Monthly Archives: February 2010

China Boy’s Handmade Noodles

Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post’s food section published a great article about hand-pulled noodles made right in the middle of Chinatown. Authentic Chinese noodles in D.C.’s Chinatown–who knew?! What a novel idea to  have Chinese food in Chinatown! (For those who have not been to D.C.’s Chinatown, it has very few actual Chinese businesses. The streets are filled with chains like McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Chipotle, all of which have their names translated into Chinese characters, as if to justify their being there.)

Since I was in Chinatown on Sunday to watch the Chinese New Year parade, I decided to check out China Boy, one of the noodle purveyors listed in the article. China Boy occupies an unassuming store front on one of the quieter streets in Chinatown (a welcome respite from the crowds on 7th and H). The restaurant is tiny with only a few tables for dining in (most people take out).

Yet surprisingly, this small storefront churns out “1,800 to 2,000 pounds of rice noodles for more than 100 Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai restaurants in the District, Maryland and Virginia,” according the Post article.

The menu is pretty straightforward. You can order rice noodle crepes, which is a large rice noodle sheet folded over fillings which include beef, shrimp, and roast pork, or char siu ($2.75-4.00). The rest of the menu has regular rice noodles, which you can order in noodle soup or stir fried as chow fun.

I ordered the roast pork noodle soup ($5.95), a hearty and simple soy-sauce based broth filled with soft, chewy rice noodles and sweet roast pork. It was a very large portion for six bucks and I was certainly too full to order the shrimp noodle crepe I had been eyeing during my meal.

China Boy’s noodles were a cheap and filling end to a great day. I’ll certainly be back again soon to try those delectable looking noodle crepes.

China Boy

817 6th St. NW

Washington, DC 20001

202-371-1661

China Boy

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X.O. Taste Is A Bullseye

Interior of X.O. Taste

In celebration of Chinese New Year (unofficial celebration, since I am not Chinese!), I have been eating a TON of Chinese food. I initially thought D.C. was devoid of any good ethnic food. But luckily, I have been venturing out of the District and discovering the wealth of authentic Asian cuisine in Virginia and Maryland: Korean barbecue in Annandale, Vietnamese bahn mi in Eden Center, and most importantly for this post, Hong Kong style roast duck in Falls Church.

Falls Church, in neighboring Virginia, has strip malls filled with Chinese restaurants on virtually every corner. These restaurants’ featured cuisines cover the full gamut of China’s eight great culinary traditions, ranging from numbingly spicy Sichuan to elaborate Cantonese cuisine. My friends and I were in the mood for Cantonese, particularly for roast duck–a Hong Kong specialty.

Though Mark’s Duck House is the more well-known restaurant for roast duck, we headed to X.O. Taste, located conveniently (and coincidentally) right across the street from Mark’s. X.O. Taste, with its multicolored pastel walls and friendly servers, offers a slightly more pleasant ambiance than its competitor across the street. Though we had to wait almost an hour for a table, the sumptuous feast that followed was definitely worth the wait.

X.O. Taste boasts a vast menu of specials, seafood, noodle soups, and (my favorite) Hong Kong style barbecue. One can get lost in the dizzying array of dishes, so I suggest taking a good look at the menu beforehand–perhaps while you’re waiting for a table.

My friends and I ordered a TON of food since it was Chinese New Year–the waiters actually had to bring over another table just to put our food on! We started out with the crispy spicy pork chop ($11.95; not pictured), which was hog heaven. Thin but fatty strips of pork are dipped in batter and deep fried with red chile peppers and scallions. The outside was crisped to perfection, while the inside just melted away in your mouth and left a salty and spicy flavor.

Next, the highly anticipated roast duck ($9.95 for half, $19.95 for whole) arrived, steaming hot. While Peking duck has crunch skin and is served with pancakes, Hong Kong style duck is a bit greasier and not as crispy, but still delicious. The duck has more of a mollases-ey flavor and soaks up the residual grease and cooking juices on the plate (which, according to one of our dining companions, tasted great when poured over rice).

In keeping with that night’s passion for poultry, we also ordered a soy sauce chicken ($10.95 for half, $19.95 for whole). The chicken arrived (like the duck) on the plate with its head in tact, but that did not stop us from digging in. The entire chicken is poached in a mixture of soy sauce, salt, pepper, ginger, and other spices. Though this is usually not my favorite dish, I couldn’t stop myself from eating the version at X.O. Taste. Served with ginger and scallions mixed in sesame oil, the chicken was moist and flavorful.

We also ordered stir fried spinach ($9.95), jumbo shrimp with walnuts ($16.95), and steamed sea bass with ginger and scallion (M.P.). The spinach tasted fresh and full of garlic (so good). The shrimp and bass, however, were the standouts. The shrimp were big and juicy, and the walnuts that came with them were caramelized to perfection. The steamed bass was flaky and light, and the ginger and scallions really brought out the flavor of the fish.

Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal. But, I still managed to save room for the complimentary dessert: sweet and savory red bean soup.

X.O. Taste is a must-eat for those in D.C. looking for authentic and delicious Chinese food. Plus, it’s perfect for large groups: you can share lots of dishes and the price per person is sure to be pretty low. I will definitely be back again for the sinfully good roast duck and soy sauce chicken, and perhaps try some of the soft noodle rolls or congee.

X.O. Taste

6124 Arlington Blvd.

Falls Church, VA 22044

703-536-1630

Open 7 days a week, 11a-2a

XO Taste on Urbanspoon

Snowmageddon Cooking: Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Gorgeous icicles adorning my window

Thursday was my third (and last) snow day. Even though the intense wind and snowfall had subsided, I still found it quite difficult to navigate my way outside. Snow still covered the roads and sidewalks, slushy puddles began to form in the walkways, and the already huge icicles outside my window (pictured above) grew even larger and longer. With conditions outside still treacherous, I resigned myself to spending another day indoors.

I had been resisting the urge to bake all week, but with another snow day to keep me indoors, I decided to throw caution (and my “diet”) to the wind and bake up a storm. I wanted to stay semi-healthy though, and found these whole wheat apple muffins on Smitten Kitchen which fit the bill perfectly. Even better, the recipe uses several basic ingredients which I already had in my pantry. The only things I had to buy were whole wheat flour ($3 at Whole Foods) and 2 Granny Smith apples.

The muffins were a cinch to make. The only thing I found worrisome was the ratio of batter to apples. I had WAY more apples than batter, and the batter was really thick–almost like bread dough. To thin it out, I added a bit more yogurt and a splash of milk (but did not change the consistency dramatically).

Despite this, the muffins turned out wonderfully and filled my apartment with warm spiced aromas. They made a lovely afternoon snack with a cup of Earl Grey tea, and made a delicious and hearty breakfast the next day. To stop myself from gobbling up all of them, I took the rest to my office (which was, thank goodness, open the next day), where they were a big hit. I didn’t have a single one leftover!

These healthy yet heavenly muffins should definitely be added to your baking repertoire–I know I’ll be adding them to mine!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: They said 12, I got 17.

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (I used light brown sugar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Splash of milk and extra yogurt, if your batter is too thick

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Snowmageddon Cooking: Turkey Meatloaf & Potato Gratin

Snowmageddon redux

The scene above is what I woke up to this morning. And I thought the snow storm last weekend was bad–but boy, was I wrong. The winds gusted at 40 mph, sending tree branches and icicles flying through the air. The streets appeared to be completely abandoned without a single person in sight. The snow continued to fall and pile perilously high. Snowmageddon had indeed unleashed its fury on DC once again. And hopefully, fingers crossed, for the last time.

Although snowmageddon has wreaked havoc on my work and social life (so many snow days!), it has benefited one part of my life: cooking. Snow days are perfect for stocking up on groceries (which apparently, many other Washingtonians thought to do as well) and cooking up a comforting meal at home. There is something so therapeutic about cooking that makes staying indoors all day more bearable: the aromas and flavors spread through your house and make you forget about the frigid weather outside.

I felt like making something hearty and filling that would give me the sustenance I would need to bear the cold. I decided on turkey meatloaf from my Real Simple cookbook (which I highly recommend) and potato gratin from Smitten Kitchen. Luckily for me, I stopped at my Safeway in Tenleytown yesterday, before the store was shopped bare and left unmanned (see the bizarre story here).

The turkey meatloaf was surprisingly delicious. The spinach and parsley added fresh flavor and color to the dish. The turkey was anything but bland and extremely moist. I added extra ketchup on top, which became slightly caramelized after baking and gave the meatloaf an extra sweet and slightly tangy flavor. Even better, the dish cost very little to make since many of the ingredients were already on hand (e.g. wheat bread, eggs, mustard, ketchup). In total, I spent $9.21 on the rest of the ingredients, for a dish which has lasted me several meals.

The potato gratin was also heavenly and so simple to make. I added some leftover parsley from the meatloaf to the potatoes and it tasted divine. The parmesan cheese and milk infuse into the potatoes, making them deliciously salty and creamy. I was amazed at how such a simple dish, with so few ingredients, could pack much flavor. Altogether, I paid $2 for yukon gold potatoes (I thought I’d splurge a little bit) and used milk and parmesan cheese I already had in the fridge.

The soothing flavor and warmth of this food made me feel very nourished and blessed on an otherwise bleak, snowpocalyptic day. For any other DCers stuck at home tomorrow for the snow day, I definitely recommend making these dishes.

Turkey Meatloaf

Adapted slightly from Real Simple

1.3 pounds lean ground turkey
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 32 oz bag of spinach (use about half the bag or 2 cups, and if you have spinach leftover, sautee it with garlic for a lovely side dish), chopped
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 T Dijon mustard
1 large egg white
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. IN a bowl, combine the turkey, onion, spinach, parsley, bread crumbs, mustard, egg white, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

2. Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet and form into a 10-inch loaf. Spread the ketchup on top (I did not measure the ketchup; just spread it on to your liking.)

3. Bake until cooked through, 45-50 min.

Awesomely Simple Potato Gratin

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 large yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-fat milk
2 ounces cheese, grated or crumbled (Parmesan or Gruyere are the classics, but that doesn’t mean that goat cheese, blue cheese or any of your favorites won’t work as well)
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9- by 12-inch gratin dish with the pat of butter.

2. Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can (a mandoline works great for this) and arrange them in a layer, overlapping the edges slightly like shingles. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper and don’t be stingy—this is where the bulk of your flavor comes from and a third of the cheese before before repeating this process with your remaining potato slices. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Depending on how thinly sliced your potatoes are, you should end up with approximately three layers, with a third of the cheese and parsley between each layer (I put parsley in every other layer). Reserve the last third of your cheese for later.

3. Carefully pour the milk over the potatoes. It should come up to the bottom of the top layer of potatoes; add more if this was not enough. Bake it for 45 minutes to an hour. Halfway through the baking time, take the gratin dish out of the oven and gently press the potatoes flat with a spatula to keep the top moist. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the gratin for the last 15 minutes of baking. The gratin is done when the potatoes are soft and the top is golden brown, and the milk has thickened.

SNOWMAGEDDON 2010

New Hampshire Ave.

Snowball fight in Dupont Circle

Eerie snowmen

Founding Flurries

The White House, covered in white

Like most DCers, I woke up Saturday morning to a wintery surprise: snowpacalypse 2.0! Since I missed snowpacalypse 1.0 back in December, I was more than excited to see the snow falling. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was less than thrilled to be dragged outside to play in the snow, but he grudgingly indulged my requests. Bundled up in our warmest jackets, we decided to walk to the White House (pictured above), which was beautiful and pristine in the freshly fallen snow.

Entrance to Founding Farmers

Needless to say, we were freezing and famished after our trek. Founding Farmers, located just a few blocks from the White House, seemed like an oasis at the time–a warm and welcome respite from the cold. The restaurant occupies a sleek and expansive 2-story space below the IMF building. But even with two levels, the restaurant was packed when we arrived (apparently, lots of people had the same idea). Luckily, we were able to find 2 seats at the bar–complete with flat screen TVs showing the Duke v. Georgetown game, which my boyfriend was ecstatic about.

FF really does mean homemade!

Founding Farmers (FF) is a Certified Green restaurant and DC’s first Certified LEED (Gold) restaurant. Its cuisine is described as “farm-inspired American true food and drink in a modern, casual and eco-friendly setting”–which means homemade products where possible (e.g. breads, pasta, sausage, sauces)  and everything else made from  locally sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients. While all of  these endeavors are quite admirable (and ones that I wholeheartedly support), they sadly did not translate into the high quality, flavorful cuisine I was expecting from FF.

The menu is quite expansive, offering everything from pancakes and bacon lollis to handmade flatbreads and pasta to enchiladas. Honestly, I think the all-encompassing menu is part of the problem. For the life of me, I couldn’t decipher what the restaurant’s specialty was. Was it the handmade pastas? Or one of the many comfort food dishes? Or maybe it was the random steak enchiladas, the lone Tex-Mex item on the menu?

Sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble

After much debate, my boyfriend and I finally settled on the  sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble served with leek hash browns and a homemade English muffin ($12) and the southern pan fried chicken served with mac and cheese, gravy, and waffles ($16). When I read the description for the scramble, I was expecting a huge amount of food (and I was ready to eat it all). So you can imagine my disappointment with the small portion of eggs and hash browns which arrived. Nothing on the plate stood out in my mind–the eggs, potatoes, and even the in-house-baked English muffin with homemade strawberry preserves were all just blah (for lack of a better term).

Pan fried chicken

While the scramble was monotonous throughout, the pan fried chicken had more ups and downs. The chicken itself was very good: moist on the inside,with a crisp and flavorful crust on the outside. The creamy white gravy perfectly balanced the saltiness of the chicken. Sadly, everything else on the plate went down hill. The mac and cheese was mediocre at best: the cheese sauce was watery and the pasta overcooked. The waffles would have been fine, if they hadn’t been drowned in a sea of melted butter. And the broccoli that came with the meal seemed to be more of an afterthought than an accompaniment–soggy and flavorless.

Despite the underwhelming food, I wouldn’t write off Founding Farmers completely yet. It has a fun atmosphere, convenient location, admirable mission, and potential for improving given the high quality ingredients it uses (which may help to justify its higher than average prices). Unpaid gourmets looking for a cheap and delicious bite to eat shouldn’t head here, but if you’re caught in the snow and near the White House, Founding Farmers will suffice.

FF interior

Founding Farmers

1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (IMF HQ2)

Washington,DC 20006

202-822-TRUE

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon