Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alexandia Restaurant Week (Summer 2013)

I was not really intending to go out. While packing a box of goodies to send back home, I browsed through the newspaper and discovered that its restaurant week once again, where a three course meal for lunch is just 20.13USD. So I quickly invited my friend and he was able to research and organize lunch in a jiffy. We even had his sister with us.

Reservations were made at the Chart House restaurant located along the Alexandria Waterfront. We were lucky enough to be seated by the water with a magnificent view of the Potomac River. I was quite excited to try this restaurant because two year ago, when I visited Alexandria, I wanted to try the restaurant out but a Korean friend told me that it was too fancy. Indeed, upon entering the restaurant it was as though you entered a luxury cruise ship. Our server, Chelsea, was very kind and accommodating. She was knowledgeable of the menu and you know that she's a foodie because the way she described the food was so detailed and the kitchen did not disappoint. For restaurant week, their menu included: 

Since it was cold and rainy that day, we all had the clam chowder served with a variety of breads and crackers

complimentary bread

clam chowder
The clam chowder was good but its not creamy enough for me.

for the main course:

My friend had the salmon burger. Do not get fooled by the picture. The burger was gigantic. Its not like any burger that you would order elsewhere. The texture was that of a crabcake and crabcakes are awesome!!! so you can imagine this being awesome too.

The girls had the firecracker shrimp roll. The menu said it was spicy but i feel it was not spicy enough. But again it was superb. The texture of the vegetables and the tempura shrimps in the roll blended well with the sauce. 

Our entrees may not look like much but the serving was definitely good for 2 persons. Everyone consumed only half of the platter and had it boxed up.

for dessert:
we had to try everything so my friend got the new york cheesecake
it was served with a scoop of ice cream. By far one of the best cheesecakes that I have tried. it was not overpowering at all and the ice cream was very light.

i had the creme brulee. it was good. But personally I find nothing special with it. Growing up from a household where my grandmother would make tons of leche flan (a similar dish) for distribution to friends and family, i feel creme brulee is just ordinary. In fact I would say leche flan is more difficult to make since you have to get the custard out of the mold in one whole piece, while with creme brulee you serve it right on the platter you baked it in. 

Overall, I would say that this restaurant is one of the best and I would definitely go back for restaurant week or happy hour. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Drunken Pasta

It is common for people to make food and wine pairings. Today I felt a bit experimental and decided to cook my pasta in red wine. Hence the tinge of red in the angel hair pasta. While this pasta exudes the flavor of wine, it will not make.you drunk. After all, boiling the red wine cooks off the alcohol content. The pasta itself is flavorful enough that sauteeing it in extra virgin olive oil and garlic and some nuts will suffice. Top with some cheese and this makes a perfect dish for dinner or entertaining.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Drawing Salon: Composition and Perspective Canaletto and Panini

I was so ecstatic when I found out that the National Gallery of Art was offering a free drawing workshop today. I have always been interested in drawing but I never had the chance to take lessons. The closest that I got to an art class was fashion design school at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines.  Anyway, I had no idea what to expect. But let me just say that I'd love to take a class with them again. Unfortunately, this is the last in the series, I should have attended the other classes last February and March but there is no point regretting. I just hope they continue to offer the Drawing Salon series next year.

Today's facilitators were Liz and Adam. The workshop was held in a gallery housing the works of Canaletto and Panini, but works of Canaletto's nephew Bellotto. It was amazing how they were able to discuss the technique and incorporate the lives of these painters. Furthermore, they provided materials for drawing. Look at the pictures in this post to have a preview. 
 The line for the workshop. We were there way before the registration time started to make sure that we have a slot. 

 Liz giving a brief introduction on the programme. 

Pencil, eraser, handout and clipboard

 Adam talking about lines and perspective

 Canaletto's The Porta Portello, Padua

Using lines and perspective, I was able to come up with some semblance of an outline

Panini's Interior of St. Peter's Basilica

Drawing landscapes can be scientific after all, using lines and angles. It is definitely refreshing take an artistic away from my otherwise mathematically concentrated life.

For those who still want to attend this workshop, you still have a chance on April 14, 2013 Sunday. Be there before 12:30pm to register at the West Building, East Garden Court, National Gallery of Art, Sixth and Constitution Avenue, Washington DC refer to http://www.nga.gov/programs/galtalks/ for more details.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Homemade strawberry lemon smoothie

Its still cold and I am still avoiding the task of going out. I've been craving for a smoothie but its not exactly the most appropriate drink for the weather. Thank goodness for my hoarder abilities and I have tons of ingredients in my fridge. I can make my drink in the comfort of my home.

I used 6 kirkland frozen strawberries, thawed. I buy them frozen to prevent them from spoiling. Initially, I would get the fresh berries but after 1 week i wouldnt be able to finish a 4-lb. clamshell all alone so there. After researching the difference between frozen and fresh, which is not really much, I settled for frozen.

Add yogurt. I used 1 serving just to avoid the hassle of storing it again. Use any variant as you please, today i am in the mood for lemon.

Add some milk to make it more liquid/drinkable. I am not a big fan of milk but my lifestyle here has had a positive externality but still i opt for the non-dairy milk variants like almond milk or soy milk.

Add honey for sweetness. It really depends on how sweet you want it, i like mine a bit tangy so just a couple of swirls did the trick.

Blend them all together!!! To date, i can say that the best purchase I made for the kitchen is the Cuisinart 2 speed hand blender with multiple attachments i got from Costco.

And voila! Craving satisfied, and it is definitely low calorie at less than 200 calories.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lettuce pancakes

I have this overstock of salad lettuce in my refridgerator and I didn't want to throw them out. As a household of one, who loves to buy stuff from costco, I always end up with too much vegetable I s so I have to constantly come up with things to do to them.

Today's project is lettuce pancake inspired by the japanese traditional food okonomiyaki. I topped it with caramelized onions and honey balsamic vinegar mix.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Experimenting on Creme Brulee

Yesterday, I tried my hand on macaron and it turned out pretty good. The thing about it is I only used egg whites, so I now have several yolks sitting in the fridge. What to do? I couldn't just toss them out. So i decided I'll try to make creme brulee / leche flan. Unfortunately, the laziness in me hindered me from making leche flan. Its a more tedious process. You have to make the caramel then the custard and wait till the caramel sits before actually putting the custard then its oven time.

My ama used to make leche flan all the time way back when I was a kid. It was pretty normal at home to have leche flan stashed in the fridge. I found it weird that every one was making such a fuss about creme brulee. After all, the two are almost the same. I'd like to think of leche flan as an inverted version of creme brulee.

Anyway, don't you ever wonder why they started making leche flan in the Philippines? I've been trying to search the net to verify my historical account. After all, it is based on my ama's stories, but to no avail, I couldn't find one. They started making leche flan as an externality of the construction process of churches and other stone buildings back in the Spanish Era. The Filipinos were forced to work through polo y servicios and egg whites were used as an adhesive for the building's walls/foundation. Egg yolks would have no use in the process and would most likely be thrown out. But the Filipino trait of not wanting to waste anything, especially food, paved way to develop the leche flan making process in the country.

Going back to my creme brulee experiment, the process is to mix the yolk with some sugar and temper it with heated vanilla infused cream. Put the mixture into ramekins and bake them at 250F for an hour in a water bath. Once they are done, burn some sugar on top and voila! You have your creme brulee (unfortunately, i dont have a torch so i'm skipping the sugar topping).

Economics is really everywhere. Although i am not sure if making this dessert is a positive or negative externality for me. :|

The Macaron Project

Spring break is about to end and I am in a bit of a quandary. I was just too sluggish to drag my lazy butt out of the apartment, so I decided to bake. For a while, I've been thinking of making my favorite French pastry, macarons, but I felt that it would be too difficult. Its basically the same concern with everyone else in the blogosphere. Macarons are simply made of several ingredients, almond flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar and egg whites. I already have the last three ingredients, but no almond flour. Almond flour is simply ground almonds. I also do not have almonds, but I have pecans. I read that you can substitute any nut in the absence of almonds, but I think almonds would still be the better option for this pastry. I ended up with a pool of pecan butter after drinking it too much. On my second attempt, I decided to put the powdered sugar in while grinding and it turned out perfect. Most of the blogs I read said that baking paper is a must, even if you are using a non-stick pan. But I was just too stubborn. Refer to the second sentence, I was too lazy to go out. So I simply used the non stick pan. Lets just say the outcome is not the best, but its not a flop either. 

Contrary to my other kitchen explorations, this project was not measured out exactly. I just mixed everything up. I even had a problem with choosing the baking time and temperature and settled for 300F and a longer time 20 minutes.

After baking the cookies, I made strawberry butter cream and chocolate ganache. I tend to hoard things. So I have all the other ingredients.

 Chocolate-dipped strawberry buttercream filled pecan macarons

They do not look like patiserrie-quality goodies but I loved the taste and texture. I think I need more practice to perfect this but I need to grab almonds first.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Maryland Restaurant Week Spring 2013

We discovered that the National Harbor in Maryland is having Restaurant Week from March 4-17, 2013. Its not just a week but I'm not complaining. During this week, restaurants serve three-course meals for just $20.13 (lunch) and $35.13 (dinner). My friends and I had the time to go here because its Spring break this week! cool huh? (honestly, that day was the only day we took a break). We researched all the restaurants and we picked McCormick and Schmick's.

We had a reservation. So we were comfortably seated. For a weekday lunch, they had a good number of tables. The National Harbor is not exactly in the middle of a business center.

There are no signs to show that its restaurant week, so unless you know it, you'll miss out on the good deal. They won't hand you the menu unless you ask for it.

We had the mixed greens, and oysters for starters. Lets say its nothing spectacular. Just alright.
 Mixed Greens

Roasted Virginia Oysters

For the main course, everyone had the Bourbon Glazed Salmon, since everyone is on a diet. It was definitely a treat. You have to enjoy the fish with the side dishes to make it perfect.

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

And for dessert, we tried Creme Brûlée and Walnut Apple Tart. In my opinion, the Walnut Apple Tart was the superior dessert. It was served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream which had the perfect texture as opposed to the creme brûlée which i feel tasted too egg-y, if there is a word. I know creme brûlée is made up of mostly egg, but I believe that it should be a combination of egg and cream, otherwise, we should just have baked eggs or something like that. Leche flan tastes better than it.

 Walnut Apple Tart

Creme Brûlée

After lunch, we were just too damned full. We felt so sleepy that we decided to walk around the harbor and take pictures, but it was too breezy and cold so we just ended up hanging out inside Gaylord Hotel and home after.

Going Japanese

We just had a very productive day and so my friends and I decided to go Japanese for dinner! Ever since I got here, I haven't had Japanese, and I was already missing it. Back home, I could never have enough Japanese. Every time Lovely and I would dine out, we would pick Japanese, even if we just had it the week before at the same restaurant. We went to Sumo Hibachi and Sushi Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Hibachi means cooked on a hot plate, or simply teppan.  We were lucky enough to be there during happy hour. In the Philippines, happy hour translates to low-priced drinks. Here, happy hour could translate to low-priced sushi and appetizers as well. 

Here's the menu:

They have a special menu for happy hour so make sure you ask for it.

 We shared an order of Pirate Sushi

 Hong Kong-Style Roasted Duck Noodle Soup
Seafood Noodle Soup

Their noodle soups are so big! its good enough for two hungry people.

Overall, I love this place. I would definitely come back. The service is great! But when I go home, I would definitely go to Zensho, where they have eat-all-you-can teppan.