Monday, October 27, 2008

DC Bar Exam

No, not the law kind, the drinking kind. Information follows photos:
Old Europe
2434 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-7600
My dad's favorite spot, and mine too (Octoberfest brew is DELICIOUS.)
Order: Oktoberfest & Schnitzel
Wear: Leiderhosen.

Granville Moore's
1238 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 399-2546
An old-style mussel shack on gentrifying H Street, NE. A converted barber shop. Just charming.
Order: Belgian beer & moules frites (don't miss the truffle aoli).
Wear: Your favorite hipster costume.

Russia House
1800 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-9433
Can be a bit Euro for my taste, but for the most part, a fun escape.
Order: Vodka, clearly.
Wear: Fur.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


It's time for me to eat some budget crunch, so no culinary masterworks are in the plans for this week. That doesn't mean a girl can't dream though, right? Check out the gorgeous culinary photography at my new favorite website, Tastespotting. Be warned: You'll get hungry.

Thanks, Shelby, for sending this my way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

guest blogger: sarah!

Editor's note: Sarah was the reason this blog even exists. I'm so excited she was willing to guest blog her wonderful meal from last night! Without further ado, here's Sarah!

'Tis the season for squash... And for last night's debate, we wanted something warm and satisfying to keep out the first gusts of Nebraska's winter winds.

Topping everyone's list of go-to butternut squash recipes is usually soup. Butternut squash soup is certainly one of my favorite winter comfort foods (nothing beats my mom's), but I wanted to try something a bit more substantial. This dish combines sweet, creamy squash -- cubed and roasted to retain some structure -- with chicken seared with a dusting of ground sage and a decadent white wine sauce laced with nutty roasted garlic. It's not a quick meal, but take care of the unwieldy squash prep and tedious cheese grating in the morning and you can toss the dish together fairly quickly when you return at the end of a long day.

My girlfriends and I enjoyed this dish with a big loaf of soft Vienna bread torn into chucks and washed it down with big glasses of good Chardonnay. Take the extra garlic you roast with the squash and mash it with some softened butter for the bread.

Wint'ry Mix

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

You'll Need:
  • 1 butternut squash (1 1/2 - 2 lbs)
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 lb fettucine
  • 1 bulb garlic (yes, the whole'll be glad you did!)
  • 1-2 cups fresh grated parmesan
  • 1 T. ground sage
  • 2 T. fresh sage
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 6 T. butter
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. dry white wine
  • 1/2 C. to 1 C. chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper
Remove the tough outer skin of the squash with a sharp knife and cut the flesh into 1/2 in. cubes. Toss in a tablespoon of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread the squash evenly in a big baking dish. Slice off the top of the garlic bulb and drizzle with a touch of oil. Wrap the garlic in foil and nestle the packet amongst the squash cubes. Place the baking dish in a 350 degree oven. The squash will take 30 minutes or so to soften turn it once about halfway through. You'll have to leave the garlic in a bit longer...45 minutes to an hour. Just take the garlic out right as you're throwing everything together.

At some point (now is probably as good a time as any!), start the process of bringing your pasta water to a boil.

To prepare the chicken - Heat the remaining olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Dust each side of the chicken with a little ground sage and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken lightly in flour and add to the pan. The flour will help form a lovely dark golden crust on the chicken and will help thicken the wine sauce when you deglaze the pan.

I cooked the chicken for about 6 minutes for each side, then turned the heat down to medium, put the lid on, and did another 4 minutes per side to ensure the chicken was cooked through. The result was plump, flavorful chicken that was tender and juicy inside and slightly crispy outside. Set the chicken aside to cool a bit and return your pan to the stove.

Now is a good time to add your pasta to the pasta water (which is hopefully now boiling). Don't forget to add a generous amount of salt to the pot.

Add a half a cup or so of wine to the pan and scrape up all the chicken bits in the pan. Let the wine reduce a bit, 3-5 minutes or so at a good simmer. Add the chicken stock and let the mixture cook down to a thin, but substantial sauce. When everything has reduced down add a tablespoon or two of the butter to give the sauce a rich depth and silky texture. At this point you can take the garlic out and carefully (I used a dish towel to avoid burning myself) squeeze out two or three cloves of the garlic into the sauce. Mash lightly with the back of your spoon and stir it in.

[Note: the following component can be omitted if you're really counting calories] In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter (half a stick). Add the fresh sage and let the butter brown to a dark, caramel-colored sauce. This will be your brown butter drizzle.

Okay, time to toss everything together! Slice the chicken, find your squash, drain the pasta, and add everything back to the dry pasta pot. Add the parm, reserving a bit for topping, and toss with the pasta mix to melt and distribute. Pour the wine sauce over the mix and toss lightly once more. Plate the pasta, serve with a hunk of bread, and drizzle the plate with a bit of your butter mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and ENJOY!

*Image courtesy:

Monday, October 13, 2008


In fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And then he got lost, went to the Bahamas, and began to rampantly destroy indigenous cultures. Nonetheless, most states in the USA continue to celebrate this Monday holiday and the great (if storied) Italian, Cristoforo Columbo. I decided to use my Columbus Day to explore my own roots...

Several hundred years later, my fathers family immigrated to the United States from Italy. They did not get lost, but their last name did. That is why we are the Tringe family, not the Trinca family (God bless you, Zio Lorenzo). My father's family settled in the Northeast and, like many Italian families, carried on their strong family traditions from the old country.

One great memory I have of my Nonnie is of her making gnocchi at her kitchen table in Norwich, CT. She was fast. She had, what seemed to me, thousands of gnocchi in front of her. I remember trying to help, but having two left thumbs, mostly mutilated the dough (some help!).

Some years later, she hand wrote a cookbook for each of us grandkids. Nonnie, having dropped out of school at age 13 to go work in a factory, has remarkable handwriting and perfect spelling. She had grown up translating English to Italian for her non-fluent parents. The cookbooks she wrote for us are a treasure. So, here's to you, Nonnie, and all that you did for us and for helping us carry on our heritage.

Gnocchi, or, "Yonks," (according to Nonnie's cookbook):

Serves: 6
Prep time: Hours
Cook time: 2 minutes

You'll need:
4 lbs russet potatoes
5 egg yolks
1 C. - 2 C. semolina flour
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Bake the potatoes in a 350 oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes until done. Let cool for 30-45 minutes, then scoop the flesh into a potato ricer (discard the skins or fry them later). Rice the potatoes (alternatively, you can mash them well, but a ricer or a food mill is best). Add salt, pepper, egg yolks, and sift in 1/2 C. flour. Fold to mix (do not overmix). Add flour again. Fold to mix. Sift in more flour until dough is not delicate but not tough. (If mixture is too dry, add another yolk. If too wet, add more flour. This is an inexact science).

Divide your dough into four parts. Each 1/4 lump of dough will make two long "ropes." Roll the ropes into 1/2" to 3/4" width, then slice into 1" long pieces. (You will need more flour to prevent sticking as your roll, plus more flour to dust over the drying gnocchi). Dry on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets for at least 1/2 hour before cooking.

You can freeze gnocchi on baking sheet for 48 hours, then move them (still frozen) into a storage container. Should keep for up to 1 month.

To cook: Boil and salt a large pot of water. Gently add dumplings. Remove them when they float. Dress with sauce, and enjoy.

Classic Gnocchi Sauce: San Marzano tomatoes (crushed), fresh basil, fresh mozzarella. Salt to taste.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

juicy couture

West End Bistro by Eric Ripert
1190 22nd Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
(202) 974-4900
All major credit cards accepted
Valet parking available at the Ritz Carlton ($8)
*Reservations recommended, or bar seating is available & a great option.

I know, I know, our economy just tanked. It's really not the best time to be dining at the Ritz Carlton, maybe. However, with a couple smart decisions with the menu, you can get in and out of there (with drinks!) for not much more than you'd pay for take-out. That's a good deal!

Chef Eric Ripert, the acclaimed 3-star Michelin chef at New York's Le Bernadin fame, opened the West End Bistro in DC with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and a menu that focuses on homestyle favorites like burgers, flatiron steaks, rustic pasta dishes, and hearty soups and stews.

We read some time ago that Ripert's Bistro offered the best burger in DC. Finally, last night, we decided to investigate. We both ordered beers ($5, chilly & poured just right in a frosty pilsner glass) the classic burger (a splurge at $18), skipped the appetizers, and ordered a very naughty side dish of macaroni ham & cheese for two ($10).

The burgers arrived, along with a bubbling cast iron mini-skillet of macaroni & cheese, about 20 minutes after we placed our order. While we waited, it was fun watching the West End Bistro crowd mill about on a Saturday night. All the typical characters were there: the attractive singles, older gentlemen browsing the crowd, and a few hipster-chic trust fund babies thrown in the mix.

But let's get back to the burgers. Thick and juicy and cooked just exactly right, the beef was decadent and beyond fresh. They're served with cheese on a buttered, toasted brioche bun with pickles, onions, tomatoes, mustard, and Boston Bibb lettuce. There is simply nothing wrong with it! The vegetables have been sliced paper thin, so you get all the flavor with none of the bulk.

We really had no business ordering macaroni and cheese alongside the burger, but I simply can never turn the stuff down, especially when the recipe comes from a 3-star Michelin chef. And I was glad we didn't turn it down: the al-dente elbows were creamy and cheesy, and the bits of ham throughout were downright decadent. The buttered breadcrumb top was bubbly and crispy and browned, and in a word: perfect.

We were more or less incapacitated after this doozy of a meal, but both of us agreed that it was a worthwhile splurge. By ordering beer and steering clear of the pricier menu selections (which I'm sure are completely incredible), and sticking with the known masterworks, we got away with a $60 tab. A worthwhile splurge indeed. We'll be back for more.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

party animal

'Tis the season for swing states, absentee ballots, and of course, DEBATES! Last night we invited a few friends over for some friendly sparring during the most recent presidential debate. We planned a very fun (and we thought, funny) menu to go along with the show. Whether you're a McCainiac or you just can't get enough of Obama, you'll enjoy these treats. Here's what we ate:

"Nope-it-ain't-Moose-Burger!" Sirloin Sliders
A very easy and fun way to eat burgers. Two pounds of ground sirloin should make about 20 sliders. Top with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard and ketchup.

Iceberg "Wedge Issue" Salad
Chop up a head up iceberg lettuce and mix with bacon crumbles, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes, and a light dressing of balsamic vinaigrette. Easy!

"Okie-Dokie-Artichokie!" Spread
Mix two cups of chopped canned artichoke hearts with 1/2 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. cream cheese, and 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 1/2 c. grated parmesan. Stir in 1 c. fresh chopped spinach. Crack plenty of black pepper, stir to combine, top with more grated parmesan and bake in a 350 oven until bubbly. Serve with Red, White & Blue Tortilla Chips.

"Can't-We-All-Just-Get Along?" Red & Blue Mixed Berry Crumble

(Thanks, Caitlin!)

Berry filling:

3 C or more fresh or frozen (thawed, drained) blueberries
3 C or more fresh or frozen (thawed, drained) raspberries
3T white sugar
3T all-purpose flour
1 t cinnamon (if desired)

Crisp topping:

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C old-fashioned oats
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place berries in 9" pie or square glass baking dish. (Berry layer should be between 1.5 to 2" thick, or 3/4 the way up the side of the pan.)

2) Sprinkle berries with 3T flour, 3T white sugar, and 1t cinnamon. Gently fold dry ingredients into the berries until moistened and evenly distributed. Smooth surface of berry layer.

3) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

4) Cut chilled butter into 8-10 chunks and drop into dry ingredients. Use either a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands to fully combine all ingredients until butter is evenly distributed throughout dry ingredients, and the mixture is slightly moist and crumbly.

5) Sprinkle crumbly topping evenly over berries.

6) Place into the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and berry juice is bubbling through. Cool for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with homemade whipped cream.

We enjoyed snacking throughout the debate, and will definitely plan to do it again. Perhaps a Maverick cocktail is in the works? Or maybe a Baked Alaska? Lots of other great debate party food ideas can be found here.

*graphic courtesy of

Monday, October 06, 2008

the far east in northwest DC: shanghai teahouse

Shanghai Tea House
2400 Wisconsin Avenue
(202) 338-3815
Accepts credit cards: Yes
Price Range: $$ (out of 4)

After I read this review by Tom Sietsema in the Washington Post, I knew this was a place I could get excited about. We visited Shanghai Teahouse in Glover Park around 7 last Friday night. The restaurant is on the small side, and service is dicey at best (think: confused waitresses, uninformed kitchen staff, and long waits for getting water and your check), but the food is awesome and affordable. I can forgive the rest!

Thanks to Tom Sietsema's advice we knew to skip the General Tso's Chicken and dine on dumplings instead. We ordered hot an sour soup (one word: intense.), an order of boiled lamb dumplings, an order of boiled vegetable dumplings, and an order of pan fried vegetable dumplings, as well as some spring rolls and scallion pancakes.

The boiled vegetable dumplings were the star of the night. The dough was delightfully chewy, and the filling was gratutiously garlicky (perfect!). The pan-fried version of the same dish were just average. The lamb dumplings were a real treat - the lamb was prepared perfectly (very lean and tender) and paired with tangy ginger, cabbage, and carrot. Oh, yum!

The scallion pancakes were delicious, but then, I've long been a fan of this oily, savory bread treat and, for me, they can do no wrong. The menu does have something for everyone in case you are a person who does not enjoy dumplings or scallion pancakes, and bonus: all their food is completely MSG free.

Their tea menu is long and wide with great descriptions for each. As with the food menu, I took my cues from Sietsema's review and ordered the snow pine tea. As I sipped it from my tiny, thermal, double-glass teacup, its fragrance wafted up to me like a delicate perfume. It was the perfect digestive as we ate platesfull of dumplings. I liked it so much, I may (maybe, maybe) forego my usual glass of wine with my next big meal!

Do go, forewarned about the service. Stick to the dumpling menu, and be adventurous with the tea selections. Enjoy your trip to the far east in Northwest DC!