Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

After being with the bf for 6 years, we've had so different many occasions to exchange gifts that after a while they become more practical. This time he got me an ice cream maker! Woo hoo! I got him a video game, so now we're both happy.

For my first flavor I chose vanilla because I didn't want to make anything fancy in case I didn't know what I was doing. I chose David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream recipe because this was the perfect opportunity to try one of his recipes.

Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

This was my first time using a vanilla bean, and they're a lot longer than I thought. Being the second most expensive spice because of the extensive labor used to grow them, they are kinda pricey but well worth it. I went to a local spice store and got 3 for around $7. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out.

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks.

3. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

4. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl. Our ice maker is broken, so I just used a  bag of frozen fruit to chill the water.

5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. I'm using a Cuisinart ICE-21.

It took about 20 minutes, and I put it into a container so it could harden more in the freezer. I've heard a few hours but it took like 6 hours for me.

Serve and enjoy! You can also keep the used vanilla beans by drying them and flavoring sugar or coffee.
Next flavors on my list are pumpkin and pistachio!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blue Duck Tavern - West End, DC

Another wonderful year with the bf! When deciding where to have our anniversary dinner, I checked out some menus and saw bone marrow being served at Blue Duck Tavern and our decision was made. Located in the West End's Park Hyatt hotel, there is valet parking for $10. There is always street parking if you're not running late for your reservations. The closest metro station is Foggy Bottom/GWU on the Blue-Orange line. There is also an outdoor patio for use during nice weather.

You can enter the restaurant through it's massive front doors, or through the inside of the Park Hyatt hotel, which we did.

Certain parts had very high ceilings, marble, and soft lighting. I felt like I was eating in a museum.

The layout of restaurant is quite interesting aka confusing. It is not an open space, but more sectioned off into specific areas with multiple doorways, stairs and hallways. They offer full view and access to their kitchens, which are beautiful to see, however we got lost in the pastry station while trying to leave through the front entrance from the bathroom. We also had to ask someone where the hostess stand was when we first arrived too. Sooo my suggestion would be to enter through the large front doors and avoid going through the hotel all together.

I booked our reservations using and tried to request a table near the kitchen for a nice view of people cooking. We were actually seated next to a window without a view of the kitchen, but were given complementary glasses of champagne. How nice! The bread and butter were very good and well-made.

The menu consists of organic, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The ingredient's place of origin is listed on the menu next to the dish. There are also no off menu items offered and the dishes are meant to be shared (of course they don't have to be).

The bf and I enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and in the the London episode he's eating roasted bone marrow. He refers to it as "God's butter", and describes it as one of his favorite foods. We were so curious to try it! 'Oven Roasted Bone Marrow (Vadouvan Crust)' for $13 is served with sea salt and toast. It's very rich and oily. It tastes and feels more similar to fat than anything else. I really liked it, but the bf thought it was ok.

For our entree we had the 'Braised Beef Rib (Homemade Steak Sauce)' for $24. The portion was small, however it was so good. It melted in your mouth and the homemade sauce was delicious. This was the bf's favorite part of the meal. We also shared a side of 'Hand Cut BDT Triple Fries' for $10. These wedges were fried in duck fat, however they didn't have much flavor or taste as succulent as I expected. I think we could have done without them.

After almost bursting, we had to order dessert. We shared the 'Apple Pie' for $9, which was literally a small pie. The apples were cut into thick wedges, and the crust was to die for. They offered us complimentary vanilla ice cream with our pie, which was some of the best we've ever tasted.

We had a great evening celebrating together, and appreciated Blue Duck Tavern for making us feel special. Aside from the interior being a bit confusing, it's very different and beautiful. The staff was very attentive and filled our water glasses often (the bf's a camel). The food we ordered was delicious, and I think sharing dishes helps to cut back the cost of the final bill. The presentation of the food in the pans and with the bones was really entertaining. I suggest you make reservations way in advance because popular times go fast.

1201 24th Street Northwest
Washington D.C., DC 20037
(202) 419-6755
Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Outrageous Brownies

I have a friend who lovesss brownies and buys them at every chance he gets. It was his birthday, so I knew he would be the perfect candidate for testing Brown Eyed Baker's recipe. They were very easy to make, and are more of a fudge-like brownie rather than cake-like.

Outrageous Brownies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 pound (1 1/3 cups) plus 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan. (325 degrees if using a dark non-stick pan)

Melt together the butter, chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler (I did this step in a glass dish in the microwave at 30 second intervals). Cool slightly.

Stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with flour to coat. (If you're not adding walnuts, use 1 tablespoon of flour to toss the chocolate chips.)

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Then add to the chocolate batter.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, tap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over bake!

Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Breadsoda - Glover Park, DC

I really appreciate my friends and readers. Many of them let me know of cool restaurants to try and some of them even offer to make field trips out of them! One of my friends made me aware of this bar/sandwich shop/games place called Breadsoda. Named after the Prohibition slang term for beer, we met up on a lazy Saturday afternoon to check it out. Located on Wisconsin Avenue, there are plenty of meters lining the street, and apparently a free parking lot in the back. It's hard to see from the road because you have to walk down stairs to the entrance. They also offer 2-levels of patio seating out front.

We got there right when it opened at noon, so there was only one other guy in the place. My first impression was that the place was very clean, had great lighting and was cozy size. Stevie Wonder, James Brown and The Jackson 5 were playing in the background. It has a 70's feel to it, which I was digging.

A few pool tables are in the back of the room along with a projector screen playing the day's football games.

The small hallway leading to the bathroom has the shuffleboards. I have no idea how you play, but group that came in a few hours later were screaming their heads off like their lives depended on it.

At the end of the bar facing the shuffleboards is a small display case with drinks, deviled eggs, candy, pasta salad, etc.

My girl friend started off with 'Hummus (homemade hummus served with toasted bread)' for $5.50. She thought it was good, but resembled a store-bought version. It had a lot of garlic in it, and we wished it served was pita bread rather than toast.

They offer a very long sandwich menu, so it took me a while to pick. I ended up wanting some comfort food and ordered the 'Grilled Cheese and Bacon (American cheese, applewood smoked bacon on sourdough)' for $6.95. I love sourdough bread, melted cheese and of course, bacon. The sandwich was ok. I would've preferred the cheese to be more melted and the bread more buttery. I know I'm insane, but it didn't melt in my mouth.

My girl friend was on a healthy kick that day and ordered the 'Veggie Sandwich (cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, field greens, daikon sprouts with house made goat cheese spread on multi-grain)' for $6.95. She said it tasted fresh, similar to eating a salad. She wasn't a fan of the bag of chips every sandwich came with.

My guy friend ordered the 'Roast Beef (roast beef, Maytag bleu cheese, tomato, red onion, house made horseradish mayonnaise, on an onion ciabatta roll, add au jus for $1.50)' $8.95. He added the au jus on the side and thought the sandwich was hearty, not overly filling and had a nice balance of flavors.

For dessert we shared an order of 'Chilled Reese’s Cups' for $2. This is my favorite chocolate candy ever, so it was a nice way to end our lunch.

This was a really chill place on a Saturday afternoon. It got a lot louder around 3pm and busier, which is probably a blast at night (they close late) with a large group of friends. There was only one person working at the time and she was totally cool. I enjoyed the vibe, found the food to be ok, reasonably priced, and would want to come back at night. Aside from the games listed earlier they also offer Wii, Darts, Chess, Checkers, Scrabble, Backgammon and Yatzee. Tuesday is Ping Pong night and Wednesdays are Karaoke night.

2233 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-7445
Breadsoda on Urbanspoon

Sunday - Thursday
12pm - 1:20am
Friday - Saturday
12pm - 2:20am

Monday, November 8, 2010

Woodberry Kitchen - Baltimore, MD

My college friend lives in the Baltimore area and invited us to celebrate her birthday at the farm-to-table American restaurant Woodberry Kitchen. Almost everything is made from scratch in-house. All of their ingredients are seasonal and local. This place is off the beaten path, so don't get too confused when you're GPS is taking you somewhere odd. They offer free valet and a free parking lot right past the restaurant.

Customers can enjoy their outdoor seating at communal tables during warmer months. It's adorable. The space glows at night with the help of Christmas lights.

The interior has two floors. The top floor is very small but overlooks the main dining room. There is also a side room on the main floor. I love the exposed brick, wood and "urban country" feel.

Getting a reservation was HARD for a regular dining hour even 2 weeks in advance, so the 4 of us ate at the bar.

They served us 2 kinds of bread and butter while we waited.

Their specialty cocktail list is pretty long and they offer an amazing variety of alcohol. All of the beer and wine are either local or organic. They offer many varieties of bourbon and other liquors made in the US. I ordered the 'American Pie (Apple brandy, Reid's apple cider, ginger, brown sugar, warm spices)' for $12. Hands down this was the BEST cocktail I've ever had in my life. The ingredients melded together so beautifully. You could taste every single ingredient individually, it wasn't weak, and finished very smoothly.

Time for food! Please know that their menu is constantly changing based on the ingredients they have at the moment. They also run out of items often because of that same reason. Their menu offers small plates and entrees. The birthday girl ordered the 'Springfield Chicken 'n Biscuit (kale, young carrots, roasted garlic pan sauce)' for $23. She said the chicken was moist and flavorful. The kale was a hit at the table, and the biscuit tasted of rosemary.

The birthday girl's BFF ordered the 'Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder (fingerling potatoes, buttered turnips, farm egg, pork gravy)' for $22. She said the pork was very tender and even took her leftovers home because it was so good.

My cousin ordered 2 small plates as her meal. 'Marvesta Sizzling Shrimp (romesco, onion, lemon)' for $14. She ordered it after the lady next to her was eating it. She said it was really good, but a bit expensive for a small plate. Behind the shrimp was her 2nd small plate of 'Salt Baked Beauregard Sweet Potatoes (maple butter)' for $8. Those were so good! I took a few. They are really tiny and soft. The salty and sweet caramelization was delicious.

I ordered the 'Anson Mills Sweet Corn Polenta (stewed tomatoes & eggplant, okra)' for $18. This dish had every kind of ingredient that I love. The corn polenta (boiled cornmeal) was soft with a nice exterior, and the flavors from the stewed veggies were comforting and warm, and the okra was roasted to perfection.

Um, did I mention how much I loved that dish?

For dessert our server recommended the oddest sounding one on the menu. 'Corn brulee with chocolate cake and red hot ice cream'. This was insanely good. The brulee was sweetened with corn, the ice cream gave it a nice spice and the chocolate gave the dish some texture. Mmmmm...

We loved the night SO MUCH, so we reserved another birthday dinner there for 2 weeks later. So I'm going to quickly run through this experience. They ran out of my 'American Pie' drink, but was recommended the 'Headless Horseman,' which also had warm flavors and bourbon.

The dishes showcased fall veggies like squash, potatoes, zucchini, etc. Our table ordered the pork shoulder, chicken & biscuit, the steak and woodoven rockfish. We had such a hard time deciding on the dessert, but gave us the pumpkin roll to try on the house.

For my aunt's birthday dessert, the oddest sounding one on the menu was recommended to us again! 'Apple Cheddar Strudel with Sour Cream Ice Cream'. It was so good! The Cheddar gave the dessert a mild salty flavor to contrast the sweet apples and strudel. The sour cream ice cream was amazing! Tasted slightly tart, but was very creamy. We actually ordered a 2nd plate and a whole other side of the ice cream.

I can't tell you how much I love this place. To top off the amazing food, the service is probably the best I've had. The staff is very knowledgeable of the menu and how the food is made. They are very patient and warm. The first time we went there, our friend got lost and the manager was on the phone with her and eventually said he'd go out and meet her so she could follow his car since he was leaving to get a keg anyway. Unheard of! The menu is constantly changing, which is a good and bad thing. I love the concept of seasonal dishes. I like trying new things, but the only sad part is you might have loved something one time, but it might not be there the next time. Prices are higher, with entress in the mid-20's. I can't wait until I bring the bf here!

2010 Clipper Park Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 464-8000
Woodberry Kitchen on Urbanspoon