Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cranberry Ginger Gin Fizz

One of the things I love the most about winter is all of the produce. Butternut squash, cranberries, pears, brussel sprouts, oranges, oh and did I mention cranberries? Luckily, Cape Code Select Premium Cranberries freezes their cranberries at their peak so you can get them year round! I was given the opportunity to sample some and create a few recipes for them. 

While I made a bunch of things out of JUST one bag, the recipe I am choosing to share is one I am extremely proud of. I channeled my inner bartender and made this killer simple syrup with cranberries. Combined with gin and tonic, this is a killer combo. 

To find out more info about Cape Code Select check out the below. 
        Store locator 

Cranberry Ginger Gin Fizz
serves 6 (or two people, 3 times)

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries
1 inch of ginger, cut into 3 pieces
6 oz. good quality gin
9 oz. tonic water

Directions for simple syrup
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a pot, cook over medium heat 5 minutes. 
2. The berries will start to break down, help the process along by using a fork/spoon to crush the berries
3. Cook for a total of approx 10 minutes. 
4. Strain mixture and put syrup in n ofridge for 10 minutes. 

Directions for assembling
1. In a glass, put in 4 ice cubes. 
2. Add in 1/2 shot (.75 oz) of the simple syrup, one shot of gin, 1 1/2 shots of gin. 
3. Stir. Drink. Enjoy. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cologne, Germany Hotel Reviews: CityClass Hotel Residence am Dom

I was in Germany for business (Essen to be exact) and wanted to take an extra day to see the city of Cologne. Unfortunately, I was sick, so I didn’t get to really experience Cologne, but I did manage to go to one traditional brew house and walk around a little.

It being my first time to Cologne, I was unsure on the layout of the city and where to stay. What I did know was I wanted to be a very close walk to the sights, as well as being close enough to the train station to walk (save on that cab $$). After much deliberation, I decided to stay at the CityClass Hotel Residence am Dom
Below is a view from the front of the hotel. This was taken before I left Monday morning, but Sunday afternoon, the tables were full of people. The location was perfect - it was central like I had hoped. The river is a minutes away and the hotel is central, surrounded by tons of restaurants. The walk from the train station is approximately 10 minutes(due to crosswalks, etc.), .5 miles from the train station. Totally doable with my rolling suitcase, back pack and extra bag.
I was able to check in a little early, and the people at the front desk were wonderful. They gave me a map of Cologne, and made suggestions on what to visit on the two days that I was there. The lobby area was simple, but visually appealing.
I picked a small room with a double bed. I know things are a little more compact in Europe, but I wasn’t expecting the room to be this small. That being said, I had absolutely no problem with it, as there was plenty room for my luggage and to walk around. I would recommend this room for only one person, two if you are only going to be there a day or two and you don’t get easily annoyed with your partner. The beds were comfortable. Everything was spotless. I also enjoyed that the water (sparkling) in the fridge was complimentary.
I loved the view from my depending on what side your room is on, you could have this too. Might get loud on a Friday/Saturday as the street below is full of restaurants/bars.  
As a part of the deal I booked online, breakfast was included. There was a large assortment of items, definitely worth your money. There is a server that walks around, clearing your plates, and getting you coffee/tea if requested. I believe at lunch/dinner time, this turns into restaurant/bar where hotel and the general population can partake in.
I would stay here again in a heartbeat. Perfect location, great employees, great prices and it was clean and modern looking. 

Nearby food recommended: There are tons of restaurants around the area, I went to 2 during my stay, and would recommend the below! 
-Peter's Brauhaus
Nearby Sights: 
-Just get out and walk!
-Cologne Cathedral
-Several Museums
-Several Brauhaus' 

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

What to Eat when You are in Essen, Germany

If you happen to find yourself in Essen and are not familiar with the town, this is a guide of some places to go. I tried to do some research on good places before I came but there wasn't much to go on. I was here for work (almost a year ago and about to go back ... whoops), so unfortunately I didn't have my normal time to really explore and get to know the area but I was able to make some good finds and am able to make a few recommendations. Most of the places I ate at were very close to my hotel, but everywhere that I ate was within 15-20 minutes walking between the City Center and the Train Station. This is by no means a complete list, but a little guide to make your time a little easier if you visit.
First and foremost, Euros are must have. Unlike America, most parts of Europe, from my experiences still use paper money over cards. That is not to say a lot of places do not accept cards, you just need to be wary which cards they accept.  

Tablo - Turkish 
Huyssenallee 5, 
45128 Essen
Takes most credit cards - there were like 8 on the window and they have an English menu on their website (if that is the case, they probably have one at the actual restaurant, but we were here for a business dinner so they ordered for us). This was our fancy pants business dinner of the trip and it could not have been tastier. We started off with an appetizer sampler and I swear most of the restaurant ordered this- delicious (bc I am nosy and I always like to look at what people order). The table also split an order of shrimp in a semi-spicy tomato sauce and everyone loved it. Known for their fresh fish - we managed to get a sample of 3 types of fish and a ginormous prawn (which everyone loved and I skipped). Being new to the fish world, I was really impressed and ate everything on my plate. In fact, I LOVED one of the varieties we sampled, Steinbutt or Turbot as we English folks say it. To finish up our meal, we had a sampling of 3 delicious desserts - baklava, yogurt with honey and orange and Kunefe kit Eas. Bottom-line - everything here was wonderful.
Pizzeria Venezia
Ruttenscheider Str. 52
45130 Essen
The menu is not in English but the waitresses all seemed to know enough to get by, plus it is mostly pizza - it's pretty easy to figure out. I ordered a medium (28cm) Pizza Salami and a Insalata (lettuce with onions and dressing). The Insalata comes with rolls and this yummy garlic herb butter. Both solid options. I am not sure of the quality of the pizza in Germany but this is wayyyyyy better then the majority of pizzas we can get in America so I quite enjoyed it. This was too much food for me, and the total was 10,50 euros - about 12 bucks USD so a steal!
Café Solo 
Kettwiger Str. 36
Does not accept Visa, accepts Maestro and euros. We had our typical German fair here - a wiener schnitzel and curryworst. I am not an expert on schnitzels, but this one tasted good. The curryworst reminded me of a hotdog (and it very much might be the German version of one) so I couldn't choke it down as I hate hotdogs. If you like hotdogs...then you will love this. My curryworst came with pommes (french fries) and a side of mayo...and German mayo might have converted me from a mayo hater to lover.
Rüttenscheider Str. 89
I really wanted to get a Kebap while on my trip to journey so our last night my boss and I set about to find one. A couple of the places that I saw earlier in the week were closed - weird on a Saturday night, especially since kebap's are also known as a drunk food. We both ordered a small/regular kebap and they were huge!! As I was looking around the restaurant most of the people ordered platters - which would probably be a better option if you were to try this place out. The workers didn't speak much English and we paid in Euros - I don't know if they accept cards. 
There you have it, a quick guide of some places to go. I will be back in October, so expect a Part 2 guide with some new options!

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Korean BBQ Yakisoba Nachos

I was invited to participate in the JSL Asian Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge and jumped at the chance, because if there is something I really love, (besides guacamole, pizza and wine) it is Asian noodles of any sort. It's my go to at whatever Asian cuisine I am dining at that moment. Admittedly, it took me awhile to try and figure out what I wanted to do with these noodles - go an Asian cuisine route or switch things up and do a fusion dish. I ended up doing both - I made an AMAZING carbonara out of these noodles (which I will end up sharing later, because, yum), but ended up deciding to enter the contest with the recipe you see here, Korean BBQ Yakisoba Nachos
I have amazing friends that are total foodies and help me brainstorm creative ideas. One friend suggested making fries and I expanded on that idea and decided to make loaded nachos. Best idea ever. The recipe may seem a little tedious, but I promise, it is easy, and well worth your time! 
For the Yakisoba nachos
2 packets of JSL Yakisoba Stir Fry Noodles - Hot and Spicy
1 Hot and Spicy seasoning packet from JSL Noodles
2 eggs
Vegetable/Canola Oil for cooking.

For the steak
1lb skirt steak, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup Korean BBQ Sauce

For the nacho toppings
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 cups shredded cheddar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped kimchi
~1/4 cup yum yum sauce
~1/4 cup Korean bbq sauce

1. In a bowl, mix together 2 packets of JSL Yakisoba Noodles, 1 seasoning packet and 2 eggs. 
2. Take out half of the noodles and lay put on aluminium foil in a rectangular shape. Completely wrap noodles and place in the freezer for one hour. Do the same with the other half (see photos below). 
3. While the noodles are in the freezer, heat a skillet to medium high heat. 
4. Season steak with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes on one side, 3 on the other (my steak was about 1/2 inch thick). 
5. Let rest for 15 minutes and then cut into tiny pieces. Mix in Korean BBQ sauce and set aside. 
6. After an hour has passed, in a pan fill up with canola oil, 1/2 inch and heat to medium high. Preheat over to 350 degrees. 
7. While pan is heating, take noodles out of the freezer and divide each packet into 8 pieces. 
8. Carefully slide 4 of the noodle pieces in the oil. Cook for two minutes on each side, or until noodle pieces are golden. Place on paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all noodles are cooked.  
9. In an oven safe skillet (baking sheet if you don't have a skillet), put half of the Yakisoba chips in the skillet. Layer half of the cheese, scallions and steak on the chips. Repeat with second layer of chips. 
10. Cook in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 
11. Take out of oven, evenly distribute the cilantro and kimchi over top of the yakisoba chips. Drizzle the Korean BBQ sauce and Yum Yum sauce over top of the chips. 
12. Enjoy :)

Check out their Facebook page or twitter to see other fun recipe creations! 

Available for purchase: Safeway, Albertson's and I am sure many other places - those are just the two that I have been able to confirm. 

I was not compensated for this post and I received samples for review purposes. All opinions about the product are based on my own experience.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Crystal City: Bozzellis Italian Deli

My work bestie, Jasmine (and real life friend, just so there is no confusion) and I love to go out and try new places for lunch about once a week. Sometimes more if I am bad and don't pack. We both love pizza and are on a mission to try all of the pizza places in the surrounding area. This particular discovery occurred via the search nearby on yelp. Bozzelli's popped up and we have now been here a few times and Jasmine has declared it on of her favorite pizza places in this area.  
Bozzelli's Italian Deli is a local chain (3-4 stores) and this particular location is in Crystal City, a block or two away from the main strip of restaurants. It is a small store front but they have a few pub tables inside and a few tables outside. During lunch hour it can get crazy. The first time we came we ate in the restaurant and the place was filled to the brim with lunch hour folks. 
Pretty much wanting to try everything on the menu, I somehow settled for just one "extra" thing and decided to try the Fried Ravioli. It was awesome - the cheese was gooey and it was a solid marinara dipping sauce. I brought the rest back to my office mate and he scarfed them down and said they were awesome (update - I have also tried the mozzarella sticks, equally cheesy and delicious)
Jasmine ordered one of the set pizzas and it came with mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage and onions. The sausage is phenomenal and this was the pie that won her over. I ordered a pizza with a few veggies and I agreed that this was a good go to place. The second time we came, Jasmine got another assorted meat and veggie pizza and I stole a slice. I normally shy away from meat on pizza but all of the meat at Bozzelli's is great and I find myself leaning towards ordering meaty pizzas. 
I decided to switch things up my second time around and ordered the Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella sub. Very delicious, if you love red peppers and prosciutto I highly recommend this sub.  
Even during lunch hour Bozzelli's is very quick (you can order online/call/in person). Food is delicious. There are a lot of things Jasmine and I wanted to come back and try and I have a feeling it's going to be a part of our normal rotation. 

They also sell wine/beer/other random stuff, which is great if you are taking out for dinner (or want a cold beer with lunch)! 

Would I come back? Yes! White pizza, fried mozzarella/zucchini and pepper shooters are on my to try list! 

2600 Crystal Dr #1
Arlington, VA 22202
Tel: 571-970-4570
Bozzelli's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Event Recap: Giant National Capital BBQ Battle 2016

The Giant Barbecue Battle is one of the largest and most unique food and music festivals in the country with BBQ teams cooking off for their share of cash and prizes and the title of National BBQ Champion. Celebrity chefs like Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone from the BBQ Pitmasters TV show will compete smoker to smoker with Grand Champion teams like Historic BBQ from Lebanon Ohio and Pork Barrel BBQ from right here in Alexandria, Virginia. The Giant BBQ Battle features a series of competitions leading up to the main event including The National Pork BBQ Championship, the Australian Lamb Contest, the Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest, American Beef Cook-Off, Smithfield Rib Championship, and the Grand Daddy of them all, the KCBS Sanctioned Giant National BBQ Championship Contest. In addition, you’ll be the judge as former and current military chefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard cook off in a friendly yet highly competitive “People’s Choice” competition to see whose BBQ reigns supreme. (from the Media section of BBQ in DC)

The festival was pretty standard as far as street fairs go. There were lots of vendors lining the streets, live music at the far end, and lots of booths giving away free stuff. April and I walked from booth to booth collecting everything would could. Most of the free giveaways were snackish type treats, like pretzel packs, cookie or candy things, chips, etc. Further down was hot food giveaways. Obviously this was a marketing deal for Giant to let people know about their wide array of products available at their stores but hey, free is free, and I needed something greasy to deal with the hangover from Friday night anyway, so I hit them all. Their wide array of products also included a wide array of quality. I tried several different kinds of burger, sausages, jerk chickens, and frozen treats all ranging from “amazing” to “what did I just put in my mouth?” The lines for everything were pretty long as well. The better part of our day was spent grabbing a snack so we had something to eat while we waiting in line for the next snack.
Next we stopped by the Barefoot vendor and tried some of their spritzers called Barefoot Refresh. I mentioned this in my last entry, but I am not a big wine drinker. These were hardly what I would call wine though. They had frizz, came in a can, and as the name implies, tasted pretty refreshing. Also the booth was a lot of fun with flower necklaces and real sand on the ground, giving it a goofy little beach vibe. They had a red and white version, both were great but I personally preferred the wine. It was a little lighter and slightly more refreshing on a hot DC Saturday.
After a while I decided that it was time to stop messing around with the small samples and get down to business. Barbecue. The reason I came here in the first place. (Well that, and April told me I was covering this event for the blog so I didn’t really have a choice.) The strangest and most disappointing part about the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle is that the Barbecue in the Battle wasn’t actually available for purchase or sample. I came to the event later in the day on Saturday so it is possible that the barbecue was open earlier but I found none up for grabs while I was there.

Instead I settled for a barbecue sandwich from one of the many vendors selling food. I got a North Carolina Style sandwich and a Heinken light beer. I would describe the sandwich as overwhelmingly OK. When I ordered they took meat out of a bin, put it in a cup, microwaved it, and then slapped it on a sandwich and poured on the sauce. That method of service was less than satisfactory and probably affected my overall feelings toward the sandwich. The sauce was nothing special, the meat was a little dry, and the bun was your standard white bread bun. All and all, the sandwich nothing to write home (or, uh a blog) about.
In the end I wasn’t too impressed with the barbecue at this event. It was a fun way to burn a Saturday in the District but because I either missed the actual competition or wasn’t allowed to try any of the barbecue from the competition I really didn’t feel like I got what I came for. That being said, trying all the samples (and getting some to take home) was pretty cool and the music and atmosphere made for a good time. This is a great festival to check out if you want to try products from your local grocery store before committing to purchasing them but they need to work on the barbecue aspect of it. Next year
they need to have an option for people to try the competitor’s barbecue. If that happens, I will definitely be back!


I agree with Brandon's summary of the festival. I was a little more excited about trying all the products that Giant carries then he was but he was spot on about the barbecue. On a side note, my favorite things I tried from the event were the Barefoot White Wine Refresher and the Nature's Promise Lemonade (Giant Brand)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meatball Mania at Via Umbria in Georgetown

Via Umbria is a cute import Italian store and café in Georgetown off of Wisconsin that I probably would not have heard about had it not been for Lisa who I connected with on twitter @lisacomento. She invited me to check out a cooking class offered by Via Umbria - Meatball Mania, which I quickly agreed to attend, because hello, meatballs!

I didn’t get much time to look around the store (probably for the best – my wallet would have been a lot lighter), but as I was leaving I checked out some prices and they are very reasonable for imported goods, especially for being located in Georgetown.
Meatball Mania$25 a person, featured a tasting of 3 different meatballs with a hands on experience of making one of the meatballs. The class started with a meat grinding demonstration, showing that it is indeed possible to grind your own meat without having fancy pants machinery, although using a kitchen aid with a grinder attachment is still a pretty piece of machinery.
We then moved on to learn how to make Mondeghili meat balls (fried meatballs - I'll share the recipe in a later post). Chef Johanna took us through her process of making meatballs and asked for a volunteer to help finish mixing the ingredients so she could focus on talking to us. I nudged Brandon to volunteer and he bravely stepped up to the plate. After the meat was mixed, a few more of us helped out with rolling the meatballs.
After the demonstration was over, we gathered around the table and got to eat the other two meatballs that were prepared while sipping on water/wine/cocktails (half off during class! – I had a lovely rose prosecco and a red). We both were surprised that we favored the Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken (Johanna managed to make it pop full of flavor and keep a moist texture) meatball over the traditional meatball, but both were delicious.  

For the price of $25, this class is definitely worth it. It’s fun, informative and you get some delicious food. Perfect for date nights, friend nights or even alone. I heard from Via Umbria that they will continue to have $25 classes on Wednesdays on a variety of subjects, as well as keep the Meatball Mania to once a month. 

Now...onto some exciting stuff. I have decided to partner with one of my friends who loves writing and loves food. His writing presents itself more like a story and it's wonderful, much better than mine! He will be popping up on this little space a few times a month with a guys perspective on drinks/food in the DC area. Introducing the unofficial Hawaiian T-shirt guy of Arlington, Brandon....!!! 


We arrived at Via Umbria just as it was closing. The cooking demos takes place upstairs after hours which really gives you this cool, VIP feeling. Cocktails and certain wines were half off for the event. I normally am not much of a wine drinker, but I have never turned down cheap booze in my life. I ordered a glass of their Adanti Arquata Nispero Rosso Dell’Umbria 2012, which in the proper Italian is pronounced by pointing at the menu and saying “that one.” April and I then headed upstairs to start the demonstration

We were first introduced to the butcher, who explained the importance of using freshly ground meat. He told us that in order to get best results, everything has to be cold. Put the meat in the freezer to the point of it almost freezing (approximately 15 minutes) and chill the bowl and the grinder for an hour or so before us. When making a ground meat meal where the meat has to keep a shape such as burgers or meatballs, it helps to grind right before cooking because the meat will do better job sticking together.  He spoke with such conviction and confidence that I completely had my heart set on buying a meat grinder when I got home, until I checked them out on Amazon and realized that I have to pay rent every now and then.
We then got a demonstration on how to make Mondeghili. Our chef added all the ingredients while carefully explaining what everything was. Then the real fun began. She asked if anyone wanted to help mix up the ingredients, which I obviously volunteered for right away. I threw on some gloves and got right to mixing. There is something weirdly satisfying about mixing various meats, spices, and cheeses with your bare hands. It immediately took me back to those silly haunted houses you’d do in grade school where a bowl of spaghetti or something was “zombie brains” and grapes where “eyeballs” or whatever.  Soon other people hopped in and started helping me mix and roll the meatballs.  She then took them over to the deep fryer.
These were by far the best of the 3 meatballs I tried that night. The concept of a fried meatball is pretty foreign to me, but the crispy outside and the soft, slightly cheesy, inside was amazing. There was also some marina sauce, which the chef said they normally used on their pizza there. (Oh you guys also serve pizza? Guess I’ll be coming back pretty soon then.) A comment that was made pretty often among the group I was that “these would be a hit at a party.” 
Finally, the main course was ready. They had Rontini pasta, better known as “those twisty ones that aren’t macaroni or bowties in those Costco pasta 3 packs you bought in college,” which they imported from Italy. (It was mentioned that Via Umbria had its own import license which is a thing, apparently? Either way, it sounds cool.) The import really showed. Every time I eat real pasta I am shocked by how good it taste. Mass produced, American, pasta tends to be without flavor and with a forgettable texture, but this pasta had an almost dough-like consistency, and tasted so delightful that it felt like I was getting away with something. But the real stars of the show were the two different meatballs she made, a chicken and cheese meatball and a more classic veal one.
The chicken and cheese one was my favorite of the two. The chicken was moist and the cheese added a soft texture that was incredibly appealing. The second meatball was nothing to scoff at either, in fact, I felt a little bad for it. While it was a completely delicious and incredibly meatball, the other two of the evening were so much more unique and incredible, that this one fell to the backburner.

Photo from Via Umbria - you can't tell but we are enjoying our meal!
It was a great event and I would definitely do it again. I really feel like I gained a better understanding of the cooking process, the food was amazing, and the atmosphere was friendly, fun, and authentically Italian. I thought the price ($25) was pretty reasonable and the half off wine isn’t bad either.  I would definitely come back.


Eventually we will do a follow up to this post with the recipe given for the Fried (Mondeghili) Meatballs, documenting the process and seeing if the recipe is doable for a novice/experienced cook. Stay tuned!  


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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Cleveland Park: Brunch at Ardeo + Bardeo

Brunch, Brunch, Brunch. Starting early, ending early. #almost30 as some of my younger friends refer to me when I express these feelings. But, hey, I never wake up the next day feeling like crap and I usually can get a delicious meal and some crazy adventures out of a good brunch. Case in point, we popped into the zoo for a bit after to check out some pandas.   
Our brunch of choice the other weekend was Ardeo + Bardeo and it was a worthy choice.

To start off your brunch they bring you a warm basket of mini chocolate chip scones and some sort of raisin bread. While the raisin bread looked good, I avoid raisins whenever possible and stuck to the scones. Wow, the scones were PERFECT. The chocolate was melty, and the scones were a perfect balance between moist and dry/crumbly.
We got there a bit earlier then the rest of our group, so Carrie ordered a bloody mary while we waited. It was tomatey, horseradishy and she enjoyed it. The rest of us stuck to their bottomless deal, 29.95 for bottomless mimosas or bubbly for 2 hours + an appetizer + an entrée. The bubbly was legit – not too dry or too sweet, and their mimosas were a perfect ratio of juice to bubbly. Fun fact, they will let you get the bubbly sans the oj. 

What they don’t tell you online is that certain dishes are “Grand” aka have a $8 surcharge. Totally fine, I just it was mentioned online.
The Grand dishes that our party tried were the Shrimp + Grits and the Steak + Eggs. Both dishes were enjoyed and worth the surcharge. 
I ordered the Grilled Burger. Juicy, meaty burger of your dreams. The sauce, caramelized onion jam was out of this world. This can get a little messy as the juices were running down my face. Worth it. Fries were also perfectly crispy and kept on getting eaten after we were all stuffed by our meals. The Eggs Benedict and Garden Pasta were also ordered and were good, but nothing special. 
For the appetizers, we tried the Deviled Eggs, Parfait, Caesar Salad and Broccolini and Quinoa Salad. They were all delicious, the parfait coming in as the favorite. Tip for the Caesar Salad - get it without the fried anchovy on top, it affects the areas it touches with its fishy flavor. 

Would I come back? Service was great, food was pretty great (weaker dishes were the benedict and the pasta) and mimosas were PERFECT. I will be back. 
3311 Connecticut Avenue NW, 
Washington, DC
metro: Cleveland Park
Ardeo+Bardeo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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