Tag Archives: Tenleytown

Wagshal’s Brisket Sandwich: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

I’d read several positive reviews of Wagshal’s Delicatessen in Spring Valley, particularly about its brisket sandwich. The Washington Post described it as “so packed with complex, intense flavor that the result is one of the best sandwiches” in the city. The article went on to describe the painstaking process that Bill Fuchs, the owner since 1990, goes through to prepare his famous brisket: seven weeks of dry-aging, curing, and smoking to procure a mere five pounds of that magnificent meat.

After reading positive reviews like that, sometimes my expectations get set way too high and I end up disappointed with the actual dish. But that wasn’t the case at Wagshal’s; the sandwich ($7.00) more than lived up to the hype. It is a thing of beauty: simultaneously simple and sophisticated. Thin slices of that tender brisket are sandwiched between rye bread, generously spread with yellow mustard. Layers of bold flavors emerge from every bite: smoky, salty, briny, meaty, peppery, tangy–a symphony of sensations that leave your taste buds wanting more. Wash it all down with a bottle of Boylans root beer and trust me, you’ve got yourself a match made in heaven.

I couldn’t resist the delectable dessert case filled with tempting treats such as mini key lime pies, fruit tarts topped with berries and kiwis, and dainty cakes of all flavors. I decided to go with an apricot hamantaschen (the triangular pastry in the far upper right corner of the photo), one of my favorite Jewish pastries. Wagshal’s version was sweet and doughy–not as flaky as my favorite one from Canters in Los Angeles, but still tasty.

Wagshal’s has been a Washington institution for more than 80 years. It’s definitely a local place, where servers know customers’ names and sandwich orders by heart. The deli offers a ton of other hot food and sandwiches as well, including a TBLT (marinated tilapia with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American, and Caribbean mayo on grilled sourdough) and a Sicilian Sandwich (Italian sausage, parmesan and mozzarella, herbs, marinara, sauteed mushrooms) that both sound delicious. The shop also stocks a variety of gourmet goodies, such as tiny jars of jam from France, locally made cookies, and a well-stocked wine section. I had fun poking around the store and perusing the inventory while waiting for my sandwich.

But even with the wealth of other options, I’d still go back to Wagshal’s just for that brisket sandwich.

Wagshal’s Delicatessen

4855 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20016

(202) 363-5698

Wagshal's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

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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.

Cafe of India: Not So Artful

After a delightful meal at Masala Art last weekend, I was eager for more delicious Indian food. Luckily, a couple friends invited me to lunch on Saturday and I instantly suggested we try Cafe of India, another new Indian restaurant in Tenleytown that opened just a few blocks away from Masala Art.

Despite the close proximity and similar cuisine, these are two very different restaurants. I really liked Masala Art’s subtle spicing, bold flavors, and elegant presentation. Though some dishes were better than others, I still gave it points for originality and the merits listed above. Cafe of India, on the other hand, is much less adventurous with its menu, and yet, does not manage to deliver on flavor or presentation.

Samosas

We began our meal with an order of samosas, a ubiquitous Indian appetizer of curried potatoes and peas stuffed in a deep fried fritter. The samosas were good, but not great, and the accompanying sauces were a bit too watered down for my taste.

Cafe of India's lunch special

For our entrees, we each ordered the lunch special ($10.95), which allows diners to choose 4 dishes from the lunch list. I ordered the punjabi chicken curry, lamb curry, aloo gobi, and eggplant bharta. All of these dishes, unfortunately, lacked depth of flavor. The eggplant bharta was extremely greasy; the lamb in the lamb curry was extremely tough. The chicken curry and aloo gobi were all right, except the chicken curry was lukewarm–tepid, even! Clearly the kitchen is having some trouble timing their dishes.

Naan, garlic naan, & onion kulcha

The best part of the meal turned out to be the least exotic: a warm basket of naan, or Indian bread. Since 3 of us ordered the lunch special, we were able to sample all 3 types of bread (each lunch special comes your choice of naan, garlic naan, or onion kulcha). My favorite was the onion kulcha, which is basically naan with scallions and green peppers mixed into the batter.

There are some redeeming qualities about Cafe of India which keep me from losing hope for this restaurant. The interior is surprisingly nice–a welcome contrast to the shabby exterior. And the wait staff means well and genuinely want to serve you a good meal. Unfortunately, there are some problems in the kitchen that will need to be addressed before I can come back to Cafe of India. For now, I’ll be sticking with Masala Art.

Cafe of India

4909 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20016

202-244-1395

Artful Indian at Masala Art

Masala Art's artful interior

Apologies, readers, for the serious lack of posts over the past couple of weeks. Between starting my wonderful, fabulous (unpaid) 9am to 5pm internship, forgetting my camera, and eating some disappointing meals not even worth blogging about (ie: Art and Soul for restaurant week), I haven’t had much material for writing. But, fear not! The Unpaid Gourmet is back in action.

I have been dying to try Masala Art since it opened last October, for several reasons. One, I absolutely LOVE Indian food (and was spoiled last year by my roommate, Roohi, who’s mom would bring us yummy homemade Indian food). Two, Tenleytown was seriously lacking in Indian restaurants–in fact, before Masala Art’s arrival, I’m pretty sure there were none (and now…there are two! Cafe of India opened this week and is right down the street). And three, Masala Art is conveniently located a couple blocks from my apartment.

After reading a great review on Masala Art in last week’s Washington City Paper (the review, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared from the site), a friend and I decided it was time to finally try it. The restaurant occupies a peculiar space, in an old building right next to a Masonic Temple and Subway. But don’t let its spare exterior fool you. Upon entering Masala Art, I was struck by its spacious interior and tasteful decorating. Framed posters of Indian artwork and tiled mirrors hang on the walls, each one carefully chosen to complement the room. Tables are well-spaced–not too close together so you can hear other tables’ conversations, but not too far apart that you feel isolated.

Murgh tikka masala

My friend ordered the murgh tikka masala ($12.95), or butter chicken. The sauce was delicately spiced and not overly creamy–a nice change from lesser versions of this dish. I also thought the color of the sauce was beautiful. If you are not a fan of dark meat, however, I don’t recommend ordering this dish. Though the chicken was very tender, there was definitely more dark meat than white meat.

Tiranga paneer

I ordered the tiranga paneer ($11.50), which the menu describes as an “exotic kebab made with homemade cottage cheese and layered with tri-colored stuffing.” I had absolutely no idea what that description meant, but Tim Carman of the Washington City Paper said the dish was “a revelation.” I put my fears and slight lactose intolerance aside and decided to order it.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would describe the tiranga paneer as a revelation, per say. The paneer is basically 3 substantial blocks of cheese, which are firm in texture and more akin to firm tofu. The “tri-colored stuffing” is not really stuffing at all; rather, the blocks of cheese have 3 slits on the side, where the chef spreads a sauce or chutney in between. The result is unlike anything else I have ever tasted: not bad, but not great, either. The cheese was a bit smoky and heavy for me, and I definitely could only eat half the dish. I did enjoy the accompanying rice and lentils, though.

Nan and aloo anardana (sorry for my finger in the shot!)

My friend and I also shared an order of rock salt and cilantro nan and aloo anardana (potatoes with pomegranate seeds). The rock salt and cilantro nan ($2.95) was absolutely delicious. The rock salt and cilantro add a jolt of flavor and freshness to an otherwise boring basket of nan. The aloo anardana ($5 if ordered as a side), however, did not live up to expectations. They were a bit too tangy for my taste, but I did like the surprising spicy notes that hit you at the end of the bite.

Although I did not enjoy every single dish, I would definitely give Masala Art another chance. I thought the plates were presented beautifully, the prices weren’t too steep, and plus, it’s in my neighborhood. Up next, I’ll probably try Cafe of India. Anyone heard any news about it? Here’s to hoping a third Indian restaurant open in Tenleytown!

Masala Art

4441 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20016-2141
(202) 362-4441

Masala Art on Urbanspoon