A Recipe for the Rest of Us


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I’m not quite sure why I love this blog so much. I’m a horrible cook. Horrible isn’t even the right way to describe it. It’s more like bad cooking karma. I look at a piece of toast and it burns itself. Steaks on the grill mysteriously become well-done and chewy in my presence. But, being a huge fan of food, I visit ES to read about BS and gansie’s cooking adventures and look at 80 Proof’s pretty pics, and whenever I’m invited to eat someone else’s cooking, I’m the first one to show up with fork in hand and bib tucked in.

So my friend Marcy is hosting a dinner party, sends me the menu and it looks phenomenal. Yellow pepper and white bean soup. Eggplant Manicotti. I call Marcy and ask if I can bring a couple of friends (an hour before- a serious food party faux pas) and she says she may not have enough food for everyone. I then proceed to blurt out, without thinking, a series of words that I have never, ever, put in the same sentence: “I can make a dish!” She says great, see you in an hour. Oops.

What did I just get myself into? Heart palpitations, pacing around the kitchen, general freaking out ensues. I am a culinary catastrophe waiting to happen, and I just offered to make something?? So I go on Endless Simmer, come across El’s guacamole recipe and decide what the hell, I’ll give it a go.

So I present to you a different kind of recipe. A recipe for survival in the kitchen for one who can’t cook to save her life, and if she ever did, she’d die anyway because she would burn the house down.

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The Washington, D.C. Smelliest Takeout Awards

smell.jpgIt’s an urban legend among roommate disaster stories. Roommate #1 goes to neighborhood takeout joint. Orders smelliest thing on menu. Brings home, consumes half during Lost marathon, puts in fridge. Roommate #2 comes home, sniffs something rank, assumes rotten meat in fridge, throws out stinky leftovers. Passive aggressive notes ensue. Roommate tension escalates. Both move out. And it all started with a smelly dish.

DC has many choices of incredibly smelly, yet unbelievably tasty takeout. Everyone has come across this fare in some form. It’s the food with the stench that is embedded in your car during the five minute drive from the curry shop to your couch (car fresheners don’t come in Lamb Korma). The meal that when consumed at the desk causes coworkers’ eyes to water. The food that may smell better coming out than going in. But in the battle between taste buds and nose, taste triumphs. Meet the pungent posse of yummy DC takeout food.

Honorable Mention: O Jing A Bukom, Adam Express
This nondescript takeout place in Mt. Pleasant may look like any of the many forgettable Chinese joints that dot the DC landscape (sorry YUMS and Dannys). But one step inside this place and you are greeted with an extensive Korean menu, smiling owners, and the succulent stench of food. While everything in this tasty hole-in-the-wall has an aroma, only the daring need to order the stinkiest of all smelly foods: O Jing A Bukom. Broiled squid and vegetables sautéed in a spicy sauce with an odor more ferocious than the villain in Twenty Thousand Leagues. But man, is it good. The fresh chili spicy sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the perfectly grilled seafood. If the squid isn’t malodorous enough, Adam Express kindly includes a side of Kimchi (pickled cabbage) to raise the smelly stakes.
Adam Express, 3211 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010, (202) 328-0010

Adams Express in Washington

4th Place: Garlic Knots, Valentino’s, Alexandria
New York pizza enthusiasts love Valentino’s for its authentic pies. But look beyond the main course for an appetizer that will surely singe the senses. This adored takeout joint takes pizza dough and bakes it with herbs, spices, olive oil, and Kilimanjaro-size mountain of garlic. Valentino’s creation heads a thousand knots into Garlic Land (Candyland’s much less profitable successor). The flavor is perfectly spiced, fragrant goodness, and the bread is warm and generously greasy, but the fumes give off a garlic sauna. Perfect for John Carpenter or Vampire Weekend fans, or for one of the Coreys in The Lost Boys. Not at all good for first dates.
Valentino’s, 4813 Beauregard St, Alexandria, VA 2232, (703) 354-8383

Valentino's New York Style in Alexandria

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Project Sandwich


I wanted Christian Siriano to win. The clothes, the ingenious asymmetrical haircut and the adorable arrogance all in a 4 foot tall perfect package. I was cheering for him all through the Project Runway finale as he bopped around with threads, winked at the camera and snapped at his own fierceness….until he told a size -1 model “don’t eat!” after fittings. My mouth hung open at this comment (not attractive considering it was full of cheesy lasagna) and it got me thinking. Not about how women don’t need to be stick thin to be beautiful. That argument’s been done a thousand times and reiterated by Tyra Banks ten thousand times more. Christian’s quip about food rejection simply made me hungry, even after digging into my second helping of lasagna. His comment made me think about…sandwiches. I do love a good sandwich. For the rest of the finale, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat debating who will rule the runway. I was thinking: If these finalist were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would they be?

Let’s start with Chris. Now, I actually didn’t mind human hair on clothes, but I do mind them in my sandwiches. Thankfully, at Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh, I never found one. These sandwiches are extravagant, layered, grandiose goodness….and more importantly, as burly as the PR finalist himself. Pounds of Italian ham, Swiss cheese, coleslaw. All topped off with fries IN the sandwich. A little much for most people, but so was that fugly jacket that got Chris kicked off in the first place so there you go. Chris, I honor you with the roast beef sandwich at Primanti brothers.


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Is That Hot Dog in Your Sushi or are You Just Happy to Sashimi Me?

Mango, persimmon and raspberry sushi with coconut shavings

Scene: 6pm. Thursday night. Pinch of Minch and BS lounge on the couch
during hour two of Curb Your Enthusiasm marathon. A crumbled bag of
pretzels lay on the table. Somewhere, a stomach growls.

Pinch of Minch: Dude, Brendan, I’m hungry.
BS: Yah.
P o M: I mean, really hungry.
BS: Uh huh.
P o M: I want sushi. Real bad. Like, if I don’t have it, I may die.
Do you know what I mean?
BS: No I don’t, but sushi sounds good.

They go back to watching TV, until 30 minutes later….

P o M: Dude, I’ve got a crazy idea. We should make sushi.
BS: Eureka.
P o M: Out of what’s in the fridge. Like what-ev-er is in there,
mayonnaise and mac and cheese sushi. Pickle and coffee ice cream
BS: Hmmm. What about fruit? Fruit plus sushi is fruishi.
P o M: I have some frozen hot dogs. I’m making hot dog sushi. I am a genius.
BS: Let’s make some crazy sushi.
P o M: This could be really gross.

They give each other high fives and race to the kitchen. What follows
is a Lewis and Clark expedition of culinary craziness. And a short
time later, some of the oddest- and damn fine- sushi emerges from the
kitchen and into the bellies of our two protagonists.

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Bad Bites

alfredo bites

It’s true. Wedding invitations DO get lost in them mail. And when I was the victim of an invite sent to the wrong address, I realized I had to be in Elkins, otherwise known as the ‘heart of west Virginia‘, in one week.

So I packed up a last minute dress, a cute date, and an excitement for a taste of small town life. Little did I know that wasn’t the only thing I would be tasting. I was introduced to the strangest food concoction: Alfredo Bites.

We found these edible oddities at CJ Mackeys in the ‘downtown’ district of Elkins, which, well, only had the fine dining establishment: CJ Mackeys. I wondered if that meant this CJM was the ventricle of the heart of West Virginia.

CJ Mackeys is comparable to any establishment that serves appetizers ending in ‘poppers’ or ‘trio.’ Upon getting our 2 liter sized Cokes, we glanced at the 56 page menu, where the side dishes alone ran 3 pages. But the term “Alfredo Bites” stood out amongst the taters and Caesar salad.

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Dos Gringos

two gringo

Editor’s Note: Now that endless simmer is more popular than MySpace, a line of aspiring food bloggers has begun to form outside our offices (although some of them apparently thought it was a food bank). After an extensive, American Idol-esque audition process, we decided to bring the best of the best in to spice this thing up a bit. Pinch of Minch is a high-powered TV executive who is well aware that television is dead and blogging is the future. Specifically, this blog. Please welcome Pinch of Minch to ES.

Upon first glance at the mounted menu in Spanish, one might wish they paid a bit more attention in their high school language immersion class. Just follow the locals at the Mt. Pleasant café Dos Gringos and direct your eyes to the indiscernible English menu tucked just out of peripheral vision. There you’ll notice a tasty variety of vegan and vegetarian food along with healthy carnivorous deli options. The sandwich choices like Chipotle Grilled Tofu, Bean Mash Wrap, and Curried Chicken Salad are wholesome, satisfying and fit in perfectly with the handmade pottery they are served on. Free cupcake samples made from scratch line the counter next to homemade bakery goods. The extensive breakfast menu includes a Cilantro Egg Wrap with havarti cheese and Belgian Waffles with fruit and chocolate syrup. Late-risers beware: Dos Gringos usually sells out of their popular breakfast items by 11 on weekdays and just a half hour later on the weekends. The café might have a granola feel, but the staff is as quick and abrupt as any Bronx Pizza joint. This slight- yet café-efficient attitude will keep you from taking your time to choose between the Corned Beef or the Portabella Grinder right when you get to the front of the line.
Overall, the food is natural and delicious, the atmosphere Bohemian-chic, and it’s no surprise the quaint café sits right on top of Mt. Pleasant. And if you still feel the need to brush up your Spanish- language skills, Dos Gringos offers informal conversation exchanges on Saturday nights.

Dos Gringos in Washington