basic enchiladas.

Do you ever get really excited about doing something you don’t usually do, only to realize later that there’s a reason why you don’t usually do it?  Well, this happened to me with enchiladas the other night.  No, this story isn’t going where you think it’s going.  (I probably started off too dramatic.)  All I’m saying is that I don’t usually eat enchiladas, but for awhile now, I’ve been really excited about the idea of them.

Chicken Enchiladas

After finally sitting down to taste my finished product, I remembered that I actually REALLY REALLY don’t like enchilada sauce.  What a bummer!  Objectively, I think that it all came out great.  The chicken and cheese on the inside were perfect.  I think the issue was that I used sauce from a can, and it just was not the best.  I’m not going to give up on enchiladas.  Next time, I will just make my own sauce… and I will make a different kind from the canned kind.

By the way, I think it was Old El Paso canned enchilada sauce.

Here is the recipe I used.  (Adjustment: I also threw in some extra queso blanco we had in our fridge.)  I still want to promote the recipe, because it was truly great and Chris really enjoyed the meal!  He gets the leftovers this time.  :)

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america eats tavern!

Last Saturday, Chris, two friends, and I had the opportunity to check out America Eats Tavern, a new pop-up restaurant by Chef José Andrés.  I could not contain my excitement!  We showed up for brunch right when the restaurant opened up, and easily got a table.  The place was definitely pretty packed when we left, so I’m glad we got there early!

Ceiling of America Eats Tavern

America Eats is replacing the space where Café Atlántico used to be.  The famous and apparently amazing Minibar, which is usually upstairs, is currently undergoing renovation.  America Eats closes in January, and Café Atlántico actually will move to a different location… so I wonder what will happen with the space next year!  There is definitely a lot happening.

Anyway, America Eats Tavern is exploring a new and innovative approach to classic American dishes from different time periods throughout history… many of which have been lost over time.  The restaurant goes along with the National Archives exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”  We didn’t go to the exhibit this time around, but we’re planning to go soon with a bigger group and return to the restaurant around that as well. Since there were four of us, and we are all adventurous in trying new foods, I have many photos to share!  Here is the delicious Blackberry Butter that came with the bread basket we ordered.

Blackberry Butter

We tried two cocktails among the four of us.  I don’t remember the name of the one on the left, but as you can see, it was a sparkling and lighter drink.  The cocktail on the right is the Ramos Gin Fizz, made with gin, egg whites, citrus, cream, and orange flower water!  You could taste every single one of those ingredients in perfect harmony.  The fizz on the top was very solid, and barely moved as the drink quickly disappeared.  The Ramos Gin Fizz was developed by Henry C. Ramos in New Orleans in 1888.  Amazing!

Two Brunch Cocktails (Ramos Gin Fizz, on right)

Here are all of our entrées…

Maine Lobster Roll, John D. Rockefeller, Mount Desert Island, Maine, 1910

Shrimp 'n' Anson Mills Grits with a Fried Egg, Jamestown, 1607

Waffles with Blackberry Butter & Vermont Maple Syrup, James Hemings, Monticello, 1796

Hangtown Fry, Hangtown, California, 1849

I tried a little bit of Chris’ lobster roll, and it was pretty good.  He said it wasn’t his favorite roll he’s ever had, but he liked how the mayo and lobster were separated in the sandwich.  The other boys enjoyed their dishes a lot, though comments of the portions being a little small were made.  I absolutely LOVED The Hangfry!  It was packed with flavor, and I felt the joy that the gold miners must have felt when they struck it rich in California and then bought this particular dish to celebrate.  It was the perfect amount of oyster taste, and everything I could want in a glamorous brunch entrée.

We then ordered two desserts and two teas.  I tried a little of everything, and the desserts were incredible!  The Key Lime Pie was apparently made from fresh key limes… something most restaurants don’t use, for some reason.  The Vermont Sugar On Snow really showed off the amazing Vermont syrup, and the flowers added a unique twist to the dessert. Chris and I enjoyed our teas, though they tasted pretty standard to us.

Dandelion Tea

Balsamic Hyperion Tea (the tea people drank after the Boston Tea Party)

Key Lime Pie

Vermont Sugar On Snow

What a fun and different brunch experience!  Reading the menu in and of itself was a learning experience… there are little blurbs about the history behind each item.  Now I want to spend some time reading the menu online before I go back!  I am so excited to return to America Eats, and hope to get there for a few more meals before January.  The restaurant definitely made us proud to be Americans!  :)

experimenting with duck.

There are two things that Chris LOVES to eat whenever he has the chance: scallops and duck! I decided to try cooking a duck meal for us this past Friday night, and though it was somewhat intimidating at first, it turned out really well!

I think I get a little nervous whenever I attempt new meats or new fish, because I never want to overcook or undercook. Either extreme can obviously ruin a whole meal. I do have a pretty good meat thermometer though, so there really should be no reason to worry. Someday I want to try to cook a whole entire animal! I plan to learn from my amazing Greek mother at some point.

Anyway, I decided to sear and bake duck breasts for us. I watched a few YouTube videos, and learned a lot of different things, like which side is the skin side, how to know when it’s done, etc. I would say that Gordon Ramsay was the most helpful… though if you also want to learn how to drain the fat by scoring in a criss-cross fashion, you’ll have to watch this video.

Basically, I scored the duck breasts, salted and peppered them, seared them for about 10 minutes on each side, baked them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (skin-side down), and finally added some pan-fried pancetta on top. I don’t think you even need pancetta for a nice result, but I wanted to make sure something was good in case the duck itself tasted awful. :)

Baked Duck w/Pancetta & Sweet Potato Fries

As you can see, I also made some sweet potato fries! I attempted to make similar fries a few months ago, and ended up burning them and setting off our fire alarm multiple times! I think the key is remember to turn them over halfway through cooking. This go around, I also cooked the fries at a lower heat for a longer amount of time… broiling just didn’t seem to work out well before. This was the recipe I used, only with sherry vinegar. Also, I just invested in some Spanish smoked paprika, so I was excited to throw that in there as well.

The meal turned out a lot smaller than it looks in the photo (the duck breasts seemed to shrink a lot in the cooking process), but it was still filling and very yummy. I was so glad Chris felt treated! I cook a lot of veggie meals, so he definitely deserved some manly meat. :) By the way, did you know that duck is apparently the new pork?

roti mediterranean grill.

I just wanted to post briefly, and say that I HEART ROTI!  The best way I know to describe Roti is that it’s the Mediterranean version of Chipotle.  Instead of burrito, tacos, or bowl, you choose from a pita, salad, or sandwich… with all the key Mediterranean fixings!  We went to the one near the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, which was not much in terms of environment… it’s more of a mall-like area.  (The Roti staff was very sweet though!)  The location near the Farragut West metro stop is apparently a little snazzier.  I’ve also heard, via their twitter (@rotiusa), that Roti will be in Rosslyn next year!  Roti is growing, and it definitely is so hot right now.

The Greek in me and the health-nut in me LOVES it.  I think they could do a Subway-like challenge, and see what happens if someone ate at Roti consistently for awhile.  My prediction is that the results would turn out fabulously.  Maybe you all have heard of the Dukan Diet that Kate Middleton apparently used before the wedding… there are so many articles out there discussing her figure, but many websites do promote going Mediterranean over going Dukan.

I must say that I am inspired to do more Pilates because of Pippa though.  :)

GO ROTI!

salmon w/dill & cucumber sauce.

I mentioned yesterday having fresh basil from a church family’s home garden.  A mom I know from the youth group was incredibly generous to me, and gave me an ASSORTMENT of fresh vegetables recently!  Fresh basil, dill, chard, a green pepper, and two cucumbers!  She suggested that I make salmon with cucumber and dill sauce, so I picked up some salmon on the way home and made it happen that very night!

Salmon w/ Dill & Cucumber Sauce

I got a little carried away with the amount of sauce, and we ended up scraping some off.  The recipe I used said to serve the salmon in a “puddle of sauce,” but maybe I interpreted that too extremely!  In any case, the meal was very fresh-tasting and lovely.  We ate on our teeny tiny balcony as the sun went down!  As Sandra McCracken once said, “Contentment is like muscle strength.  Gratitude is the exercise.”  (I think she tweeted that a long time ago actually, but I’ll never forget it!)  So the blessings count that night went like this: we were thankful for love, fresh garden produce, salmon, health, the sunset, and having more than we need — in so many ways.

little caprese treats.

These mini caprese treats don’t even need instruction!  As you can see, they simply consist of fresh mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, and a bit of basil all on a toothpick!  Plus some fresh ground pepper.  So easy, and you feel like you’re in a classy restaurant when you’re eating them…

Mini Caprese Snacks

I am especially proud of these treats, because all of the ingredients are organic.  The fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes are from our farmer’s market across the street, and the basil was part of a lovely gift to us from a church family’s home garden.  Wonderful!

our july girl’s night at screwtop.

As I’ve mentioned before, Screwtop is one of my absolute favorite places.  I go there monthly with three dear girlfriends, and then whenever I can outside of that!  I love being a wine club member, and trying out the new wines they give me every month.  The four of us like to go on Wednesdays, because there is usually a $10 off a bottle deal for a certain type of wine.

This particular Wednesday, the deal was for rosé wines… not usually my favorite type of wine, as the girls know, but Screwtop has changed my previous opinions in other instances before!  This time was no different, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying my glass.  We picked this Jeio Bisol Rosé Prosecco from Veneto, Italy.  The Veneto and Prosecco aspects, as well as the fact that the waitress said it was one of the dryer rosés on the menu, was all what swayed me.  Yum!

Jeio Bisol Rosé Prosecco from Veneto, Italy

For those of you who don’t know, Prosecco is to Italy as Champagne is to France.  Prosecco tends to be cheaper and dryer… both pluses, in my opinion.  :)  Rosé wines are pink, because there is very brief contact with the grape skins during the winemaking process.  By the way, isn’t it crazy how flutes can hold so much liquid?  The whole bottle was drained into four glasses!  An optical illusion.

We ordered a ton of food, as always.  Here is our first platter (five cheeses and one meat):

Spanish Cabra Paprika, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, CA Humboldt Fog, Italian Robiola, NY Kunik, VA Napoli

Most of us agreed it was the best cheese plate we’d ever ordered!  You can see one of the girls’ beautiful documentation and rating system two pictures down.  The Cabra cheese was the same that I used in my Spanish mashed potatoes last month.  I think I liked the cheese better when mixed in the potatoes… but it still served to be different from the other cheeses, and variety is always fun.  Hooray for the Humboldt Fog, which may have converted one in our group to now love goat cheese!  So overall, the plate was a success.

We ordered another few cheeses later on, as well as the grilled cheese sliders (it’s almost impossible for us to go to Screwtop and not order those).  Here is a photo of another little dish we tried:

Avocado Gazpacho

How cool is that?  I’ve already been searching for recipes to recreate it, especially since it was a special on the menu.  Maybe I’ll try out this one sometime soon.

So, as promised, here is the lovely documentation of everything we ordered (I had a glass of Piccolo Cru instead of her glass of Sauv Blanc, however).  The handwriting is so pretty that I just had to include her journal page of the night!

Our Screwtop Order!

Thank you, Screwtop!  Always guaranteed fun and a delight to our palettes!