New Years Day Brunch

With 2015 a few hours away (how crazy is that?), it is not too early to start thinking about the first meal of the new year. The Washingtonian has a list of places serving brunch tomorrow. In addition to that, here are some other recommendations:

  1. Bar Pilar is serving their brunch menu until 8pm tomorrow.
  2. Ghibellina has their wonderful happy hour from 4-6:30pm
  3. Ambar has a $35 bottomless brunch deal until 5pm
  4. Cashion’s Bloody Mary Battle will be occurring between 10:30am-2:30, where $30 can get you brunch and 4 bloody mary samples.
  5. Dino’s Grotto has several brunch options (bottomless brunch, hangover brunch)
  6. The Four Seasons is also doing their famous buffet brunch, if you feel like starting out the new year with an epic meal and a thinner wallet (worth it though, in my opinion).

I can start eating healthier next week.

New favorite “dive” bar: Ivy and Coney

Here’s some advice for myself: Do not allow an attractive, fit male ask me to do anything because apparently I do not have the ability to say no when staring into his ripped arms (eyes, I mean his eyes). The cute personal trainer at the gym asked me if I wanted to take a yoga class with him on Sunday morning, and I, like the uncoordinated, inflexible idiot that I am, I said “SURE OF COURSE!”. I immediately regretted this because who wants to do their first yoga class next to yogi Adonis. Unfortunately, he left the gym right after confirming the 10:45am class, and I found myself sprawled out on a yoga mat trying to calm my panicked nerves the next morning. Over the next hour, I forced my trembling muscles to contort into various unnatural positions that left me dripping with sweat. Sure, I can run 10 miles with no issue but I had a seriously difficult time balancing on one foot for over fifteen seconds, and it took every ounce of concentration to not topple over. After an additional 30 minutes on the elliptical after the class, my limbs felt like bricks. The things women do to fit into a New Year’s Eve romper….

Anyway, as I made my way slowly (very slowly) home I got a message from a Tinder guy I have messaging with for the past week and a half. He suggested going to the Botanical Gardens to start our date, and mentioned that he would be driving since he is coming from Georgetown, so would I like a ride. As I tried to motivate my heavy legs to move down 14th street, the idea of walking down to the Botanical Gardens did not seem appealing to me in any way. So I messaged him back to tell him my address, and my phone number. After I put my phone away, I started really thinking about this. Did I just do something stupid or was I being paranoid? Now I know if I asked that question to my (occasionally overbearing, worried) parents, my mother would immediately have flipped out and painted a vivid picture for me of my gruesome murder by a stranger in his car. But I figure, okay he knows my building but he does not know know my exact apartment number so I am still safe…. right? Besides, I get into strangers’ cars all the time with uber so this is kind of the same thing…… right? Besides, if he tried to do something to me at the Botanical Gardens, it is not like my legs were going to be able to carry me anywhere quickly. I did tell my roommate that I would be going on Tinder date so if I was not home in the evening he should contact the authorities. When I mentioned we would be going to the Botanical Gardens, my roommate commented, “Hmm that would probably be a great place to bury a body.” Ah, my little bundle of comfort.

Luckily, my body is still in tact today. The Tinder man texted me to say he was outside with his blinkers on, and when I approached, he ran out to open my door (points). He then handed me a hot cup of coffee (more points!) and I asked him to please not harm me. He laughed and our date was off to a good start. We did a quick loop around the gardens before he suggested hitting up the all day Sunday happy hour at Blackjack. I appreciated his beer knowledge, since all I really know is that I like “beers that don’t taste like beer,” and he was able to make some good suggestions. After two light beers, I switched to diet coke since I have the tolerance of an 85lb 13 year old girl and felt myself getting relatively tipsy. At this point, we had been sitting at the bar for three hours and I was becoming slightly hungry. He suggested hitting up Ivy & Coney for hot dogs, a fantastic suggestion in my eyes. Ivy and Coney is the new(ish) bar in Shaw from the owners of Kangaroo Boxing Club. I still had yet to hit up this unpretentious dive bar even though it is only located about half a mile from my apartment, and he loved that he finally named a place I had not been to yet. We walked from Blackjack over, and as soon as I walked in, I was in love. It’s a small, dingy cash-only bar with a juke box and a tiny beer list. I ordered a Chicago style dog while he ordered a Detroit dog. I cannot speak to the authenticity of the hot dogs, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine, which came with onions, sweet pickle relish, tomato, sport peppers; and celery salt. I managed to spray pepper juice all over the high top and my jeans but the Tinder man just laughed so there were some points for not being horrified/grossed out. We left after I finished my beer but I definitely will be returning to Ivy and Coney. I loved the low key vibe, the location, and the people there. The service was friendly; the bartender jokingly yelled at us for leaving too early and told us to come back after we finished making sweet, sweet love.

My mother was slightly horrified when I mentioned to her that I went on a fun date with a guy and that he took me to get hot dogs for dinner. But I’m just relieved I got into a car with some random stranger and I manage to survive to tell the tale.

Christmas Menu

This year’s holiday was a little different. My French brother-in-law was in southern France for Christmas Eve, and flew back on Christmas Day so Christmas Eve was just the four of us (my parents, my sister AC, and me). Christmas somehow creeped up on me so quickly! All of a sudden I felt like it was Christmas Eve and my sister and I were emailing back and forth, trying to finalize our menu. Even if we did not do our typical prep, Christmas still turned out to be several days of gluttony.

For Christmas Eve:

  • My sister made a squash soup, replacing butternut squash with kabocha squash soup
  • Of course, my mother made her rosemary roasted cornish hens, stuffed with sticky rice and sausage. And of course, it was a hit.
  • I repeated the Pioneer Woman’s stuffing from Thanksgiving dinner. This time, I added plenty of sage, in addition to the thyme and rosemary. My mother purchased some Southern cornbread that was incredibly moist (screw people who hate that word, it is really hard to find a synonym for it), so the stuffing was not as crispy at the top as it typically is, but still delicious!
  • Brussel’s sprouts recipe from Thanksgiving
  • My mother’s pecan pie

For breakfast, my mother assembled a crepe station so that she could use her new best friend, the induction stove. The station consisted of truffle oil, bacon, foie gras, vanilla rum and sugar. Savory crepes were made using truffle oil and bacon, while the sweet crepes had homemade vanilla rum and sugar. Of course there was plenty of butter so that we could get our calcium.

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For Christmas Day dinner, we had a few repeats from Christmas Eve as well as some new additions:

  • Asian style ribs: this was new to our Christmas line-up, but AC was craving ribs and since she does not get to experience my mother’s cooking often, we decided to . My mom cooks the ribs in the pressure cooker first, then tosses in them into the oven with a sauce made of apricot preserves, ginger, soy sauce and fish sauce. These ribs were absolutely fantastic. They were so tender, so juicy and so flavorful.
  • Cauliflower with brown butter crumbs: We used green cauliflower to make it a “Christmas theme.” Because there were no more shallots and I had no intention of changing out of my oversized pajama pants to go to the grocery store, I replaced those with onions. And since in my family, we truly believe there is no much thing as too much onion or garlic, I used an entire purple onion in the recipe.
  • Leftover stuffing, brussel’s sprouts, and soup
  • My father’s wine selection for the wine: a chateauneuf de pape

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Dessert consisted of homemade French macarons (courtesy of my brother-in-law’s father), and my sister’s pumpkin pie. Note: no one in the family is allowed to eat until my sister takes her food pictures.

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It was the perfect Christmas for our little family. Full of funny stories, great movies (highly recommend The Intouchables on Netflex right now), family time… it was an amazing way to spend the holidays. Next up: slowly trying to burn off some off some of these indulgent calories before trying to squeeze into my NYE onesie.

Go home

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Tinder is an app where people swipe left or right depending on whether or not they find your user picture appealing. Literally the only thing people are going off of is your picture(s). So if you don’t even have a user picture… or a user name (wait, how did you even download the app without a user name?), just get off.

Third wheeling it to Kogiya

Normally I hate driving on the weekends. I sit in traffic for sometimes close to two hours each work day as I commute out of the city into the heart of Maryland’s surburbia. By the time the weekend rolls around, the last thing I want to do is get into my car. I want to make the most of my two day break from traffic, rude drivers, people who do not understand merge lanes, speed cameras and cab drivers going 15 miles below the limit. Occasionally however, I have a craving for good Asian food which cannot be found in DC (of course I would love it if someone could prove me wrong on that point) and that requires driving out of the city. Whether it is going to Rockville for Chinese, Eden Center for Vietnamese food, or Falls Church for dim sum, A is the person I always turn to for company during these trips. It has become a ritual: one of us suggests a Saturday or Sunday lunch trip for Asian food, I wake up early to work out while thinking of every dish I am going to order, we binge until our stomachs cannot take it anymore, and then we head to the closest international grocery store (H-Mart, Lotte, GrandMart) to load up on cheap vegetables and necessary cooking supplies (sesame oil, fresh noodles, Hello Panda cookies). When I was marathon training last summer, these Saturday lunches got me through several brutal 18 mile runs in 90 degree weather.

A sign that a relationship is going well is when either A or I suggest bringing a third person on these Asian food Asian girl dates. Another person is always welcome, but they will definitely be judged on how well they handle eating crispy quail or if they can stomach the smell of a durian smoothie in the banh mi shop. A and U have been dating for over a year now, and U has occasionally been coming with us on these outings. He has passed the Asian food outing test, and it is nice to have him because this increases the ordering opportunities: the more people, the more dishes you can share!

After finishing up graduate school, U recently accepted a new job, and suggested we celebrate. To be fair, he mentioned that “we” should celebrate, and he may have been talking only to A, but I overheard this and included myself in his “we” because third wheeling is my specialty. “We” decided to go to Annandale for Korean barbecue at Kogiya. Adrienne and Uri had gone once before a few months before, and wanted to return because they did not feel like they did an adequate job conquering the menu. So we headed there on a cold Sunday afternoon, eager to take on the meats. Being a Kogiya expert, A knew to call ahead of time to ask them to set up the table with all of the banchan and we arrived to this spread:

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Banchan are the cold Korean small plates that are served as appetizers before the main course (the meats) arrive. There were plates of kimchi, pickled radish, potato salad, fermented black beans, and a soybean salad (my favorite). These are also all you can eat, and I went through three bowls of seawood salad. In addition, there is a tray of pepper paste and garlic, along with three sauces: salted sesame oil, and two sweet and salty house sauces.

We decided to go with the all-you-can-eat meat option for $23 per person (great deal). First was the chadol bahki (fatty brisket). Then came the dak galbi (spicy chicken), which they cook in the back kitchen and bring to the table on a sizzling platter. In addition, we ordered a kimchi pancake before I realized that the meat is also served with a bowl of steam egg and a tofu soup. I don’t regret this decision because the crunchy pancake was lighter and more flavorful than other Korean pancakes I have have, and I quickly munched away on two slices with the salted sesame oil. Next up was the sam kyup sal (pork belly), followed by the jang kyup sal (spicy pork belly). Pretty soon our table was looking just a little full:

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Surprisingly, we were starting to feel a little full. A and I decided to go back to the brisket after these, finding the the pork belly cuts a little too fatty. They brought out a fresh grill top to cook the meat for us and we dug in, this time just a little slower. After polishing that off, we had to throw in the towel. Still, I feel relatively impressed with our efforts (five meats for three people!), and very pleased with the food there. They provide a generous selection of banchan, the meats are well flavored, and the service is excellent. At the end of the meal, they also provide a small complimentary shot of iced coffee, the perfect sweet note to end our savory bingefest. Also, that coffee may have been an important factor in keeping my eyes open while I roamed the aisles of H-mart, trying to fight off both the meat sweats and the itis.

I should note that I literally could not eat again until 1pm the following day (and even then it was only a banana… okay a banana with cookie spread). I would not recommend that meal to anyone on diet, but I would recommend that to anyone who wants to experience some amazing Korean bbq.

Winter Restaurant Week 2015

It is that time of year: DC Restaurant Week is almost upon us! DC Restaurant Week occurs twice year: August and January (although every four years this us pushed back to February to accommodate the Inauguration Schedule). This year, restaurants are offering a $20.14 lunch menu, and a $35.14 dinner menu. The participating restaurants are listed here. Some tips:

  1. Make reservations early. Some spots get filled very quickly.
  2. The restaurants listed range from inexpensive to expensive, so keep in mind the value of the dishes when making your choices. Some spots may not be actually offering you much a bargain when it comes to the $35.15 three course dinner menu.
  3. Watch out for surcharges. It is not such a great deal when a place is tacking on $10 here for specific entrees and $5 there for a specific dessert. With drink and tip, you may find yourself spending just as much as you typically would during a non-Restaurant Week meal.
  4. If you can, go for lunch. The true bargain is really the $20.14 lunch deal, which is truly a steal at some restaurants. For example, Fiola participates in this option and includes their burrata appetizer as an option (normally $22 alone at lunch).
  5. Look for extra perks. Some restaurants offer deals on drinks, or beverage pairings. Other places have add-ons that you would normally not find. For example, Sushi Taro offered a $10 roll you could add to your dinner during Summer Restaurant Week.

Last Restaurant Week, I hit up Menu MBK with A (it is now closed, and after our RW experience I am not surprised), Mintwood Place (it was EXCELLENT) and Sushi Taro (also AMAZING). This year, we plan to go to Rural Society and the new Pinea at the W hotel. Great food is a wonderful way to begin the first month of 2015!

A guy who buys you candy

Turn on: a guy who gets you candy. I’m still unsure about this guy in general, but when a guy comes out of his way to meet you and your friends out, he gets a lot of points. And then when he spends the rest of the evening actively engaging your friends in conversations, he gets even more points. Follow this up with a trip to 7-11, where he gets you a bag of your all-time favorite candy, Sour Patch Kids, at 2:45am and he’s just racking up points like Aaron Rodgers against the Bears.

Guys might think thoughtfulness means means having to spend a lot of money, or making some elaborate, grand gesture. In reality (or at least, my kooky reality), it is the little things. It is easy to open the door, it is easy to help me with my jacket, but it shows me you have the ability to think of others and be considerate. Being thoughtful is about putting in a little effort and showing the person that you are interested in, that you are really interested. Thoughtfulness is hot.

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Plus, I would take a bag of Sour Patch Kids over a bouquet of flowers any day of the week.

Custody battle

It is already annoying enough when you live in the same building as your ex. The chances of you running into each other in the small lobby are already more than you would like to deal with, but in addition to that, you have also both established your go-to grocery stores and restaurants. And the last thing I want is to find myself standing in line behind him while holding up a jar of Nutella and a giant bag of popcorn alone on a Friday night while wearing my 9-year old pair of faded black Maryland sweatpants. This has meant that I have wasted more time than I would like to making myself look presentable on a Saturday afternoon for errand running in the small chance that I will cross paths with him. Before this, I had no problem running around Shaw with no make-up, an old sorority shirt from 2006, and athletic shorts off of the Target clearance rack. However, now I found myself carefully applying mascara and spending fifteen minutes putting together an “effortless look.” My fear of running into him while looking anything less than decent was so intense that one afternoon I found myself locked out of my apartment for eight hours while my roommate was in a wedding in rural Maryland, and I literally ran to the closest clothing store and purchased a new outfit. That is right, I was so afraid I would see him while dressed in my ratty running shorts and what-used-to-be-a-white-linen-vneck-JCrew-tee-but-is-now-more-of-an-eggshell-shade that I went to 14th street, and purchased a maxi skirt and tee shirt to change into immediately. Yes, I do realize that sounds a little unnecessary and extreme, but nothing brings out your insecurity like having the constant existence of a recent boyfriend within 100 feet of you.

And then, the custody battle begins. I assumed we could share equal custody of the dry cleaner/tailor down the street, but I realized I was wrong when one Saturday I had to quickly make a u-turn with my eight jackets and speedily walk away after spotting the ex waiting in the tiny shop. It did not make it any better when I returned and had to spend ten minutes dodging the sweet Korean owner’s questions about the details of my now-cancelled trip to Vietnam with the ex (“You haven’t bought the plane tickets yet?? What if you don’t end up sitting next to each other on the plane?? That would be so awkward!” Actually, what is awkward is the conversation about an imaginary romantic trip to my homeland with an imaginary boyfriend). Soon after that, I realized I would have to resign custody of the dry cleaner to him. After all, he had introduced me to it and it seemed like more effort to have yet another place I would need to apply mascara on before going to. So good-bye sweet dry cleaning lady, good bye overpriced tailor.

Then, there was the issue of the google documents. As someone who loves eating, is always thinking about her next meal, always trying to plan her next restaurant trip, always trying to squeeze in reading about food during her work day, it is hard to keep my food-centric thoughts organized. So I started a google spreadsheet (keep in mind, I am definitely more proud of this than I need to be). It contains a list of DMV restaurants, and their specials for each day of the week. I shared this document with the ex, and we would often use this to plan out our dates. Once we broke up, I continued updating this spreadsheet and using it to plan happy hours with my friends. Then one day, I logged into my google drive and discovered that the last edit had been made the day before by my ex. My eyes narrowed. This is my document. I have spent literally hours on this, and research (AND HYPERLINKS) has been poured into this (again, I realize I am more proud of this than I need to be). You do not get to just come in here and make any changes you want to this document. In the custody battle, this is my baby. So I removed his access to the document, and felt a strange mix of sadness and satisfaction.

Next up was our travel google documents. Every time we have traveled, I have created a google spreadsheet to list all potential eating spots. This includes breakfast spots, happy hours, cocktail bars, restaurants, along with yelp recommendation, critic reviews and links to the menu. I logged into google drive and found that he had shared our Boston trip spread sheet with someone a few days later. He did not edit it this time, he had actually invited somone else (yes, a female) to view a spreadsheet summarizing my eating desires (the second most intimate of my desires!). OH hell no, nobody else gets to use something I created for a romantic trip. It is an intimate experience when I eat with someone, and you do not get to share the dirty details of it with someone else, especially not another female. Access removed. Again, I felt a strange mix of sadness and satisfaction. Sadness because this seemed to make things a little more final, but satisfaction because there it was another step of removing someone out of my life (since I cannot remove him from my building).

Okay, I realize this entire post is about something I have totally created in my mind. But these are the the kinds of things you do not think about, and suddenly in a post-break up world they consume your mind. I miss the simpler times before I wasted my time thinking about all of this…

Like a broken record: Le Diplomate brunch

Like I said before, Le Diplomate has turned me into some crazed addict who desperately needs and craves their bread. Despite so many new restaurants opening in my neighborhood, I find myself returning to this warm, bustling brasserie time and time again.

After a brutally hilly ten mile race in 38 degree weather the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was feeling just a little famished. My sister, AC, and I decided to head to brunch in DC. On the drive there, I started thinking about how badly I wanted some delicious bread to fill my grumbling stomach. When AC said she had made reservations for Farmers, Fishers and Bakers, I literally handed her my cell phone and told her to cancel immediately cancel the brunch there and call Le Diplomate instead. She was a little hesitant, but once I started whining and muttering “the bread, the bread” to her over and over, she relented. Le Diplomate did not have open reservations when she called, but once we arrived there thirty minutes later, they actually had a table available for us on their covered patio.

I immediately asked for the bread as soon as we sat down, and I assume the waiter say the crazed look in my eyes because he hurried off and quickly brought us a basket of their baguette, raisin loaf, and wheat bread. AC started with the wheat (#amateur) while I dove straight into the raisin loaf. When she saw me spreading their soft butter all over the delicious slice, she turned her attention to the raisin bread and we scarfed down the most of that first basket in no time.

As usual, the service was fantastic. Our server took the time to go over the brunch menu with us, and answered all of our questions patiently (“what’s your favorite dish?” “how is the prosciutto?” “can you describe this to me?” “how big is the serving?” “can you help me pick between these two dishes?”). After ten minutes of grilling him, we finally made our selections: the Eggs Boudin Noir and the Poached Eggs Basquaise. We also asked for a second basket of bread.

AC ordered the Eggs Boudin Noir, which consisted of eggs cooked en cocotte, boudin noir (blood sausage), asparagus, apples and a side of grilled bread. AC is already a big fan of blood sausage, but she especially like the boudin noir in this dish. I actually do not like boudin noir that much, but I really enjoyed the bite I took out of her dish. It was so tender and surprisingly light, and the strong flavor of the sausage was carefully balanced out by the sweetness of the apples. And of course, as I have previously mentioned, I have a soft spot for runny eggs in any dish.

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My dish, the Poached Eggs Basquaise, arrived in a little cast iron skillet full of creamy polenta, sundried tomatoes, two poached eggs and was topped with crispy prosciutto. I have actually have ordered this dish before, and loved it so much I could not bring myself to order something else. Just like the first time, it was heavenly. The polenta is just so incredibly creamy, and the prosciutto adds a wonderful crunch to this rich dish. I slurped up this dish using the baguette as a spoon.

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Good thing we were in the corner because we kept making these strange murmuring sounds of satisfaction throughout our meal. And then every time the waiter came around and asked if we were enjoying our meal, we screamed back “YESSS!” I do not think we could have expressed our enthusiasm for our food any more intensely without scaring the other patrons (this is assuming that we had not already scared the people sitting next to us).

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Over the course of our two hours there, we plowed our way through a total of three bread baskets (asking for the raisin loaf and the the baguette each time), and over two and a half bowls of butter. Shockingly, by the end of the meal, we did not have room for dessert. This almost never happens. When eating together, we always make a point to have dessert but after all of that bread, our stomachs just could not accommodate another bite of food. Our walk back to my apartment allowed us some time to digest (about 1/100th of our meal), and gave time for AC to truly appreciate the amazingness that is Le Diplomate. I have successfully converted another person into a fan!

Beau Thai coming to Shaw!

The number of authentic Asian restaurants that I frequent in DC can probably be counted on one hand. I am very excited to see that one of those places, Beau Thai, is moving its Shaw location (originally at New Jersey and R St. NW) even closer to me at 7th and P! They are opening up their new location on December 26th, and this spot will an outdoor patio (for whenever warmer weather decides to make a reappearance) as well as a dedicated take-out counter for those nights where I want a side of crab fried rice and green curry with my serving of Parks & Rec. The Washington Post has a write-up of the Shaw opening here.