Tag Archives: food

Labor Day Special: Modern Manners’ Recipe for the Perfect BBQ

pic courtesy of Twirling Clare

While the end of summer holiday, Labor Day, neither marks a change in the weather (curse you, climate change!) nor the autumnal equinox (curse you, solar calendar!), it does mean something everyone can support: barbeque.

The Labor Day Weekend BBQ is a great tradition of Americana, a last hurrah before school starts, or more appropriately for DC, Congress returns. Here are a few tips for throwing a Labor Day BBQ that will be the exclamation point to end your summer.

(I’ll leave it to far better informed sources to advise you on how to prepare Labor Day delicacies.)

Invitations—Digital Age Decisions

With so many different ways to issue an invitation now—Facebook, Evite, email, text, old fashioned paper—it can be hard to decide which method is best. My advice is to choose a way that all or nearly all your invitees use to communicate. If there are a few outliers that don’t use that method of communication, you can reach out to them separately. Don’t forget to provide a date by which you would like people to RSVP.

And a side note to everyone on the receiving end of the invitation: respond. Let the person know whether or not you can attend. It’s the bare minimum you can do to acknowledge that you have been invited into someone’s home.

For online invitations, I’m personally a fan of Paperless Post. They have the aesthetic appeal of paper invitations (Evite graphics are fug), are easy to use, and add a sense of gravitas to your event. You aren’t throwing some Natty Lite kegger in your backyard—you are having an event in your garden with microbrews.

Audience Participation—Clarity is Key

Some people assume that a barbeque means they should bring food or drink. Others don’t assume this at all. For the convenience of your guests, let them know clearly in the invitation whether or not they are invited to bring something of their own. (Of course, if you are hosting a potluck, say you are hosting a potluck. However, a potluck is different than a BBQ. Moving on.)

Use simple, straightforward language about bringing food, such as, “We will have plenty of food and drinks, but please feel free to bring something if you wish.” Or if you prefer your guests do not bring anything, say “All food and drink will be provided.” If you are… CRING… sending a text invite and that’s all too many words, “BYOB” or “NOT BYOB” should get the point across.

Preparations—The Boy Scout Way

There are some clutch items you’ll need to have a clean and comfortable BBQ:

  • Plenty of plates, utensils, napkins and cups. Disposable ones are admittedly easier, but consider the environment and get recyclable materials or even use your own regular kitchen items.
  • A few spare blankets or sheets for people to sit on the ground if you run out of chairs.
  • Bug spray. Everyone will love you for this.
  • Large coolers with plenty of ice.
  • Clearly labeled bins for trash and recycling. Don’t forget the extra bags.
  • Outside lighting if you are going into the late hours of the day—think tiki torches, Christmas lights or candles.
  • Band-Aids for the random boo-boos.
  • Sunscreen. You should have plenty left over from the pool.
  • Extra TP and paper towels are critical for hosting.

Food & Refreshments—Om Nom Nom

MM makes no claims whatsoever about being a good cook, but I do have a few quick pieces of advice to make sure all your guests go home satisfied.

  • Diversify. In the modern world of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters, it’s good to have options. Provide at least one main dish that can be enjoyed by the most restricted eater you know is coming. If it’s any good, everyone will have some.
  • Have a plan B. Stash a couple frozen pizzas or keep a delivery number handy. In the unfortunate event that your planned cuisine goes caput or you run out of chow, you’ll have a low-stress solution ready to go.
  • Wetness is the essence of beauty. Have plenty of water and nonalcoholic drinks available.
  • Buy an extra case of inexpensive beer. If you get to the point where you need to delve into the cheapo case, no one will care by then what they are drinking.

Happy Labor Day, workers of Washington!


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Potbelly Ice Cream Sandwich: Which Flavor Goes Well with Shame?

DC residents all know Potbelly—the local chain that specializes in delicious sandwiches, cookies and ice cream milkshakes that all make you feel bad about yourself. Seriously. Even their new Mediterranean vegetable sandwich is enough to make you understand that you’ve disappointed your family. The restaurant also offers salads, but no one knows what they are like because no one has ever ordered a salad at a Potbelly.

And while DC residents love to brag to their out-of-town friends about how glad we are to have places like Jack Rose, chefs like José Andres and chains like Chop’t, Teaism  and the great and powerful Sweet Green, we all have a dirty little secret: We all eat at Potbelly. And we all love it. Every time we have one of their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, it’s the best thing we eat all day. Every time.

Well, the next time you have to decide between eating yourself to shame with a sandwich, a cookie or a milk shake, spare yourself the decision and just conflate all three: Potbelly makes ice cream sandwiches.


You know how Potbelly’s milkshakes taste like heaven probably smells? Well, they take the ice cream from those things and they stick it between any two cookies you choose. Personally, I’d go for two oatmeal chocolate chips, but the brownie chocolate chip cookie (seriously, I got diabetes just typing that) with vanilla ice cream would probably be a nice throwback to suburban American childhood.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what kind of ice cream would go well in a sugar cookie sandwich, but if you figure it out, be sure to mention it in your will.

Rick Barry  currently directs communication for a network of churches in Washington, DC, and in his spare time serves as managing editor of Vision of the City, a blog dedicated to the intersection of Christian faith and civic life.  He has cut a watermelon in half with his bare hand. The last is, by far, his proudest achievement.

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How To: Crush It At Outdoor Movies This Season

pic courtesy of Letters from Zagreb

Outdoor movies: stiff necks, long waits at the Port-a-potty, and mosquitoes galore.  Are you destined to be uncomfortable and disappointed at every outdoor movie you’ve rounded up the St. Elmo’s Fire crew to attend?  Not if you follow the Boy Scout motto.

Be prepared.

I know we all expect to be able to waltz onto the green and find a large enough space for you and your hangers-on.  Sadly, this is rarely the case.  Getting there early makes sense and will give you a priceless self-congratulatory feeling all night.

Designate a Place Holder (PH), maybe someone who works or lives close by, send him or her with several blankets and glossy magazines (or your favorite Kierkegaard, your choice) and bring treats when the rest of the group arrives.  Bring more blankets than you think you need.  Not enough blankets can equal unwanted closeness, and too many blankets can always be rolled up as pillows.  It doesn’t really matter where you sit so much as it does that you picked it yourself; no one forced you to sit there, you wanted to sit there so you did!  Boom!

Of course, the aforementioned blankets are key.  They are the foundation on which you are going to build your baller outdoor movie-going experience.  Try to pick a dry spot on the field so that your blanket doesn’t turn into a moist patch in an otherwise delightful evening.  Bug spray, while stinky, sticky and plain not sexy, will make you happy you don’t spend the entire movie fending off mosquito bites like Mister Miyagi.  

Beverages: you want to bring bigger bottles and paper cups.  A six-pack may seen convenient, but that’s that much more litter to clean up at the end of the night, when the vibe is definitely wearing off.  Sharing a bottle of wine adds to the congenial atmosphere we’re going for here anyway.

Bringing dinner to share will also add to the feeling that you’re claiming your own piece of urban frontier…providing and such.  A bottle of crisp white wine will be delightful with the following recipe.  Summer cooking can just turn into mixing, so prep in the morning and let all the ingredients get happy during the day.  Add a crusty baguette and you’re good to go.

Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

5 Ears Corn, husk removed, brush with olive oil and grilled, remove corn with sharp knife
2 Avocado’s, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning
2 C. Tomatoes, red and yellow cherry variety or equivalent
1 Small red onion, finely diced
¾ C. Feta, crumbled
1 ½ C. English cucumber, skin on and chopped small dice

Add to a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Cilantro Vinaigrette
6 T. Olive oil
2 T. Sherry vinegar
1 t. Garlic powder
2 T. Fresh cilantro, minced
½ t. Salt
10 Grinds of fresh ground pepper
Add all of the above ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid. Shake really well. Taste and adjust seasoning and ratios of oil and vinegar as you desire.
When ready to serve salad, add the dressing and gently toss.
Now all that remains is choosing which movies to see.  DCist has a full list of movies showing in the District all summer, the highest profile being the Screen on the Green on the National Mall.  My personal favorite is the NoMa series, all based on The End of the World theme.

Even though you know what to do to be an awesome outdoor movie-goer (and Boy Scout), mostly just have fun and enjoy the fruits of your labors.  Don’t be that guy.


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Ms. Vedral Goes to Washington: Have You Met Ted?

pic courtesy of Hungry in DCI’ve been waiting to do a review of Ted’s Bulletin, almost since I first moved down here. But there was no way that one meal could do it justice, so after four visits (with definitely more to come), here is my take on Ted’s.

For those living in North or Southeast, Ted’s should become a staple, if it hasn’t become one already. For my Northwestern friends, it’s absolutely worth a trek across town.

My first visit to Ted’s was also my fourth day in the District. The week of moving had been emotional and I still hadn’t finished unpacking. A friend from New York had come down with me to help me set up and attend a conference that weekend. She showed up at my house at 8am on a Saturday and told me to get dressed so that we could get breakfast before her bus. Someone had recommended Ted’s and she insisted that we go.

Since we went so early on a Saturday, we only waited a few minutes. However, if you go during normal brunch hours 10am-2pm, you should probably make reservations or be prepared for a long wait.

Anyway, on that cold, rainy February morning, emotionally exhausted from my move, I ordered the appropriately named “Mark On An Off Day” breakfast (with egg whites). Bear in mind, I am not a big fan of eggs, especially since I can’t eat “egg yellows.” If you’re looking for comfort food, this is a great choice. The coffee is pretty good and the service was attentive, especially on a busy Saturday morning. Most importantly, the experience was comforting during an especially stressful week in a new city.

My second visit to Ted’s came a week later. A few friends from New York were in town and Ted’s was one of only like, four restaurants I knew of at the time. We went again on a Saturday morning and this time, I went healthy and ordered Jon’s Omelet (which was also delicious). One friend ordered The Walk of Shame Breakfast Burrito, which she really enjoyed. Another ordered Nana’s Beer Biscuits and Sausage Gravy and apparently it was comparable to an actual grandmother’s biscuits and gravy…situation.

However, despite these delightful experiences I knew that I couldn’t write a review until I tried their famous homemade pop-tarts or an adult milkshake. Or tried a meal other than breakfast.

I had my first non-breakfast meal there about six weeks into my life here. A friend and I decided to spend the day “caféing” and went to Ted’s for lunch after having being extremely indecisive about where to eat (seriously, we went to about four other places and even tried samples. So sorry, other places! We were the worst). The lunch crowd was fairly sparse and it was easy to get a table. Our server was also attentive, almost more so than was conducive to peaceful eating. But that’s probably better than emotionally unavailable and passive-aggressive, right?

All of the lunch sandwiches can be made “healthier” with a wrap option, rather than a bun or bread. I was unsuccessful at convincing my friend to order The Famous Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup as a wrap (come on! That server was way too attentive!), she order the Tzatziki Greek burger. I ordered the Cali Club. She loved her burger, but my sandwich wasn’t amazing. It’s fine–I can try again. If this was the only smirch on a so far stellar record, I’m ok with that. As Ayn Rand would say in 1,000 pages (if she were a restaurant critic): not every sandwich can be special (There. I just summed up her whole canon of work for you. You’re welcome, DC).

We were so full from lunch we couldn’t order pop tarts or adult milkshakes. Like Jack Shephard, I knew that I had to go back.

And I did. On a fateful, Friday night–a Good Friday night, if you will–after indulging in another DC treasure, I went back to Ted’s. And despite all the other temptations on the menu, I ordered a pop tart (peanut butter and bacon) and an adult milkshake (Dirty Girl Scout). And though I know that the caloric intake of both probably equaled one’s daily allowance, they were amazing. The pop tart was an amazing mixture of salty and sweet. If they have that flavor when you go, definitely order it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts or you don’t eat bacon). When I mentioned that I was reviewing Ted’s for this blog, the bartender gave me another pop tart on the house. It was brown sugar and cinnamon (so basically, a tasty peanut/bacon-free alternative).

As for the Dirty Girl Scout. As Ayn Rand would NOT say, I recommend sharing. There’s no way you can finish that whole thing by yourself. Well, there was no way I could finish the whole thing by myself. Not only do you get brainfreeze, it’s just really filling. Still, as far as taste goes, it was delicious and is a staff pick (although, next time I want to try the Grasshopper).

Finally, besides the delicious menu, what is it really about Ted’s? The restaurant has a great retro decor. Even the menus are designed to look “old timey.” The ambience is definitely unique.

I hope one day you can join me at Ted’s–for a Grasshopper maybe? Or a cocktail (they make one with a fig jam–I mean that’s just begging to be tried)? Now that I’ve met Ted, I’m
looking forward to getting to know him better.

At 505 8th Street, SE in Eastern Market.

Written by Juliet Vedral.  Follow her on Twitter.

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Russia House: Are We Still in DC?

pic courtesy of Do WashingtonRussia House, situated in a grand structure at the corner of Connecticut and Florida in upper Dupont, is a spectacular departure from the Aleros and Subways nearby.  Hello, red velvet curtains and chandeliers.  Goodbye sunshine and humidity.  You’re in Russia now, babe.

The first thing to strike is the darkness.  Much more intense than the comparative darkness of just being inside on a sunny day, Russia House imbues the customer with a luxurious darkness, the kind that makes you want to read Arthur Conan Doyle and enjoy a nice warm stew.  The first floor is set with small tables on a thick carpet.

The staff of attractive blondes in short black dresses attends to drink and food orders.  If you don’t know your Russian vodkas (Russia House’s list goes on for two pages), hew closely to this advice: just order a Moscow Mule.  Presented in a very tall and large chilled martini glass, the drink is made with vodka, ginger beer and lime.  The refreshing taste and sheer volume make this the obvious drink of choice.  But if you prefer, there are many other martini options, as well as imported Russian beers.

The food is also impressive.  Since Russian cuisine is not one of my fortés, I sampled from the starters and was not disappointed.  Pelmini, little pillows of veal and pork served in marsala cream with forest mushrooms, made me feel decadent and cultured.  And I don’t know why I was surprised, but the Chicken Croquettes with Two Russian Salads were not spring greens but mayonnaise-based cold salads.  Delicious and creamy, with crunchy croquettes finishing out the dish…equals yum.

While not a bargain by any means, Russia House delivers decadence without breaking the bank.  But seriously, use a Groupon if you possibly can.

I don’t go in for being inside on a sunny day, but at Russia House, I could get behind the idea with the help of a martini and a small plate of labor intensive snackage.

At 1800 Connecticut Avenue, NW.


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The Wisdom Files: Pears of Wisdom

pic courtesy of MetroMix

Wisdom  takes first place as my you-have-to-go-to-this-bar bar.  That is why I will run a post for each cocktail I think you may enjoy there.  Each one is completely different and different people will have their own favorites (after all, you’re a beautiful, unique snowflake, aren’t you?).  Hopefully, you’ll be intrigued enough to visit and try on a new identity.  

As the second most popular cocktail found at Wisdom, Pears of Wisdom takes pear vodka, cognac and elderflower liquor, moves them around over ice and delivers a just plain sophisticated note to a rather light cocktail.

Try if…you usually refer back to the [tired] old “I’ll just have a vodka tonic” when faced with the raised eyebrow of the bartender.  Pear is a very gentle flavor and, unlike cranberry or lime, puts the imbiber right at ease and won’t pucker the lips.  So get out there, friend!  But don’t worry, it’s not all that far.  And it’s sure delicious.

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Domku: Forced, Enjoyable Lingering

pic courtesy Brunch in Washington DC










I feel absolute credit is due to Domku‘s atmosphere and food that, in spite of starkly slow service and a bug found on a plate, I still want to go back.

Walking into the cozy and not-too-small restaurant just off Georgia Avenue (and walkable from the Petworth Metro), I felt right at home.  Fanciful decor covers the walls and the mismatched tables and chairs create an adorable atmospere, set off by the brightly lit bar (presumably the counter of the hardware store the place was in a former life) and matching vintage chrome bar stools.  The excellent taste is unsurprisingly Scandanavian, as is the food.  All this reminds me: I need to go to Ikea.

The drinks are inventive and far reaching.  The imported beers even include the elusive Baltyka 4, 8, and 9, as well as local favorite, DC Brau.  Armenian brandy is available, and the cocktails have names like Orange Revolution.  The aquavit list is extensive (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The food is the main draw, besides the delightful surroundings.  The Paté Trio appetizer sets you up for an exotic and cultivated meal.  My favorite of the three was the brandy and black currant paté–can’t get that at Trader Joe’s.  I followed this up with a plate-sized schnitzel.  I felt like I was back in eastern Europe, though I’d consider the service at Domku a tad slower.  Our table asked, then reminded, then pleaded for more water throughout the course of the meal.  Lingering is definitely the right word, but this was not fully by choice.

Of course, the other dishes, potato pancake with lentils, and vegetarian meatballs, were also delicious.  Sitting around the small table, rubbing elbows and enjoying the company of friends is the vision the restaurant hoped for, yet the fact that only one waitress was covering the entire place cut into its enjoyment.  Still, we were not in a hurry, and even selected the nutty and delicious beet cake to conclude a lovely meal.

Now, on to the bug in the bread.  We had noticed a tiny bug on top of the Wasa crackers that accompanied the pickled cabbage appetizer. This we sent back and the dish was removed from our bill.  Later, halfway through our meal, the Ecolab lady made an appearance.  Either that was a mighty fast response to a call for an exterminator, or our bug was not the first.

The tab for all this was upwards of $30 per person.  But strangely, in spite of the slow service, the steep price and the mysterious bug situation, I dreamily wouldn’t mind a repeat.  The light bouncing off the raw wood is so bright and welcoming, the location so perfect for Petworth, and the “pan-denavian-ness” of it all makes it impossible not to like.

Maybe next time I’ll return for brunch.  I’ll remember to bring the paper, as this could take a while.

821 Upshur Street, NW

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