Uruguay: Gas Station Sandwiches

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During this food adventure I have enjoyed the many random places we have found cuisines.  This one in particular is one of the best and most original.  Not only is it owner of one of the best sandwiches in DC, it is in a gas station.  That’s right this “restaurant”, Fast Gourmet (fastgourmetdc.com) is hidden behind a Valero near U street.

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Fast Gourmet might be the only gas station in DC I would happily go to in order to get a satisfying meal.  Not only do they make great sandwiches, they specialize in a Uruguayan delicacy.  This sandwich is called a Chivito.

The chivito is a national dish that is served in places all over Uruguay.  This sandwich is quite large and greasy, just the way I like it.  The main protein is a grilled tenderloin topped with so many ingredients I lost count while chewing.  The steak is topped with mozzarella, ham, bacon, green olives, hard boiled eggs, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo.  It is also layered with a special sauce called “escabeche.”  This is a mix of peppers, onions, and garlic in olive oil.  This is all piled in a soft bun that is lightly toasted, resulting in a taste like a crescent roll.

Mostly these sandwiches are served with a side of fries, which I ordered.  As you might guest the sandwich pictured up top on left.  For some reason mine looks much cheesier and greasier; however, this didn’t stop me from eating it before Bridget started her 2nd half.  Bridget went with the typical South American side of plantains.  Which from what she says was a great call and went well with the chivito.

Can’t imagine I’ll find another gas station that has such a tasty sandwich much less any food.  Wawa might be second in line but the gap is quite big.

-Matt

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Ecuador: That Unknown South American Country

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Due to the physical nature of my job there is high risk of me getting hurt. Thanks to spending Saturday night in the emergency room for a hand I thought I broke at work, I was home all day.  Now don’t get me wrong, getting hurt started my vacation early and I was quiet happy to be home.  However, my ADD just didn’t agree with me.  I thought there was no better way to keep busy than cooking a cuisine from a random country.  I went with the most obscure South American country, Ecuador. More on the obscurity of Ecuador later.

I’ve really become a big fan of anything from Central or South America.  The type of spices used in these dishes are by far my favorite.  Anything with cumin or that infamous red paste, Achiote, is a winner to me.  Being a native of Miami, I am familar with eating these flavors but I really do guinely love them. My familiarity with many of the herbs and spices used in this region keeps me comfortable in the kitchen.

Today’s surprise treat for Bridget when she got off work was a home cooked meal of Ecuadorian cuisine.  I mean what could be better than coming home to a meal freshly cooked ready to eat after a long Monday at the office?

DC has a wide variety of Hispanic markets in the area and one of the best is in Mount Pleasant.  The same place I got the special sauce for gallo pinto was where I went to find these special ingredients.  Overall, there was nothing too special in the ingredients I couldn’t find at a regular grocery other than the Achiote paste.  However, I figured a one stop shop at a Hispanic market is the best place for Ecuadorian food.

The protein served with the meal was Bistec de Palomilla, basically a flat steak.  The steak was marinated in a delicious seasoning through out the day.  I grilled the steak later in the night for just a few minutes.  The flavor on the steak was outstanding and I always appreciate a nicely cooked South American steak.

As most dishes in South America are, this was served with rice and beans.  The Ecuadorian style I made was a red lentil stew called Menestra de Lentejas.  The veggies are simmered in bacon fat and then mixed with lentils and water.  Simmer for about an hour or so, top with cilantro and you have a delicious style of beans to top over rice.

Usually with our cuisines we make sure there is a green veggie to go with it.  Another way to go is what I like to call the “South American banana”: plantains. I went a different way with this recipe and added a twist.  The dish was called Plantanos Asados con Queso.  A simple translation is “baked plantains with cheese.”  I chose very ripe plantains, peeled them, soaked them in butter and when done stuffed them with thick queso.

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Now what is better than something smothered in butter and stuffed with cheese?  OK, maybe bacon.

What I enjoyed the most was the ride home after picking Bridget up from work.  I gave her three guesses to figure out which country I cooked tonight.  After failing the first three times I let her keep going.  After the 20 minute drive home she named every country in South America other than the one we had tonight, the most unknown.

– Matt

United Kingdom: Sunday Roast & Liverpool Football

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I always thought the main cuisine you eat in United Kingdom was “fish and chips.” Apparently the “Sunday roast” is a tradition in the British world that was started back in the day after church services.  The traditional Sunday roast is served with a roasted meat, roasted potatoes and vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and a hefty serving of gravy.  It then follows with arguments between family members, lots of alcohol, and plenty of football on TV.  Luckily for us we found a local British pub that combines all this, The Queen Vic (www.thequeenvicdc.com). The Queen Vic is a local British pub on H Street in DC.  So we made the short drive over there for the Sunday roast.  What we did not know was that this pub was a Liverpool bar.  I noticed there were many red shirts and people yelling at a TV early in the day on a Sunday, not knowing there was a soccer match on.

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As most people might know I don’t like soccer or football, whatever you wanna call it.  It is just people running back and forth to end in a 0-0 draw.  Someone needs to tell me the point.  However, this is the most watched sport in the world and I will just have to live with that.

One of my favorite things about the UK is the beer choices.  I do enjoy myself a nice English pale ale every now and then.  The one that caught my eye was an ale made by Black Sheep called: Monty Python’s Holy Grail ale.  The only way this could be more British is if it was called Benny Hill ale.  Bridget ordered a cider for her beverage of choice from William Sir Perry, pear flavored.

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I think Bridget’s favorite part of this meal was choosing what to get off the menu.  For the Sunday roast you get either beef or lamb, only decision you had to make.  Bridget is not a fan of too many choices, so this one decision might of been her easiest at a restaurant.  I decided to go for the lamb and Bridget went for the beef for our Sunday roasts. The roasts were served in two large bowls with basically gravy on everything (not complaining.)  The lamb and beef were very tender and had a flavor only a person with taste buds would enjoy.  The potatoes were roasted in duck fat so I don’t even have to explain how good they were.  The mixed veggies were enjoyable but somewhat odd in the gravy.

As we were enjoying our roasts,  Liverpool scored or someone faked an injury I’m not too sure.  The game ended in the most exciting way possible in sports, a tie!!!! I just don’t get it. However, I totally understood why people did this on Sundays in the UK.  After eating this heavy meal, there is no way to get off the couch and you can enjoy the futbal matches all day happily filled with food and beer.  Even though I could live this each Sunday, I’m gonna stick with my fat American food and REAL football on Sundays in the fall.  I will sneak in an English ale in that mix every now again though.

-Matt

Ethiopia: Spongy Bread

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Turns out DC is home to a giant population of Ethiopians. The population here is second in size only to Ethiopia. In fact the Ethiopian mafia runs the taxi system in the greater Washington area as well. Thankfully Uber has removed the need to hail a taxi that may or may not be in said mafia. Coincidentally, there is also a large number of Ethiopian restaurants in the area.  Thanks to recommendations by friends we chose to go to Zenebach (www.zenebachdc.com).

One group of friends I will always listen to when it comes to food recommendations is Michael and Mary DeVito.  Their knowledge of good food in the area is better than anyone else that I know of.  They recommended Zenebach to us and met us there for an early dinner on a rainy Wednesday.

We started the meal with a few different types of Ethiopian beers.  Bridget ordered a Meta premium and I got a Harar.  Both beers went well with the food and enhanced the meal.

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I always enjoy going out ell eat with the DeVitos because there is never a need to look at the menu.  As soon as they told us what was good we knew that was what we were going to order.  We started with an appetizer of veggie sambusa.  Veggie sambusa is a fried triangle pastry that is filled with spiced lentils.  Unfortunately they forgot to bring these out as an appetizer but they were enjoyed nonetheless with the meal.

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If you tell me that I can eat my entire meal with no silverware then I’m 100% in.  In traditional Ethiopian cuisine they serve a huge platter with a spongy flat bread that covers the entire surface area, called Injera.

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The Injera is then topped with different meats and vegetables.  The food is shared with the entire table. Everyone dives in and eats with their hands.  The injera is broken apart and used as a substitute for a fork.  On top of our injera we ordered derek tibs, curry goat, and kitfo.

Derek tibs is ground lamb mixed with onions, jalapenos and tomatoes.  The curry goat was served as a stew in a small bowl.  The kitfo was the most interesting part of the meal.  Kitfo is a minced meat that can be served many different ways, one is raw.  Hearing that this was an option we thought, what the hell why not.

The kitfo was much different than anything I’ve ever had but it was delicious.  By then end of the meal I wanted to soak the rest of the injera in the curry goat stew because it was so good.  With these meats we were also given a side of spinach, potatoes and lentils.  The injera tends to help fill you up and by the end of our meal we were so stuffed, but quite happily.

The rain was gone, the injera was demolished, the beer was enjoyed.  After having our second African restaurant we are looking forward towards our next meal from this continent.

-Matt

Scratch Map update: 24 down and no Jack Bauer in site

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As we head into May the Eat Around The World challenge has grown to 24 countries completed so far.

We have enjoyed cuisines from so many different countries.  From Greece to Laos all the way to New Zealand!  Enjoyed meat pies, schnitzel, & an amazing dish called khachapuri.

With our taste buds flavored with such deliciousness we have had a failure in Burma as well.  Dominos did a great job to save the night on that day.

We are looking towards what is ahead in the next few months.  Soon to be enjoyed out in the DMV area is: Ethiopia, United Kingdom and Russia!  While at home we plan to make some Ecuadorian, South African, maybe even some poutine from Canada!  Hope you are all enjoying this blog and even learning a thing or two like we are.

-Matt