Al Nakheel – Vienna, VA

340 Maple Avenue West
Vienna, VA 22180
(703) 938-4220

I know it has been a long while since I reviewed a restaurant, and I hope to change this in future. Today I cover Lebanese cuisine. Al Nakheel is located in a small strip mall in Vienna. It is small, unassuming, and attached to a wonderful little market.

The staff was small but very sweet and attentive, but the star of this visit was the food, as it should be. I got the Kabob Trio with chicken, lamb, and kefta. It came with rice and salad and I nixed the bread of course.

I have to tell you that these were the BEST kabobs I have had. Juicy, even the chicken. I am very picky about chicken, if I like it, it is good. The lentil soup was delectable but my favorite part of the meal was a garlic paste, called thoom. It was made with only roasted garlic and olive oil, and I could eat a bowl. The thoom came as a condiment, and OMG it rocked!

Most Middle Eastern food is gluten free, just stay away from the usual suspects and you should be good to go.

A Good Egg

First off I want to apologize for my absence. Things have been a bit crazy as of late. But I am back, so let us move on.

This post is one that is near and dear to my heart, eggs. Eggs are often over looked in the American culinary palette. Often submitted to the agony of being over cooked at IHOP. Never seen for it’s potential for greatness, a perception I hope to change.

This noble protein is versatile, delicious, naturally gluten free, and nutritious. It is true that if consumed in excess, the egg can contribute to certain health problems. As always, moderation is the path to righteousness. In this, I agree with the french philosophy, it is much better to have a little of something delectable that lots of something mediocre.

Today I bring you the perfect scrambled egg.The most important points are do not over salt, and most important DO NOT OVERCOOK. Here are some pointers for making a good egg.

Make sure to set you stove to medium at most. Very important, use real butter to melt in the pan (Preferably unsalted since Americans consume way too much salt.). Remember, moderation is the key. Butter is fine is you do not overdo it. Repeat after me, “Butter is not the devil.”

First, beat eggs very well. I once heard that a french chef at a fine restaurant would beet the eggs for 15 minutes strait. I am not suggesting you do it that long, but beat them until a slight foam appears at the top. Once your butter is melted, if you want to include other things, like onions and mushrooms (My favorite), now is the time. Please note this step is optional.

Pour eggs into pan, which is set to medium heat and stir, stir, stir, and keep stirring. In fact, do not stop till done. This step provides that perfect texture. You do not want flat lifeless eggs. You want fluffy happy eggs. I prefer mine a little on the wet side. If you have not tried them this way, I highly recommend it. Viola, the perfect scrambled egg.

Now that you are armed with the proper method, go forth and scramble.


Sadness thy name is Whole Foods

In a previous post about GF bread, I told you about LivWell brand and how wonderful it is. Whole Foods was the only place I know of who carried that brand imported from England. Every time I went in to purchase more, they were out, and I finally got the gumption to ask why? 

It turns out that Whole Foods was starting to have trouble with the company so they severed ties. No more yummy bread? NOT fair…

Best GF Bread Thus Far

This is not going to be chock full of quirky dialogue and funny witticisms, OK, maybe a little. It is just how we roll here at GF DC. I have tried A LOT of the GF bread out there. And let’s face it, most GF bread on the market would not be distinguishable between well worn cardboard if it were not packaged in pretty bags and stamped at 6.00 a friggin loaf. Grrrrr. I mean, you hear people writing columns about which GF bread tastes the best, but come on, it really means which one can we doctor up enough to mimic real bread. Seems that bread making is rocket science. It is one of those mysteries we cannot crack, like the common cold, hair loss, Jimmy Hoffa.

Well, there is one I have tried that shows there is a small dot of light beckoning us to the end of this dark dank tunnel. It is made by a British company called Livwell. So far I have only tried the seeded bread loaf and crumpets. The amazing thing is this bread gives at the touch. It does not feel like it is made of clay and mortar, it is SOFT. You can even eat it without toasting it first! I know! Unbelievable.

The crumpets were pretty good, but the bread is the true gift here. I am eager to try more, however, the one problem is I have only found it at Whole Foods. My plan is to find out from them if they can start carrying more. I am only one of a starving public who needs real food again. So, dedicated fans, I will keep you posted…

Oh yeah, here is the link. Party on.

Today We Tackle 2 Countries

I know it may seem like I have gone into hiding, but I promise you it is nothing that permanent. I recently had a job upset, and it has taken some time to adjust. I should be back now, fingers crossed.

Well, to commemorate my return, I am reviewing two restaurants stemming from 2 separate countries and cultures. One is from India (Cuisines also included are Bangladeshi, and Bengali); the other, Ethiopia. Let us start this party with the former.

Sid’s Kitchen
298 Sunset Park Drive
Herndon, VA 20170
Phone: 703.435.2465

My favorite kind of restaurant in the whole wide world are those little holes in the wall that deceive you with their modest looks, then bowl you over with fantastic food. I just like a place with no room for pretention. The name was promising. It made me think of someone’s home. From the moment I arrived, it felt like I had been invited for supper at a friend’s. We were greeted by, who I can only assume, was Sid. He was an enchanting middle aged man with such a sweet temperament. His wife seemed to run the joint, manning the kitchen all by herself. He good heartedly admitted, she cooks, I am the dish guy. Totally charming.

To get to the meat and potatoes, so to speak, it is a seat yourself smallish buffet. But if all the dishes are divine, larger is just unnecessary.  The good news is, aside from fried foods and bread, Indian food is naturally gluten free. The surprising bit is that there was only 3 items that fall into the “bad” category, everything else was free for the taking. Every last morsel was heaven. Spicy, but not too spicy. The only thing that was missing was a really good yogurt sauce, but that could be a regional difference. They also include with the price of the buffet, a can of soda or bottle of water.

The price is the best part after the fabulous food. You get all this for $7.99. No I am not jerking your chain! No I will not pinch you either.  All in all, I think it is my new fave Indian dive. Not only was there wonderful hospitality, but also fabulous food at reasonable prices. This is a combo that cannot be beat.

Manna Bakery and Bistro
14215X Centreville Square
Centerville, Virginia 20121
Phone: (703) 543-6990

Manna Bistro & Bakery on Urbanspoon

I LOVE Ethiopian food. I tried it for the first time almost 12 years ago, and after that, I have not found a place I enjoyed  as much. It is like I have been searching for a lost love. I had tried a couple of places. One was pretty well known in DC, but it just lacked something. Finally I have found her, my new Ethiopian food temple.

Like Indian food, Ethiopian is naturally gluten free. Even the sourdough spongy pancakes you use in lieu of utensils (injera) is made from a gluten free grain, called teff. That is, authentic injera is made of teff. To appease the American palate, most Ethiopian restaurants make injera using teff AND wheat flour. It is almost impossible to find a place that does it old school anymore.

I did some research, and Manna had both kinds. So off I went to taste the fruit so long withheld from me. The décor is modest, just as I like, and the food tasted better with every bite. With Ethiopian food, I actually prefer vegetarian. I usually get the veggie sampler so I can get a little of all my favorites, messer wat (a spicy red lentil sauce, Kik-Alicha (a yellow split pea sauce), and Atakilt (Cabbage, carrots, and potatoes). In my previous experiences, the serving sizes seemed a little skimpy with the sampler, but not at Manna. The portion sizes were spot on. My husband, and taste adventurer extraordinaire, got the Doro Alicha (chicken simmered in onion, garlic, ginger and herbed butter), and it too was divine. This will be my main haunt for Ethiopian, of this I promise you. Oh yeah, try the French macaroons. They are celestial pockets of pleasure to the tongue, and GF.