Friday, November 29, 2013

Mad Fox Brewing Company

While there are plenty of places to get a high-end, expensive dinner in the DC area, I find that it's awfully hard to find a great, low-key dining option with consistently good food.  There are a few gems in the area, but they are definitely few and far between.  So when you find one, you gotta share the love.  Hence, I share with you one of my favorite casual dining pubs, Mad Fox Brewing Company.  Excellent beer, great food and friendly staff at a reasonable price. 

I love the selection of bar bites at Mad Fox and the frickles are my favorite snack to enjoy with a beer while watching a game.  Briny pickles with a crispy shell served with spicy ranch dipping sauce, I could probably find a way to eat two orders (yikes!).  The shishito peppers are another great, spicy snack - lightly roasted and served with miso mayonnaise.  Other 'not-to-miss' bar treats include the bitterballen (curried croquettes of lamb and beef) and grilled wings.  

Mad Fox has lots of dinner options to choose from ranging from schnitzel to burgers and pizza.  The bacon jam burger, topped with blue cheese was meaty and delicious (best I could tell from the one bite my husband was willing to share).  While the fig and balsamic blues pizza topped with bacon, figs, caramelized onion and blue cheese was good but a little too rich for my tastes.  

Overall, Mad Fox is a great place to go grab a quick bite and a beer this busy holiday season.  You can even pick up the best gift ever - a growler of beer - for a few friends on your nice list!      

     Mad Fox Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas

Lately, I've been experimenting with dinner dishes that you can make over the weekend and pop in the oven during the week to have dinner ready in a flash.  The reheat thing always does something a little wacky to the food, so I find it best to prep the dish to the point right before it goes in the oven, then cover it and foil and cook within a day or two. 

This approach works particularly well with chicken enchiladas.  Here's a great recipe for chicken enchiladas using a tangy salsa verde-type sauce rather than the traditional red.  Just come home, pop it in the oven, and viola!  Dinner.  See how amazing you are?  Yes, the talk of the town.  :)  Enjoy!

9 large soft flour tortilla shells
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
4.5 oz of diced green chiles
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of cream of mushroom condensed soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 tablespoons of milk
1/2 cup of crumbled queso fresco
15 oz can of green enchilada sauce
3/4 cup of pepper jack cheese
2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped

1.  Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When butter has melted, add 1/2 cup of diced onion.  Cook until onion is tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the diced green chiles and cook for another 2 minutes. 

2.  Lower the heat to medium and add the sour cream, mushroom soup, cumin, and red pepper flakes to the skillet.  Heat for about 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and blended.

3.  Take half of the sauce in the skillet and place in a small bowl.  With the remaining sauce in the skillet, add the 1/2 cup of crumbled queso fresco and shredded chicken.  Cook for two minutes until cheese has melted.

4.  Butter a large baking dish (9 x 13) and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place about a 1/3 of a cup of the chicken mixture in the center of a tortilla. 

5.  Fold the tortilla in half, sliding the top side along the bottom to smush the chicken mixture.  Then roll the tortilla and place in the baking dish seam side down.  Continue with remaining tortillas.

6.  Cover the tortillas with the green enchilada sauce.

7.  Add two tablespoons of milk to the reserved 1/2 of the sauce.  Mix together until well blended and sauce has a thinner consistency.

8.  Top tortillas with the cream sauce (no points for presentation here... more about functionality because the cream sauce will spread as it heats). 

9.  Then top with the 3/4 of a cup of pepper jack cheese. (if saving for later, top with foil and continue with step 10 when you are ready to cook for dinner)

10.  Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes until cheese is bubbly.  Remove and allow to cool for 8 minutes.  Cut , top with cilantro and serve immediately. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away... the holiday of over-eating and family.  It's one of my favorite holidays and a great time to relax and rest (and yes, I do tend to fall asleep on the couch while the turkey is cooking).   

Here's a super easy recipe for pumpkin bread that you can bring to any Thanksgiving celebration or just serve at breakfast on Thanksgiving Day, so you can get back to preparing that turkey!  The key to recipe is all the spices, so don't leave any out...

1 cup of pumpkin puree (or 1 small pumpkin to use to make the puree, instructions below)
2 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of water
1 cup of sugar
1 1/3 cup of flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
Butter for the loaf pan

1.  If you are making homemade pumpkin puree, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut off stem, cut the pumpkin in half, and then scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Place on a baking sheet (I lined my with foil, but you don't have to) and roast pumpkin in the oven for about 45 minutes until tender.

2.  Allow to cool and peel off skin.  Cut pumpkin into chunks and throw in a food processor.  Blend until smooth, and add a tablespoon of water if needed to achieve desired consistency.

3.  Take 1 cup of pumpkin puree, eggs, vegetable oil and water and whisk together in a large bowl.

4.  In a separate bowl, blend together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

5.  Add dry ingredients to the bowl with the pumpkin puree and stir until well blended.

6.  Butter a loaf pan and pour in the pumpkin mixture.  Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7.  Cool on a wire rack and serve immediately!  (I like it warm, but you can always refrigerate and serve the next day for breakfast)


Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Opening - Water & Wall

I have a confession to make.  I am a SUCKER for a good story.  I absolutely love stories... you can learn so much about a person from their stories--who they are, what's important to them, where they focus their efforts.  A good story takes the black and white and turns it into color.  The story behind Maple Avenue and the newest addition to the family -- Water & Wall -- takes fantastic food and a great chef, and gives it meaning. 

Maple Ave is the first restaurant from husband and wife team Chef Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez.  They started the restaurant following their passion for food, and leaving behind a comfortable engineering career to take a chance. 

That chanced turned into Maple Ave.  Located in Vienna, Maple Ave just recieved the #1 ranking for best restaurant in No. Virginia.  Chef Ma and his wife poured their heart and soul into that restaurant (they grew their own garden on the roof and tiled the floor themselves!) and their dream became a wonderful, successful reality. 

Now, Chef Ma and Joey are taking the best of Maple Ave and using that core to start a new restaurant in Arlington, VA -- Water & Wall.  I had a chance to sample some of the new items on the menu at Water & Wall, and it is clear that this sister restaurant is going to do some great things.

The menu offers some staples from Maple Ave., including the shrimp and grits which is creamy and delicious - the perfect comfort food (and yes, I do have a bias for shrimp and grits, I said it and an I'm not ashamed).

Given the previous success of Maple Ave, Water & Wall takes some chances with bold, innovative plates like beef curry, with succulent, tender braised beef in a light curry sauce served with fresh greens.  A fantastic diversion from the standard dinner options.

Another new gem on the menu is the Burmese chicken salad.  This dish is my absolute favorite.  The light, tangy sauce with a good amount of spice is the perfect balance with the fresh, crisp cucumbers and red onion salad.  It reminds me a lot of Larb Gai, and I am addicted.

The red drum dish plated with sweet potato puree and root vegetables is outstanding and a great combination of fresh, seasonal produce. 

To finish off the meal, I would definitely recommend splurging on dessert.  The crack cookie is chewy, crunchy and sweet with a cranberry sauce to lighten the dish.  A fantastic way to end a great meal.

The outstanding food is underscored by an attentive, friendly and fun staff who focuses on customers and their dining experience.  That type of customer service sets Water & Wall apart from other fine dining environments.  General manager Nick Seo is truly committed to customers and that value shines through in every interaction with staff.

So, if you are looking for a new dining experience that will leave you hungry for more, look no further.  Water & Wall is now open for dinner (and soon brunch!) in Arlington, VA and is a great story about a passion for outstanding food, good people and a dedication to wonderful customer service that will warm your heart and fill your tummy. 

Water & Wall on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shrimp and Grits

Advance warning:  this recipe for shrimp and grits is not the least bit healthy or low-fat.  In fact, it's probably the direct contrast to a low-fat diet.  But darn if it's not delicious. 

Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk Southern comfort food.  Shrimp and grits.  I've had it prepared so many different ways and they have all been fantastic.  One of my all-time favorites is the shrimp and grits at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, NC.  Not to be missed if you happen to be in the area. 

But I digress... okay, so here I've got for you a shrimp and grits recipe that takes it a little bit outside the norm with some sausage and goat cheese.  Wait!  Don't judge yet!  The goat cheese makes the grits that much more creamy and the sausage gives the mushrooms some heat.  Here, don't just take it from me, try for yourself...

1/2 lb of Andouille sausage, diced
1/2 lb of shrimp, tails and shells removed
1 pepper, diced
4 oz of mushrooms, sliced
3 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of cajun seasoning
1/2 cup of white wine
2 cups of milk
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of quick cooking grits
3 oz of goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon of hot sauce

1.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the diced Andouille sausage and cook until meat is cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).  Crumble sausage as it cooks.  Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve on the side.

2.  Add mushrooms, pepper and scallions to the pan drippings with a tablespoon of butter.  Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add teaspoon of cajun seasoning.

3.  Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan.  Stir to mix with the other vegetables and cook until juices start to release, about 3 minutes.  Turn up heat a little higher.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

4.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of white wine while heat is higher to deglaze the pan and scrape up brown bits from the bottom. 

5.  Lower heat back to medium-high and add shrimp.  Cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. 

5.  While the shrimp are cooking, heat 2 cups of milk and 1 stick of unsalted butter in a medium sauce pan over high heat to bring to a boil. 

6.  When milk starts to boil, continually whisk in grits and lower heat to medium.  Cook grits, always whisking to prevent lumps, until mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes.  Fold in goat cheese.

7.  Spoon grits into a bowl.  Top with sausage.

8.  Ladle the shrimp mixture on top of the sausage.  Be sure to get that sauce all around and serve immediately.  Enjoy!