Monthly Archives

September 2015

Global Cuisine Restaurants Travel

Eatin’ all over the World – Featuring a Love Letter to Thip Khao.

October 2015 Update: 2 days after writing this, we discovered the best tacos in DC at J & J Carryout on Georgia Avenue. If you’ve been in DC long enough, you know we flail when it comes to tacos. A lot of them are good, but never quite hit the spot. But these….these are special. Go check them out, they also have a great vegetarian menu and an amazing jalapeño crema. 

One of the best things about living in the DC area (or what we locals call the DMV) is how much amazing international food exists nearby.

I’ve recently found myself eating a lot of global cuisine. It’s some of my favorite because you can have a delicious, unpretentious meal at a decent price that tastes like somebody’s grandmama might have made it.

Northern Virginia is known for having amazing and authentic Asian food. Our good friends, Kristin and Dan, threw an amazing wedding in that area this past weekend (yes, her dress is BEAUTIFUL!). For every wedding Jay and I have been to the past year, we have turned it into a dumpling-hunting adventure. This first started in LA and then continued in Virginia. It was on the Left Coast that we first discovered xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings.

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

I’d always been under the impression that I didn’t like steamed dumplings. I always found the dough to be too gummy. When I finally had XLBs, I realized I’d been eating dumplings made by the WRONG people all my life. These were little chewy pockets of heaven, filled with savory soup and delicious meat. If you get a chance to try them, do! And yes, you can find pretty good ones in the DMV.

We didn’t find any XLBs this weekend, but we did stumble on the Dumpling Queen in Chantilly. Armed with a hangover, sore dancing feet from the amazing DJ (I mean, he played SPICE GIRLS!) and an appetite, we devoured the Lili’s Special steamed dumpling filled with pork, shrimp and chives. The filling was fresh and perfectly seasoned, while the dumpling had the perfect texture. They were delightful.

Thanks to moving closer to Maryland and me working there, we have been taking full advantage of the amazing amount of ethnic food in the Silver Spring area. The Big Greek Café is amazing, with flavorful gyro meat, great feta and herb covered fries, perfectly fried and seasoned falafel and (wait for it) BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE. It was a really good meal and I can’t wait to branch out to the rest of their menu.

Yesterday, not that excited for the salad I’d brought for lunch, I ventured over to Tastee Tropics in the White Oak shopping plaza. The 3 star average on Yelp wasn’t that promising for this Caribbean joint, but this Florida girl with Jamaica in her heart figured anything would scratch the itch. It was a good reminder of why we shouldn’t always trust Yelp: this food was BOMB. I got curry goat, rice and peas, collards and plantains. Everything was SO good. I was pleasantly surprised by the plantains, as so many people get these wrong. This meal took me back to many vacations in Jamaica. If you’re ever in White Oak, give it a try. Too scared of goat? Go for the curry chicken!

It may not be pretty, but damn, its delicious.

As much as I enjoyed these places, there’s a new kid on the DC block that has been near and dear to my heart for a few months. Jay and I like to think we have always been ahead of certain trends: swirl coupledom; Jay drank rosé years before it was “cool”; A mutual admiration of big butts (which let’s be honest….have always been cool, whether mainstream magazines say so or not). And most recently, a new Laotian restaurant, Thip Khao.

Thip Khao has recently received a lot of well-deserved love and attention. Bon Appétit named it one of the best new restaurants in the country. We first checked it out before it received that honor on New Year’s Eve of 2014. I still remember what we ate – the Naem Khao or crispy rice, the crispy wings, the sundried beef with lemongrass and ginger and the duck laab. Everything was great, but the Naem Khao was a revelation.

Made of crispy rice, coconut, lime, scallion, pickled pork ham, peanut, cilantro, lettuce wraps, it is sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and savory. It is every flavor profile you want in a dish. I honestly crave it regularly. Writing about it right now is killing me. It is my absolute favorite thing to eat in DC right now.

Snakehead filet topped with cashews, mangos, avocado, ginger, lime juice. So good!

Since that first trip, we’ve also tried the crispy pig ear and the crispy snakehead fish with mango, avocado, ginger leaves, spicy fish sauce, garlic and cashews. The snakehead fish was perfectly cooked and the additional ingredients were fresh, bright and flavorful. The reason Thip Khao dishes have such a dynamic flavor is because Chef Seng grows many of the ingredients she uses. You can honestly taste the difference. She’s also incredibly personable and you can tell she absolutely loves what she does. I am so happy for their success and hope they continue to thrive as they approach their second year. And give Chef Seng a follow on instagram, but know that her feed will make you hungry!

So tell me, readers. Been to Thip Khao yet? If not, let’s go! Are there any globally-influenced restaurants that you think are out of this world?? Comment below!

Drinks Restaurants Travel

Austin: Land of Hospitality, Home of Tito’s.

Friend and travel buddy, Adrienne, rounded up 8 of her nearest and dearest and we headed to Austin (aka, the home of Tito’s Vodka!) for her 30th birthday. We had an absolute blast, ate and drank our faces off and really enjoyed the town. 4 days is NOT enough time to eat your way through that city. I’ll definitely be back soon.

Coming from Mexican-starved DC, we ran to the closest place we could find to scratch our taco itch. Las Cazuelas was a close walk, cheap and delicious. The pre-meal beans were an unexpected delight and the food was great. The carnitas taco was my favorite.

We moseyed on down to Mongers Fish Market where we realized we were in for an amazing weekend of hospitality. After splitting a bottle of wine, our lovely server gave us samples of the house sangrias. The white one was made of rum and reminiscent of a rum punch. Ironically, I’m not huge on sangria or rum punch (typically too sweet for me), but this concoction was delightful! And look how gorgeous they and the birthday girl were.

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For dinner that night, we went to Uchi. Eat sushi?? In Austin?? YES, EAT SUSHI IN AUSTIN. There’s a reason Uchi is constantly at the top of many Best of Austin lists. The food is impeccable, the service delightful and the price was enough to make me consider relocating. Our big city appetites got the best of us and we ordered way too much. Luckily our waitress made us hold off for a bit. Our favorites:

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Gatherings Recipes

Labor Day Eats

Jay and I have a habit of not traveling on certain holidays. On Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, DC empties out, but we stay put. With parents in 4 different cities and friends all over, we get around enough as is. We truly relish our times at home.

We enjoy having holiday cookouts for those who also stayed in town. Three days before, I fire out an email that says you around? Come over! It usually results in 10-15 of our nearest and dearest showing up with food and booze in hand.

We just moved to a new house in Brightwood Park and are thoroughly obsessed with it. We thought Labor Day weekend would be a perfect time for a soft opening, as Jay dubbed it.

I purposely didn’t go too crazy in the kitchen. I went with things I could make ahead of time and not worry about while people were there. Highlights were:

While everything was delicious, the Thyme Lemonade with vodka was DANGEROUSLY delightful. We played beer pong, caught up, ate too much and ended the day with a dance party in what Sally called our ballroom (aka the unfurnished dining room).

It was a wonderful day. One commonality Jay and I share is how important our friends are to us.  It was a great reminder of how fortunate we are to have such amazing people in our lives.

Drinks

Thyme Lemonade

I finally admitted to myself that my thyme was dying. I cut off what was fresh and wondered what I should do. A brand new handle of Tito’s vodka whispered to me, “Thyme Lemonade.” Yes, Tito. Yes.

Ingredients

  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4-6 Lemons
  • 2 quarts of water

Steps

  1. Combine one cup of water and one cup of sugar together in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while continuously stirring.
  2. When sugar has dissolved, turn heat off. Add thyme to the pot, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. If you want a stronger thyme flavor, let it settle in there for an hour. When thyme flavor achieved, strain the thyme simple syrup.
  3. Combine the juice of the lemons, the syrup and the water in a pitcher. Drink as is or throw in some vodka or gin. Yum!
Chicken Grilling Recipes

Grilled Mojo Wings

I shouldn’t even write this.

I should keep this Florida girl secret to myself.

Seriously, it’s not even a real recipe.

But you’re here. We’re friends. And friends help each other out. Even when it comes to food cheating.

One bottle, two words: Mojo Criollo.

I think my mother first told me about this magical marinade about 6 years ago. You can use it on anything, but my preferred method is to wake up 20 min before I swore I’d be at the gym, tear open a package of chicken (recent preferred part is thighs), dump it in a bowl, cover it in mojo, pop it in the fridge and then blearily head to the nearest stair master.

(Stair master? Jesus, I really have become my mother).  Continue Reading

Dessert Recipes

Brown Butter Blondies

I’m a rusher.

If I have a task, I like to get it done in the shortest amount of time possible.

At 31, I’ve finally learned that this is actually not the best way to get the most optimal results. Some things take time; finesse; a little extra effort.

Like Brown Butter Blondies.

Blondies are good. They scratch the itch. They get the job done. But the 10 extra minutes that Brown Butter Blondies require are life-changing. They are worth the additional 600 seconds that browning the butter requires. The flavor they give the blondies is so warm, nutty and delightful, it makes you wonder if we should be browning butter for EVERYTHING.

(The answer is yes).  Continue Reading