The Chocolate Teapot

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sea Scallops with Buerre Noir

I wasn't planning on doing a post today, but I am so excited about the dinner I made last night, that I have to just share this recipe with you. As I've mentioned in past posts, fiance and I aren't big seafood eaters. But we both wanted something light last night, so I thought I would branch out of my usual Sunday night chicken fare, and try to make some scallops. After some searching in my cookbooks for an easy recipe, I settled on one in the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy book we bought a couple years ago. Surprisingly, it has some great recipes in it, and so even though it has tips for decorating, dressing, and hygiene as well, it resides with the cookbooks. A quick trip to whole foods, and $12 and 15 minutes later, and we had a delicious easy dinner!

Sea Scallops with Buerre Noir

10 sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pat sea scallops dry with a paper towel until all surface moisture is gone. Season with salt and pepper.

Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil in a large pan. When foam has subsided, turn heat to high and add scallops, making sure there is plenty of room in between each piece. Cook for 3 minutes on one side (do not check on them, just let them be). Turn and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. There should be a nice light brown crust on each side. Remove scallops from the pan and turn heat back to medium. Keep scallops on a warm plate.

Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and the lemon juice. Stir and let simmer for a minute or two. Turn heat to low and add scallops back into the butter sauce, and let simmer for a couple minutes or until ready to serve.

Serves 2-3

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Laboratorio del Galileo

Please pardon this anachronism, but I'm writing this post a bit out of order. I want to make sure I write about this though before too much time goes by!

My Christmas present from fiance was 1) finally a surprise after 4 years of dating, and 2) an amazing surprise at that!! Since this was not a gift you could wrap, fiance wrote me a riddle/poem instead. I was clueless though, and so I flipped the page and saw that my gift was a 12 course tasting menu with wine pairing in the Laboratorio del Galileo. Galileo is oft considered one of the top 5 restaurants in Washington DC, and the Laboratorio is often considered a restaurant within the restaurant. The restaurant's website refers to it as a "state of the art cooking suite and private dining area." This "laboratory" is a place where head chef Roberto Donna can showcase his skill to a small group of 25 or so diners willing to part with a substantial amount of money. But it is worth it.

Because Laboratorio only serves a small number of diners, and is only open when Roberto Donna is in town, the wait list for this experience can be long. We were lucky enough to wait only 6 weeks or so (from when fiance reserved) and January 21st was our lucky day.

At Laboratorio, you do not receive any menus, or choice of dishes, but you do have the opportunity to tell Donna what you will and will not eat. A week before the dinner, we were provided with a list of foods and asked to indicate whether or not we would eat them. After much thought, Fiance and I decided to stick to our morals and knock foie gras and veal off the list. And after more hemming and hawing, we nixed internal organs. No need to make ourselves sick with nervousness at eating eyeballs and brains.

We were told to be at the restaurant at 7:15, as all diners were to be seated at the same time around 7:30. We arrived and scoped out the other lab students. We were by far the youngest, and we were fascinated by one particular group. Strange dynamics, but I won't get into that. Anyway, when we were escorted into the dining room, I was relieved to see that it's not set up as a cooking class, but more just an intimate dining area where we had our own table in an intimate corner. However, we were only a mere 10 feet from the kitchen, and a big mirror was set up over the preparation area so we could see what Donna was doing...or we could just talk and enjoy a romantic dinner. What followed was an unparalleled (in my limited experience) 12 course meal with wine pairing. The wines were excellent. All from Italy. 1 sparkling wine, 2 reds, 2 whites, and a dessert wine. And they were not shy about refilling your glass. We were treated to Prosecco Botter (sparkling wine), Vadum Cesaris 2003 (white), Aglianico Irpinia 1999 (red), Chardonnay Orsolina Frustanera 2003 (white), Barbaresco La Rocca 1998 (red) and a delicious Moscat d'Asti 2003 dessert wine.

The menu was as follows (everyone received a signed menu at the end of the meal, otherwise I wouldn't know all this):

1. Zucchini flower filled with lobster and scallops served with a parsley root sauce. One of our top 3 favorites, this dish had a soft, delicate texture, and was a beautiful way to start out the meal.

2. Roasted porcini mushrooms served with white polenta. The rest of the diners were served foie gras, but since fiance and I indicated that we won't eat it, this dish was made for us instead. I'm not a big mushroom eater, but I enjoyed the texture of the mushrooms, although overall the dish was a bit salty.

3. Parsley Root Soup garnished with crispy onion and duck mousse. Another one of our top 3. This dish tasted like it also had tarragon or fennel in it, and it had the perfect blend of texture, taste and innovation.

4. Ravioli del Plin filled with three meats served with butter and sage. This dish was heavy on parmesan, a cheese which I abhor. I gave it a shot, but fiance got the rest.

5. Pappardelle served with quail ragu. In all fairness to the chef, I thought this dish was very good, but not anything amazing, and I would like to attribute this to the fact that I was getting very full by this point.

6. Risotto with white truffles. Fiance and I had never had white truffles before, and we'll probably never have them again. Neither of us liked this dish. The truffle sauce had a "gasoliney" taste and aftertaste to it. This was one of the few dishes we did not finish.

7. Mushroom crusted fillet of black sea bass served with baby fennel and a yellow tomato sauce. This dish rounds out our top 3. Fiance and I are not huge fish eaters. We'll order it from time to time, but it is certainly not a mainstay of our diet. The sea bass though, was delicate, rich, and perfectly prepared.

8. Breast of squab with chicken mousse and cabbage baked in a crosta served over soft polenta with sauteed chiodini mushrooms and a black truffle sauce. The last of the "main courses" we were a bit disappointed in this dish. The squab was a bit too gamey for our tastes, and the crosta was a bit too much for my liking.

9. Cheese trolley. I pretty much passed on the cheese trolley and took it as an opportunity to digest a bit before dinner. The choices were a mild pecorino, a hearty gorgonzola, and bruss, which was a soft fermented milk cheese, soaked in grappa. Our server was very serious in his admonitions that we take very little of this, as it is exceptionally strong. Fiance was very brave and tried a smidgeon. I was amused at the face contortions that followed.

10. Bicerin. A DELICIOUS small espresso-sized cup filled with melted chocolate, espresso and rum. I don't drink coffee or rum, but I gave this a try and finished my cup.

11. Chocolate pear torte served with a barbaresco zabaglione. As a self proclaimed chocolate aficionado, this lived up to the test. I was so full, and this was so rich though, that I let fiance finish mine.

12. Bomboloni (donut holes). Honestly, these could have been from Krispy Kreme, and I wouldn't have cared. I have a weakness for donuts, so even though I could eat no more, I found it in myself to eat 5 or 6.

Dinner concluded when we were given the check, a signed menu by Roberto Donna (thank goodness, because fiance and I were having a hard time understanding our heavily accented servers), and a yellow rose from one of the flower arrangements. As yellow roses are my favorite, it was a perfect way to end the evening. We hailed a cab and I got in feeling full, but not sick, and utterly satiated. It was an unforgettable evening.

Merry Croissant! I mean Christmas!!

For the past 25 years or so, my family has always celebrated Christmas at my parents house in Connecticut, where we all grew up. As the children began moving out of the house, reality set in, and my parents have since moved to a townhouse. No need for 5 bedrooms when you're pretty much empty nesters. Around the same time, my sister had two children, a boy and a girl, and travelling became more of a hassle as the kids became toddlers. My sister, who lives in Chicago and has a large house, has since offered her home to host the holidays. And since that happened, the holiday have taken on a new meaning: FOOD.

My sister is the penultimate host. And every fall I'm sure that the stock price of Williams-Sonoma goes up because of her ordering for Holidays (this is a woman who asks us all in August what we want for Christmas). When we arrive at her out, a spread is out at ALL times of homemade cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, smores, turtles, hot chocolate. This is just for in between the meals too! Pretty much we all have to resign ourselves to a cycle of eating and recovering, eating and recovering,

Let me take a moment and give a shout out to the Williams Sonoma croissant. Can something be overpriced if it's the best thing you've ever eaten? While I could never bring myself to spend $40 for 15, I look forward to these sumptuous treats at Christmas. These croissants are like none other. They are flaky, but with a warm, light, melt in your mouth bread filling. Light are an understatement. Before you know it, you've eaten 3 or 4 in one sitting!

This Christmas, a new dish was added to Christmas dinner (perfectly complementing was Beef Tenderloin, roasted potatoes and rolls). My sister got the recipe from Paula Deen on the Food Network and it was very easy and a big hit!

Green Bean Bundles

1 pound fresh green beans
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.

Blanch green beans for 3 minutes. Toss them in olive oil and salt and pepper. Bundle about 5 green beans and wrap a piece of bacon around the bundle. Place in a roasting pan and roast for 10 to 15 minutes.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Upcoming Posts

I owe you lots of posts, so look forward to hearing about:

A Christmas feast
A New Years feast
Washington DC Restaurant Week
Laboratorio del Galileo!!

The Chef that Almost Stole Christmas

For the past 3 years or so, my fiance and I have always spent Christmas with our own families. To celebrate with each other beforehand though, we would always go out to a nice dinner and exchange presents. In the past, the restaurant we would grace with our presence was 1789, a wonderful establishment tucked in a corner of Georgetown behind the hustle and bustle of M Street. During the holidays, 1789 often has carolers who serenade the dining room. It's all very quaint. And they make killer lamb chops.

This year, fiance and I were together for Christmas, but we decided to continue our tradition of a nice night on the town to get in the holiday spirit! Alas, this year we waited too long to call 1789 and were not able to get a reservation. But, we decided to use the opportunity to try somewhere new.

Fiance's parents live out in Fairfax County, and on our way out to visit them, we often pass by the Colvin Run Mill, a rustic looking structure off the main thoroughfare. Robert Kinkead, of the venerable Kinkead's, opened the Colvin Run Tavern a few years ago, and we had always promised ourselves we would try it. Now, longing for the warm atmosphere that 1789 always delivered, we decided that we would give Colvin Run a try. After all, you can go wrong with a historic mill nestled in the woods of Virginia.

On the night of our dinner, we drove out to the mill, only to arrive to an empty parking lot and a dark building. Confused, we called the restaurant. Much to our dismay, the Colvin Run Tavern is not only nowhere near Colvin Run Mill, but it is in a shopping center across from Tyson's Corner mall! We were discouraged, but decided to give the place a chance. After racing down Route 7 to make our 8 o'clock reservation, we arrived at the restaurant. Upon entering the Colvin Run Tavern, diners are greeted by a modern interior. Lots of tan, dark wood, straight lines. In other words, not exactly the warm atmosphere we were hoping for. But we checked our coats, and held out hope that the dining room would hold some semblance of a tavern. Wrong.

We were seated, and waited almost 10 minutes before we were scene. Fiance and I made the call. If we were going to spend $200 on our yearly holiday dinner, why do it in a place that did not meet our expectations? I understand that the food might be phenomenal, but a night like this called for ambience to take precedence.

Fiance snuck to the bar and called our backup. They could fit us in at 8:30. We had half an hour to get from Tyson's Corner to Dupont Circle. And we were off! Sorry Robert Kinkead, but your deceiptful moniker will not keep us from our Christmas feast!

I work only a couple blocks for the Tabard Inn. Like 1789, it is tucked away from the hub-bub of Dupont Circle, on a quiet little street. As the name implies, the restaurant is on the ground floor of a small boutique hotel. The Tabard is a quaint, cozy, spot, with a wood paneled lounge in which a fire is almost always roaring during the winter months, and a dining room that evokes a feeling of being in a country farmhouse. The food is your standard continental favorites, but with enough variety to keep almost everyone happy.

I started with a simple house salad with a delicious vinaigrette (this is where I wished I wrote this earlier, because I'd love to remember which kind of vinaigrette). Fiance had his favorite, buttermilk fried calamari. Dinner we decided to split. I had a sumptuous filet, and fiance ordered the crabcake. We shared, and both of us were equally impressed with each dish. A hazelnut chocolate dessert finished off the evening.

It was a close call, and perhaps one day fiance and I will give Colvin Run another try, but for our tradition we did not want to compromise. Next year we will probably call 1789 again, but if all else fails, the Tabard Inn will be there to keep us happy, warm and well fed.

New Years Resolutions

Ok, I have been REALLY bad about this blog. But I plan to make up for it and will be posting several blogs in the next couple days. They will be outdated, as I have posts to write about for the past month, but I promise from now on I will be much better! Plus, fiance just got a new laptop with Wireless, so when we go to our local coffee joint (not Starbucks, this is an actual, honest to goodness, independent coffee shop) I can work on my posts.

So, read on for my attempt to report all that I've been up to!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Holiday Party Update Part 2

This past weekend marked what will hopefully become a holiday tradition - my fiance's and my holiday party.

We sent out the evite weeks ago, and this past Saturday was the big day. The house was decorated, the groceries were bought, and we've worked throughout the last couple weeks making sure everything was ready for the party. Let me just interject here that I did 95% of the decorating and prep work due to the fact that my fiance had to work the weekend before. So let me have my moment of glory. Now let me give props to my fiance for putting together a great holiday party mix.

Ok, now back the party. When I was growing up, my parents would have a "Champagne and Desserts" party every year. The whole house would be lit by candlelight, and I would get to dress up in a new party dress, and have friends over to hang out in the basement and eat candy canes and watch Christmas movies. Well, now that I'm all growns up, I thought it would be fun to do the same. The candlelit part would have to go, since my fiance this is our first house and we're both paranoid the place would end up in flames (I am a bit accident prone and anytime you mix alcohol and fire...well...that's just not good). So some romance may have been lost (but thanks to dimmers not entirely), the ened up the star attraction of our shindig.

We asked everyone to bring a bottle of wine or a dessert - and lo and behold we ended up with mostly desserts! I think people really want to embrace the dessert and are holding back because they have no reason to indulge! Well mark my words, from now on the Evans Christmas Party will be that time!! Christmas cookies, Chocolate Cream Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Brownies, Fondue, Cupcakes (yes, these all deserve to be capitalized) - our house was like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The hit of the night, which I didn't get a chance to sample, was the hot chocolate (which my fiance diligently shaved from a giant bar of chocolate) with Bailey's.

The party didn't run too late (we learned our lesson last week!) and we hope it was a success. I didn't end up in the emergency room this year, which was an improvement over last!

Recipe of the Week - Mustard Crusted Lamb Chops

The other week (which does not actually make this the recipe of the week - it's the recipe of last week), I had bought some lamb chops at the grocery store on sale. The next Friday night, my fiance decided to celebrate our 4th anniversary a couple days early (our last, I guess - when you're married do you celebrate that anymore???)We decided to cook up the lamb chops, a big steak and some butternut squash. The hit of the night was the lamb chops, and here's the recipe.

1/4 cup stone-ground mustard (I used regular Dijon)
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary (I used 3 teaspoons dried)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Worcestshire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
12 (4 ounce) lamb loin chops, trimmed (I only had 3 - the lamb was an appetizer, but I used the same amounts for the marinade listed above)
cooking spray

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients and pour in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add lamb, seal and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.
2. Prepare grill or grill pan (I used the broiler) to medium high heat.
3. Remove lamb from bag. PLace lamb on grill rack or grill pan coated with cooking spray; cook 8 minutes on each side or until medium-rare or desired degree of doneness.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 chops)

Calories: 230; Fat 9.5g, Protein 29.4g, Carb 3.6g, Fiber 1.5g, Chol 90mg, Iron 2.4mg, Sodium 443mg, Calcium 41mg

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Holiday Party Update - Part 1

This weekend marked the official start of the 2005 holiday party whirlwind tour. Saturday night was a wine party at some friends on Capitol Hill. Everyone was required to bring a bottle of wine or beer, and what type you brought was determined by your last name. A-E brings red foreign, F-M brings white domestic, N-R brings fancy beer and so on. Since I'm engaged I took some liberties and went with my fiance's last name to determine what we brought, since his name ended up with red foreign - basically what I live on. We brought a Beaujolais (left). It may not be the most sophisticated of wines, but it's dependable and consistently delicious!

We arrived at the party around 9 and I immediately helped myself to a glass of red wine (duh!) and prosciutto - both of which I proceeded to consume in large quantities! And we all know how this story ends folks. Yes, what happens when you have a bunch of 20-30 year olds and 20-30 bottles of wine? Too much drinking! My best friend decided to become belligerant too :) and nearly started a rumble.

We left the party at 3am, stopped by my best friends house, and called a cab. Well I fell asleep on the couch, and to make a long story short we got home at 4.

Now comes the good part. Today was my OFFICE Christmas party. At the Editor in Chief's house. Two hours away.

When I "overserve" myself on occasion, I don't necessarily wake up with a headache or the usual hangover symptons. Instead, I can't sleep. I pass out for a few hours, then wake up and can't fall back asleep. So I fell asleep at 4:30 and woke up at...7:30! Great. I was scheduled to pick up my friend at the metro at 12:30. I tried to get myself functioning and also to figure out what the hell the dress code was. Country Casual. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??? Does it mean overalls and a cowboy hat? Does it mean riding boots and plaid? One thing seemed to be certain, I own nothing "country casual." I proceeded to lay out several options on the bed, over my fiance who was still sleeping and whom I therefore hated at that moment, and called my mom with an emergency consultation. We decided on dark jeans, a red button down, a velvet blazer and boots. I went to pick up my friend and basically tried to get us to the farmhouse without falling asleep.

The party was ok, although I have to say my non-enjoyment of it was 90% due to my own idiocy the night before. That being said, I'm a horrible mingler. Small talk is one of the banes of my existence, and is a feat I did not dare to attempt on that day. I ate food, drank some apple cider, and tried not to appear too horribly hungover. Thank goodness my friend decided it was time to go after an hour and a half, and with that, we headed back to the city.

So, overall this weekend represented a lesson to be learned. I just have to say I'm glad to get that out of my system early in the holiday season, and also happy that I did not make a fool of myself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Focus Group Fun!

So last night I participated in this focus group all about my favorite holiday - Christmas!! I signed up for these a couple years ago as a way to make extra money (they usually pay at least $100 a pop). I've never been able to do one until now - and I think it was fate. Something was keeping me from doing them until the Christmas one came along.

I had a homework assignment - to create a collage with pictures, magazine cutouts, cards, whatever, that reminded me of how I celebrate the holidays. So you can imagine how much fun I had regressing to my childhood, sitting on the floor a couple nights ago (complete with the first fire in the fireplace of the season!) with my trusty glue stick and scissors and made a collage I have to say I was quite proud of. I knew I had to give it up though, so I took pictures to commemorate my masterpiece.

Last night, I arrived to the research facility, and had to answer the screening questions for the THIRD time (hoping I remembered my answers from the first two times, otherwise I think you're not allowed to participate!), and some other odd questions like "What celebrity do you admire the most" and "What's your favorite movie or tv show" (I HATE that question). I'm not good at thinking on the spot like that. I couldn't think even think of a celebrity. I'm just going to sit down and think of my favorite movie, book and celebrity - next time I'll be prepared!

So, the moral of this story is that I got paid $125 to talk with 5 other women about what I liked about Christmas, and then looked at a bunch of greeting cards and wrapping paper and talked about which ones l liked the best. Um...can I do this for a living???

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Beginning

Welcome to The Chocolate Teapot! I'm starting this blog for a couple reasons. But mostly because I'm tired of the fact that the magazine I work for will not recognize that I have a smidgen of writing ability. I don't really want to write for them anyway. Boo.

But! I love books, food, movies, wine, my fiance (of course :), my cat, my family, my friends (and not necessarily in that order) and here's my chance to write about what I LIKE. I'm not going to update daily - but I'll try to as much as I can. Enjoy!

P.S. About the name. I am horribly uncreative and couldn't think of anything catchy. But I came across this phrase, and I love chocolate and tea - so perfect! Mind you the actual phrase is "about as useful as a chocolate teapot" but I guess that's what this site is - not useful but frivolous and fun!