Friday, December 9, 2011

BRB, No Really

OK Restonians, another shout out to you. Today I am talking BRB, or Be Right Burger. Another burger joint has joined the ranks over at the RTC (Reston Town Center for those uninitiated). There is no shortage of holy temples to red meat at RTC. There is also the Counter Burger, and numerous American and steak watering holes where ground meat on buns may be consumed.

The Counter is nice, but a little more expensive when you are done tabulating everything alacarte. Both burger places offer humanely treated free range ecologically conscience meals. BRB has a couple things above the others. Their prices are reasonable, their food is very good, and they have free wi-fi. For techies at Town Center over lunch, this is a boon. They really need to advertise this a little better. 

Suffice it to say, "Meat good! Grunt!, especially the shroom burger, and the fries awesome too. This is definitely something they have all over Five Guys. If your feeling up for a burger (Whether turkey, veggie, or beef), I would recommend you add BRB to your list. They are even open until 3am on Friday and Saturdays for you night owls who feel carnivorous after hours.

Contact Information:
1820 Discovery Street
Reston, VA 20190

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ga Go Pa - Chantilly, VA


Let me start off by saying that I am in no way a Korean food expert. I like Korean food. I have had it a few times, and I see a serious addiction on the rise here. Having said that, my review of this newest restaurant is only a reflection of my tastes.

I stumbled into Ga Go Pa on a rainy Monday evening. Understandably there were not many other patrons there, but a couple of Korean families gave me hope that the food may, indeed, be the real deal. Ga Go Pa is a Korean buffet for Korean BBQ and sushi. This means there are individual burners on each table for the grilling of wonderfully marinated meats and vegetables; this includes the illustriously famous Kimchi. 

On one side of the four sided buffet bar was a variety of sushi, the next a small collection of Korean foods, including sautéed sweet potato noodles (more on that in a moment). The last two sides pertain mainly to the BBQ portion of the itinerary. You select your combination of raw meats and take them back to your table for some sizzling good fun.

The staff was especially friendly and attentive, which is always a big gold star in my book. If the service is bad, it makes little difference how wonderful the food tastes.

For our performance this evening I selected the Bulgoggi and pork belly (It is a lot like unsmoked bacon). The accompaniments included a big helping of kimchi and fresh garlic (I did not want to talk too much to other people this week anyway). A little tip from me to you, do not try and frizzle your meat on your own…the servers really do not like that. They hide it quite well with their understanding smiles, but trust me, I am doing you a favor here.

As promised I am returning to the delicious sweet potato noodles or Chapchae.  If you have never tried cellophane noodles or bean threads, these little lovelies will be new territory for you. When cooked they are translucent.  Chapchae is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea.* These noodles DO NOT taste like sweet potatoes. They absorb the flavors of the dish beautifully, and this is why I love this kind of noodle over any other. The Chapchae is a must at Ga Go Pa.

What I can say is, if you are like me and enjoy the variety of a buffet, and have a craving for Korean food…this is a good stop for you. 

* Chapchae information on
Contact Information
14015 Lee Jackson Hwy
Chantilly, VA 20151
(703) 631-3400

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Be A Foodie or Not to Be a Foodie?

What does it mean to be a foodie?

Foodie is a term I have heard thrown around a lot lately. My question is, “What is the definition of a foodie?” It is interesting, like most things in this wonderous universe, there is no singular definition. There are no language police to arrest you for improper use of a made up noun.

Everyone has their own definition. For me, it is someone who enjoys the culinary arts. It does not mean they have to enjoy all the same aspects of said arts. Many enjoy it in very different ways. I, for example, do not understand wine. I want to. I yearn to taste all those glorious flavors people go dreamy over. I simply never learned that aspect. Does this mean I am not a foodie? To some pompous few, yes, it means I am a bastard child of the foodie club. 

The wonderful part is, they are not making the rules. They may think they are, but no one individual or group can tell you what you are. If you enjoy food, if it is a fascinating subject to you, that is all you need worry about. I can only tell you what foodie is to me, for all others on this miniscule planet of ours, it will be different.

I find flavors fascinating and exciting. Trying new food or cuisines is like an adventure. A way to travel to exotic ports of call, learn about new cultures and people. It is a way to connect. It is thrilling that something so fundamental to our existence can be so varied, delicious and unique. These are simply some of the philosophies I hold, and what defines me as a foodie. For yourself, only you can write that definition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tryst ~ Washington, DC

With Tryst, the question is where to begin? I originally went to Adams Morgan to try an Ethiopian restaurant that did not bare ripe fruits (See previous article). After my dinner partner and I walk out of the restaurant dusting disappointment off our clothes like dandruff, we decided we wanted a yummy snack/dessert and coffee/tea to make the night a little less abysmal. I have to say, Adams Morgan is a charming spot, I could spend weeks sampling all the goodies lining this nook of DC.

In search of warm coffee goodness, we prowled. The streets were teaming with the Friday night rowdy crowds. Cops were actually posted, and watching us. Finally we stumbled on the open and welcoming doors of Tryst, a local spunky coffee/café. 

It was chilly outside, and they had their doors open! Freaks! But once inside you felt toasty warm. The lights are dim, and they offer free wifi. This is a big draw as you can tell from the many people warming by the glow of their lap top screens. I am not one to judge, as I can be guilty of the same lameness.
What I noticed first was the eclectic decorating. There were a mish mash of couches and chairs in which the only criteria seemed to be comfort. I am charmed by that. Nothing matched. In fact, it is part of their motto, “No Corporate Coffee. No Matching Silverware.” AWESOME! Books lined the walls, and people crowded in circles chowing on various yummies, which was exactly what we needed. 

It turns out you can either order from the counter, or have yo’self a seat and a server will find you eventually. We had a sweet gent with a flower behind his ear. I ordered a latte and the Death by Chocolate Dessert Waffles. I do believe waffles are the undiscovered dessert. The latte was served in the traditional fashion of a fishing boat size mug. What I liked best was how frothy and creamy the milk was. I can honestly say I have never seen foam quite like that. Silly as I may be waxing rhapsodic over latte foam, this is my column, so get over it. This was the perfect latte.

If the waxing for the latte was too much, I suggest you put the laptop down now and step away, for the waffles were an orgasmic experience. It was an actual chocolate waffle and drizzled with Nutella, need I really say more? The chocolate overload factor was spot on, but not overly rich like other death by chocolate style desserts.

If you have not tried Tryst, I suggest you do… It is my new favorite coffee shop. I am looking more forward to the metro coming through Reston now, more than ever….

Contact Information:
 2459 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone:  202-232-5500

Meskerem - Washington, DC

The Search for Truly Exquisite Ethiopian Food Continues

Ethiopian food is a unique cuisine that I cannot quite find a comparison to anything else. My introduction occurred many moons ago in Charlotte NC at a small family owned establishment. For some reason, I prefer the vegetarian aspect of Ethiopian, and to this day, tend to order just that.

Since that small funky joint down south, I have yet to discover another wonderful dining experience involving Ethiopian food. I am very sad about this. Unlike other, more Americanized foods, Ethiopian varies greatly from one restaurant to the next. Usually home grown recipes, so consistency does not really exist here. To this day I hunt for my next favorite place.

Last night I tried Meskerem in the Adams Morgan section of northwest DC. It will not go down as the answer to my prayers for finding my next favorite Ethiopian joint. It was not completely horrible, maybe a 2 ½ star place. It started off well. The interior was low lit and 2 floors. Very interesting in design, but I cannot quite find the words to describe it. There were not so many tables as there were these large communal bowls.

When the food comes out, in a large bowl of its own, it fits perfectly inside the big table bowl. The food bowl is lined with Injera, a spongy sourdough pancake like bread that you use in lieu of utensils. This is one of the aspects of the cuisine I enjoy. I am a big fan of interesting methods of ingesting a meal <grin>. My dining partner and I chose one of the few tables in the place. I know that makes me a party pooper, but hey seemed a bit awkward. You can flog me later.

We started with all the vegetarian Sambussas, which included a collard green, cabbage, and lentil. Each mixture is wrapped and deep fried in what feels and tastes like spring roll wrap. They were all delicious, but the collard green was my favorite. I also ordered the tomato salad (Diced tomatoes tossed with onions and green chili on a dressing of olive oil and lemon), this was also divine. Very simple, but bursting with flavor. Unfortunately this would be the pinnacle of a meh meal.

They brought out our bowl, after those who came in after we did, which confused me. But like many other Ethiopian places I have tried, the sampler provided miniscule portions for 2 people. The cabbage was very good, as were the collards. Low points would have to be the Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Pea Sauce). This was always one of my favorite dishes. Somehow this made the disappointment all the more a crushing defeat. There was an extra seasoning that I cannot figure out what it was, but it made this dish crash and burn like the Hindenburg. To make matters worse, it was cold.

Suffice it to say this will not take the crown of the Larisa’s fave, I must continue this long and laborious search until the clouds break and the angel choir sings. I see that, and I will know I have made it. Until that happens, I will just have to taste my way. Until next time, feel free to contact me with your suggestions.

Contact Information
2434 18th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 462-4100

  Meskerem Ethiopian

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Café Sano ~ Reston, VA

Located in one of the original strip malls is a local joint that does not quite feel so local. Café Sano, located in South Lakes Shopping Center, serves Mediterranean cuisine, but unlike most local dives, it is a very very well oiled and efficient machine. When you walk in you notice the place is shiny, well kept. Considering this place has been open for years, to maintain that polish is impressive. It kind of feels like the Panera of Mediterranean food. This is not a bad thing, honestly, because the food is miles away from the boring previously mentioned Panera.

The second thing that will catch your attention is the booming voice of the gentleman taking your order. You would think they hired a disc jockey, or a descendant of Barry White. He actually may be the manager, but I am unsure of this claim. He was fun and engaging. I hope you get to meet him when you try this cool place out.

I ordered the Kabob combo with shrimp and steak. The Hubby had the chicken penne pesto. When your food is ready, they call you to pick it up.I was not expecting the deliciousness I encountered. Like many places (e.g. Moby Dick’s for example) that have a more chain feel, the meat can be dry and dissapointing. Café Sano proved its pages were more intriguing than its cover led on.

The salad that accompanied the meal was crisp, fresh, and yummy. The grilled tomatoes were nom worthy too. What really made me say WOW was how well marinated and juicy the steak was. The shrimp too were large and superbly done. I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised.
The only slightly dull note in this symphony was the rice. A bit over cooked and bland, but not terrible. It did not; however, fit the triumph of my meal.

The small bite I wrestled away from the Hubby showed equal promise. A nice blend of garlicky goodness and basil. If you are vegetarian, there is a lot for you to enjoy on this menu as well. They make falafel and other Mediterranean delights.

This is a place worthy to add to your list. The keep with their claim to provide fast, fresh, and tasty meals. 
Contact information:
South Lakes Village Center
11130 M South Lakes Drive
Reston, VA  20191
Phone:  703.391.2100


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Layalina - Arlington, VA

Layalina is a small unassuming spot on the big strip of Wilson Blvd in Arlington. Close to Seven Corners, , it can be daunting to know which left to take as anyone who has ever tried to navigate the jumble of roads in Seven Corners can attest to. The parking is lacking, but once inside you realize it was worth the extra steps.

They offer the standard Lebanese/Mediteranean cuisine, but they do it so exquisitely. The atmosphere is another contributing factor to their charm. Tapastries on the ceiling and comfy chairs. It almost has a family room feel. Cozy and inviting, the staff is warm and welcoming. It Is also a hookah lounge at times. If this bothers you, you might want to call in advance to see if it will be an issue.

As I do at every restaurant I try, I have to order the stuffed grape leaves. They do an incredible job with this staple mezza. Strong flavor, but not overpowering. We also decided to try the fried eggplant. This was probably the more surprising of the two. I expected the standard breaded and fried variety, but there was no breading to be had. What was even more surprising was that it was not missed. It had the lovely texture of fried eggplant without the distracting layers of breading. It was fabulous.

Since this was lunch, and not dinner, we decided to go with some sort of sandwich and settled on the Chargrilled Kafta which is a mixture of beef and lamb, onion and spices. It is served with what they call Middle Eastern Coleslaw. What it really is is a cabbage salad. It is crisp and fresh and very delicious.
If you are In the mood for Middle Eastern and want to enjoy it in a warm friendly environment, Layalina should be added to your must try list.

Contact Information:
5216 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22205
Phone: (703) 525-1170

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mad Fox Brewing Company - Falls Church, VA

Mad Fox Brewing Company - Falls Church, VA

The 1st question you might have is not what is Mad Fox, but where in the dickens is Mad Fox? This charming little brewery is cunningly located in downtown Falls Church. The problem is you have to look extra hard for it.
Once you find it, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. They serve lunch, dinner, and brunch. It is the latter I am fixing to discuss with you here now. 

When I go to Mad Fox for Brunch, I always want the same thing. Homemade glazed donuts. With that I start. I am partial to the original glaze over the other varieties. Sinfully glazed and piping hot, they are as delicious as I am making them sound.

As always, I order the steak and eggs, steak medium rare…Yum. Instead of the side salad that comes with this deliciousness, I order the smoked gouda grits. There are no words for the bliss one can experience consuming this gastronomic masterpiece, that is when it is done properly. I have eaten brunch at MF 3 times. Two out of the three times the grits were perfection smoked goudiness galore. They make them thicker, almost like polenta; however, there was one time it was more like traditional grits and more liquidy. If you can find out ahead of time, that would be the best.

Now for the main attraction, the steak. By far, it is one of the best cooked steaks I have eaten ever, and that includes places like Ruth Chris. They cooked it to a wonderful medium rare and placed a dab of seasoned butter atop to melt languorously. As steaks go, this one is heaven. I also have on good authority that they sometimes buy their meat from the very Organic Butcher of McLean that we wrote about here on le gastronomique dc! 

 If you can, see your way to brunch at the Mad Fox. Many scrumptious treats await you there.

Contact Information:
444 West Broad Street, Suite I (eye)
Falls Church, VA 22046
Phone: 703-942-6840
Fax 703-942-6916 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best 'O Veg - Saigon Pho Style

Here is another review for the herbivores amongst us. In this article series I am reviewing local restaurants for their vegetarian offerings. Saigon Pho Style is my favorite place for vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine. Check out my review below.


This is a lovely little gem tucked into a well established business park off of Spring Street in Herndon Virginia. I found it when I was going to eat at another fave eating establishment right next door called A Taste of the World. Both boast in their front windows to specialize in vegetarian fare. So I decided that night to change my dinner plans, and I was very happy I had.

The 1st thing you will notice when you enter this place is that it is small, very small indeed. You will also notice that the décor is Spartan. Despite the sparse appearance, it is meticulously clean (I find this to be a greater virtue), and the staff are tremendously friendly and eager to serve you.

I believe that since it is somewhat hidden, it never seems all that crowded. I am hoping that this fact will change because I would hate to lose a great place like this due to lack of patronage.

In my 2 trips I sampled the Caramelized Veggie Shrimp, and the Vegetarian Pho Soup. I double checked on the soup to be certain it was vegetable broth because many Asian restaurants do not understand that animal based broth does not classify as vegetarian.

This place, however, does, and they assured me that their Pho was made with only vegetable broth. Let me tell you, this was by far, the BEST vegetable Asian soup I have ever tasted. The flavors were numerous and it tasted fresh, not processed and over salted. It had fresh herbs swimming in the clear broth, and it was chock full of rice noodles. It was an event all by itself.

The Caramelized Veggie Shrimp is also excellent. It is the perfect mixture of texture and flavor as Vietnamese food should be.

It is evident that this restaurant is a family affair, the recipes, most likely, created in the home kitchen. This obvious fact makes the food memorable and well worth the trip for Veggies and carnivores alike (Yes they serve meat as well).

Contact Information:

281 Sunset Park Drive
Herndon, VA 20170-5220
Phone: 703.435.9573

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Organic Butcher of McLean - McLean VA

Article 1 - Series: The BEST Local Places You Should Know About

There are so many uncertainties in the world today. Where your meat comes from and what is in it should not be one of them. That is something the Organic Butcher wants to help you with. An old school European style butcher located in McLean, the Organic Butcher was started back in 2005 by Don and his Brother in-law, Ryan Ford. Ryan resides in Charlottesville and operates that location while Don owns and operates the McLean store.

They focus almost exclusively on local farms, .to make sure they know who they are dealing with, the conditions the animals are raised, and methods the meat is prepared for sale. Their products are free of chemicals and hormones, and the fish is purchased from Clean Fish (, a sustainable seafood company with a fabulous reputation. Organic Butcher is serious about bringing the customer the absolute best product around.

One of the questions I asked Don during our interview was “what makes the Organic Butcher different than a Whole Foods?” He stated that it is the customer service they provide that is the driving force for them and their dedication to local farms ensures the origin of the product is better documented and monitored. My own observation is that these are butchers. This is their livelihood and it is what they do. With stores like Whole Foods, they may move staff around, therefore making the knowledge of the staff unpredictable. At the Organic Butcher the focus is on you and the quality of what they are selling. Don has been there from the beginning, and so has Wendell (another butcher at the store). Chad and Wyatt round off the compliment of staff eager to assist in your delectable purchase. They know their customers, there are few strangers, and those that are, are not that way for long.

An enthusiastic customer, McLean resident Jeff Killduff, stopped by our table as Don and I talked. He wanted to be extra sure I knew that Organic Butcher was the best place for quality organic meat in town. His enthusiasm was contagious. I felt like shopping right then. I am thinking Don should hire him to be a spokesman.

I wanted to know what are the boss man’s favorite items. “I am really into wild game, wild boar and venison. For beef, I would say a good hanger steak or rib eye.” You can definitely find wild boar in shop. I would love to try that myself sometime. They even make their own varieties of sausage!

In the future, Don is looking into options such as online ordering and local delivery. They already provide wholesale ordering for restaurants like the Blue Duck Tavern.

Whether you’re talking fresh free range turkeys for Thanksgiving or ground beef for your everyday meatloaf, the Organic Butcher is the place to get those needs met without all the worry attached.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chutzpah - Fairfax VA

There are very few places I can get this excited about. Chutzpah, in the Fair Lakes area, is one of the illustrious few. Chutzpah is a small bit of NY sass in the Stepford wife generica of the DC suburbs. Offering a full NY deli, catering service, and an awesome sit down restaurant too. Today I am here to report on their wonderful dinner menu.

I had my husband and friend with me, so I was lucky to not only try my dinner, but theirs too. I am super clever that way. All meals come with their famous pickles and slaw. Some places serve bread before the meal, but hey, they have Chutzpah! <Spoken in a thick New York accent>

The matzo ball soup was for starters. No denying its homemade roots. From broth, to the matzo ball, every component was made fresh there and it was delicious. Two things took me by surprise. The first thing was that they put noodles in their soup. They are awesome noodles, not at all mushy like most places noodle soups, but it was new to me. The second thing was this matzo ball was the size of a baseball. Amazing. I licked the bowl clean.

Next round was our entrée. I ordered Bubba’s Famous Meatloaf wrapped in bacon with brown gravy. For $13.95 you get your entrée, a house or Cesar salad, and 2 sides. I think that is quite reasonable in today’s prices spiraling out of control. I paid a bit extra to get a latke as one of my sides. As a latke expert, this gets the Jewish American Princess seal of approval. The meatloaf was so awesome that it defies any cute description I could think up for it. Obviously it is not kosher, but despite was most non-Jewish people think, not all Jews keep Kosher. As stated previously, I was also able to sample Hubby and Friend’s pick as well. For this reason I can say, without doubt, that the Beef Stroganoff and stuffed cabbage are also without equal.

What I cannot reiterate enough, is this food here is the real deal, Bubbe home cooked, no kidding around. Eric the owner is an import from New York, and we are so pleased he has joined us in DC. I now have a place to buy homemade chopped chicken liver (YUM! I like to call it Jewish pate), and wonderful deli meats to boot. The roast beef and brisket are cooked in house! I highly recommend it. Don’t forget to save room for the sinful desserts, including  favorites of mine, Napoleons and REAL New York Cheesecake.

Put Chutzpah’s on your must try list. I promise you will not be a one timer.

12214 Fairfax Town Center
Fairfax, VA 22033
Voice: (703) 385-8883
Fax: (703) 385-5855
Chutzpah on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Luscious Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon - Ohh La La

So the other day I caught the culinary bug again. This time the ocean was calling to me. I decided to pick up some lovely Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon (Available April – October). I do not have  a lot of experience with this fish, so true to form, I decided to wing it. I came up with a lovely baked salmon with Honey Habenero Sauce from Po River Apiary (More information included below), Citrus rind seasoning, basil, cilantro, and dill. It was FABULOUS. I am happy to report it was cooked perfectly, not dry at all. For this use a meat thermometer and common sense. Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees according to the government food safety website (Click here for more information). It just melted on my tongue.  

Po River Apiary is located in Spotsylvania Virginia. They produce a wide variety of items, but all are made from their own naturally harvested honey. In this recipe I used their wonderful Honey Habenero sauce (Which is more like a glaze). It is deliciously sweet with a subtle kick, perfect for cooking fish. The uses for this product are only as limited as your imagination.  You can view their product brochure online at: This kicks off another new article series, The BEST Places You Should Know About. Follwing this maiden voyage, we will be bringing interviews from local businesses that everyone should sit up and take notice. Coming soon is the Organic Butcher of McLean. Please stay tuned!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best 'O Veg - Part 1 - Italian

This blog, like many of the restaurants in this here US of A, tends to be more meat centric. What many of my readers may not know about me is that I am pro vegetarian and was a card carrying member for 3 full years. No red meat, white meat, or fish. I had to give up that lofty pursuit when my cravings got worse and worse. I was getting proper nutrition, so skeptics; keep your snarky comments to yourself.
Suffice it to say, in 3 years you learn a lot about restaurants and where to find the best veg food around. I will share this vital knowledge with you now grasshopper. Periodically I will throw out these Best ‘O Veg reviews. It will showcase a paticular cuisine/establishment.  Today I will post a review for Famous Luigi’s in DC, once on my vegetarian restaurant review website. Enjoy…

Famous Luigi’s
1132 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-7574

I am of the belief that on one’s 1st visit to Famous Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, in NW DC, the pizza should be their starting point. I have had the privilege of eating their food on 3 occasions. This DC locale has been at the same building for almost 70 years. In that time they have most definitely mastered their trade.

My introduction to their groundbreaking pizza ruined me for pizza from any other food establishment. I had ordered a pizza with mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra cheese. Upon my 1st bite of this masterpiece, I believe my eyes rolled back into my head.

I have always been of the school of thought that pizza was one of those foods that was good, but not worthy of culinary worship as fine cuisine. Luigi’s has single-handedly torn down my misconceived opinion in one meal.

I eat pizza from the usual places, but this pizza was beyond anything I had ever experienced. The cheese was heavy, but not overwhelming, the toppings were fresh and not overcooked, the tomato sauce was flavored beautifully and not too heavy, but the crowning point of this meal was the crust.

Normally I leave the crust. Most crust lacks flavor and texture, and does not impress me. There can be no doubt that this crust is made by scratch, and from true Svengalis of this profession. I can honestly say I have never tasted crust this good before (could you tell?). It was soft and hearty at the same time, but my favorite aspect was the lovely yeast flavor, it is what really makes this crust unique.

I have also tasted the appetizers, Melanzane fritte (fried eggplant) and the Mozzarella fritte (homemade mozzarella; breaded & fried). Both are EXCELLENT and completely homemade. The eggplant breading did lack seasoning, but all it really needed was a little salt and it was still amazing. The texture was perfect.

On my most recent visit, I finally tried their pasta (made in-house). I tasted their Fetuccine alla Luigi (homemade pasta sautéed with cream sauce & parmigiano). This is essentially their version of Fettuccini Alfredo. I also tried their Gnocchi alla bava - potato dumplings in three cheeses. I can tell you, without hesitation, that I have never tasted better.

What people do not realize, is that fresh homemade food, like pasta, looks very different than what most people are familiar with. This kind of food lacks the pre-fab/out of the jar appearance of most chain restaurants (ie: Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill). The pasta has a more yellow color, and for the 1st time I was eating pasta at an Italian restaurant that was cooked to perfection – Al dente. At every single eatery I have been too, the pasta is always overcooked to some extent.

The sauce was a simple creation and elegant in its simplicity. It was like you could name each ingredient in it by tasting it. There is no mass-produced, from the grocery store, generic mush from Luigi’s.

My opinion is, visit this place as soon as you can, you will not regret it.


Since writing this entry I have also had the privilage of trying the angel hair arrabiatta. Technically not on the menu, it is a must order. I have never eaten angel hair in a restaurant the was perfectly al dente. I could die happy now. The sauce bursting with flavor Italiano with a touch of zing. Eat eat eat!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Honey Pig - Annandale VA

What is Honey Pig you might ask. Honey Pig is a singular experience. I find it difficult to properly describe in words (although, I will try anyway). It is not just a Korean BBQ restaurant, but an experience in Korean culture.

What I like best about HP, is that it was made to please Koreans. When  I went, I was one of the only white people there. I always believe that the true way to tell if a restaurant is serving authentic cuisine, is by watching the clientele that frequent the establishment. The fact that 95% (give or take) of the diners were Korean, made me confident that this would be the real deal.

The atmosphere in HP was frantic with servers running about setting up grills at new customers tables, setting the meat to cook, bringing plates full of lettuce, Kimchi, and other accompaniments. The design of this place is very urban and spartan. Nothing was hanging about that did not serve a purpose. It was an environment completely foreign to me. In fact, I felt like this could be the closest to what it would feel like to be in Korea.

Koreans reading this will likely laugh at me. Silly white woman does not realize what Korea is really like. They would be right. But like Korea it felt. It was hot, vibrant, and bustling, and I have not even gotten to the food yet!

When we entered, our table was immediately served individual small dishes with Kimchi, which I  had never tried and was nervous about, and other similar style vegetables. There were also individual leaves of lettuce which confused me. There were 2 dipping sauces and sliced onion with chopped (yes more) lettuce.

I had tried Korean food in the past, but this experience was totally new. I felt like a tourist and little out of place, but in a good way. For the 1st time in a very long while, I was giddy, excited about this new gastronomic experience.

I ordered the pork belly, and my friend with me ordered bulgoggi. The servers here move with purpose and focus, and it was not long at all before our grill was sizzling with yummy marinated meats. Served with rice and an additional vegetable mixture that seems primarily mung bean sprouts. I was thrilled to learn that I actually do like Kimchi. The spicy sour flavor goes perfectly when eaten in conjunction with the rice and meat. I also learned the purpose of all that lettuce. By observing the table next to me, the chopped lettuce is eaten together with the meat, almost like a salad. The large leaves are used to wrap various ingredients. I tried both ways and they are fabulous together.

A table neighbor was even patient with me when I inquired about a dish they were eating. It is steamed and made of eggs, almost like an egg souffle. It is called Gaeran Jim. It is very mild and quite fluffy in texture. The fried dumplings are also painfully delicious. There was literally nothing off with this meal. It was perfect.

If you just adore Korean food, or if you are in the mood for a vacation from the norm (according to us that is), Honey Pig is just what you have been looking for. The only downside is can be difficult to communicate with the staff, so be patient, it is all part of the process. 

Contact Information
7220 Columbia Pike
Ste C

Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: (703) 256-5229

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sahara Lebanese Cuisine - Sterling, VA

I had decided my husband and I needed a “date night.” We were shopping for a wedding shower in the Sterling VA area and I was in the mood for Middle Eastern; so we stopped at a small establishment in Sterling. It is somewhat hidden from view in the Burlington Coat Factory plaza.

Even though it was a Thursday night, I was surprised to find it empty. We were warmly greeted by Manal, the owner. From the moment we entered, we were treated like kings. This is why I prefer to dine local. Chain restaurants are detached from their clientele. They do not connect with their customer because they do not feel that they have to. Suffice it to say, I felt more than welcome. 

Hubby and I both ordered an appetizer. I went straight for the stuffed grape leaves, while he went for the Fatayer B’jibne (Cheese pastries filled with a blend of cheeses). Both were phenomenal. The grape leaves were definitely the real deal. I have become quite the connoisseur of this particular dish. I have tried it numerous places, and I know what makes Sahara’s recipe truly fantastic, the mild flavor. The subtlety of the ingredients as they blend on your palate.Inexperienced restaurants can make a version of this dish, but their attempt is heavy handed. The flavors are too overpowering, not pleasurable at all. This was not the case here. Everything I ate was wonderful, but the grape leaves will remain the victor in this match for supremacy. 

The pastries were rich and very feta friendly. If you relish the taste of feta, this is the appetizer for you. They also bring and endless supply of warm, flat, doughy bread. Hot every time! It is served with light dipping oil that puts Macaroni Grill to SHAME.

For my entrée, I was torn between the Salmon Cilantro and Mixed Grill. I went with the latter. A heaping plate of basmati rice pilaf, hummus, salad, and a mixture of lamb kabob, shish tawouk (grilled marinated boneless chicken breast with garlic puree. The puree is incredibly delicious!), and kufta kabob (ground lean beef and lamb mixed with parsley, onion, herbs and spices). Every last one of these items was superb. Equally juicy and well seasoned.

I highly recommend this jewel to all who love Lebanese cuisine.

Contact Information:
46950 Community Plaza
Sterling, VA 20164
Phone: (703) 421-8252
Fax: (703) 721-8253

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My attempt to create bliss

I decided for my husband's birthday I would creat a new dish, and it would be fabulous. I am not one to follow recipes. At most I would say I am inspired at times by them, but never follow.

I knew it was going to be something with chicken breast, but I was bored with my usual meals of that variety. Then I thought, a ha!, some kind of chicken pasta alfredo. I wandered through the grocery store looking for the right ingredients for what I was "tasting" in my mind. I will share this with you, but know that measurements will be variable. For the sauce I approximated till it tasted right. See at the very bottom for an image of this masterpiece.:-)

Chicken breast (I made like 8. I tend to much food)
1 16 oz package of linguine
1 6 oz container shredded parm (I prefer Parm Regiano, but any parm works)
a handful of shredded mozzarella and provologne mixed
cornstarch blended with water before adding
Pancetta, cut up and fried till crisp
2 shallots
4 cloves garlic minced
1 qt heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper
2 cups butter

I started off heating the cream and butter in a sauce pan on low heat. Sizzle pancetta and then add chopped shallots and minced fresh garlic.Once whipping cream and butter are blended, add the pancetta, onions, and garlic and stir. Heat more and then add the parm and cheese blend then the cornstarch mixed with water. Keep stirring till thickened.  mmmmmmm


Because the chicken is to be served covered in the sauce, I keep it very simple and just bake at 350 till they reach a temp of 165. Make linguine

Combine on plate and enjoy. This dish is to be tinkered with. Measurements, ingredients can all be changed per your preference. I thought mine was pretty awesome though. See below

Monday, July 25, 2011

Norton's - Tyson's Corner VA

Where to start? What is Nortons? Norton’s is a local restaurant that is housed inside Tyson’s Corner Mall. It is what took the place of Slade’s when it went away.
It is a local and privately owned restaurant that is masquerading as a chain. Never in all my life have I had such generic cuisine. To me, this felt like chain food.
I had the ribs, which came out blackened. When I could not find my server to send it back, I had to ask a random server  who managed to stumble by.
She took my plate. I waited for the next round. Strangely, another server brought a dish back, of the exact same ribs they took away. I could not help the loud guffaw I let loose. It was just so funny!
It started at Slades, and became Norton’s. Next it must be Jonah’s, cause this one is a stinker. 

Contact Information:
Really, you do not want it...

Norton's American Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 15, 2011

What is the deal Charlie?

Tuna, it may seem to be an odd idea for a blog entry, but I am curious about tuna. Specifically I am curious as to what the hell I should be looking for in the bazillion brands and types of tuna. Why are there so many? Why do they charge so much for one, and not another?

I stand in the grocery aisle completely confused by the over saturation of information;  so  I set out to decipher this information. For one thing, this is a very complex topic. I got most of my information from the Environmental Defense Fund website at:, and Consumer Reports: For even more detail, see those articles.

The first thing one should know is that there are 3 main types of canned tuna. Light, Albacore or white, and Yellowfin. These are the main types we all come in contact with. The light tuna is, by far, the cheapest. The Yellowfin and Albacore tend to be more expensive. Supposedly they are better tasting. Light tuna is made more often from Skip Jack tuna, a smaller fish than either Albacore or Yellowfin.

That is the main difference. The rest of the information mainly deals with how it is packaged. Is it chunk or solid? Canned in water or oil? The titles seem confusing, but they are essentially saying the same thing. So the question is really, which tuna you want to eat, and in which method do you wish it to be prepared?

What most people, including myself, might not know is that the tuna that is pricier and highly coveted, may not be the healthier choice. We have all heard about mercury in tuna. But less well known is that different species of tuna have higher levels than others. The species touted as the best in flavor (and therefore more expensive), Albacore and Yellowfin, have the highest concentration of mercury levels due to the fact that they are larger predators than the Skip Jack used to make the standard light tuna most of us grew up eating. So, interestingly enough, you are paying a higher price (in many ways) for the more contaminated product. That will make you think before you pick up Charlie from the shelf.

Of all canned fish, it seems canned salmon is the best. Who knew? Mostly it is sustainably caught sockeye or pink from Alaska, and still very high in Omega 3s. Maybe I should make my usual tuna sandwich a salmon salad sandwich instead?