#Mooooooooo

I used to assume that when one of my blog posts receives a comment that just says “moooooo” it must be spam, or maybe it’s that one friend from high school that used to imitate a cow during math class, but probably just spam. But now it looks like it might be actual cows.  The cows are on the interwebs!  Scotland’s cows, anyway; I’m not sure any American cows are hooked up yet.  If not, they need to get with the program. Of course, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, U.S. broadband is both expensive and slow, and our cows may just not have the time or funds.

This could be a great opportunity for when they rebuild downtown Wheaton. Just off the nice new grassy public square (triangle?), there could be an internet cafe where the cows and the humans can mingle and share computers and dairy products. The cows can graze in the herbalicious geometric area, and then trundle indoors when they feel like giving milk or checking their portfolios.  Cows get internets, we get fresh cream in our coffee.  And if we can somehow harness Bessie’s copious methane emissions to power the whole thing, we might even come out ahead.

Anyway.  Hello to my bovine Scots readers.  And lest anyone think I am overestimating the intelligence of cows, think again.  As Gary Larson suggested, the cows have you right where they want you.

5

I Did Not Gnaw Down That Cherry Tree

Tidal Basin, Peak Bloom 2014

Tidal Basin, Peak Bloom 2014

If George Washington were alive today, he might be overwhelmed by all the cherry trees, finally in bloom, around the Tidal Basin.  How would he decide which ones to chop down?  Would he have fashioned a new set of dentures from the wood? Would he tweet about it later? #cherrynolie?

He might also be dismayed that these trees are ornamental only, no actual cherries. Despite the lack of fruit, our cherry trees still have edible parts, namely the blossoms.  Salt, sugar, and vinegar make just about anything edible.

Friendly Tidal Basin Beaver

Friendly Tidal Basin Beaver

The rest of the tree is also edible, maybe even the best part, if you’re a beaver.  Fortunately the Tidal Basin beaver problem seems to be history; we’re left only with this little guy to warn us away from climbing or picking — notably he does not warn against chopping. Presidents get away with anything.

Ginger Snap Smackdown

Murray's and Stauffer's Ginger Snaps

Murray’s and Stauffer’s Ginger Snaps

Snapdown?

Mrs. Me loves the ginger snaps.  I’m not as big a fan, but sometimes they’re okay, and I’m always up for a taste test.  She likes the kind that come in the old-timey wax paper bags — I don’t know if they’re better, or more authentic, but that’s the house style, so that’s what we tested.

Specifically, Murray’s (“The Great Taste You Love Since 1941″) and Stauffer’s (“Quality Since 1871″).  Presumably they haven’t actually been in the bag that long.  These brands are typically available at your major U.S. supermarkets.

Overall, it was a split decision: Mrs. Me preferred Murray and I preferred Stauffer’s, although really both are fine.  Stauffer’s are slightly darker brownish-red, a bit larger, have deeper ridges, marginally chewier (though both are very crunchy), and have a mildly spicy afterburn, which I found interesting and Mrs. Me didn’t care for as much.  The Murray cookies may be more the Platonic ginger snap ideal, and if that’s what you’re after, I can see why you would choose Murray over Stauffer’s.

A few other notes:

  • One Stauffer’s cookie is 17% larger, at 7 grams as opposed to a 6 gram Murray cookie — yet, one serving of Murray is 140 calories and one of Stauffer’s is 120.
  • Murray’s have more sodium, at 160 to 120mg.
  • Murray’s also have more protein, at 2 to 1g.
Murray's on the left, Stauffer's on the right

Murray’s on the left, Stauffer’s on the right

The lead ingredients are all the same — enriched flour, sugar, and palm oil (though Murray throws soybean oil and “TBHQ for freshness” into the mix). But Stauffer has several unique ingredients: cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, and red pepper.  Surely all in minuscule quantities, and yet maybe enough to create that afterburn, which Mrs. Me thought might have meant more molasses.  Stauffer’s may also have slightly more molasses, but I think those spices are the key flavor difference.

They could have called the product Sichuan Snaps?

 

We Can Haz All The Salmons

Quenelles of Salmon in Savory Sauce

Quenelles of Salmon in Savory Sauce

Hey looky, it’s April.  The snows have melted (FINALLY!!!), the grasses are sprouting, the birds are chirping and we can’t stand it BRING US THE BIRDS BRING US THE BIRDS come closer birdies we will have our way with you — yeah, you better fly away.  Cowards.

Anyway, here’s a restaurant most of you will probably never get to visit, and we have to say, you’re really missing out, because most of the meals around here are pretty great. And we live in the restaurant, how cool is that? We have all the fishez all the time.  Eat, sleep, eat, sleep.  Winning.

We would describe the decor, but we can’t really be bothered; there are plenty of soft places to sit (and nap), and windows to gaze out of, and that’s about it.

Ah, but the food, the food.  For starters, there’s a 24-hour buffet in one of the cozy corner rooms, featuring tiny crunchy dark brown balls of salmony stuff.  Not our favorite edible, maybe, but it’s nice to be able to graze whenever, and we have built trust with the Staff by not constantly gobbling it all up.  That trust will come in handy later once the blueprints are finished and the Device is ready for total global domination.

Bonito Bowl

Bonito Bowl

Then we get big soft serve main dish portions for breakfast and dinner, plus sometimes for snacks during the day, at least on those days when the Staff don’t maddeningly disappear through the giant portal for most of the daylight hours.  Sometimes we have to remind them about the snacks — we are not shy about reminding.  Sometimes we even have to remind them about breakfast, especially when they sometimes do not arise to feed us as soon as the first rays of sun bless our bedroom windows.  Really, service is our biggest complaint — it’s friendly enough, but the pacing can be really slow and inconsistent.  Should we really have to ask for seconds EVERY NIGHT?  No, we are NOT finished, you may NOT take the plate away! Get it together, people.

Back to the food.  The soft serve is great, especially the salmon, which we get nearly every day and of which we will never tire; we also like the beef and sometimes the shredded chicken/beef combo.  The crucial element is the sauce: we like lots of juicy sauce, and the meats must be cubed (or sometimes shredded) — once in a while the Staff try to give us pâté and we HATE pâté. Gross. The kitchen can be kind of dictatorial, my pâté or the highway, but luckily they mostly give us what we want.

Usually the soft food is accompanied by a side of dried shaved bonito (hanakatsuo) flakes, imported from Japan, a deliciously salty counterpoint to the savory main course.  There’s nothing like a tuna-salmon combo, tell you what. Sometimes we even get a big fluffy bowl full of nothing but bonito.  Love that stuff.  We don’t think there’s MSG or heroin in it, but who knows.

Our preferred brand of freeze-dried salmon

Our preferred brand of freeze-dried salmon

Best of all is our nightly Salmon Time.  This is when we parade into the sunroom singing the Salmon Time song (“Salmon Time/oh, it’s Salmon Time/Salmon Time/Hooray for Salmon Time”), and one of the Staff doles out chunks of freeze-dried wild-caught Alaskan salmon.  “Dried to a delicate purrfection” says the package label, and while we do not appreciate puns, we do appreciate these nightly chunks of crunchy fishy goodness.

Once in a  while, for dessert, we might get to lick the back of someone’s ice cream spoon, or more likely we’ll just get leftovers.  The Staff also brings us “room service” to the bedroom in case we get the midnight munchies — and let’s be honest, we get the midnight munchies EVERY NIGHT.  In the end, while the service around here isn’t perfect, the Staff do try hard, and sometimes are able to learn from their mistakes, and ultimately we’re pretty well fed.

Which is lucky for those birdies out there, because if we were hungrier we would have to go hunt them down.  Instead we just hang out indoors, eating the foods and developing the blueprints and OWNING THE INTERNETS.  Perhaps you were already aware that the internet is for cats?

All your internets (and fishez) are belong to us.

Bring Us All The Fishes

Bring Us All The Fishes

Lime Index for Early Spring 2014: We’re Doomed?

Lime Index

The Lime Index

When last we indexed the limes, on March 3, it was snowing.  Now it is March 30 and it is…snowing.  This is the Wheaton in Maryland, not the one in the Arctic Circle. With endless winter maintaining its frigid course it’s no wonder H Mart has replaced their citrus section with an assortment of Turkish Delights.*

* Some parts of that paragraph are not true, but it really is snowing.  Cripes.

It isn’t snowing in Mexico (as far as we know), origin of most U.S. lime imports, but other problems there are depressing quality and increasing prices. David Karp’s essay “Is The Lime an Endangered Species?” in today’s New York Times suggests things may get worse before they get better, and they may never get better.  We can only hope he is overplaying the doom and gloom.

Alas, Karp may be the canary in the lime tree. Have we reached Peak Lime?  Who would have thought the world’s crude oil supply would outlast its Persian Lime supply?   You know you’re in trouble when the NYT is talking about the declining lime situation. I can’t tell if I’m more depressed about the weather or the limes.

Actually, I can tell — the weatherpersons inform me it will be sunny and 70 by Tuesday, whereas limes will still be small and not-juicy and relatively expensive on Tuesday.  Recent prices include 3/$2 at most grocery stores, including Wegman’s in Columbia and the Wheaton Safeway.  H Mart I think was 3/$1 last weekend but terrible quality.  Even Hung Phat may not be able to bail us out this time.

Hoooooboy.  What will we do for margaritas and guacamole in a decade?

 

Haven Can’t Wait

But you can wait at Haven (7137 Wisconsin), and you probably will, for a table, because the new-ish pizzeria has already become the 2 Amy’s of Bethesda — ground zero for parents with kids, only with better pizza.  It’s rare that I think something is worth much of a wait, but Haven is, especially if you can snag a seat at the bar.

When I was growing up in Seattle, one of the local pizza chains was Pizza Haven, whose locally famous slogan was “Got a pizza cravin’? Come to Pizza Haven!”*  According to the wikipedias, Pizza Haven was among the first pizzerias to deliver. I only remember eating at the one in the Seattle Center Food Court, which no longer exists (neither the SCFC nor the PH chain exist).**  It was a couple of counters down from the Orange Julius, which does still exist, including (I noticed recently) at Arundel Mills (also Montgomery Mall).  I used to love the St. Louis dog, with cheese and bacon bits.  But apparently now they are beverage-only, no food? So sad.

* For some reason none of the old Pizza Haven tv commercials are on YouTube, all I could find were some from the mid-1990s Australian version of Pizza Haven that didn’t use the classic slogan.

** UPDATE: Mrs. Senior Me clued me in to the fact that the Seattle Center Food Court still exists!  I haven’t been there for at least 25 years.  Apparently now the Center House is called the Armory and the vendors are probably a lot better than they used to be, although my friend’s family’s kebab place is still there.  Unclear what sort of weapons they have there at the armory.  I guess a kebab could be a weapon?

Anyway, I have no idea if the old Pizza Haven was actually any good (probably not?).  The new Haven Pizzeria (which is, also, a New Haven-style pizzeria) is actually very good, although we did not try the clam pie, which Sietsema loved and is the classic New Haven pizza topping. Mrs. Me feels about clams on her pizza the way I feel about pineapple on mine.  I’ll try the clams next visit.

Why so good?  Primarily the crust: thin but not too thin, crisp yet just the right amount of chewy, full of yeasty flavor, and firm throughout with no soggification in the middle.  I could just eat slices of crust and be happy.  But the sauce and cheese are good too, and the toppings are excellent.  The margherita is densely covered with fresh diced tomatoes and strips of basil.  Pepperoni and black olive make a deliciously salty combination.  And the “Vodka & Bacon” is great, also salty, the bacon seemed more American than Canadian but it didn’t matter, I eagerly devoured the whole thing.

Haven has limited beer offerings, although one (bottled, not on tap) is the Dogfish 90-Minute IPA, our longtime house favorite.  The wine list has some good relatively affordable options, though still at a 250% markup in some cases (like a retail $11 wine for $35 at Haven).  But the beverages are secondary to the pizza anyway.

It’s  a big place (and yet a wait for a table!), with a  long bar, an open kitchen, high ceilings and high decibels.  We sat in a booth, which helped deaden the ambient noise, I think.  Friendly, efficient service.  All in all a fine pizza experience, and I would rank Haven’s pies with Ghibellina’s as my local favorites (with still a number of top contenders I haven’t yet tried).  Haven doesn’t give you giant shears for pizza-cutting like Ghibellina does, but that’s about the only thing that was missing.

Tables Are Available at Equinox and Bobby Van’s

We recently dined at Equinox (818 Connecticut) and Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (809 15th Street NW) on back-to-back Friday nights.  Bottom lines: Equinox was excellent, BV’s was fine but not worth the price. But we were most struck by the half-empty dining rooms in both restaurants, on a Friday night, around 7pm. To paraphrase Babu: where were all the people? Show me people! There are no people!

Our theory is probably obvious: the DC restaurant scene has exploded in recent years, competition is fierce, and elegance is out, hip is in.  While Equinox continues to serve some of the best food in DC, it is certainly not hip.  You know that every 14th street spot is packed every Friday night — not just that strip, but that’s the one that comes most to mind these days.  Tom Sietsema, in his recent review of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (also not exactly hip?), noted it was full on a Monday night, and wondered if nearby restaurants were worried about the competition.  Bobby Van’s is nearby, and so I would say yes, they must be worried.

Quick recap of our Bobby Van’s experience: good but overly formal service, high prices, okay food.  Avoid the house steak sauce, which is more like sweet and sour sauce and does not enhance the gristly but otherwise perfectly cooked, reasonably tasty New York strip.  Fries are pretty good.  Overall though the steak and fries are not any better than at Medium Rare, and lack the awesome MR sauce, and are twice as expensive for a comparable portion (fewer fries at BV, actually).

Longer recap of Equinox. Ten years ago, Equinox — or as they sometimes like to call it “Chef Todd Gray’s Equinox Restaurant” — was on essentially every critic’s list of the top restaurants in DC.  It seems like that’s not the case anymore — as noted we were surprised to find it barely half full on a Friday night — but the kitchen still creates delicious food, service is top notch, and the decor is still elegant, maybe a little outdated, but whatever.  And you can hear yourselves converse, which is a nice change from a lot of restaurants.  But for whatever reason, the millennials don’t seem to be eating at Equinox, at least they weren’t when we ate there last week, aside from maybe the dude sitting at a front table wearing a black t-shirt that said “Han Shot First” — a sentiment with which I completely agree, but maybe not in an upscale restaurant.  Equinox isn’t exactly the Mos Eisley cantina. Then again, I’m not a paragon of fashion myself.

Back to DC, back to dinner.  Pacing was a little slow, but it was fine, I think the servers actually did a good job reading our conversational flow.  We were clearly in no hurry.   From the amuse bouche — duck confit egg rolls — to dessert — okay poached pear and glorious chocolate panna cotta — we ate well and had a great time.

Beer-braised lamb shank required no knife, falling apart and away from the bone at the slighted touch. Sous-vide short rib and beef loin were incredibly tender and rich.  Our server was pushing the fish — actually he was pushing everything on the menu equally, really my only complaint, it’s nice to get an actual preference/recommendation — and the fish-eaters among us were pleased with their Texas Red Fish and Norwegian Salmon.  The monkfish apparently knows no state or country and maybe that’s why nobody ordered it.

We also tried the truffled mac & cheese, which was not discernibly truffled but otherwise fine, as it is in most restaurants.  It’s hard to make a transcendent mac & cheese, but fortunately fine is just fine as long as you don’t expect more.  Dessert came with a little shot of prosecco on the house, which was a nice complement to the pear dish in particular, but it was the rich, creamy “Mocha Moderne” panna cotta that ultimately won the night. It’s almost enough to make me crave chocolate.  Does anyone make a lamb shank panna cotta?

Entrees are in the $26-34 range, reasonable for that level of quality food and service.  I’d happily go back, although the location just south of Farragut Square isn’t convenient for us.  Also, the restaurant isn’t much to look at from the street, I suspect that may improve once warmer weather hits (not this week!) and they can open the front patio, but possibly the lack of curb appeal hurts the winter dining scene.

All told, an excellent dining experience.  If Equinox isn’t still considered a top DC dining destination, it should be.  At least for those of us unhipsters…