Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jaleo by Jose Andres

For our romantic Valentines Day dinner, we went downtown to Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant owned by renowned chef Jose Andres.  As soon as we saw his name we knew we had to try this place. For those who may not know who Jose Andres is, he is the one credited with bringing the whole concept of tapas or small plates to America. He is originally from Spain, owns several restaurants in DC and Las Vegas with a variety of cuisines (not just Spanish), and he was named Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 (one of the most prestigious organizations in the foodie community). So needless to say, this guy knows his stuff.

I knew we were in for a treat but little did I know what surprises were in store for the evening.  We began with bread and olive oil. The olive oil was served with a sprig of rosemary and a whole fresh garlic clove in it.  If you've never tasted a whole fresh garlic forewarned. It packs a punch.  I dipped my bread in the olive oil and really gave it quite a soaking, hoping to get a hint of the rosemary and garlic flavor.  When I put it in my mouth and began to chew and swallow, it felt like I had just eaten a really spicy pepper! That was the burn from the fresh garlic! My tongue and throat felt singed as I tried to wash it down with my sparkling water.  It didn't even phase Superking though.  Ok, good stuff but a little potent.

Then arrived our first set of small plates.  I ordered a cheese plate with Valdeon cheese, an intense flavored blue cheese made from cow's and goat's milk served with some crunchy little breadsticks and apricots.  I'm not really a fan of apricots but combined with the cheese it was awesome! The sweet fruitiness of the apricots really cuts the sharpness of the blue.  But the blue cheese by itself was just as amazing.

Superking ordered a charcuterie plate of three different types of dried Iberian ham. Each one savory and salty and porky, served with a few pieces of bread topped with a tomato brushetta.

Then here's where the night got interesting.  We were patiently waiting for our next course when another young couple had been seated next to us and had begun receiving their first offerings.  I found it odd that their dishes seemed awfully similar to the ones we were waiting for...hmmm...Then upon overhearing their conversation they began to wonder what they had ordered and what they were being served.  Lo and behold, they had been served our plates instead. The waitress promptly realized what had happened and came to apologize saying that our dishes would be out soon.  In the mean time, a manager came over and apologized again, saying both those plates would be on him!  Awesome! Free food at a nice restaurant! What service!

Then our dishes arrive...Superking got Lomo de Buey...a sliced skirt steak served with piquillo peppers.  The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and the peppers were somewhat sweet and uniquely complimented the steak.

I was served grilled quail with rosemary sauce and honey aioli...super yumm! The quail was like eating a tiny chicken but the meat was darker and richer, almost like a duck.  And the sauces....delish! I love rosemary and the honey aioli was sweet without being overpowering. My only disappointment was that I wish there was more!

As we were still digesting our steak and quail, the manager arrives at our table again with another plate of the steak.  He says the kitchen made an extra one in the midst of the earlier confusion so he thought we should have it.  Another free dish! Awesome!

Now time for dessert! A hazelnut chocolate mousse cake with hazelnut ice cream.  Have you ever had a Ferrero Rocher? Little balls of chocolate hazelnut goodness, one of the most awesome candies ever created.  This dessert tasted just like one of these candies except way better!!! And yes I ate every bite (though I did spare a few for Superking) including scraping the plate. So rich and creamy and a little crunch from some chopped hazelnuts. Decadence on a plate!

Then to top the whole evening off, our waitress comes out with our check explaining that she also took care of our dessert! I've never been to a restaurant with that kind of service.  They went way above and beyond for a tiny easily correctable mistake.  Multiple apologies from the waitress and the manager, prompt service, and more than half our meal was on the house!  Where else are you gonna go to get amazing food and amazing service like that?  Even if the food was mediocre (which it was far from) I would go back there time and time again purely for the generous service of the staff!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Meatless Wednesdays: Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli

This isn't exactly the healthiest meatless meal but its very filling and very yummy and very easy to make.

Sautee a variety of  chopped mushrooms.  We used a combination of shitake, button, and oyster mushrooms that all provide a unique earthy flavor.  Add in some chopped red onion, a little Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and basil.

We used a small log of herbed goat cheese and cut it into small slices which were then halved. 

Wonton wrappers make this recipe super easy and fairly quick.  Take one wonton wrapper and brush a little water on the edges.  Spoon a little of the mushroom filling on top and add a small chunk of goat cheese.

Then complete with another wonton wrapper, smushing the edges together with your fingers or a fork to make sure there is a tight seal.  You don't want them opening up when cooking!

Boil a pot of salted water and put a few sealed raviolis into the water.  After about 3 minutes or so, the raviolis will float to the top letting you know they are done.  Using a slotted spoon or spider gently remove them from the water and put into a strainer to drain off the excess water.  Continue process until all raviolis are done.

In a small pan, melt about 4 tablespoons of butter with a few chopped sage leaves.  Place about 5 or 6 raviolis on a large plate, drizzle with melted sage butter, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (or its cheaper cousin grana padano).

This was one of the few meals I've made in recent years that Superking actually raved about and went back for seconds! It is rich and filling and with the combination of mushrooms and goat cheese, you won't even miss not having any meat. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Meatless Wednesdays: Vegetarian Tacos

Lots of people make New Year's Resolutions and probably the most common one has to do with losing weight or eating healthier or exercising.  So in an effort to jump on this band wagon ourselves, we have decided to have at least one meal a week that is vegetarian.  We've come a along way since Yumma Yumma first started almost a year and a half ago.  When I started this blog Superking and I were pesca-vegetarians...meaning the only meat we ate was fish and seafood.  While we still aim to be animal welfare-and-environmentally-conscious by choosing organic and local whenever we can, we have definitely broadened our horizons on the meat front, always looking for the strange and unique.

Now we've come full-circle...almost...not getting any younger and wanting to be healthier we have introduced Meatless Wednesdays into our lives.  I really wanted it to be Meatless Mondays because I love alliterations but the Monday thing wasn't working out so well with our crazy schedules. So Meatless Wednesday it is.

Our first go-round at a meatless meal was vegetarian tacos.  Some people might wonder what are you going to put in a taco thats not meat and still have it be filling? One of my favorite fast-food restaurants (and one of the handful I actually still go to) is Chipotle.  I love their tacos and burrito bowls and all their fresh ingredients.  And what's the best form of flattery? Be a copy cat! 

I tried to mimic their rice (which I love) by cooking plain white rice, then adding a chipotle lime finishing butter from the grocery store, a squeeze of lime, and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.  A little different twist with the butter but it added a nice little kick. Cilantro and can never go wrong with that!

I picked up a couple small avocados and made some fresh guacamole with a little chopped red onion, fresh cilantro, another squeeze of lime.

We also whipped up a batch of pico de gallo (of which you can see my full recipe for here). Diced roma tomatoes, chopped red onion, whatever kind of peppers you like (I used yellow Hungarian wax peppers and green anaheim, neither of which are very spicy because I'm a spice whimp but I always get Superking a jalapeno on the side which he can then add himself), salt and pepper, cumin, garlic (freshly minced if possible or garlic powder is fine), and of course cilantro and lime.

We also had black beans and vegetarian refried beans, soft shell tacos and hard shell tacos.  Since we had both kinds of shells we made double decker tacos.  Take the soft shell, slather on a layer of refried beans, wrap it around the hard shell.  Not only is this yummy, it protects the hard taco since it will inevitably break when you put the toppings in, but it won't matter because the soft shell layer with the beans will still hold it all together.

Fill the shell with some rice, black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole or sour cream, a little shredded cheese ( a great white sharp cheddar works well), and dig right in!! Believe me, with all those flavors you won't miss the meat!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Love Day!!

Hope you all are having a wonderful Valentine's Day with friends and family you love!  Enjoy these sweet strawberry champagne cupcakes with your flowers and box of chocolates from your sweetie!!

*Note the recipe on my original blog post did not include champagne.  But adding a small amount of champagne to the cupcake batter (1 cup or less) and to the icing (1/4 cup) adds just a touch of bubbly lightness. I used Korbel's Sweet Rose champagne.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Block West

No, I'm not giving you directions. Its the name of a restaurant in Winchester Va near where I grew up.  Winchester is not exactly a bustling metropolis nor is it known for its fine cuisine. In fact I would categorize it as a small college town (home to my alma mater Shenandoah University, originally a music conservatory) full of country folk to put it nicely. Though I will give Winchester credit that over the last few years they've grown up a bit in trying to compete with nearby counties Loudoun and Fairfax.  However they still have a ways to go.

wild boar terrine
Israeli couscous risotto

This is why, when last month my family wanted to get together in Winchester to celebrate my parents 41st wedding anniversary, I was a little skeptical that we'd find a decent place appropriate for the occasion.  But my sister assured me she would find a couple good choices.  And she came through. We decided on One Block West.

seared fois gras
crab cakes and fancy slaw

There is a section of Winchester called Old Town where there is a quaint outdoor mall with neat little shops and restaurants and coffee shops.  Well, just "one block west" of this mall is the restaurant One Block West...hence the name...

osso bucco complete with marrow in the bone
wild mushroom puff pastry

I was pleasantly surprised (after having to walk down a dark alley) to arrive at this romantic and elegant yet comfortable setting, where my parents, my sister and her husband were waiting for Superking and I.  I was also pleased to learn that the menu is very seasonal, often changing daily, because the chef and owner takes pride in finding and using local fresh ingredients from local farmers markets. The menu even includes wine pairings from local wineries in and around the Shenandoah Valley.

rabbit cassoulet with brussel sprouts

port and blue cheese tasting plate

caramelized orange upside down cake

The food we had was great.  We've had better especially for the price.  It seemed a little expensive.  I don't mind shelling out the big bucks for quality, especially seasonal, food but I felt like we've gotten more for our money elsewhere. Having said that, the food was still very good, the atmosphere was nice, and the company wasn't too bad either ;)  One Block West is definitely a surprising little gem in an unlikely place. Happy 41 years, Mom and Dad!

chocolate truffles for the road

Left to right: Me, Superking, dad, mom, sister Lisa, her husband Scott

Sunday, February 5, 2012

La Mexicana Bakery y Taqueria

If you're near Alexandria, VA and you're looking for an authentic Mexican restaurant, you need to go to La Mexicana Bakery y Taqueria.  Its a little off the beaten path but its totally worth the drive.  Its a very humble place in the middle of a low-key shopping center off Rt 1.  The food is also very simple but man is it good!

Superking found this place a few months back and had heard really good reviews for it. He was in the area one day and stopped in for lunch.  He had tacos de lengua (beef tongue) and said they were really good and since it is also a bakery, he brought me home some of their cookies which were pretty good too.  But I was like, "you went on a food adventure without me?"  :(   "You have to take me there very soon!!"

breads...cinnamony and salty

So last week we were out and about and found ourselves looking for a place to have lunch.  Superking starts driving and says he wants to surprise me. I have no idea where we are or where we are going until he pulls into this kind of dumpy looking shopping center parking lot.  That may sound bad but I was excited, because yes, it may look a little dumpy on the outside but right in the middle of the shopping center was this shining gem called La Mexicana Bakery y Taqueria!!



I was little nervous but excited all the same to try these tongue tacos!! And as I waited for them, I explored their refrigerated cases full of cookies and pastries and cakes and breads all freshly made there! So pretty!

sweet rolls

cookies...very large cookies

And I also I tried a special drink called horchata.  Its a rice milk drink flavored with almond and lots of cinnamon!  It was really yummy and creamy, almost like a milkshake but not as thick.

can I take a swim in that?

Then the tacos come out...corn tortillas filled with small cubes of beef tongue slightly charred and crispy on the edges, fresh cilantro, diced onions, and a lime wedge on the side.  At first, I was thinking, "tacos without cheese?" But even as much as I love my cheese, these tacos certainly did not need it.  The meat was so flavorful and tender and since the other flavors were very light it allowed the beauty of the meat to really shine through. It was super delicious!!

a couple of hot sauces too

On the side was served some rice and refried beans which were also very simple yet delicious! And I couldn't resist taking home a big piece of tres leches cake!! I am such a chocolate peanut butter fiend but I seriously love a good piece of tres leches cake!! I even made my own once, which turned out not too bad.

some cherries on top

Anyway,  La Mexicana Bakery, te amo and your tacos de lengua! Can't wait to come back!