Posts Tagged ‘cheap eats’

Pret a Manger is a new sandwich shop imported to the U.S. from Britain.  But don’t let that deter you! (Sorry ;-)) The pilot has already taken off in (notoriously cutthroat) NYC, which now has about 20 restaurants.  Sometime around January 2009, Washington finally got one, too.  I tried Pret yesterday and can happily report that it’s a welcome new lunch option downtown.

The concept is in the name. “Pret,” I’m told, is French for “ready,” as in, “ready-to-wear fashion.” So “Pret a Manger” puns on the phrase “ready to eat,” meaning both prepared food and hunger.  Pop into one of the slick cafes and you’ll find a wall-length refrigerator stuffed with an impressive assortment of “just made” sandwiches, wraps, salads, yogurts, and juices. The sandwiches can be purchased in whole or halves—convenient for soup-n-sandwich types and variety lovers. On Friday, I fell into the latter camp: pret-half-sammies And the food? (more…)


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…the 99 Cent Chef?

The 99 Cent Chef is more than just a goofy guy who loves cheap food and breakdances badly.  He’s also a talented cook who manages to reinvent inexpensive ingredients in dishes you might actually eat (although I won’t go anywhere near those Vienna sausages—gross).  In these times especially,  it pays to think outside the Whole Foods.  (more…)

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Today, I reached sandwich nirvana.  Do you ever eat felafel, those little croquettes made of chickpeas, fava beans, bulgur, parsley, and a medley of savory spices?  They’re often done wrong—restaurants typically pre-fry them in big batches and just reheat as needed.  Not surprisingly, this turns them into overcooked, bland, oil-logged little hockey pucks, tolerable only when drowned in hummus and yogurt sauce.

Thankfully, a new eatery in Adams Morgan, called Shawarma King, has reinvented felafel.  They’re made to order—shaped by hand and quickly deep fried.  Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, they are fragrant with garlic and enough herbs to turn the insides green. 


The quality of ingredients and the attention to detail at Shwarma King bring it to the next level.  To get started, dress your flatbread-wrapped felafel with assorted homemade toppings at the condiment bar.  My faves were the salty pickled beet/turnip/cabbage slaw and a thick Greek-style yogurt with cucumber and tomatoes.

toppings   topings-bar (more…)

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There are a fair number of places to get a good bang for your buck in Washington, D.C.—if you know where to look and how to order. But close to Dupont Circle and certainly downtown, good, cheap food can be hard to find.

Tourists in town for Obama’s inauguration are likely to be disappointed if they stick to Au Bon Pain or the corner hotdog vendor for inexpensive meals. One can only take so many of our famous halfsmokes or Ben’s Chili Bowl fries. And honestly, even we D.C. residents could use few cheap dining out options in our back pockets.

Well, here’s one:

moules2A “small” portion of mussels at Bistrot du Coin (1738 Connecticut Ave., NW) is, in fact, a heaping pot full of plump, fresh bivalves swimming (OK, hopefully not) in delicious sauce. An order will only set you back $8.95. “Moules Normandes,” dressed in a cream sauce with leeks, celery, diced potatoes, mushrooms, and bacon, are a meal in themselves. Be sure to ask for plenty of du Coin’s chewy baguette to mop up the savory sauce. The dish, washed down with a $4 bottle of Kronenburg 1664 lager, is a great deal.

Other excellent varieties include “Moules Mariniéres” (in white wine with onions, shallots, and parsley) and “La Traditionelle Mouclade des Charentes” (in a light cream sauce with curry).  Plus, it’s just a fun place…so long as you’re laid back about relaxed service.

Photo (which I think pictures the massive “large” portion) credit: Bistrot du Coin.

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Credit: http://www.kitchencritic.co.uk

I have a particular fondness for one-pot, braised meals, both because I don’t have a dishwasher (sigh) and also because these tend to be historically peasant dishes that use inexpensive ingredients.

So what’s the problem?  I recently tried to make Arroz con Pollo, and although the flavors were delicious, the rice was soggy.  I’m trying to figure out what I did wrong. 

Was the rice mushy because I…

a) used too much water?  does chicken release enough water/juice that I should reduce the usual proportion of water?

 b) didn’t take the lid off (even to peek) the whole time it was cooking?  did some of the water need to cook off?

c) used a packet of yellow rice, which perhaps cooks more quickly than regular rice?  I used this:

See full size image

d) cooked it too long?  Shouldn’t that make the rice drier, not soggier?

Here’s the basic method I followed (not a recipe):

Marinade chicken in lime juice, garlic, seasoned salt, and oregano.  Brown in casserole (may dredge in flour first).  Remove chicken, saute chopped onion and bell pepper.  Add in saffron rice mix and liquid (may use some white wine in place), bay leaf, a bit of cayenne, top with chicken.  Simmer on low heat until chicken is done and rice is absorbed (don’t open lid) — approx. 45 min.  Add peas toward the end (optional).  Garnish with choped green olives and cilantro.

I’m stumped.  Any readers have advice?  I want to make it again, but with perfect rice!

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