Friday, April 30, 2010

Bell Pepper, Red Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza

minus the red onion :-)

As i mentioned in the couscous entry, I had a large splurge at TJ’s a week ago and still had so much delicious food to cook. My lovely TJ’s whole wheat pizza crusts were on their way out, so they were first on my things to cook. I had a lot of bell pepper and goat cheese around the fridge, so I wanted something quick, easy, and delicious.

Many times, I know what I want to include, but I just need some ideas on how to get there. I did a search on epicurious for pizza, goat cheese and bell peppers, and this little gem popped up. It was well reviewed and seemed easy enough, so I thought I would give it a try.

I got my stuff together in the kitchen but oddly enough, there was NO onion in the house. GASP! it wasn’t that late but I was hungry and didn’t feel like heading back out to the store just for some onion, so I decided to venture without it. Looking back, I do believe that the onion would have added some nice flavor but the pizza was still quite delicious.


  • 1 10-ounce purchased fully baked thin pizza crust (such as Boboli), or if you have a TJ’s close by, i definitely recommend their garlic, plain or whole wheat crust for 99 cents!
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves (1 1/2 to 2 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups thickly sliced mushrooms (5 to 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup drained roasted red peppers from jar, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup paper-thin red onion slices
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 5-ounce package soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled


1) Preheat oven to 425°F.

2) Place pizza crust on large baking sheet

- Ever made a pizza and then you barely weren’t able to eat it because it was stuck to the baking sheet! Well, have no fear, BOOF is here. A best buddy of BOOF, AB, a pizza/everything italian expert gave me the best advice ever regarding this matter. use cornstarch! So make sure you OIL and add cornstarch to the baking sheet. Ever since I started doing this little trick, my pizza has never stuck! amazing!

3) Mix olive oil and minced garlic in small bowl. Using pastry brush (or whatever works, I didn’t have a pastry brush!), and brush 2 tablespoons garlic oil evenly over crust.

4) Top with spinach leaves, then sprinkle with sliced mushrooms, roasted red peppers, red onion slices, fresh basil, and crumbled goat cheese.

5) Drizzle pizza evenly with remaining garlic oil.

6) Bake pizza until crust is crisp and cheese begins to brown, about 18 minutes. Transfer pizza to board. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

7) Enjoy and Share!

Notes: If you have onions, definitely use them! Although I am trying to not recycle recipes yet, when I eventually make this again, I will make sure to have onions on hand! I did not use basil, I used cilantro to top my pizza. Whichever herb you have in your fridge, just use that. I also didn’t have “roasted red peppers” and I would have roasted the red peppers that I had, but I got too lazy. The pizza probably would have had a little more flavor with the roasted red peppers but it was still delicious. :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

cherry tomato couscous

i’ve decided to cook at least 3 times a week. i cooked a lot on sunday (with left overs for monday and tuesday), so i was determined to conjur up something in the kitchen on wednesday.

after getting home later than I intended, i knew that i was not in the mood to make a home-made pizza or pasta dish. But, i did know that i wanted something quick, delicious and something i had never tried before. on my ridiculous trip to TJ’s last week (i spent an inordiante amount of money), i had bought some couscous for the first time. I’ve eaten couscous before at restaurants and i really enjoy the texture, but I had never ventured to cook it on my own. i thought that now with my veggieventures in the kitchen, i would give it a whirl and see what all the fuss was about.

i looked up some recipes on my fav cooking websites (epicurious, allrecipes, smitten kitchen and 101 cookbooks) and thanks to heidi swanson (101 cookbooks), i found a couscous dish that encompassed a variety of things that i had in my fridge. the hardest part of this recipe was actually cooking the couscous and that was super easy in itself. I am glad, however, that I tamed down the amount of couscous that the recipe called for because i would have had couscous for weeks if i had made the 1 full cup (dry).


1/4 Cup of Dry Couscous

1 1/4 Cup of Cherry/Grape Tomatoes

1/2 Cup of Feta

1 Can of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

1/4 cup of Olive Oil (more or less)

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Salt/Pepper to Taste



1 ) Cook couscous (I also used 2 tablespoons of butter/margarine)

2) While couscous is cooking, cut tomatoes into halves. Meanwhile boil garbanzo beans in a different pot.

3) When couscous is finished fluff with fork and switch to larger bowl and add cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, olive oil and feta.

4) Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime into the bowl and mix and stir well.

5) Season with salt and pepper to taste and add herb 1/4 cup of chopped herb of choice and mix well.

6) Enjoy & Share!

Additional Notes: I used cilantro of my herb of choice and i thought it went perfectly though Heidi recommended parsley or basil. In her recipe she also used cucumbers, however, i did not have any in my fridge (surprising because i had EVERY other vegetable imaginable) but it tasted equally delicious without them. maybe next time, i’ll have some cucumbers in house and try it that way. :-D

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black's Bar and Kitchen

going with the flow.

impromptu happiness. because numerous co-workers were unable to celebrate my previously mentioned friend’s celebratory going away happy hour last week at cantina, they decided to plan an impromptu happy hour at Black’s Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda.

little did they know that I had recently added sister restaurant BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant to my must go to restaurant list. If I had to choose one type of food that I would consider myself a connoisseur of/eat every day, it would be seafood. So, I was ecstatic to find out there is a fun unique slew of “modern american” restaurants in the DMV area which specialize in seafood. needless to say, despite the 40 minute metro ride, i would be at this happy hour.

I arrived a little late but my co-workers had already started chowing down on some mussels, oysters and flatbread, all of which looked delicious. Upon walking into Black’s, I knew that I was going to love this place. The restaurant is divided into two parts, the long (beautiful) bar area filled with high tables and stools and boasting a soft brown wood color. On the other side, is the sit down restaurant area, which on its wall features an awesome panoramic forest landscape which matches perfectly with the dim lighting and overall relaxed but not snooty ambiance. In the Bethesda suburb, it could have been easy for this restaurant to be snooty, too expensive and not good for the more “local” scene, but on the contrary, it has more of a sophisticated, stylish but relaxed vibe. i dig it. oh and two words: open kitchen. need i say anymore?

owners and chefs, Jeff & Barbara Black, are not new to the food scene in the DMV as Black’s is one of their four restaurants in the area. they also own Addie’s (Rockville MD- New American), Black Market Bistro (Garret Park MD- New American Cuisine) and the aforementioned, BlackSalt (Washington DC- Contemporary American Seafood). They have garnered critical acclaim and praise for all of their restauraunts with most of them (if not all) making it onto the the Washingtonian’s Top 100 list. they are wonderfully revitalizing the DMV american/contemporary seafood scene. thank God.

Back to Black. Black’s features a wonderful 4-7 mon-fri happy hour, also late night thurs-sat specials and an 11-5 sunday happy hour. but more importantly they have great deals. they have stella, blue moon and smitwick’s on tap for $3.75 and they also have miller light (for those of you who like that…) for $2.75. They also have a daily selection of wines for $5.00 by the glass. Another side note, their wine display is quiet impressive as it forms the wall behind the bar, and I was told that the red’s are kept at a perfect 57 degrees. take that luke warm red wine.

I mentioned that a large part of my dislike of Cantina was founded in its lack of food happy hour specials. No worries, we did not have that problem at Black’s. They only had four items but the 3/4 items that we had off that menu, were delicious. We ordered “Addie’s Mussels”, which are cooked in a tomato, garlic, shallots, lemon and parsley sauce. So fresh and so delicious. Definitely on par with Brasserie Beck. I ordered the Fried Squid (Calamari) which was absolutely delicious. Definitely, some of the best I have ever had and that is saying a lot because I have had some delectable Calamari. It was fried perfectly, not too hard but just right, and the seasoning was light enough that you still tasted the squid but well enough that you weren’t overpowered by the seafood taste. It was also served with an un-recreatable sauce but it had a mayonnaise base (maybe some tartar and ketchup?). I thought I would save the oysters for last because one thing that you must know about Black’s is that it is known for it’s Oyster Bar. So fresh. So delicious. They just slide right off the half shell. The Chesapeake Bay Oyster is their stalworth but they have a variety of other rotating oysters depending on what is freshest that day. so great. We also had a wood grilled flatbread that was topped with cheese, mushrooms and deliciousness. I can’t remember what all it had on it but it was super tasty.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my trip to Black’s. I had no idea that this gem was in Bethesda and I would definitely make the trek back up there again for an actual dinner. Furthermore, their other restaurants were recommended by my co-workers who live up in Maryland, so I would also make the journey up there to see what the buzz is all about. Black’s is a great place for both a group and/or a date because they divide the area’s so well. Also, if you want a relaxed date, you can definitely head to the bar area or the great large outdoor patio space.

Grade: B+/A-

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cantina Pub

spinach and artichoke dip

fries with mayonnaise aioli

veg skizzo

For a good co-worker buddy's farewell celebration, we decided to head to Cantina Pub for happy hour. Cantina pub is located in downstairs of the Darlington House, a relatively new restaurant drop dead in the hustle and bustle of Dupont Circle. Cantina blends into the block as a renovated townhouse with a very warming decor inside and out. As you head downstairs into the Pub, you feel as though you have momentarily stepped outside of the typical overly modern and chic dupont area. Cantina has the very warm and welcoming pub feel with its long bar, wooden tables and chairs and also some full flat screen TVs. I won't review Darlington House in this review because similar to Churchkey/Birch & Barley, the two spaces have uniquely different feels.

Although I loved the inside of Cantina Pub and would definitely go back for happy hour, we opted to sit outside as it was the perfect spring evening. They have a really nice covered seating, and because we got there relatively early (around 5:30), we had our choice of seating. We had originally planned to head back inside when our party got larger, but the seating was accomodating enough, and it was too nice outside not take advantage of it.

For their happy hour, they offer a wide variety of drafts for $3, $4, and $5. They also have a house red and white for $5. A few of us started with the house white, which was a Pinot Grigio which was nice. Nothing special but good enough for what it was. I also tried the Leinenkugel’s Sunset, which apparently is the Wisconsin version of a Blue Moon. It tasted pretty much identical to a Blue Moon/Shock Top so that was a nice beer of choice for a 70 degree evening. Unfortunately, despite the venue, I don't believe that Cantina has great happy hour specials because most other bar/pubs in the area have better deals. Furthermore, there were no food specials! SHOCKER! they lost lots of points on that alone. To truly get the Pub feel that Cantina is trying to achieve, it is imperative that they offer half off/or some sort of food deal for happy hour. People will be more tempted to stay longer and enjoy happy hour if this were an option. Nevertheless, we were hungry so we ordered some food anyways, but I think we would have been more liberal with our ordering, if the deals were better.

We started with the Spinach/Artichoke dip which was tasty but nothing special. It came across a little to creamy, so it felt a little too skimpy on the artichokes. I then ordered the house fries which were seasoned well and served with a mayonnaise aioli sauce which appears to be the major sauce of the hour in the foodie world. Overall, I was pleased with my choice. For more substantial food, some friends ordered the wings, the chicken quesadillas and I ordered the vegetable skizzo (the pub's take on a pizza). Everyone was pleased with the food but it was definitely "Pub" food, so it was nothing to call home about. I had changed my mind at the last minute and ordered the veggie skizzo but I had originally wanted to order the Figo Skizzo, and I semi regretted that decision. Although the skizzo was nice, it was nothing special and I think I would've been happier with the fig, pears, arugula, gorgonzola and truffle oil skizzo. Nevertheless, there was a nice assortment of grilled veggies on the skizzo but they definitely need to put cheese on it. Definitely.

Overall, I was overall pleased with my trip to Cantina. I like the atmosphere of the venue, but I definitely think it's more of a place to just drink and not really look to eat. You should probably head upstairs to Darlington House for that. However, I was happy to see a variety of vegetarian items on the pub menu because many times you don't see that. I also appreciated that they offer a variety of different types of food on their menu, so you don't have to go elsewhere looking for food, but they definitely need to cut the prices during happy hour. Cantina is ideal for small and large groups but I would probably opt for Darlington House for a date as its definitely a little more private.

Grade: B

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Zucchini, Tomatoes and Ricotta Linguine

veggieventures in the kitchen

after taking a gander through my "cooking light" magazine, I came upon this quick easy pasta recipe that looked absolutely delicious. I made a few changes because I don't really have the patience for making my own "fresh ricotta" when I can just buy it in the store and the use the rest for another recipe.


1/2 Cup Ricotta

1 Zucchini

1 1/2 Cup of Cherry/Grape Tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Pinch of Mint/Parsley/Fresh herb of your choice


1) Bring 6 qts of water to boil in Dutch Oven

2) Cook Linguine until Al Dente for about 7 minutes

3) Drain linguine and meanwhile coat and heat sauce pan with olive oil

4) Cut Zucchini lengthwise and then half and add to sauce pan

5) Sauté Zucchini for about 2 minutes and then add garlic and cherry tomatoes and cook for about another two minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6) Remove Zucchini, garlic and cherry tomatoes from stovetop

7) Add Ricotta to linguine and top with Zucchini, Garlic and cherry tomatoes. Mix well and season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

8) Top with herb of your choice (I used Parsley)

9) Enjoy and Share! :-D

Friday, April 23, 2010

eggless brownies


Brownie Grade: A-

Oh and here are the recipes:



  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray or oil an 8 x 8 baking pan.
  2. Mix applesauce, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (and cinnamon if using) together.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the applesauce mixture. Mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips (and walnuts if using).
  4. Spread in prepared pan and bake 25-30 min, until center is firm and not sticky. Cool completely before slicing.
adapted from

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies

eggless cookies and brownies galore.

For good friend of BOOF's birthday, ml, I wanted to do something special because with his religion, he's a vegetarian plus no eggs. I always find ways to bake things eggless in the office but knowing that his favorite dessert is brownies, it was my number 1 goal to finally master the eggless brownies after numerous failed attempts. Because numerous of my co-worker buddies also boast sweet "teeth", I also decided that I would try and master the eggless chocolate chip cookie. Mission Possible. Yes.

I quickly got to googling to try and find the best way to tackle both ventures and was quickly grabbed by a brownie-from-scratch which featured applesauce. Because I have tried making brownies with applesauce before, I was a little skeptical but I had also used the mix and not made it from scratch. Knowing that it was going to take a little more effort on my part, I gladly accepted the challenge and got baking.

On the other hand, I had never tried to make eggless chocolate chip cookies, so this would be a completely new adventure. I found an "easy" cookie recipe that featured non-fat plain yogurt as the holding ingredient, so I thought I would give it a try.

Both recipes were very simple to make and thankful to my wonderful kitchen-aid mixer, I was able to successfully bake the brownies and 3 dozen cookies in 1 1/2 hours. Take that Betty!

Now baking was the relatively easy part, but the taste was a whole different ball game. I was able to taste the cookies while they were cooling, and I was so taken back by how good they were. As a chocolate cookie expert, I have very high expectations and I just dont usually trust the reviews but boy, were they right. The cookies ended up being the perfect consistency and were nice and browned on the edges while remaining deliciously delectible and chewy on the inside. yum. I usually have very high expectations for my baking, so this high of a review was a lot coming from me but the same sentiments were reciprocated by my work buddies. They raved about the cookies and insisted that I should get them patented and probably open a bakery to pay for my medical school education...this is something i'm really considering. :-D

Now, the brownies on the other hand, I was super nervous about. I couldn't taste them beforehand because clearly, that just would look weird. So, I had to wait until I got to work and I would let ml, the birthday boy, be the first official taste tester. He LOVED them. Now, anything that is chocolate ml will love, so I had to get my own review as well as my other co-workers reviews before I knew they were the real deal. Welp, they were definitely the real deal. The applesauce allowed the brownies to have a beautifully fudgy moist interior, but yet they were still fluffy and not crumbly on the outside. ML was convinced that the brownies were not going to make it home with him because he was going to eat them all by the end of the day, and actually we were all very concerned about this because we thought that we would continue munching on them for the rest of the day.

Although he was able to take about five brownies home with him (he started with 20 on the day), he was only left with one chocolate chip cookie because we demolished those. Nevertheless, I think that I am going to tend to bake more things eggless more a matter of fact, I think i will potentially be baking all my chocolate chip cookies eggless because those were probably the best cc cookies that i have ever had. no lie.

Cookie Grade: A

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the brown sugar, white sugar, margarine and shortening until light and fluffy. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until incorporated, then mix in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges begin to brown. Cool for a minute on the cookie sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, April 19, 2010


a lot to cover. don’t think i’ll have enough time. lets try though.

starting with best cheap Sushi in the city: Nooshi

Located: Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle

Through my undergrad days at Gdub, Nooshi was a staple in my diet with their delicious cheap rolls only mere blocks from campus. Moreover, as we became “of age”, we began to enjoy their great half off happy hour for evening dinners.

Unfortunately, now that I have moved off campus at out of the NW bubble, I don’t really make it over to that area too often, let alone Nooshi for dinner. However, for a close friend of BOOF’s birthday, bd, I made the exciting weekday trek for this meal.

I was running a bit late after attending a previous engagement, so by the time I got there, they were already receiving their rolls. The sushi looked delicious and fresh, so I was very excited to put my order in but as the clock was rapidly approaching the 19th hour (7pm and the end of happy hour), I was more concerned with putting in my drink order. I was able to my Mango bellini order in on time, and it was a simple yet tasty drink. On previous trips, I had enjoyed Mojitos and Mai Thais, and I think when I make another trip, I would probably revert back to one of those choices because the Mango bellini was not anything special.

For dinner, I ordered the smoked salmon and cream cheese roll, the bbq eel with cucumber roll and the shrimp tempura roll. All were very tasty but the highlight was definitely the shrimp tempura roll. Although it was a smaller roll (only four pieces), the shrimp was fried perfectly and well cooked. All the seafood was relatively fresh, and as a plus the rolls were made quickly and were cheap. If you are looking for the best sushi in DC, Nooshi is not the place, but if you are looking for a nice place where you can get together for happy hour with a larger group of friends, then Nooshi can definitely be your place. They also offer Sake for another fun option. It can also be a date scene but it is important to remember that, if you are either a current gdub student, alumni or employee, you will inevitably run into someone you know at Nooshi. So, if you are just looking for some cheap sushi eats but still want a good meal, then Nooshi is definitely a suitable option.

Grade: B-

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Let's keep this thing international.

after meeting on a continent half way across the world, we all managed to end up in the same place for a year of magic. Despite being closer to each other than ever before, it is tough to get the five us together but we managed to get four of us rounded up for a sunday night dinner.

initially, I had planned for us to go to Rasika (soon enough!), but they were unfortunately closed on sunday. So, taking the good recommendation of BOOF buddy, Sho, I decided on Zaytinya.

Best friends of BOOF, sio, hugdoll and twinskii met me at 6:45 for a dinner at the Penn Quarter gem. Some foodies out there may know that Zaytinya is home to Top Chef star, Mike Isabella, from the most recent season of the show . The restaurant is a mediterranean mix but the menu takes most of its inspiration from greek, turkish and lebanese influences.

The restaurant sits directly across from my personal favorite Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery, and it features wonderful ceiling to floor windows throughout the L-shaped restaurant. They have both weekend and weekday happy hours which is a definite plus, and when you pair that with some fresh baked warm pita bread and an olive oil/balsamic mix to dip them in, you will be good to go. Nevertheless, we were all just drinking water and hot tea that night because despite the wonderful light from the ceiling to floor windows, we did find it to be a tad poorly insulated.

Upon ordering, they start bringing out the delicious warmed pita bread that puffs up when heated. it was perfect. i am a bread lover to begin with, but the reason why Zaytinya wins special points in this regard is because the pita bread is lite and airy; therefore, it does not fill you up too much, like most heavier breads from other restaurants. They serve it with the aforementioned olive oil and balsamic mixture, which was simple yet very tasty.

To accompany our pita bread, we opted to order the three spreads for $12.00 deal. We decided on the classic Hummus, Baba Ghannouge and the outlier, Htipiti (try saying that three times fast or once for that matter). All were quite delicious but the Htipiti was definitely a winner and I would essentially go back just for that spread. It was a mixture of marinated roasted red peppers, thyme and feta, and the flavors meshed so perfectly together to the point where you could not stop of yourself from continuing to take bite after bite after bite...The hummus was classic and the Baba Ghannouge may have been the best I have ever had (the tahini flavor was not too overpowering), but then again, I haven't had too much Baba Ghannouge in the past to compare it to.

Zaytinya is a tapas restaurant (which is probably my favorite kind of restaurant) with all well-priced dishes. For the quality of the food that you get, it definitely feels like a steal because a majority of the prices are so reasonable. I will go person by person to talk about each tapa that was ordered.

sio ordered the Imam Bayildi which is Ottoman style roasted eggplant stuffed with onions and tomatoes. She also ordered the seared Sea Scallops with a yogurt dill sauce and the Aglaia Kremezi style Crab cakes served on top of roast garlic yogurt (i also ordered these). Unfortunately, the Iman Bayildi was lost in translation because we never received these which was really unfortunate because it sounds like it would have been delicious. The good thing is that we were not charged for the dish, so apparently, our waiter just missed the order completely. Sio said that the scallops were very delicious, as was the sauce that they were served with. I will comment that the mini crab cakes are definitely a must have at the restaurant. I never knew that people other than Marylanders knew how to do crab cakes so well, but clearly those individuals of the Mediterranean region are well versed. They were fried perfectly and packed a sizable punch for their small appearance.

Hugdoll went for the very traditional route and ordered the Falafel and a flat bread (?). Falafel is made up of smashed chickpeas which is then fried, and traditionally served with a tahini sauce. The flat bread was reminiscent of a pizza with no red sauce. Hugdoll commented that both dishes were done well and very tasty, but nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary.

twisnkii went for the Fried Squid, which was again served with a garlic-yogurt sauce ( i am beginning to notice a trend!), and she was very pleased with the dish. I also believe she ordered the Spanakopita which is another traditional Mediterranean dish which is made of house made phyllo and stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. To me, it was reminiscent of an egg roll (see picture), but twinskii was very pleased with the taste and flavors.

I ordered the Kolokithokeftedes which translates into zucchini and cheese patties and they were served with a caper-yogurt sauce. I also had the aforementioned crab cakes and with my recent found obsession with brussel sprouts, i also ordered the Crispy Brussel Afelia which were served with coriander seed, barberries and garlic yogurt. I have already talked about the deliciousness of the crab cakes and the zucchini patties and brussel sprouts were more of the same. the Zucchini patties had a nice creamy and cheesy filling and it was slightly battered and fried which gave the bite size eat the perfect texture. The brussel sprouts were cooked my favorite way, broiled, so they had the nice crispy leaves but were not too burnt as it retained its natural flavor. However, they were a little bitter for my liking, so I personally would have maybe adjusted the seasoning to bring out the natural sweetness that brussel sprouts have.

All in all, Zatinya is a wonderful restaurant that I would definitely frequent again. The setting is accommodating for everyone as you could definitely have a nice date with your significant other but you can also bring a small or large group of friends The wrap around bar is also a very nice area and it is well separated from the dining area by a very architecturally and aesthetically pleasing wall (pictured). The walls that exist are white and royal/sea blue in color which is fitting for the mediterranean theme but I would recommend that they find some better insulation options for windy days. Also, the great ceiling to floor windows have large automatic drawn shades which is nice when potentially too much light is coming through at different points of the day.The menu is diverse in its flavors and cultural influences but everything works together to make a harmonious experience. Although we all opted for either seafood or vegetarian dishes, the meat menu was also plentiful, so I may have to make an additional trip and bring some other buddies that are more likely to order off that part of the menu. However, to be expected, lamb is definitely a highlight on the meat and poultry side. Overall, Zaytinya is a must go to restaurant in the city and I recommend pairing it with a trip to the National Portrait gallery on a nice Saturday afternoon.

Grade: A-

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sticky Rice

oh snap. double whammy. so much to post. so little time. so many restaurants. can my wallet take it? probably not but at least my belly is full.

After taking a less 24 than hour trip to the south (NC), best friend of BOOF, Mo, kindly picked me up from the airport. On the way back into the city, suddenly a great hunger overcame us and clearly in our minds, the only restaurant that would deliciously fill that void in the H street corridor is Sticky Rice. Although there are numerous delicious restaurants that are popping up all over the H Street Corridor such as Liberty Tree, the well established "Dr. Granville Moore's" and the relatively new, SOUK, Sticky Rice's tater tots were clearly calling our name

when venturing to the H street corridor, do not get dismayed. Although its a bumpy ride up to the top of H street, it is well worth the trip. You might find yourself a little uneasy as it appears to be a not as nice neighborhood; however, after living here for the past 8 months, I will say that it is one of the most diverse and gentrifying areas of the city. The cat calls are typical for any location in the city (yes, even in foggy bottom), but the people are good-hearted and the area is actually very very safe. It was recently tabbed as the Best Up and Coming neighborhood by CityPaper, so take that! Columbia Heights...

easiest way to get there is to hop on the X2 from Chinatown or if you're lucky, there is a free H Street Shuttle that picks up in Chinatown and drops off at Rock & Roll Hotel.

Now moving onto the restaurant and the food. SR has been typified as "Asian Fusion". When I typically rave about SR, everyone is like WTF is "Asian Fusion"? Well, Asian fusion is a variety of Asian food/recipes/spices all rolled into a delicious menu. SR is always bustling. On a typical night, you will have to wait 10-15 minutes for a table, but many chose to take a seat at the bar and order a few drinks before getting seated up or downstairs. If you want a quieter setting, I recommend requesting to be seated upstairs as downstairs can become quite the ravenous scene with loud music, people weaving in and out and random music videos playing on the projector screen. The restaurant features a full bar with a nice selection of mixed drinks, beer and even...Sake...BOMB! The drafts are always solid, usually featuring your usual bud light, miller light, blue moon, maybe a doghead (?) and stella. I potentially just made that list up but essentially, just a nice standard draft list but they have a good assortment of bottled beers as well.

Sticky Rice is a pretty small space which is why on thurs-sat night, there is at least a 45 minute wait in the evening, and they do not take reservations under any circumstance. The decor is very warm featuring a lot of reds and blacks with nice hardwood floors. The Sushi bar is upstairs and on any given night, you will see probably 3 or 4, not your average sushi chef forming delicious rolls. you will understand what I mean by that when you go. :-)

first things first. you must never go to SR and not order the tater tots to start off. They are the staple of the restaurant because they are usually not only fried and battered to perfection, but the dipping that dipping sauce is most delicious. It has enough a creamy taste but the spicy kick that it also features causes you to force feed yourself tater tots. You feel like you're back in a middle school cafeteria lunch but it is much better. much much better

SR boasts a very eclectic and diverse sushi menu, a far departure from your standard sushi rolls. They will put anything and everything into a sushi roll w including foods like sweet potato, goat cheese, and toasted almonds. My only draw back about the Sushi at SR is that it is hit or miss with its freshness. On this particular night, Mo ordered an assortment of Sashimi and Nigri and was very pleased with how fresh it was. Nevertheless, I have never had a bad experience with their sushi and I have tried numerous rolls on prior visits.

A positive thing about SR is that even if you are not in the mood for Sushi, there are delicious bowls that await you. On this evening, I opted for a personal favorite, the "Dirty Vegan" and I decided to order it with the Udon noodles. It features various vegetables and tofu cooked and tossed in a tasty peanut sauce. It is delicious. The best thing about the "bowls" is that you will definitely have tomorrow's lunch already prepared when you leave the restaurant.

I believe that one of SR's best qualities is its very vegetarian/vegan friendly menu. There are numerous options for both food lifestyles as well as numerous meat-eater options. There is no discrimination at SR. Moreover, as the pescatarian that I am, there menu is also to my liking as eat features not only your typical eel, salmon, yellow tail and tuna, but it also makes the DMV's favorite seafood, Crab, a primary part of their menu. OH and let's not forget, Mo, is the resident gluten-free foodie and SR boasts numerous gluten free options on their extensive menu. Furthermore, they also offer all of their bowls with the option for rice noodles/or rice so that is also a tasty option if you're a "non-sushi liker" Gluten Free foodie. I don't want to review previous visits to SR but i will note that if you are ever there when they have the Mac & Cheese with Crab meat special, purchase it. eat it. love it.

As previously mentioned, there are some issues with SR too. 1) Freshness of seafood is hit or miss which essentially makes the whole SR experience hit or miss. 2) Sometimes overcrowded. It is unfortunate that the only time you can have a really quiet dinner is late night. 3) No reservations. This becomes a real big issue because for me, I find it ridiculous that i have to walk the block and a half and wait at the bar for 45 minutes to be seated, when I could have done that in the pleasure of my own home.

Sticky Rice is not the ideal place for a large group only because they can't really accommodate it, but it is ideal for a small group of friends or a date with your significant other.

Overall, food is good and inventive but it is not unbelievable and is not the best sushi you will ever have. Noodle dishes and appetizers are also tasty. High grade because it is close to the top in the "Good Sushi but affordable" category and SR does a great job of accommodating everyone's different eating preferences.

Grade: B/B+

Weekly Deals and Fun:

Monday: 1/2 Priced Sushi after 10:30 pm-- if you can stay up this late, it is definitely worth it

Tuesday: Karaoke Night (and I also believe this features $2 dollar Tecate's)

Wednesday: Wing Night

Thursday: Bingooooo

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Good friend of BOOF (the blog's new sweeet nickname), Sho and I decided to take up the advice of many buddies and head out to see How to train your Dragon. Although we were told that we MUST see it in 3D IMAX, unless its a weekend, it is very difficult to get out of the district during rush hour and make it to the IMAX theaters on time for an evening (and not late night) show. Therefore, we opted to just see it in 3D because lets be serious, its just a smaller screen.

We ventured to Regal Chinatown which as many of you know is probably the easiest accesible theaters in the city as it sits right above the metro. the only unfortunate part of this adventure was that the Caps-Montreal playoff game was being played at the verizon center tonight, so it made for a sea of red and more traffic then usual (which is already a whole lot). nevertheless, i love the chinatown theater because of how easy it is to get to (they also validate your parking in the parking garage below the theater), and also there are numerous great places for a quick bite to eat or drink. Because of the traffic/parking, we were unable to get a quick bite but we grabbed some chocolate covered cookie dough bites (Sho opted for the Mint flavored variety) and we headed into the 98% Rotten Tomato rated, 3D experience.

The majority of the previews were also in 3D which is pretty cool, I guess. But It was crazy to see how all animated films and regular films are really milking this 3D phenomena. Sho and I did get very excited for Toy Story 3 and the final Shrek, both coming soon to a 3D screen near you.

Now, lets train some dragons. Needless to say, it was awesome. I don't want to put any spoilers out there because you really need to go see it for yourself but the movie takes place in the Viking era and we are narrated through this adventure by Hiccup (yes, his name is Hiccup). He is tween who is trying to prove himself to his father, the Chief Viking. Hiccup, unlike all the other Vikings, does not resemble much of a Viking at all, with his small scrawny build, lack of ferocity, and no knack for killing dragons. He can be found working as an apprentince of the local blacksmith molding and welding all the tools for the warrior vikings. The Vikings and the dragons are at a "war" because the dragons keep taking all the vikings food, and now the vikings are going hungry.

As the Viking troops (including Hiccup's father) take back to the sea to find the "dragon nest", we follow Hiccup's journey in Viking Training to become a true Viking. However, Hiccup is up to some other things during this "training", and not only does he learn how to be a "viking" but he learns a lot about himself, and the true identiy of the nemesis "dragons". Hiccup is voiced by Jay Baruchel (some people may know him from his recent hit, "She's Out of my League") and his love interest, Astrid is voiced by America Ferrera (her character is definitely a force to be reckoned with). Another one of the Vikings-in-Training is voiced by funny man, Seth Rogen and Hiccup's father, Stoick is voiced by Scottish Hearthrob Gerard Butler.

This movie is a ton of fun. The graphics are unbelievable, the action is non-stop and you find yourself wanting to take home a pet dragon with you at the end of the movie. The 3D imagery takes you into a Viking World that you could have only dreamed about during 3rd grade social studies. Although they are just animated characters, HTTYD's success lies in its ability to interweave this coming of age story with the understanding and need for increased "social" awareness. That might have been overstepping it a bit but there is definitely a lesson in this movie for all of us, both young and old. Furthermore, like successful recent animated films like "Up" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox", this movie has entertainment value not just for families but even for mid-twenty something year olds, and its not just the little kid in us that appreciates it ;-).

What we thought were funny questions after the movie...

1) Where can we find a dragon?

2) Do we have to get a dragon driving license?

3) Do we have to get insurance on our dragon?

Overall Movie Rating: A

Suitable for: All

Scene: You could definitely bring a significant other to see this movie because it is that much fun, but if you have a younger sibling, cousin, niece or nephew I definitely would spoil them with this treat. ;-)

Eats nearby: There are so many good places in the area but for movie night...Chipotle, Crepes on the Walk, California Tortilla, or an appetizer at Clyde's. For a drink: RFD, Fodo's, Bar Louie and again, Clydes, are all in a 100 ft walking distance.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Brasserie Beck

best mussels in dc? probably not but definitely a close 2 or 3.

For a good foodie friend’s surprise birthday party, some buddies and I decided to venture to Brasserie Beck in the Mt. Vernon area. She has been to there before and the party planners heard word from her husband that she enjoys the mussels and beer at this location.

BB’s Top Chef/Owner is Robert Wiedmaier, who is well known to the DC foodie world. It is located at 11th and K and claims to boast the most extensive Belgian beer list in the DC metropolitan area and it features a really great happy hour from 5-7 with half off all drafts. Originally, we planned to dine outside but since we arrived a little after 6, they were all filled up. So we hung out at the bar, yelled out the big “SURPRISE” and had a few more drinks while we waited for our table. Their drafts are all pretty delicious. Bavic is a golden “pils” which is pretty standard but neverthless very tasty. My european buddy decided to order me the Kasteel Rouge which is a Cherry beer. It did have a slightly overpowering dark cherry flavor but that is probably because I am partial to cherry-flavored things to begin with. It was not too sweet and the robust impact of a true beer still remained. The most popular amber draft is “Palm” which is known to have only a “fraction” of the alcohol content of most other Belgian beers but is also good. It appears to be the American version of a Bud or a knocked up version of Blue Moon. A few buddies also had Delirium Tremens which is a pretty well known Belgian import. Its a golden beer with a very fragrant and fruity smell but yet a rich smooth taste.

Onto the food. The biggest drawback for the evening was how long it took us to get seated. We were sitting at the bar for maybe 40 minutes before we got seated after they kept insisting “only a few more minutes”. This would have been a little bit more understandable if when we had eventually got seated we had not walked through what appeared to be a half empty restaurant. Perhaps they were understaffed…

One more thing before I get to the food. Walking through the restaurant, we passed by this large and beautiful open kitchen. Being a foodie and an individual who tries to be a chef in the kitchen, I appreciate an open kitchen at any restaurant. However, this is one spectacular kitchen with plenty of light and a half square shape to it. It is also well decorated with a variety of different color Dutch Ovens on the kitchen shelves which gave it a nice character.

Also, the overall ambience of the restaurant is delightful. Although I love the intimate feel of Dr. Granville Moore’s (the number #1 belgian mussel place in DC), I equally enjoyed the large space with high ceilings and plenty of light from the large full windows. I do wish their bar area was larger as it becomes very crowded too quickly. They also have a great outdoor seating but I wish that they would allow you to reserve it for parties over 5. It had a cool blue theme with its decor but you never felt too “cold”.

Ok, really the food. The three girls at dinner ordered the Mussels of different varieties. The Birthday girl opted for the Roasted Tomato, Basil and Rocca Mussels, another buddy opted for the Garlic and White Wine sauce and I chose the Curry & Apple. They were all tasty, fresh and well-prepared. I would have personally enjoyed a bit of a stronger taste in my mussels as I don’t believe they were cooked long enough in the sauce. The pairing of Curry and Apple worked very well but I wish they would have maybe added a little more curry to give it a needed kick. Awesome hubby of the Birthday girl had the Crispy Skate Wing a la Jacqueline with Garlic Spinach and he enjoyed it. He mentioned that it was good, seasoned well but nothing really to call home about. Another buddy had the Coq A Vin which was surprisingly delicious. We all questioned his choice to order “Roasted Chicken” but under recommendation from our waiter (who also gave said buddy a free beer), he ordered it. He mentioned that it was blackened perfectly but still retained the moisture that one would expect from a well cooked piece of chicken. My true Vegetarian buddy had a Crepe filled with Spinach and Cheese which he said was very good. Clearly, no mussels are complete without Frites and they were served with Mayonnaise trio. These were definitely a standout of the meal as they were cooked and seasoned well, and who doesn’t love a trio of mayonnaise sauces to slather your frites in?

Overall, Brasserie Beck was a very good experience. We had a great time and I would recommend it for large groups because it can get a little loud for the date scene. I still rate Dr. Granville Moore’s as the best mussels in DC but the beer list for both places are definitely comparable. I do believe that Brasserie has the better draft list available. I will eventually do a formal review of Granville Moore’s and Belga Cafe (the other top mussel place in DC). I also unfortunately have to knock their rating down from a possible A- to a B+ because as a pescatarian, I was clearly able to eat the mussels but as a vegetarian, there were limited options available. There was not even a dedicated vegetarian entree on the menu, only a few vegetarian appetizers. With our ever changing food culture, more and more people are turning to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles and it is imperative that restaurants embrace that change and offer menu options for those who do adapt these lifestyles.

Grade: B+

Verdict: Would definitely go back again for happy hour and they also have half priced oysters Thurs-Sat.