When I was a little boy, my grandmother used to make “American Chop Suey”, which was basically ground beef, tomato sauce, and pasta. Maybe some chopped onion, but definitely no herbs or spices or anything else. Sometimes the pasta was spaghetti, broken into small pieces, sometimes it was macaroni. Seems like the name “American Chop Suey” is a New England thing, because other people I know in other parts of the country call this same dish “Goulash” or even just “Macaroni and Beef”.
Sam The Cooking Guy, one of the cooking channels I regularly watch on YouTube, recently made his own improved version which he called “Homemade Hamburger Helper”, so I gave it a try and absolutely loved it. The significant change is the addition of Italian sausage meat along with the ground beef. Sam being Sam, though, he also adds onion, garlic, cheese, and a diced poblano pepper, which brought a good bit of peppery heat. Definitely not the bland dish Grammy used to make for me. Sam’s recipe would easily feed 8-10 people, so I cut it in half and ate oe half of that the first night and the other half as a leftover the next night.
Bridget made what she calls “Onion Pie” for dinner a couple of nights ago. It’s essentially a quiche with Vidalia onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. She used a frozen pie shell, so there was almost no actual cooking involved other than preparing the bacon. She also makes a very similar dish that is a tart with eggs, leeks, pancetta, and Gruyere; this one is a big eggier, but uses ingrredients you’re more likely to have in the fridge, so you can just throw it together for a light dinner.
A few more photos from our DC trip a couple of weeks ago.
We ended up having dinner in the hotel bar a couple of times, and the food was actually pretty good. The crispy pork belly bao were great, as a matter of fact. The charcuterie board was nothing amazing, but it was our last night in DC, we were tired, and everything was tasty if unremarkable.
That same day, we also had lunch at Mikko, a little Scandinavian cafe that was a short walk from the hotel. From that website, I was sort of expecting a fancy European restuarant, but it was a small walk-in with a couple of tables inside and on the sidewalk. We sat outdoors, since it was a very nice day. I had the Skagen, an open-faced shrimp salad sandwich. We also shared a bowl of the mushroom soup. The soup thoroughly exceeded my expectations. It was a thick puree rather than a creamy or brothy soup, full of deep mushroom flavor and almost nothing else.
We had a hard time finding food tours in DC. I don’t know if the pandemic killed hem off, or if it’s just not a thing there. There were only a couple we could find online: one that took people through the U Street neighborhood and focused on the Black ethnic cuisines there (Ethiopian and Jamaican, mainly), and one in Georgetown. We opted for the Georgetown tour, though I am sure we would have enjoyed either. We met up at District Doughnut and then very briskly walked through the gorgeous neighborhood, stopping at several spots that were involved in JFK’s time there pre-presidency. We enjoyed an excellent falafel from Falafel Inc., had the meatloaf special at the famous Martin’s Tavern, and a creme brulee at a newer restaurant whose name I now forget. Overall, the tour did not live up to some of our previous food tour experiences, but it was nice to walk around the neighborhood and sample some local favorites.
Somehow, when I posted the photos from Albi last week, I managed to forget to include the dessert tray, so I have added it here. Tiny little bites of wonder to finish off such a memorable meal. The baklava was especially good.
We spent last week in Washington DC, and the highlight of the trip was our dinner at Albi – a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant that features a wood oven that they use for grilling, charring, etc. Absolutely one of the best dining experiences we have had in a long time. I found the restaurant on Eater DC’s “Essential DC Restaurants” list, and they were not wrong.
We both agreed that the baba ghannoush was almost too pretty to eat. The eggplant was charred in the wood oven, and it was served with smoked cauliflower, pine nuts, and tiny pickled peppers. The accompanying pita came fresh from the oven, still all puffed up, and sprinkled with za’atar and parsley.
My favorite dish was the charred “sweet & sumac” bok choy, served with whipped feta, apricot honey, and peanuts. They also make this dish with sweet potato and had just switched to bok choy as a more season-appropriate ingredient. I like bok choy, but am more familiar with it in stir-fry and other Chinese preparations, but now I can’t wait to try charring some on the grill this summer.
The barbecued black bass was outstanding, but by the time the entree came to the table, we were very full from the other courses and only ate about half. The waiter was afraid we hadn’t liked it, but there was just no more room in our tummies.
Our hotel is right around the corner from Kramer’s Bookstore and Cafe, which came recommended to us by a friend, so we decided to check it out for dinner after our jaunt to the American history museum. Sadly, my dinner did not live up to expectations. This is their cheesesteak sandwich, done Philly-style with cheese sauce instead of melted cheese, and slathered with a cherry pepper relish that really didn’t sit well with me. The relish was both too vinegary and too spicy for me, and it made the sandwich hard to enjoy. I ate maybe a third of the sandwich. It also didn’t help that the roll had split on the bottom, and was very full, so the filling fell out of it and had to be eaten with a fork. All in all a bust, as far as I was concerned. At least Bridget enjoyed her sandwich, although hers also had the same pepper relish and she said there were a couple of bites that were a bit too much.
When something like this happens, I try to be sanguine about it. It’s not the fault of the server or the kitchen, it’s just not what I had hoped the dish to be. I ate enough of it that I didn’t leave hungry, and we didn’t make a fuss for the server, we just paid the chcek. Afterward, we walks across to the CVS and bought ice cream bars to soothe our assaulted taste buds.
We decided to splash out on a nicer hotel for our vacation. A lot of the things to see and do here are free or cheap, and, quite honestly, we wanted to recapture the same experience we had with our hotel in Barcelona, so we figured it would be worth the extra money. So far, we have been proven out. This hotel has a ton of nice amenities, including turn-down service at night complete with little chocolates on the bed.
We both like to have a lazy Sunday morning, so instead of venturing out for breakfast, we ordered room service – a pot of coffee and a basket of pastried, and a bowl of oatmeal for my wife. The pastry basket had a pain au chocolat, almond croissant, raspberry muffin, and a scone. Room service just feels so decadent and old-time Hollywood movie-like. We could have ordered full breakfast, but I am usually satisfied with coffee and a pastry.
After breakfast, we took the Metro over to the National Mall and spent the afternoon wandering through the Museum of American History. We’d visited the museum on our previous trip to DC in 2009, and had been looking forward to seeing it again.
My wife and I are in Washington DC this week on our firt week-long vacation since 2020. We spent most of Saturday on the Acela train from Boston to Washington, arriving in the late afternoon. After we got settled in at the hotel, we wandered over to City Tap – Dupont for a casual dinner.
Not a bad place, but nothing really amazing. There are City Tap locations in a variety of cities, including Boston, and it’s mainly a bar that also serves food. I had a glass of bourbon and Bridget had a cucumber cocktail with vodka that she said was nice and refreshing. We split the elote dip, whcih was pretty good. She had the beet and goat cheese salad, and I had the BBQ meatloaf sandwich (which also had arugula, melted cheese, and a fried egg).
Vacation dining is always a balancing act – you are forced to eat out for every meal, and you want to try interesting things, but you also need some basic and/or cheap eats. This was pretty casual, but definitely a step up from a quick-serve or fast food experience. I don’t get the sens that Washington is a foodie city, even though there are plenty of restaurants.
Couple of pictures from my Facebook memories page this morning. This was dinner at the now-defunct Bastille Kitchen in Boston. It was a hot destination at the time, and we went a couple of times and enjoyed it very much. We even took our daughter there for her 16th birthday a couple of years after this.
“Au torchon” means that the foie gras has been poached, and the traditional method is to wrap it in a towel (torchon) for the poaching, though I imagine restaurant kitchens probabky don’t use an actual dish towel (at least, I hope they don’t). It’s not my favorite preparation for foie gras, to be honest. I like foie gras better seared so that it gets a little browning and slight crust to the exterior.
Not a great photo by any means, but on Saturday we had lunch at The Scotty Dog in Beverly for the first time this year, and it needed to be commemorated. The Scotty Dog makes a legit Chicago-style hot dog – they use Vienna Beef hot dogs, sport peppers, and even that weird green relish. There’s a hot dog place in Salem that purports to make a Chicago dog, but they put cole slaw on it, and that is just WRONG.