Forget Those Fools and Get Yourself Some of These Fries!

So on another Foodie Adventure this week. Actually it’s a work trip to learn more about our office database system (wooooo!) so technically I’m being paid to learn and take notes and present and stuff. But it would be a total shame for them to send me all the way down to New Orleans and NOT have me eat myself silly every day.

And here begins the tale of how I ended up wearing nothing decent eating the best french fries on Earth watching “Game of Thrones”. Just a warning, there are no pictures for this post because that would change the ratings on this blog and I’m not sure I can uphold that level of indecent excitement on a regular basis

I arrived in NOLA last night already exhausted from the weird flight patterns and shuttle ride and the whole it being the end of a long week thing. It wasn’t a good look for me. So the universe decided I needed a treat and the hotel I was booked in for the conference had gone and overbook itself. Why? Wrestle Mania. I think that speaks for itself.

In all the need for hitting the ultimate profit margin my room had been given away and as recompense I was given a lovely corner suite on the 18th floor with free internet for the rest of the week. Needless to say, after a full night’s sleep I came back to my senses and trolloped around the room in a towel watching cartoons while researching where to go find breakfast. I settled on the apparently not-so-small-in-reputation Cafe Beignet around the corner from my hotel where I had myself a lovely breakfast of rather little import as well as a beignet offered to me by a nice gentleman sharing my table who is in town for an even bigger conference than mine.

After that there was some work to be done on my other-other job (there are new blogs in my repertoire these day in the line of “guerrilla activism” for an area to which I am greatly endeared: hating stupid people) before an afternoon session clicking around in a database I spend almost 60 hrs a week in learning how to register people for meetings and charging them lots of money to make me. Muahahahaha! Gimme all your money!

Aaaaanyways. Long boring story shorter there was a big reception in a super cool art gallery where I forced myself to say hello to a bunch of strangers (so not my style), check out the food (lines were way too long for little bowls of things), thinking about booze (but not drinking any because of recent issues with headaches). Talked to some lovely folks in Law and Alzheimers (different groups) and then headed back to the hotel to switch into my comfy clothes that make me look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am–not the most helpful thing when I already look about 8 years younger than I actually am– and planned a mini-adventure.

I’d been looking up places on Yelp a couple days before coming down south and noticed this kind of random looking place with some interesting ratings on french fries. So I decided to make a little jaunt to what I thought was fairly close only to find that I was about to be working off the food before I’d even gotten it. I walked down some dark alleys behind where all the action takes place at night. Got a little worried when I realized I looked like a teenaged girl wandering around neighborhoods with no streetlights and low traffic but it seemed decent enough and no one raped or mugged me so Yay!

Well there I was just walked down this dark street surrounded by all this cool architecture with the shutters all closed up and thinking I’d be back in civilization soon because it looked like the place I was headed would be near something. Wrong! It looked like any other house on the corner with light coming out of windows partially blocked with the kind of dry goods and detergents you find in small places on the side of deserted highways. Inside seemed kind of seedy with a glassed in cashier area protecting the cigarette’s and lottery tickets. And wouldn’t you know it the lady running the cashier is Vietnamese. It is called Quarter Grocery & Deli and it is located HERE:

Map

But the fries… Yeah. They’re the best fries I think I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something.

They were super hot, had a crunchy coating, and we soft and fluffy in the middle. They were so hot, in fact, that they were still hot and crispy when I got the remainder of my precious cargo back to my hotel room where clothes were shed, ketchup packets were ripped open, and HBO was turned on. Yep, this is going to be a good trip.

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Welcome to the New Republic. Now with Booze!

If anyone has been following the blog–back to when I spent almost every day touting the seemingly simple logic of: Go to bed at a reasonable hour and go to class. This will actually help you save tens of thousands of dollars–then you may know why this restaurant opening was such an exciting idea. Of course, I’m only about 10 minutes away from the old haunts of “downtown” Takoma Park but I’m still not down the creek very often these days. But one night I made plans to meet a friend who lives there (practically around the corner) for dinner one night to celebrate his new job.

Republic, located in Takoma Park

Republic, located in Takoma Park

For anyone who is familiar with the nicer suburbs of DC, Takoma Park is a bit of an oddball in that it’s classy but it hasn’t been “hip” in a while. It’s also known as the “hippie repository” of the outer DC area. For anyone wondering why that might be, I happen to know exactly why that is: The Seventh-day Adventists.

That’s right, those teetotal religious looneys who happen to have large churches on three major corners within the city, adjoining church offices and schools (elementary and high school), a university (from which I happen to have two degrees), and that rather large hospital (at which I happened to be born). Those were the original vegan hippies hailing from Battle Creek, MI. Spewing the usual Second Awakening Revivalist type nonsense about religion, the SdA’s had this really crazy thing against booze and meat. Some of their other school even to this day don’t have ketchup (because of the vinegar) or pepper in their cafeterias because of the church’s original health message.

So how did this eventually affect my evening’s entertainment? Well what all this means is that Takoma Park, for a very long time was a “dry” city. To this day there are no liquor shops in the city limits and only recently was alcohol even a topic of discussion in many of the local cafe’s and restaurants. Partly, this was due the fact that the church folks practically owned the city (mafia style). Their headquarters were there, their churches, schools… so the actually passed legislation that prevented the type of locales that would bring in the type of people you see in the newer restaurants in DC.

There have been cafe type places in Takoma Park for quite some time. The Capital City Cheesecake right down the sidewalk has been a favorite spot for coffee and pastries for years (since it was Savory’s). It was a rocky start for a place that didn’t seem to fit in with the neighborhood needs but it’s finally found it’s path and looks to be doing well. I enjoy reading my comic books and sipping coffee there many an afternoon when I was still working at the university.

Capital City Cheesecake

Capital City Cheesecake

When it comes to restaurants there were Mark’s Kitchen and Middle Eastern Cuisine (from which many of my events at the university were catered) which have both been something like “fixtures” in the area. And we were all curious and twittering in anticipation when Roscoes began to put up signs. Roscoes, by the way, is named after a wild rooster that used to run around Takoma Park and was lovingly named Roscoe by locals. Roscoe was hit by a car and a memorial statue of him now stands where the weekend farmer’s market begins. I learned this all while not being very productive before finals week from a professor of mine.

Roscoe (Link goes to the WETA blog post on “Boundary Stones” about the community’s beloved chicken)

This photo is clearly somewhat outdated since you should be able to see at least some of the black “Republic” sign on the right. It looks like it was still Video Americana at the time this picture was taken. Video stores, another archaic item… But we were talking about Republic.

Republic, which was oddly just ok this time around. It looks like a nice downtown restaurant but it had the crowd of…well… Takoma Park. We tried the drinks and they were what one would expect from a good DC bar. And the service was great. But the food needs work. It wasn’t bad but it reminded me of a dinner I had once in CA during those beach bum days where the person with me made the experience good but I don’t remember the food. Then again, I’m usually alright with that. in this case, however, something was a bit off. And If I go back and have the same experience I will definitely say something. Because when a sauce for empanadas can be described very quickly as “not-very-good-homemade-mayo” there is a serious problem.

If you’re suddenly very concerned and thinking that this is a place to avoid, think again! Takoma Park is picky. If a restaurant like this can maintain itself in a city that’s fairly closed off yet open minded, please the natives, and yet still draw out downtowners into this rather small off-shoot from the DC diamond that’s something to keep in mind. Republic is still new to the area but I’d be interested to see with what they manage to turn into. They’ve already started off well with their interior designs, menu concepts (no matter what details still need a little tweaking), and the fact that they plan to add a patio and hire a music manager to coordinate.

And from the original article (if you follow the link from the first photo of Republic’s interior) I see a lot of comments about Takoma Park not being funky. And it’s true. Takoma Park is just weird. But in an incredibly homey way. Republic, on the other hand is very SoCal (including the moustaches in some cases). This is a place where you raise a family but as more and more people in my age bracket are starting to do that, we’d like to bring a little more of the inner city into our suburban lives and it’s appropriately being started by someone who knows DC and also happens to be learning very quickly about some of us weird folks who got excited about an italian restaurant/cafe (across the street) named after a community chicken.

Muffin Week: “Baked Doughnut Muffins with Blueberry Jam” (Day 7)

Okay… Okay…! I know! What’s with the repeat blueberry items??

But hear me out. Imagine these made with a proper RASPBERRY preserve. I’m thinking Bonne Maman Raspberry preserves to be exact. Then it would be like a really good jelly filled doughnut only in muffin form… and if it’s called a muffin it has to be healthier, right?

Anyway you chose to go with it, I think this is an excellent way to end Muffin Week.

Baked Donut Muffins with Blueberry Jam

“Baked Doughnut Muffins with Blueberry Jam” from Simply Delicious

 

Muffin Week: “Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze” (Day 6)

These do seem a little more complicated than I’ve been going for but the certainly do seem worth it. Since I work from home on Fridays and this particular Friday isn’t too crazy I think I can schedule a full lunch break to make these while monitoring my “mobile work space”. Some people think I’m crazy bringing all these screens into the kitchen. During work hours I will have my work laptop (in case of any phone calls or urgent emails), personal laptop (with the recipe), Billy the iPad (named after William Blake and usually streaming some sci-fi series on Netflix), and my phone (because I’m popular… and my boss has my cell phone number in case I’m needed for something).

So during a full episode of Star Trek: Voyager I think these could come into being…

Chai Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze

“Chai Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze” from Ambitious Kitchen

 

Muffin Week: “Coconut Oatmeal Muffins” (Day 5)

I sometimes describe my insides as being on to fronts. One side is always trying to colonize the other and tradition usually wins. For this reason I know I couldn’t actually go an entire week only eating muffins for breakfast. At some point I’d go looking for something savory and preferably involving rice or bread. That being said, I feel like something like this would probably be an evening snack as opposed to  a breakfast item for me. Something about coconut feels off as a breakfast flavor in my book. But it would be nice to munch on while watching Battlestar Galactica with my mom after work.

Coconut Oatmeal Muffins

“Coconut Oatmeal Muffins” from Baking Bites

 

Muffin Week: “Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins” (Day 4)

I was inspired by blueberries yesterday and thought I should find one that actual calls for blueberries. While I will always be a fan of my favorite blueberry muffin recipe from some time ago (See  ) I think these certainly look… interesting. I’m often wary of cornbread or cornmeal based muffins but I think that a little extra texture in a breakfast food can be good for you. It’s like giving your mouth a little tasting exercise to get it started for the day.

I like to keep something flavorful at my desk throughout the day. Whether it’s something to drink (coffee or tea) in the mornings or some sort of fruity candy or new kind of chocolate covered nut (so far my absolute favorites are the dark chocolate, cocoa dusted, almonds I can get around the corner at Whole Foods) I’m a fan of texture and flavor. So maybe these would be a good start to that day. Plus I feel like people won’t hate me for bringing them into the office. Anything that looks like it might be remotely unhealthy doesn’t seem to go over.

Bueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins

“Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins” from Martha Stewart