The Traveling Foodie

One of the biggest reasons I love traveling for work, is to see new cities, and try new restaurants.  However, that can make my work trips very expensive, even with my $50 per diem.

My first out of town trip was in Boston.  Well, second to be exact – I had gone up to Boston in June for work as well.  This is when I was first introduced to Neptune Oyster, Brassica Kitchen + Cafe, and Row 34. Neptune Oyster is the smallest little oyster bar located in North End.  I waited about 15 minutes for a seat at the bar, ordered 9 oysters, a clam and a glass of Rose.  Although extremely expensive, the oysters were so incredible that I ordered 6 more.  I couldn’t believe how much money I was spending on this oyster experience, but I was blown away by the flavor and freshness of each oyster.  It was worth every penny.I was able to meet up with one of my favorite people and favorite foodie friends, Jill, and she took me to Brassica Kitchen in Jamaica Plane.  Brassica is a cafe by day, and a hip dinner joint by night serving up French/American inspired fare with local ingredients, and an awesome drink menu. We ordered a little of everything off the menu, and it was such a lovely and delicious night.And then there is one of my favorites …Row 34.  My coworker and I stumbled upon this restaurant the first time we were in town, and I made a point to go back the second time I was up to visit. Row 34 is a brick and wood eatery serving up an extensive raw bar and craft beer menu.  And THIS is where I had the best tuna crudo. So good, I had to go back.  The food is great, atmosphere fun, and just an overall fun experience every time. The second time, which was also a second date (no, not with my coworker), at Row 34 we did oysters and the tuna crudo, again, but also ordered the salmon crudo, fried oyster lettuce wraps with pickled onion, the charred broccoli with peccorino, fries, and the brussles sprouts.  Good thing we both like to eat!  Everything was really tasty, and we ended the night at Drink down the street.  An innovative menu-less craft cocktail bar with a lively hipster vibe.And I can’t forget about The Barking Crab  from my very first visit to Boston.Delicious crab legs, a naked lobster roll (no mayo-just butter), and fish tacos.  This place has live music, and sits right on the water.  It’s not fancy, there are no frills about it, but that’s what makes it so great.  A true crab shack.

I’ve never had a bad meal or a bad experience in Boston.  It amazes me every time.  Hope I’m not jinxing myself!

In September I headed to Orlando for a little less than a week.  Despite all the chain restaurants in Orlando, my coworkers and I managed to find the one speakeasy in town called The Pharmacy.  Tucked away in a shopping center/condo complex, this (literally) hidden  gem was pretty darn delicious.  We started with cocktails, obviously, ordered a bunch of food to share, including the frites, bruchetta with burrata and prosciutto, a life changing pork chop, and mushroom mac and cheese.  I’m not a huge mac and cheese fan, but this dish was addictive.  The earthiness of the mushrooms really added character to the dish.After Orlando, I immediately headed to Vegas for a whirlwind work packed trip. Even with the long work days, I managed to make time to check out a few restaurants, walk the strip early in the morning, and find the most delicious coffee in the city… In my opinion.Our work took place at the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian so everyday I passed Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and stopped to get my coffee, a homemade oat granola bar, and some fruit. This became something I looked forward to every morning while I was there.

I was blown away by the shear amount of restaurants in each hotel, but even more blown away by the astronomical prices of food and drinks in Vegas.  The first night I ordered a martini at the Parasol Bar at the Wynn to watch the fun light show, and realized when I received the bill it was a $22 martini! Good thing that martini came with a little bowl of snacks and a show!The first night we dined at a restaurant at the Encore with clients, but unfortunately it was not really that memorable, and I can’t even remember the name.  After passing a beautiful advertisement for the restaurant Chica at the Venetian, I made sure to check out the grilled octopus with crunchy quinoa appetizer and spicy cocktail there.   That’s called good advertising!  Again, more expensive than I would have liked, but worth it for that little bit of relaxation and alone time on a work trip.  But the most memorable meal of the trip was at Giada at the Cromwell.

Although I absolutely loved the chic, clean, feel of the restaurant, the amazing view, and our outstanding server, I was underwhelmed by the food.  We ordered the Chicken Marsala Meatballs with roasted wild mushrooms , burrata salad with arugula, fresh ricotta with honey, lemon, and pink peppercorn , and the spaghetti, which came with two very plump prawns, mascarpone cheese, lemon, and  basil.  Unfortunately I just wasn’t wow’d.  However, the view I had of the Bellagio Water Show from my seat, well made up for it.

Besides a holiday filled weekend trip to NYC, I haven’t traveled much and not at all for work.  Probably for the best so I can recuperate from all this eating and drinking and spending.  But always looking forward to my next work trip…

Advertisements

Winner Winner The Chickery Dinner

I’m not one to really care about celebrity chefs.  They seem to be all over  the DC restaurant scene, however,  there is just ONE celebrity chef that wins me over every time.  I’ve met him a few times at various events over the years, and when I was invited to check out Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s The Chickery’s new late night menu, I knew I didn’t want to miss out.My friends Kacy and Tom over at Bad Sentences joined me for a evening of fun and chicken!The Chickery is a step up from a fast food joint, appearance wise, located right in the heart of DuPont, in Washington, DC, and serves up delicious chicken sandwiches, fries, salads, and their newest late night creation; the fried chicken waffle cone-a play on the very popular chicken and waffles.Chef Spike and his crew graciously served us various chicken sandwiches to try, as well as their take on Poutine, and of course the new late night treat.Perfectly friend chicken strips and French fries served in a warm homemade waffle cone drizzled with the restaurants signature buttermilk ranch dressing.

My favorite sandwich of the night, by far, was the first one I took a bite of;  the BBQ Big Dixie with bbq rotisserie chicken and coleslaw.  But being a fan of spicy food, the Blue Hot was a close second.  Each sandwich different and full of yumminess.  The fresh lettuce and tomato really help to balance everything out with some much needed crunch and freshness.Definitely the perfect post ‘night out’ snack, which I think is exactly what The Chickery is trying to achieve given the new late night menu.

We finished the night on a sweet note with root beer and orange creamsicle floats, and of course our very own Spike sandwich.Thanks to everyone there for the delicious experience and a chance to check out the new late night menu.  I’ll definitely be finding my way back there soon!

Slaptastic Salted Caramel Coffee

Recently I was introduced to a new line of protein products by my sister in law, and although skeptical at first, I have become a huge fan.  The line is called SLAP, and they make a variety of proteins, nut butters, protein pancake mixes, vitamins, BCAA’s, and much more.  I started out with the Birthday Cake flavored protein called Slappy Birthday,  the BCAA’s in Salted Caramel, and the pancake mix in Snicker Doodle because that just sounded downright delicious.I’m extremely picky about my protein powders as many of them contain a lot of sugar, and a list of ingredients I can’t pronounce.  I’ve been using Sun Warrior protein for years because it is a vegan protein with just a few all natural ingredients, and it actually tastes good!  But I was very impressed by this new protein I found, and I have to say, it tastes even better than Sun Warrior.  It is a whey protein, although SLAP does carry a line of vegan proteins too, but I’m a fan of the fact it is low carb, has very minimal all natural ingredients, and flavor that I am crazy about.  I’ve been making some pretty yummy green smoothies for breakfast with spinach, frozen banana, Slappy Cake protein, and a small scoop of Amazing Grass Detox and Digest for an added dose of greens.  And sometimes I had chia seeds to help keep me fuller longer, and because they are a great source of omega 3 fats. If you don’t know much about Branched Chain Amino Acids, it’s ok..because either do I.  What I’ve gathered from reading about them online is that they are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which comprise about 35% of our bodies muscle protein.  These amino acids help preserve muscle glycogen stores, which minimize protein breakdown, however, we can only get them from food and supplements as our body does not make them on their own.  The best times to enjoy them are before, during, or after a work out, but a lot of people have them in the morning when they wake up and before bed to help prevent muscle breakdown.  I was really excited about this flavor, but I’m still testing out recipes for the best way to enjoy it.  Right now I’m a huge fan of adding it to my coffee especially using it to make  iced coffee for a post workout treat.The caramel flavor is sweetened with Stevia,  and is very sweet, so its important to make sure you add it to enough of the liquid your mixing it with otherwise it’s way too sweet.  SLAP offers many other great flavors, but this is the only one I’ve tried so far.  I bet it would be good mixed with almond or coconut milk too, but right now I’m a huge fan of the Salted Caramel Coffee drink I’ve been enjoying.

Try it for yourself…

First add 1 scoop of SLAP Nutrition Salted Caramel BCAA’s to a blender with your black coffee.Sometimes I add a little steamed coconut milk, but you don’t have to.Mix in the blender for a few seconds, and the result is this delicious, frothy caramel coffee drink.  Drink it hot or serve over ice for an iced caramel coffee.  Either way, it’s a perfect morning treat, or a sweet snack.Big thanks to my SIL for introducing me to this awesome line of protein products!

Playing Catch Up

I constantly go through this love/hate relationship with blogging.  I love it for a while, get completely and totally wrapped up in it, and then after a few months, it becomes work, I don’t really think anyone cares, and I lose interest.

Now that I think about it…this is a lot of what I go through on a daily basis with a lot of activities in my life.  Working out, my job, men, hobbies, etc.

Does this happen to everyone or is it just me?  Maybe I get bored easily…something I’m learning a lot later in life. But I’ve had a few months off from blogging and started to get that itch back so I’m scratching it and here we go..yet again..

To catch you up real quick..

I’m still living in Annapolis and working for the same company I was when I got back from my trip.  Speaking of that trip – I can’t believe it’s been a year since I left.  I still have vivid memories through out the day of my travels.  I miss it every day, but try to take away all the positives and growth and look forward to another trip in the future.Let’s see what else..

I went to Charleston for a Bachelorette Party and ate ALLL the food!  We had our special Bachelorette lunch out at HUSK, but before heading to the restaurant we grabbed cocktails at McCradys.  I ordered the Bloody Mary, but this was not just any bloody Mary, this was almost like a Bloody Mary cocktail and absolutely amazing!   It was spicy and sweet with a basil floater on top that added a refreshing twist.  It was absolutely perfect, and I want one every single day of my life.I enjoyed our meal at HUSK, but wasn’t blown away by the food.  I think the best thing we ate  that meal were the pigs ear lettuce wraps. Crispy fatty pig with refreshing accompaniments in a butter lettuce leaf.I also determined that Charleston has the best Bloody Mary’s.  They are always spicy, and each one has it’s own unique twist.  I wasn’t a huge Bloody Mary fan, but Charleston converted me. I turned 33, which was hard to face, but also a chance for me to change how I was living my life.  My trip definitely helped with that.  Getting older is never fun, but I’m trying to be the healthiest, happiest and most positive person I can be. Easier said than done, but making small changes to how I was handling situations, my health, friends, family, etc, has been a great start.I spent most of the summer weekends at the beach or in St. Michaels with my family.We found a new  Happy Hour place at the beach that has the best deal in town.  Bull on the Beach offers great drink specials, but SO many food specials as well including 40% off clams and oysters.  I think last time I was there I got a dozen oysters for $9!  Can’t beat that!I finally dined at One Coastal, in Fenwick, DE,  which has been on my list for a while.  Such a great experience, the best cocktails, and delicious food.  The owner’s are incredible and you can tell they put their heart and soul into their restaurant.  It definitely shows. This was where I had my very first smokey Old Fashioned, but I have no pictures to prove it.  I’ll just have to go back! 😉

Oh, and one of my best friends got married… After the big dilemma I wrote about, I think she picked the perfect dress… 🙂I was traveling a lot for work in September and October and tried some great restaurants in Orlando, Boston, and Vegas.I’ve been to Boston 3 times now in the last few months both for work and pleasure, and I’m growing to really love that place.  I’ve never had a bad meal, they have the best oysters (in my opinion), and it’s always a good time every time I visit.  I had an incredible oyster experience at Neptune Oyster in North End, the most delicious tuna crudo that has ever touched my lips at Row 34, twice (yep-I flew all the way back just for that crudo!), checked out a cool brewery in Canton called Trillium, ate my first lobster roll at The Barking Crab, and had a memorable meal with my best foodie friend at a very hipster yet trendy new restaurant in Jamaica Plain called Brassica Kitchen.  There is so much more, but I’ll save it all for another post just about Boston.I feel the need to explain this crudo.  Extremely fresh pieces of mouthwatering tuna on top of creamy avocado slices, and balsamic drizzle,  topped with crispy black garlic, a spring of parsley for freshness, and a hint of salt for flavor.  It’s unbelievable. And as if that weren’t enough food…I’ve been exploring more of the town I live in, and hanging out with friends.  Always trying new places and taking advantage of living by the water.

Two favorites worth mentioning real quick – Sailor Oyster Bar, and Carrol’s Creek. Sailor Oyster is small, but has a really unique vibe and $1 oyster Happy Hour.  Great cocktails, great oysters, and a delicious salmon crudo.  I’m hooked on crudo these days if you couldn’t tell.  But really I just think they are the hot new raw fish, but either way, I’m totally on board. Carrol’s Creek is very classic Annapolis, but it’s one of the TWO restaurants on the water in down town.   I recommend going during the day in the summer and sitting outside.  They have a delicious bottle of Rose for $20 and their seafood charcuterie platter is a must.It’s been a fun food filled few months, but with all this eating and traveling, I had to make a drastic move, and joined a gym.  I start working out and eating healthier, which inspired me to blog again.  Or maybe it was the push of a certain person to remember why I started blogging in the first place. 😉 Either way – I’m back in the kitchen making new recipes, and trying fun new products that I want to share. And by ‘I started working out’ I mean last week…let’s be real here 😉

So there it is, in less than 1000 words…the last 7 months of my life.  More fun to come!

It’s a Pizza Party

Despite what it may look like on the blog, I don’t always go out to eat with my friends.  I actually spend quite a lot of nights making basic dinners, and I’m most definitely a bag lunch kind of girl.

Now that I live with my parents, we have taken on a new tradition of pizza night.  Growing up I always loved dinners that involved all of us helping and making the meal together.  Taco night and pizza night were my favorites.  My mom would line up all the toppings and we would make the tacos and pizzas ourselves.  This past weekend we were babysitting my niece and nephew, and I thought it would be so fun to do a pizza night where they could actually help make the pizzas.  This would also also be a great girls night dinner activity with friends.

But I have a little secret.  These semi homemade pizzas are made with crusts from The Dollar Tree.  I know what you’re thinking… ‘that sounds down right terrible!’  And, trust me,  I thought the same thing when my parents told me about them, but after trying them,  I’m hooked.  They are a little thicker than a flour tortilla and perfect for that thin crust pizza.  They also stay very crispy even when loaded with sauce, cheese, and toppings.

I will be the first to tell you, I am in no way, shape, or form a professional pizza maker, but I AM a professional pizza EATER!  I don’t know how to make dough or exactly what type of mozzarella works best, even though it is mostly about preference, but I do know how to turn a normal night into a Pizza Party kind of night.

I also really enjoy the whole wheat and the herb dough from Trader Joe’s, but I find it to be messier and harder to cook especially if you are making it’s with kids.  It does however, make a delicious pizza on the grill.  Grilled pizza is so delicious and a more ‘grown up’ version of pizza night for your get together and parties.  Or if you’re really fancy and you have one of those small wood fire ovens for our patio you could use that too.  If you do, please invite me over-I want to be best friends.

There are endless possibilities for toppings and different types of pizzas.  I searched some of my favorite pizza places for ideas, and eventually it just came down to what my family liked.  We decided to do one prosciutto and arugula, one cheese with mushrooms, and one  pizza loaded with vegetables and Italian Sausage.  We agreed on broccoli, red onion, chopped tomato, kale, fresh mozzarella, and Italian Sausage.

Since these were semi-homemade, some of the ingredients were already prepared for us.  We used pre-made crusts, canned mushrooms, and already shredded mozzarella cheese for the mushroom pizza.  My family likes their mushroom pizza a certain way, and this is it.I really like a white pizza with arugula and lemon, but we decided to do prosciutto and arugula with balsamic drizzle.  I recommend getting a good quality prosciutto for this.  Something like a Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele Prosciutto.  You don’t need to go crazy and spend a ton of money since you are putting it on a pizza and baking it, but make sure it is  decent quality and not too dry.Personally I like pizzas with a variety of toppings. I like some vegetables, some meat, and usually red sauce with cheese.  Depending on my pizza mood- I like contrasting components. There was a pizza at Lena’s Wood Fire Pizza in my old neighborhood that had Diavola Pizza on their menu I just couldn’t get enough of.  It was topped with sopressata, fried kale, and hot ghost honey.This was my first time putting broccoli and kale on a pizza, and I found that if you boil the broccoli for a just a couple minutes, and you massage the kale with olive oil first before adding ti to the pizza, the broccoli is easier to eaty, and the kale doesn’t burn as easily.Wine with pizza is a must.  I love a slightly sparkling, off dry Lambrusco, but I found this Zinfandel from Sonoma County that was really complement to pizza night.  It’s balanced nicely and not too heavy.  I really enjoy it on it’s own, but its also great as a fun pizza wine.

So what is your favorite kind of pizza?  I’d love to hear all your favorite pizza combinations so I have some ideas for next time…

 

~Lauren

The Great Wedding Dress Dilemma

May is right around the corner, and that means bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, bachelorette parties, MY BIRTHDAY, many other peoples birthdays (seriously though..have you noticed how many people have birthday’s in May?  Something about that Summer Love in August), Memorial Day, and so many other festivities that just make the month of May one of the craziest times of the year for me.  And this year, I get to do some traveling in May, which I’m really looking forward to.  I’m going to Charleston for one of my best friends bachelorette parties, and I honestly can’t wait.

Sara is getting married in September, and everything for her wedding is pretty much set, except for one main thing…the wedding dress.  And as horrible as I am at making decisions…she might actually be worse.

Our weekends last month were  filled with traveling near and far to various department stores and boutiques trying on dresses of all colors, styles, and tulle levels.  And to be perfectly honest..there is never enough alcohol involved for the high level of indecisiveness.  Luckily, for me, there is always lunch or dinner involved, but that comes at a price.  This is usually involved sitting and debating and analyzing that days dress selection over and over…AND over.  And sometimes we take a break from the dress drama and discuss what’s really more important to her-what water bottle she should buy.  I can’t even make this stuff up.

The engagement ring decision was slightly better (Sara was able to pick out what type of engagement ring she wanted), but the dress drama at this stage is almost comical.  I’ve never known anyone to try on THIS many dresses, and still just not know.

The first run was to a small boutique and Sara had no idea what she wanted so we started from scratch.  Getting a basic idea of neckline and design of dress, but with no luck on anything else specific, we made our way to DC for brunch at Sally’s Middle Name on H street. Sally’s Middle Name is a quaint little restaurant on H street that reminds me a little bit of a diner.  The food and drink menu is written on the wall and changes daily.  The coffee is delicious, the food is comforting yet creative, and I love the open kitchen.  The wine is a bit pricey and pours small, but sometimes that is to be expected in DC.

I got the Korean Hash with poached egg, Sara ordered the mixed greens salad with apples and almonds, and we shared the most delicious warm lemon glazed donut.  I highly recommend their house hot sauce with the Hash.  I love my food spicy, and this definitely did the trick. 

The second run was to Nordstrom’s on a Sunday night.  A night where I was feeling pretty down about my somewhat broken relationship at the time, and not one part of me wanted to watch  girls trying on wedding dresses.  But this was not about me, and I sucked it up and put on a happy face.  Later we had dinner at Seasons 52 where I wanted to drown my “Woe is me, I’m going to be single forever” sorrows in their delicious, yet not at all traditional, Old Fashioned. Their Old Fashioned’s are made with apple bitters and come with a rock candy stirrer.  We shared a couple salads, flat breads, and appetizers, but nothing was particularly great.  I find the food at Seasons 52 to be mediocre and feel everything is either seasoned too much or too little. 
Seasons 52 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On our third dress run I was accompanied by our other friend Diane, and we visited two more stores, but again, with no luck.  The only luck we had that day was the beautiful Antipasti Market Board at Carluccio’s in Old Town.  I am very fond of Carluccio’s and love it’s  trendy Mediterranean vibe.  The restaurant has only been open a few years, but it is exactly what Old Town needed.

Except for the one time I actually had dinner there, I always sit at the bar, I always order a few things to share-usually the antipasti board and a seafood item, and I always get the Planeta Rose.  It’s never steered me wrong. This time we got the Deluxe Market Board to share along with some salads.  The Deluxe Antipasti board includes chargrilled vegetables, roasted peppers with pesto, bruschettine, buffalo mozzarella, marinated olives, anchovies, Napoli and spicy salami, roasted ham and focaccia.  The Insalata Abruzzese with Tuna, beans, and sweet peppers was a great salad choice as well.  Really refreshing and hearty at the same time.

Carluccio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lunch would not be complete with out some Sara indecisiveness.  However, this time  the conversation wasn’t filled with wedding dress decisions, but a more intense conversation about what water bottle she should purchase for her sparkling water consumption.  It was a real toss up between the ever so sturdy Tervis or the Contigo with straw.  There was even a pro and con list involved. Yes, this actually happened.

I’ve only been dress shopping with Sara three times, but she’s been a handful of other times on her own or with her mom, and she’s also had numerous dresses mailed to her in which she tries them on, sends us pictures, and then sends the dress back.  It’s not a normal day if I don’t wake up to more pictures of dresses and pro and con list for each one.Like I said…not enough alcohol.  Maybe if Diane McMartin could have told us “What goes with your Great Wedding Dress Dilemma we would have made a decision on a dress already…

At least I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and eat delicious food.  But seriously Sara..make a decision already!

~Lauren

Another Asian Sunday Funday

Spring is in full bloom in DC, and I really hope it is here to stay.  My friends and I have been trying to schedule more ‘Work Out’ Dates and less ‘Happy Hour’ dates, but sometimes the two get combined.    There is so much to love about a glass of wine after yoga. It’s called balance…right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Sunday we had plans to do yoga and then healthy lunch after, but somehow that just turned into Brunch and Sunday Funday.  In our defense, we did have a yoga date the following Tuesday and checked out a new juice and vegetarian shop for dinner-no wine included.But on this particular Sunday, after MUCH deliberation (we are 4 girls who are people pleasers and cannot make a decision) we decided on Hazel in Shaw.  In the last year or so Shaw has received a face lift and so much to offer between all the new trendy dining spots and shops.

Hazel offers a ‘Dim Sunday’ Brunch, and was one of the better meals I’ve had in DC in a while.  And so the Asian kick continues…

Not at all what I’m used to with traditional Dim Sum, but various small dishes with creative Asian influences, and all super tasty.  We were lucky to get a table in their beautiful outdoor space and just enjoyed an afternoon of eating and catching up.


We started with a bottle of Rose from Corsica.  This was my first time having a Rose from Corsica, and it was very good, but not my favorite.  I think my friends enjoyed it a little more than I did, however it did grow on me over time.  If I had to describe it in one word it would be CLASSY.  Extremely pale pink, light body with pretty floral notes, very dry, and a soft lingering finish.
Since there were 4 of us we went with the Whole Shebang which is a fantastic deal.  You get one of everything on the menu for $95 and when divided by 4 it’s extremely reasonable for the amount of food you get.  The dishes were creative and interesting and all super tasty.  We all had our favorites, and they all happened to be different.

Asparagus Salad, Shaved Red Onion, Fragrant Herbs, Nuoc Cham, Peanuts- delicious and fresh!Smashed Cucumber Salad, Fried Garlic, Chile Oil-  one of the better smashed cucumber salads I’ve had due to the high intensity of flavor and layers.Kimchi Scramble, Garlic Aioli, Crispy Shallots, Shaved Bonito FlakesBreakfast Donburi: BBQ Short Rib, Fire Panda, Pickles, Sprouts, Rice – A favorite from the meal.  The Short Rib was so tender, and I loved the pickled vegetables with the eggs and meat.Beet Cured Gravlox, English Muffins, Yogurt, Pickled Red Onion– outstanding in every way.  So creative and well executed
Crispy Tots, Black Garlic Ketchup, Chives– it’s hard to mess up tots, but this black garlic ketchup I could put on everything!Pork Sung Buns, Garlic Aioli, Scallions, Fish Sauce Caramel-unbelievable combination of savory and sweet, and so very creative.  I mean..Fish Sauce Caramel?  It was delicious!Grandma’s Zucchini Bread, Foie Gras Mousse, Chamomile Gelle, Bee Pollen– another super unique combination, but surprisingly fantastic. So decadent.Mapo Eggs, Szechuan Pepper Lamb Sauce, Fried Eggs, ScallionsDonuts, Black Sesame Custard, Matcha Glaze– Messy, but outstanding.  Enough said.Duck Muffin: English Muffin, Duck Sausage, Baked Egg, Fire Panda Mayo

It wasn’t the crazy type of boozy brunch that sometimes occurs in DC, but it’s was classy, delicious, and exactly what we wanted that day.  The food was so good that I am excited to go back for dinner.

The REST of the day was not so classy and filled with more Asian snacks , more wine, and DC rooftops as we jumped from place to place visiting old friends and enjoying the sun.
Hazel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

~Lauren

It’s All About the Company

Sometimes when I sit and think about the American lifestyle I get pretty depressed.  I wake up, go to work, sit in cubical, drive home, make dinner, do the dishes, pack my lunch, watch TV, go to bed. Or some variation there of. And if I’m  lucky-then I’ll fit the gym in there somewhere.  And I’m sure if you’re a parent with kids, it’s 10 times worse.

It feels like Groundhog Day, every day.  This is the reason it is important to find a job you love, people you love spending time with, and cherish any and every moment you have that allows you to step out of this routine-even for just a little bit.Lately, I’ve been trying to find my balance now that I’m back in the 9-5 working world, living with my parents, and searching for that happiness I once had abroad.  It’s not that I’m not happy.  I’m generally a happy person, but this sort of routine lifestyle, dealing with looking for a job that I’m passionate about, maintaining friendships, and dealing with the ups and downs of a new relationship can sometimes wear on me.  I’m digesting all the memories that flood my brain every day of my backpacking trip, analyzing ways of how I can be a better friend, how I could have been a better girlfriend, how I want to travel again, squash thoughts of how I want to run away, and then realizing that I’m not getting any younger and I’m way behind on life.  It’s daunting and these thoughts definitely get me down.   Deep down I know I have a great life, but I’m also human and this is how I feel from time to time.

I have to find ways to keep my spirits up and dining out or even just going out with friends is a way for me to relax, laugh, and feel good again.  Running and yoga does this too, but this is a food blog after all, not a work out blog.I get excited when I have plans to go out. I dress up a little bit. I check out the menu beforehand. It’s probably a similar feeling to someone who’s into fashion buying a new pair of shoes.   But even though I love tasting new dishes and chef’s inspirations, it’s not always about the food for me.  It’s about the company and time with friends and family.  I went out to dinner with a former colleague and a friend of hers at Garrison in Eastern Market a couple weeks ago, and it was the perfect example of how the company really makes the evening special.

Here is the problem…if I hadn’t taken pictures of the food that night, I may not have even remembered what we ordered.  Not that the food wasn’t good…it was!  But more so because we were completely and totally enwrapped in conversation.  It never stopped.  We talked about just about everything, laughed, ordered a bottle of delicious Rose and just kept on eating and chatting until we closed the place down.  These certain experiences are memorable for me and always make me to feel happy again.

We started with cocktails and bubbles.  And most definitely one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Basil and lemon are such a fresh combination. All of us starving- we wanted to order one of everything.  Having decided against the tasting menu, we just started naming off dishes we wanted, and as it turns out…we were all on the same page. Scallop Tartare with Avocado, Citrus, and Crispy GingerFennel Salad with Citrus, Pistachios, Arugula, and Chili’sGrilled Ramp & Spring Onion with Fresh Ricotta, Peas, and RadishesPan Seared Cauliflower with Virginia Peanuts, Black Quinoa, and Sweet OnionRabbit Pappardelle made with Emmer Wheat, Fennel, Coriander, Porcini, and OlivesRed Wine Braised Bison Short Ribs with Fingerling Potatoes, Smoked Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms.  Easily one of my least favorite dishes of the night.Salt Roasted Gilfeather Turnip with Apple Cider, Hazelnuts, Tarragon.  This  dish was probably the most memorable of the evening for me and one of my favorites.Smoked Black Cod with Spring Peas, Preserved Lemon, Creme Fraiche, Caviar, House-made sprouted Rye Bread.  A crowd pleaser and one we all agreed was outstanding.We eventually transitioned to the Domaine du Pegau ‘Pink Pegau’ Rose.  A Rose I hadn’t tried before, but was recommended by the sommelier, and a fantastic recommendation at that.  Full of body, very dry, and a great complement to our dishes.

And even though I was too full to eat anything else, we ordered dessert.  Pear Strudel with Caramel Custard, and Vanilla Ice Cream.  I did taste the custard and it was delicious.I thought all the dishes were good.  I definitely had my favorites and not so favorites.  I could go through each dish and tell you what I enjoyed or what could be better.  But at the end of the day..none of that mattered.  What mattered was the memorable evening I had with and old friend and a new friend.

It’s not always the food or the place, but the company.  Meeting a friend of a friend, having a delicious meal, sipping on a gorgeous Rose and one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, in a warm and inviting environment.  Was this one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in DC? Absolutely not, but it was definitely a night I will remember.

~Lauren
Garrison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mixed Feelings in Shaw

When you’re in love with the restaurant industry and food as much as I am, you have a list of places you desperately want to try.  I actually have this list on my phone-no joke.  Sometimes you’re disappointed, sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, and sometimes you’re blown away.

A week or so ago I met up with my old friend and colleague for our bi-weekly dinner date as we are trying to get together more, dine out more, and fall in love with the industry again.  Well… I’ve always been in love with food, but sometimes when you work in the industry you can get side tracked on why you fell in love with it as with any industry or job.

We agreed on a place I’ve heard a lot about, in Shaw, called KyirisanTry saying that with a mouth full.  Wasn’t even able to ever write it properly until writing this post. This Chinese/French fusion restaurant was opened by the same couple who opened Water and Wall in Arlington.The restaurant has a similar feel and décor to a lot of DC restaurants these days, but it definitely had a warmth about it.  We got a drink at the bar. ””Whiskey and Weird” for her, and Rose on tap for me.   Because…who says NO to Rose on tap?!!?

After sitting down and chatting, we finally made a decision on dinner with help from our server who graciously discussed the entire menu, the restaurant concept, and some of his favorite items.  The menu is French-Chinese, but even more so, it’s just downright different and very creative.

After starting with the Raw Royal Seabass and Scallops,  I was pretty pleased with our choices so far.  The Raw Seabass had a variety of flavors and textures and was served with a brunoise, orange segments, radish, and a fish sauce aioli, which I’m pretty sure was the secret to making this dish pop.  Fish sauce is not so pleasant on its own, but it can really bring a dish to the next level.The scallops were cooked perfectly with a coconut risotto, basil ice cream, and scallions.  A lot of times you see vanilla being paired with scallops, but coconut was an interesting surprise, and the basil and scallions added so many layers.  Even though this was sweeter than I usually like, I couldn’t stop scooping up spoonfuls of the decadent risotto and buttery pan seared scallops.We then were served complimentary bone marrow, which looked so beautiful, but neither of us were bone marrow fans and were already getting full with two more dishes on the way, so we had to pass.Our second two dishes were good, but not as good as the first two.  We ordered the Duck Confit and the Buddha bowl.

The duck confit was the gorgeous arrangement of Sous Vide Duck Confit (sous vide to obtain the most perfectly cooked meat) , Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Apple Cider Gastrique, and topped with a burnt blood orange.  As beautiful as this was, I wanted it to be better.  Duck Confit is already very heavy and decadent and the apple cider gastrique just made the dish a little too sweet and way too heavy for me.  We only ate a couple bites and had to box the rest.The Buddha Bowl was glass noodles, my favorite, with a bunch of vegetables, chilies, and peanuts.  Again…good, not great.  It was the first time I didn’t really enjoy eating the glass noodles.  I think I prefer them cold in more of a Thai style dish with lime and fish sauce.  Again, we had to box this one up.As we were finishing our 1 small bottle of sake, quite conservative for us but it was a school night, the server brought us over complimentary dessert. Not sure why we were getting treated so well, but I’ll take it!

For not being a big “sweets” person, the dessert was one of my favorite things I ate all night. Pandan Cheesecake with a chocolate crust and chocolate glaze, pandan anglaise, Szechuan whip cream, and candied hazelnut.  This dessert was not only beautifully presented, but delicious.And to add to the fun, the dessert menu is also a guest book where people can write notes to the restaurant.  It was a fun way to end the evening.Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Kyirisan, and thought the service was great, drinks were great, and atmosphere was fun, but something was lacking in the food department.  And I feel if I’m going to pay an arm and a leg for dinner in DC, I want it to WOW me.

But I didn’t mind my leftovers for lunch…so that’s always a plus!

Kyirisan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Made it to Maketto

Everyone loves brunch.  And when you stay the weekend at your foodie friends apartment in DC, you’re bound to have a fabulous Sunday Funday brunch.  I’m not sure what’s in the air, but my friends, along with myself, are on an Asian food kick lately.  And with all the noodle and dim sum restaurants popping up in DC, we have all the base’s covered.After a Saturday night in of heavy wine drinking, the only thing we were craving the next morning was Ramen.  Warm, salty, spicy, hearty, fatty ramen.  After listing out all our options my friends and I decided to veer off the noodle path and hit up a trendy dim sum restaurant on H street called Maketto.  If you know anything about restaurants and food in DC, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Maketto.This is a restaurant, cafe, and clothing store all in one.  And they serve a dim sum brunch that is worth the hour wait.  We hit up a coffee and cocktail bar across the street while we waited and once our text came that our table was ready, so were we!

We sat in the back of the restaurant, with the open kitchen, past the patio and even though there were problems with the heat that day, the restaurant did everything they could to make sure we were satisfied and happy.  After perusing the menu and literally wanting everything, we started making our list.  One of everything for this group!Maketto is a fusion of Taiwanese and Cambodian food and on Sundays they serve a limited and seasonally changing dim sum menu from 11:30-3pm. I was pleasantly surprised as the prices were pretty reasonable; all ranging between $4-$10 a plate.  There are also larger plates like their famous Taiwanese fried chicken that is an absolute must, but be prepared to take some home.  It is just that big.

We started out with beers, and I got a Tiger, which made me miss my traveling days.There were four of us so we ordered a little bit of everything, and shared it all. We got the Pork Shumai, Shrimp and Pork  dumplings, crystal shrimp dumplings, wok fried noodles, steamed pork bun, steamed leek bun, strange eggplant, turnip cakes with XO crumble, and the fried chicken, obviously.

Because I’m trying to get better about my chopsticks, I even got chopstick 101…All the dishes were absolutely incredible.  A bit different than your traditional Chinese dim sum, but very similar dishes with elevated the flavors. Every single bite wow’d my taste buds with components of savory, sweet, spicy, herbal, crunchy, and comforting.  And the biggest surprise for me was the turnip cakes.  I’m not a fan of the texture of the authentic turnip cake, but these were amazing.

The drinks, the food, and the conversation was flowing.  We all agreed that we could have done with out the strange eggplant, which just reminded us of a basic baba ganoush, but we were very happy with everything else.  The fried chicken was very good, but by the point we received it I was beyond full and it was a bit too heavy and fried for me.  However the flavors were out of this world, and I was so happy to have ordered it.

With our hangovers gone, our bellies full, and just happy as clams we decided to finish our Sunday Funday at the next bar.  I was really impressed with our experience at Maketto and would definitely go back when I want dim sum on the net level.  

……. and then…….

Till next time..

~Lauren
Maketto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato