4/15/14

Washington DC International Film Festival: Food Centric Movies

I love movies. I love movies with subtitles. I love food. I love movies about food. What's not to love?

That's exactly why I said yes to a media lunch invitation to learn about 28th Annual Filmfest DC, or Washington DC International Film Festival. For the first time, this year's festival has a special category for food centric films called Feast Your Eyes.

I've already made my selections and can't wait to see the following films from Fest Your Eyes category:

  • Love and Lemons (Sweden) A romantic comedy about love, friendship and the courage to follow your dreams
  • Le Chef (France) Pokes fun at the restaurant world while dishing up easily digestible laughs
  • Romantic Brasserie (Belgium) Pascaline runs a stylish brasserie and on Valentine's Day her old flame from 20 years ago suddenly reappears and asks her to run away with him

  • If you aren't particularly interested in the subject of food...wait, people like that would not be reading my blog!!!

    Other categories in the Filmfest DC include Trust No One: Espionage and Thrillers, The Lighter Side and Justice Matters. Regardless of your interest, I'm sure you'll find several films among over 80 features, documentaries, comedies, shorts, and award winners presented at the festival.

    I encourage you to visit the festival website and choose a few films based on your interest or even location and date. Whatever works for you is fine.

    Over the weekend I had a privilege/luck to see a preview of Eden.

    "Eden is the beguiling story of the unusual friendship between corpulent, committed chef Gregor (Josef Ostendorf) and waitress Eden (German TV star Charlotte Roche), who's stuck in a rut with dance instructor husband Xaver (Devid Striesow) and daughter Leonie (Leonie Stepp), who has Down syndrome. Gregor makes Leonie a chocolate birthday cake, and with one taste Eden is in thrall with his culinary charisma. At first, such cucina erotica as bulls' testicles and chocolate cola sauce stimulate her home life with Xaver, but, when Eden announces she's pregnant, her husband fears the worst."—Eddie Cockrell

    The movie made me laugh, cry, and touched upon almost every single human emotion including anger, envy, happiness, desire, and despair. Not surprisingly, Eden demonstrated how food can inspire love and also be used as a way to show love. You'll have to go see the movie for yourself to see what happens.

    DO NOT miss this festival because it may be the last one! I'm not exaggerating: due to budget issues, this may be the last Washington DC International Festival!

    Filmfest DC runs April 17 through 27. For more information check out the festival website.

    Disclosure: I was invited to lunch to learn about this film festival and will receive a few passes to see the films. All opinions are my own.

    4/14/14

    Love Your Leftovers: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms


    There are two types of people in this world: those who love leftovers and those who hate them. Growing up in a family where both parents worked, I am used to having leftovers and I love them. Many of my favorite dishes that my parents cooked actually taste even better on second or third day: think borsch, stuffed cabbage, Russian potato salad. Plus, because I live solo and don't feel like cooking every single day, I'm used to making 2-6 servings of a particular dish and then eating it throughout a week or freezing it for later.

    What about you? How do you feel about leftovers?

    If you love leftovers or want to learn to love them, then you have to check out a new book from Nick Evans called Love Your Leftovers. I've met Nick through food blogging when he still lived in Washington DC and am so happy for him!

    The book is truly awesome. Nick not only has a few chapters about kitchen and pantry basics and meal planning, but also addresses the issue of finding time to cook. The book is written in a friendly approachable voice and has great photos to go with the recipes.

    Speaking of the recipes, Nick first gives you recipes for dishes such as black beans, pulled pork, ice cream and roast salmon, and then provides multiple ideas of what to do with each of the recipes with several variations. This way you aren't necessarily eating a black bean lasagna for the entire week (I just made up that recipe myself!). Instead, you are making a large pot of black beans and then using them in different recipes which makes it less likely you'll get bored. Go buy the book: you will have countless new recipes to add to your repertoire.


    Because I love lentils and had a few portobello mushrooms in my refrigerator, I opted to make Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Love Your Leftovers.

    Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Love Your Leftovers by Nick Evans
    Ingredients
    2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 bunch (about 4 packed cups) fresh spinach
    1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
    salt and pepper
    1/2 lemon, juice only
    hot sauce (optional)
    4 ounces crumbled feta
    4 large portobello mushrooms
    1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 400F.
    2. In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and fresh spinach. Pour a few tablespoons of water into the pan to help the spinach cook down.
    3. Once spinach is cooked down, stir in lentils and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce (if you're using it). Stir until lentils are warmed, just a minute or two.
    4. Remove mixture from heat and stir in feta cheese.
    5. Lay out four cleaned large portobello mushrooms in a baking dish and drizzle them lightly with olive oil. Divide lentil filling between mushrooms and top each mushroom with bread crumbs. The filling should overfill the mushrooms.
    6. Bake stuffed mushrooms until mushrooms are softened and bread crumbs are lightly toasted, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a side salad.


    This recipe was extremely simple to make and had great flavor and texture. I particularly liked the panko crumbs on top and the feta in the filling. Also, I only made 2 mushrooms and enjoyed the rest of the stuffing mixture as a side. This is definitely a keeper!


    Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of Love Your Leftovers book. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

    4/11/14

    Pucker Up No Bake Mousse Pie with Lemon Noosa Yoghurt & Raspberries


    How do you feel about yogurt? Do you love it? Do you eat it for breakfast for a snack? I tend to be hesitant about yogurt: sometimes I buy a few containers with the best intentions of eating it throughout the week, only to have it sit in my refrigerator beyond its expiration date.

    I love the yogurt I had in Greece and tend to prefer plain yogurt with fresh fruit or cucumbers and tomatoes. I also like plain yogurt as a marinade for chicken or a base for dips.

    But what about being open minded and trying new things?

    Last month I got an opportunity to try out a new-to-me yogurt called Noosa. It's actually an Australian type of yoghurt which is made in Colorado. My favorite flavor, not surprisingly, was mango, but I also really liked lemon and tart cherry.

    The Noosa yoghurt was rich, sweet, and not surprisingly not low calorie. This yoghurt is definitely something to splurge on and can be a great dessert.

    That's why I developed a dessert recipe using it. You can vote for your favorite recipe on Noosa's Facebook page through April 13th and might even win one month of FREE NOOSA! Make sure to check out their Pinterest Board.


    Pucker Up No Bake Mousse Pie with Lemon Noosa Yoghurt & Raspberries
    Ingredients
    1 store bought graham cracker pie crust
    2 8 ounce containers of Lemon Noosa Yoghurt
    16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
    zest of 1 lemon
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    2 cups fresh raspberries

    Directions
    1. Using a hand mixer, blend the yoghurt, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice until smooth.
    2. Add the mixture to the prepared graham cracker pie crust and smooth out the top. Optional: make a cris cross design on top.
    3. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.
    4. In a food processor puree 1.5 cups of raspberries and put the mixture through a fine strainer to get rid of the seeds.
    5. Cover the mousse pie with the raspberry sauce and decorate with the rest of the raspberries.
     




    This was a pretty easy dessert to make and was equally liked by adults and a 4 year old! You can use any berries as a topping or even cover the pie with melted chocolate!


     
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Disclosure: I was compensated for my time and recipe development by Noosa. All opinions are my own.

    4/9/14

    What to do with Too Many Green Beans? Roast Them!



    I've been trying really hard lately not to waste produce. Some days I succeed, others I fail. That's just life. Last week I had a huge amount of green beans sitting in my refrigerator from the Washington's Green Grocer deliveries I've started ordering lately. I did not feel like fussing with them by making something complicated. Instead, I decided to do one of the easiest things you can do with most vegetables (other than eating them raw): roasting.

    What to do with Too Many Green Beans? Roast Them!
    Ingredients
    green beans {I did not even bother trimming the ends}
    olive oil
    salt
    Southwest spice blend


    Directions
    1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
    2. Place green beans directly onto a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and Southwest spice blend. Mix.
    3. Roast the beans 20-30 minutes, occasionally turning them around.


    Aren't these gorgeous? You can eat them hot, at room temperature or cold. It's a great one dish side.

    You can play around with spices and try using different flavored oils. I liked these beans so much, I ate them for breakfast using my fingers...no fork required!

    4/7/14

    Fennel, Apple & Red Pepper Slaw: My Obsession with Washington's Green Grocer


    Fennel: do you love it or love to hate it? For the longest time I thought I hated it: I'm just not a fan of licorice flavor. But more and more I find that I don't mind it too much especially when it's thinly sliced and is accompanied by citrus. Still, I rarely seek out a dish with fennel in restaurants or buy a bulb of fennel at a grocery store.

    Last week, however, I had a chance to cook with it because it came in a box of produce from Washington's Green Grocer. Quite a few of my friends have been using this service to get fresh produce delivered to their door and have raved about it. After breaking my arm and not being able to carry as many groceries home as I did before, I decided to give them a try. Guess what? I'm in like!

    By the way, this is not an ad :) I just find this service convenient, fun, delicious and worth the money.

    Below is a dish I made using some of the produce in last week's box!



    Fennel, Apple & Red Pepper Slaw: My Obsession with Washington's Green Grocer

    Ingredients
    1 fennel bulb, trimmed, outer layer removed, thinly sliced
    juice of 1/2 grapefruit
    1 Cameo apple, thinly sliced
    1 red pepper thinly sliced
    olive oil
    1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
    salt & pepper to taste
    fennel throngs


    Directions
    1. Cover sliced fennel with grapefruit juice and let stand for about 30 minutes.
    2. Add apples and red pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together.

    Note: you can also combine the fennel with apples and red pepper first. Then whisk together the grapefruit juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper, and pour the mixture over the salad. It's up to you.


    I loved this slaw: it was crispy, sweet, peppery and refreshing. It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be a light lunch on its own or a side for chicken or fish. Of course on its own it's perfect for Meatless Monday.
     
    By the way, the bowls in the photos are the ones I bought in Minneapolis at Paper Source. I clearly have a bowl obsession :)
     
    What's your favorite thing to make with fennel?

    4/4/14

    Where to Eat in Minneapolis, MN: My Favorite Bites


    Twins! That is what you see in the photo above. Anna is on the left and I'm on the right toasting to our birthday trip in Minneapolis, MN. Make sure you read my first recap post here.

    For our first meal in Minneapolis (if you don't count hot dish I had at the airport while waiting for Anna's plane to land) we checked out the bar at Crave because one of our best friends, Era, gave us a birthday gift card to this restaurant. The place was packed and lively and we shared a few dishes from the sushi menu. The standouts for me were the Aloha roll made with spicy tuna, mango, cilantro, avocado, and poké sauce; and Seaweed Salad with mixed seaweed, cucumber, carrot, daikon, sesame seeds.


    One of the restaurants that was recommended highly on twitter for our Friday night dinner was completely packed and we did not have an hour to wait. Instead, we decided to walk toward the Brave New Workshop, where we had tickets for the comedy show, and see if we can find something on the way. We did and it was amazing. Dinner at Solera was one of my favorite meals during this trip.

    I loved the fireplace, the beautiful paintings on the wall courtesy of the owner's wife, the surprise engagement we witnessed and of course the food!

    Baked Goats Cheese with summer tomatoes, fennel pollen, maldon
    Shishito Peppers with maldon sea salt, olive oil, lemon
    Mussels with smoked lardon, piquillo broth, shallots
    Blood orange velvet cake with ice cream


    When Anna's friend Loreleil took us to the Conservatory, we stopped by to check out Salty Tart Bakery on the way back to our hotel. It was charming and had quite a few options for a delicious afternoon snack to take back to the hotel. I went for a pastry cream filled brioche: soooo good.


    For our birthday brunch we got together with some of Anna's friends who live in Minneapolis at Hell's Kitchen. I was the only one at the table drinking an alcoholic beverage and was really happy with my Bloody Mary even though (or maybe BECAUSE) it came with an obscenely looking sausage.

    The restaurant was dark, loud, had live music and tons of families and friends enjoying the food. The standout dish for me was Minnesota Icon: Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes. I'm not typically a pancake type of a girl, but these were incredible.
      
    Here are the hotcakes that put us on the map. Three melt-in-your-mouth hotcakes made from freshly-grated lemon zest and whole milk ricotta cheese. Served with fresh berries and pure maple syrup...but try your first bite without it.
     

    Sunday we met up with Anna's friend Giti who took us to a Kosher deli run by a Russian family. Vitali's Bistro had one of the best tomato salads I've had in a long time as part of their falafel platter. Yes, even in the middle of winter (I know it was technically spring, but there was still snow on the ground).


    After that, Anna and I walked around and did some shopping in Uptown enjoying a sunny and warm Sunday. But then it was time for lunch. We had great tom khat soup and drunken noodles and Tum Rup Thai. At the end of the meal we received Thai Fortune Roll!!! I've never had one, but was pretty happy with both the taste and the fortune.


     
    This was such a great birthday trip! I think I would like to come back to Minneapolis when it's warmer and also check out Saint Paul.

    Have a great weekend!

    4/2/14

    Minneapolis, MN: Where to stay? What to do?

    If you've been following me on twitter or instagram, you know that my twin sister Anna and I went to Minneapolis, MN to celebrate our birthday. Why Minneapolis? Anna lives in Seattle, I live in DC area. We've traveled quite a bit individually and it's becoming harder and harder to choose a new place that's relatively in the middle, doesn't cost a ton of $$$ and has fun things to do.

    A few of my friends suggested Minneapolis, and after doing a bit of research I convinced Anna to trust me and to fly out for a long weekend....not realizing it'd be SUPER COLD. Well, the weather gods were on our side and the weather was surprisingly pleasant.

    Once we purchased our tickets, the next big question was where to stay? Luckily, Marriott City Center graciously agreed to host us! The location was perfect: downtown, 25 minute light rail ride from the airport, near Nicollet Mall, entertainment and shopping. The suite had TWO floors. I'm not even kidding: the bottom floor had a living room, the upper floor was the bedroom and the bathroom. The bathroom had dual sinks (I know I sound like I'm on HGTV), a bathtub and a bathroom. It was quite the luxury!


    Our view of Downtown was beautiful even if the first night all we could see was snow and rain. Yes, it was snowing at the end of March.

    If you are lucky to stay in one of the suites, you have access to concierge lounge where you can get breakfast on weekdays, happy hour and light dinner on most nights. Lucky for us, however, Amanda who is a Destination Sales Executive for Marriott treated us to breakfast on Friday. Smoked salmon, French toast, and sirloin eggs Benedict were just the few of the dishes we tried. Not only was the food freshly made and delicious, the service was superb. And did I mention we started the day with a Bloody Mary?
     

    Of course we could have lounged around our hotel suite and watched TV, but that's not how I travel. I like to see the city, visit museums, and do a bit of shopping.

    Below are some of the highlights of the things Anna and I did while in Minneapolis. Don't worry, the where to eat post is coming up next week.

    Walker Art Center


    Conservatory


    Brave New Workshop, Weisman Art Museum, Macy's Secret Garden, Shopping in Uptown


    Walker Sculpture Garden & Mall of America


    Disclosure: Marriott provided us with a free room and breakfast. We paid for everything else (flights, food, entertainment, etc.). All opinions are my own. Special thank you to Kristen Montag,  Lauren Mahjoubi and Amanda Ducach.

    3/31/14

    Ideas for Easy, Filling, Delicious & Meatless Monday Lunches for Work


    This Farro Salad with Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Olives, Chickpeas and Lettuce happens to be vegan, easy to make, delicious, perfect for Meatless Monday and a great lunch to bring to work.

    The other great thing about this salad is that you can make it Sunday night and bring to work at least for three days in a row. It could probably last an entire week, but I haven't tested that hypothesis.

    Instead of a recipe, I'll just give you a template/formula:

    grain + vegetables + protein + olive oil + acid + herbs

    In this case, grain is farro, vegetables are cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce; protein is chickpeas, acid is lemon juice, and herbs are cilantro.

    Note that cooking chickpeas at home is incredibly easy and adds a great flavor to your salad, but if you don't have the time, go for the canned ones.

    Variations:
    grain: brown rice, wheat berries, freekeh
    vegetables: peppers, zucchini, celery (although I'm not a fan), mushrooms
    protein: tofu, chicken (clearly this will no longer qualify as Meatless Monday or vegan), hard boiled eggs (will no longer be vegan)
    acid: lime juice, vinegar
    herbs: parsley, basil, dill (!!!)

    Notes: you may want to add herbs each day instead of adding all of them at once just to make sure they don't wilt. Also, make sure not to overdress the salad: you can always add more olive oil and lemon juice, but you really don't want your vegetables to be swimming in the dressing.

    What do you like to make on Sunday to bring for lunch to work?
    {Stay tuned for a recipe you can make on Sunday and eat for breakfast the rest of the week!}

    3/28/14

    Would You Eat at a Stranger's House? Brunch at Bookalokal in DC.


    Would you eat at a stranger's house? That's exactly something I had to consider when I was invited to check out a relatively new idea that started in Europe and has moved to DC: Bookalokal.

    "At Bookalokal, we live, work and travel the world. No matter where we go, it’s always food that brings people together. Our aim is simple: to make it easy and safe to share an authentic meal with people anywhere in the world."

    The brunch was hosted by the founder of Bookalokal, Evelyne, which made me feel safe, but just to be sure I'll feel even more comfortable, I brought my friend K with me ;) Safety in numbers!

    So how does it work? You go to the Bookalokal website and browse events by your geographical location. There are baking lessons, brunches, bartending classes and ice cream parties hosted by people verified by Bookalokal founders. You sign up and pay for the event you like and show up, meet new people, eat delicious food and learn something new.

    The brunch K and I attended had a never ending amount of mimosas with mango, peach, apricot, orange and grapefruit juices, and I loved the idea of adding frozen berries and fruit to your glass to keep the beverage cold.


    The food spread was quite impressive: salads, quiches, breakfast casserole, roasted potatoes, BACON (I was just craving it a few days earlier and my craving was definitely satisfied), bread, coffee, tea and a delicious crumble made by Evelyne's co host Jackie.


    I think Bookalokal is a great way to meet new people if you are new to a city or just want to find those who have similar interest: food! At brunch there were both men and women, although women definitely made up the majority. What I loved most was how international and diverse the group was. We were born in different countries, spoke different languages and had occupations that would have never brought us together, but that did not matter because we all loved brunch and trying something new!

    If you have specific questions, you can read this very thorough Q&A!

    Go see if there is a Bookalokal in your city, find an event that sounds interesting, bring a friend, and meet new people over food and drinks. Who knows, maybe you'll love it so much you'll open up your home and host the next event?

    Disclosure: I was invited to check out the brunch event free of charge and bring a friend. I was under no obligation to blog about it. All opinions are my own.

    3/26/14

    Brunch at Casa Oaxaca


    I love brunch!!! What's not to like about a delicious meal with boozy beverages, coffee and a choice of both breakfast and lunch food? When I was invited to check out the new brunch menu at Casa Oaxaca this past weekend, I was happy my schedule was free to say si!

    I've been to Casa Oaxaca, located in Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC, for dinner with friends, a date, drinks and even a cooking lesson! The restaurant is colorful, the music makes me want to dance, and the food is flavorful and filling.

    If you live in DC and want to check out the new brunch menu at Casa Oaxaca, get there Sunday March 30th at noon!

    Below are photos of some of my favorite dishes and beverages.

    Bloody Mary Michelada
    Michelada with tomato juice, spices, pickled jalapeños.


     
    Not your typical bread basket: Mexican version of cornbread served with soft (very important!!!) butter and pepper jelly.
     
    

    Mango mimosa: of course ;) I loved the pretty glasses
     
    

    Avocado Toast
    Creamy avocado butter, cotija cheese, refried black beans, bacon, bolillo bread.
     

    Huevos Pochados
    Poached eggs, corn masa biscuits, poblano rajas, red tomato salsa. Choose side of fresh fruit or potato hash brown.
     

    Churros!!!
     
    

    And don't miss out on the Casa Oaxaca coffee: it's strong and sweet and has a tiny hint of cinnamon.

    Disclaimer: I was a guest at Casa Oaxaca; all opinions are my own.