Monday, April 25, 2011

Paul Paris Bakery In DC

Paul,a Parisian bakery that has several stores throughout Paris is opening up a location in DC May 2 at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. I am REALLY excited!

Why? Why am I so excited about this particular bakery opening its doors in my neighborhood? Well-as you should know I do love the pastries of the French-some of them are so different from what we have in the states and the attention to detail is what really makes French pastries from a French bakery a treat.

I am always telling people how there aren't enough really good quality bakeries in the states and it is really just a shame because the demand is certainly there. I see people lined up at the Royal Bagel Bakery in Georgetown every weekend (the place is packed) because they are practically the only decent bakery in the Gaithersburg/Georgetown area but even then the Royal Bagel Bakery's pastries are nothing special and I have definitely had better (you really need to go there for their onion rolls and egg everything bagels instead of the pastries).

The first time I went to Paris (about 5 years ago?) I was just shocked and thrilled by the number and quality of the bakeries there and went from store to store taking pictures of their display cases (even if the people behind the counter thought I was nuts). The second time the bakeries were just as good (~2 years ago) but a lot of them were closed because I was there during the summer when people go on vacation and close up shop. Anyways, both times I had some of the best baked goods from Paul in Paris-their version of apple turnovers were amazing-it was more like an soft donut stuffed with apple and sprinkled with sugar and it just melted in my mouth. The macarons had clear and distinct flavor (the green pistachio's actually tasted like pistachio, the hazelnut actually tasted like hazelnut, the snozberries tasted like snozberry-jk on that last one) and had just the right balance between crunchiness, chewiness and softness that is so hard to get right for macarons. Ah Paul. I also remember how kind the people in the bakery were to me-they were very patient and got me just what I wanted. So essentially this is why I am excited about Paul coming to DC-its like a dream come true. No longer must I go to Paris to get the pastries I desire-Paris is coming to me! <3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seasons 52 North Bethesda Review

So I did it. I went to the Seasons 52 that opened in North Bethesda this last week and it certainly was an interesting dining experience. As you should know from my previous post I was pretty excited about this place coming to Maryland because my Aunt had raved about it and the Orlando one had some really good reviews on trip adviser.

Now, please note that this restaurant promises that no one dish on their menu is over 475 calories and that everything is fresh. I am not so sure how I really feel about this rule but I do think that it should not necessarily have much of an effect on flavors if spices and proper cooking techniques are used. I think Seasons has pretty much mastered the technique of grilling their meats instead of sauteing so that you get a juicy tenderness without having to use butters/oils but not many spices were in evidence.

My family is big on appetizers so we got two different flatbreads-the plum tomato and then the chicken one. These flatbreads were pretty large but the crust was very thin and light-something I kind of like in an appetizer. The plum tomato flatbread was the clear winner with a wonderful garlicky taste and the freshness of bright basil leaves. The chicken flatbread had nice smoky grilled chicken but there was no sauce or spices to help this dish become something I would want to order again.

The chile poblano that was supposed to be stuffed with goat cheese and chicken (I saw not a speck of goat cheese) wasn't awful but all I could taste was salsa and nothing else (I usually expect food like this to have layers and different components which make it come together into a thoroughly delicious experience-but no).

My sister and her boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed their edamame beans and my parents liked their sesame chicken skewers (nothing special there).

I got the turkey tenderloin skewer for my main dish and they charred the thing to death and I had to ask for more of the sauce that it came with because-again-there were no spices or any kind of glaze. My green beans were undercooked and the pasta pearls that came with my dish were underwhelming in flavor and looks.

Justin was most disappointed with his bbq salad entree which was basically just lettuce with pieces of chicken (the sauce they called BBQ was NOT BBQ and he said it was overly salty-an unusual thing from someone who loves to add extra salt to his fast food french fries).

My fathers fish was not only dry but bland-I saw spices on the fish but I could not taste them in the least but he likes dry and bland so yay? My mother did like her scallops but they just looked like normal scallops.

The biggest disappointment of the meal was small side dish of 'fresh' sugar snaps peas that we ordered that was pretty much drenched in oil (I mean come on-the beauty of these peas is their 'snap' and crunch but these were just soggy with oil).

The best part about the meal and really the best part about Seasons 52 are their desserts served in shot glasses ($2.50 each). Sooo good. I tried the pecan pie, mango cheesecake, chocolate mocha, and peanut butter mousse and I really liked them all (the mocha one had a very strong coffee flavor so be warned). I really liked how they layered these desserts with different puddings/custards/creams and cakes/ nuts. I say bring a friend to split each shot glass you can try more flavors (that's what I did)

The atmosphere was nice in terms of the new wood paneling and the lights but the upholstery of the seats and booths were a bit 50's retro. There was living music that you could hear from the bar. The service and kitchen were kinda slow but what can you expect on their opening week. .Seasons 52 is located right by the new Whole foods in rockville, across from White Flint Mall.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grilled Cheesy Goodness

I am trying to post more about what I cook and eat at home mostly because that is what I see other food blogs doing and it makes me think that people might actually be interested in what foodies might make for themselves when their not going out to spend their money on delicious food and hopefully good restaurants.

So what do I eat on a weekend when I have had a late breakfast but still am in the mood for a yummy light afternoon lunch? Grilled cheese of course! It is no lie that the best grilled cheese sandwiches are made with white bread. Normally I opt for the whole grain bread to make myself feel better but when it comes to a grilled cheese sandwich you just gotta go all out and use that sinfully delicious white bread that seems to toast oh so well when you slather the sides with butter and stick it on a grilling pan.

I don't make boring grilled cheese sandwiches though. There always has to be something a bit different/interesting about my grilled cheese sandwich-I mean I cant just eat two slices of buttered bread with cheese in the middle-it doesn't happen like that. It just doesn't. I find the best standby addition for my grilled cheese sandwich is a nice thick slab of tomato which just does so much to amplify not only the flavor but also the texture of the sandwich. Plus-I am a condiment fiend and have experimented extensively with my grilled cheese condiment options (bbq sauce, hummus, tzaziki sauce you name it I have probably grilled cheesed it)so today I decided to try my new goat cheese and turnip green *pesto spread (very garliky-basically pureed turnip greens, garlic loves, a little bit of olive oil and goat cheese). Hallelujah! I think this spread has earned a new place in heaven due to its wonderful marriage with my grilled cheese sandwich. Sure, I was going to save it for the **matzoh bar we are supposed to have at game night on Friday but at this rate it might be gone by then.

I did wan't to go a little further than this with my sandwich though-it was still in need of something. Something extra.

I have been seeing people put fried eggs (sunny side up) on just about everything lately-burgers,salads, steak so I decided to put one on top of my grilled cheese sandwich. Brilliant!

What shall I call this creation you ask? I am not so sure. Green eggs and cheese? Meh, gotta work on it. All I gotta say is you should try it.

*Note-I made the pesto spread for stuffing pork loin with-it turned out pretty well but next time I have to refrigerate the pesto so it can harden before I try to stuff the pork and maybe pound the pork somewhat thinner next time too. I used turnip greens because I have been trying to use foods that I don't normally cook with/never have experienced except at a restaurant. I was looking over Restaurant Eve's menu and it seems like that's what most of their items are-things that people don't tend to cook with because they are too scared of them but are generally inexpensive and easy to make use of (though they don't now this-they are just generally unfamiliar with these ingredients). This is probably a really smart move on their part because it seems like diners that go to expensive places like Restaurant Eve are wanting to try something new that they would never make themselves.

**Note-what is a matzoh bar you ask? Why its my own invention of having a table with matzoh and every delicious spread/condiment imaginable (didn't I mention a love of condiments above??) for example nuttella, peanut butter, cream cheese, flavored goat cheese, hummus, jam, butter, honey, etc. the possibilities are endless. When I had my passover seder last year the matzoh bar was a hit and I am afraid that most of my guests had filled up on this appetizer before dinner was served.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Everything You Need to Know About Disney Dining

So as I mentioned in my previous post my boyfriend and I recently went to Disney World for vacation since he was attending a conference there. Before we left I did all my Disney food research-something that took more time than I thought and I was not quite sure if it was worth it in the end. Why? Well because I didn't realize how hard it is to get from one Disney hotel to another. In order to make this trip you need to transfer buses from either one of the parks or from downtown Disney-you cannot go directly from one hotel to another. Honestly a lot of the best restaurants are at the Disney hotels-Todd English's Blue Zoo at the Dolphin, Sanaa and Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, The California Grill at the Contemporary Resort and Citrico's at the Grand Floridian (these are all hands down the best restaurants at the Disney Resorts and reservations should be made). So unless you have tons of time (a couple days at each park) then don't plan on taking the time to leave the park and waste the precious hours you could be spending experiencing the real Disney magic.

As for the Disney dining plan it really is a rip off. You are not going to spend that much money in a day on food no matter where you go. As of the new year Disney has tried to change this fact by upping the prices of various restaurants that are on the Disney dining plan-such as Boma which is an African themed dinner buffet.

Hollywood Studios Park was by far my favorite Disney park (there are 4 total). They have some great dining options and my favorite one was the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater. This restaurant is so great because it is one of the few dining places that really showcases how paying attention to atmospheric details can really make something an 'experience'. Disney is a master at this type of artistry when it comes to their rides and even the buildings on the streets that you walk through in the parks but, unfortunately, very few of their in park restaurants receive this kind of attention.

The Sci-Fi Dine In theme is the idea that you are at an outdoor movie theater sitting in an old-time car (cadillac?) enjoying dated sci-fi movie previews and shorts. You are surrounded by other cars 'parked' by you where people are eating and it always looks like it is night time with the stars shining down on you. The food was great. They know how to make a good juicy burger. Their burgers come topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and your choice of cheese as well as a side of perfectly done french fries (yum!). Justin got a Reuben (he loves those things) which was perfectly toasted, brimming with meat and cheese the only downside was he had to ask for extra dressing-which he did get right away. The milkshakes are a must-the oreo milkshake is one of the best I have ever had.

If we had been more hungry we would have eaten at Mamma Melrose's restaurant because the menu looked great (they had some really nice daily specials-better than the menu shown on-line).

The Starring Rolls Cafe is supposed to have huge delicious cupcake but they close early so we missed out-don't make that mistake too!

The Animal Kingdom also has some great dining options. Flame tree bbq has some raving reviews on trip adviser and they are pretty accurate. This meal is a great deal for Disney. You get tons of food (sides of baked beans and cole slaw included) for a good price. The ribs were sooo good and my side of crispy onion rings was the highlight. Justin enjoyed his bbq chicken (though the ribs were way better) and we were way too full to indulge in dessert (though we did grab a chocolate mickey mouse bar later-such quality chocolate!). The Tusker House lunch buffet is also a great place to go (one of the most reasonably priced buffets at Disney) is you like creative flavorful food. I'm not gonna lie-Justin and I walked through the place to decide between flame tree and Tusker for lunch (we did have a reservation but the great thing about Disney dining reservations is that you can make them and break them with no penalties-though I know its not the nicest thing to do). The buffet looked great but I was in a bbq mood and the desserts didn't wow me.

Everyone always seems to think that Epcot should be the best place to eat at Disney World but I only think its good if you make the right choices. Justin and I had lunch at restaurant Marrakesh-the Moroccan restaurant. The food was soo good and so authentic. The people who worked there were absolutely from Morocco-when I asked for a side of harrisa sauce (their form of ketchup) it was brought out right away no questions asked. We got a sampler platter so I got to try the beef brewat roll (Baked layers of thin pastry stuffed with seasoned minced beef, eggs,
fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar), chicken bastilla (Baked layers of thin pastry stuffed with minced chicken, almonds, eggs
and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar) and a grilled brochette of chicken (a chicken kebob) with rice and some veggies. I loved it! There was a really talented belly dancer that performed while we were there and Princess Jasmine and Aladdin came on through. When you go to epcot you need to eat at the countries where you can get new and exciting food-not Italy or China whose food you could just eat anytime at a restaurant at home.

If I ever get to go on that show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate..." on food network then I would have to include the caramel popcorn that I got fresh at Karamelle Kuche. The flavor was just incredible-not like the processed stuff full of preservatives that you get at the store.

Another great snack idea in Epcot is stopping by Norways bakery to get some School bread which is basically with delectable sweet roll filled with custard and topped with coconut.

Our dinner was at the San Angel Inn-hands down the best dining ambiance in all of Disney world since you are sitting in the middle of a mexican market staring at an ancient Aztec temple and watching people on boats float on by on the river. The food though? Not so much. The chicken mole was dry and came with no vegetables. The salsa was awful. I did like the duck tacos but the plantains were undercooked and the churros were way below par.

The Magic Kingdom you ask? What did you eat there? Pretty much nothing good. The Magic Kingdom is like a food desert. There is pretty much nowhere you can go to get a good meal. You can get a dole whip (fro yo covered in pineapple juice) or you can be smart and take the monorail (this is the only park you can do this at and it is quick) to one of the close by hotels-namely Citrico's at the Contemporary or go to the Grand Floridian for high tea at the Garden View Lounge. I really wanted to do this tea but I met wit my aunt and cousin for lunch instead at the Polynesian (mediocre food but not bad).

Everyone should check out downtown Disney and if you do make a trip to Paradiso 37 for dinner. The mahi mahi fish tacos were the best fish tacos I have ever had. The churros and sopapillas were lovely and I liked the nice touch of the bitter dipping chocolate as well as the dulce de leche (caramel) sauce-which I loved. This place is real creative mexican food-not the disappointing stuff they tried to feed us at Epcots so-called mexico.

So those are the deets on Disney Dining. Questions? Concerns? I probably have the answers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cooking Chicken and Potatoes

You know some of my friends have never even tried to cook chicken that has skin, bones and is dark meat. I am pretty sure my mom never cooked anything like that while I was growing up. This all just seems to weird to me because not only are these the cheapest, tastiest pieces of metat but they are also the hardest to screw up. The worst thing and yet the easiest thing o do to a piece of chicken is to over cook it leaving with you dry unappetizing chicken. Dark meat chicken is pretty darn hard to overcook though since its natural juiciness keeps the chicken moist longer in the oven reducing your chances of overcooked dry kitchen. Heck, I didn't even have to use any oil on my chicken I just threw them onto a pan, sprinkled some spices on top and popped them into the oven at 400 for 90 minutes. Halfway through I took the chicken out and spooned some of the fat that had cooked off the chicken on top on to the skin so that when I took the chicken out later the skin would be nice, crispy and delicious (it was). What made my dinner making job even easier was that I had two sweet potatoes which I washed, stuck a knife into a few time and then put on the same pan as the chicken so that it baked with the chicken all at the same time on the same pan. When i spooned the chicken grease onto the chicken i just turned my potatoes over (the chicken juices on the pan just improve the sweet potatoes' flavor-make sure the sweet potatoes are coated though since dry skin will turn papery and taste bitter when the potatoes come out of the oven). When I took everything out of the oven I cut the sweet potatoes in half, filled then with brown sugar (don't bother with honey-the sweet potatoes will soak it up just like the brown sugar but you wont get the same big flavor), a tablespoon of butter (move it around until its melted), cinnamon and vanilla and then close the sweet potato back up so that it sponges up all that sweet goodness. This might have been one of my less adventurous meals but man was it easy and tasty. Voila! Dinner!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bubbys Deli & Seasons 52

A couple new deli's have opened in the Bethesda area including Bubbys Deli. My mom, Justin and I got to try their carry out food while keeping my own Bubby company. The rueben (a favorite of Justins) actually had some salty thickly sliced corned beef (not thin like Tom Setsiema said in his recent review of the place), some nicely toasted and buttered rye bread and a pleasant slaw with thousand island dressing topping. The Reuben was the best part of the meal though since the two large chicken noodle & matzoh ball soups were pretty flavorless although the matzoh ball did have the soft spongy texture a matzoh ball should have (it is a sad day when you get a rock hard matzoh ball but it does happen on occasion). We also got two brisket sandwiches-big mistake. When i go to a Jewish deli and I read brisket I think big thick slices of tender meat that has been marinating in some kind of delicious gravy and would be heavenly on a bun. Bubbys' brisket sandwich merely consists of thin slices of dry meat on a bun, no gravy no delectable tenderness. Ah well. Next time we'll try another place since I know my own Bubby can make much better food than Bubbys deli in Bethesda.

On another note Seasons 52 is opening April 11th in Rockville (though it is technically called North Bethesda). I really can't wait! I recently went to Orlando FL for some Disney fun and had every intention of going to Seasons 52 there because I had done my research and seen that they had rave reviews on trip advisor and then I got an e-mail from my aunt who lives in FL saying she had gone there for Richards (my cousin) birthday and absolutely loved the place. Needless to say my heart was really set on having a meal at Seasons but alas-we didn't have the time or the means of transportation (curse you Disney and your isolating ways). Anyways my mom was driving by White Flint mall and lo and behold there was a sign for a restaurant right across from the mall saying Seasons 52! You can read all about the place hereis is supposed to be a place focused on low calorie healthful foods but hey I have no problem with that since the food sounds so tasty. I already plan to go there soon with my family to celebrate my dads birthday.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Roscoes Pizzeria in Takoma

I love finding cool local privately owned restaurants that I can take my friends and family when they visit and Roscoes Pizza in Takoma has definitely become one of those places. The interior of the place is so nice and yet homey (cozy?-a pleasant plant to sit and eat a pizza pie.

If you like wood fired oven pizza than this is the place to go. The crust is thin (but not too thin) and has the perfect amount of chewiness. Luckily it isn't too crispy and burnt as so many other wood fire oven pizzas are (ehem Matchbox) though I would love a nice tomato dipping sauce for my end pieces (when I asked for some they bring out some cold marinara that tastes like tomato soup).

The Harvest pizza has an excellent light basil garlic sauce and is overflowing with veggies and cheese. The Ruspante (Tomato, mozzarella, grilled chicken breast, mixed bell peppers) topped with extra pepperoni had a zingy slightly spicy flavor which perfectly complemented the lighter flavors of the Harvest pizza. Their mozzarella is fresh-almost like a buffalo mozzarella-and is scattered generously across the pie.

A nice neighborhood spot for any occasion-I am pretty sure Joanna enjoyed it too.