Thursday, April 26, 2007

Karaoke Confessions

I have never been part of a choir, chorus, glee club, or a cappella group. I have never taken anything resembling formal voice training. The closest I came was when my high school speech class had us do a lip synch contest, where I performed The Joker by Steve Miller.

I may very well be tone deaf.

Yet, for some obscure reason, I've done more than my fair share of karaoke...

Maybe its the alcohol that's usually involved, maybe its a desire to impress cute girls, maybe I secretly like trying to embarass myself, I don't really know.

My karaoke debut was senior year of college, at a friend's 21st birthday at a bar on campus. Somehow I let it slip that I do a "more than passable" impression of Kermit the Frog, so I was requested to sing Rainbow Connection as a birthday present. I don't think the rest of the bar was so amused...

Later that year, I made the first of several appearances at the same bar, where I usually did some "old school" type rap song, most often Baby Got Back. It usually helped that a few of my female friends would get up onstage with to rock the booty. That seemed to keep the audience happy...

After returning to DC, I discovered a bar through coworkers called Recessions. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, they offer kareoke if you're brave enough to handle the underground ambiance and diverse clientele. Naturally a work happy hour turned late, and before I knew it I was leading a couple other guys in a mediocre rendition of Whip It by Devo. I'm told that my performance also featured a bit of the "Carlton Dance." I can neither confirm nor deny this...

Other highlights of my karaoke career have included Ice Ice Baby, Here I Go Again by Whitesnake, Sweet Child of Mine, and Livin on a Prayer. So if I show up on Friday, I don't expect to assault your eardrums with my voice...

But then again, I never show up expecting to sing...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Birthdays are for Eating, Part 2

So the birthday week continued on Friday, with a trip to my all-time favorite restaurant, Morimoto in downtown Philadelphia. It's actually the 5th year in a row I've gone there for the big day, so yes I realize this makes me spoiled, but also hopefully qualifies me as a foodie. It is the signature restaurant of chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame.

While there, I always make a point to get the "omakase," or chef's tasting menu. Eight courses, I'll try to do them justice here...

1st course: Yellowtail Tartare, with caviar and fresh wasabi

No matter how many times I go back to Morimoto, it never ceases to amaze me how fresh the fish tastes. The tartare is so soft it practically melts in your mouth, a point which was further hammered home by my roommate's kobe beef carpaccio appetizer that had us salivating.

2nd course: Steamed Japanese Bass w/ garlic and chives and a drizzled miso/soy sauce

Again, perfectly steamed fish, that flakes off onto your fork. The garlic softened the sauce, and gave just a little kick to the dish.

3rd course: Seared Japanese Kingfish Salad, with micro greens and a soy vinagrette

It doesn't matter who I bring with me to Morimoto, it is a virtual certainty that one of their favorite things about the meal is their house salad dressing. The soy vinagrette is light, yet it packs so much flavor and highlights things that traditionally don't taste like much of anything (ex. microgreens).

4th course: Salted Plum Sorbet

The palate cleanser... this one is hard to describe, the sorbet was so salty, it was a bit of a shock to the tongue, yet by the time you managed to swallow it, the flavor of the plum came through. Neither pleasant, or unpleasant, definitely just a new experience.

5th course: Soba Carbonara- Japanese soba noodles, with bacon, diver scallops, and edamame

My roommate's girlfriend had planned on ordering this dish, but didn't, so it worked out when it came to me. I don't often order Carbonara as a pasta, but this version was lighter on the cream, and the addition of the scallops was inspired. Like every other seafood on the menu, the scallops were butter-soft.

6th course: Chilean Sea Bass w/ black bean paste, shaved ginger, and hot oil

The "entree"... I'm not usually big on the black beans and the fish was slathered in the paste, so I admit I scraped most of it off. That being said, it was just another example of how Morimoto's chefs should give us all a lesson on the proper ways to cook fish. They could host their own half-hour show, and I'd Tivo it every time.

7th course: Chef's choice, Sushi Platter - Ahi Tuna, Jackfish, Snapper, White Jack, Giant Mussel

Well c'mon now... who doesn't love sushi? If I hadn't already had six courses by this time, I probably would have asked for seconds and thirds.

8th course: Japanese Sakura Cake - chocolate cake w/ cherry blossom jam

Morimoto's version of the famous Sachertorte from Vienna, replaces apricot jam with cherry blossom jam in the middle layer. Yes, it came with the candle, and yes, I ate the whole thing... it was divine.

So that's the rundown. Hopefully I did it justice. Obviously it doesn't include such delicacies as the Ishi Yaki Kobe Bop, Kobe beef prepared tableside in a hot stone bowl with rice and japanese vegetables (amazing), or the bamboo carafe of sake that my roommate and his girlfriend drank down, but I think I've done enough here to successfully recommend this restaurant to you all.

Go... eat... rejoice.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Birthdays are for Eating...

So perhaps the best thing about having a birthday is that people come out of the woodwork to treat you to great meals at restaurants you wouldn't normally get to eat at. So in the spirit of public service, (as well as to brag about how great my friends and family are), I thought I'd write a quick recap of the DC dining hotspots I've been to this week.

Tuesday: Citronelle

"Go big or go home" is a motto to live by, so when my father suggested we go to the restaurant traditionally ranked #1 in Washingtonian Magazine's Very Best 100, how could I say no?

Chef Michel Richard's restaurant is surprisingly large inside, with a variety of rooms spread across the lower levels of the Latham hotel in Georgetown. The main dining room overlooks the open kitchen where if you're facing the right direction, you can watch the chefs at work. (I actually wasn't facing them, so I can't really tell you what it looked like.)

But on to the food... My appetizer was a "mosaic" of surf and turf- basically sushi grade tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and scallops sliced round with a carpaccio of beef all drizzled with a pepper pesto sauce. I'm not sure I can really properly describe it visually but picture large red and yellow polka dots across your plate. As for taste, it was fresh, clean, and very light. Excellent dish!

I went old school for the main course... Chateaubriand, topped with chanterelles in a syrah sauce, with porcini flavored diced yukon gold potatoes on the side. Okay, maybe that's new old school. Anyway, the beef was perfectly rare, the sauce was just the right compliment to go with the bottle of Shiraz we had been drinking anyway.

Dessert time! Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a chocoholic. So when there's something on the menu called "Chocolate Three Ways" it's pretty much a no-brainer. Way #1 was a chocolate hazelnut tart that because of my nut allergy, I couldn't eat. My father and stepmother said it was great though. Way #2 was a chocolate pannacotta, basically chocolate mousse under a crust of dark chocolate crunchy balls- very rich, but sublime. And Way #3 was essentially the greatest tasting chocolate ice cream I've ever had in my life... simple, rich, sweet, and creamy.

Other highlights from around the table included the lamb and halibut entrees as well as the chocolate flakes in minted milk dessert. Hard to top that, but fortunately my friends were more than willing to try, which leads to...

Wednesday: Montmartre

In all honesty, I had never heard of this small French bistro near Eastern Market when my old coworkers asked me to meet them there. The menu is somewhat limited in scope, but when in a French Bistro, you must stick with tradition, so therefore...

Appetizer- Steamed mussels with herbs, shallots, white wine and pastis broth. The real test of any French bistro is do you go back to dip your bread in the broth after you've finished the mussels. Survey says?? Two pieces dipped post appetizer....

Entree- Again we go with the standard. Hanger steak with caramelized shallots, sauteed fingerling potatoes and red wine sauce. Not quite "Steak frites", but as close as we'll find at Montmartre. Verdict- Better than Bistro du Coin and Les Halles, but I did miss the fries.

Dessert was a deep pot of chocolate mousse, rich and smooth, that my friends made fun of me for practically licking the sides of. So yes, Montmartre was a pleasant surprise, and I highly recommend it for a dinner with friends or even a good date.

Thursday: Sea Catch

I get the impression this Georgetown seafood restaurant is more of a power broker spot than it is a date night place, but I found myself really enjoying the decor. Mostly stone and wood planks, set in the lower levels of Canal Square in Georgetown, the restaurant backs up to the C&O Canal, and in good weather, they have tables set up overlooking the canal.

Appetizer- Hard to screw up a raw bar, but a half dozen oysters on the half shell, split between Wellfleets and Choptank Sweets definitely started the evening off properly. Fresh oysters are increasingly hard to find, and these were flavorful and large.

Dinner- After two nights of beef, it was time to shake things up. Grilled swordfish, in a light lemon white wine sauce. Large flaky steak, not overcooked at all, quite nice. But the highlight was definitely the button mushroom risotto which I had as a side. I'm pretty sure I could eat it as a side dish with everything I cook in my own kitchen.

By the time I finished all that, there was no room left for dessert, so I can't fill you in on the chocolate stylings of Sea Catch, but I'm sure they're good too.

I'm reasonably certain I'm headed to Philadelphia tonight to hit Morimoto's for the fifth year running, so perhaps there will be an addendum to this post later in the week.

In the meantime, I know you're all jealous, and if you have questions, feel free to shoot them out. Bon Appetit!

Monday, April 16, 2007

OHHH-klahoma where the wind goes sweeping down the plain... (Or How Not to Throw Your Own Wedding)

I spent the last 3 days in America's Heartland for my cousin's wedding. Tulsa, Oklahoma- My 4th visit to that city. I just realized I couldn't come up with a single adjective to describe Tulsa. I was going to put one there, and the only thing that came to mind was...


The big storm that hit DC yesterday, hit Tulsa on Friday, which meant that we were essentially stuck within our hotel staring at nothing but Oral Roberts University across the street. Although the giant praying hands always do amuse me slightly.

"Welcome to college, say your prayers or you are f*cked!"

Anyway, the only thing that redeems Tulsa in my opinion is the fact that there are about 20 different Sonic drive-in restaurants in the city, including one DIRECTLY NEXT DOOR TO MY HOTEL. And you all know how I feel about the Sonic.

Two visits over the weekend, including a 1:30 am run for the new Hot Fudge Shake with Oreo, and may I just say, its like drinking Heaven... :)

The wedding itself left something to be desired, my cousin and his new bride decided to prove they were fully adults and left their parents out of the planning process. I don't recommend this approach. You don't realize how many little things need to be accomplished, and having an experienced adult who can make lists comes in very handy.

For example, these are things I watched happen less than 3 hours before the wedding, as my cousin panicked and came to my hotel room looking for help (mind you, I'm not part of the wedding party).

4:00 pm- Phone call from the Groom. "I need to use your laptop to burn a CD." "What's the CD for?" "I need to get the music for the processional."

4:10pm- Groom calls his mother. "Do you know where my tuxedo is?" "Can you bring it to me?" "Do my brothers have theirs?" "I need them to meet me at the mansion to set up for the wedding... tell them I'll buy them Arby's or something."

4:15pm- Groom turns to me. "Did I tell you about my shoes? They were supposed to come today Standard Overnight." Me- "Standard Overnight doesn't deliver on Saturdays, Priority Overnight does." Groom- "Yeah, I found that out. I had to drive to Fed Ex and make them go in the back and sort through all the pallettes until they found the box."

4:25pm- Groom asks his mother, "Do you know where my brother's guitar is? I didn't take it with me when I checked out of my hotel room earlier." Yes, the $1,200 guitar is now missing. He had wanted his brother to play at the reception.

4:40pm- Groom turns to me. "Do you have any black socks? I meant to pick some up, but I forgot, I guess I can get them on the way to the mansion."

None of this takes into account stuff like the Groom's aunt writing the place cards 30 minutes before the ceremony.

Or the phone call I got at the family dinner prior to the ceremony, asking me to untap a keg from the hospitality suite, because one of the keg taps (yes there were kegs) for the reception was broken. (There was also white and red wine, served in pitchers. Nothing but the best.)

Or the bride yelling at the groom for not having done his teeth whitening in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Her- "You better do it tonight (Friday), because I'm not going to have to Photoshop every single one of our pictures..."

Or my grandmother letting the whole family know just how long the groom has been celibate for at the rehearsal dinner. How she came to know this information still confuses me. Then again she was on her seventh Dewars on the rocks with a twist.

Typical family drama took place- my uncle who everyone hates showed up, but only for the ceremony, then disappeared again by the time the reception started. He basically ignored his own grandchildren for the weekend, much to their parents' dismay. We all drank heavily and said inappropriate things, because well, that's what we do.

So I'm back, survived my flights in the bad weather, managed to spend 45 minutes in a Tulsa casino and I guess no worse for wear, but I made two promises to myself.

1) Let a responsible, experienced adult help me make wedding lists. Planner, mom, whoever...

2) Don't go back to Tulsa anytime soon. There are other ways to look at busty girls dressed like strippers and have my Sonic Hot Fudge Shake.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sliced Bread

Earlier today, a friend told me that her new IPod FM transmitter was "the greatest thing since sliced bread."

Which obviously leads to the question, What's so great about sliced bread???

Yes, yes... I enjoy sandwiches as much as the next person, (and judging my waistline, more than some), but let's face it, if we didn't have sliced bread, we'd be eating our ham and turkey on crackers and we'd be enjoying the hell out of it. We wouldn't know what we might be missing, but there's a reason why nice dinner parties serve cheese and crackers. They go quite well together!

So I put it out to the blogosphere... What do you consider the greatest thing since sliced bread? Or is sliced bread not so great? Should we return to the "greatest thing since the invention of the wheel?" Is some other innovation worthy of its own cliche?

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Checklist

A lot of my friends have lists of things they want to achieve by the time they reach X years old. Some of these lists are mental, some of these lists are actually written out and kept in a diary, or a desk drawer. Every time they achieve something on the list, they check it off, and feel a tremendous sense of worth I'm sure.

I never made one of those lists.

TLTL told me after we broke up that I lacked initiative. While she didn't feel I was lazy, she thought that I lacked a certain desire to go out and make things happen. I wonder if that's why I don't have a list.

I have a birthday coming up this month. It's not one of those "landmark" birthdays that should be causing a lot of angst or self-reflection, but recent events in my friends' lives have had me comparing a little more than I might normally. Of my closest three guy friends from high school, one has been married for a year, one is getting married this summer and just bought a house last month, and the other just finished law school last year and bought a house this month.

By contrast, I live in a group house, paying rent, with a freelance job that isn't a 40/hr a week position. I'm not in a long-term committed relationship, although I once was the first one who was, and the first one everyone thought would be married.

I'm not trying to feel sorry for myself, and I'm not even particularly unhappy. I have some great friends who care about me more than they care about themselves, family who would jump in front of a bullet to protect me, and let's face it, I'm not too hard on the eyes... (just seeing if you're still paying attention).

So as this birthday approaches, and it appears that I may not be heading to my favorite restaurant for the first time in five years, I have to remember that its not necessarily so important how quickly you get to major life landmarks; it is far more important to appreciate the ride along the way to them.

Here's to hoping this next year is a fun trip...