Author Archives for A Capitol Contessa

About A Capitol Contessa

A woman who loves parties - both political and full of friends. I hope to inspire people to cook, entertain and have fun by sharing tips, tricks and mistakes along the way!

ACC’s 2017 Gift Guide

Somehow this year December just sort of snuck up on me so I was a bit behind the ball on gifts.  Usually I purchase them throughout the year when I find something just right, but on Thanksgiving I realized I had no gift pile started!  If you are in the same boat as me never fear – I have picked out a bunch of fun items at all price levels for friends and family that like eating, drinking and entertaining.  Happy holidays!

For your city dwelling cook – Food 52’s Grow-Anywhere Herb Grow Bar

506eff15-11b4-46f6-bb61-6bd9ecc22298--2017-1110_modern-sprout_growbar_mid_julia-gartland-314

This genius bar can be added right under your kitchen cabinets so you can have a thriving herb garden right in your own kitchen, no backyard or window required.

For your preppy entertainer – CB2’s Franklin Double Old Fashioned Glass

franklin-double-old-fashioned-glass

I love anything tortoise and these glasses have that great Ralph Lauren look to them (at a much more reasonable price).  They would be a great way to punch up your table as water glasses or as aptly named – for a delicious old fashioned.  I would love to see these under the tree (hint, hint).

For someone who has everything – William’s Sonoma Outdoor Pizza Oven

pizzeria-pronto-outdoor-pizza-oven-c

It’s pricey (around $300) but think how much you would save on delivery!  Also a great gift to go in on with other family members.  Our neighbors have a wood fired one and it’s really terrific but this one is even easier as you can hook it up to a propane tank just like a grill.

For the Scandal (or wine) fan – Crate and Barrel’s Camille Red Wine Glasses

camille-23-oz.-red-wine-glass

Yes these are the exact glasses that Olivia Pope comes home and swirls red wine in on her pristine cream colored couch (which may be the most unrealistic thing about the show).  I love how delicate they are with the large globe – these have been on my list for years but Patrick knows me well enough to know I would probably break them in a minute…

For the cocktail lover – Mouth’s Mini Gin Gift Pack

Koval_200ML_MiniGinTwoPack_Front_rtHR_675x400.progressive

There are so many great craft small batch spirits being made now and Mouth.com has a great selection.  I love the pretty bottles on a bar cart especially these gins made in Chicago.

For the book lover – l’appart or Rasika

 

I love getting cookbooks as I usually don’t buy them for myself – the Rasika Flavors of India book is an exception because I just had to run out and get the book from one of my favorite restaurants.  The book is beautiful and the recipes are a lot less complex than you would think.  David Lebovitz is a terrific American writer who lives in Paris and his new book is a funny and yummy look at his life there.  It also has some great recipes as well.

For your silly friend – Tukernuck’s Buzzed Cocktail Napkins

 

P1356-PRODUCT_LEAD--IMG_416--667689747

My friend Hilary LOVES entertaining gifts with funny sayings on them and I have been the lucky recipient of many (some of you may remember the “When I dip you dip we dip” dip bowl I have featured).  These cocktail napkins are a great stocking stuffer.

For pankcake lovers – Stonewall Kitchen’s New England Breakfast Gift

190725

My Aunt Janice got me this one year and it’s the perfect gift – we all end up feeling like we don’t need more “stuff” but who wouldn’t want yummy breakfast food?  Especially at a time of the year when you are bound to have more guests, this is a great gift from a delicious Maine based company.  Best of all it comes in a great Nantucket style basket you can keep and reuse.

Sausage Stuffing

Turkey day is fast approaching – I am actually hosting a friendsgiving (for 16!) this weekend so I needed to get my act together in way in advance but I know some of you are still working out your menus.  The best thing about my friendsgiving is that lots of people are bringing their family’s must have Thanksgiving dish so we will have a really fun mix of friends and memories around the table.  My family has several traditions, one being my grandmother’s stuffing with sausage.  My Aunt Carol gave me the recipe years ago and you can see its pretty simple but oh so good.  I have to say I had to tweak it a little as I think a nice hearty bakery loaf is better than Wonder bread and I used homemade chicken stock instead of the boullion but I would NEVER consider not using Jimmy Dean sausage like she did!

dsc04901

This year I am going to change it up again and mix in some cornbread to reflect our southern home but making it will still make me smile and think of my Nana and that is what Thanksgiving is all about.  If you need more thanksgiving ideas here is a post that compiles all the recipes.  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sausage Stuffing (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: my nana’s stuffing
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 loaf of bread, preferably a rustic farmhouse style
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound Jimmy Dean sausage roll
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy) or another 1/2 cup stock

Cut the bread into bite size pieces and leave out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry out.

dsc04908

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onions, fennel, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until softened.  Add the sage, thyme, fennel seeds and salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute then add to a large bowl.  Add the sausage to the pan breaking it up as you add it to the pan.

dsc04910

Cook over medium high heat until no pink remains, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add to the bowl with the veggies.  Add the bread cubes to the bowl and toss all together.  Pour over the broth and brandy (if using) and stir to combine again.

dsc04918

Pile the stuffing into a 9 by 13 baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is crusty.

Sausage Stuffing

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 loaf of bread, preferably a rustic farmhouse style
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound Jimmy Dean sausage roll
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy) or another 1/2 cup stock

Cut the bread into bite size pieces and leave out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry out.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onions, fennel, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until softened.  Add the sage, thyme, fennel seeds and salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute then add to a large bowl.  Add the sausage to the pan breaking it up as you add it to the pan.  Cook over medium high heat until no pink remains, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add to the bowl with the veggies.  Add the bread cubes to the bowl and toss all together.  Pour over the broth and brandy (if using) and stir to combine again.  Pile the stuffing into a 9 by 13 baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is crusty.

ACC Travels: Venice, Italy

Since my darling husband just returned from Italy this weekend it had me reminiscing about the last time he went there to give a speech and was smart enough to bring his wife along!  His speaking engagement was in Milan but since Patrick had never been to Venice before and I am still haunted by my visit from years ago, I decided that is where we should meet up.  Could there be anything more romantic than meeting your love on the Grand Canal???  The fall is a great time to visit Venice as it is MUCH less crowded than in the summer.  You have to be careful for the “Acqua Alta,” ie when the water levels get so high that the canals flood the city (ick) but if you look online there are great resources for estimating when that will happen.  We went mid November and it was perfect.

IMG_1187

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with incredible art, architecture and natural beauty, but unlike most of the rest of Italy, it is not known for its food.  They have seafood in abundance but many of the restaurants are super touristy and overpriced.  Because things essentially need to be “imported” the quality of some produce isn’t as good as say Florence.  But do not despair!  Do enough research and you can find great food.  I won’t lie – there were a bunch of duds on this trip.  Even the best laid plans can be ruined by closed restaurants, exorbitant prices or a maze of canals.  However, there were several gems.  Here are our favorite stops – I also recommend checking out Chowhound boards before you do any international travel and search the city you are visiting.  I found a lot of these places on there – its basically crowd sourcing from foodies at its best.  Ciao!

Vineria all’Amarone

img_1371

How can you not like a place named after some of the best wine made in Italy?  Vineria all’ Amarone is a sweet spot that specializes in wine (duh) and food that goes well with it.  Unlike most places it takes reservations online so perfect for a day when you know you are not going to want to mess around figuring out where to eat.  I highly recommend anything that comes out of their oven, from roasted meats to the lasagna.  We of course ordered a bottle of Amarone, which was so much more reasonable than anywhere you would get it in the States.  Best of all the whole restaurant is decorated with empty bottles from customers who tag it with memories of their meals there.  They have tags in every language and some of the sweetest stories!  Definitely a must try.

Venissa

I highly recommend getting out to some of the islands of Venice during your stay there.  Each has its own character and unique specialty like the glass blowing on Murano.

img_1323

Much less known is the tiny island of Mazzorbo, that has Venice’s only vineyard on it, Venissa.  Unfortunately when we were there it was closed for a special event but just walking grounds was pretty incredible.  Venissa is not just a vineyard but also a restaurant and hotel which win rave reviews.

Ristorante Ai Cesendeli

Just a short walk over a tiny bridge from Mazzorbo you get Burano, the island known for its lace makers.  The colors of the homes on the island are a huge draw but as soon as we got there we realized we were starving.  The only restaurant that I could find recommended was of course closed with no reason given but such is the joy of travelling in Europe.

img_1329

Luckily we stumbled across this amazing family run spot that served great pizzas and Aperol spritzes for lunch.  I ordered an eggplant calzone type thing and it came with about $15 worth of prosciutto di parma on top!  Absolutely delicious.

CoVino

This place is tucked away – like really tucked away.  The more time you find yourself in Venice the more you will find that you are lost.  That is a good thing!  Just keep walking and eventually you will find it.  I had read about this place a ton and was totally going to give up but Patrick knew I really wanted to go and when we finally found CoVino it was like an oasis (especially since it was pouring out!).  Once inside you feel like you are in someone’s kitchen, and you basically are in the postage stamp of a restaurant.

IMG_1213

Don’t let that scare you off as they churn out awesome food.  It is a 3 course menu and very inexpensive so well worth the hunt.

Vinaria

Almost 100% of the places that line the Grand Canal are tourist traps and are not worth looking at.  Basically if they offer the menu in more than 2 languages with pictures you should keep moving.

img_1270

However, the gracious patio overlooking the canal at Vinaria is a lovely place to sit after a long day of exploring and grabbing a glass (or three!) of wine.  Cannot speak to the food but the view cannot be beat.

Al Timon

Patrick doesn’t eat seafood which on an island can be pretty challenging.  I kept reading about Al Timon before we left as one of the few places that does meat right.  We tracked it down in the old Jewish quarter and man am I glad we did.

img_1300

As with a lot of places in Venice it is a little confusing once you get in as the menu is all in Italian and everyone seems to know what they are doing.  However, the waiters are really lovely and helped us order this amazing beef tenderloin (not the horse that we were accidentally going to order!!!).  They serve it up family style on a big wooden board with rosemary roasted potatoes, white beans, arugula and loads of other accompaniments.  Some crusty bread and red wine and we were in heaven.

Clementine Margarita

It is #nationaltacoday so I figured it would be fitting to post a nice margarita to wash down those tacos.  My friend Naz came over this summer with a bag full of her own cocktail kit and shook up a bunch of terrific margaritas for us.  Who doesn’t want a friend like that??  She used tangerine juice but that can be hard to find so I used clementine – they are both delicious.  The sweet tang of the clementine juice is the perfect base for the tequila and she introduced me to Patron Lime Liquor which has a more limey taste then triple sec.   These margaritas would go great with my carnitas tacos or maybe some carne asada tacos.  Don’t forget jalapeno chips (I am making these tonight) or my tex mex quinoa salad.  I also used my favorite pequin pepper salt for the rim as the heat makes a nice contrast with the sweetness of the drink but you could use regular salt or skip it all together.  Happy National Taco Day!

 

DSC05747

Clementine Margarita (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   my friend Naz’s delicious drink on the go
Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce Patron Lime Liqour
  • 4 ounces clementine juice
  • ice, salt and lime wedge

Shake the tequila, lime liquor and clementine juice in a cocktail shaker with ice until cold.  Pour over ice, in a salt rimmed glass if you prefer (I like to use spicy salt).

Clementine Margarita

  • Servings: 1
  • Print

Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce Patron Lime Liqour
  • 4 ounces clementine juice
  • ice, salt and lime wedge

Shake the tequila, lime liquor and clementine juice in a cocktail shaker with ice until cold.  Pour over ice, in a salt rimmed glass if you prefer (I like to use spicy salt).

ACC Parties: Oktoberfest

I kid you not – the German outfit koozies I got at World Market is 100% the reason why we had an Oktoberfest party.  How could I not???  Also the idea of a fall party with beer and pretzels was too good to pass up.  This is definitely the kind of party that is perfect for folks that don’t love to cook, as most of the food on this menu is already prepared.  So take your time with displaying the food and enjoying time with friends.  To get people in the mood at my party they were greeted with a mini pumpkin and beer coaster display that I had seen on Pinterest.  I basically stole a whole bunch of random cardboard coasters from bars leading up to the party – shhhh!

dsc04307

I lit lots of candles and set out flowers in fall colors.  Ideally we would have been outside but it was a grey and yucky day.  Sometimes I think that is more fun because people really hunker in to have a good time.  A couple of my friends have been to beer fests were they give you pretzel necklaces to clean your palate between beer tastings (also presumably to help keep you sober!).  I bought a bag of mini pretzels and just strung them on grosgrain ribbon long enough to put over everyone’s heads.  It was a great favor and helped keep the party going.

dsc04298

German food can be pretty heavy so I wanted to have a mix of snacky type things as well as a full meal if my guests were so inclined.  On my kitchen island I set out Ina’s famous Green Herb Dip along with endive spears and celery.  Make two batches of this dip – it goes fast!

dsc04314

It’s not a party without cheese, so I set a whole bunch out on my epic cutting board.  A mix of gouda, cheddar and blue cheese along side some sliced salamis, hearty crackers and grapes give this cheese board a rustic fall vibe.

dsc04312

You cant have Oktoberfest without beer and once September hits there will be plenty of options in the stores.  I went with a bunch of mixed cases, some actually German and some just fall craft beers.  Make sure to have plenty of water as well (I did a large container so people could serve themselves) and a couple of bottles of wine in case you have some non beer drinkers (!!!).

dsc04286

Pretzel necklaces was not going to be enough, especially when I live near The Pretzel Bakery (OMG OMG OMG).  So I ordered up a whole mess of them and kept them warm in the oven.  To display them I used a pasta drying rack that has dried exactly zero strands of pasta but was PERFECT for this!

dsc04311

Stock up on lot of mustard, preferably in a couple of flavors.  Normally I would have put the mustard in ramekins but lets be honest,  it is way more satisfying to squeeze mustard on a pretzel for some reason.

dsc04293

Oktoberfest means bratwurst so I bought a ton of them and simmered them in beer first – then just throw them on the grill when you are ready.  Set out buns and store bought sauerkraut (because no one ever has needed their house to smell like sauerkraut)  and you are in business.

dsc04297

I also made a fantastic German potato salad from the New York Times and set out good old potato chips to round out the meal.  But wait – no dessert?  Of course not and what better than German Chocolate Cupcakes.  Or cut out a step and just buy some delicious cupcakes.  That would mean all you have to make is dip, potato salad and grill some bratwurst.  Easy right?  Throw this party to usher in fall or just to justify lederhosen for a beer!

dsc04322

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad

This week is a big one for my family because we get to celebrate my Aunt Janice’s birthday and nuptials!  In honor of Auntie Jan I am posting her famous Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad.  I have so many memories of having this dish at her house.  I used to spend at least a week at her house in Upstate New York every summer growing up and I would LIVE on this salad.  Its a great summer dish because its served cold/room temp and the leftover are just as good as when its fresh.  Perfect for a summer BBQ, picnic or easy weeknight dinners.  I finally managed to finagle the recipe out of her and I have been making it like a fiend all summer.  I tweaked the original (of course) just a little to make things a bit easier on myself and also because I like roasting rather than poaching chicken.  This is also a great salad to use up extra ingredients you have in your fridge so feel free to throw in snap peas or green beans etc if you have them on hand.  I am so happy for Auntie Jan and I am SO happy to have this recipe.

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my Aunt Janice’s perfect summer dish
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons black (or rice wine) vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 minced or grated garlic clove
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 2 pounds bone in skin on chicken breasts
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red) cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 a head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

In a medium sized bowl wish together the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and peanut oil.  The sauce can be made several days in advance, just store in the fridge.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees and roast the chicken breasts on a baking sheet for 45 minutes, until cooked through.  Let cool and shred.  Chicken can also be made one or two days in advance.  Cook the pasta according to directions and drain.  In a large bowl toss the pasta with the sesame oil and set aside.  In a small dry skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes (be careful not to burn).

DSC05572

When ready to serve toss the chicken with the pasta and spread on a large platter.  Top with the napa cabbage, pepper slices, scallions and sesame seeds.  Drizzle on the sauce and toss – my aunt likes to set out the whole salad composed on a buffet and then toss with the sauce right before serving.  It makes for a great presentation.

DSC05577

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons black (or rice wine) vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 minced or grated garlic clove
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 2 pounds bone in skin on chicken breasts
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red) cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 a head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

In a medium sized bowl wish together the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and peanut oil.  The sauce can be made several days in advance, just store in the fridge.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees and roast the chicken breasts on a baking sheet for 45 minutes, until cooked through.  Let cool and shred.  Chicken can also be made one or two days in advance.  Cook the pasta according to directions and drain.  In a large bowl toss the pasta with the sesame oil and set aside.  In a small dry skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes (be careful not to burn).  When ready to serve toss the chicken with the pasta and spread on a large platter.  Top with the napa cabbage, pepper slices, scallions and sesame seeds.  Drizzle on the sauce and toss – my aunt likes to set out the whole salad composed on a buffet and then toss with the sauce right before serving.  It makes for a great presentation.

 

ACC’s DC: The Salt Line

The Salt Line – 79 Potomac Avenue SE

Hands down this is my new favorite place to go in DC.  It checks every single one of my boxes – on the water, check; nautical theme, check; great cocktails, check; friendly and relaxed service, check; delicious food, check; primo dog watching, check!  Since this place opened I have tried to make myself a regular – you can go even on the hottest days as I swear the breeze at their outdoor bar is like no other.  So here is the scoop – it is a seafood restaurant/outdoor bar right at the foot of Nats park (you can see it peaking out behind the bar).

IMG_2546

When they first opened they didn’t have a website (!!!!) one of my biggest pet peeves but now it’s up so you can check out their menu.  Admittedly it’s a small menu but they do it right with New England style dishes and fresh seafood.  When you get there you can order oysters from cute little order cards on the table (with personalized pencils in replica oyster cans – this place thinks of everything).

IMG_2519

I love that they give you the size and salinity level of each oyster – I enjoyed the Moonstone and Nauti Pilgrim.  Also fun are their oyster shooters that include thoughtful toppings that match the liquor you shoot them with.  I have not tried their $90 seafood tower but man it looks impressive!

IMG_2528

Their lobster roll is everything this Boston girl dreams of (probably because the owner is from MA) with a griddled split top roll, lightly dressed lobster and incredible fries.  If you aren’t into seafood there are several good options like a 1/2 chicken and a burger.  The day time menu is smaller with more creative entrees on the dinner menu like rockfish with ramps.

IMG_2536

This is also a great place to stop just for a drink (make sure to check the Nationals schedule as it can get crowded before and after games).  They have several cocktails on tap, like a twist on a Cape Codder, and they have Del’s Frozen Shandys, the perfect anecdote to summer in DC.

IMG_2539

Lots of great New England and local beers on tap including my favorite local, RAR from Cambridge, MD.  All of the bartenders and servers just seem happy to be there and are helpful without being pushy.  The inside as just as great as the outside, though I will wait until the outside closes to actually sit there!

A comfortable bar and a good amount of tables means that this can be a year round day at the beach – they even had their own wall paper made for the bathrooms!  From the adorable details to the care they take with their menus, it’s no wonder Salt Line is already getting to be a popular spot.  And I mean really, food and drink aside, the dog stalking is on point – look at this little guy!

IMG_2548

1 2 32
%d bloggers like this: