Inn at Little Washington December 2016

Another one of our annual traditions is to go to the Inn at Little Washington after Christmas and spend the night.  While Jim and I usually do it with just the two of us, this year, we took the kids.  (I know—I want to come back in my next life as one of our kids, too.)
The Inn was kind enough to sit us at the kitchen table, which made the entire experience even more memorable.  Unlike many kitchens, especially in New York, the kitchen at the Inn is quiet and serene, at least on the surface.  The stress and tension are definitely there, as it is in every high-end restaurant kitchen, but yelling and profanities are not acceptable behavior.
We started off with a family favorite—truffle popcorn.  As much as I love every dish at the Inn, there are times when I think that the truffle popcorn is all I need to keep me happy.  It truly elevates popcorn so that you’ll never be happy with the movie theatre version again.

truffle popcorn

Next up, was the amuse-bouche.  We were treated to the chip-and-dip served on an (inedible) stone.

In addition, there was a bite of pork belly served with a hoisin sauce.

pork belly

And, finally, there was a brioche with a quail egg and quince jam.  Everything was quite delectable.

brioche

Next up was an oxtail consommé with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich studded with black truffles.  The oxtail consommé used to be part of a regular dish on the menu, and it was one of my favorite dishes on the menu.  This taste brought back a lot of lovely food memories.  Virtually any savory dish can be improved upon with the addition of black truffles, and the grilled cheese sandwich was no exception.  Heavenly.

oxtail consomme & grilled cheese

Another Inn favorite that is no longer on the menu is the fire and ice—seared tuna served on a bed of cabbage “noodles” topped with cucumber sorbet.  We took advantage of its availability that night.

fire and ice

Our son had the carpaccio of lamb loin with caesar salad ice cream.  It’s a favorite of his.

lamb carpaccio

The mousse of foie gras with sauternes gelee and red plum preserve is another family favorite and is often ordered when we are at the Inn.

foie gras mousse

Another past menu item that made a brief return was the roasted pheasant with cabbage

roasted pheasant

Jim took advantage of white truffle season and ordered the spaetzle “risotto” with a poached farm egg and white truffles.

white truffles galore!

Our daughter had the pan roasted lobster with tomato butter, spinach, and garlic custard (among other things):

lobster

The pan-seared diver scallop with artichoke puree, capers, and tomato tartare was excellent,

scallop

And the Inn always does a fabulous job with its version of roasted duck topped with foie gras and served with pickled cranberries (which were amazing!):

roast duck

Here is the delicious pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli:

pork jowl with walnut ravioli

The most amazing dish they served us in an evening of amazing dishes was a black truffle, which they had roasted in the ashes of the fireplace in the kitchen.  It had been wrapped in foil and was warm and sat in its own lovely truffle juice.  It was then sliced and served over a simply dressed salad with the juices poured over it.  Those truffles were one of the most wonderful things I have ever put in my mouth.

roasted black truffles!

Desserts included the painter’s palette of sorbets,

the chocolate mint fantasy,

a chocolate hazelnut mousse tart,

and a honeycrisp apple tart.

While the food is definitely delicious and artistic and memorable, the service is even more exceptional.  The staff always looks happy to see us (they are excellent actors all!), and we are treated like valued guests.  We already are looking forward to our next trip there!

Book review: The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes

The Trouble with Dukes (Windham Brides, #1)The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Grace Burrowes, and I was very pleasantly surprised. (I know–I’m on a romance kick.) The characters are deftly drawn, especially the secondary characters, which made the book particularly enjoyable. I expect the hero and heroine to be portrayed well in any romance, and they definitely were. But to have three dimensional secondary characters was a lovely surprise. The relationship between the heroine and her extended family was funny, perceptive, and humorous. Anyone with a large extended family would enjoy the interactions between the Windham family members.
If you’re looking for a fun and fast read where there are strong female characters and a happy ending for everyone but the bad guys, this is definitely your cup of tea!

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A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre

We have an annual holiday tradition of going to see “A Christmas Carol” (this predates our time in Washington, DC and kids, for that matter).  The bonus of seeing it in DC is that the play is performed at Ford’s Theatre, leading to the kids’ worst nightmare—a cultural event AND an educational event rolled into one.
The tradition has morphed into one where we go with the same family every year and enjoy dinner beforehand.  (We were trying to remember how long we’ve been doing this together, and it has been at least 10 years.)
This year’s dinner was at Zaytinya, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant.  The food and service were excellent.
There was a new Scrooge this year in the play, for the first time in many years.  This resulted in some apprehension amongst those in the family that dislike change (not to mention names, but the Y chromosome ones).  The actor who played Scrooge is Craig Wallace, and he was excellent—totally scary as the pre-repentant Scrooge and completely believable as he morphed into the repentant Scrooge.  The rest of the cast, many of whom have been in this production for years, was also excellent.  And Tiny Tim was terrific—he enunciated his lines clearly and was adorable.
We have enjoyed every single performance of “A Christmas Carol” over the years, and many of the lines from the play have made it into the family lexicon.  But, more importantly than the quality of the production, the play serves as a reminder of what we all should aspire to be.  (Just to be clear, the aspiration should be to become the repentant Scrooge.)  🙂
And so, as the holiday season draws to a close, we echo Tiny Tim’s words, “God bless us, every one!”

Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas in Hawaii)

Due to the fortuitous circumstance of Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the school’s holiday break included the week before Christmas.  This allowed us the rare opportunity to spend Christmas not in Washington, DC (Jim’s business being calendar year-end intensive).  To no one’s surprise, the family voted to spend Christmas in Honolulu.
There is rarely a time when Honolulu weather is inferior to DC weather (possibly the 2 weeks of fall is the only time).  While we had some difficulty getting out of DC due to an ice storm, then mechanical difficulties, then the need for a new crew), we did finally make it to Honolulu on a windy, overcast day.  No matter, Honolulu is still perfect.
The view from our hotel, the Halekulani, is a view of paradise, whether on an overcast day,


or a sunny day,


or at sunrise,


or during the afternoon,


or during sunset.

There are always big smiles when we are there


(with an occasional exception).

We even saw several mongoose (mongooses? mongoose?) on one of our walks.

And there are ALWAYS rainbows to greet us


and to say goodbye.

We will miss Honolulu—at least, until our next trip!

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

The Art of the Qur’an Exhibit (Freer Sackler Museum)

For those of you looking for something to do over the holiday break in the Washington, DC area, I highly recommend The Art of Qur’an exhibit currently being shown at the Freer Sackler Museum. There are over 70 Qur’ans on display, most of them beautifully illuminated. Many are over a thousand years old. (The oldest one is from the 8th century.)

Most of the Qur’ans on display have never been seen outside Turkey as they were the property of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. To learn more about the exhibit, go to http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/current/art-of-the-quran/default.php.

The exhibition is on display through February 20, 2017.

Thanksgiving 2016

We sat 26 people down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.  Some family but also friends.  Our menu was as follows:
Thai pumpkin soup
Smoked organic turkey
Roasted organic turkey with confit legs
Fried organic turkey
Roasted shrimp with rosemary
Roast duck
Stuffing
Chili-bathed sweet potatoes
Dinner rolls
Rice
Kimchi
Gravy
Orange cranberry sauce
Roasted carrots with creamy nuoc chom sauce
Mashed poatoes
Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon
Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake
Blackberry pie
Apple pie

The spread was quite impressive (since boiling water is a culinary highlight for me, I can say that).  🙂

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Thanksgiving spread

Thanksgiving spread

apple pie

apple pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

We also had the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast of homemade sticky buns.

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Most importantly for us on Thanksgiving, however, is to be grateful for life’s blessings.  And so we give thanks for our good health and the family and friends in our lives.  We hope your Thanksgiving was as full of gratitude as ours!

turkey massacre 2016

turkey massacre 2016

Restaurant review: Bazaar Miami

Our food highlight from this past weekend in Miami was dinner at Bazaar, located in the SLS hotel.  We’ve been to the Bazaar in Los Angeles and while the Bazaar in Miami has many of the same dishes, there are also Miami specific dishes.  As with many of Jose Andres’s restaurants, the restaurant serves small dishes, which our favorite way of eating, since you can try a bunch of dishes.
I started out in the best South Beach tradition with a drink, an Old Cuban, consisting of rum, mint, and lime juice.

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More interesting was the food.  We started with the Jose Taco, consisting of Iberian ham and Ossetra caviar.

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Next came what was probably my favorite dish, Onion Soup with Foie Gras Cappuccino.  Words cannot describe how completely scrumptious this dish was.  The foie gras was more foam than solid, and the onion soup was flavorful and almost meaty.

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We then had Conch Fritters served Cafe Atlantico-style with a liquid center.

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A surprisingly excellent vegetarian dish was the Twenty Vegetable Quinoa “Couscous” served with fresh vegetables in tamarind broth.

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The next course was Pork Belly Sliders.  There is nothing that contains pork belly that would be considered not delicious.

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Croquetas de Jamón (Spanish ham bechamel fritters) were next.

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Pollo al Ajillo Cubano or slow-cooked chicken thigh with black garlic followed.

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Sauteed Shrimp served with garlic, parsley, spicy tomato sauce, lemon, and guindilla peppers were quite spicy and extremely delicious.

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The Cubano in honor of Cafe Versailles was delectable, with Iberian ham on the top and a liquid center.

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The final “entree” were Baby Japanese Peaches served with fresh burrata, hazelnuts, and arugula.

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Dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake served with creme fraiche and salted caramel ice cream.

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We also had cookies (a coconut financier, chocolate chip, and chocolate flour de sel).
Service was impeccable and lovely as well.  It’s definitely a highly recommend!

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Best Buddies Miami 2016

We were in Miami this past weekend attending the Best Buddies gala.  Best Buddies is a non-profit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with friendships, jobs, and leadership development.  The annual gala in Miami is always a fun event to attend—both in terms of helping a very worthy cause and because Miami has some of the best people watching ever.
This year’s theme was rock-and-roll.  There were Michael Jackson and Prince impersonators who were quite talented.  There was also Guns ’n’ Roses impersonators, which we had to ask about as neither of us were ever Guns ’n’ Roses fans.

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Bohemian rhapsody

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Santana’s surf & turf

Elton's piano

Elton’s piano

There were several celebrities attending, but the one I got a photo with is Nolan Gould, who plays Luke in “Modern Family.”  He is a super nice kid, very personable and low-key.

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Kesha was the entertainment, and while her voice leaves something to be desired, she puts on a fun show.  She also was quite lovely to talk to.  I especially like her since she admired my necklace (which is a piece of meteorite).
The weather was perfect—around 80 degrees and breezy.  We spent some of the weekend going to the Wolfsonian, a museum specializing in propaganda materials (seems somehow very apt right now) and walking through one of the outdoor malls.

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We also had a tremendous meal at Bazaar, one of Jose Andres’s restaurants, but more about that in a later blog post.

Book review: When Gods Die by C.S. Harris

When Gods Die (Sebastian St. Cyr #2)When Gods Die by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series and follows up on a strong debut novel (“What Angels Fear”). There are lots of things going on in this mystery–a countess is killed, and the Prince Regent is a strong suspect, threatening the monarchy. If that isn’t enough, there is the threat of a rebellion to overthrow the House of Hanover and replace it with a descendant of the House of Stuart. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that the two events may be connected. And then there’s the mysterious death of Sebastian’s mother and why her favorite necklace was found on the body of the dead countess.
This series has become a favorite of mine. I love the Regency historical period and as much as I love the lighthearted Regency romances, I also appreciate the grittiness and observations of the underside of Regency society that are a characteristic of this series. Sebastian St. Cyr is a flawed but extremely appealing hero, and the secondary characters are vividly portrayed. Especially heartbreaking in this book is the portrayal of the dead countess’s husband.
This series is a definite must for the TBR pile!

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