Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Del Ray Pizzeria

Since I live so close to Del Ray, its only natural that I eventually start to explore the vast dining options it offers. I have only been to 2 places, one being decent-the other horrible. Luckily I was very happy about the decision to give Del Ray Pizzeria a chance.

I ordered the Turkey Melt $9 served with avocado, bacon, chipotle mayo. Wow. I still think about this sandwich. All of the ingredients went really well together and the bread, it reminded me of the bread of a wonderfully gooey grilled cheese sandwich, crisp and buttery. The fries were equally drool worthy and were hard to stop eating.
G got the Maui Wowie Pizza $13 with ham, pineapple and balsamic onions. The balsamic onions were a very overwhelming-punch in the face, and the overall pizza was just ok.
I was really happy with the sandwich and fries so I will definetly be coming back in the near future. However it being a "Pizzeria" I am a little disspointed in the pizza, I will perhaps give the pizza another chance or steal a bite of whoever gets this pizza next time I come here.

Even if I were not totally in love with the sandwich and fries I would come here for this reason alone, football shaped beer mugs. Yes, you saw that correctly, football shaped beer mugs. Anyone want to join me on a Sunday/Monday for drinking beer out of these mugs?

Grade: B

703-549-2999
2218 Mount Vernon Ave
Del Ray, VA
Del Ray Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Cheddar Dip Sandwich

Ever go out to a restaurant and order a French Dip sandwich and wonder how long it takes to make it? Maybe just me? Well, I am here to share with you a simply scrumptious, ridiculousy easy version of this classic.
I was trolling through my humongous binder of recipe clippings that I want to try and I stumbled upon this one. It sounded so easy and I love ordering it when I go out. I just had to make it.

Cheddar Dip Sandwich
Ingredients-serves 4
1 lb thinly sliced deli roast beef
1 baguette
2 gloves garlic
1/2 stick butter
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 can beef broth

Directions
1.Cut butter into chunks and melt in a small pan. When melted throw in the garlic and saute for a few minutes.
2. In a saucepan put the beef broth and roast beef on low and heat until warm.
3. Divide baguette into quarters and slice like a sub roll. Spread garlic mixture on both halves and put 1/4 of the cheddar on the sandwich. Heat under the broiler on low for 5-7 minutes.
4. Take bread out of the oven, divide the beef onto the 4 sandwiches and pour the remaining broth into serving bowls.
5. If you like (and I strongly suggest) either dip or pour some of the broth onto your sandwich as you eat.



These sandwiches were amazing and so simple to make. A very impressive lunch/dinner to serve.

You can add other things to them, but I will probably just stick to these few ingredients making it a no fuss, easy meal. Next time I will probably just microwave the butter and the garlic to make things go more quickly.

To make these A LITTLE better for you, you can always scrape some of the bread out or you can buy a whole wheat baguette.

Hope you enjoy!!  Now I just hope roast beef goes on sale soon at the grocery store :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gluten-free Double Chocolate Cookies

I have been feeling under the weather lately, this whole cold weather thing is not agreeing with me. Instead of spend my entire Saturday being lazy, I decided that I needed to do something productive.
What could be more productive than trying out a new cookie recipe and blogging about it? Yeah, I didn't think of anything else either.
These cookies turned out pretty tasty and are an excellent gluten free option and I feel very productive with my lazy Saturday.

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies
Source: Recipe Girl
Ingredients: makes ~ 24 cookies
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
dash of salt
3 egg whites (recipe recommends room temp, I only left out for about 30 min and it didn't seem to affect the cookies)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1.5 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I LOVE Godiva 60% cacao chips)

Directions
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees
2. Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt
3. Whisk in 2 eggs whites and the vanilla extract, if the batter is to dry (should be a brownie like consistency) then mix in another egg-white (I found that 3 worked perfectly for me, but you could use anywhere from 2-4)
4. Fold in chocolate chips
5. Using a Tablespoon or a mini scooper place cookies on lightly greased parchament paper or silapats. 
6. Cook for about 11-14 minutes. (I did 12 minutes and it was just a tad to much) The cookie should be glossy and cracked.
7. When you take the cookies out of the oven transfer to a wire rack still on the silapat or wax paper


This cookies were pretty tasty, wonderful double chocolatey goodness.
source: Recipe Girl

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Counter in Reston

Finally. I am thrilled that I have finally had a good burger experience out. I feel like lately I have been plagued with mediocre over priced burgers but I won't go back to those experiences right now. This is about being positive, happy and satisfied.

I got off work early one day and decided to drive to Reston to meet my friend R for lunch since I had to bail on her the weekend before. Since I know pretty  much nothing about Reston Town Center (its been years since my high school ventures have taken me here, and boy has it changed) R picked out a place called The Counter to try. I was a little hesitant to try ANOTHER burger joint after a dry spell but after looking at their menu and the choices I was ready to step up to the plate.

When we got there it was pretty packed so we just went to the bar to grab a burger. They have these cute little clipboards out with your all the choices on it to for your to make a D.I.Y. burger. So overwhelming with all of the choices (you know I planned ahead what I had to get or I would have been there forever trying to decide) but they do have some pre-made options as well.

We decided to split an order of the "fifty-fifty" where you can choose 2 out of the 3 (french fries, sweet potato fries, crispy onion strings). These were pretty tasty but I would have preferred them warmer. Very good portion size for 2 people splitting, I would even split this with another 1-2 people as well depending on how hungry everyone is.
R got a 1/3 lb turkey burger with roasted corn and black bean salsa, roasted red peppers, grilled onions and horseradish cheddar served on a multi-grain bun. Here's a little excerpt from R when I asked her about the burger "The turkey burger was dryer then I like but it was well flavored. I loved that I can get roasted veggies on a burger because it adds so much more flavor and while I added Dijon mustard I really didn't need it because everything came together with a great flavor profile." On the side she got spicy sour cream which I loved but as she stated before she did not need to add anything to her burger (perfect for dipping fries in!).
I got a 1/3 lb beef burger on a multi-grain bun with Tillamook cheddar, grilled onions, organic mixed greens, jalapenos, avocado ($1 extra) and roasted garlic aioli. Very delicious. I loved the grilled onions (very close to caramelized onions!) and the burger was moist and flavorful. I actually had to take the bun off because with the addition of the avocados it was very hard to eat. It was a good thing I did, because if I ate the bun, I would not have been able to finish my burger.
The bartender gave us some leftover chocolate milkshakes...and they were delicious. This place serves spiked milkshakes as well...return trip soon?
We received our food fast, it was tasty and the bartender even gave us a little milkshake at the end. Perfect ending to the meal. My only complaint was that the fries were served before our meal, and the were not served hot. I am not sure if this is how they do things, but maybe when you go, ask for the fries to be served with your meal?

Grade: B

703-796-1008
11922 Democracy Drive
Reston, VA
Reston Town Center
The Counter on Urbanspoon

Tastemaker Program and Buffalo Chicken Dip

When I received the email that I had been chosen to participate in my first Tastemaker Program from Foodbuzz I was really excited. I got a coupon to try one of the Marzetti Simply Dressed Salad Dressing for free.
I decided to go with the Ranch Dressing as I am always on the lookout for a fresh-tasting ranch. Before I get into any recipes, I had to do the ultimate test, ranch with carrots.
It passed the taste test, it didn't have the after-taste that a lot of shelf ranch dressings have (which I HATE), although the overall taste was very similar. I compared the ingredients to the ranch that I had in my fridge, and I felt a lot better about eating Marzetti's dressing (I understood all of the ingredients).

I had previously planned on making twice baked potatoes and subsisting the sour-cream with ranch (sounds amazing I know) but sadly as I got my potatoes out to wash them, they had gone bad.

I had to switch to plan B and see what I had in my fridge. I decided on the ultimate dip, a favorite for everyone who has been lucky enough to try this wonderful creation. Something that you can not just take one bite of (I probably ate about a 1/4 of this last night).

This recipe is also going to be part of my new section, Elementary Eats (cool photo title coming later). This section is going to feature foolproof dishes that are so simple and tasty that anyone could make them (including my lovely co-worker SD who fully approved and helped inspire me to do this). Its targeted to people like him who do cook occasionally and don't want a lot of prep work to make something tasty.

Anyways, back to this wonderful creation, 5-minute Buffalo Chicken Dip. So simple, so tasty and so quick to make. This is the perfect dip for a party, a movie night, or all those sports games that people tend to congregate together to watch (or if you are lazy and you want something totally delicious to eat for dinner).
Ingredients
4.5 ounce can White Chunk Chicken Breast (you can find in the aisle with canned tuna-I like to get the Costco package of 6-8 cans)
1/3 cup of your favorite Buffalo Sauce
1/3 cup of Marzetti Ranch Dressing
1 block of cream cheese
Shredded Cheddar
Tortilla Chips (Scoops work the best)

Directions
1. Unwrap the block of cream cheese and put in microwavable bowl and put in the microwave for 1-minute
2. Drain the canned chicken and while in the can still, shred chicken up with a fork.
3. Mix together chicken and cream cheese, then mix in 1/3 cup of the buffalo sauce and 1/3 cup Marzetti Ranch dressing
4. After all the ingredients are mixed, cover the top of the dip with your shredded cheddar and put in the microwave for 2 minutes and 45 seconds
5. Let cool for a minute or two and then dig in!
I know this dish is not the most appealing, the orange blobs of food and the lack of serving dishes really make this hard to photograph. I guarantee if you try this it will become one of your new favorite foods, and you will be the hit of the party.
If you want to spice this up even more, sour cream or green onions/scallions on top make a wonderful addition!
 
*Warning*Very Addictive. Eat At Your Own Risk.*Warning* 

Notes: It is crucial you use good quality ranch (like Marzetti for example). I have used store brand before and it does not taste the same. For all those opposed to using canned chicken meat, I am a very picky eater, but I think it is great in this, but you can always shred up a rotisserie chicken or use about 2 cooked chicken breasts and shred them up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Nails :)

Ok, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with food but I absolutely adore my Halloween themed nails and I had to share it with the world. I really need to appreciate the little things in life, and the simple act of looking down at my nails just makes me smile. Please excuse my chubby fingers and the chips.
Orange and purple nail polish from China Glaze with black Shatter from OPI

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vapiano

The other day I met my friend C for dinner in Ballston. She had heard about Vapiano and saw that they had a happy hour so we decided to give the place a try.
Being the hectic person that I am, I parked in the Ballston mall parking garage because I was not feeling like trying to find parking on the street. Looking like a tourist I brought the GPS out on my phone which of course was registering that I was in Clarendon so I basically wandered around until I found the restaurant. I got there just in time to hear the hostess explaining to C how the restaurant works.

They give you these little cards to keep track of everything you order and then when you are about to leave, you give the hostess back the card and then you pay for your meal/drinks.
The set up is a little confusing at first, but basically you have to decide if you want pizza, pasta or a salad/panini and go stand in the appropriate line. Naturally I opted for the pizza, which I must admit I was a little nervous about because there was no one in the pizza line. I picked the Bruschetta pizza 10.95 served with arugula, fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, parmesan. After I ordered they gave me a buzzer so I could grab a seat or get a drink from the bar. The pizza was pretty tasty, not quite the style I prefer, but fresh ingredients.
Since I had ordered and received my buzzer I went up to C who was still in the forever long pasta line and asked if she wanted me to get her a drink. Well after waiting at the bar for 5 minutes and having no one help me (more about this later) I wondered back to C confused about what to do. At this point she had still not ordered and my buzzer went off so I got my pizza and picked a seat.

The restaurant was very aesthetically pleasing and has fresh herbs all over the place so I decided to sit near the wall with fresh basil and rosemary(?).
 
After picking a seat, C had finally ordered and then a couple of minutes later she joined me with her pasta. She chose the Carbonara $10.95 with cream sauce, parm, egg and bacon. She was not very thrilled with this at all, and I tried it as well and it was really bland and the pasta was to squishy.
Back to my bar fiasco. So after I ordered pizza I wandered to the bar to get C and I some wine. I waited for about 5 minutes. I figured the bar tender went to the bathroom or stepped away for a second. Well the hostess came over to drop some dirty glasses off and made eye contact with me (could see me drinkless just waiting) and then just went to go stand at the empty hostess stand. The busser came after she left, same situation, and then left. I finally decided to walk over and stand with C before my pizza was done. Since she was still waiting for her food I went back to the bar and checked to see if the bartender was back.

I decided to go to the hostess stand and ask about the bar situation "O you wanted to order a drink" "no...I was just standing up at the bar because I wanted to." <--don't worry...I didn't say that. She wandered off to find the bartender, which ended up being the guy who made my pizza...understaffed I guess?

By the time I was brought the wine, C had gotten our pasta and we ate our meal.

I can't imagine going here with more then one person, especially at a busy time. I don't know if they get more efficient if it gets busier, but it just doesn't make sense if you come here to eat with other people. You will not get your food anywhere near the same time. At least the guy that was making the pasta was cute, something to look at when you are waiting in a ridiculously long line.

Mediocre food, uninteresting happy hour, poor time-management skills...I will not be back here. And the restaurant was empty, something I haven't come across in the Ballston/Clarendon/Arlington area any night of the week, especially if they have a happy hour.

Grade: C- 

703-528-3113
4401 Wilson Blvd
Arlington VA
Ballston metro
Vapiano (Ballston) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hazelnut Kitchen

After hearing great reviews about this place my aunt and I decided that it would be a good time to try it because we were without the usual crowd of people this trip. Hazelnut Kitchen's website strongly suggest making reservations so when I woke up Saturday morning at 8am I called them and left a message asking for a reservation and they called me back at about 11:30 to confirm it.
The inside is absolutely adorable, I loved the table decorations...this is what I envision when I think of a small town fancy restaurant. In Trumansburg, this is the only thing I would consider "fine dining." They change their menu monthly and they use fresh ingredients from around the area.
 
They even use old silver silverware. Very cool.
After ordering they gave us some bread in this cute little pail with a chive butter. There were 2 different breads in the pail, plain rolls and this olive bread. The plain rolls were lackluster, not worth the calories however the olive bread (according to my aunt) was delicious! I hate olives, but I tried the bread, and if there were no olives in it, it would have been delicious, much better quality then the plan bread rolls. The butter was ok, I could take it or leave it.
For my appetizer, and this was what I was most excited about, was the Caramelized Onion and Leek Soup with apple brandy $7. I wanted so badly to like this, but I thought that it was lackluster. There were not enough flavors, I LOVE caramelized onions and I thought it didn't highlight the wonderfulness of the onions. The smell of the soup was wonderful, you could really smell the apple brandy, however taste-wise I felt like it was just missing.
My aunt got the Blue Heron Farm Leaf Lettuce Salad with roasted hard neck garlic dressing, local apples, candied pecans & toasted pumpkin seeds $9. This salad was delicious, the light but flavorful tastes of the dressing along with the toppings make this a perfect fall salad (heck I would eat it year round).
One of their most popular items (at least according to all the yelp and urbanspoon reviewers) is their Hanger Steak $20 with a red wine reduction, fries and malt-vinegar aioli.. My aunt ordered this, and I am very sorry to say that I suggested this to her. While the steak was cooked to the temperature that she requested it had this horrible char-grilled taste with every bite, you could not taste the steak at all. However the fries and the aioli were delicious.
I ordered the Burger that they feature $13 served with house-made squash "ketchup", caramelized onions & finger lakes farmstead gouda. The overall seasoning/taste of the burger was bland and the toppings were not enough to make up for it. I was not a fan of the squash-ketchup, but I am not the biggest fan of squash so that could have been the reason I didn't like this burger that much. The fries were on point, delicious.
 
For dessert I got another popular item, the Hazelnut Butter Cake $7 served with a sea salt caramel & hazelnut ice cream. Wonderful, it was one of the best combinations of sea salt and caramel that I have ever had and the hazelnut ice cream was just as good with little bits of the nut in it. The combo of the cake, caramel and ice cream were outstanding.
 
My aunt ordered the Warm Apple Oatmeal Crisp w/ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream $7. This was delicious, the apples were cooked perfectly, and the ice cream was wonderful.
I really wanted to like this restaurant. They got great reviews on yelp and urbanspoon raving about the quality of the food. While they may have used fresh and local ingredients, their food was not what I expected. The only part of my meal that I finished were the fries..and the dessert. I would have been willing to give this place another try but sadly the service completely turned me off to a second chance here.

I felt like the employees were pompous and very not considerate, there was a very snotty feeling to this establishment. This type of attitude would not work in a major city. No one came to ask us how our meal was, I couldn't get someones attention to ask for some aioli for myself. The place was not full, in fact it is a very small restaurant. The only time we saw someone was when our plates were empty and dessert was offered. I was ready to leave, but my aunt said that I should do a full review so we ordered desserts, which happened to be delicious. 

I'd say come here and give their dessert a try, but unfortunately you have to make a reservation or you will most likely be turned away at the door (I saw at least 3 parties turned away).



607-387-4433
53 Main Street
Trumansburg, NY
Hazelnut Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Haven @ Cayuga Lake

This past weekend my aunt and I went up to New York so we could close up our family's lake house. This house has been in our family for almost a century and it's a kind of haven for everyone in our family. I have never been up here past August, and now I realize I need to start coming in the fall. It is absolutely gorgeous up here. I even jumped in the lake...even it only lasted for a minute, I had to get the bragging rights :)
 
 There is nothing better then lying on the dock all day.
Since it is October, we of course had a bonfire going during the day and at night. I just love the smell of bonfires.
Don't worry, we did more then just lay on the dock. We went out to Blue Stone, Hazelnut Kitchen, Not My Dads, Americana Winery, Lifes So Sweet and Shopping. I even got this cute bracelet from the Ithaca Commons.

We also went walking up the road that leads to our cottage. It is approx a mile long. I just love how there are wide open spaces leading to the Cottage.
 
There are still some pretty flowers that have survived the fall so far.
After the wide open spaces there is what we like to call a "tree tunnel" that leads to the Cottage.
It even hides our Cottage. Isn't it a cute house?
I love the rocks on the beach. They are the perfect skipping rocks.
One of my favorite things is when the sun is rising in the morning and it hits the water, creating a sparkly effect. The good thing about fall is that this sparkly effect lasts until about 11-12 instead of disappearing at 8. I can sleep in and still enjoy the sparkly water :)

When the sun starts to go down, the lake is just as pretty.
Hope you enjoyed the photos :) It makes me happy just looking over this post. I had to really resist putting up all of my photos.

I strongly suggest making a visit to the Finger Lakes area. It is full of good wine (there are wineries EVERYWHERE), good food, hiking and relaxation. What more could you ask for?