date night at bwi – obrycki’s.

I was so excited when Chris was asked to go to a last-minute work meeting in Panama City last Friday! It worked out perfectly for me to join him, and so on our normal Thursday night “date night,” we found ourselves killing some time in Baltimore/Washington International Airport.

We were wandering around, trying to find some food, when we saw a sign for Obrycki’s Crab House, “one of the 10 Best Airport Restaurants in the U.S. by Frommer’s.”

Obrycki's - A Top Ten Airport Restaurant!

We are both suckers for these sorts of lists, so though we continued some more restaurant-shopping throughout the B terminal, we knew where we were going to end up eventually.

Obrycki's

The overall experience was great.  Chris had a beer and I ordered a lime margarita (not as good as the homemade ones I love, but very delightful!).  We started with some mozzarella sticks, then ordered crab dishes.  Here are my Crab Cake Sliders (with cocktail, tartar and remoulade sauces).  You might be able to see Chris’ Broiled Crab Cake, in the background.

Crab Cake Sliders w/ cocktail, tartar & remoulade sauces. (Broiled Crab Cake in background.)

You might not expect to have a fine dining experience at an airport, but let me tell you… Obrycki’s knows what to do!  Check out BWI or Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a Top Ten airport meal!

papa, paparazzi.

Paparazzi in Georgetown holds a very special place in Chris and I’s hearts.  Before we met, Chris had been a few times with good friends, and I’d actually enjoyed my 16th birthday dinner there!  Most importantly, however, Paparazzi was part of Chris and I’s “epic first date.”  This date began at the museum and gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, then carried over to coffee at Dean & Deluca, and then after some serious strolling around Georgetown, we ended up at Paparazzi for dinner.  (Date length = 7 hours.)

So it’s only natural that Paparazzi would get a blog post at some point.  :)  The occasion this time was that Chris’ dad and uncle were in town.  As expected, we all definitely enjoyed the meal!

We started out with the Calamari Con Fritti appetizer, which is a favorite for Chris.  The jalapeños involved were a nice touch!  I was excited to learn that Uncle K shares my interest in Italian arrabiata sauce.  He actually ordered a pizza with arrabiata sauce!  We hadn’t heard of that combination before, but it proved to be very yummy.  I also went spicy, and here is my Penne All’ Arrabiata (“pasta quills with browned garlic, virgin olive oil and white wine in a spicy pomodoro sauce”).

Penne All’ Arrabiata

The wine turned out to be a great choice.  We went with a Poggio d’Elsa Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese.  I’ve had those grapes separately so many times, but this may have been a first for me to try them as a blend!  I am definitely a fan.  This is a huge and unfair generalization, but at least for me, basic cheaper Italian wines (like most basic cheaper Old World wines) often seem to be more medium-bodied, with flavors that are further brought out only when you’re eating the right food.  For instance, I find that cheaper Chianti wine is mediocre when alone, but it comes to life with Parmesan cheese.  Anyway, my point is that the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese made for a surprisingly bold Italian wine on its own… for a very reasonable price!

Poggio d'Elsa Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese

No complaints here, Paparazzi.  You know we’ll be returning to you for more special moments when we are craving solid Italian cuisine.

smith & wollensky.

A few weeks ago, we were invited to Smith & Wollensky by some friends for DC Restaurant Week.  We knew dinner would be a fun adventure, because a) Our friends are fun – of course, b) You never know what to expect with Restaurant Week menus, and c) We probably wouldn’t have have thought to pick Smith & Wollensky, so it was good to try something outside our normal sphere of interest!  Honestly, all I knew of Smith & Wollensky going into the dinner was that it appeared in the 2006 movie Devil Wears Prada.

If you don’t know how DC Restaurant Week works, you get to have a three-course meal (one appetizer, entrée, and dessert) from a fixed menu – all for $35.11.  (Lunch is $20.11.)  For my first course, I chose the Creamy 5-Onion Soup.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had an onion soup I didn’t like, and this one was no different!

Creamy 5-Onion Soup

The FIVE onion concept blows my mind, and I want to look into that more.  For entrées, I have pictures to share of Chris’ Steak & Fries, and my Crispy Organic Chicken Breast.  (The third choice was Pan Seared Grouper.)

Steak & Fries

Crispy Organic Chicken Breast

The entrees were fine… not incredibly memorable, but definitely satisfying.  The dessert choices were: Old School Tapioca Pudding (I don’t think I’m a tapioca fan!) or Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake (intriguing).  Kimberly ordered a “slice” of chocolate cake in addition, and that was heavenly.

Chocolate Cake

The highlight of the night for me was the wine a few of us shared!  A 2007 Chalone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Monterey County.  It was so interesting and smooth, and we decided it tasted like black currant and raspberries.  It was delicious with all of our dishes, and really made the meal for me!

2007 Chalone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Monterey County

I’m not sure if I have much else to say about Smith & Wollensky.  It was a fun night out in the city with friends!  I probably wouldn’t put it on a must-go-back-as-soon-as-possible list.  Thanks for a lovely evening though, S & W!

mexican monday: fish tacos & queso.

Mexican Monday was a great success this week!  While the menu generally consists of quesadillas plus a range of dips, I decided to focus only on two components this time: Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole and “A More Natural” Chile Con Queso.  It was one of those meals that seemed to take forever to prep, because of all the chopping, peeling, and grating involved!  (I really need to take a cooking class on knife skills!)  The end result was SO worth it though.

I considered substituting chicken for the cod in the tacos, but ended up following the recipe almost exactly.  The chicken probably would have been fine, but the cod really complemented the other items in the taco well.  I love discovering strange ingredient combinations that just mesh.  Green apples in guacamole?  I knew that could either be weird or amazing…  and it really turned out great!  Refreshingly light and delicious.

Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole

I’ve had a difficult time photographing tacos and quesadillas, so I just held it open this time!  Plus, now I can show off my manicured thumb.

This is the first time I’ve ever made queso, and in browsing through a few recipes, I noticed quickly that Velveeta cheese is a standard ingredient.  Now, I don’t mind eating things with Velveeta.  At this point, I realize that probably every queso I’ve ever had has included Velveeta… and I will continue to charge forward and dip my chips in these quesos!  However, there is something about creating the food on my own that makes me very picky about what I use.  I have weird rules for myself, like I hate using canned vegetables, frozen meat, or pre-grated cheese (this rule is not as important as the other two).   Anyway, I searched and found a recipe with more natural cheeses.

Queso substitutions:  I used a poblano pepper, a light green pepper (a medium-spicy mystery pepper), along with the jalapenos.  For cheeses, I chose a New York Cheddar along with a Habanero Pepper Jack from somewhere in the midwest.

Side-note on peeling tomatoes… is there an easy way to do it?  This is probably an odd comparison, but I almost felt like I was peeling a human!  The roma tomato was so slimy and veiny underneath.  (Sorry, that is very unappealing.)

A More Natural Chile Con Queso w/Tortilla Chips.

The queso was SO good.  We still have some left over, so I have just been loving life.  I was humbled yesterday, because the Washingtonian posted on their Best Bites Blog that Chef Jeff Tunks uses Velveeta in his mac & cheese at Passion Fish.  I adore Passion Fish and everything they do, and it is true: Velveeta does make both queso and mac & cheese pretty good.  I think I’ll stick to this delicious recipe though.  :)

brunch at mon ami gabi.

I am always on the hunt for good brunch spots, and so I was thrilled to recently experience the fantastic restaurant in Reston that is Mon Ami Gabi!  The name means “my friend Gabi” in French, after Chef (and Owner) Gabino Sotelino.  My dear friend Lauren got married two weekends ago, and her family hosted a bridal brunch at Mon Ami Gabi to kick off the festivities.  It was the perfect choice, and I still get distracted thinking about all of the delicious sweet and savory foods that made up the meal.

We were seated in a long side room, which offered us a good amount of privacy… but also enough space to really relax and celebrate!  Lauren planned out a 3-course brunch, and selected delicious options for each segment.

Lauren's Mon Ami Gabi Brunch Menu

I chose the Warm Brie (quaintly presented in a stainless steel pan), the Classic Quiche Lorraine (which was big enough to turn into my Sunday breakfast as well), and the Chocolate Mousse (so rich, I only had three bites!).

Warm Brie

Classic Quiche Lorraine

Chocolate Mousse

Who eats mousse for brunch?  I don’t know, but even from just those three bites, I find myself craving it sometimes during the mid-morning now!

I also have a picture of the Chicken, Cheese, & Broccoli Crepe option.  Crepes always take me back to sophomore year of college, when my roommate and I would throw crepe parties whenever we had a good excuse!  Crepe-makers can be such a valuable asset to any snazzy kitchen.

Chicken, Cheese, & Broccoli Crepe

Merci, Mon Ami Gabi!  I wish you weren’t so far from Arlington, but I’ll definitely be back to visit!

dinner by peter!

We went over to our good friend Peter’s the other night for a lovely dinner!  This entry is somewhat of a guest blog entry… I’m writing it, but the dinner was all Peter’s work!  The meal centered around a Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009 that he had discovered recently.  Amazing.  It was crisp and citrus-y at the beginning, then got increasingly more herbaceous as it breathed and warmed to room temperature.

We brought along some good ole Humboldt Fog cheese (Whole Foods and Screwtop are both carrying it right now!), and it was a GREAT match.  Peter added champagne grapes for a perfect side spread.

Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009, Humboldt Fog, & Champagne Grapes

Peter cares a lot about where his food comes from, which is just awesome.  He gave us all the background details, so I will include them all!

The main dish was Chicken Pesto Pasta.  The pesto was made from scratch the day before with homegrown basil, store-bought pine nuts, shredded romano cheese, parsley, and garlic. Here it is being prepped…

Peter's Homemade Pesto (photo credit: Peter)

The chicken (from Magruder’s) was marinated overnight in lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, lemon pepper, and garlic seasoning.  Yum!  Then it was sautéed with a store-bought onion, pepper, and yellow squash from Biggs Riggs Farm in Romney, West Virginia.

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Dessert was amazing, in a jaw-dropping way!!  Peter sliced up some peaches from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania and paired it with Trickling Springs Ice Cream from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  He topped it all with Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Granola!

By the way: I have not been to Pennsylvania many times, but I happened to have traveled to both Chambersburg and Shippensburg before!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peaches and Granola

Thank you, Peter!  The meal was deliciously fresh, and the Sauvignon Blanc was so memorably intriguing!  What a perfect summer meal.  :)

pete’s new haven style apizza.

I just wanted to quickly post about our visit to Pete’s last weekend.  It was a somewhat spur-of-the-moment lunch decision, but we wanted to go because it’s right nearby in Clarendon, we had never been before, and we had heard about it’s former Top 100 status.

It turns out New Haven style pizza (“apizza”) is very different and fascinating.  You can read about it on their website here.  Pete’s itself was pretty clean and modern, but I must admit that the pizza did not look like it was going to be very appealing.

Pete's New Haven Style Apizza & a Sorbillo

I ended up really enjoying my veggie slice though, and Chris liked his sausage slice too.  As advertised, the pizza did taste somewhat burnt on the outside, but then was also soft on the inside… kind of strange.  I don’t think there was actual truffle extract involved in my veggie slice (the mushrooms must have just been very nicely sautéed), but it seemed like it was there as I ate.  In my opinion, the more mushroom flavor, the better!  So thumbs up for that.

We also split their Original Sorbillo (“A rectangular shaped pizza filled with Salumi, ricotta, mozzarella”).  Yum.

We liked Pete’s, but I don’t know if we’ll go there again.  New Haven Style Apizza was intriguing, but just wasn’t exciting enough to give us many more cravings for the future.