Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wine with me?

It's pretty obvious, the blog hasn't been a huge priority for me in 2008. But I'll tell you why. I've been working in a wine shop in my evenings and weekends since January! This is all in addition to my full-time job, so it's been pretty hectic balancing my time, and priorities.

The wine shop is called Domasoteca, and is part of the restaurant Domaso, in the Hotel Palomar, located in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, VA. It's been great working there and I'm learning a lot about wine. If there's a way to expand your wine knowledge without breaking the bank, working in a wine shop is the way to do it. My colleagues at the shop are great, and everyone's very glad to share their knowledge as well. Since the restaurant Domaso is northern Italian cuisine, about 40% of the wines in the shop are Italian. (Learning about all these wines makes me want to visit Italy even more!)

The shop doesn't just sell wine of course! We have a selection of artisanal cheeses, along with a wide array of gourmet chocolates (including world renowned Amedei and Valrhona chocolates), olive oils, and honeys. We also sell Italian breads baked daily from the restaurant. With all these goodies in the shop, now you know why I don't mind working here in my spare time. For me it's fun to be around all this goodness!

I am still very much a beginner in wine, and my wine working vocabulary could use some work, so until I feel confident enough, I don't feel comfortable keeping a 'wine blog'. Perhaps in due time. But of course I haven't stopped cooking through all of this. I just don't have as much time to write as detailed summaries. I think I'll be sticking to the bullet-point style updates here for a while. Thanks for checking up on me, I haven't forgotten you readers!

1121 N. 19th Street
Arlington, VA 22209
Open daily, 11AM to 9PM

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays and Food Adventuring!

Happy holidays everyone! No matter how you celebrate, we hope everyone is enjoying their time with their families and friends. I just wanted to take some time from our holiday activities to give you a wrap up of our latest food adventures!

Recent food discoveries!

  • Better vegetarian dumplings! - I didn't have tofu on hand, so I used grated tempeh in my vegetarian dumpling recipe. Little did I know that the tempeh takes the dumplings to new gastronomic heights! Astoundingly, they were the best dumplings ever. I surely will post the improved recipe when we get a chance.

  • Bean pie! - Growing up, I'd seen bean pies in the local African American Muslim communities, but I never took the chance to buy one myself. My curiosity was rekindled when I saw a bean pie for sale in a Muslim owned by the slice pizza joint in DC. Thinking I'd rather make my own than buy a pie from a pizza joint of all places, I searched and decided to try this bean pie recipe. AMAZING! After tasting the results and seeing how easy it was to make, bean pie is now one of my favorite pies.

  • Piñon nuts! - Piñon nuts are simply pine nuts from a pine species native to New Mexico. On our big trip out west, we spend a couple days in Santa Fe where we had sampled some piñon nut ice cream, and man those nuts pack quite a pine nut punch. They are so much more flavorful and nutty than the everyday pine nuts used in Italy. We promptly popped into a grocery store and bought some piñon nuts (and hot sauce!) to take back. When we got home, we made the piñon nut brittle recipe on the back of the package, which turned out very well. Part of me wishes that I set some of the nuts aside to try the nuts in a pesto. That will be something new to try for next time!

Recent book discoveries!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cooking Catchup

It's October already. The summer went by too fast. Things were supposed to slow down over the summer, so we could relax and rejuvenate. It certainly didn't feel that way. It was such a blur that Kevin and I missed our 2 year anniversary and didn't end up officially celebrating. (Though we did just happen to spend the entire day of our anniversary together having fun, so how could one possibly improve on that, really.)

But a constant through our daily hectic lives is that we've still been cooking together. We just haven't been posting. We're going to have to make more time to cook and grocery shop, now that our CSA season has ended this week. We'll miss the weekly dose of fresh basil. But we still have about 6 heads of garlic that we can savor through the winter and recall our wonderful vegetable experience this year. We got a pumpkin from the share, maybe I'll take a stab at pumpkin pie from scratch this year.

Recent unphotographed cooking experiments ...

  • Kadu (Afghan Kadu) based on this online recipe. We used half the sugar called for, since the dish is pretty sweet as is. STELLAR RECIPE. We made a vegetarian sauce by following the basic ingredient list of the meat sauce listed, but using a can of tomato sauce instead of fresh tomato, and omitting the meat (of course). For a quick yogurt sauce, we simply watered down some Greek yogurt, and added garlic.
  • Sweet Potato Bread based on this online recipe. We used more sweet potato called for, since we had extra mashed sweet potato, and also added some allspice along with the other spices. We also doubled the recipe, so we could share with friends. Everyone enjoyed it.
  • Vegetarian 'Crabcakes' based on this online recipe. Shredded zucchini replaces the crab very well in this recipe, the texture is spot on. Very quick and easy, we've made it several times over the summer. We've improvised 'bread crumbs' from smashed crackers, or didn't have lemon, and every time, the recipe still worked out well. We also have tried this recipe using summer squash instead of zucchini with good results. I'd say the color difference between the yellow squash vs green zucchini made the dish look more like real crabcakes, it almost fooled Kevin's roommate.
Recent books ...
  • The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman. I'm still in the middle of this book but so far it is stellar. If you like Top Chef (which we do!) You'll love this book. Very well written, and such detail captured that it literally feels like you are watching over these chef's shoulders. Highly recommended!
  • Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone. Kevin bought me this book for my birthday this summer. I must confess I was a bit of a fan of competitive eating ever since learning about Sonya Thomas a couple years ago, so the gift was a good choice. Unexpectedly, this book took me more behind the scenes than I thought it would, and it certainly changed the way I view competitive eating, and the competitors. I must add that reading it does not make one hungry for food or cooking. Barring side effects, it is a very good book.

Other news...
  • Kevin is going freelance! He has put in his 2 weeks notice at his current job, and he will be focusing on devoting time to photography and working on video projects that appeal to him. I'm so proud of him and I know he'll love his new career path!
  • Which takes me to my next point. We'll be going on a 2 and a half week vacation in November! We will fly to Kevin's hometown Tucson, and do a 4 corners road trip, ending back in Tucson in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family. I'm particularly excited since I've never seen the Grand Canyon before, nor stepped foot in New Mexico or Utah. We're crossing our fingers for favorable weather, but regardless, I'm sure we'll enjoy the natural beauty of it all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Homemade Spaghettios!

Our local Trader Joe's has begun to sell this fantastic ring-shaped pasta called Analletti. The first thought that comes to mind when I came across this pasta was "Spaghettios!" As a child, Kevin adored spaghettios. I grew up disliking most cheese, so I hated them. If we were to look at a can of Spaghettios today we'd be shocked at the number of strange ingredients. From high fructose corn syrup to processed cheese, I can't fathom how Kevin could have loved it so much as a kid. Luckily, we're adults now and can make more informed decisions about what we eat. With less sodium, real cheese, and noodles cooked al dente, we think our homemade version is tops. Very quick and easy, and so much more wholesome. The sauce is cheesy, thick and smooth. This is a great base recipe, you could get creative and use other kinds of cheese and add veggies if you like! Let us know what you think!

1/2 lb ring shaped pasta
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cup milk
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in boiling water, according to package directions, until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, melt butter under medium flame in a saucepan. Add flour and stir about 2 minutes. Add onion to the saucepan, and stir to combine. Cook for 2 more minutes.
Whisk in milk, oregano, basil, and parsley. Bring to a gentle boil.
Whisk in the tomato sauce and tomato paste. If the sauce is too thick, add a ladelful of pasta water. Bring to a simmer.
Stir in the shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste
Finally, add the cooked, drained noodles and stir to combine well.

Serves 4.

Monday, August 20, 2007

BBM Package from Australia!

Imagine our delight to find our Blogging By Mail surprise arrived all the way from Sydney, Australia! The BBM organizer, Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness, paired us with the wonderful Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. Interestingly, Steph grew up in Virginia, lived in New York for a while, and just moved to Australia this year. What a small world!

The box was PACKED with goodies. She included too much! (leftish to rightish):
A reusable grocery bag - This will prove handy on my impromptu grocery trips.
A postcard featuring a vintage cricket poster
A ceramic salt cellar - I have never used one of these, but it looks like it would be handy
Pink salt for the salt cellar - I looked it up, apparently this salt comes from underground saline water!
A copy of delicious. magazine - I'd never heard of this magazine but reading through it, it a top notch foodie must-read! Beautiful layout, recipes, interviews. I can see why Steph would include this as a fave.
A pack of chocolate malt balls - Mmmm. Need I say more?
Chocolate cookbook published by Australian Gourmet - These recipes look sooo good.
Chamomile and lavender tea - How did Steph know that Kevin loves tea?
A packet of wattleseed - a seed native to Australia, and often used in desserts, I'm looking forward to trying this!
Printed muffin cups - Just the handy excuse I need to make cupcakes ... Maybe something chocolatey from the cookbook she sent?

I've always dreamed of visiting Australia, and this package feels like it has to be the next best thing. Thanks Steph for such a thoughtful package and thanks to Stephanie for organizing it all. It was great to discover Steph's blog, and participate in such a fun event!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Visit to Bull Run Mountain Farm

As promised, here are some photos Kevin took from our visit to Bull Run Mountain Farm. We've been really happy to support this farm, and are enjoying all the wonderful organic vegetables. In addition to locally grown vegetables and herbs, we've gotten some fruits and even some honey! It was a great day to be outside and learning where our food comes from. The photo above is our farmer Leigh giving us a tour of the farm.

This is one of the fields right in front of the farmhouse.

And last but not least, is a peek into some vegetables we'll see later in the season. Pumpkin seedlings in the greenhouse!

Summer Update!

Hello! We haven't been able to find the time lately to post about our latest summer food adventures, so we thought we'd give you a quick update. As our jobs have been so busy and life creeps in, combined with tag-team sickness, it sometimes is rather difficult to post photos as quickly as we take them, so please bear with us. We've got a free day today to play some catch up!

On 07/07/07, we took a trip up to New York City, to see some music and find some good pizza. We ended up at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn. It was wonderful pizza, Kevin thought it was the best pizza he had ever had. Apparently the secret is a coal-burning oven? I've read conflicting reports about coal for cooking as it relates to pollution. If anyone knows the deal about coal, please chime in!

A couple weekends later, as we wrote about previously, we went to Ocean City, MD. It was a great weekend. We also attended the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival. It was a nice little sort of bazaar market. At the market, we had some wonderful Blueberry ice cream from the Island Creamery, and sampled some Blueberry shortcake. Unfortunately, the pints of fresh blueberries, and blueberry pies were ALL SOLD OUT! Ahh well, we still had a good time, and also bought some blueberry teas from the Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company. (The tea is very good, by the way!)

The following weekend, we attended our CSA shareholder potluck at the Bull Run Mountain Farm. The potluck was wonderful, and it was great to get a tour of the farm, and see where our produce was coming from, and how farming is done. We left with a new appreciation for the work that small farms put into bringing food to our tables. We are very happy to have supported the farm this year, especially with this summer's drought. We'll definitely be posting photos of the farm.

Also last but not least, we got our Blogging By Mail package from Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. What a wonderful package it was, we'll be posting about this as well!

Stay tuned!