Weekly Menu — 3/30/2013

Week of March 30th

Saturday:
  • Dinner & dancing this evening

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Sunday:

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Monday:

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Tuesday:
  • Leftover mushroom soup (I may float a poached egg on top if I get a wild hair)
  • Green salad

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Wednesday:

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Thursday:
  • Leftover lamb chops and salad

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Friday:
  • Out! Out! Out!
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Harissa-Marinated Steaks

These steaks can have quite a bit of kick (depending on the kind of harissa you use, of course) and are excellent on the grill or seared in a hot skillet. I love this recipe because it packs a wallop of flavor with very little effort. I served the thinly sliced steak with a spinach, fennel and chickpea salad with a smoky lemon-tahini dressing. The creamy dressing provided a soothing foil to the heat of the meat. Good stuff.

Searing Meat on the Cast Iron Skillet

Searing Meat on the Cast Iron Skillet

Finished Product

Finished Product: Harissa-Marinated Steaks

Little Serow

Little Serow does not take reservations.

Little Serow does not allow for any menu choices.

Little Serow does not accept more than 4 in a dinner party.

Little Serow does not allow any substitutions. You eat what you are served and that’s that.

And for all this, you get to stand in line (for an hour and 15 minutes in our case),  to dine at the early hour of 5:30 and pay $45 for their multi-course Thai tasting menu.

Oh it was so worth it. And we are clearly not alone in the sentiment.

By the time this Washington DC  restaurant opened at 5:30, the line outside the unmarked door was at least 80 people deep and snaked down the sidewalk and around the corner. We overheard many in the crowd discussing the wait-times (long), how often they had been to the restaurant (many, many times) and where and when to line up to snag a table in the prime 7 to 8 o’clock-range (30 to 40 people back).

We were third in line and happy with 5:30. Having tried and failed to get in any earlier than 10:15 in the past, we wanted a guaranteed table, especially since we had convinced friends to join us for the trek from Baltimore to D.C. just for dinner.  The couple in front of us (who lined up at 4 o’clock), said they had tried and failed to get in three times, so they were not taking any chances either.

Once inside the Tiffany-blue restaurant, we knew we were in for a treat. The aromas — both exotic and familiar — were heady and as intoxicating as a good whiff of my husband’s expensive Scotch. The warm scent of spices mingling with the fresh scent of citrus and herbs promised the delicate flavor balance that makes Thai and Vietnamese cuisine so appealing — spicy, salty, sour and sweet.

We were not disappointed.

The four of us crunched our way through house-made fried pork rinds that we dabbed in a deep red, flamingly hot spice paste made of catfish, tamarind and chilies.

We fought over our two bowls of rich, coconut soup.

We used bits of sticky rice to scoop up every last chunk of meat, pool of sauce or lone herb from the parade of 5 dishes that followed the pork rinds and soup.

“This is my favorite dish,” one of us would say, the rest of us nodding in agreement, our mouths full with that heavenly spicy/salty/sour/sweet combo.

But then the next dish would appear.

“No, THIS one is my favorite.”

“No, it’s THIS one.” And so it went.

We enjoyed snakehead fish with kaffir lime, chicken livers with hot peppers, sour pork with peanuts and crispy rice balls, pork with crispy garlic and beautifully charred ribs doused with Mekong whiskey.

The dishes on their own were utterly delicious. Delicious as in, yes, I would wait in line all over again (and I plan to). But, what elevated every bite and truly made the meal spectacular were the piles of fresh Asian herbs and vegetables that arrived at the table, along with friendly recommendations from staff as to when and how to eat them.

Grab a leaf of Thai basil or mint to cut through the rich, unctuous liver-based dish.

Crunch a sliver of Thai eggplant or radish to temper a spice or enhance a flavor.

Munch a fresh cucumber slice to quell the peppery flames.

The combinations of flavors and textures were endless.

We are already making plans to return and experience a whole new menu — it changes weekly — and a whole new array of flavors.

I suggest you do the same. Perhaps I’ll see you in line.

Cinghiale

Seinfeld’s George Costanza always said he would drape himself in velvet if it was “socially acceptable.” Well, I would love to do the same, only with swaths of pig. Swap out the velvet for Cinghiale’s prosciutto de Parma and I am game.

Why oh why is their prosciutto so damn good? And why can I not find it like this anywhere else? Except in Italy, of course.

My husband and I spent 2 weeks in Italy and ate plates of prosciutto every day. We devoured the salty treat draped over melon, drizzled with bright green olive oil, piled high with fresh persimmon wedges and adorned only with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It was silky, piggy goodness every time.

Well that’s how it is at Cinghiale, too. I have yet to dine with them and not order their prosciutto de Parma. The ribbons of pink pig are exactly what they should be — buttery, salty and meltingly tender. I read somewhere that Italian oinkers on the path to becoming prosciutto are fed parmesan cheese rinds to help flavor their flesh (lucky pigs). I believe it. There seems to be a hint of parmesan in every bite of good prosciutto and Cinghiale’s pig is no exception. Their prosciutto will haunt you.

Ok, enough with the prosciutto as it certainly isn’t the only noteworthy item at the restaurant. Between the four of us we enjoyed a variety of dishes including an outstanding trio of fish tartare ( I would definitely order this one again), a delicate homemade spaghetti topped with freshly shaved truffles (ditto) and tortellini filled with prosciutto, mortadella and ricotta in a luscious rosemary sauce (this is the one dish my husband cannot help but order over and over again). All four of us were seduced by the bone-in pork roast served over an espresso spaetzle, which I hope to see on the ever-changing menu again. I was able to stifle my urge to pick up my hunk of bone and gnaw this time, but I don’t see that happening again. I don’t have that kind of will power. I also didn’t have the will power to turn down the dessert cheese course. I hope you don’t either.

Start with the prosciutto. End with the cheese. Thankfully, it’s really hard to go wrong anywhere in between. Welcome to my favorite Baltimore restaurant.

Weekly Menu — 3/23/2013

Week of March 23rd

Restaurants nearly dominate my agenda this week thanks to my family visiting from California. We’ll be trying new places as well as introducing them to some of our old favorites. Expect some upcoming restaurant reviews. 

Saturday:
  • We will be in Washington D.C. all day. We’re checking out the new food exhibit at the Smithsonian followed by dinner at Little Serow, a Thai restaurant I have been anxious to try. My husband and I attempted to get in to Little Serow a few months ago with no luck, so here’s hoping we get a table the second time around. I have heard wonderful things about this Thai tasting menu. 

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Sunday:
  • Once again, we are headed out to dinner locally. Less time in the kitchen for me equals more time with my mom and dad — yeah! Restaurant and review to come. 

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Monday:

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Tuesday:

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Wednesday:
  • Seafood Market fish night. I am hoping the Ahi tuna looks good as I am craving fresh tuna with Livornese sauce
  • Green salad or roasted vegetables — whatever I have on hand. 

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Thursday:
  • Leftover harissa-marinated steak
  • Brown rice
  • Green salad

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Friday:
  • Out! Out! Out! Told ya this week was heavy on the restaurants.