A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hijack This

It just upsets me that a fine post about a great restaurant was hijacked by an off-topic comment stream. It's really just out of hand, especially with some of the volume those folk are commenting with. For the record, I'm anti-smoking in restaurants, but think bars are different. So I guess I fall in the owner-choice camp. Basically, I think smoking sections are a good thing.

But for every comment stream like that, it's great to have Joe Englert, Hill entrepreneur supreme, read and comment on DCist. Say what you will about him, he's a good business man and Trusty's alone makes me like the guy.

This Forearm Burrito Trend

So last Thursday I was faced with the dangerous combination of a ridiculous rush, a suffering wallet, and an empty stomach. Stranded with a half hour to kill in Cleveland Park I decided that just this once I'd check out California Tortilla. Now chain fast food I can deal with, but since I've really got no love for Chipotle (never saw the point) I was skeptical about "CalTor" (as my student refers to it). The menu options, however, looked promising, and the plain fact of it was that I needed food, I needed it fast, and I needed it cheap.

(normally when teaching in CP I take advantage of the restaurants. But times are tight now people. Sorry. Return to Palena, Dino, etc. to come sometime in the future)

If you click on the company's website, you'll see that they are a smaller than average chain, and seem to have a healthy sense of humor. The music in the joint was kicking out hot 80s jams (never a bad thing) and the staff were pretty friendly. Food came out slower than at McBurrito, but maybe that was because it took me a few listens before I understood the heavily accented and heavily distorted "83!!!" over the loudspeaker.

The burrito was superior to anything I've ever had at Chipotle; yes, forearm sized, drippy with filler, all that good stuff. The flavor I requested was "buffalo chicken fajita" and tasted nothing of buffalo, or of the related-by-three-degrees vinegary wing sauce I love so much. Probably because in mixing with the black beans, the sauce turned some shade of purple. But it was good nonetheless. Not outstanding, but as circumstances are similar today I may have to return. Please God don't let this become a habit.

Yes, I know. The Well Dressed Burrito. This is the problem with not working downtown (or in town for that matter): no Breadline, no Galileo grill, no WDB. As I'll be in the wasteland of Foggy Bottom occasionally next month, I'll try to broaden my lunch horizons via Metroing about, promise.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Among the Many Things that Must End...

... are the white suit. White jackets, over jeans? I can dig that. But the suit is a whole 'nother thing. The Miami style is one that I just cannot get on board with. Perhaps because of my dislike for all things Miami/LA. Yes, I realize that putting the two together is reductionist. But they're close enough. Yuck.

Also: If Go Fug Yourself doesn't note Jessica Simpsons absolutely hideous outfit at the MTV VMAs, then I'll be very disappointed.

(yes I watched the VMAs tonight. Low culture baby!)

Out and Over this Iridescent Grid

Pancakes are so played. French Toast is where it's at, people. That is unless the pancakes are some sort of fancy rolled/crepe version. Then it's a virtual tie, though I think French Toast still wins. Also, why hasn't the mimosa been supplanted by the far superior poinsettia? These are the things I wonder about. No wonder I can never remember where I left my cell phone.

Off topic: I have been obsessively listening to "The City" for like eleventeen hours. No idea why.

That last sentence was a joke, natch.


I 1000% planned on going to Catherine's last night for her goodbye party. I had clothes picked out, a drop in at Ollie's Trolley planned, the whole nine yards. Around 7 I thought "hmm, maybe I'll take a little nap". And... how obvious is this?... I just woke up. 13 hours later.

So I missed what was apparently a good party. Bummer, but there will be others. The greater result here is the formulation of a masterful exit strategy. This small incident will be the beginning of a larger plan, one in which I don't exactly leave DC as much as gradually fade away. Leaving people with only vague memories of my existence, like a fleeting fever dream, ethereal wisps of someone they knew, somewhere, somewhen. The effort, at the very least, could be interesting.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Real Ultimate Power

NPR says "the blogs christened him 'Butterstick'. Shoutouts to The Zuntas and the originators of this hypermeme, Chrisafer, Ben Beaverhausen, and Michael Artiloop.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the Wandering Mind

Man, concentration is ebbing for me. Kind of wish I had taken off a week earlier than announced and sat on my ass relaxing for a bit. Could have spent days wandering the DC, getting lunch at downtown spots I haven't been able to hit (number three worst thing about this job: location location location) and in general taking some semblance of a vacation. But nooooo. Instead, I sit hear working on onerous tasks I wouldn't want to hand off to myself as an office newbie four-odd years ago.

Sorry -- you want food content? How's this -- the very funny DonRockwell.com thread on horrific dining experiences. Can't say I've had many pure meals (that is, not like my contribution which was just drinks -- though I could go on about bars I'll never step in again) that inspire such feelings, but some of these situations are really quite funny. I'm especially amused by instances where diners find really odd things in their food. Hair? Fingernails? Heck, even metal shavings don't seem that odd. But teeth? Or crowns? How in the world does that happen? If someone can proffer an explanation for how someone loses part of their mouth in someones pasta primavera, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

And in Sadder News

Poor Capitol Lounge. I was just thinking it had been to long and was going to stop in to make my own Bloody Saturday morning. Alas, no Arlene for me.

Given Joe Englert, I don't think we've seen the last of you. Come back soon. And I'm sure I'll see half your staff at Trusty's Thursday.


How slow has this month been? Good god, it's creeping by at a snail's pace. That's what happens, I guess, when the news slows down and folks hit the road.

Computer hardware has been upgraded and I now am working on a fully operational, bug free box. Didn't lose much to speak of either. Helps to not be a poweruser of any sort; it was all basically MP3s, and most of the rare ones are backed up. Next up: a wireless card, an iPod.

Cooking is again on hiatus just because; despite prior complaints about the month's slowness, I have been keeping rather busy. And living on leftovers, which sadly ended last night. Saturday morning I'm off to the market to replenish. Fall is coming -- squash, apples, root veggies. It's braising time, and the wine will soon be red again. Friends, some of you may be lucky enough to get some of my pot roast served with celery root... but I guess it's still not cold enough for that. Maybe I'll roast a chicken next week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Goin' on a Holiday

Not really. But the last few days have been spent being practically on a holiday. Friday night was Sonoma, where we enjoyed a few too many glasses of wine and a really big three course meal. The highlights: an heirloom pepper bruschetta with goat cheese, which had a spicy kick to it seemingly out of left field. The shmear of goat cheese was heavier than expected, and the bread wasn't exactly crisp -- necessitating the use of silverware. Still, it was quite delicious and a surprise. But the best plate of the night was the first, a massive charcuterie plate with speck, prosciutto, and Amish chicken pate. The pate was the standout -- rich and delicious, unexpectedly so. The accents (pickled onions, pickled figs, whole grain mustard) added some interesting flavors, though the blackberry compote was comparatively flavorless. We ordered a ton of food, but the bill wasn't too bad given the amount. I'm glad I went back and look forward to returning again.

Other than that, the fooding has not been particularly exciting. I've been tying up loose ends at work, and I'll finally take some time and fix my laptop tonight. This weekend is open save for a party Saturday; hoping to catch up on some much needed sleep. Oh, and I start tutoring again Thursday, so Cleveland Park you best be on the lookout.

Back to work. 61 more hours.

Friday, August 19, 2005

You've Been Out Benned

Forget the venerable, consistently overrated, often crowded, and molasses slow U Street Eatery. I'm considering selling my own chili dogs -- spicy half smokes topped with buffalo chili -- from my back yard. Call ahead and allow 20 minutes for your order to be prepared. Alternately, order on site and wait in one of our comfortable lawn chairs. Cost to be determined.

(sorry for the short posts lately, nothing of interest has been happening and my home computer is broken. I'll have a report about my second trip to Sonoma Mondayish)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Interviewer Interviewer

Hey Charles D (sidenote: ever thought about going by the name "Chuck D"?), be on the lookout: I was interviewed today by someone from the Windy City's Associated Press outpost for my feelings on the Billy Goat Tavern coming to DC. The short summary: we've already got Five Guys for low quality, overrated, gimicky burgers -- what do we need a Billy Goat for? Ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bleating In

I haven't been posting recipes because I was doing Eating In for DCist this week. And it's up now, with more photographic content than this site, that's for sure. Take a look -- beets are delicious!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Clearly the Best Europe Song

So it's countdown week over here at MAF central. Many different endings coming, mostly good but some poignant. But also about a jillion things to look forward to. Most notably:

-- There are less than 13 work days until I leave this cube forever. My motivation is exponentially approaching the limit of zero.

-- 19 days until I get this ridiculous facial hair removed. Yeah, it's nice now, but just wait until this time next week, when I'll be something closer to a mountain man. No one wants to see that.

-- 21 says until the first welcome party and 22 until I start training for the new gig. I get a little less nervous with every odd day, which is good because with every even day I get nervous twice-over. Also, 22 days until the fabled bid list, after which, dear readers, you'll be party to the agonizing process of me deciding what third world country I want to live in for two years.

-- 29 days until SCREEECH

Apologies for coming to a halt, but I'm blogging in real time here, people. See that first countdown item? Well, let's put it this way: I am extremely happy about that number right now. Here's a word of advice to anyone who wants to work in publishing: Do not work where I work. There are some serious bad business practices going on here. More Office Space (the management at Initech, not the employees) than Enron, and soul crushing at the current moment. It's never been this bad, and it's certainly a good time to be leaving.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's Like I'm Handing You Money

A pleasant hangover spawned a million dollar idea that, instead of implementing myself, I'm just going to post on the internet for tens of tens to steal. It's not even a terribly innovative idea, and I'm certain it exists somewhere... but not in Metro D.C. That idea: A breakfast delivery service.

You can get lunch or dinner in a number of different cuisines delivered to your door with just a phone call. But I've never seen or heard of a restaurant that delivers bagels with lox or pancakes or cinnamon rolls right to your door. But I can see it. Imagine, rolling over, head throbbing, ravenous for grease but unable to gather the motivation to walk more than ten feet. So you pick up your phone, call "Breakfast in Bed" (business name can be changed) and order hasbrowns, bacon, and two eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese. 30 minutes later, someone knocks on your door, you stumble out in your robe, exchange grunts and currency, and you've got the lard and B vitamins to wake your weary head.

There are some difficulties to this proposition. Delivering eggs sunny side up, for example. A general lack of weekday business provides. Difficulty in obtaining permits for delivering Bloody Marys. But I still think this is a venture that should be explored. If anyone decides to jump on the bandwagon, let me know, and we'll discuss options. Over brunch, obviously.

No Seriously, Don't

Latest internet find: Steve, Don't Eat It! Complete and utter genius.

Tales of weekend adventures (there weren't that many), weekend woe (there was some) and weekend eating (there was plenty) to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Roam in My Stomach

I eat an inordinate amount of buffalo, probably more than 90% of people. It's usually a minimum of 4-6 meals a month, sometimes less, depending on season. It really can't be helped; I've got a source for good free-range red meat within walking distance from my house, the only thing being that it's buffalo and not cow.

Last night felt like chili weather, and in keeping with policy I opted out of pre-packaged mixes or any recipe, really, and went by gut. The only thing I regret is not buying any garlic at the store; when I got home, I realized my garlic was one step past edible and I had no garlic powder. Must remedy that situation! Anyway, this is an incredibly easy recipe, and I suspect it will taste even better tonight.

1 lb ground buffalo (or beef, or turkey)
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 cherry red peppers, diced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz can red kidney beans
3 tbspns chili powder (I used more because I like it VERY spicy, adjust to taste)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsps kosher salt
Worcestershire sauce

Sauté the onion over medium heat in a healthy pour of olive oil if using buffalo or turkey, less if using beef. Wait until the onion is translucent and add in the meat, and brown. When the meat is about a quarter of the way done, add in the chili powder, salt, cumin, and peppers. When the meat is done browning, pour in the tomatoes and kidney beans juice and all. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes depending on your desired consistency (more time = less liquid). Top with any desired toppings (sour cream, cheese, green onions, whatever) and serve with a piece of crusty bread.

Packaged chili powder mix is for suckers. Come up with your own spice combos -- it's not that hard, and you're making the recipe your own. Add cinnamon for some light sweetness, or maybe a dash of brown sugar. Add garlic and you have my favorite variation on chili. Any other suggestions for good chili recipes? This is one of my favorite dishes to cook when I'm feeling lazy... but I'm getting lazy on the innovation front too, so tips are welcome.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From the Department of Coincidence

There is at least one other Maryland Alum that went on to the Foreign Service. Oh, and it just so happens we're both alums of the Maryland nerd team, aka Quiz Bowl. Tervo (yes, of Memories of Finland fame) and I were on the "least likely to actually show up to practice" list, though we did drop in on occasion. He's off to Baghdad in a few weeks (good luck Mark!) and we won't be able to meet up before I start A-100, but it's nice to have someone already in the service. Now I wonder what ever happened to Julie Singer and Shaun Hayeslip... (if you're out there, holla at yer boy!)

Mainly About Fake Food

As previous posts mention, I'm a big fan of Morningstar Farms, the possibly-Satanist Kellogs subsidiary that churns out fake meat products that, IMHO, make Boca products look very crappy in comparison. Last night, as a result of general laziness and malaise, I tried the MSFarms Buffalo "wings" on a relatively pleasing Buffalo Chicken Salad-type thingy. They were good, though they needed much Crystal hot sauce to get up to the required tanginess/spiciness level. The fake chicken had a fairly close texture to the real deal, though they weren't wings by a long shot

Which makes me wonder -- why not try to make fake bones for the fake chicken? One of my personal favorite parts of eating wings is getting every bit off of the bone. It would be a challenge for the leading lights in food science to create viable fake bones, or indeed faux meat that actually sticks the way wing meat usually does, but I think it would be an interesting effort. Hear me, food scientists? Get on that, and let me know how it goes.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Somebody Told Me

"Working for the Foreign Service is 10% protocol and 90% alcohol." -- Foreign Service officer "Bob", who I sat next to at Tunnis for two hours, discussing what the life was like.

This was actually a chance encounter, not pre-arranged. Tunnis is great for that sort of thing.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Warm comma Fuzzy

I am blessed to have a network of interesting, cool, kind people in this city that somehow, despite constant changes, remains wonderful.

Thanks DC. Yup, it's a city of transients. It's also a city that knows this, where friendships are forged quickly and honestly, where people appreciate other's coolness right away. Some have said that DC is one of the more pretentious cities in the world, but I've found the opposite to be the case.

Of course, I have like zero friends who work for the government. No, wait, two friends that work for the government, a roommate that works for A government, and me, who's going to work for the man.

Still. This city has been good to me in ways I'm really starting to appreciate. I wish I had started to appreciate it earlier.

Food related side note: the lomo SALTado at Bar Pilar is just that. Salty.

Friday, August 05, 2005

It's A Miracle

I think I'm pregnant. Which is odd, because I have testicles. I'm getting the strangest cravings. Not dirt eating or anything like that, but cravings for food I don't normally desire. Like Jello. And Taco Bell. It's very strange. Cravings in general are rather odd feelings. How do normal people deal with these sorts of things? Crikey.

Unrequited Linkage

I know I linked to Zunta just in the last post, but this link is too good to pass up... as Catherine notes, DCist broke the story about Reagan Boulevard yesterday, and now the MSM are biting our steez WITHOUT GIVING US CREDIT. Yes, Catherine found the link on an online forum originally, but she went to the trouble of researching and tracking down concrete evidence, so I think it's fair to say that the story came from us first. Neighborhood Blogs? Last I checked, DC wasn't a neighborhood, Spence, it was a city. And it's DCist. Not Petworthist, Hilleastist, or what have you.

In related news, the City Paper jumps on the game of Joe Englert coverage, something well covered by DCist, Voice of the Hill, Frozen Tropics, and many others. Eventually, we'll be able to do an Englert only bar crawl. Is that a good or a bad thing? No clue.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Somebody's Watching Me

For thoughts on everything but the food at Zola, head on over to Catherine's Blog, where she sums up everything well. Man, I haven't had that kind of service in many restaurants. The guy seemed genuinely happy to be serving eight 20 somethings that showed up staggered. Probably helped that we all got booze. I was drinking girlie cocktails in fanciful colors all night and they were delish.

Zola's neat, and the decor is certainly hip and with it. I just wish the menu had a more fanciful, spy theme. You know, entrées with secret (agent) ingredients, amuse bouches served on magnifying glasses, maybe a dessert menu that's in code.

Wait, that's a stupid idea. Never mind guys, keep your restaurant just as it is.

Side question: when you think "wow, I spent alot on that meal" how much money is it usually?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Post Poste Postcard

Dear Good People at Poste and the Hotel Monaco,

First, I'd like to thank you for a lovely meal last night. My dining companion and I enjoyed your takes on French cuisine, both classic (escargots, braised rabbit with tagliatelle and chanterelle mushrooms) and modern (softshell crab on a bed of fennel, kobe beef tartare on a brioche). My personal favorite dish of the meal was the beef tartare, which was truly delicious. At $11, it's more expensive than the Palena burger, but it tastes like another gastronomic "essay" on what beef can be.

One quibble -- one that has been echoed by some other recent diners. I know you have an open kitchen, and that staff work in long sleeved shirts, ties, and vests. However, your diners are entering the restaurant from 90-100 degree weather, dressed for the outside. And as good as your food may be, sitting for two hours in 60 degree air conditioning, underneath a vent that is constantly blowing cold air, is just uncomfortable. Well, worse than uncomfortable -- at some point, it reaches the level of frustrating before going directly to annoying. If you could, it would be nice to reduce the air conditioning a bit. Unless you're trying to make the rabbit dish seem more seasonal than it actually is. In that case, smart work.



PS: I hope you found my sunglasses!

Monday, August 01, 2005

It All Comes Back to My Stomach

Back in the early spring of 2004 I was going through a phase of dating as many different women as possible. We're talking an average of 3-4 dates with different women a month. Like many serial daters, I used a billion different methods for "getting" said dates -- bars, friends, the internets in all their wonder -- and rarely had what some would define as "success." No big deal, really. I was having fun and forming the beginnings of my restaurant obsession. Of course I met my fair share of, shall we say, interesting women, but this is about one first date that didn't go horribly awry, but had fairly long lasting affects on me.

I put a fairly innocuous Craigslist ad up one afternoon. Craigslist? Sure, why not. It was free, I thought it would be fun (fun enough to try again). From what I remember, one important element of the post was that the woman had to be a fan of things foodie. Well, one response stood out -- a young California transplant who I found out later had a voicemail message that actually said "leave your name, number, and the last great meal you had and I'll get back to you." Cool, I thought. When we finally met up, I found out some other things about her. She was learning Bengali (no, she wasn't Indian) and preparing for a job in Dhaka -- a job with the Foreign Service.

Thus the seeds were planted for what, more than two years later, has been my next big life move. Our date ended nicely enough, though we never went out again. But the next day, I hopped on the internet and signed up for the summer Foreign Service Written Exam. One thing led to another, and now, here I am.

(I say the seeds were planted, but that's not entirely true. I had signed up for the test once before, senior year of college, but never took them. I think that was because of a hangover.)

So, here's to you, girl whose name I don't remember. I hope Bangladesh is treating you well. Though our brunch at Bistro du Coin was nice enough, the chemistry just wasn't there. Despite that, you had a serious impact on my life. I barely remember what you look like, but you remain a fond memory.