DC Blogger Meetup: Ella’s

Ahoy-hoy, friends! Today’s post is coming to you a bit later than usual this morning, but you’ll see why in a bit. Phew! Between sushi, crashing a culinary school class, and last night this week has been a whirlwind! But a superawesomefuntastic whirlwind, of course.

DSC05785.jpg

So last night, I met up with fellow bloggers Kacy, Katie, Allison, and Jess for dinner & drinks at Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza in Chinatown! (Photo purloined from Jess.)

IMG_0291.jpg

Ella’s has an amazing happy hour that goes from 4 – 7, and it was PACKED. Katie and Allison arrived there early, so they had staked out a couple seats at the bar. We ended up having to wait a while for a table, but somehow we survived…

IMG_0288.jpg

$3.50 glasses of sangria? Don’t mind if I do!

IMG_0290.jpg

Thankfully all that time waiting gave us plenty o’ time to peruse the menu, so we ordered pretty much as soon as we were seated. Can’t keep hungry bloggers from their food, after all!

IMG_0293.jpg

I got the strawberry & orange salad to start (with spinach, candied slivered nuts, and goat cheese), and the margharita pizza.

IMG_0298.jpg

Which I ate 2/3 of, and it was soooo good. There’s nothing quite like melty fresh mozzerella and fresh basil having a party in your mouth, no sirree. Of course, the absolute best part about going to dinner with other bloggers?

IMG_0303.jpgIMG_0304.jpg
IMG_0306.jpgIMG_0301.jpg

I’m never the only one taking pictures of my food! A big round of applause for the evening’s organizer too, btw: thanks Kacy!

IMG_0296.jpg

I know you want to thank me for posting this photo, so I’ll just preemptively say you’re welcome. 😉

It was a fantastic evening, even with the stifling humidity. Unfortunately, the night didn’t end quite as awesomely. Remember at the beginning of the post how I referenced mentioning why I’m posting a little late today? Well, that’s because I was up LATE last night… throwing up. Urk. I don’t know if it was the sangria, the salad, the pizza, or some combination of the three but something just didn’t sit well with me. I started feeling nauseous on the Metro ride home, but thankfully held it together until I walked in the door (thanks again for the ride, Kacy!) So it took me a little longer than usual to pull myself together this morning after the not-so-fun-ness that occurred post-dinner. Whatever, still worth it. The only true tragedy is that I had to throw out my leftover pizza this morning, since I really didn’t want to risk getting sick again. Sad.


Thanks for this pic, Kacy!

We’re going to try to implement a monthly outing like this, so other bloggers/blog readers in the area, mark your calendars! I believe we’re aiming for the next one to be at Graffiato, Top Chef (!!) contestant Mike Isabella’s new restaurant, in August. More details to come, but come one, come all!

Have you ever gotten food poisoning before? Have any thoughts on it, tips for avoidance, home remedies, recovery foods, anything like that?

Daily Eats – 7/20/11

Breakfast

IMG_0272.jpg

Leftover “yum-yum

Snack

IMG_0274.jpg

4 pieces of sushi and a scoop of chicken-pasta salad.

Lunch

IMG_0275.jpg

A few spoonfuls of egg drop soup

Lettuce Wraps
IMG_0279.jpg

Vegetarian lettuce wraps

IMG_0281.jpg

Half of the Norwegian salmon, asparagus, and brown rice — all from PF Changs. Thanks again for lunch, Lara!

Dinner

IMG_0288.jpg

Sangriiiia!

IMG_0293.jpg

Salad with strawberry, orange, candied nuts, and goat cheese

IMG_0298.jpg

2/3 of Ella’s margharita pizza — dinner was delicious and the blogger meet-up from tonight was so fun! Except for the part where I threw it all up once I got home. :'( Deets on it all tomorrow. Good night!

Getting School’d

Last night I got to do something really fun.

IMG_0212.jpg
IMG_0213.jpg

Any guesses as to what that was?

IMG_0222.jpg
IMG_0218.jpgIMG_0214.jpg
IMG_0215.jpg

How about now?

IMG_0211.jpg

You may have already seen me tweeting about it, but last night I got to audit a culinary school class at Stratford University!

IMG_0210.jpg

Culinary school has been something that has been percolating in the back of my mind since I was still an undergrad, although it definitely took a backseat to other things once I graduated. Since seeing fellow blogger Amanda take the leap and follow her culinary dreams (as well as a few encouraging comments from family members) it’s something I’m starting to look back into.

IMG_0228.jpgIMG_0219.jpg

Honestly, when I asked if I would be able to observe a class I expected them to tell me no. Who needs someone standing over everyone’s shoulder while they’re all trying to learn? But Stratford agreed and was more than helpful in arranging for me to audit an evening Fundamentals of Baking class, taught by Chef Logan.

IMG_0225.jpg

It started off in a classroom where the 8 students in the class had to take a quiz to review what they had learned the last time. Time spent in the classroom was very shortlived, however, and after passing out the recipes that they would be working with today, we hopped over to the kitchen! On the docket?

IMG_0209.jpg

Sour cream pound cake. Mmm.

Sour
IMG_0230.jpg
IMG_0231.jpg
Hey batter batter batter!

One thing that I would have to get used to if I did decide to go to culinary school?

IMG_0226.jpg
IMG_0221.jpg
IMG_0239.jpg

Holy heart attack. The butter. Butter in the cake, butter in the icing, butter, butter, butter. It probably sounds really lame, but one of my serious hesitations about whether I’d want to take this leap revolves around the fact I’m not sure how my weight loss would fare in a situation like this.

Something's Cooking

Fundamentals of Baking is one of the core culinary classes that all students have to take at Stratford, so the class was a mix of Baking & Pastry concentration students as well as Culinary Arts students.

IMG_0227.jpg
IMG_0216.jpg

Chef Logan told me that each chef instructor is different, and structures their class differently. Some might have more time spent in lecture, but she preferred to do her demos in the kitchen. The evening classes go from 6 PM to 10:30 PM, so best to make use of that time! And even though I was just observing and not actually handling any food, the time still flew by. The first part of the class was spent with each student baking an individual pound cake.

IMG_0241.jpg
Cake me.

Which I didn’t actually end up getting to taste because I left just before the very end of class (while they were all cleaning, so I didn’t want to be in the way.) I’m sure they were delicious though!

IMG_0270.jpg

Don’t be sad for me though, folks. I got to do more than my fair share of decadent eating! After the pound cakes were in the oven, the class set off to make cream cheese icing for the carrot cakes they had baked the class before! So I did, in fact, learn something new even just as an observer.

IMG_0247.jpg

Like how to properly layer and ice a cake!

IMG_0244.jpg

Start by slicing the top off of your cake for an even surface (the top part is henceforth labeled your “yum-yum”, and is yours mine for the snacking!)

IMG_0248.jpg

Hehehe.

IMG_0250.jpg

You then eyeball slicing your cake into thirds (I need one of those spinny-cake-platter things like whoa) with a serrated knife, and ice the middle layers individually.

IMG_0251.jpg

Another thing I learned? You use the bottom of the cake as the top of the cake by flipping it around! That way you know that your cake top will be perfectly flat. Who knew?

IMG_0253.jpg

The final prep-step is to give your cake a very thin crumb coating. This is a super fine coating of icing that’s sole purpose is to fill in any extra cracks and trap all loose crumbs on the cake’s surface. That way, you won’t get crumbs in your final layer of icing at the end! You have to put your cake back in the fridge at this point for all the icing to set, so I didn’t actually get to see the final stage of icing. I did, however, get to see how marzipan gets made, and enjoy watching the students make decorative carrots out of it.

IMG_0238.jpg

Marzipan = almond paste + confectioners sugar + light corn syrup. I tried a tiny little ball of it (I don’t think I’d had marzipan since I lived in Poland!) and it was so sweet I almost died. But hey, it was almond-y, so I survived. 😉

IMG_0259.jpg
IMG_0264.jpg

Don’t worry, along with all the carrot cake, icing samples, and marzipan nibbles, I still worked in some kind of nutrition:

IMG_0262.jpg

Hehe. Carrot cake… and a carrot! Tina, aren’t you proud?

All in all, it was an awesome class, the students were all really fun and welcoming, and Chef Logan is awesome. She was a career-changer (in government contracting, no less!) when she decided to go back to school to pursue a culinary career so her experience really resonated with me. Honestly, from reading other bloggersexperiences with culinary school, I was expecting to be totally rattled and overwhelmed, and for my desire to go myself extinguished but I have to say, I feel like it’s the opposite. I feel like perhaps the culinary classes might differ from the baking classes as well in terms of general hecticness, but everyone I talked to in the class just seemed so, well, happy. And while I’m not in any position to be going in the NEAR future by any means, this experience has definitely put the whole kit and caboodle back on the table.

Have you ever considered going to culinary school? Or considered starting a career in the food or nutrition industry? Are there other people out there that, like me, are torn between the food-side and the nutrition-side (i.e. culinary school vs. becoming a registered dietitian)? That’s where my mental struggle still lies. Last night’s experience was so eye-opening, and was definitely encouraging, but it’s still so hard to convince myself that this is a leap I could potentially take.

Living Healthy

Healthy living means a lot of things.

IMG_0194.jpg

It means salted edamame.

IMG_0193.jpg

It means tofu that is, yes, smothered in sauce.

IMG_0195.jpg

It means good-for-you sushi…

IMG_0198.jpg

…and not-so-good-for-you sushi, too.

IMG_0196.jpg

Hehehe.

IMG_0197.jpg

But hey, it’s okay. After all, you’re sharing with a friend!

IMG_8042.jpg
Recycled photo of Ania and me at the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade

After furnishing my pantry with some supplies from Trader Joe’s yesterday, Ania and I had a decadent sushi dinner at Koi Koi — where else? The cuisine, company, and conversation was just what I needed. Healthy living does, after all, extend beyond what we put in our mouths and do with our muscles! Mental and emotional wellbeing is just as, if not more, important than physical health (and failure to attend to all of the above inevitably results in a rapid degeneration of general wellness, as I know all too well.)


Unhealthy: physically, emotionally, mentally.

Grizzly Gretchen.
Getting there…

Between the evening and yesterday morning’s weigh-in, this week has kicked off surprisingly well! So I’m going to take my good mood (180-degrees from last week’s Gloomy Gussery) and do something potentially frightful:

Ask me anything.

No, really! This is your opportunity to ask any questions you might have for me regarding my journey, my methods, my habits, my food, my past… heck, even the dogs are fair game! I figure it’s about time I compile a good old-fashioned Q&A/FAQ page anyway, so this is where I’ll start. Not comfortable leaving your question in the comments? Feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me at [email protected] instead.

Ahhh, true pandering to my conceited and self-centered nature at last. 😉 Knock yourselves out! This evening I’ll be auditing a culinary school class at a local institution. I’m really excited, so stay tuned for a report on that. Hopefully the chef won’t mind me bringing my camera…!