Friday, August 28, 2009

restaurant week, round 4

I just went searching through my archives for the remnants of past Restaurant Week delights. Turns out, I was so full of delicious food, I blogged not about them. Either that or I tagged them differently. When I get home sometime, I'll search and tag them properly.

In any case, this is the fourth Restaurant Week I've been in D.C. for. This time around, we decided on a French restaurant. I've only had French food once before. I thought I wrote about that one too, turns out not. Anyhow, I was pleased once; I figured why not try again? The joint is called La Bergerie. The deciding factor between this and another highly-regarded one was the simple fact that La Bergerie offered dinner also. Some restaurants only serve lunch, in order to keep their normal clientele happy at dinnertime, or to not lose so much money with the prix fixe menu offerings of the week.

The choices were hard. For the appetizer course, she had perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned diver scallops. She shared, so I got to partake as well. Melted in my mouth. I chose the beef carpaccio. It was drizzled with white truffle oil, shaved parmesan cheese and some sort of strange lettuce variant. I thought it was delicious, but as I've learned in the past, my taste buds have a much broader range of delight than some. She was less than impressed. Had I not tried escargots last summer for Ma's birthday, I would've gotten them. It wasn't because I didn't like them last time; it was the desire to try something new.

For the main course, she had salmon on a bed of lentils. She found it delicious and ate every bite. I went a little too safe and got the roasted chicken. It was different; the other offerings on the menu were a little too boring sounding. The chicken was a little overdone, but the preparation was creative and inspired. It was stuffed with chicken livers, which gave the chicken the prototypical rich French flavor. The braised celery and sauce on the plate were interesting. Not bad, not great though. I did sop up the sauce with the baguettes still on our table though, just like the Southern boy I've come to be.

Dessert. Where Frenchies shine. Creme brulee; predictably delicious sat across from me. Souffle as tall as a wine bottle and as light as air placed under my nose. A bit like eating a warm cloud of cotton candy, with an airy eggy texture though. The hazelnut topping really complemented it well.

I doubt we'll go back to La Bergerie, though not for lack of quality. I'd like to see their "normal" menu to see if there's anything else that screams, "Eat me" on it. I do like French food, but as rich as it is, it should be mind-numbingly delicious.

Friday, August 21, 2009

idle hands are the devil's tools

I reckon my back has gotten better to the point that sitting still about drives me nuts. So much so that on Tuesday I decided to build a picnic table. Mind you, I'd not really discussed this with the Boss, nor did I want a run-of-the-mill table. So, I drew up some plans for a trestle table and got the materials.

Too much, but that's neither here nor there.

The plan was to finish the table before she got home from work. Mother Nature had other plans. My framing skills came back to me in a hurry. I was able to get the legs and top framed out in less than three hours with no assistance. I'm sure it was quite a goofy sight with some of the balancing acts I had to do with no workbench or level surface besides the ground and a toolbox. The rain came down, and as you may know, rain and power tools don't mix real well.

So, she came home to a table with no top on it. Surprised, yes. Would it have been cooler to have the whole thing done? Absolutely.

Back at it Wednesday, I braced the top for the cantilever with 45 degree braces. I cut the top to length and laid it all out. Turns out I bought too much material. A four-foot wide table dominated the porch. Skinnying it by one plank made it more manageable, but six-feet long took more space than I planned also. Opinion needed. She agreed.
Finally, yesterday, I predrilled all the boards, screwed them down, and evened up the ends. Total time investment: five hours or so. Total cost: $65 when all was said and done. Not bad. Now for the benches to sit on...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

variation on lasagna

I'm not sure why. Sometimes, I just get a hankering for some lasagna. Today was one such time. Spring break memories of the Tuscan lasagna made me think a variation of the traditional meat, cheese and sauce was in order. In the past, I've merely added ingredients. Portabello mushrooms. Italian sausage. More cheese. Tonight, I went outside of that modus operandi. I went Greek...sort of.

1 1/2 lbs. of shrimp, cooked & cleaned
12 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
1 small bag of baby spinach
Fresh basil to taste
Small bunch of parsley
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 cups shredded mozzarella (or Italian blend)
10 oz. or so of crumbled feta cheese
Tomato sauce
Italian seasoning, if desired

Lasagna requires a lot of bowls for prep and a decent-sized countertop. Chop spinach, basil and parsley. Combine in large bowl. Set aside.

Make sauce. Yes, I said make sauce. Doing this right means doing all the steps right. If you want to use Ragu or Prego, stop reading this recipe and learn how to make your own sauce. It's worth it.

Beat egg in another large bowl. In order, mix in ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. In small amounts, mix in green stuff until all ingredients are evenly dispersed.

Oil the bottom and sides of a 14" x 9" casserole dish. The deeper the better. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the pan and the first layer of noodles. Cover with half the ricotta and spinach mixture. Next layer of noodles. Layer in sauce, shrimp and feta. Next layer of noodles. Sauce and the remaining ricotta. Last layer of noodles and sauce on top.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before plating.

Shrimp worked well, but shredded [fill-in-the-meat] or a vegetable substitute would work equally well. Perhaps an olive/peperoncini/roasted garlic/red pepper Greek twist instead of meat? I'm not really sure. I also thought a pesto instead of red sauce would go well, too.

Cooking ain't an exact science; experiment and enjoy the results

Thursday, August 13, 2009

holla back, dc

In my boredom this summer, I've taken to reading a lot of random stuff online. One site that's been popping up a lot on the DCBlogs daily links is called Holla Back DC. The basic premise of the site is that women who are harassed by strangers on the street can submit their stories as a means of catharsis and get some support from the blogoverse. By empowering these women to share their stories, perhaps the next time, they won't be so silent in the face of men harassing them in public.

Since I started reading this site, it got me thinking. As a male, I'm clearly not privy to what goes on in women's minds when a stranger makes rude or lewd remarks to you in public. Does it happen often? If it's happened to you before, does it make you paranoid that all men are leering at you?

It reminds me of an anonymous friend that liked to wear sunglasses while on campus, so he could check out attractive coeds without being noticed. Voyeuristic, yes, but at least he had the decency and manners to not openly harass strangers based on appearances alone. Do guys like this eventually fall into the catcaller category?

I'm beginning to think that it happens more often than I witness, as most women on the street barely raise their eyes to meet a stranger's. Smiling at a perfect stranger is looked at with contempt instead of a return smile. I just don't get it.

I doubt any readers of this web rag are catcallers or harassers in question. If so, have any of your opening comments about a woman's appearance actually worked?

I thought not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

buzz bakery

When I was a kid, my dad would get a tin of chocolate-covered pretzels without fail each Christmas. It was always the round gift, wrapped strangely or not at all. It's true what they say about exposing kids to varied foods to make them less picky. Since those chocolate-covered pretzels of Yule and yore, I've always had a hankering for salty-sweet combinations. Pancake syrup and sausage links? Done. M & M's and roasted peanuts in trail mix? Delicious. Grape jelly on a chicken biscuit? Absolutely.

When I heard about Buzz's August cupcake of the month, I knew I would like it. How much depended on their execution of the ingredients.

Raise your hand if you like devil's food cake. I thought so. Light and airy, this element I knew they'd execute perfectly, having had some of their confectionary creations at a dessert wine tasting at Planet Wine in February.

Raise your hand if you like peanut butter. Ok, not as many of you, but still a good number. Take that peanut butter and incorporate it into a buttercream frosting, and you've got a winner in my book. Put that frosting on a chocolate cupcake; delicious. How about a vanilla cupake and toast a marshmallow on it? Fluffer-nutter cupcake. Ooh, write that down!

(Peanut butter chocolate note: ever notice how Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are at times saltier than they are sweet? The genius! Other companies that try to mimic it get it all wrong and make it sickeningly sweet, which doesn't work for peanuts in my opinion.)

Finally, who likes bacon? Salty, chewy, cooked-just-right, high quality, center-cut bacon...Mmm. I once had this delicious bacon at a school luncheon. It was baked with brown sugar until the sugar caramelized and served cooled. It was quite possibly the most delicious bacon I've ever had. Again, salty vs. sweet battling on my taste buds.

Ok, for the finale, here's the combination. Devil's Food cupcake. Peanut butter buttercream frosting. Real bacon bits (not from a jar, actually made at the shop) folded into the frosting. One complex culinary delight in one small paper wrapper.

(Thanks to Metrocurean for alerting me to this flavor festival!)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

d.c. plates

I find myself doing double takes around here when it comes to license plates. On one hand, I see just more Florida plates than I do for any neighboring states (excluding Virginia and Maryland, of course!) I found it odd until I learned that military families don't have to relinquish their home residence status if Uncle Sam's shipping them all over the country. Probably why I saw so many out-of-state plates in the parking lot at school.

On to D.C. plates. Until I moved to the DMV, I had rarely seen an actual Washington D.C. license plate. Since moving here, I think I see diplomat plates more often than actual District plates. It makes me think one of two things:

One, why'd that person cross the Potomac? In the case of my District friends, it takes quite an event for them to cross the river. For the most part, if it isn't Metro accessible, they're not going. More often than not, it appears that they've just left to go shopping somewhere nearby, get some cheap gas, go to work (?). I guess the Target in Columbia Heights is too far out of the way for some!

Two, the double take in my brain reprocesses, "Wait. People that live in the District have cars? Since when? Cash for Clunkers must be working!"

Friday, August 7, 2009

whiskey tango foxtrot?

I've gotten some crazy spam emails in the past. Surprisingly, I don't get a whole lot of spam on my current email address. A lot of my friends have left this particular webmail client because of spam overload. I guess it all depends on whether your address is easily generated by spam bots. Anyhow, I got a chuckle out of this strange message that was sent to my Junk folder by the filters. No links, no signature, no please reply if you're interested.

I am a romantic woman, but I am also decided and strong when it iss
necessary. I also have the sense of the humor. I'm very easy going,
open minded, and respectful towards men. Being creative is veryy
important to me. II am magical, mystical, musical, sensible,
responsive, magnetic, practical, whimsical, harmonious, intriguing,
thought provoking, kind and gentle yet firm, inquisitive, compatible,
full of compassion, spiritual- but not religious, observant but not
judgmental. I am kind, thoughtful, sensitive, like to laugh, loyal,
confident, objective and taking really goood care of myself. I would
do the same for my future partner

Sorry, Mary S. I've already found love. What made you think this'd be a successful venture?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

my next thirty years

A trip across the radio dial landed on a Tim McGraw song I hadn't heard in a while. Kind of odd that it occurred the night before my 30th. A riff on the lyrics.
I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age,
The ending of an era and the turning of a page.
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here;
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

I guess this is pretty true as this past year has been quite a change. Between getting engaged in March and getting married next July, I'd say turning a page is an appropriate cliche for now.
Hey, my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun,
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done.
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears,
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years.

I'm fairly certain that I had a good bit of fun in my first 30 years. It'll likely be a different brand of fun, but fun nonetheless. Example, I'm going hang gliding in three weeks. That'll be fun. I'm not sure what I was really afraid of in adolescence. Being happy? Being loved? Having friends? I guess this is why teen angst is overwrought and ridiculous when you look back with 20/20 hindsight.
My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores:
Cry a little less, laugh a little more.
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear.
Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years

I feel like I did this in my twenties. Stopped sweating the small stuff and started appreciating the beautiful stuff. Perhaps that's why I've jumped headfirst into photography. Yet another hobby that will compete with my attention for years to come! The whole existential "Why am I here" question will vex me for my entire life I'm sure, but I reckon I'm getting a better handle on it day by day in front of a classroom.
Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight,
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late,
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers.
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

No comment, but if last night's any indication, I still like beer. Good lemonade just isn't as easy to find at restaurants or bars.
My next thirty years will be the best years of my life,
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife,
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear,
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years

In due time. In due time. Seems a lot more fitting for thirty than it would've for twenty, that's for damn sure. I don't know if I'll still be blogging in 10 years, but I'll revisit these thoughts then.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

saturday trip to the beauty shop

I haven't been posting here a whole lot lately. Most of what I've been doing has been behind the shutter. Not a whole lot more to report on that front besides share photos. Here's two of my grandma from this weekend. She hates the camera, but it's pretty easy to sneak a shot or two.