Sunday, January 30, 2011

D.C. Sports - G Dub Colonials

The Smith Center after the game.

This weekend our alma mater, Saint Louis University, played George Washington University. We went to the alumni association reception before the game. We hung out with a couple of our friends and occasionally did the whole "is that the guy [or gal] that was in [club, fraternity, dorm] and friends with [other friend]" routine.

This was our first time seeing the billikens since we moved away from St. Louis, but the Kuethes are huge college basketball fans. We enjoyed the game as much as you can when the team loses in the waining minutes. Not to mention -- GW games are cheap, in terms of ticket and concessions prices. It's not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Tip-off from our seats.

Notice how Rick Majerus just sits ready to meet with (read: scream at) the team.

Eating Out - Slavic

We've been really bad about forgetting our camera lately, hence the day time picture of the restaurant we went to at night. Thanks again, internet!

Domku Bar and Cafe (Slavic and Scandinavian)

Although Domku promotes its Slavic and Scandinavian fare, we gravitated toward the Slavic options. Domku Bar and Cafe doesn't feel like a bar nor a cafe. It feels like a coffee shop. There are couches and tables with mismatched chairs. The decorations have that feeling that they are either chic or tacky but you're not sure which. This sort of establishment still feels a bit out of place in Petworth, a neighborhood in Northwest DC that people claim is "gentrifying" but the evolution is sometimes hard to spot. We didn't make the trip out to Domku to evaluate decorations and atmosphere, however. We came to eat!

Observations
  • Drinks: I had a Lithuanian beer, Utenos, which was pretty nice (at least for a guy who only drinks PBR and Miller Lite). Kathryn ordered something called the "Caucasus cooler" which had about 8 ingredients. It tasted like a Central Asian adaptation of the old college staple "Sex on the Beach."
  • Starters: We split an order of Placki Ziemniaczane - potato, carrot, and onion latkes with sour cream, onion, dill, and salmon roe. It was a very good (but small) dish, particularly the sour cream and caviar.
  • Entrées: Kathryn order the Czech potato dumplings with kasza, spinach, mushrooms, sage, onions & grated Parmesan. I had Polish crepes stuffed with kasza, mushrooms, red pepper, leek, chicken, and tomato (Nalesniki). The crepes were then topped with tomato sauce. The best way to describe it is "enchilada-like." Our entrées weren't that great or all too filling. The one thing we learned is that kasza (or kasha) can ruin any dish. They are the reason porridge gets a bad rap in nursery rhymes.
  • Dessert: We decided to get different main courses, so we (as a couple) could try more of the menu offerings. Since we were both still very hungry, Kathryn suggested we each get our own dessert, but she added that we should get different desserts. Then, she declared she was getting The Almond Cake! Now here is the thing, I love Almond Cake (always have!), and Kathryn doesn't like it (usually). To be a good husband, I ordered the second most interesting sounding alternative -- the beet cake (with ginger). Needless to say, I had about three bites of an amazing dessert (The Almond Cake), but I was left mostly eating the disappointing dessert (the beet cake (with ginger)).
  • I'm not sure I'll head back to Domku, but I feel like I should give it another try. Maybe the pierogies and Swedish meatballs will be better - but probably not.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eating Out - American


Neither of us were looking photogenic, so you'll have to settle for this fish (which was very photogenic).

RIS (American)

All told, this has been a pretty crappy week for the Kuethes. I spent the first part of the week battling a cold, and Kathryn fought the same ailment over the weekend. All was not lost, however. We had about 6 hours where we were both healthy enough to venture out for dinner. We were finally able to checkout RIS, an upscale American restaurant that serves updated classics without pretense.

Observations
  • RIS is just down the street from us. It opened about a year ago to a bunch of fanfare. The chef, Ris Lacoste, has been a favorite of the DC restauranti for years. Although we follow the DC food scene, we tend to frequent the low-rent ethnic joints, and we're not as up on "chef" culture. To attack this deficiency firsthand, we made a late night seating at RIS to celebrate Winter Restaurant Week, where, just like Summer Restaurant Week, each restaurant offers a fixed price prix fixe menu.
  • The appetizers: Kathryn tried the gnudi (a variation of gnocchi), but I went with the wonton soup. These sort of disparate dishes side-by-side on the menu are RIS's calling card. They were both very good, but once again, Kathryn picked the better dish.
  • In order to avoid getting out-picked for the main course, I ordered what Kathryn ordered. The pan roasted Chesapeake rockfish, served with potato confit, pickled onions, olives, cured lemons, Parmesean cream, and minted pine nuts. It was absolutely-knock-your-socks-off-good!
  • We each ordered our own dessert. This is the kind of thing that only happens with prix fixe dinners. I had the ice cream and cookies (both made in house). The chocolate and banana ice creams were outstanding, and the cookies were pretty good, too. Kathryn had a flour-less chocolate cake with bourbon ice cream. It was probably the better dessert, but the bourbon ice cream was definitely my favorite food of the night.
  • In sum, RIS is one heck of a nice restaurant. Reviewers sometimes pick on the hodgepodge menu of comfort foods from various cuisines, but I think that the restaurant proves that all sorts of cuisines define modern American comfort foods. And at RIS, these foods are expertly prepared.


Eating In


Maybe this isn't worth posting, but we made these carnita tostadas for dinner tonight. They're super tasty, and we're proud. Wanted to catalog this experience.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Out - Vietnamese

The perfect size meal for a late lunch.

Song Que (Vietnamese)

We've been on a real Vietnamese kick recently, trying new restaurants, revisiting old favorites, and exploring the further reaches of the cuisine. It all started a few months ago with an unexpected hangover and the quest for the ultimate cure - a warm bowl of pho. This week we had an extra day off, and Kathryn wanted to head out to the suburbs for some new craft supplies. We decided to roll in a visit to Song Que, a Vietnamese lunch counter and small grocer in Eden Center in Falls Church, VA.

Observations
  • Eden Center is one of our favorite destinations in the metro area and a must-visit local for all foodies and fans of ethnic enclaves (the good kind). We typically hit up Huong Viet for a complete sit-down meal, but we forced ourselves to try something new. We specifically went to Song Que because of their outstanding reputation for a near perfect Banh Mi.
  • Banh Mi is gaining steam as a new food trend and versions of the sandwich can be found across the city and around the country. We thought it was best to hunt down the genuine article for our first official banh mi lunch. The sandwich is a blend of traditional Vietnamese ingredients and French influence. We both opted for the grilled pork sandwich topped with marinated carrots, cucumber, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños. Like all great sandwiches the excellent baguette took center stage. Paired with fresh ingredients, it made for the perfect sandwich.
  • The summer rolls were of decent quality - similar to good grocery store sushi. Not top of the line but passable. The same could be said for the mango bubble tea. It was more fruit slush and less creamy smoothie, which we both prefer.
  • We also picked up an interesting little dessert to take home. It was essentially a banana wrapped in sticky rice. On the recommendation of the very helpful Song Que staff, we warmed them slightly in the microwave and then topped it with coconut milk and chopped peanuts. Overall it was fairly tasty, but Kathryn enjoyed it more than I did.

A small dessert at home later that evening.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Getting Out - Movie Theaters


West End Cinema

Our neighborhood, the West End, often gets overlooked. It's a small neighborhood surrounded by some of DC's biggest and most famous neighborhoods, including Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and DuPont Circle. In fact, a lot of DC folks don't know where I'm talking about when I say we live in West End. The small neighborhood does have a decent amount to offer (per capita), and one recent edition should help raise our profile a bit - the West End Cinema. The movie theater opened late this fall, but we finally made a point of checking it out earlier this week. We aren't typically big movie goers, but hopefully having a decent theater less than a block away should change that.

The West End Cinema is an art-house theater with a few screening rooms which are smaller and more intimate than your typical movie theater, and they screen independent films and documentaries. We grabbed an evening showing of The Social Network this week, and we really enjoyed both the movie and the movie-going experience. We split a box of candy and some popcorn (topped with Old Bay!), and I sipped down a cold Bud Light. Good times!


Photo credit: West End Cinema's Facebook page.

Museums - Newseum

Kathryn interviewing me on the set of ABC This Week.

Newseum

Newseum is one of the few private museums in district which means you'll have to shell out a few bucks to get in (22 of them, to be exact). The cover charge and the silly portmanteau name have always limited my interest in the Newseum, but we've heard so many great reviews that we had to see for ourselves.
  • Newseum is impressively modern. The exhibits have a lot of fun, interactive elements, and the building has a very comfortable layout designed to maximize meandering and learning. The exhibits are focussed enough that you can easily skip sections that don't interest you (like the Elvis exhibit for me), but there's plenty of content if you want to take your time going through. This museum is a lot more than just old newspapers and photos.
  • Our favorite exhibits were probably the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 Gallery, and Capturing Katrina. It's cool to see a great presentation of history that we remember living through. The collection of Pulitzer Prize photos was also really cool too, but we were rushing through at closing time.
  • The 4-D movie is also worth catching.
A lookout tower from the East German side of the Berlin Wall. The only one in America. Frighteningly cool.

The West side of the Berlin Wall sections are covered with graffiti. The other side is completely bare.

This is Ted Kazinski's cabin located in the FBI exhibit, G-Men and Journalists.

Kathryn checking out some of the signs in the Katrina exhibit.

A radio antenna from the top of the World Trace Center - another powerful exhibit.

This is OJ Simpson's suit. It created a bit of a stir locally when the Smithsonian said that it wasn't worth placing in its archives, and the Newseum decided to take it instead.

The top floor balcony has one of the best views of the capitol.

ABC tapes This Week at the Newseum, and we got to take a look inside the studio.

The "Be a TV Reporter" section was also a lot of fun. You can see our live report from the Wizards game below.

video
Much like Ricky Bobby, I didn't know where to put my hands, but I did get Kathryn to do the John Wall Dance!

Eating Out - Moroccan

All of the orange colored food you could ever want.

Marrakesh Palace (Moroccan)

This time last year, we were fully committed to trying as many cuisines as possible. We made quite an effort to get out to different parts of the city and to sample different kinds of food every week. Well, to be quite honest, we've slacked off in recent months. Maybe it's because we know the city a little better so we're not driven to explore as much or because we now have a few favorite places close to home. Either way, I'm not going to take it anymore! I'm recommitting my effort to try as many interesting foods as I can find. I'm not settling for eating near the house. I'm going out into the city and into the suburbs to find interesting restaurants and new ethnic cuisines! So, this weekend, for the first time ever, we went out for Moroccan food which we knew literally nothing about...

Observations
  • When I said just a second ago that we knew literally nothing about Moroccan food, that wasn't quite accurate. I thought I knew about Moroccan food. I thought it was basically Middle Eastern food, but I was wrong. It was nothing either of us had expected. So once I got there, I realized we knew literally nothing about Moroccan food. Given my limited understanding of the menu items, I asked the waitress what to get. She said everything is good, so based on that recommendation, here's what we tried.
  • While we waited for our food, the waitress brought over a basket of warm bread and a dish of olives (watch out for the pits!). The bread had a thick, sort-of-beer-bread consistency, and the three kinds of olives were all pretty decent.
  • We ordered the beef cigars appetizer - ground beef and vermicelli wrapped phyllo dough and topped with candied lemons. I didn't really expect the Moroccans to use any of these ingredients, let alone combine them all into one dish. It was just OK.
  • For the main dish, Kathryn ordered the chicken couscous tfaya - a mix of couscous, sweet onions, chick peas, raisins, cinnamon, and toasted almonds. The dish was also topped with powdered sugar, that's right - powdered sugar. It was the sweetest damn entrée I've ever tried outside of a state fair.
  • I had the chicken fassi tangine - an oven baked chicken with apricots. I thought the dish came with rice or something, but to my surprise, the roasted apricots were the side dish. Mine was also incredibly sweet. With all the sugar coursing through our veins, thank God we still had some olives sitting around!
  • We were so tired of eating sweets that we didn't even look at the desert menu, but I can't imagine what a desert would look like from a country that tops their chicken with powdered sugar.
  • In short, Moroccan food isn't really for us, but that's no knock against Marrakesh Palace. The place was beautifully decorated, the service was great, and it was obvious that the food was prepared very well. It just wasn't for us...

Eating Out - Korean

Kathryn's selections: corn, peanuts, egg, cucumber, edamame, bulgogi, and spicy sauce.

Rice Bar (Korean)

To say that Rice Bar is a Korean restaurant is probably doing a disservice to the Korean cuisine. Korean food, generally, offers a wide array of ingredients and cooking methods. Rice Bar, on the other hand, offers two things: sushi and bibimbap. And it looks like most everyone comes for the bibimbap - a sort of salad made of rice or noodles and topped with a number of vegetable or meat options.

Observations
  • Rice Bar is pretty convenient for us, only a few blocks from home and work, but somehow we've never really noticed it. This doesn't seem to be a problem for others. It was tough to get a table at lunchtime, and even more folks were getting lunch to go.
  • Rice Bar is set up like a Subway or Chipotle. You pick your base layer (rice, noodles, or lettuce), and as you pass along the bar, you can select from the toppings. If customization isn't your thing, there are a few predefined selections as well. We decided to risk it and tried our hand at coming up with the perfect bibimbap.
  • We both really, really liked this place. The food was fresh, tasty, and pretty quick. Also, it was incredibly filling. I'll definitely be back for lunch but only when I'm super hungry.

I had the far less colorful bowl of bulgogi, carrots, bean sprouts, crispy onions, radish salad, and egg.

Eating In - The Serving Spoon

My turn to cook!

The Serving Spoon

The Serving Spoon bills itself as a "personal chef service." It's a prepared meal delivery outfit that offers a fairly big, rotating menu of entrées and side dishes. Our week of meals came via a Groupon purchase. The steep discount of $85 for $335 worth of food was hard to refuse, so we gave it a shot.

Observations
  • Our entrée selections: honey ginger roasted chicken, pesto crusted salmon, turkey meatloaf with mushrooms and gravy, Mediterranean chicken with olives and capers, and stout marinated pork roast with caramelized onions.
  • Our side dish selections: roasted sweet potato wedges with smoked paprika, honey glazed carrots with fresh herbs, steamed rice with pine nuts and herbs, roasted mixed veggies, and rosemary roasted red potatoes.
  • The first thing I noticed is that the portions (particularly the sides) were quite a bit smaller than I expected. Maybe it matches up with "portions" reported on packaged foods, but it's significantly smaller than restaurant portions. (Of course, maybe this is a good thing, too.)
  • Overall the side dishes were pretty decent, but the entrées were just OK. We were able to eat a couple of nights of dinner and a couple days worth of lunches, but we couldn't bring ourselves to finish it all off. The Mediterranean chicken is still in the fridge, and I'm not sure I have what it takes to eat it.
  • I initially thought, "This will be like having a personal chef for a week!" Later, I thought "Well, it will hopefully be like getting takeout from a nice restaurant for a week." Then, I settled on, "It will probably taste like food from the grocery store counter... for a week."
  • In fact, the experience seemed most like bringing leftovers home from a hotel banquet. All of the food had this generic/industrial kitchen taste that you really only get a hotel banquets or catered events. We definitely got our $85 worth (probably), but if we would have paid full price, this post would've had an entirely different tone.
  • Best of all - it made Kathryn appreciated my home cooking that much more, especially my roasted chicken.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Homegrown

Day one of the salad greens experiment.

This Christmas, we received a lot of great gifts from our family and friends, but we were particularly excited about the new AeroGarden we got from my dad. AeroGarden is an indoor hydroponic growing system - equipped with energy efficient grow lights. The contraption included two seed kits: one for herbs and one for salad greens. We decided to have our first go with the salad green kit. It has been, so far, a pretty successful venture, yielding a decent amount of greens in just four weeks or so. An added bonus: it's one of the few products I've ever owned with an infomercial.

Here's how this worked...

The plants sprouted up in just a day or two. This is what they looked like at the end of week number 1.

Two weeks in, starting to look like salad greens...

After just four weeks, we're ready to go.

Harvest time...

First taste test. The greens are just a bit spicier than expected, not quite arugula spicy, but they carry a bit more flavor than iceberg.

The first harvest... about one of seven plants worth.

The first dinner featuring our salad greens -- a salad featuring steak, red pepper, Parmesan, and homemade croutons.

...and as a condiment for an egg salad.