Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Bazaar (and the Bizarre) by Jose Andres

On the corner of Collins Ave and 17th Street in South Beach, Miami is a place named SLS Hotel

Inside this hotel, there is a treasure. You won't find signs for it, you just have to know.

For those that have marveled in Jose Andres' groundbreaking, awe-inspiring cuisine as I have, this is a gem not to be missed:

I was recently stuck in Miami due to Hurricane Sandy. It barely hit us in Florida before it went up north and caused all the devastation. We still had a "Hurricane Party" the first night we were there!
And yes, I was stuck
Many people will say it's not fair to complain about something like this. I say, you try planning for a 4 day vacation and ending up having to stay for 8. There are things you just don't think about: 
What if you didn't over pack (as I luckily did and always do)? 
What if you take some kind of medication and you didn't bring extra? 
What if, God forbid, your family or house is in danger due to the weather and you have no way of getting home? We had three flights cancelled before we were able to get home. 
But yeah, being stuck in Miami wasn't the worst thing in the world! 

I went with one of my oldest friends, Lance Owen, and his parents. They were generous enough to treat me like a princess the entire time, paying for food and hotel accommodations. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay them the favor (short of marrying their son- and lets face it, that ain't gonna happen!) 

Throughout the trip, I acted as the self-proclaimed "culinary tour guide." I was in charge of locating the restaurant for each meal, preparing the group for what to expect in terms of the "best dish" or "specialty", and making the reservations, if needed. This was the best. job. ever. 
If I could somehow make a living going on vacations with people and telling them where to eat (while being treated to the meals myself, of course) I'd be in heaven. 

I couldn't have done it without my smartphone, of course. Apps like Around Me, Urbanspoon, Open Table, and Yelp! really made it easy. Otherwise, I wouldn't have even known about The Bazaar by Jose Andres. 
It was in a hotel literally three hotels away from ours. 

We dressed up because we knew this was going to be a special meal!

Our first course was a dish of the Baby Japanese Peaches. Apparently, they are so rare that not even the waitstaff are allowed to taste them without paying the $18 for the dish. Served with mozzarella "spheres" that pop in your mouth, hazelnuts, and a peanut sauce. Each dish comes with instructions on how to properly eat them, as well. It's almost like a performance. Much in the traditional Jose Andres style. 

Next I ordered the Croquetas de pollo, or Chicken-bechamel fritters. These I had to enjoy on my own, as the entire Owen family are vegetarians. Served in a glass replica of Andres' shoe, this dish is surely the oddest on the menu- and thats saying a lot! 

The shoe-croquettes were followed by smoked oysters- a beautiful display of one of Andres' signature techniques: flavored air. The server walked up to us, he cloche came off the dish and a huge cloud of smoke dispersed around us.

This dish is called the 21 Vegetable Quinoa. Little pieces of little veggies, a nice broth and some crispy crunchies on top. Delicious! 

There were other dishes, of course, all interesting, unique, and delicious in their own ways. 

And of course, the best part of the night (it always is)- Dessert!

We ordered the chocolate mousse with house-made coffee ice cream and the deconstructed key lime pie.

I could not get enough of the pie. 

Luckily, the chocolate was the favorite of all my meal-mates, so I was able to devour the key lime pie on my own! 

The blobs around the plate are meringue. The swirl in the middle is the pie filling, and the ends are piles of "crust". That bubbly-looking thing on the side is lime "air". I could have eaten two more of these, easily. 

We were full, happy, and entertained. I can't speak to the price of the meal, as I was treated. I think its the kind of place you visit on a special occasions. And thats what this was. 

Super special. Just like every meal at one of Chef Andres' restaurants. 


Friday, August 3, 2012

Food Truck Fridays @ Quench

I have not been a good blogger.
I think everyday about how I need to sit down and write about some food stuff, keep my culinary exploration growing, but I just can't seem to find the time!
Working at Quench these past three months has been such an amazing experience- an eye-opener for sure.

One thing that I'm in charge of, as the Special Events Planner, is something that the owner, Michael Holstein, has had in mind for the restaurant since he started out- Food Truck Fridays.

The idea is to bring the Food Trucks that frequent DC out to suburbia to serve their food to our customers. Most people who live and work in Montgomery County never even get the opportunity to check these trucks out. So we decided to give them that chance!

Every Friday, a different truck visits the restaurant from the hours of 4-6pm. They set up in our parking lot, private property so there is no license concern. They tweet, we tweet, we all try to get the word out there.

I know what you're thinking- Quench is a restaurant- why would you invite a Food Truck to try and make money on your property and time? The reasons are threefold:
1. We want to create and maintain relationships with these trucks. Most restaurants think of food trucks as competition- we want them to be our friends. Mutual promotion and support can only benefit all parties involved.
2. The restaurant usually opens at 5:00pm. Fridays, since we open an hour early for this event, the trucks get a full hour to be the only food service. We want them to serve their food and shuffle the guests inside to order drinks. It works for everyone!
3. We want to try the Food Trucks, too! There are so many different kinds of trucks, various cuisines, tasty treats- it's so nice to be able to taste and support them all.

Our first week we had the Cravin' Cookies and Sweets Truck. The owner, Valerie, is one of the sweeter women I've worked with. It makes sense that her cupcakes are moist, creamy, and delicious. She has been back a few times and plans on visiting again soon. 
A satisfied customer!
The Staff loves Food Truck Friday! 
The next week, we had Pino's Auto Grill, an Italian Food Truck run by two very nice men. The meatball marinara was amazing!

The week after Pino's we had a different cupcake truck, Cupcake Blvd. Different flavors, different "truck-feel," same Food Truck Fun! The owner, Angelette, figured out an amazing way to drive up onto the back of our patio, making it so easy for our customers to order from her! 

Angelette started a Food Truck Friday trend by driving up to our patio!
 The most recent truck was of royal status: The Bratwurst King! He drove all the way from Reston, VA to be with us for a few hours. Needless to say, he specializes in bratwurst, but his sides (red cabbage, potato salad, etc) were also a big hit! HIs truck was big too!

We've got tons more trucks coming out to Quench. I've booked trucks through September! Go the the Quench website for the schedule or check it out here:

Friday, August 3: Captain Cookie and the Milkman
    Twitter: @captaincookiedc

Friday, August 10: Kababji Grill
    Twitter: @KababjiUSA

Friday, August 17: The Corned Beef King
    Twitter: @CornedBeefKing

Friday, August 24: Hardy's BBQ

Friday, August 31: Mighty Dog & Acai
    Twitter: @MightyDogAcai

Friday, September 7: Red Hook Lobster Pound
    Twitter: @Redhooklobster

Friday, September 14: Bayou Bros
    Twitter: @BayouBros

Friday, September 21: Top Dog Truck
    Twitter: @TopDogTruck

Friday, September 28: Cap Mac DC
    Twitter: @CapMacDC

Friday, October 5: Fire & Rice
    Twitter: @eatFireNRice

I'll be sure to update with pics and descriptions as more trucks come visit us for Happy Hour!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quench Mixology 101

Last Monday night, July 9, was the first of (hopefully) many Mixology classes held at Quench. 
Through the website Certifikid, we sold tickets for the class to the public. 
For $45 a person, guests were able to come in and:
1. Taste some of Quench's NBLZ (nibbles) and SNX (snacks)
2. Watch our master mixologist, Matt, create, explain and sample some cocktails (including one of our top sellers, the Honey Badger!)
3. Pair up and go behind the bar to create their own special cocktail. Each pair used our bar ingredients to create the cocktail of their dreams. Each pair had their cocktail judged and scored, and the winner got to have their drink featured on the restaurant's menu!

So here is how the evening went:
We set the bar up for our guests, 14 people who had bought their tickets online. Some had been to the restaurant, some were checking it out for the first time. 
Upon arrival, guests were offered our Cracky Snack and Cracklin' Pork NBLZ. 

Matt, Master Mixologist, started with two traditional cocktails: The Aviation and Satan's Soul Patch. 

The Aviation is a classic drink made with Gin, Maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, and lemon juice. History of the beverage and interesting information regarding the ingredients followed, but I wouldn't want to give any details away- you'll just have to come learn for yourself!
Served in a martini glass, the pale yellow drink becomes a beautiful work of art with the addition of the crème de violette, which falls to the bottom to create a swirl of colors. That's me enjoying the larger version created during the demonstration (someone had to drink it!): 
Guests got a taste of their own, of course, as Matt prepared samples of each cocktail for them:
Next Matt showed the guests, becoming quick friends at this point, how to create Satan's Soul Patch. We all had a good laugh at the name, then Matt told us about the very interesting Prohibition-era history of the drink. 

Though not my type of beverage, one could see why this is a popular drink, particularly among male drinkers. It consists of Bourbon, both sweet and dry vermouth, orange juice, Grand Marnier, and orange bitters. Matt told us about the flammable nature of the acid in citrus, and gave us a little demonstration of how he uses this to his advantage when garnishing the cocktail.                        
At this point, it was time for some more food. We served our guests the Roasted Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and one of our menu items that changes daily, the Bread and Spread. Today guests got to taste our Challah roll with Pimento-Cheese Spread. Yum! Later they got to taste our Charm City Cookies- a take on Berger Cookies with a coconutty spin!
The final drink Matt demonstrated was one he created. 
Since we opened in May, there have been a few drinks that have blown up in terms of popularity and really helped make us special. One of these is the Honey Badger*. 
*This drink is found in the "Ourz" section of the menu. 
Cocktails are separated by "Ourz"- ones created in house and found nowhere else- and "Theirz"- cocktails inspired by traditional ones, with our own little Quench twist. We also have sections for "Skinniez", "Wake-up" and "C-sonal" sections. See our drink menu for more details* 

The Honey Badger is a wonderful amalgamation of pepper-infused Tequila, lime juice, ginger beer, and honey, with a dash of beet juice and a pickled beet as garnish. While this may sound off-putting, it is important to remember that creating a cocktail is an art. There is a delicate balance of flavors found in any well-prepared beverage, and this crazy concoction is no different. The flavors are there, but not at all overpowering. This is definitely a drink worth trying, even if you don't like Tequila, spicy drinks, or beet juice. 

And then came the best part: the competition. Guests got into pairs and took turns going behind the bar to create and name their own cocktails. Each drink was judged by myself, the owner, and Marci, who works for Certifikid. 
Stacy and Jennifer created the "Zombie Apocalypse"

Becca and Elliot came up with the "Wyatt Slurp", while AJ mixed up a "Tito's Punch" for us

Carolyn and Julia had fun creating their drink, with a very precarious name, which I will not divulge to the general public!
The winning drinks- it was a tie- came from Michele and Steven, who concocted a drink they call "Thai Me Up", and Becca and Elliott. Both pairs will have their drinks featured on our menu for a while. Imagine bringing your friends into Quench, ordering them a drink, and saying "I made that!"
All in all, it was a great night. We plan on doing this again, for sure. Our next Mixology Class is scheduled for Monday, July 16 at 8:00pm. At the time of this post, there no more tickets available, but stay tuned. There will be more. 
We also plan to offer this night of libation and fun as a private event. Guests can invite friends and tailor the menu to their liking. It's great for Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, showers, birthdays and anything your heart desires. Email me at for details!

Don't forget- we're open for brunch on Sundays now and starting August 1, we start serving lunch! 
Hope to see you at Quench!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Welcome to Quench Nation!

Tuesday, May 22 in the year 2012, something changed in the city of Rockville, MD. 
The long-awaited Quench restaurant opened it's doors. 

The restaurant, located in the Traville Gateway shopping center right off of Shady Grove Road, is the brainchild of Michael Holstein. 

The idea was to bring "crafted cocktails, creative cuisine, and laid-back luxury" to the current generation of "people whose days of buckets of beer and 'sex-on-the-beach shooters' are in their rearview mirror." 

Michael created a team of all-stars to help achieve his goal for the perfect urban, neighborhood bar. He and his cohorts pulled together their wealth of knowledge and created the perfect concept, menu, and environment. 

Now, you know me, I'm all about the food. I could describe the decor, or try to give you the feeling, through words, that you might get when you walk into the restaurant. But my strength comes from the food part of the business. That's why I got a job in the kitchen. For the past  month, I've been employed as a prep cook. Being part time gives me the luxury of learning and preparing food, as well as enjoying the food during service hours. 

I'd like to share some of the drinks and dishes I've enjoyed at Quench.  

First and foremost, Quench identifies itself as a cocktail bar. The bar managers, along with the other team leaders, have come up with an innovative and unique menu with tastes to please every palate. Going clockwise from the top left corner:
  • Flying Dog Under Dog Atlantic Lager; Flying Dog Brewery, based in Frederick, MD, has been gaining popularity in the artisan and private-owned restaurant scene. This beer, along with the Dale's Pale Ale, National Bohemian, and many others, can be found at Quench. All beers are "served in cold cans, because Mother Nature prefers cans to bottles." 
  • Peppered Mango;  this is a true testament to the genius possessed by the bar managers. Its a blend of citrus vodka, cayenned mango puree, lemon juice, and honey. It is the perfect combination of sweet, tart, spicy, cold and smooth. And alcohol. This drink is my personal favorite, I just can't get enough. 
  • Smoked scotch. That is all. 
  • Quench Cocktail; I like to call this our "gateway cocktail." It's first on the menu, it has the name of the restaurant in the title, and it's a perfect gateway to the rest of the cocktail menu. Light and refreshing, this drink consists of 42 Below vodka, simple syrup, Rishi peach blossom tea, pomegranate liqueur, and passion fruit pate de fruit. Yum!

Again, clockwise from the left:
  • Latkes; potatoes and local radishes, topped with light buttermilk creme fraiche. A nice little nibble with bold, fresh flavors and a little nod to the Jewish heritage of many locals. 
  • House Made Burrata; a burrata is fresh Italian cheese in the form of a ball. Ours is mozzarella with ricotta, served with tomato confit and fresh herbs. The flavor is so fresh and subtle, yet deliciously bold and creamy. 
  • Classic DC Wings; served with "Mumbo Sauce." Crispy, juicy, tangy. And good lookin'. 

Melon Panzanella Salad; Watermelon, arugula, goat cheese, and cornbread croutons, dressed with buckwheat honey and olive oil. This salad is beautiful to look at and delicious.

Other menu items include:

Homemade "Twinkie" of the Day! (This one's Red Velvet!)

Yummy, fresh Corn Beignets (or "Hushpuppies", depending on where you are)

Homemade Pickles!
And so much more!

Please stop by, bring your friends and your appetite! We are open for dinner (5:00 pm) Tuesday-Sunday.

For more information, check out the Quench Website or to read what people are saying, go to our Yelp! page. 

Hope to see you soon!

Here's a picture of me making the pierogies of the day

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Butterscotch "Pantry" Brownies

May 9th is National Butterscotch Brownie Day
Who is the world came up with these ideas? There are only 365 days in a year- are butterscotch brownies, of all things, that important that we need an entire 24 hours devoted to them? 

And who am I to argue? 

These little morsels are, well, butterscotch morsels. Found in the baking aisle of your grocery store, they have many uses, most of which I've yet to learn about. As far as I'm concerned, they go well in cookies, brownies, and cakes. Please feel free to comment if you have any ideas of other applications...

Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one to use this phrase, but as I cannot at the moment recall where it came from, I'll take the credit (until credit is due): 
"Pantry Brownies"
AKA throw-everything-you-can-find-in-your-pantry-that-might-work brownies.
So that is what I did.
Feel free to substitute any chocolate, morsels, nuts, etc.

An important aspect of "Pantry Brownies" is the ability to know your audience, thus assuring the satisfaction of all who will eat your amalgamation of sweets. For instance, I considered leaving out the chocolate pieces. For one thing, we had no chocolate chips. For another, these are butterscotch brownies- not chocolate brownies! However, I knew that my father would rather eat bugs than a dessert with no chocolate, so I threw whatever small pieces of chocolate I could find right in. Similarly, an entire cup of nuts for this size recipe is quite indulgent. But I knew that my mother wouldn't eat the brownies without sufficient nut content! Alas, this is the quandary of baking for others!! 

My Pantry Brownies consisted of the following:
1 Cup Flour 
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1/3 Cup Milk Chocolate, chopped
1 Cup Butterscotch Morsels
1/3 Cup Dark Chocolate, chopped
1/2 Cup Hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 Cup Salted Almonds, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 Cup (2 sticks) of butter*

*I wanted to go for a more "fudgey" consistency. If you'd like your brownies to be more "cakey", cut the butter content in half. 

Start with the basics.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt- set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. 

Remove from the heat and beat in the egg and vanilla. 

Throw in the brown sugar and whisk until there are no lumps and the mixture is smooth and shiny. 

               At this point, start tossing in the flour mixture in a few batches, making sure to stir thoroughly in between.

When all of the flour mixture is combined, add your mix-ins. Now would be the time to switch from a whisk to a spatula- which I neglected to do. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of banging to get all the mix-ins out of the whisk!

Pour your batter into an ungreased pan (I used a 9x13) and bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes. 

Cool, cut, serve, and enjoy. 
And thank me for giving you an excuse to use those pecans/candy bar pieces/sprinkles you haven't been able to find a use for :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Diana Discovering Endive (On-deev)

Last month I went to the IACP (International Association for Culinary Professionals) Annual Conference in New York City. My fourth day there they put on a Culinary Expo at which dozens of vendors displayed their products. One company that I found quite interesting was California Endive. Their presence at the conference was obvious- I'd met a man my first day there who, instead of giving me a business card as we sat and ate our breakfast, handed me a card with facts about endive (pronounced "ON-deev"). I found this to be intriguing and walked away from that meal hoping to hear more about what he had to say. 

That day, at the expo, I came across the California Endive table and was mystified by their display. It appeared they wanted to show us how endive are grown, and this was at the forefront of their exhibit:
More about how endive is grown later....

I ended up talking to the man in charge, who told me he would send me some endive if I feature it on my blog. I wanted desperately to experiment with this- what is it? Vegetable?  Lettuce?  Fruit? 
Funny you should ask, as I've done some flighty research and would love to share with you what I've found.  
The two types of endive we will be exploring are Belgian endive and Red Belgian endive. 
Endive (again, proper pronunciation is "ON-deev") is a member of the chicory family. This means that it is from the same species of plant as curly endive, escarole, radicchio, and frisée. Endives are torpedo-shaped, usually about 4-6 inches long. They are delicious served raw, as in my application that follows, or cooked, as in the recipes I mention later. Obviously, the endive that I received are grown in California but, as the name references, they originate in Belgium. The story of the "accidental discovery"of endive by a man named Jan Lammers in 1830 is described in full detail at I don't want to spoil anything :)

So why so special? Why have an entire enterprise devoted to promoting the discovery of endive? 
Well now we need to discuss how this nutty- tasting, beautiful garnish of a vegetable is grown. As stated on their website
"...The first growth takes about 150 days in the field, where the chicory plant grows from seed into a deep root. Tops of the leafy plant are then cut off, their roots dug up and placed in cold storage, where they enter a dormancy period. As necessary, roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 20 to 28 days in dark, cool, and humid forcing rooms... "
So you see, this is why endive should be discovered and loved by all- they are available at peak condition year round. It's not easy to say that about a lot of delicious produce, except perhaps some mushrooms. So I say to you all DISCOVER ENDIVE!

Apple, Hazelnut, and Blue Cheese Endive Snacks
An amalgamation of recipes from my brain, Fine Cooking and

About three years ago I was taking a Catering and Banquets food production class and we were currently studying about appetizers. We each were in charge of a recipe, we created it, then at the end we got to display and taste each other's work. I don't remember what recipe I had, and I don't remember who got the endive recipe, but boy to I remember the endive recipe! I used it as an appetizer at my family's Thanksgiving dinner that semester! So here is, as I said, an amalgamation of some recipes I could find online and what I remember from that recipe back then (which I tried to, but couldn't find). 
To start, you'll need:

At least four Belgian or Belgian Red Endive. 

Two celery ribs, sliced vertically into about 4 strips, then diced.

An apple, preferably something like a Gala, Pink Lady, or Fuji. Cut, cored, and diced the same size as the celery. 
About a cup of hazelnuts, toasted and as much skin removed as is your preference. 

4oz of Blue Cheese, crumbled (this should yield about a cup).

3 Tablespoons of mayonnaise.

3 Tablespoons of lemon juice (I put a lot in mine because I like the acidity- use your discretion). 

Literally just put everything except the endive in a bowl and mix it up until everything is coated. 

I guess I really do like acidity, because I also decided to add some tomatoes to the party. 
So there are two choices for the next move:
  1. Spoon the mixture into the leaves for an incredibly fast, easy, and delicious appetizer that I promise you'll make again. 
  2.  Wash some lettuce, cut up some cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, etc and throw everything in a bowl with your mixture. Make sure you cut up those endive leaves and toss them in there! It will add a lovely nutty and crunchy feeling to your salad!

Endive is much more versatile than to simply use as a means for dipping (dip in hummus!), or a salad accompaniment. In fact, had I had the time, I would have loved to show you this recipe from Melissa d'Arabian for Stuffed Belgian Endive. I also thought this recipe for endive gratin from Cookthink looked awesome!

I implore you- think outside the box- what happens when you fry endive? Would endive go well with fruit? What wines pair with endive? Search, learn, and DISCOVER ENDIVE!