Chocolat et moutarde

I’m in this French kick for some reason.   I spoke the language all through elementary school and it has correlated to my posts, so it’s not totally out of left field.

Anyway, a couple friends were recently in Paris and brought me back some treats from the well-known city in France.  They know me quite well and are fully aware of my lactose intolerance.  They did some good, deep digging over there to find some non-dairy-containing chocolate (considering the dairy loving area), along with some mustard.  The latter was not one I would expect.

The chocolate was super dark and had sesame seeds.  Wow — what a finishing taste.  For the mustard(s) — I received a pack of four Dijons, all with different flavors.  Talk about potency (in a good way)!  Absolutely amazing.  It’s great when people you know go away and bring edible souvenirs.

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Kale Mary!

Summer is here, temps are high, so cooking extreme meals isn’t really the most appealing thing to do.  I love kale chips but right now don’t feel like turning on the oven so was looking for something else to do with that health-benefit-bearing kale.  Though I don’t really enjoy it raw when it’s in large pieces, I learned a couple years ago to take it to the food processor!

Was trying to clear out some stuff from my kitchen and came up with the following combo based on my mood:

-frozen mangoes (chunks — love the ones from Trader Joe’s)
-basic seasoning of garlic, onion powder, lemon juice, S&P, olive oil

So, I just put the kale (stems removed) in the food processor bit by bit to get it to the texture I like.  Then I threw the frozen mango chunk in there and just pulsed a couple times and it got them into smaller, yet still good size pieces.  Threw the spices in and perfect.  Removed it from the food processor and stirred the peanuts in.  Then tossed in some canned tuna.  So good, very filling and healthy.

What’s great about this quick recipe is that there are so many options.  You just need the base of kale and can change the rest around:

-Any fruit, fresh or dried (have used apricots and cherries before)
-Any nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc)
-So many spices!
-So many meats, if you even want them.  How about a nice grilled chicken breast or seared tuna steak to serve on the side?


Grown-Up Kids’ Food

I had my monthly supper club the other night and was excited as usual!  How can you not be excited about getting together with a bunch of people who love to cook with a changing theme every month?  This month’s theme — grown-up versions of kids’ food (based on foods you loved — at least that was my addition to it).

It took me awhile to decide what to make because a lot of kids’ foods that I think of have dairy (aka cheese) and I have to nix those because of the darn lactose intolerance. So I did some personal outreach and mental recap of what I liked as a kid (and what others would eat since I grew up eating almost everything).  So what did I come up with — Caesar Salad.  Ahh, Caesar Salad.  Come on, how could that not be a kid food.  Ok, ok, I’ll stop now.

The recipe I use is from The Washington Post in the ’80s.  It’s scribbled down though now I have it pretty much memorized.  Simple basic ingredients, combine, shake, taste, dress romaine.  And, in the interim, toast some bread for croutons to throw in there.

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Once at dinner, there was a great combo of other treats —

Chicken ‘lollipops’


PB, Banana & J


Spaghetti & Meatballs (a view of the sauce)


There were also Chicken Fingers, Brownies and Wine (grape juice, right?).  It was Charles Krug Cab — DANG!


The plated look(a bit dark, I know):


As usual, the food and company were spectacular.  Look forward to meeting again.

Crab Feast!

Maryland, summer, hot temps, that means it’s time for crabs!!  Had the pleasure of wandering down the street to one of the local crab restaurants for a 2-hour feast of all-you-can-eat crabs the other night.  And, go Groupon (and the restaurant) — they had a special a week or so ago for 2 for $40.  Can’t beat that.   Let the fun begin.


All the essentials are brought to the table — mallets, knifes, paper towels, buckets, beer.  Why can’t that last one be included?

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Next, the sides of coleslaw, corn and fries.  That corn was good!  This is all tempting us before the essentials arrive!

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Finally…ahh…here they are.  Heaven.  Sometimes I think you actually burn more calories than you take in when eating crabs because of how hard you work to get the meat but it’s well worth it.  Though these were small-medium size, the meat was good!  Couldn’t ask for much more on a Saturday night.

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Voulez-vous dîner avec moi ce soir?

Etes-vous intéressé?  Il y a un nouveau restaurant français à DC.

And now to English we go.  Was getting together with some long-lost friends the other day and they did the searching for where to meet.  There was rumor of a new French place that just opened its doors a few months back in the 14th street/Logan Circle area of DC so we wanted to check it out.  The name, Le Diplomate.


Tough to get reservations so we took the risk of walking in and got there early enough to not have to wait too long.  Two of us got there before the other tw0 and grabbed a drink at the bar.  My friend had a glass of wine and I had a house cocktail that can be served either straight up or on the rocks.  The Romarin – Absolut, St. Germain, rosemary, and grapefruit.  Very nice and refreshing!

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Once we were seated, there were many options on the menu, traditional for French fare.  I will say, while looking it over, I had a great time talking to the waiter in French.  When I can, I’ll do it.  Have to practice.  While looking over the menu, they bring you AMAZING bread.  Baguette, wheat, cranberry-walnut stuff…waiter…another basket.  Dang, so so so good!  Two of my friends opted for raw oysters for appetizers and another for some (french) fries.  I waited for the main course.

Main course-wise, two at the table went for Steak Frites, another went for Lamb Shanks.  For me, because so much french food has dairy,  not having had it for so long, and the lack of ingredients in it, had to go for Steak Tartare.  Also ordered some grilled asparagus.
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Overall recap of the evening.  Great place, highly recommend trying it.  I would also recommend aiming for a reservation or getting there early.  It was packed 20 minutes after we arrived (6:15pm).  Also give yourself tons of time.  It took us 15 minutes to get a bottle of wine and water.  Raw oysters took 30 minutes.  Raw…  Main courses took awhile too.  We were so busy talking we didn’t really notice.  On the wine note, we had the Kim Crawford Pinot Noir.  We opted for a well priced option.

But, after dinner we were meeting some others and went across the street.  That’s where we found some wine I’d never tried or heard of.   It’s the Prima from Spain.  Check out their site — I can’t decide the exact name of the bottler/vintner because the names change a bit on the site so I don’t want to say the wrong one.  I just know this is where to visit —

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U.S. Open the Wine

The title just makes me think of Jeopardy! with the great ‘Before and After’ category.  I can never get those right.  But in this case, the scenario was nailed right on the head!

Last Sunday, golf!  Annual U.S. Open on Father’s Day.  If you can’t be at the event watching or playing (hit the course for 9 holes on Saturday), what better to do than watch at home while enjoying some good wine and food?  Got together with my vino-loving friends to spend countless hours watching those little white balls fly through the air, go into the water, hit the high grass or sink into that hole.

The beverage menu for the day started with some nice Prosecco.  After that, we opened my contribution to the day.  It was from a winery I visited while in Sonoma last year.  Small little place with huge flavor in what they produce — Scribe.  We enjoyed the 2008 Syrah.  And these guy put some tough-to-remove wax on the top of the bottles (1/4″ thick or so) — darn that was tough to open, but made the wine taste even better.

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To pair with my wine I opted to bring non-normal snacks…not just some quick dips, etc.  I was craving some asparagus so opted for Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus.  Just lightly coat the asparagus with olive oil, wrap each piece with prosciutto then place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, remove quickly, turn, then continue roasting until crisp.  Voila, delicious!  Can serve hot or cold.  Ok, remembered to take a picture when there was one left.

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Then also made some Sauteed Mushrooms with Asian Flair and Persian Cucumbers.  Just cut some mini Portobellos into cubes and tossed them with soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Put them in a pan on the stove and sauteed them for a bit and the sauce got a thick.  Put some sesame seeds in there for flair.  Good!!!  Then took some of those little Persian Cukes and cut them into decent thickness slices and tossed with lemon juice and salt and served on the side.

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And back to wine we go.  Next one my friends pulled out was an amazing Pinot Noir from Picture 021OR — Ken Wright Cellars.  A great way to finish the wine.


Now end of the Open-wise, my favorite didn’t win, but there is always next year.  Cheers, par, or whatever suits you best.

Japan #3: Korean BBQ

As we progressed through Japan we had to expand our cuisine beyond just local fare.  One night we opted to go for Korean BBQ.  My uncle asked his colleagues for recommendations and they gave him ‘the best place to go.’  So, off we went.  It was of course one of those hard-to-find, hole-in-wall restaurants – perfect!

So at the Korean BBQ, you have a grill in front of you, order raw food and grill to your liking.  So much fun.  We ordered basic food that we were used to — chicken, shrimp, pork, veggies, versus some options on the menu that we were either unfamiliar with or had heard of but didn’t want to take the risk of eating, especially on vacation.

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The marinade and seasoning on the meat were delicious and the mushrooms were just – WOW!  It was a meal that you take slowly and you can just kick back and relax.

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Japan #2…Traditional Fare, from restaurants to 7-11

When most people think Japan (myself included), sushi is the first thing that comes to mind. The great tour guide we had on our trip to Mt. Fuji and Hakone educated us on the fact that that is not the case.  It’s a special meal for the locals.  Maybe only a few times a year.  It’s intricate to prepare, not quick and easy.  Traditional fare can include the components of it — rice, sashimi — the raw fish, and the seaweed.  We also learned about a KEY staple in Japanese cuisine, miso soup.

During our tour we were given a sample of the local fare at lunch with a bite of several varieties of food, a bit ‘westernized.’  It was very nice.








That night we did the true Japanese style hotel and meal.  I did not feel comfortable taking pictures in the restaurant but it was about a 9 (small) course meal with a taste of everything.  It was amazing.  A couple soups, several unidentifiable objects that were pretty good, some good seaweed pieces (that were purple-ish), amazing fish and other assorted tastes.  Overall, definitely a meal to remember.  The size was perfect, since you get a small sample of everything.  And I was able to conquer the food with chopsticks!  I discovered that soy sauce is not used all that much in Japan — more a Chinese staple.  They provided us with a small bit and that was all — maybe a teaspoon or two.

The next morning, breakfast called.  It was at that point when we realized the Japanese diet/regimen is quite similar throughout the day.  Most of the dishes the waitress brought to the table were very similar to dinner.  One of the oddest was the cold (super super) over easy egg on angel hair- ish pasta, which was also cold.  That threw me off because I was expecting both components to be hot.  For that meal I think I only tried a tiny bit of everything and much of it was less than I was hoping for, very unfortunately.  But as I was taught, you have to try it all.  Coffee is also hard to find.  Very fortunately we came by a coffee machine in the lobby of the hotel…caffeine!

The next cool, interesting thing in Japan is 7-11.  What do we think of it as here…convenience store.  Coffee, soda, snacks, gas station.  There, OH NO!  High quality food, no lie.  They have awesome sandwiches that are pre-packed and last for awhile (loved the PB one) and sashimi that I wish I could have everyday.  And so affordable — about $3 for a huge pack!

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Next food subject…still can’t decide!

Japan #1

Last month, personal travel took me to Japan.  What an experience; from culture to scenery to food.  I learned so much about any and everything.  I didn’t get to take nearly enough pictures of the food I enjoyed/didn’t enjoy, but wanted to share some of what I experienced.  There will be a few parts to this over a few days.

The hardest thing about being in Japan is the language barrier.  Every other place I’ve traveled I’ve been able to communicate with the locals.  This time, not even close (note – the one extreme is when I was trying to ask something and I spoke to the waiter in French – in Japan!  One time when I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for butter, while I Spain, and whipped out the French there, that was not extreme – but while in Japan – whoa!).

When a restaurant in Japan offers an “English Menu” that normally means you get to look at pictures or plastic samples.  Not so bad, I guess, and quite entertaining.  The night we arrived we saw a rough idea of the tuna ‘sashimi’ with some type of sauce.  Another great example was when we were near the Sumo stadium and saw bowl upon bowl, plate upon plate of display.  It couldn’t look more real.  I just wonder — how did they make these?

There are amazing vegetables in the area, especially at markets, though prices were high.  But let me tell you — if you buy a tomato, they wrap that thing for you like it’s the most precious thing on the face of this planet.  They also have some great samples of seafood, and I’m going to use the word ‘local’ stuff.  I tried some things, steered clear of others.  If I could identify it for the most part, I would give it a try.

Some of the best seafood bites were near the renowned seafood market.  I didn’t get there to see the hands-on action because it can be hit-or-miss to actually get in.  You need to arrive by 4:30am.  Sometimes they let 20 people in, sometimes 100, sometimes nobody at all.  Depends on the day, the mood.  So, we went down to the market around 9:30am and saw the shops that were selling the food they purchased from the market.

That’s the first rundown of the trip.  More to come.