Thursday, March 28, 2013

Art and Soul Re-Opening Party

Pin It Now!

On Tuesday night we had the pleasure of attending Chef Art Smith's re-opening of his restaurant on Capital Hill, Art and Soul. The restaurant serves upscale Southern Cuisine and had been closed for the last month for renovations. The event featured a number of passed hors d'oeuvres, beer and champagne tastings, and a full open bar. With all of the good food floating around, we wished we'd had the chance to try it all! We will definitely be back to check out the full menu!

Here are a couple highlights:

Flying Fish IPA tasting!

Delicious spread of baked goods: muffins, scones, and danish. Not exactly Passover friendly! 

Deviled eggs! These had the perfect hint of mustard seasoning. They were so good we hoped to go back for more but they were all gone! 

Smoked salmon spread on a toasty cracker.

Goat cheese quiche. These were our least favorite dish. We found the shells to be dry and the filling bland.  

On the contrary, this pulled pork biscuit was our favorite dish! The pulled pork was topped with a teensy bit of relish that added just enough acidity and brightness to an otherwise heavy dish. 

Talk about heavy dishes, this is a deep friend andouille sausage croquette.  Amanda loved them, Liz was not a fan.

Lastly, this kind gentleman let us try two different kinds of Gruet champange! They were both delicious!

Not pictured here is the goody bag that we were sent away with. It included a red pepper jelly, mix for grits, a tea sampler, a travel coffee mug, and a couple of other treats! It was really so generous. The event had a great turn out and we were so glad to be a part of the re-opening festivities! Congrats to Chef Art Smith and his team at Art and Soul on a successful event! 

Liz & Amanda

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

El Chucho: Tacos for Hipsters & Giveaway Winner Announced

Pin It Now!

First of all, we'd like the congratulate the winner of our first Cook Book Giveaway, Grace from Practicing Grace! We numbered the comments we received and used a random number generator to pick our winner. Please send us an e-mail to tell us which cook book you would like. Thanks to all of you who participated!

A few weeks ago, I had a serious craving for tacos. Lucky for me, there are a ton of places to find good ones around town! To satisfy this craving, I enlisted my friend Kristen to seek out one of the more authentic taco places in Columbia Heights, a historically Hispanic neighborhood in DC. After reading endless Yelp reviews, I finally decided on a little "hole in the wall" establishment named El Rinconcito Deportivo. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found the doors locked, lights off, and a legal notice tacked to the front door. 

As we peered down 11th Street, we realized we were only one block over from El Chucho - another Mexican restaurant that had caught my eye on Yelp. Considering the number of authentic Latin restaurants in the neighborhood, I have to admit it felt a little weird to be eating Mexican food in a place owned by a woman named "Greenbaum" but it was cold out and we were hungry so we just went for it. 

El Chucho is tiny, brightly colored, and filled with tequila. The only thing rivaling the number of tequila bottles on the walls is the number of 20-somethings donning plaid shirts and horn-rimmed glasses tucked inside. That said, this place is doing something cool. If you are looking for Coca-Cola products, you best take your business elsewhere. They serve traditional and modern Mexican dishes, as well as craft soda and a variety of fun cocktails. 

Kristen and I first started out with the guacamole and chips. El Chucho seems to use a pretty traditional guacamole recipe, but it was very tasty. The homemade chips were perfectly crunchy and didn't leave any grease on your fingers- my mark of a good chip! 

Image Courtesy of Food Spotting

We then got Huaraches. Huaraches are similar to a flatbread, made of masa flour, and fried until golden and crispy. These ones were extra crispy. They were topped with pickled shallots, queso fresco, and a flavorful leaf called epazote and served with a mole dipping sauce. Personally, I thought they were a little too crunchy, but the combination of toppings was delicious. The creaminess of the cheese really balanced the brininess of the pickled shallots. 

Next, we both got the Tacos De Pollo- chicken tacos. Each order came with two small tacos. The chicken was nicely marinated in a sofrito sauce of garlic, onions, peppers and tomato. They were topped with a little bit of cabbage and scallions that added just the right amount of crunch. These were delicious and totally satiated my taco craving. 

We felt we ordered the perfect amount of food for a very satisfying lunch. The prices were very reasonable, and the staff was pretty attentive. Although this place isn't the most authentic taco place in town, it certainly beats some of the alternatives (i.e. Lauriol Plaza or Alero) in depth of flavor and quality of ingredients. 

We'd love to hear from you; what do you think is the best taco place in DC? 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Roasted Tomato Soup

Pin It Now!

First off, yesterday fooDCrave had a birthday! We're 6 months up and running and we reached our goal of over 10,000 hits. To celebrate our readers, we're having ourselves a little competition where YOU can win a cookbook just for reading our blog! Check out the details here.

Now back to the tomato soup. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites and is the very definition of comfort food. It was inspired by Ina Garten's recipe, but is a slightly healthier version. I make this tomato soup every couple of weeks and almost always have a container of it in the freezer for lazy nights. The most amazing thing about this soup is how smooth it gets without adding butter or cream. Simply pureeing the ingredients gives you depth of flavor and a surprising creamy consistency. It's not only delicious, but healthy and filling.   

  • To make the tomato soup you will need:
  • 3 lbs fresh tomatoes-either plum, roma, or tomatoes on the vine
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 10-12 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz can plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups of fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

  • Before you start your prep, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the tomatoes into quarters. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup of  olive oil, salt and pepper, and half of the cloves of chopped garlic. 

Then pour the mixture of tomatoes and garlic onto a baking sheet and roast  in the oven for 30 minutes. 

While your tomatoes are roasting, chop 1/2 of a small yellow onion into small pieces.  Mince the remainder of your garlic cloves.

Then, in a large soup pot add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Saute the onions until they become soft and translucent. Then add the second half of the chopped garlic and the red pepper flakes and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Next, add the canned tomatoes, chopped basil, thyme, and stock into the pot and bring it up to a boil.

At this point your tomatos should be done roasting. Make sure to give them the full 30 minutes then pull the roasted tomatoes out of the oven. They should be a little wrinkled around the edges and completely soft.
Add the roasted tomatoes and the liquid on baking sheet into the soup pot. Bring the soup back up to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes take the pot off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. The next step is to puree the soup. If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the pot. 

If you have a regular blender, let the soup cool a little, fill the blender half way with the soup, and then puree it in small batches. The hot soup expands in the blender, so if you fill it all the way, you risk it exploding and splashing all over you and your kitchen. I am slightly embarrassed to admit I learned this the hard way! With the immersion blender, you'll be able to see the soup get creamy right in the pot. 

This soup is great on its own, but over the years I've served it with all sorts of additions: grated cheese, croutons, fresh bread, and pesto stirred in. Feel free to personalize it with your own toppings! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Giveaway: Happy 6 month birthday to fooDCrave!

Pin It Now!
Wow, where does the time go?  We can hardly believe that just six short months ago, fooDCrave was born.  It has been so much fun sharing our thoughts on restaurants, favorite recipes, and general musings with all of you.  Our readers are so important to us, and we are so grateful that you all take the time to stop by our little blog.

In honor of the blog's half birthday, we are doing a giveaway!  It will be open to any reader with a shipping address in the continental United States.  In order to be eligible for entry you must do the following:
  • Like us on Twitter or Facebook (We'll need proof of this if you win!)
  • Leave a comment answering one of the following questions: 
    • What is your favorite food memory?  OR 
    • What is a recipe you'd like to see featured on fooDCrave?
  • Be sure to check back in one week -March 20th at 12pm- when we announce the winner!  If you win, contact us at to provide your shipping address!
  • Entries will be accepted until 9:00 PM on March 19th.
And now, for the good stuff.  The winner will have the option to choose one of the following cookbooks.  We will confirm with the winner which book they'd like when he/she is chosen.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Image courtesy of Graffito
So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week
Image courtesy of B&N

Good luck!  And thanks again for stopping by!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Pin It Now!
Image courtsey of Citypeek
A few weeks ago, my dad and I met in Frederick, Maryland to celebrate my 26th birthday at VOLT Restaurant.  Frederick is a quaint town about an hour outside DC.  I love going there on the weekends; it reminds me of the downtown area of my hometown Lancaster, PA.   

Admittedly, the two previous times that I traveled to this area of Maryland were both to eat at VOLT.  I still couldn't have been more excited to head out there again to dine at this amazing restaurant.  I learned about VOLT in true Top Chef fan style when Owner and Executive Chef Bryan Voltaggio appeared on the sixth season of the show.  I was a huge fan of his throughout the season and made it a point to visit his restaurant as soon as I could.  I was not, and have never been, disappointed at this farm-to-table style restaurant.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Their food is truly art - both visually and in terms of taste. 

My dad and I chose the brunch option and each of us started with a Bloody Mary. The only fair way to describe this drink is that it tastes as though fresh tomatoes were pureed on request and the seasonings were picked from a garden moments before making the drink.  It is the freshest and most vibrant Bloody Mary I have ever tasted.  I have not been able to find one that comes in at a close second.  

Along with our drinks, we were served crunchy bread sticks and got to choose from an artisan style bread basket.  I went with a cheddar biscuit, and my dad opted for a blue cheese and bacon biscuit.  Both were fluffy and flavorful.  

The brunch at VOLT is a prix fixe option (either three courses for $35 or five courses for $55--we went with three). For my first course, I opted for the mushroom ravioli.  The cheese was extremely rich, while the delicateness of the mushroom offered the perfect compliment, resulting in a harmonious balance of flavors. The light cream sauce was the perfect touch.  

My dad chose the beet salad as his first course.  Similar to the Bloody Mary, it tasted as though the beets had just been plucked from the garden and sliced up on demand.  I am normally not a huge fan of beets, but the acidity of the beets and navel oranges was balanced nicely with the goat cheese.  This plate truly embodies the artistry of the chefs.  I watched them use tweezers to delicately  place the herbs on the plate--not an inch of food went onto the plate without thought behind it.

For the second course, we both chose the lobster omelet with hash brown side.  This dish truly put any other omelet I've ever had to shame.  The eggs were so perfectly yellow that it almost looked like a food prop!  I also wish I had thought to ask the chef how he got the omelet to take form so perfectly.  Aside from the presentation, the flavors were spot on.  The lobster was fresh and complimented the egg and cheese.  No one ingredient overpowered the other, each bite was perfectly balanced and tasty.  The hash browns were a grown-up version of the typical dish.

For dessert, my dad got the gingerbread financier cake along with homemade ice cream.  I'm not normally a huge fan of gingerbread, but the cake and ice cream combination was so delicious.  The cake was moist and the ice cream was perfect in texture.  

Although I normally opt for a sweet dessert, I decided to go with the cheese plate.  There were two blue cheeses, two varieties of cheddar, and one other creamy cheese, but I can't quite recall the name.  The cheese was served with walnut toast.  I only took a few bites of each cheese because I was SO full by this point in the meal.  While I did enjoy each blue cheese, none of the others really stood out to me.  This was probably the low point in the meal for me, and definitely not the best cheese plate I've had.  

Overall,  VOLT is one of the best brunch options I've found in the DC area.  While it is a bit of a trek to get out there, it is well worth the drive.  And sometimes it is nice to get out of the city and try something new.  If you do go there, make sure to ask to sit in the back dining room so you can watch the chefs in action!

Next up on my list is to try out Voltaggio's new restaurant Range.  Have you been?  What other restaurants outside of DC do you recommend trying?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Indian Chickpea & Lentil Stew

Pin It Now!

Guys, I am officially in mourning for my slow cooker. This recipe was the first and last time I used the slow cooker I bought last November. As I was rinsing out the ceramic bowl of my slow cooker, it accidentally slipped out of my hands and broke into a million tiny pieces all over my kitchen floor. Catastrophe. And I watched the whole thing happen in slow motion. Looks like I'll be making future stews in my dutch oven. RIP slow cooker.

Despite this recipe costing me my slow cooker and a cut finger, I am going to say it is cost-efficient, healthy, easy-to-make, and totally delicious. My friend Manasi and I are constantly trading vegetarian recipes over e-mail. When we came across this one, we decided to take advantage of a three day weekend by hanging out, catching up, and attempting to make her Indian parents proud with this Whole Foods version of channa masala.


This hearty stew consists of chickpeas and lentils that are slow cooked all day in an Indian-spiced tomato puree until they are completely soft and ready to be scooped up by garlic naan

We followed the recipe pretty closely, only omitting black olives because I am not a huge olive fan. We prepared the stew in the morning and let it cook all day in the slow cooker. We each went about our days and then Manasi came back over for dinner that evening! 

To make the stew you will need:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
1 chile pepper, such as a Serrano or red chile pepper  
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons garam masala (find it in the spice aisle of any supermarket)
1/4 cup sesame seeds 
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
1/2 cup dried red lentils 
28 ounce can tomato puree 
2 cups vegetable broth 
1/2 cup low-fat yogurt 
Kosher salt to taste

First chop up all of your vegetables and garlic. Then, in a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and saute until they are soft and translucent.  

Next, add the chopped chile pepper, garlic cloves, the garam masala, and the sesame seeds into the pan. Saute for about 3-5 minutes, until the chile pepper softens. Then add the onion and garlic mixture into your slow cooker.

Rinse and drain the can of chickpeas and measure out the dried lentils.

Then add the chickpeas, lentils, vegetable broth, and can of tomato puree into the slow cooker. Turn your slow cooker onto low and set the timer for 8 hours. 

Go about the rest of your day!

When there are 15 minutes left on the timer, stir 1/2 cup of low-fat yogurt into the stew. Ladle into individual bowls and add salt to taste!  

Serve with warm naan or pita bread. We used garlic naan from Trader Joes. I loved how simple and tasty this recipe was! It is also inexpensive, high in fiber, and low in fat. If only I hadn't broken my slow cooker in the process . . . I'd be making this more often!