DC Empanadas (Truck).

What is, exactly, the appeal of food trucks?  Primarily, for the down and out college students, food trucks in their current incredibly gourmet incarnation offer delicious food on the—relatively—cheap.  In addition the tracking down of the food trucks each day is some weird mutation of the hunter-gather stereotype, except in the concrete and brick forest of Washington D.C.

Capitol Hill is some sort of parallel to the jungle, right?  The National Mall during the winter is most definitely similar to a wide open savannah.  (A mile and a half long savannah, but an open plain nonetheless.)

Food trucks, which seem to be the blossoming population on the Hill, combine all the fun of eating something delicious and hot on the street with reasonable prices and the added bonus of having to spot the blue, orange, black, pink and green trucks amid the inevitable D.C. traffic.  It’s a game and a meal for your lunchtime hour and even if you’re not particularly hungry, how much can a slice of pie or an empanada hurt?  After all, the calories you burn tracking down the trucks justify deep fried goodness.  As a side note, if I were the proprietor of a food truck, I can’t say I would be above a little stop and go action with the gas pedal.  Moving a couple feet forward and driving away from a line of costumers could only add to the amusement, right?

The thing is, even if the baby blue DC Empanada truck taunted me as I most surely would my own, imaginary customers, I would still go back for more.

Because, really.  You can’t say no to the Foggy Bottom, a hand held, nutty brown and piping hot sherry poached pear, brie and honey empanada.  Or cookie sandwiches of likes of chocolate cookie with dulce de leche or brown sugar poppy seed cookie with chocolate ganache.  Most importantly, in the frigid, horrible, exhausting winter months, steaming and spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate is never refused.

And this hot chocolate, dispersed around the city from a truck of all things, is absolutely the most delicious, thick and sweet hot chocolate you could ever hope for.  Hot chocolate and empanada dreams should be your new motto.

DC Empandas, a truck I’ll say rivals Dangerously Delicious Pies, only does creative empandas.  Divine Swine, a pulled bbq pork empanada.  The Taj Mahal, chicken tikka masala in a tomato cream sauce.  Thai Vegetable, peanut sauce and yes, vegetables.  The Royal, filet mignon, pate, mushrooms, shallots and a red wine sauce.  These are empanadas unlike ones you’ve ever had before.

Just imagine; you’re sitting at work when all the sudden, DC Empanada shows up on your twitter feed—I  know, I know.  Twitter.  But really, when the downside to not having a Twitter account is missing out on the whereabouts of ten plus food trucks, it’s really time to lemming up and jump into mass culture.  Let’s be real—and the light blue baby on wheels is blocks away from your office.  Getting there and back in less than 30 minutes is a likely possibility and, what do you know?  Your thermos has been emptied of coffee and is sitting, empty and alone on your desk.  What should you do?

Book it out of your building, hunt down the truck of dreams, buy a chocolate and dulce de leche sandwich cookie and fill your thermos up with Mexican hot chocolate.

What could be better?

 

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pretzel-Heath Bar Cookies.

Lowbrow and guilty pleasures, when it comes to food and television it seems, often if not always coincide.  Primary example—Forget You sung by Gwyneth Paltrow on this last week’s episode of Glee. To start with, the original song Fuck You by Cee Lo already is deeply rooted in the guilty pleasure well.  Singing children, diners, and 50s reference all thrown together with spilt fries and a surprising amount of checkered surfaces and neon does not up the highbrow quota.  Toss in acapella groups, teenage angst, and tater tots and, well, come on.  Fattening, delicious, and satisfying, I’m going to go ahead and say that this weeks Glee represented almost everything right in the world.

If only they had fried some bacon.

A couple weeks ago I had the please of visiting Panna Dolce macarons in Chicago.  They are a self-started macaron company who bakes the pastries and then distributed them through retailers like Neiman Marcus and Whole Foods and they are delicious. With combinations like cinnamon and salted caramel, how could they go wrong?  During the baking process, they also were making cookie dough and while French macarons are in no way lowbrow, these cookies combine every childhood love into an adult-guilty pleasure.  A peanut butter dough swirled with chocolate and studded with pretzel and heath bar chunks, these cookies are perfect.  They’re everything but the kitchen sink, and they’re tasty.

For this recipe, I just adapted by beloved peanut butter sandwich cookie dough and it worked out lovely.

Recipe on the following page.

Blueberry and Cream Cookies.

Blueberry and Cream Cookies, you taste like blueberry pie.  Blueberry Pie mixed with something a little salty-sweet and malty.  You’re chewy, crunchy, and toothsome.  And fun to eat.  So, so fun to eat.

On my last trip to the Momofuku Milkbar, after cake and sugar cookie soft serve, I left with a bag of cookies for later consumption.  Because, yes, I was full.  Full of sugar, and pork buns, and rice cakes, and noodles.  A couple feet out the door into the New York Christmastime winter, and that brown paper bag filled with Marshmallow Cornflake Cookies, Chocolate Cookies, Compost Cookies, that brown paper bag was already dripping with grease stains.  Grease stains at their most beautiful, of course.

Alfajores.

So yesterday when I said I magically found myself in the Dulce de Leche section of the Latin grocery store, that wasn’t entirely true.  You see, in terms of the ice cream I was about to make, the dulce de leche was an inspired, last minute improvement to the Horchata Ice Cream that really could only have been predestined by grocery store minions.  But, when you consider the alfajores my little sister was planning on making—the very alfajores that have been creeping around in the back of my mind—the dulce de leche section and I already had a predetermined date.

Alfajores are very, very sweet, but the nutty butteryness of the cookies and the deep toasty milk caramel flavor of the dulce de leche combine to make an absolutely delicious sandwich cookie.  With a little powdered sugar or toasted coconut on the side, these cookies are deceptively easy to make and exceptionally elegant.  Also, they’re sandwich cookies, by far the superior cookie in the land.

Coffee Cookies. (Brown Butter Shortbread.)

It is hard to improve a cup of coffee. A good cup of coffee, let’s be clear, is strong, well-rounded, opaque in the mug, and rarely with a bitter finish. It has a taste, a thickness, and is much more than brewed water. So, to clarify, a good cup of coffee, just like a great shot of espresso, is very hard to improve upon.

Foamed milk? Yes, it’s lovely, but not necessary to the absolute enjoyment of a cup of coffee. Chocolate? Well, yes. An improvement, but again not necessary when you have that one good cup of caffeine. Cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, etc.—all of these are great deviations of that most perfect brewed espresso or Americano. That was my stance up until very recently, when I received a post-game dinner coffee, with two perfectly round, bite-sized cookies.  Covered in sparkling sugar and with the absolute highest ratio of butter to mass, they were were good.

Cornflake Cookies, Pecan Bars, and Tasty Burgers.

There’s something about trashy and low-end that’s appealing.  Especially when it comes to good.  Curly fries anyone?

So one of the more interesting food trends of the first decade of the new millennium—as I get closer and closer to two decades old, using all-encompassing time periods becomes more appealing—is the high/low-end mixture of food.  And my little holiday-time visit to the Momofuku militia only confirmed that.  Pork buns, ramen, and fried mochi sticks?  Asian street-food, the equivalent of Ian’s Pizza and In-N-Out.  But delicious and redone, with pork belly, spicy sauce, and ginger-noodle redux.  The Milk Bar especially caters to all the foods-stuffs of a forgotten childhood from the infamous Compost Cookies, Cereal Milk Soft-Serve, to the streusel butter cream chunks on numerous cakes.

But the Cornflake Cookies, oh the cornflakes.  While great in theory, the cookies were reminiscent of dim sum.  (Which I’ll attribute to being a little old perhaps, quite unfortunate.)  But I just couldn’t get over the idea.  It was phenomenal.  Combine marshmallows, cornflakes, and fine chocolate in the best kind of cookie, huge and caramelized with the requisite outer and inner rings of cookies texture. So I tried it and in the spirit of the high/low-end trend, I made these cookies—along with some tried-and-true Pecan Bars—for a little New Year’ après ski. (Yea, yea, it’s almost February.)

Rainbow Cookies.

This post is being written in secret. It wouldn’t have to be a stealth mission, but something bad happened. Something really awful has struck this kitchen in these times of holiday glow and glory.

All the Rainbow Cookies are gone.

For the holidays we’ve gone east, to that big noisy place that sometimes goes as New York. Where the snow is always yellow, there’s dog excrement all over the ground, and everyone’s in a big, great hurry somewhere. But oh, yeah. It’s also that fantastic place where there’s always something going on, there’s museums and culture coming out of everywhere—buildings that go on for miles, an obelisk or two—there’s a whole world’s worth of cuisines and people on one island, and there’s something about that park in the middle. Right. It’s beautiful in the snow. It’s a pretty good place, second only to California if I may add a little bit of bias. Which—revelation number two, here it is—I can. A blog, what a wonderful thing.

So why, in this winter wonderland, am I hiding out? Why am I sitting in the cupboard? It has to do with the cookies. Those seven-layered, rainbow hued cookies. What do you find at the end of the rainbow? Not a pot of gold that’s for sure. But some cookies, in this family? That’s what everyone’s chasing light for.