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.