Brasserie Beck

I was very fortunate this week to be able to return to a restaurant I visited several years ago, though this time it was just for a basic corporate lunch.  It was nonetheless just as amazing.  The location, Brasserie Beck in Washington, DC.  It’s a “contemporary European style brasserie” with a basic yet widespread menu.  Both times I’ve been there they have made amazing accommodations for dietary restrictions (lactose intolerance).  The first time the chef wanted to make something totally new as a challenge.

They are well known for their beer selection, boasting 9 Belgium drafts and over 100 Belgium bottles.  Darn, why was I there on a business lunch this past time?

For my meal I enjoyed an amazing Diver Scallops Salad — Avocado, Citrus, Shaved Fennel and Rocket Salad.  This is where they used oil to pan sear the scallops vs. butter.

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My colleagues each enjoyed the Grilled Hanger Steak Salad — Mixed Greens, Charred Scallions, Warm Fingerling Potato Salad, Blue Cheese.

None of us had a bite of food left on our plates.  Would recommend checking this place out for lunch, dinner or just a nice happy hour.

Christmas Eve Posole

This year I am celebrating Christmas with my family in a new location and we did something new for Christmas Eve dinner.  We went to their neighbor’s house for a laid-back, several-family gathering.  The main dish was a seafood bisque and I offered to bring a non-dairy dish because of my lactose intolerance.  I hadn’t had posole for awhile, it just sounded good, it’s quick and easy and with the wind howling around here in CO my mind was set.

I have relied on Cooking Light’s recipe for quite awhile and just had to quickly pull it up.

Ingredients:

1 pound tomatillos — I always just use a big jar of green salsa
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and quartered (I’m a wimp for heat, use 1)
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy, drained
1 teaspoon salt

(These are toppings)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream $
8 lime wedges

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The hardest part of this at the start is chopping the onions (just makes me cry…).

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After they’re chopped, you just throw them, the chicken stock, chicken breasts, garlic, jalapeno, hominy and salt into a pot and bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30+ minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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Then, you take the chicken out and shred it.  And while you’re shredding it, you’ve added the tomatillos (or salsa) to the pot.

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After the chicken is shredded, throw it back in there, heat everything through.

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Then serve with cilantro, chips and sour cream, if you’d like.  Great addition to dinner!!  There was not much left at all.

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Ripple Effect

Checked out this new place (to me) in Cleveland Park (a DC neighborhood, if you’re not from around here) last night and it was quite nice!  From cocktails to wine to menu, you can’t get bored.  The name — Ripple, hence the name of the post.  Side note, there are quite a few meanings of Ripple Effect.  Check them out of you want some good conversations pieces to either draw people in or get them away during upcoming holiday parties.

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They have quite the cocktail, wine and beer selection and after watching the bartender add some type of liquid to a glass from ‘something’ that looked like it could have been a funky whipped cream container, I come to find out they make their own juices and soda and have these cool, funky pressurized, carbonated container, vessel things.  Good terminology on my side, right?  The key point was that I had to try something.  After some debate, I opted for the Herbivores Delight — chamomile vodka, grapefruit-thyme soda.  The sage leaf on top brought it all in!

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Now, jumping forward awhile, while the bartender was prepping that, the folks next to me were trying some wine.  They had a taste so I had to inquire.  I had a sip as well.  That was my pre-planned round 2!  When I see wines I’ve not tasted, bring it on.  I have now added to my shopping list Donkey and Goat 2012 Carignane from Mendocino.  Of course when you go to the website you find it’s Limited Edition, but hey, it’s just new a new winery to explore!

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Food-wise, for some reason I flipped to the cheese menu and saw they offer sheep’s milk cheese, aka lactose free!  Opted for the ossau iraty.  Also ordered some prosicutto and olives.  They serve the cheese and meat on a nice board and complement it with house-made mustard and honey. Then, they throw their bread crisps in there. Ahhh….heaven.

 

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So, if you’re in DC, check this place out.  And this was just part of the menu.  So much more to explore!

Mushroom & White Bean Crostini

A cold afternoon can only get better with the amazing aroma of mushrooms and fresh herbs!  I was having some friends over the other day and we always enjoy hummus as one of our snacks so had to do something different.  I came across a new recipe that has one of their favorite foods in it — mushrooms — and then it has the beans of hummus, too.  Perfect!  So I whipped up a Mushroom & White Bean Crostini.  I made a few changes to the original recipe based on what I had on hand and lactose intolerance.

Ingredients

1 (French) baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup garlic infused olive oil — just used the regular stuff and sprinkled the bread with garlic powder
1 Tablespoon butter — didn’t use any
1 Tablespoon olive oil — ‘some’ — accounting for no butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms, cleaned and patted dry — picked up a pack at Trader Joe’s
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch Kosher salt
1 15.9 ounce can Bush’s Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed — used Cannellini Beans
2 Tablespoons Italian Herbs — went with flat leaf parsley and fresh rosemary — totally more than 2 tbsp
1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese — nixed that for my own reasons — let me know how it tastes

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Time to cook!

I put the slices of baguette under the broiler — translation nice and quick vs. extended toasting.

Next, per the recipe, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, <butter> and mushrooms. Sauté for 5-10 minutes or until mushrooms release their moisture and begin to shrink. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.  The kitchen started smelling so good!

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Then, get those herbs ready!  Now, aroma overload.  This is one of the reasons we cook!!!!Mushrooms&stew 003

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Next, add minced garlic, salt, herbs and beans. Stir and cook over medium heat until mixture is heated through.

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Finally —

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I served this in a bowl and let guests dish it onto bread on their own or just put it on their plate and eat it with a fork.  Otherwise the recipe mentions…To assemble each piece of Crostini, place a spoonful of mushroom bean mixture on top of a slice of toasted bread. Top with shredded baby swiss cheese.
This was so, so good.  Would be great to serve at upcoming parties and can be easily transported if not served on bread if you want to take it somewhere.  You can easily make it ahead of time and heat it up when you arrived at required location.

Simple (Dark Chocolate & PB) Pleasures

Simple things for simple minds?  Or simple, old school favorites tweaked to make lactose intolerant people thrilled?  Maybe they go hand in hand.  When I was at the store the other day there were some (unfortunate?) free samples of peanut butter cups.  Normally I just walk by them because they are the typically milk chocolate.  But, these looked a bit darker than usual.  Then I saw the display bag — dark chocolate.  I did some investigative work by reading the label because (too) many companies say their product is dark chocolate and have milk, lactose, cream, etc in them.  Oh, no, heaven be thy name.  There is no dairy in these things!  Thank you Justin’s.  You have brought me to eternal peanut better cup bliss!  And, aside from the little sample pieces, the store was giving away full size treats.  Simple things…

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I do believe in spooks

This is the first thing that came to mind when I was walking through Target the other day and I was surrounded, and that is a light word, by Halloween candy and food. I can’t say all, but many manufacturers put that little twist on what they make/package to draw the attention of consumers for that extra sale. Not quite point-of-purchase (POP) but definitely strategic marketing. It tastes the same but lures that eye. This is the point at which I’m really glad I’m lactose intolerant and can’t eat/consume/splurge/inhale/spend way too much money on most of this stuff.

This is a snapshot of what I say in the Halloween section:

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New All Around

Had some friends over for dinner the other night and there were new tastes all around the table, from cheese to salad to wine.

For pre-dinner, my friend was kind enough to bring non-cow milk cheese to make the lactose intolerant person happy.  One of them was a Honey Goat Gouda from Trader Joe’s.  I normally can’t stand goat cheese but love gouda.  This was totally on the good side.  I highly recommend it!  The other was a manchego from TJ’s that I’ve had before that is equally as delicious!  Great way to kick off the night.

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We had three wines throughout the evening, kicking off with a Virginia white.  The first was Rappahannock Cellar’s Viognier.  It was a nice local grape, pairing nicely with the appetizers.

For dinner I made a recipe I had been wanting to try for awhile — Citrus-Avocado Salad.  It was AMAZING!  For the tamari almonds it calls for, a friend gave me the great idea of making them vs. buying them to save money.  All you need to do is toss the almonds in some soy sauce, a couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and a pinch of sugar.  You bake them at 250 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Done!  For the blood oranges, sometimes they are tough to find.  I came across red oranges at one grocery store.  Otherwise I was going to use grapefruit or just regular oranges.

With this salad I served some pan seared (vs grilled because I live in an apartment and can’t have a BBQ) chicken breasts and quinoa.

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The wines we enjoyed with this included two reds.  One from Virgina — First Colony Cab from a winery in Monticello — very nice.  Again, I’m finding Cabs I like — something is happening to me.  The second red is one I discovered/was introduced to a few years back — Eleven.  It’s from Washington and the specific varietal was the 2008 La Ronde.

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Recap:  Great dinner.  Rave reviews around the table.  Now I just keep thinking about what the next meal will bring.  Cheers.

Zuch-anoush and More Mediterranean Flair

More playing in the kitchen!  I had this enormous zucchini that my friend gave me from her garden that led me make a twist to one of my favorite dips.  When I can find Baba Ganoush without dairy (yogurt) because of my lactose intolerance I love it, but it can be hard.  So, I tend to make it at home.  But, it’s fun to make small changes to the recipe. Therefore, I have made it with zucchini vs. eggplant a few times.  The hardest part of all this is thinking ahead and roasting the zucchini a for a good 45 or so minutes.  You just cut the zucchini into big chunks, throw it on a cookie sheet and put it in oven at about 425 to roast it.

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When it’s done, you want to be sure to squeeze it to get rid of extra water.  After that, throw it in the food processor and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, S&P…and any other spices you might like.  This batch seemed to be missing something but it was still good!  I dipped carrots and crackers into it.

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I was in a Mediterranean mood that day and continued in the kitchen and made a Village salad.  I’d grabbed a great yellow (vs traditional red) tomato at the farmer’s market and added a cucumber that I had from my friend’s garden and some greek olives.  I had a red onion in my fridge but totally forget to put that in there.  I threw some other ingredients in the mix to both clear out my fridge and add some fun — celery and walnuts.  Sprinkled with a Penzey’s spice mix and olive oil.  Great, healthy, hearty meal!

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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.

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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 — bodegasanroman.com.

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From Cake to Castle

Weekend=great wine.  I met once again with my great friends who last time hosted the epitome of wine tasting.  This time it was at my place so I had to work my wine rack magic to attempt to match what they offered.

Though none of us seek out whites, sometimes you just have to go off the beaten path.  To attempt to match reds, I opted for the well-known name of Cakebread and the nice varietal of Sauvignon Blanc.  A refreshing way to start the evening.

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After the white, we moved onto the more important stuff (RED!) with Chateau St. Jean.  The most important thing to remember is not to get fancy with the name.  Yes, the first one is french for castle.  But, for the last word, think of denim, don’t go french, make it simple!  The red we enjoyed first was the 2010 Pinot Noir…nice and smooth!

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I was initially going to serve another Pinot Noir but opted instead to stick with Chateau St. Jean and one of their blends.  It’s Cinq Cepages.  It brings together five of their varietals for an amazing taste.  Can’t do it justice in writing!

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And to pair with the wine, cheese it always nice.  The other day at Trader Joe’s I found a lactose intolerant’s dream — a package of 3 cheeses that we can eat — the Tapas Sampler!  Non-cow milk delights.  One of them did have a part of cow milk (with two others — so it had to be minimal), and at least for me, I didn’t have a problem.

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So, come the end of the night, had another great time of friends, wine and food.