27
Oct 09

An Insatiable Craving for Chicken Fried Oysters

fried oyster po'boys

The way I judge a restaurant is this: If I am satisfied at the end of my mail I call it a good restaurant. If I find myself making strange faces and noises while eating, I call it a great restaurant. For me, the sign of a truly remarkable eating establishment is when, months after eating there, I still have cravings for specific dishes that can only be satiated by a return, and re-consumption.

For me, Firefly restaurant is a remarkable place.

I last ate at Firefly in Washington, DC in May. The dishes I selected from the comfort food-inspired, local grown, earthy menu were small and simple: Perfectly deviled eggs dusted with smoked paprika, a spread of local cheese with homemade mustard, truffle oil french fries and a tuna and avocado BLT, these were all simple, well put together dishes that were executed perfectly

However the dish that stole the evening is the one I currently find myself salivating over as I write. The Chicken Fried Oysters with Po’ Boy sauce came to my table hot and crispy. The instant I popped the first one in my mouth, it was slightly salty (the way anything coming fresh from water should be), tender, buttery and deliciously savory. I found myself wondering if I should order a second round as the plate dwindled. I regretfully did not.

Although I am now 5 hours away from DC, my next visit will include a pilgrimage to Firefly, where I will hopefully find relief for an insatiable craving for Oyster Po’ Boys as only they can make them.

Tell me what you’re craving!

Share

09
Jun 09

ALWAYS get the Half-Smoke

half-smoke-bens

My dad has been talking about them ever since we left DC. Almost every time I ask him what he wants for lunch, he’ll say, “How ’bout a Half-Smoke?” and laugh. But I can tell that behind that laughter is a deep-seeded longing for that one-of-a-kind sausage he left behind in the nations capitol. 

That may sound homo-erotic, but don’t worry folks. This blog is nothing but good clean family fun. And so is the restaurant where you can find this world-famous dish: Ben’s Chili Bowl.

When you walk into Ben’s, the line for pick-up orders gives the impression that you’ll be waiting for another hour and a half before you even think about what to order off the menu. But once you walk into Ben’s, you’re greeted by friendly, and efficient staff who will usher you to your table. The Chili Bowl looks like a one-room joint from the outside, but walking through the back reveals three other rooms for sit-down diners, with plenty of space and more than enough chairs for everyone to sit. The menus are simple, and reflect the overall mood at Ben’s: simplicity executed fantastically. 

Ben’s opened in 1958 at 1213 U Street N.W. under the management of newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali. The Chili Bowl has survived countless years, the riots following Dr. King’s assassination, D.C. construction destroying U street access from the metro, and recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Throughout it’s years, Ben’s has been a favorite haunt of many, including Bill Cosby, who raves about the same dish whose memory haunts my father’s rumbling stomach daily. 

The half-smoke. It is so much more than a chili dog. It’s 1/4 pound of meat: half pork and half beef smoked sausage. It is topped with mustard, onions, and of course, Ben’s homemade chili. The half-smoke comes to you hot from the grill that lines the front window of the shop. The chili is so dark that you know it’s been cooking for longer than you would have the patience for at home. The two are a perfect blend–with just enough chili on the sausage to coat, but not overwhelm. The sausage is smoky and juicy, with a crispy coating around the outside that makes biting into the mess that you’ve prepared yourself for delightful. 

My dad is the most constant of critics. And after his half-smoke all he could do was smile and talk about how he wanted another one. family-bens-chili-bowl

My boyfriend took one bite of MY half-smoke (emphasis on the MY) and, even though his lunch (something else from the Ben’s menu) was also delicious, I would catch him looking longingly over to my plate, wondering if I would by chance offer him another taste. 

I didn’t. 

Lesson of the day: ALWAYS get the Half-Smoke.

Share

31
May 09

Pizzeria Perfection

In my somewhat brief lifetime I have eaten enough pizza to know what I like. Pizzeria Paradiso of Washington, DC  (in Georgetown and Dupont Circle), has a small but well-crafted menu that ensures the quality of everything that they serve. They don’t do much, but it’s always delicious. 

Pizzaria Paradiso is not a place you would go to get your normal pizza take-out from. They don’t deliver and for good reason: their pizza is simply the best when it comes to you straight from their brick ovens. Their pizza is the perfect combination of ingredients: fresh vegetables and cheeses, tomatoes instead of a pre-made sauce, well-cured meats and just enough warm, soft crust that you won’t be able to stop eating, even if you’re like me and usually leave the crusts behind. 

pizzaria-paradisoI have tried many of the different pizza combinations on the menu: the Genovese with potato, pesto and parmesan, the Quattro Formaggi with four cheese and garlic. But my all-time favorite is the Bosco. Not being a huge fan of onion on my pizza, I substitute the red onion for the prosciutto. The combination of fresh mozzarella, large chunks of mushroom and tomatoes and spinach makes for a lighter, more mild pizza overall, however the prosciutto adds the saltiness that makes this pie irresistable. When it comes to the table hot from the oven I simply cannot help myself; I must have a few  bites while it is pipping hot and the mozzarella is still melted and stretches when you take a bite and try to pull the slice away from your mouth. The prosciutto gets crispy around the edges, and the mushrooms and spinach are always tender enough to take clean bites from, so you don’t find yourself sliding the toppings back onto your crust (like some pizza’s I’ve tried). When you’ve eaten through all of toppings and reached the usual no-man’s-land of useless crust, you can pour a little olive oil onto your plate and dip your crust into it like you would freshly served warm bread. Practical, and delicious. 

I’m usually an adventurous eater, but when it comes to pizza, I know what I like. When I visit Pizzeria Paradiso, I get the Bosco with prosciutto (I call it “LVK Style”) every time. I go there often, and I have never been disappointed. Bravo, Paradiso. You get an “A” from LVK.

Share

12
May 09

Decadent Breakfast

bread-chocolate-banana-chocolate-french-toast

I begrudgingly woke up Sunday morning after five hours of sleep to a beautiful morning. What was even better was the prospect of a delicious breakfast from Bread & Chocolate, a small restaurant by 23rd and M streets. When we finally arrived and found a parking space, one look at the menu and I was completely at a loss. I wanted to order everything they offer for breakfast. Four or five types of french toast, omelets, eggs benedict (my FAVORITE) and regular egg dishes and more. 

The ambiance at Bread & Chocolate is European in it’s simplicity and attentive yet relaxed service. Their cafe list is impressive, and in addition to the food served at the restaurant, Bread & Chocolate also has a bakery counter where foods can be purchased to bring home. 

Because neither of us could decide on eggs or french toast, my roommate and I decided we would get one of each and split them. I ordered the Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelet and my roommate ordered the Chocolate and Banana French Toast. 

bread-chocolate-omletteThe food came out to us piping hot. The eggs in my omelet were not the best that I had ever had; they were a bit dry, but still fluffy. The spinach and goat cheese were delicious in the dish, but the cooks put all of the spinach and goat cheese in the middle of the omelet, so you had to eat your way in to get to the good stuff. 

The chocolate and banana french toast was made with cinnamon challah bread, fresh banana slices and dark chocolate ganache drizzled on top. It was heavenly. The bavarian cream on the side was good, but it was a bit rich for me for breakfast. 

At the end of the meal, I felt pleasantly full, and ready for a nap. I was surprised that the meal did not sit heavier in my stomach, but it was the perfect fuel-up breakfast, as well as a fantastic pre-nap meal. The prices were a little high, and it is not a place that I would trek to often. However I’m glad that I went, and I would recommend it as a place to go for breakfast, but only if you have someone who you can share food with, or you can easily choose between sweet and savory breakfasts.

Share

10
May 09

Dumplings Galore!

Since coming to college I have discovered a food that was completely missing from my youth: Dumplings. 

A few years back I purchased a bag of frozen dumplings from Trader Joe’s, and fell in love. I cooked them all ways possible: boiled, steamed, pan-fried;  each way was a new and delicious experience. And so my search for the best dumplings and unique and interesting fillings began. 

Enter Bangkok Joe’s, a modern, thai restaurant with curve and swirl inspired decor. Their menu is extensive, and the most intriguing section, to me, is their dumpling bar. bangkok-joes-decor

The dumpling bar features everything: from chicken buns steamed in bamboo containers to potstickers for vegetarians and omnivors alike. They have shu-mai, fried wontons, crispy rolls and thai spring rolls. Barring soup dumplings (the quasi-holy grail of my life thus far, thank you Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations:Shanghai”), they have everything that a dumpling-lover like myself could possibly want. 

On my last trip to Bangkok Joe’s, one of my friends and I decided to do the dumpling bar sushi style. We would each order two sets of dumplings for ourselves, and we would split a third order. Just enough to make a meal out of. 

winter-squash-potstickers-bangkok-joesWe started off with the winter squash potstickers. They were lightly pan fried, and the inside was a nice blend of scallions, winter squash, and a hint of ginger. They harken back to Slavic pierogis, with the consistency of the filling similar to warm mashed potatoes. The flavor is mild, and the slightly spicy dipping sauce that they serve with it is the perfect compliment. 

For the main course, I selected, on the servers advice, the chicken and veggie potstickers (front) and, my personal favorite, the crab and veggie crispy wontons (back). The chicken potstickers were very well done, although not as creative as some of the other items in the

chicken-potstickers-crab-and-veggie-crispy-wontons-bangkok-joes

 dumpling section. The crab and veggie crispy wontons were, as they always are, fantastic. They are one of my things to order from Bangkok Joe’s, either off the dumpling menu or from their regular entrée selection. The wontons are filled with fresh peas, corn, carrots, fried, and then topped with a sriracha aioli and fresh lump crab meat. They are the perfect blend of crispy, creamy, hot, and savory. 

fried-dough-with-tarrot-paste-filling-bangkok-joesThe final dish we ordered was off of the dessert menu, a section that I’m less familiar with. My friend and I decided on the fried dough filled with taro paste and topped with taro ice cream and a taro chip. I know that this sounds like a lot of taro, but the nice thing about this veggie is that it easily absorbs the flavors in which it is cooked, and so the sweetness of the honey, cinnamon, and powdered sugar were magnified in the creamy whipped potato-like consistency of the paste. The taro ice cream had a very light flavor, tasted slightly of cinnamon, but was the perfect compliment to the piping hot dough underneath. each square was filled with the paste, and it was almost like eating a dessert ravioli. The taro chip on top was superfluous, and didn’t add or detract from the dish. 

Overall, another fantastic meal at Bangkok Joe’s. The service, as usual, was fairly good, and while the food is a little pricy for a college student’s budget, it is not unreasonable to visit once or twice a semester. Status: Recommended.

Share

01
May 09

Baked and Wired

  baked-and-wired-strawberry

I’ll say it now: I was not impressed. 

The atmosphere at Baked and Wired seemed very promising when I first walked in. The store is divided in half–on one side you go to get your drinks and morning pastries, and the other side is dedicated solely to the sale of baked goods, your cupcakes, your brownies, different types of sweet bars, etc. The iced green tea that I had was refreshing, and I drank most of it while trying to decide which flavors of cupcakes to buy. 

 

I let the girl at the baked goods counter know that I wanted a box of four, and asked her for her recommendations. Her first one was the carrot cake, but I had to say no to that when she told me that it has nuts in it (I really don’t do actual nuts in cake…it’s one of my weird quirks). She also recommended their strawberry and their red velvet, so I said yes to those. I saw that they had a peanut butter and chocolate cupcake, so naturally I had to try one to compare it to those of the other cupcakeries I have recently visited. My final choice was along the same lines: the chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting. For my own personal enjoyment, and for the sake of comparison.

When I first opened the different and interesting wrapper to the red velvet cupcake, I was taken aback at first. Instead of a consistent red coloring throughout the cake, there were dark brown splotches. It made the red seem less vibrant, and, to me, this is a sign that someone in the back wasn’t paying attention when the mixer was going. The cake itself tasted like red velvet, but the frosting seemed to be more buttercream than it was cream cheese. There were hints that the flavor was hiding in there somewhere, but I had to go looking for it. 

I had really been looking forward to the strawberry cupcake, since the girl at the counter had recommended it to me on the basis that it had real, whole strawberry pieces in the cake. I tried a bit of the frosting before even biting into the cupcake, and was immediately thrown back to my hometown and my family’s favorite place to get breakfast and coffee: Dunkin’ Donuts. The frosting reminded me of the strawberry icing you find on a Dunkin’ Donuts donut. It was sugary, grainy, and tasted artificial. The cake itself was dense with little flavor besides the strawberry pieces. It was almost as if they were trying to go for a shortcake-like cake, but failed to produce the buttery rich flavors that are usually a part of that experience. There was also too much frosting on this one. I took most of it off.

The peanut butter chocolate was also a let down. When I held it in my hand, it was heavy, like i was holding a large cup of water.  Before I could even remove the excess frosting, it did it for me. Half of the frosting slid off of the cupcake the moment the wrapper came off. The flavor of the frosting did not compensate–it tasted more like dry roasted peanuts tossed into buttercream frosting instead of smooth creamy peanut butter frosting. The chocolate cake was moist and had a good chocolate flavor to it, but I was surprised to find small granules of some unknown substance in the cupcake–I think that it might have been ground up peanut pieces. I told the girl at the counter that I did not like nuts in my cake, so I was particularly miffed. If they’re not nuts, I have no idea what I was eating.

I will update the entry once I’ve tried the chocolate one, but I don’t think that I would be going back to Baked and Wired even if the chocolate cupcake blew me half way to China.

Share

01
May 09

Goodbye, Cupcake?

I say goodbye because I ate them. 

hello-cupcake

A few weeks ago I visited Hello Cupcake bakery in Dupont Circle. I had been meaning to check them out for a while, and finally had some time on my hands to make it happen. 

When I walked into the store, I was the only customer there. The girl behind the counter was nice, but she seemed a little harried, even though the owner and another employee were storefront packing an order of mini cupcakes. Maybe that’s why she seemed a bit uncomfortable. 

I must admit, I found the service a bit cold, for being the only person there. I bought a box of six, and asked questions about which one they enjoyed the most, and what their seasonal flavors were. The answers I got were short, and I didn’t really get much out of them. I ended up getting pretty much what I had expected to get. 

The box above features six flavors (from back left to right, then front left to right): Peanut Butter Blossom, Maya Favorite Cupcake, Heart of Darkness, Triple Coconut, Tiramisu, and You Tart (lemon).

The coconut and Tiramisu were both mediocre. The cake was a bit dry and the cream cheese frosting on the coconut and the marscapone on the tiramisu were both a bit heavy for me (although the marscapone frosting was exceptionally creamy and had good flavor). The chocolate cakes were excellent, and the Maya cupcake was a nice mixture of rich chocolate flavor with the heat of red pepper flakes sprinkled on top. However, my favorite by far was the peanut butter blossom. The peanut butter frosting was just the way I like it: creamy, with the flavor of rich peanut butter but the lightness and texture of buttercream frosting. 

(As an aside, I really hate toppings on cupcakes like the Hershey’s Kiss on the PB Blossom and the chocolate-covered espresso bean on the tiramisu. I can appreciate their decorative purpose, but they add nothing to the flavor of the cupcake or the overall experience of eating one. I find them an unnecessary distraction from the actual cupcake. I appreciate cuteness, but I really feel like bakers should focus on the flavors that you eat together, not the afterthoughts.)

What was probably the most dangerous part of this experience for me was that the cupcakes with the buttercream and chocolate frostings did not sit heavy in my stomach, and I did not feel like a whale post-consumption. I will be returning again for a PB Blossom, and will hopefully find a few more enjoyable flavors, and a bit better service.

Share

29
Apr 09

The perfect brunch for a hot day

 

cucumber-soup-bonapart

 

 

 

 

 

crepes-bonapart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off this morning thinking that I was going to be having Eggs Benedict with my friend Rich at a french restaurant in Georgetown, but our wires got crossed, so instead

 went to a different french restaurant in the area, Cafe Bonaparte, that ended up being the perfect place for a hot spring day. 

(A word of warning: Cafe Bonaparte’s website is beautiful, well constructed, and in no way represents the atmosphere at the restaurant itself. The cafe is small, with maybe 12 tables for 2 or more and a small bar. It has large windows in the front that make it ideal for daytime diners who enjoy the natural light, and the staff is attentive, yet very laid back. The menu is simple, yet fantastic. It is not quite as fancy as the website, so don’t be intimidated by it!) 

We started off our meal with a bloody mary–wonderfully spicy with lemon and lime slices and three olives. Cool, yet flavorful. 

Rich and I both ordered our sandwiches (I got a crepe) and after the waiter took our order he let us know that there was a cold cucumber soup as the “soup du jour”, which sounded too refreshing to pass up. I’m normally not a huge fan of cold soups, other than my Mom’s gazpacho, because they are usually lumpy. This soup, however, was smooth and creamy with fresh cilantro. It was light on the yoghurt, and the dairy base was not overwhelming, even as the temperature climbed to 90 degrees. 

Our food arrived in a timely fashion, and my crepes were hot and savory. The ham and mushrooms were encased with perfectly chewy, fresh-from-the-pan crepes, and the dijon creme sauce drizzled over the top was, to my delight, more mustard than cream when it came to the flavor. It was light, and when combined with the other ingredients, created the perfect bite. 

The whole meal left me feeling satisfied and refreshed, which was a pleasant surprise considering how much dairy was involved in the meal. More importantly, catching up with my friend Rich was so much fun, and that is one of the things I love most about food. Sharing it with someone can often bring you closer together as friends. We would taste each other’s food, comment on what we liked and thought needed improving, all of which led to other stories. Like I’ve said before, food is about much more than just what you’re putting in your mouth.

Share

28
Apr 09

Red Velvet

 

dscn37032

I don’t get down to the Penn Quarter of DC very often, so when I found myself there the other day, I had to stop by Red Velvet Cupcakery. After having seen their menu online: Red Velvet , I was really intrigued by the peanut butter cup, which featured a salted peanut butter frosting. 

Admittedly, the peanut butter cup was not quite what I had expected. The frosting was thick, and closer to actual peanut butter than I prefer. I’m just more of a whipped frosting person myself. The chocolate cake was moist and had a rich chocolate flavor, with surprising bits of chocolate scattered throughout. The peanut on top was superfluous, but I appreciate their decorative purpose. 

dscn3702

The three other flavors I sampled were their Vanilla Bean, Devil’s Food, and Southern Belle. The Devil’s Food was the best chocolate cupcake that I have sampled here in DC–the cake was dark, and the chocolate frosting on top was rich, creamy, and slightly bitter, making it the perfect topping to the cake. The frosting on the Vanilla Bean was a Madagascar Bourbon vanilla buttercream that was slightly sugary for my taste, but my friend John raved about it. He said that it was the perfect taste for his sweet tooth. 

Normally, cream cheese frosting sits too heavy in my stomach for me to really enjoy the experience, however the whipped cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cake of their Southern Belle was not only lighter than most cream cheese frostings, it was in perfect proportion. It was smooth and rich in flavor, yet light on the stomach. Perfection. 

While Red Velvet is a bit far for normal visits, I will have to go at least once more to sample some of their other flavors, and to have at least one more red velvet.

Share