Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten 2010 Recipe Experiences

As a follow up to yesterday’s list, I gathered some of my favorite recipes from this year.  This list was a bit harder to put together but I managed to select a few favorites.

1.     Delightful Sunday Brunch I cooked up a storm of a brunch for some friends with french toast, chocolate chip pancakes, raspberry scones, amazing apple crumble and so much more

2.     Puerto Rican Chicken in Green Sauce with Cilantro Rice the crock pot worked its magic as I tried to recreate my vacation eats

3.     Scallops and More I was frightened to fail at making scallops, but turned out I'm a pretty good chef (and they're easy to work with)

4.     Peruvian Roasted Chicken using mama bear's kitchen and a few ingredients I don't typically cook with, I made some magic

5.     Shrimp Dumplings and Noodle Stir Fry my only little version of Iron Chef - secret ingredient: shrimp!

6.     Pound Cake although my guests continued to call it cornbread, they knew that this sweet treat was definitely pound cake

7.     Stovetop Chicken Parm this post continues to garner hits, I guess people really do love the idea of easy chicken parm

8.     Margherita Pizza one of the more challenging dishes I made this year, but in the end turned out pretty well

9.     Super Snickerdoodles monster size cookies that were almost too easy to make

10. Spaghetti & Shrimp Arrabiata an Italian classic that I typically make with Lobster but worked out quite well with shrimp

Honorable mention: Best Brownies EVER! I used this recipe multiple times and it looks like readers continue to search for it, but it's a little more complicated than brownies should be.

Any recipes you can’t wait to try? Let me know in the comments!  Happy New Year! I can't wait to share new recipes next year :-)

Hungry yet?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten 2010 Restaurant Experiences

In the spirit of end of year top 10 lists, I decided to make 2 top 10 lists.  Today's list features the Top 10 restaurant dining experiences either by page hit or personal preference.  Click around and let me know which of these you'll be trying in 2011!

1.     Lima Peruvian Restaurant I ate an entire red snapper! If that's not worth checking out, I don't know what is 

2.     Max Restaurant my first press dinner and I was fortunate enough that it was at such a wonderful Italian restaurant with incredible food

3.     Spice Market tasting menu at one of my favorite restaurants. A dining extravaganza to celebrate Mr. J on the precipice of 30.

4.     Aguaviva another Puerto Rican favorite with the BEST ceviche I've ever eaten and amazing lobster mofongo

5.     Ping Pong Dim Sum my guest blogger did a wonderful job photographing and writing about one of the most talked about restaurants in DC

6.     Zengo NYC my first time using BlackboardEats but definitely not my last time dining at this Richard Sandoval restaurant. Tacos are to die for!

7.     Foreign Cinema got a hook up at a classic San Francisco restaurant. If only I knew the manager everywhere I ate!

8.     Pipa: tapas y mas there's something about tapas that makes eating fun for everyone

9.     Pure Thai Shophouse my newest Thai favorite. I've been back more times than I care to admit

10. Baba Louie's Possibly the best pizza I had this year. Yup it was worth the wait.

Honorable mention: If not for our terrible terrible experience waiting for a table, Bobby Flay Steak would definitely have been in the top 10.

So which of these restaurants are you trying out soon?  Stay tuned for tomorrow's list of top 10 recipes!

Hungry yet?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Negeen Persian Grill

I took a little trip into Jersey last week to visit Ms. K.  While it hadn’t been that long since I’d seen her, it felt like ages!  Almost all the restaurants in her area were closed, but luckily we found Negeen Persian Grill.  Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much, which is why I didn’t take my camera (apologies in advance for picture quality).  The restaurant was virtually empty which wasn’t too surprising but I was excited to see that it is Zagat rated.  We weren’t really that hungry so we settled on two appetizers and an entrée.  Ms. K ordered the Negeen Soup.  It didn’t really photograph well, but the cilantro, rice, chicken and spices smelled incredible.  The Olivieh caught my eye.

It was like a crazy good version of classic chicken salad.  Diced chicken breast boiled eggs, potatoes, pickles, green peas, shredded carrot, mixed with olive oil and light mayonnaise.  I kept trying to stop but instead I just kept eating it with the bread that accompanying bread.  Eventually our entrée arrived and diverted my attention from the Olivieh.

The Boneless Chicken Kabob was perfect!  Large juicy chicken cubes marinated with saffron, lemon juice and onions.  It was served with quite possibly the best rice I’ve eaten in a REALLY long time.

Hungry yet?

Negeen on Urbanspoon

Devi NYC

Out of fear that I may not see her again before the year ended, I asked Ms. O if she had time to grab dinner last week.  Lucky for me, she said yes.  I suggested Dévi because I have heard great things and it was on Village Vines.  VV offers discounted dining at restaurants without brining in a coupon.  Just make a reservation through their website and you’re good to go.  The restaurant is nicely decorated but the décor could stand for an upgrade.

We sat on the main level and our server was pretty attentive though his tone at times sounded as though we had never eaten Indian food before.  If only he knew….  They started out by bringing out the chef’s amuse.

A delicate puff pastry filled with mushrooms and a nice level of spice that was well balanced by the fresh pastry. Ms. O and I started with two appetizers.  Tamarind-Chicken Wings and Shrimp And Calamari Masala Frito Misto.

The chicken wings were extremely flavorful and filled with tamarind, red chiles and garam masala.  There were certainly enough wings to go around so this appetizer is made for sharing, but the wings themselves were mostly small – must have used small chickens, maybe even Cornish hens!

The Masala Frito Misto was a little less impressive.  Not to say it wasn’t good, but I think the description on the menu was different than what turned up.  The plate was filled with as many peppers as pieces of seafood.  The few pieces of seafood were quite delicious. A plate of plump shrimp and delicious well-seasoned pieces of calamari.  The tomato-chutney mayo was also impressive.  As for the entrée, I had a harder time selecting than I thought I would.  I wanted to try something new, but in the end I ordered my tried and true favorite, Chicken Vindaloo.

This tangy spicy curry is made even more amazing by the potatoes and incredible amount of spice.  The seasoning was on point at Dévi, except they UNDERSALTED the chicken!!! How could they?!  Ugh.  I was disappointed but in the end it was still quite delicious just missing a little something.  Ms. O’s Abha Aunty's Baingan was perfect.

 Rich delicious baby eggplant mixed with tomatoes, onions and tamarind.  Wowee!  I’m so glad I added eggplant to my list of things to eat!  One thing I will note is that while their prices are *somewhat* reasonable (small plates more than entrée so average), they don’t serve their entrées with naan or rice!  Absurd.  Of course we ordered naan and it was perfect!  The only real mistake from the night was ordering dessert.

Our Mango Cheesecake was really lacking.  There was no cheesecake to be tasted and the mango flavoring was barely there.  Allegedly there was Mango-passion fruit sauce but again that didn’t really come through.  The pieces of “mango pate de fruit” were really not that great.  It was jellied rather than candied which made it less desirable.  Next time I'll stick to the food and skip the dessert.

Dévi was a great dining adventure and thanks to Village Vines it was a little less pricy than it could have been.  The menu has a lot of great options and is definitely worth exploring so I could see myself going back to try something else.

Hungry yet?

Devi on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Uni - A Sushi Place

The great part about staying near Dupont Circle is the wealth of dining places in the area…almost feels like being back in New York.  When HG suggested that we meet up at Uni, I was thrilled! After all, it’s located across the street from Hotel Palomar.  After spending over 15 minutes chatting it up we finally placed our order.  We started with Edamame.

It was pretty unremarkable.  Some pieces tasted a little less fresh than I would have liked but it was certainly well salted.  Our sushi arrived pretty soon thereafter.  By far the best thing we ate was the Red Dragon Roll.

Lobster and tempura flakes wrapped with tuna.  YUMMERS!  It was really delicious and I was sad to see the 6 pieces disappear so quickly.  We also ordered the Rainbow Roll.

Shrimp and cucumber wrapped with tuna, salmon and avocado.  It was fresh and while it wasn’t the best rainbow roll I’ve ever had, it certainly did the job.  Our S&S Roll was nay the best.

Fresh salmon, crispy salmon skin, cucumber, and scallions.  The crispy salmon skin initially tasted good because of the contrast but after a couple of bites we were over it.  We then requested that the chef make a salmon and tuna combo roll for us.  Our server was initially confused about why we would want salmon and tuna together.  Luckily the chef obliged and soon we were enjoying our roll.

It was definitely a good call by HG.  The specialty roll washed away the taste of the S&S roll and left us with a smile.  Uni is indeed a sushi place.  It gets a solid rating from me.  It’s the perfect place to grab a bite to eat when you’re in the mood for some quick good sushi, but if you’re looking for great sushi, this is not the place to find it.  But sometimes, good will do.

Hungry yet?

Uni - a Sushi Place on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mie N Yu

Thanks to my fantastic guest blogger, I’ve seen quite the increase in traffic from DC/MD/VA area.  As my regular readers know, I’ve seen an uptick in the number of invitations to review restaurants but imagine my surprise when within hours of my arrival in DC, I received an invitation for my guest blogger and I to dine at a wonderful restaurant in Georgetown. I happily accepted and made reservations at Mie N Yu for Saturday brunch.  They were kind enough to allow our chauffeur, Mr. K to dine with us.

Mie N Yu is a beautiful restaurant, perhaps the most beautiful one I’ve ever entered.  If given the opportunity to plan an event in the area, I would definitely use their space.  

The themed rooms are a refreshing change from traditional restaurant décor.  

Brunch has certainly become a bigger part of my weekend dining adventures so I was thrilled to try out Mie N Yu’s prix fixe brunch.  Given the choice between a salad and a bowl of fruit, I usually go with the salad.  However, the Good Morning Sunshine sounded like more than your average bowl of fruit and it certainly was.

A bowl of fresh and dried fruits, toasted almonds, granola, pomegranate yogurt drizzle.  The dried fruit initially threw me off a little bit but it was a good change of consistency and was a good contrast to the crunchy granola.  The pomegranate flavor was barely noticeable in the yogurt drizzle, which is a shame because I was looking forward to it.  Mr. K ordered the Bombay Peanut Salad.

He recently returned from his trip to India, so its no surprise that he went with this item.  The mixed Asian greens, grape tomatoes, pickled shallots and curried peanuts were served in a crispy pappadam basket with warm toasted cumin vinaigrette.  The cumin vinaigrette was AWESOME.  This salad is a must have and I hope it appears somewhere on the regular menu.  Soon after our appetizers, our second course arrived.  My guest blogger and I ordered the Eggs Benedict.

I must admit it was my first time eating Eggs Benedict.  The poached eggs were accompanied by wilted greens, goat cheese and hollandaise atop a toasted english muffin and served with a side of breakfast potatoes.  I typically have my eggs hard scrambled or hard boiled so poached eggs were a difficult concept for me.  

Even still, I did enjoy my meal.  I was surprised at how good it tasted.  I don’t really think I will order eggs benedict again because of the consistency but I’m glad my first experience was at a restaurant that made it taste this good.  On second thought, I did notice that the menu includes Crab Cake Benedict.  I would definitely try that!  The breakfast potatoes were also really good.  The potatoes tasted as though they were sprinkled in paprika. My taste buds were happy.   Mr. K ordered the Korean Bulgogi Sandwich.

The heaping mound of marinated beef with chili aioli, lettuce and housemade kimchee arrived on a ciabatta bun with a side of fries.  I was a little intimidated at the size of the sandwich, but Mr. K ate every bite.  He noted that the marinade was delicious and incredibly flavorful.  The fries were well seasoned and I enjoyed a few of those myself.  The prix fixe brunch menu is the gift that keeps on giving because next up our dessert arrived.  I ordered the house made Tiramisu with chai latte drizzle.

I didn’t eat as much of it as I wanted to – not because it wasn’t good but rather because I was already so full.  It was really really good. I could have done without the chai latte drizzle though – it just didn’t add anything to the dessert.  They ordered the Asian Pear Strudel..

It looked pretty good and apparently it tasted even better! I think its safe to say that Mie N Yu was the perfect brunch spot on this particular day.  I must note that I was pretty surprised at how empty the restaurant was even when we were leaving around 1…I mean seriously people, do you realize what you’re missing?!

At $20 per person, the three-course brunch prix fixe menu is a great way to start the weekend before heading out for some shopping in the area.  It’s definitely worth the trip to the metroless Georgetown neighborhood.  There is a good variety of items on the menu and if nothing strikes your fancy, the a la carte menu is also pretty impressive.

Hungry yet?

Mie N Yu on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bistro Bistro

No visit with VBRAT is complete without a group dinner.  I was really excited about the prospect of eating at one of DC’s popular tapas restaurants, but we were told they were booked so I sent a few options to the crew and eventually we settled on Bistro Bistro thanks to their escargot.  Our group of 12 had a staggered arrival but most of us walked in at once.  I certainly did not appreciate the attitude when we first walked in but of course as soon as they saw me photographing dishes there was a quick change in behavior. Too late! I already noticed it.  Luckily, my reviews are largely based on food with a detour to décor and service when it’s notable one way or the other.  We started off sharing a few appetizers while we waited for the rest of our crew.  Of course we ordered escargot.

They were delightful little guys sautéed with mushrooms in a garlic butter sauce.  I was a big fan.  I had hoped they would be served in the traditional snail plate but in the end taste is what matters and these snails were excellent.  We also ordered the mussels special, Moules Frère Diable.  I think my love affair with mussels has now become a relationship.  Every time I see them on the menu, I am drawn to them. 

These mussels were sautéed in a spicy tomato broth.  I was definitely a big fan and the broth definitely did not go to waste.  We made sure to soak up the broth with the fresh warm bread they served.  The calamari frites was pretty standard.

The batter was tasty, but as GK pointed out, the calamari was nay the freshest.  The buffalo mozzarella appetizer was served like Caprese.

It was surprisingly good considering this is a French restaurant not Italian.  It took us a little while but eventually we ordered our entrees.   GK, Mr. N and I ordered the Paella. 

Paella is traditionally a Spanish dish.  This French version was different but also pretty good.  A medley of fresh scallops, mussels, shrimp, lobster meat, and chicken cooked in tomato sauce served atop rice with vegetables.  It was very flavorful and I can see why it’s one of the house specials.  Ms. G ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. 

I’m not sure if she wasn’t hungry or if it was really that unimpressive but at the end of the meal, she had only eaten one bite and remarked that it was quite dry.  Mr. S on the other hand emptied his plate.  He ordered the Croque Madame.

Roasted Turkey Breast and creamy Swiss cheese with a side of French fries.  My guest blogger and her Mr. K shared the French pork chops.  A grilled pork chop with brandy, caramelized apples, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

She reports that the caramelized applesauce was delicious and the pork was soft and tender.  She believes the sauce would have tasted delicious with any type of meat.  Mr. S ordered the Spinach Lasagna. 

He sat on the other end of the table so I didn’t hear what he thought about his dish.  Hopefully he’ll share his thoughts in the comments.  Mr. W ordered the special Linguine Bistro Seafood Pasta. 

It looked really good and perhaps I would have ordered that had I known it was an option.  He cleaned up his plate – which is no surprise.  Mr. I arrived a little late (shock) but still managed to order the Portobello Pesto Ravioli.

He thought it was alright but it didn’t rock his world.  He gave the restaurant an “alright” for their vegetarian options.  When Ms. O arrived some of us had started ordering dessert but she ordered the Flounder Meuniere.

It was savory and well seasoned.  The veggies received an okay rating and a belief that they were probably frozen.  What a shame.  Frozen vegetables are a terrible short cut at restaurants that’s just not worth the wrath of your customers.  Any indiscretions were forgiven when dessert arrived. 

Chocolate Soufflé is the perfect end to almost any meal.  The Tiramisu was also quite lovely.

Dining at Bistro Bistro was quite the festive event.  The restaurant is large and great for big groups.  It also can be private and intimate if that’s what you’re looking for; you just have to sit away from the large group of 12 at the front of the restaurant.  The menu has some traditional French favorites but also a good selection of other options.  There really is something for everyone; some things are just better than others.  The servers were generally attentive and accommodating.  Several hundreds of dollars later, we left the restaurant quite happy with our experience and feeling ready to continue the rest of night in DC.

Hungry yet?

Bistro Bistro on Urbanspoon