Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chaboba Bubble Tea and Camden Market

I had a very eventful and wonderful last day in London. I got high tea, went to a old Lebanese restaurant that was very special to my mom and I and saw the Tower Bridge at night...could not have asked for a better time.

I met my friend Amy at the tube station and we begun our journey to Camden Market. She had been before already so she was familiar with everything.
How cool are these seats?
Have you ever done this type of pedicure? I almost did it but I chickened out.
We were both starving so we wandered upon this Bubble Tea store, Chaboba. Amy is a fan of bubble tea and I have heard a lot about it so I decided to give it a try. We both got the green tea version and I believe I got the Passion Fruit Boba, delicious!
Later on we wandered to the food court. Free Sample Galore. Pretty much everything I tried was delicious. We both ended up settling on Sunshine Falafels, the sample sucked us in. Another vegetarian entree loved in London. The owner threw in 2 Grape Leaves for free for us to try because I mentioned how much I loved them. They were good, but as the namesake, the true star of this place are their falafels with yogurt sauce.
This place is a must-see, I will have to compile a Top 10 list soon of my London trip. I adore market places and really wish that we had more in the DC area at this level.

Would I come back? Yes to both!!

Chaboba on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Stanhope Arms: London

The first week in London on one of our days off the roomie and I decided to get a bite to eat and checked out The Natural History Museum. On our walk there (LOVED being able to walk there) we stopped by a pub on our way in Glouchester, The Stanhope Arms.
I got my typical fare from this trip, a Tomato, Basil Pesto, Mozzarella Sandwich £5.45 with a salad. I also got a side of chips with this. It was good, and there was plenty to eat-pretty sure I didn't finish it, I would order this sandwich again.
Roommate got the fish and chips and she thought they were your typical fish and chips. Plus they have pretty cool pub seats :)
 Grade: C+

And yeah, had to get the phone booth photo :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rock Bottom Brewery and Trivia Night

I LOVE games and I LOVE food, so when the two are combined I am a happy girl. On Tuesday nights Rock Bottom in Ballston has a trivia night. I went last week and pretty much just sat there while my amazing friend Lili pretty much answered ALL of the questions (at least 80%). Luckily for me, this week was Christmas trivia, so I had a chance to attempt to brush up on my knowledge and yes, I actually contributed to this trivia.

So much in fact that we came in first with 320 points and won a $50 tab...a combined effort of our group members and we didn't have to pay for dinner and drinks. I call that a VERY good time.

FACT: There are two states with towns named Santa Clause: Idaho and Indiana

FACT: I have already forgotten the majority of the facts learned last night :(

Chips, Salsa, Guacamole Appetizer ~$5 for the happy hour price. Not bad, would have preferred a bigger serving of chips. Guac was surprisingly very fresh(rare in chain restaurants) and the salsa was ok, was not a personal preference for me.
Margherita Flatbread Pizza $7 for their happy hour price. I like pizzas with sauce, but this was still a good pie. Everything was fresh and the size was really good for the price.
Boneless Buffalo Wings $8.95 from their Holiday Comforts menu.This was a disappointment and we actually sent it back. The chicken was mushy (so mushy I couldn't even bring myself to try a piece) and there were 4 small pieces on the plate. For $9 it was a rip off but the server graciously took it back and swapped it out for the Rockbottom Wings, we made sure to tip her well. 
Rockbottom Wings with buffalo sauce ~$9. Yum, just your typical tasty wings. Crispy enough for me to eat them. I have this weird thing where I have trouble eating meat off bones because of the texture, but hopefully I am getting over this thing because wings are just so darn tasty. 
Ball Park Pretzels with Spicy Spinach Dip. Another Yum. Pretzels were good, dip was good. Only complaint was that there was not enough dip to go with the two ginormous pretzels. I did have to take the salt off mine, but that is another weird habit of mine.
We got a few beers too, all for $3 a piece (Wednesday nights they are on an even cheaper happy hour for about $1.75 or something really close to that!).
Beantown Brown
Belgian White Ale
Devils Thumb
The first 2 beers are darker, and I actually liked them even though I tend to shy away from the darker beers. I've pretty much liked all the beers I have had here except for the Red Ale one whose name I don't remember.

Overall this was a great experience! The service, food and trivia were all awesome. I can't say enough how awesome the service was. I was afraid they would get angry at us for sending back the chicken, but it didn't taste good, and we are paying for the food so we thought we would give it a try. The server took it back without any argument and brought us out the new order and took the old order off the check.

All of our food + 6 beers came to ~$44 so our $50 certificate covered so all we paid for was the tip. I would order the wings and pretzels again in a heartbeat but hopefully I will go outside of my box and try something new next time.

Grade: B+

4328 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA
Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon

And look, I even ended up parking next to R somehow but my scatterbrain forgot what his car looked like :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Loaf

I was looking for something to make that I didn't have to go out a buy stuff for and recently I have been looking into making some sort of loaf so when I did some googling a Peanut Butter Pound Cake from Recipe Girl popped up and I was sold (Peanut Butter and Chocolate, I mean come on!).

This is a perfect dessert that is not to sweet, a perfect snack to go with milk, hot cocoa or coffee or you know a perfect breakfast for someone on the run :)
Ingredients(all in my pantry! yay)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter (don't use natural)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated white sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Since I didn't make any adjustments to the recipe except for the vessel that I cooked it in, I'll just leave you the link to her website with my cooking instructions for the loaf pans.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour batter into 2 greased Loaf Pans and cook for about an hour. Start checking the loafs about 45 minutes in, sticking a fork in them to see if they come out clean. Mine cooked for a little over an hour.

-Don't skip the glaze, its so simple and wonderful.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fool-proof Reindeer Cupcakes

I love the holidays, themes or anything that gives me an excuse to go all out. After looking through pinterest the other day I saw these cupcakes and decided I could easily recreate them. I am horrible with piping and icing, so these cupcakes are fool-proof and adorable. They got lots of oohs and ahhs from my coworkers and friends. These are super cute and easy to make.
I actually used cake mix for these cupcakes and I still received tons of compliments from these so I will share with you my go to Cake Mix recipe.

Reindeer Cupcakes
Ingredients for Cake (makes 24)
1 Box of Betty Crockers Triple Fudge Cake Mix
1 Box of Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 Eggs
1/3 Cup of oil
1 1/4 Cups Water
Ingredients for frosting
1 Can of Dark Chocolate Icing
1 Can of Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients for topping
Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix together cake mix, pudding, vanilla extract, eggs, water and oil.
3. Fill cupcake tins lined with cupcake holders about 2/3 of the way and cook for 20 minutes.
4. While cupcakes are cooking mix together the buttercream and chocolate frosting (this is how I got the lighter brown).
5. After cupcakes are cooled, spread on frosting, stick pretzels at the top, put chocolate chips in for the eyes and an M&M for the nose.

-I had a lot of holiday things I had to prepare for so I just used mixes but they turned out really well.
-I mixed the 2 icings together to get the lighter brown color and the icings tasted awesome together-but you can use any icing, just plain chocolate, or buttercream/vanilla with brown food coloring. 

Qdoba: Falls Church

I usually don't write about chain restaurants, but why be bias against them? I visit them, I blog, so it only makes sense to do both.

Anyways my mom and I went to Qdoba the other day for a early dinner. We met up to finish some Christmas shopping, the stores are HORRIBLE right now, so much that I don't want to set foot in another shopping center for awhile. 

I ordered a Pulled Pork Grilled Quesadilla. Delicious. The pork was flavorful and moist and all of the flavors went together. On the side it came with some sour cream and guac-perfect accompaniments.
My mom got the hard tacos (typical everywhere we go) and got 2 ground beef and 1 steak. She enjoyed her meal, and I stole a bite of the steak, also a winner in flavor and texture. 
We also split a side of chips, salsa verde and guacamole. The salsa verde was ok, not my favorite, and the guacamole was a little to processed for me to eat with the chips but my mom ate it up. We also ended up getting a side of queso (more about that in a little) and it was delicious, definitely my favorite queso at a chain restaurant. 
I used to be a Chipotle snob, refusing to go to other restaurants of the same sort thinking Chipotle is far superior to all others out there. And while that is still kinda true, I have gone outside my box visiting places like Qdoba and Moe's (still not a fan of Baja Fresh). Anyways the whole point of this rant is that I really like Qdoba, their meat is good, and I have experienced some great service here, and it's not even a restaurant where they work based on tips. 

The guy behind the counter forgot to give us our chips guac/salsa so when I went up to check he sincerely apologized and he also threw in some free queso. Its gestures like that are what really make me appreciate a restaurant and even if the food was sub par that time, I would come back. Plus I have never had a bad meal here-always been consistent with their food.

Grade: B+

(703) 933-8712
5872 Crossroads Center Way
Falls Church, VA 22041

Friday, December 16, 2011

Taqueria Poblana: Arlington

I met  up with one of my friends the other night to catch up, its been foreverrrrrr since I have seen her. We have been friends for over 8 years now, seems like such a long time ;)

She just got engaged and I am so happy for her!

We decided to meet up at Taqueria Poblano (I've been to the one in Del Ray) for dinner. I got there early so I did some grocery shopping and then went to the bar by myself and got a margarita!! Then I decided to be super cool and whip out a food magazine in which I found an amazing taco dip recipe :)

I thought the Margarita $6.75 was sub par, and I am usually not to picky when it comes to my favorite beverage but the chips and salsa were delicious! A lot better then I remembered-the kind you have trouble stopping eating.
Once J arrived we switched to a booth seat and caught up.

We split an order of Guacamole $5.50. This was disappointing, it was too "processed," to many preservatives in it which took away from the greatness of the avocados.
Since I was stuffed from my first go of chips and salsa I just got a single taco, the L.A. Crispy Style Taco $3.75 with Chile Braised Shredded Beef. This was delicious, fried goodness. I would get any of the versions of this again.
J got the Chille Relleno $10.75 (for 1). This dish was disappointing as the flavors were bland, you couldn't even taste the chille (I did like the cheese though). The dish has gotten good reviews on sites so maybe they were having an off night?
Overall this was a good experience, certain foods lacked but there are some real gems here. The fried tacos were amazing, and I LOVE the fact that you can just order a single taco. J and her fiance have been here several times and they can vouch for the deliciousness of the menu (just stay away from the guac!).

Also kudos to the bartender who brought me my glasses after I left them on the bar, it would have been an interesting drive home if he didn't. 

Grade: B

2503a North Harrison Street
Arlington, VA
Taqueria Poblano on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shake Shack

I never get tired of burgers..or pizza (or guacamole!). Feed me any of these and its pretty much guaranteed that we will be friends. So when anyone suggests any cuisine where these are involved I am always down to join. My friend Teddy had read an article about Shake Shack in his subscription to Fortune (one smart cookie) and asked me if I wanted to try it. I have heard about the one in NYC and knew that they had opened a DC branch, so I jumped on that wagon. Fast forward a few weeks and we finally picked a day to go, and he kindly brought me the article to read on the way (love him). It is actually a very interesting article about the owner of Shake Shake (Danny Meyer) and his business ethics and stuff-you should read it.
We went on a Saturday for a late lunch and it was packed! Thankfully we managed to finagle some bar seats while we were waiting for a food.

We both got the Shack Burger (lettuce, tomato, american and shack sauce), I got the single $4.75 and Teddy got the double $7.25. Here is a comparison of the sizes of burgers, and a closeup of my burger. They were moist and flavorful, good burger all around.  
We got a side of fries $2.65, edible, not worth the space in your stomach.
The milkshakes were $5. Not bad, not bad. I got Peanut butter and Teddy got Vanilla. I should have stuck with a basic flavor, as the peanut butter was a little to intense for my liking (yeah...who would have though a peanut butter shake would be too peanutbuttery?).

Burgers were baller, fries not so much, and I can't make a fair assessment of the shake but I did learn I can't take massive amounts of pb...that's good I guess. Burgers were a little expensive, so its not your everyday meal but it's fun to splurge and go somewhere fun every once and awhile.  

After lunch we wandered around the Dupont area...very different during the day (I've only been at night) and we stopped by a little park in Dupont Circle and sat and enjoyed the last bit of sun and the surroundings. There were people playing chess and old men listening to Jazz on their boombox. Really made me appreciate the little things in life just watching everything.

A good day and later on I went back into DC to see the National Tree with the roommate and her fam!

Grade: B+
1216 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ray's Hell Burger

I finally did it, I made it to Ray's Hell Burger, a place I have been wanting to try for about two years. After waking up really early Saturday morning to go to Arlington Cemetery for the laying of the wreaths (more info about this) with my friend, we decided to get lunch afterwards.If you haven't been to Arlington Cemetery before, I strongly suggest going.

When we got to Ray's is was pretty empty since it was still pretty early, I think we got there right when it opens(11), so we didn't have to wait long to order or get our food (I've heard the lines are terrible).

I ordered the Big Punisher in their new smaller 1/3lb size, $6.99 that comes with pepperjack cheese, charred jalapeños, grilled onions and Pirañha Sauce (green spicy sauce). All of the flavors went really well together and the spice was manageable.
I also got a $2 side order of French fries and a drink ~$2 to go with my meal-just your average fries, but I thought it was a pretty small serving of fries.
Randolph got the Big Poppa Burger in its original 10oz size for $10.99. It comes with aged Danish Bleu Cheese, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions. He really liked his burger. 
Overall the burgers and the toppings were great but one key component missing was the bun. It just was not a good bun, it tasted almost stale, and R said that the buns have never been that great the few times he has been here. Both R and I's meals cost about the same ~$12, but I got the smaller burger, fries and a drink while he just got the bigger burger. I was stuffed, and R ended up eating half the fries so I guess you just need to decide how hungry you are. Next time I am here I will just order the 1/3lb burger and that will be enough for me.

While the burgers were good, I don't feel like it is worth waiting in a ridiculously long line to try one, so when you make your visit don't go at peak times. 

Grade: B

1725 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209

Rosslyn Metro
Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon

Current Obsession: Candy Cane Joe-Joe's

What are Candy Cane Joe-Joe's you ask? Pretty much the best cookie ever. Well...it is my current addiction right now. Instead of a mint filling, the have pieces of candy cane mixed in with the cream. Delish!
I actually tried these at my friends this weekend, and they didn't sound to appealing but I decided to try one and I was hooked. I'm the weird person that just eats the cookie part of the oreo and either scrapes the cream off or gives the other half to someone else (I make lots of friends this way) but I actually eat the entire cookie this time.

I liked these so much, I drove to Trader Joe's to buy 2 boxes before I went to my normal grocery store.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fried Mashed Potato Balls with Bacon and Cheddar

I don't know about anyone else, but I am ADDICTED to pinterest. I go through phases where I forget about it, but then I remember it and I feel like I get distracted for hours. I saw a picture of these fried mashed potato balls and knew I was sold. I got the idea from Life's Ambrosia, but the recipe is my own (check out her pics, to die for).
I actually tried two different versions of this before I settled on this recipe.These are by no means healthy but boy are they tasty. 

Heres a convo I had with my mom and stepdad after making these:

Me: Here Mom, try these out!
Mom: (Takes a bite and puts back) Wow, they are good.
Me: You are not going to finish it?
Mom: I'll finish it when I am done with this
Me: Ok, well I am taking them to Jeff now, fair warning.
Mom: There will still be some left
<takes to Jeff>
Jeff: Wow these are good
<walks back to mom>
Me: Jeff really likes them, you better get one before they all dissappear.
Mom: He won't eat them all.
20 minutes later...
Jeff smiles
Jeff is a man of few words and times, and when he actually compliments something you know it is good, so these successfully passed the taste test.

Fried Mashed Potato Balls with Bacon and Cheddar
Ingredients (makes ~12 (easily double for about 24))
1 cup Simply Potatoes Traditional Mashed Potatoes
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/4-1/2 cup bacon bits/crumbles depending on your preference
1-2 cups panko bread crumbs
Canola/Vegetable oil for frying

1. Set out a plate with breadcrumbs on it, and beat your egg in a bowl.
2. Mix together Potatoes, Bacon and cheddar.
3. Roll into ~1 inch balls, dip in egg, then roll until coated in breadcrumbs.
4. After rolling all of the balls, get out a frying pan, pour oil in until about 1 1/2-2 inches deep.
5. Test to see if the oil is ready by dropping a bread crumb in the oil, if it sizzles then the oil is ready for the potato balls .
6. Fry until Golden brown and set on a plate with a paper towel to get rid of the extra grease.
7. Serve with sauce of your choice (Sour-cream or Ranch would go great with these...all I had was ketchup but it still went well!)

**UPDATE: This recipe won the Simply Potatoes Mashed Potatoes Holiday Contest Dec 2011/Jan 2012** :) :)

-When you fry these, make sure that you have enough oil. They will still cook well without it, but they are messier and harder to keep together. If you are concerned about appearances make sure there is enough oil-my second batch was not as pretty and golden.
-You can do any combo with these, my first attempt was with black truffle oil and parmesan cheese. They were good, but because I used oil, they were a little to greasy for me.
-Using the pre-made mashed potatoes made this recipe easy, quick and delicious. Its also perfect if you have leftovers.

This post was part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Simply Potatoes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hops Grill Brewery

My roommates dad and brother were in town this weekend and they graciously invited me out to dinner and then my roommate and I took them for a ride around DC.

We have been wanting to try this restaurant near our place, Hops Grill Brewery for awhile and they had chicken tenders on the menu which meant we could give it a go (her bro is a VERY picky eater).

It was a Saturday night so it was a little busy and we had to wait about 10 minutes. While we were waiting Lauren and I went to the bar to get a round of their in house brewed beers. L and I both got the Clearwater Light. I felt like I was drinking a Natty Light or something along that nature. It tasted better then one, but boy did it stick to its name...water and light. Her dad got the Hammerhead/Thoroughbred Red (guess the name changes depending where you are) and it was pretty good. All beers were about $2.79.
Once we were seated they brought us croissants covered in some sort of honey glaze. Tasty but it's weird eating something so sweet before a meal, not a fan of dessert first.
L's bro got the Chicken Tenders Meal $9.99. Just your basic chicken tenders.

L and her dad got the Fish and Chips $10.99. They thought it was decent but they wouldn't order it again.

I ordered the California Burger $8.49 (swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, sourcream, thousand island). I was very happy with my burger and would order another it again. Little disappointed though that "California" did not have avocado, most that hold this name include it. 

This was a decent meal, I'd come back here for some cheap beer and a burger.  Service was good. The only complaint I have, and it didn't really affect us, but the booth we were seated in was extremely skinny. Luckily none of us were packing on the pounds or it would have been a really tight fit.

Grade: C+

We also went to go see the National Christmas Tree afterwards :)

Hops on Urbanspoon