15 September 2013

Cookbook Club - Jerusalem

The NY Times started this feature last month where they shape stories around a particular cookbook for that month.  The first cookbook chosen was Jerusalem.  I was reading through one of the stories and came across the idea for a cookbook club.  I wanted to do this.  I polled my friends for their interest and found a great group that love to cook.  I chose Jerusalem since I already own it and I wanted the opportunity to taste more of the recipes.

Everyone chose what dish they wanted to make and it turned out to be a perfectly balanced meal without any prodding from me.

The meal was incredible.  I was beyond impressed by my friends skills and the taste of all the dishes.  It speaks really well to the recipes but also to the skill in making them.  I'm already excited for October because I loved this experience that much.

Anne loves to bake.  She went through the dessert section and found a recipe for Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake.  I received a series of texts from her at 9:30 am yesterday about how the recipe wasn't specific enough about when to add the fruit juice and that her first attempt turned into cake soup.  We went through the recipe, realized the mistake and her second version was incredible - both visually and taste-wise.  Jenica and Emily described it as being similar to marzipan but we all agreed it was lighter and tasted better.    

I made the Roasted Chicken with Clementines & Arak but without the arak.  I couldn't find any and I hoped that the fennel would be enough to give it the needed flavor which it did.  This dish was so easy and so very good. I really caught on to how much Middle Eastern food uses flavors that I already love - almonds, clementines, and dates.

May made the Baby Spinach salad with Dates and Almonds which I would willingly eat every day.  It appears relatively easy to make but it involves a lot of prep work.

I didn't get a great photo of the Pistachio Soup that Jenica made but it another great dish.  Jenica loves pistachio.  She will always get that flavor if it's an option.  The flavors in the soup were very complex with the saffron, orange and lemon juices and cumin.  It's a really hearty and delicious soup.

Megan made the Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Zaatar.  All of us were in love with the flavor combination of the squash with the tahini.  Again, I failed taking a photo of just that dish but it's on the right side of the photo below.  It's a beautiful dish.

It was such a lovely night and I loved watching the sun go down.  Pretty much everyone wants to buy the cookbook because of the positive experience and I'm looking forward to making more dishes from it.

14 September 2013


It's the time of the year to eat as much BBQ as possible.  I'm even traveling to Austin next week to eat BBQ.

There's this one place in DC that used to be called The Standard but then The Standard in NYC said "No!" to that so the DC restaurant changed it's name to Garden District after the plant store that used to be there.

It's only open during the more pleasant time of the year when a roof is not required.  Jenica and I shared the pulled pork sandwich and the Kraut Dog.  I ate the Mexican corn and I left the fried pickles all to Jenica.

We walked across the street to buy pop tarts at Ted's Bulletin for dessert and they were delicious. 

08 September 2013

Twilight Polo

I was hoping to be in NYC this weekend. But it didn't work out and I'm now going in November for 5 days instead of 3 so it worked out for the best.  I've been really homesick for my friends and my life there but it may be because it's been a year since I moved to DC.  I had an opportunity to just think yesterday about this last year.  The beginning was really difficult - too much change and not a lot of surety that things would ever be better than just ok.  The last few months though have been much better than ok.  I've had lots of fun adventures and met some pretty good friends.  I'm now looking forward to a lot of wonderful plans like dancing to James Murphy on November 1 at the 930 club and finally seeing a live taping of Doug Loves Movies at the Bentzen Ball in DC.  Brigham is even coming down to DC for that one because live podcasts are the reasons he comes to visit (see Harmontown).

I was trying to figure out what to do this weekend when the original plans fell through.  Jenica had the excellent idea to go to The Plains, VA to watch Twilight Polo.

We invited the group and brought a picnic. I was also very excited to find pumpkin baked goods at Whole Foods which I bought.  Let the excellent autumn food season begin.

We were standing right by the gate and there were times that I worried for our safety with the mallets and the ball (I just did a google search to make sure they are referred to as balls) but it also gave us some incredible shots of the field play.

07 September 2013

Finally...An Outdoor BBQ

 On my Labor Day...

 I made french pastry.

And filled one with lemon custard and curd which wasn't very good because I ran out of lemons.

Took it in shame to a BBQ but it's all I had.  I was happy to see much better food there.

Including two kinds of guacamole because a dear friend remembered that cilantro tastes like soap.

Talked to good friends.

Saw this T-shirt on Tim which is incredible.

We said our goodbyes to Richie who is moving far away.

Anne's peach/blueberry cobbler completely put my tart to shame.

But I came home at the end of the day and made this Peach Almond Tart which restored my faith in myself.

04 September 2013

President Lincoln's Camp David

Because I'm enamoured with President Lincoln, I was pretty excited to find out there was a famous DC site associated with him that I've never visited. And Jenica agreed to come since she drove us to the wrong site when we were trying to find Lincoln's birthplace in KY.

Lincoln's Cottage is where President Lincoln and his family lived for 13 months between 1862-1864.  It's on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home which was created in 1851.  Other Presidents spent time here as well to get out of the swampy heat around the White House.  It was described to us as the Camp David of the 19th century.

Our first stop was the gift shop to meet with the tour guide and I loved seeing these two items.  It was the unofficial 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I wasn't really sure how to feel about the MLK bobble head.  The T-shirt though is one of my favorites ever.

The tour of the house is just a tour of a house.  There are no furnishings and it's not made to look like it did when Lincoln lived there.  After the presidents stopped visiting, it turned into a retirement home for soldiers.  It's a nice place but I had high expectations and the tour guide was more interested in our feelings and thoughts about Lincoln as opposed to teaching us about him.  I walked away a little deflated but I still love the T-shirt.

02 September 2013

DC Restaurant Week 2013: Et Voila

I've been pestering Phor for a while to eat at Et Voila.  It's one of those restaurants that the Post consistently recommends so it's been on my list for a while.  I finally gathered my French-speaking friends to try this Belgian restaurant.

It does not have the ambiance of Le Diplomate which screams French restaurant.  It's more of a neighborhood restaurant which is very narrow and the tables are tight fitting.  We were placed in the very back directly next to the kitchen and bathrooms.  I wasn't all that excited about our location but it was less noisy which made it easier to chat with each other.  Our waiter was really odd though as he kept calling us Madame and Monsieur when we were all obviously females at the table.  I asked him why he kept doing that and he said it was out of habit.  I wasn't impressed.

We didn't order off of the Restaurant Week menu as the options were really limited and it wasn't that much more expensive to order off the complete menu.  The food was very good.  Lots of butter and all things that make Belgian food delicious.

My starter was the spring pea soup with crumbled goat cheese.

Debbie was very happy with her beet salad and blue cheese.

I ate the duck (surprise) with mashed potatoes and red wine sauce.  I loved this dish.

Debbie had the grilled trout swimming in butter.

Jenica was happy with her Flemish beef stew and Anne loved her burger with bacon.  We were all happy that they came with Belgian fries.

But I was once again disappointed by dessert.  Finding good dessert should not be this difficult.  Anne and I ordered the Belgian waffle with rhubarb compote and cream.  It was not anything resembling a Belgian waffle.  I remember eating those waffles last year visiting Seth and Sunny and those were special waffles.

I didn't realize trying to find good desserts in DC restaurants would be this difficult.