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May 2006

Preserving Wine

Last week I was at Grapeseed in Bethesda and I noticed the bartender using a cool electric contraption to suck the air out of the wine and preserve it longer. I think she was getting the bar ready for closing and as she was putting each bottle away, she's put a special cork in the bottle, stick the top in the device, and you'd hear its motor turn on. I was intrigued by this device, and ever since I've been looking for one for I find that I'm turning myself into an alcoholic, drinking whole bottles of wine because I can't bear to let the leftovers sit over night.

Well, I wasn't able to find the device, but I've found something else that might do just as good of a job. It's basically an aerosol can filled with nitrogen gas that spray it into the wine bottle, removing most of the oxygen, which ruins the wine. While that oxygen is your friend for the first three or four hours, while you "let it breathe" after that, it becomes wines worst enemy.

Of course, there are always those hand-pump vacuum sealers, but I've tried using them before and they never seem to work very well. I'm going to try to find these sprays somewhere around here, but if I can't find it, I'll just order some off the Internet.


One of the few good things about working out in Largo is that I am close to a fabulous Jamaican/Caribbean eatery called Negril. Now, I know that Negril is no secret, at least to those of us that have lived in DC for more than a year, but I figured I would write about it anyway for the few people out there who haven't tried it yet. Negril has been doing what they do for more than 18 years now and have four locations around the beltway. As a family owned business, they control the recipes and quality of the food served quite well.

Lunch is a must at Negril. If you're in a hurry, Negril might not be the place for you. The line can be kind of long and all of the food is made fresh to order. I've waited 20 minutes sometimes for my order, but it's definitely worth it. You wait in line, give your order and you'll get a number. The smart thing is to call ahead, and then pick up your order which you can then eat there or take back to the office. 

For a couple years now, I've been going to Negril for lunch and only ordering one thing, the jerk chicken sandwich. I know, that's extremely boring, but have you had the jerk chicken sandwich??!! Think of moist, tender, and spicy jerk chicken topped with a lemony poppyseed sauce and served on their warm, fluffy fresh-made coco bread. Why do they call it coco bread? I have no idea. It's surely not made with coconuts.

The sandwich is fairly large, so it's enough by itself for lunch. However, I'll add one of the meat, vegetable, or chicken vegetable patties on the side. If your appetite isn't as large as mine, a quick lunch is one of these patties, with an order or coco bread. At $1.35 - $2.25 for the patty and $1 for the coco bread, it's about the cheapest lunch that I can think of around here. Just open up the coco bread by tearing it in half, put the patty in the middle, and close it. Voila! A Jamaican patty sandwich.

Dsc00243 Recently, I've branching out a bit and trying some of the other dishes at Negril. My current favorite is the chicken or goat roti. When I saw the word roti in the name of the dish, the first thing I thought of was an Indian whole wheat roti, and that's really what this is. Of course the roti is stuffed with a ton of tender shredded curried chicken, but for those of you who a scared of curry, don't let this scare you. It's NOT hot or overly spicy.  The next dish I want to try is the curried oxtail.

Negril is super cheap and you can get an incredible lunch for between $4 and $10 every time you go there. The portions are huge too, so you don't have to worry about needing a mid-afternoon snack. The only thing you do have to worry about is the afternoon food coma.

18509 N. Frederick Ave.
Gaithersburg, MD
(301) 926-7220

2301-G Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 332-3737
12116 Central Ave.
Mitchellville, MD
(301) 249-9101

Silver Spring
965 Thayer Ave.
Silver Spring, MD
(301) 585-3000

Food and Wine Events

Food and wine events for the week of May 19th through May 25th

Sun May 21
Taste of Arlington
12 PM to 5 PM

Taste of Wheaton
Grandview Avenue and Reedie Drive in Wheaton
11 AM to 5 PM
Tastes for $1 each

The 36th Annual Toast to Alexandria
Collingwood on the Potomac, Alexandria, VA
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mon May 22
Evening Star Cafe
Winemaker Dinner
7:15 PM
$85 per person(includes tax & gratuity)

Jaleo Downtown
Mushroom Wine Dinner
480 Seventh St, NW, Washington, DC
7:30 PM
Call 202-628-7949 for details and reservations

Tue May 23
Jaleo Bethesda
Mushroom Wine Dinner
7271 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD
7:30 PM
Call 301-913-0003 for details and reservations

Wed May 24
Butterfield 9 Restaurant
Prestige Cuvée Champagne Dinner
6:30 PM
150.00 per person inclusive

Learning at Laboratorio del Galileo
Grilling Class
Galileo Restaurant
6:30 PM

Raise a Toast at Poste
A special evening to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Poste Moderne Brasserie
6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
4-Course Rosenthal Wine Merchant's Portfolio Wine Dinner
IndeBleu Restaurant
7 PM to 9:30 PM

Thurs May 25
Galileo Restaurant
Iron Chef Dinner - Chef Donna and his Iron Chef team will prepare the winning squid dishes from their recent Iron Chef victory.
1110 21st St. NW, Washington, DC
$125 all inclusive - optional wine pairing for an additional $75
call 202-293-7191 for reservations

French Wine Society
Taittinger Champagne Tasting
The St Regis Hotel
The Saint Regis Hotel, 923 16th NW, Washington DC
6 PM
5-Course French Wine Dinner with James Beard Invitee Michele Garbee of Aquarelle Restaurant
Aquarelle Restaurant at the Watergate Hotel
8:00PM to 10:30PM

Jaleo Crystal City
Mushroom Wine Dinner
2250-A Crystal Dr, Crystal City, VA
7:30 PM
Call 703-413-8181 for details and reservations

To have your event listed in the weekly events post, email

Taste of Wheaton

Once again, it took someone emailing me to remind me about Taste of Wheaton this year.


Taste of Wheaton will be May 21st, from 11 AM to 5 PM. As usual, restaurants will be offering tastes of their food for $1 each. There are also musical events and other entertainment for the kids (usually involving clowns that scare the crap out of Amy), but honestly, who cares about that? These festivals are about the food!

Anyway, I attended this event last year with Amy and I had a lot of fun. This year we have Noah and it should be even more fun. Food festivals rock!

Click here for Taste of Wheaton details.

"Whale" Crabs?

I received this via email today from Sushi-Ko's publicity agency.

"Whale" crabs, the fish monger's term for the elite and colossal
size soft shell crabs with a limited season, have arrived, as have the delicious
fresh Alaskan Spot Prawns. Considered a delicacy, Alaska's Spot Prawns are proudly
hailed for their sweet, delicate flavor and firm texture. Their robust size makes
them the largest shrimp in Alaska, with some reaching over five inches long.

At Sushi-Ko, guests can presently savor the Alaskan Spot Prawn sashimi with fresh
wasabi. The prawns arrive every Friday, making them available on weekends only
at the restaurant. The shrimp head is fried and the remainder is served as sashimi
priced at $11.

"In the spring the Whale Crabs first come up to us from Florida, and as temperatures
warm up, our supply is provided from Maryland waters and remain on our menu until
the fall," says Allen Smith, General Manager of Sushi-Ko.  "Crab connoisseurs
eagerly await their appearance each spring and these Whales are not easy to find."

Savory Whale crabs average $13.50 each (market price) and require special treatment
to maintain their intense flavors and delicate texture. Koji Terano and his
team at Sushi-Ko have mastered the correct cooking approach. They are prepared
"Kara-age". In this preparation the crab is lightly dusted with potato starch
and flash fried to achieve a light, crisp exterior.

It sounds like the best bet is to wait till later in the spring or early summer when the supply is coming from a more local source, but either way I might be heading to Sushi-Ko soon. These just sound yummy!

I wonder if these Whale crabs are a common thing at restaurants...From my reading, it seems like they are just very large soft crabs.

Food and Wine Events

Events for the week of Friday May 12th through Thursday May 18th

Better late than never. :) This week, Monday and Tuesday are packed full of events. Good luck deciding!

Sun May 14
Palates for Peace: Food inspired by award winning cookbook author Joan Nathan’s book, prepared with love by Busboys and Poets, served family style
Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street NW (14th and V)
$75 for the meal, $115 for the meal and a signed copy of Joan’s new book
3:30 – 6:30 pm

Mon May 15
The American Institute of Food and Wine
"I Love Crab Cakes" competition
Phillips Flagship restaurant, 900 Water Street, SW, Washington, DC
$60 for AIWF members and $75 for non-members, inclusive of all fees
6:30 – 9:00 p.m.

White Ribbon Alliance
Safe Motherhood Benefit Dinner
San Marco Restaurant
6:30 PM
$100 inclusive of tax and gratuity

Tom's Eat Club
3-Course Wine Dinner with Tom Fitzmorris, food critic of New Orleans Magazine
Acadiana Restaurant
7:30 PM
Contact or call 703-534-8100 for details and reservations.

Tue May 16
Washington Wine Academy
Passport to the World: The Wines of Burgundy & Rhone Valley
Ritz Carlton - Pentagon City
7:00 - 9:00 PM

Joseph Phelps 6-Course Wine Dinner
Restaurant Kolumbia
6:30 PM
$130 inclusive of tax and gratuity
call 202-331-5551 for details and reservations
Wine Tasting: A Journey Through Rhone with Wines from Paul Jaboulet Aine   
Mie N Yu Restaurant
7:30 PM - 10:00 PM

Smithsonian Resident Associates
Top Embassy Chefs at the Residence of the Ambassador of Sweden
Swedish Ambassador Residence
6:30 to 8:30 p.m
Gen. Admission $85, RAP Members $65

Thu May 18
Freshfarm Market, Eighth Street NW
Chef Terri Cutrino, mushroom expert Llorenc Petras Mushroom Demonstration
5 PM

French Wine Society
French Wine Thursdays: Frapin Cognacs
Indebleu Restaurant
6 to 7:30 PM

To have your event listed here, email


Last Saturday, I returned again to Ray's the Steaks because of a new "deal" that owner Michael Landrum announced here. The deal costs $50 and includes the Chateaubriand for two, soup or salad for two, and of course, the usual mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Now, considering that the  Chateaubriand for two is normally $48.50, and a cup of soup is only $3.50, this isn't that great of a deal over the normal prices at Ray's. But, even at normal prices, this is a great deal, especially when you consider how f**king amazing the Chateaubriand tastes. It was sooooo tender and cooked a perfect medium rare. It's getting hard for me to go elsewhere lately.

Of course, the wait is starting to become a real problem at Ray's. On Saturday, we arrived around 6:30 PM and the wait was already at an hour and fifteen minutes. We really only waited about 40 minutes, but still that's a long time to wait. It's pretty rare that I'm willing to wait that long for food, but in this case, I'm willing to make an exception.

Your best bet at not waiting that long? Get there at 5:30 PM -- you should be sat immediately. Good luck and happy eating.

Malaysia Kopitiam

It was a gloomy, cold and rainy evening when I was walking down M Street, and I was looking for a place to get out of the rain, as well as a quick bite to eat. I passed Camelot.

Hmmm...I hear they have good burgers there.

Then I passed Malaysia Kopitiam. Since I might be the only person who hasn't been there, I figured it was about time I tried it out. It was on Washingtonian's Cheap Eats last year, it gets very positive reviews from just about every food critic and gets very good word of mouth. Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who said he went there and had a great meal. This was someone whose opinion in food I respect very much, so I figured I'd better try it.

Malaysia Kopitiam is on the the basement level, but it's hard to miss with the big sign above its door. Since it was 5:30, the restaurant was pretty empty. The only people there were one couple and what seemed to be a bunch of family members of the restaurant staff and owners. I recognized one of the owners from the pictures and articles hung on the wall out front. My first impression of the interior of the restaurant was that of one of the restaurants on the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover, before the makeover. It just goes to show that looks aren't everything.

I sat at a table by myself. The server handed me a, not a menu, a three-ring binder. The menu comes in two parts, the regular menu with the list of dishes and prices, and then a three-ring binder with the pictures of the dishes. I found this very convenient when ordering because the descriptions on the menu were not the best at explaining what the dishes are actually like.

This first trip, I wasn't so happy with my choice of appetizer. The roti canai, or flaky layered Indian bread with spicy Malaysian curry chicken, would've been great except for the rubbery chicken. The sauce was a wonderful hot-spicy blend and the bread couldn't have been better. I loved how buttery and flaky it was. A friend of mine later told me this was their favorite dish at Malaysian Kopitiam. I guess I just had a bad batch of chicken -- mine was fatty and over-cooked.

The spicy tamarind beef, on the other hand, was pretty good, but wasn't anything to write home about. Unlike the chicken, the beef was lean and tender. This beef was cooked for a long time, and had a consistency of the beef that I make in a slow cooker all day. I'd say that it was either brisket, hanger or skirt steak.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I ordered some takeout for Amy, and chose extremely unwisely for her entree. I think of all the dishes on the menu, I chose the most bland and unsatisfying of them all -- vegetarian stir-fried mix noodle. I'm not sure why, but I think I chose the dish that's on the menu for the unadventurous vegetarian diner who thinks they're a vegetarian, but doesn't want to try any "weird" vegetables because they're actually just a picky eater. Yeah, I'd say that about sums it up.

On the other hand, the appetizer that I chose for her made me want to return a second time. It was a little spring roll called a Po Pia. This was a thin crepe filled with jicama (pronounced hick-e-mah), lettuce, eggs, dried shrimp, and topped with a hoisin sauce. I'm not sure what it was that made these rolls so good, but I'm pretty sure it was the hoisin sauce. As I ate them back at our apartment I said to myself, "Well, if these are this good after sitting in these takeout containers for a half hour, then I've got to try these fresh in the restaurant!"

This is going to be another one of those reviews where I describe each dish I ate in detail...If you are short on time, you should stop reading now. :)

I returned a week later with Amy and Noah and had a great time with him there. Malaysia Kopitiam, I have to say, is very baby friendly. They have high chairs, the restaurant staff were very friendly to Noah, and the casual atmosphere makes me feel at ease having Noah there. Especially since Noah's been getting experimental with the volume of his voice lately. 

My choices of dishes was better this visit. Maybe it was Amy's influence over the ordering, but we ordered some really incredible dishes. Of course we started with some of those incredible Po Pias which were sooo good -- fresh and hot unlike my first time eating them cold after takeout.

The raja chicken was an very similar to the General Tso's chicken that you find at every Chinese takeout joint. Somehow, the chicken seemed to have this double-fried chicken texture to it, almost like they'd fried the chicken without the breading really quick, dipped it in batter and fried it again. It'll be hard to get crappy MSG-y Chinese takeout ever again after eating this dish.

We also ordered some curry pork rib noodle. Imagine pork ribs so tender you could suck the meat right off the bone. Now add curry sauce and rice noodles.

Yeah, I want to go back too.

Both meals were under $40 after tip and this is with us ordering beer (Singhas to be exact.) I really wish I'd gone to Malaysia Kopitiam before now. Perhaps I'll head back there this weekend.

Malaysia Kopitiam
1827 M Street NW
Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-6232

Mon - Thu: 11:30 am - 10:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 11:30 am - 11:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 noon to 10:00 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: No Valet. If you time it right, there is a ton of parking that opens up on M street right around 6:30PM
Closest Metro: Dupont Circle or Farragut North
Reservations: Not Taken
Amy's Bathroom rating: Need for improvement. They were a little rundown, but hey, you're not going here for the ambiance.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers. A casual environment, friendly and accommodating wait staff make this place ideal for taking an infant to. Noah had a meltdown after about an hour and a half and no one even batted an eye. The rundown bathrooms mean there's NO place to change a diaper though.