January 27, 2008

Personal Discoveries lead to Splendid Hotdogs

There is such a thing as a magnificent hot dog. Strangely enough, finding it at Liebman’s Deli in Riverdale has outweighed every other personal insight I’ve had lately. In the months since my girlfriend broke up with me, I’ve learned a couple things about how I deal with what I don’t like, and even more importantly, about what I like to eat. The breakup sent me on a journey of discovery, and I woke up living in Riverdale. Don’t believe me? Come on up to Liebman’s and see for yourself.

Liebman’s comes off as an inauspicious place at first. It’s a glatt kosher deli tucked onto 236th street off Johnson Avenue, right between Mother’s Bakery and an Italian restaurant I’ve not yet braved. There are two categories of things at Liebman’s: things you have to try, and things you just really should.

First off, focus for a second on Kasha. Not “Kashi”, mind you. Kasha is a grain that old Jewish people eat. It’s sort of like rice, but a little grainier, and a bit nuttier. That brings us to the first thing you have to try: Kasha Varnishkas. Basically, they take a big bowl of boiled Kasha and noodles and serve it with brown gravy. It sounds simple. It is simple. It is simply amazing.

Now let’s talk about the focus of this piece: hotdogs. These guys have revived the fine art of spinning hotdogs on a really hot surface for an entire day. They use plain old Hebrew National beef franks, but there’s something about how they cook them all day that just makes them awesome. The hotdogs are a little tough on the outside, so when you bite into them, you know you’ve just bitten through the skin. I know that I just made it sound gross, but it’s fantastic. I like to order them with onions and mustard. They have these onions, and they sauté them also for like, the entire day. Once they get on that hotdog, they’re god damn perfect. They’re some of the sweetest, most flavorful damn onions I’ve ever had, and when you put a dash of mustard on it, it’s like God came down and put junk food on your plate.

They’ve made me change the way I make hotdogs at home. I can’t simulate the all day spinning, so when I’m at home, the hotdogs are boiled, but the onions are a go. Half a medium onion is enough for two hotdogs. They don’t have to be diced, they’ll probably be better if they’re not. Cut the onions long and thin, sauté them in some olive oil until they’re nice and transparent. You can then have them sit for probably ten minutes or so, so there’s no need to get nervous or do everything at once, making sure that you ruin the whole dish.

There’s such a thing as a regular hotdog, there’s such a thing as a Grey’s Papaya hotdog, and there’s such a thing as an awesome hotdog. You’ll be amazed to see what the difference is.

January 23, 2008

Thinking about food, all the time.

In no particular order, allow me to disgorge some thoughts and links:

- Pre-made pesto from Costco is kind of my personal lazy-dinner lifesaver. Add more garlic, add some heavy cream, pour it over chicken, put in some lemon and spoon it over some fish...whatever! All is within the realm of possibiity! I'M LAZY ADDICTED.

- I love bakeries and baking, and I could never do a diet that didn't let me eat a ton of bread. Appalling idea. Take all the fun out of life along with the fat from your thighs. Near my new place, I have Buzz (which I haven't tried yet but fully intend to), and the Shirlington outpost of CakeLove, which I visited the other day before seeing Juno. More pricey than I remembered, but if you're in the area, grabbing a Crunchy Feet ain't so bad as you walk. I know there's a Great Harvest somewhere, but unfortunately haven't had much of a chance to find it, and oh man, a Krispy Kreme naught but four miles down Route 1.

- In baking news, I have been making mad amounts of banana bread, since an entire hand doesn't seem to get consumed before the last three or so get irrevocably brown. Not banana NUT bread, mind you - nuts feel like a dilution of the pure banana derriciousness.

Quick and dirty recipe:

- 4 redonkulously ripe bananas (what can brown do for you? ::snerk)

- 1.5 c. flour (I usually do half wheat, half white. No idea why. I think my brain thinks it's vaguely "healthy." No science backing that one up what-so-ever.)

- 8 tsp. butter (one stick...butterstick...PANDA!)

- 1 c. sugar

- 1 tsp. baking soda

- 1 tsp. baking power

- 2 eggs

- pinch of salt

- cinnamon to taste if so desired

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes for a loaf, 10-13 minutes for mini muffins, and like...25-30 for normal human-sized muffins. Or until a toothpick, knife, letter opener, some variety of pointy thing comes out clean.

- On the DC Restaurant list, I hit TenPenh (on 10th and Pennsylvannia Ave...GET IT??? ha.) and Southside 815 in Alexandria on S. Washington Street recently. TenPenh was actually pretty good, despite the inconsistency of reviews on ChowHound. I had the Lumpia, the Beef Tenderloin, and the Saigon pumpkin bread for dessert. We can't forget the Mangolian Mist martini, either - derricious! And during Restaurant Week, it's a pretty decent deal at $30 for three courses.

On the other hand, I wasn't particularly impressed by Southside 815. Solid, but not impressive. I prefer Old Hickory Grille on Route 50 by FAR for my comfortable, Southernish-cookin' fix. On Fridays and Saturdays, Hickory's crawfish bisque is fucking amazing. For serious. As in, I have a semi-regular appointment with this restaurant for cornbread knots and bisque. Oh man. Have I mentioned this place before?

- On the eco-fooding front, I've been giving serious consideration to joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture). I'm not ever going to be giving up meat, cheese, or milk, so I've been thinking about what I can do to make my eating habits more earth-friendly and healthy within my parameters. This is one strategy I'm considering - adding more local and seasonal:

Basically, you sign up for a share of what an area farm produces, and you can either pick it up at a drop-off point nearby, or have it delivered. Generally, the share lasts through the growing season, approximately 22 weeks from May-ish to October-ish, and you get whatever's growing on that particular farm at that particular time. It runs around $20-30 a week for a share big enough for two people who cook at home most of the week. Sites like Future Harvest and LocalHarvest can help you find a farm. There are also meat, milk, egg, fruit, and winter veggie shares available. There are general caveats though; this isn't really for the unadventurous eater, as there aren't really guaranteed lists for what you'll get every week. You have to be willing to experiment.

- And finally, a request: If you've had any experience with Anson Mills, TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT. I'm about to buy some, but I want more details about the baking/cooking process than the (pretty gorgeous) website supplies.

There, I've probably overwhelmed you with my scatterbrained-ness, so I'll save some for next time.

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