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April 2005
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June 2005

May 2005

Food Writing for Food Lovers Seminar

I've got my ticket...Do you? Thanks to Culocho for telling me about this, because I never would have found out about it unless she pointed it out.

The Smithsonian Resident Associate Program is holding an all-day seminar at the S. Dillon Ripley Center (1100 Jefferson Drive, S.W.) on Food Writing For Food Lovers. The seminar will go from 10 AM to 4PM on Saturday, July 16th and will feature two sessions, led by Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food:  The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction, and More. After the two sessions, there will be a panel discussion with three food writers we know all too well: Kim Severson from the New York Times, Tom Sietsema from The Post, and Jeffrey Steingarten from Vogue Magazine. I for one wouldn't mind knowing if I'm sitting next to Tom at my next restaurant excursion, but he'll probably be wearing a paper bag over his head. :)

Tickets are $131 for non-members (Happy Birthday to me) and $85 for members. For full information on the event, go here.

Indian Lunch

All that posting about the Indian Kabab Dinner made me starving for Indian Food, so I followed through on my plans to eat Indian for lunch. We ended up going to Indique and luckily the weather held off long enough for us to finish our lunch outside on the balcony with a nice view of Cleveland Park. I ended up having the Chicken Tikka Makhani, the Mini Dosa, and a couple glasses of Viognier and I can't think of a better lunch I could've had today. It was very  yummy! Check out the pix I took in my photo album.

Indian Kabab and Bread Dinner

Sorry everyone. This event has been cancelled due to a lack of people signing up.

Ok, I know. I've been annoucing a lot of events lately and no reviews. But, I promise there is one coming soon since I ate at Tosca last night so stay tuned.

Hillvalley from is organizing an Indian Kabab and Bread dinner at Passage to India in Bethesda, Sunday June 26th at 5 PM. Tickets are $60 per person including tax (gratuity and drinks not included). The menu will include:

Patrani Machi
fish fillet marinated in cilantro-chilli chutney, wrapped in banana leaf and baked

Tandoori Bater
quails on the bone, marinated in yogurt, garlic and spices, then charbroiled

Phulkari Kabab
cauliflower florets grilled in the tandoor

Soya-Dal Paratha
lentil and wheat bread flavored with dill

Reshmi Malai Murgh
supreme of chicken, roasted and glazed with scallion cream

Maas Ke Sule
diced lamb smoked with cloves

Tandoori Kukkurmutta
grilled mushrooms

hearth-baked wheat balls with spiced 5 lentil stew

Murgh Kali Murchi
chicken morsels, moistened with cheese sauce and spiked with cracked peppercorns

Lagan Me Paan Ka Keema
minced lamb spiced with betel leaf and cooked en daube

Paneer Haryali
low-fat house pressed ricotta, with mint and pepper chutney

Sheermal-Kaddu Ka Dalcha
milk-enriched yeasty bread with a pumpkin and legume stew

Kareli Raan
lamb shanks braised and finished in the tandoor

Tandoori Aloo
dry-fruit-stuffed potatoes, glazed in the oven

Jali Mirchi Aur Tamatar
marinated and charred chunks of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers

Rumali-Mah Ki Dal
handkerchief-thin bread with our famous black lentils

Tandoori Phalahar
dates, pineapple, figs, grilled and steeped in ginger rum, served with reduced-milk ‘Rabri’

To signup and for te full information on the event, go here.

Oh, I went back and forth on what the proper spelling of kabob is: kabob, kabab, kebab, kebob, etc, etc...and then I looked here.

And now after writing out this menu, I must go to the closest Indian restaurant for lunch!

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Update: See my update post about the evening events that will be happening after the sun goes down.
What do chefs Mario Batali, Fabio Trabbochi, Morou, Michel Richard, Eric Ziebold, Alice Waters, Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudomme, Charles Phan all have in common?

They'll be at the Smithsonian Folklife festival on the National Mall June 23 through 27 and June 30 through July 4 exhibiting the cooking of Food Culture USA.
WCTC is also working with area restaurants to extend the festival from the Mall during the day into the city’s restaurants at night featuring special events, tastings and chef’s dinners. I'm looking to post more information later about this as the details of the events come in.

From the web site:
Summer is all about food—from lemonade to ice cream, from Memorial Day picnics to Fourth of July barbecues. This year, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 23-27 and June 30 - July 4) will turn its attention to the role of food in American society with Food Culture USA!, a multi-day, multi-chef and multi-stage exploration of cultivating, curing and cooking. Visitors to the Festival will see acclaimed chefs such as Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse sharing the secrets of their techniques on demonstration stages. Some of Washington, DC’s top chefs and restaurateurs from neighborhood favorites will also offer cooking demonstrations. Alice Waters will recreate her Edible Schoolyard on the National Mall to help children understand where their food comes from. And during the course of the Festival, Washington, DC chefs will take the celebration beyond the National Mall and into the city, demonstrating their own crowd-pleasing favorites with special chef’s dinners and menu selections in honor of the event.

Peter Kaminsky book signing

Peter Kaminsky will be doing a book signing of his new book, Pig Perfect, at Michel Richard Citronelle on Saturday June 4th at 12 PM. Peter Kaminsky is a cookbook author, New York Times columnist, and "hamthropologist" and his new book, Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, is all about his quests for all things porcine. Along with the book signing, Citronelle will be hosting a luncheon featuring all things pork:

Amuse Bouche of Pied de Cochon Salami
Tasting of Artisanal Ham
Jambon Persille Moulded in Aspic
Frisee Lardons with Eggs
Pork Shank Torte with Mushrooms and Onions
Baba Bourguignon with Red Wine and Cassis

For reservations, call The Smithsonian Associates at 202 375-3030 or visit Gen. Admission $141, RAP Members $95.

Beef Cheeks

Last night I was at Corduroy with my parents and as usual we had a great meal. Tom Power had a new dish on the menu, beef cheeks, which my dad was very puzzled about. When the waiter came over he said, "What are beef cheeks? They're not what they sound like are they?"

Our waiter smiled and then went on to explain that beef cheeks are the cows cheeks -- on their face, not their rear end. The meat on the face is actually very muscular, so they braise the meat for 4 hours until it's very tender. Once our waiter fully explained the dish, I couldn't help but order it. To say the least, the beef cheeks were fantastic -- very, very tender. The meat was like butter and  practically melted in my mouth while the portion of meat was fairly large as well. Also, there was Tom Power's usual demi glace, drissled all over the meat. Maybe a tad salty this time, but the extra salt really brought out the flavor of the meat.  And topping it off were the "Best green beans I've ever had according to Amy". There are pictures from last night in my photo album if anyone is interested. Keep in mind that my camera phone does not justice to the artfully crafted dishes at Corduroy.

Wine Specials

I thought it would be helpful for everyone if I highlighted all the places that have wine specials in DC including free corkage or half-price bottles. If you're unfamiliar with the term "corkage", it means that you can bring a bottle of wine with you to a restaurant and they uncork it for you. Most restaurants don't allow this. Some restaurants charge you a fee for uncork the bottle for you, but at some places, they uncork the bottle for free on certain days.

Andale - Half-price bottle of wine with any entree on Monday nights.

Cafe Deluxe - Half-price bottles on Monday nights.

Caucus Room - Free corkage on Friday and Saturday nights.

Chef Geoff's - Half-price bottles, on the last Monday of every month.

Iota - Half-price bottles and glasses on Monday night till 10 PM.

Lavandou - Free corkage Monday nights.

Little Fountain Cafe - Half-price bottles on Wednesday nights.

Melrose Bar - Free corkage on Sunday nights assuming you don't being a bottle that they already have on the wine menu.

Olazzo - Half-price bottles on Monday nights.

Peacock Cafe - Half-price bottles of wine under $60 on Monday and Tuesday nights.

If you get a chance, you should definitely take advantage of any place offering free corkage. You get a chance to take a really nice bottle of wine with you to dinner and save a lot on your bill. Seriously, you can stop at your local wine store on the way to dinner. I actually have a very nice 2001 Flowers Pinot Noir that I've been saving for a night at a place offering free corkage. Maybe I'll stop by Lavandou next Monday and finally drink it.


Taste of Wheaton

If you're looking for information about Taste of Wheaton 2006, look here.

Sorry for not giving everyone more advanced notice about this, but Taste of Wheaton is today. I have no clue what restaurants are participating, but I plan to go anyway. I've been meaning to check out the new restaurants in the Wheaton area for a while now. It's going on today from 11 AM to 5 PM at Wheaton Triangle: Reedie Drive and Grandview, Wheaton, MD 20902. Tickets are $1 each and get you one taste of food per ticket.

Thanks to Wahoooob for the tip.

Huong Que

Or Four Sisters if you like...Amy and I were there Sunday night (Mother's Day) for a last-minute dinner, because I failed to make any reservations to celebrate her first Mother's day. Yeah, I know, I'm horrible and how dare I forget such an important day and yada yada yada -- nevermind the flowers I got her last Thursday or the massage, facial, and manicure package I got her at Serenity Day Spa down the street. Oh and yes, I finally went to a restaurant in Virginia and I'm writing about it!

So I called to make a reservation at about 4:00 PM -- you know me, Mr. Plan Ahead and it turned out they don't take reservations. I asked how long the wait would be at around 7 or 7:30 PM which was when we planned to arrive, and the person on the phone said it should only be about 15 minutes. OK. Wonderful. When 6:30 PM rolled around, I was starving. I dragged Amy upstairs to get ready and then we left.

Now, the last time I went to Four Sisters was four years ago when I lived all the way out in Gaithersburg of all places (not that there's anything wrong with that). I remembered it being very good, but that was a long time ago, when I had far less taste than I do now. Seriously, my taste buds have come a long way since then. There are many places that I used to frequent back then and I thought were fine quality eateries that I'd be embarrassed to walk into today. But with all respect to Tom Sietsema and just about every other food critic in the area that says Four Sisters is great Vietnamese food, I didn't have much to worry about. I'll tell you right now that I'm not going to say anything different than what you can read in The Post or Washingtonian. Our meal was great. So you can keep reading if you want to.

When we arrived around 7, the parking lot was a complete sprawling mess. I think everyone decided to go to the Eden Shopping Center that night because parking spaces were a rare commodity. I drove up and down a couple aisles and then gave up and had Amy run in to put our name on the list. I was really worried that the hostess was full of shit when she told me that it would be a 15-minute wait. After driving around for 15 minutes and having three or four nearly-found parking spots, I finally was able to snag a spot in the front row where no one was looking. Lucky me! When I got inside, Amy still hadn't given her name to the hostess, but she said that no one was waiting and they were just seating people as they greeted them. Phew, so it wasn't as bad as the parking lot looked.

Overall, the restaurant hasn't changed much -- it still has the feel of a family diner, only slightly nicer and it serves alcohol. We were coming in after the dinner rush and the servers were working frantically to keep up the pace. We were seated and handed menus. The menus were so large that they made it almost impossible to make an educated decision. I'd go into detail about it, but I'd spend the rest of this post describing the menu to you.

I was really in the mood for beef -- I didn't care what it was -- I wanted it to be beef. I'm not sure why exactly, but I'm sure it had something to do with the smell in the air. I saw on the menu that Four Sisters has a 7-course beef menu, so I went for that. And Amy wanted the five-spice beef that she remembered was so good from our last trip there -- so good in fact, that she still remembered the taste of it four years later.

My food started coming out pretty soon after we ordered. The first dish was beef fondue - strips of very lean, rare beef that I was supposed to cook in a sweet onion fondue. I could then mix the beef with fresh greens like basil and mint and wrap them in rice paper together. A few minutes later, before I could finish taking pictures (See my photo album) of the first dish, the second dish appeared which turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal. The beef salad was made with chilled, lean strips of beef with red onion, basil, mint, and lime juice. I was very impressed with how much I enjoyed this dish with its complex sweet and sour flavors.

Either the Vietnamese eat really fast, or I was just a slow eater Sunday night. A third dish suddenly appeared, there was no room on our small table, and I had no clean plates to clear. The expeditor pushed some plates around and found some room -- I guess he was used to making room on those small tables. Right about this time, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. I was only half way done with my first two dishes and I had yet to even touch the latest dish which was actually three different courses in itself -- ground beef, rice and onions wrapped in grape leaves; grilled beef with garlic; and ground beef and ginger kabobs (at least that's what they looked and tasted like, the real name is escaping me -- damn me for not taking notes). I found the ground beef in grape leaves a little bland. It might have been the fact that the other dishes had so much flavor and seasoning on them -- the ground beef with garlic was, well, loaded with garlic, much like the beef kabob was loaded with ginger.

The next course actually took a little longer to come out, so I had some time to catch up. If they attempted to bring out another dish, there wouldn't have been any room.  Finally, I finished the first two courses and they brought out the sixth and seventh course, which really made up a single course. The first was a thick beef broth with rice and the other was a very large beef meatball the size of my hand which I mashed up into bite-sized bits and placed in the soup. The beef broth was slightly salty, but not too salty. The meatball also had rice in it so this dish turned out to be significantly filling. Whoever said "Chicken soup is good for the soul" has never had this soup. 

Amy had a little of her five-spice beef left, so I ended up eating a little of her dish as well. I always have liked Four Sisters' five-spice beef ever since the first time we ordered it. They give you four or five skewers of grilled, spiced tenderloin strips, rice paper, a bunch of fresh herbs, cucumbers, vermicelli and carrot shavings. You then take all of the ingredients, wrap them in a piece of rice paper, and dip it in their freshmade sauce. One complaint that I had about this trip is that the rice paper was a little stale. Maybe they left ours sitting near a stove for a little long, but the edges were a bit dried out and chewy. Other than that, everything was great. We skipped dessert. These days, Amy can barely finish her main course, let alone have dessert, and I was full after eight different beef dishes. One other thing worth mentioning is that Amy ordered the lemonade which turned out to be real, fresh-squeezed lemonade -- not that Minute Maid sludge that most restaurants serve out of the fountain.

Our server was courteous and friendly, and when she had time she made sure we knew how to eat what was in front of us. She was working pretty hard and doing her best to get around to all of her tables quickly without being too brusque. Four Sisters has a fairly large floor staff of waiters, expeditors, and bus people. All of them make for a fairly smooth dining experience. I can't say that the service is great every trip we've made to Four Sisters, but this time I can.

The bill after two entrees, two beers and two lemonades was about $40. My seven courses of beef were $18 total and made up a majority of the bill. Overall, a very reasonably-priced meal and definitley on the cheap eats list. Four Sisters is also a great place to go with a large goup of people because the larger tables have lazy susans that make it easy to order many different dishes and share them all. Next time I go, I plan to go with a bunch of friends and order as many different dishes as possible.

Four Sisters (Huong Que)
6769 Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22044
(703) 538-6717

Fri-Sat 10:30 am-11 pm
Sun-Thu 10:30 am-10 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Strip mall parking lot
Reservations: Not taken
Smoking: Not allowed
Nearest Metro: East Falls Church (Orange Line)