Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lunchtime Links for June 30, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

DC Eats: Sweetgreen's Mobile FroYo Truck!

Came across this Serious Eats post about Sweetgreen, a Georgetown-based salad and frozen yogurt spot, which apparently now has a mobile froyo truck roaming around parts of DC. Very exciting news for those in DC proper that don't want to haul your butt to Georgetown or Dupont for a quick froyo fix.

This also reminds me, I've been meaning to try out their new Bethesda location, so I'll try to get on that soon-ish.

You can follow the mobile sweetgreen truck via Twitter: www.twitter.com/sweetflowmobile

Lunchtime Links for June 29th, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Restaurant Review: elements restaurant

While I was home for the weekend, I had a chance to try elements restaurant in Princeton, NJ. Because there were only late reservations for Saturday night, my mom and I went for Sunday brunch instead. I forgot my camera but wanted to write up a little blurb about my first visit to this restaurant.

The restaurant has a few interesting "focal points": artisanal, house-made products, local ingredients, interpreted American food, and being one of the few restaurants in the US to source "Kindai" bluefin tuna from Japan. It might seem like they're trying to do too many "trends" at once, but believe me, they know what they're doing here.

The restaurant is very spacious and elegant, but not too fussy. I got a skim cappuccino to start, and an assortment of house-baked scones, muffins, and a croissant were brought out, as well as house-made butter and raspberry jam. It was hard to not eat all of them, especially since they seemed so reasonably sized, about 2-bites each. An amuse-bouche of cold cucumber soup with togarashi was served in an espresso mug, and it was refreshing but not watery like some cucumber soups can be. We shared the "French style" scramble, Kampachi sashimi, and the Kindai tuna tartare (available on the Dinner menu; we asked about the tuna and they said they could make it for us for brunch).

The "French style" scramble was creamy, fluffy, and light- I loved it and I HATE eggs for the most part, so that should definitely say something. It came with house-made bacon which was crispy, flavorful, and not greasy at all, as well as 3 slices of toast on the side. The Kampachi sashimi was meaty and fresh, with a pretty presentation of what we thought were tobikko and sansho leaves on top. The Kindai tuna tartare was flavorful and tasty- the only flaw might be the presentation (akin to, well, tuna sashimi poop in shape). Overall the plates were excellent and equal care was taken for taste and the presentation, which is really important.

We passed on dessert, but due to a wait for the credit card machine to work, our server brought out a mini tray of chocolate truffles, a carrot cake financier, and a sugared fruit jelly, so we got a little taste of their sweet plates after all. The petite desserts were the perfect size for finishing off the brunch.

Final verdict? This place was pretty freakin tasty. It's about time something like this was in Princeton- this sort of restaurant might not sound so special for a bigger city, but for the Princeton area this was like a breath of fresh air. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the service, and most importantly, the FOOD. Sunday brunch menus can be pretty tiresome after a while, but this menu has a great variety, and allows you to try out what elements has to offer for lunch and dinner as well. I'd recommend it for any special occasion or for something new, especially when someone else is paying :-)

elements restaurant
163 Bayard Lane (next to the Shell station...weird, yes, but will make it easier to find, trust me)
Princeton, NJ 08540
Reservations by phone or

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Restaurant Review: Casona

On Friday night, I stopped by to have dinner with I & B on my way up to my parents' house. We went to try Casona in downtown Collingswood, NJ, which serves "authentic cuban and nouveau latin cuisine". The restaurant itself looks like a big Colonial-era home, and is located a little outside of the main downtown area. There is an open patio which wraps around the front of the "house" for outdoor seating, as well as an open indoor seating area.

At our outdoor table

We were seated at an outdoor table facing Haddon Avenue and provided wine glasses (the place is BYOB). It was not very crowded when we got there (6pm), but the place was filling up by the time we were ate, and even moreso as we were leaving.

Traditional Guacamole; Tortilla chips & Plantain chips

We started with the Traditional Guacamole ($7.95), which comes in a molcajete with lettuce garnish, and a basket of tortilla chips, plantain chips, or both- which is what we got. The Guacamole was creamy and tasty; my only minor complaint would be that I wish the chips were freshly made to order, or at least warm. I think it would've made a difference to this already decent starter.

Where are the toppings?

For my entree, I got the Ensalata Mixta with Grilled Beef added ($10.95 + 6.95). Unfortunately my request for no dressing (sorry, not really a Cherry person) got lost on the way to the kitchen, but they were apologetic and my replacement salad sans dressing (shown above), came out quickly. The "toppings" were hidden on the bottom of the pile of greens, and I didn't get any cucumbers in the salad I got, but to be fair, the online menu might not be exactly the same as the actual menu currently. It was a filling portion with the addition of Grilled Beef. I did think it was a little pricey for adding a protein to this salad, seeing as I could get a few of the starters or even a pizza for the same amount, but I was happy with it because the beef was cooked nicely and it was a substantial portion for me.

I and B got the Beef Burrito ($9.95) and the night's special of Lobster Enchiladas ($24.95) respectively, and here's what they had to say:

I says, "The restaurant was really cute inside and out on the deck. I regret ordering off the Light menu, the other dishes that were drenched in cheese (like what B ordered) looked better. I will say that the shredded beef in my baked burrito was really tasty and the size of the portion was perfect for me. I would have preferred it to be more cheesy or saucy though, it was a bit too dry the way it was served. I liked the guac, but the chips were nothing special. I would go there again for sure, but would not order the same thing."

B says, "I liked my food... the lobster was jazzy."

We passed on dessert because we were full, but they had a few types of tres leches cake and flan, as well as a large drink menu, including coffee, tea, smoothies, and imported sodas.

Final verdict? I thought this was a nice downtown restaurant with a wide variety of Cuban and Latin foods. The outdoor patio seating was very nice, and the inside looked like it would be a good "celebration"-type place (graduation, bridal shower, that sort of thing). If I went again, I'd probably try one of their signature items, like the Sandwich Cubano, or one of the Paella dishes.

Thanks for your participation and company for my first "official" restaurant review, I & B!

563 Haddon Avenue (corner of Haddon Avenue & Knight Road)
Collingswood, NJ 08108
BYOB; Street Parking

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lunchtime Links for June 26th, 2009

Mars Chocolate Relief Act

Mars is sponsoring a Chocolate Relief Act every Friday through this summer. All you do is log in on Friday, be one of the 250,000 people that day to log in, and you'll receive a coupon in the mail for a free full-size Mars product (M&Ms, Snickers, Dove, Milky Way, Twix, 3 Musketeers) in a few weeks.

A blurb from the site-
Limit: one (1) Coupon per email address per Friday and four (4) Coupons per household during the Offer Period. Subject to verification of eligibility.

I will probably no longer be eligible since I've already gotten 3 of the coupons, haha.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Japanarama Review: Kit Kat Custard Purin flavor

Car key for size comparison

  • I Paid: 500yen for a bag
  • Description: Custard Purin flavor, Have a break- have a Kit Kat

One of the best things about Japan, to be honest, is the insane amounts of fun and crazy candies and snacks that come out there. Ever since I was little, no other candy or snack was as good as something from Japan. It's not hard to find Japanese snacks (Asian markets, Asian sections of regular supermarkets, Amazon, etc.), but there are some that never make it over to the US commercial market. Of course, these are usually the ones that are awesome, unfortunately. Because of that, a lot of my stuff coming back from a trip to Japan is lots of candy and snacks.

One of these treats I brought back from my trip to Japan in May are a bag of Kit Kat Minis , Custard Purin flavor. "Purin" is basically like a Flan or Custard Pudding that has been around in Japan for a while, as far as I can remember. As you can see in the photo, they really are pretty mini, not much bigger than my car key. It smells like vanilla pudding even from outside the packaging.

The "first-bite" shot

The overwhelming vanilla scent aside, the Kit Kat bar taste itself isn't too strong. It's a crispy wafer covered in a thin vanilla/white chocolate. I like the contrast of the textures, and it's like a diluted creme brulee in a Kit Kat bar. This Kit Kat actually benefits from the small size, because if it was any bigger, the vanilla frosting-ish flavor might be a bit too much.

Over the years there have been a lot of "limited edition" flavors out in Japan, like green tea, black sesame, rose, mango, etc. They're usually pretty popular more for the novelty of them, but ones like this one actually taste good too.

Final Verdict? A perfect 4-bite snack for a little chocolate fix. I'm glad I bought a bag of this. I figured that since it was the type of dessert that is close to white chocolate anyway, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for it to be a Kit Kat. Sadly, by the time I go to Japan again this flavor probably will no longer be available, but hopefully that means some new flavors for me to try!

Bliss Spa DC: Brownie Voting!

In case you haven't heard already, a Bliss Spa is scheduled to open in DC in July- yay! In the meantime, take a minute to vote for the local brownie that will be served at the spa, and be entered to win a 90-minute facial and Double Chocolate Pedicure!

I've had the double chocolate pedicure before at the Bliss Spa in the W Hotel in Manhattan, and it is super fun, even full-price, haha.

Lunchtime Links for June 25th, 2009

  • Virgin Mobile Free Fest: FREE (+ delivery charge) tickets starting June 27th to the Virgin Mobile Free Fest at the Merriweather Post Pavilion (Columbia, MD).
  • Firetruck Errands: Funny news article... well, funny if you don't pay taxes in that area, I guess. Link courtesy of J.
  • SE: Padma's Chile Honey Butter: Sounds like it'd be delicious on toast or even pancakes for brunch.
  • PW: Asian Candy: A quick glance at some of the millions of Asian candies/snacks out there. Link courtesy of S.
  • Don't F with Kelly Cutrone: She's not just acting scary on the Hills, folks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food Review: Haagen-Dazs Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Tart Natural

Mise en place (scooper is not actually GINORMOUS as it may appear)

  • I Paid: $2.50 + tax (on sale with my Giant card)
  • Description: New! New! New!; With live and active cultures; Excellent source of calcium

I am a HUGE fan of tart frozen yogurt. Luckily there have been a few options popping up around the DC metro area (Tangysweet, CaliYogurt, Mr. Yogato, Iceberry, to name a few). Not-so-luckily, my fro-yo allegiance will forever remain with Pinkberry, which is not (yet?) anywhere near me. Pinkberry, even if it's not technically "yogurt", is a super delicious and refreshing option when regular ice cream might be too sweet or too heavy for you.

When I saw this Haagen-Dazs flavor, I knew not to expect Pinkberry, but maybe, just maybe, a good home option for a tart frozen yogurt. First impressions: The Name. Something about the extremely long and awkward name just seemed strange to me. Haagen-Dazs, you normally charge about $5 for a pint and have many "gourmet" flavors, you couldn't find a better name than "low fat frozen yogurt tart natural"? It's like they had a brainstorming meeting and just shoved together all of the words listed on the white board or something. But I'm not here to talk about the name, I'm here for the food, after all.

Scoop Shot

The clunky naming aside, this is a really good frozen yogurt. It's creamy but not cloying, feels smooth and would go really well with fresh fruit or crunchy toppings, like sliced almonds or sprinkles. It might not be sweet enough for anyone expecting ice cream or more of a TCBY-type frozen yogurt, so be forewarned if you're more in that camp. I think this might be a good freezer item to have handy for low-fat smoothies also; if you have some frozen or fresh berries and a pint of this, you'll be good to go any time a sudden Smoothie Emergency should occur. (If this actually happens to anyone, let me know, cus that means I = psychic).

Final verdict? A solid purchase and I'm glad that I bought it. I'm also glad I wasn't holding it up to Pinkberry level for comparison, cus it's definitely not the same. I'd recommend this as a yummy lighter option for desserts or snacks at home.

Lunchtime Links from June 24th, 2009

Love, Love, Love: Top Chef Masters

At any given time, if my TV is on, it's circulating between a small handful of channels, depending on what day of the week it is. But one network that I can almost always count on for mindless entertainment (minus the Law & Order marathon days they throw in once in a while) is Bravo. Between Real Housewives, Top Chef, Project Runway (RIP-I mean going to Lifetime...ok I meant RIP), Millionaire Matchmaker, etc., it's just a mashup of so many guilty pleasures rolled into a delicious network.

Having said that, sometimes, it just doesn't have to be all about the drama (gasp!). With Top Chef Masters, Bravo manages to put together an impressive lineup of well-established and renowned chefs, and have them do what they love to do: cook AMAZING food. They do this under the constraints of the usual crazy Top Chef challenges, so that they can earn money for well-deserving charities of their choice. There's no screaming and drunken snide comments, no awkward love stories, just great chefs showing what they're capable of doing.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the regular Top Chef seasons, and I loooove me some Tom Colicchio with his "Keep it Simple" sass. But sometimes, you just want a show with more substance than a phallic Cheeto amuse- bouche. (Photo courtesy of justhungry.com)

Top Chef Masters airs Wednesday nights at 10:00pm on Bravo.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vineyard Vines: Whale of a Sale

There's a sale going on at Vineyard Vines right now, I believe both online and in-store. Online it says up to 40% off select items for both Men and Women.

A lot of their stuff is way overpriced in my opinion, but if it's on sale it's a little extra push to look around. I love the colors and the general vibe of the brand. If you have any old favorites that you want to stock up on, or birthdays coming up, it might be worth taking a look!

*Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with nor getting paid by Vineyard Vines for this plug. I like the store and I just got an e-mail about their sale, so I just thought I'd pass it on :-)

Lunchtime Links for June 23, 2009

A few interesting links that I've come across today:

Recipe Review: Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad (sorta) by Ellie Krieger

Recipe Review will be a sporadic column of my take on established recipes that I find. I say sporadic because many times I'll throw together a salad (boring) or graze on a bunch of random things in my fridge, which obviously doesn't really necessitate its own post.

First off, I will say that Ellie Krieger is not one of my Food Network favorites, by a long shot. She's a bit too perky about being healthy and I'm not 100% convinced. On the plus side, she's not Sandra Lee. I bought Ellie's book "The Food You Crave" and it's got a good number of recipes that I'm surprisingly excited to try out.

This one, the Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad (recipe courtesy of the Food Network website), was an easy choice because I had about 90% of the ingredients in my apartment already. I say "sorta" in the title because I took a few liberties with the ingredients, mainly based on my preferences:

- Thai rice noodles from Trader Joe's, instead of soba noodles
- Green pepper, instead of a Red pepper
- No mint leaves (they looked weird at the supermarket, figured I could go without)
- Mixed spring greens, instead of Bibb lettuce (it's what I already had in the fridge, plus I didn't really care about having "cups" for the finished salad)
- Added 1 julienned cucumber and cherry tomatoes

All that said, I did maintain the original recipe for what I thought was the best part, which is the dressing. Almost all of the dressing components are regular pantry items for anyone making Asian food, and are good to have around in the kitchen. This is a great, full-flavored dressing that I think I'll be using for regular salads in the future.

Sorry, no photo, but I will say that this is a colorful, healthy, and filling salad that is perfect for the summer. You can use pretty much any veggies you want, which is good for getting rid of random strays in your fridge. If you want to bulk up this salad with some protein, I'd recommend some grilled chicken with peanut sauce, or teriyaki tofu, if you're into that sort of thing.

I had a bowl of this for dinner last night, and the rest for lunch today. I'd recommend keeping the dressing and salad separate until the last minute if you are planning on eating at a later time (such as lunchtime at work, or at a picnic). It helps to keep the veggies from getting soggy and oversaturated with the dressing.

Hope you like it!

Love, Love, Love: BCBGMaxAzria

One of my regular "columns" (not sure what else to call it, haha) will be devoted to Things That I am Obsessed With, aka "Love, Love, Love" (insert NJ Real Housewife Teresa Giudice's voice here).

I'm sure it's no secret to the handful of you actually reading this, that one of my favorite stores to shop in is BCBGMaxAzria. I literally cannot walk into that freakin' store without trying on at least 5 things and probably buying all of them. My closet is filled with a million BCBG jersey dresses, no joke. I love everything about the brand: the designs, the fit, and especially if they are on sale, like right now!

BCBG is currently having a Summer Sale, with up to 70% off a lot of v. cute items. I'd recommend checking a store first to see what they have, as the selection varies from the website, and also prices seem to be different (for example, the store maybe doing an in-store only additional % off sale items). I may have to keep myself far, far away from the mall as I just recently bought a bunch of BCBG items from the brand's store and Bloomingdale's, but if anyone's looking for some cute summer dresses, might as well get them on sale!

*Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with nor getting paid by BCBG for this plug. I like the store and I just got an e-mail about their sale, so I just thought I'd pass it on :-)

DC Events: Foss Marai Wine Dinner @ PS7's Tomorrow

A bit last minute, but I received an e-mail from the PS7's restaurant mailing list this morning about a 5-Course Wine Dinner that will be taking place tomorrow, June 24th. Here's the e-mail with the details:

5 Course Wine Dinner
Wednesday, June 24th
Cocktails at 6:30pm / Dinner at 7:00pm

PS 7's is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a 5 course wine dinner with the winemakers at Foss Marai, an Italian producer of top quality prosecco. Foss Marai is brought to us by our friends at Tannic Tongue who brought us Jill Klein from Matthiasson last month. This is a great opportunity to try some small production, high quality prosecco masterfully paired with Chef Peter Smith's cuisine.

Cost is $95.00 plus tax and gratuity. Cocktails are additional.
Please call us at 202-742-8550 for reservations, or email alexosgood@ps7restaurant.com

Monday, June 22, 2009

Food Review: Edy's Slow-Churned Nestle Drumstick Flavor

The mise en place (ha)

  • I Paid: $2.99 + tax (on sale with my Safeway card)
  • Description on the container: Vanilla Light Ice Cream With Fudge Swirls, Chocolaty Coated Peanuts and Cone Pieces.

The idea for this blog really came from this item, which I came across earlier this morning via Hungry Girl. As soon as I read about the new "limited edition" flavors, I would be trying one ASAP. As fate (or Safeway's management) would have it, all of the Edy's ice creams were on sale (with a membership card) for $2.99- A-MA-ZING. Usually these tubs o' fabulous are upwards of $6.50, so I took this as a sign that I MUST try it tonight. After some mental deliberation I picked up the Nestle Drumstick flavor- it's prob one of my favorite ice cream treats from the ice cream trucks/pool-side snack shacks from when I was younger, after all. Thinking back on this, I probably had waaaay too high expectations for the ice cream...but I digress.


The vanilla and "fudge" was pretty typical of Edy's flavors that I've had before- sweet, sorta strange consistency of "fudge", pretty standard for mass-produced ice cream. I appreciate the creaminess of it, considering the relatively good stats compared to full-fat ice creams. The cone pieces were tiny slivers of sugar-flavored styrofoam coated in chocolate, while the peanuts provided a little bit of saltiness and some crunch. Obviously, since the cone pieces are packed into the ice cream, it's hard to imagine they would still be crunchy. But I wasn't expecting it to be so... squeaky.

Final Verdict? I had way too high expectations for this ice cream. I thought it would be a party of texture, thick fudge, and all-over yumminess. Basically, I was hoping for an actual Nestle Drumstick to be shoved into an Edy's tub. Would I buy it again? Probably not. Am I still going to polish off the $2.99 (!!) tub? Heck yeah!

And so it begins...

Starting a blog always seemed like starting a journal. You get a sudden rush of inspiration, think grandiose thoughts of how you'll update with witty entries every day, and 2 months later, you can't even remember the last time you thought to write anything. Hopefully, this won't be the case.

The main reason I'm doing this is as an extension of the multitudes of e-mails I send my dear friends every day. Some people in the world are the type that are easily swayed by packaging, judging a book by its proverbial cover every chance they have. Others are the type that like to broadcast opinions and commentary on everyday findings. As many of my friends know by now, I'm a volatile combination of both. Most of my e-mails start with "LOOK AT THIS" or "AHHHH!!!! " (sad but true), and describe either my intense passionate love or absolute hatred of my latest impluse buy, or random commentary on other blogs/websites/celebrity news. Basically, this blog is a way for me to put this information out without sending 23984389473478 separate e-mails. And hey, hopefully some of it will be useful to someone out there :-)