Czech Republic: A Hot Summer Night

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As summer in DC sweltered on, Matt and I got a rare treat on a Tuesday night. He was off work before 11PM and there was a band playing at the Black Cat that we wanted to see. We decided to make a whole night of it and check out a Czech restaurant before the show.

I’ve passed Bistro Bohem on Florida Ave in the Shaw neighborhood at least a 100 times. I’d often wondered about it but never thought to check it out until Matt mentioned they had authentic Czech food. Matt dropped me off so I could make our reservation and he could go find parking.

I sat down and perused the drink and appetizer menu for a bit while I waited. After about 15 minutes of waiting (parking in DC is tricky sometimes) my patience waned and the heat over came me. I needed a cocktail. Did I mention it’s been a long, hot summer in DC?

The Czech 75, Becherovka C and sparkling wine, sounded like it would help cool me down. I didn’t actually know what becherovka was until Matt mentioned it’s traditionally an after dinner drink. But it taste great with sparkling wine, it had a bit of a cinnamon aftertaste. I’m not sure if it cooled me off or just made me tipsy enough to not care about the heat anymore.

Matt ordered a Czech beer, Kusovice Inperial, he said it tasted like the Miller Lite of the Czech Republic. Or maybe that was some other beer from some other restaurant, he says that a lot…

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Since we were both starving, I thought I would order an appetizer in the hopes that it would arrives at the table around the same time Matt did. That was wishful thinking, but when I appetizer did arrive, it was delicious. I ordered a dish called rarasek. Here’s the description from their menu: chicken breast tenders wrapped in marjoram seasoned potato pancakes served with aiolli. This description does not do this dish justice. The chicken tenders were lightly fried in a crispy potato crust which gave them a light flavor that didn’t sit heavily on this warm summer night.

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For my main course, I went the safe route (and maybe the too fried route) and ordered chicken schnitzel. It was made in a classic style with capers and a lemon sauce. I didn’t want to get another fried food with dinner, but our server recommended the frites as a side and I can’t turn down a good fry. The schnitzel wasn’t remarkable but the fries were delicious!

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Matt ordered something a little more outside of the box: Kneplo, Vepro, Zelo. This is considered the Czech national dish. Slow roasted pork is served with sauerkraut, red cabbage and bread dumplings. The pork was deliciously tender and well-spiced with unique flavors. The least enjoyed part of the plate was the bread dumplings. We likely did not eat them correctly because I’m sure soaked in the meat sauce, the bread dumplings would have been great. But we didn’t, we sort of just tried the bread on its own and were unimpressed with the lack of taste and texture.

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Finally, after dinner we enjoyed a Czech specialty, an herbal liqueur digestif: Becherovka. Since I already tasted this in my cocktail earlier in the evening, I wasn’t surprised that this drink had notes of cinnamon or some similar spice that gave it a nice kick. Matt thought it was delicious too.

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After we wrapped up dinner, we headed over to the Black Cat to enjoy Sonny and the Sunsets. They’re a band we came to know through Matt’s Christmas present, a vinyl record of the month club. We both really enjoy their vinyl but they we’re just OK live. It was great to get out to a show at the Black Cat but we headed home happy and full around 11PM.

-Bridget

Norway: Pancakes and Boredom

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After close to 40 different country cuisines it is starting to get harder to find something new.  Even harder than that is trying to find one that serves a traditional dish we can get for brunch.  Turns out we were able to find a Scandinavian restaurant, Domku, in the north part of DC that serves Norwegian food.

It also turns out that Domku (www.domkucafe.com) serves many cuisines from this region as well.  Trying to find a traditional Norwegian cuisine in this place wasn’t that easy but was done.  Bridget and I found a few but were not very impressed.  I think the 45 minutes might be stretching how long we stayed in here.  The best part of our visit were these awesome (slightly scary) paintings on the wall.

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The food was a bit boring and nothing very exciting. Bridget got Salmon Pytt I Panna, a hash flaked with salmon and a poached egg.  On that was a Dijonnaise sauce with roe.  Unsurprisingly, since this region of food is known for their seafood, the food was a bit fishy but overall enjoyed.

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I went a more traditional route and ordered something a big more sweet.  I got the Norwegian pancakes, which were a little something different than I expected.   It was served as a large flat pancake taking up the entire plate, with a large amount of fresh fruit in the middle.  Again, nothing too exciting looking about this meal.  Served with a side of lavender syrup (meh), I mixed up the fruit and rolled up the pancake.

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I have come to see the Scandinavian region has a pretty similar cuisine throughout.  I’m sure Norway and Domku have better and more traditional dishes they would recommend as well.  However, on our Norwegian morning out we did not encounter anything too exciting to enjoy.

-Matt

Morocco: Mediterranean Delivered to our Door

One thing I have come to learn about DC is that EVERYTHING is deliverable. Ordering pizza, Chinese food and other delivery food is usually unhealthy and not very fresh.  ScratchDC (www.scratchdc.com) has created a service that only delivers you fresh foods but its ready to be cooked when it arrives in the box.

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“WE CREATE FRESH DINNER KITS, DAILY THAT COME CHOPPED, MEASURED, MARINATED AND ARE DELIVERED READY TO COOK” – Scratch DC

As seen above the food is delivered in a box on our door step while we work. Ice packs in the box keep the ingredients cool while it’s out on the porch.  In this box is a brown box that contains the ingredients tied nicely with string.

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Inside this box is a large amount of fresh ingredients to make a meal to die for.  This boxed meal kit included fresh marinated chicken, couscous, and all the spices needed to make a fantastic Moroccan dish.

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This night Bridget cooked the dish while I was at softball.  We both went with the assumption we could enjoy it together when I get home.  Little did we know we would be taking a drive to the end of the metro line (more to come about this) instead.

This meal was very simple to make and Bridget threw it together with ease.  She pan fried the chicken and cooked the couscous in a pot.

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To go with the dish Bridget cooked up some greens (mostly kale and spinach.)  By the time it was done I should of been home from my softball game and enjoying dinner with Bridget.  However, I wouldn’t end up eating until 10pm, after a drive to the end of the metro line.

Why you ask?

Oh maybe I left my wallet on the train, which AMAZINGLY was found by a metro worker.  Nothing was missing from the wallet, not a cent.  After driving, happily, all the way out to Largo, I got my wallet back and headed back home to enjoy Bridget’s Moroccan dish.  Waiting for me was my dish to enjoy and hardly taste because I was so hungry and ate so fast.

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Thanks to Bridget’s excellent cooking and a squirt of lemon, this meal was a fantastic way to enjoy some of Morocco’s cuisine.

Of course you can’t end the night with just an amazing meal.  I surprised Bridget and went to a Mediterranean bakery the day before.  I brought home some freshly made baklava to go with this meal.  A wonderful sweet treat to have for dessert.

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Almond (top left), Pistachio (on right), Pecan (front left)

Dessert is always an important part of any meal and I wanted to enjoy Morocco’s sweet treats.  Morocco was hand delivered to our door by an excellent service that is ScratchDC.  It was easy to make and couldn’t have been better if I wanted it to be.  We enjoyed an entree with such fantastic meals  separately but Bridget waited for me and we enjoyed the sweet treats together.  There was no other way we would of done it.

-Matt

Bolivia: Tradición Bolivian

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Sibarita Restaurant of Arlington, VA offers delectable, authentic Bolivian cuisine at affordable prices. We chose Sibarita not only because it is the only Bolivian restaurant in the DMV, but also because of it’s high marks on yelp. Abby lived in Bolivia for a summer and has been dying to eat the food again, and Sibarita delivered, offering delectable, authentic Bolivian cuisine at affordable prices.

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We walked into the restaurant, it’s not huge on the inside, but they have a nice patio out back for those who want to chill with a beer, which Jake did, or a nonalcoholic drink, which Abby and Bridget did. The Quilmes beer was light but flavorful and from Argentina. Abby ordered the peach tea after the waitress suggested it but it was really too sweet- if you like southern style sweet tea, then this is for you.

For starters, we ordered the Ceviche de Camarones and the Mote con Queso. The former was a refreshing blend of shrimp and citrus flavors; the latter, a corn kernel based dish with salty white cheese, served with fried plantain chips. Of these two, the Mote wins. Its kernels are meaty and taste similar to a legume, and the soft, delicate nature of the cheese and the crisp, bright yellow qualities of the chips complement each other well.

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For dinner, each of us ordered a different dish: Bridget and Abby ordering off of the soup menu and Matt and Jake off of the grilled menu. Sopa de Mani (peanut soup) was Abby’s favorite dish in Bolivia and this soup definitely brought her back. It doesn’t taste exactly like peanuts, as its name describes but rather a thicker, more potato-tasting soup. It included potatoes, thin strips of potato chips and a piece of lamb on the bone.

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Bridget ordered Asado Borracho, which as Steak cooked in beer broth with stew tomatoes, onions, jalapenos. Served with potatoes and topped with fried eggs. There was so much food, after filling up on the soup, she had another portion for lunch the next day.

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Matt scarfed down Pincho, which was skewered chicken and beef, onions, and peppers cooked on the grill. Served with yucca frita and cabbage salad.

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And Jake finished off his Pollo a la Parilla, grilled chicken thighs served with rice, salad and fries.  The chicken came with very fat and thick fries, which were awesome but could have used a dipping sauce. Warning: the restaurant did not serve ketchup, so if you are a ketchup-lover then bring your own.

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Overall Sibarita had great food and a relaxing ambiance. Don’t go there if you want a fancy restaurant, but if you want simple and traditional Bolivian comfort food on a relaxing patio.

-Jake & Abby

Peru: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Instead of going for a meal out at a normal Peruvian restaurant we changed it up a bit.  DC is known for their festivals and celebrations of many nations.  Over two weeks the Smithsonian celebrates a different country and their cultures each year.  This year the Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrated the Peruvian people (http://www.festival.si.edu/2015/peru/smithsonian)

The folklife festival celebrates the Peruvian arts, music, crafts and most importantly their food.  There were different speakers, dancers and entertainers at the festival as well.   I wanted to take one of these ladies and put her in my front pocket to keep around.

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Included in this festival was art demonstrations and a large rope bridge that was built to replica bridges common in Peru.  As well as a very cool graffiti artist Elliot Tupac doing his work.

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To go with all this Peruvian culture there was of course, food.  They had a cooking instructional area going on in El Fogon Kitchen.  They were currently showing to make Cuy (guinea pig found in this area.)  Sadly they were not serving this food at the folklife festival today.   I would love to have added cuy to my list of foods never eaten before.  However there was a large variety of cuisines to be eaten by different Peruvian vendors.

To start the Peruvian feast today we went to eat at a local vendor’s tent called, Kikiriki (superchickenmanassas.com).  They had a small tent we found that was serving tamales.  The Tamal con Salsa Criolla was delicioso.  The banana leaf wrapped tamal was stuffed with sliced chicken that had wonderful flavor.  Also in the tamal were a few interesting surprises such as an egg and a large olive.   We later found out Kikiriki had a much larger area which served tons of food, including dessert (coming up later).

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David Ravikoff and Teresa Wiltshire joined us later as we made our way to the Peruvian Brothers tent (peruvianbrothers.com).  They were serving the standard Peruvian rotisserie chicken.  It was nothing special and wasn’t very big.  However, on the side we got an order of  Papa A La Huancaina (potatoes in spicy creamy sauce.)  Bridget also got a Jugo de Maracuya (passion fruit juice.)  20150705_135629

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For dessert we made it back to the Peruvian Brothers tent area.  We had no idea there was even a dessert option until right before we were going to head out.  I saw they were selling Alfajores, ducle de leche sandwich cookies.  They were covered in powdered sugar and devoured between the four of us in seconds (as shown below).

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We enjoyed the culture and history of the Peruvian people while at the Folklife Festival.  Living in the DC area you get to enjoy many cultures and cuisines from all over the world.   We heard fun music, saw beautiful art and at delicious food.

-Matt