Sunday, January 18, 2009

Waffle Smackdown

Will and I would like to announce the formation of the Weekend Waffle Federation. Waffles are our weekend ritual (pecan today!) so we've decided to formalize things. Our waffles will whoop your waffles. Don't think I'm kidding. Our waffles have caused injuries. In 2006, during the Waffle Whallop, Will reached for a waffle and ended up pulling a back muscle.
If you think your waffles stand a chance against ours, we're ready for a smackdown! The WWF championship belt could be yours!

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Squirrel, it's what's for dinner

Since moving to Ottawa, I have spent a lot of time watching squirrels scamper about. They are everywhere and they provide a certain amount of entertainment while I am sitting at my computer grading papers or standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. They have also scared the shit out of me a few times by jumping up on the windowsill unexpectedly. The squirrels are everywhere. And they are sort of adorable.

Now, though, I get to contemplate making them my dinner. According to the NY Times, squirrel meat is all the rage in England. Look, economic times are hard. And they're right there. They practically come inside if the window is open. They are also quite fond of our compost bin, so there's a trap right there. (Will did say he would get me a BB gun if I wanted one).

The article did mention that squirrels are very hard to skin, but I don't think that will be a problem for me with this handy guide from the Joy of Cooking.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

a candy-coated cruciferous Christmas

Found while searching for a recipe for chocolate-covered pretzels for my in-laws' annual candy-making extravaganza....

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's like they've been waiting for me. . .

Look! A bakery called 3 Tarts. In my neighborhood. It's fate, I tell you.

We went there yesterday and had little pecan tarts. They were delicious. Buttery creamy filling with a touch of lemon. None of that syrupy cloying filling of the bad pecan tart. They also have pretty cakes and cookies that look pretty good. They don't have a place to sit down which is lame, especially since they have plenty of room for a few chairs and some cafe tables. Instead they have a sad and too large display of quick breads. I love quick bread, don't get me wrong, but I need a place to sit and devour my tasty tarts. We solved the problem by going across the street to another bakery, buying some bread, and sitting on their patio.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

dinner at Citronelle

Forget elaborate gifts or weekend getaways - Mark and I usually celebrate anniversaries and/or birthdays by eating somewhere we wouldn't be able to justify any other time of the year. My personal shortlist of D.C. restaurants special enough for that once-a-year trip include Komi, Restaurant Eve, CityZen, Citronelle, Minibar, and the Inn at Little Washington. We've done Komi and Eve, so this year for our second wedding anniversary, we made a reservation at Citronelle, Michel Richard's flagship restaurant.

Citronelle definitely has a different atmosphere than Komi or Eve; the latter both feel comfy, while Citronelle is more of an officious-French-waiter, D.C. dealmaking sort of place. That's not to say the service isn't excellent. It is, and if you can get over feeling intimidated by it, it's fun to sit back and admire the complicated dance. Anyway, we went with the promenade gourmande, the more reasonably sized of the two tasting menus. If it hadn't been a weeknight, we'd have done the wine pairings, but when I've gotta work the next day, that's just too much for me. So I started with a glass of Sancerre for the first few courses, than asked the waiter to recommend a red that would go well with my heavier courses (it was a Bordeaux and it was fabulous, but that's all I remember. I was a little put off that he didn't even ask me about my preferences, though - I asked and he just nodded and whooshed off and reappeared with a bottle). First came the amuse bouche, or rather a trio of them: egg surprise, escargot crumble, and vitello-tonnato. The "egg surprise" was a mousse-like cauliflower puree topped with smoked salmon, served in a perfect eggshell half. The top half had a little handle that you lifted up to reveal the puree. The escargot was in a tiny, thimble-sized ramekin, and the vitello tonnato looked like a tiny, pretty wedge of layer cake, one of Richard's many whimsical presentation touches. Next was a silky vichyssoise with house-made potato chips (fried in clarified butter - yum). That was followed by a fried soft-shell crab on a bed of chilled ratatouille. I felt like the crab itself wasn't all that special, but the ratatouille was nice.

Next, a melt-in-your-mouth broiled sablefish with a swoon-worthy caramelized sake-miso glaze. However, this was one course where Mark's vegetarian counterpart got short shrift: my fish came with a little mound of veggies (baby bok choy, etc., with Asian flavors). His dish? Simply three mounds of those same side-dish veggies. It felt like such a dated attitude toward vegetarians. A place that respected them as diners with equally sophisticated palates would have aimed a little higher. In fact, now that I'm on the topic: When we sat down, our waiter acted befuddled when Mark wanted to order a vegetarian version of the tasting menu. (This was after Mark told them he was vegetarian twice: once when he made the reservation on OpenTable, and again following up on the phone. We're aware this is the sort of thing a place needs to know in advance.) The waiter said something like, "Are you sure you want that?" I think there was some confusion because I was getting the regular tasting menu, and the waiter said Mark would have gaps where I had courses and he didn't, because the vegetarian tasting menu was shorter. Mark said that was fine with him, but then the waiter said no, no, it's no problem, the kitchen can do it. I have to say, Komi and Eve were never confused by the request or anything less than gracious about it. (In fact, I think when we first arrived at Komi, the waiter came over right away to ask Mark whether he ate cheese and eggs before he could even remind them he was a vegetarian.) In retrospect, Mark would've been better off with the shorter vegetarian tasting menu, because they don't seem to have enough ideas to sustain a longer one. (Hence the three piles of the side veggies from the sablefish dish.)

Anyway. Next came the lobster burger, my favorite dish of the night. It was a perfect little slider on a brioche roll with what I think was a tomato-ginger jam. (I think it's available in a full-sized entree version at Citronelle's casual-dining counterpart, Central. That would certainly lure me in there.) Perfectly moist, and just the right ratio of lobster to bread. It was served with more of those buttery potato chips. They were delicious, and certainly made sense with this fine-dining take on the burger, but then again, I'd just had them a few courses back. Hmmm. (Similarly, Mark was served asparagus two or three times, and not really in an "asparagus three ways" sort of way. Maybe if we'd gone with the wine pairings, we'd be tipsy enough to not remember?) Next, black angus steak with veal sweetbreads, morels and asparagus. It was good, but it had a tough act to follow after that superstar lobster burger.

Next, the cheese course. Then a strawberry cocktail - a little dish with a sort of strawberry compote in the bottom, then a nice little mousse layer, topped with a mint granita that was so fresh and clean and herbal-tasting. One of the best "palate cleanser" courses I've had. Dessert, Richard's take on a Kit Kat bar, was fabulous. A dense chocolate/hazelnut crispy layered thing with pistachio ice cream and rhubarb tuiles .... sigh. Oh, and then somehow we found room for the petit fours. And managed to waddle home. :)

Overall, though? I sort of felt like we'd been sized up and mentally seated at the kids' table. They have a certain number of star dishes to trot out, and they're incredible, but a lot of Mark's dishes felt like afterthoughts. Maybe they figured we didn't know any better, but we do. In the future, I'll get my lobster burger fix at Citronelle's casual sibling, Central, and we'll do our special-occasion dining at places that treat us like we know what's going on.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

oat-apricot bars (and a great springtime cocktail)

So what do you make when you're craving something sweet that's also portable for lunches and such, and you're also impatient for summer stone fruit to make its debut? CHOW's Crumbly Oat & Apricot Bars, made with dried apricots and apricot jam, do the trick. Aren't those gorgeous? They turn out just like the picture. The crust reminds me of the salty oat cookies at Teaism, one of my favorite neighborhood snacks. As noted in the comments on the CHOW website, it's important to use kosher salt for this, not only because table salt is saltier and more densely packed for its volume (they'd be salty indeed if you used a tablespoon of table salt), but also because kosher salt won't totally dissolve in the crust mixture, resulting in appealing little bursts of salt playing off the sweet.

I was almost dissuaded from trying this recipe because of the user comments. But having made this and having had them turn out fabulously, I have to say I have no idea what these people are talking about. Raw flour taste? Not sweet enough? What did they do? Seriously, these are great.

And as for the drink, I think I have perfected my version of a pomegranate martini. Two shots of vodka, one shot of Grand Marnier, a splash of rosewater, a generous squeeze of lemon, topped off with pomegranate juice. The rosewater is nice with pomegranate and it makes the drink something more than just spiked fruit juice (got the idea from a similarly embellished sangria I had recently), and it's not cloyingly sweet. Some boys might even drink it (just don't tell them about the girly rosewater).

I'm watching Dirty Dancing on cable as I type this - What was Jennifer Grey thinking in the '90s when she got that thoroughly generic nose job? Why did she do that? What was wrong with her real one? That is all.

Gotta go - it's time for the big finale. Ooh, here they all come marching down toward the stage for the big lift! Nobody puts Baby in a corner!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

just in case you're sick of winter