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Archive for November, 2011

Bread and Brew

The first time I discovered Bread and Brew was during a run this past Halloween. A sign outside the establishment read simply: “FREE JELLO SHOTS.” My God. This was too good to be true. What was this place?

Located on the corner of N and 20th street, Bread and Brew is a combination cafe, bar and coffeehouse. There are two floors, the bar downstairs and the  cafe/coffeehouse on the ground level. The cafe offers homemade soups, salads, quiches, individual pizzas and more. There is also a Sunday brunch menu with items such as omelettes and egg and bacon platters. In addition to food, there is a large selection of organic coffee and coffee beverages.

At the downstairs bar you’ll find an extensive beer list, including Flying Dog, Abita, Arrogant Bastard and Dogfish Head. There is a carefully selected wine list as well. There are also nightly specials, such as what was graciously offered on Halloween night.

What I also like about Bread and Brew is its value. Most menu items are fairly inexpensive, and are quite delicious. I visited the upstairs cafe for brunch, and ordered a breakfast plate with two eggs any-way (I had mine poached), potatoes, toast and bacon for $7. In addition, I ordered a blood orange mimosa, for $6. Not bad for D.C.

The relaxed, friendly vibe and atmosphere, the fair-priced food and drinks make for an inviting atmosphere. Bread and Brew is not at all pretentious, and I admire that. I’ll definitely be back for a bite or drink (maybe even a free jello shot next Halloween).

DC Bread and Brew on Urbanspoon

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Yes.

A few weeks ago, one of my chef instructors at culinary school gave us a recipe for spring rolls. With the rolls, she served a sweet and sour dipping sauce that we all loved. Sure, the spring rolls were great, but the dipping sauce – oh man. It was sinfully addicting.

The sauce, called Mae Ploy, is a sweet chili sauce made in Thailand. It’s perfect for dipping with spring rolls, chicken wings or fried crab wontons. Generally, Mai Ploy is good on just about anything edible.

The next question, of course, was where on earth could we get our hands on some Mae Ploy? I started searching the shelves in nearby grocery stores, such as Safeway, Whole Foods and Giant, always leaving empty-handed. Frustrated, I decided to settle on the only product I could find, Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chili Sauce.

No.

I instantly had a bad feeling about Frank’s. Who is to say that Frank knew the first thing about sweet chili sauce? The screaming red letters on the label combined with surrounding purple and green made me dizzy. The product’s website also had a creepy old lady on it. Frank’s was not to be trusted.

Used as a marinade on beef or shrimp, this sauce is actually decent. Don’t use this as a dipping sauce, though. It’s simply not that good enough to stand on its own.

I’d just about lost hope, until one day, while walking to the U Street Metro from my apartment, I spotted Hana Japanese Market. Located on the corner of U and 17th, this tiny market sells every Asian product you could imagine, including Mae Ploy. I bought three bottles and giddily ran home, eager to try it with a stir fry. Success!

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I noticed an advertisement last week on the metro about a new exhibit at the National Archives building called, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? I was instantly intrigued – an exhibit about food? I planned my visit immediately.

Typically, the National Archives is known for important documents such as, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Call me naive, but I didn’t know there was much more to see.

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? displays documents, magazines, advertisements and more that show the positions Americans and their government have taken towards food throughout the history of the U.S. More specifically, the exhibit covers topics such as the changing messages of what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t, increasing government regulation of what goes into our food, and how events in history shape our perception of food.

For example, did you know that during World War II, the government released a food wheel, similar to the modern-day food pyramid, that included BUTTER as its own food group? Hard to believe, right?

Aside from the ridiculous food wheel, I especially loved President Eisenhower’s Vegetable Soup recipe that was on display in the exhibit. Apparently, the former president was quite the cook. I found a copy of it online here – http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/favorites/vegetable_soup.pdf. I have to say I’m impressed – this guy knew how to make a serious homemade soup.

The National Archives is currently open seven days a week, 10 a.m.  –  5:30 p.m. What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? is located in the O’Brien Gallery and runs until January 3, 2012. I highly recommend this exhibit – it’s well-done with interesting facts and plenty of entertaining photos, images and documents.

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La Pissaladiere

Onions, olives and anchovies. Formerly, three of my most hated foods. Thanks to culinary school, my opinion of these foods is beginning to change. A few weeks ago, we made a traditional French appetizer called la Pissaladiere. Originating from southern France, this pizza-like dish draws influence from Northern Italy.

The dough is usually made with puff pastry or pate brisee. On top of the crust is a layer of golden brown, caramelized onions. These are not the crunchy, overpowering onions I have always despised. When sweated with butter and salt until they are softened, these onions become sweet and incredibly flavorful!

The next layer is anchovies, small salt-water fish. The canned or jarred anchovies we know best are cured by salting them in brine. This process is responsible for the strong, salty taste of the anchovy. Fresh anchovies are much milder, and are popular in Italy.

For a pissaladiere, anchovies are sliced in half length-wise, and then arranged on top of the caramelized onions. We arranged our anchovies in a crisscross pattern, mostly for aesthetic purposes. Surprisingly, I found the salty anchovies a perfect contrast to the sweet onions underneath.

Lastly, Kalamata black olives are halved and then arranged over the onions in between the anchovy strips. Alone, the oily taste of olives is too strong. Combined with the salty and sweet flavors of the Pissaladiere, the olive flavor is toned down.

La Pissaladiere blew my mind. There has never, I mean never, been any situation in the past where I have enjoyed any combination of onions, anchovies or olives.

My next question, of course, is where in D.C. can I find La Pissaladiere? Here’s one place – last week, i tried a French restaurant called Bistro La Bonne along the U Street corridor. The restaurant offers traditional French bistro fare, such as Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee (French Onion Soup), Salade Nicoise, Moules Frites, Boeuf Bourgignon and La Pissaladiere. I ordered the Salade Nicoise (pictured, left) during my visit, which combines tuna, green beans, boiled egg, potato, cucumber, olive, anchovy and bell peppers over greens. Bistro La Bonne’s rendition tasted fresh and crisp. The red and yellow bell peppers, green beans and black olives made for a colorful, visually appealing salad.

Next time, I’ll be sure to order La Pissaladiere. In the meantime, check out the photo below of me serving La Pissaladiere at school a few weeks ago (You know you love my stylish uniform!).

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