Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Some fun T-day related links for you today:
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Mise en place.
I saw this recipe for Peanut Butter Granola Bars on an episode of Giada's show maybe 2 or 3 Saturdays ago- it was a kids-themed episode, but these looked really tasty. Peanut butter + chocolate, woo!
The recipe was pretty straightforward, although looking back on it I'm not really sure why the recipe says to spray the pan, put parchment paper in the pan, and then re-spray over the paper. Seemed a little excessive to me, and it was, especially since I had to deal with a greasy pan afterwards (defeating the purpose of using parchment paper to begin with). If I make these again I'll probably just skip the pan-spray step as it was unnecessary with my glass Pyrex pan.
The bars took a little longer than the recommended 15 minutes to get "golden"- closer to 20-25 minutes. Once they had cooled down for a while, I cut into them and found them to be v. crumbly and difficult to cut into. Some of the commenters noted that cutting back on the butter might help with this, so I'll probably try that next time. Taste-wise these were great, assuming you are a fan of peanut butter. That was the dominant smell/taste for sure in these bars. The good thing about these is that you can adjust with mix-ins as you please- maybe put in dried fruit (for a PB & J-type bar), walnuts, white chocolate chips, chopped candy bars, etc. It's an easy and fun recipe for a great little snack!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Mise en place.
N had linked to this recipe for Matcha Swirl Brownies on her blog, and it was a perfect opportunity to use the canister of matcha powder my mom gave me a while back. This recipe is a variation of "zebra" or cream cheese swirl brownies - I can never pass these up at work when we get lunch meetings catered by Corner Bakery, haha. I used Dark Chocolate brownie mix, thinking it would be a nice contrast with the green tea flavor. One note about matcha powder- make sure you are getting actual ground up matcha powder- you do not want to just dump in a green tea bag with whole leaves in it, it will NOT turn out well, trust me. Matcha powder can be a little pricey depending on the brand/availability near you, but it's a great item to keep on hand- I've made green tea ice cream before using the same powder, which turned out delicious. This quick-dissolving type that I have also works for making regular matcha tea to drink as well.
The recipe is super easy- just make sure you leave the cream cheese out at room temperature for a while (I left mine out for about 45 minutes while going to the gym), so that it is easy to mix with the other ingredients. Believe me, when you are trying to whisk the cream cheese, sugar, egg, etc. together, it helps a lot for the cream cheese to not be so chunky and solid.
Need to work on my swirling.
As you can see in the photo above, I think I saved too much of the brownie mix to drop on top - almost all of the green tea mixture was covered up by the time it finished baking! To add to that, I misread the "swirling" portion and just sorta went nutso on the knife action, so I didn't get the pretty V shape swirls that you normally see on this type of brownie.
Corner piece, yummm.
But, once you cut into the brownie, it's alllllllllll good. As you can see there's a clear layer of the matcha cream cheese right through the center of each piece. It is v. pretty to look at, a nice variation of a regular brownie. Taste-wise, I thought these were aweeeeeeeeeesome. It's a win-win really: If you like green tea flavors, you'll love these for the hints of matcha in here. If you don't love green tea flavors, there's not enough of it to overpower the brownie-ness of it, haha. I've made these twice now and I'll definitely make them again - if only I had a (free) unlimited supply of matcha powder to use, haha.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
For those of you that didn't follow the whole Cakewrecks Book Tour story- here's the short version: Their original tour was cancelled right before the Bethesda date, due to 1/2 of the Cakewreck duo getting seriously sick. The tour was rescheduled fairly quickly and I was impressed at their ability to move onward with the book tour- that's some serious dedication there. So, on the 5th, N and I met up in downtown Bethesda for the tour stop at the Barnes & Noble.
Adana Sandwich + Fries
We stopped at Levante's for a quick bite before heading over- I got the Adana Sandwich, which is "Ground lamb grilled on a skewer, topped with Ezmesalad", and fries on the side. This is a great deal at $7.95- I love the bread, the meat is flavorful, and the sandwich itself is pretty hefty- I took 1/2 home with me to eat the next day. But the best part has to be the fries- it's got that "breading"-type coating like a waffle or curly fry, crunchy and delicious!
The event was pretty packed by the time we got there- so we grabbed a spot on the floor - conveniently right by the cakes, haha. The cake that we'd all get after their presentation was provided by Fancy Cakes By Leslie, which has a store a few streets over from the Barnes & Noble. The Obama cake was a faux cake (I'm assuming styrofoam with fondant covering) that was meant for display only- the reason why this cake was at the book tour is pretty funny. Turns out this Obama cake was featured AS a Cakewreck on the site, right around inauguration-time. Shows that Leslie was a pretty good sport about it, considering she was featured AS a Wreck and still agreed to provide a cake for the book tour, ha.
We had the option of buying the book or just staying for the talk, which was nice, since I wasn't sure if we were required to purchase a book in order to be there. It's more of a fun book to get someone as a gift, and I didn't really feel like waiting in line to get it signed, so I didn't get one. The talk was more or less a slideshow of John and Jen's favorite Cakewrecks, plus a bit of Q&A, mostly about how the site came to exist, and how many submissions they get (A LOT every day, apparently). Then we got to eat a piece of the cake - it was chocolatey and rich, had a little bit of that almond-y taste I didn't like so much, but a fun end to a CakeWreck-y evening :o)
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Last week N and I met up at Firefly for dinner- I hadn't been here in a while, and she had never been, so it was good timing all around to go there. I got a cocktail which I can't recall the name of, and unfortunately isn't listed on their online menu- but it was refreshing and fruity. It was also sort of redonkulous at $12.50, but I guess that's the going rate for drinks that have about 10 ingredients listed.
"Corned" Pork Tenderloin: Squash Dumplings, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Rutabaga Puree
After a lengthy perusal of the menu, I decided to get the pork tenderloin. Part of the reason for my decision was the side dishes- squash dumplings sounded good, and I'm not a fan of brussels sprouts at all, but I figured I could give it a try here. The pork was tender and not overly salty, which was great in my book. The squash dumplings were more like gnocchi, pillowy with a nice crust on the outside- these were excellent and probably my favorite part of my dish. The brussels sprouts were not as offensive as I thought they would be, which probably says a lot because I normally detest them, haha. They were also crispy and thoughtfully prepared- cooked throughout but still with a little caramelized char on the outside edges of the leaves.
N got the burger and seemed to enjoy it. The truffle fries, which I have had before, are pretty good here- although I'm not really enough of a truffle connoisseur to know how much the truffle flavor plays into these. One of the cocktails that she got tasted weirdly of orange juice, when it really wasn't supposed to at all- but they took the drink back and didn't charge for it so it was ok.
Red Velvet Cake + Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
We got 2 desserts to share: the Red Velvet Cake and the Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake. One great thing about eating with N is that she also likes sweets, plus she also can't pass up pumpkin/fall items either, haha. The Red Velvet cake was not what I was expecting, visually, but I guess that's because 99% of the time you see it as a slice of tiered red cake with cream cheese frosting. But this version was super-mega-delicious and I'm glad we ordered it. I especially liked the contrast of the moist cake with the chocolate pearls scattered on top. Plus, the shape was great for sharing, haha. The Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake was light and creamy. I can't say it was as awesome as the other cake though, mainly because the base was a carrot cake, and I don't like carrot cake. It had an interesting design though and I could see why it'd be a popular choice for this time of year- especially if you actually like carrot cake.
Overall, I enjoy going to Firefly and have had good-to-great experiences here. The service was fine, but got more spotty as the night went on and the restaurant got more crowded. Like I said before, drinks were a littly pricey in my opinion, but you could always get wine/beer instead if that's an issue. It's a cozy restaurant that would be cute for a date or a night out with girl friends :-)
1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
202.861.1310; on OpenTable
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Nothing says "G.I. Joe" quite like sparkles everywhere.
I never know what I'm going to "discover" at Wegmans, be it pretzel rolls, new kinds of hummus, Ultimate White Cake, etc. This past trip to Wegmans also brought me something super exciting, in the form of MY FIRST REAL-LIFE CAKEWRECK SIGHTING.
In case you haven't seen it before, Cakewrecks is a hilarious blog that pretty much involves really horrible-looking professional cakes, most of which we can only assume are unintentionally hysterical. This cake (above) from the Wegmans prepared cakes section stopped S and I dead in our tracks, initially due to its neon ugliness. This has a number of Cakewreck checkpoints on it, including:
1) The edible paper screenprint (for a movie no one saw) = lazy cakemaker's dream.
2) The random blob-technique of airbrushing multiple colors around the edges..Camo? Sorta?
3) Scattered glitter everywhere.
But what really takes the cake (I'm so pun-tastic) is that upon closer inspection, it's apparent that there was a message already inscribed with red frosting on the cake. Then the cakemaker decided to "erase" the message by spreading insane amounts of glitter all over the message, along the top and bottom of the edible paper. To top it all off this monstrosity was priced at just under $30.00. WHO WOULD BUY THIS?! I mean except maybe me, if it was $5 and any of my friends' birthday was coming up, haha.
Wegmans, I know your cake department can (and normally does) do better than this. That being said, if anyone was going to bring me the joy of my first Cakewreck sighting, I'm glad it was you.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
3 tiers of delicious.
On my last trip to Wegmans, I was disappointed that another attempt at sampling their Ultimate White Cake was foiled- I get e-newsletters from them all the time advertising samples of this cake, but usually during the week apparently. However, I found the cake in a mini form for $6.00 and decided it was worth trying out, after all the self-imposed hype about it.
The first rule of the Ultimate White Cake is to read the label and let it come to room temperature. Otherwise you will literally feel like you're eating cold cake with cold butter on top, which is about as appetizing as it sounds. But once you let it come to room temperature, it's all sorts of vanilla-y creamy richness. The mini cake is a perfect size for a small dinner party or for a few friends to try it out. It would be a nice item to bring to someone's house also, if you aren't a baker and wanted to bring a little something sweet. Looks-wise it also reminded me of a wedding cake (by that I mean 1) It's white; and 2) It's tiered) and thought it would be cute to put at each table if you were having an informal wedding reception, haha. I couldn't eat this cake all the time since the frosting is v. rich and thick, but I am definitely glad I tried it and would recommend trying this out!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
One last post about my dinner in Georgetown with T, I swear, haha. One extra bonus about meeting up there on a weekday was the extra choices in the Georgetown Cupcake menu, some of which are only available during the week. I picked up a half dozen for various co-workers, friends, and of course one for me.
Top row: Pumpkin Spice; Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl; Chocolate Banana
Bottom row: Chocolate and Vanilla; Red Velvet; Key Lime
The Pumpkin Spice was delicious as usual; I also tried a bite of the Chocolate Banana, which tasted like banana liqueur and wasn't really my favorite. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the other flavors, and I'd like to try the Chocolate Peanut Butter one next time I have a chance, since I didn't realize there was also peanut butter inside the cupcake as well. I tend to stick with just Red Velvet every time I go to GC, and I'm glad I had this chance to get a few different flavors this time around :o)
Monday, November 9, 2009
While T and I were enjoying a stress-free-wait-free night in Georgetown, I figured we'd take advantage of our time there and take her over to Baked & Wired. Normally, going to Georgetown = Georgetown Cupcake, but since we already went and we still had some time to walk around, we headed down M Street to check out the coffeeshop/bakery.
I wish that it wasn't so easy to forget that Baked & Wired exists... I mean it's easy enough to get to, but it's A) not directly on M street; and B) the opposite end of the shopping area from the Key Bridge, which is normally where I'd be coming in from. But every time I have thought to go, it's always rewarded me handsomely :o) I am obsessed with the PERFECT MOCHA from there, plus they have a wide range of cupcakes, cookies, and other treats all piled up in glass cases and jars.
I took home a Nutella Brownie after a quick look around at the available choices. I stored it in a Tupperware container and ate it a few days later. It was delicious- as rich and decadent as you would expect a brownie with Nutella to be, haha. I thought the crushed nuts on top were ok but sort of strange- as you can see they're only on about 1/3 of the brownie, which makes me wonder if these were accidental or just scattered unevenly. Heated up on the microwave for about 10 seconds, the Nutella gets more oozy and it's really a fantastic brownie. I'd highly recommend Baked & Wired for a quick stop in between walking around/shopping in Georgetown. They have ample seating and fabulous drinks, in addition to a long list of pastries and other goodies that you may not find elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Baked & Wired
1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW (b/w 30th and 31st streets)
Washington, DC 20007
Friday, November 6, 2009
Night #2 of T visiting DC, we met up in Georgetown for dinner. Another case of good luck in Georgetown: I found a parking spot easily, walked into Georgetown Cupcake where there was NO LINE, and then walked to Pizzeria Paradiso where there was NO WAIT. Love, love, love when all the timing aligns perfectly!
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, $7.25
I was also pleasantly surprised to see they had a special menu which included Pumpkin items- score! The Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (above) was a little heavier than the light-as-water-type beers I normally drink, but I actually enjoyed drinking it. It didn't particularly taste like pumpkin but had a woodsy sort of smell/taste to it.
8" Pumpkin Pesto, Pancetta, and Parmesean Cheese Pizza, $11.75
And onto Pumpkin Round 2, the Pumpkin pizza above. I'd like to say that the pumpkin was the star- but let's be honest, anything with crisped fatty pieces of pancetta on it is going to be amazing no matter what else is there with it. The pancetta was so wrong but so right. Crispy, smoky, salty, and was a great contrast to the creamy and somewhat muted flavors of the pumpkin pesto.
T also enjoyed the place, saying it was "full of cheesy, yummy, goodness", with her goat cheese/red onion/mozzerella pizza. By the time we were leaving the place was steadily getting packed, and when we walked by it later that night, it was seemingly at full capacity, with people standing outside the doorway (suckaaaaas). I'm not even a huge pizza person but Pizzeria Paradiso offers great toppings and a nice chewy (but not underbaked) crust that I enjoy v. much, and I would happily come back here again anytime (especially if there is no wait).
Side Note: Thanks T/your company for both nights of dinners, haha.
3282 M Street NW
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Downtown Bethesda is one of those areas where there's almost TOO many choices of restaurants- and unfortunately most of those choices fall into the "good, not great" category. Most of the restaurants you'll find in the area are local chains, which can be good/bad depending on your personal preferences. But don't get me wrong, if you're in the mood for something specific, chances are you'll find it in the area, and it's always v. lively and easy to walk around/window shop in.
One of the new-er restaraunts to pop up is Lebanese Taverna, a DC Metro Middle Eastern chain. The Bethesda outpost is located in the new Bethesda Row section of shops and restaurants. I've been to this location a few times (pre-blog), so eating here with T was the perfect time to re-visit this location and try out a few new items. We decided to split four mezza plates so that we could try a few different items from the fairly lengthy menu.
SHANKLEESH: aged sheep feta blended with paprika rolled in zaatar
The feta rolled in zaatar was flavorful and I thought it was best spread onto the puffy pita bread that is provided to the table. By itself, the thick blocks of feta plus the abundant spices makes for a sort of uncomfortable sensation after a few bites. The tomato and other veggies helped to cut through the thickness and add a different texture to the cheese.
HOMMOS BEL SNAOUBAR: hommos garnished with pine nuts
This hommos was creamy and delicious, especially with the addition of the pine nuts. I could've eaten a huge bowl of this and been totally happy. It was a smooth and rich hommos, unlike some kinds that can be grainy or chunky.
SAMBOUSIK: pastry shells stuffed with meat, almonds, pine nuts, deep fried
I really enjoyed these pastries. I mean, what's not to love, it's a fried meat pie, haha. Sort of like mini empanadas, these came out piping hot and fresh. My only complaint is that the innards by themselves were sort of bland. This was remedied by spreading liberal amounts of the hommos on the pastries.
CHICKEN SHAWARMA: sliced boneless chicken from the rotisserie served with garlic puree
Our last dish was the Chicken Shawarma, and this was probably the only disappointing dish for me. The chicken was dry and the garlic puree only masked the dryness. It was also the least visually appealing dish, as it was literally a pile of chicken pieces - and yes, I can read the description saying it's sliced boneless chicken, but I guess I was expecting something a little less "blah".
T seemed to enjoy all of the dishes that we got, and said that "Lebanese Taverna had a great atmosphere and was a fun chance to try some new cuisines." Overall I enjoyed eating here very much. It definitely helps to go with someone that wants to share small plates, if you are looking to try as many different dishes as you can. The restaurant itself is sleek but warm and inviting- I love the dark wood furniture and walls with the warm lighting and accent pieces. The menu has a ton of different options, which makes it a great place for large parties, or dining with friends that want to try new items. Sure you might get some misses here and there, but hey, there's always your next visit to find another great dish.
Lebanese Taverna- Bethesda
7141 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
301.951.8681; also on OpenTable.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
This is not so much of a review since I think I've made it clear that I always enjoy going to Ray's the Steaks, haha. Moreso, just a few photos of our last dinner there in October, when B was in town:
Stalkerazzi shot of D's Caesar Salad.
S's Crab Bisque, mmm.
My only negative comment regarding this last visit is that they were out of the Brazilian, my usual order, AND the Fajitas, my back-up order. Sad times indeed. But I still thoroughly enjoyed the Diablo, with the copious amounts of garlic and spicy rub. As usual, I was able to extend my enjoyment through 2 lunches that week, with my leftover steak + mashed potatoes + creamed spinach, yum.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I first heard about YoCake via a Delleicious post online, and was pretty excited about having another tart yogurt option close to me. The cupcakes- I was a little iffy about, considering my til-death-do-us-part-allegiance to Georgetown Cupcake, and my previous disappointment with the Red Velvet/Tangysweet cupcakes. But obviously I was still going to try the yogurt and the cupcakes, duh.
Tart with Strawberries; Vanilla with Blackberries
Luckily I had a willing and enthusiastic visitor that weekend, B, to come along with me to try this place out. We both liked our respective yogurts, although I think B liked his vanilla yogurt moreso than my tart yogurt. That's pretty common- tart yogurt is a v. polarizing flavor in my opinion, especially since a lot of people think of frozen yogurt as being more like soft serve ice cream or custard, rather than something that isn't v. sweet at all. I liked the tart yogurt, it was pretty much what I expected, and the strawberries were fresh and not mushy.
Mall Lighting is not-so-flattering.
Onto the cupcakes. We picked up 6 to go, to bring over to our friends' place/eat later. I'm not 100% sure what all the flavors were, but I'm pretty sure it was (Top Row) Amaretto, Raspberry Lemonade?, Red Velvet; (Bottom Row) Chocolate, Strawberry, Coconut.
Overall I think everyone's opinion of the cupcakes was "Good, not great". The frosting in general seemed to fare better than the cake portions- the cakes were dense and dry, and not v. pleasant to eat. For being comparable price-wise to other cupcakeries in the DC area, pretty disappointing.
Final Verdict? I'd definitely come by here again for some frozen yogurt- it's conveniently located in a mall that I go to pretty often, and it's a welcome addition to the food court there. I'm sure enough people will be intrigued by the cupcakes to keep them selling, especially since there are no other "bakery" options in the mall that I know of (besides the pastries in the coffee kiosks I guess). I will probably plan on coming back and trying out a cupcake again in a few months, maybe to see if they've tweaked any of the issues out with the cake portion of the cupcakes.