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.

Business. Serious Business.

Foodie Nation…. you know I’ve got my struggles with the Bean Juice. I wake up in the morning and I almost automatically just make coffee even if I know I shouldn’t be having any. But even with all my cravings I still won’t lower myself to a bad cup of coffee. I have some serious limits there.

During our Mother’s Day lunch a few weeks ago I had carefully made the coffee in the french press and set it on the counter to steep when one of my cousins (whom I love dearly) decided that playing with the plunger bit looked like fun and just started pumping it up and down. There’s were actual gasps from the company and I shouted across the room for her to cease and desist immediately… which she didn’t do. When the horror had ended and she had gotten the talk from someone, I was in too much shock to tell from who, we asked her “What were you thinking?! Why would you do that?!”. Her response was “It was fun…”

ARGH!

Now my dad tells me I’m not allowed to be picky and all “uppity” about my coffee because I’m just not and he’s wrong. He also commits some pretty horrifying offenses against the art of making coffee and it drives me nuts. He comes from a land where coffee is ground into a superfine powder and steeped directly in the cup it is to be drunk from. The “silt” settles to the bottom of the cup and all is well. I have had some pretty awful tasting Indonesian coffee. It tasted burnt and bitter and in one case it was sour… SOUR. I’m not saying there aren’t people who don’t think that’s just the epitome of food engineering but I’m gonna just put my hand up and say “Thanks…. But no thanks.”

The photo above comes from “The Biggest Coffee Brewing Mistakes Slideshow” on The Daily Meal and the slideshow covers the basics. If you are concerned that you might be making your coffee wrong I highly suggest you check it out. I’ve been lax in some of my coffee bean keeping methods but lately with the workplace being what it is and my need to retreat into the safety of the Dreamtime more than is medically advisable I’ve been polishing off a Costco sized bag of Mayorga’s Cafe Cubano pretty quickly. Not in a week but fast enough that I’m not losing much on the flavor by the time it’s ready to go and buy a new one. Also, I’m pretty sure this particular coffee is magic and can easily replace several prescription drugs.  Mayorga coffe: migraine and anti-depressant in one delicious cup!

Drink up me Foodies! There’s is a full day of pillaging ahead…

Photo from Desde my Ventana

Cold Comfort

The weather in the DC area is starting to get warmer and the humidity is starting to build up and I’ve been reminding myself that I really need to make a decision on that ice cream machine before it’s NEXT summer and I still haven’t done anything about it.  We’re not too far from it actually being a full year since I first considered getting the device and kept procrastinating until… well I think it’s evident what happened. I don’t have one.

But here are a couple alternative options that would not only allow me to NOT break my spending fast for the month of April but would allow me to take some of the hot drinks I was getting used to over the cooler months and bring them into summer with me:

Irish Coffee Pops

“Irish Coffee Pops” from Souvlaki For The Soul

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

“Hot Cocoa Popsicles” from Pastry Affair

And this is what popsicles looked like when I was a kid living overseas. My Apo used to make avocado ones for me with palm sugar. Mmmmm!

Avocado Ice Pops

“Avocado Ice Pops” from Cooking tackle

All these and more can be found and followed on the “Freeze It!” Pinterest board.

Ridin’ the Serotonin High

Lemon-Arugula Potato Salad

“Lemon-Arugula Potato Salad” from More Than Burnt Toast

My mother occasionally has to go on these extended business trips overseas for weeks or months at a time. When I was in college, all my professors knew when she was gone because I would always come in to work or class starving and asking for something to eat or drink. The chair of the Communication/Journalism department at the time would come to work in the morning and see me sitting there all droopy while sipping at coffee and get this sad look on her face before telling me “I feel like I should take you grocery shopping, you poor motherless child.” I told my dad that on our way home that evening and he decided that maybe we should stop and at least buy some vegetables.

You see, my dad is strange. Like really strange. I sometimes wonder and worry about where he got his mentality about food from because Apo (my paternal grandma who lives with us) says that they had no problem with food when my dad and his siblings were growing up and she has no idea where any of his weirdness comes from. So, every time my mom would go away for an extended trip (usually with my brother since he was still little at the time) my dad would announce that we were going to “clean the fridge”. This mean eating what we had and not buying anything until it was empty. Well, in theory that sounds great. Until you realize that half of the stuff in our fridge is pickles, spices, or some sort of chili paste. After about a week of finishing up the bread, fresh produce, and dairy products, my dad would be eating plain rice and chilies and I’d be living off coffee. And THEN I found out that he and a coworker were going OUT for lunch during the day. I Skyped my mom who had a good yell at my dad and soon there were potatoes and veggies and even a loaf of bread. I brought a sandwich to school and showed all my professors that I was being properly fed and cared for before they called child services (I started college young so I was still a minor at the time).

Somewhere in one of these “dark ages” in my younger life I remember my dad trying to make “potato salad”, which he interpreted to mean a salad with potatoes in it. I wasn’t sure what to make of the concept until I tried his warm potato salad made with romaine lettuce. I’m not sure what exactly he did to make that salad taste so good but that night we each ate a mixing bowl’s worth of salad for dinner and then we had more for lunch the next day. I thought it was just because I’d had nothing but plain rice and coffee for the last 4 or 5 days but I’ve had a similar salad since then I’m glad to say that the salad really was that good. So this post’s salad is in honor of the days when my mom left me alone with my dad during my developmental years and why I learned how to cook for myself.

The Dark Side of that Corner Office with All Those Legos in the Window (Now with a Side of Soup!)

Vader's Dark Side Roast Coffee

Vader’s Dark Side Roast Coffee

It’s lunchtime in the bottomless pit of horrific grade…itude (yeah, that makes it sound better) and I’m on my second cup of coffee. I now know that 2 is the number of cups I can fit into my travel mug and that 2 cups of coffee is still not enough to wake me up on a day like today.

I know I should not be drinking coffee. Just last week I warned a third of a class full of students how coffee was like a gateway drug and that you shouldn’t use it to keep yourself awake when you really should just put down the cell phone or get off Facebook and go the f**k to sleep. I also told them to practice safe sex. That last one could get me fired but there are just WAY too many students running around with their babies on this campus. Clearly someone needed to tell them what a condom was and how to use one because abstinence only works until someone gets naked and you’re all like “Yeah! Sex!” I’m more concerned about this situation:

Guy with baby tries to hit on random girl.

Girl is all impressed with his, let’s be honest, less than satisfactory parenting skills. The kid’s eating carpet lint. Pick her up.

Guy  talks all about being a dad… Dude, your baby is wandering awfully close to that sharp object….

Girl giggles.

Guy says they should go out some time. Oops! Baby fell down some cement stairs and hit her head and is now crying!

Girl gasps.

Guy picks up baby…. “Daddy’s here…”

Girl…. “He’s so sensitive!”

NO!

That man has a baby. If he has time to be dating you he is doing something wrong.

Wow… I really should slow down on the coffee. That and I should probably rethink my whole quadruplets plan. And… hey! Someone messed with my Legos! [Wonder Woman is now aggressively attacking Lex Luthor, she’s hanging on to his laser majigy with her laso, and Superman is on top of the Kryptonium.] Well that doesn’t make any sense…

And now for something completely different:

I made soup for my family’s lunch today. Since we’re all spread out all over the area I even prepacked it into nice little containers. But I forgot the veggie meatballs at home so it’s just soup. I really like soup and think there should be more of it. I also, don’t mind making soup. It’s simple and, if you’re doing it right, doesn’t involve too much cutting up of onions so there’s no crying. Yay!

Here are some upcoming soup ideas to be implemented this week for family lunches:

Dahl Makhni

“Dahl Makhni” by Alfred Prasad on GreatBritishChefs.com

Pea Consomme with Mint

“Pea Consomme with Mint” from Foof & Wine

Split Pea Soup with Portobellos

“Split Pea Soup with Portobellos” from Food & Wine

Warm Carrot Parsnip Soup

“Warm Carrot Parsnip Soup” by Brittany Mullins on Eating Bird Food

Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup

“Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup” from 101 Cookbooks

All of these soups, and many others, can be found on the Gastrogasms: Soups and Stews board on Pinterest.