Friday, April 13, 2012

Fish Friday: Deconstructed Sushi

A typical fast Fish Friday:  fresh salmon, served raw, pan fried salmon skin, a ripe avocado, and some brown rice. We serve it with soy sauce with a dangerous helping of wasabi.  Easy, fast, healthy, and delicious!

Even though we occasionally (and with some success) try more complicated dishes and meals, sometimes simple is best.  Like this blog post, for example.

C & D

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pizza Pizza!

Sausage and peppers pizza: see below for our recipe
Elizabeth has weird eating tastes.  She doesn't eat corn (really?) and she doesn't like pizza as much as most Americans do.  The problem isn't that she's not American (she is), but rather that a lot of pizza just isn't that good.  (We're looking at you, Pizza Hut and Domino's.)  Enter our completely homemade pizza.  Well, kinda - the sauce on our first pizza came from a jar, and the cheese and sausage on the 3rd pizza were store bought, but everything else, from scratch.  We promise!  And also, how could you expect us to package our own sausage?  We're still full-time students!  And we don't want to know how the sausage is made!

A little while ago, we bought one of those kits where you can make your own fresh mozzarella cheese.  It's a close call whether it ends up being cheaper to make it ourselves than to buy it from the store, but perhaps we had a stronger sense of ownership in the cheese, making it taste better (maybe the love made it better... wait, of course the love made it better).  
For more on the labor theory of value and its applicability to the culinary arts, please see our forthcoming economics blog.

In any case, we decided to take our cheese and make some pizza. Our favorite pizza dough recipe actually makes enough dough for three pizzas, so we made three different pizzas (over the course of several days).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Scream, You Scream: Ice Cream

For Ben's birthday last year, Elizabeth got him an ice cream maker.  We had been talking about getting an ice cream maker for a while, so we were excited to get this bad boy.

We had a somewhat disastrous first foray into ice cream with an avocado ice cream that didn't initially set (possibly because the core was not fully frozen - yay impatience!) and then froze like a solid block in the freezer.  Also, it tasted kinda bland.

This vanilla ice cream we made, though, was SO rich and creamy, Elizabeth could feel the fat being added onto her Insanity abs.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fish Friday: Salmon with Lemon Caper Butter, Garlic Asparagus and Basil Couscous

Some point last semester, we decided to eat more fish.  For one, we found that we were eating a ton of beef and chicken, which was getting a little boring.  But also, fish is healthier, and if you saw our earlier series on the cleanse, we begrudgingly care about this.  So we decided, completely coincidentally with Roman Catholic tradition (both of us are Protestants), to make our Friday dinner a fish dish. It was actually the alliteration that berthed Fish Friday; Fish Tuesday just isn't that much fun.

So it's our tradition to go to Whole Foods on Friday afternoons (we're high rollers) to get fresh fish - whatever's on sale - and whip up a new, relatively healthy fish dish. We've had fish and chips, which we pictured earlier, and a whole variet of steamed, grilled, fried, deep-fried fishes, including tilapia, cod, branzini, salmon, tuna and chilean sea bass (for you old timers, the Patagonian toothfish).

This Friday we decided to make some salmon with lemon caper butter, garlic asparagus, and basil couscous.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicken Tabaka with Green Bean Borani

Elizabeth found this recipe for chicken tabaka in the Wall Street Journal, so we decided to try it.  We wish we had a more compelling backstory - kinda like the backstory in the actual article involving bribery and dining behind the Iron Curtain - but we don't.  We needed something to eat for Tuesday dinner, and this dish seemed like a winner without too many new ingredients.

Of course, we could lie to you - after weeks of hiking through the thick jungles of Costa Rica, foraging on berries and tree bark, we finally reached our destination: the long-lost Temple of Viastu.  When we arrived, we walked in the foyer and saw a copy of the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.  In it, we saw the recipe for chicken tabaka and decided to make it when we got home.  Better?

We had never made or even eaten Cornish game hen before, so this was a learning experience for us.  For your convenience, we'll reprint the recipe here (with some modifications) and give our thoughts on the dish afterwards - thanks Wall Street Journal!  (Note: we only used two hens, but we'll post the full recipe that uses 4.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another Blog to Check Out

If you needed more evidence that 3L year of law school should be a time for cooking and blogging, not for reading cases and studying, then check out the blog that one of our classmates recently started called Legal Tines.  Coincidentally, she wrote a blog piece taking advantage of the same eggplant sale that we saw and used for our own entry, and both of us made eggplant parmesan.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Annapolis: Lunch at Sam's at the Waterfront

On our way back from Delaware, we made a stop for lunch in Annapolis.  We don't know a ton about the city (probably because it's in stupid Maryland), but using some combination of Yelp, Google Maps, and a bit of chance, we stumbled upon Sam's at the Waterfront.  Sam's is randomly located at Chesapeake Harbour Marina.  We initially thought it would be in the downtown area of Annapolis (Ben thought of the Georgetown waterfront).  Oops.  In any case, we had a nice lunch.

This is the calamari with sriracha mayo. We always order
calamari as an app, and this mayo was extra special.
We started with the calamari, as is our habit (see our previous post).  We don't really understand why, though.  Ben wasn't a particularly adventurous eater growing up, though he wasn't picky - in either case, he steered clear of calamari until sometime after college.  Elizabeth was grossed out by squid as a kid, to the dismay of her parents.  She remembers one day when she went out to eat with her brother and dad; her dad ordered "onion rings" for the table and Elizabeth loved onion rings.  These were chewier than normal but still delicious.  When her dad told her that it was actually squid, she didn't believe him.  Tricky dads. 

In any case, now it's a staple for us when we go out, and this one was a winner.  The calamari itself was light, crispy, and well-seasoned.  But the sriracha mayo was the real hero of this dish.  It was tangy and sweet, and it had just the right amount of heat.  We have not yet attempted to make calamari ourselves (if only because we have it so much when we go out).  But when we do, we will definitely be trying to recreate the sriracha mayo.  We'll let you know how it turns out.

Elizabeth's first lobster roll.  Glad it wasn't at Quizno's.
For our entrees, Elizabeth had the lobster roll.  This was Elizabeth's first lobster roll, and it won't be her last.  Pretty much all of the seafood we had during our stay in the Chesapeake area was incredibly fresh and delicious, and the lobster roll was no exception. We're pretty sure that the lobster didn't exactly come from the harbor, but still.  Maybe they just have higher standards since so much good seafood does come from Chesapeake Bay.  Either way, it was a pretty good lobster roll.  The shoestring french fries were a hit as well.

This burger is so photogenic. Too bad it was overcooked -
more medium well than medium rare.
Ben ordered the Kobe beef burger (it was on special) with bacon, blue cheese, and sauteed mushrooms.  The flavors were all fine, but sadly, Sam's committed a cardinal sin in Ben's book - though Ben asked for the burger to be cooked to medium rare, they sailed clear past that, almost to well done.  Ben hates sending food back unless it's inedible, but his general rule is that he never orders that item from them again.  And if the same restaurant overcooks a different meat or other menu item, they are blacklisted.  It's a real shame too because, if the burger were cooked to medium rare, it would have had the potential for true greatness.

C & D

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rehoboth Beach: Dinner at Lupo di Mare

Cape May - a day trip from Rehoboth Beach.  Darn!
Forgot to take pictures of Rehoboth.
Spring break is upon us!  That means sunny beaches, warm temperatures, tropical beverages, and all the rest, right?  Well, we decided that, because of the unseasonably warm winter, we didn't have to head south to enjoy the sun, and as a result, we ended up in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Sadly, the weekend we were there was marred by chilly weather and even some snow flurries.  Even so, we had a pretty nice trip.  We also had a little day trip to Cape May, New Jersey, which was cute.

While in Rehoboth Beach, we went to a couple of good restaurants, including Lupo di Mare, which has a pretty good Sunday dinner deal - 3 courses for $19.  We decided to pay them a visit, and we weren't disappointed.

This was the cauliflower bisque with truffle oil.
After the customary bread and olive oil, we got our starters.  Elizabeth had the salad, and Ben had the cauliflower bisque with truffle oil.  We also ordered some fine meats and cheeses to go along with the starters.  The cauliflower bisque was pretty yummy, though the truffle oil didn't add a ton to the dish.  Elizabeth's salad was not the best or worst salad ever - it lay somewhere in that range otherwise known as "forgettable."  The two starters - actually, everything we ordered except the meat and cheese - came from a set menu from which the special deal was available.  We probably wouldn't have ordered those two dishes without the special, but hey, it was a good deal, and the starters weren't so bad.

This bread was so yummy, and the olive oil had a
delightful saltiness that Elizabeth loves.
The bread was a nice treat, though.  Also, the pecorino and bresaola were pretty fantastic.  A little while ago, we bought some pecorino because we thought it was a substitute for parmesan.  It was definitely a bit sharper, perhaps since it's made from sheep's milk or some other reason (we admit we don't know a ton about cheese).  This one was quite smooth, though, with enough of a bite to make it interesting.  The honey and almonds rounded it out quite well.

We enjoyed making little sandwiches with pieces of bread, pecorino, and bresaola (and a touch of olive oil).  We could probably get used to those sandwiches.  If there's a picnic post at some point in the near future, look out.

3-4-year-old bresaola and baked pecorino

Our entrees were pretty standard and standard-looking - we just had a seafood pasta dish and chicken marsala.  Sadly, we didn't take pictures of them.  Now it just seems kind of empty not posting our entrees.  It's as if we had dessert and snacks for dinner only.  You'll have to take our word for it.  Speaking of dessert, we both had the tiramisu.  We brought it home with us because we were stuffed, but it was a good one.  Elizabeth ranks it quite high on her all-time rankings.  And this means something because tiramisu is Elizabeth's all-time favorite dessert.

Elizabeth liked the tiramisu - that's high praise, as Nicolas
Cage (via Andy Samberg) might say.
It was a good meal for the right price.  If we come back to Rehoboth Beach (perhaps when it's warmer), we could come back here.

Though we didn't take pictures, we also went to Pig & Fish for a happy hour that turned into an impressive meal.  We started with the andouille mussels and fried green tomatoes, which were both pretty delicious.  We've been suckers for mussels for a while - there's about a 50% chance that we'll order either mussels or calamari whenever we order appetizers with dinner.  There's were hard to beat.  The fried green tomatoes were also pretty good.  Elizabeth had never had them before, but she was a fan.

For our entrees, Elizabeth had the pork belly with white cheddar grits and collard greens.  The pork belly was not quite as good as what we had at Orzo in January, but it was crispy and delicious.  Ben had a nice salad and one of the specials: a flatbread pizza with speck, ham, smoked mozzarella, and some other goodies.  Though Ben can't remember exactly what else was on it (why oh why do we wait a week to post?), it was one of the better pizzas he's had in a while.  This place definitely seemed like a dime-a-dozen bar when we walked in (our plan was just to get some drinks and find someplace else for dinner), but it definitely got the job done in the end.  We may or may not go back to Lupo di Mare the next time we're in Delaware.  But we'll definitely go back to Pig & Fish.

C & D

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

There's nothing like a good sale to prompt attempting a new dish.  We saw eggplant on sale at Kroger at 10 for $10.  Thus we decided to try our hands at a classic, eggplant parmesan.

Fresh out of the oven.
We borrowed from this Food Network recipe - primarily the part where you salt the eggplant slices and let them hang out for an hour.  Instead of the quick marinara in the recipe, we made our own sauce.  We sauteed half an onion, half a yellow bell pepper, celery, and carrots, added it to a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, added some salt, pepper, and olive oil, and simmered it for maybe 20 or 30 minutes.  After that, we stuck the sauce in the blender to make it nice and smooth.  From there, we assembled the final product, layering the sauce with mozzarella, parmesan, and the eggplant slices (which we, of course, breaded and fried).

Gooey, cheesy, and delicious.  The way it should be.
When Ben has had eggplant parmesan in the past, it's frequently been kinda soggy and sad.  This one happily did not fit that description.  The cheese was nice and golden brown on the top, and the eggplant was fantastic.  This one is definitely making it into our dinner rotation - that is, whenever eggplant goes back on sale.

C & D

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adventures with Empanadas

Some of you, especially in our massive fan base in New York, may have heard of Empanada Mama.  When Ben was last in New York, he went to a party that was catered by them.  Most of their food was straightforward, if not tasty, Latino cuisine, but it wasn't until the dessert round that Ben discovered their caramel and cheese empanadas, which were just the best thing ever.*  The host of the party refused to allow anyone to leave until all the empanadas were out of her apartment - Ben was happy to oblige and took as many caramel and cheese empanadas as he could fit into a paper bag.

Crispy, delicious empanadas.
A little while ago, Elizabeth discovered that the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board was celebrating cheese with their blog, whose theme this year was 30 different ways to make macaroni and cheese in 30 days.  First of all, congratulations to the WMMB for a fabulous idea.  Second, there were some pretty awesome recipes featured there (at some point, Ben really wants to try the breakfast mac and cheese).  The recipe that really stuck out, submitted by Always Order Dessert, was the one for guava mac and cheese empanadas.  How could two foods from such different worlds come together in fried doughy goodness?

Was it coincidence that we discovered empanadas we'd like to try months apart?  Ben likes to think it's fate.  Either way, we decided to try our hand at some empanadas of our own.  We had a recipe for the guava mac and cheese empanadas.  We also decided to make some basic shredded beef empanadas, using the filling recipe found here.  And finally, we decided to try to recreate the caramel and cheese empanadas as best as we could.  (For simplicity's sake, we just used the empanada wrapper recipe for the guava mac and cheese empanadas, tripled.)

The guava mac and cheese empanadas were a real winner.  For one, the mac and cheese, made with gruyere, was pretty spot on.  But the combination of guava and mac and cheese worked really well.  Ben used to eat guava paste with queso blanco growing up (because his mom, from Puerto Rico, ate it growing up).  The total package, reminiscent of that except with a flaky crust to boot, was just sublime.

The shredded beef empanadas also turned out well.  We enjoyed these with a bit of guacamole (the remainder of which was annihilated by some friends after a night of drinking), which gave some creamy balance to the salty, savory empanadas.

Sadly, our iteration of the caramel and cheese empanadas was not as successful.  Since we did not have a recipe (we emailed Empanada Mama, but they would only tell him that the cheese used was mozzarella), we had to improvise.  We used a dulce de leche recipe from Alton Brown (Ben's non-mother cooking hero) and added it plus some shredded mozzarella to the empanada shells.  Though all the flavors were definitely there, they just didn't seem to come out right.  We didn't seem to have added enough dulce de leche, but it was hard to add much more without it all escaping before we could seal the empanada.  Maybe it wasn't thick enough.  In any case, we'll try them again soon.

C & D

*That is, until the next time we say the "best thing ever" on this blog.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

V-day at L'Étoile

Elizabeth wishes there were 2 more.  They were yummy.
Because we're high rollers, we decided to have a fancy prix-fixe Valentine's Day dinner at L'Étoile (you DO pronounce the last 'l' - saying "L'etoi" sounds TOO pretentious).  For our first course, Elizabeth had the raw oysters, and Ben had the foie gras au torchon (talk about pretentious!) with marmalade. Elizabeth was a little disappointed at the paltry number of oysters she got - probably because, compared with Ben's foie gras, it was puny!  But honestly, Ben's appetizer was quite large, particularly by fine dining standards.  There was a large slice of foie gras and a bunch of other fun things.  Apparently torchon comes from the French for "dish towel" and is made by putting the foie gras in a towel and then poaching it. By the way, Elizabeth bought Ben the French Laundry Cookbook, which describes how to serve foie gras au torchon.

No trip to a nice French restaurant would be complete
without a little (or a lot of) foie gras.
Okay, just look at the pictures. My text description has gotten ridiculously pretentious ridiculously fast.

In the foreground is Elizabeth's filet.  Off in the distance is Ben's delicious
duck breast.  By the end of the night, after foie gras and duck breast,
Ben was quacking.
Crème brûlée.  Another classic.
Ben had the cheese plate to mix things up.  He'd never done
a cheese plate before.  Good choice. 
Elizabeth had crème brûlée for dessert (with all the accents, this paragraph might be the most pretentious one in the post).  Her words: "Whenever I crack the top, it always reminds me of the movie Amélie.  Well, actually I'm not sure I've ever had crème brûlée before. But I've cracked a lot of fictional crème brûlées in my head, and all those fictional crème brûlées remind me of Amélie."  It seems reasonable that a dessert as delicious and fun as crème brûlée could inspire dreams and fantasies like these.

Neither of us really think much about French food, and while L'Étoile is a fantastic restaurant that we planned on visiting eventually, it never really our short list of fancy places to try until recently.  (You have to pick and choose when you're on a law student budget - also, ordering that extra glass of wine or dessert can feel a little wrong when we're staring at almost $300,000 in combined law school debt in only a few short months.  Can't wait!)  But L'Étoile did not disappoint.

Perhaps, given the cost of dining there (we spent over $200 on this meal), we may not be back before we leave.  And it's hard to fathom eating this decadent, rich cuisine more often than just special occasions.  But maybe you will see Ben try out a few recipes from the French Laundry cookbook.  We will be sure to share our successes (or failures) with you.

C & D

Dinner at Brookville

Honestly, we never thought we would go to Brookville because, well, no one we know has ever gone there, and plus the website looked weird.  But the website changed!  So anyway, we decided to go, and we are so glad we did because the food and service were great.  Here are some pictures (note: not pictured - our appetizer of delicious shrimp and an amuse-bouche that slips our mind - again, the perils of not posting promptly):

Elizabeth had the fried chicken thigh on a bacon waffle.
Ben had the lamb dish, which featured lamb shoulder and chops.
Pretty good.

We shared the root beer float with bacon ice cream.  The menu was a little
bacon-heavy.  Nothing wrong with that.
All in all, it was pretty good meal.  Ben thought the chef sounded a little pretentious - we got a speech about local food at the beginning from our waiter that wasn't especially unique (many restaurants in Charlottesville source locally, e.g. The Local), and there were a lot more suggestions on what to order than normal.  Even still, the food was pretty good, and we'll probably be back at some point.  Where else can you get bacon ice cream?

C & D

Monday, February 27, 2012

Orzo Anniversary Dinner

Back to Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar!  We really enjoy Orzo every time we come here but for some reason, it hasn't been on the tippy top of favorite places to eat.  It probably doesn't help that every time we look at the menu, we can never remember anything that we've ordered before.  It's like we have fond feelings but no actual knowledge to prove it.  Good but unmemorable food.  That feeling changed with this visit.  Orzo was on their A-game all night and at the end, we were both ready to put Orzo up there with the Local, Mas, and Fossett's and all the other fabulous fine dining establishments we're lucky to have in our li'l town of Charlottesville.

Ben resisted the urge to dive head-first into the plate
as Elizabeth took this picture.
Ben ordered the braised Niman Ranch pork belly, Carolina shrimp, creamy polenta, and caramelized Brussels sprouts.  This was SO delicious, especially, surprisingly, the Brussels sprouts.  I actually love Brussels sprouts but these were outshining the pork belly.  (A nod to you vegetarians. See, we like vegetables!)  The sprouts were just cooked to absolute perfection all around. The shrimp reminded me of the delicious and popular shrimp at Mas.

Dear Orzo, Thank you for cooking me perfectly.  My
death was not in vain.  Sincerely, Salmon
Elizabeth ordered the herb-dijon crusted salmon, orzo "risotto," truffle butter, toasted almonds and braised leeks.  The salmon - just cooked to perfection.  We cleaned our plates, the both of us.

We're pretty sure we ordered the arancini di riso:  risotto, ricotta, scallion pistou, remoulade with Italian white anchovies.  That app, the one we actually had, was a total winner, and the extra Italian white anchovies - they cost $3, were totally worth it.  Look at us, big spenders.  A lot of people don't like anchovies (anchovies are another one of our favorite tapas at Mas), but you're definitely missing out (an anti-nod to vegetarians there).  More anchovies for us then.

A good night was had by all.  And by all, we mean the two of us.  Yay Orzo!

C & D

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Restaurant Week at Fossett's

Charlottesville had Restaurant Week from January 23 - 29, so we decided to take the opportunity to go to Fossett's.  Of course, we accidentally wrote the date of our reservation wrong.  Elizabeth recorded the dinner as happening on Tuesday, but it turns out our reservation was for Saturday.  Luckily, Fossett's had room for us anyway, so we didn't get all dressed up for nothing.

For our appetizers, we had the hand rolled trofie, which was made of braised local lam shoulder, rosemary and stony man cheese.  Trofie are gnocchi made with flour, water and a little bran.  stony man cheese seems to be local Virginia cheese.

Everything we had (including the trofie) was just amazing, so we thought we'd share some pictures we took.  Enjoy!

From pancetta wrapped monkfish, braised red cabbage, mustard nage,
rye croutons.

Wagyu beef, horseradish beignets, maitre d'butter, crispy garlic,
parsley fonduta.  Yum.

Duck confit with ricotta gnocchi, baby mustard greens, butternut squash
nage and cracklin's.  At least, we think this is that...
This is the problem of very late updating.

Frozen vanilla bean souffle, red wine
poached, spiced Albemarle apples.
Ben had the souffle pictured left, and Elizabeth had the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Medjool Dates and whipped Devonshire Cream but the picture came out fuzzy. This souffle was much better anyway.

Some of our friends mentioned that Fossett's went with the B menu (i.e. no super fancy ingredients like foie gras) because of Restaurant Week.  We don't know if that's true, but we do know that our meal was fantastic.  Hopefully we'll have a chance to go one more time before departing to DC.  And if not, then maybe we can make the 2.5-hour drive every now and then.

We're still working on our backlog of pictures and commentary, so hopefully we'll have a few more posts in the coming days.

C & D

Tomato, Burrata, and Spinach Salad

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fish Friday: Cod Fish & Chips

Sorry this image is so phallic.
We borrowed the fish recipe from Alton Brown, using some fresh cod.  (Also, we used a Fat Tire from the beer - at some point we'll write an ode to Fat Tire.)

C & D

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Roadtrip: From Los Angeles to Austin, TX

The crab claw curry and pineapple fried rice from Jitlada.
It has been a while since we've posted here.  This is in part because 1) it is difficult to find the energy to write after spending 8 hours on the road, and 2) classes have started again.  Thus we have a bit of a backlog of things to talk about.  (After this post, we have to talk about our recent trips to Orzo and Fossett's.)

We decided to do the roadtrip for reasons that are unclear to us in retrospect.  Even so, we had a fantastic time over our seven days of traveling.  We also got to try some interesting food (though we won't bore you with tales of the footlong Spicy Italian sub from Subway).

The Crying Tiger from Jitlada.
We started in Los Angeles, and for dinner we went to one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Jitlada, with some friends from the area.  We first went to Jitlada in January 2011, when searching for a random place to eat after coming from the Griffith Observatory.  We ended up going back about a week later (our trip to LA was about 10 days long).  This is definitely the best Thai restaurant we've ever been to.  In addition to being especially delicious, many of the dishes here are SPICY.

We started with the tom kha soup, which was so delicious that the table decided to order seconds.  For our entrees, we had the crab claw curry, crying tiger, and pineapple fried rice.  Though all thought the crab claw curry was delicious, Ben probably ended up eating most of it given its insane level of heat.  (Elizabeth may have blacked out momentarily from the spiciness - we didn't know that was possible.)  The crying tiger, which apparently was featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, was also delicious.  The pineapple fried rice served as a nice contrast to the heat of curry and crying tiger, and the presentation in a carved out pineapple was lovely.  We're definitely looking forward to coming back here next time we're in LA.

Ben just had a steak, but he tried some elk too.  Delish.

After LA, we drove eastward, making stops in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, and Texas.  Sadly, we did not get the full picture of Southwest cuisine during the rest of the trip, but there were definitely some highlights.  Staying at the Grand Canyon, for example, Elizabeth tried elk for the first time, and it was pretty good.  Neither of us had ever seen elk on a menu before, though we did see plenty of signs along the road telling us to watch out for them.

The elk, with delicious mashed potatoes and veggies.
Mmm... brisket and ribs.

When we got to Texas, though, we did go to two standout places.  The first was Smitty's, in Lockhart, Texas.  Lockhart, which bills itself as the "BBQ Capital of Texas," has several great barbecue places to choose from.  Ben has previously been to Smitty's, and we decided to go back.  We ordered the brisket, some ribs, and sausage.  Served with some bread, an avocado, and a couple of Shiner Bocks, the meat was phenomenal: juicy, flavorful, tender, delicious, juicy... all the things that make great barbecue great.  And, of course, no sauce was necessary.  (It's apparently a crime to ask for sauce for your barbecue in Texas.)
Ribs, with a side of lovely avocado.

When we got to Austin, we went to a "trendy" Mexican restaurant called Takoba.  Elizabeth had a mango-habanero margarita, and Ben had a house Mexican martini.  Both were quite yummy - the mango-habanero margarita had a lovely kick to it too.  We started with the queso fundido, and for our entrees, Ben had the tacos al pastor and Elizabeth had the tortas de carnitas.  It was a fantastic meal - though inexplicably Ben couldn't finish his food, and Elizabeth rightly made fun of him.

Adding spice to fruity beverages?  Jitlada, meet Takoba.

The queso fundido.  So yummy - this may have been the
dish that put Ben away.

The tortas de carnitas.  Fabulous.

The tacos al pastor.  Ben could only wave wistfully at these.
And also taste them.  Yummy.

All in all, it was a great trip, and we ate pretty well.  Next time, Orzo and Fossett's, two of our favorite places to eat in Charlottesville.

A tomato from a friend's garden in Riverside, CA
A Louis Vuitton Store in Vegas - not actually edible
Everything's more syrupy in Texas
C & D

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Cleanse: Post-Game

What breakfast should really look like: poached eggs,
hashbrowns, sausage, blueberries, and avocado.  Yum.
For 10 challenging days, we took on the (admittedly 3- or 4-week) cleanse, brought to you by Whole Living.  Admittedly, we had to improvise to fit our schedule, but the last 10 days were tough all the same, and it feels good to have our friends meat, gluten, and alcohol back.  Of course, if our plan was just to cleanse for 10 days and then go back to old habits, then why bother with the cleanse?  (Although we gorged on the indulgent breakfast featured on the left). We definitely learned some interesting lessons about food and our eating habits during the cleanse.  First, a winner and loser from the second half of the cleanse:

Winner: avocado-vanilla smoothie.  This was a real crowd pleaser, and definitely something we'll incorporate into our future menus.  It's simple to make and delicious.  What more can you ask for?
We spent the day making dumplings.  We missed you,
pork and gluten.  Don't ever leave us again.
Loser: baked trout with broccoli, apple, and fennel slaw.  It's not fair because 1) we never actually used trout for this dish and 2) we didn't make the slaw dressing correctly, i.e. with actual applesauce.  But life's not fair.  Elizabeth thought there was just too much slaw (note: this is the only time that we thought there was too much food), and was not a big fan of it to begin with.  Ben appreciated the use of fennel, but didn't love the slaw.  The slaw is the real loser here.  We have no problem with baked mahi-mahi or tilapia.

Even though the cleanse is over, we're not going to abandon healthy eating completely.  Indeed, there are several takeaways from the last ten days:

1.  You can take pretty much any vegetable, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 20-40 minutes, and you'll have something delicious.  We've already done this with Brussels sprouts, and we did it during the cleanse with cauliflower, fennel, and garlic.  We will explore this theory further in the coming weeks.

2. It wouldn't crush us to eat mostly vegetables; it's the idea that we can't eat something - like meat, like chocolate, like caffeine - that really drove us crazy.  Vegetables doused in olive oil and salt and pepper or just pretty simple salads - except for the proportions we didn't feel deprived to eat delicious vegetables.  And we should eat five servings at least a day.  And we will.

3. Elizabeth noticed that this diet make her skin clearer, her eyes brighter and her waistline much thinner.  And she still had energy to start our 100-push-up challenge.  She could really get used to feeling this way and if this diet is the way to do it, well, she'd be pretty stupid not to try to incorporate as much of it into her normal diet and routine as she could stand.

We had some leftover dumpling filling and ran out of
flour for the wrappers, so we made meatballs with the rest.
4. Ben treats hunger pangs differently now.  Before, when Ben got hungry, it was a race to the kitchen (or Asian Express) to get lots of food, and he ate until he was full.  Now, the process is more managed. Hunger pangs can signal hunger, but they also might be the body saying you need water.  Or they could really be nothing.  Either way, the cleanse helped him be a little more patient when hunger arrives and a little more reasonable when eating.

Tomorrow, we're headed to LA and one of our favorite restaurants, Jitlada.  Hopefully we'll take some awesome pictures of the food we get (and the friends we are meeting there, of course).  Can't wait!

C & D