Today is going to be a big cooking day. Thomas Keller’s fried chicken anybody? So last night I wanted to make an easy dinner. This Martha Stewart recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/978784/one-pan-pasta looked good but I was skeptical. Turns out it was pretty decent, though I would add some of the tomatoes a little later in the cooking process to prevent them turning to mush. It came out a little too spicy for the Bob, but I thought no big deal I will just hit it with some tomato paste and cream. Well the cream had gone off so in a moment of insanity I used cream cheese (this is particularly hypocritical because I enjoy nothing more than railing against recipes on Pinterest that claim to be “healthy” for your family but require canned salsa, cream cheese, and frozen meat cooked to death in a slow cooker to be stuffed in tortillas). The result was a total blast from the past. Something akin to fussili picolo mondo, a dish served by a not very gourmet restaurant in Windermere House in Chicago that provided around 20 percent of my calories, if not nutrition, in law school. It may not have been a particularly sophisticated dish after my strange hijack but provided a trip down memory lane and really hit the spot.
It was high time I made it out to this charmingly named British gastro-pub in Culver City seeing as my little brother works in the kitchen. If you think this is going to be a biased good review you should know he gets no breaks from me. Even though he did send out tons of free food. Starting with a plate of house-cured meats all of which were delightful. The show stopper was the head cheese (which I wouldn’t have ordered on my own) but ended up being perfect, unctuous, porky, fatty goodness. Everything else was also excellent except something called beef drippings which was just a very salty beef gelatin. Not that it doesn’t sound up my alley but it was just too salty for me.
For starters we went with the hamachi crudo with poached rhubarb, jicama, and tamarind dressing and the fried octopus with shishito peppers, potatoes, and squid ink aioli. I usually think dishes that sound like this are trying to do too much. But in both cases this time it really worked. the octopus was tender and smoky and and the peppers added just the right amount of heat to cut the aoili. The hamachi was ocean fresh and the jicama added just the right crunch. Along with the head cheese these two were my favorites of the night.
And then I don’t know what happened. There was a parade of food and sparking wine. I can’t even remember everything we ate. There was a springy pasta dish with excellent morels and another that was redolent of smoky bacon, there was sticky toffee pudding, and popcorn ice cream (really cool because it tasted just like popcorn and also good!). Even though I swore that night that I would never eat again, I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other offerings especially an Indian butter chicken pizza and of course some beef wellington.
As an aside, I think I should also note that this restaurant has the coolest wallpaper I’ve ever seen. I really want it for our powder-room for that day (far far in the future) when we remodel. What is it you ask? Oh just a classic looking toile by Timorous Beasties depicting London muggings and the like.
I try to keep my politics off the interwebs. But I don’t think equality is political. Good on you SCOTUS!
Last Friday we tried the much raved about Mockingbird Hill. Well, people are right to rave. What a great little spot. We didn’t get to stay as long as we would have liked because we were rushing to dinner at Table (more on that later). But a great sherry selection, tempting little snacks including really good castelvetrano olives, ham, bread with tomato and manchego, and some nice looking sweets will have us back again soon. Even if I do have to cross town to Shaw to get there.
We were SO excited to finally visit Shirlington Dog Park this weekend thanks to our friends Joanna and Brad. Olive was in doggy paradise and we also had a blast communing with the great outdoors. It’s a little steep to get down to this creek so next time I will wear better shoes but this is bound to become a regular summer haunt. As an aside we stopped at Tacos Bamba on the way home. The carnitas were good but the carne asada and al pastor were just okay. There were a number of specials that they were out of so we will be back. But the real thrill was the Latin market in the same parking lot. I got frozen yuca and I can now say that I make a pretty excellent fried mogo. And I can’t wait for tonight and shrimp tacos in appropriately sized tortillas. What is it with regular grocery stores out here? All the small tortillas they sell are still way too big for tacos.
When we bought our house two years ago I thought it would be decorated by now. Not so. It’s a time consuming, expensive, and frustrating endeavor. But sometimes it’s nice to take a moment and appreciate the little corners that do look nice. Like this stack of fun books on the guest room dresser. The picture didn’t come out great but there are Cartier and Chanel coffee table books, the short stories of Saki, The Plums of P.G. Wodehouse, Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion and a little book called Gentlemen’s Relish which discusses a range of eccentric English eats. What else could any guest want to read?
I don’t usually make shrimp and grits at home since the ones down the street at Matchbox are delightful: http://matchboxcapitolhill.com/
But when we found these monster shrimp I knew I needed to do something with them. Salad had been the side at the last few meals so I really needed something else.
We threw the shrimp, some cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and summer squash on the Big Green Egg with just a little oil, salt, and pepper. I sauteed a couple chopped slices of Benton’s bacon until crisp and removed the meat and added the polenta to the grease. Once it was coated I added some pork broth from Red Apron and cooked the grits until they were done but not dry. I hit them with some salt, pepper, chives, green onions, cream and buttermilk and let them get hot again. Then we tossed all the grilled stuff on top, and there you had it a super quick and easy summer dinner that was nice enough to serve to guests.
You can buy Benton bacon at at my new favorite butcher, Harvey’s in Union Market: http://unionmarketdc.com/themarket/artisans/harveys-market/
The excellent Red Apron broth was also from Union Market: http://unionmarketdc.com/themarket/artisans/red-apron-butchery/