Monthly Archives: March 2010

What the RAMMYs Missed

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington unveiled the nominations for the 2010 RAMMY awards yesterday at a swanky bash at the Ritz-Carlton. My friends Jen (at freshcrackedpepper) and Mary (the girl behind Girl Meets Food) were lucky enough to attend the event, and snapped a few delicious photos of the evening. A full list of the nominees is available here.

Not to detract from the prestige of the award, but I have to say that I am disappointed with the nominations. DC’s dining scene is way more vibrant, and way more varied, than the RAMMY list would make it seem. And I just don’t understand this city’s obsession with the Michel Richard (Citronelle, Central), Jose Andres (Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya, Oyamel), and Wolfgang Puck (The Source) restaurant empires. I have yet to be blown away by a meal at any of these places.

So, what restaurants would I have nominated, you may ask? I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite restaurants, which were sadly overlooked.

Eatonville: This unique spot transports you to the whimsical world of Zora Neale Hurston with bright murals adorning the walls, vintage crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and worn white picket fences encircling some of the tables. But the quirky-cool atmosphere isn’t the only draw; so is the food. The menu features creole and Southern comfort food at its best, and for affordable prices. Mac and cheese ooozes with butter and cheddar, gumbo exudes an intense smoky flavor, and pan fried trout sings with the addition of chopped pecans. Make sure to check out Eatonville the next time you are on U St.!

Legends: No, Legends is not “fine dining.” But it’s fresh and honest Greek food in a simple and modest (and blue and white, in traditional Greek fashion) setting. And man, those gyros. Don’t even get me started on those mouthwatering gyros.

Ray’s the Steaks: I love steaks. But as the unpaid gourmet, I don’t have the cash to eat at The Palm, or BLT Steak, or any of the other venerable steakhouses in DC. Luckily, Ray’s the Steaks offers top-notch, well-priced steaks in a casual yet upscale setting. Ray’s filet mignon au poivre is arguably one of the best versions I’ve tried: perfectly cooked with a rosy pink center, juicy and tender on the inside, with a slightly charred peppercorn crust on the outside. Plus, all steaks come with a complimentary family-style side of buttery mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. And if that were not enough indulgence, a complimentary cup of hot chocolate arrives at the end of the meal. Now that is what I call a value meal.

Asian Food (in general): Did anyone else notice the complete lack of Asian restaurants nominated? The DC Asian dining scene is not limited to Chinese takeout or mediocre chicken teriyaki bowls; there’s so much more. What about Four Sisters, the beloved Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church? Or Sichuan Pavilion, which serves some of the most authentic mapo dofu and dan dan mian I’ve had since living in China? Or Kotobuki, the hidden sushi mecca in the Palisades with legions of loyal fans?

Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s

As if free pastry day at Starbucks this morning wasn’t indulgent enough. Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day began today at noon, and the deal lasts until 8p tonight. An added bonus–the new spring flavors were released recently. Though I will always be an avid Cherry Garcia fan, I’m totally psyched to try their new Boston Cream Pie and Dulce Delish flavors.  Head to your nearest Ben & Jerry’s to claim your free cone!

Click here to find a scoop shop near you.

Grills Gone Wild at Rocklands Barbeque

Spring and sunshine have finally arrived in the District. And what better to enjoy the gorgeous weather than an outdoor BBQ? For those of us without grills at home, Rocklands Barbecue will fortunately be hosting its “Grills Gone Wild” week at all four of its locations. Here is a scrumptious sounding description from Thursday’s Express that had me salivating on the metro:

“From March 22 to 28, a unique, complete wood-grilled menu–including dishes such as wild boar sausages served with collard greens and honey mustard; Guiness-marinated bison steak; and ostrich burgers–bring smoked perfection to daredevil foodies.”

My previous review of Rocklands can be found here. And addresses for all four locations here.

Green Hour This Thursday

DC foodies and environmentalists will get a chance to mingle at the Green Hour on Thursday, 5-8 pm. Green Hour is sponsored by the Earth Day Network, and will happen every Thursday at various posh yet sustainable eateries around the city (Restaurant Nora and DC Bread and Brew, to name a few) through April 22. This week, Green Hour will take place at The Phillips, the charming cafe inside the Phillips Collection. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to meet fellow green diners and support the environment!

Green Hour

March 18 at The Phillips

1600 21st St. NW

Washington, DC 20009

Contact Boaz Frankel at  if you have questions

99 Cent St. Patty’s Milkshakes at Z Burger

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a sweet deal from Z-Burger! Known for their astonishing variety of tasty milkshake flavors, Z-Burger is offering 99¢ chocolate mint milkshakes today from 10:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Normally priced at $3.39, these milkshakes are a real steal. Make sure to say the magic words to the cashier to get your deal: “shamrock shake.”

Z-Burger (Tenleytown Location)

4321 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20016

(202) 966-1999

Fresh Falafel at Maoz Vegetarian

First off, I have some exciting news. Where the Locals Eat, a site that compiles the best food blogs in America, has selected The Unpaid Gourmet to be a featured blog for Washington, D.C. Hooray! Now, The Unpaid Gourmet posts can also be found on Where the Locals Eat. Hopefully, this will attract more readers and publicity, both of which are always appreciated by a novice food blogger like myself.

And now, onto the meat of this post (or in this case, the falafel). I usually try to avoid reviewing chains, but there are some that are just so good, they deserve a glowing review. Maoz Vegetarian is one such chain.

The first Maoz opened in Amsterdam, Holland in 1991, with a mission to “spread the vegetarian lifestyle in mind.” Customers loved Maoz‘ fresh take on falafel and ultra chic look. The company expanded all across Europe and arrived in the States in 2004 (its first U.S. location was in Philadelphia).

D.C. was lucky to get its very own Maoz this year. Located in Dupont Circle, Maoz is nestled between a slightly seedy-looking bar and a worn building with a sign for “Jasmine Therapy” (whatever that may be…). Maoz clearly stands out from its neighbors, with its sleek new sign and bright lime green windows.

Now, I already know what you are thinking. Has this blogger ever been to Amsterdam Falafelshop, D.C.’s ever popular, critically acclaimed falafel shop in Adams Morgan? And even if she has, how could she possibly betray this beloved Washington establishment?

Well, I am here to tell you, dear reader, that there is good–even, dare I say, amazing— falafel outside the confines of Amersterdam Falafelshop and it can be found at Maoz. Maoz has a similar layout to Amsterdam Falafelshop, in that both have the fully stocked self-serve toppings bars (pictured above). Both places have similar toppings too: tabbouleh, cucmbers, lettuce, yogurt sauce, etc. But what sets Maoz apart is their fresh-tasting, virtually greaseless falafel and their crispy, addicting sweet potato fries.

I ordered the junior Maoz sandwich with sweet potato fries and a drink, all for under $10. A junior-sized sandwich seemes small at first, but with the generous portion of sweet potato fries, it turned out to be just the right size. The pita was warm and hearty, the falafel crisp and speckled with chopped parlsey and cilantro. Of course, I piled my pita high with toppings, which included tabbouleh (bulghur wheat with herbs and lemon juice), red cabbage, cucumber, tomato, and marinated carrots. I also highly recommend the garlic sauce–it was sweet and not overpowering, and a perfect accompaniment to both the falafel and those heavenly sweet potato fries.

And oh man, those fries were to die for. I am usually not one to be impressed with sweet potato fries, since I make my own at home (side note: slice up a sweet potato into french fries, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake in the oven at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crisp for your own sweet potato fries!). But the fries at Maoz, I have to admit, were far superior to mine and any others I have tried for that matter. They were piping hot, crisp and salty on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. I vowed to save half of the fries for my boyfriend, but despite my efforts to the contrary, I devoured every single one.

After just a few visits, I have been converted to an avid fan of Maoz. Its sleek, modern aesthetic and fresh, flavorful fare seems to have that effect on all of its devotees–like Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of my favorite writers at The Atlantic, who raved about Maoz in a recent blog post. The blogosphere has clearly spoken: Maoz is awesome.

Maoz Vegetarian

1817 M St. NW

Wahsington, D.C. 20036


Open M-Th 11a-11p, Fri-Sat 11a-3a

Maoz Vegetarian

Pasta with Bacon & Brussels Sprouts

After a particularly stressful week at work, plus a long battle with a cold, I was very ready for Friday to arrive. All I wanted to do was spend a restful, relaxing night at home. And I did just that. As soon as I walked into my apartment, I changed into pj’s, turned on some music, and just lay in my bed, decompressing from the strenuous week.

Two hours of lounging later, I mustered up the energy to whip up some dinner. One good thing that came of this busy week was that my fridge was overflowing with food. I had gone grocery shopping the previous weekend, as usual, but between my cold and getting home late, I hadn’t found a chance to cook. Envisioning myself in an episode of “Top Chef,” I set out to use the ingredients on hand for a delicious Friday night dinner.

Going through the fridge, I found some brussels sprouts, a package of bacon, a lemon, parmesan cheese, and whole wheat pasta. I remembered eating the best brussels sprouts a few months back at Father’s Office in LA, which were pan fried with bacon and pine nuts. I thought I could try to recreate that dish (sans pine nuts) with the addition of lemon juice (for acidity and freshness) and whole wheat pasta.

The results were fantastic. Think smoky bacon intermingled with slightly crisp, nutty brussels sprouts and hearty whole wheat pasta, with the occasional burst of lemon juice and parmesan. It was such a simple dish to make, yet it presented such sophisticated flavors and textures. And plus, the ingredients cost under $10 ($5.49 for bacon, $1 pasta, $3 brussels sprouts, $0.79 lemon) and many are pantry staples that most already have on hand.

If you’re a fan of bacon, brussels, or both (like me), then this is the dish for you. Try it on your next Friday night in!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, chopped in half with ends cut off

4-5 slices of bacon, chopped (can do more depending on your preference)

1 lemon

1/2 of a 14.5 oz  box of whole wheat pasta

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, according to the directions on the box.

2. Boil another pot of salted water. Cook the brussels sprouts in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

3. Heat a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and let it crisp, 7-10 minutes (depending on how crisp you like it). Take the bacon out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reserve some of the bacon grease i the pan.

4. Fry the brussel sprouts in the leftover bacon grease over medium heat, until the outside becomes brown and crisp. Add the bacon back in for about 1 minute.

5. Turn off the heat. Toss the past with the bacon and brussels sprouts. Squeeze lemon juice onto pasta and grate parmesan cheese. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste if desired.

Hog Heaven at Rocklands Barbeque

Ever since my friend Jen (over at freshcrackedpepper) brought her homemade pulled pork for lunch, I have  been craving barbeque. And like Jen, I too am quite spoiled when it comes to barbeque. I frequented Dinosaur BarBQue in Syracuse for their meaty ribs and stellar sauce. I visited Little Rock, AR for the sole purpose of trying their famed world champion Whole Hog Barbeque. And while in D.C., deprived of good smoky barbeque, I watch Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to try to get my bbq fix.

But after a week of feeling empty and sad after that mere sighting of pulled pork, I decided enough was enough, and set out to find some decent barbecue places in the District. As it turns out, there are more than a few, including Urban Barbecue and Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company. Rocklands, being the closer of the two, was my destination on Friday night.

Rocklands has multiple locations, but the one in D.C. is on the main drag of Glover Park. The space is pretty small and cozy, with only about a dozen seats. An eclectic collection of hot sauce line the shelves on the wall. Pleasantly smoky aromas envelop diners–a preview of the meat-filled meal to come.

My boyfriend ordered the 3 meat platter ($10.99; pictured at the top), which included brisket, pulled chicken, and chopped pork (or pulled pork) with a choice of 2 sides. The brisket was tender and juicy, and was great even without any sauce. I loved the meat’s smoky flavor. The pulled chicken and pork were also delicious. The sides, however, were not to my taste. The baked beans were all right (but a little too vinegary and strong), but the coleslaw was a strange mix of peas, carrots, and cabbage. Maybe it is a regional preference, but I’ve never had carrots or peas in coleslaw before, and I found it a bit odd.

I ordered the Rockland Pearl, which the menu lists as Barbequed Baked Beans, Mac & Cheese, Chopped Pork, and Barbeque Sauce ($6.49). But the menu fails to include one major detail: that all of these components come slapped together in a plastic container. I was a bit disturbed at first, but the combination actually worked (once I separated everything onto a separate plate). The buns were an extra 75 cents, and were terrific with the pulled pork. For $6.49, it was a steal. The menu also features ribs and whole barbequed pigs, which both sound enticing.

We left Rocklands with barbecue both in our stomachs…and in our clothes. We absolutely reeked of smoke after, but to me, that is the true sign of a good barbeque joint. Not everything at Rocklands may be to my taste or what I think of as standard barbeque fare, but it will certainly satisfy any Washingtonian’s craving for barbeque–especially those who are on a budget.

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

2418 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20007


Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company on Urbanspoon