Monthly Archives: August 2018

Lunch at Alhambra — 14 August 2018

Alhambra

Alhambra

Next stop: Alhambra, a restaurant that offers French-influenced modern Mediterranean cuisine. It’s an elegant space in the St. Regis Hotel, at 16th and K Streets, two blocks from the White House. The word “upscale” keeps trying to sneak into my description of the hotel and the restaurant, but I’m trying to resist it. As the old saying goes, I avoid clichés like the plague.

Eggplant

Eggplant

The salads I create at home are wild, one-of-a-kind mixtures, made up of anything interesting I find in the refrigerator or on my shelves. Does bleu cheese work with raspberries and caramelized onions? Let’s try it and see.

For lack of a better word, I’m calling this appetizer a salad. It combined “Eggplant Caviar”, which is a lemony eggplant purée, with goat cheese, basil, and fresh figs. Topping it all was a little honeycomb. Interesting taste.

Lamb Shoulder

Lamb Shoulder

A simple main: Lamb Shoulder with tarragon and rosemary, on a potato purée. I would have had no problem at all with a second helping of this beauty.

Key Lime

Key Lime

I ended with this Key Lime treat. Tasted fine, but I’m not in love with two-bite desserts. “Feed Me!”


It’s a lovely setting, the food was good, and the service was excellent. Alhambra made a fine first impression.

Lunch at Del Frisco’s — 13 August 2018

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House

The Washington branch of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse is in CityCenterDC, a couple of blocks from Gallery Place. CityCenterDC, a $950,000,000 pedestrianized complex of condominiums, apartments, upscale retail, and office buildings, is another one of those mixed-use areas that have blossomed in DC since the turn of the century.

The city really does seem to get prettier and more livable every day.

CityCenterDC

CityCenterDC

Del Frisco’s offers a contemporary take on the classic American steakhouse. The menu looked good, so I made this my first stop during the official part of 2018 Summer Restaurant Week.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

With that “classic American steakhouse” description in mind, my choices for each course reflected the steakhouse tradition, and there’s no starter more traditional than Lobster Bisque, a marriage of poached lobster, crème fraîche, and a dash of sherry.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon, of course. Chef delivered it herself, and invited me to cut into the steak to make sure it was cooked the way I wanted it—medium rare. It was perfect. The side was a  rich and generous serving of Château Mashed Potatoes, a Del Frisco’s specialty.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Again, what else? A steakhouse dessert had to be cheesecake. This version, with strawberry sauce and a pecan crust, was lighter than I expected it to be.

This was an excellent way to start the week.



After lunch, I resisted the strong urge to head right home and take a long nap. Instead, I walked over to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the new portrait of President Obama.

President Obama

President Obama

It’s a good portrait, but it made me a little sad.

Maybe someday we’ll once again have a President as decent, thoughtful, honest, intelligent, and sane as Mr. Obama.

Dorothy Parker 125th Birthday Celebration

Wish I were in New York for this year’s birthday party! Here’s what’s happening at the Celebration.


“In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

“But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!”

—“Indian Summer” by Mrs Parker

“Five Years, That’s All We’ve Got”

Well, that was fast…

I started posting these notes five years ago today, and 1,645 postings later, I’m still at it. Today I took a look at some of the items I ran during my first few weeks online.

Some Things Haven’t Changed


Music Videos

Here’s the first video I ever posted: “70 Million”, by the Paris-based, Franco-American band Hold Your Horses.

It was complemented by another video about the inspirations for the images in the “70 Million” video. Try playing them simultaneously.

Still posting music, and still love this one.


Saying Goodbye to Breaking Bad

Was it really five years ago? For me, Breaking Bad was the Greatest Series Ever, and I still post about it at the drop of a pork pie hat.

No change; still obsessed.


Anglophilia

Rule Britania.

Dorothy Parker said she hated to talk to people from the UK, because they made her feel like she should be carrying a papoose on her back. I, on the other hand, am a pushover for anything said in one of the 684 recognized British accents.

And I love British comedy. Here’s Chris Turner, performing at The Glee Club, Cardiff:

Still a passionate Anglophile, still posting a disproportionate number of entries about the UK, even though Britain’s future looks grim, because of the self-inflicted damage resulting from Brexit. But then, it’s probably inappropriate for an American to criticize Brexit, since that was only the second most idiotic electoral result of 2016.


Restaurant Week

Summer Restaurant Week 2013 was what gave me the incentive to start blogging, and gave me the material I needed to get through the first few weeks.

Still at it. Posting Summer Restaurant Week 2018 pictures over the next two weeks.

 Some Things Have Changed, Thank God


On the left, the first Home Cooking picture I ever posted, long before my self-improvement Cookery Project started in 2016. On the right, the most recent Home Cooking picture

2013’s Poached Halibut and Asparagus with Basil-Tarragon Sauce vs 2018’s Cajun Chicken and Rice

I remember being so proud of the halibut, because I’d never poached fish before that.

I think my skill set and style have improved since then.


Much more to come in the next five years!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Restaurant Weeks!

I love Restaurant Weeks because they give me an excuse to enjoy two of my favourite Deadly Sins: Greed and Gluttony. Greed, because I can dine on excellent food for relatively little money, and Gluttony, because…I can dine on excellent food.

The plan this summer was to visit only places that were new to me. I had my schedule all set, when the Passion Food Hospitality group announced that they’d be offering a preview of Restaurant Week on the Friday before the official start date. I immediately made a reservation for lunch at District Commons. Not only had I eaten there before, I planned to have basically the same meal.

District Commons

District Commons

District Commons is a big, loud, busy restaurant in a part of DC called Foggy Bottom, which is between Georgetown and the White House. Over the past few decades, George Washington University has taken over much of the surrounding area.

Passion Food Hospitality is a group of seven Washington-area restaurants, including, besides District Commons,  Passionfish, and Acadiana. I’ve dined at five of the restaurants, and I’ve always been happy with my meals.

Texas Chili

Texas Chili

Served with optional onion, sour cream, and cheese toppings, and a delicious little cornbread muffin.

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits

This is the main reason I came back to District Commons: To see if the Shrimp & Grits was really as good as I remembered it to be.

It was.

Servings here are generous, and for the second time, I took more than half my main home for late night snacking. The dish was composed of Sautéed Gulf Shrimp, Tasso Ham, Creamy Cheese Grits, and the usual base of carrots, onions, and celery that New Orleanians call “The Holy Trinity”.

I think I’ve just decided to go back to The Big Easy next February.

Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae

Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae

The last time I was here, dessert was an amateurish disappointment.  This Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae was a serious improvement. Cheesecake Ice Cream, Macerated Strawberries, and a Graham Cracker Crust.

The whole experience was a great lead-off for the weeks to come.

Lizzie & The Duke — Coming to CBS This Fall

Yet another police procedural from the network that already offers 50 or 60 of them each week. Sure, this one has most of the usual elements: an angry police chief who always seems to be on the verge of a cardiac festival, two edgy, mismatched partners, and lots of running in slow motion. But this one is different. Starring Matt Smith, who just finished paying Prince Phillip on the first three seasons of The Crown, and James Corden, in the role of a lifetime, Lizzie & The Duke is like no other cop show you’ve ever seen.

“A Lady Thinks She’s 60”

I probably don’t have to remind anyone that today is Madonna’s 60th birthday, since I assume most people spent the day celebrating.

“It’s a celebration
‘Cause anybody just won’t do
Let’s get this started
No more hesitation
‘Cause everybody wants to party with you.”

But now that the candles have been blown out and the birthday cake has been reduced to crumbs, here’s one last thing to commemorate the event.

Back in the early 90s, Madonna released a film called Madonna: Truth or Dare, a behind-the-scenes documentary about her most recent tour. Never one to leave well enough alone, the brilliant Julie Brown satirized it with a one-hour Showtime film called Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful, with Brown herself as Medusa, a dead-on parody of Madonna herself.

After it ran on Showtime, a VHS version the show was available but soon went out of print. The only place to find a DVD copy is on Julie Brown’s website.

But there’s always YouTube.

Someone has posted a murky copy of that VHS version, divided into six parts. It was probably posted back in the days when YouTube had time limits on videos.

Here’s the first segment. The other five parts are on the sidebar that shows up when you play it.


Credit Due: I was never a big Madonna fan. I would probably have been unaware of Madonna’s birthday if I hadn’t seen a reference on Kenneth Walsh’s great blog.

Head over Heals — The Go-Go’s Meet the Elizabethan Age

Like most people, whenever I hear the music of the 80s band The Go-Go’s, I ask myself why nobody has used those songs as the score for an updated version of Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century Middle English book, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

Head over Heals, which does exactly that, has opened on Broadway.

Although he’s largely forgotten now, Sidney played a huge role in the public life of the Elizabeth Age. He was elected to Parliament at the age of 18, and later became the son-in-law of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. A contemporary of Shakespeare, who “borrowed” part of Arcadia and used it as a subplot in King Lear,* Sidney was a writer, a diplomat, a courtier, and a soldier. His life was as varied and exciting as that of the great 19th-century adventurer, Sir Richard Burton.

Head over Heals celebrates some of the recurring dramatic/comedic devices of Elizabethan theatre. The show includes big helpings of cross-dressing and gender fluidity,  so common on 16th-century stages and so timely five centuries later. Everything old is new again.

And of course, plots that feature mistaken identities never go out of style.


Damn, They Were Good!

Here’s the original 1984 Go-Go’s video for “Head over Heals”:

The 80s might have been the Golden Age of alternative/indie/powerpop/whatever music. For haircuts, not so much. I think that hairstyles almost always go out of fashion after 10 or 15 years, and look silly and embarrassing until a few decades later, at which point, they’re appreciated as classic.

Three and a half minutes of The Go-Go’s is simply not enough. Here’s the video for my favourite Go-Go’s song:


*Shakespeare did that sort of thing much too frequently.

“It’s not plagiarism, it’s an homage”, Shakespeare never said, but he should have.

2018 Cookery Project — Cajun Chicken and Rice

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Cajun Chicken and Rice

I got the recipe for Cajun Chicken and Rice from a new-to-me website called Host the Toast, and I was elated by the results. It’s a one-pot meal that looked and tasted like New Orleans!

Most of the times I’ve cooked chicken dishes, I’ve used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This time, though, I tried boneless, skinless thighs. I rubbed a lot of Cajun seasoning over the chicken thighs and cooked them until they began to blacken, then removed them from the skillet.

After that, I sauteed garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, and andouille sausage—variously chopped, diced, sliced, and minced— in the pan, until they were soft. Here’s the nifty part: I added chicken stock and uncooked brown long grain rice, put a lid on the pan and simmered it for half an hour, until the rice was cooked. Didn’t know you could do that.

All that was left to do was return the chicken thighs to the pan for reheating, and serve.

A happy result. As I said, the finished dish actually tasted like New Orleans.


Rating

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Old Boys — International Trailer

Alex Lawther, who played Alan Turing as a schoolboy in The Imitation Game, is apparently still in Sixth Form, 90 years later. In Old Boys, he plays a character named Cyrano Amberson, who meets and falls in love with Roxane Agnes, played by Belgian actress Pauline Étienne. But Agnes is in love with the inarticulate Christian Winchester, who is unable to express his love in return. So Amberson becomes his ghostwriter,  writing love letters to Agnes in Winchester’s name.

There’s something familiar about this story, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Anyhow, it’s another British boarding school movie, the latest addition to a long line of varied and often luminous films. Films like The History Boys, if…., The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Another Country, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips.*

And don’t forget two film franchises set in two very different schools: The seven St Trinian’s movies and the eight Hogwarts films.

British Boarding School Movies—Quite a genre there.

Old Boys has played at a couple of festivals, but has not yet been given a general release date.


Gratuitous Breaking Bad Comment, Because I’m a Little Obsessed

*”I originally pitched it to the studio with one line,” says Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad. “I told them: ‘This is a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr Chips into Scarface.'” —The Guardian, in an excellent article about Breaking Bad.

Can’t pass up a chance to mention the best TV series ever, even if it really has nothing to do with British boarding schools.