22 Sep 2009, 7:00am
bakeries:
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Red Velvet Cupcakery

red velvet

For my birthday earlier this month, my dear friend bought be a dozen cupcakes from Red Velvet Cupcakery! \(^O^)/ Red Velvet is a cupcake shop located dangerously close to my office in downtown D.C. Actually, it’s not exactly an easy distance for a quick break, so I don’t find myself in there too often. This is a good thing, because it’s much too tempting, otherwise!

Their Penn Quarter shop has been open for a while now, and they recently opened a new one in Dupont Circle as well. (Whoa, rivalry with the other Dupont cupcakery, Hello Cupcake!) These cupcake shops seem to be springing up everywhere. Is there room enough in this town for them all!? Georgetown Cupcake may have the best in the city, but Red Velvet has an edge over Hello for the Dupont shops in my opinion. Hello may have better flavor selections and slightly cheaper prices, but I think Red Velvet cupcakes have better icing, and moister cakes that stay fresh longer.

But here’s something rather vexing about them: I can’t look up the exact cupcake flavors because Red Velvet has mysteriously changed their website! It’s now a very ugly and unhelpful single page (no links to flavors or anything), which looks neither appetizing nor inviting. They used to have such a pretty website. What happened?

Anyway, enough with the rant and on to the cupcakes:

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17 Sep 2009, 11:58pm
misc:
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Top Chef 6.05: "Camping"

I’ll admit it: One of the things I was looking forward to the most from last night’s Top Chef episode was seeing whose food Tom Colicchio was going to spit out, and whether the guilty party who’d prepared the dish would survive elimination (they didn’t).

The first several episodes are usually these “throw-away” eps, just biding time as we impatiently watch the group pare down to a workable size. There are always a good number of chefs that are in over their heads, and make you wonder how they qualified to begin with. The Las Vegas season has had quite a few chefs who fall into this category, despite the fact that the judges rave about how fabulous this cast is compared to past seasons (but then, they always say that). Then again, the underdog has climbed up to the top before, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised before the end. (^__^)

As for this episode (spoilers under the cut):

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15 Sep 2009, 10:16pm
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Food in Children's Books

elevenses

The most vivid memories I have of the books I read as a child usually center around the food. Maybe I was a foodie-in-training from a young age? But actually, even if I weren’t a foodie, I would still remember the food well, because good eats seem to feature quite prominently in a lot of children’s literature.

For instance: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Here was a story where a greedy little boy almost actually betrayed his family to the dark side in exchange for a heaping dish of sweets called Turkish delight. Of course, little girl me was dying to try this stuff, which was supposedly so heavenly that it was worth sacrificing everyone you loved. I had no idea what this Turkish delight was, but I wanted it! Had to have it! Then I grew up and discovered Turkish delight and was very disappointed to learn that it tasted like gooey, sticky soap. So much for the magic.

The Paddington Bear series was another great favorite of mine, and practically every other chapter featured food in some way or another. Even if it didn’t, Paddington always carried around a marmalade sandwich under his hat “for emergencies.” XD I was never a fan of marmalade, but his love for it was quite amusing to me, and I enjoyed all his escapades involving the stuff. My favorite episode was when he had the audacity to order a marmalade sandwich at the fanciest restaurant in town! I suppose it’s sort of akin to ordering a PB&J sandwich at Citronelle or French Laundry, lol.

Paddington had a standing date with his good friend Mr. Gruber for “elevenses” every day, when they’d share a hot cup of cocoa accompanied by what he’d call “buns.” I’m actually not sure what “buns” are in the British sense. (Breakfast rolls? English muffins?) Nevertheless, I always found it to be a charming tradition, and I remember wanting to have “elevenses” right there with them in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop. (^__^)

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15 Sep 2009, 6:58am
dessert market:
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Penn Quarter Farmer's Market

PQ market tomatoes

First off, apologies about the previous post on Cafe Atlantico. I was messing around with the edit function on WordPress’s iPhone app and managed to delete the majority of the post! It’s been fixed (in other words, rewritten from scratch), so if you were wondering where the rest of the post was, it’s back. (^___^)b

So, Penn Quarter holds a farmer’s market every Thursday from 3~7pm between the months of April and December. They’re relatively small in comparison to markets I’ve seen elsewhere, but it’s quite accessible at least. It’s located on 8th Street near E, close to the Gallery Place Chinatown Metro station.

I popped over there a few weeks ago and picked up some nectarines. They were incredibly flavorful and juicy! But I suppose it’s never a guarantee from week to week, and I found that the nectarines I picked up the following week weren’t as juicy.

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10 Sep 2009, 11:24pm
japanese snacks:
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Lucky Stick

luckystick

I was browsing the snack shelf at the Japanese grocery store when I spotted this Pocky Imposter! Sitting right next to the real deal, even. The ever Engrishy “Lucky Stick” biscuits came in two flavors that day – strawberry or cappuccino cream. Strawberry’s kind of standard and boring, so I opted for the cappuccino.

First off, when I opened the box, I was hit with that sickeningly sweet instant flavored coffee smell (very similar to those “International Coffee” mixes by General Foods). Visually, I could tell that there was only a very thin layer of cream. Perhaps I’m just accustomed to getting more generously coated icing, like they have on the thicker dessert Pockys.

As for the final assessment after taking a bite: the artificial coffee flavor was not very good at all, and left an unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth.

I guess they were trying to emulate the Pocky but totally missed the mark. Not even close, Lucky Stick. Not even close.

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7 Sep 2009, 12:00pm
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Cottage Pie

cottage pie done

Shepherd’s Pie (or cottage pie) is my ultimate comfort food. It’s got so many of my favorite things piled one on top of the other, and best of all – it’s so easy even *I* can make it. \(^O^)/ And I make a damn good cottage pie, if I can say so myself. Actually, all of it is thanks to Alton Brown and his fabulously simple but delicious recipe for shepherd’s pie. I just substitute ground beef for ground lamb to convert it into cottage pie. Though someday, I would like to make a true shepherd’s pie with lamb.

My friend Jen is my big enabler. She has cottage pie once a week, much to my extreme jealousy. Every time she mentions having cottage pie for dinner, it makes me crave the stuff. Unfortunately for me, oven usage is kind of a big deal in my household, since Japanese people just don’t bake. My oven is used as a storage device, not a cooking mechanism.

Last week, after hearing my friend mention cottage pie yet again, I was determined to make this stuff, oven or no! I decided to utilize my toaster oven to make a couple ‘mini’ pies stuffed into small meat loaf pans. I was apprehensive about putting the tiny oven to work like this, but I had to give it a try. And what do you know? SUCCESS!

See below the cut for the making-of. X)

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Raisin Sand

raisin sand

I know what you’re thinking: What in the world is raisin sand?? It’s a raisin sandwich, which might or might not be an improvement from your first impression. Ah, we crazy Japanese with our weird word shorteners and even weirder food combinations… Actually, I love shortening words. It’s a nice succinct way to refer to something that would otherwise be a mouthful. Sandwich = sand. Department store = depart. Kentucky Fried Chicken = kenta. Brad Pitt = burapi. (My favorite is “Shuwa-chan” (lil’ Shuwa) for Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Wait, was this about food?

Back to “raisin sand.” This is one of the Bourbon line of cookies I’ve been blogging about. Unfortunately, it’s a low point. It’s not utterly inedible, but not particularly flavorful either. I think it could work if it was a little sweeter perhaps, or more raisin-y. I thought it was surprisingly moist, though.

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