Izakaya Seki…and some pixelated dancing onigiri

I know I’ve briefly mentioned Izakaya Seki but it’s definitely time to get more in-depth on this U Street gem. Whenever I get the hankering for sushi (which is far too often, thanks to my time in New York), I check my wallet, wait a few more days, watch this pixelated onigiri, and then head to Seki.tumblr_n3zj98UImx1snc5kxo1_500 The décor is a combination of minimal sushi bar (downstairs), and industrial-chic Portland hipster (upstairs.) We usually head upstairs, and craft a meal of both sashimi and some of their hot preparations.
On a recent weekday evening, we were ravenous by 5pm (standard.) We showed up to Seki around 6 knowing that for once we wouldn’t have a wait. What we didn’t know, though, was that they have a terrific Happy Hour deal–$5 for beer or their super refresca shochu-grapefruit sparkling beverage and a tuna sashimi snack. Naturally, we went through about five or six (ten?) of these snack/drink combos in addition to our early bird special. Our server was impressed to say the least. The tuna:

Our geriatric feast included the medium sized sashimi selection. The toro and prawn were particularly velvety and stand-out.

Smoky-sweet eel was kept light by a refreshing sesame-studded cucumber salad. Kind of like superior, more delicate eel-cucumber roll…sans rice of course.

I was immediately tempted by sticky bulgogi-style beef short ribs. The bone made the meat all the more flavorful and supple. Yes, I said supple.

We also had their warm soba in a light yet densely-flavored dashi, which I sadly didn’t photograph. (Okay, I’m lying, the photo was…really bad.)

Back to Seki we’ll go, as soon as my wallet recovers, because my sushi addiction won’t ever dissipate. I’ll just be here watching the pixelated sushi dancing.

Izakaya Seki
1117 V Street NW
(202) 588‑5841

 

Chocolate Cake’s What the Doctor Ordered

…no but actually.

IMG_0349My best friend’s fiancé just began his residency about a month ago, and needless to say, we haven’t seen much of him. The two of them used to live in my brother’s basement (yes, we’re that kind of crew), but since he moved to Delaware to get all doctor-fied, and she moved out for the summer, my family hasn’t seen nearly enough of him.

This past weekend, the two of them had a rare weekend in Washington–to celebrate his birthday–and he wanted to come over to meet my new nephew (!) It’s not a birthday without a cake–especially a chocolate one, and I was dying to make this seemingly-very easy recipe from Food52‘s Amanda Hesser.

It reminded me how any stress immediately dissipates when measuring spoons, whisks, and of course chocolate, come into the picture. I’ve gotta bake more often.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups Nestle’s semisweet-chocolate chips [I used fancy Whole Foods chocolate because Nestle’s are surprisingly hard to find]
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream, at room temperature

PREPARATION

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drips as the cake bakes on the middle rack. In a 2- to 3-quart pot, mix together the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
    2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan.
    3. When the chocolate in the pot has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions, and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky — if someone is around to help, enlist him.) Let cool completely.
    4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
    5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have 2 layers. There will be extra icing whether you have 1 or 2 layers. [I stored it in a Tupperware and served it alongside–for those similarly gluttonous] 

It has the rare quality of actually being chocolatey enough without overly dry. So basically, it’s my new go-to. The frosting? Just melted chocolate chips + sour cream. What could be easier?DSC_0049

We had some gorgeous nectarines–and I’m a sucker for fruit with chocolate–so on the cake they went, with just a couple of chocolate chips…

Thip Khao

I’m fairly certain everyone around me is relieved that I’ve now been to Thip Khao, so I’ll stop talking about it. What they don’t realize, though, is that now I’ll talk about it even more. On a bustling still gentrifying strip of Columbia Heights, this new-ish Laotian restaurant doesn’t jump out at one on an initial cursory glance. Once the food arrives, however, it’s an entirely different situation.

Laotian food is seemingly quite similar to Northern Thai–lots of fresh vegetables and fragrant herbs, mounds of sticky rice, and meat that many Westerners would find esoteric.

Chicken wings, which I would not have initially ordered, were lacquered in a most addictive sweet chili sauce, and caramelized-crispy outside. My #1 wings as of right now (a big statement, I know.) 

 

This fabulously named dish: “Awk”, is a Southern Lao curry, packed with veggies and plenty of herbs (we ordered it with pork). It’s much soupier than a traditional curry, but the flavors are gorgeous–and I was surprised particularly by the widespread use of dill, which I don’t usually associate with South East Asian food of any type.
Poured lavishly over lots of purple rice: 

 

I’d heard about the grilled pork neck, which was very tasty, though not mindboggling. It was slightly caramelized and charred on the outside, and served with a super piquant sauce. 

 

Next to the chicken wings, which reduced me to a primal being–literally licking the plate (back in the comfort of my own home, though–lots of leftovers to be had), this rice salad with pigs ear, pork, herbs, peanuts and much more was simultaneously so savory and fragrant, with texture in spades. I need it again.
Sadly we were far too full to sample the mango with sticky rice (which is one of my favorite desserts in any cuisine), but luckily we had enough food to supply dinner the following evening. Go to Thip Khao, NAO!

Thip Khao
3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
http://www.thipkhao.com/

Lunch Al Desko

I spend a fairly significant amount of time working from home, and am always looking for tasty (but healthy-ish) ways to satiate myself while hammering away on the computer. After a recent Trader Joe’s trip (the D.C. branches are infinitely less hellish than the NYC ones), I crafted quite a tasty and very quick lunch for myself:

Toast with ricotta, pesto and prosciutto and a salad with chickpeas, TJ’s smoked trout, lettuce, cucumber, oil and vinegar.

Tasty and consumed in about five seconds.

Pineapple DC at the Capital Area Food Bank

IMG_9692Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks (new nephew, working hard, family in town…), but I wanted to share a very lovely experience I had last week. Since arriving in DC, I’ve been thrilled to meet a fabulously inclusive and innovative group of people in various parts of the food industry–particularly women. Through a chance meeting, I got involved with Pineapple DC, an organization of Washington-based women within many aspects of the food world.

IMG_9695 IMG_9693Last week, we were lucky to visit the Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast DC. In addition to admiring their magnificent veggie garden (and enjoying snacks and Cava in it afterwards), we toured the facility and even helped pack up a few boxes of pantry goods.

Hearing about the struggle between wanting to end hunger but also being proud of the number of people fed really resonated with me, as did the desire to have shelf-stable goods while providing healthy food options for those in need.

Without further ado, some (sub-par iPhone) photos of this delightful evening spent chatting and exploring.IMG_9697

Abbott’s Lobster, Noank CT

IMG_9488The best way to celebrate the wedding of a lovely couple is by gorging on lobster rolls the day of their nuptials. I was truly excited to attend the gorgeous wedding of some friends, and also visit a lobster haven I’d heard about, in the town of Noank, Connecticut. We prioritized lobster over scoping out Mystic Pizza, and I have no regrets. Continue reading