Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh, I so WANTED to love you- A Review of Georgetown Bagelry

Wanting to love people, and wasting time and money and precious energy trying to make it happen has long been a weakness of mine. Something, somewhere, tells me I should love them, because they are kind or attractive or patient or any number of things that are, in reality, never enough on their own.

Although I have happily, after much heartbreak (not the least of which was my own), largely given up on that habit in my personal life, it nevertheless seems to have been pushed off to the little (well maybe not so little) part of my brain that is devoted to food.

Months of perky, chipper little tweets from Mary Beall Adler from Georgetown Bagelry have made me want to try the place for ages. After an unsuccessful attempt a few weeks ago (where I discovered, that it is NOT, in fact, in Georgetown, but rather Bethesda), I went traveling for a bit, and hadn't made another attempt.

Today, in an attempt to actually get some non-food writing done (which you can see I have succeeded wildly at), I finally made the drive up there. Anywhere outside the diamond or across the river is a big deal for me. I had a mini-meltdown when I discovered that my boyfriend lived one block over the dividing line, and in fact paid taxes in Maryland! Gasp! Nevertheless, I have, largely on account of his inspiration (he knows the cities he has lived in more comprehensively than most local police, and I admire his getting out of his own bubble), begun exploring the no-man's land that comprise the DC suburbs. He would take issue with me even calling Bethesda, or Alexandria for that matter, suburbs, but baby steps, right?. I have been recently on a rather unsuccessful attempt to be very productive in coffee shops all over town.

Georgetown Bagelry should have been a great place to love. The tweets are always full of deals, they offer great discounts on already super-reasonable prices, it was busy enough to seem alive without being loud or distracting, there was free wi-fi, and a booth to call my own. A wide variety of bagel options rounded out the deal. Nevertheless, I left feeling 'eh'. The bagels were good, the cream cheese good, but neither blew me away. I still prefer Bagels and Baguettes on the Hill. I wanted to love them, but well, I just couldn't feign enough passion. It didn't help that the first time I ordered, I received a sesame instead of onion with my scallion cream cheese. Still tasty, but not quite what I wanted. The ordering process was itself was pretty painful. The staff was distracted, and not overwhelmingly good with communication- they seemed to have a hard time understanding customers. The second time I ordered a blueberry with strawberry cream cheese, and somehow got a tub of strawberry cream cheese and a milk? When I pointed this out, the server just gave me back the price of the milk, without the extra tax, and seemed mostly annoyed.

That said, its cheap, well-designed, and tasty. I was everything a good bagel shop should be. But like all the 'everything a good boyfriend should be' men I have had to painfully give up over the years, for some reason, there just wasn't the spark I needed.


Give it a try. Who knows, maybe its the bagel shop YOU were meant to be with.

The Georgetown Bagelry on Urbanspoon

24, 24, 24- Suggestions for HaochiDC's dream meal...

Ok. So I am all about the contests lately.

I just came across a contest that would allow HaochiDC, and a fair few of my closest friends, a chance to construct our 'ideal meal'. I would submit a proposal, and if chosen, be given $250 to create and post about an ideal meal experience.

So I am turning to my readers, of course, for ideas! What would you like to see? For those of you around here, what would you like to attend? It can be something I make, somewhere we dine out together, or something we all contribute to....

Post ideas below, or email them to I will post the final proposal here....

Thanks team!

Details below:

24, 24, 24" is the most unique monthly food blogging event covering 24 meals on 24 blogs in 24 hours. From "Dinner in Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen," to "A Cheese Tango in Italy, to "Behind the Scenes, the Making of Artisan Gelato," "24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Posts" captures the spirit of real-time food publishing by real people. This month's Foodbuzz "24, 24, 24," brought to you by Visa Signature, will take place on Saturday, September 26th, so if you would like to participate, make sure we get your proposal by Monday, September 14th at 9AM PS

What would your Visa Signature dinner be? An old fashioned family dinner complete with your mom's famous meatballs? A seven-course tasting menu at your favorite restaurant in the city? Barbecued brisket picnic in the park with friends and family? Taking over your "best kept secret" sushi bar in the neighborhood for sushi, sashimi, and more sushi? A clambake on your favorite beach?

And what would your ultimate post coverage entail? A video segment bringing the world into your dining room? A photo collage capturing the best of the best food photos of the party? Quotes from your guests on the highlights of the night? Recipes to encourage us all to recreate the soiree on our own? An interview with the chef who created your sensational tasting menu?

How it works: Featured Publishers interested in participating can submit a proposal for a unique dinner they will create, capture, and share with the rest of the world. Foodbuzz will select 24 Visa Signature entries and provide the winners with a $250 stipend to help make the proposal happen. All 24 Visa Signature dinner events must be held on the same date, September 26th, 2009. Posts must be submitted to the Foodbuzz website by Sunday, September 27th, 2009. The "24, 24, 24," contest is solely sponsored by Foodbuzz.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Really, it was good! - Goat Cheese Chipotle Ice Cream with Chipotle-Infused Honey Drizzle and Fresh Basil

So I hate the word 'foodie'. I hate the entire culture of food pretension. When I first started this blog, the word 'foodie' was something like 'panties' to me. It seemed somehow pretentious and shallow, and maybe a little dirty. I really hated that it had anything to do with me. This was insecurity at its finest; I have more than once caught myself blathering on about how American food culture should change, and the superiority of eating fresh local foods to disinterested people just trying to get through their day (and hiding McDonalds under their seat). I can be a real ass sometimes. It's not that I don't believe in what I am preaching, I do. It's that I desperately don't want to become one of those Ann-Taylor-clad-preachy-DC-girls that wanders around telling all sorts of people who aren't interested how 'delectable the peaches from the Penn Quarter farmers market were this week.' I try to take time out from my high-falutin' blogging to stress the things that I love that are less top-hat-monocle and more flannel-shirt-old-style. Thus my 'embarassing things I love' series. That said, I do own alot of Ann Taylor. I mean, I am a 20-something professional in DC. There was definitely a note of defensiveness in my aversion to 'foodies.'

All of that aside, I never miss a chance for shameless self promotion. See my comment above about being an ass. When I came across 'foodie fights' a few months back, I thought it might be a fantastic opportunity for such unjustified self-aggrandizement. The site pits several food bloggers against one another to see who can come up with the best, most creative, most delicious-looking dish given two defined ingredients that change every week. I didn't particularly want to be 'queen' foodie for the week, but heck, I'll take the extra traffic, right?

Well, what began as a fairly typical cynical venture knocked me on my heels. These 'foodies'- they were, well, amazing. The recipes people posted were creative, unfussy, and nearly universally delicious looking. Try as I might to find a nugget of snobbishness or pretension in their posts, I came up dry. Once I realized that perhaps these 'foodies' had quite a bit to offer, I thought maybe I should wait a bit before I play. No one likes to be the 8th grader on the varsity court, what with all the wedgies and locker-room humiliation. So I held off for a few months to protect my still-un-towel-snapped ass, read the amazing posts and dishes that people created, and thought out a new approach to this foodie fight thing. Finally, last week I decided it was time to pull the trigger, and here I am, hat in hand, ready to play.

This week's ingredients? Chipotle and Goat Cheese.

My first instinct was the flatbread I normally do with goat cheese and rosemary. I made it, but this time used roasted red peppers in a chipotle marinade and put them on top with a chipotle goat cheese (with pieces of peppers in it!) from the Eastern Market cheese Nazi (who was out of my favorite honey-goat cheese). It was delicious, but really kind of a no-brainer. I kept it as my backup, but decided to go a bit more out there for the post. Disaster or not, I figured it would make a good post.

My mom bought me an ice cream maker a few years back, and I figured it was time to enlist it in some concoctions more devious than the melon sorbet it has been charged with most of the summer.

So the idea for Chipotle Goat Cheese Ice Cream was born.

1.5 cups milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the cheese)

2 oz chipotle (or any peppery flavor will do, not too sour though) goat cheese. You can make your own by mincing up a few peppers and mixing them in to taste. I suggest about one pepper per two oz, no more or it will overwhelm the cheese.

Honey (I used chipotle-infused honey, which basically means I steeped the honey with chipotle peppers before using it)

Basil Leaves

(A note- I don't include process pictures for a very good reason. It's not that I think they are boring or unnecessary. It's that my process is ugly. I mean sugar-on-the-walls, using-an-old-baseball-helmet-as-a-bowl, feeding-cheese-rinds-to-my-dog, occasionally-throw-an-egg-cause-its-fun-to-throw-eggs ugly. If you are reading this, chances are your process is better than mine. Certainly prettier. Why would I go screwing that up with my pictures? Make it your own.

I started out with a very basic custard recipe:

1. Heat the milk and sugar over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl.
3. Slowly add the milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until well-combined.
4. Put the mix back in the saucepan over medium-low heat.
5. Stirring constantly (a good rubber scraper works best to keep it from congealing on the sides of the pan), heat the mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon opaquely.

This alone makes a great base for any ice cream.

Then you add the goat cheese

6. Put the goat cheese large bowl with a strainer or small-holed colander over it.
7. Pour the custard into the colander and let it drain onto the cheese.
8. Stir the cheese into the hot custard until melted and combined.

From here, its just a matter of making it cold!

9. Put the mixture into the fridge and allow to cool.
10. Once cold, add the mixture to your ice cream maker and follow instructions. I left mine in for about 20 minutes, and then put it in the freezer for four hours to harden.
11. Serve with a thick drizzle of the infused honey over the top (I love the way it hardens just slightly), and serve with basil leaves as garnish (tasty when dipped into the melty bit at the end!)

I NEVER expected this to be so good, but it was just delicious. Something like cheese cake, with just enough kick to it to be interesting. I had thought I might add some chipotle chocolate cookies as well, but once I tasted the ice cream, I realized that it would be too much. One of the hardest parts of cooking (and something I think pretentious food almost always messes up) is knowing when to stop, when the right amount has been achieved with a dish.

One of the real pleasures of having friends who love food, but are far from 'foodies' is presenting them with creative dishes they have not seen before, and that they would never normally choose. This was absolutely one of them. Talking normal people into trying interesting, fresh, different food is one of my true pleasures in life- for that, I love my oldstyle-drinkin-papa-johns-pizza-orderin-non-foodie-friends. But for the ideas, the inspiration, and my own education, I am DAMN glad there are some amazing foodies out there. I can't wait to see what they did with this!

Miracle in the garden: This Week's Garden Report, Summer 2009

The Honey Locust tree that was cut down and ground out last fall has been sending up new shoots. I ran the lawn mower over ‘em as soon as I spotted ‘em. Within a week it grew back again! This time I went chemical on it. I figured good blast of Round-up ought to do the trick. I cut the tree down in the first place because there was an image of the Virgin Mary in the bark. I didn’t want anybody seeing it, as before you know I would have every religious crackpot in the state is trying to build a shrine out in the back yard. A Lazarus Locust!? Now the question is, do I ignore the obvious divine intervention and take the lawn mower to it again if it does grow back? Or let it grow? Maybe I should consult a priest. I wonder if they do garden consults?

The hammerdog experiment has only been partially successful. It would be a huge help if he lifted his leg to pee, but he just does a semi-squat . However he does prefer to go along the edge of the garden and straddle a bush or plant. The real benefit comes from Stelladog, being the manly dog that she is, feels it necessary to remark her territory everywhere Hammerdog pees, so she pees right on top of it. So she is not making new brown spots out in the middle of the lawn. Experiment successful?

Most of the re-locations over the past month have been successful. The Russian Sage and Winter Creeper were roughed up pretty bad in their transplant, but now seem to be recovering nicely. The infiltration of Charlie from the south has come to a complete stop. A couple more Hostas were rounded up and pressed into service along the southern frontier. I need only about 5 more yards of Hostas to close the remaining gaps. The dig-n-dash at the bank parking lot has bee ruled out. If I ever make a run at a bank, it ain’t going to be for flowers.

The shed relocation project has begun. The Bleeding Heart was transplanted along the western border next to its offspring. What a plant that has been! It has cuttings planted in over 4 states, in just about every neighbors yard and God knows where else. The way that thing takes to splitting and transplanting is amazing. I should have sent some of the shoots off to China, introduce some invasive species as payback for the Ashborer Beetle, and Asian Longhorn Beetle. That’ll learn ‘em!

The fern migration to Wayne’s world began years ago, most of the early migrants got the choice spots. Unfortunately, like a bunch of autoworkers at a GM plant, some of those ferns refused to see the inevitable. A forced migration is now underway. About 40 ferns were dug up and put in temporary storage in Wayne World. That guy now has probably the best fern garden in town and doesn’t even know it.

Lots of excitement in the garden in anticipation of this weekends annual Pansy Pride Parade. Big crowds are expected. Most of the other plants are putting on their finest. You should see the Clematis. What a display they’re puttin’ on. Speaking off Clematis, the mutant Kudzu/clematis had to be physically restrained this week. It was becoming a serious hazard to the Azalea and was starting to climb the birdbath. I found a bunch of feathers back there and I’m getting suspicious. Either that plant has gone carnivore or the neighbor’s cat got lucky. I think the cat is too stupid and fat, so I’m getting kinda worried. I spent a whole hour tying the damn plant to it’s trellis and I think it’s slipping loose again as I write! I better go check while there’s still daylight, I won’t be able to sleep otherwise.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mas Tuna Rolls, Por Favor! - Sushi Hana in Portland

So I have mentioned my addiction before. Sushi. It started as just something I did socially, with friends, just so they wouldn't have to indulge alone. And then something flipped. I had some gooooood stuff. In LA. And now I think about it all the time. I need more each time, and I am spending money I don't have in its pursuit. I neglect my family (or at least my dog's evening walks) in order to go out and score, and when I am at rock bottom and really jonesing, I do things I am ashamed of. Like order it from Chinese restaurants. I ignore the rubbery-ness and awful-ness of certain sushi go-rounds and even mediocre tuna with red pepper flakes triggers a binge.

Vacation is no different. The month I spent in China for work was torture. I did Sushi in China once, even though years of living in Asia should have made me wiser. I can still hear the dialogue in my head.....'But it's the nicest place in Beijing, where the Japanese Ambassador eats. Surely this would be ok'. Rationalization. I knew better, but maybe the inklings of the addiction were coming through even then. 'I will only have a few pieces.' Bargaining. I should have seen it coming. How did it end? With me puking at the sight of the 4 cases of beer the Irish guys ahead of me in line were bringing on the trans-siberian train the next day, coming off the worst night of sick in my life.

Anyway, my two trips to Portland this summer offered no respite from the craving. Fortunately, I have a boyfriend who is not only indulgent, but also encouraging of my little problem. He likes his sushi too. He had been talking about a little place in Portland for ages that was supposedly great and cheap. Keep in mind, however, that as he hates most things about DC, everything in Portland was both 'cheap' and 'great' in comparison. Add to that the fact it was in a strip mall, suspiciously located next to a Petco, and I was wary. Still, not many crack addicts complain about the quality of their rocks, especially when they are far away from their home dealers, so I hardly resisted trying it.

When I first walked into Sushi Hana in Tigard, just south of Portland, I saw a basic sushi-go-round. It took a few seconds for the real magic of the place to become evident. Like any sushi-go-round, Sushi Hana uses little colored plates to show how much various items cost. Unlike basically any other sushi-go-round, however, the most expensive little plate is $3! Most are between $1.50 and $2.50. Add to that the Monday happy hour special during which all plates are $1.50, and you have one of the best deals ever.... basically all you can eat. And eat I did. Although no match for the boyfriend's 19 plates (which blew the mind of our tiny waitress), I did a respectable 10. For under $25.

All you can eat is great (my favorite for the DC area is Matsutake in Ballston), but a good deal alone wouldn't justify the longing that I currently am feeling for Sushi Hana.

No, what was most remarkable about Sushi Hana was the quality. The sushi was fresh, the rolls creative and well-constructed. Unlike too many buffets and sushi-go-rounds, the chefs were selective about what was put on the belt- they didn't put out things that would go off too fast, and had a remarkable sense of just how much of anything was desired at a given time. Of course if you wanted anything in particular, they were not only receptive to, but actively seeking out requests.

This brings me to the final reason Sushi Hana is almost enough alone to pull me back to Portland for keeps, and the title of the post. Throughout the meals, a chorus of 'Mas Nigiri' or 'Hand-roll por favor' accompanied the methodical activity of the sushi chefs behind the counter. Normally, hearing your sushi chef shout to the kitchen in anything but Japanese is a reason for concern. Of course, there are the one-off all-you-can eat situations for which, as my best friend puts it, 'quantity has a quality all its own'; even these places, however, usually hide their non-Japanese sushi chefs in the back (along with, thankfully, the prep area... not visible is basically equivalent to sanitary for this girl).

Sushi Hana chefs were amazing, however. They were clearly in love with their work, and every time I went there, they seemed genuinely happy to be alive and making sushi. And I went there three times. In one 10 day trip. Yea, I like the place. I can't imagine how it must feel to be a super talented sushi chef who happens to be from Guatamala, but I imagine its not great. Like an Alaskan surfer, or a Laotian tight-end. No one expects your talent, and it must be infuriating to constantly surprise people. These chefs, however, have found a home, and for that, I am grateful. Not as grateful as if they were my dealers back home, but happy nonetheless.

Of course, now that I have had the pure stuff, it will take me a bit to get used to the expensive home brew here in DC again, but, as my visit to Kyoto Sushi last night proved, I can't stay away long.

Oh, Sushi. Mercury poisoning tastes so good!

Sushi Hana on Urbanspoon