Friday, May 28, 2010


My sister, Virginia, lives in Virginia, close to Washington D.C. (Fairfax County). At the end of our busy days, we mostly just wanted dinners in comfortable local spots.

I know that many visitors to the D.C. area choose to stay in Fairfax County where there is easy access to the Metro into Washington D.C. but where hotel rates may be less expensive than staying in Washington. With this in mind, these are a few suggestions of places to dine after a busy day of seeing the sights.

ANITA'S "New Mexico Style" Mexican Food.

Anita's has eight locations in Northern Virginia. We ate at the one in Burke, VA, which is nearest to Virginia's house.

There is a real Anita, who,in 1974, after her husband was transferred to Washington, D.C. from Albuquerque, New Mexico,
decided to open a carry out restaurant in Vienna, VA, where she featured the family New Mexican recipes that she so enjoyed and missed.

While Virginia has passed her local Anita's hundreds of times, she's never tried it. It was my seeing it listed in the AAA guide book to Virginia that brought it to our attention. I was more curious than anything else about why AAA may have singled out Anita's. After our dinner at Anita's, several locals told me that they have been eating at Anita's regularly for years. Anita's serves Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Most locations serve all three meals every day, but the Burke one is now serving breakfast only on the weekend.

Although the Burke restaurant was not very busy the evening we dined here, the customers seemed to be "regulars" and there was a steady stream of takeout business.

Virginia ordered the New Mexico Combo of a Chile Relleno, a Pork Tamale, a Chicken Enchilada, a Beef Taco, Spanish Rice, and Beans. It was a lot of food (she took some home) but a perfect way to sample several menu items.

My choice was the Pollo Adovada, a Grilled boneless chicken breast which had been marinated in red chile sauce. It was served on Spanish Rice and with a small salad, guacamole, and a Chicken Flauta.

Both meals were delicious and reasonably priced at about $11 each.


Noodles & Company is a national chain of restaurants featuring noodle dishes. Customers order at the counter and seat themselves. Orders are brought to your table. The formula is simple, choose a noodle dish from your choice of Asian, Mediterranean, or American selections. Decide between a Small or Regular serving. And, optionally, customize your dish with Chicken, Beef, Shrimp, or Tofu selections. More cheese and more fresh veggies are other additions. There are a few side dishes and, for those not wishing noodles, there are meal-sized salads in each of the three cuisines.

Our choices were Penne Rosa for Virginia...spicy tomato cream sauce with mushrooms, tomato, and spinach. She added the suggested "customize" of Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast.

My choice was the Pad Thai to which I added Sautéed Shrimp.

Noodles & Company offers a variety of beverages including beer and wine. I was happy to discover that a tasty glass of wine was $5 a glass, a reasonable price for wine that accompanies a modestly-priced meal in a casual restaurant. I wish more restaurants of this sort realized that a glass of wine should not cost more than the meal itself.


The evening we met our friend Anita for dinner, she suggested Kazan, which is located near her office in McLean and which is one of her longtime favorites.

Kazan features Turkish and Mediterranean Cuisine. This family-run restaurant is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Based on Kazan's unpretentious exterior and location in the equally unpretentious McLean Shopping Center, I never would have discovered this restaurant on my own. I am grateful to Anita for introducing me to Kazan. I certainly plan to return.

In contrast to the exterior, the atmosphere in the two dining areas is cozy and inviting. Service is attentive and friendly.

To start our meal, we shared an order of Fried Calamari. While this does not sound like the most Turkish of dishes, I had read several recommendations for Kazan's Calamari and Anita concurred. We were happy.

Both Anita and Virginia chose the Grilled Atlantic Salmon for their main courses. it was served with rice pilaf and fresh Broccoli.

My choice was the day's Fresh Fish Special which was baked stuffed Tilapia. it was stuffed with Spinach and very delicious.

Not wanting to miss out on trying Kazan's famous Orange Baklava...made with fresh phyllo dough and not overly sweet...we decided to share a serving. Our server suggested we try the evening's Baklava variation, flavored with Pomegranate instead of orange marmelade. We went with his recommendation. I usually find Baklava gooey and too sweet. But, Kazan's variation on this classic is light, flaky and delicious. Sorry, I have no photo of dessert; we started eating as soon as it was brought to the table and, then, it was gone.

For a final bit of Turkish trivia, a Kazan is a special chafing dish that was used to prepare food for the Sultan at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.


On the Sixth Floor of Macy's on Union Square in San Francisco, chef Hubert Keller has opened his third Burger Bar.

Jim and I discovered the first Burger Bar at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas right after it opened a few years ago. And, we were hooked on how good the food is and how much fun it is to eat there. Since then, whenever we are in Las Vegas, we take time for a lunch at Burger Bar.

The story behind Burger Bar is that while Chef Keller was waiting for the opening of his fancy Las Vegas restaurant, a second version of his signature San Francisco restaurant, Fleur de Lys, he decided, on a whim, to experiment with a casual burger joint in the Mandalay Bay's shopping mall. His Burger Bar was meant to be a temporary restaurant until the other restaurant was completed. But, it was such a success, it has remained and thrived.

There is another Burger Bar in St. Louis, and the newest is in Macy's, occupying a spacious spot overlooking Union Square. The first dining area is shared with the bar. Seating is at the bar and at high tables. The main dining room has a combination of tables and high wooden booths. There is a TV tuned to ESPN on the wall of each sound, but sports for your background.

I stopped there for lunch yesterday and was delighted.

I must admit that I rarely eat beef. But I like a burger made of other ingredients such as turkey or veggies. Burger Bar's Veggie Burger is a wonderful made-in-house mixture of Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, Lentils, Green Peas, Brown & White Rice, Pumpkin Puree, Potato, Bread Crumbs, and Mozzarella Cheese. As I looked at the menu, I debated between the Veggie and the Turkey burgers. All burgers are served on your choice of bun, with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion. The basic non-beef burgers are priced at around $8.50.

Of course there are specialty burgers that go all the way up in price to $60 for the Kobe Beef burger that is garnished with Sautéed Foie Gras, Shaved Truffles, and Madiera sauce. The basic Angus Beef Burger is $9.75.

Side dishes include French Fries, Onion Rings, and Sweet Potato Fries. Sides are mostly priced around $3.50 for a generous servings. There is ketchup and mustard on each table. More exotic toppings can be ordered for small added charges.

So after perusing the main menu, still thinking Veggie vs. Turkey, and deciding on a side of Sweet Potato Fries, I noticed a separate menu of daily specials, each priced at $11.75 for some kind of sandwich with a side dish and a choice of hot or cold non alcoholic beverage. The Thursday special (I was there on Thursday), called the "Union Square," is a beef burger on sesame bun, Sweet Potato Fries, and a drink. Doing the math, I calculated that it would cost me less for the special than if I ordered my Burger with a side...and I had already ordered hot tea. So I asked my server if I could substitute a Whole Wheat Bun for the sesame bun. She told me I could not because the daily special burger and bun is smaller than that served à la carte. So, my next question was "How much smaller?" The special's burger is a 6-ounce burger and the à la carte burger is an 8-ounce serving.

Occasional meat eater that I am, but always thrifty diner, I decided that the smaller burger was more suited to my appetite and I knew that I could not get better prepared beef than what is served here, so I went for it and IT WAS WONDERFUL!! And, there was more than enough to eat.

One added observation: Lots of people where having Milkshakes with their time...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Virginia and I spent another whole day in Washington D.C. during my recent visit.

On this day, we took the Metro to Metro Center for our first stop: The New York Avenue Sculpture Project. As a member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is responsible for this project, I have been following the progress of this outdoor sculpture project which they are creating. The first phase of the project is four enormous sculptures by French-born artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

The sculptures have been placed on the median on the block of New York Avenue (between 12th abd 13th Streets) right outside the Museum. Three more phases of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, all featuring works by women artists, are planned so that outdoor art will line New York Avenue all the way to 9th Street.

We had a lot of fun viewing and walking around the fanciful Niki de Saint Phalle works.

Then we went into the Museum to view works by some of our some of our favorite artists which include

Frida Kahlo

and Camille Claudel.

It is believed, Camille, who was Rodin's mistress as well as student, did much of Rodin's work with no credit.

We stayed for lunch in their restaurant. This photo is from the museum's restaurant and shows the museum reflected in the building across the street.

From here we walked back toward the Mall to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery where I wanted to see the "Echoes of Elvis" exhibit.

There are several Elvis exhibits at various D.C. museums to celebrate that Elvis would have turned 75 years old this year.

The National Portrait Gallery shares a building with the National American Art Museum. As is the case with all Smithsonian museums, I often come in to view a specific exhibit but always find other exhibits that catch my attention. After wandering through the Portrait Gallery, we took what we thought would be a quick peek at the American Art, and wound up spending the rest of the afternoon there.

The "Remembering The Running Fence" exhibit brought back memories of when Christo and Jeanne-Claude ran their fabric fence through 24 1/2 miles of Sonoma and Marin Counties, working on it from 1972 to 1976.

We admired the beauty of the American Art's Great Hall

and enjoyed other works of art as well.

It seemed that throughout my visit to D.C. and Virginia, I was running into fellow Californians and things California. My biggest California surprise was on our way to the Portrait Gallery when we discovered the Cowgirl Creamery in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.

Cowgirl Creamery began in Point Reyes Station, California (west Marin County) in 1997 when owners Sue Conley and Peggy Smith started making hand-crafted cheese. From their beginning I've been a fan of their cheese and often take out of towners to their Point Reyes Station location to sample cheese, have a sandwich, and watch cheese being made. At the Ferry Plaza Marketplace in San Francisco, they have a second cheese shop. So, we made a stop at the D.C. shop, a delightful place with lots of cheese and other fancy food items. As is the case at all Cowgirl Creamery shops, you can sample many of the cheeses. While I was surprised to find the shop in D.C., I was enlightened that Sue Conley is originally from the D.C. area and much of her family is still in Washington and Maryland. And, Peggy Smith was raised in Northern Virginia. So both owners have reason to keep their roots in the D.C. area.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I am just back from a week and a half in Washington D.C. and Virginia. My sister Virginia, who lives in Virginia, and I spent two whole days in Washington D.C. where the weather mimicked the cold, rainy days that I left behind in Northern California. None the less, as "tourists" we were out and about and busy.

Whenever I am in D.C. I spend time at the Smithsonian museums. And, each time I visit, I am in awe of what a vast cultural and historical resource the Smithsonian is and that admission to its museums is FREE!

We started one day on the National Mall at the Smithsonian Metro station.

Before heading to Smithsonian museums, we walked to the relatively new World War II Memorial, which is part of the National Park System.

The Memorial officially opened in 2004 but this was the first time we have visited it. Strategically located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, it has been sunk down sufficiently as to block neither of those Memorials while providing views of both of them.

I was intrigued by the bas-relief plaques on either side of the Memorial's entry paths; they depict scenes of America at War.

The Freedom Wall consists of 4,000 gold stars commemorating the more than 400,000 Americans who died in World War II.

I observed many older people visiting the Memorial and overheard them recalling their experiences in the War. It's a very moving experience to make this visit as an American.

Even with heavy rain beginning, we managed to walk through the entire Memorial and to take a short guided tour with a US Park Ranger.

The expanse of the Mall always deceives me, just as walking around Paris always does. This is not a surprise since Pierre L'Enfant, a French artist and engineer who became friends with George Washington while serving in the Revolutionary War, designed both cities. The open space, combined with a lack of high-rise buildings always makes things seem closer than they are...that is, until you start walking from one place to another because it looks nearby and you are still walking half an hour later and still not there.

So, off we went in the rain from the World War II Memorial, past the Washington Monument and eventually arrived at the National Museum of American History.

My main reason to visit this particular museum, other than being hungry for lunch and that it was the closest one to the Washington Monument, was to visit Julia Child's Kitchen and to see the dresses that First Ladies wore to the presidential inaugural balls.

For me, a visit to Julia Child's Kitchen is a pilgrimage of sorts. I was living in Boston when Julia Child started her NPR television series. As a fund raiser for WGBH, the television studio allowed visitors to attend tapings of Julia's shows for a $10 fee. My friend Amy and I, Julia groupies from the start, went to as many tapings as we could. After the show was finished, we got to chat with Julia and husband Paul. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste any food; it was saved for the staff to enjoy.

Julia Child's kitchen at the Museum is the set that was used for her early TV shows. It is a duplicate of her home kitchen which was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Because many Julia fans like myself come to see Julia's Kitchen, I enjoyed talking with them and reminiscing about this one woman who shaped our culinary habits and interests, as much as I enjoyed looking at the exhibit.

We loved having an up-close look at Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball dress.

Interestingly, when we got the part of the American History Museum that paid tribute to the Apollo Theatre and black entertainers, we saw that the dresses that the Supremes wore when they performed at the Apollo were of similar fabric to that of Michelle Obama's dress...any connection here?

Just outside of the Apollo Theatre is the Greensboro Lunch Counter, where sit ins by black students took place in the 1960s as part of the Civil Rights movement. It was at this F.W. Woolworth's "whites only" lunch counter, on February 1, 1960, that four African American college students sat down and politely asked for service. When their request was refused, they remained in their seats. After six months of protests, this North Carolina lunch counter was desegregated on July 25, 1960. When the Greensboro Woolworth's closed in 1993, this small section of the lunch counter was donated to the Smithsonian.

While we were at the Lunch Counter exhibit, we were treated to musical entertainment by two Black singers who sang and talked about the struggles of Blacks in America.

We ended our day at the Museum of American History with a visit to Kermit the Frog, who reminded us that it is not easy being Green.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Ted would be 68 today. I still think I am going to see him on Sunday mornings at Farmer's Market and, later, for coffee at Whole Foods.

Last night we carried on our Ted Birthday tradition with a pizza dinner at Skipolini's.

Ray and Liz are now part of our celebration of Ted's life and his memory.

Ted, you are always part of our lives.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Melia and I like to meet from time to time for a cup of tea and an hour to two of conversation.

We meet everywhere from Whole Foods, to Peet's, to one of our homes. We like to try new places.

And now that Tea Culture has been published, I feel I have an obligation to try more and more tea places because people are asking me for recommendations and advice on where to have tea and what kinds of tea to drink.

I had recently read about The French Bakery in Lafayette. It is located in the building that housed Lisa's Tea Treasures, another tea room, several years ago. What intrigued me about The French Bakery is that it sells baked goods as well as serving lunch and afternoon tea. Another intriguing feature is that included in its tea selection are several teas from Mariage Frères, the French tea company whose teas I adore and whose teas are not sold very extensively in the United States, at least not in places near me.

I must preface my description of our visit to The French Bakery by saying that I don't go out for a full afternoon tea service very often, mainly because, the offerings are more than I generally want to eat if I am having dinner that evening. And, at least at local tea houses, the full tea service frequently includes more sweets than I prefer.

So, in anticipation of Melia and my tea visit, I called ahead to The French Bakery to ask if we could simply order a cup of tea with maybe a pastry or two. The person on the phone told us we could do that but then confused me by saying that it was advisable to make a reservation for one of their seatings. I did not reserve, but told Melia that if this did not work out, we could go to one of the nearby cafés where we knew we could order a cup of tea.

When we arrived at The French Bakery on a Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., there was nary a customer in the place. In fact, while we looked at the pastries and some of the tea items on diplay, there wasn't even an employee there to talk to us.

After a few minutes, someone came out to greet us and offered to seat us. This being a warm day, we asked to sit outdoors on the patio rather than at one of the formally-set tables in the several small rooms indoors. We also told her we were just going to order tea and a pastry.

She was agreeable and said it would be just a minute while she set a table for us. Well, rather than the bare lawn furniture that we expected, she covered the outdoor table with a table cloth and set the table with cloth napkins, silverware, and china cups. Still wondering exactly what we had gotten ourselves into, we ordered a pot of Mariage Frères Red Marco Polo tea and a scone for me and a little berry cake for Melia.

Everything was lovely. Our server offered to warm my scone and, for a few dollars extra, serve it with clotted cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd, each of which was served in a small ramekin.

We lingered over our tea for nearly two hours...a lovely way to relax and visit.

While we were the only customers for tea, we did notice a steady stream of people coming to buy baked goods from the bakery. Owner Lynn Appleton previously operated Pâtisserie Lafayette. At The French Bakery, she has combined her pastry shop with a tea room.

The Bakery serves lunch and afternoon tea/desserts. At the bakery counter there are a few informal tables for those who just stop in for a quick pastry and tea or even coffee. It is open every day but Monday from 11 a.m. (10 a.m. on Saturdays) until 5 p.m.