Category Archives: Arlington

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Bayou Bakery’s Beignets

You can keep your trendy cupcakes and overly-glazed Krispy Kremes — I’ll take beignets. And since the Super Bowl is being played in New Orleans this Sunday, it’s only appropriate to honor this classic doughnut made famous in America by The Big Easy.

There are some great beignets at Bayou Bakery in Court House, plus a whole lot more. I’ve heard the place does a mean brunch.

“How crowded does it get for brunch?” I asked the woman behind the counter.

“Oh, it’s crowded. The line goes out the door,” she answered.

Another customer next to me piped up. “It’s worth it.”

Okay, then. Will have to come back for brunch. In the meantime, my friend Becky and I stopped in for dinner.

We both liked the ambiance and comfy decor of the self-service restaurant. Especially the back area with the couch and TV.

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Not exactly a winter drink, but I wanted to try the Rebirth Punch with fruit juice and rum. Good for any weather!

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We shared the unusual and tasty roasted endive with crumbled feta and toasted pecans.

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And the pickled black-eyed pea spread.

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Can’t go to a place called Bayou Bakery without sampling the gumbo.

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Nice, but maybe a little flat in flavor and spice compared to a really great gumbo.

My blackened turkey meatballs were moist and hearty. And quite reasonably priced — $6. Actually, everything at Bayou Bakery is reasonably priced.

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Then it was time for the grand finale, an order of beignets.

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Word of advice — be careful when breathing or moving around powdered sugar. One gesture and suddenly it was as if a blizzard had landed on my phone. I’m not sure powdered sugar damage is covered under warranty.

Anyway, beneath that avalanche were three poofy beignets. Soft and yeasty. And warm. Ooooh. We swooned over every bite.

It sure would be fun to be in New Orleans this week, living it up for the Super Bowl.  We’ll have to settle for the next best thing — eating beignets, and pretending we’re there.

Bayou Bakery
1515 N Courthouse Rd
Arlington, VA
703-243-2410

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The Chinese Hot Pot Experience at Mala Tang

I managed to get out of Mala Tang without having to visit the burn ward at the local hospital. I’d say the evening was a success. Oh, and the food was good too.

In our litigious society, I’m amazed a place like Mala Tang can even exist.  The danger is glaringly obvious: a portable burner, ignited to produce a big blue flame, on top of which sits a pot of scaldingly hot broth, bubbling like a personal witches’ brew.  I took special care to move my burner in from the edge of the table. Nothing to ruin a Friday night like dumping scorching broth into the ol’ twig and berries.

If I’m making Mala Tang sound like a negative experience, I don’t mean to. Eating Chinese hot pot is actually a ton of fun, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The fun is in going with a group because hot pot at Mala Tang is a communal experience. Each person selects his/her own broth, either mild or mala (hot), then orders are placed for various raw meats, seafood and vegetables, which arrive on platters to be shared. The raw ingredients are plunged into the broth to cook, and within minutes, everything’s ready to eat.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we shared a round of regular dishes.

Dan dan noodles to awaken the taste buds.

A hearty and spicy ma po tofu.

And soup dumplings. They tore open from the bottoms sticking to the lettuce, and there was no soup to be found, but they were still tasty anyway.

We were primed and ready for the main event.

First, we hit the condiment bar to pick up an assortment of sauces and herbs.

Then, each of our burners was lit.

I ordered the mala broth, deep red in color and spicy with Szechuan peppercorns. Within minutes it went from this:

To this:

That flame works fast. Now it was time to drop the raw ingredients into our broths. Initially, with eight people at our table, we thought we’d made a major miscalculation by ordering way too much food. Check it out.

That’s enoki mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fish balls, lobster balls, shrimp balls, sliced sirloin, sliced lamb, bok choy, watercress, seaweed, squid, and a few other items I’m forgetting.

Never doubt a group of hungry Asians. We’re thin, but we can eat. By the end, practically everything had been polished off.

My mala broth could have been spicier, but maybe it’s just as well that it wasn’t. A few years ago at a hot pot restaurant, the atomically spicy broth went down the wrong pipe; I coughed, and suddenly it was like my throat and lungs were ablaze with the heat of a thousand Szechuan peppercorns. A unique and particularly excruciating pain… kinda hope to never experience that again.

With this crazy mild winter we’re having, the ideal days for hot pot are few and far between. Go to Mala Tang soon before the temperature really starts to warm up. Hot pot is cold weather food.

* Note: If you’re going with more than eight people, ask for rectangular tables. I forgot to, and we ended up split up into two groups at round tables which couldn’t be pushed together. Not a disaster, but a bit of a bummer that we couldn’t all sit together as one big group.

Mala Tang
3434 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA
703-243-2381