Makeover, Travels, and a Massive Storm

Well, first and foremost, do you like my new look?  I think this best reflects Charm Offensive Cooking’s real mission to share food and travel experiences.  It’s also bright too…yay!

Since I am done with raving over the new look, I guess I should tell you about my travels.  Recently, my boyfriend and I attended his friend’s wedding in Colorado Springs.  We had a great time visiting Colorado, even though there were a few snags with our airline and rental car.  Colorado was amazing, as we enjoyed great weather and beautiful scenery.  Between visiting Pike’s Peak and Garden of the Gods, we were certainly hungry and thirsty too.

Since Colorado has a lot of great breweries, we decided to visit Colorado Mountain Brewery in Colorado Springs.  This restaurant has some amazing brews on tap and great food.  However, it took forever for us to get a table (especially considering that we were not there during peak hours), and the waitress made an error with entering in our appetizer.  It was no big deal though, because the food and beer were worth the wait.

My boyfriend had the 7258 Blonde Ale.  It was a crisp tasting blonde ale that did not have a hoppy taste.  I had the UniBrau Hefeweissen.  This Hefeweissen was great and had citrus hints that made this stand out from the other hefeweizen beers that I have had in the past.  Little did I know that the beers we had selected would pair amazingly well with our food order.

For an appetizer, my boyfriend and I decided to order the Venison Eggrolls, which were filled with venison sausage, black beans, Monterey Jack cheese, peppers and onions.  They were amazing and were complimented by the two sauces served alongside of them.  They were so good that we ate them all before taking a picture.

Scenes before we ate dinner...soon there would be nothing left.

My boyfriend ordered an amazing burger, which was served with some awesome sweet potato waffle fries.  This burger was referred to as a Fourteener, and my boyfriend chose the Uncompaghre Peak, which was a ground angus burger with cotija cheese, sliced avocado, tomatillo, and charred Anaheim chili salsa.  It was probably the best burger that my boyfriend has ever had, and the quality of this burger far surpassed the ones here in the DC market.

I ordered the BBQ Bison Tacos, which were phenomenal.  You could tell that everything was freshly prepared.  The pulled BBQ Bison was combined with the brewery’s own black bean salsa.  They were topped with melted Pepper Jack cheese and charred tomato salsa.  Additionally, they were served with homemade guacamole, which was the best I have had, and tortilla chips.

The food was super yummy.  For dessert, we ordered their ice cream floats.  I ordered a coke float, while my boyfriend ordered a float with their Monumental Stout, which reminded me of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, with coffee and chocolate hints.

The wedding was amazing.  The food was all homemade and consisted of a garbanzo bean salad, BBQ beef, chicken, and grilled fingerling potatoes.  It was simple, and this is something that I really liked about their reception.  Additionally, they had a bar that featured some of the many breweries throughout Colorado.  They had Fat Tire (and yes, Fat Tire has made its way East to Virginia), Shiner Bock (My boyfriend and his friend attended college together in Dallas), a Colorado Springs microbrew, and the traditional Coors Light.  I had a Fat Tire and a bottle of the microbrew, which was comparable to the Hefeweissen I had at the brewery the previous evening.

We had a great time in Colorado, and I look forward to making a return visit in the future.  Hopefully, the next time, my boyfriend and I will be able to tour Breckenridge Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Company.  Breckenridge has an awesome Vanilla Porter (made with real Vanilla Beans), and it has now become an inspiration for another cupcake recipe that will be featured here within the next few weeks.

After the celebrations, we headed to visit my boyfriend’s family in Texas.  I love Texas!  However, we had some snags with the airline again.  This caused us to be stranded overnight in Memphis.  It was too late to go downtown and visit some BBQ joints.  Since we were tired and cranky, we hung out at a restaurant near the airport.  The food was so-so, but I enjoyed my Chicken Lettuce Wraps.   The wraps featured Kung Pao chicken on a bed of cellophane noodles.  My boyfriend ordered a ham and cheese panini with onion soup.  It was okay, but we both thought my dish was a lot better.

The next morning, we headed straight to the airport early and boarded a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.  I was looking forward to eating a great meal and hanging out with my boyfriend’s family.  We ate at the Baja Grill in Keller, and it was a great restaurant.  My boyfriend and I ate brisket tacos, as well as enjoying an awesome frozen margarita.  It was the first time I have ever had brisket tacos.  The brisket was fork tender and served on flour tortillas with a mild cheese.  The tacos were accompanied by refried beans and rice.

While we were in Fort Worth, we visited Rangers Ballpark, Kimball Art Gallery, the Omni theater, and visited with my boyfriend’s niece and nephew.  It was a great time.

Aside from the fun times, we also went to The Gingerman, which is a great pub in Fort Worth.  This pub has one of the best selections for craft beer.  I ordered a bottle of Wild Blue Blueberry Lager, which was a little sweet (Blue Point Blueberry Ale is one of my favorites) for my liking, and my boyfriend had Maredsous #6, which was a great Belgium ale that has some spicy hints with a caramel like sweetness.  Once we were finished with our beer, we decided to try some other ones.  I sampled 512 Pecan Porter, which had a smoky hint and rich taste, but I settled on a pint of Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter.  My boyfriend ordered New Belgium Brewing Company’s Sunshine, which is a wheat beer with coriander and orange peel.

Later that afternoon, my boyfriend decided to spoil me with going to Razzoo’s, which is a local Cajun restaurant in downtown Fort Worth.   The only Cajun food that I have had was Zatarain’s Jambalaya, so it was great to finally have some really authentic cuisine.  My boyfriend insisted we order Gator Tail, which was a deep fried alligator tail.  It was really unique tasting, and it was served with a sweet/spicy cocktail sauce.  My boyfriend ordered Crawdaddies 2ways (crawfish etoufee and crawfish tails).  This dish also had dirty rice, fries and pups.  The etoufee was great, and the crawdads weren’t bad either.

I ordered the Oyster Po’Boy, which was deep fried oysters on top of french bread with a garlic spread, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  This Po’Boy came with fries and pups (jalapeno hush puppies).  The oysters were very good, and I really enjoyed the texture of the french bread.

Overall, I feel like I have picked up ten pounds from this trip, but the memories will last forever.

Last but not least, Hurricane Irene is coming for a visit.  Depending on whether or not power outages happen, I might make a super yummy treat that involves peanut butter, chocolate, and caramel.  However, I hope everyone is prepared for Irene and stay safe.

Why I’m a Tim Horton’s Fan?

Okay, you remember those essay contests that you could enter professing why you admire certain things. Well, I could write about why I am a fan of Tim Horton’s, a donut chain based in Canada and the Northeast.

For those who don’t know, Tim Horton’s has fabulous coffee and amazing donuts. The closest one to my place is in Calcutta, Ohio. My first visit was to one in Jamestown, New York, as I was on my way to the Finger Lakes on I-85. I ordered an iced coffee with buttery caramel flavoring. The coffee was freshly brewed to the right strength. I was wowed by the fact that they used crushed ice, which gave a different style than the iced coffee I order from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. I also ordered a caramel apple danish. The danish had the perfect balance of flaky pastry and fruit filling.

Ever since that experience, I have been hooked on Tim Horton’s. In fact, my boyfriend often jokes that I would go on a road trip to find one. Now, I could try to open a franchise in Virginia, but I do not have enough capital to do so. In the meantime, I will have to make a trip to Wegman’s for their ground coffee to brew at home.

The Best Sushi Ever…

Ordinarily, I am skeptical about sushi, as it is hit or miss at most of the Japanese restaurants.  However, my opinion has changed after eating at Pacific East Solon, a Japanese restaurant in Solon, Ohio.  My boyfriend’s mother and stepfather took us there to eat last Sunday, since we were up visiting them in Cleveland last weekend.  My boyfriend’s mother kept raving about their sushi and about how fresh tasting everything was on their menu.  I knew I had to try this.

When we arrived, the restaurant was busy.   After we were seated, I had an opportunity to look over their expansive menu, including many Japanese and Mongolian dishes.  I knew that I wanted Philadelphia and Eel rolls. I ordered a special that included Miso soup and a house salad with a Ginger dressing. Meanwhile, my boyfriend, his mother and stepfather ordered a special that included 7 pieces Nigiri sushi, Sashimi, and a tuna roll.

We received our appetizers of miso soup and house salads. The soup and salad were very good. The waitress was very attentive to our table, and she apologized for the long delay due to the assembly of the sushi specials. We received a free order of Edamame, which was very tasty. It had a salty coating, and the Edamame was steamed perfectly.

Finally, our food arrived and it looked too beautiful to eat. The presentation was exquisite, and it tasted fresh. My eel and Philadelphia roll combo tasted awesome.

The Sushi specials also arrived, and again, the presentation was even more amazing. I had one piece of Mackerel, and the taste was fresh with no additional seasonings. It was fabulous. Personally, I was more amazed by the taste of the Salmon, which had a buttery taste.

We were stuffed at the end of dinner, but my boyfriend’s mother insisted we have dessert. Now, I am not one to pass up dessert, so we decided on the Fried Banana and Red Bean Ice Cream. The presentation again did not fail to amaze, and the taste was phenomenal. The Red Bean Ice Cream offered the right amount of sweetness. The Fried Banana dish was another great dish. Granted, fried foods are not my favorite, but this dish was a game changer for me. The tempura dipped banana was good, but it could have had some more sweetness (like honey in the batter).

Overall, I look forward to going back to Pacific East Solon, the next time I go back to Cleveland for a visit. The prices were affordable for the amount of food you received, and the quality/presentation was the star of the entire visit.

One year ago…

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I celebrated the one year anniversary of our first date. We decided to go back to the place where we went: Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church, Va.

The Dogwood Tavern offers a menu of regional dishes with a hint of personality. Both my boyfriend and I love their brunch menu offered during the weekends, and their dinner menu is no different, since the restaurant uses quality ingredients. It is no wonder why there is usually a waiting list every time we go.

Since we went for dinner, the first thing we noticed that it was a raw bar night. They had specials on snow crab legs, oysters, and mussels. My boyfriend loves snow crab legs, while I kinda look at them suspiciously as I am from Maryland…and love my steamed crabs with Old Bay. He also ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which looked scrumptious. The shrimp were huge and the grits were cooked perfectly. My boyfriend was raving about them. As for the snow crab legs, they looked like some of them were filled and some not so much.

I ordered the Fish and Chips. Fish and Chips scream the best of British eats. There was no doubt that this special of the evening was a good choice. When the waitress bought the dish out, it was loaded with tons of chips (waffle fries) and the fish was huge. The fish was coated in a cornmeal breading that seemed to dominate the flavor of the cod used. I thought it was flavorful, especially when dipped in the tartar sauce. I used malt vinegar to add some flavor, but I should have asked for the Old Bay to add an extra special kick.

Overall, we were stuffed by the time dinner was over. It was great enjoying good food with a special someone. I look forward to many more visits in the future to Dogwood.

I’ve been everywhere…

It seems that I have been on the road a lot from July until now.  Between the travels, work, and blogging between two sites, I have not had much time in the kitchen.  However, I have vowed to become better at managing time to update Charm Offensive Cooking.

First things first…where have you been?  Let’s start with a trip to Fort Worth, Texas.  I got to experience real Tex-Mex and great barbecue.  The Tex-Mex was a fresher taste than some of the restaurants in the DC area.  For starters, the closest thing to Tex-Mex here would be Tortilla Coast in DC.  As for barbecue, I would have to say Capital Q would be the closest thing in DC.

Fort Worth is a pretty awesome city.  My favorite area was The Stockyards.  The shops were unique, but the dining front offered some pretty sweet offerings.  Riscky’s Barbeque is amazing with juicy brisket, a wonderfully seasoned smoked catfish, and killer sweet tea.

Aside from the barbecue, the authentic Tex Mex won me over. When we (my boyfriend and I) arrived on Labor Day weekend, the first place we went was to Gloria’s, where I ordered fajitas. From the flour tortillas to the vegetables, everything was fresh tasting. The chicken was mildly seasoned, thus allowing the natural flavors to shine through.

We also ate at Caro’s Restaurant near Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. This restaurant is known for their Puffy Tostadas, which are a secret on their own. With perfectly seasoned chicken, fresh tomatoes and lettuce, the flavor was out of this world. The salsa was fresh and the taste was phenomenal.

In October, I had a great trip to upstate New York. I visited the Finger Lakes region, and this is another blog post in itself. You will read more about this culinary journey shortly.

Restaurant Review: Thai Chili

I love Thai food. It’s one of the “Krystle” food groups. Today, my colleague and I went to lunch at one of our favorite Thai restaurants in the Verizon Center area, Thai Chili. Located in the Gallery Place center, this restaurant offers some of the best Pad Thai in the area.

I had the Pad Thai with chicken. The chicken tasted like it was overcooked, but the peanut curry sauce made up for the loss. With a hint of lime, the sauce had a great flavor. The noodles were tender and the vegetables in the dish had just the amount of crispness. While many places limit portions, their lunch portion was very generous.

My colleague had requested the Thai Curry Tofu. The lunch portion was also very generous and provided the right amount of heat. The tofu was extra firm and the vegetables looked fresh. There were no complaints with the taste of the dish.

While my favorite Thai restaurant is Tara Thai, I have to say a close third (second is Sakoontra in Fairfax) is Thai Chili. If you are craving Thai and live/work/or visit D.C., stop by and you will not be disappointed.

Restaurant Review: The Burger Joint

The Burger Joint in Arlington might strike some as the usual hamburger establishment. After one of their burgers, your opinion will soon change. Using quality ingredients, The Burger Joint offers a wide variety of hamburgers and other sandwiches, in addition to homemade milkshakes and fries.

The Burger and The Greek Burger

“The Burger” might be an original hamburger. However, The Burger Joint allows the natural flavors of the meat to stand out. Using all-natural grain fed beef, “The Burger” can be supplemented with their famous Mojo Sauce, in addition to cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and your typical thoroughfare condiments. My boyfriend had this burger, and he remarked at how fresh everything tasted.

Their turkey burger was one of the best burgers I have had in a long time. I do not each a lot of red meat, but this burger did not disappoint. Using ground turkey, The Burger Joint also added in gorgonzola cheese and portobella mushrooms into the mix to create a juicy sandwich. Just like “The Burger,” you have the same choice of condiments and extras. I chose to have mine with the mojo sauce, lettuce and tomato. The Greek Burger is also good, as the meat mixture had lamb along with the ground beef. Additionally, this burger was loaded with feta cheese, tomatoes, and a tzatziki sauce. Another delicious choice that can be cooked to your specifications.

Their fries are also fresh, and just like other burger establishments in the area, they offered seasonings of rosemary, sea salt, garlic, and parmesan. The Gold Standard are the fries that I ordered. However, they offer Sweet Potato fries (The Orange Standard) and Asparagus Fries (The Green Standard).

If you are a milkshake aficionado like I am, then you will love The Burger Joint’s milkshakes.  Thick and creamy, they come in a variety of traditional flavors, including double chocolate, vanilla bean, strawberry, and a flavor of the month.  For the month of June, the flavor was Key Lime Pie.  Key Lime Pie had the graham cracker crust bits with a lime garnish.  This shake actually tasted like a slice of the namesake dessert.  The month of July pays homage to Peach.  Another delicious shake made with peach ice cream, fresh peach bits, and graham cracker crumbs.

All together, this is one of the best burger joints that I have visited. If you are in Arlington (they also have locations in Alexandria and Bethesda, Md.), it is well worth the visit.