I’m currently on vacation at my parents’ house in Virginia, practicing the arts of doing nothing and eating a lot. Ed and I always plan our vacations around food and this week has been a spectacular ongoing feast. My dad kicked off the week with his juicy, smoky bbq pork shoulder. Topped with a vinegar-based sauce and creamy slaw, it was as good as anything we’d find on a dusty Carolina back road. Ed and I provided dessert, an over-the-top s’mores pie. Imagine a grahammy cookie crust filled with 7 Hershey’s bars and a whole container of marshmallow creme topped with more marshmallows and graham cookies. It was sweet and very, very s’mores-y. Will I make it again? Probably not, but it was fun.
We ventured into D.C. on Tuesday to meet up with Ed’s sister and brother-in-law for an unforgettable evening at Pineapple and Pearls. We ate thirteen courses of pure magic. Perfection was everywhere: the service, the pacing, the atmosphere, the decor, the flatware(!), and, of course, the food. Everything was vibrant, fresh, unique, interesting, and left me wanting more of each taste. I can’t possibly adequately describe the meal in a single summary paragraph, but I can say it was one of the best meals of my life. It felt so wonderful to be back in one of my favorite cities sharing an extraordinary experience with people I love.
Wednesday night, Ed and I drove back into D.C. for one more meal with our friends. Ed joined a buddy for steaks at Del Campo and I picked up Jessica from the train station (yay!) for dinner at Convivial. Ed’s steak was good, but overall he and his friend felt the experience was just okay. Jessica and I were also a tad disappointed in our restaurant. We liked the escargots in a blanket, the skate, and the fried chicken coq au vin, but the brandade croquettes and the duck egg beignets left us flat. The meal ended on a high note with desserts (key lime pie with speculoos crust and sticky toffee pudding) that had us reaching for our cameras.
Last night, my Aunt Joannie treated us to a southern feast in her kitchen: shrimp and grits topped with a buttery, garlicky sauce of red and green tomatoes from her garden and sautéed kale with smoky bacon and onions. We slurped and mmmm’ed and made room for seconds. And then she brought out mini peach crumbles baked in mason jars. Speechless.
With so many stellar meals this week, I haven’t needed or wanted to cook. I did make my current favorite potato salad, though, so that I would have something to blog about this week. This is a recipe from the Food Lab that I’ve made more than anything else this summer. It’s everything I want in a potato salad: crisp celery and onions, bright parsley, and creaminess without being too mayonnaise-y. It also has a sweet and sour dimension that I can’t get enough of. The potatoes are boiled with sugar, salt, and vinegar, so they have a ton of flavor before being coated with the sweet and punchy mayo-mustard sauce. It’s a summer go-to that’s perfect for picnics, potlucks, and grilling out.
The bad news is that our vacation is almost over. The good news is that we still have the weekend and our favorite local Mexican spot ahead of us. I hope everyone is having a tasty summer!
classic american potato salad
adapted from The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt
Serves 4-6 (doubles easily)
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar, divided
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 scallions, green parts only, diced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons chopped pickles (cornichons if you have them)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan with 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain potatoes and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Immediately drizzle with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and toss gently to distribute. Allow potatoes to cool for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise and mustard with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of vinegar until evenly combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the celery, red onion, scallions, parsley, and pickles. When the potatoes are cooled, gently fold them into the sauce until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (best if left to chill for a few hours). Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days