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Palates Behind the Plate: Adil Akhter of Curry Mantra

Posted by / Monday, April 9th, 2012

 

Chef Adil Akhter on right and assistant cook cook George Fernandes on left

A series dedicated to the palates behind NVM’s 2011 Fifty Best Restaurants. We know what they serve, but what do they eat?

Restaurant: Curry Mantra
2011 Rank: #49
Executive Chef: Adil Akhter

NoVA’s best dish:
There is a Thai restaurant in Falls Church it’s called Dungrat’s.  I order the chicken with basil leaf.

Never would I ever eat:
I don’t eat steak.

After work grub:
After a busy service, I cook for the staff. So, last night I cooked mixed vegetables with lamb.

At home cooking:
A couple of nights ago, I cooked chicken kadai for my family.

Burger, burrito or bánh mì:
Burrito, for sure!

Photo courtesy of Asad Sheikh

[tips for the food desk / follow @JoeyHndz]

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Hungry for Linkage: Dining Developments in Clarendon, Foods with a Cause, Del Ray Pizza Update, What’s Growing in Your Reusable Grocery Bag?

Posted by / Friday, April 6th, 2012

The dining scene in Clarendon is ever expanding with the recent opening of Green Pig Bistro,  the further development of Bronx Pizza and welcomes Oby Lee Winery and Coffee Shop as a future tenet. [ARLnow]

Food with a cause: Olive Oil to Empower Women [WaPo] and CiCi’s Pizza in Fredericksburg is raising money for the Special Olympics [FredericksburgPatch]

Rice Paper Vietnamese Cuisine settles in at the Eden Center. [Washingtonian]

An update on the problems in Del Ray’s Pizza paradise after the Alexandria Planning Commission’s meeting at City Hall. [DelRayPatch]

Shirlie’s Girls Night Out, a new monthly event at the Village of Shirlington, kicks off this month with shows, cocktails and restaurants specials. [ARLnow]

Should you really be using that reusable grocery bag? [Washingtonian]

Find all of your Easter needs for this weekend in NVM’s Spring Break Guide.

Photo: Dubova/Shutterstock

[tips for the food desk]


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Spring Break Food Fun: Seeds for the Vegetable Garden

Posted by / Friday, April 6th, 2012

Vegetable Garden Seeds

Need more spring break ideas? Check out the full NoVA Spring Break Guide.

After spending some time deciding on the perfect area for the vegetable garden, it is now time for the fun part: what to plant?

First: Start with what would be most useful for the hungry souls in the family. We are huge tomato lovers in our family so we had over four varieties of tomatoes last year and over fifty tomato plants in our yard plus other veggies and herbs. Perhaps, fifty tomato plants is a bit much for the non-tomato lover but we found it easy to consume.

Second: Consider when you will plant, the amount of maintenance needed and the amount of light certain vegetables need.  While some vegetables like green onions and mint are low maintenance they can quickly take over your garden.

Third: Decide the importance of staying away from pesticides and chemicals and speak to your local garden center expert in regards to environmentally friendly ways to keep critters away from the garden. While we had tons of tomatoes to share it’s always heartbreaking when you share the harvest with chipmunks and squirrels – after all they do not help with the gardening process.

Where to find seeds, vegetable seedlings and plants:

Maple Avenue Market, Vienna

For organic seeds, organic potting soil and organic heirloom vegetable seedlings.

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A Girl Can’t Eat With One Mouth Alone: Dining Intern Wanted

Posted by / Friday, April 6th, 2012

The Food Desk at Northern Virginia Magazine is looking for dining interns for the summer session. We want a writer, an eater and someone who can drive to Chantilly a few days a week.

Interested? Details here. Apply today.


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Spring Break Food Fun: Tequila Bar Round Up

Posted by / Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Need more spring break ideas? Check out the full NoVA Spring Break Guide.

Nothing screams Spring Break more than tequila.  While not all of us can take an island trip to indulge in tequila shots and margaritas, here are a few local tequila spots that will satisfy the spring break tequila craving:

Red Rocks Cafe and Tequila Bar, Centreville
Offers over one hundred and twenty six varieties of tequila.

El Tio Tex Mex Grill, Gainesville and Falls Church
Creator of the “Machorita”, large frozen lime margarita served with a 7oz coronita beer inside.

Guajillo, Arlington
Combines El Jimador tequila and jalapenos to make its “El Fuego” margarita.

Rancho El Paso, Warrenton
The Sangrita Margarita is the newest drink on their menu combining a homemade sangria and Gold Tequila.

T’Kila Latin Kitchen & Bar, Aldie
Whether it’s the house margarita or top shelf, they all start with T’Kila’s hand squeezed lemon-lime mix.

Mango Mike’s, Alexandria
Offers Mangorita’s Happy Hour from 4pm to 6pm every day.

photo: Shutterstock/Triff

 [tips for the food desk / follow @JoeyHndz]


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Spring Break Food Fun: DIY Easter Brunch Recipes

Posted by / Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Need more spring break ideas? Check out the full NoVA Spring Break Guide.

Too late on reservations? Don’t want to spend money on a pricey Easter dinner? Why not hang out at home with the family and make brunch instead.

Here are some (relatively) simple, yet elegant DIY Easter Brunch Recipes to mix-and-match.

Breakfast Dishes:

Baked Eggs with Wilted Baby Spinach [skinnytaste]

Smoked Salmon Hash with Dill Vinaigrette [Food Network]

Carrot Cake Pancakes [smitten kitchen]

Hot Cross Biscuits [Joy the Baker]

Lunch Dishes:

Spiced Honey and Lemon Baked Ham [abc]

Cheese, Leek & Herb Souffle Casserole [Martha Stewart]

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Palates Behind the Plate: Cuyler Thomas of Carlyle

Posted by / Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

 Chef Cuyler Thomas from Carlyle

A series dedicated to the palates behind NVM’s 2011 Fifty Best Restaurants. We know what they serve, but what do they eat?

Restaurant: Carlyle
2011 Rank: #37
Executive Chef: Cuyler Thomas

NoVA’s best dish:
Fried oysters with pickled ramps at Restaurant Eve.

Never would I ever eat:
I am pretty adventurous.  There is nothing I would never eat or at least try once.

After work grub:
Hong Kong Sea Bass

At home cooking:
I recently cooked shrimp and lobster sliders and duck pate with green peppercorns for my son Adam’s First Confirmation.

Burger, burrito or bánh mì:
Bahn Mi.  It’s fresh, crisp and full of flavors and textures.  I also love the pickled veggies!

Photo courtesy of Lori Castagna

[tips for the food desk / follow @JoeyHndz]

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Peep This: Local Sweets to Celebrate Easter

Posted by / Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The only good thing that came out of the commercialization of Easter is Easter candy. 

From marshallowy peeps to solid chocolate bunnies, all of the big name candy-makers have some sugary creation made to celebrate the spring holiday. With Easter celebrations this Sunday, fill your baskets instead with local treats, created without processed sugars and chemicals. 

NoVA sweet shops offering homemade Easter treats:

Alexandria Pastry ShopAlexandria
Milk or White Chocolate Baskets ($5.99), Milk/Dark/White Chocolate Easter Bunny ($12.99), Milk or White Chocolate Eggs ($8.99), Hand-Decorated Easter Cookies ($14.99 per pound) 

Amphora BakeryHerndon & Vienna
Chocolate or Vanilla Large Easter Egg Cake ($59.95 for large, $35.95 for half), Easter Bread ($15.95 for 10-inch, $20.95 for 12-inch) and Assorted Decorative Cookies (call for pricing)  

Artisan ConfectionsArlington
Salted Caramel Bunnies ($7 for 4 pieces, $15 for 9 pieces), Peanut Butter Eggs ($3.50), Caramel Marshmallow Bars ($4), Easter “Chick” Lollipops ($2.50), Cherry Blossom Boxes ($17 for 9 pieces),   2-piece “Easter” Boxes ($4)

Buzz Bakery, Alexandria & Arlington
Homemade Lemon Peeps ($11.50 for nine) and Baby Chickie Cupcakes in chocolate or vanilla ($24 for 12)

The Sugar Cube, Alexandria
Solid Easter Bunnies in milk/dark/white chocolate ($3.50 for pocket-size, $12.95 for 8 oz. bunny), Traditional Basket Eggs in butter cream/peanut butter/coconut cream/marshmallow ($3.50), Malted Milk Eggs ($3.50 per bag), Egg-shaped Truffles ($1.85 each or various gift boxes), Hand-Marbled Chocolate Eggs in Egg Carton ($29) and Hollow Eggs with Gianduja-filled Rabbit Inside ($14.95)

The Swiss BakerySpringfield & Burke
Easter-themed Fondant Cookies ($2.25 per cookie), Easter-Bunny-Bun ($3 per bun) and German Easter Bread ($7.50 per loaf)

(Although who are we kidding, you can also grab Cadbury Creme Eggs from Society Fair.)

Photo: kaktuzoid/Shutterstock

[tips for the food desk]

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How to Deconstruct Your Nachos

Posted by / Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Nachos. I hate when I get one chip that’s smothered in sour cream and another chip that’s naked and requires me to scrape toppings off other chips to even slightly clothe it. No consistency. One bite rocks. The next bite does not rock. And what’s even worse is that when you are a slow eater like me, a majority of your chips are soggy from carrying the weight of the cheesy goodness by the time you get to them anyway.

When it comes to food, I’m a texture person, so mushy chips: that doesn’t work for me. So, what do I do? Deconstruct my nachos.

High maintenance? Yes, I am aware.

How to order the deconstructed nachos and cause only minimal chaos in your dining environment:

1. How to order
“Could I get the nachos, but I would like to customize them.” The waiter may smirk a little. He’s thinking you want it without jalapenos. He doesn’t know what’s coming.

2. How to customize:
“Could you put the chips and the toppings on separate plates?” The waiter will look confused for 3.5 seconds, then will get a visual of what you want and proceed by repeating your order back to you: “OKkkk, sooo… you want chips on one plate and then the toppings separate from the chips?”

3. How to confirm:
You then acknowledge that you are on the same page with a firm “Yes,” and go on to specify your “needs.” If you are getting chili nachos, as I did in this photo, ask for the chili and cheese in a bowl and then the cold ingredients on their own plate (sour cream, lettuce, salsa, guac).

4. How to seal the deal:
The waiter will probably chuckle at this point, as will your dining companions. But stay strong; you know what you want, and you won’t back down. If the waiter questions your detailed request, firmly state that you just don’t like your chips soppy, your lettuce shriveled and your sour cream melted.

The most important thing to remember during the deconstruction process is to stand your ground. If you are going to pay $8 or $9 for nachos, you are going to enjoy all of them for as long as you want to. It may be slightly embarrassing when two or three waiters have to carry the nachos to your table, but hey, this will prepare you for later in life when you move on to deconstruct other more complex types of food.

Photo: Jolleen Tran

[tips for the food desk / follow @BekahLowe]

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Which Chain Restaurant Should Northern Virginia Magazine Review?

Posted by / Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The readers have spoken. After we examined the merits of a North Dakotan food critic’s review of an Olive Garden, many readers agree that Northern Virginia Magazine should review chain restaurants:

Pro-Chain Review

Sandi Says: 
Why not? These are the places we go to for lunch when we are shopping or are out for an appointment, etc. More upscale places are reserved for planned lunches and dinners by most of us. We like convenience and consistency, so it would be nice to have some assurance that there is a level of competency accompanying the latter.

 

Jan Says: 
MOST definitely, YES! It would be helpful to those who are not anal like I [constantly reading Eat This, Not That and other websites/pages to find out about chains]. For instance, MANY could benefit from information about a venue like Romano’s [who has horrible service and the LEAST nutritious food of most chains, with the exception of Cheescake Factory who rates #1 as the worst] – and my fav, Olive Garden has great food but sometimes certain dishes are really not healthy–service is usually pretty good and not a super long wait…Can’t say that for Carraba’s! A real disappointment across the board. SO bring it on!

Karen Anspach Says: 
Absolutely review them. It will help keep them on their toes and let us know if it is worth a drive to the other side of town to dine at the “other” one. My husband and I find a great difference in chains where we have visited more than one location.

 

 

Anti-Chain Review

Although some readers hated the idea of focusing on non-local places.

Valarie Says: 
No way! There are too many local family-owned places that would kill for a chance to be reviewed! Why waste your time with a place we could all go to just about anywhere? Lets focus on what makes our area special an unique!

 

Geoff Says: 
Absolutely not, chains usually have their food mass produced, frozen, and then microwaved or thawed and reheated so all chains maintain consistency. With so many great local mom and pop restaurants that could be reviewed to bring in customers, why waste resources on over sized portions of unremarkable food. And incidentally, I am not in the restaurant or food business.

Red Brixton Says: 
Certainly, chains should be reviewed. Start with Subway (yummy “turkey” breast sandwiches!). Feature quotes from the new Head Sandwich Maker.
Next up: Starbucks. Did you hear about the new Mild Grande with Peach?

 

Now it’s up to the readers again. If we’re going to review a chain, which one should it be?

Vote for the chain most worthy of a NVM review.


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