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Everything posted by Malawry

  1. Both cooking at home and eating in a restaurant are important experiences for me. I don't necessarily only eat fancy food or food I cannot prepare at home in a restaurant...I frequently eat more ordinary meals, meals I could easily prepare better at home. This is because I can eat with a group of friends and not have to do all the work, and sometimes just because I don't want to do all the work that would come with cooking just for me or just for my partner and our housemate. There's a lot to be said for no dishes, no food prep time, no worry on a weeknight. A lot of what I cook for a dinner party will have to be prepared in advance. Really this is no different from restaurant cooking. They don't start mixing a dough when you order a pizza, or run to make a batch of tomato sauce, they have all the components ready to assemble and go. And I do the same thing. I try to balance my menus so there's less likelihood that I will spend lots of time in the kitchen, but it doesn't always work. I hosted a latke feast in December that turned into a total mess. You really can't cook your latkes in advance, they must be prepared fresh...and they take a while to cook...and I was attempting to feed 12 people off of them as an entree. Big mistake. Even with three of the four eyes on the stove holding a big pan (the fourth eye was holding warmed homemade applesauce) it took way too long. Live and learn. This is unlikely to have happened in a restaurant. If I had all the time in the world I'd make more of the plainer meals myself rather than eating them out. If I had all the money in the world I'd dine out more at better places, and cook more challenging meals on a regular basis. I'd also hire somebody to do my dishes, serve, and learn the last minute food prep and plating skills...thereby saving me time I could spend with my guests. Not that I really mind the dishes, serving, last minute prep, and plating...
  2. I'm an American who has never visited France, though I am sure I will at some point over the next few years. Meanwhile, I'm interested in finding some kind of food-related French-English dictionary. The ideal book would include a comprehensive pronunciation guide (my lack of understanding here is an endless source of humor) and a guide to the cultural experience of eating in France (including the whole menu/a la carte discussion above). Perhaps I need several books to cover these issues. I'd rather not get the dumbed-down treatment whenever I do make it out there, and learning some of the language makes it more likely that I'll be ready when I have the funds and the time.
  3. Malawry


    I make them from my mom's recipe. She took a class from her synagogue when she got married, partly as a way to meet other young married women and partly because she really wanted to learn how to make Jewish delicacies. Her hamentaschen recipe came from this class, and I still use it. The dough is a sweet pastry held together with Crisco and it's pretty tasty, considering it uses no butter. (I think all of Mom's recipes use Crisco, which I presume she was taught to use because it's pareve). My forming and baking technique is similar to yours. I readily acknowledge that these are not the best Hamentaschen on the planet, but they're still better than the ones from the Kosher market. My favorites are apricot and poppy seed, though I also like the relatively recent phenomenon of raspberry fillings. Mom just gave me a box of apricot and poppy ones when she came up to visit me yesterday. They're delicious little things, glazed with egg so they're shiny, plenty of filling. I love that hand-pinched look. I like the flavors of jams better than the Solo filling Mom uses, but I've found most jam is just too oozy...jams bubble up and make little burns on the cookie sheet. If I was really inspired I might try my hand at making my own fillings, but as it is I am a lazy baker and therefore usually end up with the Solo fillings. (I'm much more interested in cooking than baking.)
  4. Mine are mostly related to home accoutrements going awry. Once my kitchen sink got stopped up somehow in the last hour before a dinner party. My partner and our housemate ended up in the tenant's apartment underneath our kitchen, bailing out her sink so it wouldn't overflow. I was so panicked that Ihave no memory of how I got dishes done that night. Not too long ago, we had just two people over for dinner when our sun room began leaking. My partner went upstairs to deal with the problem, leaving me standing there apologizing to our guests for about a half hour until he came up with a temporary fix. Then he came downstairs in his bathrobe with a wet head and joined us for dinner. It wasn't terrible, but it was pretty bizarre. Fortunately I wasn't serving a souffle or anything that night.
  5. Malawry

    Help me cook!

    Hey, that reminds me: use as much of your food as possible. This, too, is both thrifty and tasty. Besides using bones for stock, you can save scrapings and tops and tails of many fruits and vegetables and use those in your stock. Use old bread for breadcrumbs and bread puddings. If you've got leftover veggies, puree them and add them to soups or sauces. Put leftover meat on tops of salads, or add it to a stew. Use all the bits and pieces that you can and you'll get more mileage from your grocery runs.
  6. Well, yeah, ordinarily I have way too much food, but in the case of the portabellos I hadn't bothered. Each mushroom was quite large and there were hearty portions of the sides (gratin potatoes, green beans with a red pepper coulis) to go with. Obviously, I won't be making the same mistake again.
  7. I echo everybody else's horror, shock, and sympathy. I love to have friends over for dinner, and I put together a decent dized dinner party once a month or so. I do not serve variety meats or game, or any other meat or fowl, but I do cook fish and vegetarian meals. I have served tofu to guests before. People who are not familiar with tofu often anticipate negative experiences. I don't hide what I am serving from them (I often include information about the menu in a dinner party invitation). But I have never had anybody act as rudely as your guest did. Mostly I've heard "I can't believe this is tofu and I'm liking it." But even those who don't care for it don't make gagging noises at the table. How gauche. I hope you're not obligated to invite this woman over again. I never know what to do if a meal I am making has a dud of a dish. I've never served anything inedible, but I have put dishes I was displeased with on the table (sometimes, I've had no choice). I usually end up sheepishly explaining that I'm not so thrilled with the item in question as people start in on it, and also say I won't be offended if they agree. This way nobody feels like they have to gush over or even eat all of my crappy food. But then if somebody loves it, I feel like I'm questioning their tastes! I guess there is no real solution to this one except not presenting guests with a not-so-good dish. Which normally I succeed at doing. As an eater with dietary restrictions, I always get a little anxious when a new friend invites me over for dinner. I feel like it's my obligation to explain what I do and don't eat (I have food allergies as well, which make for extra fun) but I also feel like a bit of an ingrate by asking them to accommodate my quirks. On the other hand, I am extra-giving when dealing with others' preferences. I ask those I don't know so well if they avoid eating anything or have any special needs, and I go to great lengths to accommodate those needs. I once got very upset about a guest who hadn't told me she didn't like fish. I was serving an herb-crusted salmon that I was very proud of and I'd made a couple of stuffed portabello mushrooms for guests who told me in advance that they were not fish-eaters, but I didn't have any extra mushrooms for this other guest. I found it hard to keep my anger in check...I always want to be the perfect hostess, and that includes accommodating all my guests. I feel my guests have a responsibility to me to make this possible by communicating their needs in such a way that I can accommodate them. I don't know what I'd do if somebody told me they wanted to try tofu, and then gagged at the table when I presented it to them.
  8. Malawry

    Help me cook!

    A few more things that come to mind: 1. Try hard to eat things in season if possible. Use your local farmer's market. While it may not be the cheapest source of fruits and vegetables, it's virtually guaranteed to be the best VALUE for combined price and quality. Using the freshest, best possible ingredients will make the simplest foods into a gourmet delight. If you can, take this further by gardening yourself. 2. Look at a health food store for bulk grains, beans, and spices. They sell more grains and beans in bulk than the prebagged stuff at your local supermarket, so they turn over quickly and are likely to be fresher. Plus they're cheaper and you can buy as much or as little as you want. Our co-op lets you bring in your own containers and fill them (they weigh the empties when I arrive and subtract the tare weight when I check out) so I don't even have to pay for the weight of the plastic bags. And the spices are cheaper and better quality than you'll get in the supermarket too, although they aren't as good a value as you tend to find in ethnic markets. 3. Don't look merely at the cost of an item. Look at whether or not you will actually eat it. If you fill your kitchen with cheep dried beans but never use them and end up eating out because you don't really care for beans, well, that's not a good investment. 4. Eating low on the food chain isn't the only way to save money. You can get some meat products quite inexpensively if you're willing to deal with less than ideal cuts. I'll let others comment on this, since as a non-meat-eater I know very little about it. I do know that preserved meats like bacon can stretch to flavor a whole dish even though you only used a couple of slices.
  9. Dude, China King is nasty. I work a half a block from there and I only "ate" there once. Granted I don't eat meat, so maybe I missed the allure, but nobody I work with has had anything they considered worth returning for either. I second the fries at Ollie's Trolley. I used to work in the FBI building as a contractor, and I got those fries for lunch every now and then. Something in the coating is addictive. I've never been to Bob n Edith's...I live in Maryland and work in DC, and am rarely in Arlington at diner-y hours. What makes it so good?
  10. It's still there. It was renovated a few years ago. The last movie I saw there was Harry Potter...if I want to see something I check if it's playing there before I check anyplace else. Sadly, Uptown Scoop, my old resource for post-Uptown movie snackies, is closed as the strip it was on is being Gappified by Federal Realtors. Wah. I wish Ann Amernick's bakery was open later in the evening, I'd gladly stop by there and sneak some caramels into evening Uptown showings if their hours were more accommodating.
  11. Malawry

    In search of veggies

    Tofu is often deep-fried (to make it chewy and give it crisp edges) and then stir-fried (with or without other ingredients) in a sauce. This is a common technique in many Asian cuisines. You can make your tofu similarly chewy by freezing it, thawing it, pressing out the water, and then adding it to a stir-fry, but it isn't quite as tasty as the fried stuff. I know, tofu isn't regarded as a vegetable in most peoples' minds. Work with me here. :) I also recently had a tempura dish where coated, fried veggies and tofu were quickly tossed in a wok with a thin, clear spicy sauce. That was pretty tasty. But then, I like anything fried.
  12. I went to the Bethesda Theatre Cafe once with some friends to see a movie a few years ago. I didn't eat (we ate in advance) and when I saw the menu, I was pretty glad of it. Imagine the menu at TGI Friday's and you get the drift. Still, it was nice to be able to order alcoholic beverages and imbibe during the film, and it's kind of nice to watch a movie from a comfortable chair with a table nearby. The Bethesda Theatre Cafe has since closed. There's a few other food-and-movie places locally, including an art house theatre near Dupont Circle. I might get food from the art house place if I was there at a mealtime, partly because I want art house theatres to stay open and partly because I've heard they get some of their food from Lebanese Taverna, a nice local Middle Eastern place. I have seen movies at some of these other places, but I didn't even bother looking at the menu when I went because it's most common for me to dine out post-moviegoing in order to rip apart the flick with friends over our meals. I don't think dining operations and movie operations mix too well from a business standpoint, from what little of business I understand. I suspect there's no way for a decent restaurateur to make a go of it with the tables set for rotation only once every 2-2.5 hours, with no ongoing influx-outflux of diners, and with the airplane-seat-style set-expiration of the commodity of tables (once the movie starts, you're not going to sell that table). I bet the wait staff gets crappy tips compared to other restaurants, and I don't even want to think about what it does to a kitchen to have all its orders flood in within 15 minutes for all the meals to be consumed over the next 2 hours. On the other hand, I think an ice cream parlor-movie theatre combination might work, or perhaps something which only served cold plates. I usually skip eating during a movie and just buy water from the concession. If I can't stand it, I bring something with me and don't feel guilty about it at all (well, again, unless I'm at an art house theatre that I feel the need to support).
  13. I used to love the Washington Post "Crummy but Good" column in the Food section, and was sorry when they axed it. Yes, some of the places they listed (the crappy Chinese place that's got a location by Vidalia, the Waffle Shop near Ford's Theatre) were really beyond crummy and not good at all. Still, I like reading about places to get a good meal on the cheap...whatever your definition of "good" would be. I'll go ahead and state the obvious example: I adore Ben's Chili Bowl on U. Every time I've gone there I've felt welcomed. They have one of the best vegetarian burgers in town, and I understand their chili smokes are legendary. And I really dig their chile-rich vegetarian chili. Plus they're convenient to some of the clubs I like to visit. I also like "highbrow-lowbrow" food, excellent versions of ordinary meals. Have you ever tried the fried fish sammich at Bread Line? Brioche bun with battered cod and house-made slaw with pickled red onion. Mmm mmm good. In that vein, I'm interested in learning about what you think makes for really good "lowbrow" food around DC. Where do you like to go?
  14. You guys beat me to the punch. I stand by everything I wrote in my review. Donna does have his finger in too many restaurants around DC. I've never eaten anything worth returning for at any location of Il Radicchio. I work across the street from Galileo but despite my good experience in the Laboratorio, I would not bother dining in the regular restaurant. (I keep telling myself that if I have a bad work morning I'll go get a glass of wine and a cheese plate at the bar for lunch, but I haven't had a work morning so bad that I'm ready to go for it.) I heard good things about Vivo when it opened, but I have since heard that there was a rapid decline in quality over there. Too bad, 17th Street could use something better. But Laboratorio....ahhh, Laboratorio. I haven't eaten that many outstanding meals in general, but this was the most outstanding I've had yet. And I don't even eat the meat or fowl dishes everybody else was served.
  15. Malawry

    Pizza Stone

    I have a Tutto Italiano super-cheep stone I bought at Lechter's many moons ago. My only issue with it is that it's not that big...if I want to make enough pizza to feed more than three, I have to make multiple pizzas. I occasionally scrub it down with water and salt but usually just do the scraping thing. The stone makes a big big difference to the quality of my pizzas. You can't get that deliciously chewy crust right without it. If you really blaze your stones you can get a good blister on the crust too. I don't own a peel. I use cornmeal on my big wooden cutting board and never have trouble sliding it cleanly onto the hot stone. It is a little easier to manage with a peel, and I'd invest in one if I made pizza more often than once in a blue moon.
  16. I just talked to my esteemed housemate, who is an engineer, about this issue. She opined that reversible plates are unlikely to heat properly for both sides, since it would be difficult for the heating element to be designed in such a way that they could heat through the various surfaces evely. She suggested that a waffle iron with multiple plates you could switch out would be the best possible version of this device. You could have waffle shaped plates, ridged panini plates, flat plates. Maybe even extra waffle-y shapes for special occasions. Too bad my housemate is not a mechanical engineer. :) This made me whimper even more. Why don't people manufacture the right machines for cooking? I mean, there's a million of those damned Foreman grills on the market, and those are so similar to waffle irons and panini grills from a mechanical standpoint, but they don't reverse out plates. And there's a million waffle irons on the market that don't reverse out for other jobs. There's even panini grills that don't do anything else but panini (well, unless you believe the instruction manuals when they suggest apple pies made with white bread and canned apple pie filling). I hate kitchen machines you can only use for one task, with the possible exception of my coffee pot. (I make tea from a kettle on the stove.) Steve, what'd you make with your machine? Hey, K--I saw reviews on amazon.com that said what you say about the two or so machines they carry that do reverse out. I've never tested these reviews (the waffle iron ones were the only ones I looked at). Where do you go to see peoples' thoughts on kitchen gadgets and machines?
  17. Thanks for the responses. The two-pan idea for squishing a sammich is a really good one, and I'll be sure to try it the next time I need a grilled cheese. I've never even seen one of these cast iron stovetop waffle irons. (*shows youth brazenly*) What are these, and where do you get them? And why are they superior? And how on earth do you clean them? (I'm suspecting these turn out good waffles 'cause you have to add extra fat to your batter if you wanna pry them off the cast iron...and extra fat makes for tastier food...) My mom used to freeze waffles (her recipe is called "Oh Boy Waffles" and yes we really did say "OH BOY!" if she said she was making them) and I definitely intend to do the same. Particularly once the blueberries hit the farmer's market. I love blueberry waffles...
  18. This is one of the biggest drawbacks to being a vegetarian food geek. It is very unusual for there to be more than two vegetarian selections on an upscale menu, unless it's a restaurant with a healthy focus. Even Nora (I live in Washington, DC, and Nora in DC is the only certified organic restaurant in the US that I know of, which is why I address it as an example) only had one vegetarian entree when I ate there. This is one of the primary reasons for my interest in expanding my diet...I want to have more selection at hand. I'd also like to take this opportunity to whine about salmon. I adore salmon. I think it's delicious. It's great in so many ways...gravlax, grilled, roasted, smoked. But WHY is it always the one fish on the menu if there's only gonna be one fish? Maybe I'm showing my DC-centric issues here, but I got really excited to be offered fluke a couple weeks ago in addition to the standard salmon dish at a good restaurant.
  19. Malawry

    In search of veggies

    I can't speak to where to get good veggies in the Pacific Northwest, but I did try a chard dish recently that worked out well. Basically we bought white-stemmed chard, cleaned it and cut the stems out. Chop the stems and cut up the leaves. Toast some pignoli in a dry skillet. Heat about 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a pan on the stove large enough to hold the chard in a single layer and, once hot, add the stems. Let them go for 2-3 minutes and then add the greens. Saute for about 7 minutes until tender. Add the toasted pignoli and shake on some raspberry vinegar. S&P and snarf. It was so good we made more for dessert (hey, raspberry = dessert, right?)
  20. I need a waffle iron. I've seen various types out there but the really kool ones seem to be those with reversible plates that you can use for panini and other foods you squish. Also it seems to me that it would be easier to have an iron with removable plates, for cleaning purposes. So, bring on the personal opinions. What kind of coating works best? Which models crank out the crispest, fluffiest versions? Which one should you have just left on the shelf?
  21. Ah, see, by the time I did the allergy-free thing I'd been a vegetarian long enough that I didn't regard avoiding meat and fowl as a set of restrictions. I still don't really regard it as a set of restrictions, for that matter. I don't approach food with a sense that it's harmful and I have to barricade myself against the mean evil things it contains. Food is good. I like to eat it. :) My attitude is best described thus: Suppose you don't like broccoli. When you go to the grocery store, you don't touch the broccoli. You don't bother chatting with the broccoli farmer at the farmer's market. And when you see broccoli on a menu, you mentally skip over the item that contains it because you know you just aren't interested. It's not a restriction, it's more something you just don't mentally regard as "food." That's what I think of when I see meat at the store, in the market, on a menu. So no, it never occurred to me to put meat and fowl and fish back in my diet when I decided to try the allergy-free restrictions. I did recognize that I needed asisstance, and I consulted with a nutritionist whose dour attitude and insistence that mustard and vinegar with no oil makes for good salad dressing led me to a strong distrust for all people in said field. I did get some ideas from her that were useful, like using corn tortillas to make sandwiches and making regular snacks out of brown rice crackers. Just the same, as I said before, I got BORED SILLY with these plain foods. I started eating different things that I had previously believed myself to dislike because I just HAD to try something different. I thought it was worth revisiting previosuly rejected foods since I had so many restrictions on my head, and I found I really liked some of them. Meanwhile, your stories about French butter are making me swoon over here. I love butter! There can be a real joy in simple, old foods like butter. I wish there was a dairy vendor at my local farm market who I could convince to try a European style butter. I'd buy it in a heartbeat. One of these days I'd love to do just what you did and go on a little butter tour. I do sometimes pursue other foods in similar ways. Raspberry jams being the best example. Everybody sells them, but there are huge differences...and I've barely started in on international jams. Mmmm, butter and raspberry jam...
  22. This is a hard question for me to answer. I stopped eating meat and fowl (and fish, though as I said I picked that up again a year ago) in 1992. I was 17 at the time. My palate was just starting to develop, and I really didn't know what the #### I was doing with my diet. I ate baked potatoes and grilled cheese sammiches and not much in the way of vegetables, which I didn't especially care for. Lots of things have changed in my tastes over the years I've been vegetarian. Probably the biggest shift happened when I went on an allergy-free diet for 6 months. (I ate no gluten, dairy, or egg in addition to my self-imposed meat/fowl/fish restrictions. And it didn't help my allergies a bit! Wah.) I started eating all kinds of things I'd never cared for before...including broccoli, which is one of those green veggies that avowed veggie-haters always seem to tolerate. I am sure my expanded palate was a result of the serious restrictions I faced...I had to eat new things to avoid getting bored. In a more general sense, I do believe that judging among similar dishes can be useful. I don't get bored with simple foods (I'm a connoisseur of toast and jam, for example) and sometimes I'll eat the same complex dish over and over to see what I think of various versions. With restaurant meals it can be difficult as a vegetarian to compare different chefs' versions of the same dish. It's not like there's always X vegetarian entree on every menu. And if you want to talk about upscale, interesting food prepared by cutting-edge chefs, it's even harder to compare. It's not like every chef always works with summer squash, or experiments with vegetarian risottos, or puts meat analogues on the menu. Desserts are probably easier to compare than anything else, and I'm not a dessert connoisseur. If I want to compare, I usually cook the same food using different methods myself, or I dine out and then tinker with the ideas I get from the chef in my own kitchen, or I try a few different recipes from different writers whose work I trust. Hope that responds to some of your questions.
  23. I have avoided meat and fowl for, oh, almost a decade now. It's been so long that I'm finding myself in the category of vegetarian Jeffrey Steingarten called "vegetarians who aren't sure why they're vegetarian." I guess at this point it's mostly out of habit, and secondarily because the scent of meat is not a fragrance I identify as "food" at this point. I started eating fish again about a year ago, mostly for weight loss reasons (it's a helluva lot easier to dine out and dine lower-calorie when you eat fish). I find that I adore fish and that I'm getting to experience this whole new area of cookery that was heretofore in the self-imposed verboten category. India, I had no trouble consuming fish when I went back to eating it. I did start slow but I never felt physically or emotionally like my restraint was necessary. I now eat fish three to five times a week and it's never made me feel anything but good. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had gone from veganism to eating fish (or if I managed to come across a bad mussel, heh heh). I am considering re-adding these other animal foods into my diet on a limited basis, mostly because I am interested in pursuing a career related to my culinary interests and I suspect that my way will be easier if I am receptive to as many dining experiences as possible. That being said, I don't imagine myself preparing such foods in my own home, and I have no idea how one eases into eating them out in restaurants. I don't feel physically revolted by the idea of eating meat, but I don't feel particularly attracted either. Has anybody started to eat meat after a long period of avoiding it? Why? How did that feel? I think Indiagirl asked about this, but I don't recall seeing a straightforward response.
  24. I confess to eating sugar smacks for dinner a couple times a week. Sometimes I eat two bowls. And to make it even worse, I give my cat my leftover sugar smack milk when I'm done. She gets all excited when she hears the smack box being turned over. Like Pavlov's dogs. The irony of the use of the word "smack" in this context is not lost on me. :)
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