Monday, April 27, 2009

The Perfect Weekend....

....Begins with the unexpectedly early news that BRET PASSED THE VIRGINIA BAR EXAM! Woo hoo! Hence our back porch celebration on Friday evening:

There is hardly a better excuse for breaking into our cache of champagne from last year's trip to France!

Look at those well-behaved pups!

After our lovely back porch celebration, we continued on to a lovely dinner with our friend Tamar, one of our all-around favorite people back here in NoVA, who is always willing to pick up and celebrate with us when the occasion strikes.

Saturday, we lazed around the apartment in the morning before heading out for some quick errands to the Apple House Garden Center and the grocery store. You see, a heat wave struck us this weekend. After months of rainy, cold grayness (with not-nearly-enough Spring sprinkled in), we have had sunshine and warmth! For days on end! And so our weekend plan took shape: we will work in the yard and make yummy summer meals, all the while enjoying one another and the pups in the glorious hot sun.

Yummy "welcome sunshine! we've missed you!" meal #1 can be found here-- Italian Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups. I first saw this recipe about four years ago, and have periodically considered making it since. It turns out that I was totally depriving us of deliciousness by putting it off! It was, in the words of Giada herself, "sooo good."

After a nice visit with our friends Liz and Dan, who popped over to visit (and fall in love with) our little Otter, we started in on yummy "welcome sunshine! we've missed you!" meal #2: Baby back ribs with parsley fried onion rings and grilled corn on the cob. Sorry for the lack of pictures. We were apparently too hungry for a photo shoot. But feel free to imagine the deliciousness. It was only our third or fourth foray into ribs, and we have a lot of changes to make in the recipe, but what a meal to enjoy the fortuitous weather!

Sunday after church, we headed straight to Home Depot, along with everyone else in NoVA. Determined to make our little back yard an oasis for the enjoyment of summer evenings, we purchased paving stones, plants, planters, and dirt. Since the projects are as yet unfinished, I won't share the photos, but I will show you what cute, helpful doggies we have:

Mama's pulling weeds and I helped!

I'll just sit here in the shade and look pretty.

And finally, after a scorching hot day of hard work in the hard, we've come to yummy "welcome sunshine! we've missed you!" meal #3: snow crab legs, steamed potatoes, and more corn on the cob, along with some super cool and fresh cucumber salad (sliced and deseeded cucumber, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, couple pinches of sugar), by candlelight (citronella!).

Snow crab tip: When you can catch it on sale, like we did, it is SO EASY, thanks to my dad's super secret (oops! not any more!) cooking method: Rinse off any ice from the clusters, pat dry, and throw into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with melted butter. This is one of my all-time favorite meals, and on a hot evening on the porch, it reminds me of home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meet Otter.

Hello from Puppydom. Meet the newest member of our family, Otter:

He is a 9 1/2 week old chocolate lab and he is just the sweetest thing, which is lucky for him as we progress through the trials and tribulations of house-training. Elsa is not yet a full-fledged member of his fan club, but she seems to like him more and more everyday, despite the amount of attention he requires.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

EatBurger < HellBurger

Now that my photography class is over, I feel the urge to get back to the reason we started this blog in the first place: FOOD. Food was unsurprisingly close to the top of the list of "pros" when we were considering moving back to D.C. from Denver, and there have been moments where reacquainting ourselves with the food scene here has been one of the few things that has kept us from getting in the car with a "Denver or Bust" mentality.

Let me preface this discussion with the fact that I, Jaimy, am not generally a burger person. It's not that I don't like a good burger, but I rarely CRAVE one. That is, I rarely craved one...until I went to Ray's HellBurger.

HellBurger is associated with Ray's the Steaks, one of Bret's most favorite steakhouses here in Arlington. HellBurger opened up a few doors down in the same plaza and with the same minimalist attitude toward menu and decor. They do a few things, but they do them very, very well. The burgers are made from the same ground up meat they use for the steaks....10 ounces of it per burger, to be exact. It's counter service, a la carte, and sometimes a challenge to find a table before your food comes. But despite all of the hassle, that first bite of burger is worth it. Lightly seasoned and grilled to medium rare (recommended temp) perfection, I have never experienced a juicier piece of meat. While Bret experiments with the extensive list of toppings, I stick to American cheese and pickles, because the burger itself tastes SO good that I don't want to cover it up. Add a mug of their locally brewed root beer, and a side of cheesy tater puffs, and I would choose HellBurger over many steaks I have had in my life (except my dad's steaks, and Bret's, and maybe Ruth's Chris).

So when I returned from a weekend out of town and Bret said a friend liked the EatBurger, which recently won a burger contest in D.C., at Tallulah/Eat Bar more than HellBurger, I was intrigued. We went there last night to conduct a formal investigation.

While you avoid the counter service hassle at Eat Bar, our experience last night was that the service was not much better for it. I ordered the same burger that I get at Ray's, for the sake of accurate comparison. My burger was slightly overcooked, but I was starving and not willing to wait for another one, and it looked surprisingly juicy despite the fact that it was closer to medium well than medium rare. The key to the EatBurger is that it is seasoned with onion and herbs and saturated with butter to produce a burger that is bursting with flavor and uber-juicy. I admit, it was pretty tasty....

But my vote is for HellBurger, all the way. I can see where one could prefer the herb flavor of the EatBurger, especially if you (gasp!) enjoy your burger a little closer to well done than we do, but that is a cop out to me. Ray's burger is all about the quality of the meat, and you can't get around that.

Monday, April 6, 2009


My Two Best Photos of the Past Eight Weeks, Matted & Ready for Framing!