Monday, August 14, 2006

Still Dazed? Confused? Crickets..

A dinner with the DCist bunch tonight had me inspired to revisit this animal.

Dear Kitchenette,

My deepest apologies for ditching you so many moons ago. So many moons ago that we went from quarter to half to full to nothing but a dark sky, to a quarter moon again. Please forgive me. I miss the nights we used to stay up late snacking on almonds and oatmeal, laughing about the good days. I pinky swear to pay attention to you again. You, me and The Hoya are back in action again this Fall. Honestly. It's all love from here. Get ready to stay up well after deadlines, play with alternate identities, disguise the voice and eat when it's just painful.

Fondly,
Erin

Monday, March 13, 2006

Note to Dazed and Confused Readers



You know it's been too long when you almost forget your Blogspot username and password. Wow, unacceptable. Apologies for the late notice but I've been 4,286 miles away the last two months. Let's just say not a Foggy Bottom metro stop or Chipotle in sight. I'll give you a few hints --the new city rhymes with "blog" and if I go a day without cabbage, I get scared. Make that cabbage, goulash or knedliky. Very scared. The language has no sympathy for vowels and instead of a Starbucks on every corner, there's just a cup of fresh-roasted graffiti. Consult your map and find that fuzzy middle part of Europe. See that heart beating in the dead center?

Her nickname is "the Golden City." But she also goes by Prague.

The city has become my arctic playground--a labyrinth of spires and hidden teahouses, where tap water in restaurants is about as unheard of as skim milk. Bars are just as much smoky pubs as they are salon-style coffeehouses for Czech intellectuals to discuss how much they resent Kundera. The Kitchenette has not passed away though, and still up to her usual explorations, just taking a Prague-ternity leave. She will return to O Street and 35th with a belly full of bread dumplings and tales of the Communism museum the end of May, but until then, stay tuned for her current project: The Praha Toilette. A glimpse at the bathroom doors in "the Left Bank of the Nineties."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Geishas Are All the Rage


**Note: I'm home in Southern California.

Many complained that the film adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha" was boring and slow. Some resented the English speech with Japanese accents. Others said it was trying too hard for authenticity. Luckily there is a geisha of another kind wandering the Hollywood scene, and she tastes so good. She's sporting bigger names than the Memoirs' stars and earning rave reviews across the board from the entertainment industry.

The Geisha House restaurant stars Ashton and the people from That 70's show. No wonder this restaurant knows how to attract the Hollywood hotties, it was founded by a cast of them. Travel 3,000 miles west of Washington to a land where flip-flops in mid-January are no biggie. Enter the Geisha House, part of the hip restaurant series by the gang that brought the feathered Farrah-hair back into style. They also started two other Los Angeles posh spots: Dolce (Italian) and The Lodge (Steakhouse) in their free time after Fox shoots.

The stark white face and crimson red lips on the facade outside of the Geisha House was typically Hollywood chic, yes, but inside was something of a dimly-lit Japanese funhouse on crack. In a good way.

Photographers snapping shots of diners handing their keys to the valet boys reminded me of the Disneyland photographers that charm you into a photo after the ride. Too bad they weren't Disney employees, but actual paparazzi. Hollywood chic, remember? High people in high places get a bite to eat here.

But bite is really an understatement. So is raw fish. Each hunk of yellow tail, spicy tuna and oyster was flashy, perhaps, but loaded with flavor. Sometimes flashy can be a good thing, maybe? Besides, when in Hollywood, live lusciously. After handing over our Volvo keys and entering the restaurant, my friends and I were welcomed by the noises of an upstairs club. Jams were bumping and the bouncers were a-waiting at the bottom of a staircase. Apparently this club was not the Geisha House itself, but a nice chaser to the restaurant experience.

As we turned the corner, the lights got progressively darker, and soon we walked through a metallic red hallway. Funhouse, right? Finally, we were in the swanky lounge with a row of brown ottomans to our right. The walls were covered with photographs of authentic geishas, brown oversized walking sticks and behind the bar sat frosted Grey Goose bottles at staggered levels.

Ashton was nowhere in sight, but Kevin Bacon sure was. Immediately after being seated, I got a nudge from my boyfriend and full view of Mr. Bacon sharing a booth with his very producer-esque friend (Think square glasses, baseball cap and clad in an all-black). A few sashimi appetizers later, in walks Tommy Shaw from Styx. Officially, this was the first time I'd thrown back an oyster shooter (their Oyster Shooter Kamikaze..a double shot) while staring at Kevin Bacon's chiseled face. Or maybe just the first time doing an oyster shooter in general...

It took me two swallows before I got the rubbery guy down the hatchet, but luckily there was a pleasant swig of Dewazakura Sake waiting for me. At only $38 for a nice-sized helping, the cherry wood rice wine was "the best in taste and value, bar none," according to a Geisha House-regular and thankfully, our dinner guest. It was enough for our Party of Five (ooh, how Hollywood of me) to down a couple shots and then some.

We missed out on the flashy Euro man with an accent a la Pepe le Peu who supposedly visits tables flaunting a $300 bottle of sake for sale. Our Geisha House insider warned that the bottle is not worth it, "even on his boss's expense account." But just about everything else, surprisingly, was.

Contemporary sushi in a hip, and oftentimes red, environment has been the "in" thing for a while, but Geisha House seems to do it best. The service was spectacular, not snobby, and our waitress even brought the manager out to nab us one of their Asian-inspired aprons, which she said, premiered at Fashion Week this year. (One of our dinner guests was spellbound by the ornate silk design and had to go home with one. Can't blame her, though they did price the "last apron downstairs" at $40.)

Our all-star waitress also refilled my green tea so often that I got a good look at the basement bathroom at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Covered with jagged mirrors pieced together, the bathroom was good until I caught sight of the somewhat disillusioning generic-brand Dial soap. For some reason, it seemed odd that such an ultra-coooool Asian lounge would show its generic labels, but then again, this one was above the rest.

The Heaven Roll was like eating spicy tuna wrapped in clouds. The white rice was fluffy and light, enveloped with delicate seaweed. The Robata World was also a winner-- skewered chicken, filet mignon, salmon, asparagus and tofu-tomato with three fun dipping sauces. They call these their "special sauces," but I promse they're nothing like the ones at In-N-Out right down the block. The trio had a soy-based sesame one and spicier sauce which came with a disclaimer from our waitress. Also, the mixed tempura actually had an eggplant thrown in there! (Kitchenette proposal: from here on out, "mixed veggies" should always include eggplant. Mmm..)

For all I know, everyone around me could have been famous. They all had that look. A little burned out, a little aloof and ultra chic from head to toe. It was the happening place for the Hollywood scene, and any place with Kevin Bacon inside certainly gets my vote. Kinda makes me want to go wear some red lipstick and watch Footloose.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cakes, Life, Plastic Baby Jesuses


Cake seems to be on my mind as of late. After writing posts on the Red Devil Cake for DCist.com and Fruitcake for DCFud.com, I took a hefty slice of the Rosca de Reyes (or the King's Cake) last night with my family, in honor of the Three Magi King's Day (better known as King's Day). The holiday is actually today, and celebrates the three wisemen's search for the baby Jesus. (We also got a Jewish apple cake to appease my other half) Apparently the Mexican/Jewish bakery where we bought both cakes makes a killing out here in Southern California.

"Rosca" means ring, so the cake is shaped like a crown. The object is to get the slice that has the plastic baby doll inside, symbolizing a newborn Jesus hiding from King Herod's troops. Then you're responsible for throwing a party on the second of February, or Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day), where one usually serves tamales and Mexican hot chocolate. Hopefully you got a heads-up from DCist, and knew where to buy your cakes in Washington.

To my dismay, my little brother found the plastic baby in his piece, and I was left with just the calories and somewhat dry taste. According to Mexican tradition, now he is supposed to throw the bash, but something tells me the high school junior has other things on his mind. Hint: girls, USC football (maybe not so much anymore), his Volvo and corn dogs.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Florida Avenue Grill..

is the Mac Daddy.

I'll fill you in on a little secret. Chefs like mac and cheese. I'm talking heavy on the cheddar, bring on the noodles and about as far away from the foie gras as you can get. Or at least that's what the gang at 1789 taught me.

Before a Sunday shift, I was smashed into a booth at F.Scott's -- the space next to 1789, now exclusively used for private events-- enjoying a family dinner with the rest of the chefs before the evening rush. There were no hidden cameras or news reporters (or so they thought). Forget the frills on the other side of the kitchen doors.

It was time to pull up our sleeves and talk dirty. Mac and cheese dirty.

The majority of us (about six) revealed we had "a thing" for the less than gourmet boxed meal. Some made nauseous frowns. One even admitted she likes to lather hers with ketchup. A few more made nauseous frowns.

And then Scott, who was in charge of the hot entrees that night, shook his head with confidence. "If you really want good mac and cheese," he warned, "I'll have to fill you in...on a little secret."

The secret was Florida Avenue Grill. Scott claims it's the best in the District, let alone the best he's ever tasted. But if you're kicking off Oh-Six with a regimented resolution diet, stop reading right now. Seriously, this post is shamelessly bad for your health.

Epitomizing a Dirt Cheap Eat, Florida Ave. Grill is known for their red-topped bar stools, view into the kitchen and most importantly, no pretenses. Oil is sizzling and grease is a-flying. There's no hiding anything here. Like everything else on the menu, the mac and cheese is bad for your waistline but so good for the soul.

The Grill gives you a generous hunk of mac and cheese, and has been doing so for the last 61 years. Before gentrification was ever in U Street's vocabulary. It sits pretty next to fellow Dirt Cheap neighbors Ben's Chili Bowl.

And this is not the first time the modest Florida Ave. Grill has won over the likes of top DC chefs. Zola man Frank Morales also has "a thing" for the Grill. But along with the rest of Washington, he goes early for the breakfast. Lines have been known to trail out the door for the U Street neighborhood's friendliest breakfast fare. Morales is into the beef breakfast sausage with grits ($6.95), according to Washingtonian last year.

And it appears we're all into mac and cheese, at least a little. As reported in this week's Post, a "Macaroni & Cheese" cookbook was recently published by author Marlena Speiler. She shares fifty different recipes, along with some history on the dish's origins, which date back to 1769. Even Thomas Jefferson had a taste for it.

But if the cheese part does not coordinate with your vegan lifestyle, the Soul Vegetarian Restaurant serves their dairyless version. It seems for the first time in history, vegan and soul food have found themselves on the same plate. Order yours with a side of sweet potato pie. The small chain also whips together a Liberia Burger (made with black-eyed peas) and a BBQ Tofu Sub.

I'll take mine with real cheddar and extra carbs, thank you very much. Mmm, cows.

Please come forward and admit your dirtiest kitchen secrets. Scott of 1789 and Frank of Zola already have. Now add Kitchenette to the list. Viva le macaroni.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Dreamin of a White Xmas...

THE WHITE HOUSE
CHRISTMAS DAY LUNCH

HERB ROASTED FREE RANGE TURKEY
CORN BREAD DRESSING
MASHED POTATOES
GIBLET GRAVY
PANCETTA GREEN BEANS
SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE
CRANBERRY SAUCE
CLOVER ROLLS W/ HONEY BUTTER
PUMPKIN AND PECAN PIES
RED VELVET CAKE

pie and cake?! now that's my kind of all-American family.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Diner for City Council?



This is about as close to roadstop grubby greasy goodness as Connecticut Ave. is gonna get: American City Diner. Every night at 8pm they show classic movies on their heated, covered back patio deck attached to the diner. For free! When's the last time you really had dinner and a movie with the one you love?

The wall facing a small parking lot outside is painted with a mural highlighting American legends like Elvis and Marilyn. And to add to the whimsical appeal, the retro-looking owner Jeffrey Gildenhorn is running for Ward 3 yet again. By the looks of the indoor decor, you would guess he's won before. "Gildenhorn for Mayor" signs are more prevalent than old-fashioned Coke ads or Blue Plate Specials. No joke, they exist. (the Blue Plate Specials that is, not his Mayor election)

Thursday calls for a Corned Beef and Cabbage at just $8.95. Monday's Brisket of Beef ($8.95) caught my eye. Actually, they're all just $8.95 except Friday's big hitter-- the Crab Cake Platter with Fries and Coleslaw ($15.95).

If the Blue Plate Special is just a little too 1950s throw-back for you, their wide selection of deli sandwiches and burgers are pretty decent for diner standards. The pulled Bar-B-Que Chicken sandwich is my favorite ($5.50) and the Black-and-White shake can be hard to come by in the District. Insert: No Jewish Delis in DC! here.

But back to the daily movies. I tried calling for a schedule since their website is never actually insync with the current week, but the groggy eighty-something on the other line had one too many chicken tender requests to spare me a few seconds. Clearly throwing up her menus in a frustrated senior rage, she rushed through the list insensitively, before hanging up on me. Here's what I got:

Dec 22: It's a Wonderful Life
Sometime between Dec 23 and Dec 28: A Bronx Tale
Dec 29: The Graduate
Dec 30: Rebel Without A Cause
Dec 31: The Godfather

Note: the accuracy of each is not up to journalistic standards. Call at your own risk.

Actually, I did call back for the hours of operation (strangely, they were not mentioned on the website) attempting to disguise my young, boppy voice. But immediately Granny knew. "Ma'am, I don't have time for you and your questions anymore. Call back some other time!" Click.

This is what I gathered: Normal weekday hours are 7am-11pm and weekends are 24 hours. This Sunday--the first night of Christmas, Hannukah and sure, why not Kwanzaa-- the diner is open until 4pm.

With festive good tidings I'm sure. (Not!) Granny wouldn't have any of that.

The theme here is definitely old-school nostalgic. Gildenhorn first opened the diner after graduating from Georgetown with Clinton in the 60s-- their class pictures are framed wistfully near the door. Along with his "Gildenhorn for Mayor" bumper stickers, circa 1998. My advice is that Gildenhorn stick to flipping burgers and hiring post-menopausal waitresses because Ward 3 is making way for someone a little less creepy-looking. Sam Brooks.

Brooks is bounding with enthusiasm and among education policy and a brand-new Idea Blog, he enjoys the shakes at Elevation Burger. One afternoon he even traveled out to Falls Church just to down two in one sitting. Young burger joint making waves, young voice of the future changing DC? Coincidence?

But the time-warped ambiance of American City Diner is still sitting pretty on Connecticut Ave-- thePacMan video games, Blue Plate Specials and cranky grannies aren't going anywhere. The ambiance is fitting for watching backyard patio movies in pigtails and sipping Black and White shakes, but maybe not for DC Ward 3 City Council ballots.

The American City Diner is located at 5532 Connecticut Avenue, NW, next to french neighbors Bread and Chocolate.





Other diners in the DC-area include:

The Diner
2453 18th St NW, Washington, DC
(202) 232-8800

Silver Diner
many, many locations

Tastee Diner
8601 Cameron Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-589-8171

7731 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
301-652-3970

118 Washington Boulevard South
Laurel, MD 20707
301-953-7567