Kelly the Culinarian: 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Food find: Marley's second try

Tim and I went to Marley's again this visit to the Dells. Again, we went before any type of rush for an early lunch so that we could get back to water parks. We might have been the only people eating at that time, in fact.

First, we started with an appetizer of crab dip. It was served cold with a few veggies and some toasted bread. I liked it, but Tim insists it was imitation crab. I liked it because it was spicy without having a ton of mayo or whatever to keep the dip together. Tasty.

I went with a cheeseburger with the seasoned fries. The burger was almost like what my mom would make at home. It came with lettuce, tomato and red onion. The portion was huge too. The fries were smokey and spicy but still good with ketchup.

Tim got the special of the day, which was a chicken Parmesan sandwich. Again, the portions were huge. It was a shredded chicken breast topped with marinara sauce and provolone. I gave it a try and the sauce was a bit bland but the chicken was moist and the cheese plentiful, so I let it slide. It was served on a toasted hoagie bun which was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

We didn't opt for dessert this time because there was just so much food. Another great visit to Marley's.

Food find: Mexilcali Rose

Mexicali Rose in the Wisconsin Dells is what the Chicago Tribune calls a "must visit," a fact that is touted on all of the riverside restaurant's advertising. Tim and I didn't make it there on our last visit, but we thought we'd go on our last visit.

We trekked out there on a Friday evening and all but the bar was empty. We were quickly seated and served some chips and salsa, which were pretty good as far as that goes. Tim and I also ordered guacamole, which was an overpriced $5.25, but a nice blend of avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, some spices and lemon. A nice starter, I suppose.

Tim and I ended up ordering the same combo platter with a hard-shelled taco, enchilada, burrito and rice and beans. The entire thing seemed like it was covered cheese, but Wisconsin cheese is the best, after all.

Now, the food was tasty. There was a great combination of spices and it seemed as though the veggies were fresh. The overpriced guac was really good, if only there was more. We left full, but I'm not sure if I'd call this a "must visit." I can find food that's more authentic down the street in Mundelein or Lake Zurich that has more bang for your buck and feels like you're actually eating something authentic to Mexico.

Then again, for a touristy joint in the middle of Wisconsin, I guess it's pretty good to get out the door for $32 with a full belly.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Food find: Kalahari

I was so excited for Tim and I's second vacation in the Wisconsin Dells. This time, we got a great deal at the Kalahari resort, which has the America's largest indoor waterpark.

We also got a free update to a nicer room because it was a little empty the day we arrived. But, since it was so close to Christmas, there was all kinds of holiday activities going on. First, there were reindeer outside for kids to pose with. There were also baby tigers and a kangaroo that kids could pose with. Santa was on hand several times per day and kids could get a bedtime story from elves and check out massive gingerbread houses in the lobby. Adorable!

The Kalahari designed it's lobby to be sort of like a mall -- there's a pottery place, two convenience stores, a caricature artist, restaurant and this sweet shop. It was ridiculously overpriced but Tim and I shared a brownie explosion sundae for $6, which had a brownie covered with vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate syrup, chopped nuts and whipped cream. It was way more than enough for two people. We also decorated our own Christmas cookies in the lobby one afternoon. The resort provided some delicious and cute toppings, like these tiny candy canes that tasted like peppermint.

More about things around the resort tomorrow!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Kitchen aid: Champagne dreams on a beer budget

It's almost New Year's, which brings a deluge of people to all kind of liquor emporiums to purchase a little sparkling wine for their home bound celebrations. Not all champagne is created equal, but it needn't be expensive. An article recently published in H&Ms magazine shed some light on the topic of champagne:

- It should be stored on the side to keep the cork from drying.

- Champagne should be served somewhere between 43 and 48 degrees. Whoever wrote this thinks it's better to serve it too cold rather than too warm and I have to agree.

- A good champagne glass should be narrow at the mouth and wider in the middle.

The author of this vignette says more expensive champagne is better than cheaper, but I tend to think otherwise. If you expand your horizon to sparkling wine, which can include domestic varieties, there are many more tasty options. You can always try Prosecco as well.

Travel safe and have a great new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Stand mixer bread

The anointing of the stand mixer begins! Yesterday I just had to take it for a spin and I decided to make a loaf of standard bread from the Kitchenaid recipe book to get started.

Here's the recipe:
Warm: 1/2 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Melt the butter and dissolve the sugar, then allow it to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve 2 packets of active dry yeast in 1 and 1/2 cups warm water and add 4 and a 1/2 cups flour to the mixture, then attach the bowl and bread hook. Mix at speed two for one minute. Continue mixing at same speed and add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough clings to hook and cleans the sides of the bowl, about two minutes. Knead it on speed two for two minutes more until the dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky.

Put in a greased bowl and cover, then place in a warm, draft-free corner to rise until double in size, about one hour. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form into loaves and place in two greased loaf pans. Allow to rest and double in bulk for about one one.

Bake in 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

I brushed them with melted butter and scored the loaves for a nicer look. I need to work on my loaf-forming skills, though, because these look like bricks.

Oh well, there's plenty more time for practice. What should I make next?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Have a very Merry foodie Christmas!

Christmas at this house means food, family and presents. We always get up super early to open presents -- we used to set our alarms for 5 a.m. so we could see what Santa brought. After we open gifts, we have a huge brunch. This breakfast is my sister's favorite part of Christmas -- there's eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, hash browns and cinnamon rolls. We spend at least an hour making breakfast, another hour eating and another hour cleaning up.

This year, my sister's boyfriend bought me a Hello Kitty waffle maker and we had adorable little waffles shaped like kitties, bunnies or bears. There are little faces on one side and a waffle pattern on the other. Adorable! Another great gift.
After that, we try on clothes that Santa brought, pick up the living room, get cleaned up and start dinner. My mom puts out appetizers and snacks and we usually eat dinner around 5 p.m. This year, my mother made some delicious prime rib au jus. We used our buffet server again today to keep everything hot. We also had cheesy potatoes, green beans and rolls.

I'm stuffed and I haven't even gotten to the half of it -- taking my KitchenAid stand mixer for a spin! More on that tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Stand mixer!

I can't blog tonight because I need to get to bed so Santa can come. However, Tim and I had a lovely time in the Dells and ate some wonderful food. More to come later.

My exciting news: Tim and I exchanged gifts this evening and he got me a Kitchenaid mixer! I am so, so ecstatic about this gift.

I know some of you out there must have a stand mixer. My family never had one, so I'm not sure where to start. What should I make first? Also, what attachments and accessories do you find useful?

I've already set it up on the counter and I can't wait to use it. Best. Gift. Ever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'll be spending the weekend in the Dells doing touristy things, but there will be all sorts of food things to enjoy there, so I'll return to blogging Sunday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Celebrity encounter: Rachael Ray!

I'm close to exhaustion after a busy day, but I just had to talk about my encounter with Rachael Ray! She did a book signing today in Oak Brook and Chicago. I chose to take a shot at getting tickets for the Oak Brook appearance because it was later in the day and I had a ton of things to get done today during the day.

I got up at 4:30 a.m. to leave my house and get there at 7 a.m. I ended up arriving at 6 a.m. because traffic was late and I got in line -- I was No. 12 or 13. So I waited with a friend until 9 a.m. when they handed out wristbands to come back for the signing -- 375 tickets in all. Someone went nuts while we were all waiting about people cutting in line. I'm pretty sure you could have showed up at 8:30 a.m. and still gotten a ticket.

Anyhow, at 9:10 a.m. I was left to my own devices. I ran Christmas-y type errands and attended to an appointment and generally had a fabulous day, then returned to Borders at 6 p.m. to get back in line. Right before 7, Rachael Ray hit the house and started signing. The signing itself went very fast -- those with wristbands could get a total of two books signed, one of which must be Just in Time and the other must be either a book from the same publisher or her current magazine edition. Also, she would only personalize the Just in Time book, would not sign any memorabilia nor pose for photos except maybe with children.

The signing went by really fast. They came around and had us write our names on post-it notes and then the handlers shoved it in front of Rachael Ray for her to sign and a fast snap shot and then you got hustled out. It was a 30-second encounter that was 13 hours in the making for me.

And it was worth every second.

Back when I knew nothing about food and had no interest in ever making anything besides mac and cheese from a box, I flipped onto the Food Network and watched a minorly known cook make up 30-minute meals with ingredients I could actually pronounce and recognize. Rachael Ray is my food idol and the reason I got into cooking in the first place, so this was a banner moment for me.

Things I learned about Rachael Ray:
-- She's tiny. On the show, she looks much bigger, but in person, I swear I could fit her in my purse.
-- She's that bubbly in person too. I watched her with other people and she really is that happy.
-- She's a get-it-done lady. I know she has a ton of shows, books and magazines, but in person, that motivation comes through. She never stopped for water, chatting or anything else. She got there early and ready to work. I'd be tired, if I were her.

I only regret that I did not ask her to sign more stuff. I had another, hardcover book that Borders told me she wouldn't sign because it was a different publisher, but others got it signed. I also wanted a spatula signed, but didn't because Borders said she wouldn't, but I'm sure she would have if I'd ask. It's too bad, I would have gotten it framed for my kitchen. As it is, I'll never know anything about the Just in Time book because it will be stored in a safe place and never read for fear of damage.

But hell, I still met my cooking idol. I also had a wonderful day of shopping and other productive activities, so there's nothing I can get too upset over.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Holiday cookie party

As part of this year's Beta Sigma get together, we did a little cookie swap. While we attempted three types of tasty treats, only two turned out. Hey, no one's perfect.

So tonight, let me highlight this delicious and ridiculously simple fudge-type thing we made. Now let me tell you, we only made it because the title to the recipe was meltaway nut log. It just sounded funny.

This can all be made in the microwave too in one large bowl and then poured out onto wax paper, creating minimum mess. Here's how you do it:

1 six-ounce bag of semi-sweet chips
1 six-ounce bag of butterscotch chips
1 can of fudge or chocolate icing
2 cups marshmallows
1 and a 1/3 cups nuts, any kind

Melt the chips together in the microwave, stirring frequently. Stir in icing until fully incorporated. Pour out the mixture onto four separate pieces of wax paper, then add a half cup of marshmallows and 1/3 cup of the nuts to each mixture, then use the wax paper to mix the ingredients into the chocolate. Make each mixture into a log, about eight inches long, and refrigerate for three hours or until hard before slicing.

I made a slideshow of our adventure. The end result was very tasty with not a lot of mess or energy. Yay for holiday spirit!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Food find: U.S. Botanic Garden

Going along with the museum theme of the day, let me introduce you to the U.S. Botanic Garden. While there was nothing there to eat the day my sister and I visited, I did go there for HerbDay a few weeks ago.

Regardless, the Botanic Garden is an interesting place. It's not just pretty plants, although the poinsettias they have on display there these days are more like floral bushes than tabletops blooms. Also, they have an amazing outdoor Chihuly glass display, when weather permits.

In addition to a plethora of lectures and workshops, the displays help you understand where your food comes from. There are displays of healing plants along with some interesting pepper plants. I didn't even know peppers came as tiny as the ones I found. Another interesting, interactive display is Plants in Culture, which shows different uses and products made with plants. There are also these cool little flowers with herbs in the middle that visitors can take a whiff of. Katie's taking a sniff of a couple of flowers that represent the spices in jambalaya.

It's not exactly a tasty place, but it's interesting to see how important these plants are to how we view the world as well as our dishes. It's a great place to visit to learn some uncommon knowledge about your favorite common ingredients

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Food find: National Air and Space Museum

When Katie was in town, we did everything touristy one can imagine, including going to most of the Smithsonian Institute Museums. The most popular of all the museums is the National Air and Space museum on the Mall, which is the most-visited museum in the world with anywhere from 9 million to 10 million visitors annually. It's open every day except Dec. 25.

The museum is so worth the crowds, which weren't too bad on the day we visited. First, there's a new exhibit, America by Air, which explores the evolution of commercial air travel in America. There's also the interactive display, How Thing Fly, which is a must-see if you're visiting with children because it features a series of interactive displays. Another favorite is Space Race, which chronicles how America and the former Soviet Union battled to get to the moon first during the Cold War.

But our favorite by far was the Treasures of the American History Museum. The museum itself is under construction until 2008, but the best of the collection is on display in a tiny hall on the second floor. There you can see Kermit the Frog, Dorothy's ruby red slippers, Mr. Roger's cardigan, the puffy shirt from Seinfeld, the hat Abraham Lincoln wore when he was assassinated and Julia Child's hand-written recipes. It's a fabulous display.

But, to the food. One of the most popular items in the vast and impressive Smithsonian Store is the astronaut food, which they say was served abroad space shuttles. It's dehydrated ice cream in either Neapolitan or ice cream sandwiched in between two cookies. They also have strawberries, but I feel like astronauts were more likely to eat something more substantive.
At any rate, we tried the Neapolitan and I think it was $4. It only has 130 calories for this block and wasn't very filling, unsurprisingly. It reminded me of an after-dinner meltaway mint. It became a little more creamy as it melted in your mouth and did taste like ice cream. My favorite was the strawberry portion and my sister liked the strawberry the best. It was a tasty treat, but I wish I could have tried something more meal-like.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Mason jar cookies

I'm attending a cookie-baking party tomorrow afternoon. It's hard work, so I made these dips that I devised for a party last spring. I also devised these parting gifts for my friends, just in case they hadn't gotten enough baking. Gee, I hope none of them are reading tonight ...

Anyhow, these mason jar cookies are cute, decorative and pretty affordable. You can get a 12-pack of mason jars with lids for $13 and the ingredients for these cookies are generally what you have on hand. You decorate the top with ribbon, raffia or swatches of Christmas fabric that you can usually get for $1 to $3 per yard, depending on what you get.

I went with this oatmeal raisin mason jar recipe because much to my shock, not everyone in the world like chocolate. I know, I was appalled too.

The key to making these jars look cute is to use a large funnel and pack the contents together with a spatula or one of those basters with a tear-dropper style ball at the end. The layers make the jars look nice and ensure you can fit everything needed for a batch of cookies into one jar.

The recipe I went with had printable labels with instructions for assembling the cookies, but I jazzed them up with some clip art and glitter and such. I like crafts projects every now and then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cake and champagne

I don't know if there's anything better in life than celebrating graduation and a great quarter in D.C. with cake and champagne. We're older students, after all, so this is how we roll, or whatever.

Here's a dino that Sarah Baicker made to represent a Medill student: carrying our crappy, school-mandated huge-ass Lenovo laptop and nursing a cocktail. It appears with a graduation cap and my cocktail, the champagne. How fitting.

We also had these fabulous cakes decorated by our multi-talented office manager Salome. I partook in the chocolate cake and it was so delicious -- there not only was semi-chocolate flakes and chocolate icing on the outside, but there were layers of ganache between the cake. Just imagine that one for a second.

Oh, the memories. I'll miss the Washington news room.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Food find: Buca di Beppo

Another post about lasts! To celebrate the fact that most of my class was graduating, we had a class dinner last week at Buca di Beppo. While there are a few of these in Illinois, I had never been to one of these family-style Italian eateries.

So let's start with the drinks -- one of the specialties they were offering is a raspberry lemon drop martini -- isn't it pretty? It was a sweet cocktail, but not overwhelmingly so. I also liked the little punch of tartness from the lemon juice.

They served a standard iceburg salad to everyone along with garlic bread made in a pie plate. It was very garlicly but not as buttery as I had hoped. Oh well -- it was at least browned and toasty. It was the day it snowed in D.C., so I was happy to have something hot out of the oven.

So for the first family dish, my table went with spaghetti. It was a marinara meat sauce that was what I look for in a tomato-based sauce -- not too sweet, smooth texture and enough meat to keep me full. Also, the pasta was well cooked -- not too al dente.

Next, we had chicken Parmesan -- it was so awesome. The chicken was tender, the breading crusty and the cheese perfectly melted. There was just a bit of sauce on top, so nothing got soggy.

Finally, my favorite part. A strawberry cheesecake. It was so tasty and smooth, but I wish there would have been more strawberry sauce.

The only bad thing I have to say about this place is that my friend had hair on her plate -- ick. A little unclean. But then again, I won't be going to this particular location in Dupont Circle again anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Food find: Naan and Beyond

Pardon my blogging hiatus. The last two weeks of graduate school were busy and I didn't have any Internet at home. I was living like the Amish, really.
Last week was a week of last -- last essay, last story, last class, last lecture, etc. I'm a sentimental person so every last was meaningful. You only get a master's degree once and this has been quite a little road. So for our last covering conflict class (a course dedicated to teaching journalists how to write about a variety of war and hostile environments), we had Indian food from Naan and Beyond.

Now I didn't know a thing about the food I was enjoying, but luckily, the restaurant in National Place's food gallery is owned by my classmate Ambreen Ali's relative. So I found out that the pastry item in the background is a veggie samosa with potato and spinach -- really filling. There's also some rice, which was pretty tasty. There's also a mint sauce in the little package, tandoori chicken. If only I could remember what the rest of it is called ... the other dish was peas, cabbage and potato and then chickpeas in a sauce. It was all very delicious, spicy and filling. If only I knew what it was so I could get it again. Oh well, I'm now 730 miles away from Washington, so I guess I'll live without.
I hear they have a lunch buffet, but what we ate was made fresh for our class and was apparently tastier than normal.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hey folks! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend. As some of you know, I finished my graduate studies on Friday. After more than one year in graduate school, three years as an undergrad and 12 years before that, I'm finally done! Unless I want a Ph.D.

To celebrate, my sister and I are spending the weekend being tourists and seeing the Washington sites. I still don't have Internet at my apartment, so it's been a tough last two weeks. I'll be returning the Heartland on Monday, which is coincidentally the world of Internet. I have so many food updates, so I hope you'll come back then!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Old Ebbitt sweet potatoes

Last reporting day of the quarter! We're busy bees in the Medill news room this afternoon. In the meantime, I have to share this recipe with you. My friend Rachel had lunch with a professor recently at Old Ebbitt Grill. Old Ebbitt is Washington's oldest pub and sits very close to the White House across the street from the White House, although this isn't the original site. Anyhow, they have a priceless collection of art and memorabilia and I've been told every Congressman has a secret stash of vino in their wine cellar.

But Rachel raved about the sweet potatoes she ate there. She said they were quite simple "the best sweet potato dish I've ever had." You can't argue with that.

Lucky for us, Old Ebbitt's chef is generous with the eatery's recipe. Rachel tracked down this beauty -- bookmark it now, you'll want it later.
Sweet Potato Gratin
2 1/3 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 quart heavy cream

Puree chipotle, cream and sugar to make a smooth paste. Layer potato in a shallow dish, overlapping the potatoes. Pour some of the cream paste over each layer until you have three to four layers. Do not over soak potatoes, the cream should not cover it completely. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until top is crusty and potatoes are tender. The mixture should bubble, but let it cool a bit before serving.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Food find: Ben's Chili Bowl

NOTE: Please vote for my photo entries, No. 1 and 2, on

There are some things you just have to do when visiting Washington: Check out the White House, ride the Metro, see the Wall, eat at Ben's Chili Bowl.

Hey, I don't make the rules here, I just follow.

Ben's Chili Bowl is an institution in DC that has been in the heart of the U Street Corridor since 1958. As the diner boasts, it has been black owned and operated since then. I was once told that before there was Motown, there was U Street. At the time when the eatery opened, U Street was in its hayday and was the heart of Black Broadway. It casually hosted legends such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King Jr., or Bill Cosby at its lunch counter and served up chili on everything you can imagine, including burgers, fries and hotdogs.

Times changed and Ben's weather the storm when other businesses failed in the sliding neighborhood during the '70s and '80s. Now the neighborhood is as bustling as any and has a Rite Aid and Starbucks. If that's not the picture of mainstream suburbia, I don't know what is.

Through the years, Ben's hasn't changed. I stopped in last night on my way home -- the restauarant is right across the street from the 13th and U Street exit of the U Street Metro Station. I got some chili cheese fries and a diet Coke at the lunch counter. Music played, the staff sang along and I watched my dinner being made. The staff is friendly and entertaining. While refilling my drink, my waiter told me that not only does he sing, dance, cook and serve food, but he reads minds Monday through Friday. Now that deserves a healthy tip.

The portion of fries was huge and I barely made it through half. The toppings were generous and the chili was in fact something to write home about. It was smokey and spicy, but not overwhelming. It has a nice texture and color and was quite filling.

Also, the atmosphere is so cute and authentic. There are little booths for larger parties and a Redskins shrine in the corner. Signs throughout the establishment thank patrons for supporting a local business and memorabilia is available. There's also a sign listing the people who eat for free at Ben's. The only person on the management-approved list is Bill Cosby, who in 1985 came to Ben's to announce the success of his show.

So now that I've crossed this one off my list, what do you think I should take my sister to see this weekend?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Food find: The Downtown Grill in Charlottesville

I went out to Charlottesville for the first time in at least six years during the weekend. It's lovely time to go out there -- the leaves are changing, University of Virginia is full energy and the roads aren't yet obscured by snow. It's about a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Washington, D.C., but I hear there's a commuter train that makes its way out there.

On Saturday, we first went out to The Downtown Grille with two of my aunts, an uncle and their four boys. The eatery is on Charlottesville's historic downtown mall. It's home to many eateries, businesses, a theater and children's museum that we used to visit when we came to see my grandparents.

Anyhow, this classy establishment touts itself as the finest purveyor of beef from the Midwest (the taste of home!) and seafood. The interior is moderately lit and has a nice bar decorated with mahogany wood and black leather-type seats to match the interior of the rest of the place. I didn't take any photos, but the Grille's Web site is nicely done.

First, our table got a healthy serving of freshly-made herbed rolls hot from the oven. They were quite tasty and had a good combination of herbs without being overpowering. Most dishes come with a salad made of a generous wedge of iceberg lettuce and topped with either a thick balsamic vinagrette or roquefort dressing, which I found very cheesy-tasting.

I ordered the small filet mignon. It must be an American thing that "small" is an eight-ounce filet, even though a single serving of protein is four ounces. Either way, it was pretty tasty. One side of my filet was peppered a bit too much for my taste, but the meat was very tender and cooked to a satisfactory medium doneness. My cousin Kieran got the Neptune angel hair pasta with shrimp, scallops and crab meat over pasta finished with a basil cream sauce. It looked delicious and the seafood was skillfully presented. My other cousin Patrick is very particular with food and decided to go for a carb fest -- he ordered side dishes of French fries, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. These side dishes are more like sharable family portions -- the mashed potatoes were really tasty and must have had sour cream in them. The mac and cheese was a bit tasteless, but the crunch on the top of the casserole-style dish was interesting. My other cousin Brendan got a surf and turf of a steak with a crab cake and he said the crab cake was delicious. My youngest cousin Griffin got an herbed chicken dish with bacon and cheddar -- he seemed to be a big fan. I can't remember much else that was on the table, but we all walked away stuffed and happy with our meal.

Next up for the night was attending the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra's family holiday concert at Old Cabell Hall at UVa. It was a lovely concert and had a great mix of recognizable, modern Christmas songs as well as more classical instrumental pieces. The show featured the orchestra as well as choir and was quite impressive. There was even a sing along, but I think the crowd favorite was a musical interpretation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in which the orchestra played along as a local actor read the poem.

If you ever make it to UVa, try to catch a musical performance there. They really know how to capture a crowd.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekend warrior

Hey folks, Virginia was fabulous! I'll update you Monday evening about the spectacular food and festivities in Charlottesville.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Food Find: Morimoto in Philadelphia

After lunch at the White House, I really don't know where else to go. I feel like I may have reached a culinary climax. Also, I have no Internet at home yet and I will be spending the weekend in Virginia. In the meantime, I have acquired a wonderful review from my classmate Sarah Baicker, who had the pleasure of dining at Morimoto in Philadelphia. Yeah, it's named after that Morimoto on the Food Network. It's his flagship Japanese restaurant, so enjoy this little delight from Sarah.

Say what you will about Philadelphia. Sure, the City of Brotherly Love might be a little dirty, and yeah, we might have an incompetent mayor and, uh, a “small homicide problem.” But one thing Philly does have is one hell of an array of restaurants.

We might not be able to get a team to a championship, but we know how to eat and we know how to appreciate good food. And our foodie king is restaurateur Stephen Starr.

Starr is best-known for his glitzy Thai-fusion restaurant Buddakan, which also has a New York location. But he’s also behind a kitschy Elvis-themed Mexican restaurant (El-Vez), an upscale steakhouse (Barclay Prime) and Morimoto, a contemporary Japanese and sushi house that bears a name that ought to be familiar to some of you. Yes, Chef Masaharu Morimoto is the Morimoto of TV’s cult-classic cooking show, Iron Chef.

I’ve wanted to eat at Morimoto since learning to appreciate sushi some years ago, but, alas, Morimoto is impossible to afford on my non-existent salary. In fact, eating at Morimoto is out of the range of most salaries. This is the kind of place with a name followed by an obscene amount of dollar signs on CitySearch and MenuPages. Sigh.

But, being blessed with a well-to-do—and generous—food-loving friend, I got to experience Morimoto while home for Thanksgiving break. And…wow. I can only hope that one day I make enough money to get to eat like that again.

It’s hard not to feel cool walking into Morimoto. The restaurant is bright, very long and narrow—all just one big room with no divisions—and with a kitchen in pain view situated in the back. There’s a bar and lounge upstairs, where we waited and had a drink while our table was prepared. Everyone is well-dressed, and I will admit that I half-expected a celebrity could walk in at any minute. The wait staff is extremely attentive and helpful from the moment you walk in. Most all tables are booths, and all the booths are an icy-looking lighted plastic that fades gradually from color to color—purple, to red, to blue, and so on. Starr has a knack for going just a little over-the-top in presentation, but I promise it’s not as offensive as it sounds.

I let my friend do all the ordering. He’s a frequent diner at Morimoto, and quite simply, I was overwhelmed. The menu contains a lot of items I’d never heard of, much less tried. And so, after we each had a drink (I had a glass of Cabernet) he went to town, ordering what was certainly more than enough food to last the two of us a good three or four days.

First up was a warm whitefish carpaccio, a plate of thinly sliced pieces of fish drizzled with warm oil and spices. It was very light and, even with my unsophisticated palate, I could appreciated the subtle flavors. The dish was presented like a piece of art (as was everything that was whisked past our table) and was definitely a great introduction to the meal.

Then came a yellowtail tartar and a pile of rock shrimp tempura. The tempura was delightful, very slightly crispy, and it somehow managed to not feel heavy despite being fried. It was sweet with a little kick at the end, and the portion was generous—we were munching on the shrimp throughout the rest of the meal. The tartar was my first tartar ever, as well as my first introduction to caviar. I’ll admit it reminded me a little bit of what canned cat food looks like as far as its size and shape, but I can still imagine its taste. And the taste was more than enough to knock those cat food images from my mind at the time.

But the star of the night was the black cod miso, a warm fillet of black cod lightly drizzled with a sweet miso-based sauce that had hints of caramel. Before the dish arrived, my friend told me to expect something that tasted like lobster, but if lobster was a thousand-times tastier and more tender. And yeah, that about sums it up.

Too bad, he added, that black cod is on the verge of extinction. Oops.

While we were still working on the cod, our sushi arrived. We ordered a pair of pieces of variety of sashimi, including tuna, salmon and unagi (eel). At this point in the meal, I must admit, I was well past full. I probably didn’t enjoy the sushi as much as I should have, but I can say this: I took out a salmon roll from the local Whole Foods last night and I think Morimoto has forever ruined my chances of appreciating cheap, take-out sushi.

Before we left, our waiter (who, I should add, was absolutely adorable and totally down-to-earth) brought us each a glass of sparkling white wine with a scoop of homemade raspberry sorbet dropped inside. These perfect endings to our meal were gifts from the chef, Mr. Morimoto himself.

Did I say I like my friends?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

White House lunch!

I'm still at my office at 10 p.m., but days like today make it worth it. I had lunch at the White House in the State Room! It was as amazing as it sounds. First Lady Bush did her annual tour of the Christmas decorations. This year, the theme was a Holiday at the National Parks.

Beyond the fabulous food, there was a lovely tree decorated with 347 handmade ornament representing the national parks and monuments. This photo is the three of us at the tree in the Blue Room.

The food was equally fabulous. There's a 300-pound White House gingerbread house made with the original architect's plans. So adorable and impressive!

If you want to know about the buffet menu, check it out here. Or check out my slide show below.

This is really the most exciting thing to ever happen to me! The shrimp was fabulous, the lamb succulent and the dessert decadent. I hope I get asked back again!

Back to work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kelly's tips: Party time!

It's getting that time of year when families, friends and even offices get together to celebrate. There's holiday parties, New Year's Eve parties, Christmas parties, festivus parties and who knows what else. I recently had to fight H&M over a refund (they have a ridiculous return policy, in my opinion), but I picked up an issue of a their magazine. Mostly it's a snotty, thinly veiled marketing tool that offer no guidance except what to buy at the store. However, there was an interesting article from Linnea Johansson titled "Throwing the Perfect Party."
Here are her tips:
1. Choose a theme -- Can I suggest sleep overs with slippers for guests and a morning brunch, the '80s with Brat Pack videos and bad hair or your favorite film?
2. Take shortcuts (buy food, use what you have, etc.)
3. Pamper your guests -- it keeps them talking
4. Follow the rules -- When you're a guests, don't bring another person if they're not invited and respond to the invite.
5. Be creative -- Take that theme extreme! If you're doing a fall gala, write invites on dried, pressed leaves.
6. Use lighting -- Use dramatic lighting as part of your motif.
7. Surprise your guests -- She gives some crazy suggestions if you have a lot of cash to spend, like flying guests on a helicopter. I think it's nice to have something thoughtful, like personalized favors.
8. Send an exciting invitation -- It sets the tone and doesn't have to be pricey.
She thinks the minimum for a party is $300, according to the magazine, which is coincidentally the exact amount Colorez Arizona owes me for a story I wrote for them in July. That's right, roughly five months ago.
But I've had great parties for less than that. I have a chocolate fondue fountain and when I was in college, I used Evites or Facebook to get people there. I provided the chocolate, the locale, the cutlery and plates, then ask each friend to bring one item for dipping like marshmallows, strawberries or graham crackers. We usually had a ton of leftover food and everybody had a great time. We put on some music, had some drinks and chocolate things on the cheap. I guess it's not as fabulous as Linnea's parties, but we had a damn good time.
But maybe if Colorez ever pays me, I can hold one of those glamorous parties Linnea talks about.


It's going to be a while until the Internet is restored on the home front. At least until Monday. Until then, I'm living practically like an Amish chick. No TV, no Internet, really no amusement whatsoever. I went to bed at 10 p.m. last night because I had nothing else to do. I'll be writing a real post from work later on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Food find: Au Bon Pain cookies

It turns out my Internet issues are a result of Comcast, not my computer. At least I have that going for me.

So it's the end of November, but there is no snow to be seen anywhere. In this age of global warming, it's not even cold outside. Yesterday it was in the 60s, I think. So how is one to know that it's Christmastime?

Two things: The Macy's at Metro Center has revealed its holiday windows and there are holiday cookies at Au Bon Pain. Now don't get too excited over the holiday windows. This year, there's about eight windows that describe Santa's journey across the world on Christmas Eve. It's a little creepy/psychedelic because Santa is dressed in this slightly disturbing pink glitter outfit and travels through outer space to deliver toys. There's also this one window with a rotating snowflake that's going way, way too fast. It looks like they mounted a giant snowflake on a record player. There is an endearing window that talks about Santa traveling over DC that has a little model of the Capitol that's cute. I took a picture, but I don't know what I did with it.

But do get excited over the cookies. My ABP started baking these cookies about one week ago. So far, you get gingerbread men and a sprinkle-decorated tree. Here's the secret -- If you go in the hour before they close, the baked goods are half off. I go to the ABP at 700 13th St. NW and from 7 to 8 p.m., it's a tasty time to shop. That's when I got these little edible holiday mementos and they were tasty. Really, it's the only way I know we're heading towards Christmas at this point.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Still trying to figure out my Internet situation. Sorry guys! I'll make a triumphant return tomorrow regardless of my anachronistic computer.

Can someone find my Internet?

I finally got back last night -- United was a much more pleasant experience than ATA. My flights were both on time and they didn't lose my luggage so I called it a success.

However, my five-year-old laptop is no longer connecting to the Internet. I thought I could live without television for three months but no Internet is going to make me a dull, boring girl with no hobbies.

More on this debacle later.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Food find: Omega

I first had Omega in Lake Zurich many years ago. It's a small chain of Greek-style diners that have awesome breakfast foods. Last time I went, I ordered the junior apple pancakes, which are baked cake-style pancakes with what I would guess is two full apples baked into it. They take 35 minutes to make. They also have an amazing and filling bread basket full of all types of bakery delights.

Anyhow, I went over for brunch this morning in Downers Grove. No bread basket, though, I think you only get it if you order non-breakfast foods. I ordered the Omega skillet, which is a skillet filled with hash brown potatoes on the bottom and layers of bacon, sausage, onions, cheese and eggs. It came with either pancakes or toast on the side -- I of course went with pancakes. My dining companion went with a steak and two eggs, which came with toast and hash browns or pancakes.

My skillet was fabulous. The potatoes were nice and crunchy and brown as well as seasoned. The bacon, sausage and onion were plentiful but not overwhelming. I like the cheese because it held together by bites. The scrambled eggs were done well and tasted great. The pancakes were pretty tasty too. The steak was huge and done to medium perfection. The sunny side eggs were good as well and you can't really mess up hash browns and toast. Yum!
I really don't like mornings, but Omega is worth getting up for.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Turkey day!

OK, the title is a little deceiving. I didn't do any cooking at all. My mom made a really great feast: 12-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, stuffing and cauliflower in a cheese sauce. It was quite amazing. We all mashed and dished the tasty stuff in the kitchen, while we sipped on what my sisters called jingle bells:

1 part cranberry juice
1 part sprite

And the adult version:
2 part cranberry juice
1 part white wine
1 part sprite

We live in a drafty house, so we serve our foods buffet/potluck style in chafing pans. We have an electric three-section chafing set for turkey, stuffing and potatoes and then we used an additional fondue-type set up with gel fuel for the veggies. It's not a perfect system, but it's start.

We have a tradition here in the Mahoney household: Every year after turkey dinner but before pie, we go to downtown Chicago to see the Marshall Fields windows. I refuse to call it that other name that owns it now ... The theme this year was the Nutcracker, although I recall that back in the day when it was Field's, there were more windows, but it was still cool. My favorite window had nothing to do with the Nutcracker. I really enjoyed the tree decorated with Frango mints.

Anyhow, another wonderful holiday at our house. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday message

I will not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I'm going home on Thursday to relax for a few days and my mom will be working her magic in the kitchen. Instead, I'll send you this holiday tribute.

Did you ever watch The West Wing? Remember the episode when CJ is perplexed to find two turkeys in her office because it's time for the pardoning of the turkeys? Yeah, it actually exists.

I really thought this was an invention of the West Wing writers until a couple of weeks ago. Turns out, every since Harry Truman did it 60 years ago, every president has given a full presidential pardon to two turkeys, just in case one is afraid of crowds, for Thanksgiving. The turkeys are specially raised for the event so as to be human friendly and get shipped off to Disney World via first class airfare after the event to serve as grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. You can watch President Bush in the whole ceremony here and check out my personal photos of the event here.

I don't know which was worse -- that the leader of the free world gave a pardon to a turkey or that this is the biggest presidential event I will cover while in DC. It was so adorable, regardless. The turkey was huge and the most passive thing I've ever seen. After that, Laura and George Bush left on Marine Force One for their holiday weekend, so I got a double whammy out of that event.

It kind of made me crave a turkey sandwich ...

PS -- If you're traveling this week, may I suggest packing a few snacks? Chances are your flight will be delayed and airport food sucks/is really expensive. I'm packing a baggie of granola and some peanuts. They even charge you for food on board airplanes now too.

***These are my personal photos and may not be used without my permission***

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food find: Potbelly's

Today was a fabulous day in the Capitol. I went out to the Pentagon for a tour, which was pretty interesting. It's the world's largest office building and was constructed in something like 16 months to respond to the pressures of World War II. There's everything in the Pentagon -- Post office, commissary, barber, florist, chapel ... and Taco Bell! How is it the Pentagon can have a Taco Bell but the rest of DC cannot, praytell?
I'll never get called Taco Kel again at this rate ...

Anyhow, in addition to our lovely tour, we also had class tonight. Dr. Conrad Crane, the author of the The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual came to lecture about the manual and progress in Iraq. It was an interesting presentation about counterinsurgency methods, but no need to bore you with the details.

Because we were in class for something like 13 hours today between the tour, regular classes and this presentation, we got treated to dinner. This time was pizza, last time was Potbelly's. I've already written about the pizza, so let's chat about Potbelly's tonight. It's a sandwich chain that's privately owned with headquarters in Chicago. All their subs are toasted and offered with hot peppers, which I always decline. In this photo, I got a ham and turkey combo with all the veggies.

In addition to delicious sandwiches made fresh on tasty hoagie rolls, they make fabulous cookies. For quite some time my office has been debating which lunch establishment has the best cookies. We tried Au bon Pain, Cosi, Starbucks, Mrs. Fields and Subway, to name a few. Potbelly's wins out because of their texture. They only offer up oatmeal chocolate chip cookie -- they do one and they do it right. The oatmeal creates a nice textures with the right amount of chocolate chips so as to not overwhelm. They're also made fresh daily.

So grab some Potbelly's next time you're out. The sandwiches are a little on the small side, but quite delicious and satisfying when paired with a cookie.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Drink discovery: The Third Edition

I can't decide if I'm getting old or there just aren't enough bars in Georgetown to go around. I say this because I went to The Third Edition last night and I was aghast at how many people they fit into that joint. Seeing as there's something like 40 bars in that neighborhood, it's probably just me. I still had an awesome time, though.

Located at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, it's about one mile away from any metro stop. But I'm an adventurous gal and I could use a nice walk. The main bar of this place was in the '80s brat pack film, St. Elmo's Fire. The picture of the '80s-rific bar is from the establishment's Web site. It was so crowded that when I was on the dance floor, I got elbowed in the head and knocked over. Silly me, I thought I was at a bar and not some mosh-worthy concert.

Here's my big peeve about the place -- It was a $5 cash-only cover. The beers, even Bud Lite, were $5.50 a piece. To open a tab was a $25 minimum charge. Tip to the bar owner: If you want to make money, you want me to spend money. Telling me I must drink five of your crappy beers to have a suitable tab isn't a way to make me want to spend money. Therefore, I didn't drink. That may have expounded my issue with the crowding.

If every law student at Georgetown wasn't in this single bar, it would have been a cool little joint. There were two levels, plus an outdoor bar. There were a few tables and booths for the mellow crowd as well as two DJs, one playing top 40s songs and the other rocking out to the '80s. They get extra points because they played Kelly Clarkson, which is a staple in my opinion.

Afterwards, we walked to Dupont Circle in search of some food. Did you know that the only place that serves food at 1:30 a.m. is Subway? I had higher hopes for Dupont too.

I may go back to Third Edition, but only during the day to try their menu.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Hey folks, I'm taking the night off. It's been a busy day. I got new headshots and went on a White House tour today. I'm going out this evening, so expect a new food and drink review tomorrow.

I also changed the look of the site, so tell me what you think!

Friday, November 16, 2007

DCblogs photo entry and a little bit about me

Happy Friday! We made it.

First order of business: here are my entries in photo contest. The theme is “What inspires you?” I chose to showcase two photos I took last weekend on Veterans Day near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The sacrifice that these men and women made to protect our freedom and that of others inspires me to exercise those freedoms. Journalism is the only profession specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights and I make full use of it. I was also inspired by these selfless veterans to write a column for the Lake County News-Sun.

At play: I took this near the Washinton Monument.

Mental prep: This was taken right before the presentation at the Wall on Veterans Day. She's prepping for her performance while facing the crowd gathered at the Wall.

Another point of business: Diane at Much of Muchness tagged me earlier in the week and I’m finally getting to it! What a week.

1 How long have you been blogging?
Since May of this year.
2 What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?
So, so many reasons. I love food and would like to write a cook book or be a food writer at a newspaper. When I started the blog, I was in a class that didn’t have a ton of writing in it, so I wanted to stay sharp. I’d never done a ton of photography, so I thought I’d give it a try. I also wanted to see what kind of digital community existed out there. I have a pretty common name as well and I wanted to be the No. 1 Kelly Mahoney on Google, as opposed to the WWE rink girl or the meteorologist (all fine Kelly Mahoneys, I'm sure).
I love Amateur Gourmet and admire the blog over there. In real life, my mom is quite the inspiration -- she did not know how to cook at all at my age at all and is now a kitchen guru. It gives me hope that I might be able to cook without a recipe one day.
3 Are you trying to make money online or are you doing it for fun?
It would be nice to make some cash off of this, but much like journalism, if I was in this for the money, I’d be bitterly disappointed. I make roughly $.09 per day off of this site.
4 What three things do you love about being online?
A. Writing about food! My mom always says food is love, so I like to share the wealth. You have to eat at least two to three times per day, and there’s so many facets to food writing – recipes, dining out, baking, cook books, food on television … I’ll never get bored with this.
B. Meeting people. I’ve learned so much about cultures and food while doing this. I love seeking out other blogs and taking in people’s suggestions to make this one better.
C. Getting feedback. I’ve learned so much from my readers. It’s been a great experience and I hope it will continue.
4 What three things do you struggle with online?
A. Haters. I have a hard time believing that there are losers out there with nothing better to do than stalk the same blogs in order to leave nasty, nitpicky comments, but I guess there are people like that who need a hobby. It’s kind of sad, but it gets to you.
B. Readership. Like I said, I’d like to write a book one day, so I’m always trying to reach out to blogs for inspiration, ideas and networking (Got a suggestion about increasing readership or my site in general? I’d love to hear it!)
C. Staying current. I get out and I try my best without a kitchen, but it’s hard without an oven. I’d also like to freshen up the layout, but I don’t know enough about HTML. One day …

In return, I’d like to pose the same questions to the following bloggers that I’d like to learn more about:

My Kitchen Snippets

Trish at The Coffee Shop

Andrea at Mom to the Fey

Winedeb at Deb’s Key West Wine and Gardening blog

Rak’s Kitchen

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Food find: Kabuki Sushi and Teriyaki

I've had a hard day and decided to splurge. I walked over to National Place's cafeteria and settled on sushi for dinner tonight at Kabuki Sushi and Teriyaki.

I've had great success with the food court here. There's all kinds of choices -- burgers, Asian, Indian, cafe foods and pizza. I think it's a little weird that there are offices that overlook the food court, but I enjoy the multitude of television there that makes it so characteristically DC -- can't live a minute without the news.

Anyhow, I ordered a fashion roll that came with shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado. I also got a spicy California roll. I thought the fashion roll was pretty -- but it's a little funny to see the shrimp tails sticking out. I did see them cook the shrimp right before assmebling the roll. The roll was warm, then, when I got it, but it was still delicious. The crunch of the tempura along with the cool bite of cucumber and creamy avocado pieces was a nice combo of tastes and textures. I also liked the toasted sesame seeds on the outside.

The spicy California roll was doused in spicy mayo and salmon roe. I thought the spicy part would be in the inside in the form of wasabi, but I gave it a try. It was far too spicy for my taste. It really overwhelmed the rest of the roll. I scraped off most of the mayo and it turned out to be quite tasty -- the sushi chef just needs to practice moderation, it appears.

All in all, a good sushi experience, especially for a food court. Next time, I think I'll get one of their combo meals. My meal was $9, but for $10 or $12, I could have gotten a mix of nigiri pieces and a roll. Next time, I'll choose better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A short note

Tonight I was at school until 9 p.m. While we had some fabulous speakers this evening, I'm also fabulously tired.

So, I'd like to encourage you to check out my story for the Medill News Service about the kinds of foods served at political events. Think filet mignon, champagne and southern-fried chicken. But for the '08 election cycle, advertising just how recyclable your plates and napkins are will be a big fad. How typical Washington ...

Also, this installment of Well Fed on the Town by yours truly is about an upcoming tasting event at the National Press Club that I think it totally worthwhile for foodies and the curious alike.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Chicken pot freed from the pie

First, business. I'm doing a project for the Associated Press (highlight of my life!) about politics and young people. Please check out our AP video, produced by fellow grad student Emily Wood, and leave a comment on YouTube if you're so inclined.

Meanwhile ... It's starting to get a little chilly in Washington. I could see my breath today as I walked to the Metro and it rained the entire morning. I just wanted to stay in bed, but alas, the news waits for no one.

I had a hankering for some comfort food. Pasta in the microwave is a bit iffy and most of my go-to meals are out of the question without an oven.

I was thinking chicken pot pie, but I was not about to eat one of those things that come out of the box. I have nothing against frozen dinners; I just can't seem to find a decent pot pie from a box that still has a flaky crust. Besides, I want something a little more figure friendly and those box things aren't that cheap

So here's my single chicken breast, veggie-rich pot pie recipe. I trimmed off the fat from the chicken and used very little oil, so this is cost effective and healthier than anything from those boxes.

So here's how I went about it:
1 chicken breast, cubed
1/2 white onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into circles
1/2 a baking potato, sliced
Salt, pepper and poultry seasoning
Spray cooking oil
1/4 water (or white wine or chicken stock)
2 prepared biscuits
1/2 cup peas
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Season the chicken pieces with pepper, salt and poultry seasoning to taste (I used about a teaspoon of the poultry seasoning). Use enough spray cooking oil to coat the pan evenly and heat to medium, then cook the chicken pieces through, about four minutes. Remove chicken and cover.

Re-coat the pan with a spritz of cooking oil and add garlic, onion and celery; cook for five minutes. Begin cooking the biscuits, according to the package instruction (I made mine in my Xpress101 cooker thing). Add carrots, potato and water; cook until carrots are soft but still have a bite, about seven minutes. Add peas, parsley and chicken, toss to coat and allow to warm for one minute, covered.

To serve, place a scoop of the chicken and veggies mixture in a bowl. Cover with halves of the biscuit.

It's not quite like homemade pot pie, but it's better for you than what my mother made. There less fat because there's not the starchy sauce I remember. Also, one biscuit per serving instead of a butter-laden top and bottom crust is probably better overall as well. And there's more veggies per serving in this recasting of a pot pie. I personally added a little too much pepper, mostly because I'm excited to use my new battery-operated pepper mill.

I'll be eating these leftovers for a few days, too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Food find: Clyde's second try

Lis got a job! Trust me, she's more excited about being employed than the food in the picture.

After my last sub par visit at Clyde's in Gallery Place right off the Chinatown Metro stop, I decided to give it a second try. There's always an off night.
Also, I read Kitchen Confidential over the summer and after hearing Anthony Bourdain describe his first encounter with raw oysters freshly fetched from the ocean, I decided I had to give it a try.

So off to Clyde's we trekked for a second try and a culinary adventure. First off, Clyde's does the bar scene much better than the upscale dining Tim and I were hoping for last visit. This place was packed, even though it was a Monday night. From 3 to 6 p.m., the raw bar items are half-priced, so that may have something to do with it.

We had a celebratory beer (Blue Moon with the orange) and proceeded to the ordering of raw things. Up until about a year ago, I didn't even eat sushi -- why go out and pay someone so you can eat uncooked things? How far I've come. We sat at the bar to expedite the dining process, but it still took considerable effort to capture the bartender's attention. However, when another bartender came on duty, he was far better at his job. I hope the tip went to him.

We decided to get a dozen for the three of us to share at a bargain price of $11 total. We got two of each type of oyster they had. Moving clockwise from the top, near where the empty glass is: cape breton from St. George Bay, NS; large size, plump in the shell with a brine finish; Onset point from Buzzards Bay, Mass., large size, plump in shell with a sweet finish; kusshi from Deep Bay, BC, small size, slightly briny with a sweet finish; raspberry point from New London Bay, PEI, medium size, crisp and briny with a sweet finish; Wainno, which isn't on the menu and I don't have any info and Island Creek from Duxbury Harbor, Mass., medium size, buttery taste with a briny finish.

So I started with the kusshi and decided that I wanted a purist experience -- no lemon, no sauce, no horseradish. I picked it up, slurped it off the half shell and chewed it tentatively.

It tasted like the ocean.

Maybe I don't have a refined enough palate, but I had a hard time tasting the sweet or buttery finished noted on the menu and got stuck on the briny part. However, once I added horseradish, the experience was heavenly. The meat was tender, the liquid within the oyster was delightfully salty and the overall texture and taste delightful. I guess I'm just not an oyster purist -- I like my sauce.

My only complaint was that I swear there was some gritty sand in some of the oysters. Now I know a small amount is unavoidable, but they manage to make sushi not taste like fish or have scales embedded in the nigiri. If I'm going to go raw, I at least want to feel like I'm eating something somewhat removed from the ocean.