Hey. Nice Tots.

Tater Tots, Bullitt in San Francisco

Tater Tots, Bullitt in San Francisco

I don’t post a lot of less that gastroporn perfect photos because there is rarely a reason to. But when I saw “The Country’s Top Tater Tots Slideshow” from The Daily Meal there was really nothing that could stop me from trying and seeing whether or not it was even remotely appealing to my Foodie Nation (That’s you, Reader!)

I do have a fancy camera, I just really hate carrying it around and I also really hate those people at the table Instgramming their food. You’d think I’d be the exact opposite about stuff like that but I’m intolerably picky about food photos. Even the one for this post was carefully selected because it had one of the better compositions in the bunch. The idea of guacamole on tater tots is cool but not quite gastrogasmic, in my opinion. But it was the best picture of tater tots. Now, occasionally, I will post a photo from my phone on Facebook if it’s absolutely necessary. Example: Hotel Chocolat tasting room and a grilled cheese food court place in Boston. These are things the world just NEEDS to know about. An awkwardly lit plate of sushi that came out looking like it was crawling with diseases in a dump? Not going on Facebook.  I’m all for attempting to achieve the perfect Platonic form of food and if it tastes amazing or looks fantastic on the plate but ends up looking like someone took a dump in the photo? That’s just gross. Please don’t do it. And, if you do, don’t expect any praises from me. Because it may taste out of this world but if it looks like space junk’s junk on a plate… I think you get the point.

And back to tater tots and how much I am absolutely in love with them.

I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t like tater tots. I’ve met people who haven’t had tater tots and they are very sad people. I usually cheer them up buy making them tater tots. Yes, they are not healthy as a food choice and I fully recognize this. A lot of people think that I actually eat like I blog. That would be ridiculous and if I did I would weight about a million pounds right now and have a lot more serious back problems. In fact, I’ve been losing weight since I started food blogging. Who needs breakfast (which I totally just forgot to even think about this morning before leaving the house) when they can WRITE about breakfast? Well that’s a rather dumb example but I’m less hungry looking at these tater tots than I was making excel spreadsheets of all the students I’m ready to give a good kick in the pants for not passing any of their classes and STILL trying to register for next school year. There is so much money being wasted I wish I could dip myself in honey and just stand outside naked and hope it would stick to me so I could quit this job and go live in the country with a couple chickens and a goat. But then my money would be sticky and I don’t like that so I’ll keep my clothes on for the time being.

Oh yeah! This post is about tater tots.

Best tater tots I’ve had in my area? There are two locations. One is actually the university’s cafeteria.  I’ve griped about their food in the past but their breakfasts are great and eating them every day DID make me gain a ton of weight back when I used to eat them more regularly. For $5 my Kenyan sister and I who worked together as tutors would get a nice waffle, an omelette  and a massive pile of tater tots and share it in the office while starting our day off right with an episode of The Big Bang Theory. I don’t know how they managed to get those tots so crispy but I have a feeling it wasn’t in the oven.

With that same “sister” I discovered that, awkwardly enough, Hooters had good tater tots. Every time I tell someone this they get all bent out of shape that I was at a Hooters. And yes, I try not to write “Hooters has great tots” too often because I’m clumsy enough that I know I’m going to mistype it one of these days. But seriously, they do. Go try for yourself and then try telling me that place hasn’t got fantastic tots.

And check out the other photos of tater tots across the country. Hooters is not included but The Aviary is and I hope to someday be able to afford that excursion and I know what I’m hoping they’ll still have for me to try when I go.

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The Morning After…

Mushrooms & Vegetables with Feta

“Mushrooms & Vegetables with Feta” from KwestiaSmaku

Sooooo…. I’ve kind of been overdoing it this month. The parties, the eating out, the drinking, the not exercising. And the last couple of days I could feel it. I mean sure, I did walk about a bajillion miles  taking my friend around DC but then I also went to Nando’s, Pitango, Cork, and Founding Farmers (click to check out the restaurants).

This morning, I could barely eat my chocolate croissant from Paul. It was horrible. And now, at about 30 minutes to lunchtime I’m hungry but it’s for some serious vegetables and tons and tons of water. And maybe some decent tea. The hot water in my office is seriously far from hot and the steeping ability is far from up to par.

As I finished Excel-ing the list of honors society students (which nowhere near balances out the deficiency students but I love them anyways), I’m also surfing the great internet (for [gastro]Porn!) and seeing all these much healthier-than-I’ve-been-eating things that I sort of wish I’d had time last night to actually try cooking some of them for lunch today. Instead I was making my mom some birthday dinner creativeness and monitoring a couple teenage boys attempting to make peanut butter cookies.

And here’s what I found:

Sweet Potato Fries

“Sweet Potato Fries” from Our Best Bites

Spiced Black Bean, Grilled Avocado, and Goat Cheese Tacos

“Spiced Black Bean, Grilled Avocado, and Goat Cheese Tacos” from Naturally Ella

Creamy Avocado Pasta

“Creamy Avocado Pasta” from the Blissful Blog

Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

“Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower” from Right@Home

Eggplant Involtini

“Eggplant Involtini” from Alexandra’s Kitchen (Because you know I just can’t help having me some eggplant)

 

 

A Sandwich to Write Home About

 

Poste - Lunch Menu

Poste – Lunch Menu

Finally made it into DC during Restaurant Week and actually went to a restaurant that was participating.

The link above leads you to the lunch menu for Poste. I tried a variety of items (with a friend) but the absolute eye sparkly moment of wondertude was the “Smoked Duck Reuben”. I love me a good Reuben sandwich and this one is at the top of my list.

“Balancing” the “Budgets”

Now that I’m fully employed (meaning I go to an office 4 days a week and get paid to do “stuff”) I have been both missing my old carefree days of school while also enjoying all the things I get to do with the much larger paychecks I get. And yes, I did actually earn money during school. Hate me all you want but I finished my MBA with a rather nice little pile of not-so-hard earned money and just found out the school owes me over $2000 because I paid too much money to cover all my fees for when I went to France last summer.

So what do I do with all my piles of cash? Well I save it, mostly, and I’m starting some investment accounts (still in the testing phase) and the rest I blow on things like this:

Le Collectionneur, Integrale (French Edition)

And of course there is the regular frolic sessions in and around the DC area that usually involve Smithsonian Art Gallery shops and dinner.

Yesterday was an afternoon spent in Downtown Silver Spring after hearing nothing from the students I had set aside time to take to the Holocaust Museum that included lunch, window shopping, getting frustrated with shoes that look pretty but don’t fit my feet (which are genetically engineered for hunting and gathering like my Java Man ancestors in the jungles of Indonesia but not for cute shoes), and then “Skyfall”. 007 movies are among my absolute favorites. I had a crazy insane face the whole movie I was that happy.

When my Mexican sister (who was having a birthday and thus all the intense amounts of fun piled into one day) and I got out of the movie we realized that we were late for our dinner reservations at Firefly with our Kenyan sister. After rescheduling the dinner with enough time to get into DC and find parking and finally making it to the restaurant we had a grand time with the food, the bottles of booze, and time spent together (which we haven’t done in a really long time).

Firefly (click to go to the restaurant website)
And as a side note: Unless otherwise stated you can click on ALL photos in this blog and be taken to an external source. As a good English degree holder I know how to cite my sources.

My Kenyan sister and I are notorious tippers in DC and our poor server was having a really crap day. Plus he was super cute and actually very nice, despite the tired look on his face and the drooping shoulders while he went to replace our champagne flutes (which had lipstick marks on them). We wrote him a note and left a nice 40% tip. Not our highest percentage on a tip but still pretty decent (and if you know anything about the price of dining out in DC you’ll know that 40% is no small amount). He smiled when he got our signed bills and it was a good end to the night.

I get to the office this morning and sort through all the emails to pick out the best images/recipes to go up on the Facebook page and then I check the damage of yesterday’s frolic session with the siblings. Not as bad as it has been and nowhere near as bad as my horrifying literary hobby. I’m also reminded by another email that I have yet to receive my physical copy of Food & Wine magazine. I have a special budget now for GastroGasms which includes “Research”.

As a decent MBA graduate I know that funding has to come from somewhere and so I have started a project that will hopefully help with the upkeep of this research and potentially the little GastroGasms community: A GastroGasms Calendar.

Exciting isn’t it?!

I’ve begun collecting food/drink related holidays from various sources and am currently compiling them for use in a GastroGasms calendar. If anyone knows of some that they feel needs to be included I would love the additional input. I’ve already enjoyed National Dessert Day and Champagne Day in October and I think everyone needs to be made aware of such momentous markers in time in advance (unlike me who found out last minute and would have to make an emergency batch of chocolate cupcakes for National Chocolate Cupcake Day).

The Calendar will also, feature the monthly Gastroporn menus.

And people wonder what I do at work all day… Speaking of work. I need to go prepare for Lego Death Star night in the conference room!

[Also, feel free to check out and Like the GastroGasms Facebook page for more than daily tidbits either from the Homepage or by clicking HERE.

Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times

Ever since I was a little girl terrorizing the Caribbean I have loved tea parties. For my 16th birthday my mom offered to throw me a High Tea. I made all my friends dress up, my mom pulled out her grandmother’s china, and I received a replica of a 12th century sword. It was an awesome birthday.

Aside from the sword, and the dress, one of the best things that still remains from that party is a scone recipe my mom found for the occasion. She has no idea where she found it from so it remains labeled as “Oci’s 16th B-day Scones” in her recipe box. Over the years we’ve made these scones for tons of different occasions and the recipe has moved throughout our family’s social circles. Just last week a family friend of ours made scones using the base recipe but using a whole wheat flour mix and added dried cherries. The result was amazing.

Oci’s 16th B-Day Scones:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
Steps:
  1. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
  2. Stir in the heavy cream a little at a time (so it won’t become sticky)
  3. Divide the dough into 2 disks and cut into 8ths. (I usually roll the dough out slightly with a little flour and cut into disks)
  4. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 325 F for 20-30 minutes.

My favorite way to consume these scones are with raspberry jam and homemade whipped cream (or just jam) or a homemade lemon curd. A friend found me a “Tangerine-Lemon Curd” recipe online back in January when I scored two boxes of Meyer Lemons from Costco. With Meyer lemons you can just do all lemons instead of lemon and tangerine. Here’s a link to the original recipe:

Tangerine Lemon Curd

Funny enough, my brother just had his 16th birthday party and the same scones were served during the tea portion of the charity gala we did for him.

After I finished college I spent a semester realizing that my dream of getting my PhD in philosophy was about 20-30 years too late and also that I wasn’t French. I also fulfilled some deep seeded desires to try and continue my architectual career by discovering I’m pretty darned good at physics. At the end of the Semester of the Great Ethical Failure of 2009 (apparently cupcakes is not a good metaphor to use on a ten page ethics final and that actually bringing cupcakes to class does NOT boost one’s ethical capacity or grades) I fled the country for two months.

My mom does a lot of contract work in China and used to go regularly to oversee projects, etc. and since my physics teacher said I could easily skip the first month of the class and still be ahead and I wouldn’t be starting my next attempt at Big Girl School until March I went with her to Chengdu where I had a brief stint as her translator and also as a volunteer in an Irish pub/bookstore/library/charity. China has a very old tea culture that I think more people need to adopt (even if they don’t drink tea).

On a previous trip to Beijing in 2008, my brother and I befriended a teapot artist named Wendy Wu (many Chinese who are studying English or have contact with foreigners tend to choose western names for themselves) from whom we both bought tea sets that summer. I also bought a pot from Shanghai when I took the train down there later that summer. Wendy and her younger sister taught us the art of the Chinese tea ceremony over a series of visits and they, along with a cousin, took my family out to eat huoguo (hot pot) for dinner in a tiny alley nearby after our bonding over dozens of tiny cups of various teas. It was the middle of the summer and it was hot and gross but even still the tea felt refreshing.

When I was in Chengdu with my mom it was the middle of winter so having hot tea was more than just a pick me up in the afternoons. Chengdu has a much milder winter climate than Beijing but the tea culture there is much more present with the office staff often taking an hour or two tea break after lunch along the river or in small tea houses near our office and temporary home. In the winter, many people carrying around these double lined glass thermoses in which they put some tea leaves (usually green tea) and simply refill with hot water throughout the day.

For those of you who haven’t had proper green tea, a quick note: Green tea is actually a lot stronger in flavor than one might imagine. The first pouring or two of green tea can be incredibly bitter. Also, Chinese teas aren’t usually meant to be drunk with any sort of sweetener. I prefer the 4th pouring and after of green tea because that’s when you can really enjoy the hot water and the more subtle tastes of the tea rather than that face scrunching bitterness that really isn’t too pleasant. For many Chinese teas one is usually not meant to drink the first pouring of the tea.

The following are some GastroPorn Films about Chinese tea ceremonies I think are fairly accurate to what I know and also look cool.

After the ancient tea culture of mainland China my mum took to to another tea institution by taking me for afternoon tea at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong when we stopped there on the way home for the Chinese New Year celebration. It was a bit of a time and space warp to walk through the galleries beneath the hotel and sitting in a massive hall dripping with the British opulence in the Orient after trying to navigate the Chengdu bus system and having to find our main meal of the day later that night in an alley behind our hotel. We got so lost trying to find our hotel late one night it was lucky most people in Hong Kong know some English or Mandarin and were able to help us out with some directions.

The Lobby at The Peninsula, Hong Kong

[You can click on the photo to see more information about Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula]

When we returned from that trip I wanted very much to try and find better places in the DC area that I could go to and enjoy both kinds of tea culture. While I have yet to actually try any of the weekend high teas in the area (I simply cannot bring myself to spend that sort of money for something I can do so easily at home unless there’s a really good reason/incentive), I have found two places that are very worth mentioning: Teaism and Ching Ching Cha. [You can click on the logos to go to their websites]

Teaism

In my “For the Love of Chocolate!” post I mentioned Teaism as a good place to go for a light meal before shamelessly gorging oneself on a 5-course dessert at Co Co. Sala. I usually go to the Penn Quarter location because it’s the closest location to the various Shakespeare theaters in the area as well as the Mall (the one with museums). Also, with the Penn Quarter being so close to Capitol Hill and all those government buildings, there have been more than a few “C-SPAN Star Sightings” in this location.

I have yet to meet anything on Teaisms’ menu that I really didn’t like. I take out of town visitors here for a quick meal in between visiting museums and I also go just to sit an enjoy a cup of the famous Teaism Chai or a Jasmine Creme Brulee. I’m not actually a fan of creme brulee but this one I like. As it also happens, I have a really good recipe for creme brulee tarts that I used to make a lot because my mum (and non-coincidentally one of my favorite people/crushes at the time) loves creme brulee. Teaism also has British Tea tray but I’ve never actually tried it. I’ll have to do that next time I’m down there.

Another thing I love about Teaism is their tea shop, which is right next door. I’ve bought several loose leaf teas from there as well as tea bags (as in bags to put your loose leaf tea in).

Ching Ching Cha

Ching Ching Cha is not only my number one tea place in DC but it also happens to be the third stop on my famous “Napping Tour of DC”. The tour starts in the Building Museum before it fills up with parents and small kids, continues into the Kogod Courtyard of the Portrait Gallery, takes an extended break at Ching Ching Cha, and ends up at the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Depending on the time of the year (and tourist saturation of the area) I will also include some of the art galleries but these tend to be seasonal locations based on when the least amount of people might be in the galleries.

The last time I took a friend on the Tour was right after Christmas and it was seriously cold. We curled up on some of the super comfy pillows and watched “Modern Family” while sipping on teas and nibbling on a bowl (or four) of snow peas and Mongolian dumplings. Ching Ching Cha is also an excellent place to get away from the heat and crowds in the summer.

Ching Ching Cha – Snow Peas in a Ginger Soy Sauce Dressing

Ching Ching Cha – Mongolian Dumplings & Five Spices Peanuts

Ching Ching Cha – Artisanal Tea

Ching Ching Cha – Green Tea

For The Love of Chocolate!

Since I’m  staying domestic this summer I’ve decided to make the best use of my time at home by choosing my next project: Chocolate!

I’ve done things with chocolate before like chocolate cupcakes, ganache, pudding, brownies, hot chocolate and chocolate mousse but this time I want to try making chocolates and experimenting with some different types of chocolate.

Some time back I found a book on chocolate with some basic recipes and also a decent section (almost a third of the book) on hosting a chocolate tasting. My copy didn’t come with the “sumptuous packaging” but I always hated those paper sleeves on cookbooks.

“Chocolat” by Stéphan Lagorce

Here are a list of the things I want to work on from this book:

  • Flowers & Chocolate
  • Truffles
  • Liqueur filled chocolates (not actually in the book but I need to try)
  • White Chocolate (specifically Saffron & White chocolate)
  • Dark chocolate (since I’m usually a milk chocolate person)
  • Ice Cream

I’m sure the list will grow and become more detailed as I continue to do more research.

Also in chocolate related news this summer, my uncle and family are coming to stay the summer and my aunt loves chocolate. While she’s here I plan to take her to Co Co Sala. For those who are in the DC area or are planning to join the mass of tourists that flood the area during the summer months I highly suggest that you make yourselves a reservation and GO. I use OpenTable for as many of my reservations so I’ve included the link along with the link to the Co Co Sala website.

OpenTable – Washington DC Restaurants

Just as a warning, their non-dessert items aren’t worth the absurd amount of money you will end up paying at this place. I’ve been to Co Co Sala several times now and the best way to go about enjoying one of their 3- or 5-course desserts is to have a light meal somewhere cheaper (There is a Teaism within walking distance and also probably one of the the best cheap eats in DC for those who are picky about their food). Also, sharing is a good idea.  2 people to a dessert is standard but depending on how much chocolate you can handle (and how much you can afford) you can do 3 people to a 5-course dessert and still leave very satisfied.