Fusilli with Morel Mushrooms, Asparagus, English Peas, and Corn

>>  Monday, May 31, 2010

Morel Asaparagus Peas Corn Pasta
I love spring.

OK, in all honesty, I typically don't love spring here in Boston. Though this year has been freakishly nice, a typical Boston spring is full of rain rain rain. I finally understood the term "April Showers bring May Flowers" when I moved to Boston. These terms must have been born in early colonial America here on the East Coast.

Anyway, this spring we have been blessed with FANTASTIC weather, and I am totally taking advantage of it, spending every moment I can walking around the city, biking along the Esplanade, or jogging the Charles River trail.

Another thing I've enjoyed is cooking clean, healthy, and flavorful dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Here is a simple, healthy, and tasty dish that comes together pretty easily on a weeknight. If you prep certain parts of it, you can actually whip this dish up in 15 minutes!

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Corn in the Microwave

>>  Friday, May 28, 2010

Corn in Microwave

I often find it a pain to boil an entire pot of water for just a few ears of corn. It takes forever to boil the water and then you have to wash the pot afterwards. Moreover, boiling vegetables in large pots of water washes away valuable nutrients. Prolonged exposure to heat also results in the break down of vitamins and minerals.

Alas, I introduce a quick, easy, and totally healthy way of making just a few ears of corn.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #6

Tiny Urban Tidbits is where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover. These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen. It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing. Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.
This past Monday I was invited to join a round table discussion with Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield about food. More specifically, he shared his thoughts on how our choices regarding the food we eat affect both the health of the planet and ourselves.

Green, Sustainable, Organic Businesses
The talk was quite interesting. One of his main points was that it's possible to operate a business in green, sustainable ways and make profits at the same time. He even implied that, in the long run, it's more profitable to run a business this way. Of course, Stonyfield is the poster child for this vision, as he shared how Stonyfield has held high standards in these areas yet has been growing faster than almost all of its main competitors. He really believes that businesses (as opposed to governments) are the ones with the real power to truly change the way we farm, sell, and produce food. He also told us that the consumer is very powerful, and could definitely send messages by "voting" with our wallets.
Stonyfield Gary Hirshberg
Why Organic?
Aside from the damage that conventional farming does to the environment, he also touched upon the health effects of pesticides on human bodies, citing both previous and recent studies correlating pesticides in food with various ailments such as cancer and ADHD in children.

There was a Q&A afterwards, where many people posed all sorts of questions. I asked him about the high cost of organic goods, and whether moving to a completely organic food system could still feed everyone, most notably the poor. He acknowledged that organic food is prohibitively expensive for many right now, but he still thinks there are ways to get closer to his goal. As a side note, he pointed out that all food was organic 100 years ago, and it really was not until post-WWII that pesticides and other chemicals started becoming a regular part of conventional "monocultural" farming (meaning that the same soil is repeatedly used over and over for the same types of crops, thus depleting the soil of nutrients, forcing the need to use heavy, chemical fertilizers).

He ended by saying that the way to bring down the price was to 1) increase volume (currently only 3% of produce sold in the US is organic) and 2) remove government subsidies so that organics can compete more fairly with conventional. He praised places like Walmart, which sells organic foods at competitive prices, for moving us towards the "volume" side of this solution.

What do you all think? Do you ever buy organic? If so, how much? How often do you think about sustainability? 

I met some great food bloggers while I was there, including Tina from Carrots and Cake, Athena from Forays of a Finance Foodie, Erin from Erin Cooks, Elina from Healthy and Sane, Jennifer from Savor the Thyme, Ali from Food, Fitness, and Fun, Meghan from Travel Eat Love, and Jules from Daily Grommet.

We also met at EVOO in their new Cambridge location and enjoyed a wonderful local, sustainable, and organic meal there. To see all the food we had, click here.

Speaking of Local Foods . . .
I was recently contacted by Effie's for a chance to try their oatcakes and corncakes, dense, biscuit-like cookies made out of either oats or corn. Effie's was founded in 2008 by Joan MacIsaac and Irene Costello, two friends who decided to sell these cakes that Joan's mom, Effie, used to make back in Nova Scotia. I happen to LOVE both oats and corn, so of course agreed to try out the oatcakes and corncakes.
I loved these biscuits! They are dense, buttery, and slightly nobby, a bit reminiscent of Hob Nobs but not that nobby and much more buttery. I liked the corncakes too, although they are subtly flavored with anise, which I don't really like as much. They suggested pairing the corn cakes with a sharp cheddar, which I tried. Although it's pretty good, I think I most prefer them plain with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

A bag of 12 costs $6 and you can get them locally in a lot of places such as Formaggio Kitchen, Whole Foods, Russo's, Dave's Fresh Pasta, or online. They actually sell all over the US, and I was tickled to find out they actually are sold at Churchill Market in Toledo, Ohio, which is the supermarket that my family went to while I was growing up.

Million Miler Part II
Remember when I said that Bryan didn't get to meet the pilot or receive a black card when he hit a million miles on AA?

Well, guess what? I was only half right! This came in the mail today . . .
One Million Miles AA
Yay! New a black card that says "1 Million" on the upper right corner!  Hee hee hee . . .

Have a great looong weekend everyone!

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Bread and EVOO

extra virgin olive oil with bread at EVOO

Isn't it funny how just a difference of a mile or two strongly affects how often you visit a restaurant? Even though Bryan and I live only about a mile from all the amazing restaurants in Somerville and Boston, we probably eat more than 75% of our restaurant meals in Cambridge.

I guess it makes sense in the Boston area, where weirdly shaped roads and pedestrian-filled squares can hamper efforts to quickly drive a few miles to the town next door.

Which is why it's been over a decade since I last visited EVOO in Somerville (next town over). Not only that, I totally forgot about the restaurant soon after that one time (out of sight, out of mind?)

Not too long ago, I was reminded of EVOO when I saw EVOO's executive chef Peter McCarthy compete at Eat Drink Be Fair, a Top Chef style cook-off between four prominent Boston chefs where they had to cook something with the secret ingredient of coffee. In fact, Peter was crowned the winner of the contest that night with his Dark Roasted Coffee Marinated Hudson Valley Mouillard Duck Breast with Verrill Farm's Parsnip Purre, Pete's Pickled Pumpkin, Gala Apple, and Espresso-Vanilla Chimichurri.

EVOO moved to Kendall Square earlier this year (Woo-hoo!) and I finally found myself sub-consciously putting it back on my radar as "a place to try."  Isn't it funny how much of a difference a mile makes?

Coincidentally, I recently had a chance to finally try Peter's food at EVOO during a round table discussion with Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield and several other local food bloggers. EVOO tries to source as many local ingredients as possible. It was very evident that the menu was very locally inspired, filled with seasonal vegetables such as asparagus, ramps, fiddleheads, English peas, and parsnips.

Here's a peek into the meal that the food bloggers enjoyed.

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Victoria Seafood

>>  Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ginger Scallion Twin Lobsters Victoria Seafood
Ginger Scallion Twin Lobsters

I don't get it. I'm not Cantonese. I never grew up eating Cantonese food. Yet, for some odd reason, this Cantonese restaurant outside of Chinatown makes me feel right at home.

You know what I'm talking about, right? The type of restaurant where you walk in and you feel like you can just relax? Usually these places are far from fancy. Instead, more often than not, the food, ambiance, and menu are typically simple and straightforward.

For some reason I can't pinpoint, Victoria Seafood is that type of restaurant for me. Maybe it's the reasonably private and cushy booth seats Bryan and I always score whenever it's just the two of us. Maybe it's the prospect of ordering familiar favorites, such as the Deep Fried Tofu with Crab Sauce or the Fish Maw Soup. Or maybe the cheap prices of the food relieve any stress related to the cost of the meal.

Whatever the reason, whenever I begin poring over the menu at Victoria Seafood, I get excited at the idea of sitting back in a wide cushy booth while chewing, crunching, or slurping some of my favorite dishes.

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>>  Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I believe Boston is the ice cream capital of the world. OK, admittedly, a bit of a bold statement, but do you know that our ice cream shops stay open all winter long? And it snows like 3-feet here and temperatures fall down way below freezing. And yet we Bostonians love our ice cream. We love it enough to keep 5? 6? ice cream/frozen yogurt shops in business in Harvard Square alone.

When you've got that many amazing ice cream shops around you, it's pretty tough to pick one favorite shop.

Well, guess what? Hands down this is my favorite ice cream shop in Boston. And since I think Boston has the best ice cream in the world, does that make this my favorite ice cream shop in the world??

Last fall there was one of those "buy $20 worth of Toscanini's ice cream for $10" group coupons for sale. I bought $100 worth of coupons without hesitation, and I've already used up $83 of it throughout the winter! Sigh, maybe it's an addiction.

So why do I love Tosci's so much?

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Sous-Vide Salmon in a Magic Cooker

Sous Vide King Salmon
I have a bad habit of overcooking salmon. Ever since I started buying wild-caught salmon (instead of the fatty farm-raised salmon), I've had a harder time baking it in a way that does not dry it out. Farm-raised salmon typically has more fat (I guess they don't have as much room to swim around?) and therefore their meat is more forgiving. Wild-caught salmon, on the other hand, is much leaner, and therefore can easily become tough when overcooked.

I've had some success using Bryan's mom's awesome microwave method to make salmon. But what about those times I don't want steamed fish? What if I want a nice pan-seared salmon?

I recently spotted this cool post on how to make sous-vide salmon at home with just a few Ziploc bags and a cast iron pot. Perfect! I would try sous-vide at home! Problem is, I don't have any fancy Le Creuset or Staub cast iron cookware. In fact, I don't think I have any heavy, high quality pots that retain heat well.

I started to brainstorm . . . what could I use instead? Serious Eats posted a cool hack using a beer cooler, but part of me didn't feel like lugging that huge cooler and dealing with all that water in my tiny kitchen.

Then I remembered the magic cooker that my mom had given me. What is a magic cooker? These are really popular in Asia. Essentially, it's a thermally insulated container that can keep a pot warm for hours without electricity. It's similar to a Crock Pot, except that it relies completely on insulation to keep the food warm. It's much safer, uses no electricity, and is easy to bring to potlucks and such.
Magic Cooker Thermometer
My mom had given me one years ago, but I had only used it to make red bean soup. I had no idea if you could even get one in the US, as I almost never read about it. A quick search on Amazon showed that they seem to be pretty available. You even have your choice of brands, from Asian brands like Tiger and  Sunpentown to the classic American brand Thermos and the interesting sounding Thermos Nissan Cook N' Carry. Prices range anywhere from $60 (the Sunpentown) to around $250 (this crazy two layer one), though definitely read the reviews before buying one - looks like they vary in quality!

So, I thought I would try sous-vide for the first time by attempting to make salmon in my magic cooker.

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>>  Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mare North End
Whenever friends and family come to town, we almost always take them to the North End. Even more predictably, we always visit either PrezzaMamma Maria, or Monica's. Of course, after dinner we invariably stop by Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry for cannolis and cappuccinos.

Admittedly, we are biased in how we choose Italian restaurants in the North End. Bryan loves fresh pasta and has become a sort of super-snob when it comes to pasta. He just won't enjoy it nearly as much if a restaurant uses dried pasta. In fact, we often will walk up to a place, check out the menu, and if they don't have homemade pasta, we move on.

Which is why I was almost a bit surprised when Bryan sent me an instant message telling me he had made a reservation at Mare for dinner. It was not until later that I found out he got 1000 Open Table points for it, which is pretty cool, considering 5000 points gets you a $50 gift certificate to use at any participating restaurant.

Well, I'm always thrilled to go to the North End, especially when the weather fantastic. Mare calls itself a "coastal Italian restaurant." It's definitely a higher-end restaurant, with prices more similar to Prezza and Mamma Maria than Giacomo's or Pizzeria Regina. What makes them unique is that virtually all of their seafood is organic and sustainable, their beef is hormone free, and their pasta is homemade!!!

Sold. We were definitely curious about this place.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #5 - My Astronaut Husband

>>  Friday, May 21, 2010

Space Ship
There's a term in Chinese used to describe businessmen whose families live in the US but who have businesses in Asia, and thus are always flying back and forth. Tai kong ren is a play on words because it sounds both like the word for "astronaut" but also sounds like the words for "No wife" man.

I sometimes feel like I'm married to one of those "astronauts." Bryan travels a lot for work, and most of it involves airplanes.  In fact, my astronaut reached a big milestone last week.
Million Miler

That's right. He became a million miler on American Airlines. No, he did not get to talk to the pilot, nor did he receive a special black card with his name on it.  They did, however, announce it during the monumental flight.

There are some perks to "being yoked to Executive Platinum" (as my friend likes to put it). He has so many miles that you can both fly to Asia for free, First Class.
First Class Dining AA
In First Class you get 2 seats: one for you, one for your Totoro.
First Class AA
But of course, you pay the price by having him away from home, a lot.

I've decided to dedicate this post to Bryan in celebration of his Million Miles.

Bryan often will take food photos for me on his many trips. Join me as we take a brief culinary tour around the world, experiencing all different kinds of cuisines from the various continents that Bryan has visited.

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The Plough and Stars

>>  Thursday, May 20, 2010

Plough & Stars (1 of 1)
"Where everybody knows your name . . ."

If you were to ask me to name my favorite pub in Cambridge, I would have a really hard time. Some places have really interesting beers, others have a unique ambiances, and yet others have fantastic food. But if I had to choose, it would come down to either my favorite nerdy pub or this place, The Plough and Stars.

"The Plough," as it is sometimes affectionately called, is located in a slightly more residential area between Harvard Square and Central Square on Mass Ave. Because of that, it definitely has the feel of a neighborhood bar.

In fact, whenever I'm in there, I swear everybody knows everybody else in that bar. It really reminds me of Cheers. Sometimes I even wish that I went more often so that they would know my name too.

So what makes The Plough so great?

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Spicy Minced Pork with Sour String Beans

>>  Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sour String Beans
One of our favorite Chinese restaurants to visit whenever we are in New York City is Grand Sichuan International on 9th Ave. I know, I know, there's much better Taiwanese food in Flushing, and probably some amazing Cantonese food in Chinatown as well. The problem is, we almost always stay in the Upper West Side with my aunt. Call it laziness, or hunger, or whatever, but typically by the time we're hungry, we're not in the mood to trek all the way out to Flushing or down to Chinatown for a good bite to eat. Plus, this is the best Sichuan restaurant I know of in Manhattan.

One of the dishes we almost always order is the spicy minced pork with sour string beans.

Sour string beans? Having grown up with mostly Taiwanese food, I had never heard of this dish either until my coworker told me about it. The first time we tried it, we fell in love with the dish. Spicy, sour, crunchy, and fragrant - it's a bold dish that goes perfectly with a nice, hot bowl of rice!  It's now become one of our staples at Grand Sichuan International.

I recently discovered a recipe for this dish in a book titled Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop. Fuchsia Dunlop was the first foreigner to study Sichuanese cooking at the acclaimed Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China. Because I have yet to find a restaurant in Boston that makes this dish, I knew the only way to enjoy it was to try making it at home.

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Cafe Luna

>>  Tuesday, May 18, 2010

tomato basil mozz
I love neighborhood cafes with excellent sandwiches, great ambiance, and other cool surprises, like mini cupcakes, pretzel bread, or the most awesome vanilla loaf ever.  Cafe Luna is not too far from my work place, and I just can't believe it's taken me this long to finally try out this place.

The City of Cambridge finally recently renovated the sidewalk in front of Cafe Luna, which means now there's tons of outdoor seating, which is a relief, as the cafe is super tiny inside.

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Squid Ink Pasta with Parsnips and Pancetta

>>  Sunday, May 16, 2010

Squid Ink Pasta with Parsnips and Pancetta
Have you ever had squid ink pasta? Bryan and I tried it for the first time in Venice while on our honeymoon. Squids use the dark ink as an escape mechanism, spraying dark clouds of it into the water to confuse their predators. Squid ink imparts a salty, briny ocean flavor and lends a beautiful black color to any dish that uses it.

We had the most amazing squid ink pasta several months back at Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante. When Bryan and I saw fresh homemade squid ink pasta for sale in the North End (Boston's Italian district), we knew we had to get some and try it with one of Mario Batali's recipes.

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Tiny Urban TidBits #4

>>  Thursday, May 13, 2010

Simple Comforts or Guilty Pleasures
Everyone has favorite dishes that they find are simple, cheap, and oh-so-satisfying. Sometimes these are dishes that wouldn't even be considered really good food, but for some reason, they hold special meaning to us and we really enjoy it. Maybe it's nostalgia, or a misguided memory. I still remember Bryan telling me how much he loved Cadbury eggs. We picked some up during Easter a few years ago.  After excitedly unwrapping the foil and taking a big bite . . .

"they're way too sweet. I don't remember them being that sweet."

We threw the rest away.

How memories sometimes change. Here are some "simple comfort" / "guilty pleasure" foods that I still enjoy today.
Korean Beef Bone Soup
Guilty Pleasure: a meal with no veggies
One of my favorite soups to get at the Super 88 Food Court in Allston is this simple Korean beef bone soup. I always feel a bit guilty ordering it because it has no vegetables.  I mean, really, I'm essentially eating noodles and beef with a touch of scallions on top. Oh, I guess you could count the bright yellow-dyed pickled turnips?  Anyway, the flavor of the broth is so hearty, so satisfying, I love getting it on a cold winter day. Anyone willing to share a recipe with me for this dish? Yummmmm.
Fried Calamari Legal Sea Foods
Guilty Pleasure: Deep Fried Calamari with Fake Asian Sauce
Legal Seafoods is a well known Boston establishment that is very popular with tourists because of its emphasis on super fresh seafood. My coworkers love ordering this 4-way Calamari Sampler. For some reason, whenever they order it, I just can't stop eating it. My favorite is the "Thai-style" calamari, which is not very authentic at all, but for some reason tastes really really good as an appetizer when you're starving, waiting for your meal . . .
Double Double
Guilty Pleasure: Burgers for Breakfast?
Bryan always makes a point of coming here whenever he travels to California. There's one near the airport, and thus he'll always go there whenever he flies in or out of SFO or LAX. He'll eat it for breakfast, close to midnight, whenever his flight happens to land or take off.  Can you guess what it is? Or, more specifically, can you name the two burgers pictured above?
Grilled Corn Basta Pasta
Simple Comfort: childhood memories
Speaking of nostalgic favorites - grilled corn is one of my favorite vegetables, and I absolutely love the way my mom makes it. I need to ask her one of these days for her grilled corn recipe. This grilled corn is from Basta Pasta Enoteca. Though the corn is not quite at its peak right now, Reno grills it in a way that really brings out the flavor. It tastes fantastic. Can't wait to go back.
Garbanzo Beans
Playing with a Macro Lens
Many of you guessed correctly! These are fresh garbanzo beans (chick peas). So easy to prepare - I just boiled them (sort of like edamame) and squeezed them out of their pods. Yum!
Garbanzo beans
I was playing with my photographer friend Mark's 100mm macro lens. Check out the detail! Macro lenses are a pain in the butt to use. You have to use a tripod, and (at least for this lens) you manually focus it as well. The pictures turn out pretty cool though. :)

What are your simple comfort foods, nostalgic dishes, or guilty pleasures?

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Russell House Tavern

Russel House Tavern
I was telling Bryan how it seems like there aren't that many restaurants in Harvard Square in the mid-priced range with really good food. Yes, you have pricier restaurants like Rialto (whose chef Jody Adams competed on Top Chef Masters) and Upstairs On the Square. You've also got some great super casual cheap eats, like Mr. Bartley's or Hi Rise Bread Company.

But what if you want something more than just a sandwich shop (Bryan hates eating sandwiches for dinner), a place that serves alcohol, yet you don't want to spend a fortune?

Well, there are no shortages of reasonably priced pubs in Harvard Square (Grafton Street Pub & Grill and Daedalus, just to name a few), but I have never been that impressed with the food at these places. Places with better food, like Rialto or Upstairs On the Square, just aren't convenient places to "stop in" if you happen to be hungry and want a good bite to eat.

I am excited about Russell House Tavern (which has been open for less than a month), because I think it strikes the perfect balance between quality food and reasonable prices. We had a great meal our first time there.

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Mochi Gnocchi with Red Sauce {gluten-free}

>>  Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gluten free gnocchi
I have always loved chewy things.  Mochi is one of my all time favorite snacks, and I love the al dente texture of fresh homemade pasta.  I actually prefer chewy gnocchi to the pillowy soft kind.

So the other day I thought I would try and combine my two favorite chewy ingredients in a brave effort to make the chewiest gnocchi of them all.

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Stone Hearth Pizza

>>  Monday, May 10, 2010

Stone Hearth Pizza
Local, sustainable, and organic ingredients? Gourmet salads and pizzas? Kid-friendly? In the middle of Cambridge in a happening neighborhood???

Usually these descriptors are mutually exclusive of each other, which is why it was such a surprise to see this little gem in Porter Square.

Stone Hearth Pizza was started by two dads with a vision to create a restaurant that sourced sustainable, organic and local ingredients; served high quality yet affordable food; and emphasized the importance of friends and family. Stone Hearth focuses on Neapolitan-style pizzas with both traditional ingredients and local farm-fresh toppings. They also have homemade sandwiches, gourmet salads, and a few pasta dishes - not to mention dessert!

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Happy Mother's Day

>>  Sunday, May 09, 2010

Stuffed pigs
Happy Mother's Day!

Bryan and I are dedicating this post to our moms. Both of them are born in the year of pig. In fact, they are golden pigs! (or that's what the media has been telling us. Maybe in fact they are actually earthen pigs, or fire pigs, I'm so confused!) Anyway, in the Chinese zodiac, not only are there the twelve animals, there are also 5 elements (earth, metal, water, wood, fire), which change once every twelve years. Thus, an entire cycle is 60 years.

Our mothers do so much for us, and there's no way we could ever repay them for all that they have done. Not only did they make sure we were healthy and well fed, they taught us values and really shaped us to become who we are today. Furthermore, they both happen to be fantastic cooks. They immigrated to the US from Taiwan. Not having much access to Asian food, they both took it upon themselves to learn and make various Chinese dishes at home. Today I will share with you some dishes/recipes handed down to us from our mothers.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #3

>>  Thursday, May 06, 2010

James Beard Foundation Winners
The James Beard Foundation Awards came out this week. This is really like the Oscars for cooking - it's one of the most prestigious awards you can get. The complete list of winners is here, but I thought I would highlight some of my personal favorites (based on experience) from that list.
Redd Saltine Toffee
Outstanding Pastry Chef Award: Nicole Plue from Redd, Yountville, CA
We visited Redd when we went to Napa Valley for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition back in March. We absolutely loved the food there, but were hesitant about eating too much because we had reservations at The French Laundry that night. So unfortunately, we passed on dessert and instead just bought a bag of their addictive Saltine Toffee to go. If only we had known that their pastry chef was so amazing! Oh well, next time . . . although I must admit, that toffee was pretty good!
Daniel Happy Birthday
Outstanding Restaurant Award: Daniel, NYC
I probably sound like a broken record, but I still think this was my more enjoyable fine dining experience this past year. Maybe it felt more special because it was for my birthday. :)

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Non-food Reflections on Washington DC

I've spent a week talking about food in DC, but of course, there is so much more to DC than just the food. Here's some non-food related snapshots from our 4-day trip of DC.
Cherry Blossoms
It was the peak of the cherry blossom season.
Capitol Building
A different view of the Capitol Building Rotunda.
Some famous statues inside the Capitol building. The Ronald Reagan statue was just unveiled in June, 2009.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: we mourned the loss of Pluto in all the diagrams and models.
Washington DC panorama
Enjoying snickerdoodles from Dean & Deluca on the rooftop of Bryan's sister's apartment.
Look! Fireworks!
Arlington National Cemetary
Easter Sunrise Service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetary Flowers
Arlington National Cemetery, after sunrise.
JFK Arlington National Cemegary
John F. Kennedy's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetary
Arlington National Cemetery
This post is part of the larger Washington DC Eats Series. Other post(s) in this series:
Granville Moore's
Il Canale
Ben's Chili Bowl

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Ben's Chili Bowl

>>  Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ben's Chili Bowl
You can't visit DC without trying Ben's Chili Bowl.  It's so iconic, so landmark, and filled with so much history, you just have to visit it. Oh, not to mention the chili, which is addictively spicy, smoky, and just all around delicious. For some reason presidents (not just American!) seem to have an affinity for this place.

Back when it first opened in the 1950's, segregation was still very much in effect in DC. U Street became known as "Black Broadway," a place where many great jazz artists performed. Jazz giants like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole would stop by Ben's Chili Bowl when they were on U Street to perform.
Ben's Chili Bowl old
Martin Luther King Jr. frequented the place as well. The place has survived through countless difficult periods, such as the 1968 Washington D.C. riots (caused by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) and the very disruptive construction of the U Street/Cardozo Metro station.

Bill Cosby is also a HUGE fan of the place, having taken his wife here on dates before they were married.

In fact, there's a sign inside that, until recently, said:

"Who eats free at Ben's Chili Bowl: Bill Cosby, no one else"

which was changed during the 2008 campaign to say:

"Who eats free at Ben's Chili Bowl: Bill Cosby. The Obama Family"

Lo and behold, right before President Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009, he actually stopped by to get a half smoke chili dog. Apparently he did pay, so the sign was again changed to say:

"Who eats free at Ben's Chili Bowl: Bill Cosby. The Obama Family. But he paid"

More recently (the same week we were there, in fact), French president Sarkozy and his family stopped by for some chili dogs as well.

How could we not try this place? Though the line snaked around the block, we dutifully stepped to the end of the line and patiently waited in anticipation of our half smokes!

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Il Canale

>>  Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Il Canale-4
Amafiltana $15
imported smoked bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula, fresh basil

Italians are serious about their food, and pizza is no exception. In fact, the Verace Pizza Napoletana, an  association dedicated to pizza in Naples, has rules defining what constitutes an authentic Neapolitan pizza. Examples of some basic requirements include the following (full rules here):

1. Pizza must be cooked on the floor of a wood burning stove
2. Pizza must contain the following ingredients: 00 flour, San Marzano (plum) tomatoes, all natural fior-di-latte or bufala mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and yeast.
3. Pizza must be hand knead (no rolling pins!) on a proper surface
4. Once formed, the pizza dough must be at most 35 cm in diameter and no more than 3 mm thick
5. Pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire

While in Georgetown, we stumbled upon Il Canale, a charming Italian restaurant slightly off the path that had just opened in February. The owner comes from a lineage of pizza makers in Italy that goes back to 1870. He even imported (from Italy) a real Neapolitan wood burning pizza oven.  This mosaic speckled ceramic beauty stands prominently at the entrance as you first walk in.
Il Canale-1
Could it be true?  Is there really a slice of Italy right in a hidden side street of Georgetown?  We entered to find out.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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