Monday, January 21, 2008

My best Tom Sietsema impression

Last week I had the pleasure of taking advantage of a few of the offerings for DC Restaurant Week. Two lunches and a lovely dinner scratched my eating-out itch without breaking the bank. Below are my impressions, maybe they'll help you when August's Restaurant Week rolls around.

P.S. Also, I know! I have been a lazy blogger! But between all this good eating out, dinner at my fantabulous Uncle Billy's and otherwise trying to watch my calorie intake, I just haven't been cooking anything interesting. I currently have not one, not two but FOUR chickens in my freezer though, so stay tuned!

Zengo - RW Lunch

Zengo has a really interesting menu - a mix of Latin American and Asian flavors with a focus on small plates. For Restaurant Week, however, their menu is fairly limited and goes the traditional appetizer, entree, dessert route and I believe the offerings for both lunch and dinner are the same. Appetizers included their signature Give and Take salad, a shrimp empanada and a chicken lettuce wrap. The salad looked fairly big and fresh, a good light choice. I had the shrimp empanada, which was good though the green curry sauce it was served with was fantastic. The chicken wrap was yummy as well, although that sauce didn't fair as well. What you would assume would be a sweet peanut sauce was actually a very sour tamarind concoction, ick.

Most of our table ordered the miso braised brisket for an entree (though there was also lo mein and salmon from which to choose). Combined with some great mashed potatoes, it made for excellent midday comfort food. Dessert options were tres leches cake and chocolate flan. I had the flan and although I'm ordinarily a huge flan fan, I wasn't too impressed with this.

I would probably visit Zengo again for lunch (their usual $20 bento boxes seem like a great deal), even though our service was lacking this time. The restaurant was fairly full and our waiter was not terribly attentive, but our plates came out in a timely manner so we weren't left hungry.

The Palm - RW Lunch

For awhile now, this has been the only restaurant in DC that Chris has actually wanted to visit. It would definitely be a good place to take a visiting dad or grandfather for a nice Washingtonian meal. The regular lunch menu wasn't jaw-dropping expensive, and in hindsight I should have just ordered the filet au poivre off of that. The RW lunch menu (they don't participate in Restaurant Week for dinner) was very salad heavy. If I remember correctly two appetizer's and one entree's worth. Chris, wanting the steak salad for an entree, actually ended up eating a salad appetizer as well since the only other option was clam chowder (he's allergic). Anyway, I did have the chowder which was fine. I also had crab cakes which were decent. The only dessert was a mediocre cheesecake. Like I said, I should have gone with the filet and called it a day.

Charlie Palmer Steak - RW Dinner

CP has been on my must-dine list for quite some time, so as soon as the Restaurant Week dates came out I rushed to make a Saturday night reservation. Afterwards, I heard reports of poor service and got a bit nervous but we ended up with a fantastic meal. I had a butter poached prawn and risotto appetizer that was one of the most fantastic dishes I've had in quite some time. I chose the strip steak entree which came with a delightful snow pea medley and mashed potatoes. The chocolate and hazelnut pave was divinely rich.

The regular menu was not as frighteningly expensive as I thought, in fact Chris ordered a rib eye and spinach rather than go with the prix fixe. CP also allows up to two bottles of domestic wine without a corkage fee (we brought a Titus Zinfandel that really impressed me). We had no problems with service. Although admittedly, we saw our bussers more than our server but they were exceedingly professional and our server was never far away. In addition to what we ordered, we were offered an amuse bouche of salmon tartar as well as a selection of lovely petit fours with our check.

I would definitely return for future Restaurant Weeks, as well as splurges or special occasions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Who likes beer? Who likes oysters?

Who likes both?! Or $30 worth of one or the other? We do! We do! Chris and I just bought tickets to the Heavy Seas Beer and Oyster Feast which I am really looking forward to!

I don't know if any of you have tried Heavy Seas (a newish line from Clipper City Brewery), but we've been enjoying it. Especially Below Decks, a yummy sweet beer with a whopping 10% alcohol.

Yeah, I'm going to try not to feast on too much beer or someone's gonna have to swab those oysters off the deck . . .

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Festivus Cocktails

Care for a drink?

So, we decided to be a little swank and host a few friends for cocktails this past weekend. Although our bar was the main focus of the evening, I did get the opportunity to try a few new things in the kitchen. Somethings turned out fantastic, others were so-so. I made a pretty kickass punch and Costco meatballs were a hit as usual. Unfortunately, my first attempt at gougeres left a little to be desired and Splenda-fied cupcakes were sucktacular.

Do you love my garland? And the reflection of my tree? I think there's food in the photo somewhere.

The menu:
  • Roasted corn and bacon gougeres. These were good but not quite as airy and puffy as I expected. They tasted like fluffy quiche filling.
  • Caramelized onion and blue cheese squares (recipe below). Looked horrendous, but were great if you like blue cheese.
  • Crab dip (recipe below). Not surprising for an MD party, the bowl was practically licked clean.
  • Pita chips with hummus and red pepper spread
  • Barbecue meatballs
  • Crudite with a lemony herb dip
  • Cheese plate (smoked gouda, brie and an interesting cheddar-like stuff with sun dried tomatoes, crackers, apple, figs, salami and prosciutto)
  • Linzer cookies . Total pain in the ass recipe. I do not recommend making these if you are a normal human being with a normal level of patience, but they were pretty.
  • Creme de menthe brownies (recipe below)
  • Strawberry cupcakes with Splenda. Yuck. I won't even bother you with a recipe.

Same food, only a closer, grainier picture. Yeah, I'm still playing with my camera . . .

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Squares

(Top and bottom tiers)

adapted from

  • 1 ball of pre-made pizza dough, left out at room temp for an hour or so
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large onions (about 2 pounds), halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled blue cheese (I used Roquefort)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out dough on floured surface to shape of baking sheet. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray, smooth dough out on to it. Bake until not quite brown, about 10 minutes.
  • While dough is in oven, begin to caramelize onions*. Melt butter and oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions, cooking until soft and beginning to brown. Add rosemary, sugar and salt. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking onions until completely browned, about 20 more minutes.
  • Top dough with onions and sprinkle blue cheese over top. Bake in oven until cheese is good and melty, about 10 minutes
*To save time, you can caramelize the onions the night before, then just top dough and toss in oven before guests arrive.

Decadent Crab Dip
You would think that as a Maryland native, I would already have a crab dip recipe ingrained in my skull. However, I've actually been a little intimidated to make anything crabby. Here in MD, you are judged on your crab dip and crab cake skillz and that is a lot of pressure. Finally, I got up the courage to ask my fabulous Uncle Bill for his popular recipe. Turns out that it's so easy there's barely a "recipe" per se.

Note: I was a little scared of the canned crab but it was actually pretty good. Feel free to try with fresh crab if you'd rather.

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • 1 pound lump crab meat (I used Phillips in the black can)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 handfuls of shredded cheddar
  • Preheat oven to 350*.
  • Melt butter in skilled over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until translucent.
  • Add cream cheese and stir until softened. Fold in crab.
  • Add Worchestershire and Old Bay to taste. I probably used about a teaspoon of each.
  • Toss in one handful of cheddar and combine.
  • Transfer mixture to small baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar and sprinkle with Old Bay. Bake until bubbly. Serve with sliced baguette. Inhale.
*Ingredients can be heated and combined ahead of time, then baked right before guests arrive.

Creme de menthe brownies



First layer:
  • Brownie mix, prepared and baked according to directions.
Second layer:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creme de menthe

Third layer:

  • 6 oz (half a smallish bag) chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons butter

First Layer: Bake brownies according to directions. Cool completely

Second Layer: Combine 1/2 c. butter, powdered sugar and creme de menthe. Beat well. Pour over the cake layer and chill until firm.

Third Layer: Melt together the chocolate chips and remaining butter. Pour over cooled second layer. Chill until the chocolate sets.

Cut into 1" squares (they're pretty rich).

Restaurant Week

Here's something fun to kick off your New Year - the dates and participating restaurants have been announced for DC's Restaurant Week.

See the list here:

Chris and I have Saturday night reservations for Charlie Palmer and if anyone out there is interested in meeting up for lunch during the week - let me know! Incidentally, I just picked up the January Washingtonian with their list of DC's 100 best restaurants. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've only been to 6. Hmph! This most be remedied immediately.