Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DC Beer Week!

First there was DC Restaurant Week...and now there's DC Beer Week!

Described as a week long celebration of beer culture, DC Beer Week kicks off on August 20th with a party at the Rock and Roll Hotel sponsored by the Washington City Paper. Including craft beers and music pairings and featuring, Beer Director Greg Engert of ChurchKey, Founder & Brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Tracy Jill Doty from the NIH, Cobra Collective, New Rock Church of Fire and many more.

Additional events run throughout the week including:

Sunday, August 22nd  - Join us on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s “Cherry Blossom” for a three hour cruise of the Potomac river while sampling over sixteen different craft beers, wine, bourbon and light appetizers.  Purchase Tickets at: www.capitolloungedc.com/beercruise

Monday, August 23rd - Belgian 5 Course Dinner. Granville Moore's joins Susan Greene of Global Brewers Guild for an entertaining night of Belgian and Belgian style American Beers and a 5 course dinner carefully pairing and integrating the beers with the food. $70/person Call 202-399-2546 for reservations.

Tuesday, August 24th - Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe "Brooklyn Brawl" Beer and Cheese Tasting. Come and taste some of the finest beers from NY's largest Craft Brewer- Brooklyn Brewery. The beers will be artfully paired with Cheeses from International Gourmet. The beers include, Brewmasters Reserve, Black Ops, Brooklyn-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, Local One Lager, Brown Ale

Wednesday, August 25th - Capitol Lounge Beer and Barbeque with Great Lakes Brewing Company. Low country barbeque and other backyard cuisine washed down with some of the finest brews from Great Lakes Brewing including Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Commodore Perry IPA, Dortmunder Gold Lager, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Capitol Lounge Side Bar. $45/Person All Inclusive. http://www.capitolloungedc.com/dcbeerweek/

Thursday, August 26th - The Reef presents "Rogue Ales Oyster Fest". 3,000 Oysters, 3 Shuckers, 3 Levels, 7 great beers from Rogue Ales! Dead Guy, Kells Irish Lager, Imperial IPA, Imperial YSB, Orgasmic, Somer Ale, John John's Hazlenut 5pm-10pm.

Friday, August 27th - Big Hunt Michigan Blowout Night featuring specials on Founders, Bells, and New Holland. Get your Wolverine Gold and Blue or Spartan Green on.

Saturday, August 28th - Closing out the week with a big party, the Beer Week Finale will be at RFD from 5 pm to midnight.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Two Crabs Walk Into A Bar...

Three years ago someone in our group at the Quarterdeck ordered a hamburger. And I vaguely recall two things - everyone taking turns confirming 'You ordered a hamburger?' and that when it came out, it looked good. Very good, as I remember.

And this is noteworthy only because that's the first and only time in the five summers we've been organizing these annual group pilgrimages to the 'Deck that I've ever seen anyone deviate from the generally acknowledged gameplan: pitchers of lite beer, several baskets of fries and onion rings, and piles of steaming, Old Bay coated, fresh crabs.

Oh, there was a third thing - an enthusiastic, full-mouthed thumbs up offered from Hamburger Guy right before we all resumed Crab Fest. For $34.95, we'd rather spend the night picking as many crabs as we can before they close the kitchen. We're not about to mess with what works.

When you go, and you absolutely should, there aren't many tips to improve what has already been finely tuned. Get a reservation for outside( it's always packed!), and if you can, try to get your tables under their covered patio. Obvious but worth remembering. There's nothing much to see inside and if an evening thunderstorm blows through, you won't need to scramble around for a dry seat.

And definitely get the crabs. Though it will be obvious when you sit down and see everyone else around you tearing into them too. At least make visit #1 crabs. You can try the burger next time. That's what I've been telling myself for the past three years.

Rating: B+, limited options but what they do, they do very well

Sunday Foodie-ing

Whenever we have a quier(er) weekend at home, I like to spend time on Sunday doing food prep and getting us ready for the week. This usually means selecting a few recipes, grocery shopping and preparing some of those foods in advance.

This week, in addition to the usual preparation, I decided that I hadn't baked any bread in a while so I made quite a bit so we can freeze it for the future. Note - most people think that baking bread is really hard - not so! I don't have a bread maker...but I've found that my Kitchen Aid stand mixer makes bread baking a breeze. Just assemble the dough right in the mixer bowl and use the bread hook. Seriously simple!

If you like Italian bread, Emeril has a really nice and very simple recipe that has been a winner everytime. For the version that I made today I used just one packet of yeast and made one giant loaf instead of breaking it into two loaves. In addition, I've found that the recipe works better if you cook it for 50 minutes at 350, instead of at the higher temperature. Serve it with pasta, make delicious sandwiches or even bruchetta.

To try something different, I also took on this recipe for cinnamon raisin bread....except that I omitted the raisins. The recipe says that it yields three loaves...but I ended up with 3 regular sized loaves and one small loaf. This is a great recipe to make and keep some for yourself and give some to friends to share. The smell of the house from baking all this bread is just amazing!

Finally, to go along with the green salads I'm going to bring to work for lunch this week, I decided to make a simple orzo salad. I used this recipe, but omitted a few of the ingredients(forgot to buy the spinach and pine nuts). Instead I used red onion, olives, fresh made feta from the Arlington farmer's market, fresh basil from my garden and tarragon and the dressing the recipe suggests. I'll likely add some shrimp to serve with it. Tastes yummy!

So while the week rushes by so quickly, causing stress and leaving little time to really cook....I've found that doing a little food prep on Sunday takes the pressure off on weeknights.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Oysters and Mussels and Beer, Oh My!

Ok, so if you haven't been to Brasserie Beck yet...what is wrong with you? Get there!

We've been to this McPherson Square upstart many times now, but each time I find something that I like even more than the time I was there before. Did you know that if you go to Brasserie Beck after 10:30 pm their oysters are half price? I just found out about this amazing late night steal!

For those who have yet to enjoy the wonderfulness that is Brasserie Beck, imagine this:
  • Over 120 bottled beers from around the world. And 9 beers on tap (including Kasteel Rouge!!) While away the evening trying trappist brews or Scottish lagers. It's pretty darn amazing.
  • A very notable wine list. Great selections.
  • The mussels, my friend....the mussels! Hands down fantastic! And served with crisp fries and three dipping sauces.
  • Don't forget the oysters. Sit at the bar so you can watch them be shucked and keep them coming.
  • Seeking dessert - go with the pear tarte tatin or the belgian waffle du jour. Yum!
So, what are you waiting for?

Cupcake Fever!

The food trend that's been sweeping the nation - though it's been in DC culture for a while now - is our passion for cupcakes. Who can resist these delicious morsels? But, the real question is who makes the best cupcakes in DC?

First...what elements make up the best cupcake? The icing of course...absolutely a moist and fluffy cake....and finally there is the presentation, the size and packaging of the cupcakes.

There are several top cupcakeries in the Washington, DC area.  Places of note include:

Georgetown Cupcake (in Georgetown and Bethesda) which has attracted a lot of attention due to it's new cable television show and mass produces thousands of (rather small)cupcakes each week.

Hello Cupcake (in Dupont Circle) has flavors with cutesy names such as You Tart! (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting) and Prima Donna (chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream).

Red Velvet Cupcakery (in Penn Quarter) is a very nice addition to this bustling neighborhood and stays open serving cupcakes until 11 pm.

Just Cakes (in Bethesda) is a bakery offering a wide variety of deliciousness. The cupcakes served here are made with the same ingredients as their famous cakes - with the most indulgently delicious buttercream icings known to man (and woman).

After sampling a wide variety of cupcakes around town, I have to say that the best, and my favorite cupcakes come from......Baked & Wired in Georgetown. While this bakery doesn't focus solely on cupcakes, the cupcakes they produce are larger and more moist.  Whether you're trying any of my Baked & Wired favorites - red velvet, strawberry or their "chocolate cupcake of doom", the icing is always consistently delicious. And, I just love the pretty folded wax paper presentation (rather than serving them in traditional  cupcake paper). Each cupcake is $3.50...but they are out of this world delicious and totally worth it.

My final question to pose is this...with all this cupcake fever going on in and around DC...where are the cupcake places in Arlington, Va? Seems like an interesting omission for this industry.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Would Give it a Try, Againn....

There seem to be a slew of new restaurants in DC lately. All the better for us foodies who love to experiment! So when making our latest lists of retaurants to hit, I came across Againn (http://www.againndc.com/), a contemporary "gastropub" serving British food with a twist. The name of the restaurant is pronounced "ah-GWEN", which means "with us," in Gaelic.

What first attracted our attention was the amazing beer list - Dan loves places who give thought as deeply to the beer list as to the wine list. Againn's thoughful selections include favorite brews from Belgium, Germany Scotland and England - though compared to other local restaurants many of their best selections are inexplicably more pricey . Unfortunately, we were not wowed by the wine selection and the wine by the glass selections seemed a bit anemic. Conversely, what was very nice was the server providing a tasting pour of your selected wine from the bottle at the table.

In addition, for those who know their whiskeys, this restaurant takes it to a new level...offering an extensive scotch list and scotch lockers to keep your beverage of choice on site.

Despite being open since October, the service at Againn still has some kinks to work out. The host who greeted us was snappish, but must have realized as much as he tried to redeem himself with a jumpy compliment to our friend's jewelry. Our waitress seemed to be struggling, she didn't know the menu and took a very long time to get to us for our drink and food orders. That said, the service did get much better as the night progressed.

My friend and I each started with a glass of Chateau Ragotiere Muscadet from the Loire Valley and then moved on to try the Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes from Argentina (the Torrontes was much better!) Our husbands each began with a Scotch de Silly Belgian beer that always gets rave reviews (a must try, if you haven't already!) and later moved on to another of their Belgian favorites, Duchess de Bourgogne.

The menu seemed a bit limited compared to similar restaurants in the nearby area...but it is certainly better to have a smaller menu of expertly executed dishes (as this was) rather than a tome of mediocrity. We had it on good authority that the "pint of prawns" appetizer was wonderful, so we began with that.  Perfectly poached shrimp served stacked in a pint glass alongside a garlic mayonnaise swirled with ketchup and brandy. It was delicious, living up to its recommendation with ease.

For main dishes we chose  the roasted hanger steak served with watercress salad, red wine shallot butter, and chips...the house made bangers and mash served with whole grain mustard mash and onion gravy....and the fish and chips. First of all, Againn has the most AMAZING chips I've seen served in a while. They are completely worth ordering alone as an appetizer or bar snack.   The hanger steak was decadent and delicious due to the marinade and the dreamy shallot butter. The only drawback of the evening was the fish and chips...while the giant piece of battered cod looked beautiful from the top...the underside was overcooked...to the point that the batter tasted burned. Quite unfortunate considering how utterly impressed we were with all of the other dishes.

All in all, we found that British staples go to a whole new level at Againn...quite a nice surprise! While the service struggled to begin, things smoothed out nicely by the appetizers and overall the food was delicious. Diary Rating = B

*Photo credit - The Againn website