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Everything posted by mktye

  1. For some reason, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant (yes, the place on the same property as the original George W.'s house) has become popular as a special-occasion venue in one of our social circles. And it was only a matter of time before it happened"¦ an invitation to a private party there. I'd eaten at the Mount Vernon Inn only once before, nearly 10 years ago, when it was the only choice at hand (they now have a food court in addition to the more formal restaurant). All I can remember about that meal was that I ordered a pulled-pork sandwich (the memories of it are not fond) and the service was abysmal. But a lot has changed at Mount Vernon since that time, so I was hoping the restaurant had also been upgraded. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. Overall, the food certainly could have been worse, but it was generally flavorless and uninspired. There was also an issue with the salt "“ the prosciutto/asparagus/puff pastry appetizer was too salty even for me (a known salt-fiend) and other things (such as the baked, stuffed tomatoes) were totally devoid of salt. We started the evening with appetizers: The previously-mentioned Prosciutto/Asparagus/Puff pastry Combo; Crab Dip (which had a disturbing viscosity) and House-made Crackers (too thick for my tastes and a bit soggy); Quiche (I think that is was it was supposed to be, but it was surprisingly cold and tasteless); Spanakopita (a crime against phyllo); Beef satay (which I did not try because the meat was cut in too large of pieces to gracefully eat while standing with a drink in one hand and carrying on witty conversation); Bacon-wrapped scallops (which were the best of the lot "“ all that could be tasted was the bacon, not a bad thing in this instance, and the scallops were not over-cooked). From there we went into one of the dining rooms and sat down for their American Traditional Menu I: Warm Goat Cheese & Field Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette (subbed last night with a syrupy raspberry vinaigrette); Petite Filet Mignon with Crab Cake (no discernable spicing, with the predominant flavor being that of old crab) or Sliced Duck Breast (the duck was subbed with lamb) with Shrimp Sambal (Sambal? Where? all the shrimp tasted of was raw garlic); Tomato Stuffed with Sautéed Garlic & Spinach (a perfectly baked tomato, but no salt and the spinach mixture was... yes, you guessed it, flavorless); Duchess Potato (possibly piped out and baked when the mansion was new); Homemade Breads and Colonial Cracker (served with stale butter); Fresh Strawberries in a Chocolate Cup with Chambord Cream (so that is what that taste was "“ all I could tell last night was that it was not a flavor found in nature). All washed down with Foxhorn Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay (or, in our case, water). What the meal really suffered from was lack of quality ingredients. With the exception of the tomatoes and the strawberries, nearly everything tasted old and stale (if it tasted of anything at all). The somewhat tragic part was that the food was technically cooked well "“ the meats to the appropriate degree of doneness, the scallops and shrimp were tender, the crab cake had very little filler and so on "“ so there is some talent at work there. Unfortunately, no one seems to be tasting any of the food before it leaves the kitchen (rwtye thinks it is intentional and they striving for innocuous and bland). Luckily, the focus of the evening was the celebration of a milestone in the life of a dear friend. So, regardless of what we were served, it was a very enjoyable evening. Sometimes it is not all about the food.
  2. Ate lunch at the Glover Park location last week. As my friend describes it: "Bangkok nightclub inside, serene Asian garden outside." We sat outside (as did everyone else while we where there). The food was quite good. While not at the level of Thai Square, it was definitely a cut above most Thai restaurants I've been to in this area. We shared the panang (peanut curry sauce) tofu and kee mao pak (wide rice noodles) with veggies in a chili/garlic/basil sauce. Both were well-prepared and had a nice amount of heat to them, especially the kee mao pak which rates two heat-denoting chilis on the menu. Probably not a destination restaurant for most people, but something to keep in mind if you are in the area. Busara Thai Cuisine
  3. A lot of folks around here go out to HH on a whim, I tend to bake on a whim... I recently tried out the Apricot Walnut Bars from the April issue of Gourmet. Quick and easy, just make sure to bake them long enough. I underbaked mine a bit (I wanted to sit down to dinner) and they suffered for it. Yesterday, I made of a batch of Pate a Choux from an interesting recipe I ran across few months ago. The recipe includes a bit of sweetened, condensed milk and makes the tastiest puffs I've ever eaten. Not sure if the difference is noticable once they are filled, but they are quite irresistible straight from the oven. To stuff the puffs, I made two batches of coconut filling. One batch was made as written from the recipe JoeH posted in the "Coconut Cake" thread and the other batch made using unsweetened, dried coconut instead of fresh coconut. As much as I wish it did not make a difference (cleaning fresh coconut is a pain), the filling made with fresh coconut was considerably superior to the one with the dried coconut. And I am still on a quest for the perfect yellow cake. I had been following a thread on eG where they were looking for one, but it has fizzled out and I am not satisfied with any of the recipes posted. However, I have two new recipes to test and plan to make at least one of them this afternoon. What are you all baking these days? --- [The following posts have been split into separate threads: Grilled Peaches (xochitl10) Páte Brisée (ktmoomau)]
  4. Next time, if you are as far north as Sherman Oaks, consider driving about a half an hour further up 101 to Thousand Oaks and going to Marcello Ristorante (140 W Hillcrest Dr., 805-371-4367) for their Ravioli de Zucca.
  5. mktye


    (To continue the guacamole discussion from "Restaurants and Dining"...) Below is my favorite guacamole recipe (and it is easily tweaked it to suit one's tastes). It does contain cilantro, so if you absolutely hate it, you can leave it out (but I always use it). Also, you can add some chopped tomato if you'd like (I usually don't because I think it dilutes the flavor of the avocados). If you are not serving the guacamole immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the guacamole (it is contact with the oxygen in the air that causes it to darken) and refrigerate. GUACAMOLE Makes 2½ to 3 cups 3 medium-sized, ripe California Hass or similar rough-skinned avocados ~2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime 2 tablespoons minced onion 1 medium garlic clove, minced (IHMO, this is what makes good guacamole into great guacamole) ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves (optional) ½ teaspoon ground cumin ~¼ teaspoon salt a pinch cayenne powder or 1-2 chopped fresh jalapenos to taste (I prefer cayenne to fresh jalapenos, both for ease and because I think jalapenos can add a bit too much of a vegetal flavor) Halve, pit and peel the avocados, drizzle with ~1 tablespoon of the lime juice (the acidity helps to prevent the avocados from browning) and mash to the desired consistency with a fork. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt and cayenne/jalapenos. Mix and add additional lime juice, cayenne/jalapenos and salt to taste.
  6. I went there about 5 years ago with a friend to pick up a croquembouche for her mother's anniversary party. I ended up holding the 3' high pastry in my lap all the way back to La Plata because the chef (who followed us all the way out to the car to oversee the transportation arrangements) insisted that it could not be put in the back seat under any circumstances. According to the Yahoo Yellow Pages, the bakery is still there: Desserts By Gerard 6341 Livingston Rd, Oxon Hill, MD 20745 (301) 839-2185
  7. mktye


    All of the discussion regarding cupcakes is making me crave them (tasty ones, not dry, cold ones) and since I have a bunch of very ripe bananas languishing on my table, I'm going to make some banana cupcakes this afternoon using this recipe. The recipe does not specify what kind of flour, but I've made cakes with it using both bleached AP and cake and I like the cake flour version the best. And I find that the 1 cup of sour cream does an excellent job of producing a moist cake. I plan to frost the cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting (recipe TBD and dependent on if I make it to the grocery store today to buy cream cheese) or some vanilla buttercream (recipe from Fribergs's "The Professional Pastry Chef") that is in my freezer. So what are your favorite recipes for cupcakes?
  8. Cucina Vivace recently opened in Crystal City next to Cafe Pizzaiolo. According to their website they are only open for dinner (Tues-Sun).
  9. Lunch. Yesterday. Not rushing to go back. Mushy spring rolls. Gloppy sauces. Suprisingly flavorless (and heatless) Eggplant in Garlic Sauce. And why is it printed on the wrapper for the chopsticks that they are located in Silver Spring? Mei's Asian Bistro
  10. mktye

    Baking Bread: Knead Help

    I suspect you'll enjoy the Hamelman book. It has not the breadth of bread recipes as BBA and some of his scaled-down recipes are not without issues, but his discussion of flour, leavenings and methods make the book well worth the price. And here is a discussion on Pain a l'Ancienne that might also be of interest.
  11. mktye

    Baking Bread: Knead Help

    I've found that Pain a l'Ancienne is a tricky bread that does not always play by the rules, so you have to trust your senses more than the recipe. I usually end up letting it rise 6-8 hours at room temperature. And cook it for a longer period and at a bit lower temperature than called for (so the crust does not burn). If you've not already seen it, a book you might enjoy reading is "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman. He really gets into the how's and why's of bread baking without being ridiculously technical.
  12. mktye

    What Are You Baking?

    The two factors that affect yeast are heat and moisture. For storage, I prefer the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I feel the moisture levels are better controlled since nearly all the water molecules in there are in a solid state (ice). I also avoid purchasing yeast at the supermarket because of concerns regarding the temperature it has been kept during the distribution and storage. (I suspect this is what accounts for the difference you are seeing, Pat.) I buy SAF yeast in 1-pound bags from King Arthur Flour, keep it in tight-sealing tupperware containers in the freezer and have found that it will be fine even a year (or more) later. Great minds think alike, Miss L?
  13. mktye

    What Are You Baking?

    Almond Puff Loaf
  14. Homemade strawberry pop-tarts. Recipe here.
  15. mktye

    Hamburger Buns

    I use 3.5 ounces of dough for hamburger buns, but as KMango pointed out, it will depend on your bun recipe. And, when forming, be sure to flatten out the dough much more than you think you should.
  16. mktye

    Double or Clotted Cream

    World Market. They usually have double cream or clotted cream, or both.
  17. mktye

    Kitchen 911

    In the "Cappellacci with Sweet Squash" recipe from The Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper calls for combining butternut squash with sweet potato in a 2:1 ratio to approximate the taste and consistency of the local squash from Ferrara and Parma. I have made this recipe numerous times and it is excellent.
  18. mktye

    Del Ray Market

    From my neighborhood listserv:
  19. From the January MOM's newletter:
  20. mktye

    Holiday Baking

    Bûche de Noël. Vanilla sponge, brushed with Frangelico cake syrup, filled with chestnut French buttercream, frosted with chocolate French buttercream and decorated with meringue mushrooms.
  21. mktye

    The Great Pumpkin Shortage of '09

    A few Thanksgivings back, my MIL brought me one all the way from California (they'd grown it on their farm) and I had the same exact experience. I always figured it was just that particular pumpkin. Guess not.
  22. mktye

    Fattet Bel Djaj

    Although I've not made this particular recipe, I've been liking "The Arab Table" by May S. Bsisu for such things. Someone else has copied out the recipe here.
  23. King Arthur Flour carries 100-count packages of half-sheet-sized, pre-cut parchment paper for $19.95. Click.