Dishing on Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown

Here’s the dish! My coworker recently raved to me about the Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown (located at 1201 24th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 inside the Park Hyatt), ensuring it would be a blog-worthy visit. I wrote it down on my list of recommendations people have given me since starting this blog. I knew I’d eventually make it there, but when I learned my DC Metro Church Brunch Bunch group was going to visit the legendary restaurant, I was ecstatic that my opportunity would come sooner than later.

When I arrived at the Blue Duck Tavern, I immediately fell in love with their open-kitchen concept. A perfect marriage of rustic and modern, patrons’ food is created out in the open for all to see. I literally walked through the pastry kitchen and a fresh batch of apple pies on my way to our table. As a food enthusiast, I loved the opportunity to get  an up close view of of the preparation and plating of the food. As an OCD clean freak, it was also nice to see the environment in which my food was being prepared. Blue Duck Tavern takes their level of accountability to a new level with their open-kitchen concept.

As I joined my group (at the Chef’s Table in a semi-private area of the restaurant), I immediately began perusing the menu offerings. I’m at a place in my journey with food exploration where I’m willing to try things outside of my taste palate at least once. When our group leader suggested ordering a few plates of the Wood Oven-Roasted Bone Marrow ($17), which they serve with everything bagel crust and spring garlic butter, for the table, I jumped at the opportunity to taste it. The perfectly seasoned marrow was loaded with coarsely ground spices and garlic and just might have been the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted! I can’t tell you how important it is to step outside of your comfort zone when visiting restaurants. The bone marrow is definitely something I would not have ordered on my own, but now that I’ve exposed myself to something new, it’s an item I will continue to order if offered at a restaurant. Having passed through the pastry kitchen on the way to our table, I opted for an order of Pecan Sticky Buns ($10) to start my meal. Loaded with tons of pecans (that’s pee-cans for us southerners, not pa-kahns) and drizzled in a warm caramel sauce, I ate more of the sharable starter than I anticipated.

Having started with perfectly sweet sticky buns, I knew I wanted something savory for my main course. The thing I love most about dining with large groups is it gives you the opportunity to see (and sample) more of the menu. We ordered a wide variety of entrees including Baked Eggs ($16), the Buckwheat Waffle ($15), the Short Rib Hash ($18), Blueberry Pancakes ($15), and Shrimp and Grits ($20). Everything was fresh and delicious, and they stayed true to their mission of serving “simple, rustic food with an artisan approach.”

The Blue Duck Tavern is definitely on the higher end of the scale of restaurants. At any given time of the day, you can bump into the heavy hitters of the city there, but they manage to maintain a high level of decorum without feeling too pretentious. If you’re looking to make an impression or celebrate a special occasion, it’s the perfect place to be a little fancy and spend a lot of money. While I enjoyed the food and the overall experience, the one (and only) thing I did not appreciate was their primarily a la carte menu. At theses prices, I just feel like sides should be included, not something you have to order in addition to your entree. I’ll definitely be back, in fact, I’m already planning to celebrate a special occasion with dinner there in the near future.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

And The Blue Apron Boxes Go To…

Thank you all so much for participating The Dish With Kat’s first-ever Blue Apron giveaway! I’m please to announce that the winners of the free Blue Apron boxes are:

AshleyAshley D. from Putnam, Conn.

Ashley taught herself how to cook when she got married. She admits it’s been a long road, but she considers herself a pretty good cook now. She loves trying new recipes and is eager to try Blue Apron’s recipes with her family.

 

EmneyEmney H. from Southwest, Mo.

Emney recently learned about Blue Apron. She is most excited about taking the thinking out of the meal prep process; she’s looking forward to Blue Apron being her personal planner and grocery shopper for the week. She’s really excited to for her family to try something new!

 

KatieKatie B. from Vista, Calif.

Recently married, Katie is most excited to have fresh ingredients at her fingertips to prepare delicious, fresh meals for her family. She can’t wait to get cooking and share her culinary creations with her followers.

 

Congratulations to all the winners of this month’s giveaway! I can’t wait to see what they cook up! Stay tuned for more from their Blue Apron experience, and as always, happy cooking!

 

 

Dishing on Founding Farmers D.C.

Here’s the dish! Since moving back to D.C. just over two years ago, there are a few restaurants that repeatedly come up when I ask for brunch recommendations. One of those restaurants is Founding Farmers. With more and more people being more conscious about the food they put into their bodies, the farm-to-table concepts have taken off. Founding Farmers is no exception. When a friend invited me to brunch this past Sunday, I happily accepted, but when I found out we were going to Founding Farmers, I flipped!

While we had a 2:00 p.m. reservation, we thought we’d head over to the D.C. location (1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006) early to see if we could get a table before then. As we exited the car on 20th Street and rounded the corner, we saw them—the crowd of approximately 20 people waiting for a table (it was worth a shot)!  As we made our way through the revolving door, we entered another crowd of people in the restaurant waiting for a table. This is a great sign of what was to come.

I normally like to explore the decor of the restaurant while I wait to be seated, but there was an overwhelming amount of people waiting, so I just found a seat in the back corner of the lobby and waited patiently with my friend until our table was ready at 2:00 sharp. After being escorted to our cozy upstairs table, we were greeted by our cheerful server, Madison. She immediately informed us that we were dining at the perfect time because we had the option to order from both the brunch and lunch menu.

We took a few moments to peruse the menu and ordered drinks. The Scratch Soda ($5) from the “Farmacy” immediately caught my eye, but I couldn’t decide between the grapefruit and hibiscus flavors (it also comes in orange, lemon-lime, ginger, vanilla, and a seasonal offering), so I asked Madison for a recommendation. She recommended the hibiscus flavor, so I ordered it because I have grown fond of hibiscus thanks to the Spiked Augua Fresca at El Centro D.F.’s bottomless brunch. My friend ordered the Corpse Reviver ($12) with Bombay gin, Kubler absinthe, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and lemon. Neither disappointed. The refreshing Scratch Soda was a nice contrast of sweet and tart, and the Corpse Reviver was “tasty and provided a good balance of Cointreau and gin,” according to my friend.

Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes with herb goat cheese and avocado green goddess

My friend already knew he wanted to start the meal off with some Fried Green Tomatoes ($8) from the lunch menu, so who was I to object? The perfectly fried southern delicacy was served with herb goat cheese and an avocado green goddess for dipping. Then we did something I wouldn’t normally recommend doing when dining with someone—we ordered the same thing—Chicken & Waffles. Now, before you get your panties all in a bunch, there’s a catch—I ordered the lunch version, and he ordered the breakfast version.

The Breakfast Chicken & Waffles ($12) comes with a full waffle, three boneless fried tenders, and eggs cooked any way you like them; white gravy is served on the side. The signature Chicken & Waffles ($16) on the lunch menu is a boneless, batter-dipped thigh and breast, half of a waffle, macaroni and cheese, and choice of a crop side; I ordered the Mint Watermelon with sea salt. Fried chicken and watermelon?! (I know!) They were two very different takes on the same meal, and we enjoyed them both. I was skeptical about the macaroni and cheese at first glance, but was immediately blown away from the blend of seven different cheeses, including white and yellow Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmesan, Swiss, and Muenster.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I went with the lunch version of the Chicken & Waffles. While I always prefer bone-in over boneless chicken, the serving size of the lunch version was much more generous than the breakfast version, enough to share in fact. I also didn’t mind the smaller version of the waffle. I liked the fact that I could have two other sides with the lunch portion instead.

After all the hype, Founding Farmers did not disappoint. I’ll definitely be back to taste more of what they have to offer.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Blue Apron Giveaway!

Every so often, Blue Apron sends free trails to subscribers to share with friends and family. I recently received three new trials to share, and I want to share them with you! To qualify, please do the following:

  1.  Follow The Dish With Kat on WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (I’ll follow back!).
  2. Follow  Blue Apron on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pintrest.
  3. Send an email to contact@thedishwithkat.com by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 21, letting me know what you look forward to most with your Blue Apron trial and include your social media handles.

Please note, I can only share these meals with new customers. If you’ve subscribed to Blue Apron in the past, I will not be able to share the free trail with you to the email you previously subscribed with. The giveaway will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 21; all email submissions must be received by then.

Next week, I’ll select three lucky winners to receive the boxes and share a bit of their stories online!

Happy cooking!

 

Dishing on Rustico Slaters Lane

Here’s the dish. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post, because quite frankly, I don’t want to do it. I knew the time would come when I would have to do it, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I have to dish on a not so pleasurable restaurant experience.

A few Sundays ago (told you I’ve been dragging my feet on this), I joined a group of friends from DC Metro Church for brunch at Rustico on Slaters Lane in Alexandria (827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314). When I lived in McLean, I passed this restaurant every Sunday on my way to church and was always curious about their food. They have a great patio, which is always bustling in warmer months. I was excited to finally get the chance to check it out.

Upon entering the door, I fell in love with their eclectic style in decor. They have a featured mosaic tile wall that incorporated dinnerware and wine bottles, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. They continue the mosaic theme in the bathrooms, as well. As I waited for others in my group to arrive, I checked out their menu.

Brunch is pretty much my 5th food group, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic to eat. After being seated, a few of us ordered some starters. I debated between the half portions of the Salt Roasted Beet Salad ($6) and the The Market Salad ($7) and eventually ordered the Market Salad, which features Lacinato kale, barley, blueberries, fennel, grapefruit, orange supremes, and a vanilla coriander vinaigrette. I was underwhelmed at the first bite. Because this salad listed kale as the first ingredient on the menu, I assumed it would be a leafy salad that featured all of the other ingredients. It was, in fact, a barley salad with rationed out portions of the other ingredients. Quite frankly, I’ve made more tasty grain salads with Blue Apron. I ordered it because I love grapefruit, fennel, and blueberries, and I’ve grown fond of Lacinato kale through Blue Apron recipes. There was literally one grapefruit segment, maybe three blueberries, and a sliver or two of fennel. The vanilla coriander vinaigrette was also another feature that initially drew me to the salad. I was eager to experience the warm notes of vanilla paired with the bright flavors of coriander, but again, the vinaigrette completely underwhelmed me; I could barely even taste it past the overwhelming taste of flavorless barley. Others ordered the Rustico Doughnuts ($8) and the Cheese & Herb Risotto “Tots” ($6). While both were more flavorful than my salad, I wasn’t blown away by either when I tasted them.

Shrimp&Grits
Shrimp & Grits are served with stone ground white grits, spicy Conecuh sausage, wilted greens, and caramelized onions.

When it came to choosing an entree, I was torn. I initially thought I would order the quiche, but after hearing that the featured quiche that day was a Cheesesteak Quiche ($13), I quickly decided against that (and I’m glad I did). Being the southern belle that I am, I gravitated towards the Shrimp & Grits ($14), which feature cheesy stone ground white grits, spicy Conecuh sausage (or Alabama gold, as I like to call it), wilted greens, and caramelized onions. Now, I always hesitate before ordering grits in the D.C. area because I’m from the south. People up here do the absolute most with grits, when in reality, all they need are water, salt, butter (and more butter), and cheese. I asked our server Kelly so many questions about the grits: “Are they thick or thinner?” “Can you stand a spoon up in them?” “Are they cheesy?” “What is the shrimp to grits ratio?” Can you tell that I’m particular about my grits? She assured me they were on the thicker side, but very cheesy and very tasty, so I decided to be adventurous and ordered them. Now, while I wasn’t impressed by the grits that I interrogated our server about, I was impressed with the shrimp, which were grilled to perfection, and the wilted greens, which was again, Lacinato kale. The grilled shrimp was a pleasant surprise. Most shrimp and grits I’ve had featured pan seared shrimp or shrimp smothered in some sort of gravy featuring sausage. Grilling them gave the dish an unexpected flavor layer. The wilted greens did the same while also adding some substance to the the dish, which was on the smaller side for a portion (about a spoonful of girts and five shrimp). They weren’t the best shrimp and grits I’ve had, but they weren’t the worst.

Among the group, our orders varied from traditional brunch offerings to classic lunch dishes.  I think if I returned (everyone deserves a second chance), I’d go for a lunch dish like a burger or pizza.

If I had to choose one word to sum up my experience at Rustico and the quality of their food, I’d choose mediocre. Additionally, I believe their food is overpriced. With tax and included gratuity (because of our party size), I spent $31 on a meal that didn’t blow me away. I don’t mind spending obscene amounts of money on good food, but for $31, I could’ve gone to Trader Joe’s and brought ingredients to make a more spectacular meal.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Hank’s Oyster Bar Old Town

Here’s the dish! I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t like raw oysters. However, if you fry, bake, broil, saute, or grill them, I’ll eat them like it’s my job! When a new friend suggested trying Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town Alexandria (located at 1026 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314), I was game. <sarcasm>It’s a tough job, but I have to do “research” for this blog</sarcasm>. As I always do, I went straight to their website to check out their menu. I was excited right away because Hank’s changes their specials daily. I fancy a restaurant they tries to bring new concoctions and flavors to their patrons based upon what’s in season, or in Hank’s case, the freshest catch of the day. Although their specials change daily, they don’t change their offerings of starters, small plates, large plates, and meat offerings (yes, you can get everything from chicken, steak, and pork chops depending on the day of the week).

Upon arrival, I was immediately taken in by the modern charm of the bar area. The marble slab counter, leather seated stools, and nautically-inspired pendant lights were right up my style alley. To add to a bit of whimsy, they hung a chandelier over one of the high-top tables. My friend was running a bit late, so when a seat opened up at the bar, I grabbed it to enjoy a drink while I waited. Straying from the traditional bar nuts, Hank’s offers you a little bowl of Goldfish to enjoy with your drink. Those of you who know me (or whose children I’ve babysat) might have an idea of how much I love Goldfish. I thought it was a clever play on a traditional treat for a seafood restaurant. The drink special that day was a punch ($7) mixed with dark rum, cachaca, blood orange juice, pineapple juice, apricot nectar, lime juice, and angostura bitters. It was refreshing and delicious! Shortly after ordering my drink, my friend arrived, and we were seated immediately.

Fried Oysters
Hank’s famous fried oysters are some of the best I’ve EVER had!

Once seated, our server brought over some more Goldfish for us to enjoy while we glanced over the menu. After checking out food the patrons in the bar had ordered, I knew I wanted to try their fried oysters ($15). When I first saw the two ladies at the bar scarfing down the fried oysters, I thought for a second it was chicken. That’s Hank’s meat offering for Sundays, so it made sense at first glance. However, after inquiring about what they were devouring, I was surprised to find out they were oysters! They were HUGE and so meaty! I’ve had quite a few fried oysters in my life, and Hank’s are at the top of my “best fried oyster” list. I was curious about the source of the oysters, so I asked and learned they were Hama Hama oysters from Washington. Our server explained that the chef likes to fry these oysters because they provide a good meat to breading ratio. Averaging the size of an eos lip balm, they were at least twice, if not three times, the size of most fried oysters I’ve had. They serve them along side a homemade remoulade and fresh lemon wedges.

I was torn between which special to try—the scallops or the soft shell crabs. Our server, without hesitation, recommended the scallops ($29), which were jumbo diver scallops served over a local roasted corn relish with truffled balsamic reduction, so I ordered those. My friend ordered the (not-so) small plate of mussels ($14), which they steam in a garlic, tomato-based sauce and serve with bread. Every time I eat scallops, I judge them according to Gordon Ramsay’s standards. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll know why. It seems as though nothing pisses Ramsay off more than an imperfectly cooked scallop. If you present anything to him that’s not perfectly browned, succulently juicy, and God forbid, undercooked, heads will roll and plates will fly. My first words after tasting Hank’s scallops were, “Gordon Ramsay would be proud!” The caramelization on the scallops was pure perfection, and again, I was surprised by the size of them. My server assured me they were large when I ordered them (I always inquire about the number of scallops because I’m the captain of #teamGreedy), but I wasn’t expecting to be truly fulfilled by four scallops. After scraping my plate clean, I was stuffed!

Chocolate
Nothing like free chocolate to end a meal

Hank’s ends their meals in the same unique way they start them. They offer patrons a small bowl of dark chocolate to enjoy before they leave. I thought this was a nice touch. I love dessert, but honestly, I could not have eaten another thing after my meal because I was so full. The dark chocolate allowed me to feed my ever-constant sweet tooth without going overboard. And who doesn’t like free chocolate?!

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Rasika West End

Those of you who know me personally know there aren’t many foods I don’t eat. I’ll seriously try just about anything once. There are a palmful (less than an handful) of cuisines I don’t enjoy, and Indian food would be at the top of that list. Now, I probably should’ve prefaced this by saying that my first experience with Indian food was not a good one. It just put bad taste in my mouth for the cuisine (literally), but that was years ago, and I’ve developed quite the sophisticated palate over the years. When my friends invited me to join them for lunch at Rasika West End (located at 1190 New Hampshire Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20037), I jumped at the opportunity to revisit Indian food.

If you’re going to try Indian food for the first time, lunch at Rasika is a good place to start. If you ask the average professional in D.C. for a recommendation of good quality Indian food, 90 percent of them would recommend Rasika. During restaurant week (coming August 17–23, 2015), it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation there. They’ve received a lot of accolades, including Chef Vikram Sunderam’s 2014 James Beard award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. Because I was revisiting the cuisine, I stayed up the previous night to scour their menu and read reviews on Yelp. It was a bit overwhelming because they offer so much. Luckily, I was dining with friends who had previously visited the restaurant, so that made ordering a bit less overwhelming. Before I delve into the dining experience, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to dish on the decor.

Rasika begins to stimulate your senses from the moment you walk in the door. While praised for their cuisine, the atmosphere they’ve set in the dining room only compliments the culinary experience. They are renown for their extensive wine cellar, and they take advantage of their extensive collection, displaying a wall of bottles in the breezeway that connects the bar area to the dining room. While we were seated at a regular table with a banquette and chairs, I immediately fell in love with their semi-private booths. If you’re looking to impress a date or want to celebrate something special with someone special, making a request for one of these booths when you make a reservation would be a good idea. They also have a library just above the main dining room. With the backdrop of a hearty collection of books, this area is available for private events and seats up to 50 people. While I didn’t get a chance to view it on my visit, Rasika also has a Chef’s table that can accommodate up to 12 guests. According to their website, President Obama celebrated his 52nd birthday in this private dining corridor. Now, on to the main attraction—the food!

We began our culinary journey by sharing a few starters. Rasika is known for its Palak Chaat ($10), which is flash-fried, crispy spinach topped with yogurt, tamarind, and dates. Point blank period—it’s the tastiest spinach I’ve ever eaten! The texture is similar to seaweed, but it’s lighter and much more pleasing to the palate. The Tuna Chutneywala ($14) was a soft, buttery tower of ahi tuna, coconut, cilantro, and kachumber. I’ve never had tuna so fresh and delicious. After reviewing the menu and various Yelp reviews, I knew I wanted to try the Mango Shrimp ($12), and I am glad I did. The succulent shrimp, basted with fresh mango puree and grilled to perfection, were paired with flavors of cashews, ginger, and coriander. We rounded out our appetizers with a Bread Basket ($8) that included traditional naan, onion sage naan, and a green-hued mint paratha. We all ordered iced tea, which was a pleasant surprise. The fruity, floral flavor of the tea complimented all of the food we ordered well.

We continued our exploration of the East with the selection of our main courses. Because lamb is such a commonly cooked meat in Indian cuisine, I knew I wanted to try an entree featuring lamb. I wasn’t quite adventurous enough to try something heavy-laden with sauce, so I opted for the Tandoori Lamb Chops (available in servings of one, two, or three chops for $12, $24, or $36). They were so tender and practically melted in my mouth, and highlighted the flavors of mace, cardamom, cashews, and ginger. Served with a delicious mint sauce, I savored every bite of the the tender chops. One of my friends ordered the Red Snapper Mappas ($20), which was covered in a flavor-packed sauce with coconut milk, fennel, and malt vinegar and served over a bed of rice vermicelli. I would definitely order this dish again on another visit. A lot of times, fish portions in restaurants are small and not fulfilling, but the red snapper was a healthy serving of tender fish that essentially covered the entire plate. My other friend ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala ($17), which Rasika noted as the official dish of England on their menu. Served with a side of basmati rice, the tender chicken is covered in a bright orange sauce that packs lots of punch.

Because we were in full-blown “treat yo’self” mode at this point, we ordered dessert. Now, I usually always go for the chocolate item on the dessert menu, but after thoroughly enjoying the Mango Shrimp, I opted for a mango-flavored dessert. I tried the Rose-Mango Kulfi ($9), which featured a mango macaroon, layers of mango- and rose essence-flavored ice cream, and blackberries. I never would’ve imagined to pair these flavors, but altogether, they complimented each other well. The visual effect of the layers, once I enjoyed my first bite, was beautiful, as well. My friends shared the Chocolate Samosas ($9), which Rasika served with mocha ice cream ($9). Placed atop a schmear of berry coulis, the samosas were light and crispy. I don’t know how you feel about Phyllo dough, but I think it makes everything taste better. Whether wrapping something savory or sweet, the light crispiness of the unleavened dough just does something to me!

Our indulgent meal was a bit more expensive than I am used to spending for lunch. I often recommend people try new restaurants at lunch, rather than dinner, to enjoy the culinary experience without breaking the bank. We spent close to $150 for three people at lunch (yikes!), which is definitely outside of my regular budget I’d be comfortable spending on a lunch. But don’t fret. Rasika does offer a Pre-Theatre menu that is only $35 and available for dinner until 6:30 p.m. You have a limited choice of starters, entrees, and dessert, but it’s a great option to explore their menu at a more reasonable price point. And again, if you can manage to book a reservation during restaurant week, you can again explore their offerings for $22 at lunch or $35 at dinner.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Blue Apron’s Rice & Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Lime-Crema Sauce

Here’s the dish! On Sunday, I cooked Blue Apron‘s Rice & Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Lime-Crema Sauce. It was packed full of flavor and delicious. My eyes are often larger than my stomach, so I thought I would need more than just the stuffed pepper for dinner. I later found out I was incorrect in this decision, but the black bean and corn salad I whipped up to accompany the stuffed peppers was a nice accent to the meal. As with many Blue Apron meals, I made a few modifications. Here’s how you can put your own twist on this flavorful Blue Apron meal!

PoblanoIngredients
Recipe ingredients (left to right, top to bottom): 8 oz. ground turkey, 2 oz. shredded cheese, 1/2 cup long grain white rice, 3 Tbsp. roasted pepitas, 2 poblano peppers, 1/4 Mexican crema, 3 Tbsp. currants, 2 Tbsp. tomato paste, 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 bunch cilantro, 4 cloves garlic, 1 yellow onion, and 1 lime.

Use Ground Turkey

In the past few days, I’ve eaten a lot of red meat, so I just wanted a healthier option for my protein here. I picked up a package of the regular ground turkey (includes dark meat) from Trader Joe’s for $2.99 per pound. When I use ground turkey, I prefer the dark meat version because it’s most similar to ground beef. You could use the ground breast meat if you’re looking to cut even more calories and fat, but I would definitely up the spices to enhance the flavor of all-white ground turkey meat.

Add a Melting Cheese

LowfatMozz
Trader Joe’s Lite Shredded Mozzarella Cheese has 45 calories and 3 grams of fat per one-ounce serving.

Who doesn’t like cheese?! I often go for full fat options with cheese and just use it sparingly, but I’ve discovered that the low-fat mozzarella at Trader Joe’s is quite flavorful. I use it often when I make my flatbread naan pizzas (I’ll tell you all about these soon), and quite honestly, it tastes like regular, full-fat mozzarella. I stirred a handful of cheese into the meat mixture and sprinkled some on top of the peppers before adding them into the oven.

Mix it Up with the Garnishes

The recipe called for garnishing with whole cilantro leaves, but this was a large bunch of cilantro. Unless you’re making an herb salad, you just don’t need that many whole leaves of cilantro for garnishing. I finely chopped about three-quarters of the leaves for the lime-crema sauce and left the rest whole for garnishing. The recipe also called for pepitas mixed into the meat mixture. I tasted them before adding them, and I’m glad I did. They were seasoned, so I saved a few for garnishing. I liked the texture they added to the dish as a garnishment over the texture they had when mixed into the meat. They begin to absorb the moisture, so they lose the crunch factor when mixed in. Next time, I’ll save all my pepitas for garnishing.

Whip Up a Black Bean & Corn Salad

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Black bean and corn salad is one of my go-to sides when cooking Mexican dishes. It’s super simple, and it’s really a game of what you have in your fridge. If you have the opportunity to go shopping, the best thing you can do is pick up an ear of fresh corn—especially if it’s the summer when corn is in season. You’ll thank me later for this. Sweet, summer corn is delicious. If corn is out of season, go for the frozen variety, but whatever you do, DO NOT USE CANNED CORN! It’s just blasphemous to use canned corn in a dish this delicious. I like to “taste the rainbow” in my salads, so again, if you have the opportunity to shop, pick vegetables with vivid colors. In addition to the black beans and corn, I used orange and yellow bell peppers (the miniature variety), red onion, a beefsteak tomato, and lots of fresh cilantro. I dressed it with lime juice, EVOO, salt and pepper, and a nice pinch of cumin to mirror the flavor from the stuffed peppers. It was delicious, and the next day, after marinating in the fridge overnight, it tastes even better. The leftover salad also pairs well with tortilla chips for a chunky black bean and corn salsa. You’re welcome.

The Dish on Stuffing Peppers

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I’ve never stuffed a poblano pepper before. I’ve only ever stuffed a bell pepper, and I didn’t precook them; I stuffed them raw and cooked the filling and pepper all at once. When you’re stuffing a precooked pepper, you have to cut it open gingerly. This is something I learned after butchering through my peppers like Freddy Kruger. I pretty much ended up with a slice on the top and bottom of the pepper, which made it impossible to stuff. I had a great idea to use some mini loaf pans to contain the peppers, but I didn’t quite think far enough ahead about an extraction plan from the loaf pans. After attempting to use a spatula, I gave up and inverted them on a small plate and, for lack of a better description, tossed them onto my dinner plate. It was as messy as it sounds—there was filling everywhere, and the cheese stuck to the plate I inverted them on. I pieced them back together, and while it wasn’t my best plating job, I worked with what I had.

FINALPoblanoPepper
Bon appétit!

I hope these modifications come in handy as you continue to explore with Blue Apron and other recipes. Happy cooking!

 

 

Dishing on Medium Rare on Capitol Hill

Here’s the dish! I’m not sure how I’ve been back in D.C. for more than two years and had no idea there was a restaurant that serves only steak. How did I not get this memo?! If you love steak like I love steak, you definitely need to check out Medium Rare. I visited the Capitol Hill location (515 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003) this past weekend with my DC Metro Church Brunch Bunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the Medium Rare dining experience.

Their $24 prix fixe brunch menu includes their infamous rustic bread; a first course option of a yogurt parfait, fruit salad, or side salad; an entree, and—wait for it—bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Screwdrivers! If you prefer the non-boozy brunch, you have the option of unlimited fresh-squeezed orange juice (with pulp) and coffee. I’m a supporter of the bottomless brunch experience, and this one of the best deals I’ve come across in the D.C. area. I don’t know anywhere else you can get steak this good for $24, let alone unlimited cocktails with it. Did I mention my steak was so tender, I could cut it with a fork?! Beyond the delicious food, the overall experience was delightful. We had a group of 15 people, which was a bit more than expected. They accommodated us by seating our additional guests at the corner of the bar, which was right next to our table. Our server, Summer, was very attentive, which is refreshing, because often when dining with a large group, you can feel neglected. She catered to our every need, which included never allowing my mimosa glass to get empty. That’s always a great sign when a restaurant offers bottomless cocktail options! Additionally, even with a large group, our food seemed to come out from the kitchen fairly quickly. I’m used to waiting when it’s a large group, but all of our food was served in about 20 to 25 minutes, which is pretty darn impressive. I really like their concept of sticking to what they do best—steak! Sometimes restaurants can over extend themselves, and they end up with some menu items that are hits and others that are misses. Everything we ordered at brunch was a hit. I also felt like their portions were hearty but not overfilling. I noticed their branded plates (a nice touch, I might add) were somewhere between the size of traditional salad and dinner plates. I was fulfilled, but I didn’t feel stuffed when I left, which was great because I went to a film screening afterwards. Additionally, I loved the simplistic sophistication of their decor. While their tables feature white table cloths with an overlay of Medium Rare-stamped butcher paper, it maintained a rustic feel rather than a pretentious one. Adding to the rustic atmosphere were a wooden wall and chalkboard wall that promoted their social media presence. Speaking of their social media presence, I was ecstatic to have co-owner Mark Bucher favorite and retweet my teasers about my upcoming review of the restaurant. Their website also features a marquee of their tweets on the About page, which as a social media maven, I think is a nice touch. Be sure to go follow Medium Rare on Instagram and Twitter! I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a big thank you to our wonderful Brunch Bunch leaders John and Brandy! Thank you for finding great places for us to experience! I also have to shout out Katie and Laura who helped me photograph many of the plates featured, and especially Laura for allowing me to taste her delicious, melt-in-your-mouth French Toast. Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!