Thursday, April 27, 2006

SMFC Washington D.C. Trip Part 2: Jaleo's

Jaleo’s is a super yummy tapas bar and another one of my favorite ‘unique to the DC area’ restaurants. Tapas bars have become quite popular in the last few years and since I’m one of those people who always has to try a little bite of everyone’s dinner, tapas is the perfect kind of dining for me. I love all the little dishes and all the ‘ohhhs’ and ‘ahhhs’ and ‘omigod did you try the scallops’ while passing the little plates of food around the table. It makes for a very unifying dinning experience. Also since you order so many dishes it is much easier to be a little more experimental in your food selection, which is always a lot of fun.

I’ve been to quite a few Tapas bars, but none match the quality of the dishes that we get at Jaleo’s. All of the names of the dishes are written on the menu in Spanish with a description in English. Some of my favorite dishes we got this time include the Moorish stew of chickpeas and spinach, Shrimp with red pepper stew, Sweet peppers stuffed with goat cheese and mushrooms and Scallops with ‘Romesco’ sauce. While I don’t eat meat (except seafood), the rest of my family couldn’t stop raving about the Duck confit with pear sauce and the Grilled lamb chops with rosemary sauce. Even my dad, who hates lamb, couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. Jaleo’s also has some of the best sangria which you can order by the pitcher. They use a perfect mix of red wine, liquor, and green apple pieces. Sometimes in the summer they offer white wine sangria with strawberries which is absolutely amazing. For dessert we always get atleast one order of the homemade coffee ice cream. This ice cream has a very rich and strong coffee flavor and comes with a piece of plain biscotti to help scoop it up (and dip in your espresso). We also tried for the first time the Basque cake with semolina cream, cinnamon-vanilla sauce and ice milk. This was very interesting; I really enjoyed the mix of flavors and the contrast in textures between the cake, semolina cream, and ice milk. Each bite could be different depending on the amounts of each of those ingredients. Dinning out is often so much more than just good food but also the experience and I also find both to be exceptional at Jaleo’s.

The Good: Yummy food, great service

The Bad: Eating too much! (its hard to monitor yourself with all those different dishes!)

The Yummy: Sangria, Moorish stew, scallops, coffee ice cream… (I could really go on and on…)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SMFC Washington D.C. Trip Part 1: Teaism

Last weekend I took a trip to my hometown in Northern VA, about 30 miles outside of Washington DC. One of my favorite things about going home is eating some good food! While I don't think that DC is known much for its culinary offerings, I find the city has a great variety of interesting and unique restaurants and cafes. One of my favorite little places that I visit every trip home is Teaism. This cute little tea shop offers a variety of teas and Japanese inspired meals and goodies in a chill and relaxing atmosphere. They have 3 locations around the city. Their homemade chai tea is to die for and it was also the first place on the east coast I ever saw Boba tea (although they call it zhenzhou pearls…which I think sounds yummier).

After checking out a great Hokusai exhibit at the Sackler, my boyfriend and I wandered over to the location in Penn Quater. This location offers a full menu with many meal options. My boyfriend had the tempeh curry and I ordered the tuna bento and a ginger margarita. While the tempeh curry was good, it was really more like a slightly spicy stir fry than a curry. My tuna bento consisted of sushi quality seared tuna (very tasty) with a little wasabi dipping sauce, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and rice with yummy seasoning on top. Both meals were decent, although nothing super amazing. My favorite part of the meal was the ginger margarita. The flavor reminded me of slightly lemony ginger ale with just a little kick from the tequila. The downstairs seating area has a little coy pond and is very calm and relaxing. I think I go more for the ambience than actual food!

(this is a picture of the salmon bento from a previous visit...yum!)

The next day while sightseeing with my dad we stopped by the Teaism in Dupont Circle. This location has a slightly smaller menu. We ordered the salty oat cookie and the shortbread cookie trio, which consists of regular, green tea, and cocoa flavored shortbread. All the cookies were very yummy and really hit the spot. The green tea shortbread cookie had a delicate and subtle earthy flavor and the cocoa cookie tasted just like a sip of hot cocoa. Since I love salty sweet things, I really enjoyed the salty oat cookie. It was a perfect balance of the two flavors and had a delicious chewy texture.

The Good: ambiance, great selection of tea, interesting food selection

The Bad: a little expensive (for what it is), food can be hit or miss

The Yummy: mochi, salty oat cookie, ginger margarita

Teaism in Dupont Circle - How cute!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

3rd St. Series: Famima!!

Today I bought lunch from Famima!!, a super cute little convenience store located along the 3rd st. promenade in Santa Monica. Now, I must let you know that this isn’t your run of the mill convenience store. Famima!! is run by a Japanese company and, as their website states, is “based on the extremely successful Japanese model, enhanced with upscale delicatessen and premium foods and tailored for the savvy American consumer.” The style is very modern and fresh looking. They offer a selection of prepared foods, baked goods, chips, Japanese snacks, an interesting selection of magazines, and stationary. There are currently 4 locations in the LA area including the one along the 3rd st Promenade in Santa Monica. You really must check out their website to really get a feel for how this place is. Unfortunately, as much as I want to absolutely love Famima!!, it really is just so-so. The prepared food selection is quite small and includes prepackaged sushi and other Japanese style foods along with just a few sandwiches and other dim sum like dishes that would need to be heated in the microwave. If you are in to that style of food then you probably find something that you would enjoy, if not you might find yourself just wondering around looking for something to eat.

I would definitely recommend the Inari and buckwheat Inari combo which I had for my lunch today. Its three pieces of inari filled with soba noodles and three pieces of inari filled with a rice mixture. This is one of my favorite dishes from Famima!! I love the sweat taste of the inari along with the sour vinegary flavors of the rice and soba. I also love the sticky texture of the rice and the way the soft soba noodles combine with the slightly chewy texture of the inari. The dish also came with a small amount of pickled ginger which tastes delicious with the soba inari. I also couldn’t resist getting a box of pocky for a little dessert. It was the perfect ending to this yummy lunch.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recipe: Lower Fat Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ice Cream

One of my favorite foods to make right now is ice cream. I am a serious ice cream/frozen yogurt addict and there is nothing more fun than making your own. In some ways, making homemade ice cream can seem a little unsatisfying. Buying all the ingredients is generally more expensive than just buying a quart from the store and the finished product may not always achieve a desired consistency after being in the freezer for more than a couple hours (especially when using lower fat ingredients). However, I love the creativity and experimentation involved and nothing tastes better than freshly churned ice cream made from all natural ingredients.

My latest creation was lower fat mint chocolate chip cheesecake. I adapted the recipe from Bruce Weinstein's The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. To cut down on the fat, I substituted 2% milk for the cream and used low fat cream cheese. This ice cream had a subtle slightly understated very sweet mint flavor which balanced perfectly with the slight tang from the cream cheese. While I was tempted to add more mint (I already added ¼ tsp more than the recipe called for), I'm glad that I restrained myself for it would have been too overpowering. The cream cheese not only helped in adding depth to the flavor but also in creating a smooth and silky consistency in the finished product. Update 4/18....this ice cream froze very well especially considering it had no cream in it; another benefit from the cream cheese. I also found the flavors to be more intense. This was a very good recipe, I would definitely make again and would also enjoy trying other flavors instead of mint.

Lower Fat Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
4 oz. low-fat cream cheese
1 egg
¾ tsp peppermint extract
2 ¼ cup 2% milk (divided)
½ cup chocolate chips

Cream the sugar and low-fat cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Beat in the egg and peppermint extract. Set aside. In a small heavy pot over a medium flame, bring 1 cup of the milk to a boil. Slowly beat the warm milk into the cream cheese mixture. Return the cream cheese and milk to the pan and allow to thicken over a low heat stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1 ¼ cup of milk and continue to stir and heat until thickened slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from heat and chill covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or over night. Churn the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Add the chocolate chips towards the end of the churning process. The ice cream will be a little soft when done, but I always like to have some right away! Store in the freezer to eat later…super yum!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Welcome to my blog...

…I moved to California about a year and a half ago and absolutely love it here! One of my passions has always been food. I love the abundance and variety of places to dine in LA and I also love trying new recipes so I figured I’d start a blog to share my culinary experiences with the world.