CityZen – Washington DC

I had a world-class meal at CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC last week.  This restaurant is consistently in the top 10 for DC.  The chef is CIA trained, and has worked at Spago, French Laundry and PerSe.  The menu is farm-to-table oriented, but with creative touches.  There is a set tasting menu and you can also choose four courses from a semi-ala-carte menu.  Excellent wine list.  Great cocktails.  Lovely ambiance.  Wonderful service.  I thought all the food had real clarity, great depth of flavor.  Made my day.  Highly recommended.

What we ate and drank:


Amuse Bouche of Squash puree


YUBA WRAPPED CRAB ROLL – Marinated Kohlrabi Salad and Nani Winarni’s Indonesian Peanut Sauce

SWEET BUTTER POACHED MAINE LOBSTER – Turkish Eggplant, Sweet Peppers and Coconut Curry Emulsion

Domaine Roger-Joseph Belland Morgeot-Clos Pitois Monopole, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, France

BRAISED OAKLEIGH FARM VEAL SHOULDER – Yukon Gold Potato Risotto and Arrowleaf Spinach Duxelles

Hirsch Vineyards “San Andreas” Pinot Noir 2009

DELICIOUS Parker House Rolls!  Melt in your mouth!

VALRHONA CHOCOLATE BRIOCHE – Roasted White Chocolate and Whole Milk Ice Cream

Petite Fours


Annoying Cocktail Trends

Have you had cotton candy dissolved in your martini?  Marshmallow flavored vodka?  Drinks with so many ingredients you want another drink before the Mixologist has made your first one?

Somehow I have the patience for trendy food, but not so much patience for trendy booze.  Give me a bartender rather than a mixologist, and a cocktail with no more than 4 ingredients, served in a glass I can hold comfortably.  Not a mason jar!  Unless I’m drinking sweet tea in the southeastern US. 🙂  And get me my drink now!  Don’t like waiting 10-15 minutes and paying $18 for a drink with well brands.

LOVED this article on Zagat about the 10 most annoying cocktail trends.  If you are younger than 35, you probably disagree with me!  That’s fine.  I’ll drink to that!

9 Basic Traits of Wine

I love the Snooth web site and its wine writer Gregory dal Piaz.  In an article today called 9 Basic Traits of Wine, Greg, or GDP as Snooth calls him, reveals in very simple terms, how wine can be tasted according to these 9 traits: Acid, Tannin, Sweetness, Oak, Spicy Flavor, Savory Flavor, Fruity Flavor, Intensity of Flavor and Weightiness in the Mouth.

I’ve never seen such a simple, common sense explanation.  This will enhance my enjoyment of wine!  I encourage you to read this.

Stir Fry Beef & Vegetables

Stir fry dishes can be really easy if you think in these terms:

Protein, veggies, sauce, speed.

The protein can be beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu.  I typically marinate the protein in some of the sauces I will use for just a few minutes to several hours.  Then, the protein is cooked lightning fast when your wok or saucepan is very hot, and put back in with the veggies and sauce. The veggies have to all be chopped and ready to go.  Cook the ones that take a little longer first (like onion, carrot, broccoli), and the quicker-cooking ones last (mushrooms, cabbage).  Make your sauce with the last cooked veggies, then dump everything back together, adjust flavor and thickness (with dissolved cornstarch), and you are done.

Here is last night’s recipe for stir fry beef with veggies (5-6 entrée portions)

1 1/3 lb steak (I used skirt steak, but you can use any cut that works for you), sliced into ½”x ½” x 2” strips.

4 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive oil) for high temp cooking

4 cups broccoli florets

2 cups sliced onions ( 1 large onion – I use Maui or other sweet onion – sliver them the long way)

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

½ head of cabbage, shredded

3 Shiitake mushrooms, stem removed, sliced into ½” strips

1 ½  cup chicken stock (or half white wine / half stock if you prefer)

3 tbsp corn starch, dissolved in warm water, divided

4 cloves garlic, crushed

½’ knob of ginger, minced

2 Fresno (or other mild) chiles, seeded, minced

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp gyoza sauce (or something with vinegar)

4 tbsp  schezuan sauce, divided

4 tbsp soy sauce, divided


Prepare all veggies and have ready for cooking.  Marinate sliced beef in: 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1 clove garlic, crushed, 2 tbsp schezuan sauce.

Heat wok or deep angle-side 12” saucepan (this is what I use – gets hotter than my wok!).   Keep an 8 qt. stock pot nearby – you will use this at the end.

You will now be cooking 4-5 batches of food, and dumping each pan full into a stainless steel bowl.  Add 1 tbsp of beef, and stir fry 2 minutes until just when red is gone from outside of meat.  Don’t overcook!  The meat will continue to cook while it sits, and will then fully cook when combined with veggies and sauce.  Cook beef in batches – don’t fill up the pan.  Put cooked beef in large stainless steel bowl nearby.

Keep pan hot, add 1 tbsp oil and stir fry onions & carrots, about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger and peppers for just the last minute.  Do not burn the garlic!  Turn into bowl with beef.  Add more oil, and stir fry the broccoli, 3-4 minutes.  More oil, stir fry the mushrooms.  Now we make the sauce – the mushrooms will drink it up!  Add fish sauce, gyoza sauce, schezuan sauce, soy sauce (or any Asian flavor combo you like – about ¼-1/3 cup total).  Add 1 cup broth/stock/wine.  Bring to boil, add dissolved corn starch in batches until the sauce is the thickness you like.  Add more broth or cornstarch to adjust.  Put stockpot on stove and heat. To your saucepan with mushrooms and sauce, add cabbage, and stir until just wilted.  Turn into bowl with beef.

Take the whole bowl of food, and dump into heated stock pot.  Raise heat to medium, stir together about 2-3 minutes until everything is hot.  Adjust thickness of sauce if desired.  Add ½ tsp cracked black pepper.


Serve over rice.

Sausage with Baked Penne in Spinach Bechamel



4 servings (plus leftovers on casserole)

1 lb whole wheat penne
5 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low fat milk (or more if needed)
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
8 oz. Shredded mozzarella cheese
6 oz. Shredded Parmesan cheese
1 jar basic pasta sauce (Whole Foods 365 brand recommended), divided per below
1 jar sundried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped.
2 oz basil leaves, minced
5 oz fresh spinach leaves
1/4 tsp crushed pepper flakes
1/4 tsp oregano

4 large links of Italian Sausage (chicken or pork) – about 1 1/4 lb. I used two of each.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10×13 casserole with olive oil.

Bring to boil 6 qts of salted water in a large pasta pot.

Heat 4 tbsp EVOO in deep saucepan. Add 1/4 cup flour and stir almost constantly, cooking for about 5 minutes until roux begins to darken slightly. Do not let flour burn. add 2 cups of milk very gradually, whisking constantly. [around this time, drop your pasta in the boiling water]. To the white sauce, add crushed garlic. Add 6 oz of the shredded mozzarella and 4 oz of the Parmesan, whisking to keep smooth. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce. Add chopped sundried tomatoes, chopped basil and whole leaf spinach. Add more milk if required, to get smooth consistency (I added almost another cup). Stir to wilt. Add crushed pepper and oregano. You may add other Italian seasonings to taste, but if your pasta sauce is good, you won’t need to.

Drain pasta, and pour into sauce. Stir to coat. Pour into oiled casserole dish. Top with 2 oz mozzarella and 2 oz Parmesan. Bake for 30 min. At 350. While the pasta is baking, brown the sausage (whole links) in 1 tbsp of EVOO, being careful not to burn. Watch out for splatter. I covered this pan. Rotate the sausage 3 times to get evenly browned, about 8 minutes. Slice the sausage into 1″ chunks, return to pan, add 3 cups (rest of jar) of pasta sauce. Bring sauce to simmer, lower heat, cover and heat through, about 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered.


Remove casserole from oven, and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Serve wedge with about 8 pcs of sausage (equivalent to one large sausage per person), and ladle a bit of the sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Mangia!


Friday Inspiration – Finding Beauty



Finding Beauty

Where others see only the ordinary, or find something to criticize, may we always strive to find BEAUTY.


This Photo (and others) by Jon Smith  available on Instacanvas