Monthly Archives: December 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of (Chicken) Meatballs

Spaghetti with chicken meatballs and simple marinara sauce

Many followers of this blog may be under 2 false impressions after reading my previous posts: 1. that I don’t cook, 2. that I only eat out in Dupont Circle (the tag cloud on the right, unfortunately, does not help my case). The next couple posts will hopefully dispel both notions.

I had a serious case of the Mondays this past (yup…you guessed it) Monday, so I decided to whip up some comfort food to cheer myself up. After browsing some of my favorite food blogs, I came across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for baked chicken meatballs, which sounded absolutely delicious and (semi) healthy! I headed to Safeway with my grocery list in hand, already hungry for a steaming bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

Chicken meatballs (before baking)

The recipe calls for pancetta, Italian bread (I used ciabatta), and ground chicken–ingredients which only seem more expensive than they really are. I certainly thought about replacing the pancetta and ciabatta with normal bacon and whole wheat bread, but reviewers of the recipe warned again and again that substitutions would sacrifice flavor. So I paid the extra $3 for pancetta and ciabatta. Was it worth it? YOU BET.

The meatballs were moist, tender, and very flavorful–more flavorful than most other meatballs I’ve had. As Deb from Smitten Kitchen writes, they do taste faintly of cheese. Which, I’m not going to lie, freaked me out at first (b/c there is no cheese!). I think the meatballs actually taste better the longer they sit, as the flavors really blend together and absorb into the chicken.

Deglazing the onions and tomatoes for the marinara sauce

I served the meatballs with one of my favorite tomato sauces–the Barefoot Contessa’s marinara sauce. The sauce is elegant and simple, with only a few ingredients that really showcase the sweetness of the tomatoes. Red wine (I used a California Pinot Noir which I had left over) adds warmth and depth of flavor while the parsley (the only herb in the entire recipe!) adds just the right amount of zest. In short, I LOVE THIS SAUCE (and Barefoot Contessa, but I’ll save that for another time). The simple flavors of the sauce complemented the richness of the meatballs perfectly.

In addition to how delicious it tasted, this gourmet meal only cost $16 total to make. Plus, I have enough leftovers to last me the entire week (I even froze some meatballs for later). That means, it cost about a mere $4/serving! Now, that’s what I call cheap eating.

YUM

For recipes, click on the bold links in the above post.

Pho-get about the weather

View of the snow from inside Saigon Bistro

I woke up this morning to find a pleasant surprise outside my window: the first snow of the season! I was so excited to run outside and build a snowman, but then I realized it was only 8:30 in the morning (which, on a weekend, is early for me). So I crawled back into bed and decided to wait until the afternoon, dreaming of the winter wonderland that would be waiting for me.

Silly me. By the time I woke up again, it was 2:30p! I hurriedly put on my coat and dragged my boyfriend outside with me. But, alas, the beautiful white snowflakes that greeted me earlier this morning had turned into brown slush. It was cold, grey, rainy, and just plain dreary outside! And to add insult to injury, we were both FAMISHED. (Sorry for sounding like a negative Nancy, but I was really disappointed!)

Dining room at Saigon Bistro

Cold weather always makes me crave noodle soups (must be the Asian in me) and luckily, Saigon Bistro was there to save the day. This sleek Vietnamese eatery opened fairly recently and took over the space that used to house the Fractured Prune and Aioli. With the lack of decent pho restaurants in the District, I’m truly grateful for Saigon Bistro’s arrival.

My boyfriend and I both ordered small beef noodle soups, or pho. Our soups arrived fairly quickly and piping hot, along with the usual condiments of bean sprouts, basil, jalepenos, and lime wedges. The noodles were just the right amount of chewy and served with generous portions of well done brisket and rare beef. The broth tasted light and fresh, though lacking the strong anise flavor that I love in Pho 75‘s. Despite this, it was still a respectable bowl of pho and certainly satisfied my craving.

Small beef noodle soup #3

At $7.99 for a small pho, Saigon Bistro is a bit more expensive than Pho 75. But, hey, I think the extra $3 is worth it, especially for not having to trek all the way out to Rosslyn or Falls Church for decent pho on a cold winter day. Saigon Bistro’s menu offers more variety, too. I will definitely be back to try the rice dishes (which are skewers of chicken, shrimp, or beef served with rice, salad, and fish sauce) and clay pot dishes (if these are similar to Hong Kong style bao zai fan, I’ll be so happy). Nothing on the menu exceeds $15 and portions are generous.

After slurping down the last of my pho, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to head back out into the cold. I forgot all about my earlier grumpiness and left Saigon Bistro with a full belly and a smile on my face.

Saigon Bistro

2153 P St. NW (near the corner of P & 22nd St.)

Washington, DC 20036

202-558-6188

Saigon Bistro on Urbanspoon

12 Bars of Christmas

Sourced from: http://barstoolmountain.blogspot.com/2007_12_01_archive.html

Get into the holiday spirit(s) with Washington City Paper’s 12 Bars of Christmas. Everyday from Dec 2-17 between 6-9p, a different bar will have beer specials ranging from $3-5. Bring in your City Paper passport to get stamped and enter giveaway contests, with prizes such as 4 tickets to a Wizards game and a large flat screen television. Now that’s something to be merry about! For more information and a list of bars, click here.

I loveato Mr. Yogato!

Mr. Yogato, in all its glory

Yes, yes, I know the tart frozen yogurt trend is so last year. With the sudden influx of mediocre Pink Berry imposters to DC, and even Haagan Dazs trying to cash in on the trend, it’s no wonder people are losing their appetite for this tasty treat.

But Mr. Yogato in Dupont Circle is not your ordinary fro-yo shop, for several reasons. First, it’s not an impersonal, lackluster chain like the others. Service is helpful, friendly, and generous with the toppings. The owner, Steve (a rocket scientist!), drops in all the time and greets regulars.

The infamous rules

Second,  Mr. Yogato is not just frozen yogurt; it’s a frozen yogurt experience. When ordering, you can’t simply tell the server you want a small with strawberries and bananas. Well, actually you can, but that takes all the fun out of it! Mr. Yogato has a list of rules, aptly named the rules of yogato, which adds a little fun and suspense to your ordering. For instance, take rule #2, which reads, “Try your luck with a trivia question. Get it right for 10% off, but get it wrong and 10% is added.” I feel exhilerated every time! Other rules include ordering a yogurt for 30 consecutive days for a flavor named after you, wearing a “Mr. Yogato stamped me!” stamp on your forehead, and creating an edible pasta yogato sculpture (all of which multiple people have done). As an added bonus, there is a Nintendo and karaoke machine where you can play a round of Super Mario or belt out your favorite Britney Spears tune.

Last, but certainly not least, is the yogurt. In a word: DELICIOUS. The perfect balance of tart and sweet. Creamy and light. Mr. Yogato features 2 main flavors (original soft and original tangy–I order original tangy everytime) and 2 rotating flavors (which I obviously have to sample everytime, for evaluative purposes, of course). There are 18 rotating flavors, which include coco-loco shandy (coconut–SO GOOD), joe maherito (mojito–surprisingly refreshing), zachberry jam (blackberry–jammin), and ashraf-skrypock (mystery flavor–still a mystery). Plus, Mr. Yogato has over 50 toppings, ranging from standards such as berries, granola, and chocolate chips to just plain crazy ones like balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper, and agave nectar.

At $5 for a little-size yogurt with 3 toppings, Mr. Yogato is unfortunately not the cheapest yogurt out there. But remember, you can always get a nifty discount by acting out one of the rules. And if you’re not in the mood for frozen yogurt (especially on a cold, rainy winter DC day), Mr. Yogato also has a hot chocolato bar with tons of toppings (think Ghiradelli hot cocoa with a shot of carribean rum flavoring, marshmallows, and chili powder) for $3.

For tart frozen yogurt fans and haters alike, Mr. Yogato is sure to be a fun and tasty treat. Moveato your buttato to Mr. Yogato! (I promise I’ll stop rhyming…for now.)

Mr. Yogato

1515 17th St. NW (between Church and Q St.)

Washington, DC 20036

202-629-3531

Mr. Yogato on Urbanspoon

24 Days of Dining

Dining room at Georgia Brown's

If you’re looking for an affordable but indulgent way to celebrate the holidays, look no further than Capital Restaurants’ 24 Days of Dining. From Dec. 1-24 between 5-8pm nightly, you and your guests can enjoy a 3-course meal plus the chef’s choice glass of wine for $24. Participating restaurants include: Georgia Browns, J. Pauls, Paolo’s, Old Glory, Neyla’s, and Third Edition.