Monday, March 31, 2008

A Tale of Two Brunches

(Or, Many Bloody Mary’s)

One of my favorite people graced me with her presence this weekend, and this called for celebration. The word means many things to many people, but to me (and fortunately enough, to one of my favorite people) celebration means eating, drinking and being merry, set to the music of endless girl talk and retail therapy. Amen, sister.

So brunch – it’s that time of day when last night’s partying and this morning’s hangover turns into a blur of hash browns, smoked salmon, pancakes and mimosas…hair of the dog, no? You leave brunch feeling full, slightly buzzed and ready to take on the afternoon (or the evening, whereupon you relive the last 24 hours over again.) Ahem.

But when one of your favorite people is your mama, and you didn’t spend the previous evening raging, brunch is more about catching up, sharing laughs and getting a good “base” for the shopping and walking that will ensue.

That said, we arrived at Crème around 11:25, about 25 minutes after they opened. Crème was already full- every seat in the house was taken by hungry patrons, mouths watering at passing pancakes. We waited 15 minutes, which was not a problem, as the host paid us lovely compliments and made sure we had a place to sit while we waited (yes gentlemen, flattery will get you everywhere in life.)

We got a table near the large, sunny window towards the front of the restaurant. Crème’s menu, (if you missed my last post) focuses on country cooking with a modern, slightly upscale twist. It was hard to choose just two entrees, but we settled on eggs Chesapeake, and waffles with fried chicken. Oh yes, and the bottomless bloody mary’s. When our entrees arrived we split them up and went to work.

Aside from my mom’s special Easter and Christmas fare, I don’t think I could have enjoyed brunch more.

The crab cakes were lumpy with backfin meat and the poached eggs plopped lazily on top were perfectly runny. The crunchy-on-the-outside-waffle held on top of it the sweetest, crispiest fried chicken outside of a grandmother’s kitchen.

We felt a little odd eating fried chicken for brunch, but a few of Crème’s bloody mary’s helped us feel a little less funny and a little more fuzzy. And warm. And, (as alcohol tends to do to me in general) more hungry. And these entrees didn’t disappoint there – what we ordered for 2 could have fed more like 4. (It’s probably worth mentioning that if you like your bloody mary’s spicy, as in very peppery and with a large serving of horse radish, these are for you. You’ll get your glass filled generously and often with the fiery drink by friendly wait staff that carry around pitchers of the things. If you’re not into pepper, I’d recommend you try something else, like the bottomless mimosas.)

We spent the lazy hours of brunch at Crème, soaking up sun, easy conversation and runny egg yolk on a buttery English muffin.

I’ll spare the details of the rest of the day, which include a lot of shopping and further tomato juice and vodka consumption (at Jack’s on 17th Street and J. Paul’s of Georgetown…both of which were tasty and not nearly as peppery as their Crème counterparts). And skip to the next day…Sunday…whereupon we indulged in a second brunch at Station 9.

While Crème and Station 9 share the culinary influence of Chef Terrell Danley, their brunches offer different settings and selections. While you’ll find a fried chicken variation on the Station 9 brunch menu (the batter was saltier and less sweet than at Creme) you’ll find that chicken on a buffet table.

But this is not your average buffet. My mom and I counted 4 stations in Station 9’s brunch setup, and this was before mimosa’s had us seeing double. This generous display of food included fried chicken, cheesy grits, a hot, salty seafood salad, French toast, smoked salmon, a variety of baked goods (including biscuits and carrot cake, accompanied by a huge bowl of thick, whipped cream) several kinds of sausage, pancakes and an omelet station. And I know I’m missing a few things. Phew, my pants are tightening just thinking about the selection.

My favorite parts of the meal were the grits and sausage. I’ve had Station 9 grits before (for dinner, accompanied by scallops) and remain a fan. It’s not every day that a girl from the North would choose grits over a bagel with smoked salmon, but this girl did.

The dining room wasn’t nearly as packed as Crème, but Station 9 offers patrons a much larger food selection and seating area. And the smaller crowd didn’t bother me – less people to maneuver around when I went in for a second helping of grits.

Mom and I agreed- overall, we enjoyed brunch at Crème a little more. We preferred picking out just a few of our favorite things and being served. But we’d gladly visit both Station 9 and Crème again for brunch. And next time we’ll wear sweatpants.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Top Chef Tacos- No Bueno

After last night's Top Chef taco debauchery, I thought this link to 50 fabulous taco recipes would be muy importante.


Click here for tacos galore...

Free cook books! All is right with the world...

Because one can never have enough cook books on her shelf (or enough books in general!) I present a few links to you, my readers (if there any out there…sigh…)
I signed up for a free newsletter through, and lo and behold, free cookbooks! Below are links to a few cookbooks that look interesting. And even if they end up to be a bust, at least they were free!

Cooking Light
California Olives
Kidney Friendly Cook book (in case you're like me, and have a grandfather with Diabetes!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

James Beard Nominees

Hooray for our local chefs, nominated by the James Beard Foundation:

José Andrés of Minibar for Outstanding Chef of the Year
Johnny Monis of Komi for Rising Star Chef of the Year
Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria
Eric Ziebold of CityZen for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic
Terry Theise of Terry Theise Estate Selections in Silver Spring for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional
Michel Richard's Central is also nominated in the Best New Restaurant category (Michel won Outstanding Chef last year)

Winners will be announced June 8. Now, if we could just get a few of them to duke it out with Bobby Flay or star as guest chefs on Top Chef...

Here's a link to the entire nominee list.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is about to begin in Washington, DC. Never been? The festival, held from March 29 to April 13, offers a glimpse of Japanese tradition, culture and a hundred-year-old event that sparked a friendship between two countries. And let’s not forget the cuisine: fresh fish, ancient spices and indeed, cherries.

If you weren’t able to score tickets to the Grand Sushi and Sake Tasting (which has been sold out for weeks) or the National Conference of State Societies Grand Ball and Sushi Reception (tickets go for $150 per person) don’t fret – there are many ways for families to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the event that celebrates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912.

The event web site details the following events:
Annual Gala Dinner Cruise
Japanese Street Festival (featuring more than a dozen Asian food vendors) here's a link to the list of vendors

A variety of cherry blossom-inspired menu items from area restaurants. A few of my favorites:
Bangkok Joe’s Salmon Firecrackers with pickled garlic-sour cherry compote.
Beacon Bar and Grill’s Cherry Glazed Peppered Salmon, served with saffron risotto, rhubarb port sauce and spring asparagus.
Café Mozu’s Cherry Blossom Crème Brûlée with cocoa caramel, morello cherry espuma and iced prosecco twig.
Wash it all down at Hank’s Oyster Bar with a Cherry Stone Blossom – a cocktail combining vodka, sake and Hank's house-made lemonade and house-mixed cherry juice.

If you’re looking for an even pinker experience, (i.e. a tasting menu covered in cherries) try Perry’s (offering a six course meal paired with sake) or Ten Penh (offering a four course meal, paired with wine, and a cooking class on the first day of the festival.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I’m a big fan of hot dogs- I want to put that out there. Likewise, that lovable mixture of hotdogs and baked beans has always been an easy to make favorite, rearing it’s pretty head around football season in our home.
And then we went to Crème, our often forgotten neighborhood restaurant. And pork and beans never tasted so good.
I say “often forgotten” because it’s not my first thought for a meal around the corner. My love for Busboys and Poets is documented, and I don’t think I’ve written too much about Station 9 (though I’ve had several great meals there) so when dinner out presents itself, I opt for one of my favorites (and did I mention Sushi Tono?)
But those pork and beans have changed my tune. A generous serving of tender pork shank atop a perfect mix of shallots and tri-colored lima beans hit the spot. I’ve had their shrimp and grits, I’ve had their roasted chicken, and I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly…but I think I found my favorite.
This is sophisticated pork and beans, my friends. I may never look at hot dogs the same way again.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My husband asked me on Saturday whether I thought sushi was on a roll…well, I explained, it’s a roll, it’s a piece, it’s a cone, it’s a-

No…he meant, is it more popular now than ever? Is it a trend? A fad? Were more people willing to try it now than 10 years ago?

We pondered these questions over spicy tuna, yellow tail and unagi. We can never get enough sushi. As often as we eat it, as much as we savor and stuff it in our eager little mouths, we never feel like we’ve had too much, never feel like we don’t want to go back for more, and we never feel disgusted at ourselves for consuming mass amounts. It’s healthy, right?

My favorite sushi spots in DC may not be the most expensive in the city, but they are places full of memories for me. After all, food is an experience.

Bambu. It was the first place my husband ever had sushi. His obsession started on a date; I ordered salmon and California rolls, he had beef and broccoli over rice. He was staring at my selection, so in the spirit of romance I offered him a bite. He was skeptic, but in the spirit of wanting to seem adventurous (we hadn’t been dating long, after all) he accepted. It was love at first bite. We had sushi two more times that week, at other restaurants, but we returned to Bambu on a weekly basis until I moved out of the area. Those were the days of rushing home from work to make it in time for half-price rolls from 4 to 6 pm (now that’s a seriously happy hour) Bambu has great atmosphere and fresh sushi. They also have a wide variety of Asian dishes if raw fish isn’t your cup of (green) tea.

Tono Sushi.
Our favorite place for real, humble rolls. No pretension, no fancy accoutrements, just great service and great sushi. We first went to Tono on a double date with my best friend, and dinner was followed by karaoke, Japanese-style at a dive in Wheaton (it was a long, drunk metro ride, but totally worth it.) To get our courage up, we downed Sapporo and spent time getting to know my friends new squeeze. We frequent Tono because of its great location (an easy walk for us through Adams Morgan and over the Ellington Bridge and reasonable prices for good quality fish. We love their vegetable tempura; I obsess over the sweet potatoes. Why not Sake club, a close-by neighbor? Because when I want sushi, I don’t always want to pay for shi-shi atmosphere. I usually just want to eat great rolls and watch my husband smile over avocado and salmon.

Sushi Taro. When we’ve worked late, worked hard, or sometimes not worked at all (but managed to look really busy all day) we stop at Sushi Taro, as it’s along the trek from the office to the condo. I love their greetings, I love their miso soup, I love that if we get there around 5:45, we never have to wait to be seated and never need a reservation. And by the time we leave, there’s usually a line out the door. Taro has become the place that bears our work gossip, angst and frustration. We arrive in a huff and leave happy, smiling, full of spicy crunchy tuna and spider rolls. Taro is our weeknight sanctuary.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I’ll admit, going down the escalator and into the metro tunnel without actually going IN to the metro is a little…odd.

No, I wasn’t setting up my garbage can drums to play mad beats and collect money- I did it to check out the SmartKafe, a little diddy I read about in the Post. This (very) small café is connected to the new Results Gym at the Farragut North Metro stop, and is part of a larger effort to bring fresh, organic and environmentally responsible snacks and meals to DC. Their menu boasts a nice variety of local favorites. According to the web site, 3 SmartKafes are in the works for our area.

The cafe Farragut North is the first. I stopped by for a salmon nicoise salad and to get away from the office for a while. SmartKafe offers a small seating area, where I chose to read and eat. But had I been in the mood for some mind-numbing, I could have joined the gentleman behind the counter for a little Project Runway marathon on the large flat-screen TV.

The salad was decent. The salmon was a little hard (as in, not flaky and soft, but just sorta-flaky). The olives, green beans and potatoes were striking. And I thought their choice of dressing (a vinaigrette) paired nicely.

I washed it down with a MetroMint (no kidding, the water was actually called that) which was a mint flavored water in a much-too-small bottle. It was good and I wanted more.

For the sake of straying from the norm, a commitment to giving things at least a second shot, and for our dear environment, I’m going to give SmartKafe another shot. A place with such good intentions is worth my time. I think I’ll go for one of Jordan Lichman’s soft flour tacos that the Post suggested (Lichman is a former Inn at Little Washington sous chef and SmartKafe's current executive chef).

And I’m definitely up for tracking down one of their battery-powered SmartKarts.

Gorgeously Green

My husband, the conservationist, lets nary a day go by without removing the dishes I’ve put in the dish washer to hand wash them himself (it saves water), reminding me to unplug my hair straightener after using it (it saves electricity), or commenting on the amount of waste we produce (our landfills are too full as it is and our trash always manages to find it’s way into our oceans).

Some people may see this gentle prodding as annoying, I see it as consciousness. And after reading Gorgeously Green, I’m ready to embrace his suggestions, and many more, whole heartedly.

When this book is officially released, I recommend picking up a copy, diving in, and learning the easy (and some not-so-easy) ways you can improve your life and help our Earth. The author, Sophie Uliano, guides readers down a beautiful path of improved health, conscious consumption and eco-friendly practices.

It sounds costly and time consuming, right? It can be. But it can also be a matter of good common sense, simple changes and better awareness. For example, Sophie shares with readers ways to reduce your junk mail, how to get a free reusable grocery bag, and a Web site with a comprehensive database of beauty products. Ever want to know what’s really in your moisturizer? You might change your mind after this.

As a foodie with an unquenchable thirst for recipes and food tips, the book left nothing to be desired. Sophie presents yummy recipes including veggie couscous, cucumber soup and coconut macaroons.

Her endless supply of kitchen knowledge includes:
-how to conserve energy in the kitchen (try a slow cooker, it uses less electricity)
-where to find organic, local foods in any community (even companies that deliver)
-how to create a compost pile (this city dweller will have to wait on that one)
-why a wooden cutting board is best (they don’t cause pollution during the manufacturing process and have natural antibacterial qualities)

She also includes a helpful guide to oils, veggies and seafood to try and what to avoid at all costs.

You know how sometimes you see an alarming TV program about Global Warming or read an article about pollution, and you walk away from it feeling helpless? Gorgeously Green made me feel hopeful- that if I made small changes in my lifestyle, our Earth may just make it a little longer.