Sunday, January 31, 2010

Soup's On

During our DC apartment renovation, one of the deals I worked out with some wonderful new neighbors (there were a few, trust me) was the use of their outdoor parking space during the day, in exchange for me cooking a bunch of meals for she and her husband, as they were about to have a baby.

Now, their baby wasn't necessarily supposed to show up until a bit after we had moved into the new joint, but sometimes (so I'm told) babies show up early - and Amelie did - congrats, by the way, to the happy mum and dad.

When I received a call that Am had made her appearance, I detected a slight desperation in dad's voice - so the second thing I did (the first was to bring them some decent take-out Chinese food) was to make a couple of batches of soup while in NYC for the weekend, freeze it, and bring it with me on my drive down to the district.

Soup is a great comfort food; during a cold winter like this one has been, what's better than a hot bowl of soup? (All right, a few things, but not that many.) Anyway, with a few ingredients specific to each soup, and your classic mirepoix, soup's on. Here's some of what I had to start with:

Onions, carrots, celery, garlic, leeks and herbs for both soups. Beans and bacon for one, and mushrooms and cream for the other. And you know the drill, don't you - cook bacon, sweat mirepoix, etc. etc. Layers of flavor is what you want. You get that from, for instance, first cooking the bacon and rendering the fat out of it, and then adding the mirepoix to that, slowly cooking the mirepox and then adding the mushrooms, slowly cooking the water out of the mushrooms and then adding your liquids (stock, mushroom soaking liquid, even plain water), etc. etc. It's simple, and at the beginning your soups might look like this:

The mushroom soup will go faster than the bean soup, if you hadn't guessed. So, once it had fully cooked and had a chance to cool down, I pureed it in the blender till it was nice and smooth. By the time that was done, the bean soup was fully cooked, and they both went into the fridge overnight...I almost always think that soups taste better the next day. Then, when ready to dine, reheat the soups; if they're too thick, thin them out - I used water for the beans and cream for the mushrooms. Taste for salt and re-season if necessary, please.

Of course, I couldn't bring ALL that soup with me to DC, so Significant Eater and I had a really nice meal of 2 soups and some just-made focaccia - it's behind the mushroom soup pictured here...

And the bean soup was tasty too...

Now, when your wife (Significant Eater, in my case) or significant other asks you why you save all those empty containers from Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian take-out, just show her this...they're perfect for freezing soup and also to make your new neighbors full and happy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Still Crazy (good) After All These Years Momofuku mojo was, is and will probably always be for Noodle Bar.

Back in 2004, eGulleteers (including me) were mostly ecstatic over the new ramen joint in the Eat Village. I've remained so, even as Ssam, Ko and Milk Bar haven joined the Changpire and been raved about. Back in the day, Chang may have cooked for us...I definitely recall him berating some unlucky newbie cook or waitperson every now and then. Significant Eater and I spent many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon lunch sitting at the counter, watching the cooks and enjoying our noodles, buns, and as time went on, various other wondrous dishes that appeared from out of the small (and then bigger) kitchen.

So, SE and I decided, what better way to start the new year then to check out Noodle Bar for a Saturday lunch? Especially since noodles signify longevity in many Asian cultures. Noodles and sodium, I think. By the way, if you're gonna go to lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, go early or be prepared to wait. While we were seated instantly, by the time we left, the crush was in full throttle at the "host's stand."

This particular Saturday (the first one of the year), SE and I lucked into a fine prix fixe menu.

It might be a little hard to read, but the special consisted of 3 courses for $20. Now, when the first course is a Momo bun, and the second is a Momo ramen, and then they're throwing in dessert (ice cream), that's pretty much what we ordered. Oh, we also ordered 3 tamales, because we noticed them on the blackboard menu after we had ordered, and when Noodle Bar is making tamales, guess what? Order them...they were great (pork kimchi, Sichuan sausage and jalapeno queso), for those who need to know.

So, the prix fixe actually started off with a bit of an amuse. So small, a tiny piece of apple topped with something I can't remember - perhaps some dried bonito shavings? Then, the bun. This day it was a pan fried skate bun - and who would've guessed that it would be almost as good as the seminal pork bun - almost...

And the ramen? This was a ramen we hadn't had before; it was clam ramen, and you don't see that too often on a menu. The clams, shucked right before our eyes, were just heated by the miso broth. The miso broth, slightly clammy (in a good way), was one of the best I've tasted in a long while. A great way to start off the new year, indeed.

Add some ice cream, and then a fifth course (!), a little dessert to take home - carrot cake truffle, and Significant Eater and I walked the mile and a half back to our apartment, a little bit full and a lotta bit happy. Longevity indeed - thanks, Noodle Bar. You'll always be our No. 1.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And Now, Finally...The Move

Now I know I haven't been especially good at blogging over the past 6 weeks or so... though I do have a number of posts "in the can." It might have even be a little bit longer than 6 weeks. At least that's what people tell me. Significant Eater's new DC job started in mid-September, 2009, and in that time we've:

a) Rented a small apartment around the corner from SE's new job

b) Moved a fair amount of SE's clothing and other necessities down to DC

c) Purchased a small 1 bedroom apartment in a really nice neighborhood, just about a mile from the new office.

d) Engaged and employed a general contractor to do a full renovation on said apartment. Six weeks, start to finish. A fair amount of agita. I know, I know...I was gonna blog a lot more about the renovation, but by the end of the day, I wasn't in the mood for it.

e) Driven back and forth to DC - A LOT. As a matter of fact, over the past 4 months, I've probably driven more than I have in 16 years. From back when I lived in California, where it's considered normal to drive just to mail a letter.

f) Eaten in restaurants or gotten take-out or delivery more times than I care to remember. Some good, some not so good, a lot of it just tolerable. At one point, we actually ate a Quizno's sub from a rest stop on I-95 - shoot me.

g) For some fun, we did get to see Bruce a few times as his tour wound down, as well as Patti Smith on New Year's Eve, a tradition stretching back a good 12 or so years, since she's been playing the Bowery Ballroom every New Year's Eve for at least that long.

I've been to Home Depot (and not just one, mind you) so many times that they may actually know me by name. IKEA, College Park, too - it's where we purchased much of the kitchen that went into the new pad.

And now, the time to move-in has finally arrived. Yes, tomorrow is the big day. Movers have been hired, the new place is 95% ready, and at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning we will be leaving our tiny rental, which has turned into something of a rat maze with boxes and furniture leaving very little floor space.

Consider we went from finding this kind of stuff behind our walls and ceiling:

to this...

and this:

we are extremely excited.

We'll get to finally enjoy a lot of what DC has to offer. Lots of culinary expeditions are in store and that new kitchen will certainly get some action. It's my first microwave in 20 years, and it'll be perfect for SE to reheat those lovely frozen meals that I (and Amy's) hope to be preparing for her.

There's still lots of shopping yet to be done - did I tell you that we have basically no furniture? But that's the fun part. And even though I didn't reach my goal of 100 posts in 2009 (hey, shit happens), I hope to get to that number in 2010...