Trinidad & Tobego: Accidentally Roti

Tonight was a giant cluster of a mess.  It had been raining like Noah’s ark was coming soon for days.  We made plans for Panamanian food at a restaurant that apparently was closed on Monday and Tuesdays.  This is something we should of looked at before getting in the car and heading out.  Luckily the night ended with us eating Roti from Trinidad and Tobego on the dry warm couch.

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After the plans got screwed up (twice) we were half way to Silver Spring and I had to pull over to find a new spot.  I rememebered there was a Trinidad and Tobego restaurant close to where I used to live, way up in north DC.  Just a hop skip away from the Maryland border.   Roti shops are now abundant in Trinidad and Tobago and the wrapped roti is a staple street food.  Teddy’s Roti Shop was the only Trinidad and Tobego cuisine I could find in the area and boy was it good.

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There wasn’t much we knew about Trinidad and Tobego before today but we soon learned quite a lot.  We came to find out that their cuisine is a mix of Indian and African flavors with a little Caribbean mixed in.   Teddy’s had a wide variety of dishes but we went with a few national dishes: Roti and Buss Up Shut.  We also learned they closed at 8pm, 10 minutes after we arrived.  So that lead us to take a nice hot meal for “here” back to our house instead.

We started with a few drinks to try that were homemade.  (We came to find that everything in this little hole-in-the-wall was homemade.)  We split a Sorrel Juice and a Peanut Punch.  The sorrel was a sweet fruit made into a juice and the peanut punch basically tasted like a protein shake.

There were 2 dishes we wanted to try but apparently the most intriguing meat to us was the goat.  Bridget went ahead and ordered the Dhalpouri Roti with goat based on a recommendation from the owner. Roti’s main characteristic, no matter where it is enjoyed, is that it is unleavened bread (the Jews get this).  This cuisine is served wrapped in the roti with chick peas and meat (tonight’s was with goat).  Seasoned usually with cumin, garlic and a delicious curry.  It looks like a giant burrito from Moe’s but the insides were much better.

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I decided to get something based off the humurous name and kept making me say “Shut Up”, the Buss Up Shut.  I’ve come to find it’s called “Busted-up Shirt” because the roti resembles a tattered and torn-up shirt.  Buss Up Shut is a dish served with curry goat, chick peas and potatoes.  You can just tell the goat had been stewing in the curry for hours, and the veggies were outstanding as well.  This can also be called Channa and Aloo (chick peas and potatoes).  On the side came a large amount of roti to be used to dip or eat out of.

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The night started with us running through the rain to go out to a Panamanian restaurant that wasn’t even open, halfway across town.   I got annoyed that it was closed but was able to pull over and find a spot that we both happily enjoyed.  The fact we got to eat it on our couch in the warmth of our apartment (and dry mind you), might of been the best part of the meal.  I think the biggest disappoint came from the dogs as they were not allowed to have goat.

-Matt

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Venezuela: Festival and a Food Truck

Every year DC has an event that includes art, food and beer called Crafty Bastards.  Artists of all types come from around the country to sell their crafts.  Included in this event are a ton of food trucks to grab a bite to eat after shopping.  One of the food trucks was one we were dying to have since we started this challenge: Arepa Zone.

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Arepas area a Venezuelan treat that we both grew up having in South Florida.  I used to get one every time I went to a Marlins game as a kid.  Arepas are flatbread made out of maize (corn) usually stuffed with a queso.  Arepa Zone had a variety of arepas to choose from including Cachapas and Tequenos.

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We ordered a bunch of items to try on top of just eating an Arepa.  We ordered something called Tequenos to split.  Tequenos are a Venezuelan treat that is heavenly tasting cheese fried in dough.  A bunch came on a plate with a delicious dipping sauce made fresh by Arepa Zone.

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To wash down this food we both ordered a couple of Venezuelan sodas.  Frescolitta is a Venezuelan soda that tastes like a cream soda.  The drink is thick and we could only get a few sips down before moving it to the side.  Chinotto is a light lemon lime drink that tasted like a Sprite.  I enjoyed this drink and if not for the Splenda I am sure Bridget would have too.

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For entrees we got a couple of different items, not just Arepas.  Bridget went with an Arepa; however, it was a tad different than just your normal cheese filled types.  This Arepa was called Catira, which in Venezuelan means is slang for a blond person. The catira arepa is shredded chicken with cheese. It was good but a just not the same thing that we enjoyed as kids in South Florida.

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I decided to try something other than an Arepa and ordered the Cachapa.  While the Arepa is made of just regular corn and is crunchy on the outside, a Cachapa is made of sweet corn and more like a softer pancake.  Mine was filled with a beef that had to be marinated in some amazing flavors for days.  The shredded beef was placed in the Cachapa along with queso de mano (a soft white cheese.)  The Cachapa was outstanding and had so much flavor.  I shared very little with Bridget (being greedy as I am) and enjoyed the dish selfishly.

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The best way to get me to go to a craft fair is promise me excellent food and beer. You tell me there is Arepas and Fat Tire (plus pumpkin flavored beer), I am sold.  Crafty Bastards is a great event for everyone and the Arepa Zone food truck only enhances the day.

-Matt

Hungary: Let the P(h)un Begin!

We recently made a Hungarian meal at home. I was beyond excited to make food from Hungry. Not because I’ve tasted Hungarian before, I’ve never had it to my knowledge. Why I was excited was because this meal was going to open the gates for puns! And I. LOVE. PUNS!!! Matt hates puns. Our marriage will be a match made in heaven.

I volunteered to write this post so I could have free range on how many puns to include. You’ve been warned.

Cooking started the night before to create this cuisine with prepping a cheese spread.
Cooking started the night before to create this cuisine with prepping a cheese spread.
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We mixed the ingredients together (caraway seeds, feta cheese, scallions, cream cheese, Hungarian paprika, and pepper) so they could meld together to create, Korozott.
All ready for the fridge!
All ready for the fridge! I’m a hand model in another life.

While you wait for the cheese to meld into a very rye-y tasting cheese spread…that cheese may be Gouda, but this is Feta.

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Day 2 we really got down to cooking. Main dish is chicken paprikash.
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Chicken roasts in the oven for a bit turning this golden brown color. Did I tell you that time I slept in a chicken coop? I knew then I was down on my cluck.
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To top the chicken and sides, you make a gravy from the droppings after roasting the chicken.
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Then you add a little sour cream to thicken it up and make it extra creamy.
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This Hungarian chicken dish is typically served with dumplings called Nokedli.
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When asked what it takes to be a great cook the chef said that it boils down to beating the other chefs to the cutting edge recipes.
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After cooking quickly in boiling water, they’re spooned into a yummy bowl of goodness.
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Finally, the cheese spread is ready! This is typically enjoyed with veggies – we went with carrots.
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This photo doesn’t do the dish justice. The little pillow-y dumplings melded great with the chicken gravy and the chicken was flavorful and tender. These recipes may just end up in our regular dinner rotation.

We can’t end like this…here’s one more!

I keep trying to make a butter pun but the margarine of error is too great!

-Bridget

Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon & Syria: Arabic Specialties

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The plan for tonight was to go to dinner with friends for Egyptian food.  After finding an Egyptian restaurant I noticed they specialized in many different Arabic cuisines.  I knew then it would be more fun to try foods from different Arabic countries instead.  Why enjoy just one cuisine when you can mix others in for a variety of tastes.

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President Eisenhower up to Obama

I chose Mama Ayesha’s (www.mamaayeshas.com) because of its history and infamous reputation it has for its food.  Mama Ayesha was a cook for the Syrian embassy and opened her own restaurant in the 1960’s.  After she passed in 1994 it was renamed after her.   As you can see above a mural was made representing every president that has been in office since she started in the 60’s.

The Devitos joined on this occasion either thanking us for watching their 2 cats or thanking us for not letting in outdoor cat to become cat #3.  (BTW outdoor cat is my favorite cat, sad he can’t be let in.).  (Editor’s Note: Outside kitty!!) We started the night out with a beer and glass of wine.  Michael and I both went with an Almaza, a Lebanese pilsner beer.

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From drinks we ordered a few mezza (not sure if you pluralize or not) which are small dishes.  Went with a cold mezza in the Hummus bil lahmeh, which is hummus with lamb.  After research, I would say the hummus with the spiced meats could be a delicacy from any of these countries.  Also went with a hot mezza in the Cheese Rolls, which are exactly what they sound like, Lebanese style.   The hummus plate was basically licked clean as it was so damn good.

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For entrees we all decided to share as a family and get just dig in.  We ordered four dishes that were all outstanding and nothing was left as the meal ended.  We ordered a variety of dishes starting with the Koose (Bridget’s choice).  Koosa is a Lebanese dish that is yellow squash stuffed with rice and chick peas, plus tomatoes mixed in.  The dish seemed to be overflowing in tomato juice and sitting in its own sauce.  It was delicious and the sauce helped.

Our guests ordered a few of their own entrees as well.  Michael went ahead and ordered something off the charcoal grill: Lamb Shish Kabobs.   They were marinated in some amazing spices and served on a bed of vermicelli rice.  Mary ordered the Kifta, ground beef on kabobs shaped in cylindrical form like a cigar (They looked like long fingers).  I would say both these dishes can be Egyptian or Syrian decent.

I had no clue what I wanted but knew I wanted a chicken dish to go along with all the beef/lamb ordered.  I asked a few suggestions and when I said the Musakan the server’s eyes lit up, I was sold.  The Musakan is a Jordanian dish that is a half chicken baked some amazing spices and onions.  One of the key spices is sumac, which gave it a lemony flavor.  Under the chicken was a baked bread that soaked up all the juices from the chicken.  The chicken was so tender, it never needed a fork.

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Shish Kabob (top left), Kifta (top right), Koosa (bottom left), Musakan (bottom right) (We took this picture very fast as people were eager to eat)

Even though I am sure we were all too stuffed for dessert, no one said no to it.  We ordered a few items to share and Michael got an Arabic coffee.  Mary went with the Ruz bil Haleeb, an Arabic rice pudding.  Bridget ordered a “birds nest”, Esh il Asfoor.  Lastly, I went with the Kanafa, a Syrian and Egyptian delicacy.  It was definitely the oddest of the three ordered.  Being hot cheese topped in shredded wheat and pistachios, I expected it to be a bit weird (which it most definitely was.)

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Ruz bil Haleeb (top), Kanafa (bottom left), Esh il Asfoor (bottom right)

After dessert we waddled back to the car and noticed the mural on the side of the building better than before.  Since it was raining earlier we didn’t stop and look at how cool the mural was.  We also noticed someone had deliberately vandalized the mural recently with red pain.  In fact you could see it was paint from a paint ball gun.  What a shame this was done to such a wonderful DC staple since the 1960s.  Mama Ayesha’s was such a mix of cultures and Arabic cuisine, it is a disappointment someone would have to go and ruin such a good thing.

We were happily satisfied and would be back to this spot for more Arabic cuisine in the future.  I hope by next time Donald Trump is not painted next to Obama on the building however.

Editor’s Note: And the inside was beautiful! It’s worth the trip to Adam’s Morgan just to soak in the atmosphere.

-Matt

Turkey: Celebrating Turkey Week in September

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One of the great things about DC is that they celebrate everything.  This week they decided to celebrate Turkey with their own restaurant week.  Sadly, it was not celebrating the bird, but the country would do.

We decided that would try out Ankara (www.ankaradc.net) out in Dupont Circle.  We knew it was a sign that we picked the right place when we saw signs advertising for it as we left the metro.  We knew were being pointed in the right direction (literally).

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It was a gorgeous night out and you could feel the fall air.  We sat outside on the patio and were surrounded by many others enjoying Turkish restaurant week.  One of the best things about restaurant week (as described in Brazil) is that there is a pre-set menu and you barely have to decide.  This is most likely Bridget’s favorite thing about this week.  Oh yeah and 1/2 price bottle wines, which I happily enjoyed with Bridget. (editor’s note: For once!!)

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Ankara had a wonderful eclectic selection of Turkish foods to choose from.  It was a 4 course meal that we added a delicious bottle of red wine to.  The bottle was a recommended red wine: Kavaklidere Yakut, imported from Turkey.   Other than our sommelier smelling the cork for us, it was highly enjoyed.  (Think I didn’t know what a sommelier was?  I didn’t even have to look up the spelling.  Shocks your brain.)

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I am no big wine drinker but the bottle was killed between us and I am glad we didn’t drive.  Before our appetizers were brought out we were given a basket of bazlama, a circular, leavened flatbread.  It came with some soft cheese, oil and marinated olives in a triple dish.

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For appetizers we ordered different items so we could sample as much as possible together.  The first course I ordered Haydari, a creamy mix of dill, yogurt and garlic.  Bridget ordered an interesting dish called Kopoglu.  This used what to be one of the most popular items in all their dishes, eggplant.  It was sauteed and mixed with a yogurt sauce on top.  Both were enjoyed with the bazlama.

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Haydari in front. Kopoglu in back.

For our second course we ordered what was more of an appetizer.  This time I went with a dish Bridget wouldn’t dare touch, Kasarli Mantar.  It consisted of the most earthy mushrooms I have ever eaten.  They were stuffed with kasar cheese and a Turkish butter.  They just melted in my mouth as I ate them, happily not having to share.  Bridget ordered something that reminded me of a vegetable latke, zucchini fritters with carrots, dill and potatoes.  They were delicious and went well with my Haydari.

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For our 3rd course, entrees, we ordered a couple of outstandingly tasty dishes.  Bridget went ahead and ordered something I wanted so it screwed me all up.  She went with the Tavuk Sis, marinated chicken kabobs.  Nothing about these kabobs were boring or bland.  They had so much flavor and you could tell were marinating in an amazing blend of seasonings for a long time.

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After Bridget ordered what I wanted this got me a little confused and slowed me down.  I wasn’t sure what to get so I asked for a recommendation.  Our server let me know that one of her favorites and best thing on the menu was the Ali Nazik.  Ali Nazik is smoked and spiced pureed eggplant with sauteed lamb on top.  I was very hesitant after ordering it and regretted after she walked away.  When they brought the dish out and I had my first bite and then I was then more hesitant to share with anyone else, don’t care if she is my fiancee.  The dish was incredible and the flavors were jumping all over my tongue.

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We were beyond stuffed but of course could not pass up our 4th course, dessert.  Now to me dessert is the best meal of any meal.  Two, three, four or 18 courses, dessert wins every time. Bridget went with the standard Mediterranean dessert, Baklava.  It was cooked perfectly and tasted great.  I went a little out of the box, especially for me, going with the Sutlac, a Turkish rice pudding.  You ever eat something and then realize it is totally not what you thought it would be, that’s what I got.  It was not bad; however, it was juts not up my alley.  It was a little too soupy and the consistency bothered me.  Sadly it was not my favorite dessert but being so stuffed I didn’t care and savored my entree from earlier.

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Sutlac
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Baklava

We were definitely big fans of this Turkish meal and restaurant week.  Others around us seemed to be having fun and enjoying their meals.  Including the lady who sat down as we were finishing and ordered a Grey Goose on the rocks to start and a glass of wine for dinner.  No one was going to be having as much as her later.

-Matt