Grace’s Mandarin If You Love Chinese Food

I stopped eating Chinese food 10 years ago, after my vacation in China. Not because I had a bad experience, but because I had such a great food experience, that after that eating  broccoli and pieces of something that might have been chicken, beef or a shoe sole, covered in soy sauce, didn’t seem appetizing at all. And unfortunately this is what most of the Chinese food outside of China tastes like.

One of my memorable dinners in Changchun was at one of the city’s top 3 restaurants, where you could pick the lobster or the fish from the aquarium and they would cook it for you right away. Yeah, this type of restaurant, with marble tables and chairs looking like emperor’s throne. It was also where I first tried glass noodles, frogs’ legs and some of the cuisine’s finest sauces. My other memorable dinner was in Beijing, where we found a hall-in-the-wall type of place, with sticky tables and personnel wearing stained aprons and not speaking a word of English. Up to the day I remember how delicious their Beijing duck and sweet aubergines were.beijing_modern_city_920x500

However, yesterday I finally broke my 10 years long Chinese food fast and didn’t regret it one bit. Before seeing Sting at MGM National Harbor last night we had a dinner date with my husband at Grace’s Mandarin. I can say with absolute confidence that it was the best Chinese food I ever have had outside of China. Continue reading


New York Gems: Chelsea Market

One thing I am always trying to do when I am traveling is to visit the local market.

Even if they are flooded with tourists, nothing shows you local life better than these markets. Oh, the crispiest of the breads at the market near St. Placid metro station in Paris! Oh, the juiciest of the shrimps and octopuses at San Miguel Market in Madrid! Oh, the delicious pasta at San Lorenzo Market in Florence! I could go on and on…

Not only food, of course. All kinds of arts and crafts, local clothes and fake Louis Vuitton purses,  old ladies buying milk and cheese and bargaining with the sellers, all the tourist buzz – there is just something to the markets that gives you a real taste of the city.

Before I first came to New York, I’ve never even thought that there might a market there – for me New York was a city of skyscrapers and market just didn’t fit into the picture. But now Chelsea Market is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I am in Manhattan. It’s definitely more touristic than a farmers’ market somewhere in the Southern France, but it is definitely a place to not be missed when you are in Big Apple.chelsea market Continue reading

Boatyard Bar and Grill: Annapolis Must Eat

America is known for big things. Houses, cars, distances, shopping malls, highways. But nothing annoys me more than big food portions.big-portion

When I was growing up, it was considered rude to leave anything on your plate – even if you are about to explode from all the food you’ve consumed. Between you parents sending you on a guilt trip reminding you about all the starving kids in third world countries and your party host driving you nuts with the question “Was the dish so bad that you don’t want to finish it?” you learned to eat up whatever was on your plate just to avoid all these interactions.

This habit played a bad trick on me when I moved to the US. It wasn’t until quite a few pounds later and all of our overseas guests, who were steadily shocked seeing the size of the plates in the restaurants that I realized that it’s time to drop the childhood habit of finishing whatever is on your plate, otherwise the consequences might be irreversible.

Yesterday we drove to Annapolis, MD for the change of scenery, fresh oysters and for allegedly the best crab cakes in the country at Boatyard Bar and Grill. Continue reading

Latte It Be!

Starbucks coffee cups

Few month ago Starbucks has introduced the possibility to order the drink online and just come pick it up at the store you selected.  This is very handy hands down. Those of you who are getting their caffeine fix every morning before going to work know how crowded it can get when 5 office buildings are lining up in one Starbucks shop across the street. With the online ordering you just click couple buttons 10 minutes before the pick up – et voila, your coffee is readily waiting for you just as you come in.

Since I’m usually not a technology pioneer, I never tried this option until this past Monday when I was running a bit late for a morning meeting and wanted to get my tall-extra-hot-coconut-milk-cappuccino before that. There were at least 25 people inside waiting in line, and if I didn’t order in advance, I would either be late  or slowpoke during that meeting.

Later that day I got to thinking how technology has been slowly (or not so slowly) but steadily eliminating the personal interaction. Continue reading

My Top 5 Places To Eat in DC Metro Area

Everybody who knows me at least a little bit,  knows I am a foodie. I love to cook and I love to eat. I love exploring new places to eat, I love good food presentation, I love going to the cooking classes, and food is a significant part of my travelling  experience. This love has taken its toll on me though and I had to make going to the gym a part of my routine to keep  the digits on the scale somehow under control. But it’s not the point.

In this post I want to share with you my favorite food places this spring. Most of them are my latest discoveries, but some of them I have been loving for ages.


Photo by Ambar Restaurant

Ambar :  –  If you have never tried Balkan cuisine – you need to go. If you have – you don’t need this blog post to tell you this as you have probably already made a reservation. The best way to enjoy is to come very hungry and order Balkan Experience – you pay fixed price and they bring you everything on the menu. The dishes are tapas size, so you will be able to fit quite a few in your stomach. The service is great, everyone is very friendly, the food tastes as if your Grandmother just cooked it, drink selection is beyond this world and I particularly love the choice of music. Love, love, love! Continue reading

Macarons: My Latest Obsession

***This article first appeared on Modern Reston.***

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and all the stores are offering all kinds of heart shaped candies, muffins, cakes and lollipops. How about making this year a little bit more classy and give it a taste of Paris? Yes, I’m talking macarons, these colorful pieces of heaven that make you fall in love from the first bite. I know people who don’t like chocolate, cupcakes or  fruit tarts, but I have never met a person who would not like macarons.Red Macarons

Even though I like to bake, it took me a while before I dared to make my first batch of macarons. “Age the egg whites for minimum 3 days” – who’s got time for that? “Stir the batter until it has hot lava consistency” – I travel a lot, but I have never seen hot lava so I can’t compare. To be honest, these recipes intimidated me until at some point I decided to roll my sleeves up and give it a try.

Now that I’ve done it many times, I can say that making macarons is not a rocket science for sure, but you need to be patient and determined. There were times I cried over a tray of  pink cracked shells and times when I was jumping like an Easter bunny when I took perfectly round and smooth cookies out of the oven. I’m sharing my recipe and I’m sure with a little bit of practice and inspiration you will become great at baking macarons in no time. Ok, in short time. 🙂  Continue reading