a pimento cheese recipe, plus or minus


Pimento cheese, or “Carolina Caviar,” as it was sometimes referred to where I grew up, is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s the perfect snacking cheese — spreadable, mildly spicy, and salty. On the other hand, one can never just dip their hand in a single bite of pimento cheese and stop. I know this from firsthand experience. I may have also fallen asleep with streaks of dried pimento cheese smeared across my face in a cheddar-induced haze. This is why I don’t make it often. This is also why I’ve stopped setting it out on my coffee table, right in front of my napping sofa.

This past Easter seemed like a good reason to make a big batch, though. The moms on our quiet little street all got together and planned a neighborhood-wide egg hunt, and we all agreed that the price of admission was a side dish. Pimento cheese is a surefire party pleaser, and this way I could make sure that my family didn’t absentmindedly consume a whole bunch of it on our own (see: nap/cheese issue, above). Today’s recipe is my basic, go-to recipe, adapted from the Lee Brothers Southern Cookbookand above I’ve listed some of my favorite add-ins to make your pimento cheese uniquely yours.


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grits & chopsticks elsewhere


Just giving my little ballerina a little of the spotlight, since this post is mostly about her brother

We’re pretty much business as usual over here, visiting Costco, shuttling the kids to various lessons and generally being the good suburbanites that we are. Meanwhile, Ge Ge, our little food critic, has gotten a little bit of publicity as a result of the Northern Virginia Magazine’s dueling critics’ review that went live online a couple of weeks ago. As he says, “I’m famous on Facebook.” It’s all Facebook to him.


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the peter chang experience

beef tendon arlington va peter chang

Sliced beef tendon in a hot numbing sauce topped with chopped peanuts and cilantro, from Peter Chang in Arlington, VA

Before we moved back to the DC area, a friend asked me if my first order of business would be to track down Peter Chang. I’d never heard of him. “What’s he famous for?” I asked.

“Only the most amazing Chinese food that used to be impossible to find.” The friend sent me a link to a New York Times article about his restaurant in the suburbs of Richmond the next day. “Find him and tell me what the food is like,” he said breathlessly. “I ate at one of his restaurants years ago. It haunts me still.”

You can see why he and I are friends.

Well, we’ve finally had our Chang. Twice. The first time, the hubby and I took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg and, as usual, we planned all sorts of food stops along the way. On the way back, we stopped in Short Pump, just outside Richmond, to sample some of Peter Chang’s delights. The second time, we went with our friends to the new Peter Chang that just opened in Arlington.


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bun cha: vietnamese pork noodle salad


I was an intern in Hanoi, Vietnam in the summer of 2001. I’d never been to Vietnam before I accepted the job. I arrived on a dusty, sweltering afternoon and watched a rickety, faded metallic bus drive over the tarmac to pick us up as we disembarked the plane. The customs and border control officials, while serious and no-nonsense, sat behind painted plywood booths akin to lemonade stands. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a developed or glamorous place.

Nevertheless, I fell in love with the countryside, its people and the wonderful cuisine with an emphasis on light, fresh ingredients. I most especially loved bun. No, not like hamburger buns. Bun is a rice vermicelli noodle salad that can be served with all sorts of meats — chicken, grilled beef, pork patties, small egg rolls. On top of a cold bowl of noodles are heaps of fresh veggies, from bean sprouts to basil to mint to all sorts of other fresh Vietnamese greens I couldn’t even begin to identify and that probably aren’t widely available here in the U.S. Before work every morning, I’d stop by my favorite little bun house (or pho house, if I was in the mood for a noodle soup) and for less than a dollar I’d eat like a king. Good times.

Today I bring you a recipe for Vietnamese pork noodle salad, or bun cha.


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