So…This Is Awkward

We have another winner! Since the mysterious Webtekplus never responded to win his/her copy of Fed, White, and Blue, I picked another lucky winner- and it’s Steve of the blog Steve’s Been There! If you could shoot me an e-mail at afamishedfoodie (at) gmail (dot) com or through my ‘Contact Me’ page, I’ll get back to you about how to claim your prize. You have a week…and if you don’t respond, I’m just shipping this book to a random U.S. address because I am not doing this all over again. Happy Tuesday!

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Reminder and Some Shameless Plugging

So, Webtekplus, who very well may not be real now that he/she/it hasn’t responded to the Fed, White, and Blue giveaway win, has until tonight to send me an e-mail at afamishedfoodie (at) gmail (dot) com before I pick a new winner. If I do pick a new winner, it will be announced on another post tomorrow.

Also, since I’m not posting just two sentences this morning, I’m just going to throw some links on here for my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’m just as amazing on all of them, though my Facebook numbers are a little sad. Hopefully, we can connect on one of those platforms as well since I have no idea how these two jobs are going to impact the frequency of my blog posts! I’m going to say right now that I’ll hopefully have a review up on Wednesday, but we all witnessed how that was a lie last time….

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Breakfast at Knead Bagels (Philadelphia, PA)

I am such a liar. If my name wasn’t Jaleh, it would be Charles Ponzi. Or, maybe ‘Jaleh’ means ‘lie’ in Farsi and no one ever bothered to tell me the truth. Either way, I lied the other day when I said this post would be going up on Wednesday. I started two jobs, have been shoving food into my mouth during quick breaks, and all of the sudden, as I was driving home last night, I thought ‘good gosh, it was Wednesday ages ago.’ So, here’s my post about Knead Bagels, which I visited all the way back on the coldest day of the year a couple of months ago.

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Normally I believe that bread is a hindrance to the yummy things you put on it. I want a sharp slice of white cheddar and I want to taste all of its power. I want a mound of crab dip on the tiniest slice of French baguette I can find. The only exception to this rule is cream cheese, which I love smooshed between two slices of a toasty bagel. Luckily enough for this bagel-lovin’ chica, I can satisfy this need to smoosh with Knead. Did that sound dirty? I feel like the two episodes of Jersey Shore that my classless sister made me watch used the word smoosh to refer to naughty things. I may be wrong, but I think this paragraph marks both the beginning and end of my relationship with smooshing.

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Now, for those of you who haven’t hit the unsubscribe button, I will tell you that Knead Bagels was awesome. They had cool, hipstery cream cheeses, including kimchee and scallion lime, but the people were also super nice, so I didn’t care that I was surrounded by a bunch of guys with beards and girls who probably paid a lot of money to look like they had no money at all.  Ordering the Fennel Seed & Sea Salt Bagel with Roasted Tomato Cream Cheese, I spent the next few minutes explaining to everyone that worked there how the heck one pronounces ‘Jaleh.’ At a place like Knead, where the people seemed to genuinely enjoy chit-chatting, I didn’t mind doing this. Yet, my name is always ‘Julie’ in Starbucks, so clearly not everyone is worthy of talking to me about how great my name is.

When I was presented with my brown bag housing a warm, fragrant bagel, I had intended to take it somewhere else to enjoy, but was so impatient that I plopped myself down and dug right in at the shop. The intensity of the tart yet sweet cream cheese along with the fennel seed made this one of the more memorable bagels of my life. The slight chewiness of the bread was another high point as it allowed me to savor my breakfast and really appreciate each layer of flavor that hit my awaiting tongue.

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There are a lot of okay bagel huts out there, and several good ones, but this was the best bagel I’ve had in Philly. I won’t lie (for once) and say that I’ve tried every bagel in Philadelphia, but as of right now, this is number one on my list. I love the innovation behind their bagels because they promise a powerful flavor profile that could wake anyone up. However, I also appreciate that Knead just makes things well. I don’t care how great a restaurant’s imagination is, if the food sucks, it’s not worth it…and I think I just came up with my new motto for life.

Knead Bagels on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Restaurant, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

And the Winner Is…

The winner of my Fed, White, and Blue giveaway is Webtekplus! Congrats (even if your name kind of sounds like spam, haha). If you could shoot me an e-mail at afamishedfoodie (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll tell you about the next steps. You have a week to get back to me before I pick a backup winner.

For those of you who missed my original review of the book, you can find the article here. To everyone else, thanks for entering and keep an eye out for future giveaways. I’ll be back tomorrow with a much delayed review of Knead Bagels in Philly.

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Book Review + Giveaway: Fed, White, and Blue

Simon Majumdar is someone of whom I was only superficially aware before picking up his newest novel, Fed, White, and Blue. As my sister and her boyfriend marathoned Cutthroat Kitchen the evening after I received the book, I walked in, looked at the screen, and said “Wow, those ears really are quite large.” I had only gotten as far as Alton Brown’s foreward at that point and hadn’t quite believed his joke about this likable Brit’s unfortunate ears. For a man so passionate about food, a Pinocchio nose or globe-sized mouth would have been more appropriate. Looks aside, this is a book about discovering America through its food, a mission of which everyone should be envious (and if you’re reading this blog, I know you’re already green with envy as you think about it).

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Taking on the cuisine of America is no easy task. There are 50 states, tons of chains, and a melting pot to consider. Thankfully, Simon isn’t dining at the places that put ahi tuna on the menu because some restaurateur knows it will sell; he’s visiting locations that represent the heart of American food.

From the Bronx to Nebraska to K-Town, the breadth, depth, and complexity of American food is highlighted. What Majumdar is able to convey in roughly 300 pages is that there are both good and bad aspects of food and food production in this country, but that behind all food we eat, there are the people. While the food is important, it’s these people who create it and those who eat it that make America what it is.

The biggest strength of this book is how much one can learn and experience through Simon’s words. I’ve spent years in Philadelphia and had no idea there was a huge event called a Wing Bowl. And really, I should have known because what’s more American than a wing eating contest in the city commonly associated with Ben Franklin? Not only does he dive right in to these kinds of events, he also takes the time to learn about the people who attend them. From trying to impress his wife’s family with Filipino food to fishing with a man called The Rebel, this journey pops when Majumdar examines the personalities that make America unique. Willing to explore all the diverse nooks, crannies, and dive bars, he underscores how all of the different aspects of America come together to create its blended culture.

Not only is he able to connect with the country and its food in a noteworthy way, he’s able to do it while poking fun at himself. He’s got that dry, self-deprecating humor that is normally associated with Brits, and it makes his journey all the better. Who wants to read about a guy who seamlessly travels around and effortlessly understands it all? Not I. He stumbles around a bit, sometimes looks like a fool, and has a great time doing so.

While Majumdar is clearly intent on connecting with American people and their culture, not all sections of the book are wholly engaging. The weakest chapters are those where Simon doesn’t know his hosts that well. His experience in Nebraska, while interesting for anyone who wants to learn more about the turbulent beef industry, feels impersonal. For all of the importance that the 4th of July holds, his celebration of the holiday in Minnesota doesn’t read all that exciting. He doesn’t quite connect with all the people he meets during the trip. It might be because he doesn’t spend enough time with them or the simple fact that we humans don’t click with everyone we come across, but either way, these parts detract from the whole. Luckily, these weaknesses don’t encompass the entirety of the book, and for the most part, I want to knock back beers and inhale some delicious kosher BBQ with Simon and the people he meets.

This is a quick read that will leave both Americans and foreigners with a desire to discover the varied food of the United States. Those who believe that Big Macs are the USA’s true blue food only need to pick up this book to realize otherwise. The man has a thirst for knowledge that I haven’t encountered before. He wants to taste it all, hear it all, and know it all, but somehow doesn’t seem pretentious. Whether you want to read it cover to cover or delve into specific chapters over and over again, Fed, White, and Blue highlights the culture of America through its food, and you’ll come away understanding the USA in a new way, which is a takeaway that makes the whole book a success.

Now, for the best part! I have a copy to use as a giveaway to one lucky reader (though I am not sure why anyone considered lucky is reading my blog). I thought I’d make it a little fun, so any U.S. resident who wants to enter should just leave a comment below naming the U.S. city that seems like it has the most interesting foodstuff to explore. Entries should be in by 11:59 PM EST on April 5, 2015. Good luck!

This book was kindly provided to me by Avery Books; All opinions are my own. 

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Happy Hour at V Street (Philadelphia, PA)

For the first time in the history of my life, I stuck with the happy hour deals when I recently went out for an early bar bite. Well, almost. But I am getting better and that’s all that matters! The spot where I was so close to finally sticking to the happy hour menu was V Street, the second restaurant from the wonderful team behind Vedge. Drawn to it partially because it was new to me and partially due to the frigid February weather, I stopped into this small restaurant around Rittenhouse to grab some food and suck down a cocktail before running back to my room to dive under the covers.

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After walking in and spending roughly twenty minutes taking off all of my winter gear, I plopped myself down and easily decided which snacks I would order. I ended up opting for two $5 plates, the 5:00 Sichuan Soft Pretzels and Batada Bites. Slightly chewy with an intense sprinkle of black salt, the two pretzels were offset by the tang of ginger mustard. Still, it didn’t offer any new spins on this classic street food. The batada bites, on the other hand, were golden and crunchy yet smooth and flavorful on the inside. Comforting without being too familiar, these were not boring and were my favorite of the night. Those who think just switching to a diet of vegan food will help them lose weight only need look to these bites to understand otherwise. It was dirty and meant for those looking to indulge, which suited me perfectly.

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Of course, if you know me at all, you know that I washed this all down with a gin cocktail, especially considering the saltiness of my food. When my eye spied the Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Dagger, I knew I had found my beverage, even if it wasn’t one of the interesting happy hour deals. Featuring gin, cocchi, and yellow mustard before being garnished with a pickle, it didn’t really sound that appetizing to me, but I couldn’t deny my curiosity. Unsurprisingly, this was all about the mustard, and I could imagine drinking this one down with a stadium hot dog at a baseball game (not that I go to those sorts of things). On its own, the food would have been too salty and the cocktail a too-intense mess, but they came together beautifully and made for an interesting pairing on my night out.

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While the food was good yet a bit unremarkable, the bartenders only left me with a bad feeling in my mouth. I admittedly like to talk a lot, but I don’t expect my bartenders to stand there and gab with me the entire evening. However, I was the only person sitting at the bar and the two bartenders hardly spared me a glance. The man who eventually served me had the look of a lumberjack and the attitude of a hipster. Restrictive is the word that comes to mind when I think back on that evening. Maybe he could sense that I wasn’t a vegan and that was why everything was done in perfunctory manner. I didn’t belong to the club of people who needed places like V Street, so I wasn’t welcomed. It might have been as simple as him being a bad bartender though. I’ll probably never know. Either way, Grizzly Adams didn’t make me want to return.

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V Street isn’t a place to which I’ll be rushing back, though if friends wanted to go, I’d tag along. With so many phenomenal options around Rittenhouse, this experience was forgettable at best and depressing at worst. I won’t be dreaming about the bites I had, I won’t be coming back just to continue a conversation with a bartender, and this won’t be my first choice when I’m craving something exclusively vegan. There are better bites, friendlier bartenders, and more delicious vegan options blocks away from this spot, so that’s where I’ll be going whenever I want to eat radishes in new ways or try a dessert that doesn’t include a pound of eggs. When I go out, I want to unwind and enjoy myself, and unfortunately, V Street didn’t allow me to do that.
V Street on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bar, Cocktails, Food, Happy Hour, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Restaurant, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beers at Rustico (Arlington, VA)

I get bored easily. This is a fact that probably doesn’t bode well for future relationships. However, it does make trying new food and drink exciting. Sure, I get caught up in ordering the deviled eggs that appear on every menu nowadays and will grab a Blue Moon every so often, but for the most part, I want to experience innovation.

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Recently, I tried a few beers when I went to an Arlington spot called Rustico with my uncle. I tasted a dark, caramelly one and I sipped a soft wheat beer, but what I really want to talk about is a brew that was different from anything I’d ever had before. By the end of our time there, I moved on to the completely individual Femme Fatale Brett, which I ordered 90% for its name, 5% for its description, and 5% for the fact that it was served in a tulip glass. Tart and funky was the perfect descriptor; it couldn’t have smelled more like grapefruit if I had stuck my nose right into one while wearing grapefruit lotion and washing my hair with grapefruit shampoo. This crisp choice the color of aged gold was an American IPA with 6% APV. Also, did I mention the grapefruit flavor? I probably wouldn’t have been able to down a second, and it lent itself more to a humid summer day over a frigid February, but it was fun and youthful, certainly one to try.

For people who love experimenting with new beers, whether they are strong IPAs or silky stouts, Rustico is a nice option. With prompt yet laid back service, TVs churning out lots of sporting events, and a long industrial bar, this is a spot that lacks atmosphere, but it’s also a good provider of distinctive brews in the Arlington area, which is good enough to bring me back.
Rustico on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bar, Beer, Washington D.C. | Tagged , , | Leave a comment