Monthly Archives: June 2010

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot at Sweet Mango Cafe

Saturday’s Caribbean Carnival parade in Petworth (which I mentioned here) can be described in one word: HOT. It was another day of record-breaking heat, but that didn’t stop crowds of eager parade goers from coming out and showing their support. The entirety of Georgia Ave. was lined with spectators old and young: families set up lawn chairs and ice chests, groups of teenagers tried to act cool out on their own, and kids ran around and cooled off with water balloon fights.

The temperature wasn’t the only part of the parade that was hot. Bright, colorful floats, punctuated by scantily clad, feather adorned female dancers, solicited some hollers from the crowd. Reggae music blasted from the most ginormous speakers I’ve ever seen, pulsating through the street.

I was (literally) a hot mess by the end of the parade, but couldn’t leave without trying Sweet Mango Cafe’s infamous jerk chicken. Conveniently located across from the Petworth metro, residents tell me it’s hard to walk by and not to be seduced by the potent scent of jerk chicken wafting out of Sweet Mango Cafe.

I ordered a medium-size white meat jerk chicken with rice and beans and cabbage ($7.99) and a side order of plaintains ($2.00). The chicken packed a ton of flavor into every bite, due in large part to the fiery jerk seasoning that coated the exterior (and left me licking my fingers for more). Aside from the spice, the chicken was tender and moist, with just the right amount of smoke from the grill. My only bone to pick (no pun intended) was the bones; some of the pieces were mostly bone and cartilage and not a lot of  meat.

The sides were also tasty. Rice and beans soaked up a lot of the chicken juices, which complemented the dish well. Cabbage was less than memorable, but the plantains–those were money.

The sweltering day ended with us collapsing on our couch, chugging down several glasses of water, and catching the end of the World Cup match. And to end this post, a video to sum up my feelings about the meal and that day in general:

Sweet Mango Cafe

3701 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20010

(202) 726-2646

Take-out recommended

Sweet Mango Cafe on Urbanspoon

Share/Bookmark

Weekend Round-Up

Two big events are on the horizon for this weekend (in between World Cup games, of course):

Saturday

DC Caribbean Carnival: Get ready for beads, feathers, and reggae galore at the annual DC Caribbean Carnival. The parade will take place Saturday starting at 11, and will wind down the Georgia Ave. corridor. Once the extravaganza is over, head to the the international marketplace at Banneker Recreation Park (Sat. and Sun. from 12-7 p.m.), where food, crafts, and live music await. I’m also planning to make a pit stop at Sweet Mango Cafe, which I’ve heard serves the best jerk chicken in DC. Click here for more details.

Saturday and Sunday

Safeway’s National Capital Barbecue Battle VXIII: This sounds like it’ll be an event of EPIC eating proportions. Featuring free food samples, cooking demos, 30 bands on 3 stages, the national pork championship, and much more, Safeway’s Barbecue Battle won’t disappoint barbecue aficionados–or foodies looking for to score some smoky, succulent barbecue samples. The festival, located on Pennsylvania Ave. between 9th and 14th Streets, starts Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Click here for more info.

Enjoy the fun, sun, and festivities!

Photo courtesy of DCCaribbeanCarnival.org

Share/Bookmark

Shameless Plug #3

My article, “School Food Reform, One No-Bake Tart at a Time,” marks my long-awaited (6 months–to be exact!) debut on The Atlantic Food channel. All of the time spent was worth it. The article discusses Dr. Antonia Demas’ Food Is Elementary program (which I also wrote about here) and its innovative integration of healthy USDA commodity foods. Here’s a snippet:

Using these healthy commodity foods, most of which would be prohibitively expensive if bought on the open market, is one factor that makes Food Is Elementary a cost-effective program. As Antonia Demas noted, “I think the commodity program, if used correctly and in conjunction with classroom-based education, could really be a way to solve health problems in this country.” Her integration of healthy commodity foods won Food Is Elementary a national award for creativity in implementing USDA guidelines.

I also visited a successful Food Is Elementary program, run by Catherine Dixon, at the Stadium School in Baltimore. Her students’ reactions to the class were pretty inspiring:

Perhaps the strongest insurance Food Is Elementary can have is enthusiasm from students—something Catherine Dixon’s program in Baltimore has managed to inspire. Her students unanimously told me her class was their favorite part of the day. “I like that it’s more cooking than working,” one student joked. Another explained, “I like that we get to chop things, and learn about the food and where it comes from—it’s like going to another culture.” And surprisingly, when asked what their favorite dishes that they made in class were, students tended to name the more exotic-sounding, gourmet fare: veggie burgers, sushi, and of course, that delectable raw fruit tart.

Read the full article–which includes a recipe for Antonia Demas’ raw fruit tart–here.

Share/Bookmark

Sensational Chocolate and Wine at Biagio

When people asked about what I did last Saturday, I casually replied, “Oh, you know, just your average Saturday afternoon admiring art and sampling fine wine and chocolate.” OK, perhaps I don’t respond in quite that highfalutin manner, but you get my drift.

Biagio Fine Chocolate. whose small, unassuming storefront belies an exquisite collection of chocolates from around the world, hosted an intimate afternoon of complimentary chocolate and wine tasting on Saturday. Set in their gallery, with jazz playing softly in the background, it was an elegant introduction to the intricacies of pairings.

A.M. Wine Shoppe, which recently opened up the street, provided the wines for the event. We started with a light and crisp Cava that paired beautifully with the milk chocolates. My favorite was a dark milk chocolate with Tibetan goji berries and pink Himalayan sea salt. It was salty, sweet, and slightly fruity all at once–and the bubbles from the Cava really brought out all of those flavors.

The next wine was Valpolicella, a pleasant Italian red with hints of cherry and currant. It paired nicely with the dark chocolates, of which the dark rum truffles (pictured above) were one of my favorites. Another dark chocolate sample, described by the shop as “unusual,” was certainly that. Made from 100% cacao beans with no added sugar, it was chocolate in its purest form. Interesting to compare and contrast with the others, but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat an entire bar.

We ended with voulet, a sweet Italian dessert wine that tasted like grape juice–only better, and with more floral notes. For our last chocolate, we tried spicy chocolate almonds (pictured below) from Scotland, which were, indeed, deceptively hot and spicy.

We left Biagio that day with plenty of chocolate and wine in our tummies, and smiles on our faces. It was a perfect way to beat the heat and indulge in some of the best chocolate and wine in town–without draining your bank account. I’ll definitely be back to Biagio for more events like this and to pick up a bar of that irresistible goji berry and pink HImalayan salt chocolate.

Biagio Fine Chocolate

1904 18th St.

Washington, DC 20009

202-328-1506

Share

Weekend Round-Up

Despite today’s beautiful and non-humid weather, this weekend promises to be as steamy and muggy as ever, with temperatures reaching into the nineties. (Obviously, this will do wonders for my hair and wardrobe.) If you’re looking to beat the heat with some Unpaid Gourmet-approved cheap eats and drinks, then keep on reading!

Saturday

Chocolate and Wine at Biagio: Indulge yourself at Biagio Fine Chocolate, one of DC’s best artisan chocolate shops, with a free chocolate and wine tasting from 3-6 p.m. Wines will be brought in from neighboring A.M. Wine Shoppe and paired with Biagio’s decadent seasonal chocolates. (My favorite pairing is Pinot Noir with dark chocolate–phenomenal.) You won’t want to miss this sinfully delicious afternoon! Check out Girl Meets Food for more details.

Taste of Reston: This 3-day event (Fri, Sat, Sun) touts itself as Northern Virginia’s largest outdoor food festival with samplings from over 30 area restaurants, including The Melting Pot, Chef Geoff’s, and Pitango Gelato. Make sure to be there on Saturday from 12-5 p.m. for the Guns n’ Hoses Chili Cook-off–the “ultimate battle of the heroes.” The police and fire departments of Reston will compete for the title of Best Chili and the audience will be the judge (which, of course, means samples!). Once you’ve had enough to eat, check out the other festivities which include live music, beer and wine gardens, a Kids Corner with games, and the best part–a carnival with rides! Tickets to the carnival cost $20, but admission to Taste of Reston is free of charge. Food tickets are $1/ticket or $20/24 tickets. Click here for more info.

Sunday

Festa Italiana: From 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., DCers will be able to get a real taste of Italian cuisine at the Festa Italiana. Located at the Holy Rosary Church (just past the Judiciary Square metro), the festa will feature live music, Italian folk dance lessons, a silent auction, Italian car shows, and a medieval dance troupe visiting direct from Italy. And if all that isn’t enough to lure you to the festival, maybe the fantastic menu will: stuffed veal neck with salsa verde, torta filled with swiss chard, leeks, zucchini and parmesan cheese, pizza, gelato, and (my favorite) cannolis. Admission is free and details on this scrumptious event can be found here.

Father’s Day: It’s not too late to make reservations for Father’s Day brunch, lunch, or dinner, especially if you take a look at the Washingtonian’s handy guide. From steak at Dino’s to chocolate, bacon, and beer brunch at Coco Sala, to a sumptuous farmers market feast at Blue Duck Tavern, there’s no way Dad won’t find something he doesn’t like.

Happy weekend everyone, and stay cool!

Photo courtesy of Fast Forward Event Productions/Wikimedia Commons

Share

Top Chef Premiere at Spike’s Good Stuff Eatery

Last night’s Top Chef DC Party at Good Stuff Eatery was a packed event, where local foodies and fans flocked to Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s burger joint watch the much anticipated premiere, sample some of the best shakes in town, and mingle with former Top Chef contestants Carla Hall (hootie hoo!) and Spike. Here are some photos from the fun and food-filled escapade (and sorry for the blurriness; I was trying to be discreet with my photographing!):

One of the highlights of the evening was when Good Stuff brought out free pizza from Spike’s much hyped, soon-to-be-opened restaurant, We, The Pizza, located right next door. I grabbed a slice of the sausage and basil pizza, and fans awaiting We the Pizza’s opening–you will not be disappointed.

And of course, I saved the best for last:

From left to right: Chef Carla, Mary from Girl Meets Food, Chef Spike, and me! Thanks to Carla and Spike for posing, and to food newsie for taking the photo.

The party was a fantastic way to inaugurate what is sure to be a phenomenal season of Top Chef. And an appetizing excuse to order a handspun chocolate milkshake and juicy burger with bacon and roquefort cheese and catch up with foodie friends like Girl Meets Food, French Twist DC, and Food Newsie. All in all, an amazing night to be living in DC!

Share

Upscale Thai at Bangkok Joe’s

I am always on the lookout for decent Thai food, and was quite surprised when a friend (who lived in Thailand last year) recommended Bangkok Joe’s to me. Bangkok Joe’s is located on a touristy stretch of Georgetown’s Waterfront, which houses several outdoor bars and restaurants that turn out mediocre food, overpriced drinks, and one of the most fratastic scenes in town.

Bangkok Joes, though, seems to be the exception. The interior is modern and classy, with dim lighting, sleek booths, and Asian accents adding to the ambience. A dumpling station filled with huge steamers dishes out plates of delectable-looking dumplings while patrons sip on colorful cocktails at the bar.

My boyfriend and I arrived at about 9 p.m. on Friday night and were seated promptly at a booth inside (the outdoor tables were packed). We started with an order of pork ‘n crab shu mai ($7.50), which in hindsight, may have been a mistake to order at a Thai restaurant. The shu mai were much bigger than usual and filled to the brim with pork and crab. But in the end, they were just ok–nothing too memorable or mind-blowing, plus they were twice the price of regular shu mai. Maybe we should have gone with something a bit more Thai-inspired; but for reasons I’ll mention later, I would actually skip the dumplings altogether next time.

For our main courses, we ordered the panang curry noodles with grilled shrimp (a whopping $17.95–but worth the price) and the chicken basil rice bowl ($12.95). Panang curry, not to be confused with its spicy red curry counterpart, is sweeter and creamier due to its use of coconut milk and peanuts. Bangkok Joe’s version tasted both traditional and modern: it certainly had a lot of peanuts and coconut milk, but somehow, it tasted lighter and fresher than other versions I’ve had. The addition of steamed spinach and bean sprouts gave nice color and crunch to the dish, while the grilled shrimp seemed to be just an afterthought. And those rice noodles–wide, chewy, and yummy–soaked up the curry perfectly.

At $17.95, this dish was not cheap by any stretch. But, the portion was huge and it did last us for 3 meals as leftovers!

The chicken basil rice bowl ($12.95) may not look too tasty–but in this case, looks can be very, very deceiving. The dish was a hodge podge of ground chicken, green beans, scallions, Thai basil and bell peppers stir-fried in a spicy chili-garlic-basil sauce. Talk about complex layers of flavor–this dish had tons of them. There was crunch from the green beans, sweetness from the bell peppers, heat from the chicken, and subtle spice from the sauce, all of which came together for a flavor-packed bite. It was simply delicious. And once again, the portion size was so substantial that we had to take home plenty of leftovers.

Bangkok Joe’s stands out from its Waterfront neighbors for its upscale Thai cuisine, large portions, and good value. Next time you find yourself stranded on the Georgtown Waterfront with an empty stomach, head straight to Bangkok Joe’s where both your tummy and your wallet (and your fridge at home) will be satisfied.

Bangkok Joe’s

3000 K St.

Washington, DC 20007

(202) 333-4422

Bangkok Joe's on Urbanspoon

Share/Bookmark