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Daily Harvest

30th March, 2008. 1:17 pm. Tuskies...Three stars

OK, let me get this one negative out of the way first: I was pissed to find out the "tobacco onion rings" were just onion straws served in a clump to look like tobacco (which it didn't even). When I told my very young waiter that I thought tobacco was used in the preparation of the onion straws...as many gourmands have used tobacco in cooking...he just laughed at me. Kids these days!

And a big wagging finger for offering foie-gras on the menu. BOOO!!! HISSSSS!!!!!!

BUT...any vegetarian (but not vegan) visiting Loudoun County VA's best should enjoy the pumpkin raviolis. HUGE and flavorful in a cream sauce with diced asparagus, broccoli and parsnips (the best part!). Also, I must give kudos to the warm goat cheese salad with mixed greens, pistachios (though I think walnuts would have worked better) and the best beets I have ever had. Drink with a Ch. Saint Michele Sauvignion Blanc---you can get it as part of a three-wine flight, as we did. For dessert, we had a nice, though not extraordinary, chocolate-raspberry cheesecake with our coffee.

Jay accidentally ordered veal (by mis-hearing the waiter when he recited the day's specials. Jay is an omnivore but has ethical problems with veal). He ate it anyway and said it was quite good, but did not want to talk about it further...except to say that by some magical flesh-eating mathematical rule, his eating the supposedly yummy crab-cakes as an appetizer somehow cleanses his karma.

I'd like to try some more of their side-dishes...maybe three or four of them as a makeshift lunch. I'll be sure and let you know how that goes.

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29th March, 2008. 12:12 pm. On the other hand...

Don't get me wrong though...food isn't just about the spirit for me. It's very much about my mouth and tummy too!

And it is in this spirit that my husband and I will venture forth to Tuscarora Mills (aka: Tuskies) for dinner tonight to commemorate our tenth wedding anniversary. I'm particularly looking forward to my first time tasting tobacco onions!

Film at eleven.

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28th March, 2008. 10:59 am. OK...seriously

My last "Back On Track" entry was THREE YEARS AGO!  Well, in my defense, all I did in that time was have a baby and raise her to the ripe old age of 20 months.

But now I really am going to try to blog regularly.

No really.

Cut it out! Stop laughing!

Thing is, over the last six months I've been undergoing a bit of a personal transformation. Call it a midlife crisis if you like (though I do hope to live beyond age 74). I call it a return, because really, this is a return to old, forgotten territory for me. I am re-tapping into my positive and spiritual well. And turns out, it has its own banquet table.

I think I've explained this before but that was YEARS ago now, so here it is again: Food is holy to me. For me it is the connection between God, his/her/its Earth, and us. And sharing food is a sacred connection among us all, a time when God becomes a verb rather than a noun.

When I hold natural ingredients in my hand, wash them, chop them, cook them up, plate them and serve them, without even trying, my mind is in a place of tremendous peace. Someone once called me a gourmand, but I don't think that's true. There is nothing gourmet about my cooking. The food I cook--all of it vegetarian and increasingly more of it vegan--is considered peasant food in the parts of the world from which my recipes come. I am blessed with fridge, pantry and cupboards full to the brim, and I can't explain why, but somehow cooking and eating this way makes me feel solidarity with those who are not as blessed. So too, does it help me feel solidarity with them to limit my food intake only to what I need (or try to anyway), even though they are not as fortunate to choose that way of eating.

OK,  so what this boils down to is...I need to write about this. Cooking is becoming more and more my method of prayer and meditation, my connection with God, Earth, and Humanity.

And now I will foist it on you.

No need to thank me.

Current mood: chipper.

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16th December, 2005. 7:47 pm. Back on track

Yes, yes, I know. It's been months and months since I touched this blog. Anyone familiar with my attention span should not have been too surprised. But I want to get back into it, so let's move on with something short and happy:

STERLING IS GETTING ITS OWN CARIBOU COFFEE!!!

I was happy enough to find that one had opened in Fairfax near the new multiplex where we now see most of our movies. But unless we're down that way for a movie, I've had to settle for Starbucks, there being three of them near me. OK, that's not REALLY a complaint because I don't hate Starbucks the way a lot of people do, but there's no question that Caribou is better--particularly for your basic, straight cuppa-joe, hold the whipped cream and sprinkles.

But in today's mail we received coupons with the announcement that a Caribou would be opening right near the Dulles Town Center Mall. Not quite as convenient as the Starbucks kiosk in the Safeway down the street, but no further away from the two full Starbucks in Sterling.

Hell, as long as Sterling has to be the chain restaurant capital of the world, at least we'll now have better coffee.

Current mood: excited.

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29th September, 2005. 7:54 am. OK, this clinches it:

Alton Brown is a total geek.

Of course, I have a soft spot for geeks...particularly this one.

Current mood: amused.

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22nd September, 2005. 9:09 am. Autumn! WAAAAHOOOO!

At last, the equinox arrives today at 3:22 PM.

When it arrives, I will be strolling the aisles of Wegmans preparing for tonight's celebratory feast: Vegetarian Cassoulet, a green salad, a nice baguette and a Cabernet Sauvignon to be determined later.

I'll provide the cassoulet recipe and further up-to-the-moment coverage of today's foodie hootenanny in another post later today.

Current mood: bouncy.

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12th September, 2005. 6:33 pm. The return of an old favorite

Yesterday, I attended a bridal shower at Giardinos restaurant in Douglaston, NY. I'd been there many, MANY times before and unfortunately, the last few times the restaurant showed signs that it was going the way of all restaurants I frequent enough times: Downhill. Well, I'm happy to report that yesterday was a good day for them and that I was there to experience it firsthand.

The menu consisted of focaccia (which looked more like a cheeseless pizza with marinara sauce), an antipasto plate, a bowl of penne a la vodka, and choice of four entrees. I, of course went with the vegetarian choice: eggplant parmigiana.

As I will be explaining in an upcoming post, I am starting to pay close attention to portion control but was determined to tate everything and to be satisfied, especially since I had a long ride back to Virginia right after the party. I was also determined to drink, since I was not the one driving, and after all, it's ITALIAN food. So I had a glass of chablis (which was OK) before lunch. Then with the meal, I poured a glass of red which our friend Jackie determined must have been a merlot (I forgot to ask the waiter and the wines were in decanters). I should say that whatever it was, it was the most buttery wine I've ever tasted--and let me tell you, I have ZERO palette for these things.

The pizza-like focaccia was pizza-crust perfection--which you only get in New York City. I had one sliver. The antipasto--once I peeled away the sliced ham and salami--was a yummy selection of grilled n' chilled eggplant and zucchini slices, a wedge of pecorino, and a small piece of fresh mozzarella along with iceberg lettuce and tomato. I ate all the veggies and nibbled on the cheese. The penne a la vodka, something I've often ordered there, was back to its old form: PERFECTLY al dente and excellently sauced. I allowed myself about half of the bowl. Then came the eggplant, cooked until tender but not mushy, and thankfully not covered in an oppressive amount of cheese, with the same excellent marinara that topped the focaccia. The zucchini and new potatoes they served with it were overcooked but I had no interest in eating them anyway. I ate about half the serving.

For desert, some sort of "cannoli cake" was served. I'm not a big cake person, so I tried a bite and dove right into the coffee, which was the best I'd had in any restaurant in a very long time.

So basically, there are parts that still could use some improvement, but I think Giardinos is back to what I remember--which is, just about the best all-around Italian food to be had in Queens.

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8th September, 2005. 11:47 am. ROAD...um...AIR TRIP!!!!

Of course, if we went here, what are the odds of finding anything veggie for me?

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4th September, 2005. 2:15 pm. We found a diner in walking distance!

We were out walking in an area we've never walked before and stumbled upon "Linda's Cafe" with a sign in the window, visible from the street, claiming "EXCELLENT BURGERS." Well, where there are excellent burgers, breakfast can't be far away. So in we went.

The place is a quiet, subdued diner with a lunch counter (where we sat) and oldies piped in over their sound system (possibly satellite radio). The place was full but not crowded--relatively slow for a Sunday at 1PM in the South--but that's not surprising since Linda's is a bit off the beaten path (although not much really). I asked the waitress how long the place had been there. "Two years," she said. Can't believe I'd never seen it. Jay had, but had never thought twice about it.

After carefully studying the three-page menu, I ordered an egg sandwich on a croissant with home fries, and Jay ordered a burger with grilled mushrooms and a special steak sauce with fries.

There were two eggs on that croissant and the plate of home fries, while pretty good, was too big a portion for me. (I'm becoming increasingly turned off by overly-generous portions, but that's a topic for another post.)The croissant was actually quite good, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sandwich with some of the excess egg removed. Jay, who didn't think he was hungry when we went in, cleaned his plate, only expressing some disappointment that he couldn't quite taste the special steak sauce. I ordered coffee to finish, and while not spectacular, it was damn good for "diner coffee."

How much for all that? With tip (and I'm a pretty decent tipper), under 15 bucks!

So, good (if not fantastic) food with good atmosphere, at a great price, in walking distance from our home, which is pretty much in walking distance of NOTHING. It's not open 24 hours like IHOP or the Amphora Deluxe in Herndon (where we go quite a lot), but we can't walk to those, and we pay much more for food that's no better.

Wahoooo!

Current mood: cheerful.

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4th September, 2005. 9:26 am. Another cherished myth shot to hell

When I've managed to stop thinking of the human devastation in New Orleans for five minutes, my thoughts have turned to the loss of historical treasure, much of which I had the chance to see for myself last February. I've wondered if Louis Armstrong's first cornet didn't flow back into Lake Pontchartrain--things like that. One of the many things I wondered about was the fate of Pat O'Brien's (or Pat O's), billed as the originator of the Hurricane.

Well, while I still do hope the place is standing, for the sake of the owners and all that, I needn't have worried about the loss of an historical landmark:



The Hurricane Cocktail, made famous by Pat O'Brians New Orleans bar, was actually created in 1939 in New York.



Sigh...

Current mood: disappointed.

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