Friday, November 30, 2007
Lately it's felt like we've got into the rut of cooking the same dishes over and over, so last night we broke out one of our favorite recipe books, Quick, simple, and main-course vegetarian pleasures, for inspiration and found a simple but tasty looking recipe, Spinach Fettucine with fresh spinach and goat cheese. I didn't really know where to find spinach fettucine (and couldn't quite be bothered to find and drive to a specialty shop), so we went with the whole wheat spaghetti in our cupboard. We also substituted the plain goat's chese with a garlic and herb variety from Trader Joe's (Kym was not a pleased with this substitution as she thinks the herbs overpower the goat cheese itself, but I disagree).
The recipe is pretty simple, you fry some garlic and red chili pepper flakes in olive oil, then add in fresh spinach until wilted, toss with pasta and crumbled goat cheese and season. It's simple and quick, but it's also very delicious. It was so tasty in fact that I resisted adding some mango chicken sausage I had picked up while at TJ's.
Speaking of TJ's we started off with some frozen bruschetta (fitting in with the Italian theme) I had spotted there while picking up the baby spinach. Unlike many frozen goods at Trader Joe's, however I can't speak very highly of it. The bread was simultaneously burnt and undercooked while the tomato topping, as you might imagine, was not particularly nice compared with brushetta made from fresh tomatoes.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I'm not sure when they rolled it out exactly, but Yelp has added links to online menus. Through this we were able to find another non-pizza delivery place (yay!), Po Siam Thai. The prices there are definitely good, about $6-9 an entrée. The selection there is good, certainly better than the rather small menu of Red Mei. It has the classic dishes and then some, but still not too crazy of an amount off dishes as I've seen some Asian takeout places have. The delivery time was pretty good as well, about 30 minutes.
We got the Pad Thai and Massamun Curry. The Pad Thai in particular was easily the best I've had here in DC. The Massaman curry, though not fantastic, was still very tasty even if it lacks a bit in comparison to ones I've had on the west coast. We also had the 'Fried Bean Curd' appetizer AKA tofu with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce, which is a sauce I've had before--specifically the 'spicy' element in a peanut sauce--and it was a delicious combination of the flavors.
Certainly this place show a lot of potential, we''ll definitely be trying it again. It's a good place to get delivery Thai if you feel like shelling out a few more bucks than at Red Mei.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Last night we were headed up to our local shopping center to pick up some needed housewares so while there we decided to see if there were any worthwhile chainy-type restaurants. We weren't spoiled for choice there, the main choices we could see were a Mexican restaurant called Don Pablo's and a microbrewery, Hops. Both options were new to us West-coasters and since we have tendency to have a bit overly-high expectations since living in Southern California, we went for Hops.
Table for two was a small wait so we had a seat at the bar to try out a couple of the Microbrews. Personally I always expect at least a short list if not a description of the beers they make, but this place had neither which is annoying as I hate having to ask a busy bartender who is hurrying around if he could stop and list the beers for me then wait while I decide.
I went for the darker ale while Kym had the lager. Neither was very flavorful, though I did appreciate the frosted mugs which are always nice. Another instance of not particularly great customer service was not being able to take the tab with you to the table from the bar so I had to sit there waiting to get his attention and the check while Kym went to the table.
The vegetarian menu options for Kym were nonexistant and when we asked the waitress if there was any sort of veggie burger or anything they could do she said a flat and abrupt "No." which came across as rather rude, but Kym found a salad that worked and I went for the chicken and shrimp alfredo linguini.
Kym also ordered some 'Pub Chips' to start which she was very much looking forward to given the lack of any entree for her. Now, maybe this is an East Coast or Southern cultural thing I'm missing but when I hear the term 'pub chips' without descriptions, I picture the kind of fat fries that come with fish and chips. Retrospectively, a quick Google Image search seems to agree with me. Alas, we discovered that 'pub chips' here means something along the lines of soggy Ruffles potato chips.
The food arrived pretty quickly, my linguine was okay, but Kym's salad was completely drenched in dressing. I'm not one to be as sensitive to this as some salad-eaters I know, but this was ridiculous, everything was downright soggy. I suggested she send it back, but she didn't want to make the fuss.
When we go the check the waitress put it on our table and mumbled something to us that all we could really make out was the word 'cashier'. Given the service so far, we assumed this was Denny's style paying since we did see something that looked like a register on the way, but ran into the waitress on the way out and found she had said "I'll be your cashier" which I find an odd thing to say, particularly when done rather inaudibly, when that is the default method of paying at a restaurant and I've never viewed it before as a waitress simultaneously filling the dual roles of server and cashier.
Atmosphere was fine and seating was comfortable, but that didn't make up for the poor service and food.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Due to various financial and academic concerns, we were unable to make the trip home for Thanksgiving, however we were able to have some of our friends from DC over as they were remaining in DC as well for the same academic concerns.
Though we missed seeing our families, we had a great time hosting our first Thanksgiving. The menu was:
- Sushi rolls to start (beautifully made courtesy of our Japanese friend!)
- Turkey (of course)
- Pear and Ginger Cranberry sauce
- Yorkshire puddings
- Onion gravy
- Green Bean Casserole (I had never heard of this before, apparently a very common dish for Thanksgiving in the South)
- Roast vegetables (Onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, yam
- Mashed Potatoes
- Mushroom Roast
- Vegan salad (a delicious spiced bean and corn based side-dish)
- Apple Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
I have to say everything turned out very well, particularly considering the size of the menu versus the size of the kitchen in our 1-bedroom apartment. The turkey had been worrying me a bit in the build up to Thanksgiving as the Thermometer never seems to give me an accuratae reading. The only way to accurately gauge is the tried and tested method of actually cutting into it, but that of course releases the juices. In the end the breasts were probably a bit more cooked than I would have liked--next time I'll keep it breast-side down for longer, but it still was delicious. I also tried carving the turkey with a different method than regular by cutting off the entire breast and then making smaller, perpendicular slices. This ended up being a much better method and I whole-heartedly recommend it.
Needless to say, we were stuffed to the brim after this enormous feast. Even the smaller ones of us.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Last night, being a Friday night, we took a walk up King Street to find something to catch our fancy. For whatever reason we were really in the mood for some fish and chips (minus the fish part in Kym's case). Originally we had planned to Eamonn's, which I had heard from a coworker has some of the best fish and chips you can find in DC. However, when we got in there I couldn't understand what they were thinking when they designed the layout. There appeared to be plenty of floor space yet hardly any tables or chairs. Certainly nowhere to possibly sit down and with the prices they were charging, that really wasn't going to fly, so we ducked out and kept walking down King Street.
After a good walk, we finally came across a place that looked like they might have what we were looking for, Daniel O'Connell's restaurant and bar--basically an Irish pub/restaurant. The place looked pretty busy and the prices not too extravagant (at least on the bar menu) so we headed on in. I didn't get a chance to see the downstairs, but the upstairs, at least where we were seated felt rather packed in and claustrophobic. Nothing too crazy, but certainly not one of the restaurants strongest points.
We started off with a couple of drinks. I tried the O'Connell's-brewed Ale which I didn't think was particularly good. And as I found out when I got the menu, unlike most places I've been to that brew their own beer, it was not less expensive than any other beer on the menu.
As planned, I ordered the fish and chips. Kym, on the other hand, didn't have a single vegetarian entrée available to her so was forced to go with a starter salad and a side of chips. I'll never understand why restaurants who already serve burgers don't just keep a few vegetarian burgers in the freezer.
The food took a while to arrive and when it did wasn't great. The chips in particular were poor as they tasted old and reheated which is completely unacceptable when you consider how cheap they are to make and how much they were charging for them. Also, as any restaurant serving food from the British isles should, they had malt vinegar on request, but unfortunately it was a wide-mouth bottle clearly designed for pouring out into measuring cups in a kitchen, not for sprinkling onto chips. Kym's salad was too small of a portion for a $9 salad, the dressing wasn't great and the goats cheese was very sparse. My fish wasn't too bad, but the batter was a bit on the soggy side.
Lastly, the service was pretty poor. It took two tries to get the dessert menu, Kym's coffee arrived cold and the replacement cup didn't return until after the dessert was finished when she had been looking forward to having it alongside the dessert.
Not a place I recommend, certainly not on a busy night.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Last night we were really in the mood for some Indian but we hadn't made a recent trip to our local Indian grocery store so we were forced to look for some prepared options. With the exception of those 3rd party delivery services that charge you an arm and a leg, Indian delivery food does not appear to be an option around near. Fortunately we found the Bombay Curry Company in Del Ray which is not too far from us at all.
They have their own lot so parking lot there so parking is a cinch which is nice plus since it was a bit out of walking distance from us. The decor, though similar to most Indian restaurants I've encountered, was still very nice and appreciated. Some of the hand-carved artwork was especially beautiful.
Though I'm always very partial to onion bhajis, I resisted and tried something different--Chat Papri which is an appetizer with chickpeas, potatoes and flour crisps mixed with a yogurt sauce and spices. It was definitely an interesting change of pace, but probably not something I'd order again soon.
For the main entrée, I ordered lamb Korma along with a nan bread (which unfortunately did not come in any other type than 'plain') while Kym had the vegetarian combination platter which she had been very much looking forward to ever since seeing the option online. In the end however, the dishes were decidedly mediocre. All of the flavors were a bit bland and below what I've come to expect from Indian food. Given the lack of other nearby options, we might give Bombay Curry Company another chance, but not in the near future.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Lately I've started watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares which recently began its first season in the U.S. after 4 seasons (and now currently a 5th) in the UK. My previous knowledge of Ramsay was watching a few episodes of Hell's Kitchen which I found pretty awful in concept and even more so in its execution and left me with the mistaken impression that Gordon Ramsay was nothing more than a foul-mouthed stereotypical Nazi chef.
However, after watching some episodes of Kitchen Nightmares (if you can get a hold of the British version, it is significantly better produced) I've come to quite like the guy. Though there is no doubt he is foul-mouthed and can be quite harsh on some people, you can see that he only really wants people to succeed and if that requires some harsh objective advice, he is more than capable of giving it.
It's also clear from the show just how talented he is, not only as a cook but as a restaurateur businessman. He seems very good at identifying exactly what needs to be done at the restaurant to increase their cash flow whether that be simplifying the menu, using fresher ingredients, replacing the head chef, reorganizing the waitstaff or a complete reconcepting of the restaurant.
It's an intriguing show because there's no guarantee of what the end will be. Ramsay will give some solid advice to the failing restaurant and try to convince and motivate them to make said changes, but in the end it is up to them whether they will pull themselves together and right the ship or continue to make the same mistakes and lose everything. The choice seems easy from a passive audience's standpoint, but it's hard to imagine just how difficult it would be to put so much of yourself on the line in terms of money, dreams, reputation and effort and then to accept blame for the failures and change.
As tough as the show makes the industry appear, it does rekindle the excitement of running a restaurant.