Off the Top: Food Entries


January 3, 2004

Hearts and Cheese Cubes

There are two things I have been enjoying putting in salads of late, Parano cheese (a Dutch cheese with a parmesan taste, but a dense smooth gouda texture) and artichoke bottoms. The artichoke bottoms, a.k.a. hearts, are hard to find as they have no leaves. I have found I really prefer the ones from Trader Joe's in a jar to others, which come in a can. If the canned variety is all that is available, try to find them at Whole Foods. I am sorry, but I do not have the brands imprinted in my mind.

Just thought to share, you may go read something else now.



December 28, 2003

Holiday adventures

These past few days were very good and trying. On the good front, it was a family holiday spent with family and friends. It was also a foodfest. Tuesday was pork chops with sweet onion, apples, and cumin with a side of cauliflower au gratin; Wednesday was crab quiche and linguini in a herb garlic clam sauce; Christmas was rack of herb rack of lamb (from Trader Joes), popovers, garlic mashed potatoes, haricot vert, asparagus with toasted sesame seeds, salad with Parano cheese, tomato, and artichoke hearts, with dark chocolate truffles for desert.

The foodfest more or less ended there as I was weary of cooking (a first for me) and coming down with a cold. My mom, however needed more attention as some ailment caught her and gave her 36 hours in the hospital. She was released this morning and is doing much better now that her fluids and minerals and salts are largely back to normal, thankfully.

The gift giving went well all around I believe. It was good to have my parents here for Will's first Christmas. Right now I really need a rest.



June 16, 2003

Sitting on the porch

We finally picked up some furniture for our sun porch this weekend (more accurately, Joy picked up). This evening we sat in the screen porch and looked out into the yard smelling Magnolia tree blossoms and looking at a rose blossom on a rose plant we did not know we had (we have a great variety of plants that keep color in the yard 9 to 10 months of the year). I brought my dinner outside and ate and took it all in. A little black beans with Sambhar (can be purchased from Terrapin Station Herb Farm topped with cheddar eaten with corn chips was perfect for the cool grey evening listening to the breeze blow through the trees and bushes.



March 3, 2003

DC's Ten Penh

Joy and I went to Ten Penh for dinner in DC to celebrate her birthday. TP is an Asian fusion restaurant with good sized portions and very good food. I got pork and shrimp lumpia with three dipping sauces, which has very good. My entre was Sea Scollops over succotash with Chinese sausage. Joy had duck in wraps with plum sauce and red curry shrimp for her main course. We also shared fluffy wasabi mashed potatoes. It was a good meal and we realized we rarely eat downtown and think we may do it a little more.



March 2, 2003

Stalking the Java Bean

The Washington Post offers Stalking the Bean (or how one Washington learns about coffee the other Washington already knew). Mmmm coffee...



February 15, 2003

Mahi Mahi with fresh pineapple salsa

This morning I ran some errands to get out of the house before the heavy snow started (never really had heavy snow today). I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up items for dinner tonight and tomorrow night.

This evening I made seared mahi mahi with a fresh homemade tomato, pineapple, and roasted Anaheim chili salsa and a dollop of fresh made guacamole with a side of baby spinach. I was very happy with the results of the mahi mahi as I had not made it or the fresh salsa since I left San Francisco.

The salsa is made with two seeded and diced tomatoes, two green onions chopped, about one cup of thinly sliced fresh pineapple, the juice of one lemon or lime, one and a half tablespoons of fresh roughly cut cilantro, and one roasted and skinned and seeded anaheim chili and salt to taste. Mix ingredients in a bowl and mix and blend with your hands, gently squeezing the ingredients to mix the juices.

To make the mahi mahi warm a pan on the stove an cut the mahi mahi into third pound pieces. Once the pan is warm add olive oil and heat it until until it lightly splatters when a drop of water is added (this should be long before the oil smokes). Add the fish to the pan to sear one side and spoon over a large spoon of the salsa over the fish. Cover the pan to help steam the fish. This should cook three to four minutes. Uncover the pan and brush off the salsa and turn the fish with tongs to the opposite side and spoon salsa over the previously seared side. Cover the pan and cook for two to three more minutes. Serve with more salsa spooned over top and a dollop of guacamole on the side.



Still missing a French Bisto in Bethesda

We went to Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda for lunch today as we had an itch for Bistro food on this lightly snowy day. The food was good, but I would not call it French. The restaraunt looks like it should be sitting in the Latin Quarter in Paris and the fresh baguette is warm and wonderful, but it seemed to stop there. Joy and I really wanted French Onion soup (Gratinee des Halles). We ordered the a bowl each. Have you ever wished there was much more cheese on your Gratinee? Well MAG gives it too you as there is a plethora of cheese. I now understand the balance of just the right amount of cheese to create a wonderful soup, like the one at Balzar in Paris or even the one at Bistot du Coin in DC. We tried to figure out what the type of broth was used as it was much lighter than any I have had before.

Our lunch entrees were a chicken and mushroom crepe for Joy and I had a Croque Monsieur. The crepe was larger than our forearm and had large chunks of chicken. The taste was good, but the size and texture was off. The Croque was stuffed with ham as if it was made in a Jewish deli in New York City. Again the balance of ingredients was way off.

The food seems like it is what a Mid-Westerner would create if they had been to France once for a few days many years before. The portions are huge and the balance of ingredients were way out of whack. If I was not looking forward to a good French bisto meal I may have liked it a little more. The look of the place is right but the food is very American, very big American. I will gladly take Bistrot du Coin any day, even with the drive and parking hassle.



February 5, 2003

Life of a line cook

The Washington Post provides an insight into the life of a line cook. This is a good peek at what goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant.



January 26, 2003

Learning proper French Cooking at and Inn

We has a wonderful weekend at a L'Academie de Cuisine French Cooking weekend held at the Mercersburg Inn in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. The Inn was fantastic, with wonderful accommodations, great common rooms, caring innkeepers that are friendly and very helpful, and very good food.

The cooking portion of the weekend was great. It was a present from Joy and it turned out to be a wonderful gift. The weekend revolved around the founder of L'Academie, Francois Dionot guiding the 14 students through making a four course French meal each day. The 14 split into four teams that prep and cook their portion of the meal. The meals are prepared in the kitchen of the Inn, which is just large enough for the 14, the instructor and his wonderfully helpful wife, and one person helping clean-up. Saturday's meal was a Cream of Cauliflower and Roquefort Soup with a Roquefort Flan, Quennelle of Salmon with Saffron Butter Sauce (our dish we helped create), Beef Goulash with Mashed Potatoes, and a Caramelized Pear Cake with Calvados Creme Anglaise. Today's menu was a Bourride of Fish with Aioli, Quail Salad with Polenta and Porcini Dressing (our dish), Chicken Blanquette with Root Vegetables (including salsify), Phyllo Tart of Chocolate and Raspberry with Chocolate Sauce.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Francios is a perfectionist as one would expect and hope for as it pushed us to expand beyond what we knew. We also learned about adding more salt, not table salt, but wonderful sea salt (Sel de Mer) and kosher salt (containing all the minerals that should be in salt). Everything that was made was wonderful and a glass of wine was raised to the team that helped create that course. We also met wonderful people also taking the course, which was an added blessing. We plan to make courses at L'Academie a regular part of our lives and hope the rest of them are as fulfilling as this weekend.



December 29, 2002

Harried Holiday

This has been a hectic and food filled holiday season. The highlights so far (still a week to go) include a trip across country to spend an early Christmas with my parents and Grandmother and one of Joy's sisters. Left Thursday after work and returned across country Sunday (yes we are still living in the US and not England or the Netherlands, which would make a cross country trip a little more sane).

Tuesday after work (out at 1pm) it was a train up to NYC. Arrived in Manhattan's Penn station to 8 taxis and just three fares (asking myself if this was still New York). Arrive at Joy's sister and husbands apartment, change clothes and head to Bay Head Brooklyn for Christmas eve dinner. Dinner was great at the Joy's brother-in-law's sister's house, which included 6 or seven courses of stuffed mushrooms, seven layer eggplant parmesean (to die for), mussels in a dill cream sauce, jumbo shrimp in a tarragon vodka tomato cream sauce, marinated calimari and octopus salad, swordfish with a jerk rub and mango chutney, salmon en crote with a cream horseradish sauce with green salad, and Italian pastry assortment for dessert. We left in a new snow falling back for Manhattan after midnight.

We had a "toilet incident" that put us out on the streets of Manhattan at 1:30am Christmas morning looking for a plunger (the building could not locate the one they have for a 23 story building. We tried bodegas, one Duane Reed (wagged their finger at us for wanting a plunger and pointed us to the Liquid Plummer, which we purchased). We got back to the apartment to read, "Not for toilets" on the bottle. So we tried the building across the street, which had one for us to borrow and the maintenance guy would not take our $15 holiday gift offer (If we move to NYC we are going to look at the Mondrian just because of this graciousness, bless them). At 2:45am I was able to go to the bathroom, which I had been holding since Brooklyn as I thought I could hold it and I was being a gentleman and trying to be a gracious husband (this all may be reconsidered at a later date).

Christmas morning we woke at 9am or so and had coffee and eggs then opened gifts with in-laws. This was quite relaxing. We changed and went to go to church a couple blocks away. We prepared for the rain, but not completely for the torrential downpour, which had us soaked from the mid-thigh down upon arriving at the church. The services was nice and the modern architecture wonderful to look at as it cast great shadows and provided enjoyable plays with the light. After church we went back and changed to dry clothes and I helped a little with the rack of lamb (good to keep in mind it is 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes not 325 as well as stronger encouragement to keep the oven door shut -- broad cookbook like Joy of Cooking is a needed gift for that house or even for me to travel with. We finally ate wonderful lamb and mashed potatoes (appearantly they had their own adventure the previous day).

We were catching the 6 o'clock train back to DC, which was now going to be in a serious snow storm. We left the building and the wonderful hospitality to hop into a cab (yes the subway is down one long block and down a short block, but there was one or two inches of snow and we had wheelie bags). The taxi did fine until the mid-forties going down 2nd Avenue where stopping and starting turned challenging. We finally made it to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. The train ride was quiet, but we did have to stop to knock ice off the bottom of the train.

Once home we have had a brother-in-law staying with us as their house is still undergoing serious remodelling (he moved back home last night). On Friday we had a wonderful dinner with friends at Local 16 on U Street, NW in DC. The food was quite good (the white bean soup was a little too salty, but the jerk chicken pasta and mahi mahi were great. This weekend has been a weekend filled of more errands than one could dream of (although Sutton Gourmet in Bethesda had a wine, champagne, and port tasting in their store on Saturday covering 35 to 45 offerings and I found a couple to buy and a few to add to my wish list that will make great pairings). I did get to use my new KitchenAid stand mixer to make a thin pear pound cake (out of Patricia Wells Bistro cookbook), which turned out wonderfully with a dollop of whipped cream scented with pear brandy on top. This followed a potato leek soup, which I have been craving and not made for a few years now.

Soon we are back off heading south to meet up with more parents and three kids and a brand new puppy. I may have hide for the month of January to recover.



December 23, 2002

BayWolf at home

An early Christmas gift arrived yesterday and brought much pleasure. The BayWolf Restaurant Cookbook is a gem that is a good read and I am sure will provide a pleased palate. I am already looking for the prime ingredients needed to recreate the wonderful meals.



August 14, 2002

Ah vacation

It is good to be home, well I wish I was still at the shore. We had a great time in Spring Lake, New Jersey staying at the Normandy Inn, as we always do. I lost a watch and two left contacts in the Atlantic Ocean, but we found some new great places. There are a couple new ice cream places in Spring Lake, iscream and Sunday Times are great new additions. We also found a great restraunt in Asbury Park, Moonstruck (it used to be in Ocean Grove and moved to a great larger space) the waitstaff was great as was the atmosphere, but the food was amazing. Joy had honey mustard pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes and I had salmon with a spicy sweet Thai sauce over brown rice. Both were extremely good. We also went to our favorites Spring Lake Gourmet Pizza, Kleins Seafood Cafe in Belmar, and to Strollo's Italian Ice in Belmar. We had lunch in the Cucina Cafe, which always has great salads, other midday snacks, and brings in awesome piniole cookies from Brooklyn. We also took a trip up to Pennington and Princeton to visit friends, which was another nice diversion.


April 8, 2002

Great tapas and paella in DC

Okay, this sounds bad, but we had another great meal out tonight at Mar de Plata in a "transitional" neighborhood in DC. The tapas were amazing, much better than the over rated Jaleo, and the paella was the best we have had in the whole DC area. Our dinner guest that chose the restaurant are great company and wise foodies. Mar also has a great Spanish cream sherry for after dinner that accompanies any of the great deserts nicely. The specials looked and smelled fabulous. It is definately a place to return for us.


April 7, 2002

We just had a fantastic dinner at Grapeseed here in Bethesda. Each course is paired with a half or full glass of wine. The food was wonderful. We started with orders of mussels in white whine, Escargot in Garlic Three Ways over Grilled Bread, and Fricassee of Roasted Wild Mushrooms over Truffled Polenta. Our main cources were risotto with asparagus and wild mushrooms and salmon over crawfish and two potato with a light saffron sauce. This was a good make up birthday dinner for Joy.


February 17, 2002

The New York City log goes a little something like this... We did the obligatory trip to Tal Bagels on First Ave to fuel up on my favorite bagels. Saturday I was able to knock out much of the computer set-up, but I had a feeling early on (Wednesday or Thursday) that I would need cables. We needed longer phone cord, but also when looking for a monitor stand that one can slide a keyboard under. The cords were no problem, but the stand was another issue. We went trekking through the mid-50s on the Eastside up into the mid-60s trying everyplace I had remembered seeing the stands. But, we got one of two answers 1) sorry we stopped carrying that a year ago, or 2) sorry we stopped carrying that four to six months ago.

After an hour and a half of searching we stopped at Mangia at 50 57th Street for lunch. Mangia has great salads and sandwiches for lunch. The salads were very good and the grilled vegetables were amazing.

The post-nourishment lead us to Rizzoli's Bookstore to peruse the art and design books, but did not make a purchase. We started back on our search and happened to stop into Fauchon for some chocolates, and to try our French on the Japanese staff (odd cultural blur). Then we were off to the Upper West side, beginning at Lincoln Center. We walked up West Broadway and stopped in Gracious Home, a wonderful "We have everything" home store. The did not have the desired monitor stand, but they did have an amazing tool section, lamp selection, kitchenware, and everything you could ever imagine with all of it seeming to be top quality and top brands. We stopped a few other places on the way to Zabars to look around and sample. By this point it was time to head back to rest up for dinner after stopping in nearly ten places that had the monitor stands in the past. At Work Stand on West Broadway, I finally had to tell somebody I was beginning to take this personally.

Our evening included dinner at MI, which was very good Asian fusion, with very slow service. We did happen to see Charlie Rose at dinner, which some how added to the dining experience. Next it was off to the Rise Bar on the 14th floor of the new Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park. The bar looks out across the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey City, and from the outside deck up to where the Twin Towers stood. In all it was a great night with Joy's family and friends of hers and theirs. We did finally found a place that would order the monitor stand for us.

Sunday was another trek to Tal and off to find more cables to try to get an HP printer to talk with the new Dell. We also needed cables and a converter box to get the DVD player running. These efforts after our hunting left us with a working DVD player and a noncommunicative printer. This of course lead to lunch at the near-by Houston and then off to visit a new baby and his parents on the Upper East Side. It seemed like such a short visit before we had to get back and pick up our bags to head back home.

It was a jam packed weekend and once again I have a great place in my heart for NYC. The people in NYC definitely are now very friendly and courteous. This to me is a little un-nerving as I like the New York edge. But, it was also nice to have people being completely sweet and helpful at every turn.



January 6, 2002

Reuters provides an article with coffee resources on the Web. The Coffee Geek and the Coffee Kid look to be promissing delights for me.


November 27, 2001

I am so looking forward to getting back to my regularly scheduled programming. In last nights adventures I did get to watch the conclusion of a Monday Night Football game that did not involve the 49ers. I also watched the Food Network for a while. I was intrigued with many items on the FN, but was really thankful Emeril was a chef and not a Web developer as he seems to throw out most cooking basics I know and he is not into teaching cooking, but rather creating a high school football atmosphere. Should you want to recreate something on the Emeril show you would need to use eggs, butter, a bottle of wine (because the crowd cheers for more wine), and whatever else you want. I guess that is why it is the Food Network and not the Cooking Network. Who knew there was this much on television.


It has been family filled lately. My parents were in town for the Thanksgiving weekend and we all went to Joy's sister's house for the big meal. (The yams in orange cups from Bon Appetite were great, as was the stuffing, buttermilk biscuits, and chocolate pecan tart out of the same magazine.) Joy is doing somewhat better as she had the drain taken out last week, but a couple treks out really wiped her out. It was great to see my parents and they took off yesterday morning. Last night one of Joy's nephew broke his arm in two places and spent the night in the hospital, so as Joy is still having some problems getting around I went over and watched the other two kids until about 1am so both parents could be at the hospital. Today it is Joy's day to get stitches out and other doctor appointments. This is a change, and a good one, from being an only child with parents and one grandparent.


November 20, 2001

Tired. Many things are going at once and I am looking for a little shut eye this long weekend.

My first Thanksgiving cooking anything, as my family usually eats Thanksgiving dinner out. We usually go to Carmel, CA or venture out around here, but this year it is dining at Joy's sister's. I am making Yam's in orange cups and buttermilk biscuits with scallions out of this November's Bon Appetit.

It looks like Joy may get to keep her drain a little longer. Nobody is happy about this, but we will find out for sure tomorrow. It was not a great day on the comfort level for her today.



November 19, 2001

And I though I was an oatmeal freak. It is getting to that wonderful cool time of the year to head back to the oats for breakfast.

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