Monday, March 31, 2008

MM: Mango Mania

My favorite things:

flower: orchid

"vegetable": tomato

fruit: mango

Last night at the Israeli restaurant Cindy and her family took me to for my birthday, I indulged in one of my favorite things!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lunch at The Source

Stacey and I went out for lunch today to The Source, Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in the new Newseum, to be open on April 11th. The occasion? Our birthdays! This was honestly one of the best meals I've had in quite a while, and so much better than our previous joint lunches at Oya and Charlie Palmer.

First Course
Asparagus Soup with lump crab (or was it lobster?) and roasted onions
(The online menu did not include this. Absolutely divine! And quite a big portion for an appetizer soup)

Main Course
“American Style” Kobe Burger, Smoked Onion Marmalade, Herb Aioli and Fries
(Pretty much the best burger I've ever had...maybe except for the mini burgers at Matchbox! Perfectly juicy; the onion marmalade added a great note of sweetness, and the bun was toasted. I have 1/2 of it saved for an afternoon snack.)

Chocolate Purse With Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl
(I'm so glad I listened to Stacey ordered my own dessert instead of splitting: we would have completely fought over it. The chocolate oozed out from the little pouch made from the thinnest pastry dough imaginable and was accompanied by icecream.)

Here's to many more fun lunches out with good friends enjoying great food! Thanks, Wolfgang :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Salad time

Last week I decided to try out for a contributor for DCFoodies, but unfortunately they thought my area of interest (cooking for one, or cooking without a recipe, or cooking with leftovers) was very similar to what they already cover.

Below is the recipe I submitted to them with some help from Anna in formatting.

Let's Clean the Fridge before Vacation Salad

2 bell peppers (red and yellow)
1/4 red onion
2/3 cup frozen or fresh corn
2 T minced parsley
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
2 T olive oil
2 T White Balsamic Raspberry Blush Vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

1) Wash and dry the peppers and put them directly onto a gas flame. Keep the peppers on the flame, turning occasionally, until they are completely black. Put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. After the peppers have cooled, rub off the black skin. Remove and discard the seeds. Slice the peppers into strips. (If you don't have a gas stove, broil the peppers in your oven or use outside grill)
2) Slice the red onion and saute till softened in one teaspoon of oil. Add a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar and cook for another minute. Remove the onions from the pan.
3) Add two teaspoons of oil to the pan and cook the frozen corn for about 4 minutes. (If using fresh corn, decrease the amount of cooking time).
4) Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and vinegar.

The random things that make me cry

Last night I went to see a free screening of The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. One of the lines in the movie struck a cord with me. It talked about a goalie on a soccer field, and how he is a solitary player who can't fail and is always expecting the worst. The line made me sad because I can absolutely relate to it.

This was a beautifully shot and acted movie that won many international awards. If you have a chance to see it, I would highly recommend it!

One of the big parts in the movie was the World Cup that took place in 1970 (soccer, obviously). All of a sudden, as I was sitting in the theater full of strangers, I realized that my dad was only 20 years old in 1970 and for some reason it made me incredibly sad and the tears began falling...and never stopped. At moments I thought I would not be able to breath. Once again, it's this bizarre combination of being in a public place and surrounded by strangers, that gives one a feeling of anonymity and allows emotions to completely flow. Still, you are not completely alone at moments like these.

I left the theater with mixed emotions: happy I saw the film, yet disturbed by the feelings it brought up in me. The only remedy for my "condition" was to go salsa dancing. Luckily GT was there: I can never not be in a great mood when dancing with him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm in Washington Post!!!!

A few months ago I applied to be a student for Washington Post's "Chef on Call" column, and the editors emailed me back setting up my lesson for March 7th with Nathalie Dupree. I was thrilled beyond belief, but also nervous and somewhat stressed (my kitchen needed to be cleaned from top to bottom).

Photo Credit: By Len Spoden For The Washington Post Photo

They came, we cooked, pictures were taken and it was a really good time! I then had to wait 2 weeks for the article to come out. I'm not good at waiting. Last night I could not fall asleep and shortly after midnight went ahead and logged onto Washington Post and read the published article. I wish there was more there about me, but I know they had to promote Nathalie and her upcoming books. This was a very worthwhile experience. Who knows...maybe Date Lab will be knocking on my doors next?!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Philadelphia: a city of "sisterly" love

On March 21st Anna and I met in Philadelphia for a 3 day weekend to celebrate our birthday a week early. We had an awesome time. Here is a quick recap:

Arrival at 4pm
Check into the Hilton Garden Inn 12th and Arch: this was a perfect location: completely in the center of Downtown and allowed us to walk everywhere!

Exchange presents!!!! Anna loved the jewelry I made for her, and I received three metal containers of loose tea with pretty brown ribbons. We then checked out the hotel swimming pool where we were splashed by a bunch of little kids...not too much fun, but we did a few laps.

Dinner: Cebu. The original plan was to meet with Janet at Amada for Spanish tapas, but there was a 1.5 hours wait, so we decided to go to Cebu instead: also tapas, but with Filipino influence. The restaurant is in the building that used to be a bank and was absolutely beautiful. The food was pretty good too (in my opinion).

Dancing at Brasil's: After dinner, Anna and I went literally across the street to Brasil's for salsa dancing. It was fabulous! People danced with us, the music was pretty good and we burned off some of the calories.

Reading Terminal Market When I went to Philadelphia the first time, I absolutely loved the Reading Terminal Market. It reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle and the markets we used to have in Moscow. This time around, it was less exciting, but still a buzzing place! We could not decide what to have for breakfast and since by that time it was 11 am, we agreed to head to Old City and find lunch.

Lunch at Campo's Deli (2nd and Market): This place was recommended by and had excellent cheesesteak sandwiches and hoagies; the only thing missing were fries.
Afterwards I bought the best hot chocolate I have ever had at a nearby Franklin Fountain: definitely worth $5!

South Street Shopping: This street has a ton of shopping! We went in and out of little stores and ended up at Beadworks (2nd & South) where we spent more than an hour choosing the beads for our craft projects, which we made after the shopping was over.

Dinner at Monk's (Spruce & 16th): this was one of my favorite places and I decided to come back to have dinner at Monk's with Anna. Once again there was an hour wait, but we waited and it was completely worth it! Mussels, fries, salad and beer! Yes, I even had beer!

Dancing at Brasil's: We went back to Brasil's for dancing. This time around the music was even better and we stayed out till 2 am: had to take a cab back to the hotel because our feet weren't cooperating any more.

Di Bruno Brothers: the plan was to go to Di Bruno Brothers and look around the store and then have brunch at their upstairs restaurant. However, since it was Easter, the restaurant was closed and we needed to find another place for food.

Brunch at Continental: When I came to Philadelphia two years ago, I tried having dinner at Continental, but sadly, and I don't know why, no one would serve me at the bar (which at the end was lucky, because it was then that I found Monk's). This time around Anna and I had a fabulous brunch and sat at chairs that were hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful and the food was even better (and only $10/plate!!!).

Ritterhouse Square: We then strolled to Ritterhouse Square, which is admittedly more beautiful in the spring or summer, but it is still a nice neighborhood surrounded by fancy stores.

Philadelphia Museum of Art: Time for some culture! We went through the main museum and the newly opened Perelman Building, which was by far my favorite.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Whole Foods for a little snack, and it was there that I bought my gorgeous orchid (which luckily survived the trip back to DC) and received a free bar of dark chocolate.

Dinner at Amada: I made reservations, and we did not have to wait! Again: such a pretty space, great service, and amazing food! This was a great way to cap off our time in Philadelphia.

Miel Patisserie: Janet recommended this bakery because she used to work there. The door handles are wings of a bee: cuteness! We had the Parisian style macaroons: oh the memories!

Shopping: no trip is complete without shopping, so we did some!

And then it was time to pick our bags from the hotel, head back to Amtrak station and catch our respective trains.

Fun was had by all!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jewelry Mania

As many of you know, I took two jewelry classes and absolutely loved them! I thought it would be fun to make some jewelry with Anna while we were in Philadelphia. Saturday we spent at least an hour (maybe closer to 2) at a bead store. Below are our creations.

I made the ring on the left while in DC and brought supplies to make a copy of it for Anna if she liked it (obviously she did). The stone in the middle is aquamarine, our birthstone; the stones on the sides are garnets.
I made these earrings using a cluster of white pearls and garnets I had left from my other jewelry projects.
I had these beads hanging off of one of my tunics and decided to make earrings from them instead. I also created the silver spiral below the bead.

Anna pretty much created this bracelet and I "manufactured" it. It matches my earrings, ring and necklace! What can I say? I like to match.
The two earrings below are Anna's. She completely designed them, and I made them. They are super pretty!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Two reasons I love Whole Foods

Anna and I are in Philadelphia this weekend, celebrating out b-day a week early. I'll write a full recap in a few days.

Today on the way to our hotel from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we decided to stop by Whole Foods for a quick snack. The first thing I saw was an orchid! There was no turning back :) I am now a proud owner of my fifth orchid: it's absolutely gorgeous: has 5 flowers and 6 more buds. And if I was successful in bringing an orchid from Florida, I'm sure I'll be just fine bringing this one on the train with me. And, no, I'm not naming it.
I then wanted to get Dove dark chocolate, because I loved it when Jenn bought it for me. I asked a cute Whole Foods employee if they had it; unfortunately they did not. But he suggested a few other dark chocolate bars and even let me take one for free. What's not to love???

Friday, March 21, 2008

She liked them; she really liked them!

I made these drop earrings (the wire hook I bought) for Anna for our birthday, and she liked them! I am so pleased!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looks are not everything, you know...

Today is Purim and last night I decided to make hamentaschen (the spelling differs quite a bit)for the first time in my life. I found a recipe on Washington Post for cream cheese dough, went to the store, borrowed a rolling pin and a cutter from Sur La Table and set out to bake 32 cookies before going dancing.

The outcome was rather mixed: the cookies spread out and did not hold together, the baking time was at least 5-7 minutes longer than in the recipe, my kitchen is a gignormous mess. However, to concentrate on the positive, I tried something new, and the hamentaschen tasted absolutely great! Perhaps I'll try them again next year with a new recipe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tonight's dinner: Creole Cod

Thanks, Robyn!

I'm gonna live forever....

Just read this mini article in Washington Post's Express.

Freak out, Grandma!
According to a study of residents of Florida retirement communities presented at the American Psychosomatic Society last week, women with high levels of anxiety were expected to stay alive longer than their calm counterparts. But overly anxious men were more likely to kick the bucket.

The good, the fruity, and the bad....

Yesterday I was looking forward to a night of dancing, but first, there was some cooking to be done, as I'm testing 4 recipes for Robyn Webb this week. Sunday, Paige and Cara came over for tilapia tacos. Last night I invited Anna and Wendy for salmon with fruit salsa. Afterwards, Anna and I were going to go salsa dancing.

The food was great: the mangoes and pineapple were perfectly ripe, and the salmon was tender and spicy! I combined the leftover salsa with rotisserie chicken, mayo and red pepper into a salad for today.

The company, needless to say, was also great.

What wasn't great was that St. Paddy's day completely messed up with my salsa dancing because Lucky Bar chose to cancel Monday salsa just this one time. Instead, Anna, Wendy and I watched Dancing with the Stars and then The Bachelor!

Monday, March 17, 2008

An honorary twin

A while ago I met Anna (not Anna my twin) at a Tango dance and then again at a volunteering event. And yesterday Anna (my twin) and I decided to give Anna an honorary twin status. After all, we have so much in common: we are the same age, of Russian descent, love salsa dancing, independent films, food, museums, the list can go on and on. It is truly sad she's not a guy :)

Welcome to the club, Anna!

P.S. Applications are still being accepted!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

B-day jewelry

My grandparents gave me money for my upcoming birthday and I thought it would be fun to make a necklace with 29 stones, because I will be 29. That idea did not work out, and I decided instead to make jewelry using my birthstone: aquamarine. To spice things up, I also used natural garnets. This is my new set.

P.S. I made one more piece, but it is a secret for now!

Wire Jewelry Class

Today I took my second jewelry class at Beadazzled: Introduction to working with wire. I absolutely LOVED it! Here are some pictures of the things I made.

Beach glass pendant wrapped in wire
Green earrings completely made by me (hooks and everything!) to match the green necklace I made earlier

Friday, March 14, 2008

The fruits of my labor

The latest issues of Diabetes Forecast is out and includes pizza recipes I tested for Robyn Webb (the pictures were taken by a professional).


Artichoke and Leek Pizza
Greek Pizza & Easy Margherita Pizza

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cravings: 2 for the price of 1

Yesterday I had a craving for something bad for dinner. At first, I consider McD. However, just like with Subway, I am always disappointed with their food.

I decided to go home and see if something would suddenly appeal to me: and it did! I thought it'd be fun to get a burger in Champps. Two things I forgot to consider: 1) you can still smoke in bars/restaurants in VA, 2) there were TONS of people in Champps at 6 pm. Luckily, there was an option to order your food to go. I asked for a medium-well blue cheese burger without cheddar (who needs blue cheese and cheddar?). Twenty minutes later, my food was ready and I rushed home. I was starving! Any thought of trying to take a picture of my food was out of the question (I was planning on following some advice on taking food pictures given to me by Len Spoden, who shot my Chef on Call for Washington Post).

I opened the box, I smelled the grilled beef and then panic set in.....where was the blue cheese!?!?!?!??!?!? It was missing! There was nothing topping my burger. I had a moment of indecision: should I eat my food or take it back? I added some mayo in between the burger and the bun, but no, that is not what I wanted.

I called Champps and told them my order was wrong (yes, I should have checked the order before I left the restaurant). Good thing I live literally across the street from them. Another twenty minutes and I had my blue cheese burger without cheddar, with bacon and fries. It was good. It wasn't fantastic, but it alleviated my craving. Feeling absolutely revoltingly full, I still had one of Stacey's truffles. Yes, I have no self control.

I'm about to go eat the original burger for lunch (Champps was generous enough to let me keep it after I told them I already had a few fries because I was starving).

Happy Eating!

Monday, March 10, 2008

RSR: Spicy Grits with Chorizo, Leeks, and Corn

RSR: Real Simple Recipe

Tonight I decided to make Spicy Grits with Chorizo, Leeks, and Corn from my favorite magazine, Real Simple. (what are the chances of them reading this and hiring me?)

I doubled the amount of chorizo and garlic. I also decided that a bit of Monterrey jack cheese would not hurt!

Stacey made me look pretty!

I'm not a fan of people taking my pictures because I don't think I'm one of those lucky photogenic people. An exception are the pictures my dad took of me and Anna when we were little.

Stacey, however, managed to take pictures of me, which I absolutely LOVE! We went to the Botanical Garden last week and I played a model! Stacey was a great photographer: made me laugh in order to get a natural smile, told me where to put my arm, which direction to look at and even let me take a few pictures with my glasses on (take that, Anna!).

I loved this entire experience and how well the pictures turned out after Stacey did her magic.

Problem Solved

I love bagels with cream cheese and lox for breakfast, but don't have a toaster at work. If I toast the bagel at home, by the time I get to work, it's all soggy.

Last night I bought Wasa multi grain crispbread: perfect crunch and an excellent taste! And the crackers don't fall apart when you take a bite. I think I'll be hooked.

P.S. and there are only 45 calories per cracker!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dinner: white and green

Plans change sometimes. However, when it comes to food, I'm better at dealing with these changes.

After eating out 3 times yesterday, I thought I should make something lighter for dinner and planned on cooking scallops. However, the scallops at the store were of questionable quality: I decided to go with tilapia. Thus, white and green dinner was born :)

Salad: lettuce, sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced green onions and cubed avocado.
Dressing: olive oil, lime juice, salt & pepper, a few splashes of raspberry blush vinegar and a bit of sweet chili pepper sauce.
Fish: saute tilapia in a bit of butter. When the fish is done, take it out of the pan, add a bit of butter, a few tablespoons of white wine and capers. Heat.

To serve, toss the salad with the dressing, place tilapia on top and spoon some of the sauce on top of the fish. LOVED IT!

Sorry, no pictures. I was too hungry.

Pretentiousness + bad service = Unhappy Customers

Yesterday was the International Women's Day and I thought it'd be fun to go out for lunch with my girl friends. Only Angela was available and we decided to try the new Le Pain Quotidien in Old Town recommended by Robyn.

The restaurant was very welcoming: communal table, pretty desserts, families with children dining on open faced sandwiches. And then the pretentiousness started. We were addressed as madames by our waiter: give me a break! We are not in France, and he was definitely not French. Angela ordered iced tea and grilled chicken & smoked mozzarella with pesto tartine. I opted for mint lemonade and tuna with olive tapenade & roasted peppers tartine. The sandwiches (tartines) arrived accompanied only by a few slices of tomatoes and cucumbers. Angela's was very good. Mine was okay, but there was nothing holding tuna to the bread, so it kept on plopping off the bread and onto the table. They should have used mayo! And the bread should have been toasted. Oh, and the roasted peppers? I would be suprised if they used more than an eigth of a pepper for my entire sandwich!

I asked if they have refills for lemonade; "of course, madame," was the answer.

I then decided I should try one of the desserts and asked if they had anything warm. The waiter recommended a winter crumble with variety of berries. I decided a simple apricot crumble would be better. It came absolutely cold! Was it too much of an inference to think that all crumbles were served warm!? I asked the waiter about this and his answer was "yes, this is served cold." Uhm...the right answer should have been "this one is cold, but we can warm it up for you." I ate my dessert cold.

Then the bill arrived, and I was charged twice for my drink. I decided it was time to chat with the manager, but our all-of-a-sudden eager waiter decided to intercept me and ask what was wrong and said he'll take the extra charge off: no apologies offered.

Very disappointing. Not sure if I'll give this another try.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hostess with the mostest

From a very young age I remember that whenever someone came to our house, it was important to feed them...that's just how my family is. You offer people something to eat, drink, etc.

Today, David, Len, and Bonnie from Washington Post and Nathalie Dupree came to my apartment to do a Chef on Call piece, which will be published on March 26th...I will write about it then. But for now, all I have to say is I was thrilled to pieces :)

I knew I would have a few snacks, but Stacey suggested I also buy flowers: no need to twist my arm--> I listened and created this arrangement.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Say What???

Last night I was waiting in the Metro after dancing, and a man tried to chat me up. That's totally fine. He was visiting from Idaho for the National Congress of American Indians and asked the typical questions: where are you from, what do you, how do you like DC, etc.

But I don't understand why total strangers ask me if I'm married.

Age is not an issue!

Last night at Zanzibar, Flip Brown celebrated his 78th birthday. This is the 3rd year in a row I have witnessed his bigger than life personality. There was a birthday dance when all the women lined up and danced with a birthday "boy," but I never participate. At the end of the night Flip asked me to dance: I honestly felt honored! He's the oldest dance partner I've ever had and I don't think I have half the energy at my age this man has at his!

Here's a little about him:
James “Flip” Brown, a Zanzibar regular celebrates his 78th birthday Wednesday at Zanzibar. Flip got his nickname when he became an acrobat at age 12. He became part of the Flying Nesbitt’s acrobatic team at age 15 and later became a member of the International Clowns Basketball Team. He toured with the Fabulous Magicians Basketball Team. He has appeared on several national television shows including the Josephine Baker Show, the Sammy Davis Jr. Show, the Ed Sullivan Show and many more during his career. He performed with the Goose Tatum Show and Marques Haynes Show. Both were stars with the Harlem Globetrotters As a dancer he worked with the Cracker Jack Dancers and the James Brothers during his career.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who says I don't like animals?

This is me with Curious George at a Gala for Everybody Wins! DC, a program where I mentor a 2nd grade girl in reading.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Beets, how I love thee!

I love beets. Here's a quick and delicious Russian beet salad:

1) roast and grate beets
2) add mayo
3) add toasted walnuts
4) add a few cloves of garlic cloves (microplane them)

Good thing I'm not planning on kissing anyone tonight :)

P.S. for a variation, you can also add prunes. Trust me!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

O stands for Orchids

I love orchids. LOVE. Today went to see the orchid show at Botanical Garden with Paige, Jenn and Jason. I took about 150 pictures! Here are just a few. (Obviously the last 3 are not orchids)