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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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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The Christmas shopping season is upon us and that means its time to find the perfect  present for the food geek in your life.  The list below include some of my favorite socket stuffers for 2008. 

 

Space Invaders Cutting Board

a7cf_space_invaders_cutting_boardThis is probably my favorite item on the list this year!  This very clever cutting board uses dark and light end-grain “pixels” to represent those pesky aliens from the classic video game Space Invaders.  Also, it gives you an excuse to make the PEW PEW noise when cutting vegetables.  Now, if they could only build a Leisure Suit Larry cutting board…

$129.99 from ThinkGeek

 

 

 

300-Watt Cruzin Cooler

cruzin cooler

If there is a better way to drink and drive, I’ve never seen it.  This motorized cooler travels up to 15 miles on a single charge.  That’ll get you far enough away that you won’t recognize anything when you wake up naked and covered mustard outside a Dunkin Donuts off the Jersey turnpike.  With a maximum load of 210 pounds (you plus your chilled Chardonnay), it won’t haul your lazy ass up any steep hills, but you should be able to smoke those Rascal drivers on the quarter mile.

$399 from Smarthome

 

 

Infinite Circulon Portable Induction Burner

induction burner

Folks, we’re living in the future.  This induction burner is a portable, heatless, electric cooktop, which must have been sent back through time from the year 2025, at least.  Induction cooking uses a yet-to-be-discovered principle of electromagnetics whereby a strong magnetic field in the thingamajigie causes heat due to some electrical resistance voodoo in the bottom of your frying pan.  The result?  Heat with 90% energy effeciency.  Now, if we can only reduce our dependency on foreign olive oil…

$244.31 from Amazon

 

 

Good Chemistry Salt & Pepper Shakers

a3f6_good_chemistry_shakers

Proudly declare your geekdom with these sodium chloride and  Pe +(Pe)r shakers.  After all, cooking is chemistry, so why not make your kitchen look more like a laboratory?  Order a whole mess of these things and keep them neatly arranged in a crystal formation. 

$14.99 from ThinkGeek

 

 

Salt: A World History

Salt bookJust can’t get enough Salt?  I sure can’t.  This book discusses the profound impact that salt and the salt industry have had on world civilizations since, uh, a lot BC.  From the production and harvest of salt, to salt’s use as currency, to our modern-day culinary love affair with the compound, this book is a fascinating read.  And, when you’re done, you can use the pages to kill snails.

$10.29 from Amazon

 

 

 

Geek Shot Glass

geek_shotglass

If 1 out of 10 geeks suffer from alcoholism, does that mean the other 9 enjoy it?  If so, its probably because they one one of these sweet geek shot glasses!  Use them for your next happy hour, all-night coding session, or anytime you’re drinking with the other Matheletes. 

 

$3.99 from ThinkGeek

 

 

 

Star Wars Cookbooks

b322_star_wars_cookbooks

That’s right, there are multiple Star Wars cookbooks.  And you can have them both!  Learn how to make Jedi Juice Bars, Dark Side Salsa, Boba Fett-Uccine, and more delicious meals to eat by myself in my mother’s basement, er, I mean, to cook for dates.  With women.  Real life ones. 

$14.99 from ThinkGeek

 

 

Deni LED Cake Tray with Lid

led cake tray

OMG, OMG, OMG.  This has got to be one of the all time most superfluous kitchen gadgets I’ve ever seen.  Which means it’s perfect for the food geek in your life.  Just place your cake in the middle, then use the buttons to select between 2 and 12 slices.  LED lights on the outer ring shows you where to cut.  And, if that isn’t reason enough to buy this breakthrough digital portioning system, it even plays “Happy Birthday”.

$39.99 from Amazon

 

 

 

Cuisinart Brick Oven with Rotisserie

cuisinart brick oven

I’ve been drooling over these toaster ovens since they first came on the scene.  With a .9 cubic foot capacity, this little oven is perfect for smaller jobs like pizzas, casseroles, and shrinky-dinks.  Plus, the ceramic brick-lined interior promises even cooking, and the 500-degree temperature means you can tandori the night away!  The built-in rotisserie is another reason to keep your big oven off.  We are in an energy crisis, you know.

$279.99 from Amazon

 

 

 

Sylvania LED Fiber Optic Lighted Table Runner

fiber optic table runner

Are your Star Trek: The Next Generation-themed dinner parties lacking a certain flair?  You’ve got the costumes, the 3D chess set, even a sage, black ex-comedian to dispense advice and lend a friendly ear.  But something’s still missing… a fiber optic table runner!  Fret no more, Ensign Billy.  You may now boldly decorate as no man has decorated before.

$85.99 from Smarthome

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