Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Ever Cheap Eats

Okay, so we should have posted this on Monday when the DC Restaurant Week (24th-30th) kicked off, but it’s not too late to take advantage of some good deals at local restaurants. During this week you can get a 3 course meal for $35.09 or a 2 course lunch for $20.09.
Click here for participating restaurants and to make a reservation.

We’ve eaten at 3 restaurants in the last 3 days (we’re kidless this week), and here’s what we’ve learned:

Savings are modest – we saved about $15 off our meal at Chef Geoff’s in Tysons and about $10 last night at Dino’s in Cleveland Park.

But other good deals exit – on certain days of the week restaurants are running deals on wine, like ½ price bottles at The Palm on Wednesdays (join their 837 Club for more specials), and the same at Chef Geoff’s on Mondays. And from Tues-Thursday at Dino’s, certain wines are marked down to $18. The real savings have been on the wine.

Early Bird Specials – here’s the other good news -- some restaurants are getting smart about filling their place early, and on off days during the week. Chef Geoff’s Sunset Special gets you a 3 course dinner for $19.99 at Dino’s the Menu della Sur offers the same for $25.

Our view is that in this economy everything is, or should be, on sale. Some restaurants get this while others don’t…but will. Search the DC Restaurant link to find those who understand that diners want more for their money…they’re out there, and those specials (like the ones above) will continue after this week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best Way To Get Kids to Eat Fish Ever!

by Jennifer
Getting kids to eat salmon (or any fish for that matter) can be a bit of a challenge -- and we all know, because it's so rich in Omega3s, it's an important part of our diet.... Here's a recipe I recently stumbled upon (from the website), and it's fantastic -- quick, uncomplicated, and simple to make -- now a staple in our home. Hope you like it, too!

What: Wild Salmon (fresh is ALWAYS best, but it works with frozen, too), Frank's Redhot Sauce, and panko bread crumbs (I've also used italian style, or even combined the two, and it's just as good -- you can play with it yourself).

Recipe: Buffalo Salmon

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (we love Frank's)
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (2 pound) piece salmon fillet (definitely try to use wild caught).
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with rack in upper third of oven. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan. Melt butter with hot sauce and 1/4 tsp. of each salt and pepper over medium heat. Set aside 1/4 c. of sauce. T
  • Toss bread crumbs with oil in a small bowl. Place salmon, skin side down, in pan and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. each of salt (I use garlic salt for this part), and fresh ground pepper.  Pour prepared  hot sauce mixture over salmon, and sprinkle crumbs evenly over the top of the fish.  Then bake until top is golden and fish is just cooked through (16 to 22 minutes).  
  • Serve reserved sauce on side.
Why It's the Best: You have to try it yourself to fully understand. When I was searching for something new to do with salmon, and came across this recipe, I was skeptical, but the zesty flavor of the hot sauce, crunchy topping, and buttery flavor do something quite unique to the fish.
How We Know: My family LOVED it! They are really tough critics when it comes to fish dishes -- especially our daughter who would rather go hungry than eat a piece of salmon (our son said he would eat it every day!). I have shared this recipe with a couple of close friends, both who called the next day to say how great this dish was, and not only did they (and their husbands love it), but their children did as well. It's a winner for both -- YEAH!

Craving Level: WEEKLY

Best Conch Chowder Ever!

This summer we vacationed on the island of Turks & Caicos (TCI). Looking through the comments from previous guests (left in the guest journal of the home we rented),we noticed numerous references to Da Conch Shack as one of the highlights of vacationers' time on the island. Being the curious "foodies" that we are, we had to check it out.
What : Queen conch, vegetables, peppers (most likely habanera) in a fish and tomato based stock.

Why it’s the Best – freshness really counts in seafood, and it's no exception with conch. Old conch can take on a rubbery texture and lose its flavor. The conch in this chowder is tender and delicious. The chowder itself had a great balance of flavors and just the right hint of spiciness. It didn’t try to overwhelm the dish which we’ve run into a few times at other island restaurants.

We also sampled conch in about every other way imaginable; fritters, stir fried, even curried, and we weren't impressed. The conch is fresh and best eaten in soup or in our opinion.

How we know – because we literally watched our meal go from the ocean to our plate...our soup bowl in this case. Plus, everyone in the guest book said so! Of course, the Rum Bar could of had something to do with it as well.

Interesting side note, conch fishing in the US waters and territories (the Keys, U S Virgins Island, etc.) is banned. Most restaurant conch is farm raised and Turks & Caicos is one of the largest exporters of Queen conch in the carribean. If you get a chance to go to TCI book a charter to go conch diving. Conch also makes a great salad (actually, it tastes more like delicious lime/jalepeno/cilantro salsa).

Craving Level: YEARLY (only because we're being realists, and don't own a private jet to take us there more often!).

Review & Directions: TripAdvisor

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best Cheese Steak Ever!

If you're traveling Rt 68 in Western Maryland this summer, time your trip to hit LaVale, MD around lunch time. You'll want to pit stop into D'Atris Restaurant for the Best Ever Cheese Steak. Having grown up eating this cheese steak I can tell you that it is the "benchmark."

What: Steak, provolone cheese, grilled onions, special salad toping (lettuce, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, oil and garlic salt). Available in small (8") or large (12").
Why It's the Best: It depends on the type of cheese steak you prefer. If you are a Philly traditionalist this might not be your "Best Ever." The reason is that what makes this a winner in our book is what the Philadelphians would call "the salad." (Interestingly enough you can also order this as a cheese steak as a salad also outstanding). The special recipe salad mixture of oil, garlic salt, parsley, etc. sets it apart from everything else. If you're looking for the total package this is it, from the fresh baked bread to the "salad" topping nothing else beats it.

How We Know: Jen went to college in the Philly area and dined on many cheese steaks, especially late night. Scott spent 6 months in central Philly for work and spent his free time searching for the Best Ever cheese steak...never found it.

Craving Level: DAILY

Reviews & Map: Insiderpages

Best Pesto Recipe Ever!

By Jennifer
We love Pesto -- not just in the summer months, but all year long. After 20+ years of making it, I believe I've found the Best Ever Pesto Recipe. It's, ironically, from The New Best Recipe Cookbook (from the editors of Cook's Illustrated) -- a must have cookbook! It's best, of course, when you make it with home grown basil and parsley (flat leaf is best), but store bought works fine, too.

What: Fresh basil, parsley, toasted garlic and pine nuts, good parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil -- what can be better?!


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (lightly toasted in a dry skillet for 4 to 5 minutes)
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic (I use 4, and toast them, too, with the skins on for about 7 minutes, and then peel)
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 TBS fresh parsley (I use extra -- about 1/4 cup of flat leaf -- it keeps the pesto nice and bright green)
  • 7 TBS extra virgin olive oil, salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (pecorino is even better).
  • Place the toasted nuts, garlic, basil/parsley (first bruise the leaves of these together in a freezer bag by beating with a mallet, or using a rolling pin -- or if you have one, a mortar and pestle), oil, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a food processor, and process until smooth.
  • Transfer to a small bowl and stir in cheese.
  • If you're not using right away, place a layer of plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate for up to three days.
  • If you're using on pasta, be sure to mix about a 1/4 cup of reserved pasta cooking water into the pesto before you toss through the pasta. ENJOY!
Why It's the Best: Toasting the pine nuts lightly brings out the fullness of their flavor, and the toasting of the garlic cloves is key to the success of this recipe -- it tames the harsh garlic notes, and loosens the skin for easier peeling. And, pounding/bruising the leaves of the herbs before using them releases more of their wonderful flavor.

How We Know: Family and friends love it, and we never tire of eating it (in many different ways -- on pizza, pasta, grilled shrimp/chicken, crostini with goat cheese -- be creative), and it's the first pesto we've ever had where the flavors of the basil and other ingredients aren't overpowered by the garlic -- no dead vampires in our bedroom the morning after!

Craving Level: Frequent -- especially in the summer months when fresh herbs are abundant.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Best Onion Rings Ever!

We recently spent a long weekend in Bermuda and discovered this winner at the Hog Penny Pub...who's claim to fame is that it's the inspiration for the Cheers pub. Not sure I’m buying it, but I’ll tell you what I am buying….their onion rings, Best Ever!

What: Bermuda onions fried in a beer batter, served with chipotle dipping sauce.

Why It's the Best: Real sliced onions not minced, light, homemade batter (bet you'd find some Hog Penny Ale in it), not a pre-made ring dumped out of a bag into a fryer. You can actually taste the onion...without the grease. Also, we really liked the clever presentation of this dish, and think it contributes to greaseless flavor. Onion rings are stacked on the mast of a tiny sailboat. Chipotle dipping sauce is a nice compliment.

How We Know: It’s the Bermuda Onion…sweet and meaty.

Craving Level: WEEKLY, bordering on DAILY, had them 2 out of the 4 days in Bermuda.

Reviews: Trip Advisor, other reviews are listed on the Hog Penny website.

BTW - great deals on vacation packages to Bermuda during their 400th celebration. If you're looking for a weekend getaway for the fall this is it. A quick 2 hour direct flight from DC, Philly or NY.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Best Ever Mussels!

By Scott
This is the dish that inspired the blog. I was traveling this week on business and dined at Aurora Restaurant in Rye, NY. Although I've been there several times I never had this dish until this week. The restaurant is Tuscan themed and prides itself on its pasta dishes. But the real prize is the Mussel's simply the BEST EVER. I couldn't sleep that night thinking about this dish (yes, I know I have some issues...I like to think of it as passion).

What: Prince Edward Island Mussels, Red Curry, Fava Beans, Cream and Cilantro

Why It's the best: I've had better quality mussels, but I've never had a better broth. In fact, I skipped the last two mussels just to start dipping the bread. I wasn't sure how the spiceness of the Red Curry would work in the dish but it was a HOME RUN.

How I know: Work takes me to Brussels (The Mecca of Moules) often and this year I happened to be there during the offical season for wild Mussels (September - April, similar to Oyster months with an "R"). I will say that the mussels themselves were better (much better) but they were served in the traditional white wine sauce (butter, shallots, etc.). Very good, but for me eating mussels is ALL about the broth...advantage Aurora.

Craving Level - WEEKLY

Reviews: Zagats, NY Times