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by Borderstan.com — May 25, 2012 at 9:00 am 0

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

It’s no secret that rosemary can amp up your chicken or that cilantro transforms tomatoes and onions from vegetable salad to salsa. But did you know that herbs can zsush up your salad or even a cocktail? They’re so much more than you thought, and I promise you, fresh is WAY better than the dried stuff you’re buying in plastic bottles at the grocery store.

While I usually give you a list of recipes to try out with an ingredient, this time I’m gonna drop a kitchen basics bomb on you. Some of the most simple things to do with herbs are the best — highlighting the subtlety of their flavors and complimenting the flavors or textures around them. My top list of herbs to buy at the market include:

"Borderstan" "Herbs"

Herbs at the farmers markets. (Alejandra Owens)

  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Lemon thyme
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Chives
  • Basil/Purple Basil
  • Cilantro

And the best things to do with them?

  • Tear, smash or roll herbs in your palms then add them to a bowl of salad greens and give them a good toss with a light dressing.
  • Bundle a variety of herbs, no matter which ones, with a bit of string or twine and throw them into a pot of soup, a braise, or with a roast/chicken.
  • Smash or roll herbs in your palm and put them in a bottle of olive oil for a flavorful infusion.
  • Finely chop any herb you like, stir into softened butter, reshape into a log using parchment paper and you have compound butter.
  • Finely chop any herb and mix it with a soft, spreadable cheese like goat cheese or quark for an infused spread.
  • Roughly chop a few herbs and throw them into a basic marinade for grilling meats

Bam! I just gave you about 9,847,598,734 different dishes or things you can do with all the herbs that are out in force at the markets right now! Seriously, don’t be afraid to pick up a bundle of herbs at the market and just throw them in with something.

While, yes, some herbs traditionally pair well with certain things, there’s no hard and fast rule that applies to pairing herbs with proteins or dips or anything like that. Just go with the flow and give it a try, maybe cilantro with some shredded cucumbers and yogurt would make a fabulous dip!

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by Borderstan.com — May 23, 2012 at 10:00 am 1 Comment

From Creative Comforts

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

I love Twitter. Yesterday as I was perusing my feed I noticed that fellow blogger buddies Jenn of Dear Heart and Nikki Rappaport of Cupcakes for Breakfast were tweeting about the hashtag #thingsimafraidtotellyou. After clicking through on a number of the posts these folks were talking about I learned about this, sometimes heart wrenching, movement.

Basically, it was born of style and design bloggers saying, “Hey! We like to keep it all positive and pretty on our blogs and social media, but life isn’t always positive and pretty…and it’s okay.” And so, they began sharing things that they might have been afraid to share in the past. Deep secrets, things they thought they’d be judged for, things they only tell their closest friends…and things that are just silly!

I appreciate raw honesty. Because if you’re thinking it, there’s probably someone else in the world thinking it too. Also, I’ve always been that person in the room that says what everyone else is thinking but is too afraid to say.

I think it’s important to note here that I’m not doing this for sympathy, affirmation or some kind of narcissistic drive for compliments. The idea is more that – in this idyllic world, where everything is Instagram’d, organic, local and all that hoo-hah, things aren’t perfect and it’s okay. But more importantly, you are definitely not the only one noticing that things are less than perfect.

A quick story to exemplify what I’m getting at. I was recently at a food event with one of my favorite food bloggers. We were chatting about how busy we’d been recently – between life and work and trying to work out and get some of that coveted quiet time, cooking beautiful meals isn’t always a priority. She commented on her favorite cereal, and how sometimes that’s what’s for dinner and it’s exactly what she needs. I retorted, “You should post that on your blog! I wonder what your readers would think!” The truth is, you’ll never see a post about the nights food bloggers eat ice cream, cheese and crackers or a huge bowl of cereal. Because that’s not what a food blog is. But you know what a huge bowl of cereal for dinner is? Life.

What are some things you’d be afraid to share with your friends? To see my full list of Things I’m Afraid To Tell You, check out the full post over on my blog.

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by Borderstan.com — May 18, 2012 at 10:30 am 0

"Strawberries and asparagus" "Borderstan"

Look for strawberries and asparagus at the markets. (Luis Gomez Photos and Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

I never thought I’d say produce could be a bully, but asparagus and strawberries continue to completely dominate the markets! Not that you won’t see other things out there, but strawberries and asparagus are kinda the stars of the show right now. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind you of a couple great recipe round ups we already did AND share a cool tip.

First, we shared six irresistible strawberry recipes – including a cocktail from Todd Thrasher!

Then we gave you five recipes that showcased asparagus in all its green glory.

And now for the tip, which had not even crossed my mind. Today’s tip comes from Robin Schuster, our fearless leader over at the 14th & U Street farmers market:

“… today I want to remind you: never throw away the ends of the asparagus because they make great soup.  In fact, every single asparagus stalk you buy is a two fer.  And the less tender third or half of the stalk makes very flavorful soup.”

Well, duh! How could I have not thought of that! Truth be told, asparagus is prone to creating plenty of waste…and I always have a little memorial for it in my head when I toss it out. No mas! Thanks, Robin, for making me less wasteful but also giving me an excuse to eat even more asparagus while it’s in season!

Do you have a question for me about the markets? Some odd produce? Or maybe a cooking question? Just email me at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com and I’ll answer them in next week’s column! (Oh! And share your best cooking tips too!)

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by Borderstan.com — May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

"Hanks Oyster Bar" Borderstan" "Q Street NW"

Hank's Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

I don’t usually attend fixed-menu, special event dinners but when this menu landed in my inbox I paused for serious consideration.

Hank’s Oyster Bar is a neighborhood favorite of mine. And as we know, I am a huge fan of their braised short ribs. Next Monday, May 21, Hanks’ Q Street location will be hosting a dinner with Troegs Brewing Company — meaning every delicious, mouth-watering course will be paired with a refreshing craft beer. So here’s what you get: five courses paired with five beers for $70 per person (tax and gratuity not included).

Bonus: you’ll be dining in The Yacht Room, another excuse to enjoy the recently expanded space at Hanks.

Like I said, fixed-menu dinners don’t usually strike my fancy, but a few items that caught my eye included a fried oyster salad, bleu cheese whoopie pie with fig jam and, of course, the molasses braised short ribs.

Reservations for this event are highly recommended. Call (202) 462-HANK (4265) to secure a spot. 

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by Borderstan.com — May 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm 0

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

asparagus

Look for asparagus at the markets. (Alejandra Owens)

Dear lord! I finally get to hit up the 14 & U Farmers Market this weekend! And I have my two girls in town so I get to show them the glory that is a brownie cookie sandwich from Whisked!.

Even still, what I’m here to talk about this week is: asparagus. Firm and crunchy, they smell and taste like spring.

And stinky pee be damned, I consume the stuff in great quantities when they’re in season! From what I can tell, the green sticks are going for about $4/lb at the markets right now — and if you’re cooking for more than one person you’ll likely need two bunches — so budget and plan your market trip accordingly.

Before I give you five wonderful recipes to try, I’m going to arm you with an essential tip: how to properly trim asparagus. If you’re lazy and don’t want to click through to the tip, here it goes:

“… take the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks.”

Oh *snap* (ha! I couldn’t resist!) that was easy. Now, what to make with all that asparagus you’re going to procure this weekend.

What’s your favorite asparagus recipe? OR, maybe I should ask: what restaurant has your favorite asparagus dish?

Happy eating, Borderstanis! Don’t forget, you can always ask me questions on Twitterabout the markets, food, cooking and more!

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by Borderstan.com — May 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm 0

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com

Featured image: Cherry tomatoes by Alejandra Owens.

Yeah, I said it. I’ll throw down the gauntlet on this one, too. I know, I know. Some are wedded to Eastern Market, while others have a passionate love affair with Dupont, but I think the best farmers market in the whole city is at 14th & U Streets NW. And it’s back up and running this weekend into November; hours are Saturdays 9 am to 1 pm. (Find the market on Facebook for updates about upcoming offerings each Saturday.)

"Borderstan""14th & U Streets Market"

The 14 & U Streets Market reopens May 5. It's a great place to run into friends and neighbors. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Why? Pretty simple: damn good produce, meats and products, friendly vendors, convenient (for me) location and a charismatic leader (that would be Robin, say hi if you see her, and ask questions!) that brings everything at the market to life.

In all seriousness, some of the most amazing produce and eggs I have ever purchased have come from this market. Granted, some of the vendors sell at other markets, including Dupont or Penn Quarter (where I shop the rest of the year), but the point is the critical mass of amazingness at 14th & U. Oh, and did I mention Whisked! is at this market?! I mean, now we can get strawberries, eggs, meats, cheeses AND a pie (or cookies, or brownies, whatever strikes your fancy)!

BONUS ACTIVITY: If you’re a gardening geek, this Saturday’s market will host DC State Fair Seedling Swap! Anyone can attend and learn about growing produce and more!

So this Saturday, from 9 am to 1 pm, the market opens back up for the first time this season. I had already planned a trip to Rehoboth Beach for a little getaway, so when I realized I’d be missing the first weekend of the market I actually got sad. Like, sad sad… for real real. I tried to make myself feel a little better by grabbing strawberries from Garner’s Produce, which is one of the very fine vendors featured at 14 & U, on the way out of the city today but it’s just not the same. So will you stop by for me? Grab a hand pie from Whisked!, buy some Garner’s strawberries and grab a bag of spinach!

Have a wonderful weekend y’all! Tell me what you buy and what you’ll be making with it! I’ll be watching Twitter, even from the beach.

Related Posts

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by Borderstan.com — April 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Sparragus"

Asparagus at the farmers markets. (Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

Do you ever wonder where foodie types get all their inspiration? It’s true, there are some among us who walk the stalls of the farmers markets every Sunday positively oozing with culinary inspiration. Some can reach back into the recesses of their minds and pull out recipes, recalling their time at culinary school or a cooking class or some recipe they saw in Gourmet magazine in 1997.

And then there’s the rest of us. Who might need a little prodding, some inspiration and likely a kick in the rear to set us off on our adventures. Having a bit of an insider’s view as to how this cadre of the culinary mafia develops recipes, I’m here to offer you a few tips for where we get our inspiration.

  1. Blogs – There are big national blogs to follow, but I prefer reading DC’s finest first. If you need a list to start with, take a look at our archive of weekly farmers market posts! We try to feature local food blogger’s recipes as often as we can. Don’t just read what they wrote this week though, look back to this month last year, or the year before. Most folks are blogging about seasonal trends, whether they’re from the farmers market or dishes featured in restaurants.
  2. Cookbooks – One of my favorite cookbooks is Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. The reason I love this book so much is for its no muss, no fuss approach to ingredients. When I’m walking around the market, sometimes all I see are ingredients and I need an idea for how I can include them in a larger dish. Waters will help you do just that.
  3. Magazines Online – Gourmet is out of print, Saveur can be expensive or seem out of reach and subscribing to Bon Appetit sounds like a nice idea but you’re probably not going to use it as often as you should. Don’t fret, all these mags have superb online search functions. My first spot for searching recipes online is often Saveur.com. Saveur does a fabulous job of mixing their own articles/recipes with recipes from like-minded bloggers across the country. Also, their recipes are much more accessible and simple than you would think.
  4. Eating Out – Chefs are an artistic lot, so why not leech a little creativity off them? When dining out it’s important to be adventurous – whatever your definition of adventurous is. Even if it’s “not ordering chicken,” it’s important to try something new so you can try new flavors, a new herb or protein and see how one of the pros does it! Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish, or even for the recipe. The truth is, these are aren’t state secrets and most chefs realize you will never make it as well as they do so many are willing to share.
  5. Traveling – My #1 rule for eating when I travel is this: if I can get it at home, I’m not getting it here. Why waste your money when you’re traveling on a chain or eating the same old stuff you get at home? If you’re in Chicago, go look for Chicago-style pizza! If you’re in Tucson, seek out the littlest hole in the wall Mexican food joint you can find. It takes some effort, but I promise, the internet is here to help. And you know, foodie types love telling stories about “that moussaka they had on a tiny island in Greece made by a little old lady” they’re always trying to replicate.
  6. Pinterest – Oh it’s just alllll the rage right now! You’re too cool for Pinterest! I know, you’re a hipster who’s already looking for the next Pinterest. But for the rest of us, this is a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. Follow your friends, follow your favorite bloggers, search “kale” — there’s a bazillion ways to find new and interesting dishes to make. Heed these warnings though: things will look far more perfect and beautiful on Pinterest than they will in real life, and you do not have to put every dish you make in a mason jar.

I think it goes without saying that inspiration can be found just about anywhere — maybe in some art or from your mom or friends. Sometimes we forget an idea is likely just a tweet, phone call or Google search away.

Where do you guys get your cooking inspiration from? I’m always looking for new places to poke around for recipes and ideas, so please share in the comments! And don’t forget, if you have cooking or market questions, ping me on Twitter — I’m @frijolita.

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by Borderstan.com — April 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2 Comments

"Borderstan""Pregressive Dinner"

The 2012 Progressive Dinner: Originality and a Drag Race-style flair for do-it-yourself  is where winner takes all. (CHRIS BURCH photography)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com

It’s the most outrageous, awe-inspiring dinner party you’ll never be invited to — and you probably won’t be able to buy a ticket either. I had never even heard of the DC Progressive Dinner before, so when my friend Russell emailed to ask if I’d be a food judge for the 2012 annual dinner, my initial response was, “Sure, but, what is this thing again?”

This year’s dinner benefitted the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL). The non-profit organization works in the D.C.-metro area and its mission is to “promote and support self-confident, healthy, productive lives for LGBTQ youth ages 13-21 as they journey from adolescence into adulthood.”

Where to Start?

How shall I describe the event? Let’s start with the format, perhaps? Three teams: appetizer, entrée and dessert. Fifty people per team, mostly gay men. Each team is judged on three categories: food, theme/decor and performance.

This year’s Progressive Dinner was held at three different venues (none of them private homes, too small), including an unused warehouse and even Town Danceboutique. The teams competed in each of the three categories at each venue. There really aren’t any “invites” or perhaps just a few — it’s just the teams and a smattering of people who are judging (like me).

At first I thought, “Okay, this sounds pretty basic.” I figured I’d bop around with my fellow judges from row house to fabulous row house where I’d nibble on some fancy snacks, sip a cocktail or two and enjoy a little dinner theatre.

“Progressive Dinner started about eight years ago with a group of 30 guys who were looking to do something different. It has evolved a lot from that simple dinner to include fundraising and more,” Bradley Schurman, founding member of DC Progressive Dinner, told me.

Evolved a lot would be an understatement. I never expected to see a svelte “Hermaphrodite” (appetizer team’s theme was The Olympiad) disrobe to reveal a clam shell and pearl bikini (not to mention he was sporting 5-inch gold glitter heels). Or watch a tall, lanky Asian Tinkerbell (pictured above, dessert team’s theme was “Neverland”) immerse her face in a pile of fairy dust while wearing an itty-bitty tulle skirt! Nor did I expect to eat the best homemade madeleine I’ve ever tasted and be plied with luscious wine drinks, home-brewed beer and wicked potent shots.

Committees and Months of Planning

As anyone who’s ever tried to host a dinner party for more than four people knows, cooking for a crowd is no small feat. Cooking for a band of 150 raucous, costumed gay men who have been performing complicated dance routines in hooker heels all night is a challenge of a whole other level. More than four months of planning these teams of 50 means breaking the planning and work into subcommittees wherein menus are planned, costumes are designed and built, and spaces large enough to handle the crowd and embody the chosen theme are procured.

Abandoned warehouses and nightclubs are transformed, home kitchens turn into well-oiled catering machines turning out tomato bisque by the gallons, roasting thousands of cubes of root vegetables. There are no rewards for teams who outsource their work — originality and a Drag Race-style flair for do-it-yourself  is where winner takes all.

What started seven years ago as a small, traditional, progressive dinner amongst friends has evolved into a fanciful event where participant and attendee alike can escape into a whole new world. Then the 2008 recession hit and it was a game changer.

“For the most part, we were all well-employed and felt that giving back to our community was the one component that was really lacking,” said Schurman. “In light of the very public teen suicides in the past years, our decision to fund SMYAL, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League makes the event even more rewarding.”

No Room to Grow

Every judge who was new to the event asked the same question, “Why not open the event to a larger audience?!”

In a town drowning in over-priced events that don’t quite deliver, DC Progressive Dinner is a rare gem. “At 150 people we are already bursting at the seams. We do most of the fundraising at the front end, so we can enjoy the evening in the end. There has been talk about opening it up to a larger audience, but I’m afraid that could destroy something that is really special to us,” said Schurman.

Until then, you’ll have to find a friend who’s already participating and see if you can join the team. See, you’re all in or you’re all out. According to Schurman, “The best part of progressive dinner is that it is a lot of work that always pays off.”

The stakes are quite high, and though everyone is definitely in it for the fun, friendship and charitable cause — they make no bones about wanting the glory too.

As one member of a losing team said to me at the end of the night, “Mm. Mm. Wrong. Like when Jennifer Hudson lost American Idol.”

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by Borderstan.com — April 23, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

Dining, Out, Life, Food, Friends, Borderstan, tedeytan, flickr

Dining Out for Life: There are 36 participating restaurants in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area this Thursday, including eight on the 17th Street corridor and 5 on the 14th Street corridor. (Photo from tedeytan in the Borderstan flickr pool)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com. 

Ding, Out, Life, DC, Food, Friends, DC, restaurants

For Food & Friends: Dining Out for Life is this Thursday, April 26. (Image courtesy Dining Out for Life)

C’mon. Be honest. Thursday is practically the weekend, and that means you’re considering ditching the kitchen and going out for dinner. Now you have the perfect excuse to avoid the kitchen: Thursday, April 26 is the annual Dining Out for Life event which benefits Food & Friends in DC.

There are 36 participating restaurants right here in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area; see the list at bottom of this post.

Food and Friends provides meals and groceries to nearly 1,500 people in the DC metro area who are facing HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-changing illnesses. Dining Out for Life is an international event — with funds raised in that city staying in that city.

And it’s easy to take part — “more than 150 restaurants throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area donate 25% to 110% of their proceeds to Food & Friends.” You can find a participating restaurant on the Dining Out for Life website or check our local list below.

“Food & Friends is the only nonprofit organization in the Washington area providing daily, home-delivered, specialized meals, groceries and nutrition counseling to individuals in the community who are facing some of life’s most difficult challenges. The funds raised through Dining Out for Life allows Food & Friends to continue to provide these critical services at NO COST to the clients.”

Where will you be eating this Thursday? Can’t make it out this Thursday? You can give online to Food and Friends —  you could win a $1,000 US Airways gift card.

Below are the participating restaurants in the Borderstan area (with percentage donating in parenthesis).

Dupont Circle

Restaurants in green on are on/near the 17th Street corridor; restaurants in blue are on/near Connecticut Avenue corridor.

  1. Annie’s Paramount Steak House, 1609 17th Street NW (100% on dinner)
  2. Beacon Bar & Grill, 1615 Rhode Island Avenue (25% on dinner)
  3. BGR – The Burger Joint, 1514 Connecticut Avenue NW (25% on dinner)
  4. Bistro du Coin, 1738 Connecticut Avenue NW (50% on lunch and dinner)
  5. Darlington House, 1610 20th Street NW (25% on dinner)
  6. Dupont Italian Kitchen, 1637 17th Street NW (25% of dinner)
  7. Grillfish, 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW (25% of dinner)
  8. Hank’s Oyster Bar, 1624 Q Street NW (50% on dinner)
  9. James Hoban’s Irish Pub, 1 Dupont Circle (25% on dinner)
  10. Cafe Luna, 1633 P Street NW (35% on lunch an dinner)
  11. Firefly, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue (25% on dinner)
  12. Floriana, 1602 17th Street NW (35% on dinner)
  13. La Frontera Cantina, 1633 17th Street NW (25% on dinner)
  14. La Tomate, 1701 Connecticut Avenue NW (25% on dinner)
  15. Lauriol Plaza, 1835 18th Street NW (25% on dinner)
  16. Level One, 1639 R Street NW (35% on dinner)
  17. Mourayo Restaurant, 1732 Connecticut Avenue (25% on dinner)
  18. Nage Bistro, 1600 Rhode Island Avenue NW (25% on dinner)
  19. Pesce, 2002 P Street NW, (25% on dinner)
  20. Scion Restaurant, 2000 P Street NW (25% on dinner)
  21. Skewers, 1633 P Street NW (35% on dinner)
  22. Tabard Inn, 1739 N Street NW (25% on lunch and dinner)
  23. Thaiphoon -DC, 2011 S Street NW, (25% on dinner)
  24. Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar, 2121 P Street (25% on dinner)

Logan Circle / 14th Street NW

  1. Commissary, 1443 P Street NW (25% on dinner)
  2. Logan Tavern, 1423 P Street NW (25% on dinner)
  3. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 1612 14th Street NW (25% on dinner)
  4. Posto, 1515 14th Street NW (100% on dinner)
  5. Veranda, 1100 P Street NW (25% on dinner)
  6. Whole Foods Market, 1440 P Street NW (50% on salads and hot bar)

 U Street

  1. Bistro La Bonne, 1340 U Street NW (35% on dinner)
  2. JoJo Restaurant & Bar, 1512 U Street NW (35% on dinner)
  3. Marvin, 2007 14th Street NW (35% on dinner)
  4. Sala Thai – U Street, 1301 U Street NW (25% on lunch and dinner)
  5. Tabaq Bistro, 1336 U Street NW (35% on dinner)
  6. 18th & U Duplex Diner, 2004 18th Street (25% on dinner)
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by Borderstan.com — April 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Onions"

Onions are ready for the season. (Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

Judging from the FreshFarm Markets email newsletter, this would be the week to buy anything and everything green. Arugula, asparagus, kale, salad greens, spinach, stinging nettles, swiss chard, green onions and watercress are all out in abundance. And turnips. They’re not green. They’re white. But they’re awesome.

Aside from the usual “lightly dressed” green salad, there’s a ton of stuff you can make with all the fresh greens popping up at the market. And while I love a good salad – I’m going to ask you all to stretch yourselves some and think beyond the ranch dressing and salad bowl.

You’re gonna get some asparagus and make this Spring Pad Thai, because it’s good to know how to make pad thai. You shouldn’t really be paying for the stuff. Really.

Are you feeling dangerous? Cause I’m feelin’ dangerous. Say it with me now: stinging nettles. If consuming ghost peppers is the sky diving of food, stinging nettles are like rock wall climbing. You feel bad ass when you make and eat them, but really, the risk was minimal all along. Make this lasagna. Brag to your friends on Monday morning.

I kind of hate that kale chips have become this odd dieters’ substitution for potato chips. I love kale chips. I love potato chips. They are totally different. Neither can satisfy a craving for the other, and both require a delicate touch and technique to making the perfect batch. Now is the time to start working on your perfect kale chip.

Finally, what goes better on a bunch of green things than a fried egg? Saute some swiss chard (all that rainbow-veined velvety leafed stuff), spinach, green onions, maybe ramps (throw in some mushrooms maybe), and top with a fried egg, the yolk still all soft and creamy. Add in some rice or quinoa into the mix if you must, but this is the good stuff!

So, who’s hitting the market this Sunday? Want to meet up? We can buy canvas bags full of leafy green things and talk about how we’re going to make it all. Hit me up on Twitter and I’ll see you there!

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by Borderstan.com — April 13, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

"Borderstan""Straberries"

Strawberries are coming and Alejandra has recipes galore.  (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com

Last year, the most awful thing happened to me. I was at the grocery store, just weeks after the local strawberry season had ended and I was lamenting the lack of those little red jewels in my life. I was sad. I missed them!

So I bought a pint of the little buggers from The Teet.

Wow, was that a mistake. They were watery, tasteless and mealy. I mean, I didn’t really even understand what mealy felt like in my mouth until that moment. What the heck!? I had been eating grocery store strawberries my whole life (with the rare exception of cartons bought on the side of the road from Mexicans, who crossed the boarder to set up mini market stands — I grew up about 40 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border) and in that moment, I felt screwed. Had they always tasted like that? Had I elevated myself to the next level of strawberry consciousness with my farmers market shopping ways?

I’m hoping I just landed a bad batch, ’cause as much as I try to shop local and seasonal, there are just moments, there are desserts, that call for strawberries when they’re not in season in like, you know, Pennsylvania!!!

This week’s FreshFarm Markets‘ newsletter mentioned that Garner’s Produce would have strawberries at the Penn Quarter market and I got tres excited. I’m not sure if they’ll be at Dupont Circle this Sunday, but you know what, we can throw a strawberry party now, just so we’re ready.

Here are some strawberry recipes to get you started:

What’s on your market list for this weekend? Don’t forget, if you have questions about the market, just tweet me!

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by Borderstan.com — April 6, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

"Borderstan""Farmers Market"

Look for leeks at the Dupont Farmers Market  this weekend. (Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com

Pardon us! We’ve interrupted your usual weekly farmers market roundup to discuss a very important issue: shopping at the farmers market… effectively.

As someone who rarely shops with a grocery list (if I’m lucky, I’ll think about what I want to make that week on my walk to the Dupont Farmers Market) I’ve learned the hard way how not to shop at a farmers market. It’s a well-documented plight (especially for the single, the tired and the lazy among us), because you shop hungry and end up with more than you know what to do with.

There you are, all excited about that fabulous spring/summer/fall produce and you end up buying enough to feed an army (a Game of Thrones army, perhaps?!). Or worse yet, you severely overestimate your energy for the coming week, thinking you’ll still work that 12 hour day and then have the energy to come home and whip up a gourmet meal.

Yeah. Right. I see you, yes you, on your sofa perusing the Seamless app for a food delivery that will get to your house in less than 30 minutes.

Guilty as charged. I’ve done it all. Wiser individuals (who MUST have more spare time than I do!) will tell you to spend some time menu planning on Saturdays. Or have a standard grocery list that you shop with. Mmmhhm. I’m sorry, Superwoman called, and she demanded I return her ambition and extra hours in the day. So, those culinary miracles? … not gonna happen.

Now that the Dupont Farmers Market is back to standard hours (8:30 am to 1:00 pm) and with the U Street Farmers Market opening soon, it’s a good time to share my four tips for effectively shopping at a farmers market:

  1. Do a drive-by. Yep. This is not like shopping at Harris Teeter (a.k.a. The Teet), folks. You’re going have to do some work here. Case the joint! While you sip your hipster-poured au lait, walk through the market once to see what everyone has on display. Also, take note of the prices. Who has better looking produce, and for a price you’re comfortable with?
  2. Shop pantry staples first. “What the hell are pantry staples?” you ask. Onions (of all varieties) are pantry staples. Kholrabi is not. Bread/crackers are pantry staples. Bison steaks are not. (Sorry!) Hit the stands for ingredients that can (and often do) go in any meal: garlic, onions, peppers, olive oil, apples/pears/fruits, milk, eggs, bread, and basic salad greens. Cheese can fall into this category, but only if you consider cheese an after school snack, as I do.
  3. Shop the value-added products next. These are the things that already look like a meal. The stuff that, to be honest, you’re probably going to reach for first at the end of that aforementioned 12 hour day, while still wanting to feel good about what you’re eating. I think the best stands for value-added products are Chris’ Marketplace (crabcakes & empanadas), Souper Girl (soups, salads), The Copper Pot Food Company (pasta sauces, handmade pastas, jams) and Eco-Friendly Foods (charcuterie, various meat items like pulled pork in bbq sauce).
  4. Now you can get fancy! Okay this is when you buy the fancy stuff, if your budget allows. Go ahead, get crazy. Buy mushrooms! Rhubarb until you see red! All the fancy cured meats your heart desires! You can feel good about splurging, because you know you’ve already taken care of all the basics.

Really, it’s that easy. Once you’ve become a farmers market pro, shopping every weekend like this becomes second nature! It will save you money, cut down on waste and ensure you have the kind of kitchen that’s always stocked for a delicious meal.

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by Borderstan.com — January 9, 2012 at 6:35 am 1 Comment

In Borderstan area, look for Restaurant Week participants on Connecticut, P, U, 9th, 14th and 17th Streets NW. (Luis Gomez Photos) (Luis Gomez Photos)

Editor’s note: The following story first ran on August 16, 2010. We thought you’d again enjoy Alejandra’s advice for Restaurant Week, since it arrives again today. DC Winter Restaurant Week runs January 9-15. For participating restaurants in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, see Borderstan’s Restaurant Week’s 35 Choices in the Neighborhood.

Pricing? Lunch is $20.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal and dinner is $35.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal. Beverages, gratuity and tax are not included.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

The bi-annual DC Restaurant Week is upon us again. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either the perfect week to dine out like a mad (wo)man or it’s the perfect week to cook at home. Some have even gone so far as to call it amateur week for diners. I wouldn’t go that far — but the week certainly has its pluses and minuses.

The complaints I hear most often about Restaurant Week are that service is slow, menus are limited and the plates are unimpressive. In turn, restaurant industry folks say that people have unrealistic expectations, that restaurants are slammed with numbers far beyond usual and that it’s not a true showing of what a restaurant can give you. I can appreciate both perspectives.

Tips and Favorites

No matter how you feel about Restaurant Week, there are certainly some tips to getting it right. Here are my six tips and some favorites places:

  1. Dining in DC blog. Check out Lisa Shapiro’s Dining In DC blog (she’s a local food writer) for her take on menus — and the places worth checking out. Doing your homework is the first step in making sure you’re getting the most out of the week.
  2. Places to avoid. Don’t go to restaurants that are already good deals (read: tapas places or ones that have a portion of the menu on happy hour at the bar)… or ones that you have been to before. Or if you do, manage your expectations. NEW TIP: check to see if places have a prix fix menu year round… target those that don’t for your Restaurant Week reservations.
  3. Menu offerings. Hit up restaurants that have the majority of their menu up for grabs. Nothing is worse than sitting down only to find out the already limited menu is minuscule. NEW TIP: Many places are offering bottles of wine at half price this go around — be sure to see if there is a deal on wine… or if dessert can be exchanged for wine or other beverage options.
  4. Lunch. Try lunch reservations in your work neighborhood. Some of my best Restaurant Week experiences have been during lunch, not dinner.
  5. Ask around. Talk to friends and coworkers: What restaurants do a bang up job no matter what?
  6. Watch Twitter and follow the foodies. Reservations will be dropping like flies and generous folks will be offering them up. If you’re on Twitter, watch closely! Follow some foodies and pick up a few extra options.
  7. Favorites. I put together some Restaurant Week favorites with help from my foodie friends on Twitter (find me @frijolita):  Rasika, Bibiana, 1789 and Dino top the list.

So… what are your Restaurant Week tips?

by Borderstan.com — November 22, 2011 at 10:00 am 0

"Borderstan", Connecticut Avenue Wine & Spirits, Alejandra Owens

Buy them on Connecticut Avenue: Five wines for Thanksgiving dinner. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her on Twitter at @frijolita or at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Email her at [email protected].

You know the drill. You’ve been invited to the orphan’s Thanksgiving. Or a classy friend’s Thanksgiving who has, you know, real plates. And you’ve been tasked with bringing wine — or told you don’t need to bring anything but can’t show up empty handed. Last year’s wine giving guide was pretty popular so here it is, updated for a new season!

I only went to one liquor store this year — and not because all our wine and liquor stores in Borderstan aren’t amazing, but because this one is centrally located, right next to a metro stop, and never — ever — lets me down. Oh and their wine selection is always at a reasonable price point.

Connecticut Avenue Wine & Spirits, located one block north of Dupont Circle at Connecticut Avenue and Q Street NW is where you’ll find all these selections of wine.

All our wine recommendations are brought to you by Alcaly (Al) Lo. He’s the beverage consultant at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Spirits… aka the guy who helps me when I walk in clueless and say, “I”m having fish tonight?! What do I get?” Al is knowledgeable, helpful and always good natured. Don’t be afraid to wonder in and ask him questions.

Let’s Start with the White Wines

Whites are great with Turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, cookies and Thanksgiving sides like bread stuffings and squash dishes. They’re universally appealing when you’re facing an unknown crowd and just need something everyone will love.

A bottle of the Prochaine Chardonnay hits the spot for the girliest wine drinker and the pseudo-sophisticated palette of your Yelp happy friends. It’s unoaked which means it’s more buttery than woody in the finish. You know what I mean. It doesn’t feel like you’re licking a tree. ($13.99)

The Adelsheim Pinot Gris is, I am assured, a crisp white with a mineral finish to it. There’s two ways to interpret mineral to me, one is that it is slightly acidic, the other that it has an almost fizzy finish to it. Alcaly tells me it’s the former with this one so it’ll be good for cutting cloyingly sweet desserts like pumpkin pies and cheesecakes. ($18.99)

On to the Reds

The Domaine de Berane Cotes de Ventoux Les Blaques got the woman who works at the shop so excited she jumped out from behind the counter to find the bottle for me. It’s a French red made of Syrah and Grenache grapes. It’ll be full-bodied and rich. ($17.99)

Every table needs a lighter, fruity red for the in-between folks. Don’t want anything to “spicy” as I say, something with a smooth finish that feels easy in the mouth? Try the A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir. My friend raves about Oregon reds and so far I’ve never been disappointed. ($21.99)

Bring on the Bubbles

I asked for just one recommendation for an off-beat sparkling wine and Alcaly came back with Bailly Lapierre Brut. It’s a dry sparkling wine made from pinot grapes. ($18.99)

So there you have it. You can ask for the wines by name or, do like I do, and show them a picture of the label from the photo above and say, “I want that one.”

by Borderstan.com — November 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm 1 Comment

"Borderstan""Connecticut Avenue"

Bethesda Bagels now has a Dupont Circle location at 1718  Connecticut Avenue NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her on Twitter at @frijolita or at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Email her at [email protected].

Boasting handmade bagels, fresh baked super-sized muffins, bialys and overstuffed sandwiches (and lunchtime pizza on weekdays), Bethesda Bagels has finally opened in Dupont Circle. Half a block north of R Street NW on the west side of Connecticut Avenue, they took over the space formerly occupied by Johnny Rockets and opened last Friday.

Their menu lists 21 regularly offered flavors of bagels and five more specialty bagels you’ll have to watch closely or show up early for. They also offer an assortment of bagel pizzas and daily sandwich specials, with deli meats and cheeses for the lunch crowd.

Welcome to Dupont, Bethesda Bagels! Those of us who stumble to the Sunday market will surely be stopping by for a visit!

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