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We got the skills to work the grills.

6 Jul

Until about now, my July 4th weekend was pretty non-stop, going from one food-centered event to another, spanning across Maryland, DC and Virginia. I was lucky enough to have the 5th off as well, which I pretty much spent recovering from the weekend, doing laundry, burning off my holiday gut with a run, and eating foods other than grilled meat. I think I’m good on steak and ribs for awhile.

To recap, on Saturday, a good chunk of my friends, Team DMV, met to reap the benefits of a grilling lesson. We came, they grilled, we conquered (the food).

Mmm…Ribs smothered in sauce, just the way I like ’em.

Men, by the way, are funny. All the guys met before the designated meeting time of 6pm, and had already started grilling together at 4. They were often crowded around the meat or the grill or the kitchen. It’s almost like a rite of passage for men. There are certain things all guys must eventually check off on their man cards, and learning how to grill and cook a good steak or whatever hunk of meat is on hand is apparently one of them.

The Bf is already ticked off that box on his man card, having made this steak recipe before – it’s marinated in some spicy, succulent sauce that includes brown sugar and chiles before it’s grilled – it’s really delicious. I’m not much of a steak person at all but I will never turn a piece of these down. (I’ll try and snag this recipe from him sometime soon).

We did manage to diversify our spread with plenty of fruit, potato salad and deviled eggs. I love deviled eggs, by the way. I had to keep telling myself that I have to share with others and that I won’t keep friends if I eat half that plate.

Also, you can’t have a pre-July 4th grillout without some fireworks. In the apartment complex parking lot. Classy!


Of course, once you bring fireworks into the picture, we become a bunch of overgrown children and start “battling” with our sparklers, pretending they’re wands. Yes, I definitely shouted out “Expecto Patronum!” while brandishing mine (not when I took this picture, of course). Yes, I am 27 years old. No, I am not mature.

I spent most of Sunday museum-hopping with my wonderful friend Liz, who was in town for work first and stayed for some play. I don’t have any photos from the museums, but if you’re ever in DC, definitely visit the Holocaust museum – it’s very moving and the exhibits are fascinating, especially one on Nazi propaganda. The Crime and Punishment Museum (which unfortunately is one you have to pay for), is also really interesting, especially for those of you who are fans of crime shows like Law & Order, NCIS, etc.

We still had a ton of meat left to grill from Saturday, plus leftovers from the meat we did cook, so we gathered again on Monday to cook some more, play some basketball or tennis, hang out by the pool and just chat the day away. Oh and sweat. It’s damn hot here in DC right now.

 This time around, we did grill some vegetables – eggplant and zucchini, specifically – and they turned around absolutely delicious. Just sprinkle sliced veggies with salt and pepper and whatever herbs and seasonings you have on hand, and stick them straight on the grill. Call me crazy, but I might prefer this to grilled meat.

Sometimes, at the end of a hot day, the only thing that sounds satisfying is a slice of sweet watermelon. I used to hate watermelon, but for whatever reason, I love it now. I gotta say, next to grilled vegetables, it’s probably one of my favorite foods of the summer.

How was your July 4th holiday?

What’s your favorite summer food?

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A sweet conclusion

14 Jan

I kind of just wanted to toss in the last of the best I ate during my holiday vacation. But if you read this blog often enough, you’ve figured out by now that I don’t always like to throw photos up randomly without a little frou-frou. It’s Photoshop practice, and I like making captions more interesting than normal. So below are a few of my favorite sweet goodies that I pigged out on in California and in Florida. Hopefully, if you’re ever in those areas, these photos entice you enough to try the dishes yourself.

Bakesale Betty seems to be the awesome little bakery that only folks in the East Bay know about. Maybe some in the rest of the Bay Area do too, but outside of that, it’s a fairly well-kept secret. The Boyfriend raved about their strawberry shortcake and took me here pre-Napa morning to have a taste of some, but they weren’t making it that day. No worries, we just compensated by getting three different things. All the baked goods are fresh out of the oven, and delicious. Everything tasted wonderfully homemade without actually being made at a home, yet I didn’t get the sense that “well, I could probably make this myself.” There are only a handful of bakeries in the U.S. that haven’t compelled me to recreate at home, because the goods in-store are really worth the trip and the money. Bakesale Betty is officially on that list.

Another bakery on that list is Bouchon. I’ve raved about this place before so I’ll stop now from repeating myself. But seriously, how gorgeous and yummy do these macarons look? This photo is also slightly deceptive – the macarons are as big as my palm. (More deliciousness to be had!)

I know I didn’t say much in the past few weeks about my own hometown, Orlando. To be honest, I barely tried anything new and ate at home half the time. But I did have lunch with my “big sis” Liz at Hue, a new(ish) spot in the Thornton Park area downtown. My actual lunch – a jerk chicken sandwich with pineapple, caramelized onions, Chevre cheese and zucchini chips – was solid. Nothing profound, but delicious nonetheless, and the zucchini chips were addictive. But the cincher was their dessert du jour, a “Banana Split Pie.” It had a chocolate cookie crust with fudge, banana cream, whipped cream, chocolate mousse, nuts and cherries. It successfully encompassed all the flavors of an actual banana split and turned it into a creamy, luscious pie. I’m also too intimidated to try making this at home, but it was a special-of-the-day, once-in-a-blue-moon dessert. I just may be compelled to make it myself, so I can have those tastes once again.

Return to wine country

10 Jan

Although the word Napa Valley is obviously synonymous with wine, it is equally a worthy food destination. There are already several top chefs that have rooted themselves in the area, and others that recently discovered its’ beauty and potential. I spent New Year’s Eve in Napa and pretty much ate and drank my way through the day, which, bloated bellies aside, is a pretty awesome way to ring in the new year. For my last day of 2010 I ate at the new Morimoto in downtown Napa, and at Cindy Pawlcyn’s long-running Mustard’s Grill.

Morimoto

1. Spicy King Crab, 2. Soft-shell Crab and Spicy Tuna rolls 3. Bone Marrow

 

I’ve eaten at Morimoto Philadelphia and loved it, and subsequently raved about it to The Bf. So he jumped on the opportunity to try Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s new joint downtown for NYE lunch with his friend and friend’s girlfriend. Definitely a good move on his part. Those who know about Morimoto know of his creativity and skill; at Morimoto Napa there’s more of an emphasis on the freshness of simple ingredients, enhanced to the nth degree.

There was a range of both seemingly complicated preparations and straightforward approaches to ingredients. For instance, we had the kakuni, a rich, slightly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly smothered in a thick soy-based jus, and also shared the whitefish carpaccio, simply cured in a hot oil with a basic, salty flavor. I tried bone marrow for the first time, which was interesting, but the way it was prepared here I can’t imagine a better place to try it for the first time. Marrow, I discovered, is very soft and gelatin-like and feels weird on the palate. But glazed in a teriyaki sauce and covered with panko, it was much more tasty than I expected. We had also shared sushi, which was good (like the softshell crab roll) but not outstanding (the spicy tuna could’ve been spicier). But their winning dish for us was the spicy king crab: Alaskan king crab legs basted in a tobanjan aioli and sprinkled with micro-cilantro. I didn’t know what tobanjan was until I had looked it up after – it’s a spicy miso bean paste – but that sauce was seriously just finger-lickin’ good. (Literally, I forgot about the provided wetnaps and opted to lick the sauce off my fingers).

Mustard’s Grill

1. Rabbit with Collard Greens and Black-eyed Peas, 2. Fried Oyster Salad

Cindy Pawlcyn, who has long established herself in California with three restaurants she runs and owns in the wine country area, one of which is Mustard’s Grill. Mustard’s has been running for 27 years, ancient in the restaurant world and proves that she and her team are doing something right. Mustard’s is also a restaurant that focuses on fresh, local foods, especially with a sustainable focus. (Such a theme pops up all around the restaurant scene in the Bay Area, actually). The restaurant boasts itself as a “fancy rib joint with way too many wines,” and my visit for NYE dinner solidified that. No ribs were eaten, but their take on down-home cooking with an upscale twist had us groaning in happy fullness upon finishing our meals.

Our group shared an appetizer of warm goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic served with toasted bread. It sounds very simple but was absolutely delicious, the combination of cheese and tomatoes and garlic being perfectly salty, tart, sweet and, well, garlicky, all on toast. (I vowed to attempt recreating this at home after my first bite). The Bf and I shared two of the night’s specials, a fried oyster salad and the rabbit, which we ordered not realizing it’s also fried. Whoops. It was a good thing we shared. The dishes are a bit pricey but the portions are large, as we were unable to even finish our main dish despite splitting. The fried oyster salad was an absolutely delicious, yet ironic contrast between the light greens dotted with bacon and the crispy oysters, and a drizzle of a thick vinaigrette. The rabbit, fried on the outside yet tender on the inside, sat on top of collard greens (with more bacon) and black-eyed peas, which in the South, are eaten on New Years Day to bring prosperity and good-luck (does NYE count too?). It was heavy, but very flavorful – the greens were wilted nicely and peas were almost creamy and both in a bite with rabbit had a great combination of textures.

Guest Post: Winobee’s Budget Bubblies

27 Dec

So Christmas is over (*tear*). But in 5 days, we’ll be ringing in a new year, which means another round of eating, drinking and being merry! But I know the merriment doesn’t come around for those of us who are doing the entertaining this year, at least not until that 3rd glass of champagne (*ahem*). Throwing a party can be stressful and expensive. But there are ways to lighten the load, both by saving money and keeping some stress off your shoulders.

Later this week I’ll show you some easy and inexpensive appetizers to offer at your party.  But In the first of this week’s New Year’s posts, and the first ever guest post on The Novice Nosher, I’d like to introduce you to Stacy DeFino of Winobee, an established, informative and fun blog centered around the world of wine. She’s got a handful of suggestions for inexpensive champagnes that you can serve at your soiree:

UPFRONT

Let’s be honest, the lingering question of what to sip at midnight leaves many of us notoriously reaching for the finest of French bubbly simply for the fact its “tradition.” But enjoying the holiday hoopla in style doesn’t mean having to break the bank (I mean, aren’t many of our resolutions to “save” in the new year?)  Check out some fun, flirty and frugal suggestions from WinoBee!

New Years Budget Bubblies

Verdi Spumante: Best value wine offering a delicious sparkle and zest accompanied by a soft, fruit-forward flavor.

Cost: $4.99/bottle

Where to Buy: BevMo


Mionetto “Il” Prosecco: Combines notes of citrus, pear and floral with a light effervescence that doesn’t overpower the palate. Simply sip as-is or whip up a cocktail using vodka, triple sec and pineapple juice. You’ll love the versatility!

Cost: $9/bottle

Where To Buy: Wine.com


Pommery POP: Unravel the bubbles of this uncomplicated champagne in a perfect, party-portable size. These 187mL bottles are great for individual consumption (who wants to share anyway?) Simply pack a few in your cooler, grab a straw and bypass the flutes!

Cost: $9.99/bottle

Where to Buy: 67Wine

Banfi Rosa Regale: Softer than champagne, this light wine is made of brachetto and blends rose and raspberry aroma notes with a sweet, appealing touch of berry on the palate. It’s a perfect option to bypass dessert for at your dinner party or to toast with at midnight!

Cost: $19.99/bottle
Where To Buy: BevMo


Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava: This brut cava adds elegance to any soiree. It’s thick Absinthe-green glass and emblazoned solid pewter crest is enough to catch the eye, but the blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Zarello grapes within offer a satisfying fruit intensity and perfumed bouquet.
Cost: $23/bottle
Where to Buy: Wine.com

ABOUT WINOBEE

We’re an up and coming blog (a site face lift is currently in the works due to the growth) who believes that good wine is often the sign of an even better evening. Our aim is to make wine enlightening rather than intimidating by providing a fun, flirty approach to winos of all levels. Our work has been featured on RedbookTheSecondGlass.com and Examiner.com

…And we’re back!

1 Dec

You know how being on vacation feels wonderful, even if it’s just a long holiday weekend? And then you come back home, and BAM! Your apartment is a complete mess, you have 3 piles of laundry to do, emails to catch up on, work that has piled up…

Are you saying, “Bah! Excuses, excuses!” to me right now? Because you probably should. I could say that I didn’t bring my laptop and didn’t really have all my equipment at my disposal, but that would be a lie. So, I apologize for my laziness over the Thanksgiving holiday. But isn’t that what holidays are for, getting lazy?

ANYWAYS. I went to Champaign, IL for the holiday and came back as a stuffed turkey myself. The trip ended up becoming another one of my “foodcations”! I don’t want to sound snooty, but in very cold, wide open Central Illinois, there isn’t very much to do besides eat. Outside of Thanksgiving Day, all of our meals were spent indulging on the local fare. Which, surprisingly, was quite good.

I tried a Mexican torta for the first time, which is pretty much a REALLY awesome sandwich. This one was called a Milanesa, with of course, Milanesa-style beef. With cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and mayo, sandwiched betweem very soft and buttery bread. I’m determined to try recreating this at home. I just need to find a Mexican grocery somewhere in DC…

We visited the Original House of Pancakes, which I believe is a Midwest chain, so which one is exactly the original house, I do not know. But their Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal pancakes are ahhh-mazing and perfect for frigid, 30-degree Illinois mornings.

And really, you can only find the best deep-dish pizza within a certain radius of Chicago, and Papa Del’s in Champaign happens to be in that radius. Unfortunately, I was too hungry at that time to bother snapping a photo of it.

As for Turkey Day itself, I want to give major props to my sister-in-law and her aunt for cooking a wonderful spread of dishes.

The star of the show was Sis-in-law’s huge Pumpkin Gingerbread Parfait. Ohmahgah. I must’ve eaten at least 5 servings of this dessert over 2 days. It’s simple but wonderfully creamy and cinnamon-y and perfect for the winter holidays. I’m looking forward to recreating this dessert myself, especially now that Christmas season is well underway.

Eggrolls on Thanksgiving?? Sis-in-law’s aunt made a ton of delicious lumpia, which is basically a Filipino-style eggroll. They’re just meaty and crunchy, and held us over nicely before the main meal was served. This shows how my family always manages to infuse some part of our culture(s) into the holidays. And I also wanted to tease you guys a little bit, because I’ve got a few Filipino food-centric posts coming your way…