Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011: FoodSnob Returns....Why? Because it can.

The start of 2011 begins a new year and thus a new beginning for Food Snob DC is in order. It is in order for precisely this reason – we spoiled upper middle income east coast Americans with our latte’s and our fancy hand bags and leather shoes and reliable public transportation and pretty much everything one’s heart could desire … well … we have a duty to not take these things for granted and live our lives to the fullest and utmost potential – and I’ve decided that for me, that includes, but is not limited to, continuing to write about my preferences, particularities, petty complaints and rants on this pretentious food blog. Congratulations, I have returned.

Why do I love food so much? Why do I relish in discussing every delicious moment my taste buds enjoy and equally love critiquing the inadequacies of every single item I digest? Being home over the last few days, I’ve had an epiphany and it answers this exact question. You can count on food. Food is manageable; malleable … it can be sculpted to exactly what your heart desires. Food can be molded, kneaded, shredded, braised, broiled, boiled, scorched, toasted … it can be what you make it – it is completely in your control. It can be controlled, whereas, people cannot. People are unreliable, unpredictable, unstable … you can’t put a person in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes and they come out juicy and plump! Food, is not over-emotional or melodramatic (unless you are watching Man v. Food on the travel channel - disgusting!). Food does not infer that you have ulterior motives or question your competency. Food is like a laborador puppy, looking straight into your eyes and only asking for one thing - love me.

You can’t caramelize a human being in a pan for 30 minutes on medium low to ensure he or she turns out sweet and creamy (well I suppose you could, but that would be disgusting). No, people you can’t control, they are crazy and you can’t count on them. But food, food obeys you and listens to your every move – the only thing that can ruin the creation of a good meal is … you.

Every year for the holidays I fly home to Northern California and spend some quality time with the family and friends. I fly back to DC and spend some quality time with friends here on east coast as well before I return to work. As much as I absolutely love these people - it seems that people have a relentless ability to nitpick at each other, to question each other, to disagree, to annoy, to hound, to demand. Of course, there is the positive loving side as well. But you know, through it all, there always seems to exist a true sense of love and devotion we share for one another (and the last seven days I've spent at home have made it blatantly evident just how filled with love our home is), bad television (i.e. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps can still be good as long as you’ve got someone to laugh out loud with) and delicious, delicious, scrumptious, rich and delectable food.  So, this holiday season, instead of bickering with your friends and family, cook something that tastes effing delicious and shut up and eat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cashion's - consistently underrated

1819 Columbia Road NW

After a long, hard week filled with emotional turmoil, overwhelming expectations at work, and personal demands I've put upon myself that are impossible to meet - I decided it was time to treat myself to a nice glass of wine and a delicious meal. Over the past few days I felt as my heart had been pulled in a million different directions, shredded to pieces, then sewn back together and the wounds had still not healed. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically - it's amazing how run ragged you can feel based off of emotional experiences only. I don't mind sitting at the bar and eating by myself, I'm there for one purpose only - pure delight. The place I know I can be comforted at a time like this, is consistently Cashion's Eat Place.

What my soul really needed at this time was something that could make me feel like everything was going to be OK. I needed someone or something to communicate to me, "No, really, I mean it - it will all be fine. I promise! Trust me, I will never fail you." And it is so true - there is one thing that will never fail you in life, and that is food - if prepared correctly and presented just right. The one meal that never fails me? Consistently, it is Cashion's Ragout of Wild Mushrooms with Artisanal Polenta, and Tuscan Liver Sauce. This is not just any polenta, it is so rich and delicate at the same time. The liver sauce tastes like pure heaven, strong and robust, and balanced with touches of rosemary. Every single time I have this dish, I feel like I've discovered something no one else knows about.

The bitter sweet thing about this particular dish is that I discovered it with my boyfriend - who currently is one of the reasons why I felt the need to treat myself to an evening such as this. I'm enjoying this dish in solitude as I once enjoyed it with him by my side. But the level of comfort the Tuscan liver sauce and the hearty mushrooms bring me helps to calm my concerns and predictably reminds me, "It's all going to be OK."

The reason why I declare this place as underrated is because I never hear people talk about it anymore. With all of the new exciting restaurants opening up in DC lately, Cashion's gets lost in the shuffle. It really is a shame because it is some of the best food in city. But I suppose that just means there is more for me.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Meats, Cheese and Slushitos....Oh My!

1520 14th St NW
(between N Church St & N P St) 

Estadio was an experience for me that I would love to do-over time and time again - but then again, I've never been to Spain. My pre-Spain experience however was a delight. Arriving early with a friend of mine, we sat at the bar and I ordered a slushito - an icy concoction made of quince, paprika, scotch and sherry....deeeeeeee-licious. I have never had such a tasty drink before - refreshing with a slight sherry aftertaste, thank you very much. Next I moved onto the red sangria, a true test of a proper bar - it was perfectly mixed with a sprig of mint...yum. As Jim says, "I didn't know sangria was supposed to taste like wine." Of course he said that, you can't get a proper sangria in this entire city.  As the night progressed I moved onto wine (at $4 a pop), then more wine, then food and more food. I unfortunately left 1 size bigger than when I arrived.

Dinner was an assortment of meats, cheeses, eggs, fried goodness more. We ordered mixto - an assortment of cured meats of chorizo, salami, Serrano ham and more. The best chorizo I've ever had, but I was quickly informed that I've had nothing apparently if I thought that was amazing. But like I said, I've never been to Spain. Deviled eggs topped with fresh tuna, skewers of chorizo, cheese and a date dusted in pistachios, duck perfectly spiced over a bed of swiss chard, sweetbreads (not too impressed with that) all put to rest the concern that I hadn't had a proper trip to Europe to compare all of this to. That will happen in time I'm sure.

What stood out like a sore thumb at Estadio were the gigantic ugly flat screen televisions that hung over your head at the bar. Estadio seems to aim to establish an old world ambiance with its high wood chairs, thick wood tables, dark warm colors, red brick walls and chandeliers....and then you see 4 giant screen televisions. It makes no sense. Get rid of those TV's people, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Am I at Romano's Macaroni Grill or am I at a high end Spanish restaurant??? I'm confused, but then again....I've never been to Spain.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Capitol Skyline - Vegas in DC downgrades to Atlantic City

10 I Street SW

Last year the pool was overflowing, the cameras were filming, the burger's were satisfying - Capitol Skyline pool on Sunday's was a hit. What I loved so much about Sundays at the Skyline was that I could hang out with beautiful people, listen to great music, get some sun and to top it off - have a damn good burger - all for only $10 bucks (actually the most exciting thing about the beautiful people was that when you see everyone in bikinis and swim shorts - you realize that you're not that bad looking. It's quite an ego booster!).

But let's focus this discussion on what really matters - the two white bread buns surrounding an ungodly hunk of bland ground beef. In its hay day, the Spike Mendelsohn burger you would get for free with admission at the Skyline was hot off the grill, juicy, filled with flavor and dripping with cheese. The guy at the grill would hop that burger patty onto your plate straight off the fire. You'd dress it up with all the fixins and dig in and be mightily impressed. Well, the burgers at the Skyline in the year 2010 are a totally different story. Instead of walking up to the grill to claim your patty, you walked right past it to find an orgy of burger patty's sitting in an aluminum bin covered in American cheese. They looked like they were crying, all alone in that bin with no bun to comfort them, quickly losing heat and covered in consolation American cheese (not even melted). The cheese unfortunately tastes like air - pure nothingness - no texture, no flavor, nothing. You mine as well not put the cheese on there! I don't need an aesthetically pleasing burger if the flavor is totally absent. Dressing my burger up was depressing, no ketchup for miles. All I had was plain french's mustard and a bag of Lay's potato chips on the side.

No Real World filming resulting in random spurts of group dancing, no men with footballs in their hands for no particular reason walking around in hopes of getting on tape. We can't even find "Dreamboat Ken" around this summer - where was he? I mean, we need our eye candy people! You look around now and all you see is orderly roped off lines, too many speedos for your own good, sponsor promotions, bad club music and the occasional weird drunk girl giving the whole world a dance show (OK, I think that is hilarious, no complaints there). Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up hope and I don't dislike the place - I'm still going to frequent the Skyline as much as possible this summer to get my pool time on and to be amongst good looking people - it's like oxygen to me. It's a sure good time, I'm just not as impressed as I was last year - that is if being impressed means good food and people whoring themselves out to be on national television.

Estadio is open!

1520 14th Street NW

From the hero's that brought you Proof, one of the best wine bars and restaurants in the city - Estadio is sure the please. We'll be heading there next week to give it a go. I look forward to the wine selection, 80% of which is from Spain. Holy Jesus thank you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tom Colicchio: Not just my crush, but also my hero

Despite his annoyingly arrogant remarks the swarthy Tom Colicchio provides on a weekly basis on the Bravo Channel for all of the American public to witness, I truly am in love with this man. At first my love for him was purely based on the way he walked into a room - I slowly also noticed there was something about his mannerisms, his stature as he stood there just staring at the contestants that I found utterly sexy. Some might call me crazy, I mean after all, he is a large bald human being by no means tan, in fact quite pasty. I'm sure his chest, once rippling with muscles in his younger years, has now be deduced to large rolls of fat with random hairs all over it, what color they are, we will never know.

My love for Tom slowly faded over the last season of Top Chef, I assume because I got a little bored with his antiquated comments on the contestants cooking. I no longer swooned when he walked on the set. I didn't really care that he was filming in DC and therefore didn't go "Tom Colicchio hunting" at the hippest of restaurants. Plus, he just started to seem petty - I mean eating delicious food time and time again and your only job is to critique its imperfections however slight. It felt more like I was hanging out with a whiny boyfriend instead of watching an enjoyable heart throb.

HOWEVER......Tom stole my heart most recently when he testified in front of the House Education and Labor Committee on Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act. WHAT???!!!!! Tom Colicchio is more than just perfectly seared tuna, finely prepared pastas and delicious wines? Tom actually cares about children?! Not just his own, but all of America's! He also shared that he is the son of a lunch lady, Mrs. Beverly Colicchio. I can just imagine, Beverly with her gray hair and face oddly resembling her son's, serving us sloppy joes and mac and cheese at my elementary school. My favorite hot lunch item was the deep fried burritos - I loved them so much because of that chewy substance that they called "meat," but I knew it wasn't meat, it was something else - I did not care what.

Point is, Tom has revived my crush on an old pasty white bald man. Move over Woody Harrelson.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pot smoking Baristas....

I'm not sure if I should be critiquing myself here or critiquing those that annoy me. What is it with totally out of it people that work in coffee shops? Is it a requirement for the job that you smoke a whole bunch of weed before you roll out of bed and saunter into work in the morning where your main task is to serve the caffeine addicted, grumpy, impatient clientele in Washington D.C.? We are not just getting coffee because we are on our way to a museum people, we are grabbing our first cup of joe to keep us moving in this insanely fast paced life. I have no time for your leisurely interactions and casual conversations with the customer in front of me that has already purchased their coffee and just decided to chat it up this fine Tuesday morning. What the hell? Get out of my way, let me order, I have my cash in hand, and give me that iced americano.

This morning at Dolcezza, my favorite cafe in DC (though that's not saying much because there is very little competition), the woman behind the counter spoke as if she just got off the waves on the beach, hit the pipe, then strolled into work. She looked at me with confusion, not understanding why I was standing the store....gee, I wonder! She continued to chat it up with her colleagues, looked around, said "yeah" a lot and then finally asked me if I wanted anything. Duh!?!?!?!! After I placed my order, she played around on the computer screen trying to figure out how much it cost, laughing in utter joy at how she accidentally added a 1 to the total which made it a larger number than it was supposed to be. Oh! Gafaw!!!! How hilarious!!! WTF?!

But then again, I don't think I should be critiquing the barista as much as someone should be reading me the riot act for my impatient, un-American behavior. I mean seriously, do I need to be that annoyed, that grumpy, and rolling my eyes so strongly that I cannot enjoy people's pleasant morning conversations on a beautiful day like today? Why instead am I consumed with the desire to yell at that barista and go behind the counter myself and make my own cup of coffee while yelling, "idiot!" Ok, calm down. Maybe I'm the problem. The simple answer to this is for me to have my coffee before I leave the house and I am required to interact with other humans, but that defeats the whole purpose.

Life is hard.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Top Chef Season 7 - That girl should have so gone home!

What was up with the judges last night on Top Chef? I was enraged! Jacqueline Lombard completely deserved to get canned. Grainy pate is completely unacceptable (and disgusting), but what was even more enraging was the fact that she claimed she didn't prepare it well this time around because she "didn't have her recipes with her." Outrageous. On principle alone she should be sent home, judges panel or no judges panel. Normal human beings can remember how to cook something based on one or two experiences, she claimed she'd prepared and served this meal hundreds of times. So, that makes her just plain not smart (I'm being kind here of course).

John Somerville, who I from here on out will refer to as "the monster", was ousted instead. This guy was at least a few things that the show could have used: 1) entertaining; 2) so sweet but at the same time creepy; 3) at least had potential and I was curious to see him cook something else; 4) had no need for recipes; and 5) at least admitted he was stupid. Being humble goes a long way.

So, for the first show of Season 7 I say "gahhhhhhhhh!" I will forever adamantly root to kick off Jacqueline "no fat" Lombard.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love au gratin

I'm calling this new dish "love au gratin" because it's not your everyday potatoes au gratin - it is filled with fresh items from local farms and the most important ingredient, love. I'm not normally so sentimental about the food I cook, but when I took a big bite of this au gratin last night I was thinking....."you know, not everyone can cook this good, it takes a certain amount of love, care and passion to make a good meal." This is all based on the theory that if you don't love to cook, you won't ever be able to cook good food. This is a passion, something that you focus on not because you have to, because you are entranced in the potential deliciousness of what you are concocting.

Love au gratin is a fabulous home-cooked meal made of fresh red potatoes, baby zucchini, onion, broccoli, pancetta (yes, I just said pancetta), gruyere cheese, half and half cream and a hint of pecorino. When you take a steaming hot bite of it, it is so rich it makes your eyes role back. Best served on a cold winter night, but I made it on a 90 degree evening in the midst of summer and still found it to be ideal.


8 red baby potatoes
1/2 golden onion
1 head of broccoli
5 mini zucchinis (or 1 regular sized)
1/4 pound of Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons pecorino romano cheese (shredded)
2/3 cup of half and half or milk
1 dash of Paprika
2 tablespoons butter (I use vegan butter, but it's your choice)
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 pound of pancetta
5 sage leafs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Wash the potatoes and slice into 2 centimeter slices
3. Dice half of an onion and place to side. Slice up your baby zucchini (or regular sized zucchini) into 1 inch thick slices and place to side. Break down the broccoli to desired size and place to side. Shred gruyere cheese and place to side.
4. Dice the pancetta and saute in a frying pan for 5 minutes on medium high
5. Butter a Pyrex casserole dish
6. In the casserole dish, sprinkle the chopped onion evenly. Top with potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, pancetta. Season with salt and pepper.
7. In a sauce pan melt the 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Add the cream and dash of paprika while stirring continuously. Continue to stir, add flour (sprinkle in slowly) and once the flour is thoroughly mixed in, add the gruyere and pecorino and stir until mixture comes to a creamy and cheesy consistency.
8. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and vegetables in the casserole dish and cover with tinfoil.
9. Bake in oven on 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until items are cooked to desired level.

Chop up the thyme and sage and sprinkle on top of the casserole. Let the love au gratin rest for 10 minutes then serve with wheat toast and salad. Let eyes roll back and enjoy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Posts coming this week....

  1. I will be trying the Strasburger at BGR this week. Most recently reviewed at dcist, it looks insane!
  2. The fridge is stocked with haricot verts, mini zucchini, fresh garden tomatos and persian cucumbers. It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out something delish for dinner this week...stay tuned.
  3. I made a kick ass potato au gratin with fresh broccoli, pancetta and gruyere cheese yet neglected to take a photo. I'll do a re-do and share with y'all soon!

Spring Orecchiette with Apples and Chicken Sausage

Enough talking about how great other people's cooking is! This evening, I'm going to boast about my favorite chef in DC - myself.

My weekly trips to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market end up in a potpourri of unintentional items in my refrigerator, purchased because each item looks appetizing in and of itself - not necessarily because combined they make a thoughtful or strategic meal.

The other night when I came home I really wanted something hearty and filling - but good for me. In the fridge sat some fresh leeks from the farmers market. I remember thinking when I bought them, "I should be able to do something with this. I mean, if Rachel Ray can cook with leeks, I should be able to kick ass at them. Annoying Rachel Ray....'yummo'."

Other purchases made on my hippie-like trek to farmers market last weekend were golden delicious apples, smoked gouda and thyme. I also had purchased at the local grocery store a nice bottle of white wine and pre-cooked chicken andouille sausage. I knew whatever I did, I had to eat the apples (one more day and they would have gone bad), and to heck if I'm going to let golden delicious apples go to waste.

I grabbed the orecchiette in the cupboard (a type of shell shaped pasta) and figured I could whip something up with these ingredients (and I'm making the apples work if it kills me). However, it was much easier than I thought and it turned out to be absolutely delicious, creative, and a taste explosion thought provided me with much delight.

Here's the recipe. I know the apples are freaking you out too, but trust me, it works...


2 Golden delicious apples
4 Chicken andouille sausages (pre-cooked is best)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups orecchiette pasta (or any pasta of your choice)
3 leeks
3 ounces smoke gouda
salt and pepper to taste
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried thyme if you can't get it fresh)

1. Fill a large pot with water, salt and a touch of olive oil and set to boil.
2. While waiting for water to boil, do all of your prep work: a) chop up the apples into 1/2 inch cubes; b) chop up sausages into 1/4 inch slices (just get the pre-cooked ones from the store), c) chop up the leeks into small slices.
3. Once water is boiling, add your pasta and just keep an eye on it until al dente. Once pasta is cooked, drain and set aside until the 2nd dish is ready.
3. Grab a skillet and place it on medium high heat with a few tablespoons of olive oil to warm. Throw in the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium for a few minutes until they turn translucent.
4. Add the apples, white wine and sausages and cook on medium for 5 minutes until apples are cooked, but haven't hit the mooshy stage (don't ever overcook them to the moosh stage - ew!)
5. Add drained pasta, a little olive oil, salt and pepper and mix in the skillet on medium heat.
6. Turn stove to medium-low and add thin slices of smoked gouda and minced fresh thyme. Let the cheese melt as you stir it constantly, creating a creamy gouda/wine concoction that is indescribable.

This meal will take you no more than 20 minutes to make (if you multi task by cooking the pasta as you cook the other items).

Um. Deliciousness! Try this recipe at home. It really is a fresh and complex tasting meal - if the apples freak you out, use orange or yellow bell peppers instead (but it won't be as good).

You are welcome world.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This tastes like chicken

Eat First! 609 H Street Northwest

Eat First! is probably called "Eat First!" because you should eat before you get here - just in case you don't feel like getting food poisoning. My arch nemesis, we'll call her Megan, dragged us here last week for a bite to eat, claiming it was an amazing experience - most notable for its "flaming volcano for passionate lovers" drink that feeds four.

I'll hand it to her in regards to the drink - it was even better than the Kicker! Less fruit juice made of high fructose corn syrup and more alcohol. But, I will not concede that the food is edible. The only way you can conceivably eat that crap is if you drink the flaming volcano first which effectively numbs your taste buds. Then, and only then, does the Mongolian beef taste like beef. Then and only then, does the goopiness of the Kung Pao sauce cease to nauseate you. Seriously, as I scooped a spoonful of the Kung Pao chicken, the sauces goopy disgustingness hung onto the spoon as if it was melted cheese. Food is NOT supposed to act like cheese if it is not cheese! As I was eating the food, it actually tasted good - I won't lie. However, when I awoke the morning after my stomach was very angry with me. It insisted that I never listen to Megan again.

Megan - it's so over. I'm choosing the dinner locale next time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Switch to Gin? I don't think so.

Somewhere in Washington DC

For some time now a pest has been pressuring me to abandon something I love - my Grey Goose vodka martini with olives. He claims that a Hendricks Gin Martini is miles better. When dining at The Source last week, this individual tried to convince me that Hendricks was the way to go - luring me in with his sweet voice, using his oh-so charming way about him to convince me to take a sip of his gin martini. For a moment, as I sat there looking into his bright blue eyes, hearing his rustic voice and feeling the muscles in his arm that pressed up against mine - I actually considered switching. The taste of the Hendricks martini resembled spring, something fresh and exciting, something unexplored, uncertain, and possibly unstable. "Try it, it's time you moved on. Your old drink is old news." I thought to myself, maybe my 10 year hiatus from gin was finally coming to an end. Maybe that bad night in college with those gin and tonics that resulted in me sweating gin out of my pores for 48 hours straight could finally be put to rest. I had actually started changing - I was willing to forge ahead into a new world. I decided at that moment, the next martini I ordered, would be with gin.

Yesterday I awoke from what felt like a nightmare - I realized what I had done! The blasphemy I had committed! I had given up something I knew I loved for something that provided me with no guarantees. What if the next bar didn't serve Hendricks. What if they served it with a different gin, like Beefeater?! What if I didn't like Beefeater?! What if Beefeater didn't provide me with the same sense of Spring in the air as Hendricks did?! Can you get Hendricks just anywhere? So many questions! So much uncertainty! What had I done!? I had just abandoned something I knew was good for uncertainty, for no guarantees, for a gamble. I must be a fool. It must have been the gorgonzola olives that clouded my judgment. Grey Goose, I'm coming back, and I won't abandon you again. Hold on.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chop't! You have been chopped!

Once I got into my late 20's I noticed that I couldn't eat whatever the hell I wanted. I had to actually be careful. This type of b.s. is what has led me to recently count my calories. Now that I've downloaded the Lose-it app , I've most recently become calorie obsessed. I'm sure my friends are starting to get annoyed at how I point out how many calories their lunch has in it all the time - I think I'm even beginning annoy myself. I recently turned a friend away from eating bagels - the wise choice obviously as one bagel can have about 600 calories in it - but did I make her life better? Questionable.

In my early calorie counting days I'd hover over to a salad shop to get a salad for lunch - assuming that the definition of salad itself meant "low calorie." I was wrong. These days a salad can come with fried chicken in it (no joke!). When I realized upon request you can get calorie menus from most chain establishments around DC, I happened to ask Chop't for their calorie menu and was astonished. How can a salad be almost 700 calories! That is more than half my intake for the day! I'd been operating like a fool for at least 6 months under the false assumption that a salad was a salad.

For my body size and height, my limit is 1350 calories a day if I wish to lose1-2 pounds a week. Therefore, I need to stay in the 400 calorie mark or under. Living in Washington DC, Chop't and Sweetgreen dominate the salad market. Both venues can provide you with calorie menus upon request. However, only Sweetgreen will serve you fresh produce from the weekly farmers market - making your salad all the more nutritious (the less time between the farm and you, the more nutrients it holds).

Chop't feels like a corporate nightmare - the lines are way too long, its loud, chaotic, and you can predictably find bacon in your vegetarian salad because they are so sloppy at the counters. To make it even worse, their salads are gigantic! Just because it's a salad doesn't mean I need twice the normal sized portion that a monster might consume. I mean, look at that thing! Totally unnecessary. So typically American in its over-sized portions. You can't even request a half salad, its a full salad at the full salad price or nothing! Plus, their signature salads are just signature boring. Even their ingredients are simple stock salad ingredients, not much exciting here. Tomatoes, cheese, beans, etc. Booooooo-ring.

Sweetgreen surpasses Chop't any day. It has a more local feel - fitting since they serve local ingredient options like sprouts, apples, and cheeses. It does not offer the oh-so-tempting fried chicken as a topping for your salad, but to make up for it they have the tastiest signature salads to offer. The Santorini is my favorite, sans the grapes (who puts red grapes in their salad?! weird!). Shrimp, feta cheese, mint and a fresh lemon squeeze - just the right thing for summer and less than 500 calories. All of their signature salads are delicious, complex and well thought out concoctions. Making your own? Stick to the fresh ingredients from the market and you're sure to make the healthy, right choice that is uber delicious. I never feel like I have to eat a salad here, it's more like I get to eat one.

To put it over the finish line - I recently found out that Sweetgreen sells Klean Kanteen - made in my very own home town of Chico, California. Woot! Great company, great product. This makes Sweetgreen even cooler in my book.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feel free to ridicule me

The Burger Joint 1514 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20036

I shouldn't even be admitting this....but I finally went to The Burger Joint in Dupont Circle. That's not the part I shouldn't be admitting to - the thing I'm ashamed of is that instead of ordering a burger - the thing they are known for, the reason for the quote that you see plastered all over the place in this establishment, "the one burger you MUST HAVE before you die" - I ordered a turkey burger. I know! It's the worst thing I could have done. Why would I go there and not order what they are known for? What kind of human being am I?! Argh! I just didn't feel like eating beef, I couldn't help it. In fact the entire reason I went there was by default - the line at Sweetgreen was too long and I was starving! So, naturally I couldn't reasonably justify getting a hamburger instead of a salad because of a long line! The truth is however, the turkey burger wasn't bad. It has gorgonzola cheese in it! When you bite into it, the melted cheese oozes out, and its so incredibly juicy! The buns, well, I could just eat those by themselves. They are so tasty, sweet in fact, but not a disgusting wonder bread type sweet, a gourmet quality to them. Seriously, give me five more of those things.

So, the conclusion I've made is if they can make a turkey burger that great, that complex, that delicious - their hamburger is likely to be totally awesome. I'll try that next.

Besides the food - there were a couple of things that were incredibly obnoxious about the place. 1) I think they find it "cute" that they place show tunes on their stereo, maybe they think it's their quirky thing they do and people will think it's "fun" to listen to it. It's not. It's annoying and I hate it.

2) They have those buzzer things they give you when you place your order - you know, the ones that light up and vibrate when your order is ready. It's stupid. I'm standing right there, I have an order number, the burger is sitting in front of me, instead of lighting up my gigantor-sized gadget, just say the number out loud. Then, I can easily reach across the isle and pick up my order. There is no need for you to take so long to figure out how to punch the code into the system to make my gadget light up. Seriously, sometimes simplicity is the way to go.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pastrami on rye please!

Carnegie Deli
854 7th Avenue at 55th Street
New York, New York, 10019

Today was the first time I tried a quality hot pastrami on rye. Before Carnegie Deli, the only pastrami sandwich I knew was from Togo's in Chico, California. The pastrami at Togo's growing up had a rubbery texture that as a kid I really dug, as an adult I find mildly disgusting. The pastrami at Carnegie Deli however is like an entirely different animal. I had no idea that pastrami wasn't a chewy meat that took you a few minutes to swallow down. I had no idea that it actually has a light texture to it in comparison to what it looks like. I also hadn't the slightest clue that good pastrami is not filled with salt, you can actually taste the meat. It was delicious, it actually falls apart in your mouth its so tender.

Carnegie Deli is most definitely a great place turned touristy - but even so it's still maintained its genuineness. I felt like I was in an authentic Jewish deli - maybe that's because the owner was walking around talking to patrons with his thick accent. It put a big smile on my face.

I read an article a few days ago I believe in the New York times criticizing New York City deli's for having lost their authenticity and lowering their quality in the interest in catering to too many tourists. If that's what Carnegie has done, I suppose I didn't notice.

Ace Hotel reminds me of home

20 West 29th St
New York, NY 10001

The Ace Hotel wreaks of freshly ground Stumptown coffee beans. I take very deep breaths while I'm sitting in the lobby to soak in the utter intoxication of the smell as much as I can before I have to depart and eventually head back to DC. Waking up to this smell in the morning alone is reason enough to stay at the Ace. But there is much more than the coffee that makes this place worthy of my company.

The decor reminds me of Portland, Oregon - one of the many homes I've had throughout my life. Natural wood products, steel made furniture, old school couches and old style arm chairs, huge white pillars shooting up to the roof, white Christmas lights around the windows, wool blankets and a bit of Led Zeppelin playing on the stereo.

Unfortunately, the people remind you of Portland too (this is the downside of the entire experience really). Shaggy beards, plaid shirts, the same "I don't care what I look like because I'm not superficial" attitude. Sneakers, mac laptops, iPhones, square framed glasses, pale sun-ridden faces, looks of despair, looks of disapproval if you're dressed to square.

The reason why I like the feel of my Portland, Oregon home is because life was slower there, more relaxed and a bit more intentional when it came to enjoying the good things in life. They know how to appreciate good coffee, good food, good wine and good quality products. It shows at the Ace right down to the soap they put in your hotel room, it smells like the long hikes I used to take it Tryon Creek park in between my law school exams. A good and bad flashback.

The Ace Hotel is definitely a 10 on the Lupa scale.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bolognese at craftbar gets a 7 on the Lupa scale

900 Broadway
New York, New York

I have a scale I employ when rating food and drink. It's called the Lupa scale - based on Lupa Osteria in New York city, a Mario Batali establishment. Lupa is the absolute best eating experience I've had in the United States. Best ambiance, best staff, best prices, best wine and best food. It is a mind blowing experience. Since my first visit to Lupa nothing compares. Thus, I rate all of my dining experiences on a scale of 1-10. 10 being the equivalent of the all-amazing Lupa Osteria.

Tonight I went to craftbar in New York City to check out what I've heard is a great experience. I give it a 7 on the Lupa scale. I had a glass of a Spanish Malbec, the baby beat and goat cheese salad and a serving of the Cavetelli Bolognese for my entree. There was nothing wrong with my meal, nothing to complain about, nothing overcooked or overdone. It was just lacking something exciting. Maybe I'm so spoiled now that I've come to a stage in my life where I expect to be moved by every dining experience and when I'm not, I leave with a sense of disappointment. I know Tom Collichio doesn't cook here himself, but I figured the man I have a crush on from Top Chef should deliver, if not only to keep my infatuation alive. How is a bald man so sexy???

I'll admit, the salad was delicious, but it's a goat cheese and beat salad, it's not that complex. I've had a lot of delicious goat cheese and beat salads. They add a little candied kumquat in there to make it interesting, but it just blends in with the beat flavor so you don't really get a sense of uniqueness to the dish as I'm sure they intended. The cavetelli bolognese I've had better at Sette, that run of the mill Italian cafe on Connecticut back in DC. The cavetelli seemed homemade, a little flavorless unfortunately. However, the lamb bolognese was quite delicious itself - you could tell they crafted it carefully to have just the right combination of flavor and texture. I could eat a bowl of the bolognese, you can keep your cavetelli. The most enticing thing about the place is the bar, I'd love to sit at that bar for a couple of hours just to soak in my environment.

Lupa has yet to be topped. I'm still on the hunt.

The Island Kicker

The Islander
1201 U Street Northwest
Washington DC

The Islander by some is referred to an old beaten up cruise ship or most recently overhead as, "the island version of Denny's." With its palm tree wall paper and slow service it definitely does have an island feel - not sure it's the kind of island feel one is looking for. Despite all its shortcomings, for some reason I really really like this place. It's not fancy, it's not impressive, it's just funny.

The first time I strolled into this place was randomly on a Friday night when I noticed a live band playing some Motown music that instantly put a smile on my face and folks about 10-20 years older than me dancing their hearts out. When I walked in and sat at the bar, the family owned staff greeted me with a smile. I ordered a rum punch, and it left much to be desired. When the waiter offered to kick it up a notch to something called "The Kicker" it changed everything. The kicker is a drink invented by their bartender Darryl - apparently he's been making them since he was 14 years old (at least that's what he said). Its a ungodly concoction of way too many alcohols with fruit punch. Why would you drink this? Well, there's something about the Islander that puts you in a "why the hell not" mood. I mean, let's stop being pretentious and just have a little fun. Life isn't always about the best of the best, but it's also about a little silliness as well.

The Islander ain't so shabby when it comes to delectable meaty appetizers either. Try their mango chicken wings on for size. They are delicious.

What I love the most about The Islander experience is the reaction of every single one of my friends that I have taken here. Each of them initially displayed looks of confusion, possibly vertigo. They weren't quite sure where they were or why I had taken them here. They felt a bit out of place. Yet sure enough, after half way through their Kicker, they'd turn to me and say..."I love this place!" as they found themselves overwhelmed with laughter and starting to relax.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Patty Boom Boom

1359 U Street NW
Washington DC

What an awesome bar staff! Although you may not actually be on an island, they sure treat you like you are. Patty Boom Boom is an island of chill in the middle of the busy U Street corridor. You walk up to the second floor (a bit hard to find the stairs as they are tucked away on the left hand side) and you find yourself in a very hip space. Candlelit tables, a DJ booth upstairs overlooking the room and great jams. Patty Boom Boom has a calm vibe to it, the people make it what it is. Chill, kind, and just want to have a good time.

The beef patties are delicious, get the spicy beef patty - it's the best. The jerk chicken - not so much, a bit flavorless. These "patty's", which I never knew existed until I went here, are much like an empanada, but less oil ridden and not as complex. A good cheap eat - we ordered 5 for $22 bucks and fed our entire table. One major downfall of this place, the rum punch. It tastes like Robitussin. I'm not joking, I had at least three people tell me this on their own volition. I've been to Jamaica, this rum punch ain't nothing like the punch I had in some of the best Jamaican spots in the country. This is just bad fruit juice with rum and a pineapple. You can just get a red stripe and you'll be good. Besides that, every other sign pointed to go. I'm definitely coming back here.


1726 20th Street Northwest
Washington DC

Just upon passing, by the look of it, I was willing to bet this place knew how to brew some good coffee. I mean, it is sleek, modern, hipster (the hipsters know coffee) - they have a professional espresso machine and an overwhelming waft of fresh ground coffee beans emanates out the door.

I was so excited to walk in, so wanting this to be the one - the one cafe I can call home in DC. It's not fair that we have such bad coffee here. I need justice! Filter, deliver it to me! I ordered a large regular coffee - if your regular coffee tastes amazing, then you are a winner in my book. As I poured a teaspoon of natural sugar into my cup and slowly drizzled the half and half cream in, I noticed it took a while for the coffee to match my natural skin shade. I instantly realized, this is some dam good strong coffee. Can't wait to take a sip. Put the cup up to my lips, drink in, and .....nothing special. waaaa waaaa.

I'm so sad, my hunt for good coffee in this town continues.....

I should say that Cork Market serves Stumptown coffee - the gold standard in coffee. Stumptown is the highest standard of coffee you can achieve, but not everyone knows how to brew it to perfection. I have yet to see if Cork Market knows how to make a mean french press. More on that later.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My new favorite hangout: Dicksons

903 U Street NW

As I was walking home from a concert at the 9:30 club a few weeks ago I passed by a three story brick row house tucked in between some old buildings on 9th and U - right across from the infamous Nellie's Sports Bar. I was shocked to see glowing candle light, glasses of wine and tons of people in a building that until that moment I never new existed. Ran up to the doorman and in excitement demanded to know what this place underground wine bar?! Something cool that I wasn't invited to?! Tell me!

Not such a conspiracy after all it turns out. Dicksons opened up close to a month ago. So I went back the next weekend to give it a try. Walked up a narrow staircase and was greeted by the owner with a smile, felt right at home in under 60 seconds. That is rare for a wine bar. We were seated on the third floor, overlooking the city and the rest of those seated on floor 2. The walls lined with empty wine bottles and candle light....I actually felt as if I was transported to my former town of Portland, Oregon for a moment. This transportation was made final once I learned they had an entirely organic menu. Yup, transportation complete.

The menu was impressive - with an array of charcuterie sure to please, splended mixed drinks made with a delicate hand, and a wine list that will leave you happy. They even serve Creekstone Farms beef - most recently hailed by the New York Times. Apparently it is the best of the best.

However, as much as I love Dicksons, I still think that no wine bar in the city has come close to the level of expertise that the staff at Cork have in choosing the most excellent wines. In my two visits to Dicksons, I'm inclined to believe that their staff lack equivalent education or training to recommend the perfect glass of wine to their customers. But one thing they do excel at here is the service, no one is friendlier.