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Dinner in a Thai Man’s Basement

2 May

By Green Gourmet L

The best way I can describe this place is a portal into Narnia. If you aren’t looking for it, you could easily miss the sign hidden behind the vines for Thai X-ing.

But if you know what you seek, once you walk inside you are transferred to a far-away place where the food is amazing and the servers treat you like family. This restaurant is literally located in a basement (the owners live and even have extra tables in the apartment above).

A few tips in advance before you go:

  1. Wear socks or get a pedicure. If you end up sitting upstairs, you must take your shoes off.
  2. Make a reservation. I called a week in advance, and the earliest they had was 8:15 on Tuesday night. Here are the website and phone number: 202-332-4322.
  3. Bring your own ____. Beer, wine, soda. Whatever you like. They put a pitcher of water on your table, but beyond that you’re one your own.
  4. They serve a chef’s tasting menu which is $30 Tuesday-Thursday, $40 on Friday/Saturday, and a Vegetarian/Vegan menu on Sundays for $30.
  5. You don’t have to stuff yourself silly. We asked for to-go boxes and had a wonderful dinner at home the next night.
  6. There is a metro stop not far away and I saw many buses going by. We elected to take a cab home. This is not in the best part of town and I would not recommend walking home alone after dark.

Now for the food. If you go for the Chef’s Tasting, this is the best way to experience all that Thai X-ing has to offer. They will bring out between 5-7 courses depending on how many people are in your party. And the ingredients are so fresh, the dishes are very well balanced, it is by far some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had.

Course 1

Tom Yum soup. This soup is hot and sour and filled with delicious fresh seafood and herbs. This was my favorite course since I have never had soup that tasted this fresh- stalks of lemon grass, sprigs of cilantro, and a hint of fish sauce. They must simmer the broth all day long to get this depth of flavor.

Course 2

Papaya salad. Spicy but refreshing. My friend who loves spice thought this was quite authentic. I was glad it was a smaller portion, because a little goes a long way.

Course 3

Red curry with salmon and pumpkin. This was the most unique dish we had all evening. I have never had pumpkin cooked in this way, but it had such amazing flavor and texture. I am definitely going to attempt to make this at home at some point. The red curry was spicy but well balanced with just the right amount of sweetness from the coconut milk. Yum!

Course 4

Pad See-Ew. Chicken, egg, veggies, noodles, and sauce. Sounds simple, but I heard rumors that they make their noodles in house, oh yeah. We were pretty full by the time we got to this course, but this was even better for leftovers the next day. Don’t be afraid to take some home!

Course 5

Sticky rice with mango and coconut milk. A perfect way to end this dinner. This sticky rice is not too sweet, filled with fresh mango, and had an interesting starchy component (which the server said was green pumpkin). We all cleaned our bowls and even though I was full to the brim, I was wishing there was more!

After dinner, chef Taw Vigsittaboot came out and greeted our table. He was even kind enough to let us take a picture of him in his modest kitchen.

This was definitely an experience to remember and if you like Thai food, this is a MUST when you’re in DC. Enjoy your Thai adventure and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

Mr. Almond Obsession

5 Apr

by Green Gourmet L

Someone I know has an almond obsession. And a sweet tooth. I’m not complaining, but it’s hard to come up with new and exciting ideas for incorporating almonds into desserts. Of course, Bon Appetit to the rescue. Apparently someone had written in to talk about an amazing little restaurant in NYC called Locanda Verde (hey I know about that one! Click here!) and wanted their recipe for almond cake. I knew I had to jump all over this one since Mr. Green Gourmet would be more than pleasantly surprised to come home to an almond dessert. In our rental apartment, we don’t have things like spring form pans, so I had to improvise with the baking equipment I do have (a 9X9 in flimsy baking pan from Safeway). I also realized that I don’t have cakeflour (and neither does Whole Foods), so I substituted regular white flour and cornstarch. I kid you not, this dessert (which is meant to serve 10) was gone in a day and a half. I’m just sayin, it’s that good!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1TB almond paste
  • 1 cup cake flour (or place 2 TB cornstarch in a 1 cup measure, fill the rest with all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 tp baking powder
  • 1/2 tp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tp vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • garnish: blackberry jam and lightly sweetened whipped cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9X9 baking pan. Blend sugar and almond paste in a food processor until finely ground.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Using a hand mixer, beat almond mixture, softened butter, and vanilla in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.

Fold in dry ingredients.

Transfer to pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and top is brown.

To serve, top with a few spoonfuls of your favorite jam (we use Bonne Maman blackberry preserves) and some lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Enjoy your almond obsession and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

Ricotta Hotcakes, Food of Australia

29 Mar

by Green Gourmet L

Mr. Green Gourmet and I were insanely lucky to be able to take a “holiday” in Sydney, Australia for a week. After enjoying the Sydney Harbor, Opera House, Blue Mountains, and beautiful beaches, we were ready to get into the food scene also. Unfortunately, the food in Sydney is not cheap. We tried to take advantage of the breakfast buffet at our hotel, but we had to take a trip to Bills.

Bills came highly recommended by an Aussie friend of ours, so of course we made our way to Surry Hills to see what all the fuss was about. First of all, the coffee in Australia is amazing. I ordered the flat white (which is like a cafe au lait), but has a more intense coffee flavor. Isn’t it beautiful?

After asking our server (and the local girls at the table next to ours), we decided we HAD to order the Ricotta Hotcakes.

Although it was quite expensive ($18!), it was worth it for the caramelized bananas and honeycomb butter. When we returned home to the US, Mr. Green Gourmet and I decided that we had to try and recreate this wonderful dish in our kitchen. And when you have a main ingredient that is going to shine through (like ricotta), you have to go to the store that specializes in cheeses… DC’s own Cowgirl Creamery.

So grab some fresh ricotta and make this for breakfast this weekend. You’ll be eating like an Australian but saving the $18/plate!

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups ricotta
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter
banana
honeycomb butter, sliced (below)
powdered sugar for dusting

Honeycomb Butter

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar honeycomb, crushed with a rolling pin
2 Tbs honey

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours.
Store any leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer, it’s great on toast.

Directions

Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until just combined.
Place egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.
Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of butter and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan (don’t cook more than 3 per batch). Cook over a low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble the other ingredients.
Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate, stack three hotcakes on top with a slice of honeycomb butter. Dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy your new breakfast favorite and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

One of the Best Meals Ever

23 Mar

by Green Gourmet L

Komi.

.

One would not assume culinary greatness when passing this on the street . It’s located on 17th and P, pretty much right behind our apartment, above a dry cleaners and sandwiched between a CVS and Dunkin’ Donuts. But oh my, what treasures await. It’s no wonder that the Washingtonian rated it as the best restaurant in DC. Not to mention that I had to call one month (exactly) ahead of time and spend 45 minutes redialing and hearing a busy signal before I was able to make a reservation. And, the Obamas have been there. So you know it’s got to be worth leaving your house for.

Komi is a mediterranean inspired bevy of small bites, consisting of lots of crudo/sashimi, interesting combinations (strawberry sumac lollipop), and course after course of culinary delights. Happy 30th Birthday to Mr. Green Gourmet!

The inside is clean looking, not at all pretentious. We dressed up for the occasion, but I would have felt just as comfortable wearing jeans. But when you’re dropping lots of hard earned money, I like to do it in a dress.

One of the best wines I’ve ever tasted, which came as Mr. GG’s  first wine pairing:

Punkt Genau Sparkling Gruner Veltliner

This is a sparkling Gruner Veltliner, which is a rarity. If you have never tried a Gruner Veltliner, you should definitely look for it next time you are in a wine store (I’ve never seen it at the grocery store). It’s an Australian wine which is light and crisp (think apples, peaches, floral but not too fruity). It tends to be light and crisp, and with bubbles it’s about to rival my favorite prosecco. And for around $15-18 bottle, totally worth trying!

Here were some of the food highlights:

Mascarpone stuffed roasted date with sea salt. Just about everyone and his mom has written about the dates from Komi. And with good reason. If only I could replicate these at home, we would no longer need to eat out. I could survive on these alone.

Sea urchin crostini with mustard butter

Braised goat shoulder with house make pita and accompaniments

House made sea salt caramels with fresh squeezed lemon juice

And our ending treat was the aforementioned lollipop

Of course there were a few misses, but overall an extremely memorable foodie experience. I can barely believe that the chef  (Johnny Monis) that conceptualizes all of this is our age. Wow.

Komi.

Green Truck Pub – Best Burger in Town

3 Mar

by Green Gourmet K

I am right at home at Green Truck Pub, I am ready to move in and eat their fries everyday.  Thankfully, the owners and my wallet would likely not allow me to do this.  Have you ever walked into a place and thought “yeah . . . this is MY kind of place”?  This has happened to me a few times, once several years ago at a My Morning Jacket concert (most of the people there were laid-back, hippie types and there were an inordinate amount of tall people – I am tall so this was awesome) and then again at Green Truck.  We walked in and the vibe from the place was artsy, friendly and relaxed, and customers were lining up that fine Saturday afternoon for a delicious, hormone-free grass-fed beef burger with fresh cut fries.  They make a lot of things from scratch at Green Truck and it’s unexpected because how many restaurants do you know that take the time to make their own condiments?  For instance, the ketchup at Green Truck is made in house and is a little different, it’s not Heinz, but I like it, it definitely tastes more fresh and less sugary sweet.

I decided to go to Green Truck for the second time last night.  Now that I am doing my “protein-type” meals I am a little apprehensive about eating out but Green Truck is one place I knew I could go and not worry about it.  I ordered the Rustico burger (with beef from Brooklet, GA).  The sources of their meats and other ingredients are right on their menu.  This burger is topped with goat cheese, caramelized onions, thin slices of roasted red pepper and fresh basil.  It was delicious, even minus the large bun.  I also had their Farm Truck salad on the side with the ranch dressing they make right there in the back, no gross processed ranch dressing there.

Green Truck also has a great rotating draft beer selection, along with an extensive bottled beer list.  They have some nice wine selections too but when having a burger a beer is usually in order.  Last night I tried the Wild Heaven Belgian Style Golden Ale and it was the perfect light, fruity accompaniment to my Rustico burger.  Wild Heaven is brewed in Decatur, GA so again, another great “local” item available at Green Truck.

See the full menu here.  Their website also updates regularly with specials, like a Kimchi burger, or the latest addition to their beer selection.  If you’re in Savannah, permanently or temporarily, you must stop here for a burger, it’s worth the wait.

Charleston Restaurant Review – Hall’s Chophouse and Circa 1886

8 Feb

It’s guest post Tuesday! Check out our foodie friend A’s reviews of Restaurant Week.

Charleston Restaurant Week January 2011

I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Restaurant Week. I love it because I can try some places that normally would be relegated to the “very special occasion” list, and it seems like most participating restaurants try to have good options for their special menus. But I kind of hate it because it becomes impossible to get a reservation at some places as soon as the dates are announced (unless you’re cool with 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday), and I’ve had experiences where it seemed, by the quality of the food and service, as if the restaurant didn’t care for the frugal Restaurant Week diners as much as the customers who ordered off the normal menu. Oh well, I guess there are always pros and cons in these situations. However, I’m happy to report that the two meals I had during this January’s Restaurant Week were wonderful! I had no complaints – food was excellent for the most part, service was great and I came away from both meals feeling like I’d really gotten my money’s worth.

The first meal was at Circa 1886, a beautiful restaurant on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion, with my husband and two of our foodie friends.

Photo from Circa 1886 website

It was absolutely freezing the night we went, so I was happy to walk through their lovely little garden area and into a warm, softly lit reception space. We lucked out on the table selection – they have these cozy, intimate alcove tables on one side of the dining room, and somehow we managed to score one. I had an arugula salad appetizer with dried peaches, candied pistachios, feta and a few little slices of capacolla. It was a perfect starter, not too heavy and a good-sized portion. Other folks at the table had the seared scallops, which looked yummy if you’re a fan of scallops, but alas I am not. My husband said they were great. I had the braised pork shank for my entree.

The portion was huge, no skimping on Restaurant Week meals here! It was delicious, tender and the sauce wasn’t overwhelming. It was served on a bed of dried cranberry-studded faro with some sautéed brussels sprouts (I LOVE brussels sprouts!!), so it stayed in the healthy range of restaurant food which was appreciated. The other popular dish at our table was the seared beef tenderloin.

I tasted my husband’s, and it was delicious, although another friend at the table said hers was a little tough (we tasted it, it was). Not sure if that’s just the piece of meat she had, or a result of the way it was prepared, guess we’ll never know. Dessert was chocolate chip banana pecan cake – basically like a very light banana bread with chocolate bits scattered throughout.

It came with a little dollop of cinnamon-orange-brown sugar ice cream, which wasn’t really my thing because it tasted strongly of Grand Marnier (I am not a Grand Marnier fan), but the cake was very tasty.

Our second meal was at Hall’s Chophouse.

Photo from diningaroundcharleston.com

We had a group of ten, and the place was packed, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was worried for nothing. The meal was perfect, the service was perfect, really the whole evening was perfect! If you haven’t been to Hall’s yet, and you live in or are visiting the Charleston area, you MUST have a meal there. The service alone is worth it – you’re greeted warmly at the door, the servers are always friendly and helpful, and the owners and managers are constantly walking around to check on you, say hello if you’ve just arrived, or say goodbye if you’re leaving. I really cannot stress enough how wonderful the service is – you will definitely feel the love.

And, as an added bonus, the food is outstanding! It’s your classic upscale steakhouse – white tablecloths, Frank Sinatra wafting out of the speakers (when the piano downstairs isn’t being played), and seriously good steaks (they also have seafood and meats other than beef, for those of you who don’t eat cows). I had an arugula salad to start (another arugula salad, yay! Can you tell that I heart arugula?), the filet with broccoli rabe and mashed potatoes for entrée, and a yummy, light lemon mousse/fresh berry concoction for dessert, which was a perfect soft landing after a heavier meal. The filet was a good portion, plenty to fill my belly, and cooked exactly like I wanted it (medium tending towards medium-rare). The group did order a few extra appetizers off of the regular menu – tuna tartare and spicy shrimp. Both were yummy, and I have to say I’ve been craving those spicy shrimp ever since. I’m impressed with how good the food was considering how the place was jumping with it being Saturday night and Restaurant Week, but Hall’s seems to have a firm grasp on how to run a busy show. Bottom line: I’ve been to Hall’s four or five times now, and it’s always fabulous. Just go.

So that’s it for my Restaurant Week experiences this time. But it’ll come around again this fall, and I’ll undoubtedly check out some more places and have new info to report.

Restaurant Week DC- Zaytinya

28 Jan

by Green Gourmet L

I was fortunate enough to take a snow day yesterday (yay!) which included a lunch at Zaytinya and our own semi-private viewing of the movie Social Network. Great food, great movie, great day off from work. Zaytinya is one of those restaurants that is constantly talked about in magazines, online, and around DC, so I figured we needed to check out what all the fuss was about. It’s a Lebanese/Greek/Turkish fusion restaurant that serves mezze plates (small plates made for sharing). Luckily, we were able to get the extended Restaurant Week menu for lunch for the price of $20.11 (get it?). Since my family has Lebanese roots, I grew up eating hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, and I am a bit skeptical about “fusion”. But this place had all of that…and more!

Pre Course

Not really a course, but could have stood alone. This “Z” is the olive oil and pomegranate molasses vinegar dip for hot, fresh pita right out of the oven. I could definitely have eaten this for my whole meal and been completely happy. And the pita just keeps coming. How hard is it to make pita? I will definitely be attempting this at some point soon.

First Course

Baba Ghannouge made with fire-roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. This definitely rivals my dad’s Baba (sorry D!) because it had a nice, smoky flavor without being the least bit bitter. We gave this one an A- on the Green Gourmet scale.

Fattoush is usually a summer salad made from pita chips and veggies (similar to an Italian panzanella) with a vinagrette. This one had tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, radish, pita chips, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate vinegar dressing. The pomegranate seeds really took this salad up a notch, since it gave just a hint of sweetness.

Second Course

Lamb Bahar- spice rubbed lamb kebab over tabbouleh with tahini sauce. If you aren’t familiar with tabbouleh, it is a salad made of bulgur, parsley, mint, and lemon juice. Every Lebanese home cook seems to have their own favorite tabbouleh recipe. Mine has more bulgur and less parsley. Oh, and by the way, this lamb dish was by far our favorite of the meal.

Sea scallops in a yogurt/dill sauce. The sauce was thick, creamy and had the perfect combination of dill and lemon. Made me think I was in Greece on a patio overlooking the Aegean Sea. Yum.

Third Course

This is probably one of the best duck quesadillas I’ve ever had. Cinnamon spiced duck confit, crispy lavash bread, haloumi cheese, served with lebneh (yogurt) and cucumber/mint salad. You can’t go wrong with duck fat and cheese.

Shish Taouk- grilled chicken, sumac onions, and garlic toum. Toum is the Lebanese version of aioli, usually made with oil, salt, lemon juice, and of course garlic. If I had fries, I would have unabashadely dipped them into this sauce. I also wanted to wrap all of this up in my pita and make a killer sandwich.

Dessert

Dessert courses always seem to be “hit or miss”, and this was no exception. Well, one dessert was a hit and one was a miss. I guess it can’t be all perfection right? First, the hit:

A parfait of marinated apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet, and pistachio powder. A nice, light end to a multi-course lunch. And unfortunately, the miss:

Turkish Delight. Walnut ice cream with goat’s milk yogurt mousse and honey gelee. I don’t really like the candy, but I thought I might like it deconstructed in ice-cream form. But, alas, I sure don’t. However, I will try anything once.

And I still ate every last bite!

If you haven’t been to Zaytinya, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a little on the pricey side, but this lunch gave me ideas of what I want to add to my Lebanese cooking repertoire. Stay tuned for delicious home-cooked Lebanese dishes, and don’t forget you read about it on the Green Gourmets!