Archive | February, 2010

Cork Wine Bar

25 Feb

Last night I made my first trip to Cork Wine Bar in Logan Circle to have dinner with my mother and my aunt who was in town for some business of the horticultural variety. We were seated in the restaurant’s back room which reminded me a bit of snug city restaurants in Europe, small tables rather close together with lighting dim enough that we found ourselves reading our menus by the candlelight provided by the table’s lone votive.  I enjoyed the intimate, neighborhood feel but if you aren’t so interested in your neighbor’s conversation the more open and boisterous front room may be more your speed.

We starting our evening with a couple flights of wine, one Spanish whites and one sparkly and pink. Reasonably priced at $12-$15, I found them to be a great way to explore their extensive  wine list.  Cork’s menu of small plates is divided into two sections: cold and hot. We began with three dishes from the ‘cold’ side. The first was a selection of three cheeses, served with slices of soft raisin-studded bread, little pools of honey and a red wine reduction. My favorite of the three was a creamy goat that is one of the best soft cheeses I have had in a country requiring pasteurization and one that I will be seeking out very shortly at the new Cork Market.  Our next choices, two bruschetta type dishes, were also quite tasty. The first was composed of ricotta slathered bread rounds topped with grilled asparagus and blood orange zest and the second a grilled bread with perfectly ripe avocado, sprinkled with chopped pistachios and sea salt that was a favorite at the table.

Our hot dishes emerged next, branzino over a bed lentils with bacon and lemon, and  duck confit. The fish was excellent, complimented nicely by the lentils and sweet caramelized chippolini onions. The real winner in my book however was the duck. The meat was so rich it was like duck butter. Its accompaniments provided a pleasant surprise, what one expected to be roasted potatoes turns out to be roasted parsnip and apple that lent a certain brightness to an otherwise heavy dish.

Dinner left us just full enough and quite content. And then our mohawk-ed  waitress returned. Would we like dessert? Why yes, we would. She recommends the goat cheese cake and the evening’s special, a homemade s ‘more. We ordered both and added the warm fig, raspberry and almond crostada for good measure. The crostada, served with a basil infused crème anglaise was disappointing, much more exciting in print than on the plate.  The cheese cake however was lovely. Light and airy, it was served deconstructed, little quenelles of the goat cheese filling with fresh raspberries are sprinkled with buttery cookie crumbs in place of a heavy crust. Finally the s ‘more, rich chocolate ganache sandwiched between homemade gram crackers and topped with a little swirl of homemade marshmallow. For a table of chocolate lovers the dessert was near perfect, capping off a meal that secured Cork a place on my personal list of go-to restaurants in the city.  

www.corkdc.com

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Sick? Soup!

23 Feb

I have a head cold. Usually that kind of thing doesn’t bother me too much. Pick up some NyQuil, a few cough drops, replace my morning coffee with some honey-laden tea and in a few days feel good as new. This particular head cold however has some seriously staying power, it’s been around for two weeks and I’m starting to get a little bit pissy about it. Anywhoo, this is a blog about food not winning so… to the kitchen.

When I think sick, I think soup and I’ve been downing a lot of it. However my made-by-mother freezer supply is running low so I finally dragged myself to the grocery to make my own. One of my favorite soups of all time is this spicy Asian version I used to get from a to-go place around the corner from the little shop I worked in through high school and college. It featured thick rice noodles, big chunks of chicken, and generous helpings of cilantro, bean sprouts and spicy red peppers. Warm, fresh tasting, spicy and filling seemed to be just what the doctor ordered so I decided to take a stab at recreating it.

My local Safeway, joining forces with my nose, seemed to have it out for me and was out of rice noodles and those little spicy red peppers. Undeterred I grabbed some ramen and a jalapeño and got cooking. I made the broth out of about 6 cups store bought chicken stock, infused with ginger, garlic and a generous handful of chopped cilantro stems. (Side Note: If you have homemade stock use it, if you have time make it!) I let this all simmer away for about an hour then strained it, removing the garlic cloves, stems and ginger and returning the broth to the pot.

Next I threw in two finely sliced shallots and two chicken breasts cut into half inch cubes. As the chicken cooked through (about 4 minutes) I added my ramen and one very thinly sliced jalapeño. With the ramen and the chicken cooked I portioned my self out a bowl of steamy goodness and finished it off by stirring in a teaspoon of Thai fish sauce, a squirt of soy, a little Sriracha, and garnished it with a heaping handful of green onion cilantro and bean sprouts.

Feel Better? I do!

How was the soup? It did the trick: warm, spicy and yummy, but it was not perfect. The version I was trying to replicate tasted much fresher and was plenty spicy with out the extra Siriacha kick mine required. I also definitely would have preferred the rice noodles to ramen. In a pinch however, it made this patient feel a little less dreadful. Mission accomplished.

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

(Adapted from Spicy Chicken Soup, Gourmet, May 2004)

6 cups chicken stock
1 inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup cilantro stems
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
3/4 lb skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2- by 1/4-inch strips
1 to 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno
½ cup bean sprouts
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Bring stock to a simmer in a large saucepan with garlic, ginger and cilantro stems. Simmer for 1 hour, until flavors infuse then strain the stock, removing the solids and return the stock to a simmer. Add shallots and simmer 3 minutes. Add chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Add noodles and jalapeno and cook till noodles are al dente, about 5 minutes. Stir in fish sauce (to taste) and soy sauce. Remove from heat and serve topped with scallions, cilantro and bean sprouts. Add Sriracha for a little extra heat.

Overwood

22 Feb

Last Sunday Rob and I braved the Old Towne, Alexandria parking in the snow situation to have dinner at Overwood (well he braved, I sat in the passenger seat and was very helpful, I’m sure, in pointing out ‘prime’ parking real estate, like on top of snow banks and in spots that smart cars would have to do a nine-point turn to get into). I have been to Overwood several times and always enjoy my meal there. It is a great neighborhood space, the clientele ranging from Alexandria’s ‘young professionals’ popping in for a beer and a bite at the bar, to families, and so forth. My one complaint about the place is that all the exposed brick and hardwood, while attractive, often elevates noise levels to the point that you have to speak with a raised voice to communicate with your dining companion(s).  Luckily on this visit, we were tucked in a booth in the back corner of the back room. Not noisy at all. Win.

Being Valentine’s Day and all, we ordered a bottle of wine. The waitress dissuaded me from me original choice and suggested the Tapena, Temperanillio. The menu described it as a ‘Pinot Noir in blue jeans’, it was a light red like a pinot but had a peppery kick to it. I liked it a lot, enough that I’ve already googled places in DC that carry it.

For a starter we ordered the smoked salmon bruschetta which is like a bagel with lox and cream cheese, only a little lighter and a bit more sophisticated. It is a taste-sensation, but to be honest it is the kind of thing one could whip up pretty easily at home… and I think perhaps I will… (perhaps for a light brunch this weekend).

For my main course I got the roast chicken. I love roast chicken, so simple and delicious. I have had theirs before and it is one of my favorites. The chicken itself is slathered with herbs and roasted (in their wood-fired oven I believe) and emerges tender, with a crisp skin that tastes of rosemary. It is served on a bed of garlicky mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts, with a generous dose of mushroom gravy. The dish as a whole is one of my favorite comfort foods, worth climbing a snow bank or two for. What makes it even better is that the ½ chicken portion means I always have leftovers!

Creamy, Tasty, Comfy

We finished the evening off with the raspberry-chocolate mousse from their V-Day menu (I think it is in the Valentine’s rule book that one must order something chocolate) and were not disappointed. All in all, Overwood deliverers a quite pleasant dining experience. If you are looking for a little American-style comfort in the Alexandria area go check it out, order the chicken and make sure to ask for a table in the back.

http://www.theoverwood.com

Lunch Crush at Proof

19 Feb

Last week’s massive torrential snow-pour came with many pluses and minuses. Plus, no work! Minus, cabin fever! With the Federal Government closed for almost the entire week one of the pluses in my book was the ability to get out and enjoy an unhurried lunch, the kind a regular work day would simply not permit.

Proof is right down the street from my place of residence, but nowhere near my place of business, so though I had always been intrigued by their $12 weekday ‘Lunch Crush’ special I never had the opportunity to give it a try.  So when we could no longer stand the sight of my apartment last Thursday my fabulous roommate and I slipped and slid our way down to Proof to see what their ‘Crush’ was all about.

It was my first visit to Proof and I really enjoyed the space. The vibe is kind like a wine library kicked up with a little kitsch. Warm, earthy décor and a wall to wall wine racks (complete with sliding library-esc ladders so that bartenders can reach bottles on the top shelves) make the place cozy and inviting, while bare-bulb pendant lamps and creatively-cute restroom décor make give it a trendy feel and a sense of humor.

The ‘Lunch Crush’ includes a glass of wine (you specify red or white, they choose from there), and a lunch entrée of your choice. Having had enough comfort food to last me the rest of the winter that week, I went with a glass of white and the shrimp burger. The burger was a perfect portion for the lunch hour, not a cutesy slider but also not the food-coma inducing behemoth that beefy versions often are. It came with no sides but I found that the balance of texture and flavor with in the sandwich made it a meal on its own.  The shrimp patty itself was a nice balance. The center was fresh and moist and tasted like strait up shrimp cocktail while the exterior was crisp and golden with a satisfying crunch. Neither element was at all oily or greasy, which in my opinion ruins many a fried fish sandwich. The patty was topped with a refreshing salad of shaved cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots and a few thin slices of jalapeños that, in the words of one Mr. Lagasse, kicked it up a notch (BAM). The wine served with complemented it nicely and was a nice size pour, no skimping at this lunch counter!

Proof is defiantly worth a visit especially for the lunch deal, it really can’t be beat. I hope to make it back soon with or without another push from Mother Nature.

http://www.proofdc.com

Cheeky Wallpaper in the Ladies Restroom- Ooo La La

Sweet and Salty Cornish Game Hens

17 Feb

This weekend’s snopocalypse left Washington under a heavy blanket and Washingtonians snuggled up inside, no where to go and nothing to do. Well, perhaps not ‘nothing to do.’ Movies were watched, reading caught up on, snow angels were made. And if you were lucky enough to get to the grocery before they were emptied (checkout lines at my local Safeway were up to two hours long!) it was an excellent opportunity to whip up something new in the kitchen.

This winter wonderland weekend’s culinary adventure in my kitchen: Cornish game hens. Drawing from items gathered in last minute grocery runs (thanks Rob!) and what was in the pantry we came up with a sort of sweet and salty version that was really quite tasty.

The dish was really rather easy to prepare. First we mixed up a little honey-herb butter by sautéing a clove of garlic and mixing it with parsley, salt, pepper, honey and butter, then loosened the skin and gave our henny pennies a nice buttery rub down.

Next we put together a quick stuffing by sautéing a shallot and a couple slices of bacon (we used a maple glazed variety in keep with the sweet and salty theme) and some garlic, then tossed in some crumbled cornbread and moistened the mixture with a little wine and chicken stock.

The birds were stuffed, thrown in the oven at 375 degrees. 45 minutes later they emerged golden, with just crisped skin, looking perfectly delectable. And how did they taste? Great! The sweetness from the honey and the maple bacon balanced the salt and the stuffing kept the hens extra moist. We served them with a simple side of asparagus with lemon, and a glass or three of pinot noir, making a lovely snowed-in meal that I would gladly make again.

Sweet and Salty Cornish Game Hens

(Adapted from Bon Appetite’s 0ct 1993 recipe for Cornish Game Hens with Ham and Cornbread Stuffing)

Stuffing

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups crumbled corn muffins or corn bread (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (3-4 slices)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (we made our own but store bought would be fine)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Hens

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • Salt and pepper

For the Stuffing:
Cook bacon in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from skillet, crumble and reserve. Drain the bacon grease. Add oil and shallot; sauté, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Mix in remaining ingredients; stir until heated through. Remove skillet from heat. Season stuffing with salt and pepper. Cool slightly.

For the Hens:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Sauté garlic and mix with butter, honey and parsley off the heat. Loosen the skin and rub the honey-butter mixture between the skin and the meat. Grease 13 x 9×2-inch baking dish. Season hens with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on work surface. Pack 1/4 of stuffing into each cavity. Arrange hens stuffing side down in prepared dish. Roast hens until golden brown and juices run clear when thighs are pierced, about 45 minutes. Transfer hens to platter and serve.

Zaytinya

10 Feb

Living in the Penn Quarter Zaytinya was one of those places that I would walk by fairly frequently and think, “How is it that I still haven’t eaten here?” or “I wonder what they’ll have chef Mike Isabella doing on Top Chef this week?” Somehow I just never quite made it through the doors.

Then last week after a Wednesday Mariah Carey concert at Constitution Hall (best: glitter-covered, octave-ranging, diva-hand-gesturing concert EVER… for serious) I exited Metro Center in the mood for a post-best-concert-EVER night cap and Zaytinya was right there in front of me beckoning with its Mezza Ora. Mediterranean serendipity? I think so.

Zaytinya’s Mezze Ora is a happy hour special that they also run Tuesday-Thursday from 10:30-11:30. With $4 wine, beer, cocktails and select small plates, it is a great deal. At 11 PM on a Wednesday we had the lounge area nearly to ourselves, minus the usual sea of Washington power players with a beer in one hand, BlackBerry in the other.

To drink I got the Pom Fil, a vodka, white wine, pomegranate juice concoction that was refreshing, a bit tart and exactly what I would imagine Carrie Bradshaw would order if she was ever in Turkey. To munch on we ordered the falafel, a lamb stuffed pita dish and the Garides Me Anitho, a lemony shrimp dish. The lamb was good but nothing to write home about and the falafel married that perfect balance of crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, but the real winner was the shrimp plate. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and bathed in a pool of buttery, lemony, dill-infused goodness. The sauce was so good we ordered a serving of their handmade pita bread to soak up what didn’t cling to the shrimp. All that plus two beers came out to less than $30, a serious deal! I am glad I finally made it to Zaytinya, and I’ll be back… soon… those shrimp are calling my name.

http://www.zaytinya.com

P&Q Kitchen To Do’s

8 Feb

I love to cook (and bake!). I don’t think I’m half bad at it either but I’m still pretty new to the kitchen, learning as I go. Also since a lot of my meals involve preparing meals for me, myself and I, I often get stuck in culinary ruts (I eat a lot of breakfast for dinner, not that there is anything wrong with breakfast for dinner, LOVE breakfast for dinner). Part of the reason I started this food blogging adventure was to try new things in the kitchen. Here is a running list of dishes I’d like to give a go:

Un Soufflé

Popovers!

An as-close-to-perfect-as-possible, go-to roast chicken

Short Ribs

Homemade Bread

Duck

Something Vietnamese

Shirred Eggs

Boeuf Bourguignon