Finals just ended and I have pending updates, including Farrah Olivia, more Hell-Burgers, Kaz Sushi Bistro, and my obsession with Java Green. For now please enjoy my bev of choice--the non-fat, sugar-free vanilla (or caramel!) latte.

My Kitchen
Arlington, VA


Murky Coffee

First, I was skeptical of their Five Dollar Hot Chocolate. Later, after accepting Murky Coffee as a pretty quality occasional substitute for Starbucks for studying (free wifi is a blessing and a curse, but I don't leave Murky after three hours smelling like stale java), I was disturbed by some drama they had over the summer. It's the sort of place where if you let your guard down, you might feel like you are out of the hipster club or something.

Sometimes you just have to get out of your house, so I figured upstairs (the laptop space) would be the place for me to do some studying today. WRONG.

Announcement: The upstairs at Murky Coffee is CLOSED for renovation! You won't find notice of this on their web site. I should have known something was wrong when I walked in and saw the first level littered with laptops, with barely an open seat. Shrugging it off, I brazenly ordered my hot chocolate "for here." When she handed over my drink, I asked the barista if upstairs was open, more of a reassurance than an actual question. "No." No eye contact, so she couldn't see my despair.

To make this already too long story less long, I'll say that I ended up in the tiny "other room" where there are bathrooms, two tiny tables (taken, of course) and two couches (one taken). Sinking into the couch , which sat on their trademark, charming stonewashed, scratchy floor that was also quite filthy (dustballs, paper scraps), I started to feel tired. Overcompensators masked the smell of "bathroom" with a thick dose of citrus air freshener. Tired and nauseous from the smell, I left. Waste of time.

Murky Coffee
Don't bother, it's full


Sushi Taro and Mr. Yogato

We had the great pleasure of dining recently with J & J. Wow that's so cute it's almost wrong. Anyway, being city slickers and all, J-squared reeled in these suburban couch potatoes for a Dupont Circle evening. You might remember that we only recently started understanding about good sushi and better sushi. Well, Sushi Taro is DELICIOUS sushi. First there was miso soup all around, and delightful vegetable tempura. I will say that the veggie pieces were quite large, so at times you had to look to your neighbor and say, "Listen, I really want the eggplant, and it's awkward to share such enormous pieces of lightly fried vegetable with you without knives."

For dinner, the four of us shared two spicy tuna rolls, one yellowtail, one Alaska (salmon and avocado), one eel with cucumber, one plum with shiso leaves, a rainbow roll (spicy tuna with more fish and avocado wrapped around outside--see the visual), and the baby snapper nigiri from the "special" list. Everything tasted as it should--fresh and flavorful. The service was attentive and understanding (we asked a handful of questions). I'd definitely recommend Sushi Taro.

Afterward, we were full but not stuffed--at least not too stuffed for frozen dessert. We went around the corner to Mr. Yogato, one in a smattering of recent yogurt joint openings that still doesn't rival the burger explosion of 2008. You can get original soft, original tangy, or a rotation of yogurt flavors at Mr. Yogato, and then there are a zillion toppings. Including olive oil. I had original tangy with bananas, mini Eggo wafflse, and honey. It was AWESOME. Standard chocolate toppings abound, for the traditional folks. The best part about MY of course are the games. Besides the standards, including answering a trivia question (like "Name 7 countries that start and end with the same letter"--Jeff's question!), the night we were there your yogurt was 100% free if you could stand on one foot on your tippy toes (not quite ballet style, but raised up) for 15 seconds with YOUR EYES CLOSED. The eyes closed part is the kicker, people. Try it. Right now. As J said, you go to Mr. Yogato when you're with friends but Tangysweet when you're alone.

Sushi Taro
1503 17th St NW
Mr. Yogato
1515 17th Street NW
Metro: Red Line to Dupont Circle (South Exit)
Sushi Taro on Urbanspoon



I've been gone. Here are a few people to blame:
Christoph Schreuer
Frederick Lawrence
President-Elect Barack Obama

Anyway, I don't want the kids to know it, but we're definitely in a R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N, so folks aren't eating out at restaurants as often. Here are a few things I have been enjoying despite the tough times.

1. Cupcakes. At Baked & Wired in Georgetown I've enjoyed the coconut, the pumpkin, the chocolate/peanut butter, and the downright chocolate. Some flavors have a softer, spongier cake part than others, which are more dense. Seems kinda random, depending on the flavor. I like both. I gloated a little when the pumpkin w/cream cheese frosting that I chose was overall better than the coconut J chose. Sorry J. No, I don't know if this is better than Georgetown Cupcake or Hello Cupcake or Hello Dolly or Strawberry Shortcake (OK, I made the last two up). I know that there isn't usually a line, it's on the earlier side of Georgetown (read: closer to civilization/Metro), and they also have FOOD, so if you want a wrap or a coffee or both, you can have that and eat your cupcake too.

Baked & Wired
1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW (Georgetown)

2. Founding Farmers. [If you don't know the deal, it's owned by a consortium of a zillion American farmers, it's LEED certified, etc.] When we went for dinner before the sunset brought on Yom Kippur, I was slightly disappointed at first. I ordered a "roasted chicken salad" which I thought would be a salad with roasted chicken on top, but instead it was CHICKEN SALAD, like with the mayo? Anyway, it was fine, but at least 2 of our 8 or so meals came out cold, and we all waited for new, hot food to come out. Service was spotty, but the size of our party mandated a huge tip. In response to our concerned voices, a manager sliced 50% off of our bill. We were shocked and very gracious. I returned for brunch and had the vegetable scramble with asparagus and mushrooms, which was a very reasonable portion but was a little cold. Not the thing you want when you wait almost an hour for your breakfast. My friend M had the smoked salmon hash which was awesome. I was surprised that the English muffins that came with our meals were not whole wheat or grainy, but the apple preserve made us really happy. Almost as happy as the fun milk-jar-type-holders that the water comes in :)

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Across 20th from Johnny Rockets)

3. Java Green. Java Green is about to become a staple in my near-school existence. It's DELICIOUS. I enjoy fake meat and other typically vegetarian/vegan food items because I was vegetarian for so long, so this vegetarian joint is perfect. Besides the typical sandwiches (soy turkey, soy chicken, vegan burger, veggie burger--soy cheese, sprouts, and avocado are typical toppings!) there are some yummy hot dishes, too. My friend A recommended "Rice and Beyond"--organic rice (it was purple, the hottest color of the fall), cabbage, onion, carrot, jobche noodles (interesting, almost a little spicy), broccoli, kale, a dumpling, and I got soy orange chicken as my topping. It was SO GOOD, a really good balance of protein, starch, and veggies, without the usual 89239234234 grams of sodium that would be in a typical Chinese takeout situation. For $10 I got a hot meal that stuck with me all day--I literally didn't eat another meal for 9 hours, just a few pieces of fruit and a granola bar for snack. The place is packed around lunch, so head over early (12pm on the dot) to beat the crowd, or wait until it dies down. Also, FYI--they have brunch on Saturdays, which is hard to come by in this town; it's more of a weekday-lunch atmosphere, but breakfast could work in a Teaism sorta way.

Java Green
1020 19th St NW
Metro: Farragut North (Red) or West (Orange/Blue)

4. Ray's Hell-Burger. Despite how I usually feel about web-site-less places, I'm still head-over-heels for RHB for three reasons. (1) It's fast--even if there is a line, there's no sitting and waiting for the server, then ordering and waiting for the drinks, then waiting, then ordering the food, then waiting, then eating, then waiting for the check...; (2) It's cheap--it's not Five Guys cheap, but it's a hell of a lot better tasting and is a major value, which leads me to the next thing; (3) It fills you up. If you can eat that 10 oz burger and drink a root beer and tell me you aren't full, then we need to have a serious talk about shrinking down your stomach. The heck sauce is awesome, you can get guacamole (always a plus), grilled onions, a zillion kinds of cheese if you want, blackened/au poivre burgers, and I swear the buns have improved since the place opened. They heard our call [for better buns]!

Ray's Hell-Burger
You know, in between Rosslyn and Courthouse in the tiny strip mall

5. Cooking. That's what people do when they are afraid they will be unemployed forever and they realize not only that they still need to eat, but also that the food they eat must be mostly made/prepared in tiny kitchen.

See challah dough sit

See challah dough rise

See food

Also, perfect sugar cookie sandwiches with a pumpkin butter/cream cheese frosting filling (thanks S for recipe, which originally called for apple butter):

That's that for now. I'll post more round-up type entries soon.


Good Stuff Eatery

Now, I'm not sure if you watch Top Chef regularly, but we're big fans. As it goes, we were not such big fans of Spike Mendelson, the force behind Good Stuff Eatery, a newish-comer in the flurry of burger joints.

I had a turkey burger with avocado chunks, sprouts, and tomato. The burger was good, but it was piecier than I would have liked. The bun being more soft and less structured probably didn't help with keeping the burger structurally sound. The beefeaters (not those) enjoyed their burgers, but one said that it was a little pink--not necessarily too pink for her, but probably too pink for most average consumers. You expect a certain degree of doneness when you aren't asked for specification.

The onion rings were VERY good--instead of whole onion rounds dipped and fried, they were sort of onion ring chips. Much easier to eat. We also had Spike's Village Fries with thyme, rosemary, and cracked pepper. They were good, but the onion rings were better. I expected anything with thyme and rosemary would be off-the-charts awesome, but I was wrong.

I have to go back for a milkshake. I'm particularly interested in the Toasted Marshmellow. If only Capitol Hill wasn't soooo far away...

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Metro: Orange and Blue Lines to Capitol South


Hudson - Restaurant Week

It's been a while. I've been eating, but not as much at restaurants. It seems school has devoured my life. But fear not! I will tell you about Hudson.

I recently [editor's note: not so recently, it turns out] enjoyed RW lunch at Hudson with two lovely ladies. Hudson replaced David Greggory at 20th and M Streets last fall, across from the St. Gregory hotel (::shudder::).

I decided to recklessly abandon any shred of healthy-eating decency at this particular lunch, which is why I had (1) Corn chowder (with piquillo peppers, chives, and chorizo oil), (2) buttermilk fried chicken (with whipped potatoes, gravy, and HONEY), and (3) a root beer float with vanilla bean ice cream. My food was awesome. The corn chowder wasn't super thick and creamy, so it wasn't as inappropriate for summer as it initially sounds, trust me! I rarely eat fried chicken, but if you're gonna do it, do it this way--so good! Not greasy at all!

I'll let S and L talk about their food...

S: For an appetizer, I ordered the beef brochette, which was served on top of a mini salad of frisee, pear, and a "roquefort crouton." The beef was tender, a little seared on the outside (my favorite), and so flavorful. Delicious. While I avoided the frisee (I don't waste energy eating wannabe lettuce), the "crouton" was a fried and melty blob of blue cheese. Such a good pairing with the beef. I'd totally get it again.

My main dish was a stuffed tomato florentine, which normally wouldn't be my main dish but I was tempted by the thought of a fresh summer tomato. It wasn't amazing. It was well plated, at least, with a cute little tomato hat, but I'd only recommend it to a vegetarian. It grew on me the more I ate it, but it didn't have a ton of flavor. L's beef tenderloin looked much more appetizing, but then I wouldn't have discovered the beef brochette since I probably wouldn't double up on a beef appetizer and a beef main dish. Oh well!

Despite being Miss Chocolate USA, as ieatDC just named me, I ordered the coconut panna cotta for dessert, again being tempted by a summery dish. It was also plated well with a drizzle of pomegranate sauce and a homemade tart lemon wafer cookie stuck in top. The pomegranate "sauce" was like a concentrated, highly flavorful extraction and added a nice zing to the panna cotta. Perhaps I'm not that familiar with panna cotta in the first place, but it was chewier than I imagined? I guess I thought it'd be like a flan or a mousse, but it was still delicious!

L: [Had the bet salad with goat cheese, beef tenderloin, and sweet potato bread pudding.] I thought the beets were good, though this type of salad is pretty much ubiquitous now, and I've had tastier versions at other restaurants. That doesn't mean it was bad, but it wasn't *amazing*. The beef tenderloin was a huge portion, and it was delicious. I would definitely order it again--it was the best part of my meal. The dessert was good, but the buttery sauce was too rich for me--I don't think I'd order it again.

Food was really really pretty. Generally tasty. Nothing to freak out about, but in the winter they usually have matzah ball soup, and I'm dying to try it.

2030 M Street NW
Metro: Red Line to Dupont Circle
Hudson Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon


PS7's RW

OK, so it was Restaurant MONTH practically over at PS7's (that's chef Peter Smith and 777 I St NW), after a somewhat lackluster RW experience there last year, J was itching to go back after reading various positive reviews.

To start, J had the mussels and I had the spicy tuna tartare sliders on Parkerhouse rolls. They were absolute wonders in one teensy bite. Delicious and beautiful. I want them again. Right now.

J had the beef short rib and tenderloin - the short rib was falling apart (in a good way, not like "this friendship is falling apart!"), it was super soft (but not mealy). It was like the best brisket I'd ever had in my entire life. I was boring (and trying to be healthy), so I had fish with vegetables and it was fine, but I wasn't jumping out of my chair.

The beignets with the two sauces (one fruit and one chocolate) were divine, so do yourself a favor and save room for dessert.

Lately I've been sort of into trying cocktails, so I had a delicious drink with rum, lemonade, and ginger ale--not too sweet (so appropriate with dinner) but a nice change from beer or wine. I need to become better versed in cocktails--it'll only happen if I order them!

777 Eye Street NW
Metro: Gallery Place, Chinatown
Ps 7's on Urbanspoon


Postcard from Greenville, SC

Ah, summer travels.

We recently drove from DC to our friends' wedding in Greenville, SC. We had an amazing time AND ate some awesome food. Here are the highlights.

The peach turnover from Biscuitville was hot, gooey, and although dusted with cinnamon and sugar, it was surprisingly not "too sweet." Just sweet enough for me. Oh, and it may have been $1.39. Worth every penny! J's chicken on a biscuit was a great improvement over the occasional mock chicken 'n' biscuits that people bring in at work. The biscuit wasn't mini by any means, and the chicken was the same generous size. It was the real thing, probably because he ate it in North Carolina.

Mary's Restaurant: If you can hit up Mary's for breakfast or brunch, you should. I ate a turkey sandwich on a baguette (Hi, it had cranberry chutney AND sliced Granny Smiths on it), but if you like you could go for totally insane French toast or shrimp and grits. WHATEVER you do, start with the fried green tomatoes. They were unbelievable. Not greasy at all, the way fried food should feel. The tomato chutney on top was not a marinara-type cop-out sauce. It was sweet with a little kick, and on top of the crispy on the outside, still-firm but forgiving inside of those tomatoes...seriously, heaven. When are we going back?

Mmm our last morning brought us to High Cotton for brunch. I could have gotten the egg-white omelet, but that would be so typical. Instead I went for the huevos rancheros--two fried eggs over beans and enchilada sauce with chorizo, beef tenderloin, salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips. I've been really into making a made-up version of Mexican Eggs Benedict since then (two eggs over easy on top of guacamole-laden whole wheat English muffin topped with salsa). J was checking out the menu, lingering over his obvious top candidates that involved steak. Then I saw the BBQ Duck Hash, and suggested it to him. Turns out he had totally skipped over it (it was first on the list), and it sounded awesome. It was DELICIOUS. The mustard BBQ sauce was really different and awesome, and the veggies (mushrooms and peppers) with the eggs and the sauce--oy, the whole combination was great. I don't think I need to mention the awesome breadbasket (why oh why are biscuits not the norm everywhere in the world???). What in the peach butter is going on...


Postcard from New Jersey

I really can't say enough good things about the Garden State. If you have insults for the birthplace of college football, baseball, and Frank Sinatra, then you'll just have to bring them somewhere else.

On a recent trip I finally visited a place seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, a show with the Food Network's sometimes annoying but always orange Guy Fieri. Two lovely ladies joined me at Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory. The deal with Brownstone is that they have breakfast all day (obviously awesome), and are known for their huge variety of pancake options. And beyond pancakes they have pancake WRAPS, like a breakfast burrito but instead of boring burrito shell it's a pancake! With a pancake under it for good measure, of course.

Us healthy-eating ladies decided to start with an appetizer, naturally. Our appetizer was an order of chocolate and peanut butter chip pancakes, topped with whipped cream of course. You can also put syrup on it if you want to. And we did. Our server was friendly (and the host went beyond taking our picture by letting us review it and demand a second shot), the crowd was everything from families to teens to old-timers (I sensed this was part of their routine), and the food was ENORMOUS for very reasonable prices.

Besides basically demolishing our appetizer, among us we picked at an egg sandwich, a pancake wrap filled with meat, eggs, and potatoes, and a Greek salad the size of a small country (maybe Luxembourg?).

Brownstone Diner also has regular food for the boring folks, or even for the anti-breakfasters (whoever you are...you strange, sick people). But I don't want to talk about it. The next time you're in Jersey (whether visiting or just passing through), stop at Brownstone Diner. It's not 24-hour, so a little planning is required. It's also close to a Path station, so it's a great place to meet a friend from the city without schlepping into the city (if you're low on time).

Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory
426 Jersey Avenue
Jersey City, NJ
Take Exit 14 A-B-C from the Turnpike, but don't go in the Holland Tunnel!

Brownstone on Urbanspoon



I was pretty excited today when I read on Metrocurean that the folks from Neighborhood Restaurant Group are opening something up in D.C. Even though I'm not the biggest Rustico fan and I'm hot and cold with Tallula (also I can never remember how many L's there are and where they go, but that's not enough reason to hate, right?), I absolutely LOVE Evening Star and Vermilion, which is where we recently revisited.

Again, we had a great time. No problem getting seated right away with our reservation on a busy night (not always the case, even with a reservation), and we were surprised and delighted by a pretty, crunchy, AND juicy (is pretty most important?) amuse bouche of veggies, goat cheese, and pine nuts on a thick square cracker-y type apparatus.

Our starters were both really awesome in different ways. The chilled roasted red pepper soup was smooth as silk and had a smoky undertone, I wanted to lick the bowl it was so good. The heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese was colorful with both yellow and red sweet tomatoes. The table next to us got a complimentary one because the kitchen was busy, extending their wait time for their entrees. They liked it so much that they ordered another (to be put on their tab, of course).

For dinner I had the Scottish Salmon with peas, mushrooms, lemon zest, and pea-tendril pesto. Again, I love green, lemon, and anything to do with pesto, so this was a no-brainer. The salmon was fluffy and creamy, just the way I like it. Jeff's lamb kebab with artichokes two ways was surprising, there was traditional=seeming ground lamb shaped onto the kebab, and also lamb sausage. The Greek-inspired dish, while delicious, may not have been the best choice for J because he isn't super into artichokes. I was careful to eat most of them for him (I do what I can).

We (gasp!) didn't have dessert because we were meeting a friend for ice cream in town. Vermilion is a consistently beautiful, delicious, classy place to dine. I'll continue to go back, and you should too.

1120 King Street
Metro: Blue or Yellow Line to King Street
Vermilion on Urbanspoon


My Favorite Cookbook(s)

I can't go out every night, but I also can't really cook. I do cook, but it's not second nature to me. An omelet, that's second nature. But food that is serve-able to a spouse, parents, other guests? That presents a challenge.

Enter: My Favorite Places to Get Recipes

I definitely can't take credit for discovering any of these. They all came on recommendations from friends, links from other sites, or books from--um--my mom. Or they were in the newspaper.

Which brings me to...the NEWSPAPER! Once in a while stuff in the Times or Post will intrigue me and I'll try it. Like this no-bake coconut-mascarpone-blueberry concoction, constructed with the assistance of a store-bought (gasp!) pound cake. Leave the oven off, save some energy. A few days ago the Times reeled me in with this, and after listening to a speech about The Greatness of Swiss Chard, I may have to try it.

Cara's Cravings: Health-conscious but not always super-healthy, Cara explains her recipes well, mentions substitutions she made or different methods she tried, and always includes a picture, even if it comes out funny-looking. She also does what I do (and most people, probably), which is find something I like and then just do different versions of it. Mini turkey-cilantro burgers in pita! Big turkey-cilantro burgers in big pita! Roasted-red-pepper-cilantro-ground-turkey tacos!

Kalyn's Kitchen: I am not and never have been on the South Beach Diet, but healthy food is healthy food. Kalyn's instructions are REALLY CLEAR, she often posts pictures along the way, so you can see what the food should look like at various stages of preparation. This is key for people like me who get paranoid, "Oh no! Should it look like this? I think I did something wrong. It's RUINED!!!!" Also, she'll suggest other recipes to go with a certain dish, and has everything divided up into a zilliondy categories. (For example, Homepage > Salads > Salads With Beans Grains Pasta and Rice > Salads With Pasta > Pasta Salad with Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Grilled Zucchini, and Basil. And for SB followers, she'll tell you for what phase the recipe is appropriate, and whether it's a "once a while treat" or a staple.

DESSERT, also known as Inkpad Chocolate. Yep, I know that little bundle of messy-faced cuteness, but she's not so tiny anymore. Now she's big--big into making delicious baked goods!!!

Food Network
The Food Network has a zillion recipes on the web site, and they are rated by difficulty. I like to stick to "Easy" dishes, thank you very much. I find myself virtually flipping through Paula Deen if I want a cream-filled decadent dessert for some friends who aren't calorie-counting, Sandra Lee for quick ("cheating") methods, and Giada De Laurentiis for lots of stuff. Rachel Ray obviously is known for her quick yet tasty meals, and if you are like B and find RR a bit grating, then perhaps her silent online recipes will serve you well! I also have Giada's "Everyday Italian" cookbook, and a lot of my "staple" stuff from the past year comes from that book. Lemon spaghetti, white bean dip with pita chips, pesto recipes, tortellini in broth, etc etc.

And lastly, a BOOK! My mom gave me a copy of WeightWatchers Ultimate Flex & Core Cookbook. While I don't exactly know the ins and outs of what "flex" and "core" mean in the WW world, I do know that the recipes are light, healthy, and easy to prepare. Also a lot of the recipes use similar or repetitive ingredients, for example, salsa. Stock up on salsa and open the book, maybe you've got something to make!



A recent trip to Corduroy was proof that whether it's surrounded by a boring hotel in an awkward part of downtown or in a charming townhouse near the Convention Center, Tom Power's food will dramatize your life. Now I'm being dramatic, but it's true. When we eat at Corduroy I feel grown-up but not stuffy, soothingly well-wined but not drunk. Conversation is comfortable in the quiet dining room and occurs over a well-paced meal, neither too slow nor too fast. In fact, I think our first meal at Corduroy was, at that time, the longest meal we'd ever had. It spanned 2 hours and, on my 22nd birthday, that unique (to us) experience, combined with flawless food, sparked our intense respect for the restaurant. I've come to associate Corduroy with warmth and romance.

It almost doesn't matter what you eat. Everything is good. It's no secret that I love fish, and lemon is sort of my hobby. Most recently I enjoyed the crispy fluke with lemon sauce and potatoes, but before I got to that I had divine chilled pea soup. I tried to make pea soup a few weeks ago, and it turned out lumpy and weird, while this was smoky and smooth. J had bison with a potato-pancake-y side that he thankfully let me taste. Mmm latke. Nothing like Chanukah in the springtime, it's better than Christmas in July! Molten chocolate sabayon (as good as it sounds) and creme brulee rounded out the meal. We shared a delicious half-bottle of red that we can't remember, but it's not as if we picked it ourselves. We asked our lovely server what would pair well with the fluke but stand up to the buffalo--let's face it, a whole bottle would have made me too drunk for a weekday. The half was a great option.

Corduroy is a really nice place where people can talk. It's a place where you should take people, a place you should recommend to friends of any age looking for a fine dining experience. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the new brownstone space is charming, and I'd order anything off the menu (including wine and dessert) with confidence in its quality and deliciousness. I'm just smitten. I'm not the only one. I'm not trying to come up with some crazy place that's amazing that you've never heard of. In this case, I'm confirming what you've heard from the higher ups and magazines--yes, it's true, Corduroy has great food and an excellent atmosphere, and now, with its new location, old-town charm.

1122 9th St NW
Metro: Green/Yellow Lines to Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center
Corduroy on Urbanspoon


Postcard from Washington, VA

NOTE: I haven't posted in a while. It's sort of because of the recession (responsible inner voice is telling me to cook more and save money for retirement/house/emergency fund) and sort of because I've been applying to jobs instead of blogging. If you're sad about the decrease in posts, give me a full-time job so I can go back to writing about eating instead of writing about how useful I'll be to your chambers/firm/organization.

Back to Washington, VA, also known as Little Washington. Send a gift certificate my way if you want my take on this place. It's easy to find, what with the town that's approximately 100 square feet and OH! The uniformed doorman guys. Most of the time they must be bored out of their minds.

No rush to make the big bucks, it turns out it's possible to enjoy a weekend of hiking and enjoying the country in "our" Shenandoah National Park without starving AND without going broke. I strongly recommend a weekend at our own nearby park as advanced staycationism. It's not far, and while there we were completely unplugged (phone, internet, television), and the whole world seemed quieter, calmer, and more beautiful. And that was on a cloudy, drizzly weekend.

At Griffin Tavern on our first night in the country, J and I shared the special appetizer of the day--chips and a dip made out of blended veggies, including turnips! It tasted sort of like lighter mashed potatoes, and J was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it. My blackened tilapia salad was filling and light, and J enjoyed fish and chips the way they SHOULD be--crispy but not greasy. We got dessert to go, a slice of this and a slice of that (I think cheesecake and pie?). All good. It poured while we were sitting outside, but as long as we were shielded by the umbrella, we found this quite hilarious and fun. Hahaha it's raining while we're on an outdoor adventure vacation, this is so wonderful! Alternate universe out there, I swear.

Thornton River Grille is the next big stop after the Inn, it seems. It definitely gave us happy flashbacks to another River Grill. Our B&B hostess was very concerned that we hadn't made our reservation in advance, but wethinks the holiday weekend kept the loco-tourists in the city and away from TRG. Jeff enjoyed beef tenderloin with roasted fingerling potatoes, and even shared a little bit--thanks! I had the burger, and it was OK. I just wasn't feeling their other options--I wanted fish, but not tuna, and not shellfish. But the burger did have a challah roll, which was surprising and delightful. I'm not sure how many people are making challah in Rappahannock County these days.

Stonewall Abbey coffeehouse: At this stop in downtown Sperryville (a hopping place, for sure) we relaxed with tea, coffee, and a tasty apple tart. You could also have lunch at this converted church, which has quite the setup for live music toward the back. However, it's not open so late at night--we stopped by a different night thinking we could find some dessert, and it was closed. Who knows, maybe Sp'ville isn't as hoppin' as we thought.

Bed and Breakfast - We enjoyed our stay at the Heritage House in Washington, where we ate not once, but twice (the redundancy was by choice, we could have had omelets) a fabulous Eggs Florentine dish that was decadently creamy and completely satisfying on the cool, dreary mornings of July 4th weekend.

Other things to do:

Weather permitting, go to the park.

AND, whether it's for a tasting, buying a few bottles, or setting up on a pretty porch for a glass of wine and block of cheese, you can't really go wrong in Virginia wine country :)
Gray Ghost Vineyards
Sharp Rock Vineyards
Gadino Cellars



So yes, if you haven't heard already, Makoto was at the top of Zagat's "best food" list. If you're confused, read here and here and here and here for background on Makoto and its recent honors. We have a lot of places on our list, but jumped Makoto to the front and made a reservation just 24-hours in advance to see what all the fuss was about.

The first course was composed of a bunch of little vegetable dishes and a soup. Cool edamame still in the pod, miso stems that were previously marinated in soy (but were not swimming in it), deep fried eggplant (not battered with anything!), and a teensy glass of room temperature potato miso soup with roast beef in it. The soup was definitely a flavor surprise, and I think I would want a whole bowl of it if it was steaming.

Second was steamed chicken in ginger sauce and a pleasant but forgettable noodle salad with diced cucumbers and red pepper.

Third course was sashimi--Spanish mackerel, tuna, and red snapper

Fourth, fried soft shell crab, the outside made of rice cracker. When life (or a restaurant) gives me lemons, I squeeze them over my food. And it definitely enhanced this dish.

Fifth (and this is subject to disagreement because I can't figure out exactly where this was and don't agree with J's assessment) we had avocado with a spicy miso sauce. The colors were lovely, the avocado was perfect in creamy-smooth-"good fat"-ness, and I definitely wanted more.

Sixth we had a tiny piece of salmon with a lemon sauce, topped with what I think was a mushroom on top.

Seventh was the sushi course, and I loved that the wasabi was built in. Being pretty uncultured in sushi, I hadn't ever ever had nigiri--just maki. I knew about the bamboo rolling mats, the rice, the seaweed, etc, but otherwise was in the sushi dark. Now I have seen the light!

Eighth was yakimono, and we had a choice of 4 dishes. I picked the yellowtail ("lightly flavored with soy sauce") while J picked--no surprises here--the tenderloin beef steak. The yellowtail was on the bone, and looked like something pulled off the grill at an upscale barbecue. It was tasty, but the bone beefed up its size and left me without too much fish. Yes, I had a 10 course meal and am complaining it WASN'T ENOUGH FOOD, but that's because I'm a very hungry person. I think J liked his steak, but I'm sure he fancied the sauce by the way he licked the plate. It was gingery, and I would have done the same.

Ninth was soba, our other "choose your own adventure" and J and I picked wild vegetable and grated yam. I really liked the soba course, the noodles were real buckwheat soba noodles, so far away from the ones in the $5 bowl from Whole Foods to which I add 1.5 cups of water and microwave for 2-3 minutes. At first I was all, this isn't so "yammy," where are the yams? They were the white grated stuff in my soup, I realized. As I drank up toward the end I was surprised how unintrusive the yam flavor was--I guess I'd been having second thoughts, thoughts rife with images of candied yams and marshmallows dipped in chicken soup.

Lastly we had bowls of lemon ice and a very earthy green tea. We enjoyed SECONDS on the tea, because we are a pair of wild kids who know how to lay a night on the town to rest.

We had a very unique experience at Makoto. We wore slippers, I nervously put my purse in the containment box that was my hard wooden seat (Ahh! No access to tissues!), and had a really enjoyable and exciting meal. The food was interesting and very pleasant, but nothing made me say "Whoa, what is this?! It's amazing! I want more now and when I leave I'm going to dream of this for weeks!" Then again, I'm not particularly well-versed in Japanese cuisine. I know I liked what I ate and that the place is an experience. Instead of dinner and a show, your dinner IS the show. The service is excellent--attentive and full of much-needed explanations, and you'll always be informed how you should eat each course (as in, "you can pick up the soup and drink it" instead of allowing you to fumble awkwardly, trying not to embarass yourself because you ARE the youngest people in the room and OMG I'm not sure what that thing on the top right corner is...but I'm gonna eat it). Enter with an open mind is alls I'm sayin.

And ladies, FYI, everyone says "wear clean socks" to Makoto, but girls don't usually WEAR socks when dressed up, and the folks at Makoto provide black peds for all. No need to bring your own socks (don't worry, I quickly tucked them into my purse as soon as I spotted the peds).

4822 Macarthur Blvd NW
Metro: Ehh, drive.
Makoto on Urbanspoon


Endo Sushi

(Yeah, we're sorry we didn't take a picture until we ate almost all the food...it seems we just couldn't wait.)

Endo Sushi is a welcome addition to the greater Clarendon area. I say "greater" because I often forget there's a Clarendon beyond the namesake Boulevard and Wilson, neglecting Washington Boulevard altogether. Maybe if Sawatdee didn't make that Sala Thai so utterly disposable I'd have noticed neighbor Endo Sushi earlier.

I'm not going to pretend that I know a lot about sushi. Besides more obvious egregious errors like funky smell or taste, I can't tell you who has the "freshest" sushi around or whose technique is superior, blah blah blah.

What I do know is that a cup of miso soup and a plate of sushi is often the perfect answer for the inquisitive yet indecisive summer diner. Light enough to save room for dessert, leftovers make a great light lunch the next day, and lastly, maybe most importantly, using chop sticks puts me in a good mood. Sigh, I'm so sophisticated.

If you can allow yourself a wee bit of fried, the veggie tempura appetizer was nice to share. Instantly save calories by allowing your companion to eat most of it, but don't miss the sweet potato. Simplicity being our thing, J got the Combination Roll and I got the Spicy Combination Roll - they were about $10 and $14 respectively. The combos included a little simple salad with the usual ginger-y dressing, a cup of very tasty miso soup, and 18 (!) pieces of sushi. I had 6 of each--spicy tuna, spicy salmon, and spicy Californias. I think J's were tuna, California, and cucumber, but I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong.

Endo wasn't reinventing the wheel, but the place is clean and modern inside and offers an opportunity to be very full (with leftovers) for a reasonable price. It isn't loud inside and service is quick. The appetizer, combinations (2), and two Sapporos totaled ~$42. If you did takeout and skipped the beer and appetizer you'd pretty much be us last Valentine's Day - full wallet and full belly of sushi, enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

Endo Sushi (Site under construction)
3000 N Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA
703-243-7799 (Why not? The web site doesn't really work yet and I insist you order some takeout) [Editor's note:  I'm seeing this post 1.5 yrs later and the site still doesn't have much on it.]
Metro: Orange Line to Clarendon

Endo Sushi on Urbanspoon


Reliable Source

A reliable source informed me that she and a friend felt sick after eating at Zengo recently. She did some digging, and a handful of other friends reported similar occurrences--first they ate at Zengo, where they enjoyed delicious food, and then they went home and had a bellyache. I wonder how good the food was--was it worth it?

781 7th St NW
Metro: Yellow/Red/Green Lines to Gallery Place/Chinatown


Liberty Tavern...again

Yes, I have tried some new places. No, I can't tell you about them today. We must revisit the Lib Tav, because we just can't stay away. This is just your monthly (or so) reminder that Liberty Tavern is still consistently yummy, unlike some other less acceptable places in the neighborhood

Among other things, J had some crabcake sliders that were cute AND tasty.

I REALLY enjoyed what I billed as "the greenest salad ever." J hesitantly tried it and insisted that he "never knew green could taste this good." I believe it had pistachios, asparagus, chevre, green goddess dressing, and maybe more. What was on it isn't that important; it's not even available anymore, thanks to an ever-changing seasonal menu (that currently includes JOHNNY CAKES!!!!!). What's important is that it was awesome, and as per usual (save the dilemma of Sunday's buffet brunch), Lib Tav has some satisfied (and frequent) customers.

Liberty Tavern
3195 Wilson Blvd
Metro: Orange Line to Clarendon

Liberty Tavern on Urbanspoon