Joe’s Noodle House Rocks the House

  • Posted on March 25, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Yesterday we went to Joe’s Noodle House in Rockville for a late lunch. I’ve been wanting to go here ever since I read about it on the Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurant list last January, where they described it as authentic Szechuan food in a chaotic setting.

The interior walls are a pepto pink color, what I’d call Chinese Kitsch, but the food really is amazing. The menu went on for pages and pages, and it took us at least fifteen minutes to narrow down our choices: seasoned shredded pork ear, triple delight noodle soup, triple pepper chicken dry sauté, and steamed pork buns (well, that’s what we ordered, but we got steamed pork dumplings.)

The shredded pig ears came cold, and they reminded me of a seaweed salad with a pork flavor, and kind of chewy. Not my favorite dish, but we just had to try it, because really, where else would you be able to order pig ears?

The most intriguing dish was the triple pepper chicken. I thought it would be dry and slightly salty, like I’ve had at other Szechuan restaurants. But this dish was saucier and came loaded with peppers. The spiciness was not immediately apparent, but after eating a few bites, I noticed a strange sensation on my tongue. It’s difficult to describe, but imagine that spicy-flavored Pop Rocks is throwing a dance party in your mouth. It was wild. It was by far the most complexly spicy dish I have ever had. It wasn’t firey, but tingly. I did some research, and I think the dish is made from the Szechuan pepper, which was banned in the U.S. until 2005!

I’m looking forward to trying Joe’s Noodle House again—and I’ll have to go back about 50 times just to try everything on the menu.

The Pork Ears:

Seasoned Shredded Pork Ears

Mufflers Optional

  • Posted on March 22, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Seen on the way to work:

The car in front of me had a low-hanging muffler. Pulling into the parking garage, it took the first speed bump slowly. But that muffler was like a loose tooth that just needed a little more wiggling and jiggling. It scraped the speed bump and fell right off. The car just drove on, not even noticing. And strangely, the car didn’t get any louder. Maybe mufflers are optional on Hondas?

I angled my car around the muffler, now just laying there in the middle of the garage, and chased down the car. I flashed my lights and the driver stopped.

-“Um, your muffler fell off back there at the entrance to the garage.”
-“Oh, thanks. I probably need that.”
-“Yeah. Well, I’m not really sure if you can put it back on, but it is just laying there.”
-“Yeah. I should go get it.”
-“Good luck!”

I kind of wanted to hang around and watch him try to put it back on, just to see.

Best Italian Market Ever

  • Posted on March 22, 2007 at 9:42 pm

(not counting ones in Italy)

On a whim, I stopped at Cornucopia, an Italian specialty market around the corner from my apartment building. I read in the Washingtonian that Cornucopia has great panini, and a sandwich sounded like the perfect dinner.

I ordered a Prosciutto di Parma sandwich, made on a crusty mini-baguette with provolone, olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and mixed greens. The owner of the shop, Ibrahim Selmy (I know he is the owner because he pointed out his picture on the door when I walked into the shop), took great care to slice the cheese and prosciutto fresh for my order, and he even handed me a sample of the provolone to snack on while I waited.

I couldn’t resist picking out some olives and cookies, both sold by the pound. Ibrahim also sells fresh pastas, ravioli, homemade sauces and lasagnas, and an assortment of dry Italian goods. The store smelled just like a market in France.

As Ibrahim handed me the sandwich, he said in a sultry accent, “I hope this sandwich is the start of a new relationship…with my store.” Oh boy, it definitely was—everything was amazing. The sandwich was stuffed with prosciutto, and the balsamic gave it just the right salty-sweet combination. Yes, this is the beginning of a long relationship.

Cornucopia
8012 Norfolk Ave.
Bethesda, MD

Olives

Italian Cookies

Prosciutto di Parma Sandwich

I Won!

  • Posted on March 21, 2007 at 8:29 pm

The seriously awesome people at Serious Eats had an ice cream trivia contest to promote the new Häagen-Dazs Reserve line of ice cream flavors. The contest was simple—the first ten people to respond with the correct answers to the five trivia questions would receive their very own Häagen-Dazs Reserve line ice cream. Check out these flavors: Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream, Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle, and Pomegranate and Dark Chocolate Bar.

Well, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I WON ICE CREAM! My googling abilities are so superior, I was able to send in the answers lickity-split. I WON I WON I WON! I LOVE ICE CREAM! AND I LOVE WINNING THINGS!

(Although, I chose to have the ice cream mailed to me at work rather than at my apartment, which at the time I thought was the lesser of the two evils. But now I’m not so sure…what if the package gets delayed in the mailroom, and by the time I get my ice cream, days later, it’s nothing but sour milk? Or what if my coworkers find my scrumptious prize and I have to, gasp, share my ice cream, lest I look greedy and mean?)

Golden King is King

  • Posted on March 16, 2007 at 7:30 pm

I went to lunch with some of my coworkers to Golden King Restaurant, a nondescript Chinese restaurant in a strip mall in Sterling, Virginia and a short drive from my office in Reston. This was my second time there—my coworker Queenie introduced me to it a couple of months ago, and I’ve been begging her to take me back ever since (it’s quite far from home, so a weekend trip with Larry is not likely, plus I don’t know if I could find the place without Queenie.)

It’s a buffet, but before you groan and roll your eyes, hear me out. It’s got the typical “American” Chinese food like kung pao chicken and crab rangoons. But the real stuff is at the dim sum station, where you can get steamed shrimp dumplings, Chinese BBQ spareribs, pork buns, phoenix feet, tripe, shrimp-stuffed rice crepes, and a gazillion other delicious morsels like fried whole butterfly fish and crispy roasted duck. They also have a Mongolian BBQ station, but I didn’t try that because I can never seem to get the flavors right. And they have so many awesome Chinese pastries for dessert, it’s just too hard to choose. Last time I took about 7 desserts and sampled all of them! Do I have any control? Obviously not!! Except that I only took 3 desserts today.

And all this for the cheap price of $10 including tip and tax. You’ve got to try it if you’re ever in Sterling.

Golden King Restaurant
21800 Towncenter plz
Sterling, VA 20164
(703) 406-4800

Plate of Golden King Food

Dim Sum is Yum(my)

How to Visit DC and not see DC, or: How My Dad Spent His Spring Break

  • Posted on March 14, 2007 at 7:59 pm

My parents came to visit us for Spring Break, instead of going to Panama City Beach or South Padre Island and doing beer bongs and dancing all night at Foam Parties. When they come to visit, it’s like we’re on vacation too—lots of fun, tons of laughing and no work.

They’ve visited many times, and they’ve seen the Smithsonian Museums and Monuments quite enough. So rather than tour the city again, we went on a few day trips outside of DC. It’s so cool that we can drive an hour east and see the Chesapeake Bay, or drive an hour west and be in the rolling countryside of Virginia, complete with cows, goats and barns. The only tricky part about doing day trips during the week was timing it just right so that we avoided the worst of the traffic. Sometimes that meant leaving early, and sometimes we took back roads and got just a teensy bit lost.

Day 1: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for Civil War site-seeing; Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville, Virginia for a wine tasting, and Leesburg, Virginia for lunch, coffee and shopping. Chinese dinner at Foong Lin in Bethesda.

Harpers Ferry train depot

Dry Goods Store, Harpers Ferry

Day 2: Annapolis, Maryland for site-seeing, across the Bay Bridge for lunch at Hemingway’s, back across the bridge to Sandy Point State Park, a Japanese dinner at Tako Grill in Bethesda. (I love Tako Grill!) We had sushi, tempura, dumplings, noodle soup and grilled baby octopus (complete with heads attached—I guess that means I ate baby octopus brains and eyeballs. They were crunchy and slippery.)

Boat Slip, Annapolis

Larry on the beach

Grilled baby octopus, tentacles, brains and all

Day 3: Manassas, Virginia to see the Bull Run/Manassas Civil War Battlefield, Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia for a wine tasting (bonus: our friend Maggie’s mom was the pourer!), and lunch and shopping in Middleburg. We even found homemade marshmallows from a little store in Middleburg.

Cannons

Bull Run/Manassas Battlefield

I tried to get them to stay another day, but they have, like, responsibilities or something.

Raku in Bethesda

  • Posted on March 11, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Today we walked to “New Bethesda” in search of bread and some lunch. We planned on getting a freshly baked loaf of bread from Spring Hill Bread Company but found out when we got there that they are closed on Sundays. Because really, who wants fresh bread on Sundays?

We planned on going to Green Papaya, a Vietnamese restaurant, but of course, they are closed for lunch on Sundays. 0 for 2. So we walked around the corner to Raku on Woodmont Avenue, an Asian restaurant I’ve been dying to try since we moved to Bethesda three and a half years ago.

We sat at the bar, facing a messy back counter with Starbucks cups and boxes of straws. Not the best seat in the house, but it was either that or practically at the same table as another couple eating lunch—this place is pretty small. I ordered a Coconut Red Curry Soup with Buckwheat Noodles and Chicken, and Larry had the Tokyo Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura. We also got a Wasabi Sushi Roll with salmon, tuna, wasabi-infused topiko and some other fish. (I forget, sorry.) Everything was really delicious. (Although it was very messy—does anyone have any suggestions on how to eat noodle soup without splattering, slurping and sucking? My shirt got hit with about seven red curry splashes.)

Wasabi Roll

Tokyo Noodle Soup with Tempura Shrimp

Coconut Red Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken

I can’t believe we’ve never eaten here before—we’ll definitely be back. I don’t know if I’d consider it one of the Top 100 Restaurants in DC, although the Washingtonian included it on their exclusive list earlier this year. But it was inexpensive and tasty. That’s good enough for me.

David Fincher, I am disappointed in you

  • Posted on March 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Yesterday we went to the early show of Zodiac at the Bethesda Row Cinema. I had been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I hadn’t read any of the reviews before seeing the movie, so as not to be influenced by anyone’s opinion. All I knew was that it is based on a true story of a serial killer from the 1970’s. The director, David Fincher, is one of my favorite directors-he also directed Se7en, Fight Club, The Game and Panic Room. Se7en is one of my favorite movies, and Fight Club is just freakin’ awesome. And, Zodiac stars the handsome and talented Jake Gyllenhaal—so I was certain I was going to love the movie.

Well, I was wrong. Oh David Fincher, what happened to you? Why did you disappoint me so much with this boring movie? How could this movie have come from the same man that made the cinematic achievement of Se7en, an incredible film-noir, gritty, terrifying and engrossing movie where he mastered the skill of creating the illusion and threat of violence without showing much of it?

Zodiac has several problems. For one, it is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. I looked at my watch far too often, counting down the minutes until it was finally over (oh god, two more hours of this…an hour and a half…an hour and fifteen minutes…) Please, someone make another cut of the movies and take out all the pointless dialogue in the middle, and the scenes of the two detectives chasing leads and getting nowhere, and instead focus on the more interesting story of Robert Graysmith, the cartoonist from San Francisco who takes it upon himself to solve the crime—that would make the movie quite a bit shorter.

But had it been shorter, I’m still not sure I would have enjoyed it. The story lacks suspense, it has no plot devices that bring the viewer into the story, and I felt no sympathy or even connection to any of the characters. It was like watching a bland true-crime drama on the history channel, where not even the murder scene recreations are exciting. And since they never caught the killer, one fact I did know about the case beforehand, it was pretty evident that the movie wouldn’t have any real resolution.

It just wasn’t good.

(And while I’m ranting, I might as well add that I HATE the bathrooms at the Bethesda Row Cinema. The toilets are about two inches from the stall doors, which means that you don’t have much room for your knees while you’re doing your business, especially if you “hover.” And, once you’re in, you’re in. You have to practically straddle the toilet or stand on it just to be able to open the door to get out. Ew. I’m sure I’ll be having nightmares about that whole experience.)

One redeeming thing about the whole experience is that we had lunch at Cactus Cantina after the movie. That was good.