Sunday Sessions, What I'm Eating

The Thanksgiving Menu I Won’t Be Making

We’re just a little more than a week out from Thanksgiving and this year will be a quiet one for our family. Just a few weeks ago, all 11 of us (including grandma!) gathered in a cabin in West Virginia for a long weekend together. Each family was responsible for one meal during our visit and the result was a pretty happy array of food (not to mention shared responsibility). We had burgers and hot dogs on the first night (turns out grilling in freezing temperatures is kind of thrilling), pancakes for breakfast the next day, sandwiches and pitas for lunch, chili and grilled cheese for dinner, and bagels and fruit the final morning. Everyone was asked to bring their favorite snack, which meant the entire kitchen island became a trove of candy and cookies and chips of every kind.

The cabin ended up being a great idea. We built a fire in the fire pit, made gooey s’mores, played card games, slept in. We watched Hocus Pocus (which…did not scare my niece and nephew), and the kids chased Jack until he finally just hid under the table for the duration.

I wasn’t sure why at the time, but when we first started planning the family weekend in late summer, something told me we really needed to have it before the holidays. Later we would learn that two family members would need surgery in the weeks before Thanksgiving, meaning this year’s holiday will need to be a low-key affair.

So, we’re sticking with the basics this year: turkey and ham, cranberry sauce from the can, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, deviled eggs, broccoli casserole, and rolls. We’ll probably make David’s famous sweet potato casserole, and spinach balls too. If I have it in me, I’ll make a pie. If not, I live in New York City and will pick one up from Petee’s or Juniors or Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

But if I were adding something new to the table this year, it would probably be any one of the dishes below, which feel just a little risque for Thanksgiving and that makes them perfect.

Happy eating dear ones.

Breakfast

Appetizers

Sides

Desserts

The Next Day

Standard
Adams Morgan, What I'm Eating

Definitively the Best Coffee in DC

The Wydown Iced Coffee

In late 2016, Prince of Petworth surveyed about 2,800 District residents about their coffee preferences.  Having tried 31 of the 46 coffeeshops listed, I feel qualified to have an opinion (although none of my favorites even broke the top 5).

If you’re just here to visit, I’m sorry to tell you that some of the best coffee shops are tucked away in neighborhoods not easily found by tourists, and, in my opinion, that’s okay. The Starbucks you’ll find near your hotel is a lot like McDonalds—you know exactly what they offer and can pretty much assume it will be the same no matter where you are. When you’re new to a town, there is a certain comfort in not having to guess what awaits you.

If, on the other hand, a special coffee drink is part of your travel plans, you’ve arrived at the right place.

Iced Coffee

Vigilante

For a coffee shop featuring their own locally roasted beans, Vigilante is one of the best. Their headquarters in Hyattsville, MD, is a sweet little spot to grab a kolache and a cup of joe. Their iced coffee growlers are a great deal–buy the first for $10, refills are only $6. For me, a growler usually lasts the better part of a week. The iced coffee here is nothing fancy, just incredibly consistent and well-built. You can also find Vigilante at Eastern Market on the weekends.

Dolcezza

There are few places I’ve found that offer a more full-bodied cup of iced coffee than Dolcezza. Their cold brew is made with Stumptown beans (a rather rare find, actually) and has a deep, dark, caramel flavor that can almost be described as thick. This is not an iced coffee that is easily watered down. While you’re there get the gelato, but skip the stale pastries.

Runners up:

A Baked Joint: I hate that I’m immediately surrounded by cement when I walk in the door, but damn, they make a good cup of iced coffee. And sandwiches. And desserts.

Chinatown Coffee: This place is no frills and sometimes you need that. Just a straightforward cup of iced coffee that will leave you vibrating with caffeine.

Espresso

Filter Coffee

When it comes to ordering espresso drinks, the less fussy, the better. I commonly order one of two espresso drinks when I’m out—a European-style cappuccino or an Americano. The former is tough to come by, with many coffee shops favoring those enormous latte-like “cappuccinos” popular at Starbucks the world over. No, the perfect cappuccino is served in a small glass or cup and has less milk, more soft foam; Filter gets that.

I’m almost hesitant to tell you about this darling little spot because I want to keep it all my own. The team is smart and unpretentious. Sure, they like coffee, but more importantly they like people. They serve Ceremony coffee here, which does not usually count me among their fans, but Filter makes it work.

The Wydown

If Filter is a tucked away hidden gem, The Wydown is a well-known hot spot. While they also pull an excellent cappuccino, lately I’ve been heading to The Wydown for their equally excellent Americano. With a drink containing only espresso and water, there is nothing to hide behind—luckily, they don’t need to. The Wydown serves a variety of beans, but their house bean comes from Heart. Get a trendy biscuit or the scone with your coffee, and admire the coffee-splatter artwork on the walls. Thank me later.

Runners Up

The Coffee Bar: Their house bean is Ceremony, but thanks to some recent rotations, including a nice run with Onyx, they’re on the up and up.

Colony Club: I’m annoyed by how hip this place is because it’s also basically the most serene spot in all the city. During the week there are no lines, just you and the barista and some coffee.

Experimental Coffee Drinks

There are a couple of places in D.C. that are experimenting with traditional coffee flavors and I love their innovation. Even if the drinks don’t ultimately suit me, sometimes it’s fun to try something different.

La Colombe

If you dig dairy in your coffee, definitely try the (iced) Draft Latte at Philly transplant La Colombe.

Sweet Science

You’ll have to see what’s on the menu when you arrive, but I’ve loved trying their “cafe noir,” a cappuccino with extra thick foam and black chocolate shavings.

Standard
What I'm Eating

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Planning

Cranberry Curd Tart from New York Times

Cranberry Curd Tart | New York Times

There is no time to be humble at Thanksgiving, friends. It’s a ruthless holiday, one where the turkey you spent hours cooking will be a few sparse bones in a matter of minutes. Take the help where you can.

The New York Times has a lovely interactive menu planner. From tutorials on the basics, to more ambitious fare, and even a full vegetarian menu—it’s worth taking a browse. While you’re there, look for the magnificent cranberry curd tart pictured above, and these hashed brussels sprouts.

Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving section is a great place to find for something special to add to an otherwise traditional menu and The Kitchn‘s helpful countdown timeline can help shore up timing on the day of the Big Meal.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these Thanksgiving collections from Cookie and Kate, Minimalist Baker (vegan), A Couple Cooks and The Bitten Word.

 

I have one more recipe coming for you tomorrow, but for now, dear ones, I hope you’re starting to wind down work for the week and giving yourself over to the warm feels of the holiday season.

Standard
What I'm Eating

Margaret’s Spinach Balls

Spinach

Here is a truth that no one told me. The first holiday with your in-laws is tough. You love them. They’re good people. But their traditions? They are not the same as yours. And no matter how hard you try to be open-minded, you can’t deny you have a certain opinion about whether the mashed potatoes should be creamy or lumpy.

If you’re lucky, over time, your traditions and their traditions merge. These spinach balls represent that merger. His mom makes them often when we visit and David loves them. While I usually enjoy one or two, David is likely to have made the entire tray disappear before our very eyes.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no one can make it better than mom. Not peanut butter and jelly, and certainly not spinach balls. And that’s okay.

These are a solid appetizer, friends, and I hope you enjoy making them part of your holiday tradition as much as I have.

Margaret’s Spinach Balls

Ingredients

  • 2-10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well drained
  • 2 cups Pepperidge Farm seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 6 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients, then roll into medium size balls (about the size of a large tablespoon). Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 10-15 min. These also freeze well.

Note: If you use Pepperidge Farm seasoned stuffing mix, make sure to get the one in the blue bag—it best matches the flavor you want here. As an alternative, you can also use Panko breadcrumbs, but you miss out on some of homey flavors of the stuffing.

Bonus tip from David: Dip your spinach balls into whatever sweet potato mixture you have nearby. Doesn’t matter if it has pecans or marshmallows, just do it.

Standard
What I'm Eating

Grandma’s Macaroni and Cheese

Grandma

One of my favorite people.

If we’re picking desert island foods, mine would probably include macaroni and cheese. There is something so appealing—so downright comforting—about a massive pot of yellow noodles.

My Grandma is a depression-era baby and it has given her a sense of efficiency that I envy. Take her macaroni and cheese recipe, for example. If you’re making a big pot of this stuff for your loved ones, it’s probably going to be only one of the dishes you’ve got to put on the table by dinner. Grandma has artfully found a way to transition this dish to the crock pot so it can keep warm while you focus on everything else. I love that.

Grandma’s Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup macaroni
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 16 oz box of Velvetta cheese, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add macaroni to boiling water. If you’re planning to let macaroni warm in the crock pot, I recommend cooking pasta to al dente in this first stage. Drain pasta.

Move noodles to crockpot and turn on lowest setting. Add milk to the macaroni, followed by cubes of delightful American cheese product. Stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Macaroni and cheese will keep warm until you’re ready to serve it.

 

Standard
What I'm Eating

Chocolate Cream Pie

It’s Thanksgiving season and my stomach rumbles just thinking about it. Between now and November 26, I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes that belong on your family menu.

 

No Bake Chocolate Cream Pie

Image courtesy of Bon Appétit

This “No-Bake Chocolate Cream Pie With Toasted Meringue” from Bon Appétit is a beautiful and reasonable addition to your Thanksgiving dinner. The no-bake quality means it can be made ahead, with the Toasted Meringue assembled later. If, though, you’re like me and lack a blow torch, swap out the meringue for stiff peaks of whipped cream and shave dark chocolate on the top.

Standard