Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Miriam's Kitchen Hot Sauce

After all those delicious and decadent holiday meals, I was desparate for some plain food. Something like, say, steamed brown rice and broccoli. Okay, easy  enough. But even simply prepared healthy food needs a little zest. Time to crack open the Miriam's Kitchen home-made hot sauce that my friend Tali had brought me as a holiday gift. Yum! This was the ingredient that made a low calorie meal still taste fantastic and kept me in the mood of the season.

The hot sauce is made from scratch by Chef John Murphy at Miriam's Kitchen, and is the same one that is served to the guys who like hot sauce with their eggs and home fries. At Christmas time, it was sold to the volunteers as a fundraiser, which is how it found its way (via Tali) to me.

Look out for future MK fundraisers that may feature this sauce! Meanwhile, if you would like to support home-made meals for DC's homeless population (more than 6,500 on any given night), you can donate food items. Miriam's Kitchen has made it super easy: you can purchase items from the Miriam's Kitchen wish list through Amazon and have them delivered directly to the kitchen; shipping charges have been waived. Click here for more details.

Remember that donations drop off after the holidays, but people still need to eat!

As for me, I am taking a short break over the new year holiday. See you in 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


My holiday gift to you, dear reader, is a post that includes "dishes to die for" for three different palates -- not only my idiosyncratic one. This is something that is made possible by the excellent menu at Kinkead's. I had to recognize the oohs and aahs of the people around me, even if what they were eating was not exactly to my taste.


Simply prepared, yet packed with flavor:

Yucatan Style Tuna Soup with Tomatillos, Chiles, Lime, Sour Cream and Tortilla Strips.

This would be my pick. The first time I had it, in pre-blog days, was just after I had returned from a vacation on the Yucatan peninsula, and I was thrilled to continue savoring the limey-fish flavors that I had had in Mexico. This time, the soup was a little more spicy and less limey than I remembered it, but the bright green of the cilantro was unchanged. The chunks of tuna picked up the bold flavors beautifully.

I guess I am not alone in loving this dish -- it's listed under the most popular dishes on the menu.

A little richer, a bit more decadent:

Pepita Crusted Salmon with Cilantro, Chiles, Crab, Shrimp and Corn Ragout

This was Chris' pick. I liked the concept of combining these ingredients and I enjoyed the couple of bites I had. But there is a lot of butter in this preparation, and I could never have eaten a whole plate. Chris did though. :) 

This dish is also in the "most popular" list.


Chilled crab cocktail

This was an off-menu special ordered by our table-neighbors, Tom and Joan. Somehow we fell into easy conversation with them, and before we knew it, we were offering each other tastes of our food.

"It's treyf!"  Tom announced, as I raised a forkful of crab to my mouth. A mock warning, from one Jew to another. Now, perhaps it was because I had just had the zesty Yucatan soup, but for me the crab was too....shall we say "subtle"? However, Tom liked it so much, he ordered another one.


Just as Kinkead's caters to a variety of palates, so it offers a range of seating areas for different moods and occasions.

Bistro style

This is a small, intimate area just off the bar. It's my favorite seating at Kinkead's but the closely spaced tables may not be to everyone's taste. If you don't like interacting with your neighbors (and having them point out that you are breaking dietary laws), this might not be for you.

Formal dining

The formal dining room is upstairs. Better suited either for large parties or more formal business meals.

People watchers' table

At the foot of the rather grand staircase leading to the formal dining room is one, lone table for two. It's set into the window, but the seats face the staircase and the place settings are side by side, so that both diners have prime viewing location. Perfect for people-watching and possible celebrity-spotting.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Photo credits: Chris Svoboda

Kinkead's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chez Foushee: Richmond Bucket List #6*

Every now and again, I come across a dish in a restaurant that I absolutely want to make at home. Such was the case with Chez Foushee's Chicken Thigh Fricasee with Dried Cherries and Wild Mushrooms. Weeks passed, and I could not get that dish out of my mind. Eventually I wrote to Chez Foushee, and requested the recipe, promising to steer my dinner guests to this gem of a restaurant in Richmond.

Perhaps it is not surprising that I got no response. So I turned to Plan B: figure out how to replicate it myself. To do so, I noodled around the web, getting ideas here and there, but ended up relying most on Marcella Hazan's approach to fricasseed chicken in Marcella Cucina**. The result was pretty darn close to the homey but festive dish I had at Chez Foushee:

Antoinette Ego's Chicken Thigh Fricasee with Dried Cherries and Wild Mushrooms

Serves 4

4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick joined)
Flour for coating the chicken
1 cup mixed dried wild mushrooms
1 handful dried cherries
1 cup sweet vermouth
2 tbs olive oil
salt and black pepper
3 tbs chopped onion

1. Soak the mushrooms in barely hot water for at least 30 minutes. Lift out the mushrooms by hand, squeezing out as much water as possible. Set aside.
2. Filter the mushroom water through a strainer lined with single-ply paper towelling. Collect in a pouring cup and set aside.
3. Plump cherries in warmed vermouth.
4. Wash and dry chicken; spread flour on a plate and turn the chicken in it.
5. Choose a skillet that can accommodate all the chicken pieces in a single layer without overlapping (you may need to use two skillets). Put in oil and turn heat to medium-hi.
6. When the oil is heated, slip in the chicken and brown on one side.
7. When brown, add salt, black pepper and the chopped onion and turn over.
8. When the chicken is brown all over and the onion is golden, add 2-3 tbs vermouth from the cherry mixture. Turn the chicken over, cover the pan and turn heat to medium-low.
9. Cook chicken at a slow but regular simmer, replenishing with the liquid with filtered mushroom water as needed.
10. Turn the chicken over every once in a while. After 30-40 minutes, add the mushrooms and cherries.
11. Continue cooking until it looks like the meat would easily fall off the bone, about 50 minutes to an hour.
12. Can be served at once, or made several hours in advance and reheated.

Served with tri-colored couscous

Even though I have shared this recipe, I still want to encourage people to visit Chez Foushee. This is an  elegant and inviting restaurant, and one where I would have liked to have spent more time. Although it is close the the Carpenter Theatre, where we were headed, it is a shame to go here as a pre-theater option when you will inevitably be pre-occupied with leaving rather than lingering.

*As a result of "On Fumes Alone", Chris created a bucket list of Richmond restaurants for us to visit. This is the sixth of such visits. For a full list of visits, click here.

**Main differences from Marcella's recipe: I added the cherries and substituted sweet vermouth for marsala. I also preferred to leave the mushrooms whole rather than chopped fine, and to put them in the pan half way through the cooking process rather than at the beginning, so that they remain recognizable.

Chez Foushee on Urbanspoon

The Wine Hussy: Finds of the Week (2)

My wine education continued this week with the second Wine and Food Bloggers wine-tasting at Weygandt Wines. (You can find my post about the first one here.) This time, the event was more structured, with 14 numbered wines to taste. Of these, two stood out for me: the Dugat-Py Chevry-Chambertin Vielles Vignes, 2007, which turned out of have been brought by Joon himself. The second was a Cotes du Rhone Villages, Domaine Les Aphillantes Rasteau 2009.

Both made me sit up and pay attention, but I particularly liked the Dugat-Py, which starts off smooth and then takes you through a corkscrew of sensations on the tongue. At $99, this is not normally a wine in my price range, but is currently an astonishing 50% off at Weygandt -- along with other even more pricy Dugat-Py appelations. By comparison, the Domaine Les Aphillantes was almost too velvety, but then it is also more affordable. Both are organically produced.

I continue to be grateful for this renewed connection to wine!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


"Doesn't this make you want to move to Florida?" said my fourteen year old niece Madison. So cute! She was referring to Yogurtland, the local version of the new wave of Korean inspired frozen yogurt stores. Unbeknownst to Madison, these tastebud-tantalizing yogurt stores have been making their way from Asia to LA and have now spread all over East Coast. In this article you can see how they have taken New York by storm, and believe me, there is one on almost every corner in DC, where I live.

But Madison has a point. Yogurtland is the only yogurt place I have been to that is self-serve, allowing customers to linger over their choice of flavor (there are at least 10, including two that are sugar free) and toppings (too many to count) And the toppings themselves bear more witness to their Asian origins than most others I have been to: lychees and tiny mochi are nestled among the Heath Bar chunks, sprinkles, and other fresh fruit options. The Asian influence is even evident in the cardboard cups, with their manga-like images.

The whole family has been drawn into the delicousness of Yogurtland, even my father, Mr-Real-Men- Don't-Eat-Yogurt. The yogurt itself is up there with the best I have tasted, and we had to make a repeat visit on the way to the airport at the end of my stay.

So, if you find yourself in Hollywood, Fla, you must stop by. Perhaps you will even want to move there.

Photo credits: Diana McNally

Yogurtland on Urbanspoon

Must Love Anchovies

Dish to Die For: Caesar Salad

Diana and I occupy different niches of the foodie cosmos. A native of Baltimore, she is a connoisseur of all things crab, while I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for the critters. On the other hand, she will not go near anchovies -- those briny creatures so close to my heart. So it was fitting, when dining together at the Council Oak, that Diana sampled the crab cakes while I tried the Caesar salad. The waiter warned me that my dish contained whole white anchovies, and that was just fine by me.

The big surprise, though, was the house Caesar dressing, which I had ordered on the side. This was like no Caesar dressing I have tasted before – unmistakably anchovy, and at the same time merely suggestive of that flavor. It was one of those rare moments when perfect proportions stare you in the face. I paused in a moment of appreciation......Then lightly coated the romaine leaves with this sublime dressing, and munched them together with crunchy rye croutons and the slippery white anchovies. A crisp sauvignon blanc washed down this delicate balance of intense flavors….to die for!

Diana gave a thumbs up to the crab cakes as well. Through dining with her over the years, I have learned that the diagnostic for credible crab cakes is whether they consist mostly of fresh crab meat rather than filler. I have seen her cast a withering eye when cross-questioning waiters on this point. But this night, Diana was happy, and so was I.

The Council Oak is one of the higher end restaurants at Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Even a couple of appetizers and a drink a piece in the bar area will set you back close to $70, including tip. But when a restaurant takes two dishes that have become – let’s face it -- fairly pedestrian, and reignites their magic, there is some justification to it. This kitchen takes no shortcuts and for that I am willing to pay. Live music in the bar starting at 7:30pm is a special bonus – go early to grab good seats.

Council Oak Steak and Seafood on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Perhaps it started with Chef Mike Isabella's temporary absence from the kitchen while he appeared on Top Chef, and maybe it was finally sealed with his permanent departure to open his own restaurant (the acclaimed Graffiato). But I have sadly eaten my way through Zaytinya's decline from one of Washington's most beloved restaurants to a legacy serving up mediocre fare. My most recent visit was the most disappointing of all. The menu -- including the new creations of Head Chef Michael Costa -- remains scintillating in concept, but is now poor in execution. With none of the six small plates we ordered being memorable, the Zaytinya of today would have gone straight to my "Unbloggables" list.

Except for one thing. This was the place I discovered Magic Hat #9. I had ordered a Yuengling on tap -- a beer I thought I liked -- while Chris ordered the Magic Hat. Once I had taken a sip of that magic potion, there was no going back to my own beer, which now tasted dull and lifeless. Magic Hat #9 has a sparkle that is irresistable, essence of apricot mingling with hoppiness, a strong hint of fruit without being too girly. And there is a conscious playfulness to this beer that is not limited to the beverage itself:

I can't help but be infatuated!


Chris Svoboda
Diana McNally

Zaytinya on Urbanspoon