Wednesday, February 29, 2012

French Onion Soup

I spent Sunday making French Onion Soup. It wasn't all active time, of course, but I started at 1, and we ate at 8, and even then I had to speed the recipe up. How did it come to this? Well, I follow Michael Ruhlman's blog, over at, and a while back he posted a recipe for French Onion Soup. I love French Onion Soup, but rarely get it at restaurants since I rarely get an appetizer of any sort at restaurants. So I was pretty excited by the recipe. Unfortunately, it calls for sweating the onions over several hours, so it took a while for me to get around to it. But I'm glad I did!

The broth was great; rich and oniony. I had intended to add a bit of bourbon to each bowl, but it slipped my mind. I was out of sherry, so I used a mixture of vermouth and sherry vinegar. The crusty bread eagerly soaked up the broth, almost to the extent there was none left, and the Emmentaler cheese provided a great nutty edge to the dish. When I had it again two days later, the flavors were quite a bit more subtle. In general, it was an improvement, but the sweetness of the onions was overwhelming. They were so sweet, they tasted almost like apples! I'm glad I added beef broth to it. Ruhlman is adamantly against it, but I feel like the ratio of two parts water to one part broth gave it a lot more depth than it would have had otherwise, while still allowing the onion flavor to shine through.

If I had to do it again, I'd have the temperature a bit higher when sweating the onions. I had it almost all the way down, and it still wasn't done by the time we were starving at 8 o'clock. I think I could have dialed it up a bit higher, and not risked burning the onions. That would have meant dinner at a reasonable hour. Given the tendency of the bread to soak up the broth, I need either more liquid or thinner bread. I worry that thinner bread might just lose to much of the crunch. Recipe is after the jump.


Sometimes life hands you lemons. Sometimes your wife makes a cocktail with half a lemon, and hands you the other half. So I decided to make a Sidecar. According to Wikipedia, the Sidecar was invented by an American Army captain during World War I, and named after the little motorcycle sidecar he took back and forth from the bar. It's probably the best known brandy cocktail out there.

There appears to be some disagreement on the best way to make a Sidecar, mostly centering around how dry or sweet to make the cocktail.
Both MacElhone and Vermiere state the recipe as equal parts cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, now known as "the French school". Later, an "English school" of Sidecars emerged, as found in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), which call for two parts cognac and one part each of Cointreau and lemon juice.
According to Embury, the original Sidecar had several more ingredients, which were "refined away." Embury also states the drink is simply a Daiquiri with brandy as its base rather than rum, and with Cointreau as the sweetening agent rather than sugar syrup. He recommends the same proportions (8:2:1) for both, making a much less sweet Sidecar. However, Simon Difford, in his book "Encyclopedia of Cocktails," notes Harry Craddock's ratio of 2:1:1 in "The Savory Cocktail Book," and then suggests a middle ground of 3:2:2, calling Embury's Daiquiri formula "overly dry" for a sidecar
Since I tend not to like my drinks overly sweet, I thought I'd do the drier proportions of 8:2:1. I decided to use Gran Gala, a liqueur similar to Grand Marnier, instead of the more typical Cointreau. It made the drink a bit creamier, though I'm not sure better. I definitely like the ratio I used. It's pretty sweet, even with that ratio; I'm not sure increasing the amount of Cointreau would improve it.

Chez Billy Update

Prince of Petworth has a bunch of great photos of Chez Billy, a French bistro opening in Petworth in about a month. I thoroughly enjoyed the preview dinner they put on about a month ago, and this just makes me more excited for them to open. Go check the pictures out!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


A post on Autarch's forums reminded me of the classic Dungeons & Dragons character Warduke. If you don't remember him from the game, you may remember him from the cartoon that aired in the early 80. Mostly, I remember a suit of armor with a large set of horns, glowing eyes reaching out from under his helmet. What a great inspiration for a cocktail!

I wanted something wicked, so Hellfire bitters were a necessity. I didn't think tequila was the right spirit; rye had the right sort of spiciness I wanted, but I wanted a bit more complexity. I thought about adding some lime juice, but somehow that just didn't seem right. Of course, a glass of rye, however tasty, isn't a cocktail. I figured I could add vermouth, but that would just make it a Manhattan. I thought I'd try adding some brandy, to give it a bit more complexity (like any villain ought to have). I figured using dry vermouth would keep it from being too sweet, and there you have it. Dry vermouth, rye, and brandy equals a Warduke.

The taste is difficult to describe. The Hellfire bitters definitely give it a spicy kick, but there's definitely an underlying complexity in the interplay between the rye and the brandy. I suspect it might be a bit better if I used bourbon instead of rye; the rye tends to overpower the brandy a bit. Not too much though. You really can taste everything in here. Recipe after the jump.

Picture by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid,

1 oz Brandy
1 oz Rye
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
Hellfire bitters
stir, strain into a coupe glass or a rocks glass neat, and serve.


I've mentioned Dino here before. It's a great mid-range Italian restaurant that has very good food at reasonable prices. And the occasional "everything but the quack" ten-course duck dinner. But this past weekend marked the first time we had been there for brunch. We had just finished a strength training class at Stroga, so we were famished. Dino has a deal where you get three 'courses' for just $25, and we both went for that. It's not really a three course meal, since one of the courses is 'mimosa', but it's a pretty solid amount of food. I ordered a cheese course, with a blue cheese and a truffled goat cheese, and the peposo, and my wife got the burrata and the perch.

The appetizers were fantastic. The truffled goat cheese tasted like real truffles, not nastyfake truffle oil. And the blue cheese was nice, rich and pungent. The burrata was smooth and milky. The mimosas were excellent as well, with fresh squeezed orange juice and better than average sparkling wine. Sadly, the entrees weren't quite as good. Both I thought were better than average, but the short rib wasn't anything I couldn't have done at home, and the perch was somewhat dry. We enjoyed it, but given the logistical difficulties of getting to Dino from Columbia Heights, I don't know if we'll be back.

Vermouth Cassis

A while back, I wanted to make kirs, and so I bought a bottle of Creme de Cassis. Unfortunately, I bought a really cheap bottle, and so it's been a struggle to get rid of it. Flipping though my copy of Schumann looking for a random beverage, I came across the. Not only did it use creme de cassis, but it used a very small amount, so I thought it would be perfect for getting rid of just a bit more of that bottle.

It's a bit bitter, with a nasty aftertaste that I assume is from the cheap creme de cassis. Other than that, it's not bad. The lemon peel is necessary to lighten up the flavor, especially with the substitution of Cocchi Americano for the dry vermouth making it a bit thicker and boozier. I used a relatively small glass, so there was also less soda in here than there might have been. Recipe after the jump.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Candied Walnuts!

Typically, when I want a snack, I'll just munch on some cheese or crackers, maybe some chips. But lately, I've been trying to cook more snacks, just to get a bit more variety. Today, I noticed a bag of walnuts laying around in the kitchen. So I decided to make walnuts!

The kind folks at California Walnuts have a bunch of recipes on their website. I figured candied walnuts sounded pretty tasty, and even better, their recipe uses maple syrup. After tossing the walnuts in syrup and sesame seeds, I put them in the oven at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, and stirred them once. They came out tasty, though perhaps slightly overdone. Recipe after the jump.

Finish Line

I was feeling like I've had too many boozy drinks lately, so I thought I'd make myself a Runner's Reward. When I got to the kitchen, however, I got distracted. Last night, I thought I had finished off all of the Aperol in the house. This made me sad. Fortunately, my wife pointed out I had already bought a new bottle, since we were running low. And that inspired me to try a variation on the Runner's Reward, replacing the St. Germain with Aperol.

Unsurprisingly, this made for a different type of drink. Where the Runner's Reward is light and refreshing, the Finish Line is a bit more savory. The flavor lingers longer, and is a hint more bitter. I used Fee Bros. Grapefruit bitters instead of the Hopped Grapefruit bitters, and I'm glad I did. I think that the hopped grapefruit would have been a bit much. In fact, perhaps some Boker's Bitters would be even better. I also suspect white rum might be better than spiced rum. Recipe after the jump.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Old Fashioned #34

Very brief, since it's Friday night, but I just made a variation on an Old Fashioned that was pretty good. I poured a dimple worth of simple syrup, about an ounce of rye, and about 3/4 of an ounce of Aperol (though none of this was measured.) It's tasty, though if I made it again, I might add some lime juice or soda water. Enjoy!

Craft Beer and the Gray Market

Pirate Flag from Clipper City Brewing. Photo from Flickr by cizauskas
Prince of Petworth has an article up today by Sam Fitz arguing that what makes DC's beer scene as great as it is is the variety of distributors that have set up shop here, not the availability of "Gray Market beer." Gray Market beer is beer that is self-imported by the owner or beer director of an establishment. In most places, this is illegal, but it's legal in DC as long as you pay your taxes. Here's an excerpt, but please check out the whole thing, it's very interesting:
Flooding a market with a myriad of brews is one thing, but consumers actually drinking and supporting all of them is quite another. The best thing about beer in DC is the public’s willingness and desire to drink widely, try new products, and keep up on what is available. There is always an interest in what is new, whether it’s restaurants, bars, or beers, and DC residents follow social media all over the city for new experiences. Trying new things is cool these days, and it certainly is helping craft beer explode in this city. DC is also a geographically diverse community and sometimes it is as simple as people enjoying the beers of their home state. No matter the rationale, Washingtonians’ ability and willingness to support the myriad craft beer brands distributed here is the biggest asset to the DC beer community. Gray market beers surely make up much less than 1% of DC craft beer sales and are really more of a novelty than anything else. . . .
DC’s gray market for beer is a peculiar benefit of drinking in the District, and perhaps it is what distances us just a bit from other great beer cities like Philadelphia, but it certainly is not what makes DC such a great place to drink well. The national praise is awesome, but let’s appreciate what we really have: a blossoming community eagerly supporting an impressive array of craft beers.
Sam Fitz is the beer director at Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel. My comment on the legality of Gray Market beers is merely a summary of the law, and is not intended to describe everything needed to comply with the law.

Mussels are hard

The hard part of mussels is the cooking. My wife and I both love mussels, and are fortunate to live in a town that features many excellent places to eat them. But until last year, we had never tried to make them ourselves. Then I happened on a recipe for grilled mussels, which sounded really interesting, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The results were not good. The recipe was fine, but at least half of the mussels were undercooked, most of them severely. The problem is, mussels are pretty finicky. It takes about 5 minutes to grill them (8 to steam), but that's an average. You mostly have to watch them, and wait for them to open. And by open, I mean open wide. So the second time I grilled mussels, I was a lot more patient, and they turned out a lot better.

Recently, we've been craving seafood again, and scallops are just a bit more expensive than we really want. So my wife picked up some mussels, I sent her a recipe from Serious Eats, and she cooked them up for me (I have a really great wife!) She mostly followed the recipe, just adding rosemary, shallots, and leeks. The broth was really flavorful, and went great with the baguette she picked up, but the mussels, as a rule, were very underdone. I don't think we ate more than half of them. So, as a gentle reminder, when you cook mussels, cook them well! They should be open wide. Recipe after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jack Rose

The Jack Rose is a cocktail with a long history. Popular in the 1920s and 30s, it appeared in a scene in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I was unaware of this drink until an eponymous bar opened up on the south end of Adams Morgan. I tried it when I went there for New Year's Eve, but for some reason don't recall the details of the drink. So having made some homemade grenadine, I thought this would be a great opportunity to try the drink again.

I found a couple different recipes in my cocktail books, and decided to go with the one from Dale DeGroff's Craft of the Cocktail. It was very tasty and refreshing, similar in fact to the effect I'm trying to get with my Apple Beverages. Sadly, it was way too sweet. My wife couldn't even finish it! So it's probably better without the simple syrup. Recipe after the jump.

Roll Ficelle Roll

When I'm craving a sandwich, there's usually not much I can do. The sandwich shops in the neighborhood are pretty lackluster, and sandwich food trucks are few and far between. Fortunately, there's the Rolling Ficelle. It doesn't seem to come to Farragut often, but when it does, it's by far the best option for a sandwich here.

"Ficelle" refers to the type of bread. It's similar to a baguette, but longer and thinner. Like a baguette, it's slightly crispy, but not so you'd break your teeth on it. The truck takes these breads, and piles fresh delicious toppings on them. So far, I've had three of their sandwiches, the Davis, a chicken salad sandwich, the DeKooning, a roast beef sandwich, and the Calder, which is similar to an Italian sub.

I've enjoyed all of the sandwiches I've had here. The DeKooning is probably my favorite -- they add a great horseradish mayo to it which gives it just a little bite. The Davis was my least favorite, but that's because I don't like chicken salad (I missed the "tossed in lemon aioli" part of the description when I was ordering). For a chicken salad sandwich, though, it was very good. The almonds give it a bit of complexity, and they used a light touch on the mayonnaise, which helped a lot.

Sadly, the light touch is also one of the few negatives. (They're also aren't the fastest food truck out there.) I like the DeKooning a lot, but I'd be quite a bit happier if it was a bit more horseradishy. I haven't had the Pollock yet (next time!), a pulled pork sandwich, but if the description of "a hint of jalapeno" is correct, I'll probably think they could kick that up a notch as well.

Homemade Grenadine

Photo by Eatnlisten from flickr
One of the things I want to do this summer is make more tiki drinks. They're fun, they're flavorful, and they help me get my RDA of fruit in an alcohol-laden manner. But they also often require ingredients that can be hard to find in good quality. Two of these ingredients, grenadine and falernum, are not hard to find as such. Rose's makes a grenadine that my local Harris Teeter carries, and there are several variations on falernum that are widespread. But these are not, as a rule, high quality ingredients. Both are not hard to make on your own, and so that's what I'm going to do.

Grenadine is really very easy to make, especially if you have a wife who likes Ramos Gin Fizzes and so keeps orange flower water laying around. It's just pomegranate juice, sugar, and the orange flower water, and the first two ingredients are ubiquitous. Orange flower water can be harder to find. My wife got ours at Ace Beverage. It should be available from specialty Mediterranean stores as well.

I actually mixed up the grenadine in a Pom Wonderful bottle, since it was half full, and that way I didn't need to find something to store it in. I used 2 parts pomegranate juice to one part sugar, and half an inch of orange flower water in the bottom. It's pretty good; sweet, naturally, but the flower water gives it a good floral quality balancing out the sweetness. Next time, I'll probably use a bit less flower water, since this batch was a bit herbaceous.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Margarita Town

The plight of the Margarita may be unequaled in the cocktail world. Only the Old Fashioned rivals it in the injustice typically done to a tasty beverage. At its base, the Margarita is a type of sour, like the Sidecar, a blend of a spirit, lime juice, and a sweetener. But all too often, it's served as if it were some sort of alcoholic smoothie, with sour mix, triple sec, and copious amounts of sugar adulterating an easy drink. (At least we can be glad it's usually corrupted with just one type of fruit, and not the salad that inhabits many Old Fashioneds). It should be made simply, with Cointreau and fresh lime juice if you have it. Sour mix is right out.

I figured a Margarita would be a good chance to experiment with mezcal and hellfire bitters. It turned out well.  I'm not sure the amount of mezcal in here made much of a difference; it seemed overpowered by the lime juice. The hellfire bitters, on the other hand, made an excellent addition. They made the drink a bit spicier, though not overwhelmingly so. If you don't have hellfire bitters, orange bitters would be a good choice. Recipe after the jump.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mexican Monk

I brought some mezcal home from Mexico with me, and thought I should try it in something other than a margarita. It naturally mixes well with tequila, but that can be a pretty harsh drink, even if you have decent agave products, so it can help to add something sweet. This is usually honey, or agave nectar if you want to stick with the agave theme. But I have a bottle of Benedictine laying around that I don't use much, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

It was pretty tasty. The Benedictine did a nice job of balancing out the harshness of the mezcal, while the mezcal was still able to contribute it's characteristic smokiness. I might add a different type of bitters next time, since I think the hopped grapefruit gets overpowered here. Recipe after the jump.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Distillery News

Via DCist:
A distillery hoping to produce gin and whiskey in a warehouse in Northeast D.C. received federal approval to move forward with its plans, according to a tweet this afternoon from the New Columbia Distillers. 
John Uselton and Michael Lowe have been converting a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in Ivy City into what will eventually be a distillery, but unlike their brewing brethren nearby, they need federal approval and will be carefully scrutinized by the U.S. Treasury as they begin producing gin and, eventually, whiskey. 
They hope to have their first batch of gin ready by this summer. They're also working with the D.C. Council on legislation that would allow them to host tastings at the distillery.
Can't wait to bike out there on a hot summer day for a cool glass of gin! We talked about the distillery before here.

Manhattan Fever

Photo by Kenn Wilson from flickr.
I said in an earlier post that negronis have, to some extent, replaced Manhattans as my drink of choice. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a warm and sunny country, and the sort of area within that country that is not suffering from a surfeit of craft cocktail bars. While I was there, I drank my share of piña coladas and thin yellow beers. I managed to try some good rum (Bacardi Añejo is pretty good!), tequila, and mezcal. But there were very few cocktails, and when I ordered a cocktail, I usually ordered a negroni.

Why, other than really liking negronis? It's a simple drink, equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin, and these were ingredients that were readily available. It's also easy to explain. I didn't have to worry about 'three parts this to two parts that' or dashes of whatever. I like that it's a bit obscure. Not only does this make me feel cooler than I actually am, I don't have to worry about what the bartenders might think of as 'his' version. Finally, it's a tolerant drink. Especially since I like Campari (another drink of choice was a Campari soda), it doesn't matter much if there's too much (or not enough) Campari.

All this prologue is to say that, when I got home, I was craving a manhattan. The manhattan was the first drink I called my own; I started drinking them my junior year of college, and haven't looked back. My taste in manhattans, however, has changed quite a bit. When I first started drinking them, on the advice of my friend Jim, I added a splash of grenadine. (I may have to try this again once I make my own grenadine). I went through a time where I was making them with just sweet vermouth and bourbon, and then later took to adding Cointreau. This is still the base of my Manhattans -- whiskey, Cointreau, and sweet vermouth. Purists might object, but I find the Cointreau adds some complexity to the drink, and balances out the spiciness of the whiskey, especially when I use rye.

More recently, as I've been experimenting more with various amaros, I've taken to using Averna in my manhattans. The dark bitterness of the amaro complements the whiskey, rather than balancing it out and makes for a deeper experience than the use of Cointreau does. It is especially appropriate, I find, when drinking in the winter; the lightening effect of Cointreau is more appreciated in the summer. The Speakista recommends replacing the sweet vermouth with the amaro and using a sweetening agent so that the final drink is not too herbal. I replace the Cointreau with the amaro, and so the sweet vermouth itself serves as my sweetener. It's a nice welcome home back to a cold climate. Recipe after the jump.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Izakaya coming to U St Corridor

Via Young and Hungry (V Street, Meet Sake), construction is underway for Izakaya Seki, a Japanese restaurant coming to the U St. Corridor. I'm really excited about this, and not just because I'm always excited about new restaurants coming to my neighborhood. I like the idea of an Izakaya, a somewhat different type of establishment than either the sushi bar or the upscale steakhouse most Americans picture when they think about Japanese restaurants. And I love Kushi, the Izakaya down by the convention center. But Kushi is expensive. It sounds like Seki will be more mid-range, an area DC doesn't exactly specialize in. From Y&H:
The menu hasn't quite been finalized. "But," she says, "it'll be food that he and I love, things we want to eat when we drink." Expect udon and soba noodle dishes (the latter variety will be shipped directly from Japan). But, no sushi (raw sashimi courses certainly, but no nigiri or maki.) No ramen, either (at least not at first, anyway). And, no bartender. "There's no space for a bar," she points out. But there will be drinks, including beer, sake and a curated selection of shōchū, a Japanese spirit that Seki hopes to become a sort of house specialty. 
Expect a more modern look than your typical dark wooden izakaya-style joint in Japan, or even New York. 
The overall goal, Seki says, is to offer the sort of high-quality cuisine at a mid-range price point that D.C. generally lacks. "I do think we're filling a gap that doesn't exist for casual Japanese dining," she says.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Runner's Reward

Photo by Tony Kamick on Flickr
Recently, after a long run, I was looking forward to a nice soak in the tub. I figured I should make something to drink, to take with me. I didn't want anything too alcoholic, since I had just finished a long run. I know St. Germain is always refreshing, so I started with that. I had a lime sitting around, which seemed like it would go well in a refreshing cocktail. I was going to use rum, to keep things light, but I thought I wanted it to be a bit more interesting, but not more boozy, so I threw in some spiced rum. To add to the spicy notes, I added hopped grapefruit bitters, and I topped it off with soda water. It ended up being exactly what I wanted — tasty and refreshing, and not at all boozy. It's a great drink for soaking in the tub, or a hot summer day when you've just finished mowing the lawn.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New York City can fuck off

I swear one of the cocktail blogs I follow (which you can see to the right) mentioned a drink involving Cocchi. I haven't been able to find it. But looking for it, I found an old post from We Love DC talking about a drink they called "Chokin' in Manhattan".

While I still like a well-made Manhattan, it just is not something I find myself ordering at a bar all that often any more. There usually has to be some kind of “hook” to get my attention on a menu – maybe they barrel-aged it or use some interesting house-made ingredients. In the case of Tryst and their Chokin’ in Manhattan, they add one of my favorite liqueurs, Cynar.
Cynar is a bitter Italian liqueur with a variety of botanical flavors, but predominately artichoke. It is bittersweet and vegetal and I am a total sucker for it. In the Chokin’ in Manhattan, it is used as the bitters component, and Cocchi Americano takes the place of sweet vermouth. The resulting drink is less sweet than some Manhattans – due also to replacing the cherry with a wee shrivel of lemon peel – and a pleasant and interesting twist.
Largely because I don't keep a lot of lemon peel around, I don't garnish. Following my ratio theory of cocktail building, I built the cocktail using rye, Cynar, and Cocchi Americano. I renamed the cocktail "Fuck Off New York," since it's a more bitter variation on the Manhattan, and I like the Matson Jones song. It's definitely bitter and vegetal. I'm glad I used the Rittenhouse Rye 100, since you need a really forceful rye to stand up to the bitters, but it really does come together well. Recipe after the jump.

Friday, February 10, 2012

El Raja Key pt. 2

I wanted to try the El Raja Key again, this time with the edits I talked about here. Last time, the flavors didn't blend well, and it was too tart. This time, I replaced the grapefruit bitters with Peychaud's, used orange juice instead of muddled kumquats, and topped it off with soda water. How'd I do?

Much better. The tartness is much more subdued, more of a underlying note to the raspberry flavor. Not only that, but the raspberry flavor is more subtle, allowing everything to come together. I think the orange juice/kumquats helps the citrus to be more of a layered effect, and not simply a lemon-lime, but I'm not sure how much the ginger really adds. Perhaps I should try a variant and use Domaine de Canton instead of the simple syrup and see how that works. This isn't really a winter drink, but it'd be great for the patio in the summer warmth. Recipe after the jump.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tre Amici

I started off wanting to do a variant negroni with the new bitter I bought over the weekend, but this turned into something else entirely. I was going to swap out the Campari for Aperol, but then started thinking about the other substitutions I could make, a la the Mr. Potato Head theory of cocktails. I know that Cardamaro can be a good substitute for sweet vermouth, if you like your drinks a bit more savory and bitter (and I do!) So that led me to start thinking about what I could sub for the gin.

Most of your major spirits don't make good substitutes for gin. Vodka is boring. Rum is sweeter and, to be honest, often less complex. And the brown spirits are really another thing entirely. But I had the fortune of purchasing (finally) a bottle of Cocchi Americano yesterday, and was eager to try it out. So I figured why not sub the Cocchi in for the gin? The first sip was fairly tasty, but a bit bitter. It needed something to tie it together. After two dashes of Boker's Bitters, it was complete.

Unsurprisingly, the Tre Amici is fairly bitter. But it's balanced out by the latent sweetness in the Cardamaro, and the Boker's really helps tie it together. You can taste all of the components, but they work off of each other to produce an exceptionally balanced cocktail. Recipe after the jump.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lamb Chops with Tomato Butter

When we're looking for a recipe, I usually turn to Epicurious for ideas. Their browse feature is great, allowing you to page through recipes with as broad or narrow criteria as you might wish, and their community is really great. Thanks to the reviews, I've only rarely had something from them that wasn't above average. (Though, on the other hand, the cooking times are also generally above average.) The last time I was on there, I was looking for something quick and easy to prepare after my run. I found three recipes, and my wife picked out the lamb chops with sun-dried tomato butter.

I don't normally like lamb as much as steak, due mostly to its gaminess, but these were great! The walnuts and tomatoes in the butter helped balance out the gaminess of the lamb, and the cayenne pepper added a subtle spiciness. Unlike a lot of epicurious recipes, this one really was quick and easy. Recipe after the jump.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nouveau Carré

The Speakista has been doing a series on tequila drinks lately, and since I generally like his drinks, I was really excited to try one of his tequila drinks. I love tequila for the smokiness and the vegetality it brings to drinks, and I haven't had it for a while, so I was glad for the excuse. Sadly, most of his drinks required ingredients I don't have (seriously, did you need to include mezcal in 75% of them?). But I finally got a chance to try his "Nouveau Carré".

It's really a pretty good drink. It's a bit sweeter than most drinks I make, but that sweetness is balanced out nicely by the vegetal qualities of the tequila. It almost tastes like there's honey in it; I assume that's from the Benedictine. This seems like it would be a good drink to fool around with, switching the Benedictine for other liqueurs to vary the taste. And I suspect I'll do that the next time I'm doing a tequila drink. Recipe after the jump.

Bottom Shelf Booze

I always appreciate Will Gordon's Drinking the Bottom Shelf column. Not only is it handy because, despite what I try to tell myself, I can't always afford the top shelf stuff, but he's also a wonderfully funny writer. It seriously brightens up my day to see his take on things like Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale. "We can admit that regular Blue Moon doesn't suck. Neither does the Winter Abbey Ale, but it comes close." So it was with joy I saw he had commented on my favorite bottom shelf brew, Grain Belt.

I will be very pleasantly surprised if I come across a finer CARL [Cheap American Regional Lager] than this Minnesotan beauty. It doesn't smell like much of anything, which is a good quality in a cheap yellow beer, but it sits pretty thick on the tongue for its kind. What really sets Grain Belt apart is its kinky and unique caramel cream flavor. I can totally see Prince pouring this on his loved ones. I'm going to Minnesota.
I have fond memories of living with Steve back in my graduate school days. It was only a few months, but somehow it felt longer. At one point, he went on a road trip to Missoula, and he came back with a case of Grain Belt. It's not available in Indiana, or anywhere else I've lived, so I've not had it since. But it had a unique flavor like nothing else I'd ever had. Somehow, it tasted gritty. The texture wasn't actually gritty, it was fully liquid, but somehow it tasted like it should be gritty. (For some reason, my wife doesn't think this is a recommendation.) So next time I'm in Minnesota, I'm definitely making mine a Grain Belt.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bacon Bourbon Beef

After brunch recently, we had a large quantity of bacon left over. Since we don't usually have bacon in the morning, we figured we should use it for dinner. A little bit of searching, and we found this recipe for beef tenderloin steaks with smoky bacon bourbon sauce. It sounded great, but when we got to the store, we found that the short ribs looked fantastic, so got those instead. (My wife also really liked the apple fritter, but that's a different story.) Of course, short ribs necessitate a different cooking method from tenderloin.

What I did is take the ribs and brown them in a skillet. I put them in the slow cooker with the ingredients for the sauce, deglazed the pan with water, and added that to the slow cooker as well. I added some rosemary, because I like rosemary, and a chipotle pepper to give it a bit of heat and some additional smokiness. We left it on low for about seven hours.

It turned out great! Fork-tender, of course, but with a really good flavor to it. There was a bit of heat from the chipotle, but not much, and it added some complexity and balanced well with the bourbon. The asparagus made a really nice complement to the meat. When I do this again, which I think I will, I want to try reducing the liquid to make a sauce, as I think that would make it even better.

Italian Gastro-pub and wine bar coming to Logan Circle

Back in Nov. 2010, we learned that HR-57 was moving from 1610 14th St, NW to H Street, NE. The Logan Circle space, located next to Pearl Dive, remained vacant ever since. It was only a matter of time before someone scooped up this prime location. A recent liquor license application says it will be a:
“New full service Italian gastro-pub and wine bar with DJ or live music, no more than five piece bands. Dancing with no designated dance floor, and occasional cover change.”
Sounds good to me!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Modern Vesper

The Vesper has a fairly interesting history, even for a cocktail. It's a classic James Bond drink, ordered by him in Casino Royale. It's also impossible to make exactly the way James Bond had it. Why? Because the original recipe calls for Kina Lillet, which is not made anymore. In 1986, Lillet changed the formula, making their aperitif wine sweeter and less bitter. This made it less suitable for the cocktails, like the Vesper and the Corpse Reviver, it had previously been used in. Fortunately, Cocchi Americano is readily available, and has a flavor profile similar to the original. I made this with more Cocchi than vodka, because vodka is boring. It's pretty tasty, though I think I prefer a classic martini. Remember friends, martinis should be stirred not shaken! Recipe after the jump.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Restaurant Association Responds to Food Truck Rules

According to Young & Hungry, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) is against the new regulations I discussed here. While they aren't ideal, most food trucks have come out in favor of the new rules, viewing them as a step forward from the old regulatory framework. Unsurprisingly, then, RAMW is against them:

In a press release, RAMW tells city officials to "go back to the drawing board," calling the new regs "inadequate and woefully short of actually adhering to the existing law that plainly requires the assignment of designated vending spots for food trucks." 
The group is referring to a 2009 statute, which states, "The Mayor shall designate the specific vending locations on sidewalks, roadways, and other public spaces where a person may vend."
The new regulations, released Jan. 20, specifically allow food trucks and other vending vehicles to "park at any legal parking space," which RAMW contends is not specific enough under the law.
In its statement, the organization, which represents mostly brick-and-mortar restaurants, tried to clarify its position as not anti-food truck or anti-small business, per se, but rather about promoting fairness for all operators, big or small, rooted or mobile.
It's pretty clear to me that the restaurants are in fact anti-food truck; they view food trucks as competition, and so want to deny them a spot at the table. Despite being a fan of the half-smoke wagons, I like having the variety of options that the relaxed regulation of food trucks has allowed. Perhaps instead of complaining and trying to use the government to stifle competition, the brick and mortar restaurants ought to try and produce better food?

Friday, February 3, 2012


Codmother may sound like a Terry Pratchett novel, but it's actually a small, hole in the wall place located on U St. It's designed to be a facsimile of a British pub. It has punk posters and photos, and lots of exposed brick and chalked graffiti. Their main dish is fish and chips — the name comes from the fact that cod is a great fish for fish and chips, and the female of the species is meatier than the male. (I suspect there's a your momma joke in there somewhere.)

The fish and chips they get their name from are the best I've ever had. They are these balls of cod, with a relatively thin crust, deep fried and served with tartar sauce and mushy peas. It's not the traditional breaded fillet, but I think it works better as a nugget; it's easier to eat. I don't care for mushy peas, preferring them to have a bit of a snap, but theirs are quite good, if occasionally a little salty. The chips are thick cut and fairly bland, but they go well with the peas.

Recently, they added a lamb burger to the menu, called the "pimp hooker" burger. Not sure why. It's good, as far as it goes, but it's spiced like a gyro and makes you crave tzatziki sauce. It's not particularly menu, and seems like it was placed on the menu for people who don't eat fish, rather than out of any passion from the owners.

The beer selection is limited, but eclectic. With the exception of Guinness, their draughts are all American mass-produced swill. They have a large selection of British beers in the can and bottle, however, including Boddington's, Old Speckled Hen, and Sam Smith. It's one of our favorite places to go on U St for a low key dinner.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gina's Divorce

My favorite bartender in DC, Gina Chersevani, is leaving PS7s. This is really sad; she's what made that bar worthwhile. The other bartenders there are perfectly fine, don't get me wrong, but it was Gina's boundless sense of creativity that made the lounge at PS7s special. I look forward to hearing what her next plans are, and I'm sure I'll be talking about them and enjoying her next project.
Gina with her award-winning cotton candy cocktail. Photo from dcfab.

Here's the news from the Washingtonian:
According to Chersevani, a disagreement with Smith led to the split. The duo—who’ve been a prominent team both in the restaurant and out on the event circuit—were developing a new concept together this year, but it's unclear whether or not that will go forward as planned. 
“How do you leave a place after three years and separate yourself?” says Chersevani. “It’s like a divorce.”
Update: Prince of Petworth passes on a rumor that Gina might be opening a cocktail deli at 6th and Pennsylvania SE.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Basil Time!

While it may not be my favorite food truck, Basil Thyme is probably the best of those I frequent regularly. The ingredients they use to make their lasagnas are top notch -- I've never had a bad slice here. For just $10, you can get a slice of lasagna, a beverage, and a cannoli. They have four types of lasagna, plus a manicotti, and the flavor of cannoli varies each day. The last time I was here, it was mocha. The service is really quick. There's almost never a line, and it's never taken more than a minute for me to get my lunch.

I've never had the manicotti, but I've had all three of their non-seasonal lasagnas. The 'Linda' is a traditional lasagna, like your mother used to make, and the variety that I almost always get, at least ever since they stopped making the Pasquale. The Lisetta is made with slow-roasted pork in a vodka sauce, while the Catena is a shallot and white wine sauteed lasagna with plenty of spinach. I don't particularly like cooked spinach, so the Catena isn't really my thing, but my wife loves it, so I trust it's just a matter of taste. The Giuseppe is their seasonal lasagna. Currently, it's a truffle and portabella lasagna that's supposed to be excellent.

What really impresses me, though, is their salad. Each lasagna comes with a salad, and it's not just some iceberg lettuce arranged in the form of a salad like some people's. (I'm looking at you, Yellow Vendor.) It's a really good rich spring mix, with kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and tomatoes, and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. They didn't need to make this impressive of a salad. Just the lasagna would have been enough. But this is a great addition to their meal.

Kushi Chef Assorted Sashimi plate

El Raja Key

The other day, I was browsing Yelp reviews of restaurants in Astoria looking for some place to have lunch. (We ended up at the Sparrow Tavern. It was very good.) I happened across a restaurant, Central Lounge, which offered something called a Gummy Bear Martini. It involved triple sec, sour mix, and other gross things. But the concept seemed interesting, so I thought I'd fool around with it.

The El Raja Key is undoubtedly much tarter than the original version. This is balanced out by quite a lot of sweetness from the Chambord and the rum, but it ended up being tarter than I wanted. Additionally, the flavors didn't marry as well as I'd normally like. The main flavors are raspberry and orange, but you tend to taste them separately. It reminded me of something, but I'm not sure what. Possibly Superman ice cream. Not the best drink I've ever made, but not bad, and I think it'll be good with a bit of work. Recipe after the jump.