Monday, May 30, 2011

Top Chef (Part 3): The "Quickfire"!


Let me tell you that the Top Chef tour was a lot of fun to watch!  It was incredible seeing Carla and Ariane compete in a live quickfire...although I feel like Carla cooked more in front of the audience than Ariane did.  Of course, it was still awesome seeing the past competitors in action!

Due to some serious metro closures (I love DC....), I actually did not arrive until right before the event started, so I was unable to get on the list to sit in the tent and actually taste the food.  For this foodie, that was extremely disappointing, but what can you do when you rely on public transportation as your only means of transportation?  Getting a car would mean less money for food....and we all know how I feel about that decision!

Still, I was able to stand at the perimeter and watch.  Overall, I'm glad that I went, and it was a BEAUTIFUL day in DC, which rarely happens.  I know next year I will arrive really early to get a seat...especially if they host it again on a Memorial Day weekend! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Traveling Like a Pro

So I am about to take my first vacation since being in graduate long has that been you ask? Almost 3 years! Wow, that is just terrible....but now I'm booking my flights, scoping out local restaurants, consulting my Seattle friends for advice (I just love living in a city where no one is "from" that city!), and I have to say that I am getting super pumped for my first vacation.

This marks not only my first vacation in 3 years, but also my first vacation traveling alone. That sounded a bit more melodramatic than I had planed, but it's true. I've taken family vacations, gone to weddings with friends, and even taken trips with a "team" to rebuild homes in New Orleans, but I've never taken a trip alone.

I will be try to post on my travels (and good Seattle eateries!) while I endeavor not to break the bank during my vacation. Anyone have any suggestions for restaurants or cafes to eat at, or fun/free stuff to do in Seattle?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pi Truck DC

I'm not from Chicago....but man do I love a good Chicago-style deep dish pizza!  Lucky for me, there's a pizza truck in DC that satisfies my desires for a perfect deep dish pizza, and that truck is the Pi Truck DC. In the coming months, this truck will also have a permanent location in Penn Quarter, but for the moment, we can all enjoy some great pizza when the Pi Truck comes around.

The District of Pi Pizzeria boasts a rather vast menu, however the truck supplies four different types of pizza a day: 2 veggie & 2 meat. Come early if you want meat pizza, because all that was left when I went during my last trip was a veggie one....

Not that I'm complaining, because I ADORE veggie pizza.  The above pizza was their "western addition" pizza, which has "mozzarella, spinach blended with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onions, & garlic". All these veggies make me feel like I'm eating something healthy...although I know I should probably run 500 miles after eating half the pizza...

This 9-inch pizza is $12 and can definitely feed two people easily. My two interns and I split two pizzas and we could not finish them!  So for $6 a person, you get a great amount of food for little dough...sorry, couldn't help myself. Seriously, how great is this deal?!

The crust is the perfect thickness to create a nice crunchy outside, while maintaining that little bit of chew that gives Chicago deep dish pizzas their signature flavor.  What makes their crust distinctive is their nontraditional cornmeal crust!  Don't start imagining tomato sauce on cornbread though, this is some seriously good crust!

But don't even get me started on the sauce. Each bite reveals a new flavor. First you taste the freshness of the tomatoes, then the sweet garlic, and finally a mixture of Italian seasonings...I seriously love this pizza, can't you tell?  Go buy one for yourself...then bring some to me as well!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top Chef Tour (Part 2) - DC Appearances Announced

I'm sorry, I cannot help but be a little excited about this weekend! So for the two days at Eastern Market, the chef's to be competing in the quickfires are:

May 28th:
Carla Hall vs. Ariane Duarte


May 29th:
Spike Mendelsohn vs. Ariane Duarte

Oh how I adore Carla Hall, so I will be there on Saturday....anyone want to join me? Demo times are 10:30 am, 12:00 pm, and 1:30 pm.

Friday, May 20, 2011

One-Pan Balsalmic Chicken & Garlic-Rosemary Potatoes

I like to all know that by now, right? I especially like to cook for my friends, since it is usually cheaper/easier to cook for 2 or more than just myself.  So what do I do when friends are busy, I've worked overtime, and don't feel like standing over a stove to cook? A one pan, oven-baked meal, of course!

I absolutely LOVE roasting things.  There is just a completely different flavor profile to your food when you roast it versus sauteing. The food almost feels more comforting and homier with this method of cooking.  I love this meal not only because I can cook it in one pan, but because I can use my toaster oven. Which is necessary in reducing the heat in my apartment as the temperature in DC begins to increase exponentially. Can anyone else not believe how much it costs to cool your apartment in the summer?!  But I digress...

This meal basically came from my two favorite roasted dishes that simplified for one. Chicken legs are super cheap ($2.50-ish per 6 legs at Trader Joe's!), and you can purchase a potato for less than $1, making this meal <$5 to make if you keep a few basic staples around your house.  So whip this dish up, plate it up pretty, and enjoy the fact that there is no clean up! Well, except for the plate you eat it on...but still, that's pretty great for a nice weeknight meal.

2 chicken wings
2 T olive oil, separated
2-3 T balsamic vinegar (eyeball it by counting to 3 while pouring)
2-3 red potatoes (depending on size), diced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
couple sprigs of rosemary (to taste)
salt & pepper

  • Prepare your pan
    • Since the chicken doesn't take much room, take one small piece of aluminum foil for the chicken and one larger one for the potatoes. I would say the size ratio was 1/3 of the pan for chicken to 2/3 for the potatoes.  
    • Use the two edges of the aluminum foil that touch in the middle to make a "wall".  This will separate the two dishes. 
    • Wrap the remaining foil around the pan.
  • Chicken. 
    • Place the wings in the smaller portion of the dish. 
    • Pour on top of the chicken 1/2 T of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.
    • Top with salt & pepper to taste.
  • Potatoes.
    • Add all the chopped veggies into the larger side of the dish. 
    • Drizzle remaining olive oil (1 -1.5 T) over the potatoes. 
    • Sprinkle salt & pepper and add rosemary. Mix gently to combine.
  • Bake.
    • I like to always roast at 400 degrees, but if your toaster oven is nicer than mine (which it's not hard to be), then you may want to turn it to 375.  I love toaster ovens because they take no time at all to pre-heat, so just turn it on when you start chopping your veggies.
    • After 20 minutes of baking, gently mix potatoes and turn chicken for even coloring.
    • Bake another 15 minutes and turn again.
    • Continue to bake until potatoes are tender and chicken completely cooked (another 10-15 minutes)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DC Empanadas Food Truck

Back on track with my "series" on food trucks, is yet another of my favorite trucks. What is the name of my new beloved truck? Why it is DC Empanadas!  As the name states, they sell a wide variety of empanadas with both traditional and creative flavor combinations. I have actually visited this truck twice...which I can only claim with one other truck, SweetBites.  So imagine my delight when I discovered a savory truck which I can not only enjoy, but is so reasonably priced that I can return again and again! (sorry lobster truck...I cannot afford you every day)

Although their website touts many different types of empanadas, the truck only brings one of each protein (pork, chicken, beef, and vegetarian) each day.  You can check out their twitter feed or the food truck finder for their empanada menu of the day.  All empanadas are $3.50 each or 3 for $9.  I, of course, chose the 3 for $9 for, umm, economies of scale reasons.  Ok, ok, it is because I can eat a lot...But anyway, below are my selections on my recent visit:

Special of the day: Eggplant & Mozzarella
The veggie empanada that day was the special of the day...which means this empanada is not on their regular menu.  The eggplant was cooked al dente (with just a little bit to it, not overcooked) and did not fall apart in your mouth like other poorly cooked eggplants. Let's celebrate for a moment a delicious vegetarian option....ok, now on to the meat.

Buffalo Chicken with blue cheese
The buffalo chicken had to be my favorite.  I was afraid that the blue cheese would overpower the chicken, but it was perfectly balanced.  I actually stopped eating this empanada mid-way through to eat my final pork empanada...just in case I liked the buffalo chicken better. (which I did)

Slow Roasted Cuban style pork, tossed with onions and a spicy guava sauce
Sadly the pork empanada was my least favorite.  **Disclaimer: DC Dmpanadas made this lack of flavor up to me the next time I ate at the truck with the "Amazingly Aroi" with Thai chili...yum!**  This empanada just lacked flavor, and I could not really tell there was a guava sauce in it.

So although I varied in my enjoyment of the fillings, overall the consistancy of the empanada crust was perfection: crisp edges and a slightly chewy, flaky middle.  Although I just ate a little while ago, I'm hungry again just thinking about these crunchy pillows of savory goodness!  I wonder if they are in my area today...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Top Chef Tour Coming to DC!

Ok you Top Chef fans...BIG announcement! The Top Chef tour is coming to DC May 28th & 29th at Eastern Market. Apparently a limited number of tickets are available, so check their website often if you want to attend!  

They main attraction will be a quickfire cook-off between two of the past contestants, which will take place three times both days:  10:30AM, 12:00PM, & 1:30PM.  They won't announce who the two chefs will be in DC until closer to the event. 

Additional information is found at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Greek Orzo Salad

Yay, Spring has Sprung in the District! As the weather gets warmer, I start looking for new ways to spice up salads. Why do I crave salads more in the spring/summer? Well, mostly because I don't have to heat up my kitchen stove to make them, which saves me money on air conditioning/electric, which gives me more money to spend on food! (see, all my life's choices go back to food)

Lately I have been on a Greek kick.  Every time I make a salad, I use a red wine vinaigrette (as opposed to my usual balsamic vinaigrette).  For this orzo salad, I used a mixture of several veggies I had in my fridge, so feel free to change the veggies as your tastes suggest.  As is, this recipe is more of a side dish; however, you can add additional ingredients to make a more filling dish. For example, I added some roasted chicken, feta cheese, and mixed salad greens for a great lunch. As always, let your tastes guide you!

Makes 2 large servings or 4 side servings.

3/4 Cup dry orzo
1 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice (eyeball it)
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t dried dill
1/4 t salt (or to taste)
1/8 t fresh ground pepper (or to taste)
1/2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 small yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
5-6 small Kalamata olives, chopped

  • Cook Orzo. Cook the orzo according to boxed instructions. Once cooked, drain immediately and run cold water over the orzo to stop the cooking.
  • Mix Vinaigrette. Mix olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and dill in a small bowl with a fork until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste.  If you want it a bit sweeter, add a touch of sugar or honey.
  • Chop Veggies. Chop all of your veggies and olives.  If you don't want your zucchini to be raw, you can blanch the chopped zucchini by placing them with the orzo in the last minute of cooking. Don't like zucchini? Try an English cucumber instead.
  • Mix Everything Together.  Mix the orzo, veggies, and dressing together in a bowl. This tastes great immediately, but for a stronger flavor, let the salad rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taste of Mount Vernon Triangle

I love DC in the Spring....there are so many outdoor events that I wonder how I will have time to go to all of them!

This Saturday from 2-5 pm is the Taste of Mount Vernon.  Several restaurants in the neighborhood will be opening their doors to tasting "appetizers, entrees, and desserts from eight different locations, plus wine and beer tastings." Some of the publicized participants are Busboys and Poets and Taylor's Gourmet Deli. You know that I can't miss a foodie event (especially if it's within a half mile walk from my house), so you know I will be there!

Tickets are $15 if you pre-purchase them, and $20 on Saturday. You can get full event details and pre-payment information on their website at

Maybe I will see some of you there!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meat Head Food Truck


Being from the south, I am CRAZY for barbeque.  Since moving here a few years ago, I have tried just about every barbeque place around DC and have been sincerely disappointed. Of course,  I know DC is not known for it's barbeque, but can you blame a girl for hoping this truck will be the exception to the rule?  Sadly, Meat Heat was no exception.

I ordered the "Oink Oink", which is a pork sandwich for the $7.   After a 35 minute wait, I finally had my foot long sandwich in my hands. The sauce was actually pretty good, but the pork had no smokey barbeque taste. Instead, it tasted like it was sauteed on a flat grill. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sauteed pork; however, when you are advertising a sandwich with the words "barbeque" attached to its description, one usually expects to obtain a smoky, slow-cooked meat which was just not on this sandwich.  

On a side note (and as a personal bbq pet peeve), Meat Heat put their coleslaw on the bun instead of on top of the meat. This makes the bun fall apart in your hands, intensifies the taste of the slaw instead of the sauce, and diminishes the overall texture of the sandwich.  Plus squishy bread is just not as good. There, I've said my peace.

So if you want a large meat sandwich with barbeque sauce on top of it, this is a decent truck. However, there are so many great food trucks in DC that I would move on from this truck or wait to have barbeque at a place with real barbeque. This DC girl's quest for good barbeque continues.....