Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Taan Noodles - Adams Morgan, DC

[Ding ding ding!] RAMEN: ROUND 3! [More boxing bells]  Yes yes, yet another ramen shop has recently opened in DC, this time on the other end of Adams Morgan on Columbia Road (  Since I’ve reviewed the other two major players (Toki Underground and Sakuramen), of course I had to check this place out too.  Sooooo….

The décor is nice.  There’s a warm funky feel to it.  Good ambient lighting with old cameras and doors adorning the walls and shelves.  Not sure what theme they are going for exactly, but I’m someone who enjoys antiquing (no, not the urban dictionary definition though that’s kinda funny) on occasion (I know, how old am I?!?!  Just an old soul, I swear) so I like things like that.

The service was great. I went on a cold night and the only available seating was right by the front door.  There was a space heater pointed directly towards me and the hostess said they were “working on a curtain” for that area.  As soon as a table opened up further back in the restaurant, she offered it to us and we gladly accepted!

On to the food.  We started with corn fritters for an appetizer – basically some corn mixed in a batter and fried.  Pretty tasty – the corn flavor came through the grease flavor which is essential!  There was a spicy aioli type sauce served with them – kind of like a sriracha mayo – and it was a nice accompaniment.

I ordered their basic triple stock ramen, but substituted the pork belly for chicken confit.  The chicken was super tender and really tasty.  The soup?  Not so much.  It was good, for sure, but the broth just wasn’t as rich as I’d hope it would be.  It was in fact a little bland.  

My dining buddy got the vegetarian ramen and as you can see, it was cream based.  The menu did specify that it was “cream corn soup” but this was some thick cream.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but a little strange for a noodle soup.  And while also good, there was the same issue with blandness.  

We requested salt and our waitress said she would look for some – really?  A restaurant doesn’t have salt back in that kitchen?  Maybe not as she returned to the table with some chili powder, sesame oil, sriracha sauce and soy sauce.  I used 3 of the 4 and was able to achieve more of what I was looking for.  My veggie friend did the same and was able to improve the flavor as well but we agreed that we shouldn’t have to be adding so much extra flavoring in order to enjoy the food!  I don’t want to totally knock the ramen as it was certainly still edible.  The noodles were cooked perfectly, it was filling and there were some tasty add-ins in mine such as pickled cucumbers and a soft egg.  Also, had we actually gotten salt, that may have been all we needed to bring out the other flavors.  Here’s the final breakdown:
  • I love the space and service was great.
  • Has a bar, which the other ramen joints are lacking.
  • I didn’t see the upstairs seating area but everything on the main level is stools at high top tables – that’s totally fine except the stools have no backs, therefore us ladies have no place to hang our purses and all of us, guys and girls, have no place to hang our coats unless you drape them over the stool then sit on them.
  • Offer a broth based vegetarian option!  My guess is it would be just as popular as the others and not everyone wants a bowl of cream.
  • Even though I substituted chicken confit for the pork belly that was supposed to be in my soup, I was still charged the extra $3 for the chicken.  I didn’t ADD chicken, I substituted – don’t charge for that!  For whatever reason - to me, $11-$12 is ok to pay for soup, but $15 is not.
  • Drinks aren’t cheap.  Beers are $9-$13 and cocktails are $11-$13 each – yikes!  I’d hope my drink would be less than my food…
  • The ramen prices are equivalent to the competitors – Toki is $11-$12 while Sakuramen is $11-$15.  Taan’s range from $12-$15.

Would I go back?  Yes – I’d try it one more time after they’ve been open a little longer to see if they’ve worked out the kinks.  But if I had to judge now, I’d say Toki #1, Sakuramen #2 and Taan #3 – with potential to move up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baking GALS Round 15 - Vanilla Cinnamon Bars

Cornbread meets cinnamon muffins – that’s how I’d describe this one.  I was reading through the tons of recipes I’ve flagged to try recently and discovered the stand-out ingredient in these bars…cornmeal – huh?!  I’ve had polenta cake, in fact I’ve made polenta cake in a cooking class once, but anytime I’ve seen recipes for that they generally include lemon and poppy seeds.  I’ve never seen one that includes my favorite spice.  Obvs, I had to make it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good lemon poppy seed muffin or cake, but vanilla and cinnamon are much more fall-like.  And just for those who may not know, cornmeal and polenta are the same exact thing – most definitely interchangeable in a recipe.  The only difference is the packaging they come in at the store and the name on the label.

This recipe comes together really quickly – no mixing dry ingredients separately then adding alternatively with liquids….its super simple.  Mix the wet ingredients, add all the dry into the bowl, stir, pour into a pan and bake.  Done.  Well except for the glaze.  Glazes are like my signature by this point – one I’m quite proud of too!

The texture of these bars is really interesting.  They’re definitely a little crumbly like cornbread, but have enough flour to still keep them cakey enough not to fall apart.  Without the glaze I think they’d be a little dry, but with it – perfect.  These won’t become a staple for me, but they are definitely worth a try when you want something a little off the beaten path.

Recipe adapted from  - Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Bars


1 cup dark brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter, melted
¼ cup milk – I used 1%
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 tsp milk (or more, if you want a runnier consistency)
Couple shakes of cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease 8x8” pan.  In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, milk, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in the cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 min or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool before glazing.

For the glazing, mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir.  Cut the bars into even pieces and using a spoon drizzle the glaze on each piece.  Let the glaze set before serving, assuming you can wait that long.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mexican Quinoa

I’m willing to bet that even if you’re not hungry, you’d start salivating a little when you get a whiff of fresh garlic hitting a hot pan.  We’re talking Pavlov style here.  There are a few things that always do it for me – garlic, the sound and smell of sizzling onions, and on the sweet side – the scent of cinnamon wafting from the oven - I’m a sucker for it.

This super simple recipe starts out with sautéing some chopped fresh garlic.  If you like to cook as I do, the smell invokes instant relaxation and puts everything swirling around in your head to rest, at least for the 30 minutes it takes to put this together. (Kind of how the sound of a running dishwasher makes you want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and nap….no?  Just me?)  It’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal and can easily be adapted as you’ll see below.  After cooking up the garlic and some peppers for a couple minutes, it’s really just a matter of tossing everything into one pot and letting it go.  Healthy, flavorful and high in protein, you can’t argue with that.

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats: 


2-3 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced – I used 3 medium sized cloves
3-4 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped – I subbed about 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained – I used red, but color doesn’t matter
1 ¼ cups vegetable broth – I used chicken broth
1 can (about 1 ½ cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup frozen corn (or kernels from 2 cobs)
½ tsp kosher salt
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro – I used about 1 tsp dried cilantro
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
3 scallions, thinly sliced – my addition


Heat olive oil in large saucepan (one that has a lid) over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and jalapeños/crushed red pepper and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the quinoa and let it toast for 2-3 minutes.  Add broth, black beans, tomatoes, corn and salt and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid is fully absorbed.  If using dried cilantro, add it when you have about 5 minutes of simmering left.  Once the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat.  Add the fresh cilantro and lime juice.

*Couple notes:  I had a leftover chicken breast, so I chopped that up and added it at the same time as everything else.  Nothing wrong with even more protein, right?  I also couldn’t believe this recipe didn’t include onion of some sort so I chopped up a few scallions and tossed them in for the simmer as well.  I think it adds a flavor that would have been lacking.

Optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt, salsa, avocado, etc.  Enjoy!