Monday, December 29, 2014

DC Spotlight: Sundays at Thai X-ing on 9th Street

For years, friends would tell me that I just had to try the delicious home-cooked vegetarian Thai food at Thai X-ing (pronounced "Thai Crossing").  And for years, I declined -- for one reason only:  the "restaurant" reportedly was the chef's living room, and the living room reportedly was a favorite hangout of the chef's cats.  No thanks.  But my years of waiting are over, because Thai X-ing recently opened a new location near the corner of the 9th and U Streets in a bona fide, first-class restaurant space.

Sunday nights are 100% vegetarian (no fish sauce!), and for only $30.00, you get an unbelievable nine-course meal.  Although the new space has a full bar, everybody brings their own bottle(s) of wine, because a $5.00 corkage fee in DC simply can't be beat.  The menu is prix fixe (chef's choice, although I'm told the menu does not vary much from week to week, and the famous pumpkin curry is a staple), and most dishes are naturally vegan and gluten-free.  Everything is fresh, spicy, and delicious.  The only challenge may be getting a reservation, which should be done in advance on the restaurant's website.  See below for some pictures of my unforgettable vegetarian Thai feast.

Papaya salad and vegetable soup

Starting at the bottom and going clockwise: noodle salad, pineapple curry tofu, pumpkin curry, mushroom string bean tofu, and a side of brown rice with beans (not pictured:  vegetable stir fry)

Drunken rice noodles
For dessert, sticky coconut rice with mango

Thai X-Ing on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Madrid, Spain (Sept. 2014)

A couple of months ago, following my short trip to Lisbon, Portugal, I spent a few days in Madrid, Spain.  I've written a lot about Spanish tapas, many of which are naturally meat-free and great for vegetarians (click here, here, here, here, and here for some of my prior posts).  

But I always find Madrid a little bit more challenging.  For starters, the traditional method of enjoying tapas in Madrid does not provide the consumer with much choice.  Rather, you order a drink, and the tapas are simply served, not ordered (of course, they are basically free, so as my mother used to say, "beggars can't be choosers").  This custom can be a little awkward for vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions.  And in sit-down restaurants, where larger sized tapas (usually called raciones) can be ordered from a menu, many typical vegetable-based dishes (like sauteed mushrooms and garlic), often contain pieces of ham or sausage.  The experience can be frustrating.  Although Madrid -- like most big cities these days -- has a lot of vegetarian restaurants to choose from, such restaurants, in my opinion, often are frequented by other tourists and do not provide the traveler with a very authentic Spanish experience.  

I am happy to report, however, that I found one place where vegetarians can enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine in a place that is popular with madrilenos.  The Mercado San Ildefonso is essentially an upscale food court, and it literally has something for everyone.  Whether you are a vegetarian, meat lover, wine drinker, or have a sweet tooth -- you can find what you want here.  At the same time, the festive atmosphere (I counted at least three bars, not including several specialty wine and beer stands) and shared tables make it easy to socialize with locals.  

The Mercado San Ildefonso is located on Fuencarral Street, near the center of Madrid.

The market has three levels of food and drinks!

On the first floor, you can get a selection of cheeses at the Cheese Tavern or some fresh fruit and juice at Street Fruit.  

First-floor food stands, including Cheese Tavern and Street Fruit (near the back)

Here is a birds-eye of the second floor.

But I started my visit at the MyVeg food stand on the second floor, where I picked up a made-to-order salad consisting of exceptionally fresh ingredients.

MyVeg offers fresh made-to-order salads.

This green salad with fresh tomatoes and warm mushrooms was delicious.

I then moved next door to the Granja Malasana, where I ordered a half Spanish tortilla covered with asparagus.

Spanish tortilla with asparagus
And at the next stand over, DP Tapas, I grabbed an order of Andalusian gazpacho. 

Andalusian gazpacho topped with drizzled olive oil and crispy garlic

It's possible to spend hours eating and drinking at Mercado San Ildefonso, but in my opinion, no visit would be complete without tasting the wines at Taninos.

Taninos Vinoteca