lark collage

Usually when I threaten to order half the menu at a restaurant, I’m joking.  But at Lark, I was quite serious.  Located on an easy-to-miss block of Capitol Hill, this gem specializes in intricate, small plates with bold flavors and surprising combinations.  For example, the roasted eel with saba and new potato salad ($12, pictured above, left) paired a predictably sweet and sticky eel fillet with a most unlikely and delicate (you guessed it) potato salad.  This was one of my favorite dishes – my only regret was sharing it with three other people. 

Lark’s menu is designed for family-style ordering, but with more than 2 people at your table, each plate portions out to an amuse-bouche or so.  As a result, we nearly ended up ordering most of the menu!  Every dish was delectable and I appreciated the variety of our dinner, but I couldn’t help feeling unsatiated.  I respect the “small bites” philosophy and I enjoy that manner of eating, but with flavors so compelling, there was a discord between my stomach and my wallet.

Even so, I would recommend Lark for foodies and adventurous eaters. Of particular note were the Carpaccio of Yellowtail with preserved lemons and green olives ($15, pictured top right), the Crispy Liberty Farm duck leg with watercress and pomegranate salad ($11, pictured middle right), and the Valrhona chocolate hazelnut mousse with cocoa ladyfingers and candied hazelnut ($8, pictured bottom right).  You may want to consider ordering two of each!

Lark on Urbanspoon

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mushrooms cooking 

This is one of the first things I learned to make when I started cooking on my own.  It’s simple, hard to mess up, and delicious.  Plus, its a pretty cheap way to dress up plain chicken. 

Makes: 4 servings
Total kitchen time: 25 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup red wine (use a bottle you’d actually drink)
  • 4 cups (about 2 packages) crimini or white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. Herbs de Provençe (seasoning blend)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the butter an oil together in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the red wine and stir to deglaze the pan.  The shallots will have started to brown just slightly, leaving wonderful sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan.  The acid from the wine will cause those brown bits to release and get reincorporated into the liquid.  That’s called deglazing.
  4. Bring the wine to a boil and let it reduce for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the mushrooms, stirring to mix everything together.  Add the salt, pepper and herbs de Provençe.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and tender.
  6. To serve, spoon the mushrooms over chicken, pasta, steak, or whatever else your heart desires.

 chicken with mushrooms

Pictured above, I’ve topped some Hens Provençal with a generous helping of the mushrooms.  I also added some butternut squash, sweet potatoes and turnips to the roasting pan for a bit of extra color and flavor.

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If you love to entertain, but your wallet is still sore from Christmas shopping, try a few of surprise bargains.  Just because your stocks tanked doesn’t mean its time for canned cheese.
Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller (pictured above)

Nothing says “classy party” quite like a plate of oysters.  However, not everyone enjoys the slimy, raw mollusks as much as you do.  This classic recipe adds chopped greens, bacon and bread crumbs, then bakes the whole shebang for delicious, elegant bite.  If you shop with a keen eye, you can get 1-2 oysters for a buck, making them a reasonably priced treat after all.

beef wellington hors d'ouvre 

Mini Beef Wellington Hors D’Oeuvres

Serving beef doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.  Rather than serving this rich entree, try my bite-size version.  I ended up paying less than $1 per piece, but all the guests just remembered getting to eat great beef!

rosemary fudge 

Rosemary Fudge

A lot of chocolate and a little rosemary goes a long way to producing memorable dessert bites.  Rather than splurge for artisanal  bonbons, try this bulk-batch recipe.  Your guests will ooh and aah at the sophistication of what would otherwise be regular fudge.

chocolate ginger tart 

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

If you’re not an expert baker (I’m certainly not), but you’re somehow in charge of dessert, try this easy chocolate tart with a kick of ginger.  Thinly sliced candied ginger says “Celebration!” and the richness of this tart means you can serve small slices, stretching your dollar all that much further. 

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