No Place Like Home – Tucson

It has been a long time since my last post so I thought it only fitting to revive the blog with a post about my last trip home to Tucson. Also, speaking of home, great timing to mention that this is the same week we welcomed a new Abyad into the world, Justus Jeffrey Abyad. I am now an uncle for the 6th time and enjoying it. :)

Tucson ShotOne of my favorite food activities when staying with family is breakfast. When done Middle Eastern style, it will usually consist of a bunch of little dishes including a lot of cheese, bread, eggs, falafel, fruit, more cheese, and sometimes “ful” (an Arabic dish that is basically fava beans). And possibly my favorite cheese ever is Armenian string cheese. We grew up eating this constantly, also good toasted and melted on pita bread.

String CheeseHere is the ful, awesome with fresh tomato and onion.

FulJust to prep you, the food in this post will be really diverse but it is a typical showing of what is eaten when I go home. :)

Anytime I am home in Tucson, a large chunk of my time is spent with my Vietnamese family. This last trip, I got a chance to hang out with one my best friends growing up (Trung), and his girlfriend Paulina. Paulina very lovingly made us some homemade Pho which was awesome. I wanted to take a picture of them but they weren’t being so cooperative so I’ll just have to find one of Trung in Vietnam, drinking from a cup with his name!Trung and CoffeeHere are the Pho and condiments… done the right way with fresh meat and ingredients.

IMG_6768 PhoFortunately this trip was also the week of Thanksgiving so we spent Thanksgiving at my Uncle and Aunt’s house in Phoenix allowing for another Middle Eastern Thanksgiving experience which I can share with you here…

The TableAnd just to get closer…

BOOM tabouleh…

TabboulehBOOM green bean casserole…

green beansBOOM sweet potato casserole…

sweet potato casseroleBOOM kibbeh…

kibbehand finally grapeleaves…

grapeleavesAnd so you can have a view of the plate…

PlateSo Happy Thanksgiving a little late. And this last segment of going home was our visit to Old Tucson Studios, which every child in Tucson loves. It is an actual film studio that has been filming since 1939, filming movies like Tombstone and The Three Amigos!

Old TucsonCheck out the excitement on this child (Bethany); the excitement I also shared when driving/riding in these cars…

bethan in old tucsonFood wise, we had a pretty great experience here as well. There was an open grill with lots of good stuff including the infamous Sonoran Hot Dog which I love and can only get, legitimately, in Tucson.

Sonoran Dog SignSonoran DogWith some nachos…

NachosHere are some grill shots…

Flame broiled IMG_6916Cooked CornSo there’s a rundown if what just 3 days may look like in Tucson, always a good food experience. :) How can you turn this down?

Tucson

 

 

Choong Hwa Won and Ja-jang Myun

Sorry about that title but this great experience comes from K-town, one of Washington DC metro area’s greatest densities of tasty food (aka Annandale).

I was gratefully introduced to Choong Hwa Won by Sang Han (shout out to you Sang) and have never been disappointed since. When going there, I have only ordered two things, ja-jang myun and dumplings, an awesome location for both. And I shared this specific experience with a college friend, Kevin Kusunoki.

Choong Hwa Won

Ja-jang Myun tastes like total Korean comfort food and boy does it feel like comfort. Not only is it incredibly affordable ($4.99) for a huge amount, but it really is so good and satisfying! It also comes with some traditional Korean kimchi and side veggies. Here are those sides:

Kevin

 

IMG_5848 IMG_5833And here are the noodles with my buddy Kevin modeling the food for me:

Noodles

 

IMG_5840 IMG_5844And here are their dumplings which you can order fried or boiled; how do you not get fried?

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And anyone who knows me, knows that when you go to Annandale to eat, you have to finish the night off at Shilla Bakery. Shilla is not only a place for their baked goods (which are quite good) but also for the amazing Bing Soo!! Bing Soo is a solid dessert; it includes shaved ice, ice cream, flavorful sauces, mochi, fruit and more depending on what flavor you get. Although I do really enjoy the Green Tea Bing Soo, Strawberry still seems to be my favorite.

Shilla

 

IMG_5862 IMG_5863And here is the Bing Soo; really trying to let you appreciate the size. Try and bring someone along to share. I’ll be the first to admit that it is hard to finish by yourself, especially after Ja-jang myun… But then again, everyone has those days. :)

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IMG_5857And like I said, Shilla does offer a few other things, including some pastries for really good prices. You can also sample almost anything while there! :) One of my favorite pastries is a Strawberry Cream croissant type of thing… It is quite buttery and sugary, great combo. :) You can buy them in individually wrapped packets for $1!

IMG_5850Here are a few other great items!

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These are just two spots in Annandale which also happen to be in the same parking lot as each other. :) However, there are so many other wonderful places that I have tried and have yet to try there so if anyone wants to make a trip down there? :)

An Ode to Zachary’s

Ever wonder what Deep Dish Pizza is supposed to look like? It’s supposed to look like it does at Zachary’s, however Zachary’s Pizza is now closed… :(  But I discovered these pictures on my computer from last year! I think I took them before I even had a blog and they happened to come up on my screen saver as a reminder (you know how you can put your pics on shuffle).

Well, I am sorry to say that Zachary’s Pizza has now closed; tough economy I guess. Here are a few posts about it herehere and here. But basically, every time I go back to Tucson, I wanted to go here, (right after Nico’s). All pizza I eat is compared to Zachary’s, and it is still my favorite pizza.

Zachary's

I actually happened to visit Zachary’s this night at the same time as the Gaslight Theater, another favorite Tucson spot of mine, with my sister, brother-in-law, and parents.

Here are my parents in proportion to the pizza. :) We would always order the Big Z, which has everything on it and/or in it…

Pizza and ParentsMy sister displaying her excitement:

Sister and Pizza

The cheese:

The CheeseAnd on my plate:

Pizza on my plateSo that’s it. Just wanted to share my favorite pizza ever with the world. I hope that they could re-open maybe one day? I can dream…

Food Trucks – Captain Cookie!

DC now has a good reputation for food trucks, at least I definitely think it does, and one of my favorites is Captain Cookie, & The Milk Man. The summary of this truck is, “a mobile bakery and dairy bar serving fresh-baked cookies, local milk, and made-to-order ice cream sandwiches!” My favorite part being the ice cream sandwiches… :) Check out their website for more history and background and a “day in the life” for the truck.

Here is the lowdown… Captain cookie is in L’Enfant Plaza (my working hood) every Monday and this usually isn’t forgotten. A co-worker of mine, Christine Chui and I, both have strong affinities for this truck and have to hold ourselves back or else we would get one every week.

Here is a shot of the truck in action in L’Enfant:

L'Enfant Trucks

Cookie Truck closeup

So after lunch, we queued up for our cookie experience. Christine “grudgingly” helped out by ordering her own ice cream sandwich for the sake of more pictures.

Cookie Truck Queue

Also of note, is that Captain Cookie has a loyalty program; this day officially marked my entry into the League of the Cookie. I had purchased 10 cookies so my next one was free. Now for an ice cream sandwich, it only counts as a discount since you have two cookies, but a big day none the less.

League of the Cookie Card

They have a variety of cookies and ice creams. They have their standard variety then each day has its own special ice cream flavor and cookie which varies. My favorite cookies still happen to be the Snickerdoodle (softest cookie best for ice cream sandwich) and the Chocolate Chip. I usually get those two cookies with Black Cherry and Chocolate Ice Cream in the middle. You can pick two flavors! All for only $4. The cookies are all laid out in the front for you to see and you are welcome to sample the ice cream flavors.

Cookies

Display

Look at that great ice cream sandwich. And here is Christie obviously excited about her purchase, I feel the same way…

Excited cookie

And here is what you’ve been waiting for, the ice cream sandwiches upfront. Christie got the uush (usual)… chocolate chip, snicker doodle, chocolate and vanillla ice cream. I got the cookie of the day and the ice cream of the day since I wanted to try both of them. The cookie of the day happened to be a whoopie pie, so I asked if I could somehow combine that with the ice cream and Kirk said, sure of course. So I had Banana cookies with a Lemon Chiffon flavored ice cream. Both were pretty good but the mix wasn’t optimal… I’d go back to my other mix!

Christie’s:

Christie's Cookie

Mine:

My Cookie

And some side by side cookie modeling… :)

Side by Side

You have to try this place if you get a chance! It’s a truck so it will be all over DC, and you can follow him on twitter @captaincookiedc, and they’ll update their location live, or just check out their schedule on the website.

14th Street Diaries – Le Diplomate

It has been FAR (acquisition pun if you happen to work in procurement) too long since my last blog post. I don’t know what could be better to revive the blog than with Le Diplomate, easily one of my new favorites in DC. The title of this post is 14th Street Diaries because I intend to have a lot of entries based on new restaurants popping up on the 14th Street corridor, in northwest DC. Just when this neighborhood couldn’t get any more awesome, you start to see a new eatery every time you walk down the block.

One of those new places was Le Diplomate. I had been waiting to try this place for months, since it opened. But, since you know French food can be pricy and generally stuck up :), it took me awhile to finally make it there and it was SOO worth it. This place impressed in every way, except they messed up our bill a little but that was forgivable after the amazing food.

So like all the other outings, I tried to make a group outing out of this visit. I was able to convince three friends to come up this way and they serve as the main characters in the story:

Becca,

Becca

 

Nico,

Nico

 

David,

David

 

Any myself,

Me

 

As you can see in the photos (particularly David’s photo), we were ready for a great food experience! The menu looked quite appetizing as expected:

Menu

 

I was sent with one tip, to order a Mushroom Tart. This tip was provided by my DC mom, Michelle, who is not only one of the best cooks I know but is also of French-Canadian descent, so I held her preferences in high regard. :)

And here it is:

Mushroom Tart

 

It was awesome! If you like mushrooms (pioppini mushrooms to be exact)… it tasted amazingly fresh and the crust was tasty and flaky like a pastry! Or a tart! :) The cheese was great too.

Me Eating Tart

 

So since I ordered the tart, I thought to go with another lower dollar item but also something else that I really wanted, French Toast! Probably the best french toast I’ve had, figures…

French Toast

 

Becca ordered Poached Eggs Basquaise:

Becca's Poached Eggs

 

Poached Eggs make anything look great. And Nico ordered their Eggs Benedict, also a good choice!

Eggs Benedict

 

David and Becca also got some good looking drinks.

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Ok, now that we got those commoner food items out of the way, time for the best dish of my life (alright, exaggeration I know, but a serious possibility of being the best fish I’ve had!), the Trout Amandine. I highly highly recommend it. It was so good, we were all enthralled by it.

Trout Amandine

 

Yes! It tastes as good as it looks. It was so good, we all vowed to order it the next time we went. So to give you an idea of how good it tasted, we let David take a bite and I took a series of fast shots I’d like to share with you. I wish we could create a flip-book of the shots but alas that is not possible for now; you’ll just have to look at the pics below. :)

His first bite and then what followed:

First Bite

 

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This clearly displays the accuracy of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” No more needs to be said. Notice Becca’s hand reaching over for another bite herself before I even finished photographing…

We thought it to be a very successful outing.

Le Dip Outside

 

So why not finish it off with a nice coffee outing? We headed over to my new favorite neighborhood coffee shop, The Coffee Bar (TCB). It was the first time I ever had a Cortado and I really enjoyed it!

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So if anyone is up for some more French food, or let’s be honest, any food, and a trip to TCB, hit me up!

An Afternoon in Georgetown

Anytime you mention food in Georgetown, every person will want to share their opinions with you about all the amazing places. The reason is that there are SO many places to choose. And usually, you can have a pretty reliably good experience as well as it being pretty reliably more expensive than usual. :)

A popular favorite, especially among my friends is the Tackle Box, on M Street, close to Wisconsin. I’ve heard about this place for years and Groupon (there is actually one for sale right now, here) began offering deals to go visit so I thought it was high time to make my way over there!

Let me also say that I don’t really remember eating a lobster, straight from the shell. I grew up in Arizona so that is not something we did that often and I honestly don’t remember thinking that much of it anyway. But this being a famous seafood place, I thought I’d go for the lobster and I had half off thanks to Groupon. My lobster was actually just ok, the butter sauce really made it great. I’m not sure if I just expected more from it but it was good. The mac and cheese was above average, good! And the sweet potato fries were successful.

Lobster Dish

 

Mac & Cheese

 

Sweet Potato Fries

 

Here’s the inside of the lobster!

Lobster Inside

 

You can get all kinds of seafood and in many different forms. Below you can see a sandwich as well as grilled fish. I think we all came to the conclusion that their best stuff is on the grilled menu.

Seafood Sandwich

 

Grilled Fish

 

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the bottom level. One other good thing about this place is that it is really easy to order. You make your order at a register downstairs then pick up your food and sit wherever you want. If there isn’t enough room downstairs, you can take it upstairs. We found a good amount of space for our group which happened to be somewhat large this day. Here’s a good pic with a lot of good faces.

Group Shot

 

Some of us continued from here to try another place I had been waiting forever to try, specifically because of their Deep Fried Oreo Sundae! Serendipity! Serendipity comes from New York City but it has quickly found a home here. They definitely got some prime property right on the corner of M and Wisconsin and they have a pretty sweet old-time look inside.

Lamp Shot

 

Bar shot

 

A couple of shots to get an idea of the menu:

Menu Heading

 

Menu Content

 

Here are Cassandra and Becca displaying a Strawberry Milkshake:
Strawberry Milkshake

And here is the winner of the day, the Deep Fried Oreo Sundae. I experienced my first Deep Fried Oreo at a fair in Pittsburgh and was never the same. To have it in a sundae is a great idea; they even breaded with corn flake-type crumbs. It was SO good!

Deep Fried Oreo Sundae

 

And that included this afternoon in Georgetown.

The Last Few Items in Singapore

This is my last post about Singapore! The food in this post is all non-native Singaporean food but delicious none-the-less. Something I was really looking forward to trying in Singapore was Ramen! I’ve only been in the airport in Japan and haven’t been able to experience the original so I thought this would be the closest I would get for now.

It was a success. Des and Fiona took me to their favorite Ramen place surrounded my the expat community. We ordered Ramen and of course, some gyozo (dumplings).

Ramen Menu

Ramen

Gyozo

Ramen experience: Check!

The other “close to an Asian country” experience I wanted to have was Thai food. So Des took me to what is apparently the shadiest place in Singapore, Orchard Towers. We went in the middle of the day though so we were good, kind of…

We made our way to the top floor and found Jane Thai (which I think we found out later had another location in another part of the city so all for naught?). But anyway, we did succeed in getting what was one of my favorite dishes: olive rice. I’m not sure why I had never had this before but it was great! And of course we had to get some Pad Thai. :)

Jane Thai Menu

Pad Thai

Olive Rice

Oh and the olive rice had cashews too!

And the rest of this food is or has been inspired by mostly white people (from what I know). This next one is a pretty exciting chain restaurant all over the city. I first happened upon it when I got in at the airport. We were short on time though so I ended up going to McDonalds… but we returned for breakfast! It is called Toast Box!

I was pretty excited about this place because I love all things that involve eggs, and also breakfast.

Toast Box Mug

Des said this place is a result of British influence, where else do you see Asians eating so much toast? This toast is good though! So we got some soft boiled eggs and it comes with toast (obviously) with Hainanese Kaya. First you open the eggs, mix in some salt, pepper, and sauce then you can eat it with the flavored toast! The process is pictured below.

Eggs

Eggs opened

 

Eggs and Sauce

 

toast

 

There’s the toast with ALOT of butter and the Kaya spread which we then dipped in the eggs; it was delightful.

These next two places included things I felt like I was missing out on after being in Vietnam for so long: Cheeseburgers and Chocolate, not necessarily together.

We got burgers at Relish, this was almost the most expensive meal of the trip! Burgers are quite rare I guess…

Relish

 

Relish Menu

 

Burger

 

Onion Rings

 

Grapefruit

 

The food was pretty good but one thing that really stood out to me was that soda I got! Now that I remember, I would like to find some Santa Vittoria around here…

And now for the chocolate… Awfully Chocolate.

Awfully Chocolate

 

Chocolate menu

 

I got some kind of Nutella-like bar, we shared some Creme Brûlée, and even got some hot chocolate! It satisfied the chocolate craving at least…

Bar

 

Creme Brûlée

 

hot chocolate

 

And with that I bid farewell to my posts on Singapore. I miss it a lot and can hopefully make it back soon for some more food adventures!

Sands

 

Downtown

 

Say bye to the Malayan!

Malayan