Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sandwich down!

Sorry Starbucks fans, but it looks like you'll have to look elsewhere for your breakfast sandwich fix. According to an AP report, the mega-company will be taking their line of breakfast sandwiches off the menu, and will choose to, " get back to the roots and the core of our heritage, which is the leading roaster of specialty coffee in the world", according to their CEO Howard Schultz.

Starbucks will also be annoucing "five bold initiatives" during their March 19th shareholders meeting which should provide some deeper insight into further changes for the uber-coffee chain.

I'm not a Starbucks customer (as I'm not a coffee drinker), and really only go in to use the restroom or buy a bottle of water. But I know that some of you are, so how will this affect your Starbucks experience? Will you miss those breakfast sandwiches?

Review - Asahi Japanese Restaurant

If Apples and I were stranded on a desert island and could only eat one thing, it'd probably be sushi. So that being said, whenever the two of us can get our hands on some, it's a good thing.

Recently Apples found a sushi place hidden about three minutes from her apartment. This was good news indeed!

Asahi Japanese Restaurant is pretty standard at first glance. Sushi bar, tables, not a whole lot on the walls. But it's not what's on the walls that makes this place special, it's what's going on behind the sushi bar and in the kitchen.

The times that Apples and I have been there we've sat at the bar, and have never been disapointed.

Don't go in thinking you're going to get Sushi-Ko quality, but I would put this right up there with Sushi Tono or even Sushi Taro - which are two of my favorite sushi joints in DC. The fish is very fresh and the fish to rice ratio (again, the real measure of a good roll) is where it should be.

The service is also pretty first rate, and if you sit at the sushi bar, expect to get some extras on the house. Dining there last night, Apples and I got a very strange but oh so good, salmon, cream cheese, kiwi, and apple on a skewer with some sort of simple syrupish sauce on it. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

Normally I would discourage everyone from going to such a place, so there'd always be room for me at the bar. However the past couple times I've gone in it's been fairly slow, and I'd hate to see it go under. So go! Have some sushi. Just save two seats for us.

Asahi Japanese Restaurant
2250 Clarendon Blvd. #G,
Arlington, VA 22201

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why I'm not fit for public consumption

Right now my office is in a state of flux. We're moving and the show I work on is being completely reformatted. I've been "working from home" during the past few weeks while our office space is set up, but today I was dragged to the network's main office in Columbia, Maryland.

Now this upsets me for a variety of reasons, the least of which is I live in Arlington, Virginia, which is a long way from Columbia, Maryland. The primary reason is that working up here means being stuck in a dark cube farm (none of the lights are on, just the warming glow of my computer screen - and of course there aren't any windows to allow natural light in) and dealing with the clowns that work here on a daily basis.

So I'm sitting here, trying to get some work done (or at least look like I am), and the woman in the cube across from me (who I can't see, only hear) calls to order Chinese food.

Normally this is an open and shut case. Any moron can order Chinese food in a couple minutes and go about their business...but not this one. No, she wanted Kung Pao Chicken, but she didn't want it spicy.

Clearly she didn't get the Kung Pao Chicken mass email that was sent out earlier today.

Did she give up when the guy on the other end of the phone clearly told her that Kung Pao is spicy? No, she proceeded to argue for ten whole minutes.

And what happened when the food finally came? She took another ten minutes to complain that the chicken was too spicy.

How do these people function? This I want to know.

Just like mom used to make...but encased in metal

Leave it to those crafty Germans to take something as wonderful as the cheeseburger and make it more efficient.

I've never felt so hungry yet so sick at the same time. Honestly though, I'd probably eat this. Enough ketchup, mustard and A-1 sauce and I'd eat my shoes.

So, cheeseburger in a it what's for dinner? Or what you're giving your least favorite relatives for Christmas?

Food Day: Super Edition

Happy food day folks! With the super bowl only days away, it seems like more people are worried about what to serve their guests than they are about Tom Brady's ankle. So today's stories (with the exception of one) will have a strong Super Bowl theme to them; enjoy!

Double Dip: It's one of the most memorable moments in Seinfeld history, the double dip. But as millions of Americans will soon tuck into various dips and salsas (I just like to say salsa, and no, I never get it confused with seltzer) the issue of double dipping is sure to come up.

Well according to a NYT article, a Clemson University professor found that double dipping does indeed transfer bacteria from person to person, or to be specific, "the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip."

So before you go to work with your chip this Sunday, you might want to consider your company.

Super Plans for the Super Game: Seems like everyone has suggestions of either what to make or where to go. The LA Times has a good list of sports bars to catch the game at if you're in the area, where the Denver Post has a good list of quick and simple recipes to make if you plan on staying home.

Back out west, the San Francisco Chronicle puts the best dipable chips to the test, where a bit closer to home, the WaPo shares their favorite Guac recipies.

So hopefully whether you're watching the game in LA at a bar, or at home here in DC with friends, you're well on your way to having your plans set.

Not super, but still interesting: I really think this was the best article I came across on all the food pages today, because it really reflects the changing nature of the way Americans look at food. The WaPo does a great job of talking about how people are not only educating themselves about what they eat, but using that knowledge to eat smarter.

Not everyone can afford to do this, or would probably care to, but the more people that do, the better chance we have of changing the way this country eats, looks, and feels.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Other People's Breaking News

According to the Washingtonian's Todd Kilman, uber-celeb chef Gordon Ramsey is set to take over the kitchen at Maestro, which has been vacated since Fabio Trabocchi left for Fiamma in NYC this past Fall.

While Ramsey himself won't literally be in the kitchen, word is one of his top people will run the space (furthermore, it's rumored that it'll be a woman, which is very exciting).

Ramsey will join such big names as Eric Ripert and Wolfgang Puck who see the Washington DC area has a quickly rising food city.

Does this mean that Keller isn't too far behind? Do you think that Ramsey will succeed in a city already full of big name chefs?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The end of an era and the beginning of one

This past weekend one of Virginia's true landmarks and strangest looking bars, Dr. Dremo closed its doors for the final time. This marks the second such closing in the past month, as Tom Sarris Orleans Steak House also closed down marking the end of a decades long run just down Wilson Blvd.

According to posts on, a, "decent place, non big box restaurant" will open up in that space along with a rather large condo building. Furthermore, Dr. Dremo will eventually find a new location and reopen.

On the other end of the classy spectrum, Cork, a new wine bar on 14th St and Riggs St. NW will open tomorrow.

This bar/restaurant has been getting a lot of good buzz, in large part due to an amazingly large wine list and Ron Tanaka (formerly of CityZen) running the kitchen.

So, did anyone make it to the last night at Dremo? Does anyone plan on going to the first night at Cork?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Even Celebs Need to Eat

One of the perks of living in/around Washington DC is that every once and a while you see someone of some importance out and about. Today at lunch at 2 Amy's, Apples and I saw George Stephanopoulos with his two daughters. In fact, we almost cut him in line to get into the restaurant (we were awfully hungry).

While I can't really claim a whole lot of other restaurant sightings (I saw former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart at Veritas and the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan at a deli in NYC), perhaps you can.

Share em!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Talk amongst yourselves: Small Portions

Over the past few days the issue of portion size has come up in a couple of my conversations with various people. I've always been a fan of smaller portion sizes (with smaller prices), which probably partially explains my love for tapas and sushi restaurants.

I might be compromising my snob status by saying this, but I think Applebee's (I think it was Applebee's) really got it right when they started offering half portions for half price, and I think more restaurants would be wise to follow in their example.

So, I want to throw this question out there: what do you feel about current portion sizes at restaurants? Do you think they're too big, or do you care more about getting the bang for your buck?

Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves!

BTW - My last post was number 300; thank so you much to my readers for giving me a reason to keep this thing going.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Look - Cafe Trope

As a general rule I, and I think most people, tend to give new restaurants a break. It takes weeks, or even months for a chef and his staff to get the little things down, to get a sense of the neighborhood, and to put the final coats of polish on the operation. Last night I had a chance to try the newly opened Cafe Trope in Dupont Circle; a "French Caribbean" themed restaurant headed by Chef Howsoon Cham, formerly of Georgia Brown's and Red Ginger.

The dinner was arranged by pr-master Heather Freeman, and as usual was a who's who of DC foodies (begging the question why I was there). Without giving too much away at the onset, this very difficult to please crowd seemed well, pleased by the performance that Chef Cham and his staff put forth.

The restaurant is relatively small, but laid out well, with a nice sized bar serving a nice variety of boat drinks on the right side of the space, and diner seating on the left. The only complaint I heard about the space was that it was a bit too loud, making it difficult to hear a conversation on one side of the table from the other.

The food however garnered very few complaints. The meal started off with house made rolls (which I would immediately put in my top three favorite bread baskets in the city) with a strange leek/garlic/onion spread that I wasn't too thrilled with. It was decent, but no one really knew what it was which furrowed a lot of eyebrows.

I started off the four course meal with the Pear and Roquefort Salad, which should have been called what it was: Spinach and walnut salad with Pear and Roquefort. Semantics aside, it was a great salad; very light and refreshing.

The second course was plantain crusted oysters with spinach, Roquefort and malt vinegar aioli (I'm sensing that the chef really likes spinach and Roquefort). Again, the overall taste was very good, but the aioli was so strong, and the breading was so thick, that I could have been served plantain crusted tofu/chicken/air and I wouldn't have known the difference. Oysters are one of my favorite foods, don't drown them out with fancy sauces and breadings.

The third course was a grilled Rockfish with a salsa of sorts consisting of olives, tomatoes, capers and peppers. By itself the Rockfish was very good; cooked to perfection. Yet, much like the oysters, when eaten with the salsa, it was overpowered, and might as well have been just a lump of protein.

I finished the meal off with a sweet potato creme brulee, which seemed like a better idea than it actually was. It's a great concept, it just needs a little work.

After our meal we got a chance to talk with Chef Cham and General Manager Brian Scott who said that their brunch operation will begin on February 3rd, and the Chef will soon be partnering with the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market to do events there. The Chef even mentioned the possibility of having a special or two on the Sunday menu based on what is available that day at the market.

For a new restaurant, one that definitely deserves a few breaks, Cafe Trope is well on its way of becoming a staple in the Dupont area. The service needs some polishing (nothing really specific, and under Brian Scott the improvements will come quick) and the chef needs to balance his flavors a little better (less sauce please), but Cafe Trope is full of promise, and hopefully soon it will be full of costumers.

Cafe Trope
2100 P St. NW
Washington DC 20037
Phone: 202.223.9335
Fax: 202.223.9339

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Food Day: No Method to this Madness

Happy food day folks. Here are some of the stories from the world of food:

Just add it to the list
: Just when you thought that everything you liked to eat was bad for you, you can add one more thing to that list: tuna. According to an article in the New York Times today, levels of mercury were so high in twenty percent of tuna found in sushi restaurants that the FDA could have taken, "legal action to remove the fish from the market."

Don't think that by going to a fancy sushi restaurant you'll be spared however, it's been shown that, "more expensive tuna usually contains more mercury because it is more likely to come from a larger species, which accumulates mercury from the fish it eats."

We're going to party like it's 3987: Only a couple more weeks until the Chinese celebrate the beginning of 4706 and the Washington Post has a great article outlining some great wines that you can uncork to celebrate the occassion.

Among some of the wines mentioned are the 2007 Rudolf Muller Riesling Kabinett, and the 2005 MacRostie Carneros Pinot Noir, a favorite with the Peking Duck.

Someone is spending too much time in kitchen stadium
: NYT food critic Frank Bruni revisits Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Restaurant and comes away somewhat unimpressed. Flay's restaurant has been around for almost twenty years now, and only seems to have a fraction of the magic that made it so popular so many years ago.

The restaurant's one star may be suffiencent for a regular restaurant run by a run of the mill chef, but I for one expected more out of Flay.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And the savings continues

Just in case you didn't get enough from Restaurant Week last week, there are several area restaurants who are extending the savings for another week or even the rest of the month.

The Washingtonian's Best Bites Blog has a great list of these. The list is full of great restaurants, including almost everything by Jose Andres and Corduroy and Dino.

So, does anyone plan on taking advantage of these extended deals?

Why I need a new job

For many people "working from home" is a dream.

For me, it means sitting on my couch sans pants watching this crap.

Seriously, I need a real job.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Senator Doughnut McHamburger Takes Lead in Polls

Leave it to The Onion to reach out to our nation's under-appreciated, under-represented, and overfed population.

As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote

Only a few more days until the South Carolina pie eating contest...I mean primary.

Green isn't just the color of the tea

After reading the article in WaPo from this past Wednesday about "green" restaurants, Apples and I decided to check out Java Shack, near Courthouse in Arlington.

It's a cute little place tucked away off of Wilson Blvd that reminded me a lot of something I'd see in Northampton, not Arlington. The seating is relatively limited, but once it gets warmer outside and the patio opens up, it'll double capacity.

The drink prices are reasonable, especially compared to Starbucks, and togo cups are environmentally safe.

Apples and I both got chai, which was very good, certainly better than the chai I got from the green giant earlier that day.

So if you're in the Courthouse area, and you're looking for a quick pick-me-up, Java Shack is the place to go.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Strike Two

Dear Pho 75,

This is so hard to say because you know I love you so much, but that was strike two. Strike one was when you raised your prices. A dollar more? Ok, I could live with that. But getting rid of the mints at the cash register? Poor form sir, poor form.

Your Pho may be made of magic, and it may still be one of the best deals in town, but please, let's not do this again; I'd rather not have to strike out on my own to find another place to get my Pho fix.



Friday, January 18, 2008

A sweet time for a good cause

Food and puppies, together at last. Everything that's good in the world will be together for one night, in one place, at the Galleria at Lafayette Center on January 24th for the Washington Humane Society's Sugar and Champagne Affair.

Tickets are $85 per person, $135 for VIP tickets, and will guarantee you a howling good time! Some of the top pastry chefs in the city will be there to support the cause, including Butterfield 9's Manubu Inoue, Hook's Heather Chittum, and the man himself, Michel Richard.

This really promises to be a great event and for the best of causes.

So, how many tickets can we put you down for?

Fresh off the presses...of other blogs

In case you haven't seen them, there were two pretty cool stories that came out in the last day or two off of two of my favorite DC food blogs: Metrocurean and Food Rockz.

Metrocurean had a great post about, a new website that shows people how to do stuff via a YouTube like video. In the Food & Drink section there are a lot of DC based chefs including Petra Cox from Mom's Apple Pies in NoVA, and Travis Timberlake of DC Coast.

Food Rockz, in his RW review of Corduroy, posted a recent posting by Corduroy's Chef/Owner Tom Power:

"After seven and a half long years Corduroy is leaving the Sheraton Four Points Hotel. Our last day at 1201 K Street will be January 31 and we will reopen at 1122 9th Street NW Washington DC in early March. The restaurant week promotion will be extended through January 26th and then there will be a big fire sale. January 27-31 will be liquid liquidation time. The menu will shrink to almost nothing over these days while the deals on wine, beer and spirits will be fantastic. Bring your friends and help drink me out of the Four Points."

A very exciting prospect indeed. I for one will be there to help Chef Power bring his tenure at the 1201 K St. location to a successful end; anyone want to join me?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What I'm Reading: Kiss My Grits

If you like my blog, you'll like Kiss My Grits.

If you don't like my'll probably still like Kiss My Grits. It's good stuff.

Read it.


Perhaps it was an off night for the Oval Room. I just got this email from a good friend:

Just had lunch there- i really enjoyed it! especially the scallop appetizer.

Hopefully that somehow evens out my comments about Oval Room from earlier.

Beyond Purdue

So I missed Food Day yesterday, I think I'm allowed one free pass (but I promise it won't happen again). But there was one article that I really thought needed to be posted about, and that's the article in yesterday's NYT about celeb-chef Jamie Oliver's new quest to change the way we look at chicken - not as something to be hastily unwrapped and consumed, but as an animal, with a lifecycle.

Jamie makes several good points not only about the ethical treatment of the animals we eat, but how our demand for cheap meat has led to these abhorrent conditions.

If you want to find out more about Jamie's efforts, visit the website of his new show, Jamie's Fowl Dinners. There's lots of great info there.

Reflections on Restaurant Week

My original intent was to write two separate posts for the two places I went to for Restaurant Week: Oval Room and Sushi-Ko. In all honesty, both restaurants deserve their own space, but the greater takeaway for me was how both approached RW, and what the greater meaning of the event is.

RW at its core of course is about making money. About getting people who might not ordinarily come to your restaurant to plop down $20 or $30 for a lunch or a dinner in hopes that they'll like it so much they'll come back for more. But there are two types of restaurants that do this, and I ate at both types over the past couple days.

Oval Room is very much the first type: a restaurant that knows you probably haven't been before because you can't afford it, and knows you probably won't be back, so lets see how quick we can get you in and out with as little effort as possible.

Now I'm not going to say I had a horrible, or even a bad experience at Oval Room. However, for a restaurant named the 13th best in the city by Washingtonian Magazine, I was really underwhelmed.

On the surface, it was a pretty decent meal. Meg (my dining partner for the evening and BFF) and I were both satisfied with our food, with the celery root soup and the buttermilk and meyer lemon cake being the highlight for me, and the short ribs being the highlight for Meg.

But when it came down to it, there were just as many things that didn't work as there were that did. The service was spotty, it took us twenty minutes just to get seated (not to mention that there's not even a host(ess) stand in the restaurant, so I had to search someone out) and the menu was fairly limited (only one vegetarian option for the main course). On top of that, and I don't know this for sure, but it seemed like they were putting all of the RW patrons in one dining room, and all of the others in another; I'm not sure if anyone else noticed, but if so, I'm somewhat offended.

Contrast that with Sushi-Ko last night. Yes, Oval Room and Sushi-Ko are two very different restaurants, but only really in genre. Sushi-Ko is the sushi restaurant in DC, and it's easy to see why.

It wasn't assumed that we were there for RW, the RW was well thought out in that there was no dessert, just fish. Koji (who Apples and I had the honor and pleasure of sitting across from at the sushi bar) knows that people come in to have the best raw fish in town, and that's what he provided.

It's hard to write this without any quantitative proof, without being able to show beyond what my gut told me, but you could just tell that Oval Room didn't get it, and Sushi-Ko did.

Oval Room got us in (once we actually sat down) and out quickly and efficiently. I can now say I've been there and done that.

Sushi-Ko really embodied what the second type of RW restaurant is, what RW was made for. To provide the diner an experience just like he/she was coming in on a regular night on a regular week, and was a regular customer (i.e. a RW menu wasn't assumed, but offered), thus making that diner want to come back again (going back to the real reason of RW, to get more people in chairs on a regular basis).

I'm going to assume that if Oval Room acted as if this was business as usual, that we were two regular customers, I'd be singing its praises. But I just didn't get that feeling. That's why I'll be craving Sushi-Ko and not Oval Room this weekend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

They've come a long way from cheeseburgers and fries

In the Spring of 2005 (my last semester of college) I had an internship with a member of the House of Representatives. The internship itself was a lot of fun, but one of my favorite parts (aside from randomly and aimlessly roaming the halls of Congress) was lunch.

Being housed in Longworth, I often went down to the Longworth cafeteria for lunch, though occasionally I'd venture to the Senate side for a romp through Dirksen.

Among my favorites were the pulled pork sandwich in Longworth (with some of the best BBQ sauce I've ever had) and the Mac & Cheese in Dirksen.

But that was then, and this is now. According to, it looks like Congressional staffers and visitors will be eating from a more "environmentally friendly and socially progressive" menu.

Among the things to be added to the menu will be, "pan-roasted Chesapeake rockfish with sweet potato fennel hash and yellow pepper relish and pears with Stilton cheese and watercress."

The seafood will be sustainable, the coffee cups biodegradable, and the vending machines energy efficient. Congress still might not get anything done, but at least they're eating better.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Who's having steak tonight?

You only have two nights left to try out Tom Sarris Orleans Steak House in Rosslyn before it closes for good to make way for a monstrosity of a skyscraper.

I wrote about this when the story first came out, but for a restaurant I've never been to, and don't intend on going to in the next 48 hours, I'm sad to see it go.

Tom Sarris had been a landmark in Rosslyn for over thirty years, and putting yet another large building (600,000-square-foot, 470-foot-tall office building to be precice) isn't going to do much for the character of the area - especially since the FAA has expressed concerns that the large building might interfere with traffic in and out of National Airport.

So long Tom Sarris Orleans Steak House, may you, your gigantic salad bar, and Flintstones sized steaks come back soon.

*Photos courtesy of WJLA

In/Out lists are so in right now

If you bought the hard copy of the January edition you've already seen this, but in case you haven't, Washingtonian has their 2008 Foodie In/Out List posted online.

Some of the highlights of what's in: Greek yogurt, dates, cheese plates, Hungarian Wines and half portions.

So what's out? Figs, broccoli rabe, Australian Wines, and Martinis.

So, what do you think of the list? If you had to redo the list, what would you put on it?

It's finally here!

Restaurant Week starts today!

I want to know where everyone is going, and what they thought of their respective experiences.

Just to recap, I'll only be visiting two restaurants as of now - Oval Room on Tuesday and Sushi-Ko with Apples on Wednesday.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wanna hear something weird?

Whenever Apples starts a conversation like that, I know it's going to be good. The rest of the conversation went as follows:

Bananas: sure
why not
Apples: i'm craving gushers
Bananas: omg gushers
Apples: like, those gross friut snack things
i know!
Bananas: i used to ball them up and eat them as one gusher
like an apple
Apples: thats gross
Bananas: ha, i was in elementary school
Apples: we used to bite open the top and put the sticky stuff on our lips like lipstick

Oh Gushers, how I've missed you.

What "food" from your childhood have you been craving lately?

Fatty Fridays: It's going to be hard to top this

I like hamburgers. I like bacon. But a hamburger made of bacon? Well that's just bananas.

A special kudos has to go out to the folks at Peppers and Smoke who came up with this, because this is the kind of stuff that makes Fatty Fridays possible.

So how did they make it? Take a pound of bacon, grind it up, stuff it with mozzarella, deep fry it, top it with more cheese, and serve with deep fried jalapenos.

This looks like the kind of thing that deserves to be served with deep fried Oreos at a county fair, and probably washed down with a 72 ounce sweet tea.

So, who's frying themselves up some bacon burgers tonight?

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I just had a very tasty dinner of baked Monkfish, which was followed by a gchat conversation between Apples and myself:

Bananas: omg i love monkfish
Apples: haha
Apples: quite possibly my favorite cooked fish
Apples: glad to hear it
where'd you get it?
Bananas: HT
Apples: sorry about that
thought you should know

So there you go; according to Oceans Alive, Monkfish is an "eco-worst" when it comes to the types of fish you can eat.

Goodbye Monkfish, you're so ugly, but you tasted soooooo good.

It's not just lunch, it's a movement

There's something happening out there. In our kitchens, in our supermarkets, and in our school cafeterias. Maybe it's because I'm just now becoming aware of it that I'm noticing it more and more, or maybe because what's out there, a new counterculture of food, is just now gaining traction that I'm starting to notice more articles like this.

CNN has a great article about Ann Cooper, a chef turned crusader who is director of nutrition services in Berkeley, where she has, "transformed the school lunch program from 90 percent frozen reheated foods to 90 percent fresh", all in the name of creating a generation of children who are eating and living healthier.

Cooper (seen above) has also created "a "meal wheel" to help kids all over the country understand what should be on their plates daily", and has also created a website, Lunch Lessons, to bring the message beyond Berkley.

This article compliments one in the NYT food section yesterday about Robyn O’Brien, a mother who believes that the way our children eat (via industrial agriculture) is contributing to the rise in food allergies.

What are your impressions on this movement? Will the efforts of those like Ann Cooper and Robyn O'Brien actually make a difference in the health of our children? Would their ideas change the way you eat, or the way you'd feed your kids?

*Photo courtesy of CNN

What's that thing I'm not supposed to do with a book?

If this is your first time reading me, or if you've simply forgotten overnight, allow me to inform/remind you that I don't like chain restaurants. Fast food chains, casual dining chains, I'll go out of my way to avoid them, and often for good reason.

In the case of casual dining (i.e. Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's, etc.), aside from the fact that they push a lot of smaller independently owned restaurants out of the market, I often find the menus too big (I operate under the assumption that if you try to make too many good items, you'll end up with no good items on a menu) and the food always underwhelming at best; and I've always thought the best example of this was The Cheesecake Factory (for reasons seen above).

So when Apples and I decided to check the menu out at P.F. Chang's, I was skeptical at best. Aside from the fact that we've had a running joke about the restaurant for two years now, I've never had any interest in trying it out, assuming it was an Asian version of The Cheesecake Factory.

When you walk in, the differences are striking. The layout (at least at the one in Arlington) is much more open than any of The Cheesecake Factories I've ever been to. No massive booths, in fact, no booths at all. Just tables and an open dining room, making for a more comfortable and classic experience.

The menu is also significantly smaller than TCF (first of all, it's not in book form), providing a great variety of food (everything from chicken and duck dishes to an amazing variety of vegetarian dishes) and very reasonable prices (this is Chinese food after all, it's not going to break the bank).

I decided on the coconut curry vegetables, which was surprisingly light on the sauce, and very heavy on the actual food. The vegetables were cooked perfectly; crisp and fresh, I was surprised this came out of a corporate kitchen.

Apples ended up getting the ginger chicken and broccoli (I'm pretty sure that's what she got), which again was surprisingly good.

Best of all, it came with a choice of white or brown rice, which was good because I'm really trying to limit my white rice consumption (blame Michael Pollan on this).

Overall, we weren't exactly blown away by the food, or the service, or the atmosphere - it was all good, but certainly no better than a lot of the other places Apples and I go on a regular basis. I wouldn't put P.F. Chang's over Palena or 2 Amy's, but I would consider coming back.

Which brings me back to the question at hand about that thing I'm not supposed to do with a book. At least I now know to open the door before I judge what's inside.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The mouse says get the f*%k out

It may be the happiest place on Earth, but if you're headed down to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World with your infant-10 year old, and you've got a reservation for Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, you might want to reschedule at one of Disney's 97 other restaurants.

Why? Because in an attempt to create a more adult atmosphere, children 10 and under aren't allowed in the restaurant, which offers a seven course pre-fixe menu that starts at $125.

This really won't change much, as according to a USA Today article, only about three familes a month bring their kids into the restaurant.

The real question is, will this create a trend? Would you (assuming you had kids), bring them to a seven course, $125 a meal restaurant?

Food Day: I missed my own anniversary edition

Happy food day folks. If I were a better food blogger, I would have remembered that a year and two days ago Apples wrote the first post for Apples and Bananas about Eamonn's in Old Town Alexandria.

The blog has changed in some ways, and maintained a certain status quo in others. I still write about food, though the majority of my posts are shorter, and sometimes have very little serious food related content.

If you've read this over the past year, thank you. If this is your first time visiting, welcome. I'm looking forward to another great year of writing...but first, today's news:

Meet your meat: The Washington Post food section has a really interesting article about the changing nature of artificial meat, in particular just how real looking it is, giving a lot of vegans and vegetarians pause before they chow down.

A part as big as its sum: Nori, the dried seaweed that we find extensively in sushi restaurants and increasingly everywhere else these days is gaining popularity and is becoming one of the hot new food trends according to an article in the NYT food section. Once hid by inside out rolls, Nori is now featured in pastas and salads.

Now where's my IT person?: Are waiters and waitresses a thing of the past? Will a computer, not a person tell you what the daily specials are? According to a CBS report out of NYC, yes, it sure looks that way. There is an increasing trend of self-service kiosks where diners simply use a computer to order, instead of interacting with a server.

Honestly, I think this is a horrible idea. Machines break down, people will get confused, it will slow down service.

My question to you is, would you be more or less willing to go to a restaurant if you knew they had electronic ordering machines?

The results are in...

...and it was a victory for the New Hampshire Primary Pasta Party! Now of course I didn't bother to take any pictures of the food, or of the cooking process, and of course I had to rush home from work and frantically start cooking before the crew showed up, but in spite of all of that, it was a pretty successful party.

I started off making garlic bread, which I didn't have any of, but I sure did burn my hands on it, so at least I know it was hot.

I made a basic tomato sauce, and then divided it into two, and put meat (organic, locally grown grounded turkey and hot Italian sausage - both from Whole Foods) and onions into one and vegetables (Royal Trumpet Mushrooms and Spinach) into the other.

I also put a bit of store bought pesto out as well.

All of this accompanied a massive box of pasta that fed about nine of us.

Below is a picture of the family, sans Apples and myself.

A special thanks goes to Agatha who brought wine, James and Meghan who brought brownies, and Apples who, as usual kept me from falling apart (and everyone else who came).

As far as the actual results; at least Wilford Brimley is happy, because I had an apartment of unhappy people.

So, were you happy with the results of last night? If you weren't paying attention...did you at least have something interesting for dinner?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Book Report: Omnivore's Dilemma

I found reading Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, a lot like eating Five Guys. It's an incredibly interesting book, hard to put down, and by the end, you feel slightly bad about what you've done. In the book's case, not that you've read it, but about the lifetime of eating you've done. Much like a post-Five Guys meal, there is a lesson to be learned, and that lesson is that most of the way we eat today isn't the way we're designed to eat, and that needs to change.

The book goes through three sections, each of which could be a very good stand alone essay. The first is about corn, and without giving too much of the book away, will turn the stomachs of economists and eaters alike. The second is about grass, sustainability, and the importance of reestablishing a food ecobalance. Finally, the third chronicles Pollan's search of a "perfect meal" that he hunts, grows, and collects himself.

All of these sections are filtered through the question of, "What's for dinner", and through all of them you'll see how what ends up on your plate, whether you make it at home or get it at a restaurant, usually isn't as holy or pretty is we'd like it to be.

The book can get technical at times, but don't let that scare you, if you're planning on having dinner tonight, or any other night, this is an important read.

If you've read the Omnivore's Dilemma, let me know what you thought. Or if you're reading Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food, like I am, let me know what you think.

Monday, January 7, 2008

It's the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it

Well folks it's over. No use in even having the primary tomorrow. Wilford Brimley is a McCain man, no doubt bringing thousands of oatmeal eating diabetics with him.

Now if we can only set up some sort of battle between Wilford and Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris, I would actually consider getting back into politics.

*Special thanks to Agatha for the heads up on this.

We're out of our element. But it tasted so good

In the past, when Apples and I cook, it's usually something that's more our element, i.e., something that's not meat and potatoes. So that's why it was a bit of a surprise when Apples mentioned last night that steak and potatoes would be a good idea for dinner. Naturally, I couldn't argue.

Using some awesome cheese that I'll have to be reminded the name of that we got at the Dupont farmer's market, as well as some royal trumpet mushrooms that I got at the Courthouse farmer's market, we somehow came up with a meal.

The real focus was the potatoes, which were simply mashed and had milk, butter (very little), salt and the cheese added. Secondary to that was spinach with onions and the mushrooms, and finally, as more of an after thought, was a small piece of filet mignon that was seared at a high temperature and then put under the broiler to finish.

If the picture above looks a little smoky, it's probably because my oven produces more smoke than the entire state of North Carolina.

The steak turned out perfect, which is a first for me (I usually overcook my steak on accident), and the mushrooms were incredible. The potatoes turned out exactly how we wanted them to; the cheese was subtle, but added a lot to the dish.

So, anyone out there make anything exciting for dinner last night?

What I'm Reading - Jeena's Kitchen

Anyone can go out to a restaurant, spend money, and plop their opinions onto a blog. It takes someone with real skill to actually make something and make it look good.

This is why I'm reading Jeena's Kitchen, not only because of the great photography and wonderful looking recipies, but because she actually takes the time to go step by step and show you how to make whatever she's made.

Read it, you might learn something.

Review - Zengo

It's easy for a restaurant to get lost in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area. Between the Jose Andres empire, Zola, and the large collection of big box "casual dining" joints, it's a hostile atmosphere for restaurateurs, and a target rich environment for diners.

One of the restaurants that I've overlooked for the past few years has been Zengo, but after a visit on Saturday night, it's hard to see why.

Zengo is an interesting concept, an Asian-fusion restaurant that sells as much cool as it does fancied up sushi rolls and dim sum.

It should be mentioned that the space is probably one of my favorite in the city. It's open and well managed. This is a great space if you want to stretch out and actually have a conversation. For a big restaurant, I found this surprisingly easy.

This is also a great restaurant if you're eating with someone that you can share massive quantities of food with (in my case, Apples). One of the first things your server will tell you is that they encourage sharing - and man oh man did we take advantage of that.

Starting off with the edamame "xo style", which was your basic steamed edamame with some kind of spicy sauce on it. It's not something I'd get every day, but for an every once and a while kind of thing, it was pretty refreshing.

Along with our beans we got an order of the potstickers, filled with lobster, blue crab and mushrooms, it's hard to go wrong with these. They're light and wonderfully flavorful, and come with a wasabi sauce that you'll be warned no less than three times about.

Accompanying the potstickers and edamame was an order of the calamari, which I found to be fairly pedestrian. They weren't bad, but then again it probably didn't help that I had calamari at Clyde's earlier that day. Apples seemed to enjoy them, so we'll take that as an endorsement.

Finally, we got an "Angry Zengo" roll, which has spicy yellowfin tuna, avocado, sesame-chipotle rouille, and wasabi tobiko. It was agreed that while these fancy rolls usually aren't our thing, this one was particularly good. Again, not one that I'd get on a normal basis, but something I'd get again.

The drink options are also pretty impressive here, with Apple's Yuzu Fresa (Vodka, Strawberries, Lemon) being particularly appealing.

The overall verdict on Zengo was good. My no means did it blow us away, but by no means do we not have a reason to come back.

This is a great restaurant if you want to go out with a large group of friends, or even want to do something new and adventurous for yourself.

It may be easy for other restaurants to get lost in that part of town, but after one try of Zengo, you'll never forget where it is.

So, have you been to Zengo? Let me know what your thoughts are.

Friday, January 4, 2008

OMG New Hampshire!

I'm not going to sugarcoat this...I roll with nerds, hard core.

Yesterday the crew took over a corner of the Big Hunt down in Dupont to watch the Iowa Caucuses (dubbed by me as the Hawkeye Caucai (sp?))

Next Tuesday of course is the New Hampshire Primary, and I'll be having a party at my place to celebrate, argue, and probably overeat/drink.

So, what exactly does one serve at a primary party. My first thought was making it a New Hampshire Primary Pasta Party, and just make three or four different kinds of sauces to go with a generic pasta (penne or spaghetti).

Anyone out there have any better ideas?

*I'll also accept primary predictions as ideas.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Help me

So I've got a problem. Really it's not a problem in the sense that problems are bad. It's the kind of problem like I have a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and I don't know what to buy.

Please folks, make this problem go away, let me know what you think I should get.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Food Day: It's a New Year Edition

Happy New Year and happy food day folks. Here's what's topping food headlines in the new year:

2008: Year of the Jose - As if a food empire isn't enough, Jose Andres is ready to take on the television world too. His new cooking show, "Jose Made in Spain", will debut later this month on WETA public television according to an article in the WaPo, and is slated for a 26 episode first season.

Jose had a big 2007, and with a new project in LA and his new show, is slated to have an even bigger 2008.

I sure picked a good time to stop drinking
- Getting crunk won't be as cheap as it used to be according to an article in the WaPo today, as poor harvests, less acreage, and an increase in world-wide demand has sent malt prices up 100% and hops prices up as much as 400% in some cases.

It seems from the article that this will primarily effect specialty brews over lets say my beer of choice (Miller Lite), but still, if you want to drink a quality beer, it looks like you'll be paying a little more in the new year.

Small Town Market, Big City Scale: Local and seasonal meat and produce are all the rage these days, and NYC is making headway in creating a permanent market for restaurateurs and other folks to join in on the action. Right now there's no set plan according to a NYT article, but hopefully with a new year, progress can be made to even further improve America's top food city.