sauce workshop!

One of our wedding presents was a cooking class!  We were given a list of choices, and finally decided on a “sauce workshop.”  The workshop was quite an experience!  The beginning was a little funny as we all stood around waiting for everyone to arrive.  We read the handout, adjusted our aprons, and stared at each other around the room.  Once the class started, however, it was a FRENZY of action for two-and-a-half hours!  I thought about the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and marveled at how it all worked out somehow.

The class was full of characters.  Across the room, there was a Matt LeBlanc look-alike who kept confusing me when I’d see him out of the corner of my eye.  Our instructor reminded me (in looks and personality) of a (much nicer) Sue Sylvester.  She meant business, and definitely knew her stuff.

The most interesting character was our third teammate, “Stephanie.”  I put her name in quotation marks, because that is what her name tag read… and so naturally, that is what we called her for the entire class.  It wasn’t until the end that we figured out that she had replaced a Stephanie who couldn’t make it last minute, and had just decided to wear that name tag (and answer to that name) anyway!

“Stephanie” was super cool.  She was shorter than me, a grandmother, and an amazing cook.  I told her she needed to start teaching these classes herself.  “Stephanie” was very respectful of the chef teacher, but was constantly telling us everything she would do differently, as well as any additional tips she knew.  She had a quiet voice, so we would strain to catch these great bits of wisdom.  I was THIS close to asking her for her phone number after the class, because I would love to cook with her on a regular basis!

The instructor taught us about the mother sauces.  Apparently, tomato sauce is a fairly recent change to the list.  The first dish we made was Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.  Even though it was a sauce workshop, we spent awhile making the crab cakes.  I definitely appreciated learning this, however, so no complaints from me!  Also, I actually found the same recipe we used here.

Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Here are the other three recipes we made: Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc (maybe my favorite sauce), Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork (this pesto was awesome), and Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce (the instructor ended up demonstrating this one since we were running overtime).

Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc

Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork

Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

The class was great, and it really whetted my appetite (ha) to learn more about sauces.  Seriously, I had no idea that there was SO much to learn.  Here is one website I found that does a good job of explaining the basics.  I learned a lot of great cooking tidbits, like how to cook salmon in a pan, how to cook great gravy (hold back 2 degrees so that it can keep cooking off the heat, then strain it through paper towels), and the art of slowly adding ingredients.  Cooking classes are the best.  What a great present!

willow restaurant.

Chris and I recently went to Willow Restaurant right here in Arlington, thanks to a Groupon!  Seriously, half of the time we go out to eat,  we use a coupon from Savored (formerly “VillageVines”), Groupon, or LivingSocial.  We sat outside, because we’d sat inside last time we went… and the feel of the restaurant is completely different depending on where you sit.  Inside, it’s got a very posh vibe.  You walk up to the host desk, and you feel like you’re checking into a very expensive and ritzy hotel.  Or maybe a night club.  (Well, that might be a stretch.)  Outside, the feel is a lot more casual and informal (though definitely still classy!).  Unfortunately, although the temperature was somewhat cooler than usual that evening, it still felt extremely muggy outside!  Oh well.

Chris ordered the Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli (“Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms, Ragout of Corn, Peas, Fava Beans, Roasted Tomato, Bacon & Savory, Corn Sauce”), along with a glass of a Tocai Friulano (an Italian white variety!).

Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli

He loved it.  Scallops are his new favorite thing, and they were seared to perfection.  I was feeling like going veggie, so I ordered the Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus (“Fennel Raviolini, Potato Gnocchi, & Spring Vegetables with Gratin of Fennel & Savory, Black Truffle Butter”).  I also ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  (Typical.)

Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus

My meal was delicious, but I was so hungry going into dinner that afterwards I wished I’d ordered fish instead.

Willow is great, but I don’t dream about the food when I’m not there.  Food critics must agree… it was on the Top 100 list last year, but didn’t make the cut for 2011.  Sorry, Willow.  It’s definitely a nice place to have right around the corner!  The overall result — and the cost — make it more of a draw with a coupon though.

asparagus, goat cheese, & mushroom quesadillas!

I haven’t been cooking a lot this week.  We were out of town in Blacksburg last weekend, and let me just say that if you ever are in Blacksburg, you MUST go to Gillie’s for breakfast.  I love everything on the menu, but usually order the Red Earth (homemade salsa on top of scrambled eggs on top of potatoes!).  I need to recreate that sometime.  Anyway, this week has just been a busier one of leftovers, eating at Panera, eating at National’s Park, etc!  By the way, we totally missed these new vendors at the stadium.  That’s okay, Ben’s Chili Bowl is still pretty exciting.

I did want to share one of my favorite easy and quick veggie meals.  I consider myself a flexitarian (yes, that word is for real!), so I love eating vegetarian whenever I can.  Here is a recipe for goat cheese and asparagus quesadillas… and I always add mushrooms!

Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Mushroom Quesadillas

I’m starting to wonder if I only eat the same ingredients all the time?  I do love asparagus, goat cheese, and mushrooms.  :)  You can make these in a pan on the stove, but I’ve started using our little George Foreman grill instead.

I’m making a Mexican casserole this weekend for our friends who just had a baby, and then we’re having a couple over for Mexican food on Monday… so those are my next cooking adventures!

steak & potatoes {spanish style}

I studied abroad in Spain four years ago, and fell in love with the country!  Early on in our relationship, Chris and I went on a date to Jaleo, “the renowned tapas restaurant of José Andrés.”  Oh my goodness.  One sip of the sangria, and I was transported back to Spain!  The tapas were amazing, and I have since fallen in love with the food at every restaurant of his.  Chris and I actually had our rehearsal dinner at the Jaleo in Crystal City, and it was SO delicious and fun!

Anyway, I could go on and on about Chef José Andrés, and I’m sure I will write more entries on his food.  We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night, and I decided to make it Spanish-themed and use recipes by José!  His Made in Spain cookbook was the inspiration.  I made red wine sangria, beef tenderloin with picón cheese, sauteed green asparagus (white asparagus probably would have been more authentic!), and mashed potatoes with manchego and olive oil (that recipe can be found here).

Steak w/Blue Cheese Sauce & Asparagus

Here you can see most of the entire meal… I’m not sure why I put the mashed potatoes in a bowl when everything else was already on the plate!

Steak w/Blue Cheese Sauce, Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes w/Cabra Cheese, & Sangria!

There were a few adjustments.  I used ribeye steaks (cheaper) and Moody Blue Smoked Blue Cheese (from Screwtop!) for the sauce.  I also used Cabra cheese for the mashed potatoes (also from Screwtop) instead of Manchego.

Sangria!

What a fun night of Spanish-style food with our friends!  By the way, check out this new temporary restaurant of his that is opening up soon.  It’s going along with the National Archives’ exhibit, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?  I can’t wait!

asparagus tortellini + new zealand sauvignon blanc.

I always know I’ve fallen in love with a meal/food idea/type of wine/etc when I can’t stop thinking about it, and start feverishly finding out how to recreate it… or at least somehow have it again!  The asparagus sauce on my red snapper at Kinkead’s Thursday night was SO divine, it made me think back to the other delicious asparagus experiences of my life… asparagus soup at Teatro Golodoni during Restaurant Week two years ago… “asparagus three ways” at Citronelle the night Chris and I got engaged…

So yesterday I started searching the internet for an asparagus sauce recipe to use with pasta.  Amazingly, this was not easy to find, and I began to wonder if pasta with asparagus sauce was a strange idea?  I eventually found this yummy recipe from The Cooking Photographer.  I set to work and followed the ingredients and instructions pretty exactly.  I probably used more than a pinch of red pepper flakes (which gave it a really nice spicy element), and I also used cheese tortellini instead of ravioli.  The result was very nice!

Cheese Tortellini in Asparagus Cream Sauce with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Cheese Tortellini in Asparagus Cream Sauce

The wine was a 2010 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand (around $10 at Trader Joe’s).  It had all of the nice lime and citrus flavors that I remembered from the one I had at Kinkead’s.  I really like the asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc combo.  I’m not an expert though, so I searched the Internet for affirmation.  Apparently, asparagus is quite a challenge to pair with wine!  It felt good to see “crisp, and refreshing wines like Sauvignon Blanc” on the list though.  The cashier at TJ’s said her opinion was that New Zealand is the place for SB, and after two nights in a row of enjoying it… I may have to agree!

top 100 restaurants: kinkead’s

Chris and I are trying to go to all of the Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants. It’s a slow goal, but we are making progress! Last night, we tried out Kinkead’s, a seafood restaurant near the Foggy Bottom metro. We used Village Vines (they emailed us a free $10 credit) to get 30% off our final bill… always a good option for the more pricey restaurants.

It was a funny environment. Loved the live piano-playing! Kinkead’s seems to be the place where the rich, elderly people of DC go. Chris and I enjoyed people-watching, and gathered a lot of info by eavesdropping on nearby conversations! There was a family a few tables away, representing a few generations, where one older man seemed to know the waiter very well. To the right of our table, an elderly couple barely spoke as they ate, but laughed loudly at a joke the waiter told about how people are always on their cellphones these days. To the left, a couple (probably in their 30s) dined with their parents; it was apparently the first time both sets of parents were meeting each other. We were hoping for a proposal! Maybe it happened after we left.

This is Kinkead's logo - on everything at the restaurant!

Anyway, Chris ordered the Alaskan Halibut with Crab Imperial, Scallion Spoon Bread, Sweet Potato Puree, and Mustard Cream Sauce. I can’t find the exact name of what I ordered, but it was Red Snapper with Asparagus, and some sort of asparagus cream sauce (which I MUST learn how to make!). The portions were perfect, and the meals were divine!

The Alaskan Halibut - Chris' meal.

The Red Snapper - my meal.

For wine, we each ordered a different glass. Chris got a yummy red blend, and I chose a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I need to branch out more into white wines… I truly loved this one! Dryer, and oh so full of citrus flavors!

We really enjoyed our time at Kinkead’s, but I’m not sure if we’ll rush to go back (maybe if we’re living around here and rich when we’re in our 70’s!). The meals were delicious though, and we felt very refined as we ate.