Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Mr. Potato Head theory of cocktails

Photo by tps125 on flickr
As much as I love the negroni or the manhattan, sometimes you want to try something new. But you don't always want to start from scratch, throwing random things into a glass in the hope it will taste good (or like apples). So one of the ways you can get a new cocktail is by modifying the old; this is the Mr. Potato Head theory of cocktails. Don't like that nose? Replace it with a different one. Don't feel like vermouth? Replace it with amaro. I do this often, and Serious Eats talks about it in a recent post.
Imagine a Mr. Potato Head toy. He might start out with red shoes, a black mustache, a black hat. But maybe you get tired of that version. No worries! You can swap out the black hat for a pink one. Keep going! Try it with a blue hat. And once you try the blue hat, you might want to put in some blue shoes, too. Looks pretty sharp. 
In cocktails, the building blocks aren't noses or shoes or mustaches—they're ingredients. To break out of your cocktail rut, just start with a classic drink and try swapping out one element at a time. It's not a new idea (and it certainly predates our friend Mr. Potato Head)—these simple variations and substitutions go back as long as the history of cocktails.
Maggie's article mostly suggests switching out the base liquor; try swapping brandy for gin, for example. More often I like to swap out one of the minor ingredients. For example, I like to put Cointreau in my manhattans. (I know, this makes me a bad person). But sometimes I want something a bit richer, so I'll swap Averna for the Cointreau. Alternatively, I'll swap the vermouth for Cardamaro. This is an excellent way to make your personal cocktail list a bit longer.

Monday, January 30, 2012


When I first started drinking cocktails, the Manhattan was my go-to cocktail. I still enjoy Manhattans (often), but my list of go-to cocktails has expanded to include the Negroni as a close second. I love the way the sweetness of the vermouth and the gin blends with the bitterness of the Campari and the sourness of the bitters.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
1 oz Gin (New Amsterdam)
dash, grapefruit bitters

I haven't really experimented with the type of vermouth much, since Dolin is flexible enough to work fine with a variety of cocktails. I suspect Carpano Antica wouldn't work as well since it's so rich, but I don't really have space or money for an infinite number of vermouths. Campari is what it is, of course, but for a change you could consider using Aperol instead. I like to use a sweeter gin to balance out the Campari, so New Amsterdam works well for me. I've also used Bluecoat with good results, but I wouldn't use an expensive gin, since the subtlety would be lost in the Campari.

Friday, January 27, 2012


According to Young & Hungry, Hopslam is available in DC. Actually, it's been available for most of the week, I'm just a bit behind. I've enjoyed Bell's Beers pretty much since I turned 21, which is longer ago than I care to think about. They're all good, but my favorite regularly available brew is Two Hearted Ale, which I knew of as just a great beer before IPA was a thing. So it's understandable that I love Hopslam, which is their souped-up IPA. Sadly, they only release it once a year, it's availability is sharply constrained, and it's very expensive. A six-pack on the cheap end will run on $20, and that's only if you're very lucky.

What makes Hopslam so special? It is an exquisitely balanced beer. For all the hops that go into it, it's not too hoppy -- even people who aren't hopheads, such as my wife, love this beer. Greg Engert, beer-master, says, "It's beautifully balanced, hoppy but not a fruit bomb. Not too piney, but with great tropical fruit and herb notes." The first time I tried it, at RFD, it was the best beer I had ever had.

Is it worth the price and the effort to find? It depends. At the end of the day, unless you're really into hoppy beers, it's probably not quite worth it. You can find plenty of imperial IPAs that are almost as good as Hopslam, but are half the price. But if you like hoppy beers, you should try and find this one. It's one of the best.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Apple Beverage #4: Now we're cooking with fire!

This is much better than my previous attempts. It's probably the best drink since the first, and certainly the one that tastes most like apples. It's interesting just how pale it is -- the glass in the picture to the left is half full. The nose is very apple-like. The flavor is reminiscent of apples, though it's a bit bitter. I wouldn't want to put any less vermouth in it, so maybe just some more simple syrup would do the trick. That might make it too sweet though -- I'm more looking for crisp. Maybe some sort of bitters. In any case, I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out.

Apple Beverage #4
1.5 oz Applejack
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz Lemon Vodka
splash, ginger simple syrup

Pop-Up Preview Dinner at Chez Billy

Courtesy of Prince of Petworth, Chez Billy is offering a second preview dinner at the Montserrat House. My wife and I went to the first one, and were quite impressed, not only with the charcuterie, as PoP points out, but also the cheeses. The various courses and wines were quite good and well paired, though it looks like they're doing a different menu from the one they did when we were there.

Chez Billy is a French restaurant looking to open up in Petworth in the next few months. Apparently the location was one of the few upscale restaurants for African-Americans back in the day. I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out once they open. You can sign up for the dinner here; the menu is below.

Chez Billy Preview Part Deux
Mediterranean Red Mullet with Baby Beets and Turnips,
Parsley Puree , and Sauce Vin Blanc

Soupe de Poisson
Traditional Provencal  Fish Soup with Monkfish, Prawns,
Baby Squid, and Rouille

Pan Roasted Spanish Mackerel with Smoked Cauliflower
and Truffled Pommes Parisiennes

“Selles Sur Cher” Goat Cheese with Homemade Walnut
Raisin Toast and Local Honey

Wine Pairings Included

Chef Brendan L'Etoile

Dino Hoping to Stay in Cleveland Park

Young & Hungry reports:
Y&H has heard multiple rumors about the possible closure of the cozy Italian-themed enoteca. But fans of Gold's "wine madness" specials and 10-course duck dinners should take heart. "Since then, business has picked up," he reports. "We’ve figured out how to make more money." Recent changes to the restaurant's menu and prices have contributed to the economic upswing, he says.
Good news! I'm a big fan of Dino, and the 10-course duck dinners, and while Cleveland Park isn't the most convenient location for us, I suspect any new place would be much worse.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blood Orange Negroni

This recipe comes from Matt Gilpin of Bottega via Serious Eats. It's a twist on the traditional Negroni, reducing the amount of Campari and sweet vermouth and replacing them with blood orange juice. It's really good. More citric than a traditional Negroni, the blood orange juice adds a different set of nuances, more acid and just a bit more sweetness. I went without the grapefruit bitters I usually add, and I think that was the right decision. I don't think I'd do this with normal orange juice; the extra sweetness of the blood orange is crucial here. I'm curious to see if I flamed the rind whether that would add anything. Fortunately, blood oranges are in season!
Blood Orange Negroni:
1 oz gin (New Amsterdam)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Campari
1 oz blood orange juice (probably closer to .75 oz)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Negroni and Amaro

Photoediting courtesy of GIMP
In a recent post, I mentioned that one of The Passenger's drinks of the day was a Negroni & Amaro, an otherwise traditional Negroni with Averna subbing out for the sweet vermouth. I didn't order one at the time, because I figured I could make one myself at home. So here it is:

Negroni & Amaro
1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Averna

This is one tasty drink, and a good counter-point to the traditional Negroni. Where that drink balances out the tartness of the Campari with the sweetness of the vermouth, this one does its balancing with the bitterness of the amaro. It's complex and rich, perfect for this time of year. I can imagine this being really good with some chocolate bitters, though less well with the grapefruit bitters I typically use in negronis. Overall, an excellent winter drink.

ChurchKey Crew Hires Veteran Brewer For New D.C. Brewery

ChurchKey Crew Hires Veteran Brewer For New D.C. Brewery

I'm not sure I could be more excited about this new brewery unless it was closer to my apartment. While I'm not familiar with the brewer, Megan Parisi, or her brewery, Cambridge Brewing Company, I have a lot of faith in Kyle Bailey (of ChurchKey/Birch & Barley) and his taste in beer. And not only is there going to be another brewery in DC, but it's going to focus on one of my favorite styles of beer, barrel-aged sour ales. It's scheduled to be open in late 2012. Maybe I can convince my wife to move down by the ballpark.

"Vodka is Boring:" New distillery to open up in DC

Via DCist, the New Columbia Distillery is planning on opening this summer:
With a weeklong distillery internship from Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane, Washington under their belts, an empty 3,500-square-foot warehouse sandwiched between West Virginia Avenue and New York Avenue in the Northeast neighborhood of Ivy City and a new 450-liter still, Uselton and Lowe have started laying the foundation for what they hope a production of 2,000 cases a year of gin and, once properly aged, whiskey. But why gin?
"Vodka is boring! The vodka market is very saturated right now. Additionally, vodka doesn't allow for much if any creativity so it doesn't really appeal to us. We both really enjoy gin and whiskey. And since there is much more wiggle room in the creation of these products, we are able to experiment and make the products unique," said Uselton.
Moreover, Uselton and Lowe add, gin can be made relatively quickly, and they'd like to be producing by the time the warm weather hits and residents start thirsting for gin-and-tonics. (Or Gin Rickeys, of course.) The production of gin will help tide them over as they age their whiskey, which won't likely see the market for another three or four years.
I think this is great news! I'm loosely committed to trying to consume local products, so the more the merrier, especially if they're producing the two spirits I love. The space will be located between West Virginia Ave and New York Ave in the Northeast, and is slated to open this summer.

The Passenger

Bartender Alex Bookless pours a drink
The Passenger is, most likely, the best cocktail bar in DC. There are certainly other very good places to go, like Tabard Inn or PS7s. But for breadth, consistency, and ambience, I prefer the Passenger to any of them. I love the low key ambience, and the food is pretty good. I wouldn't go out of my way for any of it, except perhaps the pork cheek nachos, but it's all above average bar food. The marcona almonds make for a great snack, if that's what you want. The real focus here, however, is the drinks.

The Passenger eschews a traditional cocktail list, choosing rather to have a chalkboard with their daily offerings. One recent option we spotted recently was the Negroni and Amaro, substituting Averna for the traditional sweet vermouth. They also have a reasonably sized list of beers. And, of course, you can always order a classic cocktail -- like the Ramos Gin Fizz I had the last time I was there. But one of the things they specialize in is finding you the drink you want. The bartenders are very good at listening to what you like in a drink, and then pouring you a beverage based on what you've told. So if you want something dry and whiskey based, they'll figure something out. If you want something Fernet Branca based, they'll figure it out. And if you want something slightly adventurous for your friend who usually drinks rum and cokes, they'll figure it out. I love the way this really shows off the breadth of their knowledge of cocktails and provides for a good time. No matter what your cocktail experience level is, The Passenger is a great space to spend a couple hours with a pleasant drink.

The Passenger is located at 1021 7th St NW.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon

From Savoy Stomp, a recipe for New Year's punch. It looks tasty, with plenty of pomegranate, cloves, cardamom, and lemon. Check it out at savoystomp.com!

Yellow Vendor

Love this food truck! Yellow Vendor is the first food truck I ever tried, and I was into it from the start. They serve Korean food, but I've only ever gotten the spicy bulgogi. It may be pretty one note, but for comfort food, it's a very good note. They serve the strips of beef on a bed of rice in a thick, spicy red pepper sauce, with a side of salad and kimchi. I feel like the kimchi could be more pungent, and the coldness of it contrasts poorly with warmth of the beef. But it does help cut the unctuousness of the beef a bit, and so is an important side. I don't know what the purpose of the salad is. It doesn't seem to really go with the bulgogi, and I've never tried it. It's a pretty simple iceberg lettuce salad, so not really tempting. If you happen to see Yellow Vendor in your area, you should give it a try; you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to cook a steak

I always used to have a lot of trouble pan-frying steaks. I could never get the interior warm without just burning the outside to ciders. However, after a great deal of research and experimentation, I happened across the answer -- stick it in the oven! Of course, if you just put it in the oven, you might get a well cooked steak, but you won't get the crust that makes a good crust great. You need to start it off in the pan, give it a crust, and then transfer it to an oven. Cast iron is a natural for this, since you can just take the pan you're frying it in, and stick in in the oven.

The other key is the amount of time. If you want to cook your steak medium-rare, which you should, you need to cook it for 10 minutes. This is pan frying and oven roasting combined. However, it depends on how thick the steak is. 10 minutes is for a steak roughly an inch thick, and you need to adjust if it's thicker or less thick. It's mostly an art, though I usually do 8 for a steak that's 1/2 of an inch thick, and I don't usually cook steaks that are more than an inch thick.

So here's how it goes. Grab a steak, about .4 pounds per person. My wife always wants .25 pounds per person, but I never think that that's enough, especially when it comes to steak. But you know what you like. It should be room temperature, so take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you intend to start cooking it, give it some salt and pepper, and let it sit.

Once it's sat on the counter for a while, put a cast iron pan on the stove and get it really, really hot. It doesn't need to be at the highest setting, but it needs to be up there. Fry it for between 1.5 and two minutes each side. Don't move it! You need to let it sit for it to develop a nice crust. Technically, you want to leave it until it slides freely and doesn't stick -- that's how you know it's developed that crust. But I'm vigorous enough in my shaking that that's a fine line. So I just really on the times above, and it works out fine. Once you've seared both sides, and maybe a bit before that second side is finished searing, stick it in a 450 degree oven. If you need the oven a different temperature for the vegetables you're doing with the steak, don't worry about it, you'll be okay.

After the time you've spent cooking the steak (frying + roasting) is 10 minutes, or whatever seems good to you, take the steak, put it back on the counter, and put some aluminium foil over it. Let it rest for about 5 minutes so the juices can redistribute themselves. After that, do what you want, you've got steak!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Arugula and Goat Cheese Ravioli

The glass on the right is prosecco, if you were wondering.
Since it was Saturday, and we didn't have much else to do, we thought we'd do a more elaborate recipe. So, ravioli. This recipe come from Gourmet, and calls for handmade ravioli filled with a blend of arugula and goat cheese. This was our first time making handmade pasta of any sort, and it was an experience.

It can probably be summed up by saying that we started cooking around 4 in the afternoon, and started eating around 8:30, and almost all of that was active time. Now, that's a bit misleading, since we discovered around 5 that we didn't have enough arugula (we needed a pound!), and so I did things around the kitchen like fill ingredient bowls and wash dishes while my wife went to the store to get more Arugula. If that hadn't happened, we still would have spent a lot of time cooking, but not quite as much as we did.

And making ravioli by hand is hard! I kinda wish I had a pasta machine now. I've never been much good at rolling out dough, even if I'm making something like pizza where it doesn't need to be particularly thin. So here, where it wanted to be really thin, I wasn't much good. But I was apparently good enough! While the ravioli was not the best ever, it was pretty good. The flavor was awesome; I can tell why people swear by homemade pasta. But it was a bit chewy. Not horribly chewy, but it could have been better. The filling was quite good. It would have been better if we had been able to de-stalk the arugula, but that would have required far more time than it was worth. Overall, a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon, if not the best dish we've ever had.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple Beverage #3

As I've mentioned before, I've been working on a beverage that tastes like apple. For now at least, I'm referring to it as "Apple Beverage". At some point I plan to discuss Apple Beverage #1 and #2, but this is Apple Beverage #3.

Apple Beverage #3
1.5 oz Applejack
.5 oz Allspice Dram
.5 oz Domaine de Canton

This one is less crisp apple and more apple pie. The allspice dram gives it a lot of spice, and the Domaine gives it a bit of a kick. I added a dash of Boker's Bitters to help balance out the sweetness. That helped, but not enough. The allspice dram tends to be a bit overpowering as well.

Will somebody think about the food trucks?

Photo by Mr T in DC
The Washington Post is reporting that the DC city council is considering new regulations on food trucks. These regulations would remove the rule that a food truck must move if there is not a line and would allow neighborhoods to create their own regulations. I haven't seen the legislation or commentary from a respectable local news source; I'll update when I do.

Update: DCist has the text of the proposed rulemaking. Sorry if this is somewhat stream of consciousness, I'm typing as I read the regulation. It looks like they are planning on allocating "roadway vending locations" by lottery, with no truck allowed to have permits for more than two spots at a time. Given that the sites are distributed by day of the week, it's unclear whether this means two different locations on a single day, or two different licenses. If it's the second, it could be problematic, since I take it food trucks want to be out all five days of the week. It looks like the second, since a later provision says that a vendor may not operate at more than one location per day, which would tend to be redundant under the first reading. On a second reading, it appears that the regulation limits the food truck to two locations, but not two days. So, for example, it could have a permit for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at L'Enfant, and Tuesday and Thursday at Farragut Square. It still seems unnecessarily limiting.

There are also provisions for design standards. I don't know much about how food trucks are designed, but it seems like some of them, such as the requirement for two different sinks, and one of them a three compartment sink, could be onerous. Vending hours also seem restrictive. On weekends, they're only allowed to be out until one am, and I'm sure the late night crowd wouldn't mind grabbing a bite from a truck on the way home from the bar.

It explicitly removes the requirement that there be a line for the truck to stay there, though somewhat mysteriously, it does so only for "non-dessert prepared foods." Per the Washington Post, the reasoning seems to be that if you're not an ice cream truck, you're going to need some time to set up. It does require the food truck to obey the already existing parking restrictions, so if it's a two-hour spot, the truck can only stay for two hours.

Interestingly, it also sets up what it calls "Vending Development Zones," which appear to allow for greater flexibility with respect to these regulations. This includes the ability of neighborhoods to keep out food trucks. Given the restrictions that are already present in the regulation about food trucks in residential areas, I'm not sure I really want a neighborhood to be able to engage in this sort of NIMBYism, but maybe that's just me.

If it sounds like I'm critical, it's because I am. I'm pretty sure there's too much regulations of business, especially food business in general, and I just don't think we need this level. If brick and mortar restaurants can't compete, they should make better food, or sell it more cheaply. I hope that DC Council is trying to pass legislation to improve the well-being of their constituents, not the well being of entrenched business interests. Also, I hope this doesn't ruin Farragut Fridays -- I like Farragut Fridays! Farragut Square is never as well-used as it is on a nice Friday with all of the food trucks there, and it'd be a shame to see that disappear.

That being said, these regulations could be far worse. They could just ban food trucks, or otherwise make it impossible for them to function, rather than simply more difficult than it needs to be.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bourbon Sauced Steak

For dinner, we had a peppercorn steak in a bourbon sauce, based off of a recipe I found on Epicurious. Some time I'll belabor you with the details of how I prepare steak, but I want to focus specifically on this recipe. I'm still working on an easy way to crack peppercorns without them becoming too fine. I suppose I should buy a burr grinder, but that really seems like too much. The steak was good -- a New York Strip. It was a bit thin, but it worked just fine with the recipe. The sauce, consisting predominantly of heavy cream, bourbon, shallots, and beef stock, was quite tasty, but it was thinner than is ideal. On the other hand, the quinoa did a good job of sopping it up! Next time, I'll either reduce it more before adding the cream or add some corn starch. I think I'd also add some Worcestershire Sauce to make it a bit more savory. We paired it with a Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Trippel, which is a lovely beer, and paired really well with the dish.

Scorched Earth

The Scorched Earth was adapted by Gary Regan from a recipe by Nicholas Hearin.

1.5 oz Cognac (Remy Martin)
.5 oz Cynar
.5 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)

This is a nice cocktail for showing off Cynar -- you definitely get its vegetal character in the drink, but the sweetness of the vermouth and the cognac balances it out. Regan calls for a twist of lemon; I added in orange bitters instead. Unsurprisingly, Regan knows his cocktails better than I do. Lemon would be better in this than the orange. It's a pretty heavy and boozy cocktail, and some lemon would help brighten it up.

Apple Beverage

Image from Geek Philosopher: Instant download of free stock photos, images, backgrounds, and desktop wallpapers. Pictures can be used  on personal or commercial web sites.
Image from geekphilosopher.com.
So I've been working on a cocktail that tastes like an apple. It's hard! I started off with Applejack, lemon juice, and Domaine de Canton. The first iteration was quite good, but very, very lemony. I'll post it here sometime. The second was more apple like, but still too lemony, so I switched to lemon vodka. I'll need to fool around a bit more, but the lemon vodka is the right idea, I think. Last night I tried something a bit different -- I threw together lemon vodka, St. Germain, and Applejack. It didn't really work. There might be a good drink in there somewhere, but it's not going to be particularly apple-flavored. This iteration had too much St. Germain, so it mostly tasted like elderflower. I wonder if some dry vermouth might not help some of these recipes?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

End of an Era

Prince of Petworth reports that Asylum, long time punk bar in Adams Morgan, will be no more. For years, Asylum was a great place to grab a good burger and a cheap beer, and probably the only decent place in Adams Morgan to do so. Last September, its owners succumbed to the slow march of gentrification, and opened up a decent-for-DC BBQ joint, Smoke and Barrel, where the upstairs used to be. Now the downstairs will be renovated to match the upstairs -- from black and spiky to brown and oaky. RIP, Asylum.

Bistro D'Oc

Bistro D'Oc
Bistro D'Oc is a small French bistro located in downtown DC just west of Gallery Place/Penn Quarter. Unlikely the many mussel heavy French bistros scattered throughout DC, Bistro D'Oc focuses on food from the south of France, specifically the Languedoc. So instead of mussels, there's steak in various sauces, such as my favorite, the Ongelet Grillé, or the Boeuf Braise au Vin. But more importantly, there's lots of offal. Lamb's brain, sweetbreads, and tripe, to be specific. Now it can be hard to find offal in DC, and my wife loves it, so this is a very good reason for us to go here when we're in the area.

Bistro D'Oc Sweetbreads.
On our most recent trip, I had the tripe, and my wife had the sweetbreads. I've had their food before, it's generally quite good, and the sweetbreads were no exception. Wonderful little nuggets of savory goodness in a puff pastry (picture on the left). The tripe was less satisfactory. In their defense, I haven't had tripe prepared this way before, since I usually have it in Asian dishes, so I don't know if the problems I had were with my palate or with Bistro D'Oc. But I found them unpalatable. They were in a wine, tomato, and mustard potato purée, which itself was quite tasty. But the dish smelled like a pig farm (and my Dad grew up near a pig farm, so I know what it smells like), and the tripe was so chewy as to be nearly inedible.

Dessert was tasty. We had the peach brioche pudding, brioche and peaches in a ramekin topped with whipped cream. It was a nice complement to the savoriness of the other dishes, and a great way to top off the evening. I'd definitely recommend Bistro D'Oc, perhaps not as a destination restaurant, but one to go to when you're in the area.

This Recipe Might Self-Destruct Amid Industry Belt-Tightening

This Recipe Might Self-Destruct Amid Industry Belt-Tightening

The City Paper mentions that a newspaper in Chile published an exploding churro recipe, injuring 13. I'd like to take this moment to note that I am not responsible for any injuries you may suffer from reading this blog or cooking any of the recipes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Fuel Pizza
My wife undoubtedly believes that this blog should be "Pizza and Whiskey" since, not only do they go well together, but pizza is one of my favorite foods. I'm down from my youthful heights, when I would eat pizza 3 or 4 times a week for dinner, but I still regularly have a slice of  pizza for lunch. Unfortunately, there are more bad pizza joints in DC than corrupt politicians, and the good ones aren't that good. Washington Deli is arguably the best in the neighborhood, but it's not as cheesy as I like and the sauce is overly sweet (to some that may be a feature, not a bug). Pizza Pino is good and cheesy, but the quality is really inconsistent, and the other ingredients aren't all that great. So I was excited to see Fuel open a joint just a few blocks from where I'm working. It's a chain originally from North Carolina, and the DC location will be the first outside of the Carolinas. Their grand opening is tomorrow, and they're giving out free pizza. Since I won't be able to go tomorrow, I figured I should go today so I can tell you all about it.

It was some of the best pizza by the slice I've had in DC. The sauce was nice and savory, without an excessive amount of pepper. There was a good amount of cheese on the pizza, and the parmesan cheese they have is of a decent quality. The pepperoni was good, not so spicy as to dominate the pizza, but with a little bit of a kick and good crispiness. And the crust was crisp, without being overly crispy, and fairly salty. (Actually, it was salty enough that some people might think it's too salty, but I like salt.) The service was a bit sloppy, but it was pretty obvious that they were still training the new employees, so I think a lot of the hiccups will go away in about a week. I liked the decor -- it was obviously intended to evoke a certain sort of southern restaurant, with a few fuel pumps thrown in. A nice step up from the antiseptic quality of Pizza Pino or the dinge of Washington Deli. I'll definitely be back, and I'll update you when I go.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dalwhinnie 15

Served with a random cheese. This is a really nice scotch. It's a dark amber, with a nice caramel nose. Going down, it's pretty full-bodied. It's got lots of honey, but with a healthy amount of peat as well. Not a peat bomb at all, just enough to balance out the sweetness. Quite smooth, but not at all flabby. Definitely one I'll be having again. Whisky Critic says he gets herbs and pepper in the body. I'm not sure I quite get that, but that's probably just a failing of my palate. It certainly seems more complex than my description above gives it credit for.


Juice of half a lime (1/2 oz lemon juice)
1.5 oz orange juice
.25 oz triple sec (Cointreau. For the love of all that is holy, please don't use generic triple sec.)
.75 oz brandy (Remy Martin VSOP)
.75 oz white rum (Flor de Cana)
1 oz dark rum (Kraken)

I could have sworn I had lime juice when I decided to make this drink. Ah well. I'm probably less hesitant than I should be to throw in lemon juice instead of lime juice. They're not really the same thing. But the drink turned out okay after all, with a surprising amount of complexity. Sure, it would be better with lime juice. And maybe I put in too much Cointreau. But it's quite smooth, with the sweetness of the liquors balancing well with the tartness of the juices. I added some peach bitters, which worked well, though they definitely tip things towards the sweet end of the spectrum.

Note: This drink, and most of the drinks that come from recipes on this blog, is from American Bar, by Charles Schumann.

Friday, January 13, 2012

DC Slices

I first went to DC Slices a few years ago, when they were giving out free slices in anticipation of starting out. I didn't care for them at the time. But a month or two ago, I was getting tired of Pizza Pino, and figured I should give them another shot. I'm glad I did!

They have several different options for pizza, ranging from cheese and pepperoni to buffalo chicken and sausage and onion. I usually get the pepperoni, because that's how I roll. Today I was feeling a little wild, so I got the sausage and onion. Assuming you aren't intending on kissing anyone any time soon (or have someone who is contractually obligated to -- hi honey!), it's a great option. The onion is nice and crispy, and the sausage is actual slices from actual sausages, rather than the desiccated pellets you usually get in places like this. Not only that, but you get fresh basil on your pizza! Definitely worth a look if you like pizza and this truck is in your area.

In Defense of the Brussels Sprout - The Atlantic

I'm not sure why the Brussels Sprout gets so much hate. I suppose it's the strong flavor, which I never really appreciated until I stopped cooking them to death. (Sorry Oma!) But I love them, and I'm fortunate that Mrs. Asaris loves them too. The only problem? She loves them roasted, while I prefer them steamed. Perhaps for related reasons, she's a bigger fan of saucing them up than I am. In addition to the advice in the article, I'd just add, try a mustard-based sauce.

In Defense of the Brussels Sprout - The Atlantic

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Braised Chicken with Thyme

Braising is one of the things I love to do in the kitchen because it's so flexible. Toss some chicken, some herbs, and some wine in a pot, and you can get all sorts of results. Of course, this isn't to say that I've really mastered the technique. Consider these general instructions:

Saute aromatics (garlic/shallots) in oil
brown chicken, 5 minutes each side
remove chicken, deglaze with dry white wine, add herbs (thyme, rosemary, savory), reduce
braise chicken, 20-25 minutes

Did it turn out good? Well, it was fine. It could have been crispier -- I'm not sure if I want to saute the chicken longer or put it (briefly) under the broiler after braising it. The flavor was good, and if I had had the time to reduce the sauce after braising the chicken, it would have been really good. Some of this is just the peril of starting dinner at quarter after eight. But practice makes perfect, right?

Irish Whiskey

The restaurant, not the drink.

I'm looking forward to trying this place out; I thought Porter's was one of the better bars in the area -- not that that's hard -- but their food was a bit lacking. Looking at these pictures, it looks like Irish Whiskey's offerings might be quite a lot better! Check out the slide show on the Best Bites Blog.

An Early Look at Irish Whiskey (Pictures) - Best Bites Blog (washingtonian.com)

St. Arnold's Underground

We went on opening night to St. Arnold's underground, around the corner from (and underneath) the mussel bar. Loved the atmosphere. It had a bit of a British pub feel to it, which I'm sure will be improved once the smell of varnish leaves. We were a bit disappointed that some of their entrees like the deep fried burger or the bangers and mash were unavailable. The mussels from upstairs are available, and my wife loved their paella mussels. It's really a huge selection, with fifteen or twenty different choices.

I tried two of their (bacon-wrapped and deep-fried) hot dogs, the chicago and the vietnamese. Both were good with lots of fresh toppings. The sausage itself wasn't the best I've had -- it could have used a bit more snap, and wasn't large enough to avoid being overwhelmed by the toppings. The bun was average, but like the hot dog, did not really hold up to the toppings, and would probably have been better toasted.

Overall, it was a great experience for an opening night. Hopefully next time we'll be able to get some darts in!