2015 in Review…the Food

Yesterday I began a short series looking back on the best of 2015.  Between work and pleasure I took 25 overnight trips in 2015, so I started the series with travel.

Food is next!  With those trips came some really good food!  Conch salad in the Bahamas, sushi in San Francisco, it often has as much to do with the occasion as it does with what’s on the plate. (more…)

Antipasto Chopped Salad

I’ve become a fan of this blogsite, Foodiegate. Here is a recipe for Traditional Italian Antipasto which they sampled at a restaurant called “Tony’s” You know I gotta’ re-post that!

Antipasto is the traditional first course of an Italian meal that is served before the main course. It literally means, “before the meal.” Nestled in between the rocky mountain faces of the Appalachians and the Juniata River, stood a simple Italian restaurant…

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Apple Varieties

Sharing this post from a blog called Foodiegate. Hope you enjoy!

Photos Copyright 2015 / MRF There are so many apple varieties to choose from at a farmer’s market! It is not always easy to recognize which apple is perfect for pie and which one tastes best as a healthy, juicy snack. As we ease out of summer and into…

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Hawaii – Day 2 of 15 The North Shore

In 2013, tonemanblog lost a library of photographs leaving many broken links on older posts.  The following post is a restored version from a trip in 2011 trip to Hawaii.


Day 2 would be our first full day in Hawaii and it was going to be a long one because we were still on east coast time.  At one point I woke up at 12:30 am pretty much rested!  I managed to sleep until 5:00 and then finally got up.  My wife swam laps in a pool she had all to herself while I went to the fitness center.  It’s pretty tough to beat an elliptical machine that looks out over the Pacific Ocean as the sun comes up!

We decided we would explore Oahu’s North Shore.  This is the absolute opposite end of the hustle-bustle Waikiki, not only geographically but in every other way.

Oahu’s North Shore, map courtesy North Shore Chamber of Commerce

To get there we drove up the center of the island.  This is a landmass formed from volcanic activities and the landscape is dramatically beautiful!  As we drove through a fertile valley planted with pineapples (the Dole plantation), coffee, and coccoa, on either side of us was breathtaking lush green mountains.  I felt like I was on the set of Lost, or Survivor!

Coccoa plantation with mountains and sea in background

Coccoa plantation with mountains and sea in background

We arrived at the town of Haleiwa and drove west all the way to Kaena Point.  It was here that we found our own deserted private beach.  On one side of the street was a small airstrip, a glider-port to be exact.  The whole time we were there we saw planes towing gliders up into the air and a while later they would come arc’ing into the strip to land.

We also saw a plane drop a dozen skydivers all at once!

On our side of the street however, was a beach that went on as far as the eye could see, and about 6 other people!

Our own private beach!

Our own private beach!

I could not believe that here we were in Hawaii and seemed to have the place all to ourselves.  I knew it would be a different story in Waikiki, but that was for another day.

We were swimming in what was a pounding hard surf.  Occasionally we would look up to the beach to see we had drifted quite far from our towels and bags.

We also had several friends in the water!  Sea turtles were everywhere!  They would wash around in the surf, occasionally coming up for air but otherwise seemed happy to just float around.

Sea Turtle

We left the beach for the town of Waialua.  There we found an old sugar plantation that is now a coffee and coccoa business.  The owner explained that those were his fields we saw coming into the north shore and that they did the drying here, but did the roasting at another site.  We tried a sample of Waialua coffee (very good!) and tasted raw coccoa beans, unroasted but dried, very cool!

An old sugar processing plant, this spot in Waialua now grows and dried coffee and coccoa.

An old sugar processing plant, this spot in Waialua now grows and dried coffee and coccoa.

We continued to explore the coast, pulling into a store or beach when it looked interesting.  We ate in Haleiwa.  This is a classic laid back surfer town.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant called Cholo’s and even Mexican food here has a distinct Hawaiin twist.  The fish taco is grilled ahi, the margarita is prepared with a Hawaiian tart spice called Li-Hing, and the restaurant is, like most buildings here, open air.

The Li-Hing Margarita

The Li-Hing Margarita

The food and the geography, the friendly people, it was all so inspiring that we decided to assemble the ingredients and flavors we had experienced to make dinner at our villa this night.

I bought some ahi tuna, as well as a tuna dish called Poke (pronounced pok-ay).  This is a sushi style dish in which sashimi grade tuna is tossed with soy sauce, seaweed, green onions, and sesame seeds.  It is so fresh and amazing!

Hawaiian Poke

Hawaiian Poke

We bought fresh local grown fruit, papaya, pineapple, and Hawaiian grown long beans, string beans which are each about a foot long.

The result for dinner that night was fantastic!  Seared ahi tuna on a bed of asian cabbage slaw served with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya.  For me this was the best of both worlds.  I got to cook, which I love, but Hawaii provided the inspiration, and the ingredients!

iPhone 793

The ingredients for seared Ahi tuna on a bed of sesame cabbage slaw with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya

This time we made it until it got dark, so we are beginning to adjust to the 6 hour time difference.

Tomorrow would be Memorial Day and we planned to visit Pearl Harbor.

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Steak Tartare at Lyon Hall

The social and food center of Arlington, VA’s universe is a neighborhood called Clarendon and one of the anchor restaurants there is Lyon Hall.  It is a casual Belgian style brasserie with great outdoor seating and a sophisticated atmosphere inside.

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The steak tartare alone is worth the trip to Lyon Hall, but stay for the impressive beer list!

Two great things about this restaurant are that the owner is always there, and the amazing staff has very low turnover so you always see a familiar face…and they recognize you!

The menu is excellent but the Steak Tartare is a standout.  Hand-cut filet mignon mixed with capers, seasoning, and topped with a quail egg.  It’s not for everyone, but if you like this dish, it’s a must-try.

In a neighborhood where a non-franchise one-of-a-kind restaurant is increasingly hard to find, Lyon Hall should be on your list!

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Steak Tartare at Lyon Hall

The social and food center of Arlington, VA’s universe is a neighborhood called Clarendon and one of the anchor restaurants there is Lyon Hall.  It is a casual Belgian style brasserie with great outdoor seating and a sophisticated atmosphere inside.

IMG_3995

The steak tartare alone is worth the trip to Lyon Hall, but stay for the impressive beer list!

Two great things about this restaurant are that the owner is always there, and the amazing staff has very low turnover so you always see a familiar face…and they recognize you!

The menu is excellent but the Steak Tartare is a standout.  Hand-cut filet mignon mixed with capers, seasoning, and topped with a quail egg.  It’s not for everyone, but if you like this dish, it’s a must-try.

In a neighborhood where a non-franchise one-of-a-kind restaurant is increasingly hard to find, Lyon Hall should be on your list!

 

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NoPa – American Brasserie in DC

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On a recent adventure downtown friends and I saw a restaurant we had heard was about to open.  We looked in the windows and saw that drywall was still going up but a couple weeks later they were open.  It is a beautiful upscale, yet casual place a block from the Verizon Center and “North of Pennsylvania Ave”, or “NoPa“.  Check out the pictures on their website because mine do not do it justice.  The space is really warm and impressive, looking out huge windows onto the Penn Quarter neighborhood.  It is a pedigreed restaurant, the type that owners and management refer to as a “project” rather than a restaurant.  This “project” is the work of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group which has brought us uber-successful restaurants such as Bibiana, Rasika, Ardeo, and 701.

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I have no doubt this will see the same level of success.  The food was flawless.  It is billed as an “American Brasserie” and is again, upscale, yet casual.  Sitting in the posh bar area I felt like I was in a magazine ad!  The menu and service were up to the challenge that the ambiance posed.  We started off with a crispy soft-shell crab in an avocado puree.  I wasn’t sure how that combination would work but there was also a slightly spicy sauce as well.  The dish was as visually appealing as it was delicious!

NoPa's Crispy Soft-Shell Crab with Avocado Puree.

NoPa’s Crispy Soft-Shell Crab with Avocado Puree.

We followed that with a Duck Confit with Sour Cherry Mustard.  Again, the combination of flavors showed great skill and creativity.  The duck was crispy on the outside and perfectly tender and moist on the inside.

The Duck Leg Confit with Sour Cherry Mustard

The Duck Leg Confit with Sour Cherry Mustard

In addition to a great menu they of course offered an excellent selection of draft beers, and specialty drinks.  We were there on a Saturday night and I was surprised that it was not more crowded in the bar area but the dining room was full.  By the time we left the bar area too was humming.

I followed the duck with a standby favorite of mine, not the biggest culinary challenge but the Frisée Salad with Poached Egg is such a decadent simple dish.  As that yolk breaks open and blends with the dressing it becomes what I call the “poor man’s hollandaise”!

Frisee Salad with Poached Egg

Frisée Salad with Poached Egg

The entree we chose (and split) was a culinary triumph.  It was a pork chop that had been cooked with sweet mustard, spiced peaches, and Lacinato Kale (which is a deep smooth green kale, almost resembling spinach).  The peaches imparted only a hint of sweetness, and had clearly blended with the flavor of the pork.  The whole dish came together as a single fantastic flavor, and was cooked perfectly!  It was a superb choice from a menu that made it  difficult to make a decision!

NoPa's Pork Chop with Sweet Mustard and Spiced Peaches.

NoPa’s Pork Chop with Sweet Mustard and Spiced Peaches.

I am not a big dessert person but the friend who joined me is powerless to resist chocolate and thank God he is because that caused us to get a dessert that was described as all the homemade ingredients of a Snickers Bar!  If you go there, just trust me and get the Frozen Chocolate Bar!

If you go to NoPa, just trust me and get the Frozen Chocolate Bar!

If you go to NoPa, just trust me and get the Frozen Chocolate Bar!

As we finished our meal and enjoyed one more cocktail, the General Manager came over and chatted for a while.  She explained how in the last two weeks everythting had come together nicely and how they had already reached a nice balance between the front of the house (the dining room) and the back of the house (the kitchen) to guarantee not just a great meal, but a great experience.

I most certainly recommend this restaurant before your next event at Verizon, or just for an evening out in DC.

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Daikaya Ramen – Authentic Noodles in DC

The egg alone is worth visiting this restaurant! It is a marinated soft-boiled egg, split and carefully set in the noodles. We all agreed that the next time we would begin with a plate of just these eggs!

Last week I posted about a Living Social Scotch Tasting in downtown DC.  At the end I mentioned we got dinner at a hot new restaurant near the Verizon Center.  That hot new restaurant was Daikaya Ramen, a Japanese noodle house.

Daikaya is open standard restaurant hours; but, it has the look and feel of an after-hours hot-spot, the sort of place other chefs might go when they get off work.  It is edgy and hip.  The food is authentic.  Although I have never been to Japan, I have been to Honolulu a few times.  The tourist crowd in Honolulu is at least half Japanese and they flock to the Ramen houses there and this rivaled anything I tried in Hawaii.

The open kitchen in the first floor Ramen shop thrashes! We sat at the counter and watched these guys turn out a huge volume of great food!

One thing that gave the place an edgy urban feel was the absence of kitschy Japanese costumes or music.  No pingy mystic folk music in the background, this was all Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and I even heard a Lou Reed song while I was there.  The chefs and servers wore jeans, piercings, and tattoos.

The food exceeded expectations.  The menu is lengthy enough that I will need to make several trips to try everything but the waiter helped guide us to the essence of the menu, the type of dish he suggested was truly representative of the cuisine.  For me it was Shoyu Ramen, a rich dark broth with flavors of soy, garlic, and toasted caramel flavors.  The broth is the begining, then you choose what goes in it.  I went with braised pork belly and nori seaweed.  There was also, of course, noodles.  It was intensely satisfying and I left already planning another trip back!

One surprise hit feature in the noodles was a special egg.  As soon as my friends and I tasted it we knew it was something special.  The yolk had an almost custard consistency and the flavor was unlike any thing I can describe other than a faint hint of sweetness.  We learned that they are soft boiled, peeled, and then marinated!  Seriously, a marinated soft-boiled egg!!!  It was so delicious that we all agreed we would ask for extras when we returned!

Upstairs is really a separate restaurant entirely.  It even has its own entrance outside the downstairs Ramen shop.  It is called Izakaya, and is essentially a bar, but even if the noodle shop was not downstairs, this would be a very cool and special bar.  It has a great feel, a gorgeous bar, and fantastic service.  We had actually stopped in to see the son of one of our buddies who works there and when they told us it was Sam’s night off the rest of the staff somehow felt they needed to make it up to us!

Izakaya, the super-cool upstairs bar at Daikaya has its own bar snack menu and special cocktails. Noodles or not this is a great spot!

The bartenders there seem destined to make you a special cocktail!  While there I asked if they had any noteworthy scotches and they offered me one I had never heard of.  It was by a blender called Compass Box and it was called “Peat Monster”!

Compass Box’s “The Peat Monster”. A blend, but a bold one laddie!

We have subsequently gone back to the bar on a night when our friend Sam was working and the drinks were exceptional!

I predict Daikaya will quickly become a classic hangout for many and will spawn additional noodle shops.  We will be none the worse for this but I think I will be part of the crowd who frequents this spot!

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Veal Striploin at Liberty Tavern

Liberty Tavern's Veal Striploin with Potato/Chevre Soufle, Grilled Asparagus, and Picatta Sauce

Liberty Tavern’s Veal Striploin with Potato/Chevre Soufle, Grilled Asparagus, and Picatta Sauce

The Liberty Tavern in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood is consistently my favorite.  They change their menu with the seasons and last night we happened to stop in for dinner on day 2 of their Late Spring Menu!  As always I got the Grilled Octopus Salad as a starter.  This broccolini/potato salad with olives has the most delicious grilled and tender pieces of octopus.  I have sold numerous dining companions on this salad and they always agree that it’s amazing!

The service at Liberty Tavern is unfailingly  fantastic.  They have low turn-over so you see familiar faces, and they are always extremely well-educated about the menu.  My having a wonderful experience appears to be a serious goal of the entire staff at this vibrant restaurant.

The house Pinot Noir at Liberty Tavern, the GC Willamette Valley...a real winner!

The house Pinot Noir at Liberty Tavern, the GC Willamette Valley…a real winner!

Tonight, however, the entree was the star of the show.  The Veal Striploin was perfectly seared and set on a bed of fresh local asparagus, and paired with a Potato/Chevre soufflé.  The soufflé alone made me want to find a room where I could be alone with it!  The sauce was a frothy “Picatta” sauce with the flavors of preserved lemon, capers, and olives (I’m guessing here).  It was a fantastic combination, satisfying yet light.  We enjoyed it with an Oregon Pinot Noir, the GC Willamet Valley.  The wine was perfect with this meal.  It was a medium-bodied, caramelized pinot with lots of fruit but a really mature flavor.

The evening was something of a special occasion as a long-time friend from my past was visiting.  I was so proud to be able to show off my bustling neighborhood and this fabulous restaurant.  We reminisced and enjoyed a few drinks and the atmosphere made the evening enjoyable from start to finish.

Well done Liberty Tavern!  You remain the best dining Clarendon has to offer.

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Pupatella: Even the New York Pizza Snobs Say It’s Good!

I’m just going to come out and say it, I have a chip on my shoulder about New York pizza snobs.  If you’re one of the 280 million Americans who does not live in the New York City area, you’ve probably heard a friend from New York, New Jersey, or–the worst–Long Island complain that “You can’t get good pizza outside of the city

I have several friends who do this, but the worst, is from Long Island…we’ll call him Scott K.  Well Scott, you can now get good pizza outside of “the city”.

I recently visited a modest pizzeria in Arlington, VA called Pupatella.  It had been recommended by another Long Island native who admitted that he was pleasantly surprised to find that this was the real deal.  Real deal indeed!  Signs in the restaurant and a page on their website boast of being members of the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana“.  This association inspects the methods and equipment at a pizzeria before allowing them to use the stamp of “true Neapolitan pizza”.  According to the website they regulate everything from the type of flour used to the methods of proofing the dough and the toppings.

Step along the counter and order at the end. Do not stop and watch them making pizza behind the glass!

The place has an unmistakable Soup Nazi vibe.  You walk into a narrow aisle where there is a low glass window, behind which guys are making the pizza.  On the glass is a sign that says, “No stopping or standing, keep line moving!”  It’s as if watching them make the pizza might make one of them yell out, “No pizza for you, one year!”  As you get your plates and napkins there’s another sign that reads, “Help keep costs low, bus your own table!”

Apologies for the blurry picture. Things move fast in this place! The Margherita pizza is the quintessential Neapolitan pie.

Once you get that pizza however, this place sets itself apart from most of the pizza in the DC area.  The crust!  The crust is a work of art, thin and light but not crispy or cracker-like.  It is puffy and almost doughy on the edges but paper thin in the center.    This pizza folds easily!  I tried the Margherita pizza, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Spectacular!  Because it’s so thin, you can eat more than normal so I also tried one with prosciutto, arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese.  This too was worth side-stepping past the glass without stopping to watch.

The decor is edgy and contemporary with a projector facing one wall playing a variety of things, and random artwork or posters.  It has a comfortable urban feel.  This is interesting because not only is this place not in downtown DC, it’s not even in one of the busier sections of Arlington! 

They serve a local beer on draft and several others in bottles.  Their menu lists a variety of non-pizza items but for me this was all about the pie.

Prosciutto Arugula pizza – fresh toppings packed with flavor on a perfect crust.

I have had pizza in New York and it is indeed extraordinary.  I will no doubt take a lot of crap about this posting from my New York friends.  If they wish to discuss their pizza arrogance, I suggest we do it at Pupatella!

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