Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ethiopian Food 411: Flies Optional

Last summer, my sister and I had the pleasure of going on a DC Metro Food Tour of Little Ethiopia (U St. through Shaw).

Considering when I think of anything Ethiopian, I think of parking garages, flies and raw meat; I wasn't really sure what to expect. Spicy? Salty? Heartburn?

Luckily, both my sister and I are too hungry at any point in time to be closed-minded. We went, ate with our hands and loved it every second - raw meat and all.

It's been about a year since our first fly-free Ethiopian feast, so we were craving the next dose. We were also hoping to not have to trek it out in this insane heatwave to U St. for some kitfo too. Luckily, Meaza was closeby.

Not only was the food amazing, the portions were huge and the place was really nice. Like - not just devoid of flies - but a place you would go for dinner and not look like a shlub. Oh, and it was packed. On a Monday!

Kitfo, tibs, tomato salad and homemade cheese

Here's some easy choices if you're trying it out for the first time:
Sambusa - A deep fried pockety thing filled with lentils, onions and green peppers. A lot like the Indian samosa.
Kitfo - OK, this is not for the faint-hearted but it is deeee-licious. Raw ground beef flavored with traditional spices. Not really "heat" spicy and usually served with a mild cheese.
Tibs - This is what I normally order in lamb form. Basically just diced meat sauteed with onions, green peppers and garlic.
Doro wot - A red-colored stew with chicken, hard-boiled egg flavored with red pepper, onions and garlic.

Don't be scared little ones, you'll probably like it. And plus, eating with your hands is messy fun.

5700 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA 22941

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

He Likes It Better Raw: A Girl's First Duck Bacon at Toki Underground

The first time I went to Toki Underground for dinner, it was so good I ended up going back for drunken seconds a few hours later. That's - pretty serious.

I had a few friends that were dying to try it, so what better time to take them than when the Cooking Channel would be there filming for Unique Eats? Granted, we had to wait a buttload of time for our seats (not a surprise considering how intimate the space is in the tiny second floor resto above H St. bar, The Pug) but it we all agreed it was more than worth it.

Our prime seats overlooked the busy kitchen where massive vats of ramen broth, dumplings, kimchi and other badass Taiwanese-inspired yummies tempted our patiently waiting bellies. I familiarized my crew with the menu and then waited to hear the specials. That's when it happened.

DUCK BACON. @%#%&*^! That's right, one of the specials was a duck bacon add-on to the already amazeballs ramen. I died. 

That, with the kimchi ramen, blew my mind. I slurped, sipped and sweated (it was hot by that kitchen!) my way to happiness.
Order this. Trust me.

Kimchi ramen with duck bacon

Close-up, NOM

Dessert bento box with pork fat caramel, coconut ice cream, candied jelly and dark chocolate wasabi truffle

After asking Chef Erik Bruner-Yang - fresh off his close-up - when it would return and fill my life with happiness once again, I was informed it would probably be around mid-August since it needs to be cured for about two weeks. He also caught me off-guard when he said it was better... raw.

Chef, I'm usually not that kind of girl, but I trust you.

He hands me a piece of said glorious duck bacon uncooked, just cured, and dammit, he was right. It was like duck prosciutto heaven. Salty, buttery, fatty and overall divine. I died all over again.

Even if you're too prude for raw duck bacon, you should still go. Now.

Toki Underground
1234 H St NE, 2nd Fl
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 388-3086

Saturday, July 16, 2011

White Girl Problems: A Week in OBX

Some people might refer to me as a "twinkie."

That racist slur would, in fact, assert that I am "yellow" on the outside because Asian people are obviously yellow-skinneded, and then that I am white, or Caucasian, on the inside. As much as I would like to sometimes dispute this allegation, the fact of the matter is that yes, I, and my family no less, have somewhat assimilated to the Caucasian race. (Granted, these slur-slinging individuals have probably never seen me on a dance floor, when provoked or the neighborhood I grew up in.)

Nonetheless, a perfect example of this assimilated behavior could be my family's latest vacation to the Outer Banks, NC.  It was our first time to this beach destination and maybe we were unaware that the amount of ethnic people within a span of say, 100 miles, could be counted on one hand. We were, of course, OK with this and found solace in the jealously that would inevitably arise regarding our ability to tan more quickly.

Though we may sometimes act like "white people," our eating habits are 100% inherently Filipino and we would do no less than some serious, serious damage to the OBX food scene. Luckily, the food was really, freakin, good. Here were our favorites:
  • Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar: It's all about the oysters and steamer combos here. We had a long wait for our table but there's a pretty fun bar upstairs where you can get apps with an oceanfront view.
  • Mulligan's: Also a great spot for super fresh seafood, but the actual location is great too. Huge portions, so come hungry.
  • Mama Kwan's: I've been craving good fish tacos since I was in San Diego a few months ago and the ones here still can't touch Pacific Beach's, but definitely satisfied my craving.
  • Rundown Cafe: Awesome little place serving Caribbean style food. Definitely go for the rundown soup - a coconut milk based seafood soup with a kick.
  • Outer Banks Brewing Station: It's completely wind-powered, how green! I wish I cared more but all I really need to remember is how good the beer went with their calamari and how consistently good everything else was on the menu inspired by their Asian chef. (I bet he's been called a twinkie too, just saying.)
  • Firefly Southern Cuisine: I'll be thinking about this plantation-style resto for weeks. Best Southern food fix ever, hands down.
  • Goombay's: The best kind of surprise. Small and unassuming but with totally kickass decor. The food was fun, fresh and totally inventive. Make sure to peep the daily specials - they're totally drool-worthy.
Seared tuna appetizer from Goombay's

Steamer combo from Mulligans - clams, oysters, shrimp and crab legs

Broiled seafood platter from Mulligan's - shrimp, scallops, crabcake, fresh catch of the day

Steamer combo from Awful Arthur's

Shrimp and grits from Firefly

Deep fried Moon pie from Firefly

Thai money bags and seared tuna from Mama Kwan's
Overall, the seafood was pretty amazing everywhere (the effing clams will haunt me they were so good) and we'll probably go back next summer. Does this mean I have to slap a OBX sticker on my car now?