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Everything posted by PollyG

  1. Strawberries dipped in chocolate are super easy if you decide that you don't really need to temper chocolate that will be eaten the next day. I did them for my nephew's bris in my hotel room using a microwave and the minifridge. I brought the chocolate (Trader Joes dark bars) and wax paper with me, as well as some white chocolate melting tabs and squeeze bottles from Michaels for decoration. These are easy enough that you can melt the chocolate and recruit other people to wash/dry/dip the strawberries. You can also dust them with sprinkles if you prefer.
  2. Before someone pulls this topic to the side of the road and makes us all walk home: As a prior victim of pine-nut mouth syndrome who now makes pesto with macadamias, I recently discovered this 2011 blog describing someone's thesis project which targets one particular species as the culprit. http://pinenutsyndrome.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/pine-nut-syndrome-thesis-completed-overview/ A handy visual guide to the various species is included at http://pinenutsyndrome.wordpress.com/pine-nut-species/ . As with all such links, just because you read something on the internet does not make it true, but it does appear to have been well thought-out research. If this is correct, your Pinus sibirica sample should be safe.
  3. Kiraku in Berkeley did a great job of fortifying me before 3 days of dull conference food. www.kirakuberkeley.com I met up with a college buddy and one of her good friends at this tiny Berkeley izakaya last week. Reservations include an "honor" type commitment to consume at least $30 of food and booze per person. Do not be frightened off by the "Japanese Tapas" description on the menu and front awning. I would have thought folks in Berkeley knew what an izakaya is, but perhaps not. We were blown away by a couple of the dishes -- everything else was good to excellent, but not transporting. The fried lotus root chips with celery salt were so light and crunchy we ended up ordering a second bowl. This was the favorite of our not-so-familiar-with-Japanese dining companion. The chips were potato chip thin and practically grease-free. The takowasibi was a first for me. This is raw, not cooked, octopus marinated with a touch of wasabi. I had a second, not quite so good version of this at another restaurant later in the week. I could have this over rice for breakfast several days a week. We had a smoked carrot (or possibly an unusually large gobu root) pickle which was an interesting mix of smoke, crunch, and vinegar. The albacore yuzu ceviche was almost delicate with the citrus notes. They have a huge sake menu and one of the staff is happy to consult with you and suggest either a sake to your taste or a sochu he thinks will work for you. Things I regret not trying: Fried garlic with miso. I was going to spend the next 3 days in tight quarters at an all-hands meeting and I decided to be kind to my colleagues. I'll be back. With drinks and tip, I think we still kept it to under $120 for the 3 of us. Seating can be a little tight, but not as tight as Inn at Little Washington.
  4. Alicia has left the region. Not quite sure how to break this to my dogs, because they adore her. Polly Goldman
  5. Not even close for me, but I do like the current trend in self-serve with the toppings bars, which can be a welcome relief from oversized portion-mania. Red Mango is the best incarnation of this we've encountered to date. I like the fresh fruit toppings and their fro-yo is very good. OTOH, my daughter and I have been known to position ourselves where we can see the weight indicator as other people overfill their cups and walk out with over a pound of fro-yo and toppings at the local Crunchy Sweet Frog. It's frightening.
  6. This past February, I used the Help Needed forum to seek a recommendation for a landscaper who could help us address a shady, muddy back yard with a solution that did not require chemicals or cutting of the deciduous forest that covers the rest of the yard. We recognized that a lush grass lawn was probably not achievable without intense maintenance and chemical assistance, neither of which we wanted. Nancy Christmas, the spouse of DR member Dr. Xmus was recommended, and after reviewing her site at NativeScapes, I contacted her. She spent a generous amount of time with me and my spouse, took lots of photos of the yard, and suggested a plan that would fit our needs and be very low maintenance after the first year. Nancy does not do the installation work herself, so she has no incentive to suggest expensive alternatives vs cheap ones. We received not only the plan, but also information about each of the suggested plants and information about more plants that we might want to add over time. We ended up going with Merrifield Garden Center to execute the work. The foreman was extremely complimentary about Nancy's plan for our yard (which speaks volumes, considering Merrifield has their own designers), and the work was mostly completed a few weeks ago. We have a few more plants to add in the Spring. Already, the dogs are loving the mud-free yard (our sparse ground cover was removed and replaced with topsoil and mulch) and my daughter is looking forward to placing a fire pit in what used to be a thicket of extremely sour, low-yielding wild blackberries. Nancy's plan cost us a ridiculously low sum. She should be charging more for her knowledge and time! Paula Goldman
  7. Also American Jewish World Service http://ajws.org Donations will be directed to local groups in the Philippines who are already on the ground and know the communities. AJWS is a strong proponent of purchasing supplies close to the disaster area, both to reduce shipping costs and to avoid disrupting the area's economy with a flood of free goods which unintentionally hurts local businesses. The specific donation page is at https://secure.ajws.org/site/Donation2?df_id=6421&6421.donation=form1&__utma=233384270.688582353.1384047850.1384047850.1384228286.2&__utmb=233384270.7.10.1384228286&__utmc=233384270&__utmx=-&__utmz=233384270.1384047850.1.1.utmcsr=%28direct%29|utmccn=%28direct%29|utmcmd=%28none%29&__utmv=-&__utmk=58441321
  8. ARA in Annandale has it on the menu. ARA is a very busy noisy nightclub in the evenings -- I know someone who tells me she always sees police cruisers there at night, but extremely quiet at lunchtime.
  9. Unfortunately, due to that urban myth, most children will not be allowed to consume the fruit unless the parent is with them and knows you. We live in an unlit neighborhood and hand out glowstick bracelets as well as sugar bombs. I'm still astonished how many of the kids are poorly lit; I used to accompany my kid and her friends in a flashing jellyfish costume to be sure they could be seen.
  10. Tanpopo just gave me the nicest chirashi I've ever had anywhere and I wanted to give them a shout out. I selected the jo chirashi, at $24. It included, among other more pedestrian items, fatty tuna, scallops, what I believe were two different types of clam, one botan ebi (without a fried head, alas), a generous strip of grilled eel, a huge amount of salmon roe, and three pieces of top quality uni. I've had some very nice chirashi, but for variety and quality of ingredients, this beat them all. It was a steal at $24; both my daughter and spouse had samples of several items and it came with miso and a green salad.
  11. Things seem to be a little less bustling out here in the Reston/Herndon area. As a family not directly impacted by the shutdown, we're actually trying to eat out more to help the restaurant economy. Tonight is "take a furloughed family to dinner" night for us.
  12. The bizarre thing is that IIRC, the Commisaries are not using appropriated funds and are actually a revenue generator used to fund recreational activities on most bases. Neither of us is directly impacted by the shutdown. We had dinner at Hong Kong Palace tonight and usually tables are pretty full with a small line by the time we finish. Tonight, while it was far from empty, tables were available.
  13. Good Land Organics is at $25 for a half pound this year, shipping included. http://www.goodlandorganics.com/store/finger-limes
  14. We are very sorry to learn of Chef Itoh's passing. Makoto is a gem. On our last visit, the Chef had turned the reins over to one of his sons, but his training had clearly been excellent and the food was as good as ever. I'm so happy we took Naomi (age 13) there this winter in a long-delayed celebration of her mastery of chopsticks.
  15. Not all kaiseki restaurants in the US have zaseki seating, thank goodness. It's really hard on my arthritic knees. Makoto is the closest you will come to kaiseki in the region. We enjoyed a much more expensive kaiseki meal in Maui a number of years back, with more attention to the appearance of the food, to the point of preciousness. Mushrooms had been carved to look like eggs, etc. We like Makoto a lot, though they are importing many ingredients and not just sticking to local items. Not everything is a hit with us at each meal, but each meal brings at least one dish that is a revelation about what can be done with top notch ingredients.
  16. Is it the catbirds who are taking the first bite of my Chicago Hardy Figs? The ants are also swarming the tree. I have tanglefoot on the way to take care of the ants, but perhaps I should get a bird netting too.
  17. The other thing to consider is whether you enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with your dinner. If so, the comparatively high markup on wine or beer makes dining in even more economical.
  18. Today we finished our trip on a high note. We went to Dynasty Seafood Restaurant for a very good dim sum. We focused in part on items we had not seen before, such as their shrimp roll with preserved egg and pickled ginger and their ginger fried milk. Quality was very good and the seafood tank was full of actively waving geoduck clams, crabs, lobster, and spot prawns. We seriously considered returning for dinner. But instead we went to Kitsilano Daily Kitchen, where we opted for the 6 course tasting menu for $68 each (the one drawback is the whole table has to opt for this). KDK features a menu that changes daily depending upon what the chef found at the market. For the tasting menu, the server double-checks for food allergies or intense dislikes before the chef starts cooking. With the exception of dessert, all 6 courses were well executed and consisted primarily of a simply prepared protein on a bed of more intensively prepared vegetables and a starch. For example, the first course was a sunny-side up quail egg over a slice of big-eye tuna, resting on a rissoto that was studded with fresh peas. Dessert was a flourless chocolate torte served with tart currants that was just too dry. We were stuffed by then and it was the only course we did not entirely finish. We really enjoyed the meal and the servers provided detailed information about each dish.
  19. We're not quite done with Vancouver, but here are a few notes: XLB at Shanghai River are very good, though I think that I prefer the more gelatinous broth from Shanghai Deluxe in NYC. The rest of my family preferred the crab to the pork version; I preferred the pork. The spicy wontons are very good, much bigger than A&J's tiny little comet versions. There was a pleasant texture to the filling; possibly water chestnut for a bit of crunch. On the recommendation of Vancouver Magazine, we tried Landmark Hot Pot House for a seafood hot pot. This establishment has been around for 25 years and they offer more than half a dozen different broth options. Just be aware that the Fresh Shrimp are LIVE prawns threaded lengthwise on individual skewers. We had been a bit sad about not ordering these as we saw them whisked from table to table, until at the end of the meal, my 13 year-old noticed that they were still moving, which we all confirmed to be the case. She is not into killing her own food, so it would have been a bit of a disaster. Also, cuttlefish shrink down by a factor of at least 5. The major disappointment so far has been one Chendgu Szechuan Bistro, which deserves a false advertising award. Food was acceptable as generic Chinese food, but the menu was not what we expected at all and had nothing to do with Chengdu cusine as we know it. And finally, while sushi is cheap and plentiful, be aware that the rolls are HUGE everywhere. Order less than you are accustomed to ordering. The option to have local salmon rather than farmed Atlantic is a novelty we're enjoying while we can.
  20. Please do not overlook the garlic fish. Melanie suggested it one night when my daughter initally wanted both the cumin lamb and the cumin fish, suggesting that the seasonings were too similar and this would be a good alternative. (And there is no one in my family who is going to be happy if we make the trek to HKP and don't have the cumin lamb.) The garlic fish is a non-incendiary dish that helps balance out a table full of heat. It is breaded and fried, crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside, with a fair amount of crispy fried garlic bits on the plate. This would not be the one dish I ordered if I was limited to one entree, but it provides a nice balance and the friends we introduced to HKP last weekend loved it.
  21. Can you clarify as to where you got the XLB? Was it at Shanghai River? We'll be in Vancouver for the better part of a week next month and are planning on taking advantage of the plethora of excellent Asian restaurants and the fresh seafood. One of my Asian-American colleagues from SF assured me years ago that it is the best city for Asian cuisine in North America.
  22. We had duck at Honey Pig (Centreville location) last night, so maybe it is becoming trendy. It was good, but the spouse and I both agreed that the duck flavor was largely lost with the preparation.
  23. I'd agree with him but for 2 things: 1) Fairfax County has, in its wisdom, placed my child's bus stop at a shaded intersection with neither curb nor sidewalk; and 2) Has he SEEN the way people drive around here when the roads have any snow? I spent grad school in Wisconsin driving at night for a free ride service, and I have zero doubts about my ability to handle a vehicle on snow and ice. But I sure don't want to be on the roads here in such conditions with all those idiots who think that an SUV means they can tailgate in snow or brake and turn at the same time.
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