Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Oh, what a treat it was to lounge around Dupont Circle, my jacket unzipped, scarf discarded, hands ungloved, basking on a sun-drenched park bench with my cappuccino after the farmers' market this Sunday! "A girl could get used to this," I smiled to myself.

Oh, how much warmer it was than the last Inauguration, I marveled, sporting only one set of knee-high wool socks and still able to feel most of my toes by the end of President Obama's speech down on the mall on Monday morning. As he waxed political about climate change and how it would be a priority over his next term, I secretly relished the warmer-than-usual weather. Okay, fine, so it's bad for the planet, but how nice it is to not have my teeth chattering constantly, not have wind-chapped hands for a change.

"Oh, god, will this wind ever stop??" I whimpered at 8am as the 10-degree winds whipped Ollie and I around the Metropolitan Branch Trail on our way to teach at Watkins Elementary yesterday, chilled snot running molasses-like down the inside of my warmest scarf (currently in the washing machine) and toes instantaneously frozen inside wool socks and sneakers as soon as I emerged from my apartment. (What a day for the zippers on my warm winter boots to break. Figures.) Fingers numb even ensconced in ski mittens, head semi-protected by my handmade-in-Houston knit cap... bike tights, wool leg warmers, jeans, a turtleneck sweater, 2 sweatshirts, and windbreaker keeping the core of me somewhat unfrozen, at least.

Is it spring yet?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creme de la creme

This year's belated birthday dinner fell on Three Kings Day, so we decided to celebrate Three Kings and Two Queens day at my parents' place. It was my favorite kind of meal, featuring lots of good food and some of my favorite people on the planet. Dad was on pickle and prosecco detail, mom made the lasagne, Kenton and I worked on the salad, and, after a post-dinner stroll, my little brother brought out the creme brulee. Not a bad meal, I would say. (For the record, I'd pick custard over King's Cake any day.)

It was a great celebration, and I departed with a fully belly, a happy heart, some fun gifts, and half a pan of leftover lasagne.

p.s.- Turns out it's a lasagne-themed week, as I'll be making spinach and mushroom lasagne with students at Brainfood -- the creme de la creme of food-focused youth development programs in the District -- tonight and tomorrow night. More on my new gig with Brainfood in coming weeks!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kiss the cook

Whoever started making those kitschy "Kiss the Cook" aprons was a genius. Not that I own one. I don't think I deserve one...yet.

Seriously, tell me you have never had such a good meal that you wanted to kiss the chef. No? You need to get out more. Cook smooching is generally only a problem if a) you are out to dinner with your boyfriend, and/or b) the chef is a total stranger. (I'm sure there are other situations, but these are the top two.) I have talked my way back into the kitchen and personally thanked the head chef only twice over the course of my life -- both times during a solo trip through eastern France in 2006. The first was the chef at a nondescript bistro in Grenoble who made a rabbit stew and then a chocolate mousse that brought tears to my eyes (and warranted its own meal-recounting postcard home to dad), and the other was the genius behind the lavender creme brulee at a tiny restaurant that I fear I might not be able to find again in a village I couldn't name offhand, somewhere between Paris and Marseille (better dig up that old travel journal). I am proud to say that I restrained myself both times, planting a chaste peck on each cheek -- it was France, after all -- while mumbling mangled magnifiques and merci beaucoups. The chefs seemed somewhat startled, but pleased. (I'd have done the same at Alice Waters' place if the chef who'd made the candied orange peel ice cream with caramel sauce hadn't left for the day.)

I have calmed down a bit in my older, wiser days. Really the chef kissing was always simply meant as a sincere expression of thanks for a particularly inspired meal, anyway. The reason it is on my mind is because I have recently been privy to not one but TWO stellar, kiss-worthy meals of late, both courtesy of my favorite dining (and cuddling) companion. Since we are both lovers of well-crafted food and language, we've drafted a few love letters in belated thanks to those who wooed our tastebuds so artfully while supporting local farms so devotedly.

This one is for the the culinary geniuses at Arlington's The Green Pig, to whom I should have written a love letter on the spot:

Shall I compare thee to the trout and farro?
Butternut mouthfuls doused in maple butter:
Such flavors shake the tastebuds til tomorrow,
Each morsel we’d recount and later mutter:
Almost too rich, that snail and mushroom toast!
Can’t recollect who scarfed the last pork taco,
Or which tidbit of salad we’d loved most,
Were hardly ready for dessert that followed,
But the eternal wisdom of our waitress
Led us right to the butterscotch concoction
Not even Death shall rob mem’ries of th’ garnish:
That chocolate, those pecans defy description.
So long as tongues can taste or eyes can see,
So will that dinner be recalled with glee.

And to the crew at Brooklyn's Applewood, where we had my official birthday feast, an experience that inspired the comment-card-turned-epistle-of-undying-gratitude left with the tip, we offer this:

My boyfriend’s eyes are fixed on the last bite
Of that chocolate pistachio torte of bliss
As I sip the last of our brandy flight
And daydream of another meal like this.
I’ve tasted duck before, but none this way:
Such tender meat and crispy, golden skin
With silky collards and parsnip puree,
Washed down by yet another sip of Zin.
But first, the holy trinity of cheese –
“Artisanal,” they said, sheep, goat, and bleu –
And a magenta cocktail, “Brighton Beets,”
And flaky pike which we could not eschew.
E’en so, by heaven, the scallops were the best. 
No, wait, the duck! No, cheese! We must retest….

(It may or may not be true that I had to hustle us out of there before Kenton snuck back to the kitchen to kiss the chef at Applewood.)