Restaurant Review: Momofuku CC|DC

Ever since Matt first read about David Chang, he wanted to eat his food. Chang grew up not far from him and is famous for combining Asian and Western flavors together. We’ve had his first cookbook, Momofuku, for a few years and have made a few of his recipes in the past. Then, last week, we were able to visit his DC restaurant: Momofuku Central City DC.

(Bear with me, as I’ve never done a restaurant review, other than a few short sentences on Yelp.)

What we ate

Daily special: Buffalo chicken biscuit – I’m not a fan of buffalo sauce so I didn’t try this but Matt said it was quite good. Biscuit was not quite good enough to eat by itself but served the sandwich well.

Sweet and spicy pork jerky: I really enjoyed this as it did balance the sweet and spicy rather well. It was not what you’d think of as jerky – bit more chewy and limp, but the same idea.

Rockfish with yuzu, bonji, Honeycrisp apples: Served crudo style. You can’t see from my blurry photo, but there’s a whole layer of thiny-slice rockfish (AKA striped bass) under the apple slices. This was absolutely the best thing I ate during the meal. I would happily order three of these next time.

Pork buns: We had to order these as Matt has made them multiple times from the recipe in Momofuku. They did not disappoint. Subtle dough with Hoisin – one of my favorite flavors – wrapping up pork belly.

(This is where I decided to give up on photos. The light outdoors had gone and, well, the food was too good to pause long enough for a photo.)

Momofuku ramen: Another must-order, based on Matt’s making of it from the recipe. This was the only disappointment of our meal. The broth was simply without flavor. The toppings – braised pork, pork belly, fish balls, nori, and soft-cooked egg – were as tasty as expected but isn’t ramen really about the broth?

Crack pie: I’m not even sure what this is made with, but it tasted mostly of cooked sugar. Tasty, tasty cooked sugar.

Cereal milk / fruity cereal milk ice cream: Both are quite sweet, in align with the pastry chef’s taste profile. We both preferred the fruity version to the other. They were fun but I much prefer a closer to savory dessert.

Atmosphere and Service

You sit at basic wooden tables and chairs in a well-lit area with simple art. It’s neither too loud nor too quiet; tables are a decent distance apart so you can still have a private conversation. Music is fun and eclectic but not distracting.

Service is casual but very attentive. You never had to wait for a dirty dish to disappear or a water glass to be filled. But, somehow, you also didn’t feel like you were being served, but helped by a friend.

Price to Quality Ratio

I won’t lie. It was not a cheap meal, but it was rather inexpensive for the high quality. You won’t leave here completely full without ordering quite a few dishes, but you won’t really care because it’s so tasty.

Would we return? Should you go?

I think Matt’s face says it all – and this was before we even ate anything. It was a wonderful experience, minus the ramen as I noted earlier. Fun, easy, tasty.

CSA Haul

At the start of the summer, Matt decided we would try out a CSA for the first time. Our life is so busy right now, especially our summers, that we do not have the time to get to the farmer’s market every Saturday. What sealed the deal was the fact that the CSA for this farm actually delivers right to our neighborhood. Instead of having to drive out to, you know, farmland and hour or more away, we just drove a few blocks over and pick up a big blue bin of fruits and veggies.

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In no particular order, here’s what we got this week:

  • Single yellow swash – pattypan maybe?
  • Three ears of sweet corn
  • Small thing of cherry tomatoes
  • Small thing of plumquots (which Squirms loves but I find wayyy too sour)
  • Two kinds of peaches, your usual yellow ones plus a pile of pale yellow doughnut peaches
  • Apples, red and yellow – quite surprising as it’s nowhere near the usual apple season
  • Beets which are conical for some reason
  • Bag of lettuce
  • (Not pictured) Big bag of green beans
  • (Not pictured) Small bag of potatoes

Filling the Hours

There’s only so many hours in the day and not quite enough to do all of those things I want to do. (We’ll ignore my to do list. That just sort of sits without anything done until a hard deadline – like taxes being due April 15th.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have a good two to three hours free most evenings after Squirms has gone to bed. Most nights, Matt and I hang out together (we watch TV, he plays on his phone, I write letter or knit or play on my phone) but sometimes, like tonight, he’s off in his office, playing video games so I’m left to my own devices. And, yet, what am I doing? Watching tons of episodes of Scrubs and attempting to write up a few blog posts to catch folks up on what’s been going on in my life.

What would i do if I had unlimited time? And, somehow, could focus enough to do them?

  • Write that memoir I have made zero progress on.
  • Learn to write calligraphy or in a cool hand-written font.
  • Make a cross stitch sampler of all of the Dr. Who’s.
  • Sew myself some awesome skirts. (Requires actually learning how to sew, for real.)
  • Watch through all of the seasons of Friends, X-Files, Sex in the City
  • Catch up on Squirm’s scrapbook (do have photos from Jan – March printed but have yet to make the pages)
  • Write here, you know, more than once every two months
  • Make a sweater for myself I actually like
  • Take some programming classes online
  • Write letters to the rest of the people on my list (which is down to 8 from the 90+ I had in January)
  • Make some sort of a collage
  • Write to Squirms daily about what she’s done that day and things I want her to know about me
  • Make a few books by hand, especially journals
  • Make a bunch of dishcloths

Time Spent Away

I’ve thought about blogging every now and then the last few weeks, but never manged to myself to actually blog. Well, I started a week or so ago on a post then got distracted by something (Squirms woke up from a nap?) and never got back to it. Things are busy and we’ve been sick and I’ve been writing so many letters I have no words left afterward. But, still, no one ever said a blog post has to be long or super thought-out. Just some words posted that are true and maybe a bit funny. A photo or two if it makes sense. One of those benefits of not doing it professionally – I can suck at it and do it rarely. I may lose all of you by taking these long breaks but, eh, whatever. This is for me, not you all.

In no particular order, the top 5 things that have occupied me these last few weeks:

1. Knitting – Made two shawls/scarves and one baby sweater. I have a few photos of each so maybe FO posts will come later, after I get them to their recipients. I also started on a lace, fingering-weight sweater for myself but it just doesn’t hold my interest. Knitting, in general, is sort of out for me.

2. Work – Things are starting to shape up there. I feel like I finally found my place on the team and have the resources to accomplish what needs to be done. And the move of my physical workplace has moved to late April so I’ll get to keep my short commute for awhile longer.

3. Letter writing – I wrote 40 letters plus four replies in January. So far in February, I’ve written 15 plus three replies. So you can see why I feel like I have no words left.

4. Being sick – I first started feeling unwell right after Matt got home from a business trip to Seattle on January 16th. I was almost back to normal when I caught the flu from Squirms. She was sick for a week two different times (one stomach thing then the flu) and Matt hasn’t felt great for a week or so. Four and a half sick days for me in the last two weeks. I’m far better than I was but my ear is still full of fluid and I had to skip karate today for the third time because I don’t have enough energy.

5. Watching TV – Even more than usual, as I’ve been sick. Started watching The Good Wife when Matt was in Seattle and have made it all the way to season 4. Yeah, it’s pathetic.

As I start to feel better, I may be back to writing here more regularly. We’ll see. For now, I’m going back to the couch to enjoy the rest of our weekend without Squirms (she’s at her grandparents’ house).

The 1,000th Recipe

We’ve made it – our 1,000th recipe since we started Eat Your Books just under three years ago. I’ll give you a few hints about what it was. Features meat.  Took less than 10 minutes to make after getting the mise en place together. Complex spice profile. Eaten with your hands. Neither carbs nor dairy. A main dish but more easily an appetizer.

The recipe came from one of our favorite cookbooks: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alfred and Naomi Duguid. The book features recipes from Southeast Asia, where cuisine – particularly in Thailand – aims for the perfect balance between those four flavors. Matt was lucky enough to get a copy online that a library was getting rid of for less than half the cover price.

Okay, I’ve delayed enough. Our 1,000th recipe is…Aromatic minced pork, Shan style. You may have had Thai laab or PF Chang’s chicken version. This is similar to both but the meat is pork and is fried rather than steamed. It’s got intense flavors – lots of scallion and Thai chilis and galangal. We followed the recommendation in the cookbook to serve it with some simple steamed veggies – we used a sweet winter squash and carrots – but also added lettuce cups as a serving mechanism and some rice because, well, we like rice. Matt and I thought it could use just a bit more heat but Squirms was rather overwhelmed by it.

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Sound good to you? Here’s the recipe. Assuming you can get your hands on the few specialty ingredients, it’s quick and easy to make for a weeknight meal or for guests.

Aromatic Minced Pork, Shan Style

Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, Jeffre Alford and Naomi Duguid

6 to 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tbl minced lemongrass
2 tbl chopped galangal (can substitute ginger)
6 dried Thai chilis (use 4 if you don’t want serious heat)
1 tsp salt
2 tbl vegetable oil (or other neutral high-temp oil)
1/2 cu chopped shallots
3/4 lb ground pork
1/3 cu chopped scallion greens
1/2 cu coarsely chopped coriander (cilantro)
1/4 cup minced fresh mint

Brown the unpeeled garlic gloves in a cast iron or other heavy pan. Wait for them to cool then peel.

Combine the lemongrass, galangal, chilis, and salt using a food processor.

Using a wok over high heat, cook the shallots in vegetable oil until translucent (takes 3-4 minutes).

Add the mixture from the food processor.

Add the pork and cook until slightly browned, then simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions and herbs.

Serve in lettuce cups, using the leaves to scoop up portions.

Nine hundred and ninety-five

Nine hundred and ninety-five. We have made 995 different recipes since January, 2012. I know this because we use Eat Your Books, a service that is sort of the Ravelry of cookbooks.

It’s actually a really cool idea. People volunteer to index cookbooks, listing each recipe and its ingredients (without the amounts, of course). You can add books and even magazines or blogs that you own and add it to your bookshelf then, when you’re looking for something, search their database for an ingredient or only Thai main dishes. There’s also a bookmarking tool which we use for things we want to make, things we’ve made, what we’ll make this week and next week, and even have lists for my and Squirms’s favorites. Once we make something, we add a star rating out of 5 – a 4 is required to go on the make again list and a 5 means we’re still talking about it a few days later – and add comments about modifications made or how we think it could be better. (You pay $25 bucks a year for unlimited adding of recipe sources and bookmark lists which is really cheap for the quality of service, especially if you own…268 cookbooks like us.)

Like I said before, we use it for meal planning. Usually on Friday nights, we (ok, usually just Matt) sit down and think about what sort of thing we want for dinner the next week. Sometimes, it’s very specific like pork schnitzel or maybe a focus on one ethnicity like last week where we almost exclusively had Southeast Asian fare. Then we start to look through recipes like the things we’re thinking of and, after consulting the cookbooks themselves to make sure a planned weeknight dinner won’t take three hours or require trips to more than two different grocery stores. Eventually, we tag five or six dinners worth of dishes to the “This Week” bookmark group and make a list of what we have to buy to make those meals in a combination of Matt’s little ruled notebook and the Wegmans app (if you shop at Wegmans, use their app – it is AMAZING, even telling you prices, aisle, and nutritional information for each item). We hit the farmer’s market most Saturday mornings for veggies and meat, then fill in the holes at some combination of Wegmans, the part-Asian part-Latino grocery store, and sometimes other stores for more specialty ingredients.

Anyway, I have this crazy dream of being the one to make the 1,000th recipe which will probably be in the next couple days or so, with our tendency to make about half old recipes and half new recipes each week. I’m not going to try to engineer this – our meal planning often goes awry at least once a week, especially ones like this one when we’ve got stuff going on two days after work and planning a trip – but it would be cool to have it be me, She Who Rarely Cooks be the one to make that 1,000th dish. Stayed tuned, because I plan to ramble about what that 1,000th recipe is – and am hoping it’s not something super boring or embarrassing.

(The folks at Eat Your Books didn’t pay me anything to write about them. Like everything I’ve ever written about on here, I’m just rambling about something I’ve enjoyed. Though I would take free stuff that a brand owner would think I’m interested in.)

Fifteen Days

I’ve basically been radio silent for the last 15 days. I didn’t start out the month thinking I wouldn’t keep up the blogging habit – hey, I even made blogging a few times a week one of my goals! But, as usual, life got busy and stressful and I simple had no time, no energy, no desire to write. I did manage to squeak out a book review post becuase, you know, that’s easy. And I wrote a long post for friends and family about something that happened to me (more about that, later). But, yeah, I’ve been away. And now I’m back.

You probably want to know what I’ve been up to besides the usual stuff in my life like work and cleaning and attempting to remember to wear moisterizer. From the top of my head, here’s what’s happened since I last really, truly blogged:

  • We got a second opinion about Squirm’s strabismus that confirmed the original diagnosis so she’ll have surgery in a few weeks. (Right – must write an intro post to all of that. Another time, perhaps.)
  • Matt and I went on a weekend trip to Charlottsville without Squirms. We ate at some great restaurants, had some amazing wine and enjoyed it just being the two of us on a vacation. (This was also, I guess, our official 8th anniversary celebration.)
  • I finished knitting the February sweater (but still haven’t seemed it).
  • I made part of Squirms’ Halloween costume and started on the second part of it.
  • It got cold in DC. Then got warm again. Now, it’s in the 60s. I’m still waiting for Magic Day – you know, when, like magic, it’s cold and stays cold.
  • I spent the night in the hospital, getting lots of tests that showed nothing abnormal following a day of dizziness and a painful headache. (Turns out it was just a weird sort of migraine. Neurologist visit is in my near future).
  • Squirms wore shoes for the first time. Weird milestone, but she usually just wears socks or nothing on her feet. But it’s going to be getting cold – like, actually cold – soon and I wanted to get her used to the idea.
  • I kept really good notes in a notebook about what happened each day inspired by, of all things, the description in the second Outlander book of a small-village cleric who did the same thing. (Though mine is just bulleted notes vice real journaling like he did. Though I do plan to use December as my big journaling on paper month.)
  • My group at work has moved past the Forming and Storming phases and is creeping into Norming. (It’s a group forming model – Wiki page is here.) Two new members will be added in the next few months so the whole thing is likely to restart then.
  • Squirms has learned to pull herself up to a standing position using us and some furniture as a base. She also once made it onto the landing of the stairs (up one single stair).
  • Matt revitalized his sourdough starter and made an amazing partial whole wheat sourdough French-style bread.
  • We found out two sets of friends are expecting.
  • I lost 6 pounds, though much of that probably came from not eating much of anything that day I was getting the tests in the hospital. (Matt made me take this week off completely this week because “You were in the hospital. You probably shouldn’t go right back into a diet after being in the hospital.)
  • We made two different kinds of sausage for a party we’re having on Saturday. Another kind is going to be made tonight.
  • I cooked dinner twice. One meal was excellent – a frittata with lots of cheese and cauliflower. The other was only ok – a butternut squash pasta.
  • I went through the camera photos from September but haven’t done anything more to make her September scrapbook pages. Really hope my notes are enough for the journaling cards, whenever I finally get around to it.

So – what have you all been up to the last 15 days?

Birthday Dinner

The Day 10 prompt is well-timed as my birthday is actually coming up:

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

First, let me say that I think I’ve finally found my voice here. I’ve been writing daily – or, when I haven’t had the time – writing then scheduling multiple posts at one time which means I don’t have the time to think when I write. My writing here has mostly been the same as how I talk with friends, with more punctuation so it’ll make sense. I ramble, use too many prepositional phrases, and rely on parenthesis, dashes, and some key phrases (So, As, and Therefore come to mind) heavily. It took me quite awhile to find what my voice was and it’s obvious when I’m using someone else’s voice or the voice I use when I’m writing for work. I feel like I’m comfortable because I’m not trying to sound like (or not sound like) someone else who’s writing I admire. I’m just trying to sound like me. But online.

Back to the prompt. Memorable meal of celebration. Let’s go back to my childhood and wonders of cheeseburger rice casserole.

Continue reading “Birthday Dinner”