pecan pancakes and high class mimosas

I am EXTREMELY picky about my pancakes.  I like them fluffy, slightly sweet, and with pancakes and real grade B maple syrup.  I do not like them dense, undercooked, with “pancake” syrup (whatever the hell that is), or with fruit.

Because of these proclivities, I rarely ever make pancakes, because I get so disappointed when they don’t turn out right.  Better to have them at Tex and Shirley’s, the Old Pancake House, or one of my grandfathers (both of whom mastered the art of pancakes and set me up with a pancake perfection complex as a small child.)

I woke up Sunday morning craving pancakes.  Sundays, as I’ve mentioned, are usually spent at the bar at Vinoteca with ADM.  Unfortunately, she and I have been there so much we’ve eaten everything on the brunch menu several thousand times over.  So we’re boycotting until they change up a little.  Anyway, she called and asked about brunch plans, and we decided I would make pancakes, and she would supply maple syrup, OJ, the paper, and a bottle of champagne.

I should stop here to point out that:

1) the bottle of champagne she brought over was  probably a little to high falutin’ for mimosas, but that’s how we roll

2) the previous Sunday at brunch, one of ADM’s friends showed up with a tupperware full of spiced nuts (go ahead, get the jokes out now) for each of us.

She came over and the pancakes commenced.  I’m sure it doesn’t amaze anyone to know that the winning recipe came from…Cook’s Illustrated!  I’ve reproduced it below (shhh, don’t tell them) along with a recipe for spiced pecans.  Our friend’s is a family recipe, so the one below is one my grandfather tried out on us over Christmas.  The pancakes were fluffy and amazing, and cooked in no time in my nonstick skillet.  I’m glad they turned out well, because the cinnamon rolls from the day before were an unmitigated disaster.

Pancakes

(from Cook’s Illustrated)

Note: be sure not to let the batter sit for more than an hour before using.  In fact, use immediately if at all possible

1 cup all purpose flour (I used White Lily, the jewel of the south)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg, separated

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup spiced pecans

1. Mix first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix milk and buttermilk in a small bowl and whisk in egg white.  Combine butter and egg yolk (stir quickly if the butter is warm, I melted in the microwave and mixed in the same bowl) and add mixture to milks and egg white.  Dump into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When a drop of water “confidently sizzles” (actual phrasing from recipe) in skillet, pour batter in 1/4 cup at a time.  Wait for the edgest to brown and the middle to bubble (2 min) and flip.  Cook 1-2 minutes on other side and serve with lots of butter and maple syrup (Grade B only please)

Sweet and Spicy pecans
From Parade, by Dorie Greenspan (via my grandfather)

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg white
2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. Mix the sugar and spices together in a small bowl. Beat the egg white lightly with a fork in a larger bowl; toss in the pecans and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the spice mix and coat pecans evenly. Using your fingers, one by one lift the pecans out of the bowl and transfer to a baking sheet, separating them as best you can. Discard any leftover sugar egg mix.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer to another baking sheet, breaking pecans apart as necessary; let cool completely. Kept covered in a dry place, pecans will stay fresh for 5 days.

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catching up on Top Chef

I am usually a fairly religious Top Chef watcher (and Real Housewives, but don’t tell anyone that).  For various reasons though, I’ve missed the last two weeks, so I’m settling in right now to watch the last two episodes, plus tonight’s.  Also, I might make it over to endless simmer if they’re liveblogging again.

Also, what are your feelings about dinner during Top Chef?  It always makes me want to make something really elaborate or really simple.  Tonight I’m going simple- pasta with parmesan, lots of pepper, and butter.

And a bottle of champagne my uncle gave me for my birthday 🙂

you say vino, i say teca

Note: I wrote this back at the end of February, and have been holding onto it for some reason. Since Tom wrote about Vinoteca today, I figured I’d go ahead and throw it up:

I had been wanting to do a round up of the three new-ish wine bars in my ‘hood- Vinoteca, Veritas, and Cork.

So much for that. I went to Cork opening night, haven’t been back since, and didn’t really sample enough for a definitive conclusion. Plus, I was sitting next to the architect, who was so rude to my friends that the whole ordeal (the place was PACKED) left a bad taste in my mouth.

Vinoteca, however, is awesome. For starters, it’s next door to Solly’s, my favorite place on U street to knock back PBR cans and end my night out (just before hitting Ben’s Chili Bowl). I made a reservation there a few weeks ago, myself, my mom, OtherFemaleHousemate, and her mom.

The space was dark and the tables a little crowded, but not enough that it became a problem. We had a lovely table in the front and immediately commenced to the eating of pork-y platter of deliciously cured meats- in this case, a charcuterie with Rosette De Lyon, Sopressatta, duck Proscuitto, and Lomo, capped off with a bottle of Chilean Carmenère (2004 Alcance de Vina Calina). Clearly, since hedonism of the meat and red wine variety was the order of the day, we also had some lamb and feta sliders with the reddest tomatoes I’ve ever seen in February. As you may or may not know, I hate raw tomatoes, but I was completely transfixed by these.


Moving on to the main course, we had another bottle of the same wine, plus a grilled kalamari salad (marinated in olive oil and lemon, with mesclun and pine nuts), sweet potato ravioli, rockfish with lentils, and a roasted rack of lamb with roasted potatoes and red peppers that left my mother with the most satisfied look I have ever seen on her face, except for possibly when I graduated from college.

Sadly, i don’t remember what we had for dessert, only that we devoured it. I looked through my notes (yes, I am a dork, I take notes) and I didn’t write down anything


Sure was good though. I think the left was some sort of cake, and the right was the first bread pudding I’ve ever enjoyed. I think it was the caramel sauce….or maybe all the wine. (Photographic evidence confirms that I substituted my usual cappuccino with dessert for a glass of Prosecco. Oops.)

Either way, now I feel bad. Vinoteca is a slightly classier place than Solly’s and walking past Solly’s to go in sort of makes me feel like I’m cheating.

Good thing I can use those lamb sliders to get over it…

Easter

I love Easter. Where I’m from, we pour it on thick- loads of food, dying and hiding several dozen eggs, and the most important Easter event- an elaborate Easter basket hunt, complete with little girls running around on frilly dresses, fighting over who gets to use the dog to find Easter eggs in the back yard. In fact, my favorite picture of me is from an Easter when I was about five years old. I’m in a blue and white dress, complete with patent leather shoes and white hair bows, sitting primly in a lawn chair in the middle of the yard, legs crossed, drinking a can of Coke- I was such an elfin child, I could barely hold it with both hands.

As I’ve gotten older, and Easter has become a bit more hectic, my mother and I focused more on culinary escapades over the chocolate bunny and Cabury egg variety. We enjoy Easter because my grandparents permit a bit more flexibility with the menu than they usually do (although we do keep the mainstays of macaroni and cheese and some sort of greens- collard, turnip, or mustard,) as opposed to Christmas and Thanksgiving, which have unalterable menus.

Last year, Easter dinner was rather labor intensive- pork loin with onion marmalade, butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and sage, Cornish hens, green bean and feta salad, greens, macaroni and cheese. At one point, my friend Adam (one of the 20+ people we fed that day) arrived for dinner, and my mother immediately dispatched him to the ravioli filling station set up in one corner of the kitchen. That was also the year I decided Tab energy and vodka made for a charming aperitif.

This year, my mom had to get my sister from school on Friday, and my grandparents and I arrived on Saturday, leaving little time for elaborate prep. We rolled in around 4, and my now-21-year-old sister (who henceforth was not allowed to TOUCH my mother’s car) and I immediately began fighting over who got to drive the car to the store to get bread. Weird.

My mom likes to keep the house at the temperature and the humidity of the Amazon. As a result, there is a rainforest in our living room. It’s sad when you can 1) barely get in the room and 2) barely see the television for the flora

Saturday’s dinner was my mom’s famous Mediterranean chicken packets, the ultimate lazy meal. Drop some vegetables (spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, whatever) in some aluminum foil, top with a chicken breast, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta, close up the packet, and whack it in the oven at high heat for 15 minutes. It’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am cooking, with consistently delicious results…
I had dinner with my grandparents, and departed to church. Not to actually attend services, mind you, but to put in an appearance at the champagne reception following the Saturday night service. (I didn’t drink though, sadly). From there, Carolina and I trooped out with our Greensboro posse for a night on the town….or the evening spent drinking wine on the couch at my old youth advisor’s house, catching up. Then Carolina, his old college suitemate and I hit downtown, where I am STILL haunted by some of the terrible, terrible fashion crimes walking the streets (white platforms? and jean shorts? really?!) We ended up at Natty Green’s, drinking beer, playing shuffleboard (them) and fending off advances from fat frat-boy wannabes in plaid shorts and Topsiders (me.) I felt like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama.

The next morning, another fight ensued over a trip out to get a Sunday New York Times (the Greensboro Barnes and Noble no longer sells the Post) and a trip to the store for cheese, sausage, and Cheerwine. Then it was time to get down to the actual business of the day- college basketball.

Oh yeah, we started making Easter dinner too. My mother went low maintenance this year, allowing both of us the chance to sort of hang out and watch basketball. The menu this year featured grilled lamb marinated in yogurt, rosemary (fresh from the GIANT bush in the backyard,) and lemon, a hen roasted in the oven, mac and cheese, cider-chipotle collards, asparagus (ew!), broccoli, and the always classic poundcake and ice cream (my mother makes the poundcake from scratch, and has the recipe memorized.)

(the lamb was a little charred, but trust me, it was DELICIOUS)

Poundcake, and (I think) the wine Adam brought back from Italy for my mom.

In addition to myself, my mom, grandparents and sister, Adam upheld his annual tradition of coming over for dinner/basketball, as well as grandmother’s brother and sister-in-law, AND a whole gaggle of cousins.

(the leaf in the table comes in awfully handy around this time of year)

One of my cousins brought over her puppy, the CUTEST Rottweiler imaginable. She romped around with Audrey (my dog) and escaped some inappropriate advances from Bandit (my grandparent’s dog) before passing out in a tired puppy heap on the dining room floor.
And, just to make you jealous, as someone told me it was sleeting in DC, some gratuitous shots of my wonderfully sunny backyard:

Mum just had the porch redone.

Forsythia and the Red Delicious apple tree

Yellow Delicious apple tree and the Magnolia

Don’t be too thrilled for me. When I got up Monday to walk the dogs, it was snowing. Schizo spring!

friday

Best news I’ve heard all week.

Happy Friday everyone!

By the way- what the hell happened to Maryland last night? I go to bed, they’re up by 15 on BC. I wake up, they’ve lost by three. What. the. fuck.

And while I’m on the topic (because it IS march,) Georgetown looks pretty good. That 10-0 run by ‘Nova and Roy basically disappearing during the game scared me, but I watched the rest of the game on ESPN360…not too bad. And congrats to West Virginia for upsetting UConn. The Big East might become my second favorite conference.

That being said, I’m pretty excited to see who Deron Washington kicks in the face/teabags today.

Urbana

I used to work on the corner of 22nd and P (no, NOT at the Fireplace). As such, I wandered around that bit of Dupont quite often- Alberto’s for lunch, Soho Tea and Coffee, Naan and Beyond (although the L Street location, close to my office now, is much better- apparently we can’t relocate unless it’s within a one block distance of Naan and Beyond.) I made it a point to hit the happy hour at Urbana, the restaurant attached to the Hotel Palomar.

I remember Palomar and Urbana when they were the Hotel Radisson and Gabriel, respectively. This came up in conversation with VT and LB over dinner at Urbana last night. After an absolutely HORRID day at work (although, it’s taken me six monthes to have my first truly bad day, so I suppose I ought not complain) I went over to PS7 for several glasses of champagne. (Worth noting- PS7 has happy hour from 5 until 7 with a couple of $4 wines along with discounted prices on the signature cocktails and bar snacks, including the first and only hot dog I’ve eaten since I was about 6 years old) While I made friends at the bar, LB, who has also been having a terrible time at work, made her way in from Virgina to meet me, and we ended up at Urbana with VT. Several years ago, I dragged LB and a few of my other friends to Gabriel for dinner. I think they were ready to kill me by the time it was over- The food was TERRIBLE and overpriced, although I very much enjoyed my “Mexican pizza.”

Thankfully, Urbana has none of these problems. They have a lovely happy hour that I used to hit quite often with Ace after work- cheap wines by the the glass, pizza and cocktails at the bar. Last night, I settled on swiss chard and ricotta ravioli with bacon and a glass of one of my favorite wines, a Costamolina Vermentino. VT and LB both opted for a pizza with Pecorino Romano, prosciutto, and arugula (most of which i picked of VT’s pizza and ate.) I tend to forget about Urbana, because it’s kind of tucked in on a part of P street I don’t frequent too often. I’m glad I did last night. We skipped dessert, and after I beat MP# at a game of rock paper scissors (the best way to make all decisions in life) we went to the Big Hunt for some beer.

In other news, I’ll be here on January 29th, if you’re looking for me. I might even take my mom.

holiday wine picks

We drink in my family. A lot. Especially on the holidays. I think it’s partially a coping mechanism for having to be together in close quarters for so long (ie over 2 hours). And partially, it’s just because we all enjoy a good tipple. Christmas especially becomes a time for everyone to show off their latest and greatest finds in the wide world of wine. It usually goes something like this:

my uncle: brings over some crappy overly tannic merlot someone tells him about at Costco. proceeds to swill it and demand that everyone else does as well. refuses to believe that anyone, especially anyone without a penis, has any idea about what constitutes good wine. anytime i point out a good bottle, or a flaw in his selection, he responds by citing my love of PBR. he drinks coors light. also is drunk and pretty much worthless after 3-4 beers or 2-3 drinks/glasses of wine. penchant for doing stupid things- over thanksgiving, mum asked him to open the wine for dinner. he proceeded to open EVERY SINGLE BOTTLE ON THE TABLE. heart of gold

my aunt (aka favorite relative): always good for a bottle with a pretty label. begins with mimosas for breakfast and maintains a constant state of “fuzzy-happy-time” for the duration of festivities. fairly adventurous, and more than willing to knock back the harder stuff with me. known in family as “the trouble maker” and with good reason. shares my affinity for things with bubbles, chocolate, and smooth, fruity reds. had conversation with her this morning involving the words “i was pimp-slapped by a bottle of pinot noir”

her husband (aka the Oracle): more of a beer guy, but happy to give anything a shot. switches to the hard stuff later in the day. big fan of woodford reserve. can’t hate on that. Always enjoys the airplane bottles i put in his stocking

their children (aka the girls): wrinkle noses and demand cherry limeade. the older one, in particular, notices when everyone is half-lit, and uses the opportunity to procure excessive amounts of soda from her besotted older relatives for herself and her sister. she’s a smart one…takes after me.

mum: always good for an interesting German white. extremely entertaining after a bottle. moves into bitchy territory after 2. asleep after that. enjoys slightly unusual pairings, like white zin and popcorn or merlot and oatmeal-cranberry cookies. likes the liquor like she likes her coffee- unnoticeable in whatever she’s drinking. consumes the hard stuff with tragicomical results

grandmother: not allowed to drink for various reasons. spends day sneaking sips from everyone else’s glasses, to the chagrin of everyone else

grandfather: where to begin? retired. activities consist of drinking, walking dog, golfing, watching sports on television. holidays change none of these things. rarely buys wine himself, prefers to go off childrens’ suggestions. skews more towards heavier reds or Gewurztraminers. drinks the hard stuff after his morning coffee

sister: far too much of a control freak to ever get completely wasted. last year, she mixed a bottle of Lindemans Framboise Lambic with ginger ale, got drunk, fell asleep, and awoke hungover in time for Christmas dinner. Once drank the most vile appletini ever, made by my uncle. that’s probably what put her off booze.

I used to work in a wine bar, and have gained bits and pieces of knowledge over the years. Also, not being far enough disposed from my college years to have rid myself of an innate cheap-ness, I’m also always on the lookout for a good find under $20. With that in mind, here’s some of what I’ll be drinking over the Christmas holiday, (aside from the aforementioned present-wrapping cocktail)….

Whites
– 2005 Arigolas Costamolino Vermentino (tastes like a day at the beach)
– 2004/2005 Pine Ridge Vigonoier/Chenin Blanc (from my wine bar days…it’s morphed into a family favorite and is pretty widely available)

Reds
– 2003 Tyrell’s Lost Block Pinot Noir (also a holdover from my wine bar days, absolutely delicous, but pretty hard to find)
– 2003 Los 800 Priorat (available at Proof and Rasika)
– 2004 Unio Perlat (Calvert Woodley had it the last time I was there)
– 2000 Scipion Priorat (another from wine bar days…i think Calvert Woodley had it)

Bubbles
– 2004 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz (it’s at the Whole Foods on P for $10.99- BUY IT NOW)
– NV Moet & Chandon White Star (not so much in the under $20 department, but everyone deserves one splurge and it’s just SO DAMN GOOD)