Thursday, July 29, 2010

Best Vacation Bites: Cape Cod (Part 1)

92 degrees, zero breeze and feels like 97? The vacation is OVER and I am definitely back in the sweltering District of Columbia! While I readjust to the heat and humidity I can't help but conjure up memories of the Cape: the sharp smell of clean water, the cool breeze off of Nantucket Sound, and of course the freshest most delicious seafood I ever tasted.

It is no secret that New England has incredible seafood and I made a point to try every type I could, shunning all other types of protein for the length of my journey (with one delicious exception). Over the next few days I will be sharing some of my favs.

After attending my first Quaker friends meeting, I was introduced to something even closer to God: The Fishmonger Cafe in Woods Hole on the southwestern tip of the cape. This small, simple restaurant offered a great view of the harbor and more importantly the Water Street drawbridge that opens on the half hour to let recreation and fishing boats through to the marina.

The Fishmonger's menu proved just as exciting as the view. For our first course we tried the fried calamari with crispy linguica -spicy Portuguese sausage- and hot peppers tossed in a garlic-herb sauce. The calamari rings were cooked perfectly and not at all chewy.

Fried Calamari

Next we tried the Lobster Roll. For those of you not in the know (like i was) a lobster roll is basically lobster salad on a hot dog roll. This particular roll was 1/3 pound of insanely fresh lobster, lightly tossed with celery and herbs in mayonaisse and served on a baguette with orzo pasta salad on the side. There are no words to describe the experience. Go get a lobster roll ASAP.

Lobster Roll

Finally, we had the fish tostada - perfectly crispy fried scrod, shredded greens, and a wonderful melon salsa served on grilled flatbread and drizzled with chipotle aioli. I will be honest and say I had no idea what to expect when I placed my order, but I was ecstatic when I took my first bite. The combination of the warm crispy fish, slightly acidic salsa, and fresh greens was bliss. And for someone who doesn't usually like melon, I couldn't get enough. It was REALLY hard to share this one.

Fish Tostada

So how can you enjoy the wonders of the Fishmonger here at home?

For some insanely good and spicy calamari try Soussi in Adams Morgan. Their pan-fried calamari with hot sherry peppers is always delicious and has quite a kick. Sit on the patio to avoid the smoky interior and wash it down with an ice cold beer.

Want to try a lobster roll? Head to the Burger Joint on Connecticut Ave in Dupont. Fresh Maine lobster claw meat served on romaine lettuce with slider rolls. As the lobster rolls we had up north ran about $17 a pop, don't expect this to be cheap. But it's worth it. Locations also in Bethesda, Alexandria, and Arlington.

Craving that tostada? Why not go for a pupusa? This is DC after all and you can't throw a rock without hitting a pupuseria. Hit up Ercilia's in Mount Pleasant and try the shrimp pupusa - a yummy combo of fresh fish and gooey cheese inside a corn cake and paired perfectly with repollo - a zesty cabbage slaw. While Ercilia's will definitely not have anything as bougie as melon salsa, you will leave smiling like the Chestershire cat.

If you want to enjoy it all at once, head to Tackle Box on M Street in Georgetown. Take your pick of fried calamari, lobster rolls, fish tacos, or try the seacoast salad with your choice of fish (fried or grilled), served on their Maine salad with a sauce (can you san garlic aioli?) YUM!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reeeeeed Velvet!

Red Velvet - a cake that has puzzled me since the famous bleeding armadillo groom's cake in the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias. What is it exactly? Why is it red? And why is it so darn good?!

Well it's red because of the heaps of food coloring added to the batter and the addition of cocoa powder to a basic cake recipe means that red velvet is actually a chocolate cake, but as for its popularity - I can't explain it. Maybe it has to do with the 1 1/2 cups of oil in the batter that leads to a decadently moist (and fattening) cake. Or the heavy handed application of cream cheese frosting that perfectly compliments each bite with a bit of creaminess. Or it may be that having a dessert so unnaturally red is just cool.

This morning I decided to try out Paula Dean's recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (who else to go to for something so quintessentially southern?) which calls for heaps of oil, butter, and everything else that makes me feel guilty enough to do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical. I went with cupcakes instead of a layered cake to make them easier to carry (and eat) on the way to the Cape.

Paula Dean's Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

TIP: I suggest you wear an apron or a long shirt you don't mind getting dirty because you could possible end up with red food coloring and/or powdered sugar all over your front.

The recipe was very straight forward: sift dry ingredients together in one bowl and mix wet ingredients in another. Then gradually add the dry to the wet. If you do not have a sifter (like me) then just use a whisk to combine the flour, sugar, salt, etc to get rid of any clumps. Once your batter is together, simply ladle it into cupcake cups and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes.

The frosting was even simpler... whisk together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth, then add the powdered sugar gradually. TIP: Set the packets of butter and cream cheese on the stove while the oven is heating to soften them - this will make whisking a lot easier.

Spread the cream cheese frosting generously on the cupcakes and maybe top with some chopped walnuts or other nuts you like.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer on the Cape

As many of you know, I am heading to Cape Cod for a week long break from humidity and reality and I'm SO excited I may burst! To prepare, I have started compiling a list of things to do, places to see, and goodies to eat while we are on the Cape.

Captain Parker's Pub in West Yarmouth: this 28 year old pub is known for its famous Captain's Chowder. Rachel Ray loved it on $40 a Day so I have to give it a try.

Captain Frosty's Fish & Chips Seafood in Dennis: Fish and chips, lobster rolls, clam cakes - what more can I say?

The Box Lunch: with 8 locations on the Cape, this place has been serving up inexpensive, high quality lunches for years - Sandwiches or Rollwiches made with pita bread, fresh ingredients, fresh meat and seafood for around $6 each.

Cape Cod Winery: a visit to beautiful vineyards where 6 varieties of grapes are grown and made into award winning wines - and wine tasting is a must!

Jealous yet? For those of you staying in town here are a few places that would make you feel like you're on the water.

Tackle Box on M Street in Georgetown: order a Lobster Pot to go and enjoy it down by the water or dine in at the wooden picnic tables and enjoy the "Maine Meal" where you choose a fish (crispy or grilled), a sauce, and two sides for only $13. Insanely fresh and delicious!

Legal Sea Food in Chinatown: a great Happy Hour from 4-7 that includes $2 PBR cans, $2 off cocktails, well drinks, and wine, and a food menu with 6 HUGE oysters for only $6 and snow crab legs for $10. The regular menu is great too with yummy fried clams and a decent chowda.

So if any of you have been to the Cape please post your suggestions! I will let you all know where I end up and how I eat!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lasagna? I can do that!

Being home is like visiting a never-ending buffet - there is always tons of food to choose from and I can almost never say no. Over the past week I have attended two BBQs (one of which I helped host), found some delicious leftovers in relatives' refrigerators, and even guiltily enjoyed a fast food value meal...

So in the interest of trying something new and avoiding BBQ leftovers, I decided to attempt my first lasagna last night. Here's how I did it:

In a sauce pan I combined:
  • a medium-sized onion, diced
  • two green onions, diced
  • half a red pepper, diced
  • about 5 over-ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • a small can of tomato paste
I used a potato masher to break the tomatoes apart and seasoned the sauce with garlic powder, dried basil, seasoned salt, black pepper, about a tsp of hot sauce and accent. I also added fresh Thai Basil and Parsley. I then sauteed 6 spicy Italian sausages without their casing in a separate pan and added it to the sauce.

The Sauce
Next, I created the creamy cheese layer by combining ricotta cheese, shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese, and one egg in a bowl. In a greased 13x9 inch foil pan I layered "oven-ready" lasagna, the cheese mixture and the tomato sauce until all the pasta was used.

Ready for the oven!

I baked the lasagna at 350 for 30 minutes and put it on broil for an additional 3 minutes. The broil was a bit dangerous, but I got it out just in time.

Out of the Oven -- a little dark but not burnt
Overall this meal was cheap, delicious, and easy to make - it could be even easier if you choose to use jarred sauce. **I ALWAYS doctor a jarred sauce by adding some herbs and maybe a dash of hot sauce for some kick. Served with a small salad and maybe some french bread this is a great meal for any occasion. You could also cut it portions and freeze each one separately to eat later or take for lunch. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CoolDown 101

I hope everyone had a great 4th weekend... I know I did! The peaches came out great - juicy and not too sweet with that creamy feta adding something great! The sangria was delicious, although it was definitely upstaged by some real Jamaican Rum Punch (I gotta get that recipe). Here's a pic of how they turned out:

Grilled Peaches with Feta

This week is gonna be a scorcher here in the DMV so I'm sure alot of you won't be leaving your house unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. One great way to get out and cool off- Go get Frozen Yogurt! There are tons of places in the city and the surrounding area. Here are my favorites!

Yogen Fruz - what I love about this place is you can get your yogurt one of two ways: the usual soft serve with a selection of toppings OR with the fruit blended in. Delish! Located at 14th and I St and in Pentagon City's food court with more locations to coming soon.

Mr. Yogato - on 17th street between P and Church Streets. Amazingly tangy yogurt, fresh toppings (ask for the banana and granola) AND fun trivia questions can earn you 10% off! *helpful hit - get your dry toppings like nuts and granola on the bottom so they don't fall off!

FroZenYo - this self-serve yogurt shop, with locations downtown by H&M, in Columbia Heights, and Friendship Heights, is great because it has 16 rotating flavors, no restrictions on the number of toppings, and everyone gets to live out their childhood fantasy of creating that perfect DairyQueen swirl themselves - which is way harder than you'd think! Just don't fill up your cup - you'll regret it when you hit the register - and when you can't resist eating it all.

Yogiberry - self serve, 8 flavors, many interesting toppings and with locations in Gaithersburg Square and Olney Town Center its perfect for my MoCo people! There's also a location in College Park! Can you guess where I'll be getting dessert when I'm home?

Stay cool and Eat well!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Fruit and Feta Fourth!

Happy Friday y'all! Aren't you excied for the holiday weekend?!

While I doubt I'll be doing much eating out this weekend, I'm sure I'll go grab a few drinks and I'll DEFINITELY be throwing a little something on the bar-b! My family is notorious for barbecues (even in the winter) and I get unnaturally excited about preparing tasty treats for a pot luck! Here's what I have in mind...

Grilled Nectarines stuffed with Feta

I'm really excited about this recipe because I eat feta cheese CONSTANTLY. I'll probably do this with peaches because I saw some REALLY good ones at the market around the corner! Pitted peaches, brushed with olive oil and placed face down on the grill. When they're brown, flip em and fill with some crumbly feta goodness! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. And what's a better way to serve them then in a....

Grilled Peach Salad

I sampled a peach, feta, and arugula salad at Trader Joe's last weekend and fell in love. My take is going to be really simple... arugula and mixed greens tossed in Trader Joe's Balsamic Vinaigrette with some crispy bacon pieces and topped with the grilled peaches. I can't wait to see how this turns out!

Another wonderful addition to any summer time fiesta is...


I'm thinking about making a white version with...
  • fresh peaches
  • golden delicious apples
  • watermelon
  • blueberries
  • white grape juice
  • lots of lime juice
  • chardonnay
I chop all the fruit into about 3/4 in cubes (excluding the berries) and dump it all in a big jug or bowl. I then cover it all in the wine and add the juices to taste.

BornHungry's Sangria tips:
  • Be creative with the juices... last time I added a bit of lemonade because I didn't have time to juice the limes.
  • Pick your fruit based on what looks good at the market - summer is a great time for berries, melons, and pitted fruits so don't be afraid to switch it up. Always go for fresh fruit - it's worth the effort.
  • Consider the crowd - would they like a little more kick to their sangria? If so, go lighter on the juice and heavier on the wine. You can even do it like my girl Jess and add a spiced rum like Captain Morgan to the fruit and let it soak for an hour or so before you add the wine.
  • Remember that fruits float or sink based on their density so it is always best to serve sangria in a punch bowl with a spoon. Also, don't go to heavy on the light fruits like apples or raspberries. Nobody wants a glass full of apples when those peaches are lurking in the depths soaking up all that wine!
So these will be my contributions to celebrating the 4th! I'll be leaving the grilled meat to the men, cause like my boy Arnold Myint said on this week's TopChef "I'm not a grill guy. It'll clog the pores WAY to fast" Enjoy your holiday weekend and let me know if you have something DELICIOUS!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Hour Heaven @ LevelOne

For sometime now, I have considered myself a regular at Level One on 17th & R Streets NW. While I still may get funny looks when I enter the dark 1st floor restaurant to use the loo or if I dare to go upstairs to the de-facto "boys-only" club that is Cobalt, I feel 100% at home on the front patio, being served insanely cheap drinks and great food by any of the restaurant's too-cute-to-be-straight waiters. I arrived at the restaurant with my friends Chrissy and Annie and a slight buzz around 7:30. After being greeted by a super sweet and adorable hostess, we found a table in the outdoor smoking section (WTF?) along R Street. Although we'd missed the amazing $1 rail drink special that runs from 5-7 EVERY NIGHT, we were able to take advantage of the $3 deal.

Now in the spirit of this blog, I overcame my urge to order the same things I've gotten at Level One for the past 4 visits... my take on Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl Margarita and the Grilled Portobello sandwich with sweet potato fries. A highlight of my year was definitely when i realized I could get tequila and lime juice on the rocks in a salted glass for ONE DOLLAR and it's just as satisfying (and intoxicating) as a regular margarita!

Instead, I ordered an ice cold vodka-ginger ale and the Bayou Burger - an angus, seasoned with cajun spices and topped with Andoullie sausage, pepperjack cheese, sauteed onions, and cajun mayo. Doesn't that just sound perfect?

Peep the buffalo chicken sliders in the background... looks good huh?

So how was it? While I don't think anything can touch the fresh and juicy portobello sandwich, every component of this burger -especially the cheese and sausage- was a great addition. The only downfall - I received a well-done angus when I requested medium. This blasphemy means I couldn't taste the beef like I wanted to, but I could tell it was well seasoned. Like always, the sweet potato fries were on point -thin cut, fried to perfection, and this time, dipped in cajun mayo. Yummmy!

So for those of you who haven't been, it is time to ignore what you've heard about the wild nights at Cobalt and make your way to a relaxing evening in the shade at Level One!

Born Hungry
recommends it for the cheap drinks, spicy crab dip, sweet potato fries (with cajun mayo), insanely good people watching, and flirty-friendly service.

UPDATE: LevelOne and Cobalt have the most INSANE specials!
...and then until 9:
$2 Domestics
$3 Rail
$4 Call (stoli,skyy,smirnoff etc...)
Make a Martini for 2 bucks more.

Please let me know if you find this review helpful!

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