Tag Archives: Virginia

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!

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!

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

X.O. Taste Is A Bullseye

Interior of X.O. Taste

In celebration of Chinese New Year (unofficial celebration, since I am not Chinese!), I have been eating a TON of Chinese food. I initially thought D.C. was devoid of any good ethnic food. But luckily, I have been venturing out of the District and discovering the wealth of authentic Asian cuisine in Virginia and Maryland: Korean barbecue in Annandale, Vietnamese bahn mi in Eden Center, and most importantly for this post, Hong Kong style roast duck in Falls Church.

Falls Church, in neighboring Virginia, has strip malls filled with Chinese restaurants on virtually every corner. These restaurants’ featured cuisines cover the full gamut of China’s eight great culinary traditions, ranging from numbingly spicy Sichuan to elaborate Cantonese cuisine. My friends and I were in the mood for Cantonese, particularly for roast duck–a Hong Kong specialty.

Though Mark’s Duck House is the more well-known restaurant for roast duck, we headed to X.O. Taste, located conveniently (and coincidentally) right across the street from Mark’s. X.O. Taste, with its multicolored pastel walls and friendly servers, offers a slightly more pleasant ambiance than its competitor across the street. Though we had to wait almost an hour for a table, the sumptuous feast that followed was definitely worth the wait.

X.O. Taste boasts a vast menu of specials, seafood, noodle soups, and (my favorite) Hong Kong style barbecue. One can get lost in the dizzying array of dishes, so I suggest taking a good look at the menu beforehand–perhaps while you’re waiting for a table.

My friends and I ordered a TON of food since it was Chinese New Year–the waiters actually had to bring over another table just to put our food on! We started out with the crispy spicy pork chop ($11.95; not pictured), which was hog heaven. Thin but fatty strips of pork are dipped in batter and deep fried with red chile peppers and scallions. The outside was crisped to perfection, while the inside just melted away in your mouth and left a salty and spicy flavor.

Next, the highly anticipated roast duck ($9.95 for half, $19.95 for whole) arrived, steaming hot. While Peking duck has crunch skin and is served with pancakes, Hong Kong style duck is a bit greasier and not as crispy, but still delicious. The duck has more of a mollases-ey flavor and soaks up the residual grease and cooking juices on the plate (which, according to one of our dining companions, tasted great when poured over rice).

In keeping with that night’s passion for poultry, we also ordered a soy sauce chicken ($10.95 for half, $19.95 for whole). The chicken arrived (like the duck) on the plate with its head in tact, but that did not stop us from digging in. The entire chicken is poached in a mixture of soy sauce, salt, pepper, ginger, and other spices. Though this is usually not my favorite dish, I couldn’t stop myself from eating the version at X.O. Taste. Served with ginger and scallions mixed in sesame oil, the chicken was moist and flavorful.

We also ordered stir fried spinach ($9.95), jumbo shrimp with walnuts ($16.95), and steamed sea bass with ginger and scallion (M.P.). The spinach tasted fresh and full of garlic (so good). The shrimp and bass, however, were the standouts. The shrimp were big and juicy, and the walnuts that came with them were caramelized to perfection. The steamed bass was flaky and light, and the ginger and scallions really brought out the flavor of the fish.

Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal. But, I still managed to save room for the complimentary dessert: sweet and savory red bean soup.

X.O. Taste is a must-eat for those in D.C. looking for authentic and delicious Chinese food. Plus, it’s perfect for large groups: you can share lots of dishes and the price per person is sure to be pretty low. I will definitely be back again for the sinfully good roast duck and soy sauce chicken, and perhaps try some of the soft noodle rolls or congee.

X.O. Taste

6124 Arlington Blvd.

Falls Church, VA 22044

703-536-1630

Open 7 days a week, 11a-2a

XO Taste on Urbanspoon

Burger Bonanza

The B.I.G. Poppa at Ray's Hell Burger

Last week, I attempted to be a vegetarian—and failed miserably. I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult, since I tend to cook vegetarian meals most of the time anyway. But after a full week of subsisting on salads, sweet potato risotto, and roasted brussel sprouts (recipes to follow in a later blog post), I suddenly developed a serious craving for red meat. And boy, do I mean SERIOUS—I had dreams of devouring thick, juicy burgers and steaks for days.

On Saturday night, I decided it was time to end my short stint as a vegetarian and indulge my craving for red meat. My boyfriend (who was shocked I suggested we go out for burgers) and I excitedly headed to Ray’s Hell Burger in Rosslyn, known for its thick burgers, gourmet fixings, and bargain prices. Ray’s Hell Burger also gained a lot of publicity last March, when President Obama and VP Joe Biden made stopped in for an unannounced lunch visit. (On a side note, I love that we have a foodie First Family.)

Inside Ray's HB

Ray’s Hell Burger is located in a mini mall/restaurant row on Wilson Blvd., Rosslyn’s main drag. It’s right next to Pho 79 (another of my favorite haunts) and Guajillo, a festive Mexican cantina (more on this later in the post). Though short on ambience, it more than makes up for this shortcoming with its flavor packed burgers.

The menu offers a basic burger ($6.95) with your choice of gourmet toppings which range from charred jalepenos to Ray’s Heck Sauce. The basic burger can be cooked in various styles, including blackened with Cajun spices, Diablo grilled (brushed with a spicy chipotle marinade), and au poivre with a black peppercorn crust. Other fancier toppings are available at an additional charge: imported double cream brie ($1.50), roasted bone marrow with persillade ($5.00), and seared foie gras with truffle oil ($10.00) to name a few.

The counter at Ray's: clearly they thought I was crazy

There are also signature Ray’s burgers, all of which have clever names (I was definitely cracking up while reading the menu). I absolutely had to order the B.I.G. Poppa ($7.95; pictured above) when I saw it on the menu: not only for the hilarious name (the caption reads, “We like it when you order B.I.G. Poppa), but also for the delicious combination of ingredients. The B.I.G. Poppa is an au poivre (black peppercorn crusted) burger with cognac and sherry sauteed mushrooms, grilled red onions, and aged Danish bleu cheese, all on a grilled warm bun.

From the moment I tasted the B.I.G. Poppa, it was pretty much love at first bite–and confirmed that I am, in fact, a lifelong carnivore. The crackly peppercorn crust subdued the intense flavor of the bleu cheese, which allowed the flavor of the meat to really shine. Ray’s Hell Burger uses trimmings from its sister restaurant, Ray’s the Steaks (which is also AMAZING), in its burgers, so the patty is extra thick, juicy, and flavorful. The cognac and sherry mushrooms and grilled red onions added a decadent touch to an already luxurious burger, and the lettuce and tomato added a hint of freshness. I washed the burger down with a 16oz glass of the on-draft root beer ($2.00)—not too sweet, and perfect with the burger.

The Soul Burger

My boyfriend ordered the Soul Burger Number One ($8.95), dubbed “the hardest working burger in chow business.” The Soul Burger comes with applewood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, cognac and sherry sautéed mushrooms, and grilled red onions. In my opinion, it paled in comparison to the B.I.G. Poppa, but it was still delicious nonetheless. I could definitely taste the quality of the ingredients in every bite: the bacon was thick and not too smoky, the swiss cheese mildly nutty, the mushrooms earthy, and the grilled onions sweet. We also split an order of large fries, which were crispy and golden–but it was clear that the burgers were the stars of the meal.

After our burger bonanza, I was stuffed. I looked at my boyfriend and declared, “I’m so full, I’m miserable!” He agreed. But somehow…we still managed to have room for dessert.

Sopapillas at Guajillo

My boyfriend spotted sopapillas on Guajillo’s (pronounced Wa-hee-yo) menu and demanded we order it for dessert. Sopapillas are fried bread puffs drizzled with honey–almost like a churro minus the sugar and cinnamon. Guajillo serves theirs with a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream–a steal for $7. The sopapillas were definitely enough for 2 people (the waiter laughed when I asked whether we should order 2) and a delicious deep fried ending to a fabulous night.

Ray’s Hell Burger

1713 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 841-0001

Guajillo

1727 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209-2503
(703) 807-0840

Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon