Monthly Archives: April 2010

Weekend Round-Up

The weather forecast predicts gloriously warm temps in the 80s for this weekend. Woot woot! I am beyond excited to finally get out of this cold weather slump and dawn sundresses and sandals again. Luckily for me, and all Unpaid Gourmet readers out there, this weekend is full of fabulous events that offer good food, outdoor fun, and occasions to show finally show off your summer wardrobe. Here’s a list of events, compiled from some of my favorite D.C. blogs:

Saturday 5/1

Passport DC Embassy Tours: This Saturday, Washingtonians can travel around the world in one day. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., embassies from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas will all be open to the public for tours and activities. Each embassy will have booths, performances, and food (!) that will showcase their country’s culture. I’ll for sure be stopping by the Korean embassy, which will offer samples of delicious kimchi (their signature fermented cabbage) and Korean barbecue, and the Thai embassy, which will of course serve pad thai. For a complete schedule of events, click here. And please note: some embassies (e.g. Japan) require that you pick up tickets in advance. Thanks to the Going Out Gurus for pointing out this event!

Taste of Eighth: From 1-4 p.m., Barracks Row on Capitol Hill will host their annual Taste of Eighth event, where 14 restaurants along 8th St. will offer samples of their most delectable dishes. Participating restaurants include Cava Mezze (Greek small plates), Belga Cafe (Belgian fare), Levi’s Port Cafe (Soul food), Zest (recently opened, with American cuisine focused on using local ingredients), and many more. Tickets for food samples are $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets, and will be sold at retail shops on 8th St. Click here for more details. Props to Tasting Table DC for publicizing the event (and for your daily emails, which I would be lost without).

Cafe Green Opening Party: Prince of Petworth is one of the best sources for events and news all around D.C.–follow him on Twitter for the most up-to-the-minute updates (@popville). That’s how I found out about the Cafe Green Opening Party on Saturday! The restaurant will be open and serving its organic vegan cuisine from 11 a.m.-11p.m., along with a gift card raffle, music, and tons of specials. My friend is a big fan of Java Green (Cafe Green’s sister restaurant), so I’m sure the food will be excellent. Plus, there just aren’t many vegan restaurants in the D.C. area and it would be great to support one. Click here for more details–and menus!

Capital City Cheesecake Opening: If you’re in Takoma Park on Saturday, stop by Capital City Cheesecake for its grand opening. Capital City Cheesecake, or CCC, gained a following by selling their decadent cheesecakes online. Now, the bakery is finally moving to a brick-and-mortar shop, which will serve fresh baked bagels, truffles, and fair trade coffee in addition to cheesecake. Shoutouts to the Washington City Paper’s incomparable Tim Carman for scooping this event. Check out the Young and Hungry blog for more details.

Kentucky Derby Happy Hour at Acadiana: Put on your fanciest hat and heels and head over to the Kentucky Derby happy hour at Acadiana. From 5-7 p.m., the bar will offer $5 mint juleps and $5 Derby-inspired dishes to celebrate the race. See the Washingtonian for more details.

Sunday 5/2

Street Performance Festival at French Embassy: If you were disappointed with last week’s Georgetown French Market (which, in my opinion, was sorely lacking), then perhaps this event will satisfy your French cravings. From 12:30-6 p.m., la maison francaise will host more than 40 performances throughout the day. Performers include jugglers, acrobats, comedians, and more.  Patrons can nibble on dainty French pastries (like crepes, quiches, and croissants) and sip Mimosas while watching the show. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door; children under age 10 get in free. Click here for more details and props to the Washingtonian for finding the event.

Wags and Wine: For wine lovers in VA (or those in DC with cars), this is the event for you. From 1-4 p.m., Wags and Wine will offer over 40 wines to taste and food from Cafe Oggi, a popular Mclean restaurant. The event will be held at the Palladium’s Civic Green fountain courtyard and admission is $10. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Washington Humane Society, so animal lovers should check out the event as well. Click here for details; thanks to Tasting Table DC for the notice.

Bethesda Row Restaurant Week: Sunday marks the last day of Bethesda Row’s Restaurant Week–hurry over before these great deals end! As my friend Mary over at Girl Meets Food writes, guests can enjoy a three-course lunch for $15 or a three-course dinner for $30 at participating restaurants. These include Le Pain Quotidien, Jaleo, Lebanese Taverna, and many more. Check out the Web site for more details.

Have a wonderful, sun-and-food-filled weekend, everyone!

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Want a Kitchen Makeover?

Calling all D.C. home cooks! Are you tired of cooking in a cramped, clunky kitchen? Embarrassed about having company over? Still using a stove from the 1950s? If you answered yes to any, or all three, of the above questions, then it sounds like you are in desperate need of a kitchen makeover.

Luckily, a new television show, where contestants with the worst kitchens receive a free kitchen makeover, is here to save the day. Producers are in the mist of casting for the show, so interested parties should hurry and apply! Instructions and contact information are in the poster above. (Sadly, being a renter, I am not eligible, but I could certainly use a brand new, spacious kitchen!)

Not Your Instant Ramen Noodles

Walking through Bethesda during this weekend’s cold spell made me crave one dish: a hot, steaming bowl of noodles to warm me up. Luckily, I knew just the place. Ren’s Ramen, located in a quiet, nondescript mini mall on Arlington Road, has been dominating the D.C. foodie circuit since its opening last May. After months of reading about its “luscious, complex broth” and “righteously curly and chewy” noodles, I had been dying to try it. And Saturday’s tornado-like conditions (I may be exaggerating, but it was super windy!) presented the perfect opportunity.

Ren’s Ramen is situated in a tiny storefront; the room seat maybe 20-30 people. Wood tables and counters come unadorned, and a few banners with Japanese calligraphy and photos of Japan adorn the egg-yolk-yellow walls. Though some might say the restaurant lacks ambiance, I actually found it quite pleasant. The room felt alive with diners milling in and out, slurping on noodles, and chatting amongst themselves.  The wait staff was also quite friendly, greeting customers with a congenial “Konichiwa” (or “good afternoon”) as they walked in.

The real draw at Ren’s Ramen is, of course, the ramen. The shop specializes in Sapporo-style ramen, which to my knowledge, means a richer and fattier broth. My roommate, a vegetarian, ordered the Vegetable shio ramen ($11), which arrived with a heaping pile of seaweed, steamed cabbage, scallions, and bean sprouts. The broth, though heavily salted (the menu said “salt-flavored,” to be exact), was surprisingly soothing and smooth.

I ordered the Sapporo Shoyu ramen ($10, pictured at the top). The broth was much darker than the vegetable version, and flavored with soy sauce rather than salt. It was also verrrrry salty, and I could see a thin layer of fat glistening on the broth’s surface. These traits would usually turn me off of a dish right away, but somehow, at Ren’s Ramen they worked. The broth was so tasty, and complimented the chewy ramen noodles perfectly. And oh, those noodles. They were not the thin, cardboard-esque noodles found in cup-of-noodle. These noodles had a bite to them, a subtle eggy flavor, and a delightful chewiness that was quite addicting. And last, but not least, my ramen was adorned with 3 slices of roast pork. This was perhaps the best pork I have eaten in a while. The fat melted in my mouth and left a smoky, earthy flavor that was just heavenly. I wish there had been more than just 3 pieces, but then again, maybe that was better for my cholesterol.

After drinking about 5 glasses of water, we left Ren’s Ramen feeling full, content, and ready to face the windy weather. But, in typical glutton fashion, we somehow wandered over to Downtown Bethesda and…were lured into Georgetown Cupcake.

Now readers, I have to make a confession. This was a moment of weakness. Until then, I had made it a point not to succumb to the Georgetown Cupcake craze. Yes, I had heard from friends how good the cupcakes were, but I just could not stomach the whole waiting in line for 30+ min…for a “designer” cupcake. Plus, I am a loyal customer of Baked and Wired, which in my opinion, serves the best cupcakes in D.C.

But the sickeningly cute cupcake display and impossibly short line (only 10 people!) lured me in. And I have to say, I was very impressed with the array of flavors (from key lime to cherry blossom to chocolate squared) and the not-too-steep price ($2.75). I ordered a salted caramel because I love anything that’s sweet and salty (and caramel, for that matter). The cupcake was decent, though not mind-blowing, and it had too much frosting for my taste. I certainly wouldn’t wait in line for it again, but I do sort-of understand the appeal. It’s hard to resist a cupcake that’s as adorable as this:

To satisfy your next ramen and cupcake cravings, head to Ren’s Ramen and Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda!

Ren’s Ramen

6931 Arlington Road

Bethesda, MD 20814

(301) 693-0806

Ren's Ramen on Urbanspoon

Georgetown Cupcake at Bethesda Row

4834 Bethesda Ave.

Bethesda, MD 20814

(301) 907-8900

Georgetown Cupcake at Bethesda Row on Urbanspoon

Unpaid Gourmet tip: Follow @GTownCupcake on Twitter to find out their free secret flavor of the day.

The Georgetown French Market Apr. 23-24

If you were planning to splurge on a spring trip to Paris, put those wallets away because Paris is coming to you, DCers! On April 23-24 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., the Book Hill neighborhood of Georgetown is transforming into an open-air French Market selling everything from grilled merguez sausages, fresh baked baguettes, decadent pastries, and more. The market will span from along Wisconsin Ave. from P St. all the way to Reservoir Road. Nearby boutiques and restaurants will also participate, with some giving up to 70% off to customers. Personally, I’ll be stopping by Cafe Bonaparte, which will offer $4 sweet and savory crepes all day along with a coupon for a “free coffee with a purchase of a crepe.”

Conveniently that same weekend, Dean & Deluca will be hosting their Taste of Dean & Deluca event (which I wrote about here). So for those unpaid gourmets looking for a weekend of indulgent yet affordable eats, head to Georgetown for these two free and fabulous events!

The White House Easter Egg Roll 2010

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to yesterday’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Although I was probably the oldest visitor there who was not accompanying a child, I still had a blast moseying around the South Lawn, watching families roll eggs (watching, being the key word), and screaming along with the pre-teens when the cast of Glee and Sara Bareilles performed.

This year’s theme was “Ready, Set, Go!” in honor of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Kids were able to participate in yoga classes, dance routines, sports competitions, and hula hooping contests to encourage fitness and health.

In addition to the exercise activities, kids could pick their own fresh produce, provided by Whole Foods Markets. Clementine oranges, bananas, pears, and of course, carrots (of the Bugs Bunny sort, with the long stems still attached) were on hand for parents and kids to eat.

Celeb chefs also gave healthy cooking demonstrations. Being the foodie that I am, I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of White House Chef Comerford (pictured left; I totally thought she should have won Iron Chef America) and Chef Nora of the original organic mecca, Restaurant Nora (pictured right). Chef Comerford served up some delectable-looking granola while Chef Nora served perfectly ripe tomatoes with hard boiled eggs and vinaigrette.

I also couldn’t resist taking a photo of the infamous White House garden. Though it still shows signs of wear and tear from this year’s rough winter, seedlings are beginning to sprout. I bet when summer arrives, the garden will be full of delicious home-grown organic veggies!

Celebs were also on hand to provide entertainment for the crowds. One of the highlights of my morning was watching the cast of Glee perform. I can’t wait till the show starts up again this month! The cast performed some of my favorite songs from the show, including “Somebody to Love,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” They sounded even better in person! Here are some more photos:

Other performers included the amazingggg Sara Bareilles (sadly, my photos of her did not turn out well!), baby-faced Justin Bieber (who all the kids went crazy for), and Yo Gabba Gabba. Celebs also read stories over at the Storytime stage. Reese Witherspoon (photo below; I felt like the paparazzi!), Apollo Anton Ohno, and President Obama all participated.

Though I initially felt a bit sheepish about going to the Easter Egg Roll, it turned out to be one of the best days I’ve had in DC–and an awesome excuse to spend the morning outside and walk around the spectacular White House grounds. Turns out, easter egg rolls aren’t just for kids!

Taste of Dean & Deluca Apr. 24-25

Dean & Deluca, the venerable gourmet shop long considered to be the epicenter of epicurean excellence, presents Taste of Dean & Deluca on April 24-25. From 11 a.m.-5 p.m., customers will be able to sample seasonal delights and enjoy live music in the store’s outdoor cafe. The ad did not specify what “seasonal delights” will be available, but personally, I hope they’ll offer those delectable macarons (pictured on left) and their phenomenal cheeses.

Though Dean & Deluca’s luxurious fare is usually out of our price range, that won’t be the case during Taste of Dean & Deluca: admission to the event is complimentary. To all the unpaid gourmets out there: mark this free foodie event down in your calendar!

Taste of Dean & Deluca

3276 M. St. NW

Washington, DC 20007

202-342-2500

April 24-25, 2010

11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Dean & Deluca Cafe on Urbanspoon

Good Eats in Alexandria

Readers–I am so sorry for the recent lack of posts! With the gloomy weather and big life decisions facing me this past week, I just wasn’t in the blogging mood. But enough of my excuses; I am ready and raring to blog now.

Weather in D.C. is supposed to hit a whopping 80 degrees this weekend, and for those of you who want to spend time outside (and away from the crowds on the Mall), I have the perfect idea. Head over to Alexandria, VA, where charming brick buildings, waterfront views, and restaurants galore await. Though only a short metro ride away, walking around Alexandria gave me a much needed respite from fast-paced D.C. life.

I visited two neighborhoods in Alexandria. The first, Del Ray, is the more funky and artsy part of town where eclectic shops, and of course restaurants, line the main street. My boyfriend and I had a tough time deciding between Taqueria Poblano and Evening Star Cafe, but the former lured us in with its fish tacos.

As a SoCal native, I grew up eating the freshest fish tacos possible. I took for granted the accessibility and variety that could easily be found in LA, with Senor Fish, Wahoos, Rubios, and taco stands all just a short drive away. Which is why when I arrived in D.C., I went into serious fish taco withdrawal. I was ecstatic–almost giddy–to find that Taqueria Poblano serves fish tacos.

I ordered 1 Baja fish taco ($4.25 each) and 1 L.A. Style adobo-seasoned pork taco ($3.75). Though the tacos appeared small when they arrived, looks can be deceiving. Each taco was filled to the brim with tasty cabbage, salsa, and of course, fish and pork. The fish taco certainly satisfied my craving: the fish was fried to a light crisp and was delicious with a bit of the tomatillo salsa. The pork was also well-seasoned and not too greasy.

My boyfriend ordered the green chili pork burrito al arriba ($11.25). The photo does not do the burrito nearly enough justice: it was MASSIVE. Though I was skeptical at first (I’m not a fan of dishes that are doused in sauce), the ranchero sauce actually gave the burrito a nice boost in flavor. The guacamole was also a pleasant surprise: fresh and creamy, with just a hint of citrus.

Needless to say, we were stuffed after our meal. But that did not stop us from heading next door to The Dairy Godmother for some dessert.

The Dairy Godmother’s specialty is Wisconsin-style frozen custard, a not-so-distant relative of ice cream. Frozen custard is much creamier and richer due to the higher percentage of butterfat and egg yolks, and it’s made in a special machine that looks like a frozen yogurt soft-serve machine. The shop features 3 flavors of frozen custard per day, ranging from good ol’ vanilla and chocolate to more creative flavors like muddy sneakers and carrot cake.

The Dairy Godmother also offers a wide variety of sorbets and baked treats. Since my boyfriend and I were so full from lunch, we opted for the sorbets. I ordered the apricot saffron pistachio sorbet, which had an unusual flavor profile (and I mean unusual in a good way). Each bite added a new element: on some, I could only taste the fruity sweetness of the apricot. On others, I tasted more of the aromatic, floral saffron notes. And every now and then, I would get a spoonful of pistachios, which added a surprising crunch and earthiness. In short, the sorbet was a revelation and a refreshing end to a heavy meal.

After our eating adventures in Del Ray, we made our way over to Old Town Alexandria. Though Old Town is much more touristy than Del Ray, it is still a super cute neighborhood that is worth checking out. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along King St. and ended our stroll at the docks, where we watched the sun set over the water.

For those DCers looking for a quick weekend getaway, or for some cheap good eats, check out Alexandria!

Taqueria Poblano

2400-B Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-548-8226

Taqueria Poblano on Urbanspoon

The Dairy Godmother

2310 Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-683-7767

Dairy Godmother on Urbanspoon