Entries from January 30th, 2013

Around Town: Taan

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30.1.13

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Being an H Street girl (by way of Dupont), one of the many reasons I fell in love with my neighborhood had to do with a little Taiwanese ramen shop called Toki Underground. It was hip, had good music, and even more amazing food. And before Toki, I didn’t know ramen got much better than dried in an orange bag at 4 AM during finals week.

But… I was wrong.

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I checked out Northwest DC’s newest ramen shop with a couple of close friends, one of whom had heard that it opened on the down-low. So we headed over, and for whatever reason, I was under the impression that it was a creation of Toki’s chef, Eric Bruner Yang (I found out on a second trip to Taan that they’re actually direct competitors, which made more sense).

Anyway, everything was phenomenal. We started off with a few cocktails in the upstairs waiting area — I had a vodka cocktail infused with some sort of lavender syrup. Their cocktail menu changes with the seasons, so I’m not sure if they still have the same one.

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Taan DC

They have a number of great ramen dishes — I opted for a duck ramen option, though their vegetarian bowl was great too.

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Anyway, this isn’t much of a restaurant review, as the post is belated. All in all, it makes a great date restaurant, and is a relatively undiscovered gem in Adams Morgan. I’d go back (and I have). And it isn’t always super busy, though that may change if they start publicizing more.

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Spicy Pickled Cucumber

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29.1.13

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There’s a charm that I fell in love with when I first started exploring the East Coast. I’m currently sitting on a train, traveling somewhere through Maryland. And although I’m not actually traveling while you’re reading this (because I’ve gotten into the good habit of scheduling posts in advance!) some of you might share my love for winter.

I love the muted colors, the bare trees, and the grayish-brown that takes over Maryland every year.

As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t any point in hating any particular season if you live in a place that has seasons. If you hate winters so much, move to southern California. If you hate the humid summers so much, move anywhere in California. If you hate either one more than you love the fall and the spring, well… move to California. Do it for yourself. You’ll be happy there.

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I can’t pinpoint why I’m drawn to winter so much. I love knee-length coats so thick that you don’t need to layer anything under them. I get a few butterflies when I cross the street in boots and a heavy coat and a scarf, and I relish in the feeling when every part of my body is toasty and warm, but my cheeks are ironically singed with a chill. Perhaps I like that, in cold weather, everyone is forced to put themselves together before going outside. So naturally, people just look nicer. Or perhaps just less sloppy.

And I love that there is always something to look forward to. Summer is exciting because I usually let myself get away for a little bit. Winter is great because I’m not suffering through months of humidity and unnecessary heat.

I booked impromptu tickets to Miami to visit a friend I’ve known so long that we once got busted by high school chaperones for boys being in the wrong hotel rooms during a debate conference (nerd alert!).

As much as I love winter, the 19 degree weather has me longing for some bikini time. I just ordered a new pair of white shorts from J. Crew. And, the good news is that packing for a warm weekend requires very little packing at all.

In heat or even a frigid cold, some snacks help bring you back to whatever season you’re dreaming up. The process of making pickles makes me think of winter — storing something for later. But the taste of cucumbers brings me back to a hot summer evening in our backyard — the more I reminisce, the stronger the scent of citronella and dwindling charcoal.

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Homemade Sriracha Sauce

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28.1.13

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Confession: I’m not a hot sauce person.

Another confession: I wasn’t always a daring eater. In fact, as a child, I didn’t really venture outside of what I knew was safe… and any sort of hot sauce was out of the question.

These days, I’ll taste anything once. But what really blows my mind is going out to eat with my eight-year old brother, who is one of the most adventurous eaters I’ve ever met. And he’s eight.

Vegetables? Loves them. Oysters? Duh. Salmon eggs? Raw tuna? Sea urchin eggs? The “grown-up” food is not safe when we go to a sushi restaurant with Kevin.

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A couple of weekends ago, I made Asian fusion tacos with an old bestie in New York. We topped tacos with romaine and greek yogurt, chili sauce and fresh lime juice.

That sauce, we found at Whole Foods. It wasn’t too spicy, but knowing my friends, there was room for heat.

Most sriracha recipes call for red jalapeños — those aren’t so easy to find in the middle of a DC winter, so I used Thai chilis. And they pack some heat.

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Thai Chili Sriracha Sauce, adapted from White on Rice Couple

Ingredients:
100 g Thai chili peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-sized shallots, minced
15 oz. tomato sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Instructions:

Using rubber gloves, remove the stems from the chilis. With a very sharp chef’s knife, mince them down as much as you can.

In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the garlic and the shallots over medium heat until brown. Then, add the chilis, tomato sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Cover and let simmer on low for ten minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce in a large mason jar until smooth.

Girl About Town: Nikki

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25.1.13

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Last weekend, I got to hang out with a good friend and fellow blogger, Nikki Rappaport. Her stylish and adorable style and food blog perfectly incorporates her personality and atmosphere of the city we both live in and wholeheartedly love — and she truly appreciates her blog’s namesake, cupcakes for breakfast.

She was featured in the Glitter Guide’s “Girl About Town” series yesterday, and I was honored as her photographer for the morning! We met at her favorite coffee shop and bakery, Baked and Wired — they boast DC’s best cupcakes, and I will assure you that I was not disappointed. And this is a girl who doesn’t even like cake that much (those of you close to me know that I prefer frosting to cake).

Along with a perfect catch-up sesh, Nikki and I got to talk blogs, coffee, and cupcakes. Oh, and recent romance. What more could you ask for in a winter morning in DC?

Anyway, here are my favorites from our photo shoot. Obviously, I’m obsessed with the pups that were hanging around Baked and Wired. If you don’t go for the coffee, then you should definitely give the doggies a chance!

Follow Nikki on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve already gotten most of my friends stalking her fab tweets and photos.

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(Bocce wants a cupcake for breakfast. I don’t blame him.)

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Chocolate Hearts with Espresso Cream Filling

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24.1.13

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought a cute love story would be appropriate.

Clearly, it doesn’t involve me. It’s about my grandparents, who are just as madly in love today as the day they met.

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One night while I was in California, my grandparents hosted a birthday dinner for my dad. I made this cake.

Anyway, I convinced my grandparents to let me film them telling the story of how they met. If you have 9 minutes to spare watching this video, I suggest you do. It’s quite a cute story.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for an excuse to let that story out.

And, with Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away, I must turn to the mother of all dessert ingredients: chocolate.

My love affair with chocolate goes back a long way.

Aside from wishing I could sustain a diet almost entirely of chocolate, I loved it so much that I even based my high school speech class on the history and processing of chocolate. Yes, I stood behind a podium, in front of 30 teenagers, speaking for ten minutes… about chocolate.

I sure hope they remember something from that.

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I spent years as an international development geek, so when Divine Chocolate contacted me and asked me to write a post or two using their chocolate, I was ecstatic.

Divine Chocolate is a fair trade company that works with women in Ghana, a country that boasts the title of second largest cocoa exporter in the world. With the liberalization of Ghana’s cocoa market in the 1990s, one woman saw an opportunity to organize the cocoa farmers whose voices were not being heard (this hits so closely to what my last employer did that you’d think I’d deny its coincidence).

In this recipe, I used their cocoa powder — the cookies came out perfectly. And the packaging was so well-designed!

Try not to lick the screen.

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Roasted beets, goat cheese, pistachio

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22.1.13

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Chicago was one of the cities that I meant to visit years before I actually did.

I don’t know why it took me so long. Perhaps I spent too much money visiting Boston. But at some point, I had too many good friends from both California and DC living in Chicago to not visit.

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So I went last October. And miraculously, I saw each person that I had been wanting to visit for years. They, mostly from a number of different social circles, showed me something about Chicago that they loved. And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to visit a new city.

A happy couple, Nick and Steffi, having recently married and recently developed a taste for going to really, really good restaurants, brought me to the Purple Pig — a small plates type restaurant that pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to eat.

One of the first dishes is something that stuck with me — and it was something I knew I could revive as a moment when I returned to DC. This. Dish.

 

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Roasted Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese, and Pistachio

Ingredients
3 or 4 medium-sized beets
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cream cheese
Lightly toasted pistachios, for topping

First, heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the greens and the ends from your beets with a sharp knife. Rinse them thoroughly, as beets usually have some dirt stuck in their skins, especially if they have a crack or two. Then, wrap the  beets in a large piece of foil — some people like to roast each beet in its own foil (I imagine they would roast faster) but I wrapped them all together. I added about 1 tablespoon of water to the foil packet, and folded and sealed the foil so that it would release a minimal amount of steam.

Place your foiled beets on a baking sheet or pan with a rim (in case the foil leaks), and bake in the oven for about 60 minutes, until you can easily stick a fork into the center of the vegetable. When the beets are finished, open the foil and let them cool until you can comfortably hold one in your hand.

Over the sink, rub the beets to peel off the skin — this should happen easily. If the skin doesn’t rub right off, the beets should go back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

As you let the beets fully cool, combine your goat cheese, yogurt, and cream cheese in a small mixing bowl, and whisk or beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy — about 5-6 minutes. Serve beets with a dollop of your whipped goat cheese, and top generously with pistachios.

Creative Moment: Relax

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16.1.13

I’ve been running around DC like a madwoman today, filming tidbits of political celebrities for work (Arne Duncan is by far my favorite secretary. Yes, he is one of only two Secretaries that I’ve actually met).

After what felt like 24 hours of explaining film shots, setting up cameras, breaking them down, and repeating the entire process, I sat down at my desk and heaved a sigh that could have continued for days.

And then I found this video on Colossal. If you’ve had a hectic day, just watch and listen. And, if you have the energy, read up on it here.

Music to Cook To // January

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14.1.13

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I skipped December, but I’m hoping to get this up every month. Here are some tracks that I’m obsessed with.

For my Spotify nerds: Music to Cook To, January

Roasted Crusted Squash

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10.1.13

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This happens every year in DC. The winter isn’t really a winter until the week after Christmas — when it gets frigid. And then the weather stands up, inching past 60 degrees at the end of January.

Once, I even broke out the flip flops.

Man, that was a mistake.

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This recipe dates back to November. Thanksgiving, which I hosted with some friends at home in DC, was quite the affair.

The food, of course, was to-die-for. The wine flowed like water. And the everyday accents were masked by faux NPR and BBC news accents reporting on Anderson Cooper’s whereabouts on the Gaza Strip. Saving children, curing cancer… you know, the usual. One of my best friends and co-hosts is a gay international politigeek, so naturally, we steered the conversation from making fun of beauty magazines to Anderson Cooper’s black t-shirt.

It’s quite different from my blood-related family dinner conversation. No more or less filled with love, though. That’s for sure.

This squash recipe is teaspoon-for-teaspoon from Sprouted Kitchen, one of my self-proclaimed all-time favorite blogs. Her name is Sara, too, so naturally, she and I are kindred spirits. I’ll let the missing “h” slide, though.

Anyway, I thought I’d post this before my beloved winter cold is swept away in a metaphysical January heat wave. In fact, I might make this next week.

One butternut squash goes a long way.

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Roasted, Crusted Butternut Squash, via Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients

1 Butternut Squash (about 2 lbs.)
2 tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Nutmeg
1/3 Cup Fresh Breadcrumbs / Panko
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Minced Garlic Clove
1 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Parsley
1/4 Cup Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler — and be careful, because that squash can be slippery. Then, slice the gourd in half lengthwise, and chop off the ends. Cut into quarter-inch slices.

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or foil, and line up your squash slices. Make sure you don’t overcrowd them! Using a pastry brush, give each piece a light coat of olive oil.

In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Generously cover the squash with your crumb topping, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are browned, the cheese is melted, and the squash is fully cooked.

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