Point Chaud, courtesy of reader Ron

Point Chaud, courtesy of reader Ron

Thanks so much to reader Ron for sending in these pictures and letting me know that Point Chaud opens today (I walked by yesterday and the windows were still papered up, amazing how a few hours can change things). Has anyone stopped by and gotten themselves a crepe? I admit to not be an expert on crepes, I’ll need someone like FrenchTwistDC to go and let me know how good they are. The multitude of Nutella looks promising though, no?

Beouf Bourguignon

Growing up, Julia Child was always kind of a constant in my life – my family watched a lot of PBS and I saw her cooking shows often. She was kind of a given, always taken for granted, not that special. Recently, PBS has been showing marathons of her first show, The French Chef, and I’ve really come to appreciate her in a new way. She attacks cooking with gusto, isn’t afraid to make mistakes, and even back in the 60s, had a wonderful appreciation for fresh ingredients. It is striking how disarmingly charming her shows are in comparison to what you see on the likes of Food Network now, she clearly didn’t have a script and if she made a mistake, she made one, there was no do over. Makes her much more endearing than Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay, in my mind.

Here I present you her version of Boeuf Bourguignon, that classic French stew perfect for cold weather like this. If you’ve been tuning into my gourmet on a budget feature for a while, this will sound familiar as it’s pretty similar to coq au vin but with beef.

Budget: $20, serves 6 so $3.33 a serving. (more…)

Bistro La Bonne

Well, I totally missed this. I walk this block at least once a day and I had no clue that Axis had closed, and Bistro La Bonne (and no, it’s not just you – the website has been taking forever to load) has opened in its place on the 1300 block of U street (thanks to Prince of Petworth via FrenchTwistDC for the tip). Bistro La Bonne serves classic French fare from Chef Daniel La Bonne Labonne, with staples like coq au vin, escargot, beouf bourguignon, etc. It seems like La Bonne used to have a Soupe Cafe in Sacramento, CA which got good reviews on Yelp.

I will make a point of stopping by soon, and will definitely write it up. Has anyone checked it out? Have any opinions?

UPDATE: After some internet sleuthing I have realized the chef’s name is spelled Labonne, one word, giving me more information about him. He used to cook at Tabaq Bistro, and Wazuri.

Eric Ripert's roast chicken (his is prettier, there's a reason he's 3 star Michelin chef)

Eric Ripert's roast chicken (his is prettier, there's a reason he's 3 star Michelin chef)

I kind of love Eric Ripert, his philosophy on food, his accent… anyway I also love his new PBS show, Avec Eric. He shows you what’s happening at Le Bernardin, visits a location where they are making something, and then goes back to his kitchen to cook what he’s been inspired by. One episode (you can watch all of them on his Avec Eric website) focused on traditions, and he cooks his grandmother’s roasted chicken recipe. Sold. So I present to you his roast chicken, with some of my own humble modifications.

Budget: $16, serves four to six, so $2.67 to $4 a serving.

Note: Since I bought a chicken from the farmer’s market, it was vastly more expensive than what you’d find at the grocery store. You could easily find a 4 lb chicken for $5, not the $13 I spent. Since this recipe is so simple, I feel you need to buy quality ingredients because there isn’t anything else to cover up sub-par ingredients. That being said, this would be cheaper with a bird from the grocery store.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet meals.

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Saffron mussels

Steamed mussels with saffron

It’s getting warmer, and while I love mussels anytime of the year, they seem like an especially spring dish to me for some reason. I don’t make mussels myself too often, just because you need to cook them and eat them all in one day, you can’t save some for leftovers. But, as mussels are actually a pretty cheap thing to cook for seafood, at about $5 for 1 pound, it’s a great ingredient for gourmet on a budget.

This recipe, from Epicurious, calls for saffron, which is the most expensive spice on the planet. But, as a little goes a long way, the price doesn’t end up being that much for this dish, making it fit within a reasonable budget.

Budget: $16 for 4 servings; or $4 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes. (more…)

Ming Tsai's pork chops with ginger apple sauce

Ming Tsai's pork chops with ginger apple sauce

I love Ming Tsai, I  have probably mentioned this before. Though he’s a celebrity chef, has his own cooking show, has been on Iron Chef (and won, beating Bobby Flay), and has guest judged on Top Chef; he only owns one restaurant, which I find pretty admirable. He cooks there every day, unlike many celebrity chefs that own 10 restaurants and don’t really cook at any of them. And, Ming’s restaurant happens to be in my hometown (yes we’re on a first name basis in my head). I love his French-Asian fusion, even though it might seem overdone, he was one of the first to do it. And I love how his cookbooks are set up: one master sauce with 3-4 different recipes to make with it.

For gourmet on a budget I present his pork chops with ginger-fuji apple sauce. You can make extra chutney and use it for other recipes, like I did for this, which I brought to a Superbowl party (huge hit, by the way). The recipe includes maple sweet potatoes, but I’m not a huge fan of sweet presentations of squashes so I didn’t make it. This can be served with a simple side salad, which might add a dollar to the cost. The key to the recipe is cooking the pork chops so they don’t dry out. I have the secret to do it, but you gotta read the recipe details to find out.

Budget: $12, serves approximately 4, so $3 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.

(more…)

Not very pretty, but very tasty French onion soup

Not very pretty, but very tasty French onion soup

OK, secret here: the cheapest dish you can make that is healthy, low calorie, and low fat is soup. I have so many soups in my repertoire, from butternut squash and apple (I make it without the cheese topping and it’s delicious), turkey chili, classic tomato soup, curried pea soup,  and the great summer hit peach and tomato gazpacho.

French onion soup, with the melted cheese topping, isn’t exactly low fat or calorie, but it is a great dish for these cold winter days. Like most soup, it does take time to make, but the reward is how cheap you can make it for. And, it’s so hearty it can be a whole meal for me, maybe with a side of salad.

I have to admit, I found this recipe harder to make than I expected. The onions took forever to caramelize, and I had to speed up the process by turning up the heat to make it in less than two hours. But, the results were still very tasty.

And, if anyone has any tips to get onions to caramelize in less than an hour and a half without turning the heat up, I’m all ears.

Budget: $10, makes about 4-6 servings, $1.66-$2.50 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.

(more…)

Inspired by many features, most recently Best Bite’s Kelly Dinardo’s Frugal Foodie (and also inspired by being unemployed) I’ve decided to start a regular feature in which I spotlight great dishes made on an unemployed writer’s budget. As with many other similar features, I won’t include pantry staples (onions, garlic, olive oil, butter, dried spices, eggs, flour etc) in the final price.

Coq au vin

Coq au vin

First up: coq au vin, that classic French dish that many may consider too gourmet to make on their own, or too expensive, because it’s French or something. Well here I am to prove you wrong.

Budget: $20, including wine and port, serves 6 to 8 – so per serving this dish costs $2 to $3. This dish would obviously be a lot cheaper without the bottle of wine needed.

I started off of a Epicurious recipe that stayed (mostly) true to the classic French dish and modified it to make it a bit easier as well as cheaper. This can be time consuming, but I have some suggestions for time-saving techniques if you don’t want to make this an overnight affair. More details after the jump.

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1905, courtesy of Jenn Larsen

1905, courtesy of Jenn Larsen

I read about 1905 opening back in September, and had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to visit it at some point. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of buzz behind it, like other similar restaurants that have opened in the area. Last night, when I wanted an uncrowded place to sit down and get a drink and maybe dessert, I had to rack my mind to think of a place that I could get a seat at 10 pm on a Friday night, I thought I’d give 1905 a try.

The decor at 1905 is comfortable, dim lighting, interesting lamps, a lot of dark wood, mirrors on the wall. The space is small, and might feel a little cramped, but I like the atmosphere a lot. And lo and behold, there were open tables on a Friday night.

While I didn’t dine there, and have read some very mixed things about the food, the drinks are good. I had a Wonderful Life – a spiced cider with rum and Grand Marnier, and also a Van Gogh – an absinthe and fruit cocktail, which was amazing. I don’t even like anise flavored things, but the mix of the sweetness of the fruit and the anise of the absinthe just worked together. It was great.

The desserts were a mixed bag. The beignets were great, fluffy, and still warm – most likely right out of the fryer. The chocolate pannacotta was OK – and then became weird as I realized there was salt on one side of it.

It’s hard to tell why this place hasn’t gotten more buzz, perhaps the food really is not that good. It is a little out of the way, but that hasn’t deterred people before. I plan on stopping in for dinner soon, to form a better opinion of the restaurant. But as a bar, it’s a great place to stop in and get a drink and be able to hear yourself think, even on a Friday night.