Monthly Archives: May 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Round-Up

Apologies for the absence of posts this week; it’s been hectic as of late.  But thank goodness for federal holidays! Though I’m looking forward to lounging around my apartment and barbecuing for a good portion of the weekend, I’m also planning to check out some of the many events scheduled. From an Argentine festival to a pig roast to a chili cook-off, there’s something that every foodie can enjoy–without dropping tons of cash.

Friday

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden: Normally, I don’t include Friday events, but this one is probably my favorite part of summer in DC. Jazz in the Sculpture Garden officially starts on Friday  from 5-8:30 p.m., across the street from the National Gallery. After a long week at work, DCers all convene at the sculpture garden to picnic with friends, sip sangria by the fountain, and lay on the grass amongst contemporary sculptures. And with jazz playing in the background and the sun setting, it makes for a truly delightful scene. Jazz in the Garden takes place every Friday evening till September, so be sure to check it out at some point. And even if it rains, concerts will still take place in the National Gallery atrium. Click here for more info.

Saturday

23rd Annual Argentine Festival: If you like tango and empanadas, then this is the festival for you. On Saturday from 4-10:30 p.m., head to Arlington for the 23rd Annual Argentine Festival, featuring performances from several Argentine artists, arts and crafts, tango lessons, and of course, plenty of Argentine food. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased here.

Rockville’s Hometown Holidays: The Rockville Town Center will be the place to be for Montgomery County residents this Saturday and Sunday. This annual festival features live music, an arts and crafts fair,  a green festival presenting green products. Plus, several Rockville restaurants will be on hand offering tastes of their menus. Participating restaurants include La Tasca, Potomac Pizza, Giffords Ice Cream, Bombay Bistro, and more. Click here for more info.

Sunday

Durkl Block Party: I’ll admit, I was pretty jealous when I heard about Silver Lake Jubilee back home in Los Angeles–a huge street festival with live bands and tons of gourmet food trucks. Luckily, DC will host something similar this Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The Durkl Block Party, located in a parking lot on 5th and I St. in Chinatown, sounds like it will be awesome. With free admission, open grills for visitors, Sweetflow and Sauca, and “a DJ lineup that reads like people you normally pay $10 or more to hear” (according to GOG), Durkl Block Party has all the elements for an memorable Memorial Day celebration. Click here for details.

Spiked Sundays at Capitol Skyline: If you’re a fan of Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame, or his popular burger joint Good Stuff Eatery, don’t miss your chance to see him in action at Spike Sundays. Every Sunday till Labor Day from 10a.m.-6 p.m., Chef Spike will be at the Capitol Skyline hotel grilling and chilling by the pool. The $15 admission price will get you a burger with toppings and sides from Spike, drink specials, a live DJ, and all-day access to the pool. Click here for more info.

Charity Pig Roast: Head to Clarendon’s 3 Bar and Grill on Sunday at 4 p.m. for their charity pig roast, where a 250 lb. plus pig will be made into pulled pork. Pulled pork sandwiches will be $5, with all proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Drink specials will also be available. Thanks to Metrocurean for the heads up.

Monday

Cafe Saint Ex and Bar Pilar 2nd Annual Chili Cookoff: From 12-4 p.m., gorge yourself on delicious chili from Cafe Saint Ex, Bar Pilar, and local contestants vying for the title of Best Chili. Face painting, wash-off tattoos, a lemonade stand, and drink specials await visitors. Make sure to bring cash, since it’s cash only! All proceeds will be donated to the Fillmore Art Center. Click here for details.

And with that, my friends, enjoy what is sure to be an epic weekend!

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Scenes from Saint Sophia’s Greek Festival

Yes, those are whole lambs roasting over a spit–no Greek festival would be complete without that! Last weekend’s Annual Spring Greek Festival at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral was a Greekophile culinary paradise. There were so many options, ranging from the aforementioned lamb to flaky spanakopita (spinach-filled phyllo pie) to delectable Greek desserts. Here are some photos, for those of you who missed it:

I started my Greek culinary tour with something sweet: loukoumades, which are Greek donuts drenched in honey and cinnamon. The loukoumades arrived piping hot–fresh from the fryer. They were crisp on the outside and pleasantly doughey on the inside. The honey and cinnamon on top made them taste sinfully delicious, yet light. My roommate and her friend easily polished off over a dozen loukoumades; they were that good.

After my loukoumades appetizer, I headed over to the gyro stand for some lunch. Despite the long line, it was well worth the wait. I loved the generous amount of tzatziki scooped onto the gyro, and the meat was tender and flavorful (albeit a bit greasy). And for $9, the gyro made a relatively cheap and filing lunch.

I couldn’t leave without sampling some of the delectable Greek pastries on display. There were some that I was more familiar with than others. Baklava–thin layers of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and honey–looked incredibly flaky and tasty, but I wanted to try something I’d never eaten before. I chose kadaifi, which is very similar to baklava except that it uses shredded phyllo dough instead of sheets of it (shown in the photo directly above). The kadaifi looked like little birds nests, and the texture was quite enjoyable. Inside, it was filled with a mixture of walnuts, spices and honey.

I also bought some karythopita, or spiced walnut cake. It reminded me of a lighter, honey-soaked fruit cake (minus the fruit of course). If you’d like to try making these Greek sweets at home, click here and here for recipes.

The Greek festival was a delightful way to explore Greek cuisine and culture (though my one regret is that I missed the Greek dancing!). I hope to be back next year to get my “ompa” on.

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Silver Diner: Not a Greasy Spoon Anymore

I will admit that I’m somewhat of a food snob. On our first date, I warned my boyfriend that if Chili’s or McDonalds was our destination, he would almost certainly be dining alone that night (luckily for both him and me, he hadn’t chosen either of those places). I avoid chain restaurants like the plague, opting for local joints instead. My food elitism is precisely why, when I received an invitation to attend a menu sampling at the Silver Diner, I hesitated at first. I thought to myself, “A chain greasy spoon? No way.”

But when I read the invitation more closely, I was intrigued. The event was slated to unveil Silver Diner’s newly launched Fresh and Local menu to the DC blogger community. I’m a sucker for anything with the words “fresh” and “local” in the title, so I decided to check out the event with my friend Jen, of Fresh Cracked Pepper.

The evening proved once again that you should never judge a book by its cover. My skepticism was proven wrong, and Jen and I came away with mostly positive impressions of Silver Diner’s new initiatives. The event began with introductions from owner Bob Giaimo and Head Chef Ype Von Hengst (pictured above). Giaimo discussed the rationale behind revamping Silver Diner’s menu and his decision to go the fresh and local route. He explained that after a month of conducting focus groups with Silver Diner customers, he discovered an overwhelming demand for fresh and local cuisine. More importantly, he found that diners were willing to pay more for locally sourced ingredients–compensating for the additional costs that the Diner would incur.

Chef Ype then presented the new menu offerings. Having grown up near a farm in Holland, where his mother brought him along to buy fresh milk and vegetables, he is passionate about bringing local ingredients to the Silver Diner. The first round of tastings included a summer citrus salad, chopped asian salad, and a variety of sliders (salmon, pesto turkey, hamburger, tomato mozzarella).

Chef Ype boasted that the strawberries (in the citrus salad) arrived in the restaurant that morning from a farm in Delaware. They certainly brightened up an otherwise run-of-the-mill salad. I also enjoyed the salmon and turkey burger sliders: both were served on whole wheat buns (sourced from a local bakery) and tasted juicy and tender.

Next, Chef Ype served the entrees (as if the surfeit of sliders and salads weren’t enough!): 600 calorie smothered BBQ meatloaf, 600 calorie vegetarian noodle stir fry, gluten free shrimp scampi with Maryland goat cheese and locally grown asparagus, brown rice with edamame, and guacamole pepperjack burger (which used hormone-free ground beef).

The guac burger was delicious: the patty was cooked with a perfectly pink center, and the addition of avocado, cheese, and bacon pushed the burger over the top–in a good way. The shrimp scampi, made with gluten free brown rice flour pasta, was also surprisingly good–and not an entree you’d expect to see at a diner. The earthy asparagus, along with the tangy Maryland goat cheese, added color and sophistication to the dish. The only dish that I wasn’t a fan of was the noodle stir fry (though I do applaud Chef Ype for using whole wheat pasta). The teriyaki sauce was a bit cloying for my taste.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without sampling some dessert: apple pie, chocolate cake, and a gluten free brownie sundae (sorry, no photo of the sundae available). The desserts were decent, but a tad too sweet for my taste. I did enjoy those fresh, juicy Delaware strawberries, which made another appearance atop the apple pie.

The night ended with some fabulous complimentary gift baskets, which included fresh bunches of asparagus, more of those delicious strawberries, Greenberry’s coffee, a Silver Diner mug, and 2 bottles of Virginia-brewed beer.

I think Silver Diner’s Fresh and Local menu is quite admirable. Yes, “fresh,” “local,” and “organic” have become buzzwords in the food community, and there are many restaurants out there that just slap on those labels without doing the legwork. But Silver Diner is not one of those establishments.

After listening to Bob Giaimo and Chef Ype, it’s clear they have done extensive research and found the best local ingredients they can afford: asparagus and strawberries from Delaware, hormone free beef from New Jersey, eggs from Lancaster County, PA, and locally baked buns. Some would argue these locales are not local enough. But in my opinion, that’s close enough and still way better than buying strawberries from, say, Mexico. And, perhaps most importantly, the food is tasty: not all the dishes were winners, but overall, I was very satisfied with my meal.

Head over to the Silver Diner in Clarendon to try their new Fresh and Local menu for yourselves! (The menu will be implemented at other Silver Diner locations soon.) I’m sure you’ll be surprised, like I was, to find that it’s not your typical greasy spoon anymore.

Silver Diner Clarendon

3200 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22201

703-812-8600

Silver Diner on Urbanspoon

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Weekend Round-up

Photo credit: Stephanie D./Wikimedia Commons

This week’s round-up will be short and sweet. Here we go:

Saturday 5/15

Saint Sophia Cathedral’s Spring Greek Festival: If you’re a fan of gyros, tzatziki, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you will love the Saint Sophia Greek Festival. Held Friday (today), Saturday, and Sunday from  noon to 9 p.m., visitors can gorge themselves on delicious Greek fare–including lamb roasted on an open spit–and enjoy live music, dancing, and a moon bounce. Check out the Going Out Gurus for details.

DC Yoga Week: Bring your yoga gear and mat to the National Mall on Saturday, where DC Yoga Week will be hosting free yoga sessions, speakers, and activities. Where’s the foodie angle, you may be asking yourself? Healthy snacks and drinks will be provided for attendees. No that’s something I can namaste for. Click here for details.

Sunday 5/16

Taste of Arlington: For those who don’t venture outside the District, this may be a culinary event worth hopping on the metro for. From noon to 5 p.m. in Ballston, Taste of Arlington will feature samples from some of the area’s fabulous restaurants, including Jaleo, Northside Social, and the Liberty Tavern to name a few. Tickets are needed to taste food and beverages, and can be purchased in advance from their website.

Taste of Wheaton: Maryland residents won’t have to travel far to get in on some of the food festival action this weekend. Taste of Wheaton will take place on Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wheaton is known for harboring some of the D.C. area’s cheapest (and tastiest) ethnic eats, and Taste of Wheaton will not disappoint on that front. Hollywood East Cafe (awesome dim sum), Global Cafe African Grill, and Marchone’s Italian Deli are just some of the featured restaurants. Samples will range from $1-$5 each. Guests will also be able to enjoy live music while nibbling on their samples. Click here for details.

And with that, I’m signing off and embarking on the weekend. Have fun, everyone!

Redwood Restaurant and Bar: A Classy Bethesda Eatery

On Tuesday evening, I attended the launch party for Rill Architects at Redwood Restaurant and Bar, located in the heart of the posh Bethesda Row. (Full disclosure: I received an invitation from the PR firm running the event and attended as a media/blog guest. The new category, Media Pass, designates these types of events.) I’ve walked past Redwood many times, and my eyes always wandered to the scrumptious-looking plates arriving at the tables outside. Luckily, the event on Tuesday gave me a chance to try some of their offerings.

Redwood’s interior features dark mahogany tables and walls, tall windows, and modern lighting. The firm chose Redwood as their party location  specifically because of its impressive architectural design and aesthetic.

But enough about the ambiance; now onto the food! A classy selection of appetizers were served buffet style in the bar. I always love a good cheese platter, and the one served at Redwood was particularly good: brie, bleu cheese, pepperjack, and a few other types of cheese were accompanied by spiced cashews and dried apricots and figs. Thinly sliced crisped french bread was also on hand.

My other favorite dish of the night was the risotto balls. For those who have never tried these delectable treats, I highly recommend them–especially if you like risotto. Risotto balls are basically risotto (the decadent Italian rice dish) rolled into a ball, coated in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and then deep fried to perfection. Redwood’s version did not disappoint: crisp on the outside, cheesy and soft on the inside, and absolutely delicious with the marinara sauce. Other dishes served that night included a vegetable platter, Asian dumplings, grilled focaccia with various pestos and spreads (though the risotto balls were clearly the star).

I will definitely be back to try Redwood’s full menu sometime soon. Their Sunday Jazz Brunch, which features live music from 12-3 p.m. and freshly made apple cider donut holes (yum!), sounds amazing. Maybe I’ll snag one of the outdoor tables this Sunday, and then head next door to Dolcezza for some dessert.

Redwood Restaurant and Bar

1721 Bethesda Lane

Bethesda, MD 20814

301-656-5515

Redwood Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Weekend Round-up

The National Cathedral. Photo credit: AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a quick round-up of what’s happening this weekend, culled from my favorite D.C. blogs and websites:

Saturday 5/8

Shortcut to Europe: Travel across the EU on Saturday–without even leaving the District! Just like last week’s Embassy tours, the EU Embassies will be rolling out the red carpets for patrons this weekend. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. this weekend, EU embassies will be open for tours and offer cultural activities–and in some cases, cuisine–to the public. Free shuttles to the different embassies leave from Dupont Circle, on Massachusetts Ave. Click here for more details.

National Cathedral Flower Mart: Take in the beauty of spring flowers and prime views of the National Cathedral at the 71st Annual Flower Mart. Sponsored by the All Hallows Guild, this free event draws as many as 10,000 people every year. In addition to the gorgeous flowers that will be on hand, there will also be entertainment, art, rides and games, and of course, food! The Ukrainian embassy will also be on hand to showcase Ukrainian culture and cuisine. The event starts today (Friday) from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Click here for more details.

National Train Day: All abaord for trains galore at Union Station on Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.! But wait–even if you’re not a train aficionado, there will still be plenty to do at this free event. Meet and greet with the National Train Day spokesperson, Taye Diggs (*sigh,* one of my faves) or watch a cooking demonstration (and snag a sample) from Michel Richard, of Central and Citronelle fame. Click here for more details.

Sunday 5/9

Dolcezza Grand Opening Party: Finally! After being postponed for a month, Dolcezza Gelato is hosting its grand opening party on Sunday from 12-6 p.m. at its spiffy new Dupont location. Head over for free samples of its artisan Argentinean gelato and smoked pig from Bev Eggleston of Eco-Friendly Foods. An odd combination at first glance, yes, but when you think about it, gelato and pork could be the best marriage of food ever. Check here for details.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Around the World in 1 Day

Last weekend was filled with glorious spring weather and loads of fabulous food events (as I wrote here). My friends and I spent a blissful Saturday afternoon at two of these events: Cultural DC’s Embassy Tours and Taste of Eighth. With the splendid array of international cuisine and culture featured at each of these gatherings, I felt like I had traveled around the world by the end of the day.

First stop was the Korean embassy, where pleasantly smoky aromas and sounds of Korean barbecue sizzling on the grill greeted us. After waiting in line for 30 minutes, we were rewarded for our patience with a plate of kalbi (barbecued spare ribs), rice, and kimchi (the infamous Korean dish of spicy fermented cabbage). I always lament the dearth of Korean restaurants in DC, and was very grateful to the Korean Embassy for providing a satisfying, authentic taste of Korean cuisine (and for free!). The kalbi tasted slightly nutty from the sesame seed oil and smoky from the grill–perfectly cooked to be chewy and meaty. The rice and spicy kimchi provided a tasty accompaniment.

In addition to food, the embassy also showcased Korean culture with tae kwon do demonstrations, Korean drumming, and gorgeous exhibits of traditional Korean art and clothes. It was a fun and lively way to become acquainted with Korea’s exciting culture!

Next on our international tour was the Brazilian embassy. I won’t even attempt to describe how idyllic and charming the Spanish colonial style house looked, with sunlight streaming in through the tall windows, ornate wall paintings, dark mahogany furniture, and lush bougainvillea-filled gardens outside. Words can’t do it justice, but photos just might.

The only thing that the Brazilian embassy was missing: some Brazilian food. I would have loved to chow down on some pao de queijo (cheesy yuca bread), picanha (Brazilian grilled meat), and feijoada (a hearty black bean stew) after milling through the impeccable embassy.

After the embassy tours, we headed to the opposite end of town to Capitol Hill, where the annual Taste of Eighth event was taking place. Since we arrived at 3:00, and the event ended at 4:00, it was a bit frenzied to use up all our tickets and get to all the vendors in time. But, in what’s probably a record time of 30 minutes, we were able visit 5 (technically 6, if you count Levi’s which closed early) restaurants and sample some of the tastiest food I’ve had in a while.

Cava Mezze, which specializes in Greek small plates, served the most delicious roasted lamb chops with homemade pita chips, hummus, dolmas (grape leaves), and homemade yogurt. Though not all lamb chops were equal (my boyfriend’s was particularly fatty), mine was very meaty, juicy, and tender. It was so good that I couldn’t stop myself from gnawing on the bone! The pita chips were also phenomenal: crunchy and crisp on the outside, but soft and bready on the inside. Great with the tangy yogurt and spicy red pepper-flecked hummus.

Next, we walked over to Zest, which served a lamp wrap with onions and pomegranate barbecue sauce (pictured in the top right). The wrap was hearty and flavorful. But I wasn’t a big fan of the pomegranate sauce; a bit too sweet and overpowering for my taste. The bread was also a bit hard, probably from sitting out in the sun all day, but hey, I understand it’s street food.

Starfish Cafe, a bright and eclectic cafe further down 8th St., offered avocado gazpacho and ceviche (pictured in the bottom left). This was the only restaurant where patrons could sit inside and eat; and it was a much needed respite  from the heat. The gazpacho and ceviche were both refreshing and light.

For our last dish, we chose Capitol Hill Tandoor, where a vibrant, colorful dish caught our eye. They served chicken biryani, a traditional Indian rice dish. The flavor was incredible: mildly spiced, but complex in flavor. The chicken in the dish was also super tender.

And for a sweet ending to a sweet day, we went to Ted’s Bulletin for the most decadent vanilla milkshakes, with fresh dark chocolate shavings on top. Ted’s Bulletin, which was set to open this week, is a cute 30’s style diner. With milkshakes that tasty, I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

Cava Mezze

527 8th St. SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-543-9090

Cava on Urbanspoon

Zest Bistro

735 8th St. SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-544-7171

Zest Bistro on Urbanspoon

Starfish Cafe

539 8th St. SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-546-5006

Starfish Cafe on Urbanspoon

Capitol Hill Tandoor and Grill

419 8th Se. SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-547-3233

Capitol Hill Tandoor & Grill on Urbanspoon

Ted’s Bulletin

505 8th St. SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-544-8337

Ted's Bulletin on Urbanspoon