About a month ago — ack! Did I seriously take a month to write this post? For SHAME, GKG! — THT and I made our way to Las Vegas for four whirlwind days. THT had a conference for work (tough life, right? I wouldn’t mind getting sent to Vegas to “work”) and my spring break — miracle of miracles — was during that same week. We packed our carry-on bags and flew from DC to McCarrick Airport on Monday, and landed to see that beautiful, gaudy, absurd, once-in-a-lifetime sight:
With the advent of fall (yup, still excited about it, and will be until winter comes crawling), I always get in the mood for that caramelized, tender-crisp and buttery flavor of roasted vegetables. While fall specifically tends to make me crave root veggies — roasted sweet potatoes, squashes, parsnips and more — the simple technique of roasting veggies is clutch for any budding chef to master.
Here are the simplest steps for successful veggie roasting:
- Cut or trim veggies into semi-uniform pieces (for even cooking time)
- Coat lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil
- Spread veggies onto a baking sheet, and roast at 425 degrees for 10-30 minutes, or until the veggies have caramelized (browned with natural sugars) and are cooked to your liking.
That’s it! The process brings out so much of each veggie’s natural flavor while infusing them with the earthy olive oil and piquant salt & pepper combo. As Adam Roberts, a.k.a. the Amateur Gourmet, says of his take on Ina Garten’s roasted broccoli, “If parents made this broccoli for their kids, kids wouldn’t hate broccoli. They’d beg for it.”
Veg-roasting is also a killer way to stretch a dollar — pick up one sweet potato & one parsnip, slice & prepare as noted above, and boom. You have more than enough food to create a satisfying side dish for two or more, and for minimal cost. In the spirit of Jessie J, I suppose “it’s not about the money, money, money” — but saving a little never hurts!
A few of my favorite roasted veggie options:
- Asparagus with Tomatoes (seen above): Trim asparagus by holding both ends and “bending” the stalks — they’ll naturally break at the proper point. Toss with cherry or diced tomatoes and olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast as noted above for 10-15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of lemon juice. Mmm!
- Root Veggies: Slice sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga and red onion into steak fry-size pieces. Coat with olive oil and a drizzle of maple syrup (thanks, Gwyneth! Seriously — what would I do without your book?); roast for 30 mins to 1 hour, or until veggies have caramelized and cooked to your liking.
- Broccoli: For a take on Ina’s heavenly broccoli, coat broccoli florets with olive oil, adding salt & pepper to taste. Roast for 20-25 mins with 4 or 5 peeled garlic cloves. After the broccoli florets are done, toss with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and toasted pine nuts. Consume mass quantities, coneheads.
Do y’all roast veggies in fall and winter? What are your favorites? How about some meat-and-veggie parings: Which roasted veggies to you like with your protein? Happy eating!
Pennsylvania Avenue is home to more than just, y’know, that little White House at good ol’ 1600. When you take Pennsylvania Ave. in the opposite direction of the White House, heading southeast, you hit the heart of the Hill.
Er, Capitol Hill, that is! One of my favorite neighborhoods in town, the Hill is home to many a fun food shop, fresh market, and tasty restaurant. Hill’s Kitchen and Eastern Market are in this neck of the woods, as are two restaurants I’ve recently tried – Spike Mendolsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania, and DC-3 Hot Dogs, just off of PA Ave on 8th SE.
While these two foodstuffs establishments are a few blocks apart, they epitomize – to me, the not-quite-native-but-not-a-newbie resident – the fun flavor of Capitol Hill. It’s business in the front, party in the back: a kind of mullet-of-a-neighborhood with great bars and restaurants in the shadow of the seat of one of the most powerful governments in the world. Fun, hip, down-to-earth – what’s not to like?
For starters, Good Stuff is likely the wider known of the two, mostly due to its founding chef’s celebrity pedigree. Spike Mendolsohn competed on Top Chef in a former life, and now spends his time opening DC restaurants, including Good Stuff and its pizza-serving twin, We The Pizza (I know – THE PUNS!) next door. Good Stuff focuses on what Spike sees as just that – the good stuff, a.k.a. juicy burgers, homey & dressed-down fries, and a milkshake or two (or more).
While their impressive mayo and sauce bar may get a lot of publicity, along with sandwiches featuring fried eggs or those named after a certain Mr. Obama (featuring bacon, horseradish and Roquefort cheese), it’s the unsung heroes of the menu that got my attention. On a visit to Good Stuff with my visiting sister, I sunk my teeth into a Michelle Melt (the Mrs. Obama burger, featuring “Southlawn Herb Garden Mayo” and Swiss cheese) and was surprised to note the patty’s protein of choice: turkey.
Now, normally, turkey burgers have a reputation for being culinary hockey pucks. Still, I order them on a regular basis, in an attempt to eat less saturated fat and out of the erstwhile hope that the turkey burger won’t suck. This time? To quote the Good Stuff motto: Goodness. Gracious. The juices dribbled down my chin. The spices tickled my taste buds. The combination of mayo, cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato & bun so perfectly married in my mouth that you’d think divine intervention had a hand in the union.
My sister’s standard turkey burger, topped with creamy avocado and a slew of veggies, was just as delicious. I think we both said, “Excuse me for a minute; this burger and I are having an intimate encounter” at the same time.
In short, when you check out Good Stuff, don’t just hit it up for the touristy benefit of Spike’s endorsement (or the fact that the place has been featured everywhere from the Food Network to the pages of “Every Day with Rachael Ray,” which prompted my mom to ask, “Honey, have you gone to that … Good Stuff place?”). Go for the turkey burger. (And maybe one of those toasted marshmallow milkshakes.) Your taste buds will thank you, even if your cardiologist has a few choice words for your arteries.
The second Capitol Hill joint I hit up recently was DC-3, a humbly outfitted hot dog joint right on 8th street, in the mini-neighborhood known as Barracks Row. 8th SE is a quick right turn from Pennsylvania, and features some of the city’s most interesting and quirkiest restaurants. DC-3, with its old school, pilot-and-plane-themed décor, proves no exception.
I had previously scouted the place through Yelp (always a risky move – you never know who got paid to say “the roach on my salad really added to the experience” or whose hyperbolic praise masks real-life health code violations), and discovered that their 16-item “Regionals” menu focused on famous dogs from around the U.S., including the rarely seen outside of Arizona “Sonoran Hot Dog.” They also reportedly had a classic Chicago-style hot dog on the menu, and this former Midwesterner was too intrigued to pass up the place.
No waiters, no muss, no fuss: at DC-3, patrons simply order up a dog at their vintage-style counter, and dogs come in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper. DC-3 does indeed sport both Sonoran and Chicago-style dogs, as well as their most popular and most legendary frank: the Q’s Seoul Bulgogi & Kimchi.
This monstrosity is a testament to the Korean-American story in the best heartburn-on-a-bun way possible. A crisply toasted, simple white bun is topped with the ubiquitous dog; then, a hefty serving of bulgogi, a classic Korean beef dish; and finally, the spicy, funkalicious kimchi. The kimchi gleams with fluorescent orange and muted green, and the ends of the dog just barely peek through below the monstrous toppings. It is, in a word, delicious.
Other DC-3 highlights include the Maine Red Snapper (with white sauce and onion relish), the Seattle Pike Place Ultimate Fish Dog (just fish, no fish-and-dog combo, which is probably for the best), and a falafel-fest known as the California Left-Winger.
If you find yourself on the Hill and feeling a bit noshy, check out either Good Stuff or DC-3. Both are delicious, and both are shockingly wallet-friendly for a town that seems to prize itself on pricey dinner menus. Both places make for a great take-out lunch, too – after ordering from both establishments, I ate my lunch in the shadow of the U.S. capitol, sitting on a park bench and enjoying the summertime sun as it made that majestic white dome gleam.
[Note: I began drafting this post while sitting in bitterness at BWI. Read on.]
Well friends, I hadn’t planned on writing this post until I was safely home in New Hampshire — your neighborhood friendly Galley Kitchen Gal is traveling again, only this time back to the Promised Land of the Northeast for some much-needed famiglia time — but, given airlines and their penchant for extending my residency at Baltimore-Washington International airport by several hours for no understandable reason, here we are.
[Rant over — let the eating retrospective commence!]
Last week, as you folks and friends know well, the History Teacher and I took a road trip down to Charleston, South Carolina. For a New Hampshire girl and an upstate New Yorker, this would be our first joint venture (and my first altogether) to “tha deep South,” or what’s known to folks from Savannah to the Outer Banks as the Lowcountry. It’s the region along the southern Atlantic coast of the United States that comprises much of what we think of as typical South, but with this great coastal, almost tropical vibe.
It was, in a word, gorgeous. As I told my aunt the day I returned, “…yeah, I’d go back tomorrow.”
Here are some highlights — just a few of my favorite sites around town:
And now, for the important stuff — the food! A few highlights in photos:
It was, by far, one of the tastiest trips I’ve ever had. (And I haven’t even mentioned what we cooked over campfires back at our camp site! For a future post, fellow camping lovers. I’ll give you a hint: Grilled pizza is involved.) For those of you who may be traveling to Charleston sometime soon, here’s an index of where we ate and what we loved there:
- Red’s Ice House — 98 Church Street, Mount Pleasant SC, 29464. Located in the Shem Creek area of Mount Pleasant, Red’s is a local institution with a waterfront bar and a great selection of classic Lowcountry seafood faves. The History Teacher noshed on crab legs, I ate the heck out of that Lowcountry boil, and we shared a Lobster and Sweet Corn dip for two as an appetizer. We washed it all down with healthy (well, not literally) glasses of sweet tea. Let’s just say we rolled out of there. If you’re headed that way, try the oysters, too.
- Sticky Fingers — 235 Meeting Street, Charleston SC, 29401. With only 16 locations across the entire Southeast region of the US (3 of which are in the Charleston area), Sticky Fingers is a small franchise with big flavors. While their sauces are served and sold across the country, the restaurants themselves boast delicious barbecue, flavorful sauces and killer desserts. Try the bbq pork with mustard-based South Carolina-style sauce, the outrageous ribs, and the peach cobbler with ice cream. I had no time to take pictures of our food, because we consumed it at an ungodly pace of nom nom nomming.
- Market Street Sweets — 100 North Market Street, Charleston SC, 29401. While this candy shop carries more than a few gems from its sister shop in Savannah, GA, the pecans in those amazing pralines are Charleston originals. Get thee to this sweet shop, if for nothing but the view. Walls of candy, bins of treats, free samples, freshly-popped popcorn, and an ice cream bar make this a fun, sweet-tooth-satisfying stop during a jaunt through the city’s restored old marketplace.
- Cafe Paradiso — 51 S. Market Street # A, Charleston SC, 29401. A quick stop for delicious iced coffee, this cafe has small square footage and big personality. Check out the hookah pipes for sale as you nosh on coffee shop standards or sip your caffeinated beverages.
These are a tiny percentage of the dining options that Charleston has to offer. The city, recently named the top food destination in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, is a mecca of farm-to-table local eats. A few highlights for our return trip — or your first (of hopefully many) voyages:
- Husk Restaurant — 76 Queen Street. A James Beard award winner for best new US restaurant, Husk is THE place to get a reservation in the city. (And one of the hardest!)
- Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) — 192 East Bay Street. A hallmark of Charleston’s southern cooking revival, S.N.O.B. is cheeky and fun, paying homage to the city’s culinary heritage with some of the best shrimp & grits around. (Apparently the Banana Cream Pie is to die for.)
- Caviar & Bananas, a gourmet food and coffee shop with a location on George Street and in the heart of the Old Market.
- FIG [Food Is Good] — 232 Meeting Street. Soft Shell crabs, seafood stews and so much more.
- Jestine’s Kitchen — 251 Meeting Street. Lines will wind around the block for Jestine’s fried greet tomatoes and legendary Coca-Cola cake. Get there early!
While most of these joints can be found in Meeting Street — arguably the heart of the city north of Broad — nearby King Street and Queen Street are also filled with food-stuffs and goodies. Check out the neighborhoods near the College of Charleston for low-budget eats, including the much-lauded Hominy Grill. The long and short of it? You can’t go wrong, anywhere you go. Eat up, tuck in, and happy travels, y’all.
Note: “R&R” is an easier “abbrev” for Review and a Recipe. Helps keep things simple.
From the wordsmiths at http://www.thefreedictionary.com:
Noun1.portmanteau – a new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings; “`smog’ is a blend of `smoke’ and `fog'”; “`motel’ is a portmanteau word made by combining `motor’ and `hotel'”; “`brunch’ is a well-known portmanteau”
My favorite portmanteau, by far, is brunch. Brunch, I might argue, is epitome of the good things in life. Sleep in late? Time for brunch. Can’t decide between breakfast food and lunch food? Time for brunch. Got a hankering for scones AND a sandwich? Time for brunch, indeed.
DC, luckily enough for this lady, is VERY into the brunch scene. Maybe those politicos and high-powered government folk like to blow off steam over coffee, omelets and Monte Cristo sandwiches. (If Texts From Hillary were still going, I like to imagine one pic might reference Hil noshing upon pancakes at a DC brunch joint and running the world.) This love is pretty evident all over the Interwebs, including here, here, and here; Yelp and Urbanspoon also have lots of message boards and lists related to DC’s epic brunch offerings. Booyah.
I recently hit up one of the DC outposts of Le Pain Quotidien for brunch with an out-of-town friend who was visiting the DMV. Le Pain Quotidien (French for “The Daily Bread”) is something of a hybrid between café-type joints like La Madeleine or Panera, with their fast-casual approach, and a sit-down-with-a-menu restaurant. With communal wooden tables, a rustic color palette, and a simplistic approach to style, Le Pain Quotidien really lets the food – and particularly the bread – sing.
On an earlier visit several weeks prior, I was on the hunt for a refreshing afternoon snack. Their 100% vegan-friendly Chilled Gazpacho, made with a tomato base, loads of red peppers, drizzled with olive oil, and chock-full of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of cucumber, was the answer to my prayers. Served with a side of rustic wheat peasant bread and a Mint Lemonade, it hit the spot.
On my brunch visit, I decided to explore more of the menu’s options. My friend and I planned to split their Breakfast Basket, a selection of breads and pastries served with jams and a chocolatey, nutty spread, but due to a brief power outage the night before (sheesh, DC – there wasn’t even a storm!), few of their breads were available. The staff still lent us the spreads, however, and whatever bread they could scramble. Their wheat bread was a perfect base for the Apricot and Raspberry jams, and that Chocolate spread? Let’s just say I contemplated swiping the jar and running out the door.
Their brunch offerings include the full lunch menu (featuring salads, tartines [open-faced baguette sandwiches], and various seasonal offerings), as well as a selection of breakfast goods ranging from Steel-Cut Oatmeal and cups of fresh berries to various omelettes and Riz Au Lait, a sort of breakfast rice pudding that looked delicious. In the end, I ordered a Tofu Scramble with soy cheese, mushrooms and herbs, and my friend thought their Asparagus and Parmesan Frittata, a seasonal item, looked like a winner. For the full menu, click here. It’s worth checking out for the photos alone!
My friend’s frittata was light and fluffy, chock full of asparagus and a generous helping of aged, nutty parmesan. My scramble was a bit of a gamble (tee hee, rhyme time – I kill myself); while I enjoy tofu in most forms (particularly marinated and stir-fried), I’d never had it “scrambled” like eggs before. Would the scramble be as light and fluffy as the eggs I love? Or would it simply turn to egg-colored mush?
Like the men of “The Hangover” during that imitation-“Rain Man” scene, my tummy and I were richly rewarded for our gambles. The beauty of the dish was its creamy, so-totally-egg-like texture and flavor. It maintained that subtle soy character while taking on additional flavors in that beautiful way that tofu can do. Softly sautéed mushrooms, nutty soy cheese, and various herbs all played their part in making my breakfast something extraordinary. While it was a hefty portion, it disappeared from my plate in a manner of minutes.
I sipped my little pot of coffee (all coffee is served in an individual white ceramic pot, which was charming), enjoying the delicious flavors and good company. We were there for about two hours, and the staff never once rushed us through our meal. It did take me a good 15-20 minutes to get a spoon for stirring my coffee mix-ins, but that’s a pretty insignificant quibble in the grand scheme of things.
In honor of my lovely breakfast, I’ve put together a recipe for my own Tofu Scramble. If you’ve never really tried tofu, this is a great “gateway” into vegetarian and vegan eats. Enjoy! Note: You can easily, however, substitute traditional eggs for the tofu. Just use 4-6 eggs as your base.
Not-Quite Vegan Tofu Scramble – serves 2
- ½ block extra-firm tofu, pressed for 4 hours at minimum. (Explanation below.)
- Cooking spray or olive oil
- ½ to ¾ cup sliced mushrooms
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- ½ white onion, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp Bragg’s (vegan soy sauce) or traditional soy sauce
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup shredded soy cheese (or ¼ cup shredded traditional cheddar if you’re not going vegan). This takes the place of Gena’s nutritional yeast, a common vegan ingredient that adds creaminess and flavor to various dishes.
Here’s what you do:
Note: Pressing the tofu: Extra-firm tofu will taste better and absorb more flavor if you press it – removing the excess moisture – for an extended period of time. To press your tofu, layer it between two plates, lining each plate with a paper towel (the order being plate, paper towel, tofu, paper towel, plate). Top with a heavy jar or even a book, and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or more.
- When ready to cook, spray a sauté pan with cooking spray or drizzle with minimal olive oil, heating the burner to medium-low (4-ish on your stove dial). Sauté the mushrooms, green pepper and onion until the veggies are soft. Julia Child says “Don’t Crowd the Mushrooms,” and if you’re concerned about following the Gospel According to Julia (as I often am), cook them first, then set them aside and cook the green peppers and onions.
- Crumble the tofu into bits using your hands, adding it to the pan. (Here’s where it will start to look more like traditional scrambled eggs.) Stir-fry until the tofu has warmed through.
- Add your spices, soy sauce, and pepper, stirring to combine. Finally, add your soy or traditional cheese, stirring thoroughly until the cheese is well-incorporated and begins to melt.
- Serve with your favorite scrambled egg fixins. (Mine may or may not be good ole processed ketchup, which probably explains why I’m unlikely to ever go fully vegan!)
What are your favorite brunch spots in the DC area, or in your own hometowns? Are you fans of tofu and other vegan or vegetarian ingredients, or would you stick to traditional eggs?
Picture it (you should be reading this in the Sophia from “Golden Girls” voice, by the way):
Silver Spring, Maryland, 1926. A time when alcohol was banned in the United States, and we young folks found ourselves in strange establishments called “speakeasies,” hunting for booze in secretive locations around the city. It was exciting! It was romantic! It was probably unhygienic, given that we were in basements and back rooms. (God, I love that show. I may or may not be writing the rest of this review with her voice in my head.)
One of these former speakeasies can still be found today, open and operating in a basement under an Indian restaurant (how’s that for sitcom-esque?) right on Georgia Ave in Silver Spring. This fantastic, deliciously dive-y establishment is known as the Quarry House, and after visiting several times since I’ve moved to the DMV, I’m totally in love.
First, the booze: The Quarry House is known for having one of the most extensive whiskey and beer menus in the area, and for good region: their 10+ page beer menu is known as the Beericulum Vitae, and that doesn’t even include their dozens upon dozens of whiskeys, scotches, and other spirits behind the bar. There’s a shorter menu of rotating draft selections, too, if
your indecisive self you want fewer choices. My advice? Try something a little unconventional. If it wasn’t for the Quarry House, I wouldn’t have come to appreciate various local Maryland brews, like The Raven Special Lager (how literary is that Poe-cuteness?) and others that they proudly display among other American, European and global offerings.
Then, the grub. In some ways, you have your classic bar snacks, but with some twists: sandwiches, tacos, homemade chips, three kinds of pupusas, a.k.a. filled-nuggets-of-Salvadorian-deliciousness. Most of us ordered their super-tasty burgers on our last outing — if you opt for beef, they’re cooked just as you like — none of this “undercooked beef will cause you all sorts of nasty diseases” nonsense for the red meat lovers. The History Teacher (the boy’s official nickname from now onward) got a burger with bacon, Swiss, barbecue sauce and grilled onions, along with your basic burger fixins. Let’s just say its time of extinction was around 5 minutes after it arrived. I went with a veggie burger — a flavorful blend of what looked like beans, carrots and other veg-friendly ingredients — topped with soy cheese and grilled onions. Very happy camper, party of GKG.
But the ultimate, incredible, oh-good-Lord-do-I-need-these-now item that we ordered? Old Bay Tater Tots. I’m sorry, did my computer start malfunctioning? It must have, given that it’s covered in drool.
So simple: fried little potato nuggets, smothered in Old Bay’s spicy mystery blend of goodness. But they were, seriously, a revelation. Especially with a brewski and burger on hand.
To recreate these at home, you can easily just sprinkle Old Bay on top of your garden-variety tater tots. Or, you can take them to the next level, and try these Old Bay Sweet Potato Pan Fries. Thank the History Teacher for this one.
- Old Bay
- 2 Sweet Potatoes / Yams
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups oil (vegetable works fine)
Here’s what you do:
- Peel the sweet potatoes, and slice them into whatever size fry you prefer. (They make great steak fries)
- Heat the oil on medium-high to high heat, until a drop of water sizzles when you drop it into the pan. (If you have a deep fryer, trust whatever indicator it gives you)
- Fry the potatoes for about 10-ish minutes, or until crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. You can also give ’em a pat down with those paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Once they’re slightly cool, sprinkle ’em with as much Old Bay as you like. (Unless your sodium levels are a concern, there is no such thing as “too little Old Bay.”) Toss ’em to coat, and serve to the ravenous hordes.
Any Marylanders out there who can speak to the wonders of Old Bay? Or, if you live in the DMV, have you been to the Quarry House? If not, get your butt to downtown Silver Spring!