Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cold Irony at its Best

With today's snowfall in the Nation's capitol, I am reminded of the 2009-2010 Snowmageddon that struck DC not just once (December 2009), but twice (February 2010).  It was a great opportunity for picture taking, which I did plenty of, thanks to work being cancelled.  Everyone felt like a kid again.  It was wonderful.

Here's a sign we came across during the storm, that just cracked me up with its irony:
Note: The Sign reads: "The Deck is Hot" despite the icicles depicting otherwise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spaghetti alla Bolognese

Like many in this country, my background is quite diverse - I'm a mix of a little English, a little Polish, Ukrainian, German, and even Native American.  I'm a true American mutt.  But when it comes to cooking, I am 100% Italian. Or at least those are some of my favorite dishes to prepare, and I think I do a pretty good job with them, if I do say so myself.

Now, I have a lot of family and friends that like to stick exactly to a given recipe.  Well, as I've mentioned before, that's not me.  I always have deviated from the main stream, especially when it comes to cooking.

This recipe is inspired by Mario Batali's Ragu, which I of course had to tweak slightly to my specific taste.  It's a little bit on the lighter side, but still keeps all of its amazing flavor.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 2 hours

1 slice of bacon
1 carrot stick, peeled
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk, rinsed
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
2/3 lb. of ground veal
2/3 lb. of ground pork
4 oz. tomato paste
1 cup Organic Fat-free milk
1 cup White Wine of your choice

- Pasta of preference (I like to use fresh pasta - spaghetti, fettuccine, or angel hair. Rotini and Fusilli also also good for the sauce because of their spiral shape.)
- Grated Parmesan Cheese


Friday, December 21, 2012

Laura Mercier Pistachio Scrub

A co-worker was brainstorming of where he could go to buy his wife a purse that she has been wanting for a while, but he needed to buy it on final sale because he knew that she would try to return it, saying it was too much of a splurge. So clever, so cute.

Gift giving is a great time to splurge on someone, to get them something that they wouldn't necessarily get for themselves, for whatever reason.   Whether it is an item of monetary value, or something homemade, the joy of gift giving is that it makes a loved one happy.  It starts as a kid when you paint a pretty picture for your Mom, or that art class coffee mug made just for Dad.

A few years ago I received this Laura Mercier Pistachio Scrub as a gift:

Give this gift to someone you love and they will be forever grateful.  Or better yet, put it on your list for Santa to stuff in your stocking! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Movies

It's that time of year where the festivities are at their peak, and there are a number of must-see movies for the holidays.  I watch these movies again and again, year after year.  They never get old.  In no particular order, here are my favorites:
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer - when you're looking for a classic.
Elf - when you want your Will Ferrell fix. I just love Will Ferrell.
A Christmas Story - when you want a little nostalgia.
Love Actually - when you're seeking a movie to be loved by all.
A Charlie Brown Christmas - when you want to bring out the kid in you.
It's a Wonderful Life - when you need a heart-felt moment, and don't mind a good cry.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - when you want to appreciate just how talented Jim Carey can be.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - when the holidays are calling for the humorous side of things.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Red and Green Gucci

At this time of year, I love to break out my Red and Green Gucci.  It just makes me feel so right in the holiday cheer.  Sure, the Red and Green is a Gucci Signature classic, but during the month of December, I break it out even more so than usual.
The options are endless - there are bags, clutches, purses, wallets, belts...

and oh, the shoes!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rasika (West End)

We had been trying to make our way to Rasika since it first hit the DC scene, but it was one of those places where you could never seem to get a reservation. Then, word came along of a second location opening in West End, which raised our hopes (temporarily) until we found that there, too, you had to book a month in advance. Shucks.

Well, we finally got our act together, or some friends of ours did, and booked us a reservation in advance.  Table for four, please, we'll see you a month from now.  It's okay, it was so worth the wait!

A seat at this place is a hot commodity, so try it all we must, and did.  We started with a few appetizers and the Bread Basket, of course inclusive of a couple of Naans.  The crispy spinach was so good, we ordered a second round for the table.

Onto the main courses... we went with some of the classics, like the Chicken Tikka Masala and spicy Lamb Chettinad.  Both were delicious, as to be expected.  One of our dining companions ordered the Wild Boar, which was a real treat.  And not to be expected, the side of lentils, which personally I find to sometimes be a bit boring, were full of flavor and goodness. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Yogi Tea

As the temperature starts dropping to seasonably frigid, it's that time of year to reach for a hot drink to warm you up.  One of my favorite hot drinks is Yogi Tea.  It's just what the season ordered.

While I greatly enjoy the flavor of the tea, I think the bit I like the most is the message that comes along with it.  Literally.  Each tea bag comes with its own proverb, something that puts a smile on your face and your mind at ease, even if just for a moment:

Yogi Tea can be found at most local grocery stores, or order it online.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Smathers & Branson Lifebelt

This time of year most people are in full gift giving mode.  There are lists left and right - mostly those items that you plan to give to others, and then of course, those items you wish for yourself. 

While attending one of our annual holiday parties yesterday, my better half was sporting a gift that I had given him a few years back, which judging by its usage rate, was definitely a success.  I highly recommend a Smathers & Branson Custom-made Needlepoint Life Belt.

So how do you get your hands on one of these?  Just email and one of their team members will walk you through all the details to design your own belt.  You can choose from some of their designs, or find a jpeg of your own to send their way.  They're very flexible and pleasant to work with.  It's your life, so you choose.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bistrot du Coin

DC is a cultural mecca - a true melting pot.  With the many visitors, travelers, and occupants, it attracts delicious foods from around the world.  One region of the world that DC seems to have adopted particularly well is France.  And thankfully, that adoption translates to the city's cuisine.

In Washington there is a plethora of French cafes and bistros.  We frequent many of the bistros that the city has to offer, but our favorite French food fix has to be Bistrot du Coin (pronounced "de qua").

Start off with a classic French cocktail, like a Kir Royale.  Then for starters, get a pot of Mussels.  You can go small, which comes with bread, or get the larger portion, which comes with both bread and fries for dipping in the all-so-delicious sauce.  Some of my favorites - La Traditionelle Mouclade des Charents (mussels in a light cream curry sauce) and Moules Bretonnes (mussels with lobster bisque).

For Entrees, I like to go with the classic Steak Frites.  My go-to is the steak with the shallot red wine sauce (Onglet a l'echalotte).  Although the Pave pepper cream sauce and classic Bearnaise dishes are just that - classic.  The Chicken Frites (Poulet roti au four) is also pretty tasty.  In the end, it's all about the sauce, and the French just know how to do it right, every time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Edinburgh, Scotland

Last year, in the beginning of December, we took our first trip to Scotland.  The country had always been a top contender on our ever-growing list and it surely did not disappoint.  Expectations were met and exceeded. 

We started our journey overseas by way of Heathrow airport, and spent a few days in our favorite city abroad.  Then, we headed North by way of train, and wouldn't do it any other way.  It was a lovely way to see the country side and get a feel for this land of Scots.

 There were a lot of sheep...
And I don't know what was better, the picturesque scene of this bordering town, or the town's actual name, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

We arrived mid-afternoon and soon found there's the Old Town of Edinburgh, and the New Town of Edinburgh, which is divided by Princes Street.  Our lovely Hotel Balmoral planted the perfect location between both Old Town and New Town, and was right next to the train station stop. 

Edinburgh was founded as early as the 7th century with it's name literally translating to fort, referring to the natural rock formations on which the castle now sits.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasagna

A few years ago we were invited over to a friend's apartment for dinner. Now, I'm not sure about you, but I get both very excited and a little nervous at these invitations. A home cooked meal that I don't need to cook myself - score! Although, what exactly does that mean is on the menu - chopped liver? sweetbreads? pig's feet? You just never know.

Thankfully, this friend is a wonderful cook and every time we've been over for one of her home cooked meals, whether it be an introduction to something new, or falling in the already familiar category, we're always itching for second helpings. This time was no different.

Seasonally, on this very occasion, the main course was a welcomed introduction to Butternut Squash Lasagna. And, after providing the hosts with plentiful vino to compliment the meal, she obliged in giving me her recipe. Mind you, I am notorious for not following recipes, as I always seem to have to add my own special touch. So, here is my recipe:

1 Butternut Squash *
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Cup of Milk (fat free is fine)
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
Lasagna Noodles (8 sheets)
2 Cups of Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt, to taste

* You can buy it already peeled, seeded, and cubed, or use your muscle to do it yourself. I've done both, and the former is much easier than the latter, without difference in taste.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Avatar, 3D, and Life of Pi

There was a lot of hype when Avatar was coming out. People thought that James Cameron was going to forever change the movies. There were some skeptics, some believers, the movie came and went. While I did find it to be a great movie, I don't really think things are forever changed, but I have noticed a welcomed transition.
The 3D experience is not new to the theatre. It had its first major boom in the 1980s, accompanied by the iMax experience, and has actually been around since the early 1900s (but at a high cost to produce). Now, 3D is back, and better than ever.

There was a period where we were finding ourselves, big movies buffs mind you, refraining from the trip to the theatre thanks to the comfort of our home entertainment system. Not only have HD TVs and OnDemand kicked everything up a notch, but with the latest technology, the home viewing experience now comes close to the big screen, without having to rush for a bathroom trip in between scenes (pause, thank you!).

So, with the emergence of 3D, and even iMax is back in some theatres, there is a new reason to go. Sure, you can even get 3D TVs at home now too - technology really has boomed! But, somehow the novelty of wearing 3D glasses amongst a room full of strangers feels better than by yourself at home on the couch.

Most recently, we went to see Life of Pi in 3D.  It's a great movie, highly recommended.  What's amazing, that I learned from the book, is it is actually based on a true story. While the story is enough in itself, the 3D visual effects really brought the movie to life and justified the theatre going experience.

So, did James Cameron change it all? Who knows. The 3D era may come and go as it did before, but for now, I do enjoy the extra effort that Hollywood puts in. Noted and appreciated.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

J. McLaughlin Tartan Handbag

There are certain accessories that just seem to fit at certain times of the year. My lighter colored Lilly dresses are best fit for the Summer, while I like to keep my darker plaids and patterns for the Fall and Winter.  So, now is the time of year that I choose my J.McLaughlin Tartan Handbag to accompany my wardrobe.
I think we can agree that the Gordon Dress Tartan pattern is adorable, and the brown corner patch pads with the accompanying brown leather strap really compliment the beauty of this handbag, but one of my favorite bits behind this purse is its functionality.  As you may notice above, there are two zippers sewn in halfway on each side.  How many times have you seen a gal searching the depths of her purse, desperately seeking that tiny mint case that is of course hiding in the bottom? Accessibility nightmare?  Problem solved.
Added to the list of joy of this handbag are the many different ways in which to carry the purse.  The leather strap fits comfortably in the palm of one's hand,
Or squarely rested on one's arm,
And best yet, the circle is perfect for over the shoulder.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sterling & Burke

A great shop in Georgetown - Sterling & Burke
Stearling & Burke has been around in the DC metro area for over 25 years, operating out of a warehouse in the Maryland suburbs. Then, in the beginning of 2011 they decided to hit the streets and bring us retail. And we are so pleased they did. Now you can pop into the store and browse different collectibles - don't be shy about heading upstairs, too.  They carry many well-known British brands, like Penhaligon's and Halcyon, and J.W. Hulme's fine leather.  Go ahead, give it a browse, you'll find it delightful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stachowski Market, it's what's for Dinner

We are fast approaching my favorite holiday of the year - Thanksgiving!  I love this holiday for many reasons: first, we take a moment to be thankful, appreciate our beginnings, gather around with our loved ones, but most importantly, we eat, and eat, and eat.  Now is the time of year where all I can do is think about food!

So, with that in mind, the question bears... have you been over to Stachowski Market yet?

Behind the Butcher's counter, you are brightly greeted by the Owner/Chef/Butcher himself, Jamie Stachowski, what a character.  Not only has Jamie gained experience as a chef at some of DC's hot dining spots, but he has become vastly popular at the local farmers markets for his sausages and charcuterie. Truly unique and one-of-a-kind.

Yes, Stachowski's is primarily a butcher shop.  They focus on local, fresh meats, all of top quality, but it doesn't stop there. They also carry local produce, seasonally of course, and other fine products, like fresh baked bread, the basket stamped with a sign proudly displaying the bread's nearby origins. Jamie gives credit where credit is due, but most the credit should go directly to him. Check out the freezer with plenty of pates, galantines, and mouses to choose from.  "We're not a restaurant," he says, "But we like to make stuff." So humble.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brunch at Martin's

I know I have posted on Martin's Tavern before, but as I mentioned, Martin's really is our home away from home.  Along with Chris Matthews, we practically live there, night and day.  And, as I've also mentioned before, brunch is very important to Washingtonians.  So, of course we do the occasional Saturday or Sunday brunch at Martin's.

For groups of more than two, it's best to make a reservation and sit at one of the tables, booths, or best yet - in the Dugout, but when it is just us two, it is quite enjoyable to saunter up to the bar and grab a stool.  Gladly to greet you is Aniko, a wonderful bartender who isn't shy to talk of her glory days at Nathan's.  She will treat you well, as she always does us.

One of the best parts of brunch at Martin's is their signature housemade bloody Mary.  It's a classic, usually mixed together the night before by Aniko herself, but what tops it off is that the glass is rimmed in Old Bay seasoning.  Old Bay seasoning is like Ketchup or Mustard to an east coaster.  Primarily used to season steamed Maryland Blue crabs, it's a staple around DC.  And of course, reliable Martin's.

The menu offers your classic brunch staples.  Some of our favorites are the Eggs Benedict, any style, Buttermilk pancakes (seasonal pumpkin are to die for), and the good old Corned beef Hash.  There are a variety of options, including some pub style sandwiches like the Hot Brown or the Monte Cristo, and of course the British hangover classics of Bangers & Mash or Fish & Chips.

Friday, November 16, 2012

National Archives

The other day I found myself doing my civic duty (doesn't that sound more pleasant than the cringe-worthy call of jury duty? It's all about perspective, people.), which meant I found myself downtown. It was beautiful weather, so for my lunch break, it seemed only fitting to stroll the National Mall.    

I've always marveled at the architecture of the National Archives.  It's a perfect box.  I refer to it as the present. Couldn't you just tie a bow around it?  Well, it was about time that I made my way inside.

The National Archives is home to some of the most sacred founding documents, like the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, made famous in movies with history buffs trying to steal these treasured pieces. But what really grabs the attention of an onlooker, or namely me, is the copy of the Magna Carta, perfectly on display.  Cool, right?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pizza Dough

Anyone that knows me well will say I am a real sucker for pizza.  Bread, sauce, and cheese - how could you go wrong?  Pizza is a staple that most kids grow up with, and as you age, your taste buds tend to morph into a more acquired taste, but that just means you up the ante and upgrade from a frozen pizza to a fresher homemade pie. 

For beginners, most grocery stores sell ready-made pizza dough, but if you want the real experience of doing it all from scratch, here are the easy shake down steps to follow for your own simple a'pizza dough:

Ingredients - Thin Crust
1/2 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 + cups flour, bread flour or all-purpose
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Ingredients - Thick Crust (a.k.a Doubling up)
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 + cups flour, bread flour or all-purpose
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paris Eats

Lovely Paris (sigh)... not only does it fill me up with joy from the wonderfully sculpted architecture to the surrounding history, but also because of its delicious cuisine!

While you really can't go wrong popping into any one of the given cafes on every street corner, there are still a few favorites. Here are some of mine broken out by hot spot locations:

Montmarte/Sacre Coeur (18th Arr.)
When you are up visiting the Sacre Coeur and admiring the view from Montmarte, do as the Parisians do and grab some street food, a bottle of wine, and pop a squat on the steps of the church. Watch the sunset over the city - a view worth savoring.

Or, head over to the Place du Tertre.  It's a garden full of local artists. In the center is the artists' square, which has been popular for years with famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Vincent Van Gogh, just to name a few. Even today, the place is packed with aspiring painters, potters, and sculptures galore. In the image below, an artist was painting the square from his studio window. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It takes not just one, but 2 Amys

What do you get when you take a gal by the name of Amy Pastan and another by the name of Amy Morgan, and put the two together?  An amazing pizzeria called none other than... 2 Amys!

Two Amys takes pride in their pizzas being certified D.O.C. - Denominazione di Origine Controllata.  Did you pronounce that correctly? I didn't... So what is D.O.C.?  It's a fancy way to say that their Neapolitan-style pizza is produced using specific standards with regards to ingredients and technique, as acknowledged by Italy.  Basically, it just means it's awesome, trust me.

Most importantly, Two Amys cooks their pizzas in a wood-burning oven, which is really how all pizzas should come to be, giving it that crispy outside crust with a fluffy and airy inside.  It's perfect, 'nuff said.

So let's start with, of course, the starters.  Two Amy's does not take reservations, so sometimes you've gotta put your name in at the front and then stroll on back to the bar with patience.  Order up a glass of wine or a frosty beer while you wait, but also don't be shy to go ahead and get to ordering some grub.  There's a wonderful array of mezze lining the bar, as legit Italian trattorias do, with plenty of options to choose from, all quite satisfactory as an appe"teaser".  We tend to frequently go with the standard risotto balls and salted cod croquettes.  Delish.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Streetcar Tracks in Georgetown

I think we can all agree that the reconstruction of the Georgetown streetcar tracks makes it much easier to drive over, but is it as pretty as it was before?  The jury is still out on that one...

Aesthetic Appeal vs. Functionality