Thursday, October 29, 2015

VA Eats: Kapnos Taverna

My first time at Kapnos Taverna was not exactly the best experience, which was surprising because I had been to the larger Kapnos restaurant in D.C. and absolutely loved it, not to mention all Chef Isabella restaurants in the D.C. area.  My complaint isn't major though, I just wasn't happy with the food offerings on their happy hour, not to mention happy hour ends at 6pm - don't we all hate these early happy hours?!  I mean most people are done with work around that time, not cool! 

In any case, I wanted to give the place another shot, because while happy hour wasn't the best, I did order a lamb dish off their dinner menu that was incredible.  So, Mirona and I decided to meet up for dinner at Kapnos Taverna.  

The melitzanosalata is this delicious eggplant spread with nuts and feta, served alongside a warm light and airy flatbread.  I love this!

I had the best roasted brussels sprouts dish ever.  Yes, that's a bold statement, but the flavors were incredible.  Picture this, roasted brussels with pomegranate seeds, lemon zest on top a thin layer of creamy lemon sauce.  The smoky flavor of the brussels sprouts against the brightness of the lemon + pomegranate created the perfect lightness to the dish - it was ridiculously good!

The aleppo marinated short rib souvlaki was served over a bed of earthy woodsy mushrooms.  The short rib was tender and juicy, but charred perfectly on the outside.  

The salmon was perfectly made.  The meat was so tender, and the skin was perfectly crisped. The king salmon was served with haricot vert, garbanzos and tomatoes; definitely a different flavor than what I've usually seen with salmon, but I loved it.  More of an earthy flavor (yes, I'm using that word a bit too much in this post, I can't help it!).  

[Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Short Rib Souvlaki - YUM!]

Finally, for dessert we shared the lemon cake which is served covered with thyme meringue crumbles - yes, thyme meringue (so good!) and labne ice cream.  I'm a fan of desserts that aren't too sweet, and this was just the ticket!

Kapnos Taverna is just as satisfying and delicious as Kapnos and Graffiato, and all of the Chef Isabella restaurants in the area.  Delicious and definitely worth a visit!

Rating:  A 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#337: Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Tacos

My love for tacos is not new, but I wanted to take a twist on Mexican tacos by using some of these traditional Fall flavors that are permeating into almost every dish this season - you know what I'm talking about, roasted sweet potatoes!  They're everywhere this time of year, so why not add them to our tacos?  

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Tacos

For the chicken:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3-4 cups bottled enchilada sauce

For the roasted sweet potatoes and kale:
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
5 cups raw kale, stems removed, chopped
2 tablespoons oil 
salt + pepper

corn or flour tortillas, warmed
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the chicken.  Turn the heat to high. Let the chicken cook for 3-4 hours.  You should be able to use two forks to pull apart the breasts and have that shredded. 
  2. While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a small roasting pan or on a baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with the 1 tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper.  Cook for 40 minutes.  
  3. Then toss the kale with the remaining oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.  
  4. To prepare the taco, just warm up your tortilla in the microwave or stove top.  Pile in the shredded chicken, sweet potatoes and kale.  Drizzle a tablespoon of the juices from the chicken + enchilada sauce over the veggies in your taco.  * Also, if you want, take some of those juices and pour it into a bowl for dipping your taco into..mmmm!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Week in Food

      Monday, October 19:  Picnic Lunch - Waldorf Chicken Salad Croissant Sandwiches and     
      Black Bean Salad.

Tuesday, October 20:  Barbeque Chicken Salad and Grilled Herb Crusted Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and a Lemon Cream Sauce from Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday, October 21:  A trip to Pedro & Vinny's for a Carnitas Burrito filled with melted cheese, cucumbers (yes, I love this!), tomatoes, onion, sour cream, Georgia Peach salsa, and guac.  Fabulous!  Plus, I like to get level 5 heat (which means they dump a good amount of Cholula in my burrito) time I'm going for level 7!

Thursday, October 22:  Today was our mom's birthday.  Yes, the woman who started this blog and handed it over to us, her daughters.  In any case, we decided to take her to The Wharf in Old Town Alexandria.  She loves seafood, so this was a natural choice, plus this area has a lot of memories for our family, so it's always a great opportunity to reminisce.  I'll do a full review soon!  This is the Salmon Stuffed with Crawfish and Crab...yum!

Friday, October 23:  My last day at the law firm where I work.  I recently got a new job opportunity and am moving on to pursue a career goal of mine as an attorney.  The firm decided to host a great happy hour send off for me at Clyde's, one of my favorite happy hour spots in Tyson's Corner.  Wine and snacks - I love it.  My two favorites?  Grilled Pizza - Italian sausage, turnip greens, roasted turnips, garlic puree and fresh mozzarella.  The other one?  The Crab and Artichoke Dip.  Both of these dishes are absolutely delicious...gotta try them out!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

VA Eats: La Sandia

La Sandia is not only my favorite spot for happy hour in Tysons Corner, but has quickly become my go-to for good food.  So, lets ignore the patch of liquid in the upper right of Sachin's plate (he moved the black beans over for the sake of the photo), but this Achiote Salmon with a tomatillo-mango salsa and a corn tamale (that was basically like dessert) was fantastic.  As notorious as he is for ordering salmon at every restaurant, he said this dish was a stand out.  But, I preferred my Chicken Zarape.  
I mean with a name like Zarape, how can you not love this dish, am I right?! Ok, well the picture itself should tell you how delicious it is.  I mean the creamy sauce over sauce and bacon bits over the chicken - so freakin delicious.  Also, this may have been the most delicious white rice I've ever eaten.  It was absolutely creamy, and I have to know how they cooked it!  

I would definitely go back.  But, trust me, if you are in McLean, VA you have to at least stop by for happy hour, two words, bottomless guac. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

#336: Lemon, Garlic, Parsley Panko Crusted Salmon

How much do I love panko? A lot! I bought a bag of these Japanese-style breadcrumbs and thought I wouldn't have much use for them except for one panko crusted chicken recipe - totally wrong.  What I like about panko is it just addds this extra texture and crunch-element to any dish.  Especially against the soft salmon filets in this dish, the crunch from the panko, along with the subtle flavors of the lemon zest and parsley, make this dish simple but layered with flavors and textures.  Plus, it's super easy, and that's always a good thing!

Lemon, Garlic, Parsley Panko Crusted Salmon


4 salmon filets, skinless and boneless
3/4 cup panko 
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley 
salt + pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon 
2 teaspoons olive or avocado oil 

  1. Use a paper towel to pat dry each salmon filet. Place the filets on a baking sheet.
  2. Prepare the panko topping by mixing together the panko, lemon zest, garlic and parsley in a bowl.  
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the salmon.  Then distribute the lemon juice over each salmon filet - about 1 tablespoon per filet. 
  4. Top each salmon filet with the panko topping.  
  5. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of oil over each salmon filet. 
  6. Bake uncovered at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, until a fork can easily flake the salmon and the panko is browned.  If the panko is not a golden to medium brown, then turn the oven to a Low Broil for 3-5 minutes.  You really want the panko topping medium brown, trust me! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Week In Food

   Monday, October 12:  Le Ratatouille crepe from La Crepe Bistro.  
Tuesday, October 13:  Dinner at Kapnos Taverna - melitzanosalata, aleppo marinated short rib souvlaki, king salmon, roasted brussell sprouts, and lemon cake.

Wednesday, October 14:  Homemade Pho with beef broth, noodles, shitake mushrooms, cabbage, green onions, ginger, soy sauce, and sriracha. 

Thursday, October 15:  Chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and kale wrap, with a creamy curry dipping sauce.  Ok, so the sauce was a dressing for another recipe, but I couldn't resist!

Friday, October 16:  Salad with avocado, chicken, roasted cauliflower and chickpeas, with a creamy curry dressing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#335: Sweet Potatoes with Almond Pesto

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Pesto


2 medium sized sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and chopped into matchsticks (or spiralized)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon white bleached flour
3 tablespoons milk (cream, unsweetened almond, half and half, skim, most unflavored milks should work)
1/4 cup sliced, blanched natural almonds
3/4 cup hot water

  1. Blanch the almonds:  Place the almonds in a bowl.  Pour boiling water to barely cover the almonds.  Let them sit for 2 minutes to soften, drain and set aside. 
  2. In a deep bowl (cylindrical container if you have one), place the almonds, parsley, flour, garlic, water and milk.  Use a hand blender to blend the entire mixture until it’s creamy but still a bit grainy and chunky.  It will end up a thick texture, so, if you want it looser, I’d add some more milk.   Set aside. 
  3. Use the knife or spiralizer to turn your two sweet potatoes into matchsticks or noodles.  In a salute pan or shallow pan on medium-high heat, add the coconut oil, then add the spiraled sweet potatoes.  Cover and let cook for 5-7 minutes, uncovering to toss halfway through, until sweet potatoes are cooked through.  
  4. Add the pesto cream to the cooked sweet potatoes, and stir thoroughly.  

This dish was intended to be vegan, so I used almond milk and no cheese at the end, but obviously if you love and eat cream and cheese, I will NOT stop you from using them! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Week In Food

Monday, October 5:  Sleepover at Sonia's tonight, which meant, catching up on new Fall tv shows - 'Quantico,' 'Blood and Oil,' and 'Mindy Project.'  But, also meant having this delicious steak seared in a hot cast iron skillet and then popped in the oven to get to that perfect medium cooked.  Served with some crunch (and one or two burnt) sweet potato fries, and a nice glass of red wine, I was a happy girl.  

Tuesday, October 6:  Deepti is a close friend of mine from college.  We now live closer to each other since I recently moved, so it's nice to be able to meet up and catch up.  We went to WineStyles, our local wine shop which offers tastings, wine to drink and snacks to nibble on.  Since Deepti just got back from the gym, her level of hunger was at MAX haha, but I'm not one to complain, especially if that means I have an eating buddy, so we downed - grilled artichoke and pesto pizette, marinated olives, and pita bread with tzatziki, hummus, and artichoke and cheese spread - and two delicious glasses of syrah. 

Wednesday, October 7:  Had this delicious lunch of lemon parsley panko  crusted salmon and roasted sweet potatoes and kale.  Recipe to come soon!


Friday, October 9: Dinner date at La Sandia where Sachin and I shared the Chicken Zarape - pan seared chicken with bacon, panela, pico de gallo, smothered with chipotle cream sauce with refried black beans and creamy white rice (I'm serious it was creamy and I must know how!); and, the Achiote Salmon - grilled salmon marinated with a mild spice-citrus marinade, served with chile morita salsa, tomatillo-mango salsa, with a side sweet corn tamale (phenomenal) and charro beans.   

Saturday, October 10:  Spa date with my mom, followed by Pho (flank steak + meatballs) from Pho 98.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Napa Valley: Atlas Social

Hop into most dining establishments in Napa Valley and it’s likely you’ll have a good meal.  That might be a pretty bold statement to say, but, I think I can stand by it.  One night, on my recent trip to Napa Valley, we set out for dinner, and since it was so late our options were a little limited.  Downtown Napa has a ton of restaurants, and as we walked up and down the strip, one spot caught our attention. 

Atlas Social has a warm and inviting ambiance, with long tables and smaller booths as well.  Atlas Social is a gastropub serving New American cuisine, but this isn’t your typical American fare.  The menu is more of a small plates/tapas offering with an international flair.  Our group decided to ordered a selection of dishes and enjoy a great bottle of Sangiovese red wine. Here are the dishes we ordered:  

 Bruschetta with Pesto, Burratta Cheese & Tomat
     Mushroom & Truffle Mac & Cheese
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks, Bearnaise & Citrus
Shaved Pear & Baby Spinach Salad, Bacon Vinaigrette, Croutons and Sieved Egg
Octopus alla Plancha, Marble Potatoes, Garlic Aioli, Paprika
Masala Spiced Chicken Skewers, Eggplant-Pepper Muhammara & Pine-Nut Syrup

My favorite was the Bruschetta – the most simple of the dishes, but phenomenal.  Burratta is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  The cheese is incredibly soft and creamy when you cut through the mozzarella exterior; perfect for a nice heavy dollop on top of bruschetta. 

The Octopus was also delicious.  A common Spanish tapas dish, the octopus at Atlas Social was so well made; not chewy in the least, but perfectly tender and full of grilled flavor.  This is hands down a restaurant that will be my “go to” any time I’m in Napa Valley.  Each dish offered surprise after surprise of flavor – I loved the experience, and the staff!  Our waiter was so nice! 

I appreciated the true ‘global experience’ the restaurant’s menu offered.  From the muhammara (a hot pepper dip from Syria) to the Spanish octopus dish to the Italian Bruschetta and Indian spiced chicken skewers, the whole dinner was fantastic.  To me a great dinner starts with an unpredictable, but delicious menu.  I will certainly be going back. 

Rating:  A+ 

The next day we went to Mumm Napa and Long Meadow Ranch for a sparkling wine and wine tasting.  Here are a couple pics of the menu at the tastings, in case you're interested in checking it out.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

#334: Grilled Eggplant Pita Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made on french bread, and topped with cilantro and pickled daikon.  Falls Church, Virginia is home to a shopping center, Eden Center, filled with Vietnamese grocery stores, shops, restaurants and bakeries.  The bakeries there are home to some of the most delicious french breads perfect for a banh mi.  Most of these bakeries and sandwich shops offer banh mi sandwiches filled with pork, beef or chicken, with the obligatory vegetarian option - tofu.  

We took a twist on the traditional banh mi sandwich, by first using a whole wheat pita pocket, and my swapping out the tofu, for grilled eggplant.  While a cucumber sauce is also atypical of most banh mi sandwiches, I like how our version is sort of a Mediterranean take on what is a traditional Vietnamese (influenced by the French) sandwich.  This Grilled Eggplant Pita Banh Mi, is the perfect lunch dish for meatless mondays, or just when you want a lighter option, but one that is still full of delicious flavor.  

Grilled Eggplant Pita Banh Mi

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
5 whole wheat pitas
lettuce and cilantro, chopped
For the Marinade:
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps lime juice
1 tbsp honey 
1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ginger paste (or grated ginger)
1 tbsp lemongrass, chopped fine and crushed
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)

 In a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the marinade.  Set aside. 

For the pickled radishes and carrots
1/4 cup red radishes, sliced into long thin strips 
1/4 cup carrots, sliced into long thin strips
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsps sugar
salt and whole black peppercorns

Boil the apple cider vinegar, water, pepper  and sugar. Turn off the heat, cool a little and
add the vegetables to make a quick pickle. Toss thoroughly.  Set aside.

For the cucumber sauce:
2 basil leaves, julienned  
4 tbsps sour cream
2 tbsps grated cucumber
1 tsp lime juice
salt and black pepper 

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

  1. Marinate the eggplant slices in the marinade for 5-6 hours.
  2. Heat the grill and grill the eggplant on both sides basting them with the extra marinade.
  3. Grill until cooked, remove each slice from heat and keep aside.
  4. Toast each pita and cut into two halves.
  5. Apply the cucumber sauce a little and stuff each half with eggplant slices, lettuce and     cilantro.
  6. Top with pickled vegetables and extra cucumber sauce before serving.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Week In Food

Thursday, September 24:  On the way to San Francisco I enjoyed a little Texas chopped brisket, fried okra and baked potato casserole, at Dickey's in the Dallas Airport (lovingly called 'Love Field,' the airport I mean).

On arriving, N, like any good big sister, took me to get food.  We went to Madras Cafe, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in Sunnyvale.  While we did enjoy the kothu porotta, the dosa was not as tempting.  Later that night we went to Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, and enjoyed some brown sugar ice cream with a caramel ginger swirl.  

Friday, September 25:  Today was a little crazy with food.  We had pork adobo and lumpianitas at Patio Filipino Cuisine.  

But, before that I had two tacos at El Farolito (my favorite taco spot in SF), and a delicious sandwich at Ike's (my favorite sandwich shop, EVER), which I enjoyed at the beach.

Saturday, September 26:  Lunch at The Plant Cafe in San Francisco.  Had basil pesto tofu scramble, but the highlight of the meal was the grapefruit and avacado salad with a macadamia nut dressing.  

For dinner we enjoyed the most delicious small plates at Atlas Social.  We shared cauliflower steaks with bearnaise sauce, pesto tomato and burratta bruschetta, truffle macarroni and cheeseroasted potatoes and octopuscurry chicken skewersspinach salad with bacon vinaigrette -- yeah we ordered quite a few plates, but they were all fantastic.

Sunday, September 27:  Went to three different wineries today, but before heading out, we went by Oxbow Public Market and shared some delicious white bean tacos, avocado tacos, and BLTs.  

We headed out to the wineries, and of course started with champagne at Mumm (we were celebrating my best friend's 30th, it's only appropriate).  My favorite of the wineries we went to was Rutherford Hill.  The wine there was just fabulous and the people working there were so helpful and nice.  Here's a video clip of the champagne pouring at Mumm.

Monday, September 28:  Enjoyed my meatless Monday with my first taste of vegan sushi and vegan ramen.  Absolutely delicious! I will definitely be going back to Shizen.

Tuesday, September 29:  Almond lemon poppy seed tea cake at Tartine.  Yum!! 

Wednesday, September 30:  Saganaki from a Mediterranean tapas place we stopped by in downtown Napa.  Cheese on fireee! 

Thursday, October 1:  Before hopping on the plane to head back home, I had a quick Mexican omelette at Andale Mexican Restaurant in Terminal 2 at SFO.  Not too shabby, especially with the avocado in there!

Friday, October 2:  My friend, Sonia, and I went to our first Washington Capitals game.  I had never been to a hockey game before, and had no idea how violent ice hokey can be!  There were a total of 4 fights!  In any case, before dinner we had margaritas, tacos, empanadas, and a quesadilla at Rosa Mexicano, right next to the Verizon Center in Chinatown.

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