Thursday, November 20, 2014

DC Chinatown: Happy Hour at District Chophouse

Last week some coworkers and I headed to District Chophouse for happy hour before the CAPS game. We got there on 4 on a Friday and got the last table in the bar area that held more than 2 people. By 5/530 this place was packed.

Cocktails were on happy hour for $6 so we made sure to take advantage and try a variety of them. The initial favorite was Gary’s Shandy (not sure the official ingredients but it included beer, gin and grapefruit juice). I know it sounds like an odd combo but it was ridiculously delicious. My coworkers all tried it and we agreed it was the favorite. However for our last round of the night we all ordered it and they put WAY too much beer in it. Bleh. Other drinks ordered were the Geisha – very fresh but absolutely no hint of sake/wasabi like the description suggests, the Spice Orange and Cinnamon Martini – the perfect fall/winter cocktail, however it was very strong and took me awhile to drink. My other coworkers ordered the Cosmo, the One Martini and the Margarita. All were happy with their choices.
We also tried and assortment of the food happy hour specials (all $7): Chophouse Brown Ale Meatballs, Shaved Prime Rib Sliders, BBQ Chicken Flatbread and BBQ Pulled Chicken Sliders. My favorite was the Chophouse Brown Ale Meatballs – I really enjoyed the sauce (although one coworker thought it was a little too sweet) and the caramelized onions on top. None of the appetizers were standout but they did their job (or would have had we ordered more…whoops!).
Their service was slacking – even before it got busy. Appetizer specials were just ok, but the drink specials were on point. Most of the drinks we ordered were made well and delicious except for the last round of the Shandy’s, which were pretty bad.

Would I come back? Sure, like I’ve mentioned before, I really like it when places have happy hours that include things other than rail drinks - $6 is pretty good for specialty cocktails.

509 7th Street NW
Washington DC
China Town
Gallery Place Metro red/yellow lines 
District Chophouse & Brewery on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barracks Row: Happy Hour at Ambar

The other week Amy and I had a late volleyball game and decided to take advantage of one of the happy hours close by. We settled upon Ambar as they had some great drink and food specials. I actually went to Ambar a few years ago for restaurant week and LOVED a couple of their dishes so I was excited to finally make a trip back. 
For happy hour they offer a couple of drinks and small plates for $4. Naturally I had to try all of the cocktails that they offered for happy hour (don't worry, there are only 3!), including a favorite of mine (I had it once 2 years ago and loved it), Mango Lemonade. They also offer a Margarita and a Mojito. All three were great - the margarita was much better then the one I had at the Mexican restaurant across the street recently. I really liked that care was put into their drinks, I watched him muddle each one (at least the mojito and mango lemonade) - it's nice to go to a happy hour that has something other then beer or rail drinks. 
Amy is a vegetarian so we stuck to the veggie happy hour specials and a few vegetarian dishes. Our favorites were the Fries (not on happy hour but according to their online menu they are), Balkan Salad tomato/pepper/onion/aged cheese and the Urnebes Dip cow’s cheese/ajvar/chili flakes/lavash bread. The Balkan salad was light and fresh – necessary to counteract the heavier dishes we picked. The Urnebes dip was flavorful and a must get for cheese lovers – the chili flakes added a nice punch without being spicy and the ajvar (red pepper relish) gave it a lovely color and flavor. We also ordered the hummus which we thought lacked something and will pass it up next visit.
We also decided to try 2 dishes not on the happy hour menu: A flatbread, White “beli hleb” kajmak/cured aged cow’s cheese/fresh herbs/truffle pasta/olive oil and the Cabbage Casuela “podvarak” braised cabbage/dry pepper/yogurt/lepinja. I was not a huge fan of the flat bread but Amy seemed to like it – I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick up the truffle paste. The cabbage dish was different and delicious – I especially liked the addition of the yogurt. While eating this dish I was immediately transported to the Balkan region.
I really liked their happy hour specials and their servers/bartenders were awesome. The ones that we came across were actually from the Balkan region and he helped us pronounce things the proper way. Always a fun experience.

Would I come back? Yes, I really enjoyed their happy hour and would like to revisit for brunch/dinner sometime! 

523 8th Street SE
Washington DC
Barracks Row
Eastern Market Metro
Ambar on Urbanspoon

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Pasta Carbonara

Disclaimer - this is more of a alfredo/carbonara hybrid dish. I am aware that truly authentic carbonara's don't have cream in them but because I got this recipe out of a book where the title of the recipe is Pasta Carbonara that is what the official name is. This beautiful pasta dish is from the new cookbook, Carmine's Celebrates (review coming later this week) by Chef Glenn Rolnick.
That being said, this was a super delicious and amazing recipe - my Carbonara fiend of a friend LOVED it - heck, I loved it. This recipe was very easy to follow and was very delicious - definitely keeping these in my rotation of pasta sauces! It's a great weeknight dish - it probably takes a little under 30 minutes to cook.
Pasta Carbonara - serves 4
Carmine's Celebrates
Chef Glen Roddick

3 oz pancetta - finely diced (I bought mine already diced from Wegmans - if you can't find pancetta, double the bacon)
3 slices thick-cut bacon
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp chopped shallots
3 Tbsp chopped basil
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 pint heavy cream
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp  cracked black pepper
1 egg yolk, beaten
3/4 cup grated romano cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 ox perciatelli (buccatini), cooked al dente
Directions (my comments in bold)
1. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bacon and cook until both meats are brown and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. (this is about when I put the water on to boil for the pasta)
2. Reserve about half of the rendered fat from the bacon and pancetta (discard the rest...I didn't do this as there really wasn't a lot of fat in my pan). Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and sauté until they begin to pick up some color. Add half of the basil and parsley and sauté for 30 seconds.
3. Add the heavy cream, salt, and pepper and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. At that point reduce the temperature to medium and return the bacon and pancetta to the pan, reserving a small portion for garnish. (When I added the cream I turned down the heat until medium, it took approx. 10ish minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolk. (make sure you are constantly whisking when you put the egg yolk in so it doesn't become scrambled).
4. When the yolk is completely incorporated, fold in the cheese and the remaining basil, parsley and the butter (I actually forgot the butter but it still turned out amazing). Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter and garnish with remaining pancetta/bacon before serving.

-This was a pretty easy recipe to follow and it definitely a impressive recipe to share with company. As you can see, it's super easy to make pretty by just adding a little extra pancetta/bacon and herbs on top.
*Breaking news* - the leftovers (2 days old) taste good, they are a little greasy thought.
I was sent a copy of this cookbook for review but was not compensated for this post. All thoughts an opinions are my own. Image Map

Monday, November 3, 2014

Best Bites October 2014

Happy Monday! I thought I would try something new and do a “Best Bites” of the month post. Here are some of my favorite dishes/drinks from the month! It’s been a busy month so there hasn't been a lot of time for exploring. Hopefully next month I will have some more must tries for you!

1. Lemon Sourdough Pancakes from Ovvio Osteria. It's kind of embarrassing how many times I have thought about these pancakes the past  month. 
2. Ginger Margarita and The Peacemaker (no photo - but it is a whiskey drink) from True Food Kitchen. With the addition of the ginger - I somehow felt healthy drinking the margarita. Be warned, the ginger does give it a little kick, but it is a welcome one. 
3. Pan Fried Pork and Leek Dumplings from Peking Gourmet Inn (review coming soon, however here are past posts part 1, part 2). If you like dumplings - these are the ultimate dumplings. 

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