Foodie Penpals: June & July



Our June Foodie Penpals package was from Stephanie in Utah!

Our mailmen had a little mishap getting the first package to us (we never got it, but she sent it) but Stephanie was so very nice to send us another one!

What we got was: calpico mango and white peach drinks, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, chocolate almond wafer rolls, butter coconut crackers, pineapple cakes and a cute cupcake note! The note card got a little wet so I couldn’t take a picture of it.

She especially shopped for us at her local Asian market. How could we ask for anything better? She chose to go there for “lots of fruity and sweet items…also, Calpico.” She tried every flavor and gave us her two favorites! I popped them in the fridge to get them cold and I’m saving a day to drink them.

She used to live in NY/NJ…we connected over how much we love the Asian selections over there. She lives near the biggest Asian supermarket in Utah! The pineapple cakes are her mom’s favorite, but apparently they come in different flavors! Our dad already devoured almost all of them, but he claims they’re like “island fig newtons” – count me in! I got to find some more.

Thanks Stephanie for our wonderful package!

Visit Stephanie’s cute blog at



Our July Foodie Pen Pals is from Melissa!

She lives in Northern Indiana, which is 2 miles south of Michigan – so it’s called “Michiana”! She sent us some great local treats.
She works just near the “largest chocolate store” – how cool!

What we got is: summer themed malted milk balls (lemon and orange), peanut butter and chocolate fudge dessert topping, some lavender hill farm spice mix (lavender, rosemary, thyme, savory, and marjoram), and a nice postcard.

The malted milk balls are a nice summer treat that I ate one already of! My dad likes the lemon ones and I like the orange ones. They’re fairly big, but nonetheless, good.

I tried the dessert topping warmed up on top of ice cream – it tastes more like peanut butter than chocolate but that’s fine with me. I like how some of the money goes to a local food shelter. I haven’t tried the spice mix yet, but it sounds interesting!

Thanks for our nice package, Melissa!

For more information on Foodie Penpals, follow the link below.

The Lean Green Bean

The “Hapa” Age of Reason

Age of Reason

My fiance (how weird to say that?!) and I recently returned from a vacation to Brooklyn & Philadelphia. One of the many souvenirs we brought back were these ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters from a shop called Whisk. They are quickly becoming our new favorite add-in to new and tried-n-true cocktails. Last weekend Dan whipped up this refreshing drink using some shiso I snagged from our pitstop in New Jersey’s Mitsuwa Market on the way from New York to Philly. Shiso is nearly impossible to find in the DC area, so I always bring some back whenever I can go to a Japanese-centric mart. Unfortunately, since it’s so precious I want to keep it for something special and often times it ends up going bad!

Make this “hapa” version of a drink called the “Age of Reason“–hopefully it will help you survive the current heat wave and kick-off the weekend right.


PYO at Hartland Orchards: Blueberry Coffee Cake


In 2011 we tried our hand at a “pick your own” orchard. This was not our first time–we had picked apples at an orchard before, but this time we went in the summer to get some peaches and blueberries. Something about picking your own fruit makes it taste so much better.


Each time we make the decision to head out west to the part of Virginia where these farms are, we try to pick a different one. I want to be able to compare the different orchards and offerings to decide which one I like best, so that I can spread the love when find “our” place.

We’re still on the search for a perfect place. Last year we went to a place that had blackberries, peppers, and squash, but we got a flat tire on the way back, so that soured it a bit for us.


We also picked a peck of peaches (say that 10 times fast!). Most of the peaches were eaten as-is and I gifted some to my mom since it’s her favorite fruit. I also made a horrendous peach “cobbler” with some of the peaches. I’ll spare you that anecdote.

But, these blueberries. These blueberries were small, firm, tart, and after a quick wash, they didn’t need any more adornment or modification. But they were screaming to be made into what could be called our household’s favorite treat: Blueberry Coffee Cake.


This cake is soft and moist and just the right balance of tart and sweet. The crunchy, sugar-y topping is what makes it perfect though. I snagged a copy of this recipe from my mother-in-law and taped it into our recipe book. It’s been time-tested and proclaimed “excellent!” time and time again. This sure is a delicious way to get your daily dose of fruits.

We usually make this for Dan’s birthday since he doesn’t like traditional cakes. But, to be honest, we make this any chance we get! It goes well in the morning with a cuppa tea or coffee, but also holds it own with ice cream or whipped cream for a light yet satisfying dessert.

You can add some red berries and really make this a red-white-and blue affair to celebrate the 4th of July! I’ve made this same recipe and subbed the blueberries with blackberries, peaches, rhubarb, or even frozen mixed berries; they are all delicious renditions.


Thai X-ing


This review of Thai X-ing is a good companion to my review of Little Serow. It is also the first (and so far only) BYOB I’ve been to in the District.

I had heard rave reviews about the Salmon Pumpkin Curry, so when I called 2 weeks in advance to secure a reservation I meant to ask if it was still on the menu. I left a voicemail and followed up a few times before I got a call back a few days in advance. I confirmed the curry was available and showed up to our Saturday reservation with empty stomachs and cold wine.


At first I thought we were lost, but the converted home in the middle of a residential street really does house this sought after restaurant. The interior and exterior were decorated like a well-loved Asian Mother-in-Law’s home. At first it was distracting, but it really served to transport us. I felt like I was zipped to the other side of the world, especially since most dishes were served on bright green leaves and the sunlight was pouring in through a large window. The staff shouting to each other over their walkie talkies–ahem–added to the “atmosphere.”


The menu changes seasonally so it will always be a bit different. The price and menu type also change depending on what day of the week you choose. We started with a sausage-stuffed cucumber soup, a spicy and sour chicken larb, a refreshing green papaya salad, and rice.


We were then served 3 courses in quick succession – pork in green curry, fried string beans and chicken pad see ew. 

All of the flavors were very well balanced and complementary. They had a brightness, freshness, and complexity that I find lacking in my local casual Thai restaurants. They were also easier to eat and enjoy than the extreme-ness that I experienced at Little Serow.


Our meal ended with a simple but satisfying mango sticky rice. We hadn’t finished the salmon curry and the chef was nice enough to pack up our leftovers and even gave me some extra curry sauce when I proclaimed how delicious it was.

For $45 a person, this is a unique experience that you can’t have anywhere else in DC and I highly recommend you visit there soon. It’s more fun and exotic than many of the drab downtown pre-theatre menus with the same price!


Homemade Ume Shu (Plum Liqueur)


Sorry for the long lapse in posts, things have been crazy here recently! Not only did a take a long (and well deserved) vacation to Montréal (more  on that later), but I recently got engaged! If you care to see all of my wedding-related inspiration, you can hop on over to my “Wedding Ponderings” board on Pinterest.

The perfect drink for a celebration, and for the summer is ume shu (梅酒). Translated as plum wine or plum liqueur, this drink can be served on its own as a cordial, on the rocks, or used more like a syrup and mixed with soda water. Ume shu is one of my favorite drinks because it reminds me of my time spent in Japan as a student, and later a teacher. It was the prefect drink to cool off with during the hot, muggy summers at the end of a long day. Even the cheap ume shu in Japan seemed to taste better than whatever I could find here, so I would always stock up when I was there. Now that I know I can make my own for less than the baggage overage-fees, I’ll be on the lookout for ume in the store constantly.

7898_10100987043368986_2069828772_n If you can find ume (green plums) in your local supermarket, it’s not that hard to make your own ume shu–all you need is soju/shochu, rock sugar, and ume plums. The hardest thing is waiting 3 months for your concoction to be ready!

If you want to buy plum wine, it’s pretty affordable and readily available in stores. My favorite is Hakutsuru, but a good backup is Takara or Kinsen. Those are both a bit hard to find, but I know Choya and even Gekkeikan are available at wine shops, Cost Plus World Market, and Asian groceries.

The recipe I used is from Kitchn, but other bloggers such as Miss Mochi have their own tutorials as well. I had already made my ume shu by the time I saw this video, but it’s also a great way to learn too.