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The DMV Dining Guide to Passover: 2012 Edition

4 Apr

No Chametz!Now that we are officially two days away from Passover, we thought we would take the time to compile a list of DC area restaurants that will be offering Pesach-friendly menus.

After all, just because it’s Passover doesn’t mean you can’t go out for dinner! So put down that box of matzo meal and start reading…

Dino: The Cleveland Park restaurant continues its time-honored tradition of offering a Passover menu starting Friday, April 6 through Friday, April 13. Not only will Dino be opening early the first two days of Passover to allow diners enough time to get to services, but they will also lend you a Seder plate as well! The prix-fixe menu features four courses which include a choice of entrees served family-style.

$59 for adults and $25 for children. Flight of four glasses of wine(non-kosher)  is an additional $24 per person. Call 202-686-2966 to make a reservation.

Hudson: Chef Demetrio Zavala has prepared a special Passover menu for Hudson that will be available this Friday and Saturday night. Entrees include roasted chicken, leg of lamb, grilled Atlantic salmon filet, and braised brisket.

Call 202-872-8700 to make a reservation

Rosa Mexicano: It’s Mexican Passover over at Rosa Mexicano from Friday, April 6 to Friday, April 13. Part of the restaurant’s Flavors of Mexico calendar, their Penn Quarter, Chevy Chase, and National Harbor locations will feature a “Passover a la Mexicana” menu for both lunch and dinner which puts a south of the border twist on traditional favorites. From red snapper gefilte fish to duck & beet borscht, Rosa Mexicano offers perhaps the most eclectic selection of Passover dishes thus far. Menu is a la carte.

Call 202-783-5522 (Penn Quarter), 202-777-9959 (Chevy Chase) or 301-567-1005 (National Harbor) to make a reservation.

Mon Ami Gabi: The French bistro located in downtown Bethesda will be offering a prix-fixe Seder menu on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7. Dinner will feature classic Passover dishes such as matzo ball soup, chopped liver with egg and onions, and beef brisket. Rachel and I went a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

$36.95 for adults and $15.95 for children under 12. Call 301-654-1234 to make a reservation.

Casa Nonna: Chef Amy Brandwein will be featuring several Passover-themed dishes at the Dupont Circle restaurant. From April 6 to 14, the Italian eatery will offer items such as Sfoglietti, a type of pasta made from matzo flour and eggs that is baked before boiling. Diners have the option of ordering items a la carte as well as a tasting menu for $40.

Call 202-629-2505 to make a reservation.

Perry’s Restaurant: Chef Mark Furstenberg will be serving a Passover menu starting Saturday, April 7th through the following Saturday. Diners will have a choice of sautéed chicken livers or tsimmis with flanken for their entrée, in addition to gefilte fish served with homemade horseradish. The most appealing part, however, is the matzo ball soup featuring chicken stuffed matzo balls! The meal even includes a glass of kosher wine.

$45 per guest (entire table must participate). Call 202-234-6218 to make a reservation.

Tragara: The Italian restaurant located in Bethesda offers a Passover-friendly menu throughout the holiday. While classics like homemade gefilte fish and matzo ball soup will be available, Tragara also offers some unique entrees such as matzo-crusted rack of lamb.

Call 301-951-4935 to make a reservation.

Vince & Dominic’s Pizzeria: Just beacuse it’s Passover doesn’t mean you can’t eat pizza. The Bethesda-based pizzeria will be serving up unleavened pies all throughout Passover. Make sure to place your orders ahead of time as demand will be high during the holiday.

Call 301-365-4190 to place your order.

Crumbs: Keeping with the tradition of their NYC stores, the DC location will also serve up flourless cupcakes during Passover. Flavors include the Holy Moses (chocolate cake, fudge filling, chocolate cream cheese frosting covered in chocolate fondant and sprinkles) and Raspberry Red Sea (nut cake filled with raspberry preserve, raspberry vanilla cream cheese frosting, sliced almonds and raspberry drizzle). Please note that while they are kosher, they are not kosher for Passover.

Georgetown Cupcake: DC’s most famous cupcake outpost will be selling a variety of Passover Macaroon cupcakes at both their Georgetown and Bethesda locations. These flourless coconut macaroon cupcakes will be available in plain, chocolate drizzle, and caramel drizzle.

Sprinkles: The latest cupcake import from Beverly Hills will be selling flourless chocolate cupcakes, topped with a blue Star of David naturally, from April 6-14.

Fancy Cakes by Leslie: The Bethesda bakery will be offering an extensive list of Passover desserts, ranging from French macarons to almond-crusted lemon tarts.

If you know of any area restaurants not listed above that are offering Passover menu options, please let us know by either leaving a comment or emailing us at dmvdining AT gmail DOT com.

Spring is in the Air at Seasons 52

3 Apr

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend an event at Seasons 52 where they would be debuting their new spring menu. Brett and I have wanted to try this place since it first opened, so this provided to be a good introduction to the restaurant. While we were not seated in the main dining room as this was a private event, just from walking in, we could tell that the ambiance was very inviting. We even noticed a piano man at the bar by the entrance. Anyway, we could not wait to see what we would be trying that night.

Seasons 52

If you weren’t already aware, Seasons 52 is a chain operated by Darden Resaurants (their brands also include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Capital Grille) but the large space definitely didn’t have the atmosphere of one. Their whole concept is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and they change their menu four times a year. Also, nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories, and that includes their “mini indulgences” desserts.

We were able to try several items on the new spring menu, which ranged from starters to entrees to those decadent desserts, as well as wine pairings for each course. Let’s just say I stared at my wine while Brett indulged.

Plum tomato and artichoke & goat cheese flatbreads

We arrived a little late to the event but the servers were very accommodating and still let us try their well-known flatbreads to start. I particularly enjoyed the plum tomato flatbread, which included fresh basil, roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese. Someone detected a hint of lavender in there and they were right, as that was mixed into the crust. The artichoke and goat cheese flatbread was very light and perfect for spring.

Tomato and Haas avocado salad

Next came the tomato and Haas avocado salad. The server mentioned they use Haas avocados because they are available right at the start of spring and have a higher fat and taste content. I loved the combination of tomato, avocado, balsamic, and arugula, and would definitely come back and make a meal of that with the add-on of chicken or another protein.

Columbia River steelhead trout

For our entrees, we all shared the Columbia River steelhead trout, lamb t-bone chops, and spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms. I really liked the trout, and had no idea that that particular type was part of the salmon family. It paired well with the spring vegetables, basmati rice, and lemongrass sauce. I’m sure it also balanced well with the recommended Botani Moscatel, but I digress.

Lamb t-bone chops

I know that Brett’s favorite was the lamb t-bone chops as he had three of them and couldn’t get enough. He commented how he generally doesn’t order lamb because it is so fatty and gamey, but these pieces of meat were incredibly lean and flavorful. Even more amazing were the truffle mashed potatoes that accompanied the chops. We all asked how it was possible for them to be low-fat, and they answered that the chef uses fat free sour cream instead of butter or cream. Amazing!

Spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms

The snow peas were a nice side dish and we enjoyed the contrast of the crunchy peas together with the meaty mushrooms and almonds, but I don’t think I would call them spicy, more like sweet and savory. That dish was paired with the Lioco Indica Rose from Mendocino which we were told is 100% natural with no additives. This is a wine that is hard to obtain on the east coast, and we will definitely look for it when we are out on a trip to California in a few months.

"Mini indulgences" desserts

Finally, the desserts. We had heard about these small desserts, but until you see them all together it is hard to grasp just how many varieties and indulgences there really are. They had everything from mango cheesecake to rocky road to pecan pie. We tried several of them and I have to say that my favorite might have been the key lime pie, but the chocolate peanut butter was pretty amazing too. Bottom line – none of these are more than 300 calories, so indulge!

Their menu changes every 13 weeks, so you have plenty of time to check out some of these new items, plus some staples. I could definitely see us going back for the flatbreads and desserts alone. But I know Brett is still thinking about that lamb t-bone too, so a return trip is definitely on the horizon.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

International Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines

10 Nov

I used to live in Cleveland Park (and in Van Ness prior to that), so I became very familiar with that particular stretch of Connecticut Avenue. Being that there is so much at our doorstep in Bethesda, I don’t go back to my old neighborhood as often as I would like. Given the recent resurgence of new establishments opening in Cleveland Park, it’s nice to see the area continue to change and develop.

Weygandt Wines

Just last week, we were able to attend an event at Weygandt Wines to celebrate International Champagne Day. It’s hard to imagine that the same spot used to belong to a Blockbuster Video, and right next door is the expanded Palena where I used to do my daily shopping at MacGruder’s. There are still the old standbys like California Tortilla and Indique, but we’ve definitely been eying Medium Rare and still need to make a trip to Ripple as well as the renovated Ardeo/Bardeo.

The Heart of Champagne

Anyway, back to the wines. We will fully admit that we are not winos and cannot claim too much expertise in that department. We do, however, enjoy trying new varieties and going to tastings at vineyards, but when it comes to choosing the right bottle at a restaurant to pair with a dish, consider us clueless… which is where the folks at Weygandt Wines come in.

Weygandt Wines

If I still lived in the neighborhood, I could see it being my go-to store for choosing the perfect wine. The store itself is a showcase for Peter Weygandt’s wine selections as an importer from wines all over the world. The store’s partner and manager is Tim O’Rourke, a former chef who hails from restaurants such as Cafe Atlántico, Michel Richard Citronelle, and Tosca. Along the way, he fell in love with fine wine and came to the store with the idea of a place to showcase wine and discuss food.

The space may seem a little intimidating at first, but the staff is very warm and helpful, and if you are looking for something within a particular budget, they can steer you in that direction. There is even a showcase in the front of quality wines for $15 or less.

Champagne Tasting

On this particular night, we were able to sample several varieties of champagne along with several red wines. They were all wonderful, but we have to say our favorite was the champagne from Nicolas Maillart. We even had some small bites to try courtesy of Ripple, and I was definitely drawn to their chicken liver and apple butter crostini.

Crostini from Ripple

In addition to providing helpful guidance on wine selections, they also hold regular tastings on Saturdays as well as other events. If you visit their website, there’s a handy guide of corkage fees in the DC area.

Weygandt Wines

Their wine club is very intriguing, as you can receive two bottles a month as part of the Classic Wine Club for only $29.99. Considering the selection and quality of wines available at Weygandt, that definitely seems like a bargain.The event itself was a great way to connect to the store as well as other local food and wine bloggers, and we will definitely be back again the next time we are looking for a special wine or to learn more about vino in general.

Recap: Taste of DC

14 Oct

We couldn’t have asked for better weather than last Monday for the District’s revival of Taste of DC. With temperatures peaking at the high 70s and not a cloud to be seen, more than 60 restaurants set up shop along Pennsylvania Avenue for the three-day festival.

Fortunately both and Rachel and I had Columbus Day off from work, so we were able to avoid the large crowds and not have to wait in any long lines.

Taste of DC

We started the day off with Medium Rare’s filet sliders. Topped with their delicious secret sauce, it made for a satisfying first bite. It’s one of many restaurants that we still need to try.

Medium Rare Filet Sliders

Up next was a miniature lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster. This was our first encounter with the NYC import, and after biting into the roll, it was definitely not our last.

Luke's Lobster Mini Lobster Roll

Nearby was Local 16, serving up their Neapolitan pizza made famous by pizzaiolo Edan MacQuaid. There was a lot of buzz regarding MacQuaid’s arrival to the restaurant earlier this summer, and after buying a slice of their cheese pizza, it definitely warrants the hype.

Local 16 Neapolitan pizza

Our next dish was a beef patty from Patty Boom Boom. Our friend Kim ordered the veggie patty and we both agreed it was the better of the two as the beef was not as flavorful and somewhat dry.

Patty Boom Boom Beef Patty

Meanwhile, Co Co. Sala’s four-cheese bacon mac and cheese was one of the most savory dishes of the day. On the sweeter side, they also offered their famous Chocolate Onyx. Featuring dark chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulee, salted caramel, crispy chocolate pearls, brownie, dark chocolate sorbet, and cinnamon toffee bon bon, decadent doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Co Co. Sala’s four-cheese bacon mac and cheese

Chocolate Onyx

Moving onto Surfside, we cashed in four of our tickets for a fish taco from their food truck. Considering that the weather made it feel like you were on the West Coast, at least for a day in October, it was an apt choice.

Surfside Fish Taco

Speaking of food trucks, our next destination was Sauca. A few of our friends ordered the butter chicken, but because I’ve been on a banh mi kick lately (I had a heavenly banh mi burger at Masa 14 the previous day), I went with that instead.

Sauca Banh Mi

And of course, you can’t end any sort of food festival without consuming a giant cookie. Firehook Bakery’s Presidential Sweet oatmeal cookie fit the bill, containing chocolate chips, dried cherries, pecans, and coconut.

Firehook Bakery’s Presidential Sweet Cookie

Overall, Taste of DC was a bonafide success. Redeeming our tickets from the will-call table was painless, purchasing additional tickets was effortless (and to think, credit card was the preferred method of payment), and the vendors had plenty of food with little to no waits (at least that was the case on Monday).

It’s amazing that the festival has been on hiatus since 2003, but given the plethora of vendors this weekend as well as the large crowds it attracted, let’s hope Taste of DC remains a mainstay for years to come.

DC Restaurant Week Extensions and Year-Round Deals

16 Aug

DC Restaurant Week kicked into gear yesterday and you might be thinking that it’s too late to snag a great reservation. We generally think some of the better deals happen at lunchtime if you’re lucky enough to work near a participating restaurant. It’s also a better deal if you can find a place that offers most if not all of their regular menu, or if you would easily spend up to $30 on entrees alone.

If you missed the boat on a reservation this week, we have compiled a list of places that have extended their offers. Also, some of these restaurants have prix fixe menus throughout the year during certain days and hours, so it’s a good idea to see if your dining destination is a special occasion place or an everyday destination.

Sesame-Seared Tuna at Kinkead's

Sesame-Seared Tuna at Kinkead's

1789 – $40 through September 15, Sunday – Thursday. Must subscribe to their newsletter to receive offer.

1905 – Extended through August 27th

2941 – Lunch and dinner extended to August 22-26, 5-9:30pm, dinner August 20, 5 – 10pm.

701
– Extended through August 28th. They also offer a pre-theater menu  from 5:30 – 6:45pm for $29.95 Monday-Saturday. On Sundays, they offer a pre-theater menu from 5 – 9:30pm.

Acadiana – Passion Food Hospitality is offering an extended week for their Loyalty Members ($25 to sign up for the program).

Adour – Extended through August 27th.

Art and Soul – Extended through August 28th.

Assaggi Osteria – Extended through August 28th.

Bastille – Extended through August 28th.

Bistro Lepic – Extended through August 28th.

Blacksalt – They offer a special lunch menu Monday through Friday.

Casa Nonna – Extended through the month of August

Ceiba – Passion Food Hospitality is offering an extended week for their Loyalty Members ($25 to sign up for the program).

Charlie Palmer – Offering a daily prix fixe lunch menu for $25.

CoCo Sala – Dinner extended through August 31st, including brunch August 27 and 28.

Columbia Firehouse – Offering their full menu through August 28th.

DC Coast – Passion Food Hospitality is offering an extended week for their Loyalty Members ($25 to sign up for the program).

Dino – Offering their whole menu through August 31st. They also have a three course dinner every day for $39.

Et Voila – Offering restaurant week lunch throughout the entire month of August.

J& G Steakhouse – Extended through August 26th. They also offer a pre-theater menu for $39 from 5:00 – 6:30.

Jackson 20 – Extended through August 28th.

Jaleo – Extended through August 28th.

Johnny’s Half ShellPre-theater menu for $35, 5 – 6:30pm.

Kellari Taverna – Extended through August 28th (dinner only).

Kinkead’s – Lunch extended through September 2nd.

Lyon Hall – Extended through August 28th.

Nage – Restaurant Month through all of August.

Occidental – Extended through August 28th.

Oval RoomPre-theater menu daily for $35, 5:30 – 6:30.

Oya – Oya offers a $20 prix fixe lunch Monday through Friday and a $35 prix fixe dinner every night of the week.

Oyamel – Extended through August 28th.

Perry’s – Extended through August 31st.

PS 7 – Extended through August 27th. Special includes a bottle of selected red or white for $25 with meal.

SEI – Oya offers a $20 prix fixe lunch Monday through Friday and a $35 prix fixe dinner every night of the week.

Siroc – Offering a four course menu through August 28th.

Trummer’s on Main – Extended through August 28th.

Tuscana West – Extended through August 27th.

Vento – Offering a four course menu through August 28th.

Zaytinya – Extended through August 28th.

Whew! So it appears that a lot of places are extending their deals, making it more like Restaurant Month than Restaurant Week. I tried to add in some other deals when possible, but there are simply too many to factor them all in.

Just a reminder that many places offer deals on a daily basis, especially early bird or pre-theater specials. Also, look for places that you have never been to before as a way to try out several courses and sample the menu.

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Recap: Truckeroo 2

28 Jul

Truckeroo is a food truck lover’s paradise. We first heard about the idea back in June and knew right away we had to go to at least one of these monthly events. Essentially, the owner of The Bullpen and Das Bullpen Biergarten by Nationals Park decided to capitalize on the food truck craze and get all of the trucks to gather by the bars as a way to draw crowds on a Friday when the Nats are away.

Truckeroo

It’s a win-win for everyone since it’s a fun, new event to look forward to each month in the summer, a great way to see all the food trucks in one setting (especially for those who don’t work downtown such as ourselves), and attracts customers to the Nationals Park bars that generally don’t see any business unless the Nats are in town.

We got to Truckeroo right after work a few weeks ago only to find a line that partially wrapped around the block. The event goes from 11am to 9pm, and immediately we wished the food truck gathering fell on one of our flex days so we wouldn’t have to fight the crowds. There were predictable long lines for Red Hook Lobster Pound and Takorean, so we decided to try some new trucks we hadn’t tasted from yet. We shared everything we got so we could try more items as well as give our feedback. Here we go!

TakoreanSurfsideBig Cheese

First up was Fojol Brothers’ Benethiopia truck. They have one truck for Indian cuisine as well as one for Ethiopian, and we were lucky enough to try the latter that day. This was Brett’s first time trying Ethiopian food, and he immediately decided we needed to try more, and soon! We had the berber meat and the stewed carrots and beans that were incredibly flavorful and tender after stewing for 12 hours. We had a “dingo bite” of each instead of a larger plate which made for a great way to start our food truck outing.

Classic Mac and Cheese

Next up, I had to try some CapMac as I have been waiting to try their macaroni and cheese. Brett was curious about the DC Empanadas truck so he waited in that line while I got my classic mac and cheese with cheddar, pimento, and crushed Cheez-Its on top. Yum! I couldn’t get over how much they gave you in a container. It was definitely more than enough for two people to share. It was such a nice summer day that I couldn’t help but also get some of the summer salad, which consisted of feta, watermelon, picked melon rinds, and basil. It was so refreshing and a great side dish.

CapMac Summer SaladClassic Mac and CheeseCapMac Menu

Brett got the vegetarian Tio Shawn empanada that came with black beans, rice, Monterrey Jack cheese, Chipotle peppers, and onions. He came away impressed as it had a nice Mexican flavor while the shell was flaky and crunchy without it being overly greasy. Given his appetite, he wished the empanada was slightly larger, but overall he thoroughly enjoyed it.

DC Empanadas - Tio Shawn

At that point, we were perfectly content and just walked around for a bit while our friend Erika got a chicken pita. I thought a great last treat for the night would be a pop from Pleasant Pops. I thought they were just fresh fruit ice pops, but discovered that they are actually Mexican-inspired paletas. Whatever they were, I couldn’t get over the flavor from the peach pop – it literally tasted like a frozen pureed summer peach! They were also serving Sweet Tea pops and both were going fast.

Truckeroo will take place once a month and continue through October. The next one is coming up on Friday, August 12th, so make sure to check out your favorite food trucks – all in one convenient location!

Recap: Best of Washington

19 Jul

Rachel and I made the swift decision of attending last week’s Best of Washington party after our names found their way to the top of the waitlist the morning before the event.

Tuna Crudo - BLT Steak

This was our third consecutive year attending, and it might have been the best yet given the quality of restaurants as well as the food they were serving.

Beef Tartare - Citronellle

Earlier Best Of parties featured unexciting vendors such as California Tortilla while more expensive eateries were offering cheap plates. For example, there were several instances of restaurants serving up watermelon and feta – who wants that?

Rappahanock River Oysters

When you’re paying $100 per ticket, you obviously want to get your money’s worth.

Basil-cucumber CollinsEggs with pickled red peppers - Estadio and BLT SliderLettuce cups - Jackie’s Restaurant

The 2011 edition felt like a vast improvement from past years. All of the major players were in the house. From Estadio to The Source to Rasika, this was a great year to be in attendance.

Macarons - Adour

Our favorite dishes of the night? We would have to go with Cintronelle’s wonderful tomato tartare. I don’t think we can ever go back to bruschetta again.

Bison Tartare - LevelGeorgetown CupcakeIce cream push-pops - Oval Room

As for dessert, Bibiana’s Bomba al Cioccolato (milk-chocolate mousse with gianduja custard and hazelnut powder) was the unanimous favorite. Absolutely decadent, the name of the dish says it all.

Scallop Crudo - Perry's

Overall, we had a great time and got to try some plates from restaurants we haven’t been to yet. After last Monday, Bibiana might be on the top of our list.

Recap: Fancy Food Show

14 Jul

This past Sunday, Brett and I were fortunate enough to obtain passes to the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Washington Convention Center. Even though we already had reservations that morning for Birch and Barley’s decadent brunch, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore this behemoth of an event.

Fancy Food Show Convention Floor

I used to work for the Food Marketing Institute, so I had an idea just how massive these food exhibits can be, but nothing prepared us for the countless rows of vendors from all over the world showcasing everything from fresh meats and cheeses to chocolates to wine to vegan and gluten-free fare.

This was a unique opportunity, as the reason for the DC location was due to their home at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City undergoing extensive renovation. In total, there were 2,400 exhibitors, 80 countries represented, and 24,000 attendees. Whew! To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Sweet Potato MuffinsSpare RibsFreshly-sliced Capicola

We started off wandering the aisles one by one, which soon proved fruitless given the endless number of them. Some cool features we got to check out included the “New Brands on the Shelf” area, highlighting the newest specialty food and beverages that would be debuting soon. We quickly realized that the hall was organized with countries along the back and companies in the front, with various showcases for states in the U.S. as well.

Black Truffles

While wandering through an aisle, we happened to see a crowd of people gathered around a cooking demonstration. Turns out it was none other than Cat Cora showing how to make a Mediterranean dish with eggplant, Santorini tomatoes, and other vegetables. She was right by her booth of branded sauces and cookbooks, and also happened to be the keynote speaker at an awards event. Crazy to think we saw her the day before on an episode of Iron Chef America!

Cat Cora!

It’s hard to remember everything we saw, but some of our favorites included the endless amounts of olive oil, olives, and fresh cheese from Greece and Italy, trying a mangosteen fruit for the first time from the Thai exotic fruit exhibit, and of course, a Jelly Belly mural of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Jelly Belly Mural

We also heard there was a craft beer sampling booth, so with five minutes to spare, we found ourselves in front of the exhibit from the Breweries Association. It was our last stop of the day, and within a few minutes, we tried new brews from Dogfish Head, Allagash, 21st Amendment, Victory, and Lagunitas. Not a bad way to end a Sunday!

Bethesda Restaurant Week Starts on Monday

12 Jul

RedwoodSummer means it’s time once again for Bethesda-Chevy Chase Restaurant Week!

Starting Monday, July 18 through Sunday, July 24, diners can visit the 30 or so Bethesda-area restaurants participating in the biannual promotion.

Newcomers this time around include the well-received Newton’s Table as well as Freddy’s Lobster & Clams.

Lunch prices will range from $12 to $15 while dinner will cost $30.

As for our picks? Persimmon, Raku, Jaleo, Food Wine & Co., and Grapeseed are all recommended.

Courtesy of the Bethesda Urban Partnership, here is a full rundown of restaurants that will be participating in this year’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Restaurant Week. Bon Appetit!

Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $ 12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Dinner $29
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30
Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $15 & Dinner $30
Lunch $12 & Dinner $30

The First Annual Quesadilla Cookoff

12 Jun

About a month ago, a few of our friends thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of cooking contest with us presiding as the judges. When it came down to deciding what type of food the contestants should cook, a decision was quickly reached: quesadillas.

A little backstory: one of the contestants, Rajiv, was my roommate during my junior year of college. He was pretty good about cooking at home, but his favorite dinner to make was chicken quesadillas. Turns out that Jim, our other contestant, claimed that his quesadilla recipe could rival that of Rajiv’s. A battle was soon proclaimed. After a time and place was arranged, the cookoff was on!

Jim's Quesadillas

Jim's Quesadillas

 

Rachel and I decided that we would be judging Rajiv and Jim’s quesadillas under three factors: taste , texture, and presentation. A victor would be named based on these categories with a scale from one to four stars. And while I should note that I have obviously eaten Rajiv’s quesadillas in the past, the final result would be unbiased as Rachel and I would have to reach a unanimous decision before naming the winner.

Rajiv prepared all his ingredients, for the exception of the shredded cheese, in a stew. Chicken, tomatoes, peppers, onions and onions were all cooked together before being placed atop a tortilla. Cheese was then sprinkled on top of the mixture, a second tortilla was added on top, and then the entire product was thrown on a frying pan.

Rajiv's Quesadilla Preparation

Rajiv's Quesadilla Preparation

 

Jim went more with the traditional route by cooking his ingredients separately. He also used a smaller tortilla which made handling the quesadillas a lot easier than Rajiv’s, as well as it being a more reasonable portion size.

Jim's Quesadilla Preparation

Jim's Quesadilla Preparation

 

Taste:

In regards to Rajiv’s preparation, both Rachel and I agreed that some of the spices added, as well as the stewed tomatoes, really brought out the flavor and made for a tasty quesadilla. On the other hand, while Jim used a more traditional cooking regimen, we felt that the flavors were more on the blander side with nothing really piquing our interest.

Rajiv: ***
Jim: **

Rajiv's Quesadillas

Rajiv's Quesadillas

 

Texture:

Rajiv’s preparation made the tortillas soggy as soon as they were prepared. The stew mixture might have helped in regards to taste, but these were limp as soon as they were brought to the table. Meanwhile, Jim’s quesadillas were adequately crispy and had a nice crunch to them. No contest in this category.

Jim: ****
Rajiv: **

Presentation:

Rajiv’s quesadilla was presented with a dollop of sour cream and salsa on top, along with a side of arugula salad, refried beans, and guacamole. I would have preferred the condiments on the side myself, but otherwise, it was a well-presented dish.

Rajiv's Presentation

Rajiv's Presentation

 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jim’s arrangement. His quesadilla (dotted with salsa) was placed in the center of the plate on top of a bed of arugula, which was then surrounded by a border of shredded cheese. It was way over the top and really detracted from the actual dish.

Jim's Presentation

Jim's Presentation

 

Rajiv: ***
Jim: *

Winner:

We’re going to have to give the nod to Rajiv. His quesadillas simply tasted better, and despite lacking the requisite crispiness, the overall flavor proved to be enough to win the battle. While Jim’s were crunchier albeit blander, it was his presentation that ultimately did him in. Both contestants have areas for improvement, but for our first-ever cook-off, it was a bona fide success.