Tuesday, May 31, 2011

America Eats Tavern and Geeking out at NARA

As of June 12th, Café Atlántico is taking a break from serving up table side guac and scrumptious Latin fare. Beard Award winning chef José Andrés has a whole new concept for this Penn Quarter restaurant: the temporary America Eats Tavern.

Debuting on the 4th of July, this new restaurant is the birth of Andres' involvement in the new National Archives (NARA) summer exhibit "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" The Government's Effect on the American Diet". It all makes complete sense: a top celebrity chef, with a restaurant literally across the street from the Archives and a string of successful concepts ranging from polished Greek to Spanish tapas. According to the press release, Andrés is serving as the Chief Culinary Advisor for the exhibit (AKA, my dream job) during which time he will make contributions to the exhibit recipe book and help create a related public programs series .

An event like this is too good to be true for a history geek/foodie like me. Some of the more exciting events include a discussion and book signing with Andrés (Fri, June 10 - 7pm), "High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America" (Wed, June 15 -12pm), and "The First Kitchen" (Fri, June 10 - 12pm)

The menu at the America Eats Tavern will consist of classic casual American fare on the ground floor and a fancier menu upstairs. For those of you bougie enough to know and love the famed Minibar, fret not - it will continue to serve it's wealthy clientele (someday, y'all, someday...)

So what will become of Café Atlántico? Word is, Andrés is looking for a new location for the restaurant and a new permanent concept will be put into place after the Tavern's 6 month stint is over. Perhaps an expanded Minibar that will allow more diners to enjoy his artfully designed gastronomic wonders? Andrés is capable of almost anything so I'm excited to see what he comes up with.

"Uncle Sam says, Garden to Cut Food Costs."
National Archives, Records of the Office of War Information.

So pay NARA a visit and while you're down there, pay Café Atlántico one last visit before the doors close for renovations.

Keep an eye out for my review of the Tavern this summer. I will be out of the country when it opens, but when I get back I'm there. Downstairs. In the cheap seats.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Holy Guacamole!

I seriously love guacamole, but I didn't always. For years, I would have easily passed on the guac for some hot queso or a spicy salsa, but this is because I only had it at cheesy chain restaurants or family functions (side note: Liberians don't really make guacamole. They buy it. From Costco.)

A couple years ago I started to notice that at some houses, like that of my best friend Jessica, guacamole looked completely different. Their guac was not pureed but chunky, with every component easily recognizable; crunchy onion, zesty lemon juice, sweet cilantro... I loved this new fresh guacamole. With wide crisp tortilla chips or in Jessica's chic guacamole bruschetta, topped with pico de gallo.

This past Wednesday, my co-workers and I decided to make our way down to the teacher's lounge to watch Oprah's farewell episode. To make it a party, we brought drinks and snacks and I wanted to make mine gluten free and vegetarian so everyone could enjoy. What better choice is there than guacamole?

So, here is my recipe for my summer guacamole, just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. This is my first recipe, so please give me some feedback! Let me know if you make it!

Summer Guacamole

You will need:

  • 4 avocados, roughly chopped
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ear of corn, boiled and cut off the cob
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • black or green pepper
In a bowl, combine the avocado, mango, corn, onion, cilantro and jalapeno. Squeeze in the juice of two limes and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. **Place the pit of one or two of the avocados in the bowl to keep it from turning brown.**

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blog Hoppin'

I just found this on twitter and I'm super excited, now that I'm cookin'!

Erin Hutton, of Community Cucina, is starting a new blog hop that will be a community challenge. Participants are asked to make something new, using at least one ingredient that is grown or produced within 100 miles of home.

Since there are a million farmer's market's in DC, this shouldn't be too hard!

The dishes can be original creations, or borrowed recipes and we just link the resulting posts to her original creating a blog hop!

My only question is, do wine cocktails count?

To participate or to read the Blog Hop, check out the link below:

Community Challenge Blog Hop

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GLEEful Baked Eggs

Tuesday night was the season finale of Glee so my good friend Estelle and I decided to get together, cook a great meal, and glue ourselves to the TV for an hour. Estelle is a patisserier in the making and she's been spending loads of time searching blogs for new things to bake (and share!). Recently, she discovered the trendy and insanely enviable world of La Tartine Gourmand, written by French expat Beatrice Peltre. Peltre's blog is chock-full of gorgeous photos of her food and family, as well as some seriously tempting recipes.

So while Glee was a big disappointment (original songs? UGH!), dinner was fantastic. I can highly recommend Bea's site as well as her recipe for Baked Eggs, found here. We found that it was perfect with some over-toasted French bread and an extra sprinkle or two of Parmesan cheese. Because of the size of our ramekins, two eggs would have been better to completely cover the other ingredients and really fill the dish out. Having two eggs may also keep you from eating two whole servings like we did...

The cheese and creme covered asparagus was definitely the star in this dish, so you could do without the watercress. I think this could be made with almost any seasonal veggies... I think I will try tomato and shallots next.

Let me know if you make it and give Bea a shout out if you like it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eat. Write. Retreat. (post-report)

What. A. Weekend.

This past weekend, I attended my first food bloggers event here in DC. From Friday to Sunday, we ate and drank like kings and laughed and learned like kids. I met some amazing new people and discovered a confidence I didn't know I had.

In a session on writing, the prolific Monica Bhide shared her story inspired me to work as hard at my craft as a pianist or triathlete. She stressed the importance of using all of the five senses to describe food, and to not neglect the story. Monica also talked about finding and writing with your own voice.

I started out scared to put my name, let alone my photo on this blog. My need for anonymity was really fear that if people saw me, if they knew who I was, they would have no interest in what I had to say. Well this weekend I met people who said, "Oh, Girl Born Hungry? I've been reading your blog!". And get this... they were happy to meet me! ALSO, if the story is just as important as the food, then sharing my story will only help people get me and why I love food so dang much!

In a panel discussion on going beyond the blog, the ever inspiring Shauna James Ahern asked us all why we keep a blog. For some it was about their love of food, others wanted a book deal; In that moment I realized that for me, blogging about food is the beginning of a new life. A life in which I do what I love and not just what will pay the rent. A life where I am a writer. That realization almost knocked me on the floor! I am a writer!

I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the event organizers Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict. This retreat was life changing for me and it lit a fire under me to give my all to this work. Thank you both so much.

Here are some photos that I took along the way... I know they won't qualify for any awards, but they'll give you taste of what I was tasting!

Clean plate club

I couldn't get my camera out fast enough!

My top 3 from "Cocktails and Confections":

Deconstructed "Banana Split"

Super tangy "Hibiscus Margarita". The smoked lime salt was a crunchy surprise.

" Don't mess with my tutu" Deliciously tart cherry mousse with super sweet cotton candy.

'tis art!

My group's attempt at food styling (shot by Renee Comet!)

Lunch at McCormicks & Schmicks

1st course: Anchovy and roasted beets

2nd Course: Wild Alaskan Halibut with Maitake, Enoki and Cremini mushrooms, swiss chard, baby bok choy, and a miso sauce. Wow.

3rd Course: Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake

Cooking Course at CulinAerie

The ingredients

The Chef (with Lara and Dan busy in the background)

Capitol Hill Food Tour

1st stop: Anglo-Indian
Some of the best naan I've ever had...

2nd Stop: SOUL FOOD. This is from Levi's Port Cafe on 8th St, SE. I made sure to get the name because I WILL be back for more. That mac n'cheese is worth going under the bridge to the "other side of the tracks". Expect a full review to come...

3rd stop: comida Salvadoreno. I was entirely too full to enjoy this, but it looked good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meals on Wheels, Lunch on the lam.

The line for lobstah outside of the NatGeo.

Downtown DC at lunch time is full of busy, rushed people looking to get in and out of one of the many casual dining restaurants that are all over the city. What they get: a three-piece meal (entrée, side, drink) for under $10 and a seat at a shared table after waiting for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. One alternative to the norm is the not so revolutionary food truck. Street food has fed the working masses everywhere from New York to Mumbai for generations, providing a quick option for workers with not a minute to spare. Hot dogs, falafel, crepes... the options are endless and DC has certainly joined the street food party. The list of DC food trucks is extensive. Among the most popular choices are the Fojol Brothers' duo of trucks offering Indian (Merlindia) and Ethiopian (Benethiopia) cuisine on the go, DC Slices with its super fresh pizza, served with or without basil and with super crunchy crust, and Curbside Cupcakes with... well you know what they're hocking.

The "Meal Deal"

One truck that goes against the very principle of the quick work lunch is the Red Hook Lobster Truck. Lines can go on for blocks and the signature lobster roll is $15 ($17 with chips and a fresh homemade soda). But, the lines aren't just for the buzz, the food is genuinely good - fresh lobster, in daily from Maine, tossed with mayo, celery and spices and topped with fresh scallions and served on a buttered and grilled roll. (wipe your mouth... you're drooling) The good news is the lines are destined to get better because Red Hook is debating their 2nd truck tomorrow which is destined to lessen the wait! To enjoy what these trucks, and the many others, have to offer it's simple: check out http://foodtruckfiesta.com (on Twitter it's @foodtruckfiesta) or follow the trucks you're interested in. Lunchtime locations are usually announced by 10am and sell outs, line updates, and rain warnings are tweeted in real time. @lobstertruckdc
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Eat. Write. Retreat: The Prequel.

This weekend I am proud to say I'll be joining my fellow food bloggers for a weekend of one-of-a-kind food experiences, like custom cocktails by the mixologists of PS-7 and a evening food tour of Capitol Hill.

I'm ecstatic to get to know people who are as obsessive as I am about food, some heavy hitters with years of experience and sponsors with lots of goodies to share!

The thing I'm most excited about is taking part in a specially designed cooking seminar at CulinAerie, DC's leading cooking school.
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