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April 2007

Revisiting My Favorites

In my quest to try new restaurants over that last few months, I've been missing my favorite places to dine. So last weekend, in a desperate attempt to have some really good meals, (and to have a couple reasonably priced meals due to taxes...) I returned to 2 Amys and Ray's the Steaks.

Fava Bean Crostini If you've ever seen 2 Amys empty before, you've probably lived in DC since they opened, or you've arrived at 11:30 AM on a Saturday like I did. Within an hour, there was a wait for a table, but in the meantime, I enjoyed a nice quiet restaurant with my wife and son.

Despite the cold weather we've been having, the menu had the fava bean crostini, an instant indicator that spring is here and summer is soon to come. The fava bean crostini is basic in it's nature. Some good grilled bread, a light coating of light green fava bean puree mixed with mascarpone cheese (I think), some shaved Parmesan Reggiano, olive  oil and salt. There are two on the plate, but we had two orders that day.

Stuffed Rabbit I also had some stuffed rabbit, one of my favorite small plates, this time stuffed with mustard greens and pine nuts. The pancetta that that rabbit was wrapped with was especially crispy and salty this time -- the rabbit meat was a little fatty, but that was a good thing. I hope it's exactly the same the next time I have it.

Our Margherita pizza was exceptionally good as well. The crust was nice and crisp and not quite as floppy as usual. There was a little more cheese on it than usual though. The good news is that Noah FINALLY ate some of the pizza, a major milestone in his childhood development .

The next day, we went to Ray's the Steaks for an unusual Sunday night dinner. It was crowded as usual and there were some impatient people at the door. It seemed that the restaurant was a little behind with their tables because people were taking longer than usual to finish their meals. I didn't mind, but others seemed to be a little less than happy about it.

I didn't realize this until I sat down that the menu on Sunday nights is a little different. There are three options for tasting menus, one of which allows you to order the "Chateaubriand for two". For $30 per person, you get a choice of salad or soup, your share of the Chateaubriand, and a choice of desserts. Plus $10 from every check on Sunday night goes to a local charity. The other options are $25 and $35 with varying options for entrées. I don't know how long this charity menu will exist, so be sure to go soon to take advantage of it.

I tried to stay somewhat healthy and ordered a Caesar salad. Yes, a Caesar salad -- I wished I'd thrown caution to the wind and ordered the crab bisque. Anyway, the Chateaubriand we had amazing as usual, an extremely tender cut of tenderloin, glistening from the red juices that flowed from it when I stuck it with my fork (sorry vegetarian readers, I know this is probably grossing you out).

There are a few more desserts available on Sunday night than usual like some creamy cheesecake, and chocolate or coconut layer cakes, so that's what Amy and I ordered. Amy loved her chocolate cake -- it was moist and rich, but I wasn't so crazy about the cheesecake, which I thought was too creamy and soft. (Maybe it needed to be cooked a little longer?) The cheesecake had great flavor, but the texture was just wrong. This was obviously a fluke because I've had this same dessert at Ray's the Classics a couple times and it's always been perfect.

One last thing I should mention...Ray's the Steaks now has a child seat?! Seriously. I shit you not. There's only one, but I was happy to see it. It was in use, so we still needed to use our own portable high chair.  It was also interesting to see that there were a good deal more families with children at Ray's than usual.

Photo Blog

I've been working on getting my photo blog set up for a while now and I think it's finally done. Check it out here. I've got a new phone with a full keyboard that lets me actually write a little bit about each photo, so you won't have the unexplained photos that I used to post on my old photo blog.

On Legislating Food

It's rare that I mention politics here but since this is food related, I guess I can make an exception.

As you may have already heard, Montgomery County is trying to ban trans fats from restaurants and government institutions like schools. While I personally try to avoid trans fats in my sons and my own diets, I see this a just another attempt of the the government trying to control what food I'm allowed to eat.

We already have plenty of laws like this. The state of Maryland already makes it nearly impossible to obtain wine due to the antiquated wine and beer laws that masquerade as a protection for my health. They'll even go to extreme lengths to protect that system, including endangering local Maryland wine producers from Maryland.

We're also not far away form the FDA banning raw milk from being sold and consumed nationally, and once again, this is more of our elected government attempting to protect me and you from ourselves. In fact, in the state of Maryland, it's already illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption. Certain Maryland officials have even compared it to selling illegal drugs. And if we're not careful, the FDA will ban all cheeses made from raw milk, regardless of how long they're aged.

The worst thing is that the Maryland state Senate is wasting their time. In a few years, trans fats will be extremely rare. National restaurant chains are running from trans fats like the plague because NOBODY WANTS TO EAT THEM! And all you see in the supermarket snack food isle nowadays is "NO TRANS FATS" in big bold letters on packaging with exclamation points on both sides.  The tide is turning and it's mostly because people are getting educated that trans fats are bad for them.

I will say that I'm fine with banning trans fats in schools mainly because kids don't have a choice where they eat. They have to eat what's served to them in the cafeteria, so yes, by all means, don't serve that crap to the kids. You and I, on the other hand, have a choice to eat what we want. If we want to eat French fries and a Big Mac for every meal despite the nutritional data that's plainly visible at the restaurant, then we know what we're doing to ourselves.

I'm curious what other people think about this...

Barbeque Sauce for Seafood

After having the barbeque salmon special at Raku last week, I've been on a manhunt for a good recipe for barbeque sauce that's adequate for topping on seafood and I think I finally found it. The sauce is so rich and aromatic that I could smell it outside my house. Check out the recipe if found on Epicurious here. It's very quick to make assuming that you have all the ingredients ready.

The only modifications I made are using 50% clover honey and 50% lavender honey (it just happened to be the kinds of honey that we had in the cupboard), and I used a combinations of Anaheim, jalepeno, and serrano peppers instead of just jalepenos. I really think the clover honey made quite a difference in the recipe as clover really added some kick to the flavor, and the aroma was enhanced as well.

Happy Monday.

Taste of the Nation Reminder

Only 5 days left to purchase tickets for the Taste of the Nation event on April 9th. If you don't buy tickets here's what you'll be missing in the "Tiki Lounge". What's in the "Tiki Lounge" you may ask? Well I'll tell you.

  1. Grass skirts (come on, you know you want one...)
  2. Innovative sushi from the lively Penn Quarter hot spot Oya.
  3. Cocktail creations of award winning bar savant Todd Thrasher from Restaurant Eve and PX.
  4. Brian Zippin from Central, my new favorite place to eat in downtown DC. Have you had the Manhattan there? Amazing!

Since I'm going to be there as well, its not in my best interest to tell you about this, although, I'm doing so out of the kindness of my heart, because I really think all of you should go. Tickets for the general admission including the Tiki Lounge are $110. If that's a little over your budget, then general admission is $75. It's for a good cause, and if you're like me, you'll spend that much on a night out at a restaurant easily, so why not have that money go for a good cause?!

Hope to see you there. Buy tickets here while you still can!

Lakeside Asia Cafe

Lakeside Asia Cafe is hidden away in a little shopping center in Reston. Little did I know that this little Asian gem was minutes from my office. I'd driven by it many times, even dined at the same shopping center for ages now and never paid the little Asian cafe much attention. It's a small place, with a tiny, four-seat bar and probably ten to 15 tables max, but the food has big spicy flavors that I always enjoy. I've tried many of the dishes from the various sections on the menu, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, and I've never had a bad meal.

For starters, definitely try the spicy beef jerky. No one at the table would share it with me, since it doesn't look like the most appetizing appetizer in the world, but that just meant there was more for me. It's got incredible flavor! Although, not horribly spicy, I'm sure they'd kick it up a bit if you ask them to.

My favorite entree is any Kung Pao dish. I usually go with chicken, which is always tender and not fatty or chewy. In a similar manor to the kung pao that I get at Joe's Noodle House, it's got some kick to it and plenty of garlic. Chicken Rangoon is another star on the menu with crispy snow peas and tender dark chicken meat that's had all the fat removed from it. You also can't go wrong with the curries from the Thai section of the menu. Yellow, red, green, they're all good. The creamy yellow curry is definitely my favorite, although I wish it had a little more kick to it.

The prices on the menu are very reasonable. Whole Peking duck is the most expensive thing on the menu at $36, but everything else is between $7 and $15. Lunch portions are available for everything, but are still fairly large making it an ideal lunch stop. Definitely give it a try for lunch if you're in the area!

Lakeside Asia Cafe
11130J South Lakes Drive
Reston, VA 20191
(866) 743-6137