Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Well first of all, I think I should throw it out there that…
Yes, you are now reading the words of a certified public accountant. Wahoo!!!! On the cusp of 2 years of pain and anguish, I was just about ready to throw in the towel. I cannot describe the weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can start living my life again without feeling guilty for having fun. To anyone embarking on the CPA journey, don’t ever give up. I spent a few thousands of dollars on the test and study materials and lost hours of my twenties to this God awful test, but it’s all worth it. It really is. I’ve never felt so accomplished before in my life… or so free. It’s a great feeling and I wish any future CPA the best!
And now back to the blog. I dusted off my Cafe Boulud Cookbook, which really did accumulate a thick layer of dust. I’m sorry Daniel Boulud! Please forgive me. Ray and I have neglected cooking from the Boulud cookbook once we found out Ray was moving to Boston. Our mission statement is now something that’s been in the works, but as you can tell, we do reviews and cook things other than Boulud recipes. Not wanting to turn my back on Boulud completely, I decided to skip through the La Tradition section and move onto Le Potager (or vegetable pot for those non-French speakers). Pretty appropriate for Spring, no?
I settled on the Asparagus Tart recipe for some ingredients I was hankering to try — including Vidalia spring bulb onions and ramps. Off I went to my very undependable Whole Foods. I love you Whole Foods, but sometimes you really do let me down. This trip, I had to swap my ramps for garlic and porcinis for cremini mushrooms. One giant score for me for getting the bulb onions.
The tart proved to be pretty straightforward. The only real battle was the tart shell. I made a pâte brisée, which calls for flour, chilled buter, salt, and an egg. Sounds easy, but I found the texture of the dough was so crumbly that I had a hard time rolling it out without falling apart. See patch work crust below.
As you can also see, I did not have the appropriate equipment to make my tart. This is a pretty typical occurrence in my kitchen. I am very gung ho about making something without checking if I have what I need. Whoops. Nothing a little knife work couldn’t solve.
Throw that bad boy in the oven at 350 until golden brown and let cool while you prep the rest of the tart ingredients.
Next step, blanch the asparagus and garlic in salted water. At the same time, saute the spring onions, a few pinches of chopped rosemary, and the cremini mushrooms. Set aside both to cool.
Take half of the asparagus and all of the garlic and throw it in a food processor with eggs, cream, cayenne pepper, and S&P to taste.
Once the onion mix is cooled down, layer the onions and mushrooms on the bottom of the tart. Then distribute the reserved asparagus on top. Pour the custard mix into the tart. I decorated my tart with whole blanched asparagus spears in a pinwheel design and topped the tart with a handful of grated parmesan cheese.
I served the tart with a simple baby spinach and blanched asparagus salad. I took sherry vinegar, almond oil, salt, cracked black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
On Thursday, I had my goodbye happy hour at PF Chang’s after one of the office standbys Lia’s looked like there was dinner service in the bar area. This also happened to be my first time at PF Chang’s, and I was glad to finally give upscale Chinese American food a try. With a couple of bottles of PBR and PF Chang’s signature chicken lettuce wraps, I was able to go home to a blacked out, cold apartment full and warm. I am personally a fan of Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang’s earned some points in my booked as the Asian equivalent.
After my last day at work, I had dinner with a friend and former co-worker at The General Store. This also helped me knock off my last coupon. The General Store certainly lived up to the term “hole in the wall,” though “hole in the middle of the woods” would also be accurate. At one point I was accused of directing my friends in to the middle of the woods to kill her. Opps? The restaurant was a converted post office and was featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives like Comet Ping Pong, but was able to deliver on a good meal. We both ordered the Fried Chicken Dinner with Mac n Cheese. The meal also came with two pieces of cornbread. We followed with a large slice of Lemon Chess Pie. One thing to keep in mind is that the fried chicken is first fried and then baked, so it may not be as hot. The pie was easily the star of the meal. If you have a car and want a mini-adventure to the suburbs, I would give The General Store a shot.
Fried Chicken Dinner and Lemon Chess Pie from The General Store
Saturday was originally suppose to be move out day, but now that I had an extra day to pack, I decided to hit up Bethesda at some places I never got the chance to visit. For lunch, I had a Double Double (sandwich with two kinds of meat and cole slaw) at Uptown Deli. Given that this was a new Jewish deli, I selected pastrami and brisket. Both were good though I wish the pastrami would have been cut thicker and the brisket more tender. However, Uptown deli was a huge upgrade over the now gone Morty’s Deli two Red Line stops away.
For dinner, I hit up Hinata Sushi Carry Out. Hinata is a small (really small) Japanese grocery store with 3 aisles less than 10 feet long with a Sushi counter in the back. One convenient note is that they sell sushi grade fish by the pound, which I felt bad for not being able to utilize sooner although $40/lbs of fish doesn’t really help you save even if you are eating at home. The sushi was somewhat disappointing, though rolls were under $5. I would recommend ordering one of the preset sushi platters rather than ordering a la carte. In addition, I was able to pick up a couple of Japanese snacks like Almond Pocky and a Lychee drink.
Sushi from Hinata and Brunch at Cafe Deluxe
Ironically, my final meal in the DC area was brunch (with women) at Cafe Deluxe. Although this was my suggestion due to the fact that my parents would be arriving around lunch. We each ordered the Deluxe breakfast that came with scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries, and a biscuit. The breakfast was good, but the eggs and home fries lacked any seasoning, so a couple dashes of salt were required, but overall a great meal to fuel me for the move.
I think that for as much as I knocked DC, I’ll still look back with enough good memories. The food culture has grown for the better in the last 2.5 years with the addition of Obama and Sam Kass, an influx of celebrity chef restaurants, burger/cupcake/frozen yogurt/food truck boom mixed with DC’s own staples (Ethiopian, soul food, Ben’s Chili Bowl, steakhouses) and local chefs (Michel Richard, Michael Landrum). I hope that I won’t be missing out on too much of the action, but I am eager to get reacquainted with the best of New England. So good bye DC, it’s been real, but you still have a ways to go before you’re among the elite dining cities.
What is the deal with women and brunch? I don’t not like brunch, I just don’t understand the obsession women have with brunch. What makes it so much better than breakfast, lunch and dinner? Is it the option of sweet and savory? Coffee with your meal? Alcoholic beverage in the first meal of your day? Symbolism of the weekend? Whatever the reason, I think it’s weird.
I like brunch because it’s a symbol of the weekend and starting the day with a meal out. The ability to get breakfast foods past noon also holds high appeal as I know there are others out there that have been screwed by the likes of McDonald’s when the breakfast sandwiches are no longer available a minute past 10 or 10:30. I’ll blame corporate America’s love of operational efficiencies over customer satisfaction on that one.
My whole rambling on brunch started when my friend had a change of heart the night before our lunch reservation at J&G Steakhouse for restaurant week. Her argument was the limited menu and pretty much paying for a pricey burger, both of which were legit. She suggested brunch and I immediately rolled my eyes, but luckily she was on the other side of a g-chat conversation. I knew I was going to be out late (slept at 4am) and needed to wake up at 9am to be first in line at brunch since we didn’t have reservations.
The brunch location was actually one of the first places I wanted to visit in DC when I moved here 2.5 years ago, but didn’t get to try it out until today. The restaurant is part of The Tabard Inn and is popular among locals for brunch. One of their specialties is fresh house made cinnamon sugar donuts with a vanilla whipped cream for $1.50 each or $9 for a half dozen. I’m not afraid to admit that if placed in a room alone with a fresh batch of those donuts, they’d be gone in under 15 minutes. I wouldn’t even feel bad about it. It would have been the right thing to do.
Choose Wisely. Mmmm Donuts.
In addition, the bread basket came with a few mini muffins, which we liked, and didn’t bother with the rest of the generic bread basket bread. I ordered the scrambled eggs with cream cheese and chives (it works) with home fries, a house made breakfast sausage and biscuit. The biscuit was probably my favorite piece of the ensemble, followed by the eggs, home fries and sausage, though I pretty much cleaned up. My friend ordered the fried oysters with cheesy grits and poached egg. We both agreed that it was a good dish, though I would have stuck with more breakfast items on the menu.
Muffins! Get That Other Junk Outta Here
Carbs, Protein and Fat.
Easy and Cheesy as Grits
The Tabard Inn Restaurant met my inflated expectations and gives brunch a good name, though I still think women over hype brunch. “There are people who like food, and there are people who like brunch.” -Some restaurateur or chef who doesn’t like brunch.