Kimchi on Hot Dogs: WHAT?! 09.25.2013

Look, before you get all judgy, why don't you look it up on Google?  It's a thing.  A real foodie thing.  And I am here to tell you that it is DAMN delicious.  

Our neighbors had a cookout back in the spring when one of their guests piled several tablespoons of kimchi on a hot dog.  He had tried it at a restaurant in Hawaii and assured everyone it was delicious.  Obviously I tried it  

The same neighbors had a cookout this past Sunday and in addition to the massive feast they put out, there were hot dogs and kimchi.  

I savored it like a long, deep breath:  the smoky-meaty hotdog against the spicy, intense kimchi, the flavors mashing together in the most symbiotic way possible.  I ate that hot dog, knowing full well that I was living my life to the fullest.  I had no idea how incredibly full until my wine guy, Phil Bernstein of MacArthur Beverages, brought to the table a 1994 Domaine du Vieux Telegraph.

Now, before you get all judgy again and wonder why one would pair this gorgeous wine with a hotdog topped with kimchi, I'd like to remind you of that scene from Sideways, in which Miles says he is waiting for a special occasion to open a 1961 Cheval blanc.  Maya (played by the beautiful Virginia Madsen) wisely notes that opening the Cheval blanc is a special occasion.  

SPOILER ALERT!  Miles eventually opens it while sitting in a booth at a fast food restaurant eating a hamburger, swigging the Cheval blanc out of a paper bag.

The occasion, the food -- it doesn't matter:  when the wine opens up this spectacularly, life is good.

Pan Tomaca: Spanish Tomato Bread 09.23.2013

Years ago, I became addicted to pan tomaca at José Andrés' restaurant Jaleo, where he serves toasted bread topped with tomato spread, garlic, serrano ham, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Delicious.  That tomato spread is fantastic, and I've tried replicating it by rubbing a cut tomato on toasted bread, but the consistency is always off.  So when my Spanish neighbor Mila put out a bowl of the tomato spread to pair with bread earlier this year, I was, needless to say, ridiculously happy.

Pan tomaca is eaten in parts of Spain as a butter substitute on bread for breakfast; I could easily eat this for breakfast every morning.  The spread also is tasty on scrambled eggs, and with ham and olive oil.  And if you love the soft, earthy scent and taste of tomatoes, pan tomaca is your spread.

Mila has made pan tomaca using a grater, but showed me an easier method yesterday using an immersion blender.  I have the Cuisinart immersion blender and used the plastic beaker that came in the set for the tomato mixture, per Mila's instructions.

This is what you'll need:

1 large tomato, cut
1 garlic clove 
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl/beaker
  • Insert immersion blender and blend

That is it.

When I made the pan tomaca at home this morning, I used two garlic cloves instead of one (because why not?) and it did add a bit of a bite.

For breakfast, spread on bread or toast, and for an appetizer, serve the spread in bowl with torn bread or toast points.  Sauvignon blanc or a pitcher of sangria pairs beautifully with pan tomaca.

Happy eating all!

Joys and Concerns: Or, How to Begin A Conversation at Dinner 09.19.2013

My friend Christie has a tradition at her dinner table that everyone in attendance announces his or her joy and concern for the day.  Nice, right?  You've got to pick just one thing that sucked, and one that that did not suck about your day.

What I like about this exercise is that it gets everyone to be present, focused, and ask follow-up questions.  I don't know how dinner goes down at your house, but we want conversation and interesting discussion.  I'm not saying that it happens, but that's what we want.

My kids are not at an age where we can have hearty discussions about the conflict in Syria or last Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad (OMG Hank!), but if my 6-year-old daughter remembers that one perfect moment in her day, an avalanche of a story pours out.  It's a beautiful thing.  Without the dinner-game prompt, she would report that nothing happened, she spoke to no one, no one played with her, and she learned nothing.  Devastatingly heartbreaking, and completely untrue.  I know because I've spied on her.  That's right: I spy on my kids.  

And my 4-year-old son?  His joy usually is "poo poo and pee pee" (I am not making this up) and his concern usually is "toilet" (I am not making this up either).  The only explanation I have is that he is a boy and these words are magical to him and he enjoys saying them frequently in front of lots of people, mostly strangers.  I know what you’re thinking:  early admission Yale. My thought exactly.

My joys and concerns are very simple but I sometimes have to say my number two joy or concern for fear that the children will not fully understand or comprehend my number one joy or concern.  For example, yesterday my number one joy was:  “I am drinking a vodka tonic right now.”  But instead I said, “I saw a beautiful sky this evening.”  And I have a picture to prove it.

Happy conversing all!

Taqueria Nacional 09.17.2013

The tostadas I ate at Taqueria Nacional were piled with beans, chicken, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, and crema.  With red hot sauce on top (of course).  And all of this was a substantial amount of food.  But it was so delicious, I contemplated loitering around T Street and waiting until I was hungry again to have some more.  I didn't because, you know, work.

Taqueria Nacional, originally located on Capitol Hill and started by Chef Ann Cashion and business partner John Fulchino, is housed (as of this year) in an old U.S. post office building at 1409 T Street, NW.  Very simply decorated, it has a mouth watering menu of Mexican food that is not heavy or too cheesy or saucy.

I met a friend there for lunch last week and it was empty when I got there around 12:15 p.m., which was just fine.  The lunch crowd started to pick up around 1 p.m. and honestly, I could have sat around all afternoon taking in the atmosphere (and eating more food).  

The space is very casual so you could conceivably spend a long time sipping beer and eating Mexican food.  The front windows open up and getting those seats at the front of the restaurant with the sumptuous afternoon light coming in could distract you from that 1:30 conference call. I'm going to encourage you to go there, but I'm not responsible for the aftermath.

Taqueria Nacional has a Saturday and Sunday breakfast menu, and a bar.  The drinks menu includes Horchata, a traditional Mexican drink which can be made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley.  Walk in, order at the counter, take a seat.  You'll love it.


Taqueria Nacional
1409 T Street, NW
Washington, DC

So You've Decided to Invite Your Neighbors for Dinner 09.12.2013

My neighbor Mila at a recent gathering with the most insanely large
empanada I have ever seen.  It was delicious.

You know that awesome feeling when you have fun neighbors you can invite to your home and break bread and drink and talk endlessly?  Well, consider yourself lucky because that does not happen a lot.  

Eric and I have lived in our neighborhood for 10 years and we've been friendly with a few neighbors.  It wasn't until a year ago or so that things meshed and we started socializing (a lot) and breaking bread (a lot) with many neighbors.  I have no idea why it took so long to get there, but I'm guessing it's not that unusual.  I've heard of people never speaking to any of their neighbors and now that I'm speaking regularly to most of mine, I don't want to be in the opposite situation.

So, whether you've lived in your neighborhood for years or for a short time, entertaining them is easy.  It does, however, involve a few elements that have to be perfectly aligned.  Did I just put so much pressure on you?  Sorry about that, but it's true.  Here is what you'll need for a super-fun time:

1.  Delicious food (important)
2.  Easy-to-get-along-with neighbors (imperative)
3.  Happy kids (optional)
4.  Adult beverages (essential)

It looks simple, doesn't it?  It can be, but again, all the elements must be aligned.  If someone brings a dish that includes peanuts and someone has a severe peanut allergy, that party's gone to shit.  It only takes one little thing to make a party tank.  So, to help you, dear readers, I made up collected questions about tricky neighbor situations that you might have and answered them.

I feel weird about inviting some new neighbors into our already pretty tight circle of neighborhood friends and dinner companions.  Am I being rude?

Oh yes, you are.  Look, you do not have to become super best friends with the new neighbors.  And who knows if the new neighbors will even like you?  My advice is to grab a cup of coffee with them, or just invite them over -- one on one, and then expand the circle if the chemistry feels right.  There are already too many horror stories of neighbors not talking to each other -- it's going to be end of us.  I urge you to stop the madness.  Also, wouldn't you hate moving into a new neighborhood and no one welcomed you?

I've moved into a new neighborhood and would like to get to know the neighbors better.  Do you think it would be weird if I have a pot luck?  I mean, it's not like I can ask them to host a party to welcome me.

Again, I'd start small, but I'm not going to entirely discourage you from doing this.  If you happen to be on the sidewalk/in the hallway with several neighbors at once and it's decided that there should be a welcome for the new neighbor, that's one thing.  But my inclination is:  if you're talking to someone, say (without sounding like a stalker), "Hey...want to grab a drink tomorrow?"  

I love having my neighbors over but one family in particular has kids who leave my house a complete mess.  The parents don't encourage them to clean up.  What can I do?

Oh, you need to wrest control of this situation.  Before all the kids start playing, announce (within earshot of the parents):  "Kids, the rule in this house is that we clean up whatever we take out and play with -- does everyone understand?  Any questions?"  And if you see any kids leaving one activity to go to another, don't be shy to say (to that kid or to everyone), "Hey guys ... just remember to put away toys before you play with other toys."  Or some such thing.

Now, having said all that, there are some families who do not require ongoing or any clean up, and that's okay.  But if you do, you have to lay down the law, otherwise, expect to be disappointed.

There is one couple that always brings over bland food and I feel bad putting salt on it, but I don't know what else to do.  And not trying the food is not an option because it's a dinner club.  Any ideas about how I could handle this?

This is a problem I deal with more often than I would like.  You have no choice but to add salt, otherwise you will suffer.  Bland food is for when you are really, really sick or if you have gastro issues.  Unless you are really really sick or have gastro issues, add some salt.  

Use "theme nights" as another tactic.  For example, say it's "Indian Night!" where everyone brings over an Indian dish.  You're at least covered on the flavor.  Unless you leave out all the spices, it's tough to serve up bland Indian food.

When you invite neighbors over, is it okay to accept their help in cleaning up after?

I'll be honest with you, I go back and forth on this one.  It really depends on the situation, the relationships, etc.  I really love it when friends help cleanup, but I do not expect it.  And I think that's the key:  it should not be an expectation.

I think one neighbor is having an affair with another neighbor two streets over.  What should I do?

Wrong blog.  Move along.

Have questions about food, drink, entertaining, or awkward social situations?  Send them along to  I'll get around to answering them eventually.

A Bright and Cloudless Sky 09.11.2013


It happens every year:  September 11 arrives and I relive that day.  Every second of that morning, into afternoon, into evening.  And if you were there, alive and in any way affected, you probably haven't forgotten the details either.  Nothing is accomplished by reliving the events of that day, but from somewhere unknown to me, I am driven to think about it.  

There are stretches of time when I think about September 11, not the cruelty or despair of it, but the mystery of it, as if it's an investigation I can never close and I have to keep thinking about it, trying to figure it out.  I read articles, conspiracy theories, I watch documentaries and movies about that day.  Most recently, I watched The Falling Man, about Richard Drew's brutal and controversial photograph of a man falling head down from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  

In Washington, like New York, that day was sunny, clear, and blue skies everywhere you looked.  I worked on K Street at the time, and a meeting had just finished up.  We were heading back to our offices.  I found a colleague sitting in my chair in front of a TV behind my desk.  He was hunched over and didn't turn around when I asked what was going on.  Without taking his eyes away from the burning building, he said his wife called to tell him a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I stared at the TV screen, unable to look away.

The image was so removed from anything I had seen that my first thought was, "It's going to be really hard to fix that building."

But then there was the second plane.  I watched until the buildings fell.  Nothing would get fixed.

From our office, we could see the smoke bellowing from the Pentagon, where another attack had taken place.  There were rumors that the White House or the Old Executive Office had been hit.  Almost everyone left the office, heading out into slow streams of cars leaving the city, armed with no knowledge and no expectation of what the day's events would bring.

I was dating Eric at the time and he took the Metro to my apartment in Van Ness.  Two of my friends had come over because they could not cross the bridges into Virginia where they lived; and the four of us spent the day watching the news and talking to family and friends who were calling to make sure we were alive and safe.

By early evening, I was going stir crazy.  I had to get out.  I walked onto Connecticut Avenue and it was a ghost town during rush hour.  No cars, no people.  Just quiet.

During the stretches of time I think about September 11 too much, I also think about all the people (like my children) who did not go through that day, and wonder if they will try to figure out the reasons and consequences of the attacks and feel the gravity of that day.  I don't want them to be unnerved by it, but to empathize and acknowledge.  I think most of us do that with horrors throughout history.  I cannot, for example, fully feel what both sides of my family went through after the British left India, and the great migration and all the violence and bloodshed that took place between India and Pakistan.  But I know how it affected my family.  I know how it changed their lives, and the struggles that ensued for years for so many people.

There are parts of the world that experience days like September 11 multiple times over.  There are people who are unnerved by the details of a horrific day, but how unnerved are they by the tenth or 20th horrific day they've experienced?  To this day, when the time is 9:11, I think of September 11.  When I see or hear an airplane in the sky, I think of that day.  And when I walk out into a morning with a bright and cloudless sky, I think of that day.

And, of course, today, I think of that day.

* The photo above was taken by my father the weekend before the September 11 attacks.

Making Precious Memories with Children by Picking Food at a Farm 09.10.2013

If you know how to make precious memories with your children by picking food at a farm, please tell me how you did it.  My kids get wicked cranky 10 minutes into any farming adventure, so I have to strategically (and immediately) take any photos of their little heads peeking up from a field holding up produce in an unusually excited manner. And then I try to zone out the complaints and demands to leave and appreciate the hell out of wherever I am.  And this does not at all deter me from planning future farm trips.  They will appreciate this one day, whether they want to or not.

We're moving fast and furious into Fall and people in the DC area love picking apples, pumpkins, and other Fall fruits and vegetables.  We also pick the rest of the year, but this time of year is different.  The leaves are changing color, Halloween is a hop-skip away, and there is something exciting about picking up a pumpkin.

A few weekends ago, we went to Larriland Farm in Woodbine, Maryland.  We usually go to Homestead or Butler's, but I'm going through a must-try-new-things craze.  So, we ventured out 45 minutes and it was beautiful out there:  fresh air, sky visible everywhere above you, and gorgeous produce.  And the symmetry!  Don't even get me started on the symmetry.  I say that slightly in jest, but I do love looking at perfectly lined trees, flowers, whatever. Completely, utterly peaceful.

It's the end of tomato season and Larriland was trying to clear the tomato fields, which were 25% off and already reasonably priced.  The bags they provided could hold 20 pounds of tomatoes.  That's right: 20 pounds of tomatoes.  Look, I love tomatoes but 20 pounds?  Who needs 20 pounds of tomatoes?  Well, it turns out a lot of people do.  People were walking off the field carrying 60 pounds or more of tomatoes.

One woman told me she and her husband love fresh tomato juice and make loads of it with garlic, pepper, salt, and cayenne.  They run the tomatoes through a mill until it's smooth and perfect -- a long, involved process but that's how much they love fresh tomato juice.

And these tomatoes were not like grocery store tomatoes:  tomatoes at large grocery stores (I have found) lack any smell.  But these tomatoes actually smelled like tomatoes.  

It was around this time that the novelty of walking through a farm field and finding beautiful tomatoes wore thin with the kids.  It was a warm day and my daughter said she was getting a fever (clearly due to our negligence) and it had gotten so high that she was sweating down her face and back.  Her little brother followed suit and said he too was raging with fever.  I asked them to take a seat under the shade of a big tree and wait until we were done, at which time we would go to the hospital to deal with their fevers.  Whining, followed by negotiating, followed by more whining.  Then they had to go to the bathroom.  And then we left.

Larriland had a pick-your-own-flower field as well, but that's going to have to wait until next time, when I will have bribes a fun plan in place to keep the kids focused longer.

So, what have we done with our 20 pounds of tomatoes?  Eric has canned some which then resulted in the most yummy pasta sauce; we gave some to my mom; I have used them in countless sandwiches, and in various curries.  Next tomato season I will head to the tomato fields early and often.

Are you itching to go pick your own produce, especially with the prospect of running into my family?  Do a search for "pick your own farms" and you'll find farms near and far.

Happy eating all!

Yesterday's post on dressing up a turkey burger to taste like a lamb burger is HERE.

Dressing Up Turkey to Taste Like Lamb 09.09.2013

Last week, Eric made a ridiculously delicious turkey burger that tasted so much like a lamb burger.  I made it again for lunch on Friday, and again, it was ridiculously delicious.  It's easy, and especially good with fresh ingredients.  We cooked the burgers on the stove on a cast-iron pan, then on the grill, and grilling is really the best option.  

And why are we dressing up turkey to act like lamb and not just getting lamb?  Well, for one thing, we had purchased ground turkey this week and Eric stumbled into making this (aren't those the best meals?).  And for another, lamb is more expensive and this was just as satisfying.  Try it; you won't be disappointed.

Ready to eat something yummy?  Here we go...


  • Ground turkey
  • Crumbled feta (as much as you like)
  • Fresh mint leaves (5-8 leaves per burger)
  • Garlic (1 clove per burger)
  • Olive Oil (enough to drench the mint and garlic mixture)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tomato slices

Heat up your pan or grill, and while that's happening, mix the ground turkey and crumbled feta together and form into patties.  

Once the burger is in the pan or on the grill, add a little salt and pepper on top.  The feta is salty (and so so good) so you won't need a lot of extra salt.  I like to cook the burger 5-6 minutes each side.

While the burger is cooking, chop the mint and garlic, and mix with enough olive oil to drench those ingredients. 

If you desire, spread a little mayo on the hamburger buns and then stack the burger smeared with the mint mixture, adding slices of tomato.  And you will be happy.  I promise.

The only thing I would like to add to this moment of bliss is a little bit of feta sauce on the side for dipping.  That's right: more feta.  Because you cannot have enough feta.  Everyone knows that.  

Incidentally, the best lamb burger I ate was in a Mediterranean bistro in Ellsworth, Maine called Cleonice.  If you find yourself driving through Maine, stop in there.  Food and service are excellent, as are the craft drinks.   

Have a great week everyone, and happy eating!

Shaw's Tavern 09.06.2013

Before I head to a new restaurant, I don't read reviews; why influence the tastebuds?  But while looking up directions to Shaw's Tavern, there was that damn Yelp page and I couldn't help it.  I clicked on it and the range of reviews entered my head.  And it's only the negative comments that stick in your head -- right?  But whatever negativity there was on Yelp, I was very happy to be met with the complete opposite.  

From entry to exit, the staff is warm and gracious, and the food was quite delicious.  Shaw's is exactly the type of neighborhood bar I'd love in my neighborhood:  relaxed, not a lot of bright lights, fun music (there was a little Donna Summer during dinner), good food and drink, and lots of friendliness.  Thursdays are live jazz, and around 9 p.m., Superior Cling was playing.  If I didn't have two kids to pick up, I would have stayed longer.  I recommend perusing their calendar -- they have more live music and trivia nights.  

Shaw's is a gastro pub and there are plenty of small plates on the menu but also larger, hearty dishes that will keep you sated as you make your way through the beer menu.  Let's start there.

There were some familiar beers but I wanted something unfamiliar and had a glass of the Double Daddy Imperial IPA, made by San Francisco brewery Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.  Double Daddy is just the right amount of hoppy without being overwhelming -- a slight bitterness, an opaque golden color, and a smooth finish.  I'm deeply in love with IPAs these days and delighted to find new ones to add to my stash in the fridge (you know, for the upcoming winter).

Next, I had the Blackened Catfish, which was accompanied by collard greens (so good), crushed sweet potatoes (also so good), and remoulade butter (extremely good).  I had a glass of the 2012 House of Mandela sauvignon blanc (South Africa) with my meal.  It was fine with the catfish, but I think I was too blown away by Double Daddy to fully appreciate the wine.

Finally, my dining companions ordered dessert, of which I had one bite:  cornbread waffles topped with bacon ice cream.  May I just say -- WOW.  It was fantastic.  Go.  Eat the cornbread waffles and bacon ice cream.  You only live once.  Well, unless you're Hindu.

Happy eating all!

Shaw's Tavern
520 Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001


My Mom’s Spicy Okra 09.05.2013

It’s always an adventure getting recipes from my mom because she does not use recipes.  She works in the kitchen from a magical sense of proportion and scent that I unfortunately did not inherit (thanks mom).

I was at farmer’s market recently and picked up some beautiful okra and knew I had to get her recipe for spicy okra.  She was in Paris (no doubt squandering away my inheritance) so I emailed her; this is what I got back:

Garlic powder
Mango powder
Coriander powder
Pinch of garam masala

That’s it.  That’s the recipe. 

And if I had followed up and asked, “How do you make it?” or “How much turmeric should I use?”  Her response (which is her response to every single thing she makes):  “It’s easy.”

“It’s easy” would make up all the instructions.  I am not making this up.

So, when she got back, we made the spicy okra together and oh-my-goodness was it fantastic (and indeed easy).  And I'm glad I cooked with her because she threw in other ingredients just because she felt like it, which really added a punch to the okra.

So, grab some okra (there are no measurements here) and enjoy!


Okra (as much as you like)
1 potato
Garlic powder
Mango powder
Cardamom powder
Red chili powder
Coriander powder
Pinch of garam masala
Cumin seeds
Vegetable oil

After cleaning the fresh okra, make an incision lengthwise in each piece of okra.

Clean, peel, and cut potato.

Sprinkle salt all over cut okra and potato.

In a plate, mix together all of the spices. 

And as they do in India, my mom did the mixing part with her fingers.  She's not afraid of a little heat.

Insert spice mixture in between each piece of okra (with your fingers if you dare) until all the okra are prepped.

Mix the potato slices with the spice mixture as well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat; once it's hot, throw in about a teaspoon of cumin seeds.

Put in the okra and potato mixture.  Do not turn over or mix too much as the okra might fall apart.

My mom said to make sure that all sides of the okra and potato were equally heated until brown -- she turned them over with her fingers, but I turned them over (very gingerly) with a spatula.

She also added a little more oil during the process and then covered with a lid to add moisture.

And that's it.  It was really simple and so incredibly delicious.  Eric and I inhaled the batch and I'm ready to make another.  You can eat this with rice, but it tastes so much better with roti (Indian bread).  And if you're not familiar with my early experience with okra, you'll want to read about it HERE.

Happy eating all!