi dinner, but I swapped it out for a home cooked diner last minute since I should be saving some cash. I got a little experimental and made Artichoke Edamame Pesto. Totally winged it and the consistency of the pesto in the blender was looking a too thick, but it ended up fine once I mixed it with the pasta. I must say it was a tasty success!
Bowties with Artichoke Edamame Pesto and Mushrooms
1 1/2 tbsp Artichoke Edamame Pesto (see below)
3 c bowtie pasta, cooked
1/4 c pasta water
1/2 package cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add pesto, pasta and some of the pasta water. Stir to coat, adding pasta water as necessary to thin out the mixture.
Artichoke Edamame Pesto
1 1/2 c edamame, blanched
3 cloves garlic
6 pieces quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 c hazelnuts, chopped
2/3 c olive oil
1/4 c manchego cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp chili garlic paste
14 large basil leaves

Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Add remaining ingredients and puree.

Super easy, right? I think that was my fastest meal this month! Also, note my lack of meat. No, I'm not going vegetarian...I'm just too impatient to wait for my frozen meat to defrost haha.

Tonight's dinner was another impromptu dish since I wanted to clean out my cabinets and fridge. My creation - Tahini Mustard Wheatberry Salad.
I wanted to make a fish dish and started thinking I'd do a quick seared fish over mixed greens, but when I opened up my cabinet and saw the bag of wheatberries, I thought I should try something new.
Tahini Mustard Wheatberry Salad
1/2 c wheatberries, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 c water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c tahini
2 heaping tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tbsp basil, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Boil water, salt and wheatberries for about 1 hour, drain and set aside.

In a measuring cup, combine tahini, mustard, honey, vinegar, oils and garlic powder. Scoop one heaping tablespoon of mixture into wheatberries and stir in basil and roasted red peppers. Let sit for at least 20 minutes for flavors to blend.

I made a simple white fish (um, I say white fish because I don't remember what the vacuumed pack freezer pack was) to set atop my wheatberry salad. I seasoned each side with salt and pepper and cooked it for a couple minutes on each side, drizzling it with some of that Balsamic Glaze my sister sent over.
Light and delicious - perfect for the weather we've been having lately! To round it all out, I had a mini salad with some leftover Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette.
Um, these pictures make my meal look GIGANTOR. Let it be known, that piece of fish was about 2/3 the length of my iPhone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hello Spring!

Such a gorgeous day in the District! I'm finally done with jury duty and since we got out early, I was able to squeeze in a much needed run/walk outside. AMAZING! Not going to lie, I wasn't exactly a speed or distance demon and I'm really bummed that this weekend's half is going to be a rough jog. Bleh.

Anyway, my brain is completely fried from earlier this week (more on that at a later date) so I'm just going to leave you with my dinner creation. Hope everyone is having a fun St. Patrick's Day!
Pasta with Tangy Spicy Broccoli Rabe
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp chili garlic paste
3 tbsp goat milk feta
freshly ground black pepper
1.5 c pasta, cooked and drained
1/4 c reserved pasta water

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Saute onion and chili garlic paste for 3-4 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add broccoli rabe and cook for 3 minutes before adding pasta sauce. Stir and lower heat. Add pasta, feta, black pepper and some pasta water. Stir to coat pasta and let cook for another minute or two before serving.

A completely random, but delicious creation. I had leftover broccoli rabe from this weekend's dinner and some leftover sauce and goat milk feta from the previous weekend's dinner. I HAD to use these ingredients and luckily they went pretty well together :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dark Blue

No, I'm not wearing my sad pants. I'm just listening to Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin on repeat. It was totally my cooking theme song today and I LOVE it :)

I planned a dinner for coworkers this evening and had quite the ambitious menu planned. We all know I love a good challenge, but even I must admit I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I had a couple kitchen mishaps and a few space out moments, but in the end, everything worked out well :)

I was able to get some prep work done last night when I got home around 8:30...made my Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce from the other weekend, some Eggplant Spread
and baked a larger version of those Pecan Tarts I made for my last dinner fiesta.
Ran to work at 10am with a plan to have everything started by 5pm. Um, fail. I still had to pick up a few items from the grocery store AND get the main dish prepped - Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. Did I mention I had absolutely no plan of attack?? I googled a few recipes and knew I needed a few basic ingredients: short ribs, celery, carrots, herbs, onions, red wine, beef broth and tomato paste. I've only made short ribs once before and I actually followed a recipe. I didn't have a recipe this time around. Oops.

After my pitstop at the Gigante, I frantically searched for a recipe I could follow. I settled on Daniel Boulud's Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine with Celery Duo from Epicurious. Sort of. So remember how I've mentioned that I'm not exactly the best at following instructions and how I'm easily distracted by anything moving or audible? Yeeeeaaah. I basically threw the ingredients I had in a pot and sort of followed the directions. I had maybe 10 short ribs (different sizes) and dusted them with salt, lots of pepper and flour, browned them in batches and then sauteed some carrots, onions and celery in a dutch oven. In hindsight, I really should have trimmed them of excess fat. Tossed some rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf in and then the wine. Boiled it for a bit then added the ribs...then realized I had a can of tomato paste sitting on the counter.

Oops. Scoops went in and got shoved into crevasses before I poured in the beef broth. Overall, not bad. I probably could have kept them in for another half hour, but I was hungry ;p

While those were cooking, I got to work on the other dinner elements: Corn and Black Bean Fritters drizzled with Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce and Crisp Chorizo (AGH! As I type this I just realized I never took a picture of those glorious bastards! How did I let that slip???), Pão de Queijo, Rosemary Polenta, Fennel Salad with Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette (also failed to take a picture...because it was a salad...), and Spicy Garlicky Broccoli Rabe.
I'm a piler. I'm realizing this as I make more fancy looking plates. I like to pile meal elements on top of each other. Is that weird? I think they look really weird side by side. Hm. long as they all taste good together, right?

Another thing I should mention - I'm weird about textures and flavors. I don't like having a plate full of all soft, creamy or rich foods. I like having a varied plate. A little crunch here, a little acidity or bitterness, some rich, tender items...a random corn kernel in my mooshy polenta.

Overall, I think my goodies got a thumbs up? Score. Here are the recipes for you to try on your own:

Corn & Black Bean Fritters
1 c Bisquick
1/3 c whole milk
1 egg
1 c frozen corn, defrosted and drained
1/2 c black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1 tbsp manchego cheese, shredded

Whisk Bisquick, milk, hot sauce, egg, garlic powder, black pepper and salt in a large bowl. Stir in corn, black beans and cheese.

Heat a skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Drop 1 tbsp of batter into the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Drizzle with Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce and sprinkle with browned chorizo bits.

Pão de Queijo (adapted from Amy34's LiveJournal)
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn oil
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese

Bring oil, milk and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour tapioca flour into a large glass bowl. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir milk and oil mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon (you will not use the whole mixture) until a firm ball forms. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before using a hand mixer to stir in cheeses. Once cheese is combined, add eggs one at a time and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350. Fill mini muffin pan with about 1 tbsp of batter in each slot. Bake for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

I love this cheese bread. I first had it at Fogo de Chão and it's like my crack. I can't get enough of the cheesy, gooey goodness! I'm on a manchego cheese kick which is why it's showing up a lot...parmesan alone would be fine in this.

Eggplant Spread
1 large eggplant, sliced thinly
2 tomatoes, diced with juices
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced thinly
1/4-1/2 c olive oil
1 tbsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a wide saucepan or a frying pan with a lid, drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to medium heat. Layer eggplant slices on the bottom, overlapping slightly. Follow with a layer of onions, a layer of tomato, sprinkle of salt and pepper and another layer of eggplant. Drizzle that layer with some olive oil and repeat until all ingredients are used. Cover and drop heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

A friend of mine made this one summer and I've been addicted ever since! It's such an easy, simple and delicious spread for bread, crostini or pita!

Spicy Garlic Broccoli Rabe
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, cut in half
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan with lid. Add garlic and chili paste and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add white wine, toss and cover for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Perfect end to a rainy day :)