Restaurant: Cowboy Ciao

Its fall and foodies everywhere begin to crave all kinds of slow foods, home-style dishes and basically anything baked, stewed, braised...so thankfully there is Cowboy Ciao, a downtown Scottsdale restaurant that excels at providing these 'cravings'.

Things do have a southwestern flare (it is in AZ), but with a slight contemporary twist and year-round it is heavy in fall/winter cooking style techniques (aka, braising, stewing).

Even though I am not a fan of southwestern flare decor (I know, it is AZ) or the smell of stale beer (it has a real nightlife!), it has been added to my will-eat-at-list when in the Valley of the Sun.

Truffled Braised Beef Short Rib Risotto

Fried Macaroni & Cheese
with Veggie Chili Dipping Sauce
Braised Beef (Short Rib Reuben Style)  Sandwich with Au Jus &
Homemade Potato Chips


Restaurant: Elephant Jumps

My new favorite restaurant is Elephant Jumps, a (relatively new) Thai restaurant near the VA intersection of route 50 and 495. Elephant Jumps is the only DC area Thai restaurant I have eaten at that serves the fresh and simple food I've enjoyed in my multiple trips to Thailand. And I am not the only one.

In the past few months, I have tried nearly 70% of the Elephant Jumps menu and enjoyed it all - eating there and take out too. One of my favorite dishes (pictured left - from take-out) is the Crispy Salmon with Ginger Sauce (although it can also come with mango sauce which I really like as well). I think my second favorite is the Cashew Chicken in Taro Nest or maybe its the Fried Papaya Salad?

You might want to take note, this restaurant has four levels of spice, mild, medium, hot and Thai hot - and this is the only Thai restaurant I've been to in the states that 'Thai Hot' actually means 'Thai Hot', yet the taste isn't lost in the heat, it just adds another layer of flavor.

Never fear though, if you are someone who loves Thai, but has a co-diner that doesn't so much...they have an East meets West menu, which includes a great Burrito Satay Chicken stuffed with rice, chicken and sweet style peanut sauce...a very yummy Chipotle-style Thai Burrito.


Williams-Sonoma FREE Demonstrations

Fall has arrived and it is time to start thinking about all those delicious upcoming holiday dishes and treats! Get some new ideas (while watching your wallet) at your local Williams-Sonoma FREE demonstration classes throughout the month of October. Click here for schedule and call your local Williams-Sonoma store to RSVP.


Event: FREE dessert day!

Photo from my culinary school days
at L'Academie de Cuisine
Today only! Book your reservation through opentable at any of these participating restaurants and you'll receive a FREE Dessert! (with just a minimum purchase of 1 entree).


Event: Cooking Class at Ceiba

Ceiba Restaurant (one of my favorites!) is having a cooking class on Saturday, September 25th from 11am to 1pm ($75/pp). I've been to their classes before and they are great...entertaining, interesting dishes and they do all the work, so you can just sit back and enjoy their delicious dishes and their wine.

The Menu
Crab Meat Causa Rellena
Tiradito de Pescado
Aroz Con Pato
(Includes Wine Pairing)
Can't attend? No worries, this time around they'll be featuring this menu during dinner service from September 25th to October 2nd.

To reserve your spot, contact Jillian Zins at 202.408.0201 or via email at jillian@passionfoodhospitality.com


Recipe: Yakima Valley Featured Product

What a surprise to get this e-recipe, via vegetarian times that pays a little homage to my homeland, the Yakima Valley. The recipe is from Cafe Flora, a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle that features this cherry-polenta dish, crafted from ingredients provided by a Yakima farmer, Merv Dykstra.

I don't know Merv, but it sounds like he's been doing pretty well for a while now, supplying ingredients to many Seattle area restaurants.

The recipe is great...sweet, savory...good for an appetizer, an unusual dessert or an interesting substitute for a cheese course. When I prepared it for myself, I even bought the cherries from the Old Town Alexandria Whole Foods, which are from Selah, my hometown in the Yakima Valley.


Urban Myth: Airline Food is Bad

A recent CNN article brings to light the amazing fare of fine-dining dishes that are available to you in first class. It got me thinking about all the wonderful airline meals (yes...I said AIRLINE!) I've enjoyed in the last few years.

Myth: Everyone uses plastic sporks.

Each airline has its own china style set and sets your table (aka, tray) one passenger at a time. (US domestic flights first class carriers excluded.) Photo from the Tahiti based airline, Air Tahiti Nui.

Myth: Food isn't Good

If I am on an Asian Airline, 9 times out of 10, I will get the Asian menu option. This is still the best, most flavorful and well prepared Bim Bam Bop I have ever had! Photo from South Korean based airline, Asiana.

Myth: Will it be Chicken or Fish for your entree?

Another Asian meal option selection, where I got to enjoy tons of things that I could never possibly find in an any Asian resturant in the DC metro area. Pictured beginning from left and going clockwise: steamed rice, shark fin pudding, marinated beef and veggie stir fry, pickled veggies, etc., miso soup (in the black covered container) and braised seafood and veggies. And this was just my main course, from a 5 course dinner. Photo from Japanese based airline, All Nippon Airlines.

Myth: The only difference between first class and couch, is that the seat is bigger.

I never buy caviar. I fully admit it is the cost vs. joy. Plus everytime we fly internationally (on a non-domestic carrier) I eat so much caviar, I cannot stomach more for about 6 months. Can you see the amount of caviar on the plate? Insane! And sometimes I ask (and always get if I request) seconds. Photo from German based airline, Lufthansa Airlines.

Myth: If you don't want to go hungry, always bring some snacks for your flight.

People that don't fly internationally or on non-domestic carriers are generally surprised when I tell them I never go hungry on a plane. I always tell them they really should save up their airline miles, because a 5+ multi-course on board dinner, that doesn't include the welcome on board snack (pictured here), the snack menu or the 2nd meal service (usually a mere 3 courses) really ROCKS for foodies like me. Photo from Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific Airlines.


Travel: Texas BBQ

My husband and I have been known to travel for food. Be it flying to Barcelona for the weekend to eat at El Bulli or stopping in London (on the way home from China) to eat at the Fat Duck.

So in September, we will head to Texas for a long weekend to taste some fantasic BBQ. Currently our list contains 9 locations, each noted from our research (from friends, websites, etc.) for a meal that is sure to be special. We'll only have 48 hours, so we may have to stop eating several days before we go!

This is only our first part of our BBQ tasting trips. We do plan on visiting Kansas and Tennessee separately. If you have a suggestion for any of these areas, please let me know. And of course, I will post lots of pictures after our trip.

Our current San Antonio-Austin Area, Texas BBQ restaurant list (and the minimum we'll be tasting there!):


Recipe: Fueling Your Workout - Quinoa with Chickpeas, Roasted Veggies and Herbs

Break out of your pasta-with-meat-sauce runners diet rut and fuel up with a delicious nutty-flavored grain: Quinoa. Pronounced Keen-waH, in just 1 cup, it packs over 100g carbs, 20g protein and 10g fiber. You can enjoy it warm or cold, so it is very versatile through the seasons.

This is a great dinner entree for vegetarians or a wonderful side dish to supplement a grill out. And here is a great little background from the Whole Foods blog with some other recipe ideas.

Quinoa with Chickpeas, Roasted Veggies and Herbs
  • 1/2 c. dry Quinoa
  • 2 asparagus spears, sliced into 1" pieces
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 artichoke, heart only, diced
  • 1/4 spanish or red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 c. cherry, grape or small heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. chickpeas, from canned, drained and rinsed
  • 1 T. minced herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, tarragon - whatever!)
  • 2 T. evoo
  1. Bring a medium pot to high heat, filled 1/2 way with water to a boil and sprinkle in a little salt.
  2. Preheat oven to 425.
  3. Add quinoa and turn down heat to a 'heavy simmer' or 'light boil' for 10-15 minutes until quinoa starts to 'sprout' and is al dente.
  4. In the meantime, toss veggies and herbs in a bowl with 1 T. evoo and salt and pepper to taste. Place in oven to roast for 10-15 minutes until cooked through, remove from oven and set aside.
  5. Strain quinoa from water and gently toss over sink in colander to remove excess water - then place in medium bowl.
  6. Add veggies, remaining 1 T. evoo and chickpeas to quinoa and gently stir to combine. Ready to enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Servings: 1 very large entree or 2-4 as side dish

Nutritional Info:
Calories: 1400
Carbs: 218g
Fat: 48g
Protein: 42g
Fiber: 24g

Nutritional values are based on Prevention estimates


Recipe: This Weeks Favorite - Grilled Mahi Mahi Corn Tacos with Brazilian Collard Greens, Lime Scented Slaw and Avocado Salsa

In a regular work week, I can prepare over 300 recipes - be it sauces, sides, salads, etc. This can make it difficult for me to motivate myself to prepare dinner for my family everynight. But without fail, there are some things that look and smell so good when I am preparing it for my client, that I'll think about it constantly until I can prepare it for myself!

Grilled Mahi Mahi Corn Tacos with Brazilian Collard Greens, Lime Scented Slaw and Avocado Salsa
  • Hard or soft shell corn tacos
  • 8 oz (about 1/2 lb) mahi mahi filet (skin and center bone removed), cut into large, bite sized pieces (so they fit in your tacos)
  • 2 1/2 T. ground cumin
  • 1/2 T. ground coriander
  • 2 t. cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, minced
  • 2 T. parsley, minced
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion (1/4 of the onion is diced, the other 3/4 is thinly sliced)
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, stems/ribs removed, rolled longways (like a towel) and thinly sliced
  • 1 small green cabbage, thinly sliced (outer edge - about 1" - only)
  • 4 limes, juice and zest separated
  • 1 avocado, smashed
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a medium pot, filled 3/4 of water to a boil, generously add salt.
  2. In a saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 T. canola oil, when hot, add about 3/4 of the thinly sliced sweet yellow onion and all the garlic (except about 1 t.). Saute onions and garlic until golden brown on edges, then deglaze the pan with chicken stock or water, bring to medium boil until au sec (pan is dry) and remove from heat.
  3. Drop sliced collards into boiling water until bright green and slightly wilted (about 1 minute). Strain from water, stir in caramelized onion-garlic mixture, 1/2 t. cumin and 1 t. cayenne (or chili powder), set aside.
  4. Heat your grill pan or outside grill.
  5. In a medium bowl, add salt, pepper, 1 T. canola oil, mahi mahi, 1 T. cumin, 1/2 T. coriander, 1 t. cayenne (or chili powder), 1 T. cilantro and zest from 2 limes. Toss mixture and place on grill for about 2 minutes on each side, remove from grill and set aside.
  6. (If you use soft corn tacos, heat then on the grill for about 2 minutes each side)
  7. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, remaining sliced onions, 2 T. cilantro, 1 T. parsley, juice from 3 limes, zest from 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  8. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, diced tomato, remaining diced onion, (about a teaspoon of) garlic, 1 T. cumin and 1 T. cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Build tacos with collards, mahi mahi, cabbage slaw and avocado salsa to enjoy! 


Recipe: Fueling Your Workout - Fruit, Yogurt & Granola Breakfast

Being a runner means you need a lot of carbs to fuel your energy. Most runners need a minimum of 300g/day. Having some protein in your pre or post workout meal is helpful too, when your run is particularly hard. And in this hot weather, you can't help but sweat!

So start your morning run off right with this great combo of fruit, greek yogurt and granola.

Fruit and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola
Place fruit in bowl, spoon over yogurt and spread over the top of the fruit. Sprinkle granola over to enjoy!

Calories: 550
Carbs: 90g
Fat: 11g
Protein: 28g
*Nutritional values are based on Prevention estimates


Events: Restaurant Unleashed Week: March 1-7

The Restaurant Association of the Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) is running a "UNLEASHED" Restaurants! week - basically a week of discounted menu options at participating restaurants in the area (a.k.a., restaurant week).

The RAMW is advertising it under the guise that people are pent up, our desire for foodie camaraderie is runith over and we demand a fill-up (for a discount) at our local (RAMW member only) restaurant. According to the advertisement on the website:
“This will be a great way for patrons to ‘unleash’ the pent up dining passions that have been so constrained over this winter,” said Lynne Breaux, President of RAMW. “And it’s not just dining; this is also about social contact, conviviality, decompression and so much more that we tend not to think about until it is taken away. Think of our “Unleashed” week as an intense, really big, group therapy session.”
This could be true....there was a lot of snow for a while. But it could have something to do with low/poor restaurant sales in January and February. Normally bad months for restaurants, where made much, much worse by the snow.

So 'UNLEASH' your wallet and pick out some restaurants to visit from the participation list on opentable.


Celebrity Chef Thrown Out with the Cat

An Italian celebrity chef really freaked out his viewers (and the hostess talking with him on the video) the other day when he talked about how to eat and enjoy cat as a dish.

You can watch the video here and read the UK piece that talks about how the celebrity chef's show has been dropped from government run Italian TV due to viewers complaints.


Event: Want to be a reality star?


Date: Monday, February 22, 2010
Time: 10am – 3pm
Location: Zentan Restaurant/Donovan House Hotel, 1155 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

We are looking for:
  • Two to five person teams with pre-existing relationships (brother and sister, mother and son, husband and wife, etc.) who would love the chance to prove that they can run a restaurant.
  • A dynamic front of house and back of house duo. One person on the team will run the front of the house and the other person on the team will be the chef and run the kitchen.
  • All levels of experience (culinary school trained to home cook, little or no restaurant experience to a lifelong career in restaurants) will be considered.
  • Lots of energy and charisma! We're seeking personalities that pop.
If you have any questions or need further information, please feel free to contact (jemasa@cbsnews.com) or visit the shows website at http://www.24hourrestaurantbattle.com/.  


Events: Book Signing

Author Nancy Tringali Piho is exploring an interesting subject about children's eating habits, how they develop and what impact having 'foodies' as parents can make.

Studies have shown that children must taste something at least 10 times to be able to know if they 'like it' or not, specifically due to their ever developing palate between the ages of 1-3. This also leads to a battle for the parents, attempting to get their children to try it 10 times!

Nancy Tringali Piho book, My Two Year Old Eats Octopus is taking on this subject and Citronelle is hosting a book party for her (Feb 10th at 6:30pm) with a price-fixed-dinner for the adults ($95/pp) and their children ($37).

To read more about the book, this event and about the author, visit her website: http://www.mytwoyearoldeatsoctopus.com/


Events: DC Coasts Annual Guys Cooking Class

Want to surprise your lovely lady with those culinary skills that she (and perhaps you) didn't even know that you had? Sign up for DC Coasts annual cooking class for guys, which takes place about a week before V-Day, so you have a chance to see the chef in action and learn some new moves!


Stunt Veggies for White House

Several weeks ago I was 'vegging out' in front of the television and caught an advertisement for a food network iron chef episode that would feature Michelle Obamas lovely white house garden as the food for the iron chef participants to use.

I was a little surprised to hear that the white house garden was going to be used in the episode because last I heard, the garden was infiltrated by bugs (a side effect of growing organic) and finding out that the place they made the garden was completely tainted by toxins (just because you plant organic plants there, doesn't make the soil organic) and therefore much of the food items were thought to possibly be inedible.

Was there a secret organic garden somewhere in an undisclosed location guarded by FBI agents?

No....It turns out I was correct.....the food network used different food ingredients from NYC  - rather then the White House - as was claimed on the show (even Michelle Obamas uttered on the show "...your secret ingredient [silent pause] is anything from the white house garden...") and never disclosed that the white house garden has been deemed "polluted" from its toxic lead levels.

Since Michelle Obama (and the white house) claim that they feed food banks, white house events and themselves from this garden, they would have had to replace the dirt with different soil in order to produce anything that could be eaten.

Then there is the contriversy that the garden isn't really a garden at all. Some claim the items in the garden were transplanted from almost-mature plants in a nursey to the 'Victory Garden' (Michelle Obamas name pick, not mine) to grow for a week or two before a harvesting photo op at the white house.
Others claim that is silly...why would they do that? But no one can seem to find any pictures of seeds being planted or sprouts being attended too.
But there are lots of pictures of Michelle Obama and her shovel-ready organic gardening children (as well as staffers) preparing the garden for the next cycle or harvesting items.

For the children (and food banks)...I hope they changed the dirt.