Sunday, September 30, 2007

Las Tapas Birthday Night

For the night of Kym's birthday we invited some of the friends we've made in the short time we've been here and headed to Las Tapas on King street. Tapas has long been one of our favorite types of cuisine, but its never quite the same with only 2 people sharing the dishes (and it's not quite fair for me to order a meat dish in those situations). So with six other people joining us for the occasion we were very much looking forward to it.

An immediate nice touch was that even though I couldn't see many groups of our size in the restaurant, Las Tapas was well prepared for such groups with large round tables making for much easier sharing of the dishes (no pushing together rectangular tables!)

Dinner was great fun as tapas meals tend to lend themselves to a more interactive dinner in comparison to the ones where people get their individual dishes and puts their heads down until finished. The food was definitely good. They had classic Spanish tapas dishes like garlic shrimp and patatas bravas as well as main dishes like Paella that you could share as well. The decor and atmosphere were very pleasant and the service was good--although there was a strange situation with the check where they were unable to split the 'required gratuity' (is that an oxymoron?) that they put on parties of 6 or more which left me with a funny looking bill including a 150+% tip and an extra blank line for 'additional tip'!

The only detraction from this place was that I thought the dishes were a little expensive. The vegetable paella in particular was $17 while consisting mainly of rice in a modest-sized dish. Still, a great meal overall with some pretty good food and fun atmosphere.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was my lovely wife's birthday so I decided to bake her a cake. Remembering one of our favorite desserts that we've ever had at a restaurant (Roy's in San Diego), I looked up some recipes for Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Currently when it comes to finding new recipes, I go back and forth between Cook's Illustrated's New Best Recipe cookbook (my overall favorite cookbook) and It can be difficult to choose which go to. In a way it is like deciding between a published encyclopedia and Wikipedia. One is almost always well-researched, proofread and accurate while the other is an consensus of a huge number of contributers which can also lead to some fantastic information. In the end I went with a commentator's modification of a highly-rated recipe on, but it's certainly possible that New Best Recipes' would have been better.

Regardless, the recipe turned out delicious:


- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 18 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 6 eggs (3 whole eggs, 3 whites)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
3. Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave in a bowl with a splash of water (mix together every 15-30 seconds until melted). Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
5. Amply grease a 10 inch round cake pan (preferably a springform pan, in which case you need to double-wrap the pan with aluminum foil to avoid water from the water bath seeping in). Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Put this pan into a larger pan (I used our large roasting pan for this) and fill this pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.

My suggestion is to put pieces in the microwave for about 15 seconds so that its the consistency some refer to flourless chocolate cake as 'molten chocolate', before serving with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Absolutely delicious, I think next time I might experiment with using milk chocolate, though the contrast in temperature and flavors of bitter hot chocolate and cold sweet ice cream was superb! It's times like this that I dream again of going to culinary school to be a pastry chef.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Though our most proximate general locations to go out are Old Town and Del Ray, while searching Yelp I found a place very nearby to us, Rustico. I've always wanted to have a comfortable place to have regular stops with right around the corner, so I had high hopes for Rustico. Unfortunately, I doubt this is going to turn into that sort of place.

The first problem with Rustico is the name. Although it is a nice sounding name, unless the owners were going for irony, 'Rustico' seems a very strange name for the joint. In Italian, 'Rustico' means 'peasant' which is odd for a place with $6-10 beers and $15-25 entrées. "Goat Cheese & Duck Trap Smoked Salmon Terrine" isn't exactly what comes to mind when I think of 'peasant food'. The clientèle there was certainly anything but peasant-like but rather surprisingly upscale.

This is not to say that I didn't like Rustico. The beer list was more than extensive, the food looked very tasty and the mosaic-style decorations were very cool. However, it was not what I was hoping for from the local neighborhood bar/eatery named 'rustic'.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bar Louie

Having been here in D.C a few weeks now, we finally made the trip into the heart of D.C. along with the swarms of tourists. By that I mean the zoo, White House, Washington Monument, and the National Mall (apparently a massive National park and not a building of Brookstone's and Discovery Channel stores as I had believed). After cruising the area for a while, the heat and amount walking we had done that day started to weigh on us so we headed back towards the Metro. Along the way however, the promise of appetizers, a cool drink and air conditioning beckoned us to give a place there a try, specifically Bar Louie.

Apparently Bar Louie is a fairly well-established chain of bars in the Chicago area, though I had never heard of them. Quickly I could see why it would be popular. Though some might see it as 'confused' I quite liked the meshing of different styles of bars. In one sense it was a lounge with comfortable booths an low-level lighting. In another sense it was a sports bar with screens playing the college games in most every direction. In a few hours, it looked like it could easily turn into a night club-type setting with good music playing, a long, well-stocked bar and standing tables.

The food was pretty standard bar fare but definitely some tasty looking options to decide between. The service was very friendly and accomodating, however I had one gripe which was that the tortilla chips we ordered were distinctly a bit...stale. And no, this is not coming from some spoiled San Diegan, as I confirmed at the next restaurant I had chips at. Based on everything else about this place however, I am almost certain this was an unfortunate one-off mistake and not an indication of the overall quality of the place given everything else.

Prices were about what you would expect at this sort of place, definitely not to crazy, but not exactly any Happy Hour steals on the menu. Overall though, somewhere I could see myself returning to next time I'm in the area!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Chadwick's Happy Hour

Right now we are unfortunately without that great coupon book we used to abuse in San Diego, so last night we decided to check out what local happy hours there are with a combination of Yelp and DC Happy Hour Guide.

Our first stop was Stella's which looked like a good happy hour, but after the half hour walk to get there we found it was closed! And not the 'closed-between-lunch-and-dinner' type of closed, I mean 'out of business' from what we could tell. This even more disappointing given the fact that our second choice was on the complete opposite side of Duke street.

Fortunately the quality of our second stop made up for this. Chadwick's happy hour menu is chock full of classic and yummy bar food for very cheap prices (around $3-4 per dish) and the drinks are nicely priced as well ($2-3 for bottle beer and well drinks).

The atmosphere was a refreshing mix of all sorts of different people. The first person we sat next to was wearing a tuxedo (which worried us a bit a first that we weren't properly dressed) followed by college age kids, followed by 40+ couples on a date and even an older gentleman in a fisherman's cap appearing to buy his dinner for the night with the low-priced happy hour appetizers. Although it was very busy, the ceiling was huge which prevented the sound from reverberating too much like it did in Murphy's, the bartender was extremely friendly and the food service was quick.

The dinner entrees looked delicious as well, but the happy hour will probably be what draws us back in the future!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Murphy's Trivia

Although we thought on principle we needed to do more exploring of our surrounding neighborhood eateries, the lure of Quiz Night at Murphy's Pub was too much and so we headed down there at 8:00 last night.

The special of half-price burgers was great for me, but I thought it was rather strange that the veggie burger was not included in this. I guess it was because the veggie burger is cheap in the first place, but still, a bit odd.

Going to trivia nights was something I did several times as a student in Hull and always enjoyed being humbled as we'd always get walloped, especially when I offered no help on the more Euro-centric questions.

In some ways this trivia night was even better than the ones I had been to in England. Specifically, it was six different sets of ten questions including two special picture rounds and a clever 'theme' round where all the answers had a double-entendre related to golf. The quizzes I went to in England tended to be around 30-40 questions, so the extra length was nice. Although my English wife might not agree, I also appreciated having a better chance at answering the more American questions.

I do have one gripe about the night. While we were a ways off from winning of course, the top two 'teams' were actually one rather large group of friends/trivia buffs who I'm sure were conferring with each other most of the night. While its fine for a bunch of people to work together, its a bit cheeky to call yourselves two teams and nab two of the prizes. I imagine the 4th place team who missed out was probably a bit more miffed than I was.

Still, all in all a very fun night (much less crowded than Saturday night as I expected) and a long one too what with 60 questions!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Red Mei Delivery

It's been a long week so far and while we didn't feel like cooking, we didn't quite feel like making the 2 miles there-and-back walk to King Street so we decided to check out a delivery place available in our area. A nice arrangement our apartment building has with local eateries is a wall where they can put brochures up which I much prefer to my previous situation of brochures hanging on my doorknob as I got home or slipped under the door.

As you'd expect the majority of the brochures consist of similar looking pizzas, and while I certainly am a fan of pizzas, I don't eat it in the frequency that the proportion of brochures would seem to indicate is the norm. Eventually we found Red Mei, a 'fresh Asian cafe' which looked promising and also importantly: cheap.

The menu selection for vegetarian was existant but not abundant. Usually Asian food is great for simply being able to substitute Tofu into most dishes, especially curries and noodle dishes, but here there seemed to only be two vegetarian dishes, not even spring roll appetizers. Fortunately for us those two dishes sounded tasty--Pad Thai and Coconut Curry.

While it was nice to have delivery available (a service not by any Asian food delivery I could find in San Diego), I can't exactly commend the service. While on the road, the driver had to call me to give him step-by-step directions to our place (a large apartment complex named after the neighboring Metro stop) and then forgot to bring a pen with him to sign the credit card slip in the lobby.

The food hit the spot, but admittedly it wasn't the greatest Pad Thai I've had, but it did at least taste a bit 'fresher' than some others I've had. The Coconut curry was good as well, but again nothing spectacular. It might be that Asian food simply isn't going to be as good on the East coast as it was on the West and maybe I should focus on the European and seaside food which the East coast should be superior at. Perhaps though, this was simply what you get for $6.99/entrée delivery food around here for which I shouldn't really complain. If I'm feeling both thrifty and lazy again here in the future (a distinct possibility) I might ring Red Mei up again.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Introduction to King Street

Last night was our first real exploration into King Street. After a small bite to eat at our place, we headed to King Street to look for a place for appetizers and drinks. Normally our favorite places to go out at night are pubs where there's usually less blaring music, more seats and it easier to chat. So when we came across Murphy's Irish pub, it looked like just our kind of place.

To begin with the atmosphere was great. There was an older British guy playing and acoustic guitar and singing old drinking songs. The service was friendly and relatively fast, the food prices were decent, and Sam Adams Oktoberfest was on tap. Kym had a Ploughman's sandwich giving her a taste of home and I had the staple burger. Both tasted pretty good; it was your standard pub fare.

As the night went on however, the fact that it was a Saturday night began to show. The place filled up to the point where it no longer resembled much the pub we had entered at the beginning of the night. And while I might personally disagree with the principles behind California's smoking ban, I was reminded of the benefits it gave me as the bar filled up with smoke. As we found it more and more difficult to hear what we shouting at each other, we decided to call it a night.

All in all, it was a fun night and I think we'll go to their Trivia night that they have there on Tuesday's, but I don't think I'll head there on a Friday or Saturday night again anytime too soon. Good thing we have an entire city left to explore!