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One of the drawbacks of living in India for 3 years is that I am now a self proclaimed curry snob and have become extremely fussy about Indian food I eat anywhere else. Annoying? Maybe, but at least I’m honest!

Even growing up in England, where there is a large Indian population and curry houses are prevalent – you quickly learn that a good Indian meal is comprised of fresh, simple elements and shouldn’t cost the earth. Sure there will be times when only gourmet will do and there are tantalizing Michelin ranked restaurants such as Benares (London), Tusli (NYC) and even Bukhara in Delhi (a favorite of Bill Clinton no less) to cater for you on those occasions. When moving to DC, I was disheartened to find plenty of the expensive, fine-dining variety, but a genuine lack of well priced, authentic Indian restaurants serving decent food.

Imagine my disappointment! I move from Bombay where I was eating scrumptious handmade curry for $5 and arrive in Georgetown, where I am handed a bill for a somewhat greasy, under-spiced, over-creamed, distinctly unauthentic meal for $50. Excuse me? How hard can it be to find a decent curry in this town?

And then, one day, when visiting my house-to-be in the up and coming neighborhood of Hyattsville, just outside the DC line… it happens. I see this vibrant logo for Spice 6 Cafe, and upon closer inspection, a menu chock-full with heart tingling favorites from my days in Bombay, complete with colorful photos of delicious looking Indian street food. OK. I’m in!

Once inside, the best way to describe Spice 6 is “like an Indian version of Chipotle”. But this is not in any way meant to be disparaging, merely an analogy to the process of choosing a meal style, protein, sauce, veggies and salad toppings as you move down a line with all of the piping hot ingredients simmering before your eyes.

One great choice is the naan wrap, which you can stuff with all sorts of things. First you start with a strong base of rice, salad and chutneys. Then comes your choice of main filling: chicken, lamb, veggies or juicy (oh so juicy) tofu. Finally layer that with Korma, Spinach, spicy Tikka Masala or the slightly milder and sweeter Kadai curry sauce. The naan itself is cooked in their in-house tandoor: a custom made clay oven housed in their open kitchen where you can watch them knead and bake the traditional Indian flat bread to perfection.

There’s also salad and rice bowls, another familiar approach to this sort of self assemble meal and interestingly a naan pizza, allowing those not yet 100% in step with Indian cuisine to try the flavors while still retaining a slice of America.

Some of the best items on this menu are the street food style sides. Try the Samosa Chat – crispy, fried triangles of pastry filled with spicy vegetables covered in tamarind & mint chutney, cilantro and pop-in-your mouth garbanzo beans. Pair this with their chai-spiced Mango lassi (a yoghurt and fruit blended drink designed to cool your palate from all those delicious spices). I’ve been back just for this dangerously good duo, many times since.

Finally, don’t pass over the sweet stuff! Indian desserts are generally extremely sugary and not everyone’s cup of tea, but here they offer the two reigning champions that will appeal to even those not usually sweet of tooth. Gulab Jamun – a deep fried dough ball steeped in fragrant sugar syrup – or as Ken described it “ It’s like a mapley, waffley, pancake ball!” Also Malai Kulfi – the delicately flavored ice cream of the Indian subcontinent, a version of which you can find a recipe for on my blog.

I’m thrilled Spice 6 has arrived- the concept is smart, the food is excellent and it’s great value. I hope Vik Sing, the owner has plans to go on and open more branches. For now, I can be smug that this will be my new local diner.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Spice 6
5501 Baltimore Ave, #107
Hyattsville. MD – 20781
Hours: 11 am – 10 pm daily


The first day I got my Kitchen Aid ice-cream maker attachment, I was planning on making an ice cream dessert for a dinner party the next evening. I knew I wanted to make something unusual, so went on the hunt for an exotic recipe. Ever since I was a small girl, my favorite flavor of the frozen stuff has always been pistachio, so when I stumbled across an article in LA weekly on ice-cream week and saw this slightly complicated recipe for pistachio-rosewater ice-cream, I knew I had to try it. Please don’t be daunted by all the steps – as long as you have an ice-cream maker of some sorts and a bit of patience, I promise the results are startlingly good and worth the fiddling.  Added bonus – as I was half-way through making this dish and tasting the custard boiling up, it occurred to me that the taste was very familiar, but not in the way I expected. Because the recipe uses predominantly evaporated milk, the delicate flavor and slightly denser texture is more akin to Indian kulfi than gelato or ice-cream as most people know it. Well, anytime I can recreate a bit of the far east in my kitchen is good news for all and if you’re not yet convinced, try the below. It’s divine.

Note: Make sure to use rosewater for cooking, and if you can’t find it in your local supermarket or speciality store, it’s usually available to ship from Amazon for under $10. You only need a couple of drops so as long as you store it properly, the bottle will last a long time.

Total time: 2 hours

Yields: Approx 1  1/2 Pints.


  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real stuff please!)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons rosewater


Crush the pistachios in a mortar & pestle or chop in a food processor.

Combine the milk, sugar and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the pistachios and bring to a light boil.

Allow to simmer for 15-20 mins, then remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix in approx a cup of the hot milk pistachio liquid to temper the eggs.

Now add the egg-yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly as you pour it in.

Cook the custard mixture over a low heat, stirring constantly until the custard clings to the back of a spoon and your finger can run a path through it without it running. (At this stage i find it important to have a little taste… to ensure, you know, it’s definitely delicious).

Meanwhile, set a bowl large enough to hold all the custard over an ice bath. (What’s an ice-bath I hear you cry – basically, lots of ice and water in a bowl, with another bowl on top of it, allowing ingredients to cool down very quickly…)

Now, remove the custard from the heat and immediately strain into the bowl set over the ice bath. Thoroughly chill the custard, placing a piece of plastic wrap over the top when it’s cooled slightly to avoid a skin forming.

When the mixture has completely cooled, mix in the heavy cream and rosewater and prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

ice cream

This is indulgent enough to enjoy on its own, without any accoutrements. (You can thank me later ;)

TIP!! Don’t discard the milk cooked pistachios, they are stunningly rich, chewy and sweet. You can add them to the ice-cream when it’s in the maker, or add them to your yoghurt in the morning. Goodness that just keeps giving.

(Recipe first published in 2009 by Felicia Friesema in www.Laweekly.com )

This recipe stems from one of those evenings when I was faced with a lean pantry and a fussy appetite, but now I go back to it regularly as it’s very simple and quick, but yields impressive and colorful results. I realize there’s a couple of ingredients included that might not be sitting in everyone’s pantry – but don’t worry.

1. If you don’t have/can’t find sweet soy sauce at your local supermarket, then try mixing in a spoonful of honey with some normal soy sauce instead for the same flavor profile.

2. I am a big fan of infused olive oils when done well, but fear not – a good quality olive oil will work just as well here, it just wont be quite as lemony, which might even be a preference for some.

Total time: 35 mins (10 mins prep, 25 mins cooking)

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a side/main


  • 2-3 large zucchini, enough to yield 2/12 cups when chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil for frying
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 tbsp of kejap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 1 15.5 ounce tin of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2- 3 ripe plum tomatoes or one large ripe heirloom tomato (depending on the season)
  • 2 tbsp of lemon infused olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning


Wash the zucchini thoroughly so the skin is shiny and clean and then chop into slices the thickness of a dollar.

Now gently heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Test if it’s ready for frying by adding one slice of the zucchini to the pan – it should start to sizzle nicely.

Now add all the zucchini to the pan and coat evenly with the heated oil. Allow the slices to fry on one side for at least a couple of minutes before flipping to check that they are starting to brown.

The zucchini should take about 7 – 10 minutes total to pan fry. When they are halfway done, you can add the chopped garlic – I don’t like adding too early as it tends to burn and burnt garlic is not a good addition to any salad, trust me!

A minute before removing completely from the heat, add the Ketjap Manis to the pan. TIP!! Be sure to have your extractor/fan going as the pan is going to be hot and any soy sauce tends to smoke when heated like this. Adding the soy sauce and allowing the zucchini to fry in this sweet, bubbling mixture for a minute adds a a nice sticky char to the veggies, just watch them and don’t let them burn.

Remove the zucchini from the heat and keep the pan covered while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Toss the garbanzo beans into a large serving bowl.

Chop the tomatoes into eighths or if you’re using one of those mammoth heirlooms probably much smaller pieces. There’s no hard and fast rule here – however you like to eat your tomatoes in a salad is fine, but ideally they’d be similar size chunks to your zucchini.

Add the tomato to the beans and now tip in the warm zucchini. Add the lemon olive oil, lemon juice, sesame seeds and season well. Combine thoroughly to ensure all the lemon and oils become infused into the warm veggies. Serve with hot crusty bread, plank salmon, seared halloumi cheese or even simple grilled chicken. Enjoy!

I’ll be the first to admit I was a little skeptical when the signs first went up for the new Yayla bistro. Not because I don’t like Turkish food, on the contrary – it’s one of my favorite cuisines. However, Yayla’s was taking over the treasured french bakery on my street where I could get authentically baked baguettes and gooey pain au chocolat on a Sunday morning – I was panic stricken and went into mourning for my euro brethren. Then yesterday morning a funny thing happened, Kenny came home with a piping hot bag of french pastries and informed me that the Cote D’Or had not closed for good, the owners had merely downsized their premises so to speak and were now serving my beloved croissants through a back door, round the other side of the block. All was not lost, Vivre La France! This happened to coincide with the official opening of the Yayla bistro, so I could now confidently partake in a meal in our new neighborhood joint, safe in the knowledge everyone was happily doing business side by side.

I am extremely glad I had this change of heart because Yayla’s did not disappoint. As mentioned, this was opening weekend, so there were definitely some glitches and we’ll get them out the way before I start fawning over the food.


The interiors are admittedly a little confusing; when I think Turkish bistro, I imagine warm, inviting and moreover informal interiors. This costly revamp has unfortunately left the bistro a little stark and shiny, lots of stainless steel, replete with crisp table cloths and towering wine glasses. Not unpleasant by any means, just a contrast from what most will probably be expecting. There was also an awkward quietness in the dining room for the first fifteen minutes of our arrival, due to a lack of music, after which we were finally entertained with some jolly and appropriate Mediterranean numbers, which brought me a little closer to the theme at hand.


The service was overall exceptional. A minor hiccup early on with an appetizer was swiftly remedied with no fuss and our server did a great job making recommendations for the entrees and desserts. My only real complaint was that Kenny’s plate was cleared the minute he stopped eating, even though I had not – which left me as the embarrassing slow eater at the table. When I trained as a server in my youth this was rule 1. Never clear a plate until all parties have finished eating, it’s just good manners.


Now for the good stuff. It’s Turkish – so the menu is mainly made up of a variety of cold/hot mezze dishes with a few interesting and honestly mouth watering kebab/seafood /pide entree options.

Meze or mezze /ˈmɛzeɪ/ is a selection of small dishes served in the Middle East and the Balkans. In Levantine and Caucasian cuisines, and in parts of the Balkans, meze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.[1]

For our appetizer we chose the 3 cold mezze plate combo with Imam Biyaldi (eggplant stuffed with onions, peppers and garlic), Baba Ghanoush (spiced, roasted and mashed eggplant dip) and Cacik ( a  traditional middle eastern strained yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip).

All three were light, tasty and accompanied by bottomless rounds of hot turkish bread. TIP!! Beware the bread basket, it is easy to eat your entire body weight in this dangerous, doughy goodness.

The entrees of buttery, sautéed shrimp and donor kebab were satisfying but the pièce de résistance for this meal, was the dessert. Our waiter tried to sway me towards the rice pudding and I’m sure it’s divine. But if you get the chance to visit Yayla’s – do not miss the apricot bites. A long smear of creamy mascarpone cheese topped with honey soaked apricots, pistachios and a drizzle of butterscotch sauce was enough to ensure we will be coming back frequently. This was topped off with a couple of near perfect turkish coffees and all for under $50.

Great food, great service, great value – and I’m sure they’ll get there with the ambience. For Day 1 this was an impressive score. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Yayla’s Bistro 22201 N. Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA, 22213.


For those of you that know me, the fact that I am starting my reviews with my beloved local beach shack is probably no surprise. Part of me doesn’t want to let others into the relatively well kept secret that is Clare and Don’s, but that would be selfish and I just have to explain why this laid back, dog friendly diner-cum-cocktail bar has stolen my heart.

It is true to say that like any other beach bar, Clare and Don’s comes into its own once the weather starts to rise into the 80’s. But even in winter, though it may be 50 miles from the nearest sea shore the owners Clare and Don have done a nice job of  keeping the theme warm. There are heaters on the covered patio for those brave of heart and furry of paw or if you prefer cozying up indoors there’s no shortage of options. Sidle up to the authentic wooden bar adorned with beach signs and surf boards or pull up a chair at one of the many rustic dining tables. Enjoy an array of delicious, albeit not especially ‘healthy’ menu items, which include a wide range of quirky seafood and vegetarian appetizers. There’s also an impressive list of hearty salads, burgers and mains to keep most people happy. My favorites include the perfectly golden fried, coconut shrimp, a carefully crafted crab cake appetizer and the supremely delicious Shrimp ‘N’ Grits – a cheesy, fragrant entree that is definitely not for those on a diet… Vegetarians can rejoice too as almost everything on the menu has a veggie alternative – even Tofu ‘N’ Grits. I’ve tried it and it’s GOOD!

So I’ve talked about the food, now let’s get down to the real business here – the cocktails. They’re well made, well priced and will get you well on your way to, well – as long as you’re not driving – somewhere else. From Mai Tais to Painkillers, frozen or on the rocks, the bar here has got you covered.

The real beauty of this tiny bar, hidden in the back of a parking lot in Falls Church, is its ability to transport you from the middle of suburban Virginia to a beach somewhere in the Keys… When the weather turns hot, Clare and Don’s becomes the buzzing heart of this small community. Relaxed friendly service, regular live music on the outdoor stage, a tiki bar on the patio and Pina Coladas that would make Jimmy Buffet blush – it’s what keeps me and everyone else coming back. If you haven’t been – go soon, just don’t tell everyone…

Overall Rating: 9/10




In my humble opinion, there is never a bad time to help yourself to a delicious, moist slice of banana bread paired with hot coffee or if you’re a Brit like me – a great cup of tea. There are of course fantastic recipes abound for this baked staple, this is just one my favorites that i originally found on food.com and then played around with by adding various ingredients until I was satisfied with the perfect outcome.

Total time: 2 hours (Prep 1 hour/Bake 1 hour)

Yield: 1 loaf


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose white if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chunks or chips


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. (The non stick variety are by far the best).

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. (Note, if you have a stand mixer, it helps to use here so you can go ahead and prepare the rest of the ingredients in parallel, just beware – you may still need to give the mixture a good hand whisk at the end as even my beloved Kitchen Aid didn’t get that light fluffy consistency you are looking for here.)

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk, vanilla, honey and cinnamon.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and give it a good stir until combined. Then add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour just disappears – you don’t want to overwork the dough here or the bread will become stodgy. Now add the chocolate chunks and give the dough one final gentle mix.

Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for an hour  – or until a toothpick/skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Once baked and out the oven, leave to cool in pan for approx 15 mins. Then turn the pan over and gently slide the loaf onto a wire rack to cool before serving. Although chef’s prerogative is to try a warm slice, you know – just to be sure it tastes good…

TIP! If you’re not a fan of chocolate but you’re still reading this recipe – thanks for sticking with me. Here’s the good news – you can happily leave out the chocolate chunks and substitute with walnut or macadamia nut pieces, the proportions  stay the same and instead you’ll enjoy a slightly crunchier but still moist loaf. Chocaholics can also increase the amount of chips by a 1/2 cup or mix it up by adding some milk choc chips in there too. Delish.

If you keep this bread in an airtight container, it will keep for 3-4 days… although I dare you to not eat it all by day 2!


This dish and many simple variations is one my favorite sides to throw together on a week night when all I have in my fridge are a few lonesome potatoes and half a pot of sour cream. You can easily miss out the sweet potatoes altogether and it is equally tasty – I’m just obsessed with the tangy creaminess of nicely mashed sweet ones, especially as they’re now known to be even healthier than the average tater. Serve this side with salmon, chicken or even a good burger. Yummy anytime.

Total time: 45 mins – 1 hour (Prep 20 mins/cook and finish 20-40 mins)

Serves 3-4 depending on those appetites!


  • 1 small bag fingerling or any small/new potatos
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes (the orange variety) – if in doubt at supermarket, scratch a tiny pinch of potato skin away and the flesh inside should be bright orange
  • 1 knob butter
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper for seasoning
  • Touch of Garlic Powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp Creme fraiche or Sour Cream
  • 1 good handful fresh Italian parsley (roughly chopped)


Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove

Rinse and clean your fingerlings (or new potatoes) and chop any very large ones into smaller halves.

Peel your sweet potatoes and rinse thoroughly, cut into roughly same size chunks as your other potatoes (this is so that they all cook equally in the same time).

Plop all potatoes into now boiling water with the knob of butter and a tbsp salt and reduce to a decent simmer for approx 10-15 mins, cooking time will vary depending on size/type of potatoes.

Check that both types of tater are cooked so that they are soft but still have some bite (you don’t want the fingerlings to just fall apart) and then remove from heat and drain from the boiling water.

Leave potatoes in hot pan and add a generous slug of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Then with a hand masher start to smash the potatoes together. The effect you are looking for is for the sweet potatoes to almost completely break down but the fingerlings to retain some shape – these are smashed, not mashed!

Finally when you have the potatoes at a consistency you are happy with, transfer to serving bowl and while still warm , stir in remaining ingredients: onion, vinegar, creme fraiche (or sour cream) and chopped parsley. Check the seasoning one last time.

Voila, double smashed potatoes. Now serve, spoon, eat and repeat! Enjoy

TIP! True vegans or veggies can leave out the dairy in this dish, it’s just a taste I like – if doing so just increase the amount of olive oil and vinegar slightly.



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