Monday, March 25, 2013
12710 Twinbrook Pkwy
Soondooboo (tofu soup) is a sensory experience that's just made for winter time. Especially for the end of winter, when it's been dismally gray for the longest time, and summer heat is like a dream you once had, barely recalled.
I always burn my mouth, because it's scalding hot, and it stays hot longer than you think possible in that bubbling stone pot. I drop spoonfuls of sticky rice in the broth and try to skim soupy rice off the surface. I like breaking the fresh egg into the wonderful-smelling broth and swirling it around.
Lest you think you'd never cross over, I'll warn you that I don't particularly care for tofu. Yet I get cravings for this soup. And it's not just because I like to play with my food.
Part of the attraction is that this is slow food, Korean home cooking. Lighthouse is not the place for a quick lunch. The servers are speedy and attentive, and I suppose you could be in and out in under an hour if you ordered chicken teriyaki or bulgogi (both of which are quite satisfying, according to my tofu-shunning friend). But keep in mind that stirring, sipping, and warming up over this hot pot is a great way to linger with friends.
4925 Bethesda Avenue
Certain retail locations seem to have an aura of doom, with businesses cycling through, soon disappearing. I'm hoping this doesn't happen to Himalayan Heritage, an attractive new restaurant serving Nepalese and Indian cuisine in downtown Bethesda.
This spot has been occupied by at least three restaurants in the last few years. Maybe the delicately spiced sauces and the "delights of Nepal" scattered through the menu will attract some attention and achieve permanence.
As we looked at the menu, we were offered a complementary small plate of spicy edamame, served with puffed rice. Our friendly server warned us that the dumplings we ordered might take some extra time. But the food arrived promptly, perhaps because we were the only diners having a late lunch.
I enjoyed the sunkoshi steamed momo, good-sized steamed dumplings filled with seasoned ground chicken. The aachar, a tomato-based sauce, carried some heat, but not at the expense of flavor. The generous portion was listed as an entree; I think it would be best as a shared appetizer.
The lunch special was a bargain, combining tender lamb kadai (cooked with tomatoes, coriander and ginger) and a well-seasoned dal made with small black lentils. Plain naan was soft and buttery, good enough to eat by itself.
Check in on Yelp and get a welcoming deal, or find coupons on the restaurant's own Web site.
Saturday, February 09, 2013
Here's the challenge: Send one piece of postal mail per day, every day that the U.S. Mail is in service. That's 23 letters, notes, packages or postcards. And respond to every piece of personal mail you receive.
Author, blogger, voice actor and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal isn't just trying to support the postal service. She initiated the challenge last year, to brighten up a dreary month and remind people about the special pleasure of getting something in the mail. More than 700 people participated in the 2012 challenge.
"Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing… It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral," Mary writes in her blog about the challenge.
Follow the Month of Letters on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LetterMo) or Twitter (#LetterMo, or follow @LetterMonth).
If you'd like some mail from me, let me know in the comments. (If I don't have your postal address, I'll message you.) Or just send me a postcard!
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
One handwritten letter, every day, for a month. That's my plan for February; it's the Month of Letters.
I have always admired a different writing project, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), although I 've never participated.
NaNoWriMo members pledge to write a book during the month of November. They set word-count goals, cheer each other on, and get advice from published authors. It's a spirited group effort to take that novel you've always meant to write and get it off the ground, out of your head and onto the page/screen.
This seems like a great way to combat the isolation of a writer's life while circumventing all-too-easy procrastination.
I'm pretty sure that I don't have a novel in me, but the Month of Letters has an appeal.
A friend pointed me to this blog post by writer/puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal. The challenge for the Month of Letters is straightforward: Post a letter a day.
I will mail at least one item -- that's actual, physical mail, not email or blog posts -- on every day that the U.S. Postal service delivers mail. That's 24 pieces of mail. (There are four Sundays and one federal holiday in February.)
I may go beyond that commitment. A list of potential recipients quickly numbered 29.
Do you have a box stashed in your closet or attic, full of treasured letters from relatives and friends? I do, but if you're younger than me, than you probably don't. I doubt I've added an item to the box in the last 10 years. I'm looking forward to changing that.
Want to join me? Want to get a letter from me? Leave a comment!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Pier 5, The Embarcadero
Chef Russell Jackson invites adventurous diners to approach the plank, a six-seat bar at the edge of Lafitte's open kitchen. There he seems to compose dishes on the fly, combining disparate ingredients that sometimes meld, sometimes shout, but always excite.
Lafitte, at Pier 5 on the Embaracadaro, opened a little more than a year ago. Its market-driven menu changes daily and harks back to Chef Jackson's days as the Dissident Chef at the helm of SubCulture Dining, an underground supper club. Subscribers received passwords and were instructed to call a phone number to learn the secret location of each night's meal.
As we perused Lafitte's intriguing cocktail menu, the chef claimed to have no idea what he was about to set before us. "You're early," he commented, not at all fazed. He chortled as he rummaged through the refrigerator, pulling out mostly unidentifiable bagged foodstuffs.
My drink, the Mohawk, smoothly blended sweetness and a hint of spice with Russell's Reserve bourbon and a generous twist of lemon. The chef was carefully carving slices of hard cheese, which he combined in a bag with sprigs of fresh thyme and olive oil and set to simmering in sous vide.
The first plate started things off with a flourish: a rosy chunk of pate de fois gras, a spoonful of house-made applesauce, crystalline cava jelly, Chinese fleur de sel, and Italian orange oil drizzled over all. A lively bundle of flavors, but they played nicely with each other, and the fois gras was superb.
As I watched Jackson compose the next course, all I could think was, "How is that going to work?" A thin slice of pure white Iberian lardo went down next to a similar portion of compressed cucumber, adorned with pickled lychee, crushed hazelnuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and slivered Italian prunes. It was smooth, chewy and crunchy; rich, nutty, tart and fruity. Each bite held your interest, and how often can you say that about a salad?
"Spicy time!" the chef announced, presenting grilled padrone peppers, quail, and cherries resting on a wash of pepper jelly and spiked with fresh marjoram. The first-of-the-season cherries were meltingly soft from the grill and moderated the heat of the padrones. Jackson described finding the unusually large peppers in the farmers' market and surmised that a week of warm weather had given them extra bite.
The sun went down and the Bay Bridge lit up, framed by large windows set in bare concrete walls. We watched Jackson sampling ingredients as he plated, smiling broadly. Once he tasted, frowned, then pitched that bag in the trash. "Candied fennel. Didn't work out."
A heavenly, lemony scent wafted from a bowl of fresh pasta, twisted tubes topped with shreds of braised rabbit, peas, and dollops of ricotta that had been soured with Meyer lemon juice and dressed with the reserved whey. I was so enraptured that I didn't put my fork down 'til the big bowl was empty (thus, no picture!).
Next came... hmmm. Pork with anchovies? Intensely meaty Iberican pork tenderloin held its own against the salty briny flavor, along with onions, capers, and radishes washed in a poussin demi-glace. "A marriage made in heaven," Jackson declared. "Surf and turf." I wasn't so certain; it made me think of those couples whose relationships seem to consist mostly of high volume and drama. A little too much excitement for my tastes.
Jackson handed us porcelain spoons, each holding a smooth brown sphere. "Chocolate fois gras salty ball," he intoned, gravely advising me to eat it in one bite. He cackled at my reaction when the ball popped like a balloon in my mouth, spilling liquid salty chocolate richness.
The cheese finally re-appeared. It was Manchego, and the warm bath hadn't softened it at all, just infused it with herbal flavors, with the added touch of a cherry reduction.
Our final course was startling: a gin cocktail and a Meyer lemon souffle. The Corpse Reviver, despite its name, was a softly fruity, floral drink. I admit a bias against souffles that don't contain chocolate, but this one was perfectly textured, pure lemon sweetness.
It was a roller coaster of a meal, but hugely enjoyable, and a fascinating glimpse of an original chef in his element.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Mexican Cultural Center
Valentine's Day has always left me cold. Too many expectations, too much drama. It's the worst night of the year to go out for dinner. (OK, maybe New Year's Eve is worse.) Diners in search of a romantic evening face crowds and overpriced prix-fixe menus.
Cuisine Contra's Valentine event was the perfect antidote to stale custom and saccharine sentiment. Grown-up but not fuddy-duddy. Zesty but not outré.
You have an idea that you're going to an interesting event when you're asked to submit, along with your payment, a story of a time that you tried to seduce someone. (If the stories were ever made public, it occurred late in the evening, after I left the event.)
We were in good hands when it came to the food. Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella, formerly of Zaytinya, was trying out dishes for his new restaurant, Graffiato, set to open this spring in Penn Quarter.
We sampled a homey pulled-chicken dish, cheesy grits, garlicky shrimp and a light creamy pasta. A charcuterie platter held thin slices of an intriguingly spiced meat that looked deceptively like bologna. A server claimed that the delicious beet salad contained chocolate; as in a Spanish mole sauce, the flavor was imperceptable. The sole concession to Valentine tradition, tiny cups of chocolate-hazelnut mousse, was sumptuous.
I lingered in the solarium/cafe, drawn by the cocktails made from St. Germain elderflower liquor and sparkling wine. There was a sleek and simple DIY photo booth, and books of romantic and erotic poetry on every table. When was the last time you went to a party where guests actually read aloud?
Cuisine Contra is part of the Pink Line Project, which describes itself as "a catalyst for the culturally curious" and a booster for the local arts scene.
The woman in the flowered skirt (chicken wire covered with paper flowers) was acting as Cupid. If you spotted an interesting stranger, she would deliver a message from you, along with a flower. If the targeted stranger was intrigued, s/he could meet the sender by searching for the person with a matching flower.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Five minutes, 20 slides. That’s the premise of Ignite DC, a high-energy gathering of people with ideas and the courage to put them out in front of 300+ strangers
Ignite DC #6, held last week, had the flavor of a Tweetup and the velocity of a speed-dating event. Sixteen speakers each had 20 slides, which advanced automatically every 15 seconds.
Who were the speakers? Ignite’s Web site promised “artists, technologists, thinkers and personalities.” I heard from a marketing student and a life coach, a DJ and a policy analyst, an artist and a hacker, among others.
The evening’s organizers -- DC entrepreneur Jared Goralnick and public relations strategist and local blogging guru Geoff Livingston – kept the program moving. None of the 16 speakers went over their time, I noticed with admiration. Each presentation was focused, well paced and delivered with verve.
If your time is brief, an introduction with a catchy title creates a flurry of interest right at the start. Here are some of my favorites from the event:
- Why Jack Bauer Needs a Nap: He’d make better decisions if he could get out from under that 24-hour stress, which must be wreaking havoc on his mind and body. Life coach Alison Elissa made her point with humor and offered a gentle reminder to all.
- Heather Coleman titled her presentation simply “Help!” then grabbed our attention with her first sentence: “If you saw a naked woman running down the road, would you stop your car?” Any snickering stopped as she revealed that she had been that woman, in the grip of severe postpartum psychosis. Tragedy was averted only by a traffic jam and some helpful strangers.
- I Suffer from… FOMO: Right away, the listener wonders, what is FOMO? Should I be worried? FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out, Shana Glickfield opined in a cheerfully self-deprecating sketch. Glickfield, an online communications consultant, described overbooking herself, spending too much money, and stressing out friends and relatives in an attempt to avoid what she described as “the worst thing a person with FOMO can hear: `You should have been there!’”
Glickfield ended the program with laughter and a light-hearted reminder to look away from the screen once in a while, pay attention to the live world around you.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Falls Church, Va.
There's a fair amount of griping in the blogosphere about DC's annual Restaurant Week: the menus are uninspired, the crowds are annoying, the service is poor, the prices aren't that great. But I don't think anyone left 2941 dissatisfied last week, judging from the meal I enjoyed and the full house at a weekday lunch.
The chestnut velouté was the perfect starter on a bitterly cold day. Rich and slightly sweet, it could have been dessert, but for its garnish of savory sauteed mushrooms. Hidden beneath the mushrooms was "Armagnac custard," another sweetish note, a spoon-sized flan.
The other appetizer on the three-course set menu ($20.11 during Restaurant Week) was a colorful paté de compagne studded with chopped pistachios. My dining companion left no trace of it behind.
I wavered between the three entree choices. I rarely turn down scallops, and I almost ordered the lemon risotto just to see how it incorporated the bizarre citrus fruit called Buddha's hand. But in the end I chose a quintessential winter dish: quail wrapped in bacon, served with kale and white beans. It was a rich and comforting delight.
If I could have asked for seconds, I would have done so for the dessert. I nearly headed straight for the chocolate dacquoise, thinking that an Earl Grey pot de cremé might be too much of that distinctive bergamot flavor. But this dessert was sublime. I alternated bites of the perfectly smooth custard with the delicious walnut brioche bostock, like an airy madeleine.
The service was leisurely -- OK, it was slow. But I was savoring the last of my dessert, lingering with good friends over coffee, so you won't hear any complaints from me.