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I have been thinking a lot about a comment DF left the other day:

Everytime you write a review about a place in DC it further solidifies my belief that its one of the worst metro areas in the country to go out to eat.

This is not a post to attack DF’s viewpoint.  I think it is a fairly valid one and I can totally understand where he gets that impression.  I raked Bar Dupont over the coals last week, but I really think they had it coming.  I am not afraid to give a place the what what if they deserve it.  Also, I just think DC has a bad rep when it comes to food and it is hard to shake such things.  Comparing DC to NY or San Francisco just isn’t fair; they are completely different beasts. There is a lot of really good stuff going on here.

Thusly, I do feel it appropriate to expound on the inherent goodness of one of my favorite restaurants in DC, Proof.

I have written about Proof before, but largely their wine selection.  While wine is important, I feel it would be remiss to not mention the food.

Oh GOD, the food. I don’t think a trip to Proof would be complete without the charcuterie plate; every single bite is to be savored.  The duck confit, served at lunch, is crispy and decadent.  Served on a bed of Asian slaw, it is pretty over the top for a mid day meal, but I will allow it.  The pork confit at dinner is just as amazing.  The seasonal gnocchi never disappoints; it is light and fluffy, not heavy and leaden.  I have dined on moist, but never fatty, duck and perfectly seasoned scallops.  The cookie platter is a delight and the wine suggestions are helpful and you never feel like they are gouging you.  I have never had bad service; staff is attentive but not overbearing. I adore the sleek, sexy atmosphere.  It is chic, but not fussy.

I have a secret for you, too.  I have been keeping it for a while, acting extremely selfish.  Lean in…mmm, you smell good, kinda woodsy.

What was I saying?

Oh!  Right.  So, at the bar on weekdays, they have a lunch special…$12 for a glass of wine and a lunch entree.  Duck confit and a Malbec for $12?!  Come on kids, it really does not get much better than that.

Proof, to me, is pretty much the perfect restaurant.  Amazing food, great atmosphere, urban, hip without trying too hard, and most importantly, they care about their customers and want them to come back.

And now on to you…What are you looking for in a restaurant?  What do you think is lacking in DC’s food scene? Tell me where you love to eat here or across the country…


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Oh, Friday’s off, how I love you. Today I will do wonderful things such as have a leisurly workout, meet up with my pal VK for lunch, and catch up with Irish Lebowski for a afternoon gossip download. Mixed in there will be a trip to see a woman with broken English who I will pay to rip the hair out of my most sensitive of bits. This part is not so wonderful, but it is entirely necessary, so there we have it. Don’t you feel so close to me now that you know this?

Anyway, a few weekend tid bits now that I have your attention:

  • If you live in NYC, are a blogger/friend, and want to see a group of people test their personal limits for alcohol consumption, please come out on Saturday night and say hi. We will be at the canned-chicken1Pourhouse starting at 9.30.
  • Dude, have you seen this chicken in a can bullshit? It has been everywhere, but holy hell. A WHOLE FUCKING CHICKEN. IN A FUCKING CAN. Look at that picture! Seriously, the thought of it makes me want to vomit. Can you even imagine the sound that thing makes as it comes out of the can? How it tastes? I feel more shame even thinking about eating that than I do on the typical Sunday morning
  • I have a little secret: I am pretty gullible. My father Don has made a career out of telling me outlandish tales and seeing how far he can take it before I become suspicious. This is why these meat business cards confuse me. Is this real? Is my leg being pulled? Who wants a business card made out of cured meat? I have so many questions; please give me an answer.

Have a lovely weekend, kids.

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True Story

First, let me preface what I am about to say: I am kinda burnt out on being serious. I mean, all in all I am a pretty fun girl. This seriousness is a bit of a bear, but I did want to share what follows. The rest of the week, though? I swear it will be full of ridiculous tales of me trying to win at life. But today, a break from format; no food, no recipe, no restaurant review…just something important to me.

I was talking to my mom the other day and I asked her what I was like as a kid. She said “smart, happy, thoughtful, very in tune with the feelings of others, sensitive, optimistic.”

I replied “What the hell happened?”

She laughed and said “Believe me, I have asked myself that.”

Now of course some of the stories here are exaggerated; this is something I have covered ad nauseum. I think one not read here for long before they see I am still a touch sensitive and somewhere deep under all the armor is a hidden optimist–a painfully cautious, closeted optimist who thinks that despite her better judgment there is some good in the world…it is just hard to find.  It cannot be argued, however, that I am very different from the little girl I once was.

Truth of the matter is, I know when all this changed. My parent’s went through a rather messy divorce where my brother and I witnessed what I can only classify as some fucked up shit. Despite my openness here, I have rarely talked about this out of respect for my mom and a lingering feeling that some things are better kept private. I will say that my decision to end all communication with my father is one I have never regretted over the past 11 years.

In junior high school, a soul gripping depression overtook me. I often contemplated suicide and that is when the weight really started piling in. As an adult, it makes so much sense; abusive father, depressive spiral, eating to cope…it is almost a cliche but that didn’t make it any less real to me. I was in real danger.

I fought therapy and medication for years but it reached a point where I could barely get out of bed. I gave in, turned to a therapist and my good friend, Prozac, and finally lifted the cloud enough to tackle some serious issues. College brought another set of issues, another period of depression and counseling.

It’s been over 10 years since I took an anti-depressant, but I have turned to therapy when necessary.  I really don’t think I am more messed up or had any more life trauma than the next girl, but the combination of some rough stuff and an inclination towards depression makes sessions with a professional sometimes necessary.

I share this because I don’t think it is all that big a deal, but many people do.  It astonishes me that in 2009 there is still a taboo connected to taking care of your mental health.  When my friend asked me a favor–to help get the word out about an event being hosted by Active Minds next Tuesday–she had no idea about my struggles with mental health.  Well, now the whole internet does.  I am surprised with how many emails I receive from random companys wanting me to test/promote their newest product or food.  I tend to pass on them because I have never seen anything I can truly stand behind.  I do think Active Minds is doing something important next week with their “Spring Break-the Silence” reception and fundraiser; encouraging an open dialogue and peer counseling for college students is a noble agenda.  You will rarely hear me so openly support something not connected to food or a restaurant here–I like to try to keep this space as apolitical as possible–but if you are looking to donate some money I don’t think it can be argued that this is not a worthy cause.

And that is all I really have to say about that.  Tomorrow?  Puppies, rainbows and maybe even some sexual deviancy.

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Reminder

I kinda shot my emotional load yesterday so today I plan on lazing about, sweating a bit at the gym, making some Easter goodies for a heathen holiday celebration and catching up with a dear friend in the evening. It should be lovely.

Just a quick reminder that the Coffee Syrup Contest ends today(4/10) at noon. Go ask me a question and cross your fingers.

Have a great weekend. When you hear a string of expletives Sunday night it is me doing my taxes.

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About a year ago I stopped reading the online chats hosted by Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post’s dining critic. It was not the repetitive questions or Sietsema’s predictable answers that killed my love affair with him, but the incessant whining of the chatters. Everyone always had something to bitch about; there were complaints about waits (shocking, you show up to a restaurant on a Saturday night and have to wait?!), noise (people do talk in restaurants, ya know) and the audacity some diners had to actually have children (and we aren’t talking about complaints about unruly children in fine dining establishments, we are talking ‘how dare anyone ever bring any sort of little person in to any establishment where I eat’). What miffed me the most, however, was how  everyone always seemed to be demanding free stuff; people wanted a free round of drinks or a comped dessert because they didn’t like everything they had ordered or because the window had a draft or because they disagreed with the light fixtures.

But–there is always a but–I do have one huge complaint about restaurants and I am turning to you. I need to know if I am whining.  I don’t think restaurants take food allergies nearly serious enough.

Some background: I was at Co Co Sala recently with my friend Bawstin. The meal was…medicore. The crab cakes were subpar, the tuna tartar was middling and the service was unremarkable. I will say the bananas foster was pretty damn delicious and I was enchanted by the wafer cookies that accompanied our petit fours, but there ain’t enough cookies to make up for the fact that the ice cream was so hard I used a knife to cut it and our mint mouse was loose and weak in mint flavor. The atmosphere was cozy and I could tell they were going for a romantic vibe, but I found the waitstaff dressed in red to be a bit of overkill; I get it, folks.

Bawstin is severely allergic to nuts. In the ten years I have known him I have witnessed these reactions twice and they are terrifying. It is instantaneous and the last time it happened I found myself chasing after an ambulance that had him inside. He is incredibly conscientious about making sure servers know of his allergy.  He politely told our server at Co Co Sala before we ordered to please make sure all our dishes were nut free.  When we ordered he once again reminded her of his allergy.  When she dropped our food he took a look at our portabella flatbread and asked again “And you checked about the nuts right?”  She said she would “make sure” and came back to the table a few minutes later and informed us that, in fact, there were nuts in the flatbread.  We were glad he hadn’t eaten the dish but somewhat stunned that after being so careful the waitress had neglected to check.

Now, I do believe you dine at your own risk.  I also know that excessive modification to menu items can kill the creativity of the chef and can just be down right annoying.  This being said, I think the restaurant failed here.  Bawstin’s allergy can be fatal and this is something I don’t think an establishment should take lightly.  What are your thoughts? Am I being unreasonable?  What should we expect from dining establishments when it comes to food allergies?  I would love to hear your opinions on this.

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One of the few draws of suburbia, at least for me, is Peruvian Chicken. It used to be Peruvian Chicken and Target, but since one of the superstores opened in Columbia Heights, I embrace hopping on the green line, picking up Dunkin’ Donuts, and witnessing street crime all on the way to grab toilet paper and a $27 bathing suit. It is a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

So, as a lady that doesn’t drive and who has a group of friends who are very sick of carting her ass around– no matter how many amusingly ridiculous tales I recount- I do not get to enjoy Peruvian chicken often. There just aren’t enough people in the world who really yearn for slow roasted bird. It is a very sad stroke of luck.

Yet, it looks like my luck has changed.

Nando’s Peri-Peri “home of legendary, Portugese, flame-grilled, peri-peri chicken” has opened in Chinatown. Now, I know there are many cultural differences between the Peruvian and the Portuguese, but none of them are evident in their chicken. I couldn’t detect a lick of difference.

The chicken is juicy and tender, with a flavorful skin. The dipping sauces offer significant heat without drowning out actual flavor; I was enamored with the garlic peri-peri sauce, but the wild herb was also great. I ordered the mashed potatoes as my side and was not disappointed; chives and garlic tickled every bite without overpowering the buttery potatoes. My friend had the spicy rice, which avoided massive amounts of salt (a common problem at these places) and complemented the chicken well.

This is not to say the place was without its faults. Service was a tad chaotic, with an over eager manager and unsure counter staff. After ordering, you are instructed to order at the counter, to sit down and then a server appears. The place is manic; it cannot decide if it is sit down or self serve, which leaves the customer feeling lost and confused.
I can deal with uncertainty in my dating life, but not with my chicken.

Even though Nando’s had its faults, all was forgiven when this appeared:

A good carrot cake can make me overlook 5 courses of faults…and this cake? Well, it could have convinced me Charlie Manson was Javier Bardem. Sure, it tasted a tad industrial, but the industry had done its research. It was moist, chock full of raisins, full of crunchy walnuts, and slathered in a thick, sweet, cream cheese frosting. A moist carrot cake with a decent frosting is a really hard thing to find, and Nando’s did a damn good job, especially for a chain.

A car? I now have one less reason to ever purchase one; smoky chicken can be purchased right here in the city. Even without the special, mind numbing powers of the carrot cake, I would go back in a heartbeat.

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I have barely recovered from the trip back from Cape May, but I finally feel ready to make a few recommendations regarding food. It is a fantastic little town, perfect for a weekend getaway. I do not recommend driving there on a long weekend lest something akin to removing your kidney with a rusty fork sounds like a good time, but that is neither here nor there.

I swear this post is not an excuse in any way to show an achingly cute picture of me and SuperBoy:

We had a great place with a kitchen, so dining out was somewhat limited, but here are a few finds:

The Lobster House: A co-worker of Aunt LifeSaver recommended the Lobster House as the best seafood place on the Cape. Now, it was damn good, but I also contend it appears to be the only seafood market in town. I am sure there are lesser, smaller operations, but this is clearly the fat cat. This doesn’t negate the fact that it is a fantastic shop though; the prices are stellar, the seafood fresh and varied and the staff quick and efficient. The lines there are pure insanity, but our scallops and shrimp were phenomenal. It was well worth the wait.

Jackson Mountain Cafe: I have quite the affinity for onion rings and this little place did them very well. Crispy with just the perfect amount of grease, I was left quite satisfied. They could have used a bit more batter, but nothing in this world is perfect. SuperBoy had the requisite lunch of chicken fingers and fries…his fries did not disappoint. With my onion rings I ordered a daily special, the pulled pork sandwich, and it was large. Very large. And served on a footlong hoagie roll. It was like a bread scooner of pulled pork. It tasted pretty damn good, but I only managed to eat about a third of it. Aunt LifeSaver also had very positive things to say about the New England clam chowder, pretty high praise from a woman who grew up on Cape Cod.

Kohr Brother’s Frozen Custard: I know, I know. Kohr Brother’s is a chain and can be found on most boardwalk locales. The place is worth mentioning for two very special reasons: 1) The peanut butter custard is divine. Generally, peanut butter soft serves are a dissapointment, kinda sorta tasting vaguely peanut buttery. Kohrs’ variety is rich and creamy and there is no mistaking what it is. 2) They call sprinkles “jimmies”. Now, I have always called sprinkles jimmies, but then someone in college told me that was racist. My white liberal guilt would not allow my frozen treats to be dusted with candied bits of hate, so I adopted the term sprinkles. Well, sprinkles no more! If Kohr’s Brothers tells me it is ok, jimmies has happily found it’s way back in to my vernacular.

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“I am never driving anywhere again!”, declared SuperBoy yesterday.

This declaration came about 7 hours in to our 10 hour journey home yesterday.

His six-year-old mouth is allowed to utter words my 27-year-old one could not, but yes. I agree with him. I never want to be in a car again. The open road can kiss my ass.

I really did do my best. Honestly, I tried. I attempted napping, keeping my mouth shut, reading, cracking jokes. SuperBoy held it together well, Aunt LifeSaver exhibited the patience of a saint, and sassE handled the whole situation with aplomb.

But ten hours? Ten God forsaken hours? There was no need for this. It was if the whole state of New Jersey was attempting to find it’s way back to DC. My stomach hurt from the tragic combination of lack of a real dinner and a weekend filled with boardwalk confections. My ass was numb. At one point it took us two hours to move NINETEEN MILES. Around hour 8, it was as if my spirit levitated out of my body. I was not Lemmonex anymore, but a broken, defeated sack of bones.

I finally thought we were in the clear when we pulled in to DC. This is when SuperBoy vomited on me. How poetic

The car ride, and it’s spectacular denouement, left me yearning for a simpler time, a time when all was right in the world, when I did not know the horrors that lay before me, a time when I was enjoying my trip (which I did, greatly), a time when my pigz in blanketz destiny was fulfilled.

I have never made pigz in blanketz myself, and sassE charitably taught me the ropes. She also insists is pigz in blanetz, NOT pigs in blankets, as she is straight up gansta. Aunt LifeSaver had the genius idea of sprinkling some of them with a salty herby mix and she created a dipping sauce of dijon and maple syrup. (It was good, trust me. Kinda like honey mustard). Ya know, we had to keep it klassy.

So, while I may have had the worst car ride home in the history of car rides, I will always have my beloved pigz in blanketz.

Pigz in Blanketz

1 package mini wieners (this is the ONLY way to go)

1 package crescent rolls

Optional: poppy seeds, sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Cut crescent rolls in to strips (about 1/2 inch wide). Wrap around wieners. Lay on cookie sheet which has been sprayed with Pam. Bake about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Gorge thyself.

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Shannon asks:

Can you please recommend a tasty salsa recipe that isn’t tomato-centered or boring, but isn’t so bizarre that my friends’ kids will refuse to eat it? Bonus points if there’s watermelon involved, as that’s on special at Safeway and I’m a horrid cheapskate.

Now, let me first assert: you are not cheap, you are a realist. Food prices are insanity lately, as we all know. Cindarella called me just yesterday with a very valid rant after spending $17 at the supermarket and leaving with three items. Three items! And none of them contained gold, meth or anti-aging elixir.

I poked around a bit and found a watermelon salsa at Epicurious that looked better than most of the others. Cucumber and watermelon are great compliments to each other, and not only in some horrible body lotion you can pick up at the mall. The flavors work well together and the crystallized ginger in this recipe appeals to me. (You can probably get a small nub of it at the devil store Whole Foods. It is good for some things.) If there are kids around you may want to cut down on the jalepenos, but I say teach kids not to be food-phobic at a young age and keep the heat.

I love avocados, a love almost proportionate to my love of Javier Bardem, and a corn and avocado salsa would be lovely and cheap. The avocado is the only real cost, and this recipe only calls for one. It also calls for an ear of corn, but if you cannot find fresh, I promise I will not tell anyone of you use canned sweet corn.

On the avocado tip, my friends Foxy Moron and Shiftless Badger recently had me over for dinner and made a mango and avocado salsa. It was pure simplicity and could not have been better: mango, avocado, lots of lime, chili, cilantro, salt and pepper. Just, um, please don’t use as much chili as dear Foxy did, because I had steam coming out of my ears for two days. Still, quite delicious, though my digestive tract will never really be the same.

There is no salsa planned in my holiday future, but you may have inspired me. Up until now the plan was to drink wine and eat pigs in blankets at Cape May all while teaching my six-year-old cousin yes, it is normal to sob when you put on your bathing suit and, no, I am not a ghost, my legs are just this pasty.

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Dear Barton:

I have a confession; I’ve a bit of a crush on you. I think you are crazy delicious. I know, I know. You aren’t really my type; you are blond and, at 29, a bit young for my tastes. You actually seem like a pretty swell guy, what with your dedication to responsibly sourced seafood and locally grown produce, and I generally do not tend to gravitate towards nice guys. Compassion and caring isn’t really my style. Yet, the sly grin in most of your photos tells me there may be a bit of bad boy lurking underneath. Maybe there is hope for us.

Today, I finally made it to Tackle Box, your new casual dining destination in Georgetown. Barton, this shows how deep my devotion runs…I went to Georgetown for you. You and your food are worth it.

Your fries are dark brown, salty and delicious; they are made even better by a healthy dousing of malt vinegar. The fried oysters are creamy, crispy, and fresh. I found the blueberry pie supremely enjoyable; not too sweet and the wonderfully flavorful crust left me wanting more. Your staff was stellar as well. Everyone was friendly, warm, and accommodating. They even checked on us half way through our meal; at such a casual joint, this little touch did not go unnoticed. Even the decor was cheeky and charming.

But Barton? Baby? Please don’t get mad because you know how perfect I think you are, but I have one teeny, tiny complaint. The lobster roll could have used a bit more salt and some celery. A little bit of crunch really helps highlight the rich creaminess of the delicate lobster salad; it is a wonderful contrast in most other rolls that I missed in yours. But kudos to you! You used the perfect amount of mayo in the roll. The toasted bun was also divine. But maybe can you reconsider the celery/salt situation? I promise this will be the only thing I ask of you. OK, maybe I will ask for the occasional back rub, but my skin is incredibly soft. I bet you’ll like it, too.

I promise I will be back to see you. This small difference of opinion regarding a silly little lobster roll is not enough to keep me away. After all, no relationship is perfect and you sure do bring a lot to the table. Maybe next time you will come out and talk to me? I promise I won’t bite…unless you ask.

Yours in devotion,

Lemmonex

xoxoxox

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