Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festive and Easy Holiday Side Dish : Romenesco Cauliflower

So I got some wonderfully fresh and free vegetables from my farms field and greenhouse. One of my coworkers hand picked a whole basketful of produce for me and finding the basket in front of my desk in my office was like finding gifts under the Christmas tree. She left me at least 6 fresh tomatoes (yes-tomatoes in December from the green house mmm) turnips, a ton of broccoli and a mystery vegetable-something that I had never seen before. After exploring the internet I figured out that the item was romenesco cauliflower. Now romensco cauliflower doesn't look anything like the normal cauliflower that you usually see in the stores-I was pretty flabbergasted about what it was for awhile and if it was even edible. Cutting the head of the cauliflower I noticed that eat floret looks like a mini Christmas tree. It was so cool! Not only did the shape make this the perfect vegetable to include on your holiday menu but the flavor is fabulous as well. It is much sweeter than normal cauliflower and has a slightly nutty taste to it.

-2 and a half tomatoes
-1 onion
-1 head of romanesc cauliflower
-3 large cloves of garlic
-1 tspn basil
-1 tspn oregano
-1/4 tspn red pepper flakes
-1/2 tspn ground black pepper
-1 1/2 tspn salt
-1/4 cup of olive oil

 Preheat the over to 350 F. Dice the onion, tomatoes and cauliflower. Mix all the ingredients together and spread out evenly on a roasting pan. Cook for a haf an hour and then increase the temperature to 400 F and cook for another 15 minutes. Be sure to mix the vegetables together on the pan at leeast halfway through the cooking time.

This recipe tastes amazing I just couldn't stop eating these veggies. Your guests will be oober impressed-trust me. I think I am going to try to make this for my next Holiday potluck party. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cafe Deluxe Review

Cafe Deluxe has officially opened in the Gaithersburg Rio town center, moving into the spot where Hamburger Hamlet once resided. I am more than a little disappointed that yet another chain restaurant has moved into the neighborhood but at least Cafe Deluxe only has three other locations (Tysons, Bethesda and Cleveland Park).

There is nothing unique in the decor of the restaurant. It has a somewhat business casual atmosphere and when you sit down you feel like you are in for a 'nice' dinner. This is definitely a step up from the grungy Hamburger hamlet full of screaming children (though there still were a couple of screaming kids sitting next to my mom). The tables are a little uncomfortably close together and I am hoping it will open up a bit more when the back room is 'ready' to be available to guests.

As for the menu it makes itself out to be more ambitious and creative than the food actually is. The grilled meatloaf with spicy creole sauce is actually meatloaf with arriabata sauce (a spicy tomato sauce) instead of the cajun remoulade that I had expected. Most of the sandwiches don't come with many vegetables and seem to be sort of plain-for example the lam and goat cheese sandwich on bread.

There is absolutely nothing to complain about in terms of the quality of the food. In fact my meatloaf was quite flavorful and tasty though there was nothing particularly special about it. My fathers chicken pot pie was exactly that-a chicken pot pie (but no potatoes) and my mothers dish was basically chicken, veggies, and a garlic cream sauce. There was absolutely nothing wrong with these dishes, they were well executed and came out hot.

The best part of the meal was definitely the cobbler-which changes daily. We got the strawberry cobbler which came out in a large dish, warm, topped with a thick crust and vanilla ice cream.

If your in the mood for classic well done food in a slightly formal atmosphere I would definitely recommend Cafe Deluxe. If your more in the mood for a more unique and creative experience then I would head elsewhere.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Best Brunch In Philly : and maybe everywhere else ( review of Lacroix )

So this Thanksgiving break I went with Justin to visit family in the King of Prussia, PA and, of course, did a little bit of foodie research before hand. Whenever I go traveling I check beforehand to see if there are any unique/amazing breakfast brunch buffets in the area. It is actually surprising rare to find brunch buffets nowadays-in fact the majority of the places that serve brunch or breakfast in the DC metropolitan area are a la carte. The 97th Aerosquadron in College Park used to be a nice choice for a weekend brunch buffet (but it closed after a rumored flood) where, for a decent price, you could watch planes take off from the small air park while enjoying a personalized omelet. Tony and Joe's in Georgetown is one nice brunch buffet choice that focuses on fresh seafood but perhaps lacks a bit in creativity and is definitely hard on the wallet. Cuba Libre does offer an all-you-can-eat tapas brunch menu on the weekends but I have not yet had the opportunity to try it. Otherwise there is a serious lack of quality brunch buffets in our capital and I am sincerely hoping that will soon change.

Lucky for me, however, I was able to fulfill my brunch buffet lust in Philadelphia where the beautiful Lecroix at the Rittenhouse serves a unique and creative brunch. The meal does cost quite a bit of money but Justin and I were fortunate enough to come across a wonderful deal they had going on their facebook page (which quickly sold out). I was especially impressed with the Rittenhouses' menu and blog reviews. 


The restaurant itself was a bit hard to find. It is on the second floor of the Rittenhouse hotel and the restaurant gives diners a beautiful view of one of Philly's nicest downtown parks.  I definitely felt like I was dining in a very nice, fancy venue and that I was in for a real treat.

What I like the best about the Rittenhouse is that their buffet mostly consists of 'small bites'. Their appetizer table is set up so that each appetizer is just a small dish or bite in and of itself. I like how this compact presentation is not only aesthetically pleasing (as opposed to slopping food from a trough onto your plate and letting it mingle with all your other selections as is done with so many other buffets) but it allows you to try a wider variety of dishes without making you feel too full or too guilty.

My favorite appetizers had to be the shortbread jalapeno biscuits with avocado mousse filling, mini croissants stuffed with cheese and proscuitto (the buttery flakiness of the croissant was simply admirable-I even got seconds of this one), the Mediterranean style yogurt shot glasses topped with granola and nuts, and the vanilla beignets in an apricot honey. Various salads were on the same table as the appetizers and though I love a good creative salad I just didn't think the flavors really hit home with me for some of these. There were a few misses such as the parsnip coffee soup (but coffee isn't really one of my favorite things), or the soggy waffles that went with the chicken and waffle salad but overall I thought this appetizer table was quite impressive and really represented seasonal foods.

The raw bar was a sophisticated addition to the buffet. The raw oyster had numerous 'condiments' and there were at least three different kinds of caviar. Justin loved the shrimp cocktail and there was one piece of sushi that really had some big flavor in it (I just wish I knew wish one it was!!).

In an innovative turn of thought the main courses were situated in the kitchen area where a whole open room was dedicated to the entrees. There were still some small bites in this locale (mini kitchen made egg-McMuffin-like sandwiches and a tureen of bread pudding) but was mostly family-style from serving dishes and skillets. My absolute favorites in this arena had to be the hoison glazed short ribs with soba noodles (the flavor was spot on and the short rib was so tender it was practically falling off my fork), the duck confit, vanilla faro with stewed apples and coconut (I MUST learn to make this-I really wish I had asked them for the recipe before I left), and the brussel sprouts (who knew they could taste so good). I absolutely died and went to heaven in this room the food was so good. I did get a piece of Belgium waffle that had been under the light a bit too long (the fresh fruit that came with it was delightful though), the potatoes were mediocre and my peanut butter pancake was a bit dry but I do recognize how difficult it is to keep these kinds of things fresh when it is a buffet and everything else was so amazing that these minor trifles were negligible in the overall scheme of things.

Of course there was a meat carving station in the kitchen and I was really impressed by how each of the three meats at the station were perfectly cooked and came with their own sauce. I am very particular about my meat and the duck, beef and lamb were all beautifully tender and flavorful.

There was also a chacuterie station in the kitchen and Justin and I combined our pickings from here with the cheeses and crackers (a pumpkin flavored bread stick!) we pilfered from the cheese station which was located right outside of the kitchen.

I was completely blown away by the dessert course. The 'small bite' set-up came into play once again and Justin and I indulged in 11 (I am so ashamed) of these small delicacies. No-we did not take one of everything, we left one or two there at the table...Plus, we were so full at this point that we were only physically able to take a small taste of each (so yay for small bites and sharing). You will note Justin had 6 of these tiny pieces of art on his plate while I only had 5 (haha its all about the small victories). What I appreciated the most about these desserts was the quality. Care was obviously taken with each one and the majority of them were very light and the perfect end to a meal. These desserts must rotate on a weekly basis because they are not set on the menu. The absolute winners: were the mango coconut and pineapple mousse and the honey cream puff. By far the best cream puff I have ever had in my life and I have a passion for puffs. Pictured you can see the mini pumpkin pie, a rich chocolate mousse covered in caramel and heath bar bits, and a panacotta. On Justins plate there was a lemon cheesecake, a wonderful creme brulee (I couldn't stop eating it), a heavy chocolate cake, a white chocolate mousse with an alcohol soaked cookie crust, and a apple cake that tastes just like your grandmother made (though it certainly doesn't look like it).

There was a whole separate area in the kitchen dedicated to a chocolate fountain. Lacroix mixed things up a little with some fun chocolate fountain dippers like rice krispy treats, marshmellows (taste like their made in-house due to the way they melt in your mouth), cinnamon buns, brownies, churros (a bit too dry for my taste), doughnuts (again a bit dry), fresh fruit, banana cake and more.

There was a fruit station and a muffin and toast station in the restaurant but Justin and I were too full to partake.I never even found the liquid nitrogen dessert station.

The service was impeccable. Every time Justin and I got up to get more edible tidbits we arrived back at our table to find it nicely reset and ready for another pleasant go-round. 

Just writing this post makes me hungry and full all at the same time. I would absolutely go back to Lacroix-this was one of the best brunch buffets I have ever had in my life and I fully recommend it. I am absolutely going back the next time I am visiting my family.