My First Apple Pie

18 01 2011

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to give birth to a really ugly baby. I know I’d still love the baby, obviously, but would I realize it was ugly, being overwhelmed with all the new mommy emotions? And if I did realize it was ugly, would I feel embarrassed about introducing it to other people and having to sit through their obligatory gushings over how cute it is when I know they think it’s ugly?

Well, I didn’t give birth to a baby this evening, unfortunately, so I can’t answer that question for anyone. But I did make my first apple pie from scratch, and man did it turn out ugly! In addition to not having enough dough to stretch all the way over the top of it, I didn’t have one of those brushes to brush the raw egg onto, so I just kinda plopped it on there with a fork and moved it around a little. In the end, the egg drippage and ill-fitting crust make for a mighty heinous looking pie, but don’t let that fool you. It tastes so delicious. In fact, it tastes better than skinny feels, so even Kate Moss can eat it.

Here’s a pictorial of the final stretch:

Assistant apple chopper, sampling the filling.

Holding my hideous, sweet-smelling pie, fresh out of the oven.

Kissing my newborn pie. Isn't she adorable, minus the disturbing egg drippage?

Uh oh, got excited and sliced in too soon!


Assistant chopper/pie elitist, visibly disappointed by her slice.

Admittedly, there were some adhesion issues.

Mmm, homemade apple pie with a baked egg film!  It almost feels like I gave birth to a really ugly baby, but I’m just so beaming and proud of the damn thing that I don’t care what anyone thinks.



25 01 2010

I remember when I was a wee teenager, and the Saints were so bad that they were the butt of all our jokes.

“Dad, can I have a car?”

“Sure… when the Saints win the Superbowl! BAHAHAHA!”

I remember when my grandmother, sitting in her 50-yard-line Superdome seats dressed head to toe in black and gold, shouted angrily at the Saints’ coach: “What are you, free-basing Prozac?!?!?” (To this day no one knows what she meant by that, but I’m pretty sure Reggie Bush’s parents, who were sitting directly behind her, got a huge kick out of it.)

For all my life, the Saints were affectionately known to most Louisianians as the “Ain’ts.” But as of last night, our luck has changed.  Put on your Sunday Best kids, THE SAINTS ARE GOIN TO THE SUPERBOWL!

My dad cried, Brett Favre limped off the field with his tail between his legs, and the city of New Orleans consumed more whiskey in one night than the whole nation consumed in 2009.  I don’t even want to think about what’s gonna go down if they actually win the Superbowl– but that’s a post for another day (fingers crossed.)

So, in honor of last night’s huge win against the Vikings, I’m going to give you all the secret to the easiest, most delicious queso dip you will ever scoop up with your chip:

LB's World Famous Ro-tell Dip

What you’ll need:

1 lb Velveeta cheese

1 can Ro-tell (diced tomatoes with green peppers)

1 microwaveable bowl


Cut Velveeta block into manageable cubes. Put them in the bowl.  Dump in Ro-tell tomatoes, juice and all.  Microwave a minute and a half, stir, repeat, until the diced tomatoes are evenly distributed and the cheese is fully melted.

Serve and enjoy.

This is Why America’s Fat

6 01 2010

Have you seen the commercial for Taco Bell’s new Drive Thru Diet? It’s a gem.

I honestly couldn’t tell whether the commercial was serious or not when I first saw it.  I thought it might be a spoof, so I rewound it a few times to watch it again, combing through it for hints of sarcasm.  Nope.  Dead serious.

I think it’s hilarious that the Taco Bell marketing team has Christina slip in little ambiguous lines to cover their asses, such as “These results are exceptional,” which could mean both “These results are fantastic!” and “These results will not happen for you!”

Taco Bell, the public is not as dumb as you think I wish I could say the public is not as dumb as you think, but unfortunately, there are millions of people out there who are just begging for a reason to continue eating and feeding their children fast food. You are all enablers, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I actually know someone who tried Taco Bell’s drive-thru diet.  She didn’t turn out to be one of the “exceptions”– but she’s only on day 4,567 of the diet, so there’s still room for improvement.

She was bummed she didn’t make it onto the “Drive-Thru Diet” commercial, especially considering how faithfully she’d followed the diet, but the Taco Bell marketing execs told her she wasn’t exactly the image they had in mind.

Taco Bell is revolting.  I used to eat it on the road sometimes when I was feeling especially hungry/lazy, until one day I ordered a Meximelt that tasted like petroleum.  Seriously, something was wrong with it. My stomach wasn’t the same for days.

I think that little “Yo quiero Taco Bell” chihuahua was the closest Taco Bell has ever come to an honest, effective campaign. Of course the chihuahua wants Taco Ball, their meat is only one grade above dog food!  (And let’s be honest– that commercial taught us all a little bit of Spanish!)

But with this campaign, Taco Bell marketing execs are preying on dumb people and blatantly contributing to this nation’s obesity problems.  How about instead of a “drive-thru diet,” we call it a walk-thru diet, but instead of walking thru Taco Bell, you walk thru a grocery store and buy yourself some squash.

Just a suggestion.

7 Lessons I Learned this Weekend

13 12 2009

On Saturday I invited eight people over for eggnog and charades, and 20 showed up.  I was underprepared for the crowd in terms of food, beverage and entertainment, so my hostessing turned into a bit of a clusterfuck.

For future reference:

1. If you bake a wheel of brie cheese at 400 degrees for 2 hours, it turns into a hockey puck.

2. If you put a bottle of spiced rum on the counter next to a pot of apple cider, the rum will be gone long before the cider.

3. Lebanese people love cream cheese.

4. Lebanese people do not love charades.

5. Vegan cupcakes are not nearly as delicious as regular ones, unless you can’t tell the difference because you’re on serious painkillers from a recent knee surgery.

6. If you turn your TV to the Christmas carols channel for musical entertainment, at least one person at the party will call you “gay” and promptly leave.

7. Whiskey and eggnog are only festive prior to entering your body.

Good to know.

Would you give up meat for Natalie Portman?

27 10 2009


Natalie Portman penned an article in the Huffington Post today about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals, which inspired her to “convert from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist.”  Throughout her impassioned article, she argues that we should all be vegan because animals have personalities and feel pain, because the torture of animals under mass farming is unacceptable, and because the consumption of meat is detrimental to our health.   She lists a number of health concerns, including the development of new bacterial strains due to the overuse of antibiotics on animals and the respiratory ailments caused by “the copious amount of pig shit sprayed into the air” on mass farms.

Portman then asserts that our food is reflective of our personal beliefs, and in this way, eating meat out of respect for one’s dinner host and tablemates when meat is served is akin to accepting rape to please one’s dinner hosts.  It’s a compromise of principles. 

The main problem with Portman’s argument is that she is confusing environmental health and animal abuse concerns with the general morality of eating meat.  It is possible to be an animal rights activist and still eat meat.  Those of us who are undoubtedly against mass farming and the animal torture it necessitates have the option to cook with only antibiotic-free, free-range chicken, or only wild fish, or only kosher beef.  

Environmental pollutants certainly do taint our food, but instead of arguing that we should stop eating fish as a result of water pollution, why don’t we work to combat the source of the problem?  Water pollution poisons fish, but it also poisons our drinking water.  E. coli taints spinach and tomatoes in the same way that it taints red meat.  To simply stop eating meat is to ignore the issues of pollution and irresponsible farming that are really causing all the health concerns.

If Portman is going to argue that eating meat is immoral because animals have personalities and feel pain, then she should embark on a mission to stop animals from eating each other.  When a coyote kills a cow, it hurts the cow just as much as when a  human slaughters it.  You can’t stop another species from ever feeling pain, and you can’t remove any species from the food chain for protection.

I respect veganism and vegetarianism as personal choices, but I have a hard time respecting those who judge and proselytize. The ability to be vegan is a privilege– there are whole communities of people that would not survive without the ability to eat meat, and millions of people here in America simply can’t afford to feed their families tofu, broccolini and whole grain rice every night.  So if you’re going to be an activist, protest the overuse of antibiotics on farms, or the unnecessary torture of chickens, or the fact that factories are allowed to dump their pollutants into the Great Lakes rather than the dietary habits of your neighbors.  

What do you guys think?  Would you give up meat for Natalie Portman?

Best Dives in the District

17 10 2009

D.C. is not exactly the world’s dive bar capitol.  Most bars in this city characterize themselves as clubs or lounges, where you’ll find so much hair gel that you could light a single match and the whole place would explode.  But there are definitely a few diamonds in the rough, and today’s post is a tribute to those D.C. dive bars that continuously manage to keep it real.

Before I deliver the gravy, we need to define what constitutes a dive bar.  A dive bar is the antithesis of a nightclub.  It should feel like a basement, where are all of your unemployed friends have gathered to booze and ramble.  A worthy dive should have a great jukebox (no DJ’s), a single grumpy bartender whose name you know, cheap beer, and a dirty, graffiti-riddled bathroom.  Lastly, and most importantly, a dive bar should be a little bit weird.  Be it the patrons, the bartender, or the décor, something about this place should scare away the amateur, mainstream bar-goers.

Alright, now that we’ve laid out some ground rules, I present you with the Best Dives in the District:

Best Overall Dive:

The Raven Grill

3125 Mt Pleasant St NW

Washington, DC 20010-2752


The Raven is dark, dingy and sprinkled with the dirtiest of hippies.  It’s tucked away between two hole-in-the-wall El Salvadorian restaurants in quiet Mt. Pleasant, difficult to find if you don’t know where you’re going.  The bartender is sufficiently bearded and cranky, PBR’s are two bucks, and the cash register is so dusty and outdated that the place can’t take credit cards.  Don’t expect any barfood- The Raven sells little bags of cheetos, cheap beers, and that’s pretty much it.  Oh, and there’s a fantastic jukebox.  It’s a glorious dive if you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of huge, obnoxious dive-wannabes in Dupont like Lucky Bar and The Big Hunt (gag).

Best Dive for a Rainy Day:

Toledo Lounge

2435 18th St. NW

Washington, DC  20009


Sweet Toledo– my personal favorite neighborhood dive.  I couldn’t rank it first because that would betray my bias, and honestly, Toledo’s über-crowded Adams Morgan location detracts from its dive points.  But considered on its own merit, Toledo is a damn fine contender.  Amazing jukebox, red-tinted lighting, janked-up booths that look like they’ve been slashed with pickaxes, WEIRD waitresses, and best of all: $2 drafts on rainy days!!!  It’s doesn’t get any better than that.

Plus, Toledo’s food is absolute crap (except for the delicious nachos), so they let you bring pizza in from nearby Jumbo Slice to satisfy your late-night munchies.  This easy, laid-back attitude is what it’s all about.

Best Weird Dive:

Galaxy Hut

2711 Wilson Blvd

Arlington, VA 22201


Galaxy Hut puts the “we” in “weird.”  I’m not even sure what that means, but the last band I saw there was wearing electric blue spandex, blowing bubbles into the air and playing unlikely Jimi Hendrix vs. Michael Jackson mash-ups.  Normally I wouldn’t consider a music venue a dive bar, but Galaxy Hut still qualifies based on its pinball and Ms. Pac-Man machines, cozy atmosphere, quirky patrons and creepy murals.  Live music is only played on Sunday and Monday nights, and you’ll never have to wait for a table or a spot at the bar.  Best of all, this extra-special dive is located in Arlington, which makes it even more intriguing and unexpected.

Best Liquor Dive:

Dan’s Café

2315 18th St. NW

Washington, DC 20009


How does this sound: a full glass of pure Jack Daniels, a full glass of Coke, 2 glasses of ice and a smile?  It may just sound like a waste of glasses to you, but if you enjoy pouring your own drinks, then look no further– Dan’s is the place for you.  The bartenders can’t be bothered with making mixed drinks because they’re too busy being awesome.

Best Secret Dive:

Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club


I’m sorry, to give you an address or website for this bad-ass spot would be to betray its secrecy.  All I will say is that it’s in Northeast DC, that it’s extremely difficult to find, and that it’s ideal to go post-midnight.  Ask around, if you’re interested.

These are the 5 winners.  I have purposely excluded some seemingly obvious choices, such as The Wonderland Ballroom and Stetsons, the former because it’s gotten too crowded and the latter because it tries too hard to be a cowboy saloon (uncool).  Aside from these, have I missed any of your favorites?

Restaurant Review: Ben’s Next Door

30 09 2009


Ben’s Next Door

1211 U St
Washington, DC 20009-4465
(202) 667-8880

For anyone who’s actually stuck out a 2-hour, post-midnight line at Ben’s Chili Bowl, the only thing more appetizing than an authentic Ben’s half-smoke at 2 a.m. is an authentic Ben’s half-smoke and a beer.

Enter Ben’s Next Door, a welcome alternative for fans of the original Bowl who don’t always feel like sitting on a picnic table in a puddle of someone else’s mustard. Owners Kamal and Nizam Ali, sons of the notorious “Ben,” hoped to complement their father’s successful dive with an upscale sister restaurant next door to the original.  But make no mistake—the only thing “Ben’s” about Ben’s Next Door is the bar menu, which offers Chili Bowl’s world-famous smokes, ‘dogs and burgers alongside an impressive draft list, nine flat-screen TV’s (why?!!!) and a number of clean places to sit.

Ben’s Next Door crackles with energy thanks to a young and trendy U-Street crowd, although the space itself seems conflicted.  In the front half of the restaurant, modern flat-screens face a sleek wall of black and white photos that nod to the rich history of the space, once owned by the immortal Jelly Roll Morton.  But in the back half of the restaurant, where the pricier menu is served, the warmth of burnt orange walls and a casual “How y’all doin?” staff is undermined by generic, corporate-style décor (didn’t I see those Peace, Love, and Relax signs at Bed Bath & Beyond last week?).

Unfortunately, this decorative imbalance is also reflected in the restaurant’s hit-and-miss menu.  While the brined fried chicken with braised kale evoke the bliss of a home-cooked meal in the Deep South, the so-called “perfect” mashed potatoes left this Southern girl grasping for a saltshaker.  The seared scallop and mushroom cream sauce appetizer really hit home, but the salmon entrée was overcooked, under-seasoned and altogether unremarkable. 

Next to nearby soul-food hotspot Marvin, Next Door’s food doesn’t hold a candle—and don’t expect to find Mr. Obama perched at a back table any time soon. But with a slew of fancy beers and a trapdoor to the Chili Bowl kitchen, this bar will never have to beg for customers.