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?

Miller's Pub - Chicago, IL

As you know, this is a blog that celebrates the local restaurant. A beacon of purity in a world corrupted by the chain restaurant. OK, maybe that is a bit dramatic. Suffice it to say, we like you local guys. I mainly focus on the local of the metro DC area, but on this occasion I stray to a local in another time zone.

Miller’s Pub in Chicago has been catering to the locals since 1935. The reason they have been doing this for so long is that they are REALLY REALLY good at it. Miller’s is the kind of place you go when you want comfort food. It is not vegetarian friendly, but for carnivores, it is like religious sanctuary.

While in Chicago for 4 days, I ate 3 dinners and a lunch at Miller’s. What blew my mind was that I did not have one bad meal, not even one bad component to the meal. Chicken Schnitzel, check for YUM, same for the Prime Rib, their famous Canadian ribs, and Greek Style Lamb Chops.
Every side was perfect; every server eager to make this meal at Miller’s the one that brings you back. The salads were fresh; the bleu cheese dressing is a must. I cannot stress how great this place is. 

I will say that the prime rib was the best I have ever had ANYWHERE. They even make their own sauces (i.e. barbecue sauce).
If you are lucky to get a trip to the Chicago area, make this the first place you pick up your fork.

Contact Information:
Miller's Pub
134 S. Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-263-4988
Fax: 312-263-0468

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sweet Rice: Falls Church VA

Recently I tried a lovely intimate little spot that seems to have been missed on the metro DC collective radar. 

Upon entering, I noticed how warm and inviting the décor was. Throw pillows in the booths, and warm colors. Though lovely, if the food could not compete with the delightful atmosphere, the point would be moot.

I am happy to report that the food, on both occasions I was privileged to eat there, definitely outshone the décor.On this particular instance I started my meal with the Kanom Jeeb, an appetizer consisting of Steamed shrimp, crabmeat and pork dumplings served with a deliciously sweet soy sauce. I was perfectly constructed, a rich combination of shrimp, crab and pork. Well seasoned, and just what I wanted. I have also tried their crispy spring rolls which were also wonderful, the perfect balance of crisp vegetable and flavor. Either way, you can find no better way to segue into one of their superb entrees.  

I am very fond of seafood dishes, especially shellfish and squid. Most American palettes cannot handle squid, but when done properly, it is a true pleasure to eat.  This was expertly executed on their dish Seafood Pad Phed (Shrimp, squid, mussels and scallop sautéed in roasted chili sauce with scallions, onion and sweet basil leaves). The Pad Woon Sen is also a fabulous dish (Cellophane noodles stir-fried with shrimp, pork, mushrooms and vegetables served with rice). Cellophane noodles are highly under-utilized in all cuisine except Thai.

As I have said, my favorite thing about Thai food is its brilliant combination of spices and fresh herbs, like a party on the tongue. Sweet Rice understands this perfectly. There are 3 Thai restaurants that I would say are the best I have ever had, 2 are covered here on my blog. Welcome Sweet Rice, you are among exalted company.What is more amazing is the reasonable prices for such highly delicious food. When you go there, your bellies will be full, your palette satiated, but your wallet will not be empty.

Contact Information:
Sweet Rice Thai Cuisine
1113 West Broad st.
Falls Church, VA 22046